The Past is Almost Here
Well, that's all I have to say about Soulfire Grand Master.
And there are plenty more fun cards in Fate Reforged where that came from.
It's crazy to think about, but the set I worked on designing a year and a half ago is in preview season. It turns out that here in Magic R&D, it's not just Sarkhan who's a time traveler. I am—and soon, you will be too!
Soulfire Grand Master | Art by Johannes Voss
"Dewey." Fate Reforged. Magic's future. Tarkir's past. It's all coming together, and I can't wait to see what you do with it. Show me what you have, and in two weeks I'll talk about some of your new decks!
Here are this week's deck submission guidelines:
Format: Post-Fate Reforged Standard
Deadline: Tuesday, January 6, at 6 p.m. Pacific Time.
Submit all decklists by emailing me at email@example.com.
Decklists should be submitted with YOURNAME's DECKNAME at the top. Underneath should be one card per line, with just a leading number. For example:
4 Satyr Firedrinker
3 Ash Zealot
4 Lighting Bolt
…and so on. Please don't use anything but a space to separate the card numbers and names—don't write "4x Lightning Bolt," for example. Well-formatted decklists have a much better chance of being read and making it into the column. Poorly formatted decklists are more likely to be ignored. (If I can't read your decklist, I certainly can't talk about it!)
Also, take note that, for this week, please send your decks to firstname.lastname@example.org. There is currently a bug that is causing difficulty with me seeing your decklists sent to my Wizards address.
Since I'm looking at decks built post-Fate Reforged, feel free to wait a few days before sending your deck in to see what new cards are revealed. I gave you until next Tuesday, so there's plenty of time!
In the meantime, if you have any comments on this article or today's preview card at all, please let me know—I always love to hear from all of you! You can send me a tweet or ask me a question on my Tumblr and I'll be sure to see it.
I'll be back next with a preview that's much more closely aligned with dragons. Until then, may your past, present, and future collide in interesting ways.
Mastering Something Old
Now that we've taken a look at what a crazy new deck might end up like with this card around, I want to take a look at a deck that it fits right into: Jeskai Aggro. Soulfire Grand Master not only fits great into the curve as an aggressive two-drop, but it also ensures you will be far ahead in any kind of damage race. Turning all of your Lightning Strikes into Lightning Helixes? That's going to be difficult for any aggressive deck to race. It's essentially a must-kill card. But one of the great things about the Grand Master is that it's still plenty threatening against control decks. Once you hit enough mana, the threat of rebuying your spells over and over again with its hybrid mana ability is gigantic. And you get all of this punch in an efficient creature body. Let's take a look at what a new version of the highly successful Jeskai decks might look like with this guy in the mix:
Soulfire Grand Master fits right in with her many friends. There are tons of burn spells for her to enhance...and she becomes especially enticing with Stoke the Flames. Activate her ability. Tap four creatures to cast Stoke the Flames. Get Stoke the Flames back. Repeat until opponent is dead. Now that's some major reach! While nothing else here is mind-blowingly innovative, the Grand Master does do quite a bit. (And that's not the only creature addition this deck gets—stay tuned elsewhere for previews of a Jeskai mentor I made that's bound to do good things in this deck as well.) All three of the Grand Master's abilities fit right into this deck. Give it a try!
Mastering Something New
Let's break this card down for a moment.
As a monocolored 2/2 for two with lifelink, you're already getting really efficient stats. In fact, normally a 2/2 lifelinker will cost you WW. Seeker of the Way is better than this if you're casting spells each turn—but even if that's the case, the Soulfire Grand Master is off to a great start. Its next ability is something that makes you cock your head to the side and go: "Wait. What? You can write that?!?" After more than twenty years of Magic, it's amazing to me that there are still things we can put on cards that cause even some of the most jaded players do a double take. Stoke the Flames? Now it's a convoked Warleader's Helix. Jeskai Charm? It becomes bizarro-Char. Anger of the Gods? Yes, that does work like you want it to! (Well, except for the poor Grand Master dying. But she doesn't go down without gaining you a ton of life in the process!)
But it's the final ability that I really want to hone in on here for a moment. The ability to essentially give all of your spells buyback for just four mana is something that has a lot of potential—the potential to be busted. While there aren't any Time Warp effects in Standard to use it with (although, "Hello, Modern!") to take all of the turns forever, you can still set up a nice lock with countermagic. If you cast, say, a Cancel, and then bring it back to your hand, you still have the counterspell. Get to enough mana and you begin to lock your opponent out of doing anything. But some kind of normal control deck is still thinking too small. How about...Turbo-Fog?!? There aren't a ton of fog effects available right now—but if you manage to set up Ætherspouts or Defend the Hearth with Jeskai Grand Master, your opponent is going to be in some major trouble. Your opponent has to find a removal spell or attacking will no longer be an answer for him or her. Even if you only get to Grand Master a couple of fog effects, that still buys you some pretty valuable time. And hey, you can also double up on Dig Through Time if you want to! Let's take a look at what this might look like:
This strategy puts plenty of other decks in quite a rough space, forcing them to cut through your fogs or lose. While burn is a concern, Courser of Kruphix ensures that while you're fogging away, you're also chugging through your library and hitting land drops...plus gaining life in the process. There are a few different ways you could build this kind of deck. This one eventually wins either with a Planeswalker or with the Prognostic Sphinx but, depending on your metagame, you could push it in several different directions. If you're looking for a crazy place to start with this card, here's a place to look. However, if you want something a bit more "normal," then let's continue onward.
Back to the Soulfire Future
Goodbye! No. Not goodbye. What's the other one?
Oh yes! Hello!
Time travel always does get me a little tripped up when it comes to little things like beginnings.
Now where was I? Ah, yes: welcome to the first of the Fate Reforged preview weeks!
It's so exciting to be showing off a set I worked on designing what seems like so long ago now! Flavor-appropriately, Fate Reforged is in my past. And working on this set was certainly a challenge: how exactly do you show time travel in Magic, anyway? Mark Rosewater no doubt covered some of the design team's challenges in his article yesterday.
But enough about design. Let's hop right into the set, shall we?
You've come here for the preview card. So why hold it from you? I wouldn't want to make you wait longer than you needed to.
We've finally arrived back in time. And you'll notice things are a little different on Tarkir this time around. Dragons still fly overhead. The clans are less at war with each other.
And, oh yeah, hybrid mana.
Let's kick it all off by taking a look at Soulfire Grand Master.