The Spirit of Fate Reforged

Posted in Top Decks on January 9, 2015

By Luis Scott-Vargas

Luis Scott-Vargas plays, writes, and makes videos about Magic. He has played on the Pro Tour for almost a decade, and between that and producing content for ChannelFireball, often has his hands full (of cards).

As Fate (Reforged) would have it, we've got a ton of shiny new toys to play with. Building decks with the new cards is the best part of any new set, so I really don't see a reason to waste any more time. What I did was simple: I just looked through the set, picked out a few cards that piqued my interest most, and built decks featuring them. In some cases, it was around them, and in some cases it was fitting them into existing decks, but either way the new cards have a huge impact.

The first place I started was where I start with every set: the most Karn-like card, which in this case is Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. Being colorless, Ugin can be the heart and spirit of many different decks, and all it asks is that you have the ability and desire to hit eight mana at some point in the game. There's realistically no board that can make casting Ugin terrible, as it can sweep any number of permanents away with ease as well as assault other Planeswalkers, and it can do so while having a ton of loyalty to spare. Artifact creatures aren't a huge part of Standard right now, so Ugin's minus ability should be enough to take care of anything threatening, after which the +2 can handle any follow ups.

One deck Ugin looks like a good fit in is Abzan Control. Even though Ugin devours Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix alike, they still do get you to eight mana, and Ugin is powerful enough to take things from there.

Abzan Control

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Besides Ugin, Tasigur, the Golden Fang makes an appearance, giving this deck a lot of good sources of card advantage. All this deck is trying to do is survive, cast Siege Rhinos, and eventually end the game with Ugin or Elspeth. The fact that Ugin will sweep away some number of your own cards doesn't matter a ton, especially since the Coursers and Caryatids will have already done their job at that point. What Ugin does offer you is an inexorable way to close out the game, either by wiping the board, picking off the opponent's small to medium creatures (or Planeswalkers), or threatening to go ultimate.

There are a couple expensive one-ofs here that seem intriguing. As mentioned, Tasigur is another source of late-game advantage, and he uses your graveyard in a way no other card does, save the lone Murderous Cut. Playing Tasigur for two mana and using him immediately sounds awesome.

Still, there is a purer way to harness the power of Ugin, and that's to play Ugin in a deck with little to no permanents that can die to his minus ability. My favorite Karn-style deck (no actual Karns necessary) of all time was actually Blue-Black Control back in Innistrad-Return to Ravnica Standard, and I think there's a similar style of deck to be found here.

WU Control

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This deck also uses another card that I think is just awesome: Jeskai Sage. The Sage is exactly the kind of roadblock that decks like this are looking for. It doesn't cost you a card, can soak up some damage, and has a legitimate shot of killing opposing creatures in combat. Block your 1/1, cast Devouring Light using Jeskai Sage to convoke, profit. Even just chump blocking a Fleecemane Lion or Goblin Rabblemaster sounds great, and all at the low cost of two mana.

Given enough time, eventually this deck will start casting Elspeths and Ugins, at which point the task of winning the game should be an easy one. It would also be very easy to take this deck and use black instead of white, much like the deck Andrew Brown used to win Grand Prix Denver last weekend.

UB Control

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Jeskai Sage is even better here than in WU, as all the black removal spells give it a ton more opportunities to demonstrate its prowess. It isn't a combo with Perilous Vault, so you do have to be careful of that, but it's very easy to set up a situation where you can get it dead and get your card.

Ugin may have been the driving force behind me looking at these decks, but Jeskai Sage may secretly be the reason that blue-based control is good in this upcoming format. It looks like exactly the card that decks of this type were missing, and I am going to jam it into every Dig Control deck I can find until I find out how right (or wrong) I am.

Speaking of prowess, Jeskai got some more incredible new leaders. Monastery Mentor and Soulfire Grand Master both bring a lot of power to the table, and both work quite nicely together. My first inclination is to build a red-white tokens shell that takes advantage of the double value of having spells that are also creatures.

RW Tokens

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There are a lot of powerful synergies going on here, and this deck's most broken draws are truly broken. Casting Monastery Mentor, followed by Hordeling Outburst, followed by Stoke the Flames is just absurd; and becomes even more so if you add a second Stoke or a Soulfire Grand Master to the mix. A zero-mana spell that deals 4 and gains you 4 is not remotely in the realm of fair, and in order to get access to that all you have to do is play a bunch of cards that are strong to begin with.

 

Balancing cards with prowess and cards that trigger prowess is always tricky, and you can see that in numbers like 2 Monastery Swiftspear and 3 Defiant Strike. The deck wants to make sure it has as many engine cards in play as it can, while also not running out of ways to fuel them. The great part about cards like Seeker of the Way and Monastery Mentor is that they don't need an infinite supply of fuel to be awesome. Swiftspear requires a bit more, but the other two are perfectly fine surviving on one spell a turn, even if that isn't their preferred situation.

This deck also has access to Chained to the Rocks, one of the best spells in Standard, and between tokens and Chains, isn't threatened by any offensive start in the format. It does want to avoid sweepers, but given the numbers of single-card threats like Mentor or Hordeling Outburst, it's very capable of slow-playing when it suspects that the opponent has a sweeper.

Even though I think Soulfire Grand Master is good enough as a turn-four play when you can immediately fire off a Lightning Strike or Stoke, it's also very important that it gives you a late-game engine that provides massive card advantage. Given enough time, the Grand Master lets you recast Stoke the Flames multiple times, and even is generous enough to award you enough life that you can largely ignore your opponent's creatures while doing so.

Mentor has big shoes to fill if it's looking to supplant Goblin Rabblemaster, but I actually think it may be possible. Mentor plus two spells makes every spell afterwards incredibly powerful, and it just goes up from there. It also isn't required that you attack every turn with the tokens, giving you time to build up an unstoppable force of prowess 1/1s. There are many decks that can be built around Mentor, and it's even possible to go much deeper, and make a Young Pyromancer-esque build that has almost no other creatures besides the Mentor and maybe Seeker of the Way.

I've only begun to scratch the surface of the new decks made possible by Fate Reforged, and I look forward to making more, playing with them, discarding the ones that don't work, and keeping all the ones with Ugin.

LSV

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