A Quick Look at the Fate Reforged Standard Metagame

Posted in GRAND PRIX MEMPHIS 2015 on February 21, 2015

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

If you look at the top deck of Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir then checked the Top 8 of Grand Prix Seville from last weekend you’ll find the format has made some adjustments.

It’s not totally alien, of course, but the finer details in the metagame painting look different even if the broader brushstrokes are similar. Abzan, the Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir-winning deck, once had three distinct flavors. It’s now given way to generally two approaches:

Abzan Aggro – Pierre Sommen

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Abzan – Ncholas Merrien

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Every Abzan lineup features the might Siege Rhino and some accompaniment of removal like Valorous Stance. Where they different is in how fast they plan to kill you. Fleecemane Lion is another efficient body that, with monstrous threatening soon thereafter, pressures opponents quickly.

The more traditional lineup, however, leans harder on Siege Rhino to go over the top a little later in the game. Some builds even twist to play a controlling pace, though Whip of Erebos has generally fallen out of favor in lieu of the more proactive approaches.

Why did Abzan eschew some of it’s late-game potential? Two reasons are the rise of both faster, aggressive decks and goes-bigger midrange options.

White-Blue Heroic - Marcos Antonio Cordero Valle

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White-Red Aggro – Rafael Camargo Gálvez

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Jeskai – Martin Juza

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White-Red Aggro is fast. No, fast. While speedy creatures and burn always make the clock smaller for opponents, two cards stand out as the biggest players. Goblin Rabblemaster creates immediate value and pressure on an opponent. Unanswered, it will quickly overrun the game. On the top end of the deck lies Stormbreath Dragon, where protection from white shirks many of the removal spells you can expect and having hast lets it hit before opponents can react. Even it’s monstrous ability threatens opponents by both turning dead cards into more damage as well as reducing the clock further.

Borrowing the power of Goblin Rabblemaster and Stormbreath Dragon too, Jeskai decks can either spew tokens onto the battle or play the more diverse aggro angle as Martin Juza did last weekend. Mantis Rider, another evasive creature with haste, and Treasure Cruise are the main draws to butting blue into an otherwise white and red deck.

Unless, of course, you’re giving up red altogether: That’s where White-Blue Heroic sits. Using heroic creatures like Battlewise Hoplite or Hero of Iroas and plenty of ways to trigger +1/+1 counters – such as Gods Willing, Ajani’s Presence, and Defiant Strike – the goal is to go big and hit hard. Aqueous Form and Stratus Walk provide evasion to these built-your-own-monster finishers.

Green Devotion – Marcio Carvalho

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Red-Green Devotion - Carlos Ballester García

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Red-Green Midrange – Kyle Brennan

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Shrinking the clock is what the monstrous devotion and midrange decks are trying for too. The red-green version uses Stormbreath Dragon too but goes bigger in other ways, like the latest Fireball twist of Crater’s Claws. Sharing creatures with the Green Devotion version, like Rattleclaw Mystic, Voyaging Satyr, and Elvish Mystic to ramp up mana production, titanic creatures rumble in to take over the game: Whisperwood Elemental, Genesis Hydra (It brings a friend along for the ride!), Polukranos, World Eater, Arbor Colossus, and others make quick work of any defending forces.

With all of these ways to attack opponents quick, big, and hard you might think there isn’t a control deck running around. There is, and it was victorious last weekend in Seville:

Blue-Black Control - Immanuel Gerschenson

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In the hands of Immanuel Gerschenson, this deck answered every threat thrown its way. Thanks to Silence the Believers, Crux of Fate, Bile Blight, Hero’s Downfall and more, anything that hit the battlefield was quickly melted. With more removal than other decks packed creatures, setting up an ultimate Pearl Lake Ancient beatdown or casting all their creatures off Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver. Tasigur, the Gold Fang provided incredible value as well, coming in to tip the scales of any long-game mirror back in favor of control.

There was another deck in the Top 8 last weekend, and it’s a deck that saw the height of its popularity at the 2014 World Championship: Sidisi Whip.

Sidisi Whip - Alexandre Habert

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Playing to the same win-the-latest-of-games plan as before, it ramps into stocking its graveyard and leveraging both Whip of Erebos and Sidisi, Brood Tyrant for as much value as possible. Fate Reforged tweaked the formula with two critical additions: Torrent Elemental breaks stalemates by tapping opponents creatures and comes back from exile as many times as needed in order to finish the job, while Tasigur, the Golden Fang is another way to not just pull ahead on cards but dump more creatures into the graveyard for Sidisi’s Zombie shenanigans.

How all of these decks fit together is a puzzle players are still figuring out. While aggressive decks saw plenty of success, control taking home the ultimate prize is sure to influence deck decisions as well. Can Sidisi Whip make a claim as the top deck again, or will Abzan ride its Siege Rhinos to glory once more?

It feels like open season for any good deck, but it will take the full weekend to turn to the next page in the Fate Reforged tale.