From 1,076 players to the returning 120 Sunday down through the Top 8 and finals, Fate Reforged has continued to push Standard into new directions. This weekend players brought innovations and tweaks to a variety of powerful decks, and these are five of the cards that stood out above the rest in defining the stories of Grand Prix Memphis.
“It's more like a control deck. I want the games to go as long as possible.” Those were Ben Stark's words describing his version of White-Red Aggro on Day 1. With four copies in the main deck, Stark's words rang true as he marched his way to the Top 8 on Sunday. While the Dragon mode of dealing damage for his creatures killed came up on occasion, it was the powerful Khans options that effecting drew an extra card every turn that he wanted. Other White-Red and Jeskai decks too adopting the “card drawing” enchantment, which found nearly no destruction across the field.
The 3/3 Cat was an invaluable threat for its controllers' all weekend--even, and maybe especially, though it was often absent from the main deck. Many Abzan Control mages had relegated Fleecemane Lion to the sideboard with the aim of blanking their opponents' Lightning Strikes and Bile Blights in Game 1. Then, in post-sideboard games where those cheap removal spells were absent, they would juke their opponents, surprising them with an aggressive two-drop that could quickly end the game when left unchecked, as it often was.
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
After flitting through the shadows in Modern at Pro Tour Fate Reforged and last weekend's Grand Prix Seville, the second colorless Planeswalker finally found his breakthrough in Jack Fogle's hands at Grand Prix Memphis. While it took time and commitment to cast, once it hit play it worked wonders for the control deck. Clearing away colored permanents was a virtual board reset in every game, and to answer tokens along it didn't even take loyalty. Fogle's use as a Planar Cleansing meets token sweeper paid off throughout his semifinal match against Brad Nelson, who often resorted to both Elspeth, Sun's Champion and Sorin, Solemn Visitor to try and keep pace with the late game of the control deck.
Stoke the Flames
Stoke the Flames sits in an interesting spot in Standard. While aggressive red decks of all shapes and sizes play it, forming part of the deadly core of both White-Red and Jeskai decks, it has surprising reach and synergy that is often overlooked. Cast a burn spell for free in response to Crux of Fate for your tokens? Sure. Cast a burn spell at discount and buy it back with Soulfire Grand Master? Yep. Rip it off the top with Outpost Siege just in the nick of time to burst through the final damage and win a semifinal match? Alright.
In Stark's deck the power of Stoke the Flames put glue between already powerful pieces, finding him victory when it looked otherwise impossible. Until Stoke the Flames leaves the format, it will continue to burn miracles into games.
There wasn't a Sultai Charm to be found the weekend prior, but in Jack Fogle's hands at Grand Prix Memphis it was a defining feature of his march to victory. Against his finals opponent, Pro Tour Hall of Fame member and number 22-ranked Ben Stark, the Charm cleared away critical Outpost Sieges to keep Stark out of the running. Against his semifinal opponent Brad Nelson, bringing another well-tuned deck for the weekend, the Charm dug Fogle down to the answered he needed. And against any creature that wasn't multicolored - essentially, non-Siege Rhino threats - the Charm worked deadly magic as removal.
Three colors, three different answers, and three reasons it helped Fogle find him Grand Prix victory.