This past Saturday, despite pretty much agreeing with a lot of fellow Hipster Jess’ anti-prerelease arguments, I nevertheless beat a well-worn path, like a brainless migrating swallow, to the Twenty Sided Store’s Fate Reforged prerelease events. I haven’t missed one in a number of years now, and I do enjoy playing Magic pretty much regardless of time, place, or format, so I was happy to go.

I had chosen Abzan as my clan of choice, and ended up with honestly a pretty sick, GP-worthy deck:

+1/+1 Beatdown

Creatures (14)
Daghatar the Adamant
Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Kin-Tree Warden
Temur Sabertooth
Abzan Falconer
Abzan Guide
Elite Scaleguard
Ainok Bond-Kin
Sandsteppe Outcast
Swarm of Bloodflies
Salt Road Patrol
Abzan Beastmaster

Spells (8)
Hunt the Weak
Formless Nurturing
Feat of Resistance
Suspension Field
Abzan Charm
Harsh Sustenance
Lands (4)
Sandsteppe Citadel
Blossoming Sands
Scoured Barrens
Jungle Hollow

Relevant Sideboard (15)
Return to the Earth
Ruthless Instincts
Frontier Siege
Dragon Bell Monk
Defiant Strike
Gurmag Angler
Winds of Qal Sisma
Lotus-Eye Mystics
Grim Contest
Abzan Banner
Highland Game
Wandering Champion
Soul Summons

I forget exactly what my basic land mix was, but I was able to have, like, eight sources of white and green mana, and four or five sources of black, my splash, without going through any contortions. Some of my final cuts that ended up in my sideboard were, as usual with the prerelease, difficult: Until just about the end of the build time I had Frontier Siege in there, trying to err on the side of trying out rares, but finally I just decided it was plain bad and who cares.

Similarly, I wanted to take manifest for a spin with Soul Summons, but a Grizzly Bear in Khans sealed was rarely good enough, and I didn’t feel like the medium-unlikely being-able-to-flip-up-a-bigger-creature bonus wasn’t enough incentive to run this Bear, so I cut it. (Still, I was able to try manifest out with Formless Nurturing.) I would have liked to have run the Grim Contests—one of my picks for Fate Reforged’s Top 13 Commons—but my removal sitch was strong enough without pushing deeper into black. Ditto that for Gurmag Angler, too.

At any rate, I was very happy with my deck—and, sure enough, it performed quite well, leading me to a 3-1 record, losing only to Steven Baquerizo and his Brutal Hordechief (as well as his tight play) in R2. I honestly think I could have beaten Hordechief in that game, as I had out a strong team of first-striking dudes (thanks to Ainok Bond-Kin) including Sandsteppe Outcast (such a great card), Elite Scaleguard (holy shit), and some other durdle, maybe Salt Road Patrol. I just didn’t factor in how much Steven could smack me back for (gaining three key life in the process with his three attackers) after swinging in with my whole team and tapping all of his blockers thanks to Elite Scaleguard.

At any rate, a few notes:


Elite Scaleguard is, as we say, stone bonkah (welcome back, Jason Chan!). I straight-up won both games of R1 by playing him on the last turn of the game, bolstering counters onto a creature (giving me, like, two or more countered-up creatures), and faltering all of my opponent’s blockers FTW. I want one or more of these cards in all of my Abzan decks.


As per usual, both me and my opponents didn’t fully grok some of our cards. For me, I didn’t realize until after the event was over that you could take +1/+1 counters from any creature—not just your own—using Daghatar the Adamant‘s ability; it’s just an increasingly rare thing for Wizards to print a card that interacts with both you and your opponents’ creatures in that way, and so I assumed it must not be the case. I can’t remember specific situations, but I do remember one Daghatar-on-Daghatar board state that could have gotten real gross for my opponent had I realized that. (I was, however, able to fizzle an opposing Abzan Charm by moving a +1/+1 counter off of my Formless Nurturing–produced creature, which felt sweet.)


Another dope interaction was when I had a fairly healthy board creatures with +1/+1 counters on them, and manifested (again with Formless Nurturing) an Ainok Bond-Kin. On the following turn when I swung in with my team and flipped up the Bond-Kin for 1W, giving my entire team first strike at instant speed … well, let’s just say I won that game.


As for Steven, he didn’t exactly realize the full power of his Brutal Hordechief. On the last turn of G2, when I was at five life with only a couple blockers on the ground, he flipped up a Sage-Eye Harrier and swung in with the flier and the Hordechief, draining me for two. Then he cast Trumpet Blast for the final two damage he needed in the air. After the game was over, though, I told him that he could have just used the Hordechief’s special ability, made *all* of my creatures block the 1/1 warrior token he’d left back (you don’t have to block one for one), and do lethal naturally, without having to fire off the Trumpet Blast. Hordechief, suffice it to say, is rill stronk.

Other card notes: Abzan Beastmaster drew me a lot of cards; Sandsteppe Outcast is very good, with both modes very useful in different game states; Hunt the Weak did work as a morph-murderer that simultaneously turns on outlast synergies and improves your board; and Temur Sabretooth looks really great, but I didn’t get to cast him. I only cast Tasigur, the Golden Fang like once, too, and honestly it didn’t seem that great for me in my non-Sultai deck, though others reported that he was very good for them.

I split with Friend of Hipsters Sam “Wetland Sambar” Werbalowsky in the finals before playing it out and beating him, which was good for three packs of Fate Reforged apiece—plus an Ugin’s Fate prize pack, which I immediately cracked (very out of character for me, but it has no draftable value) and was rewarded with a sweet alternate-art Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, which I promptly shipped on eBay for $95! As they say in the part of the country where I grew up, you can’t beat that with a stick.


How’d your prereleases go? Did any cards in particular suck it up or stand out for you? Let’s figure this format out together and get ready for some Fate Reforged Grand Prix!

23/17 is a Hipsters of the Coast column focused on Limited play—primarily draft and sealed, but also cubing, 2HG, and anything else we can come up with. The name refers to the “Golden Ratio” of a Limited deck: 23 spells and 17 lands. Follow Hunter at @hrslaton.

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