We’re now a couple weeks into Fate Reforged Limited, and I’ve really been digging it thus far. I’m not sure whether that’s because the Fate Reforged pack (or packs, in the case of sealed) is adding so much to the KTK format, new cards, or that I’ve been having some good success thus far—likely some combo of all of those—but suffice it to say I’ve been having a time-travelin’ good time.

Last weekend I got my first taste of this season’s “real” Limited Grand Prix format—three packs of Khans of Tarkir and three of Fate Reforged—at a sealed PPTQ up at the chill shop Undiscovered Realms in Hartsdale, N.Y., alongside Friends of Hipsters Sean Morse and Zach Orts.

Undiscovered Realm is kind of a weird hybrid card shop/toy store, and they had a wall of super-old action figures including this one, which is basically the weirdest action figure ever.

Undiscovered Realm is kind of a hybrid card shop/toy store, and they had a wall of super-old action figures including this one, which is basically the weirdest action figure ever.

The pool I opened was strongish at least in terms of value, with a [casthaven]Monastery Mentor[/casthaven], a [casthaven]Polluted Delta[/casthaven], and a foil [casthaven]Surrak Dragonclaw[/casthaven] (a card I’ve still never played with or against), but of course I had to ship that for a solid if relatively unexciting pool—save for big-daddy planeswalker [casthaven]Ugin, the Spirit Dragon[/casthaven], which I was psyched to play with.

This was a tough build to 100% optimize—note the cards in my sideboard—and I’d be very curious to hear y’all’s opinion of how I built it. Here’s the deck:

Sultai Cross Yr. Fingers & Pray for Ugin

Spells (10)
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
Grim Contest
Reach of Shadows
Hunt the Weak
Bitter Revelation
Debilitating Injury
Savage Punch
Scout the Borders
Sultai Banner

Creatures (13)
Temur Sabertooth
Arashin War Beast
Ugin’s Construct
Gurmag Angler
Typhoid Rats
Sultai Emissary
Whisperer of the Wilds
Archers of Qarsi
Unyielding Krumar
Temur Charger
Heir of the Wilds
Shambling Attendants
Glacial Stalker
Lands (4)
Opulent Palace
Jungle Hollow
Dismal Backwater
Thornwood Falls

Relevant Sideboard (16)
Palace Seige
Return to the Earth
Mardu Skullhunter
Cranial Archive
Trail of Mystery
Seek the Horizon
Dragonscale Boon
Fruit of the First Tree
Temur Runemark
Incremental Growth
Feed the Clan
Dutiful Return
Ancestral Vengeance
Tasigur’s Cruelty
Battle Brawler

Late additions/deletions included killing [casthaven]Palace Siege[/casthaven] for a second copy of [casthaven]Bitter Revelation[/casthaven]—I really, really wanted to A) find Ugin and B) find the mana to cast him—and [casthaven]Mardu Skullhunter[/casthaven] for [casthaven]Archers of Qarsi[/casthaven], which honestly I quite liked in the deck. I may have been wrong not to maindeck the [casthaven]Palace Siege[/casthaven], but I’d just been listening to the Limited Resources rare and mythic Fate Reforged set review, and LSV and Marshall’s words about a five-mana don’t-do-anything-immediately enchantment were ringing in my ears.

A few quick notes about individual cards:

Have you heard the Good News? [casthaven]Temur Sabertooth[/casthaven] is the stone bonkah nuts. I’m not kidding. Granted, it’s early in the format, but my opponents played so, so badly around that card—and I probably didn’t play 100% optimally with it, as I sometimes ran it out there or committed to the board in such a way that I didn’t always leave up mana to protect it; which, in retrospect, was likely wrong, and cost me some games.

Usually during sideboarding after G1 I brought in [casthaven]Palace Siege[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Return to the Earth[/casthaven] for one copy of [casthaven]Bitter Revelation[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Sultai Emissary[/casthaven], which, while good, seemed like the most expendable creature in my deck. I really liked [casthaven]Return to the Earth[/casthaven], and I’m fairly close to thinking that it is correct to maindeck one copy of that card in sealed, especially in long events like PPTQs or Grand Prix, when opponents are more likely to be playing their Sieges or big dragons—and, of course, randomly being able to bone a [casthaven]Suspension Field[/casthaven] is always nice.

For a similar reason, I liked my maindeck [casthaven]Archers of Qarsi[/casthaven], too (in sealed only, of course), because it almost always traded or threatened to trade with my opponent’s biggest creature.

Oh, and Ugin can be—emphasis on can be—very, very good. I usually was able to cast him, and in most games in which I did, he straight-up won me the game. My favorite play of the day was when late in the game I manifested Ugin off of a [casthaven]Soul Summons[/casthaven], and bounced him with [casthaven]Temur Sabertooth[/casthaven] and replayed him in the very same turn. It was nuts. At that point I was 2-0, and thought I was about to improve to 3-0—but my opponent’s deck featuring (no kidding), [casthaven]Crux of Fate[/casthaven], [casthaven]End Hostilities[/casthaven], [casthaven]Duneblast[/casthaven], [casthaven]Villainous Wealth[/casthaven], *and* [casthaven]Ghastly Conscription[/casthaven] (pretty good in a triple-Wrath deck) killed me. At one point during that match I was about to ultimate Ugin but then my opponent cast [casthaven]Ghastly Conscription[/casthaven] for eight-count-’em-eight manifested creatures, which unfortunately Ugin’s middle ability can’t do shit about.

After that loss, I suffered one more loss in the six-round tournament, more or less killing my hopes for a Top 8, and then won one more before being forced to fight Sean Morse in the final round, during which his really strong deck (with [casthaven]Whisperwood Elemental[/casthaven]—so sick) killed me.

Oh, and [casthaven]Gurmag Angler[/casthaven] is pretty sweet.

That’s mostly all I’ve got for today, though I’ll leave you with a couple sweet draft decks. This next deck, which I have decided is basically my favorite thing ever to do in Magic—Gruul smash!—went an easy 3-0 in a team draft match featuring the one and only Brendan “BMac” McNamara, returned from Denver to practice ahead of the Pro Tour. As one of my teammates, Bert Phillips, said, the deck just had so much redundancy. I loved it:

IMG_5330

Hunter's Favorite Gruul Deck Ever

Creatures (15)
Alesha, Who Smiles at Death
Goblin Heelcutter
Humble Defector
Frontier Mastodon
Whisperer of the Wilds
Smoldering Efreet
Summit Prowler
War-Name Aspirant
Alpine Grizzly
Canyon Lurkers
Horde Ambusher
Pine Walker
Woolly Loxodon

Spells (7)
Awaken the Bear
Hunt the Weak
Roar of Challenge
Barrage of Boulders
Savage Punch
Dragonscale Boon
Lands (17)
Rugged Highlands
Mountain
Forest

Relevant Sideboard (9)
Return to the Earth
Leaping Master
Kin-Tree Warden
Friendly Fire
Briber’s Purse
Lightning Shrieker
Trumpet Blast

Isn’t that gross and awesome? I beat Dave “Bones” McCoy in the finals, and my last plays were a pair of [casthaven]Awaken the Bear[/casthaven]s to totally, utterly blow him out … I had to take a pic for posterity (sorry, Dave):

IMG_5332

And then there’s this deck, from last weekend’s Hipsters x Casthaven party at the Upper West Side apartment of the leader of Hispters’ fine sponsor Casthaven, who have some sweet new tech coming out soon. I went 2-0 with it before we cut off play for a Casthaven demo, even fighting through Hipsters founder Zac Clark’s devilish [casthaven]Crux of Fate[/casthaven] + [casthaven]Villainous Wealth[/casthaven] deck. I gotta tell ya, it was real sweet to play either [casthaven]Daghatar the Adamant[/casthaven] or [casthaven]Anafenza, the Foremost[/casthaven] with Hero’s Blade on the table:

IMG_5337

Legendary Abzan

Creatures (14)
Daghatar the Adamant
Anafenza, the Foremost
Hewed Stone Retainers
Sandsteppe Outcast
Abzan Kin-Guard
Dragon Bell Monk
Watcher of the Roost
Hooting Mandrills
Abzan Guide
Salt Road Patrol
Longshot Squad
Temur Charger
Highland Game
Seeker of the Way

Spells (8)
Hero’s Blade
Abzan Ascendancy
Formless Nurturing
Soul Summons
Sandblast
Hunt the Weak
Murderous Cut
Savage Punch
Lands (18)
Sandsteppe Citadel
Nomad Outpost
Scoured Barrens
Forest
Plains
Swamp

Relevant Sideboard (5)
Erase
Kheru Dreadmaw
Feed the Clan
Abzan Banner
Sage’s Reverie

Happy drafting and sealed-ing, kids! What do you think of my decks? In the previous deck, I actually quite liked Hero’s Blade, expensive though it may be. In a grindy Abzan deck, the equipment turns any of your [casthaven]Sandsteppe Outcast[/casthaven]–produced 1/1 spirits or any other random creature into a big, big threat. I’m not sure the card is good outside of Abzan or Sultai, but I liked it here.

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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