I celebrated the official release of Fate Reforged by taking a weekend trip back to Brooklyn to test for the upcoming Pro Tour. Thanks to Blizzpocalypse 2015, I got an extra two days of testing when my Monday flight home got canceled. The end result: five days of constant drafting interspersed with chunks of Modern testing.

My first impression of the limited format is that I enjoy it much more than triple Khans. I will admit that I was not a huge fan of the old format, but the addition of Fate Reforged to start the draft really makes it sing. First of all, most cards in the new set are a single color. That means you don’t have to start the draft making difficult decisions between powerful gold cards and solid mono-colored cards. But the real key is a better balance for the morph.

Morph is an amazing limited mechanic, both in terms of power level and exciting gameplay, but it is better in moderation. Fewer morphs means a lower power level and more variety in the creatures you can use to fill out your curve. Morph is so dominant in limited that it warps the format. In triple Khans, you wanted tons of morphs, preferably the stronger ones, and you only played other creatures that brought something special to the table. Now that there are less morphs available in the draft, the field opens up for other creatures to play useful roles. This rewards creative card evaluation, which is one of my favorite aspects of limited play. It is truly a breath of fresh air.

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Speaking of fresh air rejuvenating a format . . .

Plus, if you appreciate how powerful morph is in limited Magic, you can scoop them up and gain a significant edge over other decks. Less morphs in an eight-person draft pod improves the gameplay of the draft, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a great deck with a lot of them. Morphs in FRF/KTK/KTK draft are like dual lands in KTK/KTK/KTK draft: now you can be the “morph” drafter like you could previously be the “five color” drafter. Blue-green is the main home for the best morph creatures, and the deck below is a fun example of perhaps the best archetype in the new format.

Face Down

Creatures (12)
Wetland Sambar
Icefeather Aven
Monastery Flock
Sagu Archer
Abomination of Gudul
Pine Walker
Mystic of the Hidden Way
Jeskai Infiltrator
Mistfire Adept
Longshot Squad
Aven Surveyor
Hooting Mandrills

Spells (10)
Write Into Being
See the Unwritten
Treasure Cruise
Trail of Mystery
Temur Runemark
Winds of Qal Sisma
Hero’s Blade
Monastery Siege
Map the Wastes
Lands (18)
Dismal Backwater
Jungle Hollow
Forest
Island

Sideboard (8)
Renowned Weaponsmith
Heart-Piercer Bow
Sultai Ascendancy
Rakshasa Vizier
Swiftwater Cliffs
Feed the Clan
Cranial Archive

This deck could really use a removal spell or two instead of the Temur Runemark and one of the card draw engines, but otherwise it is a thing of beauty. I actually lost a game I should have won because I got so wrapped up in how much fun I had visiting Value Village that I forgot basic combat math. I will be more disciplined at the Pro Tour, and I’d be very happy to run this deck back in DC next weekend. (I’ll also remember to run a basic land for my third color to fetch with Trail of Mystery even if the deck has enough sources from dual lands.)

Friend of Hipsters and Pro Tour testing buddy Hugh Kramer revealed himself as an Enemy of Value in his match against me. I played turn two Trail of Mystery followed by turn three Jeskai Infiltrator. He must not have known how those cards interact when he immediately killed the Infiltrator with Bring Low. A successful Infiltrator hit with Trail on board is basically a turn four Treasure Cruise—you get two untapped Manifests and you draw two lands. I still won that game, at least in part because Hugh was constrained on mana, but he should have been playing Trail of Mystery and drawing all the lands. Enemy of Value.

Jon Pena, another Friend of Hipsters, had an epic game with me where his turn two Soulfire Grand Master led to him being ahead 31 life to three with a Cloudform threatening to kill me in two more turns. I attacked with a Hero’s Blade-wearing Infiltrator and he let it through rather than chump, letting me manifest a Sagu Archer that I could then flip up to block and kill the Cloudform. It was a crazy game and a ton of fun.

I have to keep some secrets for the Pro Tour, as I know everyone will read this to get the full intel on my draft strategies, so I’ll leave it at that. See everyone in DC and hopefully on the feature match coverage!

Brendan McNamara (MTGO: eestlinc, Twitter: @brendanistan) used to play Magic in the old days. His favorite combo was Armageddon plus Zuran Orb. After running out of money to buy cards and friends who were willing to put up with that combo, he left the game. But like disco, he was bound to come back eventually. Now he’s a lawyer by day and a Dimir agent by night.

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