The past is here! Finally we get to play with Fate Reforged. Last weekend I hit up two prerelease flights at Total Escape Games in Broomfield, Colorado. And you know what? It was a lot of fun! In my first pool I chose Sultai and opened a fairly strong control deck with Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and [casthaven]Crux of Fate[/casthaven]. For my second go-round I chose Temur and had a quite bad pool with almost no good green cards. Throughout both events, however, I had interesting and enjoyable games, win or lose. It was a lot more fun than the Khans of Tarkir prerelease slog.

Here’s a look at the Sultai deck I played:

Sultai Control

Creatures (14)
Qarsi High Priest
Whisperer of the Wilds
Jeskai Infiltrator
Hooded Assassin
Marang River Prowler
Abomination of Gudul
Mystic of the Hidden Way
Sagu Archer
Icefeather Aven
Sultai Soothsayer
Feral Krushok
Noxious Dragon
Gurmag Angler
Sibsig Muckdraggers

Spells (8)
Wildcall
Ethereal Ambush
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
Sultai Banner
Crux of Fate
Whisk Away
Reach of Shadows
Sudden Reclamation
Lands (18)
Opulent Palace
Thornwood Falls
Island
Forest
Swamp

Sideboard (4)
Ethereal Ambush
Mistfire Adept
Monastery Flock
Ancestral Vengeance

This was the first deck I’ve ever built since Khans came out that included a banner. Playing a morph on turn three or four is so much more powerful than a banner that it never made sense to put banners in your deck. Perhaps it is simply an artifact of the weird almost-all-FRF format of the prerelease (four FRF packs, one KTK pack, and one seeded guild pack from both sets), which made morphs hard to come by. But I think even in normal sealed (three packs each of FRF and KTK) and in FRF/KTK/KTK draft there will be less emphasis on morph as the defining cards in your deck. That alone makes banners more reasonable. Also, FRF is loaded with powerful five drops that seem worth playing even in a world where five or six mana is often best spent flipping a morph. The lower availability of dual- and tri-lands also makes banners more useful. Finally, this deck was especially set up to run a banner because it has Ugin and [casthaven]Crux of Fate[/casthaven]. Expensive sweepers work well with slow mana acceleration. I think there may be more decks in this vein going forward, and it is worth considering a banner in them, especially if you need the fixing.

The other weird thing about this deck is the [casthaven]Mistfire Adept[/casthaven] in the sideboard. That card is very powerful, but I did not think it fit in my deck. You have to be using the prowess ability to make [casthaven]Mistfire Adept[/casthaven] a strong card. Even though my deck has eight spells that trigger prowess, some of them don’t really count. [casthaven]Crux of Fate[/casthaven] isn’t enabling any big flying attacks with [casthaven]Mistfire Adept[/casthaven], Ugin is probably winning the game regardless, [casthaven]Whisk Away[/casthaven] can’t trigger prowess on attacks until after they block which makes the Adept’s flying trigger pointless, and the manifest spells feel awkward to play before combat just to get a prowess trigger. The Adept seems much worse in a Sultai control build than in a Jeskai shell, where it is a powerhouse.

Say_Hello

Say hello to some fun new cards!

Anyway, the first days of a new limited format are all about exploring what cards can do when you actually play with them. Theory gets replaced, or at least enhanced, by actual experience. Here are some cards that impressed me:

infiltrator

Wow, this thing is a beating. A 2/3 on turn three is already a solid play, and usually it will be your first creature on board. Then you attack unblockably, and get a free manifest. Any turn for the rest of the game that your opponent doesn’t hold back a blocker or two, you can get in again. I found that I didn’t need to flip the Infiltrator back up until it was attacking and not blocked, but you can also just flip it back up as a blocker whenever is convenient. [casthaven]Jeskai Infiltrator[/casthaven] is a few notches of power level below [casthaven]Pack Rat[/casthaven], but it is really strong and a great engine.

scaleguard

Remember how strong Heliod’s Emissary was in Theros? Well, this is pretty much the same card. You are going to cast this and if you had any other board presence, you’re attacking with at least a 3/3 and tapping down their best blocker. Your opponent has to have an answer, but what do they kill, the bolstered creature with counters that is actually tapping a blocker, or the Scaleguard that enables the tapping? Either way they are leaving a lot of value on your side of the table. This thing is amazing with small fliers, turning even a 1/1 spirit token into a deadly clock. There aren’t a lot of creatures in the format that can block fliers, and it is hard to have two so that you could still block after getting one tapped down. This will be one of the best uncommons in the set and a likely first pick in draft.

outcast

I was a little skeptical about this card before playing against it. Turns out the 1/1 token is incredible with bolster. [casthaven]Sandsteppe Outcast[/casthaven] is best friends with [casthaven]Elite Scaleguard[/casthaven]. The 2/1 body is not incredibly useful, but if you can bolster the spirit token and apply pressure, then the 2/1 will become a relevant additional threat that has to be dealt with. In the late game it gets outclassed, but early it will often trade for a morph. If your opponent is getting whacked for two or three in the air every turn, they will probably trade a morph with the 2/1 to preserve their life total. The 3/2 version doesn’t seem very useful, although it is a warrior.

reclamation

Instant green card draw! I like this card a lot more than [casthaven]Weave Fate[/casthaven] although it is possible to miss on either a land or creature, and you can’t ever draw non-creature spells. This gets better as the game goes late and you have valuable creatures to get back, but is also a great delve enabler in the early turns.  It also plays well with [casthaven]Dragonscale Boon[/casthaven] and morphs, as you already get value out of holding mana open through your opponent’s turn.

Now here are some cards that made more mixed impressions on me:

qarsi

[casthaven]Qarsi High Priest[/casthaven] has a wide range. You can permanently chain chump blockers against something like a [casthaven]Woolly Loxodon[/casthaven] and neutralize the effect of opposing removal. In the late game you can also use it as a pseudo-looter, digging to a creature that you can flip to stabilize or take over a game. If you have a bounce effect like [casthaven]Temur Sabertooth[/casthaven], then you can actually use it like card draw. On the downside, however, [casthaven]Qarsi High Priest[/casthaven] is a horrible blocker, can’t sacrifice itself, and is stone useless against aggressive decks. This might be a sideboard card to bring in for grindy games, or if those tend to be common, a main-deck card that comes out in bad matchups.

whisk

I had an opponent cast this on my attacking [casthaven]Mystic of the Hidden Way[/casthaven]. Post-combat I cast [casthaven]Wildcall[/casthaven] for X=7, then untapped and flipped my now 10/9 unblockable Mystic. That’s a worst case for [casthaven]Whisk Away[/casthaven], but keep in mind that putting a troublesome creature on top of your opponent’s library is not great if they have manifest spells. Add the fact that [casthaven]Whisk Away[/casthaven] is awkward for triggering prowess when you attack because they have to block first (unless you target one of your attackers). The effect is still powerful, and sometimes you need anything you can get to stop a lethal attacker. But I don’t think this effect is at its best in this format.

vengeance

There aren’t a lot of creatures that this will kill. Unless you get a lot of value from the +1/+1 counter, I wouldn’t play this in my main deck. It will do good work against warrior decks or perhaps against [casthaven]Jeskai Windscout[/casthaven], but so far I’m not impressed. Costing double black is also a big cost. [casthaven]Debilitating Injury[/casthaven] is miles better.

hood

I sided this out in every game I played with my Sultai deck. Maybe it is good in an aggressive deck that is always attacking, but other than getting them to block with a big creature that survives combat, or maybe comboing with Arc Lightning, I don’t see how you will ever get to kill a creature with this. A 2/3 for three is fine, but this is basically just a Witch’s Familiar in most decks.

Soon we’ll be drafting with Fate Reforged non stop, and I can’t wait! Let me know what other cards have caught your eye so far.

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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