With pre-release for the newest Magic: the Gathering expansion, Fate Reforged, just hours away, it’s a good time to look at what’s in store for this weekend. We’ll be discussing the best and worst cards of the set overall, as well as the most powerful commons that will help carry you to victory at the pre-release events.
Fair warning, this list might look a little different than what you might expect. There’s been a ton of discussion and excitement for cards like [mtg_card=Soulfire Grand Master], [mtg_card=Monastery Mentor], and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. And that’s certainly for good reason; these cards are all really powerful. We did however want to highlight a few other cards that might be flying below your radar.
Siege Cycle [mtg_card=Citadel Siege], [mtg_card=Monastery Siege], [mtg_card=Palace Siege], [mtg_card=Outpost Siege], [mtg_card=Frontier Siege].
Justin says: You’d be forgiven for letting your eyes pass over these in the spoiler. Theros block had a lot of these kinds of “sit around for some effect” enchantments – though none of them were really good, and there are plenty of flashier cards in Fate Reforged to steal your attention. The various formats will value each of them pretty wildly, but these are much better than the likes of [mtg_card=Marshal Law] or [mtg_card=Skybind]. The real selling point on these cards is the inevitability they offer, generally if any of these stick around unanswered for several turns you’re a heavy favorite to win the game. These are excellent in limited and I expect some of them to see some constructed play.
Josh says: I’m fairly big on the Bolster mechanic as is, but most of them are one-off, dies or enters-the-battlefield effects, and yet they’re still useful. [mtg_card=Dragonscale General] Bolsters every single turn, including the turn he comes down, so he actually has a fairly immediate impact on the game.
Combine this guy with a Mardu weenie strategy (which I’m also particularly fond of, even if it’s not the most viable competitive strategy,) and you’re almost certainly going to be Bolstering for three or more on turn four, which is going to be really helpful when the [mtg_card=Siege Rhino]s start coming out to ruin your day. Bolster 4 on your one-mana 2/1, and suddenly that Rhino’s not looking so tough.
[mtg_card=Shaman of the Great Hunt]
Justin says:While Temur has been seeing some fringe play throughout this season of Standard, a few folks have started to drop the blue in favor of a lean mean Red/Green list. [mtg_card=Shaman of the Great Hunt] and possibly the new [mtg_card=Flamewake Phoenix] are right up this deck’s wheelhouse as creatures that hit hard and fast and offer some form of card advantage if the game drag on. [mtg_card=Shaman of the Great Hunt] is right in the vein of explosive red four drops like [mtg_card=Hero of Oxid Ridge] or [mtg_card=Hellrider]. It might not stack up quite as well as those powerhouses, but it’s certainly a card to keep an eye on.
Josh says: Remember when [mtg_card=Temporal Mastery] was revealed and everybody was shouting about the return of [mtg_card=Timewalk], and it was a huge thing until everybody realized that it wasn’t actually a thing? No? Well, that’s fine, because I have a feeling this isn’t going to be like that. Given the prevalence of [mtg_card=Treasure Cruise] and the other high-value Delve cards from Khans of Tarkir, I have a feeling that paying UUU for an extra turn is going to be valuable enough to warrant inclusion in at least a few different strategies.
It should be noted that I’m a sucker for extra turns, so I may be blinded by my own affinity for playing turns that aren’t mine. I, for one, very much look forward to [mtg_card=Treasure Cruise]-ing and [mtg_card=Dig Through Time]-ing my way to three or four consecutive turns.
[mtg_card=Mardu Strike Leader] and [mtg_card=Flamerush Rider]
Josh says: And we’re back to the Mardu plan. Dash is another Fate Reforged mechanic that I’m particularly eager to try out, and [mtg_card=Mardu Strike Leader] definitely makes a good case for it. He’s got a fairly small body, so attacking without dying might prove a bit problematic, but if we can clear the way with [mtg_card=Crackling Doom] or what have you, getting a 2/1 Warrior creature just for attacking for 3 is pretty neat.
Likewise, [mtg_card=Flamerush Rider] is another amazing addition to the Mardu cast. His Dash cost is cheaper than his casting cost, and his ability copies your biggest attacker, offering some serious value. Being a Warrior as well only furthers the case for a Warrior-heavy deck.
Justin says:This might be a bit ambitious, but I think there’s a lot of potential for [mtg_card=Soulflayer]. It’s just a card begging for you to do silly things with it. The floor on the card is already pretty high, in any deck designed to support it you’re usually getting at least a two or three mana 4/4. That’s a rate that some constructed decks already consider playable, and certainly something you’re never cutting from a limited deck. From there though it starts to get pretty nutty, consider for instance if [mtg_card=Soulflayer] is a 4/4 hexproof, indestructible, first strike, and deathtouch murder machine. Even a more restrained expectation of making say a 4/4 flyer for three or four mana is still not too shabby.
Josh says: Another entry in the clan leader category, Yasova has a particularly nasty ability. “At the beginning of combat on your turn, you may pay 1(U/R)(U/R). If you do, gain control of target creature an opponent controls with power less than Yasova Dragonclaw’s power until end of turn, untap that creature, and it gains haste until end of turn.”
She’s got a base power of 4, and given her 2 toughness, she’ll be incredibly easy to Bolster. Stealing your opponent’s best attacker or sole blocker before you swing is going to be devastating, and forcing your opponent to choose between blocking their own creature or taking a few points of damage is hilarious to me.
While Yasova isn’t the only clan leader with potential, I do value her slightly above Black’s [mtg_card=Tasigur, the Golden Fang], because of the difficult situations it will almost invariably put your opponent in. Likewise, I think she’s slightly preferable to Red’s [mtg_card= Alesha, Who Smiles at Death], despite Alesha having an infinitely more amazing name, because of the heavy restrictions on what you can get back with Alesha.
[mtg_card=Daghatar the Adamant]
Josh says: I might be a little off base here, but I have a strong suspicion that Daghatar is going to be the absolute worst of the new clan leaders. A 4/4 for four mana isn’t terrible, but the three-mana “move one +1/+1 counter” ability just seems entirely too expensive for what amounts to zero gain. You might be able to finagle a favorable Bolster with it, but given that it’s a public-information combat trick, you’re going to be hard pressed to use it to much advantage in combat.
I’m not particularly fond of Blue’s [mtg_card=Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest] either, but at least the Double Strike option in a Prowess-heavy deck could certainly turn the tides. At least moreso than moving a counter around at the cost of one additional mana.
[mtg_card=Warden of the First Tree]
Justin says:Here’s the part where I pick on a mythic that’s certainly not that bad, but I think it getting more attention than in deserves. Basically everyone that’s been around Magic for a few years will recognize this as being similar to [mtg_card=Figure of Destiny]. It’s a cheap one drop that you can dump extra mana into in order for it to get better. [mtg_card=Figure of Destiny] saw a fair amount of play back in the day, and everyone has been quick to assume the same for [mtg_card=Warden of the First Tree]. However, I think this card lines up much worse though when talking about constructed. For starters, while it’s less color intensive [mtg_card=Warden of the First Tree] is much slower. I think the real kicker is a lack of growth in the second stage, staying a 3/3 means it can’t attack through a bunch of creatures in the Standard format. Sure, you can repeatedly activate [mtg_card=Warden of the First Tree]’s last ability to get bigger and bigger, but what game are you not winning if you had the time and extra mana to do that or where [mtg_card=Rakshasa Deathdealer] could play a similar and more resilient role?
Josh says: Okay, yes, I’m picking on the filler cards. There are cards in every set that are objectively terrible, often designed to assist with balance in Limited formats. That said, it doesn’t make the cards suck any less, and [mtg_card=Great-Horn Krushok] is a prime example of terrible. You might recall a creature from Khans of Tarkir that costs four mana instead of five. He’s got an additional power and trample to boot. He also drains your opponent for 3 when he lands. Yes, I’m talking about everybody’s favorite endangered species, the [mtg_card=Siege Rhino].
I fully understand that not every card can be as amazing as our Rhino buddy, but I can’t imagine that the Limited meta would breakdown if they’d made this Krushok thing cost four instead of five. Or be a 4/5 instead of a 3/5.
Justin says:You know I actually had kind of a hard time finding truly bad cards in Fate Reforged, which speaks well to the set’s design. However, this card, I can’t even wrap my head around it. So I guess this enables delve and you can knock some bombs out of your opponents hand during the mid-game when there is a greater chance it’s in their hand than in the top few cards of their deck? But you’ve still down the [mtg_card=Dark Deal] and you’re down another card as well when you redraw. If you’re empty other than [mtg_card=Dark Deal], then you only get effectively one card. This card actually makes [mtg_card=Taigam’s Scheming] look reasonable. Well sort of reasonable, but that’s saying something.
[mtg_card=Crucible of the Spirit Dragon]
Justin says:This card just feels like a waste of a rare land slot. For any older format, there’s already a cycle of storage lands that don’t have any tribal restriction and [mtg_card=Crucible of the Spirit Dragon] doesn’t have any other upside attached to it. It could at least have made them uncounterable or something. It reminds me a bit of [mtg_card=Sliver Hive], which also came out recently, but at least that card could tap for any color for Slivers and could pump out more. Prepare to be really disappointed every time you open this.
Josh says: I’m going to caveat this pseudo-rant with this: “If five-color Dragons becomes a thing at some point, I disavow the following statements.”
Storing charge counters on land is a thing I can get behind. Mana batteries can be great. Charge them up, then unleash them for an explosive turn. The concept behind Crucible is perfectly sound, even if it is an incredibly slow way to ramp up your mana. But then you get to the useful ability, and it’s got the devastating restriction: “Spend this mana only to cast Dragon spells or activate abilities of Dragons.” Sadface.
This land is literally useless unless you’re playing a Dragon-focused deck, which, while there is a huge push towards the Dragon subtype in Fate Reforged, still doesn’t look to have nearly enough viability to see any real play.
Given that Standard currently includes one solitary playable Dragon creature ([mtg_card=Stormbreath Dragon] is no joke,) I find it incredibly hard to believe that this land will somehow make the Dragon theme deck viable. Don’t get me wrong, there are some hilarious situations you can set up with the various “Whenever this dragon dude attacks…” abilities in the set, but since most of them cost 5-7 mana, plus the fact that you’re committing two of your lands each turn you want to charge up your Crucible… I just… no. Absolutely not.
All-Star Commons in Limited
Limited formats mean that you’ll be forced to use the Commons of the set, so we’re breaking down some of the most valuable Common (and Uncommon, I suppose) cards of the set, which will help you win big at the pre-release. You might want to check out the mechanics article as well!
Justin says:This mechanic will be pretty familiar to those who’ve seen the various illusions before. Normally this is pretty bad, but I think [mtg_card=Frost Walker] has some huge potential in draft – more so than say [mtg_card=Phantasmal Bear] since 4/1 is just huge. There are very few spells or cards that actually punish you. Either their using a proper removal spell or opting to turn a combat trick into a removal spell, either way you’re still trading for a card. Your opponent can’t even use the cantrip spells favorably, because if you target it with say [mtg_card=Defiant Strike] then [mtg_card=Frost Walker] gets sacrificed before it resolves and fizzles the spell. There’s actually just not that many [mtg_card=Ice Feather Aven] type cards that really punish you. A lot of times this is just trading for their morph, but any game that you have the means to push through damage is going to end quick.
Literally Anything With Bolster
Josh says: In a world full of sub-par creatures and desperate efforts to trade up in combat, the Bolster mechanic is king. Bolster being available on a variety of commons, including some Instant-speed combat trickery, like [mtg_card=Abzan Advantage], makes it particularly valuable in Limited formats, where you can’t simply opt to run all of the most efficient creatures available. You’ve got [mtg_card=Abzan Skycaptain], which also has an amazingly cool name.
While Bolster doesn’t seem to be prevalent enough to plan and/or base your strategy around, the value it creates is undeniable, and definitely warrants considering including White in your final color scheme.
Manifest Aura Cycle [mtg_card=Lightform], [mtg_card=Cloudform], [mtg_card=Rageform]
Justin says:This cycle is awesome. Worst case, you’re still getting reasonable bodies for their casting cost, and you’re not ever getting blown out by removal spells since it’s still the one card effectively. The double strike one is a little worse if you can’t flip it, but [mtg_card=Wind Drake] with upside is certainly a playable card on its own. The real fun with these is that a little less than 50% of the time, usually your 15-17 creatures in a 40 card deck, you’re going to be able to flip over a creature still attached to the aura and make a monster. Anything 3/3 or bigger is just insane. “Oops, guess I’ve got a 4 power flyer with lifelink now.”
Josh says: “Cantrip” is fairly common Magic terminology for a spell that replaces itself when you cast it, typically with the last line of text on the spell being “Draw a card.” Cantrips often find themselves as staples in various formats, and [mtg_card=Jeskai Ascendancy] has only further boosted the power level of cheap spells that do something, and then let you draw.[mtg_card=Pressure Point] just taps down a creature, but since it also allows you to draw a card, it’s definitely going to be valuable. During your opponent’s Upkeep, you can simply tap down their best attacker or blocker, or anything with a tap ability for that matter. Get your card, and move on with your life.
Likewise, [mtg_card=Refocus] is Blue’s offering, untapping a creature rather than tapping it. This is arguably more powerful, since it’s a combat trick that [mtg_card=Pressure Point] can’t really compete with.
Finally, there’s the notably more expensive [mtg_card=Cunning Strike], which, despite its casting cost, I still expect will see a lot of Limited play. Dealing 2 damage to a creature and another 2 damage to a player, plus drawing you a card, all at Instant speed is fairly impressive. The five-mana cost is a little much, but given the slower Limited formats, it’s certainly not out of the range of reasonable value.
Common Cycle [mtg_card=Harsh Sustenance], [mtg_card=Cunning Strike], [mtg_card=Grim Contest], [mtg_card=War Flare], [mtg_card=Ethereal Ambush].
Justin says:While it’s a little painful needing to take these two color cards in Pack One for draft, because the format will be Fate Khans Khans, the average power level of the cycle is really high. It is worth noting that these are the ideal color pairings since they can each go in two different clans. You have to jump through some hoops for some of them, but you’re generally getting either efficient removal, which is pretty lacking in Khans, or a lot of value. A big upside is that the whole cycle is instant speed, letting you hold up these spells and other actions like morphs – giving you more flexibility to respond to what your opponent does.
That’s it for us! Are you planning to hit the pre-release this weekend? What are you hoping to crack? Let us know in the comments!