Sometimes you just have to brew! Fate Reforged has so many cards in it that have really neat, albeit non-obvious, applications. When a card like Siege Rhino sees print, everyone and their brother knows how to use the card. You cast it, net value, and move on. Eventually, deeper interactions, such as Birthing Pod or blink effects might get used, but ground level application of the card is pretty simple. Other times, we have cards that are anything but obvious.
Take a card like Humble Defector out of Fate Reforged. In theory, I can play this card in a relatively straight-up way. If I just activate it, I draw two cards and then offer my opponent that same option later. If I win the game before that time comes though, I have used the card to great effect without doing anything weird or crazy. The issue with this, is that I am going to draw Humble Defector a lot more than on the penultimate turn of the game and I don't want to have a dead card hanging around waiting for some precise moment to do something.
This leads to exploring some of the non-obvious applications of the card. Once the idea that I can untap Defector with its activated ability on the stack becomes processed, now I have a whole new world to explore Humble Defector in. As we will see today, exploring one variation often leads to deeper and more interactions, crazier ideas, and sometimes one hell of a decklist.Toolbox or Combo?
I mention Humble Defector already, because the card came up as an option in a toolbox shell. You see, Chord of Calling is an extremely powerful card and yet the amount of play it was seeing prior to Fate Reforged was quite low. The card is able to give decks a huge amount of versatility or in some cases, be the glue that holds a combo deck together.
Between Chord and Humble Defector, I decided I wanted to brew a little bit. The following decklist is where I started, but most certainly not where I ended.
This list has a lot going on, but most of the departments overlap enough that most of your lines are relatively safe to explore. On our surface, we have a fairly aggressive deck here looking to utilize Jeskai Ascendancy as an anthem and to end games through the extra damage created.
With Ascendancy out, our convoke spells tend to be free triggers for Ascendancy, pumping our team, and generating some other effect. Stoke the Flames is rather straightforward, but Chord of Calling is where we get to have some fun. We can always use Chord as a normal tutor to find specific creatures for specific tasks. Reclamation Sage and Humble Defector are great examples of this. While we don't necessarily want either card all of the time, there will be key moments where both cards are needed and Chord gives us that versatility.
Beyond just being a tutor, Chord has a nice chain to set up in this list. Basically, you are looking to get out enough creatures so that when you convoke a Chord out, the untap from a Jeskai Ascendancy will refund most of that cost back. Chording for five is your goal as you will go and fetch a Warden of the Eye. This adds another creature to your board and gets Chord back from your yard. You will repeat the same process again, this time at effectively a mana cheaper thanks to the new Warden. Every iteration of this will be pumping up your squad and hopefully making tokens via Monastery Mentor if you were short on creatures that could be attacking. After finding all three copies of Warden of the Eye, you can find a Clever Impersonator as the 4th copy, or just go find a Cyclops of Eternal Fury. This will give all of those freshly found Wardens and Mentor tokens haste so we can put their gigantic size to use this turn, hopefully ending the game. Temur Ascendancy can also fill in here and do some of the work in the haste department.
If you are looking for a list that is a little less cute, but still very heavy on the synergy, you can focus more on the token making element while still having access to the power of Chord of Calling. It is entirely likely that a straight Jeskai version of the following list would be more consistent, but I found the enablers in a straight UWR shell to be lacking. Springleaf Drum is basically the best option you have alongside Stoke the Flames. Triplicate Spirits is something I want to be good, but I am not quite sure it is there yet.
Here is a four color token version of the list though:
We use many of the same synergies that we have before, but now we are just looking to make our creatures big and beat down. We are aided by Purphoros here, which in combination with Monastery Mentor and a Warden of the Eye chain, does a good bit of direct damage and will often end a game without you needing to find any haste to expedite the process. Stoke the Flames even helps out with the process a little bit.
If you wanted to get rid of the green altogether, I would look to likely add the typical token fare, like Hordeling Outburst, that we are used to. Triplicate Spirits is basically the next best convoke spell that we have access to as well, so I would probably at least give it a shot. From there, we really should consider cards like Daring Thief to give us some trickery and up our synergy even more.
That would probably give us a few too many three-drops and without Chord of Calling, it is not as though we can only run a single copy of any of these creatures. But inspired does make a lot of sense in the list, so it is at least an angle to be explored.
While I was looking at the above concept (and believe you me, it is a rather deep one to look into, so if you are ever bored, go looking for synergy for the above list and you will be occupied for hours), I ran into another idea. I was looking for instants to untap my creatures via Jeskai Ascendancy. This would let me activate Humble Defector multiple times, which was a big bonus over a sorcery. During my search, I came across Polymorphous Rush and another idea came up.
In theory, one could use Polymorphous Rush on a bunch of creatures, turning them into Humble Defector and then drawing a bunch of cards. Your opponent would receive a bunch of Sylvan Caryatids and Elvish Mystics without much ability to do anything with them. Rush could then be used as a win condition, turning those same dorks into legitimate threats, or maybe comboing off to just win on the spot.
Going even a level deeper than that, there is also the very fringe ability for us to give our opponent negative creatures in this manner. For example, what if we gave our opponent Master of the Feast? This would give us even more cards out of the deal and so long as we don't die to our gifted fliers, we can later turn our creatures into them with another Rush and win the game. Remember that Polymorphous Rush does not care which side of the table the targeted creature is on.
This deck is looking to abuse Humble Defector much more than the above list. Here, we want to use Triton Tactics, Kiora's Follower, and all of our triggers from Jeskai Ascendancy to constantly untap our Humble Defectors, getting more and more value from them. It should be noted that Kiora's Follower doubles up your Jeskai Ascendancy triggers, allowing you to draw four cards off of each noncreature spell cast while Humble Defector is in play.
If you activate Humble Defector and then untap it through any of these means, keep in mind that you do not draw your two cards right away. You have earned the right to use the Defector again, but your card advantage will not come until the Defector actually ends up on your opponent's side of the table. This means that all of your untapping, namely the triggers from Ascendancy, need to come at instant speed. If you cast a sorcery to untap with Jeskai Ascendancy, there is actually no way to manipulate Humble Defector in such a way that will net you multiple activations. Instant speed is key.
While you untap that Defector a bunch and also loot off of Jeskai Ascendancy, you are going to be going through a lot of card flow. In turn, this is going to make your Chasm Skulkers gigantic. This is good for a few reasons. Obviously having giant creatures is already good, but if they die to something other than exile, they will be sprouting a ton of 1/1 tokens. These tokens are going to work with Jeskai Ascendancy, along with your convoke spells, to fuel another big turn that will power out another Chasm Skulker.
There is another nifty thing that our Chasm Skulkers do though. As we draw cards, they actually get bigger through +1/+1 counters. This means that if our turn later involves a Chord of Calling for Sage of Hours, we can actually Polymorphous Rush our Chasm Skulker(s) into said Sage of Hours. This allows us to Remove a bunch of counters (hopefully 10 or more, but five will do the trick) which in turn gives us extra turns. This again, circumvents the need for haste and it allows you to finish setting up synergies or combo pieces so that you can win the game a little later. Usually, within those few turns, you will find another Polymorphous Rush or Warden of the Eye to reset the chain and take some more turns. Winning from this point is fairly trivial.
Beyond just Warden of the Eye though, we also have Soulfire Grand Master in this list. He is certainly one of those cards that might get cut if we discover him to be too cute, but in theory, you can get to a point in the game where you are casting Chord of Calling or Rush over and over again and returning it via Grand Master. This would occur after your normal Warden chain runs out, so as I said, it is potentially just another cute and unneeded thing, but it does allow you to go infinite (with four mana creatures plus Chord, for example, or with Rush turn after turn on Sage of Hours).
If you wanted to go even deeper with the list, you could add Felhide Spiritbinder to the mix. While it does require that you have an extra Chord of Calling to go off with, that is much more realistic in a list with four copies of Humble Defector and many more enablers in the main deck. Spiritbinder would be your first grab with your first Chord. From there, you use a second Chord to set up a normal Warden of the Eye chain. With each iteration you can use Spiritbinder to create more and more Humble Defectors, drawing more and more cards (and constantly stacking it so that they untap again before resolving. Generally, by the end of the chain, you will draw somewhere between 20 and 40 cards. And because most of the Humble Defectors were tokens in this case, giving them to your opponent isn't even bad.
But that is all of the brewing for me today. Now I just need to get to work on polishing up one of these lists so I can show a few people just how to be Humble...
Thanks for reading!