Khans of Tarkir kicked-off of the most diverse Standard metagame in its history. The recent release of Fate Reforged has added more tools to the card pool and made things even more interesting. Today I'll take a look at some of last weekend's tournament results and showcase decklists that put some Fate Reforged cards in the spotlight. I'll explain how and why these archetypes have adapted the new cards, and where they are likely headed in the future.Musser Midrange
Abzan Midrange was the original dominant deck in Khans of Tarkir Standard, and while the metagame developed to beat it, the deck continued to adapt and evolve while lying in the shadows. Metagame shifts away from Whip of Erebos decks, access to new cards from Fate Reforged, and some fundamental changes in its design have combined to make Abzan Midrange a top-tier player in the Standard metagame.
Here's the list that Dan Musser used to win a PTQ last weekend in the Pittsburgh area:
This list is a slight update on the deck, designed by Steve Rubin that Dan Musser used the weekend prior to make Top 8 of the first SCG Standard Open with Fate Reforged. The big innovation here is the removal of Sylvan Caryatid. Abzan Aggro decks have gone entirely without the card since the beginning, and this decklist is proof that the card isn't necessary even in a controlling build. In fact, the removal of Sylvan Caryatid helps to enable the shift towards a more controlling build, particularly because it's so weak with board sweepers like End Hostilities. Experts with the archetype, like Patrick Chapin, have always advocating siding out Sylvan Caryatid in many matchups, particularly when bringing in End Hostilities, and this new build sets up the maindeck with that interaction in mind right from the get-go. I'd argue that removing Sylvan Caryatid necessitates the inclusion of End Hostilities, because it is more likely to fall behind and thus requires a way to catch back up.
The shift into a more controlling deck lends itself to long games in which Ugin, the Spirit Dragon can shine. This is now the trump of Standard, capable of clearing away even Hornet Queen while leaving a powerful piece of board presence behind. The deck plays an impactful planeswalker package that extends into the sideboard with cards like Sorin, Solemn Visitor, Ajani, Mentor of Heroes, and Nissa, Worldwaker, but it includes three maindeck Elspeth, Sun's Champion along with a maindeck Liliana Vess. If Standard grows slower, more controlling, and more attrition-based, then Liliana Vess shines. It's also an impressive tutor that helps to more consistently find one-ofs like Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, and...
Tasigur, the Golden Fang. This new Standard staple has found a home in Abzan Midrange. Without any cards that meaningfully fill the graveyard, this archetype isn't looking to use the card as an early threat, but rather as a mid-game tempo play or as a late-game card advantage engine. It's enabled by the many spells this deck plays as a part of its attrition plan, including Thoughtseize and the creature removal package, in a style similar to how Tarmogoyf is used in eternal formats. A second copy in the sideboard is valuable tool against any opponent hoping to win with disruption of their own.
The rest of this decklist is pretty stock to the archetype, including tuned numbers on the removal suite of three Hero's Downfall and three Bile Blight, while Four Abzan Charm offers flexibility. Read the Bones is a powerful and reliable form of card advantage.
Without Sylvan Caryatid, or for that matter any early plays beyond Bile Blight and Thoughtseize, this deck happily plays a full eight scrylands and four trilands. As control deck it values scrying heavily, and the trilands ensure that colored mana is rarely an issue.
This deck is as solid as they come, a proven staple archetype that has evolved along with the rest of the metagame and re-invented itself for the new world brought upon by Fate Reforged.4C Delve with Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Tasigur, the Golden Fang is an exciting Fate Reforged addition to the 4C Delve archetype. Standard's most powerful graveyard deck utilizes Soul of Theros as a trump that goes over the top of every opponent in the format. With a set of Satyr Wayfinder and a pair of Commune with the Gods, in addition to playing with a full set of Sidisi, Brood Tyrant, the deck is designed to fill up its graveyard early and often. The graveyard enablers are necessary for finding Soul of Theros and for filling the graveyard with fuel for Murderous Cut. Tasigur, the Golden Fang provides a proactive, powerful new tool for leveraging the graveyard and is an asset to the archetype.
Tasigur, the Golden Fang is the perfect turn three follow-up to a Satyr Wayfinder, which guarantees exactly the three cards in the graveyard necessary to play a turn three Tasigur, the Golden Fang, and likely the required third land as well. This sort of aggressive start steals the initiative and puts immense pressure on the opponent. Tasigur, the Golden Fang is also a very impressive tempo play in the midgame. This deck has many ways to fuel the graveyard, so in many cases it will be able to cast Tasigur, the Golden Fang for just one mana on the same turn that it casts other threats. Tasigur, the Golden Fang also Threatens to generate card advantage while fueling the graveyard, meaning it must be dealt with directly even if the opponent has stabilized the board into a stalemate. With this aspect it gives the archetype a great late game plan that further cements its ability to outlast attrition and go over the top of any opponent.
4C Delve is positioned to go over the top of every other deck in the format, even those with Whip of Erebos and Hornet Queen. Between its mana acceleration, powerful midrange creatures, removal, and Soul of Theros at the top, it's the total package, but as a four-color deck it's vulnerable to mana issues, and with a relatively expensive curve, it can be especially reliant on mana acceleration against its fastest opponents. Tasigur, the Golden Fang helps to Remedy these issues by providing it with a reliable piece of board presence that's useful through all stages of the game. There is no current Standard deck better suited to playing Tasigur, the Golden Fang than 4C Delve, and It serves as an example of how to properly wield Tasigur, the Golden Fang in order to get the most out of its abilities.Temur Ascendancy Combo
It turns out that the Ascendancy cycle from Khans of Tarkir might just be broken, because there is a now a true combo deck in Standard, Temur Ascendancy Combo. The basic combo allows for the generation of infinite mana. Once the deck assembles seven devotion to green, Temur Sabertooth can be used to bounce Voyaging Satyr, which with a Temur Ascendancy in play can be cast again and used to untap Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, and repeated Ad Nauseam. With seven devotion to green, Karametra's Acolyte also offers the ability to go infinite with Temur Sabertooth. Assuming the controller has generated infinite mana and has access to another four-powered creature besides the original Temur Sabertooth, it can be bounced and replayed repeatedly to draw any number of cards with Temur Ascendancy.
This combo seems a little clunky, but it mostly utilizes cards that are already playable in a competitive Green Devotion shell. The deck continues to put up results, and it even put another version into the Top 16 of this same event. The reason I share this particular decklist is the inclusion of Chord of Calling. Chord of Calling seems like the ideal card in a big-mana deck that includes a creature-based combo, and in addition to finding some combo pieces it even finds the best way to sink any extra mana generated along the way, Nylea, God of the Hunt. It also enables a tool-box package of cards like Reclamation Sage, Hornet Nest, and even Hushwing Gryff, which is why two more copies of Chord of Calling reside in the sideboard.
This archetype has a strong core supporting it. It has already seen some success, but it is still relatively unexplored, and with more tuning and refinement could become a fixture in the metagame.The Rise of Flamewake Phoenix
A major trend in Standard with Fate Reforged is the rise of Flamewake Phoenix. This past weekend the new card saw considerable success in a variety of archetypes.Temur Aggro
Temur Aggro has proved itself to be a viable home for Flamewake Phoenix. The most notable card in this decklist is Frost Elemental, which as a two-mana, four-power creature changes the Ferocious equation by shifting the focus away from top-end enablers like those usually employed above Flamewake Phoenix, and towards the low-end, which lends itself to better tempo plays and the ability to recur Flamewake Phoenix earlier and more often. Frost Elemental hits very hard for a two-drop, and because there really isn't anything that kills it that doesn't cost the opponent a card and a mana or three, the drawback is not nearly as significant as it may seem.
Savage Knuckleblade and Boon Satyr are also two relatively cheap creatures that further lower the Ferocious curve. By lowering the curve, this deck is also able to take full advantage of Shaman of the Great Hunt, which is best as a follow-up to an aggressive start.
This deck uses Flamewake Phoenix to cement its aggressive gameplan with a redundant aggressive creature that also offers great resilience to removal spells, and it's a clearly invaluable asset to the strategy and a card I expect to see more of in the archetype as it evolves. 4C Midrange
This 4 Color Midrange deck is something like a Mardu Midrange deck with the best of Abzan Midrange smashed into it. It's designed to take advantage of Flamewake Phoenix as a threat that will overcome any amount of creature removal, and it provides the deck with a great deal of inevitability into the late-game. Not to be satisfied with just Butcher of the Horde as a Ferocious enabler, the deck splashes into green for a set of Siege Rhino. Green also provides access to the flexible and powerful Abzan Charm, which in addition to a card advantage spell also helps take care of threats it might otherwise find difficult to deal with, such as Ashcloud Phoenix.
Ajani, Mentor of Heroes is a fine source of card advantage in a deck with 16 creatures, but it is particularly interesting here because it can add counters to a small creature, such as Flamewake Phoenix, Goblin Rabblemaster, or even a Goblin Token, to enable Ferocious and Flamewake Phoenix recursion.
Playing four colors is serious business, and it comes with its own risks, but this deck has good reason to do so. With a well-built manabase, it serves as a great example of how to play four colors going forward. By including fetchlands, scrylands, nearly two sets of trilands, and thee Mana Confluence, this deck has a solid manabase. Looking Ahead
Fate Reforged has shaken up the Standard format. It has spawned new archetypes, and it has caused major existing archetypes to adapt to the new metagame while incorporating new cards of their own. Fate Reforged contains plenty of other new cards that have already made a name for themselves in Standard, and many others that may have their day in the coming weeks and months. What are your favorite Fate Reforged cards for Standard? How must other archetypes adapt? What new decks and strategies exist? Share your thoughts in the comments!