This week I am going to rank the top cards in Fate Reforged for Modern and offer discussion and several decklists to start testing. As a bonus, I will also rank the top Fate Reforged cards for Standard with some brief discussion.Top 5 Cards in Fate Reforged for Modern
#5 Soulfire Grand Master
Soulfire Grand Master likely won't see a lot of maindeck play, but it is a very powerful sideboard card in matchups where both players run Lightning Bolt. It's competing with Kor Firewalker and Timely Reinforcements, but the Grand Master offers some things that neither of these other cards can offer.
Unlike Kor Firewalker, Soulfire Grand Master can easily be splashed in a deck that is not heavy white, for instance in a Jeskai Delver deck. Also unlike the Firewalker, the Grand Master offers a much more powerful late game effect with its activated ability. Being able to essentially Lightning Helix each turn for five mana (using a Lightning Bolt) can quickly end a game, or at least put it out of reach. It's a little worse against straight burn because it's more fragile than the Firewalker, but it's better against most non-burn strategies that run Lightning Bolt.
Timely Reinforcements is usually better against Young Pyromancer, but it's only really great when you're behind. Soulfire Grand Master will be better in more aggressive decks that aim to fill the board with creatures. For instance, a zoo deck won't always have fewer creatures on the battlefield than a delver deck or a burn deck, but it can afford to play out its Grand Master on the third turn with a Lightning Bolt in hand ready to be fired off in response to a removal spell on the Grand Master. Rhox War Monk may compete for this slot as well, but I suspect zoo decks will be sufficiently in the market for ways to utilizes excess lands that they would prefer the Grand Master to the War Monk. Pay six mana, Tribal Flames you. Gain five life and put the Tribal Flames back in my hand. GG. Here's where I would start:
#4 Dark Deal
Just straight up casting Dark Deal on the third turn (or second turn off a Birds of Paradise or Noble Hierarch) will be very powerful in a lot of games. Many decks in Modern spend their first couple turns sculpting their hand and fetching the appropriate lands to cast the spells they drew. Forcing them to mulligan into a new random hand will often completely derail their plan and give them an unplayable hand. Hence the card by itself will often be a reasonable play without any additional support. What really makes Dark Deal special is when you build your deck around it.
One way to gain additional benefit from its effect is playing cards with the delve or dredge mechanic that can take advantage of filling up your graveyard.
Another way is to play a specific card that makes the effect much more devastating. For instance, with a Spirit of the Labyrinth on the battlefield the opponent must discard their hand and only draw a single card to replace it. And the Spirit will preemptively shut off Treasure Cruise from being a way to recover from the Mind Twist. Similar to Spirit of the Labyrinth is Maralen of the Mornsong, which would keep either player from drawing cards off the Dark Deal. It's simply a Mind Twist for both players.
The most powerful way to utilize Dark Deal, however, is by gaining extra value out of the effect. Waste Not will cause both players to discard their hand and draw a new hand of one less, but it will also trigger the Waste Not for each card discarded by the opponent. This will provide a combination of: drawing more cards (for each non-creature, non-land card the opponent discards), mana to cast all these newly drawn cards (for each land the opponent discards), and a horde of Zombie Tokens (for each creature the opponent discards). The mana and card draw abilities together will often chain you immediately into yet another Dark Deal on the same turn, forcing an utterly backbreaking scenario for the opponent.
The other extremely powerful way to gain additional value out of the effect is by combining Dark Deal with Notion Thief. Cast Notion Thief during the opponent's end step and then untap and cast Dark Deal. Both players discard their hand but the opponent draws no extra cards. Instead you draw all the cards that both players would have drawn off the Dark Deal! The only thing more satisfying than pulling this off against an opponent is pulling it off against multiple opponents in a game of Commander. Mwuahahaha! All your cards are belong to us!
#3 Hero's Blade
There aren't a whole lot of powerful legendary creatures in Standard right now to take advantage of Hero's Blade, but in Modern there are many more to choose from, several of which have already proven to be powerhouses of the format. Red is the only color without any good legends, perhaps outside of Mishra, Artificer Prodigy and maybe Olivia Voldaren. Blue, white, and green have the best legendary creatures in Modern, so I brewed a Bant list to start us off.
There might also be enough good legendary creatures to build an Abzan list. Anafenza, the Foremost, Doran, the Siege Tower, and potentially Obzedat, Ghost Council or Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni could find a place. You could also modify the above Bant list to give it more non-creature hate such as Stubborn Denial, Negate, or Qasali Pridemage. The deck is similar to hate bears in that it's highly disruptive and creature-based, yet it hits a lot faster and a lot harder than hate bears because of the Hero's Blade.
#2 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
I suspect Ugin will only fit into one deck but that he will be a complete game changer in that one deck: Urza Tron.
Tron has been steadily a Tier 2 deck for the past few years in Modern. The most popular version is base green splashing red primarily for Pyroclasm. Pyroclasm is ok right now but it isn't spectacular because even UR Delver can just explode in one turn with Monastery Swiftspear or simply Spell Snare the Pyroclasm after "going off" with Young Pyromancer. I suspect the future of Tron is monogreen now that Ugin is around, maybe with some splashes in the sideboard since its mana can relatively easily support it.
Ugin's minus effect is a one-sided Oblivion Stone that allows you to keep all your permanents while exiling all the opponent's permanents. All Is Dust has been seeing play off and on. By paying one more mana for Ugin you can accomplish the same effect as All Is Dust while also keeping a powerful planeswalker around to prevent the opponent from getting back into the game. Turn 3 Karn is still the optimal opening, but turn four Ugin will likely be the best thing to do on four lands. Between Karn, Ugin, Wurmcoil Engine, and whatever Eldrazi the deck chooses to run, the addition of Ugin to the threat suite will make it much more difficult for any deck to disrupt the Tron deck. The fact that it now has two "win conditions" that also double as efficient reusable removal really makes me not want to play against Tron. Either that or I'll be forced to play with land destruction because that feels like the only reliable way to fight it now. Here's where I would start:
#1 Monastery Mentor
The card I expect to see the most play and have the biggest impact on Modern is Monastery Mentor. I can see it being splashed in a UR Delver deck or jammed into a Jeskai Midrange deck or even used in a BW Token deck. Sam Black is probably already brewing a Mardu deck featuring Young Pyromancer alongside Monastery Mentor a la The Aristocrats. The great thing about the mentor is how potent the tokens are by themselves. You don't have to play cards like Intangible Virtue or Jeskai Ascendancy to make them relevant. The built-in prowess bonus means all you have to do is continue playing the types of cards that you're already playing to produce the tokens in the first place.
Here is a starting list that jams Monastery Mentor into a Jeskai Midrange shell:
And here is UR Delver splashing for Monastery Mentor:
And finally, BW Tokens with Monastery Mentor:
Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Tasigur's Cruelty
Tasigur, the Golden Fang looks playable in Modern as a powerful threat that can come down as early as the second turn (off Thought Scour and a fetch land) that is also able to generate value with his activated ability. Sultai Delver might be a thing? Or maybe he fits into a Tribal Zoo shell? Or perhaps as one of those previously mentioned delve cards in a Dark Deal deck?
Tasigur's Cruelty likely won't see much play as long as Treasure Cruise and/or Dig Through Time remain legal in the format because the effect isn't nearly as powerful. With that said, the cost is less and you also don't have a lot of delve options in non-blue decks, so I could see one-mana Mind Rot making it into a few deck lists even if the blue delve cards remain legal. Both Tasigur and his Cruelty will likely standout and be more than just honorable mentions if the more powerful delve cards get the modern axe. I guess we'll all find out in the next few days whether or not this will be the case.
Now let's shift gears to Standard for a bonus Standard Top 10 list.=Top 10 Cards in Fate Reforged for Standard
10. Tasigur, the Golden Fang9. Whisperwood Elemental8. Soulfire Grand Master7. Yasova Dragonclaw6. Crux of Fate5. Flamewake Phoenix4. Mardu Woe-Reaper3. Brutal Hordechief2. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon1. Monastery Mentor
I gave starting deck lists last week (found here) based around eight of these top ten cards. If you're interested in more discussion about them, I would recommend checking it out.
The following, in no particular order, are playable and get honorable mention (along with some very brief commentary)...
Alesha, Who Smiles at Death ( Hornet Queen? Value card?)Warden of the First Tree (Abzan Aggro?)Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest (Jeskai Midrange?)Dark Deal (Waste Not and/or Spirit of the Labyrinth)Neutralizing Blast (SB card)Wild Slash (decent removal spell, will see some play)Hero's Blade (maybe not enough support in Standard)Tasigur's Cruelty (maybe in a Sultai deck? Sideboard?)Break Through the Line (good Falter effect that also grants haste. Will see play but where?)Shaman of the Great Hunt (strong curve topper but where?)Outpost Siege (SB card against slow decks)Battle Brawler (BW Warriors role-player)Temporal Trespass (strong card but where?)Frost Walker (with Temur Ascendancy)Mardu Strike Leader (possibly in BW Warriors)Valorous Stance (SB card)Conclusion
In Fate Reforged there are a handful of cards that I believe will make some big waves in Modern, though admittedly not quite as much as Khans of Tarkir, given the high impact allied fetch lands, Treasure Cruise, Dig Through Time, Jeskai Ascendancy, and Siege Rhino have had on the format.
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon will make Tron even better than it already is. Monastery Mentor will give token strategies another potent engine. Hero's Blade and Dark Deal are build-around cards that have potential to become legitimate contenders. Soulfire Grand Master is currently a well-positioned sideboard card. Finally, Tasigur and his Cruelty could become major players depending on what happens with the banned list changes this weekend.
Next Friday will be my full set review, including financial speculation.
Craig Wescoe@Nacatls4Life on twitter