Fate Reforged Standard is in full swing. Last weekend there was the full gamut of Standard events, including a Grand Prix in Spain, a TCGplayer MaxPoint Diamond Open in Cleveland, an SCG Open in Houston, a handful of Pro Tour Qualifiers, and a ton of Game Day events at local shops around the world. Today I'll take stock of the Standard environment with Fate Reforged incorporated, analyze some of these tournament results, and use metagame trends to determine what decks are poised for success next weekend.
The Temur Ascendancy combo deck received a lot of attention from TCGplayer writers over the past couple of weeks, so it's no surprise the deck ultimately hoisted the trophy at the TCGplayer MaxPoint Diamond Open $5k in Cleveland this past weekend.
I recommend checking out some previous articles on tcgplayer to get a deeper understanding of the archetype, but the Temur Ascendancy Combo deck is essentially just a Green Devotion deck that takes advantage of Temur Sabertooth's ability to return and recast creatures for value. Combining it with Voyaging Satyr, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, seven green devotion, and the deck's namesake enchantment providing haste, starts a loop that generates infinite mana and can even draw the entire deck combined with a ferocious creature. The combo is useful, but the archetype is strong because it functions very well as a pure Green Devotion strategy. The individual combo pieces are all useful on their own, so it makes the combo somewhat free in terms of deckbuilding costs.
Check out this Green Devotion list splashing Blue that won a 73 player Game Day in Japan, which includes a full playset of Temur Sabertooth for its value as a threat, source of devotion, and way to Recycle Genesis Hydra, Hornet Queen, Reclamation Sage, Nylea's Disciple, and Polukranos, World Eater, but without access to any sort of infinite combo:
Classic Monogreen Devotion, Green Devotion splashing Red, and RG Midrange all had a successful weekend. Whisperwood Elemental has finally arrived in Standard en masse, where it can now be found in all three of the aforementioned green decks, among others. There were six copies of Whisperwood Elemental in the Top 8 of GP Seville and eight copies in the Top 8 of the SCG Open in Houston, an event it ultimately won.
Whisperwood Elemental is a green powerhouse that fits perfectly into the curve of green ramp decks. As a five-mana creature, it bridges the turns between early plays, Courser of Kruphix and Polukranos, the World Eater, and the high-end plays, Hornet Queen and Genesis Hydra. Its ability to produce a 2/2 creature each turn makes it comparable to a past Standard green ramp card, Master of the Wild Hunt. The fact that a creature is made at the end of its controller's turn, starting with the first turn, means it's actually much better because the opponent has less opportunity to destroy it. Assuming the opponent's doesn't immediately kill it, Whisperwood Elemental also resembles Bear's Companion. Also consider that the 2/2 Manifest creature created is actually quite a bit better than a 2/2 token, because quite often the Manifested card will be a quality creature that can be flipped for value. Since its mana cost must be paid to flip it, Manifesting a creature is quite similar to drawing an extra card.
Whisperwood Elemental has a secondary ability. It can be sacrificed to counteract removal spells or to gain value from creature combat, because it converts any dying creature into a new manifested creature. While Sacrificing Whisperwood Elemental when a single creature is dying is rarely going to be beneficial, since this is effectively just turning Whisperwood Elemental into a 2/2 Manifested creature, in combat situations and against mass removal board sweepers in particular it's extremely effective.
Some may remember Caller of the Claw, which made a 2/2 Bear Token for each creature that died that turn. It would be cast after a Wrath of God, which left its controller with a great board position and the ability to immediately pressure the opponent, often just killing them.
Whisperwood Elemental has this same ability built into itself. It's something like a "Seal of Caller of the Claw" in that it can be put into play preemptively, where it sits in waiting to counteract an End Hostilities or Crux of Fate. One or more of the Manifested creatures could be flipped on the following turn, meaning a 2/2 will sometimes be a 4/4 or 5/5, so as way to ensure immediate pressure against opponents after a board sweeper, Whisperwood Elemental will usually be even better than Caller of the Claw.
It's clear that Whisperwood Elemental is a great source of card advantage, a way to develop the board, and a solution for board sweepers. The solution to board sweeper aspect can't be understated, because it's these board sweepers that are traditionally the biggest problems for green ramp decks. Their gameplan floods the board with numerous cheap mana-producing creatures, so board sweepers will often generate massive card advantage while setting behind opposing mana development. Whisperwood Elemental turns theses sweepers into a liability, because board sweepers will just end up converting 1/1 and 0/3 creatures into threatening 2/2 creatures.
It's clear that Whisperwood Elemental is a great source of card advantage and a way to develop the board. It will be a key piece of green decks going forward, and given the relative strength of these strategies in this metagame, it's a card to expect to see much of in the near future.RW Aggro
RW didn't break into the Top 8 at Grand Prix Seville, but it was all over day two as the most played deck, with 14 representatives fielding Chained to the Rocks. The archetype clearly performed poorly in a hostile day twometagame, but the deck was a very consistent choice in an open day one field, considering that so many players did reach day two with it, and that both 9-0 players after day one were on the archetype. Last weekend RW did earn a victory, however, at a 211 player Japanese PTQ, where it won the event. Here's the decklist:
From Fate Reforged,, a pair of Soulfire Grandmaster provides the deck with a considerable amount of late game Staying Power in attrition battles and a dose of extra lifegain.
From Fate Reforged the archetype has also gained Outpost Siege, which serves as a very reliable source of card advantage similar to Phyrexian Arena. It doesn't actually put cards in hand to be saved for later, but for a deck that so often plays in topdeck mode it's a very valuable resource. The Japanese PTQ list plays a pair in the sideboard, but players have begun to move them into the maindeck, replacing Chandra, Pyromaster. At least two players in day two of the Grand Prix played as many as three in the maindeck. Keep in mind that any extra Outpost Siege can be used to draw extra cards, but alternatively played in its Dragons mode to as a damage source. This mode will be particularly useful to put the nail in the coffin for a backpedaling opponent, potentially even on turn four before a board sweeper is cast on turn five.
Check out this build from Chris Andersen, who made Top 8 of the MaxPoint event in Cleveland:
I'm particularly fond of Chris' sideboard, which offers him the ability to shift into a control deck with pairs of heavy-hitting End Hostilities and Elspeth, Sun's Champion along with Arc Lightning to control the early game. Card advantage from Outpost Siege helps to enable this control plan, so I am keen on playing a second copy in the 75.
Another very viable option for RW Aggro is Citadel Siege. This Limited powerhouse is considered to be nearly unbeatable because of its ability to generate massive board presence with its Khans ability. This ability is just as useful in Constructed, especially because it can be built around. Check out this RW deck that placed in the Top 4 of the Japanese PTQ:
Is Citadel Siege the next Pack Rat?Jeskai Tempo
Wild Slash and Valorous Stance are also seeing play in the maindecks and sideboards of RW decks, often as two-ofs, but they may be even more interesting in Jeskai. In fact, I'd argue that these cards go a long way in making Jeskai a viable and highly competitive archetype in post-Fate Reforged Standard.
The Jeskai strategy is inherently very weak against Siege Rhino, which gums up the ground, applies immense pressure, and puts the opponent out of burn reach with its lifegain. The single biggest reason to play RW in Standard is reliable access to Chained to the Rocks, a necessary evil that is required in the fight against Siege Rhino, but Valorous Stance fills in the hole. It does cost one more mana, but it will reliably destroy any large creature at a tempo boost, and it's not vulnerable to Erase or Glare of Heresy.
Valorous Stance also has another mode! The worst part about playing Chained to the Rocks in RW is it's effectively useless against control decks like UB and Sultai Planeswalkers, but Valorous Stance is excellent against them! Yes, Valorous Stance is not as flexible as Chained to the Rocks and it's weak against cheap, small creatures, but those are perfect targets for burn spells anyways.
Jeskai is inherently a tempo deck that isn't as powerful as other archetypes, but it has the ability to operate under them with highly efficient cards. Its cards are cheaper, meaning it can play them before the opponent plays their relevant cards, and it means it can play more of its cards. Integral to the gameplan is tempo, which is using mana-efficient cards to incrementally increase its own board position and disrupt the opponent's. Stoke the Flames, which can be cast for free, is a great example of card that generates tempo, while Valorous Stance will similarly generate tempo advantage because it destroys creatures that cost three or four mana for a mere two mana. Wild Slash allows Jeskai to make tempo plays earlier in the game, when they are most impactful. One turn one it can match an opposing one-drop, but it also answers many many turn two and turn three plays in the format, including Goblin Rabblemaster. Wild Slash gives Jeskai a new tempo tool that it can use to attack the metagame. It's also a burn spell, so it adds redundancy to the late game plan of burning the opponent out.
Here's the decklist Martin Juza used to reach the Top 8 of Grand Prix Seville, which features three maindeck copies of both Wild Slash and Valorous Stance:
Gone is the inefficient Jeskai Charm. This deck also forgoes Hordeling Outburst, which may seem startling, but consider that compared to RW Aggro Jeskai has simply shifted that three-mana creature slot to Mantis Rider. The metagame has adapted to beat Hordeling Outburst, which by now has become an industry standard that the metagame is prepared to beat. With haste Mantis Rider is more aggressive than Hordeling Outburst, and the evasion of flying makes it a powerhouse against removal-light Green Devotion strategies.
Martin's inclusion of Stormbreath Dragon belies this build's RW Aggro roots. It's certainly difficult for many opponents to Remove, but in a vacuum it's a highly aggressive creature with evasion that supplements Mantis Rider.
Abzan Advantage is a potential tempo play, an answer to Chained to the Rocks, Courser of Kruphix, Outpost Siege, and more, but it comes with the added bonus of Bolster. I'm not sure how I feel about this card maindeck going forward, but it's a consideration and a strong sideboard card.
From the sideboard, this build can give a convincing performance as a control deck, complete with Counterspells in Disdainful Stroke and Negate, a sweeper in Anger of the Gods, and a planeswalker in Elspeth, Sun's Champion.Two Color Aggro
RW has now found a considerably mainstream following, and it brings into question the potential viability of other two-color aggressive archetypes that haven't yet appeared in the metagame. Early in the season BW saw mild success before falling off, but another possible direction to take it is BR. Check out this deck that won a 58 player Game Day tournament in Japan last weekend:
This deck has a low curve and has great mana with access to Bloodstained Mire. It plays a considerable amount of powerful new Fate Reforged cards, including two three-powered two drops in Mardu Scout and the robust Battle Brawler. Brutal Hordechief gives the deck a significant power boost, while Outpost Siege is a great way to fuel into the midgame for a deck with a low curve that is likely to empty its hand quickly.
What's your favorite Fate Reforged Standard deck? Are there any Fate Reforged cards we are we still sleeping on? Share your thoughts in the comments! I'll do my best to answer any questions asked.