At its most basic level, Cloudform allows you pay a reasonable mana cost for a 2/2 creature with hexproof and flying. If that were all the card did, little discussion past “how can we make hexproof a deck again?” would be warranted. Fortunately, the new spotlight mechanic from Fate Reforged, “manifest” gives this innocuous uncommon a different destiny.
A long time ago, Wizards wanted to do something outrageous—they wanted to make the biggest creature ever seen in the game, and give it the smallest mana cost—they wanted to shock us all. In doing so, they created Phyrexian Dreadnought, and from the time the ink met cardboard players have been trying to break the ‘Nought wide open. From Illusionary Mask to Stifle, from Aether Vial to Mosswort Bridge, the Dreadnought has been a Johnny’s dream. Cloudform opens up a new avenue for this beater to make a comeback in a big way.
What I particularly love about Dreadnought in this context is that both the Cloudform (as well as its lesser partner, Lightform) and the Dreadnought can be searched up via Enlightened Tutor (which happens to be in the correct color for this deck), and the Tutor even puts the ‘Nought directly where you’d want it—the top of your library. Little convincing is needed to get me in on a combo with Enlightened Tutor, but in a combo-oriented deck like this one, you get access to a whole lot of flexibility at a small cost.
While manifesting a Dreadnought allows you to go “tall,” having a single threat with an enormous body, access to the Thopter/Sword combo allows you to go “wide,” attacking the board and opponent with a number of small bodies—and it also allows you to stop a rush of threats from an aggressive opponent when necessary.
Moat, not the most common of spells in this era of Legacy, is interesting in this deck as each of the threats can win from behind the enchantment—both of the Forms grant flying, the Thopters fly, and Jace ignores the attack step.
Academy ruins serves double-duty in this deck, as both a way to ensure the Dreadnoughts survive any removal prior to your ability to un-manifest, as well as putting the ‘Naughts back where you’d prefer them—on top of your library, ready to manifest again.
The pool of playable spells in this type of deck is deep. Cards like Trinket Mage (possibly in conjunction with some variation of Mox or Ancient Tomb) can help find your Dreadnoughts and Tops. Stifle and Wasteland have a home here, as the Stifles become more flexible when you can use them on your own Dreadnoughts, and as we’ve seen for years, the land disruption of the Stifle/Waste package can be devastating. A fast clock like Dreadnought combined with some mana disruption can make quick work of an unprepared opponent.
Because this deck bears a resemblance to Stoneblade, there could be some temptation to try and slot that package into the deck, but I think that’s a mistake. The two strategies are powerful but incompatible—one of the two will make the overall deck worse, and they compete for space. Stoneblade is a great deck, but hey—we’re making 12/12s here.
As with most Enlightened Tutor-based decks, the sideboard options are incredibly diverse. A silver-bullet strategy means you effectively have five copies of each spell you choose, and the incredible card selection available through Top/fetchlands means you have a great shot at hitting your 1-ofs even without Tutor. Cards like Vedalken Shackles or CoP: Red, that would be difficult to fit into a traditional sideboard due to space constraints, can find a home in this type of deck because of the extra flexibility afforded you by the Tutor-based board. I’d consider something like: