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Manifesting Monsters

Don’t you love getting your perfect opening hand? Seeker of the Way and Rabblemaster into Stoke the Flames. Sylvan Caryatid into running Siege Rhinos. Turn 2 Birthing Pod. Turn 1 Show and Tell!

Everybody knows how to win with a perfect hand. The tricky part is finding a way to win when you don’t have a perfect hand. It’s what will separate you, as a player, from everybody else. The ability to function well in the absence of a perfect draw is also what separates a great deck from an average deck.

When I set out to build a deck, my top priorities are consistency and flexibility, because I don’t want to start every game holding my breath for the perfect draw. My all-time favorite Magic card is Green Sun’s Zenith. I’ll happily pay an extra mana for my creature so long as I can always count on having the one I need! I’m excited to see a card from Fate Reforged printed in the same vein as Green Sun’s Zenith.

wildcall

I love the ability to choose how much mana I put into a card. It mitigates the harmful effects of either a mana screw or a mana flood.

Increasing the number of cards you can cast in the early turns will make your less-than-perfect opening hands better. The worst Wildcall can ever be is a Grizzly Bear on turn 2! Granted, Wildcall for X=0 is a bit worse than casting something like Heir of the Wilds or Sylvan Caryatid on turn 2. The difference is that those cards are rather abysmal draws late in the game, while Wildcall is fantastic. Later in the game, you sink more mana into your spell and produce a giant beater. It even ensures that you can trigger ferocious!

So we have X mana for an X/X creature, which alone would seem like a great card to me. Manifesting in a creature deck, however, is substantially better than just “putting an X/X into play.” For one thing, it’s not a token, so you at least get a little something if your manifested card is bounced to your hand. For another, it lets you see a larger portion of your deck over the course of the game, so—for example—if you had a creature that had an ability while in your graveyard, manifest would help you get that creature into your graveyard slightly more often.

Most importantly, of course, is the ability to morph a creature after manifesting. The creatures in Standard are immensely powerful, and something like a Polukranos, World Eater is going to be a huge upgrade over its vanilla counterpart. You get extra value from the ability to upgrade your creature later in the game, and it also makes gameplay decisions (particularly combat) more challenging for your opponents. Remember also that any +1/+1 counters you get from casting Wildcall remain after you turn your creature face up.

Wildcall Monsters

The concept here ought to be pretty familiar. RG and Temur Monsters are established, successful decks in Standard right now. Ramping into powerful creatures, planeswalkers, and Crater’s Claws is a strategy that many decks have a hard time defending against. The premise behind this particular list is that Wildcall will improve both the consistency of the strategy and the ability to take advantage of its overpowered, undercosted creatures.

Along those lines, I’ve skewed the deck toward a higher concentration of creatures. At every point on the mana curve, if there was a close call between a creature and a noncreature, I went with the creature. (Stormbreath Dragon over Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, Ashcloud Phoenix over Xenagos, the Reveler and Chandra, Pyromaster, etc.). This will make the manifest ability as powerful as possible.

As a side note, Wildcall has synergy with Courser of Kruphix (seeing and manipulating the top of your library). However, for this deck, which emphasizes aggression and the ferocious mechanic, Courser unfortunately did not make the cut. However, I’ll be looking to combine these two cards in other green ramp or devotion decks.

Instead, in this case I’ve gone out of my way to include a lot of flying creatures, as they also have nice synergies with manifest and Wildcall in particular. A couple of bonus +1/+1 counters go a long way when they’re on a flying creature. From a gameplay standpoint, if your opponent passes with removal mana open, you can simply swing with your manifested creature and save your mana. If they tap out for a blocker, you can morph into a flying creature and continue beating down!

Flamewake Phoenix particularly excites me, both in general and in Wildcall Monsters specifically. It resembles Chandra’s Phoenix, which was already a stellar card, but I believe that Flamewake Phoenix is even better! For many decks, having lots of monsters is easier than having lots of burn spells. Moreover, all you need to do for Flamewake Phoenix is to have a monster in play, whereas with Chandra’s Phoenix you need to actually fire off a burn spell at your opponent when you might otherwise have wanted to save it for a creature, or saved your mana for something else.

Mana is really the biggest difference between the two. Flamewake Phoenix requires one mana to go directly into play whereas Chandra’s Phoenix needs to be recast in addition to whatever mana you needed to spend on your burn spell. Flamewake Phoenix is sleek, efficient, and very hard for your opponent to answer at even value.

I’ve been daydreaming of Flamewake Phoenix revitalizing Red Devotion. It’s a cheap and efficient threat with two red mana symbols that’s hard for the opponent to keep off the battlefield. Unfortunately, between a lack of early plays and trouble with Hornet Queen, I think Red Devotion still has a lot stacked against it.

I’m in love with the idea of Wildcalling a Flamewake Phoenix too! Opponents will be loath to spend their Murderous Cut fogging a creature that will only come back the following turn, but when it’s flying in with two or three +1/+1 counters, they’ll have no choice. Better yet, imagine the look on their face when they kill your manifested creature and you put it into the graveyard as a Phoenix!

My proposed deck list features a handful of other Fate Reforged preview cards also.

Whisperer of the Wilds is a powerful 2-drop for a deck like this. A mana source providing two mana instead of one at first seems like a minor bonus, but it’s not. It’s an outrageous night-and-day gap—truly a different magnitude of power level! Think of cards like Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, Gaea’s Cradle, and Sol Ring!

It’s very likely that Whisperer of the Wilds is a better card than Rattleclaw Mystic. However, I’ve elected to give Rattleclaw first dibs on the two-drop slot in this deck for a couple of reasons. First, the 2/1 body is a relevant attacker for a deck that wants to pressure the opponent’s life total. Second, the deck features a lot of double-red mana costs. Finally, the bonus mana you can net if you manifest a Rattleclaw Mystic and then morph it is a fine tiebreaker in its favor.

Next is Yasova Dragonclaw, who is one hell of an Alpine Grizzly! We all know that trample is a huge ability on a 4-power creature, especially since it means that trading with your opponent’s 2- or 3-drop creature can net you damage. The threaten effect is also very powerful (particularly if you can get some +1/+1 counters on her via Wildcall). It can end the game, or you can just use it for value in the midgame. How about instead of trading with your Courser of Kruphix, I just deal you 6 damage?

Shaman of the Great Hunt strikes me as a nice card in small numbers. Its low toughness makes it a little unreliable as an attacker, but in any game where you’re flooding out, the activated ability can run away with things.

Finally (in the main deck) comes Whisperwood Elemental, which is one of Fate Reforged‘s flagship mythic rares that seems to be stirring up a ton of excitement. Whisperwood Elemental really does it all: triggers ferocious, provides immediate and (almost) guaranteed value, and trumps sweepers out of control decks. Any green deck with a decent density of creatures ought to be considering Whisperwood Elemental. In Wildcall Monsters, which is already built with manifest in mind, it’s a home run!

Wild Slash appears in four copies in the sideboard as a substantial upgrade to Magma Spray. Not only does it have the ability to hit the opponent directly (or one of their planeswalkers), but in a deck with so many ferocious monsters, the damage-cannot-be-prevented clause ought to come up often. One possible place is against the Gods Willings and Feat of Resistances of U/W Heroic. These spells can still fizzle a Wild Slash, but once you resolve Wild Slash, you can damage a protection from red creature using other red sources. So if they try to save their creature in combat against a Shaman of the Great Hunt, Wild Slash might just be able to kill it. Look for this to come up even more if Master of Waves ever makes a comeback in Standard. Here’s a slightly more detailed analysis of Wild Slash.

Fate Reforged is shaping up to be a very exciting set. The aggressive red and green cards are what caught my eye at first, but the set looks like it has something for everybody. A new board sweeper for black control decks, a colorless planeswalker for anyone playing for the late game, and some wild new tools for blue-based tempo decks! I’ll be watching previews of the new cards very intently, and I’m eager to see what ideas pop up for how to use them.

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