Two weeks and many hours of talking and writing later, I get to put Fate Reforged set reviews to rest. There are a few interesting multicolor and colorless cards here, and after that, a Top 10 list of the Constructed cards in the set.
My previous reviews can be found here:
And the Limited Resources reviews can be found here:
Here is the ratings scale I’ll be using:
5.0: Multi-format all-star. (Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf. Snapcaster Mage. Dack Fayden.)
4.0: Format staple. (Siege Rhino. Courser of Kruphix. Delver of Secrets.)
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. (Stormbreath Dragon. Seeker of the Way.)
3.0: Archetype staple. (Chained to the Rocks. Sidisi, Brood Tyrant.)
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. (Perilous Vault. Heir of the Wilds.)
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. (Naturalize. Savage Knuckleblade.) Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although an explanation is obviously important.
1.0: It has seen play once. One with Nothing. (I believe it was tech vs. Owling Mine, although fairly suspicious tech at that.)
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
I want Ugin to be great—I really do. 8 mana is a lot, so the trick is not so much winning once you've cast Ugin, it's getting to the point where you get to cast him.
There are a couple ways I've explored so far, one of which is to play Blue/Black Control with Crux of Fate and Perilous Vault, with the other being a Courser/Caryatid Abzan Control deck. Either way, you are playing control if you plan on resolving 8-mana spells, though that isn't a drawback, since control has good tools right now.
As for what Ugin does, it seems safe to say that you are at the very least going to be safe from attack once he hits the battlefield. The minus ability should clear out everything but the most absurd board (maybe they have a morphed Sagu Mauler or something), and the +2 can mop up most followups. The ultimate is a very real threat, and if you don't have to minus, it comes online very quickly.
There are only so many decks that can play 8-mana cards to start with, and they can't play more than a couple, but Ugin is the kind of 8-mana card it's worth working towards.
Dromoka, the Eternal
It takes a little more than just being a 5/5 flier for 5 to succeed in Constructed, though the bolster ability is not negligible. Dromoka gives you decent value every time she attacks, though being a non-hasty 5-drop with no ETB ability makes me suspect she won't make waves. Sadly, she has no value in Eternal formats, which makes her name even more of a lie.
Jace's Ingenuity is all well and good, but what I really want to cast at the end of my opponent's turn is a pair of face-down creatures.
There's a funny tension when deciding when to play this card, as it isn't really worth it unless you are manifesting actual creatures, but decks full of creatures tend to not value instant-speed spells as much as control decks that always want their mana untapped. Given that much of the power of this card is in the instant speed, finding a deck that balances these two things could be a challenge. If that challenge is met, this could be an actual card, as pressuring the opponent without tapping out can be very strong.
Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury
Dash is much stronger in Constructed than Limited, as you can build a deck that specifically doesn't care about developing its board as much, and just wants hasty burn spells. Playing Kolaghan at the top of your curve in a red/black aggro deck could be pretty good, as he can represent 6 or 7 damage that's immune to a Wrath.
Competing with Stormbreath Dragon is tough, but the resistance to sorcery-speed removal and the potential to deal more damage is interesting, at least.
Silumgar, the Drifting Death
I looked at this when constructing Whip decks, but eventually drifted back to Doomwake Giant. Those decks would rather have the cheaper card that works right away, and can potentially even trigger multiple times.
Where Silumgar is more interesting is in Blue/Black Control, a deck that wants a hexproof finisher. This is a full mana less than Pearl Lake Ancient, which means that it comes out to block sooner, and can deal with hordes of tokens efficiently.
Having to tap out for it is a big drawback, so this looks more like a sideboard card for matchups where you want a large blocker and don't lean on counterspells as much.
Crucible of the Spirit Dragon
Any land that has the power to add multiple mana to your mana pool is worth a look, even if not all of them are broken (looking at you, Untaidake, the Cloud Keeper). If your finisher is a Dragon, and you can afford a colorless land, there are worse ways to spend unused mana than charging up the Crucible. It is a bit of a flavor fail that the Crucible of the Spirit Dragon cannot help cast the Spirit Dragon, but they can't all be flavor wins.
Top 10 Constructed Cards
10. Wild Slash
9. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
8. Torrent Elemental
7. Alesha, Who Smiles at Death
6. Monastery Mentor
5. Whisperwood Elemental
4. Valorous Stance
3. Soulfire Grand Master
2. Crux of Fate
1. Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Fate Reforged has some exciting cards in it. It looks like it's going to impact all formats, which is rare, and a lot of the powerful cards are based on synergy. That leads to more differentiation between decks, more trial and error, and depending on the cards, more varied game experiences.
I also like that we got a few staple removal spells to go with our fancy build-around cards, as they can't all be Tasigurs and Monastery Mentors. Speaking of such cards, delve/graveyard decks definitely got a lot better, as did prowess decks (especially red/white). Control wasn't left out either, as Crux of Fate and Ugin push traditional control decks as well. Even green devotion got a windfall—Whisperwood Elemental could breath new life into the archetype. A lot of existing decks got new cards, and new decks just got potential, so it looks like an exciting time ahead.