Welcome back to our limited review of Fate Reforged. If you didn’t catch the previous articles of this series, you can check them out here:
Today is black’s turn!
1. Douse in Gloom
Douse in Gloom essentially defaults to the best black common in the set as it is instant speed removal. While three mana for two damage is technically inefficient, there exist a ton of creatures with two toughness which cost three or more mana. We once again see the morph-focus of the set increasing the value of spells which interact with X/2s. The two life gain is also a nice touch, as the black deck is one which could fairly easily find itself racing an opponent. Douse in Gloom may not be splashy but it will be an excellent inclusion in both controlling and aggressive decks.
2. Merciless Executioner
There are two ways to look at Merciless Executioner. First of all, it can be a straight up three mana edict. When control decks are trying to stabilize behind an Archer’s Parapet or Monastery Flock and edict can go a long way to forcing through damage and making them block with their morphs. On the other hand, it can be a three mana 3/1 warrior. The creature type is super important as the warrior deck can really capitalize on the opponent’s sacrifice. While there will be times when you are using the 3/1 to upgrade a 2/1, when you can sacrifice a token to it you are getting an impressive tempo advantage. It is important to note that you never will be sacrificing a better creature, because you can always sacrifice itself. I see the executioner being a decent card in most strategies and a particularly potent threat in the B/W warriors deck. That being said, it is miserable against tokens.
3. Battle Brawler
Compared to a lot of the other cards on this list, Battle Brawler is not particularly exciting. However, what it lacks in flashiness it makes up for in efficiency. Two mana 2/2s are good. Warriors are good. We are often playing black with red and/or white and these colours like to play cheap creatures. Consequently, we will often have a permanent to make the Brawler a 3/2 first striker. While a 2/2 interacts efficiently with face down creatures, a 3/2 first strike straight up beats them. A first striker attacking on turn three is big game in this format, and could take several turns to deal with. The two mana options in the warrior deck until this time were merely fine, with the raid trigger somewhat difficult to achieve on the Mardu Skullhunter. The Battle Brawler fills an important role in that deck and is an efficient aggressive card in a format which is missing those. There are very few two drops which are happy to tussle with a 2/3. All of the ones which exist (Seeker of the Way, Heir of the Wilds) are excellent. Expect this to be similarly strong.
4. Hooded Assassin
Like Merciless Executioner, the Hooded Assassin has two modes, in this case literally, If nothing else is going on, the Assassin is a three mana 2/3. While such a body is typically playable, it is the precise sweet spot in this format as it happily eats both morphs and the two drops which are played to interact with face down creatures. However, the second mode on Hooded Assassin is the more exciting one, where it can destroy a creature which took damage (typically in combat). While this often means that one of your creatures has died its applications are actually fairly wide. It makes short work of the defenders which gum up the format and slow down the aggressive decks. It also capitalizes on (and disincentivizes) the easy blocks which are normally made on tokens. Finally, often the aggro deck will get stonewalled by one big blocker (perhaps a Sultai Flayer or Snowhorn Rider), this allows such a deck to continue to attack with impunity. While the Assassin really shines in aggressive shells, the 2/3 body is pretty relevant for controlling builds as well.
5. Orc Sureshot
This is another complicated card to evaluate. For four mana we kind of expect a better body than a 4/2 (we have mediocre three drops at the same size). However the -1/-1 trigger has the potential to be absolutely back breaking. Repeatable creature kill has a history of dominating limited games. While this asks a little more of us than a pinger, its requirement is something we want to be doing anyways – playing creatures. When combined with tokens it becomes absolutely insane. The fact that it shrinks blockers as well as actually picking off smaller dudes is very relevant. While it won’t always be insane, this will be a hard card to cut and certainly an uncommon that can be built around.
6. Fearsome Awakening
The five mana reanimation spell has existed before in various forms. In different formats this kind of card has a wide range of power. Normally, we want our reanimation spells to grab cards from our opponent’s graveyard for them to be really powerful. However, I think this format will be particularly conducive to this effect being significant. This is because we are already interested in milling ourselves for delve, so there is an increased chance that we will have powerful creatures in the graveyard. To add to this, morph and manifest allow big creatures to find their way to the battlefield and then the graveyard without us actually spending the large amounts of mana they require. Often reanimation spells suffer because they are only echoes of cards we have already played. This set should allow a five mana reanimation spell to be a means of cheating big creatures into play.
7. Reach of Shadows
Reach of Shadows joins an illustrious line of removal spells which are becoming the norm in modern sets – expensive but necessary. While the card is actively unexciting, it does something which is simply needed in killing just about anything. It does miss artifact creatures and morphs, but it will answer most of the real threats. In its favour it is both an instant and only has one coloured symbol, making it relatively easy to cast. It is also worth noting that morph and manifest lead people to invest a lot of time and mana in creatures so it is actually plausible for it to kill something (somewhat) efficiently.
8. Grave Strength
Grave Strength is a sorcery speed pump spell with some marginal delve value. However it has the possibility to make an utterly huge creature. While it comes with all of the downsides of any sorcery speed creature buff (the creature might disappear), if it resolves it will leave a beater which is probably the largest thing on the board. The fact that you can choose the target (unlike bolster) means that you could suit up a flyer to end the game quickly. This is another uncommon that can be built around and may end up being a defining card of a deck. While it might be higher on the list in terms of power level, I’m loathe to give creature pump a high rating without a lot of experience to back it up.
9. Typhoid Rats
The Typhoid Rats are a reprint here which might be better than they have been previously. This is another card that may deserve to be higher up, but require some time with the format to see if they outperform their history. The evidence is there though. Mardu Hateblade was good in KTK. While not a warrior, the Rats don’t require mana and still trigger raid. They are also happy to eat the big morphs and creatures jumping around the format. They will almost certainly be highly playable, the question just remains whether to take them over an Orc Sureshot or something with equal upside.
10. Qarsi High Priest
The High Priest gets the tenth slot on this list not because they are necessarily good, but because they have the potential to do some very powerful things which are not normally available. The ability to cycle through manifests could have significant impact in a control deck, as the dying creature can continually chump block. Conversely in an aggressive deck, not only can the High Priest trigger raid, it can turn tokens into 2/2s and allow attacks into a large blocker without shrinking the attack force. While it may be asking too much in terms of mana and deck slot, it is certainly worth keeping an eye on.