FRF: Reusing enters-the-battlefield effects

Fate Reforged brings 4 creatures that allow you to profitably reuse enters-the-battlefield (ETB) effects:

  • Temur Sabertooth is a near bomb, being a 4/3 for 4 mana and making most of your creatures unkillable if you have 1G open.
  • Flamerush Rider is exceptional, especially in an aggressive deck.
  • Jeskai Barricade is situational, since it doesn’t fit in any of the aggressive white decks, but may have a home in a controlling Abzan or 5-color deck.
  • Ambush Krotiq is usually unplayable, both because it costs 6 mana and because returning a creature to your hand is not optional.

In addition to these, there are also several blue bounce spells that let you reuse ETB abilities. While they usually target your opponent’s creatures, some of them can be profitably aimed at your own creatures, for instance, Rite of Undoing, Sage-Eye Avengers, and Supplant Form.

My evaluation of these 4 cards could be affected if the format has an usually low or high number of ETB effects. In addition to ETB effects, I am also interested in abilities that trigger when a creature is turned face up, creatures that you might want to recast later in a game (e.g., Clever Impersonator and Hooded Hydra), and a small number of other cards that cause you to want to return creatures to your hand (e.g., Lightning Shrieker and Outpost Siege), or to its owner’s hand in the case of Act of Treason. Let’s look at what’s available, to get an idea of what colors/clan we should prefer once we have 1 or more of these creatures. (Cards in italics are only really worth reusing with Temur Sabertooth since a single reuse doesn’t provide much gain.)

  • White: Arashin Cleric, Mardu Hordechief, Sandsteppe Outcast, Elite Scaleguard (uncommon), Lotus-Eye Mystics (uncommon), Mardu Woe-Reaper (uncommon), Watcher of the Roost (uncommon), Timely Hordemate (uncommon), Daghatar the Adamant (rare), Master of Pearls (rare), Mastery of the Unseen (rare), Wingmate Roc (mythic)
  • Blue: Aven Surveyor, Mistfire Weaver (uncommon), Kheru Spellsnatcher (rare), Thousand Winds (rare), Clever Impersonator (rare)
  • Black: Mardu Skullhunter, Merciless Executioner (uncommon), Orc Sureshot (uncommon), Ruthless Ripper (uncommon), Sibsig Muckdraggers (uncommon)
  • Red: Act of Treason, Lightning Shrieker, Horde Ambusher (uncommon), Mardu Heart-Piercer (uncommon), Jeering Instigator (rare), Outpost Siege (rare)
  • Green: Frontier Siege (rare), Sandsteppe Mastodon (rare), Temur War Shaman (rare), Trail of Mystery (rare), Hooded Hydra (mythic)
  • Multicolor: Efreet Weaponmaster, Ponyback Brigade, Armament Corps (uncommon), Bear’s Companion (uncommon), Icefeather Aven (uncommon), Secret Plans (uncommon), Sultai Soothsayer (uncommon), Warden of the Eye (uncommon), Siege Rhino (rare), Temur Ascendancy (rare), Sidisi Brood Tyrant (mythic)

In addition, Temur Sabertooth and Jeskai Barricade allow you to return a creature to your hand at instant speed, so you can also use them to save a creature from removal or a disadvantageous block (especially if you attacked to trigger an ability). Let’s take a look at the cards in this format that you might attack with to trigger an ability. (I won’t list the multicolor dragons here since they can rarely be blocked advantageously.)

  • Artifact: Heart-Piercer Bow (uncommon)
  • White: Wardscale Dragon (uncommon)
  • Blue: Sage-Eye Avengers (rare)
  • Black: Mardu Shadowspear (uncommon), Mardu Strike Leader (rare)
  • Red: Goblin Heelcutter, Mardu Blazebringer (uncommon), Vaultbreaker (uncommon), Alesha Who Smiles at Death (rare)
  • Multicolor: Mardu Roughrider (uncommon), Ankle Shanker (rare), Avalanche Tusker (rare), Anafenza the Foremost (mythic), Mardu Ascendancy, Narset Enlightened Master (mythic)

These 2 lists have a lot of rares/mythics, as well as a lot of cards in italics. We’re unlikely to take 1 of the 4 cards above in the hopes of opening or being passed a specific rare, and we already know to draft Temur Sabertooth if we can play him, so let’s strip out those 2 categories. That leaves us with the following cards:

  • Artifact: Heart-Piercer Bow (uncommon) = 0.6 copies in an average 8-person draft
  • White: Sandsteppe Outcast, Elite Scaleguard (uncommon), Lotus-Eye Mystics (uncommon), Timely Hordemate (uncommon), Wardscale Dragon (uncommon) = 3.1 copies
  • Blue: Aven Surveyor, Mistfire Weaver (uncommon) = 1.9 copies
  • Black: Mardu Skullhunter, Merciless Executioner (uncommon), Orc Sureshot (uncommon), Sibsig Muckdraggers (uncommon) = 2.8 copies
  • Red: Act of Treason, Goblin Heelcutter, Lightning Shrieker, Mardu Blazebringer (uncommon), Mardu Heart-Piercer (uncommon), Vaultbreaker (uncommon) = 5.8 copies
  • Multicolor: Efreet Weaponmaster, Ponyback Brigade, Armament Corps (uncommon), Bear’s Companion (uncommon), Icefeather Aven (uncommon), Secret Plans (uncommon), Sultai Soothsayer (uncommon), Warden of the Eye (uncommon) = Abzan has 0.6 copies, Jeskai has 2.2, Mardu has 1.6, Sultai and Temur have 1.8 each (I’m counting the 2 U/G uncommons in both Sultai and Temur)

Red has by far the most cards that combo with the 4 creatures, although a number of them are not ETB effects but finishers like Act of Treason and Lightning Shrieker. Those don’t pair well with the already expensive Ambush Krotiq, and while they might pair better with Jeskai Barricade in a R/W, Jeskai, or Mardu deck, those decks are too aggressive to want to play a 0/4 creature. On the other hand, while green has both Temur Sabertooth and Ambush Krotiq, it has no good ETB effects to pair with them at common/uncommon. This probably means that Ambush Krotiq is just as unplayable as we initially anticipated. There’s no clear color combination that maximizes Temur Sabertooth, but you probably shouldn’t be trying to build your deck around 1, or even 2, copies of the card. I think the main outcome of this exercise is that we now have a fairly comprehensive list of all the cards in the format that combo with Temur Sabertooth and Flamerush Rider.

Finally, let’s take a brief look at the artifacts, enchantments, and planeswalkers you might want to return to your hand, since Rite of Undoing lets you return any nonland permanent. The playable ones are Singing Bell Strike, Cloudform (uncommon), Lightform (uncommon), Rageform (uncommon), Sage’s Reverie (uncommon), Suspension Field (uncommon), Abzan Ascendancy (rare), and planeswalkers (mythics) after using their -N abilities.

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