FRF: Evaluations

This is an initial set of evaluations of the cards in Fate Reforged. The main purpose is not to share deep insights into the new cards, but to figure out which cards need further analysis and to help determine how many relevant cards there are when trying to evaluate the cards that I don’t have a good sense of yet. For instance, artifact removal spells were very good in Mirrodin block, but are almost useless in Khans block.

Here’re what my various evaluations mean:

  • Bomb (B): Will usually win the game if not dealt with and also difficult to deal with or play around, e.g., large flyers or mass removal.
  • Exceptional (+): A superior card that will turn the tide in your favor, e.g., most unconditional removal that isn’t overcosted or a 3/3 flyer for 4 mana.
  • Good (/): The bread and butter of most decks, e.g., a 2/2 flyer or a vanilla 3/3 for 3 mana.
  • Situational/Filler (~): Good in the right deck, filler in most others, e.g., a vanilla 2/1 in a deck that is not particularly aggressive.
  • Sideboard (S): Useful to have in your sideboard, but not usually playable maindeck, e.g., artifact/enchantment destruction or color hosers that aren’t good if you’re not playing against those colors.
  • Unplayable (x): Should not be played except in the right deck or under exceptional circumstances, e.g., a vanilla 1/1 for 1 mana. Some unplayable creatures can be sided in against the right deck, e.g., a vanilla 1/3 for 3 mana might still be sided in against an aggressive deck.
  • TBD (?): Requires more analysis or more experience with the format to evaluate, e.g., a card that depends on how many playable enchantments there are in the format.

The spreadsheet also has explanations for many of my evaluations in the Notes column. Here are some evaluations that might not be obvious at first glance:

  • Aven Skirmisher (/): is a Warrior, helps raid effects, and good with Rush of Battle/Trumpet Blast/War Flare
  • Channel Harm (~): expensive, wastes a turn if your opponent decides not to attack, and damage is not prevented if the target is removed in response
  • Grave Strength (/): helps with delve early (if you have a target), and can be gamebreaking late if you haven’t been delving much; remember to delve non-creatures first if you have this in your deck
  • Orc Sureshot (+): especially good with tokens and dash
  • Qarsi High Priest (+): good against removal; especially good with Sultai Emissary and Act of Treason
  • Dragonrage (~): usually worse than Trumpet Blast
  • Flamerush Rider (+): especially good with enters-the-battlefield effects
  • Humble Defector (/): comboes well with Refocus and Collateral Damage, but good even on its own in an aggressive deck since it can help you find your finishers, and since your opponent may have to hold it back as a blocker anyway
  • Lightning Shrieker (~): a blockable Lava Axe
  • Ainok Guide (/): if you use the second mode, you’re usually okay with the card disadvantage
  • Harsh Sustenance (/): I don’t usually like cards that require you to have multiple creatures in play in order to be good, but this card provides aggressive B/W or Mardu decks the ability to kill their opponent from nowhere, especially if they have multiple tokens

Here are the cards that need additional analysis to fully evaluate, and what the evaluation will depend on:

  • Jeskai Barricade, Ambush Krotiq: #/quality of ETB effects (could also affect my evaluation of Temur Sabertooth and Flamerush Rider)
  • Lotus-Eye Mystics, Abzan Advantage: #/quality of enchantments
  • Ancestral Vengeance: #/quality of 1-toughness creatures
  • Bloodfire Enforcers: #/quality of instants and sorceries
  • Temur Battle Rage: #/quality of creatures with high power
  • Return to the Earth: #/quality of flyers
  • Hewed Stone Retainers: #/quality of cheap spells

There are also a couple of cards whose evaluation depends on more experience with the format:

  • Frontier Siege: experience with the card
  • Map the Wastes: whether decks now tend to be 2-color
  • Honor’s Reward: whether people play around bolster

KTK/FRF: Memorizing the instant-speed tricks

Memorizing all the instant-speed tricks in a set is not easy, especially for a multicolor set. Adding a second set to the mix makes it more complex, especially when you’re trying to figure out what to play around during a tournament. Let’s see if we can make the list a little more manageable.

We know from prior analysis that cards at any given rarity from Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged appear in roughly similar numbers in both sealed and draft because the new set has fewer cards, so let’s combine the list of tricks from both sets. Next, let’s ignore cards/modes that don’t usually affect creatures (other than by triggering prowess):

  • card draw: Dig Through Time, Enhanced Awareness, Weave Fate, Abzan Charm (2nd mode), Sultai Charm (3rd mode), part of the effect of Force Away
  • counterspells: Cancel, Disdainful Stroke, Mindswipe, Neutralizing Blast, Rakshasa’s Disdain, Stubborn Denial, Trap Essence, Temur Charm (2nd mode)
  • discard: Mardu Charm (3rd mode)
  • enchantment/artifact removal (even though it can be relevant to combat in this format): Erase, Naturalize, Shatter, Sultai Charm (2nd mode), Return to the Earth (1st/2nd modes), part of the effect of Abzan Advantage
  • lifegain: Feed the Clan, part of the effect of Honor’s Reward
  • damage to opponents: Jeskai Charm (2nd mode), part of the effect of Cunning Strike and Crackling Doom
  • regrowth effects: Sudden Reclamation

And finally, let’s get rid of the cards that are so weak that you will rarely play them: Empty the Pits (primarily due to BBBB in the casting cost), Friendly Fire, Rally the Ancestors, Swift Kick, Take Up Arms, and Will of the Naga. Unfortunately, that still leaves 60 cards to remember.

This spreadsheet contains those 60 cards divided into 2 tables: combat tricks and removal spells. Removal spells that can only be used during combat are listed in the first table, while removal spells that have a separate effect that affects combat are listed in both tables (e.g., Supplant Form bounces a creature and also leaves a creature behind). Both tables are organized by color and converted mana cost, with multicolor cards listed in a separate column next to the first color listed in their mana cost (e.g., a spell costing URW will be listed in the column next to blue). Delve cards are now listed at the cheapest mana cost they could be cast for (this is different from the original tables). Uncommons, rares, and mythics are written in successively lighter fonts so the focus is on the tricks that we’re most likely to run into. Yellow highlight is used for spells that can leave a creature in play, and orange highlight is used for spells that affect more than one of your creatures.

This is still a lot of data, but hopefully these tables make it easier to remember key tricks you need to play around. Some quick observations from looking at these tables:

  • Most instant-speed removal spells in the format do 2 damage. The main exceptions are Collateral Damage (3 dmg), Bring Low (3-5 dmg), Throttle (-4/-4), Mardu Charm (4 dmg), Burn Away (6 dmg), and Harsh Sustenance (#C dmg).
  • Much of white’s instant-speed removal cares about a creature’s power or toughness: Abzan Charm, Smite the Monstrous, and Valorous Stance (there’s also Suspension Field, which is an enchantment). These are worth keeping in mind when playing pump spells against an opponent who has white mana open.
  • There are a number of combat tricks in the environment that affect multiple creatures, including 2 at common (Trumpet Blast and War Flare).
  • Half the pump spells in the format boost power by 2: Trumpet Blast, War Flare, Ruthless Instincts, Dragon Grip, Dragonscale Boon, Honor’s Reward, and sometimes Abzan Charm (there’s also Rush of Battle, which is a sorcery). 5 others boost power by 1: Defiant Strike (+1/+0), Feat of Resistance (+1/+1), Abzan Advantage (+1/+1), Jeskai Charm (+1/+1), and sometimes Abzan Charm. The only ones that affect the creature’s power by a different number are Awaken the Bear (+3/+3) and Become Immense (+6/+6).
  • There are 4 spells that give the creature trample: Awaken the Bear, Temur Battle Rage, Ride Down (uncommon), and Ruthless Instincts (uncommon).
  • There are only 2 instant-speed bolster spells, and the common one only gives 1 +1/+1 counter, so you don’t have to go too far out of your way to avoid blocking the creature with the lowest toughness.
  • Black doesn’t have any relevant combat tricks, and doesn’t even contribute to any other than Abzan and Mardu Charm.

FRF: Compact FAQ

This is a compact version of the Fate Reforged FAQ (12 pages vs. 29 pages for the original).

KTK/FRF: Expected numbers of copies of a card

EDIT: I didn’t realize when I posted this that the gain lands were going to take the basic land slot. I’ve updated the post to reflect the new numbers.

Fate Reforged has 165 cards (not counting the gain lands, which take the basic land slot): 60 commons, 60 uncommons, 35 rares, and 10 mythics.

Let’s consider the expected number of copies of any given common, uncommon, rare, or mythic from both sets in the block for a few different formats.

8-person draft (8 pack of Fate Reforged and 16 packs of Khans of Tarkir at the table)

Fate Reforged Khans of Tarkir
Commons 1.33 1.58
Uncommons 0.40 0.60
Rares 0.20 0.26
Mythics 0.10 0.13

Individual sealed (3 packs of Fate Reforged and 3 packs of Khans of Tarkir per person)

Fate Reforged Khans of Tarkir
Commons 0.50 0.30
Uncommons 0.15 0.11
Rares 0.08 0.05
Mythics 0.04 0.03

Team sealed (6 packs of Fate Reforged and 6 packs of Khans of Tarkir per team)

Fate Reforged Khans of Tarkir
Commons 1.00 0.59
Uncommons 0.30 0.23
Rares 0.15 0.10
Mythics 0.08 0.05

Some observations:

  • An 8-person draft will only have 0.6 copies of any given Khans of Tarkir uncommon, so you shouldn’t draft towards an archetype that relies heavily on one until after you’ve actually drafted a copy. In fact, there are only 1.6 copies of any given Khans of Tarkir common, so you probably shouldn’t expect to see any specific one of those either, unless it tends to not be valued by other players.
  • Drafts will have 1.2 – 1.5 times as many copies of a specific Khans of Tarkir card as of a specific Fate Reforged card at the same rarity, not 2 times as many copies as one might expect from the pack distribution.
  • The expected numbers are roughly reversed for sealed, with 1.3 – 1.7 times as many copies of a specific Fate Reforged card as of a specific Khans of Tarkir card at the same rarity, despite an even pack distribution, so the small set should have a big impact on these formats.
  • Sealed now has half as many copies of Khans of Tarkir cards. This means that the team sealed deck patterns previously observed are likely to change since there will be fewer copies of Savage Punch, Secret Plans, and the Warrior tribal cards, which enable the R/G, Sultai morphs, and B/W/x Warriors decks respectively. (The Sultai morphs deck does get Mastery of the Unseen, Temur War Shaman, and Whisperwood Elemental, but those are all rare or mythic. And while Fate Reforged has 2 Warrior tribal cards, neither of them has a particularly strong interaction with Warriors.)
  • An 8-person KTK/KTK/KTK draft had an average of 24 gain lands, or 1 per pack opened. Since Fate Reforged also has 1 gain land per pack, the average number of gain lands in a draft won’t change. We will lose 1.5 tri-lands and 0.7 fetch lands per draft, but that is not likely to have a huge impact on the format.

FRF: List of instant-speed tricks

This is a list of all the instant-speed tricks in Fate Reforged. The first table has the spell names while the second one has abbreviated spell descriptions in case you don’t remember what the spell does. Note that the latter table may not accurately represent all uses of the spell and often leaves out certain details. Also, I sometimes make mistakes while filling out these tables; please let me know if you spot any issues.

Both tables categorize the tricks by converted mana cost, color, and rarity. Unless specified otherwise, each colored spell has one colored mana in its mana cost with the rest being generic mana, so a 3-mana white spell with no explicit cost listed has a mana cost of 2W. I also specify mana costs if the spell has X in its mana cost, is multicolored, or costs more than the column it is specified in. Spells in bold can leave a creature in play, e.g., flash creatures, spells that create token creatures, or spells that allow you to cast creatures at instant speed.

Here’s how to interpret the second table:

  • Abbreviations used: A (artifact), attkr (attacker), blkr (blocker), bounce (return to owner’s hand), bury (destroy & it cannot be regenerated), C (creature), CMC (converted mana cost), counter when used as a verb (counter a spell), dmg (damage), draw X (draw X cards), E (enchantment), ETB (enters the battlefield), flyer (creature with flying), freeze X (tap X and it doesn’t untap next turn), gain X (gain X life), GY (graveyard), I (instant), L (land), loot X (draw X cards, then discard X cards), lose X (lose X life), mill (put cards from a library into a graveyard), opp (opponent), opp’s X (X controlled by opponent), P (player or power, depending on context), prot (protection), PW (planeswalker), raise (return card from your graveyard to your hand), reanimate (return card from the graveyard to the battlefield), redirect X dmg from A to B (next X dmg that would be dealt to A is dealt to B instead), regen (regenerate), S (sorcery), sac (sacrifice), T (toughness), your X (X you control).
  • Spells that confer an effect (+X/+Y, -X/-Y, hexproof, first strike, prot from a color, etc.) last until end of turn unless specified otherwise.
  • Spells can target any legal permanent or player unless otherwise specified, e.g., X dmg without any qualifiers means that the spell does X damage to any creature or player.
  • Spell descriptions sometimes mention other spells as a way to describe their effects, e.g., Winds of Qal Sisma is described as a Fog that only Fogs your opponent’s creatures if you have ferocious.

FRF: Compact spoiler

This is a 6-page version of the full Fate Reforged spoiler. The card image gallery at DailyMTG is 48 pages so I’m hoping this saves a tree or 2. This spoiler is also text instead of images, so it’s easier to search for card types or keywords before the set is available on Gatherer, and it’s also easier to carry around in your pocket for reference.