Fate Reforged Spoiler: Soulflayer

Happy New Year!

It has been a privilege to be a part of this great site. There are a lot of great resources for Magic players out there, but I’m particularly proud to be a part of this one. After selling out of paper Magic, I became interested in Pauper online, and Dan contributed, by far, the best content for learning Pauper play at the time. It’s an honor to be working alongside this team, and I resolve to do contribute the best content I can here.

All that mushy stuff aside, let’s get down to it. It’s an exciting time for Magic: Spoiler season! Including basic lands, 57 cards have been spoiled at the time of this writing, and while Peyton has covered my favorite of the bunch, [c]Soulflayer[/c] comes in a close second. I am excited to try it out in Modern!

soul flayer card

Now, I can guess what you might be thinking. Many strategies have been dismissed since the release of Khans because of the graveyard-hate designed to neutralize [c]Treasure Cruise[/c]. The truth is, though, that there seem only to be more decks built around graveyard strategies, including [c]Dig Through Time[/c] in [c]Scapeshift[/c]-centered decks and U/R Delver with [c]Treasure Cruise[/c]. Additionally, the B/G decks utilize the graveyard as a resource in their game-plan. [c]Jeskai Ascendancy[/c] decks mock the suggestion that the graveyard is an unreliable tool. In fact, it seems that all of the best brewers, grinders, and pros have taken a gentleman’s agreement to live and let live.

With this assumption that we can trust our opponents not to mess with our delving abilities, I maintain optimism about [c]Soulflayer[/c].

Another argument against [c]Soulflayer[/c] is the design space it occupies; we have seen something like it before in [c]Cairn Wanderer[/c]. Although the latter has existed since October 2007, we have never seen it post even one result, so why should something just like it be any better? Well, let’s take an honest look at the two:

[c]Cairn Wanderer[/c]
-Costs 5, always
-Can have fear, landwalk, protection, and shroud keywords, whereas [c]Soulflayer[/c] cannot
-For what it’s worth, has changeling, so tribal bonuses boost it
-Is only a 4/4 if your graveyard is hated after resolution
-Is better against [c]Remand[/c], but not particularly good (2 mana versus 6 mana investments)

-Costs between 2-6
-Can have hexproof and indestructible
-Maintains its abilities despite graveyard hate after resolution
-Is really hurt by [c]Remand[/c]

Also, to save you all some time, both creatures can have flying, first strike, double strike, deathtouch, haste, lifelink, reach, trample, and vigilance. Neither creature can have the keywords Annihilator, Infect, nor Prowess, which are interesting for future possibilities of this sort of mechanic.

Comparing the two, I genuinely believe that hexproof, keeping the keywords, and the lower cost put [c]Soulflayer[/c] over the top enough to make it the foundation of a viable strategy. Let no one forget that a 2-cmc 4/4 beater is nothing to scoff at. It passes the most basic of tests for creatures in Modern: the [c]Lightning Bolt[/c] test. Any creature that costs more than one to resolve needs to be immune to [c]Lightning Bolt[/c], particularly in these Delver-ridden times.

In today’s metagame, I am most excited about [c]Soulflayer[/c] having some form of evasion, whether it is trample or flying, some form of protection in indestructible or hexproof (preferably the latter), and lifelink to shore up the Burn matchup. Doublestrike is, of course, a fine addition.

Once we have landed on an answer to the viable or unviable question, we have to decide what sort of shell to put this guy into. My favorite is one that can either reanimate fatties or use them to delve. One unfortunate element of this brew is that both its angles of attack are vulnerable to cards like [c]Rest in Peace[/c], but remember that everyone is under the aforementioned gentleman’s agreement.

Here is my brew for you all to enjoy this fine new year.

[d title=”Soulflayer Reanimator (Modern)”]
2 Blackcleave Cliffs
1 Blood Crypt
2 Bloodstained Mire
2 Darkslick Shores
3 Gemstone Mine
1 Godless Shrine
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Island
4 Polluted Delta
1 Steam Vents
1 Swamp
1 Watery Grave

1 Drogskol Reaver
1 Erebos, God of the Dead
4 Griselbrand
1 Keranos, God of Storms
1 Sagu Mauler
4 Soulflayer
1 Sphinx of the Steel Wind
1 Wurmcoil Engine

Other Spells
4 Faithless Looting
4 Glimpse the Unthinkable
4 Goryo’s Vengeance
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Thought Scour
3 Thoughtseize
2 Treasure Cruise
4 Unburial Rites[/d]

A number of plans exist here: we either reanimate our fatties using [c]Goryo’s Vengeance[/c] and [c]Unburial Rites[/c] or use their sweet keywords to “imprint” [c]Soulflayer[/c] and ride him to victory.

While looking through for the relevant keywords (hexproof, flying, lifelink, etc.) one comes across a number of reasonably costed value creatures that you could cast in an aggressive deck that has a late-game plan in [c]Soulflayer[/c]. These include [c]Vampire Nighthawk[/c], which certainly belongs in the sideboard of the deck above. Additional elements would be targeted graveyard disruption or [c]Leyline of the Void[/c], extra discard spells such as [c]Duress[/c] to remove [c]Remand[/c] and others from your opponents’ hands, and cards that work against aggressive strategies like [c]Drown in Sorrow[/c].

To Wrap Up

Well boys, more spoilers have been unleashed even as I’ve typed this article. This set is full of powerhouse cards, and I look forward to exploring it with you. Even while new and better [c]Young Pyromancer[/c] cards are being shown, I still believe that [c]Soulflayer[/c] is a contender. What do you think?