By Sebastian Hedberg
Fate Reforged, the middle child of the Khans Block has brought something to the table possibly more exciting than the the two Onslaught staples, morph and fetches being brought back in Khans of Tarkir. Manifest, a mechanic which shares a lot with morph, but with so many more possibilities has me excited and on full deck brewing mode.
Manifest a complex mechanic — complex a taboo word over at Wizard’s often associated with confusion and a steep learning curve. This time around complex is welcome to a metagame full of experimentation and unique home brews.
Manifest lets you put the top card of your deck face-down as a 2/2 colorless creature like morph. Unlike morph it can be any card not only creatures with the designated morph ability, a downside of Manifest is the fact you can only flip creature spells that are face-down, either for their morph or mana cost. But this is ok when you have plenty of cards that can be abused such as Hooded Hydra or Master of Pearls. They are only a small selection of cards that can become more powerful using manifest.
What drew me to manifest is not only the ability to abuse certain flip-up effects but also the ability to gain card advantage from furthering your board.
Write into Being gives you the ability to select what card to manifest while also letting you virtually scry 2. This lets you set up your next draw step or force your opponent into guessing if your manifest creature was important or you manifested a land to lure that kill spell.
Whisperwood Elemental does not let you choose what cards you manifest but it always brings out a 2/2 on your end step and if not answered quickly can easily overwhelm the game. It also offers a built in wrath protection for any creature face-up on your board.
Cloudform gives you a strong threat against midrange and control decks which wants to kill your creatures until they take control of the game. Even manifesting a simple land gives you a 2/2 flying hexproof creature which can easily run some people out of a game.
Temur Sabertooth lets you send back those non creature spells you manifested in the late game to use against your opponent and at the same time poses a major threat.
Ghost Fire Blade is a cheap way to power up your colorless manifest creatures and nothing feels better than putting a Ghost Fire Blade on Hooded Hydra manifested by Cloudform.
If Manifest has a home in standard is still to be determined, but if there has been a Standard metagame ripe for experimentation this is one.
Doing some testing I found Sultai Manifest was the most consistent and flexible post board. Below is my current list, still evolving and far from complete.
With two Sultai charms and two Murderous Cut’s main board the deck has some basic removal for those annoying Siege Rhinos standing in your way. Sultai Charm can also performs double duty by removing any enchantments such as Banishing Light or any Ascendancies.
Originally I had four Whisperwood Elementals but I ended cutting it down too only two so the curve was lower to the ground. Instead I included a full set of Courser of Kruphix after realizing their value for planning your manifests later in the game.
Qarsi High Priest also combos nice with Sultai Emissary letting you gain two manifest creatures from only two mana. Because they are relatively weak I only chose to have two of each in the deck because drawing them late game can be problematic.
Kiora is there as protection and the ability to gain some card advantage.
This deck can be fast , with the possibility of bringing out a flying 5/5 hexproof Hooded Hydra turn four. Its weakest match up is probably big green decks which can ramp into big creatures which block your way. Abzan can also pose a problem but unlike green decks they can’t always keep up with your board and if you get any flyers out they tend to be without answers. Control can take over with board wipes but if you can get a Temur Sabertooth or a Whisperwood out it can stand up against most board wipes.
In the side board you have counterspells for decks full of removal or big creatures. You also have access to Frontier Siege to ramp you into Ugin, the Spirit Dragon which has extra value because he can wipe the board while leaving your manifest creatures alive. Tasigur is there as a threat that if not answered can punch through while buying back your important cards. Silumgar, the Drifting Death is a great way to answer token strategies or pesky Elspeth’s ready to block your path to victory. Crux of fate is there as a last ditch removal spell when the game goes long and you have a board which can recycled using Whisperwood Elementals sacrifice ability.
This deck is just one of many possibilities. Manifest is new and still being decoded by the magic community and I hope to see some exciting decks out there abusing the mechanic. Also with Dragons of Tarkir looming it is anyones guess where the metagame is going and I hope Manifest gets more time in the spotlight.