Sagas, in Magic and in life, are meant to tell a story. While sagas are among the oldest forms of formalized storytelling that exist in human history, in Magic, they’re pretty new. First appearing in Dominaria in 2018, they’ve appeared every year since. They almost missed 2019, but Urza’s Saga in Modern Horizons kept the streak going. They have now appeared at every rarity, in multicolor, and have become a mainstay (if not evergreen) mechanic.
And recently, one saga in particular has set multiple formats ablaze: Fable of the Mirror-Breaker. Making impacts in Standard, Pioneer, and Modern, Fable has quickly become a regular in most decks playing Red. Let’s take a closer look at this saga and see just how it ticks.
The Story of the Saga
First, the flavor. Fable of the Mirror-Breaker tells the story of Kiki-Jiki, an akki (goblin) from Kamigawa. Kiki-Jiki was outcast from his tribe for being a little too wild, even by the standards of goblins. While foraging for food, he stumbled (literally) into the lair of Keiga, the Tide Star. The dragon spirit took a liking to the young akki, and sensing potential for something great in him, sent him on a mission: Steal Keiga’s ancient pearl from Meloku.
In Meloku’s sky-bound palace, Kiki-Jiki encountered an enchanted mirror, in which his reflection moved separately from his own movements. He smashed the mirror, releasing the reflection. Meloku caught Kiki-Jiki…but only his reflection, which shattered soon after as Kiki-Jiki made his escape. Kiki-Jiki took part in the Kami War afterwards, having become an expert in illusory and duplication magic.
That’s the quick version of the lore behind the saga, now let’s look at what the card does.
The Card, and What It Actually Does
We have three separate effects on this saga, let’s break them down one at a time.
First, when you cast this and it enters the battlefield, you get a 2/2 red Goblin token that creates a treasure token whenever it attacks. On its own, for three mana, that’s not an unreasonable card. I doubt it’s a card that sees much play in Constructed, but it has a fine home in Limited, and could see some play in fringe RG Ramp decks in Standard. It’s half of Captain Lannery Storm, who definitely saw some amount of Constructed play.
But that’s just one effect. The next turn, you can choose to discard up to two cards, and draw as many cards as you discarded. This is fine to fantastic. At its worst, you just don’t do anything. At its best, you get to drop two dead cards from your hand and churn through your deck. And that’s purely in a vacuum; in any sort of deck that wants to put cards into its graveyard, this is exactly what you’re looking for.
Finally, the last mode has the Saga transforming into Reflection of Kiki-Jiki, a slightly nerfed version of Kiki-Jiki himself; it doesn’t have haste itself (it does give the token copies haste), and it costs one mana to activate its duplication ability. If you have any kind of board state, this falls into one of two categories: it’s either a removal magnet that will eat a card from your opponent’s hand, or it can take over a game, drastically changing combat clocks and replicating enter-the-battlefield effects and death triggers each turn cycle.
The biggest issue with Fable of the Mirror-Breaker is that your opponents can see it coming from a mile away; only the first mode is often a guarantee if the saga resolves. If you get all the way to getting Reflection of Kiki-Jiki, your opponent’s had two turns to find an answer. And they still have another turn before you can start activating the reflection. However, even the worst-case scenario here isn’t all that bad.
And the best case scenarios are sensational.
A Fable for All Formats
In Standard, the format where this all should be the least busted, it’s still pretty busted. And what’s more it’s all over the place. Cards will often get into formats in specific decks, with a few becoming staples in an archetypical shell. Fable of the Mirror-Breaker defies this, somewhat thanks to Standard deck strategies tending to group around the midrange right now.
Green-Red Ramp is copying Titans of Industry, Blue-Red and Jeskai Opus are copying Goldspan Dragons, Jund is copying, well, anything it can (I especially like copying Bloodtithe Harvesters and machine-gunning down increasingly larger creatures). Naya Aggro, Grixis Vampires, various Reanimator configurations, Rakdos Aggro…this card is everywhere, and almost always as a four-of. Usually, a card being that ubiquitous means that something has gone horribly awry, and yet the fact that it’s showing up in so many different decks that are using it for distinct reasons makes it feel somehow fair. It’s simply good enough to see all this play, but it doesn’t necessarily come across as a card that something needs to be done about. If the rest of Red wasn’t so playable right now in all these different strategies, I doubt anyone would be splashing Red just to play this card.
In Pioneer, the fate of the Fable is in a bit of flux at the moment with the banning of Winota. The former primary home of the deck, folks are currently testing the waters out with the Fable in a Winota-less landscape, many still trying to preserve the combo it was part of in that deck. If you have an active Reflection and a Combat Celebrant, you can take infinite combat steps. If you have favorable attacks at all in your first swing, you win the game on the spot if your opponent has no interaction. In addition, it’s seeing play in Mardu Greasefang decks, Rakdos Midrange and Aggro, and a smattering of other decks as well.
And then we get to Modern. The Modern card pool already has Kiki-Jiki himself, and yet the goblin himself does not fit as well into as wide a range of decks as his Fable. A lot of it has to do with casting cost; the triple-red-mana requirement and five total mana value on the goblin makes him prohibitive for a lot of decks, with him mostly appearing in 4-Color Yorion as a one- or two-of and dedicated combo decks.
Fable slots much more nicely into a lot more strategies and works incredibly well with the Modern creature pool. From all of the Modern Horizons 2 Evoke Mythics, value creatures like Risen Reef and Seasoned Pyromancer, beaters like Elder Gargaroths and various dragons, and even big, scary reanimator targets like Archon of Cruelty, the Reflection has a ton of game-breaking duplication targets.
Modern is also where the second mode shines the brightest, as any format with Dredge cards is going to love an effect that has you discard then draw. The effect is also fantastic in Modern simply because you are far more likely, especially in game one, to have cards in your deck that are dead in specific matchups. Being able to ditch Fatal Pushes against Control decks and find meaningful spells, for example, can potentially swing the course of games. The wider the creature base of a format, the more useful the Fable seems to get.
That’s right, this Saga is even showing up in Legacy. Mono-Red Stompy has slotted Fable right in, as all three chapters of the saga fit nicely into what that deck needs. Accelerating your mana, providing card filtering in a deck that can surely use it, and copying big, stompy threats is everything this deck could want. People are trying to see where else the Fable could fit into the format, but it has at least one solid home for now.
As for Vintage…well, can’t win them all.
According to EDHREC, Fable is present in over 7,000 decks so far, which isn’t bad. I can think of a ton of uses for the card, which I’m not going to list here because this article has to end eventually. But again, all three modes are quite good in the format in the abstract; Treasure-making has almost become a key feature of the format, filtering cards is quite useful in singleton decks when you need a specific effect, and the combo potential of the duplication ability is off the charts. There’s the obvious powerhouse moves: making Dockside Extortionists every turn, looping spells with Eternal Witness, finding silver bullets with various tutor creatures, and so on.
If you are a red deck that has creatures, you should at least consider the Fable. It might be a bit slow for CEDH, but for anything else, it’s a rather sound investment for the mana.
The Moral of the Story
Fable of the Mirror-Breaker hits the sweet spot in card design. It fits well into nearly every format of the game without feeling too overpowered in any of them. The breadth of play it sees across those formats is also astounding. Reaching a variety of archetypes is usually reserved for things like premium removal or card draw spells.
It also helps prove the viability of the already-popular saga as a mechanic that can stick around for a long time. Each effect works well on their own as well as in concert, and yet all three are completely distinct effects that don’t go out of their way to have a super unified theme. The pacing of the saga card type helps keep the mana cost feeling fair, as well as balancing itself nicely.
Chris is the Associate Media Producer at Card Kingdom. He would like to apologize to his son for not holding onto more cards from when he first started playing, as that likely would have paid for college. He enjoys pretty much all formats of Magic, but usually ends up playing decks that make other people dislike playing those formats with him.