Sunday, 2 August 2020

Card Spotlight: Phoenix of Ash


Phoenix of AshThis little birdy has been impressing more than most in cube of late and this was a pretty unexpected outcome. On my initial review I thought it was better than Chandra's or Flamewake but not by a significant margin and that is where I was wrong! Phoenix of Ash is in contention for one of the best red three drops in cube. It just has so much going on all of which add up to one of the scarier cards of the year.

So what exactly makes this so good? We have plenty of recursive 2/2 flying haste dorks, plenty of aggressive flyers and plenty of recursive threats. The simplest answer would be the fire breathing side of the card. It keeps the card relevant and threatening throughout the game. It almost always threatens to one shot a planeswalker if already in play. It also trades up into any would be blocker. The rate is decent too. Mid way between one for one and two for one in terms of mana spent to power gained is pretty acceptable. It is a whole lot better than the latter. It is also very colour light meaning you can spend more of your mana than if it was R for +1/+0 for any two or more colour deck. It also just makes it a threat which closes fast in addition to inevitably. Even big Phoenix like Rekindling take a fair while to end a game on their own, even if from a reduced life total. Phoenix of Ash can just chew through life in no time if you want it too.

PsychatogEscape is the other aspect of the card I underrated somewhat. I focused too hard on the relatively high mana cost (relative to the cost of recurring other good Phoenix style cards) and not the ease and convenience of meeting the requirements. Having three cards in the bin to exile is incredibly easy. Assuming you have no other escape or delve spells and your opponent isn't removing your bin then you pretty much have endless capacity to escape the Phoenix. This gives it a Scarab God like ability to resist death. Haste and flying mean that it is just relentless. Just to get respite you need chumps to block or instant speed removal. Short of those things you are just getting hit in the face or putting walkers in the bin. It reminds me of Psychatog in this regard, just a three mana dork that is powerful enough to represent a game ending threat. This low cost and risk to deploy makes it a surprisingly effective card in control decks as well as the more obviously suitable homes.

Four to recur is expensive but it is a better deal than the conventional cast mode in a general sense. You pay 1.5 mana for 1/1 worth of stats compared to 1.33 mana per 1/1 of stats when escaping. This assumes the progression in mana from 3 to 4 is linear and that there is no scaling on flying, haste or fire breathing. While there might be I suspect it is similar enough over all to be fairly negligible in comparison to the more efficient stats cost, which in turn is generally pretty irrelevant when compared to the context of any given game. If the body is good enough to be casting it is good enough to be escaping and that is great because it gives every card in your bin a third of a cards worth of value. This is fundamentally what makes escape so good. Use three sac lands and draw a free card? Sign me up. Phoenix being the cheapest relevant escape card in terms of cards exiled makes it especially good in cube where 40 card libraries lead to potential over mill issues.

Ox of Agonas
Being so easy to recur and having both good clock and reach make the Phoenix a really great way to massively increase the threat density of a deck without any extra costs or drawbacks. You can safely mill it too without losing access to it making it even more powerful in that regard. A good cube archetype is Izzet tempo which has a weakness in threat density. With so much draw and looting you can run out of library, or at least relevant cards in it, before getting the job done. Phoenix is great protection against this. Much as I love drawing cards I found that I was always recurring the Phoenix over Ox of Agonas when there was a choice between them. I just wanted the Phoenix and more fuel to get it back more than I wanted random cards from my deck and a 4/2 do nothing! Ox is no slouch either.

Phoenix is a great aggro card but it is rounded enough to be a fine inclusion in any midrange or control deck able to play a 1RR card without too much issue. It scales with time, looting, mill, card draw, and mana! It doesn't stand out as a bomb to look at but it has really proven itself in game play. I highly recommend adding one to your cube if you have not already.

Saturday, 18 July 2020

Archetype Breakdown: Green Stompy


Rogue ElephantI have tried for years to brew a competitive stompy deck and failed. I have tried in draft and constructed and always end up with a deck that is super easy to disrupt while being nearly incapable of effectively disrupting much itself. All for the payoff of being a little bit slower than other quick decks. I have tried all sorts of different tactics too, both using early ramp and not. Going wide, going tall, going Berserk! Having Keen Senses, having devotion. Some did OK but most died on their arses and none excelled. Finally I think it has arrived. A competitive way to build mono green aggro. It is the result of having so much punch in the three to five mana range and the ever increasing value of the tempo game. You could well argue this is simply a condensed ramp deck that only bothers reliably ramping once and packing a much much higher threat density.

The archetype still has some issues but you can power through those fairly easily with just a bit of build consideration. You are vulnerable to wrath effects. Planeswalkers help a lot here and card advantage puts in some work too. You can hedge further if you like with vehicles, manlands, and even some land/enchantment based ramp instead of some of the creatures. Land ramp is slower and does mean you are less able to dump a load of equipment in the list but that isn't the end of the world. Just something to take into account in the build.

The other big issue is not being able to remove things your opponent has. Mostly this is fine as you can just plough through with your better tempo and bigger numbers but it doesn't always pan out that way and you need to interact. Green has more tools in this area than ever before and doesn't need to rely on low tempo artifacts. Stack up on the top tier cards that have fight functionality and prioritise taking the high tempo colourless cards with removal effects.

I will now briefly go over the groups of cards that make up this archetype. The numbers are a mark out of 10 for importance, power and priority in picking for each card.

The first group is of course one drop mana accelerators. These are the core of the deck. You really want upto about six to ensure you can open with one pretty consistently. Once you have enough then they start to drop in value for you but that is rather less likely than not enough. Once upon a Time can help alleviate a short fall in cheap ramp as can premium one mana threats however green is rather lacking in that group. The two flying options in this group really help to make Swords of This and That more appealing.

Fyndhorn Elves

Llanowar Elves 8
Elvish Mystic 8
Fyndhorn Elves 8
Arbor Elf 8
Boreal Elf 7
Noble Hierach 9
Birds of Paradise 8

Gilded Goose 6
Joraga Treespeaker 6

Avacyn's Pilgrim 6
Elves of Deep Shadow 5

Wild Growth  7
Utopia Sprawl 7



Oath of NissaCard quality effects are next up. These are fine filler options but not something you are looking to play. You are a tempo deck and these lower your tempo potential. Absolutely run these cards over having bad cards in your list or a poor curve. The optimal build likely has none. The cheaper the better when you are forced into running. I would play Adventurous Impulse over Bound of Flourishing or Grapple with the Past in most cases despite being a less powerful card simply for the lower cost. Copter is lovely as it gives you card quality without any real tempo cost while also giving you some really nice protection against mass removal. It could easily just be in the threats section.

Oath of Nissa 5
Once upon a Time 8
Adventurous Impulse 4
Smuggler's Copter 9



Blossoming DefenseCombat tricks next. These are amazing but you need to be sparing with them. You want one but two is the most I would run and the second one probably takes a spot I would give to an equipment or vehicle. You never want a trick and no targets, or even a trick but no curve play. Tricks are nice as they keep your opponents honest. They are really your only way to interact at instant speed and so they add a lot of complexity to your opponents lines. Low cost is important. Being able to counter a removal spell is big game too, it makes the trick good in tempo matches as well as against control decks. Saving an Elf from a Shock with a free pump spell is a really big +EV play that has resulted in plenty of wins for me over the years. I am pretty sure the three listed below are the best options on pump spells although they are not a significant amount better than Giant Growth. Berserk isn't really in this camp of spells and is more of a combo kill card or finisher. It is Overrun that you play as your last card. While very powerful it is rather win more, it doesn't save a dork in combat or from a removal spell in the early game and that is really what you want most from these cards in addition to their effects on combat.



Mutagenic Growth 7
Blossoming Defence 7
Vines of the Vastwood 6



Paradise DruidNext up are the two mana ramp options. These are not really what you are after, in the ideal world you ramp turn one and start pumping out high tempo threats ahead of curve skipping the two drop all together. In reality you need some two drops. When you need them most is when your one drops didn't show or were dealt with. There are also not that many top quality two drop threats in green you can play. As such having some ramp in the two drop slot is no bad thing. You do however really want that ramp to do more than a one drop ramp card. Paradise Druid works wonders with equipment. Incubation has nice synergies with a variety of strong cards that give +1/+1 counters or it can just mutate up in the late game and get in on the beatdown with some reasonable stats. I don't want more than two ramp spells in my two slot but I would play more if I lacked the one drop ramp. About four two drops is about right for your curve with a healthy number of one drop ramp dorks in your list.



Paradise Druid 6
Incubation Druid 6
Devoted Druid 5
Sakura Tribe Elder 4
Nature's Lore 3


Guardian ProjectCard advantage options up now and here we have an impressive selection when compared to a few years back. This is an area I neglected in previous builds for a selection of reasons. Mostly there was only really Clamp and only having one source of good card advantage made it unreliable. When you have several sources you can lean on it that bit more. This lets you play more lands and ramp alongside a more streamlined curve for better consistency and burst. It also lets you be really competitive in the long game. I have played a couple of games where I just over extended into Wraths to force them out and just carried on powering out stuff. I have come super close to decking myself a couple of times running this kind of list. You probably want two or three cards from this group. They are generally poor tempo cards so you do have to be careful. Henge for example is utterly amazing, but it is a little tricky to deploy. The more equipment, pumps spells, planeswalkers, and things like Guardian Project you have the dodgier it becomes. Play the cards from this group sensibly and make sure you are not just tossing them in without consideration. Uprising is an interesting new addition. The value is somewhat minor compared to a number of the alternatives but it is cheaper and/or safer than most and it provides trample which is massive when combined with some dorks and some equipment.


Skullclamp 9
Guardian Project 6
Vivien Ried 6
Vivien, Monster's Advocate 6
The Great Henge 6
Beast Whisperer 4
Garruk's Uprising 5


Vivien, Arkbow Ranger
Now we have the removal options. This list is not far off exhaustive. There are other fight cards that are either too inconsistent or slow and as such are to be avoided. Jitte and Ballista are the colourless options that don't cost you. Jitte makes all your mana dorks threats and ensures you win combat and ultimately the long game. This deck is the best place for a Jitte. The removal is heavenly and the support for it is high with plenty of dorks and mana. Ballista also benefits from the mana production of the deck and also from the fairly abundant counter synergies on the go which turn it from a low tempo utility card to pretty much a bomb that gives a bunch of reach and removal to the archetype. The planeswalkers are also nice as they afford Wrath protection and a pile of options. They work a lot better in this iteration of stompy that uses card advantage effects to be able to play a long game.





Umezawa's Jitte 9
Walking Ballista 9
Garruk Relentless 7
Vivien, Arkbow Ranger 7
Voracious Hydra 7
Dismember 6
Cursed Scroll 3
Primal Might 4?

HexdrinkerNow we shall take a look at the threats in curve order starting of course with the one drops. Really there is not much to start us off. We are looking to play mana dorks on turn one so that isn't an issue. Hex Drinker is the only card I am actively looking to put in my deck. It is nice because it isn't a dead draw late, is a threat at any stage, and affords a lot of options as you progress through the game. The other alternatives also scale up in power but they are rubbish top decks late game and that rather detracts from their appeal.



Hex Drinker 7
Experiment One 3
Pelt Collector 3





Scavenging OozeSlim pickings in the two slot as well. Tarmogoyf - the classic green two drop beater is rubbish in this deck as you don't fill up your bin nor do you speed up the filling of the opponent's bin. Gofy is often a 1/2 or smaller on turn two and that is terrible. It needs to be at least 4 power to be exciting and you just can't make that happen. Scavenging Ooze is the best as it gives you some disruption and utility while also being a card that scales into the late game. Recruiter is fine but it is a little off theme. It's tempo is generally mediocre and the value offered is slow and expensive compared to the dedicated card advantage spells. I would much rather run Elvish Visionary than most of the two drop options on green threats out there. It is a bit like card quality in that you take a little tempo hit for a bit more consistency. Visionary gets better the more equips, buffs and pumps you have. A good way to get your curve padded out in the right places.




Scavenging Ooze 6
Duskwatch Recruiter 4
Tarmogoyf              2
Elvish Visionary 4


Garruk's HarbingerThree drops are were the real depth and power start to come in. Jadelight used to be one of the best offering a lot of consistency and value alongside good tempo. Garruk's Harbinger seems to be the new big name in town for this part of the curve. Rishkar is good for synergies and taking the edge off top heavy decks with a decent amount of extra mana production potential. Lovestruck Beast is nice and big and does some lovely curving with the Great Henge but is just fat and can be turned off more easily than most. Nissa is great for giving value, protection against Wraths and helping with go wide game plans. Tracker is just a nice value all rounder but is weaker than most on curve. Sword of Fire and Ice, and indeed any of the other Swords of This and That are somewhat more five drops. They could be in the value section or the removal section too in this case but for some reason I have just put it/them here. Swords are powerful and they work brilliantly in this kind of deck with lots of bodies and lots of mana. Lovely with tramplers and fliers too. I don't love playing Swords but when I do I like it to be in a deck as well suited to them as this one is.


Garruk's Harbinger 8
Rishkar, Peema Renegade 7
Jadelight Ranger 7
Nissa, Voice of Zendikar 6
Tireless Tracker 6
Lovestruck Beast 5
Swords of Fire and Ice 7

Surrak, the Hunt CallerThe four slot is where the power starts to really take off. Questing Beast is just obscene levels of power. Great tempo and threat while also scaling dangerously well with any sort of buff. Such a difficult and scary card to block. Surrak is exceptional in this archetype. Giving haste to many of your big hitters is a massive tempo swing. The potential of that alone is enough to make him a high priority target to remove. He typically hits hard with haste himself too! Vengevine is fine although I really want a couple of ways to get him in the bin before casting him these days. Give me a Copter and a Satyr Wayfinder and I would want it, without I would play it if I had to but it is rather less exciting. The card just doesn't pose as much threat as it used to, a 4/3 is gentle and small! Gemrazer is decently aggressive, has some versatility, and lets you interact and disrupt which is all nice. Wildspeaker also offers versatility and has a nice threatening ultimate in this kind of deck. His overall low tempo however keep him as just fine in this archetype. Unleashed however is rather more robust and has a far more aggressive +1 ability making him the preferred choice in most instances.


Questing Beast 8
Surrak, the Hunt Caller 9
Garruk Unleashed 6
Garruk Wildspeaker 5
Shifting Ceratops 5
Gemrazer 5
Vengevine 4



Nissa, WorldwakerThe five drops continue to have hard hitting power and have far more playable cards than other slots. Some go tall, some go wide. Some force damage through, some give value, some augment other cards and synergies. I want about four cards in this slot, most, if not all of which will come from this group. I ideally want at least one of them to be a walker too but that is fine as green is rather spoilt for choice in this area. Creeperhulk is pretty underrated and closes out games very effectively. Gearhulk is the best of the augmenting cards on average and supports counter synergies better than most. Whisperwood is one of the least effective tempo wise and has more of a planeswalker feel about it offering slow value over time and Wrath insurance. This section really is about tuning to your deck as best as possible. If you have Wildspeaker and Voice of Zendikar in your deck than Deep Forest Hermit looks great. If you have Walking Ballista and Rishkar then Gearhulk shines. Mana sinks love a Nissa, ideally a world shaker but also still a worldwaker!


Creeprhulk 7
Deep Forest Hermit 5
Verdurous Gearhulk 7
Wolfir Silverheart 4
Kalonain Hydra 4
Nissa Worldwaker 8
Nissa Who Shakes the World 8
Elder Gargaroth  6
Whisperwood Elemental 5
Biogenic Ooze 4


Carnage TyrantSix drops are where you want to be curtailing things. You can run one or two if needed but you can equally run none and still have plenty of power. Six drops do start to suffer from casting issues. Bad draws and having your mana dorks removed can often lead to a six drop simply doing nothing. Carnage Tyrant is amazing as it commands such a specific answer. It is Wrath protection in that you win with it if you draw their Wrath out before laying it or assure you do draw out the Wrath by playing it. With your archetype finishing the curve at six and not relying on mana sinks the Titan is a bit of a Colossal Dreadmaw in this archetype. I would only look to run it when I have at least two, ideally three or more, good utility lands I can find with it. If I am just pulling forests then most other cards on this list are better.

Carnage Tyrant 6
Primeval Titan 2



Kessig Wolf RunSplashes are perfectly reasonable in this list as a number of your mana dorks fix. You don't really want or need to for consistency reasons but you still manage it better than most other high tempo mono coloured lists. The best splashes as ever cover you in areas you are weak in and are not dead when you don't have the colours. Wolf Run is still a colourless land without red and is both a mana sink and source of reach. Scrounger is still a beater without black mana. Easy Prey is preferable to Cast Out despite being worse removal, even just on creatures, as the cycling cost is colourless.


Kessig Wolf Run 6
Scrapheap Scrounger 4
Easy Prey 2
Memory Leak 2
Shredded Sails 1



So these are most of the cards I am looking to run. From there is it all about ratios. I want a few ways to draw/generate cards and a few ways to handle creatures. The more the merrier of both when tempo, card power, and curve are not effected. When that isn't possible I will build to accommodate the best and most suitable of my options. Equally, a card like Guardian Project is dedicated draw and nothing else. It would count for rather more in the card draw section than a planeswalker. Beyond that I am looking to run about 16 lands as curving out is pretty important. I want at least one combat trick and at least one way to empower smaller dorks in an ongoing capacity, ideally a little more. I want six or so one mana ramp dorks. I want about four two drops. I want five or six of each four and five drops and I am happy enough with a six drop if required.

Once constructed playing is fairly simple. Curve out and attack! Playing around mass removal is your only main consideration beyond tempo. Dodging disruption on key cards is a thing too. You don't want to have your card advantage spells countered in a game that is likely value based. In my cube this is now the best mono green archetype you can make. It is powerful and consistent and really good at keeping up the pressure.




Sunday, 5 July 2020

Jump Start Preliminary Reviews Part II

Witch of the Moors (JMP)
Witch of the Moors 6.5

This is absolutely filthy if you can trigger it and terrible if you can't. I don't have sufficient ways to gain life for this to do enough in cube draft but I suspect it would not be too hard to support this. Life gain cards are abundant enough and this card has a nutty enough ceiling to make it worthwhile. Even if they untap and kill this right away you have got a 3 for 1, probably some tempo too. There seems to be a big pool of cards from this set and Core 2021 that I want to test but need to also add in a collection of supporting tools to do so properly. This will greatly increase the time taken to test. A process that is already slow! At least you can likely rule this out if you are not the kind of person who likes to bother with considering support.




Tinybones, Trinket Thief (JMP)

Tinybones, Trinket Thief 6.5

This is an elegant little card. It is narrow in that it does nothing without discard support. The difference between this and Witch of the Moors which makes this more playable is that this costs so much less rather than discard having more support than lifegain. This penalises opponents looting or cycling as well as buffing your own discard effects. This doubles the potential support Tinybones gets in game. This also buffs discard effects in that once you are at six mana opponents are going to try and keep cards in hand to avoid taking 10, which in turn will allow your discard effects to continue to land. This may still be too narrow, or might need some extra support love to get there but I give it a better chance than Witch of the Moors despite being the less powerful of the two cards. At least Witch is a relevant 4/4, this is just a do nothing 1/2 when not triggering.




Kels, Fight Fixer (JMP)Kels, Fight Fixer 5

There is quite a lot going on here but it all feels a bit slow and fiddly. The baseline 4/3 menace is weak at four mana. Being able to make it indestructible is nice but at a mana to use it is not something you can curve out and makes Kels feel more like a five drop. A bit like Glen Elandra is also ideally a five mana card. You also need other dorks for Kels to be good either for card draw or indestructible activations. The card draw element is nice but it is weak to pair with the indestructible mode only. You want protection cheap, alternatively, you want to also put the indestructible to use when you sac off dorks for just a card a pop so as to get more value. I could see playing a Kels in a midrange aristocrats style deck where I am sacrificing dorks to other effects and can just use Kels as a source of value on an otherwise useful and meaty body. A sort of terrible Falkenrath Aristocrat that comes with half a Skullclamp! Kels has places to be useful and things to offer but it is not a card I see cutting in it in drafting cubes.


Scholar of the Lost Trove (JMP)Scholar of the Lost Trove 4

This seems to have a lot of potential. It is likely rather too much setup to replace the likes of Griselbrand or Emrakul in a cheat it out combo but it does allow you to do things other cards cannot. Time Stretch is a card for example. That is a rather impressive thing to cheat out or just cast for seven mana! I feel like I am winning most games where I get a 5/5 flyer and two more turns! Other potent options also available such as Aminatou's Augury or just some fatty artifact dork. It is an EtB trigger too and not a cast one so you can just Flash this into play and go wild on your big card. I wish to turn one Flash in this off the back of a cheap looting spell pitching the Augury only to hit Omniscience, Echo of Eons, Nexus of Fate, some big Eldrazi legend, Narset Parter of the Veils and I guess just a humble Island. That is a new life goal. That would make multiplayer worth playing! Good job they banned Flash in commander frankly!


Ormos, Archive Keeper (JMP)Ormoss, Archive Keeper 1

Interesting and powerful card. Sadly this is not a good step in for Thassa's Oracle or the Mystery Jace as it is a lot more mana and because it doesn't directly win slowing it down further while also reducing the chance it actually converts the win once that library is gone. On the plus side this is a big flyer with a very powerful draw mechanism. Sadly for Ormos it isn't close to Consecrated Sphnix or Dream Trawler as far as big six drop card drawing flyers go. I'm not sure you want a halfway house version of a big card drawing flyer and an anti self mill tool but if you did, Ormoss is your guy.








Inniaz, the Gale Force (JMP)Inniaz, the Gale Force 3

Well this is a big pile of silly. Not close to good enough for a cube draft often just being Air Elemental. In a flying themed deck Inniaz has more hope. Being a flying dork is a plus in a decks built around that synergy, as is offering perks for having flyers! There are some reasonable cost reduction effects for flyers further increasing the playability of this pseudo lord. Having a pump effect like this is nice for sure. While it is expensive it is on a top end card so it should be useful due to mana levels at that stage in the game. It also has the chance of powerful effects immediately. Imagine the horror of flopping this, swinging with a triad of 1/1 token flyers and stealing a high loyalty walker. Fairly win more but still a buff to a deep card that has a passable floor.




Corsair Captain (JMP)
Corsair Captain 3

What a lovely lord. Clean and yet full of flavour and theme. Interesting and different too which is so hard on the simple cards. Obviously only playing this in pirate heavy decks but looking to play this whenever I am in that situation so a win as far as a tribal card goes. Pirates suddenly went from a novelty tribe to a viable option.












Bruvac the Grandiloquent (JMP)Bruvac the Grandiloquent 3

While this is only a card you would run in a mill deck it is pretty obnoxious there. Torbran for mill! Mill is a bit of a problem in 40 card decks as it is already twice as good as it should be. Doubling the power of a problematic thing is a real problem. Like, imagine how good a burn deck is when your opponents all start on 10 life. Then imagine how good that is for the burn player when there is also a Furnace of Rath in play. Bruvac into Archive Trap is basically game against all but the quickest 40 card decks. A single extra mill effect is all you need to beat the quick decks, a 1/4 blocker rather helps against the aggro ones too. Lucky there are good anti mill tools out there for the open formats and no need to support it elsewhere. Bruvac is powerful but not likely to be any sort of fun.





Archaeomender (JMP)Archeomancer 4

Solid little value or recursion tool. Only playable in decks that need specific artifacts or have a really high artifact count. All such things are combo decks, synergy decks, or otherwise constructed lists and so this doesn't have a place in most conventional cubes. Nice tool to have in this form though. Power level is pretty low but it is still a handy card












Stone Haven Pilgrim (JMP)Stonehaven Pilgrim 0

A 3/3 lifelink attacker for 1W sounds great, even if it is a 2/2 the rest of the time. The condition is also easily met. The thing is this is still just a dork. It isn't a persistent threat or one with great reach. It offers no real value either. The lifelink isn't all that relevant as a race tool as this is just an aggressive beater. This does tempo quite well but other cards do it better and bring more to the table. Reach, value, utility, scalability, persistence, or Tarmogoyf levels of stats are what is needed to make the bar in cube these days. This very high power level card misses all those things and as a result seems unplayable in a cube setting. Perhaps it makes it in a 100 card lifegain deck but even there it seems very underwhelming.







Steel-Plume Marshal (JMP)
Steel-Plume Marshall 0

A hard hitting sky lord dork. Sadly the cost is very high and you need the Marshall to attack to gain the perks making it too slow and unreliable as a synergy card. I would play this in EDH flyer builds but 40 card lists have too many stronger options for this to get a look in. Perhaps worth revisiting if a suitable tool arrives to somewhat consistently afford this haste!









Release the Dogs (JMP)


Release the Dogs 4

Certainly a card you will play in doggo tribal decks but also one with enough punch to make it elsewhere too. This has a whole lot of scaling going on with Anthem effects. Four mana for 8/8 in stats over four bodies will almost be the norm for this if played in cube and that will make it pretty impressive. It probably lacks the value, utility and reach you want in a four drop but the power and scaling potential is there for sure. I card I will happily play in token themed decks although it is







Emiel the Blessed (JMP)

Emiel, the Blessed 2

Powerful utility and combo potential but rather too much of a four mana 4/4 with a 3 mana activated ability. This needs support in other cards and lots of mana to do much of much. As such beyond combo applications, likely as a backup too for cards like Eldrazi Displacer, this has little in the way of uses or desirability for cube. One day it will have a home in a tribal setting but we are a long way off that now.





Brightmare (JMP)



Brightmare 0

A one-off tapper with lifegain upside. Sadly the body is a bit poor to be exciting. Life isn't aggro either while this tap effect is, resulting in a cross purpose card I can't see myself using until that fabled unicorn unicorn tribal deck arrives!



Blessed Sanctuary (JMP)








Blessed Sanctuary 4

Very powerful effects indeed. Churning out free 2/2 unicorn tokens as you go is nice. Being immune to non-combat damage personally and for your dorks is also pretty strong if a little bit hating on red. Too narrow for the drafting cube although not by very much. Lots of potential for sideboards or use in decks with good supporting synergy.




Saturday, 4 July 2020

Jump Start Preliminary Reviews Part I


Thriving Grove (JMP)Thriving Land Cycle 6

These are essentially Vivid lands. Vivids give you better fixing for multiple colours early while Thriving lands don't run out of steam and will help you until the game is over. It is rare that you run out of counters on a Vivid land and so I think I still prefer them in three or more coloured decks in cube. Thriving lands are still great though, they are better in two colour decks and can still outclass the Vivids in decks with more colours from time to time as well. These will be the best fixes in many budget formats are are sufficiently space efficient that I can see them breaking into more powerful cubes too. A great cycle to have added to the game.




Lightning-Core Excavator (JMP)



Lightning Core Excavator 1

This is very low powered but it isn't unplayable as it has so much crossover. If the initial 0/3 artifact body does much for you and a wildly overcost Lightning Bolt is something you can use then perhaps this fits into your build.




Towering Titan (JMP)





Towering Titan 0

Expensive and needy. I want a more reliable threat for six mana, not one that needs things in play to be big and requires sacrifices to get damage through. Ghalta seems rather superior if you expect to have things in play and Ghalta isn't a very good cube card. Certainly this works well will walls but if you are wall heavy then you can play better synergy cards like Assault Formation to empower those walls and bypass this kind of silliness all together.





Neyith of the Dire Hunt (JMP)Neyith of the Dire Hunt 3

A Hill Giant with bells and whistles. You can buff things, you can draw cards, and you can force bad options on your opponent. All well and good but all a bit slow and conditional. I want my four drops to have more board presence or reliably do more right away than this. Perfectly powerful card, potentially game winning, just a bit vulnerable and hopeful when you can just pack cards like Questing Beast instead.





Branching Evolution (JMP)





Branching Evolution 2

Hardened Scales but three times the price! You might still play this in the singleton iterations of +1/+1 counters themed decks but it certainly isn't providing those busted openers you get with Scales. A very fair piece of redundancy for one kind of deck. Playable but a source of consistency rather than power.






Allosaurus Shepherd (JMP)
Allosaurus Shepherd 4

Somewhere between an Ezuri and a Creeperhulk. You only play this in elf decks and really only as a finisher. I guess you might play this as a sideboard card to handle blue permission decks but that isn't very exciting. Other cards do that sort of thing too, you really want to be able to use the 4GG ability to threaten a win with your elvish team for this to excite. Being a one drop is nice, it does make it better for comboing off with Glimpse and the like but still, Ezuri seems a safer and more powerful option. This is more likely to replace Craterhoof than Ezuri. A strong tribal option for a strong tribe but not really a new tool. I guess this is just a compact and contained version of City of Solitude and Overrun.






Zurzoth, Chaos Rider (JMP)Zurzoth, Chaos Rider 6.5

Fascinating card that is very close to the mark and likely only misses out due to low cheap devil count and extreme power level in the red 3 drop alternative options. In practice Zurzoth compares to Hanwier Garrison most. Both are three mana 2/3 bodies that attack and create more bodies. A pair of humans is better than an on death pining devil but it is close. A random loot for both players is going to be net positive for you and likely empower some synergies too. It will have some positive effects for your opponent as well. It will however be far harder for them to play around and they will be less likely to gain advantage from the synergies as well on average due to information and plan in the building of the decks. Where Zurzoth can jump from Garrison levels of power to the top tier level of the Rabblemaster is when you already have a devil in play and ready to attack when you lay Zurzoth. An immediate devil token for extra tempo, assured value, and the ability to get another trigger next turn without having to risk Zurzoth. It would be easy enough to support Zurzoth to some extent as there are a couple of other decent cube worthy devils out there. Rakdos Cackler and Footlight Fiend through to Hellrider. The cheaper options particularly welcome for maximizing Zurzoth's potential. The only things I can trigger him with presently in cube are tokens from Tibalt and Mutavault, neither of which really curve ideally with Zurzoth. I will likely try and support Zurzoth just for a test as he is a more interesting card than the various other red token producing 3 drops. On balance however he probably isn't going to be a feature in many cubes. Supported Zurzoth reaches and possibly exceeds the potency of Rabblemaster. Unsupported you probably fail to surpass the Garrison.


Spiteful Prankster (JMP)Spiteful Prankster 6.5

A strictly better Hissing Iguana. The body on Prankster is acceptable and will allow it to be useful in combat and not just a vulnerable enchantment like effect. The effect is certainly a nice one akin to the Blood Artist drain. This has no life gain but it can hit walkers and will scale with things like Torbran. Red doesn't really care for lifegain either so I can actually see this doing well in cube. Probably around the power level of Rampaging Ferocidon. First strike, as with menace on Ferocidon, allows you to put the body of Prankster to effective use unlike Hissing Iguana. Very strong but let down by being a three drop that will trade one for one with most removal.








Sethron, Hurloon General (JMP)Sethron, Hurloon General 6.5

This guy is a total beating. You get 6/7 of stats over two bodies for your five mana as well as the ability to pump them and gain menace. You even have a tiny chance of getting more 2/3 dorks should you somehow have further minotaurs to play. There are not all that many cards of the type, most are pricey and most are also bad. There are just a handful across the spectrum I would consider for cube so even if I did try and support this guy you are getting that second token a tiny fraction of the time. In a tribal deck Sethron is about as good as it gets, value, power and reach. The perfect top end lord like synergy dude. In a deck with no tribal support he is still a high tier card, perhaps just a little dull and inflexible to beat out the various hasting dragons and planeswalkers. Worth a test for sure. A very midrange card but then red is getting a lot of that these days and becoming very good at it.



Muxus, Goblin Grandee (JMP)Muxus, Goblin Grandee 4

This does it all. A massive source of value with the cards drawn like Ringleader. A massive tempo swing putting them all into play and if you still need it at that point, a huge dork to swing with. Generally this will be too good not to play in a tribal goblin deck. You can set this up with Recruiter for an almost assured on the spot win. Even without Recruiter you are averaging a good 3 gobbos in most tribal builds when you play this. You can speed it out with Warcheif style cost reductions, saccing a bunch of stuff for mana with Prospector or just cheat it out with Lackey effects. All very scary. This card is basically everything you want from a top end goblin card in much the same way a Dream Trawler is a custom made control threat. It will be hard to top Muxus for suitability!





Living Lightning (JMP)Living Lightning 1

A bit slow and expensive to do what you want. At three mana this would appeal. At four I want haste and and EtB trigger rather than an on death one.







Lightning Visionary (JMP)








Lightning Visionary 1

Enough good cheap prowess cards now that this is only getting action in a tribal deck, and even then it isn't looking good. Tribal decks are dork heavy mostly and so prowess looks poor. The cowmen hardly count as a good tribe either.





Lightning Phoenix (JMP)
Lightning Phoenix 6.5

This is a bit of a blend between Flamewing and Chandra's Phoenix. Lightning is the easiest to cast and the easiest to recur. It has the tempo leanings of Flamewake in that it is poor defensively but it recurs at reduced cost. It is however generally slower when recurred as it will usually be missing an attack. Ease of recurring is a big plus for this. Sadly I think this card is a little linear and a little fair. If I had a heavy looting theme in red then this would do well enough but with my current cube build you are mostly casting this before you get to cheat it out and that is not exciting. Powerful enough to test for sure but not a card I would bet on lasting. Phoenix of Ash is just more reliable and packs that more punch to make it scary and dangerous. It is a threat and value while this isn't quite so dangerous on the threat side of things making it ultimately less value as well.




Immolating Gyre (JMP)
Immolating Gyre 1

Very strong EDH card although narrow even there. In cube this is too pricey and unreliaible for the kinds of decks that will fill up a bin.





Chained Brute (JMP)









Chained Brute 3

At face value this is low powered but it is a card you can either abuse or mitigate the downsides and have something you might play. I might even look at this for tribal builds as saccing devils often comes with upside! This is deceptively playable.



Monday, 29 June 2020

Conclusions and Additions from Core 2021



Nothing too remarkable to say here. This is very much a core set. Lots of powerful and useful cards but little in the way of theming or flavour. High power and high levels of usefulness. Power creep continues too. I could make a reasonable case for this being one of the most powerful sets much like I seem to do for most new releases. While the overall power is high there doesn't seem to be any oppressively good cards like Oko or Once Upon a Time which is exactly what you want. Lots of stuff around the bar without too much above or below. There were a few more win more or polar cards than I would like to see. Not just a load of Baneslayer Angels but actual Baneslayer as well! Beyond those minor critiques the set looks great. Core sets tend to do well in cube what with less in the way of narrow synergy cards and more in the way of direct and clean staple cards. Core 2021 feels like it follows this trend well.





Cube Additions


Teferi, Master of Time
Garruk, Unleashed
Barrin, Tolarian Archmage
Terror of the Peaks
Garruk's Harbinger
Angelic Ascension
Eliminate
Heartfire Immolator
Seasoned Hallowblade
Llanowar Visionary




Cards to test with high hopes


Elder Gargaroth
Basri Ket
Liliana, Waker of the Dead
Chandra, Heart of Fire
Discontinuity
Waker of Waves
See the Truth
Hobblefiend
Mazemind Tome
Soul Sear



Cards to test with low hopes


Subira, Tulzidi Caravanner
Fiery Emancipation
Mangara, the Diplomat
Basri's Lieutenant
Chandra's Incinerator
Liliana's Standard Bearer
Gadrak, teh Crown-Scourge
Stormwing Entity
Primal Might
Sublime Empiphany
Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose
Miscast
Chandra's Pyreling
Fungal Rebirth
Silversmote Ghoul
Sparkhunter Masticore



Cards for the constructed reserves




Pack Leader
Peer into the Abyss
Feline Soveign
Demonic Embrace
Ghostly Pilferer
Shacklegiest
Conspicuous Snoop
Kaevek the Spiteful
Joreal, Mwonvuli Recluse
Nine Lives
Transmogrify
Sporeweb Weaver
Teferi's Ageless Insight
Thieve's Guild Enforcer
Speaker of the Heavens
Archfiend's Vessel
Garruk's Uprising
Selfless Savior
Unleashed Fury
Drowsing Tyrannodon
Alpine Houndmaster (+ Alpine Watchdog and Igneous Cur)
Liliana's Steward
Village Rites
Rhada, Heart of Keld
Niabi, Esteemed Speaker
Conclave Mentor
Watcher of the Spheres
Obsessive Stitcher
Chromatic Orrery
Griffin Aerie
Light of Promise
Lofty Denial
Basri's Solidarity
Invigorating Surge