Wednesday, 7 December 2022

Top 8 Two Drop Mana Dorks


In cube we have access to all the very best mana ramp. This makes it pretty hard for green two drop ramp to get all that much of a look in what with there being sufficient one mana options available. There has to be some fairly significant extras on offer with the two drop options to temp you away from a cheaper alternative. The main advantage you can look to get from a two mana ramp card in green over a one mana card is getting a land into play. Lands are safer than creatures, they trigger landfall, and they empower plenty of things. There is lots in the way of good reasons to be wanting that slower safer land in play than a flimsy fleeting dork but here we are looking exclusively at creatures that cost two mana. We are bypassing the land or dork debate on an individual card basis and just looking at what it takes for a dork to be good enough to cost a whole mana more. 

We are also going to just look at green creatures. Yes, Vedalken Engineer is a powerful card but it is pretty narrow and not something that is useful to compare here. The stricter one keeps the parameters for cards to compare the more meaningful those comparisons can be. For this reason I will also be taking out Sakura Tribe Elder from the discussion as it sits directly between a creature ramp spell and a land ramp spell. It is certainly a great card and would sit near the top of this list but it isn't functioning in a similar enough way to be usefully discussed here. Gold ramp cards can compare but are broadly just too narrow to be worth playing in drafting cubes. There are none so much better than a mono green one that you should bother constraining draft options to include. 

Other powerful cards failed to make the list for being too polar and thus not improving the way your cube will play. Sanctum Weaver, Bloom Tender, and Priest of Titania can all be pretty insane mana dorks that provide massive returns for little upfront cost. The issue is that you need support to do that and that in turn means your card is either underwhelming or pretty unfair good. That doesn't lead to good games and so we are far better off looking for more rounded cards and have nice high floors instead of stupid ceilings. 

You could argue Lotus Cobra falls down for being too polar, which is certainly a criticism of the card. If it lives and you have a sac land and get to not only have two mana of any colour out of it but also get to do free damage or crew with it or whatever it all seems pretty unfair. I think Lotus Cobra fell down more as removal started getting better and more common. There are simply too many effects that kill a one toughness creature with absolute ease. Your chances of winning the game of magic drop an astronomically large amount when your Lotus Cobra dies to the soft end of an Arc Trail etc. You take that risk with a one drop but you simply don't need to with two drops and so for the most part you will find staying power to be a big feature of two drop mana dorks in general. This is certainly where Deathcap Cultivator fails to have any allure in cube. 

One might ask why we are bothering to play dorks at all when there is a wealth of two mana land ramp, and even Talisman and Signets on offer at the two slot? If safety is such a big deal why would we bother with these fragile mana dorks at all? Tempo and utility and value are the various answers! Cube is a very rounded format and it is fought hard with both tempo and value in most games and matchups. A late game Rampant Growth does very little while a creature might provide that much needed blocker. An unused land cannot apply pressure while a mana dork usually can. Mana dorks can be useful in the early and mid game outside of their primary role as a mana dork and they can avoid being dead in the late game. There are of course all the many things that scale with dorks from equipment to Anthems to vehicles and all those cards that find dorks or let you play them from the top of your deck. Some decks just really want a high creature count to scale with their various other cards.

It is in part for these reasons that we do not see Wall of Roots getting much love in cubes any more despite clearly being a premium mana dork. It is very bad at crewing or holding equipment or pressuring opponents stuff. Walls/defenders in general have seen a steep decline in use in  cube since Kaladesh era and the arrival of vehicles. It is not something specific to ramping defenders although they were some of the more commonly seen types of these card in cube.  

So what else nearly made this list but failed? Gyre Sage is one such card, it has a nice ceiling and can produce lots of mana while enjoying some cool synergies. Problem? It can do nothing and floor is more important than ceiling, especially on a role filler card like a ramp effect. Reclusive Taxidermist is the other end of that spectrum. The floor is fine but what it offers you back in ceiling just isn't much of a draw. Just some vanilla stats and even then, only maybe. 

Lastly there are Gala Greeters and Prosperous Innkeeper, and arguably even Nest Invader, who are a bit Gilded Goose, a bit Sakura Tribe Elder and even a bit Lotus Cobra. They are like Goose in that they do not assure ongoing ramp. They are like Tribe Elder as they can be pretty hard to prevent from providing a ramp. And they are like Cobra as they can attack and ramp at the same time! Greeters are an interesting utility card but as ramp they are far too slow and unreliable. They cannot ramp you to four mana on turn 3 by themselves and that is pretty much enough to kill their chances in this list. They can also be a do nothing 1/1 which is a problem for any card looking to have a home  in cube! I like them most as a threat with cool utility. Innkeeper on the other hand just isn't enough card. Life is whatever and 1/1 body isn't impressing anyone. Equally Invader is just some stats and of less value than coloured or ongoing mana production by quite a margin. 

Sylvan Caryatid 8th

Much as walls are not where you want to be, three toughness and hexproof very much is! This is as close to a land in terms of reliability and safety as you are likely to get from a creature. It survives most removal, and critically survives almost all removal that would stop this from ramping to four mana on turn three. It also blocks very well and provides far better colour fixing than any land ramp is providing. The utility of being able to soak up damage or provide mana all with relative safety is outstanding. This card is comfortably cube power level and one of the best ramp dorks that the ramp decks on the slower side of things can use. This is only not in my cube due to there being so many good options at present and the meta tending towards proactive decks. If things swing back the other way this could easily get back in. 

Incubation Druid 7th

The floor on this is low but at least reliable. A little tougher than most one drop dorks and a hint of fixing. Where this one excels is with ceiling and synergy. If you manage to get a counter on this quickly and at low cost then you are going to be wildly ahead on mana and likely win from that alone. A bit like when you manage to successfully level up and keep alive a Joraga Treespeaker but better! Pretty easily one of the best ceilings for a card on this list but it requires support from other cards which makes it a bit polar and narrow. Luckily the adapt mode gives a much easier to reach pseudo-ceiling that makes this a relevant body, a mana sink, and a much bigger ramp spell. It is a royal pain trying to attack into four untapped lands and an Incubation druid as it can block, become a 3/5, munch an attacker and then untap with at least seven mana and a much improved board state. This means that even without synergy this is one of the best late game dorks on this list. Great card, lots of fun, but sadly, when it comes to ramp you want the bulk of the card to be performing well on turn two, not in the late game. 

Devoted Druid 6th 

Similar floor to Incubation Druid that then trades all that late game ceiling for the ability to produce an extra mana one time. Sounds like trading a lot for a little but it is trading a lot of stuff that isn't part of why you are playing a card, and that you will be getting from other cards, for something you are directly playing the card for. It is a bit like how both Lightening Helix and Bolt are both better than a Searing Spear but Bolt is directly better and so is the much better card overall. Incubation Druid likely has the greater sum of parts but Devoted Druid is just better at ramping. It is the only two mana ramp card that reliably gets you to five mana on turn three without help or support from other cards. That can be utterly back breaking for the opponent. Indeed it is why I have shied away from this card a little over the years. Easily powerful enough for cube but a little polarizing. It forces people to build and play around it as they can so easily just lose to some hard hitting five drop wildly ahead of schedule. Even an Acidic Slime can be good games if it is coming down and destroying half your lands in play! Think what what a five mana Nissa might feel like at that pace! There are also cute synergies with buffs that let you milk extra mana out of Druid, even infinite mana, although those are not all that great in cube. I have even seen this used as a means to prevent a Jitte from charging which is quite cute. 

Tangled Florahedron // Tangled Vale 5th

Comfortably the lowest power card on this list. Just an overcost Llanowar Elf stuck on the back of a bad forest. I have just been really impressed with the play of this card. It does what you want it to and it provides a lot of dynamic options. You can play conservatively with it as a land or aggressively as a dork. You might do this to avoid removal or because you have too many or too few lands in hand. There is a tricky art with playing ramp as you don't want to wind up with too many mana sources in your list as you then start flooding too much and folding to answer heavy lists. Equally there is no point playing ramp and cutting lands as missing land drops entirely negates the benefit of ramp. This little card does a great job of keeping your land and ramp balance in check. It is card quality for ramp decks. Usually you are just trying to get a good balance of land and spells but ramp decks need to mix ramp in to that equation as well and this is a handy little tool to help out with that. 

Llanowar Loamspeaker 4th

Relatively early days on this one but so far it has been impressive. The body is sizeable making it fairly robust in the face of removal. An OK blocker and fine ramp and fixing. Getting all those important floors raised to a healthy point. And the sweetener? We can start throwing lands into the mix as 3/3 dorks. This is better than it sounds. Early it is a strong disincentive to deploying planeswalkers and late it is somewhat of a persistent attacker. You are typically able to chump attack with excess lands making this a more robust threat than a mere 3/3 would be. It is not a super powerful ability but it is direct and broadly useful. And given that it is on a perfectly acceptable two drop already doing the job you want from it perfectly well the card seems rather good. 

Biophagus 3rd

Exact same palatable floor as the Loamspeaker but with a much more immediate and oppressive upside. Dorks coming in bigger is going to get out of hand fairly fast. Green is dork heavy and so it will be fairly consistent in triggering this and getting ongoing free value. Even on the dorks that don't scale with being made bigger this counter is worth the best part of a mana. Once you are casting cards like Walking Ballista Biophagus is effectively tapping for 3! This card should be higher on this list and I have marked it down for two fairly biased and likely inappropriate reasons. Firstly it is probably just too good for heads up cube play. It is designed for commander where this sort of early tempo doesn't snowball and is far less powerful. Secondly, it is a 40K card which means it isn't going to be for everyone. 

Paradise Druid 2nd

This is my favourite of the cards on this list from a design perspective. It hits the mark perfectly on power level without being at all polar or narrow. All the power it has is located in the right place. The card has no silly late game tag ons, it is just a reliable two drop mana dork that fixes, is able to get into combat, and stays nice and safe in the lead up to such things. Much as this is a contained card it does also scale nicely with some things, notably getting vigilance, and holding equipment. Getting your dork killed in response to paying an equip cost can be such a devastating tempo loss that it cascades into an actual loss. Paradise Druid is one of the best cards in cube to play with equipment. The increased frequency of the ward mechanic is doing some good work diluting Paradise Druids impressiveness on that front but that is no threat to the cards cube spot as we are all about the ability to ramp first and foremost. This very reliably ramps and then it has some other perks as a pleasant side effect of that reliability. The upsides here are exactly when a two mana ramp card can be worth playing over a one mana option. 

Roffellos, Llanowar Emissary 1st

A classically terrible card design. This is narrow because it has a GG cost and because you need to play it with forests. It is also vulnerable thanks to a mere 1 toughness. These all make it less powerful certainly but they are not a good way to try and offset extreme power. They just make it horribly polar. Oh, I can't kill your Rofellos, I guess you will have twice the mana for the rest of the game then? Nissa Who Shakes the World is pretty oppressive and she is a five drop. Roffellos is absolutely the most powerful two mana ramp dork to the point where I "banned" him out of my cube. He just isn't what you could call a good magic card that leads to good games. If your cube is all about extreme power and having fun doing rare and cool shit, as a nice alternative to playing some drier formats like standard or modern then I am all on board with packing this guy. If however you are looking to have the best and fairest possible games and the most options in draft and deck building then this is not the kind of card you should be looking to run in your cube. 

Sunday, 4 December 2022

Jumpstart 2022 Preliminary Review


Oh look, another release... Luckily this one is small in terms of new content and broadly irrelevant. There are a few cute build around cards but mostly this is stuff for EDH and not cube. I might pick up a couple of cards for their constructed build around uses. I might also pick up Ardoz to try out in the actual cube but even he is pretty borderline. He will not be missed if I don't bother so no real rush there. Certainly one of the sets you could easily opt out of thinking about if you so fancied as Wizards have recommended. 

Alandra, Sky Dreamer 2

Four toughness makes this appeal more than Talrand and his measly two. The drawing two trigger however keeps this a much steadier pace of card and rather narrower in that it needs more build around effort. Fun in a draw two deck but a long way off a bomb even there. 

Ardoz, Cobbler of War 7

This seems pretty strong. It hits for 3 immediately which for two mana is pretty hefty. It then does several things in an ongoing capacity. A 1/1 dork by itself isn't nothing, nibble away a bit. The activated ability is a potent mana sink in the mid and late game. A 1/1 token isn't worth 4 mana but when it gets to hit for 3 immediately it is substantially better. I can see games where you hit four mana and just dump it all into Ardoz until they answer him or die. A kind of take on Rabblemaster. Lastly there is simply the decent buff he offers to your other haste dorks and those with EtB triggers that work from power. Ardoz really improves a Flametongue Yearling! Ardoz is no bomb, he is easily answered and is likely just giving damage, not value. He is cheap, offers some cool scaling, and some options. Quite like Kari Zev but less rounded and robust. A scary ceiling that is for sure. Lots of red dorks have haste...

Auntie Blyte, Bad Influence 1

Potential fun build around but not exactly a competitive card. Cynically I would suggest cards like this are produced to tempt EDH players into finding uses for cards otherwise unloved and failing to contribute to the secondary market. Equally you could just look at this as good service to EDH players giving them more interesting tools and toys to build with. 

Benevolent Hydra 4

Really solid dual role card in a counters deck. The power level here is unimpressive however it is fine and more than compensated for by being both support and payoff for counters theme. This has, and gives counters like your Spike Drone support but it is also representing as a Hardened Scales effect. With green being the base colour for +1/+1 counter decks I imagine this will become a cornerstone of those in singleton builds. 

Conductor of Cacophony 1

This is a touch slow and expensive for the returns but I am reminded of cards like Thrashing Wumpus and Bane of the Living which were power houses back in the day. It is not unimaginable that I would play this in a counters deck, or a demon deck, or somewhere. The card is playable and has a powerful effect after all. 

Daring Piracy 1

This is very low power in the face of things like Goblin Rabblemaster. You have to really want this effect to stick around to consider this. Really you need to be a deck with a significant synergy payoff like Purphoros or Goblin Bombardment or Cavalcade of Calamity! I guess pirates tribal might also want this for something. The pirates don't even stick around making this often a do nothing if you are not able to scale up your tokens. 

Distinguished Conjurer 1

Likely just a weak Impassioned Orator but people do love a flicker effect, even if it is wildly over priced. Realistically 40 card life decks will not play this but 100 card ones very well might. 

Instruments of War 2

Tribal Anthem with combat trick potential. Four is a hefty price tag that will not be entertained by any of the more established tribes however there are plenty that lack certain tools which this might be somewhat of a stand in for. Low power but if you can get that combat trick value out of it then the card is more than worth the costs. 

Isu, the Abominable 2

Powerful snow themed card although a little awkward for (specifically as a) commander. Black is where all the snowy mass removal is and playing without access to it is sadness. They are some of the best things about the mechanic. The other thing snow does really well is value generation, which is this dudes thing as well. Yes, Isu is a 5/5 that can slowly grow but he is hardly very threatening. This likely makes the cut in most snow decks as they are generally light on cards and this is high powered even if it isn't very well suited to the needs of the snowy mages. Jorn would absolutely be my commander of choice in snow making this guy somewhat unplayable. 

Kenessos, Priest of Thassa 2

There are a couple of ways to cheat out these big fishy blue dork types now and as such you can probably build a half workable deck using them. This is certainly a pretty reasonable tool, especially as a commander, to do so with. The curve is cute too with turn four cheat out being standard and turn three easily plausible. Turn one mana dork, turn two this plus some kind of Brainstorm, Serum Visions, or super techy Reason! Sadly you are then drawing a dud if Kenessos eats removal

Launch Mishap 1

The overall value here is good but it falls down in two ways. Firstly you don't want fluff on your counterspell, you just want the cheapest most reliable effect. You might play this over Cancel but you are unlikely to play it over Remove Soul. And really the kinds of deck this might seem like it appeals in you are just playing Metallic Rebuke. The other issue here is that it is a spell that makes a token rather than a creature with an EtB counterspell effect. The latter would be quite abusive with flicker and bounce while this very much isn't. 

Merfolk Pupil 2

Low power high utility support card. In the right deck this is going to be perfect but no clue what/where that is. The merfolk tribal decks do not want looting enough to play this and other decks that do want looting are unlikely to pay this much for it. I am not sure dredge decks need this even in singleton iterations? 

Planar Atlas 3

A two drop mana rock with upside is usually a good thing. Not overly sure what lands I am digging for with this however, perhaps it is just to help ensure curving to four mana on turn three which I do like the idea of. Finding tron pieces or digging for Urza's Saga seems pretty poor however. Not giving coloured mana or mana right away is quite a cost for your land search. A narrow card I would suggest but certainly interesting, playable, and unique. 

Primeval Herald 2

Mini Primeval Titan! Much smaller, only basics, only one land, but cheaper. Realistically you are not getting more than one attack out of this and you are probably not trading it for anything too impressive all thanks to that low toughness. As such I would be inclined towards playing the spells that ramp with two lands like Cultivate and Skyshroud Claim. Herald is a two for one but compared to the similar alternatives it is a slower and riskier one. There is a decent ceiling on this but I cannot see myself playing it anywhere. Perhaps a deck with a lot of things that give haste to dorks?

Rampaging Growth 1

Value wise this is great, you get to womp an attacker or swat down a planeswalker and get a land into the bargain. The issue is that keeping up 4 mana and only getting a land out of the mix, especially when you don't have a use for the one turn 4/3, simply isn't enough. You want to curve with ramp and this is a rather situational ceiling card. 

Zask, Skittering Swarmlord 3

Cool tribal insect card and a big fat walking Crucible of Worlds. A bit top end, aimless and narrow for general drafting cubes but a card that will do good work in the right places, mostly EDH ones. 

Monday, 21 November 2022

The Brother's War: Conclusions and Additions


Much as Wizards and Hasbro seem to be somewhat imploding at present with shockingly bad marketing and business decisions that are alienating, fatiguing, and insulting the player/customer base the product remains good. Really good. Most of the traditional standard drafting sets have been on point since the madness of the "push the envelope" sets Eldrain, Theros (II) and Ikoria. The Brothers War looks like it is good to draft. The cards are interesting and playable without being just pushed to the point of being boring and oppressive. White has started to get interesting with lots of option rich cards and value generation added to the mix. Green is having some issues ironed out with viable fight cards. Blue is getting some tools to compete for board presence with. The mechanics of the set are interesting. The art is good. The flavour is great. I am loving this full circle on lore and the nostalgia that comes with it. I have started following the lore (since Dominaria United) which is a first for me. I have dabbled before but now I am following it. The blueprint cards are lovely. Even some more old bordered basics for the land perverts like me. The power level of the set is on point. Not too oppressive and creeping but equally not so weak that nothing new is making the cut. It must be disheartening for the many Wizards employees who work on design, testing, development, art, and all that jazz that do such a great job and get tarnished with the same brush as those making the non-game choices for the company. I am very much looking forward to seeing how they round out this epic series on the Phyrexians. 

To Add

(* commander cards)

Mechanized Warfare


Siege Veteran

Demolition Field

Mishra's Research Desk

Loran of the Third Path

Combat Thresher 

Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor 

Feldon, Ronom Excavator 

In the Trenches 

Recruitment Officer

Phyrexian Dragon Engine 

Scholar of New Horizons*

To Test (with high expectations)

Thopter Mechanic

Steel Seraph

Lay Down Arms

Third Path Iconoclast 

Obliterating Bolt

Misery's Shadow

Horned Stoneseeker

Kayla's Music Box*

To Test (with low expectations)

Simian Simulacrum

Platoon Dispenser 


Urza's Battlethopter

Arbalest Engingeers

Kayla's Reconstruction

Arcane Proxy

Transmogrant's Crown 

Overwhelming Remorse 

Skitterbloom Battalion 

Tocasia's Welcome 

Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim 

Gnawing Vermin

Awaken the Woods

Skystrike Officer

Cityscape Leveler

Rootwire Amalgam

Titania's Command

Combat Courier

Airlift Chaplain 

Legion to Ashes 

Dwarven Forge-Chanter 

Scatter Ray

Loran's Escape 

For Constructed Reserves

Machine Over Matter

Goblin Blast-Runner

Zephyr Sentinel

Gixian Infiltrator 

Fallaji Archeologist

Forging the Anchor

Fortified Beachhead

Hajar, Loyal Bodyguard

One with the Multiverse

Ashnod, Flesh Mechanist 

Fade from History 

Harbin, Vanguard Aviator 

Stern Lesson

Bitter Reunion 

Haywire Mite

Energy Refractor 


Urza, Chief Engineer*

Sanwell, Avenging Ace*

Sunday, 20 November 2022

The Brother's War Commander Preliminary Review

Urza, Chief Engineer 3

This is very midrange for an artifact synergy card, pretty gold too. The power level however is mental. Three mana 4/5 that makes a construct at the end of each turn with a little menace kicker. That wins real fast. Little else needs doing. Build around only but amazingly actually worth doing! 

Sanwell, Avenging Ace 5

This dude is narrow but powerful and with an impressive floor. As such you do not need much support for this to jump into the realms of cube playable. I would be keen to play this in any white aggressive deck with enough support, any aggressive artifact deck with enough white mana, and likely any vehicle based decks. Sanwell works especially well with those being able to more reliably trigger the tap effect immediately. As far as my cube goes I am quite a long way off what I think is enough support. Sanwell is probably starting to get good when you have around five things that can be hit off the trigger and help attack with to protect her. When your deck is stacked with such things, say around a third, then she is pretty nuts. 

Scholar of New Horizons 8

This seems outstanding. It is value, utility, options, and all sorts of cool synergies. It can even be ramp and fixing in the right situations! All that for two mana is pretty tasty. Yes, it is pretty slow to be able to get you the land and you may get blown out with some efficient removal and not be able to get those "free" Plains. On a two drop with this much upside I am not losing any sleep over any small shortcomings Scholar might have. I'll consider Arc Trail more than usual when I cast it against red players and that is really all there is too it. Where Scholar goes from good to nuts is when you have something that works particularly well with it, say a saga or a persist dork. Then you able to get all sorts of abusive. Not only will you get free land each turn but also effective free steps on your saga. I expect a return to the ranks for at least History of Benalia, perhaps even Kitchen Finks! Lots of things this is especially good with. This isn't oppressive power but it is a lot of card. It is also interesting and that is big win for white.

Kayla's Music Box 7

White seemingly getting all the love out of this set of commander product. This is a pretty slow card but it is the cheapest ongoing source of near unconditional card advantage. This is three for that first extra card and just one mana each there after. That blows the likes of Mazemind Tome, Endless Atlas, and Reckoner Bankbuster out of the water, each at four then two mana respectively. All of which are either capped or have preconditions. And all of which are the current best in the game for colourless card advantage. It is most commonly white calling on these tools as it is, with white having the least access to card draw. This means that while this is narrower than those purely colourless options it is not nearly as narrow as it might seem. It is not the white in the cost then that sets this apart from those other options so dramatically in cost. It is the speed of return that allows this to be so efficiently costed. It effectively needs two taps per card drawing drawing as soon as able and at least one extra tap than cards gained if being the most turn efficient possible. If you play this on turn two (without ramp) you are not getting anything back from it until turn four. There is also that risk of having this blown up before you get to play cards with it, especially risky if you have some key cards exiled under it. You can also argue that this doesn't put cards in hand and thus doesn't work exactly like card draw but that is rather a semantic thing. If you need more gas in white this is great, likely your best option. If you need to fill your hand up with cards then white has things like Tithe and Land Tax it can use. Overall this seems too efficient not to see some play and be decent. Cards are good and if you can just keep them coming at such a cheap rate then great. I feel like this packs enough punch that I am pretty happy slapping into any heavy white deck I make from aggro through to control. 

Thopter Shop 1

Bit expensive to use and all rather capped, narrow, and low tempo to be using just for the value side. I like this but liking something is not enough to make it good. 

Blast-Furnace Hellkite 2

Too narrow for general use but easily cheated out with things like Myr Enforcer, prototype cards, perhaps even Oxxida Golem! Threatening if you do and game winning if managed with a pre-existing board presence. 

Smelting Vat 1

This looks like a lot of fun. A kind of non-creature artifact Birthing Pod. Fun, but slow, low powered, and really in need of some abuses. 

Urza's Workshop 2

Another fun one. This is one of those cards that makes me want to build around it which I always take as a win. Obviously too narrow for most uses but an intriguing deck design question. 

Wreck Hunter 2

This is quite a lot of stuff with some scaling but it is not very useful. A 2/2 is whatever and flash isn't helping improve that all that much. This is not really a 2 drop you can curve with either. It is a bit Caller of the Claw and those kinds of cards have proved too situational. This isn't even making dorks, just powerstones, which you then have to take an extra step to have be useful at all. You can power this up yourself by having your own things go in the bin but that is also work to setup and doesn't really help you with the payoff. All in all this card is going to be very hard to fit in anywhere and hard to make it translate into good value in 1v1 play.  

Saturday, 19 November 2022

The Brother's War Preliminary Review Part XI


0 - unplayable in 40 card singleton

1 - effectively unplayable

2 - has low tier constructed decks it might go in

3 - has mid tier constructed decks it does go in

4 - pretty powerful stuff with several potential homes, able to perform well in lower powered cubes

5 - powerful stuff that is either just too narrow or has too many superior alternatives

6 - fringe cube worthy

7 - cube worthy

8 - cube staple

9 - unpowered cube bomb

10 - powered cube bomb 

Mask of the Jadecrafter 0

Inefficient on mana for vanilla stats? This makes Call of the Herd look good again. This is sufficiently poor by current standards that I am surprised. 

Teething Wurmlet 2

Some life, some in game scaling up, and potentially at least deathtouch if turning up late in the day so as to retain some relevance. Sure, in an artifact deck or cube this is powerful. It is equally unplayable without that support so most cubes will pass this by. Green isn't really an artifact colour either. 

Haywire Mite 6

This is a cute little utility card. Being found by Urza's Saga will help this to do a lot of work in constructed formats of all flavours. Being a cheap answer to things, being proactive, having some nice incidental life all work in this cards favour. This is generally very easy to find from your deck and quite easy to splash. It is that splashability that gives this a chance in cube. Green just has more powerful options on value and utility Naturalize effects. Red and black and blue however do not and a non-dead card like this you can very easily splash is quite tempting. The power being sufficiently low means you probably need a reason to be playing one mana 1/1 artifacts beyond wanting the ability to Naturalize things. This probably doesn't last in cube but it is a good card with a lot of uses and homes. 

Sarinth Greatwurm 0

Fun but all sorts of wrong. Too late to be making powerstones. Too gold and generally narrow. Just being a six drop do nothing that dies to most removal is of course the biggest issue but they are all critical ones here. Yes, it is nice that is makes them from other peoples lands and so this is probably great in EDH but in cube that minor aspect does nothing to save this. 

Gwenna, Eyes of Gaea 3

This is a fairly standard looking 3 drop mana dork in green and as none of those have done much in the way of impressive work in cube I doubt this will either. The card is fine but it is just leaning a bit too far into something. It is the kind of card that trades a lot of consistency for a small increase to ones ceiling. Basically just play less fancy one and two mana ramp spells. If you must play ramp at three make sure it does other things like Llanowar Visionary and not this mild occasional untap and grow nonsense that takes up more space on the card than it ever will take in game time!  

Horned Stoneseeker 7

Pretty comfortably the best powerstone card as far as cube is concerned. It is cheap, reliable, and as up front as possible. You get a useful body and the use of a powerstone for your two mana. I think if this were just a 2/1 it wouldn't be good enough but that mild evasion and extra toughness add sufficient relevance to the body so as to make it worth it. Red does tend to enjoy more artifact synergies than most other colours so this has a good shot of being useful on the powerstone front. In artifact heavy cubes this will be great but in mine it is pretty on the line. I reckon it will be fine a lot and great every now and again, ultimately meaning it will only really see play now and again and thus get cut but I hope not! 

Defabricate 6

Annul or Stifle. A nice array of effects that should keep this from being too narrow. Sadly however leaning that hard on Stifle mode for your playability harms your overall power, in this case I think too much. Stifle can be broken when it hits things like a sac land however the average value it offers is less than the value of a card. Likely really good in an artifact and/or combo heavy cube but in more standard ones I think this is just shy of the mark. There is the new flavour achieve of Defabricating a card that has been found with Fabricate, not something I expect to accomplish sadly. 

Titania's Command 6

Six mana sorcery is a hard sell. This tries to look like a Primeval Titan but falls short on ongoing threat or board presence. You can skip lands and get a bit more of a Verdurous Gearhulk vibe. If you have enough dorks it is almost an Overrun vibe. You can also get a big hit of life and a scavenging Ooze vibe if you are in need of such things. This does a wide array of quite powerful and quite useful things. While I imagine it is good in most situations I feel like I am still going to gravitate to the cards that are just outright devastating when at the top of my curve. This one is absolutely worth a test. The breakdown of the stuff is reasonable and the high modality and range on top of that should be a significant multiplier. I just have a strong gut feel that tells me this is balls and isn't getting any play. It just isn't a card I am ever going to want to put in my deck despite sounding suitable, versatile, and not exactly shy of power either. 

Hostile Negotiations 4

Draw 3 mill 3 at instant speed for 4 mana and 3 life. Near Fact or Fiction in many ways but despite being more cards overall it is worse. They pick which pile you get and you lose three life and this is a black card. The last part is least relevant but the others are big. Four mana pure card draw is a lot of tempo loss so slapping on a life cost in a colour that likes to use life as a resource is a big ask. The problem here is really the opponent getting to chose. If you are digging for an out you are going to need to peel one in both piles else you are not getting that out. If you can't show something slightly scary in one pile you are probably getting it. This means you are on average getting 3 sub par cards. That often your opponent knows about. I like this card and find it interesting but it isn't powerful enough for cube. This is more of a standard tool. 

Scrapwork Mutt 2

A delightful little support card that is now just lacking too much in raw power to really see any play. As soon as the synergies start to appeal there are just more powerful tool available. Why am I using this to loot when I have Cathartic Reunion and Faithless Looting? The same sort of logic can be used to counter other angles of uses this card might have. There isn't really a point where you just want exactly all of this card in even amounts. Or certainly not at this power level. A decade ago this would have been an all round staple. Now it just looks like an all rounder that fails to clear any bar.

Excavation Explosion 3

One of the better powerstone generators and seemingly in the best colour for both generation and use there of! With the whole set out now and the full range of powerstone options is visible we can be fairly happy that this sort of thing is sufficiently narrow to prevent it getting much action or any higher of a rating. 

Blanchwood Prowler 1

This is just a bad Satyr Wayfinder. One less mill makes you a lot worse as a support card and a lot less reliable at hitting land. A 2/2 is not at all compensation for losing that value and so this is just a pretty bad card. I feel like there are probably enough better options than I am not even using this as redundancy for Wayfinder in those really powerful full synergy builds. 

Combat Courier 4

Rather too much mana to be used purely as card advantage however this is cheap and convenient. I can imagine decks where I want the various things this offers. It is absolutely deck padding but it is delightfully economical padding. 

Airlift Chaplain 6

I like the effort of card quality in white. I like the EtB value trigger and I don't even dislike the mill despite not that much keying off the bin in white. In a white aggro deck this shouldn't miss and at least with the flying and the general aim of aggro white, a +1/+1 counter is relevant. This is a fine card but it is very narrow and just kindof filler. It isn't good unless you are both white aggro with a high hit rate and also flicker and typically you are one or ther other. Also I am not into support cards that really only support one archetype, or certainly support cards like this. I want it to work out but I am pretty confident this is not getting enough action to keep around. 

Recomission 3

A white Unearth style card. This is good tempo being able to generate a mana and +1/+1 of value but it is a little narrow and easily disrupted making it a card you only play in specific places. This could help setup a Heliod Ballista combo if there was a lot good self mill that worked in that setting. It is not going to be a card you play in your draft cubes however. Certainly not in your white weenie decks as it currently stands. You never want a "threat" card to be dead in hand. 

Legion to Ashes 5

Fixed Vindicate. Basically just Maelstrom Pulse with exile slapped on. Im not all that excited about this card with how good just white removal is these days. Sorcery speed is pretty awkward too on such a clunky card. I do not see this taking the place of Vindicate nor do I see many cubes happily supporting both making it look bad for this. Card is fine but just not worth a gold spot. This really had to be instant to stand any chance of competing with Vindicate. Anguished Unmaking was cut ages ago, before we had things like Prismatic Ending and the white March. 

Meticulous Evacuation 1

A lot of utility here from saving chump attackers to reusing EtB effects. Much as I like this a recast of the returned thing on top of three mana to use assure this is way too expensive for cube. If cards like Castle Ardenvale offer too little returns for the mana and it doesn't cost you a card what chance does this thing have?! There are loads of cool things I want to do with this but in any deck where I have the mana to properly do them I will have been able to win a different way quicker and more reliably not using this card. 

Slagstone Refinery 1

I do love this despite it being critically slow and narrow. For this to even trigger you need loads of non-token artifacts, ideally ones that are good to sac, and a sac outlet. For it to do anything after triggering you need a pretty strong payoff for powerstones. This feels like a non-combo Krark-Clan Ironworks. You get slow narrow ongoing mana for sacs rather than 2 useful mana right away! You can use this to double up on your Ironworks at least! (don't do that) This might be a seemingly potent effect but trying to build a deck in which it usefully operates is going to be near impossible. Even in EDH it is a challenge. 

Spectrum Sentinel 1

Cute but no thanks. The poor stats do not make this appeal in any aggressive settings and the abilities are all a bit random, opponent dependant, and lacking in power or dedicated use. There is a lot of card here for one mana but not in any sort of desirable form. 

Energy Refractor 3

Sidegrade on Prophetic Prism, generally worse but given the combo nature of these kinds of cards it may be the more suitable of the two in some builds. Quite playable filler in decks wanting to have cantrip artifacts on the cheap. Mostly just a bad Ichor Wellspring. 

Tomakul Honor Guard 2

This is pretty solid I think. It wouldn't take a whole lot more for this to be cube worthy as ward is just such a strong ability. This is however a vanilla beater and as such ensures this is basically never seeing any play. I am just playing a proper hexproof dork in a deck that is after such things. Ward doesn't pair up nicely with loss toughness on a dork that wants to attack very well either. This would have done more as a 2/2 but still probably isn't seeing play even at 2/3.

Citanul Stalwart 2

One of those cards I like that they keep pushing, and I keep trying, and they keep not quite being good enough. This is not enough of an upgrade on the last Springleaf Drum dork for me to be at all tempting. It took fight cards a lot of iterations to become playable, I am not sure what we need to add to this but certainly still more! 

Blitz Automaton 1

Comically this is nearly good enough and would have been perhaps five years ago or more. It is not even out of the question in a red based artifact aggro deck. Filler beater but the right sort of beater with some potentially scalable traits. 

Tomakul Scrapsmith 1

Bit pricy for a support card and red doesn't really need the mill with a decent array of looting and rummaging stuff. Not a bad card but damned by being a supporting card at three mana.

Dwarven Forge-Chanter 4

Between Nible-Blade Khenra and Stormchaser Mage we find this mediocre dork. This is somewhat robust as far as cheap prowess threats go but robust is only part of what we are looking for in our threats. Power, utility, value, and these sorts of things turn out to be useful as well and Forge-Chanter misses the mark rather on those. I cannot see people playing this over or on top of the various prowess tools already in existence and it doesn't feel like we desperately needed more. 

Gixian Infiltrator 5

Bad Ravenous Squirrel or Body Dropper but still potentially quite brutal and playable in a deck built around such things. This can grow quickly and easily and represents quite a scary little card. In a cube with a heavy aristocrats theme this has a chance. 

Emergency Weld 6

Cool take on a 1/1 value dork. Much as this seems like it compares well with the likes of Elvish Visionary it is likely you cannot play this on turn two and have targets nor use it to help you curve. It doesn't even have synergy with flicker or security against bounce as a creature card would. I think the lack of convenience on this card more than overshadows the reasonable power level and so I do not see this lasting in cube. Deceptively good card though. Certainly very strong in a deck that can properly make use of it. 

Scatter Ray 7

Mostly an Essence Scatter and a bit of Annul chucked in for good measure. This hits a lot of things in cube and is enough of a cost that it is a pretty reliable counter. I don't want to call this good but it is at least playable. It will do a lot of what you want from your countermagic and perform a role. Bigger cubes are thus more likely to want this as it is just padding out the ranks of role fillers. 

Prison Sentence 0

Pacifism needs to cost 1, Arrest needs to cost 2. Removal has moved on. Oblivion Ring costs three and it is barely playable. Slapping on some scry to my Arrest doesn't make it good just makes me lament that it still isn't playable and that white yearns for more scry. 

Loran's Escape 6

Solid creature protection. Situational but fairly brutal high tempo card. This is the sort of tool that works well in my meta and wins games but it is also the kind of card that is very hard to squeeze into decks, especially white ones with all their removal and creature buffs. To be fair, equipment does make this a little better but really only a little. This is a good card, probably less good than Blossoming Defence, and likely to see less play as well. Fringe is the best way to describe these sorts of cards. I want this to make it but it is going to struggle.