Friday, 16 March 2018

Top 10 Cards from 2000

Saproling BurstThis is pretty comfortably the weakest year for MtG for power level. That however is a little unfair on the year. At the time it had some of the best creatures ever printed and was generally quite exciting and relevant. It is only over time and due to extensive power creep in creatures that this era now seems pretty barren. The reasonably long list of "relevant" cube cards is somewhat misleading. While it is as long as some other years I have done this for so far it is full of significantly less powerful and playable cards. I have only four cards left from this year in my drafting cube and do not commonly fish out others when brewing. Nemesis, Prophecy, Invasion and the non event that was Starter 2000 are what make up the year 2000. Here are some of those few and sparring relevant cards from the era not on the list;

Global Ruin

Tribal Flames
Worldly Council
Saproling Burst
Seal of Cleansing
Seal of Removal
Seal of Strength
Skycloud Poacher
Sterling Grove
Global Ruin
Collective Restraint
Thorn/Stormscape Apprentice (the original DRS!)
Phyrexian Altar
Animate Land
Archaological Dig
Irrigation Ditch cycle
Rising Waters
Captain Sisay
Hanna, Ship's Navigator
Lin-Sivvi, Defiant Hero
Mana Maze

Spiketail Hatchling10. Spiketail Hatchling

I have not run this in a couple of years now. Probably since Judge's Familiar saw print. This is both a weak disruption tool and and a weak tempo play. It can be just the ticket in some places but the growing importance of the early game has edged cards like this increasingly out of the meta. I would have to have an aggressive deck using a lot of effects that enhance creatures, or perhaps require raid triggers or crewing before digging this out these days. If you manage to get ahead then Spiketail is  effective but playing from behind the card is pretty woeful. It probably has seen the last of its days already and has only made this list due to lack of anything else better. It has a more impressive history than Repulse which is probably the card that should be 10th. Repulse has lost value far slower than Spiketail ans so while Hatchling was a bigger name in cube ten years ago that is likely no longer the case.

Exclude9.   Exclude

Most decks have creatures and so a three mana counter draw is pretty decent. It is not mana efficient disruption nor the most reliable way to deal with creatures which makes it more of a filler card. While Exclude is a fine card I find in building I would always prefer to run a mix of pure filler in the form of card quality and more precise and efficient answers. A mix of things like Counterspell, Wrath of God or Control Magic and card quality is a more streamlined way to control things. When you land and Exclude on any dork that costs three or more it feels great and that leads to a bit of bias overrating the card. Don't be fooled, Exclude will screw you when they make a walker or a vehicle or you just have two mana up. Three mana disruptive or reactive cards need to be substantially more powerful or far broader in their range than Exclude. Repulse falls into a similar sort of trap. Exclude is the more powerful effect but I actually find Repulse a little more playable.

Parallax Tide8.   Paralax Tide

Tide is a rather odd card. It is almost exclusively found in combo decks that revolve around enchantments these days but it has always been something you can use to buy time or force things through as well. It was fairly common to see in cubes a decade or so ago. On curve you could expect to deny two whole turns of having much in the way of mana and that is pretty nuts. Paralax Tide can be more than a Time Stretch. Sadly, when behind on the board or super late game when all are flush with mana it turns into rather more of a do nothing. Cards that don't add to tempo or deal with existing tempo at this cost struggle to perform in the higher powered cubes these days and Tide is exactly such a card. Forcing through things or taking advantage of being ahead on the board are not really things blue needs. In red or green Tide would have been much more useful and would likely still see lots of love.

Parallax Wave7.   Paralax Wave

Pretty good creature control whatever the situation. In an aggro deck this will be much like a one sided Wrath and clear the way for you to finish them off. Wave kills tokens off nicely and will buy a lot of time against most forms of creature aggressive. In some cases it will bait people into wildly over extending into a Wrath the turn the Wave fades away. Wave is also a commonly seen tool in enchantment themed decks as it offers a lot of control and is one of the few enchantments that lets you do stuff at instant speed. Sadly it is a bit of a four mana time waste spell a lot of the time. Unless you have other stuff going on buy a bit of time isn't a great use of a card. A lot of dorks are not things you want entering the battlefield repeatedly either and so plenty of cube dorks are bad Wave targets. Removal wants to be permanent and maintain card equality ideally, and great though Wave is, it fails to do either of these things.

Fact or Fiction6.   Fact or Fiction

For a long time this was considered to be the second best one hit draw spell after Ancestral Recall. A few people clung onto the idea Stroke of Genius held that title but those are the kinds of people who are used to having excess mana! Undeniably FoF is a potent spell, it provides a lot of graveyard fuel, it digs very deep, it averages a good number of raw cards for the mana and most of all it forces play errors from your opponents. Sadly for FoF a combination of increasing tempo and the introduction of planeswalkes rather put a damper its its desirability and then Khans came along and blew it out of the water with delve draw options. There are now very few places in which I would choose to run FoF over other cards or even as a replacement for something. Be it Mystic Confluence, Dig Through Time, Hieroglyphic Illumination, or Jace, Architect of Thought, FoF just doesn't fair well in comparison.

Tangle Wire5.   Tangle Wire

This is one of the last mana denial come lockdown cards they ever printed and that is probably for the best. Tangle Wire is an immensely polar card being a dead draw in the late game and often a Time Stretch against the right sort of deck in the early game. It has those free win elements that you can get with Hymn to Tourach, Ankh of Mishra, Stripmine and other such old lame things however it more brutal when it works and frequently a total do nothing when it doesn't. As things tend towards cheap proactive midrange decks Tangle Wire is increasingly on the do nothing end of the spectrum. The average performance of the card is in decline even if the top end performance is just as good. Given the type of card it is and the effect it has on games I think it is best to avoid running this in unpowered drafting cubes.

Daze4.  Daze

Probably the second best free counterspell on the market after Force of Will. Mental Misstep is better in legacy and the like but in cube there isn't enough... sorry, as many, one drops making Misstep rather narrower. Force Spike is a good card and being able to do so at any time really keeps people on their toes. One can play around Daze but it is often more damaging to do so than to run right into it. That is one of the great things about the Daze. The cost is very real and scales in a peculiar way. Early on the cost of bouncing a land is vast, far more painful than exiling a blue card and losing a life. Later on it is negligible. The inverse scaling of the pitch cost to the effect of the spell has a lovely balancing effect on the card and leads to some really interesting choices as to how to play with the card from both sides of the table. Daze is certainly up there as one of the best designed cards you can play for no mana although it might not feel like that when your hand is all four drops...

Seal of Fire3.   Seal of Fire

Seal of Fire has enjoyed a huge resurgence in power lately. Delirium has made Shock on an enchantment frequently more desirable than all the non-Tarfire Shocks on offer. Insult / Injury has also meant that any ways in which you can do direct damage for no mana cost on a specific turn a pretty big deal. While these are both fairly minor synergies Seal of Fire was a pretty solid card prior to these little boosts. Shock is a very strong effect, just because we have Lightning Bolt and multiple other slightly better than Shock cards doesn't mean Shock is itself bad. One mana for two damage is lovely and when you can invest that mana early then it is a big win. Often the effective cost of Seal is nothing and you barely give away any relevant information. You get more from people using the information badly than you lose from letting them know you have a Shock option. Seal of Fire is rather more better than Shock that I think most realise.

Chromatic Sphere2.   Chromatic Sphere

I very nearly gave this the number one slot as it feels more playable than coloured card. I mean, it is, it doesn't just feel that way! Being more playable doesn't actually mean you see more play however. People are rarely desperate for Chromatic Sphere and when they are it is because something else is a problem in their deck, be that terrible fixing or lack of playables. You rarely want to play Chromatic Sphere, it is just often the least bad thing to run. It is a great card to have in the cube, it has loads of nice synergies and it helps increase the overall consistency which in turn increases the overall quality of the games. Chromatic Sphere raises the floor in cube but it barely ever effects the ceiling. All cubes should have it and most don't. It is not a card that excites people and never seems to do super impressive things. It gets the opposite bias that Exclude gets. Exclude always looks good when you use it and so it is overrated while Sphere rarely looks like it did all that much and goes under valued. It is very easy to cut a card like that and very hard to get excited about it. The reason it is not number 1 and not as played as my number one choice is simply that Chromatic Star and Terrarion are also things and are played almost interchangeably in my cube. Sphere gets a lot less play than it otherwise might as there are essentially extra copies of it in the cube. While those extra copies further help increase cube consistency and raise the floor they don't help Sphere get high ratings. It is not a case of redundancy helping the effect as is often the case for cube cards. It is not a build around effect and that is where you want your redundancy.

1.   Opt
Great little card that has been given new life in constructed with a recent reprinting. It is super fair card quality, one of the lowest powered offerings but being instant the cost of the card is very low as well. I typically prefer Opt to things like Preordain in decks with prowess dorks or counterspells. I like to save my mana till the last minute and Opt does a great job of that. Opt is a combat trick with prowess dorks or zero mana when you want to keep mana up to represent counterspells and you really don't need much extra on a one mana cantrip for it to be nuts. Scry is already more than enough! Imagine how much play Sleight of Hand would see if it were zero mana or had a mini giant growth option you could use if you wanted! As raw card quality Opt is worse than the big names like Ponder and isn't something you are desperate for in your combo decks. In your more generic cube decks where you are playing it as support and filler Opt is frequently a better card.

Dominaria Midway Thoughts and Additions

So I wouldn't do this other than it seems like most of the rest of the set will not be much of a feature. If we do get cube worthy cards in the remainder of the set they will be very simple ones. We should have had most of the interesting stuff based on the way it has been released. I also suspect it will be a while before we see the rest and I don't want to wait for that and then forget all about the first 140 cards. As such I will just list the cards that are in the cube, that I will test out in cube and those that I will get and set by for exotic building cube style decks!

The set overall is a pleasant flavour and appeals on that front even without having seen the art. Sadly I am not so impressed with the power level. I though the set would be more pushed than it is. The most exciting thing about the set for me is the reprint of Llanowar Elf which has no baring on cube at all, it just demonstrates a willingness to print the kind of cards that are cube worthy going forwards. There are obviously some nice things about the set but it hasn't offered the kinds of new thing most wanted or that will offer exciting and different game play, in cube at least. When the generic white 2/1 for W is one of the top few best cards in the set you have an issue. Ixalan was good, the new additions were exciting and different and added a lot to the cube even if it didn't bring loads to the table. Rivals however was poor and brought little more than a smattering of dull and generic one and two mana 2/1s to the table and Dominaria feels more like the latter sadly.

There are only five cards I am confidant will last in the cube with sufficient play and none of them are even close to big names or powerhouses. I would normally do a best in set kind of thing but for just what we have here it doesn't seem relevant or worth it. Flame of Keld is the card I am most excited to play with and the Bodyguard is probably the best card in the set for cube but neither of those is getting much done. Many of the cards I would normally have in the auto include section simply don't feel like they will last all that long. They are cards that will be OK in cubes but are probably not worth the space. Of the things I am testing the only ones to wind up in the cube will be ones that wildly outperform expectation or ones I hugely mis-evaluated.

To Add

The Flame of Keld
Dauntless Bodygaurd
Wizard's Lightning
Ghitu Lavamancer
Benalish Marshal

To Test

Lyra, Dawnbringer
Merfolk Trickster
Goblin Chainwhirler
Karn, Scion of Urza
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Tetsuko Umezwa, Fugitive
Squee, the Immortal
Fungal Infection
Demonlord Belzenlok
History of Benalia
Seal Away
Aryel, Knight of Windgrace
Verix Bladewing
Grand Warlord Radha!

Exotic Reserves

Mox Amber
Damping Sphere
Sparring Construct
Voltaic Servant
Navigator's Compass
Warlord's Fury
Naban, Dean of Iteration
Song of Freyalise
Tempest Djinn
Urza's Ruinous Blast
Jaya Ballard
Precognition Field
Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar
Sporecrown Thallid
Slimefoot the Stowaway
Neru Meha, Master Wizard
Torgaar, Famine Incarnate
Fall of Thran
Healing Grace
Adeliz, the Cinder Wind
Oath of Teferi
Shanna, Sisay's Legacy

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Dominaria Initial Review Part VIII

Mox Amber 3

Well well well. We have ourselves the fourth of the "fair" Mox. Amber is a nice follow on from Opal giving us a pair of card disadvantage Mox and a pair of precondition ones. Amber is absolutely the least oppressive of the Mox and will have the least possible abuses but it will absolutely still be abused. Zero mana and provides a mana? Deal. Only triggering from creatures and walkers keeps Amber pretty safe early. Such things are easy to interact with and typically not very combo orientated. The most impressive things I can think to do with Amber in a general sense are just to make another one drop beater on turn on alongside a Zurgo, Kytheon or Isamru. Most other uses will be in a combo shell or at least for some specific synergies, say helping to flip Erayo! I am not sure there is any reason I would want to play this in a deck with loads of planeswalkers just so I could have a mana up after making one on curve. Perhaps if my list was full of great one mana answer cards that would help protect said walker. Generally I think a Talisman would be better so as to get the walker into play a turn sooner! Mox Amber will be great in a couple of places because Mox are great! Those will be far fewer in number than any Mox previous to the card and substantially less powerful. I look forward to trying to find the best way to milk this Mox for power. Certainly one of the more interesting cards in the set.

Voltaic Servant 2

Playable and versatile filler but not abusive or all that exciting. If you have things like Mana Vault then this is great in the same way Key is. It will afford a nice influx of mana and general utility while offering some nice defensive board presence. Too narrow for drafting cubes but certainly a consideration for heavy artifact constructed decks.

Damping Sphere 3

I don't normally rate sideboard technology so highly but this does a really good job of calming down a number of abusive, unfun and unfair things in magic. This nails storm down, it calms down Cradle, Academy, Workshop and even just things like Ancient Tomb and Eldrazi Temple. I expect to see a lot of these kicking around in legacy and vintage. I am not sure if the design is perfect as those formats are so quick you probably need to be running your own Ancient Tomb to power this out in time! It gives players on the play a bigger edge than usual but it is still a welcome tool to help level the playing field somewhat. Certainly a much less oppressive control card than something like Chalice of the Void.

Johira's Familiar 1

Much as I love cost reduction effects they rapidly lose value beyond two mana and this one is slapped on an ever so vulnerable 2/2 making it an unwise crutch to lean on in most builds. It would only have been a constructed style card even if it was rather better suited to its role.

Blackblade Reforged 0

Five mana minimum and nine should you fail to have a legend? Pretty laughable. Sure this scales well and will lead to huge dorks but huge isn't all that useful. You need evasion or value generation and ideally more gravy too.

Sparring Construct 2.5

This is probably good enough to run in most builds of affinity as just a bad Arcbound Worker. While Worker isn't spicy enough for modern it is still an auto include in cube affinity lists and so the Construct likely will be too. I don't see any other lists that would really want this despite having more utility than Acrbound Worker outside of an artifact based deck.

Forbear's Blade 0

This is a lot closer to viable than Blackblade Reforged. It provides the evasion required and would work very nicely in a token style deck. Sadly this is a 6 mana investment to get online and that simply isn't going to get it done in cube. In combination with cards that automatically or freely equip then perhaps this has some hope but ultimately I think people will gravitate towards Swords instead (and not incorrectly I should add).

Navigator's Compass 2

I love it but it isn't enough for a drafting cube and probably isn't enough even in most of the tailored decks that might be interested in this kind of effect. This is great ongoing fixing with a touch of utility and a chunk of bonus extra life. I like life as a sweetener on this kind of card but you need it to be playable before hand and without some way to recuperate the card cost this just isn't in any general sense. I am sure this will crop up somewhere in some exotic builds, in other formats if not in cube, as cheap cards have a habit of doing!

Helm of the Host 1

When winning more simply isn't enough for you and you need to win by the most more then look no further! For a mere 9 mana plus a high powered threat you can crush people in the most filthy of ways. Ever not been satisfied by attacking with just one Emrakul? Ever thought your Grave Titan wasn't quite giving you the board control you felt you deserved?  To be fair, you can just use this with cheap and middling power dorks from Elvish Visionary to Hanwier Garrison and it will be very potent. The way I see this is like a Recurring Nightmare that offers to be more mana efficient and board dominating over a long time period but has an extortionate upfront mana cost and risk factor. It is much more the risk factor that rules this out than the mana cost. As you can split the 9 up pretty evenly this could be played in most kinds of decks and would offer all sorts of value and reach. The issue is when you eat removal at the wrong time and spend 9 mana and a card for a huge loss in tempo. Then you have lost. Helm of the Host brings sufficient power that if you had the right tools to cheat it out and onto dorks while protecting them then it may see a little cube attention.

Urza's Tomb 0

Even if you make it so that this is all draw and no loots it is still far too slow to be exciting in cube. Cards like this are how you ensure losing to the person making one mana dorks.

Howling Golem 1

I am not sure what this is for. It seems overcost on stats and it seems to broadly have a drawback ontop of that. Certainly you can abuse the symmetry but then if you are doing that then removal on your 3 mana 2/3 is going to make you very sad. I kind of like the card but it feels very hard to run in a way that doesn't make your deck worse.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Dominaria Initial Review Part VII

Shanna, Sisay's Legacy 3

I like the design of the half hexproof and hope to see more of it. Combined with the variable power Shanna is a nightmare for planewalkers to handle. Power level wise this is pretty good but being gold rules it out. It is not powerful enough all of the time and that is really what you need from your gold cards in cube. Slots are so precious now that a gold card needs to be needed and this is a long way off that. It is certainly the sort of card you might pick for a Selesnya or humans deck in a rotisserie like format. Cards like this in booster draft formats however just make it worse for everyone.

Jodah, Archmage Eternal 2

I'm not a huge fan of this card, it feels kind of a gimmick. That being said I can imagine some pretty impressive plays with this. Turn two Signet, turn three Jodah, turn four the Eons Torn! Being a three toughness four drop means you can't reliably build around Jodah but providing redundancy for First of Suns might help make that a potential combo deck.

Muldrotha, the Gravetide 1

I'm not sure entirely what to make of this. It has no real hope of being a good inclusion in a drafting cube purely based on the many colours and manas needed to play the thing. In more tailored decks however Muldrotha can put in some serious work. A lot of cards work very well with this and you wouldn't need many for this to shine. While it may provide the utility and reach you want from a top end spell Muldrotha is too vulnerable of a play on turn six. You need a land or two and at least a couple of action cards reused before Muldrotha is worthwhile.

Arvad the Cursed 1

For the tribal legend deck! Might actually be cube playable one day but we are still a long way from that day. Power creep being what it is the cube is so tight on new entries that the extra little bit of power you can slap on a legendary dork (due to how that plays out in constructed) means that the cube legend count has been steadily rising for some time.

Grand Warlord Radha 1

The body on this is decent enough and the effect is pretty powerful. The issue is that the two don't marry up that well. Oddly this reminds me of Xenagos, the Reveler who is another very powerful 4 drop in Gruul. Basically the ramp on a four drop is typically overkill and shouldn't be the main focus of power allocation on a card. Another way to look at this (and rule it out) is that decks wanting 3/4 haste dorks really don't need mana much beyond four and the decks that do want to continue to ramp after the four mana mark have marginal interest in a 3/4 body with haste. However you use Radha you are paying for something you don't want. Neither half of the card is powerful enough to carry the four mana price tag on its own. I do very much like how you can stockpile mana with this card. It is something that would go really well with Fireball or any other RX direct damage spell and not that many cards can say that. Sadly a certain recently unbanned Elf makes Fireball and such the nut low and is a rather better Gruul 4 drop so that is another kick in the teeth for Radha.

Johira, Weathlight Captain 1

As a stand alone draft cube card this is super weak. Limp body for the cost and slow and conditional returns. Where Johira has potential is in a custom built deck where you can flop her down and pretty much instantly draw your whole deck. Johira turns Urza's and Mishra's Baubles into draw 2 for 0 mana! She turns Mox Opal and Mox Amber into something really quite special! I am not sure how you kill people most efficiently with this deck but it sounds like that doesn't really matter that much. Perhaps it is storm, it usually is... Bonus points for using Jace's Erasure, old Niv-Mizzet, Phychosis Crawler, Grinding Station etc. Johira smacks of a card that could bring out the ban hammer in modern but perhaps it is just a weak version of the Puresteel Paladin builds. It is not like Vedalken Archmage has made a deck like this yet either.

Oath of Teferi 1

Seems pretty bad but that is not going to stop me playing with this loads! I love activating planeswalkers. Some of the most fun that can be had is playing magic with the old Teferi emblem! You need some pretty special tempo and value out of the flicker effect for this to really cut it. If you already have an active walker when you play this then it is decent but that is so win more. You would be better of playing a card that would protect said walker rather than empower it. This card will be lots of fun but it is a five mana conditional do nothing mostly.

Garna, the Bloodflame 0

Potent effects but miles off a cube thing, draft or otherwise. Far too narrow, slow, vulnerable and situational for draft and just not close to worth it in a build around sense.

Adeliz, the Cinder Wind  3.5

I don't much rate this but I can see it being good. Bloodwater Entity was pretty good and this is broadly better. While it lacks actual prowess it does buff all wizards and many of the dorks Izzet tempo decks run are just that. Prowess decks typically run most if not all of their prowess triggers as instants and sorceries, partly because they are the best but also for cards like Thing in the Ice and Young Pyromancer so Adeliz will not miss out much. I think Adeliz will be a bit like Jori-En, a card people build with but something that is too infrequently useful in a draft to be an improvement to the cube.

Darigaaz, Reincarnated 1

Very punchy dragon that will bring the hurt. A classic and lovely trio of keywords to stick on a big fat body. The thing with Darigaaz is that his second ability is very odd on a card like this. Three turns is an eternity, Darigaaz takes less time to kill someone! Slow recursive grindy abilities are better suited to more middle costed dorks such as Rekindling Phoenix. Darigaaz is so big, black and gold that a lot of the ways to destroy dorks are not applicable to him. Most of the removal used to handle Darigaaz will bypass the ability anyway. This is not top end powerful enough to be something you play to cheat in and it is too expensive, gold and cross purposes to be something you put in a deck and cast conventionally. Plenty of power but not well allocated.

Rona, Disciple of Gix 0

Too slow as ongoing card draw and too situational on the EtB trigger. A lot more playable if you have a Black Lotus.... Mostly this is just a gold Grey Ogre and has no place in cube.

Slimefoot, the Stowaway 2

This probably has enough going on to at least make it in a tribal Thallid deck! It is potentially a suitable win card for an infinite mana combo deck but I think Walking Ballista will be the prime choice for most decks in that position.

Dominaria Initial Review Part VI

Radient Lightning 0

So if I understand correctly the new damage redirect rules this thing simply can't ever hit planeswalkers. Not that doing so would be enough to make this card good but it would go a long way to helping. This card is too much all over the place. Either play Shake the Foundations or play Lava Spike, this has no place really anywhere outside of limited sideboards.

Territorial Allosurus 2

Nice card and nice design but sadly it sits between Foe-Razer Regent and Polukranos and not in a good way. Given the choice you are always playing one of those two over this. Being a 4 mana 5/5 is nice but if you use it in this mode then you have lost the ability to be removal. As a seven drop this is pretty low powered and simply doesn't compare at all well to the things you can do at seven. A nice rounded card but given how little play Polukranos currently gets there is no place in cube for this. Time to wait on a tribal dino deck!

Gift of Growth 0

I spent ages trying to work out why this was so bad and then I finally spotted the untap part of the card. Still not close to cube worthy but quite a beating in limited, not really something you can't predict and play round that easily.

The First Eruption 1

Well this card really is all over the place! It feels too conditional to be any good but it is sufficiently out there that I could be rather off with this card. For starters a 3 mana sorcery speed ping to all dorks is very low powered in addition to the situational nature of it. The ramp the following turn could be nice but it could equally do nothing. It is quite late ramp and so only a few decks (those with 6 drops) will be able to fully utilize it. The last mode is more of the first but with some actual kick. Sadly waiting three turns on mass removal is a non starter.  Also, killing off a mountain in a deck with six drops isn't ideal. I want to give this 0/10 but it is just too different.

Verix Bladewing 5

Mr and Mrs Bladewing shot themselves in the foot with their kids names. Imagine having Tom, Ron, Dom and John as your siblings. No one would ever have a clue who was being talked to. Verix does seem to be the best of the Bladewings although I am not sure if he is quite enough for cube. It feels like Rekindling Phoenix probably trumps it and Phoenix itself is a little slow and clunky. Verix is a nice playable version of Broodmate Dragon which is still an incredibly potent card. Verix is not exactly more powerful than Broodmate but being just red and having a four mana mode are enough to more than offset the seven mana cost to get Karox as well. Worth a test but I am not expecting big things.

The Flame of Keld 7.5

OK, this saga gets me excited. In the way that Bedlam Reveler is immensely powerful so is the Flame of Keld. Both are awkward to build with in their own way but Flame is substantially easier to work with. Both can cost two but Flame always does and doesn't demand a high instant and sorcery count to even be playable. Both ideally want low or empty hands when played at which point both can be efficient card advantage. Reveller is then just a mid level dork (which is still totally great, getting that 4 for 1 feeling for a mere RR is power 9 levels of powerful). Flame of Keld is a powerful and abusive game ender. Insult // Injury is a big deal in red decks and this just seems a lot lot better in the physical effect. It is less of an investment but critically it is no mana cost at all on the turn it triggers allowing you to spend your mana so as to milk the value. Although the third phase of Flame has worse synergy with the big hitters like Fireblast it is actually all about things like Thermo-Alchemist, Lava Dart and Goblin Bombardment. They are cheaper and more common kinds of effects and are tripled in value by Flame of Keld. rather than the doubling from Insult.. For one mana and one mountain you can do 18 damage with just those three cards on a phase III Flame turn! The only thing that keeps this fair is that you have to wait two turns on it. You can't flop it out turn two for a turn four phase III as you will be discarding far too much from your hand. I mean, perhaps you do if your hand is all Bloodghast, Memnite and Basking Rootwalla! (sadly none of those are red and so none help with your phase III scaling). I suspect turn four or five will be more common times to flop Flame of Keld down meaning turn six or seven for the win phase! This will give most other decks some chance to either win before hand or setup some kind of defense against the imminent onslaught. Flame of Keld will lead to some really difficult decision making for the person using it, mostly in timing it right. Too early and you throw away too many cards in hand to win and too late and you die before you get any returns. Intriguing card that I am very keen to play with. Probably the highlight of the set, if not for power for the interest and anticipation at least. It is a somewhat narrow card that gets a pass because the few homes it might have sit at the top of the cube archetypes in ranking.

Hallar, the Firefletcher 0

Not enough kicker for this to have much hope in cube. By quite a long way, you would need a significant percentage of the cube as kicker cards before this looked at all good. There isn't really enough good kicker cards period to consider a build around for this and it is far too lacking in power for that to be worth doing. The one aspect I like about Hallar is the potential to load up on +1/+1 counters and do a big chunk with a kicker spell. I like it, but it isn't worth doing.

Aryel, Knight of Windgrace 4

I like this more than most expensive gold cards. I prefer it in general to Huntsmaster of the Fells for example. Despite that I don't see this making the cube. It is just a bit slow and easy to go 1 for 1 with. It rather fails the Jace TMS test amongst others. If this is your only relevant thing on the board and they just make a Jace and bounce it you are probably dead. Once you get going with Aryel she is like a powerful planeswalker that needs some mana sinking into her. She will be able to take control of most situations, she is like Olivia Voldaren more than any other card and of a comparable power level.  Aryel might be potent enough once she gets going to be a consideration but like a lot of the nearly there cards from this set, she will need to significantly outperform expectation to do that. The bar for this kind of thing is just so high now. Both Olivia and Huntsmaster for example were culled quite some time ago and are not being missed at all.

Tiana, Ship's Caretaker 0

Poor body and narrow effect on top of the inherent narrowness of gold. No abuses to be found here either. A fine enough limited card at least...

Firesong and Sunspeaker 0

Some cute effects but they need support and they are far from game winning. This needed to be way more than a 4/6 to merit a six mana tag, not to mention what it needs further to compensate for being gold. I suspect we are talking at least a couple of key words and some extra stats thrown in. I do want to cast Lightning Helix with one of these in play but not enough to ever play this card...

Primeval's Glorius Rebirth 2

Now this is the kind of power that can make a top end card seem interesting. It would not be at all hard to set up a truly devastating cast of one of these. It would be a lot easier to then cast this if it were blue or green instead of white. Being able to play this off the back of a planeswalker that can mana ramp such as old Teferi would actually be quite an interesting combo deck. The combination of recurring planeswalkers and legends from your bin all at once while giving nothing for your opponent should be able to overcome any sort of situation and win with ease. Tooth and Nail could win with ease and this has the potential to be way more powerful. Certainly it requires more setup but it is effectively uncapped for scaling. This is all a bit too specific I fear, you might just as well play other cheaper and easier recursion combos.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

More Cube Stream on Weds the 14th (March)

As per the title, I'll be doing some more modo cube with Lewis tomorrow. Start time somewhere between 7 and 8 GMT. I'll try and be more specific, I think probably towards the latter end of that timescale.

Link as before but also;

Dominaria Initial Review Part V

Healing Grace 4

This is a nice nod to Healing Salve and it is impressively playable looking. This is a lot more numbers than Harm's Way which is already one of the most efficient cards in the game. Sadly those numbers are all in defense as it were. Perhaps we are getting to the stage where cards like this will simply be necessary for the slower decks to stay in the game long enough? Still feels like you would want creatures and removal working defense for you over lifegain but this is the cheapest most efficient tool of its kind and so it will probably see play somewhere. I don't see this as more than a sideboard tool yet but one day soon perhaps this could find itself wanted in main decks.

Thallid Soothsayer 1

This would be totally fair while all round very playable at three mana to cast. At four however this looks like utter garbage.

Fight with Fire 1

I like the concept of this card a lot but I think the way it pans out doesn't work for cube. The kicker cost is prohibitively high and simply won't come up in many cases leaving this as a pretty boring card.

Gruun, the Lonely King 0

This is the perfect example of an awful threat, and as that is all this is, also an awful card. It has loads of power but it is in all the wrong places resulting in something you shouldn't go near outside of limited. No value, evasion or protection, just all the stats!

Triumph of Gerrard 0

This thing confuses me a bit, I am pretty sure it is awful but for some reason I can't state that with confidence. It is low value, it is slow, it is needy, it is situational, it offers no card advantage and minimal tempo. I just really don't see this and I think that makes me think I have missed something. Like, why is this card symbolic of a Triumph? I guess cause Gerrard got his arse all dead? Like an ironic bad card?

Demonic Vigor 2

This is sadly a bit too polar for cube. Against green, red and black decks this is cheap enough that you can play around removal easily and get a very good deal out of your card. Sadly against white and blue you will just be wasting cards and mana when they exile and bounce your dorks regardless of the Demonic Vigor. I like how this card offers some security and a bit of a tempo boost for such a low investment. This is exactly the sort of card to pressurize people with when you have a tempo edge. This sort of thing forces really awkward plays and I think would have made quite a nice addition to the cube had it been designed in such a way so as to function the same or similar way against all the colours.

Sylvan Awakening 1

Probably some combos here with creature untap effects but that is unlikely to be great in cube and will be more of a modern thing if at all. What I wonder about for this is how effective it can be as a win condition and sadly it feels like the answer is barely at all. To get anything to work well for a big finish with this card you need land untap effects and some kind of Overrun effect and that is all far too much work. I guess you can just get to 13 or more lands but that is even more farcical. Just play an Eldrazi if you think that is going to happen for you...

Charge 5

Cheapest and most efficient way to do a thing and so I expect this to see play. Probably in some Jeskai prowess deck but who knows, perhaps it is just effective enough to run in white weenie decks as a mini Overrun late and a mini combat trick early. It is versatile and combat tricks offer huge returns when they can be pulled off. Certainly a card I am going to test out a bit but I expect it to be a little low value overall and a touch too situational to cut it.

Sentinel of the Pearl Trident 0

Even with flash, at five mana this is just not very playable. That is just way too much of an investment for what you get back. The ability is beyond narrow as well. This will be some nice value in limited resetting sagas but this has no place in cube.

Drudge Sentinel 0

Cool looking card but far too much all round cost for what it does. A lot of people punt games by over valuing their Kytheon and paying to keep him alive when they shouldn't, when three mana would be far better used on other things. Suffice it to say Kytheon is a whole lot better than this!

Wizard's Lightning 7

Much as I  wasn't on board for the Counterspell version of this I hold out rather more hope for this one. I used the example of Rift Bolt and how that was bad and that I would rather a Searing Spear. Now I am presented with this offering and I find that there are a lot of decks where I would rather have this than a Searing Spear. The way in which this can cost 1 is far better than Rift Bolt. It is literally a Lightning Bolt when you have a wizard in play. You get to Bolt something for 3 for one mana at instant speed without giving up any information. Most of why this is better than Rift Bolt is that it is instant but it would still be a little bit better as a sorcery too. Ideally burn is used later in the game, you make dorks then kill theirs or make dorks and burn their face! That suits a cost reduction mechanism more than a suspend one as does using it as reach. How good this is will depend a lot on how many wizards wind up in the cube post Dominaria. I have nearly 20 presently and all of them are cards I would like to play along side Lightning Bolt. That being said, I would make that same claim for most cards... Probably on average this is about as good as a Searing Spear at best but it is at least rather more interesting of a card.

Broken Bond 1

An interesting blend of effects but if I am running Naturalize removal I am absolutely going to want it being instant over having some little quirk.

Fall of Thran 3

Intriguing! So now my Academy Rector can cast Armageddon you say? This absolutely will wind up in some enchantment prison decks. Other prison decks might try to use this with flicker effects but that seems a bit far fetched. This being an enchantment not only means white can abuse it with the Replenish and Rector cards but it can just tutor it and recur it like other colours seem to do with their things. I like the idea that Enlightened Tutor is getting more rounded in what it can do and may transition out of being a purely combo card. Outside of this being an enchantment that blows up all lands I don't think it has any real cube application. Like, how is paying 6 mana to Geddon better than paying 4? How is giving them lands back after casting Geddon better than not doing that? Basically in cube, run Armageddon or don't, Fall of Thran shouldn't factor in for conventional decks. Catastrophe is likely better than this in the conventional decks. While this isn't relevant to drafting cubes it does command some admiration for being a very well designed Armageddon effect. It is playable and very powerful but no where near as oppressive as the original. I am unusually interested to see if this has any impact on standard.

Torgaar, Famine Incarnate 4

Cool card with lots of application. Sac outlet, life gain or direct damage, big dork. Torgaar is unusual for sure. Turn 3 seems super easy to play this guy, all you need is a mana dork and another dork and three lands. Sadly I think even if you do them a clean 10 to the face the risk of eating a 3 for 1 is too ruinous. A single Unsummon and you are pretty done. I think this is too expensive to not cheat into play with sacrifices and too risky to do so with cards you want in their own right. I think the only place you can play this is in a tokens themed deck where you actively want to sac your dorks. While I do support such decks and find them to be very strong in a midrange cube this feels a little too non-essential and awkward to be any sort of mainstay in such places. A nice option but not enough to merit a cube slot I fear. Should still see some experimentation at least.

Keldon Overseer 0

This is just a bad Eldrazi Obligator. You are barely ever getting to seven in the kinds of decks that play this and so this seems like a very poor card indeed.

Corrosive Ooze 0

This is terrible as an answer to equips and not something you are running in any other capacity.