Friday, 17 June 2022

Baldur's Gate Conclusions and Additions

 

I'm pretty sure it is me slowing down more than it is releases speeding up at this point. Even so, these last three sets (New Capenna, Kamigawa and this) have rather blended into one for me. I simply have not managed to put in the testing time to get to know the cards and distinguish them all that much. I don't feel like it is mattering a huge deal however these days. New sets do not seem to have the same positive impact on my cube as they used to. Previously it was a lot of fresh new toys to play with, old gaps filled and extra support allowed for decent meta shifts and it was all good fun and games. This is not the case so much these days although primarily for reasons you would have to call positive. There are really not that many holes in magic any more, you can do the things and you can find enough tools to do them with. That means new cards are typically just sidegrades on existing stuff and on the occasions they are wanted in cube they do not seem to change all that much about the meta. There is also far better balance in terms of the range of power on cards. Back in the day most cards were bad with a few exceptions, now most cards are reasonable and this has been going on long enough now that there is only room in the cube for good cards rather than fair ones that happen to fit in well. The only time there is a significant new addition or upgrade that changes up the meta it is because the card is broken and that typically reduces everyone's fun. The are cards like Fury and Oko. That basically means I am only certain about adding cards that I don't want to, everything else just piles into the samey sea of viable and in need of some testing to join the rank and file of cube. This makes reviewing a bit less enjoyable as the interesting cards are usually too narrow or too fair. It certainly looks like the only two cards I think are sure bets from this set are two that look oppressive in their various ways. Meta narrowing cards rather than meta broadening ones. Basically magic feels pretty complete and as such either stagnating or getting worse with most new cards/sets.     




Cube tends to be worse affected than other metas by sets that avoid standard such as Modern Horizons and the Commander sets. I used to really look forward to the commander product but sadly the cards designed for that format can wind up being pretty broken in 1v1 play while most of the rest are unsuitable or just waaay to expensive. Being too powerful for 1v1 usually matters little for high powered places like legacy and vintage and cannot be a problem in modern onwards by virtue of not being legal there. In cube however a card like Minsc and Boo, Timeless Heroes is going to pretty nuts.  

Despite all those complaints I do like this set. I think they have massively improved on the rolling a d20 mechanic. Backgrounds are a good idea for the EDH format. I think the D&D flavour translates well into magic and results in a nice set aesthetic. I am pleased to see a return of adventure cards and like how they have been done, notably less broken than last time! I am really impressed with the power and option rich nature of many of the commons leading me to think this will be a good fun limited format. Some fun but under supported build around mechanics got a nice boost, those being Gates, dragons, adventure, and party. There is a much higher rate of low rarity cards of interest to me than usual which is always nice to see. There is a lot to like about this set but in spite of all this I have found it hard to be excited by or for any of it.   





* not main set cards

To Add



Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes

Delayed Blast Fireball *



To Test With High Expectations


Mighty Servant of Leuk-o

Sailor's Bane

Jaheira, Friend of the Forest 

Decent into Avernus

Nautiliod Ship

Altar of Bhaal

Black Market Connection*




To Test With Low Expectations


Githzerai Monk

Amethyst Dragon

Wrathful Red Dragon

Beckoning Will-o'-Wisp

Balor

Archivist of Oghma

Gale's Redirection

Greatsword of Tyr

Raggadragga, Goreguts Boss

Noble's Purse 

Faldorn, Dreadwolf Herald

White Plume Adventurer

Roving Harper

Young Red Dragon

Caves of Chaos Adventurer

Inspired Tinkering

Blessed Hyppogriff

Harper Recruiter*





For the Constructed/Rotisserie Reserves


Explore the Underdark 

Navigation Orb

Nine-Fingers Keene

Gond's Gate

Baldur's Gate

Heap Gate

Basalisk Gate

Thriving Gate Cycle

Earthquake Dragon

Rescuer Chwinga

Horn of Valhalla

Jan Jansen, Chaos Crafter 

Cadira, Caller of the Small

Alora, Merry Thief

Monster Manual

Elminster 

Eldritch Pact

Circle of the Land Druid

Young Blue Dragon

Prized Statue

Nimblewright Schematic

Cloakwood Stormkeeper

Reckless Barbarian

Mold Folk

Guildsworn Prowler

Winter Eladrin

Artificer Class*






Wednesday, 15 June 2022

Baldur's Gate Commander Decks Preliminary Review Part I

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



I think the various commander deck front facing legends snuck into the main set review somewhere. Mostly they were bad and narrow except the Gruul one.


Burakos, Party Leader 1

Not even sure I would play this in a party deck. The type support is nice but can be found on cheap supporting changeling cards rather than this huge tempo risk. The body is weak too so even if this does survive to combat it likely will not survive past it. Assuming that the card still isn't even great when you have a full party and get to attack. Oops. 





Durnan of the Yawning Portal 0

I do like the effect this card has but it is tragically bolted onto a Hill Giant so we can move on. 





Harper Recruiter 5

This is how you do on-attack triggers; make the body more desirable, cheap, and more likely to actually survive combat. If Recruiter draws you one card it is good, more than that and it is great. It has enough range that you could play it in a bunch of non-party decks and still have decent odds on getting around 1 hit per trigger. You could slap it in a party deck and look to get closer to two hits per trigger. It is probably just a little narrow for cube needing that type support to some extent but it isn't off by a lot. It is also quite potent card advantage in white which is always worth noting. If you want to entice people to play white in your cube sticking in stuff that draws cards is a good way to do that and this could easily be supported in cubes without having to affect much or upsetting any balance in your design. Over a quarter of the dorks in my cube are one of the four party types. That is a natural 0.5 cards per attack already! So close! The real issue here is the floor, three mana for one toughness and no immediate returns just make this too risky.  





Stick Together 2

This can be quite a savagely one sided Wrath in a party deck but outside of that it is hard to support, unreliable and over cost. 




Seasoned Dungeoneer 4

A bit of immediate value and then some ongoing reach and value. As I break it down the card sounds good, the sort of thing you want and a decent price for what you get but I do not like it at all and cannot easily think why. Perhaps that it is because this is so vanilla and bland as a body itself. It just doesn't feel like it is the kind of card I want at that point in the curve. I can't ever see myself playing this over something with real punch such as most of the 4 drop white planeswalkers. 




Deep Gnome Terramancer 2 

Very good against some decks and cards but too unreliably so in cube leaving this as flashing Bear. It is also not the best hate bear as it fails to disrupt, value is nice and all but it doesn't stop you losing to degenerate things opponents get up to while you play around with your small fair dorks. I might want to bring this in against a rampy green deck but probably not, a Mirran Crusader just feels more likely to get shit done!





Aboleth Spawn 3

What a phaff of a card. Stealing EtB triggers is kind of funny and on average fairly potent in cube. Sadly it is inconsistent in returns and not going to be powerful enough to justify running a 2/3 dork for three. 





Endless Evil 1

Very fun card, doubly so in a horror deck, but even there still a very risky card to play in the face of exile and instant speed removal. 




 

Psionic Ritual 1

Probably pretty easy to setup some devastating plays with this. Might be quite fun to do both in practice and in theory, but it isn't going to be competitive. 





Artificer Class 3

Powerful and useful in a broad selection of decks. The main drawback this has is not being an artifact itself and thus competing with the likes of Urza and not the likes of Etherium Sculptor. There is just such a heightening of the bar when it comes to non-artifacts in artifact decks. Limiting the cost reduction to the first card only also makes this far less useful to any combo decks. 





Astral Dragon 1

Cool affect an powerful card. Sadly it costs at least one mana too much for cube, likely two too much. 





Black Market Connections 7

Powerful ongoing value and utility. This is a Phyrexian Arena with some tempo based options for mana or board presence. If you can really abuse the treasure, the changelings, or you can just comfortably support the heavy life cost then this card is nuts. It is like a Super Sylvan Library meets Bitterblossom. I think I will look to increase the lifegain options in black as this is going to benefit from support and looks to be strong enough to make it in cube. You really want to be doing all three modes all the time but that is not going to be easily done. When you have 40 starting life this looks absolutely amazing! 





Uchuulon 2

This gets out of hand pretty fast assuming it has some fuel given that it is potentially doubling each turn and getting on with that relatively quickly. The need of targets not only keeps this contained but kindof ruins it for cube. You just can't rely on there being fuel to double this up and without it the card is hot garbage. A nutty ceiling to go with the low low floor. 




Solemn Doomguide 1

Cool and cute and an OK floor. Sadly just a bit too top end, fair, and narrow to really excite in any situation, including those best suited to the effects this offers somewhat awkwardly... 





Nalfeshnee 0

Great fun but really the kind of effect I want to see on a 2 drop so that I can actually build around it. On a six drop that lacks power and good board presence for cost it just isn't getting a look in.





Spectacular Showdown 2

Good fun again but probably just worse in almost all settings than the relatively unexciting Assault Strobe. 




Bothersome Quasit 2

Quite powerful even in 1v1 but quite powerful is a long long way from the bar. We are looking for very powerful at a minimum to break into cubes at three or more mana. 




Loot Dispute 1

This is the really interesting and fun kind of card I want to build around. In 1v1 that sounds hard to do and quite a long way off competitive. Perhaps I do need to get into EDH...





Delayed Blast Fireball 7.5

This ticks a lot of boxes as far as mass removal spells go with only one real downside, that being it is doing less damage to each dork than the mana spend to play it. On the plus side however we have a degree of scaling or modality, we have face damage, it is instant speed, and it is one sided. These are all pretty big deals. You can play this in an aggressive deck and not only does it have no impact on the dorks you are able to play it also slaps them in the face making it a card that is never dead. Five is also quite a big slap in the face making this a card that offers impressive reach. It is cards like this getting abundant printing of late that has forced the cube to go quite midrange. Too many powerful and playable cards punish swarming out with small dorks and this is a great example of that. Despite this pressure on the meta the card is fairly well designed being interesting and powerful without being oppressive or broken. Sometimes it is just going to be mana inefficient burn while other times it will be too slow or low impact to help with the situation at hand. 





Venture Forth 2

I like this but it is really all a bit slow. The first ramp is never quick enough to make a significant impact and subsequent ones are so late in the game that they impress little. This would be strong in really really slow draw go control decks but short of that I'm out. 




Journey to the Lost City 1

This seems like a planeswalker that you can't easily kill. Comically the 20 roll can be the worst for you, particularly if you hit it early. This is quite a slow and clunky card so I am not sure it has a place in my cube presently, the control decks are too far behind to deploy this early and the rampy green decks just seem to batter face too hard and quick to be bothered with this sort of ongoing value. I do still like this but the killer for Journey is that you exile 4 cards a turn which means you can't hang around with it in a 40 card deck and thus making it entirely unsuitable. Too slow for punchy decks and too dangerous for slow decks to run. 




Green Slime 2

A Reclamation Sage with a Stifle twist. Yes, this is more powerful but that comes with a big old pile of narrow. Too narrow to just main deck I suspect and then too fair to be something I am often wanting as my sideboard solution. Not a bad card as such, just short of the various marks it needed to meet at least one of. 




Tlincalli Hunter 1

Cool and interesting but also slow and narrow. You can do some busted stuff with this but it is a whole load of setup to do and without much setup this is two pretty weak cards in one. A shocking Raise Dead and a big seven drop that compares poorly to cube five and six drops.  




Sarevok's Tome 1

I'm not even sure I want this in a venture deck. I do like dungeons but this is a fairly awkward card to be jamming into builds that might complete dungeons. 




Multiclass Baldric 0

Another party card I don't think I have any interest in even in a party deck. I absolutely want party members over things that buff them. The payoff isn't even all that impressive, there are no raw stats boost. No thanks. A low equip costs, some stats boost, perhaps a ward effect, these sorts of things might have made this at least tempting. 





Tuesday, 14 June 2022

Battle for Baldur's Gate Preliminary Review Part X

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 

 



Ancient Gold Dragon 2

Probably the second best of the cycle after the treasure dragon. Still not exactly playable but certainly very powerful and high impact when it gets going. I might consider this for a Sneak Attack target at least. Not entirely sure why this one gets a whole pile of extra toughness over the others, some lore thing I am unaware of perhaps? 





Inspired Tinkering 5

This is very close indeed to Ancestral Recall when you add up all the parts. In practice it is much closer to Ancestral Vision but even so, this is a lot of value for not all that much mana net. It even gives you the potential to burst out something ahead of curve such as an Ugin. Much as I am a big fan of drawing 3 cards for 2 mana the slow clunky nature of this might well rule it out for cube. You have to have a deck that is wanting to play five drops and then that deck has to want to draw more cards at that point in the curve rather than making some game ending dragon. I will certainly test this as what is there to dislike about drawing cards and making treasure? I just don't see it getting enough play to survive. 




Prized Statue 5

This is the mana version of Ichor Wellspring. This will have tonnes of combo and synergy support potential. If you are a deck that wants artifacts to sac then this is very much on the watch list. Bursty, cheap, fixing, three artifacts in one card, so many juicy upsides on this. Not something you want without synergies so not there for drafting cubes but a card with a busy future. 





Nimblewright Schematic 3

Well this is just a functional reprint of Servo Schematic which did occasion some play as a three in one artifact card on the cheap but I suspect Prized Statue now steals that role leaving this a little lost. A fine card but narrow and ever so fair on the power level. 





Navigation Orb 2

Gates like this, not fast enough for ramp in most other settings. High Tide in EDH I guess wants this too!





Underceller Myconid 2

Three bodies in one and a mana dork. Not really sure where this fits in but it is likely to find a home somewhere with all those synergies. Base power is low but not terrible. 




Druidic Ritual 1

Cool as this milling Divination is, support cards want to cost less than three and value cards want to be without conditions leaving this with little hope of play. 





Druid of the Emerald Grove 5

A three for one with some ramp potential. A bit high up the curve for such things but pretty good considering. Civic Wayfinder is OK filler and this is probably better. 





Colossal Badger 1

A bit all over the place. Dig deep might have been a nice mill support card but it needs a target before it mills. It is also hard to get excited about a Craw Wurm on the back-end either, regardless of any Healing Salves you slap on!





Cloakwood Swarmkeeper 6

Likely too narrow for drafting cubes but a dangerous scaling one drop threat. It is instances of token generation rather than number of tokens meaning it is a bit harder to scale up. Even so, being a one drop means it still has masses of power potential and will find itself as a cornerstone in aggro decks able to empower it reliably. 





Reckless Barbarian 5

Eye opening card here. Low base power and on the narrow side but quickly able to scale up effectiveness in the right sort of deck, be that stormy or tribal or ramp. I am more used to using non-creature burst mana in red and so don't know exactly where this will fit in. It is too useful and cheap and direct not to see play. I am not expecting it to work out in the drafting cube however.  




Zhentarim Bandit 2

Too vulnerable and low power these days but a cute little card I would at least like to play with.



Myrkul's Edict 2

With the number of tokens kicking about in cube Edicts have not been good for a while. Really we need one that hits non-token stuff, or indeed this one if it rolls 20 every time... I might play this over Chainers or Diabolic, but probably not, but really I am just not playing any of them. 




Mold Folk 4

Carrion Feeder reigned in on the broken side of things and compensated with some bonus fluff. This is an OK support card and will see some play but it will never be a top choice.





Guildsworn Prowler 6

Not really threatening enough as an attacker, obviously not optimal as a blocker (although fine), leaving you with a card you mostly want to use in a sac deck which in turn means you probably just want a dork that makes more stuff to sac directly rather than helping you draw into it and thus need to play it as well. A fine card but just lacking punch. Ultimately a card that is filler. 




Gray Slaad 1

Back end just isn't worth having and the adventure doesn't really do all that much. Best thing about this is that it is a mill card and a creature in the bin, sadly if used to mill you then need to make the dork if you want to get it in the bin ever and no one enjoys paying 3 mana for 1 toughness and no EtB or on death triggers...





Winter Eladrin 4

Man-o'-War is a fine card and so is this. It can't loop itself but so what outside of Aluren decks? It has some useful types and so is likely to get some play. Barrin rather reset the bar for these bouncers and Barrin is not a great cube card. 





Sword Coast Serpent 3

Brazen Borrower this is not. A seven drop sans flash is orders of magnitude less relevant and useful than the faerie. Not that it matters at this point but the bounce is worse here too, all be it not by so much that it renders it useless. Just highlighting lack of redeeming features in a direct comparison... There are at least numerous decks I would rather run this than Winter Eldarin! 




Steadfast Unicorn 2

Not powerful by any means but the best of the many cards like this already out there. Eventually this kind of over cost minor team pump will get printed on a 2/1 for W and it will see a bit of play and be fine. On a 1/2 you need to be full tribal or abusing something like a Training Grounds and even then this is filler at best. 





Blessed Hyppogriff 6.5

Finally an adventure combat trick that gets the pricing right. This card is primarily a counter to a removal spell but it is one that offers to either not be dead or some extra value. And while that value/lack of deadness isn't great it is actually offering some threat at a fairly low cost considering. It is very low powered but it is quite suitable for the kinds of deck that are into a one mana protect a dork card. This all lines up in the ways you want it to and so despite the fairly poor power level this has a genuine shot at making it in the cube. There are just not many combat trick / protect spells that are viable so those that crop up and are tend to get play and impress.