Saturday, 1 January 2022

Bombs

 


Cube play in my standard unpowered cube is starting to feel the most like booster limited as it ever has. I am less and less picking cards for curve or synergy reasons and am increasingly picking directly on power level. Pick the cards that win games, pick the bombs. This may seem like a good or a bad thing based upon what it is you look for in a format. There are certainly some good reasons behind why I am noticing this change but there are equally some bad reasons too. A big part of it is that there are enough good cheaper support cards at the lower costs, your mana dorks, card quality spells, disruption, etc. that you do not need to put such a high priority on them. They are no longer the bottleneck to having a good deck. That depth of support is great for cube.

Perhaps a less appealing cause is the sheer effectiveness of the bombs themselves. Things that close games do so much more consistently and quickly than ever before. It means that there is a lot less game time once the bombs land before the game ends giving a less interactive feel. It also used to feel like you won with your top end alongside your other cards, now it feels a lot more like your threats can just take the game home solo. 





The game quality is still high but it can all end a little abruptly for my liking. The thing I am finding I like least about this shift is that games are feeling a lot more samey. The bomb cards are always picked and played and then they tend to be the cards winning the games. This means a small pool of cards feels like they account for most of the outcomes. Quirky and interesting cards are really failing to get a look in. Cards I want to see in play just don't get those opportunities like they used to. The result of this is that I am experimenting a lot more with alternate cubes and ways of playing. Cube felt like it had endless longevity when support cards were the bottleneck. I never tired of casting Preordain or Llanowar Elf on turn one. It turns out people do tire of winning and losing with the same cards. 

Playing less cube is one way to tackle the longevity issues that power creep in threats has caused. Playing different types of cube is another, things like combo cubes, synergy/modular cubes, themed cubes, pauper cubes, etc. etc. A perhaps more simply solution is to cut/ban some of these offending articles. We had been playing with a couple of bans per player at the start of events for a while now but even that isn't enough to handle all the problematic cards. As such I have been strongly considering going to town on bans and significantly lowering the power level of my cube. I have already done this to a certain extent with the removal of Fractured Identity, True-Name Nemesis, and Ashiok Nightmare Weaver. These were cards that were really oppressive in cube and no fun at all to play into. Being either multiplayer design cards or ones tuned for 60 card lists not 40 a ban didn't feel like it went against my philosophy of trying to run the most powerful cards. As a cube curator I may now have to move away from that premise and hold on to simply trying to make the most fun to play format. The reason I tend to play unpowered cube is for the quality and diversity of games however the unpowered and powered cubes I run feel more similar than ever before with a scarily high degree overlap in pick order.

A significant proportion of the cards on my watch list are from Modern Horizons or Commander product and so I could simply forgo those sets in cube but there are loads of cards I love from those sets that add a lot to the format and so while it is an easy to understand fix I would prefer a more complicated one that had less in the way of drawbacks. It also doesn't protect against the power creep we are seeing in standard product. The cards on my watchlist not from Modern Horizons or Commander are mostly new cards. If they keep printing sets like they have been we will be back where we are now in a few years even without Commander and MH cards. 





Power creep is dangerous in general but it turns out that it is particularly irksome in cube when on the kinds of cards that close out games. I think I liked the level of power we had in threats before The Scarab God and Glorybringer. Here is a list of the cards in my cube that are wearing a bit thin already due to how much visibility and impact they have. 



Umezawa's Jitte

Retrofitter Foundry 

Urza's Saga

Solitude

Urza, Lord High Artificer

Ethereal Forager

Murktide Regent

Ophiomancer

Plague Engineer

Yawgmoth, Thrann Physician

Massacre Girl

Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer

Laelia, the Blade Reforged

Torbran

Fury

Glorybringer

Emissary of Grudges

Embercleave

Hexdrinker

Questing Beast

Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider

Esika's Chariot

Paradox Zone

The Scarab God

Fallen Shinobi

Grist, the Hunger Tide

Omnath, Locus of Creation






This list is not hard and fast by any means. There are some cards that are pretty tedious not on this list. There are also plenty of non-threat cards that and comparably back breaking and some supporting cards that are just so good and rounded you see them all the time. These share some of the same issues of making games abrupt or samey as the oppressive threats. Cards such as;


Brazen Borrower

Bonecrusher Giant

Seasoned Pyromancer

Skyclave Apparition

Winds of Abandon

Mystic Confluence

Wretched Confluence

Fire Covenant 

Toxic Deluge

Teferi, Time Raveler




Sunday, 12 December 2021

How gold is my gold card?


I talk often about the narrowness of gold cards when it comes to cube and how this makes them undesirable inclusions in a theoretical sense. Drafting is good when there is tension on the cards and options in the picks. Cards not in your colours reduce the viable picks in a pack. Gold cards are more likely to not be in your colours and so they reduce your average agency in a draft. Gold cards are also more likely to have only one player in the draft who is in those colour pairings and as such there is effectively no tension on a card. If signals have informed me I am the only player in a colour I can afford to risk wheeling my gold cards and take a contested card thus reducing other players options further.  

I discuss this specifically a bit more in this article from 2018;

https://mtgcube.blogspot.com/2018/09/the-trouble-with-gold-cards.html

These issues lead me to be as lean as possible on my gold inclusions to cube. A prospective gold card really needs to either be a massive bomb that is a couple of notches above on power level and a huge draw to the colour pairing, or the kind of card that is so all round good and playable that you invariably include it whenever you can sensibly cast it. The Scarab God could be considered the former and Kolagahn's Command to be the latter type of gold cards. Both of these are however the same kind of rigid two colour gold card. Without two different kinds of mana these cards are unplayable duds and this is what makes them narrower than a mono coloured card. There is however a whole range of gold cards which do not neatly fit into this binary gold or not gold model. For the most part these cards are ones which are playable with just one colour and gain power or utility as you gain access to more colours. This type of design has the benefit of reducing the risk of playing such cards which in turn greatly reduces how narrow they are within a cube. These kinds of cards are often splashed for. Some of these cards are even more playable than mono coloured cards allowing them to be slightly under par in terms of power and still contend for cube space. 

The aim of this article is to look at the different ways in which cards are costed and how this impacts their playability in regards to a limited environment and thus in turn how that should effect their evaluations for a cube. It will compare not just different types of gold card costs but also differing colour intensities and colourless cards as well, all be it just as a base line for being unfettered by playability issues. Non-gold cards can also be narrow in the same way gold cards tend to be thanks to how they are costed and so necessitate being a part of this conversation. Sometimes the answer the the question "how gold is my gold card?" is that it is rather less "gold" in the practical sense than a number of mono coloured cards.





Let us take a look at some of the kinds of cards we can see that exhibit this partial gold property that make them so much more appealing to use in cubes. One of the first examples of such things is to be found in the hybrid mana cards. These are oddly complex and cover a crazy range from being more playable than mono coloured cards all the way to narrower than conventional gold cards. 

Deathrite Shaman is the go to example of a card more playable than mono coloured cards. You can argue a good case for Kitchen Finks on that front as well. Deathrite is still a good card without access to one of the colours (assuming you are able to ensure lands are getting in the bin with some consistency). You can play it in any deck with black or green mana which is a lot more people at the table that have either just black or just green mana. You often see Deathrite in decks that are essentially not green or not black with a token couple of dual lands or other means of fixing tossed in on the off chance they slightly improve the Shaman. A large part of Deathrite's success in cube is down to the broad playability. In terms of fixing and ramping power he is generally less good than Gilded Goose (as getting lands in the bin is not quite so easy in cube as it is in other formats). It is his utility and playability than are better and result in Deathrite being a better overall card than Goose. 




Next up we have a card like Figure of Destiny. On the face of it a card that is less narrow than Kytheon or Firedrinker Satyr but is actually more comparable. Figure is great in white weenie and red deck wins and in Boros decks but it is rather less good in Izzet, Rakdos, Selesnya etc. Technically a Kytheon is good in five of the total fifteen permutations of one and two colour decks (mono white and then all iterations of WX) while Figure is only good in the three as levelling up beyond the first step becomes very tricky. Figure is still playable in off colour two colour decks like Izzet but does lose a lot of punch. It does rather luck out in that the most common places you would tend to include a one mana beater are mono red, mono white and Boros. This facet of the cube meta makes Figure a card that is more playable than most comparable red or white one drop beaters but it is still a lot closer to the mono coloured card than a Deathrite in terms of playability.




Cards like Boggart Ram-Gang or Nightveil Spectre however are straight up narrower than a 1RG or a 1UB card would be in the cube. These go from less narrow or comparably narrow to a mono card as with Deathrite and Figure of Destiny respectively to narrower than conventional gold cards. Boggart Ram-Gang is a long way from powerful enough any more but once upon a time it was the nuts hit with a Bloodbraid Elf! The intense colour requirements place Ram-Gang and Specter at the narrower end of the spectrum. They are too hard to cast in three colour decks or two colour decks not of the exact two colours. You get just about more playabiltiy for a normal two colour gold card going in some three or more colour decks than you do from a card like Nightveil going in two mono coloured builds. Nightveil is only a card you play in mono black, mono blue, or Dimir, and when you do it makes playing colourless lands much more uncomfortable. A card like like Thief of Sanity (1UB) is playable in Dimir as well as Sultai, Grixis, and Esper, all without the same discomfort on the colourless lands. These two casting costs are fairly close in narrowness however it is not intuitive that the Specter is the narrower of the two what with hybrid mana typically offering more convenience. 

There is also some bearing on the type of card and the colours in question. Some of the colours are more inclined towards mono colour builds than others making a colour intense card more likely to get play. As for the type of card things like cheap beaters really want to be playable on curve and so they are more limited than a card like Archmage's Charm which you can afford to wait on casting a lot more comfortably. On paper Charm is more colour intense than a Precinct Captain however due to the nature of the cards I play Charm more often and usually in decks that are not just blue. Captain rarely sees play outside of mono white. These are all fairly close comparison and the already blurry lines get even more so when it comes to splashes rather than even splits. It is just useful to understand the trends and starting positions. 




I mentioned Kitchen Finks at the start of this section. It is roughly on par with a 2G or 2W card but rather more playable than a 1WW or 1GG card. Colour intensity of a card has a similar effect of narrowing a card to increasing number of colours. Colour intensity is a product of the number of coloured mana pips in a cost and the ratio of those to the total cost and not just the number of pips. A 3GGG card is less narrow than a GG card despite needing more green mana nominally. The key distinction is that you need 100% of your sources to be green to deploy a GG card on curve while you only need 50% for the 3GGG card. I apply a similar level of stringency with high colour intensity cards as I do with gold ones and only permit the very cream of the crop entry to the cube.  

Next on the list of card types we have MDFC cards with two differently coloured cards on each face. The relative power of each face is relevant. Often only one half is good and so it mostly winds up looking like a card of the good side's colour with minor situational utility. This is very similar to how gold split cards like Fire / Ice work. Their "goldness" or narrowness incurred as a consequence of having multi coloured identity is context dependent. There are no hard and fast rules and how the card is played and where it is being used must be considered. Fire / Ice is fairly significantly less narrow than a mono coloured card as both halves are good so being locked out of one colour does not result in a dead card. A card like Selfless Glyphweaver however is imperceptibly less narrow than a 2W costing card. The spell on the back is so expensive and late that it is not doing much to help the card  avoid being dead when you don't have white. The odds on you still not having white by the time you can actually cast a 5BBB card is also minimal. Most relevantly however the Deadly Vanity backside is not a card you would ever play by itself. While it is a powerful effect it is dismal for the mana cost. As it adds so little in the way of value to the card overall it results in the card essentially just being a white card as far as cube design is concerned. 




Plargg, Dean of Chaos sits somewhere between these two ends of the spectrum. Plargg is a chunk better than Augusta but she is still playable and useful. I play Plargg just for Plargg while Augusta has only been played as a white card once or twice and only to make up playables or plug serious deck holes. Augusta is still playable and having access to both sides does reasonably improve the overall. I often find I'll play any RW duals I have in my red deck whenever I am running Plargg so as to increase his utility much like I mentioned for Deathrite earlier. I am sure I would the other way round too if I played Augusta in white decks!  




The way to approach these cards involves the range. How good is the card with just access to the base part, so just Plargg in this case, and then how good is the card when you have the option of Plargg or Augusta? This kind of reasoning also applies to cards like Kessig Wolf Run, Tasigur, Scrapheap Scrounger, and Lingering Souls. The range and the mid point relative to the bar for cube power level determine how gold your card is. If the floor of the card, or the power of a mono coloured iteration is good enough for cube then the card is a go and likely to be great in cube. If you only just pass the bar when you have access to all colours then it is a fully gold card and will need to make that extra high bar for gold cards. If it is somewhere in between you have a partially gold card and these are where it gets interesting. 

Lingering Souls is a pretty classic example of this. The card is poor in just the white mode but it is still fine. You don't play Midnight Haunting in cubes but the card is still doing the right things at a close to good rate. It isn't dead, a long way from it. You need the black mode to make the card great but the mid point between the floor and the ceiling is a very nice power level. Further to that you find that you cast both halves far more often than just one in a game and so that wildly shifts the actual mid point closer to the ceiling of the card. As such Lingering Souls is one of the most splashed cards in cube. A card like Valki//Tibalt however is cast in Valki mode most of the time and Tibalt mode significantly less often meaning you need to draw a much higher proportion of your power appraisal from the Valki side than the Tibalt one. You cannot just assume an even split on the halves or modes of a card, it has to be relative to the degree they are used.




I will play Lingering Souls with fairly poor prospects of flashing back as the floor is so close to the bar that a very small bump in power, say from occasional flashbacks, is enough to push it into the realms of decent. There is also of course the ability to play the card purely as a black card where the power level is more impressive but the prerequisites for use are far higher than mere extra colours of mana. You need to consistently be able to put it in the bin else it is actually a dead card and is high risk. Even so, while this is rarely done in cubes it does help to reduce how narrow the card is a fraction more. 

Kessig-Wolf Run is a fairly curious example of a gold card. The floor of being a Wastes is weak but not dead. A long way from it. A land is still a useful thing to have. The cost of playing a Wolf Run tends to be just not playing a different colourless utility land at worst, it is a minimal cost and low risk. It is another one of the other most splashed for cards in my cube as a result. You do however need both red and green to improve it beyond the floor but you don't need either to have it do something ultimately making it less narrow than Lingering Souls. 

Damn is another somewhat unique form of two colour non-gold card most akin to a split card with fuse. As a black card Damn is just about playable. As a white card Damn is good being just another Wrath of God. As an Orzhov card however Damn is one of the best removal cards in the game offering great flexibility, range, and efficiency. It has two different floors based on colour and a lovely ceiling when you have all the mana for it. Damn is consequently less narrow than a mono coloured card of either 2WW or BB cost, all be it not by loads and despite being optimal when in the right two colours. It is likely still also narrower than cards like Toxic Deluge and Extinction Event simply because they are less colour intense and thus much more easily splashed. You see a bunch of those single mana pip mass removal effects in four and five colour decks due to ease of casting. Damn requires you to be a bit more heavily black or white. 




Spellskite, Bomat Courier, and Scrapheap Scrounger are examples of non-quite colourless cards that are more playable than mono coloured cards which you can happily play to varying degrees with little to no access to coloured mana. Spellskite doesn't even improve that much with access to blue mana. I likely wouldn't throw in a land worse than a shock in order to support the activation. 

Lastly we can look at cards like Kenrith, the Returned King. Crap if you are just white and vey potent with access to all the colours. The abilities are not all created equally nor do they all perform equally in different archetypes. You want access to all or most of the colours but you don't need them to be heavy commitments at all. Kenrith is narrower than a mono coloured card but significantly less narrow than a typical gold card. You have the ability to use him with just one colour and your subsequent colours are not locked in. 




With all these kinds of cards and their costs considered I am going to plot a scale from 1 to 10 from the easiest and most playable cards (just based on cost) to to hardest and most awkward. This scale is something I use when looking at a prospective cube addition as a means to adjust the power level bar required for that card. Those at the high end have the bar raised while those at the lower end have it lowered. Obviously this is a rough guide and a spectrum rather than a fixed rating. You also then have to account for context such green gold cards being a bit easier to play and so forth. None the less, it is a very useful tool to use whenever you are creating and curating a limited environment. It is not something I have seen discussed much as it is much less relevant to actually building and drafting decks. It is much more of a concept for cube owners rather than just cube players as it relates to the design of cube and not so much the playing of. I wouldn't be at all surprised if design and development at Wizards used a similar system to appraise cards in a set so as to avoid overly parasitic limited environments. And if they don't, then they should! 



1 - no playability issues at all


Black Lotus

Tormod's Crypt




2 - negligible cost issues such as payment options or just high cost with no colour requirements


Wurmcoil Engine 

Spellskite




3 - minimal cost issues such as activations you don't need to activate early


Scrapheap Scrounger

Bomat Courier





4 - High floor, easy to play cards with multiple low intensity cast options


Kessig Wolf Run

Fire // Ice

Depose // Deploy    

Cram Session






5  - low colour intensity or options on casting colour


Restoration Angel

Lurrus of the Dread Den

Kitchen Finks

Garruk Relentless






6 - slightly higher colour intensity or cards that ultimately want access to a second colour to reach their ceiling. Some high colour intensity mono coloured cards that you don't need to play on curve too. 


Damn 

Lingering Souls

Tasigur, the Goldenfang

Counterspell

Kenrith, the Returned King





7 - standard two colour gold cards with low colour intensity or mono coloured cards with high colour intensity


Precinct Captain

Eidolon of the Great Revel

Vindicate

Ajani Vengeant 







8 - high colour intensity cards, usually in multiple colours and often wanting on curve play. Mostly found in specifically coloured lists. 



Siege Rhino

Old-Growth Troll

Growth Spiral








9 - very high colour intensity with specific casting needs. Exclusively found in specifically coloured decks.


Frilled Mystic

Phyrexian Obliterator







 

10 - Absolute beasts to cast that need specific decks with well balanced mana and a lot of hard work on top of that! 


Coalition Victory

Nicol Bolas, Dragon God

any Ultimatum! 





There are a few cards I didn't include on these lists as they sat a little off the point. Boggart Ram-Gang for example is probably a 7.85 card, only fractionally easier than the GGG troll sat at an 8 rating. Equally Blade Historian sits just below a 9 rating, say an 8.8 for the sake of argument. Plargg I would give a 4.6 to etc. It is a spectrum and you don't need to be precise. It is the understanding of the concepts that is the important bit. There are also the context cases, cards like Omnath, Locus of Creation and Breya, Etherium Shaper. In principle these are as hard as the other 9 rated cards while in reality they are wildly easier to play thanks to the spread of colours and the kinds of fixing you can employ in green or artifact decks. Signets and general green stuff on top of random dual lands make splashing cards with single colour pips, even colour intense ones with lots of different ones, very easy. Essentially you don't play Omnath and Breya when they are 9 rated cards, you play them in decks that naturally bring them to 7 rated cards and then they are bonkers. Due to the lack of double mana colours in any one colour these cards work out to be a great deal easier to include and abuse. There is also the component of total cost of a card that I hinted at with the Wurmcoil Engine example. It exists on a scale like this that you could easily put along side however that aspect of magic is well documented and understood as part of mana curves. Avoiding the topic also helps keep this article a sensible length! 

So there you have it. Direction on how to maximise choice and interaction in draft while rooting out parasitic cards, all complete with a rough scale by which to assess such things. To the few people who this will be relevant to I hope you find it useful!

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Innistrad Crimson Vow Conclusions and Additions

 

Crimson Vow is one of the lowest power level sets we have had in a long while. This is clear from the low numbers of cards I am adding and testing but also from the lower ratings I gave the cards on average. This is no bad thing at all however. I had been getting a littler exasperated at the rate of power creep and general silliness we have seen since MH1/Throne of Eldrain sets. For where we are now Crimson Vow feels like a good power level going forwards. I want a couple of obviously good cube cards per set with a handful of things worth testing and that is what Vow delivers. I liked the high numbers of one drop cards we got in Midnight Hunt and was hoping for more of the same but I am perfectly happy with the outcome as it stands. Crimson Vow isn't even a low powered set, it is just surrounded by goliaths. Five years ago the power level of Vow would have made waves! 




The power level and complexity of the commons impressed me again and makes me think that the booster draft and sealed for the set will be really good and fun. There are so any commons I did a double take upon finding out they were not uncommon. Blood is a huge part of this. I loved clues at first sight and immediately wanted for both treasure and food to be done in the same sort of way, and fairly quickly got my wish. These aspects have all added loads to cube and magic in general. I didn't expect another token resource thing like this at all, let alone so soon, or so cool. Blood hits the nail on the head for power level and utility. I hope to see more of it over the years. 

The focus of the good new additions come in black and red - shock - the vampire colours. I have not seen the cream of the crop from a set be so lop sided in colours before. Neither of those colours really need the help presently in cube. I was quite happy seeing white and green get a lot of cool new stuff recently. Overall it shouldn't change that much in the actual cube beyond black having more consistent access to early hand disruption. Much as there is a lot of movement in the cube these days thanks to all this power creep it is fairly focused and tends to be new cards replacing slightly less new cards rather than the old stuff moving along. In some ways it is good as cube remains fresh without changing loads but at the same time it is frustrating not getting to spend that long with new and interesting cards before they are outdated. Equally some old cards are tedious and I would love for them to be somehow made unworthy! This latter aspect is actually well underway with cards like Armageddon not actually performing well at all anymore just down to how the game has developed. This is all a bit of an aside and doesn't directly relate to Crimson Vow... likely as I don't have all that much more to say on the matter.  I like the set, aesthetically and mechanically, but it is a fairly low consequence set. Cleave is a mechanic that doesn't bother me but I have heard a lot of bad press about and I do fully sympathize with those who dislike it and will strive to avoid it. Cleave may be the worst thing about the set because of this. As ever, my wish list and where they are headed;







*cards from Commander product



To Add 


Dread Fugue

Sorin the Mirthless

Concealing Curtains

Henrika Domnathi

Chandra, Dressed to Kill

Cemetery Gatekeeper

Reckless Impulse 






To Test with high hopes


Volatile Arsonist

Mischievous Cat 

Overcharged Amalgam

Spectral Arcanist*

Voldaren Bloodcaster

Wedding Announcement

Undead Butler

Ulvenwald Oddity

Ascendant Packleader 

Stensia Uprising

Voltaic Visionary

Welcoming Vampire 

Cemetery Illuminator 




To Test with low hopes


Olivia, Crimson Bride

Dorothea, Vengeful Victim

Fell Stinger

By Invitation Only

Toreas, Fist of the Angels

Cemetery Protector 

Cemetery Prowler 

Dollhouse of Horrors 

Inspired Ideas 

Thirst for Discovery 

Glorious Sunrise 

Mirrorhall Mimic

Faithbound Judge

Wash Away

Hopeful Initiate 

Avabruck Caretaker 

Jacob Hauken, Inspector

Cobbled Lancer

Edgar, Charmed Groom

Ethereal Investigator*




For the constructed reserves


Voldaren Estate

Dig Up

Voldaren Epicure 

Demonic Bargain

Dominating Vampire

Vampire's Vengeance 

Falkenrath Forebear 

Geistlight Snare

Witness the Future

Voice of the Blessed

Hallowed Haunting

Archghoul of Thraben 

Scattered Thoughts 

Headless Rider 

Wandering Mind

Dreamshackle Geist

Stormchaser Drake 

Eruth, Tormented Prophet

Kessig Flamebreather 

Cartographer's Survey 

Fleeting Spirit 

Bloodtithe Harvester 

Ill-Tempered Loner

Lantern of the Lost

End the Festivities 

Blood Fountain 

Millicent, Restless Revenant*

Storm of Souls*

Disorder in the Court*

Shadowgrange Archfiend*





Monday, 22 November 2021

Innistrad Crimson Vow Commander Review

 

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 



Strefan, Maurer Progenitor 1

Not totally unplayable but incredibly low powered. Body is small for the cost and the effects are all slow to take place. I am sure I can just cast the things in hand before this can cheat them in. Haste would have made this drastically superior and even then I wouldn't be playing it many places outside of tribal or blood decks. 





Wedding Ring 0

A very silly but fun card in multiplayer, a bit too symmetrical for 1v1 play. 





Millicent, Restless Revenant 2

This is very powerful but a little all in. You need a certain number of things in play to make the cost reasonable and to ensure triggers are had right away ideally too. While this does have some mass removal protection it doesn't stop you getting stranded with this dead in hand. You somewhat need to develop hard to deploy this and if you get blown out before Millicent can be played you are unlikely to ever get there. The more you have cards like Spectral Procession powering out tokens for little card investments the lower the risk of this card is. Sadly that also reduces the payoff of this card as well but I am generally OK with that, the card doesn't lack for power. It is fine at 4 mana if you never have another non-token spirit. It is good at three and silly good at two mana. Add a dash of non-token spirits into the mix and it jumps in power plenty quick enough. Tribal only card but one well worth taking note of. 





Hollowhenge Overlord 2

I do like the flash here a lot but the six mana 4/4 and 2/2 token fall a long way shy of the Grave Titan level we like on our six mana stats cards. While this can snowball out of control it is slow to do so. You need to be playing other wolves to speed the whole thing up and give this an appropriate power level. As such a tribal only card but pretty close to being a stand alone. 





Spectral Arcanist 6

Snapcaster Mage meets Dreadhorde Arcanist. The norm for this card is going to be a four mana 3/2 flyer that casts a one mana burn spell or cantrip. The mana efficiency is better than with Snapcaster Mage as is the relevance of the body making it more of a two for one. The flash and target range however do make Snappy a much more reliable and much more versatile tool. Given that you rarely had enough one drops to make Dreadhorde Arcanist good enough I am not holding out loads of hope for this. It is certainly not impossible that the spirit count in cube extends the effective CMC range enough to make this playable. You also need less in the way of targets for this than Arcanist as you are only expecting to trigger it once, you at least hope to hit multiple times with Arcanist. Further to that, the opponent has less time to react greatly increasing your odds on getting to cast a spell again with Spectral compared to Dreadhorde. All told this seems better than Dreadhorde Arcanist in cube despite still being a fair way off Snappy. Worth a test at the very least. 





Occult Epiphany 4

Midnight Haunting meets Secure the Wastes meets Careful Study. This does a lot but it is all sorts of awkward. It is an X spell that is hard to scale up. It is a card quality spell than forces you in certain directions to make the card have enough value. It is a mashup of card quality and support effects on top of board presence and tempo ones. All are good but they do not typically overlap in the game plan of an archetype. How many decks that I am running Midnight Haunting in do I also want a Careful Study? Doesn't feel like a lot, even if we up the power level to reflect them being on the same card I still don't feel like my Faithful Mending and Lingering Souls decks are going to be commonplace. I am drawn to this card for being versatile and option rich and direct but ultimately I think it is a bit of an awkward mess. At four mana and making 3 tokens I think it is very impressive but at most other costs and outcomes I am underwhelmed or unconvinced of the frequency it can be pulled off. Mostly I think this is going to be played at three mana and make about 1.8 tokens and be fine at best. 





Haunting Imitation 1

Build around combo card you could slap in some kind of Erratic Explosion build or slant there of. Too narrow and low power for use elsewhere. Slow and easily disrupted so hardly a good combo tool either. 





Sudden Salvation 1

Too limited and reactionary. Reactive cards, especially protective ones that are time critical, really really want to be low cost and this is not. This also lacks the scaling of cards like Second Sunrise that allows it to do well in combo.



Storm of Souls 5

This should be very easy to win with. You can just get two card combos and win with those or you can get a pile of stuff and Craterhoof your way to victory. A card not lacking in power. Great when built around and probably not all that bad if just thrown into decks. Where this falls down is on consistency grounds. It is easily disrupted and can simply be a do nothing if you somehow fail to fill up your bin with enough stuff to make this worth casting. 





Priest of the Blessed Graf 1

I am not a huge fan of this more lands mechanic in 1v1 play as it is so polar. With fewer lands this is pretty strong, with more it is unplayable. On the play, against a mana screw, or a deck than can operate on 3 land, this has every chance of being rubbish and so don't play it. 





Haunted Library 1

The mana cost on this trigger makes it fairly useless. I don't like relying on my opponent and their deck for my stuff to work either. 





Ethereal Investigator 5

Improbable Alliance on a 2/3 flying Thraben Inspector for the princely sum of 4 mana. At three mana this card would have been amazing. At four I am not sure it quite packs the punch needed. If you can get at least two tokens then the card is impressive but that is going to take a couple of turns to do, and likely some mana invested in non-tempo things such as cracking clues. I do like this card, it is the right sort of thing for cube but I fear getting value from it with tokens is going to be tough and cost you in a variety of ways. The card is fine and I want it to be good but it is certainly no Whirler Rogue. It may not even be a Murmuring Mystic or Master of Winds. Fairly well rounded with a useful body, an inherent two for one, and ongoing threat and value with the token production. Just a little bit lacking in power and punch for a four drop. Worth a test but probably not worth getting any sort of hopes up about. 





Disorder in the Court 3

A flicker effect with decent value and scaling potential. You can use this equally to retrigger your EtB effects, protect your dorks against removal, clear away the opponents blockers, or just kill off their tokens. This is more powerful at higher values of X as with most X spells however thanks to the clues this should at least be fine for any value. Low values will certainly have the highest instance of coming up. A bit situational and gold for my liking but something I might consider in a flicker list. 





Donal, Herald of Wings 2

Next level narrow. Much as the power level is pretty high here I am not even sure I would play this in a deck full of flying creatures. I think I would need them to all be things like Muldrifer and Cloudkin Seer to properly tempt me. The floor of Donal just being a Hill Giant is a turn off. No flying himself also hurts his potency in a deck trying to work with flyers. He has an awkwardly low floor and beyond that tends to the win more. 





Shadowgrange Archfiend 4

Well now this is actually pretty impressive. This is one of the most powerful madness cards to date and gives the mechanic a much needed push. This is massive for the cost and a reliable two for one. It is unplayable without the discard support and as such too narrow for drafting cubes. Nice and interesting for the world of constructed however. 





Predator's Hour 0

Needs too many dorks in play to be good. If you are connecting with more than a couple of dorks you are winning. If not this is dead to rubbish. Don't play situational cards that are win more. 





Scion of Opulence 2

Cool tribal card that works with blood and aristocrat sac style decks. Too narrow elsewhere. 





Glass-Cast Heart 3

A reasonable little token producer with a big old pile of upsides. Free blood tokens is great. Sacing 13 of them is unlikley to come up but is a thing you can work towards and threaten. I like this but still cannot really see it outside of a tribal deck. 





Sinister Waltz 1

Cards like this just don't do well in cube. You can just play cheaper and quicker cards to recur stuff if you are bothering to set up such things. If not then you can play more reliable sources of value and tempo at the higher costs. Not a card I expect to play with in 1v1 magic. 





Friday, 19 November 2021

Innistrad: Crimson Vow 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 



Hullbreaker Horror 2

Flash and uncounterable do help make those 7 drops more tempting but this still isn't going to be worth it for cube. Games are just done before this is doing too much. It lacks the immediate impact that a card above five mana needs to get a look in for cube. Sure, the triggers are great but they are things that only fire when you do stuff after your 7 drop. Seven drops shouldn't have much of an "after" phase and so this is a pass. Great for booster draft, EDH, and likely even standard but not for other places. 





Lantern of the Lost 4

Very much the same sort of ballpark as Relic of Progenitus and Soul-Guide Lantern. These cards are great utility yard disruption that get a lot of sideboard play. The cards are all strong but they also suck a bit more if you want to also make use of your bin which a lot of decks do. Really all this does is lower the value of the existing similar cards in rotisserie drafts! Solid but not offering much new or anything of a significant power difference. It will see play, grats. 





Howling Moon 1

Too low power without your opponent triggering it and they can avoid doing that pretty easily. Seems like a no go card, can't even see this being good in tribal. 





Odric, Blood-Cursed 1

Eek, this does laughably little. For a rare gold legend with history you would expect rather more. The floor is Trained Armadon and the ceiling is, well, basically still the Armadon... Obviously I am doing blood tokens down but you need more than just a couple of blood to make a bad card good. 





Welcoming Vampire 7

Mentor of the Meek gets a much needed, and significant face lift. Flying, a toughness, and the mana cost on the trigger removed all for the very low cost of being limited to one proc per turn. Bygone Bishop is the other comparison here and likely a better one as Bishop is better than Mentor. Bygone Bishop was a little slow for cube and Mentor was just a bit crap. Welcoming Vampire promises a bit more expedience in doing its thing and a bit more power but it is still a slow card needing support. It might be cube worthy but it is closer than you might think. The white decks that can support this sort of thing prefer their value sources to not die to mass removal along with their chances of winning. If I am playing a three mana dork in white aggro I want it to be much punchier and more threatening than this. 





Kaya, Geist Hunter 2

Impressively weak looking walker. Both the +1 and the -2 do nothing by themselves, no value, protection, nothing. The +1 not only needs stuff in play but ideally wants it to include tokens else there is no permanent value. The deathtouch aspect is offensive only and situational on top of that. Really really weak +1. The -2 needs quite specific effects to be happening alongside it and often isn't all that impressive if it does fire. Best use by a long old way is doubling up on Lingering Souls, a card that doesn't much need the help to shine. The ultimate doesn't seem worth discussing what with the rest of the card being so rubbish. I might play her in a deck built around good tokens, if I am getting a 4/4 angel or a construct with the -2 I am reasonably happy, if it is just a couple of 1/1s then it isn't making up for the times it is blank. This is narrow, situational, and not even all that powerful should you clear those hurdles. 





Witche's Web 1

Combat trick and basically a removal spell for fliers. Still a bit narrow and a bit pricy for those roles but getting closer to a playable card as far as fight style flier removal goes. 






Voldaren Epicure 5

Well this supports everything! It provides spectacle, it is stuff to sac, it is a discard outlet, a vampire, a one drop. The power is pretty low but it is a lot of stuff on a very cheap card. This will see play and in a range of places. A little bit narrow and hard to max out in draft but a great support card for plenty of different builds. Insolent Neonate is the closest card to this and while it is better for madness stuff it has less going on in other areas than Epicure while also being a less playable card on average. Epicure is going to be fine in most places.





Reckless Impulse 8

Wow. This is a subtle little gem. This is basically the red Night's Whisper. Effectively draw two for two mana is amazing. You don't often want to flop this out on turn two, or that early in the game at all but it isn't a disaster if you need to. A hand full of three drops and no lands? Then you are playing this on turn two to ensure you hit that third land on time. Obviously the ideal situation is to play it when you have the land drops and mana spare to cast any combination of things in your deck. That means needing five lands in play and one in hand and a land drop available to you if you have nothing higher than a four drop in your list. That way if you hit double 4 drop you can play one this turn and one next turn, the same for double land. This risk of hitting two top end cards is going to be fairly low and not something you need to worry about all that often. The bigger issue is playing this in reactive decks. Being forced into playing cards within a time frame often wastes them. Luckily red is fairly proactive and as such I cannot see me leaving this out of many base red decks. The cheaper and more aggressive they are the more consistently I will play Reckless Impulse. I like this more than Light up the Stage even though the average mana cost for Impulse is going to be a tiny bit higher. I value the convenience of being able to play Impulse whenever I like for a good rate more than I value the ability to get an exceptional rate sometimes. High floor is preferable to high ceiling in general and doubly so with support and setup cards. Impulse is more playable than Light up the Stage in both deck construction and in game and that makes it a much better choice for cube inclusion. 





Flame-Blessed Bolt 4

If Unholy Heat were not a thing this might be quite the handy little removal spell. It has certainly ended any play Magma Spray was going to get! There is increasing amounts of room in cubes for burn that doesn't go face but I think the more versatile options carry more weight. I still feel as if I would prefer to play Pillar of Flame over Bolt if I really wanted more exile utility in red.





End the Festivities 2

This isn't playable by itself but it could be a solid sideboard card or a cheeky support card to pair with some scaling effects like Torbran. The cost of End is so low with such a wide range of targets simultaneously hit that is scales better than basically any other damage spell in magic. A bit spray and pray but not a card to ignore. 





Ancestral Anger 2

Give a dork +1/+0 and trample at sorcery speed is too low impact to be worth the risk. If you have no targets you can't cycle this and that makes it super dodgy. It would be fantastic otherwise being a bit of free damage and utility while supporting all those spells matter cards. Mostly this is something for Feather the Redeemed decks. 





Persistent Specimen 1

Just a bit rubbish. You want the recursion to be cheap not the main casting cost and so this is not close to competing with Reassembling Skeleton, which itself is pretty tame in the world of cube. 





Undying Malice 2

Functional reprints of useful one drops are always the most welcome of such cards. These effects got a lot better with the MH2 evoke dorks but they are still pretty narrow as far as cubes go. 





Vampire's Kiss 2

Cool support card but not doing enough to be worth including in many places. You have to really want a lot of what this card offers and I can't see that many decks needing multiple aspects of what this does for you. 





Gift of Fangs 3

Cool art makes me want to use this! Dead Weight isn't cube worthy but it is absolutely playable and really quite good when you get synergies going with it. This is better and has more synergies so it will get some use but remains a long way off being good enough for most cubes. 





Blood Fountain 6

This is a kind of black take on Witching Well. The card is very slow but it offers a lot of value and a lot of synergy support. Two artifacts for one mana is impressive. So much so that some affinity style deck may play it as a kind of Ritual with upside. 





Selhoff Entomber 2

I am just never trading the ability to loot lands and other non-creatures for 2 toughness extra on my Looter. I might play this in a tribal deck as an extra body with some utility but I am never playing in place of a proper Looter in any sort of non-tribal deck.




 

Fear of Death 1

Not very powerful but having a couple of different synergies on the go will occasionally line up and get this some action! 





Cradle of Safety 1

Low cost is the most important thing with dork protection cards and this being two mana pretty much rules it out even with some ongoing benefits and aura synergies. 





Alchemist's Retrieval 2

Lovely simple design. Sadly the bounce that does well in cube is bounce with upsides and/or high ceilings. This is just an option on two different low key modes. 





Traveling Minister 4

Broadly just an upgrade on Soulmender. I will have this front and centre in an aggressive lifegain deck and probably still have it in the list in most other decks built around lifegain. It is not likely however to be making it into any decks without use for the life, there are just better one drops at doing the buffing side of things. 




Piercing Light 2

Slap a scry on a one drop that isn't bad and you jump quite a lot in power. A few years ago I think this would have had a real chance but removal got pretty nuts recently and so I don't see this getting there. Too many of those pesky utility creatures now have more than 2 toughness as well making life extra awkward for these one mana removal spells. Ideally I want my removal to deal with a Ragavan before it hits me, a Dragon's Rage Channeler once it has delirium, and an Ignoble Hierarch that isn't attacking and this poor card only gets one of those three new MH2 generated problems...





Parish-Blade Trainee 1

Looks cool and well suited to a counters deck but I suspect we are well past this kind of thing cutting it in synergy decks. This needs to attack with a buddy and grow and then die before it is impressive and that is all far too slow and low power. 





Nurturing Presence 1

Powerful effect but needing of a target and always that risk of eating a two for one. Indeed, the token, while nice, is not worth a card or two mana, and so it is not just instant speed removal getting that two for one feeling but any removal at all on the enchanted dork. Obviously if not removed this can get pretty big and take down a game but that doesn't make it good. 





Heron-Blessed Geist 1

This is not ruined by the need of an enchantment to "flashback" as much as it is by the useless front end. I quite like this as a very poor Lingering Souls in a deck that is full of discard outlets and enchantments but then what deck is that? And presumably some such thing is heavy combo or synergy and has little use of some random flying tokens...





Ragged Recluse // Odious Witch 2

Even in a deck chock full of discard I am not sure I can get behind this. In a synergy deck the bar for a good ceiling is rather higher than with a normal deck. A two mana 3/3 wtih a drain on attack trigger isn't even all that impressive without having to flip to it! It certainly wouldn't be a bomb and might not even see enough play to remain in cube! As such I don't see this getting much love. Not powerful enough for the synergies but certainly not powerful enough without.






Binding Geist // Spectral Binding 1

The front end is just a bit too fragile, especially with no fliying. The back end is nice but not nice enough to play in a deck that cannot always bypass the front side. Impressive looking card for a common, this has a real uncommon feel to it.