Thursday, 11 January 2018

Devotion Green

Wild GrowthApparently this sort of deck is getting a lot of traction in modern at the moment which I find quite interesting as it has been an increasingly popular direction to go in cube. I added enchantment ramp to the cube a while back and it has helped maintain a bursty ramp style of deck in green that isn't vulnerable to burn and mass removal in the same way as those leaning on Gaea's Cradle and creature ramp. It has also greatly increased the power of Arbor Elf and Garruk Wildspeaker! There are a lot more advantages to using enchantment ramp beyond safety and abuse with untap effects. Those are the main two certainly but you can make use of nice synergies such as Enchantress effects or delirium more easily with so many extra enchantments in your list. That is basically the premise of the deck, enchantment ramp as the core combining with Nykthos to empower delirium and with untap effects to double up on ramp earlier in the game.

The modern shell of this deck is very similar to most incarnations of green ramp decks in the cube. The modern build has a bit more reliance on tutors and a few less old broken cards it can use. The main difference is that I am not running Burning Tree Emissary in this list, you don't have the consistency in cube to merit wasting a card on a 2/2. The extra burst it provides does not offset the power per card cost in cube.

Oath of NissaIt is not all upside, by using the enchantment ramp over creatures you lose some consistency on your Overrun kills via Garruk and Craterhoof which are your main routes to victory. You also lose some general utility in protecting and threatening planeswalkers. The list I have given below is not super refined or tested, it is an example list showing the various cards and ratios you want to be looking at when doing this sort of thing in cube. It is threat light compared to my more classic versions of ramp green but this list makes up for that with more tutor, dig and recursion effects than I normally run. It can get away with less threats overall using only the premium ones it needs in combination with the dig and tutors. While it is space efficient it is a little rougher when you come up against lots of removal and mill effects. 
Arbor Elf

24 Spells

Arbor Elf
Wild Growth
Utopia Sprawl
Oath of Nissa

Magus of the Candelabra
Joraga Treespeaker
Llanowar Elf
Garruk WildspeakerFyndhorn Elf

Sylvan Library
Fertile Ground
Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary

Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
Growing Rites of Itlimoc
Eternal Witness
Courser of Kruphix

Garruk Wildspeaker
Eidolon of Blossoms

Nissa, Worldwaker
Nykthos, Shrine to NyxPrimal Command

Primeval Titan

Hornet Queen

Craterhoof Behemoth

Walking Ballista

16 Lands

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
Kessig Wolf-Run

Stomping Ground
Wooded Foothills
Raging Ravine

10 Forests

Eidolon of BlossomsI didn't even bother running Cradle in this list. While it is great it comes with two vulnerabilities, doing nothing until you have dorks and doing nothing again when your dorks get killed. Low land hands with Cradle can often need throwing back where you could have kept if it were a forest. This deck doesn't need the Cradle as much as other ramp versions as it has more things that generate multiple mana and is more focused on safety and consistency.

I ran an Eidolon of Blossoms as a source of card advantage. It is basically a direct replacement for Oracle of Mul Daya that you can do in this build. I like most of the things about it but it does make me want Explore effects more. Getting a load of land clogging up your hand that you can't put to use is annoying and with a decent amount of draw and not all that much pulling lands out of the deck I can see that happening from time to time. Perhaps you can run both the 4 mana 2/2s!? If not I would at least like to find some room for Explore.

Traverse the UlvenwaldAnother mini theme you can run that I did not in this list is a delirium one. Traverse the Ulvenwald is a lovely card in this list finding all the things you want it too once you have delrium. Ishkanah is immensely powerful even with no access to black mana and these kinds of deck have sufficient mana production to go all the way up to Emrakul, the Promised End. Having Ishkanah and Emrakul in your list, especially with a tutor for either, greatly reduces the pressure on your Craterhoof Behemoth as the win condition which in turn reduces the pressure on you to maintain a high creature count. As you can see, green ramp is an immensely deep and diverse deck in how you can build it in cube. Even the different directions you can take it have themselves multiple distinct things you can then do.

Walking Ballista feels a bit like a must in this non delirium version of the deck. My experience of using Nykthos is that it tends to be overkill mana. While it may not have the same burst potential as Cradle it does tend to produce rather more mana, both in one go and over the course of a game. As such you want a powerful mana sink and for that none come better than Ballista. With it being such a significant role filler in the deck I ensured all the tutors I played would be able to find it effectively which sadly does rule out a lot of the exotic stuff that is being abused in modern.

Magus of the CandelabraEarthcraft and Magus of the Candelabra are quite full on. Neither do huge amounts without a land that taps for multiple mana, specifically a basic one boosted that way for the former. These are probably things you can cut for more stand alone cards, likely alongside Growing Rites. I mostly wanted to showcase some exotic and unusual cards! I always like it when a deck lets a card shine in cube these cards have multiple things going on here that make them especially well suited to the list.

I didn't bother adding in too many utility dorks which I likely should have. Acidic Slime and Scavenging Ooze are the most appropriate and appear in most modern lists. The lower threat count and high tutor count makes such inclusions pretty sensible. Failing that a little more utility disruption might well be found in planeswalkers such as Freyalise, Karn and Ugin. Not to mention all the Golgari ones! If the exotic cards like Magus then I would be looking to replace them with some disruptive tutor targets or indeed more dig effects.

Below is a list of many more cards ranging from the exotic to the every day, from the limp to the powerful. The main, if not only thing, they have in common is that they are also suitable cards for this kind of deck. There is no huge logic to this list other than it being cards I considered while making the list which I felt either sad or bad about not having included!

Sylvan Scrying
Elvish VisionaryGaea's Cradle
Voyaging Satyr
Elvish Mystic
Abundant/Unbridled Growth
Karametra's Acoloyte
Dragonlord Atarka
Xenagos, God of Revels
Candelabra of Tawnos
Hope Tender
Elvish Visionary
Wall of Blossoms
Vessel of Nascency
Oracle of Mul Daya
Traverse the Ulvenwald
Scavenging Ooze
Acidic Slime
Chord of Calling

Monday, 8 January 2018

Rivals of Ixalan: Conclusions and Additions

Despite seeming like a very silly theme for a set when Ixalan first started to be spoiled in the summer I have to say I think the block has been a big flavour win. I like the feel of the sets, I love the things that flip into lands. The art on those new uncommon dual lands is divine, if only they were good! That sentiment sadly permeates throughout the set, particularly RIX - if only it was good... Rivals has to be the least powerful set relative to the cube I have seen in over a decade. It is not just that it is low average power but it is also an incredibly safe set. All the good things are not dangerous or powerful cards, they are just suitable cards. There are a mere six things I am willing to call outright good enough for the cube but most of them are borderline and none of them are bombs. I think the highest rating any card got in the set was a 7/10 and one of those was to a jumped up Savannah Lions! All six of the additions are creatures and they mostly have two power. None of them will really change much in the cube. Some things will have more options, depth and power but so marginally it isn't going to shift things at all.

All the interesting cards in this set are so narrow there is just no chance of them working out well in a drafting cube unless you ruin if by putting in as much support as you can find for these cards. Stuff like Induced Amnesia and Blood Sun can do awesome things but are not cards you can just put into a cube and have them do stuff. They likely both need other do nothing low powered cards to make things happen.

Ixalan block has brought a lot of things for tribal decks, mostly vampires and merfolk as pirates and dinosaurs were not a thing prior to the block. While there are a lot of good cards for the vampires and merfolk they are not doing all that much for the drafting cube either. Tribal themes are hard to include in any sort of draft format without making it narrow, dull or imbalanced and cube is no exception. Tribal decks are great fun and many are pretty powerful but they should sensibly remain the thing of the more constructed formats. Two mana lords for example are great, they are some of the best tribal cards on offer but they are not having any impact on the drafting cube. While I am very welcoming of all the new tribal offerings from this set it is a little bit of a shame that so many good white vampires and green merfolk saw print. In both cases it now feels like you really need to be Mardu and Simic respectively for those tribes now and in some senses that is a restriction. Green is certainly the least appealing colour for a tempo blue deck to pair with as both colours fail at killing creatures. White may be a happy third colour for vampires but three colours does put a lot of strain on a mana base for a tempo deck.

Of the six added cards I would not be at all shocked to see only a few remaining in the drafting cube in a couple of years. They are typically just not that much of an upgrade and are such common sorts of cards I can see many better things coming along and taking their slots. I have two and a half times as many cards to test out than the auto includes. I don't really hold out much hope for any of them bar Jadelight Ranger and Dusk Legion Zealot. All the cards are very much suffering the same troubles as the actual inclusions, they are mostly just dorks that don't change much. Some might be a little bit of fun to try out but as I mentioned several times in the reviews, many cards feel like they are 5 to 10 years overdue. So many things from this set would have done loads of work in older versions of the cube but power creep is to a point where few of these things really hit the bar. Basically as far as cube is concerned this set might as well not exist and things would be pretty much the same. As a cube player I don't expect much from any given set but it would be really nice to get some interesting and exciting cards rather than safe, tried and tested versions of the same thing. The fact that they have printed bad Rampant Growth for a while now is a pretty scary omen. I think they have balance and card design sufficiently well mapped out and understood now that they need to intentionally start pushing the boat out so as to make things generally more interesting. Some braver card design is needed.

I used to think as a cube player there wasn't much call for Wizards to cater for my needs, I wasn't contributing in the way a drafter or constructed player would economically. I have however given some thought to that attitude and can probably in fact make a pretty good case for why it would be well in Wizards interests to consider cube players as well as vintage, modern, EDH, standard, draft, and the rest. Sure, the job is already impossibly hard to perfect but you only need a couple of cards per set to keep us happy and take our money. Hell, you could put it all in the Commander sets and not have to worry about imbalance. I spend more on magic now just as a cube player than I did when I played the game full time both constructed and limited. A lot of that is down to my personal economic positions at those times but still, the point remains, there is money I want to spend on magic as a pure cube player and this set is only going to get at a fraction of that due to how dull and weak it is for cube. Take my money! Make more cube cards! Creep that power more adventurously! At least make more good removal, it is not like that can ever be too oppressive!

To add to the drafting cube

Thrashing Brontodon
Ravenous Chupacabra
Skymarcher Aspirant
Warkite Marauder
Direfleet Poisoner
Direfleet Daredevil

To test out

Paladin of Attonement
Jadelight Ranger
Tilonalli's Summoner
Baffling End
Dusk Legion Zealot
Rekindling Phoenix
Fanatical Firebrand
Azor's Gateway // Sanctum of the Sun
Mastermind's Acquisition
Twilight Prophet
Wayward Swordtooth
Curious Obsession
Oathsworn Vampire
Riverwise Augur
Martyr of Dusk

To get for constructed uses, sideboards, combo and tribal decks etc.
*indicates an actually good card with some homes already

The Immortal Sun
Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca
Tendershoot Dryad
Gleaming Barrier
Journey to Eternity // Atzal, Cave of Eternity
Elenda, the Dusk Rose
Radiant Destiny*
Seafloor Oracle*
Merfolk Mistbinder*
Daring Buccaneer
Admiral's Order
Legion Lieutenant*
Induced Amnesia
World Shaper*
Pirate's Pillage
Dead Man's Chest
Profane Procession // Tomb of the Dusk Rose
Silent Gravestone
Forerunner of the Coalition
Forerunner of the Legion
Forerunner of the Empire
Forerunner of the Heralds
Deeproot Elite*
Flood of Recollection
Golden Demise
Crafty Cutpurse
Slaughter the Stong
Release to the Wind
Blood Sun
Pitiless Plunderer
Hadana's Climb*
Expel from Orazca
Reckless Rage
Jungleborn Pioneer*
Jade Bearer
Shake the Foundations
Grasping Scoundrel
Mist-Cloaked Herald

Rivals of Ixalan Preliminary Review (Final) Part IX

Stormfleet Swashbucker 1

Scourge Wolf seems like a far better version of this. It is better to begin with and seems quicker and easier to turn on. By the time you reach ascension a 2/2, doublestriking or otherwise, is going to be super low impact unless you also happen to have some equipment to put on it. Not close to enough payoff for a card that is mostly a Grizzly Bear. Perhaps in a tribal deck?...

Pride of Conqueror's 1

Cheap and one of the more likely aggressive cards to have the city's blessing for. The problem is mana shouldn't be the issue when using this kind of card, it should be later in the game. Consistency is more important and so a card like Guardian's Pledge has more value. This isn't a bad card it is just a little too awkward for the kind of effect it has. The balance of cost, effect and consistency are not ideal.

Curious Obsession 4

This seems pretty acceptable all round. The low cost to play this combined with the immediate stats boost means this should be able to avoid immediate blowout removal and get to swing in forcing a chump or a draw. All in all this should get immediate value a lot of the time if played in an appropriate deck. What makes this good is that it is then an ongoing threat they must deal with else they are pretty done. Three cards or chump blocks from this should be most games sealed up and two would be a big win. If blue had more playable cheap dorks and less Illusions that die when you target them among those cards then this might have a shot at the drafting cube. I think in the right deck this is a good amount of tempo and value and commands some respect.

Everdawn Champion 0

This is a bit small and pointless to do much of much. It is no True-Name Nemesis that is for sure! I think Beloved Chaplain probably does more.

Expel from Orazca 3

This is a decent card that sits alongside Into the Roil and other such 1U non-land Boomerang (Disperse) effects. You get the baseline acceptable bounce effect and then some value. This set is full of these safe baseline cards with mechanical or flavour bolt on effects. We have the ascend Infest, the raid Cancel and now we have the ascend Disperse. Expel turns into a Temporal Spring when you have the blessing which is a pretty big deal. It is substantially more powerful than Disperse, I would argue also that it is better than a kicked Into the Roil (cost aside) but that is more up for debate. The kinds of decks that want cards like this typically don't get to 10 permanents very quickly and while the upside is nice it is not the game breaking kind of upside found on Cyclonic Rift and that is the sort of thing you want as an effect that only comes on line later in the day. A bit of extra value and disruption are not really worth the wait. Most of why these kinds of cards are good is because you can use them in a wide array of situations from very early one. That flexibility and tempo is worth the card loss. As such you end up using these cards early more than you use them late. This means that with Expel, you would see a fairly small bonus a fairly small amount of the time and so the card really doesn't average out as that much better than Disperse. Something like a Cyclonic Rift has such a game changing effect that even if it is not commonly used it still has a big impact on the value of the card. Anyway, this is a fine spell but there are not many situations where this is the choice Disperse and it clearly isn't more valuable than the Rift on average. The kind of place I might play this would be something like a Lanterns deck in modern, pretty good there!

Knight of the Stampede 0

Nope. Poor stats, no immediate bonuses or impact. You can do worlds better than this for a four drop ramp card, you can do plenty better at three, and in neither case would you have to limit yourself to ramping into dinos. This just comes far too late and at far too much cost for what it is trying to do. Support cards want to look like Kinjali's Caller and Otepec Huntmaster, not this.

Oathsworn Vampire 4.5

This is a great tribal and themed deck support card. Vampires have sacrifice and discard synergies on the go and this works with both of them. Lifegain is fairly common in vampires and so this should be a pretty easy trigger to get. It is just an overpriced Diregraf Ghoul but any dork that comes back from the bin cheaply and can block is decent. If you are initially discarding this and then exclusively recurring it then it is broadly rather better than Dread Wanderer. Lifegain probably isn't common enough in my drafting cube to support this as much as it would need. It could be done but I don't think this is quite enough payoff to be worth doing that. This is a great card in a few places and that is happy enough.

Reckless Rage 2

To get an instant speed Flame Slash you need to Shock one of your own dorks. That is painful and unreliable and not something you would consider doing unless you had enrage triggers to milk. At that point this card is looking like rather good value. Super narrow but certainly immensely potent when you are able to turn drawback into upside. This is also cute with Threaten effects. The more I think about it the more support applications this seems to have. In some ways it is a red Cabal Therapy kind of thing that lets you fire off your Academy Rector etc.

Relentless Raptor 1

This is solid enough. In the decks you would typically want to play this the drawback isn't going to be a huge one. It is very well designed in that the vigilance can also be a drawback on this card. I would love to have seen this as a mono coloured card costed at 1R or 1W as then it would have been cube worthy. As it is you might find this in a dino deck but that is it. No way this is getting in the cube before Veteran Motorist.

Riverwise Augur 4

Brainstorm on 2/2 legs for four. This is neither great tempo nor great value. This is only a two for one if you consider a 2/2 (in the midgame) to be worth a card. This is only tempo if you consider doing anything to affect the board as tempo. I think doing nothing isn't the baseline you want to work with for evaluating tempo but what you consider the average thing to be done on that turn. Certainly the average turn four in cube is far more tempo than a 2/2 and so I would call this card a mild tempo concession. Where this does start to look really good is as a way to put three new cards in your hand without breaking the bank on mana or crippling yourself on tempo. It is a Sea Gate Oracle that digs a little deeper, has a bit more significance in combat and that can help setup certain library synergies. There are lots of occasions where you make a Jace knowing all he is doing is the one Brainstorm and then eating an attack. Riverwise Augur does that bit of Jace better than Jace does! I think this will see a bit of merfolk play trying to enjoy the combination with Aether Vial. I think this will see some play in decks doing things with the top of their deck like miracles and Erratic Explosion. Beyond that I am not sure that this has a huge role to play in cube. Four mana is just so much to pay for a card with zero threat and no ongoing value potential. I will certainly test this out, never underestimate a draw three card. I have done so too often to my peril! This will probably have more chance in modern where Brainstorm is a much more reliably potent effect (with everyone eligible to play upto 40 sac lands!) and library manipulation from hand is minimal.

See Red 1

Hmm, normally creature enchants are terrible as they let your opponent two for one you easily. In red however getting in two damage is typically worth a card. You want more but it is a passable baseline. I can see this flopping down on a one drop turning it into a 4 powered first strike dork. This not only ensures 2 damage from the See Red but also milks a further 2 damage out of the one drop. Much like the blue enchantment, this pays for itself, all be in it a different kind of currency, on one hit. Given that it is cheap and potent enough to make that one hit happen pretty reliably assuming you have a decent creature count the card feels like it is good. It offers ongoing value and pressure and good tempo. It reliably pays for itself and breaths new life into otherwise useless cards. Despite this praise it is likely still too low powered and narrow for the drafting cube but these cheap creature auras do seem the place with most of the power creep at present. We are due a new updated Rancor level of card soon! I think I will test this out a bit just to see how it feels. Madcap Skills is probably just better than this so I don't know why I am more drawn to this. I never considered testing out the Skills when it was spoiled. Perhaps it is just an indication of how tempo driven things have turned in my cube over the past couple of years.

Slippery Scoundrel 0

This would be worse than Invisible Stalker if it didn't need the blessing. Given it is the kind of card you would use in a deck that didn't get the blessing all that quickly the card is a no hoper.

Jungleborn Pioneer 4

This is probably just what a fish deck wants. On its own this is very low powered however it takes very little synergy to make this pretty great. Hexproof scales with strength and so on a 1/1 it is near worthless but make that a 2/2 unblockable and it is rather more significant. A simple lord turns this three drop into a rather tasty looking 5/5 of stats. Fish decks want merfolk tokens for loads of reasons but have had few good options to do so until now. This is direct, uncomplicated, immediate and exactly what most fish deck need.

Jade Bearer 2

Sadly this is not another premium one drop for the fishes. This is no use turn one and that is when the one drops are needed. You might play this just for a cheap merfolk in a very aggressive list but it isn't solving one of the issues the deck has. I don't think it has the power level to really compete with the two drops and that is what this card needs to do. The best thing this does is of course, with Aether Vial. This is a really good thing to pop out on turn two when you have a Vial on one and you just cast a two drop fish. If you kill an attacker or counter a removal spell with it you probably just won.

Cacophodon 1

This has combo potential written on it but it also smacks of a convoluted and bad combo. I doubt this ever sees cube play, it certainly isn't good enough as a stand alone card.

Tilonalli's Crown 0.5

This has some lovely versatility in that it can ping things down or buff up your own guys. In the dream it can buff your dude and get an enrage trigger! All nice in theory but all a bit too best case scenario for what is really a quite low powered card.

Shake the Foundations 2.5

The damage output to cost is not great but the card draw side of things feels like it really makes up for that a lot! Instant is lovely too on a card like this. This is too clunky to run main in anything and doesn't seem like a drafting cube card at all but it is a fine enough sideboard tool to have and makes red that bit more dynamic without giving up any colour pie identity.

Reaver Ambush 1

A non devoid Complete Disregard. It never took off and it wasn't for lack of being black so this shouldn't either. Three is just too much to pay for a card that is generally killing things that cost three or less. It is too narrow given how hard it is to gain tempo from it. Instant and exile are nice to have so for specific purposes this might be the card of choice, like in the sideboard of something constructed.

Grasping Scoundrel 3

This is terrible compared to what I would consider a good one drop beater these days but it is still plenty good enough to be playable and still one of blacks better one drop beaters. If this were a vampire or a zombie this thing would be getting some action, as a human he is probably just missing out but still, depressing that a card this limp is still a consideration.

Mist-Cloaked Herald 3

Shockingly Triton Shorestalker is one of the better one drop merfolk on offer and has always impressed me when I use it. I expect exactly the same from this card!

Snubhorn Sentry 0.5

Cool card. A wall early and then some action in the mid to late game. This isn't offensive enough to play in an aggressive deck and it isn't potent enough to go in control or midrange. Perhaps this goes in a dino deck? Seems unlikely but I do still like this card.

Martyr of Dusk 5

This is a nice little support card. It is very mild wrath protection, it is good with token sacrifice archetypes, it is better with Honor the Pure than Loyal Cathar is! It is good with Skullclamp, it is probably just good enough to play in tribal decks. This is a super fair card but it certainly has several homes. It is fringe playable in the cube, great filler and great for fine tuning archetypes and balance but not a high powered card by any means. I suspect this will be fine, I suspect it will see some play but mostly it will not be in the drafting cube. This is a Carrier Thrall in white, probably a less good one and certainly in a colour that needed it less. Thrall sees minimal play and is approaching the cutting block. RIX seems to have printed loads and loads of cards exactly at the point at which they have stopped being cube worthy... Cards that would have been solid auto includes five years ago and best in slot a decade ago. It almost feels like the game is getting too mapped out and balanced which in turn is making it duller. I want as many of the cards in a set to be playable as possible and that has been improving well over time. Sadly it seems like it is at the cost of the bombs and we are seeing less and less interesting cards that change the dynamic of the game.

Blazing Hope 1

Curious little card. This seems pretty bad for cube all told. It really shouldn't have any targets until you are at quite a dangerous life total. This is basically useless against an aggressive red deck as by the time it kills anything you are one burn spell off dead. This is another card that would have been great against Marit Lage, perhaps there are some unbannings in the pipelines? It is decent enough against Death's Shadow too but I think Condemn probably already has that role locked up in modern for white. In a deck like Necropotence or Death's Shadow this could be used more effectively as removal with so much control over life totals but they are not typically white archetypes. I see this as a super narrow sideboard card and probably nothing more. It is narrow and generally unplayable like Dispatch but it doesn't have the obvious homes in which to shine like the Dispatch.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Rivals of Ixalan Preliminary Review Part VIII

Azor's Gateway // Sanctum of the Sun 5

Well well well. When I read this the first time I was so surprised I made some indescribable exclamation noise, the closest I can do for a description is a guffaw. I greatly appreciate the insane raw power this offers. A land that taps for two is usually pretty broken so why not have a land that taps for at least three times that? This is just so much mana it is past the point of useful to have more. It is not ten times better than most other lands because you probably can't spend all the mana it offers on the turn you get it, let alone subsequent turns! This might as well read, flip this to gain five life and have all mana costs of spells and abilities reduced to zero (outside of infinite combo potentials at least). For this to be tempting in a deck you really have to have mana sinks. This only offers mana so unless you can do some special things with a total boat load of it then Sanctum of the Sun is not for you. I somewhat feel like that pushes the card into the realms of narrow. Yes, all decks love mana but this is so much and so slowly that you really need to have built around it to get any real sort of payoff. It isn't great in a ramp deck as it is slow to flip but it wants to play with the sorts of stuff ramp decks have in them so as to make use of the mana. I am looking at this card back to front however as all these flip cards hinge on the front end. If Azor's Gateway is good then five life and just a land is a fantastic payoff already and you don't need to fully abuse the infinite mana to make it worth while.

So, what is Azor's Gateway? It is a two drop looter effect that offers no graveyard synergies. It is a weak support card as such but still a playable card quality effect. Two mana upfront is the standard cost for a looter that can loot once a turn. This requires a mana to do each loot but I think that is fine with it being possible in any colour, something you can do right away, not a rummage, and not on a vulnerable 1/1. If you are in the business for some slow card quality then this is fine. It is mostly better than Treasure Map on the front end and that card has performed well and seen plenty of play. The only time it is worse is when you cannot risk exiling certain cards in your deck. All told, this has a lot of similarities to Treasure Map. Both are quite cheap and very low initial impact that offer some card quality over time and then ultimately flip into some potential payoff. Both can almost immediately upon flipping redeem most, if not all of the mana invested in them on the way to flipping. Map has the bonus of flipping sooner and having the option on taking mana or cards as needed at the time. Gateway is slower and only provides mana and as such needs the extra support. A big difference between this and Map is not that this needs five things and Map needs 3 but that Map is a guaranteed progression each time while Gateway really isn't. I suspect it will not commonly flip on the quickest possible fifth activation. I reckon the average will be closer double that, perhaps 8 or 9 goes before it flips. Late game you mostly want to ditch lands or cheap things. Unless you get some four plus drops exiled with it early game it may well never flip! I find my cube decks on average these days have fairly little top end. Rarely more than eight or more 4 or more CMC cards and often enough none! This would literally be unflippable in some decks, or need the one copy of the alternative cost card like Fireblast or Treasure Cruise to be the final different CMC exiled thing. So this isn't easy to flip nor is it any sort of certain payoff when it does. Despite that it is certainly not a bad thing just to have around looting for you, that may even be better than it flipping in some cases. Despite the insane power this card has I think it is remarkably fair. It isn't easily abused, it just seems all round playable filler with some interesting potential upside! Mostly this is filtering which I can see white being very keen on. Every now and again it is mana mania and that might be helpful! I am not sitting on the fence with my rating of five, I think it is pretty much that good. You can put it in cubes and decks and it will be fine, you can add in some support for it and it will be a little bit better, although still not broken, and so it might not be worth the effort. I suspect a lot of the occasions you might think you want this a Treasure Map will simply be better. It is an impressive design feat getting so much power into a card that is neither broken nor unplayable. It will also give some good stories, the time you flip it when already on like 40 life and get to make a Walking Ballista so big it one shots your opponent from 20 on the spot with shots left in it!

Arch of Orazca 1

This seems fairly weak with six mana being so much to draw a card. The best use for this feels like as something in play to give you the city's blessing when you pop upto 10 permanents in a deck expecting to get there somewhat quickly but not likely to stay there all that long; For this to be worth doing there would need to be good, powerful and synergic ascend card of which there don't seem to be. This wouldn't be much different without the ascend aspect to the card. Not only will you very rarely want to use the ability but you should generally have the blessing before you did anyway. The thing that makes this bad is that for the amount of extra value it provides I would much rather run a basic land and make my colour production better.

Moment of Craving 0

This is far far from the Lighning Helix equivalent of Disfigure. The main reason being that Helix is a Searing Spear not a Lightning Bolt, Searing Spear is plenty good enough at 2 and so the 3 life is basically free. Disfigure is not playable at two and so this two life is anything but free. Removal is rarely the place you want to tack on a bit of value for a bit more cost. Removal is best when it is cheapest and most efficient and this isn't that.

Mutiny 0

This took me a few reads through to appreciate how awful it is. It looks good because it is cheap and targets lots of your opponents stuff. In practice it is the worlds worst Flame Slash. This can't hit players, it does nothing if they only have one creauture. It almost always kills the 2nd best creature they have. For this to be better than a Flameslash they need a 5 power creature and a 5 toughness creature in play meaning after the Mutiny they will still have a five power creature in play which still sounds bad for you.

Blood Sun 2

This is a lot of tempo loss to shut down utility lands in a draft cube setting. The reason being is that most still have mana abilities and so you are only half dealing with something. Sure, it is probably the thing you wanted to deal with but it feels like red has better ways of dealing with non-basic lands. Lands have better ways of dealing with non-basic lands so... This isn't something you would ever play as a counter to something in your main deck either, it does too little and has too high a cost. Perhaps you could run this blind at two mana but at three it is clogging things up too much.

This card is getting a lot of traction for other reasons beyond the ability to shut off utility lands! Turns out sac lands don't have mana abilities which I always seem to forget. Blood Sun hoses sac lands pretty hard which is a big deal in modern, legacy and vintage but is rather less worthy of a deck slot in cube. Most decks have a sac land or two in cube but it isn't worth running a hoser for one or two cards and if it was you would probably run Stifle or Shadow of Doubt instead and you don't!

The other area this is interesting is in combination with the Ravnica bounce lands and Scorched Ruins / Lotus Vale all of which become quite substantially better under the influence of Blodo Sun! Lands that tap from between 2 and 4 mana on the turn you make them with no drawback what so ever sounds really rather good. Again, I am not sure you can properly abuse this fact in cube but it does seem like it could be a thing in other formats. If you can shut off half your opponents lands and have half your lands being grossly unfair then that is a big win. In cube this is a narrow and fair sideboard option or a part of a silly and unreliable combo deck, neither of which sounds very powerful or important. In other formats however this is a potential game changer and I look forward to seeing how that pans out.

Sun Collared Raptor 1

One of the better cheap dinosaur cards on offer. This is a very solid mana sink with this interesting take on Firebreathing. Raptor plus untapped mana is going to be uncomfortable to block and will force awkward choices. It is a little to low powered without further mana investment and a little too bland to be a good stand alone card but at least it has an underpopulated tribe to fall back on!

Raging Regisaur 1

This would have been a really impressive creature a decade or so ago. Now it looks like it needs haste or something to be much of a consideration. You probably play this as decent quality filler in a cube dino deck. It is probably still a bad zoo deck.

Zacama, Primal Calamity 1

Immense power but at 9 mana in three colours this is too much. We have seven and eight drops in single colours (or none at all!) that are comparably devastating. Much like Sactum of the Sun offers too much mana, this offers too much power! It would still be pretty game winning in most cases with 80% of the power it currently has but it would be a lot more than 20% more playable if you reduced the cost and colour requirements in line with power reductions. There is a sweet spot for these kinds of things and it resides a good chunk below Zacama. Another issue Zacama has is that it commands a specific kind of playing, you can't cheat it out and have it be very impressive, you have to cast it and you have to cast it mostly using lands else it isn't having enough impact right away. This is cool but it seems very unlikely to get any cube attention.

Mastermind's Acquisition 4.5

Oooh. Well this is quite the upgrade to Diabolic Tutor! Slap on a Death Wish option that, while costing a mana more than the original, does do you the courtesy of not eating up half your life! Three mana is usually enough to make a sorcery speed, zero tempo tutor effect weak and see little to no cube play. At four this is a very steep tempo cost but it is a supremely wide tutor and feels a bit too powerful to ignore. Obviously that power depends a lot on how you play Wish effects in your cube and what kind of cube format you are doing. I will certainly be testing this out in the drafting cube but I suspect it will be a little too slow. Outside of that I am sure it will see some fringe use at the very least. Super cool card. Immense amounts of options and potential.

Champion of Dusk 2

Pricey but direct and effective. This is a fine stand alone card but it is too far up the curve to be what you want. This is in fact just a scaled up Dusk Legion Zealot when it is your only vampire. As Deadeye Brawler demonstrated all ready, adding a mana cost just to gain +1/+1 on a creature with other abilities is a really bad deal. In a tribal deck Champion of Dusk packs a lot more punch in terms of drawing power but it is a rather odd kind of payoff for a top end tribal card. Bishop of the Bloodstained ends the game, this prolongs it, and even with a huge pile of new cards that may well not be the best thing. I like this more than Graveborn Muse with the more relevant and useful body, the more immediate and reliable card influx, and the lower risk of having it doing critical damage to you. Muse has not been seeing much love at all recently and so this isn't looking super likely to get cube action. Another one of the many cards that are powerful but just come too far up the curve for their kind of effect.

Pitiless Plunderer 2

This is a bit of a 4 mana 1/4. It is super weak but it does have combo potential written all over it. While Pawn of Ulamog is generally cheaper and better the Plunderer does trigger off tokens and is able to survive better so has safer and broader combo applications. The ability to generate coloured mana helps a lot there too Don't play this unless it is a combo/engine piece.

Twilight Prophet 4.5

This card has 3 modes of action, a 2/4 flier for 4. A 2/4 flier for four that is also a personal Howling Mine. And a 2/4 flier for four with a personal Howling Mine that also drains them for 3 or so each turn! I think there is a reasonable distinction between modes two and three as you need library manipulation to do a hefty hit with any consistency. You certainly can't rely on any damage of lifegain from this card without the manipulation. Either way, you are pretty happy with modes 2 or 3, that is enough power to afford a cube worthy four drop. The quality of this is mostly down to how bad the first mode is and how long you are likely to sit with it in that mode.  A 2/4 flier is great but not at four and not when it has no other immediate impact. This kind of card eats bounce and spot removal and sets you pretty far back. You find a lot of cards like this in the three slot but at four it is a bit too much risk to invest heavily in a relatively low stat dork that doesn't do anything unless it survives a turn. One of the real strengths of this card over Dark Confidant is that it has no build restrictions on it, you can play all the big delve spells and Titans you like without risk of killing yourself! Sadly it costs twice as much to play and probably doesn't do very much for a while. Lack of experience with ascend is also probably making me overlook any build requirements it might impose. This is certainly a card worth testing, four toughness and flying do tick some boxes quite nicely. This will be awkward to kill for red, black and green mages and especially brutal against the red with potential lifegain as well. I think this probably isn't quite cube worthy because ascend is a little less easy to get than I imagine. You have to expect to get it and in fairly reasonable time for this to havea shot and probably not enough decks are upto the task.

Wayward Swordtooth 4

This is probably my favourite use of the ascend mechanic from a design perspective. You pay 2 more for an Exploration but you get a free 5/5 some turns down the line. This will almost certainly see some play as redundancy for Exploration in some of the more focused constructed decks. The real question is if it is good enough to make the cut in the drafting cube. Is this just good enough in its own right? Rhonas wasn't and although he was quicker to turn on and a better body he didn't provide a useful ongoing free effect. As ramp I fear this is too slow and requires both one drop ramp and card draw effects to properly make use of it. As a general card I think it is a bit irrelevant as body by the time it is active and too infrequently useful for its ramp effect. You need this on curve, the lands to go with it and something to play off the back of it all. This will get you to six two turns quicker which could be turn three off the back of an Elf, which is easily enough mana to actually get the blessing or just do something swingy and broken! I like this card and plan to test it but it seems too situational and narrow for the drafting cube. This is just your 2nd or 3rd Exploration in Horn of Greed and other land themed decks. It is an option I will certainly be glad of but it would be nice if this could hold it self up on its own.

Hadana's Climb // Winged Temple of Orazca 4

I think this is the best of the gold flip cards in this set. The land is quite like a Wolf Run and Wolf Run is a fantastic game ending tool. This card offers a good amount of reach to any creature based Simic deck. This is also a fine thing to have going on each turn. It takes at least three turns hitting dorks to be worth three mana but at that point it is good flipped or not. There are also plenty of things with +1/+1 counters on them in cube and so flipping this right away shouldn't be very difficult. While this is nice and powerful Simic aggressive decks are not common and I just don't think this would see nearly enough play to merit a slot even if it is suitable in power terms. I am absolutely going to do some building with this in some Hardened Scales decks and such like. I will also briefly try it in the drafting cube but with the expectation of quickly culling it. Probably after someone forces it just to see and it fails on them super hard. Not necessarily because Climb is weak but because Simic has no creature kill! You can have all the power you like but if there is no suitable deck to house that power then you have no playability and that is what is needed to get into the cube.

Rivals of Ixalan Preliminary Review Part VII

Golden Demise 3

Another one of many direct, but minor, upgrades to Infest. Usually the scry option is just the best all rounder with the exile version with the highest ceiling, but this, while being rather niche, does have some potent applications that most other mass removal simply fails to offer. I don't see this getting much, if any love, simply due to the way Infest scales poorly into the late game. All it really does is clear out the chaff, all the little tokeny things and the odd small utility dorks. It doesn't really kill any threats. As such, by the time this is nice and one sided it is not so relevant on the game. Not unless you are both playing go wide decks! Infest effects are a bit like Cancel effects. There are loads and loads on offer, all of them are OK if you need but they are never great. The fact that there are so many does rather reduce the play they each get and it was very little to begin with. Despite the low rating I have given this I am going to test it in the cube, it is one of those cards that could be surprising. So sort of tempo control deck with Snapcaster, Lingering Souls, Baleful Strix, Deathrite and the like would really like something like this. Unless you are red dealing with lots of small chaffy dorks is really hard if you don't wish to kill all of your own!

Dire Fleet Neckbreaker 0.5

They really don't like printing payoff cards for pirates. While this has a powerful effect it is way to vulnerable and pricey. Compare this to Undead Warchief, a lord that isn't even all that.... Pirates are sufficiently weak that if you were to build a pirate themed deck you might well have to play this despite how poor it is compared to other lords.

Tomb Robber 1

This looks like it should do something useful but I cannot work out what that might be. Mostly this appears to be a three mana 1/1 with a somewhat random ability requiring a further mana cost. This is never tempo, it is never card advantage. It is just a weird discard outlet Trade Route on legs. Small, expensive legs. This has a bit too much text and things going on for me to want to rule it out but it does just seem bad from all angles.

Thunderherd Migration 0

I must have missed the memo informing that Rampant Growth was now too good?! Madness. Obviously this isn't touching cubes which is just as well because this is also very much a feels bad card. Member when ramp used to look like Llanowar Elf?

Siegehorn Ceratops 0

Grizzly Bear masquerading as something that could do something but wont. In practice no one else is enraging this and it isn't enough payoff to be worth doing it yourself. So yeah, a Bear.

Nezahal, Primal Tide 1

This is a fascinating card. It does a lot of different things. While most akin to a Pearl Lake Ancient it also has elements of Consecrated Spinx and Aetherling to it as well. This is very big, it provides ongoing value, it is very very hard to stop with any kind of removal or indeed countermagic. This does a lot of things you want a top end card to do but it doesn't do the one critical thing which is having the ability to close the game. This has no evasion and no combat utility, this loses to any token generating planeswalker or any deathtouch creature with power. For Nezahal to have much chance at closing out a game you have to force it through with things like mass removal. This doesn't provide enough defensive stopping or stabilizing power nor enough game ending potential which are what you want from a card like this and so giving it basically everything else doesn't feel like it counts for all that much. This does a bit too much a bit too well for me to rule it out entirely but like so many cards from this set, I am not really seeing this one ever making it. Seems like you are probably better off running Mystic Remora!

Trapjaw Tyrant 0.5

Not as dodgy as the vampire 1/1 for 4 but still rather in that camp. This isn't immediately impactful very often, it isn't reliable value or removal nor is it that dangerous of a threat. It is decently powerful but aimless and unreliable and not what you want from a cube five drop. You might play this in a dino deck with enrage enablers and other dino synergies but that is really pushing it.

Crafty Cutpurse 2

This is the Notion Thief of token generation. Sadly the days of the Marit Lage are behind us and this is rarely going to be better than stealing a pair of 1/1 fliers or a 3/3. Whirler Rogue is a decent card and if you also get to take away something from your opponent then you have quite a powerful play. The problem is that it is rather situational. Making tokens is probably comparably rare in cube to drawing bonus cards, they both happen but not with enough regularity to make these sorts of cards reliable. Perhaps if more powerful things like Beast Within and Swan Song are printed this will gain some more applications as you could trigger it yourself but that is so much phaff for such minor value. If it isn't worth Notion Thief plus cards like Words of Wisdom then small tokens are certainly not. Presently it seems like a sideboard card at best, and a janky narrow one at that.

Dire Fleet Poisoner 6

Well this seems to be one of the best pirate payoff cards they have printed and just to rub it in how pointless the tribe is they have made this one playable without any need of other pirates! Turns out a 2/2 for 1B with flash and deathtouch is probably plenty good enough. This card feels surprisingly like a Selesnya Charm, a good one at that. This will kill most attackers, it is a nice surprise EoT dork to threaten planeswalkers, it just has a good chance of doing useful things for a low cost and with a lot of versatility. The EtB ability never has to trigger and this will still be fine which is handy for it in cube, as it rarely will with so few other pirates. Also, mostly you will want to play this in your opponents turn and not your own.

Silverclad Ferocidons 0

More hugely over priced essentially vanilla fatties.

Path of Mettle // Metzali, Tower of Triumph 1.5

Cool card but this isn't doing much work in cube. The ability and flip condition are extremely narrow. You basically have to build around this except it is a card you want in your sideboard rather than main, or certainly in terms of the EtB effect on Path of Mettle. I don't think the land is exciting enough to be jumping through all the hoops to get to without getting some value out of the first side. Perhaps just as a kind of ramp spell but even then it seems like way too much effort and fortune are needed. Perhaps this is actually a control card and relies on things like Chandra Flamecallers +1 ability to trigger rather than just having a good count of creatures that help towards that end. I am sure there are plenty of other cheaper cards that will flip this on their own like Flamecaller. Even so, this feels low impact for the control builds and still far too much effort to be worth the flip.

Dire Fleet Daredevil 7

Certainly one of the best cards from the set but also not nearly as exciting as seems to be the community buzz. This is very much not a Snapcaster Mage. For a very quick guide as to how much better snapcaster mage is than this you should look at all the decks in a meta where Snappy is legal which have blue mana in them and then look at which percentage of those decks actually play the Mage. The point is that not every deck supports Snapcaster as it has too few or unsuitable targets for it. Well, Dire Fleet Daredevil is the same in that respect except you have to chose to play it or not before you have the information about how suitable the relevant deck for it is. This is a bit like a Clone, you rely on your opponent to power it up and so its power level is rather random. This feels very comparable to Abbot of Keral Keep and while the Daredevil is a bit more exciting and has a higher ceiling I think the Abbot is the more rounded card. It feels like Abbot has a higher average power as you can control it, you can manipulate your deck and build with it in mind. Abbot is often an emergency dig for land on turn three when you only have two and it is really quite welcome and helpful in those cases. Daredevil is great when you have access to Inquisition, Path, Bolt, Brainstorm and other such juice on turn three but you have pay for that potential by having an Elvish Archer in your list a lot of the time.

Deadeye Rig-Hauler 0

One of the weaker Man-O-War dorks to date. Another bad example of disappointing card design and over reactions to powerful cards like Reflector Mage.

Slaughter the Strong 2

I rather like the design on this. It is an interesting take on removal and can do some very powerful things for not all that much mana. Sadly I think it it is unlikely to perform all that well on average. You can very easily be beaten up by creatures with total power four or less. Early in the game this answers very little and that is a crux of the issue, early do nothings are weak. It is not until you are facing down 10 or more power that this starts to look potent and by then it will often be too late. The way you need to work this in order to get sufficient value from it is by playing it in combination with good defensive creatures with low power but either high toughness or high usefulness. Thing in the Ice and Wall of Omens spring to mind. That way you can force your opponents to over extend into it and maintain your board and much more value through casting it.

Release to the Wind 2

This is a very odd card indeed. It is like a bounce spell and a flicker effect. It has a lot of utility but I don't think any of it is good enough to be playing this card in its own right. I think you need combo like abuses for this to be good and I have no idea what they might look like using this if they even exist. So you can use this to gain another go on an EtB trigger or an on cast trigger. You can use it to get past a blocker without flash or fog an attacker, save something of your own from removal, reset planeswalker loyalty and so forth. It is a great way to get back things that have been stolen from you. Disruptively it seems worse than bounce but defensively and for personal utility it seems better. I think at two mana this might have been pretty good but at three it seems unlikely.

Arterial Flow 0

Mind Rot with some tribal perks for some greater black intensity. Mind Rot is a long way off good enough for the cube, Blightning isn't even getting a look in these days and Flow wouldn't even be as good as Blightning if it didn't need vampires in play. Damage can be redirected at planewalkers and that gives Blightning some potential to affect the board that this lacks.

Deadeye Brawler 0

Awful. Ohran Viper is hardly a great card and it is directly better than this on 3 accounts. It is not gold. It does not need the city's blessing to perform its primary role. It is a mana less!

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Rivals of Ixalan Preliminary Review Part VI

Forerunner of the Coalition 1

Three mana with some mild upside is passable for a tutor effect. Should there ever be need of tutoring up a pirate this card will at least be considered. Presently there is no such need and so this is not all that much better than a Grey Ogre.

Forerunner of the Legion 2

While this is somewhat similar to the pirate version in power level there are a lot more juicy vampires to consider finding. Due to Nocturnus there is even some top of library matters synergy in vampires! There is also a lot of ways of making instant speed vampires be that via madness or just some token generation which turns this ability into a combat trick of sorts. Despite these many potential perks I don't think this will see much if any play. The floor is still a Grey Ogre, the card is options and utility but it isn't value or tempo which is what you need from three or more mana dorks in most cases.

Forerunner of the Heralds 2

Merfolk also very much have things you want to find. I would generally rule this out for being a four drop if it were not for things like Aether Vial that merfolk gain so much value from. I don't think this is great by any means but it is a nice build option to have. It is also a fairly relevant body in its own right which counts for something and more than usual in fish where evasion givers are plentiful.

Forerunner of the Empire 1

Shocking stats for the mana but a double whammy effect to somewhat offset this. You get to Simoon them and you get to trigger enrage on all your own dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are a long way off any sort of archetype in cube and this isn't what they needed to shine. Mostly they just need a lot more playables lower on the curve, as is the case for most decks revolving around a small mechanic or low population creature type. I doubt this is ever getting played but it needs another set with lots of dinosaurs in it to be in with a chance.

Deeproot Elite 4

This is not an exciting card but it is sufficiently powerful to make the cut in most, if not all, UG fish lists. It is ideal as you want to lay this down early on which suits the many lords in the deck which want to follow up merfolk in play. This isn't limited to growing itself either, you can throw those counters wherever you need them. Got an Aether Vial? A flash fish? Then this dude is a combat trick. This is obviously a weak top deck late game but it is a sufficiently potent early game play that is a fine enough trade off. It is filling a role the archetype needs in a powerful way and weighted unusually for a merfolk which affords a nice balance and range to things. Blue decks are also pretty well equipped to filter away poor late game draws. While green in RIX isn't yet offering another one drop of Kumena's Speaker level to the archetype it is throwing a tonne of good two drops into the mix.

Baffling End 3

To my mind this is clearly a lot better than Silk Wrap. There are just so many tedious and powerful EtB effect, or just unbeatable creatures, that the risk of having the Silk Wrap enchantment removed is a bit too great. Baffling End kills something for good and has the fairly low risk of giving them a mere 3/3 token. That is almost always a win as most things in cube are a lot better than a 3/3. Even if you only remove a 2/2 in the early game and have them deal with your End further down the line it will still be pretty good. A 2/2 early is far more dangerous and tempo than a 3/3 late which will frequently do nothing. Sadly being better than Silk Wrap is not the bar for entry for the cube. You have to be better than Journey to Nowhere and compare well against Declaration in Stone to be a cube thing. This is a sorcery speed Smother that exiles with more potential downside. While most creatures in cube cost 3 or less a lot of the more dangerous ones cost four or more. While I would absolutely play this without the CMC restriction and rate it a little above Declaration it just seems like it is too onerous and unreliable. I shall probably still test this as white is not exactly flush with removal. I really like the fact that this never gives them their guy back, that is a really big deal. It stacks up very nicely with this having no drawback at all unless they kill it which isn't super likely. Unlikely and low risk sound like the perfect kind of drawback to have!

Flood of Recollection 3.5

Pretty dull card but also a cheap and direct Regrowth for blue. I can fully see this being played in storm and other decks of that nature. If this were 1U it would be a whole bunch better as cost reduction effects are common in the places you will mostly find this but it is still fine at doing what you need it to at UU. This has a couple of perks over Snapcaster Mage. One, it doesn't exile the card you want to reuse which could well be key if part of some combo. Two, you don't have to use the card right away meaning you can save on two mana for any potential going off you might want to do next turn. This is a bit of a Merchant Scroll, not even that good, just something I am sure I will end up running plenty to sure up silly combo decks. It doesn't really have much of a place outside of that.

Warkite Marauder 6.5

One of the more potent cards in the set so far. This is a very tidy solution to dealing with problem cards with indestructible or on-death triggers. I look forward to Lava Darting a Wurmcoil Engine thanks to this card. Given that Skyship Plunderer is doing good work in the cube presently I am pretty confident this will also please! I see it mostly as an Izzet card but it is plenty good enough to play in a wider array of places. You don't need a huge amount of upside on a 2/1 flier for 2 to make the cube and this seems like it has enough. It is no Selfless Spirit but it seems to have most of the rest of the 2 drop 2 power fliers beat. This lets you attack pretty aggressively. Not only is it a fine beater in its own right it also effectively offers a free Frenzied Goblin trigger likely allowing other small dorks you might have the chance to sneak where they could not safely do so before.

Cherished Hatchling 0.1

Cute flavour but I am not even sure you want this in a dinosaur deck.... and there was me saying it needed more low end. If this does ever see play it will mostly be for the type and cost and not the ability at least.

Golden Guardian 1

This is a little bit too much effort for the total payoff I think. That being said these flip cards have generally seemed to perform a little better than expected. Treasure Map for example has been fairly impressive in cube but  Gold Guardian does feel like quite a stretch. The Gold-Forge Garrison half of the card is potent but not insane. Tapping for two is good and all but it is not a reason to play this, Kodama's Reach/Worn Powerstone does that better and for half the mana! Even making 4/4s isn't all that, it is pretty much a jacked up Urza's Factory. Phyrexian Processor has not been a big name in cube for well over a decade now! Basically paying four mana to make vanilla 4/4s is decent but it isn't amazing, it is slow and poor tempo and only really offers value or super long term inevitability. Obviously how good the card is depends a lot on how easy it is to get the card transformed and this is one of the hardest. You need six total mana and another creature, ideally either no smaller than a 4/5 or a totally disposable dork. In the latter case you need to be able to chump with the Guardian or sac it off to get the transform. All in all, a huge amount of effort. Mostly this looks like a 4 mana 4/4 defender which is very weak! Had this been lower initial cost it would have been a decent defensive tool for slower decks that could provide some nice payoff later in the game. I am not going to be making walls at the four mana mark, that is very much a thing for lower in the curve.

Protean Raider 0

This is a cheap Clone but cost isn't entirely what makes Clone a limp cube card, that is more to do with inconsistency and the Raider has reduced consistency on Clone with raid and extra colour requirements. I would totally play Dack's Duplicate over this and Phantasmal Image and Metalmorph over that! Too far down the list to get love in my cube. Also, this is crap because Clone is commonly useful for copying the big thing your opponent just made but if they just made a big thing getting raid is likely to come at a cost.

Azor, the Lawbringer 0

Obviously a very powerful card but I don't rate this for cube. It has a minimal impact right away, it is incredibly mana intense in a gross sorcery speed way, and it is a gold six drop! This will be such fun to Bone Shred, perhaps even Take Hostage! Every now and again you will think you are going to get that free Revelation and then bam - pre combat Doom Blade makes for sad Azor. Sure, you counter it and smack for six but you don't bother just drawing a card or two, or perhaps you do because you just used your last counterspell. Either way, they untap and wreck you and your stupid mana intense sorcery speed things with pretty much any action at all. This is a big risk card but it also has fairly low odds of getting the payoff performance which all feels like it is asking for trouble. The Sphinx's Decree EtB trigger is simply not effective enough disruption or protection. I prefer Sphinx of Magosi to this, let alone Consecrated Sphinx...

Polyraptor 0

Wow, an eight mana 5/5... and I though Azor was weak to things like Doom Blade! This wouldn't blow my mind at five mana for cube so at not far off double that we can safely move on.

Rekindling Phoenix 5

This is a very nicely done card. It hits the spot on flavour and power level well and is one of the best Phoenix to date. The other decent four mana Phoenix (Akoum Firebird and Ashcloud) are both very mana intense when it comes to recurring them. They are also a little awkward to use in a general sense. Rekindling Phoenix has nice rounded stats and can attack or block as it sees fit. This card will be a solid midrange tool. Either this needs specific removal (exile or counter magic), or you need to go two for one on killing it and the elemental token, or you will just lose to the immortal 4/3 flier. This is fine against control but a little slow and clunky and should give them enough wiggle room to handle the card. Against aggro is it just a fairly unimpressive dork and in aggro lists it isn't quite enough threat or speed. This only seems good in midrange on midrange but it does seem very good in those places and not unplayable or useless elsewhere. Midrange is increasingly common and strong in unpowered draft and sealed cube. I think red has enough higher powered and more flexible or more focused four drops that this shouldn't get enough play to deserve a cube slot but it is none the less a solid card that deserves testing at least. Five years ago this would have been a big name for red and would have seen plenty of action but this seems to have arrived too late and power creep has just overtaken it.

Dusk Legion Zealot 5.5

Rant time... Wizards clearly hates black. First they insult us with the Young Wolf / Butcher Ghoul crap and now we have to eat this while Elvish Visionary has a good old chuckle. This needed to be printed five plus years ago and it needed to be a 2/1 then... Black dorks, or ones that can block at least, just seems immune to the power creep. The thing that makes me saddest about this all is, much like with Butcher Ghoul, this card is still very playable. I will use this in many different decks I am sure and in those it will do good work. The issue with this card is that every time I see it I will relive the resentment I have for it not being a 2/1 and that will lead to a less good gaming experience.

Fanatic Firebrand 6

It turns out there are a lot of different ways to make a Mogg Fanatic and all of those turn out to be fairly playable. I think this is generally better than Fanatic too. Arsonist was better when you had sac outlets or when getting involved in combat but it wasn't directly better. While this can't be called directly better either I think it does all the same things you want a Fanatic to do while also offering greater scaling and synergy potential with other stuff. I think you will gain a damage on the front end of this card over Mogg Fanatic with it being a Raging Goblin but you will lose a damage on the back end as they kill it while tapped. I think damage loss will happen less than the damage gain and I think the ability to have a cheap hasting attacker will provide a lot of useful triggers for things like raid, battalion, battle cry and even just equipment. This is a fairly low powered card but it is nice and cheap, very on-theme, has huge option density, and decent enough supporting potential that I expect it to get played. More of a curve filler than anything else but a happy one rather than a disappointment. 

Friday, 5 January 2018

Rivals of Ixalan Preliminary Review Part V

Admiral's Order 1

Nice design for sure. This is how more of the ascend cards should have been made! This has an acecptable floor and interesting upside. If you expect to be attacking and have things you want to force through then this is a pretty strong card. This makes doing things at the end of peoples turn no longer the automatic best time to do a lot of things. This will have the very interesting effect of making people play their Fact or Fiction before a raid trigger is gained. Sadly this card has the look of a sideboard tool and for the most part I think you will play more focused sideboard cards than this. This has fairly limited application against most non-blue decks beyond being a Cancel, the ability to counter things for one simply wont come up anywhere near often enough for this to be good value on average. While a well designed card it is tripped up by being a little narrow in both where you might play it and what it is good against.

Huatli, Radiant Champion 2

This is too narrow for the drafting cube being both a four mana gold card and a card you need to build around to sufficiently support it. In non draft situations this might well be potent enough to be tempting. In some token themed deck it is not at all unreasonable to expect a reliable and significant injection of loyalty. Getting +4 on the turn four seems very easy and wouldn't even be that impressively high, later on in the game it could really be stupid gains. With a lot of chumps and a lot of loyalty Huatli should be incredibly safe from attacks and will usually need direct removal to deal with her. Huge loyalty gains are however fairly safe and unthreatening with Huatli, she doesn't have a game ending way of putting loads of loyalty to use. Her ultimate is just ongoing gas, I am yet to use the ultimate on Nissa, Vital Force (despite her being a solid and frequently played walker) and so I don't envisage this being all that exciting. The -1 is super unreliable. You need lots of dorks to make it all that interesting but you also need some form of evasion so that it does much of much. Huatli does too little on her own, her options are limited and her threat level is low and inconsistent.

Etali, Primal Storm 1

I like the effect but I don't like how it is packaged. This is powerful but also slow and expensive. It is easy enough to disrupt and has far too great a range. If you can get an Emrakul on the top and swing in with a hasted up Etali then it is great. If you make it and they Doom Blade it then it utterly blows. The latter, and comparable outcomes, will have a significantly higher occurrence rate. Hitting your opponents library is even more random as you have so little control and information on it. In multiplayer formats swinging blind (as in no library information) with this should yield good value, sufficient that you might even chump attack. In heads up however you are going to hit a land and a spell with CMC of 2 to 3 on average. That is pretty poor value and certainly not worth risking your six mana investment. I don't really see this doing anything anywhere in cube but I have still given it a 1/10 because of the high ceiling it has. I expect this to be basically a Craw Wurm in my cube and don't anticipate playing it.

World Shaper 4

Very interesting card for a couple of reasons. I am not sure it quite has the raw stand alone power to make the drafting cube but I suspect there will be plenty of funky archetypes that want it. For one thing it works very nicely with Splendid Reclamation - a very powerful card I have not yet had inspiration as to how it should be used but none the less a card I expect to do some good work one day. Having some redundancy for a powerful effect such as Splendid Reclamation makes a build around much more viable. I am not sure if it is a self mill thing or a ramp affair that uses things like Rain of Filth and Squandered Resources. Perhaps it will give me a chance to use Aggressive Mining more fully or perhaps just a Zuran Orb is all you need. Lots of options, lots of fun and lots of power when in build around contexts. As a stand alone this feels far too much like a Hill Giant. The self mill is good with the ability and with plenty of other cube synergies but it isn't improving on the Hill Giant shell that much. You need to attack to get it and attacking with a four mana 3/3 is not overly easy, it is the sort of thing you get to do once. This will eat too much bounce and exile removal to be that good at making lands in the drafting cube too. You really want sac outlets to ensure you are getting your trigger if relying on this.

Swift Warden 0

I need to stop reviewing cards like this. While this is a fine card it isn't good enough for anything in cube. It is too narrow and far too far up the curve for the power that it has.

Pirate's Pillage 2

Tormenting Voice where you pay two more and in return you get two treasure. This is good for ramping to six or more and it is a very well rounded utility card. This does all the things you want a card to do that is supporting the likes of Goblin Welder. Much as I like this it seems far too fair to get a look in. It is not easy to get away with a four mana do nothing. If you need to use all the treasure right away just to keep up in tempo then you almost certainly should just be playing Tormented Voice instead. This is only a better tool when you can expect to use the treasure later or for special things. Cost reduction effects greatly empower this, with three of them (Thornscape Familiar, Baral and a Helm of Awakening say) then this is an abusive card! A lot more work than it takes with Manamorphose... but still, any card that replaces itself and generates mana is something to keep an eye on. While this looks a bit naff at 4 mana, logic seems to suggest it would be really rather good at three and so perhaps this is a bit deceptive and not quite as bad as it looks at four. This is also a rather nice card to pair with the likes of As Foretold or Brain in a Jar as you can skip the discard aspect of it with it being part of the cost of playing it. I like this a whole lot more than Pirate's Prize if nothing else!

Skymarcher Aspirant 7

Finally! An ascend card with a playable baseline. This is a nice playable Savanah Lions at worst and upgrades to a Mistral Charger/Stormfront Pegasus at no extra cost. This makes Aspirant one of the most relevant one drops when going into the late game. Something like a Student of Warfare is strong because it is an early play that scales up but it needs mana to scale up and it starts out rather worse than the Aspirant. Even at full level Student is often pretty irrelevant as it is easy to reset, kill or chump and a 2/1 flier may well get more done. The worst thing about this card is lacking human creature type. With it Aspirant would be one of the best looking white one drop beaters, without it will make for some sad construction choices. I am pretty sure I am playing this over an Elite Vanguard, or more likely, alongside the Elite Vanguard, on all occasions and so being a vampire is just a shame and not an actual problem. Probably the best card in the set so far. Aggressive white decks are pretty good at getting to 10 permanents in play, they have multiple cards which are cheap and generate multiple permanents. They are spell light and permanent heavy with a selection of good protective effects and also tend to want to curve upto four. I would say that any good undisrupted curve draw for a white aggressive deck could expect to have the city's blessing around turn four on average and can easily do it turn three as well. While this will be a touch annoying in the typically human base of white aggressive decks it will at least be a total lock in for tribal vampire decks in white which RIX seems like it has made a thing outside of just EDH and Ixalan booster draft.

Dead Man's Chest 1

Very different and immensely interesting. Gonti, Lord of Luxury has proved to be one of the best cards black has in cube. It has out performed all expectation and frankly any reasonable sounding ceiling you might have conceived for the card. Most of that is down to how brutal exile stealing your opponents stuff is and Dead Man's Chest does a whole bunch of that! Sadly this card feels like a lot of work. You have to have a good target to put this on and then a way to kill that target as well all with enough time spare to spend those extra mana on pissing around. All told it seems magical cloud land. Also, given you can't use lands you find you really need to put it on a dork with at least four power to reliably get value. Lots of decks don't have many creatures and even more have only small ones. If this was scary enough that people killed and sacrificed their own creatures when you try and enchant them with Dead Man's Chest then it would be pretty interesting. I suspect this will not be what happens. I suspect the reality of this card is that it will clog up your hand and you will wish it was some sort of action. When it does manage to trigger I suspect the results will average to rather less than those from Gonti. I am not ready to fully rule this out with how terrifying Gonti is but all my experience otherwise tells me this card is unplayable garbage. Bequeathal is cheaper, more reliable and probably averages a better trigger result than Dead Man's Chest as well and is not a card that sees any play anywhere really.

Bishop of Binding 0

Yuk. Yuk yuk yuk. When I look at Fairgrounds Warden what I never ever think about it is how I would like it to cost more mana and have less toughness. This is bad design, it takes an already polar card and makes it far more extreme. The blowout potential when using this card is huge on either side of the table. This won't lead to good games, it has no subtlety about it really. You just flop it out on the big thing and then start swinging with your now big thing. If they have an answer they will use it and be ahead, if not they will be behind. Thankfully I think this is just bad enough that you don't play it in cube. Would be a real shame to have to use a cube slot on a card so badly designed. I don't even think this cuts it for tribal perposes, there are some super tasty four mana vampires to keep this horror at bay. This could well be a thing in standard which would also be a bit sad.

Profane Procession // Tomb of the Dusk Rose 4

This is a mightily slow yet incredibly powerful card. This is premium instant speed, unrestricted targetting, exile quality removal. Just on the removal front this is a 3 for 1. Then you get a land, and three more dorks, and any EtB value effects they might have as well. Used to the fullest this card is a seven for one at worst and offers incredibly powerful effects along the way. What is the cost of all this power you ask? Well, it is the classic mana cost and it is vast. Five mana to kill something is very steep. When you have to pay a further three up front it is starting to seem prohibitively expensive. Against midrange and control decks this should be quite a beating but against aggressive decks this is almost certainly a huge liability. I think this is too polar in how it will perform against different types of decks to merit a cube slot. It is incredible against the right things but it is just too slow, gold and situational to get enough play and do enough work. While I don't think this will get picked and played enough to merit a drafting cube slot I think when this card is used appropriately it will seem insanely good. I also think there are multiple different archetypes that could put this to use. The way to think of this is that it is only gaining a tempo advantage when you kill dorks with over 18 total converted mana cost. That is no easy thing to do in just three dorks and will usually mean you are falling behind in some other way. Most pricier dorks come with other effects that ensure they are good even when removed. This is great against Wurmcoil Engine but far less good against Grave Titan etc. You don't need this to be tempo for it to be good, you just need to appreciate it is almost never going to give tempo in order that you build with it correctly and have appropriate expectations of it.

Sphinx's Decree 0

I really don't see this at all. There are substantially better alternatives to this, ones that are cheaper, don't cost a card and have more functionality. This isn't even very good at stopping instants as they can be done fairly effectively at either side of the Decree's blockade. This just stops sorceries for next turn. This might be a bad Memory Lapse against a Wrath effect but then white has a bad Memory Lapse it could play instead! Perhaps this is just a bad Time Walk you can use in the sideboard of aggressive decks against decks entirely comprised of sorceries!

Silent Gravestone 3

Nice solid graveyard hate card. There are now a nice array of these such that you can select the one most appropriate to your needs. This is pricier to convert back in to a card but it is highly functional right away and after you turn it in to a card so it does seem like a fairly rounded graveyard hate tool. This will see some play, almost all of it will be from sideboards and it will have to share that play time with all the many other Relics, Crypts and so on. Even if it sees the most play out of all of them it will still be a pretty tiny amount. Good that we have it though, just because something doesn't see loads of action does not mean it isn't a welcome addition.