Friday, 27 May 2022

Battle for Baldur's Gate Preliminary Review Part II


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 

Irenicus's Vile Duplication 1

Clone on a spell invites combos with the likes of Dualcaster Mage. Not much use beyond that.

Fang Dragon 2

Well the creature portion of this card is not powerful but it is at least quite threatening. It is all about the adventure here. If you want this effect then getting a big, if over cost, dragon on the back end of it is a pretty substantial upgrade. Mostly this kind of low impact mass removal thing is too narrow for the cube. There is a pretty quick meta shift when there are too many good ping effects or too many 1 toughness dorks. Even if this was good enough the shift would happen and make it not so. Impressive stuff for a common though. Great for tribal dragons as well. 

Nemesis Phoenix 1

Powerful but again too narrow. The non recursion cost is way too steep meaning you need looting, but then you also need to be reliably attacking in multiples, all of which is way too much hand holding. 

Noble's Purse 7

If this didn't enter tapped it would be one of the best mana rocks printed since Urza's block rivalling the power of Talisman, Signets and Pentad Prism. The latter of which is the closest comparison. This trades all the speed of Pentad Prism for greater convenience and return. Purse is three mana for two and is all colourless upfront. I don't think this quite gets there for cube as the decks that play mana rocks are the kinds of deck that want to spend a lot of mana every turn if possible making the three mana cap on this awkward. There are plenty of builds however where I would want this over Signets or Talisman for a wide array of reasons, perhaps broader fixing, perhaps the potential to get burst mana, perhaps the ability to get 4 artifacts into play with 1 card and 2 mana, perhaps simply some treasure synergy. This list goes on. This is a very strong card indeed with a lot of homes and applications. More constructed than limited and more synergy than raw power but despite all this a very rounded and playable card where ever you might wind up running it. 

Dungeoneer's Pack 0

Sorcery speed activation is a bummer here. The card offers quite a lot but not enough for the speed and cost. 

Elminster 3

A little unreliable for my liking. You really don't want to do the -3 blind but you will often have to if you want more out of your card than a five mana Serum Visions... Also, the kinds of deck that can run this really don't want to be exiling their gas if they can help it. There is certainly a lot of power here, being able to gain +2 loyalty on top of five starting while hitting Serum Visions and reducing the cost of your stuff by 2 is nutty good it is very win more. Do that on the back foot and get beaten to a pulp. Will Kenrith does a lot of what Elminster does while being safer and more reliable and less narrow just being just the one colour. Elminster is a fun card but lack of ability to reliably protect himself takes him out of the running for cube. 

Myrkul, Lord of Bones 1

This lacks threat, power, and consistency and is quite the laughable top end card. 

Livaan, Cultist of Tiamat 1

Potential to scale but rather narrow and with far too low of a floor. 

Lozhan, Dragon's Legacy 1

Five mana in two colours for 2 toughness and an ability that needs other stuff to trigger. Not common stuff either. Nope. Big ol' nope on Lozhan. 

Lae'zel, Vlaakith's Champion 5

Great effect but unimpressive body. I do not love spending three mana for my support cards and if I am to do so I really want that support card to be a bit more impressive on its own. Certainly this is playable in most decks built around counter synergy but outside of a build around it likely isn't good enough. 

Baba Lysaga, Night Witch 2.5

Priest of Forgotten Gods bigger sister. This is harder to setup than Priest and generally a lower tempo effect as well. You need to be pretty deep into sac effects for this to appeal but it does have reasonable power. A fun build around card.

Raphael, Fiendish Savoir 4

A bit low impact and high up the curve for me to want in a sac deck even if this gets very out of hand with a Goblin Bombardment or similar sac outlet! It is getting this going that is the trouble, if you miss that first trigger this card is pretty poor. I can see this being used in tribal decks as well as some iterations of more top heavy sac decks. Reasonable power, reasonably well suited and playable, just a bit of a top end middleman gold luxury card for me.  

Oji, the Exquisite Blade 1

Cool effects but a little over cost and with slow returns. This looks playable but in practice I cannot imagine where I might consider this in a 40 card deck. 

Mazzy, Truesword Paladin 1

A bit top end for what enchantress and aura decks want. Reasonable threat and value but will be superseded by cheaper cards in 40 deck decks. 

Gale, Waterdeep Prodigy 2

Not as good as it looks. For this to work out you need lots of both instants and sorceries and ideally some way to put them in the bin beyond just playing them. You then need those cards to be proactive. With all those caveats you are basically playing an Izzet deck chock full of burn and cheap cantrips with a smattering of spells matter dorks to take advantage of all that support. Even when you have all these things going on Gale still needs to live and he is only getting you a bit of card advantage when he does. A fun card and reasonably playable but I cannot see it performing all that well all that often.

Astarion the Decadent 2

Too narrow and top end but none the less quite dangerous. Astarion can just finish people out of the blue. No one really expects face damage outside of red. I am sure there is a Tooth and Nail kill combo with this and something else that does half a life bar and that still probably isn't worth including anywhere. If he isn't burn he is probably a bit small, slow, conditional and vulnerable.

Tuesday, 24 May 2022

Battle for Baldur's Gate Preliminary Review Part I

 0 - unplayable in 40 card singleton

1 - effectively unplayable

2 - has low tier constructed decks it might go in

3 - has mid tier constructed decks it does go in

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

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

6 - fringe cube worthy

7 - cube worthy

8 - cube staple

9 - unpowered cube bomb

10 - powered cube bomb 

Wand of Wonder 0

Low returns in 1v1 play, both down to being restricted to one hit and by the fact that instants and sorceries are typically both the cheapest and the most situational cards in cube. Comically you are probably better off running a Jayemdae Tome - not something that can be said of much...

Elder Brain 0

This is lacking in too many ways. It is basically just a value tool on a mediocre body. There is no real tempo to be had with this, it doesn't really offer disruption directly. It isn't even all that threatening. For seven mana I want a whole lot more, I want an EtB trigger or something. This is too vulnerable and unreliable at doing much more than being a 6/6. 

Ancient Brass Dragon 0

Ancient Brass Dragon manages to be all round better than Elder Brain and yet still fail at every single hurdle. For cube this needs haste and then trample or a mana discount as well! Perhaps all three buffs. 

Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes 9

We go from a pile of unplayble cards to this clear bomb. The Timeless Heroes are oppressively good to the point they will ruin games a lot like Oko does. I can see this getting banned in my unpowered cube pretty quick. Even in a world with Fury and Tef3 and Omnath and all those mad cards I think this will be oppressive. As this isn't something you can play in modern or standard it will only be oppressive in cube. Indeed that is how it is able to be so pushed, it cannot do too much damage in EDH, legacy or vintage and isn't legal elsewhere. Cube is the only place it will be oppressive. So what is so oppressive? Well, lets take Questing Beast, Ophiomancer, Bloodbraid Elf, and some random generically good planeswalker and jam all those things together without scrimping on the power level and you get Minsc and Boo. It is high tempo, high options, high threat, and high value. It literally ticks all the boxes. You need to kill Minsc as quickly as possible else it is game over and that is easier said than done when it can start out at four loyalty and has a blocker that can be a 4/4. Mostly Boo will not be blocking, Boo will be smashing face so while you scramble to deal with Minsc you will just be dying to Boo. I normally consider a planeswalker good if three activations generally means the game is over, well in this instance it literally is, Minsc and Boo kill quicker than most threats out there. This is easily good enough with just the passive and the +1 but just in case we needed more there is the -2 which gives move value, more options, more control, and a nice powerful way to break open any sort of board stall. You won't need the -2 often because of the power of the rest of the card but it is certainly no slouch. There is only really one tiny chink in the armour of this card and that is the ability to respond. Three and one point damage effects that you can either respond to the EtB trigger or loyalty abilities with do allow you to handle the card without getting utterly smeared in the process. I guess you can counter it too... 

Firkraag, Cunning Instigator 0

Very cool in multiplayer and very hard to make more than a 3/3 flying haste in 1v1 play. 

Captain N'ghathrod 1.5

A cool option for tribal horror payoff but this is a little conditional and a little high up the curve to be having all that much impact. Horrors are barely a tribe now and will remain so when this dude comes out.

Faldorn, Dread Wolf Herald 6

A powerful self contained card that offers good value while also being a solid board development tool. Faldorn also has strong synergy with any sort of discard and graveyard stuff and scales up nicely with most red card draw effects such as Light up the Stage. While this is a very powerful card it is slow, a little vulnerable, and gold. All minor but enough that I don't have much interest in adding it to my cube. Certainly more than powerful enough to hold its own in cubes.

Nalia de'Arnise 2.5

A great all rounder for a party deck offering ongoing value to begin with and a good means to finish a game off once you attain a full party. Likely something I would consider for a tribal cleric deck as well given the exciting synergy with Edgewalker. Certainly a build around card but a powerful one with more than one home. 

Jon Irenicus, Shattered One 1

Mostly this is comically bad but it is a Donate effect of sorts which are not the most abundant in the game. I am sure there are things that work well with this, just not well enough for the likes of cube. 

Volo, Itinerant Scholar 2

Choose a background is blank text in formats not making use of commanders and the command zone. I think backgrounds are a really good design for EDH. In cube Volo is too slow. You need to untap with him, invest more mana in him, and deploy creatures after him. I suspect this will result in a lot of games where either you or he dies before he draws any cards. What does make Volo interesting is quite how far he can scale. Left in play for too long and Volo will be able to fully refill a hand for two mana! He draws so many cards that you will have to cool off on using it as you will not want to deck yourself! Really this is overkill but at least it is overkill that starts off just being some legs. 

White Plume Adventurer 7

This is probably good enough all by itself. It is basically a big Civic Wayfinder. You give the opponent the option to also start going into the Undercity but then you get to go again and likely deeper overall. You being the white player making little dorks implies you will be much better at keeping and retaking the initiative so the symmetry of the initiative seems like a plus in the context of this card. The untap is good too and works with tappers and the likes of Mother of Runes very well indeed. Worst case scenario it is a bit of pseudo vigilance. The only downside to this good little filler card is that you have to then supply the Undercity and ideally the initiative cards with the cube and track them during the game. These things are fun for a while but typically stop feeling like they are worth the extra effort.

Baldur's Gate 3

Now this is a very good reason to play a Gate deck. You need four other Gates in play before this is producing more than one mana making it a bit of a Temple of the False God in terms of ramp but it boosts Gate synergy value a lot, provides coloured mana, and it is useful to some extent before you have a certain threshold of lands. By itself it elevates Gates from a bit of a joke deck to something that might be viable. 

Roving Harper 6.5

Shockingly this seems playable. White loves to draw, it loves to have bodies, and it loves things it can flicker to good effect. While no Spirited Companion or Inspiring Overseer it might still just see enough play to hold a cube slot. 

Abdel Adrian, Gorion's Ward 1

Too much setup here. Sure, make a load of good EtB dorks, make Abdel, get a bunch of soldiers and then profit. Slowly. Too much setup here and not enough bite for a card this high up the curve. 

Lulu, Loyal Hollyphant 1

Fairly easily abused but likely not worth it. Baseline this is too vulnerable for the cost. 

Commander Liara Portyr 1

I really like the design here but there are several problems here for a 1v1 card. X being capped to 1 is a shame and Liara being a gold five drop with 3 toughness and little else to make her an impressive body for use in combat kills her chances entirely. At least she doesn't have to attack herself to get the perk. 

Ellyn Harbreeze, Busybody 0

Loving the white card draw but a four mana 2/4 with a conditional tap ability is not getting it done.

Aarakocra Sneak 0

Not close to the requisite power level, this could have 4 power and I still wouldn't play it. I don't know what I am expecting though, it is a stock filler common after all. 

Blur 1

Nice card to have but flicker effects want to be cheap much more than they want to have value and so I cannot see myself ever running this in a flicker deck. 

Goggles of Night 0

Nice effect but multiple layers of conditional on top of an overly high mana investment.

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Streets of New Capenna Conclusions and Additions


This is pretty comfortably my least favourite flavour and set feel. I don't know if I just don't like the aesthetic period, if it is the meshing with magic, or if I am just sufficiently off my magic presently that this set is getting less automatic excitement from me and not getting the free pass I might otherwise have given it or indeed might have given other sets in the past. It is not just the art I am not into but also things like the naming of cards. 

Aesthetic however is not the main thing I look for in a set and I cannot really fault New Capenna other than that. It doesn't have any oppressive seeming cards. It has produced a bunch of nice one drops which are always welcome. It is not quite so wordy as previous sets. It doesn't even suffer that much from being a gold set where there is usually less on interest for cube. The power level is where it should be with very few cards going into the cube without question but a healthy number of cards up for consideration. The mechanics of the the five shards are also generally pretty good. I am pleased to see more use of treasure as well as increased experimentation with the planeswalker type. 

Much as I rate the card design there isn't much in the way of new or exciting cards, just variations of the same sort of stuff. This has been the case for a little while. It turns out when you don't have much in the way of gaps in your cube the only things that really shake up the environment are bombs and they don't tend to change things for the better. I feel like I should like New Capenna more than I do but I think it is me rather than the set for one reason or another and so that bodes well for non-me people which is the majority of people at least! 

To Add

Lethal Scheme*

Inspiring Overseer

An Offer You Can't Refuse 

Allied "Triomes"

To Test With High Expectations

Currency Converter*

Elspeth Resplendent 

All-Seeing Arbiter

A Little Chat

Ob Nixilis, the Adversary 

Mysterious Limousine

Unlucky Witness 

Witness Protection

Citizen's Crowbar


Sanctuary Warden 

Titan of Industry 

Night Clubber

Skyway Robber*

In Too Deep*

Workshop Warchief

Tainted Indulgence 

Aven Heartstabber

Topiary Stomper 

Make an Example*

Brokers Ascendancy

To Test With Low Expectations

Giada, Font of Hope

Prosperous Partnership*

Tenacious Underdog

Riveteers Requisitioner

Corpse Explosion

Sinister Concierge*

Dodgy Jalopy*

Caldaia Guardian*

Reservoir Kraken

Fleetfoot Dancer

Aerial Extortionist*

Scepter of Celebration*

Shakedown Heavy

Toluz, Clever Conductor

Unleash the Inferno

Raffine's Informant

Tivit, Seller of Secrets*

Professional Face-Breaker 

Vivien on the Hunt 

Jaxis, the Troublemaker

Gala Greeters

Dogged Detective*

For the Constructed Reserves 

Soul of Emancipation

Expendable Lackey

Riveteers Ascendancy

Slip Out the Back

Boon of Safety

Halo Scarab

Endless Detour 

Fatal Grudge

Incandescent Aria

Big Score

Sanguine Spy

Scheming Fence 

Indulge // Excess*

Determined Iteration*

Rain of Riches*

Void Rend 

Illuminator Virtuoso

Bennie Bracks, Zoologist*

Shadow of Mortality


Rob the Archives 

The Charms

Halo Fountain

Monday, 9 May 2022

New Capenna Commander Preliminary Review Part VI


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 

Skyway Robber 7

This is a side-grade on Ethereal Forager with a lower floor and a higher ceiling. This is always four mana to get into play making it a much slower and lower tempo card. Further to that if played without escape it is a straight up Phantom Monster. Without support you have to do that first and have it die and not get exiled or something. Robber really wants to get looted away so as to skip Phantom Monster phase. So, those are some significant downgrades on Ethereal Forager, let us look at some upsides. Escape means this is coming back, it is value and threat just as Phantom Monster with recursion. That alone obviously is not wildly improving the power but it does give it those angles that a top end late game card want, that bit more threat. Phoenix of Ash is a scary card to play against as it is eventually going to get you unless you properly deal with it. Obviously Phoenix is way more aggressive and in a colour better suited to applying pressure but Skyway Robber remains an ongoing concern and a useful tool for any deck looking to eventually win. Next big perk of Robber compared to Forager is that Robber will cast the spell for you thus enabling pretty big tempo swings. If you can connect with a Temporal Manipulation under the Robber then that should end the game pretty hard! Further to that you get an extra card and the ability to play artifacts. The latter is useful and helps increase the playability a healthy amount. The former is likely a con and not a pro. If you escape 5 useful cards and connect 5 times you probably won a couple of turns ago. More likely is if you exile 5 useful cards Robber is answered and those cards are gone and do not come back the next time you escape Robber. In reality you are likely best off escaping with a good artifact/instant/sorcery and one or two weaker ones so that you do not put all your eggs in one basket. Sadly we must return to some cons again. You need to connect to get your card and your card must be played right away ruining the ability to control the game with counter magic. That is all probably for the best. Ethereal Forager is a brutal cube card and pretty high tier. A calmer version such as this Skyway Robber is going to play better. Robber seems rounded enough to see play. It scales nicely and offers quite a range of ways you can put it to use, some threat and some value and some pro active board presence. Blue does already have a good amount of cards that want to make use of the bin; Dig, Cruise, Murktide, Uro, Demilich, and of course Forager itself. Not to mention things like Snapcaster and little Jace that want some targets left in the bin to use themselves. You cannot go too ham on such cards in a deck, and therefor in a cube design as well. This will up the bar a little for Robber but I still do expect it to last. Demilich is generally a bit more awkward and narrow. Skyway Robber will either take its place at worst or coexist alongside it.

Change of Plans 0

Far too narrow and expensive for what is offered. A messy meld of combat trick, card quality, and dork protection, all things you want a lot cheaper than this.

Cephalid Facetaker 3

Cute card but needing of specific support to reach the needed power level. In cube there are much more in the way of EtB triggers than there are on combat damage triggers making this a card that will perform worse than the more conventional Clone cards. The ability to pro-actively make this onto a board without clone targets helps it but not enough to make it actually good. 

Jailbreak 0

Interesting card but near impossible to rely on and abuse. 

Aerial Extortionist 7

At worst this is a 4/3 flying Dissipate for five. That is a reasonable tempo play with acceptable threat levels. Should the Extortionist survive it is going to start ruining opposing boards while gaining loads of value and/or tempo as it does so. The card is a little clunky, a bit too middle of the road to excite a control player and a bit top end for the aggressor. Despite being really rather the midrange card it is pretty all round playable and has a decent chance of working out in the cube. Probably not quite as good as Angel of Sanctions but very close and a less risky means of disruption. Often I find with Sanctions that I deploy it and stand to lose if they answer it which this will not suffer in the same way.  

Tivit, Seller of Secrets 6

Very cool but too much value and not enough end the game right away. Getting two treasure back immediately does allow you to protect your six mana sorcery speed play with counter magic but getting to six mana to deploy this in the first place isn't super easy, especially not with 2 mana counters left to use. I tend to like threats that come down a little sooner and help me survive. This is certainly good enough on power levels thanks to the EtB trigger but it is just a bit 3 colour and six mana to see enough play. Perhaps if Esper returns to the go to control archetype rather than 2 colour builds as it seems to be presently. 

Boss's Chauffeur 0

Some reasonable top end but this simply has way too high a chance of entering play as a laughably small dork, or getting bounced or exiled or otherwise easily negated. No evasion and needs support both kill this cards chances by themselves. Together they have got me wondering why I am bothering to review this card. 

Grand Crescendo 6

This is somewhat two cards in one. It is a poor rate Secure the Wastes but it is also just a WW spell to counter removal, mass or spot in most cases. Secure the Wastes currently has a cube slot but it is a pretty tenuous one. I am not sure this will supplant it. Secure is already mana inefficient in terms of tempo. Secure is taking a trade off on tempo for versatility. Cards tend to be a product of their parts and so the most well rounded cards are a nice balance of their parts so to speak. If you push Secure further down the line of modes at the cost of more mana inefficiency you are polarizing the card. Say it was 5 rated for tempo and 5 rated for versatility then the card is worth 25 total. If you trade of 1 in tempo to gain 1 in versatility you have a 4 and a 6 giving you a 24 total. Bit of a scenic route to say I think Cresendo is too weak in the options it provides for those options to excite. The card is fine and playable but I cannot see it improving a cube. 

Indulge // Excess 2

My sort of card and certainly one I shall make room for in some fruity build one day. Sadly not the sort of thing one can enjoy in a cube setting without suffering win percentage losses. Both halves are narrow and while they support each other to some degree you are then ramping at five mana. If you can get a big attack through a pile of treasure probably isn't the go to payoff when typically competing with killing them. 

Seize the Spotlight 0

A long way from the power needed when you just have the one opponent. 

Crash the Party 0

Just a win more card and not a very good one at that. Play a threat when you are playing a six mana card. Avoid things than can do literally nothing. 

Scepter of Celebration 5

This is a lot of mana for a Rancor but that trigger can get out of hand fast. It is pretty hard to contain after the first hit as well as there will be more tokens to equip up and swing with. A 3/1 trample isn't something you can ignore and if you are trying to contain it with tokens you are just letting them make more. Much as this seems fairly powerful and threatening it is also slow, clunky, and not really a card that does something by itself. Green certainly has room for that kind of card more than other colours, it has mana to spend on things like this, and often small spare dorks it would like to turn into relevant cards. I shall have to give this a test despite instinct being a no. It is the lack of speed that harms this for me, it is a high mana threat with reach but it is taking control of a game very slowly and not doing loads to disrupt the opponents plans in that time. Scepter risks doing nothing without other dorks and it risks costing you a lot of mana on re-equipping it too frequently. When put up against a card like Creeperhulk there really isn't much of a case for Scepter.  

False Floor 0

This is stupidly hard to use. If you have no dorks you are getting hit one more time and this does nothing but kill vigilance dorks... If you have dorks and are able to apply pressure you have to attack into their board before you can fire off your on-board one-sided Wrath which will typically allow them to create a board state where you no longer want to Wrath. There is just no good way to use this card in a sensible way in 1v1 without a card like Turnabout at which point why are you even bothering?