Monday, 16 January 2012

Reviews: The A cube gold cards

VindicateVindicate 4.0

This card embodies versatility and is never a dead card. It can offer free wins if they hiccough on lands, has aged well to hit planeswalkers and is one of the few absolute auto include cards if you have the colours easily accessible. I view a double colour requirement and sorcery speed as a limitation rather than an actual drawback such as that of Beast Within. The double colour is good as vindicate would get played too much otherwise and get very boring for deck construction. Instant speed would obviously be better but I think we already have enough from this card. While quite a bland card the sheer number of targets it can hit means it does offer lots of choices. The most common of those is weather to use on a low power target to gain immediate tempo or save it to deal with a card that ruins you. This is particularly difficult if you have no other enchantment removal say and happen to be playing verses an opposition deck.

Maelstrom Pulse
Maelstrom Pulse 1.5

This is a far cry from vindicate. Not being an instant is far more significant on this spell as it can't deal with man lands and, while still very versatile, feels more over-costed than vindicate and is thus a very clunky card. The hit all copies effect is rarely of relevance in the cube and doesn't feel like card advantage even when hitting multiple tokens. The main feature of this spell is that it kills planeswalkers, when it does do this however you are generally behind as they have traded one for one, with pretty similar mana but had at least one use from thier walker. The only real way to kill a walker and feel ahead is to do so by attacking with guys you have in play or a counterspell. Pulse is what you play when you don't have room in a deck to play a couple of more specific yet far better spells. Black green is one of the most common colour combinations which works in this cards favour but I fear this will soon feel the sting of relegation as beast within continues to prove itself.

RecoilRecoil 2.0

Recoil is far less of a removal spell than pulse or vindicate or beast within but it makes up pretty well for this by being instant and offering no drawback. It is hard to lose card advantage by playing this spell, which makes it an excellent bounce spell but then again it would have to be at three mana. It is quite easy to play around recoil by keeping land in hand, and so it sees less play as a result. Black is the discard colour however and if supported by some of blacks discard arsenal recoil starts to look better than vindicate. While bounce is generally very versatile you rarely want to use this on your own cards making it less powerful as bounce. Overall the costing of this card seems about right leaving it as a medium power level card that can be shifted in either direction based on deck design and opponents skill.

Pernicious DeedPernicious Deed 4.0

Unlike vindicate the deed fails at dealing with planeswalkers. It makes up for this in a few ways. By playing your own walkers you can take advantage of the downside and destroy the world heavily in your favour board position wise. Walkers are already good enough and don't need to be encouraged on both sides of the table for silly reasons like this! While being generally very good the deed single-handedly annihilates most artifact based strategies. As this remains perfectly good without artifacts it is not at all a hoser, neither is it used solely for  that purpose. Things tend to just be dull and one sided when deed is faced by the artifact deck which does not do too much to improve the cube. This is just something we will have to live with as both artifacts and deed are too good to cut.

Lightning Helix

Lightening Helix 3.0

The helix is vastly overrated by most players in most formats. It does all the things you want it to do and is great value with the three life. 3 damage is the right number for two mana, instant is optimal. The three life you gain rarely makes much odds however and on that basis incinerate is the better card (despite helix being less playable in general anyway due to more restrictive colour requirements). When you are the one playing the burn your life total tends to be irrelevant except in the mirror match, which is difficult in cube! The helix is a real pain to cast more often than you would think and disrupts the other plays you want to make. All this said it is still a cheap, hefty burn spell with lots of added value and one of the best things to have under an isochron sceptre. It is generally a better control card as the life is much more useful but will see play in basically all RW agro decks too. I think people just can't refuse the power it offers or just assume it must be better than incinerate.

Terminate Terminate 2.0

A very unexciting card in a very unexciting and uncommon colour combination. Terminate is pretty happy in most decks that are red and black but so few are that it sees very little play. I always feel a bit ripped off when I play terminate and think about the white instant spot removal which so greatly outshine this that it seems unreasonable for it even to deserve a slot. A bit like comparing council of the soratami to ancestral recall. Even so this is about as good as spot removal gets after the big fall off from path and plow. Terminate sees little play as so few archetypes are black red, the most common home for it is blue based control with a splash of black and red. As creatures are in the cube tend to offer value even if instantly killed by removal, and planewalkers are good alternate threats to creatures, a better way to go about winning is by casting better creatures and more planeswalkers than your opponent.

Fire / IceFire / Ice 4.2

Another of my all time favourite cards and I think the most versatile card in magic despite being a rather hard category to quantify. Either half of this card is would be perfectly fine as a single card in their own right. Fire/Ice is also not as restrictive as the non-hybrid mana gold cards as you can still put it to use while missing a colour. You are in fact often more than happy to run this card in a mono red or more typically blue deck with only the faintest hope of having the other colour, say a single Mox Diamond. Fire offers what all burns offers, good removal for small monsters and an occasional finisher yet it offers more - the chance to get a very cheap two for one. Arc Trail is incredibly powerful for this reason and while less damage Fire is instant. Ice has more uses than Fire, offering the simple cycle option, or fogging attackers, or tapping mana sources, either to disrupt their plays or force through your own.

Thopter FoundryThopter Foundry 0.5

This actually just should straight up not be in the cube at the moment. It supplements affinity decks very nicely and is a strong combo deck with sword of the meek however as I have cut the sword due to being too narrow the thopter foundry is left as an optional support card for a narrow tribal deck that has little power as a card on its own. If combo returns with any force this will very likely be one of the combos to return, especially so with it fitting into more than one archetype. Although non-essential this card has many good uses in affinity, its only home as it stands in my cube, making fliers to force through damage, a sacrifice outlet that retains you artifacts in play count and a life gain spell for red decks. It is however quite hard to cast in affinity seeing infrequent play overall as a result.

Bloodbraid Elf
Bloodbraid Elf  3.5

Card advantage on a good aggressive monster, fearsome to the control player. On average this card is really under-costed too as three mana for a 3/2 haste is about right, the extra one you pay extra for your dork is compared to the cost of the spell you cascade into. Assuming you hit a two or three mana spell you have under-costed tempo, aggression and card advantage. Bloodbraid actually improved with the removal of power as you got less dud hits on moxen. She can still be somewhat random with consistency hard to engineer in singleton formats. She cannot be played with much counter magic and is weak with combat tricks, various silver bullets or random answer cards. Even with multiple dud or weak things she can cascade into she is well worth inclusion in most red green creature based decks as she is still pretty goof when you wiff the cascade. I have seen her used very swell in seismic assault decks in order to go fetch it too. It is a shame the cascade mechanic is so random as it reduces the skill level.

Mystic SnakeMystic Snake 1.0 

At four mana this card tends to broadcast itself and is pretty hard to rely on as a counterspell if you wish to carry on making other plays. The tempo swing is not that great either as a 2/2 body fails to achieve all that much. The redeeming feature of this critter is the ability to repeatedly bounce and recast it forming a soft lock on your opponent. There are some other nice perks from having a counterspell attached to a creature like this aside the recursion such as tutor effects. An old magic folk lore tells of the horrors of a backfiring mystic snake:
Player A - casts Fact or Fiction
Player B - casts Negate targetting Fact or Fiction
Player A - casts Mystic Snake
Player B - responds to Mystic Snake with a Disrupt targetting their negate and neglects to pay 1. Snake resolves with the only target on                stack being Fact or Fiction.

Murderous Redcap
Murderous Redcap 2.5

I am rather biased against the duel colour cards as I find them very ugly in decks not of both colours. They are of course better than mono coloured cards and significantly better than normal gold cards but this doesn't always stop me playing something else less ugly in my deck. Despite me being bad and having my reservations the Redcap is a very powerful card. He is generally more card advantage than the other 187 creatures and is far less often dead in your hand. On the whole Redcap is the control decks choice card where as Flame Tongue Kavu and Skinrender are the more aggressive choices as they have much greater impact on the board due to greater immediate killing potential and bigger bodies. The Redcap is more of a speed bump, like Solemn Simulacrum, that is really unappealing to attack into. He is also a great utility monster in Recurring Nightmare and / or Birthing Pod decks.

Shadowmage Infiltrator
Shadowmage Infiltrator 1.5

A card that is fast losing ground in the power creep but still finds a home enough to deserve his slot over other cards despite being gold. The most comparable card to this is Thieving Magpie as a 1/3 evasive monster with card draw upon damaging a player. Flying and Fear are pretty comparable in the cube as evasion where as three mana is a worlds difference to four. While being gold makes the infiltrator far less playable, being four mana, gold or otherwise, is  unplayable period. Other weaker options exist that are too vulnerable and lacking any evasion. Without evasion these kinds of cards require too much setting up to make them worthwhile card draw engines and really have to be the complete package on their own, which the infiltrator is. Despite this he is a slow way to draw cards and quite a vulnerable investment to make with it having no impact till it starts to connect. He finds most play in mid range blue black decks rather than pure agro or control. He will still see some play in Psychatog or other blue black pure control decks but is sharing more and more with cards like Jace Beleren, Vampire Nighthawk, Enclave Cryptologist and Seagate Oracle.

Kitchen FinksKitchen Finks 4.0

An incredibly powerful monster that works in control and agro decks equally well. Thanks to Meliria the Finks has a combo deck of sorts too. The hybrid cost with only two thirds colour requirement, unlike Boggart Ram-Gang, finds the Finks in many non white or non green decks. Zoo and the rock are the two most frequent homes of the Finks. They are also about the best card you can play against aggressive mono red equating to about a 4 for 1. While they would be far less exciting without either one of the life gain or the persist (but still having a 4 life gain) the Finks would still be a cube worthy powerful monster. Great tempo gain through lasting board position and life gain push them over the edge of reasonable power. They need no support cards to make them powerful although do have good synergy with sacrifice effects and things that remove counters or add +1/+1 counters. Undying is a much more powerful mechanism than persist but no monsters with either effect have been printed that are so devoid of drawbacks and so easy to include in decks as the Finks.

Geist of Saint Traft
Geist of Saint Traft 2.0

This guy offers a lot of punch for just three mana and being hexproof is of great help with his fragile body, both for safe equipping and avoiding spot removal. The card is not without its drawbacks however, the most obvious being that he has few decks in which he is really at home. UW has a selection of aggressive options and is certainly competitive, it is quite clumsy to build and lacks great synergies resulting in it being an uncommon deck to encounter. The only other places this shows up are 4 or 5 colour zoo decks and UWR tricksy tempo decks. Gold cards inherently struggle to find numerous homes however even if this were mono white or mono blue it probably still wouldn't be an auto include for any decks. Three is a funny point on the curve for most agro decks as the really game winning cards cost 4 or more and your agro base costs 2 or less. Cards that are just quite good frequently don't make the cut in the aggressive decks as the few slots are reserved for cards you need to do a specific thing such as a Viridian Shaman. The other huge problem with this card is that you generally only get one attack out of it. Most decks pack a bunch of cheap utility creatures, most of which trade with the Geist and very gladly at that. Getting good value out of the Geist is quite hard and requires them to have few dorks while you have good removal. His best use is taking out planeswalkers with the Angel on the one attack he is likely to get. He is also quite nice as a sort of danger card that you can lay and have your opponent play too much around the card despite all it is doing in the present is sitting in play doing nothing.

Boggart Ram-Gang
Boggart Ram-Gang 3.0

Gangs of goblins are always good and this guy lives up to that. While all the goblins in this gang are condensed into one body it is one of the best tempo cards in the cube for three mana. A decent size in addition to haste and the ability to take permanent chunks out of huge monsters is a big swing of tempo. Wither has just got a little worse with undying monsters arriving and was not the most relevant of effects before then but is still definitely better than not having it. Unike Kitchen Finks or the other hybrid mana dorks the Ram-Gang being tripple red or green needs to be played in mono red, mono green or red green. I have seen it played in Naya and Jund type decks but I am not a huge fan of that, if you can't cast it on turn three or when you have three mana the gang starts to look a lot worse. He used to see a lot of play in red deck wins but that has had really good one and two drops that have edged the Gang out of the picture somewhat. He now primarily gets played in RG beats as mono green stompy has not progressed past a tier 2 deck, he is also usually guaranteed a spot in goblins decks despite have no synergy with Warchief at all. The best thing that you can do with a Ram-Gang is reveal it to the cascade of Bloodbraid Elf.

Knight of the ReliquaryKnight of the Reliquary 2.5

This is a very powerful and useful little dork that has loads of applications and trickery. She can ramp, she can fix, she can tutor, she grows and all for the bargain cost of three. A few things however keep her much more in check in the cube than she has been in constructed formats. Firstly with 40 card decks you can only play so many cool lands to go and fetch as you won't reliably have a forest of plains to ditch if you have too many non basics. Having only one copy of Temple Garden and Savannah makes you more reluctant to pitch those, even more so with things like Taiga when you are more than just green white. Secondly a lot of the good lands to go and get with the Knight are way to narrow to ever have slots in the cube. Secondly the Knight is pretty slow often being a lowly 2/2 with no impact on the board when cast. She is an aggressive utility creature like a Fauna Shaman or a Lotus Cobra and will tend to see play in creature based decks that want to be the aggressor however she is much more suited to being on defence so as to be able to block and activate.This means she is at her best in creature on creature games. Unless she is finding man lands or surviving a Geddon or Cataclysm against control she is not the most exciting threat and is pretty ineffective against combo.

PsychatogPsychatog 2.0

Good old teeth has sadly not aged all that well no transferred over to the cube format with all the perks he had in constructed. Exiling cards, particularly in blue decks with their reshuffle effects, is always a little uncomfortable and trying to have enough to get the Tog to 20 power or close to is a really tall order in 40 card decks. On top of this there is no redundancy for Tog in the cube and so basing a strategy around him is pretty risky. Tog Upheaval is a very weak deck in cube not just for the ease of going Plains Path to Exile after they reset the game with a Tog on their side. He is still a very versatile creature and good in both quirky agro control decks as well as control decks. In the latter he doubles up as both an early speed bump as well as a potential late game win condition but should definitely not be relied upon for the latter and certainly not at the expensive of crippling yourself early to keep him about. 

Qasali PridemageQasali Pridemage 3.0

In a single colour this would be better than a 3.5 as it is the optimal utility dork. A very efficient beater that also serves as an answer to loads of annoying cards that otherwise would require diluting of your deck to be able to deal with and leave you with dead cards and bad draws. Although you have to lose the dork to kill a thing unlike Viridian Shaman you are not constrained by keeping it back until needed and are therefore able to curve out nicely with it. It is basically an auto include in any green white deck with creatures in. Being able to hit both artifacts and enchantments is nice too as many of the white, green and red creatures that deal with awkward permanents only hit one or the other. Viridian Zealot originally had a cube slot and saw play as a cheaper alternative to Nantuko Vigilante however it was all round really awful, you never wanted to lose it in combat as you would then be without your answer, you also often tried to keep up activation mana to sacrifice as a response to things. The cheaper activation and extra toughness make Pridemage much more usable.

Figure of DestinyFigure of Destiny 3.5

A wonderfully designed card that was a precursor the great mechanic of levelling. Figure has a lot going for it being usable in two of the better weenie colours, being a one drop and also a late game threat. As a one drop it is rather like a Pounching Jaguar as it achieves really very little without becoming a 2/2 first which obviously ties up extra mana. Overall it is better than an echo 2/2 for one or a haste 2/2 for 2 as you get the flexibility in how you curve out with it. The level mechanic is pleasantly different from actual level monsters for two reasons, one that is better and one worse, keeping it in good balance overall. Figure may be grown (or shrunk!) at instant speed which is significantly more convenient than other levellers however the increments of cost increase meaning you can't physically reach higher levels without all the mana to do so in one go making it a worse mana sink. While not the most efficient card for its mana the flexibility and good scaling of the card throughout the game make it one of the best one drops in the game. Most comparable to Student of Warfare it is a little less efficient for the cost but more flexible in where and how it may be played.

No comments:

Post a Comment