Tuesday, 3 July 2012

M13 Preliminary Reviews

Ajani, Caller of the PrideAjani, Caller of the Pride 3.0

Three mana walkers are always interesting and this does not let the team down. It is good without being over powered. The thing I like most about it is that while it has a huge loyalty buffer it is not always something you are desperate to attack which makes for more choices and interesting games. It rather relies on you having creatures for it to be much use and so will not see much play in control or combo decks. Despite being a bit narrower than the other three mana walkers he has nicely spread abilities which do most of what you want in a creature deck. The plus one is a minor tempo boost and a way of gaining incremental advantage, the middle ability gives great reach and has good synergy with the plus one. It is immediately usable which is handy when you want to be able to use it as a surprise and doesn't even kill Ajani. The ultimate is pretty good too and should win the game in the rare occasions you get there.

Attended KnightAttended Knight C Cube

I like this guy and while he does have some advantages over Blade Splicer he is clearly the worse card and so is unlikely to see any play.

Faith's Reward

Faith's Reward C Cube

Redundancy for Second Sunrise will be useful for a selection of niche combo decks that will provide some variation and entertainment however that is about the extent of its cube usage.

Sublime Archangel C Cube

It has the potential for some surprise big attacks and can then follow up as a massive flier but alone it is rather unexciting and the 4 drops it has to compete with make me think this is never seeing play.

Sublime Archangel

War Falcon

War Falcon 3.0

I really like this card and liken it to Champion of the Parish. Both are about as powerful a threat you can get for a one mana investment provided you have sufficient support for them. If anything I prefer the Falcon as it is more resilient to bounce and scales better with equipment and such. Most white weenie decks naturally have enough of the required tribal dorks to have this functional most of the time and can be tweaked accordingly to up that chance. It will not require a diluting of the deck to support and can still be Skullclamped or Mortarpodded away if it does misfire. Much more consistent and of much more widespread use than Glinthawk and for just one toughness less I feel this will be in the cube for the long haul.

Augur of Bolas
Augur of Bolas 2.5

I am a fan of cheap defensive monsters than replace themselves. This is exactly that most of the time and although the draw effect is a downgrade on Sea Gate Oracle the mana cost less more than makes up for this. It does mean that the card cannot be sensibly played in many decks that Sea Gate Oracle is a desirable card as the instant and sorcery count is too low but the decks it does fit into it will significantly outshine the Oracle.  A 1/3 is the perfect defensive body and way better than Wall of Omens and it is in blue, the colour most desperate for any tempo drops early.

EncrustEncrust B Cube

I hate it, much like I hate Murder. Three mana is an awful lot for a removal card that goes one for one and in this case neither indefinitely or at instant speed. The thing is, it gets the job done and better than any other blue alternative. I hope it doesn't come to playing it but it easily could.

Master of the Pearl TridentMaster of the Pearl Trident B Cube

This might be the card that pushes merfolk to tier one and justify me putting the various support cards in the A cube for the first time. I would also suggest that it pushes merfolk into the top 5 tribal cube decks (including affinity). Redundancy is just so important for any deck and having the best and most important card doubled in quantity will vastly increase the power and consistency of Merfolk. I will tentatively rank it as B cube for now until I have actually built a merfolk deck and seen how it competes in the current environment rife with serious monsters and removal.

Jace's PhantasmJace's Phantasm 1.5

A big upgrade on Flying Man which is playable only due to having flying from the outset. This is because the threshold effect is so unreliable and late game under normal situations. Putting in mill is not worth it for one card and in a mill deck an aggressive monster is not top of the priorities list. As such it should be viewed as a one drop flier when putting it in your deck, meaning if your deck doesn't want that ever then you shouldn't be playing it. The +4/+4 makes the monster utterly unreasonable and a great finisher in long games and will be relevant often enough to make the card playable if not overly exciting or powerful. I can see this getting play in agro blue skies style decks as well as an option for control decks that have ways to make use of it should they not want a lowly 1/1 flier in the mid game.

OmniscienceOmniscience B Cube

This is a bit of an Emrakul as it spells game over if you get it into play but doing this requires lots of effort. Due to working with Academy Rector as well as Show and Tell I imagine there will be a combo deck around it. Whether it is powerful enough and doesn't require too many unplayables in isolation such as this card then it will get an A cube slot but I wouldn't bet on that being the case.

Talrand's Invocations C Cube

I am not a huge fan of Talrand himself for being too vulnerable and slow however this one shot injection of 2/2 fliers is pretty decent. In blue it is more impressive than elsewhere as your getting good value in power and toughness for your mana. Getting two bodies instead of one is also a bonus although a little diminished by their being tokens. The thing that most draws me to it is that you can use it with Snapcaster to apply pressure which few other blue cards allow. This is a rather specific use and not a reason alone to be getting cube slots, lots of cards are made better by other already insanely powerful cards.

Void StalkerTalrand's Invocation

Void Stalker C Cube

Another card a bit like Encrust in that it is cumbersome and slow and generally quite horrid yet in blue it is removal as well as a two power two drop dork, both of which are not common for the colour. Probably will never see play but it is the kind of card that might one day be just the ticket.

Liliana of the Dark RealmsLiliana of the Dark Realms C Cube

Planeswalkers always get put aside to go somewhere in the cube although this is one of the very worst. It is more playable than some but when you do play it it will do very little for you. Even the ultimate isn't a win which is rare even for the naff walkers. No initial protection is an immediate boon for any walker and requires them to be very good in other ways which this isn't. PV gave a lot of detail to describing why this is weak and he was on the money so I won't double up on saying the same stuff.

Knight of InfamyKnight of Infamy B Cube

I don't like protection guys very much as my cube is so constructed orientated there are often lots of mono decks being built and these just hose them in a not so fun way. Black lacks solid and consistent 2 drops that are easy to cast for which this ticks the box. I am yet to decide if I want to include cards in my cube where their biggest strength is a protection effect.

MurderMurder C Cube

Really rather too expensive to be cube worth however it is the best 100% reliable black removal spell and thus gains a C cube slot just on the off chance someone feels like they need this over Doomblade/Go for the Throat.

MurderVeilborn Ghoul C Cube

This is a really really bad Squee Goblin Nabob but if you need redundancy that badly then perhaps...?

Vile Rebirth B Cube

I love a one mana 2/2 however this version is somewhat gimped by the fact you can't reliably make it on turn one. Being instant is really cool and useful but doesn't make up for the unreliability of being able to cast it. Against a few strategies it might be the best hoser option in an agro black deck and may even be good enough to run as disruption in a more control deck but I doubt it. It is interesting enough to get to the B cube over the C cube as there may be uses for it I have not noticed.

Firewing PhoenixVile Rebirth

Firewing Phoenix 1.5

A big powerful flier with useable recursion seems really good but it let down by being a bit too slow and soft to really see much play. All the cheaper fliers trade with it and most of those most expensive just swat it away. Control struggles to have enough mana to use it while doing much else at all and beatdown would rather apply more direct pressure and presence on the board. The only place I can see this getting much play is UR control decks and GR ramp decks.

MagmaquakeMagmaquake B Cube

I don't think this cuts it over the alternatives. Instant is nice but really Starstorm does most of what you want from this in that area. Rarely will you be facing two planewalkers and so the other advantage of Magmaquake over Earthquake is that it doesn't damage you which for a red card is not a real concern. This may have sneaked into the cube if it were not for Bonfire of the Damned which is vastly above this in power. As it is one mana and X is often too steep to act as a board sweeper so and another mana to that and you have a a very slow and unreliable removal spell that can't ever double up as the Fireball to the face to end it all in short order.

Slumbering Dragon

Slumbering Dragon C Cube

Obviously this is awful but I think it is cute and so will stash one away so I can use it to tilt people or abuse it with some mechanism. Ajani and Mikeaus combined don't feel like they come close to making this good but one day!

SmeltSmelt B Cube

Narrow as it comes and both Shattering Spree and Smash to Smithereens offer a lot more value for minimal drawbacks however small differences like this can often make huge differences in games and so when you want something done it is often best to use the very best too for that job and not some Swiss Army Knife phaff card.

Searing SpearSearing Spear 3.0

Dull but sensible, we will be getting the dull version of Chain Lightening at some point for the complete package of balanced burn spells. Incinerate is better but so marginally it is basically irrelevant. This will see a lot of play despite there being two directly better cards in the cube and lots of others that offer slightly different things that are on very similar power levels.

Thundermaw HellkiteThundermaw Hellkite 3.0

When I saw this for the first time I was calling it the red Baneslayer and getting all excited. While it is clearly very good it is not quite as all round as the Baneslayer nor does it have as many viable homes. One thing is for sure, Rorix will be taking a back seat with Exalted Angel from now on. Obviously this is Rorix but easier to cast, Karakas proof and the obligatory random extra ability just to rub it in sometimes. I can see this getting play in control decks with red, big red and even RG beats. One thing it does very very well is take out a planeswalker which in itself might not be worth 5 mana but the leftover 5/5 dragon changes that somewhat. It also hoses a few specific cards like Bitterblossom, Lingering Souls (which I am more than happy about) and Meloku.

Wild GuessWild Guess 2.0

Red really is getting the love for discard outlets and while this isn't even close to the power level of Faithless Looting it adds highly important redundancy to any strategies involving discard. The discard as an additional cost makes the card very awkward to play against countermagic and the double red cost makes it clumsier outside of a mono red deck both of which are a shame as both RG and BR have some good synergy with discard and lack good outlets for it. The one advantage it has over many discard outlets, especially non blue ones is that it does not lose you any card advantage. Presently I don't think there are quite enough cards for this to see play in any decks that wouldn't be better using blue and not this, however as red, green and black continue to get interesting graveyard based things to do this card could easily start to see a lot more play.

WorldfireWorldfire C Cube

Hehe, lots of fun with my suspend cards and Gut Shots and all manner of easy ways to end a game reset at sudden death. Shame about the casting cost making such strategies destined to fail. Still, as far as power goes this is pretty extreme.

Flinthoof BoarFlinthoof Boar 1.5

This is a surprisingly good card summed up ironically well by a friend of mine complaining about how dull it was. His argument was that it was like a Watchwolf or a Goblin Ram-Gang which are both boring cards (especially without wither) and are both of average power in the cube. The key part of that claim is the "or" which makes this card really quite nice as it is a card that fulfils two roles and does both with decent power to mana ratios which is hard to find on the versatile double use cards. It is not the card itself that will be noticeably powerful when played however the effect it will have on your overall curving out will be dramatic. Unlike most cards which serve two or more roles both aspects of this card are very similar in theme and are right next to each other on the curve. Having this guy in your draw will serve to vastly improve the tempo of
your starting turns as you have got something to cover on two or three mana that is good and does what you want. Other cards like the Watchwolf or the Ram-Gang require you to specifically have a three or a two drop respectively where as Flinthoof Boar lets you have either and still be pretty optimal. While I really like the card it is essentially a gold card and unlikely to see play in any decks other than RG beats or Zoo and so it will struggle to hold onto an A cube slot. Watchwolf certainly doesn't get one!

ThragtuskThragtusk 2.0

Green has more five drop dorks than any other colour by quite some margin already and even with the natural ramp in green this is the primary cause for concern I have with this card. Almost all of them are also really strong with Birthing Pod and Recurring Nightmare which are the spells this critter calls for and so it will have to compete highly for slots in decks. This is a value and utility card rather than a finisher which is very rare for monsters costing more than three mana in  the cube and most of that utility may be found on cheaper cards. Obstinate Baloth gives life, Brindle Shoat and Strangleroot Giest both replace themselves and Kitchen Finks does both! All of this makes me wonder if Thragtusk will make the final cut of any deck but what you get for the mana makes it well worth trying out lots to be sure. One of the most significant things this card offers that the others don't is protection against exile and bounce effects as the 3/3 token triggers from leaving play rather than going to the graveyard which makes it much better against white and blue decks. The saving grace of this card is the more limited ways to play cube where decks have less cohesion. In such cubes this is very playable and will make most green decks with enough tempo to be aggressive and enough value to be controlling.

Yeva, Nature's HeraldYeva, Nature's Herald B Cube

The ability is nice as is the body it comes on however the two don't go together that well. A four drop is too late to gain much value from the flash effect in green. Being an elf is handy as the elf deck is probably the archetype most interested in making its dorks at the end of turn but again at four mana I am not sure it will see play in many versions of the deck.

ChronomatonCronomaton C Cube

Very low power card and horrifically slow to do much but I still quite like it. It is a bit like a the very worst of Pouncing Jaguar crossed with Diregraf Ghoul as a tempo card but is a little bit better defensively. I can't yet think of a deck where I would want this although it would be playable in affinity but it is the kind of support card that might just work really well with a new mechanism or something further down the line.

This set does not offer much to the cube but for a base set it is doing OK. With so many of the cards being reprints it is also a fairly small set in terms of its potential to add to the cube. There are no real power cards with 3.5 rating or higher and some colours gain much more than others, notably black getting basically nothing of interest. In terms of impact on the cube and how much play they see I think these are the cards to be grabbing a copy of:

5. Augur of Bolas
4. Ajani, Caller of the Pride
3. War Falcon
2. Thundermaw Hellkite
1. Searing Spear

The other cards that make the A and B cube are all non-essentials and will likely drift in and out of the cube to keep it fresh.

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