Monday, 8 July 2013

M14 Set Review for Cube

The early bird version of the set review without pictures, hopefully to follow soon but I seem to have forgotten to do it for the last set...

Ajani's Chosen 0.1 (C cube)

Only ever likely to get a slot in the agro enchantress style decks, which are clumsy at best, and this is fairly expensive for such a deck. There are not enough enchantments to make this playable outside a dedicated deck and within a dedicated deck this is top end and unlikely to offer any return synergy like a Sigil of the Empty Throne offers.

Angelic Accord 0.3 (C cube)

Quite cute with Pule of the Fields and Wall of Reverance (I assume the latter works out) however a card that in reality needs too much support. I like enchantments as win conditions and I like ones that can have impact on the turn you make them but not enough top rate cards give you four life and certainly none of them are cheap enough (Goldenglow Moth?!?) to be firing this off as quick as is needed for cube viability.

Archangel of Thune 0.9 (B cube)

I want to write this off as rubbish but the memory of how badly wrong about Sublime Archangel I was is making me tread with more caution. As a control card this is not as effective as many fairly similar dorks such as Baneslayer Angel or Restoration Angel. Costing five however makes it rather top heavy for an agro deck and leaves this card squarely in the midrange category. It has less immediate impact than Sublime and less board presence than Baneslayer which will always be far preferable to either agro or control respectively. While not many midrange decks have established themselves into the cube meta yet it is a style of deck that is rapidly becoming more potent in my cube. Should you reliably expect to get to five mana by around turn five and also expect to have a selection of dorks in play most of the time which you are probably using to win with then your deck is midrange and may well prefer the Archangel of Thune to any other flavour of angel. If you can gain life the turn you make it she is particularly naughty and should very quickly give you a huge board advantage. Unlike the Baneslayer or Sublime in such a deck she is not so contained and will tend to yield you some advantage after they have killed it which is exactly what a midrange deck wants from its dorks. The fact she is a pretty serious threat that gets terrifying quite quickly is still the reason you play her but the added value for your dorks pushes her over the top for midrange archetypes. She is also utterly unfair with a Kitchen Finks and should you go to the lengths of throwing in a sacrifice outlet she will give grow as big as you want, along with your life total. If midrange continues to perform well in the cube this is exactly the kind of card that will shine however my gut is to sling this into the B cube for being expensive, narrow and clumsy, time and testing need to be applied here.

Banisher Priest 0.7 (B cube)

Fiend Hunter was really underwhelming in cube play as tempo decks didn't have much use for a 1/3 they had to be precious about losing and control decks didn't want unreliable expensive sorcery removal effects. The same will apply to control decks for the 2/2 version however agro decks may well be a bit more interested as two power makes it far less insignificant when attacking. Agro decks also have things like Mother of Runes to help protect it and make the lower toughness less concerning for those builds. It is also offers slightly less utility than Fiend Hunter which can exile your own docks so as to protect you against mass removal while this can only target opponents stuff. It fits better into the role it would play in the cube but is still rather unexciting, too many dorks have comes into play effects that will re-trigger should you lose this making it risky as well as unreliable removal. White is also less devoid of 3 drop tempo cards than it was when I excitedly added Fiend Hunter and so ultimately I think this will reside in the B cube.

Bonescythe Slither 0.2

Worth putting aside for that tribal Slivers deck as it is really rather pokey should you have made sufficient Muscle Sliver equivalents prior to casting it. Sadly as with all Slivers so far the only real home for them is the narrow tribal build.

Celestial Flare 1.2

I am presently running Wingshards in my cube as non-targetted sacrifice effects are highly effective solutions to a large number of the most awkward fatties and threats in the cube. Wingshards is especially brutal given the high number of haste monsters floating around the agro lists which this does not help against however it costs significantly less. Infact it costs exactly what it takes to turn poor removal into playable removal, consider Dark Banishing and Doom Blade or Putrify and Abrupt Decay or Arc Lighting and Arc Trail. My main concern for this card is the double white in the cost making it slightly more awkward to cast or even just represent while also representing counter magic. The trade off for it not having storm but costing one less seems entirely fair and reasonable. You also then get the added perk of being able to take out blockers which isn't great tempo as removal goes but will at least allow you to pressure when you do have an advantage. I cannot see the cube supporting both this and Wingshards but I would not be at all surprised if Flare did win out after some testing by virtue of cost and broader application.

Devout Invocation - no slot

No clue what was being considered when this pile of poo was made. Why seven mana? Why do we need to tap the men? Why so bad?

Fiendslayer Paladin 0.6 (C cube)

I vastly prefer this to any of the other protection knights white has in abundance. Paladin en-Vec is likely the much better card but you would only ever play it as a way to hose colours which is neither very fun or very skillful. This Paladin is more playable against a random matchup and will still be extra good against black and red mages without being quite such a dull and unfair hoser. Most of the time however Knights of Meddowgrain are just going to be the preferable choice despite their lame creature type. Essentially I like this card as it is more fun, fair and balanced than the alternatives such as en-Vec but not becuase it is more powerful and so I can't really justify ever giving it a slot.

Hive Stirrings 0.2 (C cube)

Good in tribal slivers but probably not enough. Bad in everything else.

Imposing Sovereign 2.3

This is most akin to Thalia, Guardian of Threben and will occupy much the same kind of slot within certain agro white decks. It is an especially weak body being fairly unexciting in combat and vulnerable even compared to Thalia however its effect is presently a lot more powerful in cube than Thalia's as well as not affecting your stuff. Creatures are the most commonly played card type in the cube after land and for two mana having all their unable to attack or block from the get go while advancing your own board position is huge. Many red and green agro decks are packed full of haste monsters which this really rather ruins. Control will be on the back foot to it if trying to make use of speed bump style dorks such as Sea Gate Oracle against it too. Being a human is nice but lacking a second type will make it slightly less popular in some of the other less common white tribal themes such as Soldiers or Knights. Not an exciting card but a fairly effective one that should give a reasonable boost to most agro white decks against the vast majority of the field.

Master of Diversion 0.1 (C cube)

A number of years ago this would have made the cut, it is actually a fairly good tempo card and gives white weenie a bit more reach. It is now sadly a bit too small or lacking in other perks to compete with things like Battlefield Medic, who is not all that hot himself.

Path of Bravery 1.1

Hmm, a situational Glorious Anthem with a built in life gain trigger. Usually in the sorts of deck where your life will be noticeably lower than your starting total having a life gain effect is going to be more valuable than the global pump. In any match where life will be close to your starting total this should immediately bring you back up to the threshold and be of use for your dorks. It can make you vulnerable to being burned to the face and having all your dorks shrunk at instant speed and might periodically run the risk of being a real waste of space however you run that risk with Honour the Pure and Crusade as well even if to a lesser extent. Normally I would be more wary of a card so dependant on the game state and so easy to turn into complete garbage however the design is rather elegant for this card and its effects work together as well as with its natural home of white based agro decks. It has a little more scope than Crusade etc as it will pump all your dorks, not just the white, and so may well be best suited to BW tokens style of deck. The lifegain aspect on an effect you want anyway will encourage the use of interesting cards like Ajani's Pridemate although we are not quite there yet. Overall I am tentatively going to put this in the A cube but would not be surprised if it turned out to be way too unreliable and simply worse than Glorious Anthem.

Seraph of the Sword 0.4 (C cube)

While this is perfectly playable in a cube format it is not exciting. It will be really tedious for some decks and just a somewhat overcost flier to others. Fliers and dorks are hardly ever bad so the card would work out fine but at four mana you really want to be looking at planeswalkers not fancy hill giants. I just don't see this card doing enough, as an agro card it is costly with limp aggressive stats and abilities while for control it just doesn't achieve enough reliably for a four mana card.

Soulmender 0.5 (C cube)

This is just too cheap and convenient not to see play at some point. Soul Warden is probably better in most situations but they are different enough that you can't rule out the Mender. Ajani's Pridemate is not enough but is the sort of card that will make the little Soulmender viable in certain strategies. Likely to crop up with Martyr of Sands and Serra Ascendant but more so in modern than in cube where singleton makes it less worth the effort of including those synergies.

Steelform Sliver 0.1 (C cube)

This is perhaps fine as filler for the tribal slivers deck if it ends up white however it is pretty awful and not the desired level of power for a cube deck. While it might seem the most appropriate card for some list at some point all that probably means is that a tribal slivers deck isn't good enough yet to be competitive.

Colossal Whale - no slot

Blue is out of ways to directly kill things with the new legend rules stopping clone cards ruining all our fun. The Whale sadly isn't going to be getting it done in their place, at seven mana and needing an attack to get to work while only being a poxy vanilla 5/5 and combined with returning all things eaten once gone the Whale is underpowered, vulnerable and very slow.

Dismiss into Dream - no slot

Apparently seven mana is the new cost for blue to be able to kill stuff. As an effect on a dork and for far less mana this would be useful in things like Opposition builds. As a seven mana enchantment this will never be worth it.

Elite Arcanisst - no slot

Look, its the worst Isochron Scepter ever.

Seacoast Drake 1.9

I cannot believe I am giving this such a high rating as it is so very dull. It does not get much duller than Lumengrid Warden and a common keyword ability is not my idea of excitement in a card. We all know that excitement doesn't mean good and dull doesn't mean bad. Some of the most powerful cards ever printed have fewest words on them. So, what is good about a 1U flying 1/3? In isolation, not all that much is the answer otherwise the white version of this card would be in the cube. However it is about the best tempo dork a blue mage can make on turn two. Three toughness is golden, allowing you to block most early agressive dorks and utility critters while surviving a lot of cheaper removal options. Flying is also golden and will help the card scale much better than other cheap stat heavy dorks into the late game. The Drake will offer a lot of added security for and against planeswalkers, even just nibbling them for one per turn keeps most walkers fairly well in check. Most blue dorks that cost two require further mana investments to do things (Voidmage, Snapcaster, Waterfront Bouncer, Lighthouse Chronologist), require specific conditions to be good (Spellstutter Sprite, Phantasmal Image, Augur of Bolas) or simply fail to affect the board much as they are so stat light (Looter il-Kor, Etherium Sculptor). The best comparison is the Lighthouse Chronologist who gives you decent board presence and scales up as the game goes on. The difference is that Chronologist becomes amazing in the very late game but is really nothing special from turns three to the late game while the Drake will still be very pesky throughout the midgame. Seacoast Drake is also far more able to be aggressive than most other blue two drops despite only having a single power. It will be very good in agro blue decks and still pretty good in the more midrange style decks. It will work very nicely with Cloudfin Raptor, Grand Architect and any equipment you care to name. This is the perfect filler card for a selection of blue based decks and should get a healthy amount of play.

Galerider Sliver 0.4 (C cube)

This is one of the few slivers that has some application outside of a pure slivers archetype all be it not very much. A 1/1 flier is not all bad in the right deck and with the odd changeling or even one of the many creature type shifting effects in blue it could be quite fun and powerful. Despite this I think it is too niche to be dragged out of the C cube more than once in a blue moon. One of the best slivers for the tribal deck however costing just one and providing a very useful ability.

Jace's Mindseeker 0.1 (C cube)

I hate cards that rely on what is in your opponents deck to determine their strength. The body is certainly not exciting at six mana and so you have to really want the effect, mill strategies can find far more effective cards and any other strategy for it is just banking on hitting something sweet. Icky card, no thanks.

Glimpse the Future 0.1 (C cube)

Expensive and sorcery for what is only really card quality and not card advantage. As such you are only likely to ever play this in a deck that wants to fill up its yard and then only as terrible redundancy for
Forbidden Alchemy...

Tidebender Mage 1.2 (B cube)

This is right on the boarder line between A and B cube for a few reasons. Firstly the deck that most wants it is a tribal merfolk deck which is itself only supported with B and C cube cards and not possible to do while just drafting from the A cube. Secondly it is rather a swingy card that will be acceptable to run blind in a tempo blue deck but will only really be cube worthy when facing red or green decks and will wind up in sideboards more than anything else. Sideboard cards are not the kind of thing you want to fill up a cube with and so despite its great tempo and ideal cost I feel as if the B cube is its rightful home. With some nice playable ways to change creature colours this would easily get an A cube slot.

Warden of Evos Isle 0.7 (C cube)

This card is big part of a very appealing little flying theme M14 has on the go for blue. It is fully a support card as flying Grey Ogres don't cut it in the cube. With enough flying dorks in an agro blue deck this could be a real help as such strategies stretch your mana very thin. It is all a bit too easy to get excited about cards like this, I am imagining all the good blue fliers in the cube and how good they would be at one less mana, UU Vendilion Clique anyone? Mulldrifters for four? Consecrated Sphinx at five?!? It all sounds rather mental and over powered but then if you sit back and consider the kinds of draws where that will be hugely relevant and it is not all that many, on top of that the Warden is easy to disrupt and so shouldn't be getting all that much play. You will just be better off for the most part having another top quality 3 drop flier instead of trying to make all your other fliers better. Never overlook a card that makes things cheaper however, they always seem to find a home somewhere, I for one will certainly try a few different builds out trying to abuse this fellow.

Windreader Sphinx 0.5 (C cube)

I guess this is a fixed Consecrated Sphinx but it really doesn't excite me much. Seven mana is pretty killer and to be at its best requires some support. You will neither kill people as fast nor obtain as much card advantage as you would from the Consecrated variety but Windreader should still kill people while getting you card advantage. Being so similar in this instance is a disadvantage however as you are not really looking for redundancy in cards like this, simply raw power and aptitude for the task. Powerful enough for cube, perhaps, but still far too second rate to ever be happy about it it.

Bogbrew Witch 0.1 (C cube)

A cynical part of me thinks this is an attempt to make the game of Magic more appealing to the rapidly expanding market of female gamers. If so then my only comment would perhaps be that the marketing departments responsible would benefit from downsizing. Moving on, I first read this card as costing three which would make it very interesting for cube play. At four you get a very unimpressive body complete with a slow and limited card advantage package even if it would work incredibly well with Volrath's Stronghold. You also need to dilute your decks with disjointed and arguably under powered cards so as to make your Witch close to playable. This is certainly the weakest of the three in the set however it does greatly increase the value of the other two and so you would probably have to go the whole hog and play all three if you wanted to play some.

Corpse Hauler 0.1 (C cube)

A sort of handy little filler dork that might have been good enough a while back. Now black has enough filler that this sort of thing shouldn't ever see play.

Dark Prophecy 1.6

This is a very interesting little spell. Life for cards at three mana is how black rolls in the cube and so where does this fit in and how does it compare to the alternatives? It is as restrictively cost as Necropotence however I wouldn't be that desperate to play this outside of mono black that much, perhaps the occasional BG or BW deck would appreciate it but usually you can find more reliable ways to gain card advantage when in more colours. It has two perks over Necro and one big drawback that is the fact you need to trigger it rather than just paying life at will ensuring you need to have your deck well set up to use it at all. The perks are that you need not forgo your actual draw making it a safer card to drop down. You also get to draw cards immediately not wait till the end of turn which is reasonably significant in tempo decks and given that this needs abundant cheap dorks to trigger will almost exclusively see play in tempo decks. Compared to Phyrexian Arena it has only one real advantage and that is that you have the potential to get a lot more cards a lot more quickly which again makes it more suitable for tempo based decks. The conclusion is that Dark Prophecy has the potential to be more effective than Necropotence and Phyrexian Arena however it is vastly more restrictive than either, having only one archetype in which it can excel and forcing that archetype to be built in a certain way. Although nothing alike as a card the limitations imposed by Champion of the Parish are very similar, he only goes into a white weenie deck and when you chose to play him you are forced into building your white weenie deck with a heavy human count. Although I typically don't like adding the very niche cards into the cube Dark Prophecy is both very powerful and rather interesting making me far more inclined. The deck it slots into already contains a large number of great support cards for it such as Bloodghast, Gravecrawler, Carrion Feeder, Death Cloud, Skullclamp and black has many more powerful cards to further supplement should it desire such as Cabal Therapy, Smallpox, Bitterblossom, Braids, Cabal Minion, Recurring Nightmare and the list goes on. When it comes to sacrificing dorks black is the colour to be.

Festering Newt 0.2 (C cube)

While this is generally better than Festering Goblin, not just for the synergy with all the Cauldron and Witch malarkey but also for its inability to target your own guys. It will however probably still never see play on its own. Festering Goblin is only ever played as a filler card and as such its creature types are fairly important. Both being far more useful than salamander or lizard or whatever the Newt is I can't see this doing anything other than humouring people who want to have a go playing at Witches with their Bogbrew.

Gnawing Zombie 1.3

Another card like Sea Drake that is really rather dull and low power but manages to offer a lot of desirable things all in one neat little package. Black, like blue has a narrow selection of two drops most of which have one toughness. Lots cost BB or have drawbacks and very few are zombies. This bad boy is safe, easy to play, strong on the defensive and offers a vast array of synergy from lifegain, to sacrifice outlets, to creature type, even as a finisher with hard to stop damage. Despite not being outstanding on the offensive I suspect lots of agro black decks will still play this card as it will do so much for them overall. Oddly it is the control decks that I suspect will not play this so often but it should still see enough play from just the cheaper mono black decks to warrant an A cube slot, even if not exactly a prestigious one.

Grim Return 0.1 (C cube)

Very hard to abuse on fatties and unlikely to ever see play in a reanimate style deck however it does have some alternate use as a sort of counter to removal that also triggers come into play effects again... All a bit situational for my tastes. It is not even competitively cost when compared against other cube reanimation effects.

Lifebane Zombie 0.7 (B cube)

M14 is padding out black quite nicely with new zombies that are of playable power levels. Black is not in great need of three drops however, zombie or otherwise, especially not one toughness situational hosers. Against white or green decks this is fine but it is really not the sort of card you want to play in your maindeck blind being really quite weak against black and red decks on the whole. It is rather awkward as a late game topdeck as it is rarely going to hit even against a white green mage. Not the worst card but not exciting enough to be pulled out of the B cube and too situational to start out life anywhere else. It is bad etiquette to go looking for hosers from the B and C cube!

Liliana's Reaver 2.2

With black having so few straight up solid dorks this will get a slot no trouble but as black continues to play catchup well with the other colours in terms of depth in quality dorks this could well slip out of the A cube. This is a four mana spell that only has three toughness and requires you to make contact before you get any further value from it. Most of the time this will just be a midrange one for one kind of card. If you just get in one hit however you suddenly have a huge amount of value from the Reaver making it more than worthwhile. Burst mana in black makes the card more interesting, as does the creature type. Even the mana cost is rather pleasing as it can easily be played outside of mono black decks. The deathtouch makes it better in the end game where it will be facing up against fatties resulting in a fairly well rounded dork that should see lots of play despite my prediction that he will infrequently deal combat damage to players. The fact that when he does make contact makes it likely the game is well on its way to over will ensure that people make some highly unfavourable plays to keep it from hitting them. A high power card that is surprisingly free of stipulations and drawbacks for a black card allowing you to comfortably throw it into any old black deck. He probably does fall into the category of dorks that basically say "answer me or lose" such as Master of the Wild Hunt or Baneslayer Angel however to answer him all you need is a three power dork thus making him far far less scary.

Rise of the Dark Realms 0.1 (C cube)

Nine mana, ouch. I'll stick to my Living Death and Patriarch's Bidding thanks, I don't need all your dorks as well to win in the kind of deck that might want this effect.

Shadowborn Demon 1.5

This is a tricky little card that is typically black with its irksome upkeep, unlike the refreshing Reaver. Obviously a five mana 5/6 flier that kills almost any dork in the cube when it comes into play is amazing and alone would be one of blacks top dorks. Not being able to kill Baneslayer Angel is likely more annoying than not being able to kill any demon but not enough to detract from this rather serious card. Sadly however you must assume that when you play this card it will be requiring a tribute of your dorks each of your upkeeps. Six is an awful lot of dorks to have in your bin and will only happen in the very late game unless you have some sort of Survival of the Fittest or dredge style deck. When you start to look at it assuming the upkeep must always be paid it is a completely different style of card much more akin to a Ball Lightning or a Blastoderm. It is quite expensive for that kind of a card but then makes up for it by having a lot of effect on the game. In close long games where he is not in a deck with things like Bloodghast to really power him up he should be taking out their best dork and then allow you to trade creatures for their planeswalkers. Against control decks however trying to take him all the way will probably result in you just costing yourself the game through card disadvantage. I can't actually see this getting much play outside of BG Nightmare/Survival decks or agro black decks. Midrange and control won't have the support to make him better than a Shriekmaw most of the time while agro decks will have the sacrificial chumps to hand and the burst mana to power him out early and really dominate the game. Shriekmaw is more reliable and more versatile in its primary role and although less exciting as a dork it remains much safer and should be the card of choice in the majority of situations over this new Demon. I will try it out in the A cube in respect for its raw power however I anticipate it not getting enough play to remain there.

Syphon Sliver 0.1 (C cube)

Meh, another fine sliver for use only in tribal decks.

Tenacious Dead 0.2 (C cube)

A bit restrictive and costly on the return effect to use as sacrificial body as you need to have the mana up as it dies. Also too low impact and the wrong creature types to be used as synergic filler.

Xathrid Necromancer 1.2

I have always loved a Rotlung Reanimator who has himself seen a reasonable amount of cube play back in the day. The biggest problem with old Rotlung is that clerics were an awkward and uncommon creature type to be filling up on. Humans on the other hand are powerful and abundant within the cube making this newcomer vastly more interesting. Sadly however black has very few humans itself making this a card that will rarely see play in mono black decks. Its casting cost is fine for this but it is a big loss for the mono black archetypes which love to sacrifice things and have new toys like Dark Prophecy to play with. I mostly see this getting play in the various incarnations of BW Pox and BW tokens decks that are strong in cube as white has the most humans to offer. Blue also has a high human count but has far less in the way of synergic or abusable cards to put with the Necromancer and his posse of humans. If black had way more humans or this triggered of non-token zombies then my rating for this card would be into the threes but as it stands it is a little light on homes or support to be worthy or much higher.

Academy Raider 0.3 (C cube)

Argh! Why so harsh on red looting effects? Looter il-Kor this is not being easier to block, 50% more mana and having a much more restricting loot due to the requirement of discarding before drawing. All said and done there are situations where I might want a card not unlike this for my deck which is a little painful. This is a terrible card but after Faithless Looting there is a rather huge gap in power before the next lot of red looting effects of which this is one of the better ones...

Awaken the Ancient 0.2 (C cube)

Haste is a pretty useless ability to give to the mountain as presumably it is not all that hard in any situation to enchant an old mountain rather than a fresh one. Trample instead and this might be good enough just as a very cheap fatty. As it stands it is vulnerable and offers very little value.

Barrage of Expendables 0.1 (C cube)

Strictly worse than Goblin Bombardment and with no real application in combo I don't see Barrage being used as weak redundancy in that area either. A cheap and useful card none the less and so having a copy stashed away won't hurt...

Blur Sliver 0.3 (C cube)

Great for the sliver deck and potentially the sliver-Bidding combo deck, otherwise useless.

Chandra, Pyromaster 3.7

Well this is one of the best walkers we have seen for some time, probably since Liliana of the Veil. It is also a good margin better than any other red walker on offer. For just RR2 instead of R3 for Firebrand you get an extra loyalty, significantly more value from the +1 and a far more widely useful and reusable second ability. The walker that this most reminds me of is Jace, the Mind Sculptor primarily because of the 0 loyalty  card advantage effect. Obviously Brainstorming is vastly more powerful than the Elkin Bottle sytle effect on Pyromaster but then plus loyalty on the protection effect and extra starting loyalty make up for this a bit in other ways. Red also has very little in the way of card draw which this really nicely covers. Ultimates matter very little on most walkers, having two powerful and useful top abilities like Pyromaster is vastly more relevant. All the best walkers all give you a choice as to which of their abilities is most helpful, the weaker ones tend to simply force you to always play the same one first, often over and over again. Certainly the 0 ability is weakest on the turn you make her as you will have 4 mana tied up in having cast Chandra and if curving out will have also made a land already however it is quite easy to set up something useful with library manipulation or careful play. Pyromancers ultimate looks reasonably limp at first look as it is a little unpredictable and sometimes dangerous. It won't work with some of your big hitting spells either as they will be X spells. On the flip side however it is rather cheap to use making it more viable than many of the big ultimates and will do one of two things that are both desirable, the first is a tutoring effect which red otherwise has very limited access to allowing you to find something like a Wildfire you need to seal up the game. It will give you more consistency in having appropriate outs in situations as well as bolstering builds reliant on specific cards. The other good thing the ability will do is, like most good ultimates, win the game. In fact, it should do so often enough quicker than most other ultimates. Presumably you have done them at least three damage in getting your Chandra to seven and by that stage in the game it is altogether fairly likely that a humble Lightning Bolt cast three times is going to end things. Sure, you are not getting what seems like great value out of your seven loyalty when you just cast three one mana spells however that is rather missing the point when it is sufficient to outright take the game. With red having immense redundancy in burn I can see this ultimate being fairly dangerous. The plus one effect is remarkably good compared to the various other attempts on red walkers in the past and for the various things you may want from it it is also impressively effective. You can ping off something little and get back your Phoenix at the same time, you can force through damage past their fatty in the latter game where pining dorks loses its value somewhat and still apply a bit of extra pressure to their dome directly. It is not quite as good defensively but then backed up by five loyalty for only four mana it is still vastly better than anything else red has to offer. The concern I have for this card is where exactly it will fit in. In a control deck it is certainly better than Firebrand but it is still not in the same league as Jace, the Mind Sculptor. With any sort of counter magic you would need additional library manipulation to have the card draw ability be much use. Control decks are also less interested in stopping things from blocking. I am sure it will get some play in control decks but not close to as much as one might expect if one was just looking at the power difference between this and other incarnations of Chanrda. Red agro decks on the other hand tend to end their curves on or by three mana although the abilities would suit red deck wins very well while being more consistent than Koth. Perhaps the raw power of this new red walker will allow for different builds of agro red of which some are happier to go higher on the curve. Red has had less success in forming midrange decks, in which Pyromaster would be perfect, than other colours. Again, perhaps the raw power of this card complete with its card advantage and utility package will allow new builds of midrange red to form. Even if midrange has little success with Pyromancer and red deck wins remains best unchanged there is still much scope for new Chandra as red has plenty of unusual and competitive archetypes ranging for artifact based decks like big red to non-blue control decks all of which could definitely be interested in the saucy new walker.

Dragon Egg 0.2 (C cube)

Cute, fun and a rarity in that it is a cheap dragon. Sadly it is effort to make useful and not powerful enough to be worth that effort. May perhaps see some play in a quirky tribal dragon deck.

Goblin Diplomats 0.3 (C cube)

A fun little card that has acceptable stats combined with the ability to mess with your opponents attacking and blocking plans. He will allow you to break stalemates and force races where you are favoured but these will be fairly situational. Red decks typically don't generate a good defensive posture otherwise this could be used in stalemates as a way of killing off their weaker critters. Perhaps I am being overly harsh on the card but I don't think it does enough reliably to be worth inclusion in any deck, even a tribal goblin one. Despite this I like the card and think it is fun and interesting.

Mindsparker 1.0

Hmm, I wish this had haste just so it was an easy rating and allocation. As it is I remain in two minds, in its favour red lacks many decent board presence three drops with this being one of the best now available. It blocks very well and can attack fairly safely, even late game if backed up with instant burn. Its hoser ability is fairly broad and works well with most red strategies while remaining strong throughout the game unlike Lifebane Zombie which get weaker as time goes on. All in all I am inclined to throw it into the A cube both to encourage more midrange red decks and to test out tentatively how objectionable I find hoser cards to be. While this card is still fine to maindeck blind and won't be dud against non blue or white mages it wouldn't be close to playable without the hoser effect as a random bonus.

Molten Birth 0.2 (C cube)

I have a Krark's Thumb in my C cube and this is one of the better cards you could hope to pair with it and yet it still wouldn't be worth it. I am not really sure what to make of this card in a more serious sense, it is pretty mediocre if you lose the flip, win it once and it is a fine card and win non-stop and you should be winning. To be honest, if if you had a Krark's Thumb in play it is still a whole load worse than Lingering Souls. A fairly different card that might one day have a home but at present I just don't see a place for this.

Ogre Battledriver 1.2 (B cube)

Well, this is a lot of monster but sadly it is all the wrong way round so to speak for the cube. Compare this to Hellrider which is the same size and costs the same, the Hellrider comes down and immediately has an effect on all your previous plays. Battledriver however comes down and then does nothing until you make another play giving your opponent loads of time to respond and/or disrupt you. Hellrider scales with all your previous plays as well as future ones while the Battledriver is only relevant to the latter. As such Battledriver is a fairly uninspiring end to a curve and really needs to have things like Grave Titan and Siege-Gang Commander in the deck to follow up with. This makes him pretty much exclusively a midrange card which is something red does not excel at presently. As such the card is too narrow to deserve an A  cube slot despite his obvious high power level. Potentially very brutal when setup with a Living Death as it has the desired combo effect while not being weak in normal play situations.

Scourge of Valkas 1.3 (B cube)

This is very close to good enough and may well have had an A cube slot if it had come before Thundermaw Hellkite. A 4/4 flying fire breather for 5 is going to end games fast. The comes into play effect is a bit difficult to abuse with few good dragons and fewer cheap ones around. Having said that a single ping is fairly useful in the cube and so doesn't really need to be abused to be worth having, even if it seems a bit lacklustre on a five costed dork. The card this competes with for a slot is Siege-Gang Commander and it is fairly close, the triple red cost of this guy is one of the biggest drawbacks in that comparison for Scourge against Gang. If all the new midrange red stuff does allow for a successful midrange red archetype then perhaps there will be space for both in the A cube.

Striking Sliver 0.3 (C cube)

If you really want a red one drop for your slivers tribal deck...

Young Pyromancer 2.7

This little critter is really rather neat in a few decks including the mighty red deck wins. He is cheap and offers lots of value in an easy to support manner. He has some great synergy with some already powerful cards like Fireblast, Gut Shot and Lava Dart and would really help the Ogre Battledriver to perform well . Goblin Bushwhacker, Hellrider and Legion Loyalist are A cube mainstays and also all really benefit from a cheap viable red token generator for which the Pyromancer seems to be the man. I also really like the potential for this dork in a UR spell heavy deck as there is great overlap in synergy with cards like Delver of Secrets and even Kiln Fiends and friends if we are going nuts! I wouldn't want to play this in a deck with fewer than 8 cheap triggers however once you get to the critical mass of triggers I suspect this guy will be your best two drop (except perhaps Snapcaster Mage...). A cheap tempo card that offers not only extra value but also good synergy is going to be a hit.

Elvish Mystic 3.5

Mmm, yummy. I don't know at want point I would stop adding Llanowar Elves to my cube so long as they keep printing them. Version three is not the stopping point at least. As for adding redundancy we are getting a little past that already with the myriad of variations on green one drop mana critters to chose from. Now it is more about specialisation as to which package of mana critters best supports your build. Unsurprisingly the archetype gaining most from this functional re-reprint is mono green tribal elves. Beyond this I am unsure how many decks will specifically want 3 Llanowar Elves instead of producers of other coloured mana. Mono green control decks don't want to over invest in easily killable and poorly scaling one drops and mono green stompy isn't very good in cube. Perhaps Elvish Mytic is the tipping point for stompy viability?! Despite a lack of need for three identical elves in most decks having all three will greatly open up the colour in drafts and sealeds allowing more people to consider green as an option. If I open a pool with less than two one drop mana producers, no Garruk Wildspeaker and no Eternal Witness I pretty much rule out any green based deck on the spot. While not a rule to be strictly adhered to it serves as a pretty decent guide and also highlights greens dependence on a few of its colour pie cornerstones to be good. What I most want is the Avecyn's Pilgrim / Elves of Deepshadow equivalents for red and blue, although mostly red, and if anyone from the design team is reading then a Grove of the Burnwillows style drawback would be handy too. Even so, I'll take this new elf and stick it in the cube without hesitation. It has nicer art than Fyndhorn Elves at least meaning it will see more play...

Garruk, Caller of Beasts 0.5 (B cube)

This monstrous incarnation of Garruk is all a bit at odds. He is a whopping six mana yet does very little for the board state. You might as well cast most of the things you would be putting into play with him and so all you are doing is drawing a pile of dorks every turn. The painful irony with this dork is that in the cube, by the time you have ramped him to use his ultimate you will not have any dorks left in your library due to his +1 effect. Once you have filled up your hand a bit the -3 ability is going to be more useful for having a powerful turn but really for six mana you want a lot more from your walker. This Garruk is very narrow, rather expensive, far too linear in what he can do for you and really devoid of any suitable homes. There are more effective ways to draw cards than this and that is really all this is doing for you and so this shouldn't really see any play. One of the weaker walkers yet to see print but still not so rubbish as to completely rule him out of finding a use.

Into the Wilds 0.4 (C cube)

This is an interesting card despite appearing to be just worse than Oracle of Mul Daya. Being an enchantment has its perks over being a dork in the sorts of decks that want this effect. It makes it much harder to remove which is important in theme enablers such as this. In addition to this it works well with things like Enchantress's Presence. Sadly for a ramp card it is expensive and really needs support from library manipulation to be doing what you need. This may get pulled out an played in the odd obscure deck and it might be the most suitable option for the desired effect however I doubt it will ever be that impressive.

Kalonian Hydra 3.6

Ooof. This thing seems to be the Baneslayer/Titan/Hellkite of this base set in that it is a totally unreasonable dork that will abruptly end games with alarming frequency. The card most akin to this is Wolfir Silverheart but the more I look at the Hydra the more I think it is the better card. Certainly there are situations where Wolfir is going to be better for you, when you really need to be getting that +4/+4 bonus attacking immediately or when you have some useful scaling effects like lifelink to take advantage of. The Hydra however is safer, more reliable and more serious and this is just on its own, I haven't even begun to talk about the abusive synergies Hydra has to offer. The Hydra does not need you to have other dorks in play to be powerful and can be a total beating all on its own making it safer and more reliable. Having your soulbond guy killed in combat or even in response to the soulbond can be devastating. With the Hydra you have to kill it or die in short order. As five mana finishers go it is by far the fastest usually killing in three turns including the one you cast it unlike Baneslayer who takes five and Thundermaw Hellkite who takes four. In theory Wolfir can output more damage across those three turns even if soulbonded to a Phyrexian Walker however without any form of evasion it is fairly easy to stall out Wolfir. It is the trample on Kalonian Hydra that ensures it is a really serious threat, you cannot hope to compete with it on the board and need a way to tap it down, perpetually bounce it or simply get it in the graveyard or exiled. So, as a stand alone threat it is one of the best Magic has to offer, what does it do to supplement other cards and archetypes? Although it barely seems relevant once you have an active Hydra green has a wealth of creatures that are going to appreciate the inflation of counters including Experiment One, Strangleroot Geist, Kavu Predator and Scavenging Ooze from just green with lots of cards and effects from other colours asking to be abused similarly. The Achilles Heal of this card is the small window where it has only four toughness where it is a risky blocker and more vulnerable to red burn and the odd removal spell like Dismember. As such I most want to run this card in decks where I can offer it haste such as red green beats including some of; Sarkhan Vol, Reckless Charge, Hellraiser Goblin or even Lightning Greaves. Perhaps in such a deck Orge Battledriver would find a home! All in all we have here a self contained game ending machine that I expect to see getting frequent play in cube as well as other formats.

Kalonian Tusker 0.1 (C cube)

Green no longer needs to share Watchwolf with white however gone are the days when a vanilla two mana 3/3 got it done. Green far from needs two drops leaving the only home for this as an optimistic tribal beasts deck...

Manaweft Sliver 0.2 (C cube)

A nice functional reprint of Gemhide Sliver that will really help a multicolour tribal archetype.

Megantic Sliver 0.1 (C cube)

A lot of monster and lots of pump but too much mana really to make any sort of cube slivers list. I'll throw one in to the C cube if I get one just to temp silly people into playing it.

Predatory Sliver 0.5 (C Cube)

Another cornerstone for a slivers themed tribal deck and important redundancy within your main creature base.

Primeval Bounty 0.9 (B Cube)

This is a pleasant card that I rather like. It is slow to get going and costly to make and I am somewhat unsure of how one might try to use such a card within the cube, although there are many options. It probably isn't worth the trouble of specifically setting up an Academy Rector mechanism to play it however it may well still be fine to include in a deck already doing that sort of thing. The fact that it is costly and powerful but still an acceptable card to hardcast really work in its favour for such strategies. It could also see play in a green control deck, either many colours or mono however it would need to play a relatively high creature count, especially for the multicolour version which is typically very creature light. Without creatures you are not applying any pressure with Primeval Bounty as you have no targets for the +1/+1 counters and don't get to trigger the token generation effect. The final home I can see this in is an enchantress build where it fulfils many roles within the deck yet is still an enchantment to ensure the build is consistent. Enchantress decks are very rare in the cube however as the key components are incredibly narrow, the deck is very hard to build properly and not quite tier one when it is.

Savage Summoning 0.4 (C cube)

While I appreciate the sentiment and various applications of this card it is really not the sort of thing the cube needs. It is mainly a way to counter certain strategies for a few kinds of deck and so is going to be narrow and unexciting. It will also be too inconsistent for play in singleton, not to mention annoying with Strangleroot Geist! In reality there are basically no creatures that are better in the cube if you both add a green to the cost and provide them a bonus +1/+1 counter making this card incredibly situational, probably better as a combat trick than a way to bypass counter magic.

Scavenging Ooze 3.6

I already have this in the cube but with its release in a base set there is now no excuses for not doing so. It can be a bit tedious to play against as it feels like a hoser against loads of cube decks but it does give green a lot more viability and keeps in check a few of the more tedious archetypes. A really solid all rounder that can be effective in agro or control and one of greens best cube creatures.

Sporemound 0.3 (C cube)

I have always loved a landfall mechanic card, I tried to run Glazing Gladeheart in the cube when it was released. This is very much in the same sort of category as it is a low power card with potential abuses that are unlikely to be worth the effort in reality. I want to make fun land based deck with Explore effects and this sort of dribble but I can't recommend doing the same yourself. Synergy only gets you so far against raw power, if you are making this on turn five and they are making Kalonian Hydra you are not looking very clever, even if you are able to make two lands a turn.

Oath of the Ancient Wood - no slot

This scales too badly with itself, enough enchantments to make it not awful and you won't have enough creatures to reliably pump. Its pretty terrible anyway, not sure I would be interested in it if it also triggered off your creature spells too.

Vastwood Hydra - no slot

Modular for green at last, which would be a lot more fun if this card wasn't horrendously over cost. Once it is seen how underwhelming this card is in all formats perhaps we will be treated to some playable green modular effect dorks. This is just an embarrassment next to the other Hydra in this set.

Voracious Wurm 0.2 (C cube)

Certainly the sort of card I love however rather like Angelic Accord but way more so this is a card you need to invest in gaining life the turn you make it ensuring it is not really a two drop unless it is a really awful one. Fun but still likely not good in a life gain themed deck.

Witchstalker 1.4

This is the best of the various new fair dual hoser three drop dorks. It is the best despite it having the weakest actual hosing ability which to my mind works in its favour. Really what we have here is a 3/3 hexproof for three which is not to be underestimated. Getting occasionaly counters and growing will be infrequent and minor leading to more interesting decisions without being tedious, restrictive and frankly unfair for the blue and black mages to cope with. I think I prefer this to Troll Ascetic even without the counters effect. Losing regenerate on a hexproof monster is much less of a big deal, especially a two mana regenerate which can be a real drain on your tempo if used too often. Overall the decks that want to run beefy hexproof dorks are going to be most about the tempo in which the change in two to three toughness from Troll to Witchstalker is going to be much more useful than regenerate for two. Not a mind blowingly good card but worthy of getting a go, particularly as green is very light on three drop tempo dorks and incredibly good at making three drops on turn two.

Bubbling Cauldron - 0.4 (C cube)

This is probably the most playable card from the set of three on its own. As just a lifegain card you are going to be better off with cheaper more powerful effects like Zuran Orb or dual purpose cards like Vampire Nighthawk. If however your deck has uses for lifegain and a sacrifice outlet then this starts to look quite interesting. Miren, the Moaning Well is often used in this capacity as it is a relatively painless way to obtain the desired effect however when you are sacrificing small dorks like Bloodghast the Cauldron is wildly more efficient in cost and returns and might therefor become worth the spell slot. This also works very neatly with Dark Prophecy single handedly fuelling all costs of the draw. The more I think on it the more it seems like this card can get a lot done for specific builds of mono black agro, unfortunately for Cauldron the timely printing of Gnawing Zombie pretty much ensures it will get minimal play.

Pyromancer's Gauntlet 0.3 (C cube)

This could be quite a lot of fun and would work well in a couple of OK red decks and will likely be used now and again but is too narrow and unreliable to be worthy of ever having an A cube position.

Ring of Three Wishes 0.1(C cube)

Probably directly better than Planar Portal as having the time and mana to use this more than three times should mean you have utterly won or can't ever win. Having said that Planar Portal has never really shined in the cube, even in days of old where dorks were less able to kill you in short order meaning this is unlikely to shine either.

Staff of Death Magus 0.1 (C cube)

Although I know that three mana is too much for this effect in the cube I am still drawn to this lifegain card. This is quite safe, reliable and painless lifegain for black which could be just the ticket in control decks so as to fuel its card draw. Ivory Tower has long been used in this sort of role in mono black control builds and is probably still just about better than Staff of Death Magus simply for its cost. Ivory Tower can be irksome to take full advantage of while Staff just drips life in as you do your things. Even so, if it does get any play it won't exactly be exciting, it will just do the role intended acceptably or otherwise and have very little impact on an infrequently built deck.

Strionic Resonator 0.3 (C cube)

While I have no idea at all for any worthy applications of this card it rather reeks of combo and so is worth stashing one away in case a deck for it ever crops up. I like unusual effects in general and so while this seems to be of limited use and on the expensive side it can't be entirely overlooked.

Enchroaching Wastes 0.1 (C cube)

Rather an insult compared to Wasteland and probably a chunk worse than Tectonic Edge as well. Still, uncounterable and easy to recur land destruction, even at insulting prices is hard to overlook.

Overall this set is quite good for cube, it plugs a lot of holes and offers quite a few new cards that should become mainstays. It has some interesting themes and adds an impressive amount not just to the main decks but also many of the silly themed decks that are never tier one but often surprisingly competitive and fun. Slivers is probably now viable as would be a quirky life gain agro deck. This is my top list for cards from M14 for the cube.

10. Gnawing Zombie
9.   Dark Prophecy
8.   Seacoast Drake
7.   Liliana's Reaver
6.   Imposing Sovereign
5.   Young Pyromaster
4.   Elvish Mystic
3.   (Scavenging Ooze)
2.   Kalonian Hydra
1.   Chandra, Pyromaster

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