Thursday, 30 January 2014

Born of the Gods Cube Review

A little more condensed than normal, in part as I didn't start reviewing until recently to avoid confusions as per last set review which came out well well after set release. Secondly the set itself is really quite weak and has less to offer even my bloated cube and reserve cubes! Hopefully the important information on the interesting and key cards is still all there.

Brimaz, King of Oreskos 3.5

One of the obvious highest power level cards in this set. Compared to Hero of Bladehold you really don't get that much less of a card despite paying one less mana for it. Brimaz is a slower clock than Hero but is a more rounded card being able to offer an advantage in defence as well as on the offence. Brimaz is a high power and quality tempo card that will quickly get out of hand in terms of added value should he survive too long. He should easily see play in both agro and control for being such a well rounded and high power card.

Eidolon of Countless Battles 2.0 (B cube)

At worst this is a grey ogre, at best it turns a dork into a very serious card that has decent protection against removal effects. While a little bit fluffy, slow and random for the cube this card offers a lot of synergy and trickery with a good range of uses without ever being a dead card. Bestow is a fun and interesting mechanic however very few bestow cards are close to cube worthy. This Eidolon is one of the better bestow cards for cube play and although perhaps not worthy on power alone the added interest, diversity and fun value do count for something in cube. Enough cards like this will one day make an agro aura deck actually viable.

Fated Retribution 2.5

Seven mana is an awful lot to pat for a Wrath effect but this one has enough extra on it to make it interesting. Killing planeswalkers is a big deal now as they tend to be the second most common threat type. Planar Cleansing has seen basically no cube play and is one mana less for a card that kills creatures and planeswalkers however it has several issues of its own that Fated Retribution does not. Firstly Planar Cleansing kills all non-land permanents making it a much harder card to abuse and leave yourself in an ahead position rather than just an equalized one. Fated Retribution will leave all your Oblivion Rings and Land Taxes in play and just be easier to play and build around. Secondly Planar Cleansing is a sorcery which not only makes the high casting cost far more restrictive in a control deck but also makes it useless at killing man lands and other pesky threats (not that an instant Planar Cleansing would solve this as it hits only non-land cards but in general instant speed Wrath effects are substantially more useful in cube). With the importance of instant speed I suspect the bonus scry will not frequently come into play in the cube however it is certainly only to the cards merit having the option available.

Loyal Pegasus 1.5 (B cube)

My kind of card! Not really a cube worthy card as it is that little bit too unreliable however a one mana 2/1 evasion dork is hard to ignore. I am sure this will be dug up to feature in evasion based white weenie meta game choice decks but I am also sure it would be last pick most of the time in your standard cube.

Spirit of the Labyrinth 2.5

A fine aggressive body with a classic white weenie disruption ability. While a little vulnerable the disruption is generic enough that it should hit lots of decks, and some of them very hard. Card draw is something white weenie tends to lack and so the disruption effect will have little impact on your game and of build of the deck unlike cards such as Thalia who greatly change the structure of your deck. It can be saved so as to come down the turn before they might resolve an Ancestral Visions so as to greatly increase the chances of you getting value out of the card and minimise the downside of its low toughness. White has many “hate bears” in its arsenal however this one is more comfortable to play, has one of the broadest ranges of impact and comes on an acceptable body for the cost, all of which should lead to it being one of the more commonly played disruption dorks in white agro decks.

Deepwater Hypnotist 0.5 (B cube)

Only a card that is playable in merfolk themed decks but one of the better cheap filler merfolk currently availaible.

Perplexing Chimera 2.5

This is one of the most interesting and potentially abusable cards in the set. This is Gilded Drake meets Seal of Counterspell! All the possible abuses of Gilded Drake will apply to this card while being that much more powerful in its overall effect. As soon as you have made your Perplexing Chimera they really don't want to make anything more powerful than a 3/3 and cannot make anything that is able to deal with it such as a Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Molten-Tail Masticore or Karn Liberated. The Chimera will be very hard to play around and will have the potential to lock out games all the while beating down for 3 each turn. Cheap removal is the obvious answer to the Chimera however it is risky to throw removal at the Chimera if you have any targets for it to redirect to, even if they are less powerful than the Chimera themselves. Lets say you lightning Bolt my Perplexing Chimera and I chose to redirect it to your 2/2 token and give you the 3/3 in exchange. This may seem like a bad play immediately but from then any bounce effect I might have will eventaully return the Chimera to my side of the board. If I have a permanent in play such as a Waterfront Bouncer I don't even give them the option to redirect the effect. A very tricksy and powerful card that will require a fairly focused build to make the best use of it.

Whelming Wave 2.0

Despite the lack of many good serpents, kraken and other giants of the sea to abuse this with in cube I think a four mana global dork bounce has a place in blue. Mostly I see this as a stopgap wrath when you are not playing white in your control deck or just a delay card in combo decks as you might use a Crypic Command. While it lacks the utility and card draw of other bounce and tap effects Whelming Wave will be able to cope with almost any board position and will tend to buy quite a lot more time than the single turn you often get from single bounce or mass tap. If you do get to bounce things and leave yourself with some big fish then good for you but I don't think it needs to be doing that to be a useful card. The single mana cost less than Sunder makes a great deal of difference to the playability of the card and brings it up to cube power level.

Bile Blight 2.5

For BB instead of 1B you get 50% more effect than you do with Echoing Decay. A lot of blacks 2 mana spot removal is currently 1B and tends to have target limitation but will get the possible targets well dead. As such there is very much room for a freely targettable cheap spot removal spell with some bonus utility even if it won't always outright kill all of its potential targets. The added utility of Bile Blight being able to take out multiple dorks of the same name is less powerful in cube than non-singleton formats however the abundance of tokens and clone effects in the cube will ensure that Bile Blight is getting extra value at least some of the time.

Drown in Sorrow 3.0

A direct upgrade on Infest so no questions about the inclusion of this in my cube. What remains to be seen is if there is sufficient demand for both this and Infest which I doubt due to the recent commander offerings to the cube pool.

Herald of Torment 2.0

Another fat flying dork with a typical black drawback but with an exotic bestow sweetener to peak my interest. While I suspect the bestow will be used infrequently in a cube environment it will transform the worst of dorks into a decent threat when it is while offering card advantage at the same time. Despite the fairly high cost to bestow the fact that you will tend to get haste with your +3/+3 and flying means that you can get some good tempo out of the card as well. Solid as a three drop and powerful when bestowed make this another one of the top bestow dorks for cube play. Not a thrilling card when you can't wait to bestow it but still decent enough to be doing what you need.

Gild 1.0 (B cube)

I want Gild to be good enough for cube as black always feels jipped compared to white in terms of spot removal and a bit of good exile would help that along. Sadly four mana sorceries, even ones with bonus Lotus Petals are not keeping pace with cube spot removal of any sort.

Marshmist Titan 1.0 (B cube)

Black, unsurprisingly, has been the colour to most take advantage of devotion so far in cube. While this is a fairly vanilla card it is exactly the sort of thing you want in a black deck if you can get it with at least four devotion. It is just fat and cheap with no drawbacks or anti synergy. If you can reliably have a high devotion then this will fill a sort of Tarmogoyf role although in reality it will play more like a Myr Enforcer. I doubt any but the most dedicated devotion theme decks will make use of this and so it should not be a cube mainstay but it is a card of very high power potential none the less.

Pain Seer 3.0

Another attempt at a fair Dark Confidant that shall join the ranks of the more situational Blood Scrivener. In normal decks this is quite a lot worse than confidant, even in best case scenarios where you get to attack and survive each turn so as to inspire the following one you have to wait a whole extra turn over the confidant to draw your first card. A single point of toughness is not compensation for this significant drawback. Add to this the fact that most of the time it will get blocked and killed my guess is that the average cards you draw from this in your average suitable deck will be comparable to that of Blood Scrivener, which is to say about a fifth of what you would expect from confidant on average. Despite how much worse than Confidant is in its primary role as a card draw engine you are still getting an ok body with the potential to draw many cards which is a fine deal. The thing that is nice about both Blood Scrivener and Pain Seer is that you have to work at making them good and when you get it spot on both can be more powerful draw than Dark Confidant. For Pain Seer I think there is less support than there is for Scrivener however I think the Pain Seer support cards are generally less restrictive on your deck type and flavour. Cards like Springleaf Drum are the best to help abuse Pain Seer as they both speed up getting to inspire him and allow you to tap without having to attack. I am sure there are silly combo ways to go infinite and draw your whole deck with Seer (or at least kill yourself!) but you are probably best of using him in more standard decks with appropriate support cards.

Courser of Kuphix 3.0

The balance on this card feels just right for it to be solid in the various ramping green decks in the cube. Oracle of Mul Daya does more to ramp you than Courser however at four mana you are not that desperate to ramp from the card and tend to want it most for card advantage. Oracle is also very vulnerable which is not ideal on four drops. Four toughness as well as a mana less make this much better than Oracle as a card advantage card which to my mind is the main reason to play either. Having the option of both certainly will be nice for some heavily focused decks too. The Grazing Gladeheart aspect of Courser is generically useful in the decks that will play it, will sure up certain matchups where life is important and will have combo abuses with Fastbond. It not only has synergy with the types of decks that play it but also with the other mechanisms on the card and so courser should be decent in decks without any specific need of the card. Even simple synergies with courser and other stand alone good cards seem strong such as Sylvan Library or sac lands.

Satyr Wayfinder 2.0

Sylvan Ranger is fairly frequently called upon to be appropriate filler in a selection of decks. While Satyr Wayfinder is no elf and won't be helping out tribal decks his ability is overall more powerful. Not only will it help find non basic lands but it will also help to fill up your graveyard which is desirable in many kinds of deck. From time to time you will miss lands all together which means you have to quite want to fill up your yard or find non basics to make this better than the elf. Despite being somewhat unexciting nor loaded with power it is this kind of wide application, usually good, cheap support that keeps cube a broad and interesting format.

Kiora, the Crashing Wave 2.0

Earlier I stated that the cube had no worthy dorks to have remain in play post Whelming Wave and now I notice this planeswalker can make kraken! Sadly this has very lows odds of working as a synergy, ultimates are not commonly used and I suspect Kiora's will be activated less than the average. It not only takes a long time to get to the required loyalty but pretty much precludes the use of the -1 ability which is to my mind the main reason you should be playing Kiora in your deck. The ultimate may seem nominally cheap however it is only really worth looking at it in comparison to her starting loyalty and her + loyalty effects, both of which are very low thus making for a very hard ultimate to pull off. As we know planeswalkers are judged mostly on the quality of their easily reusable cheaper effects and in this regard Kiora has two very nice ones. A nice plus loyalty protection ability which may not deal with threats but will be able to negate a much broader array of threats than other planeswalker protection abilities. Man lands, fat tramplers, fliers, other planeswalkers all can be calmed down by Kiora's +1. All the best planeswalkers have some capacity to protect themselves so you play them into more competed boards and so Kiora scores highly for her self protecting effect. Sadly she does rather need to be strong in this regard as a starting loyaty of just 2 is really fragile and leaves little margin for error. The -1 ability is also very nice as it both gets you card advantage as well as potentially ramping you. Again, due to the low starting loyalty you cannot just hammer the -1 effect and wind up with rediculous value over a few turns as you are able with cards like Ajani Goldmane and Jace Beleren. To get the requierd value out of Kiora you will need to use the +1 a few times and have her survive at least 3 turns worth of activations. Overall this is a powerful and rounded planeswalker that would be top tier if it were single colour and started with 3 loyalty. As a gold card with two loyalty I suspect Kiora will be relatively niche.

Kiora's Follower 2.0

A lovely little utility bear that has elegant synergy with the inspire mechanic from the set. This dork can beat, he can ramp, he can offer combat trickery, he can inspire and he can help double up activations. He scales very well with things like Gaea's Cradle or even just a Joraga Treespeaker. All this utility on a two drop with a reasonable body. Not itself a game winning card or total powerhouse, it is instead the kind of card that acts as the essential glue that holds other powerhouses cards together. No specific decks jump to mind for where this might find a home however lots and lots of cards and interactions where this guy shines do come to mind and so I am sure this will see some play. Being gold I suspect it will not however become a support card mainstay in the cube but still definitely worth a long trial.

Ragemonger 1.5 (B cube)

Cards that reduce mana cost cannot easily be overlooked and the few that reduce coloured mana symbols have some frightening potential. I love an Edgewalker and this minataur version offers a bit more body for your what you pay as well as the abusive mana cost reductions. Sadly the only application for this deck is a tribal one and there are not that many quality mancows to choose from compared to the other top rate tribes even with all the other recent strong additions. Certainly not a card for the main cube however also a card I have to try to abuse at some stage!

Xenagos, God of Revels 1.0 (B cube)

Not overly exciting as on both accounts you need other cards to make this five mana card do anything. Either you need high devotion to have an indestructible fatty or you need to be following him up with dorks to pump and haste in with. Having no trample himself or on the effect makes it a lot less powerful and likely slower to have a significant impact. It will be very hard to build a cube deck where this is used to most of its potential without the deck being really awful. It is a card like Ogre Battledriver, lots of power but very awkward to make use of it. Being gold I cannot see this getting close to enough play to deserve a top flight cube slot which does not bode well for the other weaker gold gods.

Temples of Scry 3.0

The last lot I knew would be good and they were better than I thought. I was only going to throw in the off colour ones to even up the balance however they are too good not to have the full suite.

C cube stuff

Hero of Iroas – only good in aura themed deck but very powerful there.

Sanguimancy – worse than Necrologia, Ad-Nauseum etc so unlikely to ever see play despite high power.

Asctral Conucopia – worse than most 3 mana ramp but has synergy with Trinket Mage and proliferate effects so some potential.

Fate Unraveler – a bit of a hate card that doesn't do enough else for the mana unless in some weird combo kind of deck I cannot imaging being worth it or good.

Fated Conflagration – I can't see a four mana burn spell that can't dome people being good enough. Scry is nice but burn is far less good at sorcery speed so the trade off will always hurt some. Tripple red as well makes me really not see this in the cube but I could be wrong if red ends up having some more controlly options where reliable removal is desired.

Reckless Reveler – Another Torch Fiend, I can't see any reason to play one over the other at present so all about the art work! I cannot imagine a deck or a cube wanting both.

Searing Blood – on the surface seems like it is another Searing Blaze but in reality is a lot worse. Only dealing two damage to the dork and only then hurting the player if the dork dies. Situational with not enough power to offset that.

Fated Intervention – good card but five mana to do rather unexciting things. This would not be out of place in a cube as it is powerful and offers a decent quantity of utility as token generators go. Other five drops either do something more specifically desirable or are just a lot more powerful.

Hunter's Prowess – powerful both as card draw and for a big smack to the face but a little to easily disrupted and situational for my liking.

Karametra's Favour – the kind of dull annoying card you will inevitably want one day and regret not setting aside, although you will probably then go on to regret having done that when your deck is awful rather than the novelty fun you had hoped for.   

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