Thursday, 7 January 2016
Oath of the Gatewatch Review: Part II
End Bringer 4.5
Lots of power and lots of utility but at a cost that makes it unlikely to see much play. This is the kind of card I could be wrong about and I kind of hope I am as it looks like a lot of fun. Sadly the exciting abilities are not online right away and while a vanilla 5/5 is pretty hefty it is a really weak thing if you spend six mana to get it. It will be easy to remove, easy to attack over or through and generally not do enough quickly enough to offset the tempo loss and vulnerability in making End Bringer.
Yes, if both you and it live through the turn then you have good odds of winning the game. End Bringer easily clears the chaff on the board and gives you a huge combat edge. On top of this it can generate a decent amount of card advantage simply through drawing. I will try it out but I fear it isn't coming close to challenging Wurmcoil Engine. If a six drop "colourless" body can't fit in that sort of role then I think I would generally prefer a Staff of Domination as a means to getting the kind of utility the card offers.
Dread Defiler 0
The ability can be pretty brutal but it is 4 mana to do which makes the card a joke expensive. For the ability to be interesting the dork needed to be a 2 mana 2/X, for a seven mana 6/8 to be interesting it needs worlds more than the four mana ability offered. This misses the mark hard for cube.
Deepfathom Skulker 0
While quite a lot better than the Dread Defiler this still isn't there for cube. Four is a lot to make something unblockable and six is a lot for a 4/4. While comparable to Edric in card value the draw effect is much more useful on a cheaper card. If you are paying six for something you want a more relevant body to go with it, say a 4/6 flier? A limited bomb and a card that might just creep into the odd standard deck but despite this it still isn't for cube.
Walker of the Wastes 0
A potentially fat trample for five with no other perks isn't for cube. It isn't worth playing Wastes just to make this big because there are much more powerful colourless lands you would play first in that sort of deck. If this were to see cube play it would rarely be larger than a 6/6 which is why it won't see cube play. Thinking about it even if it was reliably a 8/8 or bigger it still wouldn't be all that for cube.
Reckless Bushwhacker 4
This card is so incredibly comparable to the original Goblin Bushwhacker. There are times that both are better than the other but it is very slight. Reckless does a bit more on its own and is a bit easier to cast when using with other things. The cost of this is a bit of general inconvenience in when and how you can cast it. These cards are very useful in a number of decks ranging from combo to aggro but it isn't often something you are desperate to have redundancy in. As such I don't think both will be played often at all. Given this direct competition for exactly the same slot in the cube and decks I think Goblin Bushwhacker will remain the card of choice. The added flexibility of the card is more important than the slight increase in power level on Reckless. The fact that you cannot do something like making tokens from a planeswalker and give them +1/+0 with Reckless without having another spell to play first is the seemingly small nail in the coffin for poor Reckless. A fine card but one that is out performed already.
Spatial Contortion 5
Nameless inversion on a colourless card! This seems very interesting and may well be just the ticket for certain archetypes. While I love the design I am a bit wary that this will not find enough homes because of the need to build around it combined with its relatively fair power level. Realistically only blue and/or green decks want this card because they are the colours that find it hard to kill smaller creatures efficiently. It is not for lack of Wrath cards that Simic control is rather weak but for lack of cards like Doom Blade. You lose to not being able to deal with cheap utility dorks like Grim Lavamancer and Dark Confidant before it is too late and not to overwhelming attackers. Spatial Contortion is exactly the kind of spell a Simic control deck needs to be competitive. The issue is that it isn't colourless but a third, all be it easily splashable, colour. You have to warp your mana base to be able to play this card soon enough to be useful. Even with pain and filter lands in the mix you will still need to do a bit more which will lower the consistency of the rest of the deck and likely end up not worth it. In really refined constructed style cube decks this will crop up from time to time but for a drafting cube I fear this is too narrow to get the play it needs. As an actual removal spell it is pretty good. It kills all the small things that you typically fear when you lack much removal and also has some combat trick potential. It also gets round indestructible and regenerate effects.
Scion Summoner 2
Basically just a mono coloured Catacomb Sifter minus the frills. This has a toughness less and affords no potential scry. The core of the card remains similar but the power level gap between the two is huge. This is a weak filler card while Sifter is a pretty good value filler utility card. Even with all the synergies going for it in a deck I just don't see this being a powerful enough of a three drop to make the final cut of any deck. Not a bad card just not enough card.
Shoulder to Shoulder 1
If this were instant or a mana less it would start to look a little interesting. As it is this is just far far too slow, situational and low impact for it to do much in cube.
Comparative Analysis 4
I love it but it just isn't quite there I don't think. Three mana draw two at instant speed is the thing missing in the cube. It is why you play Esper Charm most of the time. It lets you safely carry through into the midgame with lands and gas while not having to tap out on a big turn or on your turn. Because there are so few available instant draw effects that cost three or less at instant that leave you a card up blue decks needing to get to four mana unhindered will often play a lot more cheap card quality spells and cantrip low drops. This is fine but takes up more deck space and is generally more restrictive than you would like for your control deck. Sadly Comparative Analysis is never the draw 2 for 3 you want it to be. On turn three in a control deck you are very rarely going to be able to surge out the card. As such I think I would almost always play Think Twice over this card despite being very similar spells. Think Twice just does more work more freely in the early game. Fact or Fiction comes online as quickly as Compatative Analysis in control decks! This is a very nice well rounded draw spell that just has better alternatives for the various ways you would want to use it.
Tyrant of Valakut 0
This wouldn't be all that if it just cost five and had no surge requirement. While the card itself is pretty good it is way to unreliable to be cast for five mana and simply awful should you play it for seven, Thundermaw Hellkite still usually does a lot more than this could and never costs you seven!
Jori En, Ruin Diver 8
One of the most exciting new cards from this set for cube. In standard it will be far less abusive, even in modern this is not the worlds most exciting new card but for cube it is pretty big. At first glace you think this card is in the same sort of league as Edric, Spymaster of Trest or Shadowmage Infiltrator, a sort of gold Grey Orgeish stats with the capacity to draw some cards in an ongoing manner. Fine cube cards but more often than not just being dead before they do much of much. Jori En seems like he is much more Dark Confidant or Courser of Kruphix levels of good for cube after some deeper probing. Being gold is certainly a drawback and should this guy have been BW rather than UR I wouldn't be that excited about it. The thing is that this is perfect for Izzet decks of most flavours and would have exactly the kind of support it wants. Izzet is also one of the more common, more powerful and more diverse colour pairing and it lacks that many top notch gold cards. As such I don't think Jori will suffer being gold anywhere near that which most cards do.
There are two things about Jori that make him a lot better than the other ongoing draw dorks. The first is that you can lay him, cast something else and immediately proc the draw. Blue and red have all the most playable and generally useful cheap spells. Things like Bolt and Ponder will get great value. Free things like Fireblast, Force of Will, Lava Dart, Stoke the Flames and so on and so forth will also enable this to come down turn three and draw off the bat instead of having to wait until you have mana. The second perk of Jori is that you can trigger him in each turn not just yours. This will happen a lot less often than drawing in your turn as you will have to have two useful instants you can play and the capacity to do so. While it might not happen much it does still make things all round better. I imagine this card will draw more cards per cast than Dark Confidant and it will significantly out perform other draw creatures for its initial influx of cards. You can have three cards with Jori by the time you have at best got one from a Confidant or Shadowmage Infiltrator. Jori has great synergy with prowess and delve which are two prominent Izzet themes. All in all I a very excited to play with this juicy card draw engine.
Stonehaven Outfitter 3
I wish this was still good enough for a drafting cube. It is an elegant and fun card but it is too narrow in what it does well while being too fair and bland when there are no equipment to hand. You can build a decent equipment themed white weenie deck. It is comparably good to other white weenie decks but requires you to play loads of narrow cards from the B and C cube. As such that is where this guy will live. Stonehaven is particularly nice in that he buffs cheap equipment far more than he does the big stuff. +3/+3 on your Sword of This and That with a potential card isn't exciting at all. You would rather you dork wasn't dead than have the card and the extra stats are likely surpassing need. On a Bonesplitter however you have over doubled the potency of the equip. I reckon I build the equip deck once per new exciting card it gets so this will get at least one run in the near future!
Immolating Glare 4
A fine control or midrange removal card but a bit too fair and unexciting I think for cube. There are a lot of comparable cards to this and some have more interesting upsides. It might be the thing at some point in the meta but it will never be a great card, just a playable role filler.
Ruins of Oran-Rief 1
Too slow to be good in an aggro deck like affinity I think but that is its best shot at a home. It can have some nice synergies but you would have to be very light on colour requirements. For a big Eldrazi style deck this is just pointless. You have lost far far more in playing this than you will gain from having +1/+1 on a fatty. At its best with lots of colourless token generators but the cube has none of those really except Hangerback Walker.
Eldrazi Mimic 2
The kind of card that could have some combos you can do with it. Flash fatty Mimic smack! It could also be fine in a specific sort aggro deck although not one that presently exists. In what we have at the moment this is a poor 2/1 that won't see play.
Eldrazi Obligator 6
As a Threaten both Act of Aggression and Zealous Conscripts are more powerful than Eldarazi Obligator. They both offer far more utility, (value in the case of Conscripts), power, consistency and trickery. Despite this I much prefer the Eldrazi's chances in cube. Threaten is a situation but highly powerful effect, it is not unlike combat tricks except more so. Some of the time Threaten does little while others it is game breaking. Decks like RDW want access to such things but they don't want to hurt their consistency. This is why you find Atarka's Command and Ghor-Clan Rampager in Grull aggro decks but not more powerful pure combat tricks like Titan's Strength or Mutagenic Growth. These split combat trick/something else cards are far less often dead and so have a higher low end power level in the deck while retaining much of the top end potential. Obligator does exactly this kind of thing and will let aggro red decks pack more punch without becoming inconsistent jank. A 3/1 haste for 3 isn't good but it also ins't bad. It is on point for what red aggro decks want to do and will periodically be better than the kinds of three drops you actually want to play. Something like a Phoenix might just hit for two when this can hit for three etc. As an immediate kill card it is almost exactly the same as Zealous Conscripts and when you cast Obligator for five in RDW you are certainly hoping it will land the kill.
The real question is how hard will having colourless mana be in RDW style decks? There is lots of good stuff like Wastelands, Mishra's Factory, Rishadan Port and more that a RDW list is happy to play. The problem is that by the time you have any consistency on casting you Obligator for five you have pretty much ruined your ability to cast RR spells early in the game. There also arn't that many good colourless lands presently in my cube. I could remedy this to some extent but I am not sure it is totally worth it. With what I have in at present it will be fairly hard to draft enough colourless land for your RDW list. Obligator is far easier to splash into a red aggro deck with another colour because then you can usefully use pain and filter lands to help you cast it while also not overly hurting your ability to play double coloured spells. The issue with playing Obligator in most of these two colour decks is that the second colour will often sort out the issues you want Threaten effects for better than Obligator. Only really green fails to offer good solutions to dorks that you cannot cheaply burn out f the way. Role wise Obligator fits into RDW lists best but for mana reasons I suspect it will actually see more play elsewhere.
Vile Redeemer 1
Basically a fiddly Caller of the Claw. In almost every way this is weaker than Caller. It costs more mana, has more restrictive costs and makes a smaller army. It is a little better to cast Redeemer for no effect than it is Caller but that is no reason to consider playing it. You are entirely playing these weak bodies for their effect. An army of 2/2 bears seems better than Scions, if you had a board you likely need a board more than you need a bunch more mana. I guess being colourless has some bonuses but all told I'll take the 2/2s thanks.
Not a good card but getting a mention because exile is potent. I cannot think of a specific deck that wants this and it is too under powered and at odds with itself to be worth playing in any conventional sort of deck. Four is too much to be paying most of the time for the discard and a 2/2 unblockable body in no way helps you get to the point where you are comfortable making them discard for four.
Call of the Gatewatch 1
A unique tutor effect but one I expect never to play. Three mana conditional tutors are infrequently used in cube and planeswalkers are so general purpose anyway I cannot think you will want to be finding specific ones in many decks. Far too fair for cube and not really doing something needed.
Remorseless Punishment 1
At first glance this looks like it might be good, then you see where all the choices lie and you realise it is one of the worst cards ever printed. Then you think about it a while longer and realise that you actually have to do the things in order to avoid the five life loss and the card re-emerges from the realms of worst card ever printed and finds itself being situationally quite powerful. If your opponent doesn't have things to sacrifice or discard they are forced into taking face damage. A 10 damage for 5 mana card is nutty and it isn't all that impossible to setup. Just being able to fairly predictably kill a planeswalker, creature or hand of cards isn't the worst either. If you have some removal and discard, which black typically does, you can set this spell up a little like a Death Cloud and do some pretty brutal things. It is fairly Cruel Ultimatum level of nastiness. You cannot so easily play it in control because you cannot put their life total under much pressure and so it will be a lot easier to eat the ten. I card I will have to play with to see if it is actually easy enough to manipulate so that your opponents are not really afforded any choice concerning how to take the Punishment. Normally I give these unknown high potential power spells a 4-5 rating prior to testing but this keeps its pathetic 1 on principal of being an opponent chooses card. Worst case scenario this does basically nothing, best case scenario it is a one sided Death Cloud or a bargain or a Cruel Ultimatum impersonator. I will test this out and my guess is that it will perform well above expectation but still remain a little too narrow and situational for main cube use.
Reflector Mage 6
Yet another card that brings us back to the eternal conflict between gold and mono cards. Clearly this is a chunk better than Man-O-War and similar cards in most situations. It is a little harder to cast Reflector Mage and you cannot bounce your own things so I cannot say it is always better but it is pretty clearly quite a lot more card for the mana. An extra toughness and a turns denial on the bounced dork are both pretty significant. When you buff an already reasonable cube card that costs 3 or less mana you usually have a real winner. This card is good in most styles of deck and affords a good amount of tempo and utility. In control the 2/3 body does a lot of wok against early aggression and the extra turn of denial gives you some real capacity to control the game. In aggro this will get you the occasional free win when you bounce the only creature they can cast and it will never be a dud card at its worst. Tempo is after all what you want most in the aggro decks. This should be in the cube, it is better than most of the other Azorius cards in the cube and it is a more powerful card than some other long term cube cards. I have my reservations because I fear it will not see all that much more play than Man-O-War but that is gold cards for you. It is a bit of a filler role which isn't something you overly want your gold cards doing but never mind.
Linvala, the Preserver 7.5
What we have here is a total house of a card. It is Timely Reinforcements slapped on an Elspeth Sun's Champion level of card. I just finished my top ten angels list and then this is spoiled ruining it all! Even without testing this card clearly sits somewhere in the top five of that list and may well be the number one. Linvala, the Preserver does everything you want in a card like this. It is a very threatening board presence, it is a solid defensive barricade when you need it and it affords a nice safety net of life when you need it. Those when you need it clauses are key to the power of this card. Essentially it is a control or midrange card that is your best card when you are the control player. Most of the time this will yield the life and the dork making it piss all over Broodmate Dragon for value. The times it does not get you bonus goodies just a 5/5 flier will be quite enough, it will still be a dangerous threat that needs removing. All in all it does a lot of what Baneslayer does but with less risk of getting blown out. In control mirrors a Baneslayer is basically just a 5/5 flier you need to kill but can do so easily and are not behind once you have done so. Fine but not the best of the top end stuff. Against aggro Baneslayer is a denied attack step, chunks of five life and of course the 5/5 flying body. It generally shuts them down pretty hard and brings you back in the tempo significantly, this is of course if the aggro deck does not have suitable removal right away. More often than ever before the aggro decks can dispatch a Baneslayer Angel reasonably easily and carry on killing you. You can kill Linvala all you like but the life has been gained and there is still a 3/3 doing some work on blocking. Essentially Linvala is safer and better at holding off aggression than the mighty Baneslayer, likely the mighty Thragtusk too. Yes, Linvala costs a mana more which will mean you have lost some games before she can help you. The extent to which she should recover games when you do cast her however should more than offset this single mana. A lot of the issue with good top end threats in control is your inability to cast them safely. Elspeth Sun's Champion is one of the best to just flop out
on turn six and not risk getting blown out too hard. Cards like Aetherling and Baneslayer often leave you too vulnerable to want to use on curve. Linvala is a card you are almost always happy to tap out and play making her yet more potent. At best this is an aerial armada with a big safety net of immediate life gain and at worst you are winning in every way and then get a 5/5 flier on top of it all. Linvala is substantially better than Sun Titan and may well give the other colours Titan's some competition. I don't know if it is a direct replacement or not but Elspeth Suns Champion is also no longer an auto include in the right deck simply because of Linvala existing and potentially going in the slot. A final note on Linvala's legendary status as I also run the Keeper of Silence incarnation in my cube. All told it is fairly comparable to the 4 and 6 mana Elspeth situation which turns out not to be much of an issue. Some decks prefer one to the other based on costs and effects despite both of both being pretty good in most decks. You are never unhappy when you get both because they are strong. It makes it a bit easier to cut one for whatever reason if you have the other but equally you still wind up being perfectly happy playing both because they are just so good. Even when you do it rarely effects your games. Karakas is a bigger deal than the actual legend rule in cube and I plan on cutting it anyway. I think Linvala is fairly happy against Karakas regardless of which side of the table it is on! Bounce was never a great solution to Thragtusk afterall...
Skinning Tendril's 5.5
Better than Infest for sure but we had already done that with Drown in Sorrow. Although scry is one of the best abilities in the game and is always a good thing to be doing compared to exile which is somewhat situational I am inclined towards the exile. Black has always really struggled with Kitchen Finks type cards and this would go a long way to helping with that issue. Most of the time Drown is the better card but enough of the time this will totally bail you where Drown would do not enough that I think Skinning Tendril's is the superior cube choice. It is a pretty fair card so I don't expect this to radically affect things in cube, it will just help black to do a little more consistently in a midrange meta. Black is already set to gain one interesting card that helps to exile creatures in Oath so Tendril's may wind up getting cut. Drown in Sorrow is a card that sits somewhere in the cube power level as Man-O-War, just fine cards, a bit too fair to be outstanding in the cube. They tend to flipflop in and out of the cube and are often not missed or go unnoticed. I expect much the same from this new offering.
Embodiment of Fury 4.5
This is pretty good as cards go. It has a decent low end and quite a brutal top end. It has some interesting things it can bring to the table and some nice synergies with other good cube cards. Despite all this I just don't see it competing that well with the four drops in the cube all ready and indeed some of those not even in the cube. Best case you lay this turn five or six with a sac land and swing for six. The following turn you make at least one more landfall trigger and attack for 7-10 with it. Seems strong. Worst case you make it on curve and get it killed having done nothing for you. Average situation will be somewhere between the two which is still pretty good. You can have it sit around and just attack with trampling land or it can get in on the swinging and add a decent four damage to the mix. In some respects it is like a big brother to Rabblemaster. The trouble is that while this does a good amount on average it is a bit middle of the road. If you want something that sits around and generates you an advantage you have the far more reliable and useful things like planeswalkers, Huntsmasters, Olivia's, Pia and Kiran Nalaar, and even Krenko's. If you just want a card that can send to face quite well then there is an even bigger list of cards that do more fore less than Embodiment. If this card had haste itself then it would comfortably be aggressive enough to get a slot. If it were more durabale in or out of combat or has some other immediate value gain then it would be more exciting as a midrange card. Where it sits now is a very powerful card that is not well positioned for cube. It wouldn't be that out of place in a cube as any high powered and relatively self contained card is but I don't expect it to post good win percentage figures.
Prophet of Distortion 1
Much as I love a blue one drop dork this is not the thing we are looking for. A 1/2 is not useful stats for much despite being above the curve. Throw in a four mana draw card ability and you don't have a good card in any sort of place. I guess if you are running some kind of mass / infinite mana deck and really need some cheap chumps for you list then this is kind of fine...
General Tazri 2
I guess this makes a tribal ally theme slightly more playable? Tutor on legs with a semi overrun seems OK even if it is a five mana 3/4 .Obviously unplayable outside of allies and I have never bothered trying to get that tribe working so I can't really comment on it. My best guess is that it blows which doesn't bode well for Mr Tazri.
Oath of Jace 5.5
I feel like I really really like this despite it not actually comparing that well against a lot of other cards. Dream Cache for example has a lot more utility than this and sees basically no cube play, Thirst for Knowledge costs the same, is instant and can generate actual card advantage. The scry effect on Oath of Jace is, slow, situational and all sorts of win more. I expect the fact that the card is an enchantment rather than a sorcery will have a much bigger impact on the card overall than the scry ability will. As a permanent you can bounce it, flicker it, sacrifice it, turn it into a thing and so on and so forth. It has applications to have synergy with your own deck just because it is an enchantment card quality card and it also has the capacity to get in the way of what your opponent is doing. Certainly it will be the first thing I put under the bus that is Smokestack! Although you can put enchantments to good work they also have some downsides, you cannot flash them back with Snapcaster nor can you delve them away to cheapen your spells although that is a rich complaint about a card that puts two things in the bin! You have to work at your list so that the Oath is overall a bonus and not a hindrance which may well not be worth it given that it is ultimately a draw three discard two sorcery for three. Replenish and Opalessence decks seem like the ones most excited by this new offering but it will wind up in all sorts of places being generally playable.
The scry is decent enough but as mentioned, it is is rather win more because it comes broadly when you have already established control and usually somewhat after the Oath is cast. If you threw scry 1 or 2 onto a draw 3 discard 2 for 3 card it would be much closer to Thirst for Knowledge in power but the way it is offered on Oath of Jace makes it add very little to the draw portion of the card. This card is very fair by cube standards and has a lot of stiff competition for slots. Despite this I am looking forward to playing with it and seeing the various situations in which in does something novel or cool that more standard cards would fail to do.
Hissing Quagmire 7.5
I have now seen the whole cycle of all ten dual man lands and can fairly confidently call this the second worst. Despite that it is still a great cube card that will see lots and lots of play and do a good amount of work. That is down to it being a decent dual land with a free upside like the rest! A 2/2 with deathtouch that costs 3 to animate is weak. It is one of the lowest stats on the whole cycle of man lands yet retains a comparable animation cost. Deathouch does scale better on lower power however there are few 1/>2 dorks in the cube that this can trump in combat that another 2/2 couldn't. Yes, you can trade your manland into something fat like a Titan which is quite nice super late game but has little application in the midgame or unless you are already pretty borked. A generic 2/2 deathouch would be more useful offensively as it could attack into powerful dorks and either get in damage or trade up effectively. The issue with this card compared to other small deathtouch critters is that you don't really care when a small dork dies but you care a lot when you are putting lands into the bin. Trading with my Hissing Quagmire feels like it will always be a last resort, only done when you have no removal spells or alternate paths. The only thing this card does well is trade with big dorks and you can only do that once and only if you are flush with lands. Good job this is a dual land first and a man land second because there are better manlands than this not in the cube. Part of me thinks a better comparison for this card is Cabal Pit than other man lands, mostly because it compares pretty well to the Pit and not so well to the manlands. Looking at it in this light makes it better as it is somewhat three things, a fine dual land first, an acceptable removal spell second and a godawful Mishra's Factory third and last. Once you have one useful and decent role for a card you can add as much other terrible stuff as you like and it only ever makes the card better. Wretched Confluence is a great example of this, you would never play a 5 mana instant Bump in the Night that also drew your opponent three however it significantly improves the spell overall that you can use it in this way.
Deceiver of Forms 0
This has a quirky fun combat ability than you can use on the turn you make the Deceiver. You could also abuse it in some way to do some brutal things to people. The thing is that why would you want to? Paying 7 mana for a vanilla 8/8 is already a bum deal. Then having to have some attackers ready to go all the while having setup the top of your library to be some kind of annihilator or something. All quite a long way to go given than most cube seven drops win the game all by themselves without any need to support them. Fun? yes, good? no no no.
Stoneforge Masterwork 0
Tribal synergy equipment is not a great starting point. If you are playing tribal then shouldn't that be the thing that boosts your dorks rather than resorting to equipment? Doesn't playing equipment reduce the instances of your tribe in the deck and thus reduce its overall synergy? If you only have one dork in play or a couple that don't share types then this does nothing at all as well. So we have a situational equipment that inherently has negative synergy with itself. Really not off to a good start. At least it is cheap? Not really, 1 to equip and this might deserve a cheap tag and might even see a tiny bit of cube play. At two to equip the only reason this should see play is the result of poor deck design.
Oath of Nissa 8
A very exciting addition to green. I got myself all keen on Seek the Wilds which hasn't really taken off yet but still has some small hope. This however is just better than Seek by a good margin, so much so that I cannot see it failing to take off. It is comparable to Ponder, Serum Vision, Preordain, Anticipate and of course Seek the Wilds. It is a little more restrictive than the blue cards as to what it will get for you but it is quite a lot more potent in the mechanism of the card quality. The blue sorcery speed one drop card quality cards are among the most played cards in cube, they wind up all over the place and are generally just good things to be doing with you mana. In blue you can afford to play one mana sorceries however the two mana card quality spells in blue only really see play if they are instant. I did not think this would apply to green as there is so much less requirement to represent with mana up. This is why I thought Seek the Wilds would perform well, it is not that far off Impulse if you ignore the speed of the spell and assume creatures are the bulk of the non land cards in your green deck. In hindsight I think the issue with Seek the Wilds is that two is quite a lot of mana in green to be spending in ways that don't impact the board. It is not that you are not leaving up mana but that you are spending two and not advancing the board in a colour that somewhat needs to. Blue decks don't always need to have a better board or even any board to be able to win which isn't the case for your green decks so much. Having a single spare mana is vastly more common than having two. Finding yourself with one left over doesn't mean you are curving poorly while two spare probably does. Another way to look at this is that you can play the thing you find with a 1 mana spell on the same turn and have it be far nearer the required power level for the stage in the game than you can when you have spent two mana.
Oath of Nissa has great odds of hitting, finds most of the things you will want it to and because of the ability for it to find planeswalkers you are able to play it in a wider range of deck designs than you could with Seek the Wilds. Despite seeing one card less with Oath than Seek I think the odds of missing with either are comparable which is to say very low if you play them sensibly. Most of the time with card quality you are improving the balance of your action and your mana which this does pretty perfectly. The lesser use for card quality is finding an answer which this still somewhat does despite not finding sorceries, instants or enchantments as most of greens solutions to things are found on creatures and planeswalkers. It is a much better tool for finding lands than basically every other one mana card quality spell in magic. You see three cards in which to hit a land and if you don't see a land you are three non-land cards out of the way better off than before which isn't at all the case with the mighty Brainstorm or the deep digging Ponder. You can lose the game when you miss lands with those spells, you can even find one land with Ponder when you really wanted to see two and put yourself in a very awkward position.
You can make Oath pretty bad for a deck if it has a very low creature and planeswalker count but the only time that seems to happen in green decks is when you pair it with blue in which case you have access to all the unrestrictive blue card quality stuff. Most of the non blue decks with green in them have very few non-creature, non-land, non-planeswalker cards in them. There are some very control rock decks that might have as many as 8 cards you can't find with the Oath and the odd RDW deck with a small green splash that could have double figure unfindable cards. These are rare and extreme exceptions and I think for the most part somewhere between 2 and 3 such unfindable cards will be the average. I think you could still play the Oath in the rock deck with 8 but it would be a bit weaker. In the decks with 3 or less Oath will be insanely good, like second only to Brainstorm levels of good.
There are two aspects of this card I haven't mentioned yet. Being an enchantment rather than a sorcery and helping out mana costs on planeswalkers. The latter is about as minor a thing as you could put on a card but it will none the less crop up from time to time and be of some use. Green doesn't really need the extra fixing, you certainly aren't doing silly splashes just because you have Oath in your deck. A lot of the time people will all together forget the card even has this ability on it! The fixing does slightly improve the card but it isn't really something you take into account when building with the card. Being an enchantment has some implications but it isn't really much of a drawback or advantage unless you work towards using that aspect of the card. While it might seem good in a deck with enchantment themes that obviously therefor means you will be reducing the finding capacity of the Oath itself. Drawing a bonus card with the Oath because you have an Enchantress in play sounds nice but in reality if it only finds you a land and not the action you wanted it hasn't done enough. Synergy with the enchantment type of the card is more likely to come in the form of it being a basically free permanent that you can sac or flicker for bonus value. These are some of the upsides but there are potential downsides too. One of the most common uses for a Snapcaster Mage is just getting some extra value by reusing that Serum Visions etc. Green has great recursion in things like Witness and Den Protector but Oath likely wont be in the graveyard to get back. Like I say, these things don't really affect the cards power level as they apply in both directions but they do give you a lot extra to think about in terms of building with Oath.
This is a great card but it isn't a powerful effect, it won't be winning games by itself. It is the glue that holds together great decks. It is the kind of card that makes magic games better, less decided by flood and screw. It might be the card I am most excited about since Faithless Looting. We get lots of powerful cards these days but not so many of those are cheap. Those that are on the cheaper side tend to be creatures. The most powerful cheap cards to be added to the cube since starting this blog have all been creatures. Not only is this a cheap spell, it is a non-blue card quality spell and it is good! Well done Wizards, more like this please.
Wandering Fumarole 8
This is the man land I am having the most trouble assessing. I know it is good because it is dual man land, what I am finding harder is placing it relative to the other 9 in the cycle. I am pretty sure it is better than both the two black ones that turn into 2/2s for an activation of 3. It doesn't seem like all that much but I think like the rest it will be subtly better than expectation. Of the lands with the same activation cost Ravine is more dangerous and generally all round bigger. Fumarole only really has anything on Ravine in the first activation or so and even those are only potential advantages. A 3/3 is still going to trump your choice of 4/1 or 1/4 plenty of times. The Boros doublestriker is a bit scarier aggressively in combination with things and has a little more killing while surviving potential in combat. That said the Boros land is generally a lot more vulnerable and linear. The Fumarole probably sits between the two for power. The hexproof 3/3 seems better too but hasn't really proved itself in cube yet. It has some more niche applications that haven't been fully explored. Generally those four land seem quite comparable which is good for all of them.
I think the Fumarole will shine in its capacity to work well in all kinds of deck. Certainly all the lands work pretty well in all kinds of deck but they generally work a little better in control or agro than they do in the other. I think Fumarole will be really comparably good in everything bar combo decks (unless those decks infinitely pump toughness and combo with Fumarole for a one shot kill!). In aggro being able to attack for four damage with a land is a big life swing. It will give you the capacity to milk out free damage, last a lot longer in a drawn out game and take more calculated risks. Four is a lot of damage and cannot be ignored however you cannot just block it as if it were a 4/1 as it will just stay as a 1/4, survive and allow something else to get in its damage instead. Without removal Fumarole is pretty tedious to deal with in combat. It is either going to tie up your creatures or really hurt you.
For control decks the Fumarole is great as well, it represents a great clock / finisher when you have established control but not found anything proactive to do. It will prevent a lot of plansewalkers being cast or doing that much in the more control mirrors. Although not exactly an early blocker it is a better blocker than most manlands. It can survive most things and trade up if needed. A 1/4 flippy dork is lower power than 3/3 hexproof, 3/3 grower or a 2/1 doublestrike however it has a much wider range of uses and is more suited to a broader range of decks. What with it being a land first and a dork second I think it will see play everywhere and on average outperform the higher power manlands that also cost 4 to activate. That probably places it 4th or 5th out of 10 overall in the cycle which is pretty impressive. It does also benefit from Izzet being one of the best colour pairings in cube!
Overwhelming Denial 0
Last Word is a long way off being cube worthy. The viability of this really comes down to how reliable the surge is. A massive shame this isn't Dismiss with the surge mechanic! Uncounterable has really quite weak synergy with surge. In any sort of counter war you are far better leading with this and forgoing the surge cost reduction than you are playing a normal counterspell first and then surging this out second. This is quite good for forcing though your own threats but has no real advantage over Last Word in a counter war.It also has no real advantage over Actual Counterspell at forcing through a threat. If you are not triggering the surge with a sorcery speed thing in your turn you want to resolve (or perhaps protect from instant removal) and you are not usefully doing it with countermagic that pretty much leaves draw and card quality spells. Things like Think Twice, Gush, Opt and Dig Through Time will be among the most common and viable candidates to trigger the surge cost. It turns out that you might as well just play Dismiss in those situations, it amounts to much the same and is somewhat more reliable! It will certainly be possible to have a deck where odds on you can play a cheap one or two mana instant effectively when you want to Overwhelmingly Deny something on the cheap. Once you have done this though you realise it wasn't all that powerful or all that much value and not worth all the trouble! Countermagic for 2 is good because it costs 2, a shocking revelation! This costs about 4 whatever you do with it. The only real merit of this card is in control mirrors at forcing through threats and again the uncounterble aspect is about as little help as it can be in that situation. IF they have countermagic obviously they are just going to aim it at your threat again. Probably too niche to main deck so certainly too niche for the A cube.
Embodiment of Insight 0
The red one is a lot better. You wouldn't even play this in a landfall deck as it is too far up the curve. A fine card, but not a cube one.
Sifter of Skulls 1
This isn't a bad card at all but it just isn't enough for cube. There are lots of "when stuff dies" triggers on black creatures, many of which do more than this on a dork that costs less. Sifter has pretty reasonable stats on top of this but being a four drop demands so much more of a card that I just can't see anyone ever wanting this. Not that it would be bad, just not that exciting or not better than something else.
Oath of Gideon 3
This is one of the more interesting of the Oath cycle in that both aspects of the card are relevant. A pair of 1/1s isn't powerful, even for 2 mana but it is generically quite useful and has some good scaling. In a control deck it is some reasonable blocking action, in an aggro deck it is more offensive bodies, things to pump and equip. You are either paying a mana, a 1/1 or the loss of flying from your card to gain the + loyalty effect. This is in comparison to Gather the Townsfolk, Lingering Souls (kind of) and Hordeling Outburst respectively. That isn't a huge cost but you have to want it. Token generator spells tend to only see play in heavy synergy decks (or in the case of Lingering Souls just because it is incredibly over powered). When your tokens are all +2/+2 then losing one of them or giving them flying is a lot more significant. I don't really see this getting much aggro play. It is too at odds with itself in terms of what goes with it. You might have token synergy and a good count of planeswalkers as well but you are likely just better off playing more efficient token generating cards.
I see this more in control where the extra point of loyalty on a planeswalker somewhat later in the game might have some significant implications. I have not gone through all the walkers to look for ones that you can abuse with an extra loyalty, there must be a couple out there but that isn't really the point. Instant Overrun on Garruk Wildspeaker is an obvious perk you could abuse and I'm sure there are others. It is more about the situations you can play walkers into safely as a control deck and so this card might have a small chance to get some play. Overall I think it is too narrow in the places it will actually shine and so not get enough play. I like the card and want to play with it but I think it is just all too slow and wishful.
Eldrazi Displacer 6.5
Oddly this card is pretty weak despite being an obvious auto include in mine and most other cubes. Essentially this is a Trained Armadon with a situational 3 mana ability. On paper every single Guildmage looks better. The reason this is so strong is the prevalence of cards with strong comes into play effects in the cube. Almost every deck has a couple of things this combos with and if you build with it and other effects like it in mind you can do some really obnoxious things. Repeat Thragtusk is one of the favourites. You can counter removal spells with this, you can undo Control Magic effects, so even when you don't happen to have enter the battlefield triggers to abuse the card has lots of strong uses. Three is quite a lot to pay to flicker something but being able to do it at instant speed as many times as you have mana for is abusive. Early game this will be a decent thing on the board and be awkward to play around when mana is up. Late game this will turn into a super Mother of Runes come card advantage machine. This card should put the flicker archetypes (Bant and Esper) up to top tier decks.
Boulder Salvo 0
Too narrow and too low power.
Pyromancer's Assault 0
Overpriced and way too slow to take effect.
Baloth Null 0
A much narrower and lower powered version of Greenwarden of Marusa. Greenwarden is OK in cube but hardly the most exciting card out there. This Baloth is fine, it is probably even a bomb in limited but it isn't close to a cube card.
Void Grafter 1
An OK creature plus trick but it is all a bit of a fiddle to be getting enough out of this middling card.
Weapons Trainer 3
This little dude offers a lot of power for the mana. Sadly he is doubly situational in that he is gold, archetypally narrow and needs an equipment in play to reach his potential. Not awful without an equipment and potentially pretty devastating if you do but far too narrow in where you might want to play it that I won't be putting one in my main cube.
Stormchaser Mage 8
Izzet getting all the love this set! This is basically another Monastery Swiftspear for the Izzet tempo prowess style decks. It is odd how various cards change when you give them +0/+1 and flying but also add U to the mana cost. A lot get a lot worse and some get a lot better. Swiftspear probably gets a little worse but not enough to stop it being one of the best cheap dorks in the game. While this isn't as consistent or as punchy as the Swiftspear it is a lot more rounded of a card that has significantly better late game scaling without losing the aggressive lean. Prowess is a powerful mechanic that gets better in cube. Swiftspear tends to out DPS a Goblin Guide, this will therefore out DPS Chandra's Phoenix, a card that costs a whole mana more and has a comparable function. Stormchaser Mage is very hard to kill with a starting toughness of 3. It is harder to block well and harder still early in the game when this can come out. Stormchaser Mage has good odds on controlling the skies until the five mana mark when serious angels and dragons join the party. In aggressive decks this is an auto include, it is a freely pumping, hasting evasive two drop that you really want to kill but can't that easily or efficiently. Control will get a little less from this card but will often still play it. The haste will help to burst people down or take out planeswalkers. The prowess adds a lot of complexity to your opponents plays and just a good chunk of value on an already fine card. I thought Seacoast Drake would be playable when it was first spoiled. I was wrong about the Seacoast Drake but not wrong in principal. There is a slot for a cheap flying dork in blue control, Seadrake just wasn't quite enough card. This has all the merits of Seadrake, it is cheap, it blocks well and can nibble away if needed. Stormchaser Mage does all that and a lot more without being underpowered or a wasted card.
Inverter of Truth 1.5
Interesting card that is very powerful but seems too situational for common use. One of two things has to apply for this to be playable. Either you are going to win off it and your board very soon and can afford to have a library with just a couple of low impact cards left in it, or it is super late game and you have more gas in the bin than left in your deck. Neither mode is common enough that you could play the card just based on that one condition occurring and you are unlikely to have a deck where both situations are likely. As such this card seems pretty unplayable in a main deck. It might be the best living Wish target quite often however!
Drana's Chosen 0
Drana chose poorly here, this card wouldn't see cube play if it were just tap to make a 2/2.
Hedron Alignment 0
Surely this is an Unglued card? Fortunately this can't do anything winning related in a singleton format so I don't have to waste any time talking about the comedy badness of this card. One thing this card has going for it in other formats is that it will be one of the most played unplayable cards. I mean its fun right? Losing is fun.
Cliffhaven Vampire 0
This is a vampire, and ally and a win condition with infinite life combo decks. It is also a card that will never see any cube play, probably no constructed play either.
Bonds of Mortality 1
This is a weird one. It is card neutral which is lovely but it costs rather a lot for a very narrow effect that has no proactive merit. There are a number of things this would be good against in the cube but it just seems like such a lackluster card that you wouldn't bother with it even when your opponent has multiple targets. There are generally better ways of coping against hexproof and indestructible. You wouldn't play a card like this to remove flying or combat related key words from creatures, you would play Hurricane or something with reach that solve the problem instead of just reducing it. A Blightsteel Colossus without indestructible is still a problem that needs an urgent answer.
Fall of the Titans 6.5
This resides somewhere between a Searing Blaze and a Bonfire of the Damned in function. Alas I fear it is a little below both in power. While not a total bomb this card is pretty versatile and pretty powerful. It can be both a relatively cheap two for one and also a total blowout game winner. It can be a potent control tool and also an effective aggressive one. In the latter case you are likely removing a blocker and doing some face damage. In the control you are killing two creatures or a creature and a planeswalker. You can go to the dome with it even if there are no other targets which is often an annoying restriction on this kind of thing. It is also a lovely lovely instant which is incredibly rare for a card with such high swing potential. Surge is vastly more effective in cube than in most other formats, this is doubly important when looking at an X spell. The more cheap and free things you can use that will trigger surge the better you spell will be throughout the game. While not the most efficient in mana to cast without surge the instant speed of the card makes it not at all unrealistic that it will be used in that way. You might want to ping two things for one each, you could blow a one mana spell to enable the surge or you could just pay the full price on the card and have spent the same total mana. Surging is more important for higher values of X. It might not have the top end power levels of a Bonfire of the Damned but it isn't wildly off and it is so much vastly more convenient to build with and cast that I am starting to wonder if it is overall superior to the mighty Bonfire.
Reality Smasher 6
Dull but pretty effective. This isn't quite a Thundermaw Hellkite but it is along the same lines. It is not quite such a reliable Lava Axe as Thundermaw and will be far less capable of sniping down unwanted planeswalkers as a result. On a 5/5 trample is getting pretty close to flying in offensive power levels. It is the synergy of the flying on Thundermaw with its enter the battlefield effect that really pushes the card to the very top tier. If this set the toughness of things that blocked it to 1 until the end of turn instead of the other ability then this would look and feel a lot more like a Thundermaw. You don't need to be comparable to Thundermaw to make the cube as it is one of the very very best threats going and so I'll stop with the futile comparisons.
Basically, if you want to smash face, are able to reliably produce a colourless mana and will reach five mana most games this card will be a strong consideration for your deck. It is a whole lot of tempo! It has some built in protection against removal but it isn't that impressive. By turn five most decks can pitch a land or some weak early game spell without it being that relevant. They won't even need to if their manner of removal is on a permanent with an EtB trigger on it. Further to this I expect most of the time this will be killed in combat. Still it is a nice bonus to have on it. There is not loads out there that will stop this efficiently regardless of how it is done.
My fear for this card is not its power but where you will play it. Broadly all the decks that could house it have plenty of comparably exciting five drops on offer. This may be more what the deck needs or more power but you have to work on the mana base to be able to play it. A green deck is just going to play that Wolfir or Nissa at five instead of this most of the time because it won't have to worry about it's mana so much and risk not being able to play the Reality Smasher on curve. Decks with artifact ramp seem like the most probable home for this card where it can come down turn two and dominate the (likely rather abrupt) game.
Oath of Chandra 2
The weakest of the Oaths. This is a 2 mana sorcery speed 3 damage spell that can only hit creatures. That is the primary aspect of this card by quite some margin and it compares horribly to the alternatives. You can go Searing Spear / Lightning Bolt for a more useful and rounded burn spell or you can go the Mizzium Mortars direction for more powerful and versatile creature control. There are a lot of options on some quite significantly better burns spells than this which the occasional free two damage really doesn't make up for. No decks have enough planeswalkers that this effect alone is anything other than a little annoying. It isn't a threat once it is in play, just something to mildly keep in mind. For a control deck the bonus damage isn't going to be very relevant, in an aggressive one you would just much rather your burn spell had the option of initially going to face.Being an enchantment is more relevant than the secondary effect on this Oath. It gives the card some hope of seeing play in and enchantment themed deck.
Sylvan Advocate 6
I think I like it. It feels a bit like a Tarmogoyf that trades some raw stats for a little more utility. It isn't that this card is that good at any one thing nor that overpowered at any point. It just offers a nice balance of things over the various stages of the game that it seems like a card I would be happy to include in a fair number of lists. A 2/3 vigilance for 2 isn't exciting but it does a lot of work in the early game. It will get in a bit of damage while holding back most other one/two drops and utility dorks. It will make your planeswalkers better and theirs worse. You wouldn't play it just as that though because it would scale poorly into the late game. Fortunately for Sylvan Advocate he gets a bit more peppy later in the game. A 4/5 vigilance isn't actually all that exciting either by turns five or six. It will do some work but probably not as much as the 2/3 generally does if made on turn two. The fact that it is a 2 mana 4/5 goes a long way as it allows you to do something else you otherwise couldn't such as running out a planeswalker on the same turn. Oddly it is the manland +2/+2 sweetener that makes me think it is enough to be cubeworthy. The cube has lots of manlands and a fair old number of things that make lands into creatures. A lot of manlands also scale well with a bit of pumping but rarely get the chance to enjoy it as it is usually too mana intense. I can see it all before me now, flop down my Sylvan Advocate, activate and smack with my Shambling Vent, gain 4, have a 4/5 blocker and the capacity to do it again but harder next turn. You will be able to turn around games out of nowhere with this dude.
Thought-Knot Seer 4
Ability wise it is somewhere between that of Vendilion Clique and Mesmeric Fiend/Brain Maggot. Body wise it is a middle of the road 4/4 for 4. This is generally too slow to be a valuable disruption tool and does not offer enough tempo to be that powerful of thing to cast normally. It is very good against late game combos or more expensive cards you struggle against. It is also nice in that it offers hand disruption to effectively any colour without too much trouble. Despite this I don't see the card getting much play. You want these effects sooner and the 4/4 is not enough power compensation for this. I can see this getting boarded in an awful lot against Aetherling. Exiling a card in singleton formats is great even if it is card neutral. There is also the chance this card will be good in a close game as it will pluck the last relevant card from an opponents hand and give you good odds on finishing the game with the Seer alive and well. When you hit a good card with this you are fairly ahead on card quality even if they immediately remove the Seer. Unfortunately if you miss getting a relevant card the Seer is a liability that will offer card advantage to your opponent if they kill it. I think this card is at its best in a big red style heavy artifact deck where you can easily cast this turn two or three making it a lot more exciting. It needs testing as it is quite an unknown style of card, much liek the Reality Smasher. Either could wind up being barely played or as a top quality midrange cube card. Mostly I think they will be drafted for backup, sideboard and filler roles. When your deck doesn't quite come together you can ram in some colourless Eldrazi stuff and make it work.
Bearer of Silence 3
On paper this looks pretty decent but in reality I think it is too awkward to be worth it. You play cards like this because you want more removal in your deck and your deck is about value. Removal wants to be somewhat reliable and cost effective and this just isn't. A colourless, a black and two generic mana is a big ask for a Cruel Edict even if you do get a 2/1 flier into the mix. If they have any tokens of cheap dorks to sacrifice this does very little, if you are behind and need to regain tempo with a removal plus a blocker you are out of luck. If you want to incorporate Recurring Nightmare synergies this card won't help you. If I am heavy black Gatekeeper of Malakir is significantly better in both cost and overall function than Bearer or Silence. If I am two or more colours I can't see this outperforming Shriekmaw or Skinrender, I can't even really see it being better than Bone Shredder for the kinds of role you want this type of dork doing!