Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Eldritch Moon Preliminary Review Part 1

Emrakul, the Promised End 8.5

Lovely card design here, a really elegant set of effects and abilities that work well together. Spending time comparing this to old Emrakul seems fairly useless as they will be used in very different ways however.... The Promised End is a great threat and despite the lack of annihilator and -2/-2 on the stats it has a great chance of ending the game quicker with attacks in the late game simply from having trample. It is not the kind of threat you cheat into play that often though and this is because it isn't that hard to remove compared to Torn Eons nor does it threaten to disrupt. Eons Torn is great to cheat into play despite skipping the Time Walk for doing so but at 15 mana that is really all you can do with it. The Promised End doesn't care that much that it ins't worth cheating in compared to a lot of other fatties as it is wildly more playable that most other top end things. Emrakul, the Promised End can cost five mana. I'll let that sink in a little. A five mana 13/13 flying trample is an eye opener, toss in some mild protection and a bit of a Mind Slaver and things are looking really real.

The cube is presently at the stage where you can be running seven drops in midrange and control decks. This is even more so the case in things like sealed deck where you can do daft shit like playing Nicol Bolas and Garruk, Apex Predator in the same deck while still being able to cast them and win games! You no longer have to pack Grim Monolith, Mana Vault, Gilded Lotus and Thrann Dynamo (or be a green ramp deck) before you can play Karn Liberated or Ugin. While I don't suspect you will be able to play Emrakul for 5 that often I expect the average price you pay to be 8 or less which is really quite the fantastic deal. It should win you the game almost every time you play it, let alone resolve it. It is not too expensive, can be far too cheap, and is playable in any colour. It is certainly a card you can improve the value of within a deck list but doing so isn't all that hard or detrimental to your list. I suspect new Emrakul will be one of the most sought after cards in a midrange cube. I think any control or midrange deck will be very willing to pick up the Promised End and warp their deck a little to include him. As such it seems like the Promised End will be frequently a first pick card, incredibly rare for such an expensive card (even five is expensive by the standards of top pick cube cards). I suspect my rating for the Promised End will reflect this by also being the highest rated card I have done in a preliminary review costing above like 3 mana! What statistical relevance it has I have little clue but I also suspect if you multiplied the rating of a card by its mana cost that Emrakul, the Promised End would be the top of the pile, significantly so above almost everything else.

So, why is this winning the game for you when you play it? On its own the body can get a lot done but it can also just die and do nothing. Even when it isn't dead it still takes two further turns of yours to win a game with the Promised End on its own. Pretty much it is all coming down to getting your opponents next turn. Mind Slaver is like two time walks as you get three turns back to back, the Promised End is more like a normal Time Walk as you only get two turns back to back before normal rotation resumes. Even if you are paying 10 for your Emrakul it still blows Mind Slaver out of the water in game winning potential. When taking control of your opponents turn doesn't win you the game it is usually because they had nothing going on. When this happens you somewhat just cycled Mind Slaver in a really expensive way. Do nothing in your turn to make and use the Slaver then do nothing much with their turn then back to your turn again. Often this happens and you don't have much to do yourself given you probably blew your load on the Slaver which means you are just in some top deck war and have gotten yourself no where. When you wiff on your opponents turn with an Emrakul you haven't wiffed at all because you have a stupendously big threat and they have nothing.

As I see it you play your Emrakul and take their turn, a lot of the time this is good games, you empty their hand, kill loads of their stuff, run in awful attacks and waste as much of their stuff as you can in inefficient ways. Sometimes you find they have a silly card that lets you kill them like a Necropotence but the general rule is when they have stuff to do you are going to win. Having your opponents turn when they have stuff to do is substantially better value than having another of your own turns. It is one of the most powerful swings you can have in a game of magic and a supreme recovery tool. The icing on the cake with Emrakul is that when they have noting and your Mind Slaver effect is low value you don't care at all because you are going to win with your 13/13 dork instead.

Protection from instants sounds a bit limp but it is all you really need and works a treat with the other effects. By the time they get to play sorceries it is you who can play them. You are going to aim those Dreadbores at things other than Emrakul to keep him nice and safe. It also means they can't efficiently dump stuff like Path to Exile on your Emrakul before you get use it yourself on their stuff.

You can counter Emrakul but that doesn't stop the turn stealing which is often most devastating to the more controlling decks. They are also the archetypes most likely to rip a solution to a 13/13 body off the top as well so you really don't care that much about counter magic. So Emrakul is a fairly unstoppable card that threatens to kill people reliably in one of two ways and he does all this for a price less than a lot of cube cards that seem to do less. Craterhoof Behemoth is the closest I can come to thinking of a card that generally is just game over when you make it and it is more situational, fixed to one colour and more disruptable. Craterhoof is also one of the very best green cards in the cube and highly sought after so again, looking really good for Emrakul.

While I said I don't think you will cheat this guy in he does work with Reanimate effects what with having no reshuffle mechanism. Without the Mind Slaver this isn't that exciting however being a legend and hitting pretty damn hard pretty reliably I can see him getting played with Gyro's Vengeace, perhaps even in Sneak Attack. I can also see it in a more midrangy Recurring Nightmare deck being quite the problem card for the opponent.

Synergy wise the card is fairly simple. The broader range of different card types you have the better it gets. The more of those that are cheap or if a permanent, are ones you can easily direct towards the graveyard the better it gets. The more looting and discard effects you have the better Emrakul will get. With a lot of synergy I think you can reliably have Emrakul costing 7 or less, packing no synergy I suspect 8-10 will be the range. Either way, I suspect we have a card potent enough to spawn a who new archetpye - Promised End.dec!

While it will be fairly easy to fine tunes decks to be able to play abusively quick Promised Ends, without a lot of support cards in place like Tar Fire and Crib Swap to help you won't reliably get super cheap Emrakuls in drafts. I will be adding in some decent support for it, I think it will be worth it. If you don't do this though you may find the card to be less exciting.

Ulrich of the Krellenhorde 2

Unimpressive. Compared with lots of cards that do similar stuff like Wolfir Silverheart, which is just a far better threat and buff card, or Huntsmaster of the Fells which affords far more value and utility, Ulrich seems overcost. Worst case scenario this is a vanilla 5 mana 4/4, in two colours no less! That is far far too weak given the upsides really don't excel in any direct sort of way. I am not even sure you play this in a warewolf deck! It is a bit too midrange yet doesn't offer the sorts of things you really want in a midrange deck. A werewolf deck would likely need to be aggressive to have a chance and Ulrich is a five drop and a fairly clunky one at that. I will say for the card that it is still quite powerful and therefore would not seem too out of place in a cube. Werewolf style flip cards are better the higher up the curve you go as they are more likely to flip quickly and less damaging to do so yourself. Ulrich really misses trample too.

Coax from the Blind Eternities 3.5

A niche card for sure but a powerful one that will likely find some uses in some of the more obscure cube formats. For draft it is too fiddly to be worth it. It is cute but it is a limited 3 mana sorcery speed Wish/Tutor effect that has a more limited range than most. At least Eldrazi cards are incredibly powerful!

Thalia, Cathar Heretic 7.5

It was not so long ago that white had basically no top rate 3 drops. Now I am wondering which of the many it has that I will have to cut for this obvious power house. First strike on three power controls the board very well in the early game. It goes a long way to making up for the one weakness this card has which is low toughness. Odds on against a red deck you are trading it one for one with a Shock and as a result being behind in tempo. Short of removal Thalia will do good work with her body alone on offence or defense however her real strength is in the disruption effect she packs. Creatures and non-basic lands coming into play tapped is pretty much Kismet, a four mana spell without a free 3/2 first striker! For those who haven't played against a Kismet - it is no fun at all. You don't realize quite how unfun it is until everything is ruined. A sac land takes a billion years to fix your colours, all your haste creatures do nothing, you are always a turn behind on putting up defenses and always a turn behind on curve. Brutal. Old Thalia was symmetrical and often a real pain in the arse to have out. You could only play her is creature heavy aggro decks with low to the ground curves. New Thalia can go in any deck with white mana and will do pretty fine work against most other decks.

Supplanter of Identity 0

I don't like Clones to begin with and this is a pretty weak Clone offering. Offensively it becomes their best dork while removing it from being able to block. Defensively it is a 4 mana 0/3. So awful. They have no guys, it does nothing. They have crap guys and just want to hit you in the face, it does nothing useful. They have only guys with comes into play effects and all Supplanter does is help them out. No. If you must play with Clones at least stick to the good ones.

Graf Rats + Midnight Scavengers = Chittering Host 0

Interesting new meld mechanic. Who doesn't want to play with massive cards? Quality of life mate, five times the size of your normal cards. All told, this little trio is not enough to make the cube. As with normal flip cards you need to be looking at the starting side for most of you assessment of that card. With meld cards this is far far more so the case because of probability. The Graf Rats are so far below the curve for cube play it is painful. Midnight Scavengers might pack a bit more power than the Rats but being a five drop they are actually less playable in cube. All told we should never be seeing a Chittering Host in the cube.

Hanweir Battlements + Garrison = the Writhing Township

This trio is a whole lot closer to the mark than the Chittering Host posse. The individual cards have some strong cube potential, most notably the Garrison. Hanweir Garisson is somewhere between a Hero of Bladehold and a Goblin Rabblemaster. Rabblemaster hits for one then six ideally generating one additional body right away. Garrison hits for nothing, then four and then six. It is a whole lot less aggressive and a little less value when removed quickly. Neither really do a lot when there is a blocker around the 3/3 size. Where Hanweir Garrison starts to have some strengths over Rabblemaster are in the token generation and management. As it makes 2 per attack you will accumulate them faster even through some defenses. Being able to control when they attack or not will also allow you to keep more alive. As such you will be able to scale them better with pump effects and the like. If you want tokens then you obviously want more tokens! Interestingly they are humans which poses some synergy questions with some white cards and a green one. Lastly but far from least, we have 3 toughness. A 2/3 is significantly more robust and useful than a 2/2, especially if you just want to attack and live. A lot of cards that have been performing above expectation recently are those that seem to have a random extra toughness than you might expect. I think in red decks Rabblemaster is still probably the better card however in red and other colours decks I suspect the Garrison may become the card of choice. Redundancy in your token producing stuff is nice too. Just for the front side of Hanweir Garrison I think we can give it a fairly safe 6/10.

Next we come to Hanweir Battlements, a card we have seen almost already in Flamekin Village. I got excited about it at the time but found it to be wildly underwhelming in reality. Paying two mana to haste stuff up is a big extra cost and happens rarely. Further to this most of the best red dorks already have haste which makes it even less appealing to harm your mana base for. Colourless lands are painful, you can only have so many in a deck and for a marginal effect it never seems worth it. You have to really want to give stuff haste for a specific reason before you run cards like this in cube. They do still see play but in niche places but Flamekin Village never got picked and played in draft. The Battlements probably get a 4/10 rating, a better green card than a red one!

As for melding your cards together, good luck... Although one is a fairly safe land you still have to draw the other and not have it be killed while you get to six mana. You can't even do it right away as there is no untap built in as there is with Ormendahl? Don't quote me on this, no idea how meld works yet despite having read the thing. The resulting dork is pretty dangerous but it is never going to worth including the pair for. Sure, you deck might want one or other piece of this combo but I cannot ever see it being right to throw in the other one on the off change you can meld them. Even if you did do that you are just asking for a 2 for 1 in the face, not to mention the 9 mana you sunk into putting yourself at risk of such things.Having played with Flamekin Village in more aggressive red decks I can fairly safely say there isn't going to be a cube deck that really actively wants both of these cards in the list and so we shouldn't be seeing any Writhing Townships in cube play either. Shouldn't doesn't mean won't. People will try things and the Wizrards devs clearly know this!

Borrowed Malevolence 1

Interesting and cool but likely a little underwhelming to merit a cube slot. Escalate is a great mechanic but here the card has too little scope and too little power. Probably if your playing this you wanted some light removal, if so, you should play a better removal spell, Tragic Slip, Disfigure or really quite a lot of things that are not this.

Wretched Gryff 2

Another lovely mechanic in emerge. Sacrifice mechanics afford some interesting utility in themselves. Cost reduction is always an eye opener too. You can scale this card well by combining it with cards where most of the cost is in a one off trigger, things like Sea Gate Oracle or Snapcaster Mage. Perhaps you are sacrificing an Academy Rector. Mabey just a Wall of Omens. With it being a 7 drop you really need to emerge this for it to be cube viable. With that being the case it is overly narrow for just a 3/4 cantrip flier, good but the cantrip is mostly covering the cost of the thing ditched so you might as well just play Serendib Efreet and skip all the bother. Cool and interesting but not quite there for general use. Hopefully there will be some emerge cards that are more obviously cube material.

Crypolith Fragment 0

Slow and all rather aimless. If you want to play this consider playing one of the many better cards that actually do the thing you want instead. For my money that is Mindstone here but it could equally be a decks worth of other cards too.

Chilling Grasp 1

We are getting a lot of these tap and don't untap instants in blue. We got the spell mastery one, then the surge one and now this madness version. They are all control filler cards and while very strong in the right situation they are wildly poor do nothings the rest of the time. They are not unlike pump effects in aggro decks. Anyway, they don't get picked and played much and madness adds narrowness meaning it will be the least playable in a filler sense. Every now and again it might be the best for a specific deck but that is not going to earn it anything above a C cube slot! I like the card a lot but it is inconvenient when it should be convenient and it is slightly outclassed by some recent alternatives.

Gnarlwood Dryad 3.5

I want to like this one drop but I don't see where it fits. Green agro decks are the worst at getting delirium online. In a midrange deck where you can get delirium more easily why do you want a 3/3 deathtouch? I mean, it is fine, good value for money but it isn't a great use of a card. It reminds me most of Serra Avenger, just an undercost body with a keyword that you can't get online that quickly. Flying is a lot more value than deathtouch and the Avenger only sees limited play resulting it it being one of those flipflop cards I rotate in and out of the cube lots. The one strength of Gnarlwood Dryad over Avenger I can see is that it can be made early as a 1/1 and just trade with something, not great removal but perhaps a useful filler card. I will A cube this card to test it out more thoroughly, I think it has some potential in a RgDW style deck which is becoming more popular with the addition of Cinder Glade and Atarka's Command plus some golden oldies like Kird Ape, Kessig Wolf Run and occasionally even Orcish Lumberjack! Having aggressive red paired with your green makes delirium much more of a reality with instant and sorcery burn. Potentially powerful if it finds a home but suitably awkward that it isn't odds on to find said home.

Cemetery Recruitment 1

Good value and a nicely cheap card but a limited range of utility and rather narrow as just card advantage. If I want a cheap black two for one I am looking towards Night's Whisper. Prerequisits for this kind of card generally ruin them.

Bruna + Gisela = Brisela, Voice of Nightmares

Let us start with Gisela, the Broken Blade. What we have here is to Baneslayer Angel what Goldnight Castigator is to Thundermaw Hellkite. A cheaper version that pays for it by being that little bit less rounded and lacking of any weakness. The weakness of Gisela is 3 toughness and no other impact on the board bar herself. A lot of removal will kill her easily and this will be sad as you will be behind in tempo as most removal doesn't cost 4 mana. A four mana, four power flying lifelink first strike will dominate the game pretty hard if it is not removed. It will race most stuff or it will just beat it in combat. I significantly prefer Sublime Archangel as an aggressive tool if I plan on having other creatures in the deck. For a stand alone card in a midrange or control deck Gisela is fine but far from exciting. Quite a lot of power for not all that much mana. Rounded enough that you can play her any where if you just need a powerful card but not good enough at any one thing to be assured of a cube slot. I give her about a 5.5 in isolation.

Bruna, the Fading Light is a lot less playable than Gisela what with being a 7 drop. To make up for this somewhat Bruna is a lot more direct in purpose, she does a thing and she does it fairly well and if you want that thing then you might well play her. While the vast majority of white creatures are humans or angels white is not a colour that ramps into big things. White has some great top end like Elesh Norn but typically it doesn't play that much other than Elsepth, Sun's Champion at six or more. I don't see a white decks suddently changing things up to pack a Bruna when it isn't doing that for what it currently has. A 5/7 flying vigilance will hold most things off and apply a tonne of pressure at the same time. Despite being one of the best bodies in the game it is still somewhat of a liability, it dies easily to a lot of removal and only gets in the way of one thing. It has limited stopping power or survivability which is a problem for a seven mana card. Yes, you are getting something else back when you cast it but that could be fairly minor, you can't totally rely on it in the more limited styles of decks you might play this in. The expected outcome for the card is good, it should be at least a two for one with a pretty big swing involved but for seven mana I want my card much closer to the good games bracket than the decent value two for ones. I give Bruna about a 4/10, a card too narrow to be worth having in a drafting cube most of the time.

Finally we should pay some lip service to Brisela. It is not inconceivable that I shall encounter this in cube, hell, I might even have it myself! Comically it doesn't seem all that much better than having the two component angels... But its fat! Spot removal doesn't do much to this because it all costs 3 or less to be cube worthy! Wraths mostly get it as do some planeswalkers. Shriekmaw is also a thing. So while this should win the game it is quite a lot of risk on top of really poor odds. Mostly what it is is silly! I'll probably throw the pair into the cube for a laugh, they are close enough to the power bar to be in the cube. Brisela is no reason to include such cards but it will be a good chuckle if it ever happens. The fun factor might prevail for a while over strict worthiness.

Blessed Alliance 5.5

I am a huge fan of this card but I fear it may be a little too low impact and unreliable to see frequent use. It is almost entirely a control card. Lifegain is most important to them as is instant speed diverse removal. As a removal card this is highly unreliable if you are not the control player as you may well not be getting attacked all that much. Control will play this but as filler, it will be used to bolster your lifegain potential or sure up your removal suite or just because you lack two drops. It will very rarely be the go to card for one specific role. It is all a bit too fair on the mana costs to be an auto include sort of card. Later on in the game you can get some value from the card pretty easily but it will rarely equate to card advantage, just some bonus life. Every now and again the untap will ruin people but this should be super rare. Control decks don't have lots of dorks and they don't tap them when good blocks are possible. If they do they will stink of having this card and you might play round it and ruin them. It is a big part of why I like the card and want it to be worthy of an A cube slot. Just Edict a dork and 4 life would be very dull. Absorb is borderline at best and it is much more valuable. Hard counters are scarse and three mana isn't such a poor deal on one compared to two mana for mediocre removal. Hopefully the untap ability will lead to some cool plays and unexpected outcomes. Having bonus weak effects on otherwise good cards really diversifies the game without any real cost. More cards like this please.

Thalia's Lancers 2

Compared to a Kavu Climber this is quite the card. Sadly 5 mana is far too much to be paying for value in the cube. This is some tutor on top of value but again, if you are able to pack five mana tutor effects in your deck what the hell kind of combo are you packing? Sounds bad and slow. Sure, it could be to increase the consistency of your daft angel meld plan, good luck with that.

Unsubstantiate 6

Unsummon for one more mana or Remand without that card draw rolled into one painfully fair utility card. Why this didn't have some kind of escalate cost is beyond me. It would hardly have been the new Cryptic Command... This is a very cool card but like Blessed Alliance it struggles to keep up in power terms. I want to play this loads but I fear it will constantly get pushed out of decks for juicier things. Like a lot of the Charm cards, the effects are all too reasonably costed for it to feel that brutal. If used well cards like this will give you much more chance to play magic with your opponent, they give you the options but it is hard. You have to play super well if you are packing much stuff like this as those options come with a cost. This is a very potent blue tempo card, it is incredibly unlikely to sit dead in hand. An issue for it here is that it doesn't deal with anything and so despite wanting tempo recovery cards control decks are not going to want this all that much. You pay a card just to delay a problem, you still need to then draw a solution to the problem. It is far better for the more aggressive player and blue is not the most aggressive colour. Further more this card is brutal against slow and clunky decks and quite limp against the cheap aggessive ones. Despite all my complaining about how I wish this was a little better it is still a two mana counterspell and a cheap bounce card, both great effects to have access to.

Docent of Perfection 6

Well this is a rather curious one, perhaps a contender to fill the long empty shoes of Meluko in cube. It certainly blows Talrand, Sky Summoner out of the water... A five mana 5/4 flier is no bad starting point for a card, certainly a lot better than a 2/4! It is a bit slow and expensive for a blue card but things are going that way and this really should win the game if you flip it. I suspect this has a faster clock from 20-0 than a Thundermaw Hellkite when it is played. You will need 3 spells but blue can easily do this, and cheaply. You actually don't need three spells, just one and fill up the rest with wizards. Turns out an awful lot of dorks across all the colours are wizards, lot of the utility ones, lots of the cheap ones. Between this spawning 1/1 wizards from your spells and the odd ones you might have in the deck this seems like one of the easiest cards to flip. When you do so it should be game over, an Elspeth, Sun's Champion ultimate emblem for all your 3+ wizards on top of the now 6/5 flier is hitting for 15 or more in the air. This is a dangerous card, it gets out of hand fast and easily. It is not the worst value when it is at it worst, still just better than Air Elemental! It is easy to support, it does some reasonable defensive work if needed and has great game closing potential. I feel some more midrange prowess decks on the horizon.

Influence of Emrakul 0

Offensively bad. If you are casting 7+ CMC Eldrazi you are winning the game, you don't need a couple of extra cards. Four mana do nothing cards like this need to be spectacular when you start to use them and this really isn't. Presumably it is intended to work with the emerge mechanic in the set, perhaps it will be really good there... for block constructed. Odds on it being powerful enough to work in cube are so low, the only block mechanics that are powerhouses in cube are the ones they got wrong (affinity).

Santifier of Souls 0

A perfect example of a card not getting near the cube. It does some things, it is probably a good limited card but in cube it a massive no no. A 4 mana 2/3 is a bad start, a weak prowess style pump is no where near enough to offset that. Activation costs are bad too if you are paying for them as part of the card and this has a situational one that is pricey for what it achieves. I wouldn't entertain this as a 3 drop. Even if this were a two drop and therefore a very powerful and playable card you still wouldn't very often use the 2W activation.

Ulvanwald Observer 0

Better six drop green things that draw cards exist. Better fatties exist. This really needed at least trample before it gets considered and even then it would probably still never see play.

Niblis of Frost 7

Dungeon Geists was a pretty potent card in the cube. It was a bit midrange and without any sort of specific home but it always performed really well when it did see play. This takes a massive dump all over the Dungeon Geists.  Teller of Tales is one of my favourite limited cards ever and this will bring some of that quality to the cube. Niblis does need some support where Dungeon Giests just does its thing regardless. It is however the kind of support you will have and will likely actively want in the sorts of deck this will be found in. You can have it as the top end of an aggressive prowess deck or you can have it working pretty well in spell heavy midrange and control lists. Each spell puts a creature out of action for two turns. A couple of spells and you can lock their entire board down. Great for offence, great for defense. A prowess 3/3 flier is a serious thing too, hard to kill with burn if you have mana up and hard to tangle with in combat. It represents an acceptable clock in its own right. With both this and the Docent of Perfection I expect to see the return of Gush to the cube and perhaps some more instant and/or cheap and free cards coming back to the cube too.

Assembled Alpha's 0

Nope. A mana less and haste and we are a potential but this, no.

Noosegraf Mob 1

Cool design but sadly much like the Assembled Alpha this seems to be a 6 mana 5/5 do nothing. There may well be some combos with this hence it getting a rating but odds on they are silly combos because they use a 6 mana card in them.

Take Inventory / Galvanic Bombardment 0

They tease me with these lovely spells that are of no use in a singleton format. I lament the inability to play Accumulated Knowledge, I would happily play the weaker Take Inventory if I could but it has the same problem!

Grizzled Angler 0

Cute but slow and silly. Even with 100% certainty on a flip I doubt this would be close to cube level.

Lone Rider 5

A lovely card design that packs a lot of potential power without seeming at all unfair or over powered. If this card is playable will come down to how easily you can gain 3 life in a turn. If there are lots of incidental things like Lightning Helix then we are onto a winner, if not the card is going to be underwhelming. Cards like Mardu Woe Reaper and Soldier of the Pantheon help as they are also aggressive cards with lifegain potential however cards like Spinx's Revelation or even the new Blessed Alliance are pretty weak as they do not work towards an aggressive game plan. As it stands I don't have enough pump or aggressive lifegain cards for this to be worth putting in a drafting cube however I think it could fairly easily be setup to be worth it. You can flip Lone Rider the turn you make it and in other peoples turns which adds a lot to the convenience of the card. It also has good abilities on the initial 1/1 which means it can be scaled well with things prior to any transforming. Certainly going to A cube this out for a bit to test, I expect it to be a little too fringe to remain permanently but I also expect to crush some faces with it in the interim! Knight of Meadowgrain is a likely return to complement this card.

Tree of Perdition 1

 A rework of the green Redemption variant. In isolation a 0/13 wall that can become a 0/20 wall and do seven damage is a bit naff. It is a lot to pay for a card that achieves very little. It is also a dead weight effect if you  or they have damaged them below 14. The one merit of this card I can think is with effects that reduce toughness such that you can swap an opponent down to 1 or 2. This seems a bit slow and convoluted to be any sort of combo thing and so I don't see it getting play. They might print some card that is good with it and good on its own and this might get a bit of use there after but for now it is a dust collector.

Graft Stapler 3

Cheap and powerful but likely too much of a risk. They equip cost is significant and so you risk heavy blowout to a lot of kinds of disruption. Perhaps a reasonable tool to assist sacrificing things.

Curious Homunculus 6.5

I want to give this a higher rating but I am wary that it is a little fiddly. This is a card that could well find several homes however the obvious best one for it is a prowess style Izzet deck. Early in the game this is a little bit of ramp and a body, it is a lot worse than the green ramp cards all round and worse than the artifact ramp as just ramp however the utility of the body is not insignificant. Silver Myr is a good card but doesn't see cube play, the Homunculus has to be reasonbly likely to flip to outperform the Silver Myr and I think it is and does. You only play this in a deck with a high spell count because without it you are not going to benefit from the mana production of the Homunculus. As such getting to three in the bin will be very easy. From about turn four onwards I think you have good odds on flipping this guy. Another card that is like Serra Avenger and Gnarlwood Dryad but for my money this is better than both. It is still playable on turn two and still does a significant part of why you play it. It will indeed help you flip it quicker when you make as you have more mana to invest in spells. Once flipped you have a 2 mana 3/4 prowess Goblin Electromancer which is really quite the bargain. A 3/4 prowess in a spell heavy deck is quite a beast, it will threaten to defeat most things in combat and consequently do a lot of work offensively or defensively. Cheaper spells is also made of win. Another in built synergy with the prowess and presumbly the deck as a whole. The biggest issue with the card is that even when you make it turn 4 onwards it is spending a whole turn as a 1/1 and is a terrible blocker and highly vulnerable to removal. All told I think it is still worth it, the prowess decks are more tempo driven and so you care about the first attack much more than the first block and this will get to attack as a 3/4 from the outset quite a lot. The concern I have for this card is that it isn't overly playable outside of a prowess deck and might be a little too narrow to retain a cube slot. Blue needs meaty two drops, this isn't perfect as it comes with conditions but it is significantly the best on offer.

Gisa and Geralf 0

A gold four mana 4/4 that lets you cast zombies from the bin if you have them in the bin and they aren't already zombies that easily come back out of the bin.... This card is impressively unimpressive for a gold mythic of two named characters. I wouldn't play this in a zombies deck.

Bloodhall Priest 5

Quite a lot of card to take in! It is a lot like a miniature Inferno Titan when you have hellbent. Even without the firebreathing or ability to split the damage it is quite something for a four mana card. The madness is a nice sweetener as it works so well with the kinds of things that work well with hellbent. Flopping this out at instant speed for just three mana is really nutty! Having hellbent is easy enough to do but it requires a dedicated deck and that makes this card pretty narrow. Gold and highly dependent on having a lot of discard outlets in the deck. Black and red already have quite a lot of nice madness and hellbent cards and so it is easy to justify adding in some more support cards for them. The raw power of this card is huge when in optimal conditions, there are lots of good things to run with it, you can turn it on so to speak so you don't lose that much if you are forced into making it without hellbent and it isn't that weak of a thing to have when it is at its worst. Potentially powerful enough to really push a Rakdos deck to the top tier of the meta it just entirely depends on there being enough good support card for it.

Ingeious Skaab 1

Surprisingly playable for a 3 drop of this little power. Only playable if you really really want a prowess dork or a blue zombie at 3 mana. Seems almost certainly not going to happen but still, nice to see commons closer to the bar.

Haunted Dead 1.5

This isn't any good to hard cast, just not enough stuff for four mana. It is acceptable to bring back from the yard however you have to get it their first. It is a decent middle part of a chain but middles of chains are not the kind of thing you want in magic when you are drawing random cards. If you have it at the end is is really low power do nothing and if you have it at the start it sits in hand and does nothing. You need to pitch it with something like a Faithless Looting, then bring it back the next turn while tossing more stuff you want in the bin. Pretty wishful you are getting the one good outcome over the two weak ones with enough consistency that you can afford to play a card like this.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Aggro Mill

Returning to the topic of mill decks today and not in a brief way at all. This kind of mill is a new magic concept to me and so this article is basically just my thought process in working out the way to go. One of the surprise results from the latest big rotisserie we did was the success of the mill deck. Not because mill is weak as such but because the format had some natural counters to it, the deck had a dodgy mana base and was very unrefined including such gems as Keening Stone and Induce Paranoia (mock as I might, I lost to the deck and the latter card so yeah, magic...). I had overly assumed that the deck he had drafted lacked the tools to cope with problems however it turned out that it was fairly consistent at milling people out on turn five and "problem" cards were no longer a problem as the game was over. Show me a list with a curve full of four and five drops and I somewhat assume the deck is slow. I have always approached mill from the control side of things however the relative success of Copperline George's mill list has made me consider it in a red deck wins light instead, or at least a burn deck. All told, with 40 card decks a mill list can basically be as quick or quicker than burn with far greater consistency. Much more excitingly we get to use a whole load of numbers to guide our deck building which is always fun and novel.

When you look at a mill deck in this light the evaluation of cards becomes far simpler. You are only concerned with mill per mana and mill per card. Same equations for burn analysis substituting damage for mill. What you find is that mill spells are far more efficient all round than burn spells at killing 40 card decks. You are aiming to kill consistently on turn four which will mean you should always have killed by turn five in a goldfish and can on occasion do it turn three. This means you are looking to ideally have 10 mana to spend on mill cards with 6 or 7 (play or draw) non-land cards to do the milling with. Generally you expecting to need to mill for around 30 to take the game. This is optimal conditions, you might not be able to spend all your mana, you might draw slightly too few or too many lands. One which means you need higher mill per mana efficiency and the other meaning you might need higher mill per card efficiency. Even lands that come into play tapped will hurt your optimal plays. Having a range of cheaper mill cards and higher powered ones allows you to play out cards according to the ratios you find your lands and spells are arriving in so that you are able mill for 30 by turn 4 in a variety of ways, some using slightly more mana and less cards and others vice versa.

In 40 card decks (where you assume life totals equal 30) mill is more efficient than burn. Tome Scour compares favourably to Lightning Bolt as 5/30 is greater than 3/20. This is the general trend and so really the question becomes; Why ever play burn or RDW when you can play aggro mill instead? There are plenty of good answers to this. Red is more consistent for one, just being in one colour makes a pretty huge difference to consistency which is all important in this kind of pure deck. Another valuable aspect is that burn has far more utility than mill, burn can kill off creatures and planeswalkers which can be significant in some of the more interactive and fast paced matchups. Mill also has some natural counters such as the original Eldrazi cards and is very easy to counter with cards like Gaea's Blessing should you be doing it in a more constructed style of format.

What I have discovered from researching this archetype is that the main issue for the deck is a lack of redundancy in the cheap mill cards. Even if you use some of the really weak stuff you struggle to make a 40 card deck of just mill cards. Burn is near infinitely redundant by comparison! As I lack experience with this kind of deck this is all conjecture but I am really struggling to work out how bad it is in this kind of deck to substitute weak mill cards for other things. Every non-card draw, non-mill card in your list (which all ready includes all the lands) contributes to 0.025 decrease in your mill to card ratio. Likewise, every mana symbol in just the non-mill cards reduces the mill per mana ratio in the deck too.

I am used to mill decks wanting to delay things as it works in their favour however much of the strength of this kind of deck is being so quick that loads of things that might be trouble simply won't have the time to get online. Delay cards work well with some of the ongoing mill effects but most of the good mill cards are one shot. I will propose a list at the end which uses some utility non-mill cards. It feels uncomfortably few for a mill deck yet in the context of a burn deck it would seem like a stupid amount of utility to run. With so many good options in Dimir for utility spells and so few slots to use on them I am sure that is the aspect of the deck I will get most wrong. Before attempting a list I feel the need to examine each potential card so as to get a feel for what is good and what is weak.

Returning to our maths bit, we are aiming to win on turn 4 by milling for around 30. To do this we will have 10/11 cards, of which we hope exactly 4 are lands. We will have 10 or less mana. Our deck will have roughly 6 spells to win with. On average therefor our spells needs to cost one and two thirds mana and needs to have at least 5 mill per card and 3 mill per mana. You could also say this as needing 3 mill per card and no more than one mana per card. The latter is more useful for looking at the deck as a whole inclusive of lands while the former helps to more clearly identify the efficiency of various cards.

Tome ScourTome Scour

Mill per Card: 5
Mill per Mana: 5

One of the simple cards by which to compare the others. In terms of immediate mill per mana it is one of the very best performers however it is fairly low total mill. A deck of just Tome Scour would be very potent in mana screws but would struggle in a flood. It is a 100% include in the list as it ticks all three boxes we are looking for on the stats. Optimally however you would run some cards with higher mill per card, perhaps at the cost of mill per mana or just total mana so as to balance things better.

Mind Sculpt

Mind Sculpt

Mill per Card: 7
Mill per Mana: 3.5

This only ticks two of the 3 boxes needed for our aim. As it is 2 mana it is over our average desired one and two thirds cost. This is pretty negligible, for every one drop you run, just on the maths, you can run two two drops. Overall this is still 100% in the list being all round very efficient.

Thought Scour
Thought Scour

Mill per Card: 2 (infinite)
Mill per Mana: 2

Cards that draw cards are hard to evaluate on their own in terms of mill per card but as a function of the whole deck they are much easier. As it is card draw it effectively doesn't cost you a card to play it so it greatly improves the deck's overall mill per card average. As it also is cheap and does some mill itself it keeps the mill per mana and average CMC fairly reasonable. Not a card you would want your whole deck to consist of as you could never win before turn five however it is a 100% include in this kind of list. It draws you closer to your more powerful mill cards and makes you that much more consistent.

Glimpse the Unthinkable

Glimpse the Unthinkable

Mill per Card: 10
Mill per Mana: 5

A very potent card indeed and widely regarded as  the best no frills mill card in the game. This is because it is so off the charts on both mill per mana and total mill despite not being that pricey. Again, this is not a card you would really want a deck full of as you would be wasting mana turns one and 3. You would pretty consistently win with it on turn four but there is no reason not to improve the deck with at least some one drop cards if you could play any number of any cards.

Hedron CrabHedron Crab

Mill per Card: 0-18 (going with 6)
Mill per Mana: so 6ish

One of the best cards in the deck but far more variable than most so harder to precisely quantify. The later the game goes the weaker the card gets. It is usually 3 mill per turn, sac lands make it 6 but no lands or playing it as a one drop make it 0. Aiming to win on turn 4 means you get 3 land drops with it at best if you make it turn one or two and then don't miss any land drops or get it killed. Having cards with high variance in the deck increase the value of card quality effects. While Hedron Crab can out perform the next best mill card by about four times at one end of the spectrum and do flat nothing at the other what really matters is what it usually does. In my experience this is a lot of good work, six was a conservative estimate for the amount of mill the card provides on average. 100% include.


Mill per Card: 5
Mill per Mana: 5

This is the fair and tame version of the Hedron Crab. It offers good stats when it is made early but gets weaker as it is played later on. I think in cube there are too few options to forgo cards like this that potentially tick all the boxes. Mildly increases the value of card quality as with any other card that is best on curve.

Memory SluiceMemory Sluice

Mill per Card: 4 (8)
Mill per Mana: 4 (8)

This ticks two of the three boxes and is very close on the mill per card. Given that it is a one drop you can cast with any colour of mana in the deck I think the card is far too convenient to not play. There is also the chance you get to conspire it which propels it to Hedron Crab levels of efficiency. This will be rare to do but is valuable enough that it does put a little bit of extra value on playing creatures. With one drops being the most important kind of card for mana efficieny I don't think you can forgo any that are even close on the stats so this is a 100% include.

Vision Charm
Vision Charm

Mill per Card: 4
Mill per Mana: 4

Much like Memory Sluice but trading potential power for some odd utility and instant speed. The latter is fairly irrelevant in this deck and the utility comes in a very odd form but who knows, I am sure it has plenty of application beyond resetting your Shreikhorn... Given how close this is to the mill per card requirements while ticking the other boxes I can't see this not getting included in any sensible cube aggro mill list. I prefer the idea of Sluice but in practice there is likely little to choose between them. They represent the last of the strong one drops on this list.

Mesmeric OrbMesmeric Orb

Mill per Card: 4+
Mill per Mana: 2+

The actual best mill card however with such a short time to perform there is a good chance Glimpse and the like are better in this list. It represents inevitability in a serious way. With the deck being so fast you can expect the lower end of performance from this card but it is still well worth it even then. It is most effective against the decks that threaten to kill you quickest themselves and goes a long way to making them play sub optimally. A card that is cheap, has high ongoing mill potential as well as some mild disruption is a big win. It is the Sulfuric Vortex of the mill deck.

Archive Trap

Archive Trap

Mill per Card: 13
Mill per Mana: infinite

Not only your biggest one shot mill card but also your cheapest. This is the Fireblast of the mill deck. Most decks have shuffle effects, some quite a lot but the average is probably only a couple. This slight unpredictability does keep this silly card in check but it remains one of the very best regardless. Don't leave home without it whatever the mill deck you are playing. It is the one card that really improves the deck stats in terms of mill per card, mill per mana and total CMC which in turn lets you play some other exciting things more freely.

Breaking // EnteringBreaking // Entering

Mill per Card: 8
Mill per Mana: 4

Staple solid mill that greatly improves your redundancy and reliability. Yes, Glimpse is 20% better but usually 2 cards isn't the difference. Play it, be grateful to have the option to play it.

Manic ScribeManic Scribe

Mill per Card: 3 - 9 (guessing about 4 on average)
Mill per Mana: 2ish

While this is likely better than Hedron Crab in the control lists it is a lot less exciting here. The extra mana cost hurts the value of the card a lot and the odds on you having delirium within the early stages of the game are slight. It encourages play of looting cards and things like Baleful Strix and Vessel of Paramnesia just to increase those low odds. Being a 0/3 is not that much more exciting than a 0/2 in such a quick aggressive list. The best reason to play it is that it improves Mind Sluice! It might be that you are forced into running this due to lack of enough quality mill however it is one of the least efficient all round cards on offer.


Mill per Card: 1
Mill per Mana: 1

The least efficient mill card on offer however it does solve a lot of problems like Emrakul and it is cheap. Being exile and targetted it has double potency against combo and synergy decks which it disrupts against rather than just being a protective measure. I would always want to play some exile mechanics in a mill deck, especially in the kinds of cube format where mill is an option. It is like running a Dismember or a Volcanic Fallout in your burn list, somewhat of a concession to the problems you will likely face. The thing with mill decks is that when they win your opponent will see every card they have. This makes problem cards like Gaea's Blessing almost a certainty, at least burn decks can just try and dodge the problem cards rather than having to solve them. One really nice thing about Extract is that you can use it to trigger your Archive Trap.

Ray of ErasureRay of Erasure

Mill per Card: 1 (infinite)
Mill per Mana: 1

This is probably too slow and weak to run but it is playable filler being both a one drop and a cantrip card. It is both half the Mill of thought Scour and has a delay on the draw yet it still seems more playable than expensive mill cards or low power ones with a card cost. I think this is just weak enough that a card like Serum Visions will have more of an improving effect on the decks performance.

Dream Twist
Dream Twist

Mill per Card: 3 / 6
Mill per Mana: 3 /2

This is one of the more interesting cards on offer and is probably one of the better filler cards. The average of the stats has it under par on most accounts however it is really good for covering you when screwed and when flooded. Just cast once and it does some mill while improving your decks average CMC and cast twice it provides enough mill per card to hit our targets. It is cheap enough when you are screwed to be of use and it packs just enough punch with the flashback to be significant when you are flooded. Highly remeniscant of other flashback cards in their respective homes, Firebolt for RDW, Think Twice for control. Not wildly efficient cards but very convenient.

Mind Funeral
Mind Funeral

Mill per Card: 12ish
Mill per Mana: 4ish

This is not the kind of deck you can run many three drops in at all and of those on offer this would be my first choice. It can wiff and hit as low as 4 but this is very rare. The average is no less than 12 and every now and again you one shot people with it. The average land count in cubes is 16 however by the time you play a Mind Funeral you expect the ratio of lands in the top half of the deck to be lower than it was at the start of the game. Loads of cards filter lands out from the deck and most scry effects either draw lands or put them to the bottom. All told, Mind Funeral does a lot of work and is a card to fear. Potentially one of your biggest hitters and doing so in the right sort of way.

Dimir Charm
Dimir Charm

Mill per Card: 2
Mill per Mana: 1

Really poor on the stats however this card is impressive utility. Used as mill you also get to reliably negate their draw for a turn. When not used as mill you have access to countermagic and creature removal, all be it situational incarnations of both. Overall I think there are more powerful utility cards to be played than this but the dual purpose of the card is highly alluring.

Ghoulcaller's BellCodex Shredder

Codex Shredder and Ghoulcallers Bell

Mill per Card: 4
Mill per Mana: 4

I have offered pretty optimal stats for these cards, the reality will be lower when things are going well. When things are going badly it might well be more than 4 but odds on that won't matter a jot. All told I think these are too slow and low powered to merit inclusion even as cheap filler. Bell has some synergy with flashback, delirium, Brainstorm and the like but mostly you want mill out of your cards and these are super limp in that area.

Jace's Erasure

Jace's Erasure

Mill per Card: 2
Mill per Mana: 1

This seems awful in this list as you don't plan on having the game go long enough to trigger this much. Even if you make it turn two and draw an extra card each turn it is still underperforming on all stats that we care about. You can greatly improve the potency of the card with a really high count of draw spells like Treasure Cruise and Visions of Beyond combined with lots of cantrip effects however for a card so weak to begin with it isn't worth pushing it. By all means play some draw but don't get caught up thinking that makes this card what you want.

Chancellor of the SpiresChancellor of the Spires

Mill per Card: 7
Mill per Mana: infinite

The card itself is unplayable, you would only consider this in the deck for the opening hand trigger. A free mill for seven is great however at the cost of having a dead card when you don't get it in your opener you have to be chock full of card filter or utterly desperate to run this. The fact that this is 20% chance at best to be in your opener really the mill per card should be quoted at closer to 1 or 2. Cute but not worth, probably even with loads of card quality.

Wheel of FortuneWheel of Fortune

Mill per Card: 7
Mill per Mana: 2.33

On  the stats this is pretty weak but that somewhat ignores the fact you draw seven with it! I have won more games in magic milling people with Wheel of Fortune than any other mill card and not once has that been the intended use of the Wheel. You could actually play Wheel in this deck as an OK mill card and a great card draw card. With it being red and red having no other good mill I wouldn't advise it. Consistency is really important for the quick decks and a 3rd colour is not conducive to that end. Wheel would make Jace's Erasure more interesting and also improves the cheaper mill cards value.


Predict (and Foreshadow)

Mill per Card: 1 (infinite)
Mill per Mana: 0.5

Another bad Thought Scour that is actually much weaker filler simply because it costs two mana. There are not any obvious synergies where you can guarantee a double draw trigger to be found in this list and so I don't think this merits any sort of inclusion. If I did I would likely categorize it in the card draw section rather than the mill section.

Vessel of ParamnesiaVessel of Paramnesia

Mill per Card: 3 (infinite)
Mill per Mana: 1

Generally this is just weak. The mill per mana is just way too far off to merit this card on top of really being a 3 drop. Give me Pilfered Plans over this every time. The best thing this offers is being an enchantment for delirium but as we have discussed you don't go playing bad cards to improve other bad cards.

Pilfered Plans

Pilfered Plans

Mill per Card: 2 (infinite)
Mill per Mana:  0.666

Not really so much of a mill card as a refuel card. In the list with a lower mill per card and a higher mill per mana this is a good balancing tool. Overall it is a little low powered for my liking but it isn't the worst.

Sanity GrindingSanity Grinding

Mill per Card: 0 - 10ish
Mill per Mana: about 1.5

There are few heavy blue cost cards you want to play in this kind of deck, most of the cards are a single blue. There is a high top end potential for this card if you force it a bit but I don't think you can make it work well enough for cube yet. This compares very poorly to Mind Funeral on average and is a little awkward to cast as well. Not worth playing basically ever.

Altar of the Brood

Altar of the Brood

Mill per Card: 4ish
Mill per Mana: 4ish

This probably works out about as good as Codex Shredder and the Bell. You can power it up a little with a higher creature count and indeed other cards like the Shredder. Of the bunch it is the card I would play first, not only does it have better scaling with synergy but it can output more burst mill than the others. Far from good but on the more playable side of things.

Ashiok, Nightmare WeaverAshiok Nightmare Weaver

Mill per Card: 6
Mill per Mana: 2

I have assumed you are making this on turn three rather than turn four and the stats are still pretty poor for it. There are two things going for Ashiok to compensate for how weak it is on the stats alone. The first is that it exiles which can do a lot of the work Extract does for you. The second is that it is a threat on its own and will often be the focus of attacks and plays rather than yourself. I instinctively would avoid playing such an expensive and slow card in such a deck but it would still be my 2nd or 3rd choice three drop if that were the thing.

Brain Freeze
Brain Freeze

Mill per Card: 6ish
Mill per Mana: 3ish

It is hard to generate much storm yourself and encourages the play of weaker or off theme cards like Gitxian Probe. You can pretty reliably get one storm trigger from your opponent but this does make it an awkward card compared to Mild Sculpt. The slight chance for it to over perform (as in do better than the stats I quoted for it) is not a reason to play it however a two mana mill for six card might still be good enough to make the cut.

Startled AwakeStartled Awake

Mill per card: 13
Mill per Mana: 3.25

A very big hitter but clunky. In our aim to win turn 4 this can only be cast turn 4 and only if you hit all your lands. The odds on having all four of the lands you need in time make this pretty weak in the RDW style of deck. The best comparison is to Thundermaw Hellkite except that Thundermaw is pretty exceptional, I am never too unhappy to have to run it in my deck whatever it might be! Thundermaw is pricey for RDW but it does a lot of work. As RDW style lists often have to aim some burn at creatures and things it is very useful to have big sources of damage and so Thundermaw is pretty tasty. A more direct translation of Startled Awake to RDW would be if there was a 2RR sorcery that did 8 damage to an opponent. Startled Awake has pretty good stats overall and so might well make the cut in order to fill out the ranks. The more filler the deck ends up playing/needing the better the inclusion of Startled Awake becomes. In an ideal world the deck would be all Glimpse, Hedron Crab and the one mana Scour cards however in practice we have no where near that level of redundancy. You could argue that the card has bonus utility in an ongoing game but given I am complaining about 4 mana for this deck I really don't see the other face of this card being of much use.

Chronic Flooding
Chronic Flooding

Mill per Card: 6ish
Mill per Mana: 3ish

I am not a huge fan of this card as it gives way too much choice to your opponent. Best case scenario you make it turn two and they have to use their lands non stop giving you perhaps 9 mill. The problem is that your opponent can often just take the Sink Hole and you haven't done what you needed to do.

So, those are our mill options, using just the best on offer we have this;

Thought Scour          2
Hedron Crab             8
Shriekhorn                6
Tome Scour              2
Vision Charm           4
Ray of Erasure         1
Dream Twist            4.5
Extract                     1
Memory Sluice        4

Breaking // Entering            8
Glimpse the Unthinkable    10
Mesmeric Orb                     10
Mind Sculpt                         7  
Brain Freeze                        6
Mind Funeral          12  

Archive Trap           13      

About 16 decent to good cards meaning we have 8 or 9 to fill with utility or weaker mill to take us to 40. Lets look at roughly what the average stats are for our good mill cards so as to gain direction for the rest. With 16 cards we want about 12 lands to get that ratio about right. The total mill of these 16 cards is about 100 for the combined estimated mill per card. The average CMC is 22/16 which is nicely under the 5/3 target. This puts the mill per spell at nearly 8 and the mill per mana at over 4 all told putting us well above our required stats. To account for card draw effects you need to consider the lands meaning mill per card in deck rather than mill per spell. This needs to be 3 or more to get the job done, much like mill per mana. 100/28 is the mill per card in this deck however 100/26 would be a more appropriate figure as the Ray of Erasure and the Thought Scour cycle. This takes the figure from just over 3 to nearly 4.

If we were to stop there with our mill and draw effects in the list we would end up with a mill per card of nearer 2.5 (100/38) which isn't enough to get the job done. What this tells us is that our remaining 8 or 9 cards have to either do some good mill or draw some more cards. If you just pad this out with non-mill, non-draw effects you cannot expect to reliably kill turn four or quicker. These are the next 9 most playable mill cards out there for this deck.

Predict    1
Foreshadow     1                    
Dimir Charm    2
Altar of the Brood   5
Starled Awake   13
Ashiok,   6
Pilfered Plans 2
Vessel of Paramnesia 3
Delirium Mage 4

37 mill in 9
22 mana in 9
5 extra draw

Taking us to 137/35 mill per card and keeping us just over 3 mill per mana. The average CMC goes slightly over the target. Acceptably so for a deck with such little redundancy but I think we can do better, a lot of these final possibilities are really weak and bring the deck down a lot.

There is a fairly extensive list of interesting and powerful support cards that work well with mill. Some card quality, some card draw, some disruption, some stall or protection effects, some removal and even some ramp! Some of these cards fall into more than one group however I think it is more useful to just consider them all as non-mill cards and just group them into high pick high power cards and jank you can easily get if you actually want it. Although you don't want loads of non-mill cards I think a smattering of the best not only improves the overall potency of the deck but also improves the goldfish clock.

The Good and Contested Stuff

Baleful Strix
Snapcaster Mage
Arcane Denial
Deathrite Shaman
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
Cryptic Command
Toxic Deluge
Treasure Cruise
Spell Pierce (and other one mana counter)
Inquisition of Kozilek (one mana targetted discard)
Shelldock Isle

The Stuff you should be able to grab more easily

Preordain (and other one mana card quality)
Seal of Removal (other bounce)
Disfigure (and other spot removal)
Draka Mystic
Visions of Beyond
Augur of Bolas
Jace Beleren
Thing in the Ice
Kami of the Crescent Moon
Returned Reveler

Kami of the Crescent MoonI will go over these cards in a little detail so we can work out what the most sensible filler cards are for the deck. The symmetrical draw stuff sounds perfect in theory and has been used in the past by turbo mill decks to decent effect. The problem with it is that it is generally fairly low mill and also low card draw compared to alternatives. Jace Beleren is looking like a combination of all the worst bits of Pilfered Plans combined with Vision Skeins! While you don't overly care about your opponent drawing you would still much rather it was mill instead! Kami of the Crescent Moon is likely the best as it is fairly cheap and does some defensive work. Best case scenario it mills for 3 and draws you 2, not that much better than a Predict or indeed the weakarse Vision Skeins and at quite a lot more risk generally. Draka Mystic is less risk than the Kami but is quite a drain on your resources. I like the card quality aspect of it and how you retain all the control. It is a bit of a Grim Lavamancer in the deck except that it will shine against the control decks rather than those with <3 toughness dorks!

Dakra MysticReturned Reveler is limp and unreliable mill, you play it to aid your cause while slowing down an opponents. When it is good it is fine and when it is bad it does nothing making it not worth it. Substantially weaker than a Manic Scribe with no delirium ever. Augur of Bolas and Baleful Strix are defensive dorks that cost you no cards. Ideally for me I would tend to have these in the sideboard as they will help a lot against tempo creature decks than can conceivably outpace you but afford little to no value in the control games. Broadly the inclusion of such cards simply reduces you mill per mana across the deck. Augur of Bolas comes with card quality making it less of a cost to play it however Strix is a much better body and contributes better to delirium is that is something you are keen on!
Thing in the Ice is a defensive dork with some bounce utility instead of cantrip. The bounce is nice but it is balanced on also giving a 7/8 which this list cares not for. As such Thing in the Ice has too little synergy with the deck to be worth it.

Seal of Removal is probably my favourite creature kill spell going for this deck. It is cheap, hits everything and gets round everything except for hexproof. With your plan to win so quickly you really don't need to have stuff off the board for long to get your win. Seal contributes to delirium and may have some utility with your own stuff. I think I would generally play bounce over black spot removal in this deck, say Boomerang over Go for the Throat if I was going to play a two drop. There are a couple of white guys this list struggles to beat, True Believer style cards and the Jotun Grunt. Beyond that however the deck only cares about removal if it thinks it is getting beaten in a race by them which seems fairly unlikely. Playing a removal spell is like playing Path to Exile in your burn deck. Sometime right but generally a concession to problems than the optimal way to go.

DarknessCryptic is one of the best control mill cards going being a Time Walk most of the time or being able to deal with a problem permanent. In an aggro mill deck however it seems just too expensive to be that exciting or impactful. I would certainly use my earlier picks to grab more useful power cards. Likewise, Damnation and even Toxic Deluge seem a little on the slow side to make a difference. By the time you can sweep the board you have enough mana to win and so you are better off stalling with spot removal and cheap utility dorks if you need to. Darkness is the solution to Cryptic Command and Damnation being to expensive to be playable. If you need a tool to stem a tide of damage from busted starts you can't race than Darkness is by far the most efficient stall tool going. It is sufficiently cheap that you can easily cast other mill spells along side it. One of the issues aggro mill decks have is that some of the best mill cards scale well with more turns. Mesmeric Orb, Hedron Crab etc all do a lot more work the more time they are in play. Although you aim to win as quickly as possible you can win a whole lot more efficiently a turn slower if you like by using Darkness. In matchups where the only relevant things they can do to you are attack you then despite the appearance of counter synergy Darkness is one of your most unfair and powerful tools.

Treasure Cruise is good, we know this. It is best in cheap decks full of spells more so than permanents which is exactly what this is. While I don't see this getting fired off for one mana before turn four in this deck it is still probably good enough to run most of the time. Despite this I would be disinclined to waste any early picks on it as you have more important things to take and you have arguably better card draw options available to you in Visions of Beyond. While Visions probably takes nearly as long as Treasure Cruise to become an Ancestral Recall there is a lot more utility in being able to cycle a one mana card in a deck like this than having some god awful Compulsion level of card sat in your hand clogging you up.

Shelldock Isle might seem nutty good here but in reality it is costing you mana to get your free spell. With the average CMC being so low Shelldock is rarely saving you mana and often costing you it. Paying one or two mana to get a free spell cast is still decent enough and perfectly playable, just not as good as it seems. There is the issue of some counter synergy too. Card draw is good when your mill per card is low which is the case when you have cheaper stuff. The cheaper the stuff you have the lower the value Shelldock offers. Nephalia Drownyard seems like a no go for this list too. Colourless land will hurt some and paying 4 mana to mill for three isn't winning games for you!

Snapcaster Mage is another great card that is actually pretty unexciting in this deck. A 2/1 body does little for you so really you are just paying two more mana to cast your best spell again. Quite close to Demonic Tutor in effect, a card you don't play in a redundant deck. One mana discard and countermagic (including Daze) seem fine but perhaps a little situational. Generally they will have less of an effect than Darkness or Seal of Removal yet dilute your deck just as much. Most of your problem cards are not solved with discard or counters as it is. If your coming up short for some reason the these cards seem like acceptable filler, they might help you to not lose but they won't do anything to help you win. With mill being so much more powerful than burn but not being able to hit dorks it does seem reasonable to play some purely defensive cards despite being brutally quick. The thing is that there are only two types of deck that are quicker than you, nutty aggro decks like affinity and combo decks. A lot of combo decks are simply ruined by mill or even just extract!

Visions of BeyondWhile I don't object to the idea of padding out a little with cheap discard and counter magic I find cheap card quality to be more palatable. Card quality substitutes fairly well for the weaker mill effects. Adding a mana to some of the better mill effects in the deck doesn't stop them being better than those I am reluctant to put in. Every one mana card quality spell only adds a tiny bit of mill per mana to your decks average and in return it will make your draws that much smoother and better. There is diminishing returns on the card quality effects. Too much and you are not finding good mill card or lands but more card quality things which is not good. Three card quality effects seems pretty reasonable, a little more wouldn't hurt and less is fine too if you have better things to run. Brainstorm is obviously the best by quite some margin but equally it is that much more contested. You already want sac lands for your Hedron Crab so Brainstorm is going to perform well. You are looking to smooth things out and be cheap so Preordain and Serum Visions are better than the dig orientated Ponder and all the one mana stuff is generally better than the two mana stuff. I'd run Slight of Hand or even Careful Study (or Vampiric I guess by that logic) over any of the two mana spells such as Impulse.

Lastly we have the three top pick cards that seem like they are really worthwhile for the deck and are much more valuable to pick up than Brainstorm (although after that you are probably most interested in the lands!). Jace, Vryn's Prodigy seems all round a great fit for the deck. If he lives he should provide a couple of loots and then a flashback. Looting is one of the best forms of card quality, it sorts out delirium and far more importantly any of those cards that are only good if you have them early. While I dismissed Snapcaster for just being a more expensive mill card the Jace is far better in this area as you don't pay the cost that turn meaning you can easily recur your most expensive and powerful mill effect if you want. Jace even has some defensive utility if that is what you need. The card offers a bit too much all round to be passed up on if you get the chance on it. Not essential but easily the most powerful filler card you could hope for.

Arcane DenialArcane Denial is another huge card here. It is pretty much a Thoughtscour that hard counters a spell for just one more mana. Sure, it is a may effect and it is them drawing rather than milling but really, you going to complain about a 2 mana Dismiss? This is by far the best disruption tool going. It works towards your end goal while also drawing you deeper into your deck. The best comparison I can think of for it in RDW is Searing Blaze, essentially a removal spell but one that also applies pressure. It is a bit more like a Searing Blaze that does a little less damage to the dome and instead draws you a card but you get the picture. Arcane Denial is also good disruption being fairly cheap for what it does and having very little restriction on what it can stop.

The final card that seems really potent in this list is Deathrite Shaman. We have pretty much exhausted all the playable one and two drop mill cards meaning we have to resort to pricier things to finish the list which in turn hurts the average CMC of the deck. By adding in ramp you negate this cost somewhat. In essence you can reduce the average CMC of your deck by a small amount (I estimate it to be about 0.0375 per card) by having it in your list. As you are mill focused you can be assured that Deathrite taps for mana even when you have no sac lands. Additionally Deathrite has some defensive attributes in the lifegain and 1/2 body department and can even disrupt with graveyard removal. He is one of your best cards against old Eldrazi... Including Deathrite in the list makes playing cards like Mind Funeral and Startled Awake a lot less painful on your target average CMC.
Deathrite Shaman
While on this topic it should be noted that while the direct effect of card quality spells will be to increase the cost of your mill effects the reality is that it will likely reduce it. Card quality not only helps you to find the right balance of spells and lands while curving it also helps you find the most suitable or optimal spell. Say your turn one card quality spell finds that Hedron Crab as the third card down you have effectively gained 6 mill out of your card. Perhaps you just get to cast Glimpse instead of Mind Sculpt. It is hard to estimate what numerical effect this will have but suffice it to say that card quality really does seem like the go to for filler in decks like this.

Right, after much analysis and consideration it is time to put an actual list together!

25 Spells

Thought Scour  
Hedron Crab        
Tome Scour  
Vision Charm        
Altar of the Brood
Dream Twist          
Memory Sluice    

Visions of Beyond

Deathrite Shaman
Seal of Removal

Manic Scribe      
Breaking // Entering      
Glimpse the Unthinkable  
Mesmeric Orb            

Mind Sculpt                
Brain Freeze                
Arcane Denial            
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy

Mind Funeral    
Startled Awake          

Archive Trap    
15 Lands

Tropical Island
Undreground Sea
Underground River
Watery Grave

Polluted Delta
Misty Rainforest
Verdant Catacombs
Chocked Estuary

Sunken Ruins
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Darkslick Shores
Drowned Catacombs

3x Islands (a Shelldock would be fine here but it does make the Drowned Catacombs weaker and it is already the weak link. Another fetch with green wouldn't be a bad thing either).

The last cuts were Ray of Erasure, Dimir Charm and Predict for not doing enough. I'd rather more card quality than the Ray and two drops have to be quite a bit better than the one drops to merit inclusion. The last additions were Altar of the Brood and the Manic Scribe and they only made it because of how they compliment each other. Manic Scribe is the best defensive body in the list which is how it is really earning its keep, as a mill card alone it is the worst in the deck by a decent chunk. Delirium is a bit of a pipe dream here even with a loot effect. Manic Scribe also helps both Mind Sluice and the previously mentioned Altar of the Brood slightly further mitigating his weakness here.

This list has an average CMC of 38/40 (assuming an average of 2 mana spent on Dream Twist and never hard casting Archive Trap). This is just under target max which was always going to be the toughest to achieve of the things. Having Deathrite alleviates this a little that is not shown here in the numbers but it is still very close to the bar.

It has 125ish total mill which is again just above the target,  more so however when you take into account the card draw in the deck. With 125 mill in a 40 card deck you have 3.125
mill per card and slightly more mill per mana in this list with the <1 average CMC. With 4 cantrip style card draw effects (not including the loots) you can more reasonably consider the deck to be 36 cards which takes the mill per card to nearly 3.5 which is a healthy amount above par.

Ravenous TrapFor a burn deck to be able to hit the stats needed to consistently pull of a turn four win you can't get near this level of juice. Even the deck with only Lightning Bolt needs to go down to 13 lands to achieve a high enough burn per card to get the job done. On paper this list looks brutally good. It has turn three wins and very consistently gets turn four wins. With all the built in card quality and utility compared to burn style decks it has lots more consistency and resiliance all round too.

In terms of a side board I would look to include cheap things with general purpose rather than specific hosers like Gloom, Chill or Engineered Plagues. Mostly it would be things that I would swap in for Seal of Removal, Darkness and Extract just to hedge against different styles of deck. There would also be some room dedicated to graveyard removal so as deal with the likely sideboard hate coming in against me. A cover all is always nice as well, some kind of cheap removal or bounce generally do the trick there. If I were scared of aggression I would look to include some of the cheap cantrip chumps I discussed earlier as maindeck considerations.

Inquisition of Koliek,
Spell Pierce
Ravenous Trap
Relic of Progenitus
Tormod's Crypt
Chain of Vapour
Baleful Strix
Augur of Bolas

Monday, 20 June 2016

The Rotisserie II Results

1st @ 5 - 2: The Phyrexian (Goblin Bidding) and Action Dan (Gr Ramp)

3rd @ 4 - 3: Captian Chicken (BG Reanimator)

4th @ 3 - 4: Me, Coppeline George, Old Fava Beens and Swanker
(Dump Truck, Aggro Mill, Artifact Combos and Mardu Tokens respectively)

5th @ 2 - 5: Sideshow Cob ( Bant Oath)

Detailed results at the bottom of the post.

Power and consistency won the day. Both winners had very polished deck focused mainly on doing their own thing well. Captain Chickens 3rd place deck was a little greedier but made up for it in spades with power. Mine and Swankers deck were consistent but lacked appropriate power, Old Fava Beens and Sideshow Cob had plenty of power but lacked a little in the consistency department.

I personally was hoping to finish with a positive record, I thought this was achievable with the list I had combined with good play. Mostly I was looking forward to good  games with my very interactive deck. Sadly I neither played that well nor got that good games. Either my opponents rolled me or they basically didn't show up.

My draft is a pretty good example of how not to draft. I didn't have an archetypal direction and so despite picking easily the highest number of top tier cards my final list was poor. You know things are bad when your deck is full of creatures and equipment yet your curve ends on Wrath of God's... I previously mentioned I should have just done some dull Aetherling control style deck after I was cut out of my mill plan and that was indeed the case.

I made further mistakes in my build as I was eager to use new cards that I hadn't fully tested. Thing in the Ice was poor for me, late game it was a terrible Wall of Omens and early it would force me to play in sub par ways. In many ways it is just a Delver of Secrets taken a long way further in the same kind of direction. Asylum Visitor was also pretty lack luster, a Thraben Inspector would likely have been better.

Lightning Bolt remains undefeated as it were for the unpowered first pick award! Action Dan also demonstrated well why combo decks struggle so much in unpowered cubes in his game against Sideshow Cob. Cob had activated Oath twice and had Ulamog and Emrakul in play while Action Dan had just been casting his stuff yet Action Dan had the more dominating board with Cob on the defensive! Creatures and permanents are simply so powerful now that cheating out things of supreme power only helps you if you do it before much of anything else has happened.

I was surprised by how even the results were compared to the last rotisserie we did. Last time we had a 6-0 and an 0-6 while this time the spread was half that despite each playing an extra game. On top of that I thought this time the draft had much more polar decks with some looking lovely and some looking jank which should have kept the spread high. Magic being quite random and sample sizes being so small I am not going to read anything into it. Given the deviations from correct drafting strategies in this event I would take any conclusions from this event with a pinch of salt. Salt of which it sounds like I have plenty of myself!

Me The Phyrexian Action Dan Sideshow Cob Old Fava Beens Captain Chicken Copperline George Swanker
Me na loss loss win win loss loss win
The Phyrexian win na win win win loss win loss
Action Dan win loss na win win loss win win
Sideshow Cob loss loss loss na loss win loss win
Old Fava Beens loss loss loss win na win loss win
Captain Chicken win win win loss loss na win loss
Copperling George win loss loss win win loss na loss
Swanker loss win loss loss loss win win na

Game Scores

Me vs Action Dan   1 - 2

Sideshow Cob vs The Phyrexian 1 - 2

Me vs Sideshow Cob 2 - 0

The Phyrexian vs Action Dan 2 - 1

Me vs The Phyrexian 1 - 2

Action Dan vs Sideshow Cob 2 - 0

Old Fava Beens vs Copperline George  1 -2

Sideshow Cob vs Swanker 2 - 0

Captain Chicken vs Sideshow Cob 1 - 2

Swanker vs Me 1 -2

Captain Chicken vs Copperline George 1 - 2

Sideshow Cob vs Old Fava Beens 1 - 1 - 2

Me vs Copperline George 0 - 2

Swanker vs The Phyrexian 1 - 2

Captain Chicken vs Old Fava Beens 1 - 2

Copperline George vs Sideshow Cob 2 - 1

Me vs Captian Chicken 1 - 2

Swanker vs George 2 - 0

Swanker vs Captain Chicken 2 - 0

Old Fava Beens vs Swanker 2 - 0

The Phyrexian vs Captain Chicken 1 - 2

The Phyrexian vs Copperline George 2 - 1

Me vs Old Fava Beans 2 - 1

The Phyrexian vs Old Fava Beens 2 - 0

Action Dan vs Copperling George 2 - 1

Action Dan vs Captain Chicken 0 - 2

Action Dan vs Old Fava Beens 2 - 0

Action Dan vs Swanker 2 - 1