Saturday, 30 July 2016
Card Spotlight: Magma Jet
I was thinking about what other good burn spells that there are that I should add to the cube to bulk it out. I pretty much have all the good one and two mana burn cards that hit players and creatures but I don't have Magma Jet presently in the cube. I find I am forever cutting it whenever it does creep back in. The card is good no doubt. It is a Shock which is worth R and it is scry 2 which is worth at least 1 mana. Magma Jet is also exactly the kind of card I love, a cheap instant that is widely playable, decent power level, reasonable skill intensity, lots of choices and that reduces your screws and floods. Magma Jet is a very good filler card but that is the problem with it. I just never want to play it over alternatives. I find I either want a better card quality effect that does more without costing me a card or I want a burn spell that does more for the mana. Burn is great because it is so versatile and efficient. You play Lightning Bolt and Searing Spear, you avoid playing Char and you barely ever get to play any Fireball like X spell burn in cube and this is because burn in cube is best when you are high damage per mana. The X spells are some of the weakest damage per mana but not far behind them is Magma Jet at a pathetic 1 for 1 return. Lightning Bolt is three times as efficient!
Magma Jet is a little bit of two good things mashed together. Value wise it is good but the reality is a lot less exciting. A Preordain you can just fire off regardless and it will be fine, if you need to hit land then great, cast your Sreum Visions, all good. For the Magma Jet to have the same level of return you need to hit a target that you would otherwise chose to burn. In other words you need to be in a situation where you both want to burn something for up to 2 and you want to gain some card quality. This is really rare to happen. Sure, having card quality when you didn't need it is no bad thing but it becomes a lot less worth the mana. This is obvious when you are on the draw and they play a Birds of Paradise. A Shock would kill it but your Magma Jet leaves you wanting. The cost of the scry is not when you don't need it but when you needed your burn to be more efficient. The other side of that is far worse still. When you need card quality but have no good burn targets. I have seen so many two to the dome when both players are at 20 and have no boards simply to scry into more lands or a bit of action. In this kind of situation you have pretty much played a 2 mana Preordain and forgone the card draw!
Yes, it is nice to have the flexibility on a card but then you have a low powered card. If you accept that you are basically never going to hit the sweet spot of needing some scry and needing some burn than you always just have a bad Shock or an awful Preordain. It is much like why Izzet Charm isn't all that in cube, loads of options but once cast never actually that great value for mana. What Magma Jet really powerfully demonstrates to me is why I would always rather play a Shock effect over it, cut something else top end and include something like a Preordain when I need both burn and card quality in my deck. It is a bit more colour intense but you never have to suffer the ill effects of using your spells inefficiently. The only occasions where I really find I want to play a Magma Jet is when I am mono red and have little access to card quality yet I have cards like Bonfire of the Damned which have some synergy with scry. Decks like this are not really a thing, kind of midrange mono red and so Magma Jet has no real homes in the cube. Yes, it is fine filler but it is not fine burn nor fine card quality and as such, if you are playing it your deck is weak. The only time filler cards don't mean you have a weak deck is when they perform specific roles or offer great synergy. With Jet being so generic it does none of this and is just filler meaning when you are playing it your deck is less powerful than it would be without any filler! It is playable because it is cheap enough and does enough damage but it is basically at the bar for both. It is one of the best cards I don't have in my cube that isn't for being banned (too powerful) or for being too narrow. I am not trying to argue the card isn't good. It is simply a card with no place to shine in presently that you can easily generate the effect of far better using alternatives. I hope one day I can bring the card back into the cube fold but we are going to need more Abbots of Keral Keep for that to happen!