Monday, 12 September 2016
Kaladesh Initial Review Part II
The Enemy Quick Lands 8
I don't really need to review these, we know how good they are and that is really rather good. For most of the more refined cube decks these are the fourth best dual land cycle. They reliably come in untapped early in the game where that is most important, they can fix two colours on turn one and they cost no life to do this. As you head towards draft and sealed deck they fall off a bit in power as it is slower. In such formats the manlands, Temples and even the check and filter lands are either better or fairly comparable. This is still not a bad place to be, either one of the very best lands or one of the good lands.
It is certainly the most powerful cycle by a country mile that doesn't (didn't) have enemy and allied colour pairings. This on top of the fact that these lands are some of the best and most important for quick decks will make these really quite significant for cube. A big part of the reason why the mono coloured aggressive decks perform best is consistency based. Boros deck wins and Delver prowess style things are immensely powerful archetypes but they don't punish people as much as those kinds of decks want to because they are not so consistent themselves. It is often an enemy colour that offers most as a splash or pairing for a deck derived from a mono coloured archetype and enemy quick lands will make these things easier and safer to do. Perhaps these lands will be enough to tip Boros ahaead of white weenie and Delver ahead of RDW? Whatever they do, they are in the cube for sure. They are lovely looking to boot. Far nicer than the original five or any of the Ravnica lands that are cityscape themed. Obviously the one that isn't cityscape is the prettiest!
Ovalchase Daredevil 1.5
So this has some combo application in a potential infinite discard loop. Potentially some value discard utility like a Squee in some very specific kind of deck. This is never playable as a recursive 4/2 for four. That would be a silly thing to do. The combo and synergy applications seem suitably far fetched that they probably won't ever be a good thing to do in cube either.
Aeriel Responder 5
White gets a Vampire Nighthawk some time after Nighthawk stopped being a significantly above curve dork and became an average at best cube card. White needs life a lot less than black and vigilance is generally less exciting than deathtouch. Early game this is very hard to race and probably does more work than a Nighthawk. Late game it is a fairly small flier that dies to a lot and trades relatively poorly compared to the vampire. Being a flier carries a lot of weight, even if a lot of other fliers trump this in the skies there are not that many of them overall so this has good odds on being relevant at any stage in the game. White has far more powerful three drops than this but not many of those have flying. White feels like it is needing more in the way of fliers these days to close out games and control planeswalkers and so this has a small chance of getting a cube slot simply for being a well rounded filler card.
Ceremonius Rejection 3
This will be a potent sideboard tool in modern with the Eldrazi still floating about. The new Annul. For cube there are far less colourless cards than there are enchantments and Annul is too narrow meaning this is far too narrow. Perhaps a Wish target or sideboard card in a constructed event but never looking like being a maincube card.
Essence Extraction 1
Lightning Helix really takes a beating here. This costs a mana more and can't hit players or planeswalkers. This is too narrow to be a good three drop removal spell even if the lifegain makes it a viable tempo card. Shame.
Pia Nalaar 3
This is a really balanced and rounded card. Decent stats for the mana, a good spread on the bodies with part having flying and some good interaction with Pia and the generated thopter. Sadly this all seems a bit fair and do nothing. In an aggressive artifact deck this would be near the top of the curve but offers none of the game ending power you might expect from a Master of Etherium or Etched Champion. You need artifact synergy really for this to be enough punch. Without it if you lose the 1/1 then you basically have a vanilla Grey Ogre. I like this card but I don't see where I would want it. Not powerful enough to be just a value midrange card but not enough of anything else to go in any other kind of role. Thopter Engineer just adds a lot more to your artifact deck than Pia.
Cataclysmic Gearhulk 5.5
Hard to know with this one. Cataclysm is narrow but not really that comparable to this. Tragic Arrogance never seemed a good fit in anything. This isn't removal really, it is thinning. While this should be very easy to engineer such that it has basically no impact on you at all I somewhat wonder what the average damage it will do to other decks. Most aggressive decks diversify threats where possible. This shouldn't do anything against RDW. It will take out a lot of dorks against white weenie but they will keep at least one dork, likely a flier and any buffs they might have in play for it. They also get to keep a walker if they have one out.
What makes this much more viable than cards like Cataclysm or more reasonably Tragic Arrogance is that you get a 4/5 vigilance into the mix which is actually fairly reasonable. That is easily worth 3.5 mana and ensures the card always does something. Sometimes you will just have a dork, maybe it kills a random token or mana dork. Sometimes you will manage to kill a couple of relevant dorks at once in a stalemate style game and just gain so much value and tempo you just crush the game. Basically this card has little downside or a decent worst case scenario while it also has the potential to gain massive value. I don't love the card, it is a bit durdly and a bit situational but it is undeniably powerful. It feels like an anti midrange card rather than an anti aggro or control card which is nice, there are not many of those at all. One nice little perk of the card is that it lets you keep itself and another creature or artifact rather than being locked to one card type itself. This does not solve problems but it really does calm situations. It is not a card that will ever be able to win a game for on its own however it is the kind of card that can totally turn around an otherwise unwinnable game.
Multiform Wonder 2
This isn't a terrible creature but it isn't really enough for the mana. Without an ongoing supply of energy this is not able to represent the appropriate body it needs to be to take the game in an ongoing capacity. This is too pricey to play as an energy source and not powerful enough to be good as an energy dump. The small hope this card has of being playable is that you can use cards like Mishra's Workshop and Metal Worker to power it out. As a two drop this starts to look rather good!
Larger than Life 2
Lots of pump and value but being a sorcery makes this in no way a combat trick. This is a single target Overrun effect and as such is only playable in silly combo style decks like infect. Powerful and convenient in such decks but still a very narrow card you don't want in your drafting cube.
Master Trinketeer 3
Not the worst body for a lord but not all that much worth pumping in cube with this dork. As such he kind of only does stuff when you use him to churn out dorks and in that role he is far too pricey. Give me something like a Jade Mage over this. With a significant amount of other servo and thopter cards this might start to look viable but as a stand alone this is too little on the initial impact and too pricey on the ongoing value side of things.
Demolition Stomper 1
This is a whole load of stats for the mana but I don't see this being viable in that many places. Crew five is a highly significant cost and is both hard to ever actually have and really uncomfortable to use when you do. This feels like a much riskier card than any equipment in the cube. If you use this then odds on everything you have is tapped and you will just roll over and die to a bounce or removal spell. Every colour is able to wreak you using this. The evasion mechanism on this isn't great either allowing it to still be chump blocked or trade in combat fairly easily. Worst vehicle so far. Might have a use simply because of the high stats for mana and vehicle tag but this will need some really specific and powerful cards to be printed. Start Your Engines is not the sort of thing that makes this interesting despite being somewhat along the right lines.
Fortuitous Find 0
This is basically a situational Council of the Soratami. Three mana and sorcery speed is a clumsy and painful way to get card advantage. Needing targets for this makes it narrow as well as situational. If you want to get stuff back from the bin there are far better ways, the same applies for drawing cards.
Morbid Curiosity 4
This is a dangerous card indeed. Pair this with a Myr Enforcer, Somber Hoverguard or Gurmag Angler and you have quite the potent card draw spell. While this use of the card makes it very narrow it is sufficiently powerful that it could still be worth going to the trouble of using when you can. This seems like something that may well crop up in modern and be abusive all the way to a ban.
Armor Craft Judge 0
Hill Giant needs more than a conditional draw trigger to cut the mustard in the cube. While you can set this up to draw a bunch of card and be very efficient that is just too much effort to be worth doing. Just play Harmonize or probably anything else instead!
Arborback Stomper 1
This is surprisingly good for an uncommon these days and impressively close to a Thragtusk in what it brings to the table. While exactly the sort of thing you want against a red mage it is too much of a durdle dork in all the other matchups. Sideboard at best and then still probably not, when you just want life there are cheaper ways to get it.
Voltaic Brawler 7.5
Clearly one of the most powerful cards in the set and liable to push aggro Gruul deck through the roof in the cube. This is most comparable to Fleecemane Lion but rather better all round. Power wise they may be close but as Brawler has no further mana investments required to obtain its maximum power it is a far better tempo play. This hits really really hard very reliably and quickly. If you follow up a good one drop with this the game is going to be over so fast. Putrid Leech and Spike Jester are probably the most comparable cards in terms of their early aggression but the Brawler trumps them both pretty hard. Brawler is in the best colours for what it does and is either more robust or less painful and awkward than the comparisons.
Brawler is an auto include in any aggressive deck of those colours even if it is the only card with any interaction with energy. The more other energy related cards you play the better Brawler becomes on two fronts. Brawler is fine enough with no energy spent on it or might just need one energy to finish the job. You can happily use it as a way to stockpile some energy for your other cards that can use it. I hope that there are some other playable energy cards for the archetypes this will go in as that will make it far more interesting to play with both. You will have some actual choices about how you spend your energy.
Longtusk Cub 4
This is a very interesting card indeed. As a stand alone card it is not very playable as it starts out life as a Grisly Bear and has low odds on getting past that stage. In a deck with a decent amount of energy synergy however this is a very powerful support card that works in several ways in your deck. Assuming you have a small stockpile of energy already or some ways to instantly obtains some then your opponents will be very reluctant to block the Cub as you can likely pump it and turn their block into a chump. As such it will get through a lot and therefor supply a good amount of energy to support itself or other cards as required. Unlikely to be enough good energy cards for this to ever be a main cube card but I suspect it will be pretty key in the themed decks.
Harnessed Lightning 4
It is like the spoiler order is trying to point us in the right direction as to what archetypes Wizards have tried to incorporate in the set. Obviously in the deck with four Cubs and Brawlers this will be the removal spell of choice. Being able to instantly make 3 energy makes this a potential combat trick as well as a spot removal spell. If you have saved up some energy then this can be a very powerful spot removal spell if needed. Red doesn't have many good ways to deal with high toughness dorks and this does it better than most if in the right setting. For cube I fear this will be too narrow. Burn spells really need to be able to hit players and creatures. It doesn't look like there will be enough energy cards to power this up with synergy sufficiently enough to offset its target limitations. Lovely card but too focused for a drafting cube. Unreasonably better than Die Young as well, that just needs saying from a design point of view. Black is already the weakling in cube, refusing to give black an area it is the best in or just good cheap cards is awkward.
Wispweaver Angel 0
I guess Restoration Angel is considered rather too good then....
Bomat Bazaar Barge 2?
Seems like a crew cost of 3 makes this pretty unwieldy. This doesn't feel like it does a lot. Tapping 3 power worth of guys to have a 5/5 with no other abilities doesn't feel like much of an upgrade. Being card neutral offsets the do nothing nature of the card a bit but with a cost of 4 mana it is far far from a card you can just cycle freely as it were. Perhaps I am missing something with this one but it feels like one of the weakest vehicles. I still don't want to rule it out as vehicles might be far better than they seem and this one draws a card!
Metallurgic Summonings 2
Well this is a very heavy card indeed. For five mana you get to do absolutely nothing. Then, after casting further instants and sorceries you get to make tokens corresponding to the CMC of those spells. In the right sort of deck this should win the game in pretty short order. The odd five mana Time Walk and a Time Spiral will do a lot of work in killing them and then things like Ponder will create a lot of chaff to ensure you don't die. You should win pretty quickly if you get to play this in a relatively even position, have it survive and have a deck built to power it. Then, if for some reason you haven't won the game with six free tokens you can pitch the Summons and get all your spells back! Certainly a viable build around card but probably not better than a lot of other combo decks that share a similar shell to it. Also certainly too narrow for a drafting cube.
Chandra, Torch of Defiance 8
The two most over powered four mana planeswalker have either four abilities or two +1 abilities. This has both. This is comfortably the most powerful Chandra we have seen, she is also the most powerful red planeswalker. On paper this looks nuts but I suspect Chandra will be a little more calm and fair in reality than she looks on paper. I anticipate her being on the same sort of level as Garruk Wildspeaker rather than the Knight-Errant's and Mind Sculptors. Torch of Defiance should be top 10 walkers but probably not top 5 for cube.
Two of the main things holding her back in cube are not really her doing so much as reds doing. Red is either a splash or an aggressive colour. Chandra is rather midrange and four mana making her not ideally suited to aggressive decks. Costing double red makes her a whole lot less splashable. These are not terminal troubles as she has so much power and utility that often times you will take that suitability or reliability risk anyway.
So what makes Torch of Defiance so much better than all the other red planeswalkers? Just having two +1s and four total abilities isn't much use if they are all rubbish. Fortunately that is not the case. All of them are good in their own right and all of them serve a different but useful purpose. The particular standout for me is the +1 to gain RR which is somewhat of a new trick for red. While Koth could generate mana it cost him a lot of loyalty and required you to have a high mountain count. It is much more like Garruk Wildspeaker or Teferi's ability to untap things that means you can effectively have a planeswalker in play for just two mana on a given turn. You can make a turn four Torch of Defiance, ramp her to five loyalty and cast something like an Arc Trail or perhaps just a dork. These realtively early plays of planeswalker plus something else relevant are some of the biggest swings you can get in magic. Not only have you gained a huge tempo swing but you have diversified your threats as well. Untapping lands and permanents is much more powerful and abusable than adding the same amount of a coloured mana but none the less it will have much the same baseline and expected performance. Being able to ramp to 7 the turn following playing her on curve is a less big deal in red than most other colours. You will used the +1: Gain RR most on the turn you play the Chandra, other times will be to cast more cheap things rather than a big thing.
Her other +1 ability is actually two fairly distinct abilities. Either it is the 0 ability on Pyromaster without the capacity to use lands or it is the +1 on the Roaring Flame (flipwalker Chandra). Both good effects and good value. Not hitting lands when you want to lay them is a bit lame but rather offset by just being able to produce mana if you need. It is also offset by always getting the two damage when you can't use the exiled card. Two damage is pretty significant, it can deal with planeswalkers pretty effectively and is a reasonably scary threat as well. Having the choice on playing the card or just having it do two is great as well and makes it much better than having them as separate abilities. If you see the card is better to play than to exile for 2 damage than you can do that, if not then it is all good. This ability is either a decent threat or a source of ongoing card advantage. Pretty neat for a +1 ability on a four mana four loyalty planeswalker with three other abilities!
The -3 is lifted directly from Sarkhan Dragonspeaker and is a strong thing to have as a red planeswalker. Red is pretty good at dealing with small stuff, it is the fatter things that cause them trouble. Being able to reasonably well protect herself against more midrange things is a fairly big deal. It is good self protection and complements to +1 to gain RR really well. Between them you should be able to engineer a situation where you can safely play a Torch of Defiance with some expectation of her surviving to your next turn.
The ultimate is game winning but not immediately nor independently. You need at least some stuff to be casting, if you are out of gas you are better of using the +1 some more! You shouldn't need it that often, if you get to that stage you have probably won anyway but every now and again it will prove a good solution to a situation or more likely a way to end things on the spot. With good options to gain loyalty and a starting count of four this is one of the easier ultimates to get to. Certainly given how much impact it has. Chandra has strong and versatile ways in which she can protect herself plus she offers loads of utility and value which combine to make her one of the best looking four mana planeswalkers to date on paper.
Lathnu Hellion 3
Much as I love this card I am not sure it is what you want in cube. In theory it is 8 damage over this turn and the next for a mere 3 mana. That is a lot better than Ball Lightning or any heavy burn spell. The problem is lack of trample really. This can easily be chumped, even just blocked by a lot of things and thus do nothing much useful. Red doesn't love three drops and wants those it does play to have game ending power or at the very least tempo and value. This is too situational to be any of those things reliably. In a world where energy is a big deal this card has much more chance but in isolation it is not really what any archetype is looking for.
Madcap Experiment 4
This is somewhere between a Tinker and an Oath of Druids with a dash of Reanimate in there too to represent the potential for self harm! For this to be good you need one of two things. Either you need Brainstorm/Scroll Rack style cards to setup a good thing on the top of your deck to cheat into play or you need a deck with a reasonable number of heavy powerful artifacts and no small chaffy ones. In this latter capacity the card is like a one shot Oath of Druids. The reason this card isn't broken is simply that it is twice the mana cost of the average price of the cards I have compared it to. Cheating stuff in is best when it is done quickly and at four mana this is a pretty medium paced card. If your whole strategy revolves around doing a good Madcap Experiment you are giving your opponent a lot of time to find an answer for your big indestructible Colossus or just kill you first. The other issue with this card is that it is incredibly restrictive on your deck. You can't play it with Tinker because you will either have nothing to sac for the Tinker or you will hit low value cards with the Madcap Experiment. If you play it with Oath then you can't run small creatures or artifacts and ideally want most of your Oath targets to also be artifacts. All told this is very hard to include in the typical cheat decks and is among the weakest of those in the cube. I wouldn't be shocked to see this doing work in modern and standard but that is because things like Oath and Tinker don't exist there. I think Path to Exile will probably keep this honest in modern but hey. Powerful and dangerous card that is a little too narrow to excel in cube but could none the less do impressive things and be made to work.
Fabrication / Animation / Decoction Modules
Like "the Machine" from Mirrodin block but with one less component and a far lower total CMC. It is not itself an infinite combo it merely lets you gain X 1/1s with X +1/+1 counters distributed among you dorks plus X energy where X is equal to the mana you spend on the Fabrication Module following a trigger. In this regard it is like having a Thopter Foundry and a Sword of the Meek. For a three card combo it isn't really enough to build a deck around however should the individual components do enough on their own you might consider throwing them into some artifact or enerrgy based deck. I can imagine these being a viable combo in modern or standard as four copies improves this kind of combo more than others. Krark-Clan Ironworks makes this infinite as with the Thopter Foundry combo and Time Sieve makes it pretty easy to go infinite. So, what can these card do on their own?
Let us start with Fabrication Module. This is a poor way to buff guys and a poor way to gain energy. In a deck with lots of energy sources and lots of dorks however this could get some work done. Such decks seem unlikely and also seem quite removed from the kind of direction you would want to take these cards for use in a combo capacity. An aggressive or midrange energy deck might be a thing but it is super unlikely that it will be viable with only cards you would independently want in a cube. Not looking good for this card or set for playability.
Next we have Decoction Module. This is a powerful energy source for any weenie or token deck. It is one of few cards that provide energy but have no way to consume it and so this again would need a heavily energy focused deck to be worth playing. Certainly the same sort of deck you might want a Fabrication Module. This also has the ability to recur your enter the battlefield triggers or protect your guys from spot removal. At a cost of 4 to do this is far from a Crystal Shard but it is another string to its bow.
Lastly we have Animation Module. This seems the most playable on its own in some respects and the most useless in others. As it costs only one and affects a wide range of things it seems good value. You can use this to finish off a Kitchen Finks, slowly kill someone with poison, gain loyalty on planeswalker and so on. Somwhere between a Cursed Scroll and a Bow of Nylea. On the flip side this does nothing at all on its own. Without other cards with counters, most importantly +1/+1 counters, then this is bit of a do nothing. It would seem that many of the energy based creatures also involve +1/+1 mechanics and so this probably has a couple of options.
Combo isn't looking great for these cards but still not out of the question as you can do some exotic stuff with Thopter Foundry! There is the possibility an aggro energy deck, likely RGX and made up mostly of Kaladesh block cards, will exist. If so these might work well as a set in that, perhaps just one, if so likely the Animation Module. The other place that is full of artifact synergy and +1/+1 counters is of course affinity. I can see the Animation Module being really nifty in affinity. If you have some good uses for energy then the others start to look viable too. Whether it has space and needs the extra spice is a different matter but it is certainly viable. All told I think I rate the Animation Module pretty highly (perhaps a 4) despite being confident it won't be strong enough for the main drafting cube. The other two are somewhat narrower due to the energy tie and clunkier with their higher cost.
Terrential Gearhulk 5.5
Blue's offering on the Gearhulk cycle and I find I am rather indifferent towards this one. Being limited to instant spells greatly reduces the application of this card. The best sort of thing you can look to hit is a Prophetic Bolt, Cryptic Command, or Dig Through Time. I don't even run the Bolt. Most of the good instants are cheap, the powerful expensive game breaking stuff is all sorcery speed. When you use this to cast things less than 3 mana which is the vast majority of targets then it is really pretty clunky. Sure, you would happily play 2 mana to upgrade your 2/1 Snapcaster Mage into a 5/6 but that isn't the option. The reality is be able to cast you Counterspell/removal again on turn four with your 2/1 or die with your 5/6 in hand. There are certainly times this will be far better than Snapcaster but the normal case is that this will be substantially worse. Most of the blue targets are counterspells and this is a fairly weak way to package a counterspell. If you try and counter something with this it is going to tap you out and leave you vulnerable to all sorts of things. Certainly this is viable in the cube, it is a two for one, has some utility about it and is good value for mana even if you only recur a one mana spell. To be fair, this is cube, a lot of the one mana spells are as good or better than two mana spells. A fair Sword to Plowshares is probably a 3 mana spell! Despite my apathy towards this card I'm pretty sure it is cube worthy but it is both much narrower and far less powerful than Sanpcaster Mage. It is less powerful than Sun Titan for sure and that thing sees basically no cube play. It is slightly more useful in what it will bring to the table for the kinds of deck that could play it so despite being weaker than the Titan it should get more play than it (and the Frost Titan for that matter, although less comparable in function).
Nissa, Vital Force 7.5
This has to be really good to get into the cube with green having loads and loads of great five drops and loads of planeswalkers of which 2.5 are already Nissa flavoured. All told this does seem to fit the bill of being super potent. Her +1 is hard hitting or a hard to remove blocker. You can be on 6 loyalty with a 5/5 wall making her up there with the safest of the planeswalkers. She is also up there with the quickest killing planeswalkers if you want to go sideways with the 5/5. This is all just from her +1! A little like new Chandra the versatility on the +1 makes it feel like you have two abilities.
The -3 is great, not quite a Regrowth but far better source of card advantage than mere card draw. It will get back most of the green cards you have! While perhaps being situtational to some extent the huge range it has or potentially has adds a lot to the utility of this Nissa.
Lastly we have her ultimate which may be used the turn after playing her. This is a very powerful source of ongoing card advantage. In a green deck this could easily average close to two cards a turn extra and may well be worth ditching your 5 mana walker to obtain. With this Nissa you can smash someones face in with 5/5s, utterly crush them in a resource war or get back something else specific should either of those two options somehow not sort the game out in your favour!
Vital Force is a much more rounded and convenient planeswalker than Worldwaker (other 5 drop Nissa). Vital Force has a much wider range of options and interacts with more aspects of the game. Perhaps the biggest difference between them is that you get to untap the land you animate with Vital Force making her a much better 5 drop on curve. Ideally you play Worldwaker as a six drop. Despite Vital Force being more self contained, more rounded and all sorts of other good things that Worldwaker is not I suspect they will be remarkably close in overall power, playability and desirability in cube. Worldwaker is one of the most underrated cards in the cube and kills a whole lot of wizards!
Worldwaker does several things significantly better than Vital Force and is a much more pressing problem. To get value from Vital Force you need to use the -loyalty effects to get cards in your hand. Unless you are forcing chump blocks or taking out planeswalkers the 5/5 smack isn't lasting value. It isn't trample either making it a whole lot easier to mitigate. When you make a dork with Worldwaker that is a dork until death, and that happens every turn if you want. Killing Woldwaker on sight is necessary but still leaves you well behind to the robust 4/4 trample it left behind. Worldwaker is either making 4/4s or she is untapping lands to make other better things. As such she is value and tempo at once where as Vital Force is one or the other. Worldwaker is a substantially better threat while Vital Force is a much more typical planeswalker with its range of utility. When you want to kill people asap then Worldwaker will be the choice but if you just want a powerful utility card than can close a game or just generate value then Vital Force is likely the way to go. I think these are the two closest planeswalkers in power level of all those that exist which is a really good thing for Vital Force as I really highly rate Worldwaker! Kaladesh brings two new top tier planeswalkers to the format and that is quite exciting.
Paradoxical Outcome 2
Never do you want this in your normal run of the mill decks. Even if it is a handy answer to a Mind Control every now and against or allows a reuse of a EtB trigger or saves a guy from removal this card is completely unplayable. Four mana for a situation trick that loses you tempo the vast majority of the time. There is however the cheaty bounce all my Mox and other artifact mana generating stuff use for this card which is pretty broken. Some eternal decks use spells that bounce their own artifacts for this exact purpose and so tagging on a free draw seven or seems worth the the extra couple of mana! For this to actually be good in cube you would have to get far too many of the really good artifacts, and ideally be playing a powered cube, to be ever able to run this. No matter what the cube format you are not going to have multiple Mox plus Mana Vault and Grim Monolith and all that in your deck and so this isn't really playable. There may be some other combo uses for this that don't need all the power there is but they likely are not good cube decks at all. This is mostly a card I expect to be no fun for people in Vintage.
Fireforger's Puzzleknot 0
Feel like I am missing something here but this just seems unplayably bad. Two mana for a ping and a do nothing artifact, a further 3 mana to lose the artifact and get another ping? So that is like a Twin Bolt for 250% the mana cost? Or half a Forked Bolt for just twice the mana? This just can't be playable, even with artifact synergies you are going to use one of the many many ones that do something useful for a half reasonable price.
Metalspinner's Puzzleknot 0
Nearly as bad as the "red" one. This is like a Think Twice, that hurts you and that is part sorcery. Or it is like a Night's Whisper that costs 250% the mana.... Seriously, what is with these, what is the point in them? I mean, I know booster draft is the thing and all but were Spellbombs too good? I thought they just made the format more consistent and more enjoyable.
Cogworker's Puzzleknot 1
This is bad but compared to the last two this is really good... Two artifacts in play for 2 mana, one of which can attack has it's uses. You can even upgrade the donothing into another 1/1 for a mere 2! That is like only 200% the cost of a Raise the Alarm... While the effect is relatively low power the synergy is there and this is the sort of thing that you might want from a synergy support card. Pretty sure it won't see much or any cube play but not the worst.
Glassblower's Puzzleknot 2
Like the green one this provides some energy. That might be enough to make this playable although the green one seems better value. Scry 2 is better than life gain early but you are playing these for the energy rather than the extra effect and so 2 energy instead of 3 is quite a big deal. Very narrow indeed but not impossible this will be playable. Decent seeming for limited at least.
Aetherflux Reservoir 3.5
I rather like this card but more in a comedy capacity than a serious one. Four is too much to pay for a lifegain card, you have to have some expectation of winning by paying life for this to be viable. To get to the stage where you can with this you need to be playing you have to be playing 8 or more spells in a turn and have not lost much life otherwise. Although you can split this up over several turns unlike storm it doesn't help you much. Five spells back to back on two turns is 30 life while seven on just one is 28. Even if you manage to cast three spells a turn this still takes 5 turns having taken 0 damage to get to 50. Basically this is a pure combo card. It is a little like a Tendrils of Agony except that you want to play it first and not last. There are some advantages to this, mostly being able to make it on a turn and go off the next however this leaves you a little vulnerable. I imagine Tendrils is a better storm card but at least this gives storm decks some more directions it can go in or some more redundancy. I don't see this being playable in anything else other than storm decks but at least those are varied, versatile and quite potent.
Bristling Hydra 2.5
This is impressively complex given how little it has written on it. There are many ways you can use this card although several of them will depend on having other energy uses or sources. First off this is a 4/3 for 4, not great but not awful. It comes with 3 energy which is pretty nice. You can use that energy on other cards or have it sit there as protection for the Hydra. By having a spare three energy the Hydra is effectively hexproof. When you have spare energy no one is going to try and use spot removal on this. As such it is a creature with effectively a bonus life, a little like a persist or undying dork but with a vulnerability to mass removal instead of exile effects. As you need to pay the energy to give it hexproof you can't just consider this a dork with hexproof. If you really need to you can still just throw two removal spells at this like you sometimes need to do with Mother of Runes.
Once you spend your energy the Hydra is a 5/4 which is more reasonable for the mana. You are only likely to do this when you expect they have no spot removal or when you really need the extra size for combat. There is a reasonable chance that you will need to attack into things than can kill a 4/3 easily. This means in return there is a reasonable chance it will be blocked and force you to use the energy to keep it alive just from more toughness, nothing to do with hexproof.
Where Hydra gets most interesting is when you have uses for energy and alternate sources of getting it. If you can spend all your energy and bait out removal on the Hydra then instantly make enough energy to protect it up again you are really ahead. There is also the tempo play of being able to use the Hydra energy on another card already in play making it unreasonably powerful for that stage in the game. In a deck that utilizes energy this seems really strong. In a deck without any other energy cards this is unplayable, it is just a weaker Thrun.
Noxious Gearhulk 3
The six mana Gearhulks really struggle to look impressive as they instantly get paired against the Titan cycle. This thing next to a Grave Titan looks pitiful. You can chose to look at this card in a different sort of light and compare it to a Shriekmaw instead and it still looks really pitiful. A 5/4 statline is abysmal for six and the evasion is not enough to turn this into a good threat. Duplicant is the obvious real comparison for this card and Duplicant isn't that exciting of a cube card. It is more of a solution when you are facing big scary things and lack removal for them. Black is well equipped to kill big scary things and shouldn't need to resort to a clunky six drop to help out. Noxious Gearhulk is sorcery speed, destroy and targetted meaning hexproof, indestructible, persist, undying, shroud, protection and many other things all stop the removal being effective. Despite all my hate on the card there are still times it is the exact thing you want. It is abusive with Recurring Nightmare style effects, it is almost powerful enough to consider Reanimating. It is a great answer to midrange decks flopping out big haymaker cards. The lifegain is significant when you hit those meatier creatures. This is removal before it is a threat and you want removal to be cheap and reliable more than you want it to have raw power. Despite this having some reasonable things to offer and sounding like it would be good in the ideal situations it is in fact not what you want at all! Too many of the cube decks just make small things against which this is awful. You kill a two drop and gain three life leaving them six other attackers still in play. Woot!
Shrewd Negotiations 1
An interesting variant on Control Magic effects. This is pretty weak and unplayable in general based on needing an artifact of your own to Donate away however if you can turn that into a perk the card might have some uses. Although it costs a mana over Control Magic you cannot have the effect so easily undone with something like a Disenchant. It also allows you to thieve an artifact if you want instead of a creature. These are all very minor consideration when measured up against needing to have an artifact to give away. I can't think of any artifacts like Illusions of Grandeur that would be super to exchange but I am sure there are things you can do. Probably weak but interesting at least.
Key to the City 3 (but a 3 with a keen eye kept on the card)
Fantastically interesting card here although not too sure where it might fit. There are several reasons you might consider a card like this. As a discard outlet, as a card quality card, or as a way to force through damage. While unlikely to be played specifically for just one of these roles it is still likely that one is the primary role and the others are just occasionally useful. Any deck can use card quality but at 2 to play and then further instances of 2 to get a delayed and backwards loot is a poor tool to do it with. Loads of decks want discard outlets but they can usually get a bit more card, even for two mana, with their discard effects than this. Reanimate decks don't typically need to add evasion to their dorks for them to finish the job. Perhaps the best place for this is a more aggressive graveyard based deck with cards like Bloodghast and Vengevine where the unblockable aspect is really significant. Possible but this feels like too much of a tempo hit in such decks to be worth using early. One to watch for sure. It feels like there is an infinite card draw combo here somewhere too but obviously far too many cards and copies of things for it to be good anywhere, certainly not in cube!
Incediary Sabbotage 3
Instant speed mass removal is nice. Four mana is a reasonable price to expect to pay for this effect but the sacrifice of the artifact makes it overly narrow. There are decks this would be fine enough in but they will have to make do with Anger the Gods most of the time as this is not a card to put in a drafting cube.
Angel of Invention 6
At first look I ruled this out rather but was have since been convinced it is good. My initial look on the card was that it is too much mana for the main body which is really vulnerable to removal. Even with full fabricate on itself you still only have a 4/3 which is super easy to kill. That somewhat misses the point of the card. No one quibbled about Cloudgoat Ranger being too easy to kill with just 3 toughness. In cube you almost never play this and put the fabrication counters on itself. The option to have it anywhere between Cloudgoat and Baneslayer Angel is nice and periodically the Baneslayer mode will be the way to go but the norm will be to make tokens.
Now just a 2/1 with some key words and a pair of 1/1s or 2/2s Deranged Hermit style is fine but hardly a bomb. The thing that pushes Angel of Invention so far is that she gives everything else you have +1/+1 and not just the fabricated tokens. As such there is a lot of the Sublime Archangel about this card. You lay it and get to attack really hard and effectively right away meaning you still got quite a lot of value even if they remove it in their turn. If they spot remove it then you have the two dorks as well as the big attack. Angel of Invention is not just part Baneslayer and part Cloudgoat Ranger but also part Celestial Crusader. It offers a lot of angels of attack and decent value at the same time. I can see it being the best 5 drop in aggro white and still very playable in midrange and even control decks.
I have spoken a lot about the troubles of them removing this and how easy that is. That is because Angel if Invention is fairly obviously pretty game winning if this isn't dealt with. A card that gives immediate impact (+1/+1 to everything) and bonus value (a pair of 1/1s) that also needs killing really sharpish is pretty good. Add to this the utility you have in how you play the card and I think we have a winner.