Monday, 2 January 2017
Aether Revolt Preliminary Review Part I
Quicksmith Rebel 4
This is a card that screams combo. Not in a good way however, in the kind of way that you have a 10+ mana and three card+ combo where this is just the backup part for one of those components. Might be fun. Might be good in standard, even modern, but in cube this will be lucky to feature in more than one tier 3 combo deck! The card is actually pretty good outside of a combo shell as well. If you are just a midrange red deck with a high artifact count then this is a very powerful pinger indeed. It is effectively a haste pinger that shoots for two which is potent. Then you get a 3/2 body to use (if sparingly) in addition. Slow and narrow but decently above the required power level for cube play.
Scrap Trawler 5
While inherently narrow simply due to being an artifact synergy card as well as a dork this does have a decent amount of potential. I can think of a lot of good artifacts that cost very little. I am sure there are some loops you can abuse with Black Lotus or even the lowly Petal of said flower. This could be used for value in a sac outlet deck much the same way that Myr Retriever finds itself used. This could be part of a combo itself, quite likely with the previously mentioned Myr. This could also be run in a generic artifact aggro deck where it is both a decent threat and a source of ongoing value. I have a feeling this is enough for cube affinity lists despite being so far up the curve. The value you can get with this even on just the turn you make it in affinity is pretty extreme. Narrow but interesting and with strong potential homes.
Trophy Mage 5
While not better than Trinket Mage in cube this does have some good potential. Much more so than Treasure Mage for sure! Trophy Mage may even outperform Trinket Mage in a midrange cube where three mana artifacts are a bit more powerful and significant and thus worth finding. The main issue I have with Trophy Mage is that you want at least two targets, ideally more, before it is that exciting. I cannot think of many decks than want a selection of 3 CMC artifacts. Things like Swords, Tangle Wire, Vedalken Shackles and the like are all very potent but you do not tend to see them in the same decks very often. Just having a second copy of a key card like Shackles is probably enough to be honest but you will need to play filter effects if you play the Mage like that. Beyond general use this has good application in any combo deck where this finds a thing. Power Artifact Basalt Monolith got better, things using Phyrexian Alter, Crucible of Worlds and that sort of thing.
Yahenni's Expertise 8
The control player's Bloodbraid Elf! While this is not a two for one inherently if you can get decent value from the Wrath effect then this is both more tempo and more value than the mighty Elf. In addition to this it is more precise than Bloodbraid letting you play the thing you most want and it is in just one colour making it very playable indeed. I really would not be shocked to see midrange decks running this whenever they have few enough things that it kills of theirs. Most Wraths fail to fully clear a board, things like Thragtusk always leave a body and plenty of other stuff evades them. One of the big problems with Wraths in the cube these days is that tapping out to kill most of their stuff may be a big swing but it is still one where you are behind afterwards. On curve Yahenni's Experience will kill most of what a Wrath kills yet it has a good chance of putting you ahead. Perhaps you play an Ashiok, perhaps just an Ophiomancer. Three mana is plenty to outclass a 3/3 token or a 2/1 Kitchen Finks. I like this card a lot. I think it will see more play than most other wrath effect cards. Most of all I think this card really puts black back on the map for control (and to some extent midrage) strategies. This looks like one of those staple cards that helps define a colour and very very few of those as a high cost as this which speaks volumes of good about it. I anticipate this being one of the best cards in the set for cube and quite possibly other formats too.
Ajani Unyeilding 3
Not overly impressed with this. It is expensive and gold and yet it isn't absurdly overpowered or exactly what you want in all its areas. The -2 is nice but just because it looks a bit like Swords doesn't make it even close. Six. Mana. Sorcery. His ultimate is relatively easy to achieve as he has a +2 ability however it isn't itself that exciting, you have to be in a fairly good position for it to do anything. It is the ultimate win more. So, does his +2 redeem him? No, not really, just drawing cards is not enough. There is no turn around capacity in this card. You can't flop it down and hold off any significant pressure. You kill their best thing very expensively and instantly lose your Ajani and likely more life yourself as well the following turn. Perhaps you just ramp it and hope they decide to kill it rather than you and it gains you a bunch of life and cards. Compare this to six mana Elspeth, she can Wrath a board of fatties, make a team of 1/1s to hold off a board of smaller things and will win the game on her own pretty quickly when she isn't turning it around. This Ajani might seal the deal when you are ahead but it will do too little to late if you are at all behind. I want a lot more utility, power, playability and roundedness from any potential cube six drop. Perhaps this is just a sign that we have reached saturation point on planeswalkers in the cube that this doesn't even really seem worth testing. Like, it is not a bad card at all. It may even be a big name in standard, it just isn't right for cube.
Heart of Kiran 6
First thing first, this isn't close to as good as Smuggler's Copter. The Copter is the complete package where as the Heart is rather more weighted. Copter is just a great card in any deck with a half reasonable creature count. Heart of Kiran is only playable in quite specific decks regarding both their composition and aim. Crew 3 is a massive cost and makes the card onerous to use. It makes the vigilance far less relevant as finding six power worth of crew is no easy feat. Paying loyalty rather than crewing is a lovely mechaninc. It is certainly much more efficient than crewing (unless it is with Garruk Wildspeaker, of those like that!) but it is also much slower. There are not many cheap walkers that can help crew this on curve. Of those, there are fewer still that start with high loyalty or have the capacity to grow it quickly. Between few cheap planeswalkers and a high crew cost it seems like this is basically never able to block if cast on curve nor that likely to attack or block the following turn. You are only gaining one power total when you crew this for its minimum so it is not exactly a big tempo card unless you are paying loyalty to power it. Where this will shine is in the tapout control decks and the midrange decks. Being able to play cheap and relevant threats that evade a lot of removal and can threaten opposing planeswalkers or life totals is a pretty big deal. This isn't quick enough or stand alone enough to be a good aggro card unless the deck is specifically tailored to utilize this efficiently. It isn't that good against aggro decks either as it is too easy to negate or outpace. What I like most about this card is that it takes the exclusivity of Celestial Colonnade away from Azorius and lets everyone enjoy the perks of having a sleeper 4/4 flying vigilance. I think this will be one of the best cards you can have in any matchup that is slower (ie no combo or aggro decks present).
Voidslime just got better! It is incredibly rare to see a previously playable counterspell card get buffed and so that alone is a pretty big deal. Voidslime is not exactly a great card, more a unique one, or at least until now. Having the niche ability to counter activated and triggered abilities bolted onto the versatile and incredibly playable Counterspell was a nice control tool to have. You could survive ruinous things like Eldrazi triggers, blow people out massively by Stone Raining a sac land or just have a plain old counterspell. I think this is likely to be the new go to three mana hard counter. Forbid has had that honour for way too long. The card is only good in niche decks or super rare late game situations. Otherwise it is just Cancel. Disallow is a lot more than Cancel! If people suspect you have it they will be forced to play differently and that is a pretty big deal. This offers more immediate impact combined with a broader range of uses than any other three mana counterspell. Seems good. Seems like a very fair card capable of doing some unfair things!
Pia's Revolution 1
So this is a 3 mana do nothing on its own card that gives your opponent a choice? I think you could ramp up the effect on this reasonably significantly and still have a terrible card. It is all the things I dislike about a card in one. Yuk. The thing I hate it most for is that I can imagine loads of situations where it would be really good and that is misleading of it! It is a win more card and not a good one at that. Yes, it might situationally perform well but that doesn't make it good. Avoid this and things like it.
Dark Intimations 2
Mini Cruel Ultimatum! This is a four for one when you cast it under ideal circumstances. The thing is that all bar the draw are situational things. Sure, they are all fairly likely, but it is not just a yes no situation. There is a range of yeses so to speak some of which do a lot of good work and others which accomplish little. Discard a land, sac a 0/1 plant token while you get back some low value card and draw one really doesn't sound close to worth a five mana sorcery. The effect is powerful but it is itself situational and it is on a card that is hard to play just for cost reasons. The only time I can see this getting any cube attention is when you have a Bolas walker where by giving him an extra starting loyalty allows for a significantly better first activation option with him. On the one we have now you can ultimate one turn quicker but that isn't that exciting.
Battle at the Bridge 3
Cool, a new convoke mechanic for artifacts. Already I am a fan. Not entirely sure on the wording as to the relevance of doing the "Improvise" after paying mana costs but I am sure I will be illuminated in time. Sadly this card isn't that playable presently in my cube. Most of the good cheap artifacts already produce mana and so you are not going to be gaining as much as you might hope when looking at your artifact count. It is more likely that token producers that happen to make artifacts (such as clues) will be where this is best. Without the capacity to reliably up the value of X on this by about two the card isn't that exciting. While it is good solid removal it is a bit too slow. You will never be able to kill the most relevant threat with it on curve and that is a problem. Waiting till turn three to kill a Goblin Guide is super weak. Presently there are no decks that could reliably have a good artifact count for this and so I don't see it getting any play but it is one to keep an eye one. It would not take many cards before this jumped into the realms of the good cards. More things like Weaponcraft Enthusiast and perhaps this is cube worthy.
Consulate Crackdown 2
Certainly too narrow for a drafting cube, even a powered one. There may be occasion for this as a sideboard tool or something. A one sided Wrath effect that is on the back of a permanent card you can manipulate in and out of play fairly easily is a fairly big deal even if it is only for artifacts. Super super narrow, the narrowest of the narrow yet clearly a card that does have application.
Oath of Ajani 3.5
I think this is a bit of a misleading card that looks a lot better than it is. Certainly it is not a bad card but I am not sure that it is enough to be a cube mainstay. For a comparable amount of mana you can have a Glorious Anthem or an Honor the Pure. The static effect is a much more significant threat as it continues to buff your later dorks rather than just applying to those you have out now. Oath of Ajani is not powerful unless you have a big board which makes it situational, win more and somewhat all in. There are occasions where putting a one off set of +1/+1 counters on things is better than having a Glorious Anthem should you have specific synergy with counters or perhaps a way to repeatedly flicker the Oath in and out of play.
Oath does not just put counters on dorks, it also makes your planeswalkers cheaper to cast. Again, this looks more powerful than it is. It is rare to have more than a couple of walkers in a deck. I suspect that the average cost reduction Oath offers will be around one mana which doesn't even pay for itself. The most useful it will be is getting planeswalkers out ahead of curve. The problem with this is that it requires you to lay the Oath early at which point you are getting little to no value from the +1/+1 counters. The two effects of Oath of Ajani are have anti-synergy, one you want late and the other you want early. If this card made all your walkers one mana cheaper and always gave at least 3 counters then it would be nuts but they way it has to work makes it much more of an or card than an and card. It has some versatility but it pays for it by being pretty low powered for your expected outcomes.
Tezzeret the Schemer 6
This is the most standalone playable Tezzeret we have seen. Certainly this is better with a good artifact count but it isn't required to make the card good. It is a lot like Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast in that respect. Both cards have a +1 ability that generates artifacts which in turn can fuel the other abilities if you need it to. I feel as if Tezzeret the Schemer is good enough to be a drafting cube card. He isn't as busted as the Seeker but you cannot easily run Seeker in an unpowered cube as he frequently does nothing!
Schemer has a lot of loyalty and that goes a long way to making him playable with a low or non existent artifact count. You can usually expect to lay this on curve, use his +1 and have him survive into the next turn. If they do kill him they will have to aim some burn from hand as well as their attacks at him and you will not feel behind as a result. I think that +1 to essentially create a Lotus Petal is really rather good even if you can't abuse them silly with Yagmoth's Will! It is ramp, it is fixing and unlike all other planeswalkers that produce mana, it can be stockpiled. You can cast a turn seven Nicol Bolas without ever seeing a 5th land using Schemer. There is also the potential to abuse having loads of artifacts in play with cards like Cranial Plating and Disciple of the Vault. I can't think of an archetype that would yet combine these cards as Scehemer is a bit pricey for the likes of affinity but you get the idea. All the planeswalkers that can produce mana have performed well above expectation in the cube as it has the effect of reducing the mana investment to make the card. Sure, you still have to be at four mana to make Schemer but being able to fire off a one mana spell alongside playing him might well be the difference between a win and a loss. Being blue it is important that Schemer offers mana that may be used on instants in the opponents turn which he does. All in all the +1 is a very powerful, versatile and useful ability that pushes Schemer pretty hard.
The -2 is also versatile and can be pretty powerful but it is also situational. Without artifacts it is super slow, it does nothing right away, and prevents you using your Lotus Petals as you charge it up. Three turns down the line and it is only giving +3/-3 which isn't killing the significant or dangerous card you need to kill for the most part. Without artifacts in your deck this is pretty weak but not dead. It can still force through some extra damage or act as removal eventually. In a deck with artifacts this is much more reliable protection but likely less good at forcing through damage as you won't have high enough toughness dorks! Unlike most walkers with harder removal options for - loyalty Schemer is able to use it twice back to back without using all his loyalty and this is also a pretty big deal. Making this on curve or before it with a decent artifact count and you will get insane tempo and value from this card.
The ultimate is a little more relevant on this than most planeswalkers as it is fairly easy to get to. Starting at five and only needing to get to 7 isn't that big an ask. It still won't happen loads but more than most other walkers ultimates. Basically Tezzeret just casts Ensoul Artifact for you every turn. Powerful and hard to stop but reliant on your having artifacts to power up and somewhat slow to end the game compared to other ultimates. Really you want to keep Tezz alive and healthy post ultimate so that he can churn out more Lotus Petals to turn into 5/5s and this makes the ultimate have a higher effective loyalty cost. All round new Tezz is a solid and interesting card.
Quicksmith Spy 4
Looks like we are in for a cycle of these. This is a bit too pricey and fiddly to be a drafting cube card but it does have some powerful applications in the more constructed side of cube. There are a lot of interesting and viable ways to go about using this. Perhaps you want to try and combo it with Basalt Monolith to draw loads of cards. Perhaps something like Winter Orb instead to make the card asymmetric. You may just want to use this like Simulacrum as a high value speed bump style card.
Planar Bridge 2
Well Planar Portal certainly looks a lot less impressive now. While this is certainly more powerful than Portal it is subtly narrow as well. Not only does 8 mana to activate make this one of the most expensive cards in magic but only getting permanent cards greatly decreases the range. Bridge isn't even good with the best permanents in the game. For one extra mana total I would much rather cast my Emrakul than I would want to put it into play with this. I expect some people will try this out in cube and have fairly mixed results. There is certainly the capacity to make this work in cube with cards like Channel and a variety of ways to get more mana than you can normally spend. Making it work is one thing, actually being good is another. Cards like Tooth and Nail are actually a little awkward in 40 card decks as it necessarily takes the slot of another heavy card and thus greatly reduces your decks total power and threat density. Planar Bridge has that problem, why are you not just playing a 6-8 mana game winning card instead? Interesting and powerful? yes. Good? pretty sure than one is a no.
Paradox Engine 4
This is one of those cards that shouts out combo. Sadly in cube it shouts out slow and narrow as well. Presently all the infinite interactions I can think of with this card are less good than things that already exist. There are some comparisons to Jesaki Ascendancy here. The issue with the card is that you want permanents that tap for good effects and an ongoing supply of spells. Other than the massive clunk that is Urza Blueprints those are not typically things that go together (I guess Temple Bell could work, Arcanis if you want to try and dodge removal..). To get out this five mana do nothing you want to play loads of ramp and assuming that isn't land based that will get you loads of mana with each spell you cast. The more I think on it the more it seems like the big daddy of Voltaic Keys. Key is a great ramp, fixing and utility card but it does nothing until you have a good amount of those actual things. Artifact style storms decks will love this, it should make going off pretty easy. Some artifact ramp decks may be able to use this too, perhaps they would need a little tweaking to make it work. I don't see this is creature based decks as it feels a bit slow and unreliable. In modern perhaps but for cube I don't see it. Certainly too narrow for a drafting cube but clearly powerful enough to make some of the most powerful decks possible in the cube as well. This is a win more card but it is so snowbally that it could well be worth it.
Peacekeeper Colossus 1
Super weak card. A 6/6 without much else such as trample is not very interesting. The ability to animate other vehicles is not super relevant, like equipment there is diminishing returns on vehicles and decks tend to cap out at two tops. The big killer for this is a crew cost of 4 which is far far too much, this only increases your damage potential by 2 which for a 3 mana card without much other utility and a bunch of situational aspects simply isn't close to enough.