Sunday, 18 June 2017

Hour of Devastation: Initial Review Part II

Adorned Pouncer 6

A two mana 1/1 doublestrike dork is a fine baseline. It is pretty comparable to an Elvish Archer at the low end performance and scales rather well with most of the white buff options. Almost all aggressive white decks make use of buffs and so this is a pretty good fit. White does already have rather a lot of one toughness dorks and those that cost two mana are somewhat risky against ping. This is why Fencing Ace never got any cube love. While the Pouncer lacks any human synergy the eternalize is worth far more. Eternalize works well in a vacuum and it covers not only the main weakness of this card but also the main weakness of white weenie decks. Adorned Pouncer is a great answer to mass removal and a nice way to cram in some "free" value and late game. A 3WW 4/4 doublestrike is pretty serious and surprisingly well costed. It is rare to have both ends of a card like this competitively cost. Take Firebolt as an example, the Shock end is reasonable but the 5 mana end is far far away from well costed. The one thing I don't like much about this card is how polar it is. If it eats an early Arc Trail you are going to be pretty far behind despite the eternalize however if it lives and you pair it with a good buff card it will be pretty unfair. Its average performance might be totally fine but that will be made up of some total flops and some total beatings. The most fun cards to play with are those that have a lower range on performance than this. Either way, this seems plenty good enough for cube. It is not wildly exciting but it fits the bill and packs enough of what you want.

Abrade 6

My gut reaction to this was huge disappointment as any burn spell that fails to go face is vastly less playable. Obviously if this went face it would be the best of the Searing Spear group of 2 for 3 burn cards by a decently large margin. Even if it just did 2 to any target it would be an incredibly versatile and playable card. As it is however it needs looking at in a very different light. This is not a burn spell but more of an Abrupt Decay or Disenchant. It is a fairly wide range cheap removal spell and in that capacity the card is actually pretty good in cube. In aggressive red decks it is not what you want to be playing but you still might have to. In anything more midrange or controlling there is a decent chance you would just want this over a Searing Spear. The aggressive red decks thrive on being able to turn their removal into reach but the more midrange and control strategies are far less inclined towards using burn as reach.

Versatility in huge in cube and having ways to interact with as much as possible is pretty big. You don't know what you are facing a lot of the time and so having broad answers and options is of more value than it is in constructed formats where you know the problem cards you need to deal with. Being able to have access to Shatter in your list without having to play a narrow or low power card is a big deal. It means you are not just cold to that Batterskull or something. Three damage for two mana is pretty decent, it kills most things and is a good tempo play. You don't lose that much in power by playing this at all. Back in the day you would run things like Manic Vandal and Torch Fiend main to give you some outs against artifacts. The issue is that cards like that are too weak and cost your deck a lot in terms of power level. Even when they hit you are not gaining that much and when they don't you have a tragically low powered card. Abrade solves this issue nicely but letting you have the options on artifact removal without having to risk a dead card or a low power card. Much as RDW lists won't want to play this over a Searing Spear I think they often times will. It is no fun being cold to a number of cards. It will not be that hard to predict when you might need a Shatter or not and as such the cost of having one burn spell that can't go face isn't huge. Most Boros aggro decks find room to squeeze in a hard removal spell such as a Path to Exile. Me feeling is that the mono red decks will do the same with this card. It isn't ideal but it is still more appropriate than any alternate options. Presently Fiery Confluence is getting a lot of play to increase the versatility and interactive capabilities of red decks. While the Confluence is very powerful and much more versatile than Abrade it being a four mana sorcery rather cancels that out. You want your spot removal answer cards to be cheap and instant. Abrade is, Confluence isn't. Another thing I like about Abrade is that is broadens what red does or can offer. It makes it a more appealing pairing for other colours and that is just healthy for a format. One final note on Abrade, it will be much better in creature heavy decks than creature light ones. The more dorks you have the more you will want burn to target creatures. Even when facing planeswalkers, when you have your own dorks, you want to burn away theirs and attack their walkers rather than just aiming the burn at the walkers.

Ramunap Excavator  5.5

It's a walking Crucible of Worlds! This is sadly a bit too good with Strip Mine to not get played in most peoples cubes. Having banned out Strip Mine along with the rest of the "power" in my cube I don't think this is enough to cut it. This just seems like a pretty bad Courser of Kruphix when you are not abusing it with Strip Mine and Fastbond style bombs. If you are just playing this with fair cards and sac lands it really isn't all that. A 2/3 for 3 is weaksauce. You have to have land in your bin to gain value and that is all that is. With Courser you are preventing upcoming draws from being land and so effectively drawing into more gas, all be it slowly. The Excavator has little baring on your draws and just means you will have loads more lands. Getting value via lands is not hard in green at all, there are far more powerful cards like Life from the Loam than the Excavator. When you want the effect the body will just be a drawback and make it easier to disrupt. It will always just be the 2nd Crucible in those cases and they are likely the best reasons to be playing this guy. When you are playing this as an "all rounder" Courser style midrange card it under performs both in tempo and in value. I think this card is much narrower than it might seem and will generally perform poorly. It won't be at all fun when it performs well either. This does have a place but I don't think this is going to bring more enjoyment to the cube world overall. So, in a powered cube this is pretty tedious but pretty good however in my cube it shouldn't quite cut it when competing with Courser and Tireless Tracker.

Wildfire Eternal 0

Well this is just bad. It might look like it has some game but it really doesn't at all. This gives too much control to your opponent, has too little impact right away and isn't actually very good when it is working as you want it to. This is a four mana 1/4!!! That is all you get when you tap out turn four to make this. It has awful board presence and has none of the tempo impact you want from such a weighty card. You have to get to attack with this before you can get any value and that is pretty bad on top of being a four mana 1/4. What makes it even worse is that just attacking isn't enough. Your opponent has to make a poor call on how to do combat. Either they overrate the affect and needlessly take 4 or they let it through and you have to have something relevant to do with the effect. There are pitifully few heavy instants or sorceries that you would really pair with a card like this. A deck with loads of them would be bad. Best case you will hit a good spell that is like 4 or more CMC and then a couple of fine one or two mana spells. A lot of the time you will lead with a free Shock. Imagine that, paying four mana for a terrible dork that then deals them one damage and generates one mana. Embarassing. Imagine doing even worse the turn after with no free Shock. Best case scenario this card isn't even very impressive and it has a much more likely and very very poor worst case outcome!

Jace's Defeat 2

Gainsay gets play and so this should replace it. You see a lot of Gainsay in sideboards but that is it. You can't run sideboard cards in a drafting cube, there isn't the room for things that narrow. If you only draft your cube you will never need this. If you like to do rotisserie events and such this is a good pickup that does a job well.

Liliana's Defeat 2.5

This is a very good sideboard card against black. It has a decent chance of hitting a Liliana for one thing! Beyond that it is just very efficient removal that does exactly what a lot of black removal struggles to do! This is a very clean sideboard exchange for a Doom Blade for example. A half price mono coloured Dreadbore with a dash of the Searing Blaze about it. This is the closest thing to an Elemental Blast we have seen in a very long time. One issue with this is that if you are black there are less black opponents and as such you are using a valuable SB slot for not use. The better black gets the better this will get. Presently I can't think of a meta where this would be of enough value to use a SB slot on but that could well change and when it does this will be a great pickup for some sideboards.

Nissa's Defeat 0

To narrow a range of targets and also too slow. The removal options don't even synergize well together on the card.

Gideon's Defeat 0

This just isn't good enough compared to other white removal options. Again, obviously only a SB tool and if you are using a slot on a narrow removal spell you want it to be busted and not decidedly average by cube standards.

Deserts of the (God's aspects) 2

While I can't complain at more cycling lands these are just the worst of the four cycles (Urza's, Odyssey, Amonkhet and these). They all come into play tapped and these have the most onerous cycling cost of the lot. I can't see desert synergy breaking through into cube so that should rarely be relevant. These are great cards but they are somewhat superfluous to requirement for cube. Perhaps some fringe play for the cycling themed decks in just one or two colours...

Grind // Dust 3

I rather like this but I fear it is too narrow being somewhat of a gold card. If Grind performs sufficiently well that you are happy running this as just a black spell then it has good prospects in cube. If however you need both black and white mana in your deck for this card to cut it then it isn't going to last in cube. Grind does have some very nice Arc Trail aspects to it but sadly my gut says this card is too restricted to be the removal spell you want. It is bad if they only have one guy, especially if it has more than one toughness! It is pretty good when they have two even if you only kill off one of them. Chances are as an early play you will have neutered their other card with the counter. If it were instant and allowed you to dump both counters on the same thing then Grind would be a very potent removal spell. With such small things making such a big difference to the cheap cards I don't see Grind getting enough value on average to stand alone. Nice card design but just too narrow and too fair.

Hour of Revelation 7

This I like a lot. Planar Cleansing has a lot of merit in cubes. It is one of the best mass removal spells at actually dealing with the threats as it handles planeswalkers. This is directly better than Cleansing. It does exactly the same thing except sometimes it is half the price. While 10 or more non-land things in play sounds like a lot, well, it is a lot, it is not all that uncommon in cube. Lots of decks swarm and make a load of stuff. Loads of things churn out tokens. Loads of cards are like half of the 10 by themselves (Myr Battlesphere, Grave Titan, Elspeth, Sun's Champion etc). Investigating, three mana walkers that make tokens, all sorts of things are seeming to up the number of things in play.If you can clear the board for three mana then that is huge. Normally clears take your turn. This is easy to play and ensure you remain safe afterwards when you get the discount. I can totally see plays where people are extending themselves just to get the discount on this. Perhaps they need the effect before they will get to six mana or perhaps they really need to be able to do two things in one turn to survive and as such it is worth throwing a few of your own things away for free. Great design. This is a fair card but a potentially very powerful one as well. It also does this without being narrow or requiring loads of support as is the case with something like Terminus. It also doesn't stand to be over powered in specific cases which again is testament to good design. This is the kind of thing that will really help boost Azorius control strategies. This will be a three mana Wrath far more often than Bontu's Last Reckoning will be! That said it is super unlikely you play a turn three Hour of Reckoning in an unpowered cube, both of you need to go nuts on making things. The strength of this is not so much as an early mass removal card but one that enables you to do more at the same time. Using it turn five with counter backup for example. One of the issues with Planar Cleansing is that it offers no direction. There are no good permanents to play with it specifically other than lands which you will be doing anyway. If you are playing a Wrath heavy deck then loading up on non-creature permanents is fine. With Hour of Revelation only things like Aetherling work with it. As such it supports the more old school draw go style of control far better than it supports a more current tap out control style although it will be played in both I expect. Mystic Gate will get more valuable as a result of this too! If you want to cast this, Cryptic Command and Counterspell you better have a lovely mana base.

The Scorpion God 4

Clearly this is a powerful card. You could stick it in a cube and it would do pretty well and not seem at all out of place. The issue with this is not so much its power level but if you can justify giving it a cube slot amid so many other insane 5+ mana cards and gold bombs. This has to be better than so much to get into a cube and that doesn't just mean more powerful, it also means more playable and more suitable. The Scorpion God is not a card that jumps out and says put me in this archetype where I am a perfect fit. He is just a high power midrange dork. In colours that are not desperate for that kind of midrange card and have so many options on such things this is going to see infrequent play. This isn't just competing with Olivia Voldaren (which is the most direct comparison) but also cards like Pia and Kiran Nalaar, Sarkhan the Dragonspeaker, even Kalitas.

I am pretty sure this will just ultimately be a card that is too easy to cut from cubes and won't really be a feature in any once we have all gotten over the initial excitement of a new card! Despite this I still feel compelled somehow to break this down... There are four aspects to this card. The first is that it is just a big dork meaning it is a late game threat. The body isn't at all exciting but it is big and not overcost either. It will do some work in combat and that is always nice. Next up it is a recursive dork that only really dies to exile effects. This makes it a better threat and goes a long way to improving a vanilla 6/5 as it is that much more expendable in combat. It adds a level of awkward to the card that will make it a problem card against a number of archetypes. A Golgari midrange deck for example will struggle to exile this and it will struggle to get far enough ahead before five mana hits that it can largely ignore it. Its dorks wont even match up very well against it. Against an Azorius control deck however this is easy to exile, tap down, counter and bounce all day and should pose very little threat.

The final two abilities are somewhat linked. You have the 1BR to place -1/-1 counters on things which is super slow and mana intense. In the slow grindy games this will be very good but against anything tempo driven this will just be too slow to offer much in the way of recovery potential. If you are looking for cards that can swing the game back in your favour then Inferno Titan or Pia and Kiran Nalaar, even a Skinrender are going to be far superior choices. Olivia Voldaren is a far better tool to control the board with outside of combat being that much cheaper and more versatile. Lastly the card draw element with the death of dorks with -1/-1 counters on this is a nice perk but it doesn't really help the card out in the ways in which it is weak. The recursion effect is already a form of value, as it the ability to shrink and kill dorks. Drawing extra cards is always nice but it isn't what this card lacks at all. Yes, it has synergy with the activated ability making it more likely you will get to draw some extra stuff and yes, it absolutely doesn't detract from the card. My point is more that it is quiet a good ability and as such comes at some cost to the card. I would much much rather this thing was a mana cheaper or had an effect that would make it more rounded such as coming into play with some token dorks or something instead of the card draw. It would make it vastly better. This is still a good card with a lot going on. It will absolutely win a lot of games but I still don't see this becoming any sort of cube mainstay.

Supreme Will 4

A supreme disappointment, god knows why power creep is so polar. Three mana Lightning Bolt and Mana Leak.... Mana Leak isn't even that good! Mostly this is a let down because I want it to be good. The card is still quite playable in cube but it could have been Cryptic Command levels of juicy had it cost UU instead. This is a lovely effect and I just wish it was more cube worthy that it is. Modal cards are great. Modal countermagic is really great and Impulse is another great thing. At three mana this card is a bit of an Izzet Charm, all the effects are good and complement each other well but they are all overpriced by a mana and as such you will never feel like you are pulling ahead that much with this thing. While this is a perfect filler card I fear the three mana price tag will just mean people will elect to play more powerful cards or cheaper cards instead. I can't see myself ever playing this over a Mana Leak or an Impulse for example. It is more of a Think Twice level of card. It offers flexibility in utility rather than in cost but power wise they are similar I would say. Although blue doesn't have any obvious comparisons in the three mana slot, something like a Dromar's Charm likely comes closest to it. This I think is a the crux of the issue. There are no cards like Supreme Will in the three slot because you can get some really serious power out of a three mana card meaning that fair filler doesn't get a look in. I'm sure this will work wonders in standard and while playable in cube we would be kidding ourselves if we were to think it was actually good.

Dreamstealer 0

Cute design but not enough to make it into cube. A three mana 1/2, even with menace and discard value on connecting with face, is just super awful. At the front end of things a Hypnotic Specter is better than this is basically all ways. Better body, better evasion, better disruption! While I like eternalize it is not really what you want on this thing at that cost. A six mana 4/4, even if you can play it from the bin and even with these extra abilities, is just not a game changing play for the cost. The eternalize would be a nice bit of late game value and gas if the front end was at all good. As it isn't the eternalize aspect has to be significantly above the curve, which it isn't.

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