Saturday, 29 July 2017

Top 16 Multimodal Cards

Cryptic CommandCommands and Confluences cards along with escalate and perhaps some entwine/fuse style things are what we are looking at here. There are some of the most desirable cards in the cube on this list. Multimodal cards offer all the perks of Charms and much much more. Where a Charm has three modes in which it can be played all the Commands and Confluences thus far have 10 ways in which they may be cast. Options galore! The escalate cards on this list only have seven modes, just three for entwine, but they offer even more extra over other multimodal cards. They offer scaling potential in addition to their versatility. With enough of the appropriate resource you can turn a cheap utility card into a big swingy spell.

Typically spells in the cube are not that expensive however this list contains an incredibly high average mana cost, even so in just the main cube cards. This goes to show the potency of multimodal cards. When 70% of instants and sorceries in my cube are 1 or 2 mana and the average CMC of such cards is about 2.5 (realistically a lot lower as so many of the high cost cards have delve or pitch and alternate costs) you start to appreciate how good four mana and higher spells must be. In contrast to the Charms list which has a wopping 1 card in my cube this list has about 2/3rds of it in the cube. Every card here has been in the cube at one time or another. It may seem that the lower number of gold cards in this grouping helps to increase the playability of this list but every possible gold card is on this list. These cards are not just more playable than Charms, they are better too!

I feel a need to honorary mention Collective Effort. I am sure it will get some love eventually and be very good when in the right place. It is just one of those cards that slipped past in the testing and is almost certainly good despite me not being able to corroborate that. It might well be too narrow for the cube having only really one home but I would still expect it to get more play in constructed decks than it has (which is also none). I guess the thing is people tend not to build dull and common things like white weenie when they can do more exotic and exciting things! Both Tooth and Nail and Rude awakening probably also deserve than honourable mention. Both used to be good finishers in cube and both were greatly improved by the flexible modal nature of how you could cast them. Both now suck pretty hard compared to alternatives like Craterhoof Behemoth and Nissa Worldwaker and see absolutely no play.

Far // Away16. Far / Away

This is a great little card but it is ultimately a filler card. Gold filler is not what you want at all and so this isn't in my drafting cube anymore. When it was it performed very well. It was a nicely rounded removal spell that helped keep things calm early and could land pretty devastating blows later on. Both modes are over priced by a colourless if done on their own but effectively upgrading your Unsummon to a Repulse when you fuse the card makes it nicely on curve for cost to effect. Having both a 2 mana and a 3 mana removal option also gives you great curve flexibility. The difference between a Edict or a bounce in the early stages of the game is very minor. You will absolutely elect to use the mode which lets you cast your other most relevant 2 or 3 drop. This is just a removal spell and compared to a Terminate it doesn't seem super impressive. In practice it performed a lot better than expected. There are lots of untargettable dorks or dorks with brutal effects when they die. Being able to selectively bounce or edict as appropriate to avoid the issue at hand is a real winner. 

Blessed Alliance15. Blessed Alliance

This started out mostly as a sideboard tool but it is getting more popular. What initially held this back was the counter synergy between untapping creatures and the rest of the card. It felt like a pretty dead ability a lot of the time. You want the other two modes in a control deck but rarely have cause to untap stuff in a control list. Even so, this still looks pretty good compared to Azorius Charm for control decks. It is easier to cast, generally has a more potent removal effect, can scale up in power, and has that valuable lifegain option. This is much better against aggression than Azorius Charm and not that much worse against other decks. Cycling Azorius Charm is just a way to negate its low power. You don't need to cycle the Alliance as it is a decent enough removal spell in the late game against the slower decks. It may sit in your hand not doing much for a load longer than Azorius Charm but that it a price you will gladly pay for how much better it is in the matchups you actively want that kind of card in. Blessed Alliance is cute with Ojutai and can occasionally blow people out with other generic dorks. Most people smell a rat though, control does not often race, especially when it seems losing. If you attack with your Baneslayer Angel despite a brutal swingback leaving up six mana then I will be carefully considering my options! I would like to abuse some exert dorks with this but they are typically aggressive cards and Alliance really isn't so I don't expect that to be very relevant.

Silumgar's Command14. Silumgar's Command

I may have already spoiled the fact that all the gold commands make this list. As such you can conclude that this is the worst of the gold Commands. A Last Gasp, a Negate, a Boomerange and the ability to kill a planeswalker. A few things hurt this card quite badly. The cost is a big one, five mana is a lot. Most of the value of the spells contained in this command is their relative cheapness. Last Gasp is highly effective early removal but scales far worse into the late game than a Doom Blade. This only being a five mana spell means Last Gasp is well past its best and often not able to deal with the issues at hand. For the Negate mode to be good you need to have this up. That means you will often be taking damage from their attacks rather than bouncing/Last Gasping before damage so as to keep your pricey Negate up. It is also obvious as all hell. Killing a planeswalker is nice but you would much much rather Negate the thing. If you do have to use the planeswalker kill mode you are basically getting a 1 for 1 at very even mana. Any extra value you get from the other command ability is typically equivalent to the value they got from their single planeswalker activation. With all these awkward factors going on Silumgar's Command often ends up using the bounce mode as one of the two and often for relatively little value. When you get those golden hits like Negating and killing two relevant things it feels great but that is not the norm. With the black and blue Confluences both being five mana instants as well this doesn't get much of a look in any more. This had less than a year before it was wildly outclassed. Far / Away often feels like it does as much as this when fused and it isn't dead weight prior to five mana or should you fail to see one of those colours.

Plunge into Darkness13. Plunge into Darkness

Back when my drafting cube was powered and involved much more combo cards this was a pretty big name. It was one of the best Tutors in the game. Cheap, instant and no card disadvantage! Sadly, even in the 40 card decks of cube and even with the general irrelevance of life back in the day you cannot use this on turn two to reliably find exactly what you need. On turn two this is much more akin to an Impulse than it is to a Demonic Tutor or even a Lim-Dul's Vault. Later on this card scales a lot better than other tutors. I have won loads of games simply cycling this for one life and saccing off a pile of dorks for a huge life influx. There are some combo decks where a combined lifegain tool, sac outlet and tutor is the dream card. Plunge is a card that seems custom designed to perfectly fit a few combo decks while also being just fine to play without any synergies going on. This is a highly versatile and convenient tool and comfortably remains the most viable entwine card in cube.

Austere Command12. Austere Command

This had a long and illustrious career in the cube. It was and probably still is the best six mana mass removal spell on offer. Merciless Eviction is also potent but has less flexibility and is far less playable as a gold card. Despite this card being the best in its class for cube the value of six mana mass removal has dwindled greatly. A lot of decks will kill you before six mana. Most others will be able to avoid over extending into it and have enough value effects that you are not getting much more than an even trade with your six mana spell. Threats are now too diverse for Austere Command or any mass removal to be entirely effective. You are OK with a four mana spell that leaves a threat or two in play but on a six mana spell that is a much greater problem. Threats now offer too much resilience, value and tempo for the slower mass removal spells to do what they need to do. When Austere Command was more viable it was devastating. It was very easy to engineer a situation where you would wipe out all their threats and be able to keep some stuff of your own. Usually their threat diversification consisted of an equipment or a Sulphuric Vortex. You could Wrath their small team, keep your one fat dude and also take out their only other relevant threat. This was pretty common and utterly game breaking. Austere Command is far less restrictive on your own build than other six mana mass removal. You can play dorks or mana rocks as you saw the need where as with cards like Planar Cleansing and Akroma's Vengeance you have to be more conservative. It has far greater potential to end up with a board in your favour than all bar cards like Martial Coup. It is also far more rounded and useful disruption than most conventional Wrath effects in a diverse meta. You can brutally hard counter artifact synergies with your maindeck Shatterstorm and so forth. While still very playable it simply doesn't perform as well as it used to.

Primal Command11. Primal Command

This is another card that has a history like Austere Command. This was a big feature in quite a wide range of decks often for very different reasons. Things have sped up and other cards have come along offering some of the things Primal Command does but better. These factors combined means we don't see this very often in cube anymore. There was a time when more green decks would play this than not. The reshuffle mode gave great inevitability for the slow grindy decks. The tutor mode and the Temporal Spring mode would allow for a reliable and high value two for one. Find a recursive creature and gain 7 life was a common cause of concessions from aggressive decks. Sadly sometimes it was also just a five mana Bramblecrush. Combo elves would play this to lock people out, go off forever and tutor up relevant combo elves. Primal Command brings a lot of control and utility but it is rather unwieldy as a five mana sorcery that has relatively minimal impact on the board.

Ojutai's Command10. Ojutai's Command

Draw a card mode is so universally good this card is pretty playable. It is not the best Exclude nor is it the best (cycled) Renewed Faith but it is certainly a lot lot better for having these modes. The most potent mode is by far and away the Unearth effect which despite hitting smaller dorks, gains huge value from the instant speed. If you have a number of good targets for the recursion mode as well as a deck erring on the side of control then this is a great card. If your deck is aggressive this is not a great tool and if you have few low value recursion targets this will also under perform although will at least remain playable. Just the split card Exclude / Renewed Faith is pretty good for control. What you need are cards like Wall of Omens, little Jace, Snapcaster, Stoneforge Mystic, Mother of Runes, Dragonmaster Outcast and Selfless Spirit. These kinds of cards make the Command nuts. Being able to instantly bring one of these into play at the end of an opponents turn or perhaps while countering their play is a massive swing. It is hard to play round and great value, sometimes even tempo too. Needing support to perform optimally combined with being gold keeps this at the lower end of this list but get it in the right deck and it will look like one of the very best cards on this list.

9.   Collective Defiance
Collective Defiance
This is a very odd card indeed but it gets plenty of play and seems to do its job pretty effectively. It is weird because it seems like a worse card as you throw more mana into it. Four damage to a creature for 3 seems OK but 4 mana to also do them three seems like a very bad Searing Blaze indeed! This card is basically Flame Slash, Lava Spike and Faithless Looting rolled into one. They all cost one mana on their own but cost three on Collective Defiance. That is missleading however. Flameslash and Lava Spike can only cost 1 because they are so restrictive. You pay at least 1 more mana on either if it can do something to other types of target as well. Because Defiance can go face or creature it is unfair to compare it directly to such cards. Better comparisons are Exquisite Firecraft or Char. Thing that hit anything and can do 4 so as to cover those terrifying Kalitas style threats. While Defiance can't do 4 to face that is far less relevant than with creatures where it is all about reaching that toughness threshold. It makes up for not being able to do 4 to face by being able to do 7 total damage in one card which should equate to more than 4 face damage. It is the flood protection that pushes this otherwise fair card over the edge. Without the Looting mode Defiance would be very comparable in power level to things like Char and the Firecraft. When you can recycle a couple of dead late game cards on top of doing some relevant damage it is huge. It doesn't happen loads and loads, probably about as much as you flashback a Looting in RDW. When it does though it is a huge boost. Fair but on theme makes this card playable. Desirable options and flexibility in red is what makes it good.

Atarka's Command8.   Atarka's Command

This is only low on the list for being narrow. It is gold and only wants to go in very aggressive decks. I have seen it is burn, RDW, zoo and Izzet tempo but they are the most aggressive decks in the cube with the potential omission of white weenie. Worst case scenario this is a Skullcrack which is a fine burn card. Best case scenario this thing is dealing 10 damage or getting huge tempo and card advantage in combat. For a card with reasonable utility, low cost and a decently high floor on performance it has an utterly stupid ceiling. This card is pretty much open air! When in the right kind of deck this is comfortably one of the most powerful cards on this list, perhaps even the most. The land ability is pretty irrelevant for this cards performance in modern but in cube it has done some truly delightful things. Triggering landfall mechanics or just having more total mana than expected is something most people miss. Lifegain prevention is, much like lifegain itself, exactly the sort of narrow yet highly valuable mode you want on your modal cards. It is a perfect match on this card with high scaling pump and on theme direct damage. I would say in the right lists this card averages about 5 damage which is obviously stupid for 2 mana and huge versatility on top.

Dromoka's Command7.   Dromoka's Command

This is a really annoying little card. I think mostly that is me being on the wrong side of it far more often than the right side! I also think I don't play round this card as I properly should and that makes it seem a little better than it is. Like Atarka's Command this thing can be pretty devastating. It can straight up kill two things, either in combat resulting from the counter or because you randomly happen to have an enchantment like a Courser of Kruphix and you just die... When they pay 2 mana and one card to kill 2 things you are very far behind. Most 2 for 1 Arc Trail hits end in wins for the Arc Trailer. This has the potential to get far more mana's worth of value than Arc Trail. It randomly counters things like Bonfire of the Damned too which is pretty narrow and utterly devastating as well! Although that is the kind of mode you want on these cards it is so specific and situational that it feels like a massive rip off on the few occasions it has been used. Mostly this is just a +1/+1 counter and a fight which is a pretty decent removal spell at 2 mana in a green white list with creatures (which they basically all are). The mildly conditional use is well offset by the lasting counter, the two for one potential and any other combat utility or synergy it has with the counter.

Fiery Confluence6.   Fiery Confluence

This is one of those cards like Boros Charm that has a mode which is above curve. You can do 6 face damage for four mana with this card. That is a massive smack in the face. Since this thing saw print I have seen a lot of games end where people felt very safe and die to 10 direct damage from four mana with this and Fireblast. Due to this cards high finishing potential it is always something aggressive decks are happy to play. This wildly increases the value of the more situational other modes. You get to be nice and safe against artifacts without hurting you decks consistency if you are playing with this. You also get to play with Wrath effects in aggressive decks. I have also seen that catch people off guard. People over extend wildly into the RDW player forgetting the potential for them to get wrathed and lose too much tempo and cards to have any hope in the game. A controllable wrath effect is doubly nice. If you have some two toughness guys and they have a bunch of one toughness guys then this looks a lot better than Anger the Gods or Pyroclasm. It looks even better if they just made some artifact too! Power, utility, value, potential tempo. This card really does have it all. One of the very few cards above 2 mana that aggressive red decks still consider premium pick ups.

5.   Mystic Confluence
Mystic Confluence
Now we start to get to the real power. The top five on this list are all exceptional. You rarely see them left out of decks in their colours. While Mystic may be more powerful than some of the others it is somewhat less unique in blue. Unsummon, Mana Leak and draw a card  are all basic blue attributes. They are also worth one, two and one mana respectively. Modal cards do not tend to gain much value from having exclusively abilities you find throughout the colour(s), especially when you can get them for a lot less mana. While you can't get 3 instances of Mana Leak for 5 mana that isn't really a thing, you are not often countering 3 separate spells at once. The only time I have seen this card using more than one instance of the Mana Leak mode they are all targetting the same spell. This effectively means the best return on your mana for Mystic Confluence is 4 as you can only effectively get one use out of the most valuable mode. So why is it that Mystic Confluence succeeds where Izzet Charm fails when the former is very much like a scaled up version of the latter.

Much is down to the unusually good scaling of draw a card. Just cycling something doesn't achieve anything except spending mana. When you can turn one card into two or more cards however the value of it shoots up. An Unsummon plus a card draw is not worth UU as my costing analysis suggests but more like the 2U of Repulse. Draw two is also not something you can find for UU, at instant speed it isn't even something you can find at 2U. Draw bolted onto something you would otherwise pay a card for is worth more like 2 mana and not the single mana it costs when found on its own or near enough to. As such Mystic Confluence is generally on par with the cube power level of cost to return (assuming you don't have to repeatedly Mana Leak the same target). When you have a card that is doing things you almost always want with huge flexiblity on how it is used and that isn't over priced you have a big winner. This is easily the card with the most even spread across its modes in terms of total use. Sometimes it is a one sided board clear, sometimes it is Jace's Ingenuity, sometimes it is a Cryptic Command where you use all but the tap modes! Torrential Gearhulk and As Fortold have recently increased the value of this card a good amount. The Gearhulk is just great with powerful expensive instants and Mystic Confluence is one of the most expensive and powerful instants you play without the Gearhulk synergy. As Foretold loves card draw and instants allowing you to continue to abuse the mana savings efficiently. Confluence offers a great way to empower you when you have an active As Foretold but without overdoing it on raw card draw spells. It also enables some nasty soft locks with Eternal Witness. It is only because blue has so many potent cards that do much the same sorts of thing as Mystic Confluence that keeps this lower in the top five. Fact or Fiction, Repulse, Repeal, Cyclonic Rift, Crush of Tentacles, Exclude, Arcane Denial and of course Cryptic Command are all strong cards that have significant overlap with the Confluence. This list could be extended to include a significant portion of all of the blue cards ever printed! While only the good ones are relevant you get my point that Mystic Confluence, while both versatile and powerful, is far from a unique card.

Wretched Confluence4.   Wretched Confluence

This looks like it is less good than the other Confluences on this list but it has performed exceptionally. It seems less good because Raise Dead, Disfigure and pay a life for a card are all one mana abilities and because they cover less of a range than the other Confluences. Two of these modes are tempo loss card advantage modes. Even the lifeloss aspect of the card draw means it isn't scaling in quite the same way as the card draw on Mystic. You can generally pay X life and mana to draw X cards in the cube. It is mostly a collection of small subtle effects that combine to make this the best performing Confluence in cube. Firstly, black is a clunky colour that has poor card filtering capacity and a number of effects that are intrinsically situational or suffer poor scaling. Late game black often loses with action/answers in hand simply because it is the wrong time for those cards. The options on Confluence are greatly welcome in black. If you imagine in blue you can add a fraction of the cost of any pure card quality effects to the cost of your other spells. Lets say you have 24 non-land cards and 4 mana's worth of Ponder style cards. You have effectively increased the average CMC of your action spells by 1/6th of a mana. As black is not playing cards like Ponder it does not incur this effective increase in average CMC as all of its cards are action (when they are not just dead!). That means you can afford to splash out a little bit more in black for cards that provide options and won't ever be dead weight in hand (obviously once you can cast it, everything with a cost can be dead when you can't pay it...).  Most colours are very happy to invest some cards and mana in card quality in cube and do so when they can. With black (and white) having the least filtering and card quality they benefit most from cards like this.

Raise Dead
Next up is the value of Raise Dead in cube. Pretty quickly this becomes better than draw a card. It is guaranteed action if you want it and it lets you reuse things you often only get one shot with. Any sort of recursion in singleton is worth more than usual despite how poor it is in the early game. Being modal entirely negates the potential lack of value this has prior to useful things being in the bin. In those even games where it goes long the big refill cards are often what seal the deal. If you hit that Dig Through Time or you can blow a Garruk Primal Hunter for a load of cards you probably just won. In those cases I have found Wretched Confluence to be one of the absolute best. It often outperforms even the mighty Sphinx's Revelation. Most sensible cube decks don't have loads of closers, win conditions or super relevant late game and reach cards. Lots of games will be won with cards like 2/1s for 1 which are great early but typically add little once the game goes long. Even a white weenie deck with mostly creatures and that would be classically considered threat dense is actually very light on relevant tools in the late game. Anyway, if you move into the late game you should generally be about half way through your deck and as such will have seen roughly half your cards that retain significant relevance in the late game. If at that point you draw a big pile of cards you probably only get one more super relevant card and you may well put yourself in danger of milling to death. Big draw has a small window of utility in cube and is far less effective than it is in 60 card constructed. If instead of drawing 5 cards you return 3 relevant threats from the bin you not only preserve your library size and remaining threat count but you also get much more relevant action. So what if they got two more cards than you if all of them are lands and cycling things and other do nothing cards. When big card advantage tools are at their best this is generally the best of those on offer. Card advantage is made a lot better when you have alternate modes of use that gain you tempo rather than conceding it. Fact or Fiction is a better card draw spell than Mystic Confluence but it has no ability to be disruptive instead and is rarely played as a result. The same is true even of cards like Jace, Architect of Thought, you are happy to trade some card draw power for the option on playing defense.

DisfigureNext up we have the somewhat positive scaling of Disfigure. Basically the card Disfigure is great but a little limited, having it in this modal form reduces the limitations of the effect. A Disfigure cannot take out things with more than 2 toughness without help. As you can aim them as needed you rarely ever have a dead removal spell. It is not just mitigated by having other modes but also mitigated by being able to do itself multiple times. This might sound like the same argument that I used against Mana Leak mode but it is slightly different. You can't really get value off multiple leaks on different spells. You can kill three dorks with a Wretched Confluence. Or you can kill a massive one if that is what you need to do. It is generally better than Infest and better than Dismember just in terms of effect (very little is more effective than Dismember at 1 mana!). Basically stacking up Mana Leaks just showcases how the card is a limp counterspell and never more than while stacking up Disfigure increases the utility of the effect a lot. You can utterly wreak people in combat with it too using it to take out loads of unsuspecting fatties turning it from an Infest into more of a one sided Wrath!

Lastly we turn to the draw cards lose life option. As said, this doesn't scale up brilliantly. It is very much the backup mode. You want to return high value creatures and/or kill off theirs with your Confluence. When you only have a couple of targets for either you end up taking that card. It is nice as a never dead mode and ensures the card is very playable in control. What has stood out from this mode is how often it is used as a Bump in the Night. While not quite yet in double figures this card is close to having it in killing blows now. Yes, it is pretty narrow but having an extra mode which simply lets you win the game on the spot every now and again is actually pretty big on an otherwise very playable card. So while at first glance this looks like paying five mana for three mana's worth of stuff that is all a little narrow or unexciting when it all comes together it is substantially greater than the sum of its parts.

Kolaghan's Command3.   Kolaghan's Command

It is hard not to get a two for one with this card! A three mana instant 2 for 1 is a good card, Esper Charm was played a lot in that capacity. What makes this really quite nutty is that you can get a 2 for 1 as well as a decent tempo swing. The Shock rarely kills much more than 3 manas worth of stuff and probably averages around 2 manas worth of stuff killed. The Shatter on the other hand has a much higher range on the tempo value it can afford. When you take out a five mana artifact like a Gearhulk or Gilded Lotus you are wildly ahead! Kolaghan's Command is a great way to insure against artifacts without diluting your deck or risking dead cards. Raise Dead, as discussed at length in the Wretched Confluence section, is also a really good effect to have on a modal card. Discard modes when at instant speed are also more useful. Being able to hit people in their draw steps allows you to take out a lot of card types even when they have no hand. This card is so good and works so well in a couple of archetypes that you see it splashed for a surprising amount. The value this thing offers with Snapcaster Mage is pretty unreasonable! If this were a mono coloured card I would have it atop this list.

Collective Brutality2.   Collective Brutality

I have talked much about this card recently. It is used in a lot of places, it is new and it is very good, all of which give me lots of call to talk about it. Power wise it is not doing as much as many of these other cards but then it cost a whole lot less than anything else here. Even the cheap Commands are two different coloured mana to play. This is never getting you card advantage as you always discard cards to perform extra modes. Obviously this can be an advantage if you simply want to put cards in the bin. While Brutality is even better in the lists with graveyard synergy you don't need any for the card to be great. It is effective card quality and very good mana efficiency whenever you can usefully use more than one mode. When you can't you still have an effective and versatile spell. It is great against control and combo with the Duress option and great against aggression with the Disfigure and even the drain. The drain does often look like it isn't worth a card but it is actually used about as much as the other two modes. It is nice to have an ability that always does something so as to force a discard. It also turns out you want that life more than your cards in hand far far more often than you expect to.

1.   Cryptic Command

No surprise here. This card must have topped a lot of lists in its time. While I may have talked about Brutality a lot recently I think everyone will have talked plenty about this recently. We all know this to be great because it is and has been for a long while. Four is hefty and it is a little harder to get value and tempo out of compared to Kolaghan's Command. On the other hand Cryptic Command is in one colour and has a far far broader range on its abilities allowing you to be completely safe in almost any situation. You can get a two for one or you can get a Time Walk!

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