Thursday, 10 August 2017

Commander 2017 Initial Review Part III

Licia, Sanguine Tribune 1

This is all very cute but being Mardu colours makes it have zero chance in my drafting cube. Licia may see some constructed cube love in a tribal vampires deck or even a more control looking Mardu list with a lot of good lifegain effects. Mostly people will run her for novelty value. In practice this is just a bit of a big dork. It will come out cheap but it won't come out early. It will dominate a board but it isn't a card that is great at winning the game. This desperately needed some evasion.

Bloodsworn Steward 0

This has a very good starting point as a 4/4 flying dork for four. If the ability applied to anything you might find in cube this might look interesting.

Disrupt Decorum 0

Goad in heads up doesn't do enough to merit this price tag. This is super situational and not all that powerful.

Crimson Honour Guard 0

A 4/5 trample for five with double Sulfuric Vortex triggers going on. The stats are a little low for the cost but the Seige-Rhino shell is a tried and tested winner. A 4/5 trample survives well against removal and does great work in combat.  The issue with this card is mostly that it is hitting you first unlike the Vortex which is kind enough to start with them. All round I think this is too top end and too risky against any other aggression that it won't see play. Why play this when you could play some dragon that hits them sooner without ever hitting yourself.

Curse of Bounty 1

Cute mechanic although with this particular payoff I don't see it having many applications in cube. With this not untapping lands it is often just giving vigilance to your dorks. Only when you have strong tap effects as well as spare attackers does this start to look good. Mostly it feels like you want to use this with mana elves for extra burst. It feels a little unreliable in such a place and likely wont be used. Potentially powerful but will need exactly the right cards to go with it. Even if it is good it will only be so in pretty narrow places and will be a constructed card not a drafting one.

Curse of Opulence 6

I like this one a lot but I am not sure where you play it exactly. Decks that are reliably attacking are not those most eager to ramp. That being said, this is versatile enough that you don't need to be eager to ramp. You can use it to produce permanents easily or help empower mechanics like metalcraft. This is a lot better than Birds of Paradise when you are able to attack each turn. It is more like a really good Paradise Mantle come Mana Battery. The ability to stockpile mana with this so as to have a big turn is pretty scary. It makes things like Wheel of Fortune, level up dorks and Devil's Play style cards far more interesting in RDW. Just the thought of having to play against a RDW player who always has two mana up sounds super tedious and hard to do. One misstep and you die to a Searing Spear. I am going to try this out basically everywhere I can. It looks like it might well work out in unexpected places. I love cheap permanents, I love fixing, I love ramp, I want this to be great but I am wary of it being a do nothing when you can't attack and that being a huge limitation. The best place for this card feels like it would be a tempo UR deck. In such places the ability to do a lot on a specific turn is especially useful. The archetype also has the ability to filter away cards that become less useful, it has lots of cheap evasive threats and disruption to help them connect. It also loves a prowess trigger!

Curse of Disturbance 6

This just seems pretty good. Black is by far and away the best colour at chump attacking. With Bloodghast and the various recursive one drops you can pretty much just walk in your dorks at little to no cost. So, assuming you can attack the turn you make this it is pretty much a free 2/2 every turn starting right there and then. It is a quicker, fatter and less painful (although more grounded) than Bitterblossom. It will not take long for this to bust open a stalemate nor will it take long to goldfish someone who isn't doing much. This is a lot of ongoing value and inevitability without that much of an upfront investment. The catch is that you have to support it with cheap and ideally recursive dorks you can run in. If you don't have a list that wants to attack and should be able to do so easily this is not a card you should look it. It has no place in control and probably not much in most midrange decks either. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar frequently sits there pressing the 0 button churning out 2/2 knights. While he does have other functionality he also costs more and is more vulnerable. If you can do it for a mana less and not have to worry about it getting attacked to death that seems decent. Black has lots of use for sacrificial bodies and a nice rounded token generator is a handy tool to have on offer. Spawning Bed had long past its best before date. This could be the card zombies needed to become a tier one tribe. Failing that it may at least provide some identity or directional options. Zombies certianly don't lack for lords now!

Curse of Verbosity 0

Nope. If I want this effect I'll play creatures that do it directly or a Bident of Thassa which does a bit more and scales rather better with more than one attacker. I think I would generally run Dictate of Kruphix over this too...

Curse of Vitality 0

To appropriately give this a rating that would be fair relative to Curse of Verbosity I would need to incorporate minus marks. How is this 3 mana? How is 2 life in any way close to a 2/2 zombie or a card. How would this at one mana in any way be over powered? It certainly isn't from the resounding synergy between attacking and gaining life. This is truly one of the weakest magic cards I have seen in a long time. I know it is designed for multiplayer and it will represent much more life there but really, more life isn't what this card needed to be anything other than a huge joke.

Teferi's Protection 5

Classic white tediousness. This is the ultimate in white "I don't want the play the game, leave me alone" cards. This seems pretty good. It counters a lot of things. It counters any removal spell, mass or spot. It counters any discard type effect. It counters any burn regardless of where it is aimed. It fogs an attack. It is also a bit of a rules nightmare as phasing isn't pretty. This cannot be used to retrigger a bunch of comes into play effects for example. On the plus side it does also mean all you EtB tapped lands will be nice and untapped for you to use once they phase back in. Comedy danger of removing all your own permanents from the game to a Sands of Time or other card causing players to skip the untap step too! Mostly this feels like a Charm card containing Fog, an Angel's Grace, a Rubuff the Wicked and a Turn Aside. That is a whole lot of effects but they are all one mana narrow ones. You can pretty much get that from a Dawn Charm and that isn't played that much at all as is far too narrow for most drafting cubes. I think some fragile combo decks may run this, it may also be a good sideboard tool to have. I am not convinced it does enough nor in any way proactively for it to be a mainstay but being such an unusual card I would not be at all surprised if it proved to be pretty potent.

Edgar Markov 0

Aside from being unplayable simply for his cost, this guy loses much of his eminence value in cube. This is like a tribal card at best and even then it isn't exactly stellar at making tokens. This big vampire slith thing also lacks evasion making it a pretty rubbish threat.

New Blood 2

This is a really cool card. It could steal some other cool tribal things and let the vampires go nuts! Who doesn't want a Vampire Goblin Warchief? Obviously this is entirely unplayable outside of a vampires deck and somewhat on the midrange side of things but it is a decent enough black Mind Control when you reliably have vampires to cast it with. I think it is asking for trouble trying to play this outside of a tribal deck but you may have sneaky ways to tutor up Bloodghast or something.

Mathas, Fiend Seeker 0

Not sure this would make the cut as a mono coloured card. A 3/3 menace is just not an exciting play for three. The bounty aspect is very cool but it is also very slow and doesn't help to affect the board. It doesn't even do anything if you bounce or exile the marked creature either. In a slow grindy game this would (eventually) have a huge impact if not dealt with quickly.

Kindred Charge 0

This is another one of those overkill win more cards. I can absolutely envisage situations, particularly in goblins, where this is very worthwhile. Most of the time however this is uncastable or a do nothing. This might have a high ceiling but it doesn't matter at all as it has very low odds on achieving that high end. It also has a very low floor which is very close indeed to its mean mode and median performance...

Patron of the Vein 6

This is very comparable to Noxious Gearhulk. It doesn't have a lifegain aspect nor does it have artifact synergies. On the flip side it doesn't have artifact vulnerabilities, it provides exile removal and continues to do so like Kalitas does. He is also a 5/5 flier that can grow which seems substantially better than a 5/4 menace. It might even grow a couple of your other dorks. Vampires are a surprisingly common tribe in the cube. I think this is better more often than Gearhulk but I think you want the Gearhulk in more decks. I will test this but I expect Gearhulk to win out with its greater playability and that will be a shame.

Inalla, Archmage Ritualist 1

This does some very cool things indeed. There are a lot of wizards in the cube and many have potent EtB effects. While this can do some very strong things it requires it to live and have appropriate follow up for which you will need to spend mana on. For a five mana, three colour 4/5 this isn't a good cube card at all. I suspect someone will be doing tribal wizards at some point and may run this for the chuckles but even when well housed it will just be an OK card that rarely actaully gets into play and stays there at all. In a draft it will be a last pick unplayable so often and wouldn't even be an auto include in Grixis decks with a decent wizard count. I do like how it offers reach to a wizards deck. Typically wizards have value and control but lack substance and reach and Inalla gives you the reach while being fairly substantial for a wizard. She also lets you abuse the control and value aspect of your other wizards thus being a well suited all round kind of lord.

Heirloom Blade 6

This is a funny one. While 3 is a lot to lay this thing it has a very reasonable equip cost, a very significant stats boost and not far off a Skullclamp trigger in the right deck. While you might be thinking only tribal decks can play this I would bet you can play it in most white weenie, RDW or other relatively creature heavy lists and have each creature able to find at least a couple of others. Colours not only have common races they also have fairly common "role" sub types. White is mostly soldier with some clerics, some knights and some warriors. Green is a lot of druids and shaman. Red is a lot of warriors! Each colour has a couple of oddity and singleton type dorks but you can play or build around that pretty easily. So, if your dork dies you are getting a replacement for it when you have this and all your dorks are pretty serious threats. This is pretty hard to blow out with it's mere 1 mana equip cost. You are rarely losing brutal tempo with it from disruption when compared with the other equipment that require four or more total mana to cast and equip. There are a couple of things holding this back. It is a late game value card that mostly wants to be played in more aggressive creature heavy decks. If you mostly look at this as a four drop then it compares really unfavourably with other four drops in terms of immediate impact. I want me red four drops to kill people, I want my white ones to be Armageddon, Elspeth or Sublime Archangel! Heirloom Blade feels too all round good to not see some play and not shine in some places but I fear it might not be frequently played enough to last all that long in the cube.  It is a bit middle of the road, it doesn't pack cheap efficient punch like Bone Splitter, it doesn't give insane amounts of gas super cheap like Skullclamp nor does it have the reach and finishing power of Jitte and Swords. It does some of all those things and it does them pretty well but I am not so sure that you are going to be choosing this over those cards all that often when building or drafting.

Kheru Mind-Eater 6

This is mash up of a Specter card and an Ophidian card. There are now a large number of 3 (and 4) mana dorks that make them lose cards or let you gain them when dealing face damage. Most colours have card gaining options. This is not the best of either the Specters or the Ophidians at doing that thing but it is reasonably competitive with the top end of both groups at their thing yet this kind of does both. A 1/3 body is somewhat standard and evasion goes a long way. Menace is not the best form of evasion but it is easy enough to support and it is enough to make this card reasonably impressive. The kinds of decks that can reliably represent the ability to block this are the kinds of decks you are super happy to have a 3 mana dork hold back 3 potential attackers! So, how good is this when it is hitting face? Pretty good but not nuts I would say. The discard aspect is powerful due to the exile and that it puts a disincentive on ditching cards you can use, most notably lands. The "draw" aspect of this card is a whole lot weaker than the simple Thieving Magpie. Not only does your opponent often have reasonable control over what they give you but you also get stone cold nothing when they are out of cards. Your opponent will try and give you things you can't use or low value things as much as possible. It is only against slower decks where this will really do all that much in terms of getting you extra gas against decks not in your colours beyond the odd land. This being a three drop means that most aggressive decks will have nothing to take after one or two hits. The casting cost is very kind on this card and allows it to be played in a nice wide array of colours that can each find exotic ways to speed up, protect and force through this naughty little card. This certainly looks scarier than it is but that will also work in its favour sometimes. While people may play it a little more than they ought people will also over react to it and make miss plays in dealing with it.

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