Friday, 5 January 2018
Rivals of Ixalan Preliminary Review Part V
Admiral's Order 1
Nice design for sure. This is how more of the ascend cards should have been made! This has an acecptable floor and interesting upside. If you expect to be attacking and have things you want to force through then this is a pretty strong card. This makes doing things at the end of peoples turn no longer the automatic best time to do a lot of things. This will have the very interesting effect of making people play their Fact or Fiction before a raid trigger is gained. Sadly this card has the look of a sideboard tool and for the most part I think you will play more focused sideboard cards than this. This has fairly limited application against most non-blue decks beyond being a Cancel, the ability to counter things for one simply wont come up anywhere near often enough for this to be good value on average. While a well designed card it is tripped up by being a little narrow in both where you might play it and what it is good against.
Huatli, Radiant Champion 2
This is too narrow for the drafting cube being both a four mana gold card and a card you need to build around to sufficiently support it. In non draft situations this might well be potent enough to be tempting. In some token themed deck it is not at all unreasonable to expect a reliable and significant injection of loyalty. Getting +4 on the turn four seems very easy and wouldn't even be that impressively high, later on in the game it could really be stupid gains. With a lot of chumps and a lot of loyalty Huatli should be incredibly safe from attacks and will usually need direct removal to deal with her. Huge loyalty gains are however fairly safe and unthreatening with Huatli, she doesn't have a game ending way of putting loads of loyalty to use. Her ultimate is just ongoing gas, I am yet to use the ultimate on Nissa, Vital Force (despite her being a solid and frequently played walker) and so I don't envisage this being all that exciting. The -1 is super unreliable. You need lots of dorks to make it all that interesting but you also need some form of evasion so that it does much of much. Huatli does too little on her own, her options are limited and her threat level is low and inconsistent.
Etali, Primal Storm 1
I like the effect but I don't like how it is packaged. This is powerful but also slow and expensive. It is easy enough to disrupt and has far too great a range. If you can get an Emrakul on the top and swing in with a hasted up Etali then it is great. If you make it and they Doom Blade it then it utterly blows. The latter, and comparable outcomes, will have a significantly higher occurrence rate. Hitting your opponents library is even more random as you have so little control and information on it. In multiplayer formats swinging blind (as in no library information) with this should yield good value, sufficient that you might even chump attack. In heads up however you are going to hit a land and a spell with CMC of 2 to 3 on average. That is pretty poor value and certainly not worth risking your six mana investment. I don't really see this doing anything anywhere in cube but I have still given it a 1/10 because of the high ceiling it has. I expect this to be basically a Craw Wurm in my cube and don't anticipate playing it.
World Shaper 4
Very interesting card for a couple of reasons. I am not sure it quite has the raw stand alone power to make the drafting cube but I suspect there will be plenty of funky archetypes that want it. For one thing it works very nicely with Splendid Reclamation - a very powerful card I have not yet had inspiration as to how it should be used but none the less a card I expect to do some good work one day. Having some redundancy for a powerful effect such as Splendid Reclamation makes a build around much more viable. I am not sure if it is a self mill thing or a ramp affair that uses things like Rain of Filth and Squandered Resources. Perhaps it will give me a chance to use Aggressive Mining more fully or perhaps just a Zuran Orb is all you need. Lots of options, lots of fun and lots of power when in build around contexts. As a stand alone this feels far too much like a Hill Giant. The self mill is good with the ability and with plenty of other cube synergies but it isn't improving on the Hill Giant shell that much. You need to attack to get it and attacking with a four mana 3/3 is not overly easy, it is the sort of thing you get to do once. This will eat too much bounce and exile removal to be that good at making lands in the drafting cube too. You really want sac outlets to ensure you are getting your trigger if relying on this.
Swift Warden 0
I need to stop reviewing cards like this. While this is a fine card it isn't good enough for anything in cube. It is too narrow and far too far up the curve for the power that it has.
Pirate's Pillage 2
Tormenting Voice where you pay two more and in return you get two treasure. This is good for ramping to six or more and it is a very well rounded utility card. This does all the things you want a card to do that is supporting the likes of Goblin Welder. Much as I like this it seems far too fair to get a look in. It is not easy to get away with a four mana do nothing. If you need to use all the treasure right away just to keep up in tempo then you almost certainly should just be playing Tormented Voice instead. This is only a better tool when you can expect to use the treasure later or for special things. Cost reduction effects greatly empower this, with three of them (Thornscape Familiar, Baral and a Helm of Awakening say) then this is an abusive card! A lot more work than it takes with Manamorphose... but still, any card that replaces itself and generates mana is something to keep an eye on. While this looks a bit naff at 4 mana, logic seems to suggest it would be really rather good at three and so perhaps this is a bit deceptive and not quite as bad as it looks at four. This is also a rather nice card to pair with the likes of As Foretold or Brain in a Jar as you can skip the discard aspect of it with it being part of the cost of playing it. I like this a whole lot more than Pirate's Prize if nothing else!
Skymarcher Aspirant 7
Finally! An ascend card with a playable baseline. This is a nice playable Savanah Lions at worst and upgrades to a Mistral Charger/Stormfront Pegasus at no extra cost. This makes Aspirant one of the most relevant one drops when going into the late game. Something like a Student of Warfare is strong because it is an early play that scales up but it needs mana to scale up and it starts out rather worse than the Aspirant. Even at full level Student is often pretty irrelevant as it is easy to reset, kill or chump and a 2/1 flier may well get more done. The worst thing about this card is lacking human creature type. With it Aspirant would be one of the best looking white one drop beaters, without it will make for some sad construction choices. I am pretty sure I am playing this over an Elite Vanguard, or more likely, alongside the Elite Vanguard, on all occasions and so being a vampire is just a shame and not an actual problem. Probably the best card in the set so far. Aggressive white decks are pretty good at getting to 10 permanents in play, they have multiple cards which are cheap and generate multiple permanents. They are spell light and permanent heavy with a selection of good protective effects and also tend to want to curve upto four. I would say that any good undisrupted curve draw for a white aggressive deck could expect to have the city's blessing around turn four on average and can easily do it turn three as well. While this will be a touch annoying in the typically human base of white aggressive decks it will at least be a total lock in for tribal vampire decks in white which RIX seems like it has made a thing outside of just EDH and Ixalan booster draft.
Dead Man's Chest 1
Very different and immensely interesting. Gonti, Lord of Luxury has proved to be one of the best cards black has in cube. It has out performed all expectation and frankly any reasonable sounding ceiling you might have conceived for the card. Most of that is down to how brutal exile stealing your opponents stuff is and Dead Man's Chest does a whole bunch of that! Sadly this card feels like a lot of work. You have to have a good target to put this on and then a way to kill that target as well all with enough time spare to spend those extra mana on pissing around. All told it seems magical cloud land. Also, given you can't use lands you find you really need to put it on a dork with at least four power to reliably get value. Lots of decks don't have many creatures and even more have only small ones. If this was scary enough that people killed and sacrificed their own creatures when you try and enchant them with Dead Man's Chest then it would be pretty interesting. I suspect this will not be what happens. I suspect the reality of this card is that it will clog up your hand and you will wish it was some sort of action. When it does manage to trigger I suspect the results will average to rather less than those from Gonti. I am not ready to fully rule this out with how terrifying Gonti is but all my experience otherwise tells me this card is unplayable garbage. Bequeathal is cheaper, more reliable and probably averages a better trigger result than Dead Man's Chest as well and is not a card that sees any play anywhere really.
Bishop of Binding 0
Yuk. Yuk yuk yuk. When I look at Fairgrounds Warden what I never ever think about it is how I would like it to cost more mana and have less toughness. This is bad design, it takes an already polar card and makes it far more extreme. The blowout potential when using this card is huge on either side of the table. This won't lead to good games, it has no subtlety about it really. You just flop it out on the big thing and then start swinging with your now big thing. If they have an answer they will use it and be ahead, if not they will be behind. Thankfully I think this is just bad enough that you don't play it in cube. Would be a real shame to have to use a cube slot on a card so badly designed. I don't even think this cuts it for tribal perposes, there are some super tasty four mana vampires to keep this horror at bay. This could well be a thing in standard which would also be a bit sad.
Profane Procession // Tomb of the Dusk Rose 4
This is a mightily slow yet incredibly powerful card. This is premium instant speed, unrestricted targetting, exile quality removal. Just on the removal front this is a 3 for 1. Then you get a land, and three more dorks, and any EtB value effects they might have as well. Used to the fullest this card is a seven for one at worst and offers incredibly powerful effects along the way. What is the cost of all this power you ask? Well, it is the classic mana cost and it is vast. Five mana to kill something is very steep. When you have to pay a further three up front it is starting to seem prohibitively expensive. Against midrange and control decks this should be quite a beating but against aggressive decks this is almost certainly a huge liability. I think this is too polar in how it will perform against different types of decks to merit a cube slot. It is incredible against the right things but it is just too slow, gold and situational to get enough play and do enough work. While I don't think this will get picked and played enough to merit a drafting cube slot I think when this card is used appropriately it will seem insanely good. I also think there are multiple different archetypes that could put this to use. The way to think of this is that it is only gaining a tempo advantage when you kill dorks with over 18 total converted mana cost. That is no easy thing to do in just three dorks and will usually mean you are falling behind in some other way. Most pricier dorks come with other effects that ensure they are good even when removed. This is great against Wurmcoil Engine but far less good against Grave Titan etc. You don't need this to be tempo for it to be good, you just need to appreciate it is almost never going to give tempo in order that you build with it correctly and have appropriate expectations of it.
Sphinx's Decree 0
I really don't see this at all. There are substantially better alternatives to this, ones that are cheaper, don't cost a card and have more functionality. This isn't even very good at stopping instants as they can be done fairly effectively at either side of the Decree's blockade. This just stops sorceries for next turn. This might be a bad Memory Lapse against a Wrath effect but then white has a bad Memory Lapse it could play instead! Perhaps this is just a bad Time Walk you can use in the sideboard of aggressive decks against decks entirely comprised of sorceries!
Silent Gravestone 3
Nice solid graveyard hate card. There are now a nice array of these such that you can select the one most appropriate to your needs. This is pricier to convert back in to a card but it is highly functional right away and after you turn it in to a card so it does seem like a fairly rounded graveyard hate tool. This will see some play, almost all of it will be from sideboards and it will have to share that play time with all the many other Relics, Crypts and so on. Even if it sees the most play out of all of them it will still be a pretty tiny amount. Good that we have it though, just because something doesn't see loads of action does not mean it isn't a welcome addition.