Saturday, 6 January 2018

Rivals of Ixalan Preliminary Review Part VI

Forerunner of the Coalition 1

Three mana with some mild upside is passable for a tutor effect. Should there ever be need of tutoring up a pirate this card will at least be considered. Presently there is no such need and so this is not all that much better than a Grey Ogre.

Forerunner of the Legion 2

While this is somewhat similar to the pirate version in power level there are a lot more juicy vampires to consider finding. Due to Nocturnus there is even some top of library matters synergy in vampires! There is also a lot of ways of making instant speed vampires be that via madness or just some token generation which turns this ability into a combat trick of sorts. Despite these many potential perks I don't think this will see much if any play. The floor is still a Grey Ogre, the card is options and utility but it isn't value or tempo which is what you need from three or more mana dorks in most cases.

Forerunner of the Heralds 2

Merfolk also very much have things you want to find. I would generally rule this out for being a four drop if it were not for things like Aether Vial that merfolk gain so much value from. I don't think this is great by any means but it is a nice build option to have. It is also a fairly relevant body in its own right which counts for something and more than usual in fish where evasion givers are plentiful.

Forerunner of the Empire 1

Shocking stats for the mana but a double whammy effect to somewhat offset this. You get to Simoon them and you get to trigger enrage on all your own dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are a long way off any sort of archetype in cube and this isn't what they needed to shine. Mostly they just need a lot more playables lower on the curve, as is the case for most decks revolving around a small mechanic or low population creature type. I doubt this is ever getting played but it needs another set with lots of dinosaurs in it to be in with a chance.

Deeproot Elite 4

This is not an exciting card but it is sufficiently powerful to make the cut in most, if not all, UG fish lists. It is ideal as you want to lay this down early on which suits the many lords in the deck which want to follow up merfolk in play. This isn't limited to growing itself either, you can throw those counters wherever you need them. Got an Aether Vial? A flash fish? Then this dude is a combat trick. This is obviously a weak top deck late game but it is a sufficiently potent early game play that is a fine enough trade off. It is filling a role the archetype needs in a powerful way and weighted unusually for a merfolk which affords a nice balance and range to things. Blue decks are also pretty well equipped to filter away poor late game draws. While green in RIX isn't yet offering another one drop of Kumena's Speaker level to the archetype it is throwing a tonne of good two drops into the mix.

Baffling End 3

To my mind this is clearly a lot better than Silk Wrap. There are just so many tedious and powerful EtB effect, or just unbeatable creatures, that the risk of having the Silk Wrap enchantment removed is a bit too great. Baffling End kills something for good and has the fairly low risk of giving them a mere 3/3 token. That is almost always a win as most things in cube are a lot better than a 3/3. Even if you only remove a 2/2 in the early game and have them deal with your End further down the line it will still be pretty good. A 2/2 early is far more dangerous and tempo than a 3/3 late which will frequently do nothing. Sadly being better than Silk Wrap is not the bar for entry for the cube. You have to be better than Journey to Nowhere and compare well against Declaration in Stone to be a cube thing. This is a sorcery speed Smother that exiles with more potential downside. While most creatures in cube cost 3 or less a lot of the more dangerous ones cost four or more. While I would absolutely play this without the CMC restriction and rate it a little above Declaration it just seems like it is too onerous and unreliable. I shall probably still test this as white is not exactly flush with removal. I really like the fact that this never gives them their guy back, that is a really big deal. It stacks up very nicely with this having no drawback at all unless they kill it which isn't super likely. Unlikely and low risk sound like the perfect kind of drawback to have!

Flood of Recollection 3.5

Pretty dull card but also a cheap and direct Regrowth for blue. I can fully see this being played in storm and other decks of that nature. If this were 1U it would be a whole bunch better as cost reduction effects are common in the places you will mostly find this but it is still fine at doing what you need it to at UU. This has a couple of perks over Snapcaster Mage. One, it doesn't exile the card you want to reuse which could well be key if part of some combo. Two, you don't have to use the card right away meaning you can save on two mana for any potential going off you might want to do next turn. This is a bit of a Merchant Scroll, not even that good, just something I am sure I will end up running plenty to sure up silly combo decks. It doesn't really have much of a place outside of that.

Warkite Marauder 6.5

One of the more potent cards in the set so far. This is a very tidy solution to dealing with problem cards with indestructible or on-death triggers. I look forward to Lava Darting a Wurmcoil Engine thanks to this card. Given that Skyship Plunderer is doing good work in the cube presently I am pretty confident this will also please! I see it mostly as an Izzet card but it is plenty good enough to play in a wider array of places. You don't need a huge amount of upside on a 2/1 flier for 2 to make the cube and this seems like it has enough. It is no Selfless Spirit but it seems to have most of the rest of the 2 drop 2 power fliers beat. This lets you attack pretty aggressively. Not only is it a fine beater in its own right it also effectively offers a free Frenzied Goblin trigger likely allowing other small dorks you might have the chance to sneak where they could not safely do so before.

Cherished Hatchling 0.1

Cute flavour but I am not even sure you want this in a dinosaur deck.... and there was me saying it needed more low end. If this does ever see play it will mostly be for the type and cost and not the ability at least.

Golden Guardian 1

This is a little bit too much effort for the total payoff I think. That being said these flip cards have generally seemed to perform a little better than expected. Treasure Map for example has been fairly impressive in cube but  Gold Guardian does feel like quite a stretch. The Gold-Forge Garrison half of the card is potent but not insane. Tapping for two is good and all but it is not a reason to play this, Kodama's Reach/Worn Powerstone does that better and for half the mana! Even making 4/4s isn't all that, it is pretty much a jacked up Urza's Factory. Phyrexian Processor has not been a big name in cube for well over a decade now! Basically paying four mana to make vanilla 4/4s is decent but it isn't amazing, it is slow and poor tempo and only really offers value or super long term inevitability. Obviously how good the card is depends a lot on how easy it is to get the card transformed and this is one of the hardest. You need six total mana and another creature, ideally either no smaller than a 4/5 or a totally disposable dork. In the latter case you need to be able to chump with the Guardian or sac it off to get the transform. All in all, a huge amount of effort. Mostly this looks like a 4 mana 4/4 defender which is very weak! Had this been lower initial cost it would have been a decent defensive tool for slower decks that could provide some nice payoff later in the game. I am not going to be making walls at the four mana mark, that is very much a thing for lower in the curve.

Protean Raider 0

This is a cheap Clone but cost isn't entirely what makes Clone a limp cube card, that is more to do with inconsistency and the Raider has reduced consistency on Clone with raid and extra colour requirements. I would totally play Dack's Duplicate over this and Phantasmal Image and Metalmorph over that! Too far down the list to get love in my cube. Also, this is crap because Clone is commonly useful for copying the big thing your opponent just made but if they just made a big thing getting raid is likely to come at a cost.

Azor, the Lawbringer 0

Obviously a very powerful card but I don't rate this for cube. It has a minimal impact right away, it is incredibly mana intense in a gross sorcery speed way, and it is a gold six drop! This will be such fun to Bone Shred, perhaps even Take Hostage! Every now and again you will think you are going to get that free Revelation and then bam - pre combat Doom Blade makes for sad Azor. Sure, you counter it and smack for six but you don't bother just drawing a card or two, or perhaps you do because you just used your last counterspell. Either way, they untap and wreck you and your stupid mana intense sorcery speed things with pretty much any action at all. This is a big risk card but it also has fairly low odds of getting the payoff performance which all feels like it is asking for trouble. The Sphinx's Decree EtB trigger is simply not effective enough disruption or protection. I prefer Sphinx of Magosi to this, let alone Consecrated Sphinx...

Polyraptor 0

Wow, an eight mana 5/5... and I though Azor was weak to things like Doom Blade! This wouldn't blow my mind at five mana for cube so at not far off double that we can safely move on.

Rekindling Phoenix 5

This is a very nicely done card. It hits the spot on flavour and power level well and is one of the best Phoenix to date. The other decent four mana Phoenix (Akoum Firebird and Ashcloud) are both very mana intense when it comes to recurring them. They are also a little awkward to use in a general sense. Rekindling Phoenix has nice rounded stats and can attack or block as it sees fit. This card will be a solid midrange tool. Either this needs specific removal (exile or counter magic), or you need to go two for one on killing it and the elemental token, or you will just lose to the immortal 4/3 flier. This is fine against control but a little slow and clunky and should give them enough wiggle room to handle the card. Against aggro is it just a fairly unimpressive dork and in aggro lists it isn't quite enough threat or speed. This only seems good in midrange on midrange but it does seem very good in those places and not unplayable or useless elsewhere. Midrange is increasingly common and strong in unpowered draft and sealed cube. I think red has enough higher powered and more flexible or more focused four drops that this shouldn't get enough play to deserve a cube slot but it is none the less a solid card that deserves testing at least. Five years ago this would have been a big name for red and would have seen plenty of action but this seems to have arrived too late and power creep has just overtaken it.

Dusk Legion Zealot 5.5

Rant time... Wizards clearly hates black. First they insult us with the Young Wolf / Butcher Ghoul crap and now we have to eat this while Elvish Visionary has a good old chuckle. This needed to be printed five plus years ago and it needed to be a 2/1 then... Black dorks, or ones that can block at least, just seems immune to the power creep. The thing that makes me saddest about this all is, much like with Butcher Ghoul, this card is still very playable. I will use this in many different decks I am sure and in those it will do good work. The issue with this card is that every time I see it I will relive the resentment I have for it not being a 2/1 and that will lead to a less good gaming experience.

Fanatic Firebrand 6

It turns out there are a lot of different ways to make a Mogg Fanatic and all of those turn out to be fairly playable. I think this is generally better than Fanatic too. Arsonist was better when you had sac outlets or when getting involved in combat but it wasn't directly better. While this can't be called directly better either I think it does all the same things you want a Fanatic to do while also offering greater scaling and synergy potential with other stuff. I think you will gain a damage on the front end of this card over Mogg Fanatic with it being a Raging Goblin but you will lose a damage on the back end as they kill it while tapped. I think damage loss will happen less than the damage gain and I think the ability to have a cheap hasting attacker will provide a lot of useful triggers for things like raid, battalion, battle cry and even just equipment. This is a fairly low powered card but it is nice and cheap, very on-theme, has huge option density, and decent enough supporting potential that I expect it to get played. More of a curve filler than anything else but a happy one rather than a disappointment. 

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