Monday, 8 January 2018

Rivals of Ixalan Preliminary Review (Final) Part IX

Stormfleet Swashbucker 1

Scourge Wolf seems like a far better version of this. It is better to begin with and seems quicker and easier to turn on. By the time you reach ascension a 2/2, doublestriking or otherwise, is going to be super low impact unless you also happen to have some equipment to put on it. Not close to enough payoff for a card that is mostly a Grizzly Bear. Perhaps in a tribal deck?...

Pride of Conqueror's 1

Cheap and one of the more likely aggressive cards to have the city's blessing for. The problem is mana shouldn't be the issue when using this kind of card, it should be later in the game. Consistency is more important and so a card like Guardian's Pledge has more value. This isn't a bad card it is just a little too awkward for the kind of effect it has. The balance of cost, effect and consistency are not ideal.

Curious Obsession 4

This seems pretty acceptable all round. The low cost to play this combined with the immediate stats boost means this should be able to avoid immediate blowout removal and get to swing in forcing a chump or a draw. All in all this should get immediate value a lot of the time if played in an appropriate deck. What makes this good is that it is then an ongoing threat they must deal with else they are pretty done. Three cards or chump blocks from this should be most games sealed up and two would be a big win. If blue had more playable cheap dorks and less Illusions that die when you target them among those cards then this might have a shot at the drafting cube. I think in the right deck this is a good amount of tempo and value and commands some respect.

Everdawn Champion 0

This is a bit small and pointless to do much of much. It is no True-Name Nemesis that is for sure! I think Beloved Chaplain probably does more.

Expel from Orazca 3

This is a decent card that sits alongside Into the Roil and other such 1U non-land Boomerang (Disperse) effects. You get the baseline acceptable bounce effect and then some value. This set is full of these safe baseline cards with mechanical or flavour bolt on effects. We have the ascend Infest, the raid Cancel and now we have the ascend Disperse. Expel turns into a Temporal Spring when you have the blessing which is a pretty big deal. It is substantially more powerful than Disperse, I would argue also that it is better than a kicked Into the Roil (cost aside) but that is more up for debate. The kinds of decks that want cards like this typically don't get to 10 permanents very quickly and while the upside is nice it is not the game breaking kind of upside found on Cyclonic Rift and that is the sort of thing you want as an effect that only comes on line later in the day. A bit of extra value and disruption are not really worth the wait. Most of why these kinds of cards are good is because you can use them in a wide array of situations from very early one. That flexibility and tempo is worth the card loss. As such you end up using these cards early more than you use them late. This means that with Expel, you would see a fairly small bonus a fairly small amount of the time and so the card really doesn't average out as that much better than Disperse. Something like a Cyclonic Rift has such a game changing effect that even if it is not commonly used it still has a big impact on the value of the card. Anyway, this is a fine spell but there are not many situations where this is the choice Disperse and it clearly isn't more valuable than the Rift on average. The kind of place I might play this would be something like a Lanterns deck in modern, pretty good there!

Knight of the Stampede 0

Nope. Poor stats, no immediate bonuses or impact. You can do worlds better than this for a four drop ramp card, you can do plenty better at three, and in neither case would you have to limit yourself to ramping into dinos. This just comes far too late and at far too much cost for what it is trying to do. Support cards want to look like Kinjali's Caller and Otepec Huntmaster, not this.

Oathsworn Vampire 4.5

This is a great tribal and themed deck support card. Vampires have sacrifice and discard synergies on the go and this works with both of them. Lifegain is fairly common in vampires and so this should be a pretty easy trigger to get. It is just an overpriced Diregraf Ghoul but any dork that comes back from the bin cheaply and can block is decent. If you are initially discarding this and then exclusively recurring it then it is broadly rather better than Dread Wanderer. Lifegain probably isn't common enough in my drafting cube to support this as much as it would need. It could be done but I don't think this is quite enough payoff to be worth doing that. This is a great card in a few places and that is happy enough.

Reckless Rage 2

To get an instant speed Flame Slash you need to Shock one of your own dorks. That is painful and unreliable and not something you would consider doing unless you had enrage triggers to milk. At that point this card is looking like rather good value. Super narrow but certainly immensely potent when you are able to turn drawback into upside. This is also cute with Threaten effects. The more I think about it the more support applications this seems to have. In some ways it is a red Cabal Therapy kind of thing that lets you fire off your Academy Rector etc.

Relentless Raptor 1

This is solid enough. In the decks you would typically want to play this the drawback isn't going to be a huge one. It is very well designed in that the vigilance can also be a drawback on this card. I would love to have seen this as a mono coloured card costed at 1R or 1W as then it would have been cube worthy. As it is you might find this in a dino deck but that is it. No way this is getting in the cube before Veteran Motorist.

Riverwise Augur 4

Brainstorm on 2/2 legs for four. This is neither great tempo nor great value. This is only a two for one if you consider a 2/2 (in the midgame) to be worth a card. This is only tempo if you consider doing anything to affect the board as tempo. I think doing nothing isn't the baseline you want to work with for evaluating tempo but what you consider the average thing to be done on that turn. Certainly the average turn four in cube is far more tempo than a 2/2 and so I would call this card a mild tempo concession. Where this does start to look really good is as a way to put three new cards in your hand without breaking the bank on mana or crippling yourself on tempo. It is a Sea Gate Oracle that digs a little deeper, has a bit more significance in combat and that can help setup certain library synergies. There are lots of occasions where you make a Jace knowing all he is doing is the one Brainstorm and then eating an attack. Riverwise Augur does that bit of Jace better than Jace does! I think this will see a bit of merfolk play trying to enjoy the combination with Aether Vial. I think this will see some play in decks doing things with the top of their deck like miracles and Erratic Explosion. Beyond that I am not sure that this has a huge role to play in cube. Four mana is just so much to pay for a card with zero threat and no ongoing value potential. I will certainly test this out, never underestimate a draw three card. I have done so too often to my peril! This will probably have more chance in modern where Brainstorm is a much more reliably potent effect (with everyone eligible to play upto 40 sac lands!) and library manipulation from hand is minimal.

See Red 1

Hmm, normally creature enchants are terrible as they let your opponent two for one you easily. In red however getting in two damage is typically worth a card. You want more but it is a passable baseline. I can see this flopping down on a one drop turning it into a 4 powered first strike dork. This not only ensures 2 damage from the See Red but also milks a further 2 damage out of the one drop. Much like the blue enchantment, this pays for itself, all be in it a different kind of currency, on one hit. Given that it is cheap and potent enough to make that one hit happen pretty reliably assuming you have a decent creature count the card feels like it is good. It offers ongoing value and pressure and good tempo. It reliably pays for itself and breaths new life into otherwise useless cards. Despite this praise it is likely still too low powered and narrow for the drafting cube but these cheap creature auras do seem the place with most of the power creep at present. We are due a new updated Rancor level of card soon! I think I will test this out a bit just to see how it feels. Madcap Skills is probably just better than this so I don't know why I am more drawn to this. I never considered testing out the Skills when it was spoiled. Perhaps it is just an indication of how tempo driven things have turned in my cube over the past couple of years.

Slippery Scoundrel 0

This would be worse than Invisible Stalker if it didn't need the blessing. Given it is the kind of card you would use in a deck that didn't get the blessing all that quickly the card is a no hoper.

Jungleborn Pioneer 4

This is probably just what a fish deck wants. On its own this is very low powered however it takes very little synergy to make this pretty great. Hexproof scales with strength and so on a 1/1 it is near worthless but make that a 2/2 unblockable and it is rather more significant. A simple lord turns this three drop into a rather tasty looking 5/5 of stats. Fish decks want merfolk tokens for loads of reasons but have had few good options to do so until now. This is direct, uncomplicated, immediate and exactly what most fish deck need.

Jade Bearer 2

Sadly this is not another premium one drop for the fishes. This is no use turn one and that is when the one drops are needed. You might play this just for a cheap merfolk in a very aggressive list but it isn't solving one of the issues the deck has. I don't think it has the power level to really compete with the two drops and that is what this card needs to do. The best thing this does is of course, with Aether Vial. This is a really good thing to pop out on turn two when you have a Vial on one and you just cast a two drop fish. If you kill an attacker or counter a removal spell with it you probably just won.

Cacophodon 1

This has combo potential written on it but it also smacks of a convoluted and bad combo. I doubt this ever sees cube play, it certainly isn't good enough as a stand alone card.

Tilonalli's Crown 0.5

This has some lovely versatility in that it can ping things down or buff up your own guys. In the dream it can buff your dude and get an enrage trigger! All nice in theory but all a bit too best case scenario for what is really a quite low powered card.

Shake the Foundations 2.5

The damage output to cost is not great but the card draw side of things feels like it really makes up for that a lot! Instant is lovely too on a card like this. This is too clunky to run main in anything and doesn't seem like a drafting cube card at all but it is a fine enough sideboard tool to have and makes red that bit more dynamic without giving up any colour pie identity.

Reaver Ambush 1

A non devoid Complete Disregard. It never took off and it wasn't for lack of being black so this shouldn't either. Three is just too much to pay for a card that is generally killing things that cost three or less. It is too narrow given how hard it is to gain tempo from it. Instant and exile are nice to have so for specific purposes this might be the card of choice, like in the sideboard of something constructed.

Grasping Scoundrel 3

This is terrible compared to what I would consider a good one drop beater these days but it is still plenty good enough to be playable and still one of blacks better one drop beaters. If this were a vampire or a zombie this thing would be getting some action, as a human he is probably just missing out but still, depressing that a card this limp is still a consideration.

Mist-Cloaked Herald 3

Shockingly Triton Shorestalker is one of the better one drop merfolk on offer and has always impressed me when I use it. I expect exactly the same from this card!

Snubhorn Sentry 0.5

Cool card. A wall early and then some action in the mid to late game. This isn't offensive enough to play in an aggressive deck and it isn't potent enough to go in control or midrange. Perhaps this goes in a dino deck? Seems unlikely but I do still like this card.

Martyr of Dusk 5

This is a nice little support card. It is very mild wrath protection, it is good with token sacrifice archetypes, it is better with Honor the Pure than Loyal Cathar is! It is good with Skullclamp, it is probably just good enough to play in tribal decks. This is a super fair card but it certainly has several homes. It is fringe playable in the cube, great filler and great for fine tuning archetypes and balance but not a high powered card by any means. I suspect this will be fine, I suspect it will see some play but mostly it will not be in the drafting cube. This is a Carrier Thrall in white, probably a less good one and certainly in a colour that needed it less. Thrall sees minimal play and is approaching the cutting block. RIX seems to have printed loads and loads of cards exactly at the point at which they have stopped being cube worthy... Cards that would have been solid auto includes five years ago and best in slot a decade ago. It almost feels like the game is getting too mapped out and balanced which in turn is making it duller. I want as many of the cards in a set to be playable as possible and that has been improving well over time. Sadly it seems like it is at the cost of the bombs and we are seeing less and less interesting cards that change the dynamic of the game.

Blazing Hope 1

Curious little card. This seems pretty bad for cube all told. It really shouldn't have any targets until you are at quite a dangerous life total. This is basically useless against an aggressive red deck as by the time it kills anything you are one burn spell off dead. This is another card that would have been great against Marit Lage, perhaps there are some unbannings in the pipelines? It is decent enough against Death's Shadow too but I think Condemn probably already has that role locked up in modern for white. In a deck like Necropotence or Death's Shadow this could be used more effectively as removal with so much control over life totals but they are not typically white archetypes. I see this as a super narrow sideboard card and probably nothing more. It is narrow and generally unplayable like Dispatch but it doesn't have the obvious homes in which to shine like the Dispatch.

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