Wednesday, 11 April 2018
Dominaria Initial Review Part XIII
Dread Shade 3.5 (but set to go up)
Aww, look at the little Nantuko Shade all grown up! So my first port of call for card analysis is to take the closest thing to said new card, subtract one from the other and see if what is left over sounds like an upgrade on said card. Well, going from Nantuko Shade this looks rather like you pay a whole extra black mana just to get +1/+2 in stats. There are no cards I can think of in cube that get better when you add B to the cost and +1/+2 to the stats. Now given the pretty limp starting position of Nantuko Shade I don't think Dread Shade is off to a good start either. Value wise Dread Shade is absolutely the weaker card however in suitability terms perhaps that isn't so much the case. One of the risky things about Nantuko Shade is that it is very easy to kill it the moment they tap out, it can't do anything in combat without at the very least representing available mana to sink into it. You can indeed fall behind trying to dominate a game with Nantuko Shade. Say I flop a Garruk Wildspeaker and just make an elephant, beast, whatever dork he makes three turns in a row and chump with it. At the end of those 3 turns you are a card up but you had to pay 11 mana to be that way compared to the 4 mana invested in Garruk. Paying 7 mana to get a card up is a terrible return and will lose you a game if your opponent spent their mana at all well in that time. All this is to say that actually the best way to use your Nantuko Shade is often in a trade that you could win.
Dread Shade looks a whole lot more suitable to scale with the ability it has than Shade. It is a lot more relevant in base size and takes a significantly lower mana investment at any given time to put it out of reach of most other dorks. Dread Shade can attack the turn after you make it as at least a 6/6 while Nantuko attacking on turn four with 3 swamps is a mere 5/4 potential. Mana invested in Dread Shade goes a lot further a lot more quickly. Due to its higher base stats it gets relevant quickly and never sits in an overly vulnerable state. In the Garruk Wildspeaker example it is only a total of six mana to have the Dread Shade plow through three 3/3s over as many turns and live to tell the tale. Paying 2 mana more than your opponent to be up a card, and indeed have it in play and have it be a scary threat at that is a great deal. I think Dread Shade is deceptively potent. I think that blocking it will rarely look good, you will need deathtouch and prot black dorks basically to make that happen. Killing it will require hard removal as well, it will be pretty easy to play around burn with Dread Shade. I suspect this will be an auto include in devotion black decks going forwards. It is a powerful card in its own right that not only provides a good amount of devotion but is also a great mana sink. There will be plenty of occassions this guy just has to be blocked because he can one shot people in the high teens on life thanks to Nykthos. Outside of specifically that deck I fear he is presently too narrow for other cube uses. You really want to be mono black for this guy and that is very infrequent in draft. In constructed cube the mono black decks are not top tier and typically are quite themed. Rack decks, Pox decks, zombie decks, vampire decks all don't want Dread Shade at all. Devotion does but unless mono black takes off in draft I think that is the only place we can expect to see the Shade. This gets a mere 3.5 because it is super narrow in the current places that want it. Power wise I think it is impressive and deserving of a much higher rating.
Final Parting 1
This is both Demonic Tutor and Entomb in one card which will set up loads of combos directly from the obvious Reanimate classic to things like Auriok Salvagers with Lion's Eye Diamond and Sword of the Meek plus Thopter Foundry. While this is great setup it is five mana and that is far too slow and far too big of a tempo hit even if for some reason you could be going off the turn after you had five mana to spare! We need a combo where this can win the turn you use it with little to no other setup or mana needs which seems very wishful. Too powerful for me to want to rule out but it presently has no hope in cube and is pretty unlikely to do so going forwards either.
Orcish Vandal 3
This feels like a narrower version of Grim Lavamancer. I reckon Grim would be a better card as a 1R 1/1 that had no mana cost on the Shock. Grim is just a card that works in almost any deck while Orcish Vandal requires build support. Vandal has the better cost arrangements but the non mana aspects are more demanding. Vandal is worthless without artifacts to sac but he isn't good just because you are playing them, they have to be the right kind of artifacts to make him good and in healthy supply. You want Ichor Wellspring, Servo Schematic, Chromatic Star, treasure, perhaps rounding things off with an excess Great Furnace or a spent Tangle Wire. Most cubes won't support this card suitably but there will absolutely be those that do and in those cubes this will be a pretty nice little card. There will also be those builds where this guy shines, he might even be enough to tempo affinity players into a bit more red. Cards have to be seriously good to make an affinity list, even a cube one, with coloured mana needs and not being an artifact themselves. The fact that this could be a contender for cube affinity is testament to it's potency.
Bloodtallow Candle 0
This is a lot of mana, some might say too much, and they would be on the nose with that assessment. There was a time when colourless removal and easily tutored low CMC artifacts were enough of a draw that you would overlook some over costing. This would need to have half the activation cost to even be a consideration for cube. When you need a card to be 3 mana cheaper... you probably didn't need to write a paragraph explaining why it is bad.
Skittering Surveyor 1.5
This probably has more to offer than Civic Wayfinder with the artifact tag being fairly relevant, especially in support cards. Colourless fixing is nice too. While I have not yet used Pilgrim's Eye in cube I well might one day and this, although probably worse, can be better and may well also just be desirable for some nice redundancy in your support tools.
Untamed Kavu 0
Well this is a lovely depiction of power creep on the classic Bear chassis. This is Kavu Titan updated to account for power creep! Much as this is clearly a powerful and versatile card it is not what I am after in the cube. A 2/2 is pretty tame and doesn't offer a great return on the key words. The trample is only really going to be relevant on the Bear when you slap on equipment or soulbond it with a Silverheart etc. The vigilance offers a little bit of bonus control and options on the unbuffed body but very minor. As a stand alone two drop this is not at all what you want in cube. It might be better than not playing anything and it might get good with the right support but that applies to most cards. As a two drop threat this has nothing on Sylvan Advocate, Strangleroot Geist, Tarmogoyf, Kavu Predator and so on and so forth. Once kicked this is a 5/5 vigilance trample which does a lot of work, both key words increase in value a lot with that size increase. the trample especially. Sadly, while five isn't an unreasonable deal on a 5/5 vigilance trample it isn't close to cube standard, Vorapede is a card and it doesn't get a look in! While both modes on Untamed Kavu can be described as above the curve in power neither mode is really something you want. The option on two (fairly similar) things you don't really want isn't a great option. Instead of a card like this you should be playing cheap threats, powerful top end threats or cheap support cards. This is a great limited card, it could even feature in standard but it isn't a cube card. Not outside of a tribal Kavu deck?!
The Mending of Dominaria 3
I love this card, both flavour and effect. Sadly I don't see this as being playable outside of build around decks. This card does loads and loads but it is a value card or setup card, any tempo this gives is so far down the line you might as well ignore it. For general cube use this is a five mana card with zero tempo boost. Green can get away with five mana do nothings but why would it when it has so many lovely planeswalkers and do something cards it can run. I can perhaps see this in some kind of Splendid Reclamation deck but sadly, despite getting redundancy for it, I have not as yet worked out what the deck wants to be doing and how to do it! I need a Siesmic Assualt for lands in play! Perhaps you can just run this in the place of Bow of Nylea. Ultimately you are only playing either for the go long potential reshuffle aspect and while this isn't as much utility it is way more power and value. Compared to most other sagas which do 2 or 3 things this feels like it does twice that, mill yourself for four, useful in many ways and indeed with The Mending of Dominaria itself! Regrow two creatures, a nice two for one and incredible late game gas. Put all your lands from the bin into play, literally a four mana spell, and you get them untapped for extra immediate abuse. Lastly it puts all your remaining gas back into your deck leaving you with loads of draws worth of safety before getting decked and a nicely increased quality of draw. I am talking myself into this card but even if it could be cube worthy, now is not the time in my cube. Super grindy games happen but very few decks set out to be that way. It is such a difficult game plan to execute with such diverse and potent threats in cube. Those decks that do look to go as long as can be gone are not so frequently green these days. I don't know what the reasoning is for that evolution is, quite possibly just a local meta anomaly with it being out of favour and nothing to do with viability. If green based control makes a return and has a reasonable creature count then this actually does have a main cube shot. I am certainly going to be building with and around this in a few different ways.