Saturday, 17 April 2021

Strixhaven Preliminary Review: Commander Quandrix


Oversimplify 5

This is surprisingly interesting. It is a Wrath in colours without that ability. Exile quality too. Five mana and gold is a tall order but I think green is fine with that. This card could legitimately put Simic control into the pole position as far as control decks go. The only thing they really lack is cheap, effective mass removal and this is it. They have great potential thanks to land ramp and are one of the best places to abuse Thassa's Oracle. Oversimplify is a bad Wrath by all accounts but it is still interesting due to how much it is needed. And to a lesser extent how much green can handle a Wrath a mana above the going rate. Both colours are pretty well placed to answer a big token threat be it with chumps or bounce. This is not a good Wrath for early use where you do nothing much for the first part of the game and then just take out three or so dorks in one hit. If you do that you probably just took too much damage. It is more the kind of Wrath that you use in the mid game to answer a number of their relevant threats while only culling a few chumpy value dorks of your own. Green has always been fine at surviving early creature aggression and so doesn't need that rapid Wrath. Even if this is a card that solidifies a new archetype it is still a pretty narrow gold card of dubious power levels. You can easily be forced into using it and giving them like an 8/8 or something that they just kill you with, that would be embarrassing. 

Sequence Engine 1

This is just a bit too mana intense for what it does. It is also demanding on there being things to exile which could consume valuable assets or just be dead. I like that it can be disruption but I don't like how unreliable it is for such a weak tempo card. 

Ruxa, Patient Professor 1

A lord for the worst kind of dorks. Pretty sure this buffs no dorks in most cubes other thank tokens. It works with cards so dull that I have no interest in even building around this... Clever to make it a bear at least as there are so few of those that you probably have to play literal Grzzly Bears in them to go tribal and once you do that Ruxa starts to look like it does something. 

Paradox Zone 6

At EoT get a 2/2, then in your next EoT a 4/4, then an 8/8 and so on. The game should be over one way or another by that stage. This is a whole lot slower than the likes of Biogenic Ooze or Whisperwood Elemental but it is much harder to remove and gets out of hand a whole lot faster. Paradox Zone gives you some board presence right away too unlike a lot of the ongoing token producing enchantments. This lets you defend yourself or walkers to some extent. Zone seems comparable in power to many of the green five drop threats from walkers to dorks. Ultimately the cube chances of cards like that will be determined by how they sit in each cubes specific meta or by how much people playing and curating that cube like it. I think it is a little dull and devoid of options and would be much more inclined to run alternatives. I might also just be undervaluing the power here and despite being dull it may deserve a slot. 

Guardian Augmenter 0

No use in formats without a commander but absolutely an EDH staple. I suspect this will be one of those Dockside Extortionist or Fierce Guardianship cards that each commander product has. Quickly a 20 of your local currency card minimum.


Fractal Harness 0

Wildly overpriced, not exciting or even very threatening. A four mana 1/1 that attacks itself into a 2/2 and then if it is somehow still alive attacks itself into a 4/4. A five mana 2/2? How about a six mana 3/3? It doesn't improve much as you go up values of X. It is also pretty reliant on a token or at least having a lot of counters in your list. This is just a very bad cube card in multiple ways. It is bad all the way to the point that it is total overkill. 

Theoretical Duplication 0

Just play Exclude? Or Remove Soul? Or really anything else. This is bad as value or tempo and also bad as disruption. No matter what you are trying to achieve with this card other things do that job better. 

Spawning Kraken 1

A big over priced for a build around but I do quite like the idea of using cheap changeling cards to churn out 9/9 tokens with this! Perhaps one day when there are more in the way of payoffs for these big blue types. 

Replication Technique 1

Interesting but expensive and narrow. I suspect you are mostly using cheaper cards than this if you are in the market to Clone stuff. You are not running this without strong synergies and as such, probably not at all as you just want the cheapest ways to do things when you are doing that. 

Perplexing Test 1

Nice but too awkward. This is mostly just worse than Evacuation as when you want a mass bounce it is because you are behind on board. In that situation you don't want to leave your opponent with stuff and this will usually force you to do so. It is far too hard to draft in a way to abuse this such that you clear their stuff and leave yourself with a board of dorks. Evacuation also doesn't get love in cubes so being less useful than it is an awkward place to be. Big cards like that want to do more than stall. It has no threat or value and so isn't wanted. I can imagine running Test in a deck that was all about the tokens but then I can't really see that deck being blue or wanting to splash for this.

Deekah, Fractal Theorist 1

Really naughty when protected by Force of Will. Make this, make a 5/5 while wasting their turn/answer. Force of Will, untap, do anything, win. Much as this has good top end performance it is also a 5 mana 3/3 that needs supporting. Fail to trigger this and you are very behind. You just can't afford to take those risks in cube and so I can't see this getting play other than for a chuckle. 

Curiosity Crafter 3

My cube is so token rich that this is nearly there. Phantom Monster isn't a terrible floor and it is not at all unreasonable to hit it with a Thopter or a Spirit or whatever. This is a solid card but cube is pretty extreme now and solid doesn't always cut it. You are looking more at floor and threat level for your cards that are 'mana value' four or more. This is primarily value. It is also that little bit too conditional which is the real killer. Certainly the kind of card I would look at in a constructed token deck at least. 

Esix, Fractal Bloom 1

Very much an EDH card not a cube one. Sure, this does cool things but it is slow, overkill, and all a bit too much work. Just play threats that are always threats. 

Friday, 16 April 2021

Strixhaven Preliminary Review: Commander Prismari


Elementalist's Palette 1

Fun card only. You can't run enough X spells outside of EDH to make this worth it. I will however certainly try to at some point because of the fun!

Reinterpret 2

Four mana gold hard counter is a bad start but the ability certainly raises an eyebrow. This ignores timing restrictions and lets you cheat on suspend cards like Ancestral Vision. All very cool but all a little bit situational. Where you can build around this to somewhat abuse it is going to be better than Rewind. In a drafting cube it probably doesn't even clear than bar, and Rewind has never really seen much play or done much work in cubes either leaving this little hope.

Surge to Victory 1

Holy hell this is overkill! Imagine just copying Fiery Confluence. Give everything +4 power and the ability to deal 6 further damage if they connect. That is just a middling card that gets a lot of play. Imagine actually getting a big serious card with this! You could get a lot done. Even so, this is far too much setup. You need a big thing in the bin, you need dorks, you need to play this etc. Not worth it even if it is potentially one of the most insanely powerful cards when it all lines up.

Rousing Refrain 1

A really cool take on both a ritual and on one of those keeps coming back cards. Sadly this is ruined by relying on opponents hand size making it really unappealing to use. Ritual decks also typically have one big turn so the odds on the return of the ritual being relevant are pretty low. A very poor Lotus Bloom

Rionya, Firedancer 1

While Rionya might trigger nearly immediately like a Rabblemaster and as such usually feels like an EtB effect she is still far too much setup to really excite. Just give me a haste dragon instead of this please. 

Radient Performer 1

Combo card perhaps. Fun and chaotic but pricy, situational, and all a bit silly for any sort of general use.

Inferno Project 0

Very big potentially. It even has trample. Sadly it needs setup, costs 7 and doesn't have haste. 

Fiery Encore 1

A looting storm removal spell. This can sort of be mass removal but that is pretty tough, you need high storm and plenty of high CMC cards to pitch. I might consider playing this in some narrow places but I doubt I ever actually end up doing so. 

Creative Technique 2

There are a few ways you can set this up fairy easily essentially thinning your deck of stuff and leaving only Eldrazi or other game winning cards. The demonstrate works super nicely on this card wildly increasing your odds on a win on resolution or reducing your needed setup time. Probably a bit too much work when you could just be playing Through the Breach etc instead. This is still quite fun. Everyone loves to cascade!

Octavia, Living Thesis 3

You can't play this sensibly without a lot of support. When you have enough support you probably then lack other dorks to make into 8/8s. It is still quite potent on its own but not worth all the effort of the self mill. Perhaps you can manage enough Pteramanders and Cryptic Serpents alongside Thoughtscour, Gitaxian Probe, and Chart a Course style suppot all held together with Callous Dismissal glue! Certainly an essentially hexproof 8/8 for UU is good. It is about how quickly and reliably you can actually play it. I image t4 is consistently viable but how good is your deck then? What happens when you mill your threats? I feel like self mill just has better payoffs in delve and escape and of course Thassa's Oracle. 

Muse Vortex 2

This is a bit like a blue Genesis Wave. Ideally you run this with Time Warp effects and get X in the 5-7 range such that you have a good shot of hitting and casting one. Beyond that I can't see this being playable. You need to hit really high values of X before this is close to consistent or worth the mana and being a sorcery makes that pretty rough. I like the card but it is much more on the fun side of things than the good. 

Inspiring Refrain 1

Shame this is so pricy to cast in any of the modes. You just struggle to justify taking the time to get this going. Sure, if you do it is ok in the slower matchups but might even becomes a danger late and just isn't that exciting or powerful. I think I am just always playing Ancestral Visions over this and I avoid playing that as it is. To interest me I think it needs to target a player, cost 1U to suspend and 3U to play conventionally. 

Dazzling Sphinx 0

Expensive dork that needs to connect to do it's thing and has no EtB effect, no haste, and no protection to help with that. Not something we want in cubes. Far too easy to punt a game running cards like this. Sure, it is powerful but just not worth those downsides. 

Veyran, Voice of Duality 1

A Grey Ogre that gets two +1/+1 counters on magecraft trigger and also doubles up other magecraft like triggers you might have. The latter ability is doing little most of the time but certainly not nothing. A bonus token for a Pyromancer? An extra pump on a Swiftspear? Yes please. The first growing ability however is scary considering it is always copied. This grows big and quickly. Sprite Dragon may not get as big as quickly but it triggers from more cards, acts immediately, costs less, and has evasion. It is substantially more suitable and effective in that kind of role. I might have some fun building around Veyran but he isn't really worth it on his own, just play cheaper and better cards. Sure, he is great when you have all the payoffs but that is what the more constructed leaning formats are for. This is only good enough at a point past where it has become too narrow in a draft setting. 

Thursday, 15 April 2021

Strixhaven Preliminary Review: Commander Lorehold

I have already done the five front facing commander cards in Part II of the normal reviews. Suffice it to say none are making waves in 40 card deck 1v1 singleton formats. 

Triplicate Titan 3.5

Great for Welding in and out of play or with cards like Sneak Attack. Versatile little combo support card that has a lot of homes within the realm of combo and is suitably playable as such. Not something you want to play without abuses. Nine is a whole load of mana and this isn't even that good for the cost. I can think of  several 7 drops I would much rather have in play that offer more threat or protection or value or all three.

Wake the Past 1

Powerful win on the spot type of card but given it needs both setup and then getting to 7 mana in two colours it seems pretty unlikely to see that much action. 

Angel of Ruins 1

Nicely designed card that can put itself in the bin for you to cheat back out. While quite potent this card is a pretty long way from something you can just play without abuses. It just costs too much mana for what it does. Plains cycling helps a lot with overpriced cards but not enough. It is likely a little too fair to run as a card you abuse too leaving it with little chance of getting action in cubes. 

Ruin Grinder 2

Much the same deal as the Angel. A nice self supporting fat artifact to get up to shenanigans with. A more powerful and proactive effect as well as being cheaper all make this rather more playable than the white offering however. I can see this in combo cubes doing some work in an array of places.

Digsite Engineer 2

Potent but too much messing about needed. Often will just expose you to getting blown out. For the kinds of deck that could abuse this three mana is the top of the curve and this is more mana than that if you want it to be good. 

Bronze Guardian 0

Also powerful but this time we fail for different reasons. You need synergy to empower a card like this and when you are building with synergy you just want cheaper stuff. For the cost this isn't threatening nor immediate acting enough. 

Audacious Reshapers 2

It is Madcap Experiments on legs. Same sort of speed in a goldfish but far far weaker in practice due to being on legs and giving reaction and disruption time. This is likely something I would only play as a bit of redundancy in an Experiments deck. 

Archeomancer's Map 1

This is just getting two plains. The putting lands in bit is not overly useful. This is rather garbage as such. The only hope it has is with flicker effects to repeatedly get lands. All a bit slow for cube. 

Battlemage's Bracer 

Cool card but you need to have spent six mana and also have a dork with an ability worth copying before this does much of anything and as such it is no use as a 1v1 card. There is almost certainly a combo with this but it is clearly a bad one. 

Monologue Tax 0

This doesn't come close to providing the disruption or payoff needed for this kind of card. I wouldn't be impressed if this effect was on a 2/2 first strike body for 1W, it would be playable then but still way more of a beater than disruption. Giving options out like this just stops it doing what you presumably want it to do. 

Cursed Mirror 1

What a cool design. Sadly far too situational. You want to flop out those ramp cards on cue and that makes the EtB trigger pretty poo on this resulting in a pretty poo mana rock. 

Excavation Technique 1

Fascinating card. Destroy something for four mana and give away two treasure is shockingly bad. Killing two things and giving away 4 treasure is less bad but still not insane. If you get to cash in something useless for two treasure yourself or blank their trigger then the card might be OK but that seems really hard to do. Removal doesn't like having hoops to jump through and if your not doing that the floor on this is far too low. Interesting still but hard to build with well.

Laelia, the Blade Reforged 7

Easily the best card from the Lorehold deck for cube. This is a 3/3 haste for three which grows and offers card advantage. It is the value Rabblemaster! The body is an OK floor and as soon as you get it to a 4/4 or play one card from the ability it great. Two cards gained from this is likely game over. Cards like Lava Dart or Phoenix of Ash juice this up nicely too. It isn't a bomb but it is a nice solid card that is fairly low risk and high reward. As far as three drop beaters go it is a card you are happier than most if holding till later. The odds on you getting value from this right away increase a lot as you delay. 

Losheel, Clockwork Scholar 3.5

Very potent card in a Tempered Steel deck, perhaps an affinity deck. Quite useless in all other place. This is both value and a threat of sorts. Likely a must answer kind of card you can easily get a two for one with immediately. It might only have one effective home but it is very good in that archetype and it is a pretty strong archetype in formats/metas that support it. This is super narrow but it is a good card for a good deck.

Alibou, Ancient Witness 1

This is a lot closer to the mark than Bronze Guardian. It does a lot more right away and threatens rather more as the game goes on. Despite all that this dork feels quite a long way from playable still. If I am playing a Boros artifact beats deck the top of my curve is likely Tempered Steel and Losheel and not this. As far as 1v1 goes this card looks like a midrange tool and we are a long way off an artifact midrange list.  

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Strixhaven Preliminary Review: Learn Cards

Now that we have looked at all the lessons we can properly evaluate the cards with the learn mechanic. This evaluation is given based on being able to get any lesson whenever these cards trigger with no need to pick or include the lessons at all. The whole group of lesson and learn cards are basically unplayable without this proviso in cube. In a rotisserie style of event with lots of sideboard slots available you might consider a learn card and a couple of lessons but even then I doubt it. The power is just not up to that of most rotisserie decks. 

Guiding Voice 0

Not doing enough for you. This has neither value or power or even utility. The learn doesn't make up for that. Not by a long way. 

Professor of Symbology 8

Likely the best of the learn cards in a similar sort of way to Thraben Inspector being the best investigate card. It is a cheap body that works with flicker effects or buffs while also being just about relevant by itself. It can be a card neutral chump for slower decks or a free beater with some utility for aggro decks. Calling this the white Watcher for Tomorrow is a bit generous but it isn't too far off the mark. 

Sparring Regimen 3

This is powerful but I fear let down by being narrow. You need a deck which attacks every turn to make this good. That limits this to very few archetypes. In those do you want this over an Anthem? An equipment? A proper value or removal card? Feels like the answer to all of these is no. Not enough punch for the places you want it and too few of those as well. The costlier the card gets the less value the learn is as a proportion of the card. As such the costlier the card the more you have to want the effect and I can't see that being the case for this one. 

Study Break 2

The Expose Evil of learn cards! Not powerful enough nor widely useful enough. Give me the tapper that cycles over this thanks. With that or Expose Evil seeing no play this has little chance. 

Arcane Subtraction 2

Much the same as Study Break. Too situational and too low impact. 

Divide by Zero 5

This is pretty close to the mark but I think I prefer Repeal and Repulse. By and large it is dorks you are bouncing and so card draw wildly outdoes learning. Into the Roil might win out too as it has a two mana mode for those tempo plays. I like Divide a lot but three is a fairly big price to pay for bounce and the lessons you can get as a blue player don't get me very excited for generic over cost bounce leading into them. 

Dream Strix 6.5

This is comparable to Cloudkin Seer. This has a bigger body for the cost but is learn rather than draw and only triggers on the death of the card. This is quite meaty and offers a decent amount of board control. It is one of the more proactive and tempo positive learn cards which is a plus but then blue has some of the less exciting options on things to find. As far as I can tell this card is pretty on the line and is somewhat of a filler dork you pad out a list with. 

Pop Quiz 4

A kind of instant Divination. I like the blend of finding a card for the situation and also digging into the deck to hit lands and good stuff. Sadly this is just very low tempo and pretty low powered. I can't imagine instant Divination would get all much action in my cube these days. I would much rather try and get my value in tempo positive ways or in bigger chunks later down the line.

Eyetwitch 7

This is pretty comparable to Dream Strix. Just a flying dork that dies into learning. Sure, this is a lot less relevant but it also only costs one. I have marked a few of the learn cards as undesirable as they lacked power. While you could argue this of Eyetwitch a body is actually pretty good regardless of stature. Black likes to have things to sac, things to do with early mana, and things to discard. This is a bit Thraben Inspector and a bit Stitcher's Supplier. Just a filler one drop you can usefully ram into plenty of places. 

Hunt for Specimens 6

This is basically Eyetwitch but with the learn upfront. Flying is better than the life and an actual body is probably better than a token producing spell in black. Black also has plenty of good two drops it can play. As such I expect this not to last despite being pretty close in many ways to a few cards that I expect to be the best of the learn spells.

Poet's Quill 3

The lifelink is appealing with black having some good ways to spend life. Still, this is mostly just a jumped up Leonin Scimitar with twice the costs and learn. Learning doesn't make up for a bad card and so this shouldn't be something people want to play. 

Academic Dispute 3

Very cheap for a card that replaces itself but still not doing enough. Overly situational and not wildly effective. 

Enthusiastic Study 2

A bit more useful than some of these learn cards but combat tricks want to be cheap. This is a clunky and poor combat trick as such and learn isn't offsetting the extra cost. I am not sure I would even run this if it was just draw a card instead!

First Day of Class 2

I mused this could be a Burning Wish style card. I was wrong. It can't. Lessons simply lack the range and power. As such this just falls into the camp of being bad compared to cheaper cards that do the same or better without learn. The effect can be used with persist dorks for infinite combos but this is more exciting for pauper than anything else. 

Retriever Phoenix 5

Not enough cards with learn are going to be in the cube to trigger this recursion. As such this is just a 2/2 flying haste with learn. Not awful but far too low threat to really make the cut at that price range. Red does seem like it can benefit a little more from learning than some other colours and so I will give this a little test. It is proactive, utility, and value and so ticks a lot of cube boxes. I just feel that there are three mana versions of this type of card that offer more value as they will be more able to return themselves, and a 2/2 flying haste for 3 is better than the things you can learn! Just about worth a test but ultimately this is a capped value card at a mana cost where you are after raw power. 

Igneous Inspiration 7.5

Volcanic Hammer that learns for one extra mana. While not the most efficient burn spell it is reasonably cost, fairly meaty, and still plenty playable. This seems like one of the best learn cards. Simple and direct. If this was draw a card it would be very exciting. I can imagine just tossing this into any old red deck and being pleased with the results. 

Field Trip 5

This is competing with the likes of Cultivate and Llanowar Visionary. Three mana ramp and a two for one. This is low tempo and offers poor fixing (you can go via Environmental Sciences if you like..) but it is one of the better ramp spells to hit late. Three mana ramp has to go above and beyond for me and this just short in my high tempo cube. Moving towards  slower, more value, or more budget cubes this seems to get significantly better but perhaps still not good enough. Especially with this kind of effect in green generally being a budget option. 

Overgrown Arch 3

An interesting take on Wall of Blossoms or Wall of Mulch. The lifegain aspect is very interesting and makes this a much more appealing road block as far as handling aggression goes. It does also make it more valuable to remove for those players and with not assuring a card unless you have two mana spare when it is removed it seems a little risky. If you can't block with your wall for fear of it easily being answered and putting you a card down then your wall isn't really doing it's job. For a cheap stall card I would rather the no fuss up front original Wall of Blossoms. If I was desperate for defence and lifegain I might look to the likes of Jaddi Offshoot, or more likely than that some sort of more rounded Kitchen Finks. So while this is cool it looks like it is beaten out again by too many similar alternatives. 

Gnarled Professor 7.5

This is likely the second or third best learn card. A big fat trampling beater that doesn't cost a card. Pretty simple. Passes the Doom Blade test and is sufficiently big that it will need answering in some way fairly promptly. Also late enough with enough pressure that you can easily put the lessons you find to good use while your opponent deals with your 5/4. 

Rise of Extus 0

Removal needs to be cheaper than this. Quite substantially so. I wouldn't play this if it learned twice nor drew twice for that matter. 

Cram Session 4

This is a kind of Revitalize. 4 life is meaningful and two mana is pretty cheap. This can also find some things that gain further life. Curve this into a pair of 1/1 pests and you have done a good amount of stalling and gained a pile of life. Viable game plan against some aggro lists. Most decks are not aggro however and then this is a do nothing that finds a bad card and as such is unlikely to be wanted main. It is also a bit underpowered for a sideboard card and thus probably won't get much action at all. Close again but just not quite.

That leaves us with 3 good learn cards and another 3 or so that are potentially enough for cube. Fewer than I expected when I first started seeing the mechanic spoiled.