Monday, 16 January 2012

Reviews: The A cube colourless creatures

Myr EnforcerMyr Enforcer 0.8

Very powerful in the various affinity builds but otherwise pretty unplayable. Affinity as I have mentioned is like a tribal deck in the cube (of which elves, goblins, faeries, merfolk and soldiers have all been included at some point and all still reside in the B cube for occasional use) and is the last one remaining which is fully catered for with specific and narrow cards. Most of the non-creature spells used in affinity would be cube mainstays even without an affinity option and so with half the archetype already present it seemed reasonable to include the rest. Affinity is one of the most variable aggressive decks being able to use almost any combination of colours they desire, and it is completely different to play against than other agro decks, both of which factors add more variety to the cube. Goblins was a more consistent tribal deck but far fewer cards are cube worthy on their own and the builds of goblins only ever varied by a few cards hence their B cube status.

Myr BattlesphereMyr Battlesphere 2.0

I didn't really give Myr that much thought when released any only put it in the cube as I happened to have opened one in the pre-release. Thus far the sphere has seen a lot of play. He is a good clock, a great blocker, has use even when immediately killed and is fairly solid all round. Artifacts always feel much cheaper in mana cost than coloured spells of the same converted cost. This is for a few reasons, cards like grand architect, tinker and mishra's workshop specifically effect artifacts. Colourless mana is easier to produce in larger quantities and the kinds of deck than run this kind of threat tend to also run a lot of ramp. All in all the sphere probably arrives in play at the same time as a 4 drop or a green 5 drop on average, perhaps sooner. The sphere is an example of a card that does nothing specific particularly well but that does everything quite well resulting in seeing more play overall.

Triskelion 2.5

The Triskelion has survived the power creep impressively well and has just got better and better as time goes on. There are several reasons this dork is so popular. Firstly it offers direct damage to non-red colours and creature kill to blue and green. It some extra value even when killed. It has a decent body that acts as reasonable threat if not needed for removal. It can do a lot of burst damage which can be useful for killing planeswalkers, attack in for 4 then remove the counters for the extra 3. He has good synergy with lots of cards including proliferators, modular, Mikeaus the Lunarch, Steel Overseer, Treasure Mage, Goblin Welder, Tinker, Smokestack and so forth. As previously mentioned 6 mana artifacts are much easier to cast than coloured spells and so the triskelion often finds himself looking very favourable compared to their three drop. A great all-rounder and highly worthy of his space.

Wurmcoil EngineWurmcoil Engine 4.0

Wurmcoil is one of the very top tier of power level for monsters alongside Titans, Baneslayer and so forth. A very hard to deal with threat that offers huge tempo swings once he gets involved in combat, the wurmcoil is found most frequently in more control style decks. He offers less versatility than a battlesphere or even a triskelion but his nominal power and power to mana ratio are both far far higher than the more versatile cards. The wurmcoil is generally cast for 6 at about turn 6 as it is plenty good enough to be played outside of decks that produce mana for artifacts more quickly. Jund colours are really ill equipped to deal with the engine efficiently and are generally pretty pleased to do better than a three for one. White can exile with relative ease and blue can bounce or counter thus making the engine less threatening than most planeswalkers to those colours. Regardless of what the archetypes are, if four or more decks are made from the cube you can be pretty certain one will contain the wurmcoil. Not only top tier power level but also wide application from being colourless the wurmcoil is one of the most played cards in cube at present. It is just a bit of a shame the card acts as a bit of a colour hoser, if only crumble exiled like swords to plowshares!

DuplicantDuplicant 1.5

Wurmcoil pretty much brought this back from the B cube as the only sensible options for some colours to deal with it. Duplicant sees most play in blue, green and red. Red pretty much has to trade two for one on things with more than 4 toughness hence this guys strength in red. Blue and green lack removal in general. This is a much less exciting card than triskelion but tends to be a more useful removal spell specifically, the two in combination with some form of tutor offer a nice spectrum of removal options to a deck. The duplicant is a niche card that performs specific roles pretty well but of relatively low power levels for quite an expensive card. Brittle Effigy could replace this card but I am not sure their is room for both effects in the cube and the duplicant feels like he offers more to the cube overall.

Solemn Simulacrum
Solemn Simulacrum 3.5

Crum is used in many decks for many of his different perks. He is one of the only sensible ways most colours can increase their land count and so frequently finds play in all kinds of mono coloured decks. Crum is doubly good with a lot of good engine cards as he has both a come into play effect and a when this dies effect. These engine cards include goblin welder, recurring nightmare and birthing pod. Probably the third best invitational card in the cube the crum doesn't offer vast power but does always feel like a good use of mana when cast and feels like he sorts you out in most situations.

Frogmite 1.0

The frog is ever so slightly more playable than Myr Enforcer. Not enough to up his rating as he is still one of the narrowest cards in the cube. In affinity decks frog always feels like the lynch pin monster as it both benefits from your other affinity enablers while being cheap enough to also help reduce subsequent spells. Frog could be several times better than enforcer but as they basically only ever see play in the same deck and are almost always both included, as my rating is not rating the card in isolation but as part of the cube they would still have to get the same rating. While musing on this card and what to say about it beyond what I said regarding the enforcer I had a new idea for a deck. The idea is to use lots of artifacts to power out affinity creatures and birthing pod to then be able to pod into a five or eight mana creature for low investment. Sounds quirky and fun, might even win some games and most importantly is a slightly new use for otherwise painfully narrow cards.

Molten-Tail MasticoreMolten-Tail Masticore 2.5

This directly replaced original masticore. While the older version is less situational, the sheer extra power from his newer cousin easily outweighs that. Half the mana per damage on the shooting ability and able to hit players makes this a frightening finisher while the 4/4 body of original masticore was starting to look unimpressive and too slow to get the job done before the upkeep ruined you. Great in any deck able to produce lots of mana or desiring of a discard outlet, provided they have at least a handful of creatures for use as ammunition. To get value out of this card does require far more mana than the original four to cast hence a need for utilizing the discard drawback or access to an abundance of mana. He crops up in all sorts of decks and is always an unpleasant surprise to face. The added in-built synergy with the ability to discard monsters for extra ammunition makes the card more interesting to play with too offering options and difficult choices.

MetalworkerMetalworker 3.0

This card has awesome power in the right deck and is about the most mana you can make from a single card in the cube. Costing colourless mana means it is very easy to make this on turn one or two and follow it up with something highly unfair. For a long time it was this card alone that kept Lightening Greaves in the cube as they both sped you up and protected the valuable Worker. The classic play is to cast him off a Mishra's Workshop on turn one and follow it up by revealing a hand full of fat artifacts and flopping out a turn two Nastysteel Colossus backed up with Wurmcoils and other treats should thy be able to deal with the first threat. The reason I give a relatively low rating despite being one of the most abusable cards is because it is restrictive in deck building and requires a good 50% of your deck to be artifacts to be of much use as well as needing some expensive things to make use of all the mana. It is also a poxy 1/2 and both a creature and an artifact which are the two easiest permanent types to kill leaving you with a very vulnerable dork that you really want alive in order to do your things. A 1/2 is pretty pathetic in combat too. Primarily though it is that this only fits into a few archetypes which use mostly the same cards anyway that make this a 3.0 card.

Palladium MyrPalladium Myr 2.5

I threw this creature in fully expecting to take it back out again after one or two outings. While the Myr is significantly less abusable than Metalworker it is a far more rounded card that demands very little of your decks build. A ramp of 2 is still quite a big jump and has no prerequisites to obtain nor gives away any free information. In addition to this the extra power is significant and makes the Myr useful, if not powerful, as a vanilla dork. I have seen this played in a wide variety of mid range or control decks in all non-green decks that would never be able to consider including a Metalworker. It has even featured in aggressive blue decks which crave extra mana and have synergies with artifacts. The Myr is far less powerful than Worker but since its inclusion in the cube has seen slightly more play. I find that I want to play it in decks that I want to play a Solemn Simulacrum in despite being reasonably different types of card. Having the option of both is nice as you can tailor wihch you play to your curve or gain redundancy any play both.

Arcbound Ravager
Arcbound Ravager 1.2 

A great little utility dork that becomes rather unfair in the right deck. Sadly those decks are all quite samey and involve many of the same narrow cards. It used to be the case that you could never come out ahead in combat if you were facing down a ravager in the right deck but with the changes to damage on the stack the Ravager has lost some of his bite. Inkmoth Nexus has made the Ravager all-in a little more robust but hardly something to aim for. One day I will probably cut the affinity style creatures of which this is most certainly one of. I have seen Ravager used in Big Red as a way to manipulate effects from Myr Retriever and Solemn Simulacrum and he was pretty underwhelming.

Phyrexian RevokerPhyrexian Revoker 1.5

Typically played in the aggressive artifact decks like the affinity and arcbound guys but less of a mainstay acting rather as filler. He makes up for this by seeing play in various other agro decks that have no artifact theme simply as an answer to one or more problem cards. When building a deck it can become quite apparent that certain cards will wreak you or be impossible to deal with. While this guy is not a powerhouse in terms of aggression he is a well priced generic two drop that also doubles up as disruption. Most decks will have a few good targets, usually planeswalkers. It is not unlike Meddling Mage was was still decent n the cube when combo and control ruled however it is far easier to include in decks and is able to be reactive as well as proactive. If you don't know what you are playing against Meddling Mage is pretty useless where as Revoker still tends to offer some value.

SpellskiteSpellskite 3.5

I have been highly impressed with this card although frequently frustrated by how much is it ruining me from the other side of the table. It is one of very few cards to be printed recently that has helped most combo decks. Being an artifact and a creature is of extra advantage to Spellskite as it allows it to protect more permanent types from targeted removal and effects in addition to the usual benefits of having cheap artifacts or chump blocking speed bumps. Oddly it ended up taking the slot of Lightening Greaves which often wound up being more useful to protect things than for giving them haste. While the Skite does not have the haste advantage of the Greaves for cards commonly wanting protection such as Goblin Welder and Metalworker it doesn't give a window for removal and also buys a lot of time against aggressive strategies by being a decent wall. To add insult to all this, rather like Bird of Paradise you think it has done enough damage to you and then it picks up some piece of equipment and killing you. This is a great card for any combo deck where this protects something valuable, great in most control decks and fairly decent in affinity style agro decks.

Arcbound Worker
Arcbound Worker 0.9 

This little fellow does see very occasional play outside of pure affinity decks as he is a reasonable way to bolster any aggressive deck that wants a decent artifact count. The reason he keeps such a low rating is as ever due to him still being pretty narrow but also due to him having low power levels as well. He is very nice filler but filler is basically all he is. A dork to equip and artifact to boost your other things, a one drop to smooth your curve and something that offers some trickery and value when sacrificed. He will never win games on his own though. It is cards like this that hold synergic decks together but cannot be rated highly on their own. If I were to rate decks then the worker would be able to take some credit for a high rating but on his own he must be condemned to a low one despite just still holding onto his slot.

Signal Pest
Signal Pest 1.0

The Pest is along very similar lines to the Worker in that it sees some play here and there but is primarily based in affinity decks and in all his homes he is mostly filler and smoothing. He lacks any perks for dying but makes up for this by being a much more relevant threat on the board. Evasion as well as battle cry make him great with equipment and vastly improves all your other cheap artifact creature enablers. Mostly you end up dead to this guy and a Cranial Plating after you struggled to kill the Ornithopter... A low power card simply by being a one drop but surprisingly pesky and not to be underrated as a threat when facing it. Marginally better than Worker but all the same sort of jazz so they generally find themselves together in decks. They both also fall into the category of narrow artifact creatures that may all get cut together at some stage should people tire of affinity.

Hex Parasite
Hex Parasite 2.0

This dork does get played with all the other narrow affinity cards however the Parasite also has secure homes in a number of non artifact agro decks due to his utility. Planeswalkers are a real pain for most colours to deal with and this is about the easiest answer to them that their is for any of them. It can be a little mana intensive to kill some of the really loyal walkers but this can sometimes be broken up into chunks or sometimes just used as a deterrent. Unless someone can find an answer to the Parasite they are unlikely to waste a walker by laying it into him even if they can get an activation first. Most commonly played in blue decks which can Trinket Mage it up and struggle most with walkers in play. The pump effect is not to be sniffed at either as it can come out of nowhere for the kill, I have ditched my own walkers before to turn the loyalty into power for this critter. A decent number of cards use counters for which this guy is just a real pain against shutting down things you hand't even thought about in construction or your strategy. Suddenly your Tanglewire does nothing and your level up monsters are rubbish etc. The most fun I have had with the Parasite however is resetting the persist on my Glen Elandra Archmage to soft lock my opponent out of the game.

Ornithopter 0.5

The perfect example of a narrow card in that it does basically nothing on its own. I have only seen this used outside of affinity in an Enduring Renewal combo deck that was horrible and lost consistently. In affinity it is a staple as it both powers up your metalcraft and affinity cards perfectly and then turns into one of the more fearsome threats once you have a Ravager or a Plating in play. I like how this card has been in so many sets and seemed so unplayable for so long has become both useful and a scary threat and is one of a few elite monsters that were printed before Ice Age and can serve a use in the cube. If the affinity tribal deck does get cut at some point this will have to go along with many of the other narrow artifact creatures but definitely wont be leaving the cube otherwise.

Memnite 1.0 

I vastly overrated this card when it was first printed going on about the most impressive power to mana ration of any creature... While it can nibble in for a few points of damage while being an early enabler like Ornithopter it is vastly worse later in the game where lack of evasion make it basically useless beyond a sacrificial chump. I still love the card in concept but have yet to find it ever be powerful enough to warrant costing you a card despite the mana cost being so perfect. It has found some uses outside of affinity being used to recur Vengevine quickly and reliably or to give some extra versatility to Ranger of Eos. I seem to remember quite a cute RW weenie deck that tried to abuse battle cry mechanics and as many cheap dorks as it could get out using this and Signal Pest however it was a bit too low average card power and a bit too optimistic to be anything other than novel.

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