Sunday 15 January 2012

Reviews: The A cube white creatures

Savannah Lions

Savannah Lion 1.5

The first of the two power one mana dorks printed and now probably the weakest of the aggressive one drops left in cube. Lions have no synergy with creature type, offer little utility or excitement and are about as vulnerable as a monster can be. This all being said the card has no drawbacks and does what a lot of decks want complete with redundancy from elite vanguard. White weenie and versions incorporating a splash are all tier one cube decks and lions is always a consideration for these decks. Very occasionally the lion is actually better than Isamru simply because you can clamp his useless ass and immediately draw but this goes little way to redeeming the other drawbacks.

Student of WarfareStudent of Warfare 3.0

This little lady is probably the most played of the level up creatures. Although not quite as flexible as figure of destiny which has less mana restrictions, instant level ups and more intermediate stages. The student offers a selection of more powerful bodies from the mana investment and a more incremental way of making the investment allowing for overall more mana efficiency. The student is the better card in a pure white aggressive deck but only slightly and is of less use in other archetypes. Double strike is particularly good with equipment and crusade effects giving her better synergy with what her home archetypes tend to be doing. Her creature types are also useful in combination with other cards, mostly B cube ones however. Being a late game threat student works very well with ranger of eos while not harming opening hands like Mikeaus the Lunarch can.

Mother of RunesMother of Runes 3.0

Mother is very pesky. She can act in so many different ways dependant on your need and is a total bargain at one mana. It is very rare for her to ever attack despite finding her home most frequently in aggressive decks. Her three main uses are; sitting around untapped acting as both a standard barer and a Kira, the Great Glass-Spinner drawing most removal to her and requiring a two for one. Secondly she can act as a wall for non-trample, non-colourless, non-flying monsters which is probably the least exciting of her abilities as it means you are losing. Lastly she helps force damage through when their blockers are all of one colour. Frequently I find myself protecting up a monster prior to equipping it, which allows them to trade one for one with the mother but ensures you don't lose any temp from your equips which can be well worth the sacrifice of the mother in certain situations.

Isamaru, Hound of KondaIsamaru, Hound of Konda 2.5

While the only 2/2 for one that is neither situational of complete with a drawback the little doggy is a little lacklustre. With Karakas he was much more interesting but now even his legendary status is irrelevant in my cube in both construction and play. Decks using cards like this are cutting power in favour of speed, which other than redundancy is all this card really offers. As such he says basically no play in mid-range or control decks. He does occasionally sneak a spot in agro-control simply for being the best body available for one mana but mostly his homes are white weenie and boros deck wins. I don't have much more to add on this card suggests the Elite Vanguard review pretty interesting...

Elite Vanguard  Elite Vanguard 2.0

Only slightly better than lion from the rather marginal creature types the vanguard does see much more play. Champion of the Parish is the only card affected by these various types in the cube but there are many more that get some play from the B cube. The champion of the Parish does fit well into all the same decks as the Vanguard and so this synergy is quite relevant. White has a lot of options when it comes to one drop monsters and has the best selection of aggressive dorks to chose from of any colour. The Vanguard would see more play in most other colours than it does in white frequently getting benched for more interesting cards, although rarely before Savannah Lion. Blue has recently got a few quality 1/3 monsters low on the curve and red has more access than ever to good burn for killing one toughness creatures The vanguard is almost always one of the weakest few cards in decks that it now makes the cut in however this speaks more for the overall quality of those decks than the weakness of this card.          

Champion of the ParishChampion of the Parish 2.0

While this looks like a situational tribal card it just so happens that there are a lot of humans in the cube and a decent number of small white guys are humans too making him generally pretty playable. He is better than most one drop attackers if you follow him up with just one human and obviously can get a lot better. The god draw with him is rare and he tends to be a weak late game top deck which detract from his early game power. The best comparison for this card is Stromkirk Noble who is the better card but has similar strengths, weaknesses and applications. The Champion is most likely to improve with upcoming sets as there are many token generators that offer humans.  While I have run out of much interesting to say about this card I can assure all readers I shall not be resorting to puns at times like these. Every time you make a pun God kills a kitten.    

Stoneforge MysticStoneforge Mystic 4.4

I cannot bring myself to give this a 4.5 rating for a few reasons. Firstly there is no Jitte in my cube presently, a large part of the reason for that is this little dork who doubled the tedium of Jitte in white decks. Secondly this card requires you to play equipments and other guys to put them on, meaning you can't just thrown him in any old white deck as you can with Elspeth. That aside this remains whites best creature. It is card advantage for very low mana cost, it is a tutor affect, and while the body is not especially aggressive the nature of the card is. It is not infrequent to make use of the tap ability on her either as it both tricksy, counter-proof and often more mana efficient. It is this effect in particular that makes Batterskull so playable in the format. I put this card in the same class as Snapcaster Mage and Dark Confidant as very cheap, reasonably aggressive monsters that offer very good card advantage effects and are still good in less aggressive decks too. The very best type of monster the cube has to offer.

Kor SkyfisherKor Skyfisher 3.5

Another card that seems rather innocuous but that offers great synergy, value and utility. Three is a fantastic toughness in the cube, while two power is the going rate for a monster wishing to be aggressive. Flying is also quite rare in the cube, particularly on cheap monsters. This guy blocks most things of similar cost, and can attack pretty freely throughout the game. She can turn on your land tax or allow you to continue to curve out if you miss your 3rd or 4th land drop. She can recur cards with come into play effects like the affor mentioned Stoneforge Mystic. With AEther Vial she is a powerful combat trick or protector for some permanent. Sadly with the loss of Mox Pearl she is not so good for the truly unfair opening turns through getting double mox usage. This is still viable with mox opal or mana crypt or even mox diamond assuming you are going to be land taxing soon but far less common an occurrence than pure and simple mox pearl. A card that can round off many decks very nicely overall offering many different angles to exploit. Most commonly she ends up flying in for the win wielding some terrifying sword of you and lose.

Ethersworn Canonist
Ethersworn Canonist 2.5

The size and cost are all about what they have to be for this to be playable. Even so this card is very vulnerable, most removal spells hit her, as do most mass removal spells. The effect is devastating to some decks but annoying to most and so she works best as a way to slightly disrupt and opponent while applying pressure. If you are relying on the ability in some matchups her vulnerability will be a problem and mean you need to have a reasonable clock. Being pretty poor in combat means she doesn't tend to enhance your clock that much when you are relying on the effect most. The 1W cost is very nice making her playable in almost any aggressive artifact deck as well as more standard white aggressive decks. She is a reliable all round card that provides very effective filler for decks doing certain things.

Puresteel PaladinPuresteel Paladin 1.0

A very narrow card that only really fits in specific builds of white weenie. That said, in those decks he is immensely powerful. Both halves of the card compliment each other and are highly useful in their own way. The cantrip from equipment can always be relied on and allows you to happily put cards like Flayer Husk into your deck. At three equipment you can look at putting this guy in your deck, more than that he gets better, more than around five including some living weapons and your deck starts to get worse however. Card advantage on a reasonably costed body is the favourite thing of the cube agro deck. Even though this guy wont be drawing you many cards even when he is working as intended he has still been of great value. The metalcraft side is not always active and so does not get built around. As equipment are all artifacts it is pretty easy to intentionally set about turning it on. If and when you do and you have guys to make and equipment in play you are hard to stop. The tempo gain from free equip costs are vast. Sadly I don't think all that really justifies this guys slot as a permanant A cube card. He is just too narrow, particularly at WW. I shall have to make the most of this guy before my next cull.

Grand Abolisher
Grand Abolisher 2.0

This guy has been quite mixed thus far. He is a real pain for some decks but they can dispense with him fairly easily. While control decks are obviously those effected most by the abilities on this guy it is basically never a dead effect in any match-up. The real question is whether the effect is worth playing a 2/2 for the unpleasant WW that will offer you 1 for 1 card advantage at best. The jury is still out on this guy despite a relatively high rating and I may end up culling him. He definitely has potential and has really impressed on just enough occasions thus far to deserve the rating. He hasn't seen enough play or stayed in play long enough and often enough however to give a clear impression. This is probably a bad sign for the card but we shall allow him the benefit of the doubt for now. For this guy to be good in an aggressive deck you need to have creature buffs as part of the decks theme. This guy starts to look like a real pain in the arse when he is equipped with Sword of Your and Colours and will be capable of being a threat on his own rather than as part of an army begging for mass removal.  

Wall of Omens
Wall of Omens 3.5

The colour shifted cousin of Wall of Blossoms sees more play than the original green counterpart as it is exactly what blue decks want in addition to the removal it previously utilized in white. Almost any slightly slow white deck will consider throwing in the wall as it a very cost effective way to put the breaks on the agro decks. The vast majority of these slow white decks are also blue. Aggressive creature decks have been getting better and better and this is one of the few offerings that the slower decks have gained to deal with the onslaught of threats. Wall is also never dead which greatly increases its overall appeal. When it is good it is life saving and at its worst it cycles for two which is a perfect spread for a card to have. The Wall in white is much more vulnerable to your own global removal than they are in green but you have not lost much if you do have to wrath your own wall, particularly as they will likely have extra creatures in play to get around the wall. White also has far less proactive two drops than green for slow strategies.
Knight of the White OrchidKnight of the White Orchid 3.5

Despite the WW cost of this guy he sees lots of play even in two colour decks. A 2/2 first strike is a pretty decent body that does well in combat both offensively and defensively. The first strike is enough so that you don't feel really ripped off when you have to cast it without triggering the ability as you do with a Viridian Shaman. In aggressive decks you generally never save this to get a trigger at the cost of curving out well. When you do trigger the effect the card becomes absurd. Not only is it a plains it finds thus being able to colour fix with dual lands but it enters play untapped allowing you to power out even more. There are lots of cards that make activating this far easier such as Kor Skyfisher, Path to Exile and the bounce lands. In control decks the card is primarily good early as late you tend to have more lands and significantly better when you are on the draw as it most easily undoes the loss of tempo inherent to being on the draw. Knight is one of the elite class of monster that offer some powerful effect gaining card advantage and tempo while also being a reasonable body for the cost to be aggressive with.    

Fiend Hunter
Fiend Hunter 1.5

I was expecting this to be a lot better than it actually is. White lacks three drops and has few other cards after Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile that are good single target removal spells. A 1/3 is a great body, even in a more aggressive deck with equipment or pump available. You don't want the hunter to die and give them back their dork and so more toughness instead of power is fine. The problem with the card seems to be that as a dork the card is nothing special and as a removal spell the card is also somewhat lacking. It is better suited to control decks in principle but has very poor synergy with mass removal as so tends not to see play in those archetypes. Overall the card is not reliable removal despite being able to hit most things, you do not want to target creatures with come into play effects base on the likelihood of this getting killed and giving them extra card advantage. It also doesn't offer you card advantage most of the time, even if you are under no risk of having him killed you probably can't make use of him in combat. The best the card does is act like a weak Man O War that offers a small tempo boost. Perhaps I am just yet to find a good home for the card or good ways to abuse at it is still quite new to the cube.

Blade Splicer
Blade Splicer 1.5

This is quite an interesting card that can fit into a wide selection of decks and offers some good synergy with cards not often associated with white. Rather like Fiend Hunter I have not yet found a firm home for her. In the splicers case it is the fact that she is very middle of the road. At three mana she is a lot of card however cannot be considered really aggressive in the same way one and two drops in white are. As a top end monster in aggressive decks you tend to find the four mana options are significantly more powerful and play them instead. She is just a good all round value three drop for which white doesn't have any real uses. Having come into play effects is good for cards like Recurring Nightmare and Birthing Pod but with white having so few of these she doesn't often get a chance to shine with those cards. Producing an artifact is good for white based affinity or tempered steel kinds of deck but still just costs a little too much to be an auto include in such decks. She is also slightly more vulnerable to bounce effects than other come into play effect creatures.      

Mentor of the Meek
Mentor of the Meek 2.0

I didn't like this card when it was first spoiled and took quite a while to add it to the cube. The reason for that is a dislike of cards that are costly for their immediate impact on the board ( for which this is basically a grey ogre) in addition to a dislike of cards that require specific events and extra mana to be spent in order to gain benefit from the card. While not an amazing card in the cube it has found better uses in the cube than the other white three drops that have been tried. He is still a body that gets pumped and equipped that offers reasonable long term card advantage.  The fact that he works with tokens and creatures that have been put into play with an Aether Vial is really useful too as he is less restrictive on your decks build if included. Being a human is nice too. White weenie has only really got Land Tax and equipment to get card advantage and this is a fine card to supplement those more dedicated cards. You do not want to rely on him for this nor base your game on getting value out him, simply include him in your deck at little cost and occasionally get some free cards out of it.    

Ranger of Eos
Ranger of Eos 3.0

A very interesting card that offers a lot of different things. Firstly it is a 3 for 1, secondly it tutors for things and thirdly it is a dork and thus gets the beat on. I am struggling to think of any good comparisons, Ranger is sort of a bigger Trinket Mage but creatures are far narrower than artifacts and four mana is a world more than three so they end up performing very different roles. Ranger is not the greatest tempo swing as 3/2 is pretty flimsy, especially at 4 mana. A lot of the time the one drops you get are more powerful once in play than Ranger himself. Mostly Ranger finds play in white weenie or Wx agro variations but has been splashed into combo elves and used in other silly creature based combo decks in which one or more of the pieces could be tutored by Ranger. White doesn't have much in the way of card advantage and Ranger offers pretty good value and doesn't suffer as cards like Fact or Fiction do from having no impact on the board. It is because there are a wide array of powerful one drops and the lack of reach many of the decks using them have that ensure Rangers sees a healthy amount of play despite fierce competition in the 4 slot. When playing things like Thalia or Aether Vial a creature instead of a more powerful planeswalker starts to look more appealing as a late game card to offer longevity.

Hero of Bladehold
Hero of Bladehold 2.5

Ranger of Eos not only has to compete with power spells like Armageddon and Cataclysm and power walkers like Elspeth but also absolute beasts of creatures like this one. Hero is about the fastest clock you can put on someone for the mana and is very much and answer me now or lose card. Generating tokens is fantastic as it offers value even if she is killed however assuming you cannot give Hero haste you have to give them a whole turn before you get to make any tokens. Because of this I put Hero firmly in the non-utility creatures bracket which contains only the most efficient of beaters such as Tarmogoyf and Abyssal Persecutor. It is a harder role to obtain a cube slot with as most of the time your card is answered before it gets to killing anyone and gains you very little value. Wrathing away a Hero seems like a great retort to one, Wrathing a Ranger of Eos is rather weak. It is for this reason that Hero makes fewer decks than Ranger. It is testament to her power that she does still have a cube slot with so many incredible 4 costed white creatures in the B cube.

Academy Rector
Academy Rector 3.0

A brilliant combo and utility creature that crops up in decks all over the place. The arrival of Birthing Pod also gave a a huge recent boost to the playability of Rector as having a sacrifice mechanism is really important to make good use of her. Prior to Pod she was found with black for Cabal Therapy and/or Recurring Nightmare. Even when you can't sacrifice her to Tinker up an enchantment on command the threat of what you could get often holds off the attackers. Typically the contenders getting fetched up are Yawgmoth's Bargain, Pernicious Deed or Mirari's Wake however lots of combo decks use expensive enchantments including Sneak Attack, Opalessence, Enduring Renewal, Illusions of Grandeur, Aluren, Cadaverous Bloom and even important yet cheap ones such as Oath of Druids. If you are a combo or control deck and have a number of important or expensive enchantments Rector is a worth consideration, especially if you have good ways to ensure her death.

Baneslayer AngelBaneslayer Angel 4.0

Before the arrival of Titans and Wurmcoil Engine Baneslayer was rampant in the cube. Prior to the Angel nothing was so abusively game winning and swingy while being so reasonably costed. The cube was light on spot removal as nothing like Angel threatened games until then which only made her more game winning when she got a slot. She felt like Jitte but good against all decks and not requiring of other cards to be broken. She was frequently picked over other power and given the setup of my cube at the time I don't even think that is wrong. I vividly recall my surprise in being passed a Time Walk 2nd pick in a draft and having my look of disbelief dispelled when the player on my right flashed me the Angel he had taken instead. There are very few monsters that can race a Baneslayer, none of which cost the same, even less monsters that can block it and live to tell the tale and yet less still that can actually kill her. A 10 point life swing on an evasive 5 toughness body is highly impressive. The protection is good flavour but really tedious in reality as so many of the viable candidates to challenge her in the skies can't touch her. Baneslayer was the first of the really really efficiently cost expensive monsters that forced quite a lot of changes to the cube setup and archetypes and sets the bar very nicely now to compare other expensive dorks with. Very few creatures are in the cube that are just beaters and don't offer any extra value. Baneslayer is presently the most expensive of that elite group of super efficient critters. Her winning streak has tailed a little lately however in her window of rampant abuse in the cube she was hands down the card responsible for most wins in the cube (and it was powered at the time) and while long time cube cards like Force Spike probably have more killing blows under their belt than Baneslayer I don't think any card can compete in terms of wins per games played.

Sun Titan
Sun Titan 1.5

Of the cycle this was the Titan I earmarked as the most powerful and likely to see most play. It turns out I was the most wrong I could be as it sees less play than all the other colours Titans and is really rather unexciting. It is most comparable to the Primeval Titan as they both put permanents into play. With Sun Titan unless you have a permanent in the bin with a self sacrifice mechanism you run out of good targets rather quickly and are limited in choice of what you can do any way. There are not that many brutal things to do with the recur and with its unreliability it turns out that it is not very exciting compared to the other Titans effects. Vigilance is also pretty useless on a big dork with no evasion or other useful things to go with it and while perhaps better than death touch it certainly won't ever be recurring anything as good as a pair of 2/2s every turn. Sun Titan is a good value big dork but as a win condition he is pretty weak and the value you get out of him often isn't really all that helpful.

Mikaeus, the Lunarch
Mikeaus, the Lunarch 1.5

If it were not for Ranger of Eos this guy would have lost his slot a while ago. As it is he is one of the best scaling monsters you can fetch with Ranger and offers you good utility too. He is a well designed card and offers interesting choices all of the time. Being able to cast him for almost any amount of mana you wish makes him really good at smoothing out your curve although he is not much of a tempo boost if made early on the curve. Human is the best creature type for white guys although not all that relevant. A lot of his strength comes from being able to tap at instant speed allowing you to wait for the most info or the correct time to charge him up or to boost your team. I have yet to see him do all that much in a game as he is vulnerable to mass removal and very slow to become a threat in his own right. The versatility, good design and synergy are enough to keep him around for now despite poor performances thus far.

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