Wednesday 25 July 2012


Wild NacatlZoo really came to the forefront with Alara block and became a dominant tier one deck until about the time Innistrad was released by which point it started to lose lots. I suspect that this was the fault of myself and the people I play with most frequently failing to work out how to get the deck to perform in the current metagame. My cube has a lot of mana fixing which makes Zoo very consistent in constructed and viable in draft. Being in so many colours does mean you get very late powerful gold cards as well as lots more scope to pick up powerful cards than mono or duo coloured drafters simply by having a higher number of colours to pick from.

One of the biggest quandaries of the Zoo player is what sort of curve to employ and how much acceleration to use. Unlike 60 card deck constructed formats which allow 4 copies of a card cube Zoo cannot rely on consistently having a Wild Nacatl start, nor can it ensure all of its ramp critters contribute to the aggression with exalted. Many of the most exciting and powerful gold cards cost three or four mana which has a tendency to up the mana curve of the deck quite a bit beyond something like red deck wins or white weenie. This means you either accept your deck is a little more midrange and ensure it has reach and staying power or you pack it with a good quantity of ramp.

Noble HierarchI think one of our groups big failings over the last year or so have been down to two things. Firstly the mana base of Zoo and secondly on the types of one drop played and the balance of them. The mana base in Zoo is very fragile with few copies of specific lands and lots of sac lands each with few targets. On top of this it has lots of coloured mana intensive spells. Cards like Lightening Helix can be a nightmare to cast, even on turn five or something simply because you also need to cast another two or three drop and can't tap in a way that gives you the right combination of colours. A small amount of disruption to the mana base or a poorly built one will usually result in a horrific loss. My solution to this was to make the deck as much in one colour as possible and then splash only the most powerful cards of other colours with little requirement for other colours outside the main one. Obviously green is the primary colour as your best one drops and most of the gold cards are green and so I built mana bases which had very few lands that did not tap for the primary colour. I also made sure I was heavier on lands than I have been in the past, I might have tried to get away with 16 lands including a bounce land or rely more upon my mana critters for example. I have seen too many games lost by Zoo missing a single land drop as late as turn four. With multiple man lands and sac lands to thin the lands from the deck and provide good ways to spend excess mana late in the game I was more than happy to play a beastly control deck level of land at 17.
Bloodbraid Elf
The second issue in Zoo is the one drop assortment for which people either tended to play lots of mana critters or they would play loads of beaters such as Kird Ape, Loam Lion and Goblin Guide to supplement the solitary Nacatl. With just mana critters you are far less able to apply pressure and are most vulnerable to early creature removal. Dumping down a turn four Llanowar Elves you have ripped of the top does little where as a Nacatl would be quite a bit more serious. If you however choose the polar opposite of this plan you are left with very linear draws and a much lower average power level. You have both increased the number of weak late game cards like Kird Ape and you have removed some of your powerful high end due to having less ramp to get you there. It turns out that a mix of the one mana ramp critters and the most powerful beaters is best in Zoo. This gives you loads more options in the early game and it allows you to play a decent number of more expensive cards which leads to higher average power level.

Tribal Flames
There are 4 main ways to build Zoo which are RGW, RGWb, RGWu and RGWub. Due to the high number of playables and easily includable groups of cards with powerful synergy Zoo decks of the same colours can look wildly different. I recently tried out my new strategies for solving Zoos problems in a RGWu and a RGWb version of the decks. Both were very streamlined and performed very well for me enough to warrant putting Zoo back on the tier one list of archetypes. I find the five colour version hardest to build in constructed as you have so much choice of cards that are hard to compare and extra things to include should you wish like Tribal Flames. The blue version I made first and it was a little less refined that the subsequent black version but both were true to my aim regarding one drops and mana bases which seemed far more relevant than which planeswalkers I chose to use or which extra colours to splash.

Steppe Lynx

Zoo With Black

23 Spells

Bird of Paradise
Elves of Deep Shadow
Avecyn Pilgrim
Noble Hierarch

Steppe Lynx
Wild Nacatl
Lightening Bolt
Path to Exile

Plated Geopede
Lotus Cobra
Dark ConfidantQasali Pridemage
Strangleroot Geist

Dark Confidant
Lightening Helix

Lingering Souls
Knight of the Reliquary
Sprouting Thrynax

Kitchen Finks

Ajani Vengant
Bloodbraid Elf

Wolfir Silverheart

17 Lands


Overgrown Tomb
Stomping Ground
Temple Garden

Wooded Foothills
Windswept Heath
Verdant Catacombs
Windswept HeathArid Mesa

Marsh Flats
Bloodstained Mire
Stirring Wildwood
Raging Ravine

City of Brass

Zoo With Blue

23 Spells
Path to Exile
Bird of Paradise
Avecyn Pilgrim
Noble Hierarch
Llanowar Elf

Orcish Lumberjack
Wild Nacatl
Lightening Bolt
Path to Exile

Punishing Fire
Lotus Cobra
Qasali Pridemage
Strangleroot Geist

Fire // IceFire / Ice

Knight of the Reliquary
Kitchen Finks
Edric, Spymaster of Trest
Trygon Predator

Shardless Agent
Geist of Saint Traft

Sarkhan Vol
Bloodbraid Elf

Wolfir Silverheart

17 Lands

Knight of the ReliquaryTropical Island

Volcanic Island
Breeding Pool
Stomping Ground
Temple Garden

Wooded Foothills
Windswept Heath
Misty Rainforest
Arid Mesa

Flooded Strand
Stirring Wildwood
Raging Ravine
Grove of the Burnwillows

City of Brass

Plated GeopedeIrritatingly I only wrote down the spell lists and assumed I would be able to recreate the mana base accurately which I am not sure I have done as I felt like at least one of the lists had only one land that did not tap for green. The core of both decks was very similar and the different splash colours are reasonably interchangeable. The blue version had more one drop accelerators and therefore could pack more three drops but in hindsight I prefer the aggressive landfall guys as you have a high land count with lots of sac lands already in the deck as well as Knight of the Reliquary to support them. This is a change that is not relevant to the non RGW colours of the deck and should probably be applied to most Zoo decks.

The Punishing Fire engine is reasonable against weenie creature decks and some control type decks with lots of utility dorks but it is probably not worth the hassle and power reduction. Without many more ways to support the engine it is likely to be less beneficial to your game than just having a Karplusan Forest and an Incinerate instead. The blue version had some other reasonably silly cards such as Orcish Lumberjack and Sarkhan Vol. Lumberjack is a little random at the best of times and will go from being a useless 1/1 to being super Black Lotus and totally dominating games. The home of the Orc is red green where he is most consistent but I wanted to see if he would be useful in a Zoo deck with such a high forest count. Sadly my few games were very inconclusive and so I shall probably have to try again at some stage despite the grief I got from my opponents for including silly cards. Vol is hated by lots of people and generally thought to be pretty bad and while I concede he is not one of the best walkers I do quite like him. Ultimately I played him to wind my playmates up by beating them with cards they think are bad and not because he was the best card for the deck. In my defence this is one of the least damaging places to play a weaker walker. I wanted to play one walker in the decks to give me variation in threats and some late game reach but didn't feel it mattered too much which. I wanted to spend no more than 4 mana for my walker as the single five slot I was happy to play was dedicated to getting some playtime on the new Wolfir Silverheart. Koth is a bit needy of mountains, Chandra is very low impact as is Garruk Relentless and I play Garruk Wildspeaker in every deck. Elspeth is definitely the best but the double white cost was offputting and I also have played her to death and so took the opportunity to have a go on the less used gold walkers. Both did their roles as required and I am still unconvinced there is all that much to choose between Ajani Vengeant and Sarkhan Vol in a deck like this.

Wolfir SilverheartBoth decks are light on answer cards with only a few ways to deal with various permanent types, excluding Vindicate they cannot do anything directly about planeswalkers or lands. The deck relies on appliying relentless pressure which in turn forces opponents to play very defensively so that they cannot get into a position of control. This makes persist and undying along with the man lands very important to Zoos game plan. It also really likes to have dorks that pack lots of stats and have good tempo abilities like haste. I was not impressed with Geist of Saint Traft, he was too small himself with no immediate impact on the board and was more awkward to cast than I would like. Lightening Helix is similarly awkward to cast having no green in the cost but is somewhat more reliable and powerful of a card. Helix is not as much of an auto include as you might think or get the impression of based on it being in both of mine. I think it is because in cube people feel obliged to play it however I wouldn't be at all surprised if Incinerate was just better most of the time.

Ajani VengeantI was very impressed with Shardless agent who could really up your presence on the board and provided both mana and card value more reliably and often than Bloodbraid. Edric is a little bit different and suffers some of what Geist suffers in that he is a lowly 2/2 body for three himself however his effect applying to other creatures immediately is very significant and was one of the reasons I was able to go a bit heavier on the accelerators in the blue build of the deck. Edric is a little bit like Consecrated Sphinx in that it usually draws you a few cards even when they have an answer and will totally dominate the game if they don't have an answer. Obviously answers for 2 toughness dorks are easier to come by than those with 6 and with Edric you also have to have a greater board presence which can make him a touch of the win more type of card. The advantage with Edric in this kind of deck is that it turns you advantage on the board into more fuel for later making you better against mass removal.

Almost all the other cards are mainstays and widely accepted as very powerful cards and need no real explanation or justification for why they are in the deck and why they help you win. Zoo might be very easy to goldfish but being a very standard style of magic deck it tends to end up having very interactive and complicated games with most archetypes. It is also hard to build with consistency being of such high value while faced with seemingly limitless options for insanely powerful cards. I like the deck both to play with and against, it feels fair and a great benchmark by which to test decks against.

Thursday 19 July 2012

Modo Cube Changes Petition

A petition is probably not the best description of this as I am not after signatures or anything but I feel quite strongly about a few things cube related and with even the remotest chance of having an effect I feel compelled to voice my opinion and justifications for it. It was all sparked while drafting my first Modo cube since the new changes. I happened to be mono black and so I was reading the new list while making my picks to see if that would be changing any of my priorities and to my horror realised that Death Cloud had been cut. Had I bothered to study the list before jumping into a draft there is no way I would have made the picks I did leading me to mono black had I known there was no chance of getting the linchpin card.

While I love the card and so might slightly overrate it I can be sure I overrate it far less than it is generally underrated. In a 40 card deck one copy will make such a difference to you odds across all the matchups. Black is one of the weaker colours in cube but this is a strength in many ways as it is a known thing. It makes it much easier to go black and end up with a mono deck, for which black is the best colour. As Death Cloud is underrated and a little bit harder to play and build around than other cards it can be left out of lots of decks, the casting cost adds to this problem as well. I am sure statistical analysis went into the choices about what to cut from the Modo cube and I am not wholly surprised that using those methods the Cloud got cut.

My argument is that this kind of statistical method to cut cards will lead to a cube lacking in synergy or interesting card interaction when used on a new and un-established format. Magic is a game based on the interaction of cards, a good general rule is the more interaction the better the games. Black is under drafted and Death Cloud is a heavily black card making it much less commonly picked than the power level of the card should warrant. By removing the option to ever pick up the card, ideally nice and late, then you remove incentive to play black and so exacerbate the problem of black being under drafted.

There are a selection of key cards for a lot of strategies that are absent from the Modo cube that I would love to see added as it would enhance the quality of the games. None of these cards fail to deserve a slot based on their power level either. Overrun would have been on this list but I am pleased to say it was at least added to compensate for the loss of Death Cloud as it is a similarly key card for the mono green deck and very good in any green/x agro deck.

Death Cloud
Carrion Feeder
Zuran Orb
Grand Architect
Faithless Looting
Life from the Loam
Chromatic Star

Any way, those are the most notable omissions that are clearly not over powered, like Mana Vault could be accused of, but that really aid a cube. Obviously I think cubes should look a lot like mine and so I can suggest loads of cuts and additions but variety is the spice of life and so I shall accept and appreciate the lesser differences and speak out only against those that I feel add the very most to a cube. While I am about petitioning for changes to the Modo cube it might be nice to get the virtual cube boosters rather than unsellable Legions booters for those of us that wish to exclusively cube. If only nice and profitability were synonymous in the world.

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Top 10 list: The Big Fat Fatties

Blightsteel ColossusFor this top ten list I will be concentrating on cards that cost 7 or more mana. The five and six drop fatties are also very fat however they are vastly more playable in normal decks without ramp or cheaty ways to get things into play, where as all the ones talked about today are played in decks specifically set up to support them. The gap between six and seven mana in the cube is one of the biggest and seems a very good way to differentiate the kinds of fatty. Things like Abyssal Persecutor are good purely because they are fat and cheap where as all those discussed here cost enough that being cheap relative to other things in that sort of role doesn't cut it any more. In other words cost is not too much of an issue with these cards, they all cost over the threshold where a few mana makes little difference and it is all about how the card performs and what synergy it can offer.

Inkwell LeviathanI made a short list of the cards that I thought would cover all of the top 10 and discovered a few things. Firstly I have culled most of them from my cube due to being niche cards. Combo is still played but only in the constructed style cube formats and so those cards being in the A cube is not so important. Also in the more limited formats like standard draft my cube is way too archetype orientated which leads to very powerful and smooth running decks that simply destroy people trying to play things that cost seven or more mana as their way to victory. Many of these cards are the best card in a specific role and have all seen time in the A cube and their not being in their now is no slight of the card but simply a way to increase the pick quality in drafts.

The second thing I noticed is that the cards are all played and represented here for being the best at certain roles in certain decks which makes it very hard to compare them. Yes they are all fatties that aim to win the game but they are all specifically good at being cheated in by certain things and at beating specific archetypes while being strong against types of removal. Each of these cards is better than the others in some ways and are rarely used in place of each other. As such I have based my ratings on an amalgamation of how often the card is played combined with how often the games in which they make it into play are then won. I have also given consideration to how often they are played but never manage to see the battlefield.

Sphinx of the Steel Wind
Top 10 Fatties

10. Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
9.   Terastodon
8.   Simic Sky Swallower
7.   Chancellor of the Tangle
6.   Inkwell Leviathan
5.   Griselbrand
4.   Blightsteel Colossus
3.   Myr Battlesphere
2.   Emrakul, the Eons Torn
1.   Sphinx of the Steel Wind

It is probably easiest to start at the top and work down in terms of justifying why things are where they are. So the Sphinx of the Steel Wind is my number one choice for loads of reasons. Firstly it makes loads of decks as it is cheatable into play in loads of different ways where as many of the fatties are best with one other card. You can use Goblin Welder, Tinker, Dream Halls or Reanimate Effects to good effect as well as the cover alls like Show and Tell and Oath of Druids. The only card it is not outstanding with is Sneak Attack. This means it can see play in decks dedicated to those effects but will be almost an auto include in decks using multiples of those effects. 

Emrakul, the Aeons TornThe second big reason Sphinx is such a joke is that it utterly wreaks two colours. Protection is awkward for most colours but white has Wrath effects and blue has counter magic and black has sacrifice and discard to aid it. Red and green rely on damage, getting into combat or targetted removal to kill stuff and basically cannot deal with the Sphinx. Once in play it is basically game over for and decks using only red and/or green cards. Many decks trying to get fatties into play quick will sacrifice some defence and tempo to make it happen faster and more consistently. This means it really helps if your dork can regain that tempo which Sphinx does wonderfully with lifegain and vigilance not to mention a bundle of other nice abilities. Typically being an artifact makes a card more vulnerable however in the case of the Sphinx with protection from red and green in only really aids it in being easy to make and makes it harder for black to kill. Not being a legend is also really good for fatties as they cannot be killed via cloning nor bounced with Karakas. Sphinx is just the complete package and sees the most play, hits the battlefield often and takes the game most of times it does!

Emrakul is awkward to get into play and works with only a few effects, of which many won't give you the free time walk gained when cast. It turns out that while the time walk is nice Emrakul is just so damn powerful that you don't need to time walk to win nor do you care that it is a bit harder to play him than other fatties. He is probably the single most powerful magic card and so decks are built for him on that basis alone. He has the highest win rate when getting into play but gets a low score on actually seeing the battlefield. It might be novelty rather than effectiveness that gets him so much play but it is still enough to compensate for the difficulties in resolving him and grants the number two spot. 

Myr BattlesphereMyr Battlesphere is a bit of a sneak in as it crosses the boundary between being playable in normal decks and in cheat decks. As it is colourless and an artifact it is easier to find those kind of mana in slightly more normal decks, I have seen it used in a mono blue Opposition deck which had some ramp but was certainly not dedicated to making fat guys and loads of mana. This greatly ups the amount the card is played but it is still very good as cards go for being cheated into play. Bringing a mini army is great as the appropriate spot removal is the best way to deal with fast fatties. Battlesphere makes up for being relatively easy to kill by leaving behind value most of the time when killed. A two turn clock is also very quick even by the standards of this top 10 and the ability to have a portion of that guaranteed is very useful too. 

Blightsteel Colossus is the only one hit wonder in the top 10 and can even hold his own in a showdown with Emrakul (obviously dependant on the game state but I hope you get my point without need to extrapolate at length!). Easier than Emrakul to make but only just and a less useful anti-reanimate effect than Emrakul too! Blightsteel is the clear number two in terms of beastly monsters and can show up on your door by turn one with relative ease. Fortunately indestructible is not as sexy as it sounds and there are many cheap and effective ways to deal with the Colossus in all colours bar the suffering red and green. The infect can also be as much of a curse as it is a bonus as you gain nothing unless you win off it. Given that it is not unthinkable to deal with him and you only need two toughness to eat a hit from him to buy you a turn he can be a little like putting all the eggs in one storage place of low structural integrity. 

GriselbrandGriselbrand is the new boy of the bunch and offers something different in the powerful card draw effect. I have found him best in Sneak Attack decks where you don't have to pay life to get him into play and you want more fuel for your combo. The 14 point life swing per hit is pleasant as well. This guy has seen play in black control decks with access to some ramp however I am pretty sure he hasn't been cast while in those decks and so I think I can only mark this against him. Still, he is the best in the role of being fat and giving you loads of cards.

Inkwell Leviathan is almost as easy to get into play as the Sphinx of the Steel Wind and is both a faster clock and probably harder to kill over all. In addition to this it is impossible to stall against should you have any islands in play. It is a very reliable and consistent finisher however it offers you no real support, defence or tempo swings and so despite its 3 turn clock you might well get raced. 

Chancellor of the Tangle is an impostor in this list as he is primarily played for the Elvish Spirit Guide effect and not the innocuous body. Typically these are green control decks or Birthing Pod decks although he has graced some other archetypes. He is not that often cheated into play but does just get hard cast quite a bit. In green it is not unreasonable to claim that seven is easier to make than it is for other colours to make six and so even on that basis he should be ranked with the Titans and the Wurmcoils and not these guys however he has always been literally unbelievably good whenever he does hit the deck. His exact size and abilities allow him to hold off almost everything else in the cube while slowly bashing away for the inevitable win. As he costs seven mana and is one of the most playable cards on this list I would be remiss to leave him off despite not being used in at all the same way as the others. 
Simic Sky Swallower

The Sky Swallower is another card that is not often cheated into play but rather played in rampy control decks where 7 mana is equivalent to non-green colours getting 6. For cheating into play the Inkwell Leviathan tends to be the better choice but as a card to flop out turn five or six after having played quite a normal game of magic this is a total beast. The shroud, flying and trample are simple yet highly effective at giving you control of the board and a reliable win. 

Terastodon is one of the most versatile cards of the bunch giving you the option of 18 power spread across 4 bodies or wiping out a number of key permanents the other side of the table. Typically he sees play in the green based cheat decks with Tooth and Nail and Natural Order and not the reanimate or Sneak Attack approaches despite being well suited to those as well. Not having trample is a severe drawback for anything with really high power and is the main reason this guy is used more as a utility part time fatty than a pure, hard to kill while getting them quickly dead style fatty. 

Elesh Norn, Grand CenobiteFinally just making the cut is Elesh Norn who is only mildly fat herself but makes up this by giving you complete control of the board. Generally she will perpetually kill at least two thirds of all your opponents dorks while making all of yours giants compared to those that remain. Terastodon becomes 26 powers worth of stuff, Battlesphere a mere 18! Like Sphinx she can shut down a large number of decks and has usually done enough damage even if immediately killed to make up for a lack of resistance to removal. Elesh has made the cut in a few control decks and is also called upon for combo reasonably often despite not winning the game solo very often. 

The fatties of choice have been one of the fastest changing components of the cube and it saddens me a little that none of the original band of fatties even get a look into the current top 10. Sundering Titan is the only one that still sees play as it performs a unique role however it is very weak against mono decks and not very exciting verses aggressive decks leaving it a very specialist fat man. Even so I feel as if I need to do and old school list of fatties as they have won many games and saw lots of play back in Mirrodin Block when my cube was born. The quality of this list compared with what we have on offer now is quite laughable but then Ernham Djinn was the best creature in the game when I started playing magic which really puts things into perspective. Many of these fatties aren't even that big and rely on their effects to win the game. Most of the five and six drops that are easily castable about the same time these things are cheated into play are just better such as Wolfir Silverheart or Wurmcoil Engine. 

Akroma, Angel of Wrath
The 2004 Old School Fatties Top 10

10. Sutured Ghoul
9.   Symbiotic Wurm
8.   Platinum Angel
7.   Reya Dawnbringer
6.   Bosh, Iron Golem
5.   Verdant Force
4.   Sundering Titan
3.   Phantom Nishoba
2.   Akroma, Angel of Wrath
1.   Darksteel Colossus

Sundering Titan

Finally I have some honourable mentions of cards that have done the rounds in these roles and generally fall between the current flavour of the month and the original gang. These do all also see play unlike the old gang (Sundering Titan exempt) but very infrequently but they are all still the best at some things and solid cards.

Iona, Shield of Emeria
Avenger of Zendikar
Palakka Wurm
Serra Avatar

Friday 13 July 2012

URG Graveyard Control

Life from the LoamThis another incarnation of the tediously slow green based control decks. I find the three colour variations best in that they are still very consistent compared to the more stretched 4 and 5 colour versions and still give you lots of scope within the build. Another advantage to minimising the colours is that you don't have so many auto includes which makes the build more interesting and more diverse.

My original plan for this deck was to have more planeswalkers and more things that can be used from the graveyard like Chandra and her Phoenix but I ended up playing a Gifts package and a Trinket Mage package as they had better synergy with the deck overall. Genesis and Phoenix are nice and do work in the deck but neither would be at their best and in many ways are not doing what the deck  does in order to win and so are not worth playing despite the ease of getting them to the bin. The premiss for my doing this deck was trying to abuse Forbid and Squee in a deck more capable of finding them and supporting the buyback than UR decks or URb decks that have previously made most use of Forbid. This is the list I ended up playing:

Forbid22 Spells

Mox Diamond
Engineered Explosives

Sensei's Divining Top
Faithless Looting

Fire / Ice
Life from the Loam
Punishing Fire

Augur of Bolas

Squee, Goblin NabobEternal Witness
Squee, Goblin Nabob
Trinket Mage

Beast Within

Garruk Wildspeaker
Gifts Ungiven

Primal Command
Simic Skyswallower
Bonfire of the Damned

18 Lands

Raging Ravine
Grove of the Burnwillows
Simic Sky SwallowerDesolate Lighthouse
Tranquil Thicket
Lonely Sandbar
Forgotten Cave
Tropical Island
Volcanic Island
Steam Vents
Stomping Ground
Breeding Pool
Misty Rainforest
Wooded Foothills
Scalding Tarn
Izzet Boilerworks
Tree of Tales
Flooded Grove

Engineered Explosives
The deck performed well for me managing to win out from one life more than once which is always galling for the opposition. There were a few bits I mis-built, firstly the Exploration should have been either a Bird of Paradise or a an Explore, you simply don't have the gas to be able to consistently make two land a turn. The Negate should also have been an Arcane Denial. I was a bit on auto pilot and in the UBG version of the deck you have much better creature removal making Negate the better card as giving up card advantage is a little painful as it takes so long to recover it. It turns out in this version that dealing with dorks is much more of an effort to the point of me also wanting the humble Unsummon in the deck too although instead of what I am unsure.

The Gifts Ungiven was a little luxurious and could have been cut for something with a bit more presence such as a Cryptic Command or a Jace, the Mind Sculptor (also helping to cover the desired bounce). Regrowth could have been a Snapcaster Mage and was really only in the deck because of the Gifts however the exile aspect of Snapcaster is deeply unpleasant as each of your spells are quite important in being able to survive and win eventually.

Bonfire of the DamnedThe Trinket Mage package was another aspect of the deck I didn't need to include but had good synergy as I would be playing the Mox Diamond and Divining Top regardless. The Engineered Explosives were a great addition in the end and gave me redundancy in mass removal as well as more targetted removal. Losing Pernicious Deed with not playing black is pretty significant and while Explosives is no way near as good it does just give you that extra bit of security.

The deck spends the whole game frantically searching for the few answer cards it has and trying to stabilize. As it is only 40 cards and is full of card quality, draw, tutor and regrowth type cards it is pretty easy to get what you need. The bigger problem is being able to cast it all in time. This makes the deck one of the very hardest cube decks to play with almost every game against every matchup presenting you a decent challenge and a pile of different things to try and cope with. The black version is better able to be tuned to beat agro, beatdown or control with access to discard or great removal however this less powerful version is still very much a tier one deck and is more able to cope with a diverse meta without specific tuning. Bonfire of the Damned is proving to be a really impressive card and is showing up in a lot of decks, it felt like it was one of the most powerful and key spells in the deck rather like Death Cloud in the black version but never harming your position. The Sky Swallower was also a stand out card in that it is very hard to deal with and a rapid finisher. The card quality made me happy to play a dedicated threat although I have built these decks without any proper win condition relying on man lands, small utility dorks, planewalkers or concessions through bordom to end the game.

Tuesday 10 July 2012

Changes to the Cube V (M13)


Mishra's Workshop
Mana Drain


Umezawa's Jitte
Karakas (now playing Oracle rules for card)


Lotus Bloom

Shardless Agent
Simic Sky Swallower

Augur of Bolas
Riftwing Cloudskate
Jace's Phantasm

Thundermaw Hellkite
Searing Spear
Wild Guess
Firewing Phoenix

Gideon's Lawkeeper
Ajani, Caller of the Pride
Knight of the Meadowgrain
War Falcon

Flinthoof Boar
Yavimaya Elder
Brindle Shoat

Raven's Crime
Fume Spitter

Removed (to the B Cube)


Kessig Wolf-Run

Rorix Bladewing

Skeletal Scrying

Invisible Stalker
Vedalken Engineer
Meloku, the Clouded Mirror
Aether Adept

Fiend Hunter
Ethersworn Canonist

Thrun, the Last Troll

Monday 9 July 2012

Top 10 List: Blue Counterspells

Edit: I have updated this article to a better fresher longer list! It can be found here

CounterspellThis list was pretty easy compared to the many I plan to do (I really love lists). Counterspells all do very much the same sort of thing and are basically all in the same colour which makes assessing them easier. The top burn spells list will be similarly easy to do. I specifically did just blue couterspells to avoid having to discuss why Force Spike in white has its differences to the original blue version and hence gets a different placing. This is my list, which the keen person could have put together themselves from the ratings I gave each in my reviews. I shall then briefly try to justify the relative positions of my choices.

10. Daze
9.   Mental Misstep
8.   Spell Pierce
7.   Counterspell
6.   Force Spike
5.   Remand
4.   Arcane Denial
3.   Cryptic Command
2.   Mana Drain
1.   Force of Will

Force of WillI personally think Mana Drain is more broken, abusable and unfair than Force of Will however it only gets the number two spot as it is a weaker counterspell (just a much more powerful accelerator). Mana Drain can counter something big and let you drop your hand for the unreasonable win but it can also just be Actual Counterspell, and should you be playing real mans magic it can be worse than that by burning you. Force of Will lets you tap out and gives you a huge sense of security, it is hard to play around and easy to satisfy the reasonable pitch cost. Force of Will is exactly what you want from a counterspell where as mana drain is just a good counterspell with added bonuses.

I may have marked Mana Drain down for going above and beyond what you require a counterspell to do however Cryptic Command is marked up for this behaviour as it is hugely flexible and does many of the things you want in the kinds of deck that run countermagic. Cryptic is the most expensive counterspell in my top ten by double but is the complete control package and well worth the mana. Arcane Denial is probably the most controversial choice in my list with being so high. I would just be repeating myself from the review I gave Arcane Denial to explain all the strengths of this card so in a nutshell, hard counter for 1U with personal cantrip or the ability to turn it on one of your own spells for decent card quality and advantage.

RemandNo one will argue that Remand deserves a high position although a few might quibble about it trumping Actual Counterspell. Counterspells that cost 1U and draw you a card are incredible disruption for control decks and allow them to get to the mid and late game so much better than those that trade one for one and cost UU. Remand is closer to Time Walk than it is to counterspell in many regards as it doesn't directly answer a card but it does put you much further ahead than you were. Most early counterspells are god because they buy you time in the early game and scale well into the late game, not because you need to stop the specific cards they make early very often.

Force Spike over Actual Counterspell may also get some funny looks but in a format as fast as the cube half the cost for a good chance at the same effect is massive. Even the threat of Force Spike is enough to give you an advantage. It doesn't scale as well as the hard counters but it is golden in the early turns and can still be valuable later.

Force Spike
Actual Counterspell is the benchmark for comparing other counterspells with. It is cheap and consistent and a very solid card. I don't build that many heavy counter decks preferring to use 4 or 5 tops in my control decks, of which not all will be hard or dedicated counterspells. As such I don't often have room for a solid but otherwise lacking in synergy and utility counterspell and find I play it very little and this may bias me against it a little.

Spell Pierce is fantastic, it hits most of what Force Spike does and is almost impossible until the very late game to avoid it being a hard counter like Negate. It is a bit harder to know when you can get away with playing a counterspell that can't hit all spells and so Force Spike does see more play than this despite this being far more powerful in certain decks and more so against certain decks. Although it is basically never dead against anything against the creature heavy decks it will sit around in your hand and may need using on a suboptimal target. Mental Misstep is an even more extreme card in this vein of cards moving away from Force Spike. It is a hard counter as well as having a very reasonable alternate cost which you get at the price of it being very selective as to what it can counter. Almost every deck has one drops but it is difficult to assess how damaging they can be against your deck. Most games are decided early and more than I would like are still decided by the coin flip for starting player. Mental Misstep is an enormous early tempo shifting card as well as one of the few cards that really helps to undo the drawbacks of going second. This makes up for it being the most situational counterspell in the top 10 as well as one of the worst scaling ones.

Daze manages to get the last spot on the list and is one of the scariest cards to play against. In many ways the pitch payment can be more costly than Force of Will's, certainly in the early game where effectively losing a land drop is enormous. In the late game where this can be to your advantage (say if you have a loot effect) the power of Daze has become very low and unlikely to stop much. With Force of Will however people can see the damage it has caused you in exiling a card where as against Daze it just feels like you have been hit by a super sneaky Force Spike. It is almost impossible to play around Daze and not put yourself too far behind which is possible to do against a Force Spike. Despite this people will still kill themselves against a Daze you never drew or just go savagely on tilt when they do run into it. Pitch counterspells are great, so are cheap counterspells and this can be both and so doesn't need to be the best at either to still be a great card.

The top 10 counterspells are quite easy to list as far as my opinion goes however a bigger challenge is to rate the next 10 or more and to include gold and non-blue counters into the mix. I am not going to attempt this just now but might well extend this list to every cube playable counterspell at a later date. I should like to give an honourable mention to Miscalculation which I have never had in my cube having not picked up a copy which is pretty unforgivable. I am not a Mana Leak lover and would happily trade the slightly better scaling of Leak compared to Miscalculation for the cycling. I want hard counters for late game answers and so had I tested Miscalculation it may well have earned a slot by being a powerful early counterspell that is never dead late game. 

Sunday 8 July 2012


I am pretty sure this is the highest average mana cost per card deck that I have ever made in the cube but it simply had to be done. I was surprised at how well it worked and how fun it actually is to play (although most certainly not against it..). I could have gone an artifact ramp route with this deck but it would have ended up very similar to the standard Tinker style deck and so I wanted to see if I could make it work more like a control deck and be more original. Without ramp the very earliest you can go off is turn three with Show and Tell but more consistently it is around turn five for the other two ways to cheat out an Omniscience, those being Academy Rector and Dream Halls. The bottom end of the deck was all card quality spells and efficient control cards with the top end providing good redundancy and utility on the combo win. 

24 Spells

Baleful StrixVampiric Tutor
Cabal Therapy
Swords to Plowshares

Senei's Divining Top

Augur of Bolas
Snapcaster Mage
Baleful Strix
Demonic Tutor

Lat-Nam's Legacy
Arcane Denial

Show and Tell
Dromar's CharmDromar's Charm

Academy Rector

Dream Halls

Yawgmoth's Bargain
Consecrated Sphinx

Temporal Mastery
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite

Sphinx of the Steel Wind

Dream HallsEmrakul, the Eons Torn

16 Lands

Shelldock Isle
Marsh Flats
Polluted Delta
Flooded Strand
Underground Sea
Watery Grave
Hallowed Fountain
Underground River
Adarkar Wastes
Sunken Ruins
2 Islands

Shelldock Isle
This is one of the best I have seen Dream Halls be as you only really need to use it once to be vastly ahead of your opponent due to the quality of your high end. It seems like it should be most at home in a storm style blue deck however I have found those can run out of steam quite easily and fizzle out. I made sure to include as many gold cards as possible to facilitate the Dream Halls in a three colour deck and limited myself to just one threat that couldn't be played using it which I thought was pretty justifiable given how much Emrakul owns when you get him out in one of the other ways the deck has to offer. Supposedly this is Show and Tell and Omniscience however Shelldock Isle can get it done. I don't like the card and only played it due to it having so much synergy with the deck. I don't find it enjoyable to win games by randomly lucking out and getting something massive into play for free. To be balanced in 40 card decks it should be 12-15 cards left in a library and not 20 and even then the card is a bit random, mostly it does very little or nothing and every now and again it wins a game out of nowhere. Half the time it takes away a good endgame card and makes your going off  less effective.

With such a high end lots of card quality spells were essential and more would not have been a bad thing. The main thing to get right in a deck like this is the ratio of control/disruption to tutor/card quality to actual threats. Typically reanimator decks will play 3 or 4 top end threats to bring in for the win and I was a touch nervous about the much higher number I as trying to get away with but due to the nature of the deck and Dream Halls I think I got it about right, either that or I draw very well!

Consecrated Sphinx
The deck plays somewhat like a control deck until going off is in sight and then it shifts into combo gear and ends the game in dramatic short order. This is an unusual way to build magic decks but can work, the fact that your low end control is a bit thinner on the ground matters less as you can quickly regain all of that lost tempo. It also means that you have more security and long game when you do go off. Many combo decks cannot cope with disruption and despite going off will not be able to finish the deal.

I played a selection of threats that were quite castable in control decks such as the Consecrated Sphynx rather than something more beefy like Progenitus as it gave me the option to play entirely like a control deck should the combo fail in some way. This deck felt tier one in power but I cannot imagine there are many other ways to put Omniscience to good use beyond this deck style and with just one home I cannot really justify the card an A cube slot. I do hope another home for Omniscience crops up as it is different and fun. 

Saturday 7 July 2012

More Reviews: A Cube Gold

(This selection of review posts I will continue to add to as more cards get returned to the cube that were not in my original list and consequently not on my first set of comprehensive reviews. Those reviews are large enough and ordered enough that it is best to leave them alone. I will also re-review new cards that become cube mainstays once they have settled in as it were. My preview of the new set releases misses aspects of the card which experience will fill in. For some cards it is quickly obvious how wrong I am and where, typically this is for the most played and most powerful new cards, primarily as they are seeing lots more play than the more marginal ones. Explore and Harmonize have been around for a long enough time, even with only mild playtime for me to give a fair review of the card. Wolfir Silverheart is a rare example of a card so powerful it is getting lots of play and is very clear to see its strengths and where it fits in. The Wolfir Avenger is a card that will be a lot longer in getting to a point I am happy to give a final review to even though it was added at the same time as Silverheart. It sees less play and is more a more subtle card, it is also more similar to other cards in the cube and so runs the risk of being reviewed on the merits and failings of those cards rather than its own. Anyway, all this is simply to say, watch this space as I will be continually adding reviews to this post.)

Trygon PredatorTrygon Predator 2.5

This little critter is a little bit Vampire Nighthawk, most notably for the 2/3 flying body for 3 which is a great start for any dork both in control and agro decks. 2/3 is the first really golden power and toughness in the cube thus offering a great window of power level at good value. Flying is also shining as the best ability to have on your dorks thus making the perfect little package. Typically I like my more utility focused monsters to offer value when you cast them like Viridian Shaman however the body alone on Predator makes this much less of an issue. With Viridian Shaman type creatures you have to hold them back based on the game state to get any real value from them and with cards like Qasali Pridemage which can be more proactive you have to lose the dork in order to use it as removal. Predator is the best of both worlds as you can throw it down at your convenience and either prevent the sensible casting of enchantments and artifacts or deal with those in play already and still be around during and after. The payback for this is that as a pure removal spell it is slow and easy to disrupt Predator and is better used as a supplement to more dedicated removal when required in a deck. Most decks have some artifacts or enchantments even since the removal of the power and so you can be sure to get more than just 2/3 flying value out of Predator while playing blind. It is often the case that the few artifacts and enchantments in a deck are either really serious threats or of high importance to the decks plan and so even in decks where there are only a couple of targets it is good to be able to deal with them, great example of this include the various equipment, most notably the Swords, Sulphuric Vortex, Zuran Orb, Sneak Attack, Crucible of the Worlds, Oath of Druids and so forth. At worst you have a reasonably priced evasive monster and at best you have won the game entirely of the back of it where no other card in your deck would have been of much use which happens about as much as he is at his worst.

Baleful Strix
Baleful Strix 3.6

I almost resent this card as it is just too good with no drawback or choices to speak of and it sort of isn't a real magic card putting in a very similar bracket to Scavenging Ooze. It has not been in the cube all that long but has been played in every single UB deck since its addition and performed exactly as expected. Elvish Visionary and Wall of Omens are both frequently played A cube cards. Primarily both are played as a two drop that draws a card, the elf is just a body to be done away with via Skullclamps etc or offer up synergy for better elves where as the wall is more of a speedbump against aggressive decks. The Strix does both of those roles, arguably better and offers a whole lot more to boot. The only two drawbacks I can think of in this respect are the lowly 1 toughness compared to Wall making it easier to burn out the way (still offering a 2 for 1...) and that it costs two coloured mana and not one. Being an artifact is more of an advantage than a disadvantage as you can Tinker it or play it in affinity or discard to Thirst for Knowledge, it is also immune to both Go for the Throat and Doomblade which no other dorks in my cube can claim and cannot be intimidated or feared passed. Being easier to kill as more removal can target it is no real concern as it is cheap and replaces itself card wise. Flying and deathtouch is about the best defensive combo a cheap card can have (see Vampire Nighthawk again as the benchmark for all that is good in cheap dorks) making it scale really well into the late game due to being able to trade with the better and better threats. Flying also makes it pretty decent if you do want to get aggressive with it. Hitting for one is weak but better than nothing and likely to get through and nibbling loyalty off planeswalkers is pretty good, when equipment comes into the picture however flying becomes outstanding and the low power far less relevant. Any card which does something early and replaces itself is gold in control decks. I am rarely thankful for a card being gold as it restricts its use but when a card is so obviously all round fantastic like Vindicate it is a blessing so you don't encounter it in every single deck. Where this just blue or black it would see more play than Remand, as it is we shall only see it in every UB deck from here out. 

Edric, Spymaster of Trest

Edric, Spymaster of Trest 3.0

A nifty little critter that fits very well into UG creature decks. Obviously it was designed for a different format and is consequently much better in one on one magic that intended however it is not unreasonably good, partly through being gold but also from being easy to deal with and somewhat dependant on other cards. If you have lots of small evasive guys when you cast this then it is basically game over unless they can instantly remove Edric in combat. If you have no other guys or at least any that can productively attack then Edric is offering very little value. Most times he is played he managed to get you one or two cards, the average number being in that region as well. If this is compared to Consecrated Sphinx which generally gets at least two cards and is likely averaging about 5 per cast you can see why I don't think this is over powered. A fairly irrelevant body that you need to keep alive and so won't be doing a whole lot of much that also depends on the quality of your other dorks and your opponents board position. He is also a little bit win more as if you have a couple of creatures you are able to get through unblocked then you are already winning. I do really like that he is an Elf as it makes Opposition Elves a more tempting splash and adds another dimension to the deck. Elves is one of the best types of deck for this effect anyway as you have so many little critters early to get in with. Often in elf decks you have 5 guys to their 2 but don't want to attack as you will deal like 3 or 4 damage and put two of your elves in the bin while they keep both thier dorks. This feels much better when you also get to free Ancestral Recall as well. 

Shardless AgentShardless Agent 3.5

While I have given this the same rating as Bloodbraid Elf I think it is the better card of the two when taken out of any specific context. Lets just say the cost of the cascade effect is one mana then Shardless agent is a two costing 2/2 which is less exciting than a three mana 3/2 with haste but not directly comparable due to different positions on the curve. If we tried scaling the power to make them cost the same for a more direct comparison we might conclude something like you get haste for one toughness with Bloodbraid over Agent. Haste is one of the best effects a dork can have and certainly worth one toughness so it is safe to say that Bloodbraid is the better dork but we would be kidding ourselves if we thought these cards were primarily about the body. It is all about the value you get from your cascade that makes both of these cards fantastic, if you want more guys, or more tempo or more card advantage they tick all the boxes. It generally doesn't matter what you hit assuming you have no total duds to hit like counterspells in your deck, you will get a good deal of what you want because your deck will be doing a thing. So my argument boils down to cascade 2 being better than cascade for 3. Clearly this only applies when you pay 3 and 4 mana respectively otherwise the cascade for more generally has more potential to have most power. Cascade is at its most powerful when you hit the most expensive card you can cascade into and so if you assume an even distribution on the mana curve you increase your odds of hitting the highest card you can by having the lower cascade. You havea 50% chance of hitting a two drop with you Agent but only a 33% chance to hit a three drop with Bloodbraid. On the other end of things when you hit a lowly one drop Llanowar Elf with you Bloodbraid you feel ripped off and have a card that is far less useful at that stage of the game. When you hit the Llanowar with Agent it is perfectly acceptable. As cascade is generally a very random affair it is best to take the statistical approach to analysing it. Another bonus of the lower cascade is that it imposes less restrictions on your deck construction as there will not be as many cards you don't want to cascade into. You can play Forbid with the Agent but not well with the Bloodbriad etc. Agent is a neat little card that has slightly fewer homes than Bloodbraid and so despite being the better card only gets the same rating. It is best in Zoo with blue and Opposition decks although a good all round card like this will find many more homes I am sure. 

Simic Sky SwallowerSimic Sky Swallower 2.0

It seems like I am only adding UG gold cards at present which is odd as it was, for a long time, one of the least powerful gold combinations with Mystic Snake being the best of the bunch... Now some of the cards that were not played often enough like Trygon Predator and the Swallower in question are finding many more homes while new funky UG gold cards are getting printed in special promotional packs. It is not a concern that I have gone from very few UG cards making up the gold portion of my A cube to them holding the highest proportion as I base my inclusions on how much play they get. This approach does not reduce the weaker colours to such few numbers that they become unplayable because of the elegant negative feedback mechanism of draft. If one colour is generally thought to be weaker it is under drafted however as soon as this is also generally thought to be the case (which happens simultaneously) people return to the colour as they will get higher quality and later picks. Less people draft it but more those drafters will tend towards mono decks and so the cards are played just as much as before. What actually happens in my cube is that a weaker colour will not significantly drop in number of cards but will instead become more streamlined and focused on the few archetypes and support cards the colour best offers. This goes a long way to explaining why red deck wins and white weenie are so well catered for in the cube. It is not that either colour is weak however they are narrower than other colours, which in the case of red has ended up making it one of the most powerful colours. I digress... My cube lacked fatties which do improve draft formats and this one is a nice all round fatty. It is hard to kill, hard to stop or get past, offers a decent clock and is not over the top expensive. Seven is a lot of mana with the normal cut off point being 6 mana for normal decks. Green decks are able to get away with very high cost cards, both from its ability to ramp and that it often rebalances a long stretching mana curve with lots of stuff at the low end. Occasionally it is a card that is cheated into play but is more commonly just a very reliable win condition for control decks. With very expensive cards it is good to be able to put them to other uses in the early game which is actually quite doable with Swallower despite having no built in ways of doing this. Blue has an abundance of hand and library manipulation and green has lots of effects to discard creatures to and let us not forget Force of Will. When trying to up the count of something in the cube I like to pick the most all round example of such a card and this is a good example of me doing that. Rating it however does mean I probably have to revisit some of my older ratings on fat dorks as I don't much like expensive cards and tend to be biased against them. Swallower is much less played than Myr Battlesphere yet the ratings I have given them both don't properly suggest this. 

Dromar's CharmDromar's Charm 2.0

I ramble on a lot about not having many gold cards as they go in far fewer decks. Putting a few numbers on that might help. There are 32 combinations of different coloured deck you can build in magic of which any one given colour will be present in exactly half. Sadly the maths is not simple as there are far more mono decks and two colour decks played than those with greater numbers of colours for which any one colour is only in a third of the decks. Even so, the number of decks that can play a card of any given single colour is very high, probably around 40%. If you then look at how many decks can play a card with two colours it can only go in a 15th of the most common deck types. Including all 32 types a 2 colour gold card can only go in 8 of them but at the very best there is no way a gold card will go in more than 20% of the archetypes because of the tendency to play fewer colours. The least restrictive of gold cards (ie just two colours) are about half as playable than a mono card so how unplayable are three colour cards?!? I would say roughly 75% of decks are mono or dual colour and three colour cards cannot be played in these decks. They can only be played in 4 of the total 32 all of which are three times less played than other colour combinations. At best a triple colour gold card will be playable in 4 or 5% of the field. This would mean Dromar's Charm would have to be about twenty times better than the worst mono card in my cube to obtain a space. This kind of reasoning however should not be the only thing one considers as you will never have any triple colour gold cards. The power of the card for its cost but not concerning their different colours must be taken into account. A card of sufficient power at the right point in a draft might convince you to make a splash and so forth. Dromar's Charm is a subtle but highly powerful spell that fills in so many holes in the kinds of deck that play those kinds of colour I think it is a good card to include so as to increase the interesting and difficult choices in draft. It is easy to splash for any deck already in two of the colours and doing so will lead to a very strong archetype with many other perks and synergies. Charm is not unlike Cryptic Command in that is covers you in lots of ways. Life gain is surprisingly useful and can feel like time walking against the right decks. Removal is always nice and as with the life gain when you card is not committed to doing a narrow thing it is both much more powerful and able to offer much more utility. Countering spells is great, everyone loves it and the three mana hard counter for only one blue mana is not too bad of a deal even in cube.   Dromar's is my favourite out of the many three colour charms although Esper is cool and Bant is very powerful despite being in slightly less played colours. As gold cards go this is about as good as it gets, full of flavour, great utility and fits in perfectly with the colours it is in. I would probably give this at least a 4.0 if it were not for all the drawbacks of gold. How useful information from hypothetical situations is!

Blightning 2.0

This has crept back into the cube as black red has become a more viable pairing of colours. First Olivia Voldaren and then Dreadbore and Rakdos Charm have all made the colour combination much more robust and potent. In addition to this planeswalkers are far more abundant than when Blightning was first released simply because more have been printed and people are better at including them in their decks. With walkers in nearly every deck now you can get a 3 for 1 with this card which is pretty brutal. As discard goes it is a little expensive and direct damage is not a great partner, in terms of synergy, for discard. It is card that offers good value but not in a package that is easy to make best use of all that value, a little like Lightning Helix. The recent cube meta has shifted a little away from raw speed and towards more purely powerful cards which also makes Blightning shine at the moment. More often are there cards to hit in peoples hands and more often are they high value cards. It is by no means an auto include in a BR deck but it is a fairly solid card and a viable choice for most of the possible BR decks. 

Sphinx of the Steel WindSphinx of the Steel Wind 3.0

This fatty is one of the best all round cards for cheating into play. It can be Reanimated, Tinkered, Welded, Show and Told or Dream Hallsed into play. You can even Sneak Attack it out although it isn't very special in that role. The problem with this card is that is utterly wreaks red and green mages who have basically no answers in their own colours to it and are very unlikely to be able to race it. Of the fatties who frequently get cheated into play this is one of the slowest clocks but with flying, life link and vigilance you are generally very safe from losing while you have it in play. Although red and green mages auto loose to this 99% of the time it is not all that big of a deal for mages of other colours who can usually find a selection of ways in which to kill it. This sees a lot of play because it is versatile in which combos it works with but also because it is the most effective card in a few specific applications, the beating of red and green players being the primary one of these but also for other matchups where you need to dominate the board and immediately take all the tempo.  I have seen this card used as a top end threat but without a fairly decent amount of ramp and good colour fixing I think it is a lot worse than Baneslayer or Wurmcoil in that sort of role. I somewhat dislike the card for being so good verses some colours while fairly average against others but that is exactly what decks like reanimator want, a few silver bullets that are really likely to take the game solo which this achieves perfectly. 

Ajani VengeantAjani Vengeant 2.0

This is one of the cards I am aware I differ more noticeably from the opinions of the general public and of the pros who share theirs. The cards like Death Cloud  that I rate far higher than most others somehow seem more reasonable that is the case when I rate a widely regarded card so poorly. It seems very unlikely that everyone else is just wrong and so I am continually playing this guy trying to find out where I am wrong. I have come to the conclusion it is the way my cube is designed and the metagame of my cube that makes Ajani so poor and not so much that either myself or everyone else is wrong. Ajani is a fairly powerful walker that really suffers from a lack of homes and that he gets less done that most other four drops in both his colours. The keeping tapped effect is versatile and nice but only giving one extra loyalty and not actually tapping the thing make it unreliable protection and generally underwhelming. With only three loyalty to begin with he is vulnerable and grows slowly while adding very little value to your position. The Lightning Helix is very powerful and fairly cost however it is hard to get multiple uses due to his initial low loyalty and his weak plus loyalty effect. His ultimate is also nicely low loyalty costs and to the point game winning however again with the limp plus loyalty ability and the low initial loyalty it is so rare to get close to going ultimate. All the best walkers get something done with an effect they can do repeatedly and so Ajani is falling short before we consider his possible homes or his gold limitations which are basically the same thing. Agro decks want more proactive things in the top of their curve and typically don't care at all about the life gain which devalues the best bit of Ajani. Control decks are much more welcoming of Ajani but have many better alternative walkers, not to mention high mana costing cards. Despite this I play him in place of cards to prove myself wrong and always regret it. While he is good he is both too narrow and too weak in comparison to really deserve an A cube slot. If he were mono coloured, or his +1 was a +2 or he began with 4 loyalty or the +1 tapped the thing as well then he would be very worthy of a slow but as it is I just don't like him at all. I am typically pretty pleased if I get to do two Lightning Helix with this guy however most other 4 mana walkers I am hoping to win the game with or at least bail me from dire situations.