Saturday 7 July 2012

More Reviews: A Cube White

(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.)


Abeyance 2.5

I am a huge fan of this card as I am of most cheap cantrip disruption such as Remand or / Ice. It is never awful as a cycle for 2 mana is not the worst however it does depend rather on what you are playing against as to the power of the card. Against counter magic it is a fantastic card for forcing through spells  or pseudo timewalking however against creature based agro decks it does little to stop the beats. It can still be useful to curtail planeswalkers, equipments and other utility cards often found in beatdown decks but you have to already have some semblance of control for this to make much difference. It is the kind of card I am happy to include in the cube even if it spends more time in sideboards than decks as it is playable against anything quality filler at worst but still not a direct hoser at best.

Serra AvengerSerra Avenger 2.5 

An interesting little spell that crops up in a few places. In white weenie it is cheap and very powerful evasive threat than can be easily cheated out early with Aether Vial or simply delayed until a four drop where it frees up more mana than other four drops allowing you to equip or remove something. In control decks it is a good cheap threat that you can always cast with healthy counter backup. It was cut from the cube for being a bit niche in white weenie decks and generally worse than Vendilion Clique in the control decks however I am finding more and more that fliers are where it is at. Planeswalkers are an important part of most decks in the cube and control decks have a hard time dealing with them once on the board. Having reasonable redundancy in evasive threats, especially cheap ones, gives a lot of coping power in this area. The best way to combat this increase in the number of flying dorks is to have more of your own and so all decks are trying to pack more fliers than before. Unlike flying, vigilance is not the most exciting of abilities however when put on a 3/3 flying body can a lot of times effectively double your air control. 3/3 is very healthy and kills without dying most things in the cube that cost three or less making it much more value than most other vigilant monsters. A nicely designed card that shines in the current environment in cube.

Spectral Lynx
Spectral Lynx 2.0

I thought I would bring this back to the mix as there are many new black white cards for which this is a good support dork. The regenerate is the primary reason this card is good but the protection from green can also be very powerful. If the card was two or more to regenerate it then it would be more about the protection side of the card and I would like it a lot less and not just because it was weaker but because it is more of a direct hoser. Even as it is the card will occasionally single handedly defeat a green mage which isn't much fun. It seems to be the case that Lynx has had his day and has been rather overshadowed. A 2/1 for 2 is the size of most small utility dorks, the pure agro monsters being much meatier. Regenerate is very powerful but is also easy to lose tempo with or get played around. Often you will play less efficiently as you are trying to hold up mana, regardless of whether they have removal which costs you more than you gain from the dork.  The Lynx is a much better control card than it is an aggressive one and offers little synergy to what black white decks are typically doing. Lynx is a little bit random, a little bit small and a little bit awkward to be an auto include in any deck despite it being a very nice all round solid card. For what is essentially a gold card I ask a little more of an A cube card and suspect that this re-entry of Lynx to compliment Sorin, Lord of Innistrad and Lingering Souls will end with both Lynx and Sorin leaving for the B cube heads down but hand in hand.

Ravages of War
Ravages of War 4.0

I cannot think of another card in the cube that has a functional reprint which is not in it. Cards get better with redundancy so if one is good enough two is likely better. Only just getting a Ravages of War was due to not having one rather than the cube not needing a second copy of this very powerful spell. Obviously the card is Armageddon and functions in the same kinds of deck in the same way. What is more relevant about the second copy is the vast improvement to consistency in decks that want to blow up lands. White has very little card quality and colours that do tend to not want to blow up all the lands and so a single copy of a card like this in a deck is not something you can rely on in your game plan. Typically decks that were built around blowing peoples land away would play Cataclysm as the second version which is less effective at killing lands than Geddon and more awkward to build and play around. Now decks can simply be Geddon decks and may be better honed to doing what they do. White Weenie decks will gain yet another solid and different way to construct the deck and set about winning and both GW and BW decks that can further abuse the mass destruction of land with Sinkhole, Vindicate, Life from the Loam and mana critters will all gain a little power. I am sure I said this on at least one other land destruction spell but it is so very key in the cube that it merits repeating. In cube the power is so high you have to be able to deny decks the ability to do their things else they will do something broken you can't hope to deal with. Raw speed is a way to do this, as is countermagic but these things are not possible in all decks. One of the most effective ways for a lot of non blue decks to effectively disrupt their opponent is mana denial. Some of the most powerful cards in the cube are the big mana denial cards like Wildfire, Tanglewire, Upheaval, Death Cloud, Plow Under and now, at last Ravages of War.

Lingering Souls
Lingering Souls 3.6

This is another one of the many Dark Ascension cards I initially evaluated wrong, let us hope that I learned from my mistakes and that the M13 and Avecyn Restored attempts are closer to the mark on my pre-testing ratings. Anywho, Lingering Souls is far from only applicable in a black pox style deck and is cropping up in every black white deck that has been made and made many people dip into black or white with their mono decks. In white weenie particularly you do not get severely punished for not having black mana available when you have this card and so it is an ideal card to splash with or include in a splash a little like Fire/Ice. So what is it that makes it so good? Four total power and toughness is no bargain for 5 mana, even with flying (Baneslayer anyone?) and mass token generation also comes cheaper (Deranged Hermit perhaps?). It is because the card is so well rounded that makes it so powerful rather than it being the best at any one thing. One of the big bonuses of the card is the Call of the Herd aspect of the card which allows you to do lots of different things. You can either curve out with it or just ditch it to some effect and still make use of it or draw it late game of the top and blow the whole thing to get a sizeable army or play half the card and leave the second portion as something to be getting on with post Wrath effect. It even costs less to recur than to cast unlike Call of the Herd and so you can pitch it simply to cast it faster if that is your requirement. Lots of bodies give you lots of options and make you safer against spot removal as well as good scaling on stuff like Honour the Pure. Flying is fantastic and a decent chunk of power even if not the most cost effective all combine to make Lingering Souls a worthy cube card, gold or otherwise. It is great to deal with or protect planeswalkers, good in aggressive decks at getting through damage and adding durability and great in control decks at holding off early pressure and acting as a decent finisher late game. 

Knight of MeadowgrainKnight of Meadowgrain 2.0

I continually cut this card only to find it back in the cube shortly after added by someone else while doing a constructed event. It was the new three mana Ajani that finally made me relent and add this guy in permanently. I was trying to think what the best two drop was in white to be putting counters on and quickly came up with this guy. Certainly other options have better synergy such as Mikeaus ths Lunarch or a greater clock however the humble Knight scales really well with pumping, is solid on its own and is generally hardier than the alternatives which will help against mild removal. Ajani is only one card that only really goes in one deck and is not all that powerful anyways and so should not merit the addition of other cards such as this on its behalf. This means I must explain why it is that people seem to keep adding this guy and why I am wrong to have been cutting it again. To my eyes it is just solid filler which at 1W cost I would be more than happy to have in the A cube as it would be filler in many more archetypes. At WW however it is really limited to white weenie in which it offers no synergy nor fills any required role in the deck. Lots of guys have first strike and do other more useful things and white has very little desire to invest in getting life. If this guy were BB then again it would be a whole different storey as black does actively want to gain life. I was cutting it because I thought it was narrow and unnecessary for white weenie to be viable, which is true but not the whole storey. White weenie is a good and common deck with a reasonably diverse selection of incarnations. You can put all the important synergy cards in for your decks particular bent and still have plenty of slots to fill which you will do based on the power of the cards, the particular role they fulfil (removal, threat etc) and where they are on the curve. White weenie is a deck very important to keep a high creature count in to go with the Crusade effects and equipment and so having a selection of generic but high power filler cards is important in fine tuning the deck. If you have put in all the utility guys you need and the synergic creatures for your deck and just want a two drop creature to round things off then you will chose the two most powerful option. In my cube this would often be something disruptive like Grand Abolisher, Thalia or Ethersworn Canonist which are very weak if not specifically used for their abilities, sometimes they would even be more detrimental than beneficial as the deck was not designed with their effect in mind. Solid all round cards like Knight of Meadowgrain are great in draft and important in giving flexibility to deck design without hurting the average power level of the deck. 

Gideon's Lawkeeper
Gideon's Law Keeper 2.0

A nice functional reprint with more useful creature types than the previous kithkin version. I really like the utility and redundancy this card offers white weenie players. While it is playable in WX decks they will always tend to be cheap aggressive ones where the activation cost and loss of synergies make the Law Keeper far less appealing. As white weenie is the most powerful archetype from white and makes up the most significant portion of white cards played I am less bothered about a card being limited to it than I would be about a card that is limited to a much more niche archetype. Back to why Law Keeper is good for cheap white agro decks. One drops are great as is removal and of course creatures are great too. Law Keeper is all three of these things. His body is weak but is easily pumped with equipment and global effects and will nibble away when there is nothing better to do. I already mentioned the benefits of his various creature types which go further to making his body useful. The primary function of this card is tapping down dorks which allows you to get attackers through for damage (although not quite as effectively as Mother of Runes) or hold of something horrific. Having to repeatedly sink mana to lock out a scary dork has its downsides but it does scale very well throughout the game always being able to stop any combat from the most obnoxious monster you are facing. Never a must have card but a really good little spell to tweak your deck and plug any holes you might have. 

Steppe Lynx
Steppe Lynx 1.2

Lynx only really gets a slot because of Plated Geopede which it frequently supports due the already in place synergy you should have with sac lands for the Geopede. The Lynx is a lower impact monster than Geopede and is far worse when you don't have lands to power it up. Lynx only goes in decks that already play Geopede and obviously it can't go in red deck wins leaving it only really with two archetypes (Boros deck wins and zoo) and it is far from an auto include in either of them. White weenie never really wants to bother playing this little cat as it has no other uses of sac lands and landfall while having a decent selection of other more reliable high power one drops to choose from. You also can't abuse Flagstones of Trokair and this in cube which makes it less exciting. When you do get the god draw of Lynx turn one followed by two sac lands it is good but not actually all that much better than turn one Goblin Guide or Wild Nacatl. Obviously your god draw happens rarely and so it tends to average out about as good as something like a Rakdos Cackler but far less reliable. The fact that it is a horrible defensive monster is not overly relevant but is still slightly to the detriment of the card. 

Aven MindcensorAven Mindcensor 2.2

A very pesky critter that was one of was much more of a mainstay when it was first released due to white having far less interesting things in the three slot. While quite a hoser of a card it is a fairly broad and generic hosing that may slightly affect some colours and archetypes more than others but should be annoying for most decks. At its very best this card comes down on turn three in response to someone using a sac land which then wiffs. This makes this card one of the few cheap spells that can bring games to a quick close in cube alongside the likes of Wasteland and Hymn to Tourach (altough not in quite the same power bracket). While not a fantastic body the flying goes a long way to making it useful as more than just disruption. The flash just helps in making it better disruption and more effective against control decks. While this card can be very potent it can also be very underwhelming and rather depends on what you are facing and how the game plays out as to how powerful it will be. It is not all that easy to engineer a way to abuse it and as such I rarely have this on my short list for decks because I want to know what my cards will do for me and load up on ways of taking full advantage of them. I also typically don't like cards which hose things and while I am happy for it to calm sac lands I am less happy with what it does to the cards which are not symmetrical through the colours. 

Sublime ArchangelSublime Archangel 4.0

While I have mentioned a reticence to review new additions to the cube, when the cards are so impressive they get played as often as possible it is quite easy to do and that is very much the case with this Archangel. I am fairly happy describing this as better than Wolfir Silverheart although a very similar kind of card. As with so many of the good cards that cost four or more mana I fully missed this when it was first released and probably dismissed it and just another high quality white four drop that wasn't specific enough to see much play. It turns out it is just so powerful that it doesn't need to be doing anything all that fancy with your deck, it helps to have other dorks to power her up but otherwise she seems to just win games in all kinds of decks. As a four mana 4/3 exalted flier she is pretty good and obviously a lot better than Silverheart is with no other dorks about. When you have say three other dorks on play and you make her the swing in tempo and seriousness of the threat is vast. As with Wolfir, in the situation I have described, you get to immediately take advantage of her and swing in with a bonus +4/+4 on one of your dorks. Sure, the Wolfir allows all your guys to attack but it is a lot more prone to getting blown out with instant speed removal. The following turn you will be able to swing in with an 8/7 flying Angel, perhaps more if you make more dorks. The restriction of only attacking with one guy is not that big of a deal when it is so huge and can be which ever is the most appropriate dork for life link or flying etc. It has been the case that you answer this or you lose in very short order which ranks it up with the elite threats of which it is not only one of the cheapest but also one of the quickest at bringing the game to a close.  The best home for this finisher is in white weenie where you have high dork count typically with low individual power and often token effects to boot. Mother of Runes is also great with the Angel for protection and avoiding chump blockers. Costing four mana makes her significantly more viable in agro decks than cards like Baneslayer which are just too slow to reliably come into play. She has seen play in almost every deck that can support her double white mana cost and also has around about a quarter of its deck as three or less mana dorks. In all of these decks she has been a scary threat and performed well but not quite as well as in white weenie where she is now a mainstay even pipping Elspeth, Knight-Errant to lists although this is due to negative synergies from cards like Thalia, Guardian of Threben. Although much easier to deal with than an Elspeth the Archangel typically ends the game quicker and compared to the creature threats that cost four she is significantly better. Ranger of Eos is looking like he is about to slip from the A cube as there are better ways to get card advantage and much more powerful things to do with four mana. Hero of Bladehold is powerful and looks harder to deal with but this is deceptive. You have longer to deal with him before he has too much impact on the board because he has no effect on the combat of the turn you cast him unlike the Angel. In addition to this Hero has no evasion so is often killed by blockers on his first attack and although you have gained some advantage by this stage it is often not enough to take the game. Sublime Archangel is comfortably whites best four drop dork and is of such high power level that it should be a mainstay in all cubes. She would probably be better as a 3/4 just to make her that bit more resiliant to red removal but given that she is already one of the best threats in the game we need not complain.

Faith's FettersFaith's Fetters 2.0

Four mana is an awful lot to play for a sorcery spell removal spell, especially one that is not always permanent. Not only can you remove the Fetters and get your thing back as it left off but it is still in play while inactive thus contributing to metalcraft and affinity type effects or being fodder for sacrifice effects both of which make it less effective removal. Compared to Oblivion Ring it is a chunk worse both for costing more and being slightly less effective removal. Neither are really in the same league as Vindicate which gets things really dead at the right price and does lands to boot. The only advantage Fetters offers you over Oblivion Ring is the four life bonus which does a good job of offsetting the high mana cost for against agro decks but is little consolation against more control decks. This assumes you always get the four life which is not a given with many sac effects existing to fizzle your cards. Removal is always great in magic however and one that can hit basically anything problematic, even annoying utility land effects can be shut down if needs be, is going to be playable. You should expect a card to be a bit clumsier if it is so generically useful. Certainly not the highest of power within the cube but is always going to be playable in any cube. Removal is also rarely on enchantments and so it does see some play for synergy reasons from time to time such as with Academy Rector or in Enchantress style decks, even having something like an Enlightened Tutor in your deck makes the Fetters a little better as you can tutor for both removal or life gain as you need, not exciting but fairly functional. In most situations you are just better off with Oblivion Ring but this gives it acceptable redundancy and offers some different utility and so sees play occasionally in combination with the Ring and every now and again appears on its own. It is worth noting that I am largely talking about cube formats which resemble constructed more, as you shift more towards standard booster drafting of 45 cards the value of the Fetters increases. 

Cloudgoat RangerCloudgoat Ranger 2.5

Cool card, great name but sadly not a card with many homes. White weenie is the place of dreams for him with Crusade effects and equipment to abuse the one man army however the five mana cost makes him awkward to include. Typically you want to finish your curve on four in white weenie and having five drops is a sign things have gone a bit awry. He is also up against stiff competition from Elspeth Tirrel and Baneslayer Angel both of which do aspects of what this does wrapped up in nice packages of their own. Ranger is a bit of a middle ground between the two being able to generate a lot of dorks in one go or being able to act as a flying finisher. He is less vulnerable to spot removal than the Angel but more vulnerable to mass removal than Elspeth and so on. He is fine in control decks but rarely sees play for being rather too middle ground and less suitable than other five drops which have very few high premium slots in decks, even control ones. More midrange white creature based decks are cropping up in cube of all colours which means more potential homes for this guy but none have really established themselves as archetypes as yet and so this guy tends to sit on the sidelines watching until we do some low card (just 45 as opposed to the whole cube!) pool booster drafting. In these situations when decks are weaker and less honed he really shines. Value for mana and a variety of uses and synergies all make this worthy cube filler despite low frequency of getting played. 

Orim's ChantOrim's Chant 2.5

There are presently four uses for Orim's Chant in the cube, in combo deck, sideboard against storm decks, as another Fog in mill decks and of course Scepter Chant. Typically Abeyance is better in the first two instances as it allows you to draw a card however Chant costs one less which is very relevant in games with combo decks for both sides and Chant does slightly more than Abeyance overall. You are pretty happy with either option for or against combo and so the difference in the cards comes down more to the other archetypes although the Chant is slightly behind when only considering the previous uses due to the draw card which is somewhat offset by the cost difference however does have the added bonus of making Abeyance a much more main deckable card and of less detriment in other match ups. Mill decks are dull, not catered for in my A cube and very easy to hose against and so are fairly irrelevant in ranking Orim's Chant. Scepter Chant is not that common of a deck although it is just about tier one. It is very easy to hose if you see it being drafted and barely ever a hard lock against most cube decks even when they don't see it coming. You also damage your draft a bit if you go out of your way hoping to get the key parts and fail to. Abeyance is actually also pretty nifty on a Scepter however it is only really brutal against creature light decks and is not quite a deck in its own right. Scepter is also totally fine in a deck without Orim's Chant altogether should you get enough good cards to imprint like Fire / Ice, Lightning Helix, Boomerang, Memory Lapse etc. Overall the perks of Scepter Chant make up for the greater main deck appeal of abeyance and leave the two cards on a par for cube rating. Chant is slightly more powerful but also more specific, it is a low pick because its uses are niche and somewhat wasteful in other situations. I have just though of another use for both Chant and Abeyance however it is not only quite situational again but also generally sub par. When you have a mid range or control white deck with no manner of attacking spells or hands you are at the mercy of a decent control deck with counter magic. If you have some threats or spells you really need to resolve to have a chance of winning the cards give you a way to force things through, like for combo deck but far less powerful.

Flickerwisp 2.6

One of the few decent white three drops on offer that finds homes in both agro and mid range decks as well as the occasional control deck due to an abundance of synergy. It offers evasion and great power power to cost ration which alone wouldn't be enough for a cube slot, particularly with the low toughness. The nifty flicker effect however scales very well with lots of other cards and is fairly decent disruption or tempo in the right situation making it decently powerful and fairly interesting. It is not doing anything specific and so you only want to play it when you know it is good against your opponent or when you have an abundance of comes into play effects to abuse. It gives redundancy to Restoration Angel in some respects and allows you to more reliably build around comes into play effect dorks. In the more agro decks you are much more interested in the evasive power and the ability to remove a blocker for a turn or kill off a token than you are about generating card advantage or having your own synergies with it. The body is fine although far better against some colours than others with red finding it funny and green having nightmares about it. The utility ability really enables you to get tempo out of the card even if it depends on what your opponent is up to which is what agro decks are all about. Over all this card is of a good power level and is decent filler in any deck while being more abusable and dangerous in a few. It is not a commonly played card but is generic enough to improve drafting and deserve an A cube slot.  

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