Wednesday 19 September 2012

Return to Ravnica Review Part 2

Angel of SerenityAngel of Serenity 1.5

While this is a little too costly to see much play outside reanimator style decks I am drawn to this card for its immediate impact on the board combined with its versatility. Most of the time you will want to get rid of three of their guys in play however periodically you will want to invest in returning your dead dorks to your hand eventually or even just removing pesky things like Genesis from graveyards. I think this Angel will replace Elesh Norn as the best reanimate target that deals with opposing dorks, it has higher power and evasion and doesn't lose much of its power when you have no creatures of your own. Elesh is insanely good against weenie decks where it basically kills everything and locks down the game however she is far poorer against control decks using single fat threats where as Mrs Serenity is very good in those situations. Not a card to get overly excited about but one that performs a valuable role better than other options.

Precinct CaptainPrecinct Captain 2.5

I rather like this little critter. The classic 2/2 with first strike for WW with something extra. The deal is pretty acceptable when the little extra is something minor like vigilance or a protection however the little bit extra on this guy is not all that little of a thing. Making extra bodies is really quite good for white agro decks who often employ global pump effects and have frequently got equipment to hand as well. The first strike pushes this card rather over the edge as it is so much harder to block and most of the things that can in the early stages of the game without dying won't be able to finish it off. This means you are probably getting value out of this card however with its reasonable costing you are also not too put out when it is just killed on sight. Cards like Mentor of the Meek are really weak when instantly killed as you likely have been playing around using the card and it is such a large mana investment to play with no benefits upon coming into play. Two mana for two toughness compared to three generally means you will not lose as much tempo when spot removal is used. An all round nice card, good cost, good body and a synergic ability. I still prefer Knight of the White Orchid as you tend to get value immediately from the card but for an all round white two drops that cost WW this is looking to be my second favourite.

Azorius Arrester - C Cube

Neat little card, right creature types, acceptable power for cost and an easy cost at that. Good for tempo but sadly too situational for a tempo dork and below the bar of power in the cube.

Keening ApparitionAzorius Arrester

Keening Apparition - B cube / C cube depending on art

No idea why we need yet another functional reprint of Kami of Ancient Law and rather doubt the cube will ever call upon more than one so really all I am left to choose between this, the Kami and the Unicorn is the picture. One of the best white weenie outs to enchantments there is but a bit bland to see much main deck action.

Palisade GiantPalisade Giant - C cube

I quite like this guy, he is going to make you feel very safe but I think for the mana you are generally better off just winning the game with something else rather than stalling with this wall.

Seller of Songbirds - C cube

Low power card but good synergy with lots of white effects such as Honour the Pure and Kor Skyfisher. Blade Splicer is significantly more card for the mana but only gives you one white guy and offers no evasion, if either of those things are key to your strategy then this might be your 3rd pick for the slot after Spectral Procession and Lingering Souls.
Seller of Songbirds

Soul Tithe

Soul Tithe - 1.0

This is a tricky one to assess, as removal for creatures you are almost always going to be better off with Journey to Nowhere (which really should be in my cube, will have to dig that out...). As an Oblivion Ring it is unreliable and commits the unforgivable crime of giving your opponents control over your cards which I suspect is too hefty a price to pay for the discount 2 mana cost. It does seem quite good as a way to deal with planeswalkers and will perhaps even gain you a bigger advantage through an opponent electing to keep the walker alive when they should just let it die. Unless you are about to go ultimate with a walker or you have no other uses for your mana (which you likely won't know until you have drawn) or the gamestate is very delicate then paying to keep up a walker with this on it will put you behind in a game. It feels like a weak version of Abrupt Decay in that it is quite a good tempo style all round disruption card but cannot be relied on to cover you on all fronts. The worst thing about this card is that you cannot use it to get in any extra damage on the turn you cast it which makes it less appealing to tempo based white players.

Faerie ImpostorFaerie Impostor - B cube

This is no Kor Skyfisher for several reasons, the main one being that it costs one mana meaning you won't be able to cast it on curve (assuming your not playing duds like Ornithopter). A one drop you can't really make on turn one is defeating the point somewhat. Having to bounce creatures rather than any old permanent also significantly reduces the potential synergies with this card other than the obvious Snapcaster...  Being blue works against him as well as blue has least cheap dorks and few of them have come into play effects. This will still see some play because blue lacks cheap cards however it will be relatively weak and rarely played early at all. I can see it only working well in a Faeries deck as they have lots of creatures with come into play effects as well as having tribal synergy but that is about it.

Cyclonic RiftCyclonic Rift 2.0

I think this is better than Into the Roil, which rarely gets played with its kicker. Targetted bounce is all about being cheap so it is easy to be tricksy and will gain you tempo for your loss of the card. This is pretty good targetted bounce as it costs the right amount for the things it can target with no real drawback. Echoing Truth is only better than Into the Roil when you are up against some sort of token theme which is hard to know when building your deck and a little cheesy if you do know! While it might cost stupid mana to make this do what Echoing Truth does it will also do quite a lot more. A one sided Devastation Tide is exactly that, one sided devastation. The kinds of deck that would play mass bounce either want to bounce their things as they generate more mana like Mana Vault or won't have very much in play. This makes it worse than Devastation Tide or Upheaval on most occasions however those cards are either very situational or hard to build around where as Cyclonic Rift is no trouble to throw into your deck as a nice all rounder. Most of the time you will just use it as a cheap bounce card but sometimes you will use it as an overcosted Tide and it will be very effective. Variable cost/effect cards are great and when one half of the card is essentially identical to cards already in the cube it is a bit of a no brainer. The overload would basically have to never get played for this to get replaced by any of the existing comparable bounce. You can't use this as a way to save your own stuff but it is rare that that is relevant. You play bounce to increase your tempo for the most part and bouncing your own things does the exact opposite of that.

Conjured Currency - C cube

Fun! Rather a do nothing spell for quite a serious amount of mana but fun and different enough to fill up space in the C cube for the rest of time.

Sphinx of the ChimesConjured Currency

Sphinx of the Chimes - No slot

I like this card but sadly it is a do nothing in singleton formats and so won't be seeing any play. I think Consecrated Sphinx is a much better card anyway but this is none the less quite cool.

Search the City - No slot

This set is full of cards that are especially weak in the cube and this is perhaps the saddest one of all as it is quite a cool card. Drawing five and Time Walking see quite the bargain at five mana, even with a bit of a delay. In cube the best this will be doing is an overcost Lay of the Land...

Stealer of SecretsSearch the City

Stealer of Secrets - C cube

I prefer the 1/3 version of this, you want survivability and the freedom to attack without fear of death. The extra damage is not very important as the dork is about drawing cards not killing stuff. The 1/3 also has better creature types and still isn't A cube material.

Psychic SpiralPsychic Spiral - B cube

Odd card and rather expensive for something without card advantage or board position change however the reshuffle effect in cube is valuable for many decks. Elixir of Immortality is significantly better as a pure reshuffle effect as are things like Time Spiral for the most part however this can also be used as quite a powerful mill engine, most of the time you want to start reshuffling your yard this will be very close to outright decking your opponent. I'm not a huge fan of mill decks in the cube as they feel a little over powered in a 40 card deck while also being very easy to hose. Single cards that give you alternate wins while having other functionality in your deck however are not really worth hosing like a mill archetype and are quite interesting although probably not powerful enough.

Blustersquall - C cube

Tap a dork or tap all dorks for the appropriate costs. These effects are very powerful on cantrips such as Ice or Cryptic Command however the loss of card advantage makes it very hard to justify playing this even with its appealing dual costs and effects.

Inaction Injunction

Inaction Injunction - C cube

Even if Ice could only target creatures it would still probably be better than this. This is better than Blustersquall as it contains the all important cantrip however I think it is too narrow and clunky to be played in any cube deck.

Necropolis RegentNecropolis Regent 1.5

This has a fairly similar impact on the board as a Grave Titan but it requires you to have some of your own dorks first rather than working just as well on an empty board. While it is a better body that Titan purely for the flying and deals more damage in three hits without any other dorks than Titan does, with all his team connecting, the fact that you get no value if it is insta killed makes it the far weaker card. Being slightly harder to cast also makes it less viable than Titan in a number of decks. This may end up seeing no play as it is variable in performance and competes with Sorin Markov and Grave Titan on the curve. I am also convinced it has been given 5 toughness just to ensure nothing black ever copes with a Baneslayer although probably more problematic against red mages it is a very minor drawback of the card, likely less relevant than costing 3BBB rather than 4BB.

Ultimate PriceUltimate Price - C cube

If it did artifact creatures then this might be blacks most consistent 2 mana removal spell however as it is I don't see this getting play, Go for the Throat is just always better.

Drainpipe Vermin - C cube

An interesting variant on the Ravenous Rats / Black Cat style card but just being a 1/1 makes it being a 1 drop less exciting as it isn't doing very much for your board position. The cost is ultimately the same as the alternative critters if you are to get the effect out of the Vermin and both more intensive on black mana and more inconvenient to plan around, the latter of which is quite a serious problem for the card. It also has the worst of both worlds of the Cats and Rats, the discard is proced on death not entering play and the discard is chosen by them and not you or randomly. Sadly this card fails but good attempt at a discard one drop, please keep them coming!

Drainpipe Vermin
Shrieking Affliction

Shrieking Affliction - B cube

A variant of The Rack that is probably more effective at dealing damage in a discard style deck. Being black to play is no real problem as it was almost exclusively black decks that utilised The Rack. Being so similar to The Rack as well it might be sufficient redundancy to make both A cube material and send a new archetype to a high tier. It is also going to be harder to deal with than The Rack with so little enchantment removal floating about compared to the artifact hate.

Thrill-Kill AssassinThrill-Kill Assassin - C cube

I really like the design of this card and the unleash mechanic in general but fear this is just too underpowered to make the cube. He is a very decent agro two drop or a very decent early blocker but those are polar extremes of what you want from a card and so in any deck he is going to primarily want to be one or other of his sides on almost all occasions. Neither side is good enough on its own and that is basically what the card will be, a one sided card, and so it wont be getting a high place in the cube.
Slum Reaper
Slum Reaper - C cube

Flame Tongue Kavu meets Fleshbag Marauder and the result is unexciting. For this to be better than any other 187 dork you have to want to be sacrificing dorks and if that were the case I can think of numerous cheaper and more powerful ways to go about doing this.

Ash ZealotAsh Zealot - 1.5

The ability on this card is another effect attempting to dampen Snapcaster Mage. As a hoser it is very weak, there are not that many cards that will trigger this, most of which are red deck wins cards anyway and so this Zealots effect will probably cause you more pain than it deals with its "main effect". It also gives the choices to your opponent while they are being hosed which makes it worse but also makes it less objectionable as a card. The reason I am entertaining this for the A cube is nothing to do with the graveyard effect which might as well not be there, I just think a 2/2 for two with first strike and haste is quite a serious tempo monster in red which rarely gets such robust monsters for combat. Backed up with a bit of burn this guy is going to be very hard to block effectively for most of the early and mid game which is ideal for a red deck wins pressure dork. The RR cost is demanding and will significantly reduce the number of decks that might play this but it is still definitely worth a go.

Annihilating FireAnnihilating Fire - C cube

Pillar of Flame seems like a much better deal for your mana if you want this kind of effect and that has not been shining in the A cube. There are likely situations where you need to be able to exile at instant speed or would just really like to only expend one card to both exile and deal three damage however red is more about efficiency and redundancy, to which Annihilating Fire is for the most part, neither. I also now realise the is just a worse version of Yamabushi's Flame and probably doesn't even warrant a C cube slot.

DynachargeDynacharge - C cube

A versatile and neat little damage dealer / combat trick that will get you card disadvantage but could be worth it from time to time. Being instant is really important for this card to be good as it could be too easily played around as a sorcery. Two damage for one mana isn't exciting especially as you have to have an attacker get through, going two for one with one of their fatter dorks also isn't fantastic but they are cheap options the card gives you if you need them. When this card is good is when you overload it and have yourself a cheap mini Overrun. As soon as this pumps 3 or more guys it starts to look pretty good. Red doesn't love cards that require setting up and so this will probably never be called upon but it is a cool card versatile card.

ElectrickeryElectrickery - C cube

This set is full of versatile cards which is great, this one however I think is too limited in scope to see play. It only ever hits things for one and so wont be killing very much. The damage not changing means you always want to save this card and try and get a two for one for the single extra mana however this situation will often not arise and cause you to be in a bad position as a result. The only real home for this card is as a hoser to token tactics.

Gore-House ChainwalkerGore-House Chainwalker 1.0

Low power but sufficient and versatile. Unlike the Thrill-Kill Assassin both portions of this card are pretty similar both being tempo based aggressive creatures. While the Assassin is always going to be quite bad in one of its guises the Chainwalker will oscillate about which side is best quite a lot. Neither a 2/1 for 2 or a 3/2 for 2 that can't block are exciting, the latter more so. The option to have either from one card however makes it much more powerful. When you have the tempo on your side your unlikely to be needing to block and can unleash happily however later on when the board is clogged up you are probably best of having the all-rounder, smaller version. Good filler and best in draft situations more so than constructed ones where he is too generic and low power to make the cut frequently.

Racecourse FuryRacecourse Fury - C cube

Clumsy, vulnerable and weak however one of the better ways to get a haste enabler down early in the game. I cannot see this being better than Lightening Greaves but this is the kind of card that will be just the ticket in an obscure build of something and so well worth while me putting one aside for that rainy day.

Viashano Racketeer - B cube

Another low power card that it surprisingly interesting. Discard outlets are good, particularly those which don't lose you card advantage. I am not quite sure where this fits in as it has too weak stats to be good in a tempo deck and is too small an effect for the mana to be playing purely for the effect. A control deck with an engine such as Squee may have a home for this but I doubt it, a Sea Gate Oracle seems vastly superior in such a role.

VandalblastViashino Racketeer

Utvara HellkiteVandalblast - C cube

I much prefer Shattering Spree as a versatile mass artifact removal card but this is not far off it and has some minor advantages to make up for its lower flexibility. You can hit more than one artifact per mana if they have 6 or more and you need to pay less red mana to do this, not ground breaking but a decent hoser offering a bit of redundancy to the better Spree.

Utvara Hellkite - C cube

A bit too much mana and needs other dragons on play to be worth it in cube. As Dragonstorm is a fun and popular deck this seems worthy of a slot but not a prestigous one.

BrushstriderBrushstrider - C cube

Three power for two mana is always somewhat interesting although not as much as two power for one mana. This however has low toughness and vigilance really isn't much of of boost to a dork of these stats. Green is full of more powerful or more interesting two drops and so this bland beasty shouldn't see any play.

Oak Street InnkeeperOak Street Innkeeper - C cube

Too much mana, too low stats and too many stipulations on what gets hexproof, this is far far worse than Kira, Great Glass-Spinner but it is green and things like Heritage Druid allow you to get this tapped immediately for self protection. If I was concerned about this sort of thing I would play Sylvan Safekeeper or Spellskite but it is nice to have options.

Urban BurgeoningUrban Burgeoning - C cube

Green rarely wants mana outside of its turn and so this is pretty hard to make a useful accelerator. It is however mildly abusable with certain lands such as the original Ravnica bounce lands or Heaven forbid a Library of Alexandria...

Mana BloomMana Bloom - 2.0

I love this card, seems really cool but I think it looks better than it will turn out to be. Wall of Roots is going to be significantly more effective than this card most of the time however this has some more niche applications of which I'm sure most have not yet occurred to me. This is a better fixer than it is a ramp card and may see play in some green based multicolour control deck. What I love about it so much is that you have great freedom to spend your mana effectively, firstly you can dump it into this when you have nothing better to do and then you can reap the rewards of that investment in later turns. You can throw it down on turn two and use it like a Lotus Petal to get out a 4 drop on turn three but still have the card to show for it. If things like scry and Divining Top give card quality this gives mana quality but as to how often that is worth a card is entirely unknown and will need testing. Even if this card isn't powerful enough for the cube it is a lovely design and an elegant spell.

Armada WurmArmada Wurm - B cube

This could well be A cube material and so I will test it out there first. It is a great all round top end monster with low risk, great power for your mana and reasonable evasion. It is also the thing to be populating! Sadly it suffers exactly the same problems as Broodmate Dragon which is another low risk fantastic all round card. They are both annoyingly gold and therefore quite hard to play and to make matters worse they are in both in quite awkward colour combinations that have few archetypes none of which really support these kinds of cards. For 6 mana an all rounder starts to cut it a bit less than more specific cards like Titans.

Centaur HealerCentaur Healer - No slot

While this may look like good value it is exactly the sort of card that shouldn't clog up slots in a cube. It is probably above the curve in terms of power however it is gold as so will see very little play compared to a mono coloured card of this nature. It is also comically weak compared to Kitchen Finks or even Lone Missionary for that matter as you would only resort to a card like this if you really wanted the life.

CounterfluxCounterflux - C cube

An elegantly designed card that gives you some game against storm and cascade effects without being unplayable as a normal counterspell. Storm can be quite scary for counter based decks who generally have to directly hose with Orim's Chant or Mindbreak Trap, both of which seem lots better in that role than Counterflux. Mindbreak Trap has more untility than this as a normal counterspell and despite being one mana dearer requiring only 2 of those to be coloured and not being gold make it similarly easy to cast and more widely playable. Three mana counterspells have to be really impressive as do gold cards and so this would need to do a lot more to make the cut.

Detention Sphere
Detention Sphere 1.0

I am not the worlds biggest fan of Oblivion Ring and while this may be better outside of cube it is not so within the cube. The only time this will be better is when they have many tokens of the same type,  rather like Maelstrom Pulse or Echoing Truth. This  is so rare it would likely not be worth a 1WW cost, let alone a 1UW cost. Redundancy is good and UW is the main archetype to employ Oblivion Ring so I feel as if this should get a slot but I don't like it at all.

Epic ExperimentEpic Experiment - C cube

This seems pretty awful, in most decks you are going to need to pay at least 6 mana to get any card advantage reliably. You cannot plan for what you get and so any mana costs saved by this spell are somewhat less impressive. For the most part however I imagine hard casting the spells this thing reveals would cost less than has been pumped into this. As a storm enabler it is quite a lot worse than Minds Desire, being able to turn mana into storm and cards is different to using storm to do it but far less useful, there are better ways of investing your mana should be be fortunate to have enough to make this good. In the seething Song style red blue storm deck this might have a slot but beyond that this has no place in the cube.

Golgari Charm
Golgari Charm - C cube

Very disappointing based on the first few charms we were able to see. This had no mainstay uses and is just a pile of very minor and very situational abilities. The best is the -1/-1 to all things but as a BG card this is going to do more self harm than anything else. Killing an enchantment would be a nice side effect if there was a more consistent main effect. This is far from unplayable but it is just so all over the shop I can't ever see anyone thinking this is the perfect card for a deck or against a deck.

Jarad's OrdersJarad's Orders - C cube

Neat effect but far far too much mana, this would need to be mono coloured, cost at least one less and ideally be instant before it was looking particularly interesting for the cube.

Mercurial ChemisterMurcurial Chemister - No slot

Limited bomb but 5 mana gold  2/3s that have no come into play effect and need to have more mana invested, a turn waited and become tapped to do anything further are a no go. This could read "win the game" as one of the effects and it would still probably not be good enough in cube...

Sphinx's RevelationSphinx's Revelation - C cube

I guess if you are in blue and white this is probably going to be better than Stroke of Genius assuming it is not your win condition. Stroke is such a slow and costly way to draw cards for most normal decks it rarely sees play in that role and is now almost exclusively used as a finisher for infinite mana decks. This can't do that and less decks are UW than are U and so this is pretty awful for the cube.

Call of the ConclaveCall of the Conclave - C cube

The new Watchwolf for better populating possibilities. Mostly tokens are weaker than actual creatures with a few exceptions such as having Snapcaster Mage or populate. With few interesting looking populate cards and the fact that Watchwolf isn't quite good enough for the cube I can't see this getting play.

Rakdos CharmRakdos Charm 2.0

Initially I was unimpressed at this card however in cube I think it might well be a bit of a sleeper and outshine a number of the other charms. Having no creature kill mode makes it far weaker for most normal kinds of magic however in cube artifact removal is highly desirable. There are lots of artifacts that are very hard to beat once in play as well as lots of things like Moxes which crop up all over the place assuring that you will have targets most of the time. Graveyard removal is useful against a few strategies however is far too narrow to dedicate a maindeck slot to, having a very powerful but infrequently useful effect like this is ideal when the card is also able to do something else useful. Compared to the making of a 2/2 which is never dead but never very exciting I would much rather have a game winning ability that only came into play now and again.The final damage ability is the weird one which is hard to value, most of the time it will do insignificant damage to a player however there are two occasions where I think it will be extremely powerful. Firstly using it to finish off planeswalkers will be a pleasant relief and not that unusual a situation as most people with active walkers have guys in play, both due to walkers making tokens and without guys walkers usually get attacked to death. The second occasion it will shine are those times when you realise their life total is less than their creature count and you kill them, I predict lots of games where this is the case and people forget all of what Rakdos Charm can do.

Rakdos, Lord of RiotsRakdos, Lord of Riots - B cube

I really want this to be good but getting it into play is such a chore I am not sure it cuts it. Being a legend is bad as well with Karakas, Metalmorph and so forth easily dealing with them. Even without the prerequisite this is still harder to play than Phyrexian Obliterator and far easier to deal with. On top of this you have to have dealt damage which makes it much more awkward. To make the card viable as it is you have to compensate for the drawbacks of getting it into play by making good use of the creature cost reduction effect. If you don't do this you have a card that is far worse than a vast array of black and black/red four drop dorks however if you do attempt this and fill your deck full of Wurmcoils wanting to be Memnites you will have a harder time dealing the prerequisite damage. Cool effect but bad synergy with the drawbacks

Izzet StaticasterIzzet Staticaster - B cube

This I will need to throw into the A cube and test for a bit before I can be sure of this placing as this is a very interesting card. The ability is extremely good against tokens which makes only ever hitting one non-token dork at a time due to cube singleton format no big deal. He can't hit players and with zero power this makes him weak in certain matchups however to make up for this over other pinger / Tim type dorks he has haste, flash and three toughness which are all pretty useful. Being able to block and ping and leave mana up make this a perfect control card. It is fair to say Gelectrode is going to be more potent when on the board and active in these kinds of deck but the Staticaster makes up for this by being a much safer play that won't put you vastly behind in tempo to a basic removal spell.

Skymark Roc - C cube

A rather annoying card that is unlikely to trump Dungeon Geists or even just other 4 drops in the cube but is still a decent pile of monster for the mana with a decent enough tempo effect.

Firemind's ForesightSkymark Roc

Fireminds Forsight - C Cube

Tutor meets Ancestral Recall however seven mana is unreasonably costly. The only home for this is a quirky combo deck that can cheat cast it somehow and so I'll stash one in the C cube but seriously, 7 mana?

ThoughtflareThoughtflare - B cube

While 5 is a lot of mana it is instant and so far less problematic for the kinds of decks that might look to play this. If this were mono coloured it would be far more likely to make the cut but as a gold card I am unsure if it has enough homes to see sufficient play. Four cards is a lot and being a discard outlet can be a good thing but generally it is better when cheaper.

Treasured FindTreasure Find - C cube

Regrowth is a good card but mostly in combo decks that rely on specific cards. It is quite a poor card to have in your opening hand and not something you want to overload on. It would be rare for many decks to want enough recursion to get past Regrowth, Eternal Witness, Yawgmoth's Will, Noxious Revival  and so forth in order to justify playing this. Self exile also makes it weaker in some combo engine strategies so combined with its limiting colour requirements this shouldn't see any play.

Blistercoil WeirdBlistercoil Weird - C cube

If this were pumped by artifacts rather than instants and sorceries then it would be really cool with Grand Architect, as it stands I can't think of any synergy powerful enough to get this seeing play. At heart it is a 1/1 for one, even if you could be sure of pumping at least once a turn a 2/2 vigilance for one isn't exactly above cube power level and so given that in reality this will not be consistently pumping it remains an interesting card and not yet a useful card. There are quite a lot of cards that proc with certain casts such as Kiln Fiend that could become an archetype but as yet it doesn't have all the tools to make it worth building.

Sundering Growth

Sundering Growth 2.5

This is the most interesting of all the populate cards despite it not producing tokens itself. Essentially it is decent value for the mana just to Disenchant things, throw into the mix the ability to play it in decks of two colours and then a potential bonus token and it looks like a playable all round card that can sometimes offer substantial value.
Deathrite Shaman

Deathrite Shaman 4.2

This is the Snapcaster of this set and stands out above the other cards by quite some distance. While not quite as good as the Snapcaster (but then what is?) this little card will see more play and change more archetypes than any other card from this set so far (with only 8 spells to go I'm not holding out for an upgrade on this). It should have a reasonably significant impact on the cube which is quite rare for cards these days, most are slight upgrades on cards that then change nothing, they swap one for one and fulfil the same role in an unchanged archetype. The primary reason for my excitement is that in many ways this is a Bird of Paradise in black. If this were just playable with green mana it would be far worse than Birds but as a black card this is frighteningly powerful. It has many roles which I shall come to however the most significant is the producing of mana. It is worse than Birds at this but with sac lands, Mox Diamond, cycling lands, Lake of the Dead and discard outlets/effects it is not going to be at all hard to get this working for you most of the time, especially as you can use their lands as well. It is also a 1/2 which isn't thrilling but does just add on to all the other good bits of this card to give you a supremely powerful dork, able to nibble, able to block a bit and take a small amount of stick before keeling over dead, every point of power and toughness is a bonus. So, as a 1/2 near Birds type card with the ability to be played for one black or one green mana it is an absolutely insanely good monster. The drawback of exiling lands may even become a positive when it disrupts Life from the Loam and Crucible of Worlds, even just improving your draw quality after a Timetwister effect is good. After this we have not one but two more effects both of which are handy. Between the three effects only Goblin Welder and Replenish style graveyard decks remain undisrupted by what is essentially a mana dork. This means black and green are less inclined towards including cards like Scavenging Ooze, Withered Wretch and Nezumi Graverobber as it has that side of things covered already to some extent in Deathrite Shaman. The Ooze is a remarkably powerful beater and may still get played on its own merits but even so the existence of Shaman will free up slots that were more of a necessity beforehand. If you do feel you need to hose a graveyard deck so much that you do play your Withered Wretches you will still be playing this as well and so it just makes you safer still. This is not directly as good at the role of Withered Wretch, its main advantage over it is that it offers a comparable one for free! I have been yammering on as it the only point in removing spells and dorks from the game was to disrupt the opponent rather than to cause the appropriate loss or gain of life which again is nothing to be sniffed at. Life gain is huge against some decks and will ensure this is a kill on sight critter for them. Unstoppable life loss also makes this guy a serious threat as the game draws to a close, while unlikely to get there all by himself he will do a very acceptable job of finishing things off. This card would be A cube worthy as a 0/1 for B that only had the first ability but it just has so so much more thrown into the mix for free than make it about the most versatile and value for mana creature going. A truly outstanding card that hopefully won't be tediously good to play with in the way that Baleful Strix or the previously mentioned Scavenging Ooze can be.

Rakdos CacklerRakdos Cackler 2.0

A lovely little card that isn't over powered but is exactly what many decks want. A poor creature type but not the end of the world, this should see play in both red deck wins and mono black agro although not as a mainstay. Red has few good two power dorks for one mana and this is probably the most consistent after the almighty Goblin Guide, black has plenty but they tend to cost life which is not always ideal and so this may be preferable when being a zombie isn't needed. Mostly you wont want this for blocking and so it will be a 2/2 however late game it does at least give you the option when you top deck it to throw it down as a chump blocker making it less dangerous to include in your deck.

Tablet of the GuildsTablet of the Guilds - B cube

They finally printed a card with this sort of effect that is close to playable. Being a coverall card rather than colour specific this is quite acceptable as a card in a draft as it won't be dead for the majority of the players as say a Dragon's Claw would be. Life gain isn't great but it is more useful in cube than in most other magic formats and a cheap colourless way to get this done might be convenient enough to see play.

Izzet KeyruneThe Keyrunes - B cube

These are much worse than Talismans or even Signets as fixers or rampers and they are also much worse than the dorks you could get for the mana. This same logic basically applies to all the man lands in the cube as well and so the value of them being both fixing, ramp and dorks in one card needs taking into account. This is quite a hard thing to put a value on and will require time and testing to discern if my rating of B cube is reasonable. My gut feel is that the dorks are too weak to make the cards interesting, if they were two or three times the activation cost but for an equivalently improved dork then they would be more appealing to control decks but as it stands they are clunky slow ramp that inefficiently offer you an unexciting dork when you have run out of better things to invest your mana on. The dorks are all at least very similar power levels which cannot be said of most other incarnations of man land cycles.

Codex ShredderCodex Shredder - C cube

This is exactly the sort of card that will be perfect for a couple of decks and I fully expect to see getting played. Regrowth effect is good in cube, as are 0 and 1 costing artifacts. This reminds me a great deal of Elixir of Immortality and to a lesser extent Brittle Effigy both of which see play.

Rogue's PassageRogue's Passage - C cube

Quite a powerful card that is easy to use and isn't too much of a drawback to play in a deck with a sound mana base. Sadly it is very costly to activate and as such people are going to prefer things like Waste Lands and Mishra's Factory in their decks as they will be compensated most of the time for the colourless land. The passage will provide mana and be fine, it won't screw the sensible player too often but given how rarely it will be impacting games due to activation cost the few screws it does give you will make it not worth playing.

Right, so that's the set, lots interesting cards for the cube however most of it is going to be in the B and C cubes, even more so than usual, with such a high volume of gold cards and interesting but low power cards. The Deathrite Shaman will probably have more impact on the cube than the rest of the new cards put together! There are not all that many really high rated cards and most of those are gold so they will see less frequent cube play. I intend to give the gold cards a big chance to prove themselves by allowing vastly more gold cards into the A cube for testing than feels like a good balance. This should return to a sensible level over time. It seems wise to do as the more gold cards you have the more chance there is that they will be played as they improve each other by promoting those colour combinations. Here is my list of best cards for the cube from this set:

1. Deathrite Shaman
2. Dreadbore
3. Lotleth Troll
4. Abrupt Decay
5. Rakdos Cackler
6. Izzet Charm
7. Worldspine Wurm
8. Mizzium Mortars
9. Precinct Captain
10. Dreg Mangler

There is very little to choose between five through ten and there are a few other cards that also fit into this group of cube worthy. There also seems to be vastly more black green goodies than any other flavour which is a colour combination already utterly spoiled for choice.

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