Saturday 2 March 2013

Revised Reviews: White Spells

It is time to go over the reviews of the main cube cards. Since I first did them over a year ago I have learned more about the newer cards and the cube metagame has changed a little. I have also added new cards and retired some to the B or C cube for the time being although I will still keep those cards in this list. While touching up the reviews it seems like a good opportunity to employ a more informative rating system which I have outlined here. In short the main rating is the same and in bold at the top, the two aspects that make up that composite rating are below. Power relates to the effects and stats of the card for its mana cost while support relates to the cards utility, synergy with other cards and how well in fits into the cube metagame and archetypes. The first set of reviews I did will remained unchanged in the earlier portions of the blog if any uber keen people want to see what, if anything has been changed.

Austere CommandAustere Command 3.5      
Power 3.6
Support 3.4

There is a good argument for more of these mass removal effects in the cube and Akroma's Vengeance would be the obvious choice with the two being very close in power. Cycling is a great ability but is best on cheaper situational cards like miscalculate. Rarely do you want to lose your main cover all removal spell. Vengeance is less versatile than the command and makes you less happy to play things like land tax or artifact mana which does not really compensate for the fact that it hits more stuff when you cast it. Like many card choices in my cube the more versatile card with less overall power makes the cut as it goes in more decks and allows more free deck construction. Catastrophe is the other card that has seen play in this slot. It offers the Armageddon option but at 6 mana it is a bit steep and often not what the more control style deck wants. The options on Austere Command are more in keeping with what the decks that can afford 6 mana mass removal effects want to be doing. If I am in white and I am trying to control things I am always happy to play this card. It is one of the few cards than can deal with artifacts or enchantments en mass and as such one of the most important cards against affinity, enchantress or Tinker style decks. The card it is closest to is Pernicious Deed and despite being a bit slower it is often easier to come out of ahead for less total mana investment and is all in one colour.  

Gideon JuraGideon Jura 3.6
Power 3.8
Support 3.5

Against beatdown Gideon is one of the best things you can spend five mana on. 8 loyalty off the bat if you require or kill something and still have 4 is a huge tempo swing. Gideon also has a much more practical ultimate than most other walkers that sets about ending the game as soon as he has stabilised things rather than wasting a lot of time charging up loyalty. Great synergy with white mass removal and a great card in isolation. The best five mana walker in cube is either Gideon or Tezzeret the Seeker. In the right deck Tezzeret tends to come down very quick, generate some mana then win the game in the following turn if not dealt with which makes him the most dangerous walker. Tezzeret is entirely dependant on support cards to be good and fits in few decks despite the high power level of the best support cards for him in the cube leaving Gideon the more reliable candidate. Gideon is most at home in control decks but fits in well in any mid range deck too. You don't need support cards for him to shine and so Gideon Jura is the most played five mana walker in the cube. If you can afford five mana and are playing white Gideon should always be a viable option for your deck. While best against beatdown decks he is fine against control decks too acting as a hard to kill threat while also endangering theirs. 

Wrath of GodWrath of God 3.5
Power 3.8
Support 3.3

Simple, effective, reliable and all for the right mana cost. Wrath would have been a 4.0 back when my cube was first made in Mirrodin block, failing to kill only the odd man land and darksteel colossus. Now monsters recur frequently and come with more card advantage, and now we have some far more serious man lands to contend with, not to mention planeswalkers. Mass removal is one of the oldest control deck things and is reasonably easy to play around, particularly with so many guys that are somewhat wrath-proof to curve out with now. Control decks cannot now solely rely on wrath and need to supplement it with instant spot removal and better creatures and planeswalkers of their own. That said, wrath is the best of the non-situational mass removal spells and one of the few ways to kill certain threats and so remains a staple in most control and mid-range decks with white. Even with most decks packing lots of things that are resilient against Wrath effects it is still a great way to get card and tempo advantage in one go and will still kill lots of decks that have over extended on the spot. 

ArmageddonArmageddon 4.0
Power 4.2
Support 3.9

Lands are more integral to magic than monsters. If your deck is able to cope well with losing all its lands, either by recovering fast or being in a much better position first, this is a very powerful game winning card that is highly splashable and rarely dead. The most common home for this finisher is white weenie and similar agro decks but it does crop up in mana denial decks and artifact decks too. Few decks are perfectly happy losing all their lands with red deck wins, affinity, elves and decks with a lot of artifact mana being most resilient to it. On the flip side this destroys most control decks if it resolves and does something even less pleasant to blue green combo decks that rely on having lots of lands in play to go off. Armageddon is one of the most powerful cards in Magic that can have huge effect on the game for quite a low cost. White has very little disruption on what people can cast with little counter magic and no hand disruption however it can deny the ability to cast any thing at all with Armageddon and so it sees a lot of play. White has great cheap removal and threats as well as cards like Land Tax and Flagstones of Trokair that all aid Armageddon strategies. There are a few creatures that are must kill in most situations such as a Baneslayer Angel and this is similar in that for many decks it is a must counter otherwise you lose. There are not many spells that fall into this category, and few so easy to play and so frequently viable. Obviously it has its downsides, you are not always ahead and as such it will be a dead card from time to time. For this reason white weenie decks often err on the side of caution and play safe powerful cards in the four slot like Sublime Archangel and Elspeth. Such a choice is not wrong and mostly down to personal preference and the meta but could be considered a little wimpy.

Ravages of WarRavages of War 4.0
Power 4.2
Support 3.9

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.

Cataclysm 3.8
Power 4.4
Support 3.2

Not as devastating to a players mana as Armageddon but certainly its closest comparison in usage in my cube. The main advantage of cataclysm over geddon when used in this capacity is that it is pretty devastating to artifact based decks against which geddon is generally quite poor. The part of this card that effects enchantments is rarely very relevant and the creatures aspect is mostly a drawback. White aggressive decks often have multiple fairly weak threats which is obviously far from ideal if wishing to cataclysm, the best solution to this having equipment and more obvious things such as holding back spot removal and a few extra small dorks. Another perk is that it hits planeswalkers which typically white really struggles to deal with. Cataclysm is a more powerful spell than armageddon and has greater scope but is harder to build and play appropriately with yet are frequently found together anyway. Other than balance I think this is the most powerful effect on the game in magic for the mana cost. The catch is that it is also one of the hardest to set up and play to your advantage. Unlike Armageddon it also has nothing that does what it does in the same sort of way and therefore, because it is so hard to build around and with it lacking any redundancy it is far less frequently a focal point for a deck. Cataclysm sees less play than all the other white mass removal effects in the cube but enough to keep a slot. 

Elspeth, Knight-ErrantElspeth, Knight-Errant 4.5
Power 4.7
Support 4.4

Alongside Jace, the Mind Sculptor this walker is as good as they come. As with Jace these walkers are basically always good in any deck that can support the colours. Elspeth is frequently played in agro and control and disappoints in neither. Two useful plus loyalty abilities and healthy does of starting loyalty makes Elspeth about as safe a play as a walker can be, especially at the cheap cost of 4. Her ultimate is one of the weaker ones and does not outright win the game if used, which is fine as it rarely is with games being concluded well before that is a possibility. It is rarely right to put Elspeth in the bin to get her ultimate off which is unusual for planeswalker ultimates. If more abundant ways are printed to effectively deal with planeswalkers Elspeth will lose value but as it stands she is a game winning threat that has good impact on the board and rapidly swings tempo, more so than Jace, and is really hard to deal with. I still rate her as the best of all the planeswalkers due to her being more robust than Jace (the Mind Sculptor of course) and more impactive than Garruk (the Wildspeaker). She offers more of a clock than most other walkers, while being cheaper and safer. Tempo is generally more important than card advantage in my cube and so Elspeth tends to outshine Jace. Elspeth also scales very well with the abilities on your dorks such as doublestrike or lifelink as well as crusade effects for her tokens you might be playing. 

Day of JudgmentDay of Judgement 3.2 (B cube)
Power 3.1
Support 3.3

It seems like madness cutting this highly powerful card from the cube but with the arrival of Supreme Verdict this limp Wrath of God stopped ever getting play. Mass creature kill spells are not in short supply for white and in 40 card decks you don't need that many. Cards like Austere Command steal some of those slots for their increased utility, Wrath of God always gets a slot over this for being exactly the same but better and it was found that the only archetype that really wanted both Day of Judgement and Wrath of God was UW(x) control decks. In such decks Supreme Verdict is simply better. The cost is not harder and while the uncounterable aspect is barely ever relevant the fact the card is blue and able to be pitched to Force of Will or imprinted on a Chrome Mox makes it significantly more useful. I am loath to cut powerful mono cards for gold cards but logically I would be foolish not to do so in this rare case. If some none blue decks turn up wanting multiple 4 mana Wrath effects then perhaps this will return but I can't imagine what those decks will look like with Wrath effects becoming ever weaker to newer creatures.

Faith's FettersFaith's Fetters 2.0
Power 1.8
Support 2.1

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. 

Oblivion Ring
Oblivion Ring 3.0
Power 2.6
Support 3.5

I always feel a bit unhappy when I find myself wanting this for my deck. Whenever I draw it however I tend to be grateful I did not give in to my previous reluctance concerning the card. It is not the most exciting or reliable of 3 mana kill anything spells. It doesn't hit lands nor is it instant. It doesn't even fully get rid of the problem even if the vast majority of times it does. That said it is the only mono colour three mana kill anything spell without some significant drawback. This makes the card very playable in any white deck and often takes the slot that might otherwise go to a Disenchant or other specific removal. The Ring is about the best thing a standard blue white control deck can do about a resolved planeswalker and sees much play for that sole reason. Despite all the versatility of the card I find it to be clunky and inelegant in my decks and prefer to seek other solutions to my problems, the card is just a bit too good for me to always succeed in my attempts. It is at least very poor at killing comes into play effect cards and makes it that much more of a dangerous card to use on them. It also has poor synergy with certain white global removal effects such as Austere Command or Cataclysm. That said, over 90% of the time you cast this it is better than Vindicate and so won't be leaving the cube any time soon. It can go in any deck and will never be dead for you. The more I think about it the more I am sure my rating is too low because of my bias against its clunky inelegant nature. 

Lingering Souls
Lingering Souls 3.6
Power 3.9
Support 3.2

This is another one of the many Dark Ascension cards I initially evaluated wrong. 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 while also tempting 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. It neatly fits into your curve ensuring mana efficiency and like all the very best magic cards offers both card and tempo advantage simultaneously. 

Spectral Procession
Spectral Procession 2.1
Power 3.0
Support 1.4

While this card is one of white weenies best possible three drops it is a card that only goes in that deck and even has some poor synergy with other viable cards for the archetype. The deck is very heavy white weenie with global creature buffs and rarely finds a home in the versions of white weenie that are more artifact heavy using equips to buff their guys and things like Aether Vial to power them out. I like the idea behind the cost flexibility but in practice it has little effect and the card might as well be WWW as that is what it is when you are building your deck. At five and six mana the card is terrible and it is probably weaker than Battle Screech at four. As such it is pretty restrictive in terms of incorporating it into decks. With no boosting effect the card is pretty powerful offering split evasive damage but with a Crusade or a Mikeaus the Lunarch or even a humble battlecry dork the game tends to be over pretty fast. One of the few cards that gives occasion for Maelstrom Pulse to shine but even then they go one for one with equal mana spent... Another minor issue with this card is that it is worse than Lingering Souls yet both have the same sorts of synergy and good support cards. As lingering Souls requires a tiny splash in black and this requires you to have none or just one non-white land it can be a bit inconvenient to play both and Souls tends to win out. 

Tempered Steel
Tempered Steel 1.5 (B cube)
Power 3.2
Support 0.6

This is another of the very specific white cards that finds only one home but is of a very high power level in that archetype. Tempered Steel is the entire basis of the archetype for which it resides and offers absurd power to. An affinity style deck can easily have four or more monsters out and ready to attack on turn three when you cast this. It is not far off having Overrun all the time in the appropriate deck. The mana cost of the card, particularly the double white makes things quite interesting in terms of building an affinity deck. Mana base is the deciding factor when constructing affinity decks and you can either fill up on loads of colour fixing and play all the most powerful coloured cards or restrict yourself to minimal colours and cards from them and fill the deck with power, or you can just risk it and play all the power from all the colours but I recommend against this. I tend to find myself going mono white when I use this card but I think I could easily use a second colour. Despite the extreme power of affinity style decks and the variation within the archetype they have all been recently culled to the B cube as they are awkward to try and draft and rather clog up boosters.

Disenchant 3.0
Power 2.5
Support 3.6

Simple, reliable removal that is risky to forego in your deck. It is rare that you will not have targets for this and I will generally consider it if I am playing white. It is pretty much as simple as the less stuff I have that can deal with artifacts (primarily) and enchantments the more inclined I am to play it regardless of my deck. If I have no other way to kill an artifact I will almost certainly play it. Green has better alternatives to Naturalize that white has for Disenchant and as such the Disenchant is far more valuable to white. Being cheap, versatile, easy to cast and instant are what make the card so good. Trading one for one at sorcery speed is far less exciting or able to generate any additional value such as in response to an equip. Both artifacts and enchantments are relatively narrow targets but generally powerful effects. The ability to destroy either makes the card significantly more powerful than an effect that can only hit one such as Divine/Serene Offering. While sometimes it will only be able to hit a Talisman in the late game and will be pretty weak as a top deck, other times it will be your best card as it beats their combo or shuts down an engine (Recurring Nightmare / Birthing Pod / Opposition / Survival of the Fittest / Smokestack). It also has the occasional free win when you can hit an early mox or destroy a card they were going all in with. Recently a glut of playable artifact creatures have seen print making this even less often dead in hand. Slightly better in control decks and those with card quality effects but still highly playable in agro decks and worth picking high even if it does end up in the sideboard as it will be one of the best cards there for sure. 

Honor of the Pure
Honour the Pure 1.4
Power 2.2
Support 0.8

A very narrow card that has only one archetype in which it is not even an auto include. Having the redundancy from Crusade and some weaker extras from the B cube should you wish do enhance the usefulness of this card in deck building. Obviously this is the best of the generic globabl creature boosters, 2 easy mana and hard to remove due to being an enchantment. It is easier to cast than Crusade and wont randomly buff their guys too. This is sometimes played in white weenie without Crusade but never the other way around (a rather redundant end to that sentence...). Generally a white weenie deck has to go either pump effects like this or equipment. It can also do a bit of both but then it becomes harder to abuse each of the effects. Despite this not being an auto include for only one deck the deck has many builds and has consistently been one of the top tier decks for as long as the cube has been around. Without access to cards like this there would be few ways to build white weenie and make it a rather dull affair. As such I am far happier including cards like this than I am cards like Tempered Steel. 

Crusade 1.2
Power 2.0
Support 0.7

Retaining its cube slot on the basis of Honour the Pure but not displeased with the classic feel the card brings to the cube. If playing both this and Honour you need to ensure a high creature count, think of it as every non creature you play making these 2.5% worse (in a 40 card deck). Keeping your average card power high and your curve looking right can make it tough to reach an optimal creature count. The power of the guys is less relevant as the global pump will offset this and more when working as intended. Generally you are looking to pad out the deck with cards that have good synergy with being pumped. Abilities such as first strike, life link, flying and provoke on cheap guys scales very well. Obviously things that generate tokens are also very good and count as a creature slot in the deck although will tend to make cards like Aether Vial unappealing.

Revoke ExistenceRevoke Existence 1.5 (B cube)
Power 2.0
Support 1.2

I thought this would be a lot better that it has proved to be. While exile is very handy from time to time being instant speed is of much more use. White has Disenchant, Oblivion Ring, Faiths Fetters and Austere Command at its disposal to deal with artifacts or enchantments which is not really enough options. White sorely needs a viable creature that can cheaply take care of artifacts and then there would be less need of cards like this. It was added shortly after Wurmcoil Engine for which it is an outstanding response. It turns out that most of the things you wish to exile are lands or creatures and not artifacts or enchantments. Wurmcoil is an overlap exception to this trend for which there are not enough to make this better than Disenchant, or for that matter ever really played. The instances I can remember it seeing play were to test it out or in drafts when they hadn't managed to pick up any other disenchant effects. Shattering Blow seems like a far better card to have in the cube than this and is still relatively unlikely to see enough play to stay in the A cube. 

BalanceBalance 4.5
Power 4.8
Support 4.2

I would have to say that in terms of effect power to mana ratio Balance is the clear winner. The banned cheap blue cards are more efficient but they do not do as much to the game. Effects like Death Cloud, Upheaval and Cataclysm are all far more expensive to cast for more comparable effects. Balance offers you the ability to Armageddon, Wrath of God or be Mind Twist. It even offers the ability to do multiple of these effects, all for just two mana. In terms of a get out of jail free card Balance has to be one of the very best too. The interesting aspects of the card are not when you are totally dead and then you rip it off the top to equalize the game only to then win the game of top deck magic that follows. It is interesting in how you are able to set it up and also how it is restrictive to the point of almost being fair. Often you will have to suffer the ill effects of one portion of the card to gain greater benefit from the other two, wiping out their hand and army is generally worth the cost of a pile of your lands. Balance entirely depends on the game state, most of the time if you are winning it is worse than dead unless you have specific synergies to abuse it. In terms of when a card is dead, when you are winning is about as good as it gets. Zuran Orb is a frequent combo piece with this allowing you to remove all lands in play should you wish. The various Moxen also have good synergy with the card as they reduce your hand size faster making Balance better more quickly and because they remain in play without effecting the outcome of the Balance. Most of the really powerful early magic spells (Alpha etc) tended to lack interesting features but Balance is a happy exception to this and while sometimes frustrating to play against it does lead to more 
interesting games.

Abeyance 2.5
Power 2.2
Support 2.8

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. It is also one of the few things white has for generically dealing with combo decks

Orim's ChantOrim's Chant 2.5
Power 2.9
Support 2.1

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. 

Path to ExilePath to Exile 4.2
Power 4.0
Support 4.5

The second best spot removal card in the game and situationally better than the number one card. Instant, one mana and exile are prefect on all accounts for a removal spell and the downside of giving them a land is not enough to offset the convenience of Path. Having both this and Swords to Plowshares gives great redundancy to white in really top level removal and is utilized in practically every kind of deck using white. Exile is huge in this format as it gets around the many when this dies effects as well as indestructible and recursive monsters as well as getting the threat gone through library reshuffle or Regrowth effects. The one gripe I have with Path and Plow is not that they are too powerful but rather that there is just a huge gap between them and the next best removal spells. Many decks don't play any basic land which makes Path outstanding, white also has Land Tax and Knight of the White Orchid which really benefit from you casting Path. Path is generally better than Plow in aggressive decks than don't want to be giving away free life. Mana is generally lots better than life and losing card advantage is worse than not losing it so even in aggressive decks it is not always better. This is most the case early in the game where creatures are weaker and lands are more valuable (and stand to have more chances to tap). It is not wholly uncommon to Path one of your own guys simply to get the ramp in mana yourself.

Swords to Plowshares
Swords to Plowshares 4.4
Power 4.4
Support 4.4

The original and best removal spell. There is not a lot to say about this especially given its similarities to Path. It costs one mana, it is instant and it exiles the creature. These are all just as ideal as they are with Path to Exile. Plow is the card you want to kill their turn one play, sadly it is also the card you want to kill every play there after and so in many matchups it will be saved for the most irksome of threats. Everyone knows that life is the least relevant resource in magic and the scaling that goes with this card always makes you feel like you get a good deal out of it when you kill something facing you down. Like Path it can also be used on your own dorks as a last resort making it a little more versatile. This may seem very weak but when you need life then it is better than nothing. Just as an example of how irrelevant the life gain should be compared to the effect, I had a game recently where my deck intended to win with Devil's Play and Aurelia's Fury burning people out. In this particluar game I managed to get Swords imprinted on an Isochron Scepter early in the game which spent a lot of its time exiling beast tokens. By the end of the game I had donated him over fifty life yet still managed to burn them out due to the immense control gained from the Swords. 

Land Tax
Land Tax 4.5
Power 4.8
Support 4.3

The most effective card advantage spell in the game costing just one mana, not being symmetrical like Timetwister and being able to gain upwards of 15 cards in a game of magic, I am not sure what the all time cube record is for Tax but 15 is not uncommon although 6-9 would be the usual. White has very little in the way of card advantage but in Land Tax it does have one of the very best. It may only get land and basics at that but much of the time this is what you want any way. There are good uses for an abundance of lands such as recovering well after an Armageddon, looting them away into spells or being extra abusive with Scroll Rack. Land Tax is at its best in mono white where you can play the most basics. In multi coloured decks you never really want to cut good dual lands for basics so as to get more value out of Tax. In reality you can play about 7 basics and still have Tax be worthwhile. Obviously the more basics you have compared to non basics the better. Generally I just find I trim down on luxury lands when wanting to abuse Tax. On top of getting loads of cards into your hand it also takes loads of increasingly dud draws out of your library. Mono white has few ways to abuse having loads of cards in hand beyond Scroll Rack unlike blue with its Jace's and looters. Much of the strength of the Tax in mono white decks, especially the aggressive ones, is that after a couple of activations they never draw a non action card again and can just overwhelm a control deck through card quality. It is well worth always taking 3 lands when you can even if you then need to discard most of them again at the end of turn. 

Mana Tithe
Mana Tithe 3.5
Power 3.2
Support 3.9

Well, its a Force Spike and they are really good. Colour shifted cards are not always going to be the same rating as a functional reprint would be in the same colour. This is the same rating although the cards do end up in relatively different deck styles as well as some similar ones. I would probably say Mana Tithe is the better card for two reasons. Firstly white has very little to chose from spell disruption where as blue has a ridiculously long list of options and secondly because when you are playing UW control and don't have Force of Will the Tithe tends to be a better choice out of the two of them. This is because when you want to counter a couple of spells in a big turn you start to run low on blue mana with Cryptic Commands and Actual Counterspells being cast, having an unsuspecting plains untapped at the end of all this is common and having a Force Spike you can't play is horrible. White has a lot of mass land destruction for which this style of counterspell suits very well. The most common home for Mana Tithe is in white weenie decks as a cheap cover all disruption spell however it frequently pops up in control decks too and ruins your day just as hard. 

Harm's Way
Harm's Way 1.0 (B cube)
Power 1.8
Support 0.6

A neat little utility spell that offers a nice tempo swing as well as the ability to gain card advantage. The problem I have with the card is that it is more of a hoser than anything else. Some decks suit having it slightly more than others but it is what you are playing against that tends to dictate the quality of this card. Against red deck wins it is about the best thing you can cast for one mana in the cube and against a slow control deck it will tend to sit in your hand doing nothing or get used as a really ineffective removal spell by redirecting damage your things are dealing which usually results in you 2 for 1ing yourself. It is quite nice filler for white weenie decks and has seen some play in control decks but would probably see more play if it were a Kor Firewalker instead. As I think cards to hose strategies make games and construction less fun I avoid them. This is fine against any vaguely combat orientated deck, which is over half the field for most of my cubes, but not really good enough against the rest of the decks to deserve its slot and played in too few decks for that matter too. 

Brave the Elements
Brave the Elements 1.5 (B cube)
Power 2.6
Support 0.5

This spell is a little more versatile in its applications than Harm's Way and is consequently less rubbish against control decks. Sadly it is more situational and therefore harder to gain maximum value out of that it is with Harm's Way. Generally these kinds of cards don't end up outside of mono white decks as when you have other colours to chose from you have way better options and solutions to fill out your slots with. As such the restriction on benefiting only white guys is mostly irrelevant although you do sometimes end up with some colourless dorks in those decks. Being able to give everything protection is why this card is so interesting as it fills several roles. It can protect a specific card from spot removal which is good for equipping and general tempo. It can act as a pseudo fog by allowing you to chump block with everything and keep them alive for the swing back or just actual chumping the following turn. Most importantly however it acts as a very mini Overrun in that it gives your whole army reasonable evasion and allows you to alpha strike where you normally would just be putting cards in the bin. It can even negate some mass removal spells, namely red ones. Overall it is a versatile and powerful card that suffers from being both situational in game and narrow for construction purposes.

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