Thursday 22 January 2015

Balated Commander 2014 Review

I have not thus far reviewed these sort of card releases so have not devised a format for doing so. I have got the cards and have played them a little so this is not a predictive review but I have also not really played much so cannot really speak with much experience. As such the review will be mostly my initial opinions of the new cards and like my set reviews rather than my card reviews.

>5/10 = Maincube
3.5-5/10 = B cube
0.5 - 3.5/10 = C cube

Ob Nixilus of the Black Oath - 7/10

For one versus one play the +2 loyalty ability is not getting that much done for you, broadly the plus loyalty is better than the one point drain life. That said it will be fine against burny decks and will also help you to keep payments up on Bitterblossom and Phyrexian Arena. A planeswalker that can grow quickly is great both for survivability and for using the more powerful minus loyalty effects sooner and more often. Fortunately for Ob he has some serious ones of these that rather compensate for the low impact plus ability. Minus two for a 5/5 flyer is pretty nuts (go home new Sorin...) even with a life cost thrown in. It will go a long way to protecting Ob even with the one loyalty he has left if you demon up right away, and should Ob live you are going to be massively ahead. The ultimate is good but a little pricey, I suspect most of the time you are just going to win by making 5/5s. Against decks that might look to burn you out a safe play might be just to go directly for the ultimate rather than trying for demons but I think like a number of good walkers (Knight-Errant, Xenegos, Mind Sculptor etc) you will be winning more effectively using the non-ultimate abilities. Ob is very much narrower than most planeswalker, essentially he is a 5/5 demon machine however he is also one of the most immediately impactive should you be in a position to make said 5/5 which makes him quite a bit better than he first seems. Black has the weakest planeswalkers overall as well as the smallest selection so despite Ob being a little bit of a one trick pony I expect him to see quite a lot of play.

Ghoul Caller Gisa 3/10

In draft Gisa is one of those answer me or lose cards. In the more constructed formats she becomes rather cumbersome. A 3/4 for 5 is poor and getting no value until the next turn or without something worth sacrificing makes me not want to give this a slot. Sacrifice outlets are useful but on slow and expensive things they lose a lot of their value, even if they are powerful ones. Power wise this would not look out of place in a cube and will win a bunch of games but it doesn't add much and has many better alternatives you could have in its place.

Flesh Carver 7/10

A very powerful little grey ogre indeed that does a lot of what you want from a cube card. It offers utility in being a sac outlet, it has evasion, it can grow in size and most importantly it is tedious to kill without it netting some more value. While not quite as good a tempo card as Voice of Resurgence I think the cards are very comparable in power. Carver has more utility and is easier to play being a convenient mono card with single coloured mana requirements.

Spoils of Blood 3/10 (C cube)

Wrath protection effect or a way of getting a cheap threat in a deck with lots of mass removal. Too situational and too easily dealt with to be any sort of a mainstay in heads up magic.

Wake the Dead 4/10 (C cube)

A cute card that can be engineered to get lots of value with the right sort of dorks such as Myr Battlesphere, Grave Titan, Griselbrand etc however I think a little bit too niche to be a mainstay complement to the usual reanimate cards. Can double up as a a way to Wrath or Fog a bunch of attackers but again, it is situational in doing so.

Necromantic Selection 5.5/10

This rather puts Duneblast to shame, not only is it just one colour it also far less situational. Duneblast really needs you to have a dork to be brutal while this will always Wrath all their things and give you the best dork back. While this is one of the best recovery turn around spells on offer I am very wary of a seven man wrath, especially one that is sorcery, only hits dorks and only destroys them. The six mana wraths are often too slow to save you. Cube is getting slower and higher mana curve so perhaps some seven mana wraths will become viable in which case this will be one of the first in line. Decree of Pain is another reason this might not see play as it is more flexible yet comparably blow out late game.

Overseer of the Damned 5.5/10

This is somewhere between a Grave Titan and a Shriekmaw but sadly costs more than either. At six this would be a cube mainstay, at seven I am not so sure. This card offers a lot of value and tempo and has great reanimate synergies as well as being just about viable to hardcast in a selection of more normal decks. If you get to play it you should stabilize if far behind and do a lot towards winning in a closer game. The problem is of course playing it, a black seven drop will sit in your hand for ages doing little to nothing for you. Black has basically no card quality but it does have some reasonable ramp. If you are confident you can make it consistently or not have it as a wasted resource when you cant then this is a worthy consideration however I think such a situation will be uncommon. Sheoldred is the main competition this card has for a cube slot and the more immediate nature of this makes me prefer it overall.

Malicious Affliction 7.5/10 (A cube)

Doom Blade for BB instead of 1B with a reasonable chance to get a two for one is all good. This is comfortably blacks most powerful removal spell but is hard to find good comparisons for. Arc Trail is one of the only good cheap spells you can frequently use to get a two for one however Arc Trail is very early game, it fails to kill a lot of late game things but has no prerequisite to getting a two for one. Malicious Affliction is kind of the reverse of this, early game it is least easy to engineer a two for one yet its removal power scales much better into the late game  Arc Trail can be godly early but is usually just a bad Shock late game, this in contrast is a reasonable Doom Blade early game and gets better as the game goes on. The one thing to be careful of with Affliction is getting carried away with getting value from it, if you just need to go one for one early then think nothing of doing so and forgoing bonus value. Essentially the only bad thing about this card is that you can get trapped into playing badly with it because it seems like a waste not to get a 2 for 1. Just the presence of it in the cube has change how people play, a little like Wingshards. The effects of walking into it can be devastating. Imagine the situation where you have 2 3/3s and a 1/1, your opponent is on four or even five life and has a 2 power first strike creature in play. Before Malicious Affliction your correct attack was everything as odds on you are getting in some extra free damage with that 1/1 or representing lethal. If they have Malicious Affliction however they are able to block and kill your 1/1 and then shoot down both your 3/3s all while taking no damage. As such you might not be able to risk sending the 1/1 into the battle. I have already had Affliction be really blow out and powerful a couple of times however I suspect as people are more familiar with it that will calm down a lot.

Freyalise, Llanowar's Fury 7.0

A lovely planeswalker that is almost greener than Garruk Wildspeaker in colour pie terms. Freyalise is one of the most rounded, and therefore probably most powerful, of the new commander walkers. Sadly she is facing fierce competition from a dearth of other green five drops including two top quality walkers so perhaps Ob will see more play. Of these other green five drop options Freyalise is the least impactive, she is just making 1/1s while Garruk is on the 3/3s and Nissa the 4/4s. Having Naturalize as her -2 ability makes her more of an answer card than a threat although the fact that she sort of does both does add to her appeal for control decks. Her ultimate is fairly easy to pull off with a cost of six and the ability to grow two each turn. It also scales well with the +2 allowing you to draw a lot of cards although probably not as effectively as Primal Hunter. Given that I have never used Primal Hunter's ultimate it is more like you have 3 abilities on Freyalise and only two on the five mana Garruk although they are slightly more potent. The 1/1s may tap for mana but once you are already at five there is limited use in ramping further outside the most extreme ramp decks. All round you have a sturdy and versatile planeswalker that is a little on the slow side to take control of the game. A few turns against an unconstested Jace is usually just game over while you might just have started to notice Freyalise's effect on the game after a few turns!

Titania, Protector of Argoth 6/10

Another powerful five drop, this time in creature form and looking most like a Thragtusk. If you can make Titania with a sac land or Wasteland in the bin you are going to be getting two 5/3s and a land up. In combination with Zuran Orb, Armageddon, Sylvan Safekeepr, Knight of the Reliquary or just lots of sac lands you are going to be able to produce a terrifying army rapidly. What lets her down is that you need the appropriate synergies to abuse her otherwise you are just making a bad 5/3 for five with no added value. Certainly a card that is powerful enough for the cube but with many other five drops in green and Titania's extra requirements she might not see enough play to hold onto a slot.

Lifeblood Hydra 1/10

The effects rather needed to be when it enters the battlefield, having to have this die makes it unreliable and far too expensive. A Sphinx's Revelation this is not.

Siege Behemoth 3/10

Seven mana for four toughness makes me wary, even with hexproof protection. It is more things like Mizzium Mortars that I am afraid of that getting killed in combat as you should be able to win the game in one hit with this guy. Much like Craterhoof Behemoth, this card is a finisher that gives a lot of reach to rampy green decks. So often such decks will get into a stall where both sides have loads of small guys and a couple of fatties but there are no good attacks. Either afore mentioned Behemoth will end the game in such a situation but I think Craterhoof is the more reliable and dangerous of the two. Having haste makes Craterhoof quicker despite costing a mana more and it offers fatal damage with far less in play. This is a fine card that performs a job fairly well, just not as good as alternatives. It is a terrible threat in its own right as it is so easily blocked and killed which I think therefore rules it out for cube play.

Song of the Dryads 7/10

A cross between Path to Exile and Oblivion Ring, this new Beast Within style card is highly valuable in green. Song of the Dryads might not seem all that great compared to Oblivion Ring, Maelstrom Pulse etc however in green this versatile removal is golden and unlike Beast Within does not provide your opponent with a threat. Sorcery speed and three mana is roughly the going rate for removal that hits most targets so you don't feel that hard done by when playing this. Mostly it is going to be taking out creatures as that is where green is weakest but you will be more than happy to blow it on an equipment or a planeswalker. You can even use it like a Spreading Sea to shut down an annoying non-basic land or on one of your own things as a bad ramp spell. One of the most versatile spells out there, offering rare things to green all at a price that is very reasonable. A subtle card that is very much one of the stand out cards in this set, more so because of what new things it offers rather than its raw power.

Creeperhulk 6/10

Oh look, another powerful green five drop... This one is a reasonable body for the price although not overly exciting and it does not provide any immediate value or any upon death which would usually be the point at which I moved on. Ant Queen is a cool card but just does not compare well to the likes of Thragtusk for value or Wolfir Silverheart for impact. She is a good mana sink but then I think I would usually be running a Jade Mage if I wanted a mana sink of that ilk. Creeperhulk is not so much a mana sink as a way of ending the game, it is a card that can perform the role of Craterhoof Behemoth in a deck that isn't going to be getting to eight mana any time soon. For a small cost you can turn your mana elves into 5/5 tramplers which should punch through most defences pretty effectively. Like Siege Behemoth you need other things to make it good but unlike the Behemoth you have a fine enough threat for the cost without extra support. Even if this is not ending the game right away it is making combat a total nightmare for your opponents. This is easy to play and fairly dangerous, it is not an exciting card but it certainly good enough. A good top and threat for the mana, some combat trickery and stalemate breaking power thrown in and we have a winner.

Wave of Vitriol 2/10

A powerful card that is overly variable in what it is going to be getting done. Some decks will be wreaked by various portions of the cards while most will not suffer that much. Seven is far too much for global destruction spells that are situational or that don't hit the most serious threats - creatures and planeswalkers. Wave of Vitriol is both of these things and shouldn't be seeing any play consequently.

Grave Sifter 3/10

Fat but unexciting body and an effect you neither really want on a six drop nor want as the main aspect of the card. For this to be good you have to have a tribal theme, have a load of your guys killed and then cast this. To have Primeval Titan be good you only have to follow the last step.

Nahiri the Lithomancer 5.5/10

Without equipment in your deck Nahiri is pretty awful. Although she does make an equipment for her ultimate it is very expensive to do so and doesn't have any synergy with either of her other abilities. It is zero to equip already and being a token cannot be in your hand or graveyard. Making a 1/1 each turn is fine and growing two loyalty a go makes her fairly robust but versatility is a big part of planeswalkers and Nahiri basically has none without equipment cards. You may still play this in a deck without equipment but certainly not if you have an Elspeth to choose from instead! Although not too far behind the various Elspeth's in terms of value token making for the loyalty and cost of the walker it is just her lack of other utility that makes her so much less exciting. If you do have several equipment then Nahiri becomes better, I prefer her in such a situation to Elspeth Tirrel (and likely Sun's Champion too but that is because six is a tall order for more beaty creature focused decks). Even with 2 or 3 equipment you will still fairly rarely use the -2 ability or even equip up one of the 1/1s for free very often but the ability to do so broadens her sufficiently to be decent.

Jazal Goldmane 5.5/10

A 4/4 for 4 with first strike is a solid body but not up to the power level for cube play. Throwing in an Overrun effect unsurprisingly makes Jazal a viable cube card. Dorks without any bonus value that require you to invest mana to be reaching their full potential are typically bad. As we have seen in this set, those that can potentially end the game and at least make combat a real nightmare are much more acceptable. Hero of Bladehold is probably the better card overall as it requires no mana investment once made and will net you some value each attack. Jazal is a bit more sturdy in his own right and although Bladehold has a pretty lethal clock Jazal can offer a much quicker kill given the right board conditions. The other major advantage Jazal has over Bladehold is that he is much more likely to survive being involved in an attack. He can even provide his bonus without being involved in combat should you have just cast him and have five mana still spare or for some crazy reason they have a blocker able to take him down post pumping. Not an auto include in cube but also not a card that will ever seem out of place in a cube.

Comeuppance 5/10

I am not quite sure where to place this. As a fog it is quite expensive, as a Wrath it is pretty nutty! I fear this will suffer the same sort of problem as Aetherspouts in that it doesn't deal with all the things you would like it too. On top of this it is white already and therefore not fulfilling a role that is hard to come by in the colour. In a lot of situations this will literally be an instant speed Wrath of God however if it did become a thing people would wise up to it very fast and be able to play around it very easily turning it into an over cost Wing Shards. Most creatures in the cube have power that is equal or greater than their toughness however there are enough that don't follow this rule that will make this annoying. Certainly powerful but a bit too high variance while offering a thing done more reliably by other cards for a main cube slot.

Containment Priest 6/10

Grizly Bears that hose things in white are commonplace. Typically I like the ones that have broad application rather than ones than hose very specific things like this one. Fortunately for Containment Priest it hoses the powerful cheesy spells like Tinker, Oath of Druids, Sneak Attack, Goblin Welder, Reanimate, Recurring Nightmare, Show and Tell, Natural Order and a few others, all of which are tedious to lose to and deserve a bit of hosing. It also has some powerful interactions with effects like Flickerwisp allowing you to build your deck with it in mind rather than just throwing it in hoping it will be good. Containment Priest is not a high power card but it is good enough and has the added bonus of evening things up a bit in the cube by reducing the power of some of the most abusive cards.

Hallowed Spiritkeeper 7.5/10

One of the best cards from the sets offering white another valuable dork that leaves stuff behind when killed. A 3/2 vigilance for 3 is fine, if a little unusual. Getting one or more 1/1 flyers back upon its death is nutty good. As he counts himself and any other creatures you might have in play that die at the same time as him you can happily overextend against Wraths with this guy out. The longer the game goes on the more dangerous it is to kill this guy, two 1/1 fliers is comparably good to a 3/2 vigilance, as soon as you are getting 3 or more you are getting to a stage where your opponent really won't want to kill it. The tokens scale well with Honor the Pure and similar white effects. The only thing "bad" about this card is that he is an avatar and therefore has no tribal synergies... unless you have a spirit deck I guess. I would go so far as to say this is the most annoying of all the wrath protected creatures, even the most all round powerful. Finks, Voice of Resurgence and Strangleroot give it a good run for its money but the ongoign scaling and extra anti Wrath
nature of Hallowed Spiritkeeper give it the edge.

Angel of the Dire Hour 5/10

A powerful card that isn't quite there on several levels. For seven mana I would like more than 4 toughness. It is neither a fantastic removal spell or a great threat and as with Comeuppance it is very easy to play around should you know it is a possibility. Exile is nice, as is the potential to Wrath and hit man lands at instant speed but I don't see it being reliable enough to earn a slot. Elesh Norn seems vastly more potent in this area and white has many other top rate seven drops that are more rounded or proactive than this Angel. That all said and done, this is incredibly swingy. Most people wont see it coming and even when you do you cannot really stop it being worse than a good two for one. Not a card I really like but also really powerful and quite playable in the slowing cube meta.

Teferi, Temporal Archmage 6.5/10

A very powerful utility planeswalker that costs a hefty chunk. Teferi is not really a threat in the way most planeswalkers are, nor can he protect himself very well without other things to support him. He isn't even doing anything that powerful when you make him, unless you are some High Tide/Hearbeat of Spring/artifact ramp deck in which case you have probably just got a bad Turnabout. Having five starting loyalty as well as a lovely +1 goes a little way to helping Teferi live if you have no blockers to untap or Cryptic Commands to untap lands for. A similar sort of walker that was balanced for costing four mana, perhaps even five would be vastly more playable but at six I fear he is a large investment for what he does for you that will make a lot of opening hands look really uncomfortable. I love the ultimate, I wish more things offered this effect however given how hard it is going to be to pull it off, especially compared to a lot of other walkers, it is one of the least powerful and most situational of ultimates going for a heads up format. What I have been finding with Teferi is that he is very powerful in control decks as he lets you have some very big turns.You almost always have to use the -1 ability a couple of times before you stabilize however this lets you do some very extreme things very safely. I had made Teferi, untapped and cast Treachery and then followed that with a Jace, Architect of Thought entirely turning the game around. I had had some huge (sorcery speed) Sphinx's Revelations earlier in the game than usual. I have been able to follow up Terefi on the next turn with Aetherling's and Titans and still have lots of mana left up to for counters and activations. Teferi looks underwhelming however after repeatedly abusing people with him it got dubbed the blue six mana Elspeth! High praise and overly generous but making a good point. It is all about having him in a good and capable deck and being able to power up your mana with him that makes him so strong. The card draw is only really for use once you run out of good things to spend your many mana on. I think a more appropriate tag for Teferi would be as the blue Garruk Wildspeaker. Having written all this I now realize the card that Teferi most feels like when you play him and that it Gilded Lotus rather obscurely! The joy is that unlike most other ramp which has diminishing returns as you run out of things to play, Teferi can switch to card draw mode.

Stormsurge Kraken 2/10

The only lieutenant card that is playable assuming you never can trigger the bonus. A 5/5 hexproof for 5 is fairly fat and in blue it is quite impressive but not quite playable enough. Prognostic Sphynx gets a lot more done for the mana. Threats that are just threats really need to start having some kind of evasion once they cost five or more mana.

Intellectual Offering 2/10

A powerful card but in heads up play it is limited in its uses, primarily as an untap artifacts effect with Ancestral Recall bolted on for use in storm combo. Niche to say the least.

Well of Ideas 3/10

This offers a silly amount of card draw but it is overkill and being six mana it is also unwieldy. I am sure there will be better tools for the job in almost any situation that this.

Reef Worm 0/10

A silly spell that is overpriced and easily turned into a big waste of time for whoever was silly enough to play it.

Aether Gale 3/10

Potentially a naughty card against midrange decks but against weenie decks or control decks this is going to be doing very little indeed.

Daretti, Scrap Savant 6/10

Powerful and works well with his own abilities however needs a lot of support cards to make him viable. Faithless Looting or just a single loot should you wish for +2 loyalty is all round good and has many applications but the other abilities are blanks without artifacts in your deck. Gaining loyalty is vastly less appealing when you have nothing to spend it on and a 4 mana looter alone therefore does not cut it. There are certain powerful cube archetypes however that Daretti slots perfectly into and others he can be made to work in quite well. He provides support and redundancy for Goblin Welder and Reanimate decks. Trash for Treasure at -2 loyalty is a powerful effect indeed when you have Myr Battlesphere and/or Wurmcoil Engine in your bin. Being able to do it right away and not even lose Daretti makes it not unlike Tinker or Show and Tell, a little slower to cheat things into play but with lots more added value. If your cube has reasonable artifact support then Daretti is a no brainer, if not then he is a do nothing.

Feldon of the Third Path 6.5/10

While Feldon makes artifacts he does not require it of things he makes like Daretti and as such he is much more widely useful and playable. He is much more of a Recurring Nightmare than a Corpse Dance, Sneak Attack or Whip of Erebos. You can just use him in a midrange deck to gain incremental advantages or you can use him as a solid alternate win mechanism in a more combo style of deck along side things such as the afore mentioned Sneak Attack. Goblin Welder and Daretti are very powerful but require you to build your deck around them while Feldon can be good in most decks. Although on paper he looks most alike to a cheaper Whip of Erebos the fact that Feldon does not exile the thing he is effectively returning allows you to use him more easily and for a wider range of things. Just one dork in the bin and you can repeatedly flop in it to play every turn. Feldon would likely have been better if he were not a creature as he is quite vulnerable and liable to die before you can start to abuse him. As his body is weak he is much more of a late game card that requires six mana of investment before you have gotten much done. As you only get one attack with each token you make a lot of the best targets are things with comes into play or when it dies effects, the dream is Inferno Titan but simple plenty of cheaper and more humble cards get a lot of work done for you. A lot of the times he will just bait removal but this is kindof find on a 3 mana card that can easily win the game if not.

Volcanic Offering 5.5/10

A card that works out like Council's Judgement in that it really confuses people with all the extra pointless wording for heads up play. Essentially this is destroy a land and a dork for five mana at instant speed. It has a few limitations in what it can kill but for the most part it will take down the things you want it to. There are some very rare situations where your opponent wants to kill some of their own things such as an errant Abyssal Persecutor which can make this annoying to play. Overall neither of those are much of a drawback and you are left with a good but rather dull removal spell. It is expensive for removal but it is also a very reliable two for one that can be used at instant speed. For any deck attacking mana bases this is interesting as it does what you want as well as what you likely need it to as well. It also has a lot of appeal in control as there are a lot of problem lands control decks struggle to cope with, the high cost is offset by being instant. It compares a little to Prophetic Bolt, Bolt is more versatile but less powerful and harder to play. Volcanic Offering fulfils two separate roles however which Bolt does not and so when you want the ability to kill lands without having to fully dedicate a card to doing so it is a strong candidate.

Incite Rebellion 3/10

Powerful but far too situational, so much so that even against the decks it is good at it will be all to easy to play around or get a read on you trying to set it up. A good Wish target but not a card you can blind maindeck.

Scrap Mastery 6/10

Living Death for artifacts! This gives a whole lot of new options to red decks, especially with Daretti as well. Overall Living Death is a much more powerful and playable card, most of the things you would want to get back with Scrap Mastery you would also be able to get back with Living Death. Scrap Mastery rarely kills much of your opponents stuff either while it typically kills more of your own stuff than Living Death would because you wind up running a bunch of mana and cheap utility non-creature artifacts. The two main perks of Scrap Mastery over Living Death is that you can use it much more safely as a one sided mass recursion effect. If you care more about what you might get back for your opponent than you do Wrathing them then Scrap Mastery is an interesting option. The second perk is that it is red allowing you to fully forgo black cards in your artifact reanimator style deck which adds a great deal of variation and options to the cube. This card is very narrow but also incredibly powerful and has come in a set that is chock full of other top quality red support cards.

Warmonger Hellkite 4/10

Powerful but just not as much so as many other options, nor does it do anything specifically useful, only situationally so. You can get some effective alpha strikes with this or break a stalemate however six mana 5/5s need to do a bit more these days.

Dualcaster Mage 7/10

One of the most exciting cards from the set and thus far fairly comparable to Eternal Witness for potency. Certainly more situational that Eternal Witness but typically more powerful. The body having one more toughness and flash make a pretty significant difference in terms of getting value out of that portion of the card however with both Dualcaster and Witness you are primarily playing it for the effect. Both are fairly weak early, with Witness it is because you have few to no options of cards to recur while with Dualcaster it is a lack of mana preventing you casting it and something to usefully Fork at once. Typically I have found Dualcaster to be of more use early as there are some decent free spells and you can just steal one of your opponents if they happen to cast something useful. I have cast a lot more Ponders in non-blue decks since the release of Dualcaster! They both get better as the game goes on, Witness for increasing options making it more like Demonic Tutor which is good but isn't giving you any scaling. Dualcaster increases in options to a point as you gain mana but it also scales in power with the spells you fork, as soon as you copy 4cmc or more spells you are gaining power as well as some free value. I have found myself playing Dualcaster in Red Deck Wins all the way to UR(x) control. He is very naughty with Fireblast although I have had more luck with Searing Blaze, a card that despite being only two mana feels like you are getting the scaling power bonus of a 4cmc spell! I am also very fond of how you can counterspell a Counterspell with Dualcaster. Other fun tricks include forking delve spells or suspend spells, typically ones that say draw three cards on them as well. A great card that requires skill in building and skill in playing, it creates a lot of fun and unusual situations while remaining a fair cube card.

Masterwork of Ingenuity 4/10

While this is incredibly potent I fear it is just too narrow for the cube. To play this sensibly you would need at least three equipment in your deck and ideally some in your opponents and I simply don't have enough equipment to make that prospect at all common. Equipment typically suffers diminishing returns as well, having two Swords of Fire and Ice is certainly better than one but also certainly not twice as good. I love the synergy with this and Trinket Mage and I love this card but I can't justify giving it a slot. I suspect it will see play in the odd tier two equipment themed deck with Auriok Steelshapers and the like but these will be full of other cards too narrow for the cube like the one previously mentioned.

Unstable Obelisk 4/10

I want this card to be good but it just quite isn't there. Ramp early and late on a fantastic removal out sounds like a pretty perfect match that would make it in a lot of decks. Sadly neither half of the card is at all efficient at what it does. 3 mana for a single colourless ramp is well below par and then a further 7 mana to Vindicate something is pretty extortionate.

Flamekin Village 7/10

You cannot go too far wrong with this handy little land. Teetering Peaks and Smouldering Spires both get a decent amount of play for a one off effect at much the same penalty. They may offer slightly better tempo boosts on that turn however their overall effect is rather slight, sometimes doing nothing, while Flamekin Village is more like a Kessig Wolf Run in that it represents an ongoing threat that forces awkward plays even when it isn't being used for anything other than mana. Coming into play tapped is a drawback and needs to be considered while building, you don't want too many lands doing that in your deck, especially if it is trying to win fast. At least 95% of the time this will be coming into play tapped, there are enough elementals in the cube that you can occasionally expect to get a super good mountain with the Village. Thus far I have found village used in a wide array of decks from combo style reanimator decks, to midrange decks all the way down to red deck wins. Haste is a thing you really want on your guys, it makes them more like spells, gives you tempo and makes you much harder to react to. Many of the effects that give haste to dorks however are too unreliable to use frequently, the investment in making them rather than a threat or drawing them after you have cast most of your threats etc can leave you with dead cards and ultimately cost you games. While very powerful they are like combat tricks, only really playable when the card is also doing something else useful for you. Lightning Greaves is an artifact and protection giving two extra uses, Reckless Charge has graveyard synergy and good potential damage output, Lightning Mauler is threat and gets some stuff done on its own. These were probably the three most played haste givers in the cube but being a land is so much more widely useful than any of those other cards the Village has jumped in as the new favourite.

Arcane Lighthouse 3/10

A very useful effect on a easily playable colourless land. The thing is that there are many better colourless lands that do more useful or more powerful things. There are plenty of ways to be able to cope against hexproof and shroud nor do you need to that often. Well under half of decks have hexproof or shroud minions in them and the urgency you have in dealing with them without resorting to global effects depends on the dork with shroud/hexproof and the game state, in my experience it tends to be less awkward than lifelink or a way of returning to play upon death like persist. Basically if you could put this in your deck and feel you have the need you are almost certainly better off playing more Wrath of God style cards and having a better colourless land like Rishadan Port or Mishra's Factory. Quite a cute Living Wish target as well but despite this looking handy I suspect it will see little to no play.

Myriad Landscape 7/10

For me this is another one of the stand out cards in this set.  It just does everything and it does it while being a perfectly fine land. You get ramp, you get fixing, you get card advantage, you get shuffle, you get card quality, you really do get a lot of good and different things from this card. As a land that ramps it is most comparable to Temple of the False God. City of Traitors and Ancient Tomb are far more bursty but offer far poorer sustained mana gains, they are used early so as to end the game quicker. Temple of the False God and Myriad Landscape are used more in decks that want a continued mana advantage as they expect and want the game to go on longer. Temple of the False God is less of an investment to get going and therefore has better tempo however it offers only the ramp bonus, none of the many others Myriad Landscape also offers. Krosan Verge is a slightly more powerful version of this card but it is entirely restricted to GW(x) decks and is therefore too narrow for cube use. Myriad Landscape works for any mono or two coloured pairing deck, it cannot fix both your colours like Verge but it will at least fix one for you. You need to be playing at least five of one kind of basic land or 4 of two types (perhaps 4 and 3 if you are risky and have some reshuffle effects) to be able to reliably play Myriad Landscape but that is an easy requirement to fulfil. I am pretty much at the point where I will automatically play this in any two or less colour control decks I build.

All in all the commander 2014 sets offered a lot of very interesting and powerful cube cards. There are no totally stupid dull cards like True Name Nemesis but there are an awful lot of cube worthy cards. Compared to any other set, the number of new cards to those that are cube worthy in Commander 2014 is far far greater. For any new and budding cube players, builders and designers I can highly reccommend it as a good investment of product.

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