Thursday 25 February 2016

Isca Cube

I recently read an article by BDM  about home grown formats and it, specifically Canadian Highlander, inspired me to work on one that suited me. I have always been more of a constructed player than a limited one. The design puzzle that I can take around with me on my day is one of my favourite things about the game.

I love the singleton nature and point system that Canadian Highlander offers however I find 100 cards too many, it rules out a lot of the more aggressive decks and generally favours control and midrange. This is fine, those are good games if a little on the long side! I personally think 50 would be pretty optimal for good design space. I am however going to start out with 40 as it will help me balance the points best as I am that much more familiar with the 40 card deck designs.

The points system used by Canadian Highlander and other similar formats ( I understand there is an Austrian one with 60 card decks and a point system that extends to 7). I actually think the Austrian variant is fairly optimal if you want a good vintage style meta that is well balanced yet allows the use of power. Simply put these formats all seem to be ways of playing constructive with the power available but balanced so games are more fair and decks are less intense on finances.

I wanted to do something different, rather than assure some fair number of super powered cards in every deck I wanted to create a points constructed system which forced a choice between playing with power or playing with a much higher quantity of the best of the more reasonable cards. I don't just want you to have to pay points for Black Lotus, I also want you to have to spend them on dual lands, Birds of Paradise, Lightning Bolt etc. There are two reasons for this and one mild drawback.

Logistically it is a much taller order having a point system that extends beyond the power. It is harder to balance and contains substantially more cards. Designing decks might be a little tedious simply through having to refer to the points list however I feel this is a fine trade off for the potential gains of the format. To allow for the increased range of cards I have had to increase the points per deck limit to 20. This might merit some tweaking as I am sure will the points list. I in fact intend to maintain the points list to some extent based on the number of times a card is played as well as the performance of decks.

One of the positives of having a greater number of cards on the points list is that it will diversify the meta as well as the decks. I have played enough cube that I know pretty much what I am aiming for with most archetypes and I know which directions they can go in. Certain cards just get so much more play than others and by forcing you to spend even just one or two of your twenty points on such cards will hopefully reduce the frequency they turn up and incentivize players ot be more creative. If you find a comparably good alternative to a two point card with a free card then you might be able to fit a piece of power into your list.

The second positive of this format design is how I intend to use it. I have a cube with one copy of each card while most of the people I play with either have no cards or more current stuff for constructed. I want players to be able to build their decks primarily from my cube and its substantial reserves which means strongly disincentivizing people using the same cards as other people. Costing the staple cards used in cube play will do this to some degree however I intend to take it one step further.

Usually when we get together as a group to cube we do some type of draft on the day, play the games and be done. Instead of doing that I hope to do a mini constructed tournament instead of a draft event. We will pre-designing our decks, turn up on the day and play them. As we will be 6 to 8 players I can do a highly unusual design and "registration" process.

The idea is that the number one seed (either the person who won the last event of this style or just as we choose to start us off) creates a deck using the point system. They then submit this list to the rest of the group via e-mail. Each card that they have used in the list has +1 point added to its value. Then the number two seed builds their list using the new modified points list and so on until all players have submitted their lists. The high seeds have the advantage of a slightly cheaper pool of cards to build from however the lowest seeds have a much much greater advantage in that they know what they will be facing and will be able to build accordingly.

To do this will take at least 1 day per person, perhaps two and so you will need a week or two notice before planning to do a mini tournament like this. Because of the increased cost of already used cards the hope is that very few players will use duplicate cards and there will be very very few instances of three or more copies of a card in the event. This means that it is much much more feasible to do constructed style events with a single cube and not leave out players lacking cards. I imagine I will have to proxy the odd things but it will still be a much more pleasant experience than the total proxy fest it would be without the addition of the increasing points within an event to the points system.

I have no idea how many people find themselves cubing often with people who don't themselves have many cards and so I have no idea if I am simply solving a problem exclusive to my group or one shared by the community. The primary aim of this project was to create a constructed feeling competitive environment that didn't involve some form of extensive draft precursor and would allow people to leisurely think about the design problems in their own time.

You could simply use this points system and ignore the crazy inclusive construction process if your group has all the cards. That would work well too. I will give a report on how it works out when I have managed to get one done. I expect I will have some modifications to the points list at that time however any thoughts any readers might have as to sensible changes on the points value of things would be appreciated. Here is my starting points valuation of things. There is an awful lot of one point cards, a good chunk of two points cards and then it rapidly starts to fall off from then on up.

12 Black Lotus

11 Ancestral Recall
     Time Walk
     Sol Ring

10 Mana Crypt

9   Tolarian Academy
     Mishra's Workshop

8   The Good Mox

7   Tinker
     Mana Drain
     Time Spiral

6   Demonic Tutor
     Natural Order
     Force of Will
     Show and Tell

5   Vampiric Tutor
     Imperial Seal
     True Name Nemesis
     Time Twister
     Strip Mine
     Swords to Plowshares
     Treasure Cruise
     Imperial Recruiter
     Ravages of War

4   The Sac Lands
     Auriok Salvagers
     Academy Rector
     Library of Alexandria
     Shelldock Isle
     Birthing Pod
     Goblin Welder
     Mind Twist
     Lion's Eye Diamond
     Ancient Tomb
     City of Traitors
     Mana Vault
     Path to Exile
     Lightning Bolt
     Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
     Cryptic Command
     Dig Through Time

3   Sneak Attack
     Survival of the Fittest
     The Dual Lands
     Rishidan Port
     Gaea's Cradle
     Lake of the Dead
     Oath of Druids
     Recurring Nightmare
     Yawgmoth's Will
     Wheel of Fortune
     Grim Monolith
     Deathrite Shaman
     Courser of Kruphix
     Lotus Cobra
     Bird of Paradise
     Protean Hulk
     Noble Hierarch
     Stonefore Mystic
     Snapcaster Mage
     Thundermaw Hellkite
     Dark Confidant
     Baleful Strix
     Kitchen Finks
     Fire / Ice
     Pernicious Deed
     Umezawa's Jitte
     Elspeth, Knight Errant
     Land Tax
     Jace, the Mind Sculptor
     Pact of Negation
     Sulphuric Vortix
     Sensei's Divining Top
     Trinket Mage
     Wurmcoil Engine
     Tangle Wire
     Chrome Mox
     Mox Opal
     Mox Diamond
     Memory Jar
     Gilded Lotus
     Crucible of Worlds

The Two Point Cards

2   The Shock Lands
     The Man Lands

     Bloodbraid Elf
     Supreme Verdict
     Kolaghan's Command
     Ashiok, the Nightmare Weaver
     Dragonlord Atrarka
     Lotus Petal
     Emrakul, the Eons Torn
     Blightsteel Colossus
     Winter Orb
     Scroll Rack
     Cranial Plating

     Frantic Search
     High Tide
     Temporal Manipulation
     Time Warp
     Personal Tutor
     Mystical Tutor
     Mystic Confluence
     Delver of Secrets
     Gitaxian Probe
     Spell Pierce
     Lat-Nam's Legacy
     Cyclonic Rift
     Arcane Denial
     Ancestral Visions
     Merchant's Scroll
     Mind's Desire

     Simean Spirit Guide
     Seething Song
     Orcish Lumberjack
     Abbot of Keral Keep
     Monastery Swiftspear
     Goblin Guide
     Young Pyromancer
     Chain Lightning
     Faithless Looting
     Kiki Jiki Mirror Breaker
     Splinter Twin
     Stoke the Flames
     Inferno Titan

     Enlightened Tutor
     Wrath of God
     Day of Judgement
     Kytheon, Hero of Akros
     Mother of Runes
     Soulfire Grandmaster
     Lingering Souls
     Elspeth, Sun's Champion

Dark Ritual
Toxic Deluge
Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Grave Titan
Liliana of the Veil
Cabal Therapy
Inquisition of Kozilek
Living Death
Death Cloud
Hymn to Tourach
Yawgmoth's Bargain

     Llanowar Elf / Elvish Mystic / Fyndhorn Elf
     Avacyn's Pilgrim
     Elves of Deep Shadow
     Elvish Spirit Guide
     Garruk Wildspeaker
     Craterhoof Behemoth
     Green Sun's Zenith
     Primeval Titan
     Worldspine Wurm
     Eternal Witness
     Sylvan Library

The One Point Cards

1   The Pain Lands
     The Filter Lands
     The Check Lands
     The Quick Lands
     The Scry Lands
     The Vivid Lands
     The Battle Lands
     The Bad Sac Lands
     The Artifact Lands
     The Tri Lands (shard and wedge)
     City of Brass
     Mana Confluence
     Tendo's Ice Bridge
     Mishra's Factory
     Inkmoth Nexus
     Blinkmoth Nexus
     Kessig Wolf Run
     Nykthos Shrine to Nyx
     Myriad Landscape
     Temple of the False God
     Treetop Village
     Faerie Conclave
     Grove of the Burnwillows
     Academy Ruins
     Flagstones of Trokair
     Barbarian Ring

Lightning Helix
Voice of Resurgence
Qasali Pridemage
Thopter Foundry
Lim Dul's Vault
Mirari's Wake
Time Sieve
Swans of Bryn Argoll
Sphinx of the Steel Wind
Figure of Destiny
Dack Fayden
Siege Rhino
Sorin, Solemn Visitor
Coiling Oracle
Shardless Agent
Abrupt Decay
Jori En, Ruin Diver
Shadow of Doubt

Burning of Xinye
Magus of the Wheel
Searing Blaze
Punishing Fire
Goblin Rabblemaster
Eidolon of the Great Revel
Daretti, Scrap Savant
Burst Lightning
Grim Lavamancer
Fiery Confluence
Dualcaster Mage
Bonfire of the Damned
Goblin Lackey
Goblin Recruiter
Goblin Matron
Goblin Ringleader
Goblin Sharpshooter
Mana Flare
Siesmic Assualt
Empty the Warrens
Scrap Mastery
Grape Shot
Gorilla Shaman

Baneslayer Angel
Hallowed Spiritkeeper
Global Ruin
Wing Shards
Unexpectedly Absent
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Brimaz, King of Oreskos
Containment Priest
Linvala, Keeper of Silence
Thalia, Guardian of Threben
Mana Tithe
Wall of Omens
Restoration Angel
Entreat the Angels
Monastery Mentor  
Orim's Chant
Ethersworn Cannonist
Kataki, War's Wage
Solitary Confinement
Iona, Shield of Emeria

Grey Mechant of Asphodel
Flesh Carver
Transgress the Mind
Animate Dead
Tendrils of Agony
Patriarch's Bidding
Tainted Pact
Liliana, Heretical Healer
Ad Nauseam
Goyro's Vegeance
Corpse Dance

Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
Nissa, Vastwood Seer
Den Protector
Heartbeat of Spring
Priest of Titania
Wirewood Symbiote
Heritage Druid
Glimpse of Nature
Sylvan Caryatid
Sakura Tribe Elder
Wall of Roots
Reclaimation Sage
Hermit Druid
Crop Rotation
Nostalgic Dreams
Scavenging Ooze
Joraga Treespeaker
Arbor Elf
Avenger of Zendikar
Hornet Queen
Oath of Nissa
Strangleroot Giest
Worldly Tutor
Summoner's Pact
Woodfall Primus

Spell Snare
Force Spike
Mental Misstep
Mana Leak
Memory Laspe
Jace Beleren
Jace, Architect of Thought
Fact or Fiction
Teferi, Temporal Archmage
Glen Elandra Archamge
Phyrexian Metalmorph
Vendilion Clique
Inkwell Leviathan
Serum Visions
Slight of Hand
Temporal Mastery
Looter il-Kor
Mindbreak Trap
Thirst for Knowledge
Tezzeret the Seeker
Dream Halls
Mind Over Matter

Ankh of Mishra
Cursed Scroll
Sword of Fire and Ice
Elixir of Immortality
Thran Dynamo
Vedalken Shackles
Myr Battleshpere
Sundering Titan
Zuran Orb
Lotus Bloom
Engineered Explosives
Phyrexian Revoker
Arcbound Ravager
Black Vise
Myr Retriever
Voltaic Key
Aether Vial
Goblin Charbelcher
Mishra's Helix
Sphere of Resistance

Wednesday 10 February 2016

Jeskai Surge

Crush of TentaclesBack to testing out new cards and this time it is a surge themed deck. Likely the last one of this series now as I am starting to repeat myself on the cards. I don't even really know how I would classify this deck, it is a control deck but a very peculiar one. I managed to cram a lot of new cards into it at least! The starting design point for it was simply a  deck in which I can play Linvala, Crush of Tentacles, Fall of the Titans and Reflector Mage as those were the four cards I have seen in action least or not at all yet. Once you have sufficient cards to make the top end surge cards relatively easy to play for their surge cost other prowess and surge style cards just kind of seem pretty good too so I ended up throwing in almost all the on colour new stuff. This is not an example of a good deck at all, the deck might work out fine but that shouldn't suggest that this is a good basis for a control list. It is all a bit fiddly and quirky, just putting in some good meaty staples to this list would be the direction to take it in order to improve it.

Gitaxian Probe

23 Spells

Gitaxian Probe
Burst Lighting

Swords to Plowshares

Fire / Ice
Wall of Omens
Stormchaser Mage
Lightning Helix

Jace, Vyrn's Prodigy
Dimensional Infiltrator

Jori En, Ruin DiverMantis Rider
Reflector Mage
Council's Judgement
Grip of the Roil

Jori En, Ruin Diver

Wrath of God
Ojutai's Command

Venser, the Sojourner
Mystic Confluence

Crush of Tenticles
Linvala, the Preserver

Fall of the Titans

17 Lands
(including 3 colourless sources)

Reflector MageRather than talk about the deck itself much I want to talk about the performance of the new cards. The deck isn't an archetype nor is it a thing I will do again. I will however harvest ideas and synergies from the deck to use in other places. Although most of the new cards performed very well the standout card in the deck was Venser, he owned most of the games and synergised with some of the new things really obnoxiously.

Reflector Mage was Venser's best buddy offering a turn of double bounce and then one per turn there after. This disruption was immense, especially with a 2/3 blocker and +2 loyalty gains. The extra turn of not having that threat about compared to most other bounce effects made Reflector Mage feel a lot like Chittering Rats, really slowing your opponent down and giving them awkward turns. I had Reflector Mage down as good filler rather than a cube staple but I am now revising my opinion. Compared to the easier to cast and more versatile (bouncing your own stuff) Man-O-War I felt like the minor perks of the Mage might not make up for its restrictions. It turns out that the minor perks are actually pretty major ones and therefore Reflector Mage should be here to stay for some time.

Grip of the Roil
Grip of the Roil is rather fighting it out with Send to Sleep for a slot in the cube. While I much prefer Send to Sleep I fear it is losing the fight. Although these cards do a specific thing they are still in the filler role. Pretty much all the best filler cards cycle in some way. You can justify playing them that more much because they cost you so much less to include in your final forty. Send to Sleep will win more games and save more games than Grip of the Roil ever could in the same slot but it will also lose more games when it doesn't do enough to cover the cost of the card. Grip does also have two modes, either a very good creature only Ice or as a safer but weaker Repulse. My objections to Grip were that you are almost always in Repulse mode in the early game when you most want the option on the two mana mode. Even so, Ice is amazing and Repulse is fine. Grip hasn't blown me away but I didn't expect it to. It has always been useful which is the key for filler spells. Playability is the main thing to consider for cube additions and Grip seems to be the most playable tapping card on offer.

Stormchaser MageJori En, Ruin Diver was thrown in this list without much thought, I wanted to see how it got on when I hand't housed him as the main focus card. I was expecting him to be pretty unexciting in the deck, perhaps comparable to a Sea Gate Oracle. I was very wrong! He was arguably better in the more control decks than he has been in the more tempo driven decks. This deck did have quite a lot of cheap and/or cycling cards to fuel Jori En but I suspect he would perform well in almost any control deck based on his performance in this one. He was basically better than any other two or three mana ongoing card draw permanent I can name. Phyrexian Arena, Dark Confidant, Jace Beleren, Shadowmage Infiltrator etc. Confidant is the closest call as he could come down quicker but he draws less, slower and incurring pain, often too much for slower decks. Phyrexian Arena is arguably safer than a 3 toughness dork but again, it is much slower, apparently fewer cards and offers no bonus utility that the 2/3 body gives. Jori was much less of a removal target in this deck than he is in the more tempo decks where he is one of the more expensive things you can do. In this list you can protect him a bit better and threaten more serious creatures and removal targets too. This kind of deck also offers way more options, you have more cards in hand and so that many more ways in which you can activate him. I always got a card back right away with him and I then got at least one draw every turn there after. Nutty good card, much broader in application than I initially imagined. Certainly up there with the best of the gold creatures.

Stormchaser Mage was the Izzet card I expected to translate best from aggro to control. It did seem to translate across fine but was a little overshadowed by Jori En. A 1/3 dork with just key word abilities isn't likely to ever get that exciting even when it is winning games. The haste certainly gets a lot less use in the control deck although it does make you feel a whole lot safer against planeswalkers with it in hand. It did the sort of things I expected it to, you use cards like this to do whatever the situation commands. A lot of the time this turns out to be blocking. It is a great filler tool for control decks but that is really all it is. The kind of card that is scryed away, thrown under the bus first, pitched to Force of Will and looting effects etc as a significant part of its duties. It is a two drop that is exceptional for the price but that doesn't scale that well into the late game compared to many control options like Soulfire Grandmaster

Fall of the TitansFall of Titans was perhaps the least exciting new card. Two aspects of the card came together in testing to reveal the weakness of the spell. The first is the power to mana ratio. Yes, you can get a lot of action, options and value but just for the numbers it is pretty weak. 3R with the surge to do what you can for RR with Searing Blaze. In terms of clearing out a couple of weenies Arc Trail is equally much more cost effective than Fall of Titan's. The scaling up of Fall is nice but it turns out in practice it is far less exciting. When you need to Fireball down some big angel the extra dead elf or damage to face is pretty insignificant. Fall of Titans gets better as the game goes on and you have more mana for it however the array of targets that are efficient and useful to simultaneously hit with Fall become wildly less common. Late game you either just want a Fireball (Devil's Play) or you want to miracle a Bonfire of the Damned, perhaps an Earthquake. Early game you just wanted Forked Bolt. Fall of the Titans seems like it is a weak imitation of both these kinds of card the whole way up the curve. Fall wasn't bad, it just never felt like it was the card I needed, it never felt powerful. It was like I had to put some work into the card just so that it performed acceptably. It was not so weak that I am instantly going to cut it but it does not have long left to prove its worth in the cube now.

Venser, the Sojourner
I had not yet seen a Crush of Tentacles played in a game although I put it into a list in a team sealed that I did. My team mate drew it a few times and it always looked really good in his hand despite him never actually needing to use it. In this deck I actually got to play it and I remain impressed. It is a lovely middle ground between Cyclonic Rift and Upheaval. These kinds of effects give blue a lot of game in the midrange environment allowing them to reset the tempo, undo a lot of the impact of opposing planeswalkers and simply survive against an army of nasty sticky cube dorks! Surge as a mechaninc actually has a similar feel about it to miracle without any of the lame synergies and silly luckout wins. By this I mean that when miracle was first spoiled I got really excited about all the wrong cards. I thought the cheap miracles would be the best ones and disregarded a lot of the bomb staples like Entreat the Angels and Bonfire of the Damned. Surge affords more returns on the expensive cards and is much more reliable to pull off. Even if you are not using a free card to trigger your surge whatever mana you do spend on it will represent a lot less of the total cost that it will for a cheaper card. If you surge out a Grip of the Roil with a Brainstorm the Brainstorm is a third of the total cost while if you surge out a Crush with a Wall of Omens it is only 2/7ths of the total cost. A seven mana surged Crush is a lot better value than a three mana Grip of the Roil is basically what I am saying. This facet is another reason Fall of  the Titans was a little weaker despite being a big spell. Being an X spell you are almost always hurting the value of the spell when you surge it out, Crush only ever costs five to surge and so when you have the mana you get the same effect whether you surge it out with a Gitaxian Probe or an Ojutai' Command.

Dimensional InfiltratorCrush of Tentacles is brutal in the midrange meta where almost every deck is trying to win through board position. Crush will resent all of what they are up to and give you a significant tempo lead with the 8/8 octopus. It utterly wreaks midrange, is powerful against control and still has some uses against even the most burn heavy red decks. With the prevalence of planeswalkers and tokens in the cube I actually think I prefer effects like Crush and Cyclonic Rift to Wrath effects for control lists. I think you want a bit of both but the more I cube the more I lean towards the bounce, Cyclonic Rift has been doing a lot of work for blue in this regard already but for boardclear mode it is seven mana making it a very late game Wrath effect indeed. Crush can be turn four with a Mox or turn five with a free spell. All the mass removal that hits more than just creatures also costs six which is the more expected cheap price which is a significantly lower cost than seven. All told Crush should see a lot of play and win a lot of games. I expect it to outperform Bonfire of the Damned, perhaps even the mighty Cyclonic Rift too! It also makes me want to put Quicken back in the cube, that would turn it into the very best of six mana wrath effects! You could even take out most manlands with it too (blocking with the 8/8).

Finally we have Dimensional Infiltrator, a card I have played in several decks already and found it to be good across the board. It is actually a lot like the Stormchaser Mage in this list, a bit weaker in combat but better scaling into the late game. As you might expect, I did a bit of trading, a bit of chumping and a bit of damage with this card across the games. I certainly discarded it to Jace at least once as well. It was good, useful filler that I perhaps didn't need because of Stormchaser also being in the list or perhaps because Soulfire Grand Master would likely have been better. The most fun I had was ultimating Venser and repeatedly casting and bouncing the Infiltrator to exile everything my opponent had. I love it when an unexpected synergy between cards arises in the cube such as this. Rare but also super cool.

Tuesday 9 February 2016

The Top 12 Things to put on an Isochron Scepter

Isochron ScepterI did a team sealed recently and the deck I piloted was an Isochron Scepter deck. I don't run Scepter in cube that often as it is a little narrow and somewhat outclassed by planeswalkers a lot of the time. That said, it is in at the moment and worked a charm in my list. Our pool had lots of sac lands and fixing but very limited options on archetype. When building it I was under the impression that I was making the best out of a bad situation but the results might suggest more I was actually starting with a good situation.

While it isn't the best cube list for a Scepter deck I have had it was pretty close and given it was sealed rather than any other format I should have known to expect good things. Scepter decks are likely my best understood archetype, certainly most practiced. I played it for a whole extended season to decent success which I have never done before or since preferring to pick my deck for the specific event. By playing one deck so consistently I got very comfortable with knowing what risks to take, when you needed to throw out a vulnerable Scepter, when you can afford to wait for a more assured one, when you need a specific thing on the Scepter to win, when you can throw it down with any old thing just to get some value, when to play as a combo deck, when to play the aggressor and when to play as control.

Usually I stick 3 colours but my mana was so good and my team mate was going Gruul so it seemed rude not to toss in a dash of a 4th colour. I was going to do a fairly standard deck analysis of my list but when thinking about how I would do it I figured it would be more relevant and more interesting to do it as a list of the best cards to have imprinted on a Scepter and why. It is also more interesting for me to consider the various new options to place under a Scepter that have been printed in the period Scepter was absent from the main cube.  This was the result of Unexpectedly Absent, one such new card that I have not had the joy of repeat casting until now. It is a great card in it's own right, fits well in this archetype and broadens your combo. It was so powerful in the deck I wanted to make sure there were not many other sleeper cards like this that I should get Sceptering! Just for reference here is my decklist. There are some imperfect solution cards in it I would rather were other things and it is missing a few things like graveyard reuse that would have made life easier but otherwise it is a deck complete with all the things it needs. After it we shall start out list which is looking like a top 12 for best imprint targets for the Scepter.

Opt24 Spells

Chrome Mox

Swords to Plowshares
Orim's Chant
Vampiric Tutor

Isochron Scepter
Fire / Ice
Mana Leak

Lightning Helix
Lat-Nam's Legacy
Unexpectedly Absent

Day of JudgmentStoneforge Mystic

Vendilion Clique
Kolaghan's Command
Toxic Deluge
Detention Sphere

Day of Judgement

Force of Will

Elspeth, Sun's Champion

Dig Through Time

16 Lands

Top 12 Best Scepter Imprintees

Boros Charm12. Boros Charm

There are lot of RtR Charms and DtK Commands that you can put under a Scepter but that have not had that chance yet in my cube. While all of these cards offer a lot of utility and power very few of them work well with Scepter. Dromoka's and Atarka's Command are incredibly powerful however they have some problems when considering them for a Scepter. A lot of the utility on these kinds of cards have diminishing returns. Rarely will you get to usefully kill an enchantment each turn for example. The other issue is that they require creatures to get the most from them and while you may well pack some creatures in your list you will not have a high enough density of them to be pumping and fighting with them in an efficient way.

Although seemingly less powerful cards the RtR Charms are on the whole a lot more useful in an ongoing capacity under a Scepter. Dimir and Izzet are pretty similar, both have a mild card quality option, an annoying situational counter and some equally situational removal. Both these Charms will do a usefull thing regardless of situation while rendering a lot of cards in your opponents deck pretty useless. They will be at their best against decks with higher counts of smaller dorks but never actually bad. The problem with these Charms is that they are not that powerful in their own right. Nice useful little cards but when in your deck they do noticeably reduce the overall power level.

Azorius CharmAzorius Charm is likely the best Charm not on this list for a Scepter target. The draw option is better than the card quality of the Dimir and Izzet Charms and the removal option scales well with repeat use and is effective against big and small things alike. It is just a much better control removal effect. Lifelink isn't going to scale well with your deck of low creature counts but it is a very significant extra tool that will go a long way in certain matchups, more so I would say than having an on the board Spell Pierce. Azorius Charm works against control with the removal and ongoing card advantage well and against aggro well too with the removal and lifegain potential. While it is certainly worth it in a Scepter deck the problem remains with Azorius Charm that it is just a very low powered spell when you are using it not under a Scepter.

Of the ten Charms it is Boros that came up looking the best of the bunch despite almost only having two abilities. The main difference between Boros Charm and the rest of the cycles is that it really is a powerful spell for the mana. Four damage at two mana instant speed is an awful lot, it will kill planeswalkers, finish off players ahead of time and represent a really serious threat when imprinted. Damage, like creatures, is something that is never a dead effect so you always have something you can do with the card. Indestructible is also immensely powerful despite being very situational. I love it most as a beyond rude counterspell for things like Armageddon and Obliterate! It might have use in protecting your own guys through either players Wrath effects or just being a more fair counterspell verses spot removal. What really makes Boros Charm interesting to a Scepter deck is not so much the fact it is an good finisher on a Scepter but that it protects the Scepter itself. You can do this a bit with a Counterspell but you are not then being proactive with your Scepter. With Boros Charm under it you can shoot them at the end of their turn or whenever they tap out ending the game fast while remaining very safe to removal. All told it is quite a frightening finisher that has a similar feel to it as True-Name Nemesis.

Doublestrike in a control deck should rarely be of any consequence, four direct damage is usually going to be safer and higher. You might get a good deal out of doing it to a Wurmcoil or Baneslayer angel or you might kill off some blue dorks with the Phantasmal Bear mechanic but mostly it is blank. In a constructed deck with 4 copies of Scepter this would be far higher on the list as it works so well with that card specifically. The reason the Charm only just makes the list despite it's power is that it isn't a generically good control card. It is not the best answer to a planeswalker and the other modes are generally late game and overly situational for the control style.

Diabolic Edict11. Diabolic Edict

This is just one of the best and safest removal spells to have under a Scepter. Every turn it will kill a creature and ultimately ruin a lot of decks. Edicts have reasonably good scaling compared to other removal with repeat use. Exile is a little better on average than forcing a sacrifice however exile does nothing to hexproof, protection and shroud dorks. Edict will cover you where other cards do not and it is fine in any kind of matchup. Agro decks simply have to go super wide, it puts them under a lot of pressure and will win the game for you if it stays in play too long. Control decks don't have lots of threats and so playing round Edict is a real pain for them. Token generation is a bit of a problem for Edict but still, you can't have everything. Between the white one mana instant exile removal and Edict you have yourself as best covered against creatures of all flavours as can be.

Creature kill in general is not the main thing you want to be doing with your Scepter. It will be right often enough in certain matchups to just throw your removal spell under the Scepter and try to grind out a win but it is not optimal. Ideally you cast your Wraths and removal allowing you to lock down the game or win the game with your Scepter. Using Scepter for card advantage and stall is great but it means you have to find another way to win which is not always as easy as it sounds for the archetype.

Impulse10. Brainstorm / Impulse / Lat-Nam's Legacy

These effects under a Scepter are fine but not ideal. Planeswalkers are just much better tools for this kind of thing. You are generally better off getting card advantage through your Scepter actively by removing permanents or countering spells. Doing this puts less pressure on your other spells. If all you are doing is drawing spells with your Scepter then you still have to draw and cast the things you need to deal with the situation at hand. Broadly you are playing cards like these in Scepter decks so that you can find the good things to put under it. You might be running other combo style things or miracles etc which increases the value of these already powerful cards. This is all well and good but it doesn't mean you want them under your Scepter. Pretty much any Jace offers better ongoing card advantage as well as more utility. The matches where you are getting beaten up are the ones where you least want a card advantage tool that costs you mana and has no tempo effect so the fact that they can't attack a Scepter and they can attack a Jace is not that relevant. Basically you put one of these cards under a Scepter in slow matches where you have already used a high number of your other good Scepter targets or you expect your opponent to have good solutions to your preferred Scepter targets. It happens quite a lot because these kinds of cards are really good on their own in Scepter decks and then the appropriate situations arise for you to use them together. It is an event of convenience and making the best out of an imperfect situation rather than a desired outcome. I am not saying it it bad, you will win most games in which you get to cast one of these spells every turn at no card cost, it is just far from optimal given the potential for the Scepter and the way in which the deck is designed to operate. A good comparison might be using a Deathrite Shaman to gain 2 life in your Reanimate deck so as to survive another turn against RDW but having to exile a valuable recursion target to do so. It is right in the situation and a good bit of extra utility to have but it harms the intended operation of the deck.

Disenchant9. Disenchant

Possibly I am overrating this based on my memories of combo rife cube and extended formats. Certainly there are a lot of decks where this would be a real waste of a Scepter. Scepter decks can lock out a lot of different decks but they do struggle with certain types of card. Things like Sulphuric Vortex or Cursed Scroll that just sit there and apply pressure without needing to attack or do all that much. Scepter decks want access to a wide selection of removal so that they can eliminate the few key things that wreak them. As a result I love to have a Disenchant in my list, at worst I can shuffle it away or put it under a Mox. Then, every now and then you find yourself against a deck like Affinity or some combo deck relying on a couple of enchantments or something that simply can't win through Disenchant on a stick. That is a clear overstatement about affinity, that deck can win through anything but still, your win % increases very significantly with Disenchant on a stick, more so than any other removal spell improves it. Disenchant is a fine card to maindeck in cube regardless of what you are playing, the fact that it has two quite useful extra applications in a Scepter deck make it quite desirable. There are alternatives that can be better situationally but overall this is the safest and broadest one. White ones are much better than green because generally green has bad synergy with Scepter decks and no other interesting spells to put under it.

Abeyance9. Abeyance

Abeyance does nothing against people making creatures and inserting them into your face which is the main way people win games in magic. It annoys the hell out of control and can wreak a lot of combo decks however. It also isn't the worst against a planeswalker heavy midrange deck. The real advantage of Abeyance is that it draws a card hence making it a more reliable thing to put on a Scepter than a Disenchant and a more useful thing to put on it than one of the card quality cards. The cycling also makes it less detrimental on your maindeck than some of the cards in this list. It is great to have the option on an Abeyance in a Scepter deck and having it doesn't hurt your consistency. The problem in cube is mostly that of space, finding something you can do without in your list so as to put in the Abeyance.

Memory Lapse8. Memory Lapse

While not exactly high on the list Memory Lapse is the second highest Counterspell on the list. While at first thought a Counterspell on a Scepter might seem like a brutal thing it is actually very easy to play around. You can easily play through it and not wind up behind. Do not forget that in order to get a Scepter running you have to two for one yourself. That means even when you go two for one with your Scepter you are still even overall. You can make a Counterspell Scepter, I can unload some spells into it of which you stop one. You are two mana worse off than just having countered my spell and you have a Scepter to show for it which might not come into play again if the spells that slipped past were enough to take down the game.

Scepter is either skipping a turn or it is at least a 4 mana card. Most of the time an aggro deck will be in a position to kill you without needing to play anything into your slow Scepter. In such situations you are far better off just countering anything they play without skipping a turn and waiting for something that can effect the board to imprint. Against slower decks the Counterspell stick is a more viable option but mostly all it does is slow down the game. People will either save up for one big turn where your Scepter offers no advantage over just having the spell in hand or they will bait you into using it on something weak so that they might have the option on casting a relevant spell past it. If you let enough Llanowar Elves resolve they will end up killing you! Rarely do you get both value and card advantage at once from a Counterspell on a Scepter. The other thing is it kind of locks down two of your own lands so you can't do that much either. You also have to play a little safer than normal because just getting your Scepter blown up represents far too much of a loss. As such you might well be locking down four land and sitting on a counter in hand waiting to have enough lands to do something else.

Memory Lapse is significantly better on a Scepter than Actual Counterspell for two reasons. Firstly it really punishes the player who tries to bait you into using it by playing out weak cards. By hitting weak things with Lapse you lower the quality of your opponents draws. This forces one of two plays, either make at least two relevant things a turn and bleed tempo and card advantage into the Scepter in the hope of killing them before you run out of gas. The second play is the waiting game where you hold out till the one big turn. The problem with this is that it only works if you have lands to make, if you are not making lands you are not increasing your potential to have a big turn all the while running out of room in the hand. The baiting play of making weak things is even worse in such a situation as you will not only get a weak draw next turn but a non land at that. Essentially, in the right situation (which is just not too far behind on the board) a Memory Lapse on a stick will force your opponent into playing a certain way. Because they are so limited in their options you are able to prepare and counter them with much greater ease than you would with other kinds of counter magic. Memory Lapse punishes land light draws a lot. It also punishes floods all be it not quite as hard. It punishes expensive decks and decks that lack high numbers of relevant spells. It will not win the game on its own but it will give you all the time, information, tempo, card advantage and control to do so by other means.

Memory Lapse on a Scepter acts much more like a hard counter than it does when just used as a one off spell in a deck. Unless your opponent has ways to draw extra cards and the mana to do it all you can perpetually keep someone from casting any sorcery speed card. When a good card has some bonus positive synergy with Scepter then it is much more reasonable that it can overtake "better" standalone cards that do similar things. Another significant perk of the Lapse is the resource denial aspect either just used once or repeatedly. Scepter decks inherently intend to obtain recurring value, they are also fragile to some things. You are much safer and in control the less able your opponent is to do stuff and the less options you leave them with. Memory Lapse is perfect for this, it denies your opponents resources in a way other Counterspells don't and in a way that really suits what you are doing. You can save Memory Laspe to specifically disrupt a big turn or spell in the same way you do with other countermagic in the non tempo matches. You can also just throw Lapse at anything they cast should you want to be spending your mana usefully. You can use it as you might a Remand except that it will generally be better in the deck than Remand.

Swords to Plowshares7. Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile

The premium removal cards and the ones that are most likely to ruin aggro and midrange decks. You can wind up giving people a lot of land or life but there is significant diminishing returns on both and neither are relevant if they can't actually kill you. One of the best games in cube I ever had involved me living forever where I shouldn't have done due to a Swords on a stick. It took a long time to recover and many other cards beyond the Stick and my opponent was around 60 life better off. I managed to just win the game in the upkeep of the turn I would deck myself after several turns of throwing all my red mana into Lightning Bolt over and over again having managed to ultimate a Timayo. Path and Plow are great in any deck and against most other decks. You usually want more of them that is for sure and with Scepter that is a thing you can have. They are not always the way to go in a game as an imprint target but they are the way to go a lot more than Disenchant is. Being able to significantly effect the board and recover from behind with them helps a great deal. It is not exciting, it is not always enough and it is not for every matchup but it is a great thing to be able to do and the cards are just so good that it really shouldn't come as any surprise that they are so powerful cast again and again for twice the normal cost. Unlike versus countermagic you cannot save up for that big turn, you just have to kill the Scepter or lay guys into it hoping to not run out of guys before you get them to zero. If your opponents game plan is to kill you with creatures then creature removal is far far better than countermagic or card advantage on a Scepter.

Arcane Denial6. Arcane Denial

The best counter to have on a stick because of its versatility. It is a cheap and hard counter so a fine thing for a control deck, it will be good when not on a stick and support whatever is or intends to be as well as a card can. As a Counterspell on a stick it is worse than Counterspell or Memory Lapse because it gives your opponent gas. This is acceptable, it just means you have to use it only on the relevant things and not just any old spell. The reason it is good is because you can turn any spell you don't want into 3 cards by countering your own stuff. Most commonly this is Chrome Mox but Disenchant gets a fair bit of self countering too. This large draw influx can be used to offset the gas you give your opponent while also putting your Scepter to use when it might otherwise be idle as counterspell Scepters so often are.

Unexpectedly Absent5. Unexpectedly Absent

Somewhere between a Boomerang and a Memory Lapse. Absent has a great advantage over Lapse in that it can reactively recover a bad board position. It also has the advantage over Boomerang that you cannot just recklessly play as much as you can into it as you will run out of gas should you not quickly kill them with what you have. Absent also has a couple of the flaws that both Lapse and Boomerang have making it comparable rather than directly better. Like Boomerang you cannot effect spells or things with highly powerful enter the battlefield effects at all or effectively with the Absent. Like Lapse you are able to play around an Absent by not having any targets for a few turns so that you can build up some resources and throw them out all at once. Absent on a stick is game over for midrange if they don't have an answer and it is bad for aggro and control as well. You lose the X utility of the spell but it is minor when you can spam it. It has the advantage of not always being obvious how to play around it or change up your tactics which is not the case with Boomerang. Weaker players will fold to this pretty hard.

4. Boomerang
Boomerang on a stick is all about how quickly you can get it going. It is basically good games against everything if you make it turn one with a Chrome Mox. The later you go into the game the weaker it gets. Boomerang scales in power with your opponents mana, the less they have the better it is. Late game they should have lots and be able to easily recast all the things you bounce somewhat overwhelming you. Because it can target lands however you cannot play around it, you will always have targets and so you have to play through it. If you can't do this it will start to bounce your lands and increase its own power. Obviously control are weakest to Boomerang every turn with midrange being next weakest to it and aggro being the most capable of plowing through. Control is weak as it has few permanents, a bigger top end of curve and a greater reliance on making another land each turn. Another mild perk of the Boomerang stick is that it can self protect, you use it at end of their turn to bounce something (ideally land) when you fear removal so that if it comes you can bounce the Scepter instead. You won't be able to put the Boomerang back under it but you will at least still have it for your other imprint targets.

Lightning Helix3. Lightning Helix

It isn't exciting but it is fairly effective. It is also one of the best thing you can do against most aggro decks and the best thing to do against the red ones. Helix is so much value and broad utility in one card that you can't go wrong with it on a stick. Just taking a 6 point life swing every turn is going to win most games in which you do much of anything else. Helix will kill most creatures in the cube, it really limits planeswalkers, it is very hard to race and it is never dead like Unexpectedly Absent or Counterspells can be. It is best versus the creature based decks not only because it increases your options on how to use it but because the decks without creatures are more able to endure the life swings and still win through card advantage. Unless you are killing things with Helix you are not advancing the board or gaining card advantage. A great combination but significantly better in some situations and matchups than others. It might not end the game as fast as a Boros Charm but it will offer a stupendous amount more safety along the way to doing so than a Boros Charm could. It is also a much more playable card in general than most of the others in this list.

Fire // Ice2. Fire / Ice

Remarkably for once we find the mighty Fire / Ice not at the top of a list in which it is a contender! Fire / Ice on a stick is the never bad utility and value option. It is rare to outright win the game through the combination but it is an immense boost to any strategy and against any strategy. The tap and draw function is the preferred as it fuels you with the cards you want to win the game with rather than just controlling it. Ice on a stick is like having a Rishadan Port combined with a perpetually active Library of Alexandria in the control matches. This doesn't take at all long to gain a solid lock on any such game. The more aggressive your opponent the more you will need to be using Fire to control the board. Although Fire is a fairly weak removal spell as the game goes past the early turns the ability to Ice things too big to burn makes up for this a lot. Fire / Ice is the best thing to stick on a Scepter if you have no idea what you are facing against, situationally other cards will be a little better but Fire / Ice is always at least good. It gives value, options and control, most other cards you can imprint give two of those things at best.

Orim's Chant1. Orim's Chant

Even in the diverse and powerful cube an Orim's Chant on a Scepter is literally game over against well over 50% of the decks in the field. Do this with a Force of Will backup or survive long enough to do it later on with other counter backup and it is game over against over 80% of any given cube meta. A fourish mana two card combo compares pretty well against some of the best combos ever used in magic. Because it doesn't win the game itself it is unlike the more conventional combos like Painters Servant / Grindstone you find you want to house it in a control shell more than your more typical combo shell. You want stall and answers rather than speed and disruption. Only instant speed things and permanents that can win a game without attacking do much of anything against an Orim's Chant on a Scepter, This means most midrange decks have a couple of cards at best that are in any way relevant to you should you have the combo. Only aggressive decks that have a lot of instant burn have much game against you, they have to win before you can find your things and that is their best shot. Only combo decks that can win at instant speed such as storm pose any threat and given how potent Orim's Chant is against storm you just have to play a little differently with your cards, generally a responsive Chant rather than a proactive one. Only RDW and control decks with instant removal and countermagic give you cause for concern but this is why you have things like Boomerang and Lightning Helix as alternate Scepter targets that do a lot more work than Chant in those few matchups. This is why this archetype is still so good in cube, it has too many free wins in the meta while not actually having any directly bad matchups. It is quite easy to counter the deck and post board it is a lot weaker but this is only the case should you have the things available to you. Most cubes do not run that many great sideboard cards.

In cube hand disruption is the best way to beat a Scepter deck but it needs to be backed up by a good deck. Cheap countermagic and things like Brainstorm and graveyard recursion make you a lot safer against hand disruption. What I see as the problem for this deck in cube is not how powerful it is but how narrow it is. Neither Scepter nor Orim's Chant are at all broad in their use. Chant is much more of a sideboad card than a maindeck sort of thing if you do not have a Scepter for it. Likewise Scepter only really goes in a deck like this and is a whole lot less exciting if you don't have the potential for it to be a win move due to not having the Chant. Scepter is fine with all the other cards on this list, even good in the right situations but the point remains that you can get more value and utility with more consistency and less risk just by playing planeswalkers instead. Since starting this article a few months ago I have already cut both the Scepter and the Chant from the cube. It isn't fun to play against and they are simply too narrow to deserve valuable cube slots.

Ayli Abzan

Ayli, Eternal PilgrimThis started out as a silly idea for maximising Alyi's 3rd and least relevant ability. The card would be cube worthy without it and still one of the top three Orzhov cards including Lingering Souls! In the name of testing and doing new things I put this Abzan life deck together and it wasn't at any point looking bad like I expected. It turns out almost all the incidental life cards in cube are pretty good and go pretty well together in a deck. There were a couple more I could ram in but it didn't feel like it needed it at all. There was enough that I should try and use what little space there was left to make this as viable as possible. This was the end result, a fairly typical looking Abzan midrange list. We all know plenty about how this kind of deck performs and what cards are good in it so I will only bother to talk about the new stuff as this was another testing vessel deck.

Warden of the First Tree
24 Spells

Deathrite Shaman
Birds of Paradise
Avacyn's Pilgrim
Swords to Plowshares

Warden of the First Tree
Oath of Nissa

Scavenging Ooze
Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim
Voice of Resurgence
Qasali Pridemage

Sylvan Advocate
Lotus Cobra
Satyr Wayfinder

Meren of Clan Nel Toth
Liliana, Heretical Healer
Courser of Kruphix
Kitchen Finks
Nissa, Voice of Zendikar


Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
Seige Rhino
Sorin, Solemn Visitor
Ajani, Caller of the Pride

Meren of Clan Nel Toth


16 Lands
(including a greedy 4 man lands)

Sylvan AdvocateSylvan Advocate is not a life card and was basically filler in this list because he is new. Turns out he is pretty good, even in the Tarmogoyf slot. This deck has enough relevant creatures that short of mass removal you are basically never killing the Advocate until it is too late and he is a 4/5 that makes a bunch of your land terrifying. A 5/5 trampling Village and a 4/5 lifelinking Vent that can attack together along with the now 4/5 vigilance Advocate. What seemed like a managable situation gets out of hand somehow without you realising. Stirring Wildwood becomes able to take down Baneslayer and Thundermaw!! Sylvan Advocate held the early game really reliably and then contributed significantly to the end game for no further mana investment. Exactly what you want from that kind of filler, I expect to see more of Advocate and in a relatively wide selection of decks.

Kalitas performed well in this list but didn't face the kinds of decks where he is ruinous. Mostly he made combat really awkward. He forced people into avoiding blocks which essentially leads to trying to race, a poor strategy against lifelink. Between Kalitas and Liliana combat was really uncomfortable against this list. I have already done some extensive segments on Kalitas so I should really just say here that his performace hasn't yet made me want to change my mind about the card. Still a top rate four drop dork.

Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
Oath of Nissa also did roughly what you would expect of the card. That is good because I designed the list with it in mind, without such a card this deck would be slightly land light and a little bloated on the four slot. Oath has performed well against Cyclonic Rift and Crush of Tentacles. Although you mostly want to redevelop a board position after such spells the Oath is so cheap and you have a decent land count that the extra options on better threats is well worth it most of the time. It is a free card and somewhat in the same vein as Kitchen Finks against Wrath effects for the mass bounce that is growing in popularity with the blue mages.

Oath of Nissa

Nissa, Voice of Zendikar has really impressed in the many decks I have used her in. In all she has performed fairly similarly, well but not game breaking. Compared to Liliana of the Veil, Ashiok and even a couple of the other three mana planeswalkers Nissa has not dominated any games. It is hard to describe her as more powerful than such cards. What she is however is very consistent and reliable. She works very well with lots of other cards and is substantially less situational or matuchp dependent than basically all the other three mana walkers. As you have to combine her abilities together for her to be a standalone threat she is inherently a lot slower to become a threat than most other walkers. Despite this need to use her main two abilities together to be a standalone threat both of the abilities are very useful immediately in one of the two main states of the game. Either you are behind and you want to make plants to protect your walkers and your face or you are ahead and you want to push that advantage by powering up your dorks. Nissa always seems to come down, do something useful right away while being much safer than most plansewalkers, certainly the cheap ones. I like how she plays and I like her design, she is very playable but relatively fair as cube cards go. She also gives a strong incentive towards abusing her potential synergies.

Nissa, Voice of ZendikarFinally we come to Ayli, the center piece of the deck. As a card Ayli fits somewhat into the same category as Sylvan Advocate and Dimensional Infiltrator - decent cheap filler that scales well into the late game. I didn't put much stock in the final ability of the card and rated it mostly just based on the rest of it. In hindsight I think this might have been harsh. In most of the decks where you will play her and against most matchups you will have a decent board of dorks and not take that much damage. That means you don't need that much toughness in play to turn her on so to speak. Anything you chump with or that is killed will usually be turned into some life with Ayli about which means you need to sacrifice less to get to that 30 mark. As everything is instant Ayli is actually quite a problem to play around. The card she felt most like as oddly Soulfire Grandmaster. A fine two drop with a keyword stat and a passive or near passive lifegain mechanic that turns into a lockdown style threat in the super late game. Eight mana, Soulfire Grand Master and a card like Cryptic Command is usually game over and it just makes the card a really dangerous and annoying thing to have to consider. You often end up killing it inefficiently because you are scared of what it might do to you. This is exactly how I felt facing Ayli, I new at any point my opponent could trade in a few dorks for life and then go on a rampage of Vindication on my stuff all at instant speed. You really don't need to overload on lifegain stuff, a bit will certainly improve Ayli but she can do most of the legwork herself if the need arises. Basically, you fail to kill this little 2/3 and she will kill all your stuff sooner than you might anticipate. Better than expected, a staple for any deck in those colours.

Monday 1 February 2016

Gatewatch Izzet

Jori En, Ruin DiverAlthough I have recently done some articles covering decks like this I do this kind of deck a lot. This version is by no means one of the better ways to do this kind of deck, indeed this list has some shortcomings. This was built entirely to house as many new cards as possible on one place to satisfy my impatience to play with them all! Oath gave us a lot of new cards but it also did a somewhat rare thing in that it gave us two top quality cheap cards that go together so perfectly in an existing cube archetype. Those two cards are of course Stormchaser Mage and Ruin Diver but we got some other bits and bobs we can throw in such a deck too. Here is the mess I ended up with, very powerful and capable of winning but not as cohesive as it should be due to the extra ramming in of cards for no specific reason other than wanting to play with them!

Lava Dart24 Spells

Gitaxian Probe
Monastery Swiftspear
Delver of Secrets
Lightning Bolt

Grim Lavamancer
Burst Lightning

Goblin Guide
Lava Dart

Abbot of Keral Keep
Looter il-Kor
Grip of the RoilStormchaser Mage
Fire / Ice

Young Pyromancer
Snapcaster Mage
Dimensional Infiltrator
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy

Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh
Jori En, Ruin Diver
Grip of the Roil
Eldrazi Obligator

Stoke the Flames

Treasure Cruise

16 Land (including 3 colourless sources)

Dimensional InfiltratorThe list is a little light on ways to win. If you face life gain you are unlikely to burn them out. If you don't get a one drop to stick for a few turns from turn one you likely won't have the tempo to make a lot of your other cards that dangerous. Short of burn and one drops doing out of hand damage this deck needs to win with something like Young Pyromancer, Chandra or Stormchaser Mage. All slow clocks and quite vulnerable. I like to pack a couple of things like Thundermaw and True-Name Nemesis in this kind of deck where possible as they are so good at single handedly winning a game reasonably fast.

Jori En impressed immensely in this list. First cast he came out or turn three after making three one drop dorks the previous two turns. This gave exactly enough dorks to throw down a Stoke the Flame on a Courser of Kruphix and immediately draw a card. From my next turn he drew an extra card every turn and comfortably sealed the game. It was essentially a two mana 2/3 that instantly replaced itself with a card. It then drew another 3 and dealt 4 damage due to the tempo lead I had secured. In later games he continued to perform well, one of the premium dorks, too gold to compare to Courser levels of goodness but certainly of that power level.

Stormchaser MageDimensional Infiltrator was much better as a 2/1 flying flash than I expected which is useful because I didn't once use the other ability. That is not a huge surprise given this list, the activation is more for control decks. It turns out a 2/1 flying flash probably is enough to make the cube on its own, just. It would mean however it was only for the more aggressive decks. Good news all round for the Infiltrator.

Stormchaser Mage outperformed Infiltrator but again this was expected. This deck is built around the Mage while the Infiltrator is just rammed in to get some testing done. The Stormchaser Mage felt somewhere between Mantis Rider and Monastery Swiftspear, which having written that now seems pretty obvious given that it pretty much is the average of those two cards! Stormchaser was hitting hard when you wanted it to and felt much more worthwhile triggering the prowess as it was much more able to apply that damage where you wanted it than the walking dorks. This kind of list still seems like the best place for Stormchaser but I feel he will still be decent in almost any Izzet deck.

Eldrazi Obligator
Grip of the Roil was fine, a tiny bit too fiddly perhaps for a deck so cheap but very nice when you were in a position to cast it. It made decisions pretty hard just because there were more distinct options than usual. A great filler card for many types of deck but rarely a card that will be awesome.

Eldrazi Obligator is starting to feel a bit like the red Containment Priest in that it is generally OK but in the right matchups it is your golden ticket. I tend not to love cards that wildly vary in their power depending on what you face but I do still like the Obligator. It does generally aggressive red things acceptably and gives you some outs against awkward matchups that are otherwise hard to come by for the red mage.

It was Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh that stole the show in this list and a big part of that is probably down to it being one of the most effective cards at winning the game in this list. She was laughably easy to flip in this deck which gave a lot of options to you, she was also fairly good at living due to the importance of killing most of the cheaper creatures in this list on sight for a lot of decks. Her damage output is huge and surprisingly tenacious. Although I still rate her as the weakest flipwalker she is closing on Kytheon fast! All the flipwalkers are top rate cards so being the worst is no bad thing. She is much much easier to build with than Liliana too, perhaps even than Nissa.