Sunday 27 March 2016

Shadows Over Innistrad: Preliminary Review Part V

Creeping Dread 0

Overcost, limited effect, poor scaling, a lot worse than Liliana, or any other black card ever to have gone near the cube with the word discard on it...

From Under the Floorboards 2

I like it a lot but it seems a little too fair and a little too demanding to be all that great. The hard cast mode would be very powerful if you could block with the zombie tokens but as the are all lazy and slow this card has poor control applications which, even in black, reduces the value of the life gain. The madness is nice but doesn't overly improve the card in terms of potency, late game the card can be one of the best top decks possible if you have a discard outlet but early the card isn't at all exciting to play for madness. Most zombie themed decks don't gain that much from zombie tokens, they are fine, they might get a bit of a buff but you can't bid them back and they add no devotion. Cool, but not really there.

Ulvanwald Hydra 0

I imagine the introduction between this guy and Primeval Titan would be colder than a lot of people's partners meeting their exes.

Ever After 2

This could see play, it could even be OK. It is like a Tooth and Nail but from the Bin, which is arguably better in the cube, esepcially for one mana less and in black. This card has the added self mill protection but isn't really placed well for that to be useful. There are a lot of combinations of two things you can get back that devastate games, it might be a good way to take reanimate decks in a midrange heavy format. Feels like Victimize might be a thing though...

Mad Prophet 0

At three mana I might well quite like this, four is totally out of the question.

Wild Field Scarcrow 1

Similar cards exist but this is better placed cost and stat wise for the control style of deck this might be playable in. All a bit too fair though, can't see it making any lists ever.

Slayer's Plate 0

Vastly overcost, just asking to lose any close game to a whole lot of cheap instant spells.

Skeleton Key 0

Cute but too pricey compared to Mask of Memory for what they both do and this doesn't do enough I don't think. Mask certainly hasn't seen cube play since around original Mirodin block..

Epitaph Golem 2.5

Low powered and clunky but able to perform a useful role in certain decks, combo ones specificially. This will retire the Battlefield Scrounger, a loss most will not notice.

Weirding Wood 1

Ramp and card draw! I like it. Despite this it isn't seeing much if any play. The ramp is slow and vulnerable, if you are paying 3 mana for a ramp you want it to double ramp you or just be imensly powerful which this isn't. In an enchantment themed deck where this kind of ramp has the best chance of seeing play the draw aspect is far less useful as well.

Loam Dryad 4

Interesting little card, a sort of Springleaf Drum on legs. Much as I like it and expect it to see some play here and there I think Arbor Elf has very similar strengths and weaknesses yet trumps this for reliability. Arbor Elf jsut needs a Forest to produce mana, Loam Dryad needs another creature. This means the kinds of deck in which you can play Dryad are significantly reduced. It also makes it a terrible card to ramp into 3 drops. While you can spend 3 mana on turn 2 with Dryad if you have a one or two mana dork to play out first this is of no help making big things. In fact, unless you are making two things a turn with this the having to tap stuff makes it quite damaging to your tempo. The reliable fixing on this card is what saves it rather. Any one drop that can ramp and can fix is interesting. Bird of Paradise still remains my FPFP green card. This also has high stats for the mana!

Graf Mole 1

I don't see clues being an archetypal theme but if they were ever this would be pretty good for such a deck. Read another way we can say that because the clue deck would likely play this we can safely say the clue deck is awful.

Fork in the Road 1

Cheap and useful but quite a lot extra to pay to bin a land over Lay the Land style cards. I think the nice art is making me like this card more than I should. No clue where I would ever want this.

Cryptolith Rite 2.5

Well this has combo written all over it! I expect it will be the various untap activation cost dorks from Lorwyn block that work with this best but I am sure there are other abuses for it too. In terms of the main cube this has very little application. You broadly want your dorks to attack or block or use their own abilities, by the time you have spare dorks you likely have spare mana too.

Crawling Sensation 0

Slow and expensive, overly limiting on the token generation and actually quite scary on the self mill in 40 card lists.

Confront the Unknown 1

I like a combat trick that is cheap and card neutral and this is both. Just giving +1/+1 however is limp. Without having a selection of other clue cards in your aggro creature deck this isn't enough card and it seems unlikely to get a good build of such a deck.

Stensia Masquerade  0

Only viable in not just a tribal vampire deck but one also with a strong madness theme. Narrow doesn't really cover how limited this card is. Still quite a brutal trick plus ongoing effect in the right situation....

Rush of Adrenaline 2

Quite a good combat trick for red. This should allow some extra damage to spill over which is what the red mage wants. Occasionaly this will seem better than Titan's Strength but not often. Red rarely bothers playing these kinds of cards over burn sadly despite them being able to outperform burn in the ideal situations.

Insolent Neonate 3

Hapless Researcher went red and arguably got better. The loot is the more awkward backwards red discard first. The discard utility is more useful and rarer in red and the body has some added utility with minor evasion and potential vampire synergy. A low low powered card for sure but easily the kind of thing that will be the right filler spell now and again.

Geistblast 1

A bit gold, a bit pricey and a bit situational. I can still see this getting some love but I think it is actually a win more card. If you can get away with running 3 mana shock in your deck instead of things like Lightning Bolt then you were winning anyway.

Dual Shot 2

Instant speed Forked Bolt trading the ability to hit players for instant speed. Great sideboard card, utterly brutal against things like Elf decks but not too playable in many decks main. Not being able to do one thing two damage is also a huge downside to the card, you have to really want that instant.

Bloodmad Vampire 2

With a madness cost of 2 this is pretty pokey. Hard cast for three however and this is just awful, the madness thing doesn't look main cube viable and so neither will this be.

Murderous Compulsion 2

Another card that really needs the madness utility to be playable. Sorcery speed creature removal that is restricted to tapped stuff is really limiting. This is broader than most of the madness cards and is more playable with fewer outlets but it is still quite low power and narrow.

Sanitarium Skeleton 1

A great grindy card, not unlike a Squee in many ways. Much better as a chump body, much worse as a free discard. Not sure this has enough power or utility to ever see play but it is cute.

Pale Rider of Trsotad 0

My experience of these kinds of cards is that they suck, even in madness themed decks. You don't want your outlets to be so restrictive as this. You certainly don't want to play this without getting value from the discard as it is asking to eat a 2 for 1.

Liliana's Indignation 0

Unreliable, risky, player only Fireball with minor graveyard utility. Fireballs are finishers, enabling your graveyard stuff is not the thing you want bolted on to said finisher...

Groteque Mutation 3

Black isn't overdone with combat tricks and this isn't half bad. It is a huge life swing, it is valuable lifegain. It is a significant damage boost allowing you to gain a lot of tempo or trade up a really poo dork into something massive. It also offers a little bit of toughness to help your dorks live as well. All round this is a lot of utility as a combat trick but it is just a combat trick and without any secondary role it can fill makes it likely unplayable in main cube.

Gisa's Bidding 4

This is one of the bigger reasons to be playing discard outlets from this set. A pair of 2/2s at instant speed for 2B is very good. It is Lingering Souls levels of good. Sadly you need to have discard to do this which I still think rules it out of main cube consideration. The hardcast option on this isn't utterly unusable but it does mean you don't get to madness the card. With Lingering Souls the front end may not be that gripping but you still get to do the flashback as well.

Ghoulsteed 0

For a graveyard return effect this is weak. You lose cards, you still pay 3, you only get a vanilla 4/4 and you had to do work to set that up. No deal.

Biting Rain 1

Infest style spell with more madness. Weak if used at 4 mana and hard to use at 3, I don't see this getting play over more reliable removal.

Alms of the Vein 2

A kind of Bump in the Night style card. Probably if you are playing this you don't actually care that much about the life but it still represents quite a lot of value. Even if you only care about the 3 life loss it is an efficient card for one mana.

Nagging Thoughts 4

What we have here is Slight of Hand that puts a card in the bin rather than on the bottom and has madness. For this we have to pay an extra 1 which seems reasonable but likely means this card isn't good enough most of the time. For this to ever be worth it over more potent and cheaper card quality you have to have both discard outlets and things that take advantage of the graveyard. Most blue decks have a little of both these days with cards like Looter and Jace, Dig and Cruise but to make this really worth it I think you need a little more of one or both and that is not so common. Strategic Planning or even Deep Analysis probably have this card outperformed in a lot of the places this might work well and neither of those cards see loads of play. Think Twice is another fairly comparable sort of card. This is filler but it is filler that ideally wants supporting which is an awkward place to be. When paired with a loot effect you do get to see three cards and draw two of them for two mana which is about as efficient card draw or quality you can get outside of Ancestral.

Essence Flux 2

People like to flicker things, not the most powerful card but the cheapest way to do this effect and so something you might see here and there.

Erdwall Illuminator 3

Now I love a 2 mana 1/3 flyer so you really don't have to put much more on such a card before I am really into it. While this effect is very good it also requires you to have clues which not quite enough cube cards are offering presently. Even with just 3 or so cards that give you clues this card looks very playable but I don't think that will happen at all often, if ever in draft.

Stern Constable 6

A very impressive and interesting little critter. Gideon's Lawkeeper is a great card, it has defeated the mighty Emrakul in cube more than once. One of the main issues with Lawkeeper, and why Mother of Runes typically sees more play, is that you have to pay W to activate the Keeper. While generally a card is worth more than a W the kinds of deck you play these effects in are about tempo more than anything else. You don't need many taps to close a game when you are playing white weenie. Things like Skullclamp and Land Tax should be able to fuel the Constable if you simply want to play a very aggressive tapper. Another great use for this card is as a discard outlet where it really is one of the best. I remember when Waterfront Bouncer was an auto include in reanimate decks as it was one of the more useful cheap discard outlets you could play. Constable does a whole lot more than Putrid Imp /Hapless Researcher while being comparably quick and cheap to discard stuff. It also does comparably similar things to Bouncer while being significantly cheaper all round. The one issue with Constable is that he is a white one drop and white typically is used least in recursion decks. Constable certainly improves Replenish, Sun Titan, Open the Vaults and recursion effect angels within white. This is a great tool to have for various reasons and a welcome addition to the cube. It won't be broken but it will help the format greatly in a wide selection of ways.

Spectral Shepherd 1

Slowly the critical mass of spirit cards approaches a tribal level. They are not yet good but this is an intersting tool for them should they get there. Very much a tribal only card.

Open the Armory 3.5

Cheap and direct tutor effects are good and this is that. Equipment isn't so exciting what with Stoneforge being a thing but I can see some good applications for this getting auras, Splinter Twin anyone?

Not Forgotten 2

Probably a little to low impact to actually make any final lists. It is one of those cute cards that might well do loads of different things you quite want for your deck but still isn't quite enough card to take up a slot. You can use this to reuse a miracle, as a slow Regrowth, as a mini Misinformation, just as a way to get a card out of a graveyard or just to make a 1/1 chump. Lots of uses in lots of situations, sadly sorcery greatly reduces the potency on what was already a low power effect.

Nearhearth Chaplain 0

The main body is horrible and the "flashback" is only the weaker end of Lingering Souls. This is only viable in a deck with heavy discard outlets and even then isn't likely worth playing.

Dauntless Cathar 0

More playable than the Chaplain but still not enough power overall to be worth a slot. Dorks do a lot now, a little bit of value for a fair amount of mana doesn't cut it. I feel compelled to review these graveyard utility dorks but I don't see them getting play even with the most pushed synergies.

Bound by Moonsilver 3.5

Not great removal but offering some unique and interesting things to white. For 3 mana you can pacify a thing and very very occasionally stop it transforming. Not close to worth however you can reapply the Pacify effect by saccing something. White got quite a few sac outlets in this set but this is probably the best as you can do it subsequently to playing it and for no mana. I see this getting used with Academy Rector a fair amount.

Harvest Hand 0

Lovely design, not enough for cube though.

Hermit of the Natterknolls 1

Interesing but overall too low impact to to play I think. It hoses countermagic but doesn't do all that much else. You can force it to flip or draw a card which is cool synergy and design but slow and unexciting. A 3 mana 2/3 is bad,a 3 mana 3/5 isn't thrilling. This has basically no tempo impact and is generally easy to play around.

Autumnal Gloom 2

A bit of a fiddle for what is just a beater. Three mana for a 4/4 hexproof trample is really good, especially one that is immune to most mass removal the turn it comes down. The thing is very few decks will have delirium by turn 4 and for cards that are just a dork not knowing when your dork will arrive is a problem. The self mill application of this card is interesting but ultimately pretty poor. There are much better ways to fill up a yard, as soon as you are doing it to flip your Gloom then your Gloom is looking rather overpriced for what it is.

Skin Invasion 3

You want this to be a 3/4 for R which would be nutty good. For that to happen you need there to be a dork and for it to die. It can't be exiled, it can't be bounced and the Skin Invasion can't in any way leave play first. This is very easy to play around and very tricky to do efficiently in the early game. There are basically no  circumstances you can self engineer where this can be a good one drop play. If you are one the draw and they make a one drop dork you can attack with this turn two if you also have removal for their dork but this isn't something to rely on at all. The best enabler for this card seems to be things like Mogg Fanatic. I want the Skin Invasion to be good but I think it is way too situational and high risk for it to be a good early threat. There is of course the capacity to use this midgame as removal forcing a weak attack out of one of their dorks. The trouble is this does little if you don't have the right block (and red isn't great for blockers) or they remove your blocker.

Kessig Forge-Master 1

A subtle but impressive body for the 1R cost. Unsurprisingly the flipped version is a lot less exciting that a lot of the flipped counterparts so as to temper the good starting point. This is a great blocker and quite hard to block. It almost has doublestrike when in combat with other creatures. They always take one, even before first strike, and they they take another two in normal. Forge-Master may only hit for two to the face but will hit creatures for 3 and utterly owns everything with a single toughness. Nice Ball Lightning! Sadly this just flips into a 3/2 that pings other combatants for 2, not much more damage nor that much more awkward. There are loads of cards in the same sort of camp as this such as Gore-House Chainwalker and they never get play so despite this being very close and decently powerful I can only see it actually getting play as tribal filler.

Geier Reach Bandit 5.5

Three power and haste for three mana probably makes this good enough. It seems like it is already competing with Sin Prodder for a slot in the cube despite neither having seen a single game of testing... Mostly the flip will just be +1/+1 which is plenty fine as an overall deal. You got enough from the starting body to be more than happy with a bonus +1/+1 should it happen. I don't expect the insta transform to ever happen. You have to have a deck with this and another warewolf (of which the cube has very few), then you have to flip this and have it live. Fun, but never happening in the main cube. Probably not even happening if you do a warewolf tribal deck! I think this is actually more powerful and playable than Sin Prodder but I think the Prodder affords better synergies to players.

Kindly Stranger 2

This is like a Bone Shredder with one big problem. You don't have to pay the echo cost on Shredder to still have it kill a thing. This is always six mana to kill a thing which is somewhat too pricey even if you get a juicy 4/3 out of the deal as well as instant speed unrestricted removal. Delirium shouldn't be too much of an issue in black when you come to have enough mana to use this but it is still a bit awkward on what it already a clunky card. For my money the initial body is too low impact for this to see play.

Accursed Witch 3

I love it, I love the flavour and I love how it works. The issue with the card is where you might play it. A 4/2 for 4 mana is top end for the aggressive decks this could work in but it is very low impact on the game right away. It is also a lot of what you are paying for so you don't really want to instantly sac the body off. The curse it gives is cool but is really just a drain each turn, there are not that many things it is going to reduce the cost of that make it exciting. Perhaps it is fine in midrange just as an slow grindy threat that allows you to spend life on other things. One to test for sure, I don't hold out much hope however.

Town Gossipmonger 5

This might be the hardest one drop I have had to review. I typically find one drops fairly obvious but not so with this. It is a white one drop and white has plenty of those. It has to be significantly (as far as a one drop can be) better than Elite Vanguard to be worth inclusion. A 2/3 with 2 to gain +1/+0 would be one of the best one drops in the game, certainly the aggressive ones. Tack onto that a forced attack and you are still hanging with the best of the one drops. This trades with basically anything you put in front of it on curve and outright kills most other one and two drops without needing any more mana investment. It all comes down to how easy the card is to flip and what it costs you. My gut is that it costs slightly too much and puts this card in the sort of same ballpark as Boros Elite, playable but overly inconsistent. You have to skip a whole attack with this guy to flip it and you have to have another guy to tap. This is fine if you play this early and continue to curve out after it, few white dorks have haste and quite a lot have vigilance. The issue is when you top deck this late and it is a 1/1 do nothing or costs you too much to flip in terms of what you can attack with. This is slightly worse than a one mana 2/3 with all the same text as the flip side of the card that also has double summoning sickness. Such a card would be cube worthy but only just. The pump makes up for missing that first two damage that any other 2/1 will hit for. I like the card but it think it is very fair. It is more likely to see play in white weenie because it is a bit different to the usual 2/1s that get wreaked by Fire effects and not because it is actually better than an Elite Vanguard in a vaccum.

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