Monday, 21 March 2016

Shadows Over Innistrad: Preliminary Review Part III

Drogskol Cavalry 0

Seven mana.... for this? At five it still wouldn't be cube worthy. I dislike the way in which the quality of big rares is really falling.

Startled Awake 4

Thirteen is a lot of cards to mill in a 40 card deck. You really shouldn't need to connect with the dork more than once for this card to be game over. To do two hits with this however requires 13 mana and three turns, over which you have to have a 1/1 live for half. The killer on this card is that you can only recur it at sorcery speed. This is a viable finisher although you have to be really really afraid of discard to play this over an Aetherling or other good finishers. It plays a little like Worm Harvest except it has none of the defensive aspects. You might just run it for the single hit at four mana in a turbo mill deck but they are pretty lame and not something I cater for in cube. Very cool card design but a little slow and clunky on one hand and cheesy lame on the other.

Nephalia Moondrakes 0

Really? Again, more unplayable seven drops. If I am bothering to consider the graveyard utility it looks unimaginably bad next to Wonder.

Sinister Concoction 5

For one life, two mana and two cards you have quite a potent removal spell. I am not sure if I like it as much as things like Contagion or Sickening Shoal (other two for one yourself cheap removal) as you have none of the surprise factor and cannot actually tap out if you want to use it. While I think this is generally playable I think you need to want the discard outlet for it to be worth including. In that area it wildly outperforms Shoal and Contagion which both exile the pitch card rather than discard. In a Reanimate deck or some kind of graveyard themed deck this is starting to look good. It is +3 towards a delve spell and so on. It is flexible unrestricted instant speed removal. It doesn't exile which is a shame, it might have been quite close to Path to Exile if it did. Perhaps too narrow for the main cube but certainly a great card of cube power level in a couple of archetypes. Just paired wit a simple Bloodghast and this looks pretty impressive, you can kill a thing and have your Ghast in play on turn two with a mana left up.

Angel of Deliverance 0

The unplayable rare dorks are getting better but the cost is going up! Eight mana cards in the cube end games, this is unreliable removal and an over cost, all be it large, body.

Descend Upon the Sinful 5

This might have a shout at a cube slot, it would likely replace either Marshal Coup or Merciless Eviction rather than gain a new slot for itself. Mostly this is interesting because of the exile effect not the token generation. All the other wrath and make a thing cards are a little better in the token side of things. This however does the Wrath you want it to and that is why you play it. I don't love the card but the need of exile is great and the potency of wrath effects is well established.

Anguished Unmaking 8

This is quite a special card, all told I think I prefer this to Vindicate. It is the same card with two buffs and two nerfs basically. You get instant speed and exile over destroy but for this you lose the ability to hit lands and have to pay three life. All these things are a little situational so it is hard to directly say which are the most significant of these 4 effects.

I personally think instant is the most valuable and the 3 life is the least. I also think I prefer the exile to the ability to hit lands but this is a preference. You get a lot of free wins with a Vindicate when you catch people a little screwed, it is also great to take out Shelldock Isle, Wolf Run, man lands and any other dangerous lands which very few other cards that are generically playable are able to do. You probably encounter manlands in games about as often as you see things you really want to exile not destroy. While you see a lot of man land in cube games they are not as often relevant in those games as threats. On that basis I prefer the exile but but that is ignoring the free wins. While I don't really like that you get free wins without a huge degree of skill with Vindicate I cannot deny it makes the card quite a lot better. These days it is in fact the main reason it is so good. It is very rare you use Vindicate to remove a non-land permanent and feel ahead having done so. Most of the time you are hitting things that have already gained some value for your opponent or cost less than 3 mana or both!

Instant is always lovely, it helps counter haste creatures, allows you to keep up mana until the last moment, it lets you disrupt combos or tricks, allows you to blow people out with huge tempo swings should they do something like try and equip a dork. This is the combined utility of Disenchant and Hero's Downfall, it disrupts most combos, kills most threats and deals with most problems. Vindicate does nothing to get you out from under a Scepter Chant lock, this does. Vindicate does nothing to help against Splinter Twin, this does, and this is all just from the instant side of it, nothing to do with the exile which obviously further disrupts and makes further consistency and effect improvements over Vindicate.

Losing 3 life is  blow, it is a lot for control and midrange decks to eat and it will make them really have to think about which of the main 3 CMC black and or white removal cards it is best off playing. If shroud is the problem then perhaps Council's Judgement is the thing, if it is manlands you fear than Vindicate or the Downfall are the way to go. There will be situations where you fear the aggro players and go a less painful route, there are others you don't care enough about the life loss to forgo instant and/or exile. Aggressive decks are much less fussed about losing 3 life but they are much more fussed about paying 3 for a 1 for 1 removal spell and they also tend to care least about instant speed. Overall I am very impressed with the placing of this card, not so good that you always play it over the alternatives but very much still in good company with the very best broad range removal spells in magic.

Nahiri, the Harbinger 6.5

My cautious rating is based on this being a 4 mana Boros card. While there are many decks that use Boros colours there is only one that is purely Boros and it is pretty much just a marriage of WW and RDW. This is a very good 4 drop but it certainly isn't the best aggro one, nor do aggro white and red decks in my cube play many 4 drops. This card is ideally a midrange to control card. It gives some versatile removal options and card quality but doesn't apply that much pressure. Nahiri is very comparable to Ajani Vengeant, same costs and a similarly well rounded high power set of abilities. Nahiri is slightly worse at protecting herself than Ajani but makes up for it with much better loyalties, both starting and growing. Nahiri's ultimate seems fairly low key for an 8 loyalty one but you can use it pretty soon compared to lots of walkers and it actually offers way more utility than most. Destroying all their lands will be game over most of the time but it will also do flat nothing a bunch too, Nahiri's ultimate should provide a good win mechanism as well as a good out when you need it to.

I rather prefer Nahiri to Ajani in the decks I might actually play it. Card quality and exile based removal sound more appealing to midrange and control decks than lifegain and stall. Nahiri has a lot more synergy to offer than Ajani too. Despite my liking Nahiri more than Ajani they are fairly close and that is the troubling thing. Four CMC Boros planeswalkers are not things that see a lot of play at all. If you are a Jeskai control or midrage deck the selection of 4 drops you have is immense in both power and quantity. This will see some play and it will be good when it does but it should still be one of the least often played cards in the cube as it currently stands.

Neglected Heirloom 0.5

Leonin Scimitar isn't awful, not cube worthy but still. While this is an upgrade on the Scimitar you will almost never see that better side of the card. There are not enough transforming creatures that you would put in the same deck or that have much durability, certainly it isn't something you would force for the sake of this card, it would have to be for a Moonmist deck or something! Ashmouth Blade is decent when it is equipped but the cost to equip is steep, you are really hoping the dork that transformed itself and the Blade stays alive to keep hold of it! Loyal Cathar doesn't appear to work with this which is a shame as that is the most played flip card in an archetype that might consider playing a card like this.

Wolf of Devil's Breach 1

Powerful and scary but not direct or immediate enough to see much, if any, cube play. A five mana 5/5 is OK but hardly thrilling. The ability to snipe things out of the way is useful but nothing you can't do with a Siege-Gang Commander, a card with more durability, more immediate impact and more all round utility, not to mention about 15 years!!! If this Wolf doesn't compare that well to the classic Gang we don't really need to discuss how poorly it does against Inferno Titan. Being a 5 drop the discard utility is pretty irrelevant too.

Falkenrath Gorger 8

Without any text or creature type this card would still be top five red aggressive one drops. Only Swiftspear and Goblin Guide have it directly beat, Firedrinker Satyr and Zurgo Bellstriker do not look quite so good as they did. Only white really has enough cards that are Savannah Lions or better that a blank 2/1 for 1 isn't an auto include. 99% of this card is about being a red Savannah Lions, that is why you play it and why it is good. As for the remaining 1%, it is certainly very cool but how often will it come up in a useful way? Give or take there are about 10 cube worthy vampires spread across red and black with at least another 20 you could use and not look too out of place. As such you have plenty enough cards to do a vampire tribal deck ranging from the aggro to the more midrange. Although red and black have a lot of the best discard outlets only two of them are vampires, both or which are from the new set, and only one of which is of main cube power level.

Outside of Falkenrath Gorger and Bloodghast there is not that much incentive to discard things in a vampire themed deck (unless it is a Patriarch's Bidding deck in which case why are you not playing zombies instead???). With there only being 1 Gorger in cube and with it being easily removed from play on top of the limited synergies vampires have with discard in general I would say you cannot maximise the ability on this card in a sensible way. You can run it in a deck that happens to have some vampires and some discard and every now and again it will turn a loot into a card draw or randomly give a dork flash and be quite handy. I don't see this happening loads, perhaps around as often as Dragon Hunters ability comes into play. It will be a lot cooler when it does though and allow the card to be really fun and interesting without being in the slightest bit over powered. You shouldn't ever play weaker cards in your deck to go with the Gorger but that doesn't mean his ability will never come up.

Sage of Ancient Law  1

Better than a Kavu Climber most of the time at least. I don't much like this card, green is not great at keeping a big hand size and even if this were reliably 5/5 or bigger it still isn't that exciting. Draw a card is lovely but it is only worth a mana or two at most. That means you have spent quite a lot of mana on a fairly useless and likely small body. To get any real work done this card needed some key word abilities like trample or even reach on the human side. The flip side does offer this but it also isn't that exciting. The extra size is uncontrollable and also likely no more than +2/+2 on average in cube. For the initial body to be worthy of consideration you needed the flip side of the card to be game breaking which this really isn't. Playable but not good and not doing a specific thing that you want from your 5 mana cards.

Rattlechains 5

Turns out a 2/1 flyer for 1B with flash is pretty good, the rest of the card doesn't need to do loads beyond that which is probably fortunate for the Rattlechains. There are spirits in the cube but they are all over the place in CMC, colour, theme and whatever else you care to name. They are also not particularly standout cards those that have graced the cube. Being able to relevantly give one hexproof when you want to make this seems like it just isn't ever happening unless some really playable spirits see some print. The giving flash to other spirits aspect is a lot more interesting as you can curve out with your dork and still get some value. That is of course assuming you have some spirits in your deck... This is certainly a card to watch but Dimensional Infiltrator seems to have a much broader application at present. You only need 3 or 4 other spirits in your deck before this looks rather interesting but I cannot find a cluster of 4 spirits that you would want in the same deck as of now.

To the Slaughter 3

I quite like this card but I fear too often the choice giving aspect will make this dead. You can pay 3 mana to exile anything of your choice at instant speed now. Even the calm and fair Hero's Downfall seems far more reliable and useful than this card. Sacrifice and exile don't do that much extra on planeswalkers compared to what they do to other card types and so this is unnecessarily unreliable planeswalker removal. If you want to Edict creatures then there are much better cards. The two for one possibility of this card isn't great either, mostly when you get it the creature they toss will be a token from the walker, certainly not the relevant creatures in play. With enough other disruption and removal you can make this card a lot more reliable but I am not sure it is worth it. In other colours this might be more viable but black is fine at coping with planeswalkers. You want removal to be cheap and reliable, mostly this is neither.

Odric, Lunarch Marshall 0

He sings the merry song of the Hill Giant, merry because the Hill Giant is a weak ally never summoned to do battle, and as such they live long happy lives. It is hard to say this doesn't impact the board right away but it does require other useful creatures to be there and it can be easily shut down with most instant removal. When this guy is good he is nutty, sadly when this guy is bad he is a Hill Giant. This is the definition of a win more card and as such the kind of decks that might play it shouldn't ever. Win more cards have to at least be OK on the weak end and this isn't. Sublime Archangle is the kind of card this wishes it was, a relevant threat on its own and far less demanding of the kinds of creatures you ideally want to support it. Sublime Archangle is a little win more but it is either win now or a high quality top end threat relevant in its own right. Odric may be able to outperform Sublime in optimal conditions but on average he will be laughably far behind her.

Arlinn Kord 6.5

OK, this is a lot of card to take in. While I like the design in theory I will state for the record that this is going to be more tedious than sac lands to play with (fortunately it won't be played as often as them but still). Flipcards in the cube get wear much quicker even with double sleeving, and then it is quite a fiddle messing around with the cards. Compared to most other flippy things this new walker could be flipping every turn.

With that out of the way we can think about how good this is and where it might go. Basically it is very very powerful for a four mana walker however it is more linear than most and slow to yield his full utility. On top of this he is gold reducing his playability as well. There are a lot of walkers you need to instantly kill off if you want to use their -loyalty non-ultimate ability (say Garruk, Primal Hunter). With Arlinn however you have to flip him before you can Bolt things which takes a turn to do. In a lot of situations this makes him worse than having the Bolt cost 3 loyalty but being available from the turn you play him and this is worth keeping in mind. It makes the meager Ral Zarek seem very comparable in a lot of ways.

When you do make Arlinn you have two simple options. If you have a guy you can pump him for an attack but still have that original body left back for defense; or you can make a 2/2 wolf and transform him. Both of these effects allow Arlinn to protect himself without requiring you to otherwise hurt your plan or be in too much of a specific situation. Having a guy is likely better for defense as you also gain loyalty however you need to take the wolf option if you wish to transform Arlinn. The wolf option may cost no loyalty but it might as well be a -1 as you cannot do it after the first time without using a -1 ability first, nor can you do it every turn. Garruk Wildspeak is a far better token generator as is Xenagos. If you have an OK board and or hand you can simply +1 Arlinn Kord over and over which makes him quite like Xenagos the God version. Although haste for the dorks you play sounds really good for a red green deck, the majority of the good creatures Gruul decks play have haste already. Using Kord as a kind of equipment is fine, you should be winning the race if that is an option as well as growing Arlinn should things go south. It isn't exciting but it is quite powerful and works fairly well with the things you should be going in a deck with this in it. Growing Arlinn Kord is useful but less so that with other walkers. As you need to flip him to use the more versatile abilities, or indeed spend any loyalty at all, your opponents have much longer to respond to what you are doing. Mostly growing Arlinn just makes him a little harder to kill, it doesn't really threaten that much more. This in itself is unusual, most walkers that don't threaten as they grow are just not threats. With Arlinn he is quite the threat from the outset, he just doesn't get that much scarier. The closest walker to this is again Xenagos, in his case it is simply that making nonstop 2/2s is much more dangerous than his ultimate.

Looking more at Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon we have a very powerful -1 and a potentially terrifying +1 as well as a cheap and game ending ultimate. All of these things however are a little weaker than they first appear. The +1 requires you to have multiple other dorks to be good otherwise the other +1 on  the Chord is going to be doing more most of the time, certainly in the mid game. The trample is great but it is again quite situational, it requires bigger dorks to be that effective and as such is a tiny bit win more. Mini Overrun is exactly the kind of thing a Gruul deck wants although again, Garruk Wildspeaker offers it in a more effective package. The pump being only +1/+1 means it won't often alpha strike people and as such you might not be able to attack sensibly with everything which further reduces the value of it hitting everything. It is far far less powerful than the +1 attack and lifelink offered by Sorin despite seeming similar. The swing potential of Arlinns is substantially lower as well as never coming as a surprise. Overall I think that the +2/+2 haste and vigilance to one guy will do more work than the +1/+1 to everything and trample. It is nice to have the options on both given that situations will arise where one is much better than the other. It is also nice to have the option to grow Arlinn on both sides so that you don't have to mess about flipping him if +1 loyalty is what you need.

The -1 to deal 3 damage is standout top quality but it is hugely tempered by not being able to use it the turn you make Arlinn, having to wait two turns for every subsequent use and even then not being able to grow in loyalty. A Lightning Bolt every 3 turns for zero total loyalty or every other turn for -1 sounds a whole lot less able to dominate a game. Being the most powerful effect you are somewhat incentivized to sit on the warewolf side of Arlinn when you can just so you can have ready access to the Bolt.

The ultimate is only -6 but it is still 4 turns away from when you cast Arlinn at best because of the need to flip him too. As ultimates go it is pretty devastating, just so long as your deck contains creatures it should ensure victory in most games. It is comparable to Domri Rade's but far more reliable. I still don't expect to see it occur often if ever because of the power of the other abilities. Either you will win through using the + effects or you will need to use the 0 and the -1 as much as possible so as to keep up in good even games.

I anticipate this replacing Xenagos in my cube. While Xenagos is more exciting for ramp decks he doesn't do enough extra in those to see much play. In aggro decks Arlinn offers way more power and utility than Xenagos while also being less dependent on your board. The design on Arlinn is very impressive, it will take quite a bit of play with it to get used to the flow of the card. The five flipwalkers felt like an entirely new card type and took some extra time to understand how they worked relative to other planeswalkers and creatures. I think Arlinn is potentially harder to play with than the flipwalkers, he is thus far unique.

Groundskeeper 2

I can't believe I don't love this card, normally I am all over good one drops. With cube the thing about lands is that you can get them back from the bin in much more effective ways than this guy offers. As such you would only be looking to play him when you not only want lands back from the bin but where you also want a 1/1 dork with no abilities to affect the board. The list of decks that might want that presently stands at zero. I like the interactions this has with Faithless Looting or Molten Vortex, I want to use them but I just can't think of a reason to want a 1/1 in those decks. You can do it over and over, you can do it at instant speed! There are some combo applications for this but broadly Life from the Loam just does it better. Mind Over Matter, a land that taps for 3 including a G, a basic land and a Groundskeeper is an infinite mana combo...

Breakneck Rider 2

Trained Armadon with a nice boost should it flip the standard werewolf way. The flip side is almost better than a Hellrider and a 3/3 for 3 is actually pretty good for a red card. Flipwalker Chandra is worse in her starting form. The reason I rate this so poorly is that a generic 3/3 isn't that exciting and the mechanism by which it flips is too out of your control and too unreliable. Basically, you are not going to be playing Trained Armadon anywhere in the cube. even if it is red and so on that basis you can pretty much rule this out. The flipside would need to be utterly broken rather than just the same as a reasonable cube standard for this to be a consideration.

Epiphany at the Drownyard 2

Another lovely card design that has some weird scaling. For two mana it is a very poor Thoughtscour, at three it is a slightly weaker Murmurs from Beyond. At four mana it is a terrible Fact or Fiction, it isn't even better than Steam Augury. It gets closer again to the curve as you go past 4 mana but is still generally below it. The card digs pretty deep but the mechanism by which you can get what you find means that any on the ball opponent will not be giving you the things you need. As with all such cards like this you can play the all so fun mind games with seemingly poor splits trying to represent certain things. Due to putting things in the bin this is a reasonable draw tool in any graveyard based deck. The problem with it is just that I think you are going to just want to play more powerful draw effects most of the time. Either you want to play Think Twice / Thoughtscour, you want to play Fact or Fiction or you want to play a Sphinx's Revelation. You don't really want a card that is a poor imitation of those things throughout the game. Draw effect are already bad tempo and playing this card over other draw makes that aspect worse.

Rise from the Tides 1

You could make this good but I doubt that it is worth it. Even at 5 counts you still have a lot less card than a Grave Titan.

Olivia, Mobilized for War 5.5

A three mana 3/3 flier is not the worst starting place for a card. Her ability is hard to rate with it being so dependent on the deck she is in and the cards we see in this set. There are a couple of archetypes she would presently work quite well in but she wouldn't be nuts, then there are those you could force around her in which she would be great but your deck might suck. The former are more relevant and those are an aggressive Jund deck and a RDW with a black splash. Realistically the forced Olivia synergy deck would probably be Jund or Jund with blue as well.

In the Jund list a lot of your decent dorks already have haste and your cards are also generally quite high value. You want at least 4 land, likely more, as well and so you will not have that much in the way of spare cards to throw away.

In the RDW with black you will have more spare cards and things to toss away however your creatures will be small, half the time giving them haste will do little to improve the damage output for that turn past blockers. Olivia would be at the top end of the curve and so you would also get less from her ability simply through her not being around for the significant portion of your game.

She is totally fine in both decks but doesn't feel like she is insane. She isn't a good discard outlet in more combo orientated decks either as you have to have a dork come into play before you can do a discard. Sadly I think Olivia is too narrow in where she can shine while also being too underwhelming in other decks where she is playable. This is ontop of being narrow just because she is gold.

I might be underrating her for midrange decks, the more control sort of Jund. In those her cost and body are a lot more interesting and acceptable. While her ability appears to be aggressively focused it could be very useful for controlling the board and keeping up a planeswalker advantage or just closing out a game a turn sooner than expected.  Certainly a card I need to test but also one I don't have wild optimism for.

Sigarda, Heron's Grace 5.5

I prefer this to the original Sigarda, it seems to offer a lot more all round utility rather than directly hosing black players. Despite my preference the original Sigarda is probably better, just having hexproof itself and being a 5/5 gets a lot more work done. Unless you have global removal you are going to lose to that sort of thing most of the time. The trouble with Host of Heron's is that there were no real decks you wanted her in. A good card but one without a home. Heron's Grace at least has a home even if it is a weak tier 3 tribal humans deck! She is arguably playable in hatebears given she protects a lot of your cards, is a very solid threat and has a significant hatebear effect of her own covering a lot of bases by giving you hexproof. I would even consider Heron's Grace in a Bant Opposition deck where she performs several useful tasks. Certainly a card of cube power, probably a little less powerful than her predecessor but more than making up for that by offering the sorts of tools cube archetypes actually look for. All told this is still a gold five drop with tenuous cube homes and a somewhat fair power level so I do not expect this to last at all long in the main cube.

Jace, Unraveler of Secrets 4

Is this the seventh Jace? Too many silly names and too many casting cost overlaps for me to properly distinguish most of them now. As far as cube goes we are pretty saturated on Jaces, I have 4 in the main cube and that might be too many. They all seem better than Unraveler and even one of those not in the cube is probably better too. This is a fine card but it isn't doing anything new or exciting or better than a lot of other cards, he ain't doing it better than a lot of Jaces for that matter....

Five loyalty with a really solid +1 ability makes Jace pretty robust. He can come down, gain you some advantage while taking a bit of stick. Most other Jace's either come down and gain no advantage and remain safe or precariously gain card advantage. This Jace also has another protection mechanism in the form of a creature bounce for -2. Not exciting but practical and to the point. Worse than Mind Sculptors bounce but at least you can use it the turn you make it and be on 3 loyalty not 2.

The ultimate is strong but it the kind of thing you can do with Erayo in affinity on turn 2... By turn 8 the game will be somewhat over or there will be plenty of mana and chaff cards to throw away so you can resolve a useful card. The ultimate doesn't win the game or pose a huge threat and so this Jace is really only a card advantage machine with the ability to throw an occasional spanner at the tempo of things. At least the other five mana Jace really ends games. The rating of 4 does not reflect the power of this card but it does represent the power of this card in the context of cube, legend rules and the other Jaces. You could play this, it would be fine but whatever. Someone really needs to come along and kill Jace in the storyline already.

Harness the Storm 0

It seems to do little in most formats but it does stone cold nothing in singleton ones. Having to pay the mana cost of the thing you recast is gross and ruins most combo applications of the card. At least you don't exile the thing you replay which is rare.

Indulgent Aristocrat 6.5

Basically a Carrion Feeder that is a worse sacrifice tool but a much better dork. You usually play Carrion Feeder when you want both a cheap body and a sac outlet and so I think this could well replace it. If you played Carrion Feeder purely for the sac outlet then this likely wouldn't be able to replace it but given the general midrange direction of the cube at present this is a whole lot more card than the Feeder. There are even enough playable vampires that this will get some bonus value now and again without trying. Its mere existence makes a tribal vampire deck substantially more likely. A good base of core 1 and 2 drop dorks is a must for any hopeful tribal deck and this is that plus some extra vampire synergy. Lifelink is something black loves and it greatly improves the role filling properties of this card. Black has lots of aggressive one drops but it has very few that hold up well in midrange games and this should be just the ticket. I can see this getting play in any creature based black deck from aggro to midrange, I can also see it being used as a support card in many of the same roles as Carrion Feeder, perhaps you are playing Bloodghast, Carrier Thrall, some cards with life costs and Abyssal Persecutor. Indulgent Aristocrat supports all of those cards in at least one way fairly well. It is not a high powered card but it is a useful one in an area that is sorely lacking.

Merciless Resolve 1

Seems like a weak version of Perilous Research to me. Black has less options that blue to draw cards like this, especially at instant speed and black also has more things it is keen to sacrifice so this isn't totally useless. Just very low power and very niche, I expect this never to be played.

Twins of Maurer Esetate 1.5

These might actually be better than Incorrigible Youths. It has better stats overall and misses the haste a lot less than cards without madness. It is also black which is more likely to be the main colour for vampires and at least historically has better madness outlets. I can't see this getting any love outside of vampire madness but it is just about playable filler.

Stromkirk Mentor 0

Limited card, not for cubes.

Olivia's Bloodsworn 3

This is pretty close to being enough to main cube and another strong contender towards making tribal vampires playable. If this could block I think it would be main cube worthy as it would be good in both aggro and midrange and not just the aggro it seems presently limited to.

Westvale Abbey 5.5

Yeah, this seems pretty good. It comes into play untapped making it reasonably playable in quite a lot of decks. It can make 1/1s for six mana and a life which isn't great but is at least something to do and works towards the Abbey's other ability. It should win a stall and prevent late game floods being a total disaster. Lots of lands do this and many of them do it quite a bit better than this one. The reason I quite like this is that it actually packs a really serious punch. It takes a long time to grind out a game using a card like Urza's Factory, the Abbey however can stall a game in much the same way as the Facrory but it will also end it in no time.

Flipping this to Ormendahl is no easy feat, using just this land it takes 36 mana and six turns and five life! I do not anticipate that ever happening. What I do expect to see is this used with cards like Elspeth, Sun's Champion, Young Pyromancer or any of the swaths of token generation cards. Sometimes it will be a couple of premade tokens, a small spent utility dork or two and perhaps one of the Wastevale Abbey Clerics that give themselves to summon Ormendahl. This can happen easily around the turn six mark and be well worth doing. Once flipped red and/or green mages have lost, a big Craterhoof turn might be able to steal a win as might colourless assistance like Karn but the more aggressive decks just can't beat 9 power of flying indestructible lifelink. Blue mages have to bounce it which is a brutal reset but it is their only out. White has exile in enough abundance that it isn't that scared of this at all. Black still should be thought, despite having Edict effects they are a little rare, usually sorcery speed and easy to play around.

You can make Ormendahl at the end of their turn or in yours and attack either way. This means you should be able to land at least one hit past white and blue mages which is a devastating 18 point life swing. Usually lands that are late game effect only and than penalize you for colour early get no love in cube, all the best colourless utility lands do things sooner in the game than six mana. As such I am a little wary that this might not seem worth playing in a lot of decks. Due to the massive reach this offers however I feel it might well show up in some unusual places such as white weenie.

Traverse the Ulvenwald 6 (wishfully)

Lay of the Land that turns into a super Worldly Tutor when you have delirium. This seems like a pretty interesting card quality card but not really a tutor, I already prefer it to Green Sun's Zenith but then I am quite averse to that card for no real good reason. This is sadly a bit one dimensional, it helps a lot in a screw or the late game but it helps in no way with an early flood. It is like a backwards Magmatic Insight. Early in the game when card quality effects are most useful this only sorts you out for basic land and that is a bit of a problem. When you want to tutor for creatures I suspect Summoner's Pact, Eladamri's Call and Worldly Tutor will all still see much more play. Although combo decks are among the quickest to get delirium it is still not quick enough for this to be a reliable creature tutor. You may play it on top of a real tutor and go a bit greedy on your mana base. It is like a filler card and not like a tutor. It is worth noting that when you have delirium this also becomes an upgraded Sylvan Scrying as well which is also quite useful to combo and ramp decks. Even control has nonbasic lands it wants to find. I like the card a lot, it always does something, even if that is just a thin, a shuffle and a nut low cycle. It scales very well into the late game and fits a lot of archetypes. Sadly things like ramp decks which are likely the best place for this are one of the slowest to gain delirium if ever. A card that needs testing for sure, I certainly want it to be good. The more one mana card quality stuff the better as far as I am concerned.

Deathcap Cultivator 5

This is really comparable to Rattleclaw Mystic, a fixing 2/1 mana dork for 2 with a little bit of extra spice. Rattleclaw was very playable and did some good work but it was overall rather too fair for a card that was only optimal in a Temur deck and never outperformed the good one mana ramp dorks or the mighty Lotus Cobra. Rattleclaw offered some interesting spice that could be used in several ways, a bit of burst, some fixing or even some misinformation with the unsuspecting morph (everyone assumes Den Protector quite reasonably). Despite having many uses the Mystic was mostly a vanilla 2 power dork that didn't do much to affect the game unless your opponent had no board.

Deathcap seems a lot less exciting and interesting, which it is, but it is likely a lot better and more useful in most situations. Black green fixing is one of the most commonly desired and deathtouch just does a lot both offensively and defensively. Deathtouch is an ongoing useful thing, Rattleclaw had one off effects at best. This card is dull, it is very much on the fair side compared to most cube cards but it does the essential things you want from green, a cheap useful body, ramp and fixing. This will see more play than Rattleclaw and Rattleclaw saw far far more play than his power level deserved.

The delirium requirement for the deathtouch makes this not a lock in for the cube, some decks will not be able to get that easily and as such will play most other two drop tamp dorks over this. Those that can expect to get delirium, even slowly, should be a lot more keen on this. Being a ramp dork you should't be wanting to use the deathtouch part of the card until the late game.

Drownyard Temple 5

This seems really really strong to me but somewhat niche. The best comparisons are probably Myriad Landscape or Temple of the False God however this is likely narrower. If you get this in the bin you have an uncounterable instant speed ramp effect that may well have cost you no cards to pull off. It is cheaper than Myriad Landscape and quicker than Temple of the False God but it does need you to have ways to discard it usefully. Obviously you can just make it but then it is just a weak land, this will be fine to stop you missing midgame land drops but it isn't how you want to use the card, you want to recur it on top of your regular land drops. Having this backup emergency use on the card that is of acceptable quality makes it very playable even in decks supporting a lighter complement of discard tools. There are some cute applications for this to achieve instant landfall too! The reason this is niche beyond the need to have discard tools is that not that many decks want to ramp for three mana, really I can only think that a control deck would want to and they have quite a lot of options already. While this is unique, powerful and useful it might well just not see enough play to be worthy of a main cube slot.

Sorin, Grim Nemesis

Another six mana Sorin but now in gold! So far my experience of five mana and greater gold planeswalkers is that they don't see enough play to be worth a slot even though they are some of the best and most powerful planeswalkers going. Grim Nemesis may be different for several reasons and is certainly going to get some testing. I expect him to be very powerful but I also expect him to be slightly more playable than most of the pricier gold walkers. Both Esper and Abzan can reasonably play six drops and are fairly common cube archetypes. Sorin is also a rounded, useful and versatile walker that can fullfil several roles for your deck at once. Sarkhan Unbroken probably is still the best five mana planeswalker in cube but he only really had one archetype that could play him and so despite usually winning the game when you made him he still saw far too little play for me to keep him.

I think LSV described him best when he called him an upgraded Ob Nixilus, Reignited. All his abilities are comparable but Sorin's are a little better. Both have a +1 to draw a card but Ob's cost you a life while Sorin's costs them some life. Usually this will be averaging around one but a much much bigger threat as it is wildly varied, ranging from around six to zero, and as such it is hard to play around sensibly.

Both Ob and Sorin also can pay some loyalty to kill stuff. They both kill one thing but Sorin can kill planeswalkers and will gain you life as well. Sorin has the mixed blessing of it costing -X meaning it is pretty efficient on low toughness/loyalty stuff but may not even be possible to do on some of the very biggest dorks. In most normal cases Sorin's removal will be reliable and of higher utility and value than Ob's. As both are single target removal and cannot immediately create any board presence they are both weak to lots of small creatures. With Sorin having six starting loyalty however he is less vulnerable and makes you less vulnerable as well with the lifegain and greater loyalty.

Sorin's ultimate is fine, it will win a lot of games and is not unreasonably far away from being achievable. Just plugging away at the +1 will be a better win condition in some matchups which is also a bonus.

Sorin is card advantage, removal and a pretty serious threat. He will gain you tempo and value simultaneously and he can do this effectively with both his starting abilities and against aggro or control. He is very strong but he is gold, and he is six mana and he isn't a wildly exciting card in what he actually does. It will get play, and quite possibly enough to remain. Old six mana Sorin is pretty tired and weak these days and new Sorin is a beast of a card.

Vessel of Volatility 3.5

A fixed Seething Song type of card. I expect this will see some play but I imagine it will be outperformed by seemingly weaker rituals such as the Desperate one. A large part of this is not the way this is cost but that it is an enchantment and is not subject to many of the same synergies. You cannot flashback this card with anything, you can't reduce its cost with a Goblin Electromancer and so on. There are some strong aspects of this card, it does work with Replenish and Second Sunrise and so might well find it gets more play in some capacity in those decks even though they are rarely red nor typically use Rituals. All told it is a very narrow card. Pentad Prism is actually one of the best comparisons for the actual effect this card has. You invest a small amount of mana early in a turn you have nothing better to do so that you can have a lot of burst mana for one big turn. Neither card actually ends up giving you an overall mana advantage. If Dark Ritual is the Ancesrtal Recall of these effects then this is very much the Portent! (For you greenhorns that is a slow Ponder). Interesting, and certainly one to keep an eye on but for now no exciting or abusive applications for this card spring to mind. There are certainly no decks you could draft from my main cube that would consider this.

Diregraf Colossus 3.5

It is so annoying that black is getting both zombies and vampires! Zombies has a little more depth and and broader range but the vampires seem to have a higher power level. Neither tribe is winning but each new synergy card they print for one tribe leads to a sadness for all the new exciting cards from the other tribe. Black sits in the unenviable position of supporting two half tribes in the cube rather than one actual good one and this set is not helping solve that even if it is adding a lot of much needed juice into blacks cheap dork range.

Moving onto this card specifically, we have a grey ogre! Unplayable without heavy zombie synergy. We are talking double digit zombies in your list before this is a consideration, ideally more like 14+ which given the power level of most zombies is not something you overly want to do. Although as stated, it is getting better as this set unfolds.

Mostly you are playing this card to make tokens, I don't see it being at all worth it to play this with the intent of having it be fat. Every +1/+1 counter you can get on it is great as it will help it live longer to make more tokens but I would forgo counters in favour of zombie tokens. It is like a zombies only Monastery Mentor, a card you want to run out on turn 3, perhaps turn 4 with a spell if you have urgent things to get done on turn 3. This feels much the same and so getting any counters at all would be nice, two would be nutty good! You may chose to hold out for at least 2 counters against red decks so it is out of most easy burn range.

This is about as good as Monastery Mentor but specifically only in a zombies deck which isn't the strongest archetype and is too narrow for the main cube. This is a great card, I will play it when I next do a zombie deck and I expect to most times there after but the times that I play zombies are pretty few and far between.

Ongoing Invesstigation 1

This card looks like it does loads but actually it does impressively little! I like it a lot but the returns on it are a bit too slow for it to be the best way to get more cards or gain life for that matter. I love clues and I am sure there are some great synergies with them but this seems too extreme to find a suitable cube home.

Daring Sleuth 3

Love it, the base side is cheap and passable, the flipped side is meaty and useful. Sadly the mechanism by which this flips requires you to have very specific cards in your deck, of which very few exist that are cube worthy. With enough good clue cards this would be well worth it, sadly I expect this will never see play.

Silverfur Partisan 1

It is like Wizards are playing the Grey Ogre game of temptation. "What can we tack onto this Grey Ogre to make it appear good?". This is quite annoying to kill with spot removal and works a juicy treat with pumps spells. Reckless Charging this is what I want to do, then perhaps find some spells that target multiple dorks so I can double or triple up on my wolves per spell ratio! All sounds fun and powerful but it doesn't lend to a playable card. You don't want that many spells that target your own dorks in a deck, short of some kind of heroic baggage there isn't any redundancy for this sort of effect and at the end of the day, this is still a Grey Ogre. Not worth.    

Trail of Evidence 2

Much better than the Ongoing Investigation as it is much easier to trigger and more inline with the kinds of decks that might want to abuse lots of clues or simply have an ongoing card draw engine. This still isn't a great card, you have to have paid at least five mana before you see your first card. I don't think I'd ever play this in a control deck and I can't think of a combo deck for this as yet so probably this will not see cube play ever either.

Jace's Scrutiny 0

Too pricey for what it does, cute but narrow and low impact.

Briarbridge Patrol 0

Oh yeah, Wizards are playing the Hill Giant game too where they stick loads of stuff on Hill Giants to see if they can make them look good. This does better than a lot of the cards but still isn't there or really even that close. You might get a clue, you might get a couple with this, still looking worse than Kavu Climber... You will never sac three in one turn and make a dork that costs six or more mana and if by some chance you do, you cannot have played and built correctly...

Behold the Beyond 0

For it is unplayable! Go on, I dare you, spend seven mana to do nothing at all and see if I don't wreak you for that.

Eternal Vigil 4

I think the kinds of deck that pack Glorious Anthem effects in cube generally have some tokens, some have quite a lot. Vigilance is nice but pumping most of your creatures is more important. While this might be better than Spear of Heliod in some decks it won't be in enough of them to merit a cube slot. I am sure it will see some play as it is powerful and a desired effect, just not quite enough to main cube.

Village Messenger 3

Quite significantly better than Reckless Waif! Still probably not quite maincube quality with the Falkenrath Gorger joining the fray. This reminds me of Honoured Hierarch, a really really good turn one play 70% of the time but an awful play most of the time after that. This is a little less polar but I fear it is still too unreliable to be played often at all. You make this on the play turn one you have a pretty good shot at flipping it right away in which case it is generally going to outperform a Goblin Guide. It might stop you following it up with two one drops which will actually be quite annoying in the kinds of decks this is playable in. Make this after turn one and pretty much whenever it is relevant you have made a Raging Goblin which isn't enough. In the super weenie red go wide deck with Bushwhacker, Legion Loyalist, Hellrider and the like this is fine as it is a safe, well contained one drop that is supported with reasonable synergy. In a RDW style deck I think this is too unreliable and too low powered on average.

Paranoid Parishblade 0

A fine limited card but not a cube thing.

Gibbering Fiend 3

This is two cards in one, a generic 2/1 for 2 with a bit under half a Sulphuric Vortex tagged on when you have delirium. Best case scenario this does 1 when it comes in, another in their turn, two on its attack and then kills them in their upkeep which is more damage than you get from a Keldon Marauders, more evasive damage, dealt more rapidly, and you get to keep the body should the game go on longer. Sadly it only compares well to Marauders if you have delirium which you won't on turn two, likely not even turn 4. That makes this a marginal Spark Mage level card. It is not enough impact to just use this as a single ping Vortex, it is vulnerable, unreliable and generally poor. Not unplayable, certainly has high rewards when optimal but overall no good enough enough of the time.

Manic Scribe 3-6 depending on what your cube supports

Hedron Crab gone all delirium! Crab is a more powerful card but this is actually better placed to do good work in the right kind of deck. Between the two of them rush/turbo mill decks are probably pretty darn good in cube if you allow the archetype. These cards are good because they scale well over the course of a game, they always do something, the more so the longer they live, yet they remain a threat unlike something such as Mind Funeral which is done once you use it. These cards are also both cheap allowing you to get proactive before things are too out of hand and all your resources need to go on problem solving. Lastly the reason Manic Scribe and Hedron Crab are good is that they are both threats and defensive bodies simultaneously. The Scribe with his 3 toughness is actually a pretty good blocker and should buy enough extra time for you to win through the mill route. I think mill is lame in cube as it is balanced wrong and not very interactive but each to their own, this is a solid mill card if you are into it.

Obsessive Skinner 1.5

This is a decent card, a huge improvement to Ironshell Beetle! This is only something you would play when you have specific synergy with +1/+1 counters and there isn't enough of that for this to be good presently. The kinds of  deck you would want this in are meaty aggressive creature decks and those struggle to get delirium quickly too further reducing the value of this card. Decent in limited, a fine early play with some late game utility and danger which therefore ticks a lot of boxes, you just don't get quite enough for your card.

Confirm Suspicions 0

Five is rather a lot to counter a spell. Drawing three is the sort of thing that would make a five mana counterspell playable however this is a little further from that still. Although the card draw from this is instant it does cost a further six mana which is far far too slow for cube and unlikely to se play even if some clue based tech comes to light.

Second Harvest 0.5

This seems like an over extension card. The only time it is good value are times when any mass removal effect is devastating. Not just wraths either but anything like Cyclonic Rift undo all your hard work. This card also does nothing a lot of the time. I really hate this and expect it to see no play but I am sure there are some uses for a card like this in all of magic.

Corrupted Tombstone 3 but might as well be 0

Not a bad card but a lot worse than about 20 other two mana artifacts that provide mana and so not providing anything new or interesting this card should have no chance of seeing play.

Welcome to the Fold 3

This is a lot like Dominate, a little more efficient but a little less reliable. The advantage instant and sorcery speed steal effects have over things like Control Magic are fairly significant. Not only is it harder to undo the steal from a spell like this but it is also more likely for a spell to have synergy with things like Snapcaster Mage, prowess, etc in your deck. Being a sorcery is better than being an aura however only taking things with two or less toughness makes Welcome to the Fold a lot weaker than Control Magic when you disregard the madness cost. Madness is a little hard to rate, in actually feels a bit like the miracle mechanic on this. Nutty good when you can madness/miracle it but harder to evaluate how likely this will be in any given deck and which sort of decks will be able to more reliably use the alternate cost.

The madness on welcome to the fold only very occasionally reduces the cost of the card which is rare and also weak as it means you are taking something with one toughness (only really good ever if it is a Ball Lightning you steal!). Instead of reducing the cost you instead increase the effectiveness and utility of the card by making it instant and allowing you to take bigger things. Being seven mana to steal a Siege Rhino is a bit of a problem, it means most of the more aggressive threats will kill you before you can afford to take them and so I don't think this card has enough early action to see much play. It is a bit cooler than Dominate but ultimately suffers very much from the same issues of being too expensive. Interesting and worth a test. I expect it will be amazing occasionally and a little too awkward in the rest leading to it getting a little under the play it needs to keep a cube slot.

Thalias' Lieutenant 5.5

Champion of the Parish just got an upgrade, as did human tribal themes. This is a very nicely placed card as it performs well in the ways you want it to at any stage of the game. On turn two it is basically just another Champion of the Parish with hopefully an Ironshell Beetle effect to ease the extra mana cost. Late game this dude is an Honour the Pure on legs. Almost all the cheap aggressive white dorks are humans and so this card it viable for the main cube despite being a tribal card at heart. If this were a vampire, elf or zombie it would be a little too narrow for the main cube at present but he is a human so all is good. Despite this being a two drop with good scaling and synergy it isn't exactly a powerhouse, it is just good value. It might get to be a 5/5 but 5/5's still often need some work to do much of much. No evasion or other useful effects mean this is just a body.

Asylum Visitor 8.5

Blood Scrivener was probably the weakest of the Arena Bears; Pain Seer and Dark Confidant. While having the most comparable card draw mechanism to the Scrivener the Asylum Visitor is quite a lot more card. Asylum Visitor has the highest top end potential out of all of them including Confidant and it also has the best low end performance as well. You can play the Visitor in most types of deck without it being a do-nothing or a liability. All told this is a very very strong addition to black and even to vampires.

One of the issues with Blood Scrivener is that as a two drop he sucks, you almost never have hellbent till turn 4 and so a two mana 2/1 stinks. Visitor has a similar issue with his card draw mechanics but doesn't really care as he is also a 3/1 with madness. That extra power alone makes all the difference, especially in black where solid cheap dorks unencumbered with inconvenience are rare. That extra power makes it able to trade with a lot of relevant threats that basically nothing else you play in black does that quickly. The madness is mild, the cost is the same and so it is just about having flash and reducing the cost of discarding cards. The madness will tend to come up a lot more in the late game where you are also able to draw cards with Visitor easily and that is where this guy becomes a real beast.

The way the card draw mechanic works is odd and can be approached in two ways. You can empty your hand to have this be a Phyrexian Arena on legs, fine but slow and vulnerable and not really better than Blood Scrivener at that stage. You can also attack your opponents hand so that this draws you a card in their upkeep which means you get value right away unless they have on the board card draw or instant speed removal effects. I typically prefer the latter of these effects as it is proactive with more reliable returns. Some decks will be better suited to triggering one or other of the draws however some decks will be able to trigger both with more ease. Cards like Liliana (either 3 mana version) really help Asylum Visitor to perform well and as both cards are plenty powerful in their own right I expect them to see a lot of play together doing good things. This is not as good a two drop as Dark Confidant if you want cards however the longer the game goes on the more the Asylum Visitor surpasses Confidant pretty much in every measurable capacity!

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