Saturday 30 July 2016

Card Spotlight: Magma Jet

Magma JetI was thinking about what other good burn spells that there are that I should add to the cube to bulk it out. I pretty much have all the good one and two mana burn cards that hit players and creatures but I don't have Magma Jet presently in the cube. I find I am forever cutting it whenever it does creep back in. The card is good no doubt. It is a Shock which is worth R and it is scry 2 which is worth at least 1 mana. Magma Jet is also exactly the kind of card I love, a cheap instant that is widely playable, decent power level, reasonable skill intensity, lots of choices and that reduces your screws and floods. Magma Jet is a very good filler card but that is the problem with it. I just never want to play it over alternatives. I find I either want a better card quality effect that does more without costing me a card or I want a burn spell that does more for the mana. Burn is great because it is so versatile and efficient. You play Lightning Bolt and Searing Spear, you avoid playing Char and you barely ever get to play any Fireball like X spell burn in cube and this is because burn in cube is best when you are high damage per mana. The X spells are some of the weakest damage per mana but not far behind them is Magma Jet at a pathetic 1 for 1 return. Lightning Bolt is three times as efficient!

Magma Jet is a little bit of two good things mashed together. Value wise it is good but the reality is a lot less exciting. A Preordain you can just fire off regardless and it will be fine, if you need to hit land then great, cast your Sreum Visions, all good. For the Magma Jet to have the same level of return you need to hit a target that you would otherwise chose to burn. In other words you need to be in a situation where you both want to burn something for up to 2 and you want to gain some card quality. This is really rare to happen. Sure, having card quality when you didn't need it is no bad thing but it becomes a lot less worth the mana. This is obvious when you are on the draw and they play a Birds of Paradise. A Shock would kill it but your Magma Jet leaves you wanting. The cost of the scry is not when you don't need it but when you needed your burn to be more efficient. The other side of that is far worse still. When you need card quality but have no good burn targets. I have seen so many two to the dome when both players are at 20 and have no boards simply to scry into more lands or a bit of action. In this kind of situation you have pretty much played a 2 mana Preordain and forgone the card draw!

Yes, it is nice to have the flexibility on a card but then you have a low powered card. If you accept that you are basically never going to hit the sweet spot of needing some scry and needing some burn than you always just have a bad Shock or an awful Preordain. It is much like why Izzet Charm isn't all that in cube, loads of options but once cast never actually that great value for mana. What Magma Jet really powerfully demonstrates to me is why I would always rather play a Shock effect over it, cut something else top end and include something like a Preordain when I need both burn and card quality in my deck. It is a bit more colour intense but you never have to suffer the ill effects of using your spells inefficiently. The only occasions where I really find I want to play a Magma Jet is when I am mono red and have little access to card quality yet I have cards like Bonfire of the Damned which have some synergy with scry. Decks like this are not really a thing, kind of midrange mono red and so Magma Jet has no real homes in the cube. Yes, it is fine filler but it is not fine burn nor fine card quality and as such, if you are playing it your deck is weak. The only time filler cards don't mean you have a weak deck is when they perform specific roles or offer great synergy. With Jet being so generic it does none of this and is just filler meaning when you are playing it your deck is less powerful than it would be without any filler! It is playable because it is cheap enough and does enough damage but it is basically at the bar for both. It is one of the best cards I don't have in my cube that isn't for being banned (too powerful) or for being too narrow. I am not trying to argue the card isn't good. It is simply a card with no place to shine in presently that you can easily generate the effect of far better using alternatives. I hope one day I can bring the card back into the cube fold but we are going to need more Abbots of Keral Keep for that to happen!

Card Spotlight: Decimator of Provinces

Decimator of the ProvincesMy initial review of this card was based on my total lack of knowing the actual rules of the game. I had assumed not only that the +2/+2 would affect itself but that you could also reduce the green mana cost in the emerge. I thought that if you sacrificed a Woodfall Primus the Decimator would cost G rather than GGG. This all makes the card a fair bit worse than I thought but then I thought that the card was bonkers. I thought it was  a fairly comparable game ender to Craterhoof Behemoth while also being a viable card to play in decks without ramp.

Having played with and against it a bit and found out how it actually works it is still a fine cube card and worthy of a slot. It does still fit in both the Craterhoof role as well as the role of a punchier Creeperhulk for the lower curve lists. What it isn't is the on the spot game ender I had envisaged. It will almost always do damage and invoke a huge swing and it should leave you in a good position. This is only when you are a reasonable position to begin with. Should you be too far behind you will get blown out hard by a lot of things or simply not do enough to merit your investment. There is a place for Decimator in almost every green heavy, creature heavy deck but he isn't an auto include in them, he is just an option from a selection of comparable cards. Craterhoof is still the undisputed king of dorks that are both playable and that have exceptional odds on ending things.

While Decimator brings a lot of utility to the table it does come with a cost. Paying a full blown 10 for it is hard to do and not great value. This means you really want to sac a dork, this is fine if you have loads of chaff and loads of mana which will be the norm however it will hurt when you have to sac something relevant. You pay for convenience on one had with inconvenience on the other. The card is probably a 6.5 rather than the around 8 I likely gave it assuming it would sit alongside Craterhoof. One thing I am excited about as a result of this card is trying out a stompy deck again. Mono green aggro has always been a thing you can do in cube but not a great thing to do. Decimator brings something somewhat new and powerful to the table that could put stompy back on the map. I love the idea of sacing my Vine Dryad off to this!

Vine DryadPreliminary Stompy List!

25 Spells

Uktabi Drake
Kessig Prowler
Experiment One
Aspect of Hydra
Mutagenic Growth
Llanowar Elf
Elvish Mystic
Fyndhorn Elf
Cursed Scroll

Strangleroot Geist
Avatar of the Resolute
Kavu Predator
Scavenging Ooze

Allosaurus Rider
Leatherback Baloth
Tireless Tracker
Nissa, Voice of Zendikar

Vine Dryad / Allosaurus Rider
Surrak, the Hunt Caller

Creeperhulk / Nylea, God of the Hunt

Decimator of Provinces

15 Lands

Gaea's Cradle
Treetop Village
13 Forest

Thursday 21 July 2016

Top 12 Cards that say "Win the Game"

Door to NothingnessSpoiler alert, no Door to Nothingness will be found on this list. When I say cards that win the game I mean cards that have very good odds on winning the game, the few that exist which actually say win the game are pretty unplayable and not worth it. Typically they do nothing at all most of the time, what you want from a card is one that has great odds of winning the game but that also does something significant when it doesn't win the game. Typically these are just called threats but I want to look at it more from the point of view of raw power. A Tarmogoyf is a good threat but it is a kind of redundant one, it is never going to be the card that has the best odds of winning the game for you outright, on its own or immediately.

Cards like Thundermaw Hellkite are fantastic threats too, and great finishers, but they rarely do the whole job, they rely on other cards having done a lot of prior work. Thundermaw is probably a better un-powered cube card than all the others on this list. It has likely won more games per deck inclusion than any card on this list too. The difference is that Thundermaw is closing out a game, it is strictly speaking finishing the game and is hence a good finisher. It is not however a great starter, you want to take someone from 20 to 0 with just a Thundermaw good luck. You are giving them 3 turns to find a solution or just kill you themselves. The cards on this list should be good at taking down a game from 20-0 rather than just doing the last few hurdles. The cards that most of the time you make them people scoop rather than playing out the short time they have left are the cards that I want on this list. It should then represent some of the highest power cards in all of magic as it is so unconstrained by mana cost.
Emrakul, the Promised End

The idea for this list came from seeing the new Emrakul, the Promised End. It struck me as being one of the best all round cards that could lay claim to having the text "you win the game" on it. It really does an awful lot and I am excited to test it out and see if it lives up to expectation. If so it should sit at the top of this list however it is an incredibly tough card to evaluate so I will need to do some significant testing before I insert the Promised End into this list. Having compared and contrasted the competition for the Promised End in doing this list I should be better prepared to appraise the card. Since starting this list we have an Eldrazi Boar spoiled that also looks set to take a seat in this top ten. Eldritch Moon sounds powerful so far! Most of these cards win the game if not answered pretty sharpish so a lot of it comes down to how easy the card is to include in a deck, how easy it is to cast and what the range of good answers for it are.

Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger12. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

Both Ulamog incarnations are pretty good at ending the game. Sadly they both sit in an awkward spot of being inferior to Emrakul, the Eons Torn yet just about as hard to cast. With the high value on exile effects the indestructible Ulamog is easier to kill than Eons Torn. The main perk of the cards is being able to Wrath yourself without removing your threat. Ceaseless Hunger is slightly better all round for most things. It can be recurred from the graveyard, it costs a tiny bit less and exile 20 from the library is far more game ending than annihilate four. The double exile on cast is also obviously a lot better than the destroy and does much more work than the Infinite Gyre in terms of keeping you alive long enough to attack when you are not Corspe Dancing or Sneak Attacking. While mana cost is not something I am too bothered about in these ratings that of either Ulamog is sufficiently prohibitive of most decks that it is at the very bottom of this list despite being one of the most nominally powerful cards in all of magic.

Upheaval11. Upheaval

One of the cheaper cards on the list and the only one that doesn't actually do anything proactive for you. It is somewhat of an honorary inclusion on this list as it so often feels like Upheaval is unbeatable for you yet the game is 100% yours if they don't have it. Upheaval is like six or so Time Walks against some decks and still a couple against those best suited to recovering from it. While Upheaval cannot win a game on its own you really don't need much follow up take down the game. Sure, you have to build your deck somewhat around being able to usefully play Upheaval but given that it is such a good counter to so many of the things going on in the cube, one of the very best safety buttons in the game, that it remains one of the most feared cards in cube. Especially midrange ones. It is never really the threat used post Upheaval that won the game and that is why Upheaval makes this list. Upheaval into just a bunch of mana production, perhaps a card draw planeswalker too is so utterly game over and that set of stuff is without an actual threat!

10. Griselbrand

One of the best cards in the game, a big threat complete with a fantastic card draw mechanism. At 8 mana and with such heavy black requirements he is rarely cast instead preferring to be cheated into play but with cards like Dark Ritual and Lake of the Dead and 8 mana card is at its second most realistic for being cast in black. Lifelink and flying make this 7/7 body quite the game ender, you need a good removal spell to take him down else he is going to make devastating life swings and give more gas than you could possibly need. The weakness of Griselbrand is that if you are too far behind when you make him you have to wait for him to deal damage before you can risk drawing cards and in this situation you are going to get wreaked by the right removal.

Avenger of Zendikar9.   Avenger of Zendikar

A fairly unassuming fatty that just has a high game ending potential. Short of a Wrath of God Avenger of Zenikar tends to end games and quickly. Using spot removal on Avenger will certainly slow down the death but having so many tokens left over is usually too much value for those kinds of decks to beat. In any sort of standoff the growing plants quickly become uncontainable. Even when you are quite behind the vast presence on the board it gives is frequently a turnaround play. Hornet Queen gets a bit more love these days as it is more of a pure 7 drop and not the ideally 8 drop that Avenger is. Queen is also far better defensively with deathtouch and the far more important and rare flying in green. Queen is immense on defense but it is no where near the game ending power or speed of Avenger. The plants can be grown rapidly with ease in green, I have passed on the turn I made the avenger with seven 5/6 tokens in play from it. That size and number of tokens not having any trample just doesn't matter at all. Green cards in cube work to a very different curve most of the time due to the almost certain ramp in the deck. Avenger is not as exciting per mana as most of the cards on the list but it comes out way faster earning it a spot on this list.

8.   Aetherling

The slowest card on the list for kill clock and one of the weakest in terms of defensive utility too. It can kill from 20 fairly reliably in 3 attacks and do some blocking duty as well but this all costs quite a bit of extra mana which is where the real sloth comes in. It is really not that great of a threat when you are too far behind in the tempo game. Where Aetherling excels above most other cube cards is in reliabiliy. It is hands down the hardest card to deal with in the cube. Once resolved with some spare blue mana you are likely never get shot of it and are consequently now in a race. For obvious reasons it is one of the most feared cards for the slower decks.

Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite7.  Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite

On the flip side of things to Aetherling we have Elesh Norn, the bane of the quicker decks. Most creature heavy decks just scoop to Elesh Norn. Once in play it usually Wraths their team and even when they have a few survivors they are just inconsequential against a 4/7 vigilance, let alone anything else you might have had. Seven is a lot of toughness to handle and with basically no dorks in play it is even harder to deal with. You need hard removal to beat Elesh Norn, you also need some gas in hand to replay after and you need to not die to the +2/+2 swing from the other side of the table should that be on the cards. Where Elesh falls down is against creature light decks where she isn't often having a significant enough impact when you play her to be all that. Her clock is slow when solo and she is one of the most vulnerable cards on this list being fodder to most hard removal and wrath effects.

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon6.   Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

It seems fairly nutty to have Ugin only at sixth on this list as he seems to be the complete package. He has powerful mass removal effect that should solve most problems you are facing and then he can just freely Bolt things while growing. Get him above 10 loyalty, which is pretty easy, and you get a massive influx of all the resources which should further solve any problems you might have. My issue with Ugin is that I don't often find him winning games, I find him recovering a lot of games but it generally isn't the Ugin that then decides it. My main experience of Ugin is that he has to -X when he comes down and usually for at least 4 which leaves him incredibly vulnerable to burn, man lands, haste dorks and so on. Ugin is a good Wrath that typically gets an extra +1 cards worth of value. This starts to sound a little less worth 8 mana. Wraths are great in cube but they are recoverable and so Ugin is not the game ender he wants to be. Certainly if you get to lay him and calm the board with just a +2 then you are going to win if they don't have spot removal for him. Ugin is actually slower than Aetherling to win a game however he causes scoops a lot quicker! He makes games unwinnable much faster than many cards too which is nearly as good as winning the game.

Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker5. Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker

While much more awkward to cast than Ugin I have found Nicol Bolas to be far more game ending. He is always relevant being able to steal dorks or smash up other permanents. He gains enough loyalty when smashing up non creatures that he can survive some attacks. Despite paying loyalty to steal dorks you are killing the best thing they have and often creating a serious blocker that turn as well. It is the most vulnerable you find a Nicol Bolas but it is rare that he dies in this state. Killing planeswalkers and gaining massive loyalty, stealing dorks that are too powerful or just smashing up lands each turn are all good ways of beating the various archetypes. Bolas arrives, sorts things out, invokes a huge swing in the game and then sets about winning it for you. It is not the quickest win but it is still a strong one whatever you face. Nicol Bolas brings about concessions more than most cards I have found.

Garruk, Apex Predator4. Garruk, Apex Predator

All told this badboy works out very similarly to Bolas. Instead of stealing guys you kill them and gain life, you still blow up planeswalkers and instead of blowing up lands you make 3/3s so you always have stuff to do. Garruk is a little safer to flop onto the board, comes out sooner and easier and kills a little quicker than Bolas. He isn't quite so immediately swingy nor so rounded at sorting problems but this is way more than offset by his utility and convenience. Planeswalkers with good board control options and high loyalty counts are hard to deal with, much more so than cards like Elesh Norn or Griselbrand. More removal hits dorks than planeswalkers and this is basically why the good big planeswalker sit atop this list generally. Elspeth, Sun's Champion was a strong contender being very close in power to Apex Predator and less narrow being in just one colour. Sun's Champion packs similar punch to most of these top walkers but lacks the versatility in control options to be as reliable a finisher. Part of the planeswalkers being hardier than dorks is a trade off for all of them being far slower to actually finish a game outright rather than obtaining a concession. Sun's Champion kills as quick as Apex Predator even if cast on the same turn but she can't beat anywhere near the number of other cards that Apex Predator can. Creatures can overpower stuff, planeswalkers have to actually beat them.

Entreat the Angels
3. Entreat the Angels

This is one of the best cards at turning a dire situation into one where you are fine and they are dead very soon. Being a miracle means the card needs support, you can hard cast it but it is low value. It is only when you miracle cast this that it is too much for most decks to handle. If you have Divining Top or some other way to set it up such that you can play it at the end of their turn there are very few cards short of a counterspell that will save the situation. Being an X spell it gets better as your mana reserves go up however you can play this as a miracle for any value of X and get a really good deal. Five manas worth of miracle Entreat is usually game over in few turns than all the much pricier cards on this list. It is when you make like seven 4/4 fliers out of nowhere you realize quite how unfair it is. Suddenly they have one out in like a Maelstrom Pulse, Pernicious Deed, Declaration in Stone or Detention Sphere and you have fatal next turn and an armada of blockers they can't squeak any good attacks into. As the miracle support cards are generally highly sought after and fairly few in number the miracles are somewhat kept in check.

Emrakul, the Aeons Torn2. Emrakul, the Eons Torn

So when you actually cast Emrakul it is absolutely the best at winning the game as it comes with a free Time Walk. Turns out that scales pretty well with annihilate and a near one shot level of power. The reason we are not atop the list with magics most powerful card is because it is almost never cast. Most of the time Emrakul is in play she has been put there by a Show and Tell, a Sneak Attack, an Oath of Druids and so on. It goes to show quite how powerful Emrakul is, that even when you remove a Time Walk from it you still have one of the best things possible. She is good for a collection of reasons. While she is far from the most robust or hardest to deal with threat she does a pretty good job of disrupting removal. Fifteen is a whole lot of toughness and protection from spells rules out the majority of the cube answers. She has 15 power which itself is usually enough to one shot people. If it doesn't do the trick the annihilator 6 will be brutal disruption, it will stop them doing much of much if they survive and it combines with the flying to be pretty effective evasion. Emrakul makes short work of most people and is pretty hard to stop. This is why even when you don't cast her she still has good odds on winning the game.

Craterhoof Behemoth1. Craterhoof Behemoth

ProgenitusFor now I think Craterhoof is the big name for the I win button. When it comes into play it is almost always the last turn of the game. Spot removal usually isn't enough. You needs Fogs or Counterspells and the former are notcurrently cube mainstays.  Really the way to beat a Craterhoof is controlling the board sufficiently such that they never have more than a couple of dorks alive at once. A preemptive Wrath of God is about as good as you can hope for a non-Fog, non-Counter solution. You do need creature support for the card but this isn't an issue in green. You need only 3 guys in play to represent 21 bonus trample damage from Craterhoof and that isn't so hard to do at all. You can cheat out the Craterhoof or you can just cast it, it is powerful enough to be worth ramping to and isn't that pricey for a green card of such game ending potential.

Craterhoof is also the final nail in the coffin for Progenitus, a card which back in the day would have been one of the top contenders on this list. Mind you, going back far enough and you would find Phantom Nishoba, Akroma and Visara somewhere on the list. Further back in time still and you would have utter dribble but I wasn't cubing when Erhnam Djinn was the best threat in the game. Progenitus real strength was Natural Order, you could easily cheat it into play and short of a Wrath you would be winning two turns later. This was only good if you had some dorks in play to protect from Edict effects and if you are playing Natural Order and dorks you might as well find Craterhoof and win the game regardless of Wraths, right now instead of in two turns time. Craterhoof is also something you can cast affording you more consistency as well! The Eldrazi were the first nail in the coffin for Progenitus being generally easier to get out and offering more utility and power once out. When things change at the top in magic they change quite drastically. Any one, tow or three drop that is near the top of what it does remains in the cube and sees plenty of play even when better cards are printed however the top end just stop seeing play all together.

Emrakul, the Promised End.dec

The Promised End is a card of sufficient power that it could substantially change the cube dynamic. Some cards will become weaker, others far better. I suspect archetypes based around the Promised End will arise although as yet I have no idea what colours they might be. I am going to take a look at some of the best things you can complement the Promised End with and see if any obvious deck directions jump out at me.

Emrakul, the Promised End
So, Emrakul is at its best when it costs very little. To get it costing little you want a lot of different card types in your graveyard. There are several ways to go about doing this but they all start in much the same way and that is of course by having those kinds of cards in your deck! Without looking at specific cards you can assert that to get the best odds on having a cheap Emrakul you want to play a smooth balance of the different card types. There are 8 card types but obviously a deck with 5 of each thing isn't working out so well. Lands are always going to be a significant part of any Emrakul deck, lets assume we are going with a light count of 16.  This means we have about 24 cards to get a balance of the remaining 7 card types.

Fortunately there are a number of cards with several card types at once, which all of the tribal cards are. Ignoring these tribal cards and other dual type cards we can say that we have 24 slots we want to evenly divide up into 6 remaining card types. This means we want roughly four each of planeswalkers, instants, sorceries, creaturs, artifacts and enchantments. This is going to be one of the biggest challenges for the deck. Very few existing archetypes have anywhere near this kind of balance of stuff. Try and build it one way you will be desperately putting in rubbishy cards of one type while struggling to cut cards of another types. Try and build it another way and this effect will just reverse somewhat. We will return to the problem of doing this later and for now just continue to look at how we theoretically optimise our Emrakul.

BitterblossomAssume we manage to get a balance of 4 or so of each of the non-land card types into our deck how can we then further improve our Emrakul? This is where things get a little more divergent as the plans will likely use very different selections of cards. Instants and sorceries are not so much of an issue, there is a wide array of widely playable and decently cheap ones on offer for basically all the colours and these cards put themselves into the graveyard automatically for the most part (yes, I know about Temporal Mastery and the Zenith cycle... stupid Magic being impossible to talk about generally).

When it comes to creatures, planeswalkers, artifacts and enchantments and to some extent even the lands you have more of an issue. Some in terms of general cost and redundancy, others in terms of being able to get them into the graveyard. It is all well and good having a balance of stuff however if you don't have it in the bin it is doing nothing for your Emrakul. There are three broad solutions to this problem.

The first is to use very cheap cards with inbuilt sacrifice mechanisms such as Seal of Fire, Sakura Tribe Elder, Chromatic Star and so on and so forth. This sounds great in principle but in reality there are not that many of these on offer and building a deck with too many of them would leave to a bit of a do nothing list. The next solution is using lots of looting effects in your list so as to bypass any need for having ways to sacrifice permanents or even the need to keep things on the cheaper side. The last option is to use cards like Intuition and Gifts Ungiven to directly tutor up the specific things you want to have in your bin. This is a little less consistent and a little clunkier however it can add a lot more than just doing that to your deck and it also take a huge amount of strain off the need to balance things that much. If you plan on pulling cards out of your deck you don't need to draw them and so you don't need the redundancy.

Time to look at some of the best potential cards for these kinds of roles:

Looting Effects

Faithless Looting
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
Looter il-Kor and lesser looters
Dack Fayden
Frantic Search

Graveyard Filling Effects

Satyr Wayfinder
Seal of Nascency
Grisley Salvage
Nagging Thoughts
Liliana of the Veil
Dredge stuff (Life from the Loam)

Grisly SalvageTutor Effects

Gifts Ungiven
Traverse the Ulvenwald

Playable Tribal Cards

Crib Swap
Warren Weirding
Sage's Dousing
Skittering Invasion
Reach of Branches
Namesless Inversion
Reach of BranchesLignify
Gilt-Leaf Ambush
Faerie Trickery
Eyeblight's Ending
Bound in Silence
All is Dust

Unique Dual Type Cards

Artifact Lands
Baleful Strix
Shardless Agent
Courser of Kruphix
Bow of Nylea
Whip of Erebos
Xenagos, God of Revels
Dryad Arbor
Vessel of NascencyBrain Maggot

Cheap Sacrificial Permanents

Capsules (Couriers/Executioners/Dispellers)
Seal of (Fire/Removal/Cleansing)
Vessel of Nascency
Sakura Tribe Elder
Insolent Neonate
Hapless Researcher
Mogg Fanatic
Alchemist's Apprentice
Chromatic Star/Sphere
Sac Lands

It looks like blue and green have the most to offer all round with black and red competing hard for a look in. With such tight deck construction parameters three colours seems better than one or two for an Emrakul deck. I'm sure you can make one work with most 3 colour combinations. White is the weakest colour by a long way with little more than some tribal cards to offer so probably avoid that.

Traverse the UlvenwaldI am going to try a versatile Sultai Gifts style list and a Temur list which is more direct. The Temur list is what we shall look at first. It is looking to raw dog the cost reductions using a good balance of card types and lots of looting. The Temur list is pretty all in on casting Emrakul as getting a balance of the things you need makes the deck not do all that much else. As such there is some tutor effects for the Emrakul, given you need it to win it seems a necessity even with all the looting. The deck looks rather like a combo deck in how it will approach winning. Fun and differently complex but sadly using rather too many weak cards that are not commonly found in drafting cubes.

The deck only manages to pack 3 planeswalkers and 3 tribal spells but it has at least 4 of everything else. Having not tested the list I cannot say exactly how I would change it yet but it doesn't have a refined look about it presently so I am sure some tweaking is needed. As the deck is so all in on Emrakul I have included some means to give her haste to greatly increase her odds on getting a kill.

Chromatic StarTemur List

24 spells

Traverse the Ulvenwald           s
Faithless Looting                     s
Tarfire                                      i t
Seal of Fire                              e
Birds of Paradise                     c
Brainstorm                               i
Chromatic Star                        a
Careful Study                          s

Looter il-Kor                           c
Coiling Oracle                         c
Sylvan Library                        e
Lignify                                    e t
Fire // Ice                                 i
Explore                                    s

Dack Fayden                           p
Courser of Kruphix                 c e
Shardless Agent                      c a
Gilt Leaf Ambush                   i t
Bow of Nylea                         e a
Fierce Empath                        c
Domri Rade                            p

Arlinn Kord                           p
Anger                                     c

Emrakul, the Promised End

16 Lands
including an artifact land, at least one basic and some sac lands

Fierce EmpathMy second list idea for The Promised End is much more power dense and actually looks quite like existing an cube archetype. The list offers reasonable control and some alternate win mechanisms compared to the previous list it is somewhat slower. Compared to more pure control decks it is a lot more fragile, most of the best control cards for this kind of deck are instant or sorcery.

My fear for the Sultai deck is that it is too slow to make Emrakul cheap and get her in hand before you have run out of gas and been killed. To get Emrakul to less than seven mana before turn seven you will need to cast either a Gifts or an Intuition, likely a recursion spell for Emrakul and then ontop of that you will have to play and sac or loot away the cards put in hand from the Gifts/Intuition. Restricting a slow! The concern for the Temur deck is when you don't win the game with Emrakul, the concern with the Sultai list is that the added control does not offset the slower pace of the deck enough.

Sultai Gifts
Grapple with the Past
Birds of Paradise                c
Deathrite Shaman               c
Noxious Revival                 i
Thoughtsieze                      s
Divining Top                      a

Sakura Tribe Elder             c
Nameless Inversion            i t
Baleful Strix                       a c
Grapple with the Past         i
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy           c
Arcane Denial                    i
Explore                              s

Intuition                              i
Liliana of the Veil              p
Eternal Witness                  c
Gifts UngivenBow of Nylea                     a e
Pernicious Deed                 e
Sultai Charm                      i
Courser of Kruphix            e c
Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver p

Gifts Ungiven                     i
Damnation                          s

Reach of Branches             s t

Emrakul, the Promised End

16 Lands
including at least one basic, some sac and one artifact land.

Having spent far too long working on these prototype lists I have actually concluded I like the Temur colours better but somewhat prefer the style of the Sutlai deck. I shall try and actually build and play with it and will do one final article on that and what I learned from it. I hope you all have as much fun brewing The Promised End into lists. I greatly look forward to seeing her in the presently unknown best decks for her as well as seeing some entirely unexpected and creative uses.

Sunday 17 July 2016

Card Spotlight: Nissa, Worldwaker

Nissa, WorldwakerI don't get to play that much with Nissa, Worldwaker. There are lots of other Nissa cards these days and lots of five drops in green. She is a low priority pick and seems relatively cuttable when building. However when I do play with Worldwaker she is utterly bonkers. I don't recall ever having lost a game once I resolved her. She has one of the highest win rates going. Until now I was fairly happy putting this down to small sample size and good fortune surrounding her games. Now it seems like too much of a pattern, I have seen her dominate too much to just write it off. There are a lot of conflicting things going on in my appraisal of the card making it time to try and untangle them and get to the bottom of how good Nissa Worldwaker really is.

One of the things at play is my own bias affecting my expectation. While Nissa is obviously good she is also a pricier, narrower and more limited version Garruk Wildspeaker. I have a tendency to greatly undervalue more expensive or less powerful versions of existing cube cards. I didn't entertain the idea of putting Jace, Architect of Though into my cube because of how much weaker he is than Mind Sculptor without looking too hard at the card in isolation. I had to play it in a random standard event and win my first ever mull to four with Architect before I fully appreciated the card. He is now a big reason I so rarely play Fact or Fiction. Now, Nissa is a lot like Garruk Wildspeaker, they both untap lands, they both make dorks. Garruk excites me a lot more, mostly because he costs less but his abilities on paper are just way more rounded and useful. Untap two lands is better fixing and far less narrow than just forests. Garruk has an Overrun too which is pretty much the best ultimate on a planeswalker while Nissa has a rubbish one. Nissa packs a bit more punch in the dork making arena, they are larger and trample for +1 rather than -1 loyalty but it is all a bit more fiddly, you can't tap out to make Nissa and make a blocker which you can with Garruk.

Garruk WildspeakerSo, Garruk might be better than Nissa, so what? Garruk is one of the best planeswalkers in the cube, another comparable one should be most welcome. All this is to say I think I significantly underrated Nissa in the first place and am therefore much more surprised at her strong performance than I should be. While I still prefer Wildspeaker the stats would argue against me as to the more effective planeswalker. Garruk certainly does not win every game he resolves in. This is where you need to apply some context to the statistics so as to better understand them. Garruk is much more playable than Nissa mostly because he is cheaper but also because he has far less relevance on your land types. Further to this Garruk is played for a wide array of reasons in lists while Nissa is much more a pure threat. You will play Garruk to buy some time, curve out a bit smoother or whatever. You will not play a Nissa unless the time calls for winning Nissa style. You therefore find Garruk being cast and used in all sorts of desperate situations and decks while Nissa is only coming out when conditions are pretty exceptional for her. This makes Garruk look worse than Nissa because he is not winning as much, this is one of those times it is actually better to look at nominal wins rather than % wins. Garruk has won and still wins far more actual games than Nissa.

I don't think this is yet solved. All I have really done is justify her situation relative to Garruk. I have done nothing to show why and how she wins games. When Garruk wins games it is because of the ramp, the control or the threat of the -4. It is never from going, make a 3/3 for three turns in a row and attack with them. With Nissa she wins by doing exactly that, making a land into a dork a couple of times and going sideways. I have thought long and hard about it and I think the reason she performs quite so much above expectation, even with the bias accounted for, is a little more subtle than imagined. Obviously 4/4 trample is a tonne better than 3/3 token. Add to this the 2 difference in loyalty cost which is significant in racing and keeping the planeswalker safe while apply the pressure. Lastly we have the ability to attack right away with the freshly created dork. These are all fairly known. They should make her a bit of a better threat but much of it is offset by cost difference. Even 5 mana Garruk with +1 to make 3/3s rarely wins purely by doing just that.

Garruk Wildpseaker made turn four and just used to make 3/3s will kill on its own on turn 8 but will have done a fairly critical 18 damage by turn 7. Nissa made on turn six so as to attack right away will have done 24 by turn 8 (still 3 less than Garruk and the 3/3s) but only 12 on turn 7. Made on turn 5 and making a 4/4 but not attacking does get the Nissa clock down to a turn 7 kill for exactly 20 but as you can see, it is not raw speed of goldfish that makes Nissa outperform Garruk so much as a kill card. Yes, again, we have trample, slightly bigger dorks less time to react and this should make Nissa a bit better than Garruk despite the numbers. This isn't getting us to where we need to be, Nissa is outperforming Garruk in this aspect by a lot more than these things alone would predict.

Primeval TitanBasically I think it comes down to the dorks being actual land cards and not tokens. It turns out that either being a card, being colourless or just having the type of land makes a massive difference to really wide selection of cube cards. I won a game with Nissa once where my opponent had a useless Ugin who just couldn't do anything to stop the onslaught of four toughness colourless cards. I managed to win several games recently off the back of Sylvan Advocate randomly turning my Nissa'd lands into 6/6s. Bounce kills a beast token dead but at worst it gives you back a land in hand with Nissa. Cyclonic Rift is usually a fantastic answer to planeswalker token generation getting out of hand but again, it does nothing to calm the armies of the Worldwaker. Maelstrom Pulse and Abrupt Decay can't touch them. Even a Declaration in Stone can be played around fairly easily such that it only hits one of your lands and leaves you with more 4/4 tramplers to ruin face with.

A second subtle reason Nissa works out very well is that she has an element of Primeval Titan about her in that they can do two things well in two kinds of deck. You can use them as top of the curve threats or you can use them as good midrange things that bridge the gap really well to your actual top end stuff. If you don't have those 7 and 8 drops in hand then these Nissa/Titan style cards will do good work on their own but when you do have them they come down faster and pose much more of a threat.

So yeah, Nissa is good. She is one of the best planeswalkers in terms of being an awkward threat to deal with as well as being able to close a game. She is more of a pure threat than most other walkers but the untap, even when only for a couple of lands, adds a lot to her flexibility. She is very robust and allows you to diversify your threats without over extending into too much. You can play her at the top of a deck or in the middle curve wise and she performs equally well. Simply being able to make a threat that is a planeswalker and a threat that is a land at the same time makes life uncomfortable for the opponent and is a unique ability to date. While Nissa is very good indeed, top ten walkers for sure and only just outside the top five, her results do paint her in an incredibly favourable light that you need to see through. When you play her at the right time in the right deck you will be made of winning. Play her in the wrong deck and fail to engineer the right situation for her and she will put in a disappointing display.

Monday 11 July 2016

Eldritch Moon Preliminary Review: Part III

Sorry for this being out of chronological order, not really any big cube names from the final cards at least!

Noose Constrictor 3

Wild Mongrel comes back and has exchanged his chameleon hat for a reach stick instead. Wild Mongrel hasn't been a big deal in cube for over a decade with ever decreasing play that is entirely restricted to heavy discard themed decks. This is a little better than the Mongrel, reach just offers more to green than a colour shift does. All said, it is still a pretty limp card and will simply replace the Mongrel in the few synergy based decks that get made.

Stunning Regrowth 5

This reeks of combo potential. There are lots of good ways to fill up a yard with land and then there are lots of good things to do with having a lot of lands in play. I am sure you can one shot people with this fairly easily on about turn four with the right tools. Things like Squandered Resources and Bubbling Muck spring to mind. Alternatively things like Rude Awakening might be better ways to use a sudden pile of lands. This is far too narrow for a draft card but it strikes me as one of the most exciting combo cards that exists unbanned in the modern era of magic. I hope to build several different kinds of deck abusing this bad boy in many different ways. While it will never have that turn one game winning feel Fastbond often brings it will have that mid and late game Time Twister plus Fastbond feel of just getting loads of tempo and value in one shot. You could almost just loot and cycle lands till turn four and cast this and have ramped more than a lot of ramp focused decks. This is a very powerful card and although it is narrow it retains a wide application. It is only narrow in the sense you need to build around it rather heavily. This is the kind of card that gets Golgari Grave Troll banned again! At least it puts things in tapped, it highly restricts the immediate kill potential for the card and makes it ever so slightly more towards a Life from the Loam value style of card.

Working Together 2

More pleasant design. This card feels white and has a good use of the escalate mechanic. Beyond that I am not that sure what to make of this. It seems a bit all over the place to be of much use in the cube. Due to the escalate cost wanting dorks this isn't much of a tool for creature light decks. Any of the options for 3 mana is quite a chunk below par. This poses a further problem in that you therefore need to be in a position to use two of the effects. You have to be certain they will have a high powered creature or and enchantment while you have a sufficient board to buff. It is quite cute in that you can pump theirs guys so that it is big enough to kill it it wasn't before, still awful though! This card is far too below par to offset the mild utility it brings, the occasions it might come closer to par will be far too infrequent to have a significant impact on the cards overall rating. In addition to this it is incredibly narrow in the places you can actually consider playing it. Not the thing at all. Dromoka's Command is better in almost every sense.

Sigarda's Blessing 1

Cheap and interesting but so incredibly narrow it hurts. You can't play many of the buff types of cards as they themselves are situational, playing things to buff the buffs... In some mad Rabid Wombat style of deck (obviously not using that card though!) this could have a place but only due to overwhelming synergy, not because you should ever play something like this and expect it to be worth it.

Mausoleum Wanderer 5.5

Here we have the mono blue Judge's Familiar with two minor yet positively interacting perks. Perk one is a prowess for spirits, pretty minor with so few spirits kicking about in the cube but still, annoying to play against even if doing very little on average. Slightly more playable spitirts with flash at least! The second perk is a scaling on the effectiveness of the counter with the power of the Wanderer. Judge's Familiar only ever Disrupts a spell, this can Mana Leak it and more. All told it will be rather rare for the spirit trigger to occasion the increase in X, usually it will be equipment, buffs from creatures in play, planeswalkers and that sort of thing. This is one of blues best one drop tempo cards but it is either rather narrow or rather low impact. I like it a lot but unless blue gets loads of good flash spirits or loads of top quality aggressive dorks I fear this will not see enough play.

Heron's Grace Champion 1

Narrow as you like, exclusively playable in a green white humans deck and even then it isn't that much of a bomb for your 4 mana. It will give a big old swing but it isn't the game over card you want given all your effort of going tribal.

Courageous Outrider 1

A bit of a Ranger of Eos for humans. This is playable outside of a humans deck due to the general high human count in the cube and particularly white. It isn't great though, without near 100% chance of hitting this is bad. It has none of the tutor combo application of Mr Eos either which is his main use. While stats are nice the 2 toughness does not make up for the 1+ card less you get and the lack of options it brings. This is just a value card and as such it isn't powerful or tempo-ie enough to get a look in.

Imprisoned in the Moon 4

Blue gets its very own Song of the Dryads. What I have found with Song of Dryads and other comparable things like Beast Within and Chaos Warp is that there are very few decks that actually need or want them. Most of the more proactive decks don't need to go to such extreme lengths to deal with things and most of the reactive decks are just better off splashing another colour to help solve any specific problems it might have. Now, blue is more common a colour to do a mono deck that wants answers than green is. This makes it more playable than Song of the Dryads despite being a little weaker but I don't think it makes it quite playable enough for an A cube slot. One thing Song of the Dryads could do was ramp you by turning one of your own non-mana sources into a forest. This was rarely done due to being a two for one on top of a poor ass ramp spell in  a colour full of good ramp. In blue however this might be more appealing as a ramp option. Especially if you have some bounce to get your thing back and reuse the Moon Prison. Generally I think I prefer the bounce solution to things you can't deal with in blue. Cards like Pongify and Curse of the Swine have never really worked out that well in cube for ways to keep things under control and I don't expect much difference from this.

Olivia's Dragoon 2

Putrid Imp has come back as a 2/2! For all your madness needs! Black's weak version of Noose Constrictor. This is super weak sauce but of course it is just about playable when you really want those discard outlets on command. To be honest, if I am desperate enough for my discard outlets to consider playing this I expect I am already playing the Putrid Imp, perhaps Zombie Infestation as well.

Crop Sigil 3

Great synergy with things like Divining Top and Courser of Kruphix but without some support then the card does little for card quality. It helps enable delirium but slowly compared to something like a Satyr Wayfinder. The recursion is nice, it allows a 2 for 1 but it is also fairly slow. There are certainly places this is a useful tool but it is low power and a little niche.

Make Mischief 1

This is a lot of mana to ping something and make a Goblin Arsonist. Not sure where a spell of these dimensions fits. Low power and awkward utility.

Power of the Moon 3

Hesitation returns in a non-symmetrical form. This seems pricey for something someone can easily plow through with a cheap spell. In the right situation it could be crippling but I think that will significantly be the minority of times. Counterspells at 3 mana need to out perform those for 2 mana and without the ability to chose the target I fear this falls short of the mark.

Abandon Reason 0.5

Heroic madness is a thing right? Moving on.

Primal Druid 2

Here we have another Viridian Emissary except this can't attack or pose any threat and therefore much harder to trigger. More health on a card like this is just a drawback really! Useful for emerge things but only playable as support.

Foul Emissary 2

A bit like a Fierce Empath, you trade certainty on a hit for the ability to hit any size dork. The emerge utility is super minor with this card. Emerge doesn't seem like a big thing for cube. The one thing I like a lot about this is that it clears the top of your deck and therefore has some nice synergy with things like Sylvan Library. Likely not powerful enough to sneak in any play.

Weaver of Lightning 1

While there is quite a lot of support for these kinds of card and this one has a decent body for what you are trying to do with it the damage output is simply too low. Half a Guttersnipe effect for the same cost does not make up for the bodywork improvements.

Thermo-Alchemist 4

On this guy however the price is right! With a half reasonable body as well this guy only going one per thing is not an issue as he costs only 2. For the Guttersnipe style of deck this is top rate. It might even be viable in prowess or burn decks. It is almost a 1/3 unblockable that has nearly prowess for attack.

Shreds of Sanity 2.5

Powerful recursion tool in a deck with incredibly high instant and sorcery count. Potential use in some combo decks and even decks with a desire to discard things. As this is just 1 for 1 recursion it is not easily milked for further value. Far too inconsistent and slow to run in a prowess or burn themed deck.

Savage Alliance 1

This seems a bit too situational, a bit too expensive and a little at odds with what you will be trying to do with most decks. I am a fan of the mechanic still but this card isn't there.

Prophetic Ravings 4

Very interesting card. With being both cheap and giving haste it will be rare to get blown out while trying to use this which is the reason most aura cards fail to see play. This card has some interesting synergies and a couple of applications. One is just hasting up something, not worth a whole card but when it is the thing it is powerful. The other use is getting some looting on the go. You have to get at least 2 loots out of the card for it to be worth playing over a Neonate which will generally mean having it and the dork it is on survive a turn however with cards like Thermo-Alchemist you can have some fun. I think you will still need quite a lot of reason to play this card, I cannot see a RDW just throwing one in. Not that many decks which are keen to loot have a high enough creature count for this so I suspect it will not be getting much love.

Otherworldly Outburst 1

Lots of stuff for 1 mana but too fiddly and slow to setup to ultimately be worth the mana and card.

Furyblade Vampire 3

This is quite a beating if you discard every turn comfortably. For a madness tribal vampires deck this is going to be one of the best cards, it is actually an ongoing aggressive discard outlet that costs nothing to use and is cheap to get down without being well below the power curve. Too expensive to fuel without a discard theme however and so too narrow for most drafting cubes.

Distemper of the Blood 2

Double narrow for being a combat trick and a madness card but pretty powerful.

Impetuous Devils 3

Ball Lightning gets provoke! Interesting card but far too pricey for a one health card. This will get pinged or blocked by first strike dorks too much to be a good spell. Sometimes it will be Searing Blaze, sometimes it will be a very efficient burn spell on a dork or at face but other times it will clog up your hand wishing it was a Lighting Strike.

Borrowed Hostility 2.5

Another viable heroic card! Decent utility but expensive if you want to get max value from it.

Succumb to Temptation 4

Instant speed 3 mana draw 2 is good. Paying 2 life for it hurts especially for the kinds of deck that want this sort of tool. Cool card none the less. Good to finally have this option even if it isn't in blue.

Graf Harvest 2

Super narrow but probably good enough in the most aggressive of zombie decks.

Scour the Laboratory 5.5

Simple but effective. Fact or Fiction has this cards number but this is the closest a card has come to being another solid instant card draw card. For six this is quite uncomfortable but for four it is lovely. While I don't expect you will often have delirium on turn four you should have it by turn six which is when you can realistically expect to play a Fact or Fiction and not die. There are some decks which really don't want to put any cards in the bin, few these days but still. Scour the Lab would be an ideal FoF replacement in such decks. Probably this won't last that long in the cube as Fact or Fiction itself is so infrequently played due to the importance of tempo and the value permanents yield these days.

Geist of the Archives 1

Too slow and too light of an effect for a 3 mana card. If Sigiled Starfish isn't getting play then this certainly isn't.

Nebelgast Heral 1

I guess this subpar Perstermite may see some tribal spirits play if that is ever a thing. Turns your Mausoleum Wanderer into more of a Spell Pierce!

Fogwalker 2

A bit of evasion, reasonable defensive stats and a tempo effect are all quite nice but rather low impact. Things like Send to Sleep see little play and do the kind of thing this does generally better. This is just not doing enough reliably enough to be a worthwhile control card. As a more tempo based card it is fine filler if you have some other things that work with it. Creature type presently lets the down a lot and means it likely wont see any play until spritis becomes a big name...

Displace 1

Double Flicker! I like to get my flicker effects on other things and not run these kind of situational card. Though the flicker theme is strong in the cube this is not a card I would have any interest in using in such decks. It isn't even that cheap nor does it protect against wraths.

Ironclad Slayer 3

Decent stats for a card with such a direct two for one. Being quite limited on targets however the card is very narrow. Even when in the optimal sort of deck the card will only perform that well in the latter parts of the game.

Vexing Scuttler 2

This seems one of the weakest emerge cards. Basically just a fatter Scrivener. It isn't great value and it is a little counter synergic wanting both creatures and spells. If emerge does a thing then you might use this but even then that is only a might. The same really applies to all of these latest emerge cards. They just don't look in anyway better than similar cards without emerge. Abundant Maw, It of the Horrid Swarm and Mockery of Nature all seem super weak even when you actively want a sac outlet. Drownyard Behemoth is a bit trickier but just isn't worth it at all for what is just a reasonably big do nothing dork.

Conduit of Storms 3

I love me a card that offers mana and this one also offers to be a threat early and again late, is himself a mana sink and is generally just really cool. Sadly even an extra toughness does not make a Grey Ogre good and that is essentially what this is in terms of offensive potency. Ramp is nice but this is a little late in the day to be that exciting. While I want aggressive cards that also ramp this is not the package they need to come in, even for a red card.

Extricator of Sin 6

The last card getting a review from the set and a fairly interesting one at that. So the starting point for this card is a 0/3 and a 3/2 should you sac a thing. This is more stats than a Blade Splicer but less actual immediate board control with no first strike. It also assumes you sac a thing which really is what will define this card. Cards like Flagstones of Trokair, Doomed Traveler and I am sure many others than presently are not in my drafting cube would make this card really quite exceptional. In a standard good stuff deck with little synergy having to sac something is going to hurt a lot of the time. It makes this a card you want to play later, when you are done casting things and either have useless one drops or excess lands. That isn't an ideal start for a card but there is a lot more to this tale. Because it is generically good tempo and value assuming you sac something of no consequence it is playable in a wide array of decks from aggro through midrange all the way upto control. Because you can sac stuff it even has application in some combo style decks, notably with Academy Rector.

Now if it was just that, the 0/3 and the 3/2 with the sac effect then the card would be too low powered for how narrow it is. Perhaps a tiny bit of play in some weird decks but nothing regular or impressive. The delirium transform effect is very powerful indeed though and should see this getting some love. This card will be a complete beating in limited if delirium is easy to achieve. In cube, draft or otherwise, delirium is a whole lot easier and quicker to come about than in Innistrad drafts and so this is potentially just a good card that you can play with fairly little regard for synergies. Being able to sac a thing makes delirium easier to achieve of course and a 3/5 vigilance that turns excess rubbish into 3/2s with vigilance as well is all sorts of good value for 3 mana. It will attack and block and basically need to be the first thing removal hits else all will get out of control. It is not the quickest or the most powerful but it is a card that can win a game by itself and it is a card that is fine on curve and fine late game. These things add upto a card that should be pretty playable.

Friday 8 July 2016

Top Cards from Eldritch Moon

What I think the Auto-Include Cards Are

1.   Emrakul, the Promised End
2.   Thalia, Heretic Cathar
3.   Cryptbreaker
4.   Incediary Flow
5.   Selfless Soul
6.   Liliana, the last Hope
7.   United Resistance
8.   Curious Homunculus
9.   Decimator of Provinces
10. Grapple with the Past
11. Niblis of Frost
12. Spell Queller
13. Wharf Infiltrator

Testing Stuff that I am expecting will remain in drafting cube

Hanweir Garrison
Kessig Prowler
Grim Flayer
Scour the Laboratory

Testing Stuff I am not that sure on!

Docent of Perfection
Chaos Reveler
Nahiri's Wrath
Extracator of Sin
Elder Deep-Fiend

Testing Stuff I expect to quickly get cut (although many will still have strong niche applications)

Mausoleum Wanderer
Hanweir Battlements
Gnarlwood Dryad
Blessed Alliance
Bloodhall Priest
Lone Rider
Stormkirk Mystic
Collective Brutality
Tamiyo, Field Researcher
Succumb to Temptation
Ishkanah, Grafwidow
Prophetic Ravings
Foul Emissary
Imprisoned in the Moon
Borrowed Hostility

Stuff that is situational and likely not even worth testing but important to have for certain things

Noose Constrictor
Stormkirk Condemned
Olivia's Dragoon
Furyblade Vampire
Distemper of the Blood
Graf Harvest
Primal Druid
Ironclad Slayer
Crop Sigil
Power of the Moon
Stunning Regrowth
Eldritch Evolution
Shreds of Sanity
Summary Dismissal
Nephalia Academy
Prying Questions
Sigarda's Blessing
Heron's Grace Champion
Oath of Liliana
Harmless Offering

Thursday 7 July 2016

Eldritch Moon Preliminary Review: Part II

Soul Separator 1

Love the flavour, like the design. Detest the mana cost. This is 8 mana to do a one time risky reanimate which is far from a good deal. Due to some unique attributes of this card it might have uses but that doesn't stop it being a weak card.  This either needed to cost a couple less mana to play and to activate or it needs to have repeat use. Splitting up loads of the good recursion targets doesn't improve them, it makes them vulnerable to bounce and other removal and far easier to chump block. A 15/15 token is meh, a 1/1 Emrakul token is far less likely to get to annihilate or close a game.

Elder Deep-Fiend 5.5

This reminds me of Mistbind Clique. The Deep Fried Eldrazi has more utility and is less narrow but scales a little worse into the game. Tapping down four things is nice, it will help with creature based stuff but it won't be a time walk against control decks almost every time you play it. From about turn six onwards tapping down lands will start to be far less exciting with a Deep Fiend than it is with Mistbind. The Fearie also flies which is probably better than +1/+2 stats, certainly in the longer game. Further to this the Fearie gives you back the championed card when it dies which the Eldrazi does not. Mistbind doesn't see much play but that is due to a lack of Fearies, if it championed wizards or humans it would be a mainstay in the cube. Elder Deep Fiend can easily come down turn four and dominate the game for a while there after. The issue with the card is that you need to be in blue and you need to have creatures that you want to sac. There are a decent number of these but not loads and loads. It then becomes a bit odd as an archetype as you are playing defensive cards like Sea Gate Oracle with more proactive stuff like this. Powerful and versatile enough that I am sure it will see some play but awkward enough that it probably won't keep an A cube drafting slot that long. Presently there are just not enough permanents for tempo blue decks, certainly not enough you want to sac.

Kessig Prowler 6

Wow, green, the creature colour, finally gets a tempo one drop beater that isn't awful or entirely dependent on other things. This blows Jungle Lion, Mtenda Lion, Tattermunge Maniac, Scythe Tiger, Pouncing Jaguar, Wild Dogs, Abzan Ogre, Rogue Elephant and all that other garbage out of the water. Enough more like this and Stompy might be a thing in cube! That is right, nearly a quarter of a century on green finally catches up to white and gets a Savannah Lion... So the interesting thing about this card is that I am not sure where it goes. A 2/1 for 1 is good but red decks can probably do better when they are playing green as well, white decks certainly can. Green doesn't have its own aggro deck, if it did it would be zoo where this still wouldn't be powerful enough to get a spot. If this were a red card it would be at least a 7 out of 10 as it would comfortably make most RDW lists. In green the card may well not see play despite green being the best colour for flipping it. The more I think on it the more I like the card, level up cards are great and this is the only 1 drop level card which is good tempo early. You always make other aggro one drops before Figure of Destiny because you have to pay the mana soon with Figure or it doesn't do enough. Kessig Prowler hits for 2 with no further cost which is all we can ask of our one drops. The flip isn't game ending power but it is instant and not actually that much mana. If you are flooding at all or ripping this guy late the ability to turn him into a 4/4 with a mild combat effect is going to be very welcome. Perhaps Zoo will run it, it is a deck that can flood out more than most. While there are better 1 drops than this for Zoo outside of green, they are harder to cast with green being the base colour for zoo. I can also see this being used as filler, just as a way to lower your curve and improve your matchups against the quicker decks. It is not like you are playing a low powered card compared to an actual Savannah Lion in a midrange setting.

Smoldering Werewolf 0

Not an awful card but a little pricey and far too situational. Against an elf deck this is going to be a total kicking. Against a control deck you would be really happy to hit anything at all with it. A 3/2 for 4 needs to do way more than Forked Bolt dorks only. The transform is pricey and not so much power that it is a thing you are desperate to do, certainly no reason to play the card.

Voldaren Pariah 4

This is quite the hard one to rate. Madness itself is very tricky, it heavily depends upon the support there is for it. The value of the support depends on the the total of all the other madness cards and graveyard based stuff. Then this card has further support considerations and cost considerations. You can also look at this card in loads of different lights. Is it a removal spell? Is it a cheap aggressive dork? Is it a powerful finisher? Is it just a bit of an all rounder that affords some options?

I think you can use it as several of these roles but some are more likely or more powerful than others. A BBB 3/3 flier with all the madness perks like flash is a powerful thing on its own. The issue is that it would need to be in a mono black shell which not only makes that aspect of the card narrow but also unlikely as all the best quick madness outlets aren't mono black.

As a removal spell it is very powerful but highly situational. You need three guys, they need three guys. They can have less if they are significantly better than yours and you can have more but this is not a common picture I am painting here. Unless you flip it right away your opponent is going to do their level best to stop you flipping it and ruining them. As such this is a kind of super Barter in Blood that you have to play in a creature heavy deck. Powerful yes but really too expensive and situational to be viable removal.

It is a bit too needy and awkward to be a consistent and reliable high end midrange card. While it is good the bar is just so very high for that sort of thing. Absolutely there are times this card would be outstanding but you don't have to have that many occasions where this is a 5 mana 3/3 flier to offset those outstanding times.

Stormkirk Comdemned 4

They really are pushing the madness vampires! We are almost at a stage where a cube madness vampires deck looks workable. This is an achievement given that last year we were nowhere near a vampire deck, let alone a niche subset of that theme. Alone this card is very weak but it doesn't take having many other vampires or things you want to discard for this to be a very appealing little card. Not quite the madness outlet or one man offence that Wild Mongrel was back in the day but potentially a lot more powerful when you manage to build up a board of some vampires. The ideal combat trick is to madness out some lord using this and Falkenrath Gorger! Presently I don't have enough discardy or vampirey things in my drafting cube to merit this but I will probably shove a bunch in to help test this set out with and this will be one of the first to go in. A staple card for some quirky archetypes and fairly weak everywhere else!

Harmless Offering 2

Woot, red just got Donate! A really weak combo just got a reason to go into another colour and be ever so slightly less weak. Not sure there was another use for the Donate beyond Illusions of Grandeur. Probably there is it is just that it is even less usefull...

Wharf Infiltrator 6.5

Looter il-Kor is one of the most underrated cards in the cube and will greatly welcome some support. I actually don't think this is better than the Kor version, you want reliability on your loots and this gets blocked and killed by a lot of chaff. Mr Kor is always unblockable, this is going to need some reasonable burn support to get anywhere close to a respectable level of evasion. One of the other great uses for Looter il-Kor is for holding equipment you really want to hit face with. You equip up a skulk creature and they become far more blockable. The ability to make 2 mana 3/2s is potent but it is icing rather than core effect. Pure unblockable trumps it. In some ways it is a free 3/2 and in others it really isn't. You are paying two mana which is somewhat fair for a vanilla 3/2 in cube. You are extending into mass removal without gaining any real new angle. Further to this you are having to discard dorks to make dorks. Odds on the dorks in your deck are better than 2 mana 3/2s. It will help smooth your draw and curve without losing too much tempo now and again but loots really want to ditch dead stuff not action and dorks are generally action. You can use loads of things like Bloodghast so as to get double value but value only goes so far, you need actual power as well. This is a fine card but it isn't a powerhouse. There will be plenty of occasions where a classic Merfolk Looter would be the vastly superior card.

Decimator of Provinces 7.5

Interesting indeed. Clearly this is not better than Craterhoof Behemoth at being Craterhoof but it does have some perks about it. The body itself is better, compared to a Craterhoof this is irrelevant as the Craterhoof invariably ends games! As Decimator generally has a weaker Overrun effect it is less likely to end games. As such having a solid body with evasion that can finish off what it started is acceptable compensation. Then there is the mixed blessing of the upon cast trigger rather than an enters play one. For cube I like how this card works more but it is far less abusive. Natural Order will not often be finding this, games won't be immediately over if you get this and a Recurring Nightmare on the go as they are with Craterhoof. While you can't cheat out the Decimator and win off the Overrun it is at least an uncounterable Overrun.

Just to show with numbers how much better Craterhoof is we can just look at the number of dorks you need to have in play before casting either represents 20+ trample damage. Assuming we are having 1/1 dorks a Craterhoof needs only 3 others before it threatens 24. With Decimator you need 4 others and it only gets to 21 damage. If you want to pay a more reasonable price for your Decimator you will need five guys! This lower immediate punch is, as mentioned, slightly mitigated with decent body. It is more significantly mitigated by the utility this card offers. You can play it in a non-green deck and just forgo the emerge ability. I don't advise it but if you have the mana and are making Myr Battlesphere all the time then it might be fine. It is certainly something you can't do with a Craterhoof.

The real utility of Decimator comes from the emerge. Nine seems like a lot, it is basically 10! Seven however seems really quite cheap, even compared to Craterhoof. Seven is what Dragonlord Atarka costs and he comes out really fast and easy in a Gr ramp deck. Green has loads of dorks ranging all the way up the curve it is more than happy to sac, some it actively wants to sac. Green has the most spell effects bolted on to dorks. Sacing a Wall of Blossoms is going to be all sorts of common. It won't really cost you anything and then suddenly your 7 mana 7/7 trample haste + two thirds of an Overrun seems like an incredibly good deal. You can dump pricier stuff like Thragtusk and Acidic Slime if for some reason you need a bigger discount. This for four seems like you no longer care about Natural Order! So, while you want to make this and win the game the card has a much wider range of uses than that. It isn't quite Craterhoof at ending the game but it comes pretty close and that is all Craterhoof does. This you can squeeze out in the midgame easily when you are crimped on mana and stuck at 4 or 5, You can use it to snipe out planeswalkers and put a huge tempo threat into play. This card is active from much sooner in the game than Craterhoof. These are all things that make me warm to the card. Eldritch Moon has a lot of powerful top end and game closing cards, it is nice that this one does more than just that.

Geier Reach Santirium 0

This just costs too much for a loot combined with being too risky. It is almost always helping out your opponent just as much as you, perhaps more. If you need loots, play cheaper ways of doing it. If you just want utility lands find ones that only help you.

Eldritch Evolution 3

Cool design, interesting and reasonably fair. This is a strong enough card in its own right, it is tutor and although not strictly ramp it will offer a lot of burst tempo. Overall you always lose 1 mana on your end product. Pay X for the dork, then pay 3 to cast the Evolution and get an X+2 value card (X+2) - (X+3) = -1. If you sac a four drop and get a six drop you have gained two for one value on your mana that turn and this immediate value increases as you go up the curve. This card sits somewhere between a Birthing Pod and a Green Sun's Zenith. It is less powerful and convenient than either and unless green has a real need to sacrifice dorks I don't see it getting much cube play. Still a cool card thought. It makes things like Myr Enforcer seem interesting, dorks with costs you can lower so that this is actual ramp.

Eternal Scourge 1.5

Another very cool card. This one lacks the ability to perform a role, it is just a dork that is hard to deal with and not even a very exciting dork. Without a desire to exile your own stuff for lots of value somehow this card isn't getting play. It is a bit like an Epochrasite. While it is harder to deal with Eternal Scourge the fact that you have to pay for it each time you get it back rather ruins it as a good control tool. Annoying as you like though.

Lupine Prototype 2

Vanilla stuff really fails to excite me. Hellbent is not hard to get especially when it is you or them and even then a 2 mana 5/5 is just kindof meh. I have never loved me a Tarmogyf, decent enough card but not something I have ever felt I was missing in a cube deck. Just kindof high quality filler. Needing hellbent makes this narrow, in the right sorts of decks it is likely better than a Tarmogoyf but filler and vanilla cards just can't afford to be situational.

Whispers of Emrakul 3

This is a fine card but I don't much like it. Discard is best early and weak late and so this scales pretty poorly with delirium. It is always going to be weak when you most want it to be good. The easier cost than Hymn to Tourach in no way offsets the delirium prerequisite to be good. One for one random discard can be game winning, it can outperform Thoughtsieze but it isn't fun and it isn't skillful. I won't be letting this near my cube despite it being far from the worst card.

Grapple with the Past 7

This is my sort of card. Lots of options, nice and cheap, reduces your odds of flood and screw. I especially love the design of this one. You can look at it as a card quality effect (Impulse) that gets more powerful as the game goes on or you can look at it as a Regrowth that you are able to play at the start of the game to good effect. Digging with this turn two for a land or some dork is totally fine, it is essentially what you use all early card quality for, to keep hitting lands or to find some action. Late game this can dig a bit but it also has the whole range of your yard and it is not far off Regrowth + Impulse, yes yes OK, Anticipate... Yes, it only hits lands and dorks which reduces its control utility but it is still a fine midrange, ramp and combo card. With enough decent dorks in my deck, which is pretty likely if your in green, I would be totally happy running this in control. Seven or so would probably be fine. This card also works wonders with delve, flashback and most of the other graveyard synergy stuff.

Stromkirk Mystic 3.5

This is very close to a Prophetic Flamespeaker, a borderline card. On paper the Flamespeaker seems better however the reality may be much closer. Both have effectively 5 stats, trample and a card advantage on connection mechanism. Flamespeaker is a 2/3 which is generally better for a dork that affords ongoing advantage. It also has a spot of first strike helping it out in combat a little. Flamespeaker also scales far better with any buffs due to the doublestrike. Furthermore Flamespeaker provides better card advantage, it is much more likely to hit lands, will clear more all-land draws and will generally just be more of what you want. All Stromkirk Mystic does is hit a little harder on its own and have a madness cost. Madness is too limited a mechanic too over invest in supporting and there are not that many great support cards for it either. You are certainly not making this turn two for madness cost in the unpowered cube. It is the extra power that gives this a hope. Just an OK beater with some upside. I think red has plenty of more direct or powerful 3 drops now that this shouldn't ever see play. Shame, I quite like the card and think it would out perform expectation.

Emrakul' Evangel 2

This is an odd little card. You don't play this for tempo, you don't really play it for value. You can use it to increase the value of other cards, say, ones that make 0/1 tokens but it is all a bit low impact and low power. I have always wanted more sac mechanisms in green, this seems like a fine enough one but I cannot see me ever using it. Far too slow and middle of the road for a sac outlet and too fair to be good in any other way.

Ulvenwald Captive 3

A little two mana ramp card. Two mana ramp has to be really good and this is overly fair throughout. It is nice that it is able to become more relevant late game but paying 7 mana for a 4/6 does not a good card make. Simply put I don't think the perks of having him able to become more than just ramp in the super late game offsets the lower quality of two drop ramp it is compared to the other cube cards. This is a ramp card first and mostly and therefore must be reviewed heavily weighted on that aspect.

Collective Brutality 6

At first sight I loved this card, it had so much promise. I already liked escalate, using it with a discard cost is delightful. The more I imagined Collective Brutality in action however the more lackluster I fear it may be. Ultimately it is very comparable to Blessed Alliance in terms of utility, total power, value and general game swinging potential. It is not the Kolghan's Command I so wanted it to be. Simply, you cannot get a 2 for 1 with Collective Brutality. You can't even get that much of a tempo swing unless you take some card disadvantage yourself. A 2 mana sorcery speed Disfigure is weak, a 2 mana limited Duress is also pretty weak. A two point drain life is again, all sorts of weak. The Duress is the best mode however it is the least reliable, as the target range is so limited you could end up missing on a full hand against even control decks. Disfigure is the most generally useful mode, it will almost always have some stuff it can take out. In reality it is only against the highly aggressive decks where you really want to kill the small stuff. Killing off other small things is not going to be that important against midrange and control decks. The drain is only something you want against a burn style deck and even then it isn't worth a card and 2 mana for 2 life. Direct damage effects are always nice because they occasionally say win the game on them. You would never play them for this role because it is situational but it does go a reasonable way to improving the all round utility of the card. Wretched Confluence is frequently getting kills by doing people 3, perhaps this will earn its keep nugging people for two.

So when you have this in hand and you want to cast it I think you will find it to be like a fairly poor and narrow charm. Yes, you can easily do multiple modes but I doubt that you will get value enough out of multiple modes to merit the card loss. Against control decks the Duress will be fine but you are unlikely to have a good removal target to Disfigure as well. The reverse applies against aggro. It really is only against RDW style decks where you have reasonable odds on all the modes being decent from the outset. In all other matches you are not wanting a 2 point drain life on turn two! Even when you are on the play and they are RDW and make a one drop dork you still have to consider if it is worth ditching a card in the hope to pull something better out of their hand. I think you have to be pretty scared of some specific cards or have total duds in hand for the stats to suggest it is often a good line of play. This doesn't even hit Sulfuric Vortex, the scariest card a RDW has against a black deck. This really is like a lot of Charms, a fine mode against half the field and another fine mode against the other half with a third highly situational one. Whenever you play it it will be fine but it will rarely be exciting. For general purpose use I think this card pays too much in terms of its power for the utility it brings.

Now, while I don't greatly rate this as a general purpose card, mostly because it is a sorcery, I do think it has some great value as a synergy support card. This is going to be one of the first names on the team sheet for Reanimate decks I build in the future. This actively does several things such a deck wants while supporting your combo. Any graveyard themed deck should put this in without a seconds thought. A fair card and one with utility in most situations and matchups that also supports your theme is gold dust. You play crap like Putrid Imp in those decks sometimes just to get your stuff in the bin. While perhaps a turn slower than the really extreme stuff Collective Brutality is so much more doing a useful thing that it shouldn't matter at all early and will be substantially better late. This is one of those cards that will get a lot of play in cool decks but will be last pick a lot of the time in draft. As such it will ultimately be a B cube card unless I am supporting all sorts of graveyard based archetypes in the drafting cube.

Distended Mindbender 2

Not so excited about this one. It may get a bit of play simply because emerge is an interesting ability with lots of potential abuses, synergies and raw power. I don't think this has very good odds on hitting two cards in cube, the average is probably 1.2 or so. Seven mana is not really worth a 5/5 and a bit of discard. The body is too vanilla and middling and discard is not wildly exciting on late game cards. Sure, you can flop this out turn 4 with ease off the back of a 3 drop, Geralf's Messengers sounds like a good one! It is very powerful when you do this but it is going to happen so rarely that you mostly just have an overpriced awkward card in hand.

Wailing Ghoul 1

A classic unplayable card redeemed with unlikely synergy support potential. This has both zombie and graveyard themes going on so it has more chance than a lot of the super low powered cards that end up with a 0-3 rating. Still basically no chance. Good luck trying to beat people making Jace on turn two when you are packing things like this.

Tamiyo, Field Researcher 5

I think this is the third tri-colour walker after Big Ol' Bolas and Sarkhan Unbroken. Both of those dudes are incredibly powerful, generally taking down the game when resolved. Despite this they are often last pick and very rarely played. Both are incredibly unwieldy to cast leaving them pretty narrow. At a glance Timayo looks a lot less powerful (even per mana) than either of the others mentioned. This may well not matter at all however as she is only a 4 drop and in a very playable and powerful three colour set. A bit like how Siege Rhino gets all the play and Savage Knuckleblade gets barely any, it is because Siege Rhino is in a stong set of colours and works well with the general archetype those colours produce. So, Timayo is at least in principle playable, the question remains, is she good?

The -2 is incredibly powerful and versatile but it is expensive and unsustainable. You can use it to protect yourself and Tamiyo or you can use it to force through attacks and kill their planeswalkers. A double lockdown is pretty brutal. As you have to do it as a sorcery it is far better value when you are on the offensive. If you are tapping down their attackers you only really get one turns worth or tap down out of it compared to two turns of value if you tap down blockers. Old Tamiyo could sustainably tap down one threat and so could be made into threats without too much concern as a result. This version is able to protect herself a bit, more effectively for a short time, but over a couple of turns she will fall unless you have other ways of dealing with things.

The +1 is a little more unusual than most and again has a wide scope of utility. You can slap it on two of your dorks, send in and get some cards. You can stick it on two of theirs and make it highly unappealing to attack or block with those dorks. You can go one on yours and one on theirs, get some value and some tempo at once. It is a card advantage tool or an odd protection tool. As you give your opponent options it isn't that reliable as protection, more irritation. As it requires dorks to be in play to do anything at all it is situational but less so than most as it is fine enough to use on any players dorks.

As ever the emblem is potent, it should win the game although not quite as directly as many. With only a +1 to get you there it isn't an ultimate I expect to see often. So, is new Tamiyo good? Er, she is fine. She does some cool stuff and potentially has a really big impact on the game right away. She falls down rather in potency and playability because she is so reliant on having creatures around. It is not like some of the walkers who have no self protection mechanisms who are weak because you cannot really ever play them usefully from behind. It is more like a planeswalker who doesn't really do anything of much, like a Narset (who also can't protect herself but makes up for it with huge loyalty instead). So often you make a Narset and they can just ignore her and kill you because she isn't actually doing much of much. In a fairly creature heavy Bant deck Tamiyo will be pretty good, it will give you a lot of control over combat, might help you push for a win and if not will yield pretty good card influx. In most other kinds of deck she is unplayable, mostly because of her cost. In the kinds of deck she is good in you have things like Knight Errant, Ally of Zendikar, Wildspeaker, Relentless, Kiora, Jace and many more four mana planeswalkers who are safer, less situational and do far more on an empty board. Powerwise Field Researcher is enough but the nature of her abilties combined with her colour cost just make her far too narrow to be an exciting cube addition. I'll get one when they become cheap, I'll throw it in the cube for a bit and some people will try it out as it is new and interesting. It will be fun and different and then I'll cut it to make room for better cards because of all the things I said here.

Summary Dismissal 1

This feels like a weak Mindbreak Trap. The only occasion this is better than the trap is when you want to counter abilities and for that 4 mana is far too much. It is a great tool for stopping Eldrazi on cast effects but they are far too uncommon for this to be any more than a Wish target in constructed events. Spell exile is nice as is mass counter but they are fairly niche. Mindbreak Trap doesn't get any real play because four mana is just too much for what is most of the time just a Counterspell, Dissipate if you really like.

Spirit of the Hunt 0.5

This is close to unplayable. Wolves or Werewolves are not really even a tribal archetype, doable but hardly good. This is only playable in a wolf deck making it beyond narrow. I'm not even sure you would really want this in your wolf deck either, toughness pump is a bit meh.

Providence 0

A return to the Chancellor mechanic with this one. Six bonus life is quite tasty for the right matchups. What is not tasty is a 7 mana sorcery lifegain spell. You can get over 30 heal from this card but really it is way too much of an investment for something you can incidentally get from far better cards. Being a sorcery is really awful too, it makes it beyond unwieldy for the few archetypes that may have considered it.

Ishkanah, Grafwidow 4

This is a quirky little fellow. Green has been after a good replacement for Deranged Hermit for a while now with most of the other colours catching up or overtaking green for having good one man army cards. The big hurdle for Ishkanah to pass is the delirium one. With delirium this card is very potent, without it is not close to powerful enough. You need cards like this to be reliable for general midrange use. Green is one of the weaker delirium generators in the cube too. 6/11 worth of stats with reach and 4 bodies well worth 5 mana, very powerful!

The activated ability is certainly a nice bonus tool to have. It doesn't make or break the card but it may well encourage some black splashes. Having that kind of reach in a green deck is nice. Having the other kind of reach in a green deck is nice too as green struggles with the fliers. Hornet Queen is doing the work of Ishkanah already in cube! For a deck with actual graveyard synergy I think you will have reliable enough delirium to play this guy, for general high power filler in whatever old deck I think this is too inconsistent. This means it likely won't be a card that we draft with much at all.

United Resistance 6.5

Versatile and powerful but on the clunky side for a red card. It reminds me more of Fiery Confluence than any other card. It packs a bit less punch but should be more rounded. I overrated the red Confluence, very good but not that playable. United Resistance is at least playable. Ultimately what makes this so acceptable is that it is able to take out a 4 toughness creature in just one card while also being able to direct damage at face. Three to face for three is an awful deal but as the last three life they have you are going to be fine with that. When it kills a planeswalker it might not be the most efficient tool but it has kept you in the game. Mostly you will just get a free 3 damage in for 1 mana when you are flush with the mana and are using the spell for another main purpose. A bit Searing Blaze like. Tossing a hand and redrawing is more usually a thing you are doing on yourself than on your opponent. There will be occasion for it but it will be super rare. Used on yourself it is generally going to be much of a Faithless Looting. Not wildly exciting as the main function of the card but very interesting indeed to just have as a thing on a card you can tap into for 1 extra mana. It will allow the red mage to include some slightly narrower cards as you have access to more card quality and filtering with this. One thing is pretty sure about this, it is ending any chances Exquisite Firecraft had in the cube. This is enough better than Char, Flame Javelin and Brimstone Volley that it will be my go to 3 mana burn card of choice.

Nephalia Academy 2

A narrow and low impact effect that you pay for heavily in having a colourless land. The only time I can imagine ever wanting this is in a miracle themed deck. Sounds really nice having your opponents Liliana and the like setup your stuff for you.

Oath of Liliana 2

A 3 mana sorcery speed Edict is mostly what we have here. That alone isn't close to enough. Edicts are far less reliable than they used to be with more good cheap dorks and far more tokens. Increasing the price makes them worse in several stacking ways! To make up for all of these failings compared to Diabolic or Chainers Edict the Oath of Liliana is an enchantment allowing for some bonus synergies. Generally irrelevant but does give the card a whole new angle and gives it a far better chance of cropping up in more niche deck ideas. The final thing we have here  is a free 2/2 zombie for every planeswalker you make subsequent to the Oath. I'd guess at the average planeswalkers per deck at under 2 in the cube. That isn't enough to milk this Oath enough. In a planeswalker heavy deck with enchantment synergy this card might have a place, it might get away with no planeswalkers and heavy enchantment synergy but it needs something, in islation this card is quite a way off the mark of playable card.

Liliana, the Last Hope 7

Always exciting to see a mono colour 3 mana walker. This is not as powerful as Liliana of the Veil, not by quite some way, however it is good. Very good. Probably the next best 3 mana walker after Lili and Ashiok. I would go so far as to say this is the best 3 mana walker in terms of ability to protect herself too. Giving a dork -2/-1 kills a lot of things and takes a huge part of the sting out of stuff it doesn't kill. The -2 is what holds this card back from being a powerhouse. While a fine ability it comes with many issues. Early game you will generally be relying on hitting something to bring back with the self mill, miss or get something useless and you haven't done much of much. Late game it will have huge value however it will start to get dangerous on the self mill, you might be fearful of losing cards you need or just outright decking yourself. Further to this you need a selection of creatures in your deck in the first place for the -2 to have any chance of doing anything. Despite the +1 being pretty good for a control deck I don't expect to see much of this in control as they need their cards and have relatively few dorks. The +2 does scale nicely with flashback, delve and other graveyard themed mechanics but the overlap of such cards is such that you are rarely having enough to make Liliana worth playing on the merits of her -2 alone. Her -7 is very powerful but hard to get to with low starting loyalty and just a +1 to grow from. Her -7 is also fairly slow to actually win a game or indeed have a vast impact on things. You could get it off and still lose a race or be so behind that you never start gaining zombie momentum. She is weak in and against creature light decks. You need to be able to make use of both the +1 and the -2 on her for her to excel and to do this you both need to be having dorks. I think she will be very solid in the unpowered cube and in draft but I think she will be less commonly seen in the more constructed types of event.

Deploy the Gatewatch 1

White gets a kindof Collected Company for planeswalkers. The thing is, even hitting 7 instead of 4 cards, you need a hell of a lot of walkers in a deck for this to get value. A deck with 13 planeswalkers is not a thing. Certainly not a good thing. You can still get this working with far fewer planeswalkers with good use of cards like Brainstorm, Scroll Rack and Vampiric Tutor however at that point we are looking at a pretty narrow card indeed. You would still likely need 6 or so walkers and that is really pushing it. This can hit pretty good, you can get Ugin and Nicol Bolas in theory which is quite the return on mana! Even just a couple of 4 mana walkers is still a huge tempo swing for you. It doesn't even really lack the instant that much, it would be nice for sure but you really want your walkers to arrive as soon as possible and on your main phase. Very much a build around me card but in cube this inspires no good reason to use it. It is not enough power to merit building around and doing so may well make such an awful deck that you are much better off not trying to deploy the gatewatch.

Selfless Soul 7.5

This is exactly the thing white weenie needed to start gaining some ground back in the midrange heavy cube at present. I want to rate it higher it is just a little too dull for that. Basically this is Wrath protection but it comes in a really convenient form. A 2/1 flier for two can come down on curve and get on with beating down fairly reliably. You can use it to counter spot removal or to make better trades in combat but mostly you are going to find it is the first thing killed, like a Spellskite but a proactive one. Basically if you have creatures and they are your main plan towards victory then this is going to be a card you will consider strongly. Combined with Mother of Runes it is going to be a nightmare. The thing that kept Spellskite and the standard bearer style cards of old Invasion block in check is their inability to provide any offensive utility. Selfless Soul is cheap, has enough power to be relevant and fair for the cost in an aggressive sense and then it has strong evasion! A real winner. You can't even overextend into an Arc Trail with this! So good. Toxic Deluge and other non-destroy removal are still not covered by Selfless Soul but as of now this card is my go to two drop for a white weenie deck. I reckon I will find myself playing it in all sorts of other decks too, the 1W cost is a real blessing here opening up a lot of potential for the card.

Incendiary Flow 7.5

This card seems to be getting some flak from the community because they feel they have been ripped off considering Incinerate. This seems like a poor comparison to me. Exile is >>> bury (or for you spring chickens "destroy without the possibility of regeneration"). There are very few good regenerating creatures in the cube. There are few good regenerating dorks period. Those that exist are either things like River Boa and Spectral Lynx which are not so serious that you have to deal with them or cards like Thrun where targeted burn is of no help. Regenerate is a somewhat overcost ability in magic. It is very easy to just destroy those cards if they tap out. Basically all this is me just saying that Incinerate is better than Searing Spear and Lightning Strike more as a result of the artwork than the bonus effect.

Exile on the other hand is a huge deal and gets a lot of work done in basically every matchup. When you aren't hitting things like Kitchen Finks with it you are still reducing the value of any recursion effects they have, any delve they might have and so on. All the best removal is exile and a lot of the best creatures are ones you really want to exile. Terminate isn't a card I often have in my cube while Declaration in Stone is already a mainstay, the comparison isn't quite so pure but it does demonstrate the value of exile. Incendiary Flow is not a sorcery speed Incinerate, it is much more of a Pillar of Flame kind of card. It is in fact to Pillar of Flame what Searing Spear is to Shock. Now, Searing Spear is a whole lot better than Shock generally. I don't run Shock in the cube and haven't for many years yet I have all three of Incinerate, Searing Spear and Lightning Strike. I also have way more one mana burn spells than I do two mana burn spells. All this is to say that Incediary Flow is an auto include for cube. It solves a lot of problems red has and it does so without costing you much at all. It gives you some redundancy in the exile role and feels like it loses less for the exile effect than Pillar of Flame does. It rounds out the burn options in red very nicely with two drop burn having plenty enough instant cards already. It is near impossible to say categorically that exile is better than being instant or the other way around. Instant is convenient, it is what you want on your removal and burn but it isn't essential for a card to be playable. Exile will periodically give immense swings in the game when it lands on those key creatures. Even if instant does turn out to perform better on average I suspect this will be the first single target 2 mana burn spell in any non-control deck. The rarity of good exile effects in red combined with the swing potential of the card make it seem like a no brainer to me. I only write a review this long because I am surprised other people are not as on board with this card as me. I had Volcanic Hammer in the cube for some time when I first put it together! Two mana for three damage to any target it very playable. Add to that the highly desirable exile for free and you have a highly desirable card.

Crypt Breaker 8

This is exactly the card black has been aching for. Blacks big problem in a midrange cube is having really poor scaling one drops. There are some things like Carnophage, some of the worst aggressive one drops still in the cube. Then there are things like Gravecrawler, pretty good but incredibly linear. Lastly you have the discard, the foundations of black. Great early game but limited in number compared to mana elves, burn spells and card quality and worse than all of them past turn three or so. Black needs cheap cards it can do things with early that still promise to do useful things with later on as well. The kind of card you can play in an aggressive deck but primarily one for midrange lists. Guul Draz Assassin was the closest to this (excluding the powerhouse Deathrite Shaman) black has on offer and it is really slow and vulnerable.

Crypt Breaker is a 1/1, this makes him pretty limp in combat. You are ideally playing him towards the end of your curve if you are pushing tempo rather than value. With a 2 mana activated ability there is a good chance that you will do nothing with this guy at all in the early stages of the game when you have more powerful or important things to spend mana on. As a one drop he is pretty easy to squeeze out for free while you curve out as best you can. In a full on zombie deck he will benefit from all the lord effects and will be much more of a threat on the board. Zombies is an OK tribe as it is and this card will improve it fairly significantly but it is plenty good enough to be playing with no tribal synergy at all.

I would be more inclined towards running this with a discard theme than a zombies theme. There are many more reasons to want to discard things than there are to play zombies! There are lots of very good cards in the cube that benefit from discard mechanics as well as several distinct archetypes. For pure discard Crypt Breaker is slow and pricey however it has some strong utility to make up for this. I wouldn't run it in my black Reanimate deck over something like Buried Alive or Liliana of the Veil or even a Zombie Infestation however if I wanted to also run Recurring Nightmare suddenly the Crypt Breaker looks juicy again. Even without things you actively want to discard black is such a clunky colour that having an option on ditching a narrow or expensive card and spending two mana to do something rather than just waste it is a pretty huge deal. This card gives black action and options early without paying for it in other ways.

Llanowar Mentor is a comparable kind of activated effect and body while being probably a fair bit more powerful than Crypt Breaker's activated. Mentor doesn't see play though because it is a bit too slow and fiddly. Late game a bunch of 1/1s don't do a lot. It is the third ability that makes Crptybreaker a real eye opener. Without it Crypt Breaker would only see play in discard and/or zombie themed decks. As he stands I suspect he will find a place in most black based decks regardless of their need to discard stuff. In our Llanowar Mentor comparison it is like you just get a free Heritage Druid effect bolted on! Again, with just the tap 3 zombies to draw a card effect the Crypt Breaker would only be playable in zombie tribal decks but the fact that there are some decent zombies kicking about in the cube combined with the fact that this guy generates his own makes for a fairly effective card draw engine.

Yes, it comes on a 1/1 so it is easily dealt with but if they are forced into using good removal on your one drops then happy days. Odds on you already got a card or a zombie for a card you wanted in the bin or at least had no use for. You are able to hold the Breaker back and flop it out when it is the third zombie so as to get instant draw. You can draw multiple cards if you have a massive board of zombies. This isn't going to be as rare as it sounds, in midrange cubes often things stalemate with massive boards facing each other down. With cards like Grave Titan, Kalitas, Liliana's and many more spewing out zombies with ease  I can totally envisage Crypt Breaker top decks being comparable to Ancestral Recall top decks! I am excited to play with this card and excited for black. It opens up the colour in several ways at once and offers the things black lacks most. This card has received an 8 which is typically only reserved for bomb cards. This is far from a bomb card, it is incredibly fair and balanced. It is fairer than Grim Lavamancer for sure. The reason it is worthy of such a high rating is the play I expect it to get. It is supply and demand hiking up the ratings, black only had the highly contested Deathrite Shaman to fill out the low end with and now it has twice as much. In much the same way that I think Emrakul, the Promised end will be the number one card for rating times converted mana cost I think Crypt Breaker is the lowest power per rating card card I deem to be an auto include (about 6.5 rating and up for the auto includes). It is certainly the lowest power 8+ rated card.

Lashweed Lurker 3

Decent enough but sufficiently narrow and fair to be of limited excitement. Green has loads of chaff it can sac off to reduce the cost of this and the effect is lovely, sometimes even a Time Walk. You can realistically fire this out on turn three if you have a turn one mana elf and a three drop to follow. This would be very potent if at all consistent. What I expect to happen a lot more is that you draw it turn for or five without enough mana to emerge it with your chaff. You will have to put relevant things in the bin to cast it midgame and that makes it far less exciting. The 5/4 body isn't that useful as late game bodies and finishers go. Temporal Spring is great but at card parity it becomes Boomerang and that just makes this a big fat gold Man O' War. It doesn't really solve any problems and it doesn't really create any. As such I don't see it having a place. I give it a speculative 3 as emerge may well have some strong utility and blue and green are some of the more likely colours for that to be the case in. If you just want dorks with emerge then this is a well rounded one that will always be relevant.

Mercurial Geists 1

This is really poo. You pay a whole extra mana over Dragonauts or Nivix Cyclops for  limited gain. The kinds of deck that want to abuse this form of prowess dork want cheap stuff like Kiln Fiend that it can flop out quick and start to threaten with right away. Sure, this card can hit for 10 with pretty good odds in the right deck but it is very narrow and is a gold 4 drop with 3 toughness that does nothing when you make it. It even does basically nothing the turn after unless you have some cards in hand and a deck designed for it.

Mournwillow 5.5

Oh look, an example of the power creep not creeping! This is basically just Dreg Mangler number two. Three power three mana haste dorks are really good. Both this and Dreg Mangler are better than Boggart Ram Gang and that card see so much play. A bit of a misleading statement there as Gruul typically is much more aggressive than Golgari and is happy to take a weaker card that is on theme. The delirium effect will probably come up about as often as the scavenge effect, perhaps slightly more frequently but still very much infrequently overall. The delirium effect is more situational than the scavenge but it is more on theme with a 3 power 3 mana haste dork and can have a much more meaningful impact on the game. Despite the better effect the Mournwillow is the weaker card as 2 toughness is vastly weaker than 3. This will trade with 1 drops against aggro decks, it will die to all the limp removal. On curve it is getting a whole lot less done than Dreggy, it is only really better when it is the last card you play. Powerwise this is plenty good enough for cube but being gold in a pairing highly contested I am not sure how much A cube time this will wind up having. A lot will come down to what the best directions to take Golgari decks are, if it is control and midrange than likely this will sit in the B cube. If aggro starts to shine then this will be a firm A.

Minds Dilation 1

Not quite unplayable as it is pretty powerful and not impossible to get into play. Mostly this is a Commander/EDH card, I certainly won't be playing it in cube. Just the thought of my misery post making a seven drop do nothing when my opponent exiles a land or just doesn't cast anything and continues to kick your head in with their board is far too much to take.

Mirrorwing Dragon 4

This is a very cool card design. If they go to kill your guy they are likely going to kill all of theirs as well. If they don't kill your guy you have a 4/5 flier in play which will do some work at just that. Further to that if you have some kind of pump to hand then you have a pretty serious Overrun machine. Titan's Strength sounds like a lot of damage and scrying. Reckless Charge sounds like total death! Brute Strength, Rush of Strength or Colossal Might I guess are probably the best best way to go for using this as a kill card for reliable old trample. Become Immense and Berserk sounds like a pile of fun too! Needing to play instant/sorcery pump effects to make this good does rather make it the narrow card. It is not like it has hexproof, your opponent can still kill it and very easily should they have nothing much of their own they care about. They might even be able to wreak you using a card like Path to Exile, Declaration in Stone or Lightning Helix where turning all their dorks into lands, cards or life is the best way to go about winning the game. Sadly the bar for top end fliers in red is pretty darn high. This has little impact that turn if made on curve and it is a very slow card all round if you don't have support in both dorks in play and pump cards to use. As a card that requires support to excel this seems a bit too far off the mark for much in the way of regular cube use.

Grim Flayer 6.5

Now this rating is heavily affected by this card being a two colour card in addition to it not being an auto include in the majority of decks in those colours. Despite a mere 6.5 this card is truly exceptional. It has synergy with itself and loads of other good cards and mechanisms. It does a lot for the mana without further investment and is just one of the most high power two drops going. Other than colour making it narrow, the largest concern for this card is when you make him early without delirium and really want to connect with face for the trigger. In such situations a mere 2/2 is getting blocked and killed most of the time, perhaps just killed! In this regard he has much in common with Pain Seer. Without a decent amount of removal, or some combat tricks you are not that reliably getting Flayer through as a 2/2 and therefore are not getting enough out of the card. The trample will be annoying for blocking and will rule out a lot of 2/1 solo blocks but still, this is not a great 2 drop in a lot of matchups unless you have the support for it. If he is the support so to speak then he probably isn't doing as much as you hope either.

In any sort of tempo based Golgari deck I would want this card, even if it has low odds of connecting with face when a 2/2 you have a really good shot at winning the game when they don't have an answer on time. In this regard he is like Goblin Lackey, or more realistically Warren Instigator. Another perk of Grim Flayer than offsets his only functional drawback is that his delirium effect is static. You can gain delirium instantly and as such you are able to represent like you have a combat trick. Mana up with most of the way towards delirium and you might be able to wreak their blocks. As such your opponents will need to respect this potential even if it is relatively low likelihood.

Not only can Grim Flayer be a dangerous card when made early but he scales well into the late game unlike things like Goblin Lackey. A late game 4/4 trample isn't game ending levels of good but it is significant for sure, especially for a mere two mana. Lone Rider can probably be a 4/4 more reliably than this, it comes with first strike and lifelink as well and is just one colour yet I didn't rave about it much at all. Obviously what makes Flayer so exciting all round is the trigger on doing face damage. I value a scry at about a third of a card (draw) and worth about one mana. This is almost always better than scry 3 as it works with all the many many graveyard synergies that exist. I would say that every connect is worth about a card plus a couple of mana, I certainly prefer it to the trigger from Sword of Feast and Famine! It may not feel like all that much as you are not getting actual stuff, it is all quality based and therefore mostly only as good as the choices you make. Dark Confidant fills up your hand, Lotus Cobra gives you actual mana to cast big things. Grim Flayer just ensures you draw the cards you want next turn, it ensures your cards that are best off in the graveyard rather than drawn will be in the graveyard, it ensures you perfectly hit all your Courser of Kruphix triggers. Grim Flayer digs deep enabling you top hit specific cards you need with greater odds than most. When Grim Flayer is connecting it is doing a lot more work for you than a Dark Confidant would in that situation. This is a huge card to push tempo Golgari decks and has some nice other things in this set to go with it. Even if it doesn't end up being consistent enough for the A cube I expect I will still see a lot of this guy getting a lot of play in a good range of decks. I expect to see a lot of alters for this card using Ramsey Boltons mugshot too.

Permeating Mass 1

Very cool design again but not really what we are looking for in cube. A cheap deathtouch monster probably does the job of this better. This isn't good enough as an offensive card and it is too slow and unreliable as a defensive one. I do love the idea of an aggressive player pushing for the win into one of these and slowly having their army turned into 1/3s but much more for flavour terms than any sort of strategic thing. I kind of feel like I might be missing a trick with this card so I haven't given it a flat 0 but still...

Reveler of Chaos 6

Well well well. So best case scenario we have something that is just outright more powerful than Ancestral Recall! That is of course a RR 3/4 prowess plus drawing three cards. The other end of the spectrum is as awful as it would have to be to balance quite how insane it can be. An 8 mana 3/4 prowess with discard four of your own cards! Even in a deck with no synergy at all, and just horribly built it will never be the worst case scenario. If you have 8 mana and 8 cards and you can't come up with a better thing to do than the worst case Choas Reveler then someone has had a very impressive backdraft indeed! Just putting in random red cards or red and blue cube cards then using the modo add lands feature I expect this card would actually perform pretty reasonably. I think you could expect to cast it for 5 mana and draw one or two cards with it on average. Five mana 3/4 prowess with draw 1.5 cards sounds fine, not exciting but fine and this is a more realistic worse case scenario. If we roughly go somewhere between best case and realistic worst case I imagine we won't be miles off the average performance of this card when used in a deck reasonably tailored to work with it. The lower end of that is a 4 mana draw 2 with 3 mana draw 3 not being that unreasonable an expectation. Now, that makes the card sound nutty good and it isn't quite as nutty good as all that. It has much the same issues as Avaricious Dragon in that you really want it to be the last or one of the last cards you play out from your hand. This not only means you deck needs to be cheap and proactive but it also has poor synergy with quite a lot of other similar late game high scaling cards like Fireblast and Treasure Cruise. Even when you do play the Reveler for 2 mana it won't ever be on turn two, it will still be somewhat of a five drop even when you have a pretty perfect draw for it. Aggressive cheap proactive decks really are not big fans of cards that they have to hold onto. With the new scry mulligans having this in your opener will be worse than taking a mulligan in terms of your performance over the first crucial four turns of the game. Yes, it will make up a lot of ground for you when you do get to cast it but it is generally nicer to just have the tempo and control and options early so that you don't need to recover.

Reveler of Chaos does have some potential synergy with graveyard effects but that seems rather too much and a little forced. You already need such a high instant and sorcery count in your deck for it to perform well that having some sort of recursion theme on top sounds dodgy. It is much harder to employ synergy with discarded things when you have to ditch your whole hand. You can't hold a reanimate spell back while tossing the big threat for example. I think therefore this card is incredibly narrow. I can only see it being played in Izzet Prowess and the very aggressive burn heavy red decks. As these are two of the better and more common archetypes in cube I think this guy gets a slot but his heavy requirements do concern me.Certainly both interesting and powerful. I would have to have a practically non-existent instant/sorcery count in my deck before I chose to play Avaricious Dragon over this and that card is fine.

Nahiri's Wrath 6

This set keeps delivering for power. This is one of the most powerful and effective Wrath of God's I have ever seen. It is cheap like Toxic Deluge and it hits planeswalkers like some of the six mana ones! To offset these two extreme perks the card has two weaknesses for balance. One is that the removal is damage based (and targetted) which means most of the protection mechanisms in the cube will allow dorks to survive it. Protection from spells, protection from red, hexproof, shroud, regenerate, indestructible and I am sure there are some more. This isn't the end of the world for just a creature wrath if it is going to be just the 3 mana! Most mass removal effects struggle with some of these things. The big sting for Nahiri's Wrath is that you are always going to be at least one card down on the whole transaction. With actual Wrath of God you get increasing value the more things of theirs that it hits, it forces people not to over extend into it. With Nahiri's Wrath you need to lose a card per target so the more targets they have the more chance there is you simply wont have enough stuff or at least expendable stuff to wipe it all out. You can't really over extend into Nahiri's Wrath. It may get more mana efficient but it never improves in card efficiency. Against a midrange deck trying to curve out with one increasingly good card per turn Nahiri's Wrath will be outstanding. Against control decks that play more planeswalkers than creatures it will be far better than a conventional Wrath. It is against aggressive decks where it is weakest but it is still a Wrath and it will still do reasonable work for you, it will just be really painful comparing it to Pyroclasm in that situation instead...

The actual issue for this card is which decks will play it. Not many red decks have want of Wrath and discard effects and generally have a surplus of somewhat high CMC cards in hand to toss away. It is fair to say that it works incredibly well with the new massive Choas Reveler thing, particularly so in constructed where you can offset the negative impact of running multiple copies. Midrange red is becoming more viable and cards like this will help that a lot. In RG ramp decks cards are much more the issue than mana and so I expect I would play alternate red mass removal. This leaves Izzet control as the only current archetype I can think where I would really want such a card. I guess that and a Welder style red deck after more good discard outlets. Loads of potential in this card, loads of power but again, well balanced to not just be an auto include in loads of places. Generally not close to as good or reliable as Toxic Deluge however it has some potential in many places and roles you wouldn't necessarily expect a Wrath effect in. This opens up red quite well, I don't expect it to see all that much cube play initially but I expect over time it will find homes and archetypes.

Sickening Dreams and Firestorm have some similarities to this and have been used in discard themed decks historically as ways of controlling things a little without cutting into your synergies too much. Nahiri's Wrath is far better against planeswalkers and also fatter creatures, it has better odds on killing the serious stuff you need most dead. Both Firestorm and Sickening Dreams are far too narrow for the drafting cube as things stand and so this doesn't bode brilliantly for Nahiri's Wrath however the card is different enough that it needs quite a bit of testing.

Fortunes Favour 0

Meh. This mildly offends me. I'd accept a 5 card split with this face down pile nonsense but to make it directly worse than Fact or Fiction on two accounts is really off. Fact or Fiction isn't what it was. You can't spend 4 mana to do nothing at all to the tempo of the game until you have survived to at least turn 6. There are better ways of gaining card advantage, either less mana investment or less tempo cost. Fact or Fiction sees barely any play these days, if it isn't better draw effects taking its spot it is planeswalkers and cards that do things that are not just drawing. This should cost 3, then it would be very exciting, I would be eager to play fun mind games with the split, that aspect, despite being a nerf on FoF, is a high skill gimmick which I would like on a half playable card. This will probably still see a bunch of standard play and reaffirm Wizards incorrect notion of what balanced card draw is. Lets print a set with several creatures that can outperform Ancestral Recall but then take a massive dump over some spells that weren't even OP when all the dorks sucked super hard. Rant over, enjoy your mystery piles standard players.

Dark Salvation 0

Just too much mana for the effect all the way up the X curve. This needed to be instant and have some ability to split the -1/-1 counters around the place before it is up to the cube level of potency. Even then it would be pretty unlikely to see play.

Spell Queller 7

What naughtiness do we have here? A Mystic Snake? For less mana? With a much better body? In a better colour pairing? With less intense colour requirements? And Arguably a better counter effect? This seems pretty nuts. Yes, I skipped over the bit where they get their spell back when this leaves play but that isn't nearly as good as it sounds. It is far less of an issue with spells than it is with permanents. Although not directly comparable as one is general disruption and the other reactive removal this feels vastly better than a Detention Sphere. It will do more when you make it and be less catastrophic if dealt with. This is probably necessary as creatures are far easier to deal with than enchantments but still, if the risk is too great the probability of its occurrence matters less. Reflector Mage has been a house in cube and this feels better than that too and probably more along the same lines.

So why is a spell coming back not generally as problematic? Counterspells hit with this will likely have no targets and fizzle. Other removal will have a chance to fizzle if events change and you have the power to work events such that the spell in question is of limited use when it revolves. You can obviously still hit spells that would make permanents, this is good too. Compared to the Detention Sphere you only risk the expected single trigger of any enters the battlefield effect rather than the devastating two! It is a huge tempo swing whatever you hit. A 3 mana 2/3 flash flier isn't that bad on its own!

Exile is also rather nice even if not permanently. It means you can counter uncounterable things and more importantly it means they have no way to access that card or make use of its remains until the deal with the Queller. You counter something with a Mystic Snake or even an Actual Counterspell and it isn't nearly quite so gone as you would often like. There is the final limitation of the card only hitting <5 CMC cards, this is most things in cube. This is such a tempo swing you are going to use it first opportunity to do so most of the time. Every deck will have targets, most decks will be predominantly targets. It is a mild nerf to the card, it keeps it from being totally nuts but doesn't come close to stop it being really good. I expect to see this in most Azorius decks.