Tuesday 2 August 2016

Winners and Losers from Eldritch Moon

Curious Homunculus
Curious Homonculus - good but not as good as hoped: 6.5 to 5.5

Voracious ReaderIn an aggressive setting this card suffers much of the same problems as Thing in the Ice. Not so much that it is a horrible late game top deck like Thing but that it can sit around and not do enough quickly enough. The kinds of aggressive deck that generally want to play this have relatively few instants and sorceries that cost any colourless mana at all, with so many being one drops. The ramp it offers aggressive decks is too slow and way too situational to be worth the card. Really what you have here is a two drop 3/4 prowess that ever so occasionally gives you a mana discount on stuff. This is why you play it in aggressive decks and at that it would be very very good. The problem is that it doesn't come down as a 3/4 but a 1/1 and has to survive a whole turn like that without doing any useful blocking. In addition to this it is incredibly hard to have it flipped and attacking on turn three. I assume you can fire off some instants with the trigger on the stack to get your count up to 3 which makes it easier to do but not wildly efficient. Whatever the case, it is better to consider this more like a Serra Avenger, a card you can't do a lot with before turn 4. The other balance on the card is that you need to play a lot of instants and sorceries, this suits the prowess deck well but leaves most other aggressive lists unable to house it. I suspect it will perform better in a control deck where the ramp aspect will be far more relevant. For prowess decks it is fine filler but a little to awkward and fair to be a must have. With that in mind it does need to be a pretty strong card in control lists to remain a cube mainstay but I am still fairly hopeful for it there.

Thermo-AlchemistThermo-Alchemist - Far exceeding expectations: 4 to 6.5

There seems to be two homes for this card, both aggressive red decks. Those being RDW and prowess. The card is very fair but does perform a specific task well while helping out a little in some other ways. It is not as good as Stormchaser Mage, it is less robust, less damage and a less useful defensive card in several ways. That said, it is still pretty playable. On the offense it is at worst a 1/3 with unblockable and in the right deck is hitting for more like 2 or 3 a turn. Call it 2 and you have an unblockable 2/3 for 1R, pretty decent. In the spell heavy decks it is far more important to have heavy, robust or evasive threats, things like Stromkirk Noble can be better than Firedrinker Satyr. With less creatures you have more odds on those you do have being killed or blocked. The two power three drop flying haste phoenix see a lot of play in these kinds of decks as acceptable filler cards because they perform all those roles. The thing is Thermo Alchemist is a whole mana less! Alchemist also doubles up as a wall. Being able to leave him untapped until the last minute means you can block with him leading to a pseudo-vigilance effect. Obviously without any power he isn't a scary blocker but he can still absorb one or two damage a turn. This makes him a pretty good race card, they have to race as your damage is unstoppable but you have a bonus blocker. The card is not the fastest, it is not the hardest hitting nor it is the most abusable but it does everything you want a card like this to do. Boros decks won't play it if they can avoid it as they tend to be far too creature heavy to have the Alchemist be much more than a ping each turn.

Collective Brutaility - outperforming expecatation so far: 6 to 6.5

Collective Brutality
The first cast in my cube for this card was a solitary Syphon Life for my opponents last remaining two life. When a card shines on its first outing I tend to be fond of that card and a little bias in its favour going forwards. I have only played the card twice, once it was in a reanimator style deck where you want the discard. That was the only kind of place I thought this card was playable. Certainly it is the best place for it but I am not so convinced that you only want it in that kind of deck. What I found was that having this in hand made me feel really safe regardless of what I was against. Versus the control mages I essentially had a Duress with some utility and for the aggressive decks I had a Disfigure plus some utility. With that kind of combo deck a little spanner in the works like either of those one mana spells is often enough of an edge to take down the game. This is more so the case when you get to enable your combo with discard should you need. Just having a Duress/Disfigure split card is pretty ideal for a lot of decks tight on spots. The card suffers in the way a lot of the charms do for being low value for mana when you use one effect however you have the power to change that should you have things to pitch and the situation is appropriate. Certainly not as powerful or playable as Kolghans Command but closer to it than I had expected. The second deck I played it in what an Orzhov weenie deck containing a few things like Bloodghast I was happy to pitch and a few other cards with hellbent style effects meaning I was far happier pitching things in the list than your normal aggro deck but didn't need to at all like the reanimator decks. I also had a Land Tax filling me up on discard fuel! Unsurprisingly the card performed very well with all that synergy and afforded a lot of options. As the card is so cheap the swing in power from when you play it when discarding things from your hand is a cost to when discarding things is a mild perk or just no cost is vast. It goes from being comparable to Izzet Charm to being much more like the good end of Arc Trail. This should be a mainstay in combo / synergy heavy cubes and is still a viable consideration in the more midrange cubes.

UnsubstantiateUnsubstantiate - suprisingly effective: 6 to 6.5

I wasn't convinced about this having enough power to stay in the cube at first but I am coming round to the card. It is great for being a good tempo tool regardless of your matchup. If you are an aggressive deck and were considering playing something like a Cyclonic Rift then this is almost certainly better. You have to play it like you would a bounce spell and not in the place of a Remand. Always having a card cost to playing it means you have to account for that card disadvantage within your deck design. There are plenty of decks that cannot afford to go zero for one just to gain a bit of tempo. As with Collective Brutality the real strength of this card is it being concise and convenient. It disrupts most things and at a reasonable cost. Against control it will force something through and against aggro it will buy you some time. Although Unsubstantiate is relatively low power and broadly what I would class as a filler card the fact that it fulfills so many roles makes it pretty good. Venser, Shaper Savant is a good cube card. He offers loads of utility some reasonable tempo and potential value. Certainly he gets played a lot because you want bodies with come into play effects however he does get played for being a rounded disruption effect where the 2/2 is usually just a chump. In such situations you are pretty much playing Snapcaster Mage plus Unsubstantiate. The cost split is near 2 and 2 for the two aspects of Venser. Cube being a cheap and powerful format it is generally the case that you want the cheapest card that does the thing you want. My point is basically that because Venser is so playable Unsubstantiate should obviously be playable. When you want the option on slowing down their stuff whatever it might be then Unsubstantiate is the cheapest and safest way to go. Yes, you don't get to have all the funky creature synergies nor do you get to Boomerang, only Unsummon, but it is half the cost of your Venser!

Wharf Infiltrator
Wharf Infiltrator - far far worse: 6.5 to 3

It wasn't he card so much I overvalued as the skulk mechanic. This is the first skulk card I have properly played with and my god does skulk blow. This gets blocked by everything, walls, mana dorks, utility dorks, tokens, all the stuff that you really don't want blocking you. For the record, if you want a Looter, never play this, play Merfolk Looter or the human one. Even the one with no evasion and prowess trumps this! The creature discard effect applies to all your discards and so the spell still has some utility there but that was never part of the reason this might be a good card.

Decimator of Provinces
 - a bit weaker but mostly because I didn't understand it properly: 7.5 - 6.5

(did a separate card spotlight for this)

Lone RiderLone Rider - simply unplayable: 5 to 1 at best

Not actually played it, just opened it in a sealed pool with good white weenie options and a lot of incidental life gain. Obviously the card was just going to be pure awful in that pretty optimal deck, it had a pathetic chance of flipping and you don't go round playing 2 mana 1 power beaters in cube! The only chance this ever has of seeing play is in some silly Serra Ascendant, Ajani Pridemate, Martyr of Sands stupidity!

Niblis of Frost - rather clunky: 7 to 6 at best.

Niblis of FrostPerhaps I am not yet using this right but I fear straight up Dungeon Geists may be the better card much of the time. This is either at least a 5 drop or it does nothing when you make it. At for mana sorcery speed no action right away is hard to play and not fall behind or risk some cheap blowout. At five it is painfully slow. Control decks are not well suited to playing it as their spells are not ones you can cast at will. Midrange is unlikely to have a high enough count of instants and sorceries to keep this doing things and prowess style decks do not love cards that cost more than a couple of mana. The card is still fine, it is an annoying flier that isn't too out of place in any midrange, control or aggro list. It just doesn't excel in the way I had hoped within the prowess deck.

Bedlam Reveler - also clunky! 6 to 5.5

Bedlam RevelerWithin the prowess deck this is likely better than Niblis of Frost but it does suffer many of the same issues. Pricey, hard to find a suitable time to cast, bad in your opening hand, awful in screws, uncomfortable in floods! Basically I slightly overestimated where this card would sit on average along its power range. This is not too unreasonable as it has to be one of the very highest ranges on any magic card. What makes this probably a little better than Niblis is that it also has a home in the super aggressive red decks while Niblis is just filler outside of prowess. Great cards with only a couple of homes tend to see more love than generic cards that are just OK in loads of places when higher up the curve.

Cryptbreaker - evry bit as good as expected! still an 8!

This will probably fall a little eventually but I am still in the honeymoon period with this little card. I have only cast this a few times still. The feel of the card was closer to Pack Rat than I expected but all round better. Pack Rat is so all in when you go for it while Cryptbreaker is far from that being that much cheaper and being able to return back card investment. If you make two zombies then draw two cards you are actually getting card quality as you would from a looter. You can play very safely with Cryptbreaker around wraths avoiding getting yourself be put as too much of a disadvantage. It is not the fastest nor dose it offer anywhere near the board power of Pack Rat but it is a far better card all round. You don't need other zombies, you don't need discard synergy, Cryptbreaker is still a fine card. Obviously either of those things improve the card but that just makes the card even better! Against a deck with limited removal I could totally see myself keeping this and six lands. Not many cards you can say that about. On the other end of the spectrum I could imagine keeping a hand with 2 lands, this and a pile of unplayable top end. That is the real sign of a good card, when it solves problems at either end of the spectrum.

Grapple with the PastGrapple with the Past - also just as good as hoped! 7 still

Yup, this is still Impulse plus Regrowth. I keep just putting it in every deck with green in it. It makes you feel safe early as you are going to hit lands. It makes you feel safe late because you can get back your important and relevant threats. In a midrange cube where creatures dominate this card is a total mainstay and is straight up better than Regrowth. In a more combo style powered cube this does fall off a bit as just getting lands and creatures greatly reduces its application and thus the number of decks that might want it. Almost all cubes have green able to make big fat things type decks and this will always be a fine card in them meaning this will crop up in a lot of cube lists. Being so boring it might take a little while for it to catch on as a powerhouse but probably not. The magic community is a savvy one!

Extricator of SinExtricator of Sin - a lot narrower than exepcted: 6 to 4

Not bad by any means but sadly rather on the narrow side. White is one of the least flexible colours and has real difficulty getting anywhere near delirium. Without a decent amount of synergy this card is unplayable and that means it is likely not for most drafting cubes. In a typical white aggressive deck you are not going to want to put anything in the bin for your 3/2, even a token. You don't have the luxury of wasting resources as the white aggressor. The only places you can sensibly play this are those that want to sacrifice specific things or those that have stuff like Bloodghast, Flagstones of Trokair etc. The power level of this card in such decks is high but those decks are relatively uncommon and the power level of the Extricator is not enough to offset its narrowness.

Scour the LaboratoryScour the Laboratory - reasonably on the money, perhaps a little conservative: 5.5 to 5.5+

Not blowing any minds but getting played and considered for play far more than expected. I have recently expanded my cube by about 100 cards and this means some generic playable redundancy is welcome. White got most of its one drop 2/1s back, red got basically all the Shocks bar shock itself back etc so as to keep the rations of core components of the colour pie appropriate. Scour has done a great job of providing a bit of Fact or Fiction like redundancy. I expect if my cube were 500 or fewer cards that Scour would have had a lot less attention.

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