Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Kaladesh Initial Review Part I

Saheeli's Artistry 1/10

Doubling up on a Phyrexian Metalmorph should you have the right targets is OK for six mana but not the direction you want to take clone cards in. They are already situational and clunky and this six mana offering is just making that issue worse. The potential extra value is not worth that extra cost. You are ahead when you clone a good target, having to find another target and wait a bit longer is not a benefit.

Inventor's Fair 3.5/10

Not exactly super exciting or powerful but certainly good enough to see play in plenty of cube archetypes. Any artifact based combo deck or even something like affinity where there is a low coloured mana requirement in the deck will be fairly happy to paly this.  A bit of free life is nice and that late game value will be the difference in some longer or closer games. Too narrow for most drafting cubes but a bit too much free value to miss out on for some of the more constructed style decks.

Ovalchase Dragster 2?

So here we have the new vehicle card type in a sort of Ball Lightning guise. Vehicles strike me as being somewhere between equipment and something more akin to manlands. They are like threats that evade a lot of the removal that hits creatures but that require an investment to turn on so to speak. This is where they are like manlands. They are like equipment in that they need creatures in play to do anything but they enhance your attack capacity. Generally I prefer vehicles to equipment just from a conceptual position. Not having to spend mana to equip is huge, the risk factor with playing equipment is a bit of an issue in cube. Also being able to crew with creatures that have summoning sickness is a big deal too. It means you can eat mass removal but still immediately get in with your vehicle. The trade off for crew being so much better than equip is that the vehicles must go into combat and can be blocked and killed like creatures. You must also crew each attack rather than the more permanent equip.

While I very much like the idea of vehicles I am not sure this one is quite the thing for cube. It is very aggressive but costs 4 mana. This means it is competing with some really powerful finishers that are far more self contained. It is generally going to be blocked and killed making it less good than a Ball Lightning for the sorts of red decks that might play it. Decent reach and burst for a white weenie deck I guess but I still think they have better options in the four slot. With this little of the spoiler out I can't rule this out as a viable cube card but it is all a bit fair from what I can see. What I will say for sure is that any playable vehicles coming into the cube will greatly improve the value of inspire cards, defenders with power,  perhaps even the untap mechanic will be worth revisiting! Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast just got a bit better too with synergies working both ways between him and vehicles.

Saheeli Rai 5

My gut on this one is that she is most comparable to Domri Rade but slightly weaker all round for reasons not really related to the card itself. Domri Rade is much better as a result of green having one mana ramp cards to drop him down more reliably on turn two. Dack Fayden is also likely to eat into the playability of this card with him being more powerful, offering more synergy and occupying the exact same space in the deck.

A ping, a scry and a gain in loyalty is fine. It is rounded and decent enough value for a three mana walker while still being relevant in the places you might play this. Sadly it has really little impact, the ping is as slow as a clock gets and isn't even that big of deal when you start to get low. Scry is great but it takes a little while to take effect and as with the ping, does nothing to the board. This would be fine if Saheeli had a rounded and useful second ability but sadly she doesn't. For -2 you can copy something you own and have use of it for a turn. Best case scenario you get something like  a Wurmcoil Engine while having a sacrifice outlet or perhaps a Black Lotus for double the ramp! This however is really not what you should be expecting. Early game odds are all you are doing is getting to swing for another couple of damage which really isn't doing enough. You don't just need a board presence for it to do something useful you need either a really powerful board or quite a specific one for the -2 to be worthwhile.

The -7 is likely game winning but only if you are playing Saheeli in the right deck. Her -2 is situational rather than narrow, if you want to be able to consider the -7 as a relevant part of this card then she becomes narrow as well as situational. I can see Saheeli being good in some quite niche decks that run some more exotic artifacts to copy but I don't think she is at all exciting for anything else. That all being said you can't underestimate three mana planeswalkers. I didn't have much love for Domri Rade and I was wrong there. If bloodthirst were a significant thing in cube then Saheeli would be a decent enabler...

Aetherworks Marvel 4?

So..., energy. Glad to finally see something like this come to magic but really hope they do it well. Too cautious will be a waste but too heavy handed and it could overly warp the game. It will be hard to comment precisely about energy cards without having the complete set. That said, this is one of my favourites so far. The return on your energy can be scaled up very effectively with the Marvel. I can imagine some kind of combo deck where you use cards like Krark-Clan Ironworks or Zuran Orb to power up right away with this and cast yourself some bargain basement Emrakul cards. Due to how the Eldrazi cards were "fixed" for Reanimate and such cheat effects the value of casting cards for free is much greater than merely putting stuff into play with the best top end scaling and abuses on offer. You can absolutely make a viable and fairly consistent combo deck using this card and having it as the only energy source in the deck. That makes it playable but really narrow. For this to be something you could consider running in a normal drafting cube there will need to be lots of other playable energy cards that could help support it. Seems unlikely but fingers crossed.

Gonti, Lord of Luxury 5 or 6.5 depending on rules things

Big fan of this one. The wording on this one is confusing me a bit. It looks like you can still play the exiled card even if Gonti isn't still in play but this feels wrong! Either way I think it is playable in cube but it is pretty borderline if it has to be in play to use the spell while being pretty darn good if it doesn't need to be. Assuming you get to play the card this is a 2/3 deathtouch plus a spell. Reaonsable value putting it somewhere in the Acidic Slime, Venser and Solemn Simulacrum area. A good speed bump and value card. Gonti blocks very well and trades at worst with most stuff.

Generally I think the effect is significantly better than "draw a card" however there are some occasions that isn't strictly true. You can't hit and use lands with Gonti which is often times all you are really trying to do with these midgame value cards. Just tithe yourself over till you can drop a Grave Titan and own the game. Secondly, you are getting cards from your opponents deck and not yours making it unlikely to offer much in the way of synergy.

The reasons it is better than "draw a card" are more numerous and more potent! Firstly, you get to look at four cards. Impulse is a great card because choosing from four things is a lot better than getting one random one! Secondly, you get the potential to have access to stuff not available to your archetype or colours. Hitting that Disenchant effect as the black player as your only out will be a really satisfying way to win! Thirdly you get to know, for a time at least, which three cards your opponent does not have and will not be drawing which is always a comfort. Finally, you get to exile a card from their deck which can be game winning without ever needing to cast it yourself. Threat light control decks or a number of combo decks can fold to losing access to a key card. Lots of gas, lots of options and an exciting addition for black.

Depala, Pilot Exemplar 2

This is not the synergy tool we are looking for to make vehicles more viable in cube. Depala offers a lot but really she is a bit of a Trained Armadon. Not many dwarves in cube, probably not enough coming in from Kaladesh, the same with vehicles. Buffing them and digging for them is of little use when you don't have much to work with. Even if there were loads of playable of both this is still a very narrow card that isn't all that broken given the prerequisites it essentially has.

Skysovereign, Consul Flagship 6?

Presumably this will be near the top end we can expect from vehicles, the Batterskull if you will. There is much of the Inferno Titan about this card and that is no bad thing for a card you don't need to be red to use. I think this will see a fair amount of play in drafts as a good all round powerful midrange card. In more constructed events I think it will see little to no play without some specific abuses like Stoneforge Mystic. The crew cost on this card is far from insignificant and likely rules it out for use in any deck that doesn't have a decent creature count. Essentially I don't think control decks can realistically look to play this. That being said this is the complete package for ramping green decks. It survives a Wrath, Bolts down creatures and gives you some control of the skies. Perhaps this will make itself a secure home in such decks despite a wealth of other good green five drops.

Architect of the Untamed 3

The body is weak as is the energy use ability. What is less weak is the landfall energy gain mechanic which might be one of the more reliable and powerful ways to gain energy. I doubt this will be good but if there are some really juicy ways to spend energy there is a chance this is at least playable.

Start your Engines 0

Not exactly a cube card here! Too expensive for the creature buff and far too unlikely to get good value from having vehicles as well. Might be quite dangerous in limited with enough fabricate in red.

Speedway Fanatic 2

Giving vehicles haste seems too minor a thing to be interesting in cube. What we have here is a a 2/1 haste for 1R. Playable but far from good. I think I'll stick to Lightning Mauler.

Sky Siff 5?

It is always the cheap unassuming things that are the most powerful and as such this might well be the best vehicle. A 2/3 flier for 2 mana is great, having it tie up your creatures is inconvenient and perhaps prohibitive but equally it might be negligible. This card provides a lot of options for how you use your creatures. It should allow you to be more efficient with attacks and blocks in an interactive game but it will slow down goldfish games. This feels like the Bonesplitter of vehicles. When equipment first came out Bonesplitter was the nuts in limited but it was still very good in cube. Not having anything like the same risks as a Sword or a Jitte made the Bonesplitter an efficient way to make threats much more threatening! With the power creep Bonesplitter became a little bit underwhelming and stopped seeing play around 4 years ago. Either Sky Siff will start out a bit too underwhelming to get a spot like the current state of Bonesplitter or it will be that efficient little boost creature decks rather fancy like Bonesplitter a decade ago. The more I think about vehicles the less sure about how they will play out I am. On paper they seem a bit average but I suspect they will perform a bit above how they look. Testing is what I need to do here!

Glint-Sleeve Artisan 1

Nice versatile card that fits in with the set well and should be a great limited card. For cube it is too fair. The options and synergy will be nice in cube too but you simply can't afford to run generic creatures with this low power.

Rashmi, Eternities Crafter 5

This is Jori En pushed through the roof! You do have to pay an extra mana for your 2/3 dork but the effect is quite nutty. So the first thing you cast each turn at worst draws you a card. This means you can draw a card in your turns and in theirs. With that level of card draw it should be very easy to sustain this ongoing card advantage where Jori En quickly runs out of steam. Then we must consider the cascade style effect where it can cast it should the thing you triggered it with cost more. I don't suspect it will trigger that often. Your earlier casts will be cheaper therefor hitting less of your deck and even when you do cast a big spell there is always a good chance it will just hit land. This isn't that big of a deal, casting stuff right away does reduce your ability to get further Rashmi triggers! There will of course by cheaty synergies with this and things like Ancestral Vision and of course Brainstorm to be setting it all up. You will be able to get some powerful but random tempo swings with the effect but not all decks care about that. Instead it will make construction awkward having to avoid countmagic and other things like that.

I think this is a much more powerful and reliable draw engine than Edric, Spymaster of Trest. It is more like a Future Sight than anything else in terms of what it gives you. While it is one mana less than Future Sight it is far easier to remove and is in two colours. Fact or Fiction is likely a more reliable card draw effect than Rashmi. If you play a Rashmi in a stable game and she is not removed then you will win but there are a lot of cards like that. While incredibly powerful I think this is a little too clunky in too many different ways to make a big impact in cube. Viable but the sort of card that rarely sees play.

Aethersworn Roc 3

Lovely card design but I fear not quite there for cube unless the energy aspect is significant outside of this card. This should attack as a 4/4 flier and it should help your smaller creatures get work done too. The reason it is not good enough for cube is that it is top end in the places you might want to play a card like this yet it has no immediate impact and somewhat requires you  to have some follow up for it to get sufficient work done. Compare it to something like Elspeth, Knight-Errant or Sublime Archangel and you can better appreciate the difference.

Fleetwheel Cruiser 5.5?

This is growing on me relative to the other vehicles. As such, if vehicles are cube worthy then this will be up there with the best of them. This hits very hard for what it costs and isn't so easily blown up on sight. There after it is just quite a scary thing to have in play. The card which has the most similar feel to this is Xenagos, God of Revels. Certainly the Fleetwheel Cruiser is a lot less powerful than the God but it does stuff on its own and is significantly more playable. Interesting card for sure but I fear it might only be playable in Zoo. It is rather too top end for a lot of the other aggressive decks and is not a midrange or control card. Zoo is not desperate for more four drops nor does it need Wrath protection with man-lands and good persistent dorks. I guess white weenie could have interest in this, haste is big game for the archetype and in many ways this does much of what Knight-Errant does.

Skyship Stalker 3.5

This is mediocre at best if played on curve but quickly becomes pretty terrifying. As a late game top deck it is also about as good as it gets for the sorts of decks that might play it. Sadly for this card those kinds of deck are not really looking for late game cards. This is like a condensed Kargan Dragonlord, it starts out more expensive but better and gets brutal quicker. The thing is Kargan Dragonlord is an acceptable two drop, something those decks need, while this is an unacceptable four drop. If red were to have more midrange style archetypes then this would be more of a consideration but as it stands I can't see this getting enough play. Good solid card but poorly placed.

Cultivator of Blades 0

While I love the design of this card it simply isn't good enough for the cube. Green decks love one man armies and they love Overrun effects however this card does a poor job on both. A really poor job in fact.

Verdurous Gearhulk 6.5

This doesn't excite me much but I have to confess that it is easily cube worthy. Wolfir Silverheart is the obvious comparison to this card and the cube really only has room for one or the other. Silverheart may have the higher optimal outcome being 12/12 worth of stats for 5 with a third of that giving good scaling and potentially haste however the average outcome of the cards greatly favours the Gearhulk.

Gearhulk offers all the same scaling potential of Silverheart and more with +1/+1 counters having synergy and the spread of them allowing you to fine tune your board optimally for the situation. Gearhulk can eat a removal spell and still leave you with the +4/+4 worth of value unlike Wolfir. Gearhulk can also just go all in on itself and become an 8/8 if there is no other targets making it far less situational than the big wolf. Lastly the Gearhulk has trample which makes it a far more significant threat than Wolfir, 8/8 or otherwise. Against decks with hard removal or lots of small creatures Wolfir Silverheart is relatively weak (and that is a lot of decks) while Gearhulk is still pretty strong. Gearhulk is a good solid threat, it offers tempo and value and options and is a nice upgrade on old Wolfir. Interestingly it is also one of very few artifacts a green mage may want to include which somewhat helps delirium style effects. While there are not loads of these green has quite the large share of them and some pretty powerful cards among those.

Filigree Familiar 6

Solemn Finks? Kitchen Simulacrum? This is pretty big news for non-white/green control and ramp decks. Not quite a Baleful Strix but still a lovely little speed bump than you can play in a really wide selection of places. This will have some great synergy with quite a lot of the powerful things going on in cube yet it is perfectly playable in its own right. It will help up the consistency of the inconsistent ramp decks and help plug some of the holes in control decks that don't have access to white. The power level on this card isn't all that high. Crum does a lot more and Finks is much more substantial but this still does enough and it does it in all the right places.

Woodweaver's Puzzleknot 2.5

Not one I want to have to write out loads. Still, lots better than Kamigawa block... I like this card a lot but it is all sorts of narrow. Basically this is only playable in the energy synergy deck or a specific combo deck. My best guess is that the energy synergy deck will be about as good as a proliferate synergy deck, in other words not good. The combo deck might well be a thing and so this card should have some application but you can't be running it in a drafting cube.

Live Fast 1.5

Night's Whisper plus some energy. Less narrow than the Puzzleknot but still unlikely to be viable in a drafting cube. Being so generic and fair it is also less likely to see play as part of a combo deck than the Puzzleknot. Good to have this as a card that exists but energy cards will have to be abundant and potent for this to have much hope.

Die Young 1

Cool design but just too weak a removal spell to be cube worthy. This is a sorcery speed Disfigure for twice the price... moving on.

Territorial Gorger 0

Potentially yes, but realistically no. You could engineer some silly combo where you lay this, haste it up and then gain a lot of energy all at once and kill them but if you are going to all that trouble it sounds a lot easier and safer killing them in other ways.

Demon of Dark Schemes

Massacre Wurm has had quite the face lift in this new six mana Infest! The body of the Demon is far greater. Without any evasion the 6/5 Wurm is fairly limp while this 5/5 flier will do some serious work. The Wurm only hits your opponents dorks but culling the chaff on your side too isn't going to be much of a drawback with this guy. Wurm hurts them for two when their stuff dies, this guy gives an energy when anything dies. Wurm does occasionally one shot weenie players and silly elf players! Energy has some potential outside uses however the one of the Demon of Dark Schemes itself is pretty tasty. For a mere 3 mana and 4 energy you can have any dead dork in any graveyard back in play fighting for you!

This card has immediate impact, it offers ongoing value and it is a decent enough deal regardless of getting any of the ongoing value. This is a decent tool for midrange and control decks and may finally give some alternate options to Grave Titan for black six drops. Titan is more powerful and more self contained however the Demon is much more interactive and offers a significantly different package that power level is not the most relevant factor in choosing the right one. Massacre Wurm certainly can outperform the Demon however it is far too polar in its performances against various archetypes to be a cube worthy six drop. The Demon of Dark Schemes is rounded such that it will do useful and powerful things in a wider array of matchups.

Ghirapur Orrery 2.5

This looks a bit like Exploration and Horn of Greed rolled into one card! Sadly it makes everything symmetrical and despite being a two in one still hurts you as you can't use it to ramp from turn one when ramp is the most useful. I can imagine a lot of decks where this is very powerful  and that is counter intuitively why the card isn't that playable. All too often your opponents will be able to take too much advantage of one or both of the effects and beat you through your own card. This isn't a card you can play in normal decks, you might be able to build around it enough to offset the symmetry but at that point it is overly narrow. Powerful symmetrical cards are often those that are most worth abusing at least! Worth keeping an eye on but I don't have high hopes.

Panharmonicon 3.5

Bran *cough* Bronzebeard. As with all these silly cards you can almost certainly abuse them and build combos with them and as such they are viable for some sorts of cubes. For your normal drafting ones however this is not the thing at all. Fun, a bit of a Doubling Season but far from a rounded playable draft card.

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