Thursday 15 September 2016

Kaladesh Initial Review Part III

Thriving Creatures (Turtle 5.5/10 Grubs 4/10, rest 0/10)

The design style on this cycle is really nice. Either a mediocre body and some energy to use on something or use that energy to turn the mediocre body into a decent one. It is said that an energy is roughly comparable to half a manas worth of value. In this regard it is really easy to see why the red and blue ones are the most interesting, remove a mana from their cost to offset the energy and you have a good value body even by cube standards. The higher cost and poor stat allocation rule out the others for all but the most energy focused decks and even then those decks seem likely to be tier 3 in cube!

Thriving Grubs are either a genereic 2/1 for 2 and a pair of energy or they are basically a 3/2 for 2. Just being a 2 drop that attacks for 3 is no longer enough for cube and so I can only see this being used in a deck with several other energy cards. This is good quality aggressive filler in such decks but not good enough to be worth including for the likes of RDW.

Thriving Turtle is a card that is more viable to use in a deck with no other energy sources. A 1/4 for 1 mana is pretty immense value in terms of stats per mana. Imagine a 2/8 for 2! While perhaps not the most proactive body it does still serve a lot of purposes. A 1/4 blocks most things pretty well in cube. It is pretty hard to remove which is good for devotion or equipment. I don't think you need any synergy with the energy and only mild synergy with a cheap tough body for this to be a viable cube card. If you make this as a one drop it is going to be pretty good and fairly reliably get to attack and pump itself. Later on in the game it will be harder to attack safely either because it puts you or it at too much risk by attacking. As such this could be more of a 0/3 than a 1/4 in the mid and late game which is less exciting. It is designed to be more effective as an aggressive dork but the stats are very defensive. In limited I can see some really rude openers with this and Glassblower's Puzzleknot. Attacking with a 3/6 on turn three having had 4 scrys and board control up to that point seems really powerful. Thriving Turtle is a great cheap energy support card and one of the most efficient energy sources. It has a good energy consumption mechanism and is just too much creature to be ignored for one mana. I can't see this not getting play in some format but it might well not be the cube. One power dorks historically need to do quite a lot more than being tough to be good in the cube.

Cultivator's Caravan 5?

This is a lot like the various Totems and Keyrunes that already exist and see no cube play. Three mana ramp has to be super good. My cube is a bit too fast for even Coalition Relic so there is little hope for this as a ramp card. The fixing is good but you can get fixing and ramp cheaper and better than this. There are some reasons this might see play where Totems and Keyrunes did not and that is the crew cost rather than mana to activate. Crew three is a lot, it limits this to midrange decks with a fairly creature heavy component. That is kind of fine as the places you might want a 3 mana single ramp card would likely be midrange. The Caravan can really smooth out your curve, either it gives you the required mana to do that little bit more or it can offer a kind of psuedo haste to your plays. Keyrunes and Totems only give value when you need the ramp or you have loads of spare mana to activate them. The Caravan works a lovely middle ground where it is really handy whatever you might be casting and for much longer into the game. It has significance as a threat almost right away and just gives you a lot of options on how you will play out the upcoming turns. My instinct on this card is that it isn't something you really want in cube but it could well be the business. It is hard to ignore what looks like a 3 mana 5/5 with a Birds of Paradise bolted on to it. As with most of the vehicles I'll need to test this one.

Wild Dreams 1

This is just pretty bad. Season's Past and Eternal Witness have this beat super hard at either end of the spectrum. This has no utility early and for the amount of mana you need to make this good you should just win the game instead. Nostalgic Dreams, even Holistic Wisdom are far superior mass recursion tools than this if for some reason Season's Past is not the thing. This card might be flexible but it is far too bad at all the points on its range to merit use.

Kambal, Consul of Allocation 5.5

Very potent indeed but this feels like a gold hoser card. In many matchups this will be a 3 mana 2/3 which is super bad. In others this will be either unbeatable or monumentally tedious. Something like a storm deck that has one out to this and needs to play a whole bunch of spells just to find that out is basically going to fold to this. If your storm deck is trying to go off with Tendrils of Agony it can't if this is in play on the other side. A control deck has to deal with this and it will hurt to do so. A deck like zoo will laugh in the face of a 2/3 and just smack your head in with bigger one drops... A card this polar in what it does while also being a bit harder to play as a gold card isn't the sort of thing I am keen to add to the cube. Certainly very powerful and worthy of testing but it will have to outperform expectation if it wants to stay in the cube.

Lost Legacy 0

Seems like an upgraded Cranial Extraction. Going to be good tech in some formats but in singleton cube this isn't pulling its weight. Good job R&D spotted the potential combo with Relentless Rats and made the card draw portion trigger on the hand cards only.

Aether Hub 5.5

Well this is pretty much a direct upgrade on Tendo's Ice Bridge. Energy is simply a much more transferable and useful resource than the counter on the Ice Bridge. Worst case scenario this is as good as Ice Bridge which is decent. It has been on of the best fixing cards for extreem combo decks for a while, especially those sensative to life loss. This is very playable and becomes good in a deck with much energy synergy. I reckon I'll want around five energy cards in the cube before I add this to the drafting cube simply because I have so many dual lands already. This would be a good include to any kind of cube trying to keep its land count low but still have as good fixing as possible.

Dynovault Tower 4

This card turns every two and a half subsequent instant or sorcery casts into a Lightning Bolt. Alternatively it is a way to either generate energy for other things or consume it from other places. I don't really see it being great in either of the two latter capacities. While it generates energy very efficiently the kinds of decks that seem to use it are not spell heavy and as such this isn't so handy. To make it balanced with the production the consumption rate on energy is quite steep to Bolt things and so I expect there are better energy dumps you can use. This makes this best as a stand alone card in a spell heavy deck you use to Bolt people with. It is not so much of a storm style card as you need to tap it each time you Bolt something. I see this as a prowess style card where you have lots of cheap spells and actively want to be dealing damage. In such decks in might be a bit top heavy but an interesting card with some really good synergies none the less. With enough things like Think Twice this might even be viable in a control deck just as a good value way to control the board. On the narrow side and reasonably fair but made much better by the cheap, abundant and potent instants and sorceries in the cube.

Aerial Gatherer 1

Three mana to Flicker something is too much for a one off card even if it cycles as well. This is too narrow in its application and too clunky even when in the perfect deck.

Night Owl 2

Quite cumbersome text on this one but probably worth it for a cool overall effect. This is a Phyrexian Arena that doesn't directly cost you life. Instead the punishment is increasingly smaller hand size and potential life loss if discarding occurs for you. Neither of these effects should be relevant although it does make some other cards a little weaker to include (such as Liliana of the Veil) and some strategies simply not interested in this card (control decks). Even if both the drawbacks have no impact on you this is still a four mana Phyrexian Arena which is really to far on the slow side for the cube. At three mana this would be rather juicy but four feels like it rules it out.

Dubious Challenge 1

A multiplayer card?! Unless you pair this with Homeward Path or Brooding Suarion this card is unplayable heads up. Having to pair it with those specific sorts of thing also make it pretty unplayable but still. The effect is pretty powerful for the mana, just a little too hard to break.

Cloudblazer 1

They added two life to Mulldrifter at the cost of an extra white in the cost and the loss of the all important evoke mechanic. In other words they printed a significantly narrower and weaker Mulldrifter. This is poor yet still not unplayable. In a flicker themed deck the life gain starts to look more relevant and no evoke a little less so. Pretty sure I'll never play this in a cube setting but it isn't impossible that someone will in my cube group!

Unlicensed Disintegration 1

Add a mana (and lose the "bury" aspect) to Terminate for a conditional Lava Spike. Not good or exciting but again, not totally unplayable. Hard removal is tough to include in a direct damage themed deck. This has some capacity to negate that but I am not sure why a Rakdos burn deck has sufficient artifacts to merit this? Again, this is not a card I'll ever play but it isn't utterly inconceivable someone will think it is the tech.

Smuggler's Copter 8.5

I don't need to know how good vehicles will be to know that this is a total bomb and cube mainstay. Pretty sure we will all be sick of this in-it-for-the-long-haul card very soon. There is just nothing bad about this. A 3/3 flying body for 2 is nutty good even if it isn't always able to attack. Throw onto that a looting, not for dealing combat damage, just for attacking, or for that matter blocking as well, and you have a really stupidly overpowered card. It is tempo, utility and value all in one. You play generic 1/1s for looting but for some reason this thing gets to be a 3/3 flier. At least all colours have access to it.

Fairly sure I rate this around where I rate Jitte and Skullclamp. The looter scooter has been pushed too far. In standard and modern it will be far from as broken as the equipment I mention because it is somewhat middle of the road and doing a bit of everything while the equipment have more direct impact. In cube however this blend of utility, synergy, card quality and tempo will be just the fit for so many archetypes. Jitte is a bit all in, you can get blown out with removal or have a bit of a lack lustre card should they be the right archetype or just have a good solution card. With the Copter you are never going to get blown out using it or be overly restricted on how you can build around it. It is a convenient card more so than one of raw power but it is still too good. Perhaps not the most powerful card in the set but so far the one I suspect will see the most play by a long margin not including the enemy dual lands. Sometime crew 1 will be a little inconvenient but other it will be really potent. It slightly limits the deck building with this card but overall I think crew 1 is a more of a perk than a negative (although that does have diminishing returns, a few cards with crew 1 in your deck and it starts to become less of a perk). This is gold dust for delirium decks where artifacts are one of the more awkward card types to include.

Fragmentize 1

Potent effect for the mana but sorcery speed is not the speed you want to do this effect.

Underhand Designs 0

Cool card but slow, clunky and narrow if you want to maximise it.

Toolcraft Exemplar 2

While this fairly easily attacks as a 3/2 and has OK odds of gaining first strike as well going into the midgame the card is very narrow and very linear. On defense this is just a 1/1 which makes it linear and you need to be playing artifacts in an aggressive deck which makes it narrow. Boros Elite seems generally better as it is only a linear card and offers much the same sort of package. This also not being an artifact offers little return synergy in an artifact deck. I don't like it much at all but then it is very hard to rule out a 3 power one drop. There are certainly decks in which this would work well. It has elegant synergy with Thraben Inspector and there are ways to painlessly include artifacts in white weenie style decks rather than affinity ones. Glint Hawk is a card that is like Toolcraft Exemplar and makes such strategies more worthwhile. There is not far off a critical mass of such cards, probably too narrow for a drafting cube still but might well crop other in other cube formats.

Electrostatic Pummeler 1

Pretty useless on its own and pretty hard to setup so this one shots people. The only merit I see in this is as a source of energy that has some effect on the board (say, compared to Puzzleknots). Really grasping at straws here. Almost certain to never see play.

Combustible Gearhulk 3

Rather the disappointment as a midrange card. Never ever will this see play over an Inferno Titan or any top end red planeswalker or dragon. Where this has some chance of seeing play is in combination with Goblin Welder and Daretti, Scrap Savant because it is an artifact. The body is OK and should dominate the board fairly well, especially if you cheat it out quickly. The ability is fundamentally pretty weak as it gives control to your opponent. The average it will hit for is like 6 in most midrange style decks but it could easily be a do nothing 2. They will almost always be choosing this mode unless they get really low on life. The two reasons this works well with Mr Red Gearhulk is that in the Goblin Welder style decks you do have some expensive cards and you also have graveyard synergy. While unlikely you can one shot someone with the ability which will make it a tougher choice for you opponent and one they could well cock up to their significant detriment. The more you weld this in and out of play the quicker they will have to start giving you free Ancestral Recalls and the more options you will have on things to weld back. This is a narrow card and generally quite a weak one but it does appear to work well in a fairly strong and established cube archetype.

Consulate Surveillance 0

Too expensive to cast, not enough energy supplied and too expensive to use as an ongoing means of protection. No thanks.

Glint-Nest Crane 3

A super narrow card but an incredibly good value one when in an appropriate setting. When playable this is the closest thing there is to a Baleful Strix and in some cases it is better! The obvious place for this is affinity as it is a cheap evasive dork that has artifact synergy. The issue is it is not an artifact and it is has coloured mana requirements making it far from an ideal affinity card. A more likely home for this is a combo artifact deck where you want good speed bumps but you also want powerful card quality effects. I think you need over ten artifacts in your deck before you can look at this. It only starts to get really good when you have close to double that which really isn't many decks at all, certainly none you can do in a drafting cube. Super super powerful but suitably narrow to keep it out of mainstream cube, likely most constructed formats too.

Blossoming Defense 6

This is really good. This is what Vines of the Vastwood wishes it was. Either this is a reasonable value for the mana pump effect that gives enough of a boost to turn most chump attacks and blocks into chumps in your favour. It also adds hexproof making it a counterspell to spot removal. Vine of the Vastwood was the latter but as a GG combat trick it was far too clumsy to be a mainstay. Combat tricks are tough to include in cube as it is with them being so narrow within games. Very few last long, the best ones are those with alternate uses. Blossoming Defense has an alternate use but it is also a little situational. My hope it that the cheapness of the card will carry it where others have failed. It is a card I will test rather than considering as an auto include but it is still one of the best green pump instants ever printed even if it doesn't stay in the cube.

Contraband Kingpin 1

What is this exactly? Odd stats, odd abilities and effects, odd. This needs a very specific sort of deck to do much of much. It is like the Crane in where you could potentially play it but it is back loaded in getting potential value thus making it a really lame speed bump. If it dies you get no value. It is quite a lot of stuff for the mana so hard to fully rule out but the stuff it has just doesn't seem to achieve very much.

Eliminate the Competition 0

This is wrecked by countermagic. It is also a very conditional five mana sort of Wrath effect. Nope.

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