Wednesday 12 October 2016

Some Early Winners from Kaladesh

Brazen ScourgeBrazen Scourge

Three mana 3/3s with haste never seem to disappoint. This might not have anything else fancy going on (flying and vigilance, scavenge or wither) but it is also the only one in a single colour. It has made the final cut of every red deck that has had an option on it and that is a pretty big indicator that a card is going to stick around. Certainly not an overpowered card, just one that is very well suited to any kind of aggressive deck. Hard enough hitting to be a decent threat, enough toughness to attack into most things and enough immediate impact to merit a three mana price tag. While a little tougher to play turn two off a mana dork than a Boggart Ram-Gang the ability to more comfortably play colourless lands like Wolf-Run far out perform the wither and variable colour options combined. Being playable as a GGG card rarely comes up either and these days tribal decks just have better synergy three drops. This is to say that while this is certainly going to stay in the cube it might end up edging out the Ram-Gang if space gets tight.

Harsh ScrutinyHarsh Scrutiny

I was very wary of this having tested both Ostracize and Despise and found both wanting. Obvious as it might seem, the scry makes all the difference... You want to play your discard on turn one, it gives you the most information and the most relevant time while also giving you the most target options. All discard scales pretty poorly as you progress into the game against most matchups. Being able to hit a planeswalker marginally reduces this poor scaling but it doesn't do all that much to improve it as a turn one play. Most planeswalkers cost four or more mana. Planeswalkers typically come down later than other cards and so getting them early with hand disruption doesn't do all that much. Despise is essentially a weaker card that gets weaker more slowly than the other better discard cards. While I typically try to assess cards on their performance on the average case and on the worst case scenario (which would tend to favour those that don't scale badly) this rule is not always applicable in quite the same way. As discard inherently scales poorly you already have to consider the worst case scenario in deck construction. You should have ways to make use of dead cards and as such you will be able to focus more on the better case scenarios for such cards.

Harsh Scrutiny is about as good a turn one play as you can hope for. It is the only one drop proactive card that has scry on it. Being able to take away their best card or their curve play and know what is in their hand and get a scry is a massive edge going into any game. Just getting a look at their hand and having a scry is surprisingly decent too. A turn one miss with any targetted discard is far less brutal than it feels. The information you gain about their hand turn one can be worth more than the card you cost however this is almost never the case by turn four. A scry at any stage really softens that blow. A much better card in a midrange cube than a powered one for sure as creatures are that much more of a thing. Scry is a nutty good effect but it is easy to forget this. One a cheap card like Ostracize a scry is a pretty significant addition and holds a decent weight of the cards cost. Adding a scry one to a random three drop card improves it but by quite substantially less than it does to a one drop. When you have an OK one drop to begin with and then you give it a scry then it is a huge boost. It turns out this was exactly the addition black was looking for. Slowly but surely black is catching up to the other colours in the midrange cube.

Weaponcraft EnthusiastWeaponscraft Enthusiast

This little dude is surprisingly good. While I am not sure if he will last for the long haul the Enthusiast has already far exceeded expectation. Three bodies for three mana is good and has lot of nice scaling potential. There are a lot of global pump and lord effects floating around and this is the card to exploit them with. There is also some mild synergy with artifact stuff like new Daretti. Already this card has seen play in BG Recurring Nightmare, BW Tokens and some Smokestack style deck. Not exactly a powerhouse but none the less a very useful and well suited tool for many a role. Like a black Blade Splicer with a little less punch and a little more synergy potential.

Cultivator's CaravanCultivator's Caravan

This is shaping up to be the 2nd best vehicle in cube. It does enough different things well enough that you can play it for a variety of reasons. Basically this ramps, fixes and is a decent part time body. It feels more like a Batterskull than most other bodies you can make. It is sizeable but not so extreme it will always dominate the board. It is also fairly cheap for a threat and is harder to remove than your typical creature. What really makes this card nutty is that you can tap it the turn you make it essentially making it a two mana play much of the time. I have played this in RG stompy decks where it really helps you diversify your threats and curve out smoothly. It is a lot of power for the mana, gives a lot of interesting combat and cast sequencing options and is a tricky threat that evades mass removal. Another nail in the coffin for Wrath of God. The crew cost of three was rarely an issue for the stompy deck and frequently just made use of creatures unable to profitably attack or those affected by summoning sickness. I also played it in a Ux control deck were it helped ramp me pretty safely, did some good work fixing, represented an answer to planeswalkers while sitting in play and still got to be a 5/5 enough to make a a big impact on games. Unless I am basically unable to crew this ever would I play any other 3 CMC single ramp mana rock in a deck again. Impressively diverse in application while providing a delightful wealth of play options all bundled up in a fairly powerful card. Being immediately useful is a massive perk for any vehicle and while good news for Fleetwheel Cruiser, this and the Skyship it is looking a lot worse for Renegade Freighter, Sky Siff and all the other non-Smuggler's Copter vehicles.

Torrential GearhulkTorrential Gearhulk

Yeah, so this is pretty broken it turns out. Every game I have cast it has ended quickly and as a direct result of the play. Wretched Confluence and Dig Through Time where big names in helping the blue Gearhulk shine but just a simple counterspell on the back of a 5/6 is still immensely swingy. This is just going to be an auto include in any midrange or control decks with enough instants in them. This being a blue card means those decks should have enough instants. With this being a six drop card itself you can likely get away with pretty few targets, say seven, especially if you have things that fill up the graveyard or dig into your deck, or both like the many good looting cards out there. Torrential Gearhulk is a lot narrower than Snapcaster and has a much smaller range for when it is a useful card to have in hand but it makes up quite a lot for just being so very powerful. A 2/1 is not a very big deal while a 5/6 really is. You get no bonus tempo from a Snapcaster, you still have to pay for your spell. As Gearhulk does the spell for free you don't need that much of a powerful effect on the board with your instant before you have gained quite a lot of bonus tempo in addition to all the value you are getting. A huge blowout card and a very powerful one at that.

Verdurous GearhulkVerdurous Gearhulk

Well, we knew this was going to be good but it turns out it was even better. After only a couple of plays this bad boy seems comparable to Thundermaw Hellkite - the premium threat. Either this instantly crushes your hopes or it gives you a turn, maybe two, to find an answer. When playing against it I was just always thinking, I hope he doesn't have Gearhulk, I can't beat that from here. This card simply dominates the board and it does so in such a cheap and powerful way that you just can't compete directly. It actually reminds me more of how Jitte felt to play against when that was first released than anything else. Just quite oppressive. Something you generally need to remove but even when you do so promptly value has still been gained. 

Noxious GearhulkNoxious Gearhulk

While I still hate this card it turns out it is pretty good. In a drafting midrange cube this is the business. It kills a lot of problem cards, it is a problem itself and it gains you some nice valuable life. Back in the day any two for one was pretty much a good thing. Varidian Shaman was great because a "free" Grey Ogre was relevant. Now that kind of card only really gets play when you want to abuse the creature nature of it with things like Recurring Nightmare and/or Survival of the Fittest. These days a good two for one either wants to afford decent tempo or it wants to be relevant on both parts of the "two". A 5/4 menace is relevant. The removal aspect is also really good compared to basically all other black removal. While it is targetted, usually sorcery speed and only destroy it also has no type, size or colour restrictions on target and gains a bunch of life. When playing with this it felt most like a Thragtusk. It swings a problem situation really well or directly ends any attempts to race you. It may cost a mana over Thragtusk but it is a bigger swing and a much greater initial impact on the board. Noxious Gearhulk will be a lot less exciting in a powered cube and is unlikely to see play in many constructed style cube decks. For midrange drafting however this dork is well worthy of a slot. Being an artifact himself increases his utility as Tinker / Welder applications too. Likely the best answer to an Emrakul as well! 

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