Friday, 11 November 2016

More Winners and Losers from Kaladesh

Despite mostly being pricier cards that didn't excite me too much I have been very impressed with the Kaladesh additions to the cube so far. Almost all of them have surprised me and performed quite a lot above expectation. Only a few have fallen short. Kaladesh has also improved the value of more cards from other sets than your typical expansion manages. Certainly such a fair seeming one only adding expensive stuff to the cube.

Angel of InventionAngel of Invention

This card brings a little bit of everything to the table. It provides lots of bodies with a total of 6/5 stats. You get a Glorious Anthem, you get an evasive body with some scaling potential via the lifelink. You get a pair of artifact tokens should you have use for such things for other synergies. If you are ahead or in a stalemate Angel of Invention threatens to close out the game in three different ways, she can go over the top herself, she can go wide with the tokens or she can just make all your men bigger than all theirs allowing you to go right through them. If you are behind Angel of Invention provides a significant board presence to stave off a lot of attacks. She provides a valuable source of lifegain and the ability to attack planeswalkers down without weakening your own defence. On top of this the Glorious Anthem makes her quite a high priority removal target, they might have to use something really good on her right away rather than being able to wait for something more efficient to take her down. When she is removed you have baited it out protecting your other cards and you still generally have some tokens left over too. When I hit five mana I really want to draw the Angel, it always seemed like it was the best play I could make in both aggro decks and midrange ones. Far more impressed with this card than expected. I think she is one of the top couple of one-man-army cards. She can win a game on the spot or she can win one all one her own. The only times she seems weak is when you have four or less mana and that is the same for all five+ drops without alternate means of casting. Reveillark seems to have a new best friend!

Dovin Baan
Dovin Baan
So far this is one of the only losers from Kaladesh so far. It isn't that this card is bad, just wildly unexciting. It is generally comparable to the power level of the fair mono coloured walkers in the cube. Jace Architect of Thought (and to a degree Jace Beleren ) is the comparison. A gold card needs to outperform the fair mono coloured cards that do comparable things to merit a cube slot and Dovin simply doesn't. If he gained +2 loyalty rather than just 1 from his first ability, perhaps even if he just started with one or two more loyalty then he would be powerful enough over the alternatives to merit his slot. Dovin is a fairly big investment yet has fairly slow returns. Draw 3 and gain 6 life is above the curve for four mana but not massively, you would still probably play Fact or Fiction over it most of the time just because it is instant. Dovin Baan isn't even that as he can easily die before you can draw three and even when he doesn't it is a very slow return of cards. While his plus one looks pretty nice it is somewhat awkward in practice. It fails to do anything against vehicles, manlands, and haste/flash creatures on their first attack. With low loyalty gains on a frequenlty useless ability combined with a low starting count and an unreliable means of protection, it all add up to a card that probably isn't even in the top five Jace's. Certainly he is very playable, he has the golden three abilities, a game winning (if impracticle to achieve) ultimate, a card advantage ability and protection / creature interaction ability. He is the Izzet Charm of planeswalkers, he does loads of cool and useful stuff and looks good on paper but when you come to play it you never feel like you got that good of a deal.

Goblin RabblemasterGoblin Rabblemaster

Basicaly this is just down to vehicles. It turns out that just being able to use your token goblins to crew things rather than be forced into chump attacking is huge. It turns Rabblemaster from a very dangerous card into a lethal one. It used to be the case that provided you had any sort of board you could relatively safely just wait for removal for the Rabblemaster. Now, every turn you wait there will be another goblin ready and primed to go face. Vehicles turn Rabblemaster into pretty much a Verdant Force resulting in the cheapest and most reliable way to churn out 1/1 tokens.

Incited RabbleTown Gossipmonger / Incited Rabble

This is a card in much the same vein as Rabblemaster. Any card which has a must attack clause as part of a drawback is greatly improved in value as a result of the introduction of vehicles. Town Gossipmonger was already one of the surprise standout cards from SoI with its ability to attack safely and productively into most things. It is in the elite group of one drops that can usefully attack into a 2/3 which include Wild Nacatl, Swiftspear and some other more situational and awkward ones (Steppe Lynx, Student of Warefare etc). Now if you have vehicles you can save your Incited Rabble right up to the final push where it remains a decidedly dangerous threat, more so than basically every one drop. Saving a couple of extra tokens up is nice for a final push and probably represents a couple of extra damage but Incited Rabble can easily represent five or more.

Pia NalaarPia Nalaar

This is likely the card I most underrated in my initial reviews. With how much it has shown up in standard it should come as no surprise that this is a pretty good card in cube. Shockingly it is the vast array of options this card gives that makes it so good. A 3 mana 2/2 and 1/1 flier is fine but not good. It is the two abilities Pia has that make her so useful. You can win a stalemate just by hitting with the 1/1 flier and pumping it loads. Equally you can negate a key blocker and swing for lethal. The more you have going on the more potential options you have for her yet she still gets plenty done all by herself. One part of her is annoying enough to merit removal which generally leaves you with the other part and feeling somewhat ahead from the trade. She greatly encourages the use of other artifact cards in your deck, the odd clue, vehicle or servo token go a long way to increasing her potential ongoing impact. Very rounded card, rarely bad, lots of options, lots of synergy.

Cataclysmic GearhulkCataclysmic Gearhulk

Turns out this really wrecks things. It singlehandedly ends a lot of game plans. Frequently I see this going about five for nothing. It is very easy to play and build around yourself and pretty hard to do for your opponent. It is rarely bad, the only times it is you have won anyway and it is unneeded insurance. On the flip side, it is about the best recovery card on offer that is broadly playable. You can't go throwing Wrath of God into any old deck, certainly not Shatterstorm and Tranquility. I have had Gearhulk destroy midrange, aggro and combo decks now. It has that nice rounded safety feeling that Pernicious Deed gives you. You don't care how the extreeme decks try and beat you when you have it. It might be white weenie, affinity, enchantress, whatever, you have a pretty good tool to stomp all over their fun. I was scared that it never hitting the most important thing you are facing would make it weak but it transpires that most stuff is still synergy based and dependent on having some other stuff also on the go to be able to win a game. That Jitte looks a whole lot less scary when they put all but one of their dorks into the bin. That scary planeswalker looks a whole lot easier to deal with now they only have one blocker. Permanents are really good, you encounter a lot of them and as such the Cataclysmic Gearhulk is rather effective! Absolutely one of the best anti token cards you can play. Something like Engineered Explosives is a little cheaper and more flexible but it never swings the game, it just stops you dying quite as fast. Gearhulk keeps you safe but also gives you some proactive things to further your own game as well.

Fleetwheel CruiserFleetwheel Cruiser

I'm still a little lost as to why this is good, but it is. I think the best comparison is to a Vengevine. It is just a tenacious well costed aggressive four drop that brings some cute utility along with its decent punch. As an aggressive threat Cruiser is one of the hardest hitting on offer and may be used in any colour. Five hasted trampling power hurts. There is mild Thundermaw comparisons. I though a mere three toughness would see this blocked and killed a lot of the time and make it weak and very unlike Thundermaw! While it does do some sitting around not attacking it is still doing a lot of work while seemingly idle. Fleetwheel typically gets in its first hit and it typically survives to do the last. Not attacking with it is no big deal, leaving it as non-creature makes it so much harder to interact and deal with that it gets to be part of your big final push in a significant way while forcing your opponent to play around it until that point. Being able to tap your guys turns out to be useful for some stuff as well, as does having artifacts lying about. Randomly turning the Galvanic Blast you were just playing as a Shock into super Bolt is nice. Pia Nalaar has stuff going on with Cruiser and so on.

Gonti, Lord of LuxuryGonti, Lord of Luxury

Gonti continues to rise in my estimation. I thought he was great on the spoiler, he performed above expectation from the outset in testing and has continued to impress above my ever changing level of expectation for him. His body is really tedious, it totally holds off a lot of things and threatens to trade with the most of the rest. You never feel like you got a good deal when you trade with Gonti. He gets really obnoxious when you recur, flicker, copy, each hit is more painful that the last. In the kinds of deck you play him it seems to always be the case that his effect is of much more use than a free Impulse. It is not just that the card you get it better, which it is. Typically the deck you are playing against will contain better things in it on average than your deck for that matchup. If you are a control deck against an aggro deck a one mana 2/1 or a Shock is likely exactly the thing you need to calm the situation and take the win, your deck will have few to none of such cards but your opponents will be full of them. When facing a control opponent they will likely have way more relevant cards than you on the whole, either a hard answer, a powerful card advantage effect or a heavy threat which are the things you most want in that position. So Gonti finds you a better card for your situation and then he improves it for you by making it really easy to play which is a nice little perk. This is not where the value of Gonti ends by a long shot. Having been on both sides of a Gonti I can say that the information is pretty huge. With the Gonti it is nice to know a few things they don't presently have and what you might need to play around later that game/match. When facing the Gonti it is far worse because you don't know what they know. Every play they make you are frantically trying to work out what it is they know you don't have. It is probably a lot psychological but it is really horrible playing against a Gonti, not only does it suck to have your stuff used against you but it really sucks that your opponent knows more about your stuff than you do. As is often the case they will have recently seen your hand courtesy of a targeted discard spell and have an unreasonable read of the game going forwards. Trying to play around what people might have is hard enough, add to that trying to also play around half of what you have is a total chore. Great value, good disruption, reasonable tempo, pleasant options and a draining nightmare to play against.

Servo Exhibition
Servo Exhibition
I thought this would be the worst of the Raise the Alarm and Gather the Townsfolk options in white simply because of Honor the Pure. There are two reasons I think I was wrong about this. The first is that these days it is not that common to see the Crusade style cards in tokens decks, they are not the key component they used to be. Intangible Virtue is better for one and things like Ajani Goldmane, Goblin Bushwhacker, Sorin. Lord of Innistrad/Solemn Visitor just offer more utility or punch. They are powerful cards that do things on their own which the pure Crusade effects do not offer. As such Servo Exhibition is far less awkward to include relative to Raise and Gather than I had thought. In addition to not being as limited as expected there are some quite strong reasons to play Exhibition over one of the others. I recently had a Boros aggro deck with a mild human theme in it as so naturally I played Gather to go with my Thalia's Leuitenant and Champion of the Parish. Although not the greatest sample size I found every time that I would have much rather had the Servo Exhibition despite my human theme. The synergy the human side offered was powerful but very much along the same lines of what the rest of my deck did as well as restricted to a few cards. While I didn't consider my deck to be an artifact synergy one the options I was getting from having artifacts were far more helpful than I had realised. Pia Nalaar was a big part of this, more tokens to sac or pump would have been game winning most of the times I had her in play. Artifacts improve Daretti (both of them), they evade some kinds of removal and can block intimidate creatures. If you are an aggressive deck or a tokens deck (the places that play these kinds of cards) then you will benefit from diversification in your threats. Servo is a fairly painless way to broaden your deck while keeping it on theme. I wouldn't call it better than either of the other two yet as I don't have enough pure artifact synergy card stuff in the drafting cube but it is impressively comparable to Gather and Raise.

Selfless SpiritSelfless Spirit

This is another card like Gonti that was obviously good yet has continued to perform above expectation. I don't specifically think that Kaladesh has made Selfless Spirit better but it has help me appreciate how and why it is so so good. Essentially it feels like playing against Arcbound Ravager, once it hits the table your removal is garbage as is your combat. Either you play into them and offer them trades they are fine with or you engineer a good trade and they decide they don't like it and make everything indestructible. Selfless Spirit is like a proactive Mother of Runes as well, it is going to put a massive spanner in the works of your plan, force you to use your cards in less efficient ways and it will beat you up a bit as it does this. It was the combination of Selfless Spirit and vehicles that made me see quite how helpless you feel when you can't deal with things. Both vehicles and Selfless Spirit protect your threats in a decently aggressive way that is somewhat new and different. The fact that they can protect each other to some degree is super tedious. The cube meta had adapted somewhat to resilient threats in the form of manlands, persist stuff and so on but the threats seem to always be one step ahead of the answers.

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