Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Aether Revolt Preliminary Review Part II

Consulate Dreadnought 1

This is unplayable unless you can abuse it. Presently those things that "abuse" this are Start the Engines and Peacekeeper Colossus. Neither of these are good or standalone cards. As a combo this seems narrow and under powered. I might try for a vehicle combo deck one day, it is almost certainly weak but it might be fun and different.

Foundry Assembler 1

This looks good but more of a constructed kind of good than a cube kind. A 3/3 isn't very exciting in cube even if you can cast it for 0. Improvise is a lot weaker than affinity as you need to tap the things down. There are not a wealth of cheap artifacts that you don't otherwise want to tap. Clues are about it. This is OK filler in an very heavily themed improvise deck but it is unplayable elsewhere. It is a lot worse than Frogmite and Myr Enforcer and they are hardly standout cards in their archetypal home.

Sweatworks Brawler 1

I want this to be good but it isn't. I love the idea of triple Memnite into this turn one. That isn't happening very often. In the right deck this may be a little better than Stromblood Berserker but in most decks it isn't even that good.

Silkweaver Elite 4

Phyrexian Rager has been a solid filler card for a very long time. This is pretty comparable all told. The reach and lack of life loss probably don't even cover the inconsistency of needing to trigger revolt. Without the revolt prerequisite this would be insane, you don't need to improve much on value filler for it to shine. As it is I think the card is too low power to be worth effort in making work and too unreliable without it to be a good filler card. Loads of things do turn this on such as sac lands, Recurring Nightmare, Sakura Tribe Elder etc. It is just more effort than it is worth setting such things up. This will be good filler in certain decks but it will be too weak for the drafting cube.

Whir of Invention 4.5

A new take on the fixed Tinker. It is Chord of Calling meets Reshape and broadly it seems quite a lot better on the Reshape end, a card that has itself done good work in modern. This is an extra mana over Reshape but it requires no sacrifice and you can improvise it to keep the cost at 3. Instant is a pretty big win as well. Running in some attacks only to find a Wurmcoil waiting to block is rather brutal. I think this is too narrow for most unpowered drafting cubes but it does have a place in the world of cube.

Sram's Expertise 4.5

So it looks like we might be treated to a cycle of these gems. It looks like the theme will be paying four mana for a three mana effect and then having the option on playing another three mana card from your hand for no mana. (turns out it is X mana for roughly 2 X-1 mana effects and not just tied in at 4). This is a 2 for 2s and yields no extra card advantage through the mechanic. What they do offer is a boat loads of tempo. White weenie is a tempo deck and so this fits right in there. This is not as good as the black offering in the cycle as a four drop is top end for aggressive decks while it is midrange for control decks. This will have to compete with Elspeth and Armageddon. Three 1/1s is nice but it isn't game breaking on turn four by any means. I can't even think of a super exciting follow up for this. Glroius Anthem is obviously nice but it doesn't instantly put the tokens to work. Overall I think I would rather Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. He is slower to make tokens and is generally either/or on tokens or pumps but he is a nice self contained and reliable card. He is a 1 for X rather than a 2 for 2. Unless you have a good three drop to make Sram's Expertise is very weak and I fear that will be too often for this to really shine. Nice card but more of a Battlescreech or Triplicate Spirits than a Spectral Procession.

Sram, Senior Edificer 4

Lovely to see these more marginal triggers tied together in a playable form. Vehicles, equipment and self buff auras all suffer the same kinds of diminishing returns. The more you have the higher chance they will be dead or at least invoke too much risk onto one target. As such I think it will be rare to have a deck with more than 3 things that this will trigger from which in turn makes it too unreliable to yield any value. Perhaps in a deck with more offensive auras rather than just self buff ones this could be more reliable. Also in decks built around auras this is some nice redundancy. I am sure this will see a variety of play but it isn't powerful enough or broad enough for a drafting cube.

Fatal Push 8.5

This. This is the card I have been waiting for. Regicide was such a breath of fresh air for black yet I can only play with it in drafts. This is playable in any kind of cube and is exactly what black needed. Tragic Slip was a bit too polar, it didn't kill quite enough at the low end and was overkill at the other end. The trigger may have been appropriate for the swing but it was too awkward for general use. Fatal Push is much more closely balanced. Double the effect with a pretty easy trigger. Converted mana cost is a much nicer thing to be bound by in cube as it is a high powered and quick format. Most of the dorks cost one or two (just over half in mine), almost all the dorks you see cost four or less (about 80% total in my cube). Smother was a pretty playable card and this is almost always better. It has a higher upper range than smother and can take out more powerful stuff yet it is always half the price. Against anything your opponent is likely to make turns one and two this is a lot lot better than Smother. This could well be the 3rd best creature removal spell now in the cube after Path and Plow. One mana instant is lovely. This is almost the best early game removal in the cube and probably would be if not for Voice of Resurgence and Strangleroot Geist and a couple of others that you do kindof want to exile. On the draw you can kill any one or two drop they might make and have your whole turn two free. There are so many two drops that are complete beatings that I would love to kill for one mana at instant speed and without giving away a free land! This kills all the tokens and is great against man lands. Really really huge card for black. This will be a modern staple. White will see less modern play and black will see more. I really wanted to give this a 9/10 rating but that is more a refelction of what this means for black and how much black needs it rather than the raw power of this card. Terminate will fall in value. Black is getting the love it needs in Aether Revolt.

Gonti's Aether Heart 0

This seems like it is trying to convince me it is somehow good. All we have here is a poorly disguised conditional six mana time walk. Not only is it a six mana rip off you need a further 3 artifacts to enter play (or a big energy surplus) before you can use it... You cannot abuse it as it exiles itself. The best you can do is Tinker it up for a really really bad 3 mana time walk?! No. Never this. No colour wants a time walk enough to play this.

Greenbelt Rampager 3

Wonderful design! A nice cheap high power creature that is interesting but not obviously over powered. It has clear interplay with other cards yet it is self sustained. A one mana 3/4 is about as good a deal as you can get but not being able to get this into play without 2 energy from elsewhere or two green mana to get the energy keeps it super fair. You can play this turn two and have it be rather like a Student of Warfare. You can use it to purely generate energy although it would seem not above two at a time. Much as I love this I don't see where it fits in. A generic 3/4 for GGG, even if you can prepay two thirds of that mana, is not exciting at all. Leatherback Baloth barely sees any cube play and has never made it into the drafting cube. This means you either need other sources of energy for this to be good. That or you are purely intending to use this to generate energy. Much as I like this I don't think there are enough main cube cards or high powered cards that go well with this (other than the Land Grant energy provider, Attune with the Aether?) for it to be worth a cube slot. One to keep an eye on but too slow and fair for what it can do in drafting cube. Much as it is nice as a way to trigger revolt I think that adding the cost of G to any revolt card rather undermines the value of that card.

Greenwheel Liberator 3

So here we have a potential 4/3 for 2. Voltaic Brawler is that and a bit more on the offensive and that has only been fine thus far in testing. Certain cards make this very easy to trigger but without a lot of those this is very inconsistent. For what is essentially just a high stat dork lacking in consistency is a problem. This is a long long way from a Tarmogoyf. This is much more of a Talara's Battalion. In the perfect deck this is probably worth it but short of that I wouldn't bother.  Far too low power and inconsistent for a drafting cube.

Metallic Mimic 5.5

This I like, it is not unlike Paliano Vangaurd from the latest Conspiracy set. This is not a super powerful card but it is pretty rounded. Most colours have one or more tribal themes in cubes naturally without being pushed at all. In most decks this should be able to buff a good number of things. Any of those that are nearing half or more of their dorks having the same type and that has a desire to play a tempo game would like this two drop. Basically a slightly softer Anafenza but one that works with tokens and token generators. You only need to get one hit of this with a Spectral Procession for it to have been well worth it.

Winding Constrictor 4

This has the air of being fake mostly because it is painfully dangerous card. Wizards are too wise these days to print something this open to abuse. It is one of those things that will win someone a protour and invoke a ban shortly there after. I am not sure what this does yet in cube but a 2 mana card that has such a broad static effect is mental. Perhaps it is some sort of Pentad Prism proliferate infinite stupidity. Despite this being so dangerous of a magic card I am not sure it is drafting cube material. For this to be outstanding it needs a lot of synergy and there isn't enough of the really abusive things in the drafting cube for that to work out. Sure, this is nice with a Scavenging Ooze but it makes your Kitchen Finks suck. You need more than nice for a 2/3 for 2 to excite, especially if you have to work to get that synergy. Nice for energy, bad for poison! Perhaps relevant outside of cube but pretty unlikely to come up much within cube.

Seige Modification 1

Oh look, another unplayable that you can pair with a previous unplayable for a naughty turn three attack with a 10/11 first strike combo that will be legal in standard. Not sure it is good, a certain new removal spell should see to that. When I build my vehicle combo deck I am sure I will be desperate enough to need this. Beyond that this has no place near a cube.

Untethered Express 3.5

It is starting to look like they are printing the man lands as vehicles. This Raging Ravine of a thing is not very impressive. It has a low crew cost, it gets to attack as a 5/5, then a 6/6 and so on and it actually has trample unlike the land. This should make it good but it seems a bit fair and pricey to me. I was very wrong about Fleetwheel Cruiser and so I would not be at all shocked to be off here too but it just looks clunky and slow and all together rather on the fair side for a four mana card.

Freejam Regent 2

Er? What is this name? Freejam? This dragon king of the fruit preserve donations, despite his silly name, is interesting. It reminds me of Moltensteel Dragon. Moltensteel worked well on its own and could power up artifact synergies, Freejam requires them but gives nothing back beyond being a hopefully efficiently cost flier. This is too generic and fair while also being narrow to see any cube play I think. I do not expect this to come out turn three very often when it would actually be good. Seems like more of an awkward four or five drop.

Pacification Array 5

Icy Manipulator come Relic Barrier style of card. This is cheap to make but pays for it with a high activation cost. This seems to expensive to play purely on its own merits. Once you have other synergies however this seems like it offers quite a lot. One mana artifacts are great for enabling all your other synergies. You might not use this to tap anything till turn five but it could still put in good work up to that point. Trinket Mage finds this too which is nice. I'll test this out but I expect it to be a little too fair to remain in the drafting cube. Despite this I expect to see this getting a decent amount of play in heavy artifact decks in other cube formats.

Merchant's Porter 1

While generally a whole load better than a Jayemdae Tome this is still a very slow card indeed. This card has a lot more game as a one mana 1/2 artifact dork than it does as a card draw engine. That ability is so slow and expensive you shouldn't expect to use it until the late game. As a body it is too useless to be wanted anywhere and as card draw it is too slow, expensive and situational even if it does have the potential to be quite potent. I can't see this making many cube decks and I can see it less being good in those decks. Never rule out a 1 or less mana artifact however.

Hungry Flames 3

This is a rework of Searing Blaze. It might seem close but the numbers say wildly otherwise. Blaze is good because it is so efficient in terms of damage per mana and not because of the effect. Hungry Flames does 5 damage for 3 mana compared to 6 for 2. Searing Blaze is nearly twice the mana efficieny of Hungry Flames (3dmg per mana vs 1 2/3dmg per mana). If I am bothering to play a 3 mana burn spell I want it to have some game against creatures with >3 toughness and this fails at that. I would much rather have a Brimstone Volley than this and I never really want one of those. Hungry Flames is playable but it isn't good at all.

Rishkar, Peema Renegade 7

Impressive and interesting. This seems like too much card to be anything but good. Sadly it is only really the clearly pushed stuff that is clearly good enough for cube these days. Worst case scenario this is a Trained Armodon that taps for G. As for best cases there are a lot of those. This can be a mana ramp the turn you make it. Lets say you have four other dorks, two of which have some for of counter on them. You can flop this, counter up the other two then tap all four for GGGG! You can just flop this down and get 4/4 worth of stats for three mana and beat in with half of it right away, perhaps scaling it with some keyword ability such as lifelink. You can reset a Kitchen Finks, kill a Phantasmal creature or do some combination of these various effects. One thing I do note about this is that despite being a 3 CMC green card you don't get the most value if you make this turn 2. It will make your one drop mana dork a bit bigger but still mostly just a mana dork. A versatile card both in what it can do for you as well as one you can play in lots of archetypes.

Greenbelt Druid 0

Sad to see that this is the new expectation for cheap green mana dorks. This might be power creep over some Orochi Sustainer / Wirewood Elf rubbish but it really isn't cube caliber. I don't even think this would be used as filler in a tribal elf deck in cube. There are too many better elves.

Release the Gremlins 3

This is a scaling Manic Vandal. Despite its increased utility over Vandals the Release of Gremlins is going to offer far less synergies. You can quite well expect to get a lot more value from a 2/2 creature card with an EtB trigger than you can with a spell and a token for the same cost and effect. As the 3 CMC option will be by far the most common I actually think that you would rather play the Vandals most of the time for that potential extra value and synergy being a creature brings. Comparing to Vandals is not a great place to be in general, the card is an emergency measure or a low value "value" answer. Mostly I prefer to play more direct answer cards or more versatile answer cards than these low impact two for one cards. This is playable but neither good nor exciting.

Aetherwind Basker 3

This is a pretty meaty threat. It has the Titan mechanic for generating energy which it can use to pump itself. I can see this easily being able to attack for around 15 on its first go and still for like 10-12 on the second (if needed!). This makes so much energy itself you don't need other energy cards to fuel it or improve it. As it costs so much however you wouldn't really use this to empower other energy cards, not in cube at least. While this thing hits about as hard as you could hope for from a 7 drop it has no immediate impact on the board. If they kill it you have gained very little value if any and likely lost a pile of tempo. Most of the good seven drops in cube do much more right away than this. I don't see this taking the spot of any of the things green likes to use in the top end. With reliable means to give this haste then it would start to look a lot more like a Craterhoof style finisher and might get some more love. It does hit incredibly hard after all.

Industrial Tower 6

Looks like affinity just got a great new source of fixing. Any deck that is artifact heavy or at least has some artifacts yet is colour light will be happy running this. Too narrow to be worth running in a drafting cube but a super strong land in the right decks of which there are many.

Inspirational Monuments 5

Cards which follow the general rule of "your X type cards improve your non X type cards" are inherently narrow and hard to work with. They restrict your build immensely and are only typically viable as build around cards. The thing I like about the Monuments is that you can use it to improvise your cards so it is like a Mindstone at least. Most artifacts like this are dead weight themselves while this actually does something useful on top of the effect. If you have enough other cheap non-mana producing artifacts, which only need be a couple, then this might well be better than a two mana artifact ramp card. I might be wildly underrating this as a 3 mana artifact ramp card isn't so bad and a card that turns all your artifacts (and clues!) into them as well sounds pretty nuts. I really like the idea of firing off a massive yet early Sphinx's Revelation off the back of this, a clue, an Elixir of Immortality, a Divining Top and perhaps a Baleful Strix or something. Sounds really powerful!

Rishkar's Expertise 6.5

Wow. I have some mixed feeling here. The first thing on my mind is that you really only need a 3 power dork in play for Rishkar's Expertise to be awfully comparable to Ancestral Recall. I guess more of a Treasure Cruise by the time you are playing it but still, one mana for anything more than one card is a big deal. This also has some mental scaling. You will draw a whole new hand with this just as often as you draw a mere 3! Six mana is not the hardest thing to get to in green and so this is pretty playable. I like it a lot more than Regal Force even if you can't tutor for it so easily. Regal Force will typically draw less, costs one more and the 5/5 you get is going to be a massive amount worse than the upto 5 mana card you play from your hand. There is some competition between this and Seasons Past but I think they are actually quite like Cruise and Dig. You tend to want one or the other depending on if you are tempo driven or more control orientated. They shouldn't step on each others toes and lower both's playability overall.  Riskar's Expertise is quicker, more proactive and incurs basically no tempo loss when compared to Season's Past. I think Expertise is the both the more powerful and the more playable of the two and I expect it to do some obscene things in the cube. I really wouldn't be shocked if one of the most common ways this is cast is for 8 mana in combination with a Treetop Village activation. While awful compared to what the card can do it still outperforms the fairly playable Harmonize in this awkward case scenario.

Aegis Automation 3

I love this but I fear it is a little too under powered for mainstay cube use. There are a lot of cube dorks with really unfair EtB effects for which this is a good tool to abuse. Eldrazi Displacer hasn't been all that impressive in cube and this is a lot weaker all round. Being both cheaper and an artifact may allow this to get a duel purpose slot in a deck where it wants the utility this offers but doesn't want to compromise on artifact synergies. If this had size and costings a little closer to those of Spellskite then we would have a potential cube mainstay but as is I think it will mostly sit in my reserves collecting dust.

Aid from the Cowl 4.5

Potentially very powerful indeed. The revolt trigger is easy to achieve but does require you to put work into the build of the deck to make it easy. This does make Aid from the Cowl a relatively narrow card but doesn't yet make it unworthy of the drafting cube. Sadly that is not the end of its issues. To ensure you get value from it you want one of two things, likely both. Either you need everything in your deck to be a target so you always get value. The issue there is that you will be hitting lands a lot of the time. If you make this and get back to back land your tempo loss is going to be hard to recover. A five mana investment wants to get good return right away and that is hard to do with this. The alternative option is to have so much control over the library that you can reliably hit the premium cards in your deck. This is pretty easy to do in the cube and loads of cards will help with that. Worldly Tutor, Sylvan Library and so many more. The issue is that you have two kinds of support in your deck for one card, both top of library and revolt enablers are needed. It reminds me a lot of Oath of Druids, a card with multiple stipulations. The main difference there is that Oath is a two mana card and this is a five mana card. I am a lot happier warping my whole deck around a two mana card that can win a game than I am for a card two and a half times the price. The potential best case scenarios for Aid from the Cowl are pretty staggering. You could be making an Eldrazi every turn for the rest of the game and you could be doing that from turn three. I think if you just toss this into your average ramp green deck without any planning it will be pretty weak. You will trigger it say 50% of the time and from that you should hit 95% of the time. Of those hits however you should expect at least a third lands and at least another third to be pretty limp mana dorks and things. Sure, you would have drawn them anyway but the point is you made a five drop that did that rather than win the game. Overall I think your odds of hitting a good thing in a normal green ramp deck with this is around 15%. You could say 15% to draw and cast something amazing or 45% chance to draw and play a land / cheap card. That isn't enough. The expected value from Whisperwood Elemental is better and that comes with a free 4/4 plus wrath protection... So this isn't a card you can just play. Getting a cube slot as a build around card such as this is a tall order and only the very best make it. I don't think this is quite there for that but it is very close indeed. I will certainly build some decks up around this card to get a feel for it better as it is such an interesting offer. Not expecting this to be a drafting cube card however.

Renegade Map 6

Land Grant for colourless but it makes you wait a turn! On a land fixer that turn is a pretty big deal. It means you have to play this on turn one if you only have one land in hand. It means if that one land is a land that comes in tapped itself you can't keep the hand. Despite being weaker fixing than Land Grant it is both colourless and an artifact which more than make up for that. This has all sorts of synergy, it enables loads of stuff and it is practically free inclusion in your deck to do so. It even lets you fine tune you lands ratios to a certain degree. Great new tool to be able to work with. Perhaps too little synergy in my drafting cube at present for this to really stand out but a very welcome addition wherever it ends up. One of the best ways to enable revolt cheaply and freely too. Equally a great way to improvise stuff as well when you are not in urgent need of lands. Given how well this enables all the set mechanics I anticipate this being a standard staple.

Countless Gears Renegade 4

For such a simple card this has so many subtleties to it that reviewing it is going to be a ball ache. You want this on turn two but turn two is a time that revolt is hard to achieve. As a two drop with the revolt trigger this card is pretty nuts for white weenie, likely the best tempo two drop it can play and some of the best scaling with Glorious Anthem effects. As a two drop without the revolt trigger the card is awful in everything. The card is too inconsistent for the role you want it to do and too low powered when you must endure the worst case scenario that I don't see this being drafting cube worthy. In a format like modern where you can rely on the sac land that much more this card is much better suited to the task. Revolt as a mechanic in cube seems best suited to late game cards and reactive effects. Countless Gears Renegade is the posterboy for an early game proactive card. I like this card so much I think I will test it out in the drafting cube and perhaps even add some support for revolt too. My expectation sadly is that this will not be worthy of drafting cubes.

Aethergeode Miner 4.5

This reminds me of the Gustcloak series of cards. Freely attack as you like and should you not like the results you get to remove it from combat and survive (untapped). White has a lot of 1W 3/1 dorks these days. All of them are good but they are a statline you don't want to go overboard on. They are super vulnerable to loads of things and the more 3/1s you run the more these cards like Fire / Ice will just mean game over. The evasion on daring Skyjek is hard to beat. I like the ability to freely attack and I like the fact that should you have a spare two energy you can evade any spot removal targetting the miner. What I dislike is that Miner is still just as vulnerable to wraths all the time as a normal creature and prior to your first attack you have no energy to protect it from removal. This is a good card, it gets better if you have other energy cards too but I think it isn't quite as well suited to the task as some very similar sized and costed dorks. This is much more playable than Countless Gears Renegade but it isn't a more powerful card.

Glint-Sleeve Siphoner 6.5

This sounds like a euphemism for someone who gives out handjobs. I am really not sure what is up with the naming in this set but it seems really odd. So, yet another "you will believe it isn't Dark Confidant" card. How does this shape up against Blood Scrivener, Asylum Visitor and Pain Seer? I would say this is probably a little better than Pain Seer which is just about the best of those three non-Confidant cards. Siphoner is exactly as slow as Pain Seer on its own to draw cards and equally requires an attack to do so. Menance however helps a great deal in Siphoner surviving the attack to be able to draw cards. Other sources of energy can be used to draw you cards quicker and without attacking with Siphoner but you can do much the same with vehicles and Pain Seer. Siphoner is more consistent on life costs for card draw and gives you greater building freedom than either Seer or Confidant. Good tempo value card. A bit of a threat and a bit of potential ongoing value. More rounded than most of the alternatives and impressively reliable as well. Slow to return value but cheap and annoying enough that you don't care about that.

Mechanized Production 1

How is this not limited to the name of the enchanted card??? Obviously if you had to have 8 copies of the thing this was on it would be one of the worst auto win style cards in the game. Worse than Epic Struggle even! It seems like you can just stick this on a Darksteel Citadel and then set about making servo's or thopters or clues and win like that. All told the idea is probably more to generate value over time with this than to win the game in which case you should have won well before you get to your 8th Wurmcoil Engine. Doesn't really matter as this isn't playable. It is slow, risky and situational. Poor card but might be good fun for a silly combo deck.

Reverse Engineer 6

Mmmm. This looks tasty. I like to draw 3, I would love to do it for UU. Even UU1 would be totally fine. When this is good it will be great. Affinity and robots decks won't play it, it is too colour intense and too much of a tempo hit to cast. More midrange and control decks with any sort of artifact theme or synergy will be all over this. Not too far off the power level of Treasure Cruise but sadly a lot narrower in application.

Yehenni, Undying Partisan 6

Very interesting card. The set of abilities this has makes it pretty hard to know where it fits in and what it is best at. Haste makes it look aggressive, indestructible makes it look defensive and growing in size and being a sac outlet makes it seem like a more midrange card. The ability set is closest to Falkenrath Aristocrat which is a great card but it is the evasion on that which makes it so potent. This thing can just get blocked all day and do little on the offensive. Haste on a two power dork isn't gripping either. Plenty of times you won't even be able to attack into their two drop with this. Black has a good amount of zero mana removal. If you make this and kill a thing then it is starting to look really scary. Overall he does seem best suited to aggressive decks but I am concerned his low starting stats and lack of evasion will render him useless a little too often. This is too much card not to be decent in cube but it may be a little too haphazard in what it does have to offer that it doesn't stand out.

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