Monday, 2 January 2017

Some Winners and Losers from the Multiplayer Sets

Ash Barrens
Between Commander 2016 and Conspiracy: Take the Crown a lot of my recent cube additions have been from sets designed for multiplayer. Many of these cards have taken longer to get a good feel for in play. The Kaladesh stuff all jumped out at me and was very easy to build with and evaluate. A lot of that was because the Kaladesh stuff was so good. The better stuff is the more it gets play and thus the easier it is to understand. Anyway, of the more exotic cards from the exotic sets I have added in the last few months here is what I have found out about the cards and how they differ from my initial reviews.

Ash Barrens (win)

A very solid land indeed with lots of options. You don't want it much in the quick decks but it is better than having poor fixing. All told it is still probably better than a Temple in most aggressive decks for fixing. It is the slower decks where this shines. Having a cheap shuffle effect combined with some delve fuel is just the ticket. It is what the original Mirage sac lands wish they were! Likely the card from Commander 2016 that will see the most cube play.

Frenzied FugueFrenzied Fugue (cut)

Just a bit fiddly to be good. There are a lot of cards like this that do quite a lot and are quite powerful but fail for being indirect. No archetype really wants this kind of card. You cannot rely on what it will do for your deck and for a four mana sorcery speed card that just isn't good enough. For that cost you want something that does a lot regardless of the game state or you want it to reliably do a thing.

Benefactor's Draught (cut)

Benefactor's DraughtImpressively underwhelming thus far despite seeing a reasonable amount of play. Pretty much all this has done so far is cheaply cycle. It drew a pile of cards once but in a bit of a kamikazee move that ultimately didn't get the job done. I still feel like the card should shine, particularly so in the right deck but it seems to be that the card is a little bit infrequently appropriate to be worth a deck slot in most drafted cube decks.

Faerie Artisans (win)

Faerie ArtisansShockingly this is one of the more impressive cards from Commander 2016. It has the feel of a lot of blue cards that are really tedious. Probably somewhere between Sower of Temptation and Glen Elandra Archmage, perhaps with a dash of Vedalken Shackles in there too! Once this hits play it becomes incredibly hard for your opponent to play creatures. Some are too damaging, others require you to play them in a certain order. Essentially, if you are a deck with creatures, you are not already vastly ahead on the board and you can't kill the Artisans then they are going to end you. They will nibble you down slowly and control your planeswalkers while making it really hard to get any tempo or value through the playing of creatures. Most cube decks have creatures, most of them are really good. Unlike Glen Elandra Archmage the Artisans needs no mana to activate and has infinite usage making it a quicker and more oppressive lockdown style card. Unlike Sower of Temptation your work is not undone when it is killed. It certainly feels like a better card than the Sower. Certainly not better than Glen but then they are cards for different purposes so that isn't an issue. I am a little biased against this card as it has the Clone issue of being somewhat limited by what your opponent is playing. I cannot argue with performance however and the Artisans at least can be played in a deck to improve your matchup against creature heavy decks. It is not like it is dead ever, just a bit of a range in potency based on what you are up against which is most cards in reality.

Saskia the UnyieldingSaskia the Uncastable (Unyielding)

Obviously nutty good but not quite as nutty as you might like given the effort you have to put into playing it. For essentially what it just a top quality four drop for a zoo deck this isn't worth the effort. Yes, most of the time it is better than everything else but not categorically. Bloodbraid is still a far superior card to run into a counter for example. Too often I would play Saskia and just force blocks rather than instantly kill people as I had hoped. Yes, this is the best aggressive four drop dork, but only by a tiny fraction. There are also a near endless supply of really good alternative aggressive four drops. Warping your deck specifically to play this is the wrong call and that means this is only playable when you happen to be playing a deck which can support it. That basically only being those 4 and 5 colour zoo which is far far too infrequent for this to be worth a cube slot.

Breya, Etherium ShaperBreya, Etherium Shaper (win)

Harder to play and cast than Saskia but more powerful in her way and more variety in where she might see play combined are enough to keep her in the cube. See feels like a 6 drop by the time you are setup to cast her and that makes her closer to fair. She has been cheated into play with Welders and things far more than she has been cast and again, that stands to make her fairer. When you just ignore casting cost all together she does have that Wurmcoil / Sphinx of the Steel Wind character about her. She dominates the board and generally yields some bonus value but doesn't just win the game by any means. The decks that want her do find it very easy to splash for her with Signets and Chromatic things that are generally good in artifact themed decks anyway.
Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder

Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder (win)

Yeah, just play this over Saskia. The huge advantage Bruse has (beyond just being 2 colours!) is that he effects combat not just damage to face. You lay Bruse and you can attack into most things fairly effectively. They can't race so they have to try and play the value game and that is really hard when you get to doublestrike up a thing each turn. Not what I call an exciting card, it is linear, gold and a four drop but it is well suited to the task, has lots of power to offer and has at least two reasonable archetypal homes.

Summoner's BondSummoner's Bond

Certainly very powerful but not oppressively so. It is an interesting card in how you apply it and that is why I like it so much. I am not sure it brings enough to the game to be worth the extra phaff of using it however. It doesn't really solve any problems in the cube. It is a bit like a Shelldock Isle, just get a free thing for little effort / cost.

Advantageous Proclamation

Advantageous ProclamationThis is think does bring enough to the table to be worth consideration. It is only good for the proactive decks, combo and aggro. Midrange decks can benefit from it but not always and control ones typically find it a liability being at less than 40 cards. Building a 35 deck is a challenge mostly because all your normal appreciation of ratios is off! It also commands huge levels of discipline to be able to cut cube cards out of your deck! The one thing I don't love about this card is that its value massively increases the more limited you make the draft. I often do 6 man drafts where we have five packs of 11 cards each. In those the Proclamation is decent, really decent in RDW. When you do a more standard 3 packs of 15 the value of the conspiracy goes up a little too much for my liking.

Cogwork Librarian / Leovold's Operative

Cogwork LibrarianBoth fair cards that do add a lot to the consistency of a draft. The Librarian is obviously a whole bunch better but both are worthwhile cards to have in a draft. It is not uncommon at all to have packs with basically no cards for you and others with four or more. These cards help all players to not be the victim of poor luck. It is far more often lumpy distribution of desired cards rather than a lack of seeing them that leads to poor decks I find. Both these cards help smooth out such clumps and lead to a better draft.

Animus of Predation

Animus of PredationLikely this is fair in a powered cube but in a midrange one this is oppressive. Just so long as you see it in the first 75% of the draft it is very easy to turn this into a monster. Just flying and indestructible is too much for a lot of decks and you can make the Animus a whole lot more brutal than that. It shuts down most decks trying to play a normal game and develop a board. It also does so in a dull, True Name Nemesis like way. Hard to interact with and therefore not a very fun card. Another lame aspect to this is that other people get to see you burn their picks just to improve it which adds some unnecessary salt to the event.

Arcane Savant

Arcane SavantThis is also far too unreasonable to really be a good inclusion in a cube setting. You really don't need things like Cruel Ultimatum for this to be oppressive. I recently had a Dimir control deck with the Savant. Despite having some really saucy things I could use (Time Warp, Dig Through Time etc) I mostly went for a safe and calm Council's Judgement. It greatly plugged a hole not only in my deck but also commonly present in UB control lists in that I could easily deal with artifacts and enchantments. Despite going for the safe reactive option it was the Time Walk aspect that made me realise quite how unfair this card is. There are so many infinite turn combos possible with it that are easy to setup and involve no poor or narrow cards. I had both Recurring Nightmare and Venser planeswalker in my pool that would have done the trick. Recurring, flickering and recasting creatures is too easy to do compared to instants and sorceries and as such having a dork with an EtB Time Walk trigger is not something they should ever print unless it is riddled with self exile clauses.

Borderland Explorer (kind of a win)

Borderland ExplorerIn my evaluation of this card I rather overlooked quite how helpful it is for your opponent. That is more of a problem than I would like it to be and likely has the result of making this a narrower card than I imagined. Basically, if you need lands or a discard then you are happy to play this regardless and it will be great for you. If however you just want to make a two drop but otherwise have a fine enough curve then you start to wonder how much it will help your opponent out and frequently came to the conclusion that you would rather hold it and play nothing. It is basically never bad turning a land into a land, it can be amazing to turn a non-land into a land and it can be amazing to get a free option on a discard. This could be because you are a reanimate deck but it could just be to help flip a Jace, fuel a delve spell, turn on delirium, power out a Vengevine or Lingering Souls. This list is very long indeed and basically just means most decks can abuse discard and plenty enough actively want to. I use this less like Satyr Wayfinder and more like an Heir to Falkenrath now. I try and play it when I want the ability to discard more than I want the option on finding a land. Still a good card but not quite so unanimously so.

Custodi Lich (lose)
Custodi Lich
Actually the most played of the monarch cards but still not really played enough to deserve a premium five drop cube slot. Monarch is just a bit too risky for most people's liking. The format is a little too diverse and therefore building to be able to safely retain a monarchy is not something you can really do. Good value, quite swingy and certainly dangerous in combination with recursive stuff and evasive stuff. The reason it is bad is that it doesn't reliably do what you want it to do because of the risk analysis of most situations. It is a card that can potentially lose you the game and so it only ever comes out looking like a good play when you are super ahead or super behind.

Palace JailerPalace Jailer (lose)

Much the same as the Custodi Lich. White has enough removal now that you don't need to play bad expensive dorks to help you out. It also has a wealth of super powerful four drops that may not draw cards but don't really need to when they can just win the game.

Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast (win)

Daretti, Ingenious IconoclastA top rate planeswalker for sure. This dude is super hard to deal with and will at the very least absorb a totally unreasonable amount of damage, more so if made on curve. He forces your opponent to apply constant pressure thus removing it from you and your life total. If they just stay back Daretti can build up enough artifacts and loyalty to kill all the relevant stuff they make. If they do not force you to block with the 1/1 defender token or put Daretti to a super low loyalty on each swing then he is getting card advantage on top of tempo. You do not need artifacts for him to be good but it does help. If you can instantly use the -1 to good effect then you instantly get value and tempo. Closest to Ashiok in power level of the other 3 mana walkers however not so devastating against control decks if made on curve. Also being less able to actually win a game on his own than Ashiok somewhat separates them as well.

Grenzo, Havoc Raiser (lose)

Grenzo, Havoc RaiserAnother card I overrated a bit. Grenzo is a little bit win more to be a cube staple. Worst case he is a RR 2/2 and that is not something you can get away with lightly these days. Sure, when you have an overlap on the board and some spare mana Grenzo is a pile of value but in that situations you have probably won anyway. The card is cool enough and cheap enough that a 1R costing would have lead to it showing up all over the place. Being RR rather stops that and makes him something you only look at for RDW style decks and in those he is less aggressive than most of your one drops...

Kaya, Ghost Assassin (win)

I have done a bunch on this already. Presently she has my vote for best gold 4 or more mana planeswalker although it is a close one with Nahiri. Really deceptively powerful, try her out.

Paliano Vanguard
Paliano Vanguard

Lovely card all round. It is interesting, it has a lot of places that can put it to good use, it is powerful yet it isn't oppressive like some of the powerful cards of this style. A nice colour pie appropriate Lord of Atlantis for white and all it's many types of dork.


RegicideAlong with the Vanguard this is the best of the draft only cards. It is an appropriate power level, adds a lot of new dynamics and mechanisms while also being exactly the kind of card black wants. If you only draft your cube then adding this will make it better. This is something black was sorely lacking from its tool box (although Aether Revolt looks like it will help there) and is a great boost to the colour.

Selvala, Heart of the Wilds (sort of a win)

This is an odd one in that I gave it a fairly middling rating (as in good enough for cube but not a cube bomb) but I somewhat expected it to either shine or flop. I took a middle ground stance on an unpredictable card and that is where it wound up. It is good enough for cube but it isn't a bomb. It is just quite a suitable thing to play on curve for a selection of archetypes. It is a bit of a 3 drop Oracle of Mul Daya. Some ramp, some value but at the cost of being a bit flimsy. It is not a new Rofellos nor is it a Mul Daya Channelers style flop as it could have been without the luxury of hindsight.
Selvala, Heart of the Wilds

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