Saturday, 28 January 2017

Winners and Losers from Aether Revolt

Fatal PushFatal Push - win

No surprises here. The card is exactly as solid as all the hype. It is closer to Path and Plow in power than it is to the 4th best removal spell. It is curious how it makes you play a little differently. I was holding sac lands specifically so I could revolt at will if needed. Normally I would have used those sac lands right away to thin my deck in the same situation but with an alternative spot removal card.

Walking Ballista

Walking Ballista - so far a win

In the green ramp deck the Walking Ballista is amazing. It gives green the ability to control the board. Green has used things like Cursed Scroll and more recently the Consul Flagship just as a way to deal with irksome dorks. Things like Grim Lavamancer and Thalia, Heretic Cathar are really tedious for green mages. Scroll is slow to do work and the Flagship isn't much quicker. They can take out one thing per turn once you have them online. They are also both quite set in how you can use them, neither has a range. Walking Ballista solves the same problems but it does so in a far more useful and flexible way. You can use it for 2 just to kill off their one drop if that is the way to go. You can dump it down late game and pick off two or three offending creatures. You can drop it down late game and just start sending it at face and pumping it. You can drop it down early and steadily build it up. None of the ways of using it in isolation offer efficient returns on your mana investment but it is always fine, always what you need and always suitable to the task. It is removal, it is reach and it is a potent late game threat. It has really potent scaling with a wide array of effects too. I have already seen the Verdurous "Flametongue" Gearhulk combo with Ballista. I have also seen 16 mana dumped into the card for two consecutive turns. Comes down as an 8/8, swings in for 12 and then guns them down the rest of the way! The Ballista is a little too mana intense to be played as much more than filler in the more normal decks I still feel however in any deck that can make stupid amounts of mana it seems like one of the best utility cards on offer.

Aethertide WhaleAethertide Whale - so far a win

I played this over Aetherling recently and was very glad that I did. The Whale is not close to the Aetherling in terms of difficulty to stop. It is more blockable, more killable and much more mana intense to protect and return to having it in play. What Whale does that Aetherling doesn't do is good defensive work. A 6/4 flying blocker is worlds more use than a 4/5ish ground based blocker. Staying alive is the main thing for a control deck, winning is what you do when you have done that! Whale is still a good threat and most control decks should be able to craft a win with it. Certainly there will be some games where Whale can't close yet Aetherling would have done however I think those will be significantly less common than the number of games that Whale stops you dying in which Aetherling would have been no help at all. Aetherling is at its best when you are threat light and need a super reliable one. The better performing control decks these days are typically the ones that are fairly threat dense. In such decks the Whale is the more desirable sort of card. Whale also seems more desirable for midrange decks.

Heart of KiranHeart of Kiran - so far a lose

I was wary of this cards high crew cost from the outset and that indeed has been an issue. This card really isn't a two drop in the conventional sense. It is much more akin to a Serra Avenger. Sure, you can flop out a Heart on turn two and not waste mana but the card won't do anything much for some turns if you do. From what I have seen this card has no real place in an aggressive deck. It reduces your threats and reduces your consistency for what is really a pretty limp reach card. The two mana price tag is misleading, as is the four power. Generally you are gaining one damage out of this card, you might well be making 3 power evasive that otherwise couldn't have usefully attacked but there are far better cards than this for gaining some reach or evasion for your dorks. Just play a good reach four drop threat like Sublime Archangel or Hellrider, don't play this. With aggro decks ruled out for the most part this is rather limited to a midrange deck. Perhaps a control deck with mainly creatures and planeswalkers. A lot of midrange games involve a load of creatures creating a board stalemate. In those kinds of games Heart of Kiran feels like it would be very strong. It can easily protect planeswalkers while applying pressure to theirs. Heart of Kiran is incredibly versatile and tempo efficient should you have some walkers and dorks in play. The fact that you can use it offensively and defnesively while still having most of your other resources free is a pretty big deal. Imagine a Celestial Colonade you could activate in a variety of manaless ways! While Heart is obviously very good in the right place it may still be too narrow to merit a drafting cube slot. I need to see quite how good it is when it is good and how far you can push the limits on where it is playable to fully assess the card. Just having ruled out aggro is a big downer for the card to start with.

Sram, Senior EdificerSram, Senior Edificer - lose

Too low powered and inconsistent to be worth it in a drafting cube. You don't wan't lots of creature dependent cards in your deck and so the better Sram is the worse you list gets. Three is a healthy enough number of vehicles and equipment for a deck (total, not each!), much more and you are getting inconsistent or niche. With only three trigger targets in the deck Sram is not going to get value very often. He only needs one draw to be good, two makes him great but you are probably averaging 0.3ish draws per Sram cast in a deck with 3 targets. Not enough. Sram will certainly still see cube play but that will be in themed decks in more constructed forms of cube, not in drafts.

Yahenni's ExpertiseYahenni's Expertise - good but not up to the hype

So this is a cube worthy card for sure but it is neither as good as Damnation or Toxic Deluge. The best thing about it is the level of redundancy it gives to black in terms of effective mass removal. Black is now pretty comparable to white as the other colour to pair with blue in a counter based control deck (with this and Push now available). There are two things that somewhat hamper the utility of Expertise. One is that it is just -3/-3 making it a fairly soft mass removal effect. Most red 3 mana mass removal spells do as much work. It makes it a little bit more work to engineer a good Expertise and no where near the scaling, reliability or security of a Damnation. It really isn't a one mana effect either. I don't go round calling Coal Stoker a one drop! Dark Petition gets away with it a lot more because you can always Tutor for a thing to cast. One is generally a little more accepting of a tutor you have to wait on than a removal effect as well. The other big issue with Expertise is having something you want to play in hand. While I have typically had things to do they were not really things I was that excited to be doing. Either they didn't save me much mana or the cards I had were not optimal for the situation. Often I wanted to be flopping out dorks so as to threaten their walkers but instead I was drawing cards. The value you get from your Expertise will depend a lot on what you have in hand and this makes it a pretty inconsistent card. A little like Sram, the more you build to get value from it the more I suspect you will harm the consistency and effectiveness of the rest of your deck.

Aethersphere HarvesterAethersphere Harvester - big win

Flying vehicles are just oppressive. This made me think I should revisit Sky Skiff... Despite all my efforts since Kaladesh to improve the vehicle effectiveness of removal in my cube they are still a massive pain to deal with. Basically no creatures with creature removal effects do anything against them. Skin Render looks so sad against a flying vehicle. You need instant speed creature removal or you need something that can hit artifacts. The best removal that hits artifacts in cube is usually 3 mana and often your coverall spell that you really want to hit a nasty planeswalker with, perhaps a card like Vedalken Shackles you probably can't beat. The instant removal is either conditional or premium. A white weenie deck probably only has two cards in their deck that can deal with an Aethersphere Harvester but it is just a three drop. It has a good chance of wreaking them and if not it at least means your next heavy card should evade removal. This card owns the skies pretty well. There are not that many cards that can block it and kill it in cube, they all cost five or more mana too. It is a great aggro card being hard to remove, hard to block, cheap to crew and decently hard hitting for the price. Despite this it is better suited to midrange decks where the lifelink and high toughness will be put to more effective use on the whole. High power all round card sufficiently such that it is playable across a vast array of archetypes. So far the clear second best vehicle and a pretty decent counter to the best!

Vengeful RebelVengeful Rebel - big lose

Skin Render might be sad about vehicles but this is just sad in general. Don't play this. This is inconsistent in a place you really want reliability. This could be a 3/3 and give a permanent -3/-3 and I would still always rather a Skin Render. Revolt is a lot closer to landfall than it is to morbid in terms of ease to pull off but it is still something you have to do. It requires building consideration, play consideration, sometimes a bunch of waiting and other times following a weaker line of play just so you have the option. All this makes any cheap highly proactive or highly reactive cards relying on the revolt mechanic unplayable. They would have to be obscenely over powered at either cast option like Fatal Push and this most certainly isn't. The white Harpooner is going to be even worse than this so won't bother testing that based on Rebel's performnace.

Skyship PlundererSkyship Plunderer - needed to earn a spot and hasn't as yet

Blue has a lot of 2/1 fliers with perks these days. Rattlechains, Stratus Dancer and Demensional Infiltrator all had their chance in the cube and all were found to be a little underwhelming. They are all quiet nice now and again but not quite enough the rest of the time. To really shine they need a level of support that is hard to build into a drafting cube. The Plunderer may well have the best effect of the pure 2 mana 2/1s but it is still quite narrow and quite low impact. Losing flash for a better effect greatly reduces the utility of this card for any reactive blue deck.

Renegade RallierRenegade Rallier - mild win so far

While I have poo pooed the revolt mechanic on cards that need it to do anything (a 3 mana gold 3/2 is not even close to cube worthy on its own) this card is neither proactive nor reactive. You don't need it to do its thing when your opponent does a specific something nor is it something you expect to make on turn three. All recursion cards scale well into the late game as they have more options on this to return. This scales a little less well than an Eternal Witness as it is capped at 2 CMC for what it can get nor can it get instants/sorceries. Where Rallier makes up ground on Witness (and Den Protector) is as a tempo play. It is nearly twice the stats and ultimately costs two less mana. It can also break the one land a turn rule and be used as a ramp card. While you may just want the reliability of a Witness in a slow deck any sort of tempo deck will be all over this. While not as pacey and proactive as the Bloodbraid Elf the Rallier is better value and much the same sort of tempo boost.

Rishkar, Peema RenegadeRishkar, Peema Renegade - win

This is really great. I hadn't quite considered the upper potentials of this bad boy. It is good on turns two or three either buffing just itself or at least not adding the ability to produce mana to any other cards. It is great on turns four or five when you can start to usefully buff some other dorks and get attacking or mana value right away. This was about as far as I got in my initial evaluation of the card. It does do all those things but it can also come down late game and generate mana like a Gaea's Cradle too! I faced off against this and a rampant Nissa, Voice of Zendikar. Pay three, drop Rishkar, -2 my Nissa, put counters on everything including a handful of plants. Tap a bunch of these things to add far more mana than the three paid for the Rishkar and make something vast and game breaking! Rishkar is comfortably the best tempo three drop green has.

Renegade MapRenegade Map - win

This Harry Potter flavour of card is quite nice thus far. Absolutely it is filler but it can be on point, enable other synergies and allow your land/spell ratios to be fine tuned. I have found myself glad of it in my pool and that is a good sign.

Maulfist Revolutionary - so far a win

Maulfist RevolutionaryIt was playing against this I realised its strength. Having to worry about planeswalker ultimates a turn, even two earlier is pretty significant. This is one of those cards that often has more value as a potential threat than in reality, like Force Spike and Armageddon. It is easy enough to get some value from this although just a random +1/+1 counter isn't blowing any minds. It is a fine enough body that you can play it in a wide array of decks. The trample is a big win too. There are loads of stat buff cards in the cube these days, Verdurous Gearhulk, Nissa Voice of Zendikar etc. Having a body that tramples to begin with is vastly more exciting to buff.  Maulfist has a nice reciprocal synergy with +1/+1 counters in that he offers value when you have them elsewhere while being a great recipient of them as well.

Restoration Specialist - lose

Heroic Intervention
Restoration SpecialistToo low impact on the body and too situational on the recursion. Yes, a lot of the powerful things you have are artifacts or enchantments but you will have few of them, they will cost more and they will generally spend a lot less time in the bin than your other cards. Part of why they are good is the difficulty in dealing with them! For some specific decks this might be the thing but it just isn't good enough for white weenie or any other top tier drafting cube archetype. Playable but under powered in addition to being a little narrow.

Heroic Intervention - so far a lose

Much like Benefactors Draught it is hard to play these situational spells in green. Green is all about ramp and developing the board. If your hand is full of reactive spells you have little chance of effectively using your ramp. Heroic Intervantion is a good sideboard tool but it is the wrong sort of thing for green to be main decking. Many a deck could have played this, the kind of deck it looks like it would be valuable in, those full on cheap mana dorks and creature based threats, yet it is just left in the sidelines.

Will get to the other cards as I play them. I suspect many will simply never get picked and played and as such will be cut without much in the way of review.

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