Wednesday 5 April 2017

Amonkhet Initial Review Part II

Djeru's Resolve 3

Most of my normal gripes about combat tricks don't apply here. This has multiple uses with its effect making it pretty versatile and it also has cycling to ensure it is never dead weight. The issue I have with this is it is simply too low impact to be the sort of thing you are putting in your decks. On paper this sounds a bit like a super Charm style card. It can kill something unsuspecting in combat, it can counter a selection of removal spells and effects, it can reuse a tap effect on a dork you have or it can draw a card. It is super cheap as well. Sadly I just don't think the option on any of those things merits a card slot in your deck.

Trial of Knowledge 1

This is interesting but ultimately it is far too weak for a drafting cube. It is like a big Oath of Jace, mostly interesting for being an enchantment draw and discard outlet. Replenish decks of old relied heavily on Attunement and often had to run garbage like Compulsion. Despite being actual card advantage this is likely too clunky even for a Replenish deck. Four mana sorcery speed card draw cards are not how blue gets things done! Cartouche is likely to be about as relevant as energy in the drafting cubes and so this should not be considered as more than a Sift in enchantment form.

Cartouche of Solidarity 3.5

On paper this is 2/2 worth of stats for one mana with a dash of vigilance, a potential pinch of haste and a chunk of first strike. That is a lot of card. It is not even vulnerable to removal as most auras are as it comes with a free body meaning you sort of need to kill it twice. This in turn means even if you do get that "two for one" on the enchanted body it was only really a one for one as the 1/1 remains. Obviously you can blow up the target as the aura is on the stack but for a low value card that only costs one mana it might not even be worth using premium removal to stop. The real drawback for this card is that it is an aggressive one drop that requires you to have a thing to play it on. Gryff's Boon was such a card and while fairly potent in just the right deck it was too narrow and too low impact to merit a main cube slot. This is fear has the same plight ahead of it. The one saving grace the card might have is in its token generating utility and things that go with all that jazz. This is a tiny bit more power than other cube one drops but it is quite significantly less consistent. Such cards are really only playable in constructed formats.

Crocodile of the Crossing 2

Worst case scenario this is a 4/3 with haste for 4 which is pretty acceptable, that is the exact same as a Vengevine's worst case scenario. Best case for the Croc is a 5/4 with haste for 4 with a reset on your Strangleroot Geist! This is a fine card but it is not powerful enough on the upside to be worth it. The upsides on Vengevine or Surrak wildly outclass what this can do. You want four drops to be game breaking not fine with the mild possiblity of being slightly above average. Although I have given this a 2/10 there is almost no chance this will see play. The 2/10 is a nod to how close it came. The issue is that the vanilla dorks are either good enough for cube or they are unplayable, there is very little range in between.

Nest of Scarabs 1

Likely some combos for this that are almost certainly too convoluted, expensive or otherwise weak to be viable in any sort of cube setting. As a stand alone card this is low impact and low power. It needs loads of synergy to drive it and as such would be unplayable in a drafting cube and not worth it in a constructed cube deck.

Flameblade Adept 7.5

Hello there little Swiftspear! Red is hungry for the likes of this card. This is the sort of card that can have a significant effect on cube design. Its mere presence will greatly encourage red discard and/or cycling stuff that is playable in an aggressive deck. I joked about not having Street Wraith in my cube in part one, I am already thinking it might be making a return...

Turn one land plus Flameblade Adept, turn two land plus Wild Mongrel and attack for one. Turn three land, ditch three cards to pump the Mongrel and cast Wheel of Fortune. Ditch those seven cards to the dog as well and attack for 23! This card has a lot of potential for sure, certainly more than Swiftspear has. Flameblade Adept may be an obvious comparison for Swiftspear with its text, cost and size but they are rather different. They are like Delver of Secrets and Cloudfin Raptor. Both very potent one drops both of which scale very well with certain things in your deck but sadly not the same things. You can have either Swiftspear or Adept being pretty bonkers in your list but you can't have both living the dream. All told it will be much easier to be getting value from Swiftspear and so despite its lower potential I think Swiftspear will remain the more desirable, more playable and more consistent card. Swiftspear is consistently close enough to 2 damage or even above it in the lists that play it to be a great value one drop. You won't naturally get anywhere near 2 dmg average output with Adept naturally from any archetype and will need to work a little on the synergies to get there.

RDW lists don't naturally have many discard or cycling things and when they do they are typically one shot affairs, the more playable ones being just a card or two. Faithless Looting is a great card for pair with the Adept but just a Faithless Looting isn't going to be enough to turn your one power beater into anything more relevant. You are going to need multiple discard outlets and/or cheap cyclers for the Adept and I am not sure RDW will want to support such things.  An Izzet tempo list on the other hand can pretty easily support sufficient discard and/or cycling stuff to power this thing effectively. An aggressive Rakdos deck isn't going to struggle with supporting the discard either!

This could well be better than Swiftspear in the Izzet tempo lists as evasion is far more significant than the extra surprise damage you get from the haste. Menace makes it a much more relevant card in an ongoing capacity and will allow it to cope better against ever bigger and better defenses as the game goes on. One thing to note with Adept is that it only gains power when triggered unlike the Swiftspear which also gains toughness. Mostly you are leaning on the evasion to mitigate that but it does make the Adept a little more vulnerable to removal. Adept works well with red removal tools as large creatures block it poorly and small creatures block it well but small creatures are easy to efficiently burn out of the way. Adept should be able to get in damage pretty reliably and will typically bait removal or trade up effectively.

The costing, power level and synergies of this card make it stand out. It is clearly narrow compared to many one drops but as cards like Delver of Secrets have shown there is very much a power level you are willing to jump through some hoops to get at when it comes to one drops. My gut is that this is the kind of card that is so powerful it brings the support cards it needs with it to the cube rather than being one of the numerous powerful but niche cards that don't make the cube due to lack of support. Always nice to see interesting new cards that have the potential to make a significant impact on the cube scene. It is very hard to make interesting and playable one drops so good job to the design team on this one. This card will not be as oppressive as Delver in any format but it is that kind of a card. I don't think it will be anything more than playable in RDW unless we get some nutty good support for it however I think it will be golden for Izzet tempo and should introduce a new hellbent style Rakdos aggressive archetype.

Destined // Lead 1

This card has a lot going on and so I don't want to entirely rule it out for some niche use but I strongly suspect this will never see cube play. Despite several modes, some internal synergies and some variety in how you might apply the card it is ultimately just very narrow and pretty low powered. Not the sort of thing you want clogging up a cube deck list.

Ahn-Crop Crasher 6

A three power haste dork is a good cube benchmark, it is like the one mana two power dork. As such the vast majority of cards that fulfill that criteria are in the cube or at least have been. A lot of the best three power three mana haste beaters are gold and so this doesn't overly need to compete with those. The competition for this is more Brazen Scourge, Chandra's Phoenix, Eldrazi Obligator, Boggart-Ram Gang and perhaps Goblin Rabblemaster too. While the Crop Crasher is fairly unexciting compared to many of these cards it is a lot more direct and to the point which is typically what red wants most. Crop Crasher is easy to play at 2R cost and no other requirements of any sort. It hits pretty hard right away and reliably gets in damage. The lower toughness than Ram Gang and the Scourge is rather negated by the ability to prevent a blocker. Crop Crasher is basically as good as the others when it is good and it has a far more potent low end performance. Crop Crasher seems like exactly the sort of thing you want to follow a bunch of one drop threats with. Forcing through free damage when you need to is a pretty big deal and so I expect this rather unassuming card to perform very well in the cube. Either this is just hitting hard each turn or this is being pseudo removal that gets in a bit of bonus damage itself and helps your other stuff get in too. This is part Frenzied Goblin, part Searing Blaze and part Brazen Scourge all wrapped up in a very appealing package.

Anionter Priest 1

You can use this to get infinite life in some combos but who cares to be honest. If you have infinite tokens you should be good to go. This really isn't doing enough as a main deck card ever. Perhaps a good tool to have in the board against burn heavy decks. Most token decks are aggressive and so this adds nothing to them. Don't run this in your cube.

Hazoret the Fervent 4/10

This is a very powerful card but it has its issues. The obvious issue of only being effective when you can rapidly deplete your hand and the less obvious issue of not actually being that dangerous of a threat! The latter issue I fear is the more relevant in cube. The kinds of deck that would run this sort of card will be fairly well equipped to meet the requirements for this to apply the smackdown. Most good aggressive red decks can be built to reliably empty their hands to one or less cards on turn four. While the combat prerequisite makes the card narrow and unsuitable for midrange and control decks you mostly want this in an aggressive deck so it is no big deal. This is a much more reliable attacking threat than Purphorus. It is also more reliable as a threat outside of the body than Purphorus as you can always activate it rather than relying on having dorks but it is significantly less powerful on that end of things. Having to pay three mana is slow and expensive. A good way to cash in excess lands and useless late game one drop threats and a desperate way to turn on Hazoret. In other words not something you want to be using until you have nothing much else you can do. This is kind of fine as you want to be closing the game with Hazoret and so it should still be useful despite a low power level of effect.

So far so good, we have what looks like a fairly on theme finisher with some useful late game utility and really really impressive stats and key words for the mana. My concern is that this card doesn't offer anywhere near the same reliability of damage output nor the burst of many of the current cards that fill this role. Thundermaw is the most similar in role to this card but Hellrider is the same sort of thing, as it Goldnight Catigator. All these comparable cards with the same sort of role as Hazoret are much more reliable at dealing damage. Hazoret has no trample, no flying and is likely to get chump blocked to the point of irrelevance. In the all in kinds of deck that can use their hands up by turn four or so you really want your top end to reliably do that last chunk of damage. You might get them to 10 or less, perhaps five or less with you other cards but they will typically be of little consequence once Hazoret hits play. This means you are relying almost entirely on your Hazoret to get through but he is so easily chump blocked and negated that he could easily give enough time for your opponent to get back in the game. Thrun, The Last Troll is a card that is much harder to deal with than Hazoret, granted he has no haste and one less power but green has ramp so Thrun can be getting in attacks at about the same speed. Thrun is pretty awful because he has very little kill pressure. You need to buff Thrun to make him a scary and significant threat. Aggressive red decks are not about the buffs and so Hazoret is in much the same boat. He looks good as he has a lot of stuff but if he isn't fulfilling the role you need him to then he isn't what you want. This is obviously too powerful a card not to test but my expectations for this card are not super high. I think this has a better chance of performing well in a midrange or control deck with a hellbent theme. Not entirely sure if such a thing would work but if it did this would be a great card to go in it! There may also be enough discard synergy stuff that you would want a bad Thundermaw with a bad discard outlet option over a real Thundermaw, again, seems unlikely.

Sacred Cat 3/10

This is the new Doomed Traveler. It has a slightly upgraded front end but a generally downgraded back end, mostly down to the extra cost. Despite being a lot more mana than Traveler the Cat is rather more flexible and versatile. Both ends being white make it work better with Crusade etc. You can just discard it to get a free 1/1. I like this card quite a lot but presently it doesn't offer enough to anything in the cube to be worth it. It is simply too low impact to be worth the bother. It could well be a great support card in the right deck but those will be constructed things not drafted things on the whole.

Lay Bare the Heart 3/10

Another Distress / Addle / Transgress the Mind card. It turns out that two mana discard is pretty uncomfortable to use effectively in cube. This hits quite a lot but it misses enough significant things that I am not sure this is ever the two mana discard spell you would chose to run if for some reason you were going to run one. Transgress is substantially better than Lay Bare the Heart as the exile is fairly relevant. This would be just about fine in most cubes but it isn't something you want to be playing.

Prepared // Fight 1

Like most of this kind of card this just doesn't offer enough power for the cost and phaff of the card. Sure, it has a fairly wide range of utility and synergy but compare it to a cheap and direct card like Dromoka's Command or Selsnya Charm and it just looks awful.

Consuming Fervor 2.5

Unstable Mutation for red. This is a big buff and represents six potential bonus damage baseline and some serious scaling with keyword abilities. The blue version never saw play but that is because blue is not about winning fast with aggressive creatures and damage. Red on the other hand is all about that. While this is pretty efficient it is unlikely to see any play. Red decks have too few threat due to how good lots of burn is and this means creature buff effects don't have enough targets. Consuming Fervor is also quite a big risk compared to something like a Reckless Charge. This is too cheap and efficient a card with too much potential synergy for me to rule it out but it certainly isn't anything more than an incredibly narrow card.

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