Tuesday 11 April 2017
Amonkhet Initial Review Part VI
Liliana's Expertise 2
This card has a lot going for it. A pair of 3/3s for five mana isn't bad and you get a Crusade effect for any other zombies you might have too. It is also an enchantment that has an EtB trigger and that has an immediate impact on the board. This card could have application in either a zombie themed deck or an enchantment themed one. For zombies it is a little high up the curve and likely is annoying as a high powered top end card you can't recur from the graveyard. When you get to five mana you generally want game breaking effects rather than just decent value and synergy. I suspect Grey Merchant of Asphodel and Noxious Ghoul would keep this out of most zombie lists and Doomwake Giant, Sigil of the Empty Throne and many others would do for it in enchantment decks. Despite this it is a decent and unique card so not one I would rule out. It would certainly outperform most of those cards in a drafting cube! Sadly if this isn't game breaking enough for silly themed decks it certainly isn't game breaking enough for main cube usage.
Vizier of the Menagerie 7
This is a great value tool for green. It is like a four mana Courser of Kruphix or a meatier Oracle of Mul Daya. The Vizier's effect however is much more impactful and dangerous. Typically creatures will outnumber lands in your green deck so it has better odds of hitting. You are not limited on the number of extra dorks you can play in a turn either. This makes Vizier basically a Future Sight in a deck with only creatures and lands in it. Courser of Kruphix can only clear on land out of the way per turn while Vizier can clear as many useless little elves out of the way as you have mana for. While getting a free land off the top of your deck or a free dork off the top ultimately is the same value it is almost always going to be more tempo having the creature come first. Vizier has really nice synergy with both the cards I am comparing it to. If you can lay lands from the top of your deck as well as playing creatures then even more Future Sight goodness! The Vizier doesn't concede information ahead of time either. A 3/4 body is a pretty good size to be, it copes very well in combat and does well against removal too. It might not be a bargain at 4 mana but you are not paying for the body here so the fact that it is a robust and useful one adds a lot of value to this card. Oracle's biggest weakness is being a pathetic 2/2 for four. It is redeemed somewhat by having good odds on having a useful effect the turn you make it even if on curve. You are happier to tap out for a Vizier, waiting a turn to get value due to the better body. As for the fixing aspect of Vizier it is pretty minor. You are not going to rely on this creature for fixing alone and so you will either have a deck that can play exotic costed creatures or you wont and as such wont be playing any. I am sure it will come up from time to time but it should be about as relevant on the fixing aspect of Oath of Nissa. Not why you play the card! Meren of Clan Nel Toth is a four mana 3/4 value dork that has performed very well in cube. It is gold and has lower upper potential than the Vizier but is otherwise very comparable so I am expecting pretty good things from this new offering.
While this may look like a re-jig of Miscalculation it is all round a substantially more useful card. This is one less to cycle and one less on the bonus cost. It will be easier to play around this or just luckily dodge it than Miscalculation but not twice as easy as the difference would suggest. On the flip side cycling a card for one is probably more than twice as good as cycling it for two. It greatly increases the convenience of the card and makes it far less of a burden on your deck. Past a point in most matchups you are expecting to have to cycle a Miscalculation and so there is a very real cost of playing it. If you only actually cast the thing in 20% of games you can say that it is adding 1.6 CMC to the total CMC of your deck. This is a 0.04 total increase to your average CMC for fairly little gain. 0.04 may sound minimal but really isn't, it could mean needing another land or goldfishing a turn later. If we assume 20% is a good estimate for how often we will play our Miscalculation then I would estimate at least 15% for Censor, likely closer to 18%. We are then only adding 0.02125 average CMC to our list with the Censor. Basically I am trying to say that you get more effective disruption relative to the burden you place on your list by including it. These numbers also entirely discount the occasions where you have a spare mana and a cycle costs you nothing at all. Having a spare mana is very common but having two is far less common, you are usually in a rough spot already when you have two mana spare. This fact alone significantly improves Censor.
Force Spike is an incredibly powerful card. I play it in basically every blue deck that can support it. It is a nightmare to play around and one of the most efficient and rounded disruption you can play. The drawback with Spike is that it is dead pretty quickly and so you need reliable ways to make use of a dead card. Without lots of things like looting the cost on your list is often too great to run the Force Spike. It doesn't hurt your CMC but it does hurt your value. Censor (and Miscalculation) have built in protection against hurting you in this way and are playable in decks without support for them. Censor might be twice the price as Force Spike but in practice this will only really hurt you on turn one. After that point anything you can hit with Spike you can hit with Censor. You often broadcast Spike when you leave exactly one mana up after a risky play. Censor is far less broadcast. Certainly you will have to play a little slower than you could with Spike but the kinds of decks wanting this sort of disruption will be more than happy to do that. I think this card hits a sweet spot of cost and effect balancing. While it looks pretty comparable to other cards already out there I think it will perform much better and see a good amount of play. Remand is a more powerful card but Censor is closer in power level to Remand than it is to Miscalculation. Good rounded two mana countermagic is not that common in cube, there just isn't loads of it about. This seems like a great fill in for a Counterspell. It will mostly be as effective in the early game when you want that two mana cover all disruption and compared to the likes of Mana Leak it will be wildly more useful in the late game.
I also expect loads of people to play poorly around this card. Just because of what it does people will feel like they have gotten a much worse trade than the reality. Ultimately this is just a one for one when it hits but people will feel like it is a zero for one as it is so like Force Spike. I anticipate people just curving out slower to avoid being hit by this which is terrible. By all means be aware of countermagic including Censor but don't avoid it for the sake of it, don't fall for thinking you are getting an advantage out of avoiding Censor as a default. On the flip side, if you can bait out a Censor with a useless card then you are actually ahead!
Oketra the True 1
This is unreasonably similar to Heliod for my liking. Oketra has the upside of turning herself on and of hitting a bit harder over Heliod but it is not enough to turn an average card into a good one. Heliod was too slow and situational to ever perform well in my drafting cube. Heliod does have application in enchantment themed decks which Oketa never will and so despite Oketra looking a little better than Heliod I expect her to see less play, quite possible totaling at no play at all.
Honoured Hydra 3.5
Way to take a massive dump on Roar of the Wurm. This is quite the better card in essentially every way but you would hope so after over a decade of power creep. The question is not if this is better than a card that was once good but whether it is a card presently good enough for any cube applications. It turns out that is a much harder question! A 6/6 trample is significant but even at four mana it is not above and beyond the cube power level. You certainly are not adding in a discard theme to power up this thing although you might throw this into a deck already with a discard theme as OK filler. As a threat card this is quite good. It is the same cost and body as a Primeval Titan first time round and offers value in a second coming rather than a bunch of lands. Sometimes some utilitiy and man lands is going to be best and sometimes another 6/6 is going to be more effective. Generally I lean towards the side of the lands and that is before taking into account exile removal preventing any embalming going on. I don't think this is quite enough threat to be worth playing as a six mana card. Resiliant dorks are best when they are cheap like Strangleroot Giest. With big dorks I think you just want really high power and impact, cards that will finish the game. Trample is a big deal on a large dork like this so I will test this out just to be sure. My gut feel is that this is broadly good but just that little bit too fair for where you might play it role wise or curve wise.
Never // Return 4
Ruinous Path was pretty bad in cube. The three mana combined with the sorcery speed made it a very underwhelming removal spell. It took your whole turn and generally didn't gain you any value or tempo, often the reverse. You barely ever awakened it and so it was just a really bad Hero's Downfall. Never is the same sort of thing and so Return has to be a worthwhile thing for this to stand a chance in cube. Return is itself a card with a lot going on. You can only play it from the bin so sometimes it is a free card, it makes a 2/2 and it exiles a card in the graveyard. Return is wildly overpriced for what it does even considering it can cost you no cards. A 3B 2/2 with an EtB trigger to exile a single card from a graveyard and draw a card would not be that exciting and it would be a whole lot better than Return. Graveyard disruption is very good in cube but it is good when it is cheap, ongoing and on a good card. Scavenging Ooze being a prime example. You are not going to be stopping some reanimate deck doing its thing against you with this. You might stop a Snapcaster being able to choose specifically Lightning Bolt but you can't keep it from having targets with Return. Return is poor graveyard disruption. A free 2/2 is nice but it isn't something you are doing unless you have very little else to do. I do rate this card above Ruinous Path as you will still get the value from Return when you use Never for 3 mana and you don't ever need to get to seven mana to have that potential. The awaken is much much better than Return but it isn't practically useful. If I feel black needs more removal or a shift towards more rounded removal this will be my next in line for now but it certainly isn't replacing Downfall.
Pull from Tomorrow 5
Saucy. This is directly better than Stroke of Genius assuming you are using it to draw cards rather than to kill people. When you take a decent card and add on a free loot you typically have a much better card! Braingeyser is the other comparison here but expensive sorceries are not really the thing. You can only really play the Geyser in combo style decks making loads of mana and even then it is risky. The instant versions are also playable in control and generally safer. If you have the mana to fuel an X draw spell then you can afford the difference of one less card to get it at instant. I don't think this is good enough to be used as a discard outlet, you have to pay five just to get a Thirst for Knowledge effect. In a drafting cube this has the potential to be a little narrow. I think this will see more play in rotisserie and other constructed cube decks than it will in draft. While it is a lot broader than Sphinx's Revalation in application the loss of the lifegain does make Pull from Tomorrow significantly less appealing to control decks. I'd like to rate this higher, it is a good card that will see play after all. The thing is it won't see that much play and will still occasionally be left out for one of the various other blue X spells for one reason or another.
This is pretty good too considering. Even the lowly Mind Rot can start to look appealing with cycling. This is not the sort of card I really want in my cube. It is pretty low power and not a unique effect by any means. If I was wanting discard spells I would look to more powerful ones than this first. If I wanted utility spells I am pretty sure I could find something more appealing than this. The only occasion I might consider a card like this is in a Rack themed deck where you need a lot of discard and as such your discard effects quickly becomes dead. In such a list Unburden would be lovely but you probably just have to run a tonne of card quality in such a deck anyway to have a chance as none of the other discard can be cycled away. Despite being quite playable I don't expect this rather fair and rather unexciting card to see play.
Neheb, the Worthy 2
Minotaurs have some pretty serious lords and tribal buffers in Rageblood Shaman, Ragemonger and now Neheb too. The issue is that there are precious few playable stand alone minotaurs. Boros Reckoner, Gnarled Scarhide and Fanatic of Mogis are the only three than have even seen cube play. Until we have like 10 more one and two mana minotaurs that are playable there will be no viable tribal deck. Such a day might come although the minotaurs are thematically hardy, it is like holding out for a load of one and two drop dragons. As such I think we can only really consider Neheb as a stand alone card for cube as as one of those he is pretty awful. He is too slow and small to be a reliable discard outlet so I can't imagine those kinds of decks wanting him. His only other hope then is just as a fairly aggressive beater in decks likely to be hellbent quicker than most. A 4/2 first strike for 3 is OK but not good enough on its own. The discard is likely to hurt them a lot more than you but it doesn't have great synergy with a slow and weak body. This is just getting itself killed a lot. This is a fine card but you can do a whole lot better than fine with gold three plus drops. Vial Smasher the Fierce is a significantly more dangerous and powerful card than this and he sees relatively infrequent play. With that in mind Neheb seems like a bad inclusion in a cube.
Reduce // Rubble 3.5
To all those people begging for Mana Leak their prayers have entirely been ignored with this offering. Three mana Mana Leak is super bad in cube. You can get hard counters with significant upsides for three mana. Rubble had to be super worth it to give Reduce a chance and it isn't. Locking down three lands for three mana is nice but it is even on tempo. Early Frost is super situational and that offers some positive tempo. For Rubble to be good you have to be ahead in some way. I guess it is fine if you are even and you are just trying to buy some time to get to the later game as you expect your deck to perform better there. Kind of like a three mana Remand. I seem to have slightly convinced myself this is playable, three mana Mana Leak with a three mana Remand (minus the draw) flashback option sounds passable. I might have to test this out. I think being both gold and being a little awkward to use smoothly will ultimately make this underplayed in cube and not worth a slot.
Doomed Dissenter 1
This is basically a Butcher Ghoul. It has some slightly different interactions and synergies but ultimately it is much the same sort of thing. The Ghoul saw no play and so I expect the same of this. Young Wolf wasn't good either so really not looking great for this card although I would absolutely run it in the cube if it were just B to play!
Quarry Hauler 1
This is somewhat of another Maulfirst Revolutionary. While the card was surprising in its performance the issue with it was being a vanilla 3/3 for 3. You really wanted it to be a 1G 2/1 or like a five mana 6/6 trample. Either super cheap and convenient or an actually relevant card. The Quarry Hauler is far worse than Maulfist in this regard and as such I am not even sure you could sensibly play this in a deck built around counter manipulation.
Pyramid of the Pantheon 5.5
This looks really nice and useful. It is part Gilded Lotus and part Prophetic Prism. For 4 mana and three turns you get a Gilded Lotus. It is a really low investment for quite a significant return. You can get blown out pretty hard tapping out to make a Gilded Lotus should they have appropriate disruption. It is pretty hard to get blown out with Pyramid of the Pantheon as your investment in it and any given time is very low. The fixing it offers is nice too and while a fairly expensive way to fix colours it will be helpful and can likely be taken advantage of. If you consider you are paying for the ultimate Gilded Lotus rather than the fixing then it is free! While this generally compares well to Gilded Lotus in a lot of ways it has one big drawback and that is speed. You can't just draw this and make it and have it be good. You can't ramp into it and be super ahead nor can you Tinker this up and be ahead that way. For this to be good you need to be a little patient and that will not suit all decks. In a control deck this is the mana ramp and fixing tool I think I want. In some sort of artifact ramp deck the Gilded Lotus is still the big name. Even in a control deck where you have the time this card will still pose some awkward issues. If you make this on turn one, to get it active so to speak at any sensible rate you have to use it every turn. This means you are a mana behind for the critical early stages of the game. If your choice is counter their two drop or charge this then you will often have to forgo the charging just to stay in the game. I love the design on this but it might well make the card too narrow in its applications to merit a cube slot. I hope that isn't the case as I think this would be a lovely addition to my cube should it perform well.
Heaven // Earth 2.5
This is a very powerful card indeed. The issue here is not what the card offers or does for you but how easy it is to play and use the thing. If you need to Earth you have to Heaven first or discard the thing. If you do this then you no longer have access to the Heaven portion. Typically fliers come later than the ground based dorks you want to kill. This is quite the control card and there are precious few control decks containing Gruul colours than don't have a high creature count. Perhaps you could run it in the Emrakul, the Promised end hard cast decks as they have discard to support it and this thing does reduce the cost of Emrakul by 2! I think this card is cute but it is way to specific to be a good drafting cube card and not actually that powerful either. When this sort of thing starts to look useful Pyroclasm is usually a much better call. The cheap, reliable, no fuss versions of that kind of effect.