Saturday 15 April 2017

Amonkhet Initial Review Part VIII

By Force 5

A different take on Meltdown going for quality over quantity. This is a lot less good against affinity but a lot better against an artifact ramp deck. It is more playable as a stand alone card too as sorcery speed Shatter is not the worst. We are not presently in an era of maindeck artifact hate in the cube. The only playable artifact removal tends to be on versatile cards like Kolghan's Command. By Force is very powerful sideboard removal for constructed stuff but not a good inclusion in most unpowered cubes. A powered cube probably has enough targets that you do want to run maindeck pure artifact removal and this is one of the best on offer.

Vizier of Many Faces 5

There are a lot of cards now that are just direct upgrades on Clone. I personally hate Clone cards and am not at all excited about this new offering although it is one of the better options out there. The embalm value is very high on a Clone and the cost of it is pretty low both front and back end. This is certainly a card that wouldn't feel out of place in a cube but it is not one I am rushing to include. It would probably be the 3rd Clone clone I would consider after Phyrexian Metalmorph and Phantasmal Image. Apparently clones love a "ph" instead of and "f" in their names...

Gideon's Intervention 3

This is Runed Halo and Nevermore Rolled into one. While it is a mana less to play the Gideon's Intervention you are losing a bunch of the value as the effects of Runed Halo and Nevermore rather overlap. Intervention is actually better than the sum of its parts as it can protect you against lands and it protects your creatures as well. It may not actually give protection but I can only really think of mill effects or ongoing player targetted discard where that is relevant. This card is very clunky but it does provide quite a rounded sort of protection that white is not usually privy to. This can shut down a lot of combo decks pretty well and it has both proactive and reactive viability. I don't like the card much but then I don't much like Faith's Fetters and they do a pretty comparable job. This is probably playable although I don't think it is a good card. Hopefully Cast Out is sufficiently better than this sort of thing that I wont need to bother with it! It should underperform in cube as it was designed for formats with upto 4 copies of cards and can get substantially more value outside of the singleton format.

Oketra's Attendant 1

While not powerful enough for a five mana card in cube however you use it this is a mighty impressive card none the less. A five mana 3/3 flyer is a good limited card, give it cycling and it is a great card. Give it embalm for five as well and the thing is looking better than Call of the Herd - on an uncommon!

Cradle of the Accursed 1

Even with desert tutor capacity you don't want this when you can have a Mishra's Factory or Mutavault. It is so slow and low powered that even in some land based  Life from the Loam control thing you are going to be playing something with more impact than this instead.

Grasping Dunes 3

There have been lands like this before but this seems to be the most rounded and cheapest to use. I fear the effect is too minor for it to be getting much play in the drafting cube. When you are free to sac off lands the -1/-1 isn't going to be solving your various problems. It is still a useful effect white, green and even blue decks would like to be able to use. I can imagine this going in with a Knight of the Reliquary package in some constructed cube decks. There is also still the hope of there being a top rate card which tutors for this which would improve its viability significantly, if not quite to main cube level.

Harvest Season 0

This is a pretty awful card. The effect is potentially very powerful but it is just far too slow and hard to setup. It isn't even that nuts until you can get X=3 or more lands. Two is obviously good but not good enough for how bad this is on average. Give this convoke and I am interested...

Bloodfury Militant 6.5

Perhaps if I keep commenting on how red is getting yet another good cheap dork they will just keep coming! Bloodfury Militant is quite the upgrade on Minotaur Explorer! This is an OK card in its own right and a very good card in a deck with good discard synergy. Heir of Falkenrath has performed very well in cube and this has some obvious comparisons just being a well above the curve two drop that you have to discard a card to get at. A 4/3 is a little worse than a 3/2 flyer but in the early stages of the game the bigger thing is liable to do more work and that suits red very well. A 2/1 is also better than nothing when you cannot afford the discard but the counter argument to that is Bloodfury Militant is still a 4/3 when it is your last card while the Heir is locked at the 2/1, initially at least. I expect this to see a good amount of play in aggressive decks all over the place. It is very passable filler in a lot of archetypes outside of RDW, Izzet tempo and what seems to be a new viable archetype; Rakdos Madness Deck Wins! You might play this in a reanimate deck if you were short of outlets, you might play this in Zoo as well for another efficient fat two drop. The only tier one red archetype I don't think this has much use is in ramp decks which are far more green than red anyway. This is not as bonkers as some of the other cheap red dorks in the set but it is a nice solid card that has a bunch of bonus utility. A happy cube addition. With Amonkhet red is looking nearly as well set as white is for a wide and powerful range of cheap creatures to choose from. The real question is if the Rakdos discard themed aggro deck is good enough to grant Pale Rider of Trostad a cube slot...

Shadow of the Grave 3.5

This is a super cool card. It counters discard effects used on you or turns your loot and cycle style things into extreme value. Normally these sort of buff another thing style card are too expensive to consider using but Shadow of the Grave is pretty easy to get something out of. Another big advantage is that if you can't easily get advantage from it you can likely dispose of it usefully due to the nature of the deck you are playing it in! So far the best thing I can think to do with this is doubling up on Siesmic Assault activations. Ultimately this card is far too narrow for a drafting cube but it is cheap and seemingly abusable. I expect some modern combo to crop up with this card. I also expect it to be good in a couple of the niche and exotic cube decks we get to see from time to time.

Start // Finish 3

This is a fairly decent control card yet works acceptably well enough to run in maidrange and aggro if needed. It is good convenience and utility on the first portion and then just a plain old removal spell on the back end. In the sorts of decks you might use this the sac cost on the aftermath will be a pain rather than a potential perk. It will often mean you have to be precious about one of the 1/1 tokens. Every now and again you will cash in something like a Solemn Simulacrum and it will feel good but it will not be the norm. While quite a nice card that offers good options and good safety I think it is simply too low powered for essentially a gold card. As it is a new mechanic I will endeavor to test out these cards a little more thoroughly but my strong expectation is that most of these are not good enough. Start // Finish is one of the more appealing gold aftermath cards overall so if it struggles to perform I hold out even less hope for the others.

Hieroglyphic Illumination 5.5

That name is enough for me to want this card to be a total non-entity so that I need not write it down again. Sadly, when I look at this I see something significantly more playable than Fact or Fiction in my current cube meta. The top end on this card is far from special. There are a lot of cards that do a lot more for that kind of mana but this still does enough. You can sit there representing that Cryptic and be happy to play this instead. It is instant speed card advantage which is hard to get these days. An instant Council of the Soratami would be playable, Think Twice is pretty decent and so by those standards this is doing the sort of thing you want this card to do in a way that isn't horrendous. Yes, it is a shocking tempo play but then so is a Fact or Fiction and so is a Stroke of Genius. This kind of pure card draw isn't bad because it is bad, it is bad because it is rare that you can find the time to use it. When you can and do you are winning. This card has the critical ingredient all other blue instant two or more for one pure draw cards lack. This can cheaply become something else and won't sit in your hand costing you effective card advantage when you are short on the lands or under too much pressure to spend a turn drawing cards. This is always useful, it is always getting you to where you want to be regardless of it being early game or late. The one issue with this card and those like it, particularly in blue is that there is diminishing returns on the perks of cheap cycling and cantrip cards in most cases. When you draw those hands that are like 3 or 4 land and the rest Quicken/Peek style cards you are hurting yourself through lack of information. You might be in for a massive flood or something than you just can't can't prepare for due to all you cards in hand being cyclers. The card this actually compares to most is Whispers of the Muse which is a card that shone in its time. The Illumination has far less late game potential but it has a better midgame and an equally strong early game. Overall this is to the advantage of the Illumination. This is a very playable card but it is low enough power that it shouldn't be super common. I prefer it to Think Twice for the same reason I prefer Censor to Miscalculation - less of a burden.

Cascading Cataracts 3.5

Indestructible lands are useful with things like Armageddon and Jokulhaups and as such this will absolutely see play in those styles of deck when they have access to the Cataracts. Without those kinds of reasons to play and indestructible land this isn't doing much of much for you. This is far too narrow to be a good inclusion in a drafting cube. The colour fixing might be useful in a five colour control deck or something but it isn't good fixing per se.

Commit // Memory 6

Commit is Unsubstantiate meets Memory Lapse. Four is a lot to pay for a soft counter or a bounce spell, even one that is card neutral. Dismiss is not good in cube but that isn't a great comparison here. A better comparison would probably be Venser, Shaper Savant. They are both four mana instant one for one disruption cards that keep you safe against the vast majority of things. At three mana I think Commit would be incredibly powerful, at four I think it is still playable in cube. Given that Commit is an OK starting place Memory does not have to add a lot to the card before we have something quite good. Memory is a powerful effect but it is not a good card in its own right. Time Twister is barely playable in anything these days in cube and it is half the price! For this kind of card however I think you are quite happy having a powerful effect you are unlikely to use. Some control decks play Elixir of Immortality in them as a precautionary measure, they never want to draw the thing and have to use it but if it wasn't at least an option in the list you would be forced into playing a much tighter game and have your options greatly reduced. This is the result of the singleton format and 40 card decks in control. Now Commit // Memory is a far less dead card than an Elixir of Immortality in decks wanting to play the long game. The reshuffle is more of a liability but you still have that option within the list and it costs you far less to include. I think this functionality of being able to play with the potential for a full refill or a second go on your spells is enough to make this a good card, Memory should barely ever be cast in such cases but you are none the less glad of having it. This is just the control decks wanting to go long. There are also plenty of decks that would fairly happily have a nice draw 7 option like Izzet tempo or some combo deck. While rare for them to get to six mana it is not unheard of at all and in such cases having Memory would be a real game changer. Normally decks can't afford to run such luxuries as they are only good in the rare cases but when Memory comes as a kind of free thing on the back of Commit it is a pretty big win. I think this has a number of good homes in the cube. It is convenient and versatile enough to make up for its relatively low power. In that regard it is really not unlike the mighty Cryptic Command. As discussed, Dismiss is not a cube worthy card, nor is Into the Roil in only kicked mode. It is the versatility and convenience of Cryptic being able to mimic these various different things and solve most problems to some extent that makes it good, not its raw power level. I expect Commit // Memory to be similar in that regard but more in the Venser power range ultimately.

Spring // Mind 0

Just wildly over cost at both ends for generic effects you are able to find much much cheaper elsewhere.

Disposses 1

Disposes? Disposses? Whatever. Usually this kind of thing is unplayable in singleton however this doesn't have to hit something already there, you can just name the thing and it is gone. This is a super narrow sideboard card you would only use against a very select group of combo decks and even then it probably isn't great. Most combo decks have some backup and it is rare that you just win by removing one card. I don't expect this to see play, I wont be bothering to get one in case it does!

Sandwurm Convergence 2.5

Reminds me rather of Dragonform. While this is an 8 mana card it is something you could play in green ramp decks as they will get there. The thing is, I like to win with my 8 drops and I like to do it fast. This thing is much more of a don't lose card and so I don't think you want it ever. It is more interesting as an Academy Rector target. When you are not able to spend 8 mana on things then surviving better is a much more relevant perk for your deck. I anticipate this getting some use with Academy Rector (perhaps even Show and Tell) and being very good with her, it is rare to have a win condition combined with a defense tool that is an enchantment. Outside of these cheats I think probably not.

Glorious End 1.5

I'm not entirely sure what to make of this. It seems incredibly dangerous. Final Fortune isn't good enough for cube and so this three mana versions shouldn't either in theory. This is to Final Fortune what Time Stop is to Time Warp after all. Time Stop has some nice trickery about it and could be used effectively to bait out attacks or cards from hand as well as just being a Time Walk. Baiting things out is less useful with Glorious End as you don't have long to take advantage of that. It seems like the narrowest of all the other things mentioned here. Perhaps the gimmick is to combine Glorious End with the new Gideon? Sounds a lot scarier in standard than anything else. I don't see this working out well in cube really at all but it is too powerful to entirely rule out and ignore.

Heart Piercer Manticore 1

I can think of places this is good but that won't be the norm. A lot of the time this will be a 4/3 for four with an embalm cost you never have mana or time for. Far to situational and fair for a four mana cube card.

Vizier of Deferment 1.5

Interesting little card that is pretty good but rather to cute and situational for cube use. You can use this to Maze of Ith things, either your own chump attackers or theirs. This is less good on defense as you cannot also block with it and you risk triggering their EtB effects. Offensively if you can use this to trigger one of your own EtB things and save it from death then great but otherwise other cards would be doing what this does far better. It is nice to have a card that can kill tokens but again, narrow and not comapring well to alternatives.

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