Thursday 22 June 2017

Hour of Devastation Initial Review Part IV

Crook of Condemnation 0

This is already exclusively a sideboard effect and it is just worse than the alternatives for cube. Tormod's Crypt and Relic of Progenitus are generally a lot better than this mostly for speed reasons.

Hostile Desert 5

An interesting new take on man lands with a somewhat conditional activation. If you don't worry about the need to exile a land to activate this it is one of the most efficient man lands on offer. Only a couple have power equal to mana investment, this not only has that premium power to cost ratio but it is also backed up by a solid amount of toughness. Mutavault is a 2/2 for two mana, Stirring Wildwood is a 3/4 for 4 mana, Treetop Village is a 3/3 for 3 mana. Basically Hostile Desert outperforms other mana lands in pure stat terms. This is good, it means you get more tempo for it than other man lands. It means you will be able to profitably attack with this more often than other man lands too. Now, this is all well and good but we can't ignore the land exile requirement. It is absolutely a cost even if just a small one. In the cube there are cycle lands, sac lands, loot effects, discard effects, land destruction, self mill and all sorts of jazz that fills up the bin with lands. If you want to you can pretty reliably have lands in the bin for all the times you would want to activate a man land. Sadly that would count as support. Also, many other cube cards also rely on the graveyard for fuel be that delve spells, Grim Lavamancer, Deathrite Shaman etc. By running a Hostile Desert you have the incentive to play more supporting cards and less other cards that use that same support. Hostile Desert is good but it certainly isn't as good as a Treasure Cruise or Deathrite Shaman and that is a bit of a problem. The Desert is not a stand alone card, it is not entirely contained and as such I think it will see less play than those that are like Mishra's Factory. The colourless man lands don't see that much play as it is. I like this card but my gut is that it won't see enough play to stay in most drafting cubes. Casting your stuff is the most important thing in magic. Only decks that are absolutely sorted in the mana base have room for luxury cards like colourless manlands. This is even more so the case when things like Wastelands, Port and Wolf Run are all much more potent cards you can play in colourless land slots.

Driven // Despair 0

This has an elegance of design to it with good symmetry and colour flavour. Those things however do not help it much in its prospects for the cube. For Driven to be good you have to have multiple dorks connecting with face. Super situational and pretty win more. Utterly dead in a lot of cases. Despair is much the same. The menace is likely more useful than trample as it helps out your small dorks better and thus allows for more potential value but that is a very minor point. I'd rather be drawing cards than forcing discards but again, another minor point that doesn't change the fact this card isn't something you should play. It is cheap and pretty flexible and as such could look more playable than it is. While the card isn't the nut low the type of card and how it is framed are both big problems for it.

Unesh, Criosphinx Sovereign 0

Nope. Six mana for a 4/4 flier and not quite 80% of a Fact or Fiction. The cost reduction is as good as blank in cube. Many better cards than this already exist, threats, sources of value or both!

Hour of Glory 0

In singleton formats this is quite a lot worse than Silence the Believers, in fact it is probably just a lot worse in any format! Gods are not a big problem and even when you can play multiples you tend not to be playing more than a couple. So, instant and exile removal is lovely but four mana isn't. Silence the Believers didn't work out in cube so this absolutely won't. The single black in the cost isn't making any real difference to that.

Angel of Condemnation 2

This has quite a lot going on. It feels like it is really close to there but not quite. This is too soft to too much removal. With four toughness I think it would be great but at three it feels all too risky and slow. I like Emeria Angel more than this as it has no further mana investment required. Emeria Angel has not performed that well whenever she has been in my cube which does not bode well for Mrs Condemnation. The exert effect is super slow and will lead to blowout things happening too much of the time. The flicker effect seems more useful but again, I can think of other cards I would prefer in that role. The most damning of which is Eldrazi Displacer as it failed pretty hard in testing for cube. This is a fine card but it isn't a busted one or a bomb and that is what cards need to be when they cost 4 or more for cube, powered or otherwise.

Reason // Live 7

I am drawn to this mostly because I want to scry for 3 for a single mana! Much as I want to do this I am not sure how great it is when paired up against cards like Serum Visions. The overall card quality effect between Reason and Serum Visions is super close, Reason is in fact ever so slightly better when you have interactions with the top of your library but it is very marginal. The major difference is of course that Visions is card neutral and Reason is card disadvantage. Only card quality effects with extreme power or utility see play if they are card disadvantage such as Vampiric Tutor or Faithless Looting. There are decks that could play Reason in place of other blue card quality things, those that don't care about card advantage or that have loads of synergies but these are few enough that Reason is massively less playable than Serum Visions. Reason is playable on its own (as in without the Live half) but I don't think it is playable enough to earn a cube slot just as Reason. I think you need the Live half to make the card enough of a thing that you can run it in a cube even if some decks would be OK with just the Reason part. That makes it somewhat of a gold card which in turn sets the bar for cube entry quite a bit higher. The only gold card quality card I have in the cube is Lim-Dul's Vault which is one of the most powerful. While Reason // Live is not quite the same power as Vault it is not a purely card quality card and also not a gold card in the same way making it much more forgiving and versatile.

So does Live do enough to push this into cube worthy levels? I designed a card I wanted to see which was bascally U to scry 3 and investigate. That would easily be cube worthy power levels. It would arguably be one of the better single blue card quality cards. It would probably also be pretty fair in modern unless you could abuse the clues somehow. Anyway, tangents aside, this is not that far off a scry three plus an investigate. It is only 3 mana more than saccing a clue and only when you hit a non creature. Yes, it is green mana and yes it is also sorcery speed both of which significantly hurt it. Low end this is quite weak but still probably better than a Think Twice! It is only quite weak compared to things in the cube, it is still playable in cube at its low end and that is pretty handy. So what about the upper ends of Live? How does that start to look? For that to be the thing you really need to be hitting at least three manas worth of creature, ideally more like six! When that happens the card goes from being low powered filler to good to pretty nuts. When you do hit that six drop you basically got a free scry 3 for zero mana and zero cards. A zero mana Serum Visions with 50% more scry would be better than Brainstorm. So yeah, this has some pretty serious top end. To be fair, anything that can end up in an Emrakul has a pretty high top end! You can totally just play Reason turn one and it will set you up really well. Perhaps enough to win before Live is relevant or perhaps just enough that you at least get to gain your full value from the card.  It is better than Think Twice in this regard as it is front loaded. You pay two mana to do very little with Think Twice while you only pay one mana to do rather a lot with Reason. Your flashback of the Think Twice makes it card advantage while the aftermath of Live only mitigates the initial card disadvantage of Reason but that is totally fine. You get power early when you need it at a cost you are very able to afford at that stage then later you can recoup that cost when you have a different balance of resources. Essentially Reason // Live works very nicely with the flow of the game.

Much as Reason is a great turn one play doing so does mean you either have to go blind on Live or pair it with other library manipulation. Blind is fine in the very late game, any flood or topdeck war and as such can just wait until one of those game states occurs. If however you do hit something juicy with any library manipulation you have the option of firing it off sooner. Unless you totally run out of gas before you hit five mana which is pretty rare there are very few situations you can be out of pocket or lose out much with this card. Simic is also the colours with most of the library manipulation, and a fair whack of big dorks too! I really won't worry about lowering the potential value of Live by blowing my Reason whenever I have a spare blue. This is also a pretty well contained top deck. For six mana you can setup your next couple of turns and make something pretty decent assuming you have any sort of reasonable creature count in your deck. This will not only be one of your best possible late game top decks it is also one of your best turn one plays. That sounds like it adds up to a mentally good card. As a small aside, it should often work to bait out a counterspell. If your opponent has no removal and they know you have knowledge on the top of your deck they may be forced into countering Live but all that will do is buy them a turn assuming you did have something juicy on top. Against countermagic this card has the effect of increasing your threat density which is nice.

Mentally good might well describe this card but only in the right deck, one with blue and green mana and a decent spread of dorks. That is a whole lot less decks than basically every other card quality card can perform optimally in. In decks with relatively low creatures or generally small creatures or those without some access to green mana Reason // Live is far less good. Either you have to play it on the merits of Reason alone or you have to play it as low powered filler. With a lot of cards randomly fixing colours for you like Chromatic Sphere or some random Signet / Talisman or just some easy to include dual land I think you can expect to see this in a lot of essentially non-green decks. Like those green ramp decks than splash for the red activation on some lands but nothing else or those white weenie decks packing some black just for the option on a Lingering Souls flashback. This would be a great card in a Dimir Reanimator deck for example. Good at setting up the combo early and potentially able to be part of the combo later! Although this is only nuts in a couple of places I think it does have a wide enough range where it maintains a cube worthy level of potency that it gets itself a slot. I really love the card and hope to see more like it. I still want my investigate scry 3 card but I'll take this. Reason // Live is certainly one of the most interesting of the card quality cards. It is a shame it is kind of gold mostly because I will get to use it that little bit less and I want to use it loads!

Hope Tender 1

A shame this is so weak as I want to live the dream with this and generate hundreds of mana with Cradle and Nykthos! While the ceiling on this thing is very very high the floor is pretty much a Grizzly Bear and the floor is where this sits most of the time. This is poor fixing or poor ramp every other turn at base. It is only at all good when you have lands that tap for multiples and when that is the case you have better options than to play this.

The Scarab God 4

I really hope there are not going to be 10 of these as they are all very powerful and have lots going on making for lengthy reviews. Doubly tedious when I expect none of them to really be significant features in most cubes. My guess is that we just get these three as they are the Bolas colours. This may be the best of the three so far. It is quite meaty, quite resilient, offers inevitability, reach, disruption and even potentially card quality! You don't need zombies to make this good but if you do have them it greatly ups the speed and threat level of this card. Should you just have a couple in play your opponent will have to deal with the Scarab God or the rest of your board right away else the game will get wildly out of control for them. In Dimir there is a fair amount of value to a 5/5 for 5 that comes back to hand when it dies. That holds off a lot and is a top end thing you are not afraid of getting into combat. If the Scarab God sticks and your opponent doesn't force you to spend mana elsewhere you can only then lose to big fliers or burn. This is fairly good defensively and very good offensively. Despite all its qualities it is just a powerful five mana gold threat. Given how much less picked and played gold cards are in cube I really struggle to justify running any cards like this. Silumgar for example saw pathetic amounts of play compared to all the other black and blue 5 CMC or greater cards. The Scarab God is good but just not worth a slot.

Djeru the Purified 2

Interesting. The body here is a long way off worth it. A 4/3 vigilance is barely worth 3 mana. The damage prevention to walkers is cute but won't even always be relevant when you have a walker in play. You are playing this for its value and ability to find planeswalkers. This is a solid two for one and it is somewhat of a tutor. It gets you a walker and then works pretty well at protecting it. Two quite heavy cards in one. This gives lots of late game and is also something you are happy to throw down as soon as you hit the mana and trade it off if needs be. I call this a kind of tutor because planeswalkers are rarely combo pieces and even if they were finding them for five mana isn't winning many races. While this is pretty good it is a bit misplaced for cube. Value cards want to be three or less mana. This is a good one so it might have gotten away with being 4 mana (and scaled back a bit on the stats) like a Ranger of Eos. A five mana card which is mostly value just doesn't seem like it has a place. It is a little narrow because you need at least two walkers in your deck for this to find. It is a heavy card but it isn't super threatening. You need to be at least stable for a planeswalker to represent much of a threat. So despite being heavy and top end this fails to be a great threat and it fails to be good recovery. I don't see this making waves in cube.

Fervent Paincaster 0

Somehow this looks OK at first glance. It really isn't though. It is just a bad Prodigal Sorcerer. That extra power and extra text doesn't do much to improve it and does a bunch to make it worse.

Claim // Fame 3

I like this card a lot but it is ever so slightly too narrow, low impact and situational to merit a cube slot. If this were all in the same colour then it would be very strong but in two colours it just won't get enough play. Both halves a quite minor and so you really need the value from both to push this into the really good power levels. Both being so cheap that is easy enough to do but only when you are Rakdos which is that much less common. I see this doing some good work in modern potentially where being gold is no real drawback and so many juicy creatures cost 2 or less. In constructed cube events this may well see some love but I don't see it being enough to push through into drafting cubes and their increasingly tight ranks.

Steward of Solidarity 4

Hmm. This is pretty low powered. It is also very slow. Sadly I don't think this will have quite enough impact to see play but I do plan on testing it. It does some things that seem quite helpful given the way the meta is presently. Compared to Precint Captain this has some perks. It is easier to cast and does not rely on attacking to make dorks, the dorks are also a tiny bit better! Captain on the other hand is able to make tokens a lot faster and has the fairly valuable first strike itsel. Steward is perhaps better if they have a 2/3 or better in play but probably both are just bad in that situation. I cannot see a 1/1 token every other turn making enough of a difference to swing a game. The idea behind this card is just as a cheap way to ensure an ongoing supply of things to equip and crew and to ensure your Glorious Anthem cards are high value when you play them. You force them to waste removal on your two drop rather than just having a blocker else the rest of your deck is empowered. This makes it sounds nice but that is perhaps thinking too highly of this card. It is only good value if the game is both close and long which is not what aggressive white decks are looking for. You could play this in a control deck and it would be OK early but it would suck pretty hard later on. Unlikely to cut it but not miles off for suitability reasons mostly.

Vizier of the True 0

Way too much mana or even more way too few stats. There isn't going to be enough exert support for this to shine either. Not a cube card at all.

River Hoopoe 1

I love it! I don't even know how to pronounce it and I just love the all round sillyness of this thing. This isn't unplayable but it isn't a good card and certainly not a very broad one. A 1/3 flier for 2 is an OK defensive tool or body to empower but it is a good way of being playable just at that. While this does offer more I don't think it is close to enough. Five to draw a card and gain two is pricey. Do that midgame and you are falling far behind. For something that is only good when you need late game mana sinks I can't see this getting play. Even in just one colour I doubt this would be quite enough card to make the cube.

Resolute Survivors 0

A fairly reasonable card but a total no hoper for cubes. Narrow and far too fair. Just a pretty bland dork.

Rhonas's Last Stand 3.5

This feels a bit all in for my liking. While more powerful and playable (as a main deck card at least) than either the black or white offerings so far this thing has some issues. I think this is overly polar, it will either be a bit of a liability or it will dominate a game. In this cards favour you have green able to produce a lot of mana outside of lands thus mitigating the downside. You have a 2 mana 5/4 really early in the game. That is super big. Sadly this is a token and overly vulnerable to bounce and flicker. While it might be pretty good against green and red mages the other colours will simply be able to gain huge tempo swings against you if they have the right answers. Woolly Thoctar doesn't see any play and it is not much slower than this and rather less vulnerable. Just big and cheap isn't all that in cube, especially when you have to take risks to get it. I can see decks where this would be pretty good. Ideally you play it and give it haste. I don't think there will be nearly enough demand for it in a drafting cube but in a tailored deck I think you could get sufficient power milked from this card to make it compare well.

Uncage the Menagerie 1

Not the thing. This is poor card advantage as it scale up so badly, the higher X the less cards you have of that cost. Past 3 on X and you will be clearing you will be clearing out your library of what is left often not getting the full X things. As a tutor this is OK but not strong. The only place I see this getting attention is in a combo deck where all the parts of the combo have the same CMC and are dorks. Also likely only for 2 and 3 mana cards. This is substantially worse to Collected Company although not a direct comparison. I'd generally rather play a Weird Harvest than this. Very narrow and often weak.

Earthshaker Khenra 6.5

This is a pretty good all round aggressive threat but not busted at any point. This is just a high quality card to fill out your curve. It is perhaps Kari Zev levels of good, not quite so impactful in an ongoing way from the get go but much more to offer in the way of value and utility. The ideal for this is getting the tempo lead against another aggressive deck or forcing though some extra damage against a control player. If you can negate their blocks for a turn and get in with this and say another 2 power card then it has already done good work. Four damage for 2 mana and a 2/1 body to tell the tale is pretty good even if they still have a 2/3 in play. Just getting in for a couple of attacks on curve is fine too, in those cases it probably does just as well as Ash Zealot and is easier to cast. The eternalize is very nice and scales up well with both of the Khenras abilities. Taking out a 4 power blocker for a turn and getting to smack in with a 4/4 haste is a big deal. That is Gloryseeker levels of impact for that one turn - from a flashback on a decent two drop. While aggressive red decks are seldom looking to get to six mana they often do. More often than a lot of aggressive decks as they can expend so many resources as removal and take a game long. Things like Firebolt do add a lot to RDW reach and value simply because a RDW player is almost always still in the game due to the potential to bypass most kinds of defenses with burn. Anything that is fine early and has some useful things to do late are great for RDW players. Even more so when they don't have many looting effects to turn excess lands into more gas. The difference between five (for Firebolt flashback) and six to go eternal on this is pretty big in a red deck, that is certainly closer to two turns extra than it is one turn extra. I still think this is totally fine, when you have a front end that is pretty playable all on its own and then a flashback mode that is really quite powerful. It threatens a high chance of 4 damage alone the turn you do it, plus any extra damage from smaller critters you have that can also squeeze in plus any follow up damage you might be able to get with your 4/4. You might not eternalize this very often, perhaps half the frequency that you flashback a Firebolt however this should do more than twice the work when you do play it so you are getting a decent return on your mana. A great curve filler card that offers some reach and some value all while being very on theme.

Razaketh, the Foulblooded 3

This is a super powerful card that would seem to be somewhat in competition with the mighty Griselbrand. In that regard he doesn't come out on top but that doesn't necessarily mean this is useless. As a top end threat to potentially cheat in this lacks immediate impact and protective capabilities. This is Dragonlord Atarka without the five damage or Griselbrand without the lifelink. To get enough value out of this you need to be able to abuse the tutor or the sacrifice. While a tutor is never bad it should rather be redundant if you can have an 8 drop in play. In those sorts of decks the tutors are played to get the 8 drop in play. If you need to tutor things up to win or even not die post making an 8 drop then it suggests to me that your choice of threat isn't ideal. A sac outlet is a useful thing but enablers are like tutors, they should help get you where you are going not be your end game. I like the idea of using this with Shallow Grave so that I can put my things back in the bin rather than exiling them but that seems so unlikely and so win more. If I have this and any other top end threat in play surely that game is over and I don't need a bit more value. I don't see a place for this in the cube as yet but it could well pop up in some niche constructed lists. Certainly it looks more appealing with the super silly cards like Tooth and Nail where you can pair it with something specific more reliably. I can't see it coming up often even if it does manage to find some home in cube. Sufficiently unique and powerful to merit keeping and eye on. Not useful enough to go in a cube yet though.

Rebuilding Kherna 1

Clearly this isn't going to be the actual name of this card and it is a slightly off translation. Will try and make a note of this as it has been confusing in the past! It shouldn't be too relevant however as I don't think this is enough to cut it in cube. The initial play is OK but without flash it is just two to the face, perhaps a little more if it allows for an otherwise bad attack to become good. It isn't a great two drop as green has so few aggressive one drops to proceed this with. Pumping a mana elf is pretty sad. A zoo deck might play this but I doubt it, it isn't good enough on its own and isn't that exciting when it is good. The eternalize is a bonus certainly but it is pretty broadcast, easy to stop the initial damage and beyond that just a 6 mana 4/4 token which is pretty awful. The back end is just too slow, too low powered and too unreliable to be something you really want to invest mana in. That would be better spend on a Kessig Wolf Run most of the time. I doubt this will see cube play, it would need loads of synergy with the pumping. The eternalize simply isn't good enough to make this good in any self mill kind of thing. You are barely getting any extra value when you discard this to a Survival of the Fittest compared with any normal dork.

Nimble Obstructionist 7.5

Best card in the set so far. I think I prefer this to Vendilion Clique for cube too although it is quite close. This is pretty big for blue. I am pretty aware of my curves in the cube for the various colours and card types. Blue lacks three drops, it really lacks good three drop dorks. This is a powerful enough card already but it is extra welcome in light of the gap it will sit in. So, why is this so good? What is this bringing to the table? Obviously this is somewhat of a split card. It is either a 3/1 flying flash or it is an uncounterable 3 mana Stifle that also draws a card. It isn't both. Clique always gets to be the disruption/card quality as well as the 3/1 flier. Clique does more when you play it on average but Obstructionist does a lot more when you don't play it if that makes sense! Playing around this is going to be a nightmare, put it that way.

A 3/1 flying body for 3 is OK. It trades up quite well in the air, represents a good clock and most importantly tackles planesalkers very effectively. It is also a safe play a control player can make and most of this is down to the flash. I might be sat on this and a counterspell. If you make a walker that is going to get to 3 or less loyalty I am probably better off letting it resolve, saving my counter, developing my board and just killing it with good old attacks from this. Blue struggles versus planeswalkers somewhat and this is a fantastic tool to help cope with them. The body part of this is just about good enough that you would run it in the cube and be happy to put it in your deck. Just because of the flash it will often outperform True-Name Nemesis! The value of the body obviously rises rather nicely when it is only part of what the card can do or be. The main drawback of a 3/1 flier is that is sucks when they have a Lava Dart in the bin or a bunch of Lingering Souls tokens. Clique's average performance is hurt a chunk by those sorts of things however the Nimble Obstructionist doesn't lose much at all as it has an entirely different mode.

So then, how good is a 3 mana uncounterable cantrip Stifle? Really good. Much much better than Disallow when not countering spells and much much more playable than Stifle. The issue with Stifle is not power level at all but range. It might have loads of things it affects but to be worth a whole card it has to hit something of pretty high value. Having either a super low powered card or even a dead card clogging up your hand is a big risk. Without a pre-known high number of valuable targets across the board or loads of card filter Stifle isn't super playable in cube despite having an insane upper potential. Due to drawing a card with Obstructionist you don't mind at all as much about the value you get from it. You can hit a pretty low value thing like a plus ability on a walker and still feel good about it. It doesn't have quite the same upper range as the Stifle as you can't hit those turn one sac lands but hitting a turn three sac land is still pretty nuts. This card just being in cube will ensure people crack their sac lands before opponents have three with a blue up if they can. Cycle for 3 is OK, cycle for 3 and disrupt a bit is good, cycle for 3 and disrupt a lot is great, make a 3/1 and kill a walker is great and make a 3/1 safely and apply pressure or trade with a flier is nice too. This is good early and good late. It provides a very wide range of options without ever being a dud card. I expect to see a lot of this.

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