Monday, 17 July 2017
Winners and Losers from Hour of Devastation (and Amonkhet)
Time to talk about what lived up to expectation and what didn't from out ancient Egyptian themed block. I am still testing a lot of cards out with over 40 cards in the cube from across the two sets. That is a lot of cards for me to still have in from a block. That might imply it was a powerful one which both is and isn't true. Certainly it is more powerful than older sets simply due to power creep. The average power is high but the range of power is pretty low. There are a lot of 6/10 cards, like baseline stuff and little to nothing in the 7+ range. I am doing these sets combined as I was slow to pickup the Amonkhet stuff and did less playing in that time. Back to business as usual now!
Bone Picker - loser
While I am not yet ready to cut this it is wildly under performing my expectations. I did think this was Delver of Secrets levels of good so my expectations were not overly realistic! At best this is fine but a little inconvenient and fiddly. It might be a 1 mana 3/2 flier more easily and consistently than Delver but it is never a one drop and that is a huge part of why it is losing out.
Champion of Rhonas - winner
This was in the testing group so while doing well it has not yet fully earned its cube slot. It fits into a couple of decks quite well and is suitably dangerous that you kill it on sight when you can. While a 4 mana 3/3 is not the best removal bait it turns out it is fine. You force awkward plays and get to protect your actual threats.
Channeler Initiate - loser
Again, not enough to merit the chop yet but this is is less exciting than predicted. Turns out it is really slow and vulnerable. A 2 mana walking BoP is asking to eat ping and set you back loads. Late game waiting 3 turns for your 3/4 body isn't at all good either.
Dissenter's Deliverance / Abrade - winners
By winners these are probably just around where I rated them due to my mild overrating of new stuff due to being all excited. Neither of these cards is great but they are something it turns out that you generally want if you are in those colours. They are both just the least costly way of packing some insurance against artifacts and thus not losing to Jitte and Shackles and random lame things like that. These are replacing cards like Torch Fiend and the various Manglehorn cards in magic. They are taking pressure of cards like Maelstrom Pulse and making the singular spot removal (Doom Blade etc) more playable. Neither of these cards is powerful but they have a much higher floor than any other options on artifact removal that isn't dead when there are no targets. They are not horrific 2 or more mana 2/1s when in their other mode.
Hieroglyphic Illumination / Curator of Mysteries - erm, kind of a card limbo so I guess losers
Both of these four mana cards with cycling for one have been impressively unimpressive. The Curator has been cast a couple of times at least but mostly these are just cycled. That is fine, that is sort of why you are playing these kinds of thing. It turns out however than you really wanted to be casting a spell a lot of the time for prowess and many other things like that. Just a Peek or Quicken has a lot more value than either of these cards in cheap mode. Given how very fair both four mana modes are on these cards it is hard to say how useful the option on that split card is and how worthwhile it is taking the mild hit on the far more common mode. If you are cycling nearly 100% of the time then surely it is all about Opt and the like. Although the Illumination feels more playable I think it will be getting cut much sooner as it is two modes on the same soft of thing, neither of which are powerful. At least with Curator you have two distinctly different modes and generally get a better return on your four mana mode in terms of power. Both are certainly what I would class as filler cards. Your Think Twice and the like.
Forsake the Worldly / Cast Out - winners
Much bigger winners than Abrade / Deliverance as well. Forsake is a bigger cost than Deliverance both when it isn't useful and when it is at a mana more in each mode. For this you get a bigger range (also enchantments) and a better effect (mmm, delicious exile). That is worth it. The kinds of cards you want to kill with this don't matter as much when you pay a little more to handle them as they are such game defining cards - Opposition, Wurmcoil Engine etc. Both these cards really round out whites removal options perfectly. I have already cut Disenchant, you just don't need a card that narrow any more. Cast Out is even more security. The combination of flash and cycling for one make it well worthy of being the only four mana spot removal card I have in cube. It already feels like these go in all white decks. Some might have all the good removal and not need them or be so tight as to end up not playing them but in general these are just what you want a bit of.
Soulscar Mage / Firebrand Archer - winners
So I thought theses would be good and they are about as good as I thought as stand alones! What I didn't account for was the huge bonus theses would incur from various redundancies in synergy. Swiftspear, Themo-Alchemist and the like all trigger off the same sorts of things. With this depth of good benefectors it becomes a lot more valuable empowering them with things like Lava Dart. Both of these are significant boosts to red.
Samut, Voice of Dissent - winner
I still don't like this guy much and may well still cut her for being a big gold card. Few of the Dragonlords make my cube and they are insanely packed full of power. This dude is a beating and she is versatile. She empowers a lot yet is plenty brutal all on her own. Somewhere between a Thundermaw and Xenagos God form which is no bad place to be.
Commit // Memory - winner
Great card. Generally denying your opponent the option on what is bounced for a couple of turns and denying them a draw is worth a lot more than a 2/2 body. Venser may count himself power crept on. Commit is just a very nice rounded safety tool. It isn't really value or tempo, just effective stall and interaction which is what you want as a blue player. The Memory mode is what pushes this card. Despite not being used loads it has been cast much more than expected and generally in bargainous ways that really abuse it. When you get first go on the new spells you are getting the better part of the symmetrical effect. It is such a hugely powerful effect that the option on it is worth a lot. I unlocked a new achievement courtesy of this card - having all my lands in my deck in play!
Nimble Obstructionist / Champion of Wits - losers
Both still great cards and cube staples but just not quite as good as I had hoped. The Obstructionist has great options and a good high ceiling but the average case of you making it is a fairly low powered play. Ultimately it is less potent than a Clique although perhaps still more playable just for being a single blue. The Champion is also a little calmer than I anticipated. It often feels like you want to loot it just so you can make it in 7 mana mode rather than have to wait for it to die as a 2/1! I think the incredibly average nature of Hour of Devastation made these two cards stand out more than they should have. With no bombs to compare these to in the set they looked like the bombs where as in fact they are just both above average cards but still fair ones.
Harsh Mentor - winner
Every bit as filthy as expected. Perhaps more so. This just turns off so much and the damage adds up so fast. This quickly cuts off your various options. Probably the best red two drop for any aggressive list.
Censor - winner
Loads better than Miscalculation. Good when you need it to be and wonderfully never dead. This has been hitting shockingly late in the game. I think people haven't yet readjusted to how playable a Force Spike now is. Both the Spike, Mana Tithe and Daze are so much riskier inclusions that they see a lot less play than Censor is now getting. Censor is probably out performing Mana Leak thus far in cube which is pretty impressive.
Glory-Bound Initiate / Ahn-Crop Crasher - winners
It turns out exert is a really potent combat tool. Both these cards are nasty to race against and make blocking really hard. They both add a new dynamic to combat. I was shocked to see how poorly a power house road block tool like Kitchen Finks fails against these exert beaters. I will be trying out Gust Walker and perhaps some other exert cards as a result of these doing so well.
Mirage Mirror - winner
A little bit mana intense. Generally you play this as filler, it doesn't seem to be something you actively want. That all being said, when you do have this out and can use it you get a lot back from it. It is exactly the sort of Spellskite / Vedalken Shackles tedium style card that is a pain to play around. It offers lots of options and is widely playable. It also suffers few of the issues Clone cards typically do.
Glorybringer - winner
Unsurprising really. This card is performing super well in other formats and just clearly has an awful lot of power going on. This kills things, it kills people, it gives options, it solves problems and it is both value and tempo all at once. It is more midrange than a red normally likes but the power is just high enough that you are OK with your mildly slower pace bomb. This has the feel of Archangel Avacyn more than any other card and that is a really good place to be.
Djeru's Renunciation - winner
I just threw this in to try it out and it has been played 100% of the time so far. Mostly it is the aggro decks that want this but it is not exclusive to them. It is just a highly versatile card with a high floor and ceiling. Great for planeswalker control and alpha strikes or otherwise winning races.
As Foretold - winner
I saved some of the biggest winners till last! This thing seemed a bit Brain in the Jar build around to be much good but it was too fun looking not to give it a whirl. Suffice it to say it wildly outpefromed expectation. It ate a Vindicate over a Jace. Vryn's Prodigy I made the turn before! Pretty sure it was the right play as well. This thing is bats, it is just so much mana so quickly. You don't need Ancestral Vision abuses to make it good, you don't even really need one drops. Just get this to two counters and it is like you are attacking with a Primeval Titan every turn! It allows for stupid swingy plays like Eternal Witness Mystic Confluence locks from unreasonably early in the game. I did a Time Warp and a Memory on the same turn, that was also nice! The casual 11 mana play with six lands... You do want flash and instant cards to abuse with it. You also want a lot of draw mostly because you are just able to do so much! An age old strategy in magic is lots of cards and lots of mana. It doesn't matter what else you do, with enough of those things you are just winning! Typically it was done with artifact abuse in blue but it seems like if you are able to be a little more patient you can do it with just one neatly contained card and not have to have an inconsistent deck. Any deck with decent refill and a decent number of instants will be able to run this very effectively indeed. Highly powerful and dangerous card that is also rather fun! I think the best way to think of this is as a three mana suspend 2 Gilded Lotus. That untaps at the end of your turn. And carries on providing more and more mana. And helps cheat in other suspend cards. And that is basically pretty broken and not nearly as narrow as it probably should have been!
Reason // Believe - winner?
This is only really a winner in my mind... Every single person thinks this totally sucks except me. I have manage to bring a couple of them to accepting this is OK. For me that is a win! Ultimately I will be cutting this as it is a gold card. Despite that it performed really well for me and I still really like it. I like playing with it and I like the card design and I still don't think it is a weak card. I think it holds its own in cube and is mostly let down by being a narrower gold card. If this was all the same colour I would expect it to last in the cube. I didn't even get any big hits with it on the Believe, it was just good as a split card with the back end being a 5 mana sorcery speed draw a card. Sounds bad but so does the flashback on Firebolt so there is that. The scry 3 was great. It gave me massive control and setup potential. It turned loads of muligans into keepers. When you have to have a deck than can either handle the card disadvantage (usually with tonnes of draw and mana), abuse the Believe consistently, or expects to have huge excess mana late game then the card is really pretty decent. It turns out that unsupported scry 3 is just the best one mana card in magic for setting up your early game. It is marginal over a lot of them and it is still worse than others when they come with any support but support is hard to come by and marginal is pretty big on one mana spells. Turns out you can play Believe and other aftermath cards with As Fortold which is a little bonus! Not a bomb by any means, not even always good but certainly not close to as bad as most people seem to have it down as being.
Insult // Injury - winner
I have left the biggest winner for last. This is just a total beating in every way. It ends games out of nowhere. It is loads of value and a good amount of utility. While it may look situational as a red card when are you not trying to do damage? The card pretty much reads, give all your dorks doublestrike and Fork any spells you cast for the rest of the turn. That is the first mode and usually that is all you see because it ends games. Just attacking with a pair of 2/2s and firing off a Lightning Bolt represents seven damage from one card and that is a fairly tame example of an Insult. Things like Fireblast, Stoke the Flames, Chandra, Thermo-Alchemist, Seal of Fire, Stoke the Flames all contribute to making Insult utterly nuts. This utterly breaks any stalemate wide open. You can fall pretty far behind on the board and enact a full swing into a recovery with Insult. This then lets you use Injury too which is a lot better than a Firebolt for a flashback. Pay two less for twice as much! There is also those occasions when you do get to six mana and then this is just a total beating. A four damage Searing Blaze and double damage on everything else gets a lot of work done. You can also just discard this for pretty good value but that is probably silly as then you don't get to Insult people to death. I think this card might well be modern or legacy playable. You can pull off some very easy turn three kills with Injury. This, a Kiln Fiend and a Mutagenic Growth will do 18 and that is just a small sample of some of the abusive cards than you can pair this with in constructed. Insult is the star of the show and that should say quite a lot when this is one of the most cost effective flashback modes in magic.
As you can see. Mostly winners thus from the land of hieroglyphs and pyramids. Still many more cards I have yet to get a feel for and I suspect far fewer of the rest will be winners. On the plus side I have only cut a couple of the test cards so far, usually they fall a lot quicker. While I feel like I was off on quite a lot of cards this time round I feel I was off by a much smaller margin than normal. All these winners and losers for the most part won't ammount to more than a 0.5 shift in rating. Most of the things that seemed playable are indeed playable. A couple of those that didn't are also giving a little more game than expected and may last in the cube some time.