Wednesday 9 August 2017

Commander 2017 Initial Review Part II

Bloodline Necromancer 1

A restricted reanimate effect and a 3/2 lifelink bolted together into a clumsy and narrow card. Too slow to be something you would use to cheat in big things in a combo way. That isn't even an option as wizards and vampires are generally small. As such this is a midrange value dork and not a very good one at that. I don't expect this to see play even though it has a lot that would work for it in a tribal vampires deck. When they print a Griselbrand level of vampire we can take another look at this card.

Herald's Horn 3

I like this style of generic tribal card. I have found myself leaning on Hall of Triumph in a lot more archetypes than I would have expected.  A lot of the cost reduction cards are not actually very good in tribal decks. You may shout me down with cries of Goblin Warchief which is certainly the best of such cards. Mostly he is about the haste but the cost reduction did get a lot of work done due to the combo nature and unusually high curve (for a tribal deck) in goblins. Try out Stoney Brook Banneret in merfolk if you want to see how little value a pure cost reduction card can get! Basically, most good tribal decks are defined by good one drops. Lots of them are mono coloured and pack a lot of high coloured mana cards. More often than not you will find this kind of thing reduces about half of your tribal cards which in turn only make up a third of your non-land deck. For the most part you shouldn't expect to get a return on your mana with this kind of thing, you will pay 3 mana and save 2 or 3 mana on average. That allows for some nice explosive turns but is rarely worth a card. Fortunately this has a built in card draw mechanic that is drawing you 0.2 of a card a turn worst case scenario and potentially a much bigger fraction of a card with library manipulation and higher counts of the tribe. That sounds like a great deal suddenly. A card that costs little to no mana, occasionally puts you up mana and that gains card advantage? Such a card is very good. While this might be free cards and mana it is often against what tribal decks are doing which is usually smacking people in the face. This card is a little bit control and a little bit combo which rules out a number of the tribal homes for this. You only get your free cards and mana when this has been in play for some time and for that to happen you have to cast it. Casting it is pretty much a skipped turn unless more towards late game in which case it is going to be even slower still to get you value. I expect this to see play at about the same frequency as Hall of Triumph which isn't loads but it still a lot more than most of the cards not in my main cube. I think this will be very impressive in a couple of tribal decks and pretty unimpressive in the rest.

Summon the Tribe 1

This is shockingly bad as a way of generating a board of smaller dorks. In elves for example this is the nut low. Play an Overrun and win with your many elves, don't try and double up on your elves. This is the most pointless win more card if used in that way. I don't think the other use is good but it seems the best use of this pile. If you have one big dork and one small dork of the same type you can "Tinker" it up with this. Now run along and enjoy your highly conditional seven mana Tinker effect. I guess the plan is to create Eldrazi scion and spawn tokens then fish out a couple of big daddy Eldrazi with this. Funky but ultimately a narrow Tooth and Nail style card.

Path of Ancestry 0

Well this does nothing outside of commander.

Kindred Discovery 3

Hmmm, attacks or enters play you say? Hmm. Many many cards. This could actually be a thing despite being a five mana do nothing. This is just endless gas. It is pretty hard to shut down as well. Once in play it will be like standard (type II) when Skullclamp was a 4 of in every deck. Bident of Thassa gets used in merfolk decks a reasonable amount and this is just a lot better. It is almost too much better, this thing is so powerful it should put you dangerously close to milling out. It is not an optional draw which in 40 card decks is a real drawback. I think that probably only makes this playable in lists that can recycle their decks or that will reliably kill with that much draw. This has enough power that it will probably allow for some unique takes on a number of different tribal decks. Sadly I think the best ones for it will not be blue tribes.

Territorial Hellkite 8

Annoying multiplayer wording for heads up functionality. You can mostly just replace the non-keyword text with "attacks each turn if able" and "whenever this attacks exert it". It is not quite that because it will untap and allow you to crew with it or some other creature tapping cost. It also won't be triggering other exert trigger cards. Still, a 6/5 flying haste that must attack and always exerts is a pretty serious card. Over infinite time this is a 3/5 but that is pretty far from the reality. This is always six damage on the first attack which is so much it will often be the last attack of the game. It is always six power in combat allowing it to trade or outright kill most things too. Probably this is an average of a 5/5 when going face, either 6 in one and gg or 12 over 3 turns. That is bonkers. That is pretty much just a five mana Thundermaw without the EtB effect. Sign me up. This card is like a compilation of all the best bits of Ball Lightning, Rorix Bladewing, Goldnight Castigator and Skizzik. With this and Fiery Confluence red can reliably do you six with one card and four mana which is pretty scary.

Scalelord Reckoner 1

This is quite an upgrade on Archon of Justice. While the removal neither exiles nor hits land it will happen regardless of what is being used to disrupt it. Exile, bounce and tap will not bypass the removal. It will be brutal to have to use more than one effect to deal with this. I doubt you are getting value from other dragons needing to be targetted but it technically improves the card. The problem I see for this is that it is just an Air Elemental. You don't need to deal with it very often. Control can probably deal with it without targetting with mass removal or counterspells, failing that it should be able to match it with a dork of their own. Aggro decks will care little if that is the best you can do with five mana. This is just a good anti midrange card and in that role it is just a good solid top end two for one. Solid but not nuts. Being so poor in most places and only fine in the other this really isn't competing for a cube slot when there are things like Avacyn on offer.

Boneyard Scourge 1

I want to like this more, it is so close to there but just isn't quite. The issue for this card is entirely down to how few dragons there are in the cube. The instances that this would have another dragon in the same list as it are super low so the instances where this will specifically be in the graveyard at the time it dies and you have two mana up are basically zero. This means this is just a 4/3 flier for 4 which is fine but not nearly enough to be getting a cube slot. It this triggered when zombies died then it would be better than Vengevine and would see a tonne of play in cube. Mutavault is probably the most playable cheap dragon card in cube, not something you want to have die just to recur this.

Fortunate Few 6.5

So this is basically a five mana Planar Cleansing with seemingly an upside. When you are looking to blow up all the non-land permanents it is because your opponent has a wide spread of lots of stuff. This means that they will not only have lots of threats you want to kill like planeswalkers, vehicles and creatures but they should also have a smattering of things that are low value like 1/1 tokens, clues, Oath of Nissa, Talisman and that sort of thing. A five mana Planar Cleansing that left one thing alive of theirs of your choice would be decent, there would be lots of matchups you want that effect in and it would generally be the best option. What turns this card from just a good mass removal spell into a very dangerous one is that you also get to keep a thing. While it is your opponents choice you are the one who made the deck and has the information about your plan. It will be pretty easy in control to engineer a situation where you only have a powerful thing in play for them to choose. If you can Planar Cleansing while keeping something alive, say a Tamiyo or a Restoration Angel then you are vastly ahead. I don't think this card is objectively super powerful, just pretty good and fair. I think it is particularly good at doing what is needed for control decks these days in cube. I expect this to win a lot of games on the spot. You know those cards that people cast and your like "yup, can't recover from that". You thought the game was close and then this hits and it couldn't be further from the truth. After a while I expect people will come to respect it more and play around it more effectively which will keep it far better in check. It is interesting as it is a card that punishes having low value stuff out. Playing around this will involve things like using up clues right away. Certainly an interesting control and even midrange tool. This does what Hour of Revelation wants to do but more consistently and more effectively.

Fractured Identity 6

So this is a five mana sorcery Utter End that creates a token copy of the target for you. It feels quite a lot like Treachery, a two for one and a huge tempo swing with massive punish potential. While this is strong I don't think it is what you want most of the time in cube. You want answers to be cheap. Against any sort of aggro deck this is pitiful. If you have to kill a two drop with this you feel sad. It is also rather awkward when trying to kill Sulfuric Vortex style cards! This smacks more of a sideboard card, that is how you can best use this. As it has such high potential I think it will be run a lot of the time simply for those free wins you will get with it. A bad removal spell that sometimes wins the game is not such a bad card. The removal hitting most things and being exile and generally being card advantage and bonus tempo also makes the removal aspect far more passable. I think I will cut this from my cube for being gold and being a badly designed card for heads up use that won't lead to better games of magic. Power wise however this is pretty impressive.

Mirror of the Forebears 5

Hmm. This is cheap and annoying. It also lets you double up on key cards that are otherwise hard to do in cube. You cannot get EtB triggers with this but it will do all the lord roles very nicely. Mirage Mirror has been decent in cube and while that has a substantially broader range than this it is also rather more of an investment. This is cheap and safe and will provide lots of options. Tribal decks generally just want a critical mass of playable tribe members. This will happily replace a weak one in most lists without hurting synergy and that will greatly up the average power level. The main downsides for this card are that it does nothing when you have no targets and that it costs you a mana each turn to use. As a two drop this is very low tempo, you won't have spare mana nor good copy targets. Lacking targets in the mid and late game should be less of a problem as tribal decks are defined by having high numbers of a single tribe! They usually include ways of getting a bunch of them too. I don't think you play this without specific good targets. Copying a lord is fine but generally the actual lord at 3 mana is going to be more what you want. Where this will really shine is when you copy a Goblin Sharpshooter and get to go nuts. Perhaps you copy the Priest of Titania and generate a whole load of mana right away without having to wait for summoning sickness to expire. I guess what I am saying is the more combo tribal decks will likely gain more from this card than the more beatdown orientated ones. This is still a nice Wrath proof addition to any tribal list should they desire. Very playable generic tribal card that has a lot of potential.

Qasali Slingers 1

This has stats and some potential ongoing value over a lot of the naturalize options on dorks. Acidic Slime is the main opposition for this, Slime is a better removal effect and despite its significantly smaller stature is a pretty relevant body. I don't see the narrower Slingers posing much threat to the Slime. Naturalize is just not a powerful enough effect in cube to merit playing a mediocre five drop, either you want it so you play it on a cheap card or you don't care about it and you play a powerful five drop. Ongoing Naturalize is even less commonly useful and so this doesn't even look very exciting as a sideboard option for a tribal cat deck.

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