Saturday 12 August 2017

Commander 2017 Initial Review Part IV

Kindred Dominance 0

Perhaps at five this would be good but what tribal deck wants a seven mana card? Necromantic Selection has seen some minor play but it is a far better one sided Wrath as it can take their guys if needs be. The only potential for Kindred Dominance is a deck that happens to have most of its dorks sharing creature types and that has some reasonable chance of having more than one dork in play and most critically wants a seven mana mass removal spell and would otherwise consider Necromantic Selection. Put all these criteria together and you have an stupendously narrow card for cube use. Much more of a control tool than a tribal one too.

Kindred Boon 0

Another shocker. This costs six mana to do anything at all. It requires a deck with a tribal theme and white mana that for some reason wants to play an expensive defensive mana dump. If you are not winning with an Elite Vanguard then an indestructible Elite Vanguard isn't going to make a massive difference. Certainly not a quick difference. Even if you happened to have a slower deck with complete subtype alignment you wouldn't play this. The cube is too diverse, there is too much bounce, evasion, exile and alternate routes to victory that doing so much in making creatures indestructible is a vast over investment. Such effects are good on Boros Charm, Valorous Stance, or Ephemeral Shields! Not on this. Elspeth, Knight-Errant has one of the weaker ultimates out there and it is still a lot better than this! I have lost several games with an indestructible emblem or the option to have had one. Don't play this card.

Galecaster Colossus 4

This is the daddy of all Tradewind Riders! The comparison is more along the lines of Tidespout Tyrant. This is a mana less and a toughness more but it loses flying. Normally that is an issue for top end dorks but the way these function means you don't care at all about evasion, all you want is survivability meaning the Galecaster is the better body. As for effect they do a similar thing but activate it very differently. That means you will never be choosing between these. Tyrant is a combo storm sort of thing that works best in powered cubes. This is potentially something you could look to play in an appropriate midrange or control deck and it would be good against the more midrangy sorts of thing you find in unpowered cubes. It does not have the lock down potential of Tyrant as it can't hit lands but not all that much will be able to kill you if all anyone can do is have lands in play. This can tap itself to bounce right away and should be able to rely on other wizards to empower him. There are a lot of wizards in the cube, lots of good support and utility ones too making it easier to see running this. It seems too narrow to run in a drafting cube unless you have a wizards theme or intentionally low power cube. It does still seem like a potential inclusion in the right deck. You need far far less wizards with this for it to be nuts than you do creatures with Opposition.

Vindictive Lich 2

This seems fairly awful for heads up play. While the components add up to being "worth" four or more mana the packaging of it is really off. A 4/1 stops being good when costed above two mana. The blow out potential from ping is just too great. Yes, this has an on death trigger but so what? If you spend four mana to poorly effect the board you will get punished. Yes, one of the abilities does affect the board but a broadcast edict at four mana is super easy to play around and not all that strong. The options on this card are quite nice but I think I would just rather have a Doomfall than this. There will be some fun games where you make this when they are at 5 or less. You might even get the dream scenario of trading in combat with a decent creature and forcing them to discard two relevant cards or sac a relevant creature. In those rare occasions this card might even look good! Make no mistake though, most of the time this is getting killed with ease for about one mana and a good half the time it won't even get its trigger. Between Oust and Pillar of Flame and Vapor Snag this card really needed to be a leaves play effect to have much hope.

Mairsil, the Pretender 2

Another unplayable card with a cute ability. A four mana three colour 4/4 needs so much extra in that text box to stand a chance that you can tell this fails just from font size and paragraph structure on the card! Best use I can immediately think of is with a Griselbrand, not exactly an ability you need more than once! I am sure there are others but even if that was good it would still be too narrow for the drafting cubes. This card just needs so much hand holding to be anything other than awful such that the high potential rather fails to appeal. I presume you can stack up caged things should you be able to repeatedly cast this, even so. That is silly amounts of setup for what is clearly a terrible combo at best. This is fine if you happen to have a number of Griselbrand quality targets to cage and you are in those colours but don't go expecting that to happen for you anywhere near consistently.

Portal Mage 0

A Grey Ogre with flash that lets you choose between potentially keeping a planeswalker alive at the cost of life or saving some life should you have a planeswalker to take the hit. While this effect could easily be game winning it is far too situational to be worth running it on such a low powered body. This card feels like a bad Briarhorn. The ability is far less useful than a combat trick (although in the same sort of ballpark regarding being big swing situational effects) and a Grey Ogre is a well known turdy shell even compared to a Hill Giant.

Magus of the Mind 1

Well well well. While this can be incredibly powerful I am not sure it is needed. Despite potentially being a whole 5 mana cheaper the turn you use it to go off with than Mind's Desire that isn't the relevant thing in the decks using such effects. Your cards get you to six and so if you ramp into this you will have less gas next turn to fuel it with. If you wait to make it more on curve it is substantially slower than Mind's Desire. Most significantly this is vulnerable and will be killed on sight where possible. Yes, Mind's Desire is one of the most powerful magic cards and yes this can outperform it but cube storm decks are pretty nuts. Mind's Desire is not an auto include in the blue ones, it is nice but it makes your build clunkier and it isn't needed to win by any measure. Time Spiral is typically a much more potent thing to do in storm at six mana. Given that this only really stood a chance as a backup Mind's Desire and basically no decks are going to be after two copies of the card I don't see this having much play time in the cube. Perhaps he will in a more general use way and in such a role I expect him to fully blow. Nice six mana vanilla 4/5...

Taigim, Sidisi's Hand 0

While a mere two colours to contend with this still fails the big fat gold card test yet again on the first stats hurdle. Pay five, get a 3/4. That is most of what this will be getting done in a well refined cube. Yes, if you untap with this it is like having a Grim Flayer combat trigger in your upkeep and a super Grim Lavamancer active. Even together those cards come to three mana and have more combined stats than this on average. This has quite good effects but you pay too much for them and they lose a lot of value on a late card compared to being on a cheaper card. Only mentally good cards in the five mana range can get away with having weak stats and doing nothing right away. Taigim is far from mentally good. Meloku is the only example of a weak stat do nothing five drop dork used in cubes at all often. I think the card stinks now but at least it isn't gold and at least it can do stuff right away when you have more than five mana.

Kess, Dissident Mage 3

There is a subtle wording on this that is actually a huge nerf and makes it probably too weak. You only get the trigger on your turns meaning you are not ever able to use instants in their turns with Kess. This obviously rules out countermagic being all that potent with her. If this was once per round of turns or once each turn then this would be a very spicy card indeed. The perpetual Snacaster Mage. Kess isn't even poorly statted considering some of the other effects and costs we have seen in this release. A 3/4 flier is objectively a good size, it is reasonably resilient, packs a decent punch and generally fairs well in combat. You might get those stats at 3 mana on a gold card with nothing else and at four, even if you can't use the ability right away (no zero mana spells or spare mana) you are not too sad about what you get. Jori En, Ruin Diver is actually a pretty comparable card to this. A 2/3 for 3, even if it had flying would be worse than a 3/4 flier for 4 in terms of value for the dork. Overall price reducing is nice on cards you get value from by playing other spells, you would totally take both as 1 mana 0/1s if you had that option. On balance Jori En gets the rough end of the stick as you really can't make much use of the body meaning it is usually a drawback. A 3/4 flier is very relevant so while you might want the effect more and rather you could get it cheaper the overall package is much more well rounded and useful. Even with an empty yard Kess will get things done. As you can only use cards in your turn you want a bit more proactive stuff. Cheap discard is good as is burn, card quality and draw. Removal is also a perfectly fine way to get value from this. Kess is starting to get needy with her desire for specific kinds of cheap spell, her need of 3 colours and her dislike of countermagic. While she is a perfect fit into Grixis tempo lists a lot of cards are, certainly a lot more than you have space for. That archetype thrives off being cheap and so I suspect that Kess would not often make the final cut. A three colour gold card that isn't even close to an auto include is a no go for drafting. This is too powerful not to draw people's attention in constructed formats and I am sure she will see some play and when she does I expect her to be slightly better than Vizier of the Menagerie and Jori En and other such average cube cards!

Shifting Shadow 2

Well isn't this fun! The abuse for this is playing it with tokens and only huge fat dorks to cheat out. The reason that is a terrible idea is that you need this to stay in play. A token is not a safe place to put this! You can use this to work your way through your opponents creatures hopefully starting with a potent one and then devolving it into something less scary. This also feels like an awful line of play. Sure, you might get to turn their Emrakul into a Wall of Roots but you still had to eat an Emrakul attack. Most things left in play for a turn that are worth killing with a three mana effect are going to do way too much damage in a turn of being left about. Sure, you might be able to kill off all your opponents remaining threats but you have to chump block or eat the attack, if you kill the creature the Shaodw will die off too. You risk so much in taking this line. They might have cards like Thragtusk which are huge value EtB and leaves play effects you trigger for them. I guess you could also just use this in a deck full of EtB and on death triggers that are good. Like a chaotic random Birthing Pod. Sadly for this to net a good return doing such things you need it to stick around for several turns and that probably isn't happening. Needing to protect a random creature and an enchantment is quite a tall order. A very cool card with a surprising array of uses. Sadly none of them seem all that close to being good uses.

Izzet Chemister 2

Slow for sure but not as bad as it looks at first glance. Having haste makes this pretty safe. You drop it when you have four mana, then you use it end of turn, untap with it and either use it more in the same EoT way or sac it there and then. This is 6 mana over two turns to Regroth and Cast an instant or sorcery if only done with one card. That isn't even great on a 6 mana card and so you want the Chemister to stick about for a couple of turns to really get value. If you hit three spells it really doesn't matter if they only total four mana, you got your worth out of the card! All told this is too slow and still too vulnerable to have all that much hope in cube. I will probably try it out simply for being fun and having a high ceiling. Perhaps you can abuse it with discard and huge spells, I mean, you can, but perhaps you can find a way of doing it that isn't bad! I think I am mostly happy firing off a pile of burn spells with this. Playable but ultimately a bad cube card.

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