Monday 7 August 2017

Commander 2017 Initial Review

Wasitora, Nekoru Queen 2

Obviously powerful but also not the thing for cube. Not enough immediate impact and not resilient enough to merit the five mana tag, let alone the three colours. Any 4 or more power mono red dragon with haste is going to get a lot more action in a cube setting. The good mono green five drops in cube are all way more powerful than this too! If you can play this just play Broodmate Dragon instead, it might seem less exciting but it is a whole lot better!

O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami 2

This is very powerful indeed but it is another non starter in cube. This isn't top end enough to merit cheating in and at all the colours it is not exactly playable any other way. The body is pretty decent for six mana and it does a decent amount to halt a race. Sadly it has no real immediate impact or value and isn't close to worth including in a deck or a cube.

The Ur-Dragon 6.5

Super big and super hard to cast. This isn't viable for hard cast use. That however doesn't rule it out at all for other uses. As a cheat in play this has some good things going on. It will sit in a graveyard, it is a legend, it is green, it is even a dragon giving it one of the widest range of cheat in things that work with it. It is only the artifact things that don't really. The cost reduction effect is pretty poor and should basically never come up relevantly in cube but the other ability works quite nicely with the sorts of deck you might want to cheat in big things. As a thing to have on the board it is very large and has some evasion. It represents a two turn clock a reasonable amount of time. Sadly it has less reliability than other big name two turn killers, less survivability, and generally less value and/or board control. There are certainly better things you can Show and Tell or Exhume into play but The Ur-Dragon is still great in this role. When you are able to give it haste however The Ur-Dragon gets rather more interesting, particularly with something like Sneak Attack or Corpse Dance. Not only does it have a good shot of doing half the work needed to close the game but it also draws you a card and gives you a personal free Show and Tell. This means you can get a one hit off with this and have something else permanently in play to seal the deal. While quite a narrow card this does seem like one of the best at doing what it does. I can see this replacing cards like Borborygmos Enraged and Worldspine Wurm in cubes and decklists going forwards.

Ramos, Dragon Engine 1

I like what this is doing  but it is too small, too expensive and too much of a do nothing the turn you make it for it to hold any weight in cube. This isn't something that you can easily abuse despite it looking like it might have some cool combo applications. Without a combo role this really has no hope even with a high synergy deck for it as it is just such a weak stand alone investment.

Taigim, Ojutai Master 4

Another card that I like what it is doing but anticipate it being far too weak even before taking into account the narrow gold nature of it. This card seems worse than Brago and that is a gimmick card if ever I saw one. While this has better stats than Brago the need for it to attack and the lack of evasion mean it has low odds of doing much of much. I suspect the best most people will be able to do with this is get one attack where it trades one for one while also firing off some instant like a burn or draw spell in combat before Taigim dies thus getting another go on that spell next upkeep. If that instant allows Taigim to survive the combat then it is amazing but your opponent probably misplayed or had no other option and was dead anyway. You often won't have a suitable instant and you often will get zero value from running Taigim into combat. The uncounterable aspect is not irrelevant but it isn't a reason to play the card. Taigim could be a powerful control sideboard card to combat other control decks but I don't see him offering enough to want it main. I also think I would probably rather a Teferi than this as an anti control sideboard tool. This card has the double whammy problem of being both narrow and situational. That it still remains playable does at least mean that the card can do some good things. Generally a win more card which I don't much like either.

Arahbo, Roar of the World 2

Well, I joked about a cat tribal deck at the start of Amonkhet being spoiled and now it would seem as if we have the tools to make that a thing... Obviously this card is unplayable outside a tribal cat deck or at the very least a deck with a very very high cat count somehow. This being gold actually doesn't make it any worse for once as the only cat tribal deck options would be GW anyway so the function of this card and its inherent narrowness encompass and thus negate the gold narrowness of the card! Without cats this is a 5/5 for five in cube which isn't terrible but certainly isn't something you play. With cats this is quite the game ender. It is like a terrifying Elspeth. I suspect untapping with this or laying this with three mana spare and having another cat is pretty much game over. This will hit very very hard! It is the kitty Creeperhulk!

Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist 6

This is a powerful card, probably about the level of Thalia the Heretic Cathar. On this card sadly the gold is a big problem. While certainly powerful enough for the cube I suspect it is just too narrow simply for being gold. If the defensive aspect worked all the time rather than needing to be tapped the card would be strong enough to play despite being gold but as is I think it is on the fairer side. I would still happily play this in aggro, midrange or perhaps even control. A three powered first strike dork is hard to get into combat with. Some weenie decks will never have another profitable block once you make this. It is also a pretty good race card. I am sure I will see plenty of Mirri and I am sure she will be good and annoying depending on your perspective. Some decks will need to kill this or they will lose which is a nice place to be for a well statted cheap dork. Some times she will just eat a Shock and will feel weaker...

Stalking Leonin 6

I do not love a vanilla three mana 3/3, I have been burned by a lot of interesting looking ones. Unless they have flying or haste then generally they suck. This has no such key wording but it does threaten to be a very good removal spell if it cannot itself be removed prior to combat. This is a very very strong defensive play. Your opponent has few options, either they kill it before they attack which is their best option but it still forces their hand, requires them to have the answer and consumes said answer on a relatively low end card. The next option is to try and bait the removal by not attacking with your best threat. That is quite a big win if you can lock down a Baneslayer, Thundermaw or even a Titan while also preventing the weenie dorks from attacking simply by having a 3/3 body. You can chose to eat a medium guy of theirs or just accept the slower game and ongoing lockdown of their top threat while they wait for removal. Lastly they can just plow on through and let you kill off their best attacker and have a then spare 3/3 to trade with. In that instance you have had the best possible deal on a 187 dork. A clean exile and a 3/3 for three is insanely good, it is better in basically every measure than a Flametongue Kavu or most of the black options. While this is pretty good it is also very dull and an entirely defensive card. If you are playing this in aggro it is just to make up numbers.  If you are on the offensive then the exile option is very low value. Too often this will be paying three mana to trade one for one with their less than three mana removal spell. Flash rather improves this, some Collected Company nonsense puts this well into the unfair category. This will absolutely see play but it doesn't feel essential for any cube nor that exciting of a card to play with. Brutally effective control tool when not met with removal but neither fun nor interesting.

Balan, Wandering Knight 0

No matter how you dress up a Hill Giant it still looks and smells like a Hill Giant. First strike is far from enough to make this statline cut it. Doublestrike is wishful. The ability to attach things is super cool as you can really mess with combat as well as potentially saving some mana on the bigger equips. Cool however is not enough to make a Hill Giant playable in cube, certainly not a very very narrow one.

Hungry Lynx 0

The upside on this might as well say win the game, it doesn't really matter as the floor for this card is a total joke. Most of the time this card simply says "donate a 1/1 deathtouch to your opponent". You 2 for one yourself and concede tempo. Whoops. Basically every removal spell in the cube kills this. Crib Swap and Nameless Invesrion won't at least! The only time you might consider this card is when you have loads of things that kill 1/1s easily and loads of cats. That isn't any deck I can think of and even if you did have the deck you probably still shouldn't run this as you don't want to give away tempo and card advantage...

Traverse the Outlands 1

Situational and narrow but a monstrously high ceiling. You can pretty easily get five lands with this on turn four in the cube. The issue is why are we doing this? If we already have ramped and have a 5/5 we should be doing something better than ramping again. If you built a deck that consistently could do this for a significant enough number of lands that it was worth doing you then wouldn't have enough things to do with that mana for it to have been worth doing. In practice the most likely application for this is a combo kill with some land eating Tog where by you pool five mana, eat all your lands and make a massive Lithatog? Then you play this getting more food for your Thaumatog?
This is interesting because of its high ceiling but it would be a mistake to think it was good. I might try this out in some decks but it very much isn't the sort of card you just throw into a cube.

Bloodforged War Axe 2

Yet more cool cards. This is a Bonesplitter with double the equip cost. For that you get the ability to create free bonus War Axes upon doing face damage! If affinity were less powerful than it is then this would be a cute way to generate artifacts. I love the idea of running equip cost reduction cards and doubling up every turn on Bonesplitters! Perhaps clearing the way with Ghirapur Aether Grid! All very fun but not overly practical. This isn't quite powerful enough for cube without some synergy and I don't see any tier one cube decks that could provide that for this card.

Hammer of Nazahn 3

This is a bit of a Batterskull in that it is only really an interesting card because of Stoneforge Mystic. When you can tutor this up and play it with flash at instant speed it looks a whole lot better. While Batterskull is far from a good cube card without Stoneforge support it is a much better stand alone card than this. I simply cannot see this getting play without Stoneforge style cards supporting it and that makes it too narrow for the drafting cube. It has been quite a while since I built an equipment themed cube deck and this is interesting and different enough for me to do so again. It wont be tier one, it wont include many cards you can justify putting in a cube but it will be competitive and it will be nicely different!

Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith 1

Well, this is another somewhat Stoneforge level of support card for the previous Hammer. Pity it is gold and six mana and so much weaker when you don't have the Hammer that he isn't really playable. A six mana gold 5/4 that finds an equipment, even with the tap down ability isn't enough. You need that put into play aspect to empower it sufficiently. If you have both it is pretty nuts, either a 7/4 indestructible that ultimately needs two quite specific removal spells to fully deal with or a 5/4 with tap down bonuses and an attacker with +2 attack and indestructible right away. All very potent. What really kills this card is that when you draw the Hammer before you play Nazahn you can't then put it into play for free. That will happen in cube far far too often for this somewhat marginal card to ever see much play. I suspect someone will try it once for novelty but that is about the best this can hope for. Cards that need exactly one other card to even be playable are a really bad starting place for a cards cube potentials. Gold and six mana hurt a tonne too.

Alms Collector 5

Another incredible dull yet decidedly playable white card. Compared to things like Notion Thief and Plagiarize this is not such a brutal counter to card draw but being on a 3/4 body with flash in one colour rather makes up for that. What I think might actually be the problem for this card is that there are not that many effects in the cube that draw two or more cards in one go. Most of the the things that provide card advantage either do a thing you want and give one card back or give a trickle of cards over time or just put cards directly into your hand without drawing them. In my cube I have 25 cards that can draw two or more in one go and a lot of those are uncommon uses of the card in question. Many of the other ones are likely to be played well before an Alms Collector or fairly easy around a "surprise" one. Mostly this just feels like a 3/4 flash dork, a Restoration Angel without most of the text... That is surprisingly close to being enough in cube so this wont have to hit many draws to make the cut. My gut is that it still won't quite cut it. This is a very mild hate bear and one with a very hefty price tag. This will be doing far more work killing 3/3s in cube than stopping draw. The thing that makes me like this most is that I can play it with Arcane Denial and turn it into a very powerful counterspell indeed!

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