Monday 4 September 2017

Ixalan Preliminary Review Part IV

Arcane Adaptation 2

This will have several sneaky combo applications I am sure. Probably they will be a little shaky for cube use as all new combos tend to be. I like the idea of being able to use Goblin Recruiters, Ringleaders and Matrons to setup my creature combos. I like the sound of what I could do with Wirewood Symbiote too! Fun but unlikely good enough to justify a 3 mana card that does nothing at all alone.

Priest of the Waking Sun 1

Well this is a different sort of card for sure. A tiny little dork, ongoing lifegain and a tutor effect, all with a dinosaur theme. I am trying to imagine this card in other tribes like humans or angels to see if it feels playable and I still don't know. It seems like a 1/1 and the potential for 2 life a turn is pretty worthless most of the time. The only deck that cares much about you gaining life can burn the crap out of 1/1 with ease. A tutor is nice but at 5 mana it is only really something you do when you need to or have little else going on. This card does a lot but it is very narrow and very low powered despite offering a lot for the mana. It offers things you probably don't want or can't make use of.

Verdant Sun's Avatar 0

Seven mana 5/5 and five life with the ongoing ability to gain more life with more dorks. Much like with drawing cards, you don't want your top end to be doing one specific thing like this unless it wins the game. A seven mana card needs to win the game or totally take control of the game. A 5/5 does very little towards those ends. If you just want some life play a Thragtusk or a Batterskull. If you just want a good seven drop then there are many better ones to choose from.

Angrath's Marauders 0

This set is full of 7 mana dorks with relatively small vanilla bodies and a potent effect. Double damage is great, it often ends the game on the spot as we have seen with Insult. It is great in an aggressive red deck and a seven mana card is comically far off something you would include in such a deck, let alone a seven mana 4/4 with no combat or protective abilities.

Fathom Fleet Captain 1

This is presently too narrow but even with a lot of pirates finding their way into the cube this thing isn't exactly becoming great. You have to pay 2 to get your free 2/2s and that isn't all that exciting. This wouldn't make many goblin decks if it were a red goblin themed card. The fact that it is one of the better pirate themed cards is just misleading and makes it seem better than it is. If a pirate deck is made ever I suspect this will be in it and I imagine it will be fine. Outside of such decks it is basically a Nezumi Cutthroat level of card.

River's Rebuke 4

Hmm, the simple version of Cyclonic Rift or Crush of Tentacles. I would say the Rebuke is found lacking compared to the alternatives. Rift has a cheap mode and is a far more useful instant speed card. Crush is the closer comparison. The 8/8 is nice but not often that relevant. Rebuke is one sided which would be amazing on a mass removal card but on a bounce card in blue it feels a lot less significant. Indeed, I find I get more value out of the self bounce on Crush than I find it hindering my plans. As a control card you get so much ability to set things up that I think you can turn either of the bounce effects to your general advantage. While Rebuke and Crush seem to have a pretty comparable floor the Ceiling on Crush is substantially higher. When you power it out with a free spell and get a mana reduction and an 8/8! I don't see this competing with Rift or Crush for a cube slot and I don't think blue needs more mass bounce of this quality either. Solid card but outclassed.

Tocatli Honor Guard 5

This has a selection of potential applications. It is a nice alternate/redundancy option for the Hushwing Gryff effect in a hatebears list. It trades offensive capabilities for defensive ones which isn't ideal but then at a mana less on a card primarily about the state based effect the body is rather a secondary concern. Next up is simply maindeck in a white aggressive deck. White has the smallest percentage of aggressive dorks with EtB effects in the cube. In this capacity the low aggression would be more of an issue so it would need to be a list with a good number of ways to buff up your dorks. It is likely filler in such a role and probably on the narrow side but it is the only real chance this has of making the drafting cube. The other options are simply not things you can do in most draft cubes. The final option is of course some silly combo where you cast Eater of Days and that sort of sillyness. Sounds awful but rather fun and we do now have three cards with this effect allowing for a somewhat redundant combo aspect which is both rare and nice in cube.

Shaper's Sanctuary 1

I have actually no idea how to rate this as there is very little basis for comparison. It is super nice and cheap but it doesn't do anything without your opponent playing ball. This is a bit like a Skullclamp but again, one you have basically no control over. It is more like a Sylvan Safekeeper that insures your things rather than actually protecting them. Sadly I think this can only really be used as a sideboard tool. Too many lists simply won't have many cards that target your stuff. Against some control decks and most heavy red or black decks this should get a decent amount of value and be a real drain to play against. Against a lot of decks in Bant colours this will only be relevant for a couple of cards and the opponent will be able to use them in such a way as to minimize the value you get from this. If you thought Ancestral Visions was slow I expect this will be near static in comparison!
The other thing I think will be an issue for this is getting it down. The decks that most want it are those that want to make vulnerable little dorks, say an elf ramp deck. If you make this on turn one instead of an elf you have pretty much skipped a turn. If you hold off and go for speed and eat that Arc Trail then you probably lost. This seems unreliable, poor at solving the problems you want it to and too narrow for general main deck use. This has a chance at being a good sideboard option in some meta for some deck but that is probably far enough away that this will be totally forgotten about.

Burning Sun's Avatar 0

Much like they love to try and make new, fair but playable Dark Confidant cards they seem like they have been doing the same with Inferno Titan. Obviously this silly lizard doesn't come close and as such has no hope in cube. Even with a relevant need of dinosaurs I can't see this looking like a good option.

Deadeye Tracker 5.5

I want to rate this card more than I do. It is the sort of card black needs but sadly I don't think this will be as broadly playable as I would like. It is like a really slow version of Cryptbreaker, an already incredibly slow card. A 1/1 is rarely much use in combat and so this isn't doing much without you pumping mana into it. For this to be worth a card you have to pump five to seven mana into it. It is more comparable to a Student of Warfare than any seven drop card as you can split it up into such small chunks. The issue there is that Student is a lot more relevant than this at the 3 and 7 mana investment mark. Perhaps the best comparison is Enclave Cryptologist but again the Tracker comes up looking a lot less impressive with a continual need of mana investments.

There are three best cases for this card depending on your situation and plan. Either you lay it on turn one against a slow deck and just draw a free land with it every turn like a Weathered Wayfarer without the need of fewer lands. Or you lay it on turn one against a midrange deck, turn it into a 3/3 over 2 turns and have a sufficiently big dork to bully the board. Lastly you run it in a reanimate deck and you manage to scry things you want in the bin directly to the bin. Perhaps you do this with other cards that setup your top of library or perhaps you are just lucky! In the latter case you are mostly better off with more dig and draw and the more direct looting and discard effects. This is OK filler in a reanimate deck but it feels way worse than Cryptbreaker or Cryptologist which are some of the weaker options. In all the options you need it to be hitting the right things to do what you want it to and this is the main reason I think it will fail to perform. If you could somehow chose to draw a land or get the +1/+1 and the scry then this would be a very nice utility card.

I like the idea of this card in a deck with Recurring Nightmare, Courser of Kruphix and Sylvan Library. Such cards would give sufficient control and synergy to push the Tracker. While he might be great with the appropriate cards in the right deck that would leave it as rather narrow. I hope it works out better than expected in the various other decks but I am not holding out on that. My guess is this is fine sometimes and underwhelming too much of the rest of the time.

I just realised I totally forgot the exile aspect. It is both a cost and a perk. Sometimes you will want to use this and won't be able to and that will suck. Other times it will be the only relevant card in your deck against their combo or it will be a real burden for their flashback delve deck. While overall the exile aspect makes this card far less consistent and narrower in the specific occasions it shines I think there are sufficiently few good graveyard disruption cards in cube that this has a better shot now I have properly read the card and know what it does... An odd paradox of becoming weaker but getting more desirable. I have Scarab Feast in my cube presently, this might be a more rounded and interesting replacement. This is a low powered card but it does do a lot, it becomes a threat, gains value, enables some graveyard synergies and disrupts. Perhaps the best comparison to this is Bow of Nylea!

Herald of the Secret Streams 1

Even worse than a Hill Giant on stats. This is a fairly scary reach card but only if used in the right deck with all the right support. Cards like Nissa, Voice of Zendikar are what you need for this to be good. Sage of Fables probably not getting it done... If you are in green an Overrun effect it likely a better way of closing a game. This is a powerful effect on a terrible card. The effect likely requires too much work to take proper advantage of. I don't expect this to see play unless merfolk get a number of cards that give counters to their merfolk. As soon as you step outside of mono blue much better alternative to this card exist.

Kinjalli's Sunwing 3

Seems to be we are getting lots of redundancy for hatebear effects. Every 3 mana flier needs a corresponding 2 drop and vice versa. For your extra mana over Imposing Sovereign you get two toughness and flying. Not outstanding but not bad either. The real issue for this card I fear is Thalia, Heretic Cathar which is just so much more powerful and sits in the same slot. It is more of a tempo ability than a disruption one and as such I don't think this is a great version of this effect. You want it in play sooner and you want attacking focused stats. Certainly fine and playable but not more powerful than cards like it or other cube three drops.

Captain Lannery Storm 5.5

The names in this set, it is getting all rather Disney if you ask me. As to what this card does, I like it a lot but fear it simply doesn't compete that well against the other three drops in red. You can have Rabblemaster or Anh Crop Crasher or Chandra's Phoenix all of which offer more board presence and more aggression and probably more value. I hope I am wrong about old Lannery but I fear he is a little too far up the curve in red for his ramp potential to really shine. In theory you can cast a turn four Inferno Titan off the back of Lannery but it is not like you are playing Titans just beacause you have this guy. Curse of Opulence impressed me so perhaps this version on legs will perform better than he looks like he will. It doesn't take much to hold off a 2/2, or even a 3/2 for that matter and so the longer the game goes on the less likely Lannery is to get much done. Certainly worthy of testing but this has a lot to prove before it can earn a cube spot.

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