Friday 8 September 2017

Ixalan Preliminary Review Part VII

Storm Fleet Arsonist 0

Although the condition shouldn't be too hard to meet I don't think that matters as I wouldn't be playing this even without the raid clause. By turn five it will be super easy for your opponent to sac something of little consequence, perhaps some treasure! For this to have been meaningful disruption it needed to be cheaper. As the disruptive capabilities of this are pretty low as is the value you need a much better body to carry this card, a vanilla 4/4 is pretty awful at five mana.

Storm Fleet Aerialist 5

A standard Favourable Winds deck is starting to look like a thing. If you can reliably generate the raid this is a really good card. If not it is pretty poo. That means one drops, evasion dorks, and cheap disruption. Blue cannot easily manage the raid on its own turn two with very few one drops but it is OK at doing so later in the game. Later on the flying 2/3 is not quite so exciting and so this feels a touch narrow in that it is only good if supported by good one drops from other colours. It is pretty good in Izzet tempo decks but it will probably need at least one more archetype in which it shines to merit a cube slot and I am not sure it will get there. Good card but a little demanding for what it is.

Regisaur Alpha 2

Obviously this is a very powerful card but it is positioned horribly. Not only do the many gold five drop options seem to offer more than this a good number of the red or green ones are also superior. This is basically a slightly worse Verdurous Gearhulk. It gets better if you are packing a lot of other dinosaurs but then it probably still isn't better than Samut, and I don't expect to be playing lots of dinosaurs either...

Twilight Skywalker? 1

This is pretty shocking when compared to Anionter of Champions / Infantry Veteran who need no mana to pump attackers and have no target restriction. You give up a lot to get flying and flying isn't all that useful on a 1/1 utility dork. Mother of Runes would gain a lot less from getting flying than most others creatures. So, this is another tribal only card that is probably too rubbish to bother with in a tribal deck. The other way to look at this is as another Suntail Hawk for those Favourable Winds style decks but in a cube one of those I am not sure this is ever pumping anything other than itself and then only on the rare occasions it gets untapped or is given vigilance. Very dull but not utterly unplayable in the sense that Suntail Hawk isn't utterly unplayable.

Ranging Raptors 5

This seems really annoying for aggressive decks. A 2/3 statline does well against most one drops and the enrage ability will be pretty devastating should it trigger more than once. A 2G 2/3 that put a basic land into play for you when it died would be an OK cube card. While this isn't always that good it is generally better. It will hold off lots of attacks or effectively be unblockable as a result of the enrage. It is a bit like having deatthouch. If this just bounces off another 2/3 every turn in combat it is going to have Primeval Titan like effects on the game going forwards. While a lot of spot removal does kill this without dealing it damage that is somewhat fine. This is not a super important card, it is a speed bump or value filler. If it can bait out a Declaration in Stone or Doom Blade that then won't hit your bigger plays then great. If it holds of a load of 1 and 2 power dorks then great too. Most of the time this will trade with a 3/2 or chump something bigger, next most common I suspect it will eat removal that at worst conceded 1 land but generally none. On paper that makes it sound worse than a Wood Elves or similar card but I think the awkwardness it imposes on the opponent will carry this fairly well. I think this is an OK cube card. It might prove too unreliable as a filler card and too low tempo overall but my hope is that it fits in nicely in the role of either Courser of Kruphix or a Wood Elves in a sort of indirect second choice way.

Raptor Hatchling 2

Nice to see cheap dinosuars that will at least allow for the potential for a tribal deck. As for the value of this card as a stand alone cube card it is much harder to say. Brindle Shoat is probably better as it synergizes with sacrifice effects and it saw little play. Theoretically you could pump this guys toughness and ping it repeatedly, or indeed make it indestructible, but are we really going to that effort just to make 3/3s with a 1/1? Seems unlikely to be a good plan, especially as no obvious good cube cards come to mind as things to pair with this. Obviously combat tricks are nice and will often result in a free bonus 3/3. The problem with that and the card in general is that a 1/1 is so low impact you can just ignore it. If you suspect some combat trick you can just take 1. This affords too much control to the opponent and is probably too unreliable at getting the 3/3. I think this will be exactly the sort of card to get swept up in mass removal for example. Also, the kinds of deck that want 2 mana 3/3s want them quickly, they want the tempo from their cards front loaded which this just isn't. I like this card but I don't see it doing all that much in cube. It is worth noting the 3/3 is green and tramples which is nice for protection bypassing.

Ravenous Daggertooth 0

One of the weaker enrage cards. You want more toughness on enrage dorks ideally, you also tend to want the more defensive stats on lifegain dorks due to where you are wanting to play such cards. Two life is also pretty pathetic. This is Kitchen Finks minus the persist. Or, the reason Finks is a good card.

Arguel's Blood Fast 6

I like this rather a lot although it is clearly quite fair. Greed is a weak card, while you likely will spend more mana overall for the same card draw with the Blood Fast compared to Greed it is simply far more practical to use as a two drop. A two drop that offers no tempo is much easier to play and therefore use than a four drop! This is also better than Greed in that it doesn't become useless when you deplete your life total. This flips into a black producing Diamond Valley which it turns out is pretty good if you are on five or less life. It is also a may on the flipping so if you really just need to dig one or two more times you have that option. Not all decks want a Diamond Valley and not all those that do will be in a position to use it effectively right away. Turning guys into life is either a value thing you do in response to removal, a perk from saccing a guy like Academy Rector that you wanted to die anyway or a desperation move to avoid immediate death. It is not good to just cash in dorks for life, they are better as dorks, it is why you can get far more life per mana on a gain life card than toughness per mana on dorks that have power. A free land with Diamond Valley mode is none the less a great final perk from your cost adjusted Greed. Taking that into account you probably do end up spending less mana and life per card with this than you do with Greed over a long enough time scale!

So where do you play this is the next question? Card draw is pretty universal in it's playability. No deck doesn't want to draw cards, it just depends on the cost of doing so as to its suitability for the various archetypes. Often it is too much of a tempo cost for aggressive decks and so they forgo it or get it indirectly from value dorks. This card entirely costs tempo to use but it is sufficiently cheap and incremental without being an all in commitment that I can see this being more desirable than more powerful cards like Necropotence and Phyrexian Arena. I don't see this being great in aggro decks but I think it is better filler than a lot of things and pretty playable in slightly thin aggro decks or ones lacking mana sinks and late game. Mostly I think aggro black can get better value with Dark Confidant style dorks and things that can be recurred from the graveyard. As we move towards the midrange and control decks this gets better. Those decks aim to get to more mana so will more often find a spare two for a card. They also benefit more from potential lifegain going into the late game. The frontside of this card reminds me most of Compulsion but the end payoff is rather better. Indeed many aggressive decks can put you to five sufficiently early that the ramp potential from this card is not irrelevant. It being in play may even save you some life as your opponent hold back so as to not flip it. Control lists with very low creature counts or things that have only low toughness or are not things you want to sac off ever, say Baleful Strix and Aetherling respectively, will get little to nothing out of the lifegain potential. I think you need cards like Wall of Omens, Sea Gate Oracle and other generally non-black cards to pair with this in a control deck for it to be good. So while this is playable across the board I think it is best in midrange decks and more filler in the control and aggro lists.

As for combo this could have a few applications. It is very much on the slow side as a card draw tool and that would be its backup mode. You would only play this in decks that would pay a lot of life for things in other ways and also specifically had things it wanted to sacrifice. Such lists exist but I think this is too slow to flip (in that you have to wait till your next upkeep) that you probably play High Market, Phyrexian Tower, Viscera Seer or Carrion Feeder as better sac outlets. Overall this is a very well designed card, it has flavour, does loads, is pleasantly involved and interactive and is remarkably playable in a wide array of places without ever seeming overly potent. This kind of card is the holy grail of card design. One could argue it is a little on the fiddly side and cards like Negate are the holy grail. I think you want both the simple and the more involved cards and so I don't think the extra complexity of this card takes away from its great design. I hope this card get used but it is dangerously fair when placed in the cube environment.

Magaan's Murder, Vona? 4

That feels like it is very much not the correct translation for the name of this card. So jumping to the conclusion end of this card review I think the "in your turn" clause on the tap ability is actually what spoils this card. Given how close this thing came to seeming cube worthy given it is a five mana gold card and given my loathing of such cards I think it is pretty safe to call this a powerful card! If you could attack, gain four life then threaten to block, gain another four and potentially kill something either in the attack or at the end of turn this thing would be oppressive for most decks. As it stands you have to use it more aggressively and that greatly reduces its effectiveness against the aggro lists where you most want a 5 mana 4/4 lifelink vigilance dork. I think this is mostly just a bad Batterskull against aggressive decks as you will so rarely be in a position to tap it in your turn and pay seven life. You will only do that when desperate and only on things like Jitte and Elspeth and you will probably still lose when you do, just not to those cards directly as you would have! It is in the midrange and control matchups where the tap ability gets good. When you can effectively beat them for four every turn and cast a free Anguished Unmaking. It is like the anti control and midrange Glorybringer. Planeswalkers than cannot directly stop this card will be unplayable. Most creatures become liabilities too. This is also a fairly safe attacker as it is so hard to double block. Really you need three things with 2 power to take it down and that leaves you super cold to any more removal or trickery from the hand. This is a must kill card for almost every deck, either ones that don't want to lose their stuff or ones that cannot afford you gaining the life. The issue is that this is not that hard to kill. It might take two burns spells but that late game two for one probably isn't enough. You are just rolling the "does this stick" dice when you play this and that isn't a great way to play. You can get away with playing three drops like that but at five mana you are going to get yourself effectively Time Walked a lot. This is a very very strong card but gold and five drop slots are too precious to waste on this all in pre flop Batterskull wannabe.

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