Saturday 9 September 2017

Ixalan Preliminary Review Part VIII

Commune with Dinosaurs 0.5

Presently far too narrow for anything. Perhaps there will be a dinosaur or two involved in a combo at which point this has some mild game. Likely a fantastic limited card and a dinosaurs mainstay in standard should such a thing exist.

Growing Rites of Itlimoc 6.5

Lovely, I an excited about the potential for the full cycle. This is a lot more potent than the black offering although it is also narrower. You can only really play this in fairly creature heavy decks. Not only do you risk little to no value on the initial cast if you have a low dork count but you also will struggle to flip it and then you won't reliably get that much mana back. This really wants to be in a small-creature heavy, mana hungry deck. While it is ramp I think it is sufficiently overkill on the ramp side of things to not be all that when compared to the real explosive cards like Cradle and Rofellos. If you have four dorks out odds on you can produce about 8 mana already in a ramp deck which is typically the top of the curve for most of them. I think this is more of a value card than anything else, it is a creature and a land for 3 mana. It feels most like a Gift of the Gargantuan! Perhaps even less consistent as you typically want the land sooner rather than late with such cards.

The front end of this card is weak for what it does and the payoff is both slow and rather overkill. That being said I think that Itlimoc, Cradle of the Sun is sufficiently powerful that you are still pretty happy getting it even if you are at or past the eight mana mark. It allows you to recover substantially quicker and is more resilient against various kinds of disruption. I have had plenty of games as a green ramp player where I get to 8 mana and either fail to win with my initial barrage of top end or just fail to draw my top end when I eat a Wrath that resets me to 3 or 4 mana. Cradle of the Sun still tapping for green without dorks will really help you to get back to 8 mana. Overkill mana is nice too, sure you might have 8 when you flip it but having 12 isn't a bad thing. You can easily put good mana sinks into a deck that work well when you don't have stupid amounts. This card will make Skullclamp, Tireless Tracker, Walking Ballista and such cards much better in green ramp than before.

I would class the enchantment effect without the potential to flip as worth 1 mana. While it is card neutral it is quite a big tempo hit at 3. You are paying two mana for that flip potential which is just more mana ultimately. Two mana to put Itlimoc into play would be a total bargain and would arguably be better than Cradle all round. It is the 3 upfront mana rather than 2 and the flip precondition that keep this pretty safe and fair even if it does make it a two for one. It is a win more card but not an overly risky one. Like so many cards in this set this pays for itself and more in both cards and mana over a sufficient time frame. It is all about building it into a deck where you can easily afford that investment and are able to survive long enough to see the returns. I think this card is and will be pretty overrated. It has lots of power but it is locked away safely such that it is pretty hard to really abuse. It is a very good card and it will absolutely see play. I think it is less powerful than Nissa, Vastwood Seer and not a wildly dissimilar sort of card. Nissa is more reliable and concedes far less tempo. This I guess offers some better scaling potential. You probably toss this in all but the most creature light of green ramp and elf decks. It might well even make a bunch of more midrange bant and golgari decks. They can probably put the mana to better use as they will rarely be flipping it with mostly mana producers and as such will be more at the five mana mark still with plenty of gas in hand. The issue for the midrange builds will be having sufficient creature counts. If you miss on the creature find you are super sad. Another potential home for this is a white green Armageddon focused deck.

Fell Flagship 0.5

This could well help out a pirates theme deck in standard. For cube play however this isn't getting it done. There are not enough pirates to make use of the +1 attack buff leaving a fairly bland vehicle with a costly crew requirement. Obviously the attack buff greatly helps with the crewing of this in a tribal deck making this a pretty nifty card, an Anthem effects on a resilient threat. For this to compete in the cube it would need a reduction in the crew cost, ideally by 2 and perhaps even a reduction in the mana cost. Without at least two reductions on the various costs it probably then also needs some evasion. All pretty irrelevant as it is what it is and that is not cube worthy. Tribal pirates for constructed cube formats isn't completely off the cards yet and this probably would make such a deck but that barely counts. Even if it is viable it would be pretty near the bottom of the tier list of archetypes.

Chart a Course 7.5

This is super solid all round. You can play this as card quality in a deck with no expectation of attacking and it is fine. You can play it as a discard outlet in reanimate style decks and it is good or you can draw two for two with it any time you get a hit in. This is a great card because it is versatile and powerful while still cheap and direct. With the raid trigger this is one of the most efficient draw spells in the game. Raid is easier than the high delve or affinity needs of Cruise and Thoughtcast respectively. It can also be less uncomfortable than the life you pay on cards like Night's Whisper and Deep Analysis. Tormenting Voice gets a decent amount of play and the floor on this card is better than the ceiling of Voice in every possible way. This card is by no means over powered, it might be very cheap and efficient card draw but it is still a tempo cost to play it. Two mana to do nothing to the board or your opponent can be punishing. Loads of things get two for ones and some tempo at two mana even if the tempo is just a 1/1. Plenty are not even conditional two for ones as this is. I think this card is spot on power wise which is super hard to achieve for a simple effect at low mana costs. Generally you make bombs or unplayables with simple cheap cards yet this card is right on the money for power level. In cube at least. It might not even be good enough for modern and it might be a little too good in limited and standard.

This will see lots of cube play in lots of different decks. It will be good in those decks but it won't be oppressive. It is a nice Negate level of card. Another great aspect of this is that it involves choices. At just draw two it would be pretty easy mode how and when to use it. Spare two mana = cast, need a land, answer or other play = cast. Basically only don't cast when you have an appropriate on curve tempo or disruption play. With this raid however you are presented with options all the way. Do you just blow it turn two as a bit of mild card quality as you have no other play or do you hold it for the draw two potential later and represent some counter magic? Do you run in your 1/3 to get that raid trigger and take some damage on the swing back or do you just discard a card and retain your blocker? As you can see from these few examples the card might appear simple in what it does and how it works but it will commonly throw up difficult choices. This is a good solid auto include cube card. If I was marking on design this is a 10/10 card.

Otepec Huntsmaster 0.5

They are really laying out the support cards you would need for a dinosaur deck to be playable. This feels like a mainstay in a dinosaur deck in standard. We are probably about halfway to building a viable yet bottom tier dinosaur deck in cube now too! This is pretty much a Goblin Warchief for the dinosaur tribe at two mana and so it really should push them.

Thundering Spineback 0

This however is not making any dinosaur decks, certainly in cube. I feel less qualified to say for standard but it seems pretty dire if you have a deck with this in it in any constructed format.

Lookout's Dispersal 0

Soft 3 mana countermagic isn't good in cube. While 4 is a lot to pay why would you play this when you could not risk them having four in the late game. Sure, when you have a pirate this is better than Mana Leak. In most decks that isn't relevant and in a pirates deck I don't think a mildly improved Leak is going to be able to do the necessary carrying... If pirates are good at making treasure then Metallic Rebuke is going to be the counter of choice for the tribe in standard if nowhere else.

Stormfleet Spy 0.5

As a stand alone dork this isn't good. Phyrexian Rager hasn't seen play in a while as a 2/2 just isn't very exciting anymore. It is so low value that it somewhat takes away from the value of these cards you play pretty exclusively for the value. A life is also far less painful than having to achieve raid. At best this is a filler card but given how unreliable it is I wouldn't consider it in that role either. It gets the just perhaps one day rating of 0.5 simply for the pirate tag because I am a sucker for a tribal deck.

Conqueror of Battle 0

Not so much a cube card this one.

Dinosaur Stampede 0.5

A cheap Overrun for the tribal deck that is still fine with non-dinosaur stuff as well. With dinosaurs typically being quite big I am not sure how much value you will get from the Overrun effects which tend to work best with more smaller dorks. Super niche to achieve the ceiling on this and despite a fine floor it isn't enough for cube use. Its impressive efficiency is rather diminished by not working amazingly with the tribe it is associated with.

Rampaging Ferocidon 7

Ferocidon eh? In that it is ferocious but also a dinosaur? Who is this set aimed at? As for potency this card seems to get it done. Other than Vortex red is not overdone with rounded and powerful lifegain prevention and lifegain is really the only counter to red decks on offer. If you can shut it down as the red player you feel pretty safe. Stigma Lasher has seen play to try and counter lifegain! That was a 2/2 that had to connect to get the effect going. It may have been a mana less but it is wildly worse than this which just prevents life gain as a state based effect. Skull Crack is a great anti lifegain tool red also uses lots but it is reactive and narrow. It is simply a sub par card against decks without life gain and it is annoying to keep up. Leyline of Punishment is very expensive unless you luck out and get it in your opener and it offers no damage itself making it super hard to include. Over all the Ferocidon seems like it is comfortably in the top two red cards for generally playable lifegain prevention. This is a bit of an oddball card when we get to it. It has two hate bear effects yet it is a reasonable threat with decent stats and mild evasion. This is generically good in red as it prevents the things that counters red while being a proactive threat that can apply damage directly and indirectly. It is also a direct counter to strategies that require lifegain or involve a creature loop. It is a fairly good counter to token strategies in general. Elspeth Sun's Champion looks a whole lot worse when you have to take three each time you plus her. The way red is at the moment this card is looking a little on the midrange side. Good Insult // Injury lists don't even bother with Vortex, it is too slow and your potential damage output is so vast that life gain isn't even that much of a concern. This is not only a very powerful card but it is entirely on theme for what red wants to do. If I had seen this a few years back I think I would have gone a bit silly over it giving it like an 8.5 rating. These days it somehow seems slow and clumsy. It is comic how effectively it shuts down such a vast number of creature based combos. It craps on Twin, Aluren, a number of the combos found in Pod decks, Zuberas, Thopter Foundry and likely many more. This is a powerful card and it will certainly see play but it is just another one of many great cheap on theme red cards on offer.

Rile 1

The enrage enabler. Crash Through seems a substantially better means of obtaining trample and so this really is for pinging your own stuff and there just isn't enough stuff you want to ping. Most cards that are one mana and draw a card eventually find a use. I doubt this finds a cube use and I doubt even more that it will have to do with enrage.

Search for Azcanta 8

This is the best of the three spoiled so far from this cycle. I rate this somewhere around the Sylvan Library power level. I expect most blue decks would be happy to play this with some really wanting it. As card quality Sylvan Library is perhaps more desirable due to green having less on offer than blue however card quality is only part of what Search for Azcanta offers. I think the most exciting aspect of this card in blue is that it is ramp. It is not difficult to flip this at the start of turn four thus ramping you to five. A couple of scry and a land are easily worth two mana to lots of decks, even if you have to wait a bit for the land. I think this will be used as a Search for Tomorrow in blue as its primary role and as ongoing card quality as more of a secondary effect. It is of course also ultimately a card advantage generator as well one you start activating the land's ability. This will certainly win some games but they will be slow games. The card would be very good still without the ability on the land but it does round off the card very nicely. It makes it the complete package. Cheap early game card quality to get you to the midgame, a mana power up in the midgame and finally more gas should you still need more things to seal the deal.

This is better than scry 1 in your upkeep in most cases and most cards that do that cost 3 mana to get into play. Without synergies as well this is a better card quality effect than Sylvan Library as you need shuffle or things that work with top of library like Courser of Kruphix to get the most out of it. Search is effective all by itself. It effectively lets you see up to two cards per turn while Library is just a flat +2 cards regardless of turns. This means without any synergies past two turns you are getting more effective quality than you can get from Sylvan Library. On the 4th turn you can have seen 6 cards total with Library but Search can be 8 cards. Search also enables synergies of its own in things like reanimator. Certainly looting effects are easier to work with but you can set this up with Brainstorm and Tutors or you can just enjoy mild card quality and occasionally have it set you up through good luck. There is more graveyard synergy cards than top of library synergy cards overall as well. This card would be pretty playable even without any flipping going on. Indeed, the flip is a may and you might well elect not to flip this just to get a little more dig out of it. It is very conceivable that you will not have the effective 4 mana needed after flipping this to go digging with it, especially if you happen to be digging for a creature which land mode doesn't help with. If you are in a situation where 1 mana isn't making much difference but specific cards would then you can just keep this in scry mode and flip at a later date should you wish. While this very much fits the theme of super slow cards that eventually return both mana and cards in this set it is such a low initial cost and has no ongoing costs making it incredibly playable.

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