Tuesday 12 September 2017

Ixalan Preliminary Review Part X

Sky Terror 1

Super evasion! This is too narrow as just an efficient beater. Things like Kari Zev and Gust Walker are just going to see a lot more play than this in cube due to casting cost and similar role fulfillment. This is pretty good but not enough above the curve for a gold card. I rather prefer Veteran Motorist to this and I found that to be too narrow overall. Perhaps this has some mild potential due to it's dinosaur tag but that is pretty wishful!

Legion's Landing 6.5

The white offering of the cycle, much like the origins flipwalkers, gets to be the cheapest. It actually has a very Kytheon feel to it all round. Both give one drop dorks and both transform into more value and power once you attack with three things. This is both a pro and a con in cube. It is a pro in that any white aggressive deck will support them well and be a good fit. It is a con in that the card isn't so well suited to anything else other than aggressive decks. Much as I really like this card I have my reservations about it. Firstly the 1/1 lifelink token you get isn't really worth anything. It helps to transform the card and will go very nicely with global pump and equipment but all on its own it is super low value. It isn't even a case of just being a poor tempo play like the green one of the cycle. Neither Landing nor Growing Rites of Itlimoc are good returns for the mana without the transformation however Growing Rites is still at least worth a card. The issue for Landing is that it is neither worth a mana or a card. You have to flip it and/or you have to get value from the 1/1 with other elements in your deck. If you fail you have put yourself behind.

So assuming you do flip Landing into Adanto, the First Fort, how good is that? Pretty good but perhaps not good enough. I don't see this being flipped before turn 3 and probably not on turn 3 very often. As such this is ramping you to five or six which is a lot less useful in white aggressive decks than all the other transform lands and their wider array of potential homes. White decks often finish their curve at four and don't have abundant mana sinks. A free land is nice but it comes too late in the day to be super relevant as mana. Sure it will help a bunch and it will make the few mana sinks white does play a little bit better. Bygone Bishop for example. The point is the land is only "free" when the 1/1 token does good work. If the token is a blank then your Legion's Landing is a bad Search for Tomorrow. You wouldn't play a white Search for Tomorrow in a white weenie deck, it is too off theme. The initial card and tempo cost wouldn't return enough of either to be worth playing.

So if Adanto isn't great as a Plains perhaps it is good as a Kjeldoran Outpost? Perhaps is probably the correct answer. You pay a lot of mana to make 1/1s with this, so much so that you probably have nothing else going on or are in pure grind mode and trying not to over extend into mass removal. Either way it is pretty late game or pretty desperate. You might be able to curtail aggressive red decks with a stream of 1/1 lifelink dorks but most other strategies shouldn't be too worried about it. If you have an Anthem out it is suddenly a lot more interesting. Adanto is nice to have, it is probably comparable to having one of the non-Colonnade white man lands in play. A bit worse on its own and a bit better with some support. Man lands are not great comparisons however as you play those in land slots while you cannot play this in a land slot. The value you get from them is pretty free, at most it costs you a mana as they come in tapped. They don't cost you a card as they are lands. Andanto isn't free as it costs you a card (minus the potentially negligible value of the 1/1 token). I suspect over half the times you transform this into Adanto you won't actually make any tokens with it and it will just be a Plains. Even Outpost represented more of a real land than this does! Utility lands, while infrequently used, are still pretty good as that marginal utility comes at such low cost. Karakas for example is insane because you get a great effect on a Plains! If you could just have Adanto as a land it would be great. The way this land gets into play combined with the kinds of deck that will use it means it is far less valuable than Plains in your deck as a land. While this doesn't actually effect the value of the utility on the land it does mean we are very likely to over value the transformed card, a land with that ability would be so much better. While this is also very much the case for the green one both the blue and black versions benefit a lot from being non lands both in the utility the enchantments bring and the ramp potential they offer.

All this ultimately means you just need to get work done with the 1/1 token for this card to pull its weight. I think it is a good card than can go in any of the many forms of white aggressive lists. While I think it can go in most of them I don't think it is an auto include in any bar a few of the more focused ones such as an Intangible Virtue build. I think in your run of the mill white weenie aggro list this will mostly get played but I don't expect it to significantly out perform Elite Vanguard if it even does that. When it is good it will be very good but when it is bad it will be disappointingly low impact. I think it will be played more on the basis of it just being another one drop rather than its power and effects. Every now and again you will have an aggressive white deck with little to no buff cards and in those decks you will probably need to cut this and find another playable. I think the best way of viewing this card is like a value version (as opposed to a tempo version) of Boros Elite. I am hoping to be able to do some creative building with this sort of card despite its seemingly narrow range of homes. It is also like a Thraben Inspector you can only run in aggressive decks. I like the idea of using these cards in combination with Armageddon effects.

Snapping Sailback 0

This is a pretty brutal limited card but it is just an expensive dork in cube. Even the tribal thing doesn't offer redemption for this.

Spell Swindle 6.5

Well, it might not be Mana Drain but good frankly. that card is oppressively over powered. Plasm Capture was terrible but it was basically uncastable. Plasm Capture would have been a whole lot better at 3UU to cast and Spell Swindle is a whole lot better than Plasm Capture regardless of cost. Treasure may be saved and used only as needed or they can be used to empower artifact synergies! I think treasure is substantially more valuable than one turns worth of that much mana, especially in slower controlling decks. Spell Swindle is enough of a swing that I think it might be good enough in cube. Even if you only hit a 3 drop with this you are untapping with at least 8 mana. That should be enough to safely get ahead. You can Wrath or lay a card and keep up mana for counter magic. Control decks are all about that swing turn where you turn the game on its head. Often it is courtesy of Force of Will which allows you to tap out to play something to dominate or clear the board without leaving yourself vulnerable to their follow up play. While this is much slower than Force of Will it should leave you in a much better position. Force can give you your big swing turn at any point. Lots of games are lost to a turn 3 Ashiok with a Force of Will to counter the counter or the removal. Spell Swindle won't help with that. You have to get to five mana and then counter something of at least medium size. This probably means you don't get your swing turn till turn six or seven but it won't cost you a card and it will give you more flexibility going forwards. Another way in which this compares well to Force of Will is that when you are averaging five mana spells as your targets for it then it is costing you the same amount of total mana as Force of Will. I hear zero mana Counterspells are good? This is a bit like an inverted Pact of Negation and as such sounds like a pretty good fit in control. Treachery is the other big blue swing card that allows for those big turns as is the new Fractured Identity. Swindle feels like it fits in that group of cards surprisingly well.

Big instants are a lot more playable in the cube now than ever before with Torrential Gearhulk and As Foretold helping to power them out. Indeed, the bigger cards in cube, particularly those blue players may want to play, really want to be instant or have flash. If you try and have your big turn with a Treachery and they have any disruption, often even just killing their own guy, then you are pretty buggered. A good way to showcase the importance of instant speed in blue is to compare Fact or Fiction and Foresee. The latter arguably has a better effect in a lot of cases yet you never see this comparison because the latter is a sorcery. Obviously you can't have sorcery speed countermagic! My point is not that this is good because it is an instant rather, this is good because it is a swingy card that works with what blue is trying to do and has relatively low risk. This card in turn allows you to play those awkward sorcery speed win conditions far quicker and with far less risk. Some control decks use entirely manlands, flash angels or miracles as their finishers but most are forced into running things like Elspeth Sun's Champion and Aetherling. If those are your main win conditions then a Spell Swindle is going to let you win a whole lot quicker. More importantly it is going to turn on those expensive sorcery speed cards for use in a safe way that much sooner.

I have been comparing this to Mystic Confluence but I don't think that is too pertinent. More than anything I actually think that there is room in blue for more expensive flash cards and I think this and Confluence can coexist happily in cube. Confluence is certainly the more versatile card and probably also the more useful and powerful card too. Confluence isn't however a very swingy card. It helps you creep ahead but it rarely breaks the game. The two cards are doing very different things. One of the more common uses I see for Confluence is as a limp Dismiss. I don't often see this being that weak that often. I think if you get to cast Spell Swindle in games you are not too far behind in already it should increase your win percentage by more than most other cards and that is a pretty big deal.

Dowsing Dagger 0

Comedy card! Better than Lotus Vale, worse than Gilded Lotus... pretty obviously I would have thought! In theory you can have this flipped on turn 3 if you have a one drop dork capable of bypassing the plants. A two mana echo EtB tapped Gilded Lotus would be absolutely fantastic, even conceding the pair of plants. This however is super easily disrupted, very inconsistent based on needing dorks and also on that account - incredibly narrow. What deck has evasive one drops and also wants a Gilded Lotus? Sounds like no decks to me. As a piece of equipment this is obviously terrible. It is worse than the unplayable Trusty Machete and it flips and you lose it after one connection with face! You are only playing this for what it flips into and that means this isn't a cube card. A card can be bad or have serious flaws and still see play in cube. A card cannot have zero archetypes that might want what it offers and expect to see any play however. This fails on all three. I still kind of like it too...

Trove of Temptation 0

Erm, what is this for exactly? I love things that put treasure into play but this is far too pricey for just the treasure. This is arguably also a tapper of sorts, I can't think of another reason you want to force people to attack you beyond you wanting to attack them back. Sadly this is only one thing and it is their choice meaning it is a pretty awful tapper. At four mana the treasures needs 4 turns to pay for themselves and fail to do any sort of useful ramping. At two this would have been very enticing and probably grossly over powered. At three it might have merited some testing. At four it seems completely useless.

Vicious Conquistador 3

Pulse Tracker returned with a free bonus toughness! Tracker is a pretty limp card but it has seen play and a small boost on a cheap card goes a very long way. Thornbow Archer saw no play but it is conditional and has a less useful creature type. Tragically for black this is probably in the top ten for aggressive one drop plays. If black somehow gets a consistent and good aggressive archetype then this has a chance of getting into the cube. Presently I think it wouldn't see much play but that is only because of the state of black and the unpowered cube meta. This certainly would be one of the better one drops in a tribal vampire deck and should see play in most vampires lists. For now this can sit on the bench.

Makeshift Munitions 3

This isn't powerful enough or broad enough for use in the drafting cube (yet). It does however have some strong applications as a potential support card. It is a cheap, wide range, ongoing and most importantly a useful sac outlet. If red had half decent treasure production this would gain a lot of value. It turns the fairly awful Wily Golbin into a potential Pyrohelix at least... I can certainly see myself digging this up now and again when doing constructed cube decks. It is only really the artifact side of this that is super valuable as Goblin Bombardment does the other bit significantly better.

Imperial Lancer 0

If you are playing a dinosaur themed deck you don't want your payoffs to be small nor do you want your cheap cards to be non-dinosaurs. I don't imagine dinosaurs in cube having much in the way of pump and so a 1/1 doublestrike is only marginally better than a 2/1. While I don't see this ever having a cube application it could well be a significant player in standard. A good dinosaur themed pump card is what will ensure that.

Charging Monstrosaur 5.5

Again with the limp names. They should have been derived from more extinct languages. If nothing else Monstrosaur sounds tautological. Nomenclature aside, this card seems remarkably good. It is another toned down Thundermaw Hellkite. While those others are typically stat reductions this is an evasion downgrade. Thundermaw pretty much ensures that first hit is getting past any potential blockers and has a good chance of getting through subsequently. This walking version is significantly easier to block and kill. Failing that it is still a lot easier to mitigate the damage it brings. While this is clearly a lower powered card than Glorybringer, even Strombreath Dragon you could argue the same is true of Thundermaw. Pound for pound I think Glorybringer represents the best value for mana and power per card but Thundermaw still sees way more play. That is because Thundermaw is much more on theme for red. You want to push through damage reliably and quickly. The extra evasion and damage on Thundermaw just make it more suitable than the more value orientated five drop dragon alternatives. A lot comes down to stats for this kind of card. All the pro-white and monstrous nonsense just isn't as good as being a little bit bigger when you are mostly a flying haste dork. Even with being a little bit easier to cast this shouldn't be any sort of challenge for Thundermaw. With that said it might well be the next best thing. If you have a Thundermaw shaped hole in your deck this could be a better fit than more powerful and exotic alternatives. I will test this out. I suspect it is a bit too fair and dull for a big card but I wouldn't be shocked if it saw sufficient play to hold onto a cube slot.

River Sneak 2

Probably playable in merfolk lists. Triton Shorestalker is surprisingly good in cube fish and this is rather more relevant. Merfolk isn't overly done with the more disposable two drops, mostly they are lords which are really precious. If you can lead with a card like this and follow it with a lord you are generally better positioned. This in particular is good to follow with a lord as it becomes a 3/3. That is one of the issues with this card, generally you will play 1 merfolk a turn at best. You really do need the lords to make this work but the lords are a core part of the fish deck so that is fine. This is far from great. A 2/1 for 2 may even be better when you are having to block and trade stuff. This is just appropriate potential filler.

Adanto Vanguard 7

Well, isn't this an interesting little card. If this were a human it would be a lock in for my drafting cube. As a vampire it needs to stand out above and beyond cards like Glory Bound Initiate, Gust Walker and Daring Skyjek. While I only have a couple of human synergy cards in the cube they do greatly empower white weenie lists and as such non-human cards are that little less playable. So how good is this exactly? It is a 3/1 attacker and a 1/1 blocker but it has indestructible when relevant. You are playing this in an aggressive white deck. That means you are usually the aggressor. It also means you are not spending your own life on much or hurting yourself much as black and red aggressive decks are so good at. You also have a decent chance of having lifegain tools in the deck. Basically, in most cases you should have more than enough life to make this indestructible as often as you need to. You won't be able to repeatedly chump attack into things with this, you have to represent a trade at worst. You should be able to pay 4 life pretty happily to block and kill a 2/1 attacker or kill and survive a 2/3 blocker. You can probably only use this once or twice against an aggressive red player but that matchup is very much about tempo and so even there this card should prove pretty potent. Sadly a 1/1 blocker is becoming a lot less useful with most and more 2 toughness or more 1 and 2 mana threats floating around. This is not a good card defensively although it does provide some options and reliability. Offensively it feels pretty good however. A 3/1 for two is normally weak because of its low toughness but this rather negates that by being indestructible! Both Skyjek and Glory Bound Initial have ways to bypass their low toughness weakness in combat but they have nothing to protect against burn. Vangaurd may be hardier than those cards however he is easier to block. Against removal heavy decks Vangaurd will be just the ticket but against creature heavy decks the exerting or evasive dorks will get more done, certainly into the late game.

The area in which I see this card excelling most is with equipment. The real problem with equipment these days is the huge tempo blowout you suffer if they have appropriate removal. Indestructible stops most removal and so for any deck using Swords or Jitte Adanto Vangaurd seems like one of your best potential carriers. He is the attacker and the Mother of Runes without summoning sickness all in one. Vanguard also scales nicely with other buffs effects but his real area of expertise is equipment.

A vulnerability most white aggressive decks suffer is to mass removal. Lacking much in the way of card advantage or recursive/persistent threats has always been an issue when playing into potential mass removal. If you over extend you die but if you hold back you might well lose regardless of the mass removal whether they have it or not. White has got some better tools of late in Hallowed Spiritkeeper and Selfless Spirit. Previously it leaned a little hard on the rather ineffective Loyal Cathar! More playable anti mass removal tools are still most welcome, especially when they are decently better than the Loyal Cathar.

Another noteworthy thing about this card is that it is about the point of critical mass where white becomes a relevant consideration for tribal vampires builds. There will be payoffs and now also some depth in white. Silly tribal decks aside I think this card is plenty good enough to see cube play even without a human tagline. I think you will want it whenever you have equipment or whenever you face mass removal and that is more often than not. Even without those things it is a decently powerful card. It presents some interesting choices and should lead to some good games. A two drop that attacks as a 3/1 and can freely and frequently become indestructible is a pretty big deal. The worst thing about this card is that Emrakul, the Promised End will be able to outright kill you 25% of the time you have him. Try and stay away from life totals divisible by 4!

Captivating Crew 0

Nope. Not this. This is a 4/3 for four that gets killed a lot of the time for a couple of mana before it does anything and is too expensive to activate at other times. It is potent enough to cheese out some games where you catch people in awkward situations with it but those games will be the rare ones. Yasova wasn't very impressive in cube and this seems generally worse.

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