Sunday 17 September 2017

Ixalan Preliminary Review Part XII

Dire Fleet Ravager 0

This was spoiled ages ago but I held off till now because the image was so poor. This seems like a very odd card to me. It is a card that has an offensive EtB effect and evasion yet it is also a curve topper. If you do no damage (and they take none) before making this you will do seven as an EtB effect with this. Six is probably a more likely amount as most people will do them selves a couple of damage in cube before black decks cast five drops. Either way, six or seven is pretty good. Laquatus's Champion saw some play back in the day! If however you are an aggressive deck and you have done no damage by the time you can cast this surely you have lost? This is much more likely to do 1-4 damage to your opponent in the kinds of decks you can run it. Sounds like bad haste to me. Sounds like a really really bad Grey Merchant of Asphodel. Sure, this is awkward to block and should get a two for one if that is how they deal with it. Red dragons are also hard to block and don't cost you loads of life, indeed they have upsides! Basically this card has a powerful but doubly poorly scaling EtB effect that is insufficiently compensated by its unimpressive body. You don't want the EtB effect at five mana nor does the body do much to help carry it at that price. I wold pay two mana for the EtB effect and I would pay 3 for the body but much over either and they rapidly lose value in cube. Five for the pair seems fairly useless.

Fleet Swallower 0

Awful. In many ways awful. Body is terrible, easy to kill and low stats for the price. The effect is also at odds with a fatty. A 0/12 would likely be better. The effect also has diminishing returns so will often fail to get the job done. In cube this will mill 15, then 7, then 3, then 1 or so. It takes far too long to mill someone out and isn't very impressive or reliable for the speed and mana. It also has shocking scaling with other mill like Dire Fleet Ravager. You need mill to finish what this stupid fish starts but if you play it before the fish attacks you reduce the effect of the fish. This wanted more defensive stats and it wanted to be able to close out a game at the very least. It likely still would't see cube play even with my suggested improvements but it feels like a waste of card and ink as it stands. Nemesis of Reason is better statted, two mana cheaper and mills people to death faster, in cube at least. It is also utter garbage.

Redoubled Volley 1

Hammer of Bogarden gets a reprint of sorts. This is better in two ways and worse in one. It is worse in that you need to get raid to get this back which reduces its control utility. Not that spending five mana to do not very much in your turn is an easily doable thing in control decks but still... This is better than Hammer in that it is less red intense which is pretty significant even if it doesn't seem it. If you have the kind of mana to be using this you are probably more green than red and as such the lower red requirement will be very welcome. Secondly this thing can be recurred multiple times in a turn! If you have 13 mana and raid then you can Bolt two things! Sounds far fetched but in reality if this is a good card in your deck then you obviously have the capacity to get a lot of spare mana. I don't imagine this will see play. It is low power on the front end and super late game on the back end. Cards like Firebolt already represent more late game bonus gas than most red decks need. Hammer hasn't been in cube since one of my first ever culls. This might be a touch better but it isn't enough better.

Emissary of Sunrise 0

Good but not cube good.

Shadowed Caravel 0

You need at least two +1/+1 counters on this before it starts to look reasonable. Presently I am looking at very few cube worth cards with explore. I envisage the average explores per cube game post Ixalan being less than 0.1 leaving this vehicle looking like the nut low.

Perilous Voyage 3

Interesting card for sure but fighting stiff competition. The floor of this card is identical to Cyclonic Rift which is fine. The ceiling on this however is not much higher than the floor while that of Rift is lofty. Scry two is a nice chunk of scry but in order to get it you have to make an even or negative tempo play on top of a card disadvantage play. Bouncing cheap things is pretty desperate, it is clunkier things you want to hit and this is just a mediocre bounce spell in those cases. In a deck that just wants to stall the early game and has plenty of ways to recuperate cards later on this could be a good tool. Just use this early and freely and have the scry setup your game plan seems decent. A kind of Remand effect. I don't think this has any real homes in my drafting cube but I can see it being played in some more tailored decks. While this is a good card there are so many options on bounce cards in blue that I don't foresee this climbing to the top of the pile very often at all.

Vance's Blasting Cannons 4

Clearly the weakest of the cycle for cube. While I would have liked to have seen this more suitable for cube as I love the feel of the cycle I am not too gutted red didn't get loads from this set. Amonkhet saw vast improvements to red in cube and it really didn't need the help! So, how bad is this and why? Well mostly it is because it is a four mana do nothing, that is the primary reason this card rings alarm bells. There are some other subtle things going on that don't help it out but mostly why would you play this when you can do someone six in the face and win the game? Outpost Siege is a better card than this pre-flip. It gives you an option on potential damage effects from the get go and the value mode lets you play lands. The Blasting Cannons pre-flip is not only bad in principle as a four mana do nothing but it is also bad in direct comparison to other red four drops. Most of the Chandra cards offer more too. Sure, this is a bit safer than a planeswalker for ongoing value but then we are back with Siege being superior.

So, if you are playing this it is not for the enchantment mode, certainly not exclusively. Fortunately this is fairly easy to flip. With four mana and hopefully a bonus card from this you can probably flip this the following turn. While Spitfire Bastion is a very strong land indeed I am not sure you want to flip it immediately all that often, certainly not when you have played the Blasting Cannons on curve. Having a three mana bolt (technically four mana but you get it with the land) every turn is pretty comparable to getting roughtly 60% of a non-land card each turn. The Bolt is more consistent but your spells should represent more power and tempo. They are both gas you have to spend mana on. If you flip this and don't use it to bolt things it isn't as much value as the enchantment however if you do that too early with only 4 or 5 mana in play and stuff still in hand you will risk falling behind. Basically I think that flipping this will actually be weak to do too soon and may even restrict you in what you can cast. If however you leave it too late it will be super hard to flip, you will have to spend a turn doing little to nothing to save up enough cards. Both sides of this card feel like they are comparably powerful. A mountain is a rubbish payoff for flipping this so you need to be using it to bolt stuff else you were better off leaving it in Cannons mode. Timing your flips correctly will be technically difficult to orchestrate and hard to judge when is the best moment to do so. Getting it right doesn't even have a massive payoff, your card just stays good and relevant. Get it wrong and you might well have paid four mana for a turn five mountain.

This is a slow card but it works far worse in slower decks that want to play lands and want to have reactive instants to control the game. It might be nice gas and reach for aggressive decks if it wasn't such an initial tempo cost. I don't see this getting it done in cube, I can't envisage the archetype or build that wants this over something else. I shall none the less test it out, I think it at least deserves that much attention.

Vineshaper Mystic 0

A 3/5 worth of stats for 3 is OK, especially when you can put upto 2/2 of that on things that can attack right away or scale. The issue with this card is that it needs another merfolk in play. That makes it unreliable, a 3 mana 2/4 isn't good at all. This card being both green and 3 mana means it is not getting near a merfolk deck and that was really its only hope for cube.

Ancient Brontodon 0

Better named than most of the dinosuars. Although all this big vanilla dorks are clearly not close to cube worthy I wonder if I wrote off too much of the top end stuff before seeing the pair of dino cost reducers. Those cards make things like this 9/9 actually castable! Still not good for cube but not as bad as I initially thought in general.

Prying Blade 0

I want to like this , I want to like more of the cheap treasure cards from the set. Feels like a Paradise Mantle mostly has this beat for what it does. This is an unreliable and over cost way of generating mana and a pathetic creature buff. Not really close to cube standard.

Elaborate Firecannon 0

Elaborate indeed, and bad. Very very bad. Colourless Shocks and discard outlets are nice but far better options for either exist than this.

Verdant Rebirth 1

A nice cheap 2 for 1 in green. Sadly you need to have a dork killed for this to get you value. While not inconceivable that you would set this up yourself that sounds super slow and not worth the return. The tempo is weak but then that is the case for most card draw. It has the limitations of a combat trick but none of the tempo perks of one. I don't think green needs this kind of conditional value, cheap though it is.

River Herald's Boon 0

A less restrictive Vineshaper Mystic style card. This is a better reason for merfolk to go green but it is still far too fair to be much of a pull. If you were already UG and wanted a combat trick in your merfolk deck this would be a consideration but Mutagenic Growth would probably still be better and I don't envisage that situation happening anyway.

Pounce 0

I guess this is better than Pit Fight against pro red dorks..

Ixalli's Diviner 3

This is even harder to know than with the 2/1 explore dork at the same cost. A 0/3 and a land or a 1/4 and a scry? This has a fair amount of stats and is a pretty decent defensive card. I struggle to see where this card is better than either Wall of Blossoms or Satyr Wayfinder. It can be better than both but when you want one mode and get the other it is pretty lame. While this is a defensive card in both modes it is only really value in one of those and that is more what you want this card to be. Aniok Guide seems like a better version of this even if it has less power. You just want control over what your card does. If explore over performs then this will be the first card I add.

Atzocan Archer 1

Interesting card for green. This is one of the more playable creature removal cards green has on offer mostly due to green not really having such things. Yes, this only a ping for one and it dies it it pings something with four or more power and for three mana that really sucks. A 1/4 reach body on top of the ping makes it more reasonable value although still not great. You really need buff effects that are instant or state based to empower the fight on this archer. I don't see this making a cube appearance but stranger things have happened. Good to see green getting more diverse at least.

Seeker's Squire 6.5

Deal. I'll take it. While this probably isn't as good as the green 2/1 for 1G this will see a whole lot more play. Black doesn't have nearly enough cards like this and they are exactly what it wants to be able to compete in a more midrange meta. A 1/2 plus a land is a decent enough card which a lot of decks would run. While Satyr Wayfinder may scale a little better with specific synergies the extra health on this will be much more relevant in a general sense. In mode two this is a 2/3 and a scry (to the bin) which is fine. While not a two for one it is a solid tempo play that also helps to set you up for upcoming turns. It is the opposite of an all in tempo play and that makes it very playable. Aggro decks can run this and it is either a bit Thraben Inspector or a bit Veteran Motorist / Sylvan Advocate, all of which are happy inclusions. Midrange decks likewise like all those sorts of cards too. This is a filler card but it is more appropriate and powerful than any other generically playable black 2 drop dork. It is the well rounded playability of this card when compared to most of what black has to offer that makes it so strong. Sure, Dark Confidant is way more powerful but not every deck can run it and that is the story for so many black cards.

Heartless Pillage 1

Not great but I can actually see this looking reasonable in the right place. This is one of the better basic treasure generating spells that is less than 4 mana. It is still low powered but if you want the two things this offers and can easily fulfill the raid then perhaps this.

Costly Plunder 2

Directly worse than Perilous Research but then this is in a different colour. This might replace Altar's Reap or join it in the right kind of deck. Narrow and pretty fair but still absolutely playable.

Watertrap Weaver 1

I don't see this replacing existing 3 drop options in merfolk but it is an OK tempo disruption play. Tribal only card and a pretty low powered one at that.

Tempest Caller 1

Another super narrow card. Either you use this to alpha strike with merfolk which doesn't seem overly needed with evasion being easy to pick up for the fish. Alternatively you give this flash somehow at which point it becomes pretty good at stalling for any deck. The former seems overkill and the latter seems like it isn't going to have sufficient support.

Shaper Apprentice 1

Playable two drop filler merfolk.

Sailor of Means 4

I like this card. It is the ramping Sea Gate Oracle. One mana once (and an extra toughness) is far less value and playability than a Sleight of Hand but if you specifically want to be ramping to five this is not a bad way to go. It is not a dud late game like a Talisman nor does it concede much in the way of tempo. A 1/4 blocker holds off a lot. I am not sure this is powerful enough for cube, Sea Gate is pretty fair these days. This does at least do something unique and conceivably desirable though. Most blue big swing cards come in at five so perhaps this just fits in despite being on the low side of things for power. Test worthy sort of card for sure.

Sheltering Light 3

This is another take on God's Willing. It is better against mass removal and a few oter things but worse at forcing through damage or countering exile spot removal. Both are cheap protection or mild combat tricks with a tasty scry. Being reactive cards the scry is less value than on other one mana cards but it is still pretty lovely. Good card but a bit situational for regular cube use.

Ritual of Rejuvenation 0

Potential filler or SB card for control against burn but I think this is too much like a filler card to be a good SB tool and too bloaty and narrow to be maindeck material. Renewed Faith is more versatile and more easily accommodated. Many other lifegain effects are more powerful at gaining life even if they lack the general playability of this card.

Inspiring Cleric 0

Almost exactly the same problems as the Ritual of Rejuvenation but in creature form. In other words I am playing Baneslayer Angels or Lone Missionary over this.

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