Thursday 23 November 2017

Rivals of Ixalan Preliminary Review Part I

Ghlatra, Primal Hungerer 1/10

Not very interesting. This will be very hard to cast early and it simply isn't worth cheating into play. Worldspine Wurm and Progenitus and Atarka and many more green dorks are better than Ghlatra when price isn't a factor. Ghlatra as such depends on getting a decent cost reduction to be exciting. When matched up against cards like Wolfir Silverheart and Gearhulk you really need to be looking at a 6-8 mana cost reduction to get to cube power levels. That makes this card narrow, win more, and super unreliable. There are far more situations in cube than other formats where both players have big boards and it is somewhat of a stalemate which are the best occasions for Ghlatra and I still don't see this being good enough often enough. You never want to completely rule out cost reduction cards but this one is quite the stretch to see how it overcomes any of its issues.

Vault of Catlacan 1/10

Well they did as much as they could to ensure this wouldn't be abused. This is a pretty awful card. Remeber the buzz over Growing Rites of Itlimoc? Well this has all the same problems and they are a lot worse. It has extra problems of its own too. Like Itlimoc this is a big upfront cost with a relatively tall order as a flip condition leading to the flipped card being rather win more or superfluous. This is basically a Curse of Opulence, for 2U more to cast. Even Growing Rites isn't that over cost, nor is it in two colours. To get five artifacts with this card alone you need five turns, or creatures with first strike or the capacity to attack again. You also need things that can attack. You should have won if you get to attack five times. Not only do you need artifacts to empower the back end of this card you also need them to get there. If your deck is full of artifacts your are not attacking much or often. What I am trying to say is in the decks that can flip this and might want the back end, the front end is a complete blank. So, is a Tolarian Academy with extreme metalcraft that you have to pay 2UR for and that has effectively got summoning sickness too worth it? Pretty unlikely I would say. You need too many mana sinks for this to be good, not enough decks will support it. Academy was far more about burst which this has none of. This is much more like a super slow and narrow Gilded Lotus. I feel like Pyramid of the Pantheon is better than this and that was a pretty bad card. I haven't even really touched on the likelihood of having extreme metalcraft online. Even the most extreme affinity decks with the highest artifact counts in the cube come out at around 3/4 artifacts. Big artifact decks which would have more use for this kind of thing are rather lower and have been increasingly cutting artifacts for other spells as time goes on. Even in dedicated decks it is neither an assured thing flipping this nor something you can reliably do on curve.

This card has a shockingly underpowered front end which is fairly useless at doing what it does for the price you have to pay for it. Curse of Opulence is a fantastic early game play but it is rather less interesting from about turn four onwards. This has a fairly difficult flip condition which isn't overly helped by the front end of the card based on the kinds of deck that might want the back end. It makes it narrow rather more than it reduces the power but it does do both! The back end and the front end have no real overlap in decks that want them. The front end is far too poor to be worth playing and so you exclusively looking at the back end. In the perfect deck with the perfect draw you will make and flip this on turn three and untap with access to about ten mana. That is still pretty good but you can do it with loads of less onerous and fiddly cards. Thran Dynamo and Gilded Lots and a selection of others when combined with the Talisman you would also need to empower the Vault all have much the same kinds of effect. This may make a little bit more mana when the going is good but floor is more important than ceiling. I don't see me using this in cube but much like with the cost reduction cards being hard to fully rule out, cards that can produce huge amounts of mana are also danger cards. Wizards know this which is why they were so careful to ensure these were designed in a safe way. In this case, safe translates to embarrassingly bad.

Tetzimoc, Death Primordial 0/10

Nope! This is pretty awful for a wide array of reasons. It is a bad body, it is just quite big but for the mana that isn't close to cutting it. You want some evasion or something else to make this relevant. Next up, the ability, very weak. If I want to kill the thing you just made this is a seven drop not a six drop. If I want this to be a six drop I have to totally reveal my plan, take a beating from the thing I want dead and pay mana ahead of time. Sounds like that could go wrong in many ways. Best case scenario with this is what exactly? Ripping it off the top when you have 8+ mana and can Wrath with it? Reiver Demon is looking generally better in that sort of area. Massacre Wurm and many others more so.  Setting up anything better than a two for one with this and making it as on curve as you can will be neat impossible. You might get to take out a couple of irrelevant cards that you can afford to let sit about in play for a while but at actually killing relevant cards this fails pretty hard. If you are un the business for top end 187 dorks then Noxious Ghoul is a far better alternative in that direction. Tetzimoc has the illusion of utility but in practice he is an impotent middle ground card that doesn't do any of the things you want it to or that it looks like it might do for you. Cards like Maze of Ith and Darkness could be used to make the ability more effective but that doesn't seem at all worth it.

The Immortal Sun 2/10

Here we have a card. I cannot really do the classic compare and contrast form of analysis to this because there is simply nothing like it in the rest of MtG. Sure, there is pap like Caged Sun, Staff of Nin, or the less pap Mirrari's Wake but these do rather less and are rather narrower. The Immortal Sun does it all. Unlike those other cards you don't really need to put all of the cards effects to use for it to be a good deal. Just double draw and something else is going to get a lot of work done. This card feels more like a planeswalker that fires all its abilities off all the time. Value wise this card is fairly off the charts but that is somewhat meaningless. Scaling up in mana cost is not a linear thing nor even a consistent thing depending on what it is you are scaling up. A six mana card really needs to be more than twice a three mana card. Even so, this is three mana's worth of Glorius Anthem, about four on the personal Howling Mine, call it a stingy three mana on the personal Helm of Awakening and round it off with a one mana Pithing Needle style effect. Toss in a casual draw three for having all those cards in one card and you have at least twelve manas worth of card in your six drop. Sadly that paints a very rosy picture. Helm of Awakening is specifically good early, the later you play it the less relevant it is. On a six drop it could easily be irrelevant and thus worth no mana. The same will typically be true to some extent on most of the effects.

If you do consider all these effects to be worth mana and cards then you instantly lose your draw three to spot removal and likely a swathe of tempo as well. It also seems highly unlikely that all the abilities will be of use. That was often an issue with Wake, it was just a personal Mana Flare, the Anthem side was typically wasted. The double draw will always be good on the Immortal Sun but the other three will be far less consistent. The planeswalker shutdown rather depends on your opponent and you cannot really control that. The cost reduction and the pump have the potential to be strong in some kinds of decks but rarely the same ones and never as strong as the two and three mana streamlined version. I cannot think of any deck that would really put all of this card to work effectively. For optimal use this card is incredibly narrow but given the card has so much raw power you may well not need to use it optimally or even that close to for it to shine. Perhaps it is good enough to merit an actual build around. It is fairly easy to find and power out artifacts in most colours in cube. My gut is that this is too all over the place, too expensive and situational to be all that in cube, especially a drafting one but probably all cube formats. Cards with this level of raw power however do sometimes have a way of forcing a home for themselves somewhere...


  1. We find that planeswalkers tend to takeover games and often a player will just lose when an opponent gets 2+ in play so looking forward to trying the immortal sun as an out to such board states...

  2. The Immortal Sun is certainly worth it if you shut down two walkers with it! Probably still if it is just one. Much as walkers are super powerful and common to see in my cube things are generally a bit quick for them to be a real problem cards. If you find that most games are won by walkers then the value of this jumps up a lot. I even managed to fit it into a deck design which felt like it was the biggest challenge facing the card. A cube version of Eldrazi Tron seems to be an decent place for The Immortal Sun.