Tuesday 2 January 2018
Rivals of Ixalan Preliminary Review Part II
Brass's Bounty 1
Super cool and very powerful effect but almost certainly a non starter. This does little to nothing on its own, you need something for this to be a real pay off. This is also a seven mana card making it need a lot of support just to cast the thing before you are dead. You can't just cast it either, You could easily power this out on turn three with mana dorks or artifact mana or rituals but then it is making a couple of treasure and is a low power do nothing. You really need to be making this when you have plenty of lands in play. This card requires support from every angle and doesn't seem to offer nearly enough reward.
Captain's Hook 0
This is better than a Bonesplitter in two ways. It is also worse in two ways and the ways in which it is worse are savage! Menace is a nice perk for sure but becoming a pirate is unlikely to carry much weight in cube. Given that Bonesplitter no longer cuts it in my cube this would basically need no drawbacks at all on the card to stand a chance. As it has two large ones I think we can fairly safely rule it out. I thought you might use it as a makeshift sacrifice outlet and turn one of the drawbacks into an advantage. Then I remembered other better cards, not limited to but including Grafted Wargear, Mortarpod, Carrion Feeder, Phyrexian Altar... When a card that you might not play at 0 mana costs 3 then it is not so hard to rule it out.
Vona's Hunger 0
Diabolic Edict isn't great at two and so slapping another mana on top makes the floor for this look shocking. Ascend is an interesting mechanic but a card has to be very playable without the city's blessing and this simply isn't. This isn't even all that when you do have the blessing! Ten permanents is a lot to get to. Some token decks and specific generator cards will help get you there quicker but it is never a quick or consistent thing. You cannot rely on having it and this is why a card needs to be good without the blessing. Vona's Hunger isn't really great anywhere along it's spectrum. It still never gets the best creature in play unless it is the only creature in play on their side of the board.
Thrashing Brontodon 6
This is very good. It might not look it but in cube this is far far better than Wickerbough Elder or Reclamation Sage or really any of the green cards like that. It is not far off Qasali Pridemage in quality and being mono it should wind up seeing rather more play. So why is a 3/4 for 3 that you have to pay 1 and sac to Disenchant something better than the Wickerbough that lets you keep a 4/4 body once it has Disenchanted something? Simply put because a 3/4 for 3 is pretty decent while a 3/3 for 4 is savagely bad. The Brontodon has a much higher floor which is the main reason it is better. It is also to do with the fact that the ceiling doesn't matter that much. When you use the ability it is on a card like Opposition or Jitte, you lose when you don't have an answer and and a random 4/4 dork isn't actually all that relevant in the equation, you would still do it if it gave them a 4/4! It stopped you directly losing the game and that is plenty good enough! It is insurance basically, that is why you play cards like this. Wickerbough is a significantly more expensive policy to have to take out, it might give you much better service when you have to claim on your insurance policy, with courtesy cars and so forth, but Brontodon is a nice cheap policy that costs you relatively little to take out (play). Given that the best kind of insurance is insurance you don't ever need the Brontodon is the place you want to be at, both cover you for the same problem but the Brontodon doesn't need to be claimed against for it to not totally suck arse like the Elder, on in those circumstances, the Hill Giant! Brontodon is not a flashy card nor all that exciting but it will make games better. It brings options, interaction and safety without any baggage.
Angrath, the Flame-Chained 0.5
Powerful but ultimately pretty crap. Five mana and gold is almost enough to kill this things chances in cube. It would have to have utterly nuts power levels, more than Glorybringer, probably more than The Scarab God too in order to see cube play. You just need to be one of the best five drops of all time if you want to get a look in as a two colour card. The plus 1 is good value but it is a slow win condition, it affords no defenses at all and the discard element quickly runs dry. Mostly it makes me think that I should be running Blightning or Rakdos Return instead! The -3 doesn't save it either as it affords no protection against bigger dorks. Ob Nixilus Reignited has better control options, better safety and his +1 doesn't diminish in potency as quickly. Ob may not be as flashy or offer quite as much potential value but he is safe and reliable and that is what you want. Most importantly he is nice and playable and mono coloured! Angarth has a fairly blank ultimate, at best it speeds up the +1 but in reality when you have managed to fire off four +1s without losing any durability on your Angarth you won some time ago! Angrath is overly restrictive and narrow, he is not bad per say but he is a lot lot weaker than enough alternatives that I don't see it ever getting used in my cube for anything other than flavour or curiosity reasons.
Kumena, Tyrant or Orazca 2.5
Another potential reason to go green in merfolk lists. This is quite an interesting card, it does a lot and is reasonably well rounded and with a high power level. Despite this I am not sure how well it will perform. It seems like an incredibly good stalemate breaker however I have rarely found merfolk decks to get into stalemate situations. If you have five merfolk in play you probably won, even three feels like you are probably winning! Merfolk have lots of lords and evasion and so five merfolk in play sounds to me a lot like 15 damage to face, not something I would trade for an Oath of Ajani... I can see the draw card element occurring more often, especially when you have a 2/4 you can defend with. He will be a bit like a Courser of Kruphix when you are on the defensive which will not be too often but will be a nice perk none the less. For the most part however I think this looks like a 3 mana 2/4 with a so so evasion ability. I somewhat prefer Gaea's Skyfolk and River Sneak style cards in their aggressive capacities. This is only playable in UG merfolk decks and probably not all that even in them. Interesting card with one very precise home. It has the desired high power level but it offers things probably not needed and is at a mana cost that is not short on supply of good cards.
Awakened Amalgamation 0
My cube has so many lands this is pretty much a discounted Molimo, Maro-Sorcerer / Dakkon Blackblade for any of the colours. Despite the seven mana tag for Molimo and the six at Dakkon both are very low power cards! I wouldn't be excited to play either at 3 mana in current cube. This being a four drop makes it unplayable. It is rarely coming out better than a 4/4 for 4 when it matters. It is just a big dork and we don't like to pay much more than 2 for that if possible!
Tendershoot Dryad 2
This is a curious one. Much as I hate a five mana 2/2 this thing does get out of hand pretty quick. It is every upkeep that the ability triggers so 4/4 total stats if it makes it back to your main phase alive and presumably then at least 5/5 total. Assuming you had at least five things in play when you made this, which is a reasonable assumption, then the saprolings are 3/3s pretty quickly. This is a card with some serious reach. It basically churns out a pair of 3/3s every turn which is much more board presence than any planeswalker can offer. This card needs killing and quickly if possible. That, unfortunately for this, is super easy to do with it being a mere 2/2. Oracle of Mul Daya is the card I liken this too most. Both tend to win a game if they stick around too long. The Oracle does it through mana and card advantage while this bypasses the middle man and does it directly itself. While you have low odds of having this live beyond its summoning sickness you do have good odds of it making at least one 1/1 and I think that will be a huge help. Would you pay a couple of extra mana on your Blade Splicer or Pia Nalaar if it said "you win the game if this survives two full turns"? In a lot of cases you probably would. Dryad is quite a high risk card but I think the payoff could be enough on the odd occasion. You will almost certainly be down a lot of mana when you get this removed and most often it will be but due to the high odds of getting a 1/1 out of the deal you should effectively be up some card value. Sure, you might be four mana down and a four mana Merchant of Secrets is far from a win in cube but still, it keeps the floor on this card a lot higher than it appears at first glance. It is also in green, a colour far more able to eat a big mana hit like having a five drop Shocked. I don't love high risk high reward cards in general as they lead to less good games but it is a five drop. All decent cube five drops do a good job of ending games and so this is very unlikely to be oppressive or over powered. Just a potential alternate option for a bit of green top end. I think Wisperwood Elemental is too similar and all round more robust, with lower risk and higher up front power, for the Dryad to be a serious cube contender. Wisperwood is more value, more stats and much much greater safety but it is much slower to end a game. I don't really consider it to be reach as a mere 2/2 every turn doesn't really turn the tide in a lot of cube games. The Elemental is more of a value card. That is the one hope for the Dryad, the fact that it is a one card winning machine. Sadly I think Nissa Worldwaker is a better option in that capacity although it is rather more a go through card than it is a go wide one. So, in conclusion, if you need a one card win condition that is a creature and does so by going wide then this is an option. This is another card that seems OK like Angarth but just has too many better alternatives that do the sorts of things it does.