Wednesday 3 January 2018

Rivals of Ixalan Preliminary Review Part III

Gleaming Barrier 2

I like this but I am not confident it does quite enough to get much done in a cube setting. Sailor of Means was far too low in power to cut it and this is in a similar boat. I like nice cheap walls and artifacts, I like things that do things when they die, I like potential ramp and fixing, I like two artifacts in one card. This has all the hallmarks of a nice support card in a couple of decks but I think it just falls short on that ever rising hurdle that is power level.

Secrets of the Golden City 0

My guess is that this averages less than 2.1 cards drawn in typical cube casts of it (which would be few as this is a 3 mana sorcery speed card with zero tempo). I am not sure I would pay a blue mana instead of a colourless mana for that extra 0.1 of a card over a Council of the Soratami. And Council is a shockingly bad card for cube so this is looking no good.

Journey to Eternity // Atzal, Cave of Eternity 2

This has some very powerful upsides and some lovely potential synergies. When it all works out well the card has an incredibly high power level. Something as simple as plopping this onto a Sakura Tribe Elder is huge value. Getting your dork back into play and a free land is already worth the mana and the card. The ability on the land is just gravy and it is super high value gravy, it is game winning levels of power offering all the late game value one could need! It is pretty much a Recurring Nightmare you cannot easily disrupt.

So, where this all comes falling down is the floor of this card and its doubly narrow needs. When you plop this on your man and they kill it with this on the stack or they just casually use one of the many bounce or exile spells in cube then you probably just lost the game. The floor on this is literally pay three mana discard a card and that is no good. The only real way to get around this is to have ways to instantly sac off your own dork and perhaps even protection for your dork, a Duress to proceed it, a Mother of Runes ready to give it the love and so forth. This huge level of support needed to reduce the risk of it hitting that low low floor makes it narrow. You also need lots of creatures in your deck, another floor this card has is when you can't even play it as you have no targets. Being gold is the second reason this is narrow but they certainly combine to make a card that has no hope of performing well in a drafting cube. This might get a look in to some of the narrower and quirky decks I make when using the full range of magical goodies in constructed cube events but I doubt it will shine in those. It will occasionally work and probably just about justify the slot it has in my silly deck!

Enter the Unknown 1

I would like this to be good but it is pretty far from it. You need a target for this making it a little conditional for the level and type of effect it brings. That is the main problem with this card but it isn't the only one. There is also the serious issue of this being a card disadvantage ramp spell. When you miss that land you get a +1/+1 counter and a scry which is nice but it probably isn't worth the card. Anyone who has played much with Exploration or even Fastbond will know that it is very hard to ramp effectively with cards like this as you consume so much gas in doing so. You need heavy card draw effects to support it at which point this is getting incredibly needy to pair unpleasantly with its low power. Never rule out the one drop entirely though! End of your turn, Vine Dryad, Enter the Unknown on it a few times and send in with a big dork and a bunch of lands in play for an impressive looking turn one! Still probably not but you get the idea!

Form of the Dinosuar 1

Now this is a rare card indeed. What we appear to have here is a potential lifegain card in red. I'm not suggesting that a six mana spell is where you want to be for lifegain, just that it is not common in red! I do see a number of applications for this thing but I suspect it is probably a little on the niche side to be a name in cube. That being said, slower red decks are becoming significantly more successful in cube of late and so this has the best chance now than it ever would have had. So what is Form of the Dinosuar really doing? It is a slow creature removal card that loses value over time unless you find more lifegain, perhaps by flickering the Form. It is a bit like a Visara the Dreadful! I think you can play this in a midrange or control deck as a source of value that comes with a nice extra life buffer. You can easily and safely kill a bunch of dorks with 15 life to fight with. A lot of how good this is depends on your life total when you make it. If you pay five life to get it down it feels weak but if you gain 10 or more it sounds lovely. Sadly, dorks hit sufficiently hard now that even when you gain 10 life you will still have to take two hits from the first monster you wish to kill (assuming it is in play when you make the Form) and this will eat up all that buffer and make subsequent fights less appealing. Oh, and you don't get a choice on fighting, you have to fight if they have targets which means ongoing damage! This is one of those cards that seems like it not only needs a specific deck to work well in it also rather needs a specific opponent to perform against as well. I like this thing, it is in very nice keeping with Form of the Dragon and would count as well designed, I just don't see it working out so well in my cubing exploits.

Zetalpa, Primal Dawn 0.5

This is a bit dull and unimpressive for its cost. The card isn't bad but it also isn't exciting. Without haste is doesn't provide immediate action like Akroma did back in the day. Without lifelink it isn't a potent stabilizing force like Sphinx of the Steel Wind still is. This reminds me of Simic Sky Swallower most but it turns out that untargetable is far better than indestructible in the cube in terms of providing safety. Basically if your opponent only has damage and destroy effects then this is unkillable and with all those stats and evasion this is ending the game. This is a nice reliable finisher in a very classic sense of the word. It even hits a bit harder, scales a bit better and does a spot of defending that Simic Sky Swallower doesn't offer. Even so, the untargetable and the lower cost make Swallower playable while Zetalpa feels unlikely to get a look in. It is literally only the dinosaur aspect of this card that gives it any mild hope in cube I think. It is one of the cheaper ways you can get indestructible on a creature that is still well statted for the cost but as stated, indestructible is just not all that in the cube. This is far more likely to be scary in standard where indestructible can pose much more significant problems.

Elanda, the Dusk Rose 1

I hate this card a lot, it has a floor so painfully low it hurts yet it has a ceiling sufficiently high as to not rule it out entirely. Cards with a narrow range of performance potential tend to give better gaming experiences and so this thing seems like it will provide sad gaming experiences, at least for someone. In a Blood Artist deck this is about as good a top end payoff card as you can hope for. You can either use Elanda to double up the number of creatures you have to sac off (for a quick and easy one shot kill) or you can just use her as a massive lifelink dork that makes an army if it dies. Being a gold four drop that only goes in one archetype and that is still somewhat conditional within the ideal shell I would say this is a no go for drafting cubes. I do expect I will try it out in some more constructed decks and in those I suspect it will do a bunch of nothing and a bit of utterly dominating the game!

Glorious Destiny 1

While this card seems fine I think Shared Triumph is going to be the card of choice for this sort of thing. That being said, there are some naughty human cards that can be abused with vigilance. As soon as I convince myself this has good merit over Shared Triumph I then think that I wouldn't likely be playing it over Always Watching. I suppose the 2W compared to 1WW might be a relevant factor in something like a five colour humans deck. I guess this just feels a bit win more, sure ascend works nicely in strategies with Anthems but it feels like you can use other better cards in most, if not all of the occasions you might consider this.

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