Monday, 26 March 2018

Dominaria Initial Review Part IX

Well, looks like I was super wrong about this set being done for interesting cards. Pretty glad to be wrong however as Dominaria was looking a little light on interest from the first 140 cards. Right off the bat with some of the simpler offerings that were not on the rules sheet we have some more promising cards that will certainly be having an impact on many a format.

Saproling Migration 6

A Gather the Townsfolk card in green. While presently not something I imagine many green cube decks wanting I can entirely see cube designs and meta shifts making this a solid cube stample. I can see more constructed decks using this to good effect too, perhaps tribal is going to be a thing! I recently (within the last six months or so) had a Fists of Ironwood played against me so there very much is a demand for this kind of thing. This new token generator is pretty fair but as we have seen, most of these kinds of cards wind up seeing play. The kicker might seem pricey but it is almost certainly better than the fateful hour offering on Gather. Green can find 6 mana more easily than most and 4 tokens is more than double the baseline in value. Yes, four guys is twice as good as two guys but four guys for a card is more than twice as good as two guys for a card. Kind of like how when you flashback Deep Analysis after playing it you it is three times better in that after cast one you are one card up and after cast two you are three cards up. A deceptively good token producer, one of the very best of the two mana options. In most other colours this would be straight in the cube but in green we shall have to wait and see. Even if all the parts are already out there it will take a while for them to come together and most likely we are still waiting on a number of the parts to make this a cube mainstay, and even then, it is only going to be a solid support card like Raise the Alarm is.

Vicious Offering 3

I want this to be good but I don't think it is quite there. Disfigure isn't exactly hot at one mana, at two it is pretty feeble. While -5/-5 for 2 mana is tasty the cost of having and sacing a creature is pretty huge. Basically this is only something you can play in a deck where you actively want to sacrifice things. In such a deck it is pretty good removal but it isn't a very good sac outlet and so you probably don't bother with it. It is not so good and so convenient in such decks that you want to run it like Dispatch in heavy artifact decks. It just goes from being awkward and weak removal to decent removal, you probably still play Fatal Push or Dismember over this in most cases, even in the self sac deck. Great for standard to have some more potent removal though, shame it is only really black that is good at taking down Hazoret there...

Cast Down 6.5

Right, this is the removal we are talking about. It isn't spectacular but it is bang on for good design. It is another interesting twist on Doom Blade and that is a perfectly acceptable card and power level. More interesting and more playable than Terminate if not more effective! What makes Cast Down and other variants of Doom Blade more interesting than Doom Blade itself are being able to hit black creatures. Black has rather too many such cards with that specific downside and so having alternatives with different limitations spreads your risk exposure out nicely. This new offering of black removal hits a good 84% of creatures in my cube which is not Go for the Throat good but none the less sits well with the others in this group. I expect legendary creature counts to rise in cubes as they can be a little more pushed in power level. Cast Down might be one of the best black spot removal spells on offer now but I expect it will keep a little less well than the others. Ultimately 2 mana and instant speed one for one creature kill is just a nice fair interactive way to play magic. You want some number of such cards on offer and this is a nice one to have.

Zhalfirin Void 6

Delightful! This will see play in countless places. Basically any deck without heavy colour requirements or indeed those after specifically colourless will strongly consider this land. The value of a scry for free the turn you make this probably outclasses the value from a colourless man land or a lategame utility land. I suspect Void will achieve more than say a Westvale Abbey on average although this is an awkward comparison as they are so polar opposite in what they are about. While I think this will be one of the more commonly used colourless lands in exotic decks I am not sure if this is going to be worth it in your more conventional decks. Scry obviously increases consistency but then colourless lands instead of duals and basics typically reduces consistency. Anyone remember Nomad Stadium? It offered you life, at the cost of life, and as such was pretty godawful. Void deals in a more valuable commodity but it still feels like it trades like for like and so I am not holding out huge hopes for this in the drafting cube. I think broadly I would choose to play temples over this in most cases. Even in an aggressive deck where you want you lands coming in untapped the fact that this is unlikely to do anything useful on turn one (where you most want your scry) rather lowers its value. Aggressive decks tend to be the most colour intense, often making two one drops on turn two and as such this seems less too much of a risk for such places. I like this a lot and will certainly use it where ever I can but I think it offers too little return for too much risk to be a good limited card. It is a bit Teetering Peaks in that regard. A nice option when you can have it for free but when it costs you a slot in a pack and a pick , or a card in your pool, then the returns are just not worth it. Basically, even if this was playable in drafting cube decks over basic lands and things it probably isn't impactful enough to be worth including.

Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp 3

A legendary Mahamoti Djinn with a mild alternate cast mode. Four mana is quite the steal for a 5/6 flier and having an artifact in play is no real hardship to do. Sadly Djinn is just a big dork and four mana for just a big dork is a little less than ideal. Having an artifact is pretty easy but it does still make Zahid narrow, likely sufficiently narrow that he is not a good drafting cube card. I rather prefer Abyssal Persecutor as it is far easier to be proactive with playing it and the body is significantly better. Persecutor, despite its strength, sees little play these days, not because it is narrow or had to sac off when you need to but because paying four mana at sorcery speed for something that can be undone for one mana with ease and that provides no other value is just asking to get blown out. Zahid, much like Persecutor, fails the Jace test.

Danitha Capashen, Paragon 3

The eternal Grey Ogre issue! This is a very good Grey Ogre but it still dies to basically every removal spell, often half a removal spell and will leave no value behind when this happens. Playable 3 mana 2/2 dorks are things like Pia Nalaar, Shardless Agent, Flesh Carver, Peema etc. They all have some value to leave behind when dealt with and that is what makes them playable. Danitha has a lot of keyword abilities which make her good in combat and scale nicely with buffs but don't do anything to protect against this key weakness of being vulnerable to all removal. I love a cost reduction card but Danitha is a triple fail on that front. She is too fragile to rely on, she is too expensive herself to be that exciting in a cost reduction capacity and critically she is reducing a tiny fraction of the cards in the cube. Card types I should add that suffer diminishing returns if played in abundance. Much as I love the idea of curving Danitha into a Sword and equipping it the following turn I am not going to be putting her in the cube for that unlikely event. Danitha really has to carry on the keywords and they are just not on the right stat line or quite the right balance of things. Aerial Responder sees no play and feels like a superior card all round to Danitha. I might try this in an equipment themed deck but I don't see it being all that great in a not all that great sub-archetype.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the ongoing reviews, Nick! Yea I was also pleasantly surprised by Saproling Migration (delightful art too!). I love it when they print such appropriate and useful cards at common. I immediately thought of Nest Invader, which I really like in my secondary cube. It's probably better than Saproling Migration, even in ramp, but I'm happy every time they diversify green by adding to its go-wide capabilities. Great Oak Guardian, Overwhelming Stampede, Nissa VoZ, Curse of Predation are all nice payoffs that lack enablers.

    Bizarrely, I'm not actually interested in Cast Down. Terrors are eminently fair these days, even the good ones, like Go for the Throat. I recently cut some for Disfigure, Push and Vendetta because I feel Black needs the tempo help. In my cube this almost misses more creatures than Doomblade. Also, legendary creatures are ones you often really need to kill. Thalia 2.0, Rofellos, Griselbrand etc. On top of that, Black has a lot of recursive, and 2-for-1 bodies that you'd never aim a Doomblade at anyway. What I do like about Cast Down is that it shows they're willing to print better answers going forward.

    Great analysis on Zhalfirin Void, certainly helped me understand the card better. I'd argue that I'd often prefer a Mutavault, simply because it plays nicely with Hellrider, Sublime Archangel, Accorder Paladin, etc. And when you scry with this and don't bottom it, you effectively played a Wastes.