Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Dominaria Initial Review Part VII

Shanna, Sisay's Legacy 3

I like the design of the half hexproof and hope to see more of it. Combined with the variable power Shanna is a nightmare for planewalkers to handle. Power level wise this is pretty good but being gold rules it out. It is not powerful enough all of the time and that is really what you need from your gold cards in cube. Slots are so precious now that a gold card needs to be needed and this is a long way off that. It is certainly the sort of card you might pick for a Selesnya or humans deck in a rotisserie like format. Cards like this in booster draft formats however just make it worse for everyone.

Jodah, Archmage Eternal 2

I'm not a huge fan of this card, it feels kind of a gimmick. That being said I can imagine some pretty impressive plays with this. Turn two Signet, turn three Jodah, turn four the Eons Torn! Being a three toughness four drop means you can't reliably build around Jodah but providing redundancy for First of Suns might help make that a potential combo deck.

Muldrotha, the Gravetide 1

I'm not sure entirely what to make of this. It has no real hope of being a good inclusion in a drafting cube purely based on the many colours and manas needed to play the thing. In more tailored decks however Muldrotha can put in some serious work. A lot of cards work very well with this and you wouldn't need many for this to shine. While it may provide the utility and reach you want from a top end spell Muldrotha is too vulnerable of a play on turn six. You need a land or two and at least a couple of action cards reused before Muldrotha is worthwhile.

Arvad the Cursed 1

For the tribal legend deck! Might actually be cube playable one day but we are still a long way from that day. Power creep being what it is the cube is so tight on new entries that the extra little bit of power you can slap on a legendary dork (due to how that plays out in constructed) means that the cube legend count has been steadily rising for some time.

Grand Warlord Radha 1

The body on this is decent enough and the effect is pretty powerful. The issue is that the two don't marry up that well. Oddly this reminds me of Xenagos, the Reveler who is another very powerful 4 drop in Gruul. Basically the ramp on a four drop is typically overkill and shouldn't be the main focus of power allocation on a card. Another way to look at this (and rule it out) is that decks wanting 3/4 haste dorks really don't need mana much beyond four and the decks that do want to continue to ramp after the four mana mark have marginal interest in a 3/4 body with haste. However you use Radha you are paying for something you don't want. Neither half of the card is powerful enough to carry the four mana price tag on its own. I do very much like how you can stockpile mana with this card. It is something that would go really well with Fireball or any other RX direct damage spell and not that many cards can say that. Sadly a certain recently unbanned Elf makes Fireball and such the nut low and is a rather better Gruul 4 drop so that is another kick in the teeth for Radha.

Johira, Weathlight Captain 1

As a stand alone draft cube card this is super weak. Limp body for the cost and slow and conditional returns. Where Johira has potential is in a custom built deck where you can flop her down and pretty much instantly draw your whole deck. Johira turns Urza's and Mishra's Baubles into draw 2 for 0 mana! She turns Mox Opal and Mox Amber into something really quite special! I am not sure how you kill people most efficiently with this deck but it sounds like that doesn't really matter that much. Perhaps it is storm, it usually is... Bonus points for using Jace's Erasure, old Niv-Mizzet, Phychosis Crawler, Grinding Station etc. Johira smacks of a card that could bring out the ban hammer in modern but perhaps it is just a weak version of the Puresteel Paladin builds. It is not like Vedalken Archmage has made a deck like this yet either.

Oath of Teferi 1

Seems pretty bad but that is not going to stop me playing with this loads! I love activating planeswalkers. Some of the most fun that can be had is playing magic with the old Teferi emblem! You need some pretty special tempo and value out of the flicker effect for this to really cut it. If you already have an active walker when you play this then it is decent but that is so win more. You would be better of playing a card that would protect said walker rather than empower it. This card will be lots of fun but it is a five mana conditional do nothing mostly.

Garna, the Bloodflame 0

Potent effects but miles off a cube thing, draft or otherwise. Far too narrow, slow, vulnerable and situational for draft and just not close to worth it in a build around sense.

Adeliz, the Cinder Wind  3.5

I don't much rate this but I can see it being good. Bloodwater Entity was pretty good and this is broadly better. While it lacks actual prowess it does buff all wizards and many of the dorks Izzet tempo decks run are just that. Prowess decks typically run most if not all of their prowess triggers as instants and sorceries, partly because they are the best but also for cards like Thing in the Ice and Young Pyromancer so Adeliz will not miss out much. I think Adeliz will be a bit like Jori-En, a card people build with but something that is too infrequently useful in a draft to be an improvement to the cube.

Darigaaz, Reincarnated 1

Very punchy dragon that will bring the hurt. A classic and lovely trio of keywords to stick on a big fat body. The thing with Darigaaz is that his second ability is very odd on a card like this. Three turns is an eternity, Darigaaz takes less time to kill someone! Slow recursive grindy abilities are better suited to more middle costed dorks such as Rekindling Phoenix. Darigaaz is so big, black and gold that a lot of the ways to destroy dorks are not applicable to him. Most of the removal used to handle Darigaaz will bypass the ability anyway. This is not top end powerful enough to be something you play to cheat in and it is too expensive, gold and cross purposes to be something you put in a deck and cast conventionally. Plenty of power but not well allocated.

Rona, Disciple of Gix 0

Too slow as ongoing card draw and too situational on the EtB trigger. A lot more playable if you have a Black Lotus.... Mostly this is just a gold Grey Ogre and has no place in cube.

Slimefoot, the Stowaway 2

This probably has enough going on to at least make it in a tribal Thallid deck! It is potentially a suitable win card for an infinite mana combo deck but I think Walking Ballista will be the prime choice for most decks in that position.


  1. Very surprised by your low rating of Grand Warlord Radha! This is absolutely a card that struck me as being notable and compelling when I first saw it. Its body and cost are very comparable to Hellrider which is a decent baseline. Having haste is also a key factor as it covers the ability to immediately affect the board, which I insist on for aggro curve toppers.

    Instead of pings she gives you mana. I admit this is likely a lot worse than the damage output from Hellrider, but to be fair that card is unusually powerful. The mana boost is far from useless however. I see it as a sizable tempo injection. The deck that wants Radha 2.0 will generally curve out such that she generates 3-4 mana in her first attack step (possibly more with Rabblemaster, Hanweir Garrison, Pia Nalaar, Aetherchaser), which essentially pays for her right then. In that sense she feels a bit like when you get a free Vengevine with an easier set-up, or a burning tree emissary with haste. What will often happen is that you use the mana to fire off instant speed burn to improve your attacks (vs a double block say) or line up a kill on the following turn. Also being able to develop, and drop post-combat Planeswalkers seems like a strong line to me, especially against sweepers.

    Comparing her to BBE, she's generally a bit stronger on the mana advantage front (while also being more option dense), but weaker in terms of card advantage. However the 4-toughness is a significant upgrade, making her bolt-proof and generally unlikely to trade in early to midgame combat.

    That said I still have my doubts when she'll be able to break into my Gruul section. Green Red is possibly the colour pair I've always had the greatest difficulty defining. The guild wants to be aggressively slanted (Kird Ape et al.) but the problem is green offers virtually nothing in such a deck. I've often tried to force it but my 'Gruul Aggro' decks featured MAYBE 4 or 5 green mana symbols... A mono red deck is just better every time. So I changed the colour pair to be more about explosive ramp and I've been much happier with that. I still hope green aggro gets pushed by WotC though, since the colour sorely needs some diversity in cube.

    I'm unashamedly biased though. I'm a big fan of the character so I'm hoping for some spectacular art (fingers crossed for a Jim Murray return). She represents a different era where Wizards was unafraid to invoke a feeling of gravitas with severed heads, dramatic compositions and epic flavour text. A far cry from the cloying, high-fiving, squeaky clean saturday morning cartoon shitshow that is the current state of character design. Heck, I even built a Radha EDH deck because I enjoy the art and flavour so much.

    Sorry for the ramble!

  2. No no, ramble appreciated. You make a great case for new Radha. A 1/10 rating from me is brutally low and should probably be a 3/10 at the least. The thing with gold cards like this is that unless they cut it they really don't if that makes sense. I assumed Radha was not quite there and so gave it a rating that suggested it is a no hoper despite being pretty close.

    Certainly the best case scenarios for Radha are great and rather outperform both Bloodbraid and Hellrider and the low end is comparable which might suggest logically that the average performance would be higher. This however assumes a linear progression through this power range which I doubt, I think the average for Radha will be substantially below either of these comparison cards. I am however going to have to test her out now as you have sold her pretty well and have thrown some doubt on my confidence.

    I think your main point about awkward guild identity in Gruul is the main reason Radha won't shine. There are three directions I find I wind up going with Gruul combos. 1. Hyper aggro red with a minor slash of green for Kird Ape and Wolf Run and little else. 2. Heavy green ramp with a splash of red for Dragonlord Atarka and Wolf Run again and lastly 3. a tempo midrange build incorporating a 3rd non-splash colour. Radha certainly has no place in the first two and the last options are all very spoiled for choice.

    Radha probably has the power you need for cube but I doubt her consistency and suitability and ultimately playability. The great thing about cube though is if you just happen to really like a card you are entirely able to make it work in your cube.