Sunday 8 April 2018

Dominaria Initial Review Part XII

Lingering Phantom 0

The only way this would ever see play is as some combo loop enabler however most of the things like Cadaverous Bloom exile cards and so I cannot think of any places you might want this. Certainly you don't want it as 5/4 body, it is only good as a card you can get back in your hand repeatedly and it seems too well contained to be used like that.

Unwind 7

Well I never thought I would see the return of this particular mechanic! On a situational reactive card like this, or indeed Rewind, the untapping of lands is far less abusive. In a storm deck for example you would have to burn two cards to use this as ramp and it would still ramp for less than a Frantic Search. Rewind was never great because having four mana open to use it in the first place is hard to do. It is obvious to walk into and doesn't overly help win a counter war as you are tapping down so much to fire it off. Treachery is a potent swingy card however you run that into a Mana Tithe and you will lose very hard and that is pretty much the issue with Rewind. Unwind however costs a much more reasonable 3 mana which I think greatly increases its viability. Having three up is not such a tall order and assuming your Unwind resolves then you have a one for one free counterspell! Negate is a strong and desirable countspell and this cost re-jigged version should be comparably good. There will certainly be times Negate is better but I am rather leaning towards Unwind in a lot of cases. Obviously Negate is the better disruption on turn two however Negate isn't really that great on turn two. It counters the occasional 3 mana planeswalker from people on the play but otherwise the kinds of thing people do with their mana on turns two and three tend not to be things you want to Negate or they are creatures. In the very late game there is barely any difference between the two, it is all in the midgame where Unwind has the potential to really outclass Negate. Some really big swing plays will be possible. Negate something and then Anguished Unmaking something else or perhaps just flop out a Nimble Obstructionist and  attack a planeswalker to death. Great all round card design. Powerful and interesting but not abusive. Neither directly better or worse than Negate, just a similar sort of card with a lot more potential. Certainly it is more polar than Negate but I think it returns more than enough in interest value for that mild cost. Unwind is far from the levels of too polar, just being more so than the relatively stable Negate is not an issue.

Drudge Sentinel 0

Well this makes Kytheon look really good...

Rite of Belzenlok 5

One of the more interesting sagas to be printed. I can actually see this one doing some work in cube despite it's seemingly low initial impact. No aspect of this card is bad really. Sure, a pair of 0/1s for 4 mana doesn't sounds great but it isn't actually horrible there and then and obviously has more to offer subsequently. It is a good amount of blockers and quite a safe way to get this four mana saga rolling. This influx of dorks could work quite nicely in a Blood Artist / Goblin Bombardment style of deck. Just having stuff on the board and stuff going on is a good place to be in cube and Rite provides both. The next hit of 0/1s is even better as you didn't have to pay four mana for it! It should help you start to pull ahead if the 1st lore counter merely kept you treading water. Lastly you get a 6/6 flying trample token that might smack you if you can't feed it. That is pretty juicy at 4 mana, very juicy indeed when it also comes with four 0/1s and not ruined by the two turn wait on your big demon (mostly due to getting those clerics to soak up some trouble). The demons drawback should be negligible, you should be able to feed it with ease if needed and generally race the win down if you can't. Rite of Belzenlok produces 5 token bodies over two turns, it is 6/10 of stats and some nice key words in the mix. It is not far off Ishkanah when described as such! While this is very playable in the Blood Artist decks I am not sure how it will fare in other places. Control won't want this as they won't be able to feed the demon reliably and it just doesn't synergize with their general game plans well. Aggro decks will probably find this a bit slow and so we are just left with the theme decks and midrange ones. I can see midrange liking this but it is perhaps a bit durdly and aimless to be really good. Four drops want to have a huge impact like Kalitas and Rite isn't that sort of card. I am not even sure of any theme decks outside of Blood Artist ones that would really want this. Intangible Virtue lists likely have better options. Smokestack lists, much the same.

Cabal Stronghold 1

This is a long way off a Cabal Coffers. You need 5 basic swamps in play before this generates more than one mana and to my mind that makes it worse than Temple of the False God in most cases. You cannot use this with duals with the basic land type which makes it a mono coloured tool nor can you combo it with Urborg to count itself and more. Basically in cube this is only something you could play if all your other lands are swamps. Now if I am in that position of having mostly swamps I am much more likely going to look to Coffers, Lake of the Dead and the Urborg as ways to take advantage of my heavy black deck. Those cards are more powerful than Stronghold and work with each other. Cabal Stronghold has negative synergy with all of them and as such probably rules itself out. Tapping for colourless might look like some upside over Coffers but the reality is that Stronghold is so weak you need the ability to tap for colourless as that is all the card is likely to do in cube. If I had room for a colourless utility land in my black deck I imagine there are quite a significant number of lands I would elect to run over this, notably Nykthos and Temple of the False God and Myriad Landscape for all having similar late game ramping appeal. This is both super narrow and also impressively low power. It is a land however and it will see some play, mostly in EDH I suspect. I certainly don't see myself running this in cube. I had a mate who needed to try Magosi out before he accepted it blew, I imagine he will have a go on this at least once and thus accounting for most of the reason this is a 1/10 and not a flat zero.

Josu Vess, Lich Knight 5

Epic design, really impressed with how this one feels. Biggest ever stats on a creature card (Army of the Damned has more but it doesn't feel like a dork) for one thing pipping the Marit Lage by a single toughness! So how good is this all round? Sure 20/21 of stats and 9 bodies is enough to make Grave Titan seem limp but at 10 mana how often will that be a thing? Due to the kicker element of Josu he will not be something you cheat into play with Sneak Attack and the like as you do with a number of the more powerful dorks and token generators. Josu will only bring his army in cube when you have ten actual mana and that isn't the most common of events. It does happen, and has more chance of happening in specific deck types, green ramp routinely gets there for example. While low occurrence rate on the 10 mana mode it is pretty game winning. You are only surviving that if you can win the right away or have an appropriate Wrath effect. Josu is probably only behind Craterhoof and the Promised End as "I win buttons" in cube and in the same ballpark as them both. Craterhoof is cheaper and a quicker kill but it does require you to have three or more other dorks in play in most cases to seal the deal. Josu just does his thing all on his own. So the ten mana mode is certainly a nice perk but it is much more like a planeswalker ultimate, it can be used as a win condition but it wont come up all that much unless you need it to for your game plan and save it especially.

So how good is a 4/5 menace for 4? Actually decent I think. For a card that fails the Jace test I think I like Josu more than most. A 4/5 statline is really appealing, it was the main thing that made me like the new Weatherlight. Josu is very hard to kill for a dork with no defensive abilities/keywords. Josu should also be a decent threat with his evasion and reasonable punch. If it were just a 4/5 menace for 4 it would have no shot at seeing play in the cube. There might however be just enough small things that combine to get Josu more desirable. The legend and zombie tags are not irrelevant. If you just want a kind of meaty filler dork and Josu happens to empower some other synergy cards in your deck then perhaps Josu will appeal. More likely you are running a devotion deck or something and it is the higher odds on the kicker being used that make Josu a nice option.

Broadly speaking the top end is too uncommon and the bottom end is too fair for this to be a great cube card. Despite that I think Josu is going to be popular and perform above expectations. I think Josu is superior to Bloodline Keeper, if you have the Keeper in your cube Josu will be a nice replacement. I also prefer Josu to Siege Rhino, not because he is more powerful but because he is more diverse and rather less narrow. I would also replace Rhino with Josu but more for overall cube consistency reasons, the Rhino not failing the Jace test is a somewhat different kind of card. Kalitas and Persecutor are the two black four drop dorks I have in the cube at present that fail the Jace test. Kalitas is insanely good and has a state based effect that rather mitigates its failing the Jace test as you can always hold it to combo with something for some immediate value. Josu is going to have to compete with Persecutor, the fairer of the black four drops, to get any sort of lasting time in my drafting cube. Still great card design even if Josu doesn't quite make it in cube.

Arcane Flight 1

None of these effects have broken through into cube yet and this doesn't feel close to the best with things like the Cartouche and Curious Obsession out there. Not going to fully rule this out for some day being useful as it is cheap and does a reasonable amount of stuff!

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