Sunday 17 June 2018

M19 Preliminary Reviews Part IV

Rouge's Gloves 0

Holy hell they did a number on Mask of Memory... I was unaware that Mask was too powerful and in need of reigning in! I have not used or seen Mask of Memory in cube for over a decade. The card was fine but that is all it was. Gloves are not fine, don't let them near a cube.

The Various Planeswalker Deck Things

Luckily none of these are cube worthy although the way things are going it feels like we will soon be finding pushed playables in these product lines which would be awful. Court Cleric comes pretty close, if there were some more better Ajani walkers it might start to see some play.

Meteor Golem 1

This seems like an OK card to have as an out in your Goblin Welder sort of decks. I feel like this is low enough power that you probably try and find better solutions or forgo some entirely but still, nice to have options.

Blood Divination 0

Terrible. So bad it begs the question why both wasting the ink and card. This could have cost three and been interesting, and still not good enough I might add, just interesting.

Declare Dominance 0

Like a mass removal fight effect. Sadly this is awful. It is situational and easily blown out with removal. It isn't even able to kill any dork with a tap effect, or say, anything of relevance while a vehicle is in play...

Colossal Majesty 0

Lots of things like this in green and they all see zero play. Slow and unreliable.

Viashano Pyromancer 1

Not all that long ago I would have been impressed with this. Now it pales in comparison to cards like Earthshaker Khenra. Pyromancer is far too fair for cube play. The only chance this has is as a tribal card and even then it is pretty filler.

Thud 4

Fling for one less mana but at sorcery speed. This will absolutely see play all over the place. Most of the times Fling is used it is as a combo kill and the instant matters less than the cost. Thud is less versatile than Fling but Thud is better in the majority of the places you would actually play either. I am already designing a Ghoultree Fork Thud deck! I think too narrow for the drafting cube, I would rather the more flexible Fling there and I have not yet found myself wanting said Fling in the drafting cube in all the many years I have had access to it in.

Exclusion Mage 3

A Man-O'-War with better creature types and poorer utility. Or indeed an Aether Adept with lower utility but easier to cast. Presently in drafting cube the types on dorks in blue matters little. As a splash in a white weenie deck with a humans theme Exlusion Mage might be the best of the three but beyond that it feels less useful. I don't find I tend to run these cards very often, they are not enough tempo nor really enough power to achieve what you want them to do in cube. Exlusion Mage is fine and it is comparable but it is far from exciting. I hope I will never run one.

Skilled Animator 2

In some ways this looks like a really really good Blade Splicer while in others it looks like a risky and overcost Ensoul Artifact. To play this you need lots of artifacts which makes it too narrow for a drafting cube. For an aggressive artifact deck it probably just isn't powerful enough given what else is on offer for such things.

Cavalry Drillmaster 2

The overall package looks punchy and good value but I feel breaking it down dispels that initial impressive feel of the card. Basically a 2 mana 2/1 is pretty limp, it is weaker than all the aggressive white one drops and will need buffs or removal to do much of much in combat. Like sure, you play this and get to swing with your 1 drop past their 2/3 and they take four in the face, but then what? You sit there with a pair or 2/1s being held off by a Sylvan Advocate? Sounds poor. Two mana for a Shock to the face and a 2/1 is almost exactly what we ruled out in Viashano Pyromacer. This looks a bit better because of the first strike but it absolutely isn't. You need another dork for this to do anything. It is fair to say that white would be a lot more interested in Viashano Pyromacer than red due to not having the same reach or planeswalker control but not by enough to overcome how limp Drillmaster is. I will give this a little try just to confirm my suspicions. While I am pretty sure it is far too low powered and unreliable there is still a part of me that won't let this down. The card is a whole lot more impressive if you can give it flash! Even haste makes it a lot better.

Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants 6

Probably the best mono white Ajani and also the most cube playable Ajani. The original is still the most powerful in a specific sort of place but it is super narrow and linear in those. Goldmane does still get dug up for use frequently enough but he has long been gone from the drafting cube and will not be returning (for being too narrow). Adversary of Tyrants feels a lot more all round playable. He has two useful abilities which do not both rely on having stuff in play. That is the critical failing of more previous iterations of the walker. While you ideally want to flop Adversary down and pump a pair of dorks up you can still usefully make him without that capability in a lot of cases. Even the less aggressive decks should have some decent cheaper dorks it wants back. If you can buff two dorks you are in a great position, five loyalty on a four drop walker whilst adding +2/+2 to the board is about as much buffer as you can find on four drop walker. If not then a two drop back in play and a 2 loyalty walker is probably still good. While I do like this Ajani there is no hope of it being better than Knight-Errant or Ally of Zendikar. White would happily have another walker in the four slot but it does have to be a decent one. Just being better than previous Ajani's doesn't make for a decent card! This is good but it is isn't amazing. It is more playable than other Ajanis but does still need that bit more support than Knight Errant and Ally of Zendikar all of which leads me to think that Adversary of Tyrants probably will still get cut eventually. That being said, very few four mana walkers that are at least decent have been cut from my cube. Good design I would say, feels white, feels like Ajani and sits right on the line for power. The ultimate is a lovely design too, it isn't an auto win but it is powerful and flavourful and relatively accessible.

Nicol Bolas, the Ravager 7

Hmm, curious. A 4 mana 4/4 flying Ravenous Rats is OK. It is in fact really rather good. It is very Thought-Knot Seer. Not as disruptive but better value and power. Better late game too! The issue is obviously not in three colours when considered for playability within a draft. I cut Siege Rhino from my cube as it was just too narrow and Rhino is awesomely powerful. Grixis is a more common colour grouping than Abzan and this Bolas is quite close to the Rhino in power just on the upfront aspect. That is however most of the card as the majority of times Bolas will close the game out as an Air Elemental or eat removal before you get near seven mana. Flipping this Bolas is certainly a very powerful effect and should lead to winning the game but then most other seven mana plays win the game. The power difference in the Bolas planeswalkers is fairly negligible as they are all quite nutty. While I would rather a Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker in play than most other things I would absolutely rather have Nicol Bolas, the Ravager in my deck. I suspect that you would find that Nicol Bolas, the Arisen is in play far less than say a God-Pharaoh however you would find that Nicol Bolas, the Ravager was substantially more played than any 7 mana card within a deck! Essentially I am saying the upside on having a potent four mana mode vastly outweighs any difference in the top end modes. If you are fine with very gold cards in your cube then this is one of the better options. I am wary of such things but suspect such a cool card will be too appealing for mine and most other player bases to leave out of the cube. This card lets you harness the power of a Bolas walker without compromising your build. I have built many a bad deck just because I wanted to play big bad Bolas and I have seen others do it an awful lot too. This new offering will let people do that without hurting them. It might even show them why a gold 7+ mana walker is a dodgy include in a list! This will see play than cards like Siege Rhino not just for potential power reasons but also because Izzet, Dimir and Rakdos are all powerful and commonly played guilds and will often splash into the third colour of that trio. Splashing for this will not be too hard.

One final word of warning on this card, it is much much worse as a planeswalker than all the other Bolas cards. Probably even the event deck one although I don't know what that does off hand! This is a better card all round, a much better card, but when you want just the walker it will be a liability. Imagine a control mirror game where you know their hand is full of things like Swords to Plowshares, or even Wrath of God effects which is a fairly common state of affairs. Either they can kill it at instant speed with the discard trigger on the stack which is really bad, even though it might be a 2 for 1. The point is you turned one of their low value or dead cards into an answer for your  power plays. Control games are all about lining up answers to threats appropriately and this Bolas isn't great at that. Even if they just have the Wrath you will need 11 mana to get your walker online or you will have to wait a bit and waste countermagic on their dead mass removal. All in all, 11 mana for the Arisen is dodgy and pretty low value, even with a discard and a potential attack in the sky for 4 thrown in. I really don't expect to see this flipped all that often. Like the final level on Figure of Destiny or Kargan Dragonlord. Likely less often than those even. Again, this isn't a problem, the front half of the card is plenty enough to carry this. The flip is just lovely flavour. It wins hearts and minds and makes the odd longer game a bit spicier and more exciting.

Lathliss, Dragon Queen 0

This is all sorts of win more. I guess it is a cute way of deck space saving in a Dragonstorm deck. With six mana cards just play stand alone bombs not cards that need subsequent big cards to hit the value bar needed. I am sure people will have lots of fun with this in EDH but it isn't good for much outside of that. I can think of multiple cheaper dragons I would rather have put into play that this even disregarding cost. 

Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire 0

I would much rather run a Broodmate. Or indeed most of the other Jund colour dragons. This has no immediate impact and it has wildly random outcomes. You can turn your own stuff into nothing more than information for your opponent while upgrading their threats into more powerful ones. Generally the attack trigger will put you ahead but it isn't reliable or even that easy to setup. As with Lathliss, this feels much more of a multiplayer card than anything else. Cute as an answer to things but cute does not cut it on tri coloured Six drops. Far too vulnerable of a card to removal as well for what it is trying to do.

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