Saturday 23 June 2018
M19 Preliminary Reviews Part IX
Sarkhan, Fireblood 6.5
At first look through I felt that the mana ability was too narrow and somewhat ruled this out. Then I got to thinking about it more and concluded you didn't actually need to use the mana ability for this to be decent. If you compare Sarkhan to Dack Fayden (who is a strong cube card) you find that the latter is actaully quite a lot narrower. Dack is gold which over halves his playability. His ultimate is nearly a blank in most cube decks and while very potent the -2 is often also a blank. Dack has one always good ability and one situational one. Now, Sarkhan has two good abilities and he is in just one colour. Yes, one of those abilities is his ultimate which cannot be used right away but that isn't too much of a problem. It means Sarkhan needs dealing with. You cannot just elect to ignore him as is often done against Dack. Ignoring Sarkhan will not just afford them card quality but ultimately it will lead to lots of dragons killing you! I think there are plenty of red decks that would happily play 3 mana to get a rummage every turn with that swarm of dragons as the potential pot at the end of the rainbow. Sure, it won't happen very often but it doesn't need to, all it has to do is make Sarkhan a threat. A three mana walker is quite a chore to deal with in cube and so Sarkhan will be scarier than he looks. Sarkhan is already red's best ongoing rummage card effectively having four toughness and haste. So basically I think Fireblood is playable with just the first +1 ability and the ultimate. It isn't broken in that role at all, more of a support card but a better one than it might look. Every now and again the other +1 will be useful too, there are some very good dragons even if few in number. It is something opponents will need to consider as well making it a little bit relevant even when not actually doing anything for you. In blue this card would be poor due to how much looting they have but he is red and so feels like he does enough to be cube worthy.
Spit Flame 1
I don't rate this very much but I cannot rule it out because it can be abused with cards such as Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury. Three mana burn is pretty weak in cube as is burn that only hits dorks. There are not close to enough cheap dragons to make this cube worthy and it shouldn't be powerful enough to build around.
Chaos Wand 0
Quite a lot of fun and even value but so much mana for utterly random outcomes. Well named card at the very least.
Poison Tip Archer 2
This is a fairly poor body for the cost. It is pretty easily removed and will mostly trade with the things you want to block with it. As a Giant Spider this isn't very impressive. Where this does have a chance is as redundancy for Blood Artist. Decks using those kinds of theme really get a lot out of these kinds of cards, they are basically finishers. You stall the board until you draw one and then you sac everything off and win. Narrow and low powered but sadly probably the third best at doing what Blood Artist does.
Arcades, the Strategist 1
This is very powerful but it is powerful in a way that is hard to build upon, especially in cube. If you could overlap this with Doran then you might well have a deck on your hands. Assault Formation is a help but having to pay to attack with defenders is a blow. If you just build a deck full of Walls and Arcades then you lose when you don't draw Arcades or indeed he eats the action end of an exile removal spell. I guess having Arcades as a commander would allow you to build an actual Wall deck but that isn't much help for cube. I will likely try this out in cube but I think we need another good card with (not Animate Wall!) this kind of effect before we have a properly viable thing. Presently in my head the deck is full of tutors and things to protect and force through Arcades and feels like it lacks the room to fill up on the actual defenders.
Demanding Dragon 1
This just feels like a bad Thundermaw. Pre Stormbreath era that might have been enough. Now in the post Glorybringer age this card just looks limp. Edicts are already one of the most unreliable effects in the game so adding to it the choice to forgo the Edict at all for five life further reduces that value. Demanding Dragon is bad at planewalker control and bad at being a Lava Axe and those are a big part of Thundermaw's potency in cube.
Heroic Reinforcements 5
I really like this! I think it is great card design. Being gold, a four drop, fairly linear and relatively fair in power level means this has almost no chance in my drafting cube. That being said, I like this card sufficiently that I will absolutely be building with it where possible. What I love about this card is how on theme it manages to stay despite doing a bunch of stuff. I like how it manages to be a support card, a stand alone card and a card with good potential for scaling. This card sums up Boros really well too. While perhaps not as cleanly done as Lightning Helix the card is more thematically Boros. The baseline is getting to smack with a pair of 2/2 tokens right away and having a residual Raise the Alarm should the tokens survive the attack. This is OK reach, OK tempo, OK value and a fairly nice way to handle planeswalkers. Despite not being super powerful it is still a nice solid floor to the card and it has a decent range. The thing about this floor however is that you shouldn't be on it very often. Most decks playing this will have dorks in play. Token decks typically don't struggle for board presence, it is pushing through that is hard. I expect to buff a couple of other dorks most of the time and I also expect the haste to apply to other dorks more often than you might think, hopefully over half the time. Heroic Reinforcements is the kind of card you play later rather than earlier meaning you may well have mana up to play things alongside it and if not you may well just have things in play to help you make dorks for all that positive scaling joy. I want to curve out turn two Young Pyromancer, turn three Monastery Mentor and of course turn four Heroic Reniforcements! That is 15 damage on that swing alone. Raise the Alarm meets Reckless Charge. Draggon Fodder meets Charge. Red cards meet white cards...
Dismissive Pyromancer 7.5
And just like that my claims about best rummager in red in the Sarkhan section are put to question. This is a great card although much more so for cube than other formats. This is just one of those nice rounded card. It is cheap, it is versatile, and it is high power which is really all you need to go a long way in cube. Those things make it playable and that is what earns and keeps cube slots. You can play Dismissive Pyromancer in aggro, in midrange and in control. You can even play it in any combo or synergy deck trying to use the graveyard. Much as I rave about this it is not actually very good at anything. A 2/2 body for two is not good. It is better than doing nothing but it is not a strong board development. A Flame Slash for five mana and a turns wait is shockingly bad as creature removal even if you can get a free chump block and use it at instant speed. Even the looting is bad, no one wants to pay a mana to loot, and certainly not to rummage. As a looter this is Battlefield Scavanger levels of weak. The overall card might be better than Sarkhan, Fireblood but the looting part very much isn't. So while this might be bad at what it does, it does a lot of things well enough and all of those things are things you want to do. It is like a red Supreme Will in that regard. It also has a much higher ceiling than most utility cards as most of those tend to be modal spells. Most utility creatures tend to have one effect that offers different positives in different situations such as Scavenging Ooze as lifegain or graveyard disruption. Anyway, if you get a couple of relevant combat steps and/or a couple of loots with your Pyromancer before you cash it in to kill something then it has done huge amounts of work for you. Lovely to see red getting some really well designed and useful utility dorks. Midrange red has gone from nonviable to top tier in not much more than a yearand Pyromancer will add to that progress in a big way!
Supreme Phantom 4
Not nearly enough spirits in cube to make this a good draft card but for a tribal deck this is one of the best lords ever printed. A 1/3 is better than a 2/2 and flying is better than the total lack of keywords most lords get for themselves. The cost is even comfortable! You could argue a case for Lord of Atlantis as he provides island walk as well but it doesn't matter, they are not in competition, it is just to illustrate how strong this lord is! Spirits are probably quite a good tribe now, they were a bit thin but they have some very strong cards in their ranks. A good cheap empowering spirit is just the ticket to ramp up the tribe!
Liliana's Contract 1
Tidings! Painful painful Tidings! There is some merit to draw being on an EtB effect but enchantment themed decks have never struggled for draw. Devotion is another perk for this but it is rather too high on the curve. Tidings isn't good either for the tempo cost and so the four life loss on this is an even bigger kick in the nuts than usual. As for controlling four demons... Don't if you want a good deck. It reminds me of Epic Struggle! Like, at what point do you have four demons in play and have not somehow won? Great in multiplayer, not so much in 1v1 play! That being said, I love a build challenge and will absolutely try and win some games with this. It can't be harder than Maze's End as a win condition!