Wednesday 20 June 2018

M19 Preliminary Reviews Part VI

Alpine Moon 1

Weird card. This is a good way to shut down combo decks based on non-basic lands but they are not that much of a feature in cube. I don't think this is powerful enough to run as anything other than a counter to combo decks. Using this to turn off a manland or a Rishadan Port sounds awful. You are a card down and you might even fix their mana! This should be pretty hot for constructed formats but I doubt it is seeing much cube love. I have won more games in cube with Maze's End (once) than I have with Dark Depths...

Psychic Symbiont 1

I don't really see it but you might find some use for this in a combo shell. Some new Aluren style deck or perhaps some Recurring Nightmare thing. If you are playing this it is for the EtB effects on a creature so as to abuse the type, not so you can cast it and attack and block with it. I highly doubt this will ever see the light of cube play but it isn't utterly inconceivable.

Draconic Disciple 0

Three mana ramp cards need to double ramp or otherwise be insane. A Grey Ogre with a seven mana self sac ability is a long long way off insane.

Metamorphic Alteration 1

For general use this has two applications. Either you buff your crap dork or you turn a threat into an irrelevance. For either of those things to be a reality you need there to be a crap thing and a powerful thing in play although what your options are from that point depends on where those things are on the battlefield rather more. Buffing your own stuff is always dodgy with auras as it leads to savage blowout plays with removal. On top of needing a thing yourself you pretty much need the coast to be clear ( them tapped out, counter backup, complete information, or I guess Spellskite type protection) for this to be a buff. It may have mild utility as such but it is way too inconsistent for it to contribute much to its value. We are therefor primarily looking at this as a weird removal effect to evaluate it and in that light we quickly see how unplayable this card is if that wasn't already clear ( it took me this long to get there). There might well be some combo applications for this but I doubt it, or at least I doubt they are anywhere near good.

Voracious Hydra 0

Neat design that gives you some nice control but not enough raw power for cube play. Sure, it has synergies and interactions you can abuse but none are combos that win the game, they are all just ways of scaling this up. And that is the problem, you just don't want this and so you don't want to bother scaling it up.

Sarkhan's Broken Seal 1

Intriguing design on this one but not one that is going to make it very far in cube. This seems like an EDH card where you can hit all opponents, have a big general and time luxury of time to cast big things. In cube you are going to really struggle playing enough things that trigger this to merit inclusion. It is a card like Tooth and Nail, it enhances top end when you should just play more top end. Not a strong 40 card deck spell. The best chance for this is with some card that bounces itself, Pearl Lake Ancient say (although I am sure there are better options, it is just the first I thought of and I don't have the time to go find the best options much as I wish I could....). If you can setup a situation where this is something you can trigger at will then perhaps it is viable. Sounds like more effort than payoff but still, enough to keep it from getting ruled out. Pandemonium and Electropotence may help this card to see some combo action but they may also just be sufficiently better as to prevent this getting used. Pandemonium is absolutely the most easily abused of all three.

Mistcaller 3

Nice, I like what has been done here. A new take on Containment Priest and a good way to powercreep the merfolk one slots without diverging from the colour pie. Not a lot to say on this one. It is a good sideboard card, it is a playable maindeck card in a tribal deck, it would be a fine cube inclusion if you have cheat in fat dork themes in your cube. Blue was already the best at countering those strategies so you might not even need it there. Just exciting to have more viable one drop blue dorks even if they are not all that powerful! With good flicker effects you can turn this into removal so expect this to become more interesting down the line if such things present themselves.

Nightmare's Thirst 4

Ooh! Well I do rather like this. That however does not mean it is good, that we will need to discover through mental probing and play. The real test is if this is better or worse than Tragic Slip as they are very similar cards. Both are baseline B to give -1/-1 at instant speed and that is a pretty common baseline for black removal options. You can get it with all sorts of frills. Slip sits atop that list in a general sense as removal benefits most from scaling. Slip can kill those turn one elves but it can also kill those late game Titans. Nightmare's Thirst also has scaling so I suspect it will at least be above the other -1/-1 cards even if it doesn't trump the Slip. One life is nice, it is extra nice in black, but it isn't making a big difference to the baseline of the card. Especially when you could have a 1/1 saproling if you want. Basically, and obviously,  Nightmare's Thirst in a cube, or in a specific deck, is as good as the lifegain you have access to. If you have Zuran Orb and an active Ivory Tower in play (because you are playing a Necro deck from the nineties) then Thirst is great. If you only have Kalitas and a Grey Merchant of Asphodel in your deck as ways of gaining life then Thirst is too under powered. It is not just about quantity of lifegain or indeed the amount of that lifegain but how cheap and accessible that lifegain is. Those are the most important things and there are relatively few of those in cube. It certainly feels like creatures die more often than life is gained. That alone is pretty much enough to secure Slip over Thirst in a cube setting. That could change over time, I doubt Thirst will ever be better than Slip on average but it could well reach the point in cube where it is good. Indeed, you could build a cube in which it was good if you really wanted to. Slip is a better late game card and is better able to handle very large dorks Thirst is going to be a lot more convenient to empower in the early and mid game. You can kill a two toughness dork on turn two with just a life land. Perhaps their Oust lets you smackdown on their Avacyn! This is a card to keep an eye on. Black already wants lifegain cards and this adds to that desire a lot. There are certainly decks where this would significantly out perform Slip or indeed most other black removal but they will not happen often enough for this to be cube worthy just yet. I am super hopeful that I will get to add this to the cube soon, I think the lifegain elements introduced in M19 are much needed and quite exciting for the direction of the card design at present.

Epicure of Blood 0

Nearly a combo card but too expensive for one thing. Not translating 1 for 1 but instead an instance of lifegain for 1 being the other thing.

Shield Mare 0

A sideboard tool only and not even good enough there. Yes, this murders red decks but so do a lot of cards, cheaper ones at that. This is probably a 1 for 1 plus six life against red which will be back breaking for them. They might not care about a 2/3 though in which case this is a shocking 3 mana for 3 life.

Vinemare 0

I am not sure I have ever said this before, but I prefer Thrun! Hexproof is an odd one. It is either very good because the dork it is on is well worth protecting or it needs to be on something cheap so that you can then scale it up more effectively. A Sword on a Slippery Boggle is cool and adds a lot of value, a Sword on Vinemare is slow and generally less exciting. A pretty vanilla four mana dork with 3 toughness isn't a good hexproof card, you need to buff the defense else it fails pretty hard in combat.

Lightning Mare 1

I kind of prefer Mardu Scout to this and I am not a big fan of the RR 3/1 particularly. I don't much care about this being uncounterable as it is a low impact spell. It will mess up someone trying to curve with Remand but that is the best it can really hope for. I am not even excited by the blue dorks being unable to block it. There are not many blue dorks nor do many decks rely on them for blocking with, the best it will do here is bypass Baleful Strix and True Name. Blue typically relies on other colours for creature control and so a 3/1 that has all this anti-blue shenanigans isn't going to have the desired result against blue all that often. The half firebreathing is nice but not as nice as dash. It is typically better on dorks with higher toughness than power. You will rarely get to trade up with this and mostly wind up trading down. This card does have a lot on it so hard to rule out but I don't expect to be running it anywhere.

Surge Mare 6

Now this could be just the ticket. Unlike Lightning Mare this is actually pretty effective against the colour it hoses (ha! the hose-horse cycle). This has the best evasion of all five Mares and with green having no real removal this has a great shot of being a pain in the arse for a lot of green mages. A 0/5 blocker for two is great, it holds off loads and is hard to take down. Being able to make it a 2/3 or even a 4/1 is huge as well. It allows you to actually prevent smaller dorks attacking with your 0/5 rather than just holding them off. It allows you to pressure with your wall when you can and it even makes it quiet a punchy threat or able to trade up well. The looting is almost the worst part of this card (mostly because you generally have to pay 1U to get it) and looting is amazing! This is a versatile card and a very skill intense one. I like how the +2/-2 ability will lead to complicated combat. I am sure I will attack with this loads with zero intention of pumping so as to tie up other blocker for free. What do they block it with? A 3/2 that will trade but only if I want to? Just chump it with a 1/1? Commit a 5/4 to killing it and risk a trade? Just let it through and let them get looting valeu? Surge Mare looks like a real chore to play efficiently against. It looks like it dominates green heavy players nicely too. It is not insane power but it is solid and does a lot.

Plague Mare 7

This seems a little bit oppressive in the kind of Chainwhirler way. Most decks have at least token chaff, some have 2/1s, some have mana dorks, some invest in 1/1 flying tokens and so on. Sure, this will do little more than be a Grey Ogre some of the time but it will be pretty nuts the rest of the time. Even killing one relevant thing with this makes it look better than most of the other 187 dorks black has. Whenever you kill 2 or more relevant things (which can be, and often is, 1/1 vanilla tokens) then Plague Mare will be devastating. It will be Arc Trail top end levels of swing. This even does some good work on combat just by shrinking their team a bit. That could well be enough to turn the tide and will often lead to dead planeswalkers or shocking trades. I wish this card was a little less polar but that is near impossible to do with conditional mass removal cards. Might as well just go for playable which this very much is. It is not the power of Chainwhirler but it is ever so much more playable. I have run Plague Spitter as a anti weenie cards loads in the past and to good effect but I think Plague Mare will take on that mantle now.


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  2. I love your evaluations. I have a peasant cube (commons and uncommons only) so a lot of this isn't applicable, but you are spot on most of the time. Plague Mare is kind of insane for me. Especially seeing as I have a subtheme in Mardu (and to a lesser extent in blue) of etb removal creatures, and this is the first mass removal etb creature at uncommon. Vine Mare is also exactly what I've been looking for to hose removal based control decks. And Departed Deckhand is a super above average aggro card for me. Anyways, I loved reading this.

    1. Really appreciate the kind words. I am glad to hear there is crossover appeal. I wish I could do more to cater for people running alternate forms of cube, EDH, and even touch on draft and constructed but I simply don't do any of that any more (or ever in the case of EDH). One can only write about what they know!

      Plague Mare has been performing well thus far in my cube too! I didn't really look at Vine Mare as rares and mythics provide more interesting options but I can appreciate how nuts it is in peasant. I'll try and watch out more for that sort of thing in future reviews.