Sunday, 24 June 2018

M19 Preliminary Reviews Part X

Liliana, Untouched by Death 3

I am a little split on this card. I like a tribal flavour on a walker but I also wanted a black four mana walker that was decent in a broader sense. So before we go further, this is utterly unplayable outside of a zombie deck. The abilities are all basically blanks without a decently high zombie count in your list. While there are zombies in the cube, enough even to power Gravecrawler, there are not enough to ensure this Liliana does much. If black were to be flooded with premium cube worthy zombies then perhaps this could be sensibly run in conventional a draft cube. For now this only has hope in tribal themed things. In such a home she is very strong. She has three abilities she can use right away, some control the board, some provide value and some provide safety. The first empowers the last, and hopefully other things in your list. The last can further empower the middle ability if it was not sufficiently active before. Nice self interaction and lots of options covering a good range of the game. Power wise it is somewhat harder to say as she is so linked to the zombie tribe. If it was just creatures then the card would be nutty good. It is that functionally in a zombie deck but those creatures will have a lower average power. Mostly it is being narrow that hurts Untouched by Death. Her power, even when limited to zombies, is decent. She is perhaps a bit win more in design in that her -2 is probably the one you most often want to use first but it can be a do nothing when you are behind. One other issue with Liliana being a tribal tool is that she isn't a hyper aggressive card. She is powerful enough that you probably want to run her which in turn will make your zombies deck a bit more midrangy which in turn is a bit more limiting on how you build. It will mean more disruptive and utility zombies and less aggressive ones. It will be interesting to try some zombie decks post M19 if nothing else.

Thorn Lieutenant 6

This is very Sylvan Advocate and probably just worse overall. Vigilance is actually great on Advocate, it means that even when being defensive it is gaining you value and doing its thing. Sylvan Advocate is like Wall of Roots while this is like Sylvan Caryatid. The pump on Thorn Lieutenant is nice but it isn't as good as getting a passive buff, even one half as big. The cost is just so high it is only going to be of much use when you have nothing much else going on. It means they will chump block or not block at all rather than try and kill or trade in combat when you have six up but that is most of what it will do. Getting a 1/1 token is nice but pretty mild. It make the card great against aggressive red decks but otherwise fairly irrelevant. Control decks will just ignore it until mass removal deals with it and midrange decks will just ignore it and make use of bigger dorks. Eventually they might need to kill it if the 6/7 cannot be handled but a 1/1 token at that point isn't all that exciting. This card does have all the right things for cube, it is high power, high all round playability and a nice high floor. It just is a bit aimless. No archetypes are desperate for what this brings to the table. It isn't really a value tool or an aggressive one. The tempo is decent and so it feels like a bit of a curve filler with a bit of mana sink potential. A reasonable way of hedging a bit against aggression without compromising too much on power or your own ability to pressure.

Isolate 7

Well now this is pretty exceptional. Not in terms of power as such but just in terms of being a much needed tool. So many of the most oppressive things in the game are one drops. Deathrite, Mother of Runes, Delver of Secrets, Skullclamp, Swiftspear, Land Tax, Gravecrawler, Grim Lavamancer, Figure of Destiny, Wild Growth, Isolate deals with them all and it does it immensely well. Isolate is great. It will be more great for modern and legacy than it will for cube but it will still be plenty good enough in cube to merit a slot. White is great at killing things but it isn't always great at lining its removal up well. It feels awful having to Swords a one drop only to lose to something massive later down the line. Isolate helps with letting white line its removal more suitably. Not just for being restricted to smaller things but also due to its wide range of permanent types. Isolate has a very Abrupt Decay feel about it. I feel like they will perform similarly in cube. The lower range on Isolate feels offset by the fewer colours and lower cost. Exile is also generally better than uncounterable. It means you can take out something less relevant like a Doomed Traveler or Chromatic Sphere and still feel like you are getting a good trade. Isolate will be a little bit Force Spike, there will be games it sits for a while without targets and then gets blown on something you didn't really care about just to make use of it but it is something you are going to be pleased to see in your starting hand. That being dead in hand aspect comes with the territory. That is the cost of having such an effective and broad removal spell so cheap. The times it totally saves you by giving you that key interaction in the early game will offset the times it is a dead card. My cube is one drop central and so while this will carry weight there it might not have the targets in something like the MODO cube. My cube has 73 targets in a 540ish sized cube. That may only sounds like it gives it a 13% hit rate but that is missing the point. Anguished Unmaking only has a 55% hit rate when measured like that. Of the non-land permanents Isolate is used against it has over a 26% hit rate which is enough.

Mystic Archeologist 2

Sure, better than Azure Mage, well done. There just are not the decks that really want this. If you want cheap dorks you don't want to spend five mana drawing cards. There are times in the odd combo deck you want the option to sink infinite mana to draw your deck but then you have loads of options on that already. I have done that about four times in my time cubing and not at all recently. I guess this is powerful enough that you might well pack it in some very silly big mana decks. If you can lay it on 7 mana so as to assure it is card advantage then it has an outside chance. Still think I would go the Tower of Fortunes route in most cases. One of the Tower cycle is a pretty sad thing to be passed up for as well...

Detection Tower 3

Not a drafting cube card by any means but a nice little sideboard tool to have access to. It is available for all and offers nice counter play to Mask of Memory type effects.

Hieromancer's Cage 0

Shamefull. This is the wrong direction to see things. Pretty much the first real stain on this set. Like, I would understand if this was a common but at uncommon it wouldn't have hurt limited to make this not insultingly bad. And right after the delight that is Cast Out.

Novice Knight 0

Only play this if you want a defender (which you don't, or not this one). This isn't even good enough to make a cube Arcades deck!

Leonin Vanguard 3

Interesting little card. Largely it is just worse than Boros Elite but not entirely. You don't have to attack with the extra guys for this to power up and you might just happen to want life. You might play this in a more aggressive take on a Soul Sisters deck. You might just play it in a super weenie deck cause it is just good enough if all you want is sixteen aggressive one drops!

Leonin Warleader 4

This is basically just a Hero of Bladehold dressed up a little differently. It is also a little bit worse. Not a lot worse at all and not categorically worse either. If you happen to want lifegain, or a four power blocker, or cats, then this might just be the four drop for you! Probably not as it is still just one of those cards that dies to removal effects. You fall so far behind when this gets shot with a Torch of Defiance or killed by Ravenous Chupacabra. I have not run Hero in my cube for a long while and not missed it at all. This is super powerful, it is the kind of card that makes waves in standard but it isn't right for most cubes.

Fraying Omnipotence 1

Interesting and high impact but it just feels far too situational. Pox is super hard to use in cube and not even that good and yet Pox seems a lot better than this. It is all about Death Cloud and Smallpox for ease of setup and control. Fraying Omnipotence is not easy to setup or abuse the symmetry of. I am only giving this a one because I am too chicken to rule out something this powerful. Really I think it is a zero.

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