Monday 30 July 2018

Thoughts and Additions from Commander 2018

I think they have done a great job on the commander set this year, design wise on the new cards at least, I have no comment on any other aspect of it. The cube has become a little dominated by over powered commander cards and it has been making the release of other sets a little less relevant. Over powered cards are not good for the game, interesting cards are, and that seems to be something Wizards are demonstrating with this latest offering. Commander 2018 is full of stuff that reinvigorates older cards and mechanics which creates more options and a deeper more interesting game. Indeed, a bomb card closes down options as you feel you have to play it. Commander should be used to print cards they don't want to print in standard but not because they are bombs and that is exactly what they have done here. Almost all the cards are ones I want to play with and build around but none got a rating above a seven. There are not many cards I expect to last in the drafting cube and yet I still want to get the product.

The only thing that would have made this better for me and from a cube perspective is more one drops. I just want the redundancy options there a bit more, they don't need to be that powerful! I would have quite liked another Wild Growth style card which would have fitted in well here. I still really want more one mana hand disruption and I feel like Commander is the most suitable place to fulfill those desires. Infinite Atlas (for white card advantage), Enchanter's Bane, Aminatou (for more top of deck setup) are just some examples from this set of good design on effects that were missing from the total card pool and now, thanks to this release we have. I am glad to see a lot of interesting and playable cards to enjoy but I think I am even more glad there are no True-Name Nemesis or Fractured Identities. From a social perspective I think you push the casual players apart from the competitive ones if all the best cards for cube and EDH are not features of standard and modern. It is nice to have some sleepers, cards that never did anything in competitive play, but having a significant portion of a cube made up from cards that are only legal in eternal formats reduces the accessability of it. Cube flourished as a format due to how familiar all the cards were. There were probably only 720 good cards when I first made my cube! Almost all of them featured in great decks and so most people could play cube easily which is pretty handy for a such a complex and deep format. I am noticing people struggling a little more to translate general magic play experience into cube quite so effectively. Likely this is just a cost of having a nice deep pool of interesting cards spanning 25 years. I would certainly take the cost of increasing barrier to entry for the influx of new juice. Either way, toning down the upper power level of the sets outside of standard and modern is a good idea, especially if you turn up the exotic, interesting and needed cards as well!

To Add

Turntimber Sower
Saheeli, the Gifted
Aminatou, the Fateshifter

To Test (in roughly the order  from top to bottom of best chances)

Emissary of Grudges
Retrofitter Foundry
Night Incarnate
Primordial Mist
Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign
Varina, Lich Queen
Ancient Stone Idol
Octopus Umbra
Blood Tracker
Infinite Atlas
Boreas Charger

Exotic Reserves

Saheeli's Diretive
Entreat the Dead
Yuiko, the Tiger's Shadow
Coveted Jewel
Enchanter's Bane
Whiptongue Hydra
Estrid the Masked
Reality Scramble
Genesis Storm
Nesting Dragon
Nylea's Colossus
Tuvasa, the Sunlit
Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle
Estrid's Invocation
Kestia, the Cultivator
Magus of the Balance

Sunday 29 July 2018

Commander 2018 Preliminary Reviews Part V

Varina, Lich Queen 5

This is pretty good. It is all the right sorts of things for cube. It has loads of utility, fills loads of roles, offers up and benefits from synergies, has scaling options both for point in the game and for construction. In the latter case you will likely even get value from this the turn you make it (as you can smackdown with a zombie already in play) even if on curve which is otherwise one of the more obvious potential downsides to the card. No one likes to pay four mana and a card to have it cleanly killed after all. The other obvious drawback is narrowness due to being three colour. Grixis and Esper are at least the most commonly seen three colour pairings and by a long old way. While almost everything about this card seems great I am a little worried it is just ultimately a bit fair on the one hand and perhaps even a bit much in places with over draw. In cube you can't go nuts on looting else you will mill yourself to death. Varina does a lot of things, lifegain, token generation, card quality, mana sink, lots of roles you might want your deck to have. The issue is that she is quite a way off being great at any of those roles. There is a long old line of cards that do any of those things much better. There are probably a decent number of dorks that get a couple done that are still more powerful. When you are looking at a 3 colour four drop to do something for you I would feel pretty ripped off if I wasn't getting a premium service! Varina is a little bit Breya and a little bit Scarab God but falls well short of both in power. Both of those are far more resilient to removal for starters.

Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow 3

Certainly a whole lot more powerful than Ninja of the Deep Hours. The extra toughness is great. The loss of power isn't ideal but I prefer the overall size of a 1/3 to a 2/2, especially one you quite want to keep in play. The trigger is nice, it is a high threat effect, not just for the card advantage but also the potential to hit big. If you eat seven in the face from this on turn two you are going to feel like you have lost. You are certainly happy enough to concede information on what you draw for that damage you get to do with the trigger. Sadly, despite how cool this looks I don't see it being any sort of mainstay in cube. Gold makes it narrow and functionally it is a bit clunky and hard to work. You need something to get through and then you need to be able to force through a 1/3. You need to do all this while not getting beaten about the face or controlled as well. Yuriko is super conditional, fairly high risk, fairly easily countered or stopped and in need of specific colours and build support. The card is pretty fun and high power level but it doesn't feel like it is working out all that well for it in a cube setting. I feel like I might just rather have a Shadowmage Infiltrator as an option. I shouldn't overlook the tribal aspect of this card, if we get many more playable ninja, ideally a cheap evasive one, then this starts to look a lot more dangerous. It is already quite interesting with Mutavault alone to empower it!

Entreat the Dead 4

A mirror to the white Angels version. While this obviously requires more setup than Angels it is going to be substantially more powerful when you do fire it off. Most recursion targets worth their salt are going to win the game by themselves. Two will rarely fail and with any more than that you are probably winning with random cube creatures! The minimal ranges I am happy to Entreat the Angels are already starting to seem like overkill for Entreat the Dead. Power is not really the problem however. Entreat the Angels is plenty powerful enough, the issue is reliably casting it which is doable but requires dedication. Entreat the Dead not only requires you to prime your graveyard but it asks that you include top heavy recursion targets that fill up your deck with clunk. Reanimate decks are hard to build and balance, as are miracle decks. Doing both in one shell feels very hard and likely not worth it. Entreat the Dead already feels a bit like overkill! One very positive thing about Entreat the Dead is that the hard cast five and seven mana modes are actually quite acceptable. Angels is pretty awful au naturale while Entreat the Dead is still pretty powerful. You can likely just supplement a Reanimate deck with this card, perhaps in the slot often occupied by Living Death, when you have a smattering of support for it. You can probably get away with a Vampiric/Mystical Tutor and one other decent tool, say Brainstorm, and that would be enough. Given those are all great cards and have lots of overlap I do expect to see this getting run. It is narrower than a lot of recursion spells but its raw power will temp people into building with it and I suspect with reasonably good success. It is probably worth running in a cube supporting Reanimate strategies.

Magus of the Balance 2.5

Actual Balance is seeing less and less play in my cube to the point where I am considering cutting it. Literally the only archetype that plays it now is Breya good stuff and only because it has lots of artifact mana and planeswalkers and therefore naturally abuses the synergy. All the other decks damage themselves too much to sensibly run Balance. That or they lean too much on having lots or lands, lots or cards or some dorks to be able to sacrifice them off, or indeed to just have the desired effect when you want a full Wrath. Control decks used to use Balance as a cheap Wrath but now they lean so much on having a bit of creature presence that Balance is no use at clearing the board. So, if a two mana spell isn't good enough what hope does a Grisly Bear with a five mana tap ability to do the same thing have? I reckon I prefer Timestream Navigator to this and that has done nothing of note. It has not been considered for anything in my cube, let alone seen play. The threat of Balance is probably better than Balance but having a high threat level Grisly Bear isn't all that exciting. I deeply dislike this card but I suspect it will still see some play. It does offer redundancy, and even at a turns delay and seven mana the effect is still very powerful. You can build around Balance easily and to great effect and redundancy will encourage that. This will be a really naughty target for Ojutai's Command. Narrow and fair yet still potentially devastating.

Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign 5

Pretty stupidly strong card. It is just slow enough that it isn't a great combo card which is fortunate due to how many good top end Eldrazi cost odd amounts. It is also enough colours that this isn't necessarily an auto include on power levels. This is a solid old midrange or control card that wins games very quickly from a number of angles if it isn't dealt with. It is quite like a Baneslayer in many ways but rather than a huge life swing Yennett offers card value and perhaps mana value. Yennett is easier to attack into than a Baneslayer but only when the Angel is on defense. Once is gets aggressive Baneslayer is only hard to race, you can attack all you like! Vigilance is pretty big on Yennett, it allows you to milk value while also holding up some defenses. I have to say, Yennett would be a lot better in my cube if he did even things. The cards you most want to play for free off the back of it cost 4 or 6. That bit of the card is kindof just gravy, this is pretty good as just a big old Thieving Magpie! Despite having no protective abilities Yennet is pretty tough to take down. The only conditional black removal spell I have that kill her is Go for the Throat and Dismember. Red needs at least two removal cards to bring down her five toughness. Only white is strong at dealing with her and white can be controlled when you are blue and black, even if you are just a midrange deck. I don't love adding gold cards into the cube. I am more willing to do so for cards in colour combos that are frequently played which is the case for Esper at least. It seems as if there are three Esper cards all looking to get a cube slot from Commander 2018, I am not even sure if that makes it harder for them due to competition or better for them with the increased support of the others!

Sower of Discord 1

Cool effect but rather hard to use well on a six drop. The card feels a bit like Sulphuric Vortex in that it is great when you are winning and feels like it locks you into that position. Sadly it is pretty bad when you are losing. It is easy to 1 for 1 with removal and doesn't sit well in the kinds of deck that are generally ahead in life. Seems unlikely to see play but I'll give it a safety 1/10 just for unique effect and a passable body for the cost. If there is a good way to damage yourself then this could have a dodgy combo build!

Aminatou's Augury 1

Eight is a little steep. This is a card you cheat out somehow rather than cast, then it is pretty good. Sadly decks that cheat out eight mana spells struggle enough already with build, this doesn't win on its own and it requires attention to construction in a way that Emrakul, the Promised End does. And that is hard going! Indeed, the best place I can imagine this is a Promised End deck due to overlap they have. Perhaps one with some Aetherworks Marvel goings on too? Sounds ludicrous although quite fun. This card isn't good, the effect is very very powerful but the card really isn't. Pricey on top of hard to build with. Cool enough for me to want to build with it at least.

Night Incarnate 4.5

This one is confusing me a little. I think the differing modes of use, seeming flexibility and utility are masking the underlying under performer. At first glance this looks great to me. When I start to break it down however it feels like it falls apart. Four mana to -3/-3 the board is decent but you can do rather better. Languish saw almost no play and looked weak when it did. The only thing this has on Languish is single black in the cost. Splashable mass removal is nice but how weak are you willing to go for that? For my conditional mass removal spells I really like them at least to kill creatures with toughness less than or equal to the CMC of the card and this only does less than. So, the evoke mode is useful but it isn't strong enough to carry the card on its own. It has to be part of something else you also want. So, how good is the 3/4 deathtouch body for five? Overly awkward I would say. Mostly because you lack control over the trigger and as such you have to build careful around it. You cannot have a card that if it gets killed it takes out more of your own cards than it does your opponents. Basically Night Incarnate can only be run in creature light decks which are generally control decks. You certainly don't want this in a combo deck. If you want the mass removal you are evoking this so you are only casting it when you don't need to Wrath. Perhaps they only have a couple of small dorks and you are fairly stable. Then it is quite good they lose tempo and value if they kill the Night Incarnate and they are at risk if they try and extend around it. If you can get into that position this is going to buy you all the time you need but I think that if you can lay a five drop while only under mild pressure you are probably winning enough already. Night Incarnate is a limp mass removal card and a fairly low power board stall tool. Much as neither side of the card is good the card is offering a fairly polar effect and the option on just running out a medium sized dork that trades well with other dorks. There are not many cards that are bad however you cast them but simply offer enough of a range of effects to be playable, Supreme Will and Doomfall are the only ones that spring to mind. Night Incarnate could well be one of them. Certainly they are harder to spot and evaluate than other cards. The way modular cards scale is unique and highly contextual. I am not confident calling this card one way or the other. It feels good but looks bad. It is very much one for the testing. Even if it does turn out to be good it will still be narrow due to not wanting many other creatures with it. That in turn means it needs to be really good to last in cube.

Boreas Charger 3

I am a big fan of this card, the art is captivating for one thing. It is a bit Land Tax and a bit Knight of the White Orchid. Being a 2/1 for 3 and having the effect when it leaves play is rather an issue as it will be very slow to impact the game. In the decks that could run this to reasonable effect it is likely going to do little to nothing a lot of the time beyond the what the body does. It might thin the deck slightly but then if that is something you are keen on just pick up more sac lands and Baubles! For this to shine I think you want the kind of deck that is both low to the ground but that also has a lot of mana sinks and late game. White weenie decks will goldfish pretty quick but they can also endure long games and threaten for extended periods. If you build less all in and more robustly the Boreas Charger will serve you well. It will usually have a relevant body despite its small size just down to flying and so will need dealing with. Most slower decks, particularly as the mid game develops will have more land and so Charger is going to be a bit Yavimaya Elder. You can also abuse Charger a bit with flicker effects with it being a leaves play trigger not a dies one. Seems a bit hopeful as flicker decks will less consistently have fewer lands than opponents. Overall this seems like it only goes well into a small subsection of builds and is only OK in power. For a card that hard to optimize I would want much more raw power. I do like this card but I don't hold out massively for its chances. Feels like it would compete with Bygone Bishop and it feels like it only comes out looking better in the face of heavy disruption and control. In general the Bishop does more right away and is more dangerous. Bishop is also one of the less potent white three drop dorks in my cube presently. I'll test this but I think I know where it is ending up sadly.

Primordial Mist 4

I really like this card. I think it is great design and I think it does a great job of building on the manifest mechanic in the right way. There are loads of great mechanics that have lots of design space in them left to explore and the commander sets are a great way of doing that. This one card drastically improves the chances of many other cards for cube (and more importantly I suspect EDH) and that is a good thing. It is also fine without other face down cards supporting it. I hope they continue in this trend of revisiting and supporting cool mechanics. So how good is Mists? A five mana enchantment that makes a 2/2 token every turn is OK but that is it, even with it making them at EoT rather than in upkeep. It would just be bad if you had to wait. You need three 2/2s with this before it is breaking even. A five drop you need in play for three turns to become good value is only something you can run in slow decks and so this is pretty narrow. What makes this interesting is the manifest elements. Manifested cards are way way better than tokens. They are much better against bounce and they do things like fill up your yard. That is a mild boost to Mists. The big boost is the ability to exile them at will and potentially play them. Just being able to exile your dorks is quite useful for fizzling spells and effects. If you happen to be able to play the spells as well then that is super saucy. Primordial Mists is almost like a planeswalker that draws a card or makes a 2/2 due to how you can use your manifest dorks. While that is a relatively tame walker at five mana the fact it cannot be attacked to death and the value of the manifest 2/2s rather than tokens might actually make it pretty strong. Drawing cards and developing the board is most of what you want to do in cube to get a win. This is absolutely another need to test card. I think it is one of those cards right on the cusp. It will be exceptional sometimes, unplayed fairly often and unremarkable the rest of the time.

Saturday 28 July 2018

Commander 2018 Preliminary Reviews Part IV

Heavenly Blademaster 1

Seems shocking in any scenario I can come up with other than the make lots of powerful equipment including a haste giver and one shot people. I just starting doing a bit on why you couldn't do combos with attacking creatures without redudancy when I looked it up and found several similar cards. Both much weaker but also cheaper. Could Boros have a combo deck in the making?! Probably it does but any 40 cards is a deck... It is probably somewhere in the passable to fine range. It is unlikely to be broken. I suspect now that I have thought of it I will have to try it out which means I will want to buy some terrible cards to weigh down the cube. The good part of this card is the all equip bit, buffing your other dorks isn't valuable and it isn't something you can abuse. The explanation for why is too long for how good this card is but the answer is essentially just play Glorius Anthems instead and then not this as well.

Turntimber Sower 7

Well now this is rather the interesting card. It has reasonable base power level. It has far reaching synergies and it has a home already waiting for it where it brings a lot to the table. Base stats are OK and the cost is convenient. Passively getting free 0/1 plants in a number of different and easy to achieve ways is pretty potent. In cube with all the looting, discard, sac lands and self mill I reckon this card is not far off a Rabblemaster in token output. It will often make more and do more with them due to not having to run them to their deaths. They likely stick around better than Nissa's due to them not needing to protect a planeswalker. Finally Sower has a sac outlet option. It provides value which is nice but it is pretty extreme to use needing three things to die. The value of three 0/1s is generally more than a land as is the value of having a pair of 0/1 plants to allow the option on a painless sac of one of your good creatures. Sac outlets are great for fizzling things and this is only an OK sac outlet in that setting. Having a  mana cost and needing it to be a mass sacrifice does rather inconvenience it all. It is best for firing off Blood Artist triggers for a win. That is indeed the archetype it would appear to be the most potent in as it is like Goblin Bombardment in that it does two of the main things the deck wants to do. For cube, at least for my current cube meta, this is going to be one of the standout cards from this set in draft. This has all the makings of a good cube card. OK stats for the mana, relatively low cost and loads of text! It has a decent passive and a useful activated ability chock full of potential synergies. This is the kind of card that leads to good games and I look forward to playing and building with it.

Estrid's Invocation 2

You need a lot of enchantments for this to be playable but when you hit that threshold you can do some fairly naughty things. Just repeatedly getting EtB triggers will be nice. Enchantments are odd, mostly they provide an effect and as such a lot of them do not stack up all that well. Even in an enchantment themed deck you would still need to be fairly careful with your inclusions if you want to make the most out of this. Hard to use well and all sorts of narrow but it still looks pretty dangerous to me.

Kestia, the Cultivator 3

Narrow but powerful. While you want synergy for this is it plenty potent without, it is more about the colours on top of niche synergies that make this so narrow. Deck space will be the real enemy of this card. It is a bit too all round for how demanding it is. The power is good but the aimlessness of the card works against it. It is a bit too value oriented and top end for the more aggressive decks and it is a bit too creature and combat focused to shine in the slower enchantment based decks. As such this is probably best off in a midrange deck with very mild supporting synergies, like a Courser of Kruphix and a Control Magic or something, perhaps one more thing, might be enough to tip this from being just good to being naughty.

Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle 2

Super cool design if nothing else! Mostly this is a Simic version of Sisay's Ring which is pretty poor. Simic have substantially better options for ramping than a four drop that taps for two. You might run it in a extreme top end ramp deck but only because it is a split effect card being ramp and some action. Hedron Archive and Cultivator's Caravan do not see much play at all and this is certainly narrower and likely less good so not off to a great start. The other aspect of this is that you get a big dork down the line. Five spells can be done in a couple of turns with ease if you have much in hand but if you are nearing top deck mode five spells is going to take so long you might never see the end. A vanilla 12/12 is also pretty useless. It dies to a lot of removal easily and bounce is not far off hard removal for it as well with that resetting the counters. Lack of any protection abilities or more importantly evasion ones really hurt the chances of Arixmethes. I like how you can leave it as a land until their EoT using an instant to awaken it, this pseudo flash makes it a little more dangerous. Due to how cool this is I will certainly play with it a bit but my expectation is to be very unimpressed with this. I think you could probably use this as an OK win condition in a control deck in concert with Berserk but that is not that space efficient or reliable for a control win condition, nor is it as dangerous and unannounced as a Splinter Twin combo. Mostly this is interesting, I don't think it is all that useful or good. It certainly doesn't feel worth speeding up with Thespian Stage and Hexmage.

Tuvasa, the Sunlit 2.5

Great dual purpose card for most enchantress decks in Bant. While not quite the same abuse of draw that can be had from your classic Verduran and Messa Enchantress cards one per turn is still pretty decent. It is as much as you tend to get from either of the others when playing with bigger enchantments like Starfield of Nyx and Sigil of the Empty Throne. Tuvasa also doubles up as a reasonable threat. Tuvasa should be acceptably sized at most stages of the game and from not that long into the midgame you can expect a decently under cost body to go with your strong upside. Very narrow but suitably potent.

Ever-Watching Threshold 0

In heads up this seems pretty bad. It is in the hands of your opponent, it requires you to be under pressure, and even if your opponent is entirely obliging they will not always be able to attack you. There are better ways of drawing cards.

Nylea's Colossus 2

Cool card but somewhat unplayable as a standalone. The trigger is hard to fire off past the initial cast and it is pretty hard to setup all that well. You really want a high powered evasive dork ready to go. Perhaps there is some sneaky Replenish combo with this for a Craterhoof like one shot kill. Probably but likely less good than existing Replenish combos. Mostly I see this as a card that needs a lot of support and the kinds of support it needs (dorks, things to up their power and evasive capacity, enchantments and the ability to have 7 mana) are not found in the same deck. A potent and interesting card but not one that feels like it is going to be abused easily.

Ravenous Slime 0

If Kalitas has taught me anything it is that exiling creatures that would die is really potent in cube. Sadly this is a 3 mana 1/1 until dorks start to die and that is just far too poor a starting point. This card would be better without the body as an enchantment or something. That is to say while the effect is a good one due to how poor the body is it is actually detrimental to the power of the card. The exile effect is certainly good on average but it affects decks pretty differently and would be more of a sideboard hedge card anyway. Kalitas is an acceptable floor when facing creature light decks and that makes him wildly more playable overall.

Isolated Watchtower 1

While this is pretty powerful it is going to be overly narrow to the point of having no general good places you can run it. You need the kind of deck that can perform on two or three mana pretty well  so as to ever have a chance of activating it. That is only really aggressive and combo decks already that can look to running this. You also need a high basic land count which is mono coloured decks for the most part. You can certainly run this in a two colour deck but then you are more about the scry than the getting of lands. This is OK as a late game source of scry but 3 mana just to scry is not a great deal. You might as well run Arch of Orazca and draw some gas at that point. It is just too late in the day before it comes online for most decks and too marginal of an effect. I don't see the low to the ground decks, the only ones where this isn't only a late game card, having a good enough mana base or the inclination to run a colourless land that offers no tempo gains.

Genesis Storm 3.5

You can easily build a deck where this is always putting something really good into play. Six mana to put Emrakul into play sounds like a good deal to me. You don't really need the storm aspect to empower this. One dork is fine, more is probably just overkill. The real cost of this card is in the build, you cannot run any low cost permanent cards and that is a little limiting, especially for green. I see Show and Tell Genesis Storm decks and Sneak Attack Genesis Storm decks being built in the future! Narrow but still pretty good. Well supported and of a high and known power level. Six is a little steep and will lend itself to a slightly more control leaning combo deck like you tend to see Splinter Twin built.

Friday 27 July 2018

Commander 2018 Preliminary Reviews Part III

Thantis the Warweaver 0

This is three colours and six mana for a 5/5. Sure, it does some other stuff but first and foremost it is just a 5/5 and as such horrifically over cost. I'm not happy paying 2GG for a 5/5 with upside in most cases. Thantis is narrow just because of what you could play instead and how infrequently you are in Jund in need of a six drop. She is bad because she has nothing to offer through disruption, there is no value to be had, you just suffer a very poor one for one with a lot of removal options. Trample would have been nice to deal with go wide decks a bit better but I imagine those race Thantis pretty well. Nice EDH card, terrible heads up one.

Windgrace's Judgement 0

This is close to playable. Some nice upside or a mana less and I would be considering it. Beyond the cost this does almost everything you want from a removal spell. Seems like a bomb for EDH, probably not a card that makes you popular however.

Xantcha, Sleeper Agent 0

Despite the great design for EDH this seems too risky in cube for too minor a payoff. Essentially they get a 5/5 wall and you get to pay 3 to draw a card and Shock them whenever you like. Now that is a good trade for you but not a great one. Three is a lot to pay and most decks with dorks will race that comfortably. It is a grindy ability that shines in the late game. I think mostly I would rather a Phyrexian Arena, perhaps even a Blood Fast for my ongoing card draw. Sadly it gets worse too. Giving away a 5/5 dork is just so risky if they have any other uses for it, perhaps crewing, perhaps just sacing to Goblin Bombardment. Perhaps it turns on ferocious or something, it is all just fatally risky. You invest a card and three mana in helping your opponent out and gaining nothing back you are gunna be a dead wizard.

Emissary of Grudges 6.5

This seems pretty obnoxious. Like Rorix meets Reality Smasher. To kill this you either need untargetted removal or you need to eat your own removal spell. This might be easy to do if you have no legal targets but it might also be a savage tempo loss on top of a three for one. There is no mystery to this, it is always going to be a 6/5 flying haste that has one free Misdirection effect, in multiplayer it does at least have that element of "who is it?" In heads up you know that if you throw any sort of relevant spell out that it can switch up it will be doing so. Often the best way to deal with these awkward or inefficient cards to remove is to race them. Enjoy trying to race this, especially when it gets the first attack in. This is the first six drop dork red has had that is even a consideration for general use over Inferno Titan. Titan is better against the weenie heavy decks while Emissary seems like it will be better against the control decks and most midrange ones. This hits abilities too so there are not many ways to deal with this well. You either need mass removal or removal with no legal targets on your side of the board. This sort of card is starting to have more appeal as well with red now having decent midrange and control directions it can take.

Nesting Dragon 2

I like this a lot but ultimately it is just cute rather than good. If you are really able to play a card like this then Rampaging Baloths is rather substantially more potent, all be it not red! Red has a lot of plays that have huge impact right away in the five slot too further hurting the chances of this card. Quick or cheap decks will never want this as they will rarely have lands to follow up a five drop. Token and sac outlet based decks might be into this but I think the land drops thing will be an issue again there too. The one unusual and rather unique aspect of this card is that it passively pulls you ahead in quite a safe and threatening way. You leave this in play too long, even without it actively doing anything and you are going to lose. A card like Glorybringer needs to be able to attack to do work for example. I am not sure why red might want a passive effect, especially one that comes on quite a powerful finisher style body!

Blood Tracker 3

Greed on legs in many ways. You get to reduce the mana cost and you get the potential to abuse with +1/+1 counter synergies over Greed but then you also risk exile and bounce removal and you have to wait on your cards. A cute and abusable card but a clunky high risk one. I feel like I am going to test this out due to there being an outside chance that it is nuts. I imagine not but it is exactly the sort of card that can be. Assuming it isn't cube worthy it is probably only something you can run in a deck with sac outlets on tap or those attempting to abuse +1/+1 counters. With Carrion Feeder and Fleshcarver in the pool you can even wind up with both! High risk card is the main takeaway here, decent power level and utility at least. Permanently growing flying threats is a great way to win games or just control planeswalkers.

Reality Scramble 3

Cute combo card with much more application than Madcap Experiment. Generally the plan for this is going to be make a treasure or clue and fish up a massive artifact threat or some token creature with which to go find a massive Eldrazi. The latter sounds easier and more powerful but the former has more overlap with Madcap Experiment! Obviously you can and probably should go outside of red and run an Izzet deck finding Eldrazi and using Polymorph as much better redundancy. Just a bit less original! Good solid combo card that you can probably make work in a couple of different ways. Too narrow for the drafting cube but a nice build around option.

Gyrus, Waker of Corpses 2

This is decently powerful but not without supporting it quite well (with ways to fill up a yard and good things to get back). It also doesn't have the ceiling of power you need to bother building around. This is the kind of card you play when you are looking for a powerful and flexible mid to top end card in your deck that somehow has all the necessary support for Gyrus to be near optimal. That is an event happening very infrequently. I love the scaling power of the card, a fine three drop and a fine seven drop! I do not however love the three colours and the doing nothing at all if dealt with aspects. I'll try and play this and it will be fun and then that will be that and I won't play him again for like a decade!

Whiptongue Hydra 2

This is powerful and effective when it comes to handling fliers. You don't have to kill much at all for this to feel good. Sadly you do have to kill something and that is rather an issue. There are a lot of fliers in the cube but they are spread across the colours and play styles rather unevenly. Some decks this will savage while others it will be a fail. Green might well want some hard flier removal on a card that isn't sometimes technically dead but this really smells more like a sideboard card. If you want to hedge against fliers you will likely just run a more all round good card like a Hornet Queen main deck. I feel like I should test this in the drafting cube but I suspect that it will not fair all that well and will see little to no play there after.

Crash of Rhino Beetles 0

Cute design, bad cube card.

Octopus Umbra 4

This is pretty powerful but it is also overly risky. The best auras for dorks tend to cost one mana because they pose lower risks. It also happens that a couple of those "best one mana auras" also have totem armor! Sadly both the design of this card and the nature of totem armor scale poorly. Paying one to save your dork from death is always better than paying more than one. Also, to get the most out of turning a dork into an 8/8 is to make a 0/1 your target but then saving that token at the cost of the aura is minimal upside, you have not got much from the totem armor. I can imagine running this simply because blue has nothing else like it. If I was green or red I would have endless options on really high tempo five drops but blue just doesn't. Getting a tap down and a surprise 8/8 attacker is a very swing-y play.  Especially if that 8/8 has some scaling effects on it. My claim about the 0/1 being the best target is only accurate if we are talking vanilla guys. Throw keywords and abilities into the mix and we have a different story. As I write this I am starting to think that True-Name Nemesis as an 8/8 and a second life sounds beyond disgusting. Just a flier, trampler or lifelinker is a big deal and I am sure there are many other naughty targets for this Umbra. I presently don't think blue has enough tempo cards to support the archetype where this would shine and so this probably isn't great for a drafting cube yet. That is a key "yet" as blue is getting a good amount of exciting aggro cards and should soon be viable. Midrange red went from being a joke to a strong archetype within the cards in standard! This Umbra is certainly a very interesting new tool to further empower aggressive blue strategies. It is not an auto include or anything, just a potent and good option to have.

Thursday 26 July 2018

Commander 2018 Preliminary Reviews Part II

Estrid, the Masked 2.5

I rate the design on this. There are absolutely builds where this would be a good include. It is even perfectly playable as a standalone without an enchantment themed build. Not good, just fine. Sadly enchantment decks are hard to do well in cube, only really viable in constructed style cube events, still infrequent in those, and not even that high tier. Estrid also only makes it into some of those!  The -1 is a lovely way to protect things, and assuming you have a blocker, Estrid herself. It works very nicely with the +2 allowing you to start untapping things you want to. The +2 naturally works well with Wild Growth effects and even just Abundant Growth and that is her most powerful use. You could make her turn three with three enchanted lands in play, that would be very very powerful! The ultimate is also spot on flavour wise while also offering the right kind of utility. I will actively be trying to play this card but due to its cool design and exotic archetype, not because I anticipate it increasing my win percentages.

Aminatou, the Fateshifter 6

Awesome, another design triumph. This is a card that screams play with me, tinker with me, abuse me! There is so much potential in this remarkably fair looking card. On his own the +1 does little and the -1 is a bonus mana I guess. Start putting synergies in your build however and everything ramps up pretty quick. Just shuffle or self mill effects turn the +1 into card quality. You can use it to turn on Delver of Secrets or miracles. You can use it to protect against discard effects or put something back into the deck so as to fetch with a Tinker. In desperate times the +1 acts as a kind of loot allowing you to see one card deeper into your deck to hope to find that saving card. Super useful in a lot of places.

Flicker effects have been abused in cube since Flickerwisp and were sufficiently good to become an archetype for a time once we had Venser, the Sojourner and Restoration Angel see print. There are not many Esper decks in cube that wouldn't have several synergies with this and you could easily build with it in mind to make it pretty saucy. Esper is one of the most commonly played tri colour pairing and one of the few I would consider supporting with gold cards. Although the average power of this is a little below what I would ask of a drafting cube gold card the degree to which it supports synergies is possibly enough to carry it. Three mana walkers have rarely needed to be that good in order to get play and stand out in cube. The ultimate is actually relevant as well. It might seem all silly and mad but it is actually just a scary mass removal tool. Over extending into Aminatou is going to be risky. Certainly it is not all that likely to be at a significant non-land permanent deficit while also being able to threaten an ultimate but that doesn't prevent it being good. It still forces action and consideration and respect and that is all while doing nothing! Through a convoluted case of just enough box ticking I am hopeful that this will do some good work in the drafting cube. It is good enough to be splashed into flicker and miracle decks so I have no worries about this seeing play, only if it can see enough of it in a draft setting to cut it. The power and scarcity of other support for its synergies combined with the frequency and forms of Esper let me be hopeful for this card I am clearly a little biased towards! I am sure we will see a lot of decks using this with manifest cards to both setup and then flicker transform massive threats.

Saheeli, the Gifted 7

The clear champion of the four walkers. Not only is this two colours rather than three setting the bar a little lower, it is also just much more powerful and playable. Four mana, four loyalty and a +1 to make a 1/1 is the recipe for the safest walker you can make in the average case. Another good plus one on top of that is the recipe for one of the best cube planeswalkers of all time (Knight-Errant if your still wondering). While Saheeli's second plus one is impressively powerful it does not do anything without things to do with it. If you are not playing a somewhat artifact themed deck it is only empowered after several activations of the other +1 and only if they stick.  A lot of the time Saheeli will just churn out 1/1s which will be OK but not exciting. The kinds of deck that pack a lot of artifacts don't tend to run that many big spells but I guess you easily could with this Tolarian Academy level of support. You could do some pretty quick and devastating Upheavals or just go ramp crazy and power out a big Eldrazi. You could probably get a lot of mileage out of a Fireball! I finally see an Inspiring Stauary deck birth in my mind..... The ultimate is pretty dull, I suspect I will be winning with the plus ones or not at all! It might randomly crop up now and again and offer a useful line but for the most part I don't see it being very impressive or relevant. Seven is certainly a reasonable rating for power level of this card but ideally wanting some support from the build and being a little gold and narrow might make it more like a six.

Tawnos, Urza's Apprentice 1

There just are not enough artifacts in any given deck with effects worth copying, let alone dedicating a fairly weak and super narrow card into copying. Perhaps one day there will be a combo option for this dude, perhaps it is already a thing and I simply don't see it. As a general utility dork, even in a artifact heavy cube this is super poor.

Treasure Nabber 1

A Moulder Slug assuming you have a sac outlet for artifacts! I might play this in a goblin deck sideboard for combating artifact ramp decks but probably not and probably only to be cute if I did. I just don't see this outclassing artifact removal. Perhaps there is a deck that is sufficiently mana hungry that Nabber does have merit as a sideboard tool over Shatter effects. Still feels very unlikely, at that point the 3/2 body is just a huge drawback. Cool art and multiplayer flavour though so not a fail card by any means, just not one for cube.

Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer 2

Not a bad card per se but I don't see where this is all that exciting for cube. Just for being six mana and gold this card would need to be obviously broken to get in the cube and it is certainly not that! Mostly it feels like a scaled up Goblin Rabblemaster. Sadly you need to be a lot more than twice the card when you double the mana cost from three to six and Brudiclade might not even be twice a Rabblemaster! There is a mild combo aspect to this card, you could go super overkill and make everything into the Marit Lage! Just turning a bunch of treasure and clues into 2/1 Myr could be quite effective and a lot more reasonable. The other thing this card might be carried by is simply being an artifact and thus something you can cheat into play much easier. You would still however need extra synergies to make it seem like a better big artifact to play than all the usual cube suspects. Brudiclad isn't my kind of card, it doesn't make me want to build around it but it is unusual and acceptably powerful.

Vedalken Humiliator 0

Too much for too little. Warkite Marauder is way more punch for the mana, it has no metalcraft prerequisite to work and it has a substantially better body for the price. Marauder has not made a huge impact on cube as yet either. I like the Warkite but it is just a little bit too situational in practice. Humiliator is cool but it isn't very desirable. Metalcraft makes it narrow. Aggressive leaning blue four drops make it super awkward to fit in to a build. A 4 mana 3/4 that does nothing right away is pretty weak in all senses and the payoff? You get to swing in with impunity? Sounds like you are just forcing a race as a blue player which isn't a great plan. You better hope you threaten lethal. Blue has so many tools better than this for forcing through attacks and that is pretty much all this is. It is substantially worse than a simple Niblis of Frost, Dungeon Geists, Cryptic Command (obviously), Slip Through Space, Turnabout, Send to Sleep, Cyclonic Rift etc etc etc.

Enchanter's Bane 1

Perfect design. This card should be a lesson on colour pie adherence. The game would massively benefit from more cards using this philosophy of design. Ideally some non-blue counterspell options but there is a lot of scope to do cool things with this mindset. Essentially this card feels very red, everything about it screams what red does. Despite this the card is trying to achieve something outside of reds colour identity. If you had to describe this card you would probably call it ongoing enchantment disruption. Perhaps you would even just call it removal. It certainly gets very close but it does this without any controversy. No one is going to (reasonably) complain that this is breaking from tradition. This card will now give the option of staying in house for some interaction with enchantments rather than splashing for something boring and appropriate like Destructive Revelry or Wear // Tear. It will not be as effective as those cards in most cases although Bane has the capacity to outperform them as well. The range is therefor spot on as well as the flavour. The real question is how good is Bane, not how well it is designed. Sadly it is not great, few decks pack dedicated enchantment removal and those that do tend to pack removal that always works! Red really only wants enchantment removal for cards like CoP: Red and Worship and they both get around Bane. It should have done unpreventable damage and then it would be better at solving the problems red might face. The only occassion where this is reliable removal is when you are applying real pressure to life totals. As such this is something you play if you are aggressive and red and only then in your sideboard. It only really starts to shine against decks with multiple enchantments and ideally some high cost ones. All a bit unlikely.

Ancient Stone Idol 4

This is a funny one. It is like a big old Wurmcoil Engine. It is in fact rather more powerful, it just costs more in the traditional method of card balancing! The cost reduction method is interesting, much more so in EDH. Sadly for heads up we are at the low end for both power and interest. In the decks you will play this kind of thing you will barely ever be able to knock the cost down by more than two, the average will likely be closer to 1. At nine mana this isn't great. Seven is the fair price for cube power level so if you can get it to less than that it is pretty saucy and if not it is just a bit clunky. It is not just you who can help power this out, your opponents can do so as well! It is far more likely to get smacked hard by your opponent with a lot of dorks. While the average is probably not that greater than your own, say nearing the two region, the range will be wildly greater. You will get smacked with six tokens sometimes and then this is quite the bargain! It probably still doesn't save you by itself in such cases due to how good go wide strategies are but it is certainly helping! So, all told, it seems pretty bad in heads up cube for generic play. It is mostly going to be 8 or 9 mana which is overpriced for this card and way too much mana for most decks to really ever get to casting it. Where I see this really shining is in a Welder style of deck where you can ignore the cost most of the time but still occasionally benefit from the cost reduction when you are faced with the right situation. It seems like a great card to Weld in and out of play but there are quite a lot of those already. I expect it to crop up in a couple of other places too, Sneak Attack for one. Overall this is very good in the right deck but those are not really drafting cube decks, in those this will be unreliably and over cost. Also, it will somewhat fail to shine in "the right deck" as when those decks fire properly it doesn't really matter how you end the game, just having the threat and getting it out is all of the battle, the threat itself matters rather less.

Wednesday 25 July 2018

Commander 2018 Preliminary Reviews Part I

Coveted Jewel 3

This is a little silly of a card, I would prefer it if it were less extreme but I guess it is trying to give than Lotus and Ancestral feeling. Anyway, this is totally unplayable in a conventional sense. You can't just toss this in a midrange or control deck and have it consistently be good. Sometimes it will win you the game but it will do a whole load of losing it for you as well. I would advise against putting this in drafting cubes even if you do have the supporting archetypes for it. The only places you should really ever consider running this are artifact themed decks that have lots of manipulation, things like cheating cards into play and the ability to sacrifice them ideally at any point. Ironworks and Goblin Welder and Daretti and Tinker are all pretty hot on this card. Decks not built around those cards should move along. The reason I am a little wary of this is that in the right sort of deck it will be pretty oppressive. Gilded Lotus is a pretty good card and so slapping a Ancestral Recall on the back of it is really quite a plus. Mana and cards is what most decks want after all/ This does so efficiently and abusably.

Saheeli's Directive 3

This is Genesis Wave that is limited to artifacts but given improvise to offset that. Directive is certainly narrower as a result but that isn't really an issue. Genesis Wave is already a sufficiently narrow card for it not to be a commonly seen cube card in any sort of setting. So you need to build around Directive to play it but once a card is too narrow for the drafting cube that is almost a perk, especially when it is a powerful card. Directive is certainly what I would call powerful, I think it craps all over Genesis Wave for power. It seems pretty plausible firing it off turn three for X equals four or five. You can pretty easily hit the 50% artifact count in cube and will likely be comfortably over that when playing this. Getting 2 or 3 cards into play that quick is going to be amazing even if they are all 2 or less mana. You are still getting card advantage and it is very mana efficient. That is the low end average performance, late game with big X or just when you luck out and hit mostly artifacts including a pair of cards with CMC = X then it is going to be a vast swing. Improvise is a huge deal on this card, it scales perfectly with the kind of decks you want to play this in. It allows it to consistently scale up in power as the game goes on and it also lets you use it far earlier than you should. The improvise makes it more akin to Chord of Calling (all be it far narrower) and Whir of Invention with their earlier impact on the game. Whir of Invention is the most similar card overall and while it may be a more precise tool Saheeli's Directive is vastly more powerful! The way to build with it feels like you should be in the position where as X tends towards infinite (or indeed the size of your library) your win percentage should tend towards one hundred. Simply put, you should be able to immediately win from putting all the artifacts in your deck into play else your deck is probably not optimal.

Infinite Atlas 4

Too narrow for the drafting cube but a welcome breath of fresh air that offers reliable card draw to mono builds. White is the hungriest for this card and I fully expect to see this in the vast majority of constructed non-aggressive mono white decks going forwards. This is efficient enough that you might even find it in mono blue or black decks for one reason or another although that will be uncommon. I can totally see red and green packing this in their more controlling or slower builds fairly often too. Treasure Map gets a huge amount of play in my cube and Atlas feels like it edges past it on raw power. Obviously the flexibility and wider playability of Map still keep it the better cube card but it does help show how good Atlas is.

Varchild, Betrayer of Kjeldor 1

If there was anything to gain from Wizards powering up demand on reserve list cards I would be full of suspicion for this thing. It literally seems as if someone was given the mandate of designing a card that would make Varchild's War Raiders appealing! As to this cards viability however I think we can pretty much rule it out in cube. The combo with War Raiders is cute but super unreliable and quite a long way from broken. As a standalone card both are pretty weak and that is a problem. Varchild herself is a total liability. To get value you have to make her, connect with her and have her die. The bit between the last two stages also has to happen really quickly so that you don't just instantly concede to any sort of value sac outlet. Varchild is unplayable in the face of Goblin Bombardment or Carrion Feeder or Skullclamp or really way too many cards. The best use I can think of for this is by creature type manipulation and that isn't going to cut it in cube. Far too many hoops to jump through to get your mass Control Magic. Certainly an interesting and unique card but not one I can see any good present applications for.

Retrofitter Foundry 6

Yup, I love this immediately! I think it is probably good enough just to run in cubes but even if not this will have a place in loads of artifact based decks and perhaps some combo ones too. This offers a reasonably priced way to churn out dudes with some great scaling. It is a significant mana sink! If it was not for there already being Walking Ballista on offer as the premium infinite mana sink I would be even more hyped for this new tool. It is super convenient, offers nice utility and is reasonably mana efficient all things considered. I assume that you cannot use an Ornithopter and this to make a turn one 4/4 as the ability refers to the name of the card rather than the subtype? It would certainly make it more dangerous if you could but it wouldn't massively change the drafting cube prospects for this card, such synergies are more the preserve of constructed decks. Without some kind of synergies this may be a bit too aimless to be desirable or exciting in a draft setting. A bit like Pacification Array. The card was decent enough but it was just a little fair and a little filler feeling without having a clear home you always wanted it in. I guess new Karn does up the value of such things and may end up with an archetype of his own in cube.

Lord Windgrace 1

Sadly this would struggle even as a mono coloured walker. The only thing this does to protect itself is going to 7 loyalty which is a pretty mediocre form of defense on a five drop. I guess you could use the -3 to recur a Mishra's Factory as a blocker... not a wildly powerful or sustainable defense. The ultimate is decent but super far away and with the lack of defense, pretty unlikely to fire. The -3 is decent but it isn't threatening nor is it ramping in an exciting way. Mostly this is a five mana, three colour rummager! I think I'll play the new Sarkhan over that. Lord Windgrace draws cards with hellbent and does Magmatic Insight when you have lands for your rummage. Rummage will likely be the most common outcome of the +2 which is pretty sad. They will at least all be fairly close to each other. Basically I am not sure I would want this in a land themed Jund deck that wanted looting effects. This is just too slow and narrow for cube. I'll play it a couple of times but not to test it, it is a clear misfire for cube, I'll play it just for the experience. I played Contested War Zone the other day, that was an experience!

Tuesday 24 July 2018

Auras .dec

Slippery BogleFor some reason or other, I have always struggled with building enchantress decks. I have been doing them as long as I have been cubing, yet Ive never felt like I’ve gotten things right, as they always feel a little vulnerable, and a little slow. I roughly know why I have had so many issues in the past - there isn't quite the depth in the core cheap cards for the archetype, so while it looks like you have limitless depth, most of that depth is well below par on power level and often a mana or two above where you would like such effects on your curve.

A big issue effecting the slower control builds using Sigil of the Empty Throne, Elephant Grass and Solitary Confinement, is that you have very limited card quality and ramp in enchantment form. Even when playing blue, cards like Attunement are a far cry from cards like Preordain. Sure, Wild Growth is largely better than a Llanowar Elf as a pure ramp card, but there is only it and Utopia Spawl on one, and only a couple on two as well. It just isn't enough to get the required consistency and power. If you start supplementing your build with elves and good cheap staple non-enchantment cards, then you lose the value of the synergy which ultimately lowers your power and harms your late game consistency, even if it does empower the early game - this is also true for the aggressive builds. That being said, Ive never really got the balance right for any build. I have certainly done well with control/combo enchantress in the past, but it always just felt like I was lucky or had wound up with only favourable matchups, despite having a deck vulnerable to loads. There are certainly very powerful things you can do with an enchantress deck - I have even once managed a good aggressive enchantress deck, although it was very much propped up by a few very powerful cards that are normally too narrow to abuse fully. It was also three colours which rather helps with many elements. Despite being good, it didn't look like a solved deck! 

When repeatedly failing at something, a good plan is to try a different approach and so that is exactly what I have done with this list. It is a bit of an oddity, as it is inspired by a mashup of two constructed decks. A modern Boggles deck and a legacy Enchantress one. It is aggressive like the Boggles, but not so all in. The main thing it does is mimic their curves, and it is actually lower in curve to the legacy deck, which is pretty nuts! Rather than use all the high powered tools in the "enchantment synergy pool", it is far more focused and low to the ground.

Abundant Growth 
25 Spells

Utopia Sprawl
Wild Growth
Unbridled Growth
Abundant Growth

Gryf's Boon
Spider Umbra
Hyena Umbra

Cartouche of Solidarity
Ethereal Armor
Frog Tongue
Flickering Ward
Flickering Ward 
Oppressive Rays
Green Sun's Zenith
Slippery Boggle
Gladecover Scout

Kor Spiritdancer
Argothian Enchantress
Sram, Senior Edificer

Gatherer of Graces

Enchantress's Presence
Song of Dryads
Eidolon of Countless Battles
Satyr Enchanter

Eidolon of Countless Battles15 Lands

Dryad Arbor
Windswepth Heath
Horizon Canopy

Scattered Groves
Temple Garden
Canopy Vista

Razorverge Thicket
Fortified Village
Stirring Wildwood

3x Forest

Gatherer of GracesThe plan is fairly straight-forward. Make a dork, enchant it up, and turn it sideways. Ideally, draw your whole deck in there at some point, too! You do have a lot of options, despite the linear plan of the deck. A big part of playing this well is knowing when it is about resources and when it is about tempo. For example, sometimes I will hold things back early and waste mana, so that I can get more draw value out of them so as to gain more momentum in the long run.

One of the biggest calls you will have to make is which creature you want to go all-in on. Do you go for the safety of the hexproof dorks, or do you go for the extra value on Gatherer of Graces and Kor Spirit Dancer? This of course comes down to several things, mostly being what you have! If you are in the position to choose, then it will depend on what you are facing. Between totem armour, regeneration, and protection, you can make your non-hexproof things pretty safe to most forms of removal, but having a good idea of what you are facing will be key. I very nearly cut the hexproof dudes all-together, in favour of a more protective tools like Spellskite and Mother of Runes, but there just isn't the space for such luxuries. I had Silhana Ledgewalker and Basra Tower Archer in the first build of this, but found I had slightly over-done it on the ratio between things to enchant and the auras to put on them. You only need about four dedicated attacking cards, as you can happily just enchant up a Sram or Satyr if needs be. You could probably cut one of the hexproof dudes from this list, if needed, and just lean a bit more on tutors and protective enchants.

Kor SpiritdancerSpiritdancer is a funny one, as it is both your best thing to put auras on and one of your better engine cards. It is like Goblin Bombardment in the Blood Artist decks, in that it is both parts of your engine in one! The card is bonkers good, which in turn had a warping effect on my initial build directions. I wanted the Mother of Runes type cards so that I could protect Dancer, while going to town adorning her with auras. I wanted more tutors like Eladamri's Call and Worldly Tutor, so as to have her more often. I also wanted more recursion tools, so to further increase my access to her and ensure I could weather some disruption. Eternal Witness, Ajani (Adversary of Tyrants), Renegade Rallier, Grapple with the Past, Devoted Crop Mate, Return to the Ranks, and Tethmos (High Priest) all appealed in their various ways. The issue is that all this support just for Spiritdancer makes it much more like a combo deck, which makes the non Spiritdancer bits of the deck a bit weaker. You slow yourself down and probably reduce your overall consistency, just to increase your potential power. Much as I want to abuse Spirit Dancer more, the best way forward is to just run her without any fuss. When you get her she will be great and when you don't, or she is killed, that will be fine as the rest of the deck is still perfectly able to operate smoothly and quickly without her.

Green Sun's ZenithI did run a Green Sun's Zenith package, despite it not being quite the perfect fit I would have liked – overall, it just seems too streamlined not to run. It is not far off the ultimate split card in this deck, being a turn one ramp card, a card draw engine card or a threat card. With only six targets in the deck, Zenith does suffer from pretty poor scaling and would be better if it did go to the bin, rather than back in the deck. It is also annoying that some of the most powerful and exotic creatures are white. Much as Worldly Tutor would offer better utility in creatures, there is just no competing with a card that can also be a Llanowar Elf if needs be. Certainly I would feel a lot happier running Zenith if I had some looting effects in the deck, perhaps even just some reshuffle, but it is seemingly too good to pass up on, what with being so many of the important components of the deck at once. Worldly Tutor would need to merge with Enlightened for it to really compete. If you did want to empower the Zenith a little more, you could run things like Thrun, the Last Troll and Troll Ascetic for more substantial hexproof options. Also Eidolon of Blossoms and Courser of Kruphix would present some nice options to find enchantments with Zenith. Again, ultimately these are luxuries which you likely don't have space for as synergy decks are super-tight, and any spare space needs to be used to interact and hedge rather than fill up on niceties.

Frog TongueThis list is very, very good at going ballistic on drawing cards, for several reasons. Being aura based (rather than enchantments generally), it gains Sram and Spiritdancer, which are pretty huge upgrades on things like Verduran and Messa Enchantress. That one mana less in cost goes a long old way. Next up, we have the fact that so many aura cards in this deck are only one mana themselves, unlike the pricier enchants I tend to see in decks wanting to draw cards from Enchantresses. Once you start going off, it is rare to not spend all your mana. Many of those cards cantrip themselves and so it is pretty commonplace to have your Frog Tongues and Abundant Growths actually being Ancestral Recalls. Due to how effectively and mana efficiently I was going off, I wanted to run more ramp. Ideally Arbor Elf, so as to milk synergy with the Wild Growth but lacking the enchant type synergies, I didn't want to risk fizzling or inconsistencies of that ilk. The ratios felt about right in this deck; more ramp certainly would be nice, but less of anything else would be more detrimental than the benefits gained from extra (off-theme or overcosted) ramp. 

Gryff's BoonI looked at playing Lashknife, simply as it is a free aura and lets you go off a bit quicker! That is how valuable it is to have low cost cards firing off your triggered effects. Another reason you can go off so readily is that you have recursive and bouncing enchantments, which allow you to reuse one card to draw many. Rancor plus a sac-outlet is the most efficient, but even if you are paying four from a Gryff' Boon, that can be OK when it jump starts you into going off from having nothing. The other reason you go off better than most other enchantress decks is that you are proactive and threatening. Some decks are going to try and race you, and that opens up windows in which you can go nuts without fear of disruption. Other decks will simply be forced into taking safer lines to avoid potential death and often, that will lead to you developing more value and draw in safety.

One great strength of this deck is its ability to recover. You really don't need much to go nuts, and doing so later in the game takes less time as you will be starting out with more mana. Mana and library size are your limiting factors, not really cards in hand. Against most decks with mass removal, you will hold back threats and so recovery can literally be one Enchantress effect off the top. With Enchantress's Presence, bestow dorks, totem armor, Rancor and other recursive enchantments, you can recover without needing to top deck anything at all.

AuratogDeck size was actually a bit of an issue. My list has no way of getting back important cards, and is actually quite threat light when it comes down to it. I strongly considered Wheel of Sun and Moon, and still might test it. I would certainly run it in the board, if it were that sort of an event. Any grind-y game, you are most in danger of losing to decking. Sadly, it is only partly a solution and only helps against disruption, and even then, only non-exile flavours of it. If you just over draw, then you won't have things in the bin, certainly not useful things, to refill your library with. I looked pretty hard at all the options to solve this concern. Jotun Grunt is a bit off theme and unreliable. Mistveil Plains is a bit slow and cumbersome for an aggro deck. Bow of Nylea has much the same problem, that little return of cards simply isn't keeping up with demand. Elixir of Immortality comes closest, but it is as off theme as a card can be.

In the end, I decided that you are probably just better off with a sac outlet than you are a reshuffle effect. You want to engineer situations where you draw your deck and play all your enchantments, but this is impossible with an Enchantress in play if your last cards are enchantments. One of your best ways to win when resource light (but flush with mana) is with Auratog and Rancor. Simply, cast and sac until you run out of green mana and then attack with your massive dork for the win, obviously leaving the last Rancor in place for the trample. This is great, but can draw you more cards than the damage it represents, which is often a problem. I briefly looked at Concordant Crossroads for the ability to literally kill out of nowhere, or just do critical damage. It works very nicely with Auratog, however it doesn't solve the problem of you not being able to kill people without decking yourself in some cases.

Bound by MoonsilverBound by Moonsilver is the best solution I found for the decking problem, as it gives you an on-theme card and it deals with all the problem cards you might have in play that will lead to your decking. The issue is that you can only sac one thing per turn, which means a lot of planning is needed as you draw the remains of your library. There are certainly better sac outlets, but none offer the same usefulness of card. Lunarch Mantle comes closest, and has the added advantage of being able to sac as much as you can afford at any given time. I would strongly consider running Bound by Moonsilver over the Oppressive Rays. I considered Lignify over it, as well. One cover-all removal spell and one creature removal spell is all I could find room for in this list. Song of Dryads has the former pretty much locked in, although Faith's Fetters has an outside shot. Rays is nice as the creature kill, being so cheap, but it is not as effective as you might like. I kept having to throw it on Spellskites and that was a very short term solution to the problem. Lignify would have been worlds better, and Bound by Moonsilver would have done nothing to ease the problems posed in that matchup. These interaction spells should ideally be based on expected meta - Rays is good against tempo decks, while Lignify has more game against the annoying utility cards etc. The sac outlet cards are best for the control and removal heavy builds, where you are much more likely to need to use all the cards in your deck to find a win, and thus where decking yourself is at its highest risk. 

Utopia SprawlThe mana base is fairly straight forward - it has a strong lean towards forests, simply to accommodate the Utopia Sprawl. There is no Serra's Sanctum, because there is no use for a tonne of white mana. There is a very small window for it to excel. Turns one and two, it is producing less than a basic land, on average. Turns five onwards, it is going to be wasting most to all of its extra mana. With the perfect draw, it is a plains that taps for two or three on turns three and four and lets you push out a couple of extra cards. That feels like too much needs to align to give payoff and it seems like the risk of it going wrong is too high and too damaging. This list is all about consistency, and Sanctum is not the thing to help with that. High Market had more appeal as a sac outlet with little cost of inclusion. Sadly, even that felt too dangerous in a deck with very little colourless requirements, on top of land-type-matters cards and low land counts. If I cut the Zenith and therefore also the Dryad Arbor, there might well be some room for a quirky utility land. That being said, I might just try and get away with 14, in that case!

Hyena UmbraBoth Spider and Hyena Umbra are great, and it comes as no surprise that these are also staples in the Boggles decks in modern. I looked at playing some more, however the two drop options were not that exciting and the three drop ones are having to compete with some really potent cards for just a few slots. Ancestral Mask is a filthy-powerful three drop that I didn't find room for, and Armadillo Cloak is another good one, the list goes on. As such, I would likely run Carapace over any of the other totem armor cards on offer. Not exactly powerful, but the right price and appropriately on message. There are not all that many exciting one drop auras in green or white this list isnt running. Vineweft is one of the better ones and it is just a really bad Gryff's Boon.

The more exciting exclusions from this list are all two mana. Ward of Lights is a neat protection tool, and I think there is even a 1W costed version - It seemed like too much on top of Flickering Ward, however. Also, Alpha Authority would likely be a better ongoing tool to protect with, as it doesn't get in the way of your own auras if you need to protect against white (or green?!) removal. Spirit Mantle is an excellent evasion tool that the modern Boggles lists tend to pack. I am leaning a bit more on the Boon and Rancor for that push through, but I am relatively happy with that, given they both recur. Mantle would be one of the cards I would be more likely to add, although I might find I prefer to replace a hexproof dork with Silhana Ledgewalker for that evasion boost. The obvious omission from the Boggles list is Daybreak Coronet, which is intentional and I believe correct. This list is about consistency, as you need things to get the ball rolling and Coronet can't do that for you. Feels awful to have all the parts to start going off but not be able to, because this is your only aura in hand. In cube, I would play an Angel's Grace or Armadillo Cloak in preference to Coronet. The reduced efficiency of the cards is a lot easier to stomach in cube, and their greater convenience is well worth that price. 

Cartouche of SolidarityThe non-creature aura cards performed very well, as the ability to get card draw triggers without the risk of removal was a comfort. Turn two Sram or Spirit Dancer, off the back of one-drop ramp, plays very nicely into Abundant Growth or Oppressive Rays where playing a Rancor would feel really dodgy. The non-ramping land enchants in particular are a key addition to the deck,that I might not have considered without legacy builds pointing me in that direction. They add consistency to the draw engine and help to make the deck effectively smaller, which increases your average deck power level. They even help with your colour fixing, their intended purpose! 

The Cartouche was a nod to edict removal, and is just generally an efficient little spell. It is far from an essential component, but I was never unhappy with it. It feels like it is filler rather than a key component and just there to help make up the numbers. That said, it does still feel like it is the top of the pile of the non-essentials. Ethereal Armour is the big name and does a lot of the heavy lifting. It is pretty important when using one of the hexproof dorks, or any of the non-growing ones as your main threat, as you don't actually have that much in the way of stats-boosting cards. The Eidolon of Countless Battles is the backup for Ethereal Armour and is very powerful and versatile, but also unpleasantly costly. Countless Battles was so good I looked at other bestow cards, but they all fell short. It is the synergy combined with the great scaling that made Battles so good, the other bestow cards only had the former.

Satyr EnchanterSatyr Enchanter is a fine addition - It can be found with Zenith, and it can attack better than the 0/2 iterations. It is not an exciting card and could well be cut along with the Zenith, if that was a direction you wanted to go. A recursion card would likely be more powerful and the deck didn't feel like it was lacking the draw side of things! There are other options such as Feremef Enchantress, which is a nice cheap two-mana but also needs the support from sac effects. You would need more than Auratog and an Unbridled Growth for that to really be a thing. Thaumatog alone would not be enough extra, either!

So yeah, this is my aggro enchantress deck without black. It worked pretty well and while not top tier, it was certainly competitive. It is perhaps one or two cards off being really good, and is a pretty happy tier two or three deck with what it has now. I do wonder if the reason I struggle so hard with enchantment decks is that my knowledge of the card pool is so poor. Auras have been so bad for so long, both fundamentally and individually as well, that I just tend to ignore and overlook them. They never really stick in my mind and I never really think about them, and so it requires way more effort to use them in deck design. I had to reread so many cards, so many times, both in design and in the write up processes. I am certain I wouldn't have got there without being pointed in the right direction by other designers in other formats. While this deck might not be tier one, it is great fun and plenty powerful enough to be something worth doing. It is also, for once, an enchantress deck I can call refined and focused. It has a plan and it does it well, without pissing about doing other silly things. It is how a deck like this should look, roughly, and that has been the illusive thing with enchantment decks, not the winning as you might expect! I plan to try a more dedicated hexproof dorks and auras deck without the enchantress card draw some point soon to compare and contrast. I think it will be more powerful but less resilient and a lot less fun!