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.

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