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.

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