Monday 3 September 2018

Guilds of Ravnica Preliminary Review Part I

Impervious Greatwurm 3

This is relatively castable for a 10 mana card being both green and having convoke. It is also the biggest printed numbers on a creature card. Josu Vess can put more stats into play and Marit Lage token is also bigger but just as a big dorky dork card the Greatwurm is the new top billing name. Size has pretty diminishing returns in magic, significantly past 5/5 and vastly past 10/10. The relevance of size is how it assists in combat, the clock it offers and how it protects against removal. Indestructible makes the high toughness fairly unimportant here. The occasions where this being a 16/16 rather than say an 8/8 in combat will be infrequent to say the least. As for the power, without trample or some other evasions it might as well be a third of what it is, this isn't connecting when it matters. I am just not sure what one does with this card. If I want a big dork with built in cost reduction Ghalta is a lot better than this. If I want an indestructible or otherwise hard to remove fatty then there still seems to be multiple options that are more powerful or suitable. I don't want to rule this out as it is nominally still a powerful card and it is something that is more physically playable than most of the cards that offer this sort of power. Cards like Rhonas make it actually a good thing to have in play and with a few more of those in the meta perhaps Greatwurm becomes viable. 

"Macabre Hatchery" 4

A one stop combo shop! I will Bury Alive a Carrion Feeder/Viscera Seer, a Merlira/Vizier and a Kitchen Finks. Then I will cast my Macabre Hatchery and gain my infinite life and enjoy my infinite scry or P/T Feeder. I imagine there are many combos one can put into play with this. Over all it is only a one mana saving on casting those cards but when you get multiple cards and a mana saving it is hard not to be a bomb. Look at Paradoxical Outcome in vintage or Collected Company pretty much anywhere! Indeed Collected Company is one of the closest comparisons to this card. Company is more stand alone in when you can play it but it requires a very focused build to be much good. Hatchery requires setup before you can play it but it is potentially kinder on your build. It feels a bit expensive for a deck that is looking to get cheap dorks back from the bin in a general sort of aggro or midrange deck but that depends more on the cards you are getting back. There are absolutely plenty combinations of one drop, two drop and three drop, even just limited to black cards, that I would happily pay five to put into play in most cube games. It will be interesting to see if this is powerful, desirable and consistent enough for general cube use. I would guess at no but the power level and potential is there. Failing that I do expect this to see play in several different combo lists either as the best way to go off or a backup to give you a second shot at your combo.

Thought Erasure 6.5

Well this is certainly very powerful. Two mana feels about right for Coercion. Surveil is usually a bit better than scry too. Slapping scry one on a cheap card that is about right power wise should turn it into a bomb. This feels sufficiently above the curve while remaining cheap and broadly desirable that it should overcome its gold issues. It is certainly the best targetted two mana hand disruption card ever printed. Negate is great and sees a lot of play while the "better" Countersquall sees near none in my cube. That is a parallel you could draw with Thought Erasure and most one and two mana black discard effects. Early in the game scry is a lot more valuable than life loss and there are a lot more playable Negate effects on offer than there are good hand disruption cards. I feel like these two factors should stop Thought Erasure suffering the same fate as Counterquall.

Conclave Tribunal 6

This is no Cast Out but I still think I like it more than Oblivion Ring and the like. I suspect this is bias on my behalf, I think this is more interesting and so I like it more than it is actually powerful. This is only better than Oblivion Ring when you can reduce it by more than one consistently without that costing you anything else. That first part is already a bit tricky and the second bit is reasonably unlikely. It is only really going to be cheap when you play it alongside something like a Sepctral Procession / Raise the Alarm or when you are in board stall. In the latter case you are unlikely to be that mana pressed either. Overall I suspect the average performance of this is a smidge under Oblivion Ring. That in itself might not be a problem, the increased option density of this card might alone be enough to carry it. This card might be fair but it is useful and interesting . It also looks like there are some cards that will benefit from being tapped which will further push this in performance. I will absolutely test this and have reasonably high hopes considering the mediocre power level of the card.

Sinister Sabotage 3

Basically just Dissolve and as such not quite there for cube. I have just always found three mana countermagic to be too slow and clunky. There is enough reasonably cheaper countermagic that you don't need to run these kinds of cards, good though they are. This is very much one of the best three mana counterspells but not quite there is still not there.

Necrotic Wound 4

Cute card but too situational for mainstay cube removal use. This is no good on turn one (short of cycled Street Wraiths). Later in the game it starts to look pretty good and should deal with most threats and in a way more effective than most other removal. This handles indestructible dorks and any sort of recursive shenanigans. It can even just be used as a combat trick to help take down a bigger dork when you only have a couple of things in the bin. This certainly has a higher ceiling than Murderous Cut but it is sadly also rather narrower. Necrotic Wound is likely also a little slower to turn on than Murderous Cut as well. Further issues for Wound include having it fizzled by a graveyard exile like Relic of Progenitus or just having it kept useless with an ongoing graveyard consumer like Scavenging Ooze. In the creature heavy graveyards based decks this card will compete for best removal spell in the game. On average it will sit a little below Murderous Cut and Tragic Slip in power and effectiveness. I would like to be able to include this card in cube but I am expecting it not to be playable in limited formats (cube ones obviously, go listen to Mr Sutcliffe if you want limited advice!). In the more themed constructed cube decks this will look rather more potent and should see play in the appropriate decks that will support it.

Boros Challenger 5

This looks impressively powerful. I even like that it is a 2/3 over a 3/2 despite that working less well with its mentor ability.  It is going to make one power cards a lot better as one drops in Boros colours. Rustwing Falcon got a lot better. Thraben Inspector and Mogg Fanatic also just got better. Kari Zev, etc etc. While this is comfortably powerful enough I am concerned it won't do much of much. People only play Boros when their mono red or mono white decks are not quite there. That extra card pool doesn't offset the consistency losses. This is certainly not powerful enough of a card to pull you into a two colour deck. Perhaps with enough synergy this will be more desirable but Boros is not really the home of the +1/+1 counter. I like this a lot, I will absolutely play it in some constructed cube decks and in those it will be high power level, on-theme, fine on its own, and interesting to play with. Boros has some very potent RW two drops and for what Boros likes to do I am inclined towards rating this the best of the lot. Bear in mind that is over a 3/2 with battlecry and that I also really really like scry 2! 

Emmara, Soul of the Accord 5

A nicely placed card. This obviously works wonders with convoke. Also a good card to pair with vehicles and things like Earthcraft. If you are just using this as a dork then Emmara loses her luster rather. She becomes like a limp Precinct Captain without the synergies. Sure, she makes a better token and she doesn't need to connect to do so but she has no combat abilities and is just a 2/2. She dies to basically all removal and stands little chance of surviving combat. Being in two colours and lacking first strike make her weaker than Captain overall and Captain is hardly a powerhouse in cube. Much like the previous Boros Challenger I suspect Emmara will be an excellent addition to the right sort of constructed deck but a bit of a non-event in a draft.

Quasiduplicate 1

This card sucks arse. Clones for only your own stuff really struggle to be anything other than dead or win more. Clones that make token copies are a bit dodgy too as so much deals with them so easily and permanently. I do like jump-start though. A good blend of flashback and retrace that allows for some nice new design space to be explored. It is neither card advantage nor perpetually available and so there is far less potential for abuse of the mechanism which in turn allows for some reasonably powerful printings with it. I look forward to seeing what other, better, cards have this mechanic.

Ral, Izzet Viceroy 1

Certainly powerful but this would struggle to compete as a mono coloured walker. The plus one is great and taking it to six loyalty is sturdy but the cost of the removal (and thus protection) ability is just too high. Kill something and leave Ral at 2 poxy loyalty? No ability to use it back to back. No guarantee that it even kills anything, let alone the thing you want. If you can have Ral sit in play drawing you cards then he is outstanding but most walkers sound great when you start throwing ifs about. The emblem is filthy good and not too hard to get to. Sadly there are more than one cheaper planeswalker in red and in blue that I would want in any deck before this dude. The kinds of things that might make me want to run Ral over the good planeswalkers just push me towards Keranos, God of the Storm. Between gods and good walkers this Ral seems even less use than the last.

Underrealm Lich 3

Well this is a funny old card. It is like some horrible fusion of Adanto Vanguard, Grim Flayer and Tomorrow, Azami's Familiar! I fear this is one of those cards that underperforms in cube for unfortunate reasons. This is a fairly late game card by cube standards. There is lots of card draw in cube, even in Golgari. There is also a bunch of self mill in Golgari too. The dig ability on this is mandatory. There is not an unreasonable chance that the clock this puts on your opponents is less than the clock it puts on you! While that is probably true the fact that you Anticipate instead of drawing means you should be able to win with your other cards in that time frame more often than not but it is still a very scary prospect. Dark Confidant and Mana Crypt are the sort of power level of card I demand when I am risking my own neck to run them. This Lich doesn't come close to that. The indestructible mechanic almost makes it worse. I am sure games will be lost to people paying four life to save the Lich only then to have it mill them to death. If you could somehow control the mill then this card would be great in cube. It offers fantastic card quality, some synergy setup potential and is not all that far off a 4/3 indestructible dork at the bargain price of five. Knowing your five drop that is going to provide you value is going to stick is a great way to make that five drop a whole lot better. I am sure this will get some love because it is so powerful while also having synergy potential. I am sure when it is made on curve with minimal self mill risk and maximum indestructible payments in the bank that the card will be devastating to most opponents and seem mentally good. Sadly this card is all a bit polar in performance potential for cube which is a bad start. The killer is that the average performance will also be below par.

Legion Warboss 7.75

This is about as close to Goblin Rabblemaster as you can get without being a functional reprint.  That is a great place to be. It is also how I can be a bit more precise with the rating. Rabblemaster is great, it is not quite an eight but it is pretty close. It is actually how playable the card rather than raw power that gets it to such a lofty rating but either way, I think Warboss might be a little better all round! Warboss is great like Rabblemaster as he provides some immediate token value and pressure, he provides a serious clock and further ongoing value. There is the token support, the tribal support, the aggressive support, the sacrifice stuff support. Great card that will see lots of play. As to why Warboss is better than Rabblemaster it is a few subtle things. Not forcing your other goblins into attacking is a mild perk. Warboss has some potential synergies with other counter based things. It is a free charge on a 1/1 Walking Ballista for example. Certainly Rabblemaster scales up in damage itself with more goblins supporting it but that is contained to the card itself which is more counterable, less open and thus a lot less scope. Rabblemaster does output a touch more damage in a goldfish but both do a full lethal in the same time frame. Rabblemaster goes 1, 6, 8, 10 while Warboss goes 1, 5 7, 9. While Rabblemaster is slightly punchier Warboss spreads that damage a lot better and attacks with more total stats. It also allows those buffs to persist. Say you get in two attacks with both, having 5/5 stats in three goblin tokens is going to be a lot better than the three 1/1s and that extra two damage in most cases. So yeah, Warboss is a really good card I expect to play with a lot. I suspect that added redundancy in three drop token producers in red will also be an even bigger bolster to archetypes and strategies that like such things.

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