Thursday 13 September 2018

Guilds of Ravnica Preliminary Review Part IV

Runaway Steam-Kin 6

Cute card. Not sure it is good but also not sure it is bad either. Obviously making a two mana 1/1 is bad. This is bad off the top and bad right away if made on curse. That being said, it takes very little time for this to no longer be bad. You can easily make it turn two and have it attacking next turn for three or four. On curve this should be big quickly but that along wouldn't be enough. What might push it over the edge is the good option density this card provides. Once a 4/4 you have access to some serious burst ramp. This could empower an X spell finisher, the kicker on Verix Bladewing, or just some big Insult turn where everything is dumped at once. I like the design a lot and want it to be good but the card does have some dodgy elements. It feels a bit polar, aggro red decks run out of gas fairly quick so if you draw this late charging it will be a slow affair. There are plenty of good red cards that are pretty weak late game draws however. This also has some decent potential in midrange red decks as well as the aggro ones as the mana elements become that much stronger. One thing that is super rare for red is having a good blocker, obviously this isn't great as it is probably a 1/1 first chance it gets to block but there after it is going to be more impressive in that department. Another nice element this card offers is bluff, with mana open you can run a 2/2 Steam-Kin into a 2/3 and likely get away with it. Lots going on with this card. Very fun and interesting but perhaps not consistent or playable enough for drafting cube.

Ionize 0

Worse than the surveil counterspell I would say. This might seem on theme with a tempo control deck but three mana counterspells are hard to use effectively to maintain tempo with. Izzet tends to be one of the weaker colour pairings for compounding spells in. With all the card advantage and quality on offer I always find I am drawn to the simplest and cheapest options. Why would I Ionize when I can Shock and Counterspell.

Deafening Clarion 0

Odd card. Not great for cube either, you can do a lot better for mass removal in either colour. The lifelink mode seems narrow, under powered and wildly unnecessary.

Goblin Cratermaker 8

Well this is fantastic. It is pretty much the best bits of Hearth Kami and Ember Hauler rolled into one with a dash of Infernal Reckoning for good measure. Easy to cast and lots of utility to offer. This is another top rate cheap red utility dork that you can play anywhere. It is good for aggressive decks giving them scope, interactive cards and answers on threats but it is even better for midrange decks that previously had nothing at all after Lavamancer that they could run. Now they have cards like this and Dismissive Pyromancer. Cratermaker is especially good in cube where a number of strong colourless non-land permanents reside. This card isn't the most exciting or even interesting of cards but it will lead to better games. It is a somewhat medium power level but outstanding playability for the cube meta. It would be unkind to call this better than Abrade but I like it more and have a preference for Cratermaker in most cases.

District Guide 0

No cube deck needs three Civic Wayfinders. No cube deck feels like it needs any to be honest...

Guild Summit 0

Unless you are packing a pauper cube you can do a lot better for fixing than Gates. Even then you are unlikely to have enough to power this in any useful way. Perhaps a budget cube that breaks the singleton rule could put this to use well but my cube won't!

Chemister's Insight 0

Somewhere between Deep Analysis and Heiroglyphic Illumination in function and a chunk worse than both in power and playability. Four to draw two is poor and four to Tormenting Voice is also weak, even if it is effectively a flashback at that point. This isn't enough value or utility. Pretty sure Sift is half the price of this meaning only play this if you want a card like Sift but you have great self mill and discard as well. Rather than describe unlikely places you could consider a bad card like this I'll just try and be brave and call this unplayable in cube.

Artful Takedown 0

Obviously not the removal card you want in cube but this is very strong for limited indeed. Impressive guild focused removal options in this set at common which feels like it will do good things for it.

Gateway Plaza 1

This gets a 1 only because I enjoy winning with Maze's End so much and this kind of helps with that.

Nullhide Ferox 3

Well this is an odd card. Four mana 6/6 is a good start but looks more impressive than it is. A four mana 5/5 is effectively as good in the majority of situations in cube and there are plenty of those that fail to impress. Discard protection is always nice but again, you can get that sort of thing on other cards that have more utility and arguably more power. Hexproof is great but you can remove it for two so this is really just Frost Titan levels of protection. Worse I suspect as you will likely pay the 2 yourself to cast a non-creature spell at some point only to have your opponent use that window to Terror your Ferox. Much as the drawback isn't huge on a green card there are not than many decks only running green. This card isn't the power level of card where you are accepting of drawbacks, even minor ones. I don't see this being exciting in cube or performing that well. It will be a great hoser card for a couple of decks against certain kinds of discard heavy plan but that is where I expect this card to stop performing. Powerful but inappropriate for most general uses. I would just rather run Obstinate Baloth. So yes, this is very powerful but it comes in a very hard to use well package so much so that I am not expecting much action out of this in cube of any real flavour.

Beast Whisperer 4

Nice, even if this doesn't perform in cube it should find plenty of homes in elf decks and a few other exotic places. I don't think this will do all that well in the drafting cube. In most ways it is worse than Vizier of the Managerie and that card was a huge let down. The only way in which it is better than the Vizier is when you can stockpile a bunch of cheap dorks in hand and cast them all quickly to milk a free card out of each of them. This is super hard to setup, pretty easy to disrupt and a relatively unlikely place to find yourself in. Certainly it will win you games in which it sits in play for very long but unlike the only other card that really fits into that category, you cannot get ramp and card advantage with Beast Whisperer if made on curve as you can with Oracle of Mul Daya. Make this on curve and you made 2 mana worth of stats and put a huge target on its head!

"Rain of Notions" 3

Read the Bones is an OK card and this is generally better version at the cost of being gold. This is too narrow purely on that gold front and not exactly a powerhouse card either. A gold version of an existing card really needs to do more than this does to excite. Despite my general unimpressed position on this card it will see a bunch of play in non-draft decks that want Read the Bones and have blue or just some Dimir colour decks after card both draw and yard filling tools.

"Nightviel Sprite" 3.5

Not sure what to make of this. Sigiled Starfish was bad, the body was too do nothing and the slow influx of scry didn't make up for the effective card disadvantage you imposed on yourself. This is a bit different, it offers a more all round body that has to attack to afford card quality. It offers a different kind of defense to the Starfish, likely better overall, but not while offering other value. Augury Owl is also bad and it offers probably more card quality and certainly it offers it quicker. All the Owl lacks is a single toughness and the graveyard synergies. Lacking the toughness hurts Owl as a defensive card but still, it all seems like our new Sprite buddy is far too close in effect and power to otherwise weak cards. I do like a 1/2 flier and I love card quality so I will give this a try. A small change to a cheap card goes a very long way but I am not holding out for this to perform. It should at least be a big help to the faerie tribe which are still thin on rounded, playable one and two drops.

Secrets of the Mausoleum 6

Now this is an undergrowth card I can get behind. Certainly the undergrowth element of the card is important but it doesn't have quite such a pronounced or scaling effect as the others so far. This is always a 1 for 1 card regardless of your undergrowth. I guess technically unless you are running Slaughter Pact and such this is a 1 for 0 when you are at zero dorks in the bin but beyond that the scaling is in range quality and not the numerical outcomes. The card I feel this is most like is Traverse the Ulvenwald. Both tend to do something but not all that exciting or large scope at the low end of the performance range while acting much more like a top rate Tutor at the upper ends of the performance. Traverse is likely the better card of the two for a couple of reasons. The floor is better, the cost is lower, and the range is wider (a bit under 3.7k black card cards against 10.5k lands and dorks). Most notably Traverse will get lands or action which is the main thing you want any card quality tool to be able to do in some manner, if not they become tools just used for very specific applications. Being weaker than Traverse is not to say that Secrets is bad however. It is instant and it will typically have a broader range within a deck than Traverse manages. It also has a much quicker ascent to potency. One dork in the bin will get you some mild disruption or a weak dork. Two in the bin will get you some powerful cards with a fairly wide range of effects from removal to card advantage to potent threats to combo pieces. Three in the bin will get you most of the commonly used cards in cube (and modern/legacy short of the delve ones). Once you hit four you are going to start getting some serious diminishing returns on your Secrets but you will obviously be unlocking the most powerful of the cards in your deck. Mostly I would expect to be using my Secrets in the 1-3 range for CMC. That feels pretty achievable in most cube decks by the time you want to play your Secrets. I think most control decks can probably manage enough in the way of creature count for this to be playable. The issue there is likely having too few good black targets at the low end of the curve. I want to call this the black Impulse but that really isn't a great comparison. Impulse is far more playable, it always works well and works well in anything. Secrets needs a fairly black heavy deck and a fairly creature heavy one, or at least one capable of putting dorks in the bin well and then protecting them. Secrets also only gets spells. Despite all of this it is still probably the closest thing black has to an Impulse short of Demonic Tutor. Even Tainted Pact is a bit risky to work out well in most cube decks, you can't go exiling half your deck to find something most of the time. Plunge into Darkness is probably the actual black Impulse having given this tangent too much thought but it has awkwardness about it too. So Secrets is a little bit too limiting for use as general card quality but it somewhat offsets this by having such a high ceiling that is relatively easy to get near. In a mono black deck with a sufficiently stocked graveyard and sufficient mana this is an instant speed Demonic Tutor. You don't see many cards that can outperform the original Tutor, certainly not ones that have a hope of general playability. All things considered, this card is not all that powerful, a bit under Traverse feels right. What is exciting about it is the card quality aspect for black, a colour rather starved for depth in playable card quality. Further to that, a colour reliant on clunky inflexible cards and thus in real need of good card selection. I like the design on this card a lot. It is super interesting with good potential but with a good power level.

"Whispering Spy" 0

Nope. This would still suck if it wasn't capped at once per turn. Narrow, no abuse and low powered.

Expansion // Explosion 1

Expansion is a good Fork, it is easy to cast and not all that limited on targets with only a handful of things you would want to copy above four CMC. Fork however is not that great of an effect. It isn't that great value when used on your own cards. It is cute on some powerful draw effects but it is super situational and slow to setup. It isn't great on your opponents stuff either, it is unreliable and rarely capable of big swings like a Misdirection effect is. I only really rate a Fork effect when I can pair it with additional cost cards like Tormenting Voice or Fling, beyond that I think they are pretty useless. A two mana Fork would be a bonus as a mode on an otherwise good card and add at least some value. On the side of a card as narrow as Explosion however a Fork is not doing much. Explosion is a lot of mana to do not that much. The tempo and interactive potential for Explosion is just terrible. Six mana for 2 damage. Sure, you get some cards and that is great but there is cheaper card advantage and way way cheaper burn. This is dead until five mana and doesn't feel good till eight or more. You need to be rather better than that to stand a chance in cube. Eight mana cards win games and quickly, this is not such a card.

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