Friday 14 September 2018

Guilds of Ravnica Preliminary Review Part V

"Vivid Renewal" 0

This is a bad All Sun's Dawn or Season's Past. Very bad in contrast even if it seems OK as a stand alone. Cards that seem bad in contrast to cards that get loads of play in cube can still often be good but those those that seem bad next to ones that don't are non starters.

Locket Cycle 0

Three mana ramp needs to do more. Cashing in for a terrible draw two is not the more we are looking for. If you are cashing these in they are not ramping. Options is nice but we need more upfront as well to be viable as three mana ramp. I prefer Thunder Totem to these and I have not played Thunder Totem before now. Sure, these fix but so does Cultivator's Carvan or Coalition Relic.... or indeed the good two mana Signets and Talisman.

Goblin Banneret 6

I didn't like this at first but it is growing on me. A single trigger on the mentor is enough to make this reasonable value. The firebreathing element of the card is actually great as well. It is uncapped and at a very reasonable one mana to one damage rate. Further to that is is also kind on your mana and works to near full effect in RX decks where Firebreating would be limited. Sure, you have to go up in increments of two which does limit the flexibility of it but it is still decent. One mana 1/1 firebreathing dorks with mild upside (dash / soulbond ) have done some good work in cube and are surprisingly good. This feels a bit better. It trades up well, it represents a fairly serious threat for a one drop, it scales better into the late game than most other one drop beaters, it should leave behind some residual value after is it dealt with too. The only things I don't like about it is how poorly it attacks into things that make 1/1 tokens but the same is true of any X/1 one drop. At least in red you can kill little things readily. I am also not a huge fan of how it is in need of further mana investment to carry itself properly. Unless you have 0 power dorks attacking this is just a 1/1 unless you use the pump which makes this much more of a 3 mana card than a 1 mana card. It is like a Vessel of Nascency in that regard! I expect to see Signal Pest getting a lot better with these mentor cards floating about. I think this is a perfectly playable one drop in red. It is not the most powerful but the options and potential interactions make me hope that it is cube worthy. Impressive design making a one drop that is so fair yet offers a good amount of play. This might not make Savannah Lions look bad but my god does it make them look dull.

Guildmages Forum 0

Really this is a 0 but there is probably going to be some stupid interaction or card that works well enough with this so as to make it playable somehow. The card is shocking however, it encourages you to play gold cards but only fixes for you when you sink an extra mana into it. Nice gold card you can't play cause your greedy land is terrible.

Molderhulk 2.5

Ghoultree is back and is still bad. The scaling here is all wrong and the card isn't even very impressive when you play it. In a dedicated self mill deck where this is reliably two mana then this card is great but beyond that it is basically unplayable.

Arclight Phoenix 7

This doesn't seem to have gone down well with the community but it seems perfectly strong to me. This feels like a red Vengevine. It is weaker than Rekindling Phoenix but it is also a different sort of card. Rekindling is a midrange, even a control card. You play it and it is a good solid dork that is hard to remove and performs well in combat. This is more aggressive. Not only does it do more damage than Rekindling in a short time frame (3 vs 0, 6 vs 4 and 9 vs 8) when simply cast but this can also be discarded and brought into play for free. Turn one Faithless Looting, Gitaxian Probe, Gutshot! While that is a bit unlikely getting it back for free any time after turn one is increasingly likely and still incredibly powerful. It compares well to Vengevine in several ways. Red has more discard than green allowing you to cheat this out more consistently. Red wants the aggressive tempo of a cheated in dork like this more than green tends to. Evasion is huge, a 3/2 flier is a useful card all by itself at all stages of the game but a 4/3 much less so. You need that 4/3 to be alongside other solid beaters for it to make the stats work for it. I would lastly argue it is easier to cast 3 spells in a turn as a red player than two dorks as a green player. A lot of spells draw cards or have flashback or alternate costs while few creatures cost little, certainly not those that do find more dorks to cast. Most significantly you are playing your 1 mana dorks on turn one and so you are unlikely to have a stockpile of cheap dorks to hand for Vengevine recursions. So, if we accept this Phoenix is better than a Vengevine, or indeed just comparable then we have to accept this card is pretty good. I am not expecting it to outclass Rekindling in standard but I can see this creeping into modern and legacy decks and working well. Another angle you can take on Arclight is comparing it to one of the 3 mana 2/2 Phoenix. They were pretty decent cards, especially Chandra's Phoenix when it first came out. Arclight feels better than such cards too offering a better damage return for mana spend on it as well as more potential for abuse. Overall this card might not be the most exciting but that is mostly due to it being a small bland body with no ongoing effects once in play. Unexciting however does not equate to bad, it just directs our bias. It is easy to see why this is received badly but it is does seem to be good upon analysis. It requires firm removal. It immediately acts on the game. It is a threat with reach and a decent enough clock and it is open to abuse with easy to assemble synergies. I am expecting to get this for free more often than I cast it. Lets call it 50/50, how does my average two mana 3/2 recursive flying haste sound now? Sounds more interesting than Rekindling doesn't it?

Midnight Reaper 7

This is probably just better than Grim Haruspex which is (was) easily a card good enough for cube. The morph on Grim is minor to say the least, we can pretty much ignore that. The creature type difference has way more relevance than the morph! Type however has little baring on draft and much more on constructed events. For cube drafts as well as other cube formats the main difference is the lifeloss on Reaper against the lack of card draw when Grim Haruspex is killed himself. A Shock cleanly ends Grim in a high tempo one for one way while most removal goes two for one with Reaper. Reaper is also much happier to get into combat with. I found that with Ruin Raider a lot too, all I wanted was my card back, after that I was more than happy to trade it off in combat. It always felt good when Ruin Raider drew a card then traded in combat and I think Reaper will be exactly the same. I never want to do that with Grim, I feel I need to get some card value from him else he has not been a good inclusion in the list. So, how bad is a life loss per dead dork? It is a bit bad but I don't think it is as bad as having a three drop that is fairly useless against removal, in combat and without support from more of your own cards. One of the most common homes for Grim in cube is the Blood Artist style of decks where you can most easily afford the life loss. I do expect Midnight Reaper to claim the lives of his controllers here and there in cube and yet I don't think that will be much of a knock to the cards viability. Reaper is not far off being a Rogue Refiner and a Dark Prophecy rolled into one which is a great place to be.

Passwall Adept 1

This is pretty awful but not as awful as it looks. Unblockable is actually really powerful in cube, much more so than most other formats. It offers loads of reach and loads of planeswalker control while also being a solid defensive tempo card. It has useful types and does a useful job acceptably well. It is not unimaginable that this feels like the right piece of low end filler for some weird blue aggro or tribal thing.

Vraska, Golgari Queen 6.5

I like a four mana planeswalker in Golgari as black has precious few four mana walkers to offer. I am also a big fan of the -3, it is just a nice rounded ability. While it isn't dealing with big problems it should do a great job of protecting herself and affords loads of range, cover and utility. Where this feels like it might all come falling down is the +2 which is not always that useful. At least it is a may effect allowing you to do nothing and gain two loyalty which is OK. The plus two is only good when you have something like Abundant Growth or Strangelroot Geist to sac off. Then you are getting value, some life and some utility. You can cash in mana sources in the late game which is nice but in the mid game, in a normal run of the mill midrange game, you are going to be really hard pressed to consistently do much with the +2. Getting one good hit will feel like a win, more will feel like when you get a pair of 5/5s with Karn, Scion of Urza! The value of just putting loyalty on a walker is highly dependent on what that walker can do with it. In that aspect Vraska is wildly varied. Against some decks they will fear the ultimate or simply not be able to do anything past unlimited Abrupt Decays and they will need to contain Vraska. A control deck however than has few to zero Abrupt Decay targets it cares about and that anticipates being able to hold off attackers if she goes ultimate can pretty much ignore Vraska if they want to. She isn't directly threatening the game, she can't even make dorks to assist with her ultimate. It would be harsh to call it worse than the original Vraska's ultimate but it also isn't strictly better! Overall I do think the Golgari Queen has what it takes to perform in cube. Golgari are a super common colour pairing that does lack this sort of tool in the four slot. Most decks will care about the -3 quite a lot and will not be able to ignore her. Vraska brings a huge amount of control. She can remove a significantly larger portion of things in play than other walkers in her cost range or she can jump to a healthy six loyalty making her super safe. On top of broad removal coverage Vraska offers potential lifegain and card draw. She is a very powerful control tool, she is so powerful in that regard that you can even lean on her a bit as a win condition provided you have some access to creatures in your deck. The ultimate is sneakily made 9 loyalty (exactly 2x+1 where x is starting loyalty which is the minimum it can be) I suspect for EDH and Doubling Season. Vraska would be oppressive if you can just flop her down and attack everyone for lethal right away! A big part of how Vraska is balanced is by not working all that well with herself. Although a great control card the +2 is hardest to make work in that setting and so diminishes her average performance. Lots of power, lots of options but a little awkward of a card. Likely cube worthy but unlikely to be a bomb. A little less potent than Nahiri, the Harbinger but rather more playable.

Swarm Guildmage 0

Nope, way too slow and gold and low powered. These are basically just limited cards now. Obviously this isn't unplayable, it is an OK body for the cost, it has some abilities that do things. The point is what are you playing this over and why? There are just way too many better things that this shouldn't be getting a look in.

House Guildmage 0

This is a lot closer to playable than Swarmy but you still shouldn't be.

Golgari Findbroker 1

Yikes this thing makes Eternal Witness look good. The cost on this is very heavy for what it does, at 2GB I wouldn't exactly be excited for this card. The body isn't terrible and the effect is good enough, like a one shot Meren of Clan Nel Toth. I can see this being viable in plenty of places but I suspect they will ultimately find ways to forgo what this offers or make use of more powerful more efficient cards that do similar sorts of thing.

Invert // Invent 2

I like this a lot but it almost feels like it is too far. A good modal card offers an always good mode and a situational one, it offers cheap modes and a weighty one. This does those things brilliantly. Sadly the always good mode is also the weighty one and boy is it weighty. Zero tempo and six mana is hard to stomach. Very few decks can support that sort of thing and that is an issue with the one mana mode being so very situational that you cannot rely on it for much of much. The best case on Invert outclasses Invent, you can kill a Bird of Paradise and a Thing in the Ice for one mana! Invert is unlikely to be good enough as Twisted Image or Inside Out have failed to break into cube as yet. If Invert can't carry the card Invent is simply far too narrow to get it done. I will play this in some tailored control decks and it will be pretty powerful but in a draft setting this is going to be a last pick rather often and left out of deck construction all the time.This is just way to cute of a card.

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