Wednesday 19 September 2018

Guilds of Ravnica Preliminary Review Part X

Hatchery Spider 0

This seems like a bad Genesis Hydra and Genesis Hydra has never been accused of being good. This only does green things and it always costs loads while not always having a large X. Inflexible, random, needy, very bad.

Wand of Vertebrae 1

I significantly prefer both Perpetual Timepiece and Codex Shredder to this. I don't even really see a situation where redundancy in these effects will be useful. I am not convinced this is powerful enough self mill to be worth using as such and it certainly isn't being used solely on the merits of the reshuffle. Despite my inability to find a use for this it is still a cheap and versatile tool that does a thing, I am sure this will get used somewhere. Most likely in standard Dimir decks...

Unmoored Ego 0

No cube application, well certainly not in singleton. Quite a well designed iteration of this style of card otherwise, I suspect we will see some of this in modern given that it actually handles some of the key cards such things need to hit to have a broad enough appeal and a strong enough effect.

Thousand-Year Storm 1

Lots of effect but also lots of mana. This feels very much like overkill. If your storm style combo deck can get to six mana it can probably find a more contained way of exploding, or even just winning. I infrequently play both of Mind's Desire and Time Spiral and I don't feel like I would play Storm over either of those. Despite that this card is just too powerful to fully overlook. I will certainly have a go at abusing this! Can't pass up a chance at those turn one wins even if they have comic odds. For this you need to go; land, Rite of Flame, Desperate Ritual, Pyretic Ritual, Seething Song, Manamorphose, Thousand-Year Storm, one mana 3 damage red spell, copy it six more times and do 21 total damage!

Divine Visitation 0.5

While this is pretty cool I am not sure it is very useful. It is somewhat too much. Obviously you can only play this in a list that has an abundance of tokens which means it will be a token deck. They should be winning with one or two global pump effects and going wide, or with a Hellrider and a Goblin Bombardment to convert those tokens into damage, that kind of thing. Visitation offers no perks for tokens already in play, only value to subsequent ones. It is also painfully slow. Make it, then make tokens, then wait a turn to attack with your team of flying angels. It is so powerful it makes previous anthem and pump effects pretty wasted but you can't really just replace the Anthems and pump with this because what if you don't see this or it is dealt with? It is too much power concentrated in one card. A two or there mana version of this that turned tokens into 2/2 fliers would have been very interesting but this well overshoots. Much like the long Storm before it, Visitation is too powerful to fully overlook but I am not even going to bother trying to break this myself.

Haazda Marshal 7

This is exactly the sort of tool white aggressive decks crave. The lower they can make their curve the happier they are. Marshal lets them do that, likely filling the role of Precinct Captain, in addition or as a replacement. There are not many one drops that help as much as Marshal with going wide aggressively. As a one drop Marshall is pretty poor as you are almost never attacking with three the following turn. As a turn two or three play however Marshal stands to get those triggers pretty easily. Unlike Captain you don't even have to connect, just attack! Getting value from Marshal will not be too hard as a result. Playing it alongside combat tricks will make it terrifying as well. It is a narrow card, only aggressive white decks want it. It is also a little bit win more, about as much as a one mana dork can be! That all being said I still think this will get plenty of cube attention. Being so cheap the risk of playing a card like this compared to something a bit more stand alone like Savannah Lions is minimal yet the upside is potentially vast. Marshal is just on theme for white aggression in every way. It is a cheap body that can make more bodies. It has outstanding scaling with buffs both personal and global, tricks, removal, other battalion style cards. Basically the totally of what white does other than Wrath of God! Great little card. Making two tokens doesn't feel that unlikely and at that point you are going to be hard pressed to find a better value one drop. That is pretty much three mana worth of card. One token will be your expected minimum. Less than that means you drew removal and there are not that many one drops capable of drawing removal. They are all big names like Deathrite, Delver, Grim, Mother. Few of them are aggressive either. In cube I anticipate this outclassing Delver of Secrets. The white weenie dream of being able to play sixteen good one drops is basically now upon us. Slower decks are going to need to pack those Plague Mares and Ratchet Bombs else they are going to just get murdered by the aggro white deck.

Gird for Battle 3.5

Cheap, direct and high power. This is as cheap as it can be and it does precisely one thing and it does it better than other cards. Other examples of such thing include Lightning Bolt and Ancestral Recall! Now, I am not for one minute suggesting this is even close to those things. I just highlighting that most cards that fit the same description of being the cheapest and best cards to do one thing see play. For +1/+1 counter themed decks this is almost certainly going to be too good to pass up on. Those are typically green and not often white though. This means this has to trump or join Travel Preparations. Outside of counter themed decks I am less convinced of this cards potential. Certainly other narrow builds like heroic will want this cheap powerful double targetting one drop. Gird for Battle is quite a lot of tempo but it is also narrow and vulnerable. You need two dorks in play to have it afford enough value, ideally with some scaling potential themselves, be it a key word or whatever. You then need to have those things survive a bit with their counter on them. I don't see white weenie going for a card like this in much the same way you don't see many red decks running Reckless Charge when they can just run cards that work by themselves instead. To use the same analytic technique used on Marshal, the risk of playing Gird for Battle compared to Savannah Lions is significant. Certainly the payoff is still greater in potential than Lions but not by as much as the Marshal. Who wan'ts to take higher risks for lower potential return? That being said, Marshal is a card you want to Gird, as are his tokens! In turn, that being said, you really don't want to reduce your cheap dork count when you are playing Marshal as then you will miss token generation triggers and that is far from ideal.

Etrata, the Silencer 5

I really have no idea what to make of this thing. At first I missed the reshuffling herself component and obviously thought she was off the charts good. Now I just don't know where I stand on this at all. Etrata is certainly fascinating. She is like a card that is part defender and part "Seal of" where she is functionally a 3/5 wall or a very slow Unlicenced Disintigration. Is a four mana Seal of Unlicenced Disintigration good? Not really. Even with exile and no need of artifacts it still isn't exciting. I would much rather just pack Vraska's Contempt. Etrata is also much worse than Seal of Unlicensed Disintegration would be too as it takes a turn to come online, can be countered with removal in that time frame and still only operates at sorcery speed once combat damage is resolved. That last bit means you are waiting two more turns to force through attackers with Etrata than other removal. So what perks does Etrata have in her 3/5 wall mode? Certainly it is plenty of control. Five toughness is a lot at four mana and three power deals with most things. Etrata in play should prevent a lot of good things from being cast. Not just creatures either, I think planeswalker control is the most likely thing to carry Etrata in cube. A 3/5 black gold defender really helps keep your own walkers alive and a 3/5 unblockable is about as good as it gets at taking out opposing walkers. Unless their walker can instantly take out Etrata they are probably not playing it. If you were really keen you could even build around the win the game mode but that is going to be a little far fetched. The deck would need things to give haste, things to repeatedly tutor Etrata, things to protect her and things to protect you while doing all this crap! After all that you need your opponent to need to play dorks to win else they can just stop you winning. Or you could just win with 7x draw, cast and attack with Etrata like the worst Rift Bolt of all time. So yeah, the win the game is fun but not competitive. It will win a game here and there but it adds fairly little value to the card. I suspect more value in people missplaying against it than anything else! So with all this in mind how good is Etrata? She is a bad threat and she is bad removal and those are the two intuitive things she does and as such make her look very poor. If you consider her more as a modal card with a lot of defensive utility, lots of options and lots of control while also providing some degree of inevitability then I like her significantly more. All told I feel like Hostage Taker is just a better card with a lot of overlap and thus likely won't get much of a look in. That being said I think I prefer the design on this and prefer it's more even potency. Often you have to run out a turn four Hostage Taker and in those games it is always a loss if they have removal for it and often a win if they don't. Cards that all in are not great for game play and Etrata sidesteps that issue wonderfully. This could be quite nasty in standard where you can run a full four and enjoy a much better chance of reaching that win the game tally of hits. Certainly one to try in cube but as ever with the gold cards of reasonable CMC and up, I do not hold out much hope.

Kraul Harpooner 5.5

Well this is just a lot of power in one card. The undergrowth matters very little, you still get a 3/2 reach for 2 and a fight with a flier. That means you can take out anything upto a 1/3 in size without any thing in the bin and without losing your dork. With not much extra help you can trade with most of the premium fliers in magic. Harpooner is a good answer card and an OK dork. That is the biggest problem Harpooner has, if you play him as a two drop then he isn't answering fliers but if you hold him back he is just as narrow as Wallop and affords no value as a two drop curve play. One thing I like about Harpooner is that you can just give him haste and exploit the undergrowth element without need of fighting against fliers. So despite the high power and the high utility of this card I am not sure it is going to be all that impressive. It is just a bit aimless. Aggressive  green decks power through fliers, defensive ones really don't want 3/2 two drops that don't afford card advantage. I think this won't see much play and I expect to cut it which is quite rare for a card with such a low cost and high power level. I hope it proves me wrong, green could really use some more general anti flier cards like this.

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