Friday 21 September 2018

Guilds of Ravnica Preliminary Review Part XII

Erstwhile Trooper 1

If you want bland vanilla beaters and discard outlets then this has some merit, although not much. Otherwise it is bad. I am never playing this over Lotleth Troll so I would need to have a deck wanting both...

Plaguecrafter 3

Broadly better than Merciless Executioner type cards but still perhaps not great. This is only good when they have one thing out that you want dead and it is only great when you have something small you are happy to sac off. If you kill a walker or relevant dork and get a 3/2 for 3 mana then good times. That will be somewhat rare. Cube is typically more board stall than a lot of other formats with both sides cluttering up meaning low expected value for the Crafter. Using it as discard is poor but not useless and might even be good if it sacrifices something you want dead. This card has some reasonable utility but it is very hard to control and on the narrower side of things. It is fairly infrequent to find a planeswalker in play without other dorks with it and that makes Plaguecrafter less able to do the most exciting thing he does.

Goblin Locksmith 0

This just seems unnecessary. Defenders are not good enough to merit consideration. Just play Frenzied Goblin, or Sparksmith, or Earthshaker Khenra if you want to bypass blockers.

Drowned Secrets 3.5

Mill is very powerful in 40 card decks and this is a very good mill card for formats where all the cheap blue cantrips are found. This looks pretty naughty for a turbo mill deck, like a more potent less easily removed Hedron Crab. Mill is a bit lame to play in cubes and ruins much fun but this is quite a good mill card if you want to go down that route. There are even some corner cases you might play this as self mill but mostly you can get that on cards that do other things too.

Dawn of Hope 5

The quality of this leans rather a lot on the incidental lifegain you have in your cube. The more of it and the more in white then the better this gets. Much as I don't think I have enough to support this currently I think I easily could make it so and will probably try. This is a lovely tool for white providing a great mana sink and not the worst card advantage engine. Courser of Kruphix is great with this, Legion's Landing is pretty sweet too and also in white. Late game this gets fairly out of hand, six mana is pretty much always a card which will lead to more mana and then more dorks and more cards. This is all you really need for your late game gas. While that is great you still need it to perform in the early game as well. There are plenty of good enough late game tools that do useful early game things, most of the flip lands for one. That is why you need some incidental lifegain cards which will allow you to throw a couple of spare midgame mana into more cards. With lifegain on tap Dawn of Hope is like a really good Arguel's Blood Fast which is a fantastic place to be in cube.

Pelt Collector 7

Here we have a twist on Experiment One. Broadly speaking this is better against midrange and aggro while Experiment One is better vs control. Mostly that doesn't matter, this is the sort of thing that improves Experiment One rather than competing with it. Green stompy might have just gotten really good. Hardened Scales decks just got better too. Redundancy in high powered one drops is a big deal and so this card has one of the best chances of inducing a meta shift. Most of the control vs midrange/aggro shift is down to the effects of trample vs regenerate. The mechanism by which they grow seems closer in power level but with Pelt Collector winning out. I doubt that many death triggers will happen for Collector, it certainly won't be double the number of EtB triggers, not by a long shot. Pelt Collector will either die at the same time or before them or outgrow them or just win before either die. I think the when it dies trigger makes it look better than it is but that isn't too much of a problem as the card is easily good enough.

Camaraderie 0

Yuk. This is poor compared to something like Shamanic Revelation which itself has seen no play. Drawing cards and gaining life are at complete odds with giving your team +1/+1, either kill people with your team or milk it for value, but don't play over priced gold cards and do a half arsed job at both simultaneously. Camaraderie is better than Revelation (that of the Shaman and not of the Sphinx) only if you are exclusively using small dorks and only then if you care about the lifegain. I am pretty sure the only time I have run a card that draws cards equal to my board presence is Regal Force and despite it dwarfing cards like this it still isn't great.

Generous Sentry 1

I will mock this and talk about how +0/+1 isn't close to worth the mana this is over Elvish Visionary (or Wall of Bloss) and then I will end up playing this because I just need another cantrip dork. Sad but very plausible. This card is awful but it apparently isn't unplayable.

Chamber Sentry 6

This is no Walking Ballista but it is still very potent. I doubt you play this in a mono deck where it is pretty much a nut low Mogg Fanatic but with access to more colours it starts to get interesting quickly. I can see this winding up in a lot of places. I can see this being played in two colour decks but then because of this playing random things that add other colours so as to have this potentially hit 3 or 4 counters. Any sort of counter synergy really empowers this too. The hybrid split cards and things like this lead me to believe we are going to much more fluid builds that are rooted in a couple of colours but ultimately have access to some things in far more. This is never very powerful. Even if you have the full range of mana and can make it anything from a 1/1 to a 5/5 while also recurring it the card is only fair. The recursion is so expensive and the rest if card is sufficiently slow that you are only really doing this when you have run out of other stuff going on. A few things turn this fair card into a good one. First is simple, it gives efficient low damage output effects to non-red colours. Red was becoming overly dominant due to having the monopoly on things like Arc Trail and Forked Bolt. Being able to punish people going to town on lots of small dorks is great. It is not that say Azorius (or any other non-red colour pairing) lacks removal, they have some of the best. The issue is that it isn't the most efficient when dealing with small dorks when you also have your own. No dorks, fine, Wraths are great. Only facing some powerful dorks, then you are nicely covered with effective spot removal. Find yourself facing off against loads of little things you could really do with killing and it all goes to pot. In terms of pinging efficiency Sentry is better than Ballista, it is the ability for Ballista to do so much reactively and without mana that really makes it nuts. That and the infinite scaling it has with mana! Both Sentry and Ballista are two mana for 1 damage but to get that efficient rate Ballista has to pay twice as much up front. To get a ping and survive or to get two damage you need four mana upfront for Ballista while you only need two for Sentry. Sentry comes down bigger and quicker than Ballista and that is great. Chamber Sentry is a nicely option dense card. It has cost flexibility and once you are past summoning sickness it has a lot of ongoing options on offer. Not more than Ballista but comparing unfavourably to such potent cards is not a problem! This, if nothing else, will temper the vastly over powered nature of Mother of Runes!

Bountry of Might 5.5

Super Seeds of Strength! While this looks like a bit of a joke card I think it has some serious potential. Six mana for 9 damage is the first thing this card says to me and that is a pretty efficient return. Six is a lot less for green than other colours and so this could be a pretty legitimate finisher. Super Lava Axe! Perhaps even better than Overrun. Overrun needs you to have 3 dorks in play to represent 9 damage so it is narrower but it is also something to react to rather than reactive. You can Bounty once blockers are declared to get all 9 damage past rather than buff pre combat and let your opponent do the best blocking they can do. You can Bounty in response to removal for a potential blowout play or you can use it as a combat trick for again, a presumably blowout play. This looks like it counters mass removal based on creature size, is a one sided Wrath in combat, or it ends the game like a pair of Fireblasts. All the things it does are mentally good. It is very top end and also an aggressive card but I really can see this performing well in green despite this. Very much one for the testing and one I have some expectations of.

Urban Utopia 2

This is just a bad Abundant Growth but Growth is very playable and often very suitable. Enchantress, aura, and Estrid builds enjoy access to cards like this and so this will absolutely see some play. It won't be exciting but it will be appropriate. It think this is a bit too clunky, slow and lacking in power to get much attention in a drafting cube however.

Portcullis Vine 3.5

A reworked Wall of Mulch. Worse in functionality but cheaper and much more suitable in this new age of defenders instead of walls! This will see some play in funky brews but it shouldn't fit in drafting cubes. Too low power and not quite enough support there. The ability to cash itself in for a card almost makes it rounded enough to consider for the cube but there isn't really any builds that want such a card. As it is a one drop I'll probably give it a brief test to make sure though.

Pause for Reflection 0.5

I'm not going to rule out a potentially free spell. The thing about this is that it is a Fog and Fogs are used when you lack dorks for defense. As such, having convoke is rarely going to be a plus on a Fog. This is only better than Fog when you consistently have more than two otherwise useless dorks sitting about untapped. That feels like never in a deck wanting Fogs. Oh, and Fog is far from the best Fog so comparing poorly to Fog is a real bad place to be.

Pack's Favor 0.5

Gather Courage is usually better than this. Gather is far more often free and far easier to conceal. Combat tricks only need to be enough, they are not so rigidly defined by the numbers as burn or draw. With that I mind I think +2/+2 is fairly on the sweet spot, a Giant Growth certainly isn't 50% better in practice. The humble +2/+2 reverses most combat results and counters most size based removal and that is when a combat trick like this is best. Pack's Favor is a bit more punch, it lets you send a bit more upstairs but the added value isn't close to making up for the extra cost. Gather Courage also sees very little love due to Mutagenic Growth just being a more consistently free version.

Torch Courier 6

This is pretty good I think. It will absolutely see play all over the place from tribal goblins to certain combo decks. It is very appropriate little utility dork. It does it's thing cheaply, quickly and efficiently. The question is whether or not this is good enough for a drafting cube. My concern there is that the best cards to give haste to are typically quite bad stand alone cards as they are expensive and have a powerful attack or tap ability which accounts for much of their cost and in return makes them vulnerable to removal. As an example lets take Lord of Lineage, this is about as tame of a card as it is generally worth giving haste to. I have not had Lord in my cube for several years now as it dies so easily to so much without returning value. Unless you are going on an alpha strike turn and you just want to upgrade the 1/1 attacker into more damage I don't think that there are that many good things to haste up and that makes Torch Courier just an aggro card in my cube rather than the general support card it could be. Courier is good for early damage and the final push but not so much else. The mentor mechanic probably helps make Courier better. Mother of Runes is certainly the best card I can think of in my cube to offer haste to,  perhaps Wurmcoil Engine. All you really need is this in play and that will afford your Mother effective protection. Perhaps this will be good enough to bring in other haste giving cards like Goblin Motivator alongside cards like Krenko to take advantage of them. It is certainly a direction you could take if you wanted. An interesting card and a promising addition to the total pool of magic cards. As someone who loves to tinker with exotic decks I am very happy to see a card like this. I aim to give it every chance to succeed in my drafting cube.

Fire Urchin 2

I think there are probably iterations of the Kiln Fiend deck I would play this in. It is lower power than many of the three drop options, indeed it is lower power than the most of the one and two drops that see play! The thing is that there are few of those and durability is a big deal. The extra toughness on Urchin combined with its low deployment cost may well see it getting some play. A bit of a dull and low powered card but suitable enough.

Vicious Rumors 0.5

I feel like black has enough one mana generic discard cards that are better than this. The mill is more likely a disadvantage than a plus.`I think you have to have a list that really needs lifegain triggers for this to be interesting. I don't think the cards for such a deck exist yet although Dawn of Hope is a good start.

Pilfering Imp 5.5

I love this! It will also certainly see play in places, much like Torch Courier will. The Imp will also struggle to get a place in the drafting cube and likely much more so than the Courier. Imp is a bad Distress and it is a poor threat and those are all the things it does. It is a low enough cost card with a high enough degree of utility that I have some hopes for it. That and how starved black is for good discard and one drops, especially rounded ones. This is no Kitesail Freebooter, that is disruption and a body not one or the other. It is also a tempo play which Imp rarely achieves. You kind of need something like a Bad Moon or equipment to make the Imp a relevant tempo play. Imp appears like it is poor but it still somehow smacks of a card that will stick around in cube getting play.

Burglar Rat 2

A textually updated Ravenous Rats. Not bad, not exciting. Ravenous Rats have been out of the cube for years and getting some more redundancy isn't bringing them back. They still see very occasional play and so I assume these will too. Broadly these are better but I imagine they will be close enough in my cube that art preference will be more relevant, that or which is found first! Sure, this gets round hexproof players but if you are running a discard deck into an Ivory Mask your Rat triggering is the least of your worries.

Barrier of Bones 3

Not an exciting card nor a powerful one. It might however just work out to be appropriate. If you want self mill, bodies to sacrifice and you feel you need a bit more early defense and setup then this card is a perfect fit. It is a really nice tool to have for deck refining purposes. I can really see me running this in a number of places. It can single handedly setup a Recurring Nightmare. It is one of blacks only general card quality tools as well. This is too low powered and a little too niche for the drafting cube but it is surprisingly close. I will test this fully expecting it to be unplayably low power yet would still not be shocked if it saw action and performed.

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