Saturday, 15 September 2018

Guilds of Ravnica Preliminary Review Part VI

Lava Coil 4

Flame Slash and Incendiary Flow got together and now we have Lava Coil. This isn't bad by any means but I am not sure it is required in cube in a general sort of way. The only time this is better than either of the "parent" cards is when you are specifically needing to exile a four toughness dork. Presently most of the things in need of exile are either greater or less than four toughness. You may well see this as a meta pick in a format like a rotisserie where there are lots of 4 toughness things and lots of things in need of exile but you really need to know the meta for that sort of call to be right. A useful card to have as an option and a powerful enough one that it wouldn't look out of place in a cube, just not a card I think I presently need for mine. For drafting it is best to have the broadest range of playability in your supporting cards and so for burn that usually means hitting all targets. Only the very best of those that do not should make the cut.

Never Happened 0

Just too low powered. Exiling is nice and the graveyard hosing aspect is a useful bonus but on a 3 mana sorcery this is not getting it done. The community reaction to this however was well worth it being printed if nothing else!

Golgari Raiders 1

Some powerful scaling potential but a poor average performance. The card is pricey and fairly dull, just a big dork. The only place I see this is in extreme combo situations. When you have Brawn in the bin along with the rest of your deck (which includes at least 20 other creatures!) and something like an Unburial Rites or Dread Return. For general use this is going to be a 2/2 or 3/3 too often and in the rare occasions it does get to being like a 6/6 or bigger it still won't be that effective. It will go 1 for 1 with an answer or get blocked. Narrow, situational and easily countered.

Integrity // Intervention 7

This is great. Really hitting the sweet spot for me. I also really don't rate Lightning Helix all that highly so I feel that speaks volumes for this card. This card is doing gold and modal brilliantly. It has an always useful mode and it has a situational mode with a lot of potential to swing the game. It has the ability to be played when you are missing either of your colours making it more splashable than most gold cards out there. Cards with cheap combat trick modes are some of the best modal cards, as indeed are those with a direct damage mode. This card is a tempo decks dream card. A high tempo high value one mana combat trick or a versatile removal and reach tool with some lifegain. This card should break close tempo games pretty hard and do good work in any matchup. Neither half of this card is overpowered, arguably both are underpowered. Certainly twice the price on Helix isn't a good deal but it is still fine when you are going to use it, you have Integrity when mana is tight after all. I will happily play this in any aggro or midrange Boros deck. I will also fairly happily throw it into a midrange or aggro red or white deck if I can muster up a couple of low key duals that don't hurt my build at all. This is just the ticket for a mono red or white aggro deck. White loves a bit of reach and red loves the ability to play combat tricks. Design wise this card is wonderfully well formed. It looks like the various arms of the Wizards team passed this around multiple times until it was perfect. Like an assiduous carpenter getting the perfect finish on their work, using every tool from the plane and chisel down through the grades of sandpaper till a final wipe with cloth and oil resulting in wood that feels like marble. Being able to make a gold card so playable and yet so clearly not above the power curve is a big ask and it is done here to perfection.

Nightveil Predator 2

Yuk. This is OK but it is a bit all over the place. The cost is severally limiting and the end product is hard to know what to do with. It isn't very aggressive nor a way of generating value, it just kind of sits there. Predator trades fairly well in combat but not as well as you might like. I am sure there will be places for this to shine but in a general cube drafting sense this is in a no mans land leaving it rather useless. It isn't powerful enough to be a good threat card but it isn't cheap enough to be anything else. You either go bigger than this or you go well under it. In booster draft I expect this to be pretty terrifying to face and a good reason to Dimir.

Erratic Cyclopse 3

This seems potentially mental. It has so much toughness and it has that key trample ability. I am also assuming there are abuses for the +X trigger where by you can pay very little mana to make this silly big. Becoming Immense for 1 and give this +12/+6 sounds pretty unfair. Much as a four mana dork that does nothing on its own sounds like a bad card to try and use for combo killing people the high toughness makes it quite safe and a lot of the spells you want to play in prowess style of deck that could house this well are generally good cards that work well together. It would not be much of a stretch getting this into a good looking deck. It is probably still too narrow for the drafting cube but I do plan to build around this, perhaps with Vial Smasher the Fierce.

"Centaur Meditator" 1

Lots of lifegain but not enough to play this because of it and the 3/3 body for three is just not exciting. There is an outside chance you might play with with Kavu Predator synergies but I can't see this ever getting play as a defensive lifegain card when there are so many more powerful cards or lifegain effects on offer.

Price of Fame 2

Over time I expect the count of legendary creatures in cube to grow and it is already significant. At about 17% legends in my cube this is costing an average 3.6ish mana, likely a bunch less as legends are better and you will have way more desire and opportunity to target them. Sadly I don't think you are getting another 0.6 mana worth out of that desire and average three is the point at which this card starts to look interesting. Instant speed unrestricted removal plus decent card quality is good. Presently this is a no, it is a bit like Lava Coil in that it may see some rare action as a meta call. Over time however this could be increasingly playable. It isn't unplayable as it is but I anticipate it unperforming compared to your more general Doom Blade cards.

"Truefire Captain" 1

Terrible standalone card. Super narrow and vulnerable to removal, even burn. I'll take three to Bolt this and still feel like I am well ahead on that exchange. The only place I can see me running this is in a combo deck built around damaging my own dorks as a win mechanic and even then this is like the 4th enabler I would run.

Mission Briefing 3

Interesting card for sure. Obviously the comparison is to Snapcaster where this rather falls down in my estimation. Surveil 2 is great but it is not worth a 2/1. Snapcaster is a two for one and it is a tempo play, this is neither of those things and that is why this is significantly worse. It is also worse for being double blue to cast but that is more minor. It means flashing back a Counterspell is going to make Cryptic Command look light on colour requirements! Where this does have some perks over Snapcaster are in resistance to disruption and in support of prowess mechanics. Not targetting the card you are going to recast and not even selecting it till post surveil on the resolution means that things like Deathrite Shaman and even Relic of Progenitus when you can mill something to cast are not going to be as disruptive as they usually are to recursive cards. Rather than compare this to Snapcaster Mage I would like to compare it to Nature's Spiral. Both are type restricted 1 for 1 Regrowth effects. Would Spiral be playable if you added surveil 2? Mission Briefing will certainly see some play. There are lots of decks happy to reuse their cheap spells and lots of decks that need to. Many of those decks also have graveyard synergy which will up the value of Briefing. I am not sure that this sees play enough for it to be a good draft card though. I think this will need too much deck tailoring or focus to be sufficient value. Try playing the "add UU and surveil 2" to a card game and see if you can think of any that feel better, or even just good. I feel like this is the sort of card that will lead to Mystic Retrieval seeing less play, not a massive accolade.

Darkblade Agent 0

Too narrow by far and not even that powerful when firing on all cylinders. Even if the trigger included scry this would still fail.

Thoughtbound Phantasm 1

I don't expect this to become playable as the result of surveil but it just might somewhere with other +1/+1 counter synergies. Simic is known for such things! Blue is sufficiently lacking in one drops that this isn't the most shocking option out there if you somehow can support it. In reality I think any colour you pair blue with for the +1/+1 counter synergies will be able to provide things to allow you not to lean on poor cards like this. A shame as I would like to place and Ordeal of Thassa on this just for how cool that would be. I put an Eland Umbra on a Lagonna-Band Trailblazer for those 1/9 beats on turn two last night and it was so satisfying that I hunger for more obscure pairings! To be fair, my deck was a Doran deck and my one drop did subsequently beat in for 9. The deck was beastly! I don't envisage this Phantasm ever being in a beastly deck.

Doom Whisperer 6.5

This seems great to me, seems like a mini Griselbrand. Minibrand! The body on Whisperer is great, it hits hard and has a high old chance of getting that damage in. It is not he most efficient five drop by quite some measure in terms of size but it is good enough. Doom Whisperer needs to be answered promptly that is for sure, very little competes with it in combat. The nice body is just that though, I wouldn't entertain this card without more than just a five mana Abyssal Persecutor minus the drawback. Fortunately being able to pay life to surveil is great. You can abuse that really hard with loads of things. You can mill half your deck into the bin on the spot. You can find what you need or you can just ensure you have great draws for a long old time. Whisperer feels like a better top end version of Grim Flayer. I think it will really shine in Golgari delirium decks where it can setup the delirium and find the payoff. Golgari has been starved of fliers and has had to lean on reach dorks to offset that deficit. Whisperer is just a fairly all round playable card. A good threat with potential for immediate and/or ongoing value. Playable in most places and abusive in some.

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