Sunday 28 October 2018

Winners and Losers from Commander 2018

Turntimber Sower
Usually the Commander sets offer some of the biggest names to cube each year since their introduction. While new cards is great too often those from commander sets have been either oppressive power levels or simply uninteractive and not all that fun to play with. The lower power level of this years Commander offering is actually quite a welcome one, there are no new cards oppressively disrupting cube. Very few have made it stick in the drafting cube but a lot have been great additions to the card pool allowing for some highly entertaining deck building exercises. I feel like I got my monies worth already in the game play I have had and I am expecting much more of that while still having the actual cards! Onto specifics;

Saheeli, the GiftedTurntimber Sower - big lose

Super hard to make relevant. You trigger it less often than you would like and only get a 0/1 for your troubles. The sac outlet mode is onerous in cost and limp in returns. The best thing about this card is that it is a Trained Armadon... In a dedicated land synergy deck this might have some place but in the drafting cube this performs woefully.

Saheeli, the Gifted - win  

Not a bomb but pretty solid all round card. Going to five loyalty and making a 1/1 is solid defensively and applies some pressure. What tips her over the edge is the artifact synergies. There are lots of things that sac artifacts or simply benefit from having them about. I haven't even pushed those synergies at all, just the good stand alone cards are enough to empower artifact synergies in even the unpowered cubes. Mostly you are just making Saheeli and churning out tokens and that is good enough even if a little linear. The cost reduction element is useful, mostly I use it for 1 or 2 ramp and mostly it is the turn after playing her. It is far better in a heavy synergy deck. My best thus far was playing Saheeli on turn three and instantly making a Karn, Scion or Urza off the back of Saheeli (which then made a 5/5 that attacked as a 7/7) but that is uncommon. Usually the cost reduction is a little win more as it implies your 1/1 servos are living and that in turn implies you are somewhat ahead. She has  a fairly useless ultimate but that isn't a problem with two useful other modes one of which can win the game on its own. 

Aminatou, the Fateshifter

Aminatou, the Fateshifter - lose

Just too narrow for the drafting cube. She really does very little when you don't have things that play off her and that is far too hard to draft. Especially for a three colour card. No real surprise here, not quite sure why I thought this was an add to the cube when it is a clear "exotic reserve" card. Great in flicker decks, great in miracle decks, even has her place in some combo decks, but no place at all in the drafting cube where those kinds of synergies are just too hard to draft.

Emissary of Grudges - massive win
Emissary of Grudges
Turns out this is beastly. It is borderline oppressive, only really kept fair by being a top end red card and thus fairly hard to incorporate in builds. The Emissary feels a bit like super Aetherling. It is certainly a very red take on such things. It might lack the same degree of inevitability of Aetherling but my god does it make up for that with speed. It comes down faster, hits right away, always has some evasion and two more power and a "save" available equating to four mana's worth of Aetherling tech per turn on top of the two turns head start on beatdown. Grudges hits the board and you are losing to it shortly there after. It is so hard to stop short of mass removal. The Misdirection effect deals with abilities and it works regardless of targets. Someone in a recent game had to shoot themselves with an Inferno Titan against this so as to not allow a retarget that would lose them the game. It is any thing of yours as well, they can't just ignore the Emissary and hope to not shoot themselves with their stuff. Once Emissary is in play, short of that Wrath, you are racing it and it is winning in most cases. A highly reliable finisher that provides disruption and usually some value too.

Retrofitter FoundryRetrofitter Foundry - massive win

This is the other card to really impress me from the set. It is subtle but brutal. The card offers mana efficiency and a mana dump. It offers trickery, value and inevitability. It does all this and it costs one! Granted you have to further invest in it for it to do much of much but it turns out that is not a problem. It is actually a surprisingly efficient card for churning out dorks. Your first 4/4 can come at the total cost of 4 mana by turn four. With that you get all your turn four mana and two of your turn three mana. That allows you to actually make some pretty swingy tempo plays. When your late game mana dump and inevitability/value tool lets you power out a tempo start you get suspicious of power levels! Not only can your first 4/4 arrive on turn four you get two block and sac effects or two one damage nibbles in before that. The former can also take the sting out of pressure you might be under. Subsequent 4/4s are only 3 mana each too if made slowly. There are also loads of other cards that produce servos and thopters which allows you to really milk Foundry for utility and value. Pia and Kiran Nalaar are great as they are, when you immediately upgrade a thopter into a 4/4 the card is silly good! Foundry beats a Wurmcoil Engine embarasingly well. This is certainly the most played card from Commander 2018 thus far by a long long margin. Obviously being cheap and colourless is most of that but it is also just a great card that works well with most draft decks. Easily the most powerful and played addition to cube from the set. 

Night Incarnate - lose

Night Incarnate

This has seen some play in draft/sealed and it has even been fairly good in some cases. The issue with this is that it is so hard to house appropriately. You can't just play it in any old deck as it has a good chance of killing your own stuff. It being an upon death trigger as well means that you concede a lot of control over the timing of it when you don't evoke it. The only place you can easily play this card is a control deck but in those you usually just want to evoke it and in that case you just have a bad Languish. The extra utility you gain on having a 3/4 body does not outweigh the below curve potency of the main aspect of the card. In a midrange deck that utility would be far more sought after but sadly you really struggle to make a good midrange deck with few things that die to a -3/-3 effect in it. 

Primordial Mist - lose

A great card in the same kind of way Retrofitter Foundry is. The issue is that this is a five drop and not a one drop. Even without the mana investments needed Mists just comes too late in the day for what it does. It is not even that the card is low powered, it is just slow. Combining a slow effect onto a high price card is an issue. You need a five drop to have a large and immediate effect on the game. Small and immediate or large and slow in the case of Mists just don't get it done. Mists any cheaper would be pretty over powered but at five it is essentially a win more. You have to be in such a good position to make it safely and profitably that you should be winning with any five mana card which in turns means just play planeswalkers that offer more utility and ideally more play from behind. You can do some really cool things with the effects on Mists but it is sufficiently slow to setup that you are better off with the cheaper and less potent manifest cards. 

Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign
Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign - lose

Good card but too many colours. You can have a Scarab God for one colour less. The God is harder to answer and wins the game more effectively. That is the power level you have to contend with as a top end gold card and Yennet fails at that despite being an otherwise incredibly powerful card. As a mono coloured card it would be totally cube worthy despite having to survive a turn to be more than a 3/5 flier.

Varina, Lich Queen - lose

Almost exactly the same issues as Yennet has. 

Boreas Charger - massive lose

I think I misread this on review, that or I am just getting senile... This is an on death trigger not an EtB one. It is low powered, outclassed repeatedly and not even well suited to task. I don't think this is really playable in any cube deck let alone worthy of the drafting cube. 

Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle
Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle - lose

No real abuses, hard to build into sensible looking decks and not all that powerful. No big surprise here. A shame this wasn't a little more pushed as it has lovely flavour and feel to it. Like just giving it trample would have made this much more interesting, and still probably not all that good. 

Nesting Dragon - fine

I cut this from my cube as it is a bit slow and outclassed by the other 4-6 CMC red options pretty hard. The slower the cube however the better this starts to look. I can see this being a good inclusion in many cubes. The card has nice flavour and is one of few cards in red that provide mass removal protection. It has a high power level even if it is a little aimless. 

Yuriko, the Tiger's ShadowYuriko, the Tiger's Shadow - win

This is only really a win because I underrated it a bit in the reviews. It is holding its own in cube. In fact just last night it did me 8 bonus damage thanks to a Treasure Cruise, that was a big swing in the state of the game. It was so unexpected it was actually interesting but that is not the norm! Despite being fine in cube I imagine I will be cutting it relatively soon. It isn't a huge pull to the colour pairing, it isn't an auto include in the Dimir decks and it requires build support. You have to be a bit more than just good to cut it as a gold card. That being said, with more good evasive one drops and more good cheap EtB creatures getting printed I could fully see Yuriko making a powerful return when the meta and support suits her better. Presently trying to make a Dimir based tempo deck is pretty ruinous and that is a problem for Yuriko.   

Below is a list of cards I have not included in the drafting cube but have built with at least once. These are the cards that will likely provide the most longevity and value from the Commander 2018 set over the years to come. They will provide a wealth of building and synergy options and that is always most welcome. There are still at least as many again of interesting cards I have not yet had a chance to build with or around. All of these cards are too narrow for most cubes but all have something to offer in the right place. Fun cards and interesting cards. 

Ancient Stone Idol
Estrid, the Masked
Octopus Umbra
Infinite Atlas
Saheeli's Diretive
Entreat the Dead
Coveted Jewel
Estrid the Masked
Reality Scramble
Genesis Storm
Tuvasa, the Sunlit
Estrid's Invocation
Kestia, the Cultivator

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