Thursday, 20 December 2018
Ravnica Allegiance Preliminary Reviews Part I
Light up the Stage 8
Wonderful design on this card. Does it cost 3 or does it cost 1? Is it drawing 2 cards or is it drawing less? Gloriously it is all of the above! We just have to find out where the average lies and how easy it is to improve on that average. The key detail that I missed on this card on first read through that makes this card exceptional rather than just good is that you get two full turns of your own and your opponent's in between in order to play your cards. This means that you can still play reactively. You can still play all lands exiled with it. You can probably play exactly as you would have if you had just drawn both those cards in most cases. I want to call this card the red Thoughtcast but frankly I think that does this thing down. Not all blue decks play artifacts to support Thoughtcast, not by a long shot. Almost every red deck can throw some damage about and usually at little cost. This is like Thoughtcast because it usually costs one but cannot be played effectively early in the game. It is like Thoughtcast because they both "draw" you two. They also both have the capacity to be used for a less efficient cost when your support isn't quite there. Light up the Stage is unlike Thoughtcast because you will find it in most red decks going forwards because the support is naturally in place.
Light up the Stage is the kind of card that is so good it will pull other cards up. I expect to see Mogg Fanatic style cards go up in value. The various pinging planeswalkers too. The ideal case for Light up the Stage is probably making a turn four Chandra and on the following turn doing some face damage with the Chandra and firing off a one mana Light up the Stage with loads of mana and land drops open to receive the value! This is a great card in an aggro red deck where the spectacle trigger is easiest, the low cost is most desirable and the the low average CMC of the deck will ensure best odds on casting all your spells exiled. Despite that I fully expect to see this all over the place. It is still a great midrange card and potentially even control card. The two turns to play your stuff really lets you play this, even at three mana on turn three, in a deck with a higher curve. If you are happy playing any four drop you might exile on the following turn then that would be a fine enough thing to do. I am usually playing a three mana on curve Light up the Stage rather than risk missing land drops in my midrange decks.
It obviously combines very nicely with library manipulation effects. Usually these sorts of things don't see much play with blue cards because blue just has better draw effects. Why play Tormenting Voice when you have access to Chart a Course for example. Light up the Stage is efficient enough that you might well play it in Izzet decks and if so it will adore a Brainstorm! It is still strong with things like Sylvan Library and Divining Top in the slower lists as well. This is not quite so playable and rounded as Faithless Looting but it is that sort of card. Light up the Stage is very powerful but it is nicely contained by its design. It will never be too oppressive despite being cheap, powerful and playable - the holy trinity for cards! Remarkably good design achieving such a feat. If someone tasked me with designing a one mana draw two style of card that was playable and powerful but not oppressively broken I might well have claimed such a challenge was impossible. I droned on about how perfectly designed Field of Ruin was and I think this is a decent jump up from that. I greatly look forward to playing with and building with this gem.
Simic Ascendancy 2
Looks suspect to me. Five mana to Battlegrowth with the surprise removed. That is a terrible tempo play for what looks to be a card that you would play in a deck that cares about tempo. Once you have made your five mana's worth of bad plays you then have access to infinite three mana Battlegrowths which is not even that exciting to be honest. It is fine, it will win the long games and give you a good edge in combat but it isn't powerful for the cost at any point nor particularly fast at providing value. It shouldn't ever really be tempo either. When there is a creature that removes a +1/+1 counter to add 1GU to your mana pool then this will suddenly be good but as it stands I can't think of any obvious or good way to abuse the win the game clause on this card. I don't even really see this in a Hardened Scales deck although short of a one shot combo that seems like the best suited home for this card. Animation Module and Bow of Nylea both feel like they are better versions of this card.
Growth Spiral 6
This is an example of a great card that is simply a little too narrow for cube. It isn't even narrow for effect, simply for being gold. Explore is a great cube card and making it instant is a surprisingly big upgrade. Just repeat the phrase "ramping while being able to hold up countermagic" to yourself and see if you feel a little dirty. This is a deceptively dangerous card! I would love to have this in my draft cube but with so many amazing card to fit in I cannot justify running this. Despite being that much better than Explore it would get a fraction of the play and that is no good for optimizing draft formats. This will however see play in a significant number of constructed Simic decks going forwards. It is just exactly what Simic wants to do, draw cards and make lands! For constructed cube this will be a staple card, for draft it shouldn't really be in the running.
Rakdos Firewheeler 1
This is powerful for sure but it is a little clunky and aimless. It doesn't kill big things and it isn't that relevant of a body once in play. Every 4 mana creature in my drafting cube in black or red is significantly better than this. I simply cannot see a place you would play this, either you are going to want a better 187 dork like Chupacabra or you are going to want a powerful card like Kalitas, Gonti, or Pia and Kiran Nalaar.
The Haunt of High Tower 1
Very powerful, much better than Vulturous Zombie, which did see a bit of cube play back in the day and I understand is still a decent commander card. If this lives to attack it should win most games from that point. Sadly that is a long way off what is needed for a six drop to be good in cube. This has no immediate impact and poor board control. This goes 1 for 1 with too much stuff and is just asking to get blown out or overrun. You shouldn't play top end like this in cube.
Gate Colossus 1
I want to love this but I am not sure it would be good enough for me to run in a Maze's End deck and that is one of the weakest decks I have ever done! I will absolutely try and make yet another Maze's End deck and run this in it but I fear I will continue to lose regardless of the "help" this affords!
Rafter Demon 0
Limited card and not a good one at that.
Rix Maadi Reveler 7
This is a great card. Increasingly playable cheap red looting cards are finding their way to print. This might look fairly simple but it actually has a lot going on which in turn allows for play in a number of different places. A 2/2 for 2 with a rummage is fine. It is a good defensive and setup play for a midrange deck and it is a fine thing for an aggro deck to have an option on. It is a bit Thraben Inspector. Just a way of getting on with things and increasing consistency without a tempo loss. The turn two Bear plus rummage is fine across the board, it might even be good if you are discarding things you want in the bin. That is the floor this card has and that is why it is so exciting. From there is has two different ceilings. Obviously it has the 2BR spectacle mode that makes it look like another Bedlam Reveler. A 2/2 for 4 is a lot less good than a 3/4 prowess for 2, especially in two colours but Reveler requires significantly less build support. You can only play Bedlam in a fully tailored deck because you need to expend your hand and fill up the bin with instants and sorceries quickly. Bedlam also has no alternate modes, it is either great or useless. It cannot help set you up like Rix Maadi. Rix Maadi doesn't need to have a great spectacle enabling deck, it doesn't need to contain an abundance of specific card types or even CMC ranges. You can just play it and it will be a fine card at worst. Occasionally it will draw you three cards and win the game. What I really like about Rix Maadi is that it is a stealth gold card. If it was just a rummage Bear then it might not be interesting enough for cube. That in turn would essentially make it a gold card as you would need access to black mana. The thing is you don't need black mana for this to be good. The rummage isn't conditional on you having discarded and so if you are hellbent (empty handed) you just get a Bear than cantrips which is pretty nuts. There is no cube deck that wouldn't run a 2 mana 2/2 that drew a card on entering play. Sure, this is only hellbent and thus only late game but it is enough of a boost on the baseline 2/2 rummage that it makes the card playable without the black. I see this getting a bunch of play in red decks that then toss in a couple of BR duals. It won't matter if they don't see the black mana but it doesn't hurt to add and makes Reveler a little better.
Lavinia, Azorius Renegade 2
Mostly this card seems like it is an anti Force of Will tool! I'm not sure about this legacy and vintage, this looks a bit fair compared to alternative hate-bear options. I guess this is pretty brutal to play on turn one against a vintage player packing all the Mox etc. Certainly for unpowered cube the body simply isn't good enough for the disruption the card brings. It might see some sideboard use but infrequently at best. In a powered cube I still don't think the density of things this hoses allows it to be that good. Feels like it is going to comparable to Meddling Mage. Occasionally very appropriate but mostly just bad due to poor scaling into singleton.