Tuesday 8 January 2019

Ravnica Allegiance Preliminary Reviews Part VIII

Drill Bit 7

This is pretty good. It is not another Thoughtsieze or Inquisition though, we are certainly not looking to Gut Shot people to try and make it a turn one play. Drill Bit has more of the Pilfering Imp about it in that they are both low cost cards and that both threaten Coercion a little down the line. The strength of Drill Bit is all in the low total cost while for Imp it is the utility that makes it good and so the comparison between those cards is limited. In any sort of proactive deck it isn't too hard to get a bit of incidental damage across in the early turns where a card like this is still relevant. With it costing one you will be able to toss it out and still do other things on the same turn. Drill Bit is as good as it gets once you are spectacle ready! Low cost in cards, mana and life and maximum possible range on targets. Drill Bit will take away their most relevant spell and that is fantastic. It pairs really nicely with other discard effects as you can cover targets they are unable to hit while they are able to let you plan when to cast your Drill Bit before opponents key card will come online. Another great thing about Drill Bit is that the floor cost isn't prohibitively bad. Unmask was a little too steep on the conventional cast and that made it overly demanding to play. With Drill Bit you can simply Coercion people if getting spectacle is too much cost or simply impossible and that will be fine. Drill Bit is certainly better in the more aggressive decks but it can be perfectly strong in any deck providing it has some potential support. Low cost evasive dorks, planeswalkers with ping effects, and that sort of thing will all help to make Drill Bit good in midrange and even control decks too. Perhaps Piranha Marsh will become a thing! The floor is just not that low and the ceiling is pleasantly high. Doomfall is the other card that Drill Bit compares to. Rather than having modal utility it has cost range. Doomfall is an impressive cube card and uses the Coercion mode most frequently of the two. This is a big part of why I am so confident Drill Bit will be good in cube.

Nikya of the Old Ways 3

A personal Mana Flare on legs is worse than it sounds and Nikya is even worse than that! So what are the issues? Firstly this dies to a lot more removal than Heartbeat of Spring style cards. Obviously if you are playing a card like this you want more mana and so you want to don't want to be easily disrupted and stuck with overly expensive stuff. Next up we simply have the cost, five is a hell of a lot for a ramp card. Five is the kind of thing you need ramp to get to! Lastly and most relevantly, the line "you can't cast non-creature spells" is a big one. You can only play this in a deck that is mostly creatures, ideally all dorks and lands, and the thing with those is that they are not so great. It is like playing only odd or even cards, your deck is worse because you are restricted. A lot of the best abuses of Mana Flare effects are spell based too. So while Nikya is very powerful when looked at for the sum of her parts when you put those parts into context and consider the scaling and synergies she winds up being pretty poor. She is a lot of power that is very hard to use well. The existence of Kessig Wolf-Run makes Nikya a lot more playable and reduces the burden on you having minimal non-creature spells. Cards like the new Skarrgan Hellkite are the kind of creatures that will work well with her for much the same mana sink reasons. Nikya will see a bit of play and when properly built around she will be decent enough. Nikya will not however be a viable drafting card or even really close to it being multiple factors of narrow. I think I would lean towards a card like Keeper of Progenitus if I actually wanted a Mana Flare on legs. It is cheaper and less restrictive in a couple of ways.

Sphinx of New Prahv 0

This is looking like the worst of the cycle thus far and the latest five seem to be a bit worse than the first five. I'm not even sure that this one would see play at 3U or 3W to cast let alone 2UW. The card is just a bit aimless. It isn't all that safe, there are plenty of removal spells that will go one for one with it and remain mana positive like Lightning Bolt. There are plenty of creatures that will two for one all over this while being tempo positive like Ravenous Chupacabra and Baleful Strix. This effect is a long long way from hexproof. Vigilance on high value threats with relatively low toughness is also a bit of a waste. This card isn't a low power card as such but it is a terrible one for cube.

Silhana Wayfinder 6

This card seems to be throwing a lot of people. I don't know if it is the names or the numbers and closeness of effect. So we are all clear, what this is absolutely not is either the new Elvish Visionary or the new Satyr Wayfinder. Silhana fails to do what either of those cards do and is a distinct style of card more akin to Glowspore Shaman or even Mwonvuli Beast Tracker! Those are not even great comparisons, Silhana is a surprisingly unique card given how simple it is. Silhana Wayfinder is never a two for one, he is purely for card selection. You get a 2/1 for two and you get a much improved card on your next draw. You do not get a free body that leaves your hand the same size. It is like rolling Adventurous Impulse and Savannah Lions into one card but removing that extra card feel of combining two cards. The problem this card has is that a 2/1 isn't really worth a card for most decks, especially one that isn't coming down on turn one. Merfolk Branchwalker is card neutral about half the time and offers a bit of card quality and a better body the rest of the time and it was very unimpressive in cube. If that can't perform this doesn't have a great shot. The only thing Wayfinder has over Branchwalker is that it digs four deep rather than one. It has no ability to be over statted, no ability to be card neutral and no ability to fill up the yard.

Silhana Wayfinder is one of those cards like Nikya that looks good when you add up the value of the parts but the end result winds up being rather less value than the components. Savannah Lions is decent enough for one mana and Adventurous Impulse is pretty good generally so reducing the colour intensity and upping the dig on the Impulse from 3 to 4 sounds like it would be a lock in but I fear it isn't. I think decks that want card quality don't want to waste cards on small low value bodies and I think decks that want small dorks don't want to waste tempo in the way this does. I see this getting played as filler. It is a fine way to smooth out a curve if your deck is a bit clunky. There will be reasons to run a card like this but it will always be to patch over a problem rather than because the card is the best card in the best case scenario. The good decks will probably never touch this. Where I retain some hope for our new Wayfinder is in concert with certain other cards and effects. The card quality it brings is greatly magnified when combined with Sylvan Library. You can pretty much turn it into a card draw in combination with Courser of Kruphix. If Silhana Wayfinder put cards in the graveyard it would be a lock in for the synergy potential but as it puts things to the bottom you cannot so easily get extra value with it. Outside of the drafting cube I can also see this getting some attention in creature based combo decks as a cheap dig card that is itself a dork.

Essence Capture 6

Most interesting. Both Essence Scatter and Remove Soul are solid playable cards and this does more. It is quite a direct way of asking how significant the change from 1U to UU is. Sadly the answer is far from direct with loads of little subtle things coming into play, much of which is derived from the cube meta. In other formats it will be more cut and dry. It will be obvious which card to play given your deck type and mana base. In the drafting cube we need to consider the average of the various blue archetypes not any specific one. Certainly the cost of the double blue is significant. Actual Counterspell is a more potent card than either Negate or Arcane Denial yet it sees a bit less play than either. This would not be the case if it were 1U to cast I can assure you! I have certainly lost more games as a result of being unable to cast Counterspell on cue than I have for Cryptic Command. Actual Counterspell is certainly more better than Mana Leak than Essence Capture is to Remove Soul in terms of effect. Remove Soul is cube worthy though and Essence Capture is better so we just need to find out if it is enough better. I have my doubts. Blue has the lowest creature count and the highest curve of those creatures in most cubes. It is the least likely colour to have dorks in play with. It is also one of the least likely to benefit from getting +1/+1 counters put on them even when it does. Decks that are countering things are less likey to have their own dorks as well. Blue dorks tend to be effects on do nothings bodies. Buffing up your Spellseeker really achieves little. Short of Resetting Glen Elandra Archmage there is nothing blue I am that excited to put counters on. It is nice but it isn't great or on theme. It is like Lightning Helix in your aggro red decks, the life is nice but it rarely does all that much. There is some counter push to these contextual downsides although I am not sure it is all that strong. Basically the more blue you are the more in need of creature control you are. The more you want cards like Essence Capture the less the double blue will matter. It is the inverse case for Negate where non-blue colours want the control it offers as they otherwise lack such things and so the light blue cost propels the value massively. As such comparing the cost of the difference between 1U and UU by using Negate as a reference will be misleading. So, while I think you will get infrequent and small value from the +1/+1 counter I do not expect the UU cost to be as prohibitive to the play of this card as it is  or would be for most others. Broadly this seems pretty comparable to Remove Soul and co. and Capture is a little more interesting so I shall probably try it out for a bit.

Theater of Horrors 3

This is a bit too gold and fiddly to be much cop in a drafting cube when faced with cleaner alternatives like Phyrexian Arena, which itself is not all that. Theater does however outclass most alternatives when in the right deck. It does cool things like stockpile cards you can play outside of conventional zones. You can play things like Wheel of Fortune and hold cards back, you can do big Death Clouds and keep some gas which is all good fun. In addition to this you avoid having to pay life and you get a mana sink! Absolutely this will ping a few people to death! It may even get used in some infinite mana combo decks as a win condition. So in a few quirky and silly decks and for some Rakdos aggro decks Theater is a good card. Really not a card you want to play in decks that cannot trigger spectacle outside of Theater nor really even in decks that have reactive instant speed cards. If you exile a Counterspell with this then it is going to be very hard to put it to use.

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