Monday, 4 March 2019

Winners and Losers from Ravnica Allegiance

Drill BitDrill Bit - big lose

Unlike the red spectacle cards the black ones are generally harder to trigger due to the nature of the decks. With timing and tempo all being so important for hand disruption those difficulties make this a lot weaker than I predicted. The red spectacle cards are far better supported, much more on-theme and typically more naturally tempo positive. The red spectacle cards are also as good, if not better, in the late game as they are in the early game. Hand disruption is best right away and quickly loses value. The awkwardness of casting Drill Bit scales very poorly with needing to cast it promptly. I fear Drill Bit is getting cut from the cube soon never to return.

Dovin, Grand ArbiterDovin, Grand Arbiter - mild lose

Dovin is fine but he isn't anywhere near as exciting as I predicted. I thought Dovin was going to be a really big deal and he is so far being just a good fair card. I think he will improve over time as we learn how best to deploy him and the support for doing that improves. Presently the issue with Dovin is that he is easily killed. To grow quickly him you have to be attacking meaning Dovin is exposed. Ticking him down to make thopters is nice but again, just leaves you quite exposed with a mere two loyalty. Dovin isn't great in control shells as they are rarely in a position to attack and afford large loyalty gains. Blue white aggressive decks are still finding their feet in my cube meta but are certainly the best home for Dovin. Despite preferring the aggro decks Dovin is decent in more midrange and control shells. I peg him a bit above the power level of Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, a fair bit infact. That being said however Nissa comes out turn two a lot more often and is less narrow in effect and less narrow due to colours. Nissa is likely the slightly better cube inclusion and will see more play but powerwise Dovin has her beat.

Depose // Deploy
Depose // Deploy - mild lose

Mostly this is a lose because I failed to appreciate how significant the need of a target for Depose would be. I likened this to Fire / Ice because you can always just cycle it for two. The thing is with this is that you can't. More often than not you can but that isn't good enough. When you play cheap cantrips they affect your mana ratios. When you need to cycle a card to curve properly it is super miserable having this in hand and no targets. While this is still a good and versatile card it is not nearly such a free include to a deck than I thought. There are greater risks associated with playing it and the relatively low power it brings doesn't now feel as exciting. Certainly I will still play this when it feels right but it will not get anywhere near the play Fire / Ice gets. It is more of a nice filler all round card than it is a free include. I does at least play very nicely with the Azorius aggro builds that Dovin is helping gain traction.

Light Up the StageLight Up the Stage - huge win

Obviously this is mental. One red, draw two. Obviously very very good. I'm pretty sure I wanked on about how good this would be in previews and it has even outdone that. Huge new card for red in basically all the formats.

Skewer the Critics - lose

I also wanked on about this and how it was going to be top five burn spells etc. On this I was off the mark. It is closer to Rift Bolt than Lightning Bolt and that is for sure. The card is fine but it is a little clunky. In an Izzet prowess deck I rate this highly. It is still a strong card for an aggressive red deck but it quickly falls off in value as you move towards the midrange and then to the control. I am playing Searing Spear over Skewer in those cases if I can. The average mana cost of the two is comparable but it likely favours the Spear in the slower decks. More over it is instant allowing for much more utility, tempo thieving, and other options. Sweker is efficient and on-theme but it is still a bit clunky and awkward.

PteramanderPteramander - big win

This has also cropped up in a lot of formats and been doing good work. While this is a powerful cheap little beater it is still a beater and isn't quite such a universal win as Light the Stage even if both are multiformat all-stars! It certainly seems better than Delver of Secrets already. It was better designed but it also seems to just be a better, more powerful and playable card.

Silhana Wayfiner - win

Silhana WayfinderNot a powerhouse by any means but way nicer than I was expecting. Wayfinder isn't great tempo but it is still getting involved. It blocks and trades or threatens some damage and planeswalker pressure. It is significantly more board and tempo than a 1/1 play like Satyr Wayfinder or Elvish Visionary. I just found whenever I played Silhana Wayfiner I was happy with what I got. On turn two it was amazing. It is just such a good curve card as it gives you such great odds of following it with something potent and appropriate. The way Wayfinder works it kind of lets you see five cards in the way that Ponder lets you see four. If you look at the top four and see nothing you want you just put them all to the bottom and get that extra bit of dig. Usually you want a land or something to play and looking at four cards finds you such a thing in most green decks. Obviously weaker with lower creature count but as I say, that is not an overly green thing to be doing. Also still fine when your creature count drops unlike a lot of cards that become awful. Wayfinder is still perfectly playable when you have a low creature count. Wayfinder also has a lot of pleasant synergy with other green cards. It can setup a Courser of Kruphix or clear some crap away from the top of deck you left there with a Sylvan Library. For your two mana you don't get robbed on tempo and you get to be proactive. You also get an impressively high value card quality effect. It is more than Seek the Wilds and you get a 2/1 into the bargain which is better tempo even if it is less value than having that card in hand and not sat atop the library. While the value for cards on this is on the low side the value for mana is exceptional. This is at least three manas worth of stuff and that really helps makes it good. I am calling this a win because I thought it would be poor like Omen Speaker. Lots of people got really excited about this and so for them it is probably still a lose. For now it seems like a reasonable include in a cube.

Consecrate // ConsumeConsecrate // Consume - mild win

Where Depose // Deploy was found not meeting expectation this has stepped up and exceeded. It is  rare for neither player to have anything in the bin by the end of their second turn. While still not nearly as online as Ice Consecrate is still more online early than Depose. As such this is a lower risk card to play on the whole. It turns out it is also just rather good. The graveyard disruption is rare in cube and affects a lot of cards and Comsume is powerful. It deals with a lot of serious cards that can be hard to handle and it does so with a big chunk of life back. This is a removal disruption card with an unusual range but surprising potency.

Wilderness ReclamationWilderness Reclamation - win

I massively underrated this. I just thought it was a bit overkill, hard to support and a bit of a do nothing on its own. It is all of those things but it is just so immensely powerful that it is worth jumping through the hoops you need to. Firstly it is free! It costs no mana to lay if you have something you were doing with four mana at instant speed anyway. You can pass the turn with Cryptic Command up having made your Reclamation. Very naughty. As Foretold has been great in cube and Reclamation is basically better in all ways other than suspend cards. Reclamation comes into play with effectively four charge counters on it which is certainly nice even if it only triggers once per turn rather than the twice As Foretold does. The really big difference is that you can spend your mana on things other than spells. This makes things like Walking Ballista and Search for Azcanta all a lot more exciting. X spells also appeal more with Reclamation. While very potent it is not all that well supported in my cube it would seem. It is hard to piece together a solid looking deck that takes advantage of the mana. This is certainly a design thing rather than a lack of power for Wilderness Reclamation! The issue is how many cards do you need to support a Reclamation in cube and whether that is worth it for the overall consistency and playability of the cube.

Theater of HorrorsTheater of Horrors - win

All the perks of Phyrexian Arena without the life loss and with a bonus ping effect. I have seen this work well in midrange and control decks as well as the more predictably good aggressive decks. This is just powerful ongoing card advantage with very little downside or inconvenience. There really are not that many occasions where I would play Phyrexian Arena over this but then that is how gold cards should work!

Unbreakable Formation - win

Unbreakable FormationReally impressed with this. Normally situational aggro cards are not great in cube. This has seen consistent play in aggressive white decks and has performed exceptionally well. Countering removal is nice but the addendum mode is brutal. You just get a free hit without any consequence as well as a team buff. It almost always puts the game out of reach. Any races are just done but it is proving to be critical damage in some way when cast with addendum. Which is most of the time it is drawn it would seem. Very powerful, nicely versatile and surprisingly well suited.

Ministrant of Obligation - mild win

Just seeing play and being annoying. It is just like a static Hangarback Walker or weasly Hallowed Spiritkeeper. It clogs up the board and makes mass removal and planeswalkers far less appealing lines to take. Obligation is one of those cards that helps you extend without over extending. The majority of the value of the card is back loaded but it is still a relevant play at the front end. It scales very well with white anthem cards and is just an OK all round playable card for the numerous token based strategies.

Rampage of the ClansRampage of the Clans - win

Not something you can just toss into a cube and have it be good. You might get away with it in a powered cube but otherwise this will need a lot of supporting. I have a .dec article on this either published or soon to be. That is how it will need supporting roughly but do that and you have a bomb on your hands. This is a filthy good combo finisher style of card. You just cast it and win. It is the instant speed that makes it so effective in this role but regardless you can milk this for a silly amount of value. I was frequently making double figures of 3/3s between turns four and six. It wins out of nowhere and it wins effectively. I expect to see this be a thing in other formats. It is probably a bit narrow for drafting cube but it is absolutely worth paying attention to in the more open or constructed style singleton formats. It has a very Paradoxical Outcome feel about it.

Rhythm of the WildRythm of the Wild - win

Not working with tokens makes this a close call for the drafting cube with so many of the best creatures for cube being ones that come with tokens. It is very powerful but being hard to build with on top of being gold is a big ask. When in play it is fantastic. It turns all your small mana dorks and early plays into much more significant threats and it makes your top end far more dangerous both with potential haste and uncounterable. A truly terrifying card to play against as a blue mage. Just having the option on +1/+1 or haste is huge, options is how you win the good games of magic and big dork decks have lacked them historically.

Mesmerizing Benthid - big win

Mesmerizing BenthidJust the ticket for blue decks. This holds the ground really well. Better than most in fact. It is super hard and low value to remove. Nine toughness , over three bodies, that you have to hit sequentially is a tall order. Not being able to directly interact with Benthid until the 0/2s are dealt with is also a real pain, it can do a lot of work in that time. Turns out a 4/5 hexproof is a massive chore to handle and affords a really strong source of planeswalker control and clock. All the ways to deal with it involve huge exposure to something like a bounce spell. Benthid buys a lot of time and ends of a lot of aggression. This gives blue the window to take control with powerful walkers, permission and card advantage. It also just wins by itself a bunch of the time. The closest thing blue had to this before was Whirler Rogue which saw play all over the shop. Defensively this is vastly preferable and blue tends to be the slowest colour in cube. All told this has seen a lot of play in a short space of time and never failed to impress.

Gutterbones - win

GutterbonesThe Gutterbones itself has not done anything that unexpected what with being so comparable to other well known cards. What makes it a win is the jump from three 2 power one drop recursive dorks to four. Black is getting there for sufficient one drops for the various different build, of which Gutterbones helps multiple. Aggro black has recently jumped in power quite noticeably and I put most of that down to this subtle addition.

Rix Maadi Reveler - win

Rix Maadi RevelerJust a nice playable card. Playable in mono red and a bit better with increasing access to black. It is card quality early and mild to significant card advantage late. There is some potential discard synergies on the go as well. It is enough tempo that you often play it in aggro decks and enough utility that it is desirable elsewhere. This has seen a lot of action since release and has generally performed very well. I think he is very hard to play with well and that has been the cause of not consistently looking good. I expect this to increase in effectiveness and the estimation of others fairly rapidly.

Judith, the Scourge Diva - win

Utterly nutty good card. Judith makes combat a total nightmare for the opponent. It is like giving all your non-token creatures a +2/+0 due to the on-death ping. It means a 2/1 will trade into a 4/4 which is madness! If you have much board at all Judith is a terrifying card to lay. That is her only real downside, she is rather poo all by her self. Broadly that is not an issue as she is well supported without any effort in mine and most other cubes. She can be great on turn three but she is so potent it doesn't seem to matter a jot if you take a couple more turns developing your board so you can flop out a game winning Judith on turn five or six. Judith does die easily but she is able to win or at least put you on that direct path in such short order that it is not a real problem.

Titanic BrawlTitanic Brawl - lose

This may well be the best fight card but obviously that isn't a good measure of how a card should perform. No fight cards are good because broadly speaking it is a poor means of doing removal. If you need removal in your green deck you play a colour that can do it properly rather than sub par cards.

Orzhov Enforcer - mild win

Just a nice tempo defense play. This qualifies well in the two bodies for two mana in one card category that the Aristocrats style of deck like so much. It is also a suitable stand in for a Baleful Strix. While not as good a value play the increase in stats and bodies does a lot more work in trading, holding the fort and taxing removal. Enforcer is annoying to attack into and should crop up both in token decks and in slower decks needing tools against aggression.

Tithe TakerTithe Taker - win

Very annoying card you want to kill but also kind of don't want to kill. This does enough of enough things to be a really good all round cube card. It is enough tempo that you play it in aggressive decks and it 4is enough value and disruption that it also does well in midrange decks as well. Like the Enforcer before it Tithe Taker is also a great inclusion in Aristocrats lists.

Essence Capture - lose

Overall just play Remove Soul and/or Essence Scatter in cubes. Certainly this has the higher ceiling and will do some great work in constructed aggro blue decks there are not nearly enough of those in cube to offset the double blue cost of this card. You cannot take a huge hit in playability for a mild uptick in potential value and keep a good drafting meta.

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