Friday, 5 April 2019

War of the Spark: Preliminary Review Part IV

Samut, Tyrant Smasher 0

Linear and fairly poor. This is just haste and a bit of a buff card. I can get a real planeswalker for this cost that gives haste or I can get a more durable permanent doing the job for a mana less, and with extras too. Mostly this suffers from not being a threat while being so pricey. Super bad when behind and not all that impressive when ahead.

Kaya, Bane of the Dead 0

Powerful but far too slow for most places, certainly any cube ones. Perhaps the answer control needs against Carnage Tyrant in standard but a pretty extreme solution at that. Mostly this is just a limited card and probably not even that great there. Mostly that depends on the eventual speed of the format etc.

Kaya's Ghostform 4

This is a very interesting little card. It protects both creatures and planeswalkers and it does so against both exile and graveyard deaths. It allows you to milk a planeswalker and reset the loyalty and it lets you double dip on sac outlet dorks like Sakura Tribe Elder. These are just extra synergies for the card as well, I think the design intent is simply a protective shell for a card. Just a way of making one of your things need killing twice to deal with it. This feels close to cube worthy, the only thing putting me off is bounce. Get a dork with this on it bounced and you are super sad. There is not enough self synergy for this to shine so you rely on your opponents needing to kill what it is on which makes it a little shakier as well. Cheap, effective for the most part and fairly powerful. This will absolutely find a home in plenty of places but the drafting cube doesn't feel like it is quite there yet.

Samut's Sprint 5

This is a deceptively good little card. As a way to give haste it is not as strong as Reckless Charge or Maximize Velocity or Crimson Wisps. Nor is it the same level of combat trick as Brute Force or even Rush of Adrenaline. What makes this interesting it that it is able to perform both roles quite acceptably. People aim to be efficient in combat and so this fairly small stats buff will be quite significant of a swing. The issue with combat tricks is not lack of power but being overly conditional. Giant Growth is great it is just not always useful. Half the stats boost of a Giant Growth still does a lot of work and the fact that this has other roles really helps ease the burden of being conditional. Scry is obviously just a lovely little all round boost. Titan's Strength certainly sees more play than Brute Force if we want a nice easy way to consider the value of scry in a different currency. Mostly you want to use this to get big tempo swings in combat or to inflict significant damage by giving haste to an unopposed freshly made attacker. Usually this will be two or three damage on top of the two from the Sprint itself but it does scale up as the game goes on. While this feels like a lot of card it is still a little aimless. I am probably just going to play a burn spell or threat over it. Worth testing. Deceptively potent.

Angrath's Rampage 6.5

This might spell the end for Dreadbore. It is a little broader in application and has some perks and some drawbacks as removal. For the most part it will be just as good at Dreadbore for killing planeswalkers. Occasionally it will be better at killing creatures but often it will be much worse. Luckliy red and black are good at dealing with all kinds of dork between them and so it will not be impossible to set this up as required. That in turn makes the edict element more useful as you can somewhat aim it at the hexproof and indestructible creatures you want dead unlike Dreadbore. This means this is much better alongside other removal while Dreadbore likely remains better as part of a streamlined removal suite in an otherwise linear deck. Without the artifact added to the range I would heavily lean towards preferring Dreadbore as unfettered creature kill is hard to come by at such a good rate but even with Abrade, Bedevil and Kolghan's Command kicking around I still rate the ability to take out artifacts reasonably highly. Quite poor against treasure and clues and even worse against thopter tokens but for the most part a better Shatter than it is a Terminate. Almost all the best removal cards are now not just gold but also black and gold. No shocker black is the most frequently played colour these days in my cube. This is just good. It is fair but it does the kinds of things you want from a card and so it will see plenty of play. We are getting to the point where there is limited space for gold and removal cards. New additions have to be good but they also have to fit in well.

Angarth, Captain of Chaos 0

Of the many new form of planeswalkers that have a mild buff and churn out tokens over two turns this seems like one of the weakest. It will attack as a 4/4 first time round but this is worse than having a 2nd 2/2 in most cases. It certainly makes you super vulnerable to bounce and flicker. It is pretty savage when all the work done by your planeswalker can be efficiently undone by Repeal... Menace is nice but it is not enough to push this very capped overly fair card.

Gideon's Triumph 3

This is a decent upgrade to Celestial Flare. Mostly in the change from WW to 1W but also in the ability to play this post combat should you need to. I am pretty skeptical of how often this will actually hit two things. Gideon's are fairly common cards to see but this is a control card not an aggressive one. That instantly cuts the number of Gideon cards you are likely to pair with it. All told I imagine this gets a clean two for one very infrequently. It would need to be doing so more than one in ten times to achieve cube power level and I think it will struggle to get close to that. Wing Shards just seems like a far more potent and convenient version of this. Triumph does have somewhat more midrange application but not enough to carry it. A fine card that has an impressive ceiling and a fine floor. It just fails at doing what you want in enough places or moving away from that floor performance anywhere near often enough.

Vivien's Arkbow 3

Well isn't this a quirky little card to unravel. First thing to note is that this offers no way to gain card advantage or tempo. At best this is always two more mana that the things it puts into play for you. It also always costs you one card with no return. So why are we playing this? What does it actually do for us? In a lot of ways it looks like Survival of the Fittest. You pay your two mana and a card upfront and then you get a lot of ongoing card selection. This is not a tutor nor is it guaranteed to hit but it does have some perks of its own. It can discard any card rather than just creatures which not only makes it far better at generating action from duds but also allows for much improved synergies for something like delirium. Further to that we are able to fix using colourless mana to put anything from Geralf's Messengers to Mantis Rider into play. We can also effectively flash in creatures at instant speed and past countermagic as per Aether Vial. This is all on top of being able to look at the top X cards of our deck and chose the best dork from that pile. This is great card selection but also the issue with the card. Pay too little on X and you massively increase the risk of seeing no creatures or simply ones with too great a CMC. On the flip side, if you pay safe amounts for X you are always going to overshoot and waste mana. The Arkbow is a lot like Collected Company in that it wants you to play a very narrow band of creature CMCs, probably also in the vicinity of three mana. With half your deck being dorks with three or less CMC you have pretty decent odds of hitting and not wasting mana when you fire this off at X = 3. There will be uses for this card and places where it is a suitable support card but for the most part it is way too hard to support while offering fairly awkward returns. I think mostly this is only getting attention when you can really abuse synergies. If you have Sylvan Library down you can most easily manipulate the deck to get what you want. With things you want discarded you can reduce the costs. With creatures like Myr Superion you can kindof cheat on mana! A cool card for sure but one that is very hard to use effectively. Not just in play but in deck design.

Teyo, the Shield Mage 0

This is very poor indeed. Teyo is fairly easy to kill so providing hexproof to you is only a mild and temporary protection that way. A pair  of 0/3 walls offer very poor value. They might slow down aggression but they won't kill anything or draw out removal. Teyo looks like he will slowly gain a bit over 7 life against aggressive decks and do nothing relevant against others.

Vivien, Champion of the Wilds 4

Interesting card that frankly stumps me a bit. I like it but I doubt it is quite there for limited cube play. As for constructed builds it seems a little bit fair and aimless to really make any waves. Giving creatures flash is nice but it isn't a thing really. There are no strategies based around it as yet and there are not really enough good things that do it for you that you can rely on it for build arounds such as with Wilderness Reclamation. Certainly if you are building around something a defenseless planeswalker is not the ideal way of getting your effect. Arguably giving vigilance and reach is some kind of defense but it does require you to have a dork in play. It is also not doing much of much, it might be mildly helping with a race but really any card and three mana should do a lot better than offer vigilance and reach to a dork of yours. Mostly what Vivien is about is being a two for one. She lets you Adventurous Impulse up a creature and she does so in a cool way that hides what it is and protects it from hand disruption. This means you can just use Vivien as a Divination with a lot of extra digging or you can slow things down and try and milk a few more cards and ongoing buffs from her. While I think the floor and ceiling seem decent on Vivien just on the -2 ability, cost and starting loyalty accounts I think she is overly narrow based on needing such a high creature count. If you wiff on the -2 which is plausible then it is so gross. Ideally this means a good 50% dorks which is a lot considering most decks need a lot of lands too... I think my conclusion is that this will be a cute or useful inclusion in  the occasional creature heavy deck but will otherwise be too fair and narrow to feature overly in any draft cubes.

Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage 5

This I like rather a lot. He is both a nasty little discard card and another Rack effect in one. He is much more economical and on point than Nezumi Shortfang which is the only other card that can boast being both discard and a Rack effect. Davriel hits with a discard immediately and threatens at least one more if not dealt with. He can then just sit in play doing or threatening damage and threatening opposing hands as well. Davriel will rarely do worse than go one for one and should often do better than that. I suspect he will go two for one enough of the time to be decent and offer enough extra utility on a simple Mind Rot to see some play. Probably a bit slow and vulnerable for the drafting cube but absolutely an inclusion in any Rack decks. Worthy of testing as well, hitting three cards for three mana and just one of your own is sufficiently serious to merit making sure!

Kiora's Damnbreaker 1

Much as I love proliferate this is just too much mana for not enough return. A big vanilla dork is not really providing synergy with anything, certainly not a proliferate deck.

Teferi's Time Twist 2

For a master of time Teferi seems to not be very good at twisting it. Feels like he forgot to draw seven... Anyway, this card is fine. It is an any permanent flicker effect and that is the only reason it is getting mentioned. Super narrow but almost certainly going to see play in a bunch of places.

Jiangg Yanggu, Wildcrafter 3

This dude feels like Riskar, Peema Renegade. Lacking the total stats and initial impact of Rishkar I don't see this doing all that well in cube. Too easily it will be attacked or even just Shocked having added at best a single +1/+1 counter to your board. In the right sort of themed deck this could however offer valuable redundancy to Rishkar and allow you to reliably milk your dorks for mana. Like a Crytolith Rite with added value! Jiangg is at least better at fixing than Rishkar and technically loses less value if you make him on an empty board. As with so many of the walkers with this style of design, the floor on having them dealt with right away is too easy to have done to you and far too low returns for them to fare at all well in the drafting cube.


  1. I know this might seem far fetched or low key bad but iridescent drake and kaya's ghostform with a sac outlet make for infinite enter the battlefield and death triggers. The same is possible with sun titan. While you could only need 3 cards to make this work for example with blasting station you'll often need a sac outlet + another card capitalizing on death/ETB triggers. However I believe that even in a vacuum these cards are relatively good and all the components can be brewed into other interesting combo or synergy. you can for example add auramancer and reveillark which can reanimate several targets from your graveyard for a single black mana. say you have basal sliver you can get infinite mana. I mean in my opinion kaya's ghostform is really low costed and while it may be difficult to go off with her it definitely offers huge brewing opportunities to warrant an auto include in my cube (though it is probably far less combo centric and powered than yours)

    1. Doesn't sound far fetched at all. Certainly a build around combo I will be trying at some point. Thanks for pointing it out.