Wednesday 10 April 2019

War of the Spark: Preliminary Review Part IX

Neoform 5

This is a scaled back Eldrich Evolution which for most cards is a win but in this case likely not. You cannot add to the value with extra mana and so you are not able to jump above the initial CMC by much at all which in turn makes this hard to curve with and hard to use as a way of cheating out big things. It can't even find X or less cards as with Evolution so this is a little less convenient than Evolution as well. Where this will shine is as a tutor for combo pieces. This is a one time use of a Birthing Pod and that likely makes it better for piecing together a number of combos. This probably sees modern play as a result. Perhaps even legacy, this is still a very cheap tutor when overall mana is considered. As a source of value I am unconvinced. You are always two for one going into this and so even if you find something like a Mulldrifter you hardly going wild for value. Turn a four drop into a 3/3 flier and gain a card in hand for two mana. Decent enough but not busted, certainly not good when you are saccing an average cube four drop, they are all rather better than a 3/3 flier! The new legendary Elvish Visionary homunculus isn't great either. There are few good one drops to sac off and getting a 2/2 body isn't great. Just play Divination if you want to draw cards... I don't see this being enough value in a general midrange cube. The utility is nice but it is a little bit inconvenient. I can't see myself playing this over something green that just finds creatures in a drafting cube without specific combos Neoform supports. The +1/+1 counter helps a little in the midrange setting in a general sense but not enough to offset the inconveniences (gold, needing dorks, vulnerable to countermagic, only able to find specific CMCs). In a combo sense the +1/+1 counter might be critical but far more likely it is irrelevant. All told this is an interesting and powerful card that will do good work in a few specific places but seems to be fairly well contained to those places. I do plan to test this just in case it is nuts in a midrange deck somehow. It fails to work with some of the best Simic cards in cube as well which is an issue (those being Hydriod Krasis and Shardless Agent).

Courage in Crisis 1

There is a chance this gets play due to low numbers of proliferate cards and how strong the ability is when built towards. That being said I think I would rather pay an extra mana and run the 4/4 over this very pricey and slow Battle Growth. It isn't even instant for combat trickery uses. This is reasonably cheap but it is also very low powered compared to other proliferate cards including the originals. You either need to be desperate for more or really really into +1/+1 counters for this to be of interest!

Heartfire 5

I am not entirely sure what to make of this one. This is a lot of damage with the speed and targetting options you want. It is just a meatier version of Collateral Damage or a calmer version of Shrapnel Blast. The thing is that creatures are much more common than artifacts and meatier is where you want to be when it comes to additional cost cards. This is certainly more playable than either of the directly comparable spells. It might not measure up quite as favourably in power terms in all metrics as them both but Heartfire is still sufficiently above the curve for a burn spell. Much as this will generally be pretty playable I am not sure how much all decks will want to play it. Burn heavy aggressive decks won't reliably be able to cast it and that will be savage. Midrange decks won't always have dorks they are happy to put in the bin ruining the convenience and value. This card looks pretty bad when your only dork is a five mana dragon! Even if it represents lethal in for you in that setting the risk of using it in the face of lifegain or countermagic is vast. If you toilet your own dragon you are pretty sad. I think in the right deck this will be a premium burn spell but I fear that the right deck will be hard to draft and not always the best option to draft and as such Heartfire probably gets too little play to get that drafting cube slot. Even so, I expect to see a bunch of this in constructed events, rather like Lava Spike. In the creature heavy aggressive red decks this feels like an alternative to Stoke the Flames. While Heartfire lacks the floor or the ceiling of Stoke the Flames it will typically afford a lot more tempo and that could well make it perform better out of the two.

Evolution Sage 6.5

Impressive proliferator. While this seems very good it probably isn't as abusive as the blue prowess Grey Ogre from this set, or Throne of Geth for that matter. It is hard to overlap landfall and proliferate mechanics too much meaning this is likely just triggering a little under once a turn on average. This certainly has a decent body but it is still a 2 toughness three drop making it easy pickings for most removal. I still like this a lot. I think it is powerful and dangerous enough to see drafting cube play. Green has plenty of +1/+1 counter cards as well as plenty of planeswalkers. You don't need many of that sort of thing going on for this to get very out of hand. Maulfist Revolutionary was impressive in cube and this is much easier to play and potentially way more abusive, both long and wide so to speak. As a tool to really abuse proliferate I don't think this is all that impressive. It might still get play in that capacity due to reasonable power level and scarcity but it is no Tezzeret's Gambit or Throne of Geth. Unlike most other proliferate cards however Evolution Sage seems playable in a general sense. I can totally imagine just playing this is a midrange green deck that just happens to have a handful of +1/+1 counter effects and planeswalkers. I can see winning games due to unexpected planeswalker ultimates courtesy of a +3 jump thanks to the Sage coming down followed by a sac land and something like a Tribe Elder. Sounds fun!

Aid the Fallen 3

This reminds me of Grim Discovery which is an underplayed and potent card. It is a very easy two for one but it doesn't feel that much like it with it being more of a mid to late game spell and lands holding least value at that point. Aid the Fallen is a much harder two for one but the returns are much higher with both cards being potentially high power game winning cards. Find // Finality is easier to setup and build for and offers a lot more utility assuming you can procure some green mana and that probably hurts the drafting cube chances of this card a lot. Value Raise Dead effects are not something you want too much of. With Aide the Fallen needing setup and build consideration for a slow negative tempo card I cannot see it getting the play it would need to justify a cube slot. In constructed decks, especially ones with self mill I can see this being a lot more appealing. I like it a lot, certainly much much more than your typical Raise Dead cards. Fondness however is not going to offset the limited nature of this card sadly.

Eternal Skylord 3

This is a total beating of a card. This is a a five mana 5/5 of stats with partial flying, potentially partial haste if you have an army already in play, and a Wonder buff to all your zombies. This comes down and you can win on the spot if you have enough zombies, if not you still made a massive play. Given that this is blue it is dangerously close to drafting cube playable despite being a booster draft card. It quite possibly is playable in tribal decks. This is clearly going to be a bomb in booster draft which is where it seems like it was designed for. Impressive to see a five drop booster draft card looking so viable in the more potent formats.

Roalesk, Apex Hybrid 2

This card is a bit all over the place. Certainly it has a lot of power but using it will be hard and more importantly, very rare in a limited setting. A 5 mana 4/5 flying trample is below the curve and the rest of the card is conditional. Giving +2/+2 permanently is powerful but needs you to have a dork, ideally a suitable one. Proliferating twice is very very powerful but only in the right setting and that isn't something you have all that much control over what with it being an on death trigger. This is an aggro card and as such very far up the curve. It needs synergy to perform and thus is also a counters theme card. This is already making it super narrow but the biggest hurdle this has is being a five mana Simic aggro card. Not really where you want to be. I don't see this doing much in cube. I will certainly be playing it what with those proliferate keywords but I think decks in which this is good will be bad and in good decks this will be bad.

Forced Landing 1

Kind of an exile removal spell in green. Also a card with very limited range. It is a removal spell with a 20% or so hit rate in my cube, of which many of the things it can hit are thopter and spirit tokens... Vivien is where you want to be for killing fliers as it can do other useful things the 80% of the time it has no flying targets! The moral of this story is that if an effect is too narrow to be playable a minor upgrade to the power without any upgrades to the playability doesn't change all that much. This gets the obligatory 1/10 mark for being a potentially suitable sideboard answer for something specific. Likely to never see play in my cube. I would be impressed if it saw play in other cubes.

Solar Blaze 3

You can look at this in two very different lights. On the one hand you can curve out with your Swiftspear, Kari Zev and Brimaz while utterly destroying your opponent with a turn four Plague Wind! Alternatively you can play a conditional Wrath that hits 72.6% of the creatures in my cube for lethal (of which not all die either due to indestructible and the such) and randomly die when your sub par Wrath fails to kill all the things you needed it too that little bit too frequently. Solar Blaze would be a reasonable build around card in a known meta if you could pack a few more copies of it or similar effects.With just it and with limited card pools it is simply too narrow for the drafting cube. I can see it being put to good use in all kinds of constructed lists but I do not expect it to be a prominent card even there due to the ease of countering it. Just one of those nice balancing tools that keeps a meta on a more even keel.

Feather, the Redeemed 6

Well isn't this a fancy little fellow. You can certainly do some naughty things with this in play. While exploits of the ability are relatively few in drafting cubes you do start with a three mana 3/4 flier which really helps to push the overall package. Feather gives a lot of board control and threat just as a vanilla flier. So what are going to be the good and common exploits? Firstly we have the cheap cantrip cards that target such as Crimson Wisps and Defiant Strike. Both are decent stand alone cards and could reasonably be added to cubes to support Feather if one was so inclined. Paying WW to draw two cards a round and have your 3/4 be a 4/4 instead sounds fairly pleasant. You can also pair Feather with Arc Trail or Fire to Shock and ping things repeatedly. You can have Mutagenic Growth for the 5/6 flier from right away. You can gain three life with a Lightning Helix. You can protect your Lightning Bolt from discard effects by Bolting Feather in response assuming it isn't/hasn't taking/en more damage. You can even have a comedy soft lock with Cryptic Command, Feather, and seven of your specifically coloured mana! Feather is narrow for being gold, narrower still for being so colour intense, and yet narrower for having niche synergies. I think with a smattering of the right support Feather could still be a potent cube card. I am however not sure it is going to be enough of a pull towards playing Boros that the card gets enough play to warrant a drafting cube slot. Certainly a powerful card and one that will do good work in something like a heroic themed deck even if the drafting cube doesn't work out for Feather.

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