Thursday 11 April 2019

War of the Spark: Preliminary Review Part X

Kasmina's Transmutation 5.5

Probably the best blue spot removal spell on offer. In a lot of ways this is better than Journey to Nowhere. There is a reasonably high chance the 1/1 dies before the enchantment does and even if the aura is removed it will not retrigger EtB effects. This is relatively low risk, relatively cheap and otherwise unconditional spot removal in blue. Reality Shift is a more powerful removal effect but the cost is far greater. A 2/2 is a lot more relevant than a 1/1 and it is an unknown and can potentially flip over and ruin your day. Reality Shift fails as a tempo removal spell because of these things but Kasimina's Transmutation doesn't. So despite being a less powerful spell it does do what you want of your low cost spot removal. It feels a bit like a blue version of Declaration in Stone more than a blue Journey to Nowhere and that would make it quite exciting for cube. Sadly it is probably just a bit too under powered. The kind of thing where you just play bounce and countermagic spells instead, or splash another colour for good removal. I think this does have a shot at play in the drafting cube and I am sure it will see use in singleton constructed. It has some perks in certain themes like devotion going for it. A nice card to see even if it doesn't amount to anything.

Rally of Winged 5

Seems too narrow for the drafting cube but it seems unreasonably good for any skies deck. This is easily enough payoff to start making one mana one power fliers great includes. This is 2/3rds of an Overrun for 2/5ths of the price. That feels nearly twice as powerful! Convoke is instant too for that massive blowout potential. This isn't just dangerous for singleton constructed decks, this is dangerous for standard and potentially even modern. Untapping is always powerful too, I am sure that has further abuses thanks to that part of the card. This is a huge buff for Favourable Winds builds and wildly increases their viability in all formats.

Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor 5

For a one trick pony I am rather impressed with this. There is quite a lot of value all over the place with Kasmina. She is like Champion of Wits more than most other cards. A pair of 2/2 tokens and a pair of loots is worth a lot. Four mana sounds about right on a cube power level. I am less sure how to rate the static ability. It makes it a lot harder to remove your 2/2 token or other blockers and far less convenient to directly use spells to take Kasmina out. Paying four mana to Dreadbore Kasmina feels horrible when they already got a loot and a dork out of her. Like all these saga like uncommon planeswalkers Kasmina is really hurt if she is attacked and killed before her 2nd activation. That being said I think her static ability might be enough extra defense to make that outcome unlikely enough that I can see this doing reasonably well on average. My concern for Kasmina is where do you want her? Are you trying to scale up her static ability with a deck full of creatures you want protecting? Sounds good but such a deck is probably going to want to pack more punch in their four slot. How about a slower deck just wanting some card quality and chumps? Perhaps but are you able to protect her well enough or get enough out of the effects? Ultimately I think this is great but sadly too far up the curve to compete. It offers the kind of effects you want on cheaper cards so despite offering good and reliable returns for your mana it isn't going to see much play. A little bit too fair for a cube four drop is probably the issue here. I am certainly going to try her out but I fear she fell at the final hurdle after making it past all the more difficult ones.

Parhellion II 0/10?

What on earth is this silliness? This does a lot of stuff and is very powerful but my god does it seem unplayable. Perhaps we will get some sort of Stoneforge for vehicles that also somehow crews things easily as well as tutoring them up and cheating them in? Then this might be playable... As it stands it has everything going against it. First up it is 8 mana and does nothing at all when you make it. For it to do anything you have to attack with it which means giving it haste or waiting a turn. Enjoy waiting a turn after making your 8 mana do nothing. See how that goes. We also have the small matter of the massive crew cost. Just having four power available is a tall order in a lot of games. That makes this incredibly unreliable, win more, and further hurts the playability. This is easily stopped by counter magic, instant speed creature kill, any kind of Shatter, and of course the classic, winning before opponents pass the eight mana mark... So, lets say all the stars align and we play our Parhellion, survive the turn with it still in play and have sufficient power to crew it and it gets to attack. What have we gained? We get a flying army of 13 power spread over three impressive bodies and a total of 9 extra damage over our crew costs. It is quite a smack but it isn't super damaging or fatal. The value is a pair of Serra Angel tokens. From that point you should be killing them on the next attack and be pretty safe to a swing back. For the amount of setup this requires I think you are better off with legendary Eldrazi or Approach of the Second Sun as win conditions! This is a powerful vehicle for sure but it seems about as unplayable as you could make a card.

Ral's Outburst 6

The mini Prophetic Bolt. I actually think this is better than Prophetic despite being less value for the mana. The big chunk of damage and card quality from Bolt is lovely but it isn't what the card is about. Electrolyse is no card quality and just a Fire yet it is comfortably better. Ral's Outburst hits a sweet spot on several fronts and might well be better than both Prophetic Bolt and Electrolyse (for cube at least). Nagging Thoughts plus Searing Spear is roughly what this is. You are playing it because it is a solid two for one with a reasonable chance of keeping tempo. A 3 damage burn spell deals with a lot of things. About 77% of dorks and obviously planeswalkers too. It deals with more meaningful and threatening dorks and it does so about when they start to become a threat than Electrolyze. Nagging Thoughts isn't great but that is largely because it is sorcery speed. At instant I suspect it would see some love. Sleight of Hand is certainly a great little card and graveyard synergies mostly make Nagging Thoughts a superior effect. This is a little bit fair for a gold card but it is so direct and pure that it has a better chance than most of the fairer cards. Damage, card draw and card quality are three out of four of the universally good effects (with mana gain being the other). It is rarely going to feel anything other than lovely casting this thing. I dub thee "Sleightening Bolt". And I suspect I am about four hundredth in line to claim that pun...

Bolt Bend 3

This is a red deflection with a 3 mana reduction if you have ferocious. Deflection is over cost but Divert and Misdirection have seen play, the latter increasingly frequently. They are all also blue, red has rather less in this department with Shunt as the only real option. Like Deflection Shunt is also too expensive for what it does. Certainly the effect is very powerful but it is a bit like a combat trick. Either a huge blowout or a dud in hand. Red does have some decent looting so as to be able to put the card to use when the effect is a dud but red fails to have ongoing sources of card advantage that work well with this. You simply don't want a card like this if you have Outpost Siege or Experimental Frenzy in your deck. It is pretty poor with Light up the Stage too. We are also overlooking the fact that this is not a 1 drop at all. Having ferocious isn't easy. It is limited to a few archetypes and even then is not assured. If we assert that Bolt Bend is unplayable as a 4 drop or even a 3 drop we can only play it in decks where ferocious is plausible a chunk of the time. We cannot expect to have it early game and so while this might be a one drop later in the game it is not a one drop until turn three at best really. Where I can see this getting some love is in a deck that leans on some creatures which provide ferocious, say the Terror of Qal Sisma! Then you have a kind of naughtier Blossoming Defense for your threat. This is a powerful card that should see some play and when it does you should expect impressive things from the card. Sadly the play it does get will be incredibly restricted and infrequent. Bolt Bend likely gets more action in sideboards than main deck. Always nice to see colours other than blue getting effects to disrupt spells at least.

Ral, Storm Conduit 6.5

This seems like a very impressive card and almost certainly the best Ral card we have seen. As a four drop he is fairly tame for the most part, you get a scry and a 6 loyalty walker. If however you can hold out just a little longer so you have spare mana you will get a lot of action with Ral. Flop him out, -2 and cast a burn spell you are doing 2X + 2 damage where X is the damage of the burn spell. That is Lighting Bolt for 8, Shock for 6 and all fairly splittable. The +2 damage of that equation can't go at dorks but the burn spells can probably take out a dork each. If for some mad reason your opponent had two 1 loyalty planeswalkers against a red deck you could take out two walkers and two creatures with a single burn spell. All very efficient and potent. Alternatively you could just copy something like a Serum Visions and upgrade it to basically a Foresee and get the two face/planeswalker damage as well. Cards like Firebrand Archer and Electrostatic Barrier have shown us quite how impressive cards that ping on spell triggers can be. Ral is rather pricier but also offers a lot more punch and power than the two drops with versions of Ral's passive effect. The +2 is low value but affords really nice loyalty returns, helps keep Ral safe and setup to abuse the other effects. The -2 is a lot of value and potentially tempo. It is vastly better than Narset Transcendent but then that isn't all that impressive of a claim. While very powerful the -2 won't always have loads of good targets and does require a bit of setup. It is where you get your big swings and big returns but mostly Ral is about the passive effect. That is where you will reliably turn Ral into a huge threat. Overall he probably equates to half a card, half a scry, two face/walker damage and a mana each turn he is in play for you. That is a lot of stuff and takes little time to pay his way and more. Ral seems playable in control and a perfect top end card for spell heavy Izzet tempo decks. Ral offers great scaling, is powerful enough to see play in off theme archetypes and has a top tier archetypal home all ready for him in most cubes.The closest planeswalker to Ral is Chandra, the Firebrand and for what is it worth Ral pisses all over her too. Firebrand is at least playable unlike Narset! Ral is safer than Firebrand, affords way more value over time and also way more value in one or two turns as well. Firebrand would need to start on five loyalty to really compare to Ral.

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