Friday, 12 April 2019
War of the Spark: Preliminary Review Part XI
While this is a very potent card advantage tool I have my concerns. The main one is that if made on curve the +1 is just exiling a card. You really need to make this on turn six onward without having played a land yet but still having some mana spare. Ideally the amount that corresponds to your average CMC over four mana and with a land drop still up. That is super late game for any kind of deck let alone an aggressive deck. The next issue given that we have established that the +1 isn't achieving much the turn you make her most of the time is that she is pretty easy to kill. If you want this kind of card draw in red you have Outpost Siege, Vance's Blasting Cannons, Experimental Frenzy, and other Chandra cards. All of those options are safer and most offer more utility too. Rather than protect herself Fire Artisan is a punisher card. If you want to kill her with damage you are taking at least five in the face or one of your own planeswalkers. That is a form of protection but it is unreliable and situational. It likely works better in the most aggressive decks where taking damage and sending in would be blockers is all very uncomfortable for the opponent. The damage payoff is much more reliable in this regard than Outpost Siege or Blasting Cannons and much quicker acting than the other Chandra's. Fire Artisan feels quite like an Outpost Siege than often lets your opponent choose the mode. Either you get a pseudo card draw each turn or you play Lava Axe. Punisher cards are not typically great however this is fairly pushed and Risk Factor has shown us that a pushed punisher card is good. They certainly get better with more of them to help support each other. While all this is interesting the card very much needs to consider the ultimate. Without doing so the Lava Axe vs card draw choice is close and interesting. The problem is that pretty quickly Fire Artisan gets to 7 loyalty and can cash in for 7 damage and a pile of cards. That is a problem to face and it means the only time Chandra is not going to be answered as soon as possible is when the game is going to end within a few turns despite her. In a close race Chandra is bad, against an uninteractive combo deck she is bad, against a low life midrange player or control deck Chandra seems to be pretty insane. Does red need a heavily aggressive leaning punisher planeswalker that has some fairly polar matchups? Quite possibly not. Given how interesting the design on this one is and with it being unique I am inclined to give this a long time in the cube to give it every chance to succeed. My synopsis of the card makes it sounds fairly unnecessary and a card that will lead to bad games but I have a hunch this is actually going to be interesting and more powerful than it might first appear.
Law-Rune Enforcer 7
This is a mixup on Gideon's Lawkeeper. We get two buffs and a nerf. The nerf is not being able to tap tokens or one drops. The buffs are an extra toughness and colourless mana on the activation. These may seem small but on such a cheap card they go a really long way. The extra toughness is massive in my present meta. There is so much ping and AoE that kills one toughness critters that you can't risk playing too many. It is a pretty big win generally but specifically for my cube it is huge. The colourless activation is nicer than it seems allowing you to play this more freely outside of white. So how bad is not hitting tokens and one drops? Mostly not a problem. I think the most annoying it will be is for pesky flying tokens when you want to protect planeswalkers but mostly it will want to tap bigger stuff. I think the human tag is enough to make it better than Goldmeadow Harrier for my cube just with the pair of human synergy dorks I run. I am going to run this alongside Lawkeeper for now, tappers are great and a little underrated. More of them should encourage play. I should be able to see which is better of Enforcer and Lawkeeper quicker and might even discover there is room for two tappers in white. If I were to guess I would say this is better than Lawkeeper in my cube and still slightly better in the average cubes.
Dovin, Hand of Control 2
This seems to narrow and too easily overrun. You cannot get card advantage out of Dovin, he is just a stalling tool. Best case scenario he counters a creature for 4 or 5 turns and incurs some tax on mana or reduction in option density for five or more turns. Worst case he comes down and absorbs 5-8 damage equating to a fairly poor lifegain tool. I can see this being a decent counter to a number of combo decks but as for running this maindeck against anything I am not at all convinced. Seems both low powered and risky and just kind of pointless.
Saheeli, Sublime Artificer 7
This seems like the first of these uncommon planeswalkers that I would be happy playing just for the passive effect. All told Saheeli is probably safer than Young Pyromancer and will get a comparable amount done in combat! Pyromancer almost only attacks into a clear board and only blocks in times of desperation. He is absolutely a card where having a body is a drawback. Saheeli is still vulnerable but she is probably more onerous to deal with than Pyromancer even when you can do so without incurring a card cost. Saheeli is also better than Pyromancer at what Pyromancer does as she triggers from more things and makes artifact tokens which have synergy with far more other cards than red elementals. With all this in mind I am thinking I would be pretty happy playing this slightly costlier Pyromancer. The -2 is nice. It is always a scary threat and you don't even need to use it. It certainly isn't an ability you are desperately trying to dump your excess loyalty into so as to get enough value as per most of the other uncommon walkers. Ideally you want to wait until you have something reasonably brutal out like a Glorybringer or Inferno Titan. Getting a bonus swing with either of them is going to push most games instantly out of reach. Saheeli is also really playable in both of her colours and is thus less narrow than a gold card or either a 1UU or 1RR card which is a pretty big win. I can absolutely imagine multiple decks that do not contain Izzet colours that would play this. I can totally picture making this on turn three with no defenses up into a (non-red) player with 2 to 4 power in play and bait them into "wasting" an attack on Saheeli only to have her stabilize the next turn and live a healthy and profitable life in my service!
Jaya's Greeting 5.5
Another Abrade style card that is certainly very tempting. This will appeal to the midrange and control player more than the aggro player. While not going face is a shame it is not going to planeswalkers either that is the real problem for this card. I am not sure I play this over Searing Spear in the slower red decks, let alone the aggro ones. Mostly you do use your Searing Spears on creatures, even in aggro decks. It is probably in the 90% ballpark. In those cases getting a free scry is pretty massive, you don't lose any gusto on the burn quantity or effect and that is key. That is why Magma Jet is such a limp card, you ultimately get a poor burn spell in order to get the card quality. With Greeting you don't get a poor burn spell, you instead get a good one that is occasionally dead. Given how infrequently that is I would rather play this than Magma Jet but sadly that isn't the bar. The bar is being played over Searing Spear and on that account I fear we may have difficulty. I will give this a chance to shine. It does do a lot for relatively little. The "value" of Abrade is having the options upfront. When you play it you only get 3 damage to a dork or a Shatter, nothing above curve. When you kill a dork with this you are impressively above curve.
Jaya, Venerated Firemage 4
A pair Volcanic Hammers on different turns and an ongoing damage boost. Five is a reasonable amount of total mana to pay for what you get but you cannot assure the second Hammer and you cannot Hammer before you have five mana. This makes Jaya a lot less widely playable than I would like. Burn is good early and so while Hammer is a great two mana card it is a lot less appealing at five. Where Jaya has some hope is with abuses of the static effect. Cards like the Flame of Keld and Insult // Injury have been built around in cube to impressive effect. Jaya is weaker than both of those in terms of payoff as well as in terms of expediency. You can play the more punchy Furnance of Rath for a mana less if you really want to empower your burn. At least Jaya isn't helping out your opponent! What really makes Jaya a consideration in the face of all these seemingly superior alternatives is that you can more reliably get some tempo and value with her -2 ability. Jaya is control and combo, the others are basically just combo and thus very clumsy cards to have in your draws. Worth testing, unlikely to be powerful enough or playable enough for the drafting cube despite being reasonably close. I suspect she will see a bit of supporting play in the decks themed around taking advantage of effects like her passive but I fear that is about it.
Vizier of the Scorpion 2
This feels too limp to see play in the drafting cube but due to significant synergies it is pretty close despite the relatively low power of this card. It is a puny 2/2 in stats for three mana with the perks of being over two bodies, having partial deathtouch and potentially giving it to some more tokens. You might see this in a zombie deck but I doubt it given we got a 1/2 amass card for 1B already this set. A stat buff or evasion buff feels preferable in such a setting and there are plenty of those at three mana in zombies. It is the existence of aristocrat archetypes that really give this its chance but with those basically all being more than just black we can do a lot better on our support dudes for three mana.
Chandra's Triumph 1
This is another Searing Spear you can't send at face. This will go to planeswalkers but it doesn't have anywhere near the upside of Shatter or scry 1. The ceiling on this isn't all that exciting nor is it at all something you can expect to happen very often at all. Sure, it is powerful but we can divide that power by the frequency of casting it with a Chandra in play and find that power boost to be pretty negligible.
Karn, the Great Creator 3