Monday 22 April 2019

War of the Spark: Preliminary Review Part XVII

Callous Dismissal 5

Bounce a thing, get a 1/1 token. What is not to love? The speed, that is what we don't love. A lot of the value of bounce is the reactive element and this lacks that. It is much more of a Man-O-War card than a Boomerang. The value is the tempo and not the disruption. I fear this is a little harder to use than cards like Man-O-War as it is a spell not a creature. While spells do have their advantages as a type, especially in blue, I see the kinds of deck that want this sort of card preferring the creature type to sorcery. It does at least up the value of this in those Delver / Pteramander decks. A 1/1 token is doing fairly little in the late game and a bounce card early is doing fairly little in the tempo. It will be hard for both halves of this card to shine but not impossible. It is certainly good when everything is providing decent value. When you bounce an 8/8 token to death and hold off their 3/1 attacker with your 1/1 dork then great, your Dismissal was amazing. A lot of the time I don't think this will be enough power to merit the card cost. Great design, really hard to unpick.

Sarkhan's Catharsis 0

Well this is the best Lava Axe to date but that isn't impressive. I can't see either the upgrade in power or the extra redundancy having much baring on the playability of this. It is just high enough up the curve that X spells start to appeal more.

Sarkhan, the Masterless 3

Now isn't this a curious walker. It has potential scaling in multiple places. You can become untouchable with enough dragons or you can one shot people with enough planewalkers! That is all very win more. More than one dragon is rarely a losing position and it certainly isn't one that last very long. The same is true of multiple walkers although you do get games that go on for along time with active walkers. They are often some of the most interesting games. Under most normal circumstances Sarkhan is limited in what he does. You can only reasonably expect to make a 4/4 dragon token and have a 2 loyalty planeswalker left over. You can just +1 and do nothing for the loyalty buffer but it seems like a bad play. If you need the loyalty buffer then it is better off forcing the issue by making the token. All told a 4/4 blocker and a ping at anything coming in is about as good a defense as you can get from a single planeswalker activation. The issue is how easy it is to pick apart and that you get not real options with your play. One of the strengths of walkers is their utility and Sarkan has basically none right away and limited utility there after. The ability to easily counter Sarkhan is a real concern as well. All you need to do is get in with any 2 power dork, after dealing with a token or just chump attacking. Bounce or flicker is amazing but even just burning down a 4/4  and then sending in one extra attacker at Sarkhan feels fine. Dealing with the token completely negates the passive and leaves Sarkhan in a bad way. Sarkhan will end a game fairly quickly all by himself and he will be able to lock out a load of things should they happen to not have the right answers. This makes him on the polar side of things which is rarely a plus for game play. He will be an easily answered waste of five mana and a card in the cases where he isn't dominating. I don't think we will see this getting much love in drafting events where you need consistency from your top end. The power is such that I will be playing a bunch of this when the opportunity arises at least. He would be more appealing if you could make a smaller dragon and remain on higher loyalty.

Narset's Reversal 1

Deceptively good looking card that I think many will over rate. This is the Remand of Deflection. That makes it narrow, situational and not even an answer to the problem card at hand. This fails to stop a targetless card like a Wrath. It is only effective against spot removal if they also have a valid target as well. It only delays the removal effect as well and given that most removal is on the cheap side odds on they are just playing it again. Narset's Reversal might be a brutal tempo play in some specific settings and matchups. I can see it doing some good work in a standard midrange mirror and earning sideboard slots as a result. This has an outside shot at cube sideboard play in the same way but it seems about as corner case as it gets.

Narset, Parter of Veils 4

I rather like this. It is fairly tame but I think it has a place. It seems pretty comparable to Jace Beleren. Even if both of similar power level Beleren is less narrow and a bit more option dense and so is very unlikely to be supplanted. Even so, Narset offers some impressive perks over Beleren that will absolutely see her outclassing him in the right setting. The passive is pretty savage to some deck and will make Narset a high value target. Those decks are most commonly the ones least able to deal with planeswalkers. Narset is also one of the least profitable to use spot removal on. By her self all she does is a pair of restricted Impulses and one of those is almost always getting used. Narset will be disruption and a two or three for one against control with the potential to be game winning. Against more aggressive decks she is either some reasonable card draw and quality or she is a bit of tempo and slightly less of the card stuff. Both fine outcomes. Compared to Jace Beleren she can draw a card and remain on 3 loyalty making her a little bit safer against aggression. Overall I think being unable to find lands, not having the threat level of a planeswalker that can grow in loyalty (except against card draw heavy lists), or the options of a walker with a more typical number of abilities all likely doom Narset to seeing little play. I do still like her, I want to play a pair of Impulse for 3 mana and one card, that sounds great.

Finale of Glory 0

This is a silly card. Martial Coup seems like it wins more effectively and with a lower value of X. Secure the Wastes or even Decree of Justice feel like nicer utility mana dumps with tempo that can win the game. I just don't see where this fits in to any sort of deck. It is powerful but it isn't reliable or desirable. It is either clunky and bad or complete overkill and fails to ever hit a good middle ground.

Gideon Blackblade 7.5

This could well be a bit better than a 7.5/10 rating as well. It seems to be the more tempo version of Gideon of the Trials. I prefer Trials in a control deck but as soon as I have dorks and want to attack this seems a lot more appealing. The +1 supplements my attack, provides a lot of options in how it does this, and threatens the -6. The static ability gives you a very powerful and under cost beater, that unlike Trials, does other things at the same time. The -6 is fairly easy to get to but should only really get to be used once per Blackblade cast. It affords a nice amount of control, answers, tempo. and incentive to deal with Gideon. The package is nice, it applies pressure and works towards something. Blackblade is fairly sturdy, especially if you have any sort of dork in play. He evades all the sorcery speed creature removal and much of the instant stuff too what with being indestructible. A Hero's Downfall might as well be a sorcery against him which is annoying at the very least. Gideon seems powerful and versatile enough that it is not just aggro decks that will play him, most midrange ones will as well and I wouldn't even be shocked to see him rock up in some control lists too. Strong card, a tiny bit narrow but I expect he is more than potent enough to power past such setbacks.

Finale of Devastation 4

Green is the colour most able to get to 10 for the X but I am not sure the payoff is exciting enough. I imagine I won already if I just pay 8 for X and find a Craterhoof! The graveyard utility is nice, especially in 40 card decks where big cards that find threats rather than being threats can often make a list too thin and fail to perform in the late game. The ability to find any type of creature is nice but I still think I prefer the cheaper Green Sun's Zenith to this. This has some Tutor applications all over the shop but it isn't a better tutor than the alternatives, just a bit different. I suspect on occasion it will be well suited to lists but it isn't getting loads of play out of it. EDH more so than elsewhere what with tutors scaling in power with larger decks and deck diversity. We might well have enough creature tutors to satisfy 40 card decks but we are well off on 100 card lists! This has applications but mostly as a tutor that is library and bin and not really at all as a win condition, source of value or threat. It is nice that is is a fairly reliable threat if you want it to be but I don't see combo decks that want tutors making it to the late game with 12 mana spare very often. Nice for piecing together an infinite mana combo with as it is then also a relevant win condition.

Command the Dreadhorde 2

Another EDH winner simply due to lower aggression and higher life totals. This should afford some pretty swingy plays! In heads up play however a six drop that is going to batter your life total is risky. You really want at least 6 mana worth of stuff, ideally more, to get the sort of swing, presence and power to make playing this worth it. I think most decks will simply be too low on life or have to pay too much life in order to get what they want/need back and as such this will just be dead weight a lot of the time. I think you need lots of protection, graveyard filling and perhaps even lifegain before you can think about running this in most cube decks which in turn makes it unsuitable for most cubes.

Ugin's Conjurant 1.5

What an odd card. Not really sure where this fits in other than letting your Celestial Kirin combo to Armageddon! The counter element is mostly a drawback as it effectively gives all other damage sources hurting it wither. This card is unique and so I am sure it will have uses beyond the Kirin silliness but I am not at all sure what they will be. It doesn't seem like you want it in Hardened Scales as the combat potential is so poor.

Price of Betrayal 4

I like this but I don't think it quite does enough. It is killing most planeswalkers but it is not killing that many creatures nor even relevantly resetting many creatures. I think you probably just play the Elder Spell over this if you want to kill walkers and hope to high roll. That extra mana isn't making that much difference when it comes to killing walkers. I like this card a lot, it is cheap and versatile. It will absolutely see play all over the place but the drafting cube shouldn't be one of those. It is just too situational for such things. Too few targets and too often not killing them entirely.

Gideon's Sacrifice 1

There is likely a combo in this somewhere where you mess about with loads of damage and redirect effects but it sounds like it has a lot of parts and will be easily disrupted. Long-hand for bad basically. As a general tool it is also pretty bad as it will two for one you or just prevent a non-meaningful amount of damage. This card is so situational in the general sense that it is comic. I still quite like it but I don't expect to be playing with it.

Tyrant's Scorn 6.5

Gold Smother with an Unsummon mode. Bouncing a dork might be low value but it is massive utility and removes a lot of the potential for Smother to be dead. This is great early removal, and great mid to late game tempo, utility, and trickery. It is a touch on the gold side but it is exactly the sort of thing you want from your removal. This feels comparable power to Terminate and likely more playable as well. At worst you can save a dork of your own from removal or reuse an EtB effect against decks without dorks in them which Terminate cannot! Gold slots are the only real hurdle for this little gem.


  1. So it turns out Finale of Devastation is an and/or effect making it very easy to get that Collected Company style value. Instantly that takes it from a narrow tutor card to a pretty great all rounder that is tempo, value and utility. Pretty nuts, likely a 7.5-8/10 range of a card and thus one of the best drafting cube cards from the set.

    1. aaaaaaaaaaaaand wrong again. Had it more right first time round. As such review and rating of card fairly appropriate.