Tuesday, 23 April 2019
War of the Spark: Preliminary Review Part XVIII
God-Eternal Oketra 5
An inverse prowess trigger card here that generates 4/4 dorks for you. Oketra seems like an impressive threat that offers reach, security and reliability. I am not without my concerns. This is a top end card that wants creature support which makes it a little narrow. A lot of the creature heavy aggressive white decks don't even bother with five drops. It also makes it a bit win more, it is a creature and it makes more creatures when you do. To get value with this you need to play a dork and thus have three things in play. When you have at least a 4/4 and a 3/6 doublestrike you are absolutely in a position to eat a Wrath. It is basically a little hard not to over extend with Oketra. She does come back but at a time and card cost. An aggro deck will have low value one drops it can stockpile and power up Oketra with but a midrange deck will have far less disposable dorks. Both fewer creatures and fewer still it can afford to risk or hold just to get Oketra triggers. Oketra is not weak by herself as a 3/6 doublestrike dork packs a big punch and is savage to tackle in combat. Double strike scales nicely with buffs and a few other bits and bobs as well which are fairly common in white. Much as I like this I fear it is just a little too narrow and a bit too much of an all the eggs in one basket card. The god recursion mechanic is nice on this as it is with the other gods but sadly it is not solving the issue facing white creature decks of card advantage. While this is a little slow to get going and a little vulnerable to removal as such it will pretty much steamroll anything not answering it. This will break apart board stalls fairly quickly and generally just be a big impact card. Decks without consistently immediate answers or mass removal cards are going to ultimately lose to Oketra. Test worthy but expecting it to not make the cut much as I might want it to.
Rubblebelt Rioters 1
Too reliant on having another attacker. As long as this has at least three power it is very potent. The scaling potential of it will likely draw some people in for abuses. It certainly isn't playable in a limited cube setting and is still probably just bad in a constructed on even if it does have an impressive and more likely ceiling there.
Prison Realm 4
A target restricted Banishing Light that makes up for it with a scry. Mostly you want to deal with creatures and walkers and white loves to scry. Overall this probably is better than Banishing Light in a cube setting but only by the slightest of margins. That is probably only true for unpowered cubes as well, all power and combo tends to power up the value of the Disenchant effects. With much better cards like Conclave Tribunal and Cast Out on offer I don't see this breaking into the drafting cube. Too many more interesting and powerful alternatives despite this being a decent and fit for purpose card.
This is a useful addition to the suite of removal on offer in cube. It is the mirror image of Abrupt Decay killing all the things it does not. Despark trades uncounterable for exile which is a perfect swap given the targets. Abrupt Decay kills cheap things which are often things that can be played with countermagic protection. Despark kills big things that often have their own form of protection and recursion but are less likely to have countermagic backup. Abrupt Decay affords low value and small tempo swings but it does cover you very well in the early game. Despark affords huge value and massive tempo but it is dead until the midgame. About 29% of the non-land permanents in my cube are targets for this which is pretty low considering. It is about 85 total cards from a 540ish sized cube so overall a fairly small set of cards. The bar I set for spot removal % targets is well over double what Despark offers. The only reason this gets such a big pass on that front is that it hits almost all the real threats and game winning cards. Most lists rely on a few such cards to win and being able to so easily and cheaply deal with them is going to swing a lot of games. Answers to planeswalkers, Hazoret, The Scarab God, Falkenrath Aristocrat, Purphoros, Wurmcoil and all that sort of shenanigans, not to mention just putting big cards like Inferno Titan out of reach of recursion, are welcome cards. This feels a bit like a polar Anguished Unmaking. It is a lot better than Unmaking against the things you want to use it on but it is dead on the things than Anguished Unmaking is poor removal against. This certainly needs some testing, it may well have too few targets in too many decks and spend too much time idle in hands to be a good drafting cube card.
Arboreal Grazer 1.5
Elvish Pioneer does not get much love and this is unlikely to see more play than the elf. Mostly due to type and the fact that when you really want an effect this niche you are likely to play both. The reason this gets a low rating is because you don't much want this effect on such low returns cards. Probably a more useful body than the Pioneers in most non-tribal settings at least.
Heartwarming Redemption 3.5
Well this might be the first magic card to be moving. Lovely art and sendoff for Gideon. A useful tool as well that will see play in a couple of the more exotic builds. Nice to have a utility enabler like this crop up in Boros, a historically inflexible pair of colours. Too narrow for the drafting cube by a long way but a card that has a place.
Bleeding Edge 5.5
This is a mini Skinrender. You lop a mana off the cost, get 2/2 instead of 3/3 stats and the same swap on the removal effect. Overall I think this is actually worse. The colour intensity is greater as a result of the cost reduction. The effect also only lasts till end of turn making this a poor way to mitigate a threat when you can't outright kill it. Tokens are less easily abused than creature cards in general too. As a red or blue card the sorcery type over creature would be a perk but in black it feels like a drawback. This is very close to great and is still very playable. It is easily good enough when you have zombie synergies or amass synergies or just reason to want sorcery cards in the bin. Useful little spell to have in the pool but not one I see having a big impact on the drfating cube.
Elite Guardmage 4
Much better than it looks. While I don't think this quite has the raw power to make it in a drafting cube I can see this doing impressive work in a number of places more tailored to such things. This is what you want to be doing with Oketra's Monument. It is quite pleasant with Heartless Summoning or any sort of flicker cards. This is one of the closest things Azorius has to Baleful Strix! It is 2 more life and 1 more toughness than a Krasis of the same cost! Just a nice useful card that has minimal risks and is generally well rounded.
Return to Nature 7
The death of yet more classic reference cards. We lost Diabolic Edict this set already and now Naturalize is directly bettered too. The exile clause might seem relatively minor but it isn't at all. It adds a huge degree of disruptive potential to the card which in turn makes it way more playable. The exile element appears to add about 20-25% to the number of decent things it hits over a Naturalize which is a fairly significant jump. Naturalize was already reasonably playable and so this looks set to do very well in drafting cubes. This is legitimately one of the top answers green has in cube for a Scarab God. Exile things from the bin is usually not going to be a full cards worth of value but green players will take what they can get. Dealing with half a Lingering Souls or turning Snapcaster Mage into just a 2/1 are still very big wins!
Seems like you might play this in some kind of infinite mana deck that wants to make coloured mana. I don't really see it though, there feels like there are far better ways of fixing with artifacts. The "perks" this card offers don't really line up well with the ability. A 2/1 body for 2 is mostly a drawback and compares horribly to the card you get from Prophetic Prism or Chromatic Star in almost all cases. The only other perk this card has is that it can filter as much as you need but I can't see why you would need as much as this can do. It is not hard to win with a lot of mana even if it is colourless.
Guild Globe 6
Speaking of good colourless fixing her we have it. This is lovely. In many respects it is better than Chromatic Star. You get to play this and get your card back immediately and then hold onto it until you actually need the fixing. With Star and the rest you need to use the fixing to get the card which can often mean you blow them early to dig into the deck. This can in turn lead to you later being colour screwed. The downside of Globe is that two is actually a significant upfront cost and cannot so easily just be tossed into a deck to help smooth it out. I expect this to be outstanding in artifact synergy decks like Breya good stuff. In more standard Esper control lists I don't think this will get anywhere near the play of the one drops. Great overall addition to the greater pool of magic cards at least. This will see play all over the place. It is most comparable to Prophetic Prism and so probably winds up just being too underplayed to have a slot in the drafting cube.
Wall of Runes 4
Impressively well statted for one so cheap. This will see play in wall decks if nothing else. I suspect, as with Sigiled Starfish, that this is simply too low powered to be worth playing in a limited setting but I still like it a lot! I will test this just to give it that chance to make it.
Aven Eternal 2
Low powered but has mild potential for synergy builds being relatively cheap and having things going for it like zombie types and two in one bodies.
Sky Theater Strix 2.5
I just prefer Elusive Spellfist to this. It doesn't block in the sky but it blocks better on the ground and does a better job of both living and getting damage through. Spellfist is a great build around card but too narrow for the drafting cube, this will be an OK build around card and also too narrow for the drafting cube. Really all these cards are just sad Stormchaser Mages!
A different take on Carrion Feeder. This is a better starting body being able to block and with some decent evasive capabilities. It retains the useful zombie type and adds in the less useful cat type! The sacrifice is broader with the ability to consume walkers and it affords twice the returns in terms of counters. This is a long list of perks for what might seem like a fairly minor downside on Carrion Feeder. The cost of sacrificing goes from nothing to three mana. That is as it happens a vast nerf. It removes most of the convenience, combo potential and utility from the card. While both remain good they serve very different roles. Dreadmalkin is a much more grindy card. It will be even more annoying in combat than Feeder but it will be almost irrelevant in terms of utility a lot of the rest of the time and afford the opponent opportunities for counterplay. I think the synergy and utility this offers is great. I think the threat level and reach it has are also impressive given how low cost the card initially is. It feels more like a Figure of Destiny than anything else. The threat of the "level up" and the general returns for investment. Overall I think this is a less polar, less potent, but more playable sidegrade on Carrion Feeder. I think it will help out black a lot in cube play being a key support tool, thematic, option dense, and a one drop.