Wednesday 22 May 2019

Modern Horizons: Preliminary Review Part III

Ice-Fang Coatl 8.5

A Simic Baleful Strix! The gain of flash is amazing but not worth the loss of the deathtouch. Being a non-artifact is also a bit of a downgrade but not universally and only a minute one. It isn't worse as a non-artifact, it just reduces the support potential and thus appeal for it in a few niche builds. Luckily this doesn't directly lose deathtouch, you just need snow permanents. This in turn presents a logistical issue for cube. I have always allowed snow-covered basics to be played just like normal basics, it just so happens that this is almost never required. With cards of this level of payoff (and currently no drawback) people will just be running only snow-covered lands. Rather than significantly increasing my sleeved up lands I am just going to errata this card for cube to gain deathtouch when you have a total of 3 or more basic lands and/or snow permanents. Hopefully that rule will work out for other cards in this set accordingly. With that change you should expect this to hit deathtouch at about the time it starts to become significantly relevant. This will be quite the nasty little surprise with the full suite of flying, flash and deathtouch. It is going to be one of the absolute best removal spells Simic has access to. While somewhat easily disrupted compared to a spell it comes pretty close to saying "destroy an attacking creature. draw a card" on it which for two mana is about as good as you can get. Yes, you still eat trample damage and you can't kill things with certain kinds of evasion and all that, but given that we are talking about a Simic removal spell that sits above the curve alongside non-Simic removal spells I think we can give it a break. Also, just a fantastic curve play as with Strix.

Prismatic Vista 9

A fixed sac land! Would you look at that. This is great for cubes offering a high powered dual land for all the colours in just one card. This winds up being more playable than a sac land but less powerful which is the design jackpot. This is also better than a sac land in that it affords rather more real choices. It is certainly true that you don't always get your original dual land when you crack a fetch land normally but with only a single Wasteland in the meta and no Blood Moon effects to punish the most common reason to not get an original dual is when you have no actual plays and can use the window to get out a shock or otherwise EtB tapped dual land instead. With this new Vista getting the wrong flavour of basic will have huge impacts later down the line and will matter a lot more as to how you use it. It still does all the lovely things like fill up the graveyard, shuffle the library and so forth. Great to have more of that sort of thing. It will reduce the polarity on cards that lean on such things. The difference in power between Brainstorms and Deathrite Shaman with and without access to sac lands is pretty extreme. While these cards don't need a buff there are others that do and it isn't about the buff to power that I care about, it is all to do with the buff to consistency. Any way, this is a huge win for cube and for magic generally. The only downside is that this is a bit more time I am now going to be watching my opponents shuffle their decks! I am super impressed that I have already given two cards in this set the elusive 9/10 rating. I am even more stunned that neither of these cards seem like they will do anything bad to the game, indeed quite the opposite.

Morophon the Boundless 3

This just makes me want to play with a deck full of Sliver lords! Very silly and over the top but who can resist a full WUBRG cost reduction. Some tasty WUBRG dragons kicking about too! Much as this can do some very spicy things all over the place it is a seven mana card. Unless we are cheating this out with a Didgeridoo or Goblin Lackey I am not seeing any good ways to really abuse the cost reduction ability. If you are not heavily abusing the cost reduction then your 7 mana 6/6 lord is a complete dud.  Certainly this is ripe for abuse and so if there isn't the combo there already this will always be one to watch. As just a card to put in a cube it has no hope, you really need to build around this quite specifically. Things that ramp need to cost less than 7...

Force of Vigor 5

Interesting design. This is either a 2 for 2 trade in which you get a big mana advantage or it is a 2 for 1 trade that is a bit more even on mana on average. I like the versatility this card offers a lot. It has a reasonable chance of replacing things like Ancient Grudge in some modern sideboards. What concerns me for cube use is that this is all very polar. It is not always going to have one target, let alone two. Of the times it has two targets a lot of those will include a low value second target such as a clue or servo token. When you do get two good hits you will likely just win from the blowout power of that play. When you don't you will have an interesting but awkward and sometimes even dead, Naturalize. My cube is a little light on good targets but there are plenty of powered ones, combo ones and themed cubes that do. This quickly goes from risky to playable and playable to great as the target count rises. Amazing in the right setting and still probably a better floor than Naturalize. Certainly a much more dynamic and interesting take on it. Even if this does not make it in my drafing cube it will be a sideboard mainstay.

Seasoned Pyromancer 7.5

This is like a Champion of Wits. But better! The floor of this card is a 1RR 2/2 with a double rummage effect. That is pretty decent. It sets up a lot of synergies, affords a lot of card selection, and isn't a shocking tempo play. From there on it it is all just getting a lot better. Making bonus 1/1 tokens for pitching non-lands is amazing. It turns this from a weak tempo play into a very strong one. That is nearly as much board presence (lacking the flying) as Pia and Kiran Nalaar and for a whole mana less. Then there is the "flashback" option as it were. Five mana for a Dragon Fodder is pricey but it is free value. It is a bit Firebolt like in terms of power and value on the recursion. Not as powerful as the eternalize on Champion of Wits but vastly more playable due to more reasonable cost. Further to all this potential power and value I think the card has further abuses should you be hellbent. It seems as if playing this on an empty hand just means it is a draw two effect. If so then this is really exceptional. That makes it great in very aggressive red decks all the way up to midrange and control red builds not without stopping off on a combo potential detour. The Divination Grey Ogre is a very exciting card. The Tormenting Voice Pia Nalaar isn't bad either when you have one card in hand. Basically there are no modes where this card is bad and lots of different ones where it is suitable and powerful. Board presence, lots of bodies, graveyard filling, card drawing, card quality, value if discarded, mana sink, tempo, seemingly everything! And to think back to when I was so recently impressed and excited by Rix Maadi Reveler... I want to give this an 8/10 and am only really held back by the double red in the cost which probably doesn't matter at all for this.

Munitions Expert 3

This has great scaling with goblins and has a pretty high floor. A two mana 1/1 that pings is passable and the addition of flash adds a lot to that. I think as a mono red card at 1R that would see a lot of cube play. Sadly being gold is a huge turn off but we can't rule it out because there are plenty of other goblins on the go. This will range from 1 all the way to 5 for damage in drafting cube and probably averaging 2 or a little above. That sounds like it is enough to cut it but I fear it isn't for two key reasons. Firstly, you most want that average 2 damage on turn two and that is where it is least likely to occur. Secondly the reliability and consistency is all off. It will be underwhelming damage most of the time and then randomly every now and again massive overkill! I think this will have a hard time ousting Gempalm Incinerator and Sparksmith, or Fanatic and Sharpshooter etc for that matter, from tribal lists although it does have perks over both the former (and closer comparisons) on occasion. In lists over 40 cards Munitions Expert will get a lot more action. For cube I can only really see him in a midrange BR tribal build and that leaves him supremely narrow. A high powered card that isn't quite there. I expect this to see less play than most other cards I rate as a 3 despite being better than most.

Undead Auger 6

This is very powerful because it stands on its own so well. It is like a Midnight Reaper but one less mana and one less power which is a good trade off in this case. Obviously Reaper can return more cards due to no type restriction but usually these cards are dealt with first and just cash in for one or bait premium exile removal. Auger would see more play than Dusk Legion Zealot if it was 1B to play. In tribal Undead Auger will be a big name and rarely left out of the squad. Working on tokens is a rare and powerful effect and tribal zombies will be able to take full advantage of that. There are also a good number of zombies and zombie tokens in the drafing cube increasing the potential for this card much further than a Dusk Legion Zealot. Sadly I think the BB price tag and the rarity of heavy black decks in my cube meta at present means this will not last out testing. It could well return at a later date or just shine in singleton constructed formats instead.

Fist of Flame 3

A nice potent little buff that cantrips and has some scaling potential. I like this for heroic and Feather decks if nothing else. Certainly a little too situational and pricey to have an impact on the drafting cube.

Abominable Treefolk 0

Slow and low powered and bad. Play one of the mono blue ones that flies and does a better job of tapping down. There are many of these on offer, all are better.