Sunday, 30 June 2019

Core 2020 Conclusions and Additions

Glad to see a good number of reprints here simply for the breather it gave on card reviewing! A nice calm 10 posts to get it all covered compared to the madness of Horizons and War of the Spark. The flip side of that however is that there are far fewer noteworthy cards. There are only a couple of cards I would normally call lock in cards and they are both Chandras!. The list of things I wish to test is down a lot on the last few sets and the number of those I expect to make it is minimal. The power of the last few sets has made the bar for entry to the cube noticeably higher making for fairly slim pickings from Core 2020.

While this set does relatively little for the drafting cube it does offer a healthy amount to singleton constructed formats. Not the most in terms of quantity but some really fun cards I look forward to building and playing with. There is also a few cards that could do well in modern. It seems pretty evident that Modern Horizons was developed around the same time and that the two sets shared out some of the cards between them. Some under supported tribes also get some good love. All in all a good little set.

I would be happier if I got a new one or two mana drafting cube staple even if it were just a new take on Opt or something. I fear the impact this set will have on games will be pretty minimal as it is. We might well have no Core 2020 cards left in the cube by the end of the year. With the more interesting cards being pricier, gold or otherwise narrow they will appear in fewer decks and impact games a lot less when they do show up.

It would seem as if 8/10 and higher cards according to my scale are no longer printed in standard legal sets which is probably sensible but also not ideal for my purposes. When I started doing this blog a 5/10 card was the point at which you started to have a good chance of lasting in the drafting cube and that has crept up and up over time. It seems to have jumped up a bunch just this year too with increasing numbers of 7/10 cards not lasting any time at all. With 7.5 ratings being the new lock in figure and no 8/10 cards coming out in most sets I envisage a fairly stagnant drafting cube going forwards. This in turn means I will spend more time experimenting with more exotic cube designs. I have just finished an extensive couple of months testing out a combo only version of the cube which I will be writing up shortly. Any way, going off on a tangent now so lets just list the noteworthy cards from this set;

Hopeful Testers; (best to worst roughly)

Chandra, Acolyte of Flame
Chandra, Awakened Inferno
Skyknight Vanguard
Ancestral Blade
Apostle of Purifying Light
Flood of Tears
Vivien, Arkbow Ranger
Cavalier of Gales
Cloudkin Seer
Cavalier of Night
Hanged Executioner
Mu Lanying, Sky Dancer
Corpse Knight

Unlikely to make it cards for testing;

Knight of the Ebon Legion
Glint-Horn Buccaneer
Shared Summons
Nightpack Ambusher
Spectral Sailor
Cerulean Drake
Elvish Reclaimer
Agent of Treachery
Marauding Raptor
Field of the Dead
Ravenous Hydra
Cavalier of Flame

Stuff for Constructed Cube of note;

Lotus Field
Mystic Forge
Kethis, the Hidden Hand
Manifold Key
Icon of Ancestry
Yarok, the Desecrated
Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord
Kykar, Wind's Fury
Rotting Regisaur
Lightening Stormkin
Brought Back
Tale's End
Thunderkin Awakener
Barkhide Troll
Bag of Holding
Salvager of Ruin
Healer of the Glade
Colossus Hammer
Vampire of the Dire Moon
Drawn from Dreams
Season of Growth
Starfield Mystic
Retributive Wand
Kaalia, Zenith Seeker
Empyrean Angel
Ajani, Strength of the Pride
Chandra, Novice Pyromancer
Scheming Symmetry
Cyptic Caves
Yarok's Fenlurker
Chandra's Regulator

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Core 2020 Preliminary Review Part X

Gorging Vulture 1

Self mill is useful but this is just too low powered for a three drop. It is an OK mill trigger and a passable body but it had to do better on one of those aspects to see much play.

Lightning Stormkin 4

Potent but not worth putting into a drafting cube. Not only is Stormchaser Mage almost always better but two drop efficient beaters turn out to be a real waste of valuable cube slots, even a waste of slots you are willing to give to gold cards in general. This is just a card you are happy to play in an Izzet aggro deck, it is not a draw to the colour or a bomb or something you can't get a comparable copy of in a single colour. This is potential for both tribes it ascribes to. Simple, powerful and efficient but nothing more. High quality filler.

Brought Back 3

This seems overly situational. It is an OK way to undo some of a mass removal spell or otherwise brutal turn. Mostly I think a protective card, a value card, a threat that limits exposure to removal, or even a combat trick will do more for you than this. You can't even abuse it with silly things like Black Lotus that easily as they return tapped. That is certainly the only kind of place this will get any love - a combo deck of some exotic nature.It does have some nice interactions with basic lands and will likely see some play as a (double) Rampant Growth in concert with sac lands or Ghost Quarter Flagtones of Trokair combos. In cube this will be cute and afford relatively low payoffs but in something like modern where you can play a good number of these support cards then Brought Back starts to look pretty impressive.

Tale's End 3

Stifle for one more that can counter something legendary. Alternatively Disallow that can't counter any old thing! Stifle is too narrow for the drafting cube and Disallow is expensive for what it does regardless of the mode. Being in between two decent cards that fail for different reasons certainly looks good for this rather than bad. My cube has a little under 15% legendary spells. If going from countering 0% of things to 100% of things isn't worth 2 mana then a 15% improvement is unlikely to merit 1 mana. Unlikely but not impossible. When you are looking for a balance the raw numbers going in matter less, it is the product of them that counts. Put simply 2 and 10 are more than 3 and 7 added up but less when multiplied. This logic indirectly applies to magic in a contextual sense which just means you can't rule out Tale's End just because it seems less efficient. Ultimately I don't expect this to last in the cube but it is interesting and test worthy for sure. The percentage of legendary cards is rising in cube over time and so perhaps one day this will broad enough. Ultimately for now it is just a card that doesn't do enough, enough of the time.

Thunderkin Awakener 4

Well this certainly makes a Ball Lightening, or better yet the new Blightning version, quite the beating. Turn one Looting, turn two this and in for 7, perhaps with a Mind Rot to boost and threatening the same each turn there after! Brutal. Not nearly enough support for this in a limited setting but build around and this will do work. Probably good in most elemental builds as well as having a build specifically for him as well. You don't even need a stats boost for this to be impressive.

Apostle of Purifying Light 6.5

After Remorseful Cleric proved a failure as a graveyard hate card in cube I learned more what you want from such things. The issue with the Cleric was that it was rarely worth your card and two mana to disrupt the bin. You want to have ongoing access to graveyard disruption that doesn't cause you card advantage. Scavenging Ooze is perfect and Cleric is bad. This is more like the former. It costs more to do and rewards you less but then white quite wants access to graveyard removal so it might well run this little dork. Prot black is not the security I really want on this card being polar and uninteractive. Even pro red would have been more suitable to cover the low toughness. At least black is infrequently played as mono giving some hope of an out to this thus making the protection a little less tedious. It is a very low powered card but it does a job in the way it needs doing and it does so better than any other white alternatives. Close to the mark but certainly potential.

Drakuseth, Maw of Flames 3.5

Inferno Titan turned to max! If this had any sort of EtB effect (or haste) it would be a strong contender. Needing to get an attack in means this is only getting love in places it will get haste, and being a seven drop also only in places that can cheat or ramp him out as well. Attacking with this is made of winning however. It should safely wrap up a game in two hits and generally put it out of reach in one. I like the trigger way  more than annihilate 4!

Scampering Scorcher 2

Lots of tokens, a bit of haste and a real body to recur or flicker for more going wide value! Sadly this is a support card and as a four drop that makes it quite hard to fit in. It might make the cut in some elementals decks but I can't see it outperforming even the lowly Goblin Instigator in a general setting or even a token themed setting.

Bag of Holding 2

A cheap artifact with a loot ability for two mana and a potentially big card draw one off use for four mana. This is a lot to loot with but it is still pretty good as far as a colourless looter goes. The real issue this card has is that it doesn't work like other looters for most of the things you want looting for. If it is purely card quality and draw then this is fine but if you are trying to empower delve or threshold or something then this is no help. Indeed it prevents anything helping you do that! On the flip side you can use this with cards like Burning Inquiry and Goblin Lore to exile a load of cards and get a huge amount of draw for relatively little cost. Seems like too much work just to draw cards. Certainly interesting and offering rare utility but for the most part this is just a little clunky, risky and unhelpful.

Glint-Horn Buccaneer 5.5

The activated ability is pretty poor on this which makes it look quite weak. I think that is deceptive however. You could take that away from the card and it somehow looks a little better despite being far far worse. This is a 2/4 haste for three with a passive damage trigger. That is aggressive, something you can synergize and scale with, it is pretty efficient too just as a body. You can just flop this out and do some beating down and it will be pretty good. Toss in a bit of looting from other sources and it starts to get scary. The activated loot is repeatable as well so you can get yourself a four mana Faithless Looting and a bonus two damage the turn after making it which isn't nothing. You can sit back and just use other loot, discard,  and rummage effects to wear down. Save up mana and go for a big card dump in a chump attack. Pretty versatile considering. Red has so many three drops of really high power and this is a bit all over the place. Part aggressive and part defensive. Is it a midrange card? Who knows! Testing will help with this oddity of a card. Certainly got tribal potential if it fails on other fronts.

Salvager of Ruin 2

I am sure this has some uses in combo decks. Recursion effects always seemt to. Seems quite pricey and less easily abused than a Junk Diver but at least it can be used without needing a sac outlet. It certainly isn't a help in an Ironworks build!

Healer of the Glade 1.5

Potential elemental tribal tool or anti aggro hedge card. Far too low power and too narrow for the drafting cube so a double fail for that but I do expect it to pick up a smattering of play in the singleton constructed formats. An odd one drop but the value of the sum of it's parts is high.

Gauntlets of Light 1

Mild potential in an infinite mana combo and perhaps even a cute supplement card in a Doran build. Probably just playing a tutor for a global effect however.

Friday, 28 June 2019

Core 2020 Preliminary Review Part IX

Vivien, Arkbow Ranger 6

Powerful but critically hampered by needing a creature in play to do anything at all. The Living Wish mode being costed like an ultimate is a problem and likely an overreaction to the power of Karn, the Great Creator. I think it could have been -3 and Vivien would have been decent. It would mean you could flop her out and do something useful regardless of the game state. Living Wish was fine at two mana and finding lands. This is green and green does tend to have dorks in play and so this will mostly do things. The fact that it is fairly powerful should help with the conditional downsides. Counters scale well and gaining trample is very potent when growing dorks and trying to threaten other walkers. Mana dork, random three drop dork, then Vivien should be able to win a lot of games without anything else. Removal is also a big pull to this card. It is why Garruk Relentless sees most of his play and Vivien offers it in a mostly better way. This is right on the line and very much needs some testing time to establish if it will join the drafting cube ranks. It might be a staple, it might be too awkward.

Gargos, Vicious Watcher 0

Cute, a hydra lord! No use for this in cube but I am sure there will be many happy EDH players.

Cavalier of Gales 6.5

Five mana 5/5 flier with Brainstorm as an EtB takes a massive dump all over Riverwise Augur! Toss in a scry 2 on death complete with a prior reshuffle and you have quite the neat little card. It is loads of card quality, decent value, and reasonably worth having. A 5/5 flier does work! It is somewhat of a recursive threat too. I like it more than Kefnet for the drafting cube that is for sure. The value is more assured and that is a big part of why these cards are good. You get a decent tempo boost with this without costing you cards. This can be played in most heavy blue decks and be reasonably suitable. One of the interesting quirks of this card is the gamble on when it will die. With Brainstorm you will often hide a card in the relative safety of the top of your deck. If you do that with this then you will potentially lose it should your opponent kill Cavalier and force a shuffle. On the flip side, Brainstorm will often lock out your next two draws in cube when you fail to find a shuffle. Cavalier has a somewhat built in shuffle. One final big use for this card is in Vanifar / Pod decks. In singleton you need the specific cards in the library and drawing them can be a real burden. Having Brainstorm on a creature with an EtB is a massive help with this. Having good options like this and a range of CMCs is even better! This card will see a bunch of play in a bunch of places. It isn't silly power or anything but it is strong on that front as well as very playable in terms of archetypes.

Embodiment of Agonies 2

This is probably really good but I don't have much love for it. The deathtouch means that even if it is small it still has relevance in the late game. It is pretty easy to make this huge as well. Even on turn three you could easily have this coming out as a 5/5 and well over a 10/10 late game. While this is easy to do you do need to actively do it. You need mill, discard and looting and you need to pay attention to the spread of your costs. This is probably great in an undergrowth build akin to Hogaak decks but they already have tonnes of options on generically undercost fatties. I think this is too much work and too narrow for drafting cubes and not quite exciting enough for most singleton constructed uses. A card I should at least build with a couple of times to give it it's dues.

(Twinblade Paladin 1)

I might play this in a Pridemate style deck. It isn't great but it is on theme and packs a punch. What I don't like is the powercreep in these starter kits. Thirsting Bloodlord is another one very close to the mark. There is no need of a vanilla 4 drop vampire lord in 40 card singleton but I suspect you need one in any vampire EDH deck and at that point it feels like a price gouge. Either make these products actually good in terms of power level or just use exclusively reprints. Seems like wasted design efforts otherwise. Carrying on like this we are going to find a good or important card wind up in these products and lots of people being really unhappy about it.

Ancestral Blade 7

It is a Bear, it is Leonin Scimitar. While incredibly fair looking I think this is actually really good. It is cheap and kind of like a two for one. It is also two permanents in one cheap card which some decks care about, an artifact synergy card which others care about, an equipment which another subset of archetypes have interest in and so forth. Even just as an EtB effect card there is some merit to playing with this. Initially Ancestral Blade isn't very exciting but it is cheap and proactive and gets on with the game plan. The only real advantage it has over a Bear early is that you can get stuck in with it quite happily without risking card disadvantage. It is also a bit like a Scrounging Bandar in that you get to reallocate the stats if you want. The mana cost to re-equip makes this tempo poor early game but the potential for countering your opponents board offsets that rather. Being able to scale it with other effects like first strike or flying is nice. The Blade will do a lot of work over time making your dorks more efficient and forcing through damage you otherwise could not. I think this is a truly exceptional support card for cube. It is more relevant as a play than Flayer Husk, more useful as an equipment in an ongoing capacity and immune to being entirely removed with a single Shatter effect. This card isn't powerful but it is suitable, great at scaling with things and even better at empowering other cards. It is an enduring early play that offers incremental advantages there after without costing you much at all to do so.

Colossus Hammer 2

Rather silly as far as things go but with any sort of cheat on equip costs this starts to impress a lot more. Also only being a one drop to play makes this a perfect tool to pair with Puresteel Paladin. Obviously awful if you are not abusing this in some way with synergies and thus very narrow. Fun none the less!

Skyknight Vanguard 7

The Aetherswooper with unlimited energy supplies!  Kari Skyzev. This is good but it is very polar. On the play uncontested and unanswered this will win a game far more impressively than most other two drops going solo. Mid and late game this will just send soldiers to die if it can even attack itself. The real comparison for this is to Precinct Captain which is a potent cube card that does much the same sort of thing. This has to be better what with being gold but it doesn't have to be much better what with Captain being great and also a WW two drop which is a narrowing element in the same lines as being gold. So a 1/2 flier is worse than a 2/2 with first strike but not when they have attacking triggers. Triggering on attack is obviously a lot better than on combat damage to a player. The tokens coming in attacking is occasionally good for damage output but usually bad for value generation. It is looking good for Vanguard at this point. What really breaks it is when paired with synergy cards. Something like Purporos or Goblin Bombardment suddenly make Vanguard far better than Captain. Captain struggles to make the tokens late game and when you just care about the triggers they can offer rather than the amassing of tokens it makes Vanguard great and and Captain a dud. Skynight offers better scaling and is more reliable in that regard. Seems like enough card to make it in the drafting cube. It is certainly themed and powerful enough to be in any Boros token builds you could construct.

Mystic Forge 6

Oh my my. This is danger. I am not sure this has been thought through properly at all. The odd cantrip and a bit of cost reduction effects and this is just a one shot wonder. This will be a mainstay in Paradox Engine decks. It might make a new colourless Aetherflux Reservoir and/or Paradox Engine storm deck. It could be pure filth in a land light shops deck in any eternal format. A really good job Ironworks was banned but quite possibly not enough to stop this. Obviously only a build around card but one of the scariest of such I have seen in a long time.

Brineborn Cutthroat 3

Good enough to make many fish and any pirate builds. Not however good enough to make it in the cube. It is unsupported in terms of generic ground based aggro in blue. It is slow in that it isn't growing fast enough and it isn't doing anything impressive beyond slowly becoming a mana efficient threat. Probably better in a control deck in the drafting cube than anything else which doesn't bode all that well for it! It looks like a lot more card that it is.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Core 2020 Preliminary Review Part VIII

Cavalier of Thorns 0

The weakest of the cycle by some margin. Ramp late is mediocre. Play Primeval Titan or play Elvish Rejuvanator. The body on this has poor closing power and the on death trigger is slow and affords no card advantage. This does quite a lot but none of it is what you want given the way it is presented.

Shared Summons 6

Instant speed makes this quite interesting. It is card advantage and a tutor and it isn't over cost. This has a lot of potential in a number of combo decks and has some application in both ramp and midrange decks. With enough creatures with enough of a spread of effects this looks pretty good in control too. It might be one of those top end cards that overly thins your deck of gas but it looks a bit too good to suffer all that much for that. I am not sure it will get enough play to last in the drafting cube but it is very much one of those cards that could.

Audacious Thief 0

Interesting rework of Phyrexian Rager. Slower and less likely to return value but potential to return a lot more value. Seems like black doesn't need to run slow risky crap like this in cube so we can probably move on but I do like this card. I like that it is made and printed at common too.

Cloudkin Seer 6.5

Hmm. Well, this replaces itself, is cheap, and unlike most other cards in this camp, has a relevant body. Baleful Strix is relevant mostly for the deathtouch and while a much better defender, Strix offers poor offensive threat. Now Strix is one of the best dorks in the cube and remains firmly better than this what with being a two drop but the fact that they are even in the same conversation together speaks volumes to this Seer. I see myself playing this a bunch. I'll throw in a lot of places just as nice filler. It gets you where you need to be going at minimal cost. It is OK on the tempo front, is never dead, and costs no cards so it is very low risk. The card is lowish on the power level by cube standards but the playabiltiy feels great.

Tomebound Lich 3

Lots of strings to this one's bow but all together still not enough to compete with cards like this that actually generate card advantage. Play Thief of Sanity or Shadowmage Infiltrator. Lifelink is mediocre here with one measly power. Deathtouch is better as it makes blocking more awkward and helps on defense a lot. Ohran Viper is pretty reasonable and the deathtouch counts for a lot of that. The biggest perk this card has is the EtB trigger on top of the combat damage one. It makes this card a lot more reliable than the likes of Ohran Viper if you are in the market for looting instead of drawing without the discard. It is a bit slow for combo decks but is just the ticket for some zombie bidding lists and other graveyard midrange strategies. This is like a better Nyx Weaver and will see play in the same sorts of places (theme wise rather than colour obviously!) Too fair and gold for the drafting cube but a card with some uses never the less.

Blood for Bones 0

Slow, risky, narrow, and not even all that powerful. Play Victimize over this. Or Zombify. Or treat yourself and play a good card over it instead. This is so bad that bad cards start to look good. I bet this will see play somewhere too, just not in any of my cubes!

Moat Piranhas 0.5

Big stats for blue. Might see some love just as a big cheap wall but I highly doubt it. Might see play in a defenders deck but again, I doubt it. Most of those don't need power and with this card that is what you are getting. Nice clean design though. Feels like this card could be 25 years old.

Kethis, the Hidden Hand 5.5

Lovely design that instantly makes me want to brew around this in a multitude of ways. This is a fantastic looking commander first and foremost. For cube he is hurt by the many colours. Despite the legend count in cube being higher than in most other formats this just isn't going to be enough extra to be worth a cube slot. I suspect this does under 0.5 mana reduction per cast and still under ten times less than that on the recursion front on average in limited cube. It is not until you build a legendary deck around Kethis that the power level really starts to rise. This will go very well in a historic deck where your mana base contains a bunch of legendary cards and you can run Board the Weatherlight and Urza's Ruinous Blast with no trouble at all. There this goes very well indeed! I suspect Kethis ramps that build up a tier in cube and at least two tiers in commander. It also gives it direction. Black and white are the best historic colours but there was no clear way to go beyond that until Kethis. You should be able to make a nice 40 card Abzan deck with up to 50% legendary cards in it while still being decnent which will make Kethis pretty nuts. The passive will do a lot of work and the activated will be so nuts that you play self mill cards to power it up and increase the option density. Kethis looks like a lot of fun.

Noxious Grasp 1.5

I rate this over Deathmark mostly for being an instant. The increased target range and lifegain make you happy to pay two for it but the speed of the spell is what makes it so good. This is a nice sideboard card in that it is space efficient due to working against so much. It is also nice in that it is a fairly fair way to hedge and hose. You just get a powerful efficient spell that won't ruin games unlike Chill or Warmth which do. Much as I like this there is not much call for sideboard cards like this even in singleton constructed events.

Sephara, Sky's Blade 1

Oof. Four fliers you say? That is a lot of fliers needed to play this. It makes it sound very win more as well as unreasonably conditional. Decks that can play seven drops will not have four fliers in play and those decks that might be able to put out four fliers really can't play seven drops meaning this will be dead weight a lot of the time. The real cost of Sephara is skipping attacking. If you have four fliers then that should be at least four damage missed. If instead of Sephara you just play a Glorious Anthem card and attack then you are doing eight. Sixteen in the space of Sephara doing eleven over two turns. This means Sephara isn't even that good unless you make her off the back of vigilant fliers or on the same turn as making your fliers. The massive six mana play of Lingering Souls times two followed by Sephara is certainly powerful but it is late, unlikely, and probably win more too. I love the idea of turn one dropping out four Ornithopters and playing Sephara while we are talking about unlikely things. I will give Sephara a shot of performing in a skies deck at some point. She has no hope outside of decks built to house her and I don't hold out that much even if she is supported. She is potentially very powerful at least, who doesn't want to make a one mana 7/7 angel of winning!

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Core 2020 Preliminary Review Part VII

Mask of Immolation 2

Bad Mortarpod is bad. You might run this if you really wanted an equipment and a token in one card on the cheap for some reason. Basically you might run this in the places you might want a second Mortarpod, when you are red. Which sounds like almost never. This is probably a 1/10 and I just like the design leading me to overrate the thing. It isn't a bad card, just not a needed one.

Spectral Sailor 5

This is great. Three lines of text always a strong starting place on a dork these days. This will see play in tribal spirits being a top rate one drop. It will see play in pirates if that is ever a thing due to there not being many and this being good. This makes the cut in skies decks too. I am not quite so sure how this does in drafting cube though. It isn't overly aggressive or all that relevant of a thing to have in play. It is a great mana sink but not an efficient way to draw cards or even all that reliable what with having one toughness. For midrange I think this does too little early and is too expensive to milk for value. I think this is probably a better control card all told. Something you can use as a tiny bit of planeswalker support early or as a potent card draw engine late. Having flash makes that a real possibility but probably again just too mana inefficient.

Nightpack Ambusher 6

Great tribal card but not unplayable generally. If you have any sort of mana sinks on permanents open to you then this is an impressive card. It is like a Whisperwood Elemental that costs one less and makes 50% bigger tokens! This will win a game all by itself fairly fast, it is reasonably easy to get out and big enough to evade a bunch of removal. It is a little linear but it does the right sort of thing to be drafting cube worthy. Without the flash it would not be. Certainly one of the first names on the teamsheet for any wolf or werewolf tribal list.

Manifold Key 6

Just another Voltaic Key. Unblockable is nice but rarely why you play this. It makes Blightsteel a bit better! Mostly it is about making high production mana rocks better and having a bit of bonus utility while being a cheap supporting artifact. This will see a lot of play in the places you see Voltaic. As I banned both Vault and Monolith a while back Voltaic has seen barely any play and so I expect the same to apply to this.

Shifting Ceratops 0

Just play a Thrun or a Carnage Tyrant, they are good against non-blue decks. This is a fairly mediocre dork that is only good because of how good it is against a heavy blue deck.

Cerulean Drake 6

This is fine, it is very good against aggressive red decks and has some applications elsewhere. Blue does struggle against aggressive red decks so this is a nice way to patch up that hole. It is great where you need it to be without being unplayable in other matchups. This is a common failure in hoser and hedge cards. There are certainly a lot of new cards that make me want to pad out a blue ninja theme. Comically that is more to be able to play with cards like this and Spectral Sailor than it is the ninja cards. This is a card you play in a cube for balance reasons. You don't want to have to resort to cards like this but sometimes we have to and it is good that we can. This is certainly a well made card being both playable and suitable.

Icon of Ancestry 5

Very strong tribal card being both late game value and midgame Anthem. A huge help to the lord light and value light tribes out there. Unplayable in a limited setting but not going to be a card short on attention elsewhere. More of a casual card for EDH and cube than competitive constructed but still with some potential there too. A whole lot more impressive than Hall of Triumph.

Lotus Field 6

Some redundancy for Blood Sun but that isn't a serious thing. If it doesn't work when you have four copies of things there is no chance it works in singleton. Hexproof does make this something you can just play. It is just an EtB tapped dual land provided you have two others. For decks that always need to hit three lands that is fine but not good. This then has a wide range of applications not relating to trying to be clever with Blood Sun. You fill up the bin for all the juicy things that does for you. You can cheat a Cataclysm or further unbalance a Balance. You can more easily splash a card like Seismic Assault. You might get away with making more quick lands untapped! Lastly but absolutely not least you have the ability to abuse this with untap effects. Frantic Search can add two with just this (and two other lands) empowering it. Garruk Wildspeaker suddenly makes twice as much mana. Interesting card that should see a lot of play. Seems too narrow to be wanted in the drafting cube though. Mostly it is just a dual land that needs to be preceded by two lands and which enters tapped. Vivid lands probably outclass it at that. A most useful and interesting tool. At face value it is fair but you can abuse the lopsided nature of the card. Unlike previous iterations of such things you can somewhat more reliably lean on this to do what you want as it cannot be sniped out by such things as Wasteland and Vindicate.

Vilis, Broker of Blood 1

A somewhat fair take on a Griselbrand card. This is more versatile with both card draw and board control options and it is a bit bigger. It is still not a patch on Griselbrand because you cannot reliably just draw a tonne of cards without spending more mana. The Snuff Out cards are nice with Vilis but they are a far cry from as consistent as having 7 life to burn. This will not take the slot of Griselbrand in any cheat out decks and as an eight drop it had no chance of cutting it. Perhaps you play this as your bad redundancy in the odd cheat out deck. Powerful, well designed, but even more outclassed.

(Ajani, Inspiring Leader) 0

While this is still sufficiently bad for me to be happy with this product it is a touch frightening. This is almost better than Ajani Unyielding which was from an actual set. I really don't want to ever have to buy cards from these intro packs, that would feel like such a money grab. Granted Unyielding is a very poor walker but still...

Leafkin Druid 2

This is probably an upgrade on Whisperer of the Wilds but still not reaching the level of Devoted Druid. The only time I see myself playing this is in an elemental deck. There are just more powerful alternatives to this of sufficient quantity when tribe is not a factor. Even in elementals Smokebraider is still better but you will at least happily play both.

Winged Words 2

Narrow but cute. Much as I like this I am probably still not playing it over Chart a Course. Although this is certainly better when the conditions are met, and those conditions are easier for Winged Words too, the floor of the two cards heavily favours Chart. Although bad compared to Chart in terms of floor the floor of Divination isn't terrible and the upside of two for two is very nice. I can see myself playing both, or this if I don't have access to Chart. Just in very few decks.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Core 2020 Preliminary Review Part VI

Leyline of Abundance 0

Well you can certainly do some impressively naughty openers with this but it all seems rather wishful. You need to not only have this but also a surviving mana dork and something to ramp into. Just don't play this, ramp into something a little smaller but play more of the parts and win more consistently. If you draw and play this late game it is so bad. A four mana conditional ramp spell... no thanks. The mana sink element is a help with this but not enough of one. It is incredibly inefficient and still needs you to have other stuff on the go. A cool card than can do terrifying things but it sounds like a massive trap trying to do those terrifying things.

Vampire of the Dire Moon 4

Not great as a stand alone but not shocking either. Deathtouch is always tedious on a dork with power. This is a card built for scaling and tribal synergies. This is a pretty ideal one drop for tribal decks as the lifelink makes it great with the lords while the deathtouch keeps the card relevant when you are behind or lacking support. I don't think there are enough buffs in the drafting cube for this to see any where near the amount of play it would need to last but it is still worth testing. Healers Hawk seemed decent and still well outperformed my expectations. Even if this does as I expect and is quickly cut from my drafting cube I imagine it will feature often in constructed builds. Cheap support tools are in short supply and the good ones get a lot of action.

Bloodthirsty Aerialist 2.5

Black gets a Pridemate! Not a bad card but too conditional for the power it offers. Seems like you can only play this in a few heavily themed archetypes. While I do prefer a 2/3 flier for 3 as a stating point than a Bear (as per Ajani Pridemate) the Aerialist is BB to play with nearly all the soul sisters support in white. That means even in the deck this is perfect for it will often sit out due to not being on colour or just being too hard to play despite splashing black. It has more chance seeing play in vampire and Blood Artist aristocrats lists with those at least being based in black. Certainly powerful when it works out but hard to accommodate.

Woodland Champion 2

This is quite dangerous in the right place. While there are a tonne of token generators in cube it is still not enough to consistently power this up enough for it to be worth a slot. Not even going to test it. In some combo decks and in some other token builds however this will be a massive threat. Sometimes it will just be fatal at will, other times it will just be a massive two drop that poses a big problem.

Drawn from Dreams 3

Dig Through Time with fixed cost and cast timing. If this was instant it would still be amazing. It isn't bad as it stands, there are absolutely combo decks I would run this in. A bit too slow for control, midrange and aggro lists however. This is somewhat of a fixed Narset which really goes to show how silly she is!

Elvish Reclaimer 6

Crop Rotation on legs. Fairly decent legs all told. This card is the Fauna Shaman of lands and will see a tonne of play in cute decks doing cute things. This kind of crossover card is perfect for cube while less potent in other formats. The fact that this is a bit of a land tutor and a bit of a tempo play is a big help in cube while in some constructed deck you either want the Crop Rotation or the Wild Nacatl and not this halfway house that does both roles a lot worse. Functionally this looks like it should be closest to Knight of the Reliquary but due to how they are both packaged they wind up being fairly different cards. Knight is the more powerful card but Reclaimer is by far the more playable. The real question is if this is good enough to make it into the drafting cube to which the answer is probably not. There are not enough really powerful lands that the tutor ability pays off, there is not enough early ways to fill up the bin with lands that this is a reliable beater nor does green really support and aggro deck all that well in the current meta. This needed to be something a midrange deck would look at and I don't see it offering quite enough on that front. Very useful card to have the option on for the constructed singleton stuff and worth testing in the limited side of things. Versatile and powerful but presently not quite the right fit in my cube I fear.

Hard Cover 2

Not that exciting or powerful but it does do a lot for the cost. This just will see play one day as it is so cheap and does a number of specific things. One mana cards with draw a card on them see play! The decks in which this fits will be weird and wonderful, and probably quite bad, but they will exist.

Omnath, Locus of the Roil 3

Powerful but too needy for a drafting cube. Overly colour intense and in a combo not all that commonly found together. You really want elemental dorks in play for this to power up the EtB and increase the options on the landfall trigger. A Hill Giant that pings when it comes in and slowly grows with landfall triggers is what this is going to be almost all of the time in a draft. Build around it and it will be powerful but not out of this world. Really this is just another EDH card and for that purpose it is outstanding.

Ferocious Pup 1

This has an outside chance as tribal wolf card one day simply as it is two wolves in one card. Pretty sad support card to have to run though.

Rapacious Dragon 2

I love this in almost every way. It is clean elegant design and it is flavourful. While it has no hope in drafting cubes simply for being too low powered it does have some hope as a support card in a tribal build or even in some unusual red brew that makes some unique use for treasure. If Pirate's Pillage can see play then this can too!

Cavalier of Night 6

This looks like a big improvement to Shadowborn Demon which was close to cube worthy. While Noxious Gearhulk is also a better card than the Demon I think it being a six drop is the issue it had most. Broadly I also think this Cavalier is better than the Gearhulk too while also being at a better spot on the curve for that sort of thing. The lifegain can be ongoing and increases the threat of the body. The 4/5 stat line is much better than a 5/4 stat line and you get a recursion effect to counteract the sacrifice made at the start. Cavalier is a better play than most other 187 dorks in black when there is no target to kill as you can just forgo the sacing of your own dork and get your value with the on death trigger. This is a little clunky, heavy black and far up the curve for my liking. It is swingy and powerful however and has a solid shot of lasting in the drafting cube. It does rather need to in order to see much play, I cannot see this getting much love when I do constructed decks.

Agent of Treachery 6

This is much like the Scholar of the Ages except that it is easier to abuse, more worthwhile to do so, and more playable. Stealing something is a huge tempo swing and so you can better afford to spend seven mana in doing so and not just dying. You don't lose the thing you stole when the Agent leaves play either making it super dangerous. This is the flicker target you want to use most of the time. The issue is getting it out in the first place. This seems good enough that you might well go for a Reanimate strategy to kick things off. Stealing stuff early is pretty brutal and this can steal lands! The card draw is cute but almost feels irrelevant in heads up play. If I have three of your things and I have not won something is rather amiss! This seems good in combo cubes and powered ones that can ramp this out more consistently. In my midrange unpowered cube I fear this is presently just a little too top end to cut it. You need things of Ugin power to justify the costs. Agent is poor against wide boards making it too inflexible to be suitable top end.