Thursday, 20 June 2019

Core 2020 Preliminary Review Part III

Loxodon Lifechanter 0

Broadly a terrible card but it does start to get interesting with a lot of mana, especially if you can use the ability with the EtB effect on the stack. I can see this making it into EDH lists for that kind of abuse even if it has no chance in cube play. This is expensive yet it fails at the two things it does in heads up play. Unreliable lifegain source and inconsistent threat.

Leyline of Combustion 1

This is too unreliable to be used as any sort of damage output and the same applies for using it as a disruptive or protective tool. It is shockingly bad to play out normally and might well do nothing even if you do flop it out for free. Hard to rule out cards that play themselves for free but I fail to see where I would ever want this maindeck. It is at least a good counter to a lot of good storm win conditions although still probably not as good as something like Pyrostatic Pillar.

Veil of Summer 2.5

This does a lot for not very much but it is narrow even before we consider the colour limitations on it. You only get a card if a spell has been cast making it weaker than it seems as a way to force something past countermagic or to protect against abilities of things already in play. You only then get value if something of yours is being the target of something of theirs. I can see this in some sideboards but infrequently. As a green player I want to protect against mass removal far more than I do spot removal and this doesn't really help with that. It seems best as a counter to things like Thoughtsieze. I see this far more as a way to protect a combo than as something I would run in a midrange sideboard. This is the kind of convenient card you want to run main but can't due to the colour restrictions. As a sideboard card it isn't quite enough of a blowout to be an exciting inclusion. I want my sideboard cards to be massive and this isn't. Still, it does do a lot for one mana. Anytime you counter a spell and draw a card you are hugely ahead as a result.

Uncaged Fury 1

Powerful but you are almost always going to want cheaper versions of this without the pump and there are enough of those for most uses that this seems like it shouldn't get any cube love. EDH will be up for redundancy at this power level though.

Ravenous Hydra 6.5

There is no value of X where this becomes good if using the first mode. It does at least halve the clock when you are in full topdeck mode but green decks don't often find themselves in that position. Having trample does at least make it a relevant threat but you are mostly using this and entirely including it for the second mode. This is a green Flame Tongue Kavu. You kill a creature and you get one back of your own. It is not exactly efficient at any mana cost although it does improve in that regard as you increase in X. Mostly I like this because green doesn't have creature removal and this is fairly reliable and fairly flexible. Mostly it will be used to kill off utility dorks like Grim Lavamancer. That is what green needs but because of that I do tend to overrate cards that can do such things. Especially the more recent printings of fight cards, all of which have sucked. The reason I think this might be a different story is the contained nature of the card. It isn't dead on its own nor does it open you up to eating a two for one. Mostly you will be administering the two for one. Being versatile, being removal and likely being a two for one together do enough work to offset the relatively low mana efficiency of the card. I don't expect this to be all that good or exciting but I do expect it to see enough play as it stands to remain in the drafting cube.

Blightbeetle 1

It looks like a one sided hoser but actually the one sidedness is a sneaky nerf to the card stopping it being another Melira style combo tool. All this beetle does is is really hate on certain creature strategies. In cube you are unlikely to come up against enough of those to make this even a board consideration. It is potent but the right time for it is so unlikely that I'll probably never see it  played in cube. In modern however it is brutal against affinity (especially Hardened Scales versions) and reasonable against humans. I can see it being an interesting option there.

Reckless Airstrike 1

This is no Abrade. It is just too narrow on both modes. You want a narrow but desirable effect supplemented by a more all round playable mode. This lacks the latter. It might get some love as a space efficient sideboard tool but shouldn't ever be maindeck material.

Bishop of Wings 1

Tribal angels feels pretty imminent... This is narrow and not even all that well suited. Most angels shouldn't really need this kind of weird empowerment. You would be much better served leaving you angels alone and playing a good stand alone two drop. The Timmy bait in this set is strong. I know that this card is bad and the archetype it goes in is bad and yet I also know that I will one day build and play it. There is probably some dodgy convoluted combo you can run with this thing but the safe money is on it sucking too.

Starfield Mystic 2.5

A white Herald of the Pantheon. While gaining life is better in enchantment based decks than getting +1/+1 counters having redundancy in the effect and/or a white option is going to count for more. This should see some fringe use in some fringe decks and it will do a decent job there.

Flood of Tears 7

Well now this is an interesting card and no mistake. It can be used in a couple of ways as well. You can play it as you would a Crush of Tentacles just as a big board sweeper that has a decent chance of giving you a good tempo swing. In this capacity it is pretty midrange. You want to have enough things to trigger the Show and Tell mode and a big enough thing to make that a good payoff. It doesn't need to be huge, just a Rogue Refiner or Mesmerizing Benthid should dominate pretty hard. Planeswalker are good I hear too and the one thing you can't cheat out with Show and Tell. I fully expect to run this in builds just to get Nicol Bolas into play more easily (more Timmy bait). It is harder to setup for this Swing than Crush of Tentacles is but the payoff is a lot more impressive. An 8/8 token barely ever does anything. It is certainly outclassed by any random 4 drop in cube. Control decks might well play this if they are permanent heavy or desperate for a big sweeper. Aggro decks probably won't ever play this but then blue aggro decks are such a weird and varied breed it is hard to say that for sure! I don't imagine it being better than Crush in those cases at least. Midrange is going to be all over this however. It seems impressively swingy. Combo is the other place this has a good shot. With things like Through the Breach only costing one less than this I expect this will wind up somewhere. You can ramp into this on turn three in modern and flop out an Omniscience or Emrakul or whatever you want/have! While a touch pricier than alternative cheat out cards the board sweep goes a long old way to offsetting that cost. This is a personal Show and Tell or it is Crush of Tentacles for your building needs and when you play it you get both bits most of the time making it pretty brutal!

Retributive Wand 2

The ability is far too slow to be worth considering however just as a big Perilous Myr this has some application in artifact decks. Five is a lot of damage and when you have a need of artifacts the value goes up a bit. It is like draw half a card or something nearing that approximate value. Very dangerous with Goblin Engineer. Narrow to the point of barely even having one home but it should be good when it gets there.

Kaalia, Zenith Seeker 3.5

Much as this is another Timmy bait card it is also pretty powerful. You don't need a high hit rate on this at all before it is looking really strong. The base stats and abilities are so good that even with 0.5 cards drawn per cast I think at the very least it makes it into standard. The casting cost is a big barrier to drafting cubes but in any sort of constructed setting this will be very playable. I obviously also want to make a deck where this has a decent chance of hitting at least 1 card per play. The hard part is not the hit rate but making the rest of the deck not a total dud!


  1. Ravenous Hydra is not a green Flametongue Kavu. Flametongue is easier to cast, has a bigger body for its cost, is actual removal and not a fight card. I get the comparison but it's a lot worse than FTK. I understand that it scales but it doesn't do so well and there are about twenty XGG creatures that are just better than this are in cube. It's near unplayable until it gets to five mana and even then, it's completely dependent on having a target to kill that doesn't result in the hydra dying. This is a bad card.

    1. Hydra is worse than FTK as a tempo play in the midgame but it is a much better card. Firstly it is green making it far more needed. Secondly it isn't dead when you have no targets. Thirdly the body is far better, a 4/2 just trades with most things and dies to about everything! A 2/3 legitimately might be better and a 3/4 certainly is just on the vanilla stats. And yes, certainly fighting is weaker than direct damage but you have the control over this to ensure it wins the fight! I don't love the Hydra but it is the best green 187 dork they have ever printed and that gives it some chance. It is good against those annoying utility creatures from fairly early on in the game and very relevant in the late game. My gut says this will be good in cube but I am historically bad at rating green removal and fight cards in general.

    2. I think the fact that FTK trading with other creatures is mitigated significantly by the fact that it kills on on ETB. Even if it does trade it's a guaranteed two for one. And yes you can't cast it if your opponent has no creatures but that just never comes up unless your cube is skewed heavily towards control. Perhaps your environment is different than mine but I've never had a time where FTK was uncastable for more than at turn. Even then it was fine because I just played something else instead. Fight cards in general have really unimpressed me in cube on the whole. I think I agree this is the best green 187 but the others have also all been terrible. The only one I'm running is Kraul Harpooner and that hasn't played well at all.

  2. I'm fairly confident that Flood of Tears is also unplayable. At six mana you are guaranteed to bounce everything but four permanents is a lot when you don't count lands. It's definitely going to happens sometimes but your opponent still has all of their mana available the following turn. They can just replay everything. You don't even want to cast this if you are ahead on board as it sets you behind. It's a sorcery so you can't do it EOT to get a quick swing in and you leave yourself tapped out so you can't counter anything they play. Isn't this just worse than something like Baral's Expertise or any of the other X cards that return multiple creatures to their owner's hands? Hell, Evacuation is probably just better than this as it's an instant and that hasn't seen play in years. In unpowered cubes this seems really bad and in powered cubes you have Upheaval which is just better. Seems playable but mediocre.

    1. I may have slightly overrated this in terms of out of ten rating by giving it credit both in midrange unpowered cubes and combo cubes alike. While having both elements is good it doesn't increase power or playability in any specific cube having both attributes what with those kinds of cube being so different. It probably should be a 6 or 6.5 rated card. It certainly isn't unplayable however and is very comparable to Crush of Tentacles in potency. If Crush is no good in your cube then this will not be either. This certainly isn't a bomb but it is a desirable effect to have. Yes, Upheaval is way more powerful and sets your opponents back to zero but it takes more setup yourself and sets you back an awful lot as well. A game winning Upheaval costs 8+ mana in effect without a bunch of broken mana rocks. Flood of Tears you can fire off, get ahead of where you were and set your opponent back a lot too. Evacuation on the other hand is a better anti aggro tool but it is limited. Flood hitting planeswalkers, non-land ramp and that sort of thing while being non-symmetrical makes it more effective against a range of things. Flood isn't a lock in card but it looks like it is going to cut it in testing.

    2. Oh Crush is terrible outside of multiplayer. There are scenarios where it is good but most of the time it's just a six mana reset and you can do a lot better than that. Upheaval is very bad without fast mana. I don't run broken fast mana so I don't run Upheaval either. These types of effects depend heavily on your environment. If you play a lot of planeswalkers and artifacts and your cube is slower without consistently performing aggro decsks, they go way up in value. My cube is unpowered, limits the amount of total planeswalkers, doesn't play a ton of the broken artifacts and has consistent aggro decks every draft. In my cube, they are terribe. In others, perhaps they perform better

    3. Interesting you say Crush is weak in your cube. I would love to see a cube tutor link if you have one. I suspect it is the lack of planeswalkers that makes the difference? My cube supports aggro heavily too and is also unpowered so sounds very similar on those big elements. I have masses of cheap cards which perhaps empowers the Crush to include several (fair) Mox, both brothers Baubles and literally every single blue one mana card quality card all the way down to Portent! Crush can be a turn four reset for blue which is the tempo swing it needs to then leverage a mana advantage. It is the bane of midrange decks who typically try and beat control with a well developed board of diverse threats to evade the mass revmoval. This is usually centered around planeswalkers. Crush is fine against aggro, mediocre against control but utterly game winning against the midrange and that is why it has been a mainstay since being added.