Tuesday 4 June 2019

Modern Horizons: Preliminary Review Part XIV

Mirrodin Besieged 6

This is scary. Either it is a weaker Sai. Master Thopterist that is hard to kill or it is a looter that can win the game. In a self mill deck full of Shriekhorn and Mesmeric Orb this can be a quick combo kill. In a slower artifact deck it can be anything and everything you want or need it to be. The card is narrow but it absolutely raises the eyebrow! Compare it to Laboratory Maniac which needs not only to be alive but also draw a card while having done the full deck of mill and draw. In a deck with 20 artifacts, 16 lands and 4 other spells Besieged is able to win on average with only 75% of the deck milled or drawn (assuming you are able to get the artifacts cast and drawn into the bin as well). That percentage gets better for Mirrodin Besieged as you increase deck size as well. I would certainly rather be vulnerable to graveyard removal than creature removal. If you are getting attacked in the yard you do at least have the token mode as an alternate win. A big fan of this card, will be playing it a lot with Sai and Urza. Marked down for being artifact heavy decks only and nothing else. In an artifact themed cube this is probably a premium card. Sai is more powerful than this because you get all of Sai when you cast him. This however seems like it might be better. It would be more powerful if you got both modes at once that is for sure! Having the option on whichever you need most makes this safer and more suitable than Sai and still with decent enough power when cast in the artifact heavy decks. This is why I think it might actually be better which is high praise indeed, Sai is absolutely mental in artifact heavy decks.

Smiting Helix 2

With isn't this a funny little thing. The 3B cost upfront is pretty ghastly but not prohibitive. A Lightning Helix that you play from the bin on the other hand is pretty exceptional in terms of ceiling. Sure, it takes more work to get there but it is exploitable work. Sorcery is a downside too but pretty irrelevant when it is effectively competing with "draw a card" which is the difference between this and Lightning Helix when you flash it back. So, that leaves us with a card that is exceptional in a deck with access to red and white mana, ideally some black as well, and then an absolute tonne of discard or self mill effects. Mardu Pyromancer in modern is the sort of deck we are talking about. Smiting Helix would be cute in that sort of thing. Outside of that it is a bit dodgy to support and uncomfortable to play. Make no mistake, the ceiling of being a two mana Lightning Helix that also effectively draws a card is pretty staggering. On average a lot worse than Lightning Helix in a limited setting, and certainly far narrower, it is all about that ceiling case for this oddball card which you get to by building a very specific sort of deck.

Watcher for Tomorrow 8.5

It took me a while to spot why this card isn't just better than Snapcaster Mage! Hidden, ironically, in the hideaway reminder text is the clause stating that it enters play tapped. Not being able to block right away with this on death trigger dork slows it down a lot. It is far more Cabal Therapy(pist) food, Aluren support, flicker abuse, Recurring Nightmare fodder, etc (i.e. combo and synergy) than it is a nice midrange all round value dork. Basically this is an Impulse on the back end of a 2/1 for two. Two mana is the cost of Impulse! Puts Eternal Witness to shame. It is a "leaves the battlefield" trigger as well making it hard to disrupt in any way. It is just a two for one in waiting, and potentially more with the right synergy. The comes into play tapped is a big deal but it doesn't stop this being top tier. It would just have been Snapcaster levels of good for cube if it had come in untapped. As it stands it is still looking like being one of the premium two drops in the cube. A not irrelevant body that you don't want to kill, can't stop getting a good card, and if not killed might just get out of hand with things like Restoration Angel. This is a cheap and powerful two for one. The delay is fairly minor, either it is a Standstill of sorts, or it is a Baleful Strix of sorts. If you don't get your card by the following turn you are buying a dangerous amount of time. Planeswalkers need to be attacked and people, especially those packing blue spells, need killing quickly and that all plays hard into this cards favour. If you only got the card when this died I would rate it at least one lower, perhaps even two less. That safety is massive. You can even stockpile cards away safely from things like Extract or more relevantly for modern, Surgical Extraction. This is on the slow side for modern and relatively low power even for EDH. Cube is really where this will shine brightest. A perfect curve and setup play offering tempo and value. This card being as good as it is makes cards with ninjitsu a whole bunch better. As does the scrying faerie one drop. All quite scary. Perhaps Deep Hours is coming back despite my mocking!

Mind Rake 2.5

Interesting and somewhat versatile. Just not really something that there is much call for. Mind Rot is fairly poo and the other mode is rather narrow. Good disruption and value tool in decks that really really want to discard things from their hand but that is the only place I really see this, hellbent lists perhaps but they sound decidedly weak. Sadly this is still also behind the que to to things like Putrid Imp and Zombie Infestation without a reasonable supporting crew of other discard effects so as to make this count. Nice occasional redundancy for Collective Brutality in that instance.

Everdream 1

A nice rework of Evermore that is actually playable. Both for having things to actually splice to and for being playable even when you don't. This is most alike to Whispers of the Muse. It is a mana sink card draw tool or a cycler. It is arguably better at the former and worse at the latter. Arguably better as it is "only" three mana compared to six to get Everdream back compared to Whispers however you still need a spell and to play that spell so unless it is two or less mana you are still needing the same total. This feels too slow to cut it in any sort of cube setting and probably only gets love in EDH. Shame as I rather like it.

Marit Lage's Slumber 5

This is a little like a Search for Azcanta in that it is a two mana enchant that provides ongoing card quality to a point at which it cashes in for some payoff. Rather than a card advantage land you get a 20/20 flying indestructible for your troubles with this. While a little easier to disrupt it is a lot more direct and threatening. Other areas in which this is unlike Search include the greater need of significant build consideration, the effort needed to flip (which is rather more for Slumber too), the fact you are not assured a scry effect each turn, and the only positive flip side of that which is that you can get multiple scry per turn and indeed get one right away too. So, all things considered, while this resembles Search for Azcanta it will neither see the same level of play nor attain the same sorts of power when played. Getting to ten snow permanents is going to take a long time. That is pretty much getting to nine basic lands at which point the Marit Lage token is a lot less impressive. There are some good snow permanents that are non-lands but beyond Arcum's Astrolabe and Coldsteel Heart they all seem to be or contain green. Playing all of them is only about 5 extra cards too and generally ones that are easy to remove. Things like Rampant Growth simply seem like a better way to empower this. All told that makes it seem like a Simic ramp card. I will try and build with this in mono blue but it will be a painful slow deck using things like Time Warp basically just as slow Explores. This isn't viable for a drafting cube because in those you are basically just replacing snow permanents with basic lands and that means this is painfully slow, restrictive and a little narrow. This is the big payoff for the snow type it would seem but the small scale payoff in Coatl is by far the more powerful and relevant of the two for almost all formats. This not scaling at all well with itself makes it even less appealing to build around in a non-singleton setting.

Thornado 5

I like this a lot in much the same way that I like Dissenter's Deliverance. Sadly this is cost in such a way that it is a reasonably big burden on your build. You have to feel weak to fliers or really need more instants in your (delirium) deck to play this I think. Cycling two is quite a big tempo hit and a Murder is hardly an impressive removal spell either. This may still make it in the cube with green having little better options and it being a safe include but that won't mean it is powerful, just a suitable plug. This is basically a bad sideboard card you can run main.

Soulherder 4

Too narrow for the cubes unless the heavily support flicker mechanics as a theme. If so then this is a perfect fit, much like it is for a couple of singleton constructed lists. Mainly spirits and flicker ones. Assuming you have something relevant to flicker such as a Wall of Omens then this is a good starting point of Grey Ogre plus draw a card while being very dangerous to leave in play both for value and tempo reasons. Soulhearder is an impressive threat. Sadly it also has a floor so low it hurts. Make this without a board and you just got a three mana Wandering One. Oops. As such it is only playable in decks that really appropriately house it.

Rotwidow Pack 4

Nice design but the cost is rather too much to make it more than a gold Giant Spider in most cases. Where I would strongly consider this is in any sort of deck based around spiders, Spider Spawning or even just Ishkanah, the Graf Widow. Making a 1/2 reach for 5 mana is poor but doing that and making them lose four or more life is suddenly very appealing. You can near one shot people with this. It gets out of hand very fast, lots of life loss, lots of defensive spiders to clog the board. So in decks with lots of mana and lots of dorks in the bin this is great (hello Crypt of Agadeem). In most other cases this is looking too fair. Not quite a Scarab God!

Moonblade Shinobi 3

Cute card and fairly comparable power level to Ninja of the Deep Hours for limited play. On the clunky side but that is somewhat accepted when playing with ninjitsu cards. While this is fine on average it doesn't have that exciting of a ceiling compared to alternatives and will likely be edged out of a lot of 40 card singleton ninja decks. Still a lock in for the 100 cards one I imagine with such a small pool of options. This is another semi-Rabblemaster card in blue. The clock isn't amazing but the value is decent. Really all just a bit fair these days to make too many waves despite being pretty unique as far as blue cards go.

Throatseeker 0

This seems terrible. A 3/2 for three that provides a tiny amount of lifelink to it and other ninjas? This will wind up being a Grey Ogre a lot of the time. Low power, low threat and low utility. Bad in general and still bad in a ninja deck.

Phantom Ninja 1

Probably never needing to go this deep in 40 card but it is nice to enable ninjas and to scale with a lot of the tribal ninja buffs. This is even somewhat of a threat!

Alpine Guide 4

Wood Elves in red with +2/+2 in stats! The cost for that massive tempo injection? The loss of the value and ramp if and when the Guide dies, which he well might as he must attack as much as able. Technically also the mountain comes in tapped which is also a downside compared to Wood Elves but a pretty minor one when we are talking sacrificing lands or being three times the size! Wood Elves are good and so in theory so is this. The concern is that it is not offering something that is really wanted. Aggressive red decks are not looking to ramp on turn three. Midrange and control decks are but they are rather less in the market for a suicidal 3/3 dork. There is certainly a snowball component to this card as if it is not dealt with it is very impressive. If the ramp and tempo it provides carry, say you bust out that Glorybringer a turn sooner and thus get to freely attack, then you are just so far ahead thanks to Guide that the game is likely over. Snowball cards are not great for game play but they are often quite powerful. This is certainly intriguing. It should have a highly varied performance. I don't know where I will play it though so I might struggle to find that out. Test worthy for sure, gut says it will be crappy but logic suggests it will be very good in the right place.


  1. I think Soulherder is quite strong even without dedicated flicker support given how strong ETB triggers are on commonly played cube creatures. Fully 33% of white creatures and 60% of blue creatures in my cube have such triggers. This card seems like a slam dunk even without other support for the archetype.

    1. Absolutely the card has a nutty ceiling and it may well be enough to make up for the floor but make no mistake, floors are the first port of call when looking at a card and this one is about as low as it gets. Gold too!

      On a side note, I am interested to see your cube list. A third of your white dorks having EtB effects impresses and interests me. I have always found the colour most lacking in that department compared to all the others. Is it not the case that a lot of them don't work with flicker too, such as Fiend Hunter?

  2. I was kind of surprised as well. I am counting creatures such as Champion of the Parish which benefit from other cards getting flickered. I am not counting Fiend Hunter type cards (which I actually have completely cut).