Monday 30 September 2019

Throne of Eldraine Preliminary Review Part XIV

Cauldron's Gift 0

Self mill at this late stage isn't useful, it might give you a last ditch hope sometimes but that is not worth playing a decidedly sub par reanimate effect.

The Cauldron of Eternity 4

How to rework Recurring Nightmare so that it isn't bad, isn't broken, and isn't abusable? The answer looks a lot like this. With some self mill this comes online fast and has ongoing fuel while even protecting you a little against decking! When out it is generally better tempo than Nightmare as you have no need of a thing to sacrifice. Despite the high potential this isn't getting it done in the drafting cube as it just needs too much support to work well. Whip of Erebos is a preferable card to this in the limited settings and that is a playable but mediocre card. This will do some nice things in the decks able to support it however it might also just be enough worse than Recurring Nightmare that it still doesn't get all that much action simply being superfluous to demand! I do like the idea of it with Birthing Pod rather a lot!

Merchant of the Veil 7

They may have banned out Faithless Looting but they have at least given us some mild compensation. This rummaging half Looting is wildly worse than Faithless but it is still cheap and still does the desired action. It even still has stuff to do later on that looks like looting and extra value... Certainly you are 9 mana worse off than a Faithless Looting for the four loots with this, or indeed an impressive 6 mana worse off to get just two loots, and yes, this is rummage not looting, and no, a 2/3 is not offsetting this shortcoming, nice though he is. Despite all that I think this has a place. Instant is a really big deal and lets you do a lot more with this. If Insolent Neonate gets play then this should get rather more! It will absolutely feature in a load of my cube constructed decks, it will also feature in a lot of modern brews, most impressively however I think it might well be good enough for the drafting cube too. Low powered but really rounded and cheap and convenient and generally good support. This is good in all the ways Faithless Looting is, while not being as good at the thing Looting does, this at least offers a bit more utility. This is one of the more exciting cards for me from this set. Key redundancy for a useful effect in red that is cheap and interesting. Love it.

Sorcerer's Broom 1.5

This seems quite fun with Training Grounds. Otherwise it seems terrible. I don't want to pay 2 for a 2/1, why would I want to then pay 3 for another? Some combo application with cost reducers but I think other cards just do the same sorts of things better. This does have the advantage of working with both Ironworks and Ashnod's Altar perhaps making it appeal a little more in singleton.

Rampart Smasher 1

Devotion? Otherwise nope.

Overwhelmed Apprentice 2

This is obviously not a draft cube card but I cannot see it avoiding play, it just does too much for too little. The ideal home for this is a turbo mill deck that can use it to do a bit of milling, a bit of board control and a bit of card selection on the cheap. The perfect all rounder and way to start the ball rolling. The problem with this outside of a mill deck is that you can only mill your opponent and there is very little good reason to do that in general. As such you are likely just giving them a boost. Given this is a one drop you really don't want to give away a boost what with this being such a minor boost to your own plan. Just two free mana on a delve card later down the line could wind up killing you, certainly sounds better than a 1/2 with scry 2!

Castle Embereth 7

A little dull but very powerful. This offers a lot of face damage and a boost to combat for very little cost to your deck. This is like a wide version of Kessig Wolf Run, or indeed a nice mono take on Gavony Township. Now, put next to Gavony Township this looks rather lackluster in terms of effect. It is only one mana cheaper yet it only buffs power and only until end of turn. You cannot even do any cool synergies with counters. The thing is that while that is all true it is not the important bit at all. The important bit is the cost to your deck. You are playing these for the "free" bonus. The bonus really only has to be the slightest of bonus to be good if it is actually free. You are still primarily playing cards like this as lands. Very few lands offer utility so powerful and efficient that you are happy to play it over a spell, Gavony Township included. Plenty of cards do team wide +1/+1 effect cheaper and better. The bonus is only free when you would be playing that land regardless, if it is in a spell slot then it cost you a card even if it didn't cost any mana. Anyway, all that is to say is that the drawback on this card is substantially lower than that of a colourless land in most cases and by a good margin. Most two colour red decks with a decent mana base and all mono ones should have no trouble running this and rarely find it coming in tapped in a way that costs you. It will happen but not often, certainly not enough to offset the upside this has in the right deck, ie any with reasonable creature count and/or token generators. It then always taps for red at no cost which lets you play a heavier count of red mana symbols in your costs or include more utility lands that only tap for colourless. This is about as free as a land with a cost gets in cube. The Ipnu Rivulet cycle comes close but they offer less utility to fewer decks and are less desirable on that front even if they are superior in general as mana producers.

This can very easily represent a Lava Axe on turn four. It is not that hard to have 5 attackers by then with all the Rabblemaster things in red. That sort of start should just win and likely would even if you had nothing to do with your mana on turn four! Even so, it is still really nice to be able to threaten so much extra damage without playing any spells or extending in any dangerous way. It will make blocking a nightmare. Just having this open means all blocks need to take into account the potential for them to gain a power. This will lead to weaker blocks and things getting through for free a bunch without even having to use the Castle, just it being there will do the work. This is suitably powerful and on-theme that I suspect it would see more than enough play in cube to merit inclusion. My gripe with doing so is that it just takes the slot of a basic land and adds relatively little. It makes drafting a bit tighter on playables and just for a pretty minor perk. I run very few utility lands for this reason and so this will have to go a bit above and beyond to last. It does have the best chance of the cycle to do that. It easily has the most powerful effect that benefits from scaling and is active early in the game and that is well on theme with a lot of red strategies. For cube it is more comfortable and more powerful and more playable than Barbarian Ring which has held the title of premium red utility land.

Castle Vantress 6.5

The cost on this is very high for the return but then the cost of running this is also very low. Unless you have very few Islands (like, a 3 colour deck with a relatively poor mana base) or spells that need Islands in play to scale/work then this will rarely come in tapped. Scry 2 is not really value but it is exactly what you need at the times you have five mana spare! This is probably better than draw a card in most cases that you would use it. Either you are in top deck mode where a bit of card quality goes a really long way or you are just sat on countermagic stalling the game while you make lands and/or dig for a threat. Probably a bit too marginal a perk to merit a slot in the drafting cube but I imagine this will make the cut in most slower blue decks that are built in cube and other singleton constructed settings. It looks weak compared with the rest of the cycle but I think it is a lot better than it looks and will perform impressively. It is just so apt and convenient.

Castle Locthwain 6.5

This is worse than it looks I think but still pretty decent. It really wouldn't shock me if the blue one saw more play and performed better than this in the long run despite this clearly looking better. The issue is you cannot use this comfortably with much of a hand which rather limits this. It makes it a poor tool to dig for land drops in the mid to late game, it is pretty bad in a control deck too. The more aggressive you make your deck the better this looks but then you are paying 4 mana to draw a card. That is pretty poor given the usual rate of getting cards as a black mage. You can directly recur threats for less than that! The thing is, it doesn't hugely matter how poorly suited the ability is, it is on a land with very little risk or downside and so it will see a lot of play.

Acclaimed Contender 3

Certainly a tribal knight only card and a somewhat polar card in that setting. You have to have a knight in play which means you need a high knight count including plenty of cheap knights. When you don't this card blows hard but when you do it is about as good of a 2 for 1 dork as you can find. It is big, it digs deep and finds a fairly wide range of action assuming most to all of your dorks are knights. It is too good not to play when you can support it but it will hurt you now and again when playing from behind.

Escape to the Wilds 0

Big and powerful card advantage spell but not all that well positioned. A gold sorcery speed five drop is not where you want to be for card draw, even at the impressive rate of 5 to 1 with a dash of Explore in the mix. With this amount of mana you want to be making threats not getting value. You can't play this in a cheap deck as it will sit in hand as dead weight too often but you also can't play it in big ramp decks as you might well exile well over 10 mana worth of spells and just burn through your threats without getting any use from them. This is exactly the sort of card planeswalkers have made pretty unplayable.

Sunday 29 September 2019

Throne of Eldraine Preliminary Review Part XIII

Fires of Invention 5

Well isn't this a spicy little card. So what does this do for us? Broadly it lets you have twice as much mana for casting things but limits you to the casting of just two things and to your own turn. The latter helps keep the card fair without too much added complexity. Only being able to play two things hampers the combo potential for this card in a storm style setting but in a deck that wants to use Mana Flare it should be fine. There are some bonus perks and drawbacks when comparing this to Mana Flare beyond the obvious key ones of limiting your casts and not giving a bonus to your opponent. Like Mana Flare this will not improve the effectiveness of any mana rocks, Fire of Invention also fails to work with or improve lands that tap for two mana or cost reduction effects either. On the plus side it does leave all your mana sources alone for use with activated abilities. This means you can effectively give yourself a 250% mana boost if you have all your mana coming from lands at a one for one rate and you spend all your mana each turn with precisely two thirds on spells and one third on activated abilities. Having activated abilities to go with this seems very wise given that will be your only way to interact at instant speed. While this is no good for storm it does work rather nicely with suspend cards like As Foretold. Red now seems to have the most of those kinds of cards now and has sufficient redundancy that you could well use a red base to build a singleton list around that plan. Alternatively you can just have a big red deck that can start to do some silly things if it draws this. Your typical fair midrange deck is looking to curve and do one thing a turn and this lets you do that twice as well from the turn after you make it without hampering you at all on the turn you do. This as spell one, then with four lands drop your actual four drop. The issue with this is that you don't have great card draw in red and could really do with draw effects to empower playing twice as much stuff. Then however, with a deck full of medium to top end and draw stuff, when you don't draw this your deck is awful slow clunk. I like this card a lot, it is fun, interesting, powerful, well designed and probably about right power wise. It is potent without being abusive or something you can play anywhere without consideration and have it be good. I think it is probably too narrow and demanding for the draft cube but I think it should get a bunch of work done for different lists all over singleton constructed formats. Somewhat the red take on Wilderness Reclamation.

Giant Opportunity 1

Is a 3 mana 7/7 token payoff? Sounds pretty poor. I much prefer this in make three food mode for cube and it still sounds pretty awful at that. This is only making a food themed deck, and not always. It won't even be that good of a deck so yeah. Narrow and weak, winning combo...

Bartered Cow 4

I want to rate this higher! It is basically a free thing. It feels like there are a lot of decks that would quite like a free food. A decent number of those have discard effects such as looting. With enough of those this is as good as it gets to a free thing in magic. Perhaps you tinker it away, perhaps Urza taps it for blue, there is a lot you can end up doing with a free artifact token. This is the Basking Rootwalla of the artifact world. Sure, this card does a lot less than Walla but as we all know, artifacts fully trump creatures, especially ones that attack! This will see combo play somewhere some how. It might well just see some play as a convenient synergy support card too. I suspect it will do that in four of a kind constructed lists before it comes to singleton ones too. Tortured Existence is quite cute with these in multiples!

Archon of Absolution 1

There are loads of 4 mana dorks that have this effect on them and all of them have more toughness than this. Against the mono white aggro deck this is a huge ball ache to play against and might see some attention as a sideboard card for that. As a maindeck tool though this is shocking compared to the swathes of alternatives.

Thorbran, Thane of Red Fell 7.5

I still feel like I have misread this card because it just seems so absurdly good. Bolt you for 5. What, wait! Really? Shock you for 4.... Lava Dart for 6. Mogg Fanatic doing the work of a Glorybringer! Flame of Keld did this but it cost you your hand and it only did it for a turn. The card was also still very potent and did good work in cube and even made some waves in standard. Thorbran comes down with no warning and is like a Trumpet Blast for your attack. It is then like an improved personal Furnance of Wrath on a 4/4 body. Getting +2 is broadly better than doubling in cube. As there are more things that do one than there are that do 3 or more. Or at least they occur more over the course of games. It is close enough not to matter much. The main thing is that this brings the hurt, right away and for as long as it is in play. It feels like a Sublime Archangel for red but much better. More durable and broader application. You can do 12 immediately with zero mana burn off the back of playing him if you have all of a Lava Dart in the bin, a Gut Shot and Fireblast in hand. You could take that to 18 total damage with a Stoke the Flames but you also then need 3 other things to tap and odds on those are doing more damage attacking. This feels pretty terrifying as a red top end card. What it lacks in durability compared to Experimental Frenzy, Purphorus, Rekindling Phoenix, Pia and Kiran Nalaar etc. it more than makes up for in ability to end the game really really fast.

Drown in the Loch 2

What makes a card like this good is early flexibility. For this to actually do anything early, let alone provide options, you really need to either mill your opponent or have them mill themselves. If you are just going to rely on the natural progression of the game this will too often not be able to counter or kill the relevant threats of the time. If they make a Mother of Runes, even on the draw, if you don't have a Mental Note as your one drop, that Mother is going to be a royal pain. I think aggro mill decks can run this. I think you can also run it as a good all round sideboard card in meta with self mill heavy lists. This has nice upside but it has a little but of unreliablity and a little bit of narrowness that really hurt it's chances given why you typically want these cards.

Silverflame Squire 1

The combat trick just costs a little too much. The body will be near irrelevant by the time the trick is used and it is a decidedly poor two drop play if you plan to forgo the trick. Versatile but very low power. It works poorly with how you want to curve as well.

Rally for the Throne 1

Perhaps you run this in a Soul Sister's build but really, three mana for a pair of 1/1s sucks rather a lot. It is just a lot of more of the same rolled into one low powered card, it is filler rather than payoff or even support.

Linden, the Steadfast Queen 1

This feels surprisingly under powered. She could have lifelink or be a 3/4 or something else and she wouldn't seem all that impressive still. I only give this a 1 because she is the best creature commander option for a mono white soul sisters deck it seems and being such a sucker for those kind of cute things I will be getting involved.

Yorvo, Lord of the Garen Preserve 2

A green devotion or stompy deck are the only homes I see for this chump. At least green now has some redundancy in GGG three drops that are over-statted! Now I can make my more consistent bad decks!

Blacklance Paragon 2

A good cheap tribal support card but cheap filler rather than auto-include. There are a lot of good two drop options.

Forever Young 4

Well this certainly puts Bone Harvest to shame. This has the floor of cycling for 1B at sorcery speed which is fine. It is a Raise Dead for 2 if you need or it can totally set up your draws to hit gas now and for the next few turns to win the game. It is a bit slow and so might not see enough play in my drafting cube but it will absolutely feature in a bunch of decks. It is just a cheap, efficient, versatile card.

Saturday 28 September 2019

Throne of Eldraine Preliminary Review Part XII

Stonecoil Serpent 3

This is flexible and reasonable value at most points on the curve. It has some useful keywords and some bonus utility as an artifact, an X spell, a 0 mana card and that sort of thing. It is incredibly playable and somewhat useful but it is also painfully mediocre. It is just a dork and never an efficient one. Protection from premium gold removal isn't all that exciting when your opponents don't care about killing it! I cannot think of a deck that isn't abusing this or really feeding off the synergies that would play this.

Folio of Fancies 1

Lots of abilities but hard to make it do much of much and certainly too much mana. This is an expensive mill card and both an expensive and dangerous draw card. Cheap enough with sufficient potential synergies that I don't want to rule it out. Certainly a good way to finish off a game in a Paradox Engine list but they are not really short on ways of closing games.

Dance of the Manse 2

An interesting little combo card that potentially provides some redundancy to Replenish or Open the Vaults. This is certainly designed in a way that keeps it reasonably hard to abuse but that does allow it to still be powerful. You can only play this in a deck heavily built to use effects like this. Narrow and fair but playable and with potential.

Vantress Gargoyle 6.5

This ranges from a bad Ghoulcaller's Bell to an absolute beast of a card. A super Jace's Phantasm if you will. A 2 mana 5/4 flying wall is pretty good if it ultimately gets to attack. Given how magic tends to pan out, and with the tap ability this card has it shouldn't take too long for this to be able to go on the offensive. Sadly by then it may not be able to be on defense anymore. It feels a bit like Thing in the Ice. Riskier but also more generally useful and a better late game peel. Basically if this spends any significant amount of time unable to get involved in any kind of combat it will be pretty bad but if it can usually attack by the time blocking gets to be a cost to sustain then it should be a strong cube worthy card. Certainly one I will be rigorously testing out.

Bonecrusher Giant 6.5

I have mixed feelings about this. One the one hand it is two useful, versatile and worth having cards in one, both at reasonable costs. On the other hand it is two slightly below par cards rolled into one. With Murderous Knight you have one really good card and then some nice value to go with it. This is just two mediocre cards. That is also true of Firebolt, all be it to a lesser extent on the front end. This being a card that curves nicely with itself is a decent perk. Shock their two drop then make the Giant on three. You could legitimately keep a hand that was just this, 3+ mountains and other cards that cost four or more. There are not many hands you can keep in cube that contain only one playable card before turn four. The Giant might seem good for the mana, and it is certainly a bit better than the 2/3 lifelink Knight for 1BB but it still isn't very good compared with a cube level three drop. It is just a 4/3 ground pounder. Most things block it and it is easy to take out in combat and ignore the damage effect. I expect this will get used to Shock something and then remain in exile until you have little else left to do. It is a great midrange red card but a low tempo red aggro card and thus probably just a filler aggro card. I think this looks better than it actually is. I like it, I expect it to see a reasonable amount of play. The convenience of it with the reasonable card value it offers should be enough to offset the lower power of the Giant and the Stomp. Obviously a Shock that drew a card for two mana would be off the charts good. The issue is that when that card is a 4/3 dork for three that cannot be looted away or used like other cards in hand the value of that draw plummets. I think it is under half as good as a draw in cube which it has to be to not be a lock in. As soon as this gets to be worth half a card or more it becomes really quite good. As such we will probably be in a standard meta where two toughness dorks are a liability.

Revenge of Raves 0

Fairly brutal against a go wide plan but pretty poor returns against meatier attackers. This costs a lot, has no value returns and is generally very slow. It doesn't even do that much to affect the board. Black is not really a pillow fort kind of colour either. I quite like the idea of the card and quite want to play it but I just see no way in which I can make this worth it.

The Magic Mirror 1

The Massive Win More is what this seems like to me. In cube this is really dangerous. You will play it and not all that much later you will have no library left and this will kill you. Blue isn't great at closing out a game quickly. This is a nice personal Howling Mine but you can only really use it in places that are able to stall for a bit but will win with ease and on the spot when they have all the things. Some combo decks feel like they would tick these boxes but that is about it. You also really need to mill yourself a bit or have a deck full of cheap cantrips to play this for a sensible cost or in a sensible amount of time. You could make it turn three with turns one and two spent Thoughtscouring yourself and hitting well... You deck yourself five turns later and sooner if you play any more card draw or mill... Perhaps this goes in a Donate deck! This is far too much setup and far too much risk for a card that does far too much of the thing it does. The bigger the deck the better this gets and so I can see it winding up in some EDH builds but it is still very narrow there.

Irencrag Feat 4

This compares fairly closely to Lotus Bloom. Spend one card and on turn four you can have three extra mana to use. There are then some minor pros and cons to each option. This is obviously only red and restricts you to one spell to use with that mana. This is also a card you don't need to have on turn one and that can be useful off the top right away or found with other spells without slowing you down. You can get 7 mana on turn one in modern with this now. Spirit Guide, Mountain, two Desperate Rituals and this. You only need one of your last two cards to be a game winning card costing no more than 7 but ideally not that much less either. Myr Battlesphere is the first card that comes to mind as a good thing to rush out with this which doesn't make it sound all that exciting. This is a bigger ritual that Seething Song and it is less restrictive than Geosurge. That being said, Geosurge does exactly the same as this in my Myr Battlesphere setting and that has seen no love in any format that I am aware of. Irencrag Feat can use the mana to activate abilities such as those on Charbelcher. It can also be reduced a bit in cost by the likes of Baral or Ruby Medallion. This is interesting and potentially both dangerous and powerful. It is also narrow enough to keep it reasonably well contained. I do want to see a Tron deck have their Tron pieces exiled by a turn two or three Karn from a mono red ritual list!

Mirrormade 4

Versatile and reasonably powerful. Copy Artifact, Copy Enchantment and Sculpting Steel all see play and broadly this is better than the lot. It is a narrow card and so broadly doesn't actually count for all that much. When you want to copy something it is usually a fairly specific something and so the cheaper, easier to cast or more tutorable options are first choice. What this does do is generally be the second best option and thus offer redundancy on a decent card. Great for commander providing a somewhat more budget option on those more expensive alternatives.

Loch Dragon 0

I don't even see this being used in a devotion deck, it is just super bad from all angles. Good luck keeping your two power four drop in play for that... This is a far worse looter than most of what red has to offer, let alone what blue has!

Ferocity of the Wilds 1

Goblin Oriflamme costing 1 more to provide trample but now miss humans. The latter isn't a big deal in red, almost all the token generators are not humans. Still, too narrow for the drafting cube and probably just a bit fair for most constructed cube lists. I would just much rather an actual threat than this.

Grumgully the Generous 1

Red isn't one of the good +1/+1 counters synergy cards presently but this might well just allow people to experiment with such things. Grumgully is a solid commander option even if he seems to have little application in cube lists. He is cheap and powerful and of course legendary! For cube he is just a bit off theme, awkward, gold, and fair.

Sundering Stroke 1

Sounds expensive. Seven you say? This seems like a pretty bad Finale of Eternity or a really really bad Arc Trail. Sure, this can kill walkers and players while Finale cannot but it doesn't do anything until turn seven! A Glorybringer almost always does 8 damage divided up enough to be pretty meaningful and it is still a thing after doing so. This is just a one shot seven damage, perhaps 21 damage! Even then it isn't that impressive. In that case it is likely just some free face damage as the rest is all going into wild overkill. This is still a versatile, on theme, powerful card, so I don't want to entirely rule it out. I could see myself running it in a Mizzix's Mastery build potentially.

Clockwork Servant 6

This seems pretty good. A three mana 2/3 that draws a card would see a lot of filler play. A punchier Sea Gate Oracle, a more defensively statted Rogue Refiner, a less painful Phyrexian Rager etc. My concern for this is that you can only really play it in mono or very heavily in one colour lists. If you can't reliably cast this on three and draw a card it is significantly worse. I fear it is not going to see the play it needs because people want to splash or run colourless lands instead of this too much of the time where this is viable. This at least still gets to dump on Henge Walker from a vast height.

Thursday 26 September 2019

Throne of Eldraine Preliminary Review Part XI

Elite Headhunter 1

Expensive for the body and for the ability. While the ability is nice it is not worth the initial cost of getting the card out on top of the activation cost. Not by a fairly long shot. Devotion is the only hope for this and it is a long shot there at best.

Oakhame Adversary 1

This is an Ohran Viper with an extra power and a cost that varies either side of it. As a 1G card this is nutty good, it rivals Dark Confidant, not so much for the ability to draw cards but for being vastly more robust and useful of a body. Early game this is going to do a lot of damage to a lot of decks. The thing is, only green decks because against non-green decks this comes out too late to be relevant. If I had spare sideboard space there are certainly lists I would want a two mana Ohran Viper but I never want a four mana one.

Redcap Melee 2

A very efficient damage spell that cannot hit players. If it could we would be looking at a Fireblast level of card so perhaps that is for the best. As it stands I am not sure that this is all that exciting. Aggro decks want face damage as an option and almost all the other decks want to not sac their lands. This doesn't even feel that interesting as a sideboard card. Obviously it will still see play in plenty of places, it is an efficient one drop. I just expect cube to be one of the least likely places to see it. This is best for answering Wrenn and Six in modern short of a counterspell or Inquisition effect.

Specter's Shriek 7.5

This has me interested! I think it is good. It is a Thoughtsieze that exiles and costs no life. Doomfall is a scary card because it can exile key cards and this does it a whole lot better. It is also an Unmask in a lot of ways too. Now, it is obviously worse than Thoughtsieze but I feel it is rather better than Unmask. Four mana is pretty awful as an alternate cast mode and needing to exile a black card is rather restrictive both on your build and on your lines of play in game. Shriek is always one mana and can exile any card in your hand making it more playable and more comfortable when you do. It also works as your last card which is a nice little bit of scaling for it. Certainly Unmask costing less on pitch mode is a big deal but so is the ability to go one for one at low cost. I think you will have an option on a black card around a third of the time you hit in my cube currently. Black is the most played colour and has a lot of scary cards. All told I think this will cost you extra somewhere in the 0.55 to 0.65 card range. I think that you can recover that card cost far more easily than the tempo loss of paying four mana for this effect! Not having to pay any life also makes it easier to recover any lost card advantage. Calling this the black Force of Will would be very generous but I am pretty happy with calling it the black Arcane Denial. I am happy enough conceding a little bit of card advantage when the disruption is so cheap and broad. When I can pay my bad cards for their good cards, or in the case of Denial, their good card for more of their less good cards. I am hopeful that this can be a long awaited broadly playable addition to the suite of black one mana disruption in cube. It is a real bottleneck on the colour at present. When you compare the numbers of core one drops in other colours, white has 2/1s for days, red has endless Shocks, green has enough one mana ramp to support multiple green players and blue has a healthy seven card quality spells, some information gathering utility stuff, some pesky dorks and a bunch of counters. Black however has a couple of good discard spells and some fairly desperate ones doing a poor job of plugging the gap. I think this card is decent but the lack of things in that area will help this perform a little better too.

Edgewall Inkeeper 2

This certainly makes me want to build an adventure deck in cube. The vulnerability of this and the lack of redundancy in it and in good adventures makes that a fools dream! Standard has more hope of such things. Still, a one drop that draws cards like this opens the eye rather. Compare this to Johira or Beast Whisperer. A lot more expensive! Glimpse of Nature is banned and that is just one turn! I am not however seriously trying to compare this to Glimpse. This does not have the support it needs to get close to that which is obviously why they can get away with printing a seemingly dangerous looking card. Perhaps in 20 years when they have had another couple of goes at adventure cards this will suddenly need a ban in some old formats. Cheap enough to be a lock in should a standard adventure deck exist but not doing loads beyond that and booster draft.

Deafening Silence 3.5

Another take on Rule of Law, or indeed Arcane Laboratory as it originally was. Turns out a lot of the things we associate with other colours now started out life as blue cards (Propaganda anyone?) because blue gets all the interesting cards... Anyway, back to Deafening Silence, which is very good. It is a sideboard dream card. Getting to pay two less for your hoser is amazing. You are playing cards like this to crap all over storm style decks which are pretty hard to stop, pretty degenerate, and very powerful. You give no monkeys about them casting loads of creatures. Sure, this is not all that against elves or some kind of Kobold combo or an Aluren plan but they are not the target of this. This will be in boards all over the place in any format with any sort of storm deck that is at all good. It might even make it maindeck in some. I can imagine some modern decks using things like Spellstutter Sprite, Spell Queller, Aether Vial, and Giver of Runes (and likely Stoneforge...) being quite exceptional with this. For cube this is too narrow and often too much of a do nothing. It might wind up main in a constructed style deck in a known meta, I have seen Choke doing that on more than one occasion! But mostly it will just be a strong board tool. It will see more play than Carpet of Flowers and less than Hydroblast. In modern white continues to be the best colour for sideboards.

Glass Casket 4

It is a Silkwrap but in artifact form rather than enchantment. Silkwrap has seen no cube action with a number of directly superior options. This however is unique being the only one of those kinds of cards that is an artifact. As such any deck packing a lot of artifact synergies may have an interest in this. It is a serviceable removal spell that doesn't require much to become great. Sai gives us a 1/1 Thopter and suddenly this becomes one of the best value removal spells on offer. Johira gives us a card, Urza gives us a mana rock, this list goes on and on. Casket will see loads of play. Loads of differing kinds of decks want artifact support and cheap spot removal is something really hard to find in the realm of artifacts. While most cubes will have some artifact synergies it will be too hard to draft them and so this isn't going to be a strong addition there. It is a tool for constructed decks. Dispatch is obviously the more potent removal tool for the artifact heavy white deck but it has some drawbacks even compared to this. In the lighter artifact decks Disptach is unreliable and is not always able to kill something in the early turns. Dispatch is also not an artifact and thus contributes nothing back to the deck, Glass Casket lets you pack removal without hurting those empowering, scaling synergies.

Thunderous Snapper 1.5

Blue and green are pretty good at triggering this. Force of Will? Treasure Cruise? Time Warp Restock Time Warp! This is also an acceptable size for the cost. Blue devotion lists might entertain this. What stops this from being good in fast powerful formats like cube is that you simply cannot have that many cards with CMC five or more in a deck. That means that you can only hope to trigger this a few times and only if you are lucky enough to have them at the right time. As such this is pretty win more, fairly narrow and not even that busted when it works out. Devotion really does seem to be the best hope for this getting any action. It is at least probably the most playable of the cycle after the Owl.

Oathsworn Knight 2

I really hope this is homage to "it's just a flesh wound", if so, excellent job. As to the power of this one it is rather more murky. It is just a 4/4 for three that has to get stuck in. That is pretty terrible. It is also easily shrunk and made into a less relevant card pretty quickly. It is good with buffs and other counter synergies but not exactly abusive. I don't anticipate this getting that much love as it is just a bit of a do nothing despite having a reasonable power level. It is certainly in themed decks if it does get cube action.

Faeburrow Elder 4

Will this is a potent little card. At worst it taps for two and is a 2/2 which puts Palladium Myr to shame. Which is should being gold vs colourless. Add to that the Bloomtender potential for this to tap for upto five mana while being upto a 5/5 is all pretty naughty. Vigilance lets you abuse both the scaling body and scaling mana production too. Baseline this is good and ceiling is mental. Even at just three mana on a 3/3 this is very strong. Turn one Deathritre, turn two this, turn three put the game well out of reach! In the right kind of deck this is getting a lot done but in draft cubes those are not coming up nearly often enough. If you really want to push four or five colour green decks in a cube this is a good way to do so. If you have synergies or always expect to be able to make this a 3/3 then it is pretty worth including but that isn't going to be often.

Idyllic Grange 3.5

While this is a great card it is too low impact and narrow to be worth a cube slot. As such it will be a constructed card. In a deck with only plains and that is looking to get to four mana this is just free value and you will almost always play it. It will occasionally hurt you in screws by coming in tapped but it will also just be a nice power boost for free rather more often. White aggressive decks have a lot of cards that an additional +1/+1 counter will greatly empower. The problem is that there are other utility lands and the more you play of those the vastly weaker and riskier this becomes. Is the slight plus of this better than that of a Windbrisk Heights? A Rishadan Port? Probably not in most cases. Much as I love this I can't see it making the final cut in all that many decks. How it works and what it competes with seem to rule it out of constructed cube much of the time. Shame as it is both powerful and interesting. I really like the idea of my Tithe finding me a buff! You also don't need many dorks that scale well with +1/+1 counters for this to start looking pretty tasty. What this does do that no other utility land offers is directly provide tempo. You can curve out with this and spend all your mana on efficient spells and still get a buff for no cost. Aggro white decks can really apply a lot of pressure quickly and mustering a defense against it is tough. Cards like this will make is a lot harder to stabilize. This is all fairly ceiling stuff though, you need to curve to four pretty perfectly for this to be that powerful free edge. In the best settings this is actually one of the best utility lands going because it is the only one that is both tempo gains and zero tempo cost. I think it is sufficiently well balanced however that it is far from any sort of auto include status. Still a fair way off a Barbarian Ring! It treads a very fine line between a marginal boost, a totally free perk, and an opportunity cost.

Tuesday 24 September 2019

Throne of Eldraine Preliminary Review Part X

Ayara, First of Locthwain 6

Probably a good job this isn't a zombie or vampire as it feels like that would lead to some naughty tribal abuses. It is likely going to have plenty of those already with K'rrik in EDH if nothing else. As a stand alone card this has a lot of power but as a triple black three drop it is rather polar. Better in devotion, K'rrik and that sort of thing. Great in mono black and pretty rough elsewhere. Ayara is a bit like a Corpse Knight and a Priest of the Forgotten Gods rolled into one. Really powerful in any sort of black weenie strategy where you are making lots of little dorks and have the capacity to recur them easily. This is powerful enough for cube but unless you are really pushing mono black themed strategies this isn't worth forcing as it will not see play outside of those. The cards I most want with this are Bitterblossom and Bloodghast for that ongoing drain and draw potential. As is inevitable with an improving design balance and growing card pool, the majority of the powerful cards we see now are narrower in application and Ayara is one such card.

Harmonius Archon 1

This is extremely potent and in a general sort of way but it is also very far up the curve for the places you might want it. The ideal is making this when you have a bunch of 1/1 tokens, perhaps some with +1/+1 counters, or perhaps you have an Anthem out too. You pretty much made a Dictate of Heliod, a Raise the Alarm and got a 4/5 flier into the mix as well when that is the case. You probably just win right away by attacking and the latter two parts will not even be needed! Potent indeed but expensive and possibly just overkill. Why not just run the cheaper and more convenient Dictate? In this setting Archon feels a lot like Angel of Invention which itself was a little too expensive to last in cube. It was good but it was just always one of the last cards added to lists and was too often left out all together. Angel is also cheaper and more flexible and ratehr more convenient. Archon doesn't feel great in all midrange settings either as you will not always be improving your dorks by making them 3/3s. You are also in far more danger of just empowering your opponents small army. That is probably what kills this card. Sure, sometimes you will make a big scary opposing threat small and manageable but too often you will make your opponents board better and that is no good. The goldfish floor of the card is great but as soon as you look at what your opponent has the floor on this card becomes worse than useless. Also, while 10/11 of stats over 3 bodies with partial flying is amazing for 6 mana the Archon is too easily killed and the residual pair of 1/1s is not making up enough for that loss. Really it is just about the card not reliably doing what you need it to, that isn't acceptable on something carrying this much weight. Past three mana your cards need to work and do really good things all the time.

Beloved Pricess 1

She does some things and she costs one. I am sure she will wind up as a reasonable support card in some brew somewhere down the line. Narrow and low powered but appropriately cheap!

Gingerbrute 3

This has a good amount of synergy potential and is nicely cheap too. The power is too low for most things but I suspect there will be a couple of places where this is just lovely. It is certainly a really good tool to kill people with a Cranial Plating. Love the flavour on the evasion too, bonus points to those involved in that call.

Inquisitive Puppet 4

All the one mana low powered synergy cards! This is certainly the most all round playable of the lot. It is an artifact, a creature, a scry, a mini Fog, and many more things to boot. I am not sure where I would want this but it absolutely will get a whole bunch of play. It is just too much stuff for so little cost. It also covers so many areas of potential synergy, you only really need a bit of overlap and suddenly this is looking pretty perfect.

Gadwick, the Wizened 6

This is decent looking at almost all points on the curve which is unusual for X spells. It isn't horrible as a three drop and it gets progressively better there after. My concerns for this are nothing to do with power. The issues are that of being sorcery speed. To my mind that makes it much more of an aggro or midrange card than a control one. Control lists just want instant draw. Aggro blue decks are not overly a thing and so this has limited appeal there. With just midrange left on the table I don't see this getting quite the amount of play it needs to be worth a drafting cube slot. The tap down effect is also far better in aggressive decks, you need instants to be of use defensively but any old blue card with take out blockers which is great. I think this will be a bomb in blue devotion decks. It will come down, fill you up with gas like a nice little Hydriod Krasis and then it will use that gas to tap down stuff and kill the opponent!

Pound for pound this seems to come up trumps in most cases over Mulldrifter. The cheap mode on this is a dork while the drifter is just cards but that is the biggest difference between them and not something that is directly comparable. At five mana they are very close in power. Beyond that Gadwick leaves drifter well behind. I guess the real drawback of Gadwick compared to drifter is that you cannot so easily play it cheaply in decks that are not heavily blue. A 3/3 might well be preferable to a Divination but that doesn't matter if you don't have triple blue. The other thing drifter does a bit better than this is being cheated in and out of play. You cannot use this as a source of ongoing value with a Recurring Nightmare or flicker engine but then there are plenty of better things than Mulldrifter to do that with anyway so not really a relevant difference. Even if this doesn't make it in the drafting cube, which it has a pretty good shot at doing, it will have a decent impact in many other singleton places and will be a card people are familiar with due to the frequency it is played.

Opportunistic Dragon 6.5

This is a funny one. It is a bit like a Hostage Taker and a bit like an Angel of Sanctions. It is also a bit more like a Flame Tongue Kavu. While the body is broadly better than all of these cards with the Dragon we have a far weaker removal effect. Firstly you need viable targets. Between artifacts and humans this should be online for hitting something most of the time but it will often not be the thing you want to deal with. Then you have all the risks of giving the card back to them without any of the perks of getting to use it yourself. That is unless you have some useful sac outlet. It does have one big perk for this kind of card in that it doesn't re-trigger EtB effects and can be used to pinch something like a Snapcaster Mage without risking a blowout. This is very midrange. All told I think I would rather run an Abrade or a more effective four drop like a Rekindling Phoenix that trying to condense effects with this. It feels like the time for killing humans and mana rocks is a little bit past by turn four. Certainly a potent card that is worthy of testing. I would not be shocked if this turned out to be a decent cube card at all. It has a strong floor and a high ceiling while being pretty direct and useful, a threat and potentially removal at a good mana rate. There are a number of decent Sarkhan cards in cube presently making dragons a better card type to have around. Humans are the most common type of creature and found in all colours. The card is a bit dull in feel but it ticks a lot of boxes. 

Cauldron Familiar 4

This has combo written all over it. A lovely little sac outlet and one that could be easily abused with a good food engine. A nice potential win condition for any Aluren style combos too. Too low powered for a drafting cube but a card with potential elsewhere.

Maraleaf Raider 0

Lack of food almost certainly kills this but in ideal settings this is a 3 power two drop beater that is also a Seal of deal 3 to a dork. The idea of a Volcanic Hammer style card in green has a lot of appeal even if it has little to no chance of working out!

Fervent Champion 6

This is a whole lot of Raging Goblin. Normally this much text on a dork of such little cost is a lock in. Sadly I worry this is too narrow on too much of the text. Both equipment and knights are fairly rare in cube, especially in red decks. Without either this is just a Raging Goblin with first strike which is far from enough. While this will be obnoxiously powerful in the appropriate setting the drafting cube feels like it will not be that setting. It could be made to support it with more knights and equipment but there is a reason I have so few of these cards presently in.

Epic Downfall 7

This is seemingly quite good. It is the perfect pairing for Fatal Push and is good in all the ways Push isn't. Epic Downfall gets big things and it exiles them but it is slow. Exile is more important on the bigger cards and being instant is more important for the things that are killing smaller dorks. This card is suitably pegged I think to be one of the better black removal spells but it is super close. If it didn't have exile, or cost BB then I would be ruling it out. This will almost always have targets and they will usually be the things you want to kill. The main cost of running this is that it does nothing until your opponent has had their 3 drops come online and not always immediately. This will reduce your option density in the early game and will feel like a five drop in opening hands rather than a two drop. It has that Serra Avenger feel to it basically. I still think it is well worth it to be able to cleanly deal with a serious threat and still have the spare mana left to do other relevant plays.

Into the Story 1

Big powerful draw but you want your draw online sooner than this will allow. Unless you are packing a mill deck that is fairly proactive I would't touch this. The seven mana mode is shocking, you have to reliably fire this off at four to justify including this. When you can afford four mana to draw cards you are pretty ahead anyway, or desperate. As such a simple Fact or Fiction will be just as effective and far less risky or onerous.

Reave Soul 0

Really bad Smother alternative. This hits some more expensive dorks than Smother but it hits less overall and is also a dirty sorcery! Further to that you might as well play removal with better scaling than this kinds of restriction if you are playing cheap limited removal. A Go for the Throat not only kills more stuff but also kills scarier things overall as well.