Thursday, 5 September 2019

Throne of Eldraine Preliminary Review Part I

Chulane, Teller of Tales 1

A nicely themed commander card. The only  competitive use I really see for this in cube is as an Aluren supplement card, and even then it is likely over cost win more silliness. It is too slow and low tempo while generally wanting a bit of build around synergy to perform. As a commander however I think this will be a great card to play with. Powerful and suitable and most importantly, fun looking.

Oko, Thief of Crowns 6.5

Ooof, a three mana planeswalker, in green, that can go all the way to six loyalty right away. Oko is going to be a chore to take down in combat that is for sure. Food tokens might seem minor but they do have a lot of synergy potential just as things you can sac or use for affinity, metalcraft etc. I am sure there will be loads of good uses for them too in the set beyond just being a source of life. Life is nice too in a number of situations. Oko can effectively gain 2 loyalty and 3 life a turn which will be utterly tedious for creature based aggro decks to fight. The +1 ability is a kind of Beast Within affair. It is better in some cases as it bypasses things like indestructible. Oko can neuter all the Eldrazi titans most effectively! It is a great thing to do with your own food tokens and gives Oko a means of protecting himself, gaining tempo or disrupting. It is a highly versatile ability and any conditional aspects are greatly reduced by the +2 ability he has. The -5 is expensive but also powerful due to having access to the food generation of Oko. You can steal dorks or you can steal back the Elk you have turned their artifacts and big dorks into. All in all Oko seems like he offers a lot of control, a lot of options and a lot of safety. He is somewhat indirect but I think powerful enough to secure himself the title of best Simic planeswalker. That should be enough to have him keep a cube slot but the bar has risen a fair amount this last year so he will be clinging onto his slot for dear life right from the get go.

Flaxen Intruder 1

The adventure component of this card costs a lot more than the creature mode making it more of a split card. The 1/2 is fairly irrelevant at the 7 mana mark, but then so too are the three 2/2 tokens... As such this is really just a reworking of Elvish Lyrist or Scavenger Folk. It is a bit bigger, costs less mana to use and can hit more targets. It can even be some value in a late game top deck situation with the adventure mode from time to time. Sadly, none of that really offsets the fact that this is a 1/2 that needs to do face damage to do it's job. It won't get through when you need it to and that makes it a bad threat and a bad removal spell. I don't see this getting much action at all in singleton cute though it is.

Lovestruck Beast 4

This is an impressive card. A three mana 5/5 is pretty huge. The adventure is free value and mitigates the downside on the 5/5 too. You can curve this out easily turn two with an Elf and forgo the free token and just get to smashing face if you like. While very powerful I feel this will have a hard time getting love in the cube. You will need a lot of 1/1 dorks to consider this and that makes it too narrow for what is just a big threat. A 5/5 isn't all that impressive in cube, it is easy to remove and easy to outplay in combat.

Witch's Cottage 2

I am a huge fan of non-basic utility lands with the basic land types. They add a lot of scope to singleton deck building. Here is to hoping we get a cycle of them. I doubly love that this can enter untapped thus making it sometimes have no downside at all. The effect is neither that powerful or unique and so this will not be a drafting cube card. I do however expect to see it cropping up in brews from time to time.

Crystal Slipper 1

This does not compare all that well to other ways of granting haste, either in red or on equipment. There are likely the odd corner case where all the attributes of this card make it playable but they will be seldom at best. It is not bad just low power and already well outclassed.

Witching Well 6.5

I am a huge fan of this card. It feels like the good parts of Hieroglyphic Illumination and Glimmer of Genius mixed together (assuming no energy needs). You get to scry on turn one where it is most impactful. You then get to have a thing in play that might help out with other synergies. Finally you get to cash in your double clue to result in card advantage. You get all the perks of expensive late game card draw and cheap early game card quality. The card cost of just scrying isn't an issue so much in the tempo focused games and the slightly higher overall cost is less of an issue in the longer games where you care more about value. This makes it good almost regardless of how you use it. This is the kind of card I love so I am certainly biased towards over rating it but I do still expect this to get a lot of cube attention. Comfortably one of my favourite cards already!

Wishful Merfolk 0

Thematically cute but too low powered to be making an impact on cube. I doubt this even makes it into tribal lists in commander! No one wants to pay the casting cost of a creature just to attack with it.

Run Away Together 0

No use in heads up play, too restrictive by far for a bounce spell, which is something one plays for the convenience. In multiplayer events however this is a pretty tasty bounce spell that will do a lot of work and see a lot of action.

Golden Egg 6

A new take on Guild Globe or Prophetic Prism and for my money, better than both. You trade a bit of fixing potential for the food tag and the option on life instead of fixing. The latter is a pretty huge addition to a support card of convenience. It costs little to nothing when when you don't need it and can be all the difference when you do. The loss of fixing over alternatives should rarely matter. The food tag is probably worth more already and the life is really what makes this card solid. Just a support card but none the less one I expect to see in a vast array of deck types and with good frequency.

Gilded Goose 7.5

Lovely, elegant and flavourful design. This is the result of a Birds of Paradise meeting with a Deathrite Shaman. It is nice and fair and better than neither BoP nor DRS while remaining playable. It is hard to properly rate this given relatively little knowledge of the abundance of food but it is plenty good enough as it is and only stands to get a little better with more food. So what is this card doing for us? It gives us some reasonable air protection. The body of BoP has won many a game with buffed up evasive swings or timely chumps in the sky. This will do more being that bit bigger. It holds off those pesky planeswalker sniping thopters, faeries and spirits without need of a buff. On a tapping utility card such as this, and in a cluttered up format like cube, I think a 0/2 flying body does more for you than a 1/2 body, certainly a 1/1. All in all I think the simple Ornithopter mode of Gilded Goose will account for a reasonable portion of it's high value. Next up we have the two in one permanents aspect of this card. Thraben Inspector is a great little card for spewing out some stuff and getting your synergies going nicely. Gilded Goose will do much the same. It is a great card to go with Smokestack, Braids, Tanglewire and that sort of thing. It speeds you towards the city's blessing! Indeed, the ongoing capacity for this to generate tokens likely makes it one of the best cards in those kinds of lockdown strategy. You can lock some people out with a Goose powered engine! We then have the guaranteed mana hit if we want it. The Bird of Paradise with a single charge. That is pretty good. Look at the price of Wily Goblin which is much the same sort of gimmick and it gets play! Sure, it is in red and is less vulnerable to removal and can get the mana right away (if that is somehow useful) but it is worse in every other way. So while it might feel bad compared to a Birds of Paradise as a mana source it is still very good in that capacity while doing many other things as well. Certainly you are a lot happier about getting your turn one Goose burned to a crisp than you are about the BoP as you still have your food left over. You might also have forced a less efficient play from your opponent to do so. The BoP might have eaten a Lava Dart while the Goose baited out a Lightning Bolt.

Deathrite Shaman will also likely tap for more mana per turn it is active and in play than Goose but on turns two and three when that extra mana is most meaningful the Goose will crush Deathrite for mana output. As such I am inclined towards considering Goose to be a superior mana source in cube to Deathrite. That will not be the case for basically all other non-limited formats however as you can always play enough sac lands and support for Deathrite to be as good as BoP. Deathrite is better overall as it is much better disruption, better reach and better lifegain. It is not always better lifegain however. When you remove mana constraints Goose is far better at that too. It can gain three a turn, does not need things in the bin to do so and it can do so from the turn it arrives. The lifegain element of Goose is absolutely a significant part of what the card can do for you. It will be a great help in racing or stabilizing against aggression. Cheap chumps and life buffers go a long way! The only thing that really doesn't impress all that much about this is the ability for it to make mana in an ongoing capacity. If you try you get 1 ramp every other turn at the net cost of a mana. Pay two, get one, pay two, get one, etc. Not a good rate, even really with the fixing kicker. That is not really how we should be looking at this card though. You get your one burst turn and then you get the utility of the Goose. You might setup so that you can play a 6 drop on turn four or five. While not mana efficient it might well turn out to be optimal tempo based on the cards you have. When you can invest spare mana into mana later or life later it gives you a world of options. That is really what the Golden Goose is, a big old bag of options on the cheap. Perhaps it is three life and an extra turn on your planeswalker. Perhaps it is a 3 drop and a 6 drop ahead of time to make up for the lack of relevant four or five mana cards in hand. This card is great, really really great but it is absolutely not broken. People will underestimate it because they compare it too directly to BoP and place most of the value of the card in ongoing mana production. I think this card will see as much play as Thraben Inspector (a top 5 most played white card) and be comparably good. It is a utility support card rather than a specific role filler.

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