Friday, 15 November 2019
Theros: Beyond Death Preliminary Review Part II
Dreamstalker Manticore 1
Pretty low powered and tame but a few novel aspects make it plausible that I might play this in a cube setting, all be it very infrequently.
Furious Rise 1
As far as this kind of effect goes in red it is mostly winning over the alternatives. It exiles in the end step rather than upkeep, it lets you play it whenever and sometimes even after a turn cycle is over. It also just costs 3 rather than the more typical 4 mana. All this is comfortably offset however by the need of having a 4 or more powered dork in play. This does nothing in the worst case and is a little bit win more in all the others. I think this is too risky for the effect it brings and too narrow to find many homes either.
Minion's Return 1
An interesting and versatile tool. This is protection for a dork of yours. It is a black take on a flicker style mechanic for double dipping EtB effects. It is a way of stealing an opponent's creature that is about to die. While somewhat versatile it is both overly situational and rather pricey for my liking. I would only really play a card like this as an enabler and support card meaning I am using it proactively at which point it looks shocking next to Kaya's Ghostform. Minion's Return is interesting and playable but it will be lucky to see much action in my cubing.
Medomai's Prophecy 7.5
I love this card in almost all ways. I love the look, the feel, the design, the power weighting, just everything. Functionally this is somewhere nestled between an Ancestral Vision, a Predict and a Witching Well. All good cards that see a variety of play, in cube and in other strong formats. So, you pay two mana and for that you get a scry 2 right away, you draw two in two turns time assuming you jump through a self set hoop and then you get a little bit of bonus information. The final age of the saga may seem minor but it is relevant information and well worth having. In my cube, I think it is easily valued only a little behind scry 1. It is certainly more information. The hidden buff of the fourth age is that it gives you a nice window in which you can reset your saga with a flicker or sacrifice it for extra value. Obviously a two mana scry 2 draw 2 is amazing. The two turn delay on the draw makes it fairer but the real drawback to this is the second age. You open yourself up to getting played around or massively disrupted. You have to have access to the card and you have to play it meaning you are open to all sorts of hand and library manipulation as well as just broadcasting what you are doing. It does have some really cool applications for bluff on that front. Sometimes the two cards will be worth less than making your opponent think you have a certain card, very rarely but it will be so very cool when it works. Mostly it is just a fairly large drawback in addition to the wait. You probably want to have an idea of what you are playing on age III when you play your Prophecy two turns prior, not always and not as a certainly but having a decent option in hand will be a nice comfort. That will make it a bit awkward but then locking in your following turns play is going to be pretty gross. Holding a card to name and then to play is pretty gross too. For safety reasons it ideally wants to be something cheap and low impact like a Preordain or a Fblthp but these are things you also just want to flop out early or with any spare mana. Holding them back will hurt a bit. The real hurt will come when you have the option to play the named card and draw two or play the optimal line for whatever nastiness your opponent has levied upon you. That or playing this on an empty hand and seeing nothing but lands before you need to chose in age II, basically just a wild guess on your next draw. It is such an ethereal cost relative to most costs and such a unique card that I really just need to play with this a bunch to know better how problematic and how swingy locking yourself into plays will end up being. Even if it is bad the card will still be good, the age II drawback needs to be pretty devastating for this card to actually be bad. If it were just the delay then this card would be pretty top tier and easily see play in formats like modern and vintage.
Basically just a rejig of Faerie Duelist. They share the same floor but this affords far more impressive scaling. Singer may be the more potent card of the two but it has a rather less exciting subtype meaning it likely gets less action. Probably not super relevant as this is a little on the fair side anyway.
Alirios, Enraptured 6.5
Well isn't this just one of the most elegant cards. Lovely merging of design and flavour. I think it is also potentially quite good. Blue loves this kind of thing. Whirler Rogue and Mesmerizing Benthid are two of blues best performing creatures in my cube. Aliros is a little bit Blade Splicer and a little bit Kitchen Finks. It is worse tempo than both as it neither offers up two relevant bodies right away nor lifegain. Alirios does however pack an impressive 10 total stats for your three mana, more than either, while also being a stickier sort of card. Alirios has nice synergy with flicker and bounce that you might have. Even untap effects! It will take a lot of resources to fully deal with while costing you very little. That is the essence of why all these kinds of cards do so well in cube. You get to pull ahead on tempo but leave yourself relatively secure to most kinds of removal effect. Aggro decks will get two for one'd by Alirios, well most decks will. That is why it is good! Lots of stats, low cost, and high chance of gaining tempo and/or card advantage. Blue often plays things like Sea Gate Oracle just as a means of stalling getting beaten up. Alirios seems to do that job a bit better. Alirios does struggle to perform in a list with many changelings in it! He is a little slow overall too, like he is good against removal but it still gives a window in which you can get past him.
Phalanx Tactics 1
This has a tiny chance of seeing play in some kind of heroic / Feather the Redeemed list as it targets. Mostly that will be a drawback as it makes it easy to disrupt but still. Charge is a much more mana efficient version of this effect and will be preferred over this in almost all other cases.
Treacherous Blessing 3
Very powerful indeed. A long way better than Painful Truths I would say. I prefer Blessing to Read the Bones too but Blessing probably isn't more generally playable and thus shouldn't be taking away Reads the Bones's cube spot. Still, this is 3 cards for three mana with no upfront life cost. That is a very impressive rate. This then also has some additional perks being an enchantment. Broadly these will all by synergy perks and will not apply much in a general cube setting. You might get some extra value when you eat an overloaded Cycling Rift... What holds this back is that you either need to play it in a deck that doesn't plan on going long or in a deck with ways to easily remove it from play and this makes it too narrow.
Ashiok's Erasure 2
This seems terrifying for constructed where it is a Meddling Mage on a Counterspell! This will crush some decks brutally. Luckily it is a four mana card and so will not be all that easily abused. In cube it is still somewhat viable just because it is an enchantment. Mystic Snake still gets some action when people want to abuse those kinds of thing. Erasure is not a lock card in quite the same way as Snake as you give the cards back if you bounce it. It is however just an enchantment so you can easily be reducing its cost, having it beat as a 4/4, drawing extra cards with it, etc etc. So yes, in cube this will be a very niche, and very small player indeed. In standard however it just seems like it will be meta warping. Certain decks just won't be able to beat this effect and it will force a degree of speed and redundancy into decks. Obviously only if a viable deck than can play this is in the format.
Labyrinth of Skophos 2
The effect is good but at 5 total mana to use it seems rather too slow. Mystifying Maze is certainly worse but it has seen a total of zero play. There are some nuances to how this works compared to alternatives. It is better as an offensive card but again, a tiny improvement on unplayed cards is no real win. It just costs too much to gain the effect. It will hurt you more often and more severely early in the game than it helps you late. Play a basic land. Or, if you must, play a land with a cheap activation cost like Rishadan Port or Mishra's Factory.
Dalakos, Crafter of Wonders 1
Renown Weaponsmith but bigger! For your extra red mana you get +1/+1 stats on your mana dork which isn't a very big win. In an unpowered cube, in an artifact deck, you can do a lot lot better than a 3 mana, gold, summoning sick source of two colourless. Where Dalakos might get some love is in an equipment deck where his passive is really rather impressive. Shuko does a lot for you at negligible cost while Dalakos is in play. Sadly I can't really think of a deck that this sort of thing would fit in. Equipment is much more whites thing. I can see it working out in things like EDH and I can see it getting tried in 40 card singleton lists but I fear it will never do all that well in the latter. Too janky.
The Akroan War 2
Well there is a lot going on here. Is it a Control Magic, is it Disrupt Decorum, or a Solar Blaze? The answer is all three and none of the above! It pretty much does do all three things but the way it does them makes it rather unlike any of them. The Control Magic is right away and similar in that regard, it is also undone if War leaves play making it comparably disruptable to Control Magic. It only lasts for a couple of turns however meaning you are getting one attack in most cases. In that regard it is more like a Threaten. You are also encouraged to not attack with the stolen dork based on how the rest of the card works. The final phase will be hard to use to kill off the stolen creature, it needs to have a tap ability and power greater than or equal to toughness otherwise it will just untap before the third age on the saga and return to the opponent undamaged. Ideally you want to sit back on your attack with it and block the "goaded" creatures of your opponent. Ideally those that have vigilance or that have higher toughness than power, or just those that kill off the creature you stole! So ultimately this card is like a very slow one sided Wrath, except it misses a lot of their creatures too. In the right setting this could be devastating but often it will be fairly minor. It takes so long to act that it is easily played around. It is also pretty situational to begin with. I do like this card. I suspect it is beyond fiddly and not something any cube decks really want but I also plan to test it being unique and interesting.