Sunday, 26 April 2020
Otrimi, the Ever-Playful 3
A nice take on mutate in that you use it to accelerate it out and give it haste for the combat trigger. Most mutate creatures you mutate out for the trigger at increased cost. A great card for a themed constructed deck, commander or otherwise, but too big, gold, and narrow for drafting with. The power level is certainly there, even without cards to return. A 6/6 trample with pseudo haste is a serious thing. Having to lose a dork isn't ideal but it can sometimes be turned into an upside as well as seen with the spike in price of Cephalid Constable!
Jirina Kudro 3
While this is a Hill Giant when not in a commander game a +2 attack lord is not to be sniffed at. This can absolutely end a game out of nowhere. So much so that I suspect I would play this in tribal human decks that support the mana. Most of those I build in cube do not but that is because I only lightly support the tribe in the drafting cube. In constructed singleton events humans is typically more colours and likely can pack this with ease if they are so inclined. Another card full of power and potential but suitably narrow to keep it out of most places.
Kalamax, the Stormsire 1
Not really a cube card. Too gold, too expensive, and far far too conditional. You need this to be in play and be tapped and cast another spell in order to get the Fork effect going. Likely a good fun commander however.
Kathril, Aspect Warper 4
Potentially both very big and very scary. It does not take many keywords before this thing is terrifying. A hexproof doublestriking indestructible lifelinking flying trampling 9/9? For five mana? Yes please. It is not even that hard to setup. You can also gain immediate value by buffing up some dorks in play. Minor but still relevant. Still too gold and narrow for the drafting cube but powerful enough with sufficient redundancies and support that I can see it being a decent build around in singleton decks, big and small.
Gavi, Nest Warden 5
Likely the most abusive of the facing commander cards. Mostly the result of the big effect on the decree cycle of cards but Gavi is still decent just with cheaper and more conventional cycling cards. She makes a free 2/2 the turn you make her, perhaps on in your opponents turn too. I can see Gavi making it into most of the various cycling deck builds there are out there. Too narrow for draft cube but great as soon as you can build around to any degree.
Nesting Grounds 3
A nice little utility card that can slot into a lot of decks. This is especially good to use with -1/-1 counters as you can move them onto opponents stuff despite having to start life on one of your own dorks. What makes this good is that it is refreshingly cheap to activate which is somewhat of a rarity on utility lands. While this is decently playable I suspect it will still see relatively little play as it still competes with all the other colourless lands for the few slots you can allow colourless land in most decks. Very likely too situational for the drafting cube. You just get more value out of a Mutavault in a meta so dominated by planeswalkers. I do like the danger this presents when used with walkers as you can potentially sneak a walker up to their ultimate using this without opponents expecting it.
Tayam, Luminous Enigma 0
Ultimately this seems like a Hill Giant. Sure, if it lives and you get to use it there is some value and utility on offer but this is a four mana 3/3 most of the time in a heads up setting at cube power level. I wouldn't entertain this if it were one colour and not three!
Netherborn Altar 0
This does nothing outside of commander but I expect this to be one of those cards that shoots up in value quickly as it winds up a staple in many a list. It is the Dockyard Extortionist of this set although not quite as busted. Pick them up soon before they shoot up in value and never come back down.
Boneyard Mycodrax 1
I love the design on this card, it is clean and interesting. A nice pairing of mechanics. It is however too fair for cube. Needed some evasion or reduced costs to have a shot. The floor of a three mana 0/0 is a low places to have to climb from.
I will actually test this. Much as a 6 mana 5/5 is a bad floor it is not as bad as say a 3 mana 2/2 would be. At least a 5/5 flier is a proper threat. Still, pretty weak. It is all about the flier for 5 that steals a card and probably attacks that turn as well. Card stealing is really strong in cube and if this was an EtB rather than a mutate it would be a lock in. As it is I expect it to mostly just be weak as you often will not always want or be able to mutate away another dork. Worth a test if nothing else. Black doesn't really have any great hard hitting five drops at present either. This could just be a tasty new Thundermaw!
Sanctuary Blade 0
Cute design but all a bit over cost for use in cube. Needed to be at least one less to equip and likely another perk somewhere to make this a consideration power wise.
Molten Echoes 3
The creature type restriction likely rules this out for drafting use. Seems pretty filthy when used with the right sort of support. I very much like the idea of two Glorybringers! Even if one is just for a turn it feels like a game winning swing. I suspect you can build around this in a combo sort of way or just naturally slot it into plenty of tribal lists and have it be great. This works wonders with loads of goblins. Super tribal Purphoros. Perhaps I need to give Flameshadow Conjuring more of a test? The trigger cost is a massive nerf but it does work with all the creatures at least.
Shiny Impetus 0
Captain Lannery Storm in aura form! This has a couple of uses but it is all super so narrow, situational and low power I cannot see this getting any cube love. The decks that really want treasure do not have the targets or game plan a card like this wants.
Kelsien, the Plague 4
A lot of power packed into this Prodigal Sorcerer! I think it is only the Mardu colours making this just a bit too narrow. Power wise this is a great card. It should two for one most of the time and can often do more. Either killing more stuff over more turns or just getting in damage. You can fairly legitimately swing with this for 3 on the turn you make it having pinged off a token or one drop already. If you get to kill a card of value or perhaps clear the way to take out a planeswalker then Kelsien is really really broken. A huge value and tempo swing on top of an ongoing problem. I am talking myself into giving this a more thorough testing. Card seems almost oppressive in my somewhat midrange planewalker dominated cube.
Zaxara, the Exemplary 1
When Scrabble jumped the shark and let in proper nouns I wonder if they considered this sort of thing? Much as I can speculate on the implications for this in word games I can be more sure of where this will fit in with Magic. Seemingly a huge deal for commander where there are many infinite mana combos and hydra synergies waiting to be abused with this as your commander. At least one of those things will be powerful too. Outside of commander this has far less hope, too slow, gold, and narrow by all accounts.
Brallin, Skyshark Raider 2
Another well designed card for commander in that the unique effects offer some great deck building opportunities to commander but the power level isn't all that dangerous for other formats. Brallin can be a backup Glint-Horn Buccaneer for discard decks but he is a bit of a Hill Giant.
Shabraz, the Skyshark 0
Mostly this is just a nice way to allow Azorius colours into your red Brallin deck! The card is pretty weak in every general sense and I doubt it is getting much use when not a free Partner.
Saturday, 18 April 2020
Well this is a funny old set. Smacks more of an "Un" set and a Commander set's lovechild than it does most usual releases. It has a very Ixalan feel too it aesthetically as well which is certainly at the more cartoon end of the spectrum that magic goes to. I am not averse to this, I like the variation and experimentation both in feel and in function. If this will help secure another generation or demographic of players to pick up the game then that is great. Just so long as we continue to have the historically inspired realism of some sets and the darker grittier feel of others and the wholly new and experimental ideas too then I am more than happy.
Power wise this set is interesting. There is still power creep but only in some places and senses. I would describe this set as one of the weaker ones recently put out in terms of top end power. Even so, I am now at the point where 6.5 cards are in the test bracket and only those 7/10 and above look like lock in cards for the most part. It had been sitting at 6.5 for a fair while. This change or jump is just due to the sheer volume of new cards rather than continual and linear power creep. Even terrible sets add a bit to the cube and so naturally over time the bar rises. It just so happens that this set seems to mark the point where the bar rose to 7/10. It was 5/10 when I started doing these reviews! I am sure I have significantly lowered my rating of cards as well so in practice the creep is far more than 5/10 to 7/10 suggests. Over all I suspect Ikoria will add fewer cards to the cube than most new sets.
I am not sad about low power level, I think the creep is a bit fast at present and should be curtailed so as to preserve the longevity of the game. Clever design lets you sneak cards out for older formats like modern and vintage without the need of pushing stuff to Oko levels of potency where it can affect all formats. I don't recall Paradoxical Outcome being a big deal for standard! What I am sad about is lack of diversity. With balance as good as it is in general these days combined with the sheer volume of cards we now have it all feels a bit samey. Other than the companions everything just feels like a reworked something else, or some other things mashed together. This is very obvious in the cards I expect to remain in the cube. I can refer to almost all of them as "the new X" where X is some existing card and you would likely know what I was referring to. Much as that is where danger lies I would like to see some more outside of the box cards, such things feel a little lacking of late. The wedge enchantments come the closest to such things but all are sufficiently narrow that they are not going to impact my cube world all that heavily. Ideally some of the outside of the box cards would cost less than four mana so that we could have some variation in the early game a little more.
IN (best to worst)
Lutri, the Spellchaser (assuming I don't ban it!)
Lurrus of the Dream-Den
Weaponize the Monsters
Mythos of Nethroi
To test with some expectation
Narset of the Ancient Way
Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast
Vivien, Monsters' Advocate
Vadrok, Apex of Thunder
Sea Dasher Octopus
Fight as One
Of One Mind
To test with low expectation
Boon of the Wish Giver
Snapdax, Apex of the Hunt
Chevill, Bane of Monsters
Obosh, the Preypiercer
Bastion of Remembrance
Gust of Wind
Things straight into the cube reserves for constructed only
All the remaining cards that cycle for one generic mana
Gyruda, Doom of Depths
Umori, the Collector
Call of the Death-Dweller
Mythos of Snapdax
Rielle, the Everwise
Song of Creation
Kaheera, the Orphanguard
Zirda, the Dawnwaker
Mythos of Illuna
Light of Hope
Friday, 17 April 2020
Bonder's Enclave 2
While this is power creep as far as utility lands go I am not sure it is in line with the general power creep in dorks and the importance of tempo. Four mana to draw a card is a lot. A colourless land is a big cost. I think we will continue to see improvements to utility lands as the game becomes increasingly balanced. This is too narrow for the drafting cube. You just will not often enough have that four power dork to turn this on. It is likely win more if you do. To merit playing an effect you expect not to use that often it has to be good when you do use it. This can simply not work at all. I can see it in some constructed builds. Seems great for EDH! In high power 1v1 formats though this isn't getting much love. Arch of Orazca seems a far more reliable option, as do a few others.
Springjaw Trap 2
This is a Lightning Bolt! A very expensive one. Being a one drop and an artifact with flash I can see this getting some action. The power is low but the utility and potential supporting synergy is there.
Sleeper Dart 5
This seems fantastic. Two mana artifacts that draw cards as EtB effects are lovely. Those with the ability to sac themselves for free are handy too. This has one of the more relevant effects I have seen on this kind of support card. I will give this a little test because it could well sneak into the cube, all be it probably not. Just nice and convenient even if it is relatively low power.
Yorion, Sky Nomad 2
Well this is pretty bad. Twenty cards over minimum deck size is very bad, especially in 40 card decks. It makes your deck more than 50% worse. Your payoff? A flying donk and a one off flicker. Flicker might be some value, it might even be a lot of value in a narrow deck. A free flying dork is nice but you can do that already in loads of better ways like Cavalier of the Gales. This should see some use as it is fun but it is also pretty bad. One of these many cards that high ceiling and seemingly acceptable floors give the impression of a good average. In practice the average will be very close to the floor.
Titan's Nest 4
Well this screams danger but design looks to have been fairly careful. I thought I could perhaps abuse it with multikicker effects but it seems as if that is well covered by no X spells and only colourless mana. Still. this is a Search for Azcanta for card quality and gives most of your spells delve. That is an all round reasonable deal. A tall order to get into play but still. Once there affording a lot of power and options. Hard to use really well in 40 card decks as it can reduce that much less overall stuff and has to be rather quicker about doing so. You really want lots of self mill and lots of payoff cards that are big and get a nice reduction potential from the Nest. This makes it all sound like way too much effort for limited settings. None the less, a card with a lot of potential.
Genesis Ultimatum 1
Not impressed. Too much coloured mana in too many colours with too big of a random component. Sure, a draw five cards floor is no bad thing but it is a whole lot of work to go to for like a couple of land and a man dork in play and a couple of random spells in hand. You can play things like Genesis Wave or good and reliable cards like Primeval Titan. Not sure why you would play this other than for the kicks.
Survivor's Bond 2
Too narrow for the drafting cube but a fairly cheap and neat two for one in the right place.
Sudden Spinnerets 1
The best of a large group of cards, all of which see no play!
Ram Through 2
Instant speed Rabid Bite with a bit of upside if you have trample. I am pretty wary of green fight cards and those like them, such as this. They keep getting a little bit better and still keep missing the mark. This is cheap, it is instant, it is a little better than a fight mostly, but I still expect it not to be quite enough pull to actually get any worthwhile play.
Excavation Mole 0
Too expensive and vanilla and fair to be worth playing as a support card. If you want to mill then play a better mill card, don't play this.
Raking Claws 3
Not quite enough in the way of high power dorks to abuse the doublestrike in cube. Anax seems like one of the best targets. Cycling is a lovely perk. It makes it something you can consider playing in a general sense. It is just a nice combat trick come damage effect. In decks wanting this effect Temur Battlerage is preferable as it gives trample most of the time. In a world with Embercleave this shouldn't really get a look in in the general sense so it probably doesn't get much action.
Suffocating Fumes 6.5
Loving how the commons are powering up. This is a pretty neat card. It is instant which is a really big pull for a mass removal effect. It is the main thing it has over the likes of Plague Mare. Cycling is also a great addition to a situational effect, especially as it is one that can scale up really effectively. This has got some potential in my cube. The only issue it has is that all the Chainwhirlers, Wrenn and Six, Plague Engineers and Mares have really calmed down the number of 1 toughness dorks you expect to encounter. The meta has changed such that it is a little safer against this kind of counterplay. Still, this is also one sided and can be used as a combat trick reasonably well too. Relatively splashable compared to the others as well.
Serrated Scorpion 1
Feels like this is the win condition to some recursion and sac loop somewhere. Not good anywhere else though.
Memory Leak 6
I "asked" for one of these before as well although I had the cycling be pricey and the front end be cheap. All told this version is still probably fine in the right place. Exile makes this quite scary for a lot of combo and engine decks too. Doomfall is feared and sees a reasonable amount of action. This is a better hand disruption tool and a less clunky card meaning it should be tested. I somewhat expect it to fail as it is a bit limited and low powered but it is decent. Quite the upgrade on a Coercion.
Hunted Nightmare 2
A 4/5 menace for 3 mana is probably enough power to carry a "just a dork" card in cube. Sadly giving away deathtouch is a pretty big deal some of the time. Even if more of the time it does nothing or is easy to play around you just can risk having your generic beaters being liabilities. With cards like this not quite there is basically as good as unplayable so much as this is likely just a 5/10 rating in terms of relative power it is a 1/10 on playability.
Durable Coilbug 1
Cute recursive common but just a bit pricey on that utility and a little low powered on the front end.
Boot Nipper 1
Love this card, it is rather close to being viable. Both abilities have strong utility and scale well in the right setting. Sadly the card is just too low power. Would be interesting to see if a 2/3 version of this could make it.
Startling Development 4
Blue least needs cheap cyclers but they still are not bad. Does blue want this effect however even at very minor opportunity cost? In drafting cube I am going with not. Too situational and narrow even if quite useful and low opportunity cost.
Mythos of Illuna 3
This is pretty interesting, not really for the fight element but the any permanent part. A couple of Clone effects hit a couple of types but this is all of them. You can make a land! Not as bad as it sounds in blue! Certainly the type that matters least if made as a token. That is the real downside of Mythos. Is being able to target a few more things worth the change to token? On a creature it is dodgy but most other things it is more OK for. The thing is this most of the time you are copying a creature. I have never much liked Clones so this isn't something I am going to bother testing. It is a nice tool to have out there. I suspect I will play it somewhere. I suspect lots of people who do love a clone will play this in lots of places.
Gust of Wind 6
Not reliable enough for cube I think although having said that the floor on this is not all that bad. You probably fall behind using this at four mana as most things four mana and over do something right away of note. Bouncing things of less cost means you are losing tempo. Still, at two mana this is a fantastic rate. A retrospective Remand. Even at sorcery two mana cantrip Disperse is comparable to Remand and just a really good card. I don't even hate it at three mana. That means if you can have a flier out for this just half of the time it is pretty decent. Certainly I will be playing this in any constructed deck rich in fliers. I don't think it is there for my drafting cube, even with the prevalence of 3/1 flash fliers and thopter/spirit token generators. Very impressive common though.
Frostviel Ambush 2
They really have printed a lot of cyclers for 1 mana and they really have made sure to make the spell part underwhelming and inefficient. This being one of the weakest on offer. You can basically get this effect for two mana... 250% the price for something just because it has cycling and yet the card is still playable. Once in a blue moon it will win you the game and the cost of inclusion is minimal. I am only ever playing this to abuse cycling for 1 but still. Impressive how bad you can make things and have them be playable with this cycling gimmick.
Aegis Turtle 3
Well High Alert decks like this a whole lot. This is a lot of one drop when acting as a 5/5 but in all other settings it is a bit of a do nothing. You can do better for walls generally speaking. Never rule out those one drops tho, they find their uses. This is clean and does a thing better than other cards. It will find the odd home outside of High Alert I am sure.
Solid Footing 1
Hmm, probably not something you play in a Doran or High Alert deck. Just doing one dork isn't really enough. Especially with the vigilance clause too. Cute persistent combat trick but not really enough without rather more synergies on the go.
Light of Hope 6
Wow, this does a lot for very little. Absolutely this will find loads of homes. It is mana efficient, space efficient, option dense, and all manner of other good things. What it is not is probably worth a card in a general cube sense. You have to get a card out of this either by killing an enchantment, countering a removal spell or killing/saving a creature in combat. I guess it counts if it buys you another turn of being alive as well. This sounds like a lot of things and it is but none of them are common. A rule for modal cards is that they have one mode that is always fine and mostly applicable. Light of Hope doesn't quite have that. The counter is probably something you can have active enough of the time but just grown a dork is not at all worth it. Half a Gird for Battle? Nope.
Imposing Vantasaur 1
OK, this is the least useful card with cycling 1, still playable as with all the others. Just very very low power.
Thursday, 16 April 2020
Regal Leosaur 0
Pants. Play a buff or play a dork. You can even play things that are both if you really want and still find a chunk of cards superior to this. This card has a poor floor and a situational and underwhelming ceiling.
Whirlwind of Thought 4
This seems like it is going to offer all the card advantage you ever need. It seems like it could be good in control, combo and even just heavy burn decks. Combo certainly the obvious abuse and as such it should have several options to build about it. Rituals? Free cards? In cube I fear burn and combo are a bit narrow and for 40 card decks I think this is too much draw for control. You will often kill yourself trying to stabilize. You might well not be able to play this too late in the game. Still, a generally much easier to use version of the Temur offering in this cycle. This will be very good in a number of places.
The big flash payoff card. Too vulnerable to be a good build around and not enough other payoff cards to offset that. The flash archetype will have to wait a little before it is a thing in singleton. This is still very powerful. Just one trigger is easy to pull off in a flash heavy deck and at that you have a card that has already done good work that needs killing urgently else it will dominate the game. Potent in the right place but narrow enough that such places probably don't yet exist.
Snare Tactician 0
Not a thing for cube but not to be underrated. This is going to be brutal in limited and might even make it into the Boros cycling deck if the meta is mostly midrange stuff.
Inspired Ultimatum 6
Well this makes the old Sphinx's Revelation look limp. At seven mana this is one card, one life and 5 damage more. Mmm. It is however sorcery and substantially harder to cast. So much so that I don't see it getting there in cube. It is pretty close though, this really is a mighty card. It does such direct things with the key resources too making it pretty universally playable and powerful.
Unpredictable Cyclone 4
Not easy to cheat things out with, you pretty much need exclusively big cycling dorks to hit a big dork with this. The good dorks to cheat out don't have cycling. The thing is you likely don't need any of that. When you get to pay like one or two mana and draw a card to flop out an instant speed dork it can be pretty mediocre. Just a pile of 4/4 and 5/5 dorks each turn will steal a game very quickly. This is card and mana advantage quickly and easily. It even cycles away itself for when a five mana do nothing enchantment isn't what you need! Too narrow for limited cubes but sufficiently strong that you can build around it in a number of formats. It makes me think of Fires of Invention, not at all in how it works but in how it will change a game. Once this is out expect the game to be dictated by it and feel very unfair!
Winota, Joiner of Forces 2
This is a lot of card but I fear it takes a little too much setup. For this to really shine you need a non-human ready to attack on the turn you make this. That way it is able to gain value and tempo right away rather than just being a 4/4 do nothing dork that dies right away! Basically having the density of dorks you need to assure a non-human attacker consistently plus a human in the top 6 of your deck just feels like a big ask for what this does. Sure, when it works it is a lot of free value and tempo, but when it doesn't it is pretty weak. You need a really high dork count and a fairly good balance of the types, say a third to a half non-humans and two thirds to a half humans. This might be right in some constructed builds but drafting towards that, in a Boros aggro deck I might add, seems pretty garbage.
Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy 6
A Leyline of Abundance on legs. One that works with mana rocks and has a powerful mana sink option rather than a two mana effect for eight mana as per Leyline! This is very powerful and can have an Ulamog in play turn three in pioneer pretty easily. It is also somewhat specific and needs you to have a high number of non-land mana sources for it to do all that much. Ideally also some fairly good things to hit with the activated ability. That might well make it too narrow for cube. Green is all about those mana dorks though so perhaps you generally will have enough to have this be a consideration. One to test, gut says it won't last in drafting cubes but not for lack of power. I can see it being a real deal in pioneer and in EDH, perhaps even modern.
Easy Prey 5
Pretty sure cards like this have been on my wishlist for ages. Black disruption always felt like it needed cycling more than most other kinds. Sadly, now that we finally get it I am not sure it is powerful enough. The bar has just risen so much in cube. Cards need to just be really powerful and really consistent. This is neither of those things really. It isn't consistent removal, high tempo removal, or broad removal. You will use this and gain little to no advantage or cycle it and fall behind in tempo. Sure, it is nice to have these options but I would generally just rather play a hard removal card that kills all creatures and walkers for a little more mana. Black just doesn't seem to run removal that only hits dorks anymore unless it is one mana and even then, far less than the various Hero's Downfall options. I will give this a quick test to be sure but I fear it is not lasting.
I like the idea of a 3/4 pinger with potential haste. That sounds great. It just always comes back to needing that sacrificial dork to mutate onto and it makes the card situational and rubbish.
Triome Cycle 8
These are not so much good as they are just really really playable. Incredibly space efficient dual lands for a format like cube. These are basically a lock in. The only choice is if I just replace the Amonkhet bicyling lands with these or have both in. Certainly there is a nice balance of having both with each colour pair getting two supporting cards but it might just be a bit too mamy CiPT lands for my cube. As the power and tempo of cube continues to rise the viability of playing CiTP lands drops and I am increasingly finding fewer CiTP lands run in lists across the board. What makes these so appealing to a meta that is conservative on total cards is that they are just three dual lands in one. You can legitimately play these as duals for two colour decks and that is why they are that much better than the Amonkhet offerings. These are potentially still better fixing in two colour decks than the Amonkhet ones too as sac lands can more readily find them. This will be more relevant for the decks with more than two colours but still. Let us address the only aspect in which they are worse than the bicycling lands which is the steeper cycling cost. It is worse but it is not a disaster by any means. Firstly, you mostly want to have them as lands. If you didn't you would be playing a card instead, possibly just some cantrip, but you would incorporate it into a spell rather than a land. If the cycling mode is the backup it matters less what the cost is. Secondly, you tend to cycle lands when you have too many which usually means mana is usually not the resource you are tight on.
With these being fetchable lands you are also afforded a lot of options as to when you bring them into play. This means it is quite easy to be mana efficient and sneak these cards into play when you are not needing all your mana in a turn. By doing this you decently reduce the average on the number of times these lands CiPT negatively affects you. These lands are far from broken. They are easily the lowest power of the duals on offer in most cubes in that they always come in tapped and have the lowest upside for doing so. Typically these are competing with man lands (huge upside), scry lands (minor upside but that you get as well as the land not instead of), or bounce lands (you get effective card advantage but at increased risk). These are good because of convenience. Really nice to have some redundancy in enemy coloured fetches too. So yeah, convenient on space. Convenient for fixing, and for fine tuning land balances. A most welcome addition.