Wednesday 15 April 2020

Ikoria, Lair of Behemoths Preliminary Review Part IX

Eerie Ultimatum 3

Everything back you say? Sounds lovely. Like Patriarch's Bidding but for everything! If you can make a nice way of milling yourself and ramping hard then this is a fine way to finish a game. It can just be a big tempo and value swing late in any grindy game. Mostly this is too narrow and expensive for use but the power is absolutely there. If you are building around a card like this you may as well instead build around the Bidding or a Living Death. I think I might still test this out. It might be good enough that you can build and play differently as a result and that might make it worthy. Improbable but it would be nice to have a reason that isn't Lingering Souls to be in Abzan. One of the least common possible colour combinations you can be in the cube presently. Five years ago it was one of the best...

Song of Creation 1

This does a whole lot of things. Lots and lots of draw. A bit of ramp. A big chunk of filling up the bin too. What are we doing with this mad card then? Seems strong in most aggressive decks but then perhaps this is too strong and like Necropotence can life lock you this will library lock you in 40 card decks way too fast. If all your deck is one drops and 25% land other than this then you flop it on t4 and play spells for the rest of the game you deck yourself well before you are finished doing stuff on turn six. In a deck with pricier spells then you are just filling up your hand and ditching most of your gas. The other issue with Song is when you just peel a land the turn after making it and just do nothing. It is like an extreme Experimental Frenzy. You really need reliable reshuffle effects and something like a Sylvan Library or Divining Top so as to ensure you don't wiff a turn. Basically this seems utter garbage. So much work to have it do anything and most of the time it does it backfires. I feel like this is probably just a combo card. Turbo Oracle in vintage/legacy? Very low land count, all the rituals and fast mana. Find and play this, draw your whole deck while making mana and win with the Oracle. Seems like it might be a thing.

Narset of the Ancient Way 7.5

Versatile and powerful. Certainly one of the rare three colour cards I am willing to entertain properly testing. We have ramp, lifegain, draw, discard, creature and planeswalkers removal that you can scale, and an ultimate that is fairly quickly reached. Narset doesn't have absurd loyalty but it is reasonable. The ultimate isn't an hard win either, just a lot of ongoing control, value, threat etc. All told I think those are really minor effects given how much else Narset does for you. All the walkers with multiple abilities seem to perform well and Narset feels like she literally has the most different modes of utility than any other walker out there, including the various silly Bolas cards. Sure, some of Narset's effects are not amazing, it takes a long time just adding one mana back a turn before a four mana card looks worth it. Two life a turn doesn't excite either but getting them both at the same time alongside valuable loyalty making it rather better value. A -2 loyalty cost is not the most efficient way to set about drawing cards but you do also get the free option to spend a card to kill something! Just so much utility. Walkers that can kill walkers are scary cards in the planeswalker dominated meta of cube. This might be what really pushes this card into the top tier. This could easily be one of those gold cards that is just so powerful it drives its own rate of play. Rather than being narrow and seeing less play due to less occasion to be played Narset might just entice people into splashing an extra colour a bunch. That was absolutely the case for Seige Rhino five years back. It was so good it drove people to play Abzan over Golgari or any of the other pairs.

Kaheera, the Orphanguard 3

Well isn't this just the cutest little card. Obviously far too narrow for any limited setting including cube in all the ways. In a constructed deck that is one of the tribes then sure, play this and it helps these super minor tribes to be a bit better. A totally free anthem on legs for three mana might even push some of the closer ones like cats or dinosaurs into the realms of being pretty good. Sadly I think a bunch of the good dinosuar tribal cards are actually humans rather ruining that plan. Elementals tends to lean in the red direction more heavily but is still one of the better tribes of this bunch. I've never looked at nightmares. Beasts is pretty old school and has too few payoffs currently to really bother with. Still, very much a card to keep an eye on. A big boost for little tribes! In standard this seems like a bit of a bomb. You can build with a range of potent dorks and just get a massive free bonus. Aboreal Grazer? Hydriod Krasis? Risen Reef? Cavalier of Thorns? I hear these see play in standard... Perhaps this pushes some pioneer strategies too. Free card is very very good. When free card is also good things start to get a bit scary.

Drannith Healer 3

Seems redundant when you can kill people with lots of cycling, the need of life is lower. Being on a body like this also makes it something you want more in aggro which is another bad pairing from cycling and lifegain. While this seems poor the low cycling cost still gives it a very solid floor. A cycling bear is like one of the best cards in limited for consistency.

Farfinder 1

I find these colourless cards a bit weird. Unsettling. The less the better. I can see why it is being done from a design point of view, it is nice to not have to tie these kinds of effects into artifacts if you don't want to. Anyway, Pilgrim's Eye for me everyday. Skyscanner too likely. Farfinder is great for limited but it is not a cube card. Not bad just not exciting and others that are better.

Ruinous Ultimatum 3

Well this is going to be a thing in EDH, probably a common and unpopular thing. Simple and effective. Just damn expensive and made narrow by the coloured requirements. This will see play in a bunch of places but cube limited probably isn't one of those, certainly not mine. Mardu decks don't go to seven mana. As with the Abzan one, I think I will try this just on the off chance that it sparks a new archetype into being. Can't see blue decks having any difficulty against such things though.

Zirda, the Dawnwaker 4

Isn't this stupid? Can you not simply play this with Grim and Basalt Monoliths and make infinite mana? A one card combo is now a thing?! I guess you still need to win with your infinite mana but that has rarely been a problem. Short of abuses in the more eternal formats I am not sure this is all that playable. Feels like it is hard to do in limited, even cube limited. I'm not sure how excited I am by this in a constructed setting where it is just dorks and fairer magic. Pretty odd card all told. It even has an activated ability of its own which is fairly irrelevant I feel to the rating. Like, it makes the card a bit better but it does so in the way the card seems like it is not going to be much use.

Offspring's Revenge 3

This is quite like a God Pharaoh's Gift. It also feels a bit Assemble the Legion. Cheaper to get out than Gift but far less significant of a stats boost to the board. Also in way more colours making it rather narrower. Still I can see this working as a build around quite nicely. A lot of cards win the game pretty hard regardless of size. This can go pure combo, midrange value, or somewhere in between. Beyond those three styles of build around though I don't expect to see much of this in cube. Powerful but very narrow.

Necropanther 0

This is just too fair and clunky and narrow to be worth a cube slot. Closer than a lot of these bad mutate cards however. Not saying a whole lot.

Of One Mind 6.5

I saw this and instantly thought Thoughcast. This is less abusive as creatures in play is a much fairer way to play than lots of artifacts on the whole. None the less, it is rather easier to turn on that Thoughtcast in conventional and limited settings. It is also a much more acceptable floor. If you expect to be at all able to get two dorks into play then this should be great. Draw two for one is really outstanding. A card I will play in every kind of deck. Blade Splicer and Whirler Rogue just got a little better. Ophiomancer does the trick too. You want 50% of your casts to be for one mana for this to be great and it feels like not all decks will be able to do that consistently but it should be pretty easy to setup and draft towards to increase that percentage. It is rare that you will play this much before turn 3, usually later. That is fine, you want your draw as you run out of gas. Treasure Cruise is hardly marked down for this! Much as this is hopefully a one mana spell it is not a one drop.

Fire Prophecy 7

A nice, clean and safe removal spell with outstanding card quality thrown in. This is very much an Abrade sort of card. It is the preserve more of the midrange and control red decks. It is still powerful enough that the aggro ones will often play as well. Not going face is a shame but in most cubes creatures are sufficiently prevalent that you are fine with that limitation on your burn. I rate this well above Magma Jet. The damage efficiency is greater and that is the main thing. At two mana two damage is just not quite enough card or tempo. You need a big stompy 4/3 giant to follow it with to make it enough! A rummage to the bottom of your deck has some nice utility and will help improve some Polymorph style plans. It is also decently better than scry two. It affects your actual hand. Turning a dud into a draw is amazing. Having that new card in hand right away is also going to be useful a lot of the time. You don't have to wait a turn to get any returns on your card quality effect. I expect this to stick in cube and get a good amount of action. It is very efficient and has desirable effects in most situations. It is also a massive out for when you draw your Polymorph effect targets which seems increasingly more relevant.

Skycat Sovereign 1

Not terrible but super narrow and rather win more. Not sure I need this in a 40 card fliers theme deck, there are just so many good and cheap options I like more.

Flame Spill 2

This is an un-card! Much as I like this card it likely just isn't good enough for cube these days. Three is a lot of mana for burn spells, even reasonably efficient ones. This is never more than four damage. It can never hit walkers, it can't be more than three to the face, it is dead without something it can target. That last one is the killer. You are either playing a Char if you want a big all round 3 mana burn spell, a Searing Blaze if you want efficient damage all over at the limitation of needing a creature target, a Lava Coil style card if you want a four toughness dork dead, or just a Searing Spear if you want a decent burn spell. This is too clumsy and costly. Great card though.

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