Monday 18 May 2020

Commander 2020 (Ikoria) Preliminary Reviews Part IV

Cartographer's Hawk 5

Interesting card. Probably most akin to Knight of the White Orchid but inverted somewhat. This has the perks of being able to make it regardless of game state and develop the board without forgoing potential value. On the flip side you have to wait to get value and you give you opponent a window to disrupt your plan. There is also the bounce effect which is a bit of a tempo cost. It does let you reuse the Hawk to get another land but there are rather diminishing returns on this both in likelihood and utility. All told I think this card is probably just a bit fair for cube. Most of the time it will just be a Stormfront Pegasus. The return to hand isn't even optional so the few occasions you want the threat in play more than the land it will be sad. One toughness two drops have to be pretty special these days and the Hawk doesn't feel that way. There are much better white ways to find lands and much better threats. This does both things below par leading to a below par card overall. Shame though, I like the idea of the card and would like to play with something like it. Perhaps as a 1/3 flyer and another key word like first strike, vigilance or lifelink? Then I think it would have been strong enough for cube, perhaps even a bit above par.

Xyris, the Writhing Storm 4

A very silly card indeed but not lacking in power. Giving away cards to your opponent isn't great but when you are drawing them too and with first use on them and having an army of snakes and a big flyer then you are probably pretty happy about it overall. A risky and polar card that seems to have a strong enough average. The things that I expect to actually rule this card out of contention are being three colours and being a five drop with too little immediate impact on the game. If it lives and connects it should go on to win most games.

Capricopian 0

This just does nothing at all really in a 2 player game other than be an Ivy Elemental.

Call the Coppercoats 1

This is narrow, situational and boring in a 1v1 game. Cards that need opponents to fulfil certain conditions to be of use are generally bad and rarely do better than sideboard slots.

Tidal Barracuda 1

Well this is an interesting littly fishy. Lack of flash itself on top of poor body do ruin this a bit. Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir is a much more powerful card with more effective disruption although he only boosts your own creatures with flash. Leyline of Anticipation is probably a better way to give all your own things flash if you are really set on that. All told this might be playable as some backup to either of those cards even if not the first choice in any setting. The Barracuda only disrupts instant speed cards really, it is a buff to all the sorcery speed ones your opponent has. While not super relevant it will come up. That now instant speed Chupacabra is a lot harder to play round when you need to double block something for example. Overall this is a low powered and narrow card but it is unique which will help its chances somewhat. Cool design for multiplayer too.

Yannik and Nikara 1

One of the better partner options in this series but still not really there. Nikara is narrow and vulnerable. There are multiple better ways you can convert dorks into cards. Yannik is more powerful but still situational. It might have a decent ceiling the average performance is going to impress a whole lot less. Nice options for EDH build around themes but unlikely to make any waves in any cubes. Best I can really offer is Yannik in flicker builds but it just seems so win more.

Fireflux Squad 6.5

This isn't actually awful with a 4/3 haste floor propping it up relatively well. It is then pretty good in most decks in my normal cube. There are loads of tokens and loads of EtB effects. If you are just tossing away a Rabblemaster token and finding a Pia Nalaar with it then you are very happy with that outcome. Suffice it to say that the example given is closer to the floor than the ceiling too! Certainly this is a very random card that can randomly win you games when you flip Inferno Titan or Atarka but it does have a strong build element that determines how good the all important average is. Certainly the power is there with this card for it to have a fine shot in the cube. I don't love the card due to being so random but I also don't hate it either. The card has it's merits and intrigues.

Lavabrink Floodgates 3

Mostly a big mana rock in heads up. Not terrible at that but rather narrow being both big and red. What I like most about it is that it can cost 3 off the back of a Ruby Medallion. That seems saucy. Also cool that it can be used with proliferate to some extent for the other functionality in heads up.

Herald of the Forgotten 1

Hard to abuse and hard to cast. Couple that with the narrowness of having to power this up with cyclers and you have a card that isn't really for cube. A great tool in cycling EDH decks where the potential ceiling is mental.

Dismantling Wave 0

Both modes are wildly over priced for heads up play. There are better cards in all shapes and sizes to keep this well out of contention.

Crystalline Resonance 1

This is a very cute and flexible card. It is probably just too varied, aimless and too narrow to get much action in cube but it is a fun one. That alone might get it some attention.

Twinning Staff 1

Expensive to do anything with this and incredibly narrow when just working off the passive. Not many cards fork things, not many situations lend to them being efficient. This is somewhat getting rating just for being unique. I can't see me ever playing this card though.

Dredge the Mire 0

Not enough reliability nor cheap enough to have a hope in cube.

Souvenir Snatcher 0

Not well costed and overly narrow. If you want to steal artifacts then play a cheaper better card to do that.

Slippery Bogbonder 4

This is pretty powerful but it is expensive and situational. Best case you save something from removal and tool it up with a bunch of stats and keywords to empower the hexproof. Worst case you have a Hill Giant with flash and hexproof. Not terrible but not very exciting. Not all that easy to put to use without some degree of focus on the deck construction. As a means of protection this is too expensive. As a means to buff it is a bit needy and awkward. The high power level of the card is dramatically reduced by these issues. It is just a hard card to use all that well.

Cryptic Trilobite 6.5

A fantastically odd little critter. These colourless non-artifact dorks still freak me out a bit. I am not sure exactly where this fits in and how you use it but as a wise old magician once said, a two mana colourless card that produces mana can't be bad. I imagine it will do a lot of activating signets, donning equipment and charging up Walking Ballista! It has that nice scaling effect of scaling both over time in play and over time out of play. It is late, it is early. It is options. You don't play this without things to spend the mana on, it is a shocking Hangerback Walker then. I don't expect you will need many things in your deck to spend the mana on however before this looks like a good include.

Surely Badgersaur 3

A mini Bone Miser. Mostly I want to abuse this with Seismic Assault. It is really all about that treasure. Growing and fighting is all ok but it isn't exciting or easily abused. Turning discards into mana however, that is all sorts of good. Being a bit expensive and vulnerable means this will not get loads of love but still, it has the capacity to do some very powerful things in the right place. I like this as a combo card. I think it is pretty decent as a synergy card in say a Burning Inquiry Goblin Lore sort of deck. I think it is very bad anywhere else!

Sunday 10 May 2020

Commander 2020 (Ikoria) Preliminary Reviews Part III

Daring Fiendbonder 4

Well this is an odd card. Not really sure what it is trying to do. A 5/1 haste is a little bit aimless. Lava Axe or a bad Edict doesn't excite. Get this out on an empty board and it does a decent amount of work in short order but that is going to be rare. Most of the time this will wind up trading down, sometimes it will get in a cheeky five somewhere first. It will also often just sit in hand being held off by a wide array of things from Mother of Runes to a firststrike dork untapped to a Lava Dart in the bin. Most of the appeal of this card as a result winds up coming from the ability to make a dork indestructible permanently and for just two mana. Powerful but fiddly to setup and a little conditional as far as effects you want in your cube decks. Probably you need some reasonable ways to get this directly in the bin without having to play it before it is any good. If you have to spend 6 mana and an attack before you can make something indestructible then it is very very bad. A two mana indestructible "aura" that can also sometimes be an Edict or Lava Axe however sounds decent. It does rather depend on what it is you are making indestructible as well. Sorcery speed and advertised also gives your opponent some chance at disrupting your attempt. Worth a test but expecting it to be a little bit fiddly and hard to use effectively even if the power is there.

Glademuse 2

This is symmetrical and green making it really hard to gain more from than your opponent. The body isn't even very good. Certainly a card you can build around, seems great in a Simic Wilderness Reclamation deck. Far too narrow for the drafting cube but a card I can see myself using now and again in brews.

Manascape Refractor 2

This seems like it should have some abuses, if only mild ones, but I can't think of any to hand. Without abuses this is just a quirky mana rock that costs you three. Cool and unusual card but presently I don't see where I would run this.

Sawtusk Demolisher 3

Poor floor but strong ceiling. Mutate this out off the back of some ramp and you have a turn three haste 6/6 trample and a Beast Within effect which can either Stone Rain your opponent in a brutal disruptive tempo swing or just toss a land of your own for that 8/8 or so stat joy! The floor isn't even that bad when you can't mutate as it does put in work as a fatty. The trample is what gives this card a chance but it almost certainly isn't making it regardless. Just a bit too clunky and situational for the overall power level of the card.

Spellpyre Phoenix 3

This is kind of two cards in one. On the one hand it is a traditional sort of red phoenix; a flying, medium sized, thematically recurring threat. This is the cycling flavour phoenix on the reborn part but it doubles up on it the theme acting like an Archaeomancer for cycling cards as well. A two for one upfront on top of the potential to reuse is a big push. Normally cycling themed cards without cycling need to be exceptional to make the cut in most cycling decks but this avoids that pitfall by reliably replacing itself with a cycler in hand. It is all a bit slow and grindy in addition to being a card you can only play in a cycling themed deck making it it narrow and not bringing anything overly diverse to the archetype. All this really brings is a slow pile of power but it does do that well. I'll certainly play this when I get a chance but that will be rare. Certainly not a game changer in any of the walks of magic!

Selective Adaptation 3

Well this is mighty powerful indeed. Not all that hard to setup and not all that hard to raw dog. This is Summoner's Trap but offers you Ancestral Recall instead of instant speed and the potential to cost nothing. In cube the average cost reduction is less than one mana (in that you cast it for zero rather less than a sixth of the time). Mostly it is about the instant speed. If you are bothering to set this up then you should't really need card draw but if you are just looking for tempo and value and are happy just to play your effect then Selective Adaptation looks to be better. It does need some building attention to maximize but not massively. The big juicy threats don't tend to skimp on keywords. This seems like it will just be a bit too top end and luxury to make it in my drafting cube but I can see the card impressing when built with in a selection of ways.

Pako and Haldan 0

Unplayable without each other and still low powered when combined. Cool conceptually but weak mechanically.

Akim, the Soaring Wind 1

High cost for just an OK body which fails to do anything when you make it, or indeed at all without subsequent token generation. For which the payoff isn't even that great. Just play Emeria Angel? The activated ability is nice but mostly your small tokens are getting a minor buff from this and it is all rather win more. Make a five drop, have it live, then make some tokens from something else all sounds like a line of play that is winning regardless of the five drop used so perhaps best to use on that has a less shit floor.

Trynn and Silvar 1

A bad white Rabblemaster and a bad Falkenrath Aristocrat... both decent cards but both underpowered and outclassed in cube.

Friday 1 May 2020

Commander 2020 (Ikoria) Preliminary Reviews Part II

Ethereal Forager 8

A little narrow but not nearly enough to stop this being a cube bomb. Most blue decks are all about the instants and sorceries. Normal blue decks fully delving this should expect a couple of hits, dedicated ones could expect more. The body and indeed floor of this card is fine. A 3/3 flier for two mana is great. Somewhat of a blue Serra Avenger. Broadly better as you can expect to play this turn two when using cards like Mental Note and Thoughtscour. Just a sac land, Bauble or Git Probe on top of that and you are away. A cheap 3/3 flyer just does reasonable work. It is a safe play you can be defensive with or use to close out a game. Such things offer great planeswalker control which is a big deal in cube play and this is just the floor. The ceiling on the Forager is pretty insane. If you get 1 card back you are have got an insane two for one. Get back two or more cards and I cannot imagine many loses from that point happening. A bit like a Krenko in that regard. I think this will be all too common as well. Playing this with counter backup ensures an attack most of the time and that can probably get you back more counter magic which in turn secures more attacks! Impressive floor, top tier ceiling. Potentially an oppressively powerful card. Certainly the real standout from the set for cube play.

Ravenous Gigantotherium 0

Another card design someone let one of their young children name. Green has a bunch of cards that do some EtB fight affair now and while many are good, this is not. It is just too far up the curve for what it does and when you want that. At this kind of cost we are looking to close a game rather than deal with problems. This doesn't even always do it that well, you need a bunch of dorks you are happy to lose. Play an Avernger of Zendikar if you want to win. Play a Hornet Queen if you want to stabilize. Play a Voracious Hydra if you want creature control. Play almost anything else if you want a sac outlet!

Nascent Metamorph 3

This is way to random for general use but it could be really strong sideboard tech against decks trying to cheat in big things. Two mana Emrakul? Sounds really good thanks.

Decoy Gambit 0

In heads up play this is one of the worst cards I have seen in a while. It is a three mana cycle or an Unsummon as your opponent chooses. Ouch.

Cazur, Ruthless Stalker 0

A lot of Hill Giants coming out in Ikoria. At least this one has some reasonable chance of immediate impact on the board. In cube play however this evasive wide weenie plan isn't really the thing. Other colours are more into that and even then I doubt Cazur would get action. Just needs too much support to get the value with too low of a floor.

Ukkima, the Stalking Shadow 1

I'm sure there are cute ways to pump this and sac it and get a big finishing blow but it sounds like it is probably rather fiddly. Good commander potential with little, but not nothing, outside of that.

Eon Frolicker 0

I'm not sure you can really use this in heads up play. Even if you can't be attacked or affected by much giving up a whole turn is extreme. That is a card and a pile of mana. Late game it is dangerous, midgame it feels like complete suicide. I cannot think of any abuses for this. Play it with Ugin's Nexus? Even then the payoff is just a slightly overstatted dork and a bad Teferi's Protection? Cool card for sure but potentially a bit busted for multiplayer and a bit useless otherwise.

Deadly Tempest 1

Much as this is a reprint it is a card that I disregarded five years ago and have since somewhat forgotten. I don't think we are there yet but slower Wraths are becoming more acceptable and the blowout potential for this against token decks is pretty huge. That said, black already has pretty good cards for blowing those out. Not expecting this to make any waves nor do anything at all for a while but it does look a lot better than it did.

Bonder's Ornament 2

 A bit slow and fair but not the worst card by any means. Ramp and draw in one package is a great deal for control decks.

Martial Impetus 1

An aura Anthem effect. Much worse than an anthem as it needs a dork, is vulnerable, and is only active when you attack. I can't imagine a deck where I want both auras and anthems. This looks passable if you do but will that ever be a thing?

Verge Raiders 7

This seems decent. The white Courser of Kruphix. It has a bit better body and gives away no information but it does need you to be behind on lands and offers no life gain. All told I think it winds up comparable in power to Courser but a little less useful and abusive due to the nature of how the colours play out their strategies. This is just an OK value card aggro white decks will play. It will help curve to 4 on lighter land counts and that is great for the game. It is a fairly low tempo card these days though and that will hurt it in the decks that would play it.

Species Specialist 3

This certainly has a place in a number of tribal and combo, or high synergy, decks. Just a nice clean way to turn on a lot of card draw. Works on your opponents stuff too which is nice although that will rarely be a factor in playing this. Likely a bit under statted and hard to support to be any use as a draft card in cube.

Titan Hunter 1

This just costs too much. At four mana this would pack some punch and offer some utility. At five it is of fairly little interest to me.

Psychic Impetus 0

Being the weakest card in a cycle unlikely to see play across the board is not a good place to be. Goad is not useful enough in heads up play to account for the cost of these cards.

Agitator Ant 1

While this is very cool for a multiplayer game it is a little bit unexciting heads up. Dull aside there is a decent chunk of power here. The Ant is a thee mana 4/4 that grows each turn at worst. That is no shabby starting point. It carries on growing too, or indeed helps grow something else better for you. It can just help you if you keep a clear board on your opponents side but that is too much of a big ask and makes this rather win more. For general use this is too risky and symmetrical.