Saturday 20 February 2021

Strixhaven Preliminary Review: Part I

Pavarti Command 7.5

A very similar beast to Kolaghan's Command with two of the same modes and the same costing. While this is a slightly weaker card overall than the Rakdos version it is in more diverse colours that see more play and have more archetypes. In those decks Prismari Command offers higher synergy potential with looting and treasure production. Kolaghan's is a more midrange and rounded affair almost always getting a two for one, usually with decent tempo too. Prismari is much more likely to go one for one but it is also more likely to empower other cards in your list while doing so. A double loot or putting treasure into play are not card advantage nor are they doing a great deal for tempo but they will support a lot of synergies and empower a lot of things commonly found in cubes. This is a solid supporting utility card that will see a lot of play. It might well be an 8/10 card but I have marked it a little conservatively based on the wealth of alternatives available in these colours. Izzet has access to Dack Fayden, The Royal Scions, Abrade, Cryptic Command, and a wealth of other high utility low mana cards, all in addition to things like Snapcaster Mage, Vryn's Prodigy, and that sort of thing that allow you to find and reuse your key spells, all adding to the overall utility and options in the guild. This exact same card in Boros colours, or really any other colours, would be looking at an 8 rating and could perhaps even perform at an 8.5/10 level if all went well for it.

Quidditch Command 6.5

This is the weakest of the cycle for cube play. This is down to ease of use than power level. Not only does this have some fairly situational effects, they are the more powerful ones you want to be using and they are very hard to line up well with each other. We have a bounce effect, a permanent pump, an Annul, and a Memory's Journey. Really you want to save something from removal or win a combat with the pump while also getting value with the Annul counterspell. This is maximum tempo and value but near impossible to pull off. You probably need to exactly hit Embercleave with this to do so which would be a huge and impressive blowout but uncommon to say the least. Realistically you are either getting a pump and a bounce or an Annul and a bounce. Still good but not insane. A reasonable tempo play but rarely a value one. Also still somewhat on the situational and even reactive side of things. Bounce is usually good because you get to time it perfectly. To do that with the Command means you are possibly just getting a buff. Giant Strength my guy... I'll take Repulse or Man-O-War over that every day thanks. While the reshuffle is the least powerful and useful it is actually the exact sort of thing that can really push a card like this up the power levels. As it isn't playable by itself you don't have access to this kind of thing in cube play very often and so that puts a bit of a premium on it. On the few occasions it is useful it is unexpected and very powerful. You can win a long game either with getting bomb threats back or just increasing the time till you deck yourself. You can counter recursion effects with it too, perhaps turning off a Phoenix of Ash or preventing a Vryn's Prodigy -3 ability. Useful stuff now and again. If only the other three modes had given us more consistently useful effects. This is certainly not a bad card, it kind of reminds me of Jilt. It is just very much not an Oko or an Uro and is perhaps too gold for what it brings. Inscription of Abundance appeals more just for being in a single colour.

Slytherin Command 7

Not a very exciting card but a pretty potent one. This is pretty reliably a two for one with high tempo. It has removal, recursion, and direct draw for value. The pump is also a tried and tested means of taking out planeswalkers. Most game states allow for that kind of buff to take out a walker when you otherwise couldn't. It is a nice hidden removal tool. Equally "hidden" is the reach this card offers when you send 3 plus the power of a dork to the sky and force them to draw a card for Lava Axe style game closing. The ceiling is getting to recur a nice two drop while making them sac something good. If you hit a four drop then you are two mana up on your two for one. Arguably the ceiling is a good Edict plus taking out a big scary walker. You get a bit more mana return but you likely lose some face damage and whatever the planeswalker did while it was in play could be taken off that upside. Regardless, all good for those two combinations of mode. Pretty common in most midrangy cubes. Draw a card is likely the worst mode as it is no real tempo.  It does however ensure the card is always pretty playable. You only ever need one of the other modes to be worth doing which is not a difficult place to find yourself in. If this mode was narrower, even if also more powerful, the card might struggle a bit as the Simic Command does. This is probably the 2nd weakest of this cycle which really just showcases the impressive power these cards will have in cube. It is a much more proactive and well suited Ojutai's Command. You play this, you affect the board and you pull ahead a bit. It doesn't break the game but it helps and that seems to be a good thing! A lot of people I have discussed this with seem to dislike it but that is because they are classing this as a removal spell for which it is a little unreliable. In practice this is more of a modern day Divination. You are just playing it for the value but it is good because it comes with interaction, disruption, and most importantly of all tempo. This just pulls you ahead on all the metrics the game is won by and that alone makes it good. 

Witherwings Command 8.5

The best of the cycle and quite the exceptional little card. This sits somewhere in the company of Arc Trail and Collective Brutality as far as how they can affect games which is a great place to be. There was a time Arc Trail was one of the scariest cards in my cube! This is a nice cheap utility spell that can get a two for one while having positive tempo. That is how you win games with ease in cube. A two drop that pulls you ahead on all metrics, even if only slightly, it is still utterly game breaking. So much more so than three drops that do so and they are also great cube cards. Luckily the removal modes are narrow enough that getting the ceiling will be somewhat rare. The ceiling incidentally is something like killing a Talisman / Jitte / Search for Azcanta type card while also swatting a relatively high cost dork such as a Brazen Borrower or Vendilion Clique. Three mana and a card up in that exchange! Arc Trail rarely does better than a mana and a card up and it almost always wins when it does that. There are about 40 targets in my cube (or 540-600 size) for the destroy removal, of which a good half are things you do really want to kill. There are then about 70 things in my cube that the -3/-1 kills outright, 20% of those things you don't care all that much about killing and another 20% or so will likely be able to grow out of range much of the time. That is about 60 solid targets total with another 40 or so things it will handle, not to mention tokens on top of that, which actually makes this reasonable just on removal grounds. Hit a relevant card and have a bit of a life swing or a land? Great, I'm in. The -3/-1 can also be used with other effects to finish something off or indeed just stop something doing damage as a blocker too. Hitting both removal modes will be rare but hitting one thing for removal will be common. Getting to pair that with drain or land based card advantage is lovely. Satyr Wayfinder is one of the most commonly played support cards. Mostly played for the self mill and land finding, the body is fine but it the bonus free bit. This Command puts as much in the bin as Wayfinder and is nearly as good at finding lands. It then does something else which will most of the time be better than a 1/1 body. Whenever you hit a relevant target with removal and get a land into hand you will feel pretty ahead. Whenever you mill in such a way that it gets you something you want or some extra value then you will feel even better. Sometimes you will mill them and go on to deck them! Drain is always a nice perk to have too. It turns out it seems to be correct to drain with Brutality 99% of the time against red in cube! It is the lowest value so to speak but it is a great mode to have on a card and really helps push the limits of what it can do and rounds the card out. The floor on this is mill 3, get a land and drain and that is totally fine for the cost too. Very cheap, very diverse, likely very positive outcomes for you when playing. 

Dumbledore Command 7.5

This seems incredibly on point and powerful despite no one else seeming to like this beast. The only Boros colours 5 drop I would rather have is a Glorybringer. This Command just seems to do everything I could want from a card in a cube setting as a Boros player. It can push for loads of damage with a variety of options. You can setup a big attack with an EoT 3/2 and Lightning Helix on a blocker then untap, flop a haste dork or some other relevant sorcery speed card and swing for the win. Alternatively you can use the +1 power mode and pair it with the 3/2 for a super Bushwhacker card or with the Helix to clear something out the way and have a huge attack. Not even needing to be an alpha strike as the indestructible stops you having any chump attackers and the potential life gain helps against swingbacks, as if anyone is doing that vs Boros! The indestructible can also just counter a removal effect. That is a pretty strong place to be sat. Lastly the Perilous Research mode allows you to actually draw some cards, a tricky thing to do in Boros colours. Great use of lands in a flood, perhaps a way to cash in a Hallowed Spiritkeeper or a chump attacking goblin token. Helix plus draw two sounds lovely, a flash 3/2 and draw two also sounds very appealing. This card lets you plot a course to victory pretty effectively. It helps when behind as well as being a strong means to close a game. It offers interaction, removal, value, and most importantly of all - options, to colours very much wanting of them. This doesn't look great at a glance but I suspect this will impress highly when it comes to actual play. It might event be good enough to sneak into control decks. The draw 2 is a bit harder to pull off there and would need some supporting to be viable. Even if this wasn't quite there for control decks midrange and aggro will still be all over it should it be as good as I think. 

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