Sunday 28 March 2021

Strixhaven Preliminary Review: Part III


Rowan, Scholar of Spark / Will, Scholar of Frost 4

I like a lot about what I see here but sadly I cannot see the card overall offering enough to be a good draft cube cube. The modal nature of the MDFC is only useful in Izzet and without that modality the card offers very low functionality. Yes, it is easier to splash for than Lingering Souls but the payoff seems low. Reducing the cost of spells is nice but it is narrow. Both halves also have low loyalty relative to cost and fairly low rates of loyalty gain. Rowan's +1 is low impact and offers no protection. Will's affords no value or threat and is just a stall button. I much prefer Will Kenrith to this Will side of the card. Six mana Will gives a lot more back for that one extra mana. Just all the same stuff but better, more effective, and better loyalty costs. The ultimate abilities on these walkers are the most interesting part about them but they will be hard to pull off with poor loyalty and poor protection. Rowan's is achievable but it is on the narrow side and certainly doesn't equate to a win. It is conditional value over time and will more often than not cost tempo rather than gain it. The real nail in the coffin for these two is that I don't really want both halves in the same deck. Will is fairly control looking and Rowan far more aggressive. Sure, this fits in an Izzet tempo deck but it isn't going in a red aggro deck or a blue control deck, not happily at least. It is also a long way off an auto include in an Izzet tempo deck with many better walkers and much higher power cards on offer. There is a bit too much going on with this set of siblings to not see play in some form for me but I doubt drafting cubes are the place. 

Dragonsguard Elite 3

A lot of power in this card for sure but not something I anticipate working out in most cubes. Just dorks do not excite very much. Tarmogoyf gets little love, things like Sylvan Advocate are long gone. Now, if this were red or blue we would be talking more but as a green dork this just isn't getting it done. Green has far too few things to trigger this and not all that much interest in cards from other colours that do. Green sets up early with ramp and card quality and then deploys meaty threats. Other colours prefer cheaper threats that can go big. A Temur tempo deck might play this for some juicy fat but they can keep it in house with things like Sprite Dragon these days and not need to weaken the mana base. 

Archmage Emeritus 6.5

Interesting and potentially very dangerous. The blue Beast Whisperer but rather more threatening when spells like High Tide, Frantic Search, and Time Warp exist. This can get out of hand very fast. Yes, it is vulnerable and poorly statted. You can solve these issues in a couple of ways, Force of Something counter backup is going to be a brutal combo with this. Failing that just waiting till five or six mana and playing it with something else to ensure some value. It needs answering fairly promptly and will have likely done enough work if it draws just two cards before answered. This feels like a Consecrated Sphinx that you can play two turns quicker. The payoff seems worth the inherent risks of a sorcery speed four mana 2/2 however the payoff might be overkill. If you only need half the returns the card offers then the relative amount of risk you are taking to the useful return increases. I feel like this will make the cut but I doubt it will be any kind of bomb. Often Master of Winds will get played in it's place for one reason or another. Other times it will be some random planeswalker, say Architect of Thought, taking the slot as a means to provide card advantage but with a little more utility

Professor of Symbology ?

I am a big fan of this learn mechanic. A kind of self contained Wish that allows it to be splashed about on cards with no risk of breaking things. The cost of Lessons varies in different formats. In booster draft you will have to use picks on them, in constructed you will have to dedicate sideboard slots to them. In cube it gets even worse as you need to dedicate cube slots to them as well which will have all the negative impacts of adding narrow or low powered cards in. Lessons and learning cards would need to be really really impressive and somewhat abundant for this to be close to viable. That all being said, this is cube, and we can do what we like in cube. And I really like this mechanic and want to play with it. As such, I think what I plan to do is simply allow any Lesson to be available like basic lands. People can just access them without having to see or pick any. This might make cards with learn too powerful but from what I have seen so far it might work out nicely. I suspect I will have my fun with it for a while and then cut it for being either a little too good or a little too fiddly. As for this little dude? A 2/1 for 2 with a loot (rummage) in white is not actually that far off the mark. White has so little in the way of card quality and is keen on making little dorks. That is about as good as it will get in cube unless you allow any lesson as I plan to do. How good will that then be? There are a lot of assumptions that will go into this. How many we see, how diverse they are, as well as the more obvious power level. Power level wise we look pretty safe, lessons are below par on that front and thus even more so in cubes. Three mana Preordain impresses no one. In that regard you are drawing less than a card. On the flip side, you pay a lot for utility and flexibility, and with enough Lessons that should be a thing. When you can find what you need it matters a lot less that the rate isn't all that efficient. There is also the fact that these are actual cards which is really powerful. You can loot them away and then delve them away again. They could be literal blanks and their value would often still be good, often more than a token achieves. All put together "learn" is probably going to be a fraction better than draw a card in my cube if I allow any lesson to be found. A 2/1 for 1W with draw a card on it? Premium. Auto include in almost any deck. Likely better than Watcher for Tomorrow. Contingent of course on the lessons. So, with lessons used as intended this is probably a 3/10 card at best but if used as I suggest for cubes there is a good chance this breaks the 8/10 mark. 

Pop Quiz ?

Better than Divination if not largely for the instant speed. Being raw draw you need to be able to make up for the tempo loss of playing it which is something that Lessons are not going to be great at. Not being able to find land as effectively either detracts from this as a Divination upgrade. Even with my plan to cheat on lessons in my cube I am not sure this will make the cut, we will need them to be good and useful for Pop Quiz to perform. If Lessons turn out to make this good enough then I will likely have to stop letting them be a free for all. One way or another I don't expect to see this doing that much work in cubes. 

Lorehold Apprentice 1

This card is a mess! So many different synergies needed and not even a very impressive payoff. There are likely a few cute things you can do with this but it certainly wont be going in any spirit decks I might build!

Storm-Kiln Artist 2

Treasure trigger on magecraft is incredibly powerful in the right setting but a four mana 2/2 body helps keep that well in check. People will stick to the likes of Baral, Bergi, and the Medallions for the most part. Artist not only has storm potential but is also somewhat equipped with Cranial Plating and can be used aggressively, but don't do that. Tt all comes back to being such a vulnerable four drop ruining this dude's chances in most formats. EDH probably has the time to abuse the Artist at least although I can't imagine storm decks are all that popular to play against in EDH.

Quandrix Apprentice 3

Certainly a potent card but I suspect it just misses the bar for a gold cube card. There just isn't space for this kind of support card. Coiling Oracle and Ice-Fang Coatl are both just more reliable sources of value and offer more impact and relevance immediately. A little bit narrow and inconsistent for the kind of role it is doing.

The Snarl Cycle 6

We get the enemy colour pairings for the shadow lands. Check lands and Battle lands ended up edging out the Shadow cycle for a variety of subtle reasons. I do really like the shadow lands in principle but they didn't scale all that well with a lot of the other lands I wanted to be running. I may revisit them as the Triomes support them well and see a lot of play. Unless you are both running a very large, or perhaps budget conscious cube, or maybe like me you really like dual lands, then these are unlikely to be a consideration. They are better than they seem to get credit for. They are arguably the most powerful dual lands if you were to take the relative power of the cards and divide by the cost to buy them! 

First Day of Class ?

A bit on the expensive side for a card that gives out haste. You want to be able to play stuff after it and with two mana less to do so your options are limited. There are not loads of ways to pop out a load of dorks without spending mana that turn which is where this would be most apt. Cheap and interesting none the less. If the lessons are good enough this can just be a Burning Wish! This is probably a 4/10 card but it certainly has potential. The learn is the significant part of this card so it really all hinges on lessons and how they are used. If this was draw a card rather than learn it wouldn't see play over cheaper means to give haste.

Plargg, Dean of Chaos /  Augusta, Dean of Order 7

Plargg is fine and Augusta is OK. Neither are great and it will not be all that often that having the options of the other enhances the card. Boros simply offers little advantage over a mono coloured list and as such gets fairly limited play as far as aggro and midrange decks go. Rather than being modal in games this feels modal in draft, a bit like Figure of Destiny. That makes it the opposite of narrow but you do still need a baseline power level to be a cube consideration and this is rather close to such things. Augusta is broadly a bad Anthem. She only pumps half as much and isn't that exciting of a body. A far cry from Benalish Marshall. There is some potential for shenanigans with exert and the like but sufficiently corner case that I would probably just prefer any relevant anthem in my cube or any other three drop threat. Augusta is a card you use to make up numbers when a draft goes badly. Plargg fairs a little better. A 2/2 rummage for 2 is quite nice. Other looters have come close in red but forcing you to play things that turn or costing mana, or just being a one off, all rather ruin the convenience of a nice cheap looter. The 5 mana ability on Plargg is nice too, it adds a bit of late game value and scaling. Plargg is a very playable midrange red support card which are in fairly high demand and an OK filler dork in an aggro list. If this card is getting enough action to remain in the cube it will be down to the work of Plargg. I can see people who are running Plargg tossing in some white sources just for the potential and that working out quite well from time to time too. 

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