Thursday 8 April 2021

Strixhaven Preliminary Review: Part X


Quandrix Cultivator 5

Nice sturdy two for one but a bit gold for the fair power level it has and a bit late in the day for a ramp spell. The land is untapped so when you can effectively play this for three mana it is impressive. There are certainly decks I would want this in but I fear not enough of them in cube draft. A lot of this is down to the very high bar for entry as a Simic card.

Crackle with Power 7

This seems rather good. Five damage for five mana is OK. It is a Lava Axe or it handles most threats. Not wildly efficient but already quite versatile and an acceptable floor. At 8 mana we do 10 to two things which should be devastating. Often it will end the game on the spot. Hitting three things for 15 when (if) you ever cast this at 11 mana might be problematic as there might not be enough targets, you might have to shoot yourself and draw the game! Mostly this is a five mana spell with a game winning 8 mana kicker and I think that has a good shot of being enough card for the cube. Certainly no bomb but equally pretty playable these days with games going that bit longer and red able to go big if it wants. 

Decisive Denial 7

A Simic take on Drown in the Loch. Removal or counter magic. A Mana Leak style Negate or a fight. This is less conditional but also less powerful than Drown in the Loch. Drown was a bit awkward in cube mostly down to doing nothing early without support that was hard to come by. Denial works fine early and offers quite nicely playable removal options to a colour combo usually lacking such things. These two things make me much more optimistic for Decisive Denials chances in cube. It is reasonable fair removal and obviously also gold so it is somewhat in that Rip Apart, Angrath's Rampage, Lightning Helix, Abrupt Decay camp. The pairing of countermagic and removal is typically more exciting and broad than just a spot removal card with wide coverage. This can technically deal with everything in the game that can be countered or targetted/destroyed. At two mana that makes it pretty enticing and enticing is really what I look for in my gold cards above all else. 

Secret Rendezvous 1

Seems like another commander card made it into the main set. There are uses for symmetrical draw. Some because they are so powerful you can win before your opponent gets to use the cards. That is not this. Then there are sillier ideas like contribution to milling or getting treasure out of Hullbreacher, empowering Black Vise, etc. While cute sounding these are not good plans. Better cards than Secret Rendezvous don't get used for such things already. Being white card draw is all this really has going for it.  

Devastating Mastery 6.5

Fascinating card and very well designed. Six mana all clear cards have not had much luck in cube. They are a bit slow and they lack the ability to leave you with things. Wraths are lovely because you can keep all your planeswalkers and so you have way to abuse them. Mastery aptly solves the issue of being too slow. I suspect the WWWW in the main cost is a clue that this is a pretty good card. That kind of extreme ugliness isn't the go to unless a card needs reining in a bit. Early this will do a good job of buying you time but it will rarely provide value. You have to hit three things to get just a 1 for 1 and four to get that two for one advantage. On the flip side, you are likely getting a whole pile of tempo while also being safe and covered against almost any kind of threats and development. I like this spell a lot. I imagine it is going to get used in the 4 mana mode almost all the time and that should be fine. It is a really nice recovery button in control decks ands the low cost will help you turn corners. It almost feels more like a Cyclonic Rift than any other card in cube. Just a stall and reset card that gives amazing security and ability to recover. It sadly does discourage playing permanents in your deck when using this which is effectively build restrictions and thus a narrowing effect. I think the power and versatility of this card should see it pull past those issues in ways that Planar Cleansing or, more pertinently, Hour of Revelation didn't. I want to rate this a bit higher but I have been burned too often on clear all spells and so am trying to compensate for that with a fringe rating. I could easily see this being a solid 7.5 if it plays like I am expecting it to. 

Silverquill Silencer 0

A reworked Meddling Mage that has an extra power, trades blue for black, and that doesn't actually stop anything... Mage was a lock card that took out key things. If it doesn't do that job it isn't very exciting. Silencer just gets killed or ignored and played through. The card isn't a threat and so doesn't force out removal or lock up the game. Basically I am not playing this over hand disruption or countermagic or Meddling Mage or indeed any other card that actually stops the thing I want it to stop. Sure, when Silencer draws the card and does 3 it is good value for the mana, especially if the 3/2 did anything on top of that. The issue is that you give all that control to the opponent. You likely miss with naming in singleton too and wind up with a terrible 3/2 do nothing. Tidehollow Sculler is entirely unafraid of this competition. 

Test of Talents 1

Very potent constructed card where you can ruin whole strategies. In singleton however this is just a bad Negate. Sure, the exile bit is nice but it isn't close to worth the loss of range in targets. It might have some mild sideboard applications in some singleton events. 

Access Tunnel 1

Probably bettter the Rogues Passage in cube but still something I anticipate seeing little to no play. There are just better uses for mana, better means of getting things through, and better power/utility to be had from colourless lands. 

Closing Statement 0

This is terrible. It is a really bad card with a condition that when met takes it merely to a sub par card. Don't be fooled. This kind of design lures you in but it is a trap. Play Mortify. Or Anguished Unmaking, or Doom Blade, or pretty much anything else at all. This is a worse than sorcery speed 3 mana removal spell. 

Dramatic Finale 2.5

This is narrow not just because of the colour intensity but also because you really want to pair this with creature cards that produce tokens. No token production and the Anthem aspect of the card is not being fully milked. You also want real dorks so that they can die into 3/2 fliers. Things like Blade Splicer and Lazotep Reaver are the ideal sort of card for this. A good number of those exist in cube but black and white have the lowest share of such things even behind blue in my cube. While this is a very powerful card it is sadly doing a bit too much and winds up being too needy. I would just play normal Anthem effects and cards like Luminous Broodmoth over this if I were after the effects it has to offer. You can at least build around this to good effect if you want. 

Fracture 4

This is highly efficient and potent but I am not all that confident for it in cube. This will almost always have targets in the opponents deck but it will a little too often not have them in play. A little bit of extra efficiency over things like Anguished Unmaking, or that little bit of extra range over your Disenchant types of effect and not making up for that. A removal spell without a target is dead, it provides no utility or options. This could be big in standard, it will likely find itself in at least the sideboards of older formats but for cube you just want more reliable and rounded answers, especially when it comes to gold cards. I like the card plenty but I just can't see it performing well. I can't even see myself choosing to run it main in order to test the performance myself. 

Umbral Juke 1

I think this is just too unreliable as removal and too low powered when it comes to token generation. I like the versatility but this lacks power and effectiveness. 

Double Major 2

Clones are already bad, especially ones that only Clone your own stuff. This one needs to be played at the same time as the thing you are Cloning making it substantially worse. This has not place in a drafting cube but I can imagine there are some combo uses for this that are acceptably good. 

Show of Confidence 1

A storm style buff card. Plenty of ways to abuse this but I am not sure that you wind up with a deck better than alternatives. Storm and attacking creatures, hell, storm and white cards, don't go together all that well. With that in mind I have no idea when or why I would run this. 

Pilgrim of the Ages 1

I want to like this but sadly it is just balls. If it flew then perhaps but it just isn't enough power or punch to lure you in. The 6 mana mode is so painfully over priced that it might as well not have it. Your expected chance of winning in any game you are activating it seems laughable. Beyond that absolutely run things like Pilgrim's Eye before this. 

Mentor's Guidance 1

While this is pretty easy to trigger it is just not the sort of spell you want to mess about with. Card draw and removal shouldn't be conditional. They are things you really want to be able to fire off at a time that suits you. Jumping through hoops to get a bit of a better deal than usual is rarely worth the risks. I might play this simply for the double trigger on magecraft it offers but that is the only reason this doesn't get a 0/10. For any situation you could want a card draw or quality spell there are multiple superior alternatives.

Mascot Interception 4

These one time steal a dork cards are rarely good in cubes simply for being too situational. I like the design of this one a lot but it isn't changing much as far as desirability in cube goes. Tokens are the thing you want to be stealing least often. This card feels a bit like Reckless Charge. It is fine most of the time and utterly savage every now and again. There are lots of tokens in cube and for one mana this does change the dynamic of an attack a massive amount. Red also has reasonably common access to sacrifice outlets these days which does significantly increase the worth of Act of Treason. I wouldn't be surprised if this performs well enough to earn a bunch of cube slots. The thing is I don't imagine it will do all that much to improve anything. I don't envisage Mascot Interception making for better games but the potential power is there for sure. 

Detention Vortex 2

This is a very bad Oppressive Rays when it comes to dealing with dorks. Where this has some mild advantages is when used on other non-dork, non-land cards. Being able to somewhat shut off a Talisman or an Equipment or something is quite nice. It is certainly high tempo and high utility. This is much more of a bounce spell than it is a removal spell. Compare it to Disperse not Oblivion Ring. Much as I can see this having its uses I think the power and effectiveness is lacking for draft cube. It might be the kind of disruption card a white (enchantment based?) combo deck uses in the way that blue has often run Chain of Vapor. 

Exponential Growth 0

Expensive, risky, cumbersome, slow, needy. This list of things making this awful is long. Temur Battlerage and Berserk should be enough of a list to ensure this wouldn't see cube play even if it was quite a bit better than it is! 


Symmetry Sage 6.5

This is a pretty decent little beater. It fits very neatly alongside Delver of Secrets and Pteramander in terms of the kinds of support cards they want. That in turn gives good redundancy to a plan. A blue aggro deck has been looming for some time and it is always a one drop that does most to tip the scales on the viability of a new archetype. Perhaps this is the one that brings blue aggro to cubes? In the right deck this is mostly a 2/2 flier for 1 that can sometimes pump another dork by a power or two as well. In the wrong deck it is an overcost Ornithopter. That makes it narrow but high powered. When the power is high the willingness to support it increases. Even if this doesn't make aggro blue viable in cube draft it will still really help it in the more constructed settings. I like the design too although compared to Delver of Secrets everything looks like good design...

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