Tuesday 29 June 2021

Preliminary Reviews Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms Part II


Flumph 1

A reasonable blocker but giving away cards is dodgy, especially when under tempo pressure. As a Wall of Omens this is unplayable. Where it is potentially playable however is as a combo or engine card a bit like a Hornet's Nest. Certainly on the narrow side but not entirely without hope. 

Tasha's Hideous Laughter 7

This is all a bit silly. It is not an unreasonable assumption to say the total mana value of a cube deck was around 60. This in turn makes a card on average to be 1.5 mana. This is about 13 cards. This puts it up there with the most efficient mill spells on offer and cube isn't even a format with a very low average CMC. There is now a really high density of mill cards around this power level. Landing two wins most games and landing three is game. This means you can make a very consistent and quick deck or a very consistent and very safe deck that trades clock for security. Mill was already one of the best archetypes to rotisserie draft. It really didn't need the help. Yes, you can counter mill with Eldrazi and such things but not very reliably and there are work arounds for those too. Mill is probably at the stage where it needs some degree of banning out in 40 card lists. This is a powerful card but it is a void of gameplay and fun, avoid at all costs! 

Dungeons are a new mechanic that remind me of lesson/learn. Much like lessons I will simply allow any dungeon to be available at any time to any player and not bother with having to draft them. I suspect they would be far too narrow to use in cube if required to draft both dungeon and venture cards. The less you have of either dungeons or cards with venture the less good the other group becomes in a draft to the point at which there is likely no point including any. There is a lot of flexibility contained within the venture into the dungeon keywording. This is obviously something I like a lot however the added phaff of having extra cards to dig up is a bit of a turn off. As such dungeons will have to over perform to remain in the cube. Lesson/learn has been excellent and yet they also has an uncertain future due to this element of phaff. 

There are only going to be three options on dungeons to begin with which seems like a good design call due to each one having such a wide array of variation. Mostly the effects are worth less than a card and a mana. Only the last effects on the tougher dungeons could be said to be worth more. Those require a lot of ventures or at least some extra investments of resources. It is pretty hard at this stage to chose between the dungeons for power level as it will depend so much on the cards printed with venture. The more ability you have to venture and the ease and frequency with which you can do so will tend towards favouring the longer Dungeon of the Mad Mage. The more the cards tend towards payoff for dungeon completion the more the shorter dungeons will appeal. Tomb of Annihilation is the quirky one of the three as it allows for rapid completion at high cost or reasonable completion speed still with some extra, all be it symmetrical, costs. When you have synergies (in cube this is mostly black and red decks) involved with those extra costs this dungeon jumps in power significantly. Not only will the potency of the dungeons depend on the nature of the venture cards and to a lesser extend the kind of deck you have they will be context dependent most of all. I imagine the state of the game being the most significant factor in dungeon choice. A treasure is going to appeal a lot when you are hard on mana. Life looks better against aggressive red players etc etc. The early things you need right now will dictate much. All the dungeons potentially being viable is what you want and so it looks like the design is reasonably on point on that front. 

The Lost Mine of Phandelver seems like it will be the baseline for assumption of return. Scry 1 into make a 1/1 token into put a +1/+1 counter or drain into draw a card and complete. That is a decent return that is good for any deck in any situation while being fairly quick and direct. Treasure over the 1/1 will also get taken a lot but that will hurt the potential value of the third level. Regardless this seems like such a generically reasonable return compared to the others that it will be the metric I use to evaluate the power of the venture cards in a vaccum. If The Lost Mine of Phandelver was a four stage Saga I would consider it at 2 mana. At three mana I wouldn't be interested. I would also pay no more than 2 mana for the Tomb of Annihilation as a four stage Saga. It would be powerful but it would be narrow and slow. Roughly then we are getting about half a mana of value per trigger on a venture card. It is probably closer to a third of a card per trigger than it is to a quarter if you want to look at value rather than tempo. It is also less return than this at the start of a dungeon and more towards the end. This in turn makes the likely value of venture cards in cube less than my initial estimation of half a card/mana as we will clearly see way more early dungeon triggers than late ones. At a guess I suspect the scry 1 (level 1) will be used three or four times as often as the draw card (level 4) on Lost Mine. 

Trying to rate the dungeons is a bit silly and meaningless. They just are. They determine the power of the venture cards but trying to rank them compared to normal magic cards is neither possible nor useful. You have the high payoff slower Mad Mage Dungeon, the generically all round good Lost Mine, and the quirky Tomb for synergy and scaling potential. The first and second abilities on each dungeon will be the most important to consider as they will be the most commonly used and the most immediate of the possibilities. So, with that out of the way, let us look at some cards with venture armed with some ideas of the worth of venture. 

Gloomstalker 0

Unplayable. A 2W 2/3 double strike wouldn't be good in my cube so a card worse than that has no chance. This is doubly bad too as it is a card that depends on a narrow mechanic without supporting it in anyway. This guy really needed some venture abilities. 

Cloister Gargoyle 0

This is closer to the mark than Gloomstalker as it does some work towards completing a dungeon and a three mana 3/4 flier with some perks is somewhat appealing. Sadly this is a 0/4 most of the time  with a single scry and that makes it garbage. 

Shortcut Seeker 0

A four mana 2/5... Compare this to almost anything else half reasonable with a combat damage trigger in blue and it is laughable still. Even if we round up the value of a dungeon trigger to a card and a mana this is still shocking. Thieving Magpie hasn't been a good card for a long long time now and this is still worse.

Dungeon Crawler 4

This is really only getting a rating this high as a bad Diregraf Ghoul is still fine. There is not a wealth of cheap aggressive zombies and so this will get some play outside of decks with any venture. There is a small chance there is enough venture for this to be better than Diregraf but that seems very unlikely. 

Nadaar, Selfless Paladin 7

Here we have our first serious contender for a viable means of venturing into the dungeon for cube. Power wise this thing feels in the Brimaz ballpark which is cube worthy but not blowing any minds. Nadaar completes Lost Mine in three attacks which should be game winning (that third attack comes with the Anthem bonus and should be pretty devastating regardless of the bonus value up to that point). That is the sort of level of power needed from a three drop ongoing Rabblemaster style of card - game winning in 3 attacks. The last trigger is the biggest step by quite a margin and should Nadaar die before that he is rather less impressive. Other venture cards will improve Nadaar rather a lot as anytime he comes down already as a Benalish Marshall then he is utterly nuts. A three mana 3/3 vigilance with scry 1 is not a shocking floor but it is pretty weak as far as cube goes and so Nadaar is vulnerable. He is also only a 3/3 and so getting venture triggers might be tough in some matchups. I want this guy to do well as it is an incredibly option rich card which white otherwise has little access to. I am not holding out too much hope. Not holding up well in the Doom Blade test nor getting much done against any 3/4 or bigger blocker are turn offs. I think this is going to depend on other venture cards. Doing by himself just won't payoff enough and he won't cut it. If there are other good venture cards you might play with Nadaar then he seems like he will be great. 

Ellywick Tumblestrum 3

Without a lot of other (better) venture cards I can't see this being cube worthy. The starting loyalty is low. The -2 is a little narrow and does nothing to provide tempo or protect Ellywick. The ultimate is OK and will win games but it is one of the weaker game ending ultimates that can be found on walkers. The +1 needs to do a lot of heavy lifting for Ellywick to be playable and it rarely will. The early venture effects are low impact and low tempo. You cannot easily gain protection or value from them and so Ellywick lacks any real impact. You can kill her long before she is threatening or really done much relevant. With some consistency in other venture cards she might gain enough value on the +1 to become playable but that is quite the long shot. 

Monday 21 June 2021

Some Recent High Achievers and Flops

One of the many effects of the pandemic and various lockdowns has been that I have played a lot less cube. It turns out that some games get easier and more convenient online like board games, with lots of things than can be automated and displayed more easily . Then there are those that get harder like niche forms of Magic with potentially custom rules and cards or simply extensive ranges of cards. Suffice it to say cubing, while not impossible, is a lot more work online than compared to in person with the real thing. The knock on effect of little to no cubing is little to no testing. I managed a little on Zendikar Rising but then got none on Kaldheim, Strixhaven, Commander Legends or any of the Commander product linked to those sets until about a month ago. It is all coming rather at once now and that in itself is a little awkward. The cube simply doesn't support that many weak cards and so it takes significantly longer. My solution has been to cut about 60 of the best and most frequently played cube cards that I thought I could manage without altering the archetype balance too much. In no surprise to anyone blue cards ate the most cuts. I didn't take out things like Birds of Paradise or Preordain, more things like Remand and Embercleave. It is an imperfect solution but it is working. More low end cards are getting played and as such I am getting to see and appraise more of them more quickly. It also lets the better new cards stand out more than normal. I started writing this before MH2 spoilers started and finished it just after the release of MH2 so there is a reasonable chance that the cube meta takes quite the shake up. That could have any number of effects. It could also just bump out some of the more fringe and low powered cards as the power level jumps and a pile of new contenders jump in at the top end. I have also now tested and trimmed enough cards to have returned the cream back to the cube. 

In what is essentially a quirky version of "winners and losers" here are some of the cards from the last six months or so that have performed above expectation one way or another. 

Learn cards have been great (with my custom all lessons are always available rule). None are broken but many are fine to good. They bring a really nice element of consistency to the cube offering removal and curve plays. I have slowly been trimming it down to the best learn cards which are Gnarled Professor, Professor of Symbology, Igneous Inspiration, Eye Twitch, and Hunt for Specimens. These cards seem to get play in most decks in which they can be played. They have led to a lot of random dual land splashing so that more lessons are viable when you learn. 

The MDFCs from Zen Rising with lands on the back have also all been great. They make decks much more robust. All are cube playable but sadly not all have enough impact to merit the inclusion. I have been slowly trimming down on them since Zen Rising when I added literally all of them to the cube. They are very hard to cut as they are so playable and add so much to the building process. Most of the remaining ones go in most decks of the colours and I still have about a third of them in cube which feels about right. 

Skyclave Apparition is top rate and a staple in any deck able to support the WW cost. This will come as no shock to anyone with eyes on any constructed formats. It is just too convenient and rounded not to play. I thought it was comfortably cube worthy on initial rating but I didn't have it down as quite the top tier staple it had become. Everything from aggro through to control are happy playing this and that is really the mark of a top tier card. 

Clarion Spirit was a card I thought too hard to support to be all that. In practice it is pretty close to Young Pyromancer. It triggers a little less easily but it far easier to support, makes better tokens, and has a toughness on Pyromancer. White isn't great at prowess triggers but it turns out it is OK at cheap things and playing multiple on a turn. Lack of card advantage in white does mean you can run out of gas for it but one or two triggers is more than enough to make this impressive. It is scary to face and scales really well with a lot of stuff. Usher of the Fallen has been strong too. Noticeably better than most of the other W 2/1 dorks. Not broken, just better than expected. It lets you play around mass removal really effectively and poses a far greater threat than that it looks thanks to all the team buff effects in white. Luminarch Aspirant is another cheap white beater that has stood out. It is high tempo and high threat all with good options and scaling. All three of these cards are top notch white aggro dorks and have helped give those archetypes a good push. 

Elite Spellbinder and Doomskar were both cards I rated fairly highly and both have lived up to that expectation. White now has a healthy amount of Wrath effects that are good giving consistency on control options if you want them. It also now has some joyous disruption in Spellbinder that most archetypes are happy to employ. White interactive cards like Spellbinder are few and far between and very welcome. Spellbinder is seeing play in all manner of archetypes. Perhaps due to power, perhaps due to novelty!

Another white card to impress me far more than expected is Halvar, God of battle. or more specifically his Sword of the Realms. Arguably preferable to Skullclamp in white as it provides the value you actually want while making your threats relevantly more threatening (and not dead in many cases!). It is a high tempo and higher threat density means of ensuring value than Clamp as you don't cash in your  threats for new ones, instead you upgrade and reuse existing ones. Another useful thing about Sword of the Realms is that you can just cast Halvar when you need a threat. He is quite big and has occasional upside. A bit of a Ghor-Clan Rampager but always nice to have "dead card" protection built in. With all these great new tools white aggressive strategies have jumped to the very top tier again in cube. High tempo and high quality value, disruption, and removal. I have been testing a lot of the gods and MDFC cards from Kaldheim and Strixhaven. They are taking a bit longer to work out the value of and so few have stood out but equally few have been cut. Tibalt is obviously great and Cosima has been interesting. Turns out I mostly need more time with this mechanic to properly evaluate and talk about it. I am going entirely on in game results and performance with them as it stands and need rather more in the way of fundamental understanding to properly appraise. That kind of understanding takes a lot of time and will require a team effort from the community. Sword of the Realms just happens to be good enough all by itself and carried this MDFC.

White also got Teferi's Protection at last. A card I overlooked for years assuming it was mostly an EDH thing. Turns out to be pretty effective in 1v1 play too. It is somewhere between a white counterspell and a white time walk. It is obviously less potent than either of those things but not by miles and can mimic both. I am very late to the party on this one so most will likely have played with this more than me. I have seen it used in all manner of decks and while it is quite the situational card it does seem to win the game when it gets played rather a lot. That is the kind effect you want your card to have if it is narrow!

Green has also had a lot of improvements over the last bunch of releases which is fantastic. White and green were the weakest and least interesting of the colours and had been for a while. They needed interaction, value, options, and reasons to actually want to play them. I am very glad to say that this is all now stuff they are getting. One big front liner for green is Vorinclex, who is clearly a house. I underrated him a bit in the review as six drops don't excite me very much. Power wise though this card is mentally good and comfortably sits pretty uncontested in the six slot for green alongside Primeval Titan. The likes of Carnage Tyrant, a good contender for 3rd best green six drop, is miles behind in power and effectiveness. Vorinclex plays a little like a Thundermaw Hellkite but is significantly more potent. The only real criticism I have of Vorinclex is that he ends the game so fast you don't really get to enjoy the passive abilities as much as you might like. He ruins so much. Saga and planeswalkers on the other side of the table are laughable. Yours are beasts. 

Toski has been nice to see play out. While fairly far from what I would call a bomb it has really shored up greens options and range. Toski has helped green have more viable mono decks that are either midrange or aggressive. A bit like a Great Henge you can easily play or a Guardian Project that avoids being a blank. What Toski does best is make you happier playing other cards. You didn't want to over do it on mana dorks because you get so bodied by mass removal. Perhaps you didn't want to play equipment because your dork count was lowered to compensate for weakness to mass removal etc. Toski just really protects and compensates well for what green does best. He lets you do green things and push them a bit further. He really lets you go hard on cheap mana dorks.

Esika's Chariot has been one of the most standout new cards for cube. It is low risk, high threat, high tempo, and reasonable value. It is just the ticket for green allowing it to play a diverse midrange game that really capitalizes on the colours perks. Chariot lets you get on the board in a big way without over committing. It lets you get really involved in combat for little cost in that Chariot trades pretty favourably into most things. It is low enough in cost that you can afford to be very reckless with it and apply a lot of pressure with chump attacks and the like. I have little bad to say about the card. I had 28/28 worth of stats on turn four in a recent game thanks to copying a Voice of Resurgence token with a Chariot attack. It was rather overkill there too given I had already attacked for at least ten on that turn. Green now has a number of decent cards of all the permanent types it can use to threaten the game in some way and thus play a game of development that suits an early ramp style without all the usual risks. 

Old-Growth Troll is another Chariot like card that is pushing green a good amount. It does all the same good things of offering lots of stats and value while being resilient to Wrath effects. Trample is what really polishes off this card. Killing it doesn't appeal as it ramps and can return in token form with effective flash but then not killing it is also an issue. You cannot easily develop walkers into it nor hold it at bay with chumps. Much like gold cards anything with this level of colour intensity needs to be a real pull towards mono or near mono lists and I would say that the Troll is such a draw.  

Paradox Zone is the final green card I want to cover. I have seen fairly little of the card so far as it is one of my most recent additions but it has been utterly terrifying. It takes a colossal dump all over the likes of Assemble the Legion. It doubles rather than just ticking up by 1! You have so little time to act before it is utterly out of hand. It is like a planeswalker you can't attack and that has already gone ultimate... It is like having the Liliana the Last Hope Emblem in play. Sure, you can stall a bit, chump, bounce, all that jazz, but pretty soon they are making infinitely tough dorks that one shot you every turn. Winning through it is tough and outlasting it is impossible. Unless you have already won this looks to be a must answer card. Green has no trouble flopping out on turn three either. Good luck with that. This one sits in the oppressively powerful camp. 

With all the love white and green have had it is no surprise that Selesnya has finally had a resurgence. Not since the days of the mighty Finks and Pridemage has the white green pairing been a strong one in any iteration of my various cubes. It only ever got seen as part of a much more colourful deck or as a light splash, usually both of those things. Pretty comfortably white green was the least played colour combination. Omnath, Kenrith, Jengantha and that sort of thing were basically the only places using it and the lands. I strongly considered cutting most of the duals given how little it was used. White green is now back and with some vengeance. It never really lacked for good gold cards, just good decks to go in. Now you can just run a blend of muscular midrange cards , good tempo, good value, and some ramp and have yourself a very fine deck. You are not cold to say a Duress and an Ophiomancer or a Wrath and a Counterspell as it felt up to now. 

While it is the various mono white and green cards that have allowed Selesnya to shine there is a new goldie that has been a huge beneficiary of this. Yasharn the Implacable Earth is a total house. Finding the lands is nice, the stats are nice, and it turns out the ability is a total beating. It shuts off so much and has impressed far more than I imagined. Yasharn certainly feels like the best white green gold card. It has that essential quality of pulling you into the colours. It is just that good somehow. I say somehow, it is a 3 for 1 with high tempo and strong disruption. 

Izzet did the best out of gold cards recently it would seem. Prismari Command is a bit better than I had given credit for. Options are nice. Treasure at instant speed on the back of doing something else useful it turns out is amazing. It leads to some very swingy plays. The even bigger standout however is Expressive Iteration. It is a support card and the only gold ones of those I entertain are those so good that you simply always play them when you can. Expressive Iteration it turns out is such a card. You don't play it on turn two but beyond that it is basically a two mana draw two of three. Anticipate level card quality on top of Divination level card advantage. It is just one of those cards you are always really happy to have and be able to play. There is a really strong argument for Iteration being the second best card advantage spell after Ancestral Recall. Dig and Cruise are in the debate along with Night's Whisper and presently Iteration is winning out of those option. 

Red and blue have a couple of winners each themselves. Obviously Hullbreacher is pretty massive given the card is getting action in legacy. The card is a horrible design and horrible to play against but it is strong. Behold the Multiverse is the other standout blue tool. It is just such a clean, efficient and convenient draw card. While far from a bomb it is still a card you want to play. You always want to play draw cards but when they are clunky like Fact or Fiction you typically can't afford to in the high tempo meta. The cost breakdown of Behold removes this barrier and gives you access to some good old fashioned raw draw. I have not had any pure draw cards costing over 2 last in the cube really since planeswalkers arrived on the scene. Card advantage cards are all modal things like Mystic Confluence or planeswalkers in cube and so Behold the Multiverse being good in that setting really impresses me.


Red has some even more impressive tools. Crackle with Power is a very hard hitting X spell. It lacks the smooth scaling of traditional X spells but gains a significant mana efficiency in its place. Five damage anywhere for 5 mana is decent, it is a lot of reach or reliable removal. It is fine at just that. It has already ended many games. Take it to 8 mana or even 11, which does happen, and the card is obscene in power. Usually ending the game on the spot. I have typically run one red X burn spell in cube which has usually been Devil's Play. Crackle feels like a pretty big upgrade on that. Another noteworthy red card is Goldspan Dragon which has impressed and carved out a little niche for itself. The treasure component makes it a really appealing threat in more reactive decks. Being able to flop out a dragon and have mana for disruption left open is strong. Goldspan isn't a Glorybringer but it also isn't far behind. 

Lealia, the Blade Reforged is reds big new card. She is like a Rabblemaster Slith that offers card advantage rather than going wide (but still going very big on the damage output). Baseline attacking as a 3/3 haste for 3 is decent. Growing in size every combat step is delightful and gets out of hand quickly. That alone is nearly good enough and we still have two strong perks to go! You get a card per attack as well if you can use it. This is less relevant on the turn you make her but is still more often than not a hit in the cheaper decks when Lealia is made off curve. Lastly you have the ability to pump her further with things like escape, flashback or Light up the Stage. Those that you can do instantly are extra scary but it all just gets out of hand very quickly. She has dominated multiples games. A super planeswalker if you can't quickly contain her. Already on multiple occasions I have seen her be at least a 6/6 having drawn multiple cards and done massive damage, often forcing chump blocks. 

Black has had a huge jump in its ability to be the main colour in a build rather than a splash for gold power and removal. This is not really down to any bombs or surprise cards. It is the continued addition of strong and diverse removal options, cheap support cards, and well rounded and decently powered midrange stuff. Woe Strider is a great example of this but since then we have had more along those lines. Callous Bloodmage has been fantastic if not wildly exciting or powerful. I just want it in all my black decks. You feel good about things when you have it in hand. The most surprising performer from recent sets in black is Unwilling Ingredient which I am increasingly likening to Thraben Inspector. A cheap throwaway dork that ultimately costs no cards. Great for sacrifice fodder, holding equipment, and all that sort of thing. What the froggy lacks in artifact synergy it makes up for in being useful even when you don't play it. Mill and discard both empower the frog and will all the escape and other black recursion on offer it has empowered the likes of support cards such as Stitcher's Supplier. 

Eyetwitch and Hunt for Specimens are a pair of lovely versatile and very low overall cost support cards that have been massive for black. Being able to learn Pest Summoning is amazing for black aristocrat decks and has propelled them to a top tier archetype along with the addition of Bastion of Remembrance. Nested Shambler looks set to further continue this wealth of low cost support cards empowering black sacrifice decks. Village Rites was a little late to the party but has been an impressive inclusion along with these new cheap support dorks arriving in abundance. Sedgemoor Witch is yet another noteworthy card helping out the aristocrat lists although actually performing better in more control and midrange settings. It is just a surprisingly playable card that is well supported in a couple of archetypes. As you can see that is a wealth of cards that are cheap and broadly playable while supporting key synergies. Not any surprise that black has started holding up by itself. 

Well, those are the winners, now lets take a quick look at some that have flopped despite my initial optimism for the cards. First up we have Skyclave Fledgling and Bloodsky Berserker. We are just past the point in cube were being a pure beater with no tricks or perks is a no go outside one drops. I recently cut Tarmogoyf so really these guys should have twigged as non-starters. 

Inscription of Abundance is a bit too clunky and narrow. It does nothing without creatures. It isn't great when you can play it and for a modal card it doesn't feel very option rich. I still like the card but it was just super hard to ever find room or justify putting it in a deck. The kicker is a bit of a trick, it makes it look like it is good value but really you never want to pay five for all the thing and as such being just a two mana card the total power it offers is dismal. 

Toggo, Goblin Weaponsmith was a big flop. He simply offers far too little tempo or threat. Sure, with enough time and lands he will win but isn't that most things? Prior to that Toggo is rather the Grey Ogre! I initially likened this to Tireless Tracker but starting smaller, not growing, and needing to tap down dorks in order to use rocks all added up to make Toggo pretty unplayable. 

Magmatic Channeler is very hard to turn on and very easy to turn off again either through escaping and delving yourself or just some disruption from the opponent. A 1/3 looter for 1R with card quality elements would still be great in red but this forces you into awkward lines. You can't keep cards for later and this often means exiling something you actually want at some point. It also tends to force you hand on lines for the turn which is often inefficient. Inconvenience on a card that is supposedly there to be convenient kind of killed this. Plaarg is simply a far more suitable tool even if he is lower powered.

Basalt Ravager I just over estimated the expected damage output. Turns out this is rarely above two and often just one. That isn't enough punch for a four drop. The removal is very low powered resulting in low value. You need very high value or a good degree of threat as a cube 4 drop and being a vanilla 4/2 ensures it is neither of those things! 

Pathways are absolutely still great lands and certainly cube worthy but I also overestimated them too. The issue with Pathways is that you lock yourself into just the one colour and this really doesn't help with colour intense cards. In a two colour deck with loads of single coloured mana symbols in costs Pathways are exceptional. Start adding in more colours or double coloured costs in cards and the drawbacks of the Pathways become clearer. A Pathway fails to help cast a white one drop followed by a Dimir Two drop while any Esper Dual land would facilitate this fairly comfortably. You typically want to hold Pathways until your last land drop and that can be awkward when forced into playing them early due to having EtB tapped lands in hand or lands with preconditions you are setting up to meet. Absolutely run Pathways but don't expect them to be outperforming pain lands. 

Ascendant Spirit was facing an uphill battle from the start. With blue not really supporting an aggressive strategy and this being fairly hard to play outside of a mono coloured deck it is no surprise this saw barely any play. It is a good one to help force an archetype if you want blue to do beatdown things but sadly it isn't really a strong draft cube card fundamentally being effectively mono. Good blue aggro cards are ones you can pair with other colours giving them more options and homes in draft. This is still a fairly potent one drop and will get a bit of play but mostly outside of the limited settings. 

Silverquil Command is not the spice I had hoped by quite a long shot. Sorcery speed just kills it. Such a cumbersome and clunky card. Edicts can be great but mostly are ineffective. The narrowness of the three reasonable abilities ensures you are almost always drawing the card which results in a fairly over priced and low tempo card. At three mana or being instant and this would be back on the table. This is just never taking the spot of an Orzhov planeswalker or one of their top rate removal spells. 

Fain the Broker is the last card on the list to talk about. He got lots of play but really underperformed. This told me two things. One - Fain is poo. Two - black still hungers for broadly playable sac outlets and token generation. We just got loads of these and it made black great but apparently there is room for more. I do still quite like Fain but he is very slow, very fair, very easy to concede an edge with, and frankly would be indistinguishable from a vanilla 3/3 most of the time. 

Saturday 19 June 2021

Modern Horizons 2 Additions and Conclusions


This is easily the most powerful single set since Alpha. This comes as no surprise given that MH1 did hold that title and since then power creep has been fairly intense. Indeed I am almost relived nothing individually too horrific was spoiled given recent past form. Obviously the dust is a long way from settling so there is plenty of opportunity for things to be broken... Ragavan is still far too much for my liking but perhaps it is somehow fine? Most things do at least kill him with ease. 

There are a lot of things I want to pickup from this set although many of them will never set foot in the drafting cube as they are narrow in some way. Most modern archetypes had a couple of custom built cards for them in MH2, some others got many multiples like affinity. All of this direct support from a high powered set ensures that there are lots of things that are great in the decks they have been designed for and as such a bunch of things for the constructed reserves. It seems to be the case that in modern now your deck either contains MH2 cards or is not very good any more.

The cards with draft cube potential are high in number but not off the charts high. The difference to usual releases is more in the power of those cards rather than the quantity. Just a really foolishly high power level across quite a number of cards. As was noted in the comments, I barely ever give 9/10 or higher ratings. Force of Negation and Prismatic Vista got 9s from the last MH set but lands kind of don't count in quite the same way. Deathrite and Smuggler's Copter would have had 9s too had I rated them in the same way. Oko should of course also have had a 9.5 rating but I totally missed how broken he was on initial review. In over a decade of reviews that is a handful of 9+ cards and rightly so. I'm not sure you want these format warping cards that often. Well, MH2 has more 9+ cards than the last decade of magic so that is quite the claim. We shall see how it pans out with MH2 having five cards rated 9 or more. Luckily cube is highly resilient to such things so while other formats may suffer cube should take it in it's stride. 

Much as I dislike the pricing on MH2 and I am wary of the power I do really appreciate the good design. I am not such a fan of the gimmick cards. Those that are clearly top down designed based on some daft word play. Lets keep that kind of thing for the silver boarded releases mostly. Beyond that the cards are generally really top draw stuff. I don't know if the designers getting to take the gloves off brings out the best in design or if more resources are thrown at getting these MH sets good but there is certainly something at play. Well thought out, interesting and sensible card design is again the real champion of these sets. As ever, here are the cards I will be  getting from MH2 and what I will be doing with them.

Additions (best to worst)

Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer 


Ignoble Hierarch 



Dauthi Voidwalker



Urza's Saga

Svyelun, God of the Sea and Sky

Rift Sower

Prismatic Ending


Flametongue Yearling

Esper Sentinel 

Hard Evidence 

Tourach, Dread Chanter 

Breya's Apprentice 

Test with high hopes;

Ravenous Squirrel 

Master of Death 

Nested Shambler 

Clattering Auger 

Dragon's Rage Channeler 

Lose Focus 

Myr Scrapling 

Mine Collapse 

Test with low hopes;

Rishadan Dockhand

Sword of Hearth and Home

Dakkon, Shadow Slayer

Priest of Fell Rites 

Obsidian Charmaw 


Flame Blitz

Verdant Command 

Sylvan Anthem 


Legion Vanguard 

Resurgent Belief 

Geyadrone Dihada 

Blazing Rootwalla 

Strike it Rich 

Tireless Provisioner 


Bloodbraid Marauder 

Blossoming Calm 

Unholy Heat 

Out of Time

For the Constructed Reserves;

The Artifact Dual Lands

The Underworld Cookbook


Glimpse of Tomorrow

Arbound Mouser

Step Through

Dress Down

Gaea's Will

Thought Monitor 

Ornithopter of Paradise 

Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth 

Sanctum Weaver 

Faithless Salvaging 


Terrirtorial Kavu 




Diamond Lion

Unmarked Grave

Profane Tutor

Timeless Dragon

Squirrel Sanctuary 

Kaldra Compleat 

Squirrel Sovereign 

Chitterfang, Squirrel General 

Fractured Sanity 

Void Mirror

Kitchen Imp

Zabaz, the Glimmerwasp 

Carth the Lion

Arcbound Shikari 

Academy Manufacturer 

Liquimetal Torque

Scurry Oak

Fae Offering 

Road // Ruin 

Sanctifier en-Vec 

Harmonic Prodigy 

Calibrated Blast 

Abiding Grace 

General Ferous Rokiric 

Sudden Edict 

Lonis, Cryptozoologist 



Archon of Cruelty

Timeless Witness 

Vile Entomber


Skyblade's Boon 

Barbed Spike 

Power Depot 

Sythis, Harvest's Hand 

Foundation Breaker 

Arcbound Javelineer 

Sol Talisman 

Glimmer Bairn 

Inevitable Betrayal

Blacksmith's Skill 

Magus of the Bridge

Terminal Agony

Tragic Fall

Arcbound Prototype 

Murktide Regent 

Break the Ice


Goblin Anarchomancer 

Sojourner's Companion 


Friday 18 June 2021

Preliminary Reviews Modern Horizons 2 Part XIV


Sojourner's Companion 4

Upgraded Myr Enforcer! With more artifact lands and more cheap and on theme artifact support cards these bigger affinity cards are looking far easier to support than ever before. This is no bomb by any means but a free 4/4 that supports your other synergies is a fine thing even if you have to wait till turn two to get it out. I somewhat expect more variants of affinity build to exist after this set. This has a shot in all of them thanks to the abundance of artifact lands now available. The fixing this offers is not to be sniffed at either. It is not what you want to be doing but it will save your skin when you need to. 

Myr Scrapling 6

Lovely little tool. Ideal support card with potential in affinity, Hardened Scales and potentially just in generic aggro lists like a little Mogg Fanatic style card. Low power but fantastic option density alongside decent synergies. Worth a test for sure. 

Wave Sifter 2

A bad gold Mulldrifter. This is only playable if you want clues more than cards. Two mana for two clues is an OK return if they are doing something beyond normal clues such as tapping for mana. 

Terminal Agony 2

Playable removal in a deck with consistent free/cheap and instant speed discard outlets.

Storm God's Oracle 1

Fantastic little limited card with great design and option density. All a bit gold and fair for cube to the point where I can't really see a deck that wants this. It has too many quirks to rule out entirely. It could be a combo card thanks to the types and relevant 0 mana on death trigger.

Dihada's Ploy 1

I like card draw, instants, lifegain, card quality, things with jumpstart, all the things this does. I just don't like this very much. It is really costly and hard to abuse or scale. Not sure where I would ever play this. Perhaps some midrange self mill list?

Flourishing Strike 1

Nice modal card but all too narrow. I just can't see anyone putting this in a deck. 

Viashino Lashclaw 1

Cheap and doing a couple of things. Awful power level however so you really need the discard to be a plus and the haste to be important before this is at all interesting. 

Unholy Heat 6

I can see this working out. Delirium isn't all that hard to get and this is a fine enough floor prior to that. It is efficient removal late and suitably cheap early. Soul Sear is the competition for this and presently I think it wins out. There is plenty of things that Shock on turn one, there are not so many that can do 5 or more efficiently later on. This needed to be more consistently able to get delirium to out compete Sear and most cubes are not setup to do that.

Mine Collapse 7

Fury meets Baleful Mastery. This is not efficient to play without pitch cost but it is just about passable. Only being able to pitch on your own turn takes a lot of the naughty potential out of this card. It is still high tempo to do so but is unlikely to gain any sort of value. I feel like the broad application, potential ceiling, and general high degree of flexibility make this cube worthy but it is just a removal spell and hard to get that excited about. This at least offers a more consistent modal alternative to Soul Sear than Unholy Heat.

Lightning Spear 1

While neither a five mana Bolt nor a terrible Bone Splitter appeal all that much I do like the trample a bit. With all the varying uses this does tempt a little but it is sadly too low powered for cube play. 

Arcbound Tracker 1

This looks like it gets out of hand hard and fast. Modular and menace keep it safe and reliable. If played in a cheap affinity deck this will be able to charge up a bunch. Probably still in need of too much support for what is essentially top end in such lists despite seeming strong. The bar for these kinds of decks is pretty extreme. This is fairly tame when you play it as one of your last cards and given it is effectively top end that feels like it will be the case to some extent all of the time.   

Vermin Gorger 1

An sac outlet with an on-theme effect. Sadly too restrictive and slow to be good in that capacity and rather narrow and low powered for use elsewhere. Once a turn sac outlets need to be a lot more worthwhile than this.

Tragic Fall 4

Well rounded removal with some nice scaling. This handles most things late and most things early. It is only really lack of ability to hit walkers and a dip in power in the midgame that removes the cube appeal of this card. This is of comparable power to the likes of Go for the Throat and other top tier Doom Blade effects. Due to the fairer way this plays it would likely be my first choice for such things in cube if I wanted them. 

Nested Shambler 7

A top quality support card. This has the types you want and does the much sought after two-bodies-in-one-card thing for the best possible price in cube. I am still running Lazotep Reaver to help support aristocrat synergies and so this seems like a bit of a lock in. The power scaling potential is great too. It won't come up that often but if you happen to somehow get more than one token out of this then the value is pretty extreme. I was very sad when green got Young Wolf and Black only got Butcher Ghoul, this goes some length to making up for that. 

Recalibrate 1

Nice in principle but too situational for the kind of effect it is. Simply put, play Unsummon or Repulse.


Etherium Spinner 1

The combination of few things triggering this and being a 3 mana 1 toughness dork that needs follow up are all big turn offs for this. Cute with the likes of Force of Will but a long way off being a Monastery Mentor or Young Pyromancer even with new affinity tools. 

Burdened Aerialist 1

Plausible filler in a pirate or treasure deck. 

Arcbound Prototype 3

Passable support dork in the mostly white modular heavy affinity builds. 

Resurgent Belief 4

Replenish but given the suspend treatment. Feels like this should work out very nicely with As Foretold. I can see this getting used as support for conventional Replenish decks as well as a card that you cast for free in one of the ways these cards can have that done. Lots and lots of power here and all sorts of potential. Combo and build around only however. I imagine this will have more impact on modern than on cubes by a decent margin.