Monday 31 January 2022

Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Preliminary Reviews Part II


0 - unplayable in 40 card singleton

1 - effectively unplayable

2 - has low tier constructed decks it might go in

3 - has mid tier constructed decks it does go in

4 - pretty powerful stuff with several potential homes, able to perform well in lower powered cubes

5 - powerful stuff that is either just too narrow or has too many superior alternatives

6 - fringe cube worthy

7 - cube worthy

8 - cube staple

9 - unpowered cube bomb

10 - powered cube bomb 

Ao, the Dawnsky 6

Very powerful but I fear a little to inconsistent in performance for what you want in a top end play. Sometimes it will be an unkillable thing fiving you each turn and totally holding off your attacks and dominating the game which is a nice ceiling. The average is probably going to be like 9 mana and 3 cards worth of stuff for 5 and 1 respectively which is decent enough on a card with OK threat and tempo. It is just that floor you cannot really be risking on a card like this. Catch a Remand, get it flipped by a Teferi, any sort of horror show outcome like that and it is so often the game as a result. There is some potential to try and run Ao with your own Wrath effects so as to be able to hold the board down a bit then rebuild more rapidly. The issue with that is the lower odds on hitting cards to put into play in a deck using Wraths. 

Kiari, the Swirling Sky 6

Iymrith is a card that has impressed me greatly in cube which is mostly down to the ward. This alone gives me some hope for Kiara. The ward is a little less here than with Iymrith and the card is a little later in the game where there is more mana spare for paying ward taxes with. Further to that the value Kiara offers is only upon death meaning you really just have a big flier with a smattering of protection which likely isn't enough for this kind of price range. 


Life of Toshiro Umezawa // Memory of Toshiro 4

A lot of value here but it is all super slow and a little bit situational for my tastes. If you are killing 1 toughness cards this is nuts, if you are gaining life against burn it is reasonable but if you are not then it is just a slow and low powered dork with none of the desired threat, power, or utility to merit play. High enough power to merit a testing but we are past the time of general high power being enough, now we need power to be in quite specific places.


Michiko's Reign of Truth // Portrait of Michiko 5

Narrow card but incredibly powerful. A kind of side-grade on All that Glitters. This gets a couple of hard hits in with lower risk than an aura and then if that hasn't got the job done it turns into a fairly scary dork. I'll play this in any aggressive enchantment deck or artifact deck. Not being an aura will hurt it relative to All that Glitters in some builds but this still has plenty of game. Low risk and self contained threats with this level of scaling potential go a long way.

Azuza's Many Journeys // Likeness of the Seeker 2

This is a whole lot of card but sadly I am unconvinced this is in any way better than Explore. If I am ramping I do not much card for a 3/3 dork when I could have a card. Yes, this is better tempo, and it is better value, while also offering a more rounded package than Explore. It just isn't things you really want or need combined together all that usefully. This will suck so hard when you play it late in the game or when you have no extra land to play and so it sucks as a cube card despite looking like it is jam packed juice.  

The Modern Age // Vector Glider 7

While this is lower power than a number of this cycle that I haven't even bothered to review this has a couple of things going for it. The flying makes the body relevant throughout the game so unlike many of the others the delay does not ruin this. Early card quality is where you want it and yard filling is exceptionally powerful in my cube at present. This is a pretty neat fit into blue tempo decks. It seems to compare pretty favourably to Looter il-Kor as well. The body is more robust, threatening, and relevant while the looting is at least more assured and more rapid. You are getting the more important early couple of loots without getting owned by some ping. Yes, you might not get that 3rd and 4th loot but those are not as important. A good little support card for graveyard and tempo based blue decks. Not for all cubes but with the likes of Etherial Forager, Demilich, Murktide Regent and so forth, this has a hopeful future. 

Boseiju, Who Endures 8

This is a very convenient modal card. Essentially a forest with a pile of removal options should you either need such a thing, or simply have more lands than needed. A top tier iteration of the MDFC lands and pretty much an auto include in any green deck. Near zero inclusion cost and quite a lot to be had in return for said inclusion. Not exactly powerful effects but so useful, convenient and free that it is an outstanding card. 

Enthusiastic Mechanaut 2

Combo card with ultimately less potential than Electromancer despite seemingly higher power. Artifact decks simply don't love playing high colour intensity cards. 

Silver-Fur Master 3

Great ninja lord. Play this in ninja decks to improve them and no where else. Works nicely with a couple of the cute changeling cards that find themselves supporting ninja decks too.

Surgehacker Mech 1

This deals 2 damage for 4 mana then sits around being sad about lack of crew. Can be good but can also be bad which in cube terms these days just means it is bad. 

Simian Sling 2.5

Low power but a lot going on for just 1 mana. I can see this winding up supporting a selection of synergy decks as one drop cards with stuff doing on have a habit of doing. 

Biting-Palm Ninja 7

As a three drop this is vulnerable to removal but pretty damn scary otherwise. A 3/3 that gets in a free hit and takes your best card is brutal. Ninjutsu makes the connection for hand disruption more likely but makes the card narrower and far lower tempo. Likely this is versatile, disruptive, and threatening enough to make an impact in cube. Concealed Curtain has impressed in cube so far and this has some similarities while packing a better ceiling. 

The Reality Chip 2

So either a Steel Wall or a Future Sight you need to equip onto something. Spreading out the cost and having a bit of a speed bump are all nice things to slap on a card draw card but needing a dork feels like it kills this. Quirky but I think not the kind of thing many cubes are looking for. 

Jukai Naturalist 2

Perhaps getting into some enchantress decks by virtue of being an enchantment. Not very exciting though. 

Secluded Courtyard 4

Another staple for most multicolour tribal decks and a real boost to those with many colours.

Spirited Companion 7

This is the support card white has yearned for. Just a nice clean little dork with draw a card on EtB. You can flicker this, you can equip this, you can attack with it. I am a big fan of it also being an enchantment as it adds an extra layer of support and synergy potential. White can almost draw cards at this point which goes a long way to making it a more appealing colour to play. While an innocuous card I feel like this will have one of the biggest impacts on my cube from this set. 

The Wandering Emperor 7

This I love. Flash is the other thing making white more appealing to play with and this is a cool and unique place to find it. This can be quite nasty to run into in combat and can even be a little awkward to run a planeswalker out into. This offers board control, board presence, good defence, a reliable two activations, and it does it all a lot more safely than other walkers. The power isn't extreme here by any means, the loyalty is a little low and the effects are relatively tame but the safety of the card more than makes up for this. I think this is a very exciting control and midrange tool. She is playable in aggressive decks too although she does lose some teeth if you do. The Wandering Emporer is easy to deploy both evading counters or holding them up. She is then pretty easy to establish on the board thus allowing you the best chance to get good value out of.

Tezzeret, Betrayer of the Flesh 3

Some cute potentials with the passive but mostly this is just a fairly generic artifact matters planeswalker than you only really play in artifact decks and then you probably just don't because there are too many other narrow cards like it but better. The power is OK but that is not enough to get it much action in a world where Urza is setting the bar for artifact matters four drops. 

Sunday 30 January 2022

Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Preliminary Reviews Part I


0 - unplayable in 40 card singleton

1 - effectively unplayable

2 - has low tier constructed decks it might go in

3 - has mid tier constructed decks it does go in

4 - pretty powerful stuff with several potential homes, able to perform well in lower powered cubes

5 - powerful stuff that is either just too narrow or has too many superior alternatives

6 - fringe cube worthy

7 - cube worthy

8 - cube staple

9 - unpowered cube bomb

10 - powered cube bomb 

Hidetsugu, Devouring Chaos 4/10

Powerful and even somewhat abusable but mostly just a bad slow Erratic Explosion. This lacks board presence and immediate value largely ruling it out for any sort of play. 

Atsushi, the Blazing Sky 6/10

This is a lot closer to the mark than Hidetsugu but it is still not there for me. It has little immediate impact and with so much bounce and exile removal it has plenty of chance to just be a bit of a blowout play. Waste a turn making a four mana investment to have it cleanly and easily out of the way and fall really far behind. I would significantly prefer a Rekindling Phoenix to this and I found that to be a bit polar and clunky to be a good cube inclusion. 

Kaito Shizuki 7.5/10

I really like this walker but it is fair and safe rather than powerful. Mostly it is a card drawing tool but it does so in a cool way that gives you options and a little bit extra in the way of pressure and presence. Kaito can just be a looter which is a fine use for a walker. As such he effectively assures two loots and has five loyalty which is pretty tasty for a three mana walker. With other attackers going on Kaito is a calm clean +1 card and loyalty per turn from the get go which is impressive too. The -2 allows you to turn the loot into a draw when you have no attacks going on, or it can just be putting bodies into play, all be it slowly. Kaito seems like a fixed iteration of Dovin, Grand Arbiter. While the dork making bit isn't better the card draw loyalty gain mode is so much better that it more than compensates. Kaito has a fairly weak ultimate but making unblockable tokens and drawing cards is plenty able to dominate a game by itself. The coolest thing about Kaito is that turn of protection thanks to the EtB phase out at EoT ensuring no sorcery speed removal or attacks can do for him until he has had twice the activations other walkers get. This allows you to lead with Kaito and then use effects to control the board after rather than having to do it the other way round as is the case for most other walkers. I look forward to playing with Kaito. He feels like a beefed up option rich Looter il-Kor - a card that has consistently performed highly in cube. 

Satoru Umezawa 3

Value and trickery potential but all a bit slow and needing of setup. A cool card but more the sort of thing you play for fun than to expect to win with. 

The Kami War // O-Kagachi Made Manifest  7

The power here is pretty insane with removal and value into threat and value. After just one attack you have dealt with 2 cards of your opponents gained a massive flying threat, done a pile of damage and added a card to your hand. That is a four for one with massive tempo and disruption. This is basically like some super boosted Elspeth Conquers Death which is a high performer in my cube. The Kami War is hard to play and pretty slow. The first attack is four turns away from the cast and you need to be in all colours. With Omnath decks being popular and also high performers in my cube at present I can see this being sufficiently supported to make the cut. As soon as five colour decks go out of style this will go with them, I cannot imagine it is able to hold an archetype together in the way than Omnath can. This is just powerful payoff for having all the colours rather than a reason to be all of them in the first place. 

Goro-Goro, Disciple of Ryusei 5

Powerful and versatile but likely a little aimless and narrow to quite cut it in cube these days. It is a bit low tempo by itself and a bit reliant on the activations to bring the power, both of which are some kind of conditional. 

Thousand-Faced Shadow 3

Very cool card that both helps support ninjutsu and provides payoff for other ninjutsu support. Sadly too cute for drafting cubes, a lot needs to line up for it to be strong on top of not really suiting the typical metas.

Kyodai, Soul of Kamigawa 7

This is probably just good enough as a side-grade from Restoration Angel. Kyodai will lead to some brutal blowouts in combat which look to be the ceiling of the card. If you get to counter a spot removal spell with Kyodai that will also tend to be a pretty savage blowout play. It will put a savage tax on their removal options and likely cause some real problems for them. What appeals is the general flexibility of Kyodai. Flash fliers are lovely planeswalker control cards as well as fairly effective and safe threats. Kyodai will let you play a safer game as an aggressive player allowing you to not over extend while still giving yourself options and the means to not simply concede tempo. Kyodai can also be used somewhat aggressively by turning an otherwise low value attacker into a pretty high one. Sometimes you might even have all the colours and get to wind the game up a couple of turns quicker! This isn't what I would call powerful but it is very safe, convenient, suitable, and useful. 

Saturday 1 January 2022



Cube play in my standard unpowered cube is starting to feel the most like booster limited as it ever has. I am less and less picking cards for curve or synergy reasons and am increasingly picking directly on power level. Pick the cards that win games, pick the bombs. This may seem like a good or a bad thing based upon what it is you look for in a format. There are certainly some good reasons behind why I am noticing this change but there are equally some bad reasons too. A big part of it is that there are enough good cheaper support cards at the lower costs, your mana dorks, card quality spells, disruption, etc. that you do not need to put such a high priority on them. They are no longer the bottleneck to having a good deck. That depth of support is great for cube.

Perhaps a less appealing cause is the sheer effectiveness of the bombs themselves. Things that close games do so much more consistently and quickly than ever before. It means that there is a lot less game time once the bombs land before the game ends giving a less interactive feel. It also used to feel like you won with your top end alongside your other cards, now it feels a lot more like your threats can just take the game home solo. 

The game quality is still high but it can all end a little abruptly for my liking. The thing I am finding I like least about this shift is that games are feeling a lot more samey. The bomb cards are always picked and played and then they tend to be the cards winning the games. This means a small pool of cards feels like they account for most of the outcomes. Quirky and interesting cards are really failing to get a look in. Cards I want to see in play just don't get those opportunities like they used to. The result of this is that I am experimenting a lot more with alternate cubes and ways of playing. Cube felt like it had endless longevity when support cards were the bottleneck. I never tired of casting Preordain or Llanowar Elf on turn one. It turns out people do tire of winning and losing with the same cards. 

Playing less cube is one way to tackle the longevity issues that power creep in threats has caused. Playing different types of cube is another, things like combo cubes, synergy/modular cubes, themed cubes, pauper cubes, etc. etc. A perhaps more simply solution is to cut/ban some of these offending articles. We had been playing with a couple of bans per player at the start of events for a while now but even that isn't enough to handle all the problematic cards. As such I have been strongly considering going to town on bans and significantly lowering the power level of my cube. I have already done this to a certain extent with the removal of Fractured Identity, True-Name Nemesis, and Ashiok Nightmare Weaver. These were cards that were really oppressive in cube and no fun at all to play into. Being either multiplayer design cards or ones tuned for 60 card lists not 40 a ban didn't feel like it went against my philosophy of trying to run the most powerful cards. As a cube curator I may now have to move away from that premise and hold on to simply trying to make the most fun to play format. The reason I tend to play unpowered cube is for the quality and diversity of games however the unpowered and powered cubes I run feel more similar than ever before with a scarily high degree overlap in pick order.

A significant proportion of the cards on my watch list are from Modern Horizons or Commander product and so I could simply forgo those sets in cube but there are loads of cards I love from those sets that add a lot to the format and so while it is an easy to understand fix I would prefer a more complicated one that had less in the way of drawbacks. It also doesn't protect against the power creep we are seeing in standard product. The cards on my watchlist not from Modern Horizons or Commander are mostly new cards. If they keep printing sets like they have been we will be back where we are now in a few years even without Commander and MH cards. 

Power creep is dangerous in general but it turns out that it is particularly irksome in cube when on the kinds of cards that close out games. I think I liked the level of power we had in threats before The Scarab God and Glorybringer. Here is a list of the cards in my cube that are wearing a bit thin already due to how much visibility and impact they have. 

Umezawa's Jitte

Retrofitter Foundry 

Urza's Saga


Urza, Lord High Artificer

Ethereal Forager

Murktide Regent


Plague Engineer

Yawgmoth, Thrann Physician

Massacre Girl

Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer

Laelia, the Blade Reforged




Emissary of Grudges



Questing Beast

Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider

Esika's Chariot

Paradox Zone

The Scarab God

Fallen Shinobi

Grist, the Hunger Tide

Omnath, Locus of Creation

This list is not hard and fast by any means. There are some cards that are pretty tedious not on this list. There are also plenty of non-threat cards that and comparably back breaking and some supporting cards that are just so good and rounded you see them all the time. These share some of the same issues of making games abrupt or samey as the oppressive threats. Cards such as;

Brazen Borrower

Bonecrusher Giant

Seasoned Pyromancer

Skyclave Apparition

Winds of Abandon

Mystic Confluence

Wretched Confluence

Fire Covenant 

Toxic Deluge

Teferi, Time Raveler