Sunday 29 May 2022

Battle for Baldur's Gate Preliminary Review Part III

 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 

Dynaheir, Invoker Adept 2

An OK power level and some interesting abilities. Neither of which help it get anywhere near a cube slot. 

Bhaal, Lord of Murder 4

This is OK, it is easy enough to make indestructible and at that point it is decent. A good amount of threat, safety, power, and utility. Even so, it is fairly comparable in power to the sorts of things you can do in one colour in the cube so being three of them makes me think this is going to be a rare sight in cubes.

You Look Upon the Terrasque 4

A very expensive Fog! This does let you inflict heavy damage in combat if things line up. Five mana open however and people tend to smell a rat...  The pump ability is more interesting as it can do some pretty brutal things, either Wrathing your opponent, taking out key dorks, or inflicting heavy damage to face. Again, all conditionally. Modality and bonus pseudo modality on those modes helps with this being conditional but a five mana trick is going to be real hard to redeem. I give this a 4 because of power but in practice it feels like a 1/10 as soon as we are talking playability. 

Illithid Harvester 2

Cute but rather slow. A five mana 4/4 that might turn turn dorks into vanilla 2/2s is not wildly exciting and the adventure adds less than most do. A perfectly playable card but neither very powerful nor that well suited. It has the potential to look good sometimes at least. 

Jaheira's Respite 0

Like a Settle the Wreckage, but more expensive and instead of removing the threats you get lands... so pretty terrible. I want ramp sooner, and I want it unconditionally. 

Naughtyboy Ship 7

This is pretty interesting as it fires on three different angles. A 5/5 flyer for 4 is quite a threat. Crew 3 is a significant cost but not a back breaking one at all here. This will win games just by being tough to kill while also being big and evasive much like Celestial Colonnade or Smuggler's Copter. There is then the graveyard disruption element which is usually minor, often irrelevant, but useful and typically quite rare to find on good playable cube cards. Lastly there is the Reanimation aspect which rather pushes the ceiling. One hit from this is likely to result in big value and tempo. You can exile your own graveyard too increasing the odds you get (useful) dorks back. Ship is playable if it isn't getting stuff back even if it is pretty dull and pretty fair. As soon as you threaten to get back something worth having the card gets pretty scary. There is a wiff of the Scarab God about it. There is also much more than just a wiff of Weatherlight although Ship eclipses that pretty comfortably being bigger, less restricted by heroic cards, and offering tempo on top of value returns. I don't think this is a bomb but I do think it has a very real chance of lasting in the cube. It might however just be a less impressive version of Skysovereign, Consul Flagship. 

Robe of the Archamagi 0

Good scaling but all too conditional, low tempo, and generally wishful. Just play reliable safe card draw rather than risking the blowout or dead card nature of this. 

Alora, Merry Thief 3

Cute support card for Cunning Evasion, ninja, and rogue decks. A bit weak on the body side of things and a little pricier than I would like for a three drop but fine in the right deck. 

Monster Manual 5

Elvish Piper got a long awaited and significant upgrade. No-one enjoys having to pay 4 mana for a 1/1 and then waiting to see if it lives... This is faster acting, cheaper to use, and rather safer. It even gives you a nice little adventure to dig into the deck to find things to later put into play. Much as this is a cool card it is a bit of a build around. It is going to take a lot of activations from this to get your mana back unless you have a whole lot of fatties in your deck. It is only ramp if you are deploying things that are six or more mana which is where my curve pretty much ends in cube. Normal decks do not have the meat to justify running this, you might as well run Aether Vile and even that is a little narrow for cube despite the wildly more suitable cost and relation to the curve.  

Tasha, the Witch Queen 2

This suffers from the same fate as Elminster in that you cannot reliably make a defensive dork for this on the turn you deploy it. Sure, if you get to untap with it and you happen to have exiled something big and relevant then it is incredibly powerful. Mostly that will not happen and you have just paid a lot of mana to cycle. Even with support you are struggling to get 3/3 demon tokens out of this. 

Wilson, Refined Grizzly 2

Mostly this is still just a Grizzly Bears. Good fun and a boost to the bear tribe but despite the large amount of text it isn't very powerful, threatening or useful. Reminds me of that recent Kobald legend... Wilson is cool to equip I guess. 

Korlessa, Scale Singer 2

Good dragon support card but value based which is not what the tribe needs. Red is also the base colour for most dragon stuff and so this will be awkward to fit in. A tribal only card that is only a maybe for a tribal list isn't very impressive. 

Mahadi, Emporium Master 2

This is no Mayhem Devil. It isn't really even a Pitiless Plunderer or a Gadrak. It is very much one of those middlemen cards that needs support to do its thing but then needs something to be doing with the thing it does else what is the point? All told this is a bit slow and a bit narrow. The power is fine but where exactly am I playing this? Even 100 commander sacrifice decks will struggle to fit this in so 40 card decks have no chance. 

Wizards of Thay 1

I do very much like the passive abilities here but when stuck on a Phantom Monster the card rather loses any bite it might have had. All just a bit costly and vulnerable when the myriad is blank text as it is in 1v1 play. 

Bonecaller Cleric 2

Zombify on legs! This is low power but it is quite playable. It is an early proactive dork with a bit of late game utility and kick. You need to want specific things back from the bin and you need to be a deck that wants to apply pressure which leaves this with very few possible homes but for a low power card this isn't without use. 

Friday 27 May 2022

Battle for Baldur's Gate Preliminary Review 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 

Irenicus's Vile Duplication 1

Clone on a spell invites combos with the likes of Dualcaster Mage. Not much use beyond that.

Fang Dragon 2

Well the creature portion of this card is not powerful but it is at least quite threatening. It is all about the adventure here. If you want this effect then getting a big, if over cost, dragon on the back end of it is a pretty substantial upgrade. Mostly this kind of low impact mass removal thing is too narrow for the cube. There is a pretty quick meta shift when there are too many good ping effects or too many 1 toughness dorks. Even if this was good enough the shift would happen and make it not so. Impressive stuff for a common though. Great for tribal dragons as well. 

Nemesis Phoenix 1

Powerful but again too narrow. The non recursion cost is way too steep meaning you need looting, but then you also need to be reliably attacking in multiples, all of which is way too much hand holding. 

Noble's Purse 7

If this didn't enter tapped it would be one of the best mana rocks printed since Urza's block rivalling the power of Talisman, Signets and Pentad Prism. The latter of which is the closest comparison. This trades all the speed of Pentad Prism for greater convenience and return. Purse is three mana for two and is all colourless upfront. I don't think this quite gets there for cube as the decks that play mana rocks are the kinds of deck that want to spend a lot of mana every turn if possible making the three mana cap on this awkward. There are plenty of builds however where I would want this over Signets or Talisman for a wide array of reasons, perhaps broader fixing, perhaps the potential to get burst mana, perhaps the ability to get 4 artifacts into play with 1 card and 2 mana, perhaps simply some treasure synergy. This list goes on. This is a very strong card indeed with a lot of homes and applications. More constructed than limited and more synergy than raw power but despite all this a very rounded and playable card where ever you might wind up running it. 

Dungeoneer's Pack 0

Sorcery speed activation is a bummer here. The card offers quite a lot but not enough for the speed and cost. 

Elminster 3

A little unreliable for my liking. You really don't want to do the -3 blind but you will often have to if you want more out of your card than a five mana Serum Visions... Also, the kinds of deck that can run this really don't want to be exiling their gas if they can help it. There is certainly a lot of power here, being able to gain +2 loyalty on top of five starting while hitting Serum Visions and reducing the cost of your stuff by 2 is nutty good it is very win more. Do that on the back foot and get beaten to a pulp. Will Kenrith does a lot of what Elminster does while being safer and more reliable and less narrow just being just the one colour. Elminster is a fun card but lack of ability to reliably protect himself takes him out of the running for cube. 

Myrkul, Lord of Bones 1

This lacks threat, power, and consistency and is quite the laughable top end card. 

Livaan, Cultist of Tiamat 1

Potential to scale but rather narrow and with far too low of a floor. 

Lozhan, Dragon's Legacy 1

Five mana in two colours for 2 toughness and an ability that needs other stuff to trigger. Not common stuff either. Nope. Big ol' nope on Lozhan. 

Lae'zel, Vlaakith's Champion 5

Great effect but unimpressive body. I do not love spending three mana for my support cards and if I am to do so I really want that support card to be a bit more impressive on its own. Certainly this is playable in most decks built around counter synergy but outside of a build around it likely isn't good enough. 

Baba Lysaga, Night Witch 2.5

Priest of Forgotten Gods bigger sister. This is harder to setup than Priest and generally a lower tempo effect as well. You need to be pretty deep into sac effects for this to appeal but it does have reasonable power. A fun build around card.

Raphael, Fiendish Savoir 4

A bit low impact and high up the curve for me to want in a sac deck even if this gets very out of hand with a Goblin Bombardment or similar sac outlet! It is getting this going that is the trouble, if you miss that first trigger this card is pretty poor. I can see this being used in tribal decks as well as some iterations of more top heavy sac decks. Reasonable power, reasonably well suited and playable, just a bit of a top end middleman gold luxury card for me.  

Oji, the Exquisite Blade 1

Cool effects but a little over cost and with slow returns. This looks playable but in practice I cannot imagine where I might consider this in a 40 card deck. 

Mazzy, Truesword Paladin 1

A bit top end for what enchantress and aura decks want. Reasonable threat and value but will be superseded by cheaper cards in 40 deck decks. 

Gale, Waterdeep Prodigy 2

Not as good as it looks. For this to work out you need lots of both instants and sorceries and ideally some way to put them in the bin beyond just playing them. You then need those cards to be proactive. With all those caveats you are basically playing an Izzet deck chock full of burn and cheap cantrips with a smattering of spells matter dorks to take advantage of all that support. Even when you have all these things going on Gale still needs to live and he is only getting you a bit of card advantage when he does. A fun card and reasonably playable but I cannot see it performing all that well all that often.

Astarion the Decadent 2

Too narrow and top end but none the less quite dangerous. Astarion can just finish people out of the blue. No one really expects face damage outside of red. I am sure there is a Tooth and Nail kill combo with this and something else that does half a life bar and that still probably isn't worth including anywhere. If he isn't burn he is probably a bit small, slow, conditional and vulnerable.

Tuesday 24 May 2022

Battle for Baldur's Gate Preliminary Review 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 

Wand of Wonder 0

Low returns in 1v1 play, both down to being restricted to one hit and by the fact that instants and sorceries are typically both the cheapest and the most situational cards in cube. Comically you are probably better off running a Jayemdae Tome - not something that can be said of much...

Elder Brain 0

This is lacking in too many ways. It is basically just a value tool on a mediocre body. There is no real tempo to be had with this, it doesn't really offer disruption directly. It isn't even all that threatening. For seven mana I want a whole lot more, I want an EtB trigger or something. This is too vulnerable and unreliable at doing much more than being a 6/6. 

Ancient Brass Dragon 0

Ancient Brass Dragon manages to be all round better than Elder Brain and yet still fail at every single hurdle. For cube this needs haste and then trample or a mana discount as well! Perhaps all three buffs. 

Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes 9

We go from a pile of unplayble cards to this clear bomb. The Timeless Heroes are oppressively good to the point they will ruin games a lot like Oko does. I can see this getting banned in my unpowered cube pretty quick. Even in a world with Fury and Tef3 and Omnath and all those mad cards I think this will be oppressive. As this isn't something you can play in modern or standard it will only be oppressive in cube. Indeed that is how it is able to be so pushed, it cannot do too much damage in EDH, legacy or vintage and isn't legal elsewhere. Cube is the only place it will be oppressive. So what is so oppressive? Well, lets take Questing Beast, Ophiomancer, Bloodbraid Elf, and some random generically good planeswalker and jam all those things together without scrimping on the power level and you get Minsc and Boo. It is high tempo, high options, high threat, and high value. It literally ticks all the boxes. You need to kill Minsc as quickly as possible else it is game over and that is easier said than done when it can start out at four loyalty and has a blocker that can be a 4/4. Mostly Boo will not be blocking, Boo will be smashing face so while you scramble to deal with Minsc you will just be dying to Boo. I normally consider a planeswalker good if three activations generally means the game is over, well in this instance it literally is, Minsc and Boo kill quicker than most threats out there. This is easily good enough with just the passive and the +1 but just in case we needed more there is the -2 which gives move value, more options, more control, and a nice powerful way to break open any sort of board stall. You won't need the -2 often because of the power of the rest of the card but it is certainly no slouch. There is only really one tiny chink in the armour of this card and that is the ability to respond. Three and one point damage effects that you can either respond to the EtB trigger or loyalty abilities with do allow you to handle the card without getting utterly smeared in the process. I guess you can counter it too... 

Firkraag, Cunning Instigator 0

Very cool in multiplayer and very hard to make more than a 3/3 flying haste in 1v1 play. 

Captain N'ghathrod 1.5

A cool option for tribal horror payoff but this is a little conditional and a little high up the curve to be having all that much impact. Horrors are barely a tribe now and will remain so when this dude comes out.

Faldorn, Dread Wolf Herald 6

A powerful self contained card that offers good value while also being a solid board development tool. Faldorn also has strong synergy with any sort of discard and graveyard stuff and scales up nicely with most red card draw effects such as Light up the Stage. While this is a very powerful card it is slow, a little vulnerable, and gold. All minor but enough that I don't have much interest in adding it to my cube. Certainly more than powerful enough to hold its own in cubes.

Nalia de'Arnise 2.5

A great all rounder for a party deck offering ongoing value to begin with and a good means to finish a game off once you attain a full party. Likely something I would consider for a tribal cleric deck as well given the exciting synergy with Edgewalker. Certainly a build around card but a powerful one with more than one home. 

Jon Irenicus, Shattered One 1

Mostly this is comically bad but it is a Donate effect of sorts which are not the most abundant in the game. I am sure there are things that work well with this, just not well enough for the likes of cube. 

Volo, Itinerant Scholar 2

Choose a background is blank text in formats not making use of commanders and the command zone. I think backgrounds are a really good design for EDH. In cube Volo is too slow. You need to untap with him, invest more mana in him, and deploy creatures after him. I suspect this will result in a lot of games where either you or he dies before he draws any cards. What does make Volo interesting is quite how far he can scale. Left in play for too long and Volo will be able to fully refill a hand for two mana! He draws so many cards that you will have to cool off on using it as you will not want to deck yourself! Really this is overkill but at least it is overkill that starts off just being some legs. 

White Plume Adventurer 7

This is probably good enough all by itself. It is basically a big Civic Wayfinder. You give the opponent the option to also start going into the Undercity but then you get to go again and likely deeper overall. You being the white player making little dorks implies you will be much better at keeping and retaking the initiative so the symmetry of the initiative seems like a plus in the context of this card. The untap is good too and works with tappers and the likes of Mother of Runes very well indeed. Worst case scenario it is a bit of pseudo vigilance. The only downside to this good little filler card is that you have to then supply the Undercity and ideally the initiative cards with the cube and track them during the game. These things are fun for a while but typically stop feeling like they are worth the extra effort.

Baldur's Gate 3

Now this is a very good reason to play a Gate deck. You need four other Gates in play before this is producing more than one mana making it a bit of a Temple of the False God in terms of ramp but it boosts Gate synergy value a lot, provides coloured mana, and it is useful to some extent before you have a certain threshold of lands. By itself it elevates Gates from a bit of a joke deck to something that might be viable. 

Roving Harper 6.5

Shockingly this seems playable. White loves to draw, it loves to have bodies, and it loves things it can flicker to good effect. While no Spirited Companion or Inspiring Overseer it might still just see enough play to hold a cube slot. 

Abdel Adrian, Gorion's Ward 1

Too much setup here. Sure, make a load of good EtB dorks, make Abdel, get a bunch of soldiers and then profit. Slowly. Too much setup here and not enough bite for a card this high up the curve. 

Lulu, Loyal Hollyphant 1

Fairly easily abused but likely not worth it. Baseline this is too vulnerable for the cost. 

Commander Liara Portyr 1

I really like the design here but there are several problems here for a 1v1 card. X being capped to 1 is a shame and Liara being a gold five drop with 3 toughness and little else to make her an impressive body for use in combat kills her chances entirely. At least she doesn't have to attack herself to get the perk. 

Ellyn Harbreeze, Busybody 0

Loving the white card draw but a four mana 2/4 with a conditional tap ability is not getting it done.

Aarakocra Sneak 0

Not close to the requisite power level, this could have 4 power and I still wouldn't play it. I don't know what I am expecting though, it is a stock filler common after all. 

Blur 1

Nice card to have but flicker effects want to be cheap much more than they want to have value and so I cannot see myself ever running this in a flicker deck. 

Goggles of Night 0

Nice effect but multiple layers of conditional on top of an overly high mana investment.