Yarr, Thar be Dragons of Tarkir.   1 comment

I updated my CubeTutor list here.  It’s been updated for some time, but I haven’t gotten around to it until now.  I wrote an article about it on GatheringMagic and did a podcast about it.  Both of those pieces were influenced by trying cards as soon as they were spoiled and I tend to generally make a lot of small changes and collate the changes on CubeTutor “officially” after some time.  (drafted weekly, but if I could, it’d be twice a week.)

One thing that I’d like to note is that when a card leaves my cube, it doesn’t mean that I don’t think that it’s good anymore (unless specifically noted.)  One of my personal pet peeves in MTG discussion is that it tends to have overly reductive language, like saying a card is strictly better/worse than another and that “card X is bad” when there’s a lot more at play than mere power level (Flametongue Kavu, making Shadowmage Infiltrator “bad” in its environment but it certainly wasn’t a bad card.)  I have an on-deck binder and usually change things in and out as I don’t tend to throw cards out for cube very often as sometimes cards are cut to see how archetype balance works.  In fact, this update has a few returning cards.

So with that, here are words.

WHITE:

OUT:  Wingmate Roc, Ajani, Caller of the Pride, Honor of the Pure, Seeker of the Way, Rout

IN:  Myth Realized, Secure the Wastes, Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit, Hidden Dragonslayer, Dragon Hunter

In the Dragons of Tarkir review article, I talked about how a general rule that I’m going for, is “if white aggro decks are correctly cutting 2-power 1-drops, then it’s time for replacement.  But because they aren’t (and I think the general ceiling for 2-power may be around 10,) I’m not cutting Savannah Lions.

(One odd thing that I noticed was the weird wording that I had heard regarding that, as it seemed like the wording [to toss/throw cards like Savannah Lions out] just seemed weird.  It’s like if someone had a barely working TV that they could finally throw out now that they were able to get a new one.  I’m unsure if this is a leftover from the “omg my 1 drops suck on turn 7” days/cards like that not seeing much Standard/other format play and limited formats recently not really being fast enough to encourage playing 1-drops.  But I digress.)

Hidden Dragonslayer’s been solid as another removal on a stick – which is something that’s been odd to balance as I generally like cards like Fiend Hunter/Banisher Priest, and haven’t found the whole mid-combat-blowout-worst-case-scenario to happen terribly often (or at least, enough to make those fears match how the card plays out) and it’s played quite well as a 2nd white morph.  With this update, I’m going to be having 2 morphs per color, mostly because there are now mulitple morphs that are good in the colors thanks to the Power Ranger cycle.  In his recent pauper cube update, Alex Ullman talked about ASFAN with regards to morph and I having a couple of morphs per color will help, for lack of better terms, more on a “micro” scale (as in, if the opponent on UW casts a morph, it’s not just an Exalted Angel with Suspend 1.)

With regards to Anafenza and Secure the Wastes, they’re both cards that I haven’t seen have wide adoption rates but have performed extremely well, as they’re both the most 3-0ing (is that a word? I guess it is now. 🙂 ) cards from the new set since cards got spoiled (with both having 3 3-0s to their name, Anafenza having a 2-1 in addition to it.)  Granted, this is still a relatively small sample size, but it’s a good start.  I’ve actually been aggressively asking for feedback from the drafters regarding these two cards in case I thought I was trying to like those cards more than I should.  With that, I’ll go on a bit.

In the review, I said this about Anafenza:

“Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit, despite her {W}{W} cost, is very good card for white aggressive decks. There’s an argument that it doesn’t have a high impact for her {W}{W} cost, but in decks that use it, I’ve found its impact to be worth it, as it typically is able to toss several +1/+1 counters after being cast, accelerating a clock and working well with white aggro’s game plan.”

I based this on the data that I had from trying the card out and its positive reception and winning rate.  Since I tend to keep reviews lean on word count, I’ll blather on about how it’s been. She doesn’t work with tokens, has a WW cost and is a nombo with planeswalkers who either create or become creatures (PS am I the only one who does this – putting cards like Gideon Jura and Elspeths in the creature slot when making curves?), all of which are downsides, but it felt like those aspects were overstated.  There was an argument that a card with WW needs to have a high impact to justify its cost, but I haven’t found that to be enough of a hindrance (aside from the Boros aggro player who went 2-1 saying that Anafenza’s WW cost was “occasionally awkward” in his deck without much fixing,) where as its impact of turning subsequent creatures into a lot of power (and even boosting creatures that are primed to attack) while still attacking for 2 (unlike something like a Lightning Greaves) and making topdecks better and generally provided enough value to make it worth it.  There are scenarios where it does die to a removal spell, but honestly, that seems like it’s expecting a bit much from a 2-drop.

Secure the Wastes is another card that has overperformed quite well.  There are inevitable comparisons to Decree of Justice, but I’ve found it to be more flexible and better.  Melissa’s post on mothership talks a bit about the card.

Secure the Wastes is another new card out of Dragons of Tarkir. When I first read this card, I didn’t even think it was real. We’ve seen similar cards before it such as Decree of Justice and Martial Coup, and those were either sorceries or had some heavier mana requirements. The instant speed and low initial mana cost is something that I did not expect to see on a card for Standard. I think this card is great, and I would expect to see more of it going forward. I’d like to see an updated list with Purphoros, God of the Forge.”

The decks that have been doing well with Secure the Wastes haven’t really been cards with deep token themes or supporting cards like Purphorous.  The first time it was drafted, it was in a 5-color control deck and the other 2 times in Boros aggro.  It’s odd because while I usually cube weekly, I was able to cube the day after with a group that usually doesn’t draft my cube and I somehow ended up in Boros aggro with Secure the Wastes (someone else drafted the Boros aggro deck the day before) where it worked very well as well, in a meat-and-potatoes-beat-you-down-with-2/1s-for-1 shell.  It may seem weird that I’d be running an X spell in a Boros beatdown deck but I’ve found even casting it for 2-3 isn’t bad in those decks and it scales quite well if need be.

With regards to Decree of Justice, while I find that people tend to underutilize the angel mode (EOTitis auto-piloting kills), it still provides a better window for its use, as Secure the Wastes tends to be better when mana is 6 (and arguably 7) or less, whereas Decree’s mode gets better after that. There’s an argument that Decree should be cast at higher than 7 anyway, because that’s the gameplan of those decks, but sometimes that just doesn’t happen (and the improved efficiency of Secure’s rate at lower mana cost makes up for it.)

Myth Realized has had some positive feedback regarding its use.  It’s definitely the card that I’m the most uncertain about, but it’s been solid as a “set it and forget it” type of card, ala New Phyrexia’s shrine cycle, but it’s weird enough that I wouldn’t be surprised to find it leaving (but find it’s better to try a card and find its way into the ondeck binder than to not try it.)

Regarding cuts, they’re mainly cards that are at their weakest in their role/are the most expendable.  White 3s are getting crowded, so Ajani, Caller of the Pride appeared to be the weakest one there (not due to planeswalker count, as cards like Ajani, Caller of the Pride have a much different role than cards like Elspeth, Sun’s Champion or any iteration of Jace.)  I cut Wingmate Roc and Rout to see how the finisher/wrath suite would fare without those cards.  Seeker was the weakest 2-drop and I’ve been finding the non-creature slots in aggressive white decks to be better served by other, more flexible cards than Honor of the Pure (but again, that isn’t something set in stone.  That said, how many white creatures do you tend to want on minimum to run Honor of the Pure?)

BLUE:

OUT:  Tradewind Rider, AEther Adept, Looter il-Kor, Time Spiral

IN:  Stratus Dancer, Shorecrasher Elemental, Crystal Shard, Treasure Cruise

I recently drafted a cube that I hadn’t drafted in a while and remembered ye olde standby Crystal Shard, which I cut some time ago for space constraints.  I decided to bring it back due to its positive interactions (interactions haven’t necessarily increased since I last ran it) as a nice card for U/X decks.  Treasure Cruise is another solid card (not as good as Dig as there isn’t as much things hitting the grave as in modern/legacy/vintage but it’s still solid) as a general draw engine and working double duty in blue/X beatdown (a la Marshall) and the other 2 megamorphs coming in because they’re sweet.  I’m cautious about Shorecrasher Elemental as it may be too mana intensive on the UUU side (and 3 + 4U may be too much) but it’s something I’m ok to try out, but cautiously examining how it plays out.

I tried Tradewind Rider again based on a friend’s recommendation and found it to be too slow and in a mana cost with tough competition.  AEther Adept and Looter-il Kor were cut for numbers/weak slot area, although I could very easily see me putting either in tomorrow.  I’ve toyed around with putting Pestermite, Deceiver Exarch or Wake Thrasher in (some combination) for tempo shenanigans but find that 3s in blue are getting competitive.  They may just be too narrow there.  Time Spiral (aka Free Refills) felt like an odd man out as it was best in decks that wanted to empty their hands (although find that people sometimes tend to fear the “drawback” of giving the opponent 7 too much) and the 6-mana cost, as opposed to the 3 for Timetwister, was the main issue.  Again, it’s another card that I could see myself putting back in tomorrow.

BLACK:

OUT:  Consuming Vapors, Profane Command, Sarcomancy, Vampire Lacerator, Gray Merchant of Aspodel

IN:  Silumgar Assassin, Brain Maggot, Mesmeric Fiend, Massacre Wurm, Sidisi, Undead Vizier

I’m trying the two 2-mana hand disruptors based on a friend’s recommendation as they can tend to punish weak hands and are nice for obtaining information (which can be very useful, especially if the person knows how to use the information correctly/works well with counterspells, ala Marshall’s BU tempo/aggro decks.)  Silumgar Assassin’s been pretty good as another morph to supplement Grim Haruspex (which has been quite good, seemingly best in BR beatdown) and Massacration Massacre Wurm and Sidisi, Undead Visier bolstering the later stages of the game by providing nice value (Sidisi being a pretty solid tutor effect with an underestimated large body to boot that I’ve found doesn’t tend to have a hard time finding things to sacrifice, which matches what my early data had found.)  I’m actually experimenting with cutting a few of the weaker 1 mana 2-power guys to see how the aggressive elements of the deck work with those two gone, as black beatdown has been pretty solid so far.  The other cards were mainly cut for trying to see how their departure works out, like Profane Command and Gray Merchant, whereas Consuming Vapors sometimes felt a bit too expensive.

(in addition, Liliana, Heretical Healer replaces Master of the Feast, but as Liliana’s not on CT, I can’t make that change there.  But she’s been pretty solid as a creature that becomes a PW if the circumstances hit which I haven’t found too hard to achieve, even without dedicated sacrifice cards.)

RED:

OUT:  Reckless Waif, Gore-House Chainwalker, Feldon of the Third Path, Prophetic Flamespeaker, Zo-Zu, the Punisher

IN:  Zurgo Bellstriker, Frenzied Goblin, Ire Shaman, Dragon Whisperer, Kargan Dragonlord

I’ve talked before about 1-drop saturation and always felt like I wanted one more 1-drop (non-2-power) to aptly supplement the cards like Jackal Pup.  Zurgo has been (unsurprisingly) great at that role.  I’ve ran cards like Scorched Rusalka, Spikeshot Elder and (recently) Reckless Waif as a supplemental 1-drop but found it to be a bit too binary (amazing when great, awful when not and unfortunately, more the latter) and have found Frenzied Goblin to work well as a disruptive attacker in red beatdown decks, earning some recent 3-0s.  I’m not sure what changed between the last time I had it and now, but it’ll likely stick around longer.  Ire Shaman is another welcome addition and Dragon Whisperer and Kargan Dragonlord both have been nice red beatdown 2-drops with late game potential (Kargan Dragonlord being an old inclusion that came back and has been surprisingly good and earning its keep through good recent win %.)  I cut Gore-House Chainwalker to see how the RR vs 1R cards play out (so far, decks like Boros aggro and non-mono red beatdown have been able to utilize them well.)  Dragon Whisperer is another card I’ve been aggressively seeking feedback on due to seeing her low adoption rate in other cubes and I’ve received positive feedback on how well she plays out and how it isn’t super difficult to get dragons out of her.  I cut the 3-drops and feel like I should probably bring at least one back for curve purposes, as they’re all solid.

I’ve also been considering what I want to do for non-beatdown red.  I ran Wildfire/Burning of Xinye but I’m wondering if more universally playable options may be better, although generally non-aggro red tends to run mana rocks and planeswalkers/things that survive anyway and if things like Stormbreath Dragon may be better for non-aggro than Wildfire, which has been a good not-as-good-as-but-still-good curve topper.  I did a gatherer search and didn’t find much at 6+ that impressed me, aside from Bogardan Hellkite.

That said, I’ve been happy with where red is right now.

GREEN:

OUT:  Worldly Tutor, Vengevine, Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury, Boon Satyr, Rattleclaw Mystic

IN:  Overrun, Den Protector, Ainok Survivalist, Surrak, the Hunt Caller, Terastodon

Surrak has been a card that I’ve been very impressed with since inclusion as it isn’t terribly difficult for formidable to trigger, since the decks where he’s included tend to not have a difficult time getting 3+ power aside from him on most board states.  Both green megamorphs bolster what green decks want to do (with Den Protector working very well for providing a ton of value for the mana costs involved, as, while not as good as Eternal Witness, still as a good card.)  I’m trying Overrun as a way to close the door and Terastodon as another option for big green ramp decks as both Woodfall Primus and Craterhoof Behemoth performing very well at their respective roles.  I don’t know if 3 8-drops is too many, however, especially since I’m putting Dragonlord Atarka in RG.

It always seems like I’m cutting Worldly Tutor and honestly, I probably shouldn’t as green has a toolbox of creatures that act like spells and cutting it may be shooting myself in the foot (and thus, is the cut I like least out of these.)  I’m cutting Freyalise despite liking it a lot for being the weakest 5, Vengevine being replaced by Surrak (but could easily come back, as both were in an extremely good GW deck recently) and Boon Satyr and Rattleclaw Mystic kind of losing out based on how they seemed like expendable things.  I do wonder how combat tricks/pumps and pushing that aspect can mess with combat math because while removal is very good nowadays, there may still be room for things that mess with combat to give green a combat advantage or if that’s just a pipe dream.

OTHER:

Judge’s Familiar -> Mirrorweave

Ghor-Clan Rampager -> Dragonlord Atarka

Sarkhan Vol -> Atarka’s Command

Brutal Hordechief -> Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest

Kolaghan, the Storm’s Fury -> Kolaghan’s Command

A few months ago, I did a post on the blog about hybrid cards and why I’m categorizing them separately from multicolor (tl;dr, they play differently and found they were played more in decks that had one color than one that matches both) and found that Judge’s Familiar was a nice card but I found that it was a card that was being (correctly) cut from aggressive decks, so I wanted to try Mirrorweave, a card that I haven’t tried for many years (as in, when I started my cube in the Morningtide/Shadowmoor days.)  It’s had a pretty good showing since I included it, where the 3-0 Boros aggro player who had it only saw it once and made 3 Hero of Bladeholds for the win.  Of course, this is a super small sample size, but not a bad first impression and it’s a card with a very very high ceiling, particularly if it’s copying things like Wurmcoils/Titans, etc.

I’m shaking up RG a bit with trying Dragonlord Atarka to help red non-aggro decks and to give Natural Order another element as tutorable removal (hey, shouldn’t I bring back Worldly Tutor for that?) over a pretty solid effect for aggressive decks (seeing how the balance changes when taking a tool from something and placing it elsewhere) and trying Atarka’s Command over the perpetually changing third Gruul card (Sarkhan Vol/Xenagos, the Reveler, Xenagod, who was in my cube for about 5 minutes) and has been nice in that role in the role that I expected – an amazingly efficient burn spell + pump, ala Martin Dang’s Pro Tour winning deck.

I’m trying Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest instead of Brutal Hordechief (which was fine but in an oddly competitive mana slot for a pretty narrow role – as mostly a curve topper in black aggro decks) and I honestly don’t know if this is going to be any better or if it should just be a random artifact.  Maybe it should.

Kolaghan’s Command is replacing her dragon form (who’s been solid) as the Command’s been working well as a good example of a good cube card – removal, artifact hate, value and works well with what a cube deck wants to do, while being flexible.  I think that Kolaghan, as good as she is (and let’s be frank, she is very good,) her role is a bit more, for lack of better terms “covered” already by red hasty 5s (dragons/Zealous Conscripts) than Kolaghan’s Command, although one could argue that because BR lives and dies by its creatures, it may be that due to the limited space of non-creatures (which need to work quite hard in BR decks) that it may be more expendable.

One other thing that I wanted to touch upon was that the Theros block Temples (in the enemy color pairs – since the manlands have been in the allied color pairs to supplement the original duals, the Ravnica shocklands and the fetchlands) have been overperforming and working very well as the ETB drawback isn’t that much of an issue and the value provided from scry has been very very solid and better than the other “wildcards” like Twilight Mire/Llanowar Wastes, etc.  If Battle of Zendikar has enemy manlands, I’m going to either cut the Temples or include the full cycles of both, depending on if it’s worth the slots.

NON-INCLUSIONS:

These fall under some broad categories:

General inefficiency:  Lightning Berserker, Commune With Lava, Damnable Pact, Deathmist Raptor, Foe-Razer Regent, Icefall Regent

Narrowness:   Sarkhan Unbroken (a solid card but narrow; I found it to be the best Temur card whereas the tribrids are more dual-dual color cards.)

Solid cards that I didn’t include due competition in competitive areas, but would be fine to put back in:  Ojutai Exemplars (pretty good 2nd-stringer in a competitive mana slot, I was very close to including it and will probably juggle it in and out in the coming months,) Pitiless Horde (if Liliana wasn’t spoiled, this would likely be there,) Narset Transcendent (decent but the upper tier of UW is super-stacked.  Similarly with Dragonlord Ojutai, even if outsourcing evaluation to the recent Pro Tour/GP as most removal in the format either can’t touch it/is kinda meh and UW already has very solid finishers; I’ve been trying it out in place of the third UW slot of Detention Sphere/Supreme Verdict and it may just revert back to that but time will ultimately tell) and Dragonlord Silumgar (UB is similarly stacked, despite how well Silumgar has been so far), Thunderbreak Regent, Foe-Razer Regent and Silumgar’s Command.

Solid cards that lose to competition that I likely won’t put in:  Dromoka’s Command, Shaman of Forgotten Ways

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Posted April 24, 2015 by Usman in Uncategorized

One response to “Yarr, Thar be Dragons of Tarkir.

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  1. I’m a big fan of Mesmeric Fiend, Brain Maggot even the WB options like Tidehollow Sculler and Sin Collector. Sure, they don’t trade well and (of course) die to removal, but that one card they take may be all the difference between a W or a L.

    Plus, my group mostly plays EDH, so I really like pushing the hand disruption cards as we rarely see those in our normal games.

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