Planeswalkers Rule Change Top 10 Winners

Recently the rules concerning planeswalkers have changed. Before, if you controlled two planeswalkers with the same subtype, you had to sacrifice one of them. Now planeswalkers are legendary – you need to sacrifice a planeswalker only if you control two with the same name. Having Jace, the Mind Sculptor together with Jace, Architect of Thought is perfectly legal. Controlling two Gideon Juras still isn’t.

Some cards care about the legendary subtype. Unfortunately most of them came from Kamigawa and are therefore unsurprisingly still unplayable. Honor-Worn Shaku got a bit closer to Worn Powerstone, as tapping planeswalkers usually carries no negative effects, but will still suffer consistency issues. Lay Bare the Heart got much worse, to the point of unplayability perhaps. Not that is was a great card to begin with. A card that is already solidly cube-worthy that got much better is Karakas. Now it can interact with animated Gideons and Sarkhans. Having Karakas will now basically prohibit the use of the animation abilities of those planeswalkers against you. If you control them, Karakas will save them from removals.

One card that actually leapt from the realms of obscurity and cuteness to possible mainstream play following the change is Thalia’s Lancers. As a 4/4 first striker for 5, the ability to find a legendary card is more about value than tutoring a specific piece. Lancers’ body have synergy with her effect as they provides effective defense to the planeswalker she is fetching. Especially nice for curving into Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. Now a cube deck can expect to have around three legendary cards on average, and that might well be enough for the lancers. White after all is the color with Restoration Angel and Flickerwisp to abuse the trigger a little bit more. White is also really thirsty for the card advantage.

Besides that single card, the rules changes will affect the planeswalker cards themselves. Some of them are definitely worth a new look. Which character benefits the most from the rules change?

 

  1. Elspeth

The two strong Elspeths are hardly affected by the rule change. Every deck that can cast them wants them. Big Elspeth is by far white’s best 6 drop. Elspeth, Knight Errant has more competition in her slot, but is still arguably in the top 3 white four drops. As they are unlikely to travel long distances in the draft table, it is very rare to have both at the same deck in a large cube. You always played both if you had them, so not much changed. They have some minor synergy, as they defend themselves and each other so well, but having even one Elspeth surviving is such a beating it is almost a win more. Elspeth Tirel’s poor performance in cube has nothing to do with the type line, and all the recent white five drops destroyed any sliver of chance she had of seeing play. Play Thalia’s Lancers over her and get a better Elspeth into your hand!

 

 

  1. Chandra

Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Chandra, Flamecaller are the two versions commonly played in cubes. It is probably true that every decks that plays Flamecaller would play Torch, but not the other way around. A cool possible play is to use Torch to ramp into Flamecaller, then use her to swipe and protect both. A beating, but dreamland scenario. Overall, clashing between two specific cards in a 720 cube is so rare you will barely notice anyway.

Other versions of Chandra unfortunately do not gain enough from the change to be playable. Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh is the closest, but will not go into the same shells as the other two Chandras so the rules change will be invisible to her. Chandra, Pyromaster and Chandra, the Firebrand just cannot compete with new red four drops. When we get cards like Fiery Confluence, Hazoret and Territorial Hellkite, the weaker fire ladies have no real chance.

upwisv0vi8_cn2_facebook_wallpaper

  1. Daretti

Daretti only has 2 iterations. That said, because they both belong to a narrow deck, there are much higher chances of snagging them both at the draft. It is a weird case where Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast is the less narrow card despite being multicolored and not mono red. Iconoclast fits into Braids/Skullclamp/The Abyss shells. It is also great in superfiends decks as it is cheap, provides defense and removal. You really do not need much more than a few mana rocks and his own plus ability to make him worthwhile. As much as I dislike a non-aggro card in this guild, Iconoclast surpassed all my expectations. Daretti, Scrap Savant only fits in the artifact deck. It has some uses in reanimator decks too I guess. If you have drafted Savant, you will pretty much want Iconoclast at any cost, even if it includes splashing. Now you can play both of those cards that are so ideally played together in the same decklists.

 

  1. Garruk

The trio of Garruk Wildspeaker, Garruk Relentless and Garruk, Primal Hunter have seen in my cube since they were printed. Nowadays Primal Hunter is entirely skippable as green five drops are absurdly good, and the Nissas at that mana cost specifically so. That said, in green having the triple colored mana cost is not as hard as in other colors, and creating a sizeable token for a plus ability makes him very hard to overcome for some decks. The best part about him is that he offers a lot of card draw in a color that lacks it. He also fills the role of mass removal resilience better than the other Garruks. His ultimate is of the easiest to activate and finishes games quite reliably. He is worth a second look now if you do not play him. Garruk, Apex Predator could have had a chance except Vraska, Relic Seeker got printed and basically obsoleted him.

 

  1. Liliana

The Lilianas are of the greatest winners from the rules change. Three of them – Liliana of the Veil, Liliana, Heretic Healer and Liliana, the Last Hope cost exactly the same. LotV and Healer especially go into the same decks. The problem they had until now, is that if LotV flipped when you had Veil, you had to sacrifice one planeswalker. As you do not have full control of her flip trigger, it can bite you. I expect Healer to see a lot more play now. Liliana, Death’s Majesty is also fine, if weaker, but as she fits into different and slower decks, she is not greatly affected by the rules change.

 

  1. Sorin

Besides the top three cards in Orzhov, which consists of Vindicate, Sorin, Lord of Innistrad and Lingering Souls, I find the guild pretty weak. Sorin, Solemn Visitor is definitely a powerful card, as is Sorin Grim Nemesis. Having guild cards play badly with each other is much worse than having colored cards do the same, and as such it was hard fitting two Sorins in Orzhov. Now I am very likely to include Solemn Visitor as the fourth card in the guild. Grim Nemesis suffers from two main problems. First, Orzhov is not a very controlling color, he might as well be an honorary Esper card. Second, I prefer the black six drops to be reanimatable if possible. He is also bad against decks that go wide, such as basically all aggro decks. In a more midrange focused cube, he becomes more appealing.

Jace-Unraveler-of-Secrets-wallpaper-696x435

  1. Jace

It is unsurprising Jace gains quite a bit the rules change with so many playable versions of him lying around. Only two or so iterations of him are unplayable, and most are actively good. Now the dream of a Jace tribal deck can be a reality!
Jace is the best example of a planeswalker that has one version being clearly better than the rest. Mind Sculptor is more desirable than all other Jace versions basically always, perhaps barring Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Consider Jace, Architect of Thought. He costs the same as Sculptor, yet is clearly worse. As such, if you would cut one of them from your maindeck, it would always be Architect. The result is that TMS does not gain anything from the rules change but AoT does. This is true for all other versions of Jace as well. Before, people would prefer cards such as Deep Analysis to AoT, now I expect this to change.

Jace, Memory Adept is another member in the pantheon of broken Jaces. He is still as brutal and quick as ever, but as he just does that it was hard sometimes to play him alongside the cheaper Jaces that aid in stabilization. Now Jaces can be both your defense and your offense. Jace Beleren saw relatively high amounts of play since he was printed given the low competition in his mana cost. It is the worst of the Jaces mentioned so far however, so gains a lot more viability nowadays and for smaller cubes not running him, I’d strongly consider him now.

Jace, Unraveler of Secrets is perhaps the clearest historical case of a fine cards that saw no play due to the planeswalker type rule. I’d actually playtested him. He is broadly playable, with a good spread of card advantage and selection and some defensive capabilities. I believe that cubes that will try him will be pleasantly surprised. However, recent blue five drops give him a very hard time nowadays – Arcane Savant, Mystic Confluence, Spell Swindle and Baral’s Expertise all basically bury his playability.

Jace, Cunning Castaway is the only tempo-oriented Jace (although TMS is also a great card in tempo decks) so gains little from the type-line rules change. I do not believe he will see any more than fringe play. That is mostly due his first ability seriously lacking in power and the ultimate being underwhelming.

 

  1. Tezzeret

Tezzeret the Seeker and Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas fit into exactly the same narrow deck. You can wheel them around sometimes, so the chances of getting both at the same pool is actually not too low. That was a real problem, and I contemplated cutting Seeker in light of the new strong blue five drops. The rule change made me seek a different cut. Tezzeret the Schemer was also cut for similar grounds – having two cards with the exact same mana cost in a guild slot, for exactly the same narrow deck was too much. Now it might we worth revisiting if you really want to enforce the archetype. With the printings of The Scarab God and Hostage Taker however, I think few cubes would bother trying, mine included.

 

  1. Gideon

There are three very strong Gideons. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is likely the strongest, despite being in one of the most contested slots in cube, including his rival Elspeth, Knight Errant. It just fits effortlessly into every deck type and threatens from many angles. I used to underrate his last ability, but with time found out I sometimes just cast him to immediately cash for a Glorious Anthem that cannot ever be interacted with as that gave me more immediate board impact. If I can pump 3-4 creatures, and force my opponent to now chump them and can kill 2-3 of his defenders, it is very much worth it. The highlight is that Gideon is not just about incremental advantage, it is a threat from the moment it is cast, just like Elspeth, Knight Errant.

The most playable Gideon is Kytheon. It is simply the best white one drop with two power. Not much else needs to be said. I’d expect the top two Gideons to be present in every cube of every size. Gideon Jura did not age too well. It once was a premium white five drop. It is still okay, but creature power creep means that 8 loyalty is not as high as it once was. Also the prevalence of planeswalkers increased the number of available answers to them in cubes and it is now dangerous to rely on the bearded guy to keep you alive. It needs a bit of help. If you combine him with other defensive cards he will still stall forever, give you a lot of life and time to draw a mass removal, then attack for 6 a turn to seal the deal. A wanted card in control and superfriends decks.

The planeswalker that is suddenly a lot more viable for cube is Gideon of the Trials. He is cheap, color intensive and defensive – not a good combination. What he does have is amazing synergy with other Gideons, especially Jura. The emblem gains a whole new meaning when you can have several Gideons out there at once. Also, the protective layers of all the Gideons combine together to create a fort that is hard to penetrate. I do not think Gideon of the Trials will suddenly become a bomb, but he is now a much more comfortable inclusion at 720. Further printings of other strong Gideons will increase his value even more.

kld_nissa_vitalforce_gallery_0

  1. Nissa

Nissa is one of the planeswalkers with most iterations in cube. Interestingly, most of her printed versions are distinct role players. Each green eyed characterless planeswalker does her own thing, and usually does it very well. Nissa, Worldwaker is perhaps the best ramp card for super ramp decks. If you want to cast eldrazis, look no further. She is also a very good win condition, a repeatable stream of 4/4 tramplers is hard to contain. Nissa, Voice of Zendikar is an enabler and reward for token and stacks decks. Nissa, Vastwood Seer is a great card in the control matchup, and long games in general. Nissa, Steward of Elements is the strongest Simic card and is a card selection engine as well as a finisher for UG decks.

Nissa, Vital Force does not do a required specific task as the others fill so well. I cut her due to Nissa oversaturation. She is a card I am excited to bring back. She brings some fresh things to green. First, she is a hasty source of damage. She also ramps by one if you need. She defends herself quite well, so her ultimate is very achievable and gives green much needed help in control games. What she does not do well is finish games alone, as the 5/5 lacks trample or evasion. That said, the question of who is better, Nissa, Vital force or Garruk, Primal Hunter remains open.

Advertisements

Ixalan Fliplands

The fliplands are a new concept in the game. The closest yet not great analogy we have for them are the flipwalkers. The flipwalkers are one of the best cycles that have ever been printed for cube so far. That said, none of that power is intrinsic to the transform mechanic. Jace was a clear mistake, and we can assume wizards have learned from that experience to better balance this cycle.

What was the best indicator to the flipwalker success in hindsight is the quality of the creature. In the case of Kytheon, the front side alone was worth playing, with Jace being very close to the line as well. The new cycle, besides one exception, does not come close. Then we have the difficulty of the flip trigger. This part is a fundamental difference between the two cycles – on enchantments you can count staying around, while creatures are more prone to be removed. As such, with equal triggers the enchantments should be easier to flip. With the flipwalkers, the best cards had triggers that are bound to be met eventually, and all are a natural thing to achieve to at least one established cube archetype. The easier the threshold is to meet, the better the card is, obviously.

Then we get to the land side of things. Just having a land means getting free ramp, kind of like a mana rock that is hard to destroy. That said, none of the enchantments are flippable in the early stages of the game, and the value of the ramp diminishes much more quickly than a planeswalker. Some archetypes just do not care at all about ramp. Finally, the lands also have activate abilities, ranging from the meek to the scary. In general, they are designed for repeated use in slower decks.

The major problem with this cycle is how little “on theme” the different parts are – few are the decks that both:

  • Want the front side
  • Can achieve the flip threshold with only reasonable effort
  • Can utilize the ramp
  • Desire the land’s activated abilities

bc9983ca581912403de32289a9934230

Legion’s Landing – unplayable

The front side is usually not worth a card. Even if you flip the land, it is hard to say you have gotten value here. If you can do that consistently for one mana, that might not be an issue, except that you cannot. As we know from Kytheon and Windbrisk Heights, attacking with three creatures is hard, yes, even if one of them is given to you as a 1/1 lifelinker for W. It is only somewhat conceivable in aggro and token decks, but said decks are not interested in the land. Yes, it gives you some buildup after a mass removal, and some late game. An infinite chain of sword holders will be relevant at some point. However, any other mana sink in your deck will still likely be better, not to mention every topdeck. Landing is not worth the petty front side over a more aggressive option like an Elite Vanguard. This land fits control more – keep your mana untapped for counters, and if nothing happens, get a dude. But control decks have no use for the token and no means to transform the enchantment. The union between the decks that satisfy the four conditions above in regards to this card is pathetically small.

 

Search for Azcanta – playable

Blue again got the best card of the cycle. The default mode is quite good – repeatable card selection at no cost, and cheap enough to get you out of mana screws. This is 80% of what Thassa did for less mana, but sending to the graveyard instead of to the bottom of your library is better in almost every deck – it fuels your delve cards, shaves mana off of Deep Analysis and obviously works well in reanimator decks.

The trigger is very easy to achieve. With this card alone it would take 7 turns, but is hard for your opponent to prevent. With other cards, it can be flipped in 2-3 turns. It is worth noting you do not have to flip this if you do not want to. There will definitely be times where digging for the right answers will be more important than the land half.

Regarding the land, blue decks love mana ramp. They also like mana sinks that can be activated at instant speed. The activated ability is not great, but the whole package here is very on theme and attractive. What is great with this card is that retains power throughout the game. The front half wants to be played early, to accumulate value, and alone would be a poor topdeck. With the flip side being immediately available late game, it becomes an acceptable topdeck (as in, better than an island, especially considering you have the choice whether to transform or not).

 

Arguel’s Blood Fast – terrible

This fails all the criteria. The front side is an expensive way to draw cards, both in life and in mana. In control mirrors it would be good, but still not a great card. Compared to Night’s Whisper, it costs three times as much mana in total and twice as much life for the same results.

Now, one can argue that against aggressive decks getting the trigger is easy. You might not be able to activate the ability, but you are all but guaranteed to get the land, which is amazing in that matchup. I think that is wrong, as it is not too hard for decks to engineer an alpha strike or lethal burn. Also, the land is only threatening if you have several creatures with high toughness in your deck, and they should not be too central to your gameplan as you will be required to sacrifice them. It certainly requires too much luck and/or effort to count it as a sacrifice outlet. I see it as a trap mostly – people will self-harm themselves just so that it flips, which is not worth the payoff.

 

Vance’s Blasting Cannons – fringe playable

The front half of the card is bad. It costs 4 mana and does nothing immediately. Worse off, if you hit a land, you will not get anything next turn too. This is similar to Outpost Siege, except worse on the relevant mode of the card. It is much worse than Chandra, Pyromaster. Red is not a color geared towards continuous accumulation of card advantage so the splashable cost is good. Not great though, as that form of card advantage plays poorly with reactive cards (counterspells, removal spells that might not have a target). The flip threshold is hard to meet. The card’s main function helps somewhat, but you still need a considerable amount of cheap spells in your deck. The most consistent way to flip will be with cantrips, but that also requires a good mana base. Sandbagging cards in your hand for the eventual flip is also a losing proposition almost always, if at all possible.

The flipside is mighty. It is not only inevitability, it is a decent clock. It is also a repeatable answer – creatures and manlands with 3 or less toughness can be shot on sight and planeswalkers are an easy prey. The problem is, if your deck is full with cheap cards, you are likely not aiming for the late game. I fail to see which deck could both flip it and desire the transformed face.

 

Growing Rites of Itlimoc – fringe playable

Ignoring the back side, this is not worth the cost. It is never card disadvantage, which is a huge plus, but also never something you want to play on your third turn as it does not affect the board. Never being card disadvantage is only true if we assume high creature density though. How easy is getting four creatures out depends on the deck. It is never trivial, but it can be your gameplan. In general it is overextending without heavy use of tokens, yet the token producers are rarely creatures themselves and fail to work with the front side. The land is great, and something very much worth three mana in the decks that want it. Having enough creature cards, likely some creature token makers, and enough mana sinks is not easy, but there actually are homes for this card. Decks that play Gaea’s Cradle and Craterhoof Behemoth would love this, and green has some support for that archetype with Hornet Queen, Avenger of Zendikar and Deranged Hermit. I think this is definitely playable there, but still too narrow. Cradle itself is better even with 2-3 creatures out, and will always be a higher pick than this sidekick.

Maze of Ith

Below is a comment I have made in MTGSalvation’s cube card of the day thread about Maze of Ith a month ago. It turned out to be pretty long and detailed. It grabbed a few likes there and that is a good indication it holds interest to the public.
Before that I’d like to note that the cube list has been updated and details can be read here.


Maze of Ith is an exceptional card and especially good in control decks. There is a happy marriage between that archetype and Maze as both cover the weaknesses of the other well. Maze of Ith is one of the best answers to many things control is usually soft against:

1) Manlands. Celestial Collonade? I don’t mind if you pay 5 mana per turn for nothing! The attacking Gideons can also be included in this category. Planeswalkers and lands are hard to answer and survive your mass removals. Maze of Ith protects you from their nastiness, indefinitely
2) Repeatable pump effects. I am mainly talking about equipment, usually making each creature your opponent draws a must answer threat thus exhausting the control mage. With maze on board there will be no sword triggers or Jitte counters. Maze also largely negates Elspeth, Knight Errant‘s most potent ability and Kessig Wolf Run.
3) Haste dudes. With Maze they will never catch you with your pants down.
4) Vehicles. Similar to manlands and equipment, but for the time being the majority of cubes have 3 or so lying around.
5) Aetherling. How many cards can even answer that?
6) Death triggers. This depends on your suit of removals. Cards like Hallowed Spiritkeeper and self recurring threats can pose problems to control.

In turn, control complements the weaknesses of Maze well:
1) Costing a land drop. This hurts least in control decks. You are not trying to ramp nor to win fast. You do not care if you cast that six drop a few turns later if you are in control of the game.
2) It is bad against decks going wide. You are not in a good place if you untap a token with it. This is traditionally taken care of by mass removals. In turn, Maze of Ith forces your opponent to overextend a bit to overcome it, making each mass removal you play more potent.

This is all in addition to effects the card offers to decks of all theaters. Sometimes it is not all about you – Maze protects planeswalkers like few other cards can. Although increasingly less relevant, it is answer to cards with protection against your colors. Maze is hard to respond to by your opponent. It is uncounterable and there are few maindeckable answers to lands. Another incidental perk is that it is quite good against cheat strategies. Titans and eldrazis ignore it, but the occasional Sphinx of the Steel Wind, Wurmcoil Engine or Dragonlord Atarka cry. While most cheated fatties will not be completely answered by maze, it will steal a lot of their punch and delay their clock, giving you enough time to find a proper answer. It is of the few cards able to do so before turn 3.

Maze is a card often misplayed (including by me). It is generally advisable to play the land only after your first mass removal against aggressive decks, delaying the reset button by a turn is not worth it. The decisions Maze creates in races are complex. Which creature will be able to get through, which will be able to block you. Which planeswalker do you protect. This all adds up to a card that is powerful, yet interesting.

Delaying Battle for Zendikar Year in Review

Since we are already in the preview season for Kaladesh and it is hard to fight that for attention the Battle for Zendikar Year in Review article will be released later. There was really no opportunity to eek this in after Conspiracy: Take the Crown was released. I am going to review KAL, and only after that do the BFZ year in review. I’m also in advanced stages of writing a higher cube philosophy article, the first to appear in this blog. Stay tuned

What is MtG Cube Crafting?

Hello and welcome to my blog. This is a blog about cube drafting for Magic: The Gathering. I’m assuming that by stumbling here you know already what the format is. The thing that differentiates my blog from others is the focus on a large (720 cards) powermax cube. The scarcity of written material on the web on about large cubes inspired me to start this blog.

The blog features insight, experience and opinions about all things cube related, from both the points of view of the players and the designer. I think it will be worth a read for smaller cube owners also.

I’ve been cubing since 2008, during Morningtide, continuously with a 720 cards cube. I’ve been active on the MTGSalvation cube forum and now on Cubetutor as well.

Of course, all feedback is welcome.

Enjoy browsing!