Ho ho ho!
I performed poorly in my prerelease, going 3-2 in a 30 man event. Oh well! M12 has provided us with some nice goodies, although generally fairly light on cubeable cards, there are some gems in the dirt.
For the purposes of this, I’ll only be covering the new cards.
Alabaster Mage – I really like this cycle, and it’s a pretty good cycle. A 2/1 for 1W is standard, and it’s ability is great in the midrange vs aggro match, or the midrange mirror. The body means it’s still relevant in the aggro too, so it kinda reminds me of lone missionary. Sadly, white two drops are stacked, so this won’t make the cut in mid – small sized cubes. Perhaps if the activation cost was lower, it’d make the cut, but for now :
Verdict : 900+
Angelic Destiny – Ultimately, this is basically a midrange card. I can see it being sweet in aggro too, but turning your Troll Ascetic into a huge angel is the strength of this card. Like alabaster mage above, however, it suffers from being in a very very stacked section of cube, and I don’t think it’s powerful enough to displace wraths, geddon, moat etc. It also suffers that it’s not got rancors ability ; in fact, rancors’s ability is strictly better – Rancor gets returned if the wearer is exiled, bounced , or dies, whereas the angel auramancer has to die for it to recur. That takes it out of the list of considerables to me.
Gideon’s Avenger – This badman reminds me a lot of Taurean Mauler – it’s a lot better in multiplayer. It’s fairly sweet, but too dependent on my opponent. If it’s going to be a serious problem for my opponent, they just won’t attack. it’s a great midrange card, and can break a stalemate. The problem is, I don’t know anyone who’s looking for a midrange only card.
Verdict : 800+
Gideon’s Lawkeeper – Very divided opinion of this. I’m a big fan of Goldmeadow Harrier, so I quite like this. It’s great news for pauper cubes, and it’s great news for cubes which run Goldmeadow Harrier, because now they can run two! yay!
Verdict : 600 + , pauper
Grand Abolisher – I actually got one of these in my prerelease, and it was very solid. Thing is, is that a lot of decks really just won’t care about it. It forces your opponent to make moves which were otherwise not optimal , like killing your creature on their turn instead of yours, but not a huge amount. It won’t make it into smaller cubes, since it’s not as good as the soltaris or knight of meadowgrain, but if you include sideboard-only cards in your cube, this hoses blue, a LOT. If it were uncounterable, it’d be even better, but it stops Icy Manipulator, it stops counterspells, and it stops the uncertainty you get playing blue.
Verdict : 700+
Timely Reinforcements – I got this in my M12 prerelease, and it was certainly my MVP. It’s a great card for slower decks, since it blanks a a turn or two of damage, and the presence it gives you no the board is not awful. The problem is , is that it requires you to be losing to be used for maximum effect ,and you have to really be losing – using one mode or the other isn’t worth it, it’s only good when you get both modes. Unfortunately, this inconsistency makes it a lot worse – if it did both all the time, we’d all be very happy, but due to it’s conditions, a miss from me.
Verdict : 900+
Nothing for most cubes here, but there’s plenty to tighten up the big cubes with.
Frost Breath – A decent removal spell in blue. Two creatures for two turns is pretty fair for 3 mana, especially at instant speed. I don’t know a huge amount about pauper, but I imagine this is at least passable in a pauper cube. I rather like it, but I’m not sure it’s necessary in such a deep colour as blue.
Verdict : 1000+ , pauper
Jace, Memory Adept – This is the fastest clock in blue. If you have a choice of Morphling, Jwar Jwar, or Jace to have in play early on, Jace is easily the best. Jace wins in 3 turns flat. Morphling and Jwar Jwar both take 5, and Jwar Jwar even comes down a turn later. There isn’t a huge amount to say about Jace, other than that he should probably replace a blue finisher in your cube, since that’s the function he holds. Jace is also like Sorin, in that he only has one ability – the ultimate is nothing outside of EDH or crazy multiplayer, and the + ability should only be used if you’re struggling to protect jace for any reason. Heck, if you can only get 2 activations off jace, you can still kill your opponent by just stalling and letting themselves draw themselves out. Let’s say you’re on the play, and you’ve cast Jace on the curve. Your opponent has drawn 4 cards, plus their opening hand, so they’re down to 29 cards in their library. Mill them, pass the turn, they’re down to 18 cards in their library. Next turn, same deal, they’re down to 7 cards in their library. At this point, Ancestral Recall is your weapon, or Baby Jace. They can kill jace now, and you can just stall to victory. I underested Jace at first, but like the others, Jace is insane.
Phantasmal Bear – No. This card is bad. Don’t be tricked by the fact it’s a 2/2 for U. Heck, even if it were a vanilla 2/2 for U, I wouldn’t include it. Including a single aggro card in a control-orientated blue section is like removing a card from your blue section. Blue isn’t currently at a stage where true U aggro is possible, only U tempo, and U tempo doesn’t even want this.
Verdict : Just don’t.
Phantasmal Dragon – It’s a plague sliver / blastoderm / calciderm for blue! Auto include, right? No. Bad! Blue has no need for easily to kill beatsticks. Blue has awesome four drops, awesome five drops, and awesome six drops. I can see it coming in possibly in the smaller large cubes (about 600 cards), but to be honest, blue is so deep, there’s no need for this.
Verdict : 700+
Phantasmal Image – Pretty sweet. A clone for 2 mana is insane most of the time, especially when you either use it as a kill spell for a legend, negating kokushos and yoseis and all those other horrible legends, or you can copy somethnig with hexproof, and enjoy a cheaper creature, or you can steal someone’s CIP ability, which is always fun. I can imagine copying a skinrender, or a shriekmaw, and going to town. There’s a huge amount of scope for this card, and the effect is usually so expensive, the drawback shouldn’t matter.
Verdict : 450+
There are some fairly cool cards in blue this set, but only Jace and the Clone variant are top picks. Interesting, but not busted.
Onyx Mage – Coming back to this cycle. Black aggro struggles in larger cubes , and this could help it out a little. On small bodies, deathtouch is like pseudo evasion. Your opponent can’t chump block, and that’s actually surprisingly useful. I’d also run this in pauper, perhaps.
Verdict : 550+ , pauper
Well, black sucked. Kinda.
Chandra, the Firebrand – Here’s the jackpot! Chandra is easy to play, with only a single red mana symbol, which works in her favour. Her +1 is either a very very slow clock, or used to ping off some weenies. Not a great ability, but certainly useful. The -2 ability is pretty sweet ,since the worst you can copy is some cheap burn, which might be enough to give you the win. At the other end of the spectrum, double wildfire sounds bonkers, and doubling an X spell seems awesome too. Don’t forget you can also copy multicolour cards, so terminate or lightning helix can be copied for awsesome fun, or double Plow Under would be unreasonable, and double timewalk is bonkers. Her ultimate is powerful, yet flexible. You can use it to kill a walker, kill 4 creatures and go to the dome for 6. Alternatively, you can wipe the board and swing ftw. I’m not sure what most people will cut for the new chandra. I pondered on the old chandra, but they perform very different duties.
Verdict : 360
Chandra’s Phoenix – Another sweet card. A colourshifted Skyknight Legionaire would’ve made it into a lot of cubes, but giving it a method of recursion is wonderful. I’m not sure where the flavour is with this card, but I really don’t care. This is a great source of reach for red decks, and gives red a second way to get through wrath effects. Even bonkers with Survival as a second Squee, or to make Chandra Ablaze vaguely playable.
Stormblood Berserker – I’m of the opinion this is a sleeper in the cube community at the moment. In a hard aggro deck , this card is nuts. As we’ve seen from Accorder Paladin and Pork Leg, 3 power turn 2 is very very good, especially on an easy to play body. Now Wizards give up this, with evasion! If you think you can reliably play this in a deck turn 2 or 3, you should get it in your deck. If your cube produces red hard aggro regularly, then this card should easily be in. It’s a great feeling to go moutain, one drop, plains, swing, berserker, but it’s still very good if you’re attacking off a 2 drop. Hell, I think I’d still be happy to play this turn 4 off some burn in a lot of decks. Once you add the fact that red has very few good two drops, and only two great 1R drops, it almost seems absurd to me people aren’t running this more often. I could be wrong running this at 360, but it doesn’t feel like it.
Verdict : 405
Red has some sweet cards in this set. As a general rule, it’s looking like the new core set format is good for red.
Garruk, Primal Hunter – The more I look at this card, the more obscene it seems. Pumping out 3/3s every turn seems pretty awesome in itself, since Elspeth for C less only makes 1/1s, and she’s a top-tier cube card. The – ability seems incredible in a midrange deck, where you can easily run out of cards. The ultimate is the deal-breaker though. Short of a wrath effect, or Maelstrom pulse, I see very very few scenarios in which your opponent can last more than a turn or two after that ultimate has gone off. There are two problems with this garruk. Firstly 2CCC means he might not come down til you’re at 6 or 7 lands in some games, and that also makes it harder to ramp into him with artifacts. Secondly, it’s not best to ramp into garruk with artifacts, since when that ultimate goes off, you want as many land as possible out to make it boom. The only thing I really want to change about this garruk though, is that the wurms don’t have trample. Still, this garruk is a great ‘walker, huge power, horrible cost, perfect.
Garruk’s Horde – This is surprisingly unhorrible. It has trample, which is almost necessary. The creature playing ability is pretty sweet, but the only problem is the lack of passing the vindicate verdict.
Verdict : 800+
Primordial Hydra – *whistles* I really don’t know what to make of this card. If it has any sort of protection ,it’d be an auto include. the problem is, if you’re playing it early, like turn 3, it’s incredibly tiny, an awful turn 3 play, and gets eaten by red removal. At bigger sizes, it gets huge, but it still eats removal like a bitch. I don’t know, if you run a removal light cube,this is awesome. My problem with it is that it’s too slow and small early, and it doesn’t pass the vindicate verdict like a ‘real’ fatty should. However ,it is certainly a cool card :3
Verdict : 600+
Overall,green only got the ‘walker, but there’re no gaps in green, so finding a cut for this will be hard enough.
Overall, there are very few auto includes in M12, and only the three walkers are slam dunks. My advice would be, wait, spend your cash on some cards you’re otherwise lacking, or pimping your cube, and wait til the insane prices on the ‘walkers drop. Unless you think one of them is the next JTMS.
Thanks for reading,