maandag 31 oktober 2016

Top 5 Commander 2016 cards for Peasant Cube

Since Commander 2013 brought us Curse of Predation and Curse of Shallow Graves, I get excited every time a new Commander product gets released. This time was no different. And, even though there are only a handful of new cards, there are a couple of sweet ones.

Let's get on to the cards:

5: Parting Thoughts (2B, Sorcery, Destroy target creature. You draw X cards and you lose X life, where X is the number of counters on that creature.)

For cubes that are looking to de-power their removal, 2B to destroy any creature at sorcery speed is probably right where you want to be. It's not super efficient, but not super awkward either. The draw part is just gravy. Creatures with +1/+1 counters are quite a common sight nowadays, without a cube having to specifically support a +1/+1 counter archetype.

This comes with a big cost though. The draw part of Parting Thoughts can create random blow-outs. This makes it super swingy and almost a sideboard card. Personally, I've taken most creatures with protection from a color out of my cube because I don't want to have too many cards in my cube that can just randomly hose someone. On top of that, if cubes do support a +1/+1 counter archetype (without going overboard in it), odds are that it's not overpoweringly good to warrant a sideboard card. Reanimate and G/B value decks are good in my cube, but I don't want to invalidate someone's whole draft by having someone randomly drafting a 13th pick Relic of Progenitus.

Having said all this, I do think Parting Thoughts can be an interesting tool for a peasant cube owner. Like how Shatter was a high pick in Mirrodin limited, Parting Thoughts can be a bomb in a cube where every other creature does something with counters.

Verdict: Not making my cube, but I can see myself reconsidering when the format asks for it.

4: Orzhov Advokist (2W, Creature - Human Advisor, 1/4, At the beginning of your upkeep, each player may put two +1/+1 counters on a creature her or she controls. If a player does, creatures that player controls can't attack you or a planeswalker you control until your next upkeep.)

This card is so weird. It's a creature with defensive stats and an ability that both prevents your opponents attacking you AND makes your attackers better. I can see it playing amazing, terrible, and everything in between. This alone makes me want to try it.

Orzhov Advokist is probably best in a deck with a number of small flyers/unblockables or other creatures that benefit from +1/+1 counters. In that deck, it doesn't really matter what your opponent chooses. If he/she chooses counters, you're ahead on attacks. If he/she chooses to attack, your creatures will race faster.

Verdict: Will test

3: Frenzied Fugue (3R, Enchantment - Aura, Enchant Permanent. When Frenzied Fugue enters the battlefield or at the beginning of your upkeep, gain control of target permanent until end of turn. Untap that permanent. It gains haste until end of turn.)

Cool design, and again very unique. I take my hat off for the person who designed this. Being able to steal something and gain value from it over the course of a longer game, while still retaining red's impulsive feel and not being able to use it defensively is a thing of beautiful design.

What's even more amazing (and something I totally missed the first time reading this), is that it's an enchant PERMANENT. Without considering all the fun implications this has, it's a red answer to cards like Propaganda. I'll say that again.

It's a red answer to Propaganda.

Verdict: Will test.

2: Migratory Route (3WU, Sorcery, Create four 1/1 white Bird creature tokens with flying. Basic landcycling 2)

Simply put, this is just a great card. Four flying tokens for 5 mana is already a sweet deal, and this even has basic landcycling. It's also just the perfect crossover card between tokens (white) and flying matters (blue).

Oh, how I remember the days when Azorius as a guild felt super medium. The last year and a half we've gotten Reflector Mage, Thunderclap Wyvern, Cloudblazer, and now this. It's still not the deepest guild in the city, but I think this is the first time that I'm actually having trouble deciding on a configuration. And I run a whopping five guild cards (not counting lands).

Verdict: Definite include.

1: Ash Barrens (Land, t: Add C to your mana pool. Basic landcycling 1)

After the unique coolness of some of the other cards, this is quite the opposite but not less powerful. This innocuous little land is very very good. Like, better than staples Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse good. Let's compare them:

Turn 1 - Barrens: play for colorless mana or cycle to fix for turn 2. Wilds/Expanse: play to fix for turn 2. Advantage: Barrens.
Turn 2 - Barrens: play to cast a 2-drop or play 1-drop and cycle to fix (immediately, or) for turn 3. Wilds/Expanse: play to fix for turn 3 and cast a 1-drop. Advantage: Barrens.
Turn 8 - Barrens: top deck and cycle to fix immediately for the splash card you've been holding. Wilds/Expanse: top deck and wait another turn to cast your splash card. Advantage: Barrens.

Obviously, Wilds/Expanse shouldn't leave your cube ever, either.

I was already excited when we got Aether Hub from Kaladesh, but this is even better. It's been a good month for peasant cube fixing.

Verdict: Windmill slam include, never take out.

Honorable mention: Ancient Excavation (2UB, Instant, Draw cards equal to the number of cards in your hand, then discard a card for each card drawn this way. Basic land cycling 2)

Ancient Excavation is probably not really playable, but I put it up here anyway because there wasn't anything better and the ceiling of the card is quite high. Plus, land cycling is an amazing ability.
In reality, it's likely closer to a 4 mana instant speed Careful Study than anything else.

Archetype: Blue/Green Enchantment Aggro

My cube is very archetype-centered. Most color combinations have two or more distinct archetypes or themes available to them (outside of plain aggro/midrange/control) that overlap with archetypes in other color combinations.

The plan is to eventually talk about all of the archetypes in my cube. Some are quite straightforward, while others might be a little more off-beat.

Today's archetype:

Blue/Green Enchantment Aggro

Blue/Green Enchantment Aggro combines hard-to-interact-with creatures with creature auras to create quite a fast clock. Because of the reliance on auras, the deck also makes very good use of the green enchantment matters cards.
It plays a little bit like a creature-based combo-aggro deck.

Historic relevance
The closest analogue to this deck is probably the green/white Bogles deck that (among others) Seth Manfield played in the 2015 World Championships.
Other than that, the deck plays a little bit like a slow version of blue/green poison.

The main strength of the deck is that it can be hard to interact. Either because of unblockability, hexproof or shroud, or just because the creatures can get quite big for their cost.
The deck can be quite fast, and the pairing of green's acceleration with blue's permission means that opponents don't have a lot of time and room to deal with the threats.

The deck has 2 big weaknesses:
First, it's essentially a combo deck. You need to find a creature to suit up, an enchantment, and preferably some additional way to protect your assets. There's a delicate balance to find in drafting and deck building, because you don't want to have/draw too many or too few of any of them. This also means that it's not easy to get all the parts while drafting and you may find yourself abandoning the deck mid-draft.
Second, auras have an inherent drawback: if the creature gets killed, you just 2-for-1'd yourself. Hexproof/shroud and countermagic do help, as does carddraw, but it still can be somewhat risky.

Key cards
Blue: Invisible Stalker, Looter il-Kor, Daze, Curiosity, Sigil of Sleep, Unstable Mutation, Zephid's Embrace
Green: Dreampod Druid, Silhana Ledgewalker, Aura Gnarlid, Yavimaya Enchantress, Rancor, Vessel of Nascency, Wild Growth (and similar), Ancestral Mask, Boar Umbra (and similar)
Gold: Jhessian Infiltrator

Overlap with other archetypes
The deck overlaps well with other enchantment-based or pump-based decks, like:
- white/green double strike/pants
- white/blue double strike/pants
- white/green enchantment matters
- black/green enchantment matters

Experience with the deck
Somehow this deck always seems to come out of left field to make short work of opponents.

While the deck can be quite powerful and its nut draws very hard to interact with (and therefor annoying to play against) is mitigated by the fact that it doesn't come together that often (or easy) and sometimes loses to itself because the opponent manages to deal with the first suited up threat and the deck loses steam because of the card disadvantage or awkward draws.

It's not easy to support in your cube. Cards like Rancor, Looter il-Kor, Daze, cheap flyers, Wild Growth effects are great in any cube, but the cards that set this deck apart and give it its explosiveness and raw power are not mainstream. The archetypes it overlaps with aren't really mainstream either.

It feels powerful enough that it's exciting to see in action, but not overpoweringly so. Some of our most memorable games involve this deck, with sequences like turn 1 Wild Growth, turn 2 Dreampod Druid, turn 3 Zephid's Embrace.

We like the deck a lot, and have a lot of fun playing with and against it.

Card Spotlight: Diversionary Tactics

Tokens is an archetype I've always been fond of. When Urza's block was standard legal, I played blue/green with Deranged Hermit. In Ravnica block, I loved Selesnya tokens. The biggest reason I liked those decks?

Sadly, both Opposition and Glare of Subdual are not peasant legal. Which, especially in the case of the ridiculously powerful Opposition, might be best for the format. Still, the effect has become iconic (for me) in Magic, and one of the reasons I built my cube years ago was that I could play with cards and archetypes I've always loved playing - within the boundaries of peasant.

Flash forward to a month or two ago, when my buddy and I where looking for obscure white enchantments to push the green/white enchantment-matters archetype. My buddy is doing a Gatherer search, and stumbles upon this little gem:

First, we laughed it away, reminiscing about Opposition and Glare of Subdual. You have to tap TWO creatures? This can't be good. Can it? Wait, can it? White does have a good number of token makers on its own. If you add green to the mix, there are even a couple of cards that make (multiple) tokens each turn.

We decided we'd try it, just to see if it was any good. To the surprise (and satisfaction) of both of us, it actually turned out way better than we could've imagined. This card, in the right deck of course, has been singlehandedly responsible for multiple game wins and turnarounds over the last couple of months. It's able to break stalemates, tap down big tramplers or flyers that the token deck otherwise can have trouble with, even tap down whole boards of attackers in some occasions.

You do need the right deck for it to shine. In a deck with 10-12 creatures, it's plain bad. But, as long as your deck has a couple of ways to make multiple creatures with one card, Diversionary Tactics can be great. We're at a point where we pick it very highly in token decks. Opposition, it's not, but it's the closest thing I've found for peasant.

If a card is described multiple times with statements like "I should've held removal for it", "the only thing that could save/wreck me now is Tactics" or "oh crap", you know you've got a winner.