zaterdag 3 maart 2018

Masters 25 downgrades review

Another Masters set, another exciting time of rarity downgrades. With Iconic Master being... less iconic than expected, Masters 25 did not disappoint.

Ancient Craving
Verdict: Pass
Ambition's Cost was already available to us. Not a bad card at all, but also not the first black card draw spell I'd add. The different versions that cost 2 or 3 mana and draw only 2 cards are slightly more efficient, even though the raw drawing power is less.

Balduvian Horde
Verdict: Pass
Pillaging Horde was downgraded in an online set, so technically available to peasant if you consider those (which I, and many peasant cubers with me, do). While the Alliances rare has a special place in my memories, a 5/5 vanilla for 4 with a largely uncontrollable drawback just doesn't really cut it anymore.

Ire Shaman
Verdict: Cube
The first 'real' downgrade of the bunch and it's a great one. A 2/1 menace for 1R is already not the worst floor of a card, and I wouldn't feel bad to play it turn 2 if I didn't have another 2-drop. Drawn later, it's card advantage in red (and becomes bigger). This makes it relevant in all stages of the game, a very very welcome quality for an aggressive card. The fact that it has a +1/+1 counter is icing.
I do want to mention that morphs, like 'free' spells, give a slight advantage to players familiar with your cube. If you don't mind morphs, this is an auto-include.

Iwamori of the Open Fist
Verdict: Cube
Contrary to Balduvian Horde, this 5/5 for 4 is worth it. Not only can't it be chump blocked, its drawback is almost nonexistent in peasant cube. My cube currently has 2 legendary creatures, and I can think of a small handful handful of playable ones on top of that. But even if your opponent does have a legend in hand, it's sure not to be a devastating game-ending bomb like Emrakul or Griselbrand.
Iwamori is probably at or around the powerlevel of Blastoderm, which most people consider a staple. You can target it, but laughs at chump blockers and doesn't fade away. The problem is that you can run only so many 4-drops. While I think it's near the top in power level, it's not very versatile. This means that it will probably see less play than it should.

Jalira, Master Polymorphist
Verdict: Maybe, format dependent
This is a very cool card and an effect we don't get much of. Jalira is a fun build-around that gives reanimate-style decks a different way to cheat out fatties. She asks for a different way to build a deck, which I consider a quality. However, it's quite a risk to build your deck around a card as fragile and slow as Jalira if it takes such a specific way to build your deck to reach the potential of a card. Talking about potential, the uniqueness of the card also makes it hard to gauge exactly how powerful it can be. I think it's solid, but slow. Interesting to add if you're looking for a unique engine-type card, but too clunky for most peasant cubes.

Kongming, "Sleeping Dragon"
Verdict: Cube
I was expecting a white anthem at uncommon in this set, but I was hoping for actual Glorious Anthem. This is still a good card and I'm happy we got it. Having said that, a static anthem on a creature can lead to reverse blowouts if it gets removed at the wrong time. Compare it to Pianna, Nomad Captain (an online downshift), who has a triggered anthem. The effect might be more situational, but removing Pianna mid-combat does not remove the pump. On the other hand, not having to attack with Kongming lets you attack more freely with armies of tokens to push damage through unfavorable defenses. Good card, just be careful with it.

Krosan Colossus
Verdict: Archetype dependent
A 9/9 is obviously huge, but so are both its mana cost and its morph cost. However, if you can circumvent either, this will be the largest thing on the board. It's still not the best reanimate target because it has neither evasion nor self-protection. This means it's basically a blink archetype card. Casting this face down and following it up with a Cloudshift or Flickerwisp is a lot of fun. So if you go deep on blink and want a less value-oriented approach, definitely include this.

Loyal Sentry
Verdict: Playable
Slightly better than the various green and black 1/1 deathtouch creatures, because it's better against abilities like trample and first strike. I don't think that white really needs more (different) defensive options as it already has removal available in various power levels and speeds, and a couple of decent blockers. But, this is not a terrible option if you want your removal to be more situational.
Don't forget that if you have a lot of instant speed blink (or even bounce), you can blink this with the trigger on the stack to keep it around.

Promise of Bunrei
Verdict: Cube
I played a lot of standard in the CHK-RAV standard, and remember Ghost Husk being a great deck. The deck was a black/white aggro deck that used Promise of Bunrei to take advantage of Nantuko Husk, Plagued Rusalka and Ghost Council of the Orzhova (and vice versa).
Every creature deck can use this as removal deterrent or dissentive to attack into your board. Once you put it into a deck that can both trigger it at will AND use the tokens.. the card is absolutely nuts. I don't think this card will ever leave my cube.
Note that the tokens are not white and do not fly though.

Shadowmage Infiltrator
Verdict: Cube
Speaking about cards that will likely be instant staples: welcome Jon Finkel. Barring maybe Baleful Strix (which might still be better), I don't think there are Dimir cards that come close to the power level of Shadowmage Infiltrator. It's the closest thing we have to a peasant legal Phyrexian Arena and a huge boon for each and every Dimir deck. Tempo, control, reanimate, it doesn't matter. Play this, feel good.

Undead Gladiator
Verdict: Maybe, format dependent
A card that has appeared often on downgrade wish lists, the peasant cube community wanted this for years. A mono black discard-outlet for reanimate, a cool value engine for grindy black control decks, and another card to get out of the graveyard for self-mill decks. Though, in the past years we received a couple of decent black discard-outlets in Call the Bloodline and Heir of Falkenrath, self-mill has a plethora of options and peasant has gotten more efficient cards for their control decks. I still think Undead Gladiator has a place as an archetype cross-over in cubes that are a little more archetype based, like mine. For other cubes though, I don't know. A couple of years ago, I would've told everyone to slam this into their cubes, but I think most cubes will find this too slow.
It's fun that we've been asking for this downgrade, and when it finally happens it might be too late.

Verdict: Playable
I had to double check if this really hadn't been printed at uncommon before, but this is the first time. Will-o'-the-Wisp is a classic, which might be the biggest reason for people to include this. I mean, it's not a bad card. It stops almost everything (barring trample and unblockable/shadow) for a single black mana each turn. While this is good, the cost of B each turn is not negligible. Basically, if you're looking for a black wall, this is an option. I don't expect this to go into tons of decks though.

Zada, Hedron Grinder
Verdict: Archetype dependent
Another cool build-around to finish with. If you set it up well, this is the kind of card that creates stories. The floor on the card, however is very low. I'm still undecided if I want to add it myself. On the one hand I like having cards like these, and I don't mind to just throw it into the cube and have it only work occasionally. On the other hand I'm slightly doubtful it will do enough even if everything comes together. If it's any good, it will be in cubes that support some sort of Berserk/pump archetype in Gruul. So maybe I should just try it.
Zada is more flashy than good, but I can see it going into some cubes.

Top 3 and conclusion

Masters 25 can be considered a hit in my opinion. Some overall good cards, cool nostalgic cards, and fun build-arounds. I'm looking to add between 6 and 8 cards from the set, which I'm very happy with. 

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