My Dark Ascension Review for Next Level Cubes, Part 5: Blue
Artful Dodge: MaRo’s reasoning why this isn’t a Defy Gravity variant made me puke (okay, not literally) – because a combat trick from the graveyard is annoying for an opponent who overlooked it! Well, yeah, instants in general are annoying for many players. Well, opponents are. What’s the fun in playing Magic if you cannot do it all by yourself? The end result is a card which is boring and weak and not worth the slot in a set. I, of course, still have my Defy Gravity.
Beguiler of Wills: Another one of those Mythics which will never be used in constructed, is reviled even by its target audience (casual players), and takes over limited games in short order. Vulnerability to removal is a safety valve for strong cards, that is true, but punishing an opponent who has run out of removal THAT much makes for a too swingy card. (Also note that stolen creatures do not return after the Beguiler is finally removed!) There is really no need to look for ways to create stealing effects stronger than those from Sower of Temptation or Mind Control, especially when their target audience is already too spoiled to appreciate them.
Bone to Ash: Dismiss is completely fine in limited. Exclude is strong, but fair. WotC is still on track widening the gap in power level between commons and rares/mythics.
Call to the Kindred: And another one of those rare effects which are usually not reliable enough, but overwhelming once they get rolling. WotC’s neverending quest for novelty value seldom leads into the lands of good gameplay.
Chant of the Skifsang: Despite the big number in its text box, this is essentially a clearly weaker Muzzle. Even in Blue, you don’t need a clearly weaker Muzzle. You have stuff like the much more mana-efficient Sensory Deprivation and the much more useful Claustrophobia. That doesn’t mean that the Chant cannot fulfill its role in an environment, it is just an inferior alternative.
Chill of Foreboding: Out because it mills an opponent, but also because it is dedicated self-mill, leading to an overemphasis on the graveyard.
Counterlash: Reactions to this card were a wonderful illustration of how casual players think: You can counter your Memnite and put an Eldrazi into play for 6 mana! Color me disgusted. Since in limited (and especially in my cubes) cheating bombs onto the board isn’t a likely use for this card, it competes with other really expensive counterspells offering you a substantial additional reward. I’ll still go with the more reliable Desertion and Draining Whelk.
Curse of Echoes: An enchant player, and not really made for limited play, at least not in duels.
Divination: A reprint I’m already using. And a really baffling card in this environment.
Dungeon Geists: If you compare this card to Phantom Monster, Faceless Butcher and Sower of Temptation, you’ll get a feeling for its power level: Really, really strong – but reliably strong and not spinning out of control like the Beguiler. I wilt take this as an elegant, impressive high-end card for blue.
Geralf’s Mindcrusher: Out because it is technically a card allowing you to mill your opponent, but also because it is just a little too good. What a monster of a card!
Griptide: Also known as Repel, which was printed as a more elegant, but clearly inferior version of Ether Well. I prefer Time Ebb – 4 mana is too much to make good use of its instant nature, so it will most of the time be played exactly like Time Ebb for a mana more anyway.
Havengul Runebinder: While I appreciate that this is, on average, less powerful than Cemetery Reaper, I still do not want to stretch zombie tribal cards to Blue. Also, a card producing tokens and putting counters on them is not exactly elegant design.
Headless Skaab: I’m not a big fan of the 3/6 stats combination. With several nicer designs using this mechanic to chose from, I’ll take a pass on this.
Increasing Confusion: All about milling and nothing else. No.
Mystic Retrieval: Very nice Izzet flashback card! Will probably push out Desperate Ravings from my pool, which disappointed me for being to close to Think Twice on one hand, and being annoying too often when it played differently on the other hand.
Nephalia Seaskite: Well, Sentinels of Glen Elendra are fine, and I’ll keep the Faerie version.
Niblis of the Breath: A nice Puppeteer variant in another tribe! I suspect, BTW, that 2/1 flying is actually a little worse than 1/2 non-flying, since you will use that creature for its utility value anyway nearly all of the time. It is different enough, though.
Relentless Skaabs: These exile only one creature? Really? How does that make sense? Well, that pushes them to an absolute high-end card, but that is okay (barely). Actually, I look at it from the other way: 4/4 undying for 5 mana is really strong, so I’m happy it has a small disadvantage.
Saving Grasp: This would have been an interesting, although not really powerful card when damage on the stack still existed. Now, it is just too narrow.
Screeching Skaab: This is how I like self-milling; not dedicated as an all-out strategy, but attached to an already playable creature and ready to look out for synergies. Nice complement to Armored Skaab with an aggressive instead of defensive main function.
Secrets of the Dead: The blue version of Burning Vengeance, and just like that card hitting the sweet spot of being not too hard to use, but not easily becoming ridiculous (well, at least if you rein in the self-mill in your environments, which I do.)
Shriekgeist: Out for milling. (And quite a trap in Innistrad limited, where you really don’t want to attack with it most of the time!)
Soul Seizer: DFC. Powerwise, a more flexible, but overall weaker Mind Control variant, which is fine. Remember Thalakos Deceiver and Dominating Licid? I use those.
Stormbound Geist: Really strong, like most undying cards, but somehow reined in by the fact that it will in many cases just play like a Phantom Warrior. I’ll use it, but with care.
Though Scour: See, Mental Note doesn’t allow you to mill your opponent, so the Note it is for me.
Tower Geist: This is actually a LOT better than just drawing you a card as an ETB effect, and on a splashable creature. I think we have a Mulldrifter level card here, especially in a graveyard-based environment. Once again: Use with care! (BTW, this means realizing that you allocate a lot of power level points here when balancing an environment.)
Blue adds a lot of power to my card pool here, mainly through its uncommons. I need to remember that since I use only two rarities in most of my cubes, I should push many of these powerful cards into rare slots to avoid making Blue too strong.