2019-2020 Playtest Results: ELD, IKO, M20, M21, THB
I've recently been working on a project for Lucky Paper, and had the occasion to look through my old survey submissions from 2019-2020. I thought I'd break down my playtest results from these sets. ZNR and forward have been in their own posts here and there on this thread.
Top Tier ("staples for years to come"):
Oko, Thief of Crowns
needs no introduction. I like that he's so good that he'll take a solid RB drafter into RBug just to splash for him, with all the risk that incurs. It helps create dynamic drafts that can't be guided by simple heuristics.
's pro-multicolor has gotten only more relevant. And i'm always shocked it has reach. It's just so pushed.
Robber of the Rich
was the card that taught me haste is really worth a full mana. So good.
is the definition of a clean, pushed 2-for-1. It's awesome showcase art doesn't hurt, and is probably one of the reasons it's stuck around so long.
is the same way.
Ditto Murderous Rider
is the closest of the Adventure cards to Ambivalent, but it shines in creature mirrors and has amazing art in both versions. I like looking at pretty game objects -- sue me.
Once Upon a Time
is a free self-replacing spell with a reasonable floor. 'Nuff said.
Drown in the Loch
is a strong enough modal removal spell to actually pull players into Dimir. Like I mentioned about Oko, that's something I highly prize in my gold cards.
Castles Ardenvale, Locthwain, and Vantress are at their best in my environment, and I tend to activate them about once a match. And, like I mention above (https://riptidelab.com/forum/threads/mordors-cube.3180/post-105598
), they were intentionally added to help mitigate board stalls and they've done their job admirably.
Phoenix of Ash
is my favorite Red 3-drop. It doesn't go into every deck, but it's certainly a huge payoff for proactive decks, and I also think it's got panache.
Elspeth, Sun's Nemesis
is similarly my favorite White planeswalker. That art! She's strong, too -- the lack of an uptick means that each of her downticks provides more juice than similarly costed 'walkers, which is a trait my high-speed format rewards.
Cling to Dust
is a great little cantrip that does a little bit of everything. Fun stuff.
was close to being good enough... until Urza's Saga was printed. Now it's a Stoneforge-Mystic-level combo.
Ashiok, Nightmare Muse
has that baller Lukacs art and is a highly efficient finisher for control decks. I initially was way too low on this card, calling it "boring". Consider this my redaction.
Klothys, God of Destiny
just slams doors shut on games her controller has no business winning. Such a house, and one of the strongest pulls into RG.
Chevill, Bane of Monsters
is pretty cool and plays extremely well (like a cross between Bob's card draw and Putrid Leech's threatening body) but it always gets Cruella DeVille's theme song stuck in my head.
Lurrus of the Dream-Den
-- isn't it wild that Oko isn't the most broken card on this list? Anyways, I like how Lurrus incentivizes a radical shift in drafting priority, but maybe it's too strong in the long run, and/or maybe I'll get bored of building around it.
is a great threat in Xerox-style decks and I've really enjoyed getting the Dragon experience without the need for a million mana.
Knight of the Ebon Legion
was a big surprise to me -- the combination of the pump and the passive growth makes this a pull into Black-based midrange and aggro in my format, and I like it for that reason.
Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse
is a secret Simic gold card, but is so good at her job in that shell, frequently making huge amounts of stats from any turn past T2. Love me some Cat tokens.
has been my favorite kill spell recently. Hits almost everything, does so cleanly, and has some sick alternate art that really elevates it over alternatives and sidegrades like Heartless Act.
Radha, Heart of Keld
is my favorite Courser of Kruphix impersonator because she aligns better with aggressive gameplans. Unfortunately, she's also at the bottom edge of my format's 3-drops on power level, but so far her cool flavor and character have buoyed her to staple status.
Finally, I play and enjoy all 5 Triomes. The art is beautiful, the gameplay helps to foster disciplined splashes, and the art is beautiful.
is not exciting nor particularly efficient, but helps me hit my desired removal spell density. If another Oust art is ever released, I'll drop Casket in a heartbeat.
The Royal Scions
are bleeding-cool and play extremely well in RUx aggressive decks, but that's a small niche and I could see myself cutting them in some dark future.
might be in the "repetitive and broken gameplay" category but I haven't gotten tired of it yet.
Gallia of the Endless Dance
has that haste-with-upside! It's crazy how Robber is so much better, but the gulf is not so wide and my format is hungry for these types of role-players.
isn't as cool as Fleecemane, but I run both because Zoo needs a critical mass of creatures this big.
, the excellent Doom Blade variant that has no soul. Ugh.
might not cut it in my list if I had access to Damnation and Toxic Deluge, but as it is, it's perfectly serviceable, and I like that it flexes into midrange's sideboard slots.
is just expensive enough to make me start to question it in this environment.
is a fine Zoo threat, but not too special. Maybe I'll be higher on it if/when I add Field of the Dead
is one of Xerox's best threats, but honestly I'm a couple more good Delve creatures away from cutting it.
Liliana, Waker of the Dead
is perfectly serviceable, but also 4 mana.
is no longer good as my cube's average size has gotten much larger than 1/2. I've cut Ardenvale Tactician
, Order of Midnight, Fae of Wishes, Foulmire Knight, Shepherd of the Flock, etc for similar reasons. I'd still be on many them if I hadn't moved to Zoo-type aggro, as my cube archive attests (https://cubecobra.com/cube/list/1313
Rankle, Master of Pranks
is four mana. Four.
was an okay Immolating Glare, but ultimately didn't provide enough joy for its slot.
Boon of the Wish-giver
is a cheap cycler, sure, but is so close to having no other mode that it lost its joy for me.
has such a rough hardcast mode that its cycling doesn't quite make up for it.
was my token IKO showcase art for a long time, but it's just too clunky and Mutate is such a stupid-complicated mechanic that didn't get any reminder text on the showcase.
might get resuscitated by Urza's Saga, but for now its body is too small in my format.
is close to being good enough in my current format, but a vanilla 3/3 still outsizes it pretty significantly. I like the 1-mv Prowess creatures like Swiftspear, but 2 is a little too much to outweigh its anemic sizing.
is another victim of my 4-mana purge. It's telegraphed too easily and doesn't do enough vs opposing, instant-speed, cheap removal. Still wrecks me in Historic, though.
falls in the same category.
Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer
is amazing and I love her emotionally. Maybe I'll add her back. I don't have any real reason for cutting her except that planeswalkers have gotten generally worse in my environment, which is now full of Eliminate, Vindicates, and Kird Apes-sized creatures capable of killing 'walkers in a single combat step. But I think Mu can still hack it, thanks to the massive 4/4 body she makes.
and Garruk Unleashed
, on the other hand, really suffer in this format because their tokens are so small.
Edit: let me clarify what I mean when I diss the stats of cards on the chop-chop tier. My format is extremely tempo-heavy, meaning that answers are extremely plentiful and extremely low-mv (an average of <2 mana per answer). Moreover, my format is fast enough, with beefy low-mv proactive cards like Wild Nacatl
, to truly punish such tempo stumbles with huge swings in board presence and life totals. This means that tapping out for a 3-or-greater-mana threat is extremely dangerous, unless it a) provides near-immediate return on investment, b) is resilient to removal, or c) snowballs board advantage so quickly that it's worth the risk. Examples for each category include Niv-Mizzet Reborn
and Kess, Dissident Mage
, Thrun, the Last Troll
and Nissa, Who Shakes the World
, and Saskia the Unyielding
. The very best threats in my format are often at the intersection of these -- Esika's Chariot, for example, provides immediate Cats, takes multiple instant-speed kill spells to completely remove, and
threatens to snowball immense value. And even Niv-Mizzet is a 6/6 flying Mulldrifter, which really ends games quickly too.
That interplay of blazing speed and crushing tempo means that I tend to evaluate threats as if they can find themselves at the receiving end of a Doom Blade
less than a turn cycle after they're cast. The cards on my chop-chop tier perform extremely poorly by that metric.