For the third installment of C+C, we’ll be reviewing the Eternal Bargain preconstructed deck, looking at the impact of new cards and notable reprints for Cube and Commander. The first two installments can be found here and here.
Here’s a review of the grading system we’ll be using. I’m switching it up to match the title, so from now on the first grade will be for Cube, the second for Commander.
[A+]: First-pick card on power level alone or tier-one for associated archetype(s).
[A]: High-powered alone or in the context of two or more archetypes.
[B]: High-powered in the context of one archetype.
[C]: Role-filler in a niche archetype or mid-powered utility card.
[D]: Might see play in large or restricted lists (e.g. peasant)
[F]: Not playable in Cube.
[A+]: Best in Class. These cards are at the top of the list for any deck wanting the effect.
[A]: Excellent card according to two or more of: power level, size-of-effect, card interaction, or politics.
[B]: Excellent card according to one of: power level, size-of-effect, card interaction, or politics.
[C]: Solid role-filler or theme-supporter.
[D]: Playable, but better options exist.
[F]: A knife at a gun fight.
Esper Deck: Eternal Bargain
Commanders: [card]Oloro, Ageless Ascetic[/card] [F]/[A], [card]Sydri, Galvanic Genius[/card] [F]/[C], [card]Sharuum the Hegemon[/card] [F]/[A]
In Cube, none of these cards are going to challenge [card]Sphinx of the Steel Wind[/card] for the Esper slot, so let’s focus on their application for Commander decks. Sharuum is a perfect if unexciting reprint here, fitting the artifact theme nicely and giving players another chance to obtain an Alara block mythic. I’ve seen one Sydri deck so far, and after watching how it used her abilities, have concluded that Sydri fits in pretty much one deck: mana rocks into bigger mana rocks into big do-nothing artifacts. Despite being linear, it nevertheless made for a good game and it was pleasing to play against a less popular general. While I previously thought of Orzhov as the life drain color combo, I sense that Oloro will be popular enough that blue will get associated with the strategy from now on, though you could easily make Oloro the commander of BW lifegain and he’ll be good without ever getting cast.
I built an Oloro deck to help me remember triggers and still I find myself on turn five with the starting 40 life. The command zone trigger is extremely powerful, and I see Oloro being the obvious choice for any Esper good-stuff build that also has no intention of casting him. Yet, the decks that will want him most are those that seek to abuse his unstoppable trigger, as evidenced by the reprinting of [card]Well of Lost Dreams[/card] and [card]Ajani’s Pridemate[/card]. What keeps Oloro from the elusive A+ is that he’s actually pretty miserable once cast, as he’s expensive, on the small side, and too slow to really accrue significant card advantage unless you’re running additional life gain. This last strategy seems bad, since the whole point of running Oloro is to get all your life gain in one place and just jam all the synergy cards. That caveat aside, he works nicely with incidental lifegain such as [card]Prismatic Talisman[/card] or lifelink creatures.
[card]Diviner Spirit[/card] [F]/[D]
See Mind Seize review .
[card]Serene Master[/card] [F]/[C]
As much as I want to give this guy a better rating, I feel he doesn’t do enough to be good. The mechanic of using an opposing monster’s power against it is a perfect flavor fit for the card, but even then the master is comparable to [card]Fog Bank[/card], which isn’t particularly exciting for EDH and even less so for Cube. At his best, he can hold off all the attackers he’d take in a fight and one that he wouldn’t, which is a nice ceiling for a two-mana defensive card. However, finding a home will be difficult since most defensive decks would just rather load up on sweepers than entrust their fort to this fragile Bruce Lee.
[card]Tidal Force[/card] [F]/[C-]
The final installment in the Force cycle, Tidal Force has a less exciting trigger than his black counterpart, but one that will play better than it seems. Tidal Force has deceptively many modes: it can give your best creatures pseudo-vigilance, help you leave mana up for your opponents’ turns, keep those opponents off offense or defense, and even go into full griefer mode by tapping karoo lands on upkeeps. The main problem with this Force is that the good Forces essentially accrue card advantage while masquerading as big dumb vanillas. I think this effect would be sweet on a card that could come out earlier, as anyone who has 5UUU to drop on a blue dude would rather just slam [card]Tidespout Tyrant[/card] and really ruin someone’s day. In Cube, this card has to compete with much better options.
[card]Act of Authority[/card] [D-]/[C+]
At first glance, Act seems like a bad [card]Oblivion Ring[/card] with extra downside, but it has a few features which make this card quite solid in the right deck. Firstly, there is no return to the battlefield clause, so once you get something, it’s “got.” Secondly, you don’t have to pass it until you use the upkeep trigger, which means at its worst, it is a 1WW [card]Revoke Existence[/card]. In EDH, the difference between 1W and 1WW isn’t as keenly felt. Lastly, if you can build your deck with few-to-no artifacts or enchantments, then this is a great card to have on the table as your opponents just pass it back and forth, netting you card advantage. In most games, I expect it to be played to nuke a [card]Sol Ring[/card], then sit on the battlefield keeping other players off their best toys just by threat of activation. In Cube, the effect is also good but the cost and sorcery speed will keep it from the big leagues.
[card]Curse of Inertia[/card] [F]/[D-]
See Mind Seize review.
Curse of Shallow Graves [C]/[A-]
See Power Hungry review.
[card]Curse of the Forsaken[/card] [D]/[F]
The first thing to notice about this card is how badly it compares to [card]Path of Bravery[/card] in any 1v1 game. Focusing on political implications, we are again let down. Gaining life is worth nowhere near a card, even if it stacks for each creature. As an incentive, this curse is also a dodgy proposition, since for any player to whom the appeal of gaining life is attractive, so is the appeal of having blockers. The best application of this card seems to be in a deck with cards like [card]Ajani’s Pridemate[/card] that benefit from multiple lifegain triggers, but once you go down that road, you’ll soon realize you just wasted two slots in your deck.
[card]Darksteel Mutation[/card] [D]/[C]
Darksteel Mutation is a nice design that presents another way to deal with problematic commanders other than tucking. That said, it’s card disadvantage in a format where spot removal is already card disadvantage, so whether or not you decide to run this card really depends on your meta and the sorts of commanders you play against. In Cube, there has been some talk about this card and some lists are trying it out. It’s not making my cubes since I support white aggro and giving my opponent an inviolable blocker doesn’t seem like a path to victory. However, the card seems fine in W/x control, as it has a similar effect to [card]Journey to Nowhere[/card], a cube staple.
[card]Order of Succession[/card] [F]/[C+]
Cubes won’t run Order considering all the other broken [card]Control Magic[/card] effects, like the namesake card, [card]Treachery[/card], and [card]Vedalken Shackles[/card], but I could see this card finding a home in creature-light EDH lists. Obviously this card is best when your opponent is forced to take your 1/1 token or your nothing, so look to include this in decks that can work towards that board state with non-creature defense like [card]Propaganda[/card] and the freshly reprinted [card]Crawlspace[/card]. What makes this card much more attractive than [card]Juxtapose[/card] is that it involves the whole table and will undoubtedly lead to name-calling, sales-pitching, obfuscation, and some fun.
[card]Tempt with Immortality[/card] [F]/[D]
These Tempting Offer cards keep getting worse. Tempt with Immortality suffers from a big problem: you can’t control the effect so this card might rot in your hand if an opponent has a Primordial in his or her ‘yard you can’t let out. This problem works the other way too, since if you have the best targets, then no one will take the offer. In theory, this tension could balance out the power level of accepting or not accepting the offer, but the upshot is that if you are the caster of Tempt with Immortality, then you would rather have [card]Rise from the Grave[/card] in almost every situation. In Cube, we like to pay two mana or less to cheat our fatties into play.
[card]Toxic Deluge[/card] [A]/[B+]
And we have a winner! Second only to [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card] on hype, Toxic Deluge is an excellent card for Cube and EDH decks alike. Prior to this printing, [card]Damnation[/card] was sold out in my area despite holding a $30 price tag, a fact which speaks to the demand for aggressively-costed black sweepers. That Deluge is better than Damnation along several metrics (casting cost, scalability, ability to deal with indestructible creatures) puts Deluge squarely in the “better-than-expected” category. In most Cube games where Damnation would be good, Deluge is just as good, with the life loss being offset by the mana reduction and ability to cast it a turn earlier. However, where the card really shines is in reanimator decks where you can leave your fatty on the field while wiping your opponent’s board through a judicious choice of X. The ability to kill indestructible creatures comes up more often in EDH, but there you have a larger life total to play with and you can bet it’s worth it to pay 11 life to get that [card]Blightsteel Colossus[/card] off the table.
[card]Divinity of Pride[/card] [F]/[B]
This reprint is kind of less interesting that it would have been had the card not been reprinted in Modern Masters, but Divinity is still nice for players that missed their chance the first or second time it came around. Usually coming down as an 8/8 flying lifelinker for 5, the card has the power to make things happen before truly degenerate seven- and eight-drops hit the field. Even though the clause is easier to turn on in a 40-life format, the card ends up at an appropriate power level rather than being completely unfair like [card]Serra Avatar[/card]. Divinity misses in Cube due to casting-cost violation.
[card]Kongming, “Sleeping Dragon”[/card] [F]/[D+]
Sadly, Kongming’s relevance is hampered by the modern-bordered power creep on creatures. [card]Glorious Anthem[/card]-on-a-stick is an effect white weenie Cube decks would want, as well as certain aggressive EDH builds, but simply put, Kongming costs too much for too fragile a body.
[card]Myr Battlesphere[/card] [A-]/[B]
Katamari, like the next reprint in [card]Sphinx of the Steel Wind[/card], is a great card for both 40-card and 100-card formats. What makes the myr ball so good is that it provides significant board advantage even if it’s killed immediately, can be played fairly, and can be cheated out early off colorless mana acceleration or [card]Tinker[/card].
A key metric for whether or not a fatty is good for Cube is how many of the following cards it plays nicely with: [card]Tinker[/card], [card]Reanimate[/card], [card]Sneak Attack[/card], [card]Channel[/card], [card]Natural Order[/card], or various ramp cards. Consideration should only be given to those that can score a two or better on that quiz. Battlesphere scores a solid five, as it even leaves behind value after a [card]Sneak Attack[/card].
[card]Sphinx of the Steel Wind[/card] [A-]/[B]
Even though it only scores a two on the “How can you cheat with me? Let me count the ways” test, the body Sphinx provides is so awesome that in many cubes, it has the Esper slot locked down. What puts it over the top is the combination of vigilance and lifelink, as those two together can swing an aggro matchup even through an alpha strike. Only bounce, [card]Control Magic[/card]s, and white spot removal deal with it in Cube, as it is impervious to green’s [card]Naturalize[/card] effects, all the burn and shatters, as well as most of black’s removal except [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card]. This card is still good in EDH, as it can take down any titan in a fight and still gives its controller offense, defense, and the happy end of 12-point life swings.
[card]Brilliant Plan[/card] [D]/[D+]
Though not particularly powerful or exciting, this P3K reprint is nice because it gives players access to some redundancy, should they want it. My next Cube project is to build a 360-card beginner’s cube, and this sort of pared-down simple effect is exactly what that cube wants.
[card]Nevinyrral’s Disk[/card] [A-]/[A]
The original artifact bomb is back. Not hitting planeswalkers has modified how this card gets played, as now players can craft a board state to take further advantage of the effect. The entering tapped drawback is significant, but necessary to keep this card from being totally over the top. Disk is solid as ever in both cubes and EDH decks, though I prefer the original art for the nostalgia factor.
[card]Phyrexian Reclamation[/card] [C]/[D+]
The best reprints are the ones that players either forgot about or were completely unaware of. Phyrexian Reclamation falls into this category and there has been some talk of it getting adopted in Cube lists to bolster the ranks of [card]Oversold Cemetery[/card] and [card]Oath of Ghouls[/card] in graveyard and Braids strategies. The mana on the activation hurts it a bit too much for my taste, but the ability to recur your [card]Shriekmaw[/card]s and [card]Bone Shredder[/card]s is undoubtedly powerful.
[card]Reckless Spite[/card] [C-]/[D]
Spot removal in multiplayer games is card disadvantage, and while Reckless Spite addresses that somewhat, it does so only slightly and at a hefty cost to your life total. This card could have a home in peasant cubes by virtue of giving some card and tempo advantage to black. Not being able to fire this off at a single creature in a pinch does hurt its chances, as dying to a green dinosaur with this in your hand would feel like digesting bicycle parts.
[card]Well of Lost Dreams[/card][F]/ [C+]
Though unplayable in Cube—except in a life gain decks where it would still be unplayable because no one would want to play it—this card is significant because many players with multiple EDH decks have one with either a life gain or life drain theme. In those decks, this is one of the first cards to be included simply because of how efficiently it turns life gain into cards. Being reprinted here should put this card back on the map for many players.
Overall – Value: [C+] / Playability: [C]
Eternal Bargain has a few winners, but the card quality drops pretty quickly after the first few big hitters. There are some nice inclusions for Esper EDH players in Sphinx and Sharuum, but both have been reprinted since their original release and could already be obtained without too much difficulty. Even [card]Nevinyrral’s Disk[/card] was only ever a few dollars. Sydri has a very narrow application as a commander, which puts the value of this precon squarely on the shoulders of Oloro, [card]Toxic Deluge[/card], and the [card]Sol Ring[/card] and [card]Command Tower[/card] duo. Luckily, Oloro is quite good and can be built several ways, and Toxic Deluge is excellent and has appeal across even more formats than [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card]. That said, you can get your Oloro for about $4, and Deluge for $13, giving you pretty much all the excitement of this product for just over half the MSRP. All things considered, this points to Deluge as a solid trade target.
While there are several cards in this deck that mesh with the artifact and life gain themes, this deck works best if you salvage it for parts and build two separate decks. Overall, it lacks the focus that we saw in Power Hungry.
Email: djkensai at gmail dot com