Last week, I introduced you to use cases, an important tool borrowed from human factors engineering, and how we can use them to improve our card evaluation skills. We started to apply this strategy to cards in Limited, and specifically to the common cycle of artifact creatures with colored activated abilities in Kaladesh. This week, I’m going to finish up that cycle and leave you with some final thoughts about use cases. While you’re reading, think about how you can practice this skill in your own card evaluations.
|Maindeck, on-color||I’ve had a lot of success playing Dukhara Peafowl in slow blue decks. With the abundance of 3/2s in Kaladesh, this 4-drop can sometimes be just as good at stopping attacks as Bastion Mastodon. It’s slower at finishing your opponent off later on, but its evasion makes it more consistent, and for one mana cheaper at that. Plus, blue has more cards that care about artifacts than white (Gearseeker Serpent being a really important one at common, as I discussed in my article a few weeks ago), so you’re likely to get some more value here than you might expect.||3.0|
|Maindeck, no sources of the activation color||Nobody likes playing a vanilla 2/4. Sometimes, though, you’re low on 4 drops, or you’re worried about getting run over before you can assemble your cool combo. In these cases, Dukhara Peafowl is a fine, yet boring inclusion.
A quick note: It is common for players to completely overlook cards like Dukhara Peafowl because “it has a blue mana symbol on it, and I’m not playing blue.” But, I’ll bet many of them played Pillarfield Ox in M14 draft, and this card is strictly better! While I’m obviously not arguing that this card is great when played off-color, you should try not to let the rules text distract you from its base stats.
|Maindeck, mild splash for the activated ability||Dukhara Peafowl gets a fair bit better when you stuff a few blue sources into your deck- enough to bump it up a full point in this use case. One of the reasons you’re playing it in the first place is to slow down the game to the point where you’re in control. This means that eventually, you will have to finish your opponent off. While playing your bird on turn 4, then waiting until turn 12 to draw your singleton Prophetic Prism, then starting to peck your opponent’s life total down over several turns isn’t ideal, but the fact that it exists in your deck provides you with a non-zero amount of inevitability, which is exactly what this strategy wants.||2.5|
|Sideboard, no sources of the activation color||Here, we have the exception to the trend in this cycle; in a slow deck with some free spots in the 4-drop slot, I would actually board in the Peafowl a fair amount of the time. Even if you’re not getting any inevitability advantage, you’re frequently stopping the onslaught of Kaladesh’s 3/2s dead in their tracks, making this card a decent inclusion if you see some creatures with those stats in game 1. Plus, you might even have room to slot in an island or two.||2.0|
|Maindeck, on-color||Many players agree with me that this little guy is the best card in the cycle. Black has the most artifact synergies out of any color in Kaladesh. All of them pair well with Prakhata Pillar-Bug, whether you’re curving a Turn 2 Dhund Operative into it or gaining an extra life with Tidy Conclusion. It also wears a Subtle Strike really well. And while it’s best in black’s midrange decks, you’re never disappointed playing the bug as long as you have a healthy amount of black mana in your deck.||3.0|
|Maindeck, no sources of the activation color||As with the 2/4 from before, sometimes you have to bite the bullet and play a vanilla 2/3 for 3. This use case is going to come up even more often for Prakhata Pillar-Bug than for Dukhara Peafowl, since it’s more important in Limited to have enough 3-drops than it is to have more than one or two 4-drops. And make no mistake, that’s exactly what you’re doing in this situation: padding your 3-drop slot because your neighbor to your right took all the copies of Thriving Rhino they saw.||1.5|
|Maindeck, mild splash for the activated ability||In slower decks, Dukhara Peafowl and Prakhata Pillar-Bug play pretty similar roles, but since the latter card’s ability doesn’t give it evasion, it is worse at this job than the former.
In faster decks, a 2/3 for 3 isn’t great to begin with, and the lifelink isn’t going to help much unless you’re racing. On top of that, you won’t even be able to activate it most of the time on the splash, so this use case ends up being very similar to the previous one.
|Sideboard, no sources of the activation color||When would I sideboard in a Hurloon Minotaur? Honestly, never. 3 toughness isn’t enough to dissuade this format’s aggro decks from attacking with their Dhund Operative, Spireside Infiltrator, Thriving Grubs, or Renegade Freighter. Additionally, 2/3 worth of stats is going to quickly get outclassed on most boards, especially in grindy matchups.||0.5|
|Maindeck, on-color||Weldfast Monitor is a great card to include in your aggressive red deck. The evasiveness of menace means that this lizard is hard to trade profitably with on defense, and it lets you set up 2-for-1s by holding up combat tricks like Built to Smash. Speaking of Built to Smash, red has a lot of cards that care about artifacts too, which means they get better with Weldfast Monitor in your deck.||3.5|
|Maindeck, no sources of the activation color||When your deck isn’t producing red mana, Weldfast Monitor is a vanilla 3/2 for 3. That set of stats used to pass the vanilla test just a few years ago, but in recent sets, it just doesn’t cut make the cut. I would only play Weldfast Monitor off-color in an aggressive deck where I really need that extra three-drop. (Since blue is so bad at aggression in this format, this usually means my deck is white-black, green-black, or green-white.)||1.0|
|Maindeck, mild splash for the activated ability||Splashing an ability that’s best when used early and often? That sounds like a recipe for failed expectations. The chances of drawing both your lizard and your fixer early is so low that it doesn’t effect the value of the card at all. In fact, if for some reason you are playing Weldfast Monitor off color, the cost of adding even a single mountain for its ability is often not going to be worth the trouble.||1.0|
|Sideboard, no sources of the activation color||I would never sideboard a vanilla 3/2 into a controlling deck- there’s no situation where it’s going to be better than my other answers. Additionally, there is only one situation where I would sideboard a vanilla 3/2 into an aggressive deck- when I am up against a bunch of 1/3s. Luckily, Aether Theorist is a top-tier blue common, and blue-based control decks are likely to play multiples, giving Weldfast Monitor a (small) chance at sideboard play.||0.5|
|Maindeck, on-color||When Narnam Cobra was first spoiled, it looked a lot like Hand of Silumgar, which was a great common pick from Dragons of Tarkir. We have learned in the months since that Cobra isn’t quite as good as the Hand. For one, with all the servos running around this format, the Cobra is a much worse blocker than it would be in most formats. For another, while paying a single mana one time seems like a small price when you’re trading up on mana, the fact that you have to leave it up every turn you’re threatening to use it can be very taxing. However, while Narnam Cobra has these caveats, it is still a cheap creature with (situational) deathtouch, which is never unplayable.||2.5|
|Maindeck, no sources of the activation color||In this case, Narnam Cobra has the same caveats from before, and none of the upside. You’ve really got to be hurting on 2-drops to consider playing it in this situation.||1.0|
|Maindeck, mild splash for the activated ability||When you’re happy with Narnam Cobra’s deathtouch ability, it’s usually because it saved you from an early death by a large beater. This is a situation where a vanilla 2/1 is pretty horrendous. It’s nice to have access to the deathtouch off-color, but when that access is this spotty, it might not come down in time to save you the game.||1.5|
|Sideboard, no sources of the activation color||Maybe you have no better options, and you’re just looking to trade 1-for-1 with your aggressive opponent’s 2-drops. Outside of that narrow corner case, don’t expect to see many Cobras popping their heads out of sideboards.||0.5|
That wraps up our use case evaluations! As you can see, once you start using this system, it is easier to evaluate cards for situations outside of their normal purpose.
Finally, as promised, here are my final thoughts on this topic:
- You might notice that I gave these cards ratings in a lot of places. That’s naturally going to happen, because as a common cycle, they are similar–both in mechanical design and in power level.
- Similarly, you might notice that my ratings for this cycle generally trend downward as you go down the list of use cases. That’s because they were designed to be maindeck, on-color cards first. You would see a different trend if I were rating Naturalize or Dragonsoul Knight, for example.
- It’s always good practice to consider all use cases. However, if you have limited memory capacity like I do, try to focus on taking away the ratings from the first use case. It comes up in vastly more situations than any of the others, so it is more worthwhile to keep that information in mind.
- This set of use cases applies to the cards I evaluated in this cycle, but remember that every card is going to have its own set of use cases to evaluate, even within the same format.
Thanks for joining me this week as I talked more about use cases and shared my thoughts on this key cycle from Kaladesh. How highly do you tend to pick these cards in draft? Will your pick rank change once you start thinking more about use cases? Feel free to comment with your thoughts!
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