final installment of my Khans of Tarkir set review for Standard Pauper was published over at PureMTGO. In my previous installment, I reviewed the multicolor Morph cycle at Common. I ended up rating Ponyback Brigade as the worst of the cycle, although I did assign it a borderline grade, meaning I felt it was playable but not great.
I received the following response in the comments:
Ponyback Brigade is as close to Siege-Gang Commander as Pauper will ever
see, and the Efreet Weaponmaster dies to a simple Lightning Strike. In
fact, I'm finding it very difficult to believe that you directly rated
("[...]the worst card in the cycle[...]") ... Do you not really grasp
how powerful it is to get four bodies for one card? Midrange can use
this to gum up the ground like no one's business, control can stabilise
with a single card (and keep in mind that it kills in
four turns on it's lonesome on an empty board against an untouched
opponent), and even aggro might see some use for it postboard.
I appreciated the feedback, and promised that I would clarify my thoughts in a blogpost. So here we go.
First, let's take a look at Siege-Gang Commander, which he compared it to:
You can see why it's a fitting comparison. Siege-Gang Commander also gives you four creatures, three of which are 1/1 Goblin tokens and the other a 2/2. Siege-Gang costs one less mana, and most of the time will be easier to cast, since it only has two colored mana symbols instead of three. It also can't be played as a 2/2 for 3 early and then later flipped over at an advantageous time.
However, the big difference is Siege-Gang's secondary ability: for 1R each, it can turn those 1/1 Goblins into Shocks at Instant speed. This is a major difference, as it takes those tokens from marginal to always relevant.
Second, let's talk about the value of a 1/1 without any abilities. Generally speaking, a 1/1 is worth somewhere between half and a third of a card. Krenko's Command gives you two such tokens for 1R at Sorcery speed. Getting three tokens at Instant speed would be very strong at 2R, and at Common is more likely to cost at least 3R (based on Captain's Call). But unless you're playing a dedicated Tokens build, most of the time a bunch of 1/1s is not going to be that relevant. Yes, they can chump-block several attacking creatures; yes, they can get in for some significant damage once or twice; but generally, this is a niche effect for a niche deck, not an all-around all-star.
So I would evaluate Ponyback Brigade (disregarding Morph for the moment), as a 2BW Captain's Call tacked onto a 2/2 creature for 1R. The total effect is nice, but for six mana with triple color requirements, even at Common we can expect more. Of course, you add Morph back into the mix, and you have a solid card, perfectly playable. But here again, the setup cost is pretty high. Hence my rating: playable, but not amazing.
What do you think?