Part One – Captured Sunlight? Really?

In which MichaelJ reacts to a controversial comment about Alara Reborn common Captured Sunlight.

So this one is from the Twitter files.

Michael Dean Conway (aka @mikeconway13) shipped an interesting couple of Tweets over the last couple of days. Based on some of our recent reviews on Alara Reborn in general, Cascade specifically, I wanted to share this one with you:

This of course got the gears moving.

First off I had to go and look up Captured Sunlight. I didn’t know off hand which one Captured Sunlight was (I just had a vague recollection that I only liked Bituminous Blast and Bloodbraid Elf and not really any of the other Cascade spells in the set). Turns out it is this one:

Captured Sunlight

Now remember, on Twitter you only get 140 characters to express your thought; but in this case Mike is able to squeeze out a pair…

  • Everyone is touting Bloodbraid Elf.
  • He thinks Captured Sunlight will be the top Cascade spell in Standard.

As for the first, I can’t disagree. In fact, when I first blogged about Bituminous Blast, the first thing that happened was that people started telling me to look at Bloodbraid Elf. Like I said earlier, I only remembered liking the pair of those cards (and to go with the sentiment of Mike’s Tweet)… Bloodbraid Elf, BLOODBRAID ELF, BLOODBRAID ELF.

Now as to the second, Mike actually got me thinking about Captured Sunlight. I immediately disagreed… but that’s not ultimately the point. My perspective changed to…

What would make Captured Sunlight the best Cascade spell in Standard?

To an extent, that one is easy.

Is Bituminous Blast the best spell in Standard? No.
Is Bloodbraid Elf the best spell in Standard? No.

Yet early consensus is that one of these spells — neither of which is the best spell in Standard — is the best Cascade spell in Standard.

Which of them is better than Loxodon Hierarch?

That’s right!

But wait! Why do I ask?

The superficial connections between Captured Sunlight and Loxodon Hierarch should probably be pretty obvious. Both cards share the same mana cost at four; both cards help you gain four life immediately. Unlike Bituminous Blast and Bloodbraid Elf, Loxodon Hierarch was at one point the best card in Standard (more on that tomorrow). If I can make Captured Sunlight as good — or even better than — Loxodon Hierarch, then by default wouldn’t that make Captured Sunlight the best card in Standard?

Not in this Standard, unfortunately *cough* Bitterblossom *cough* … Though we might arguably pass the efficacy of one of the two assumed default-best Cascade spells in the format.

This part is surprisingly easy…

  • Four mana – check.
  • Four life – check.
  • 4/4 body… versus random card on top.

To make a long story short, we can bias a deck to spit out things on the order of Wooly Thoctar. When we do that, we can potentially over-shoot even the bar on Loxodon Hierarch!

Okay, here are the caveats, though…

Ultimately, I don’t think we want to engage in precision deck design just to make Captured Sunlight good. It was an interesting mental exercise, but our deck probably needs things on the order of Rampant Growth or even Firespout that are going to make the card look silly sometimes.

However it’s nice to know that if we wanted to, we could actually pass Loxodon Hierarch in card power.


Because we might also pass “interesting” to practical (like Mike originally started to argue)… Albeit probably not main deck.

But I think I’ll leave that for tomorrow.

Thanks for the firestarter, Mike.

(Totally different Mikes, of course).

All Alara Reborn

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#1 Gifts Ungiven on 04.28.09 at 12:43 am

Captured Sunlight was also my pick for best Cascade card, albeit one that is clearly sideboard material. In your deck that’s already running W/G, it’s reasonable to expect that your boarded-in Sunlight will net you a Thoctar (4 life, 5/4) or a Kitchen Finks (6 life, 3/2, persist). Woohoo, and all that.

What’s nice about Sunlight is that it slots into your deck smoothly as needed, and requires no real build-around to be good. Only running four Finks and some Paths? Awesome. I’m sure 4 life + 2 life or 4 life + Path are both great topdecks if you were in a situation that merited siding in lifegain.

#2 messels on 04.28.09 at 9:30 am

UH. it just doesn’t do it for me, man. doesn’t change the board position at all. the difference between lox.heirarch and captured sunlight are magnitudes of infinite difference. lox hierarch IS a creature, can regen ALL your other creatures AND gets you 4 life to boot. so what if you put a thoctar down? it’s just going to be p-2-exiled OR run into a fatty wall (ala reverence)–or eat an incinerate! in the case where it’s p2exiled/incinerated then what? you just used two cards for ZERO board advantage. aka “big waste of time.” wouldn’t you rather play a finks? THAT’s the comparison here i think. i mean, finks can yield 4 life (and yields at min two) and has the same p/t of bloodbraid elf. and because of persist, comes back for more fun even if it’s wrath’d. it’s a board position card. i don’t see any board position in this. lifegain alone ain’t shit. wall of rev + plumeveil isn’t a win condition. it’s a time-buyer.

all the same, i haven’t seen a deck list around this card so i–and you and mike from tuscon–are talking in a vacuum. and in a vacuum blast & bloodbraid are qualitatively better due to a fore mentioned board advantage.

#3 Alfrebaut on 04.28.09 at 12:25 pm

I think the above poster is sort of missing the point. It’s NOT two cards for “zero board advantage.” It’s one card that nets you the other card. The upshot is the 4 extra life, the downsides are the mana cost and the uncontrollability of the flip. You say that putting a thoctar into play will just run it into path? Well, same could be said for well, any alternative you mentioned. Finks runs into it, netting you only 2 life, and Hierarch would run into it, too.

However, I do think that the better comparison would be to Blast and Elf, where it really depends on the aim of the deck to determine the effectiveness of the card. If you’re a control deck up against a Philosophy of Fire-type deck, obviously Captured Sunlight is ridiculous, and almost certainly better than Elf or Blast. Captured Sunlight is, I think, definitionally what Mike would term a “role player.” And it’s pretty good at what it does, in my opinion.

Also, Mike, this is pretty nitpicky, but I don’t actually think Firespout would work with Captured Sunlight. =X

#4 messels on 04.28.09 at 12:33 pm

no. Alfrebaut is missing the point. two cards w/ zero affect on board position vs. ONE CARD w/ zero affect on board position. maybe finks does get nabbed, but it’s only ONE CARD not TWO. captured sunlight is only acting as a filler! better to just play an answer/threat than a stall.

really, all i’m trying to illustrate is that captured sunlight is NOT anywhere near what lox. heiarch is. barely any comparison beyond “4 life” and “similar casting cost”. i mean, would you really choose (were it viable) captured sunlight over lox hiearch?

captured sunlight is a casual card.

**note** i could see this card be a really, really, really excellent choice in EDH where randomness is kinda the norm…

#5 Gifts Ungiven on 04.28.09 at 12:40 pm

Comparing Sunlight to the elephant is pointless, yes. That said, I think it’s the best cascade card because it has clear utility in its sideboard role, and in the type of decks where it makes sense, it’s almost guaranteed to flip something that enhances your board position.

Note that I’m also suggesting it’s purely a sideboard card, and it’s a sideboard card whose utility depends on the metagame. If I had to play in the pre-Reborn metagame, I wouldn’t have Loxodon Hierarch in my sideboard, since 4 life and a 4/4 doesn’t do me a ton of good against a swarm of fliers and a Glorious Anthem in play, or a Siege-Gang backed by an Ajani.

However, if the new R/G cards (Bloodbraid, Spellbreaker) push us back toward R/G fatty-based aggro, then Sunlight is good, because it’ll be a relevant amount of life and is highly likely to flip up something that will dramatically enhance your board position. That is, it’s good in environments where Faith’s Fetters and Loxy would also be good plays.

I’m not fond of Cascade overall in Standard, but Sunlight has potential to be a solid sideboard card, depending on how the environment moves.

#6 Dochetwas on 04.28.09 at 1:06 pm

I agree that Captured Sunlight is not an exciting card (well, unless you’re a really boring person), but I disagree that it’s the best Cascade spell in Standard. I think Bloodbraid Elf probably takes that award (or Broodmate Dragon, depending on what we consider a Cascade spell (and depending on if any 5C-Control players test Maelstrom Nexus)). Consider what decks want these cards. Bloodbraid Elf is one of the best plays post-Wrath I can think of in Standard right now, assuming you didn’t build your deck like a buffoon. You immediately get a 3-power dude, and you Cascade & flip up something cool (maybe a Thoctar-d, or a Boggart Ram-Gang, or a Hackblade, etc.). That’s pretty hot. You just took the wind out of your opponent’s sails, for 2RG. That’s hot sauce.
Captured Sunlight, though, feels really midrange to me, but it doesn’t really let you get anything good. You flip Path to Exile: That’s great, but you could have killed ALL my guys for 4 cmc. Nice 4 life, sir. You flip Kitchen Finks: That’s about the best I can think of, and even then, you didn’t really do anything over-the-top. You put a 3/2 into play (that has some additional advantages, sure) & gained 6 life. Is that the nut high for Captured Sunlight? Because that seems sort of disappointing.

And @messels: No, this wouldn’t be very good in EDH. (I’d MUCH rather have Deny Reality in EDH. Bounce your Planeswalker, Cascade into…Damnation?) Randomness isn’t really the norm, also, unless you’re playing Mono-red Chance Encounter.dec, in which case you should receive a slap upside the head.

#7 Joe on 04.28.09 at 4:54 pm

I would argue that just by being played in the main of a Standard deck, Bloodbraid Elf is the better card with Cascade. I mean, in this format, how exciting is it to cast Elf on turn 4 and flip into Boggart-Ram Gang or Jund Hackblade? I definitely think you could build a deck to have no bad flip with Elf whereas I don’t see the same happening with Captured Sunlight.

#8 CMH2003 on 04.29.09 at 12:25 am

Here is the reason that Captured Sunlight has the POTENTIAL to become a great card in standard. It is a great foil to decks that run the elf. Basically look at it as a renewed faith cycle that the “drawn” card gets played for free.

Now about the Elf, the elf is a great card by itself. You start to think of all of these possiblities and get all warm and snuggly inside. You breakup with your girlfriend because you’ve got a new girl in town. You head out of the house and down to the local card shop sit down to play and one of 3 things will happen…..

1 You play Elf flip Boggart-Ram Gang and well live the dream

2 You realize you are playing a slow red green beat down deck and yes you end up flipping the sauce but buy that point you are so far behind a well placed ajani wipes the floor with you.

3 You flip Bird and cry.

Now dont get me wrong Bloodbraid Elf will be amazing just not yet.

#9 hudnall56 on 04.29.09 at 1:54 am

Captured Sunlight into Kitchen Finks is the most mid-rangey thing I’ve heard of for a long, long time.

#10 KZipple on 04.29.09 at 4:05 pm

That isn’t nearly as midrangy as Foolkillers.
I haven’t played any of these things, but Kathari Remnant is great in Limited. That means this probably has potential. Honestly, it might not be that hard to design around it. Is there anything wrong with paying 2 more for Rampant Growth and gaining 4? Or one more for Civic Wayfinder and getting life? If that’s the worst that can happen, I’m certainly up for blowing a dozen tix trying it out.
What if the removal suite were confined to, say, Wrath of God and Scepter of Dominance, maybe with some Path to Exiles thrown in?

Man. I was hoping to win Regionals this year and this has to happen to me…

#11 Five With Flores » Rhox Meditant Again on 06.19.09 at 7:36 pm

[…] Bituminous Blast 4 Bloodbraid Elf 4 Captured Sunlight 4 Enlisted Wurm 4 Kitchen Finks 4 Maelstrom Pulse 4 Rhox […]

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