The time has come when I get to evaluate the new set to see how it will impact my cube. For fall sets I usually like to get this done before the Thanksgiving season hits as that’s when I have a good chance of getting a decent sized group together to play. My cube in general doesn’t get pulled out often enough for me to tune it as finely as the likes of @misterorange, @wmap, or @UsmanTheRad. So, many times I look to their lists for ideas and adjustments to my own. I do, however, like to make changes for testing out cards from a new set on my own if only as an exercise in refining my own skill at evaluating cards. The size of my cube expanded during the last year, but I’m pretty sure my next big project will be to reduce the size again and make some really hard cuts, especially in the area of multicolored cards. I’d like to bring that section in line with all the others, but that’s a topic for another day.
Now, when the full spoiler for Scars of Mirrodin was released I perused it looking for cards that would be shoo-ins for my cube. I have to say that I missed a lot on that first pass. Now that the set’s been out for a couple week’s now, however, the set in general seems a lot more interesting than it appeared in the beginning. I’ll just go through the cards by rarity in no other particular order.
So far there hasn’t been a Mox that hasn’t been cube worthy. As this one requires two other artifacts to activate, it may not be the most powerful of the more modern Moxen in the cube, but it also doesn’t have a drawback as harsh as Mox Diamond or Chrome Mox. I think this helps put it into perspective. I personally think that Mox Opal will run fine in cubes. It’s metalcraft requirement will have the potential to be a skill tester, as it requires the drafter to consciously pick up enough artifacts to make the Opal run well.
Venser, the Sojourner
The most underrated of the new planeswalkers when Scars of Mirrodin first debuted, this card seems to be correcting quickly. I feel that this planeswalker has very interesting interactions to be used in the cube, as well as having an ultimate that allows you to deal with nearly anything on your opponent’s board. He can even be used as a singular way to sneak through your opponent’s defense. His abilities run the gammut of combo, aggro, and control and I think he’ll be fun to play. Definitely my favorite of the new planeswalkers, partly influenced for my love of the original Venser, Shaper Savant, but mostly because his abilities are kind of ridiculous.
Koth of the Hammer
Koth is definitely going to be a force in any deck that plays him. He finally gives red a planeswalker that can hang with the big boys. His ultimate is easily reached and he allows you to control the board, eliminate other planeswalkers, or burninate the face. In a pinch he can also generate large amounts of mana for that final, uncounterable Banefire if needed. It’s easily more powerful and apropos for the cube than Chandra Ablaze ever could be. Now that Koth is here, green is the most anemic color for planeswalkers.
Most of the planeswalkers running in the game are simply too powerful to pass up in a cube environment. However, there’s been a lot of discussion recently about the abundance of planeswalkers (and really good ones at that) in white. Thea Steele for one limits her cube to one planeswalker per color. I personally don’t mind keeping all planeswalkers I can in the cube (assuming they’re playable enough – see Chandra Ablaze and Nissa Rivane), as they are very fun to play with. White having a dominant number of them creates an interesting situation though. I do feel that leaving all the planeswalkers in that I can requires that I find ways for the other colors with fewer or less powerful planeswalkers to deal with that card type. Thankfully Scars of Mirrodin delivers some cards right up that alley that likely will also make it into the cube.
Now with that discussion aside, the new Elspeth is quite a good card. While I’m not very interested in life gain as a general rule, her other two abilities are pretty nice. She can create her own army and can clear the board, leaving her army and herself in tact. Her ultimate is usable on the second turn she’s in play with her surviving, so unless your opponent can deal with her right away they’d better have a backup plan.
One of the flagship creatures of the set, it definitely is going to be seeing a lot of play. For the cost, the Engine is an amazing card that survives – in a form – through mass removal and is very hard to deal with. I will easily find a place for this in my cube and it is one of my favorite cards from the set.
Some say this is a strictly better card than the original Masticore. Being that he’s almost an exact clone, the only difference is that you pay four mana and a creature card in the graveyard for four damage to creature or player, whereas the older Masticore only targeted creatures and required eight mana for four damage. Looking at that, I’d also agree that the new Molten-Tail Masticore is better. The question becomes, does this card replace Masticore or Razormane Masticore, or do I run all three?
Geth, Lord of the Vault
Geth’s intimidate and activated ability make him a force in the reanimation archetype. He’s not the usual early game reanimation that we all know and love. But, in a color well known for putting a lot of creatures into the graveyard, he can really be a finisher. The milling part of his ability also shouldn’t be overlooked in a forty card format. That milling just feeds him more targets for future reanimation. I think he’ll do fine in the cube, and I’m pretty sure there’s some chaff in the upper end of black that can be removed for him.
I’m not sold on this card. Sure, it’s a solid creature on it’s own, but without the metalcraft ability it’s just another creature with nothing to put it over the top. It just seems you could be doing more with a different card. For instance, Sunblast Angel seems far more powerful and cube worthy than this card.
While this card is interesting, locking your life total in place actually shuts down many things like using fetchlands and paying life as part of an alternate cost (see Force of Will). The closest artifact creature to this one is Platinum Angel and I just don’t see the Emperion measuring up to the Angel. It’s just a big chunk of metal on the battlefield with no evasion. I’d rather spend three mana more to hardcast Darksteel Colossus than pay eight for this guy.I’m not personally looking to run this card in my cube, but am interested to know if other people are. His cost just seems too prohibitive for the effect.
I’m a huge fan of Legacy Weapon. The Cannon isn’t quite the same, but I’m interested in trying it out. It definitely would be better if there were more ways to proliferate that are cube worthy. There may be enough counters running around in my cube that Contagion Clasp could also be worth running for proliferate.
Steel Hellkite is a great card. If you can connect with him it’s a Ratchet Bomb with wings and sharp, sharp teeth. Or, maybe the Hellkite is just dropping Ratchet Bombs. Either way I’m a big fan.
Speaking of Ratchet Bomb, this is definitely a card that was not overlooked. This card will be good, and I like it even better than it’s precursor, Powder Keg. It interacts well with cards like Voltaic Key and it can eliminate zero converted mana cost permanents the turn it comes into play, which is important when you’re facing down a token army or have an opponent who plays a bunch of zero cost artifacts as acceleration. Like Powder Keg and Steel Hellkite, it only hits one target converted mana cost, but that precision isn’t really much of a downside. If this is an indication of how Wizards will be getting around the reserve list now and in the future, than I am all for it. I am a huge proponent of preserving the legacy of Magic, but I believe that some of that legacy needs to be modernized and exposed to current players. I’d much rather have a rich and fun game that continues to live on than cater to the collectors. I under
I really like Sunblast Angel. The art alone is impressive, but the card itself is just a perfect punishment against an aggressive deck. Mix in Venser, the Sojourner or Momentary Blink and the angel can just wreak havoc against a deck whose primary goal is to turn their guys sideways. White is pretty clogged up at the six mana slot, but I believe it will be worth finding this card a home.
I personally think the new duals are underrated. Most of the time the early game really is when you want to have access to all the colors your deck needs, and these provide that at the expense of entering the battlefield tapped in the mid and late game. They may not turn out to be that great in the cube, but I at least think they should be tested out as they really can enable the early start that aggressive decks need.
This is an expensive piece of equipment, that is for certain. It does have the potential to pay off in spades, but most cubes don’t run ways of cheating it into play or equipping it cheaply. If you run Stonehewer Giant or Stoneforge Mystic this might be an easier choice to run. I’m a little on the fence about including this card, though I love the power level. If I can eliminate some clunky expensive artifact to make room, than I’ll be happy.
This card capitalizes on your opponent’s creatures dying. Imaging killing a Baneslayer Angel or Vengevine. This lets you remove it from the game – completely eliminating your opponent from using it again – and then produce them turn after turn to Fling at your opponent. Creatures die all the time and Mimic Vat just takes advantage of something that naturally happens during a game. What makes this card even more exciting is that you can continually update it. It’s not stuck making Noble Hierarchs if you use it early. In the late game you can also abuse it with Voltaic Key. I think this card will be a really fun addition to the cube. It’s a lot more interesting than Soul Foundry was, and I believe it is a lot more powerful to boot.
I think this suffers the same fate as Indomitable Archangel. Without it’s metalcraft ability it is simply a solid flyer. I just don’t know if that makes it worthy to take a slot in blue, which is heavy with solid cards. If I was to replace anything, I might replace Conundrum Sphinx with this.
Now, the Phoenix doesn’t really have the same problem as Argent Sphinx. At five mana for a 4/4 flyer with haste, it’s a well costed aggressive flyer in red. Mix in some artifacts and you have something that can recur over and over. It may not be the best creature to put into red as I don’t usually see a lot of artifacts in the kind of aggressive red decks in the cube that would want to run this guy. That said, red doesn’t have a lot of aggressive fliers in my cube. The few it does have are pretty expensive to cast. The Phoenix might be a good addition, provided I can remove something that isn’t an all-star and doesn’t see a lot of play.
This is an interesting card in the cube. He seems to fit right into the Tezerret deck and his blue lord effect can’t be overlooked. However, and maybe I’m just not seeing it, he hasn’t stunned me as being completely bonkers in cube. I want to try him out possibly, but I also want to see how he performs in other’s cube lists.
A small update to the old classic, Confiscate, this card steals anything that catches your eye on the opponent’s side of the board. If it happens to be tapped, you get to untap it for potential use right away.
To me, the Trail really feels like half of a Char in the worst case, and in the best case can remove two of your opponents early small creatures. I really like this card, but I’m not entirely sure I can make room for it. Worth a try, at least.
While I like this card and wrote up an entire post about it, I’m not sure it’s good enough for the cube.
The only way to deal with this upgraded Bonesplitter is to exile it, and there’s very few ways to do that at this time. It seems like a strong card and I’m happy to include it in my cube.
The black Flametongue Kavu. This card is actually a bit better than the Kavu as it permanently reduces the size of your opponents creature if it doesn’t kill it outright. It suffers from the same drawback of needing a target when played, or it will cannibalize itself, but that situation will be rare indeed.
I’m considering this card, as it’s cheap and can proliferate. However, it seems like it might just be too little on its own.
I don’t know that the power level of Memnite really makes it deserving of being in the cube, but it may prove to be fun. If there’s room after fitting in the absolute must haves I may try this out.
This is my favorite of the new spellbombs. I like the idea of creating a quick blocker and drawing a card at the same time. The overall cost of 2w is lessened by being able to pay it out in installments. This is a fun Trinket Mage target too. One of the two spellbombs I will be looking to make room for.
This can help non-green decks fix their mana, which makes a strong case for it’s inclusion. It also gives a neat little bonus for being in green when you use it. A hands-down shoo-in for a commons cube, and hopefully good enough for a spot in my cube.
I’m torn about whether Relic of Progenitus or this card is the better of the two. To get the full effect, both are costed similarly, though the spellbomb gives you the bonus card only if you’re in black. The one upside to the spellbomb is that you leave your own graveyard alone. This is important with black decks in the cube, as reanimation is a strong archetype. I think I prefer the Relic merely because it doesn’t require any color commitments, and it allows you to keep your opponents graveyard clear incrementally if possible. You probably shouldn’t find yourself running the Relic in your reanimator deck in a cube draft anyway. That said, if I need more answers to graveyard shenanigans in the cube, this will be the next card I look to.
This card will be much better in constructed where metalcraft is more easily attainable. That said, I really love how this is situationally better than Lightning Bolt and Burst Lightning. Wizards continues to show that there’s more design space to explore with cheap burn spells. Don’t think I’ll be looking to make room for this, but I would be remiss if I skipped it over entirely. I would highly consider running this in a commons cube though.
This card is definitely a star that will go in any commons cube. That said I don’t think it compares to cards like Crystal Shard or Vedalken Shackles so I feel that I will not be including it in my cube.
Grasp of Darkness
Now, this card is begging for a slot in my cube. It takes care of a host of midrange creatures for two black and I’ve been looking to find a card to replace Mesmeric Fiend with in the two drop slot.
Another card that will be a star in a commons cube. I really, really like this card. It would go great with a nice Skullclamp, wouldn’t it? I may be able to find him a place, as I’m not running many small artifact creatures at the moment.
I may be needing to add extra artifact removal to my cube, as I’m keeping that section at the same number of cards as my colored sections. If I do end up needing more, this guy will be near the top of the list for ones to consider. That being said he’s another that should be in any commons cube. He’s definitely an upgrade over his predecessor, the Elf Replica and if you’re running the Elf Replica anywhere, this guy should replace him immediately.
Venser, the Sojourner
Koth of the Hammer
Geth, Lord of the Vault
Grasp of Darkness
I have a few cards left to get my hands on before I can make all the changes, so I’ll likely try the changes in increments. Once I’ve moved stuff around in the cube I’ll list the actual changes that occurred.