Cube: New Phyrexia

Whew. June was a rough month. It was definitely the busiest time of year at my place of work, and between it and family life I had no free time. So here I am, just now getting around to working out what I’ll be moving around in the cube with respect to the cards in New Phyrexia.

Regarding the introduction of phyrexian mana with this new Magic expansion, I’ve opted for counting the cards as the color identity they are printed with, rather than placing them in colorless or in another section they may be played more in. I think it forces me to be a bit more honest in whether they should be included or not, and I want them to primarily add value to the color section they belong to. I’ve also counted them at their full converted mana cost when deciding whether to include them. I wanted to be realistic because in any given game of Magic there will be situations when paying the full price of a card will be optimal or necessary, when playing with phyrexian mana.

White

Transcendent Master » Porcelain Legionnaire
I’ve been underwhelmed by Transcendent Master overall. I love the flavor and the art, but that’s doesn’t make it a strong cube card. The mana investment is pretty heavy given the amount of removal present in my cube. Porcelain Legionnaire is going to see play in white aggro strategies, but will also be used by aggro decks of other colors. He packs a powerful punch and can get into play on turn two. I am certain it will have a much greater impact than the Master.

Spectral Lynx » Blade Splicer
Here I’m removing an old favorite of mine, in Spectral Lynx. I may bring it back in the black and white multicolor section after giving it some time out, but I don’t feel it has a place in the main white section anymore. I’m trying out Blade Splicer, as I really like the power to cost ratio. It also brings interesting synergy with reuse strategies such as bounce or reanimate. One of my currently ongoing goals  is to increase the interactivity of my cube. I love bombs that win the game alone just as much as the next guy, but I also want it to be possible to win based on deck synergy and I feel that I haven’t concentrated enough on that in the past.

Iona, Shield of Emeria » Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
I had a little fling with Iona, Shield of Emeria once upon a time. I played her in Polymorph while it was in Standard and found her to be an awesome Polymorph target. I thought I’d feel the same way about her in my cube. I tried to force a reanimation strategy anytime I picked her in a cube draft. I got it to work once or twice. I think I actually got to pay full cost to play her in a mono white cube deck once. Over time I realized my infatuation with her wasn’t really backed up by solid results outside of my old Polymorph deck, or in my Legacy dredge deck. In the cube, outside of cheating her into play through one narrow archetype, she doesn’t have much hope of seeing play. In bringing in [card]Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite[card] I’m attempting to substitute in a good reanimation target while lowering the mana cost and choosing a card that can actually be cast in a game by a two color deck with more reliability. I think Elesh Norn satisfies those conditions, and I’m pretty sure it will be more fun for both players when it’s in play than Iona was. Locking players out of playing their spells entirely leads to less interaction and fun overall. The cube is about fun for me, after all.

Marshal's Anthem » Temporal Isolation
Temporal Isolation provides cheap, splashable removal that will likely see play whenever it’s drafted. I’m removing Marshal’s Anthem to make room as I found it to be a slower and more expensive Miraculous Recovery that just felt clunky in your hand and forced you to be pretty committed to white in order to play it for any value.

Blue

Distortion Strike » Gitaxian Probe
Distortion Strike is a fun little spell. Being in blue means it’s used a bit less than it would be in another color, being that blue isn’t the usual choice for aggressive strategies. Though it’s a bit better for that now after my previous sea change to support blue aggro. However, I’m pulling it for another fun little spell in Gitaxian Probe. I think the probe will be used across multiple archetypes and I am eager to play it in a draft.

Aeon Chronicler » Consecrated Sphinx
I’m pretty tired of Aeon Chronicler. If you want any card advantage out of it you have to wait entirely too long. Consecrated Sphinx will nearly always provide more card advantage and comes packaged on a much more exciting body with evasion. It’s a pretty awesome combo of physical threat and card advantage that forces your opponent to deal with it right away. If they are unable to they will succumb to the avalanche of cards it feeds you.

Cryptoplasm » Phyrexian Metamorph
Any interest I had in Cryptoplasm was lost the second I saw and comprehended Phyrexian Metamorph. Probably the easiest swap I had to make this time around.

Sunder » Upheaval
I like that Sunder is an instant. It’s an interesting card that I might explore more down the road, but I just miss having Upheaval around.

Black

Consume the Meek » Life's Finale
An instant speed wrath effect is pretty nice, and I’ve used Consume the Meek to good effect in my cube decks in the past. I think Life’s Finale deserves this spot though. For one mana more you sweep all creatures, and you get to cherry pick the best of your creatures left in your opponent’s library and toss them in the graveyard as well. Just seems to be a stronger card for the black control archetype, and it also supports the reanimation archetype.

Cabal Interrogator » Despise
Cabal Interrogator has been in my cube for an awfully long time. I really like playing him in my black control decks, but I think Despise will be better in this slot as it allows black to get rid of pesky planeswalkers early. The planeswalkers in black so far have been decent, but none on the level that other colors have seen; Gideon Jura, Garruk Wildspeaker, Jace, the Mind Sculptor etc.

Stinkweed Imp » Dismember
This was another easy swap for me to decide on. Stinkweed Imp provided a decent recurring way to discourage the opponent from attacking, and provided synergy with strategies centered on the graveyard. However, it’s slow. The power level of  Dismember is simply higher. Dismember can supply any color excellent removal at a respectable cost, but it shines brightest in black. This is the poster child for phyrexian mana, in my opinion.

Red

Rakka Mar » Moltensteel Dragon
I think Moltensteel Dragon is an exciting threat for red. In the end it may not be right for my cube, but I think it deserves testing. Rakka Mar always felt like a five drop for me, otherwise you don’t have access to the instant speed 3/1 attacker/blocker for another turn. I’ll be keeping Rakka Mar close by, as I may bring it back later.

Heat Shimmer » Urabrask the Hidden
I’m really curious to see how Urabrask the Hidden will play out. You can potentially play him in other decks than mono red, and he provides a very interesting shift in tempo by giving your creatures haste and forcing your opponent’s creatures to enter the battlefield tapped. Heat Shimmer is leaving. It’s a pretty straightforward card that is just being outclassed by newer cards.

Green

Stonewood Invocation » Birthing Pod
This swap provides green with another very interesting card that promotes synergy within the cube. I’m curious as to what kind of decks are possible now in green with Birthing PodFauna Shaman and Survival of the Fittest in the card pool. I’m swapping Stonewood Invocation out here. I’m a bit hesitant to remove it, but I think that Vines of Vastwood is almost better than Invocation and I’m keeping that around.

Bestial Menace » Beast Within
I think this swap gives green a huge boost. Beast Within is such an interesting and powerful card. Green, of all colors, is probably the best equipped to deal with a 3/3 creature on your opponent’s side of the table, so the drawback to Beast Within doesn’t seem that harsh. It also gives green something to do with the glut of land in the late game too, as you can simply pop your own land to give yourself another creature. Being able to Vindicate anything is pretty darn good, and is worth the drawback. Bestial Menace is good, but doesn’t compare to Beast Within in terms of power level, and isn’t on the list of indispensable green spells for a cube.

Colorless

Blightsteel Colossus » Karn Liberated
I really like Karn Liberated so far, though he has a learning curve and definitely requires you to draft with him in mind. I started out as a gigantic Timmy player, so parting with Darksteel Colossus and now Blightsteel Colossus seems harder than it should be, but this is the right decision to make, in my mind.

Bonehoard » Batterskull
I am a fan of the living weapons, but I don’t want my entire colorless section to turn into equipment, so I’m merely upgrading from Bonehoard to Batterskull here. I may try to find room for Bonehoard again in another slot, but for now it’s out.

Sylvok Lifestaff » Sword of War and Peace
Sylvok Lifestaff is also getting cut in order to prevent having too many equipment. I considering swapping out Bonesplitter for the Lifestaff, but I haven’t convinced myself one way or the other yet.

Kuldotha Forgemaster » Spellskite
With Blightsteel Colossus making it’s exit, I’m not sure Kuldotha Forgemaster should stick around. Spellskite provides an interesting sort of protection to the cube. I’m interested to see how often it gets played and used.

Crucible of Worlds » Ring of Gix
I think Crucible of Worlds brings interesting synergies into a cube, but I’ve recently removed other cards that play well with it, including Life from the Loam and Stinkweed Imp. The strongest synergistic card left in my cube is Knight of the Reliquary, but I think removing Crucible for now is the right call. If I bring in land destruction as a more prevalent theme, the Crucible will definitely return. For now, I’m adding Ring of Gix. Having another Icy Manipulator doesn’t hurt.

Conclusion

I’m pretty surprised to see sixteen cards from New Phyrexia here. I didn’t think that many would make it. Some are purely experimental, and others like Mental Misstep might really deserve a spot, but the power level of recent sets overall is pretty impressive. With Magic 2012 already spoiled, soon to be legal in standard, and already in the hands of players through the prerelease; I will be evaluating its impact on my cube sooner rather than later.

Father, husband, programmer, gamer. Magic: The Gathering enthusiast who enjoys playing and discussing the game with anyone who is willing.

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