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Commanding Your Cube Kaladesh Style


Smuggler's Copter
Kaladesh is not a normal set. We all know this. It’s a different set. It introduces multiple new mechanics and types, namely energy and vehicles. It brings back Dwarves, and creates new creature types like Pilot. So it’s not normal.

And that’s a problem for me. See, normally I would spend some time after a new set is released talking about all of the changes I intend to make to my different decks and projects. I got the idea from Sheldon Menery, who does a similar concept post-release as well for his Commander decks. Most of my decks are Commander, so that resonated with me, and I’ve written a similar piece here as part of my casual column.

I think it’s nice to see real deck changes after a set is released, rather than just the pre-release hype-train that a lot of cards have. Which ones are making the cut? What’s what?

And thus the issue arises.

See I have a real life Commander Cube. No surprise there, right? It’s the leadoff of each of my “Updates from Set X” article. And that’s arguably my fondest baby right now, other than Abe’s Deck of Happiness and Joy (a 3000+ card Highlander multiplayer deck). It’s my pride and joy. Shoot, just this week I was comparing notes with another Commander Cube enthusiast I ran into at the prerelease for Kaladesh here in Mobile. So I love me some Commander Cube.

And the issue continues.

Depala, Pilot Exemplar
I have too many changes and conversations that need to take place. At first, I won’t add in any energy cards. Like morph, I feel like I would need a lot of energy to really make it work. But even without a single card from the energy side of life, there are countless cards that I have to add to my Cube. There are no other options out there.

So today I just want to talk about my real life Commander Cube, and the changes I’ll be making with Kaladesh. I’ll also include a few Conspiracy: Take the Crown cards I just added as well and that will get us fully caught up.

You can check out the visual spoiler for the new Cube over at CubeTutor.com. Shoot, you can even draft it! (Use 6 packs and 7 bots). If you do draft it, please build and save the deck, I like to see what folks are using and drafting. I use that info to change my Cube around.

The first place I like to start is looking at the potential Commanders the latest set brings. Are there any legendary creatures that suggest a place in the Cube as one of my five in each color combination to build around?

Depala, Pilot Exemplar would require a serious alteration to my Cube to even be feasible. So, no thanks Dwarf! And that leaves:

Kambal, Consul of Allocation

Kambal, Consul of Allocation

Is this an Orzhov leader worth running? My current choices are Daxos the Returned, Athreos, God of Passage, Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter, Teysa, Orzhov Scion, and Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts. They lead control, Orzhov tokens, enchantments, and a subtle Orzhov sacrifice theme. You can also do a powerful Orzhov reanimation deck as well, but that’s accidental (it’s part of the built-in two-thirds of a wedge reanimation strategy with either Teneb, the Harvester or Karador, Ghost Chieftain that adds in Green to the mix.) I just don’t see a space for Kambal here. I already have two leaders at that cost, and neither really wants to leave.

Anyways, what about the last one?

Rashmi, Eternities Crafter

Rashmi, Eternities Crafter

Now Rashmi on the other hand suggests an interesting leader for Simic. And we don’t have a lot of depth here for options. Here are the current five, along with their archetype in the draft:

You could certainly pull Vorel, who is arguably the weakest card on that list in a vacuum. But he is, ironically, the strongest with a good deck behind him. Give him some stuff like Doubling Season and Triskelion. And I have cards in here that work well with Vorel, like Novijen Sages and Mindless Automaton and Tuskguard Captain. Vorel is the only leader in my Cube that can load up charge counters on your artifacts. And he’s good. But he’s weak.

On the other hand, while Zegana is just a beater and card drawer in the right situation (about 80% of the time really) it certainly is one of the best cards in that list. Vorel is a strong engine to push counters but Zegana is just powerful. Kruphix is a fun ramp leader, and Momir Vig is unique enough to stay. I like how Momir and Rashmi actually can work together quite nicely. If you manage to draft both, you can use one as the engine for the other. So that’s a nice bit. And that leaves Edric. But can my Cube really pull Edric? Arguably one of the strongest generic creatures in the game in subtle ways?

Vorel? Zegana?

If I pull Vorel, I lose one main archetype. If I lose Zegana, I don’t drop any.

What archetypes would Rashmi bring to the table? Mid Range? Aggro? Spell Matters? I don’t know, but I am interested in finding out. And of this list, the one that is least tied to its theme is Kruphix.

In Rashmi, Eternities Crafter; Out Kruphix, God of Horizons

I still think you can still do a ramp style deck with Zegana or Rashmi. But Kruphix sort of forced your hand in that direction.

So enter Rashmi stage right.

All right Rashmi, welcome to the club!

Now, what cards are subbing out? And why?

Wildest Dreams

Wildest Dreams

The great thing about Wildest Dreams is that it is both splashable and flexible. You can play it as a Recollect, or as a better Restock that costs 4g instead of 3gg or as a stronger presence as you move up the daisy chain. It has an enhanced presence in decks that have a lot of ramp, as it rises in power with the mana you are rocking. So this is an easy swap:

In Wildest Dreams, Out Restock

Metalwork Colossus

Metalwork Colossus

This is another brilliant big stupid beater for artifact creatures. You can fetch it with stuff like Tooth and Nail or Goblin Welder. It comes back from the graveyard for another run after you’ve answered it, or you can pull it back if it was self-milled by cards like Satyr Wayfinder. Despite the lack of evasion, the pure board presence and smashery makes this card work.

In Metalwork Colossus, Out Phyrexian Colossus



This is an obvious card. Cloudblazer is an Azorius Mulldrifter. Azorius has a blink subtheme with Brago, King Eternal as a leader. There’s also a Bant Blink theme as well. This plays into that. And it’s just nice to have another Mulldrifter available for drafting. Meanwhile, without a legendary creature to push it into the next level, Drogskol Reaver is just an expensive body that can draw cards sometimes. I don’t think anyone will miss it.

In Cloudblazer, Out DrogskolReaver

Cultivator's Caravan

Cultivator's Caravan

We need more reliable five color efforts. The sorts of cards you want and fight over. The mana options that make decks. This is another winner in that line. And the best part is that I can send this in, and give vehicles a try in the Cube without a major commitment to them yet. If I were to really devote to vehicles to see where they are, I’d do Fleetwheel Cruiser, Bomat Bazaar Barge, Smuggler's Copter, and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship. In the meantime . . . 

In Cultivator’s Caravan

While I am adding in that card for free, I’m also subbing in Cryptolith Fragment for a similar reason, and it’s heading in as well. This is just the fourth Eldritch Moon card to make the cut (the others are Blessed Alliance, Geier Reach Sanitarium, and Stromkirk Occultist).

In Cryptolith Fragment

Skysovereign, Consul Flagship

Skysovereign, Consul Flagship

While on a vehicle subtheme, I think we all know that Skysovereign, Consul Flagship is likely to be a major force. I want to try it out now. And I have a few artifacts that could easily be benched for later additions. One that strikes me as removable is Canal Dredger. Other draft action cards from Conspiracy are included either because of what they do after drafted (Deal Broker) or because of really good draft actions (Lore Seeker) or both that set you up nicely (Paliano, the High City). Shoot, even Cogwork Librarian can get you two cards at a time when you have those two good cards staring at you in the face. But this is a 1/5 for 4 mana that can tap to restock just one card back into your library. That makes this an easy sub.

In Skysovereign, Consul Flagship, Out Canal Dredger

Skywhaler's Shot

Skywhaler's Shot

I currently run Radiant's Judgment in my Cube as another pinpoint creature removal spell, with the option of cycling if you don’t have any targets. It rarely gets cycled. But this card can kill more creatures, and has scry as well. So the Shot is a clear upgrade, right? Yup!

In Skywhaler’s Shot, Out Radiant’s Judgment

Metallurgic Summonings

Metallurgic Summonings

My deck has an intentional Izzet sorcery/instant matters subtheme for that color. You can also find a solid build with that in Jeskai or Azorius / Dimir / Esper if you want as well. Shoot we even have a Gruul spell matters with Wort the Raidmother as the leader. The cards are there. There have been a lot of these sort of cards printed recently, and many push the theme into good space, and none more than this. There is an obvious card to swap with — Skywise Teachings. No one will doubt that this is better, despite being more expensive.

In Metallurgic Summonings, Out Skywise Teachings

Gonti, Lord of Luxury

Gonti, Lord of Luxury

After trying and totally failing to get Smuggler Captain to do anything it’s time to bench it. And time to move in Gonti as a strong and likely permanent replacement. This slot has morphed by need over time, but Gonti strikes me as the sort of person to hold it down with the solid body and unique comes-into-play ability which should be strong in Commander Cubes.

In Gonti, Lord of Luxury, Out Smuggler Captain

Morbid Curiosity

Morbid Curiosity

This is a great option for a lot of decks as a sort of Life's Legacy that sacrifices your artifact or creature, whichever makes more sense for your deck or battlefield state. And you draw those cards based on the mana cost, so you can sacrifice an expensive creature that had a cool ETB ability like Karmic Guide or Mulldrifter for serious cards. Plus, it works with the sacrifice theme of Black and it’s many allies. Meanwhile Hex is a weak mass removal card that requires too many hoops to jump through to make work.

In Morbid Curiosity, Out Hex

Master Trinketeer

Master Trinketeer

Plays into both the Esper and Azorius artifact shells as well as the Selesnya and Naya token builds as well as the Boros and Zurgo, Helmsmasher Aggro stuff. It's even a 3/2 for three, so you have that option to drop and swing on the curve. It’s a great card for my Cube. But what does it replace? I have an idea. White usually isn’t as control-ish as you might think, and 4-drop creatures that are more defense than offense need to be really good. I love him, but Cho-Manno, Revolutionary certainly doesn’t qualify so . . . 

In Master Trinketeer, Out Cho-Manno, Revolutionary

Gearhulk Time!

Torrential Gearhulk

Torrential Gearhulk

This Gearhulk is cheaper and thus better than Chancellor of the Spires. So it’s heading into the Cube to replace it. The artifact creature aspect is pure bonus for a color that is heavily associated with artifacts, in a Cube with cards like Master Transmuter, Master of Etherium, Grand Architect, and Muzzio, Visionary Architect. All good examples of the love we already have for all things artifact. So another option for an artifact infused card that works and plays well just makes a lot of sense.

Now I was originally tapping this card to head in for the underperforming Sphinx of Lost Truths. But I have another idea for that card . . . 

Arcane Savant

Arcane Savant

Remember that this is a Cube draft, not a normal Commander selection of cards. After drafting, and before shuffling up, choose an instant or sorcery you drafted that you didn’t wind up playing. It’s likely to be a good one that’s off color. Every draft has a few. Pick one. Now whenever the Arcane Savant arrives you get that spell for free. And It works very well with both blinking and self-bounce and other ways of getting it multiple times. Imagine, just as an example, you grabbed a simple spell like Cultivate for your Izzet deck. This is a 3/3 Blue creature that fetches two lands when you play it. Good right? And that’s for a humble tool. The sky is the limit with stuff like Swords to Plowshares, Army of the Damned, Insurrection, or even just a Roar of the Wurm. It Is heading in for Sphinx.

In Torrential Gearhulk, Arcane Savant; Out Chancellor of the Spires, Sphinx of Lost Truths

Noxious Gearhulk

Noxious Gearhulk

I’ve called this the best for a few reasons. It’s reliable. It’s hard to deal with as the only Gearhulk with a form of evasion. It’s a major threat, the artifact creature works with Esper artifact builds, and you want to blink it all day long. But my Black creatures, now that Gonti is in, are hard to find space for. Especially for a glorified Nekrataal. Where is the space? What about Phyrexian Gargantua? Same casting cost, smaller in the front, and the ability to get you two cards is nice, but the Gearhulk is definitely better, right? Right!

In Noxious Gearhulk, Out Phyrexian Gargantua

Combustible Gearhulk

Combustible Gearhulk

With all of the pro-artifact stuff running around in Red lately, as well as in my Cube, (Scrap Mastery as an example) this is a great body for throwing at people with Bosh, Iron Golem or sacrificing to Goblin Welder after it arrives for something else (or bringing onto the battlefield from the graveyard). It’s a good solid card, and it plays well with others. Now there is a creature that I will be pulling out for it that saddens me. Very sad. Tears fall. It’s an initial entry in my first edition of this Cube, it’s survived countless changes, and very few cards have done so. And it works. It plays well with some of the Cube, but nearly as well as this. So, let’s have a sad sound of homage as Kamahl, Pit Fighter heads home.

In Combustible Gearhulk, Out Kamahl, Pit Fighter

Verdurous Gearhulk

Verdurous Gearhulk

Now I run a +1/+1 counter theme in some of my Green decks, and the Gearhulk is a fine beater. In Commander it’s arguably the weakest, and the artifact here in Green is more of a liability than an advantage. But the counters are on theme and no one would be surprised to see it. What to pull? And this is the problem. There are no obvious pulls. Everything is doing something important. Here, let’s look at my 5-drops, as an example:

What would come out? All five have very valid and important roles to proffer. Meanwhile is there anyone else we could pull out at nearby costs? Yes, there is one, and just one, option around. Jugan, the Rising Star. That could work. Now I am not wedded to cycles. I pulled Copper Myr because no one needs a 2-drop artifact creature accelerant in Green. I have pulled Gods and Dragons from legendary cycles that used to be in my Cube. But I don’t run Ryusei, the Falling Star anyway.

So which is better? A 5/5 flying Dragon for 6 mana that gives you some counters after it dies? Or a 5 mana 4/4 trampler that gives you counters when it arrives?

Which is better?



Arborback Stomper

Both are 5 mana. Both give you five life on arrival. Both are 5 powered creatures. But the Arborback has both trample and an extra toughness. So it’s better right? But the Thragtusk gives you a 3/3 after it passes from this realm. So barring a sidebar conversation about the 3gg vs 4g cost, Thragtusk will usually be ranked as the better card in a vacuum.

Removal happens. There is no creature in Magic that is immune to death. So I am sticking with Jugan, and not running the Gearhulk. (Plus there’s value in having an option for a 5/5 flyer in green)

What do you think? The Gearhulk or the Dragon?

Cataclysmic Gearhulk

Cataclysmic Gearhulk

This is a card that only would be really powerful in the right situation. In multiplayer, you are often leaving people their best beater, and they keep all of the stuff you normally want to kill with mass removal. It’s much more limited. The others are just plug and play, but not this one. There’s no White creature I want to pull for this and I’m not sold on running it anyway.

All right, so long Gearhulks. What’s left?

Oviya Pashiri, Sage Lifecrafter vs Jade Mage

Oviya Pashiri, Sage Lifecrafter
Jade Mage

So we need to talk about this one. I’m unsure. As an extrovert I often find myself making decisions better as I talk them through (in this case, write it through). Oviya has a few levers and switches that make her work. She’s a 1-drop that can arrive at the battlefield early and push. You can churn 3 mana to tap her for 1/1 dork, and later put 5 mana for an X/X token. She’s got long game value, and works in shells like Selesnya and Gruul tokens as well as generally as a mana-sink for ramp decks. So she’s solid, but that’s the role Jade Mage plays right now. Jade Mage is a 2-drop 2/1 that can swing early for damage, and without tapping can turn three mana into 1/1 tokens multiple times. Which is better? Which would you rather have later in the game? Or early? Jade Mage is better early, but I think Oviya is better later. The Mage can swing and make tokens too, and has a stronger board presence. Fits into shells like Selesnya or Bant Aggro. I sort of want to swap, and see if Oviya works better. If not, I can swap back later.

What do you think? I’m of two minds. I still can decide. Sigh. Thoughts?

Saheeli's Artistry vs Stolen Identity

Saheeli's Artistry
Stolen Identity

Here’s another conversation. So as you can see, my Cube runs Stolen Identity already. It does a few things well. It’s a nice Clone effect for Blue. It can be either an artifact or a creature as you want. And you can cipher it onto a creature, and get more Stolen Identities to hit for free, with a new target each time. There are two major archetypes that really want the cipher. Izzet sorcery/instant support that want the additional spells to be cast, and the various Blue-based decks that have sneaky ways to hit and smash people. Stuff like Brago, King Eternal have ways in the Cube to slip through like Rogue's Passage, Whispersilk Cloak, and Steel of the Godhead. So the Identity matters. And it works with Young Pyromancer or Guttersnipe or Jace's Sanctum and such. But the Artistry gets you two targets up front if you need. One artifact, and one creature. No waiting, no worrying about synergy, no getting upset because the creature ciphered died, or anything else. So the card is better now. But without the additional Izzet triggers or the extra stuff for my sneaky slippy decks. General Blue control shells (which are in virtually every Blue color combination) will tend to prefer the Artistry. And again, I’m still unsold which row to hoe. But this time, I am making the swap now, and we’ll see how it plays out later.

In Saheeli’s Artistry, out Stolen Identity

Inventor's Fair

Inventors' Fair

With an artifact theme already in play, this card is an improved artifact ally in land form, better than something like Buried Ruin. It’s a perfect adjunct for all things artifact, and works outside of pro-artifact shells in Esper / Azorius / Jeskai by pushing equipment in Boros and so forth. It works. And it has to find a spot.

So what comes out? I could sub out Buried Ruin itself. But I still think it’s good enough to retain. Mystifying Maze? Reliquary Tower? Nope, it’s heading in for free, and that puts me at an even 1040 cards.

In Inventor’s Fair

Insidious Will

Insidious Will

Insidious Will is awesome. It can be anyone of three different effects! I am pulling Rewind for it. Rewind is rarely used for untapping stuff and getting mana or keeping you going, it’s just used as a 4 mana counter most frequently. And the Will is so good and powerful and flexible that this is the simplest, easiest, no brainer-est swap in this list.

In Insidious Will, Out Rewind

And with that I have put in an incredible 17 cards from Kaladesh, and we could do two more if the cards work, as well as more vehicles if those play as well as expected. And remember that these swaps are made without using any energy making cards. I’m not sure that a 1040 card Cube would have enough space to put in enough energy makers to matter.

What other cards strike me as potential additions?

Pia Nalaar —I have the couple, and the additional artifact and token support doesn’t suck.

Animation Module — Who likes +1/+1 counters? The benefit of this card is that it will make creatures while you are frumping around with those counters.

Madcap Experiment — Another useful artifact entry, and you have 40 life to spend on it.

Panharmonicon — Powerful tool for a ton of decks. It’s on my short list for inclusion. But right now I need to keep my swappable artifacts open for vehicles (see below). If I don’t want to run them, then I’ll take out one of the artifacts listed below for Panharmonicon fun times.

Refurbish — Yay artifact recursions!

Wispweaver Angel —We have blinking as a theme already. This works very well in there.

Armorcraft Judge — I almost like this better than Tuskguard Captain as a +1/+1 counter “lord.” We’ll see though)

Fumigate — Good Wrath of God option, but lifegain in a 40 life environment needs to be more than a spot here and there to matter.

Foundry Inspector — Do I have enough artifacts to make this worth it?

Padeeem, Consul of Innovation — Duh.

Cards on my radar for future swaps:

Is there space and need for Ovalchase Dragster?

Anyways, there we are! Kaladesh is something serious. Are you ready?

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