The votes are in, and it’s time to take things to the next level: The Community Cube is due to receive an Innistrad-sized trim. The good news is that we’re not talking about carving in the amount that a well-dressed turkey requires. The bad news is that we may be adding some side dishes.
Since we’re dealing with another full week, let’s handle the easiest first: extra hungry guests.
Letters to the Editor
Your feedback, through voting or comments, is invaluable. As such, reasonable requests for review are to be taken back to the people. There were two from last week’s voting:
- What about Geistflame? There are plenty of creatures with 1 toughness in the Cube!
- What if I only wanted some of the Werewolf creatures? I like some of them on their own merits!
Not quite. There are three other cards to consider: Lava Dart, Flame Jab, and Engulfing Flames. Did you check out the last card? Yeah, Geistflame is that card stripped of the anti-regeneration clause. While Lava Dart is often a close contender for common Cube inclusion, Flame Jab is not (and Engulfing Flames is an uncommon), and neither are currently in the Cube.
We’ve looked at these cards before; if we were planning to add a “deals 1 damage to target” Red instant, Lava Dart would be my first choice. I believe it would be for many of you, too, but let’s find out:
The usual 51% cutoff will get it in! The next is a little more of a howl than a hoot.
I shared the Werewolf creature theme assuming that either all four would be good enough together, or not. The case presented here is that, individually, one or more stand above the others enough to be included. Each one comes with different levels and strengths, though Village Ironsmith and Grizzled Outcasts are pointed to as the most provocative choices.
With the catch-up out of the way, it’s time to take out our shears and get to work cutting some cards. Just like in handling the potential additions, we’ll run down the winners and point out potential losers to vote on.
White Cards Can Get Cut
White had just two members clear the majority hurdle:
We have roughly one combat-trick-on-a-body and a very special removal spell. The following creatures and spells fits the replacement bill.
Suspending this guy on the first turn seems pretty sweet, but the most useful deck he can reside in is a mono-White aggro deck. I haven’t been impressed when I’ve seen him before, and I wouldn’t be sad to see him go now.
Our bombastic Kithkin comrade isn’t a bad card—Cube cards generally aren’t—but it is an anemic combat trick. Giant Growth and Brute Force laugh at the reversal of figures, but neither of the classic common tricks come with an optional evasive body (though you’ll generally look at the two modes in reverse order). Ultimately, there are plenty of evasive options in White, but this is fairly average for that purpose as it is.
The umbra from Africa is a fine card; protecting an investment or beefing up a potential finisher is, indeed, fine. But that’s it. It doesn’t recycle like Rancor, break through stalemates as often as Rancor, but comes with all the same “Does my opponent have removal right now?” drawbacks. Apostle's Blessing and Shelter do a much better job protecting a creature, but hide away in your hand while they do it. Hyena Umbra can safely pass away.
Wall of Glare has fans. I know this because it’s a surprisingly frequent topic of Pauper Cube discussions. Do Walls have a place in Cubes? In common Cubes? Is Wall of Glare good enough? These are contentious questions, but I fall on the side of skip. I’d rather be blocking to kill, or casting creatures that could attack, than casting a ground-clogging game-time chewer.
Blue in the Face
Blue, like White, had a duo of winners, too:
I’m a fan of both of these guys, one being a piece of true Blue removal and the other a flying obscenity at its rarity and cost. These can be considered upgrades or diversification depending upon your Cube perspective. Here are a handful of options to consider exchanging.
I really like Cloud Spirit and its Rishadan Airship and Skywinder Drake descendants. The question here is one around numbers: Are three of these fine, or is “upgrading” one to Stitched Drake or a removal spell better? Personally, I decided to step down to just two 3/1 flying that can’t block the ground. Is that right here?
The card-drawing Vlad impersonator is in a strange position. 4 mana for 3 power of flying is a fine cost, but the 1 toughness and desire to throw it away put it at odds with itself. The tension is nice: Are the next three cards better than just keeping my critter? Its interaction with Act of Treason is wonderful. I cut this guy some time ago and haven’t missed him since. Is it time here?
Telekinesis is an old-school combat trick sure to surprise players. I didn’t even know it existed before diving into the Community Cube project! However, it’s just 1 mana off from Claustrophobia for a permanent tap-down effect. It’s no longer a trick, but being permanent seems like a fine substitute.
In right type of aggressive deck, namely U/W with evasion, Choking Tethers is absolutely brutal. In most other decks, it’s an expensive way to prolong the inevitable. Is a single-target but more long-term tap effect better than a scaling, choice-riddled short-term tap effect? I think so, but this is for you to decide!
In the Black, Again
The voting for Black was surprising this time, as these were the two winners:
No Vampire Interloper! I was sure that the aggressive little vamp would make it. Instead, we just have to handle a few lethal spells.
Terror is a classic removal spell. It was feared and renowned in Limited, created dozens of descendants, and defined Black removal even through today. However, it actually kills about 75% of creatures in Cubes. For comparison, Bonds of Faith stops 85%, and Victim of Night ends 95%. Terror’s time has passed, and this wouldn’t be the first Cube to shrug it off.
This was my cut for Victim of Night, as they share the same Black-heavy mana cost, but Night lets me choose what’s dying. While the Verdict can handle Blastoderm, Guardian of the Guildpact, and other annoying creatures, generally there’s something else that can be tossed away when Geth makes a ruling. Geth's Verdict is strong, but I believe weaker than Victim of Night.
The same argument applies from Geth's Verdict, but with a steeper drawback for you. In the right deck, Innocent Blood is amazing for controlling tempo. U/B and W/B control love to stomp out a creature rush, then overpower the board with superior removal and creatures. I’m not fond of Innocent Blood and cut it myself, but it’s certainly strong enough to stay as well.
I’ve never been a fan of discard where you don’t get to choose (except, of course, Hymn to Tourach), but Raven's Crime is as close to nice as it gets. 1 mana, with Retrace to convert extra land draws, is a sweet spot for discard. However, I never found the effect to really hurt opponents. Once it’s in the yard, it can be played around—just hold an extra land or two—and early it usually doesn’t critically hit a hand, as it’s still full of options.
Red Hulk Is Not Communist
I’m seeing red here, you guys. I had a lot of changes to do for all of the Red I added from Innistrad, but you only voted one card in: Brimstone Volley. Of course, with Geistflame and two Werewolf creatures potentially coming down the pike, we have up to four cards to cut! Let’s get started!
Creatures you can cast on the first turn are great in aggressive decks. Creatures you can cast on the first turn that have more than 1 power are excellent in aggressive decks. This creature is both, but effectively prevents you from playing a 2-drop on turn two. I grew less and less fond of using it, and when I had to mulligan into a hand with this and everything not another 1-drop, it felt really bad. There are plenty of good creatures, this is one I believe isn’t.
Like Dead // Gone, bouncing is an incredibly powerful way for a Red deck to surprise an opponent. But like Goblin Patrol, the Echo cost really restrains the power of this card. I find almost all of the cards from Planar Chaos endearing, but Stingscourger just never felt good when I played it. Has it been awesome for you?
Speaking of Planar Chaos darlings, here’s another that hasn’t lived up to the hype. The only creatures Red truly struggles with are those with Shroud or Hexproof, both abilities that stop the off-color bounce. Flame Slash and the incoming Brimstone Volley can really handle larger guys; the time for Dead // Gone has passed.
One of the concerns raised in testing the Community Cube are the number of Red spells. There are four:
All of them are devastating, and cause games to end very quickly through the awesome power of face-melting. After considering things and trying them for myself, I’ve come to agree with the feedback. All of the other three spells have more utilitarian uses:
- Disintegrate can clear away an annoying critter with Regeneration.
- Fireball and Rolling Thunder can clear away a cluster of small fries.
- The Torch is the narrowest, and getting to power out a Fireball-like spell at common is already powerful enough. Punishing a smart player for holding the counterspell is overkill.
As a utility spell, Aftershock is excellent. Modes make spells “smart,” and Aftershock is as smart as Red gets at common. However, it’s also cumbersome and boring. There are plenty of ways to remove artifacts, nary a land in sight you really need to remove (we are dealing with just commons here!), and Red has plenty of ways to handle creatures. I passed on Aftershock a long time ago, and I’d consider cutting it here.
GREEN HULK GOOD!
As I suspected, Green’s winners reflect what most of us really desire to see when we draft Green: more removal.
Like Red, we’re going to need up to four total cuts in Green thanks to the Werewolf question above. In the interest of time, let’s keep moving.
Essentially, read the argument above for cutting Goblin Patrol. Really, the time of 1-drops with echo has passed.
Similar to, you guessed it, Hyena Umbra. Snake Umbra is just asking for trouble. Layering on the additional cost the Snake costs, this is one Aura we can safely leave behind; Green has plenty of ways to have bigger creatures and keep them safe.
Silhana Ledgewalker was the first “Hexproof is bullshit!” invoker (before “Hexproof” was a word). While I love a highly evasive, annoying-to-kill dude, Green has a bevy of beastly bucks to break down opponents’ boards. If you think Hyena Umbra and Snake Umbra are on the way out the door, your relationship with the Ledgewalker is tenuous at best.
There’s a Bambi joke to be had here, but I couldn’t figure it out. I’ll be the first to admit that the Gladehart is as aggravating as creatures get. When it comes down early, you feel obligated to use removal right away, and when it comes down late, you suffer through an opponent’s gaining life in Shock-sized bites. But that’s it. There are other, more efficient ways to gain life (in White); Green is king of big guys and fast mana, not life-gaining Antelope that don’t win games so much as slow you down from losing.
A vanilla 3/3 for 3 isn’t sexy. It’s also surprisingly efficient for commons. There are two in the Community Cube—the other being Nessian Courser—but perhaps it’s time to trim one back. Many of you dislike “do-nothing” creatures, but I rather like my 3/3’s at 3. It’s your call!
Worth Their Weight in Gold
I was quite astonished at the multicolored voting; many of you have a passion for colors that seems to rival my own! There were three winners last week:
Let’s handle options for Forbidden Alchemy first.
This card was a multiple-format all-star during its Standard and Extended heyday. But as I found through repeated trials, the cards you can tutor for at common don’t impact the game in the same way that higher-rarity targets would. Even with aggressive amounts of mana-ramping, decks trying to use Mystical Teachings are beaten through a much more tried-and-true method: efficient beatdown. Alchemy, by filtering for a card, replacing itself on Flashback, and setting up a Gravedigger effect, seems like an effective replacement.
U/B is a difficult pairing for turn two, yet together there are tons of 2-drop noncreature spells you’d want to cast. As a defensive tool, Strix is gnarly. As something you want frequently, it leaves a little to desire. I’ve decided to cut the Strix from my Cube; I clearly recommend considering the same for ours!
G/W requires a few more options.
Like the Umbras above, the Shield is often not the most efficient way to achieve victory. Travel Preparations can help turn dinky Llanowar Elves and monstrous Stampeding Rhino tramplers into far more formidable tools of aggression. I cut the Shield from my Cube too.
With a theme of tokens or small-creature aggression, Sigil Blessing is a powerful tool. It isn’t a bad card by most definitions, but something like Travel Preparations (that sticks around) feels much nicer. Combat tricks are fine, but genuine power is better.
I like Safehold Elite over Travel Preparations or Avacyn's Pilgrim any day. But the remaining two cards in the color pair (Armadillo Cloak and Qasali Pridemage) are so strong it would be silly to try to convince anyone otherwise at this point. Safehold Elite is the weakest of the remaining triumvirate, but I’d prefer to keep this one in.
In a blaze of glory, Blazing Torch made the leap to the checkered flag in the voting. It’s time to cut to the chase by dropping the lowest competitor.
There are plenty of creatures and color-fixing across artifacts and other colors. Scuttlemutt’s purpose is a little unclear. It costs like a Morph, but can’t be confused for one. It helps fix mana, but pales in comparison to the “bounce” lands or Signets from Ravnica block. I’m not sure it provides much value; adding another colorless removal spell certainly would!
And there you have it! Whew! I wasn’t counting on Innistrad being so good for Cubing, but I suppose that’s far better than being boring. Tune in next week for the list that goes live in San Francisco!