With Guilds of Ravnica around the corner and Summer wrapping up (at least in the Northern hemisphere) this article will recap the summer's supplementary products - Commander 2018 and Battlebond - for Cube.
All of the Lieutenant and "Commander Storm" cycles are too weak for Cube, unless you're using Commander errata or some form of house rules, but their base modes are all too weak for regular Cube play.
Boreas Charger represents a welcome change as it triggers on leaving the battlefield rather than dying. This helps to get around cards like Oblivion Ring, Boomerang, and Swords to Plowshares styles of effects. 3-drops in White and Red have gotten significantly better in recent years, but Boreas Charger still suffers from being unable to truly use the trigger on demand since it's reliant on having fewer lands. While ramping is useful, it isn't really that great as an incentive to have the card in a deck, even if it can potentially put multiple Plains in hand.
Heavenly Blademaster is, at worst, a 6/6 flier for but has some additional synergies with being equipped. While equipment generally tend to be a component of good White decks, generally these kinds of creatures that rely on equipment tend to have a very hard time in Cube, Stoneforge Mystic aside. As cliché as it is to say, having no immediate impact and failing the "Vindicate test" is also bad for her as well. Equipping her is absurd and putting a sword on her and letting her connect is lights out against a lot of decks, but it requires a bit too much to go right to be worth it.
Magus of the Balance may be one of the worst recent Magus cards due to how expensive he is to activate and telegraphing the ability from a mile away. Arguably, a really poor version of Balance, one of the premiere White cards in Cube, can still make for a fine card, but it still requires an untap and five mana while playing a body with generally mediocre stats - something that's become more pronounced as creatures get better with time. Grizzly Bears may have been an acceptable fail-case 5-7 years ago, but now it's poor for Cube.
Eight mana is a rough sell for a card in Cube that doesn't have Delve and can't be cheated into play like a big giant Eldrazi. Additionally, like Summon the Pack, it isn't guaranteed to win the game, but likely will at least impact the board. The question is by how much:
This deck featuring the new Saheeli (we'll get to her later) 3-0'd a recent Cube draft and is a good example of a generic tap-out control deck:
Example Deck #1| Cube | Usman Jamil
- Planeswalkers (5)
- 1 Dack Fayden
- 1 Gideon Jura
- 1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
- 1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
- 1 Saheeli, the Gifted
- Sorceries (6)
- 1 Armageddon
- 1 Council's Judgment
- 1 Fiery Confluence
- 1 Firebolt
- 1 Gitaxian Probe
- 1 Ponder
And honestly, it's not that great with the best potential of Sun Titan, Gideon Jura, Vedalken Shackles, Ponder, and Ancestral Recall and a land, but its average case hitting much lower. This card's best role is in something like a big mana ramp deck that can utilize the ability to cast Eldrazi to take advantage of cast triggers, but aside from some possible build around potential, this just doesn't seem worth it in most Cube decks.
Ever-Watching Threshold is a bad riff on cards like Phyrexian Arena.It's a continual draw engine the opponent can control and it's in a color with much better card draw spells like Thirst for Knowledge, Compulsive Research, and Jace Beleren at the same CMC. It requires too much work to make this really stand up to the others.
That being said, it's five mana and takes a while to do make an impact. Five mana personal Howling Mines generally have a rough time in Cube unless they can do other things well in *addition* to being a personal Howling mine. Despite this spitting out 2/2s that manifest as card draw, this is no exception to that rule.
Vedalken Humiliator suffers from being a Blue 4-drop in Cube and one that:
This results in a card just isn't worth it for many Cubes, even in Cubes that run more artifacts than the average Cube. It puts pressure on cards in the section since something's gotta give to make room, and the payoff for going in that direction isn't really that great. This one is not recommended for Cube.
Bloodtracker is a mediocre creature that triggers on leaving the battlefield, but the payoff just isn't there since it can't really do anything unless it dies. It can become pretty huge but it's at such a steep cost that it's not worth it, especially considering it doesn't pay off until it leaves play.
Entreat the Dead suffers even more from the inherent variance with Miracle cards as it's harder to truly manipulate the top of the deck in Cube. We've all seen Bonfire of the Damned, Terminus, and Entreat the Angels are miracled at an awkward time but they're still fine unless x=0. An Angel for or wrathing away a single creature for is still fine. Entreat the Dead suffers as it requires something to be in the graveyard for these odd miracle castings to occur. Topdecking it for doesn't do anything if nothing is in your graveyard. While it can be arguably better when cast for retail price than Terminus, Entreat, or Bonfire, it's still too costly to be worth using in many Cubes.
Night Incarnate was previewed with much fanfare as "the black 5 drop we've been waiting for" in Cube and I had to do a double take because this doesn't fit that criteria at all.
It triggers when it leaves play, it's much more of a mini-wrath a la Yahenni's Expertise and Languish, and a ¾ deathtouch isn't an incredibly efficient body. It's much more reasonable to cast this for its evoke cost like Mulldrifter, Reveillark, and Shriekmaw.
It's also notable because it isn't a may trigger. Playing it as a creature can stifle your own board development, especially if your Black non-aggro deck has Mulldrifters (creatures that have value outside of the creature itself) that can't survive the -3/-3 effect. When I tried it out, unsurprisingly, I found it to be lackluster.
All in all, the Esper colors didn't get a whole lot out of Commander 2018.
Emissary of Grudges is one of the best variants on creatures like Rorix Bladewing, a previous Cube staple, but Cube aggro decks have become more refined by actively supporting aggressive strategies and the printing of better creatures. Its ability to protect itself is pretty useful and has some other niche upsides, like being able to redirect a Mind Twist or a Thoughtseize, but it's more obvious than a morph in a Blue deck (it's always Willbender.) Feedback from players noted that opponents typically didn't target it with removal, but this doesn't tell the entire story since doing so may have just been tempo-useless, but the overall ability was useful.
The issue that I had was that non-aggro decks weren't usually interested in this, since all it did was attack. Granted, it's really good at it and while it survives Wildfire/Burning of Xinye because of its five toughness, I didn't usually see that mattering too much. Overall performance was quite good, but like with the next card, it's not so much of it being a "good card" (because it clearly is) but rather if a Cube has room for it based on wanting another 6-drop in addition to Inferno Titan and, if classifying it as such, Chandra, Flamecaller.
Nesting Dragon is a weird 5-drop that doesn't really have much of an immediate impact, but it's great if it survives to make a land drop by providing a ton of value through Dragon Eggs. Red 5-drops are really good, though, and most tend to lean more toward aggressive decks, like Thundermaw Hellkite. However, unlike those offensively minded cards, I found that Nesting Dragon brickwalls offenses really well as it stops 2 attacks and sometimes it ends up causing a trade or two, or a weird stalemate because attacking into an egg gives you enough power to be able to kill the opponent with the dragon and a firebreathing hatchling. Decks that utilize sacrifice engines can use the eggs pretty well to guarantee having a flying firebreathing Isamaru as well.
Like Demanding Dragon, it's a card that likely can't find room in a lot of Cubes due to how good other red 5-drops are but is hardly a "bad" card and a solid pickup for a deck if you see it in another Cube. Just note that you may have some problems fitting it into yours, since it doesn't have an immediate board impact.
Saheeli's Directive is yet another weird Genesis Wave style of card, but suffers in that most Cube decks, even artifact-heavy decks, don't tend to have many hits, generally with the artifact-heavy decks having around 8-14 hits. Improvise helps, but I've found that since many of the best artifacts are mana rocks and the only other ones that see play are either artifact creatures or passive artifacts like equipment, Saheeli's Directive generally only decreases in cost by 1 or 2. Non-aggro Red cards generally need to be very good at their role to have good Cube shelf life and, unfortunately, this one isn't.
Treasure Nabber and Varchild, Betrayer of Kjeldor - Hey weren't Red 3-drops supposed to be bad?? For a while, Red aggro 3-drops were weak and when they did manifest on a Cube power level, they were mainly utility style creatures like Manic Vandal, Imperial Recruiter, and Fire Imp - great creatures in their own right but ones that didn't exactly gel with the aggro plan of being efficient damage sources. These creatures aren't bad, but it wasn't until Goblin Rabblemaster that we had creatures that would fit that bill for aggro decks.
Now that we have Goblin Rabblemaster, Chandra's Phoenix, Najeela, the Blade-Blossom, Hanweir Garrison, and Guilds of Ravnica's Legion Warboss, aggro 3-drops are no longer a glaring weak spot for those decks.
Neither of these really fit into the "aggro Red" game plan, though. Varchild is another card in the realm of saboteurs that lack evasion and therefore look a lot better than they actually are. Although she has a unique ability that provides value when she leaves play, her needing to do so to have value makes her weak for aggressive decks - and her lack of immediate impact makes her weird for non-aggro Red decks too. The opponent having ways to potentially use her survivors (sacrifice engine fodder) is awkward but she has enough strikes against her to be weak in scenarios aside from those corner cases.
Treasure Nabber is another mediocre 3-drop for Red. There's the argument that this card is good in Cubes with power and mana rocks, but this doesn't really address reality. The deck referenced that had the new Saheeli had a grand total of 2 cards that would be impacted by this: 2 Signets. The issue with narrow hate cards is having the hoser in play and the opponent having cards that care about it, and when you think about it, the odds of having this in play on turn three or four when the opponent has a signet out aren't very high. Even in decks with more targets, we're talking five targets at most, usually.
As it doesn't permanently steal the mana rock and requires opp to use them and requiring the Red deck to use the mana, a lot of things need to line up correctly. In addition, while Red aggro decks can have some mana sinks with equipment, cards like Hazoret the Fervent, and others, those generally Red aggro decks aren't really looking for ramp when they reach three mana and a non-aggro Red deck likely isn't in the market for something with no immediate impact and questionable long-term play.
Its best role is as a measure in Cube metas where "signet decks" are by far the best decks, but if that's the case, that's a meta problem that should be addressed by addressing the meta itself rather than putting bandaids like this and Pyroblast in your Cube.
Reality Scramble is a very odd Polymorph style card that I found no Cube Red decks were really interested in, since it was a clunky and unreliable method of changing permanents. Retrace, in theory, helps with making the 1-for-1 trades easier, but no decks were interested.
Crash of Rhino Beetles is too mediocre at and doesn't perform at a good base rate for its size. Hitting approximately a billion lands to make it huge isn't a great payoff either. Green 5-drops aren't desperate enough for something like this.
Turntimber Sower is like a poor Titania, Protector of Argoth that I gave a good amount of reps only to find it was really unimpressive. Only triggering once from symmetrical mass land kill was awkward and the payoff of getting lands back wasn't really worth jumping through hoops . In its time, it never got a land back since it required so many resources and even at the end of the day, regrowing a Strip Mine, Wasteland, or Fetch for sacrificing 3 plants, even if they were free plants, is still pretty bad.
There's the argument that a 3/3 for is fine and works decently on base rate for midrange Green decks, but having no immediate impact again makes that questionable. Even with a "land theme," the payoffs just aren't there.
Multicolored and Artifacts
Aminatou, the Fateshifter, Lord Windgrace, Estrid, the Masked all just didn't do enough for the cost - Lord Windgrace wasn't even included in generic "5 color good stuff" decks and requiring TRIcolor and "lands matter" is a really thin slice of the Venn Diagram of intersection. It's just not there. I personally don't explicitly support a land theme in my Cube but no decks wanted it at all and, for a tri-color card, that's not a good sign.
Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle - Green has suffered from a lack of good 4-drops in Cube, which is a shame because it has some amazing one- and two-mana ramp, but it is hard to make these pay off since Green 4-drops lacked (arguably still do lack) for a while. This means those decks have to lean heavily on artifacts or other colors.
Because it enters the battlefield tapped when it resolves, it suffers from the same problems other ETB land ramp spells like Explosive Vegetation have where it requires tapping out for a big threat and hoping that it pays off in the next turn or so. This can be awkward in a control mirror or in any situation where tapping out could punish you. Because of this, it acts more like a Worn Powerstone than a Thran Dynamo/Gilded Lotus which both allow you chain together a big spell and something to protect yourself.
Like Thing in the Ice, it's a card that works pretty well in "base mode" for decks while being absolutely huge if the payoff mode resolves. I've found since it triggers on five spells being cast, it isn't hard to turn into a 12/12 and start bashing in with your mana rock.
There's the argument that it should have trample or some other form of evasion, but that seems more like a general feeling a big giant monster should have trample rather than actual performance. I've found Arixmethes it's a giant Abyss with its 12/12 body and demands your opponent keep throwing blockers in front of it so they don’t lose. Sure, the opponent can stymie the offense but it still feels unrealistic saying that this card is bad because it just doesn't kill the opponent in two swings.
This Sultai deck had it as a solid performer which found Arixmethes to be not too difficult to flip.
Example Deck #2 | Cube| Usman Jamil
- Creatures (12)
- 1 Acidic Slime
- 1 Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle
- 1 Courser of Kruphix
- 1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
- 1 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
- 1 Noble Hierarch
- 1 Reclamation Sage
- 1 Shriekmaw
- 1 Snapcaster Mage
- 1 Wurmcoil Engine
- 1 Yavimaya Elder
- 1 Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow
Unfortunately, this doesn't help to shore up weaknesses as it still plays the role of a "tap out" four-mana card. Overall it’s relatively solid as a B-tier Simic card and while it isn't on the scale of Edric, Spymaster of Trest, don't sleep on the Slumbering Isle. Don't be surprised if this ends up being replaced by something from Ravnica Allegiance.
Saheeli, the Gifted - Izzet has historically been a color combination of interchangeable value burn spells. Thankfully, Dack Fayden came along and became easily the best Izzet card in Cubes with rares (not just power) and while some other cards came around - Dack's Duplicate, Izzet Charm, Ral Zarek, Saheeli Rai, and Keranos, God of Storms, none have been close to breaching the god tier that is Dack Fayden.
Saheeli, the Gifted isn't as good as Dack, but she's a great value planeswalker. She's somewhat similar to Elspeth, Knight-Errant, for being a token generator that can push forward momentum if need be, albeit not as obviously thanks to her ability to make a spell have affinity for artifacts.
Her middle ability has similar issues to Tezzeret, Artifice Master where velocity with being able to use artifacts to power 2nd ability may not be as reliable if on the backburner while using Servos to block. Like other single token generators, she can just tread water and as her ultimate is pretty mediocre.
Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow is pretty good as a Dimir card whose ninjutsu is yet another riff on a Dark Confidant creature. She has no evasion on a saboteur, and this always will be a huge dagger against these kinds of creatures, making them look better than they are (with some exceptions aside like Stromkirk Noble) but she makes up for it by providing a good payoff if you're able to clear a path for her, since she tends to snowball damage incredibly well if she can get in a couple of attacks. With Guilds of Ravnica not offering (at least as of now) hardly any slam dunks for Dimir, this is a pretty good addition to the 2nd tier Dimir cards.
Ancient Stone Idol - is a very solid reanimation and Tinker target, but I've found that its ability to be cost-reduced due to attacking creatures is almost never used - either via opponent's attacking creatures or via your own attacking creatures. The latter is a pretty loose strategy as decks with attacking hordes aren't usually ones that want 10-drops and this plan usually resulted in a dead card.
As cliché as it is to say, it's something to try out if your Cube is in the market for another cheat target, but not that great if done with the expectation of casting it since it's amazing when it's on the battlefield as it has death protection and 12/12s rumble through just about everything in Cube, but the hard part is getting it out.
Coveted Jewel - I haven't found this to be very impressive. It's abysmal if the opponent has board presence and tends to punish swinging board states much more than Monarch. Its closest analogue is Gilded Lotus and, like the big Lotus, the payoff is in being able to defend it with something that either costs three or four mana so that you're not punished for tapping out. Its other role is in decks that frankly don't care about the drawback - decks like storm that utilize the additional cards to draw into combo pieces or ways to survive. I found its overall performance to be weak, but you may have better luck if you have storm as a viable archetype in your Cube.
Endless Atlas is decent card draw engine. It's only really for mono or dual-colored decks and does require sequencing which may be suboptimal given the board state, like not playing a Celestial Colonnade on a turn when it entering the battlefield tapped is "free" due to unused mana in a deck. I found that it was pretty good as a cheaper variant on cards like Jayemdae Tome, just one that can't really be used until you've stabilized. Hardly a staple, but not bad.
Retrofitter Foundry looks innocuous but works very well as a mana sink. When I reviewed Walking Ballista, I talked about how artifact decks can tend to have a glut of mana hanging around with nothing to sink it in. While Retrofitter Foundry is worse in decks with literal infinite mana, I've found that Retrofitter Foundry has been working well in artifact decks where they happen to have just some mana lying around to make Servos. It's best in decks that can go for the long game and either utilize time or mana, as even making a 4/4 isn't too bad of a deal over a few turns if it doesn't require a lot of resources.
It's obviously absurd when upgrading a 1/1 flier generated by Whirler Rogue or Pia Nalaar into a 4/4, as it's an absurd rate. However, most of the time the Foundry just pops out Servos as either sacrifice fodder or small attackers and has been quite impressive.
The assist and "friend or foe" cycle, like with the commander storm cards, are all over-costed for what they do. The Partners are also all too weak aside from the exceptions listed.
Brightling - There's a fallacious assumption that this card has to be played as a virtual creature, much like there was with Aetherling "needing" to be played on so that it can protect itself against removal, but I found that isn't always the case for either of these creatures and it's normally just fine to run her out for .
As a White 3-drop, for aggro decks, requiring additional mana to be utilized makes it awkward for those decks, since threats generally should not require additional mana to use and the ability to blink itself back to the hand requires use of additional mana. It's true that it can help to act as wrath insurance, but the other two abilities, lifelink and vigilance, aren't useful for aggro decks unless the Brightling deck either is racing or using life as a resource. The "threat of activation" made racing scenarios weird.
Because of this, I found that more slow White decks like midrange and control played this. here's a White aggressive midrange 3-0 with it:
Example Deck #3 | Cube | Usman Jamil
- Creatures (18)
- 1 Adanto Vanguard
- 1 Archangel Avacyn
- 1 Arena Rector
- 1 Baneslayer Angel
- 1 Blade Splicer
- 1 Brightling
- 1 Dryad Militant
- 1 Hallowed Spiritkeeper
- 1 Hero of Bladehold
- 1 Leonin Warleader
- 1 Lyra Dawnbringer
- 1 Mardu Woe-Reaper
- 1 Resplendent Angel
- 1 Skymarcher Aspirant
- 1 Stoneforge Mystic
- 1 Student of Warfare
- 1 Sun Titan
- 1 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
- Enchantments (1)
- 1 Legion's Landing
I don't think this is a staple by any means, but her ability to stabilize board states and protect herself, even if it's at an expensive mana rate, makes her nice for White decks like midrange and control.
Arena Rector is an obvious riff on cards like Academy Rector. Merely going by the converted mana cost average of the planeswalkers that she can get in a deck is incorrect evaluation as it assumes planeswalkers are a monolithic entity of interchangeable cards that do similar things, rather than covering multiple bases. In the previous deck, while Gideon Jura is the more powerful of the two planeswalkers, they hardly do the same thing and board states where one would want Ajani are hardly uncommon. Even while most White planeswalkers, like the various Elspeths and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, spit out tokens, the role that Ajani Goldmane and Elspeth, Knight-Errant play are very different - and this doesn't even count looking into other colors and how differently something like an Elspeth and a Jace play out in reality.
There are some other non-quantitative ways to look at this card, like Arena Rector acting as a virtual Moat, much like Academy Rector did. Academy Rector has been making its way out of Cubes since its best targets got power crept out - cards like Form of the Dragon and Debtors' Knell hardly ever see Cube play now.
While it's cliché that White 4-drops are extremely competitive and represent a crossroads for White aggro, midrange, and control, Arena Rector's able to compete with the other standbys.
Spellseeker - While people talk about the divergent metas between powered Cubes and unpowered Cubes, usually these tend to be based on exaggerated idealized notions - unless adding power comes with a boatload of other changes (ie "Legacy" and "Vintage" Cubes, with their overall different metas and archetype supports, not limited to *just* their respective banlists). However, this is one of the instances where that actually is true... to a point. Spellseeker's best targets are Ancestral Recall and Time Walk in Cubes that have them as potential targets.
For some time, Imperial Recruiter and Stoneforge Mystic saw little Cube play out of fear of not getting enough targets, but these cards found higher Cube adoption rates once people realized the fear isn't as bad as they think. Generally, the toolboxes from cards like Recruiter, Mystic and Trinket Mage generally tend to either:
This deck is a good example of the first category, with Ancestral Recall but also having a decent supporting cast:
Example Deck #4 | Cube | Usman Jamil
- Creatures (9)
- 1 Arcbound Ravager
- 1 Hostage Taker
- 1 Mulldrifter
- 1 Nightveil Specter
- 1 Spellseeker
- 1 Signal Pest
- 1 Torrential Gearhulk
- 1 Traxos, Scourge of Kroog
- 1 Venser, Shaper Savant
- Artifacts (7)
- 1 Fleetwheel Cruiser
- 1 Lightning Greaves
- 1 Mox Jet
- 1 Mox Opal
- 1 Sensei's Divining Top
- 1 Sword of Body and Mind
- 1 Treasure Map
While being a 1/1 instead of a 2/2 means that it can't bash past the 2/2s of the format, I've found that it isn't much of a factor since the value of it being able to fetch for a spell is more than worth it, making it a solid Blue Cube creature. I can't speak to how much it gets downgraded from being in a Cube without Time Walk and Ancestral Recall, but judging from its performance, it isn't enough of a downgrade to make it a "bad" card.
Will Kenrith is great as a control planeswalker that acts similar to Tamiyo, the Moon Sage in that he can neutralize threats and draw cards. I've found his emblem, while nice, does nearly nothing and sometimes it ends up being better to just ride the loyalty wave of his other two abilities. That said, ultimates are generally the last thing to worry about for power level, and he's been a nice card like Consecrated Sphinx for changing the board state when he resolves. While he doesn't fit the traditional role of attacking someone for 20 damage, he's played well in the "resolve this and deal with this" style of finisher and makes a nice addition to the Cube options of 6+ mana finishers.
Unfortunately his sister, Rowan is terrible. Her ultimate is great but her other 2 abilities are awful considering her converted mana cost.
Arcane Artisan is nice mainly as a "Cheaty" card, a la Show and Tell, to cheat things into play as she's really poor otherwise in control decks that have few finishers. Although I'm not a huge fan of relying solely outsourcing evaluation to other formats as a method of evaluation, her role in Legacy Show and Tell highlights how she plays in Cube, as a redundant Show and Tell that punishes players for siding out their "small removal." Her inclusion is mostly dependent on how much you want to support those styles of decks (Show and Tell, Reanimator, Eureka, etc.)
Mindblade Render was one of the bigger disappointments in the set from when I saw, tried it, and when it saw print. Bad saboteur; can trigger off of other warriors, like Najeela so the dream curve of something like Bloodsoaked Champion, Dragon Hunter, and Zurgo Bellstriker can happen, but the raw numbers aren't very high and it's not very reliable on that front either. Also just triggers once even if multiple warriors get there.
Krav, the Unredeemed is one of the better standalone partner legends. It's mainly for his ability to sacrifice fodder and create wrath insurance, but I never really found it to perform all that well. This is likely because its Sea Snidd body was anemic. An ability like flying really would have gone a long way to make this have better Cube potential, since the only way it really can outgrow its 3/3 body is to sacrifice other creatures. Recursive creatures can help to make this more readily doable and help gain extra life, but the overall payoff wasn't really worth it.
Stunning Reversal is mainly for decks that care about utilizing cards like Necropotence and Yawgmoth's Bargain. The issue with using this as a Fog is, as has been said many times on Limited Resources, that cards that act as fogs are generally poor since the "feel goods" of casting them and blowing the opponent out come at the steep cost of holding up mana and having a nearly useless card at other times. Outside of niche cards that specifically utilize life as a resource, this is poor in Cube.
The threat that she provides is great and can make damage spiral out of control quickly if there's an additional warrior, but she's been great even without them, unlike Mindblade Render. With only 2 toughness, she does trade with other value creatures and 2/1s but all that really adds up to is keeping that in mind with attacks rather than saying it's a glaring weakness.
I've talked about additive distraction and her ability is a good example of that. If you get it to happen, congrats, but I've never seen it happen in the time that I've tried her out.
Instead, she's been played in base-Red decks like this:
Example Deck #5 | Cube | Usman Jamil
- Creatures (10)
- 1 Bloodghast
- 1 Bloodsoaked Champion
- 1 Dark Confidant
- 1 Firedrinker Satyr
- 1 Gnarled Scarhide
- 1 Goblin Bushwhacker
- 1 Hellrider
- 1 Najeela, the Blade-Blossom
- 1 Rakdos Cackler
- 1 Snapcaster Mage
- Enchantments (1)
- 1 Sulfuric Vortex
As referenced earlier, Red 3-drops have been historically dominated by utility creatures like Fire Imp and Imperial Recruiter rather than pure damage sources like Najeela. Overall, I've been very impressed by her in Red aggro decks and she'll have a home in many Cubes.
Cheering Fanatic is another card that seemed to get a lot of hype but one that I just don't get.
Some cards bleed outside of their color pie role and get a much higher Cube adoption rate than if it was in their color. Hardly anyone plays Strafe, but many more play Sunlance; hardly anyone plays Concentrate but many more play Harmonize.
But this isn't an ironclad rule either - cards like Wily Goblin, a card that provides mana acceleration in Red, hardly sees Cube play. Cheering Fanatic does at least provide a better body and the ability to synergize with cards that can be cast twice - like Flashback cards - but is still is too inefficient for Cube play, since it requires survival and is low impact.
Stolen Strategy is interesting as an Outpost Siege variant, but as mentioned before, five mana is a rough spot for personal Howling Mines, moreso in Red which tends to lean more aggressively in nature than Blue. Like with Gonti, Lord of Luxury nabbing a card from the opponent's deck can help shore up weaknesses in your game plan, but having only one turn to do so makes its timing awkward, making it poor for Cube.
Bramble Sovereign is yet another fine 4-drop in a color that has a lot of fine 4-drops that don't do anything when entering the battlefield, which generally is a death knell for 4-drops which look better than they are, like Vizier of the Menagerie. The times that it was able to double up creatures were also rare enough for this to miss being the Green Cube 4-drop that we've been hoping for.
Generous Patron is possibly the "pushed" support card for Cube, but it really doesn't do much. Realistically, what decks want this? A weird pseudo-anthem that can randomly draw cards if the opponent plays irrelevant bodies? It's either a really specific card or a poor one. Likely the latter.
Multicolored and Artifacts
Archon of Valor's Reach is yet another Selesnya card but is unique in that it can just shut down various archetypes or board states, which a lot of other Green or White cards can't do. Resolving this against a wrath heavy deck can be lights out. It was generally played in base Green decks, but like many other Selesnya cards before it, didn't really knock it out of the park.
Last One Standing is an unreliable wrath, but it's at least relatively cheap at three mana. Most likely this is for control decks that won't have their own creatures caught in the crossfire and can help to break up the monotony of Rakdos' infinite removal spells in the guild, but it still lags behind on a pure power level basis. It may have some play because it's a unique effect, but on pure power level, there's better things available.
Sentinel Tower is a fine addition if bolstering the storm mechanic but unlike the storm cards themselves, like Brain Freeze and Tendrils of Agony, this can't do the job alone. As can be expected, this is only really usable if used in addition to other storm cards, making its inclusion based on how much support the storm deck needs.
Victory Chimes is a card that, had it not been for the word of Kranny, I'd have dismissed.
Generally, mana rocks that cost 3-mana need to be absurd to be Cubable, as for every Coalition Relic there have been countless duds like the Keyrune, Banner, and Cluestone cycles which all failed since going from two to four mana is much more important in Cube than going from three to five.
Victory Chimes doesn't change that, but does work well in control decks by allowing the controller to double up on the mana, provided it's used on their own main phase. This makes it so that those decks can more proactively deploy threats and pick counter fights, since tapping out for a threat isn't as much of a commitment. Holding mana up for removal or counters can be done as well.
Many Cubes don't need yet another artifact that favors midrange and control decks, but if in the market for it, this is a nice one.
Battlebond also brought some rarity shifts:
Both uncommons (Regal Hydra and Angel of Retribution) are weak and inefficient.
The common downshifts, Pierce Strider and Peace Strider, both provide some nice 4-drops as life stabilizers/finishers in a format that lacks for good ETB creatures (aside from the obvious ones like Mulldrifter and Civic Wayfinder/Borderland Ranger.)
Civic Wayfinder/Borderland Ranger are solid in Pauper Cube, but is it so much that even a downgrade is still good? As the ability lets both players get a land, is its ability a boon, drawback or neither? If it's a boon, a 3/3 with a boon is an amazing deal for the format.
Generally, Green decks should be able to use the basic land pretty well and most Green ramp won't turn up their noses on a free basic, but a deck like the following Rakdos 3-0 aggro deck likely wouldn't get as much out of a free basic:
Example Deck #6 | Cube | Usman Jamil
- Creatures (14)
- 1 Carrion Feeder
- 1 Dauthi Horror
- 1 Extremely Slow Zombie
- 1 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
- 1 Liliana's Specter
- 1 Okiba-Gang Shinobi
- 1 Plagued Rusalka
- 1 Predatory Nightstalker
- 1 Sinuous Vermin
- 1 Slash Panther
- 1 Sparring Construct
- 1 Thermo-Alchemist
- 1 Thorn of the Black Rose
- 1 Vulturous Aven
Rather, a deck like this likely would be able to utilize this better:
Example Deck #7 | Cube | Usman Jamil
- Creatures (12)
- 1 Aether Adept
- 1 Arbor Elf
- 1 Festerhide Boar
- 1 Frilled Oculus
- 1 Hooting Mandrills
- 1 It of the Horrid Swarm
- 1 Llanowar Elves
- 1 Mold Shambler
- 1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
- 1 Sentinel Spider
- 1 Ulamog's Crusher
- 1 Wall of Roots
- Artifacts (1)
- 1 Chromatic Sphere
Your Pauper Cube meta may determine if its ability is a wash or one where it can backfire, if one theater of deck is a massively overly represented and winning archetype, but in a healthy pauper Cube meta, this is a good card and Green players won't be punished for casting this. As the majority of Pauper Cube creatures don't get into Hill Giant range, this also being able to outmuscle Gray Ogres is a big upside and possibly enough to make it better than the original duo. It may not, but it's still great.
Thanks for reading!
My blog, featuring my Pauper, Peasant and powered Cube lists (lists updated as of Dominaria. Powered Cube list gets drafted about every week, with frequent changes and new cards tried in almost as soon as they're previewed/spoiled.)
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