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Kaladesh Cube Update

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It's Kaladesh time, which means it's time to talk about what it brings for Cube.

I'll be breaking the cards down by the set mechanics and what they bring for Cube.

Fabricate

Angel of Invention

Angel of Invention

There aren't many “army in a can” cards in Cube. A lot of token producers tend to either be Planeswalkers or one-shot ones like Secure the Wastes, but aside from a scant few, there aren't many in Cubes. Similarly, anthems are underrepresented in Cube (aside from some like Honor the Pure and Always Watching) and ones that have been “anthems on a stick” like Pianna, Nomad Captain and Kongming, “Sleeping Dragon” don't see much play.

Angel of Invention seeks to bridge that gap by having both options available. The most obvious analogue, creature-wise, is Cloudgoat Ranger as a mid-sized creature that makes others.

Flexibility is often underrated in card evaluation, since it's hard to quantify how useful having multiple options is.

Discounting artifact shenanigans, a nice thing about Cloudgoat was just how good it was at gumming up the ground and when being cast in Servo mode, Angel of Invention being a flying, vigilant flier works to work around those board states by getting in a few points of damage in the air. One could even argue that because of the anthem, that the primary mode of Angel of Invention making servos is better than Cloudgoat Ranger and other creatures like Geist-Honored Monk, Scion of Vitu-Ghazi and other non-Archangel Avacyn and Baneslayer Angel 5-drops.

This doesn't even take into account the secondary of giving it counters, allowing it to act as a weaker Baneslayer, emulating Gisela, the Broken Blade's 4/3 lifelink body with an anthem attached. It's the weaker of the 3 modes, but a “weaker Lightning Blast” has been a great secondary mode to Burst Lightning since it got printed, even if it looks comparatively weak compared to higher-cost burn spells.

Servos being artifact creatures isn't a huge factor for evaluation, because while it helps with some individual cards, there aren't enough effects that care about them being artifacts in many Cubes to make an impact on whether to include this or not, but as Cube designers, this is something we can change, which I'll touch on later in the article.

Elspeth, Sun's Champion
While White's 5-cost creatures are weaker than their 4s, White 6s currently lag behind both with the only real good options being Elspeth, Sun's Champion and Sun Titan being very good, as other options like Yosei, the Morning Star, Soul of Theros lag pretty far behind making that mana cost narrow. As Angel of Invention slots into most decks, look to cards that are more on the high end of cost for replacement.

Unfortunately, many other fabricate cards just aren't very efficient , but one that may break the mold is Weaponcraft Enthusiast. As a 2b creature that generates 3 bodies, it's in territory that generally isn't seen in Black with cards like Pawn of Ulamog being in that mana slot. When I was trying to push sacrifice mechanics in my Cube, I found that the effects for generating lots of bodies in Black generally weren't that great as cards like Marsh Flitter seemed to epitomize the sacrifices I'd have to make for accommodating that strategy.

It's somewhat similar to Hordeling Outburst, trading making a 1/1 for an 0/1 for an easier-to-cast cost of 2b. Cards like Ophiomancer and Flesh Carver work on that axis in decks of all stripes (not solely token/sac) but this gives another nice option for those decks (and let's be honest, it's almost never going to be a Blind Phantasm) while giving some options for decks that want to either go long or wide.

Vehicles

In Sam Stoddard's preview article for Smuggler's Copter talking about equipment, he noted that they're being powered down and that is likely a death knell for more good equipment for Cube.

With this in mind, note vehicles should be considered closer to equipment since they require other creatures to power up and to upgrade creatures. While some of the best of them have methods to help get around that, generally decks that don't have consistent ways of crewing them up aren't enough to get around the crew requirement.

As Sam Stoddard noted in his article, one of the things that WoTC didn't like about powerful equipment was that it made it so that you had to deal with every creature, as it essentially turned your creatures into the same threats, whereas vehicles cheaply equip freshly-produced creatures.

Dodging sorcery speed removal is a great way to get around wraths, and vehicles help to get around those cards, as well as helping boost smaller freshly-produced creatures.

Skysovereign, Consul Flagship

Skysovereign, Consul Flagship

I talked about 3-damage burn spells with regards to Gisela's toughness in my Eldritch Moon article, so let's talk about how power compares using that same average. I won't list them since it's a huge list:

  • 1-power: 21
  • 2-power: 81
  • 3-power:25
  • 4+ power: 40
  • Variable: 9

Secure the Wastes, Pack Rat, Student of Warfare, Monastery Mentor, Monastery Swiftspear, Elspeth, Knight-Errant, Abbot of Keral Keep, Tarmogoyf, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, Garruk Relentless, Garruk Wildspeaker.

As Crew 3 is currently the ceiling for the good vehicles for Cube, these stats show that most Cube creatures have 2 power, and as there aren't as many 3-power ones, Skyship requires either a few 2-power creatures, a 3-power one or a much larger creature to use.

Becaue of this, I've found that it's worked well in slower decks that can generate value 2/2s or larger creatures to crew it up, and, while it can be stranded in a state where it isn't attacking, the trigger usually ends up either killing something or putting a large dent in a planeswalker, making it so that if it at least gets one attack in, it's done its job by dealing a ton of damage, making it a solid Cube card.

Ironically, the flagship isn't even the best vehicle in the set for Cube.

Fleetwheel Cruiser

Fleetwheel Cruiser

Fleetwheel Cruiser is essentially Skizzik on a vehicle. Artifact attacking 4-drops generally lag behind their mono color counterparts, which is why, despite how good of a creature Molten-Tail Masticore was it has a hard time competing with other attacking 4-drops like Hero of Bladehold/Hero of Oxid Ridge, Vengevine, and Hellrider outclassing it, even if grading it based on it being played in any deck, as cards like Molten-Tail Masticoe rode the sideboard in decks for that reason.

Long ago, Mike Flores wrote an article called Philosophy of Fire in talking about how to approach burn matchups, looking at Red creatures as analogues to burn spells. While Rage Weaver and Chimeric Idol are relics of ages past, the overall ideology still holds up. About halfway in, he talks about how adopting that philosophy helped him vs. the R/G Fires of Yavimaya midrange decks:

“The confident opponent in my experience would not generally block an un-kicked Skizzik on turn four with his fresh and precious Blastoderm. The cocky opponent doesn't realize that that decision will in many games cost him the duel. “

Card advantage paradigms may have changed over the years, but the idea remains true as Fleetwheel Cruiser helps to close games out and it's typically in the best interest for the opponent to snap-trade with Fleetwheel Cruiser and represents a lot of damage. The worst-case scenarios when it attacks for 5 without any enough crew don't tend to happen that often, especially since aggressive decks have gotten so many good 2/1s recently and I've been very happy with its performance.

Smuggler’s Copter

Smuggler's Copter

Smuggler's Copter may very well be the best vehicle for Cube. It's nice to give filtering to colors like White which traditionally don't have it (not to mention how well it works in Black decks to filter.) I was surprised at how useful the looting was and how, unlike other filtering cards, how much velocity it provides aggressive decks as it deals 3 damage while looting since traditionally, cards like Looter il-Kor and Wharf Infiltrator at most, deal chip shots of damage. It's made a very high impact in Standard already and it's performed similarly well in Cube.

Cultivator’s Caravan

Cultivator's Caravan

Cultivator's Caravan is currently slightly underrated and works on a different paradigm than the other good vehicles as a mana rock first. Its most obvious analogue is Chromatic Lantern since no one's running Darksteel Ingots or Manaliths anymore. As 3 crew can result in times when either you don't have enough crew to power it, or all that you have are larger creatures like titans to power it up, but I've found that doesn't happen as often as one would think, particularly in Green decks with access to 3/3 generators like Garruk, Primal Hunter, and can help to close out the game very quickly. I've liked it more than Chromatic Lantern thus far in not only Green decks, but control decks that are on the more creature-heavy spectrum.

Renegade Freighter and Ovalchase Dragster:

Renegade Freighter
Ovalchase Dragster

While Ovalchase Dragster is a bit too fragile for my liking due to 1 defense, I've been strongly considering Renegade Freighter as a card that emulates Grafted Wargear. It's ostensibly worse than the others but turning 2-drops into 5/4 attacking tramplers is no joke, making it a nice 2nd-tier vehicle card for attack decks. Typically, artifacts haven't favored attack decks outside of the all-stars as a lot of them tend to be mana rocks or giant high-cost robots. Cards like Renegade Freighter help to bridge that gap.

Energy

Since there isn't a critical mass of cards with energy in Cube, these cards will be discussed as standalone cards. Some are better at generating or utilizing energy and this can be a factor in-game due to getting multiple triggers, if the creature gets blinked or bounced, but I'll discuss these without those factors in mind as it will be a non-factor in most Cube games or Cube decks.

Voltaic Brawler

Voltaic Brawler

Raw stats-wise, Voltaic Brawler is the best of the bunch and works well even without more energy as a 3/2 that can pump into a 4/3 trampler forrg, as pumping with no mana required makes potential blocking awkward as they can't just throw a 2/2 in front of it to trade and even without energy in the mix, a 3/2 isn't a bad rate either once it's used its energy. Green aggressive decks have been on the downswing of popularity in Cubes and while Kessig Prowler has helped give some more incentive for that deck, generally people have focused more on the Dragonlord Atarka side of Gruul than the Kird Ape side and its inclusion mainly depends on what you want to do with your Gruul section.

Aether Hub

Aether Hub

Aether Hub is a nice supplement/replacement for Tendo Ice Bridge as a land that supports colorless cards (like Thought-Knot Seer) as well as being an untapped source for aggressive decks. As I referenced in the Oath of the Gatewatch articles, having most of your colorless sources as mana rocks turns colorless Eldrazi like Thought-Knot Seer as de facto non-aggro Cube cards since aggro decks don't want to play a Hedron Archive, but cards like Aether Hub can help to bridge that role. It's certainly an upgrade to Tendo Ice Bridge but decks that want to bolster colorless will likely want to add this to supplement Tendo Ice Bridge.

Demon of Dark Schemes

Demon of Dark Schemes

Demon of Dark Schemes is another of Black's 5+ mana creature cards for Cube. Black 5+s are thin with a few all-stars like Grave Titan, Shriekmaw, and ones that are significantly lower in power level like Custodi Lich and Demon of Dark Schemes’ closest analogue — Massacre Wurm. Both Demon and Massacre feature a 3bbb casting cost which makes them difficult to include in 2-color decks. Since it requires 4 energy to reanimate something, it's difficult to do that in a game unless it's doing a Wrath of God impression and unlike Massacre Wurm, it isn't one sided, but a deck that seeks to include Demon of Dark Schemes aims to break the symmetry of its effect. Its best feature is being a game-closing threat while clearing out smaller threats, but I've found that it's in the class of cards that won't last long in Cubes that include it, if we're getting creatures on the power level that we've seen recently.

Servant of the Conduit

Servant of the Conduit

Servant of the Conduit is a miser's Birds of Paradise since development determined that 1-mana mana creators are too strong to print in Standard sets. As such, its most direct analogues are with cards like Devoted Druid and Fertile Ground. Servant of the Conduit works best in decks that want to get the most use out of 4-5 drops, decks like U/G control, to leverage advantage out of a strong 4-mana card while having the reliability of being able to get a few shots out of it. This limited scope may make it hard to include in Cube since there's already a glut of great acceleration and attack decks' general plan isn't one that asks for a 2-mana accelerant. It's something to keep an eye out on if you want to have that as an option.

Thriving Grubs

Thriving Grubs

Thriving Grubs is essentially yet another Borderland Marauder that can block as a 2/1. I'm not typically a fan of swapping cards in the same role, but Borderland Marauder/Gore-House Chainwalker tend to be on the lower end in Cubes that run them and aren't as integral to success as cards like Jackal Pup/Firedrinker Satyr are to the success of Red aggressive decks in Cube.

Die Young

Die Young

Die Young, underrated Black Sabbath song aside, is too ineffcient for Cube. Spot removal's on the downswing for power, it seems and this is another in that trend.

Gearhulk Cycle

Cataclysmic Gearhulk, Combustible Gearhulk

Cataclysmic Gearhulk
Combustible Gearhulk

Cataclysmic Gearhulk has been undervalued, similar to how the new Emrakul was. I discussed in the Eldritch Moon review that since there are few points of comparison for both of the cards, it can tend to lead to evaluations which focus on what the card can't do vs what it can do — Cataclysmic Gearhulk more so because its trigger combines the worst of Cataclysm and Tragic Arrogance. This has led to dismissing the card as bad, without taking into context the fact that it comes with a 4/5 vigilance attached to it.

Tragic Arrogance
Since there aren't many cards that perform the same function as Cataclysm and Tragic Arrogance, unlike something like direct damage, as the game has had countless variations of Lightning Bolt since Alpha, finding how much value Cataclysmic Gearhulk provides is difficult, but let's say that it's only worth 3 mana. With this metric, Cataclysmic Gearhulk provides a lot of value for the mana, as a generic value creature like Mulldrifter or Flametongue Kavu. Since it's an artifact itself, it can result in board states where you're up 2 creatures vs an opponent's 1, which has come up so far.

It may be a difficult add with Archangel Avacyn and Angel of Invention, but it's another strong option which can reward cleverly building decks to take advantage of its symmetrical trigger.

Combustible Gearhulk — We've been trained to say that cards that give an opponent a choice are bad because giving an opponent a choice tends to end badly.

Vexing Devil
Of course, this isn't a hard-and-fast rule. Liliana of the Veil's options are all about choices. Vexing Devil, while never really doing anything in Cube, was a general role player in other formats' burn decks. Arguably, other cards that give an opponent a choice to take damage or block a creature (Hellspark Elemental, Keldon Marauders) work on a very similar axis. All that being said, cards with the punisher mechanic tend to be much less efficient than they appear. As a 6-mana Red creature, its roles are as follows:

As an aggro curve topper, its immediate impact is questionable since its trigger does a poor job of closing out the game, since the trigger can't reliably deal damage (in 2 ways) and if the opponent's at a low life total, they'll let you draw 3.

In slower Red decks, it can be awkward if the opponent's life total hasn't been softened up as they can choose to let you deal damage, making it run on an axis that may not even matter in that state of the game if they don't care about taking that damage. That being said, the opponent having a Planeswalker can help the Gearhulk operate on an axis that does matter, letting it act as a giant Vampire Hexmage which doesn't require sacrificing.

First strike allows Combustible Gearhulk to take down titans, and non-Verdurous Gearhulks and live, so it isn't flavor text. All that being said, this is the runt of the Gearhulk litter and it will be hard for it compete in many Cubes.

The other Gearhulks are more straight-forward.

Torrential Gearhulk

Torrential Gearhulk

Torrential Gearhulk. While I've found that Torrential Gearhulk can't get back sorceries, it hasn't been enough of a drawback to make the overall package of Torrential Gearhulk less impressive. Think of Goblin Dark-Dwellers and what it does to "build a FtK" in the later stages of the game, taking advantage of the fact that spells incidentally hit the graveyard, even if they're to clear the path for attackers.

Let's look at the targets in the 450-card average for comparison to see how many targets Goblin Dark-Dwellers has vs Torrential Gearhulk.

Both hits: 53, but 9 of these are counterspells or other instants like Condemn which really can't be used by Goblin Dark-Dwellers, putting that number to 44.

Instants whose cost is > 3: 7

Sorceries whoe cost is < 3: 17

Sorceries > 4 (which neither Goblin Dark-Dwellers nor Torrential Gearhulk can hit) : 36

Raw numbers wise, this means that vs Goblin Dark-Dwellers, for gains and losses, it's about a wash.

Having flash helps Torrential Gearhulk work well in a Blue control deck’s game plan and, by the time it can be cast, typically there's something for it to cast for free.

One thing that Torrential Gearhulk can't do, that Goblin Dark-Dwellers can't do either but Snapcaster Mage can, is that it can't cast mass-removal effects like Wrath of God, but it isn't enough to make it a weak card for Blue control decks. I've found there are plenty of other targets for it to cast. This isn't counting best-case scenarios where you're getting back Wretched Confluence, Mystic Confluence or Dig Through Time. For direct analogues, it's worse than Consecrated Sphinx, and, arguably, Aetherling, but better than stuff like Frost Titan and is generally a solid Blue control card.

Verdurous Gearhulk

Verdurous Gearhulk

Verdurous Gearhulk hits incredibly hard as a worst-case 8/8 trample, but it's easy to dismiss (or at least not factor in) how useful it is to spread out a lot of power across several bodies, impacting how combat can occur on the 5th (or sooner) turns. I've found that it hits incredibly hard and performs the role of giant Green non-value beater better than cards like Kalonian Hydra due to the flexibility that the gearhulk gives.

Noxious Gearhulk

Noxious Gearhulk

Noxious Gearhulk — Black 6-drops, aside from Grave Titan, are pretty low value, with the main option being Massacre Wurm (direct comparison with Demon) and, unfortunately, not much else. I've been pleasantly surprised with how it's been playing out in Cube as a A/B-tier Black 6-drop that does a decent amount with its ETB; but, as a lot of its value comes from its trigger and not the body, it doesn't shift the state of the game to it quite as much as titans or Wurmcoil Engine. The large, menacing body means that it can’t be ignored, though. I'm currently trying it in my Cube but wouldn't be surprised if it doesn't stay for a year.

Artifacts: cards and payoffs

Tinker
The last few blocks gave incentives to push your Cube into different directions with things like payoffs for colorless cards (Oath of the Gatewatch) and graveyard shenanigans (Shadows over Innistrad block)

Artifacts naturally have an overlap with colorless cards from Oath of the Gatewatch; but, as I discussed in my Oath of the Gatewatch article, there needs to be a pretty compelling reason to play a Wastes in your deck. Putting only “control” colorless sources like Mind Stone and Hedron Archive in the deck will restrict colorless Eldrazi cards to control decks, doing a disservice to aggressive decks. This creates a problem that needs to be solved if you want to try including any colorless matters themes.

Kaladesh brings back the good, old artifact matters theme. Some cards like Tinker, Tolarian Academy, Mishra's Workshop, and Pia and Kiran Nalaar care about artifacts, but generally artifact-centric decks haven't tended to be a huge thing in Cube, as they often manifest as decks with a lot of mana rocks to combine with Upheaval and Wildfire rather than being the identity of the deck. Thanks to additional support from Kaladesh, you can choose to include cards to emphasize an artifact-centric strategy that moves away from these norms.

Many of the artifact-heavy cards, at least in this block, tend to lean aggressively and cards like Steel Overseer, Signal Pest, Arcbound Ravager and Cranial Plating fit this mold as well, helping to form the backbone of an archetype in Cube that can be easier to support than before.

Toolcraft Exemplar

Toolcraft Exemplar

Toolcraft Exemplar gives the best payoff for being aggressive, as 3 power for 1 mana is hard to come by (Wild Nacatl requires 3 colors, but that's fine; Reckless Waif is very inconsistent, power included in a Cube or not), and artifact decks have no problem making it a 3/2. It works best in a deck that can consistently hit metalcraft (10-12) rather than a generic White deck with a few pieces of equipment, though. Inventor's Apprentice works similarly as decks with 10+ artifacts will want it; others won't bother.

Using my pauper Cube as an example, decks that seek to make use of Toolcraft Exemplar would look more like this one that 3-0ed a Pauper Cube draft:


Glint-Nest Crane

Glint-Nest Crane

Glint-Nest Crane is the most Cube-pushed variant of the type of card that Faerie Mechanist, Augur of Bolas, and Lead the Stampede are, cards that require a critical mass of cards to be playable in a deck.

It only requires about 10 hits in a deck, which is about as many as the above deck has, and while it loses out on card selection, being able to get a 1/3 for 2 while cantripping into an artifact is still great value, giving a nice payoff for artifact-centric decks to be drafted.

Other artifacts

Bomat Courier

Bomat Courier looked like it had potential, but I found didn't really do much as it typically had 2 cards “drawn” from it on average, which wasn't enough to make it worth playing in Red aggro decks.

Scrapheap Scrounger

Scrapheap Scrounger has a nice mana cost and its recursion is easy to achieve in Cube. Cards like Reassembling Skeleton didn't impress me very much since they had low impact while they were in play, even if they had the ability to recur themselves. Scrapheap Scrounger's ability to do so at instant speed works well with equipment and vehicles and to pressure Planeswalkers while representing open mana and have found it to be a great addition to all Black aggro decks, even ones that don't go deep on graveyard recursion.

Filigree Familiar

Filigree Familiar's triggers are structured so that it's best in matches where it's expected to die soon after casting, since its worst trigger is on the front side. This is best in matchups vs aggressive decks and other decks that will need to get through the 2/2 in order to advance their game-plan. Its greatest weakness is in matchups where the opponent can safely ignore both the 2/2 and the gain life trigger until the later stages of the game, or even in its entirety. It promises a lot of value and while it's not really accurate to call it a marginally better Exultant Cultist, matchups where it doesn't die can make it worse than it looks and may make it leave your Cube sooner than you may think.

Ghirapur Orrery and Panharmonicon.

Ghirapur Orrery
Panharmonicon

Panharmonicon asks for decks to have a critical mass of enter-the-battlefield triggers for it to be used effectively in a Cube deck. Typically, these kinds of cards like Strionic Resonator and Rings of Brighthearth haven't had much traction in Cube, as they're somewhat “do nothing” cards but part of what has hampered cards like these is requiring an added mana effect and adding another 2 mana on a Titan to double its triggers with Strionic Resonator. Panharmonicon helps get around that by being a one-time investment. It requires a critical mass of triggers to really make it worth it playing in a Cube deck to justify playing in a deck. It's likely somewhere around 6+ to play, which doesn't make it bad, just requires decks (typically midrange) that require it to work.

Ghirapur Orrery is an interesting card that allows low-to-the-ground decks to be able to get around the symmetry but that likely makes it a rough sell in a slot with so many good cards.

Planeswalkers

Chandra, Torch of Defiance

Chandra, Torch of Defiance is the best Red planeswalker. A lot of previous Chandra iterations have lagged behind other colors' Planeswalkers, with the best aspect of Chandra Nalaar being that she could take down X/5s and live and take down X/6s in a trade. Generally, she tended to be on the lower-tier of Planeswalkers, and others like Chandra, Pyromaster were generally decent, but not really that great either. Koth of the Hammer was mainly for aggressive decks (as it almost never got its middle ability used — not that it made it bad, but it was pretty limited in the decks that wanted him.)

One overlooked aspect of the card is it's similar to Elspeth, Sun's Champion in terms of loyalty and ultimate, where it +1s, and requires a few turns before the ultimate happens. While not as fast as Nissa, Vital Force, and while she can be poor at defending herself against several mid-sized threats, I've found her abilities to gain card advantage and act as a damage-dealing source have been embraced by Red Cube decks, with it performing well so far.

Nissa, Vital Force

Nissa, Vital Force on the other hand, is underrated but very good. While it's unconventional to compare Green 5-drops to attacking 5-drops, she's closer to Koth of the Hammer than conventional Green 5-drops like Deranged Hermit, since it +1s to make a creature, ultimates incredibly quickly and a minus ability that works on a different axis than the other two. With Koth, it was odd to use the mana ability since it didn't work well with the decks that played him, as they were interested in attacking for 4.

Her middle ability being Nature's Spiral instead of Regrowth hasn't impacted how much value it brings, since it usually has gotten back a threat that died to a removal ability. Doing this works very well on the axis of grinding value and getting 2-for-1s vs an opponent, but I've found that generally she's been used to +1 and ultimate, although she certainly offers more play than that. Most Green Planeswalkers tend to naturally work well in Green midrange decks and Nissa, Vital Force does as well, since her +1 defends herself or acting as mana ramp, if need be. All in all, I've been impressed.

Saheeli Rai

Saheeli Rai compares to a lot of Izzet cards as most in Cube have been all about value, and even new ones like Ral Zarek, Dack Fayden, and Keranos, God of Storms work in that direction, with the only real exception being Dack's Duplicate. It's true that she doesn't easily protect herself, unless she's using her minus ability to copy a trigger that would defend her, like copying a Man-o'-War, and while most good Planeswalkers can immediately defend themselves, other solid ones like Jace Beleren, Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver do so as well (and some planeswalkers like Liliana of the Veil, Jace, Architect of Thought and Liliana, the Last Hope can poorly defend themselves based on the threats that the opponent has.) However, her ability to scry repeatedly while increasing loyalty does allow for a more subtle form of advantage by sculpting draws. Decks that have utilized her well have been similar to Crystal Shard Cube decks of old — decks that maximize enter-the-battlefield triggers and aggressive-leaning Izzet decks. While Dack Fayden is the clear top-tier Izzet card, she fits well as a 2nd-tier card in Izzet.

Dovin Baan

Dovin Baan is another card that works in the Azorius control decks as something that can neutralize threats while gaining card advantage. Him being relatively boring isn't so much of a strike against him so much as he doesn't really do that much, playing as a weaker Jace Beleren in terms of gaining card advantage. I asked on the podcast if it's even better than other options like Narset Transcendent and Dragonlord Ojutai, the former being in the role that's closest to him as a value Azorius control Planeswalker.

Other cards

Aerial Responder

Aerial Responder is yet another White 3-drop that's a riff on Vampire Nighthawk, trading deathtouch for vigilance. Think of how Vampire Nighthawk was used as tech in U/B faeries vs Great Sable Stag back when U/B faeries was a menace in the format. In those situations, it wasn't so much interested in trading to take advantage of its deathtouch, but as a way to consistently race with evasion. Aerial Responder works in a similar fashion, but I can't help but think at how low-impact it can be. It's true that there aren't many big fliers in the format, since the Kamigawa dragons have fallen out of favor in many Cubes to Titans and cards like Aetherling and Elspeth, Sun's Champion, so its deathtouch doesn't matter as much on offense as it does when it needs to stay back on defense.

Because of that, it makes it worse in decks that look to reach the later stages of the game, making Aerial Responder's home more in White attacking decks and as a tool against aggressive decks. Because of this, it's a hard sell in Cubes as we've gotten a smattering of great White cards for Cube, like Recruiter of the Guard, Thalia, Heretic Cathar, and Eldrazi Displacer, making it a difficult add for Cube.

Fairground Wardens

Fairgrounds Warden is the newest riff on Fiend Hunter and appears to be the best one. People generally tended to overestimate the corner cases when you could abuse layering the trigger, as it was mostly used to cast it and get something out of the way. The ease-of-cast makes it better than Fiend Hunter, but with the glut of amazing White 3s we've gotten over the past few years, it's a rough sell for many Cubes, but it's a solid one to put into decks.

Fumigate

FumigateWhen Sam Stoddard discussed Languish, he talked about how the paradigm for 4-mana wraths is such that they're no longer unconditional at 4 mana, whereas they are 5 mana. Fumigate is the best White wrath printed since that development paradigm was made. While it may look like it compares to Lightning Helix as a card that increases a mana cost for lifegain, it's closer in function to Absorb. Absorb lasted in Cubes for longer than its Dimir cousin, Undermine, as Absorb worked with what Azorius control decks wanted to do — survive to the late game while neutralizing threats. It isn't difficult for Fumigate to gain over 5 life, which is a huge boon against aggressive decks and while it may not be incredibly relevant in other matchups like a control mirror, having access to it doesn't hurt either.

Rout was printed in an age when pPlaneswalkers were named Urza and Bo Levar, and Rout works well to protect them and while I haven't had Rout in my Cube for some time, its synergy with Planeswalkers and powerful instants is not to be underestimated since that also complements control strategies incredibly well. They're pretty close in power level, so inclusion of it depends on how you want to tailor your Cube's answers to your Cube's threats.

Fragmentize

Fragmentize is yet another take on Disenchant. Sometimes standalone Disenchant types of effects get a bad rap since there are matchups where it does stone nothing and limiting the number of targets just amplifies this weakness, compounded with sorcery speed makes it more limited. It's another knob for Cube designers to twist, but its natural limitations may render it difficult to utilize effectively (in terms of how often it's used.)

Metallurgic Summoning

Metallurgic Summoning is unfortunately quite slow for Cube. It's cliche to say that it costs 5 mana, does nothing and for 6-mana, it just nets you a 1/1 isn't really realistic evaluation as it only looks at a poor-case scenario, but it does require significant effort to be able to get enough robots out of it to be good in Cube. Do decks like this exist in your Cube? The answer to this question will ultimately decide if you want it in your Cube, but it wouldn't be surprising if the answer is no.

Gonti, Lord of Luxury

Gonti, Lord of Luxury is a card that I was at first unimpressed with, which I stated on the podcast review of Kaladesh. But after talking to Matt Kranstuber about it, I decided to give it another try and I was happy that I did.

Gonti allows your deck to get things that may be good in a matchup that your deck doesn't have, either because of different color(s) or mana costs. I played it in a 3-0 Rakdos aggro deck, and his flexibility was great to get some vital tools in matchups, allowing me to grab an Elspeth, Sun's Champion vs an esper control deck, a Fiery Confluence to win the game vs a Jeskai deck and a Cranial Plating whose auto-equip to make an alpha strike lethal. I haven't seen it miss and with it looking at 4 cards, it's pretty hard for it to do so, letting it act as a giant Baleful Strix that forgot how to fly.

Black 4-drops have historically fallen into undercosted threats — with its historical precedent beginning with Juzam Djinn, with more recent cards like Abyssal Persecutor, Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, and Desecration Demon — or value threats like Nekrataal and Skinrender. Gonti works similar to the latter, making sure that you get your mana's worth out of it, making him an impactful and powerful card for Cube.

Brazen Scourge

Brazen Scourge is a Red attacking 3-drop, as a mostly upgrade to Boggart Ram-Gang as wither is usually flavor text and it trading ease of cast for wither is an upgrade in terms of how the card plays out in most games and matchups. Since Boggart Ram-Gang had hybrid Gruul cost, it had strong competition — likely stronger than it'd have faced as a Mono-Red card. With Pia Nalaar and Hanweir Garrison, the previously weak (for attacking decks) 3-mana slot is getting more tools, but it attacks on an efficient enough rate to bolster those decks effectively, making it a welcome addition to your Cube if you do include it.

Pia Nalaar

Pia Nalaar operates similarly to Blade Splicer as a 3-mana value card that Reid Duke described as a subtly powerful card that doesn't appear to be powerful. It’s a value creature that can have subtle effects on a board state, giving several bodies to block or attack with and even working toward the later stages of the game with her ability to pump robots or set up board states where leaving a single blocker behind is a poor decision because the thopter can stun it. It's not quite as blunt a card as Blade Splicer but I've liked how she's helped Red decks of all stripes in Cube.

Speedway Fanatic

Speedway Fanatic is the first 1r 2/1 haste (as a French Vanilla), not counting Lightning Mauler and the rr-costing Ash Zealot. Years ago, we'd have immediately put that into our Cubes, but with more 3/2s for 2 and other cards like Abbot of Keral Keep . . . 

If vehicles end up being evergreen, or Aether Revolt prints enough so that there's a critical mass of vehicles, can the currently irrelevant text matter in the future? There likely aren't not enough vehicles to shift evaluation, even if vehicles become evergreen. Since vehicles are to be included in Cube decks as non-creatures, the amount that can realistically be played in aggressive decks are limited by nature, and the number required to take advantage of Speedway Fanatic reliably giving haste will make the deck worse, since only having 3 vehicles in a deck isn't even enough to make Speedway Fanatic competitive.

Wildest Dreams

Wildest Dreams plays similar to Seasons Past. While it's counterintuitive to think, I've found that its base mode is where X = 2, not 1, and while it's better than Restock, no one's really playing that card anymore; whereas people are playing cards like Seasons Past. While it's worse at getting individual cards, it's amazing at getting a lot of value in the late stages of the game, which Seasons Past does well and supplements Seasons Past for ramp and combo decks. It's certainly better than the terrible CGI music video of the Iron Maiden song of the same name.

Blossoming Defense

Blossoming Defense — Historically cards that pump single creatures have had a card time in Cube since they can result in blowouts if used in response to a pump effect, or just blanked due to wraths getting rid of all of your creatures. Better as a reactive protection spell that just happens to pump, but these kinds of cards are still difficult to crack into Cube and generally tend to be late picks in Cubes that include them.

Rashmi, Eternities Crafter

Rashmi, Eternities Crafter — is essentially an upgrade on Jori En, Ruin Diver, which never really was reliable enough to make waves in Cube even in low-curve aggressive decks where cards like Saheeli Rai shine.

Getting a trigger or two on it is enough card advantage to win the game with (which is much better than just drawing a card especially when leading with more expensive cards,) and with Blue countermagic or draw, it's not terribly difficult to get it to trigger on the opponent's turn. The So Many Insane Plays podcast compared Rashmi to Monastery Mentor, and that analog does hold some water.

Shardless Agent has gotten some (undeserved) flak for being a nombo with counterspells, but generally I've found this to be an overblown fear as most of the time, Shardless Agent doesn't hit counterspells. Conversely, Rashmi works incredibly well with counterspells, encouraging the use of instants. Nissa, Sage Animist's +1 ability was underrated as a draw ability with upside and Rashmi's trigger works on a similar level, one which keeps her card advantage going if she “misses.” If you untap with her, you're most likely going to be a favorite to win the game but “If it untaps, you win” can be the death knell of cards, but not necessarily. When does it work?

Huge creatures that change the dynamic of the game once they resolve like Baneslayer Angel require an immediate answer or she'll quickly end the game. Other creatures that don't dominate in combat are ones like Master of the Wild Hunt, whereas others like Bloodline Keeper and Graveborn Muse, while not dominant, work on that axis as well. Arguably, all of these cards don't require further input and work just fine on their own, so long as they're alive and Rashmi at least requires a spell to get going, but in most Simic decks, that shouldn't be hard to do. Like Izzet, Simic cards are mostly value cards and a standout — Edric, Spymaster of Trest — with others like Shardless Agent, Mystic Snake, Trygon Predator, and the Kioras as other options. Rashmi joins the other 2nd-tier options as one that encourages non-ramp decks in Simic, making it nice for encouraging deck diversity.

Kambal, Consul of Allocation
Unlicensed Disintegration
Cloudblazer
Veteran Motorist

Kambal, Unlicensed Disintegration, Cloudblazer, and Veteran Motorist are all fine cards in their own rights, but ultimately lose out from being outclassed by other cards in their respective color combinations.

Blooming Marsh
Botanical Sanctum

Concealed Courtyard
Inspiring Vantage
Spirebluff Canal

Lastly, the cycle of enemy-colored fastlands are mid-tier color fixing lands that offer another option for color combinations like R/W that want their early lands to come into play tapped, but as 4-mana cards are so powerful in Cube, it's a weakness to take note of in colors like White, Red, and Blue.

I hope you've enjoyed this analysis of Kaladesh for Cube. Thanks for reading!

@UsmanTheRad on Twitter.

My blog, featuring my Pauper and powered Cube lists, as well as my 540-card pauper Cube submission for WoTC's “You Make The Cube” contest.

Cube podcast, The Third Power, that Anthony Avitollo and I host.


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