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Throne of Eldraine Cube Review - Pt. 2

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Welcome back to the Throne of Eldraine Cube review! If you haven't checked out Part 1, please do so.

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Throne of Eldraine Green

Throne of Eldraine Multicolored

Throne of Eldraine Artifacts

Throne of Eldraine Lands, etc

Commander 2019 & Game Night 2019

Red

Bonecrusher Giant

Bonecrusher Giant is an obviously great card as a Magma Jet that draws you a 4/3 for 2r instead of scrying 2. Usually, I found that the 4/3 was a great body against the field, and it was a great way for aggro decks to simultaneously jam more burn while keeping threat density high, as it rightfully never was in the sideboard of a Red aggro deck. It wasn't too bad in slower Red decks either like this mid-range deck from buildingadeck's goldless Cube:


Red's gotten a ton of great gems in this set, and this is easily its crown jewel.

Rimrock Knight is a card that may look mediocre on its face, like a lot of adventure cards, but I've found that it works incredibly well as a tool for aggressive decks and kept impressing me more and more over time for Cube. Usually an issue with "small" burn like Galvanic Blast and Searing Spear is that killing a creature like a 4/4 usually requires adding another burn spell to it, or trading a creature and the burn spell, and usually that didn't end well for the Red mage.

Using Rimrock's adventure mode is similar to the second scenario - and even though your creature is still dead, being able to cast it as a 3/1 afterward usually meant that the aggro deck was able to keep the pedal to the metal. Since its modes were so cheap, it was able to wiggle itself into the mana curve wherever it'd be most efficient. In Red aggro decks, it usually represented a lot of damage for a somewhat small mana cost, going perfectly with Red aggro's game plan of getting as much damage as it can from its damage sources ala the Philosophy of Fire.

Aggro decks that utilized it weren't decks that had a way to specifically use Rimrock Knight's boost, but more as a nice source of pure damage. They tended to look like this deck from my Cube:


The gap between Bonecrusher Giant and Rimrock Knight isn't as far as you'd think. Before the set dropped, I'd have said that Embereth Shieldbreaker interested me more than Rimrock Knight but after playing them for an extended period of time, even in my Cube that has more artifacts than the usual Cube, Rimrock Knight has been better for aggro.

Embereth Shieldbreaker
Robber of the Rich
Fervent Champion

Embereth Shieldbreaker - Darkest Dungeon's top-tier attacking class represents a great option for artifact removal for attacking Red decks.

Remember having to play clunky cards like Keldon Vandals for artifact hate on a stick? We've gone a long way and even the not-quite-strictly-but-just-better Manic Vandal has a ton of better options like Release the Gremlins, although that was more a tactical nuke against artifact-heavy decks, than a precision strike, like Embereth Shieldbreaker. As games get shorter through optimization and in Cube metas where there are more artifacts (and thus, where it can be reasonably assumed that each player has at least an artifact in the final 40), the ability to hit artifacts early raises in importance, moreso with cheap artifact fast mana. Ingot Chewer has seen scant Cube play but it's fallen out of favor because having a Sea Snidd body in 2019 is much rougher than it was in 2008, and in 2019, we ain't got time for Sea Snidds. The kids don't know what that is these days.

While in theory, it can be cast as a Goblin Piker, I almost never saw that happen, although this may be influenced by my Cube's increased artifact count - but usually these kinds of effects still don't tend to get played as Goblin Piker very often unless it's the only 2-drop in the aggro player's hand. Usually this was a Manic Vandal - either cast as a 1rr 2/1 version or one on an installment plan and that was usually still good.

A predator is only as good as its ability to hunt its prey, and it doesn't take a rocket surgeon to note how this is as good as how important hitting artifacts is in a given Cube. As noted earlier, I found Rimrock Knight to overall be better, but I've still been impressed by this for Cube.

Robber of the Rich - While the ability to rip cards off the top of the opponent's deck is the fancy attraction, this is, for the most part, a 2/2 hasty attacker for 2, seen in some representation with cards like Ash Zealot, Lightning Mauler and, to an extent, Viashino Pyromancer. It's been a pretty good addition to aggro Red decks in this role and it usually at least ripped one card from the top of the opponent's deck before dying. Typically, that was worth the mana cost. Cards like Grenzo, Havoc Raiser and Gonti, Lord of Luxury are useful because, while it's not guaranteed that the stolen card will be one that aligns with your gameplan, it sometimes aligns with the game state better than something that you may have drawn, especially in scenarios where your deck finds itself in a weird place where, like if you rip a Liliana, Dreadhorde General on a board state where it's excellent for the aggro player. The floor of it being a 2/2 haster (reach never really mattered) was good enough on its own to be good in your average Red aggro Cube deck.

Fervent Champion - It's a 1-drop with haste and first strike. When looking, discounting Legion Loyalist which was more spell than creature, this is the only one with both haste and first strike, which I found helped it get a few more points of damage in than one without first strike. Unsurprisingly, I found the knight boosting ability was usually irrelevant. When it saw play, it was usually in a deck with at least one piece of equipment - I've frequently talked about how cards that need to be equipped like Viashino Slaughtermaster tend to look better than they end up playing. When the stars aligned, like if Fervent Champion was able to pick up a sword for free, it was a huge boon for the deck since it was usually picking up the equipment from a fallen comrade, but for the most part, it played as a 1/1 with haste and first strike.

Think back to the deck shown with Rimrock Knight for a usual deck that had Fervent Champion. While it was on the higher end of equipment in a deck, it still was usually just fine as a 1/1 first striker with haste. Hardly Goblin Guide or Falkenrath Gorger tier, but decent filler. Refer again to the hypergeometric calculation and see where you want to go with early creatures, but for aggro, remember the mantra that cheaper = gooder.

Fires of Invention

Fires of Invention is an odd midrange card that breaks mana, which generally is a good sign for something being either good (lots of cards in Urza's Saga) or terrible (a lot of "free" cards in Masques block like Flameshot.) Much like Aether Vial and Runaway Steam-Kin, having these as singletons really hurts the consistency of these cards, as they're reliant on being cast early and accruing value quickly. Fires is a bad topdeck, but pretty decent when cast on 4-5 mana in midrange.

Much like in Standard, it's obviously busted if you have ways to fuel the fire via card draw and other ways to use mana. This deck doesn't emulate the Fires deck in Standard, but it's more a generic midrange goodstuff deck that was drafted in my Cube:


This may be so "low" on my rankings because I just haven't had a lot of reps with it, from being late to trying it out.

But it still does suffer from the same problems that a lot of non-aggro Red cards have - since the color's so aggressive-leaning, those cards need to do a lot of lifting for their slot - think of cards like Devastation, Wildfire and cards like Empty the Warrens (in Cubes where storm is a thing.)

Is this powerful enough to pull as hard as those?

I asked the drafter what he thought of the card in the deck and said as follows:

"Fires was great in that deck, I think I would run it even in a two color deck because it can cause a good immediate mana ramp if you have two good spells to cast each turn."

I haven't seen it played in a deck like rg midrange, but that I don't think that'd be out of the question. Being choked on two spells wasn't too much of an issue, I found. Usually it was easy enough to get more than one's mana for the turn. My general impression was that it was good but difficult to find room for once I take my testing cards out and return my Cube to a more "normal" state.

Embercleave - when I saw this, I thought that it looked awful. I always wanted a good auto-equipper like Grifter's Blade or Ronin Warclub and this requires at least two attackers to not be just trash. But it ended up impressing me more over time and it was definitely better than I had initially thought, which is weird because it looks like such a "win more" card, like other battalion style creatures are (Leonin Vanguard, Haazda Marshall) that aren't called Kytheon, Hero of Akros.

Usually it had a huge impact on the board state when cast and almost always dramatically shifted the tone of combat if the creature that it was equipping didn't just die immediately. It usually allowed the creature to live, double strike and typically trample for its life total and although its equip cost was high, usually it was worth it given that it virtually gave a creature +3/+0 and trample at worst. It ended up costing 3-4 mana most often, which I found was a fine return on investment. In this (putting it kindly) trainwreck deck, Embercleave was the only target for Stoneforge Mystic and was hardly cheated into play, but was one of the best cards in the deck due to how much damage it represented.

From my Cube:


(Sideboard was Wrath of God, Creeping Tar Pit, and some random high-cost creatures.)

Even with its high damage output, it is yet another card that doesn't burn and is parasitic to aggro, a la Light up the Stage, Risk Factor, Sulfuric Vortex. While Red leans aggressive, there's still only so much room for these kinds of cards, like with non-aggro Red cards like Fires of Invention.

Mentally, whenever I saw it played, I asked myself if its overall impact was better than Slaying Fire, another card that I tried out. Overall, it was better. Because of its inherent narrowness, it's not something that I'd recommend super highly as a 360-staple-not-close or whatever the kids say these days, but it was overall pretty impressive, especially its rather mediocre appearance.

Castle Embereth
Slaying Fire

Castle Embereth is the best Red utility land as we've previously seen ones like Barbarian Ring and the underrated Hanweir Battlements. Even though it's activated cost is on the cheaper side, still was pretty expensive for Red aggro to use. Like with the other Castles, the opportunity cost to play it is more a Cube slot question than a Cube deck slot question, as I found that it was usually a painless add for Red aggro.

Slaying Fire's obvious analog are cards like Flame Javelin and Char, 3-damage burn spells that were mainly for aggro decks. Slaying Fire is better than Flame Javelin since it can at least be cast for 2r as an Open Fire; this usually was more valuable than the ability to cast Flame Javelin for 2rr or 4r. That said, you can do better with cheaper burn that you're not playing, like Galvanic Blast.

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Green

Gilded Goose

Gilded Goose - Something that I've noticed over the years is that it's incredibly easy to dismiss things that don't work on a conventional axis, resulting in underrating cards, something I'm already seeing with Theros: Beyond Death's Elspeth, Sun's Nemesis (which I've found to be spectacular in testing since it was spoiled). We've seen some variations on the theme, from Boreal Druid, to Joraga Treespeaker, but there hasn't been one like Gilded Goose - something that creates something when it enters the battlefield, making it more of a Lotus Petal than a consistent mana source. But I found that this didn't hamper its performance for Cube, despite looking like a card that's reliant on help from other food cards, when that isn't the case at all.

Although it may seem like it gets worse as the game goes on since it can't consistently ramp throughout the course of the entire game, usually being able to ramp once to get a 3- or 4-drop out early was enough to pay for the cost of admission.

Even still, there were times plans got disrupted (like your 3-mana play being ripped out of your hand with a Thoughtseize type effect), where the Goose was able to avoid the, as Sirfunchalot put it, "walk of shame" of not having anything better to do than attack with your mana elf. Being able to recharge with more food and act as a lifegain source in racing scenarios was a great factor, and the food token meant something was left behind if someone "bolted the bird." When comparing cards to ones that perform similar functions, it's easy to focus on what the new cards *can't* do as opposed to different things that it *can* do. Take this example from my Cube:


Or this list from Sirfunchalot's Cube:


There's hardly a "food theme" in these decks, aside from a Wicked Wolf/Gilded Goose synergy in the second deck. Thinking that Gilded Goose requires food synergy to be good is an erroneous evaluation.

It's still not quite as good as the old standby mana elves, but even then, it's certainly better than cards like Kodama's Reach that have stuck around in Cubes for longer than it should have. The goose, however, has been pure gold for Green Cube decks.

Lovestruck Beast

Lovestruck Beast - Usually, when I write these reviews, I note cards with placeholder text. My cat typed the following for Lovestruck Beast:

279*+9.2

\9+-6* /

Is he saying he loves this card? That he's the beast and I'm the 1/1 or vice versa? That he loves his humans? We love you too, little buddy, and you're certainly no beast and I love this card for Cube.

SirFunchalot recently wrote a reddit post about the "unga bunga" method of approaching Green, approaching it from a guerilla warfare method of using creatures with flash and/or resiliency to get around issues with Green midrange and rampy decks just marching into opponent's counterspells and removal, lining up poorly against those decks and getting grinded into dust.

Lovestruck Beast utilizes the "multiple bodies" axis of this plan to fight spot removal. "Moose and Squirrel" cards like Vital Splicer, Wolfbriar Elemental and Trumpeting Herd are great for fighting on this axis, and I've found Lovestruck Beast to be another great card for that strategy.

Sometimes it was a 1/1 for g as a way to poke away at planeswalkers, that kicked later in the game to make a huge threat. In 3-kids-in-a-trenchcoat decks like this, it's certainly annoying to lose on a 1/1 to allow the 5/5 to attack, since this deck's game plan is to attack quickly.


But in your usual midrange Green deck like this from Sirfunchalot's Cube?


Usually having the beast as a 5/5 defender wasn't that bad and still did a great job of stonewalling aggro. Also, since most mana elves are 1/1s, I found that the feared scenario of it being a 5/5 stuck on defense from the opponent dealing with the beast's 1/1 hardly ever happened in reality. Overall, a solid efficient beater with a bit of card advantage for Green.

Wicked Wolf
Once Upon a Time

Wicked Wolf's obvious analog is Stalking Yeti, a four mana 3/3 that fights something when it comes into play. We don't tend to see a lot of Stalking Yetis in Cube and although that's influenced by its snow ability, it's more that Red has a much easier time dealing with small creatures than Green does, due to Red's bevy of burn. The same doesn't apply to Green, and while it has some ways to fight creatures recently - Voracious Hydra, 1ggg Vivien - it still lags behind all other colors in dealing with opposing creatures, making it inherently more valuable in Green.

Although it's mainly seeing play in Standard alongside other food generators, I found that it doesn't "require a food theme" at all to be good. Usually, when Wicked Wolf was in someone's hand, it usually acted like a Green Nekrataal type creature - eating a 2/2 and trading if the need arose.

Over the years, it's a trap that I've seen Cube players and designers getting tripped up on - looking at something in the ideal case, and if it can't meet those standards, it means it can't work out in Cube.

"Goblin Rabblemaster is just a goblins or tokens card,"

"History of Benalia requires a knight theme,"

"Heirloom Blade requires a tribal theme,"

"Ajani, Strength of the Pride requires a lifegain theme",

Etc., etc., etc.

A tale as old as time. If there's one lesson that I hope Cube drafters and curators learn this year, it's that this type of "this requires an X theme to be good" evaluation isn't useful because it fails to represent scenarios outside of idealized ones, resulting in incomplete analysis.

Tl;dr- play Wicked Wolf in your Cube. Don't get caught up on the flavor text.

Once Upon a Time - we've seen several of these kinds of cards in Green over the years, but they've never really made much traction, with the exception of a few like Oath of Nissa, which isn't hard to get mana value from in a color that lacks card selection. When testing it out, I found that it didn't hit the freecast all that often, which shouldn't really surprise anyone. These kinds of cards that are extremely reliant on being cast early in the game like Aether Vial and Runaway Steam-Kin, fare much better in Constructed formats where these kinds of cards are played as a 4-of, not as a 1-of in a 40-card deck. Being an instant and not failing on cast (I don't recall it missing once for the entire time it was tested out) were useful factors

Since introducing more flashy Green cards, being an instant has been more of a factor for representing both a creature and instant-speed interaction, and overall, being a 2-mana spell wasn't as much of a problem in Green decks because of mana acceleration. Certainly, nowhere near as broken as it is in Constructed formats, but certainly not bad either - pretty solid as a Cube performer.

Wildborn Preserver
Questing Beast

Wildborn Preserver - Generally, these kinds of flashy cards work best in a pack, since they represent casting these over multiple turns. While being an Ashcoat Bear is its floor, what I found surprising was how good it was with token generators, as it triggered off of most of them in Red and Green. This meant that the caster usually had to commit to using mana on their main phase, but usually the payoff was worth it to make an Abyss without having to commit extra cards to do so, although doing that with a mana dork was fine too and having a "flash theme" or a "token theme" was hardly necessary to make this good.

If you haven't checked out that post, I'd suggest doing so because it's got some fantastic info for looking at Green as a Cube color, but even if you're not fully on board with that ideology, it's still a solid performer in your bog standard Green deck.

Questing Beast - Green 4-drops were terrible for a while, which was a shame for a color that ramps so well. We've recently gotten great ones like Wicked Wolf, Nightpack Ambusher, Trumpeting Herd, honorary 4-drop "hype-dra" Voracious Hydra, Shifting Ceratops, and with some newfound appreciation for some old fogeys like Wolfbriar Elemental, Briarhorn - much like the trope that Simic cards are bad, the "Green 4-drops are bad" trope may be dead after 2019.

While I will say that Questing Beast has been overrated for Cube since, at the end of the day, it is a Baneslayer-style creature that has weaknesses of trading down against spot removal, it having haste and vigilance meant that it almost always was able to get a hit in and hold the fort. It's other abilities - being able to attack planeswalkers and get around small creatures - worked well in tandem since tokens usually were used to protect planeswalkers. The protection hosing part wasn't super relevant but occasionally stopped protection from a sword.

This meat-and-potatoes goodstuff 3-0 deck was from nyoumans' Cube:


Castle Garenbrig
Syr Faren, the Hengehammer
Wildwood Tracker

Castle Garenbrig is about as close as we'll get to a Sol land in 2019. It usually helped to ramp out a 6-drop early, and inclusion mainly depends on how much you're focusing on mega-ramp as a Green strategy, since it was pretty mediocre otherwise.

Syr Faren, the Hengehammer, Wildwood Tracker - both of these cards are solid for green aggro, Wildwood Tracker moreso by virtue of being a virtual 2/2 for 1. Much like with Venerable Knight, if you're in the target market for these cards, you don't need me to tell you. These types of cards are more supporting cast for Green aggro than actual payoff for branching into that archetype.

The Great Henge
Feasting Troll King
Thorn Mammoth
Beanstalk Giant

The Great Henge - there's a lot that needs to go right for this to work in Cube, needing a relatively large creature to be in play and this in hand. With only one Stonehenge in a deck, this was too inconsistent to work, even if the payoff of "going off" was high.

Feasting Troll King is a lot of value for six when hard cast, with it essentially returning to play for free or gaining a boatload of life if it dies. This helps to mitigate some of the removal vulnerability liability that these kinds of creatures have. The 2gggg cost isn't as bad as you'd think due to mana elves making that cost less intensive, but it still wasn't played often due to the intense Green cost upfront. There's better things to do with your Green mana in Cube.

Thorn Mammoth was a small version of Apex Altisaur, a big dumb Green thing that ate something else, but found the board impact of such a creature to be a bit small for a 6+ mana finisher, since the body wasn't the best for the cost and lacked evasion. A decent option to help Green-heavy or Mono-Green decks to be able to have ways to deal with opposing creatures if you're using heavy Green ramp, but just play Trumpeting Herd instead, you'll thank me later.

Beanstalk Giant - for the most part, 3-mana ramp like Cultivate and Kodama's Reach tend to get overrated compared to how they compare to the good ol' standbys of Llanowar Elves and Wall of Roots, since going from 2 mana to 4 mana is much more important than going from 3 to 5. In theory, Beanstalk Giant at least allows the land to come into play untapped, but we found that even with that as a base mode, it wasn't enough to make up for the fact 3-mana ramp looks better than it actually plays.

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Multicolored

Oko, Thief of Crowns

Oko, Thief of Crowns - by now, Oko's power is a known quantity, so I won't pontificate on how it's a great Cube card - easily the most powerful Simic card - but I'll note how his ability to turn things into Elks has translated well into Cube from its wider metagame, turning things ranging from Tangle Wire, various equipment, giant monsters and even upgrading small creatures into 3/3s as his ability to answer threats and to create threats transcends formats.

With Ice-Fang Coatl, Hydroid Krasis and Oko, it's pretty safe to say that the old trope of Simic cards being bad is one that doesn't apply as much in 2019.

Cultic Cube had this in a 3-0 deck from his Cube - side note if you haven't watched his videos, I'd highly recommend watching all of them. He's the Rhystic Studies of Cube videos.


premiersoupir | Cultic Cube09/18/2019:

Oko was sweet! he is a beast of a turn two play, which is where he seems best, as his "ult" arrives quickly but still takes a turn to turn on. getting him down early is a real headache for the opponent, as it disincentivizes their early plays or encourages them to make otherwise suboptimal sequencing decisions to play around oko.

I never turned an elf into a Centaur Courser, but that seems like a sweet line of play

I didn't play him enough times to say with confidence, but last night I did use the 3/3 ability more than the food ability, yes. I did use all three of his abilities at least once. I managed to exchange food for JVP against reanimator one game. opponent was desperate enough for a discard outlet that he then Treachery'd his own jvp, lol. but then I got him next turn.

Note the timestamp! #hipster

Garruk, Cursed Huntsman
The Royal Scion

Garruk, Cursed Huntsman is reminiscent of Elspeth, Sun's Champion in that it immediately makes multiple tokens to bring the board to a grinding halt and its primary mode is to spam 2/2s, which was usually worth the mana cost on its own. Although the secondary mode was used less often, it was definitely useful if there was a creature that couldn't be dealt with in combat. I have seen many comparisons to Vraska, Relic Seeker but that's mainly because it's a planeswalker. Grave Titan may be a better comparison due to how they stabilize the board, even though it's worse if you need to play to the board and better against decks like control.

Usually, six mana cards are relegated to slower decks who need something impactful to stabilize the board immediately. In the past, we have had creatures like Baneslayer Angel fill that role, but as the power level of cards increases, so too must our answers. A planeswalker like Garruk allows the player to create bodies that can stop multiple creatures, or be used to kill a single big threat if needed.

The Royal Scions is an atypical Izzet card, as it's too low impact for decks that live outside of the red zone. Boosting power + trample is nearly pointless until closing the game in slow Izzet decks (and as discussed earlier, finishers are usually the most replaceable aspect of a control deck) and looting for 1 isn't worth tapping out on your third main phase either; unsurprisingly found it to be a poor performer in decks like Grixis control.

Much like with Garruk, Cursed Huntsman, don't get caught up on the fact that it's a Planeswalker and forcing yourself to compare this to other Izzet walkers like Ral Zarek - it'd be silly to compare Goblin Rabblemaster and Flametongue Kavu, so don't do that with planeswalkers either.

That being said, lower to the ground Izzet and Red decks splashing for Blue were able to use it very well, as the usefulness of its pump ability went from useless to very useful, making it play like a free-equip equipment a la Grafted Wargear, that had a backup plan of looting. This deck from Fleish_dawg's Cube is a great example of such a deck that wants to beat down with the help of the wonder twins:


Being a card that was mainly for non-control made it significantly narrower than most Izzet cards - and inclusion in your Cube primarily depends on how much you want to push those cards, as I found it weak as a "generic" Izzet card when considering its role in decks like Grixis Control.

Drown in the Loch
Escape to the Wilds
Lochmere Serpent

Drown in the Loch requires a bit too much setup for Cube, especially for a gold card. In theory, it offers a lot of flexibility to be both a removal spell and a counterspell, but I found it unreliable at both.

Escape to the Wilds - I tried this out but it usually was a bad Harmonize with a weird timing restriction on cards - drawing cards that can't be played (usually the next turn, since it usually used up all of your mana, leaving you with virtually one mana from the extra land drop) like reactive cards without a target were usually a disaster. Even though Red tends to get Elkin Bottle style draw effects, usually they're on cards that can be played in low-curve decks, like Chandra, Torch of Defiance, so the timing window wasn't as much of an issue. Playing a 5-drop like this in an aggro deck is a bad idea. It was in the sideboard of one of the wonky 5-color trainwreck decks that I 3-0ed with in my Cube. I jammed some post-game matches with it, and it was always a poor investment on its mana cost - and if it couldn't do it in a deck with such loose restrictions on inclusion, I can't imagine it doing much elsewhere (which it didn't in decks like ramp, either). Overall, I just wasn't impressed at all, and it was unceremoniously thrown out after being done with testing new cards.

It was worse than the myriad of Gruul planeswalkers and straight-up better cards exist in the color pair. Even taking Red's much worse card draw vs Blue's into consideration, this is a billion times worse than Urban Evolution. Don't bother.

Lochmere Serpent is relatively mana-efficient on rate and having flash and several abilities make it a strong finisher; but, multicolored slots, particularly for a role as limited as a control deck finisher, can do better, even if it's with less flashy cards.

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Artifacts

Stonecoil Serpent

Stonecoil Serpent - this serpent, on the other hand, has played out excellently for Cube as a creature that scales decently in the later stages of the game. Generally, I found that it was cast as a 2/2 with a few keywords, that had the potential of randomly being a giant monster in the late game. Unsurprisingly, the trample was the most important factor, but having reach and protection from multicolored were also useful, but to a significantly lesser degree. That may be because I generally keep my multicolored sections slim in my Cubes.

These kinds of modal cards are more powerful than they look; one thing that I've been thinking about recently is that while Cube designers have correctly determined that they should be grading multicolored cards more harshly because of the relative lack of decks that can play them - the same hasn't happened in the opposite manner for artifacts being graded on a curve. I'm not sure if this because artifacts are generally the most powerful card type (much moreso than planeswalkers) resulting in them being incorrectly evaluated more harshly than they should, but I'm hoping that implicit assumption gets challenged more by Cube designers this year.

Cards like Icehide Golem and this do a lot of heavy lifting for supporting aggressive decks in Cube, since they can be played in any deck that wants to beat down quickly, whereas a card like Goblin Guide, as amazing as it is, only can really be played in decks packing a lot of Red mana sources.

Stonecoil Serpent and Gingerbrute (we'll get to that shortly) do a lot more heavy lifting than you'd think for supporting aggro in your Cube, and it's been a great performer in decks like these from Sirfunchalot's Cube:


And


Stonecoil Serpent's playable in midrange too, but I haven't really seen that come up very often since aggro's generally more accepting of playing it as a 2/2 for 2 than midrange, but even if it's "just" an aggro card, it's been a great one for Cube decks.

Gingerbrute

Gingerbrute - If you've read my reviews before, you'll recall Mark Rosewater bringing up additive distraction and how that tends to plague card evaluation. As a refresher:

"To explain, imagine I made a vanilla creature (this is design so creative hasn't seen it yet):

Bear on Steroids

1g

Creature - Bear

3/4

If I showed that around, I'd probably get pretty good responses. We've only done one card with the same cost and stats before (Plant Elemental from Portal) and it required you to sacrifice a Forest. Now imagine I tweak the card:

Geeky Bear on Steroids

1g

Creature - Bear

If you control at least ten artifacts, CARDNAME gains trample.

3/4

If I show this card around, I'm going to get a lot fewer positive responses. People will focus on the condition about ten artifacts, and many will come to the conclusion that there isn't really a deck for this card.

But here's the thing: players were excited by the card without the extra line of text. Geeky Bear on Steroids is by every definition of the term "strictly better" than Bear on Steroids from a power standpoint. It has a conditional upside. It's just as good as the original and, in a very narrow case, can be even better.

My point is that how players perceive cards is very connected to how they process what's on it. Having the word "teammate" on cards was throwing people because it made them evaluate the card in terms of whether or not they might play a format where having a teammate mattered."

In Cube, I tend to find this is even *more* of a factor, due to a fixation on themes in design. With Wicked Wolf, I talked about how it's been a great performer even without a "food theme." When the card was previewed, I recall seeing a thread asking if it was "a meme" to consider Gingerbrute as a good card for Cube.

My friend Zolthux brought up the point that if the card was something more "serious," evaluation would probably have been closer to the card's actual power. There was some of this with Fblthp and it's still being underrated:

  • not having a tier-1 deck to call him home in Constructed
  • him being on a card with a bunch of trinket text as a way to draw more cards and
  • being, well, a long-standing meme.

Much like Stonecoil Serpent, Gingerbrute has been a great performer in aggro decks in my Cube and in others as a card that isn't the star of the show but is a very good supporting cast member. I can't help but think it'd have been received more positively if it looked like this:

It compares similarly to Tin Street Dodger on offense by being a 1/1 haste for 1 with some way to get around blockers, and we found that both of their dodging abilities played about the same, as usually haste creatures weren't on defense to block ( the haster could hang back on defense if need be, but that was a rarity).

As an offensive-oriented creature, it wasn't featured in decks that cared about gaining life, but I found that it was a great clutch ability to have when it mattered, like in aggro mirrors, racing scenarios, or if played in a deck that used its life as a resource.

Decks that played it looked like this, your standard meat-and-potatoes aggro decks that don't care about food themes or other such nonsense, just beating opponents over the head - like this deck from my Cube:


And this from Sirfunchalot's Cube:


So, is Gingerbrute "a meme?" No.

It's a great aggro card, play it in your Cube.

Heraldic Banner
Enchanted Carriage
Inquisitive Puppet

Heraldic Banner - Every once in a while, there's an artifact which performs the role of supporting aggressive decks. It played as a store brand Domri, Anarch of Bolas that couldn't fight opposing creatures and usually required playing a deck with creatures mostly of one color and spells of another (if playing it in a non-mono color deck). Even when grading it on a curve, it was still barely passing. Enchanted Carriage and Inquisitive Puppet played similarly as filler in creatures slots, although the puppet was significantly worse than Gingerbrute and Stonecoil Serpent.

Kenrith, the Returned King

Kenrith, the Returned King is a card I hadn't given much thought until Justin Parnell talked about how it was a performer in the SCGCon 2019 winter Cube. I got turned onto it late and didn't get a whole lot of reps with King Kenrith, but Justin did note as follows:

"During the last week of SCG CON Cube testing, the 3-0 deck was a Uwxx midrange/control deck featuring Kenrith main. But I don't have the actual decklist."

Reddit poster k0r3an talked about trying King Kenrith from Justin's feedback:

"I initially disregarded this card entirely until I heard Justin Parnell make a case for it in the context of his 360 power Cube used for this year's SCGCON. We can argue the merits of that Cube in general, but I was intrigued enough to give it a try and so far my results feel... mixed. As a pure white card, you could do far worse even in a relatively high powered environment, and the rate at which he gains life, if left unchecked, is actually considerable. It's a nice mid to late game threat and mana sink in one. I think the splash argument into one or more of the other colors is maybe more questionable. The WX+ decks that have a relatively focused plan will not benefit much from Kenrith's flexibility, and so what you're left with is (again) a mid to late decently sized game creature that can maybe do a few additional things. I'll have to see if my opinion changes but it's quite likely that he won't last much longer beyond the next set release or two in favor of testing other, hopefully more interesting White cards."

I jammed some games with it vs. other Cube decks in my Cube in the Fires deck shown earlier with King replacing Fires; I found results mixed as well. It suffered similar issues that other, similar creatures had - it wasn't so much that it was a budget Thragtusk or that it some modes were better than others, it was more that it required a significant amount of time to be worth the investment of a 5-mana-main-phase creature.

Counterintutively, the lifegain was one of the better modes since, as much as lifegain is bemoaned as being useless, the times when it's useful are great, like in racing scenarios or if lifegain shuts the door for the opponent to be able to win against you when it's in sufficient amounts. This did make it play a more Baneslayer Angel style role with the potential to doing more if it was cast late, but was also relatively mana intensive. The White, Blue and Black modes were the main modes, which is about right for the decks that want it, too.

Over the years, I've learned to trust my gut when seeing a card in action as theoretical evaluations can only do so much (and usually, they don't do enough). When seeing a card surprises me, I have an "oh wow" moment, so I usually make sure to watch other matches like a hawk when I Cube (as we're usually in close quarters at a table or two) but that "oh wow" moment never happened with King Kenrith, like it did with Fires of Invention. This may be a YMMV case but I wasn't a fan.

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Lands

Fabled Passage

Fabled Passage - as an upgraded Terramorphic Expanse/Evolving Wilds, it should surprise no one that this is a land that's a solid Cube performer. I was, however, surprised at how often the land came into play untapped, which helped to get around annoying scenarios when your Terramorphic Expanse was used to help fetch a basic for a splash color, resulting in making those splashes a bit more reliable. That said, it was still a great performer for meat-and-potatoes two-color Cube decks to improve their consistency and was overall a great add.

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Commander 2019 Bonus Content

Apex Altisaur
Scroll of Fate

Apex Altisaur - as a nine-mana creature, this is mainly for mega ramp decks and cheating into play. It played out about as you'd expect, as a Green analog to Plague Wind that almost always survived to fight again. In theory, it was something that could be hard cast but found in reality that it wasn't done - your mileage may vary but even then, consider this as a cheat target first, so its role as a Green fighter wasn't as important since it was usually paired with other colors like Black and Blue - colors that have easier times dealing with opposing creatures. But even then, sometimes even just a 10/10 ham sandwich does the trick since it kills in 2 attacks. All in all, pretty good.

Scroll of Fate is a card that piqued my personal interest as an aggressive-leaning artifact to spam out bodies, playing somewhat like a Pack Rat but closer to something like a hasty Imperious Perfect. I had thought that it would manifested creatures that would upgrade from 2/2s, but I found that it almost always manifested dead cards like excess lands or cards that outlived their usefulness in decks like this from my Cube.


I've liked it much more than Heraldic Banner as an "aggro-ish" artifact - solid and underrated, but hardly essential.

Ghired, Conclave Exile
Anje's Ravager

Ghired, Conclave Exile is the best tricolor Naya card and a decent splash payoff as a mix between Broodmate Dragon and Goblin Rabblemaster by being a creature that brings a friend and snowballs incredibly quickly. Unlike a lot of Naya cards like Realm Razer and Zacama, Primal Calamity, Ghired was a card that was fine to splash and I found that he usually got an attack in with either himself or his rhino friend.

I usually advise for Cube designers to trim tricolor cards rather than add them, as tricolor cards usually aren't worth their restrictive mana costs aside from very few exceptions. The limiting factor of what decks want them tend to be under-considered by many Cube designers because of how powerful these cards appear.

But that being said, I wouldn't raise an eyebrow seeing this in a Cube pack like I would with Zacama. I'd be hard-pressed to find a slot for it, though.

Anje's Ravager is another card that favors low-to-the-ground Red aggro decks that want to empty their hands, but this is just worse than all 5 Goblin Rabblemaster variants (Goblin Rabblemaster, Hanweir Garrison, Najeela, the Blade-Blossom, Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin and Legion Warboss.) It has the highest payoff from being able to refill the hand, but I never really found it to be worth the payoffs, overall, even without taking into its drawback of having to attack and that the madness part was flavor text.

Madness is usually also just poor payoff for the cost required to get madness to occur and how anemic the cards are when not cast as madness, like Fiery Temper.

Game Day 2019

Earthshaker Giant

Earthshaker Giant - overruns are generally represented in Cube by giant 8-drops like Craterhoof Behemoth. There's been a few smaller ones, like Great Oak Guardian, which played more like a combat trick and Twin piece than a true Overrun, due to the lack of trample. Standalone Overruns have fared poorly in Cube for reasons talked about earlier - as having creatures in play is usually a given in retail Limited due to the lack of good mass removal, but the same can't as easily be said for your normal Cube board state.

I've found that this is a good merging of the two - it isn't something that you have to ramp into incredibly hard like with the 8-drops and while it doesn't usually end the game, it usually more than pays for itself in damage, prompting the same "does the opponent have it" questions that Craterhoof and its ilk bring to the party on stalled board states. Green 6-drops are on the weak side in Cube - and we've seen filler like Greenwarden of Murasa and Woodland Bellower for middling 6-drops. Earthshaker Giant has been significantly better than those - close to Honored Hydra.

The other Game Day 2019 cards are too expensive for Cube; I'm not sure what universe wants a 6-mana hellrider in Black (maybe the same universe where 1-drops are bad in aggro?) but I'd be surprised to find a Cube where that reality exists.

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Blog, featuring my Pauper, Peasant and recently unpowered Cube list. (list hasn't been updated to reflect this.)

The Third Power, a nearly decade-long running podcast that Anthony Avitollo and I host.

Find me on Twitter@Usmantherad. Check out these discords for Cube discussion!

Major shoutouts to Zolthux, Sirfunchalot and buildingadeck for providing some feedback on this article!

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