Oh yes! It’s so good to be back! I’ve been working my tail off at SCG, and that cuts into my cubing. But I’ve taken a look at my cube, shaken off some chaff, kept it the same size while adding a total of 39 new cards!
Ready to see what’s changed? Let’s go!
It’s hard out here for a hate bear. It was time to say goodbye to a true classic, Silver Knight and a recent amazing hoser, Kor Firewalker, for some more raw power and versatility. Now I love me a hate bear, and Grand Abolisher is actually doing some incredibly good work. The times it has shut down my counterspells and spells like Condemn are not imaginary and have swung games in the white weenie player’s favor.
The two pro red guys were also making it incredibly difficult for red decks to win at times. It’s a careful balance not to let U/W Control overtake your cube sessions, and I do all I can to ensure “guys in the red zone and burn to your face” is still a viable strategy. While I will miss my times with Silver Knight (as they are many), I will not miss the frustration as the RDW guy who watches his whole deck get trumped by a 2/2. Kor Firewalker was a much more potent dagger in this regard, obviously.
Goldmeadow Harrier simply got the upgrade to Gideon’s Lawkeeper (what can I say, I like pairing up my Planeswalkers with their minions), and Cloistered Youth is one HELL of a two drop. A two mana 3/3? Yessir! No need to give Kor Firewalker to the control decks–hit em where it hurts in aggro.
Other cuts include Yet Another Wrath/Armageddon Control Didn’t Need (Catastrophe), Too Slow Anymore (Magus of the Disk), Not Effective Enough (Sunblast Angel, often a 1-for-1, and if you made it to 6 mana vs Aggro and X-for-1′d this…then a lot has gone right anyway.) Had high hopes for White Sun’s Zenith but found it, again, just too much mana or too white or whatever metric you’d like to use for it living in sideboards too often and I’d rather put cards in there that add to existing archetypes or at least see play.
Super excited about Mentor of the Meek, I love my white Faceless Butcher that’s now cheaper in Fiend Hunter, God knows I love me a Cloudgoat Ranger and heeeeere’s Geist-Honored Monk! Mikaeus, the Lunarch is an unsung hero, able to fit anywhere on the curve and do some seriously good work with weenie decks. Another Ajani Goldmane is more than welcome. Lastly, I need to get Angelic Destiny in this cube and pronto. Angelic Rancor? Thank you! So sexy. Also, of course, a wonderful combo with Grand Abolisher. Oh, and Blade Splicer. Such value. Such. Value.
Lastly I switched out Emeria Angel for Hero of Bladehold (this was a late addition to this article). Hero of Bladehold is definitely strong enough for both aggro and control decks, and while Emeria Angel -was- a bit better for control, I’m happy giving aggro the better creature in this 4-drop slot.
Sacred cows? What sacred cows? I’ve moved Upheaval in and out of my cube. It’s a hard card to appreciate. It’s a hard card to draft around. It’s a tough card to put yourself in a winning position, often exclusively with Psychatog and friends.
And I just want blue cards that are fun to play and fit into more decks. I think we have that.
Volition Reins is Yet Another Control Magic. I have lots of those, and they’re cheaper too. Vesuvan Shapeshifter got replaced by a two mana version. Way, way better. I’m beyond the Pickles Lock (and it was often a silly pipe dream anyway), so let’s just continue with raw efficiency.
Azure Mage is exactly the card to replace Kira, the Great Glass-Spinner. Kira is NOT where I want blue to be in this cube. It is the best color. It is control. It is about drawing cards and doing bits of damage here and there, things that Azure Mage excels at. As for Jace, Memory Adept, what’s better than three Jaces in your cube? I mean, really?
So according to my Advanced Calculations (aka correcting my Excel formula) it appears I had 76 Black cards in my last update. Oops. Now we’re back on track, again killing some sacred cows.
Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni is a great card. A cool card. Flavorful as hell, still very popular, and will be rocking Commander and cubes for years to come. But for me, I have played with this card for–literally–six years. And it’s been a great six years. At first she was an all-star, a high pick, a heavy hitter who put fear in multiple opponents.
But over time, she began to get outclassed. I expected her to get a lot better with my black aggro push, but interestingly it only showed how expensive and narrow she really was. The aggro deck wasn’t making the control decks discard a lot of fatties, making her not as effective. You don’t want to bust her out without getting maximum value, and her spot on the curve in an aggro deck was often frustrating. Anyway, g’bye sweet rat. You’ll be missed. (But probably not.)
Just upgrading some aggro guys with Fume Spitter and friends into awesome dudes like Diregraf Ghoul, Vampire Interloper and Army-In-A-Box Bloodline Keeper. Sign in Blood was upgraded to Skeletal Scrying. Just a much better card drawing spell, instant speed, scalable, etc. One of those Wish-I-Had-It-In-There-For-Years cards.
Bloodgift Demon is pushed in all the right ways and I love it. Liliana of the Veil…do I really need to explain her inclusion? She is indeed a weapon of great power. I’m excited to see how many different control & aggro builds can use her best.
Yes that IS more drops than adds. Oops again, 2.0 beta edition. Moving on.
No one was more disappointed with Blast from the Past than I was. It’s a fine spell, really. Super fun. One problem: Super expensive. Yes, cute U/R decks love it. It can be goofy fun in G/R ramp. But the decks it saw the most play in, Mono Red, R/G aggro and R/B aggro, all wanted something cheaper, stronger, or more versatile. Feel free to imagine Brimstone Volley or Chaos Warp taking its slot.
Upgrading Red Sun’s Zenith to Devil’s Play is pretty obvious. I traded up my Fireslinger and Ghitu Slinger for cards like Instigator Gang and Chandra’s Phoenix. The first is completely unstoppable when flipped, great at the top of the aggro curve,and Chandra’s Phoenix is just amazing. I have left another sacred cow on the chopping block with Blistering Firecat. I have fond, fond memories of this card. I wish it won as much as I was always convinced it would. It usually just died and ate a lot of mana in the process.
Wildfire? Pretty sacred. Don’t care. The decks that used to use this card have moved on, become more efficient at what they do, or just use different game plans. There was a day when Keiga, the Tide Star + Wildfire was one of the most powerful one-two punches in Magic. Those days are over.
Ah, upgrades and Planeswalkers. This one is short and sweet.
I love me a Garruk, I tell you. Three Jaces, Three Garruks. Fully okay with this. Garruk, Primal Hunter is just…absurd, and Garruk Relentless is just now making its way into Standard decks the world over. Scavenging Ooze is another winner from Commander, and I think we can all agree Skinshifter is a -wee- bit more exciting than Sylvan Ranger. I cut Devoted Druid because, well, I got plenty of 1-drop accelerators and this was simply the worst/clunkiest two mana accelerator.
Lastly, oh Wolfbriar Elemental. I know what I was trying to do with you, and I think everyone else saw it too. You want to be a mono green deck’s best friend. And those decks exist. But not in this format.
And is that the Kibler-favorite Daybreak Ranger? You bet it is. Replacing the far too unsexy Rampaging Baloths (Hell, Primeval Titan is better), this card is nuts pre and post-flip. I hope it hits Standard hard, as I think it deserves it and Kibler is certainly trying to make it happen. Regardless, when it flips it’s basically Visara the Dreadful if you have red mana. Not too shabby.
Okay, so Bonehoard is cute. Seriously, seriously cute. Moving on with my life now.
Also, Lashwrithe was not actually that bad. But “not actually that bad” is not a recommendation, it is a placation and settling for a card that could be more interesting, more played, and a hell of a lot less narrow.
Sigil of Distinction I’m just tired of giving +3/+3 or +2/+2 to any given creature. Another card that reads like it would be an auto-include into every cube, but in practice has very rarely been ‘good’ let alone great. Obelisk of Alara is cool. Flavorful, neat, does somewhat powerful things with somewhat not-demanding mana requirements. I’d rather have either Shrine than this card. Or Mortarpod. Or a proactive card like Phyrexian Revoker.
As for those additions, just how sick are those Shrines? Pretty damn sick! I love their power level and am very happy to remove cards that will see little play with cards that should see lots of play.
Phyrexian Revoker should’ve been in here for awhile. Somewhat of an oversight, sometimes for size reasons, etc. But aggro decks of all sorts will appreciate naming Jace, the Mind Sculptor as soon as possible.
So, let’s play a little game of Sick Upgrades.
So I draft this U/W Control deck. You know how much mana denial I have? Not much. You know how badly I want you to not use your infinite burn spells and removal spells on my guys? Lots. I can Wrath of God and bounce your guys. I just need something that is cheap, easy to defend and kills in four turns. OHEI Geisty!
So there was once a wee little counterspell that did wee little things in various degrees. In its few and far between Blue/Green control decks (that often want to be aggro-oriented with a touch of control–and doesn’t like tough mana requirements at times), it did some good work. It stopped a few powerful spells. It messed up some important triggers.
But then the Spymaster came into town. And he draws you cards. LOTS of cards. And is quickly on the board on Turn 2 with a variety of accelerants.
Did I mention he draws you cards? Voidslime never drew me a damn thing.
Man do I love me a sweet nonbasic land. As our new Standard is slowly showing us, the best of the Innistrad rare lands are these two and it’s not close. Both do very powerful things incrementally or all at once, and often win the game soon after.
I loved Windbrisk Heights‘ reign in Standard. I’ve activated it a few times in the cube, too. I felt like it was great to try and put pressure on your opponent by threatening its use, I loved of course the tie-in with Spectral Procession, and Exotic Orchard felt like a great fixer. But Windbrisk Heights often didn’t do enough. Many times getting to the prerequisite creature amount would give you the 3-for-1 they were waiting on. Their removal spells would stop it from firing, and often you’d feel bad when you watched the whole game go by without triggering it, or you’d try so hard only to see an Elite Vanguard or something underneath.
As for Exotic Orchard…meh. I just felt like it was the worst of the fixer lands, while Moorland Haunt and/or Kessig Wolf Run are both much sexier. By miles. Lots. Bunches. Get outta here, and take your unreliable mana with you.
So that’s it! I apologize for the delay of course, but I think we’ve once again moved the goalposts. The cube is now more powerful, more streamlined, and I hope more fun. The idea is to give the most visceral experience possible, and I appreciate any and all feedback. Did I miss something from M12 or Innistrad? Should I have went all-in on Mayor of Avabruck and friends? Feel free to chime in.
Thanks again for your patience, and I expect to see you here again in February for a whole new set of changes with the release of Dark Ascension.