A long time coming (aren’t they all?), but we’re here!
Big changes this go-around: The cube got bigger, the fat got added, and we went all-in on new Return to Ravnica goodies. Let’s go!
So what happened with white? Well, Cloudshift just didn’t end up being that strong. I had all the hopes, I had some good early results, but as the days went by, and the U/W archetype was given a few more attempts, Momentary Blink really is just the creme`. Mentor of the Meek just made you commit to a board that would later be swept, or would fizzle. Neither situation really worked out. Angel of Jubilation is a fine Angel, but very color intensive and ultimately a bit too difficult to cast in anything but a mono-white deck. While we do lose a Glorious Anthem of sorts, we do gain some serious firepower with this update.
So, what’s new? Sublime Archangel is completely overpowered, if you weren’t aware. Angel of Serenity isn’t far behind. Ajani, Caller of the Pride is a terrific aggro Planeswalker and does all kinds of good work in Boros, U/W Tempo and W/B aggro decks. Increasing Devotion helps fuel ramp decks and sits at the top of W/x aggro curves, and Mirror Entity is a card that really lets you take advantage of a token aggro strategy.
Lastly, who doesn’t love the ridiculous power of Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite? Took too long to get her in here, but I’m glad it’s fixed.
So…Fettergeist. Super cool, a big body and not a lot of mana investment. But overall, I’d like to have more of a fatty angle with Sphinx of Uthuun (for those fun Green/Blue decks) than I would another Serendib Efreet (particularly one with a drawback, even if it’s minor).
On the spell side, there is no shortage of amazing things that Blue can do. If you haven’t heard, there’s a new Jace in town, and Jace, Architect of Thought is the business. The actual business. You will never be unhappy with him, and he will do all sorts of unfair things in the game. Augur of Bolas is a terrific addition to any control deck, and Ponder returns! Setup those Delver of Secrets and see the power of Cyclonic Rift. Forbidden Alchemy, a late bloomer for me, has shown it’s worth in ‘Tog decks or 5C control builds.
Before we begin, there is no doubt this is the end of an era. For so long, for years and years, Juzam stood alone. He was popular, he was powerful, he was all that and multiple bags of fried potatoes. But then…over time…creatures got better. The writing was on the wall with Plague Sliver, but it was finally Desecration Demon that pushed him out. A huge fatty that causes your opponent to chump guys and if the board is clear you win quickly and easily (and often in a shorter time period).
Makes me sad, and I will always hold a place in my heard for ole Juzzy Poo (that’s what I call him. Don’t judge me).
With a color that needed a bunch of cards, it really need some aggro punch. Black is always the Black Sheep (ha) of cubes, and many players go in a variety of directions. For me? I want to bring back the Reanimator element and I also want to push the aggro elements.
Cards like Entomb, Diabolic Servitude and Living Death are giving you an elements of both combo and reanimator strategies. I particularly look forward to seeing Living Death do some serious damage to control decks. Appetite for Brains is a powerhouse in my cube, where 4+ drops rule. Pack Rat, if you haven’t played with it, is completely absurd in limited.
True story: Charles Gindy plays against a buddy of mine and keeps five lands and a Pack Rat. Won that game handily. 1/1 into a pair of 2/2s, 2/2s into a trio of 3/3s, 3/3s into a foursome of 4/4s. GG. So, yeah. Fair card.
Meanwhile, the beats are brought with Thrill-Kill Assassin (who blocks this guy? I mean, seriously?), while Knight of Infamy is right behind. I’m also happy with another sweet fatty to ramp into (important for a B/G archetype) in the form of Rune-Scarred Demon.
So Red went in what I would describe as it’s ‘usual’ direction (super efficient duders & burn spells), while switching it up a bit too.
First up, I switched out Sudden Shock for Searing Spear. I know it would destroy target Psychatog, but Sudden Shock really wasn’t doing much else, and having another two mana, three damage burn spell was something I feel was a lot more relevant, a lot more ‘answerable’ (as it were), and personally I’m okay with giving the Psychatog deck a chance in hell to actually beat RDW
So for the beats we have Ash Zealot, Gore-House Chainwalker, Kruin Striker (you had to hover over that one, it’s okay–a surprisingly strong card), and on top of the curve we have Thundermaw Hellkite bringing it home. That card is so very unfair. Speaking of unfair, have you played against Mizzium Mortars in limited?
But it is the final two enchantments that cause you to go hmmmm. Sneak Attack is a card just full of potential in all sorts of ways. Not only does it work in ramp decks, but it gives an almost ‘combo’ element to those who draft Eldrazi (we’ll get to that in a sec), or it let’s you just throw more guys on the battlefield for maximum damage. A super fun card, I’ve missed it. Splinter Twin is a card I want to exist in my cube. It will be niche, not always relevant, but even as a pseudo Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker it should do a fine job. Splinter Twin-ing a Cloudgoat Ranger is not exactly an embarrassing play.
Another old school favorite leaves us this go-around as well, in the form of Moo-Moo Plow Cow, aka Thornling. He was a fine man that did good work for a long time, but as time has gone on, his abilities aren’t powerful enough for the investment any longer. He will be missed. Somberwald Sage was a card that had a few flashes in the pan, but ultimately wasn’t powerful enough to really get there.
Birthing Pod is a very powerful card that does all kinds of awesome things, and Thragtusk…doesn’t really need explanation. Best green creature ever much? Perhaps could tangle with Primeval Titan for that title, but I don’t know. It’s all kinds of unfair.
In the meantime, I feel that Green really, really needs RAMP. More than anything else. The benefit of green cards is the ability to ramp and get ahead of other decks before their ‘fair’ manabases catch up. So in comes Elves of Deep Shadow, Devoted Druid, Scorned Villager, Farhaven Elves and Wood Elves. With their powerful ramping power, what else would you play but Craterhoof Behemoth! More ramp needs more fat! And I plan on giving it to Green and other colors. Which leads me to…
In the world of Artifacts and Colorless cards, we have some pretty big shifts.
First up? I added back good ole Fellwar Stone and Gilded Lotus. These mana rocks and blooms give the big mana decks the tools they need to push past counterspells or smaller creatures. Then of course we add the amazing Chromatic Lantern to the mix. You haven’t lived until you tap your Maze of Ith for any color I tell you!
But when it’s time to go big, I gave everyone a lil something. Our two Eldrazi friends, Kozilek, Butcher of Truth and Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre are back in action! I’m super excited to see the G/x ramp decks just take these guys and run with em.
As for the drops, we have a few losses. I like Tumble Magnet better than Ring of Gix, I wanted Precursor Golem to be better than it turned out to be (just far better things to be doing at five mana in almost any deck that ran it), Trusty Machete is just…so…loose when compared to almost any other Equipment in the cube. Lastly, I loved Phyrexian Processor more than most, but at the end of the day it was slow and not as powerful as it once was. Powder Keg is cute, but has been replaced largely by Ratchet Bomb, the strictly better version.
But when it comes to Return to Ravnica, it’s all about the Multicolor cards.
Isperia, Supreme Judge
So…yeah. About those Gold cards.
First up, the loss of a Cube Originator. Spiritmonger has been in my cube from the very beginning, and, much like Juzam Djinn, it kinda stings to remove him, but the tides have turned and he’s not the man he used to be.
Not happy about losing Venser, the Sojourner, but that guy was just never powerful enough. He would blink something that wasn’t exciting, his second ability was largely wasted, and his ultimate never fired. Wall of Denial is leaving us because I want to weaken U/W Control a bit (and yes, I recognize the irony in removing a card I just put back in to _strengthen_ an archetype I now want to de-power. Comes with the territory.)
Other long-standing cards that leave us include Wilt-Leaf Liege (just too color intensive and not powerful enough in today’s world), Qasali Pridemage (not powerful enough for the color combination hurdle necessary), Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind got a sweet upgrade to a Dracogenius, and Glissa the Traitor was super cool…but always too cute and often a pass out for all those involved.Sigarda, Host of Herons is SO cool. It’s so very. But there just isn’t a spot for it. The mana cost is awkward, it doesn’t have the impact you’d like in the G/W Aggro deck, and ultimately just didn’t work out. Sadness. Lastly, Blightning was replaced with Rakdos’s Return (upgrades!).
As for the adds, I will let it be known that I am 100% okay with a bit of unbalance until Gatecrash arrives. The ability for some to be ‘lopsided’ actually makes the drafting more interesting to me.
Azorius: Isperia, Supreme Judge just stops all of the attacks (that aren’t lethal), and Lyev Skyknight will do terrific things to the U/W Tempo deck. The spells, however, are where Azorius shines brightest. Azorius Charm is SUCH a beating versus an aggro deck (whether it’s Lifelink or Time Ebb), Detention Sphere is another Oblivion Ring to get excited about, and Sphinx’s Revelation along with Supreme Verdict ensure maximum control in the decks that want those cards the most.
Selesnya: Armada Wurm is amazing. Nuff said. Loxodon Smiter hits like a freight train, and Selesnya Charm is just pure value. It’s exiling ability is most prominent in my cube, but combat tricks and extra guys never hurt.
Rakdos: I needed to bring the serious beats, so in came Rakdos Cackler and Rakdos Shred-Freak. For the spells, Dreadbore is second to none, Rakdos Charm is surprisingly effective (punishes token decks, destroys dumb things like Vedalken Shackles), and Rakdos’s Return is, as mentioned, the upgraded Blightning we all were looking for. When your discard spell is also a Fireball, you’re doing all right.
Izzet: With much weaker spells in Return to Ravnica, the Izzet are left with only a few creature additions. Mercurial Chemister is a complete house that MUST be dealt with IMMEDIATELY or it just takes over the board. Niv-Mizzet’s second incarnation is much better than his first. I wish I had some spells to gush about, but cards like Epic Experiment are just too wacky to get behind.
Golgari: I was excited for Deathrite Shaman from the moment I saw him, and he has not disappointed. Whether messing up Reanimator strategies to shrinking Tarmogoyfs to ruining Snapcaster Mage‘s day, this guy is awesome.
Dreg Mangler was pushed and it shows. The Golgari / BG Rock deck is a thing, and it’s cards like Dreg Mangler and Lotleth Troll that keep the beats rolling. Putrid Leech is happy alongside either of these cards.
Abrupt Decay destroys a lot of important cards, as you should well know, and it’s versatility earns it a slot. Jarad’s Orders is one that I”m keeping my eye on. I wanted to give Reanimator another push in my cube, and this is basically my gift to them. It’s also sweet in Survival of the Fittest / Recurring Nightmare decks.
So that’s it! It took many months but I’m happy with where my cube is and how it’s evolved over time. With the influx of cards you get a higher variety of decks and archetypes, and with a few niche inclusions I hope to see a few wild swings in variance arrive while cubing over the next few months.
Until Gatecrash gets here, keep cubing!