Yup, it’s that time again. These updates always take me longer than I think they will. They hinge on a variety of factors including my own playgroup, my design style and goals, and what I feel is balanced. Feel free to use this as a guide for your own cube or chime in with your own opinions on my choices.
The cube is now up to 689 cards, including 86 of each color, 81 Colorless/Artifact cards, 97 Multicolor cards and 81 Land cards.
With that said, let’s go!
Ah, another update, another few sacred cows sent packing into the far off meadows. This time it’s Paladin en-Vec and Eternal Dragon. Cards that have been in my cube, best I can recall, ever since my cube’s creation.
But all good things must come to an end, and while Eternal Dragon might return, it is unlikely that Paladin en-Vec will. The two things Paladin en-Vec was great against was removal spells and surviving Pyroclasm effects. Every once in a while it would block Grave Titan, but you’re losing that game anyway. The fact is, Fiendslayer Paladin does what Paladin en-Vec could do but does not–gain you life. And that is INCREDIBLY important when it comes to fighting the mono-red or red/black aggro decks. Plus any equipment gains you more life, which ole en-Vec never did.
Eternal Dragon is a fine card, but incredibly slow. While I’m still fighting to keep Genesis in, as it is very similar in it’s long-term advantages, I think Eternal Dragon is simply not as exciting or powerful as our new options today.
Because, if you haven’t played with it, Archangel of Thune is a freakin house. This girl looks a bit underpowered at 3/4, but as soon as she gets to 4/5 and puts 2-3 +1/+1 counters around on your guys, and resetting creatures like Kitchen Finks, you’ll be a believer as well. Such a sicko.
Banisher Priest is another Fiend Hunter, which is the perfect effect for a white weenie / Boros aggro deck, Precinct Captain isn’t as useful as Imposing Sovereign when bringing the beats (plus it’s easier to cast). Lastly, Divine Deflection is cute but ultimately not worth holding up mana for, and Soltari Trooper ain’t got nothin on ole Syndic of Tithes.
One good six drops deserves another…well, deserves to replace it, anyway, and that’s what’s happening here.
While I had big hopes for Deadeye Navigator–and legitimately have seen it do some fun stuff–it’s not the soul-crushing power of Aetherling. Rest assured this six drop means business, and has ended several games on the spot. “Got an answer?” he asks as you slam him down. If you can’t race it, you’re probably toast.
I think the world is starting to realize how closely Lifebane Zombie is to black’s version of Vendilion Clique. There will always be powerful white and green creatures floating around, whether they’re multicolored or not, and this guy is incredibly powerful. Even if you hit nothing, a 3/1 Intimidate for three is a fine creature that ends games. Xathrid Necromancer works well with the multitude of Humans we have in the cube now, and is value in and of itself. And speaking of value, there’s Blood Artist. I’ve increased the number of free sacrifice outlets in the cube, and from simply a power and anti-control standpoint, it’s a terrific option.
Lastly, Shadowborn Demon is a terrific two-or-more for one card, killing something on his way in, often chump blocked before eating a removal spell. His drawback is often negated with Momentary Blink-esque effects and sometimes it’s a bonus when you want to cast Unburial Rites and just keep getting value.
As for the drops, Bloodgift Demon is a fine creature, but I like the power and flexibility of Shadowborn Demon more. Knight of Stromgald hurt to cut, but it’s arguable that almost every other two-drop is better, and certainly vs the other knights–they either can give themselves evasion (Stromgald Crusader) or pump another creature for free (Knight of Infamy). Ob Nixilis, the Fallen is similar in that it’s a powerful card, but I’d rather have Lifebane Zombie in my black decks…pretty much every time.
So Young Pyromancer is a card. Not the best card in the world, but he’s a fine man in U/R or Mono Red if hitting early enough. Better in constructed, but still leaps beyond Kruin Striker. Burning of Xinye returns, as I recall want G/R Wildfire decks to have a home in the cube. Goblin Bombardment works in association with Blood Artist in black to fuel the tricksy token/sacrifice/Undying/Persist strategy that many enjoy constructing.
Instigator Gang was a card I wanted so hard to be good…but alas, it’s pretty bad. Just slow, and often not impacting enough. If you trade one-for-one and then drop Insitgator you feel terrible. Ogre Battledriver has the capacity to not only be a fine four drop if they one-for-one’d you up to that point, it also makes every creature you play after it super scary, far scarier than Instigator Gang could be (as it just never flipped…ever).
I love me a fun Unhinged card (and Frazzled Editor DOES count Flavor Text in my cube, tyvm), it’s time for Blast from the Past to leave us. Cool, but the cost to really get ahead with it has just risen to unacceptable levels over time.
While I’m not taking out the ‘Seismic Assault package’ (which, honestly, needs to include cards like Exploration and Fastbond if we’re going to go), this is a card that no one wanted to build around and isn’t a card I want to continue putting a lot of effort into making it’s own archetype (I.e. Cycling lands, bringing back Countryside Crusher etc).
Man, did M14 give Green some lovin! Let’s discuss:
All right, so first up is Garruk, Caller of Beasts. Yes, there are four Garruks in the cube. So? They’re still four of the best green cards ever made. Is it list time? Here’s my ranking of best -> worst:
Now, best -> worst isn’t completely fair here, as Primal Hunter is amazing in a mono-green deck in ways that Relentless isn’t. Relentless sits on top because of it’s splashability, not on raw power level. Rest assured, this new Garruk is AMAZING and can absolutely crush you with card advantage or sneaking into play a Hornet Queen or something other silly (like The Mimeoplasm!). I also think it says a lot that on raw power level, Garruk Wildspeaker is still a terrific Magic card. That design is just perfect.
Anyway, I was sad to see Berserk go, but…it’s time to go. It always makes me sad when I see these cards that I was just amazed at their power level when I first began playing Magic, thought they would live in the cube forever, and here I am cutting them. Meanwhile, Vorapede got out-fattied by Kalonian Hydra, a card that I called as stellar from the moment I saw it. Primeval Bounty is a hell of a card, almost a mini-Planeswalker in its variety of advantages you get for free just for playing Magic after you play it.
Skinshifter doesn’t have the hate or the Hexproof that is often needed for Green creatures to survive long enough to kill their opponents, and while it provides options, often you just want your guy to not be Doom Bladed out of existence while you’re trying to equip it. And lastly, Jungle Lion isn’t half the card (in value or power level) as Elvish Mystic.
Colorless / Artifact
So, let’s just admit that at this point, there are an incredible amount of enter the battlefield abilities. Damn near every creature, these days at least, comes with a enters / dies / leaves play trigger, and I know I was surprised when I got to play with Strionic Resonator and see it really perform.
Stuff like getting another token from Voice of Resurgence to two triggers of Reveillark‘s leaves play ability, getting both pairs of abilities via Swords like Sword of Fire and Ice (as both abilities are stuck on a single trigger), getting extra value from Thragtusk to Smokestack, this card is just possibility looking for opportunity. And when it comes to fun cube cards, I think this one will delight all those who play with it and particularly build around it.
Next up is Relic of Progenitus. Graveyard-based strategies have ran a little rampant here recently, and we’ll see if more anti-graveyard cards like this one will be needed.
Lastly, ole Molten-Tail Masticore has always been underwhelming in form and function. Razormane Masticore is bigger, and kills things for free. This lesser version is just that, unfortunately, and I think I’m better off.
Wall of Denial
Far / Away
Sire of Insanity
Blood Baron of Vizkopa
Turn / Burn
Varolz, the Scar-Striped
Voice of Resurgence
Awww yeah, look at all those goodies. No doubt Dragon’s Maze gave us some sweet ones.
We’ll begin with Far / Away – I love me a split card, this was my Dragon’s Maze preview and it has performed just as terrifically as I thought it would. Flexibility is powerful and this card also nicely snaps onto a Isochron Scepter while still being powerful for five mana or if either half is flashed back by Snapcaster Mage.
Wall of Denial returns as Isperia, Supreme Judge is a super cool card, and the artwork is amazing, but it is not a very powerful card for either the U/W aggro decks or really the U/W control decks. It’s slow, it’s not enough toughness to not simply die immediately to a Char or Dismember and often it just eats the removal spell they were holding. Wall of Denial sticks, and will stick, upon such time everything dies in some fashion or you simply must block that Deathtouch creature.
Black/Red decks got a jolt with Falkenrath Artistocrat, Spike Jester, AND Sire of Insanity! Pow! Now we’re playing with power, as we have a free sac outlet, a terrific aggressive card and a powerful anti-control punisher.
Orzhov got some love as we left behind the slightly underpowered High Priest of Penance and Tidehollow Sculler when compared to their upgrades: Blood Baron of Vizkopa and Sin Collector. The last addition kinda won a Pro Tour in the form of Cartel Aristocrat, a card described to me as “several different creatures masquerading as a 2/2.” I can’t really argue with it, either. A surprisingly resilient and powerful creature.
Progenitor Mimic is a really fun card that I’ve seen a lot of craziness come out of — for example, when someone gets it via Bribery or simply uses Sower of Temptation to start marking more Sower of Temptations! Turn / Burn is a terrific U/R spell that just answers almost any creature problem you could have. I did enjoy Izzet Charm, but I think we can all agree Ral Zarek is far more exciting and powerful.
While the powerful but somewhat slow Nath of the Gilt Leaf leaves us, he is replaced with some powerful spells: Varolz, the Scar-Striped and Grisly Salvage. The former is a powerhouse unto himself, again, another freely activated sacrifice outlet, and will take a game over if played correctly early or ripped off the top late. Grisly Salvage is a gift to those Reanimator players, who really appreciate such an effect.
Another Cube Charter Member leaves us with this update – Loxodon Hierarch. In his prime? Big, powerful, game-changing. Now? Outclassed and whose stats were just slightly lowered and printed…at common (Centaur Healer). How the mighty elephant has fallen. Now we replace him with a two-drop who is arguably more powerful. Not only does he bring beats early, it doesn’t take much for a Voice of Resurgence token to quickly grow to enormous size.
And that’s it! Another two sets absorbed, I’ve added a bunch of multicolor goodies and hopefully juiced the sacrifice-based strategies a bit more and just added a bunch of fun and interesting cards to tinker with. Overall I’m very happy with how my cube has been performing as of late, but am always on the lookout for feedback, ideas and ways to improve the experience.
Until Theros, happy cubing!