Journey into Cube!

Written by Anthony Avitollo on . Posted in Casual Magic, Cube

Journey into Cube!

Anthony Avitollo

Anthony Avitollo has one of the oldest cubes in existence. Dating back to 2005, the cube is incredibly shiny and a huge hit at any event that he attends. He also co-hosts The Third Power, an incredibly well named podcast that you can find on mtgcast.com. There he puts his vast cube experience and knack for goofy stories to good use.

Ah yes, the final set in Theros block! As we leave the Greek-flavored lands of Theros, we get to complete a couple block-long cycles (Gods and Temples), see if we can get a good Heroic Cube card, and hope that we get better offerings than what was on the dais from Born of the Gods. I’m not going to rate every card out of the set. I’m just going to comment on ones that I think will have an impact/other people think will have an impact/I want to make fun of. I will rate the cards on a scale of 1-5, with the following basic meanings:

5- First pick quality in any Cube; high powered and/or flagship archetype cards (Sol Ring, Bitterblossom, Tinker, Koth of the Hammer)
4- Good enough for the smallest of Cubes (360); powerful, versatile, and/or top support cards (Lightning Bolt, ABU Duals, Vindicate)
3- Good enough for the medium-sized Cubes (450-540+); great support, redundancy, and archetype extension cards (Dismiss, Goblin Ruinblaster, Precursor Golem)
2- Good enough in the largest of Cubes (720+); Very good cards that fill roles/provide support/have just been forced out over the years (Sigil of Distinction, Transcendent Master, Jeska, Warrior Adept, Exclude)
1- Not good enough for any reasonable-sized non-specialty Cube (Myr Servitor, Chimney Imp, Meddling Mage, Cancel)

As with any ‘evergreen’ format, all card evaluations need to be done relative to every other card printed. While some cards may be powerful in a vacuum, they may suck in Cube next to other older cards. With that in mind, I’m also going to suggest cards that can be cut if you want to add these new cards.

Note: I reserve the right to change my opinions at any time. These are mostly ‘testing in my head’ predictions, and I am never too proud to admit that I was wrong on a card evaluation, or missed a card entirely. I’ll eagerly update you on any new findings in future articles.

Off we go!

WHITE

Aegis of the Gods: Another ‘hate bear’, Aegis of the Gods seems like it would be a really neat card…until you realize that it actually doesn’t do that much in Cube. At least Spirit of the Labyrinth is a 3/1, whereas this guy is only a 2/1 and doesn’t even have first strike like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. Neat card, but True Believer hasn’t seen Cube playing time either.

Rating: 1, but a 3 or more if you are running a Combo list or support Storm heavily as an archetype.

Banishing Light: Oblivion Ring #2? Even with the ‘fixed’ non-abuseable text, this card is still very strong and should be in most Cubes that have room for two of these effects. Oh, and the artwork will look awesome in foil.!

Rating: 4

Possible replacement for: Journey to Nowhere, removal spells that aren’t Path to Exile or Swords to Plowshares.

Deicide: My opinion is divided if Deicide should be decried, but I did decide its entry to Cube is denied.

Rating: 1

Dictate of Heliod: The best of the Dictate cycle for Cube, this card is a whopping 5 mana for an anthem. Here’s the thing; not only is it a double anthem (for a 1 mana and 1 card discount), but it doubles as a combat trick as well that can’t be completely blown out by a removal spells since it pumps all your creatures AND is a problematic card type to remove. If you support token themes, this card becomes even better than the test-worthy/might be very good status I give it now. Five mana is a lot, and is the only reason I hesitate on giving this card a higher rating.

Rating: 2.5, but testing will prove its true mettle.

Possible replacement for: Honor of the Pure (more widespread application with Dictate), Celestial Crusader.

Godsend: I love equipment in general for Cube, so whenever one is printed (especially at Mythic) it requires a look. Unfortunately for us, this card isn’t much better than Vulshok Morningstar while being harder to cast. The exile trigger is certainly cool to keep it alive in combat, but it still gets chumped pretty easily and the other ability is flavor text in most Cubes. The best use is to put this on a vigilant creature, but in general I’m not impressed for Cube. There are more efficient equipments that I would include before this one in larger Cubes.

Rating: 1.

Launch the Fleet: Cool card for token decks, but is pretty slow and unimpressive until you have three or more creatures in play (as there are easier to cast cards that make the same amount of tokens at 1 and 2 CMC).

Rating: 1.

Nyx-Fleece Ram: I’m going to quote myself on the most recent The Third Power podcast:

“Control decks may flock to it, but it’s baaaaad for aggro and shear lunacy to include it.
Don’t just ram it into your Cube, or else the aggro decks will be getting fleeced. Ewe need to leave this card out.”

That said, this card is very good vs. aggro decks and is actually very playable. It just is too good vs. an archetype that struggles to stay relevant across Cubedom.

Rating: 3, but only include this if you want the attacking decks to suffer for no good reason.

Possible replacement for: Precinct Captain, Wall of Denial (can add a different UW card)

BLUE

Battlefield Thaumaturge: Really neat card with a good power to cost ratio for Blue, but I just don’t think there are enough cards to take advantage of the cost reduction in Cube for the decks in which this guy would live. For example, UR counterburn comes to mind, but those decks want to be targeting the opponent with burn, and not creatures. Guttersnipe fills that role MUCH better. Also, the Heroic ability is pretty useless.

Rating: 1.

Crystalline Nautilus: I like that you can turn the bestow on this card into a removal spell with a little help, and wind up with a 4/4 afterwards for your trouble. However, blue is so deep and so good in most standard Cubes that there just isn’t room for this card. Nautilus seems neat for non-rare and Blue aggro-supported Cubes, however.

Rating: 1.

Dakra Mystic: Repeatable card draw is always cool, and Mystic certainly does that on the cheap compared to a card like Jushi Apprentice. Having your opponent draw a card whenever you do obviously feels terrible, but you certainly have control over what cards your opponent gets. I feel like this card is a real skill-tester, and could certainly reward control players over the long term. It’s hard to accurately judge this card without playing it and seeing it in practice, but it is certainly worth testing.

Rating: 2, pending testing.

Possible replacement for: Jushi Apprentice

Hour of Need: A Theros block limited bomb, Hour of Need could be pretty neat in non-rare Cubes as a way to trade in the ground stall for an alpha airstrike. I’m just having trouble finding a way to use this efficiently in typical blue decks in Cube. Turning your Geist of Saint Traft token into a real 4/4 seems like a good use for this card in blue aggro, though. It also plays counterspell vs. removal spells in blue-based attacking decks.

Rating: 1, higher if you support blue aggro highly.

Polymorphous Rush: It’s Mirrorweave, but just for you! Except that it costs way more to turn your guys into awesome things! Yay?. My brain certainly read ‘Polyamorous Rush’ when I first saw it however. Not sure how that card would play…

Rating: 1.

BLACK

Brain Maggot: A ‘fixed’ Mesmeric Fiend! I like the first Mesmeric Fiend, so I like this guy too. It all depends on how much room you have for these type of effects, so I think this one would come into play starting with medium-sized Cubes.

Rating: 3.

Possible replacement for: weaker discard spells like Wrench Mind or Despise.

Gnarled Scarhide: Two power for one mana and a non-real drawback, hooray! Wait, AND I can cast it in the mid-late game as additional power or a Falter for a creature? Sold.

Rating: 4. This might be Black’s best 1-drop.

Possible replacement for: anything that isn’t another 2-power 1-drop. Seriously, put this card in.

Master of the Feast: Wow, this is an impressive aggressive creature. I love the fact that your opponent doesn’t get the card until your turn, which reduces the amount of cards they can play to deal with it and still receive the drawback. If you are supporting black aggressive decks, this card is a must-include I think. Only when this card gets Pacified in some way is the drawback going to really hurt, since this guy ends the game quickly and evasively. I want to cast this duder on t1 with Dark Ritual!

Rating: 4.

Possible replacement for: Phyrexian Rager, Liliana’s Specter, or maybe even Gatekeeper of Malakir.

RED

Eidolon of the Great Revel: We seem to have lots of pseudo-reprints in this set, and Eidolon is yet another: a bear version of sideboard dweller Pyrostatic Pillar. I feel like this card will generate at least 3 damage or so per game on average to your opponent through triggers (when played on t2), and would hopefully be good for some attacking as well, even though the body isn’t the greatest. I dig it, and the drawback of doing damage to yourself won’t matter as much if you are the aggressive deck in the match-up.

Rating: 3.

Possible replacement for: Blood Knight or other tougher calls like Keldon Marauders.

Harness by Force: I’m not a big fan of Threatens in the Cube unless they take any permanent (like Zealous Conscripts), as the impact just isn’t high enough. Being able to take multiple creatures, however, could be something to examine. I’m not super excited about this card, because I rarely want a Threaten in Cube and I’m not sure how often a 6-mana double Threaten will matter coming out of the red decks. I’m willing to listen to evidence of the contrary, however.

Rating: 2.

Mogis’s Warhound: Furor of the Bitten isn’t Cube-worthy, and a red Grizzly Bears with a drawback isn’t Cube-worthy, so why would a card that is both be Cube-worthy? Because value! It has pseudo-haste, and provides value when your enchanted dude dies on t3, but I still don’t think that is enough to push this card into Cube. Its ceiling is too low for me to get excited about it.

Rating: 2.

Prophetic Flamespeaker: Red’s three-drops are a bit unexciting, so a red version of Shadowmage Infiltrator is certainly interesting and worth a deeper look. While 1/3 isn’t that exciting as far as stats go, the double strike and trample are where it’s really at. It can win fights with any one drop (save a transformed Reckless Waif or leveled Student of Warfare), kill and survive versus a lot of two-drops, and with any sort of ‘pants’ (effects that pump power) it becomes a HUGE threat to do a lot of damage AND generate ‘free’ cards while not being able to be chump blocked. While not pure card drawing, we have learned from Chandra, Pyromaster that this time of card advantage is certainly welcome in a color not known for generating free cards to play. It’s definitely going in my Cube for now while I get a chance to really evaluate it in action.

Rating: 3, possibly a 4.

Possible replacement for: Jaya Ballard, Task Mage, Taurean Mauler, Mindsparker.

GREEN

Hydra Broodmaster: Yo Dawg I Heard You Like Hydras is certainly a big threat, as dropping a land on the next turn and becoming monstrous represents 19 total power on the board out of a single card (albeit a lot of mana). I just don’t think this card is high impact enough compared to the other green fatties.

Rating: 1.

Setessan Tactics: I’m always in the market for playable tricks, as the increased quality and quantity of removal spells has pushed Giant Growth and their ilk mostly out of traditional Cubes. Tactics, however, provides an opportunity to generate some card advantage both inside and outside of combat. While you need your creatures to not have summoning sickness to take advantage of the fight clause, this card can break ground stalls, let your creatures team attack larger ones, and let your smaller creatures trade up with larger ones to clear the path. Maybe I’m just too optimistic when it comes to tricks, but I’m going to give this one a go and hope that it works half as well as the scenarios in my mind.

Rating: 3.

Possible Replacement for: Giant Growth.

MULTICOLORED

Ajani, Mentor of Heroes: With the arrival of the fourth permutation of Ajani, we now have a planeswalker in every two-color combination. Green/White is arguably the deepest pairing in the Cube, so breaking the top tier is going to be rough, but I think Ajani has the ability to get there. Both of the abilities are pluses, which is a good place to start, but they affect the game state positively regardless of your board presence: buffing creatures if you have them and searching for gas if you don’t. While the ultimate ability isn’t exactly game-winning, 100 life is certainly no joke. I think Ajani is a nice combination of abilities and a font of value, and I’m willing to trade out a different midrange card to give it a shot and see for myself.

Rating: 3, but only because GW is so deep.

Possible replacement for: Knight of the Reliquary, Mirari’s Wake (although I’ve seldom lost when untapping with Wake in play).

Athreos, God of Passage: The most-hyped god of the bunch for Standard is also the god with the deepest guild against which to compete. Orzhov permanents tend to carry a lot of colored mana symbols (making Fetid Heath an attractive land for the color pair, btw, if you run unbalanced cycles) so the devotion might be one of the easier to hit for the minor gods, and the ability does carry a lot of value. Unfortunately, ‘punisher’ mechanics always seem to come up short somehow, because giving your opponents choices usually result in the worst choice for you. That said, this card should have multiple punisher triggers (instead of just 1, like Browbeat and Vexing Devil, e.g.), and the 3 life losses adds up quickly (as I learned at the prerelease) and I have a hard time imagining this card being lame in a dedicated BW aggro/disruption deck. I just think that the guild is too deep for all but the largest of multicolored sections, and this card might not be good enough in other decks than WB aggro to make the cut. Very close call.

Rating: 2, but I’d love to be proven wrong. This card is neat and makes for agonizing choices for your opponent over the course of a game.

Iroas, God of Victory: A potential great Standard constructed card, and likely close to unbeatable in sealed deck (Frontline Medic is a huge pain as well), but just not impactful enough compared to the other Boros cards in Cube, even though RW comes in second for highest ratio of colored mana symbols to fulfill devotion for this SEVEN power god. Again, close but not banana.

Rating: 2, because card quality drops sharply after about 7-8 RW multicolor cards.

Keranos, God of Storms: One of the few gods that has an effect on an empty board, Keranos is going to generate a free card every turn (either a Lightning Bolt or a free land) that will surely add up over the course of a long game. I’m not so sure about his devotion ever being met in the type of decks that UR usually generates, so the question is: Is a free bolt/land on your turn worth 5 mana with an outside chance of becoming active? Answer: maybe before Dack Fayden was spoiled!!

Rating: 2.

Kruphix, God of Horizons: Kruphix seems like an awesome card…7 years ago, before we got Reliquary Tower and Omnath, Locus of Mana. Even though he combines both, I just don’t see how this is very useful in Cube, even in a weak guild. Five mana is awfully late in the game to start saving mana afterwards; you should be casting your fatties on turn 6 and beyond, not saving up to cast them.

Rating: 1.

Pharika, God of Affliction: Oh cool, it’s a cheap god with Night Soil/Necrogenesis! Wait, my opponent gets the deathtouch token? And I can’t even remove non-creatures? Never mind.

Rating: 1.

COLORLESS

Hall of Triumph: Now everyone can have a 3-mana anthem! Woo! This card is pretty decent, I think, and is certainly a playable card if you support a strong token theme in color besides White (or in addition to White, since White already has Crusade and Honor of the Pure). It won’t crack my Cube, as I don’t value anthems that highly, but it certainly isn’t a bad card.

Rating: 2.

Mana Confluence: Woooooo boy, is this land good! City of Brass is awesome, and a second City of Brass that doesn’t damage you under Tangle Wire, Rishadan Port, Icy Manipulator and the like is awesome-r. Doing the whole ‘tap got mana, damage trigger on the stack, cast lifegain spell’ just doesn’t come up as often as the offensive damage tapping of the above cards. A literal must add, as Cubes often don’t have enough good mana-producing lands as is.

Rating: 4.

Possible replacement for: Lands that don’t produce 5 colors of mana? In all seriousness, I guess you could cut less impressive 5c lands like Undiscovered Paradise, but why not just add this card to your Cube? Cut something like the Vivid lands and add 4 other more interesting lands that have spells attached to them (like Shelldock Isle, Kor Haven, etc.).

Temples: Temples are neat and all, but they are way down the line of mana-fixing dual-color lands. They certainly aren’t embarrassing, though, and can be used as a fine substitute for more expensive/better lands.

That’s it! For a small set, we have a LOT of cards that are worth testing out and some slam-dunk inclusions (Mana Confluence, Gnarled Scarhide, Banishing Light, and Master of the Feast IMO); much better than Born of the Gods! This is a great way to end a fun block, and I’m looking forward to what Conspiracy and M15 will bring to the fold!

Thanks for reading, and may all your squares be three-dimensional!

Anthony Avitollo
@Antknee42 on Twitter
Listen to The Third Power, my Cube podcast with co-host Usman Jamil!

Tags: ,

Trackback from your site.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.