Hello LegitMTG readers, I’m back with a standard-rotation update of the 40 Cents and Below Cube. A few weeks after the release of Guilds of Ravnica, let’s see how it looks for 40 Cent and Below cube inclusions. To denote changes, I’m going to use the > symbol is a shortcut. The wider side of the “>”will denote the card coming in, while the narrower side will denote the card being replaced. Let’s dive right in!
Looking at the Guilds of Ravnica spoiler initially, these cards stood out as potential inclusions in this very cheap cube:
In the first week of competitive Standard tournaments, I thought “nooo” to myself whenever I saw control decks packing tons of copies of Chemister’s Insight and Sinister Sabotage or aggro decks making use of Conclave Tribunal. This did not bode well for the 40 C and below cube. Unfortunately, we can cross all these cards off the list for now (but stay tuned for when these cards eventually rotate out of standard!) The remaining monocolor cards that might warrant a conclusion include: Sunhome Stalwart, Price of Fame, Goblin Cratermaker, Circuitous Route, Kraul Harpooner, Hatchery Spider
Beginning with the Stalwart, I immediately noticed that, with the current cube build, it is little more than a Youthful Knight. The huge emphasis on swole 2-power 1-drops leaves this creature with nothing to mentor. Not worthy of an inclusion in this iteration of the cube.
Price of Fame is a great removal spell, but the extreme infrequency of Legendary creatures in this particular cube means that it will almost always be cast for 4 mana. Is it still good enough? Surveil 2 might just be worth that extra mana. I think it’s at least worth a shot – we can always cut it later if the cost proves prohibitively high. Price of Fame > The Eldest Reborn (too much play in Standard pushed this Saga out of the price range. We will revisit it after the next rotation)
Goblin Cratermaker – at first glance, this card seems like an automatic inclusion, but, after looking at the strategic objective of red 2-drops in the cube right now, I noticed they are all aimed at maximizing damage as quickly as possible rather than showing versatility and giving red mages the opportunity to answer a wide variety of threats. Depending on personal preference, I could imagine it being superior to Firefist Striker, as it removes a smaller blocker permanently and does not need to trigger battalion. In contrast to the Striker, however, it does not continue dealing damage to an opponent after it is used to neutralize an opposing threat. I can also understand the argument of cutting one or both of Slith Firewalker and/or Goblin Wardriver, because the double-red mana cost might prevent a RW or RG aggro deck from casting these cards as soon as you would like. Let’s exchange it for Goblin Wardriver for now — I don’t like that Wardriver shines most in multicolored token decks, exactly where it will prove toughest to cast. Goblin Cratermaker > Goblin Wardriver
Kraul Harpooner – a 1G 3/2 with reach is almost already good enough, and the pseudo-Plummet effect is a great addition! Glade Watcher is pretty goofy and can certainly get cut for this 3-power 2-drop that can attack all the time. Kraul Harpooner > Glade Watcher
Hatchery Spider – I like it when unique rares have a cheap enough price tag to add to this cube. While this may be arguably worse than all the existing 7-drops (get out of here Krosan Tusker, you’re probably getting cut for Circuitous Route), it is still a late-game bomb. I can imagine it doing great work in a GB rock deck or some kind of ramp deck. I do have some trepidation, however, whether it is easy enough to enable the undergrowth effect in nonblack green decks. I’m on the fence about this one. However, while looking at the 7-drop slot, I did realize that there are no green 6-drop creatures! I am unsure how this happened. Maybe fixing this problem should be a priority instead of adding more seven-drops. Hatchery Spider stays out for now.
Circuitous Route – similar to the Tendo Ice Bridge versus Aether Hub confusion, I don’t get why this card is 25 cents and Explosive Vegetation is closer to a dollar. While I don’t think this card’s inclusion will convince me to add the ten guildgates to the cube, I do think it’s an automatic addition as a cheaper version of Explosive Vegetation. Circuitous Route > Harrow
Which multicolored cards from Guilds should be considered?
Justice Strike — this is a 100% auto-include! This is amazing in aggro and control decks alike. I could even see it replacing Chained to the Rocks, but I’m not sure if that is correct. Maybe Flame-Kin Zealot is a bit too expensive for aggressive RW decks. Justice Strike > Chained to the Rocks
Connive//Concoct — I am much more convinced by this card. Both halves slot into a UB tempo strategy perfectly. I think this will replace Psychic Symbiont – Concoct offers the same late-game power (Surveil 3 AND returning a fallen Riftwing Cloudskate or Marsh Flitter for card selection + advantage) while Connive can be a cheap roadblock for aggro decks earlier in the game. Connive//Concoct > Psychic Symbiont
Status//Statue — Great card! I enjoy sneaking combat tricks into a cube when they are not expected. The Statue side of the card undoes the usually disadvantage of such a combat trick – it is no longer a dead card when you have no creatures in play. Putrefy is great, so Putrefy that can also kill enchantments is a welcome addition! Status//Statue > Gaze of Granite
Integrity//Intervention — Lightning Helix is too expensive financially and Warleader’s Helix is too expensive in terms of mana cost. A RW aggressive deck can make great use of a +2/+2 effect for one mana — see above, no one expects the combat trick! — while Intervention is a good way for an aggressive to finish off the game if the game goes a bit later. Also, who knows, maybe a UWR or WBR control deck can save a creature with a random +2/+2 effect that it wasn’t counting on using at all. While not very many people expect combat tricks in cube, absolutely no one expects combat tricks from a control deck! Integrity//Intervention > Flame-Kin Zealot
Golgari Findbroker and Nightveil Predator are both very powerful cards. Unfortunately, I do not think this cube has the ability to house cards with such restrictive mana costs. If you are looking to make a guild-centric or two-color-centric cheap cube, these seem like great inclusions. Personally, I would rather have the flexibility to splash more colors beyond just two sometimes.
Quick update of other post-rotation changes:
The resurgence of WU control in Modern brought Oust back onto my radar. It is a great way for any white-based control deck to buy some time in the early game against aggro. I took a closer look at the Kaladesh and Amonkhet blocks and found two pieces of great removal in the form of Skywhaler’s Shot and Cast Out. These removal spells have the added benefit of doubling as some form of card selection/card draw, which is very tough to come by in this color. Finally, Divine Reckoning seemed underpowered for a control deck, especially when facing a few huge green creatures. Instead, Akroma’s Vengeance is a clean answer to any board and can also cycle!
These switches are also a result of taking a second look at the Kaladesh block that just rotated out of standard. Glimmer of Genius is one of the best draw spells a control deck could hope for in this kind of cube. Dominate looks great on paper at instant speed, but looking at the math again, I realized this spell costs five mana to steal a 2-drop or six mana to steal a 3-drop. Against aggro, this is far too slow. Confiscation Coup will not come of out nowhere at instant speed like Dominate, but the five mana to steal a four drop or below (including artifacts!) is a much better rate against midrange or control decks.
I realized the Elusive Tormentor, despite having amazing flavor, it quite mana intensive in the late game. Sengir Nosferatu does a similar thing, has similarly amazing flavor, and, most importantly, has better 4/4 flying stats without having to pay all the mana. Kothophed requires a more expensive initial mana investment than Elusive Tormentor, but I think the card draw is a much better payoff. Kothophed also has the potential to snowball combined with something like Falkenrath Noble.
I originally included “everyone sacrifices” removal spells like Innocent Blood and Barter in Blood to enable Zulaport Cutthroat, etc. I don’t think there needs to be that much emphasis on killing your own creatures — they will likely die during the course of the game or keep attacking your opponents to death! Slaughter provides amazing card advantage in midrange and control matchups where your life total is not under attack.
Fight with Fire is unfortunately a bit too pricey right now due to Standard play. Luckily a former Standard all-star, Mizzium Mortars, steps in to fill a similar role. The Mortars is even better, I’d argue, I just missed it in the initial creation of this cube.
As mentioned before, I recently found out that there were no green 6-drops in the cube. This needed to change, so I found a few candidates. I think Cloudthresher and Honored Hydra are the best ones, but if you’re really into cats, Jedit Ojanen of Efrava is a great choice as well. After cutting the Glade Watcher for Kraul Harpooner, I realized that the “defenders matter” subtheme is pretty weak and should probably get phased out. Wall of Roots, Overgrown Battlement, and Carven Caryatid are allowed to stay for now, but I’m going to cut the rest of the defenders for more aggressive options (i.e. Exemplar of Strength and Rhonas’s Last Stand). While looking at Hatchery Spider as an option, I also came across more large green creatures that look like a better fit as a powerful top end. I don’t think a card like Plated Crusher will lead to very interesting games: either it will go unanswered and you will win easily, or the opponent will have a sacrifice-based removal spell and you will have spent seven mana just to see your creature die. Cards like Foe-Razer Regent, Skarrg Goliath, and Verdant Force are all more interesting cards to play with and against.
Without fetchlands, triggering revolt is not at all a given in this cube. I will cut Renegade Rallier for the trusty Watchwolf. It’s much more aesthetically pleasing than Call of the Conclave, but I think creating a nontoken creature is better for other reasons as well (nice try Man-o’-War).
RG is not trying to sit around and spend lots of mana doing things, which is why the Guildmage needed to get cut for a much more aggressive option in the form of Voltaic Brawler.
Finally, the GU slot contains Spring//Mind, Urban Evolution, AND Tatyova, Benthic Druid, all of which do basically the same thing. We get it, GU loves to play more lands and draw more cards. Rogue Refiner and Simic Sky Swallower switch it up a bit and can actually cause you to win the game.
As always, you can check out my cube here. I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments and happy cube brewing!
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