The cube list hasn’t been updated in the last half a year, mostly due to me spending some time abroad in the United States. This time I’ve decided to write the rationale of changes in this blog. I believe it will reach a larger audience, and holds interest for the general public of readers here. It looks nicer too (I used to publish the updates in the forums of MTGS). Behind the scenes, it is also easier to edit it in this platform.
So what did we have going on for cube during the last six months? The entirety of Ixalan block mostly. The first set was a pretty good one, offering many solid cards. Rivals of Ixalan on the other hand was very bad for the cube format and offered little. Together they do even out to be just a bit below a normal set in powerlevel. No new archetypes have been formed, no new innovations like Vehicles. No mechanic has more than a single card representing it!
The other major change is the planeswalkers uniqueness rule. Now every planeswalker is just legendary, meaning we have as many Jaces as we want assuming they have different names. This made a few versions of common walkers be worthy of play again.
As to be expected, there were other changes in cube composition and balance. Five artifacts and a card from each color were cut in favor of 10 extra dual lands. Aggro has been a little weak, so some small consideration was given and a few aggro hosers were cut.
Note: Carnage Tyrant and Kinjalli’s Sunwing were already in the cube since they were spoiled early.
+Skymarcher Aspirant, –Steppe Lynx
Lynx is very inconsistent with the low fetchland density of a 720 cards cube. One of the absolute worst cards to topdeck, and usually attacks for less than 2 on average per turn even in the early game. Aspirant is better than Savannah Lions, Elite Vanguard and even Dragon Hunter. Ascend will happen rarely, but more often than other pluses on white one drops that are not Kytheon. It makes the card a relevant one drop in the very late game. Although the trigger will be a rarity, your opponent will still have to respect it and play around it. Say you have 8 permanents, but a couple of cards in hand. It can be assumed that you can get the blessing at will so your opponent will not leave a planeswalker on low loyalty. Slamming a late game land + sword + city’s blessing will create great stories of turn arounds.
+Adanto Vanguard, –Relic Seeker
TL;DR – Aggro upgrade
Relic Seeker is not a good cube card in general. It is an anemic 2/2 body for 2, and doesn’t do anything before connecting. Even then, you need a piece of equipment in your deck. In a large cube, the saturation of equipment is low. If we had twice as many equipment, he would’ve been worth another trial run. Since wizards is reluctant on printing powerful new equipment cards, this is very doubtful we will ever have twice as many cubeable equipment cards as of today. The card has no hope really.
Vanguard seems to be one of the strongest two drops for cube. It survives mass removals which is a major weakness of white weenie. It can attack through chump blockers. In general it is hard to remove. If you are the aggro deck, 4 life is usually a small price to pay for a “free” 3/1 that can attack right away. It is a very good dude for holding equipment, being cheap and resistant.
+Thalia’s Lancers, –Angel of Sanctions
Thalia’s Lancers can now fetch planeswalkers. This adds up a lot of targets for Thalia’s Lancers. Lancers themselves are quite formidable planeswalker defense. People have positive reviews of her after the rules change. It certainly allows some deckbuilding creativity. Angel of Sanctions was just the most expendable white five drop. It fills no role particularly well. It is not very reliable as a removal, not big enough to be a finisher. It does provide reasonable defense, but usually it is killed once which means you pay a lot of mana and tempo to stick the angel on the battlefield.
+Exalted Angel, –Linvala, the Preserver
TL;DR – Exalted is the less narrow card, that fills the lifegain role almost as well anyway.
I still think Linvala is the best white six drop creature for control decks. The lesson I’ve learnt is that it is too narrow of a role to fill and doesn’t warrant a slot in the cube. Linvala is not something midrange or ramp decks want, it is not a reanimation target and is not something exciting to cast early off of a Black Lotus or Mana Drain. Exalted Angel is still pretty gross against aggro decks as a six drop, but plays a few more roles, even if not as well. Exalted is a three drop, and can even be sided in for the aggro mirror. It plays better with all sorts of ramp. Because it is flexible on the curve, it is a solid midrange white card.
+Search for Azcanta, –Baral, Chief of Compliance
TL;DR – An uncubeworthy two drop is now a strong, synergistic one.
Baral is a bit of a trap card. He does not play well in generic blue control shells. Mana rocks are more useful and reliable for ramp. Baral dies to your own mass removals. It is hard to have enough instants and sorceries for his abilities to occur more than once in a game. It is even rarer for the free loot to trigger. As an anti-aggro card even Omenspeaker proved better. The theros prophet gets you out of a mana screw and mana flood reliably, is a much better topdeck and as a lot of the effect is outside of the body, you are much more willing to chump and/or trade with it.
Search is a cheap card the fills several roles well. It is a card selection engine. It is cheap enough to get you out of mana screws. It fills the graveyard for reanimation decks, delve spells and more. It can be ramp at some point in the midgame. With cantrips, loots, fetches and counterspells it should transform way before 7 turns pass. It is a card advantage engine in the late game. Powerful and broadly playable, good early and late, this card is a winner.
+Ancestral Vision, –Timetwister
Timetwister sees very little play. Blue tempo is not really supported, so Twister has few homes. This cube also has no storm combo or the like. It was on the list since day one, always was relatively bad and now it will retire. Ancestral Visions has been on and off several times. Should play better now with As Fortold and the expertises that survive, as well as more card selection to filter it away when drawn late.
+Jace, Unraveler of Secrets, –Prognostic Sphinx
TL;DR – Now that Jaces are not cannibals anymore, one gets in over a finisher
Sphinx provides inevitability, but that is perhaps less needed now for blue decks. It is a slow, uninteractive card. A pretty great blocker against aggro, which has no decent way to remove it. Pretty helpless against mass removals and edicts in the control mirror. I do think it is powerful, but not overly and is perhaps unneeded.
Jace presents more options and interaction. It never saw much play due to planeswalker saturation, but it does not mean the card is inherently bad. He is pretty good in most situations, having 6 loyalty or bounce means he can survive most board states. Ongoing card selection and advantage will win games if he survives. What he is not is a finisher. The ultimate is pathetic, as your opponent can see it coming and sandbag spells should he or she need to.
+Chart a Course, –Elder Deep-Fiend
Elder Deep Fiend is a fine card but again not a reliable finisher. Good against control in the mirror or in ramp decks. In fact, non-blue green ramp decks have sided it in before. It is still bad in that role and not really worth a cube slot.
Chart a Course is probably the best card in Ixalan block for cube. It is a discard outlet for reanimator. In decks that want to attack it is efficient card draw. Even if you are playing a slow deck you usually have some utility bodies that can trigger this. Hard to envision Chart not seeing a ton of play.
+Merfolk Looter, –Negate
Negate was not loved here. In theory it should be good, but being exposed to creatures is a big risk. Especially as the trend is to print better new creatures than new spells, perhaps barring planeswalkers.
Merfolk Looter is just another Thought Courier. There are more graveyard interactions in blue now, which can make the card worth it – Search for Azcanta, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, Torrential Gearhulk and Champion of Wits not to mention delve cards as additions from the last few years. With the boost reanimator got looters have higher demand. I am not fearing the card being weak, I fear looters over-saturation with Thought Courier, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and Enclave Cryptologist.
+Ruin Raider, –Doomfall
TL;DR – A weak sideboard card becomes a solid aggro card. Raider is more of a glorified monoclored Rogue Refiner for aggressive decks than a Dark Confidant. Still an easy include.
Doomfall is too expensive for both modes. A solidly sideboard only card. I do wish we could get more playable edict effects than the ones we currently have, and offering extra abilities beyond the situational edict is a right step. But a three mana edict is poor, Coercion is poor, and even their combination is highly unexciting. I wish we could get an edict as an option on an otherwise playable modal spell. Like the shatter on Kolaghan’s Command.
Ruin Raider has a weak body for the cost. It will trade with any lowly one drop on both offense and defense. A deck that cannot reliably trigger raid on turn three when you cast Raider should really not play the orc. In aggro decks, having raid when you cast Raider is the more probable baseline mode. As that, this card is a better Phyrexian Rager. You get a larger body and pay a little more life on average, a fair trade and not a bad floor. Then you have the potential to draw a lot more! Many black creatures are self-recurring, so even in a stalemate position you can sometimes milk cards by chump attacking with them. Getting value from your draw engine right away is a big deal compared to Phyrexian Arena, not to mention it is an actual threat too. It is worth noting that unlike Arena this card can never directly kill you.
+Wanted Scoundrels, –Dauthi Horror
Horror doesn’t fit the color well. Black already has a lot of evasive creatures and plenty of bodies that cannot block, enter the battlefield tapped or are poor on defense in other ways. Scoundrels pack a big punch, but a very serious drawback as well. You never want to give your opponent two mana to cast his or her six drop on turn four. Also bad against control decks that can wrath the board then will still have counter mana up. I am skeptical this is good enough, but we want to test.
+Ravenous Chupacabra, –Murderous Redcap
Chupacabra is a better Nekrataal. Redcap has been weak for a while, the shock is too little too late at this point of the curve usually.
+Dusk Legion Zealot, –Carrier Thrall
TL;DR – Zealot is not powerful but a broadly playable filler in a barren spot.
Thrall is too low impact. It does provide some mass removal protection, some defense, some ramp and some sacrifice fodder. But it is quite poor at all roles. Zealot is a much better topdeck. It will also get you out of mana screws. It is probably one of the best non-aggro black two drops, and there is a high demand for that. Besides the usual uses for errant bodes such as equipment, chump blocks and planeswalker protection black has many sacrifice outlets, from The Abyss through Braids. Zealot is also actually fine to reanimate with Recurring Nightmare, Liliana, the Last Hope, Liliana, Defiant Necromancer, Meren and more.
+Kitesail Freebooter, –Wasp of Bitter End
TL;DR – Another solid 2 drop filler for most deck archetypes
I am not in love with Freebooter. It immediately draws comparisons to Mesmeric Fiend. Fiend’s largest drawback was his weak body – you usually cannot afford to let him die in combat, so he just lingers around waiting to die. Freebooter has a much better body – it can attack for a few points of damage, keep planeswalkers in check, block Lingering Souls tokens and is a good equipment holder. The obvious drawback compared to fiend is not hitting creatures. I believe it is not as bad as it seems on first sight. First of all, you usually want to nib the removal spell with this kind of creature, else it will die immediately and they will get their card back. Furthermore, most strong cards in a powered cube are spells anyway. You will hit that Tinker, piece of power, Natural Order, Upheaval or Armegeddon always if you can. Black has plenty of ways to kill creatures, spells are your problem. Not to mention a large part of the power of the ability is just gaining information by seeing your opponent’s hand. As a final touch, the kite pirate is a good raid enabler. The 1/2 flying body is more than twice as good as the 1/1 body.
+Grasping Scoundrel, –Vampire Lacerator
Unsure which is better, but I err on losing less life as black has many life payment cards already. Having less toughness and having less power on defense are both relevant however. A pretty miserable card.
+Rampaging Ferocidon, –Volatile Chimera
TL;DR – Chimera is too random and punishes cheat decks during the draft. Ferocidon has a solid base and excels against several problems of red decks such as lifegain, planeswalkers and tokens.
Chimera can definitely be among the best red three drops. In fact, it can very well be the best three drop in all colors, or even the best creature in the cube. That is in the scenario of grabbing an eldrazi titan with annihilator, and attacking on turn 4 triggering it. That line of play is so devastating that it trumps any other plan you might have. If you can pay 4 mana and exiled one eldrazi titan with chimera you have just over 50% of hitting it if you spend all your resources on it. Other superfatties are less devastating to various degrees.
Now, it’s true that the play is answerable. You usually have at least one turn to kill Chimera. It is true that in a powered cube Channel into Ulamog is a possibility so facing a monstrosity on the second turn is not unheard of. Chimera is a different problem entirely. I’m not even mentioning the fact that you need to play both Channel and Emrakul in your deck, then draw them together, and you must have at least 16 life. What we highly dislike is the randomness of it all. Often times, if you whiff for a single turn, the opponent will be able to answer your monster, contain it or kill you. Having the entire interaction by dictated by dice rolls feels bad.
Added to that is the incentive of red players to grab the superfatties away from other players who draft cheat decks. That can render other decks nearly useless while you still have a perfectly fine aggro or midrange shell as backup. Hurting the draft experience on top of being so grossly random is too much. I liked how red aggro could get broken plays once in a while with it, but I wish it was designed in a less random way. In fact, one of the additions from Ixalan does exactly that.
Ferocidon is a pretty scary three drop. We never had a 3/3 menace body in cube. Judging by Sin Prodder (a card that is not good enough for cube), it is pretty threatening. The third toughness is a great boost. A pair of 2/1s can be both killed with a single bolt if they block ferocidon, for example. Menace combines very well with the third ability. If you want to block this card, you need to play creatures, and playing creatures will hurt you. The combination of these abilities makes for a highly threatening card. Token decks suffer heavily of course, that Bitterblossom now becomes a giant liability and even Lingering Souls is not as strong.
Another thing Ferocidon excels at is killing planeswalkers. So many of them create tokens as lines of defense. Ferocidon will make sure defensive plays will not gain, and likely decrease loyalty. Every other creature you play will damage your planeswalkers. That is on top of the lizard being a 3 powered evasive threat. Elspeth, Sun’s Champion is especially sad.
Lifegain prevention is an ability we only have in the cube in Sulfuric Vortex. It is quite a narrow ability. At least 70% of games go on without any opponents gaining life. That is why it has to appear on an otherwise solid card. As it does, it adds quite a lot to the powerlevel. Red should have outs to some of the hate cards it faces. In certain matchups this will literally be your only way to win. An opponent sitting on a Wurmcoil Engine on the defense? Topdeck the lizard and continue bashing as normal. A perfect answer for that lone Baneslayer Angel that can ruin your dreams.
+Dire Fleet Daredevil, –Firebrand Archer
TL;DR – Archer is weak. Daredevil provides some powered cube level plays for an archetype that rarely has access to them.
Archer has a very weak body. Even 1 drops nowadays are often having a better one. The ability is only worth it in prowess decks, given the purely aggressive nature of the card. Even there, it drops sharply in power as the game advances.
Daredevil has a higher floor but still a pretty miserable one. A Youthful Knight is pretty poo, at least it can exile a Deep Analysis. On the flipside, it is totally capable of casting Ancestral Recall and Time Walk. The effect is so unique and off color no one will expect it. Even if they do, it is not like they will side out their powerful cards. In the more average scenario it will snag a Thoughtseize, a blue cantrip or a black removal spell. All are good value and options on top of a two drop. It is the best two drop red has in the late game.
There are two problems with this card. One, it depends on your opponent. Some decks have few instants and sorceries. Green midrange decks are the most common, but artifact decks and super ramp decks are also possibilities. Other decks will have targets, but they will not necessarily be beneficial to you. Permission cards, mass removals or things that need to be built around like Natural Order fit the bill. Daredevil will be good against the majority of decks, but as a drafter you should be prepared to side it out sometimes.
People will undoubtedly get too focused on the late game blow out potential of this card, not realizing it is first and foremost a two drop. If you do not play it when you would play another two drop just for the potential of future value you are probably doing it wrong.
+Captain Lannery Storm, –Brazen Scourge
TL;DR – Storm is more splashable and perhaps playable in more archetypes.
The 3rd toughness will be missed, but the harder mana cost will not be. As a pure 3/2 haste guy for 2R, the two critters will be fairly equal. Lannery is better than that hypothetical card though. You have the option of stacking mana up for later. This can be a good option in Izzet decks against control – they have an easy time clearing early blockers given they play red. Lannery also has some synergy in artifact decks. It might all be somewhat irrelevant, and Lannery can very well be an aggro only card. Even then I think it is a small upgrade.
+Rekindling Phoenix, –Hero of Oxid Ridge
Too many aggro four drops in red. You always get more than you need and this is the weakest one, having no evasion and low toughness. Phoenix is a midrange card. It is hard to remove and has some sacrifice synergies. Will shine against control grindy decks. Might not work well in practice as blue can take control of it or bounce it, while white can exile it easily.
+Sweltering Suns, –Wheel of Fortune
The most playable red mass removal, as it cycles. No creatures out/ creatures are too big? No problem. Unsure if it is good enough considering the heavy red cost, but we never had anything quite like it. Wheel has been in the cube since the beginning. It always lacked homes. Now I am cutting it and Timetwister. It is only worth it in very low curve aggro decks. It is hard and often unwise to empty your hand quickly. Even if you do, you need to your opponent to still have significantly less cards than you do to make Wheel worth it. It is not good for reanimation decks as it will discard your reanimation spell.
+Pillar of Flame, –Vandalblast
TL;DR – Wheel has been a trap card more than anything. Pillar is good in the current meta
Vandalblast is less needed as 5 artifacts are being cut, and is a narrow sideboard card anyway. Abrade is a much better implementation. Pillar is widely playable as a low cost burn spell. It is good in aggro decks, against aggro decks and in spells-matters decks. In addition, it solves a few true problems. Since Kaladesh, we got the following as good targets for the card: Dread Wanderer, Scrapheap Scrounger, Champion of Wits, Adorned Pouncer, Earthshaker Khenra and Trueheart Duelist (which is unlikely to last long in cube). That is in addition to older priority targets, from the classic target of Kitchen Finks and Flesh Carver through Bloodghast to Yavimaya Elder.
+Thrashing Brontodon, –Viridian Shaman
TL;DR – A reactive and hard to maindeck card is replaced with a maindeckable one, while diversifying the cube environment.
Viridian Shaman is a very weak card when there is no artifact to pop. Despite being a powered cube that supports the artifact deck, and somewhat because of the large size of the cube, in many matchups there are no consistent artifacts to pop. Even destroying a mana rock with Shaman is worth it. However, not being able to play the elf before they play their mana rock is problematic. Shaman should be worse now that 5 artifacts are being cut. Another point against the elf is that it is nearly strictly inferior to both Reclamation Sage and Manglehorn.
Brontodon is a 3/4 for 1GG and never truly dead. As such it is much more maindeckable. It is never a value card, but it is more consistent, has more options and is proactive. Against the aggro deck with a Jitte game 1, that doesn’t draw it game 2, your elf will be cast only as a last resort. Brontodon will still be a solid blocker/attacker. Also works if you reverse it – game 1 you see no artifacts, Shaman is likely sided out if you have anything half decent. Brontodon will very likely stay in the maindeck and protect you against that Jitte game 2.
+Jadelight Ranger, –Wood Elves
Wood Elves are just low impact. A little too expensive for the ramp. The body is very small. Ranger provides some value, card selection and a big body. It is option dense. Still a risky card as you have limited control on how will it play and the double green mana cost hinders it. With Ranger and Brontodon, green will likely need to cut a double green three drop, with Selvala or Jadelight Ranger as prime options.
+Nissa, Vital Force, –Wickerbough Elder
TL;DR – Nissa is a powerful card that gets reintroduced now that the planeswalker uniqueness rule is cancelled. Wickerbough Elder is inefficient and unneeded.
With 4 other Nissas in the cube, one of them had to move aside. Now Vital Force gets back to the action. She offers haste for a color that lacks it, as well as limp ramp. She defends herself very well and can become a card advantage engine in long game. Covers up the ground of both Reality Smasher and Regrowth that are getting cut in this update. She is a good team player with the other nissa and superfriends in general.
Wickerbough Elder is just too slow and inefficient. It is a 3/3 for 4 mana if there is no artifact around, much worse than Thrashing Brontodon. He also requires green mana to be kept untapped. If there is an artifact to answer, chances are Elder is probably a bit slow to answer it. With so many good answers to artifacts and enchantments in green, I doubt he will be missed. With 5 artifacts being cut, less artifact destruction is needed.
+Deathgorge Scavenger, –Rhonas the Indomitable
TL;DR – Rhonas was dead too often. Deathgorger is an all-around powerful card that does many things but is not perfect for any single task.
Rhonas had consistency issues. In the later stages of the game, you could pump your limp creatures and attack with him. That is, if your pumped creature is not killed/bounced in response. And Rhonas was universally bad in the early game, outside of rare win-more scenarios.
Deathgorge fills several needed roles, the question is if he fills them well. It is a maindeckable graveyard hate, quite a rarity. This is perhaps the only job he is 100% reliable in. That JVP will have a hard time flipping with this dude on board. It is a source of lifegain situationally. Even if you are able to gain 2 life immediately, chances are Deathgorge will trade in combat or die to a burn spell, effectively being half a Kitchen Finks. This is still probably a fine card against aggro if that’s all it is, but far from great. The final role is being an aggressive three drop. This can be done rather consistently, as it can eat cards from both graveyards. The card could very well end up being too low in powerlevel, but for fulfilling multiple roles and offering some in-game choices it deserves some testing.
+Devoted Druid, –Fertile Ground
TL;DR – Enchantment based ramp doesn’t have many synergies in green is riskier than you imagine.
Enchantment based ramp has been somewhat disappointing in general. There are a few upsides that make them seem superior – they redeem a part of their cost immediately as they do not suffer from summoning sickness, they do not die to creature removals and they can generate even more mana with land untappers such as Garruk Wildspeaker and Arbor Elf. But they also set you back significantly when you face land destruction or bounce, such as Vindicate, Strip Mine, Cryptic Command, Venser, Shaper Savant, Acidic Slime, Flickerwisp, Woodfall Primus, Terastodon and more. Overall this is more common than being able to generate more mana with untap shenanigans.
Creature based ramp has a lot of synergy in green. In many decks you just need a lot of bodies around for Gaea’s Cradle, Craterhoof Behemoth and Garruk Wildspeaker. Cheap green creatures are essential for Natural Order. They also offer more synergy with Survival of the Fittest, Fauna Shaman, Green Sun’s Zenith and more. Meren likes creatures in the graveyard, and creatures dying in general. As always, creatures can carry equipment, threaten planeswalkers and block. Sorcery ramp offers quite a bit as well: deck thinning, shuffle effects (for Oracle of Mul Daya, Sylvan Library, Vizier of the Menagerie and Courser of Kruphix), works with conspiracies better (Double Stroke, Iterative Analysis), can be reused with Eternal Witness and Den Protector, get you higher on the land threshold for Nissa, Vastwood Seer and Sylvan Advocate, pump your Tarmogoyf and discount your Emrakul, the Promised End. Out of color they can also be used for delve costs, they flip Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and Search for Azcanta faster and more. In general, land based ramp is by far the hardest to undo. I think I’ve convinced the reader that enchantment based ramp just doesn’t offer nearly the same payoffs.
Druid can ramp twice, which is attractive. It has some rare synergies with pump effects such as Verdurous Gearhulk and little Elspeth. It is also a self-sacrificing critter for Meren. It also taps twice at some point with Opposition. Overall though, it just gets you from 2->5 and that’s plenty good.
For Overgrowth see above. The tempo hit you get if the land is bounced/destroyed is harsh. Explore is a bit risky in the sense that you are not guaranteed to draw a land with it. That said, it plays well with nonbasic lands, which are increasing in number as of this update. It is the best topdeck of sorcery based ramp spells because it can draw a nonland.
+Hostage Taker, –Samut, Voice of Dissent
TL;DR – a middling five drop became a highly versatile and rounded card that provides a few off-guild effects.
Samut just doesn’t cut it without evasion. It is too easy to contain. He is also just often not better than the mono green and mono red five drops. A mix of Gonti and Sower of Temptation, Hostage Taker has many modes of operation. The first is to play him at turn 4. This gives your opponent a window to kill Hostage Taker before you can play the card you took. If they do not have removal, it is a giant swing – kind of like a Control Magic that leaves behind a 2/3 and cannot be disenchanted or dealt with in any way. If they do have it, it probably cost them less than the 4 mana it cost you and you barely did much. A 2/3 is easy to deal with. Playing hostage taker early is a high risk high reward play. It is still probably the correct line of play if you are under high pressure. It is still a must-answer card the turn after you play him, and the returned creature will get summoning sick. If you play taker later in the game you can immediately replay the card and minimize risks. You still can probably only steal medium value targets that way as you need to cast them that same turn. Taker benefits heavily from counterspells as protection. If you can hit a Wurmcoil with counter mana up, you are golden. Also worth noting that you do not even have to intend to cast the card you are kidnapping, you can always target that reanimated Ulamog even if it is highly unlikely you will ever reach 10 lands. Equally, Taker evaporates tokens. I appreciate that Taker is another form of maindeckable answer to artifacts, especially so for a color combination that lacks removals that hit them. Grabbing a mox with him is dirty.
+Vraska, Relic Seeker, –Detention Sphere
TL;DR – Sphere is a redundant card that’s very close in powerlevel to Banishing Light. Vraska is a mighty win condition with extra amounts of safety and utility.
Detention Sphere is far from a bad card. Every Azorius deck played it. The problem is that it is just a little upgrade over mono white removals, which are playable by far more decks. Even when it saw play in W/U decks, it was usually over a mono white option, whether during deckbuilding or draft phase. Killing tokens is far from flavor text, but OTOH rare enough that the main advantage this card has over Oblivion Ring is that as a two-colored card no other person would grab it during the draft (as it is not strong enough to be splashed for). It might very well be back in the cube if token decks will be more prominent in the metagame.
Vraska is a mighty six drop. Gold six drop planeswalkers are generally pretty bad as they are very restricted in which decks can play them. Luckily, Vraska is green, a color that has few six drops and can relatively easily ramp to that amount of mana. Vraska can start with 8 loyalty and 2 toughness to protect her right off the gates. She is a fairly safe planeswalker to lay down. It is also a reasonable assumption that she wins the game when her ultimate fires, with two 2/2 menace dudes a life total of 1 is low enough. She is a 3-turn clock. On top of that she answers most permanent types efficiently. Vraska looks good in comparison to even Elspeth, Sun’s Champion and Karn. She is miles better than Sorin, Grim Nemesis and the likes. As no other such expensive multicolored planeswalker has even been great in cube there is still some amount of risk here, but I expect the gorgon to shine.
+Field of Ruin, –Gargoyle Castle
TL;DR – Field is likely the third best answer to nonbasics in the cube, and the best one for control decks. There is a limited real estate for pure utility colorless lands, and Gargoyle is only there for slower decks in games that go long.
Two years ago the cube had three colorless utility lands that served as late game mana sinks – Foundry of the Consuls, Gargoyle Castle and Westvale Abbey. Today all three have been cut. As a fan of low opportunity cost inclusion, this requires explanation. Currently there are many mana sinks in the cube. Decks do not have as many instances of waiting for a topdek in the lategame with nothing to do with their mana. This is due to several factors. The full cycle of manlands as well as the cycling lands from Amonkhet are the big contributors. Cycling cards from Amonkhet in general helped a lot. Other mana sink mechanics include embalm, eternalize, clues and more card selection in blue. In addition the colorless mana cost cards have gone comparatively weaker. I’m not sure what is the cause and what is the effect in this relationship – did the decline in the power of the lands made colorless mana cards harder to support, or the colorless mana cards being weak lowered the demand for colorless-only producing lands. In any way, some colorless late-game lands will likely be back if some mana sinks were to leave the cube.
Field of Ruin, unlike Wasteland, doesn’t set you back on mana production. In fact it even fixes you. This makes it great for control or ramp decks that do not want to set themselves back, especially not early. In return, it does not deny your opponent resources. As such, it is more of an answer than a disruption card. There are many lands worth answering in control. Manlands, Volrath’s Stronghold, Library of Alexnadria, Kessig Wolf Run and more all are great targets.
Fields offers more from the mutual shuffle effect. On your library it has synergies with Sylvan Library, Oracle of Mul Daya, Sensei’s Divining Top and the like. On the other deck, it plays well with Commit//Memory and Unexpectedly Absent, not to mention countering Imperial Seal.
+Sundering Titan, –Skysovereign, Consul Flagship
The Tinker target was missed. Titan is still not great, as it has serious problems finishing games, having no evasion. That said, for Daretti/Tinker purposes, it’s one of the best we have got. Crew 3 is a harsh requirement. Skysovereign has few homes, as you need multiple relatively big creatures. Even then, it has to compete against five drops from different colors.
Two color fixing
+5 fastlands, +5 enemy scrylands, –Cultivator’s Caravan, –Reality Smasher, –Smokestack, –Fleetwheel Cruiser, –Aethersphere Harvester, –Sram’s Expertise, –Man-o’-War, –Nezumi Graverobber, –Kari Zev’s Expertise, –Regrowth
TL;DR – More fixing, less chaff.
I think he cube can support more fixing. It will make decks more consistent and lessen losses due to color screws. If we judge picks by playability, dual lands are always going to be ranked high. You always want them if you play both colors. I have completed the fastlands cycle for the allied colors, except Rakdos which got a checkland. Enemy colors had to settle for scry lands. I dislike them, but there are no other good options for enemy colors. Besides, if some scrylands should make it into the cube, it is better to add half a cycle than a full cycle as it would make the cube very slow. They are still sad in Boros and Orzhov for example. I consider them as placeholders.
The cuts are more interesting than the additions. One card was cut from each color. Sram’s Expertise is in perhaps the most contested slot in the cube. It might technically be playable in aggro, but not considered the competition – you always have 3 better cards to play over it that cost 4. In token decks it is decent, but even if you drop an anthem this is not a spectacular play for a 4 drop. In slower decks you have many more reactive cards so it is hard to utilize the free spell, and without it the card is poo. Very unplayable.
Man-o’-War is mostly there as a counter to aggro decks. Bounce one dork, trade with another, great. Also good against midrange, but less so than most blue bombs. As blue tempo isn’t really a thing and aggro is a bit weak, it seems like an easy cut. In X/u tempo decks, three drops in other colors are generally much better. It might return if aggro becomes too strong.
Graverobber is uninteresting unless he flips, which is not guaranteed, even early – either your opponent has too many cards, or none at all… Flipping him requires considerable resources, and the flip side is easily answered and again very slow. Black has improved in the 2 drop department by now.
Kari Zev’s Expertise suffered again from low playability. You need your opponent to have a meaningful creature out, and you to be able to pay double red as well as preferably have a spell to cast. In decks with few creatures it will be a dead card far too often. Most creatures you’d just prefer to burn. It is nice to have a Threaten effect in red be playable in cube against Eldrazis and what not, but this card is dead far too often. A playable Threaten has to be a single mode on a charm or command.
Regrowth is very overrated. It is almost always disappointing. Green decks have few instants and sorceries, and those that it has are not really worth getting back. Returning permanents is worse, as you do not control when they will be put into the graveyard. The larger underlying problem is that it is too situational to be worth the deck slot. You’d rather just play more removals, more burn, more threats, something that will always do what you want it to. The only time when this card is great is with power – Ancestral Recall and Time Walk. This is not enough to carry this card, which is never strong inside the color and is pretty much a trap.
Cultivator’s Caravan is first a mana rock and then a vehicle. A Manalith is not good enough and being a 5/5 vanilla sometimes in the late game does not make up for it.
Reality Smasher is powerful, but again hard to play. As an offensive five drop, the only deck that really wanted it and could support it is green, which can fetch wastes with basic land fetchers. Inside that color, it is still not as good as half the five drops no matter which deck are you building. Nissa, Vital Force also provides that 5 power haste for five mana in green, in a much more rounded and playable package.
Smokestack just saw little play. It is very slow to start rolling. It does nothing the turn it comes into play, and only starts to be interesting with 2+ counters. Even then it is far from a guaranteed win, and requires building around to even break symmetry. It just was a perpetual late pick for far too long. Its legacy will carry on with Braids and a few other cards.
Fleetwheel Cruiser again suffers from the competition of the aggro curvetoppers at 4 mana. It is still a great card, but not against midrange and not compared the 4 drops in white and red for aggro decks.
Aethersphere Harvester is actually fairly playable, but it is mostly an aggro hoser. As aggro is a bit weak now it is unneeded.
In general the cube had too many equipment and vehicles, all are situational cards that require creatures to work and it was clear they were unsustainable in the previous high numbers.