Throne of Eldraine Update

Throne of Eldraine has arrived, and it offers another bounty of options for cube, led by the powerhouse adventure mechanic and its sublime flexibility. Let’s take a look at what’s in and what’s out, and what’s on the cusp. Venerable Knight is another 2/1 for W with a small upside. It’s weaker than most of its competitors, but still strong enough to fit in the cube. It replaces Silverblade Paladin, though the two would probably work well together. Charming Prince is a wonderful addition to the cube, reminiscent of recent standout Knight of Autumn. With so many creatures that can provide ETB value, the Prince feels like a crazy mix between Lone Missionary, Phantasmal Image, and Omenspeaker. It’s got synergy with a whole host of other cube cards and I expect it to be a long-term staple. It leans on Precinct Captain, reducing the number of double-colored-mana two-drops. Brazen Borrower // Petty Theft is one of the three standout adventure cards in the set. It’s like an Into the Roil with a free kicker cost, but the card you draw is always a 3/1 flash flier… not a bad deal at all! It’s even going to take Into the Roil’s spot in the cube. Order of Midnight // Alter Fate is an amazing Gravedigger riff, letting you drop a 2/2 flier on T2 in games where you need that and rebuy a creature first in games where you don’t. While slower than the Graveyard Marshal it replaces, it’s got a ton of flexibility and will find a home in more decks. Murderous Rider // Swift End is another slam-dunk, a contender for the best cube card in Eldraine. A Hero’s Downfall that draws you a decent lifelinking body at the cost of 2 life is an outstanding bargain, and while its tuck clause shuts off a bunch of recursion shenanigans, it can still find its way back to your hand in some decks for re-use. Out goes Slaughter Pact. Rankle, Master of Pranks is an exciting complement to the Stax archetype while also being relevant outside it. Being able to swing with haste for 3 in the air is reasonable for 2BB to start with, but tossing in a trio of symmetric options, any or all of which are available every turn, puts this card over the top for inclusion. The cut is Bloodline Keeper, which is maybe a little too slow for such a powerful environment. Embereth Shieldbreaker // Battle Display continues the list of powerful adventure cards up for inclusion. Being able to split up your Manic Vandal over multiple turns, or bring it down on T2 if you don’t expect to need to break an artifact, is a nice little bump in playability. It’s definitely more flexible than Smash to Smithereens. Robber of the Rich is a spicy two-drop with haste that can net card advantage, not an easy thing to come by for red aggro decks. I think it’s time for Mogg War Marshal to hit the sidelines. Bonecrusher Giant // Stomp is the last of our superpowered adventures. If you like Magma Jet, wait until the scry is replaced with “draw a 4/3 for 2R with a punisher protection ability”! This card provides a T2/T3 play pattern that’s outstanding all by itself, and also works great as an effective five-drop if you have better early-turn options. Brimstone Volley will rotate to the bench to make room. Castle Embereth may be the best red-aligned land ever printed for cube. That’s not to say it’s an all-star, but it gives aggressive decks something to do with their mana in the late game at a very low opportunity cost. It upgrades Stoke the Flames. Once Upon a Time is everything Oath of Nissa wants to be, but also free. Digging five cards deep and able to fetch both lands and creatures, its odds of whiffing entirely are incredibly low, and paying the full 1G if you draw it later in the game isn’t going to be too painful; it’s basically a green Impulse at that rate. It’s an easy inclusion in my book, and kicks out Primal Command. Questing Beast has a lot of words, and they all add up to greatness. Out goes Rhonas the Indomitable, though I’m mildly sad they won’t have the chance to become cube friends. The Great Henge is extremely powerful when you can land it early, and getting powerful cards into play early is what cube is all about. I’m not convinced of its long-term place in the cube but I definitely want to give it a shot. It’ll slot in for Nissa, Vital Force. Grumgully, the Generous is a good Gruul card, and it’s three mana! It’s probably not spectacular but it fits in right on curve and that’s enough to replace Kessig Wolf Run. Garruk, Cursed Huntsman can certainly take over a game like you’d expect from a six-mana PW. I’m not entirely certain he’s better than Vraska, Relic Seeker, but I’ll make the swap to test. This Garruk might have a short stay. Oko, Thief of Crowns is a pretty clearly broken card. Simic has gotten some great toys in recent years, and Oko is deceptively strong in his ability to control the board, while his high loyalty makes him a nuisance to deal with for opposing decks. Even away from his food synergy cards, he’s going to be a powerhouse. He boots Shardless Agent. Fabled Passage is a better Evolving Wilds so it’s obviously in. Instead of cutting a land, I’m trimming the boring Filigree Familiar. Seventeen cards! And there are plenty pushing for consideration, like Stonecoil Serpent, Giant Killer // Chop Down, Castle Vantress, Castle Locthwain, Gilded Goose, Wicked Wolf, Realm-Cloaked Giant // Cast Off, and Wildborn Preserver. Hopefully Wizards doesn’t keep up this pace of turning over 2% of the cube every set because I’m not going to be able to afford to keep up!
Silverblade Paladin > Venerable KnightPrecinct Captain > Charming PrinceInto the Roil > Brazen Borrower // Petty TheftGraveyard Marshal > Order of Midnight // Alter FateSlaughter Pact > Murderous Rider // Swift EndBloodline Keeper > Rankle, Master of PranksSmash to Smithereens > Embereth Shieldbreaker // Battle DisplayMogg War Marshal > Robber of the RichBrimstone Volley > Bonecrusher Giant // StompStoke the Flames > Castle EmberethPrimal Command > Once Upon a TimeRhonas the Indomitable > Questing BeastNissa, Vital Force > The Great HengeKessig Wolf Run > Grumgully, the GenerousVraska, Relic Seeker > Garruk, Cursed HuntsmanShardless Agent > Oko, Thief of CrownsFiligree Familiar > Fabled Passage

Fall 2019 Update

Faith's Fetters > Anafenza, Kin-Tree SpiritMartial Coup > Thalia's LieutenantSublime Archangel > Benalish MarshalAngel of Sanctions > Fiend HunterSram's Expertise > Force of VirtueKira, Great Glass-Spinner > Riftwing CloudskateJace, Architect of Thought > Arcane ArtisanWill Kenrith > Narset, Parter of VeilsSea Gate Oracle > Trinket MageGilded Drake > Faerie ConclaveVampire Lacerator > Tormented HeroOb Nixilis Reignited > SinkholeGray Merchant of Asphodel > Zulaport CutthroatMidnight Reaper > Mardu Strike LeaderDesecration Demon > TombstalkerCollective Defiance > Goblin EngineerHarrow > FastbondCurse of Predation > Pelt CollectorGreenwarden of Murasa > Worldly TutorGarruk, Primal Hunter > Mayor of AvabruckWhisperwood Elemental > Nightpack AmbusherEnd-Raze Forerunners > Selvala's StampedeSphinx's Revelation > Teferi, Time RavelerObzedat, Ghost Council > Kaya's WrathCoiling Oracle > Prime Speaker VannifarSiege Rhino > Retrofitter FoundryIsochron Scepter > Treasure MageSkysovereign, Consul Flagship > Sword of Truth and JusticeNicol Bolas, Planeswalker > Icy ManipulatorRatchet Bomb > Dust BowlSulfurous Springs > Canyon SloughKarplusan Forest > Sheltered ThicketSunpetal Grove > Scattered GrovesMystic Gate > Seachrome CoastSunken Ruins > Darkslick ShoresGraven Cairns > Blackcleave CliffsFire-Lit Thicket > Copperline GorgeWooded Bastion > Razorverge ThicketFetid Heath > Concealed CourtyardCascade Bluffs > Spirebluff CanalTwilight Mire > Blooming MarshRugged Prairie > Inspiring VantageFlooded Grove > Botanical SanctumBrushland > Horizon CanopyCaves of Koilos > Silent ClearingShivan Reef > Fiery IsletLlanowar Wastes > Nurturing PeatlandBattlefield Forge > Sunbaked CanyonYavimaya Coast > Waterlogged Grove

Core Set 2020 Update

We’ve had a bunch of sets lately with huge ramifications for cube. Now it’s time for a well-deserved break. Rotting Regisaur is one of the cheapest big dumb monsters we’ve ever seen. Comparable to Master of the Feast, Reggie trades flying for +2/+1, an easier mana cost, and an easier drawback to work around. He looks to be a great top end for all-in aggro decks and a respectable discard outlet in decks that want one. He’ll get a spin over Whip of Erebos. Voracious Hydra is tremendously flexible and can be relevant from turn 3 onward, always letting you find a way to maximize your mana usage. Getting a targeted fight effect attached to a body in green that scales is great for removing utililty creatures and chump blockers, and if the situation calls for it, the Hydra can just enter as a huge monster and hope to connect the following turn. It replaces Strangleroot Geist. That’s it! That’s the list! Which means it’s a good time to re-evaluate our existing cards and see whether there are any sections that could use a little shake-up. I think it’s time to add a few more big payoff cards that can be useful to almost every deck. Adanto Vanguard has played well in Standard over the past year and might just have the juice for cube. Protecting itself against a lot of removal and sweepers is a valuable trait, as is always swinging for three. I’m cycling out Seeker of the Way for it. Finale of Glory almost made the cut upon WAR’s release, and I’ve decided I like it better than Mikaeus, the Lunarch, as it provides similar flexibility but a lot more pop. Blood Artist is a card I’ve avoided for a while. I don’t intend to go full-bore supporting an Aristocrats playstyle but I do think there are decks that might like the Artist more than what it replaces, Gnarled Scarhide. If it does well, I might find space for Zulaport Cutthroat and other similar enablers. Buried Alive has been in and out of my cube over the years and I’d like to see it return, replacing the lackluster Divest. Goblin Bombardment seems like a natural complement to the increasing number of efficient red token producers. With Legion Warboss, Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin, and Seasoned Pyromancer all joining the Trove in just the past year, G-Bomb might find itself relegated to fewer sideboards. Ash Zealot can take a seat. Risk Factor has certainly proven its worth in Standard, and there are cube decks which greatly resemble the sort of pressure-filled aggression which lets the Factor shine. It jumps in for Devil’s Play. Experimental Frenzy sure is stupid when it gets rolling. I don’t love replacing Rekindling Phoenix already, but I don’t see another clear option. Thrashing Brontodon’s sizable body is a better deal for cube than Return to Nature’s chance to hose a graveyard-related play. Clean swap there. Nissa, Who Shakes the World continues to impress across the board. I would put her in for Regal Behemoth but that card has already left. Instead it’ll be Kalonian Hydra getting the axe. Hydroid Krasis finally gets a call up over Simic Sky Swallower. Losing hexproof on your big monster flier hurts, but drawing some cards and gaining some life is a strong fallback plan, and the added flexibility to play the card on turn 4 when needed is huge. Duplicant gets a return trip to the Trove to offer an exile removal option to any color who finds they need one. Out goes the venerable Cursed Scroll. Ugin, the Ineffable is a card I slept on. It’s really good! Sometimes you need the expensive sorcery-speed removal spell but often you can find a spot to play him and start spewing cantripping chump blockers. Plus, there are several cards that make his colorless spell discount highly relevant. He tosses Retrofitter Foundry. Kozilek, Butcher of Truth might make one too many huge colorless creatures for the cube… or he might be just the right amount. It’s hard to evaluate whether more are needed because in any draft you usually only get access to half the cards. Westvale Abbey was maybe a little too difficult to work with, rarely actually getting to transform or even make a significant impact with its tokens. It’s clear that Wizards of the Coast is putting more attention into creating cube-worthy cards. I’m looking forward to see what we get in the fall set!
Whip of Erebos > Rotting RegisaurStrangleroot Geist > Voracious HydraSeeker of the Way > Adanto VanguardMikaeus, the Lunarch > Finale of GloryGnarled Scarhide > Blood ArtistDivest > Buried AliveAsh Zealot > Goblin BombardmentDevil's Play > Risk FactorRekindling Phoenix > Experimental FrenzyReturn to Nature > Thrashing BrontodonKalonian Hydra > Nissa, Who Shakes the WorldSimic Sky Swallower > Hydroid KrasisCursed Scroll > DuplicantRetrofitter Foundry > Ugin, the IneffableWestvale Abbey > Kozilek, Butcher of Truth

Modern Horizons Update

Wizards is working hard to break me. After a great set in May with at least a dozen cube adds and several more strong contenders, they’ve dropped one of the richest cube sets of all time barely a month later. Buckle up as we talk about Modern Horizons. Giver of Runes is an interesting riff of Mother of Runes. While it’s clearly not as strong (since it’s unable to protect itself), it can still operate sort of like a Spellskite against removal, which is a useful trait to have. It’s certainly a more compelling card than the Elite Vanguard it’s replacing. Winds of Abandon compares very favorably with Declaration in Stone. While it provides a more immediate benefit to the opponent, it also has the bonus mode of being a sweeper, which is a really powerful and flexible trait for a cube card to have. It bumps out Thalia’s Lancers, though I’d consider going back to the Lancers in the future. Serra the Benevolent looks pretty great. It’s essentially a Serra Angel that’s one mana cheaper but also leaves behind a planeswalker that can pump the original Angel, make a second one in two turns, or try to turn into a Worship emblem, which some decks will struggle to ever overcome. That’s a great package for four mana, and it slides in over Archangel of Thune for a test run. Urza, Lord High Artificer is a really sweet design. Four mana gets you a 1/4, a variable-sized artifact creature token, the ability to suck mana out of your artifacts, and a Temporal Aperture that you can use as much as you want. That’s a lot of value! Rather than replace a similar and complementary card like Whirler Rogue, I’m putting Urza in over Arcane Savant. Savant is the last remaining “draft matters” card in the cube, and as fun as it is to pair with Upheaval or Time Walk, it always felt a little unfair. Like Cogwork Librarian and the Conspiracies I’ll be moving it to a separate cube package for when the group wants to include those cards in the experience. Yawgmoth, Thran Physician is a lot like Urza, with a lot of different pieces that work well together. A respectable 2/4 body is made better by being able to shrink opposing creatures by throwing your life total and other bodies at them, no mana required; being able to serve as a discard outlet while proliferating is also outstanding. If the card has a weakness it’s that none of its pieces are supremely impactful on their own; they all want you to shovel extra resources in for smaller effects that need help to be game winners. It replaces Isareth the Awakener, which tends to be a bit too mana-intensive to hold its own. Seasoned Pyromancer is yet another high-value card that seems like it was designed with cube in mind. I love skill-testing cards and this is right up there, giving you the chance to rummage twice on ETB and possibly get token value out of it. Do you need four power for three mana? You can get that if you’re willing to toss some nonlands into the graveyard. Or maybe want to go the other way, eject some lands for fresh draws and try to bust through a pocket, maybe Crucible them back later. Can you be patient enough to empty your hand and drop this as a red hellbent Mulldrifter? Or do you want to make sure you can dump your reanimation targets in the graveyard? Let’s not forget the two tokens you can scavenge out of his dead body. He’s going to push out Sin Prodder, as he gives a lot more value for your three mana. Hexdrinker is a slam dunk. 2/1s for one mana are an important part of the cube environment, but this one is also a 4/4 for four mana with protection from instants, that can turn into a 6/6 for nine total mana that is Progenitus. That’s nuts. Somehow they’ve made a one-drop that’s one of green’s best late-game topdecks! It’s a solid upgrade over Pelt Collector. Deep Forest Hermit is another bit of love shown to green in Modern Horizons. It feels like a slight upgrade over Deranged Hermit, which makes it a lock for the cube, especially when they play very well together. This card finally drives out Wolfir Silverheart, which feels like it has narrowly survived every update for a while now. Wrenn and Six is an extremely exciting card. Gruul has always wanted diversity from the typical midgame bombs, and here we have a two-mana planeswalker that slots nicely into any decks with fetchlands or utility lands, while also serving to discourage X/1 threats and eventually producing a powerful ultimate. Gruul Spellbreaker gets replaced here rather than Kessig Wolf Run. Sword of Truth and Justice and Sword of Sinew and Steel make for a very interesting question: how many Swords is too many for a 720-card cube? For now I’m going to include just Sinew and Steel. The card heading out is Cultivator’s Caravan. Prismatic Vista is the easiest cube addition since Ash Barrens. It requires no explanation. For symmetry, I’m removing Prismatic Lens for it. So that’s eleven cards… but we’re not done yet. For one thing, the Canopy lands demand attention. I haven’t decided exactly how I’m going to reshuffle my included lands to accomodate them. Then there’s the Talisman cycle, recently completed; for now I’m sticking with my Signets but I’m keeping an eye on them for future inclusion. And then there are a host of other cards that are on my radar, like Plague Engineer, Goblin Engineer, Mist-Syndicate Naga, Ranger-Captain of Eos, Collector Ouphe, Bazaar Trademage, Shenanigans, Nature’s Chant, Goblin Oriflamme, Soulherder, Force of Virtue, *takes deep breath*, Ice-Fang Coatl, Watcher for Tomorrow, Orcish Hellraiser, Fallen Shinobi, Impostor of the Sixth Pride, Good-Fortune Unicorn, Ephemerate, Alpine Guide... seriously, this set has an unreal amount of potential in it. Looking forward to a quiet summer with a dull Core Set so I have time to chase down all these new cards!
Elite Vanguard > Giver of RunesThalia's Lancers > Winds of AbandonArchangel of Thune > Serra the BenevolentArcane Savant > Urza, Lord High ArtificerIsareth the Awakener > Yawgmoth, Thran PhysicianSin Prodder > Seasoned PyromancerPelt Collector > HexdrinkerWolfir Silverheart > Deep Forest HermitGruul Spellbreaker > Wrenn and SixCultivator's Caravan > Sword of Sinew and SteelPrismatic Lens > Prismatic Vista

War of the Spark Update

War is upon us, and with it, another cube update. And this set’s pretty crazy for cube. Gideon Blackblade may be a bit boring, but it’s also just very strong. A 4/4 indestructible for three mana that brings along a small buff for a teammate and possibly a removal spell on stalled boards is plenty cubeable. It replaces Eldrazi Displacer, whose removal will let me no longer need to support Wastes; I’ll keep an eye on the Displacer to rotate back in if Wizards returns to that mechanic. God-Eternal Kefnet is another card that’s just really powerful. Four mana for a 4/5 flier with recursion text and a bonus beyond it? Sign me up. Baral’s Expertise gets the axe this time as a card that usually didn’t live up to its potential in such a high-powered environment. Liliana’s Triumph is an upgrade over Diabolic Edict, so space must be made for it. Relentless Dead is a card that can stand to be pushed off the list here. Liliana, Dreadhorde General is an absolute beating every time she shows up. She might not be quite as good in a powered cube environment, but getting to bring a Barter in Blood that often nets you bonus cards before spewing Zombies onto the board is totally worth her high mana cost. She spells the end for Kokusho, the Evening Star. Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin adds a fifth red three-drop that can pour tokens onto the board; it compares very favorably to the previous versions of this effect. He pushes out Ahn-Crop Crasher, which is unfortunate as I like the exert effect, but it was bound to happen eventually on raw power alone. Ilharg, the Raze-Boar is a BIG PIG. Sorry, Goblin Dark-Dwellers. Return to Nature adds a mode to Naturalize which makes it even more appealing as a sideboard card for the cube. We’ll slot it in over Explore, which was mostly filler. Vivien’s Arkbow is an interesting one. I’m not yet sure if it’ll prove worthwhile, but it lets you fill your graveyard and play creatures around counterspells at instant speed… so that might be enough to justify its place on the list. It takes over for Ripjaw Raptor. Finale of Devastation sure looks like a cube card. Adding one mana to Green Sun’s Zenith gets you the ability to find nongreen creatures and to search the graveyard as well… plus if you’re ramping and can land this for 12+ mana, the game is probably over on the spot. It’ll get a try over Regal Behemoth, which is a card I’m sad to see go. There’s only so much space at the top of the green curve. Domri, Anarch of Bolas looks great. Mana source, counterspell invalidation, team pump, and targeted fight… what’s not to love? His inclusion is sad news for one of my favorite cards of all time, the venerable Kird Ape. This was one of the first cards I fell in love with while playing Magic, but it continues to get pushed on power level by newer things. Rather than drop the Gruul Spellbreaker I just added, the Ape can head to the sidelines. Saheeli, Sublime Artificer is very potent if she shows up early and has many cool synergies for artifact-heavy piles. She drives out Ral Zarek, because four PWs would just be too many for the Izzet section… though I’m sorely tempted to give Ral, Storm Conduit a try after how well he has played for me in WAR limited. Blast Zone is an excellently designed card, a great way to get a Powder Keg effect back into the cube without costing deckbuilders a nonland slot. It lets me remove Thought-Knot Seer, the only other card in my cube reliant on Wastes. There are a bunch of other cards I might decide to give a spin, like Wall of Runes, Narset, Parter of Veils, Teferi, Time Raveler, God-Eternal Oketra, Eternal Taskmaster, Finale of Glory, and more. But this is already twelve cards, almost half of them chase mythics, and my wallet is groaning under the strain… not to mention the Modern Horizons set on the, well, horizon. We’ll see how this dozen does before throwing in anything else.
Eldrazi Displacer > Gideon BlackbladeBaral's Expertise > God-Eternal KefnetRelentless Dead > Liliana's TriumphKokusho, the Evening Star > Liliana, Dreadhorde GeneralAhn-Crop Crasher > Krenko, Tin Street KingpinGoblin Dark-Dwellers > Ilharg, the Raze-BoarExplore > Return to NatureRipjaw Raptor > Vivien's ArkbowRegal Behemoth > Finale of DevastationKird Ape > Domri, Anarch of BolasRal Zarek > Saheeli, Sublime ArtificerThought-Knot Seer > Blast Zone

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