It’s been a long while since I’ve posted on here. For the most part, we stopped cubing regularly and I started doing my updates on cubetutor.com. Recently, Anthony Avitollo asked me to do a write-up of my Innistrad cube that I recently finished, so this felt like the best avenue to describe it.
Of the past few blocks, there are two draft environments that stand out to me. I have fond memories of drafting both RoEx3 and INNx3 and so I wanted a way to try to recreate one of them that didn’t involve MTGO. This project started about a year ago, as one of the local players had the idea of creating a Rise of the Eldrazi cube, which I then essentially copied for Innistrad. (Shoutouts to Dan Green)
The basis behind the cube is to try to recreate the draft environment as close as possible without having to do a TON of extra work like creating new boosters from real cards, etc. This is done by keeping each rarity separate and recreating packs with their normal rarity counts, as opposed to normal cube which is just shuffle up packs of 15. There is also the added caveat of DFC for Innistrad cube.
The numbers initially settled on by Dan were 4 of each common, 3 of each uncommon, 2 of each rare and 1 of each mythic. I’m not sure how this looks compared to normal pack drafts, but in the few I’ve done with this set up, it has felt pretty similar to the regular environment. We kept the same numbers for the double-face cards, shuffled up all of them together and included one in each pack. With 53 non-DFC rares and 15 non-DFC mythics, the numbers are actually relatively close to normal mythic distribution (a 12.5% chance in a normal pack, a 14% chance for my cube). When drafting Innistrad at my local store, we had everyone proclaim what DFC they opened when starting a pack, just to take away the dexterity issue of people needing to spy on their neighbors.
The other fun aspect about this cube was trying to collect all the foils! Since pimping out cubes is something a lot of cubers already do, it was made it even better when I had people bringing me foil Typhoid Rats in the middle of FNM, or the crushing defeat of SCG being sold out of foil Fortress Crabs when I needed them. At the time of writing this, I’ve currently got 739 of the 763 foils I need, and I’ve also got at least 30 of each basic land foiled out with my favorite Innistrad art.
We did our first Innistrad cube draft last week, and it was a resounding success. The nostalgia each player had when opening packs was fantastic. I ended up 4-0’ng with a pretty nice U/G deck featuring double Elder of Laurels and triple(!!!) Darkthicket Wolf. I went into the draft purposely not wanting to draft Spider Spawning, as I assumed people would be forcing that if possible. I did end up getting one of the three Spawnings available in the cube, however I didn’t have enough fixing to be able to flash it back, and opted not to play it. You can see the deck here: https://twitter.com/Kengy5/status/401059537165094912/photo/1
I’ve toyed around with the idea of eventually modifying the card pool to include some Dark Ascension cards in order to make some more archetypes viable. Cards like Wild Hunger, the uncommon lord cycle, Gravecrawler, Skirsdag Flayer and Hollowhenge Spirit would make different color combinations more viable, so that G/W Travel Prep isn’t the default best deck.
If you have any specific draft environments that you’ve found to be particularly enjoyable, I would recommend trying to recreate them with a cube. Sure, the pack distribution might not be the exact same as live packs, but the overall feel is very similar. Completing this cube makes me want to try a double Ravnica block cube as well, and I know Chas Andres has also mentioned creating a Modern Masters cube. If you have any specific questions that I haven’t covered here, just send them to @kengy5 on Twitter, or comment on the blog post here and I’ll try to check back.
Another pre-release, another cube update! After the full spoiler was put out Monday, I went through my usual process of finding cards I no longer wanted in cube, and then figured out what I was looking to add from the new set, and made the numbers match. In addition to M13, I’ve also decided to bring some big change to both green and black. Black’s change is based on unplayability; black aggro never got drafted and the aggressive creatures sat in sideboards. Green’s change is based on a number of drafts I was able to participate in using the Magic Online Cube. G/x ramp is considered to be the best deck of the initial cube list. I’m going to list the changes for each color and try to focus on the M13 changes. Here we go!
Yosei has been disappointing for a while now. It’s a fine body, but the without Recurring Nightmare, the potential to lock someone isn’t there. At that point it generally only bought you a one turn window to resolve a threat in control matchups, and otherwise it was usually just a 5/5. Sun Titan comes highly recommended from the other local cube owner as well as many online cubers. It also brings the Titan count to 5/5, which is astounding for a cycle.
I recently decided to make a push to limit the amount of planeswalkers included in cube. Given the general power level of the average planeswalker, unless we start to limit the amount included, 4-6 planeswalker decks will be the usual for cube, which is too oppressive and unfun in my opinion. I’m going to be including two planeswalkers per color, with a potential third being included for testing purposes. Gideon and Elspeth are almost untouchable in terms of pure power level, so Ajani Goldman had to go by process of elimination.
On the surface, Sublime Archangel is one of the best four drops ever printed. Exalted is one of those great abilities that effectively has haste due to the way it interacts with other creatures. I’m skeptical that the Archangel is as good as it looks. It makes one gigantic creature, but similar “just a giant dude” cards have been disappointing in the past. I’m willing to give it a try, but I feel like it will be cut relatively soon.
A 6th of black’s cards are coming out with this change. I’m officially dropping black aggro from the cube, cutting all the one drops and most of the aggressive only two drops. I don’t stick to the philosophy that every color needs to have some aggro support, and black is now the premier control color. I also wanted to give a little more support to the reanimate strategy. Entomb actually works with quite a few other cards outside of strict reanimate. Masscre Wurm also comes back in in order to combat the tokens deck.
Not too many changes here. Conscripts is an obvious inclusion, stealing planeswalkers being the biggest game available. Bonfire and Thundermaw also come in to give additional support for red based control decks. Given the success of changing around the GW guild cards to support GW tokens, I’ve decided to start implementing it with other guilds. I want to try R/G as a ramp based control strategy, and both Bonfire and Thundermaw fit into that.
As I mentioned, I wanted to give green a little ramp love, both in R/G and just green in general. Adding more ramp, more creatures to ramp into, and a better tutor in Tooth and Nail helps accomplish that.
Thragtusk is ridiculous. The card is absolutely bonkers, and will be a cube staple for a long while. I don’t think I need to explain why, but our initial cube with him had much praise for all his abilities. Yeva seems like a fun, unique card that will help green decks fight against the control decks much like Summoning Trap did in the most recent standard format.
As I mentioned in the red section, I’m taking R/G and making it more of a ramp color. I’ve heard good things about Lumberjack from the Magic Online cube, so I decided to give it a go. Savage Twister is a fine Firespout effect as well. B/W doesn’t have much available in terms of themes, so I’m just including the most powerful cards available. Unburial Rites also combos well with Entomb or Gifts Ungiven. Loam Lion never saw play, and Putrid Leech is too color intensive for a deck that doesn’t need an aggressive 2 drop.
These are probably two of my most controversial exclusions recently. Isochron Scepter is a 95/5% card. 95% of the time, it is last picked and does nothing. The other 5% of the time, its absolutely bonkers and if left unchecked, will dominate a game. I’m normally alright with build around me cards, but I don’t think Scepter is worth keeping in on that basis. Fellwar Stone comes in to better aid the ramp strategy.
Skullclamp is similar to Jitte. It was printed in a time when Wizard’s didn’t double check equipment after late changes in development. The card is an insane card drawing engine. It can take a bad deck, in any color, and make it busted with a few equips. I’ve seen too many mediocre decks get carried by this card that I’m willing to try cubing without it. Ratchet Bomb is here as a colorless answer to the tokens deck. It even combos with newly added Sun Titan!
Both of these changes are in support of these guilds being pushed towards control and ramp accordingly.
These are the changes! We’ve only done one draft with the changes, and the results were very encouraging. Black based control was drafted, as was reanimator. There were even two ramp decks included. Thragtusk was an absolute house and I can’t wait to see more of the cards included play out. The next change for me will probably be after the Return to Ravnica, where we’ll hopefully get some replacements for our multicolor guilds that are lacking. I’ll also hopefully be writing up some blog posts about conforming the guilds to the specific archetypes desired. Let me know your thoughts in the comments about the changes, whether you agree or disagree!
@Kengy5 on Twitter
I just got back from visiting my local game store’s second pre-release sealed event. I only played in the midnight release, but I did end up going 3-0 and drawing the last round with a buddy for 7 packs. I don’t want to judge the limited environment too much based on sealed deck, and it’s always going to be hard to follow up Innistrad in any format, but I was a bit disappointed overall. I did get a chance to see how a lot of the miracle cards played out, and how often people missed them too (myself included). With some experience watching and played, I’ll be reviewing green today for cube, which has a lot of quietly powerful cards.
Unfortunately one of the rares I didn’t see cast this weekend, Champion still strikes me as a very powerful card. The initial cost of 3 mana for a 1/1 is underwhelming, but the two abilities are outstanding together. Just as a 1/1, this stops any 0/X walls from blocking which can be relevant for your one and two drops. Past that, this card becomes bonkers with any sort of token makers. It pairs best with white, which has cards like Geist-Honored Monk and Cloudgoat to put this into overdrive quick. There are multiple three drops in Avacyn Restored that may see cube play, and I think this is the best of the bunch.
The uncommon in a cycle of oulbonding pumpers, Druid’s Familiar caught me offguard last night at the pre-release. Given the fact that Avacyn Restored has less removal than most sets, soulbond cards will need to be evaluated closely to see if the more removal in cube makes these unplayable. As with the rest of the soulbond creatures, the psuedo-haste is relevant, and the Familiar will give you two creatures that are difficult to deal with in combat. I can see it being weaker against black based decks in pauper, but you should be able to go over the top of each other color, and be out of the range of red removal. Pair it with a Mire/River Boa or Ledgewalker for best effect!
Since I have almost every one drop accelerator available in green, one thing I’ve been trying to focus on is having a lot of powerful three drops to curve into on turn 2. The ability to continue curving into a turn three 6 drop is insanely powerful, and the kind of ramp that helps give green it’s niche in cube. The fact that it taps for any color helps as well, as it will continue to push green towards fixing mana as well as ramp. I’m not entirely certain if it will stick, but I’m definitely going to be testing this out, and potentially adding a 6 drop or two to green to compensate.
Between Beast Within, Dismember and the keywording of ‘fight’, green has been getting a lot of good situational removal lately. Prey Upon has been good so far for me, and a recurring Prey Upon is probably going to be even better. Costing one mana is great as you’ll be able to find a spare mana early on to drop him and not mess up your curve much. The tracker will obviously be pretty weak against the control decks unless you’re going SUPER big, but otherwise, the ability to dominate the board makes this a must answer threat.
My biggest regret about this card is that it isn’t a snake, as hissing at people when flashing Ambush Viper into play is probably my favorite interaction in Magic right now. As I mentioned above, curving into three drops is where green wants to be at with creature based decks, and this improved Trained Armodon fits the bill perfectly. The flash is sweet for a nice threat post-wrath, or the ability to do it’s best Ambush Viper impression against other aggressive decks. The regeneration is just icing on the cake, and I have a feeling this will be a staple in full and pauper cubes for some time.
This is the rare for the +X/+X soulbond creatures previously mentioned, and it does not mess around. Assuming it stays bonded, Wolfir Silverheart is 12 power for 5 mana. The awesome thing about this, and the soulbond mechanic, is it helps turn late game mana elfs into viable threats. If unanswered, this will actually just beat the piss out of your opponent in a few turns. Much like the other soulbond cards that I’ll be testing, I will be curious to see how a format with more removal like cube will balance out the power of these cards. There will be instant speed blowouts that linger in the minds of players, but I hope best/worst case scenario mentality doesn’t have an effect on the evaluation of these cards.
And with that, the Avacyn Restored set review is done! I now know how difficult it is for pros to go through set reviews, and I did a lot less! Let me know any thoughts on the format of the review or what I can do differently, as I’ll most likely do one for M13 (which probably will only add a card or two) and beyond. Later this week I will have a cube update with what I’ll be testing and some reasoning behind why cards are coming out. Most of the reasons for cards going in will have been covered by this week’s review.
@Kengy5 on Twitter
The Avacyn Restored pre-release is only a few days away, and I’ve been taking in as many set reviews as possible. While all pre-releases are enjoyable, there’s something special about a completely new format. There were some fun cards added in Dark Ascension, but an entire new format is just fantastic. Today I’ll be reviewing red, which has a lot of possible inclusions, but only one I would consider a slam dunk for full cube. As always, my opinions on pauper cards is an educated guess through small discussion and theorizing. Lets go!
While I was playing Magic back when Viashino Cutthroat was printed, I was busy with a en-Kor/Spike combo deck while learning earth science, so the power level of that sort of effect escapes me. In terms of constructed, Archwing Dragon will have a tough time breaking through the armies of 1/1 flying spirit tokens that will be a mainstay for the next 16 months, but in cube, it has potential. The four slot in red is pretty stacked, and even received an upgrade recently with Hellrider, but there is room for a card with this effect. Four mana is a heavy investment, but having a late game mana sink is fine, and there aren’t many flying blockers to fight in combat. It also dodges sorcery speed removal, so it’s a great follow up to a wrath.
This format’s fireball variant, and boy is it. The full cost is pretty hefty, as a 5 mana Volcanic Fallout is not what I want to be doing in red based control decks, but it has potential in the sort of fast artifact mana deck that normally supports Wildfire/Destructive Force style cards. Much like Terminus, it feels a little awkward to miracle cast this unless it’s the perfect situation, but I still think Bonfire will be worth testing out as another red wrath.
As with Viashino Cuttroat, I wasn’t around for Spikeshot Goblin in the original Mirrodin block, but I did get a chance to play with it’s little brother Spikeshot Elder, and it was a house in limited games. Pingers are always very powerful, and those that can be activated multiple times per turn are even better. Falkenrath Exterminator two abilities synergize very well, allowing you to clear the way via pings to grow. I have a feeling if this connects even once, it will win games on it’s own in pauper. It also combos with any equipment, much like the Spikeshots.
I almost missed Kruin Striker when reading through the set the first time, but got it on second glance. It reminds me a lot of Keldon Marauders in that it’s closer to a burn spell than an actual creature. If you’re curving out, this will resemble a Hellspark Elemental. Kruin Striker fits best in an aggressive R/W deck, with Midnight Haunting, Spectral Procession, Hero of Bladehold and Cloudgoat Ranger all trigger it multiple times in a turn. I’ll be testing this in full cube and think it will be great in pauper as well.
One of the benefits I’ve discussed with the soulbond creatures is that they have psuedo-haste when bonding with a creature already on the battlefield, however Lightning Mauler gives psuedo and actual haste. When on curve, this will be be better served waiting to bond with your three drop, which once again means this will fit in R/x aggro better than mono red since most of red’s late beaters have haste. It again fits very well with white, as their late beaters usually are better bodies at the cost of non-haste.
I’ve discussed quite a few miracle cards so far, and Thunderous Wrath is one of the few from this set that doesn’t need good timing to get the best value out of it. I’m curious to see how miracles will play out in limited, but in any aggressive red based deck, this card is amazing so long as it’s not in your opening seven. Discard outlets such as Faithless Looting are less prevalent in cube, so if you do draw this in your opening hand, you’ve effectively mulliganed. One thing that I do like about it is that it’s a burn spell that really only functions well in the aggressive decks, so control decks that normally steal cheap burn for removal won’t want it.
Planeswalkers are often the hardest cards to evaluate. As with most new cards, the best way to do so is to compare them to former planeswalkers with similar abilities. The other key component to PW evaluation is “Can the Planeswalker defend itself the turn it comes into play?” Tibalt is impossible to evaluate in this manner, as it’s the first 2 mana Planeswalker, and you generally won’t have to defend it on turn two. I initially dismissed this, as unlike the current Standard environment, there isn’t a ton of graveyard interactions for red in cube. Assuming you drafted a deck that receives no advantage from Tibalt’s +1, it can still be considered a net neutral. Sometimes you’ll discard spells you want, and other times you’ll discard lands you don’t want. The best way to look at Tibalt is as a 2 mana Sudden Impact with suspend 2, and upside. It’s probably only going to be good against control decks, but if they can’t deal with it, you can Sudden Impact them and keep your Tibalt, or continue ticking it up until they have to deal with the Tibalt before playing a threat. Another one that needs to be tested closely, but I have high hopes for this half-devil man thing.
The last card for today, and one of the most controversial it would seem. The punisher mechanic is often a skill tester, as newer players can only see the best case scenario “It’s a guaranteed four damage no matter WHAT”, whereas seasoned pros know all too often that your opponent making the decision means they will do so with their own best interests. Browbeat saw play when it was standard legal, only because the three cards it drew you often equated to a future five damage, so either mode was acceptable. As far as cube goes, I think Vexing Devil will eventually be a staple, once people realize how powerful both modes are. The fact that it is a late game top-deck is irrelevant; so is Goblin Guide but I don’t see people passing that card too often. The body is bigger than most blockers in the first four turns, so this will usually be a four damage lava spike. And guess what, that’s perfectly fine for the red decks. Goblin Guide usually gets outclassed in a few turns anyway, so they’re actually very similar. I included this in our last draft, but it wasn’t in the cardpool, so I’ll have to wait a few more drafts to see how good it is.
Tomorrow is Pre-release eve! I’m hoping to be able to do the green section over lunch, as I will be working late and won’t have a chance to do it before the pre-release. If I don’t get it done tomorrow, it will probably go up Saturday or Sunday. Sometime next week, after playing with miracle cards and some discussion with local cubers, I will put up my card for card Avacyn Restored changes, including some changes made between now and my last update.
@Kengy5 on Twitter
It’s hump day here on Avacyn Restored week, which means the middle of the wheel Black (and friends). There aren’t too many slam dunks for cube in black, but I think it will add a few roleplayers overall. Onto the cards!
Unlike the rest of the 1 mana discard spells, Appetite for Brains is not universally playable. It’s good for both control decks and aggro decks, being able to steal either a late game threat in the control mirror or a wrath effect as an aggressive black deck. It does whiff against most aggro decks, at best hitting a Fireblast from your mono-red opponent assuming they won’t want to self-Geddon in response. I don’t think it will be worth running if mono-black aggro isn’t a popular strategy in your local cube group, but it’s worth trying out if you enjoy Messenging/Obliterating.
This entire block has done wonders for weird body sizes in colors that normally don’t receive them. As with the blue bodies, you need to work hard for the increased power/toughness, but in the Taskmaster’s case, it’s worth it. Playing this on turn 1 with Dark Ritual offers an aggressive clock that can be backed by discard, and it’s also a good follow up to a wrath effect, as it needs to be dealt with quickly. It’s even good as an early threat for control decks in the control mirror, since you probably won’t be deploying another creature anyway. It had decent results in the first cube we ran it in, and I look forward to testing it out a bit more.
Griselbrand has all you want from a finisher; it passes the Jace/Terminate test, it can win in combat with pretty much every other creature in cube, and it puts a halt to any aggressive strategy through lifelink. It will most likely be cheated into play, either through Tooth and Nail or reanimation. In reanimator decks, much like Jin-Gitaxias, this will help fuel the next iteration of reanimation, since you can draw seven and discard any other fatties. Look out for foils early on, since foil legends usually have a premium price tag, and this card may pick up in standard. An aside un-related to this card’s playability in cube, it is kind of embarrassing that in the story Griselbrand gets killed quickly by Lilanna and Avacyn wins, but the card quality for constructed environments is flipped completely. I understand angels are generally more of a casual creature type, but something closer to Baneslayer would have been great for Avacyn.
Wurmcoil Engine’s uncommon, and much less powerful brothers, Maalfeld Twins is a decent fit for C/UC cubes. Phyrexian Gargantua is one of the few 6 drops that sees play in pauper, and the Twins offer similar value. Two cards are better than two 2/2s, but the ability to trade in combat and still follow up with more threats is just what the grindy black based control decks want.
Soulcage Fiend is the newest iteration of suicide creatures in black. Just like, Necrogen Scudder and Howling Banshee, you generally don’t care about your own life total as the aggressive deck. The lack of evasion does hurt this the Fiend, but the 3/2 body is still worth running in any sort of aggressive deck that can remove an early blocker or two.
I figured I would throw multi-color/lands/artifacts into the black sections since there are so few black cards. I’ve recently been pushing a G/W token theme, supported by Gavony Township, Glare of Subdual and Wilt-Leaf Liege. If you prefer your G/W to focus on playing a powerful threat each turn with stuff like Loxodon Hierarch, Knight of the Reliquary or Mirari’s Wake, Sigarda is a great finisher. Outside of combat or mass removal, it’s almost impossible to kill. It’s such a shame that a card like Sigarda, which would be a powerhouse and probably a staple in almost any other color combo, won’t be making it into my cube. G/W is by far the deepest guild as far as card quality goes, so depending on where you want G/W to be, it may be a good fit.
When Dark Ascension was being spoiled, I remember seeing Vault of the Archangel and realizing they would be completing the ability land cycle from Innistrad. I was disappointed to find out we’d have to wait another three months for the last three of the cycle, however WotC did not disappoint. The enemy guilds in cube have the weakest cards in terms of quality, due to enemy colored cards being printed a smaller quantities. Since I count this land cycle against the specific guild instead of in the fixing section, I had high hopes for a new R/W, U/G and U/R card. Unfortunately for cube, I don’t think Alchemist’s Refuge is good enough to make it in. It’s costed as cheap as possible, but still doesn’t add enough over the weaker U/G cards currently in cube. This will be an EDH mainstay however, as it’s colorless comparative Winding Canyons has slowly creeped up from dollar rare to 6-7.
The “Loothouse” is by far my favorite card from Avacyn Restored, and one I cannot wait to try in cube. Unlike the Refuge, this is the sort of ability that is perfect on a non-basic. Given U/R usually leans towards counterburn or control, having a place to spend leftover mana at the end of your opponent’s turn is fantastic. U/R suffers a lot of the same problems the rest of the enemy colors do, so this will be slotting in right away. The enemy guilds’ card quality in cube is another reason I am very excited for the Return to Ravnica, especially given the rumors/hinting that a U/R Planeswalker is on the horizon. (One time Niv-Mizzet, Planeswalker!) I actually accurately predicted what the Loothouse would be previous to Avacyn Restored spoiler season too.
R/W also has a dearth of cubeable cards, and thankfully, Slayers’ Stronghold will finally allow me to replace Goblin Legionnaire, which always felt terrible casting on turn 2 given the colored mana requirements. The Stronghold does suffer from being in a guild that is very colored mana intensive, with lots of WW and 1RR early drops. Effectively three mana is a lot for the haste to be relevant, but +2/+0 and vigilance can quickly help swing the tide of an aggro on aggro match-up. I will be watching the Stronghold closely to see if it’s ability is used often enough, but for the time being, at least it isn’t Goblin Legionnaire.
Tomorrow I’ll continue with red, which looks to be getting quite a few goodies, including a potentially powerful Planeswalker.
@Kengy5 on Twitter
Welcome to day two of Avacyn Restored cube review, with more blue but less cards! Let’s get right to it.
Amass is too slow for full cube, but offers another form on draw X, do something with Y (Thirst for Knowledge, Compulsive Research, Careful Consideration) in C/CU. Base blue decks in C/UC are often slow, grindy, removal heavy decks. This card matches up well with one of my favorite draw engines, Mystical Teachings. The ability to dump cards into the graveyard like the previously mentioned spells isn’t as relevant, as graveyard based cards are rarer in C/UC. For the cost of splashability, you get to keep one less card compared to Concentrate. This will be worth playing in any larger C/UC cube.
Upheaval is one of my least favorite cards to play with or against. It’s a very powerful card, no doubt, but it usually ends up frustrating me more than anything else, which is why it’s been cut from my full cube. Devastation Tide is not even close to Upheaval. The main advantage of Upheaval is being able to float mana and re-establish board position quicker than your opponent, usually through fast mana as well. As with Terminus, the miracle cost will need to be perfect timing to get maximum value, but it is a lot easier to get marginal value by casting it for it’s miracle cost whenever it comes up. The ability to hold counter Magic up when they re-cast their threats is also relevant. I can’t see myself adding this based on feelings for Upheaval, but I think it can be worth testing for larger cubes.
The four slot in pauper cubes isn’t exactly packed with quality creatures. One of soulbond’s biggest weaknesses is the chance to be blown out at with combat tricks on either half of the pair. Elgaud Shieldmate’s bonded ability prevents that, but offers only that as well. The lesser used dream scenario of curving this into 5 mana spell (Air Elemental, Murder of Crows) can be devastating, as these bodies are too difficult for most decks to defeat in combat. I think this card will end up being a sleeper both in AVR limited as well as pauper cubes.
Innistrad block has given blue quite a few useful and awkward body sizes for creatures, between this, Stitched Drake and Makeshift Mauler. The fact that all of these require some finagling to pull off justifies it at the very least. In blue based tempo control decks, Fettergeist won’t be another Serendib Efreet. Taxing your Delver and Azure Mage on turn 4 is not the way to finish out games. I do see this filling the role of mid-game blocker for the U/x control decks, as it will most often be your only creature until you play your finishers. It holds off pretty much every 1-3 drop in cube, and can go beatdown in the control mirror as well. I’ve never included the Efreet as I felt like U/x tempo isn’t where I want decks to be in my cube, but if you play the Efreet, Fettergeist should find a home as well.
Cloudshift x 2, now supporting artifacts and lands! It’s a shame this card wasn’t white, as the land bouncing ability would fit perfectly with the landfall creatures in W and R. There aren’t many lands worth flickering, so this will usually be confined to creatures and artifacts. As with most flicker effects, if your deck is full of ETB effects, generating more than a card’s worth of card advantage won’t be difficult with this. At worst it can give two of your creatures vigilance for a turn. Some artifacts worth mentioning are any of the Trigon cycle from Scars of Mirrodan, Serrated Arrows or Mortar Pod. Things I would not recommend using this on include Grafted Wargear or Everflowing Chalice.
A great tempo card for pauper cubes, Into the Void buys you time to deal with a fast start, or gives you an ability to answer an already resolved creature by countering it on the way back down the second time. Wash Out and Sleep are both similar cards, so there might not be room for the Void in smaller pauper cubes, but it’s at least worth considering as an alternative if aggressive decks are proving too quick for control.
Another quality four drop for the blue decks, and another Man-o’-War variant, Mist Raven should slot into every pauper cube. There isn’t much to say about this, as it’s ability is pretty basic, and can even help gather value on your side of the battlefield by bouncing your own Splicer or Flametongue Kavu. Amazing John Avon art to boot that will probably look insane foiled.
Much like Mistmeadow Witch, Nephalia Smuggler will be pulling double duty in limited. The obvious ability is to re-trigger ETB effects over and over again, gaining value each turn it goes unmolested. The second ability is to blank your opponent’s removal, protecting your finishers if you are able to get both online. It’s weaker than Mistmeadow Witch for a few reasons, being unable to protect itself and only being able to be used once a turn, but it is easily splashed and the creature returning to the battlefield instantly instead of at end of turn helps time out ETB effects. I can’t wait to play with this in AVR limited, as it seems like a key card to a quality gimmick deck.
The last 5 mana blue planeswalker in cube has been largely eradicated due to being non-interactive. Tamiyo’s two abilities don’t really work in tandem with one another, but both are still very powerful. Tamiyo feels like it will end up being more interactive than Jace 3.0, but a lot less powerful. We’ve run one draft with it so far, and it was great when dropped on an empty board, as is pretty much every Planeswalker printed. It can protect itself against one creature, but at 5 mana, I want my planeswalkers to survive multiple creatures ala Elspeth 2.0 or Gideon. I plan on keeping Tamiyo in for now, but will be watching it closely. I’m concerned about including a large number of Planeswalkers in cube overall, as 4-5 planeswalker decks are becoming increasingly frustrating to deal with. If you’ve got a good solution to this, let me know in the comments!
My favorite part about soulbond is that given the right ability, the creature essentially has haste. There aren’t a ton of <2 mana creatures in blue, but curving 2 drop into this, draw a card is a very powerful start. The 2/1 body isn't shabby either, given I would have guessed a 1/1 in the dark for this sort of ability. If your opponent slips just a little bit, drawing two the next turn should pull you far enough ahead to win the game, even if it does take 10 more turns. I can't see this making the jump into full cube, but keep your eyes open for foils for a pauper cube near you.
For the third set in a row, we’re given another Excommunicate-esque effect. The extra mana allows for a miracle casting cost as well as being able to hit any permanent. Blue being able to answer any non-land permanent is rare, and one of the reasons I rate catchall cards like Beast Within very highly. This won’t be bouncing any Planeswalkers in pauper cube, but being able to deal with a Loxodon Warhammer, Control Magic or a Phantom Centaur is perfect. The miracle cost will rarely be cast, but still can happen. As with the other miracle cards, it appears WotC got the big guns artist-wise to fill these orders. I imagine the pretty butterflies will look amazing in foil.
Look out for black tomorrow, with some sweet reprints with great new art, a legend that proves this set’s name may have been ill-gotten, and not much else.
@Kengy5 on Twitter
It’s been a while but in an attempt to work on my writing, I’m going to try post in the blog more often, so might as well start now! I’ve made a few other changes since my last update, so the list on the right may not be up to date. Hopefully, sometime after the pre-release this will be corrected. Instead of posting like for like changes, I’m going to discuss the cubeability of cards as I haven’t made my final decisions and want to do some more testing. I’m hoping to do a color a day plus artifacts/multicolor/lands on Friday.
There has been a push recently for G/W to find it’s place in cube with token strategies. Recent sets have given quite a few cards to support this, with Gavony Township, Midnight Haunting and Shrine of Loyal Legions all contributing. Angel of Jubilation’s second ability is only marginally relevant to most cubes, with Birthing Pod and Force of Will coming to mind. AoJ is an extra mana compared to most cube anthem effects, but that extra mana buys a bigger, and evasive, body. The only four mana anthem I have is Wilt-leaf Liege, which is a very comparable card. I don’t think AoJ will make it into my cube in the first rotation, only because the 4 spot for white is extremely deep, but could see this making it into larger cubes.
The flagship card for this set, Avacyn is much like the rest of the angels in Magic’s history, expensive with flashy effects. Akroma has been a popular finisher for W/x control decks in cube, as well as a solid reanimator target. Akroma’s protection from red and black meant it was practically indestructible, but Avacyn takes it to the next level by actually making everything indestructible. Both are pretty close in terms of quality, with Akroma finishing quicker but Avacyn protecting the rest of your board. If you run Akroma, give Avacyn a test just to see how it works out.
Having not actually played a game with miracle cards, I have a feeling all of them are at least limited playable. A lot like DFC, I don’t think they would use these as skill-testers in packs. I’m interested to see how the common/uncommons play out in the AVR limited environment to see how good they all are. I think miracle cards need to be evaluated for their full cost only, as it’s too difficult to consistently setup in cube. 6 mana for the versatility of this card is probably good enough for regular limited environments, but I’d be surprised to see it break into full cube. It will have a place in common/uncommon cubes, as they tend to be slower, more removal heavy environments.
“Flicker” is surprisingly a very popular mechanic amongst a lot of players. I say surprisingly as you often feels helpless as your opponent gains incremental advantage unless you have a removal spell. Cloudshift works to re-trigger ETB effects as well as protect creatures from removal spells. Cards like Vines of the Vastwood have seen play in full powered cubes, and with ETB cards like Wall of Omens, Blade Splicer, Stoneforge, Cloudgoat Ranger, Geist-Honored Monk and especially Reveillark all being played in full cube, this card has potential. It will definitely be a strong card in commons/uncommons cube and could make the jump to full.
Divine Deflection has two similar cards in Shining Shoal and Harm’s Way to be compared to. When I originally built my cube, I had both Shoal and Harm’s Way in, and both eventually ended out. This effect is very powerful in creature based match-ups, more specifically against red decks. They usually end up being a 2 for 1, protecting your creature and killing one of theirs, or being a 2-3 damage burn spell. If you’ve found success with these effects in the past, Divine Deflection will be a good fit.
If you can’t tell by now, one of the easiest way to evaluate a card’s power level is to find similar cards/effects. Emancipation Angel reminds me of Kor Skyfisher from Zendikar, adding an extra white mana for an extra power. In Zendikar standard, Skyfisher was powerful for bounding lands, more specifically Teetering Peaks, back to hand in order to re-trigger landfall. In limited, the 2/3 body is often worth the set back of a mana. However, for three mana in cube, you have access to a lot more effective and powerful creatures like Mirran Crusader, Blade Splicer, and the new Silverblade Paladin. I don’t think the extra white mana is worth the power, which means this will be relegated to commons/uncommons cube as well.
Hello Decree of Justice 2.0! The full cost of Entreat the Angels is a full mana better than Decree, as the cost of trading colorless for white. I know I just mentioned using full cost to evaluate miracle cards, but hard casting Decree is the secondary mode to cycling it, which means we need to compare cycling to miracle. Both fill different rolls, as an end of turn Decree can be a powerful uncounterable finisher in the control mirror, or cycled early to buy a turn or two with chump blockers to draw into a wrath. Entreat will fit best in a U/W control deck, where you have access to Top, Brainstorm, Jace, Ponder and other library manipulators. The miracle cost even on turn four with a signet can be enough to win most games. I’m not sure where this fits in, but I will be testing it for full cube.
Another 4 mana anthem effect, kind of. Outside of flash creatures or token cards, this will only be pumping on your turn, but it can easily act as an overrun for white with a few creatures, or some choice spells (Elspeth 2.0, Cloudgoat Ranger and Lingering Souls come to mind) It’s worse than Angel of Jubilation, but I can see this card helping white aggro decks push through clogged boards in commons/uncommons.
Restoration Angel feels like a Briarhorn on crack with a little Ambush Viper and Village Bellringer added for good measure. The ability to flash in mid-combat to block a creature, “untap” a creature you control by blinking it, blanking removal, or retrigger ETB effects means Restoration Angel is one of the most versatile cards available. The fact that it’s on a 3/4 flying body and is splashable at 3W is even better. As I mentioned before, 4 is stacked in cube for white, but this card is powerful enough to deserve testing.
The size of creatures in C/UC cube are small enough to warrant the inclusion of Righteous Blow. Like most of white’s removal, it is situational, but removal is removal is removal.
One of the few cards from Avacyn Restored that I have cubed with already, and it was quite impressive in it’s first go around. Giving any 2 or 3 powered double strike, or better yet, an Isamaru equipped with a Bonesplitter, is nuts! The thing most people miss on Soulbond is that you don’t need another creature on the battlefield to get value. Drop this on three and another on turn four and attacking for 4 is fine too. I initially replaced Paladin en-Vec, and for the time being, this will stay in. I’m only bummed I missed out on the buy a box promo.
For the extra mana, wrath effects that cost more than four need to have something special tacked on. Austere Command lets you deal with artifacts or enchantments on the right board state, Akroma’s Vengeance deals with all three and cycles, and Hallowed Burial keeps things out of the graveyard and handles persist/undying. Terminus’ attempts to do its best Hallowed Burial impression will be better in Standard against Geralf’s Messenger and Gravecrawler, but it’s still good enough for full cube. The miracle cost feels awkward without setup, since it needs to come on the perfect turn to get maximum value. Being able to cast this plus hold up Counterspell for their next threat is a powerful 1-2 punch. Terminus is at least worth trying in place of one of the aforementioned 4+ mana wraths.
Tomorrow will be blue, where an ol’ Efreet is seeing a psuedo-reprint and yet another difficult to pronounce Kamigawan shows up! If I missed some cards for commons/uncommons cube, let me know in the comments. I don’t draft the format too often so this is based on those experiences. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
@Kengy5 on Twitter