A few notes about this update guide:
• Better to try a new card that ends up bad than omit a good one for lack of trying it out.
• You don’t always need to cut cards to add new ones, but it’s good practice to think hard each time you add a card whether you should cut one. I’m sure someone will tell you that you have to draw the line somewhere, but I don’t think that’s actually true. If your Cube starts ballooning in size and it’s not hurting gameplay, just work to make sure you’re maintaining all the correct ratios. Creatures to spells, and total mana-fixing.
That said, I’ll suggest a few possible cuts for each card I’m adding.
• I plan to go back and review my choices from this review in the Dragons of Tarkir update, but I didn’t do one of the these for Khans. Still, I’ll take a brief look at a few of the cards I added from KTK and how they’ve performed—next time it will be more comprehensive.
• I did a complete overhaul of my Cube list. I really like a few of the themes introduced in the MTGO Legacy Cube, like tokens, so I adopted them.
While I work on updating that, you can refer to the MTGO Legacy Cube list for now. My list is close enough to it at this point that it should be a suitable reference point. On a side note, if you’re building a Cube, I think the MTGO list is good enough to copy straight-up and modify from there.
OK, we start off a little simple. Savannah Lions is a Cube card, therefore the strict upgrade is an easy add. Incidental graveyard hate is great for Cube. Pure hate cards are too narrow and too destructive, cards that target just one player in the draft are really no fun—I hate Silver Knight for the same reason.
When a card has value added against the ‘yard, though, that’s just gravey. Having maindeck outs to that Griselbrand they discarded feels fair for both players, and makes for better Magic.
Possible cuts: The autopilot cut is Savannah Lions (Not Elite Vanguard, if you have Champion of the Parish like the MTGO Cube does) in any normal Cube list, but I’d consider looking at your 2-drops first. 1-drops are what make aggro in Cube good, and I’m not sure the average list has enough in white yet. If you have any crappy first-striking Knights still hanging around, I’d axe (lance?) one of those.
The MTGO Cube has Boros Elite, which is the card I’d cut from that list.
This card is incredible. The instants-and-sorceries-only deckbuilding restriction really holds Delver and Pyromancer back in this format, so triggering off noncreature permanents is huge in Cube, where artifacts, enchantments, and planeswalkers are a more natural fit in any given deck.
Possible cuts: This card is better than any 3-drop in white, but in the MTGO Cube the worst ones are Mentor of the Meek (replacing one Mentor with another is pleasantly symmetrical in a cosmic way) and Frontline Medic.
I’d like to take a moment, however, to advocate cutting Mirran Crusader. As I mentioned before, playing a card that just decimates one player (maybe 2?) is frustrating, and I’ll say it: protection is a poorly designed mechanic. It just sucks. It sucks to play against, sucks to win with, sucks when they Searing Blaze it.
Soulfire Grand Master
1W is a great cost in Cube, and this is probably the first playable Guildmage-type card in awhile. Unlike Standard, this guy isn’t held back by its poor matchup against Sylvan Caryatid and Courser. Best in white/red, this also offers good value for blue/white. You’re not excited if you end up mono-white, but a 2/2 lifelink will usually start, and that kind of flexibility makes this a high pick.
Possible cuts: Again, any WW Knight can go, including Precinct Captain. WW cards in general are not where you want to be, since mono-white isn’t a great place to be.
This is the kind of card I can’t resist. Gods Willing just isn’t quite good enough for Cube, but protection spells create some fun interplay. Tacking a kind of Reprisal on to this makes it just flexible enough that we get that gameplay experience in a card you’re not embarrassed about.
Possible cuts: Banishing Light. I might be getting on the high horse too often, I realize, but I haven’t written anything for awhile and I’ve had these ideas percolating the whole time. Between Oblivion Ring, Detention Sphere, and Council’s Judgment, the Cube has so many of that kind of effect. Part of what makes Cube fun is the singleton format—and Banishing Light just makes these cards seem so ordinary. Introduce a little variety.
Remember all that business about trying a bad card just, because? This is one of those.
Possible cuts: Jeskai Infiltrator, in 2 weeks.
I admit it—I don’t get this card. But Wrapter and LSV love it so I’m trying it for that reason. I like aggressive blue cards, so I’m hopeful that all will be revealed once I get just a little time with it.
Possible cuts: Coralhelm Commander.
Mardu Strike Leader
I have a bit of a sacrifice theme (and so does the MTGO Cube) so generating tokens in black provides some value, and I like an opportunity to get dash in the Cube. A lot of keywords don’t have a representative that can make the cut, and that’s always a disappointment. Mardu Strike Leader appears to be the only hope for dash.
Possible cuts: Xathrid Necromancer, Disciple of Bolas, Master of the Feast, Herald of Torment, Graveborn Muse, Gatekeeper of Malakir, Nantuko Shade… black has so many bad cards that half the black section serves as a reasonable cut at all times.
Qarsi High Priest
I wasn’t going to mention this guy but I think moving toward a sacrifice theme is prevalent enough that most Cubes will want to try this guy. 1 mana is just so little that he has to have a shot.
Possible cuts: See above.
I had Butcher Ghoul for a moment, and it really over-performed (though ultimately not quite well enough), and this is a touch better for a few reasons. Manifest is better than a 1/1 with a +1/+1 counter, and that Sultai Emissary actually goes to the graveyard the first time you sac it is relevant for Recurring Nightmare, Living Death, delve, and more. Same caveats apply as to the High Priest.
Possible cuts: Any card in black might be better or worse than this guy.
Tasigur, the Golden Fang
The big banana. This is the card that matters the most from Fate Reforged. Delve is great but a little more fair in Cube, which is good because all these delve cards are completely broken in Constructed.
Possible cuts: Any of the above, or if you have the MTGO Cube list and haven’t cut them already, Soul of Innistrad and Visara are both pretty bad.
Make no mistake, this card is not as good as Chandra’s Phoenix. Burn spells are a lot more plentiful in red than 4-power creatures. But, between Hero of Oxid Ridge-level guys and the sacrifice theme, this card is clearly good enough to be a Cube mainstay.
Possible cuts: I endorse the MTGO Cube’s decision to cut all the Ball Lightning cards, so if you haven’t yet, give that a shot. Otherwise, Guttersnipe.
This enchantment is an elegant way to deal with the Cube’s “planeswalker problem.” You get to keep Koth and Sarkhan, and now you can cut Chandra and get a card that’s better most of the time. If you adopt the MTGO Cube’s token theme then this is even better.
Possible cuts: Chandra, Pyromaster.
This card is even better than it looks. Imagine it only makes 2/2s, and you have a solid stand-alone threat. Add its wrath protection and you have a bomb that fights the single best cards in Cube against you, and that’s what makes this an all-star card. The best way to beat green (now the best color in Cube) is with Day of Judgment, and none of the previous green solutions have been good enough. So you just bank on planeswalkers. That’s fine, but having a unique answer is more fun all around.
Another card I’m uneasy about, I just have to add any green 3-drop that looks close to playable. Green’s biggest weakness is at the 3-drop slot (Courser of Kruphix was a huge shot in the arm, though), and green’s greatest strength is its 1-drops. That’s a rough conflict—you usually want to reach into another color just so you can cast playable 3-drops on turn 2. Yasova might help with that, she might not.
Possible cuts: Troll Ascetic if you only want to cut a 3.
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
Cube is a better home for some cards than any Constructed format—and Ugin is one of them. Thran Dynamo is another. So is Worn Powerstone. See the connection?
Possible cuts: Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker. Isn’t it funny how bad Nicol Bolas looks now? I mean, I always knew it was just a goofy card, but holy boly is this an upgrade! Bolas was terrible when you were behind, which is exactly what you don’t want from your 8-drop. This card is insane all the time, if you can cast it. Cube gives you a ton of tools to do so.
I know there were a few cards that didn’t make the cut—but if you’re curious about any of my omissions, ask in the comments!
Khans of Tarkir Retrospecticus
I’ve had a little while with Khans, so I’ll render some judgments on the cards I tried out.
B=Earned its place.
C=Jury’s still out.
D=Cut unless you don’t have a good substitute in mind.
F=How did this card make it in in the first place? Who tricked me?
Wingmate Roc: B
Dig Through Time: A+
Treasure Cruise: A-
Crater’s Claws: D (Anyone else remember when X-Spells were amazing in Cube?)
Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker: C+
Abzan Charm: D
Sagu Mauler: B
Sidisi, Brood Tyrant: A (Biggest surprise, for me)
Siege Rhino: B+
Sorin, Solemn Visitor: D+/C- (Keep this if you want—my bar for planeswalkers is higher than for other cards.)