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^3 – The Top 20 Overrated Cards in Cube

One of the first things you notice once you’ve gotten several Cube drafts under your belt is how difficult it is to send signals. Without any crappy chaff cards taking up slots in your pack, there’s a lot less room to push the man (or woman) on your left in a certain direction. With four sweet blue cards in a pack, what can you do but take your Treachery, and lament the fact that you’ll be getting someone else’s seconds in the next one.

Just as quickly, however, you learn that this doesn’t matter all that much. As I’ve heard both LSV and PV point out, you don’t really need to sweat the early signals you send. After a whole pack of cutting blue, the people on your left will get the message eventually. Even if they don’t, the odds are in your favor, since pack three’s delicious blue contents have your name written all over them.

Yet, for some reason, we still can’t really help but get upset when you feel like the man on your right set up a big flashing sign that says “I’M NOT IN RED!” only to find out later that he’s in mono-red, and he just didn’t think that Goblin Guide was that great. For example: in every MSS draft I’ve done lately, it feels like I’m afflicted by something I like to call the “Flesh-Eater Imp Curse.” It involves making some picks that don’t commit me to any archetype in particular, and suddenly pick four rolls around and I find the little mischievous flying fireball staring back at me. I slam it and naturally fail to see another quality infect creature for the rest of the draft.

After stepping back from the precipice of full monkey-tilt, I’m left wondering why this keeps happening. There are two explanations, of course: either there were legitimately three superior cards in the pack for each of the drafters on my right, or someone is overvaluing a card (Either my valuation of ol’ Flimpy, or their valuation of whatever they took over him). Since the former is only likely under some rare circumstances, it’s the latter explanation I’d like to explore in regards to Cube, since I regularly see Cube drafters give certain cards a great deal more love than they deserve.

Most of the time the choice is defensible at the very least – I mean, we are talking about Cube here, so the card is bound to be powerful. The most common offenders are Constructed all-stars, and players’ picks can be influenced more by the last time they saw the card at a numbered table than how effective it actually is in Cube. Thus, after hundreds of drafts, I decided to put together a list of twenty cards I’ve noticed get overvalued most often in Cube. Keep in mind that this is largely assuming you are drafting with an unpowered Cube, as once you get Moxen involved, card evaluations vary widely. Some of these are cards that are undoubtedly good (even great in some cases), are simply undeserving of the place they hold in players’ pick orders or certain main decks, while others are cards I don’t think should even have a place in Cube! So, without further ado, Think Before you Windmill Slam (in no particular order):

1. Balance

Balance is the card that first got me thinking about this project, since it’s considered a first pick by many, but in most cases is largely mediocre. One of the ways I judged which cards belonged to this list was following the “First Four Picks” feature on cubedrafting.com (a fun segment where a sample pack is generated, and readers rank top four cards they would pick from the pack, in order), and every pack that featured Balance was followed by a surfeit of comments ranking it as their number one choice.

In a draft I was birding recently, one player had a G/W midrange deck piled out on the table. He included Balance. When he asked for suggestions I pointed out that the Balance wouldn’t actually do anything, and a certain level four pro who shall remain nameless (His name rhymes with Gnat Brass) claimed that you should never cut Balance.

There is no doubt that when you can break the symmetry of Balance, it is one of the most powerful effects available. However, breaking the symmetry is no easy task in Cube. You need to dump your hand onto the table with non-creature, non-land permanents (read: artifacts) to make it a true ranching. Outside of a powered Cube, artifact mana can be difficult to come by, since every control drafter at the table should be snapping it up. If you aren’t building around Balance, it’s often a two-mana Wrath of God that forces you to discard two cards. That’s a reasonable effect, if unexciting, and that’s all you should expect out of Balance early on in a draft.

2. Force of Will

Force of Will is actually a great Cube card, as it provides an unusual and useful tool when you need it. However, the other reason I love including Force is the skill testing aspect it adds to the draft. Many players will first pick Force of Will because it’s widely regarded as one of the best cards in Magic. Yet, Cube is still at its heart a Limited format, and the loss of card advantage is actually quite painful. Force should occupy more of a niche role where it’s used to force through (hah) a spell that needs to be cast early to have the largest effect (Wildfire), serve as a tempo swinging spell in a blue aggro deck, or sideboarded in to deal with problematic permanents like Bitterblossom or Ankh of Mishra. It is not a card that should encourage you to go into blue, and the mark of an experienced Cube drafter is a willingness to pass Force of Will.

3. Nether Void

The draw to this card is pretty easy to recognize. It looks like a black Armageddon, and admittedly I believed the hype and added it at first opportunity. The formula should be simple enough: stick some threats and resolve Nether Void. Now you’re beating down and they are left with four-drops stranded in their hand! Once it was in the Cube, however, we noticed a strange phenomenon. Whenever a Nether Void was on the table, the controller always lost. I thought this could be an anomaly, but it’s almost a truism at this point that if you are casting Nether Void you will lose. The problem with the card is actually pretty hard to identify.

I tried to work it out for some time. At first I assumed that since removal is usually cheap, once they remove your threat you can’t play any more spells and control decks tend to have access to more mana as the game goes long. Thus, I tried playing it in a big mana deck to leverage my advantage even more. Things seemed to be going well until I realized that my Sundering Titan now cost 11 mana. I was promptly obliterated. At that point, I cut it from the Cube and now avoid it like the plague when I see it in others’ Cubes.

4. Tarmogoyf

I didn’t think this card was typically overvalued, since everyone I draft with on a regular basis relegates it to the random guy pile along with every other vanilla critter in the Cube. However, at the last few Grands Prix I’ve traveled to I witnessed a baffling number of players actually move in to green because they were passed a Tarmogoyf. In Limited, Tarmogoyf is absurdly difficult to power up, and if he’s a 2/3 by turn three you are doing pretty well for yourself. He’s not even as much fun to play with, since in a tournament people are often too proud to check his power and toughness, leading to random blowouts involving Tribal Enchantments. If you run that in a casual game you just look like a jerk. That being said, he is quite the looker, and I can see being drawn to him early on in a draft for that reason, and that reason alone.

5. Cryptic Command

Now, don’t get me wrong, I loves me some Cryptic Command. It is an incredibly flexible card, and the sweet interactions with cards like Gilded Drake or Reveillark are exactly the kind of durdling I can get behind. That being said, Cryptic Command is still mostly just a Dismiss, and triple-blue is a truly prohibitive cost without the kind of reliable fixing available in constructed. Not to mention, the biggest Cryptic blowouts always involve drawing multiples so you can race while fogging them each turn. Yet another example of a card that is a constructed all-star but simply workmanlike in Cube. Dismissing spells is still a good place to be, though for UUU you should make sure you’ll even be casting it before you go diving in.

6. Akroma’s Vengeance

This is probably my least favorite of any sweeper that commonly sees Cube play, and clearly most Cube builders disagree with me, since I see it everywhere. Akroma’s Vengeance does look valuable: dealing with artifacts and enchantments en masse is a rare quality for a Cube card. The problem with a sweeper that costs six mana is that you always want to be casting it in a deck that plays signets, and as creatures get better, your opponent needs to commit less to the board to threaten your life total. Thus, most of the time you mete out some Vengeance you actually Venge your own mana base to kill two creatures. I’d much rather opt for the flexibility of Austere Command any day, and I think all things Akroma should be left out of the Cube, let alone your draft deck.

7. Brainstorm

I saw a Brainstorm table the other day, and hopefully it’s a sign of a larger trend. Brainstorm is another one of those cards that just has all-star written all over it, but simply can’t perform on the same level in Cube as it does in Constructed. The central issue is that without a plethora of shuffle effects to depend on, Brainstorm’s greatest asset (getting rid of the cards you don’t want) becomes an unreliable pipe dream. In fact, both Ponder and Preordain typically perform better in Cube if you want that sort of effect, since neither requires another card to offer quality library manipulation. While I think finding shuffle effects in Cube is not too difficult, it’s enough of a problem that you shouldn’t be looking at Brainstorm as a pseudo-Ancestral. Here’s hoping I can start wheeling it reliably from now on.

8. Reanimate

If you manage to cobble together a truly focused Reanimator deck that consistently puts a game-breaking fatty in the bin by turn two… you are probably not Cubing. Most people don’t appreciate the difficulties in finding Cube-able enablers for the Reanimator deck- only Entomb does it on turn one well, one of the most narrow cards you can include. The very best enablers cost two mana, meaning the earliest you are Reanimating is turn three on average. At that point, the life loss becomes a very real problem, and I’ve seen more than a few Reanimates stagnate in a player’s hand because taking seven to get back a Battlesphere will put them on roughly dead to the next light breeze. Necromancy and Animate Dead do much better work, so value them accordingly.

9. Mirari’s Wake

Putting this card anywhere near this list deeply saddens me, as there once was a time, not too long ago, when opening a pack with Wake brought great joy indeed. Untapping with potentially twelve mana and who knows how much power in tokens was a devastating play, and still leads to some dizzying game states in Cube. However, the glory days of Wake are behind us, and it is now a card that can be played only under the right circumstances. Creatures just keep improving, and tapping out on turn five to do literally nothing is a recipe for disaster. It’s still pretty nice in green decks, but I regrettably will no longer be trying to splash this in my U/B Control lists (Alright, maybe I shouldn’t have in the first place. I admire your restraint).

10. Capsize

Capsize is a funny card because it frustrates players so much they assume it must be a house. To make matters worse, in a Common/Uncommon Cube it really is the bee’s knees. Yet, six mana to bounce a permanent is an outrageous investment, and if you are getting away with it you are either playing a matchup that revolves more around the size of your opponent’s library than the number on his life pad, or against a player that has no idea how to stop it. Either one should be a corner case, and on the whole it’s better to play a card with real flexibility and realistic value, like Into the Roil. Interestingly, Capsize was at its best when paired with Mirari’s Wake. This is all very depressing, you know.

11. Fact or Fiction

While we are on the topic of blue cards that cost a ton of mana, let’s talk about Fact or Fiction. FoF is another card that falls in the category of great, but not that great. In other words, stop assuming it’s the Flesh-Eater Imp from my example at the beginning. The list of blue cards that outclass Fact or Fiction is reasonably long, and four mana is more taxing in practice than it ever looks on paper. When Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Control Magic share your spot on the mana curve, you’ve got some tough competition. Speaking of which….

12. Gifts Ungiven

Even more annoying than watching someone glare at you like you just gave up the Holy Grail when you pass them a Fact or Fiction is getting the same expression when you cut ship Gifts. Getting value out of a Gifts Ungiven is quite a long shot, and the only time I have ever seen someone do more than Inspiration was with Body Double, Reveillark, and Karmic Guide. How often is that going to happen? Well, for Reuben Bresler it happened three drafts in a row. Cutting it meant I got to get rid of a mediocre card and disappoint Reuben at the same time. I finally got some value out of it!
13. Yawgmoth’s Bargain/Necropotence
Add Bargain to the list of expensive enchantments that have no effect on the board. Again, in a powered Cube, Bargain is a whole different animal, as Moxen enable not only earlier Bargaining, but more to do when you resolve it. However, for us unpowered folk, Bargain kept getting worse as other cards got better, and eventually the time came to just let it go entirely. Necropotence is very similar, in that it’s almost impossible to cast for the effect it gives you, and your life total is more dear these days in Cube than it once was. When you see these cards in a pack, think carefully about what the board might look like when you want to cast it, and how much life you could possibly be willing to pay if your position is an unfavorable one.

14. Mutilate

I talked about why this card is terrible in my article on Mirrodin Besieged, but I can’t restate enough how underwhelming this card is. If you are mono-black in Cube these days you are undoubtedly doing something wrong, because the only cards worth sticking to black for are bad [card]Damnation[/card]s and bad [card]Fireball[/card]s. If you play with a Cube that includes this card, and see it in a pack, you’re better off treating it less like a Wrath and more like a nice trap to let the guy on your left walk in to.

15. Future Sight

Did anyone else notice there are a ton of blue cards on this list? I may have some kind of bias here but the fact that I have an unnatural affection for these cards makes me think otherwise. Regardless, while Future Sight is a card advantage monster in the long game, it’s still very prohibitively costed. If the coast is clear to resolve a Future Sight, you could probably be casting any number of solid five or six drops that can be cast on time and just winning with those. Which of course leads me to yet another blue card, though it’s the last one, I promise (it’s not).

[draft]Desertion[/draft]
16. [card]Desertion[/card]
Before the telephone was invented, there was a device that used radio frequencies to transmit and receive messages over long distances. That’s exactly what you’re doing when you leave up five mana every turn for Desertion, and playing around it doesn’t exactly require a Herculean effort. People love counterspells and they love [card]Mind Control[/card]s, so it should be no surprise that this spell is beloved by many. Desertion requires so much to go right, yet players only remember the blowouts, and not the times where it just rotted in their hands while they got smashed. This brings up another problem with blue cards which is that people tend to notice less when they are mediocre. If you are playing blue-based control you are often winning anyway, it doesn’t really matter how you do it- a [card]Jetting Glasskite[/card] or [card]Sky Ruin Drake[/card] could probably do the trick.

[draft]Eternal Dragon[/draft]
17. Eternal Dragon
White is an interesting beast because despite its reputation for Weenies, hosers and sweepers, it actually does Dragons quite well. In fact, the white six and seven drop spot on the curve in many Cubes ends up badly clogged because of the great options available. Eternal Dragon is one of the last to go when Cubers need to make space, though I’d argue it should be one of the first. I like to grind people out more than is healthy, but Eternal Dragon is just embarrassingly slow now, and seven mana is too much to pay for a fat vanilla flyer. Eternal Dragon is another example of a card where you just aren’t getting the necessary return on your investment, though if you treat it as simply an instant speed mana fixer, you might have it valued correctly (Which is to say, not good enough for Cube). It’s a shame really, since the art on the Pro Tour foil is so nice.

[draft]Crystal Shard[/draft]
18. Crystal Shard
Crystal Shard is still excellent, but it’s not the bomb it used to be. Four mana for the first use is actually problematic now, and one removal spell from your opponent can get you tempoed out in no time. While I still think it’s reasonable to take Crystal Shard highly and draft around it, I wouldn’t assume leaning on the Shard is all you need in order to get by. Rather, I’d tend to draft value creatures over the Shard now, where I used to do the reverse. It’s a small change since [card]Mulldrifter[/card] and the like were already high picks, but it’s important to recognize that getting passed a Crystal Shard may no longer indicate that the [card]Reveillark[/card] deck is open.

[draft]Senseis Divining Top[/draft]
19. Sensei’s Divining Top
I have to say, this may be common knowledge at this point, and perhaps I am late to receive the memo. I had never considered Top anything less than a first pick until recently, when I was drafting with Kyle Eck and he went on a tirade about how tired he is of seeing Top treated as some kind of bomb. When I thought carefully about it, I realized that he’s right. Top doesn’t swing the game in your favor at all, while many cards in Cube are capable of just that. Top is merely a solid card that gradually improves your position over time, and gives you some card selection when you draft shuffle effects. Certainly it’s better than a simple library manipulation spell, that’s obvious, but I now realize I need to reevaluate how I compare the Top to a large number of card draw spells, Control Magics, and bombs. I haven’t pinned down exactly where it should end up, but it’s important to recognize that you can do bigger things than look at your top three cards with a first pick.

[draft]Library of Alexandria[/draft]
20. [card]Library of Alexandria[/card]
Okay, Okay… this card can’t really be overrated, since it is possibly the strongest card in the Cube. My objection to the card is in what is admittedly a corner case, but one that I see occur often enough that I wanted to address it. Essentially, it boils down to this: stop first picking this card if you are in mono-red aggro. I’ve argued with my friends incessantly about this issue, and they insist that it’s excellent because it gives you a 7/33 chance of winning the game. However, when you are casting 2/1’s for R, there is no guarantee that drawing a bunch of them will win you the game. Red’s strength is in its dominance of the early game, and if you spend that time drawing cards instead of committing to the board, your five random beaters will look very silly staring down a [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card]. On the other hand, if you are all burn spells, then drawing twelve cards in a game will probably be enough to win, so keep that in mind.

Well, there you have it. I think you probably noticed a recurring theme in my choices, and that’s a deeply ingrained fear of getting haumphed while I’m trying to cast my awesome spells. Cube is only getting more aggressive as Wizards prints more cards, and that trend doesn’t look to be changing any time soon. Keep this in mind while you draft the Cube. Tempo has become nearly as relevant as card advantage, and if you focus solely on raw power, you are likely to be punished by some sicko that actually enjoys turning things sideways.

Happy Cubing.

47 thoughts on “^3 – The Top 20 Overrated Cards in Cube”

  1. I agree with most of your assertions, especially Gifts, which almost never makes my decks when I do take it for whatever reason, but Crystal Shard and Top are amazing.

  2. This is a great article. I agree with you mightily on basically all of these. One note, I think gifts is best used as a ramp spell, get four lands, and now you’ve both improved draws from now on and also have more lands to play (since you’re control). I also lost a control mirror in a draft tonight when I got Library on turn 1 two games in a row. So even that card doesn’t win games quite on its own. It’s still nuts though.

    The only one I don’t really agree with is Mirari’s Wake, which I continue to find amazing. In most WG decks you can play it before turn 5, so you aren’t losing almost any tempo.

  3. I disagree slightly on the FoF evaluation, mostly on the basis that I find the card is so amazingly splashable in decks besides U based control. Splashable draw 3 deserves a pretty high pick since it can go into so many archetypes and in most cubes its not that hard to get like a tundra or something if you’re w/x aggro and a fetch or 2 and have absolutely no problem casting it.

  4. From your previous articles you talk about how your Cube has created cards to help aggro. It seems like your overrated cards list is generated from a Cube that has this extra aggro edge. In a Cube vacuum I think you’ll have to reevaluate some of these cards. Cryptic Command, FOW, and FoF are great examples of power cards in a more generate Cube and now an aggro based one.

    From my experience bad players don’t know how to play Balance and the good ones make that card look like the best card in the game. Normally when I draft Balance I’m looking to take brown cards and suspend cards and other cards in that same vein. I don’t think Balance is overrated I think you’re not looking at it the right way.

  5. @John- Err, are you serious?
    @DoctorAtomic- If Gifts is best used like that– would you use Realms Uncharted in your cube?

  6. Agree with a bunch of these, particularly Gifts Ungiven, Necropotence, Mutilate, Tarmogoyf, Akroma’s Vengeance (all except Goyf have been cut from my cube).

    Disagree regarding Cryptic Command, though.

  7. @john: so basically what you are saying is that gaining life and killing creatures is not very good against aggro decks. So THAT’S what I’ve been doing wrong all these years…

    @DoctorAtomic: gifts is not a ramp spell since you are not getting ahead on your land drops. Also, just like Eternal Dragon, when the best you are hoping for is to get some lands in your hand at the end of turn and thin your deck, maybe the card is not pulling it weight.

    @jorje: pursuing card advantage in purely aggressive decks is often unimpressive, kinda like the example of LIbrary in mono red, because it doesn’t matter that FoF drew you 3 2/2 creatures when your opponent plays a board-dominating creature (although this is where equipment shines, giving aggro strategies access to card advantage and reach to close out games). If you are looking for a good home for splashing FoF, try a green ramp deck since those are usually reliant on Harmonize to get ahead on cards.

    @zach: the point of this article is to address cards that are taken too highly by, as you called them, bad players. It’s awesome that you understand the interaction between Balance and cards that are unaffected by it (artifacts, enchantments, planeswalkers, suspended cards) but the point of including it in this list is that many players will snap it up and jam it into any deck capable of producing white mana. In fact, it is players such as this that are not looking at it in the right way. Now that you’ve mastered the intricacies of balance maybe you can move on to understanding the point of this article.

  8. Neat article. Whenever I cube I’m far more likely to be haumphing than sweet spell-ing, so I’ve passed my fair share of these blue four drops

  9. strongly disagree with the following, which are flexible cards which you seem to underate (maybe this is because you promote aggro so heavily in your cube, so trading time for flexibility is not a good deal):

    Akroma’s Vengence: This cycles for 3. Yes, that isn’t necessarily good, but the point is that it is flexible, theoretically backbreaking, and will never rot in your hand like something like WoG might if you are not playing vs an aggro deck. I don’t know what you mean by overated. Yes, it’s not a first pick, but it’s not BAD, and should be picked accordingly.

    Cryptic Command: Fair, but would this card be so bad at 6 mana (which is the latest you would expect to cast it in a 2 colour deck that has ANY fixing). Counterspells are SO good in cube. Sleep + cantrip is very good even in an aggro cube. For this to be bad your cube would have to be a) very aggressive, b) blue is aggressively unaggressive (by which I mean you have picked cards that make blue only playable as a control colour)

    Future Sight and Yawgmoth’s Bargain: If you untap with either of these two cards it is close to impossible to lose. Tidings would be a high pick in cube, if you take these early, you can overload on cheap answers to make them good. Necropotence is harder to cast, and has a more limited effect, so I am willing to admit that potence is not so strong.

    Crystal Shard: Best in an aggro deck, this card has got worse since damage on the stack was removed. But it makes life very very complicated for your opponent (must leave up 2 mana for each creature to avoid being bounced vs. an untapped shard). Makes your creatures good vs removal, makes blockers stay around forever. Reveillark tricks are just bonus.

    Fact or Fiction: As mentioned above, very splashable.

    Library: You con’t HAVE to sit back on this card in a red aggro deck, only if it benefits you. The only time this card is bad in a red aggro deck is if your deck is 100% cards like FoD, Ball Lightning etc. It still taps for mana…. you don’t HAVE to draw.

  10. Love the article, but I think that you should consider how often people ARE heavy blue in your evaluation of cryptic command, and how helpful all four modes are to the heavy blue player.

    One problem I’ve found in blue cube is that it is way too easy to end up with a million four and five mana spells. If you have the dismiss into desertion deck, it looks like the nuts on paper, until your opponent plays student of warfare or figure of destiny turn 1 and kills you.

    Cryptic’s bounce and tap aren’t as good without multiples, true… but repulse into cryptic can still happen, and is backbreaking.

    If I’m going to end up heavy blue with not enough early action, I’d much rather have my turn 4 play be cryptic than dismiss.

    I think our experiences with Eternal Dragon have been almost reversed. I got one late, and almost cut it from my UW list. I assumed it was like a bad Krosan Tusker. At a certain point though, I started to really value the recursion. Yeah, it’s clunky, but it’s also a 5/5 flier over and over. I really love this card in a stall.
    I still am not taking this early, but I am not at the “cut it from cube” point at all.

  11. I suppose I should’ve typed more carefully. My example is in retrospect terrible, but in anything other than pure aggro, fact or fiction is an incredibly powerful tool as it represents an effect most non-blue colors would not have access to.

  12. I dunno, I’ve drafted Rx aggro with Library a few times, and opening with it still makes me feel invincible. Even though Carnophage, Kird Ape, and Goblin Guide become two drops, drawing double the number of cheap threats/burn spells as normal makes it difficult to lose.

    The trick is to lose the die roll, and then always draw Library in your opener.

  13. The last refuge of a bad drafter, ‘people at this table don’t know how to draft’
    To your article, yes, if people have no idea how to play LoA or Balance, then they are not good cards.
    What i’m getting from your articles is your cube and cube players draft a lot of bad bear aggro with no answers to a resolved large threat.

  14. your list is subjective due to your cube being unique as to how you have it built somewhat of a waste of time article.

  15. You built an aggro-intensive cube. Of course these cards are bad then. If you think this article is correct for an average cube then lol.

  16. Great article. These also serve as helpful tips when putting together a cube, which I’m in the process of right now. Could put up a link to your cube? I’m always looking through lists to figure out what my cube should start with. Thanks!

  17. Balance – probably you’re right thats its often right to not play it, but i think its never right to not pick it. if you see it you should grab it and try to find a way to break its symmetry, because if you can then its almost an auto-win play.

    Nether Void – i’d say this is somewhat less good than it appears for a reason you didn’t mention. the format is full of incredibly powerful artifacts and enchantments so maindeck Disenchant is par for the course. Void is pretty easily answerable. It really can be like a black Armageddon, except it just doesn’t stick the way Armageddon does.

    Cryptic Command – not overrated. this is one of the best blue cards, period. triple blue is manageable since you don’t really have to have this up on turn 4 since cube is a slower format. there’s also plenty of mana fixing artifacts in most cubes, and this card is a good reason to draft them highly.

    Brainstorm – not overrated at all. cube is a format of overpowered one-ofs. Brainstorm is at its strongest in formats like that. having a shuffler makes this considerably better, but even if its just used as draw smoothing its fine. this is another card that i’d almost always draft and almost always play. just because its not at peak brokenness all the time doesn’t mean its not great.

    Library of Alexandria – much more overrated than you think it is. an opening hand with Library is broken and almost auto-win but a topdecked library later on in the game is pretty bad. you’ll almost never get to use it unless its your first land of the game. it also restricts you to one spell per turn for as long as you want to keep it rolling, so an aggro deck can just dump creatures on the board and force you to expend cards to deal with it therefore shutting off the library.

  18. lolthisiskillem2

    I stopped reading this worthless article the moment I saw balance on the list. You are a joke of a site and just lost all credibility you had with this player.

  19. I think Capsize, Fact, Top and Library are windmills in any deck that can cast them, while Brainstorm and Balance are generally going to be the best card in the pack but not always a lock. I agree with everything else being overrated.

    The applications for FoF and Brainstorm as more than just draw, from recursion to opposing punts to hand protection, are pretty varied and the cards are very powerful–I’ll rarely take any other blue card that’s not Ancestral, Time Walk, etc. over them unless it’s very important to my deck.

    Capsize and Top are just absurd cards going long, as most good decks want to do.

    Library isn’t good in burn decks if you’re filling them with Jackal Pup variants, which is bad anyway. The best burn decks in my experience are very burn-heavy, which makes Library awesome (as you illustrated).

  20. I don’t get why you are playing Sundering Titan in a deck with Nether Void. You wouldn’t play Sundering Titan in a deck with Armageddon, would you? You also wouldn’t complain about not reaching eight lands after playing Armageddon, would you? No wonder you haven’t broken into a Top 8. Also, stop comparing cube drafting to current limited.

  21. @dbg
    Saying that top decking a library late in the game is bad is not looking at what library is actually doing for your deck. The reason library is so busted is that not only is it a bomb on turn 1, but it does not take up a spot in your deck. Library is a land that taps for mana. The fact that it is a free slot in your deck and a possible backbreaking bomb makes it a first pick in nearly every deck (like he said, it isn’t great in aggro).

  22. When you say gifts is hard to get value off it just makes me think you don’t know how to draft a good cube deck. Same with reanimate.

  23. For the record, taking advice from Matt Nass on limited formats is clearly ridiculous, given the horrendous decisions he makes in MSS drafts…

  24. Andy Cooperfauss

    Re: Cryptic Command- I just wanted to point out that I do think Cryptic is sweet, but I think that taking it p1p1 is comparable to taking Plague Stinger first. You are essentially stepping off a cliff if the person on your right and left also want to draft the best deck, so you are basically hoping to run good. By extension, taking it p1p2 as a signal is wrong because the man on your right could have taken any number of blue cards that are A) better or B) more reliable.

    Re: My Cube- I’ll be posting my Cube soon, but this list was composed from my experiences playing with a bunch of great unpowered Cubes. On the other hand, I think you all may be right about Fact or Fiction in that regard, it IS better in other Cubes than mine, though I still think it’s less good than people tend to think. Speaking of which…

    Re: FoF- Just as an aside, no one ever mentions that it is actually awkward when your opponent makes a great split. If Finkel is making your piles, how much does it’s value drop off? Just food for thought.

    @Zach & lolthisiskillem2: While I agree that Balance is very powerful, which part of my assessment do you disagree with? That it is difficult to draft around in a format where artifact mana is a highly prized commodity or that you shouldn’t play it in every deck? I’m curious to hear where you think I went wrong here.

    @Fadingthought: Come on now, everyone loves to complain, bad drafters and good drafters alike! One of the unspoken truths in Magic is that while it’s unhealthy and pointless, people LOVE to be on tilt. I’m merely indulging the impulse.

    I do feel the need to defend my friends here though- I draft regularly with a wide variety of people, from regular PTQ winners to guys who are on the Train. So, don’t blame their abilities for my opinions.

    @CalebD- I agree with you on Library, but when playing aggro I’m just questioning where you draw the line. In control, Library is a first pick almost every time, but in an aggro deck, how many cards should you take over it? For example, I’d rather have SoFI in my mono-red deck, among other cards that are ALWAYS good in your red deck.

    @Cuttups: As I point out in the article, I tried it in Black Aggro first, which I assumed would be its natural home, then when that went horribly wrong, I tried it in big mana. Where and when do you play it? It’s possible every time I see it the player is just doing it wrong, so I’m interested to learn if there is an approach to the card I hadn’t considered.

    @sti: Where do you think I am wrong on Reanimate? How often are you getting a fatty in the graveyard before you could cast Animate Dead or Necromancy anyway?

  25. Cryptic is insane. Gifts is better than you seem to think, as it’s pretty easy to turn into a bomb if you pick it up early, though I agree that some players overvalue it.

  26. It seems like most of the cards in here are overrated because lots of times people don’t know what kinds of decks they go in. I guess that seems like fair criteria.

    ps. Balance+Greater Gargadon= GG

  27. Andrew Cooperfauss

    @nonsense: I’m sorry to hear you didn’t like the article, what kind of content would you like to see? I’m more than open to constructive ideas!

  28. Retired not Retarded

    “Yet, for some reason, we still can’t really help but get upset when you feel like the man on your right set up a big flashing sign that says “I’M NOT IN RED!” only to find out later that he’s in mono-red, and he just didn’t think that Goblin Guide was that great.”

    I think he’s talking about “the Grinder” here. ;p

  29. 1. Balance

    You’re right. It’s often just a two mana WoG that makes you pitch two cards. I still don’t see the problem, though. Last I checked, two mana WoG’s were pretty good, not to mention a rare occurence. I will agree, however, that Balance is not the all star that it is in constructed and isn’t always the right choice at P1P1. It does have it’s home, though, and it is still pretty
    damn powerful.

    2. Force of Will

    I agree that the card disadvantage can be a little more detrimental in cube than it is in constructed since we’re not playing with multiples of certain cards. With that said, though, it’s not usually that big of a deal, since you’re probably countering something that matters. I can remember a few times, though, where playing it for free, while it was good because I kept my opponent off of something I didn’t want him to have, it also kind of sucked because I
    was forced to remove the only other blue card in my hand which was also something that I wanted. Again, it’s not what it is in constructed, but it’s still a counterspell powerhouse that allows a blue deck to tap out to play a finisher and still be able to protect it with counter back up, should the need arise. That’s where FoW shines in cube, imo.

    3. Nether Void

    I’ve never played Nether Void, so I can’t really comment on it one way or the other. “Black Armageddon” is all I’ve ever really heard about it, but I’ll admit that I’m a little skeptical. It seems like it’d be similar to Geddon, but easier to recover from. If they just pay 3 more and Wrath your board, then you’re stuck having to pay 3R for that Jackal Pup you’ve been sand
    bagging. I guess, ideally, they’ll just be dead before they get a chance to do that, but it seems like if they do somehow manage to come back, you’ve basically screwed yourself. It sounds like a very high risk/high reward kind of card, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

    4. Tarmogoyf

    First things first, I don’t feel like playing with Tribal Enchantments in casual formats makes you a jerk. It makes you someone who enjoys playing good cards no matter what format you’re slinging cardboard in. I have seen Tarmogoyf be a bit overrated, though. It’s a fantastic card, no doubt, but again, it’s not quite the powerhouse in cube that it can be in constructed. That is to say, that it’s not reliably a 3/4 or larger by turn two or three. Seeing it doesn’t push me into green if I’m already in another color combo, but I have no problems taking it early if I haven’t yet decided on a color.

    5. Cryptic Command

    I don’t have a lot to say about this one because I somewhat agree with you. For the most part it is normally just a harder to cast Dismiss. The beauty of Cryptic Command, though, and the part that I think you’re blatantly ignoring is the flexibility. It might normally be a Dismiss, but that’s not all it has to be. It gives you options. Sometimes bouncing a permanent and countering a spell can be extremely detrimental to your opponent’s game plan. I will admit, though, that the tap all creatures mode is rarely used.

    6. Akroma’s Vengeance

    Reading your description of the card tells me one thing: you’re playing it wrong. If you’re playing Vengeance on turn five to blow up two guys and losing two Signets in the process, that seems really bad for you. Sometimes, yes, you end up taking out a couple of your own manafacts or something in the process. The thing is, though, it’s usually worth it. I’m fine with giving up a Signet at that point in the game if it means blowing up their team and their Jitte or Sword. You also completely ignore the cycling ability and how wonderful it is
    to be able to toss the Vengeance for another card if it appears you’re not going to need it. I used to be on team Austere Command as well, but time and time again Akroma’s Vengeance has been amazing. You can’t argue with results.

    7. Brainstorm

    Wait, what? Brainstorm? It’s gotta be said, you don’t need a ton of shuffle effects to make Brainstorm worthwhile. It digs for a card you might need at that point, it allows you to put stuff back into the deck that you might not want in your hand, and it’s cheap and instant speed. What’s not to love? I can’t even get your argument on this one. Having fewer shuffle effects makes it not good? Wow… to me that really just feels like you’re reaching for
    reasons to convince people to pass you the Brainstorm.

    8. Reanimate

    I love Reanimate, but the more I see it played and play it myself, the more I like the other reainimation spells better for the actual reanimator archetype. Sometimes it does really
    suck to bring back a fatty and lose seven life, only to have the fatty dealt with somehow. However, I tend to play reanimate in non reanimator archetypes (aggro, midrange) a lot more often. I’m fine with losing a couple life to bring back my Tarmogoyf or Kitchen Finks. I think that’s where it really shines and it’s the beauty of the cheap reanimation spells. They’re universal for any deck playing black.

    9. Mirari’s Wake

    Wake is great for ramp decks and I’ll even splash for it there, but outside of that, it doesn’t see much play here. I love Wake as a card, but the problem I see with it is that, in the cube and in normal GW archetypes, once you reach 6-8 mana, you don’t really need any more. Wake is usually just overkill. Also the +1/+1 is very rarely relevant. Don’t get me wrong, Wake is no danger of leaving my cube because when it’s good, it’s freakin’ ridiculous, but I do think that sometimes players can overrate it a bit during drafting based on how it played in constructed.

    10. Capsize

    I’ve been locked out of the game by Capsize, even in my powered cube, too many times to count. That’s why I think players value it so highly. It may be that we started out taking it early because of how it performed in Tempest standard, but I think it’s more than proved its worth in the cube. That card is pretty nuts. I’ve uttered the words, “That’s game, I’ll never get another creature on the table now” more times that I’d like to admit all because of Capsize. Again, you can’t argue with results.

    11. Fact or Fiction

    The fact that it’s a 4cc spell has never really been a problem for us. It’s almost always a draw two and when it’s not and it’s a draw one instead, it draws the one card you need the most. I love FoF because it forces my opponent to make a decision. It doesn’t guarantee that they’ll do it wrong, but I’ve seen it happen to even some really good players. it’s a skill testing card that either provides you with a decent amount of card advantage or gives you the one card you’re looking for. I think that’s a steal at four mana and instant speed.

    12. Gifts Ungiven

    Wow, I think the evaluation of this card is way off. I’ll admit that it’s definitely not what it was in constructed, but it’s certainly no slouch. I think if Inspiration is all that it was doing, then you’re doing it wrong. It especially shines in UG and UB archetypes that can fetch up Witness or reanimation and that happens all the time here. Even outside of those archetypes, you go get the cards you need most. If you’ve drafted and built your deck properly, you should have no problems finding enough of what you need to give your opponent fits during their decision making. Gifts is a fantastic card.

    13. Yawgmoth’s Bargain/Necropotence

    First of all, don’t play Necro in the cube. BBB pretty much never happens on turn three and most likely won’t happen until turn five or six, in which case you might as well be playing Bargain because it gives you cards now, not at EOT. Second of all, I’ve seen Bargain
    be an absolute house of a card even without power shenanigans. With that said, though, I’ve noticed recently that it doesn’t get taken as highly or played as often as it once did. It’s gone from being a “can’t pass it” sort of card to being just another good black control
    card. It has it’s deck and when it can be abused, it’s ridiculous. It’s hard to beat that kind of card advantage sometimes. I don’t think it’s necessarily always right to take it P1P1, but it’s definitely not wrong to value it that highly.

    14. Mutilate

    Who plays Mutilate in their cube? That card is awful for cube.

    15. Future Sight

    I recently cut Future Sight from my cube in favor of Consecrated Sphinx. So far it’s played about the same as far as card advantage goes, but it doesn’t force you to reveal what you’re drawing to your opponent and it comes attached to a four power beater. I’d highly
    recommend this change if you’re still running Future Sight.

    16. Desertion

    I have to agree with this one. I still run it, but it’s not near as impressive as I feel it should be. It can occasionally be a complete blowout, but that doesn’t seem to be the norm. Most likely this one will come out of my list with the next update (depending on WotC’s love for blue in the next couple of sets).

    17. Eternal Dragon

    I personally don’t think that a 2cc Plains fetcher that puts a 5/5 dragon in your yard for later abuse is so bad. I agree that seven for a french vanilla 5/5 flyer is a bit much, but that’s not
    where E Dragon shines. I think you overlook versatility on cards. I don’t play this in my UW control deck as a finisher. I play this in my BW reanimator deck or my GW ramp deck (with
    Wake! Sick!). This seems to be another case where you’re just playing the card
    wrong and so end up misevaluating it.

    18. Sensei’s Divining Top

    I think it’s absolutely fine to take Top at P1P1. I agree that there are certain decks that players throw a Top into that might get more value out of another card, but I don’t think it’s a card that
    should make this list. I love playing Top in aggressive decks because it often keeps me from running out of steam. It helps me to make sure I’ll draw a threat instead of an unnecessary land or spell. The card selection it brings to the decks it’s played in is almost uncomparable. I love Top and have no problems taking it early.

    19. Crystal Shard

    I agree that this card is not for every blue deck out there, but it has it’s home. And again, in that home, it’s ridiculous. If you’re playing Crystal Shard as an expensive Rishadan Port,
    you’re doing it wrong. It’s a card that needs to be drafted around. It wants to be abused and when that deck gets built, it’s damn near unstoppable.

    20. Library of Alexandria

    I see your point here, but again, if you throw Library in your hard aggro deck that tops its curve at four with FTK and Hero of Oxid Ridge, you’re doing it wrong. With that said, though, it’s never wrong to take Library. Even if your deck doesn’t want it, your deck also doesn’t want your opponent’s deck to have it. Library is one of those cards that you do not pass even if you can’t play it in your deck. You either take it to play it or you take it to hate it. Either way, you take it.

  30. i do agree with your evaluation, and i understand that you are not saying these cards are bad, just overrated. it’s funny how quick an article puts people on tilt. the only one i feel i can argue is wake, it could just be my list (which is also another good point). but big mana is also one of my favorite decks to play in cube so that could also be it. i do feel like this article and reasons are pretty objective evaluations. great article, sorry everyone decided to jump off the plank on this.

  31. FoF really is that good, as it’s splashable and can be played at their end step (blue desperately needs eot cards that give them an edge). I’d say it’s better than control magic (which is overrated).

    A+ on the balance assessment, I thought my group was the only one that had gotten there.

    Force and cryptic command are counter-spells, and I would take both at about the same level as the original two mana counterspell (that is to say, really really high).

  32. The problem with articles about non-standardized formats is that they are worthless for comparitive purposes. In essence, people drafting your cube overrate these cards in the context of your cube. What possible utility does this article have? I would agree a bunch of these cards are overrated – most aren’t even in the cubes I play with.

  33. I don’t understand how Dark Confidant is not on this list… It’s a bomb throughout constructed and loses you 25 life in cube without a top. Just sayin’ isn’t that the definition of you’re article?

  34. I’m pretty sure this article did exactly what the author wanted it to. It generated discussion about pick orders in cube. (an impossible list to make, btw)
    Obviously there are situations were any of those given cards are amazing, but a lot of the cards on the list are “build-around-me’s”. Cube drafting is much more about maximizing the efficiency and synergy of your cards rather then just drafting the cards with the most raw power.
    The biggest thing to consider to properly evaluate any of these cards is to ask more questions about the cube itself. Powered or unpowered, aggresive or midrange, combo or other niche archetypes? All of these effect the power level, and perceived power level of each of these cards.
    Everything needs to be taken into context. There are clearly situations where you could first pick any of these.

    I think i good question to ask is if you could order the cards on this list by pick order, where would each one fall?

  35. “Re: FoF- Just as an aside, no one ever mentions that it is actually awkward when your opponent makes a great split. If Finkel is making your piles, how much does it’s value drop off? Just food for thought. ”

    So if the piles are split evenly, you take the one with 3 cards and move on. That still means that you just cast a card that was 3U Instant, draw 3 cards. That card is absurd, much like FoF.

    -AA

  36. Luis Scott-Vargas

    @ balance

    Definitely agree, this card is nowhere near as good as people think it is.

    @ cryptic command

    I think cube is a little different than normal draft. I don’t care if I get cut, I draft what I want, and cryptic is just awesome.

    @ gifts, top, brainstorm

    Again, agree. Gifts is pretty tough to get good value, and top/brainstorm suck.

  37. Andrew: i come here to read articles about magic, not to tell you what to write about. But when i see thins like “Fact or fiction is overrated”, being an active cube player myself, i just dont dig it.

  38. Andy Cooperfauss

    @nonsense: While I already conceded that it is better elsewhere than it is in my Cube, I really stand by my point in any case. It IS overrated, simply because of the number of blue cards that are better (Bribery, Treachery, Jace 2 are MUCH better, for starters). Fact or Fiction doesn’t crack the top 10 for power level amongst the rest of the Cube, and it’s picked as if it’s top 5. Therefore, it’s rated too highly.

  39. I have those others cards you mention in my cube, and it´s still right to pick FoF very highly, IMO. Of course, you can write whatever you want, but all im trying to say is not that im right and you are wrong, that´s missing the point. The point is that i find your articles uninteresting, and of little use, maybe someone enjoys it, but not me. If you keep on writing uninteresting articles, ill just stop reading, there are lots of web pages with cool cube strategy and card debate. Here all you did was tell us that super power cards are a little less powerfull than we think, well, thats not very usefull, you know? What, do i have to cut FoF from my cube? Do i have to pick it 3rd or 4rth, but not first? Sorry, for me, the article FAILS.

  40. Lsv and all others:
    Balance is not an autopick in white when you open it at pack 3. But in 1p1p it is extremly good. Of course it is mediocre if you draft a g/w aggro pile but you just pick tutors and artifacts aggressive (and karoo lands). Then you have a deck that cant loose vs aggro and you can customize the rest of the deck vs control.
    With that said it is ok at least. Cause it is a card that really shine when you are behind but wothless when in front.

    Sry for my bad eng.

  41. Even if Finkel is splittiny my 5 cards of FoF, I’m still drawing at least one good card, often two, in my opponent’s end step.

    FoF gets better the more powerful the cardset is. In invasion, it was great, yet not overwhelming. In a format that happens to have most of the best cards in Magic, it’s incredibly powerful.

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