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Fun Cubed – No Monument to the Eldrazi

 

Slowly, as the fatties were being spoiled for Rise of the Eldrazi, the question that kept coming back into my mind was regarding the ability to cast them in a reasonable fashion. While the internet immediately began buzzing with talk of how many different ways you can cast spells like Makeshift Mannequin or Miraculous Recovery, as each colorless creature was spoiled my interest was squarely focused on how I might be able to maximize these behemoths in future Cube games. With casting costs in the double digits these monsters looked like they had the potential to be a lot of fun to play with but the practicality of them in Cube was hard to imagine. Cards like Tooth and Nail and Darksteel Colossus normally stay in the sideboard of Cube drafters pools when they don’t find all the pieces of the puzzle to be able to cast them, so on the surface the Eldrazi didn’t seem like a good fit for Cube. Their fun factor kept creeping back into my head every time I checked back on the spoiler to find the new annihilators and I began to brainstorm ways to make Eldrazi work in Cube. How could a format that supports so many cards like Savannah Lions and Mogg Flunkies also have competitive space for Kozilek, Butcher of Truth?

Eldrazi in Cube

Deciding to put cards like Eldrazi into Cube for me brought up an important question about how to approach Cube construction in general. Recently Tom LaPille posted about how Cube owners should remove Signets from their Cubes in an effort to make Green better. While the idea sounded extreme to some I understood where he was coming from since I know that Green is currently the weak link in my own Cube. The argument boiled down to this simple line in the sand where Cube builders either support Green’s acceleration and color fixing by giving the color the majority of that ability or ignore that aspect of the color by including cards like Signets. While I’ve always sat on the fence about such topics, since I currently include Signets in my own cube but don’t include Power, I didn’t like the idea of losing the acceleration that Signets brought. While not creating explosive turn one or two plays, Signets seemed balanced enough from my experience to have their place in Cube. A compromise could be to only include the four that have Green as one of their colors but for me that didn’t sound too appealing as I’m also such a fan of symmetry in my Cube. So obviously cards like Signets would be important to Cubes that want to include Eldrazi so once again I had to make the difficult decision about whether to support mana hungry creatures or the color wheel.

To be able to cast Eldrazi in a format like Cube, where aggressive decks are far more like Zendikar/Worldwake than what it looks like Rise of the Eldrazi will be, they would need all the help they could get. So since it looked like I wanted to keep Signets in at this juncture, I started to consider additional card choices that could make Eldrazi playable in Cube. None of the Eldrazi spawn generators from the set were too appealing and all were too linear to make the cut in Cube when they weren’t powering out the big guys. Metalworker and Moxen sprang to mind as cards that could help cast Eldrazi in the Cube format but I couldn’t find much past those that either I wasn’t including already or wouldn’t give advantages to various other archetypes in Cube, most likely preventing the would-be Eldrazi drafter from being able to snag them during the draft. This situation left me in an awkward spot where I wanted to keep and support Signets while at the same time keep/make green a playable color, all the while trying to find a way to wedge these giant creatures into Cube. At the end of the day I felt like I was going to have to change too many things about my Cube in order to try to make Eldrazi work out. For Cubes out there that play power I recommend adding Metalworker and some of your soon to be favorite Eldrazi, for me though I just didn’t see them working in a format that either favors aggressive strategies or already has ways to lock down games when they have access to 10+ mana that aren’t Eldrazi.

Of course Rise of the Eldrazi, while the namesake of the set, isn’t what it’s completely made of. There are plenty of cards worth looking at for Cube that aren’t these colorless monsters. First though I’d like to stop and mention that in this Cube update I haven’t just switched things around for the sake of the new set but also from some number crunching and decision making based on how I felt Cube should feel and play. A quick shout out to the Internet’s own eidolon from my most recent Cube list update helped point out a couple of areas I needed to address in my Cube for balance and in conjunction with his input and various nights spend weighing cards and curves against one another I really feel my Cube has come out the other side playing better. So without further delay let’s see Rise of the Eldrazi in Cube:

White

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In:

 

The first edit to White was to make the earlier drops less color dependent. With more White Knight-type cards in Cube White aggro drafters were having difficulty playing more than one color while also hitting all their early drops. A few minor card changes make it possible to cast aggressive creatures while freeing up color mana symbols on the creatures. While creatures like Soltari Trooper and Kor Skyfisher didn’t seem so strong on the surface as cards like Whipcorder and Order of Leitbur, after playing enough as the white drafter recently I saw where the difference was. My Cube has always walked the line between players being able to draft like Shards block or Zendikar block, where players can play decks that either benefit from playing mono color or vice versa where you want to draft three to four colors. While the double White casting cost creatures lend themselves to those mono color strategies I don’t want to lock people into playing mono color to have an efficient mana base. The other changes that didn’t come from Rise were other minor card changes based on card quality. Marshal’s Anthem over Divine Sacrament was easy as threshold is rarely achieved in the same deck that wants to play Crusade effects. The resurrection effect from kicking Marshal’s Anthem seemed like the perfect upside from drawing this enchantment late in the game. Catastrophe over Final Judgment was also an easy call since the ability to exile creatures just doesn’t compare to the ability to cast Armageddon in games where you want to. Harm’s Way is also a great trick, and since Saltblast has been in and out of Cube for what seems like forever I’m shelving it again for this sneaky trick.

The real meat of the changes to White of course come from Rise this time around. While obvious fan favorites like Wall of Omens, Student of Warfare and Gideon Jura seem to be seen in every Cube list I’ve come across, Linvala, Keeper of Silence is my personal favorite inclusion. The Cursed Totem effect I feel is one often overlooked and probably has plenty of interactions, or rather lack of interactions that even I haven’t started to think of in regards to Cube games yet. Having a more powerful ability than Guardian Seraph and being not as linear makes Linvala my Cube sleeper from this set. Wall of Omens is a no-brainer and really just as fun a card as everybody has been hoping it would be. While Walls aren’t what I think of when I think of Cube or even fun Magic games, cards like Wall of Blossoms definitely make me change my mind about their use. If only Rise had been the first set in a block, who knows, by the end of the block I could have been adding Wall of Mulch to Cube. Real quick I’ll mention Gideon Jura and Student of Warfare. Both of these cards seem like auto inclusions to any Cube and their power level is obvious in comparison to cards you may take out. While the level up mechanic gave us overall poor offerings for Cube, Student is by far the cream of the crop. Gideon Jura is a card that players will need to learn to play against because he can just come down and dominate games against players who don’t know how to stop him.

Other notable mentions from Rise are Hyena Umbra and Transcendent Master. I like the concept of the umbra and hope that one day maybe one or two will make it into Cube and Hyena is my second favorite of the bunch with the one casting cost and first strike gift. Meanwhile I’m of the opposite mindset in regards to Transcendent Master. Where most other people I talk to like this enjoy overall and consider him a Cube candidate I just don’t see it. Other than the colorless mana level up cost I consider this mystic rare elephant too slow for Cube play.

Blue

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In:

 

Blue sees the fewest changes in this update, a combination of how solid the color is already and how bad its Cube offerings are from Rise. I often feel like blue defines so much of Cube that it often becomes annoying. Decisions about Cube size and creature to spell ratios are almost irrelevant to the color as blue functions so well in every Cube. With that said trying to edit the color is the most difficult of the wheel and it’s rare that you see a blue card that performs poorly in Cube and should ever be removed. For this edit it’s only a few minor changes starting with changing the too often over priced Dominate for solid card draw from Compulsive Research. The Thirst for Knowledge variant has been in and out of Cube before but with the control decks that Dominate would normally be played in looking for more card draw this change was fairly easy. Of course every time there’s a card being taking out from blue there’s a list of candidates a mile long but I really left like Compulsive Research fit the bill this time around as offering cheap card draw was good for a lot of decks. The other two changes from blue are fairly elementary as the two replacements are very similar to the cards being replaced. I haven’t loved Vexing Sphinx for what seems like a long time now and Sea Drake just seems like a much better card for aggressive decks. Vexing Sphinx had been acting like a mediocre sorcery card selection spell for some time while Sea Drake has the chance of being a real threat from both agro and control decks. The only Rise offering is the closest card to counter spell we’ve seen in a while and another much needed two casting cost counter for blue. Deprive doesn’t seem like a backbreaking downside, especially once you leave the open few turns in a game and there are plenty of opportunities to make it an upside with cards like vivid lands. Meanwhile Faerie Trickery is just the poor man’s Dissipate so it was an easy change from one counter to another.
Nothing else in blue from Rise even sparked interest in me to add to Cube for this update despite hearing musings from various others about possible cards. See Beyond and Lighthouse Chronologist don’t do anything for me and Sea Gate Oracle and Sphinx of Magosi seem like weaker versions of cards already included in Cube at this time. Of the other musings people have been making for Rise regarding blue, Sphinx of Magosi is my favorite offering you all positive and no negative for your investment. Long gone are the days when Mahamoti Djinn was a viable threat for blue.

Black

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Black has got to be the color that is the hardest to balance and keep playable as its own color in Cube. With so many control elements and so many aggressively priced creatures while at the same time having so many powerful cards that are black mana hungry, putting together black as a color in any size Cube can be difficult. Too often black gets chopped among many players at the draft table as a secondary color and never drafted as a primary color. I try to stay away from cards that fall under the category of “swamps matter” and rather try to stick to the raw power of the color while also including cards like Nantuko Shade and Necropotence to make black a primary draft color. For this update the non-Rise and Rise-related changes were centered around adding more of those aggressive creatures. Taking out the slow and clunky Xathrid Demon, Silent Specter, and Phyrexian Plaguelord for beatdown specialists like Wretched Anurid, Phyrexian Scuta and newcomer Arrogant Bloodlord has helped the suicide black we’ve all come to love from playing over the years. The vampire tribe that my Cube has also shines in this set by adding the Arrogant Bloodlord and the limited bomb Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief to interact with Vampire Nocturnus. The other Rise inclusion is Consuming Vapors which many players have glued to Consume the Meek from this set but I feel a little different about. As where Barter in Blood is the poor man’s Damnation I feel like Consuming Vapors is the poor man’s Barter in Blood. Untargeted removal is great in Cube, gaining life is great for black, and the rebound mechanic really adds a new dynamic that I’m looking forward to playing with and against in Cube. Coming out with this update are a couple of Magic classics in the form of Nether Void and Pestilence. Nether Void has been in and out seemingly from update to update but without more cards to help make it one-sided, it often didn’t have an effect on the game. Aside from slowing things down for three turns if you didn’t have board position leading to a turn four Nether Void it almost never got cast. Pestilence is another card that I’m sad to see go from Cube as I consider it a Magic standard but it’s just a little to slow to be competitive in the decks where it would be good.
Other mentions from Rise for black include Consume the Meek, Nirkana Revenant, and Inquisition of Kozilek. Consume the Meek and Inquisition of Kozilek suffer from the same problem and try to combat it in different ways. Consume the Meek is great against green or white weenie decks but that’s it. While a beating to the weenie swarms archetypes this card either wrenches the board or does next to nothing. Even the lone Wrath of God or Damnation can kill a control deck’s threat while Consume the Meek is just dead in hand. Inquisition of Kozilek has short comings similar and related to that of Consume the Meek. Being able to be played very early in the game and snap a threat or a counter spell makes Inquisition strong. The inability to make opponents discard their board sweepers or other potential game winning threats makes Inquisition just too narrow to include. I’d rather have access to a card like Distress where selective discard still shows have valuable it can be late in a game. Lastly, Nirkana Revenant has potential written all over it but in my mind serves the same purpose as plenty of cards I’m already not including in Cube. I liken her to Gauntlet of Power in that the potential mana doubling can win games will not being limited to black or being attached to a body that could be killed. At the same time this super shade creature has no evasion, no trample, and no way to clear the ground around her making it difficult to picture games where she’d function much different from any number of win conditions for black already being played.

Red

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In:

 

For red’s updates I feel the best and most confidant about the direction and the feel of the color with the cards that have been included. The land destruction element has really been flushed out and plays well in every Cube setting, from two man heads up to the rare ten man draft. Continuing the hit parade for LD is Ravaging Horde, Ogre Arsonist’s ugly cousin still fits the bill and replaces the complete miss in Magnivore. I want to support inclusion of the Ravnica bouncelands and by having a healthy land destruction package in Cube you get to keep them in without question. A couple more aggressive cards to the tune of Kargan Dragonlord and Plated Geopede come in against the slow Magma Phoenix and unimpressive Dwarven Blastminer. Dragonlord is the other level up creature I’m giving a try out to for Cube as it’s obvious to see its potential in games. While Dwarven Blastminer only had two modes of operation in Cube, either a blowout to the 5CC player or eliciting a fist pump from the player who played him face down and had his or her opponent waste a removal spell on him. Staggershock seemed like an easy swap for Arc Lightning. Arc Lightning is always looking for hit a couple of guys and Staggershock just does it better. Instant speed was always something missing from Arc Lightning and of course since Staggershock is just plain more damage this seemed like an easy swap. Sulfuric Vortex for Hammer of Bogardan was an easy swap for a player looking for recurring damage to opponents without spending a fortune on mana to do it. Skizzik had also been overlooked too long and while it took a while to figure out what to cut for it, I’m happy to finally include this new surprise attack creature. The last change to red is a happy Magical memory that is a shining example of how I view Cube. I recently found a friend of a friend who had a nice beta edition Shivan Dragon, and after some bartering I found myself with the beta beauty. Now one of the elements of Cube that I relate to is the nostalgia of old cards. So thumbing through Cube packs and finding Juzam Djinn, Juggernaut or a nice Shivan Dragon really makes me smile. So once I had my hands on the magic Cadillac of dragons I had to include him. It’s a decision made not on power level or potential game-breaking combos but rather once in a blue moon somebody at the table will summon his dragon and maybe even beat face with it, and that is one of the things Cube is about for me.
The only Rise card from red that didn’t get included worth mentioning was Devastating Summons. While there are currently very few haste giving cards in Cube this card really looked like it was ripe with potential anyone. Since I run Winter Orb and Hokori, Dust Drinker, I was already imagining opponent’s lands being locked down and summoning up a few fat elementals to crush the board. Or when two aggressive decks run out of gas and you’re looking to get the biggest threat on the board you can summon it up, two times over for that matter.

Green

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In:

 

As where red is the easier color to work with right now in Cube, green is the hardest. Having difficultly finding its identity suffocated under bigger threats from other colors at the same casting costs and having its mana fixing trumped by so many artifacts, green has been looking for strength and direction ever since white jumped it as the worst color in Cube so long ago. Each card change in this update has a different reason and purpose behind it so let’s break them down piece by piece. Staring with the cards coming out we have Rude Awakening, a card which had been sold to me as a win condition for green control decks. In practice where are almost no green control decks and almost every time you could win with Rude Awakening you could have already won turns ago with any version of Fireball lying around. A sorcery speed army of 2/2s on turn eight or later hasn’t been doing the job in Cube and since green already has so few slots for spells, this card got the axe. Rending Vines, despite drawing a card is still the weakest of the Disenchant effects from Cube. Having added Nature’s Claim in the Worldwake update, Rending Vines wasn’t as needed and having the slot freed up for a different type of spell really paid off. Coming in other these two spells we have Life from the Loam and Momentous Fall. Harmonize is a huge hit in green and Momentous fall is on average the same quality card while from time to time functioning as a blowout. Sure I could ramble on and on about the different creatures you could be sacrificing in Cube with this spell and how amazing it will be but I just say take this thing out for a test drive and see the great results yourself. Life from the Loam is an addition that I hope he’s action across various decks. Of course having added more landfall creatures like Steppe Lynx and Plated Geopede I want to see more landfall more often and since Seismic Assault has been included, I want another way to reload your ammunition. Life from the Loam seems like a great late pick in many draft situations that can immediately turn into a game-winner. There was a long period of time where I found it too linear or weak for Cube but those days are over now that there are a variety of different ways to get value out of it. Ravenous Baloth might be the last of the dying breed from the before M:10 rules change cards in Cube. This 4/4 for four that also gains life was hanging on to his last limb before Vengevine came along. Now this four casting cost four power haste face smasher is setting the new standard for green four drops. Meanwhile the Cloudthresher out in exchange for Arbor Elf requires some explanation. The thing about heavy based green decks is that they need to been extremely quick out of the gate to compete with white/black and even red sometimes, so having six casting cost creatures that require you to be playing almost mono color doesn’t fit that strategy. Some while on the surface it may be hard to see the connection between Cloudthresher and Arbor Elf I can assure you they’re very connected and make sense for this edit as to why one is included and the other is cut. The last edit for green this time round is adding Exploration over the too often dead draw Stunted Growth. The double punch of gifting landfall cards with a bonus while also adding raw power card to green makes this edit one for the better. I have to say that adding Exploration over Fastbond is just part of the test drive for this card. If Exploration ends up having positive impact without being to ineffective to often I’ll leave it as it is. While if Exploration doesn’t bring enough to the table for players looking to jump out of the gate without having too much of an advantage I may consider changing it to Fastbond in the future. Meanwhile Stunted Growth can been a really good card every once in a while, making players “discard” three cards and set them back several turns but more often than not it didn’t have that kind of value. Frequently though it hit players hands for a card or maybe two or didn’t have impact on the game at all.
I also had one honorable mention from Rise for inclusion in Cube this time around from green. Boar Umbra is my favorite of the Umbra cards and looks very similar to Elephant Guide on the surface. More often than not, saving a guy it’s attached to is better than a vanilla 3/3 after it dies. All of the Umbra cards and of course creature enchantments as always suffer from instant speed removal or worse yet bounce spells so the bar is already set extremely high when considering them for Cube.

Artifacts

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In:

 

With the decision to not support Eldrazi in the Cube I felt it was right to make a minor edit to the artifacts. Switching the monstrous Darksteel Colossus for the far more affordably-priced Sundering Titan makes a lot of Cube players happy. DSC was too often a late pick that always left you with only a few options of finding a way to play him. It can be counted on one hand the ways to “cheap” this guy into play in Cube and without additional colorless mana support from Rise cards I think changing him to Sundering Titan was an easy swap. On the upside, Sundering Titan is a card that’s easy to play to great effect and I feel that since his buddy Goblin Welder already resides in Cube that he’ll see plenty of play.

Multicolor

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Arguably the weakest for the multicolored creatures got the axe this edit and it had nothing to do with new Rise cards. Just from looking at the breakdown of the cards I felt moving to a greater power level card in Spitting Image and a great beatdown card in Putrid Leech far outweighed the cards formally holding those slots. It seems like everybody and their moms are in love with Rite of Replication these days from the endless Zendikar block drafting and I’ve heard many a people out on the Internets talk about how everybody should be playing it in Cube over cards like Clone. While I’m not sold on this idea and won’t take the time here to expand my arguments, I will say that a card like Spitting Image is a lot of fun and can be very good. Replicate really sells this card and the fact that the green mage can have access to it as well. Meanwhile on the other side you have Putrid Leech, who needs no introduction or explanation from me as all you Jund players already know exactly how this card functions. I will take a quick moment to talk about Sarkhan the Mad from Rise though as many people are also on the “all planeswalkers, all the time” bandwagon for Cube that I am not a part of. He’s slow, he’s expensive, and he’s not a clear favorite every time he hits the battlefield. Of course I can think of plenty of scenarios where he can be good, but I can also think on many more where he’s five mana for “draw a card.” Now I don’t way to rant says he’s a bad card, he’s not, he’s just two colors to cast, five mana, and doesn’t always have a great impact on the board like you want your planeswalkers to have.

Lands:

Out:

Mirrodins Core 

In:

Terramorphic Expanse 

One quick edit to the land section in this update as well. Moving from the five color land of Mirrodin’s Core to the landfall and Life from the Loam-friendly Terramorphic Expanse. Of course with Rise having just been released I could have made this a Rise edit and added Evolving Wilds but I already had a foil expanse. Of course I enjoy some level of redundancy in Cube so I wouldn’t be surprised if one day you see Evolving Wilds also finding its way into Cube as well, maybe after I manage to draft a foil one.

In summation this is quick the large Cube edit for me, and surprisingly enough not centered on the newest set release. Rise had a fair number of cards I liked but I see it invading more Cube lists far more than my own since I don’t favor the colorless monstrosities it brings to us. My Cube stands now at 680 cards, still trying to exist between a larger eight man draft pool while staying away from the seemingly upper limit of 720 where in theory you could draft with 16 people. I’m happy with my “larger” size Cube since I’m so fond of so many different cards and like more variance in my play. Look for my updated list in the “Team Fireball” heading at Channelfireball.com and thanks for checking in on my latest Cube update.

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