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Fun Cubed – The Cube Reborn

 

A couple of months ago when we found out that Alara Reborn would be 100% gold, I thought to myself about how easy it would be to asses the set for Cube. Since I was only going to have to look at a small percentage of the Cube list when assessing cards for possible inclusions I felt confident that Alara Reborn’s impact on Cube would be simple and sweet. Just thinking of the possibilities of a set that was all gold was exciting for several reasons. Since every color combination in Cube gets equal treatment, there have been a couple of subpar cards that have found their way into the Cube to give balance to all the color combinations.

With Alara Reborn I saw a great opportunity to upgrade a few two-color combinations while really rounding out others with great gold cards. However, as the spoiler filled in and I really sat down with the list and looked it over, I found a different development for how it would affect Cube. My initial thoughts that Alara Reborn would purely upgrade the gold section of Cube became more fiction than fact as I examined the full spoiler. Since the full library of Magic was expanding by just gold cards I found myself leaning towards expanding the Cube in the same fashion as well. Since certain color combinations now had an abundance of quality cards and the weaker color combinations still had Cube quality cards I thought it was time for an expansion. Adding an additional slot to each two-color combination along with standard edits has made Alara Reborn have a substantial impact on Cube. Not since a full Cube list expansion has a set caused there to be so many changes, so congratulations to Alara Reborn for impacting Cube in such a positive way!

Without further delay, let’s break down each color combination now that each two color combination get an extra slot:

W/U

Coming Out:

Nothing

Going In:

Pride of the Clouds

Nothing from Alara Reborn struck me as Cubeworthy in the White/Blue color combination. Meddling Mage, while a great card, doesn’t really cut it in a format where there’s no more than one copy of any spell. Offering to Asha is the poor man’s Overrule, and while adding another counterspell with lifegain seemed strong, I expect more out of my four mana counterspells. [card]Pride of Clouds[/card] had little competition after looking at what was left to pick from. Kiss of the Amesha was the only contender, and while taking a turn off in control to draw two cards and heal your wounds is good, it still seems too slow and underpowered for Cube right now. Pride of the Clouds has a touch of versatility, lending itself to aggressive strategies in combination with cards like Battle Screech and Spectral Procession while also producing chump blockers in the slow control deck.

U/B

Coming Out:

Nothing

Going In:

Soul Manipulation

Soul Manipulation is a perfect card in design and it fits perfectly into Cube. Finding a Raise Dead with the right bonus attached to it is difficult, but it’s an affect I’d like to have in Cube. Raise Dead is such a staple of Magic I’ve felt some variant should be in Cube. Recover is an example in the right direction, but at three mana and still a sorcery it’s just not good enough for Cube. Grim Harvest is the first runner up when it comes to finding a card for Cube with this effect but as a Blue/Black combination you can’t ask for much more than [card]Soul Manipulation[/card] offers. Casting Remove Soul for three isn’t the worst and instant speed raise dead also can have great impact on the game state if this card is only used with half of its potential. These two effects together while at the same time giving Blue access to another counterspell makes Soul Manipulation a perfect addition. No other cards from Alara Reborn were considered from this color combination, and in fact Moroii was the next runner up for this new slot.

B/R

Coming Out:

Nothing

Going In:

Ashenmoor Gouger

Thankfully, Terminate already had a home in Cube before the Alara Reborn release, so sifting through the remainder of the Red/Black cards from the set looking for possible inclusions wasn’t difficult. Demonspine Whip was the next best card from Reborn in this color combination and sat on the fence for inclusion for a while against Ashenmoor Gouger. When Conflux was released and Shambling Remains was added to Cube the argument started as to which four-power-for-three-mana beater was better, the Remains or the Gouger. While everyone had their own opinion over whether four toughness or unearth was a better advantage I was glad to put the argument to rest by added the one left behind with this Cube expansion. Demonspine Whip gets left behind this time round but has considerable merit for potential future inclusion. The idea of colorless firebreathing attached to any trample monster, or better yet Needle Specter, along with the potential reusability of equipment leaves Demonspine Whip in the back of my mind for future Cube considerations.

R/G

Coming Out:

Vexing Shusher

Going In:

 

Bloodbraid Elf 

 

Vithian Renegades 

The Red/Green color combination has one of the greatest concentrations of potential Cube cards from Alara Reborn. Quickly look at the cards that I considered for a while before making final decisions: Blitz Hellion, Colossal Might, Spellbreaker Behemoth, and even Vengeful Rebirth. Ball Lightning variants are strong in Cube, and Blitz Hellion has the potential to make multiple appearances in the same game, which is even stronger. Colossal Might serves not only as a combat trick to save potential attackers or blockers but also gives the seemingly rare trample effect in Cube. If only Colossal Might had been double Red or double Green, it would have most likely made the Cube as good combat tricks are hard to come by. Trample is scarce in Cube, so much so that Predator’s Strike has been on the fence for quite a while. Vengeful Rebirth was really the long shot inclusion from this set, and as much as I love the potential to kill a creature or dome the opponent while returning a powerful spell to my hand it just seemed like it would be difficult to make this card good consistently. Spellbreaker Behemoth ended up being victim to the same fate that Vexing Shusher did on its way out of the Cube. Taking a run at Blue, while enjoyable, isn’t in the spirit of running as few color specific hate cards as possible in Cube, not to mention Rumbling Slum at the same casting cost of Behemoth plays a lot better against every color that isn’t Blue.

The Red/Green color combination is one of the strongest to begin with, so while I could play all of these cards in Cube and be happy with them, it’s a tough to make it in this particular combination. So to talk about what actually made the cut, we’ll start with Vithian Renegades. A Keldon Vandals trades a colored mana for echo in its casting cost, and is well worth the trade. Keldon Vandals has always been an achiever in Cube so adding its cousin was a no-brainer. Bloodbraid Elf gets the other call, sporting the seemingly overpowered cascade effect. An ability like cascade only gets better in a format like Cube, where I can’t think of a bad spell to hit off of [card]Bloodbraid Elf[/card] as long as it’s on color. Thinking of the potential of hitting Stone Rain, Ball Lightning, Char, Call of the Herd, or even Kodama’s Reach makes me excited to cast Bloodbraid Elf as many times as possible in the near future.

G/W

Coming Out:

Oversoul of Dusk

Selesneya Guildmage

Going In:

Qasali Pridemage

Dauntless Escort

Behemoth’s Sledge

Hands down, Green/White gets the strongest offerings from Alara Reborn and has the most inclusions from the new set. Only Mycoid Shepherd gets left behind when it comes to the power cards of Green/White from Reborn, as three diverse inclusions join the Cube family. Qasali Pridemage is a home run, and from the first instant I saw it I knew it would be making its way in. Watchwolf officially has no chance of seeing play in Cube now that Pridemage roams the plains. Effectively a 3/3 for two, Pridemage also becomes Disenchant at the drop of one colorless mana. Dauntless Escort is super Burrenton Forge-Tender with not just the ability to halt Earthquake effects but also the ability to turn off Wrath of God in almost all of its incarnations. Even if you haven’t run cards like Spectral Procession or all your knights onto the board this guy still gets into the red zone at an effective three power for three mana.

Behemoth’s Sledge, or Armadillo Cloak the equipment, as we call it, simply trades off a point of power from Loxodon Warhammer and adds a couple points of toughness to make a card just as powerful as the original hammer. Meanwhile Oversoul of Dusk is difficult to cast and while having protection from three colors is very strong, the awkward casting cost means it often gets left on the sideline of a lot of decks. Selesneya Guildmage is just the victim of being outclassed by better cards. Not hard to cast and with a potentially relevant ability, Guildmage is just on the slow side and doesn’t match up against the cards coming into the Cube from Reborn.

W/B

Coming Out:

Nothing

Going In:

Death Grasp

This color combination is one of my favorites and I’ve spent a lot of time making the decision as to how to treat the inclusions for this combination. Initially I saw Identity Crisis making the Cube for this expansion, but after I thought about how it fit I didn’t like it nearly as much. If this spell cost half as much and you picked one mode or the other it would be amazing (uhh, amazing would be an understatement – LSV), unfortunately at six mana it seems difficult to make this spell worthwhile more often than not. Against the counter-based control decks this spell has little chance of resolving and against the aggressive decks you’re often removing a meaningless graveyard and made a couple of cards in your opponent’s hand. Death Grasp on the other hand offers a lot, as it Drain Lifes and feeds off of any color mana. What really puts it over the top though is its ability to get effectively cast from turn three onward. Black/White needs more spells on turns between two and six and Death Grasp often times acts as Essence Drain, which is very good in the tempo game against creature based decks.

W/R

Coming Out:

Nothing

Going In:

 

Goblin Legionnaire 

Every card in Alara Reborn in this color combination is bad. There isn’t a card that I even considered for more than a few seconds after they were all spoiled correctly. This combination also didn’t have any major players waiting in the wings to get into Cube so adding Goblin Legionnaire was a “solid” addition for Cube. The Red/White combination I feel has been effectively flushed out in Cube, only Soltari Guerrillas is still even a consideration for this combination in the future without further offerings from Wizards.

R/U

Coming Out:

 

Invoke the Firemind 

Going In:

 

Spellbound Dragon 

 

Double Negative 

The dreaded Red/Blue color combination, home of the weakest links in Cube, gets a little upgrade from Alara Reborn. Not the greatest spells came out of this set but something is better than nothing for this combination. Spellbound Dragon is the big flying looter in the sky that I have no problem attacking with, drawing a card, and discarding a land every time to if it gets the job done. Of course there’s always the chance you’ll live the dream and pitch that Darksteel Colossus to the looter dragon, so here’s to Spellbound Dragon, hoping to live the dream.

Double Negative is proof to the lack of power in the Red/Blue combination, since that Counterspell can cost an additional Red mana and still make the cut in some draft decks is a testament to not only how powerful the counterspell effect is but how few playable cards this combination has to offer. My guess is that one in fifty times that spell is cast in Cube it will have the opportunity to counter two spells when neither of them belong to you.

U/G

Coming Out:

Nothing

Going In:

Lorescale Coatl

Blue/Green is one of the tightest color combinations in Cube. Nulltread Gargantuan and Vedalken Heretic both are strong considerations and if the multicolored sections were to expand again I’d like both of these cards see play in Cube. Many people are talking about Vedalken Heretic as the Ophidian of the modern day but I think he’s just a little weaker than both Cold-Eyed Selkie and Coiling Oracle as it stands right now. Lorescale Coatl ends up as the cream of the crop from the Blue/Green cards in Reborn with the ability to be a three drop that grows or a play later in the game with draw backup that can really become a large threat quickly. Vintage and Legacy players have already talked up this card with the potential ability to abuse its growing power with cards like Brainstorm, Thirst for Knowledge, or good old Library of Alexandria.

G/B

Coming Out:

 

Doomgape 

Going In:

 

Maelstrom Pulse 

 

Lord of Extinction 

The Black/Green combination is the most unique of all ten in that there’s such a steep drop off in power level for its cards. Starting at the top end with Pernicious Deed, Spiritmonger, and Putrefy I found myself rounding out the selections for this combo with unfortunate cards like Grave-Shell Scarab and Doomgape. Thankfully Alara Reborn has a couple of great offerings for Cube that have really brought the power level of the Green/Black closer to where it should be. I’m sure unless you only play Cube that you’ve already heard about the comparison of Maelstrom Pulse to Oblivion Ring, and in Cube it’s just as good if not better than the coming Standard format. Being able to deal with planeswalkers is something that older generation Magic cards have a hard time doing, so having access to more quality cards like Maelstrom Pulse for Cube is a great way to keep balance. Of course there’s also the off-chance you’ll be able to hit a group soldier, goblin, or squirrel tokens, making Pulse just a little more versatile in the Cube arsenal.

Lord of Extinction is that big body that usually hits the table with a target printed on its forehead. Of course the lack of built in evasion doesn’t make it an immediate game-ender but you’ll be sure your opponent won’t like the ability of a 10/10 hanging out slowing getting bigger as it eats chump blockers until it finishes off your opponent. Doomgape on the other hand was an easy cut since the last spot in Green/Black has had a rotating cast of characters looking for a card that works well in the Cube environment but without success until now.

The three color combinations had no changes from Alara Reborn for Cube. Only the allied or shard colors got new cards from this set and only one spot is allocated in my Cube for each three color combination, so it’s tough to break into Cube if you’re looking at a three color spell. While there has been a lot of buzz around cards like Sen Triplets and Jenara, Asura of War I felt neither had the versatility of the charm cards they were up against in their respective slots. Jenara, Asura of War and Lavalanche feel like the only cards from Reborn that would be considered in the future for Cube inclusion. While there has been a ton of buzz around Sen Triplets I just don’t see how this card will immediately win games where you find yourself with an upkeep after they hit the table. Sen Triplets seems like a better potential inclusion as part of trying to lure players into a trap of thinking it will win games rather than as a power level inclusion. Nonetheless, Alara Reborn with all of its impact on the gold section of the Cube fails to adjust the three color spells.

I thought I’d also take this opportunity to update the entire Cube list along with the update from the new set. White, Black, Blue, Green, and the artifact section all have adjustments with this Cube update.

Glory Sigiled Paladin

Glory just never did anything other than come down as a 3/3 flyer in White decks. With the majority of the decks playing Glory lacking the ability to get it into the graveyard to activate it, it often either had no impact on the game or found its way to the table as an attacker late in the game. Sigiled Paladin lends itself to the white weenie game plan while at the same time bringing a more unique ability to the beatdown strategy in the rare exalted ability. I’m looking forward to seeing Paladin get in for three or swing with the family in many future Cube games.

HatredNether Void

Yawgmoth’s WillLiving Death

Hatred was a quick in, quick out card in Cube. For starters, the paying life is an additional cost, so that’s a major disadvantage from the beginning, and since there’s a lack of black fast mana in Cube there’s little way to power out an early game Hatred. While still a cornerstone in the history of Magic, Hatred doesn’t appear to have a home in Cube. Yawgmoth’s Will suffers from a similar fate, in that there isn’t much in the way of fast mana for Will to abuse in Cube. Yawgmoth’s Will often played as Regrowth or Restock at best in most situations, and since you are forced to play the spells on the same turn as casting Will it almost put it at a disadvantage to its green counterparts. Nether Void is one of those historic black control cards that seems like it has symmetry on the surface but always benefits the caster. With the land destruction package in my Cube, Nether Void is just a little bit better than it would be without these weapons in it’s arsenal. Also with the low colored mana commitment, Nether Void could see play in almost any beatdown deck. Living Death is a no brainer that should have been included long ago in Cube but somehow slipped through the cracks. It’s not hard to make this card extremely one sided by weeping your opponent’s board while bringing back a man or two of your own.

Brilliant Plan Covenant of Minds

This one is a subject of great debate. At the same casting cost as one another you have Brilliant Plan (Sorcery, 4U, Draw three cards.), Covenant of Minds, and Library of Lat-Nam. All of these cards have similar effects and every player out there has his or her own opinion on which is the best (for mine, take a look at the forums – LSV). For the longest time I left simply drawing three cards was the way to go for five mana with only a single Blue mana commitment. Over time other players have convinced me that Covenant is better and at this point I’m willing to give it a chance. I speculated this card would put a couple of your win conditions in your graveyard in exchange for drawing three land and two spells but time will tell with his card as it sees more action in Cube.

Sylvan TutorRending Vines

This one is simple, I misread Sylvan Tutor the first time I read it, thinking it put the creature card into your hand, making it better than Worldly Tutor. Since it just puts the creature on the top instead it’s strictly worse and comes out in exchange for another [card]Disenchant[/card] effect that also draws a card.

Lurebound ScarecrowPyrite Spellbomb

[card]Su-Chi[/card] – [card]Aether Spellbomb[/card]

Mana efficient vanilla artifact creatures often get left in the sideboard of Cube decks. The mono-colored drafters more often than not take an on-color creature over Lurebound Scarecrow and Su-Chi is the poor man’s Juggernaut. As much fun as I’ve had seeing both of these creatures see play, the versatility of the two best Spellbombs makes them better choices for the future of Cube play.

This ends this week’s Cube changes, so until M10 hits shelves this July this will be the list I’ll be playing. So until next time, this is Tristan Gregson hoping your top decks are live and your lethal damage always resolves.

10 thoughts on “Fun Cubed – The Cube Reborn”

  1. Mike Destroyer

    slave of bolas is just so powerful, i forced myself to make room for it. i added one on-color + hybrid card for each combination, but the esper card is pretty weak, unless you draft the artifact deck (arsenal thresher, but i might change it to thopter foundry… but that’s also only good in the artifact deck… thoughts? )

    so i added crystallization, arsenal thresher, slave, sangrite backlash, and marisi’s twinclaws. i’m going to take out a pacifism effect from white and add something else in… not sure what yet.

    i also added maelstrom nexus, because, you know, if a deck can play it, the why not abuse it?

  2. I am VERY surprised that you aren’t running Nemesis of Reason, or that you don’t even mention him. The card is absolutely bonkers in any limited format, and the cube is no exception…he makes an excellent end-game threat in U/B control, providing a tough to kill 3/7 body that doesn’t care about blockers and takes 2-3 hits to kill your opponent, something very few creatures can boast. His 3/7 black body is tough to take out with burn, -x/-x effects and terror variants, and while he can still be STP’d so can everything…and he’s also in the archetype that is most likely to be holding a counterspell…The first time my group cubed with him he completely wrecked face.

    I HIGHLY recommend him.

  3. I think you should strongly consider bituminous blast. I know it looks kinda bad at 5 mana, but with all the powerful stuff at mana costs 1-4, its gonna pack a wallop.

  4. How are the non-Brilliant Plan options anything other than strictly worse than Brilliant Plan?

  5. I have Wall of Denial in my cube, and I think it’s awesome. Way better than Pride of the Clouds.

    Good catch on the Vithian Renegades. Shusher was lacking in my cube as well, and I was hoping for an upgrade for this set, and had set my eyes on Spellbreaker Behemoth, but this is far better.

    What are your GW cards? I assume that you have 6 (as I do). Mine are Mirari’ Wake, Loxodon Hierarch, Gaddock Teeg, Kitchen Finks, Armadillo Cloak, and now Qasali Pridemage. It’s not hard to argue that GW is the strongest gold color, and there just isn’t room for pretty good cards (like Anurid Brushopper, Dauntless Escort, a Loxodon Warhammer reprint). I would say that the 6 cards that are in are fairly non-negotiable.

    You take out a nice X spell, replace it with a Cancel, then bemoan the depth of the color? Granted, UR suffers the most from adding a 6th card, but Spellbound is reasonably playable, and Invoke is strong.

    With GB, I like Putrid Leech alot as well, over Scarab. Nath of the GiltLeaf was solid as well, but GB surprisingly got a ton of help this set, so it got cut.

  6. To Destroyer Mike:
    I like Slave of Bolas, a lot in fact, the problem with all those multi-color cards with hybrid mana in them is that they span three colors, making there three color cards and as it stands right now I only have one slot in my Cube for cards of three colors. Should Wizards in the future end up making more cards that are multi-colored with hybrid mana I can see that section expanding to include cards of that caliber. I also don’t have any five color cards in my Cube right now.

    To Nike Walsh:
    I do feel I overlooked Nemesis of Reason and he should have been mentioned however I am confident in him not being included at this time. Normally when you have a win condition in a deck like U/B it only needs to hit a couple of times for the game to be over anyway. Simic Sky Swallower for instance is a card I would put in the same category as Nemesis of Reason.

    To Matt:
    I just wish Bituminous Blast hit players. If it had the same casting cost and did 2 damage to any target I would consider it. This card is very similar to Suffocating Blast, in that in order for it to get good you need a creature to hit with it, and since it isn’t a guarantee I don’t really like this card all that much.

    To Adam:
    I’ll start with G/B, Putrid Leech is on the outside looking in, but its close. I just seem to many situations where he doesn’t have much impact on the game, and therefore I left him out this time. As far as Invoke the Firemind goes, I’ve had long talks with people about its playability and at the end of the day I’ve seen far more people lose holding it or tap out to Lightning Bolt something to make me think this card is good. Sure Double Negative isn’t a home run but it’s something. My Cube list is actually listed under the “Team Fireball” section of the website so you should check out my color breakdowns and how many slots I have for each color combo, as right now I’ve forgotten :-P.

  7. Well, as far as Slave of Bolas is concerned, the easiest way to fit him in the cube is to cheat a bit, and have him in a U/R slot, where he’s SURELY better then Double Negative.

    This is what my playgroup has decided to do with the cycle, anyways…look too see if there’s a weaker card in either of it’s color combinations, and then replace it with the hybrid card. Sure, it may feel a bit dirty, but you’ve obviously had trouble finding good cards in the U/R slot, you know?

    Also for the record, Slave was the only one of the multicolor hybrids we added…

  8. Mike Destroyer

    on that, i like the slave cycle since they are playable in different decks… slave can be in BR or in BU, crystallization can go in GW or UW, etc, etc. i don’t think it’s “fair” to the other archetypes to cheat slave in there, in essence you are giving BR a free boost without helping other two-color combos. one man’s opinion…

    i like nemesis of reason, and am going to consider it myself now, but i think i just like soul manipulation better. u/x control has plenty of fine finishers imo. also do you have cancel in your cube? because double negative seems so underwhelming and limited that invoke will probably be better 90% of the time.

    as for the nexus, it is my only 5 color card in there. i like having one in there to reward the player that took all the mana fixing.

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