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Fun Cubed – The Year M10

Without a doubt, the greatest shift in Magic since the dawning of the post-6th edition era is upon us, and it’s even managed to have a major affect on the most eternal of limited formats. While most talk about how Magic will be affected in the future from the new rule changes, it’s very interesting to me to look at how the new way the game is played affects older cards and their interactions. Thanks to Cube, you immediately get to ask questions about how to play cards like [card]Yavimaya Elder[/card] and [card]Morphling[/card] under the new rules, and pose questions as to the potentially shifting power levels of many cards currently either included in Cube or currently sitting on the sidelines looking to make the jump into the big box. With the rules update corresponding to M:10, many cards in Cube have to be reassessed as their power level could now be rendered much lower or worse yet cards could potentially become completely obsolete. Meanwhile, sidelined heroes from the past have the potential to get another at bat with combat rules moving back to pre-6th edition and players no longer having to worry about mana burn.

This is without getting into the new core set itself, which boosts a surprisingly high number of possible Cube inclusions for this update. Initially hearing that core set would include completely new cards didn’t make my Cube sense start tingling as the power level of cards in previous core sets has been fairly low. This time around I was surprised to see a high number of potential Cube candidates. So without further delay lets break down the Cube changes stemming from M:10.

White

Coming Out:

Promise of Bunrei
Aven Mindcensor
Crovax, Ascendant Hero
Eternal Dragon
Seht’s Tiger

Going In:

Honor of the Pure
Elite Vanguard
Baneslayer Angel
Captain of the Watch
Guardian Seraph

White is king in core set, easily boasting the greatest number of new Cube cards and getting quite the nice power level boost at the same time. Describing the first couple of cards and their reason for inclusion sounds so elementary it’s almost embarrassing to write or read about. Honor of the Pure is the one-sided Crusade every White mage has wished he or she could have for years now. In addition to being purely a boon to your own army, this new Crusade variant also gets to have a casting cost more in line with it’s Bad Moon counterpart. Initial thoughts about Crusade effects in Cube were leading me to believe that there should be a cap on the number included and I was afraid I’d be limiting the cards to only its near relatives. After a considerable amount of thought, I did indeed determine there was an upper limit to the number of times you could have Crusade effects in any given color but this time around adding another one wasn’t going to burst the bubble of pump effects. Thankfully at the same time Promise of Bunrei had been continually underperforming in Cube and I was looking to have it removed. The real problem with the card was lying in the fact that it created colorless token creatures and not White ones. Additionally, since I was looking to add another card to Cube that gave an advantage to White creatures taking Promise of Bunrei out seemed even easier. Too many Cube games that I would walk up to would have either one or both players misrepresenting Promise of Bunrei. Either the players would assume the tokens were white, or assume they had flying, or both. Now if it had been printed as Spectral Procession + 1 it wouldn’t be getting cut and would rather be quite the beating to play against. Instead, Promise of Bunrei will have to wait for another day hoping to see cards like Nantuko Husk or Glorious Anthem find their way into Cube first.

Elite Vanguard was next on the no brainer list of cards that are auto includes for any Cube. “Hey look, it’s Savannah Lions!” That’s pretty much what everybody has been doing since first laying eyes on this card, and while I love the singleton nature of Cube I’m a sucker for redundancy in draft. Along with that redundancy you find more consistency, and making a draft deck that’s consistent in its ability to win is strong. Simba’s soldier counterpart is a welcome new member of the Cube family and I’m sure very shortly you’ll be seeing him fighting along side his predecessor.

Baneslayer Angel is a pure beating, so much so that when she was spoiled everyone was holding their breath to make sure what we saw in writing was truly what was going to be hitting the battlefield in the near future. She seemed too good to be true; how could Wizards print Serra Angel in the same set as this card? Thankfully at the end of the day I’m not responsible for answering those tough questions and instead just get to beat down with this new brick hit house of an angel. This card is so good that you could remove any one of its abilities and it would still see plenty of play. This is an instant Cube inclusion I recommend everybody out there pick her up since I’m straining to imagine how Wizards could print a better angel in the foreseeable future.

Captain of the Watch is Cloudgoat Ranger’s bigger brother. Sure she costs an extra mana but look at what you get for that cost: nine power for six mana, and four creatures to boot. I also think of Captain of the Watch as the white Deranged Hermit, and the idea of paying an additional mana up front over echo sounds like quite the deal to me. As though these reasons alone weren’t enough to add Captain of the Watch to the Cube family I also really enjoy when playing with cards where creature type matters, allowing for addition interactions with all those Mutavault-type cards in Cube.

Lastly for White’s inclusions is Guardian Seraph. Urza’s Armor always seemed like a good effect but it was outrageously overpriced and now that its effect is attached to a three power flier for only four mana it’s a shoe in for Cube. Guardian Seraph also passes the Lightning Bolt test, making it additionally powerful against aggressive decks. I foresee many Cube games in the future where Guardian Seraph turns the tide against those Red/Green beatdown strategies.

As for the cards I haven’t touched on already that are getting cut from White, I’ll start with Seht’s Tiger. Originally included because White was short for mid-range creatures, with the additions of Baneslayer Angel and Guardian Seraph good old Seht’s Tiger is out of luck. While every once in a blue moon Seht’s Tiger could hit the table to stop a Mind Twist or a considerable amount of combat damage, more often than not it was simply a Hill Giant with flash.

Eternal Dragon, while a great land searcher, rarely if ever got cast. More often than not, Eternal Dragon tutored up the Scrubland or Hallowed Fountain needed to cast important spells but wasn’t serving the purpose that it was meant to fulfill as an expensive White creature for the late game. If the Cube was to expand in the future I could see Eternal Dragon coming back, but for now I want more game impact from the creatures that cost six or more.

Crovax, Ascendant Hero is a similar cut to that of Eternal Dragon. In that by the time he hit the table he wasn’t doing as much as I would like him to do. The additional Crusade effect, while great for most White creature-based decks just often times showed up too late. Many of the games won with Crovax were often related to his ability to protect himself, which is now less powerful under the new rules of the game. Like Eternal Dragon, I could see Crovax making a comeback if the Cube was to expand in the future.

Lastly from the White cuts is Aven Mindcensor. With adding a card like Elite Vanguard to Cube I’m once again looking to White to really lay the beats early in the game. Aven Mindcensor had been walking the tight rope line of trying to be part of the beatdown family while at the same time trying to be played as more of a trick and less for a beater. Only once in my personal Cube experience have I been “blown out” by Aven Mindcensor, as I once cracked a fetch land, had my opponent respond with Mindcensor and found nothing in the top four cards of my library.

Blue

Coming Out:

Rainbow Efreet

Going In:

Djinn of Wishes

Blue’s creatures are greatly affected negatively by the rules change, and I’ve heard many players talk about how once-great Blue creatures now aren’t Cube worthy. Most notably, Morphling has been the talk of the town over how it’s no longer a 5/X creature and that it should be cut from Cube. I don’t share this now-popular opinion but rather feel that Morphling is a great 0/X blocker and a 5/1 flying, shroud, vigilant attacker. The ability to give shroud and the ability to protect Morphling on the defensive side really makes me feel like it’s still one of the best win conditions Blue has, so for me it’s still a winner and still in Cube after the new rules change. Rainbow Efreet just doesn’t have the staying power after the rules change. I’m already missing the days where this flying elephant could take down attackers while saving herself turn after turn. Nowadays it’s a potentially able-bodied attacker but not much else and thusly getting cut.

Meanwhile, Blue is arguably the worst color in M:10 offering very little in the way of countermagic or card draw, or downright powerful spells. I’m giving Mind Control a pass this time around but I’m sure Persuasion version 2 will find it’s way into Cube should it be expanded in the future. Sphinx Ambassador has been a card I’ve been in love with since the spoiler but I just can’t justify adding it to Cube. By the time a Blue mage has seven mana and wants to attack an opponent I’d like to think they’ll have something better to cast than a vanilla 5/5 flyer. I’ve never said this before but Call of the Skybreaker might actually be down right better than this card a lot of the time in Cube, so sadly Sphinx Ambassador won’t be able to make opponents play any guessing games in Cube, at least not for now.

Since Rainbow Efreet was an auto cut with the release of M:10 I thought I’d give a card from the set a shot at being a regular in Cube. Djinn of Wishes has the potential to have an impact on almost any game. Air Elemental by itself has proven to be ok, so even on the worst days for the Djinn it might still be able to steal a game. But from this lowly beginning the sky is the limit on how much damage the Djinn could do. How much higher do you value Enlighten Tutor, Mystical Tutor, and Vampiric Tutor once you’ve drafted Djinn of Wishes? Of course, there’s the other obvious potential when paired with Sensei’s Diving Top or Sylvan Library. I’m once again looking forward to seeing Djinn of Wishes reveal amazing cards from the top of your library in the near future. Darksteel Colossus for the cheap cost of only two blue and two anyone?

Black

Coming Out:

Beacon of Unrest
Mercenary Knight

Going In:

Sign in Blood
Xathrid Demon

I’ll start by saying that Night’s Whisper has been on the cusp of being added to Cube for a very long time. Card draw has really become one of black’s greatest strengths in Cube from its last few updates and now that you have the option of either drawing cards or shocking your opponent, Sign in Blood fits right into Cube. When I look at Sign in Blood the card looks almost Black/Red hybrid in its effect, but that’s mostly stemming from the fact that I’m looking for the situations where I’m looking to target my opponent with the spell. I don’t see a lot of early game opportunities to cast this spell any different from Night’s Whisper but I’m sure in decks where your goal is to go for direct damage overload to your opponent’s face I’ll be seeing a lot of opportunities to have it cast at opponents.

[card]Xathrid Demon[/card] is just enough of a boost to the traditional Lord of the Pit style creature for me to want to give it a chance in Cube. With a lowered casting cost and a bonus when you sacrifice a creature, it’s good enough to throw into the mix.

Meanwhile, on the cuts side of things, Mercenary Knight has been one of the last standing pillars in the Black reanimation package from previous Cube incarnations. While it has the potential to enable the reanimation of a fatty early it hasn’t done so in quite some time. The reason it has managed to last this long has been because a 4/4 for three has been nothing to laugh at. Normally only played in decks with either extreme beatdown elements or with positive enablers, this link in a weak chain has only been getting weaker with each Cube update. Sure, you can still live the dream and cast this guy on turn three discarding Genesis or Basking Rootwalla but more often than not players make Mercenary Knight one of the first cuts from their decks.

Beacon of Unrest is in a similar boat, as reanimation cards are slowly being taken away from Black. Beacon however isn’t as linear a card and hasn’t been cut in the past due to its additional strengths. Being able to target cards in any player’s graveyard is a huge boost to the card, and the additional ability to target artifacts has been good in Cube games. The dream of stealing an opponent’s Jitte from their graveyard has been realized more than once, but hasn’t been enough to sustain a five mana sorcery that requires quality targets in any player’s graveyard to be good. I’m sad to see Beacon of Unrest leave Cube but with its steep casting cost I’m hoping black will be a little faster with more cards like Sign in Blood.

Red

Coming Out:

Citadel of Pain
Torchling

Going In:

Stigma Lasher
Thoughts of Ruin

Red is the worst color in M:10 as far as Cube impact. Unfortunately for Cube owners the best cards from M:10 in Red are already part of the Cube family. Ball Lightning and Lightning Bolt are both staples of Cube and while they’re also on the top end of quality cards in M:10 they’re just reprints to Cube drafters. Red is very poor quality once you eliminate these cards and thusly doesn’t offer any cards despite the fact that certain cards already in Cube will need to be removed with the new rule changes.

First and foremost is Citadel of Pain, which had been a hidden gem in my Cube, is now next to worthless without the threat of mana burn. After the rules change the only ability this card has to punish anyone is against those Blue drafters who can’t afford to tap out on their own turn for threat of allowing the red mage to resolve a game ending spell. Otherwise Citadel of Pain just reads like City of Solitude and doesn’t excite the red mage like it once did.

Torchling now has the same shortcomings that Morphling does, only the upside of the Red version just isn’t enough to survive the rules change. Forcing opponents creatures to block this 5/1 isn’t very threatening when it has no chance of surviving to ever do the same thing again. Torchling would be better served to be replaced by a creature with Lure than to stay in Cube under the new rules.

So while Red had some obvious cards to take out of Cube, it wasn’t easy to find the best cards to fill in as replacements. Instead of trying to find similar effects from other cards, or even taking the time to find cards of the same casting cost, I thought this would be a good opportunity to bring back some Red cards that had been previously cut from Cube.

Stigma Lasher had always been a card I’d go back and forth on concerning power level but now with more and more life gain in Cube I think its value has been raised again. Also finding quality creatures with wither is difficult, as it’s a great built-in ability that I wish had a stronger presence in Cube.

Thoughts of Ruin is one of those potential Red Armageddon cards that I think requires playskill and can be a home run when played correctly. Sure, there are times when you top deck it with an otherwise empty hand, but to me that’s the same is ripping Stone Rain on turn 12 when it would have little to no impact on the game. I’ve since seen Thoughts of Ruin played to great effect in Cube in the past and much like reprints for core sets I’m glad to see Thoughts of Ruin get new life in Cube once again.

Green

Coming Out:

Caller of the Claw
Jade Leech

Going In:

Great Sable Stag
Ant Queen

The first thing I said when I saw Great Stable Stag wasn’t that it was an instant Faeries killer, but rather that it looked like the poor man’s Troll Ascetic. Protection from Blue and Black is pretty huge by itself and “can’t be countered” is one of those coincidental abilities that’s great to have in Cube against the powerful color that is Blue. This super-upgraded Trained Armodon is an easy include for every Cube out there and should be beating down control decks in various formats for a great time to come.

Ant Queen reminds me a lot of Deranged Hermit. Instead of getting nine power of creatures for ten mana after paying echo, you get eight power of creatures for eleven mana, with options to stop at five power for five mana and other steps between. Ant Queen adds great quality to an otherwise vanilla Green fatty with the ability to make warrior ants for your various needs. Also another example of why Opposition in Cube is a Green/White card, Ant Queen has great opportunities to perform beyond its seemingly simple design as part of the Cube family. Between Skullclamp, Recurring Nightmare, Opposition, Mirari’s Wake, and even Sarkhan Vol, I think Ant Queen will have quite the impact.

On the other side we see Jade Leech getting cut from Cube yet again. While I feel that this vanilla 5/5 for four is good enough to win games and holds its own with such Green classics as Erhnam Djinn, its downside often frustrates Green drafters too much to want to play the Leech all the time. I’m sure I haven’t seen the last of Jade Leech as I’m a sucker for inflated creatures with what I feel are minimal drawbacks.

Caller of the Claw just hasn’t performed like I wished she would. Too many times has Caller of the Claw been cast as an over-costed [card]Ashcoat Bears[/card].

Artifacts

Coming Out:

Aether Spellbomb
Ticking Gnomes

Going In:

Ivory Tower
Mox Diamond

The changes to artifacts with M:10 is just like those made to Red; not dictated by great cards being printed but rather cards currently in Cube becoming no longer Cube worthy with the new rules.

I’m already missing the Ticking GnomesCorpse Dance combo that was once in Standard and lived on in Cube until now. Ticking Gnomes will be missed as it was once the colorless Trained Armodon that could, but without the ability to stack combat damage with the gnomes it just isn’t good enough to see play.

Aether Spellbomb has been a good Unsummon-style trick with cycling, but again without stacking combat damage it loses some of its allure. Thankfully there are plenty of artifacts waiting in the wings to get a shot at seeing action in Cube.

Mox Diamond is close to just being labeled a “Mox” and thus just a little too good. Discarding a land in exchange for the Mox seems balanced enough for the effect from the Diamond. Of course everybody out there who’d say that in any Cube with Sol Ring having any Mox isn’t any different I’m agreeing with you now. Thankfully I feel Mox Diamond is the best suited for Cube at this time as it isn’t a true Mox while at the same time it adds mana of any color, which is a huge boon for those five color drafters out there. A bomb in the Winston format and still great in an eight man draft I’m glad to see a Mox in my Cube.

Ivory Tower is one of the cards from long ago with great history in the game that I felt for a long time needed to see play but just didn’t have a home, until now. I’m disappointed that Necropotence is a fairly consistent late pick in draft and I’m hoping Ivory Tower will help to get people to play it. With all the “pay life to draw cards” effects in Black these days, I see Ivory Tower being the best friend of many a Black mage in the immediate future. Also a great boon for those Blue control drafters I see Ivory Tower acting as Pacifism against some of the aggressive Cube decks.

Lands:

Coming Out:

Gemstone Mine

Going In:

Gargoyle Castle

The land section of the Cube is extremely tight and it’s hard to make space for any card regardless of power level but thankfully Gargoyle Castle is powerful enough to break into the Cube. I can remember a time when I had Tomb of Urami in my Cube and I enjoyed playing with it. That time had come and gone, so I was ever so pleasantly surprised when I Gargoyle Castle on the M:10 spoiler. Instead of sacrificing all of my lands to make a creature I only had to sacrifice one and as another added bonus I didn’t have to take damage from tapping my land. Gargoyle Castle is going to be great in Cube and I’m looking forward to getting my hands on a nice Gargoyle token from some M:10 packs so I can beat down with this land in the near future.

Meanwhile, Gemstone Mine gets the unlucky axe this time around from Cube. Considered by most to be the weakest of the five-color lands, its limited activations has always made it seem like the sixth vivid land in Cube. While often times reloaded by a Ravnica bounce land, they just aren’t even to keep [card]Gemstone Mine[/card] in Cube as it stands right now.

With M:10 rewriting the way core sets are handled in Magic and also rewriting the rules of the game, it’s no surprise that the Cube format would also be greatly shaken up by the changes to the game. When the details of the set were first announced I had no idea what an impact the set would have on Cube or how amazing some of the cards would be. White has really leaped up in the Cube rankings with the great new M:10 cards, really making Green the weak link in the chain for Cube nowadays. Hopefully Zendikar will have possible offerings for the Green mages eagerly awaiting it’s release this fall. Until next week this is Tristan Gregson hoping your top decks are live and your lethal damage always resolves.

Discussion

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