New sets bring with them a lot of potential, and that’s particularly felt in a large controlled format like Cube. There’s always some under-performing role
player or utility card that is begging to be replaced with the latest hotness. Battle for Zendikar brings a lot of new and interesting cards for
As someone who has, and plays, a Commander Cube, I am constantly on the lookout for the recent
tech that I can harness. After looking over Battle for Zendikar a few times, there are a variety of cards that I’m seriously considering for
One of the first changes that I am making is to swap in a new Gruul commander. My current commanders are Dragonlord Atarka, Thromak, the Insatiable, Wort,
the Raidmother, Borborygmos Enraged, and Xenagos, God of Revels. Because he works against what I want (a bit) with his Seismic Assault variant, I want to
pull Borborygmos. And now we are going to slide in Omnath, Locus of Rage.
I’ve always had a bit of a landfall theme in my Cube, but not a very big one. I want to coalesce these cards into the green/red section that rocks the
newly minted Gruul Omnath. This Omnath has a better build-around me feel than Borborygmos, and he can be more than just a beater. It also works with my
Elemental theme and Horde of Notions quite nicely as well.
Now that I have committed to a landfall theme, where else should I go? I already have stuff like Avenger of Zendikar, Lotus Cobra, and Rampaging Baloths in
my Cube. I don’t think some of the landfall stuff, like Retreat to Kazandu or Retreat to Valakut are doing enough, but I could toss in Zendikar’s Roil or
Akoum Firebird or even Akoum Hellkite.
I also need to have cards that force lands into play, such as Sword of the Animist or Kodama’s Reach. I have a lot of those cards already. Should I toss
Budoka Gardener back in? What about Walking Atlas or Skyshroud Ranger?
I pulled the underperforming Ghitu Slinger for a creature that would act as a sacrifice outlet – Orcish Bloodpainter. The Bloodpainter was an
out-of-the-box consideration that was supposed to add another way to drop stuff, but it never worked well. So let’s pull it out for Akoum Firebird and give
Omnath II: This Time its Personal another buddy, while the Firebird is perfectly fine in other decks too. (U/R can recur it over and over again since it
has a lower creature count, it can be sacrificed to various leaders from R/B or B/R/G.) We’ll try it out instead.
Is there a space for the big dumb Eldrazi? Something like Void Winnower or Desolation Twin? I don’t know yet, but I have a desire to have more big artifact
creatures, rather than big colorless ones. But Ulamog Take II is likely good enough to break past that, and thus, demands a spot in my Cube. As soon as I
get a spare copy, I’ll want to hammer it in.
Speaking of owning a copy, there are a lot of planeswalkers that are good enough to make the cut into my Commander Cube. The problem is picking up one is
difficult since they tend to be so pricey around the set’s release, and people like to keep hold of the ones they have. I have had to wait well after
release until the prices on ‘walkers dropped to more reasonable levels before getting a few. The same looks true for the Zendikar trio. Gideon, Ally of
Zendikar is certainly a viable candidate for my Cube since all three options are turned on from the get-go. The ultimate into his emblem is particularly
good. He just arrives, inspires the troops with a speech or something, and then leaves to go to the next front of the war. You get an unmovable bump to
your team permanently. That’s planeswalker power!
Ob Nixilis Reignited feels so good. The Phyrexian Arena angle works well for Commander, there’s plenty of time to wrench card advantage from our good
Nixilis friend. You can also Murder stuff and have a useful emblem later as well. Since Ob is pretty flexible and powerful, I think he’s ideally suited for
grabbing a role in my Cube.
It’s a lot harder to cut into the starting lineup of my double color cards than it is elsewhere. So Kiora, Master of the Depths has a bit harder of a
hurdle to jump. She can untap a land and a creature to help the team, she can draw a land and creature from your deck and provide some useful card
advantage, and she’s a fun planeswalker. With a team around her to protect her, you can easily start blowing the cards and untapping fun as needed. You
can’t grab cards constantly, but she’s pretty reliable. I don’t even have a spare copy of the first Kiora, the Crashing Wave. But I do have a spot for the
first one I get – Urban Evolution. It’s a fine card, but Kiora, either version, is likely better long term.
What else works?
Having just talked about how hard it can be to crack gold cards, now I have to discuss just how awesome Bring to Light is. But it is awesome. Even in a two
color deck, you can a lot of great cards from your deck. And since a lot of decks in the Cube are three colors (it’s easier to draft that way), you can
play it for three and cast any creature for three mana (or less) from your library for a two mana tax (sort of like Demonic Tutor) or add in a
sorcery/instant card, such as the perfect removal. As of right now, I’m putting it on my Watch list, because I do want to get a little bit of play with it
first, but I enjoy its potential quite a bit. If it works out, I have Aether Mutation in mind as a substitute.
Fathom Feeder is also a pretty useful card, and I might have a good spot for it in my Cube. I love Dimir Guildmage and the card advantage it brings, but a
two-drop in the same colors that mug up the battlefield with deathtouch and draw you cards beyond the sorcery restriction of the Guildmage is really
In other blue and black news, what about Sire of Stagnation? It’s certainly a card that merits consideration! My non-legendary creatures in this color are
limited though. Shadowmage Infiltrator and Sphinx Summoner are both pretty good cards, and do some solid work. I don’t think the Sire is obviously better
than those, especially with the Esper artifact deck’s support from the Summoner. Both are card advantage bodies that fit into respective decks very nicely.
So I like the Sire in theory, I’m not willing to pull anything for it, especially since the Fathom Feeder is heading in first. If the Feeder disappoints,
then maybe I could pull it.
Some cards feel a bit too pricey in Battle for normal play. Would you really want a triple-land fetcher and lifegain spell like Nissa’s Renewal at
six mana? Wouldn’t you rather run something like Boundless Realms for just one more mana? By that time, I want beaters or land fetchers that break the game
open. Eternal Witness is an amazing card, but I don’t see the six-drop Witness, Greenwarden of Murasa, as being that great right now (even when it dies and
you exile it for another Witness). Maybe later, if I feel the need, but I doubt it. Green’s creatures are one of the hardest places on the Cube’s lineup to
crack, and we have a really strong team.
Although, having said that, I may contradict myself a bit. Scour from Existence is a great answer for any color, and eminently useful in a Draft format.
Cube is slower than normal Commander, and Commander is slower than normal Magic, so you can get a chance to get to the seven mana you need to exile
something. I’m just tossing it in for free.
Hedron Archive is a perfectly good stage between Mind Stone and Dreamstone Hedron. It fits into many decks that could use a bit of a mana bump as well. I’m
tossing it in immediately in order to give us another mana rock. It’s replacing Grimoire of the Dead. No one’s going to miss it.
I also really like Blighted Woodland, and it could swap in for either Khalni Garden or Dryad Arbor. The Arbor has the nice fetch-ability to get a creature
when needed, and the Garden makes a token for blocking, token decks, or sacrifice themes. I’ve decided to pull the Arbor, since it sometimes just dies
accidentally when you don’t mean for it to happen against various mass removal spells. And you could run other members of the Blighted cycle as well, since
they have some intriguing value in here.
What about Vampiric Rites? It’s a good sacrifice engine. You can play it on the first turn or two before you are doing anything, and then when you want you
can sacrifice creatures for cards. Black doesn’t always get this ability, it’s pretty rare on an enchantment. Plus you get one life each time you go around
the mulberry bush. Sure, lifegain isn’t exactly eye-popping in Commander, but it’s a side effect for something you want to do anyway. And we have sacrifice
decks that really want it. Meanwhile, the six mana Enslave might be fun, but it’s out of flavor and expensive. The Enslave has been in my Cube since it
started! But it’s time to go home.
I have been on the lookout for some great larger white creatures for a while. The extremely expensive and disappointing Blazing Archon is getting pulled
for Emeria Shepherd. The Shepherd is a smaller 4/4 body with flying for seven mana, very expensive. But the value you get for playing lands after it
arrives is quite good. Even outside of a landfall or ramp shell, it’s something you can really abuse. But with it, the Shepherd is downright awesome. Then
add in the ability to Resurrection when you play a Plains, and things are just looking incredibly sharp for it.
We have some cards from Battle for Zendikar that I just need to see in play before I figure out how good they might be for my Commander Cube. A
perfect example of this is Blight Herder. It’s a good creature, and it makes three Eldrazi Scions for later, but that requires you to reload some exiled
cards back into a player’s graveyard. Are people going to want to do that? Often in Commander, exiling cards is a route to end a major threat. Do you see
the value to pop them back into the graveyard? I’m just not convinced right now, but maybe after playing, that’s right.
I love Oblivion Sower, particularly since you can get any lands that were exiled, not just the four cards that the Sower grabbed. Considering all of the
ways we’ve gotten to see to exile since the beginning of time, that’s a lot of routes to exile-dom, and lands that hit the exile zone can come back to
yours. But is there enough of a consistency in Cube to run it? I’m not sure yet.
I also really like the idea of Ulamog’s Nullifer. Restocking opposing exiled cards should prove relatively easy in a multiplayer game, and you can toss
them right into the battlefield. Lots of great stuff gets exiled in Commander from opponents, and you can flash it and counter a spell while doing it. It’s
a fun and unique answer to graveyard removal or stuff like Dissipate. And it works as a creature and potentially a Counterspell. If it works at the kitchen
table, I may pull Undermine for it later.
Meanwhile I’d need a lot of potential targets to run something like Conduit of Ruin. Right now, before adding in any big colorless bodies from Battle, we have just ten potential targets to fetch up to the top of the library. That certainly doesn’t feel like a lot.
Because Rise from the Grave recurred a creature from any graveyard, it would always foist off competitors for that slot, because they only brought
back your own creature. But Necromantic Summons reanimates anything back, no matter the graveyard, and you have the chance to give it two +1/+1 counters –
easy to do with one of the graveyard focused decks in this Cube. The counters are even better in Abzan builds (or with Marchesa, the Black Rose) while the
counters reward a Sultai or similar deck for having a stocked graveyard. With two different archetypes wanting this card and getting different support from
it, it’s a much better choice for this slot.
I mentioned that I was looking this way in an earlier article,
and Tragic Arrogance has played very well since its release, so I want to pull the Catastrophe for a Wrath effect that can be used by aggressive decks as
well as against them. The Tragic Arrogance is simply a cheaper and better card, since almost no one used the Armageddon mode on Catastrophe.
I’ve been looking for a replacement for Shrapnel Blast for a long, long time. It never came down the pike. I wanted a spell that works well with artifacts.
So instead let’s give red a different tool to use at the kitchen table, the artifact Living Death of Scrap Mastery. It still works in artifact decks and
feels like a red way of helping the team. It can blast opposing artifact heavy decks and acts as a way to deal with them as well, which I like. So with a
lot of uses (just like Living Death), it’s the best choice I’ve found to replace Shrapnel Blast.
I still don’t like Wall of Reverence, and I have a card in mind for it – Brimaz, King of Oreskos, who has some serious value in a lot of aggro builds,
particularly Boros themed ones around leaders like Tajic, Blade of the Legion. But I don’t have a spare copy yet. So for now, the Wall of Reverence
remains. Hopefully Brimaz’s price will continue to drop so I can snag a copy or two.
So what do you think of Battle for Zendikar in your Cubes? What about for Commander? Any thoughts on changes to my Commander Cube? If you want to
give it a spin, you can draft it online, and then save your deck along with any comments you may have.
(I recommend setting it to six packs and seven bots).