Commander 2015 And Battle For Zendikar Cube Updates!

Back by popular demand, Jim Davis is telling you how his Cube is doing with all the new cards Magic has seen over the last few months! Dive in and discuss the most fun format of them all!

Ask and ye shall receive.

With the release of the new Commander set, there have now been two sets released since I’ve last written about Cube. I’ve been getting a ton of requests
for a Cube update, so let’s dive right in.

For context:

My complete Cube list

My six-article Cube Compendium

I will of course be looking at cards from the direct perspective of my personal Cube, but that doesn’t mean that the evaluations won’t change from Cube to

Commander 2015

Unlike previous supplemental products, Commander 2015 unfortunately doesn’t have much to offer most Cubes. It’s disappointing, but it makes sense,
as the set seems very focused towards speeding up multiplayer games with powerful effects that scale with players in the game. Of course, in most Cube
drafts there are only two players, which limits the effectiveness of these types of cards. If your Cube is designed with multiplayer in mind, there may be
some awesome finds, but that’s beyond my scope.

I really like this cycle, as the ability to choose the same mode twice really adds an interesting dynamic to modal spells. Unfortunately though, they are
all quite expensive for what they do. I could see some of them making a splash in larger Cubes, but I don’t think they quite make the cut in mine.

If I were to consider any though, the blue and red entries seem best to me. I have always loved the card Jace’s Ingenuity, and Mystic Confluence is Jace’s
Ingenuity with huge upside. If you are able to counter a big spell and draw two cards, that is pretty insane, and a double Repulse or even just a Sea God’s
Revenge is pretty nice too. The issue is that five mana is just so much, and there is so much competition in the blue section. An expensive blue
non-creature spell is competing for a slot directly with Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Treachery, Fact or Fiction, etc. I may give it a try, but my initial
instinct is not good enough.

Verdict: Maybe…

As Fiery Confluence is the only member of the cycle that costs less than five mana, it definitely deserves a look. The awkward step-child of Slagstorm and
Shatterstorm, Fiery Confluence has more of an identity crisis than Mystic Confluence. Four mana for six damage to the face is a reasonable rate, but not
exactly what an aggressive deck is looking for. At the same time, four mana for a three damage sweeper is a bit pricier than most control decks would want.
The artifact option is just a beating for artifact decks, and the card definitely could be capable of some obscene blowouts, but on the whole it just feels
clunky and confused. It’s an interesting card, but I don’t think Fiery Confluence has what it takes.

Verdict: Don’t call us, we’ll call you.

The only other card that really interests me from Commander 2015 is Magus of the Wheel, and only slightly. My Cube already contains Wheel of
Fortune, but Magus is interesting because it both adds a reasonable body and allows you do use it on your opponent’s end step so you can untap with your
new hand. Wheel of Fortune is great in low-curve aggressive decks and combo decks, and Magus of the Wheel could be solid in the former. Still, a 3/3 for
three mana that doesn’t do anything when it enters the battlefield isn’t that exciting. Bigger Cubes should definitely consider Magus of the Wheel, but I
think for my Cube he’s on the outside looking in.

Verdict: Don’t call us, we’ll call you.

Unfortunately, that’s really it for Commander 2015. I guess we will have to wait till next year for the next Baleful Strix or Shardless Agent.

Battle for Zendikar

Battle for Zendikar
is an odd set, and it hasn’t really made the impact it was expected to on Standard. There are some definite standouts for Cube, but a number of the
potential options are sitting right on the fringe.

The elephant in the room when it comes to talking about Battle for Zendikar, Gideon Ally of Zendiar is very good. Like, very, very good. Because
of how stingy I am with planewalkers in my Cube however, it comes down to one very important question:

Is Gideon, Ally of Zendikar better than Elspeth, Knight-Errant?

This is a question that we haven’t really had to ask before unless it was rhetorically, but in my Cube they are now in direct competition. They are both
good in token decks, and while Gideon is better in more aggressive shells because he’s such a potent attacker, Elspeth seems better in more controlling
decks because she keeps moving up with each activation and is a more solid win condition.

Honestly, they are both very good and very similar, and it’s a very tough call. Most Cubes will want both, but because I’m so strict on both planeswalker
overpopulation and limiting similar effects, I’m going to have to choose. For now it is going to be Gideon, and I’m going to see how it plays out and how
much people miss Elspeth.

Verdict: Welcome to the Cube!

While Gideon is a slam dunk, old Ob has some issues. On the one hand, Ob Nixilis Reignited seems like a great Cube card. It’s a powerful singular card that
fits well in a number of decks but hasn’t really found a consistent home in Constructed yet. It can kill stuff, draw cards, and is fairly durable.

The issue isn’t Ob though, it’s Ob’s competition. Liliana of the Veil is a better planeswalker, Phyrexian Arena is a better card drawer, and just about
anything is a better removal spell. Ob Nixilis Reignited is a great grindy planeswalker, but while he’s pretty good at a lot of stuff, he’s not really
great at anything. He is pressured from all sides by better options, and “just good” isn’t good enough.

Ob Nixilis Reignited is definitely a card to consider for larger Cubes, but for mine, the competition is just too fierce, and he just doesn’t make the cut.

Verdict: Don’t call us, we’ll call you.

Speaking of perfect Cube cards, Drana, Liberator of Malakir certainly fits the bill.

There are a number of awesome cards that never made it in Constructed for various reasons independent of their power level- cards like Oona’s Prowler,
Mentor of the Meek, Gnarled Scarhide, and Hooting Mandrills are all solid role players that just never found a home in Constructed.

Drana has had no luck finding her way into Standard just yet, but she is certainly a powerful curve topper in an aggressive deck. She also works very well
with the token subtheme present in white and black. Drana’s not super exciting, but black has perhaps the weakest creatures in the Cube, and she is a
welcome addition.

Verdict: Welcome to the Cube.

I’m going to group these three together because they are so similar.

Steppe Lynx is the only landfall creature currently in the Cube, as Plated Geopede is just too inconsistent for my liking, but given the lack of options,
most good one-drop creatures are going to make the cut. This makes Scythe Leopard pretty much an automatic inclusion.

As for the two-drops, it really depends on the size of your Cube. I think Makindi Sliderunner has a much lower barrier of entry, as red has a much greater
need for aggressive two-drops than green does. The green two-drop section is absolutely packed, and Snapping Gnarlid should only be making the cut in the
largest of Cubes. Of course, this also creates an odd catch 22. Most Cubes have ten fetchlands in them, and the larger the Cube, the less likely you are to
get them for your deck, which weakens the landfall creatures.

They’re unexciting, but they are reasonable aggressive roleplayers.

Scythe LeopardVerdict: Welcome to the Cube!

Makindi SliderunnerVerdict: Maybe…

Snapping GnarlidVerdict: Don’t call us, we’ll call you.

Now this is a card that I like. Catacomb Sifter is a great little value card in a color pair that is on the weaker side when it comes to multicolored
cards. Catacomb Sifter offers three power and two bodies for three mana, and the scry ability works great with many of the cards present in black and
green. It can even accelerate you into a five-drop on turn 4 if that’s what you’re into.

Catacomb Sifter isn’t flashy, but it is a very solid multicolored creature and plays smooth as butter. It is a welcome addition.

Verdict: Welcome to the Cube!

Why are the Esper creature-lands so good? Creeping Tar Pit and Celestial Colonnade are two of the best, and now Shambling Vent completes the trifecta.
There really isn’t much to say, as Shambling Vent is pretty much a shoo-in. My Cube supports a cycle of ten color pair lands for each combination, and
Shambling Vent has a slot locked up.

Verdict: Welcome to the Cube!

Gerry Thompson has been talking a lot lately about how Painful Truths is playable in Legacy and Modern, and I agree whole-heartedly. Three cards for three
mana is quite the rate, and while the life does add up to the point where you don’t want a ton of them in your deck, the first one is going to be
fantastic. So we have a very powerful card at a great rate that you don’t really want multiples of… sounds like a pretty great card in a singleton format
wouldn’t you say?

Painful Truths is great, but it’s also an awkward card as far as Cube design goes. It’s hard to call it a black card, as you need to be at least two more
colors to use it. Converge creates an interesting issue with the color dividing scheme of the Cube, as while it looks black, it is essentially a
multicolored card without a section to go into. For now I’m just going to put it into the black section, but there’s definitely the possibility of opening
up the three-plus color wildcard section from five to ten cards and housing Painful Truths and other awkward cards there. Regardless, it’s in.

Verdict: Welcome to the Cube!

Speaking of converge cards, here we have one of the more interesting ones. Bring to Light is definitely an inefficient card. Unless you are getting a
creature or sorcery that costs exactly five mana, you are going to be overpaying for whatever you get, and of course playing it for the maximum requires
you to be five colors. This makes Bring to Light a difficult card to use and a questionable inclusion into the Cube.

However, Bring to Light has two major things going for it. U/G has the worst multicolor section in the Cube, so the barrier for entry is rather low. On top
of that, tutor effects are at an absolute premium in the Cube. Any card that can tutor for something is valuable, as tutor effects allow players the
ability to craft their decks and execute plans much more consistently.

For now Bring to Light is going in, but it’s more because the other U/G cards are so bad than anything else. Hopefully it will work out and be a fun and
interesting card, as it certainly seems like a card that needs to be experimented with to see if it works.

Verdict: You’re better than mediocre! Welcome to the Cube!

Our last card is the biggest baddie in all of Zendikar: Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger.

Frankly, Ulamog just doesn’t excite me. The only Eldrazi in my Cube is Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, and it works well as the ultimate creature to either cheat
onto the battlefield or the ultimate thing to do with a ton of mana. Ulamog is fine if you cast him, but there are better things you can do with ten mana
in my Cube. Unlike the other Eldrazi, he can be reanimated, but even that’s not that exciting.

I could see a place for Ulamog in other Cubes, but there really is no slot for him in mine.

Verdict: Don’t call us, we’ll call you.

Woodland Wanderer Fathom Feeder Kiora, Master of the Depths Forerunner of Slaughter Hedron Archive Radiant Flames

There are certainly cards for larger Cubes to consider in Battle for Zendikar, but for my Cube, they just don’t have what it takes.

Here’s the final update:


Temple of Silence Nimble Mongoose Grisly Salvage Thundermaw Hellkite Sarcomancy Shriekmaw Elspeth, Knight-Errant Icefeather Aven Sagu Mauler


Shambling Vent Scythe Leopard Catacomb Sifter Makindi Sliderunner Drana, Liberator of Malakir Painful Truths Gideon, Ally of Zendikar Bring to Light Simic Sky Swallower

I am abandoning the mild morph theme that I was using to try and salvage the U/G section, so out goes Zombie Cutthroat as well, which I was considering a
colorless card. Otherwise the swaps are pretty straightforward; Nimble Mongoose has gotten worse and worse with each delve card added to the Cube; Sarkhan,
the Dragonspeaker is just a better and more interesting Stormbreath Dragon effect than Thundermaw Hellkite; Sarcomancy was the ninth and worst black
one-drop; and Elspeth, Knight-Errant makes way for Gideon for now. I’m always a bit trigger happy when it comes to adding new cards, because the best way
to see how they play is just to test them out.

Here is the entire Cube with the updates

That’s all for this Cube update. I wonder if Oath of the Gatewatch will have anything interesting or extremely controversial in it…