New cards bring the opportunity to invest another selection of cards into Cube projects of all sorts everywhere. I’ve been rocking a Commander Cube for a
while now, so I’m looking for cards that would go well in my Cube. Since the new cards in C15 are specifically designed for that format, it invariably has
a high volume of potential hits to consider.
I wanted to pause and look at all of the great options that make sense for my Cube, but virtually every new card from C15 can make a strong argument for
inclusion. Only a handful (Righteous Confluence) disappoint me to the point of removing them from contention. A handful more are good bodies and add some
bulk, but little more (Shielded by Faith, Warchief Giant, etc).
With so many options being great to toss at opponents, I have some serious challenges to spots in my Cube. What will make the cut?
The first of my Commander swaps is going to be Bryan Stoutarm for Kalemne. Brion has always been an unusual choice, and sometimes plays a beater role, and
other times a Fling robot. He’s a good enough card but can be benched easily. Meanwhile, we have an issue with the Boros leaders. They are almost all
exclusively about beating hard with the team. Kalemne has a slightly different thing to care about: creatures with a casting cost of five or more. And we
have a lot in red and white to draft and build around. I want to try it out a few times, and perhaps I may want to slip another two or three in my Cube to
see if I can massage the numbers to make Kalemne more reliable. But for now, let’s try it out!
Sapling of Colfenor is an odd leader It’s hard to draft a deck around, although obvious how to do so, and fits into a toughness-matters shell around Doran,
the Siege Tower. I could add a serious toughness matters element to the black and green combo, but there just aren’t enough cards to care about it rocking
the block. It’s hard to find Commander-quality cards that care about toughness and fit in with the other themes of my Cube.
So rather than push in a direction that makes my Cube uncomfortable, I want to toss Mazirek into the deck instead. Since it triggers whenever any permanent
is sacrificed, it works for things like the Panorama cycle of lands and other fetches, it works with various black Edict effects that force creatures to be
sacrificed, and it will dominate the board with the self-sacrifice theme of my Golgari builds. When you see that visual spoiler filled with cards like Vampiric Rites, Greater Good, Birthing Pod, Krovikan
Horror, and Flesh Carver you’ll notice that good ol’ Maz fits right on in. That’s in addition to Barter in Blood, Myriad Landscape, Sakura-Tribe Elder,
Executioner’s Capsule, Font of Fertility, and more. Maz is a perfect fit.
For now, that’s it for my Commander swaps. I seriously considered pulling Vorel of the Hull Clade for Ezuri, Claw of Progress. But Ezuri is simply about
beating, and he requires the right situation to build up counters. Vorel is a good, generic leader, and people always surprise me.
For example, a drafter on CubeTutor, NKXI, drafted this deck. It’s an artifact deck with Vorel as
the leader. It has a lot of artifact creatures with counters (Arcbound Reclaimer, Mindless Automaton, Lurking Automaton, etc) combined with pro-artifact
creatures and themes (Fabricate, Steel Overseer, Shimmer Myr, Chief of the Foundry, etc) and artifacts with counters like Astral Cornucopia. Toss in green
for mana and artifact mana, and you have an explosive, counter-heavy artifact theme with Vorel as the leader. That’s not even an archetype that I designed
in my Cube, but there it is, looking just sharp. Vorel can go in directions and has a degree of flexibility that Ezuri doesn’t.
So what other swaps am I looking at?
We have multiple archetypes that the Scourge fits. Because it comes back from the graveyard, it fits into graveyard-based strategies, such as Sultai’s
Sidisi, Brood Tyrant or Teneb’s reanimation fun time deck. It also fits into any Dragon-based deck that likes black–Bladewing the Risen is a great example
of such a deck. It also works in any self-sacrifice shell since it sacrifices creatures to replay it post-death. From a Golgari build around the newly
added Mazirek to Sek’Kuar, Deathkeeper, there are a variety of leaders that would really value a big fat flying Dragon that can self-recur. (Don’t forget
we have a five-color Dragon deck around Scion of the Ur-Dragon as well!)
If only Life’s Finale let you take three cards form a target player’s library rather than just an opponent’s. That would be awesome. But it
doesn’t, and I rarely ever want to restock someone else’s ‘yard. It’s usually a six-mana Day of Judgment. So any variant I can sub out is going to make a
lot of folks happy. That’s where Deadly Tempest comes in. As long as you aren’t being too greedy with the creatures, this is a great way to smash folks for
some life loss. It’s a slight improvement, sure, but never be afraid to tweak your Cubes in these safe and very unsexy ways.
Other than the fact that Grasp is slightly harder to cast, this is clearly a better class of card at any multiplayer table. In addition to being a better
card when played, it’s better later on, when multiple opponents tend to have multiple cards that are really bothering you. In addition to dropping it from
your hand, white has a few ways to slip it into play (Replenish, Academy Rector, Zur the Enchanter), and if you grabbed Grasp of Fate as your Rector target
when it dies, I would not blame you.
The Sins of the Past is a very specific spell that has a very specific set of requirements to work. Within that context it’s great, but there’s not always
a shot at setting it up. What doesn’t need any set up is Wretched Confluence. It can be an Ambition’s Cost, a triple Raise Dead, a triple Disfigure, or any
combination therein. I don’t need to tell you how blow-out-y that can be. Plus, you grab a strong level of support for a variety of strategies and board
positions. It’s never a dead card. You can’t come close to saying that about Sins of the Past.
This is the slot that was once Force of Will, but the Force was used almost exclusively as a hard counter, so it was a five-mana Cancel. I wanted something
better, so I tossed in Traumatic Visions to help out early with the land-fetching if you prefer. But the Mystic Confluence is obviously a better choice for
a five mana instant. If you can counter a spell with just the Mana Leak, then you can draw two cards off it. You can double bounce two creatures and draw a
card, or just use it to draw three cards. The flexibility to play into the tempo aspects of blue and white or the spell-based ones of blue and red or the
control of blue with anything is really powerful. It has to make the cut into my Cube.
This is one of the most obvious swaps we can make. The Empyrial Plate plays extremely nasty on a handful of leaders -like Rafiq of the Many. But outside of
a handful of decks, no one wants it. But the Blade of Selves is a much more interesting option. Because it makes clone-tokens, you can make tokens of a
creature that has an enters-the-battlefield trigger, like Wood Elves. You can also make a bunch of tokens and then sacrifice them to a variety of effects,
like Goblin Bombardment. Or you can slip it into a deck with creatures that trigger when they hit something or someone, such as Ninja of the Deep Hours or
a lifelink/deathtouch creature. Finally, you can just myriad out a big ol’ beater. That’s a sheer amount of flexibility, and it should play into some new
and compelling space when drafting.
I sometimes just add in mana rocks that help the deck without requiring me to pull anything. My artifact section is (mostly) in a really good place right
now. So I’m just adding in the Thought Vessel. There are multiple decks and commanders that really want the Spellbook aspect of this, but it generally fits
a lot of builds.
Other Cards I Like
There are a bunch of cards out here that I like, too. I want to try them out, but I’m undecided for now.
Great instant with future potential, but might be a little pricey.
I play a lot of “smash someone, draw a card” style effects, both in real life and in my Cube. There’s a home here for it. But I don’t see any creature that
could jump out.
It just has the potential to blowout a table, and getting copies of creatures that often have enters-the-battlefield triggers is spicy.
The best Confluences are ones that have multiple angles for card advantage. Wretched Confluence can draw cards naturally, kill a creature with a Disfigure,
or Raise Dead a card – so it’s a literal three-for-one virtually every time you play it. The blue one can draw a card, perhaps counter a spell in the right
circumstances, and bounce something. The card drawing always means you can get a 3:1 deal if you want. But the others are worse. I don’t even like
Righteous Confluence that much at all. Gain life? Make a 2/2 at sorcery speed (so it’s not a combat trick to trade with something)? Exile an enchantment?
That’s not what I want from a slot in my Cube. It’s eerily limited. So the Verdant Confluence is expensive, sure, but you can always Rampant Growth three
times if there’s nothing else to Regrowth. Meanwhile the Fiery one can blow out a bunch of creatures in the right situation or Shatter three times. They
Eternal Witness is a brilliant card, but this has a strong disadvantage. How will it play in games coming down the pike? I want to see it in action before
I figure it out.
I adore it, and it’s on my short list. But we have two Wheel of Fortune effects in red already. Do I need a third?
Since my last Cube article back for Battle of Zendikar, I’ve made a few additions. What are they?
Liliana of the Dark Realms has been largely disappointing. It’s useful only in a few heavy-black shells, and that’s about it. Meanwhile I had just picked
up a copy of Liliana, Heretical Healer, and was actively looking for a place to slide it in, and this works. The Heretical Healer can easily flip,
particularly in the sacrifice heavy themes that we have in the Cube, and the Zombie token can serve as that as well. Then we have the flip-‘walker with
forcing everyone to discard a card (works well with something like reanimation) and then a reanimation ability as well. So you get something that plays
more roles than the Dark Realms iteration of Liliana did.
Jace TLG is a contentious planeswalker card. Because it’s +1 ability puts a card from your library to your graveyard, it can be used to trigger Sidisi,
Brood Tyrant or for fueling graveyard-based strategies, such as reanimation. Meanwhile the bounce ability is adequate for tempo decks. So a deck built
around hitting with something like Medomai the Ageless can bounce a flyer to ensure a hit, and it works with everything from Rafiq of the Many to Crosis,
the Purger. It has some support potential for these builds. But that’s all TLG does. It’s card disadvantage; no one really runs it outside of these builds.
Frankly, even in the ones that could run it well, it’s not highly desired. So I’m switching over to the more powerful Teferi, Temporal Archmage. Now its +1
draws you a card rather than just filtering your library, and it can untap stuff to make a ton of mana or have some fun. It’s much more powerful. Sure, we
lose the tempo support and graveyard flavor, but it’s worth it in this case.
Morphling was always a strong control finisher in the early days of Magic, but that’s long since gone, and power creep pushes it down the list of useful
cards. But Tamiyo brings blue two major factors. First, you get a +1 ability for tempo that frankly trumps the lost one of Jace, the Living Guildpact
above. You can tap a creature and keep it locked down for a full turn. And you can do it over and over again without dropping your loyalty. Meanwhile, you
can draw some serious cards if folks have a tapped battlefield, which works with aggressive attackers or plays very well with blue effects like Sleep. Both
new ‘walkers give the deck some useful power.
You know what? Sometimes I just miss an obvious swap. Sure Golem Artisan is an adequate artifact enabler, but the Chief is cheaper, cleaner, and requires
no mana to use once it’s down. It’s clearly the better class of card for amping your artifact creatures.
I finally decided to just break down and pick up that Brimaz that my Cube has been crying out for. Brimaz has multiple places that he fits. You can draft
him in a R/W aggro deck built around various leaders. He slides into a build along fellow aggressive leaders such as Zurgo Helmsmasher and friends. Plus
Brimaz goes wide quite well, and churns out creature tokens. There are several decks that want to use and abuse creature tokens, such as Rith, the Awakener
or Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice. The Wall was solely here to stop things from attacking. Brimaz just makes my Cube better with his very presence.
I’ve been on the hunt for a better “Big Stupid Beater” in black for a while now, but my card stock was not up to the challenge. So like Brimaz, I decided
to let my pocketbook do the talking, and I snagged a Lord of the Void for the Cube. The Lord is cheaper to play by one mana and swaps the Pestilence
ability for the Hit and Smash ability of exiling some cards and playing a creature for free. That’s what players tend to want from their big giant black
creatures, a face-smasher of the first caliber, not a way to kill small creatures. Lord of the Void is the better fit for a variety of reasons. Welcome to
the Cube my Demon Overlord!
With so many potential leaders having some sort of a self-sacrifice theme, the Cutthroat plays well into that space. Like Blood Artist, it forces lots of
foes to lose life. It hits all foes, and the Artist only hits one, but the Artist triggers for every creature that dies, whereas the Cutthroat just for
your own. Both are very good, and I’d rather have a variant on Blood Artist enter the Cube than have this Shade that doesn’t always make the cut in
two-color decks with black.
Cards That Should be Pulled
I’m looking around at some cards in my Cube, and most of these have been around since the first iteration. I feel like it’s time to begin looking for an
opportunity to pull some or all of them. What would you recommend?
A seven mana indestructible creature just isn’t nearly as good as it used to be, and the bushido 5 is no great selling feature. Too many indestructible
creatures suggest that Konda’s time may have come for now.
Wall of Tears is great, but I’m not sure we need that many 0/4 Walls anymore. Even those that bounce attackers. People often attack into a Wall of Tears,
hoping you’ll block to bounce their Solemn Simulacrum, and that’s not what I want. (And if you need an 0/4 for blocking without the bounce problems, just
toss in Kraken Hatchling).
Sphinx of Lost Truths is a bit on the small side, or requires too much mana to draw cards. Withered Wretch hurts graveyards and is a solid 2/2 for two
mana, but it’s not like graveyards are so consistent that they needed the dedicated Wretch to help. Royal Assassin was always an awesome card, but it’s not
really where casual Magic is anymore. Mogg Maniac doesn’t keep folks from attacking anymore. What about something like Dead//Gone?
Those are all on my pull list.
Well, those are my changes, both C15 and otherwise, and my thoughts on potential space for changes too. What cards from C15 are making the cut in your own
Cubes? Are there some cards you are exciting about shuffling? Anything you are leery of? What’s underrated or overrated?