Welcome back Cube addicts to an all too important edition of Cubers Anonymous. I want to apologize for missing my regularly scheduled slot a couple of weeks ago. I don’t want to make excuses nor do you care to hear them, so I’ll just say real life caught up to me and leave it at that.
So how about those Cowboys? And by Cowboys, I actually mean Magic cards, specifically ones that are going to gracing tournament tables and, more importantly, cube drafts in the very near future. By the end of this article you may be sick of reading, so I’m not going to spend my valuable words here telling you the amazing journey we are about to embark on with Return to Ravnica. I have gone out of my way to read very little of my colleagues opinions on RTR for Cube, so all opinions here are fresh and unbiased. There are going to be a few words below the jump.
A few words? More like lots and lots of words. Luckily, dear reader, you seem to like reading words, so buckle your seatbelts because this is one certifiably awesome Cube sets. Appetites whet yet? How about a bold statement to kick us off: Return to Ravnica, Gatecrash, and “Sinker” will be the best block for Cube ever. And we haven’t seen a card from either of the two later sets yet! Regardless, you can hold me to it. Without further ado, my new name for the latest and potentially greatest expansion…
Ravnica: Save Your Paychecks!
May as well start off with a bang. The Angel is definitely a certified fatty is every sense of the word: nice size, evasion, and game changing activated or ETB effect. Since the advent of the Titans, six mana has been the de facto cut off for honest-to-goodness castable creatures, making anything north of that a tough sell. A mana cost of seven puts Miss Serenity squarely in the uber-finisher/Reanimation target range, where she competes with not only the tip-top end of white’s curve but every other color as well.
This is a powerful effect for sure and is really along the lines power-wise of Angel of Despair as far as how it impacts the board immediately when it comes down (complete with the word “may” for all you Brian Kibler types out there). Targeting multiple pesky creatures is obvious, but hitting your own graveyard for a slow Raise Dead isn’t nothing and even occasionally battles against Reanimator decks, making them work twice as hard (if you didn’t snatch all the targets up yourself). I would rank her #2 among 7+ white drops, trailing only
Lady Gaga Elesh Norn as prime finisher.
Verdict: She won’t make it in my 540-card cube, but in anything 720 and up she should find space. Also certainly coming to a Magic Online Cube near you.
I think Kor Hookmaster is a fine creature. I think Kor Hookmaster that costs a full one colorless less and gets -0/-1 is a great creature. This guy is an excellent addition to a common/uncommon (henceforth C/U) or Pauper cube, where he’s relevant nearly every turn of the game.
Verdict: Unlikely in standard cubes, but with ones where no rares are allowed he seems like a slam-dunk.
Twice as nice as the last card but as twice as expensive. A more imposing body would’ve taken me off the fence for the awesomely depicted and named Justiciar, but a 2/2 for four is a tough road to climb. This guy has a niche in Cube somewhere, but it is small.
At first I was really bullish on the Ace, but I have since calmed down some. I still like the guildless swordsman, but he’s not the atuo-include I pegged him as. This is as cheap as we’ve ever seen double strike, and it doesn’t take a whole lot to turn this curve-helper into an offensive monster. His value goes up with cheap equipment like Bonesplitter or a commitment to pump effects like Honor of the Pure. He is very splashable, which is ultra-important to me when evaluating aggro creatures. Be wary that when drafting he looks worse than he is since his stats don’t jump off the card by any means. But you’re smarter than that, right?
Verdict: I’m going to be just trying him, but this is one I could be way off on. He is likely only a rare-having cube play, since the best effects to help him are above uncommon.
Don’t be fooled by this card. Detain is pretty cool, but only hitting creatures and a Cube unfriendly casting cost will keep it on the sidelines. This is unfortunately (for us) balanced for Constructed (cost) AND Limited (rarity). Change either of those things and it finds a home.
Verdict: Too narrow and costs too much. Pass in all formats.
WW as a casting cost is a tough sell these days, so the card really has to pop to make it anywhere in a standard cube. I think the Captain has the right amount of pop for a test run. Saboteurs are the great skill-testers for cube owners; since most modern ones (especially in a rare/mythic slot) really have some sick abilities, they all do need to be broken down and picked apart. The Captain does create an army on his own, and since most powerful creatures for Cube have a higher power/low toughness ratio, two first-striking points of damage are big as well. He’s a lightning rod for removal for sure, but isn’t that exactly what you want from your two-drop?
Verdict: Should be tried at least in all cubes. I definitely expect him to be good enough even in 360-card cubes.
This card is perfect in design and does one of my favorite things in Magic: presents an opportunity for your opponent to make mistakes. Most of the time Soul Tithe is Maelstrom Pulse for 1W, and other times it will let your opponent keep around a permanent longer than they need to, Time Walking themselves in the process. I do know that there will be situation that you simply must answer a specific permanent and your opponent is more than glad to pay whatever it takes to keep beating you with it, but I think you’ll get what you want (or better) more often than not.
Verdict: My pick for sleeper Cube card of the set. Should be tried in all cubes for its versatility alone.
I love this card. Obvious comparisons are Repeal and Into the Roil, which trade cantripping for complete blowout potential. We all like drawing cards, but the easily splashable Rift should win the game every time when you overload it. That makes it more powerful than either of its previous compatriots, and like Into the Roil, the effect is serviceable although unsexy when cast for 1U.
Verdict: This card is super-powerful at seven mana. It’s making my list at 540 and should all the way down to a 360-card cube. Don’t sleep on it.
This card already exists in a couple of similar forms, including Sleep, which is probably better. A good rule of thumb when judging overload cards: “Is this ever good when I pay its regular casting cost?”
Verdict: Big thumbs down here.
Another card that simply isn’t the awesome Kor Skyfisher. Imposter is right.
Verdict: You have to be pushing blue tempo to the max, and even then it is situational.
Uhh, yes please! I’m putting all my chips in the middle of the table. I don’t think people realize how powerful his +1 ability is while going to five loyalty. Stonewalls all the most common tokens, gains you one life for each creature your opponent controls, and makes them pick to ignore him and beat you with less effective creatures or spend multiple turns trying to remove a psuedo Curse of Death’s Hold while keeping you at a healthy life total. And that is just against creature decks.
I probably don’t need to tell you how backbreaking two three-card Fact or Fictions is when your opponent can’t interact. Jace will be reminiscent of the days of EOTFOFYL. His only downside is singular large creatures, but luckily he combos well with Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Jace, Memory Adept when you have them all in play at the same time! Hold off your little ones, bounce your big one, mill ten!***
Verdict: The only way this man doesn’t find his way into your cube is that you can’t use him due to rarity or limit the number of planeswalkers in your cube.
Has it taken this long for this card to exist? It is so simple, elegant, and perfect for what low-powered cubes want from a blue creature.
Verdict: Auto-include in Pauper cubes and some C/U cubes.
***Come one people, did you actually think I thought that could happen? You know not to play Jace, Memory Adept in cubes!
Pack Rat is quite an interesting card in what it does and what it means for black in Cube. It is another army in a can and proactive discard outlet, though it does cost you 2B to use it. Even with that in mind, the mana cost is spot on for both more aggressive and defensive decks, turning random extra cards into more attackers or blockers. It is important to note that it does create copies of itself, so even when the original Rat is long gone, it can still breed. With the way I’ve recently changed my black around, a two-drop that is relevant at all stages of the game is perfect.
Verdict: I think things have lined up perfectly for Pack Rat to be able to go in just about every cube, no matter how you have black positioned or the size of your cube. I think Pack Rat is very good, and I may even be selling it short.
Just like most undercosted Demons, this one is excellent against control but iffy in other places. The biggest downside is its slight incompetence against legitimate creature decks despite slowing them down by making them off their worst creature. I think the lack of trample hurts him the most, but even without it it does make the Demon, at worst, into the enchantment The Abyss every turn, letting them always pick the creature rather than you. He’s very dangerous, but I don’t know if he’s quite good enough to break through black’s four-drop contingent, which is easily the color’s most stacked mana cost.
Verdict: Good enough for large cubes with 720 cards or more, but when you get smaller than that the only things to take out for him are incredibly unique effects. I like Abyssal Persecutor more, so I wouldn’t recommend making that swap.
Verdict: Only in C/U cubes could this make it, and it really depends on how much creature removal you want at that cost. I would imagine only larger C/Us could fit him in.
Let’s get this out there: this card is not Phyrexian Arena. Being able to “turn off” an Arena is in no way worth making it more susceptible to removal by land destruction. Not only that, but having to spend a mana every turn to activate it isn’t worth being able to do it at instant speed.
Verdict: Don’t be fooledâ€”this isn’t what you’re looking for. I know some may try this card, but I’m trying to save you some time.
Verdict: If you really want another two-mana, two-power creature…
This card is good enough without the graveyard-hating text. A two-mana 2/2 haster is what red has wanted for a while, so the first strike is just gravy. A role-filler that I can’t believe took so long to exist. Nothing more to say: make room.
Verdict: Unless you hate red, this should be in every cube.
This guy is huge! A 5/4 with trample is an excellent top end for lower-powered cubes. A must answer immediately or he just crushes everything in his path.
Verdict: Not good enough for rare cubes, when a red four-drop needs to have potential to deal way more damage/turn than its mana cost. C/U cubes is where this should shine as quite the deal.
Another card with a sweet name, and luckily this one is a little more useful. Yet another generic yet effective card for red, as this is the first three-power, two-mana creature than can always come down on turn 2 every time and not be conditional or off itself after one attack. A little worse than the Ash Zealot, but very good nonetheless.
Verdict: Should be an auto-include in rare-less cubes and close to a lock in rare-having cubes. Only the smallest of cubes won’t be able to find room.
I’m unsure on which way to go for this guy. I think his average damage output is probably four, plus any attacks he may be able to sneak in. He reminds me of Zo-Zu, being like an enchantment that can die very easily. He loses some versatility in being able to only hit opponents and not their creatures. Although he is best in a burn-heavy deck, the second best options for several instants and sorceries is a heavy control shell where he may not be worth a card unless he can put pressure on. Lots of upside, but you really have to build around him.
Verdict: Worth a test in every cube, I know how this card will play out least of every one I’m talking about today.
I like the Mortars quite a bit, as just like Cyclonic Rift the overload can win you the game on the spot. The regular 1R effect is again serviceable, and even though it costs one more it isn’t much worse than Flame Slash. We’re definitely looking at a more control-oriented card where you can overload it more frequently, but I’m okay with that. It still has uses even if you’re on the attacking side.
Verdict: The potential of this card has me excited; this should be tried in every cube 540 and up and some smaller than that, especially if you want a good red control card.
This is the card we’ve all had the most time to think about since it was spoiled in the first few cards. A 5/5 for four ain’t want it used to be, and his lack of trample kills him. Scavenge is cool, but I don’t know that I’m even that excited to have an uncounterable, permanent +5/+5 on a creature at the cost of six. This is just another big dumb green guy (BDGG) and will suffer from the same things past and future BDGG will suffer from: chump blocking, bounce, and doesn’t affect the board.
Verdict: Yawn. Just another in the line of fat, slightly undercosted creatures for green. If you’re in the market for that in a huge cube, enjoy. Otherwise, you won’t miss not having him.
More three-power for two-mana cards. There is a very simple question when thinking if you should add this card to your cube.
Verdict: Do you support green aggro? If you do, this guy is an auto-include. If not, he’s still a nice card, but you won’t have the support. Pass on him.
This card is the perfect litmus test for finding out if a cuber likes durdly many-colored decks. I do, so this card seems awesome to me. I think most cubes can fit another Coalition Relic, and although we already had access to Darksteel Ingot, it doesn’t completely fix your mana like the Lantern.
Verdict: I’m in love, so unless you really value the fact that the Ingot can’t be blown up, this a quite the coup for greedy mana lovers. I’d rank the three Relic, Lantern, Ingot, and I would recommend at least two of the three in all cubes that can have them.
Ladies and gentlecubers, we are halfway done. This set is so massively awesome, we’re going to need another jam-packed article just to cover RTR’s hallmark: multi-color cards. Join me next time to find out how this set will dramatically shake up your cube!
As always, a sweet cube deck, this time showing off tons of the new black cards in my cube!
Deck by Jeremy Bertarioni in our Cube League at Cape Fear Games in Wilmington, NC
@JParnell1Â on Twitter
I’m with the Orzhov Syndicate. Not only do I love playing the color pair more than any other, their ideology makes the most sense to me. Just like anyone who owns a cube, the Orzhov want things done their way–and convincing others that their way is best. Everything is up for debate, and nothing is set in stone, just like a cube list. In my everyday–and yet again, cubing–life, I have an obsessive need for things to be an exact way, even if it only makes sense to me. Orzhov and I both do whatever we need to do to get the job done. If you love controlling every aspect of a cube, you might be aligned with Orzhov as well!