Origins In The Commander Cube

As fun as Commander is, it’s more fun if you’re Cube Drafting too while you play it! Abe Sargent takes a look at Magic Origins to update his Commander Cube, picking the best cards for each key archetype’s needs.

When a new set gets released, it’s time to pore over the new cards for a chance to get them into our decks. Whether it’s rocking some cards for Standard or getting your casual game on at the kitchen table, Magic players everywhere are infused by conversation about the latest cards. It’s a seasonal rite.

One of the things that I like to push out are the cards for my Commander Cube project. Do you own a Cube or two? What about your playgroup or local gaming store? If you are interested in Cubing, then you see new cards not only with an eye to building decks but also to adding them to your project.

After spending some time with the real cards in my hand, I have begun to make some changes to my Commander Cube courtesy of Magic Origins.

So, what cards from Origins were good enough to make an immediate impact into my Cube?


Jace's Sanctum


Eyes of the Watcher

The only thing the Eyes have to recommend themselves over the Sanctum is that you scry 2 when they are used. Since the Sanctum lowers the cost of instant and sorceries, and gives you a free scry as well, it’s clearly the better bit player for that theme in our Commander Cube, and it immediately heads in for the Eyes.


Blazing Hellhound


Murderous Redcap

The Redcap is a fine card for a variety of situations, but is never an amazing selection for any decks. You don’t always kill anything with it when it arrives, so it’s just solid. But the Blazing Hellhound is a 4/3 versus the Redcap’s 2/2 (albeit one that comes back as a 1/1 once it dies) and has a more imposing Red Zone presence. Plus it’s a bit of a Goblin Bombardment on a stick. That helps the Rakdos/Jund sacrifice deck work, since it provides another sacrifice outlet. The Hellhound is just a better fit for my Commander Cube than the Redcap in my Rakdos slots, and it’s heading in.


Pia and Kiran Nalaar



Wow is this a good card! It brings three creatures to the battlefield, and thus provides multiple bodies to sacrifice to various effects (Jund, Rakdos, Gruul, Temur), or to pump via stuff like Boros Aggro. Because it sacrifices artifacts, you can put it into pro-artifact builds like Grixis, Jeskai or Izzet Artifacts. While they have different roles in different archetypes and color combinations, Pia and Kiran are still a pretty strong support card for various builds.


Conclave Naturalists


Indrik Stomphowler

Aren’t these the same card? Mostly! But the Naturalists have a “may” trigger, which works better in your deck that the “must” trigger of the Stomphowler in case you are the only one with an enchantment or artifact in play. Maybe you don’t want to destroy any of Bonnie’s stuff because she’s helping you team up against Larry. You might still want the body, or you might have brought it back with a Living Death or Faith’s Reward or something. The Naturalists are the better choice.


Woodland Bellower


Arashi, the Sky Asunder

Woodland Bellower is a great card for Commander generally and Cube specifically. In my Cube, it works well with the Bant flicker theme since it has an unusual enters-the-battlefield trigger. Due to the nature of the draft, if you got a really nice early drop in green you want to go grab, this is definitely a key card to pick up. You get two creatures for one card, which is nice, and the other creature is better than a token creature. It plays very well with a variety of green themes, from ramp to midrange or even reanimation. In all of those roles, it’s better than Arashi, so out heads the Sky Asunder.


Sword of the Animist


Journeyer's Kite

Since my Cube has an equipment sub-theme in white and red, it really values an extra piece of equipment that’s this useful. The Sword accelerates land drops while the Kite just fetches it into your hand and doesn’t cost as much to use. So the basic question I had to ask was whether or not the Kite was worth keeping in. Are there any artifacts that the Kite works better than? I don’t see it. The Kite was good in control, but wasn’t even played much in ramp decks. The Animist’s Sword is a lot more flexible and interesting, and I like that it encourages folks to attack in order to do stuff rather than sitting back. Sorry Kite, but it’s time to get benched.


Kothophed, Soul Hoarder


Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis

Kothophed is a great addition to the Cube for a variety of reasons. Its plays better with other cards in your deck than Nefarox usually does, and it has a solid Phyrexian Arena activation as stuff dies – including non-creatures. In a color that blows up a lot of stuff, that’s a lot of cards. Kothophed combines with black, whereas Nefarox often didn’t because it needed the right control shell. Enjoy your new Demon overlord.

After those seven swaps, which were all easy to do, what’s next?

If I acquire extra copies later on, I can totally find a spot for some more expensive cards. The moment I acquire an extra copy of Nissa, Vastwood Seer she’ll replace Wood Elves without even blinking. Jace, Vyrn’s Prodigy could replace one of my Merfolk Looter cards, probably Thought Courier. Shoot, even Liliana, Heretical Healer would likely earn a spot. Perhaps Day’s Undoing might bench Time Reversal or another effect.

I really like a lot of the mana-oriented cards in this set. Sword of the Animist is great, we have Nissa of course, and then don’t forget Animist’s Awakening or Nissa’s Pilgrimage. We could totally find a spot for the Awakening in the Cube. Unfortunately, there’s not an easy space to slide it in. But there is another green card that I added:


Evolutionary Leap


Dictate of Karametra

I almost pulled out Night Soil for the Leap, but at the end of the day I felt the Dictate was the better choice. The Dictate is not a card everyone even likes, so it regularly gets passed around or not played when it is in the packs. Meanwhile the Evolutionary Leap fits into a lot of decks. You can sacrifice a creature that was about to die anyway for one green mana and then get another random creature from your deck. It works well with cards like Sylvan Library and Sensei’s Divining Top, and it has deep synergy with the various sacrifice themes that dip into green (Jund, Golgari, Gruul, Temur). It’ll give the Cube a useful tool that works in every creature deck, and even better in certain themes.

I’m considering pulling Puresteel Paladin for Relic Seeker. Both are solid two drops that support artifacts, and yet they do so in very different ways. The Paladin works very well with stuff like Stoneforge Mystic and Stonehewer Giant as you rack up equipment and draw cards, plus you can get mana-free equips sometimes too. The Seeker is easier to play for multicolored decks, and it fetches up an equipment while getting bigger (and, incidentally, getting a +1/+1 counter to work with that theme we have in white). The Seeker is Yet Another Equipment Tutor which feels a bit old hat, but it is also the better aggressive card. The Paladin is not a bad draw later, since you can always use free equip costs or drawing more cards. Both have strong things to recommend them.

I like Managorger Hydra, and if I decide to pull my outlast +1/+1 token lords like Tuskguard Captain, I want to slide in the Hydra for its spot. Otherwise, my green creatures are really set and in a good place. It’s to crack that lineup after benching Arashi for the Bellower above.

Starfield of Nyx, Pyromancer’s Goggles, Herald of the Pantheon and Flameshadow Conjuring are on my Watch List for potential later swaps. I want to see how they play out first.

I know that there are a lot of folks out there that are bullish on Alhammarret’s Archive. I’m in more of a “Show Me” mode with it. If it proves itself in games that it’s a force to be reckoned with, then I’d be more likely to swap it in. For now, I just don’t see it. We don’t have tons of lifegain for doubling, so it’s all about the card drawing. And frankly, I’d rather run another card that draws you cards on its own, not one that has to have other card-drawing effects to work. But I’m open to being proved wrong.

Other Changes


Fate Forgotten


Revoke Existence

I’ve decided to replace the sorcery-speed two-mana exiling removal with the instant-speed one even though it costs a bit more. That added flexibility is really worth the cost of admission, particularly in a multiplayer environment.

Anything else?

Catastrophe is officially on my Watch List to get pulled. It’s the only Armageddon effect in the Cube. I included it to give tempo and aggro-ish decks a way to push out a win with something like Rafiq of the Many. Plus, a control deck can use it as another Wrath of God effect, and board states often get out of hand and could use a little pruning. In fact, Catastrophe in practice is used to Armageddon about once every fifteen or twenty times it gets played, and in all the rest it’s just an expensive Wrath. Since this slot wants to be a Wrath of God anyway, why not just pull Catastrophe for another effect, like Tragic Arrogance, that still has some value to aggro and gives the Cube a unique effect? I honestly think Tragic Arrogance will wind up the best card from Magic Origins for multiplayer and casual, but I want to really see first.

In the meantime, I’m still uncomfortable with Wall of Reverence, Celestial Force, Blazing Archon, Shrapnel Blast, Pestilence Demon, and such. I keep on hoping to find some great stuff to replace these cards, but I never do. I keep on wanting to, but it doesn’t work.

I literally looked at every burn spell in the game of Magic to see if I could unearth the right card to pull it out. It’s basically – “sacrifice an artifact, destroy target creature” against most of the field. But that’s still a two-for-one trade. That not what the people are looking for. Something like Incinerate in the same slot seems pretty pointless. All of the burn that’s good for this format is already in – Magma Jet to scry, Urza’s Rage to kick, Mizzium Mortars to overload, Punishing Fire to recur, Firebolt to flashback, and so forth. Arc Lightning doesn’t play super-hot either. I’d be happy to pull either or both for the right card. But no matter what I look at, invariably Shrapnel Blast and Arc Lightning wind up being better.

It can be frustrating to yearn to remove a card from your Cube, but to either not own a good replacement, or to not be able to find one. It’s irksome. I did the same thing with Pestilence Demon, but every big, expensive black finisher was either too limited, too weak, or I didn’t own a copy. I already run stuff like Avatar of Woe and Reiver Demon and Rune-Scarred Demon. Baleful Force is overly dangerous and not that evasive. Deathbringer Regent? Too limited. Griselbrand works, but it’s banned. I’ve already pulled cards like Havoc Demon and Dread Cacodemon for being too weak. I don’t own an extra Lord of the Void, Sheoldred, Whispering One or Demon of Death’s Gate, so what’s left? Kuro, Pitlord? Spirit of the Night? Pit Spawn? Sutured Ghoul? Pretty soon that Pestilence Demon, with its serviceable 7/6 flying body and the Pestilence ability tacked on, doesn’t look that bad.

I keep hoping that the next set will have the perfect card to replace Shrapnel Blast or Pestilence Demon, but it hasn’t happened yet. Here’s hoping that Battle for Zendikar will suffice!

But in the meantime, there’s no reason not to get your Magic Origins on, whether Cubing or Commandering, we have some good cards out there for you!

Anyway, does anyone else get the vibe that the Zendikar block will feature a sort of Pan-Planeswalkers alliance to face the Eldrazi? From Kiora Atua collecting creatures from Theros to battle them to characters like Ugin, Sorin, and Nissa that are thoroughly in there, it seems to me like they are laying the foundation of multiple ‘walkers allying from across the spectrum to defeat the Eldrazi, and I get that feel from the ‘walker centric Origins set as well. Let’s just say that I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one of the Origins Five not named Nissa shows up in Zendikar.