Hello! I hope that you are enjoying another blast of Core Set fun with one of the more interesting sets we’ve seen in a while!
I’ve had a Commander Cube for about fifteen months now. For the first year, I played it intermittently. However, recently, the Cube has gotten a lot of
play. As a result, I’ve noticed more issues and discovered opportunities to make a lot more changes. First of all, we get to add in Magic 2015 cards!
Secondly, I now understand the Cube a lot better and the cards that I have. Therefore, I’ve been working hard to massage and enhance it.
I suspect that the release of Conspiracy (a multiplayer draft set) has fueled the desire for people to play Commander Cube (also a multiplayer draft set).
I’ve written a pair of updates recently on the Cube. One wasafter a year and then another was post-Conspiracy. Despite those, we’ve already made a bunch
more changes to the Cube, and I thought it would be fun to let you in on these changes now. Additionally, we can look at what cards from Magic 2015 are
good enough to make the cut!
The Problem of Three Colors
Suppose you are drafting your Commander Cube, and you have drafted Rafiq of the Many to be your Commander early in the first pack. You’ve been looking for
some strong choices with it, and you just draft Commander Eesha and some solid stuff in Pack 1. You crack Pack 2, make a few picks, then you are passed an
amazing card for your colors in Pick 5 – Wargate. That’s a powerful tutor for your colors, and you can grab quite a bit of powerful stuff with it. Wargate
is the best card in the pack by far for your deck, but why pick it? You grab something else, and at pick 13, it will still likely be there. The only people
who can play Wargate are people with Bant colors or a five-color Commander. Because of the color identity rule, you can’t splash Wargate in your Selesnya
We’ve seen three-color cards almost never get drafted early on. They often go late or last to someone who is either playing the colors and gets a potent
card without investing a high draft pick or to someone who isn’t playing the color and it’s a dead card.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve begun to pull out most three-color cards that are non-legendary. So I’ve been picking up three-color legendary creatures with
aplomb to swap for other cards. My long-term goal is to remove all non-legendary three-color cards.
Now let’s set the stage with the changes I made before M15 came out. Over the last four weeks, here are the changes I made:
Out – Copper Myr; In – Llanowar Elves
: I added in the cycle of color-mana Myr for the first iteration of this in order to increase my artifact creature count and do solid work as an early
accelerant for the colors. The other four have gotten use, especially Silver Myr, which always seems to get played by someone when flipped over. Copper Myr
is not. Green players expect faster mana acceleration, and it’s almost always left on the sidelines, especially since the artifact-friendly cards are
rocking other colors. So we are speeding this up by a turn and adding in another elf.
Out – Experiment Kraj; In – Prime Speaker Zegana
: I now own an extra Prime Speaker. There is no question it is the better class Commander choice for Simic.
Out – Crime // Punishment; In
— Doran, the Siege Tower
: I intentionally left Doran out the first time because we didn’t really have specific support for him. You don’t want to draft him, look for great cards,
and then end up with a bunch of creatures that barely work with him. But it seemed over time that we had more and more creatures that suited him – Avenging
Druid, Commander Eesha, Reya Dawnbringer, Wall of Omens, Wall of Blossoms, and so forth. So I tossed him in.
Out – Obelisk of Alara
, Maelstrom Nexus, Conflux
– The only way you can use a powerful five-color card is if you are also using a five-color legendary creature. That doesn’t happen that often. What
normally happens is these cards get flipped when no one is playing five colors or vice versa. Accordingly, I am pulling all three and not replacing them.
As I get other five-color Commanders (perhaps Reaper King or Karona, False God), then perhaps I’ll add them in without pulling out anything.
Out – Crumbling Necropolis, Savage Lands, Seaside Citadel, Arcane Sanctum, Jungle Shrine
– As mentioned earlier, the problem with these three-mana makers is that virtually no one gets them who can actually use them. If they can, they don’t have
to use a high draft pick for them. If you selected Crosis, the Purger as your Commander, you won’t have to fight people for Crumbling Necropolis. It’ll
Out – Thran Golem; In – Scarecrone
– I just don’t have enough auras to make Thran Golem reliable. It has synergy with a way of play that my Cube can’t support. On the other hand, Scarecrone
is certainly synergetic too, but it can sac itself for a card and recur artifact creatures as needed. Every color can use it, so it’s in.
Out – Invader Parasite; In – Ogre Arsonist
– – This one is tight. I picked up a copy of the promo Ogre Arsonist and decided to toss it in. Look, both are 5-mana bodies with 3 power that handle a
land. Sure the Invader Parasite shuts down any recursion tricks by exiling the land in question, but this is Cube, and you’ll note the inability of running
into Crucible of Worlds here. Usually, all that is happening is that one has the quirky way to hose basic lands from getting played by causing two damage
with the imprint. The Arsonist is cleaner, bigger, and easier to play. It’s really more a question of style than anything else.
Out – Unmake; In – Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
– There are better things to do with your limited Orzhov slots than to just exile a critter. And I picked up some Sorins the other day, so it’s a perfect
example of such an upgrade. This is unquestionably a better choice for the slot.
Out – Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer; In – Aurelia, the Warleader –
Jor Kadeen is great. I just don’t feel that this color combination has the support for him. There is a weak Boros equipment theme, but I’ve only seen it
once. It’s hard to draft a Jor Kadeen deck that works. In comes Aurelia.
Out – Evil Twin; In – Lazav, Dimir Mastermind
– Evil Twin is probably better, but I wanted to add in more legendary creatures to be Commanders and Lazav suits those needs.
Out – Gruul Charm; In – Thromok the Insatiable –
Just like above, I wanted to increase our legendary dorks.
Out – Stingerfling Spider; In – Silklash Spider
– I finally got some extra Silklashes from Commander 2013 because I play them that much in my decks. Sure, the Stingerfling has a great
enters-the-battlefield ability that you can use, but the Silklash has a bigger butt for blocking, is downright scary with the newly added Doran, and can
sweep the sky. It’s the better card.
Out – Lotus Petal; In – Worn Powerstone
– Lotus Petal is adequate. But frankly, it’s hard to get a good deck for it. It doesn’t even make the cut every time it’s drafted. Now and again, it has
some value as a zero-drop artifact that sits on the battlefield and helps metalcraft or can be sacrificed to get that green in order to play Cultivate. But
there is not a lot under the hood. Enter Worn Powerstone.
Out – Tornado Elemental; In – Rampaging Baloths –
The Baloths are cheaper and more synergetic with green. The Elemental combines the Rhox/Thorn Elemental ability to dole damage straight to the face, and it
can blow out a bunch of flyers upon arrival. But I have the recently added Silklash Spider plus Arashi, the Sky Asunder. Tornado Elemental is a bit
Out – Immortal Servitude; In – Unburial Rites
– I thought about adding in Obzedat’s Aid for the underperforming Servitude. We’ll go with the Rites for now, but I think you could make an argument for
the Flashback of Rites over the flexibility of Aid all day long and not come up with a definitive answer.
Out – Teferi’s Puzzle Box; In – Burnished Hart –
The Hart meets several needs: it’s more synergetic with cards like Sanctum Gargoyle or Goblin Welder, it gives us another solid colorless mana fixer, and
it is much more likely to make the cut of someone’s deck than the Puzzle Box.
Out – Zuran Orb; In – Darksteel Forge –
Part of this change is simply because I think it’s funny to go from a zero-mana artifact to a nine-mana one! Also, the ZOrb doesn’t do as much work in a
40-life format without the ability to draft cards around it. The Forge is a great choice for artifact-friendly decks.
Out – Alloy Myr; In – Scuttlemutt –
This is one of those minor changes that make the Cube better. Because it can also be used to change the color of a creature, Scuttlemutt is technically
better than Alloy Myr. It can work with stuff like Akroma, Angel of Vengeance or to kill a Phantasmal Image. Plus, because it’s a scarecrow, it works with
Scarecrone (and Reaper King if I can ever find an extra). I don’t run any of the Myr enablers, so this is a pure upside swap.
Out – Trigon of Corruption; In – Whip of Erebos –
Sure, we have some proliferate cards to try and take advantage of the Corruption -1/-1 counters, but that was too far outside of the beaten path. So in
heads Whip of Erebos; a perfectly acceptable card based on power level and fun.
Out – Seal of Cleansing; In – Act of Authority
We have Aura of Silence and Dispeller’s Capsule playing a nice Rattlesnake role, so the Seal is less necessary. Now the Seal also worked with things like
Replenish, Academy Rector, and Zur the Enchanter. I didn’t want to pull it for just anything. Well guess what? So does Act of Authority! It also adds some
exiling for things with indestructible and the flexibility to do it again and give the Authority away.
Out – Desolation Giant; In – Figure of Destiny
– Desolation Giant is a fine card. Six mana with the kicker sweeps the board and leaves you with a 3/3 dork. But in a 40-life game, the 3/3 dork doesn’t
offer much. There are many better Wrath variants today, and it doesn’t work with flicker or reanimation. That lack of synergy pulls him out for a potent
early drop that gets bigger quickly.
Out – Dwarven Miner; In – Guttersnipe –
I run three red nonbasic land hosers. This was the weakest of the lot, so I pulled it for the fun Guttersnipe. I wanted to inject a spot more of a “spells
matter”-theme to Izzet.
Out – Hammerheim Deadeye; In – Young Pyromancer
– This change is obviously another addition to the Izzet spell-loving theme. While the Deadeye is nice, but it has the echo, and you don’t really expect a
Plummet on a red creature. It’s not needed. The Pyromancer is a better card.
Out – Trigon of Thought; In – Eyes of the Watcher –
This is the third card getting added to support an Izzet subtheme. It also adds another enchantment for Zur and works well with the heavy spells of the
color combined with Black or White. The Trigon was always on the cusp of not getting played in drafts. So it gets pulled for the more synergetic, but less
powerful, Eyes of the Watcher.
I could push that theme more with stuff like Djinn Illuminatus, Leyline of Lightning, or Charmbreaker Devils, but I like that for now. That’s why I have
spells that we can play more than once either by buyback (Capsize, Shattering Pulse), retrace (Call the Skybreaker) or Flashback (Past in Flames, Faithless
Lots of good swaps there! Now, as part of the great Commander migration I mentioned earlier, here are the changes en masse to my three-color sections:
That’s a lot of changes! It includes many cards getting yanked out completely, which helps because I added a lot of cards early on the in the Cube without
Anyway, let’s look at the newly minted M15 cards I like enough to consider:
If I had a different Cube, Heliod’s Pilgrim would be worth considering.
That’s a lot of cards. Not every card on that list should make it in; that’s sort of my own first draft. There aren’t a lot of cards that demand
to be added, so part of this is really about finding the right spot. And it’s always possible that some card not on this list will raise its head and
inquire about getting in.
Remember that my Commander Cube is a real Cube, with cards I own that are not currently in my decks. So I can’t just add in an expensive card and assume
I’ll get enough copies. For example, I don’t know how soon I can get an extra copy of Garruk, Apex Predator. The first two I get already have spots
assigned to them elsewhere. The same is true of stuff like Soul of New Phyrexia or Perilous Vault.
I’m not sure every Soul of Insert-Plane-Here will fit. Just because it’s a 6/6 for six mana is not enough to force it in. Some of these cards we’ll need to
play with first. I didn’t add Burnished Hart at first, I thought it might not be good enough, but we played around with it, and it was now added. I don’t
think Meteorite has enough quality for inclusion, but after playing around with it, people might feel otherwise. It may storm into a spot in a few months.
So here are some changes I will be making for sure:
In – Act on Impulse; Out – Roar of the Crowd –
The Roar is a week tribal spell for when that matters-it usually doesn’t. Act on Impulse does something unique for red. It’s like Three Wishes for blue.
It’s clever and interesting and should be fun to play with. It’s also hard to add red cards that aren’t burn or removal of some sort, and this does that
In – Ob Nixilis, Unshackled; Out – Scythe Specter
— One mono-black six-mana 4/4 flyer heads to the bench for another! With the nasty tutor trigger as well as trample, The Unshackled version of Ob
Nixilis clearly has some strong quality about it. Thus, he heads in.
In – Soul of Innistrad; Out – Sanguine Praetor
– I think the Innistrad Soul is the best of the mono-colored entrants from the cycle, and Sanguine Praetor can head to the sidelines without losing much
In – Jalira, Master Polymorphist
; Out – Jace’s Phantasm
– Polymorphing is fun! Let’s try her out and see what happens! The Phantasm doesn’t do that much, so it’s easy enough to yank.
In – Genesis Hydra; Out – Protean Hydra –
This one is close. Protean Hydra will be a bit stronger and can double its heads in the right circumstances. Meanwhile, the Genesis Hydra brings a friend
to the party. So let’s give the card advantage aspect of that some time in my Cube.
In – Reclamation Sage; Out – Dunglove Elder
– The Elder is fine, but often just a hexproof 3/3 or 4/4-which doesn’t have enough of an impact on the board to matter. I do like having some support for
mono-colored decks, but this isn’t the way to do it. Meanwhile, the Sage is perfect for everyone to take. Playing green? Then you’ll want the Sage!
In – Hushwing Gryff; Out – Knight of Obligation
– Extort really doesn’t work well outside of either Orzhov-colored decks that can use any color of mana or black decks that fuel out lots of mana via cards
like Cabal Coffers. So the mono-white card is not really used much. Plus, we’ll still have Blind Obedience for those who like this effect. Meanwhile,
adding a hoser for a lot of cards and strategies is nice because it increases the interaction at the kitchen table.
In – Generator Servant; Out – Slumbering Dragon
– This Cube has a dragon sub-theme, and Slumbering Dragon is a great friend of Marchesa, who will probably be added in someday soon. But it’s a weak
entrant. While it’s not that good of an early play, it’s even worse as a late play. When it comes online, it’s usually outclassed by other stuff. Generator
Servant can be played early, sacrifice to spit out something quickly, and give it haste. It’s a great pal with a lot of red-colored Commanders.
In – Scuttling Doom Engine; Out – Nullstone Gargoyle –
Because of how expensive it is, the hosing aspect of the NStone is usually too late to matter. Plus, your nine-mana investment yields an underwhelming 4/5
flyer. But the Doom Engine gives you better size and abilities and is 33% cheaper too. This is the easiest swap of the list.
Now, again, I need to playtest first. For example, is Mercurial Pretender better than Clone? Is AEtherspouts better than Devastation Tide? Only playing the
game will tell!
But these nine changes are going to be made. Now we await the others to see how they play and such.
This is the most radical we’ve modified the Cube. We’ve rethought a lot of it. But the result is a more streamlined Cube with the momentum initiated to
continue these changes. Anyway, you can find the entire Cube over at Google docs right here.
Are you considering building your own Commander Cube? Do you have questions or comments? Let me know!
P.S. The red highlights are new additions, so you can see those that have not been added to the Cube yet. Blue highlights are cards on my radar to pull out
at some point in the future.
P.P.S. Questions to ask for later:
– Do I have one too many Mana Flares in Green? (I have 3).
– Is Seal of Primordium needed when the enchantment love requires white? (Replenish, etc).
– Why am I not running Vandalblast?
– What is a better option than Wild Mongrel for early green pressure?
– Can I find space for Basalt Monolith?
– Is Metalworker worth running?
– For a format where you draft your nonbasic lands, do I still have too much nonbasic land hate in mono-red? (Magus of the Moon and Ruination are both
still in, despite pulling Dwarven Miner)
– Is Razor Hippogriff and Sanctum Gargoyle one too many utility artifact-return bodies? What about Auriok Survivors?
– How many positive Auras should be run? Do I have too many, not enough, or just right? (Rancor, Steel of the Godhead, etc).
– With both Stoneforge Mystic and Stonehewer Giant in, is Taj-Nar Swordsmith one too many?