2022 In Cube Magic: The Year In Review

Ryan Overturf looks back at the MTG sets of 2022 for Cube, and his own evaluations at the time. What did he get right, and what was his single biggest miss?

Ledger Shredder
Ledger Shredder, illustrated by Mila Pesic

I really don’t know how it got to be December, gamers. We’re living in an era where, at least for me, the time always crawls and still I have no idea where it goes.

I’ll spare you any further gloomy musings on the passage of time and get to the meat of today’s article: it’s time for my second annual Cube year in review article! Today I’ll be looking over the various Magic releases we’ve gotten in the year 2022 with regard to their impact on Cube, as well as giving my Top 10 lists a once-over in hindsight to keep myself honest. I’ll also be giving a quick look at the Commander releases that I don’t typically consider when writing my Top 10 lists for any hidden gems.

With the way the product release schedule looks these days, that means there’s quite a lot for me to go over. Let’s get to it!

Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty

Wizards of the Coast (WotC) wasn’t messing around, and started things off with what I consider to be the best set of the year. A lot of work was put into Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty to make sure that the mistakes of the original Kamigawa block weren’t repeated, and the result was one of the deepest and best-designed sets of all time. The flavorful and mechanical resonances of this set were both masterfully executed.

The well of awesome Cube cards in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty is incredibly deep, and that’s true whether you’re looking for generic power or specific support for themes like artifacts matter or Enchantress. I think that I made some good calls for my Top 10 list, identifying that Kaito Shizuki was indeed a powerful three-mana planeswalker and that Kumano Faces Kakkazan is a real contender despite being a bit non-conventional.

Kaito Shizuki Kumano Faces Kakkazan

That said, I did have a couple of misses. I haven’t seen Spring-Leaf Avenger making any splashes, and honestly, the card’s stats make the gameplay rather bad anyway. Blade of the Oni is playable, but certainly not a Top 3 card from a great set like this.

I’ll also say that I didn’t give The Wandering Emperor enough credit. I thought it was a middle-of-the-road planeswalker with a lot of competition, but it’s actually just an awesome card on offense and defense alike that does realistically scale all the way to Vintage Cube in a meaningful way. The Wandering Emperor is pretty unquestionably a top three card from this set, and my number one in Lion’s Sash likely should be more in the Top 5 ballpark.

Lion Sash March of Otherworldly Light

Which brings me to cards not on my list that should have been there. There’s an argument for The Reality Chip and Tamiyo, Compleated Sage, which have both exceeded my expectations, and certainly deserve a slot over full misses like Spring-Leaf Avenger. A bigger miss was excluding March of Otherworldly Light. In high-power environments, the ability to pitch cards to reduce the cost is extremely relevant, and in lower-powered ones, the slight inefficiency is bearable. It’s just an awesome removal spell for Cube.

The biggest miss, though, and it’s a card that was largely missed by everyone for every format, is the card that should have been my number one.

Fable of the Mirror-Breaker

Fable of the Mirror-Breaker is an awesome form of card advantage those presents two real (if fragile) threats that can take over the game if left unchecked. I’m pretty critical of three-mana red threats, given how long the roster of powerful options already is, but Fable breaks the mold. The card is good in aggressive and controlling decks alike, and also has some ability to facilitate combos with all the little things that the card does. Fable of the Mirror-Breaker is a masterpiece, and in retrospect it’s the convincing number one from the best set of the year.

Swift Reconfiguration

With regard to the Neon Dynasty Commander decks, there’s not a lot worth mentioning. The biggest hit is going to be Swift Reconfiguration, which is a passable removal spell that is most noteworthy for being an infinite mana combo even with a summoning sick Devoted Druid. It also gets some points for being an Aura for Enchantress themes, and is definitely one worth knowing about for Cube designers.

Streets of New Capenna

Ah, Streets of New Capenna. The set that completed the Triome cycle and… Well, that’s honestly about it. In terms of Standard-legal releases, this was the flattest of the lot for me in 2022. I’m proud of my call that Ob Nixilis, the Adversary was way overhyped early on, though admittedly it isn’t the sort of card that I’d want to see in a lower-powered Cube either. I was higher on Rigo, Streetwise Mentor than the card probably deserved, but putting Ob Nixilis in sixth was about right just the same.

Rigo, Streetwise Mentor Ob Nixilis,the Adversary Ledger Shredder

The big miss here was the complete lack of acknowledgement of Ledger Shredder. You can argue whether this is less or more embarrassing than misevaluating the card outright, but I had been misreading connive until the point where I played with these cards digitally and was made aware that more card types added the +1/+1 counter than I had thought. In hindsight, Ledger Shredder is a pretty obvious Top 3 card from the set.

There’s a lot of three-color stuff in the New Capenna Commander decks, as well as a lot of cards that people have never seen with enough text to bog down a Cube night. The one card that I want to highlight is Currency Converter.

Currency Converter

Currency Converter offers a lot of value for a low price of admission, and the triggered ability being an independent clause is something you can really take advantage of using other discard outlets in tandem with the card. Currency Converter is honestly a bit much for lower-powered Cubes, but has been a welcome addition to higher-powered environments for me. I especially like the card if you’re trying to get a good volume of powerful hits with Urza’s Saga.

Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate

Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate actually has some really cool cards, though it turns out that most of the power in the set is actually at a Vintage Cube-adjacent level. I put Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes high on my list, but I didn’t fully grasp the way that the card was truly messed up. If you’re not up to something pretty powerful, you’re going to have a bad time playing against that card, and the popularity of Minsc & Boo in Legacy is strong evidence of this fact. Minsc & Boo contends with Wrenn and Six for the most powerful Gruul card ever printed, and while I’m somewhat ambivalent as to whether the card should be a Vintage Cube staple, I am adamant that any Cube that isn’t at a Legacy Cube power level should probably stay far away from this one.

With the way that the initiative completely took over Pauper and resulted in several bans as well as the way the mechanic is making its presence known in Legacy, I probably could have just listed a bunch of individual initiative cards rather than giving the mechanic a couple of paragraphs in the intro. The higher mana value initiative cards are absolutely more powerful than I considered them at first blush, and the barrier to including these cards in Cube is going to be more that I don’t imagine that the average player really has a very good idea of what the mechanic does. I had thought that all the cards working through the Undercity every time would make the initiative an easy-to-understand version of venturing into the dungeon, but my assessment at this time is that the initiative is quite a lot of complexity to drop on an unsuspecting player.

White Plume Adventurer

I will maintain that White Plume Adventurer will be a feature of the most busted form of a Mono-White Aggro deck that you could generate, but whether you want to include the initiative in your Vintage Cube is about a little more than just power level. If we could see the initiative in some digital Cubes, over time the mechanic will become more approachable, but the current reality is that most players don’t fully know what the initiative is and many would argue that they’re happier that way. Descent into Avernus is still awesome, though. I’d bump that up to my most Cube-worthy card with the knowledge that I have now about how broken the best cards in this set actually are.

Delayed Blast Fireball Seasoned Dungeoneer

The Baldur’s Gate Commander decks also introduced freshly-minted Legacy all-star Seasoned Dungeoneer for initiative fans, and Delayed Blast Fireball for Plague Wind fans. Both of these cards ask for a high tolerance for power and/or nonsense, but it’s easy for me to understand how they could be beloved in certain playgroups.

Dominaria United

I played an absolutely unreasonable amount of Dominaria United Limited, so this is the card file from this year that I’m the most familiar with by far. The set feels a bit like a fancy Core Set, which is honestly what I love about it. Nothing is going on here is all that difficult to understand, which is a very welcome change of pace from Baldur’s Gate and some of last year’s wordier releases like Strixhaven.

The power level was in a great place, too. Tons of solid role-players and really nothing broken. I feel generally good about my Top 10 list, but I’d make one swap. Radha’s Firebrand is more expendable with regard to red two-drops than my list would suggest, and Anointed Peacekeeper actually does stand out in the admittedly crowded field of great three-mana white creatures. I’d endorse Anointed Peacekeeper for most Cubes with any kind of creature focus, with power levels scaling all the way to Vintage Cube.

Anointed Peacekeeper

I still think that both Vohar, Vodalian Desecrator and Ertai Resurrected are awesome, but the other change I would make to my list is ranking King Darien XLVIII as my number five and bumping those cards down to do so. King Darien is a card that I’m actively looking for in just about any Selesnya section at this point, which is a bigger deal than Dimir gold slots. I mostly still hold that the card is in fact closer to “fine” than “great,” but it is something of a must-answer threat, and Selesnya beggars can’t be Selesnya choosers.

There’s a lot of five-color stuff going on in Dominaria United Commander, which doesn’t lend itself to a lot of broad Cube appeal. The most notable card that wasn’t in my Top 10 that could be found in Set Boosters would be Greensleeves, Maro-Sorcerer. It’s a pretty solid payoff if you want to push landfall in mana ramp decks. I don’t know what a home for it would look like, but I’m also intrigued by Tiller Engine as a way to make an Amulet of Vigor archetype more consistent. This is nothing that I’ve worked with in Cube myself, and Amulet Titan is among my most hated Constructed decks, but it’s worth pointing out for those who might be interested.

Greensleeves, Maro-Sorcerer Tiller Engine

Warhammer 40,000 Commander

When I heard this product announced, I didn’t really expect to care about it at all. Then previews started rolling in, and the cards were great. By the time preview season was wrapping up, I found myself preordering a set of the decks, and now they’re considered arguably the best Commander product of all time! This was an occasion where I was very happy that my first impression was wrong.

I think my Top 10 list for these decks is solid, with the exception being that I was too high on Knight Paladin. Five mana is just a lot for a generic aggro card, and since initially being impressed by the big numbers, I have come down on this card a lot, as I’ve struggled to find a home for the card where it was both exciting and appropriately costed. Damaging each opponent means this is most likely going to be in a multiplayer setting, which certainly makes sense.

Two cards that didn’t make my list that I’ve liked quite a lot are Poxwalkers and Sicarian Infiltrator. I had thought that maybe they were a little specific to include on my list, and while that’s true, they’re great cards, and at this point I’d endorse them over Knight Paladin as well as Callidus Assassin, which is a little too expensive and a little too gold to be all that exciting.

Poxwalkers Sicarian Infiltrator

The only other thing that I have to say about the Warhammer decks is that I really hope that future Universes Beyond products deliver in this way. From what I’ve seen, these were a hit for Warhammer fans, and there are lots of awesome new Magic cards in the spread too.


Unfinity just isn’t a set that’s going to appeal to a lot of Magic players, but it absolutely has its own fan base. I believe that the fact that this is the sort of set that a lot of players would skip entirely actually makes giving my Top 10 list a once-over more valuable here than the average set, though I wouldn’t expect wide adoption of most anything from an Un-set.

Comet, Stellar Pup

I’m feeling good about my list, and while I wouldn’t make any modifications, I would add that at this point I do know that Comet, Stellar Pup is a very powerful card. Another entry to consider only if you have an environment with a high power level as well as a high threshold for nonsense. I definitely bought a copy of Comet for myself.

The Brothers’ War

The Brothers’ War wasn’t met with nearly the warm reception that we saw for Dominaria United, though I do personally think there are a lot of really cool designs here. Prototype has been really fun to play with in my experience, and Powerstones are really fun in retail Limited. I’d be happy to play a Cube that explored Powerstones further.

The Brothers’ War is less than a month old, and at this point I’m still feeling good about my Top 10 list. I’ve been particularly happy with my Mishra’s Foundry call, which I was slightly anxious about making when the card wasn’t getting any attention from anyone else. The numbers are just good enough for the card to consistently make decks and perform, even if it’s not best in class. Creature-lands are just good.

Mishra's Foundry

I will say that Recruitment Officer and Siege Veteran deserved some kind of mention somewhere in the article. A lot of work goes into researching a set early on, but even still, these were cards that I was aware of that people would Cube and I should have acknowledged them in some way. I see them mostly as replacement-level, but they both move quickly to the front of the list if you want to make Soldier a relevant creature type.

Recruitment Officer Siege Veteran

Much of the focus of The Brothers’ War Commander decks was in putting out new reprints of cards with the old card frame, but there are a few new hits here for Cubes with artifacts-matter themes. Sanwell, Avenger Ace is cheap and powerful on this front, and while Farid, Enterprising Salvager is less powerful, it is certainly an interesting card that offers some utility. Scholar of New Horizons is the other card that I’d like to point out from the set. Mostly it’s a tool for lower-powered Cubes or specifically for Proliferate Cube, but it’s pretty easy to justify a Runeclaw Bear with potentially relevant text in a lot of Cubes.

Sanwell, Avenger Ace Farid, Enterprising Salvager Scholar of New Horizons

Jumpstart 2022

And that brings us to Jumpstart 2022, a set that released… last week. Unsurprisingly, I don’t have any new insights on my Top 10 list for this one. It was a smaller set, so I feel generally good about my calls, and there’s nothing like the initiative that’s difficult to evaluate either.

2022 in Review

2022 was another awesome year for Cubes on balance, with the Warhammer 40,000 Commander decks really standing out as a supplemental product and Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty being one of the greatest Magic sets of all time. Streets of New Capenna and Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate had a lot less to offer as individual releases, but Dominaria United and The Brothers’ War were both exactly what I’d want out of the average Magic set. I don’t really have a lot to say about Jumpstart 2022 or Unfinity with their audiences being more niche, but I will say that they offered at least a few cool cards which I’m always happy to see. If anything, I’d remove the release of a Jumpstart product for every Standard set and continue releasing the occasional standalone Jumpstart set. I have no problem with an even less frequent Un-set.

And now I’ll continue the tradition I started last year of naming a Cube card of the year, and in doing so serve myself up a nice slice of humble pie. When it comes to the card that I’m happiest to Cube with in the most environments from 2022, it’s an easy Fable of the Mirror-Breaker. I completely missed the card during preview season, reinforcing for the millionth time that new mechanics deserve more attention than the cards that are closer to things that we’ve seen before.

Fable of the Mirror-Breaker

I feel good about my Top 10 lists overall, but of course we should all always strive to improve. It would be a very modest goal to say that I intend to include whatever ends up being my most Cube-worthy card for 2023 on my Top 10 list for its respective set, so I’ll aim my sights a little higher than that. I’ll spend more time with my ear to the ground next year, with more openness in evaluating that which is new and difficult to understand. Probably a good perspective to have about all things Magic and not Magic alike.

Later, gamers.