Hello again, gamers. I hope that everybody is enjoying the current run of Vintage Cube on Magic Online (MTGO). Today, I’m setting my sights on matters more pertinent to paper Cube curation. March of the Machine: The Aftermath released last week, and while it’s not a full Magic set, there’s definitely enough going on for a Top 10 write-up!
Similarly to March of the Machine, this set shows characters from across the Multiverse in a way that allows for a range of different specific mechanics that we don’t typically see in one release. We have some nice Enchantress stuff, some funky planeswalker and legendary creature designs tied to the lore, and a little support for some creature types. Coppercoat Vanguard and Jirina, Dauntless General are two new highlights for Humans, which are the easiest creature type to support across all five colors in Cube, and Markov Baron has me thinking about Vampires again.
There aren’t that many cards in the file for this one, so I won’t spend a lot of time today talking about the set broadly. I’d rather just jump into my Top 10 list! But first, an honorable mention:
Honorable Mention: Narset, Enlightened Exile
It takes a lot for me to endorse cards of three or more colors, but Narset, Enlightened Exile hits all the right notes for Cube. Human is a relevant creature type, giving all of your creatures prowess is both powerful and tied to combat, and the card’s other ability generates some nice value while also keeping combat relevant. A two-color version of this card would be a home run for several of my Cubes, and at three colors, I’m still taking notice. The power level also scales pretty nicely here, too, as flashing spells back is powerful, all the way from Time Walk to Staggershock.
And now for my Top 10 most broadly Cube-worthy cards from March of the Machine: The Aftermath:
10. Urborg Scavengers
First, look at that art and tell me that you don’t love Urborg Scavengers. You can’t do it. This is the sort of card that easily would have just been there for Cube on rate ten years ago, and that will still be the case for a lot of Cubes. On top of that, incidental graveyard hate is a boon for a lot of environments, and there’s some build-around potential here, too.
I’ve never played a Cube with a dedicated Soulflayer package, but I find the idea quite charming. It’s the sort of thing that only gets better setup and payoffs over time. I find it a much better fit for the average Cube than Reanimator, but I also expect it to show up in far fewer Cubes. Urborg Scavengers at least does enough to justify itself without too much additional context.
9. Ayara’s Oathsworn
Human and Knight are both relevant types, and a two-mana 2/2 with menace for 1C is a really nice baseline state. Ayara’s Oathsworn is mostly just an honest Slith Firewalker style of card that happens to have a neat tutor ability tacked on for when you’ve already won the game. I will say that playing with other cards that can add counters is very intriguing, and this strikes me as a huge hit for Proliferate Cube.
8. Nahiri, Forged in Fury
I’ve messed around with Boros Equipment as a Cube archetype some, and it’s another realm where we just keep getting more and better tools. The For Mirrodin! mechanic offered a lot of nice role-players for this archetype, and I view Nahiri, Forged in Fury as one of the best payoffs we’ve ever seen.
Affinity for Equipment is just such a big deal. It will be very common to have a couple of Equipment to make Nahiri castable and possibly triggerable on Turn 4, which is similar to a lot of other payoffs we’ve seen in this space. The major difference is that once you control several Equipment, Nahiri can be cast for as little as two mana, which will make casting and equipping something else to attack on the same turn relatively easy.
Equipment-matters is rather niche, but there are so many awesome cards to Cube with in this space that I only expect doing so to become more popular over time. As a huge Sram, Senior Edificer fan, I’m sure I’ll be tinkering with this archetype more in the future myself.
7. Tranquil Frillback
I think Tranquil Frillback is the weakest of the cards that I’ve discussed so far, but it has utility that will allow it to shine in a wider range of Cubes. The card is a bit below rate for everything that it does, but it does a lot of things. Kicking it for two or more abilities will come up often, and just casting a three-mana 3/3 isn’t the worst in a lot of spots. Not to mention that kicking it for four life will happen basically any time that the card is topdecked.
Being a Dinosaur is also a nice touch. There are a handful of nice Dinosaurs-matter cards, and we don’t get them at the fastest clip, but it’s something that I pay attention to and hope to see more of over time. It is especially nice that Dinosaurs do just tend to give enough stats to be playable as individual cards. The more that the individual cards can stand on their own merits, the less burden there is to toss in a couple of cards that specifically care about the creature type.
6. Samut, Vizier of Naktamun
I’ll admit to having old man “Ophidian eyes” and the propensity to overrate cards that draw a card when they damage the opponent, and I’ll also admit that I don’t expect Samut, Vizier of Naktamun to show up in a lot of Cubes. That said, Human, Warrior, and Cleric is a nice spread of creature types, and first strike, vigilance, and haste is a nice spread of abilities.
Mostly I like that Samut, Vizier of Naktamun offers something cohesive for a Gruul deck to do. Sure, that thing is still just attacking, but this is a reason to reach for Stomping Ground once you’ve already drafted cards like Questing Beast, Ulvenwald Oddity, or any of a much longer list of hasty red threats.
5. Nahiri’s Resolve
I’m a fan of Nahiri’s Resolve for similar reasons. It gives an identity to Boros decks that isn’t just the “attack with creatures” stuff that we always see. It’s also kind of nice that the +1/+0 and haste line also does allow you to do those traditionally Boros things, too.
Cards like Conjurer’s Closet and other blink effects have been fan favorites for years, and slotting a card that’s excellent at that sort of thing in Boros invites red players to get in on the long game in a way that red cards often don’t. It’s nice that this can reset living weapons as well as blink the myriad white creatures with enters-the-battlefield abilities, but what I really love is gassing up awesome cards that aren’t quite what they used to be, like Pia and Kiran Nalaar and Flametongue Kavu.
4. Karn, Legacy Reforged
I can’t say that a five-mana 5/5 is all that exciting, nor can I say that making mana that can’t cast nonartifact spells has been massively impactful in the world of Cube. What I can say is that artifacts matter is a trivially easy archetype to seed in a Cube, and that the list of abilities on permanents that you can make use of Karn’s mana with is very long.
There’s potential for Karn in lower-powered Cubes using the mana for modest things like morph costs, Incubator tokens, and ramping to seven-mana artifacts, and there’s also a lot of room to explore the card alongside Mishra’s Workshop. I’m not saying that Mishra’s Workshop is a card that I’m sympathetic to or that I’ve been desperate to find help for, but I am saying that Karn will help you pay for the abilities that the Workshop itself famously cannot.
3. Vesuvan Drifter
I fell in love with Vesuvan Drifter immediately upon seeing the card. I don’t believe I currently have a home for the card in any of my Cubes, but I have come to the conclusion that I will always be happy to see the card in a draft.
As a three-mana 2/4 flyer, the card just kind of has enough stats to hang in a lot of places, and from there you have options regarding what you want to do with the card. Does it supplement Reanimator? Do you want to include cards to manipulate the top of your library to make the card a must-answer? Or do you just want it to be a kind of whimsical weirdo that randomly turns into a big Dragon? I’m here for any and all of these things!
2. Feast of the Victorious Dead
Sacrifice decks can have a way of making a lot of tiny creatures and gaining small, incremental advantages while opponents set their sights on bigger and better things to completely outclass them, and Feast of the Victorious Dead offers a way to turn your tiny sacrifice fodder into legitimate threats themselves! This is the power that Carrion Feeder offers Sacrifice decks, and in a way, Feast of the Victorious Dead turns all of your creatures into Carrion Feeders!
Beyond that, the powerful enchantment triggers off any creature dying, not just ones that you sacrifice. The card doesn’t offer any sacrifice fodder or bodies itself, but these things are abundant in Orzhov. The lifegain is also significant, as it will give you a nice buffer as your opponent tries to navigate around your growing threats to find their own lethal attacks. At uncommon, I expect this card to show up alongside Hidden Stockpile in many Peasant Cubes, as well as non-rarity-restricted environments.
1. Nissa, Resurgent Animist
Finally, we come to Nissa, Resurgent Animist, another three-mana 3/3 with something old and something new stapled together. It’s not lost on me that Lotus Cobra’s ability is more powerful on a two-mana creature than on a three, but a more robust body is not for nothing. The 1-3-5 curve is also what you’re looking for in the most powerful Cubes anyway. I’ll readily say that Lotus Cobra is the more powerful card, but the ability to drum up Elves and Elementals when you can trigger the ability twice in one turn is definitely a big deal here.
I’m usually cold on “minor creature types matter” cards, but Elves are so abundant in green with Llanowar Elves et al. and there are enough incidental great Elementals for Cube that I expect that ability to be significant all the way up to Vintage Cube. Here’s a short list of awesome Elementals as some food for thought:
I can’t say that I’m the biggest fan of March of the Machine: The Aftermath as a product, but I’m always grateful for new Cube goodies. I was skeptical that we’d see ten cards worth discussing for Cube from the set, but I was pleasantly surprised at the card file, even if a lot of what’s present is rather narrow. There are more cards for me to track down than I was expecting, and that always puts a smile on my face.