With the full Kaldheim preview now available and the set’s release imminent, it’s time to really start digging into the impact of 2021’s first Magic release. For me, that means scoping out which cards I most want to Cube with. Kaldheim is something of a mixed bag for me on that front, and today I’ll review the general offerings the set makes as well as reveal my Top 10 Cube Kaldheim Cube cards.
Let’s start with a broad overview of the set’s themes.
I have a complicated relationship with snow when it comes to Cube. I think that snow is a fun Limited mechanic that translates oddly into Constructed, and the Cube experience that I prefer doesn’t resemble traditional Limited in function nearly as much as it does in form. I like having to track snow permanents and drafting snow basics. I don’t like checks for controlling a certain number of snow permanents or snow mana when you’re just able to play as many snow basics as you want, and drafting basics in Cube is pretty far from my ideal Cube experience. Like I said, it’s complicated.
I like the play patterns of a number of Kaldheim‘s snow cards, though snow poses significant structural and/or aesthetic concerns when it comes to including these cards in a Cube. I’m interested in one day working on a Snow Cube, though it’s not surprising that snow cards don’t show up in most Cubes. I like Ascendant Spirit more than some of the cards that did make my Top 10, though it belongs in too specific of an environment for me to consider it a great Cube card broadly.
Tribal is another somewhat narrow Cube mechanic, though it’s one that is much easier to implement in more environments and the generic support from Kaldheim in the form of changelings is awesome for Cube. I’ve sung the praises of this mechanic previously, and Kaldheim has a number of great offerings for the Party Cube I’ve been working on and for tribal in Cubes generally.
I was hopeful for some number of one-mana changelings, though sadly none appeared. Moritte of the Frost and Realmwalker are both awesome though, and will likely both be features of any tribal design I work on going forward.
There are a handful of Giant tribal cards in Kaldheim as well, and while Giants are a less supported tribe historically, there’s some cool stuff in Lorwyn block that could add up to a cool Cube experience. They hit the right notes for me with Glimpse the Cosmos and Giants are officially on my Cube bucket list.
Now for the bigger-picture things. Here are my Top 10 Cube cards from Kaldheim:
10. Usher of the Fallen
We’ve seen a lot of Savannah Lions with upside in recent years and I’d argue that Usher of the Fallen is the best of the lot. It generates multiple bodies over time and provides a little bit of a mana sink. Keep in mind that you can only boast once a turn, but even still there’s a lot of upside here on Turn 1 as compared to Dauntless Bodyguard. White aggressive decks are incredibly common in Cube and Usher of the Fallen is a shoe-in for these archetypes.
Beyond that, there are three potentially relevant creature types listed on the card. Humans, Warriors, and Spirits all have a healthy spread of great Cube cards already at their disposal and I would fully expect all three tribes to continue to be significantly supported. Given that the card itself and the tokens are both Warriors, Usher of the Fallen will best fit Warrior tribal, but it’s efficient enough to be a consideration for Spirits or Humans as well.
9. Dragonkin Berserker
This card is a mortal lock for the Arena Cubes and has plenty of merit for higher-power environments as well. A 2/2 first striker is serviceable in any Cube where combat is important or just one trying to support Mono-Red Aggro, and the boast ability offers a really interesting mana sink. You can freely attack your Dragonkin Berserker into large creatures under threat of combining first strike damage with a burn spell or just cash it in for a dragon token.
The cost reduction ability for boasting that checks on Dragons strikes me mostly as flavor text, though depending on the Cube it could come up. Eradicator Valkyrie is another card that I fully expect to see in Arena Cubes and there’s room there to exploit boast synergies.
8. Kaya the Inexorable
I’m old enough to remember Vraska the Unseen being in the Magic Online (MTGO) Cubes and it being totally playable. The +1 ability isn’t really worth a five-mana investment to get off the ground and the -7 doesn’t rank in terms of most powerful planeswalker ultimates that we’ve seen, but the option to exile any nonland permanent while sticking around and threatening to do so again should be enough to get your attention.
Kaya is a little on the weak side when it comes to Vintage and Legacy Cube, but it’s another card that I expect to play very well in the Arena Cubes and is a good fit for Modern Cube or other environments that heavily incorporate planeswalkers. The -7 ability actually starts to look really good when we’re talking about Cubes that slant more midrange. I’ll be giving Kaya a shot in my Two-Player Cube.
Doomskar has gotten a ton of chatter since it was previewed for being among the best sweepers ever printed for Standard play. Being able to cast your sweeper for three mana makes it more likely that you’ll be able to leave up a counterspell or some other form of interaction when you destroy all of your opponent’s creatures, which also happens to be very attractive for Cube play.
It’s easier to make Doomskar work in Standard than in Cube though, because other foretell cards muddy the waters merely by existing. There’s some tension when it comes whether you want to play around Doomskar or Saw It Coming when your opponent foretells a card. In Cube this tension is only as high as you cultivate it to be, similarly to how some Cubes contain very few or even exactly one card with morph.
If the aggressive decks in your Cube are well-designed, then a competent pilot will be able to leverage the knowledge that Doomskar is the only foretell card in your Cube very effectively. As such, my praise for Doomskar comes with the caveat that you’ll want to include a handful of other foretell cards to really make it work. Saw It Coming, Glorious Protector, Starnheim Unleashed, and Behold the Multiverse are all solid options.
6. Sigrid, God-Favored
Skyclave Apparition is the best Banisher Priest of all time and it’s going to get the nod over Sigrid, God-Favored in formats where destroying artifact mana is a big deal, but Sigrid actually offers more in formats that are largely centered around combat. I’m not sure how much protection from God creatures is realistically going to come up, but exiling an attacker in combat and first striking down another is a massive tempo swing. Sigrid can also be used to break up double blocks or just deployed as a flash threat outside of combat, which leaves a lot to like.
Sigrid is another one that I expect to see excel in Arena Cube on power level relative to that environment, and being both a Human and a Warrior gives it some additional broad appeal. Only being able to hit attackers or blockers is a serious detriment in environments where you would like to use your Banisher Priest to hit mana creatures, but the less a Cube is about that sort of thing the more Sigrid will be able to shine.
5. Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
I might have Valki, God of Lies a little high on my list considering that it’s a strictly different Mesmeric Fiend that’s pretty bad in the sorts of environments where you’d really want a Mesmeric Fiend, and my assessment of the card is that it’s generally pretty medium in Vintage and Legacy Cube. Once we get into more midrange Cubes though, I think Valki is aces.
In creature-heavy Cubes, Valki will be good at some combination of stifling your opponent’s development and becoming a huge threat. And for the games when you draw Valki late, Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor is solid. Not so good that I’d endorse it as a standalone seven-mana planeswalker, but good enough for the sum of the parts here to be a card I would draft pretty highly in Modern or Arena Cube.
Being a God is to the detriment of Valki, and I wish the card had a more relevant creature type. Flavorfully the type makes sense, but it sure makes for a worse card than if this could be a Vampire or a Zombie.
4. Toski, Bearer of Secrets
I’ve made me appreciation for Mono-Green Ramp in high-powered Cubes known, as well as my general disgust for four-mana green cards in such environments. Toski, Bearer of Secrets is a slam dunk for Legacy Cube. I want to play Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary and Edric, Spyamster of Trest in the same deck without compromising on my manabase and Toski is the perfect fit for mono-green decks that are heavy on mana creatures.
Unlike many of the cards previously discussed, Toski actually gets worse in lower powered environments. A 1/1 without evasion that has to attack and costs four mana is pretty nonsense in the context of a midrange mirror, but when we’re playing with Joraga Treespeaker and there are combo decks in the mix, the card makes a lot more sense. It’s a nice tool to bridge the gap from the early turns into the Craterhoof Behemoth phase of the game.
3. Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider
I’ve got a Cube hot take I’ve been meaning to get off my chest — Primeval Titan isn’t that good in Cube. It mostly exists to ramp a player from already having a lot of mana to being able to cast the spells that are so expensive they might be better off not casting them. Your deck should be able to make most of its game-ending plays on six mana, and the less true this is, the more free losses you’ll accrue.
Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider is a game-ending play. Colossal Dreadmaw with haste is already pretty close to Primeval Titan with haste in Limited, so the keywords on the card are enough to pay it some mind. Then we get to the one-sided doubling of your counters that comes with the halving of the opponent’s counters to boot. These abilities won’t always come up, but that’s because your giant trampling haste creature might kill your opponent before they matter.
If your opponent has sufficient blockers to stave off Vorinclex, those abilities can end up doing some pretty cool things. It shouldn’t take too many planeswalkers entering with double their normal starting loyalty or double-sized Walking Ballistas to close a game.
2. Glorious Protector
A four-mana 3/4 with flying and flash is naturally reminiscent of Restoration Angel, which is a long-time Cube staple. Glorious Protector functions significantly differently but also offers some really powerful play patterns. Glorious Protector is a no-brainer if you want to add a critical mass of foretell cards to your Cube and I’d even offer that it makes way more sense as the only foretell card in a Cube than Doomskar.
Starting with the Restoration Angel comparison, Glorious Protector is going to be worse than Restoration Angel in the classic scenarios where you do something like blinking a creature in response to a removal spell or a creature like Thragtusk for value. But it’s going to be the same when it comes to being a standalone flash threat and is going to be sometimes better when it comes to games where either player is trying to resolve a sweeper. Not that the card needs any help, but Glorious Protector could lead to some really brutal Upheavals. It’s sort of like a Ghostway effect when it comes to how it interacts with sweepers, except instead of being attached to a selectively useful instant, it always gets to be a 3/4 with flash and flying.
The reduced cost that comes with foretelling Glorious Protector is also a big deal. The mana sweeper that Doomskar offers when foretold is great against wide battlefields, whereas a 3/4 with flash for three can often make small battlefields nightmarish for aggressive decks, and this efficiency comes with the ability to leave up other tricks on the same turn ahead of schedule.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Glorious Protector in any and all of the MTGO and Arena Cubes. A flash threat with a unique and powerful ability is the perfect storm for a general Cube staple.
1. Birgi, God of Storytelling // Harnfel, Horn of Bounty
Birgi, God of Storytelling was a real “love at first sight” situation for me. This is far and away the card from Kaldheim that I’m most excited to play with. I’d love to see Birgi make a splash in Standard or Historic, and I’m already making Cube plans for the card. The only unfortunate element of the card when it comes to singleton formats is that you can’t control a Birgi and a Harnfel, Horn of Bounty at the same time.
If you’re drafting a Storm deck though, you’ll be pretty happy to have either side. Birgi isn’t as efficient as Baral, Chief of Compliance and Harnfel isn’t as impactful as The Mirari Conjecture, but a split card that offers either a mana boost or a way to dig into your most powerful cards is a most welcome addition for combo decks in Cube.
Birgi is the lone card from Kaldheim that I’ll be adding to my Grixis Cube, but given that a three-mana 3/3 is about as good as red creatures get, I imagine that the card plays pretty well in lower-powered environments as well. The ability to activate boast abilities twice in a turn is flavor text when it comes to combo decks, but that’s arguably the line that will make the card most appealing in formats like Arena Cube. Harnfel is also a great tool for mitigating flooding for aggressive decks in the late-game. I think this is going to just be an awesome Cube card across the board.
No blue cards ending up being real considerations for my Top 10 this time around, which in some ways I think is preferable. I’ve never found myself light on blue cards I’d be willing to play for any Cube, so it’s nice to see the other colors getting more attention now. White got the lion’s share of Cube goodies from Kaldheim and I’d be happy if that became the new normal for a while.