Hello, gamers, and welcome to a three-week stretch of different digital Cubes on Magic Online (MTGO)! We’re starting things strong with what will be the final run of Carmen Klomparen’s Magic 30 Cube! With both the charming goal of representing each of Magic’s major releases and the brilliant design of my good friend and former colleague, it’s easy to understand why Magic 30 Cube is among my favorite digital Cube offerings.
As we’ve come to expect with Magic 30 Cube, the changelog is quite brief- a stark contrast from both Arena Cube and what we’ve come to expect for the MTGO Vintage Cube. A mere 13 cards are changing from the previous run:
The last run of Magic 30 Cube saw the removal of all of the planeswalkers that were previously featured, and a good chunk of this update is the reintroduction of that card type. Notably, the planeswalkers being added to the Cube are all different form the ones that were removed!
Regarding the Cube at large, I don’t think it would be meaningful for me to break the Cube down by color again, as not many cards have changed and I’m feeling good about the cards and archetypes I’ve chosen to highlight as well as how I evaluated the relative strengths of the five colors initially. I’m still cold on aggressive decks broadly, and I’m still big on playing an 18th land in my controlling and midrange decks. I think that there are appealing cards in the change log worth discussing, so instead I’ll take this opportunity to wax poetic about these cards.
I’ve written on Heartflame Duelist and Virtue of Persistence recently, and it’s very fitting to see Debtors’ Knell leave the Cube as Virtue of Persistence makes its way in. Given my aversion to aggro in the Cube I’m not huge on Heartflame Duelist in this environment, but it is definitely solid. Virtue of Persistence is actually among the more powerful card in the Cube, and is another welcome bomb in black.
A couple of the other cards in the update aren’t much worth mention. Picklock Prankster is a fitting replacement for Augur of Bolas, with neither being all that appealing unless you’re really hungry for a blocker. Picklock Prankster could definitely hang in more synergy-drive environments, but it’s fine at best here. A lot of the appeal for Wrenn and Seven is similarly synergy driven, though it is more broadly appealing based on the size of the token it generates. I’ve rarely been impressed by Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord, though the recursion that the card offers is reasonable. Kytheon isn’t generally remarkable either, but it is notably one of the better Savannah Lions against sweepers. Now let’s talk about the cards that I see as opening up more significant discussions!
Regal Bunnicorn is a card that has gotten some buzz in Constructed, and there are definitely appealing things about the card. It can get quite large for very little mana, and creatures like this are very effective at attacking through board stalls. When it comes to Cube draft though, I’m looking for some specific support to really care about a card like this.
At the end of the day, Regal Bunnicorn is only good for attacking and blocking, and is a much better tool for the former. In a Cube where I generally prefer blocking to attacking, this is a significant strike. Some cards that are strong in board stalls are also powerful against sweepers, planeswalkers for example, but the way Regal Bunnicorn incentivizes you to play harder into a sweeper is a strike here. I was looking for Embercleave in the card list to find a dream to live, but instead I found Wing Shards and Squirrel Nest. I think Regal Bunnicorn is a card that can shine in some Cube environments, but I believe it takes a different specific infrastructure to really shine than what is presented here.
Horned Loch-Whale is a solid card that is already showing up in Constructed. That is to say, Lagoon Breach is a solid card and Horned Loch-Whale is along for the adventure. Lagoon Breach is a great tool to give blue decks ways to fend off early attackers, but seeing as that’s not something that I’m generally fearful of in this Cube I see Horned Loch-Whale as a more powerful Vintage Cube card than a Magic 30 Cube card. The biggest thing to note here is that the Whale itself enters the battlefield tapped, meaning you get a surprise attacker sometimes and a surprise blocker never. I see Horned Lock-Whale as a middle of the pack card here.
There was a viral post on Twitter recently asking what players thought the best designed Magic card of all time was. Lightning Bolt and shocklands immediately came to mind, and from reading the replies of others, Garruk Wildspeaker was the most compelling other answer that I saw. Garruk is immaculate. Green decks that wouldn’t play the card are few and far between and the card is powerful in a way that isn’t overwhelming given that Garruk has to lose loyalty to otherwise directly impact the battlefield.
The awesome thing that Garruk accomplishes for Cube is that it gives players access to an Overrun effect which is a powerful effect but an unappealing card. Overrun tends to either end the game or do nothing, so having a card that is just functional otherwise give you access to the effect is far more desirable to a player than the effect itself. Garruk just plays great and feels right at home in lower powered Cubes like this and Vintage Cube alike. I will say from years of watching others play the card that most players do too much plussing for meaningless mana and not enough making Beasts.
Unlike Garruk, Jace Beleren can’t hang with the most powerful blue cards of all time, but it is still a very charming case study in how to design a modest planeswalker. If you just want a Concentrate, then Jace will offer that to you at a discount on mana at the expense of giving you the card over time with some risk, while the +2 ability plays very dynamically against opposing attackers. Whether to plus or minus this Jace is often an engaging decision. The card has not really stood the test of time as creatures have gotten more powerful, but it’s fun to play with and I’m happy to see it here.
The second four-mana planeswalker to be printed with four loyalty abilities, Chandra, Torch of Defiance initially had players fearful of the second coming of Jace, the Mind Sculptor. I see a closer comparison to Chandra being red’s Garruk Wildspeaker. The loyalty cost to Chandra’s removal ability is so steep that Chandra feels surprisingly modestly powerful for a card that threatens to win the game on its own. I will say that Chandra is maybe more at home in higher-powered Cubes than here, and is easily a first-pickable card in this environment.
Liliana, Dreadhorde General is one of those cards that was printed a few years too late for us to really get a feel for the its general power level. It just hasn’t shown up in too many places, but rest assured when it’s reasonable to cast this one it will run away with some games. Entering the Cube along with Virtue of Persistence, Liliana Dreadhorde General is another massive shot in the arm to the top-end of black in the Cube and is a card I would happily first pick here.
Nicol Bolas, however, is a card that did show up at a time when we got to see its power level on display in Constructed and Cube alike. 2009 was a long time ago, and admittedly this wasn’t a huge card for Constructed, but this used to be a card that was just strong to play in Vintage Cube. Keep in mind that it would be six years before the much more appealing and colorless Ugin, the Spirit Dragon would be printed… Anyway, Nicol Bolas is a great example of the historic power level of planeswalkers and while requiring three colors and eight mana is a big ask, it’s absolutely in-range for a first pick for me here. You could rightfully call me biased on this one, but don’t come crying to me when this powerful dragon planeswalker destroys all of your lands while retaining far too much loyalty for you to do anything about it!
I adore Magic 30 Cube, and I’m excited to get one last chance to draft this environment. The Cube does a great job at highlighting the history of Magic’s design and I love the old and new additions with this update alike. Happy Cubing, gamers! I’ll be back next week to cover the return of Cartographia Cube to MTGO!