It’s been quite a month for digital Cube drafts on Magic Online (MTGO) as we worked our way through the Spotlight Cubes of Autumn Burchett, Elizabeth Rice, and Ryan Saxe. The Spotlight Cubes are now behind us, but fortunately a two week run of Legacy Cube starts today. Prior to the last couple rounds of revisions I firmly enjoyed the MTGO Vintage Cube more than the Legacy Cube, but the careful curation of my former colleague Emma Handy is starting to level the playing field.
You can find Emma’s writeup of the Legacy Cube updates which goes over the philosophy of the changes here. At the time of this writing the article is dated for 2017 and credited to David McDarby, but uh, just ignore that. For an easy to read list, I’ve done the usual port to Cube Cobra. We see some of the usual introductions of newly printed cards, but there’s also a heightened focus on including more engaging build-around cards. The philosophical shift and many of the new cards being added all sound awesome to me, so let’s not waste any more time and get down to what’s changing with each color in the Cube.
There’s a range of different swaps going on here. Glorious Anthem is pretty forgettable and arguably is being upgraded to Paladin Class. A couple other replacement level cards are on the outs, though I expect Brimaz fans to reject my placing of the king in this category. Sublime Archangel, Clarion Spirit and Glorious Protector are all cards that I’m happy to play in my white decks, but I mostly like the adds here and you’ve gotta cut something.
Solitude, Palace Jailer, and Prismatic Ending are all outstanding cards that I’ve written on before that raise the average quality of white cards in the Cube. Palace Jailer is in contention for most powerful white Cube cards of all time, so definitely take notice of that one. Cave of the Frost Dragon and Timeless Dragon are both totally fine cards that should make decks a good amount of the time and are definitely welcome additions. The only addition that I object to is Esper Sentinel.
We gave Esper Sentinel a pretty scathing review during in our Modern Horizons 2 set review on The 540, and while a lot of Commander players seem to love the card it has been consistently bad in high-powered Cubes in my experience. Esper Sentinel was in both Bant Cube and Classic Cube on MTGO and whenever I saw it in play the opposition was doing some combination of paying the one and not caring. It’s particularly rough if your opponent just taps out for creatures, which will generally be larger than 1/1s. I imagine other people have better experience with the card than I do given that I’ve never see it do anything worth doing, but I have enough negative experience with the card to be firm in my assessment.
Lastly, Serra’s Emissary shows up as a totally castable Reanimator target that’s fully capable of winning games. The spread of Solitude, Serra’s Emissary, and Palace Jailer all offer some great reasons to move in on white in Legacy Cube, and I’m significantly more bullish on white than I was previously.
Blue was the best color in the Cube before this update, and with three upgrades here I don’t see that changing. I actually really love seeing Impulse on the chopping block as it’s considerably worse than any of the one mana cantrips, and is a card that I’ve moved away from myself. Portent replacing it is an especially nice touch as a nod to the Legacy format and an enabler for Terminus and Temporal Mastery.
I’m less big on blocking than a lot of other Cube enthusiast’s, but with Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer entering the Cube I must admit that Hard Evidence is a significant card for blue to have. It’s almost like this was a deliberate element of Modern Horizons 2‘s development.
I mostly only see screenshots of Emry in decks that really shouldn’t play it, and Murktide Regent is a Constructed powerhouse that is easily a competitive win condition in Legacy Cube. Blue is dipping slightly here with one more card coming out than being added in, but Kira and Meloku weren’t anything to write home about anyway. I do have a fondness for Whirler Rogue and Jace, Mirror Mage, but on balance these swaps increase blue’s power in absolute terms.
It looks like yet another farewell tour for Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni has come to an end. It’s been nice last picking you, old friend. Bolas’s Citadel was a bit of an odd fit with no Storm Archetype, so while that’s the most appealing card on the chopping block I’m convinced that these are all good cuts.
While I don’t like Dauthi Voidwalker, I’ve admitted time and again that it is a very powerful card to cast on turn two. Power Word Kill is just sort of obvious, and Archon of Cruelty is a very powerful technically castable tool for Reanimator decks.
I don’t believe that Lolth is quite there for a Cube of this power level, and that’s the one addition in black that I’d generally avoid drafting. Lolth is a cool card both in terms of supporting sacrifice themes and the D&D reference, but you pay a bit too much for what you get in this Cube. Liliana, Death’s Majesty would be a much better fit, and is a substitution that I’d like to see in the future.
Black has the most room to improve in Legacy Cube, and these updates are fairly minor in light of this and in the context of the goodies that the other colors got. I do believe that there is some merit to black devotion in this Cube and more merit to Reanimator and Recurring Nightmare Decks, but definitely has room to grow from here.
We get Dragon’s Rage Channler, Ragavan, AND Sulfuric Vortex is back? This makes me very excited to get some Mono-Red Aggro drafts in during this run!
The cuts here are all great, with Dreadhorde Arcanist really struggling to consistently perform in Cubes of this size and Flametongue Kavu having been ill-advised in Cubes of this power level for years. Much like with Brimaz I might catch some heat for that one but it’s a fact and I will make no apology for saying so.
Unholy Heat is also an awesome addition for red aggressive and controlling decks alike just in terms of increasing the volume of one mana removal spells. The card is much better than Shock, but it will be cast as a Shock very often and that alone makes it well worth the slot in a lot of red decks. It can’t hit players, but clearing blockers and answering planeswalkers is a bigger deal for your two damage spell.
Green is getting a slight bump in terms of total number of cards in the Cube, with Ignoble Hierarch and Rift Sower being great tools for ramp decks and Circle of Dreams Druid being a reliable card for Mono-Green decks to wheel. Earthshaker Giant is also a nice option for these decks as a less reliable for guaranteed wins but cheaper Craterhoof Behemoth.
I’d draft and play with Kogla over reading Sawtusk Demolisher, but I know that Andrea Mengucci is big on the card so maybe I have some homework to do.
Ranger Class is an interesting one, and I believe that it’s solid but expect you have to slot it on your curve as something that you actively want to level up quickly. Green decks in Cubes this powerful are trying to ramp out expensive things, not attack with 2/2s. Level 3 of Ranger Class appeals to me in green ramp decks, but levels one and two aren’t for any deck that I would draft in this Cube on purpose.
This is where we see many of the build-arounds that Emma discussed being added to the Cube, offering solid reasons to play these color combination and commit to a strategy. Additionally, we see Damn and Grist making an appearance, which I consider two of the most significant Cube cards of 2021. I’m not sure how Hogaak shakes out with the graveyard decks in the Cube not generally being centered around attacking, but the card is bonkers in Cubes with heavier self-mill themes and I hope to test the waters. Grist is a very high pick for my money and I expect that Hogaak will fit best in a Grist deck.
I’m sure that the Niv-Mizzet lobby is thrilled about this update. I’m not a member myself, but I can see how it’s a fun wheel to spin. Playing with a bunch of dual lands and gold cards does kind of rule.
The best change here is that Oko is finally banned in Legacy Cube. See ya never.
Sword of War and Peace is horrible and Sword of Hearth and Home rules, so that swap is easy. Sword of Sinew and Steel is much less relevant now that this Cube is relatively light on mana rocks, and the return to Grafted Wargear in that slot is refreshing.
I believe the cost of crewing with two creatures on Dermotaxi is too steep for me to draft the card highly, but it’s a card that I would consider for some builds of Recurring Nightmare decks if I could draft it late. I expect that you need a good spread of value generating creatures to really make it work, but then you also want something that’s just good at attacking to put under the taxi, so honestly I expect it to fall flat more often than not. Kaldra Compleat similarly has been more awkward than good in my experience, but it’s a consideration for decks that can generate at on of mana.
Retrofitter Foundry is a card that has seen fringe Legacy play for a couple years now and is likely not super well known. I assure you that it’s more powerful than it looks as a mana sink, and is going to be especially good to pick up if you draft the Urza’s Saga.
I certainly wouldn’t describe Volrath’s Stronghold as a weak card, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had a low rate of play in the Cube. Maze of Ith and Ghost Quarter are much dumpier, and I’m on board with all of these cuts.
Prismatic Vista is a card that I’m happy to put in some Cubes as the only fetchland, and I’m glad to see its omission rectified. Ash Barrens I’m less enthused about, but I have absolutely drafted decks that would have played it.
Urza’s Saga is the real prize here, and is a card that is capable of winning games on its own. I believe there’s a real argument to first picking the card both on power level and that you should be able to lock up a tutor target for it to put the card all the way over if you draft it early. Bear in mind that there are very few 0 and 1 mana value cards in the Cube, but Relic of Progenitus tends to go late and is easily worth including in your Urza’s Saga deck.
I like the looks of these updates to the Legacy Cube, and I would say that largely on the back of Palace Jailer that white is the biggest gainer. Red is definitely close with how many powerful cards were added for the aggressive decks, and blue remains the best color despite minor changes. Green looks very middle of the pack, and black is going to struggle the most outside of its most powerful cards in this run.
That said, I’m excited to get drafting. See you in the queues.