Now that Modern Horizons 2 preview season has come to a close, it’s time to get down to the serious work of updating our Cubes. I’ve seen some claims of this being the best Cube set of all time, and I’m not quite there I can’t deny that there’s a ton of stuff coming out that I’m excited to Cube with. As is tradition, I’ll be counting down my Top 10 Cube cards from Modern Horizons 2 today, but first lets go over the themes that the set reinforces for more niche Cubes.
Emma Handy’s Proliferate Cube might benefit from Modern Horizons 2 more than any other Cube. There’s a lot of efficient artifacts and many of them feature the modular mechanic or involve generating counters otherwise. The keyword proliferate also shows up on a handful of cards otherwise.
I’ve seen the artifact beatdown archetype attempted in many Cubes, and the most important thing to making them tick is having a high volume of colored artifacts to ensure that you can actually get the requisite threshold of artifacts to make these decks function. Arcbound Javelineer and Arcbound Prototype might not look like much, but they’re monumentally important in helping these Cubes hit their numbers.
A lot of the artifact support cards are in red and white, which compliments the Lorehold Legacies deck from Commander 2021 very well. The new tools for these decks look plenty powerful and fun to play with, and this is space that I intend to personally explore in the future.
The bulk of the Enchantress support in Modern Horizons 2 comes in the form of reprints into Modern, but there are a couple new standouts for this style of deck. Enchantress is pretty niche Cube space, but it’s something that I’ve had fun experimenting with in the past and is also a theme that got a lot of new tools from Theros Beyond Death.
Sanctum Weaver and Sythis, Harvest’s Hand both being enchantment creatures that function as payoffs for the Enchantress decks is huge for making these strategies work, similar to how the colored artifact threshold is important for the artifact matters decks. If you’re interested in trying out a Cube with an Enchantress theme I recommend including enough enchantments to make Seal of Cleansing and Seal of Primordium maindeckable and then also including those cards.
Honestly, they played things pretty safe with madness, but I’m a huge fan of Blazing Rootwalla. I’m also excited to get my hands on a non-foil Chainer, Nightmare Adept, and I look forward to a day where no cards exist only in foil.
Again, the new cards don’t add much, but madness is a very fun Cube archetype. If you’re interested in what a Cube with a madness theme looks like, I’d check out my Spooky Cube.
Okay, so Squirrels isn’t a tribe that I think is realistically there for Cube, but there are a handful of cool Squirrel cards in the set and they have their following. Who knows, maybe this is the nudge that Bryan Gottlieb needs to design a Squirrel Cube. If nothing else, Chitterspitter is a fun card to think about adding to support a token theme.
That leaves one last point of order before we get down to my official top 10. There’s a card that was originally printed as a Mystical Archive that technically is a Modern Horizons 2 card that I intentionally didn’t consider for my Strixhaven Top 10 for this reason. This one is a little weird because we’ve had some time to Cube with it already, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t name Abundant Harvest as an awesome Cube card somewhere.
I’m not a fan of the Mystical Archive frame, so I’m excited to get my hands on some new copies of this one. Abundant Harvest is a great tool for smoothing out the draws of green decks, and offers some nice support for spells matters decks as well. It’s among the most broadly Cubeable cards printed in years.
With that all out of the way, let’s get to the list!
10. Archon of Cruelty
Archon of Cruelty is a massive upgrade for Cubes featuring Reanimator as a supported archetype. It’s on-color, it’s realistically castable with mana rocks, and it has both immediate and lasting impact on the game. Sheoldred, Whispering One is a card that typically shows up in the b-list of Reanimator targets in these Cubes and the immediate value generated by Archon of Cruelty makes it look like an upgrade for that slot, or probably more commonly a nice additional threat to include.
When I’m constructing these lists there’s usually a lot of deliberation regarding the last couple cards that I eliminate from the top 10, and I was pretty close to giving Dauthi Voidwalker the nod over Archon of Cruelty for being jam-packed with powerful text, but ultimately a giant, castable creature for Reanimator struck me as a card that was easier to justify adding to a cube and playing than another card for the deck with too many black pips on cheap creatures. Dauthi Voidwalker is a powerful aggressive creature, but I’d be far more interested in a slightly less powerful creature that was cost at 1B.
Grief has stolen the show as the most talked about card for Modern Constructed in Modern Horizons 2, though I expect that Solitude will be the most powerful creature in the pitch cycle for Cube. A lifelinking Ravenous Chupacabra with flash can turn a game completely on its head, and the ability to pitch cast Solitude offers a level of flexibility that’s both free upside and exploitable with blink effects like Ephemerate.
Azorius Control has long been one of my preferred Vintage Cube archetypes, and a creature that has a relatively high impact when cast for five mana that can also be pitch cast to help you untap with your various Jaces and Teferis is a huge deal. It will be pretty important for these decks to have other sources of card advantage and/or cheap removal to make the best use of Solitude, but neither of those things are terrible difficult in Vintage Cube.
In lower powered environments where games more-often involve casting creatures for five mana I would expect that Solitude is more likely to be a miss for being too powerful than not powerful enough. It’s really easy to imagine huge blowouts in combat and/or with blink effects when the sum of Solitude’s parts are considered.
I’m sure that others are going to be putting Grief in Cubes featuring Ephemerate, and I intend to include Grief in the Grixis Twobert over Unmask, but Solitude is much more powerful as a baseline in Cube.
8. Lose Focus
Lose Focus isn’t groundbreaking, and a lot of what makes it awesome is that it’s basically exactly the same as long-time Cube staple Mana Leak on Turn 2. What makes it interesting is the way it scales better into the late-game as well as a few specific interactions.
It won’t come up terribly often, but the ability of Lose Focus to counter every spell in a cascade chain is the big draw. Whirlwind Denial just isn’t a very interesting Cube card, and Lose Focus being sort of a hybrid of that card and Mana Leak is what sets it up for Cube success. I’d be surprised to see Lose Focus be terribly effective against Storm combo in most games, but hate for Storm is hardly necessary and tagging Bloodbraid Elf as well as whatever it brings along with it is going to be a more common scenario that you’ll want to break up.
7. Prismatic Ending
Prismatic Ending will most often be cast for one or two, so it won’t be able to catch a lot of late-game plays but it does a lot of work in the early-game or just in a Cube with a low mana curve. Being an answer to either Goblin Guide on Turn 1 or a mana rock on Turn 2 is a lot of flexibility. It’s not as flexible as Oblivion Ring, but you’ll be grateful for the efficiency against cheap threats pretty often.
It’s also nice for white to get some more cards that synergize with the mechanics of other colors. This is another white card that plays nicely with spells matter mechanics and that goes to graveyard for stuff like delve. This is a very cool role player.
6. Geyadrone Dihada
I love this design. Dihada doesn’t offer immediate answers to most opposing threats, but it does protect itself from them while buffering your life total and threatening a game-winning ultimate. Being three colors is a serious downside, but if Cubes were making room for Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God they can easily make room for this card instead.
Dihada won’t offer much meaningful value if your opponent has some kind of Dreadbore effect, but I actually really enjoy the play patterns that this engenders. Dihada shows up, causes problems until it dies or threatens to win the game if it doesn’t, and doesn’t just overwhelm you with card advantage otherwise if you’re able to answer the planeswalker itself. This might ultimately mean that Dihada is a little on the weak side, but the ability to threaten planeswalkers and steal ultimates is enough to at least make this card a serious Cube consideration.
5. Ignoble Hierarch
I don’t know if this is hot take, but Noble Hierarch is a better cube card than Birds of Paradise. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Ignoble Hierarch is also better as it doesn’t tap for blue, but the exalted ability on the Hierarchs tends to matter more than the flying on the Birds. Ignoble Hierarch immediately stands out as a great mana creature for Recurring Nightmare decks, and if it accomplishes nothing else it will at least finally (hopefully) get them to cut Gilded Goose from all of the Magic Online Cubes.
Gruul tends to be among the most awkward two-color pairs for Cube with the gold cards offering you very little incentive to go into a second color, but a powerful mana creature goes a long way in making the color requirements easier, and the Alt-Vintage Cube actually had a really solid take on Gruul-based decks. This is a very solid pickup for any Cube featuring Escape to the Wilds.
4. Grist, the Hunger Tide
The secret is out now that Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast is a very powerful Vintage Cube card, and Grist, the Hunger Tide offers power in similar places. Grist can’t deal with artifacts, but the tokens it creates can attack and instead of answering artifacts it gets to answer planeswalkers. The numbers and abilities are different enough that it’s tough to call one card better than the other at this point in time, but the comparison alone suggests that Grist is quite powerful.
The self-mill ability also opens up a few avenues for powerful synergies. Whether you’re hitting the occasional Scrapheap Scrounger or Bloodghast for value or powering a card like Spider Spawning, it would be difficult for Grist to find a home.
3. Sword of Hearth and Home
I’m not a huge fan of the Swords nor an advocate for protection in Cubes, but these cards obviously have a large following. I’ll also say that Sword of Hearth and Home is powerful in a pretty modest way, which wins some points for me. Green and white are the colors that are best at gumming up the battlefield with blockers and are also more likely to answer your Sword than your creatures, so the play patterns on the protection front aren’t as offensive as they often are, and the triggered ability reads mostly as more cool than good as well.
I have to give the nod to this one because I know it’s going to be popular, and I do appreciate that the abilities were not needlessly pushed. This is a welcome addition to the sword cycle.
2. Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer
A lot of competitive players initial reactions to this card suggested that they were off-put by its power level. I could see Ragavan being an issue in Legacy, but I’ll say on record that I believe Monastery Swiftspear is a more powerful Modern card. Beyond that, Ragavan rules for Cube.
It’s generally the case that aggressive creatures only get there in Cube on volume and that they only play well in one deck, so getting a creature that’s both very good in an aggressive shell that plays in a midrange deck is awesome. It is absolutely true that some games will be decided by a Turn 1 Ragavan, but it’s totally reasonable to give aggressive decks some cards that this is true of in high powered environments and it will generally only be true in lower powered environments if the mana curve of the Cube is too high. Ragavan is vulnerable to every removal spell and every blocker. My impression to this point is that the card is fairly reasonably balanced for Cube play.
Ragavan is going right into the base model Twobert and I’m stoked.
Ever since this card was previewed I’ve had Sophie B. Hawkins’ Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover stuck in my head and it has been a glorious time. I don’t feel like I need to sell a Terminate/Wrath of God split card, so you’re welcome for the song.
Whether your preferred Cube experience is something generically powerful or deeply thematic, Modern Horizons 2 has a lot to offer. For a more in-depth look at the set, be sure to tune into The 540 in the coming weeks, where we’ll be talking over all of the Cube highlights in the set card by card.