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The Top 10 Cubeable Magic Cards Of Modern Horizons 3

Can Modern Horizons 3 help your MTG Cube? Absolutely! Ryan Overturf shares two key themes getting help and his Top 10 Cubeable cards of the set.

Ajani, Nacatl Pariah (detail)
Ajani, Nacatl Pariah (detail), illustrated by Ilse Gort

Howdy, gamers! Welcome to another Cube Top 10 list, this time with a doozy of a set in Modern Horizons 3! Spiritual successors to Time Spiral block, Modern Horizons sets tend to be long on both individually powerful cards and amazing synergistic tools, and the third installment is no exception in either regard. The set is so full of Cube goodies, in fact, that I’ll be doing another Top 10 list for the corresponding Commander release next week!

Before we get to today’s list, let’s highlight the major themes of the set. There is a good amount of support for artifacts, enchantments, and even modified creatures, with the set touching on a very wide range of mechanics and archetypes. Such is the nature of Horizons sets! The set is worthwhile to look over for curating Cubes of any stripe, but there are two macro themes that I believe deserve specific attention.

Eldrazi

It That Heralds the End Herigast, Erupting Nullkite Ugin's Labyrinth

The biggest and baddest of Magic’s big bads, Eldrazi show up in force in Modern Horizons 3, including new versions of all three Eldrazi Titans! I’ve already written a little about that cycle, and while I personally only see the Kozilek as particularly groundbreaking for all things Cube, all three of these cards have generated considerable hype.

Nulldrifter Eldrazi Linebreaker Sowing Mycospawn

Beyond the Titans, there are tons of unique and powerful designs in the set, and I want to explore Eldrazi as a relevant creature type in Cube. I’ll be sure to write more about them as my Eldrazi project crystallizes, but for now, I’ll just say that the depth of powerful colorless-matters cards has increased significantly with this release!

Energy

Guide of Souls Tune the Narrative Reiterating Bolt

Energy is an intriguing mechanic. While on some levels it’s parasitic, a good number of energy cards function great absent any other energy producers. If you’re into Strangle, then Galvanic Discharge is really just an upgrade, and Chthonian Nightmare can do all kinds of busted stuff without any help from cards like Izzet Generatorium!

Galvanic Discharge Chthonian Nightmare Izzet Generatorium

I have a general aversion to using standalone energy cards in environments without robust support, given the aesthetic questions and assumptions they invite, but there are certainly intriguing options here, and there is also far more support for an environment that really pushes energy as well.

Now let’s get to my Top 10 most broadly Cubeable cards from Modern Horizons 3!

10. Emperor of Bones

Emperor of Bones

Emperor of Bones is a funky spin on Shallow Grave that invites more interaction from the opponent by being a creature, while also increasing the range of options as the Reanimator player by giving you more early game options that don’t involve just shoving on the combo. It also serves as a way to disrupt your opponent’s graveyard, though it’s not all that impressive in this role.

What is particularly intriguing about Emperor of Bones is that the recursion ability triggers any time any +1/+1 counters are placed on it. This could lead into some really awesome turns with stuff like Snakeskin Veil. I think Emperor of Bones is kind of medium as compared to fully powered Reanimator options for high-powered environments, but these interactions make the card very exciting for environments like Proliferate Cube.

9. Birthing Ritual

Birthing Ritual

I’ve seen many failed attempts at making Birthing Pod work in Cube, and while the ceiling on Birthing Ritual is much lower, the problem with Birthing Pod in Draft has always been the floor. You just have to go out of your way to fill out parts of your curve that aren’t always desirable, and then sometimes you just draw the weak links in your Pod chains. Birthing Ritual changes all of that.

The way that Birthing Ritual lets you look without sacrificing and also lets you select a range of mana values means that Birthing Ritual will just be strong in a deck full of creatures with enters abilities. I’d love to trade my Kitchen Finks up for a Venser, Shaper Savant, and I’d be pretty thrilled to hit a Phantasmal Image there as well!

Birthing Ritual seems to me to fit best in middle-of-the-road power levels. It’ll be slow and not all that exciting when you could just be playing Natural Order, but it’ll be great in environments that are more about creatures attacking and blocking and triggering enters abilities.

8. Warren Soultrader

Warren Soultrader

My only reservation about Warren Soultrader is that it’s completely busted. A three-mana 3/3 is just a solid body, which doesn’t always hold true about role-players in Sacrifice decks. Zombie, Goblin, and Wizard are all potentially relevant creature types as well!

The most significant aspect of the card is that Zombie type, though, as it opens up a game-winning combo in conjunction with Gravecrawler and any Blood Artist effect. This interaction makes Warren Soultrader a staple for the highest-power environments that still support Sacrifice themes, while likely being excessive for a lot of lower-power environments. A shoo-in for Ryan Saxe’s Classic Cube if I’ve ever seen one.

7. Springheart Nantuko

Springheart Nantuko

Springheart Nantuko is a little weird to read, but quite powerful once you get what it does. Whether it’s a creature or Aura, it will always default to making a 1/1 Insect on landfall, but if it’s bestowed, you can pay 1G to make a copy of the creature it’s enchanting instead. So it’s solid just to cast this as a two-mana 1/1, but can get really out of hand if you’re able to bestow it onto something beefy!

One interaction that has been getting a lot of buzz is enchanting a forest animated by Nissa, Who Shakes the World. When you create copies of that Forest, you will be able to keep making Forest tokens and tapping them to make more Forests an arbitrarily large number of times. The token copies won’t be creatures, but they will stick around to generate berserk quantities of mana the following turn!

This is also among the better cards to pair with Skullclamp and Gaea’s Cradle, making a solid argument for inclusion in high-power Cubes. Making a bunch of tokens, especially the copy tokens when you bestow, is fun for lower-powered environments as well. I expect to see this card in a lot of Cubes.

6. Ajani, Nacatl Pariah

Ajani, Nacatl Pariah Ajani, Nacatl Avenger

I’ve written a bit about Ajani and this new cycle of creatures that transform into planeswalkers already, and it’s not surprising to me that entries from this cycle are among the most Cubeable cards in Modern Horizons 3. Any ability that allows you to immediately sacrifice another Cat will make Ajani a force to be reckoned with, and it’s a totally serviceable creature to blink as well!

I see Ajani as a serviceable but replaceable threat for environments like Vintage Cube where you would generally rather have something that offers disruption or that packs more of an immediate wallop, and a great option for Cubes at mid to high power levels just below that. I’ll be picking up a copy for the original Twobert for sure.

5. Tamiyo, Inquisitive Student

Tamiyo, Inquisitive Student Tamiyo, Seasoned Scholar

I’ve also touched on Tamiyo a bit already, and I remain big on the card! You just get so much for one mana here, and despite the vulnerabilities of attaching your card draw to a creature, this card can hang all the way to Vintage Cube, with the ability to buyback Time Walk once Tamiyo transforms being an absolute boon as the card scales to the highest-power environments.

The creature side generates card advantage by attacking and is an okay blocker, and once you transform Tamiyo, she does an arguably better job at protecting your life total while also threatening to generate some serious value. I’ll be trying this one out in the Tempo Twobert, and I expect it to be awesome in Cubes of many stripes!

4. Phelia, Exuberant Shepherd

Phelia, Exuberant Shepherd

Where Ajani is an okay target to blink, Phelia is a massive addition to any Cube sporting a blink theme, and just a very strong standalone card. Add it to the list of two-mana threats that are awesome to play alongside Reprieve, and we’re just getting started.

Phelia blinks your own things for value, blinks away blockers, and grows over time if that’s what the situation calls for. Having to attack is technically a drawback to getting Phelia going, but on a two-mana threat with flash, let’s be real, this card is very pushed and powerful. Unlike Ajani, Phelia is a lock for my Vintage Cube, and does a lot more to push synergies rather than merely supplying rate. Not to mention that Dogs >>>>> Cats.

3. Psychic Frog

Psychic Frog

My immediate impression of Psychic Frog was that it would be an awesome update for Spooky Cube, but now I am somewhat concerned that the card is too strong for that environment, near fully outclassing Psychatog, and is actually a Vintage Cube monster.

Part of the story here is that there is a pretty massive gap from Baleful Strix to the second-best Dimir card for most environments. But I’m not actually sure that Psychic Frog isn’t stronger than Baleful Strix. Putting +1/+1 counters on the Frog insulates it against some removal while making it a nightmare to block, and there’s some evasion tacked on as well. Shadowmage Infiltrator isn’t worth much these days, but a two-mana version of that effect is actually an unreal power-up.

Now add that the card is a discard outlet for Reanimator, and you can at least get to Psychic Frog being a Vintage Cube staple. Emperor of Bones is okay in those decks, whereas Psychic Frog actually ranks among the more desirable Turn 2 plays. Psychic Frog has a natural home in the most powerful environments, and is plenty solid as a standalone card for lower-power Cubes as well. My current impression is that Psychic Frog is more likely to be too strong for a given Cube than too weak.

2. Witch Enchanter

Witch Enchanter Witch-Blessed Meadow

There are a handful of excellent cards in this cycle, and while I do want to shout out Sink into Stupor and Fell the Profane for being quite powerful cards that I also expect to see in a lot of Cubes and Sundering Eruption as a unique effect that is far more Cubeable when it comes on a land, Witch Enchanter takes the cake as the most appealing design in this space for my money.

Sink into Stupor Fell the Profane Sundering Eruption

A Disenchant effect is fully maindeckable in Vintage Cube, but can be hit-or-miss in other environments. Tacking this effect onto a card that can just be a land leaves no question whether you should maindeck it, and this card is incredibly powerful. Four mana is a bit steep for Vintage Cube, but again, you just play it over a land, and you also get the upside of sometimes pitching to Chrome Mox or Solitude. Not to mention the wombo-combo of playing it as a land and then Flickerwisping it into a creature!

Almost any Cube that is on the fence about featuring some Disenchant effects should reach for Witch Enchanter, and frankly, that’s a lot of Cubes.

1. Marionette Apprentice

Marionette Apprentice

And finally, we come to my pick for the most Cubeable card in Modern Horizons 3! There are many more powerful cards in this set, some appearing on this list, but when it comes to broad appeal, it’s hard to compete with Marionette Apprentice! Blood Artist is pretty cleanly more appealing than Zulaport Cutthroat for checking for creatures controlled by any player, but Marionette Apprentice clocking in as either a 2/3 or bringing a friend to the battlefield makes it a lock for any Cube interested in Blood Artist.

There’s not really merit to discussing which card is actually more powerful because you’ll just play both, but there’s some real competition here, which says a lot. I think it’s fair to say that Cubes that have less going on with Sacrifice themes but that support any semblance of black aggressive decks are more interested in Marionette Apprentice than Blood Artist at the very least, not to mention the artifact synergies.

Marionette Apprentice is a clear case of a card with massive Cube appeal, and is the card that I personally need the most copies of from this set. It won’t cut it for most Vintage Cubes, as Sacrifice themes can’t quite hang there, but who knows, maybe Warren Soultrader totally changes that equation! At lower power levels, though, it’s a staple from Peasant Cube on up.

Next Stop, Commander!

Modern Horizons 3 is full of Cube goodies, and the cards that I have already picked up and still need to pick up go well beyond this list. But wait, there’s more! Check back next week for my Top 10 list from Modern Horizons 3 Commander!

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