Howdy, gamers! Last week I highlighted my top 10 Cubeable cards from The Lost Caverns of Ixalan, and today I want to show some love to the set’s corresponding supplemental products. It’s not often that we see more than one or two noteworthy cards for Cube in the Commander decks paired with Standard releases, but The Lost Caverns of Ixalan Commander decks as well as the Jurassic World Collection include a lot of cards that are catching my eye. Today I’ll go over the ten cards from these releases that strike me as most compelling for the world of Cube.
Before we get into that, let’s talk about the themes of these products. The four Commander decks each highlight one of the big Ixalan creature types: Pirates, Vampires, Merfolk, and Dinosaurs. The Jurassic World Collection offers a little more love specifically to Dinosaurs. Each deck is worth a look if you want to support any of these creature types in your Cube, and I’d like to highlight a few cards from each before getting to my more broad-strokes Top 10.
The Pirates-matter cards are the least exciting of the lot, but Pirates also have pretty good support as a relevant creature type as is. Skeleton Crew is a rad card, though it’s more noteworthy for the graveyard shenanigans it enables than as a Pirate lord. Gemcutter Buccaneer comes at a rate that makes it clear that the card was designed specifically only to see Commander play. Costing four mana, being a 1/3, making tapped Treasures – there’s a lot here that is on the weak side until we start playing with 100 cards and three opponents.
Admiral Brass, Unsinkable is a cool payoff that specifically works with Pirates. It can outperform a card like The Scarab God in the right environments while being weaker without the proper infrastructure. If you’re interested in an Ixalan-plane Cube, this card at least looks like a staple to me.
The Vampire deck stands out to me as the most relevant to supporting its corresponding type in a Cube, with meaningful support up and down the mana curve and notably offering some cheap white Vampires, which we really only see on Ixalan. Charismatic Conqueror isn’t all that appealing if you’re not supporting Vampires as a relevant creature type, but it’s a big deal if you are. I would absolutely feature Master of Dark Rites in any Cube trying to support Vampires at higher power levels.
Order of Sacred Dusk is the sort of card that ends games almost immediately when properly supported, and is another immediate staple for Cubes looking to give Vampires a shot in the arm. Beyond that, there’s a good amount of curve filler with relevant text in cards like Dusk Legion Sergeant, Elenda’s Hierophant, and Redemption Choir.
My relationship with Vampires in Cube has been hot and cold, and the Blood Rite deck definitely has me interested in revisiting them.
Explorers of the Deep
Merfolk have more historical support than the other big creature types in Ixalan, though admittedly the Explorers of the Deep deck doesn’t offer much more for the world of Cube. There are a couple of nice green Merfolk, though I’d like to have seen a few more. Mist Dancer offers a nice curve-topper, and I think Singer of Swift Rivers is a solid combat trick even if you’re not supporting Merfolk, but there’s not a ton else going on here.
Dinosaurs are perhaps the toughest creature type of the lot to support in Cube for their generally high mana values, but some cards here help move the needle. Sunfrill Imitator as a cheap-ish Dino that can make big attacks as you unleash your larger Dinosaurs is a nice pairing with Belligerent Yearling to get these decks a little lower to the ground. I could never love Wrathful Raptors as much as I love Charging Monstrosaur, but it does strike me as a great tool for pushing damage in a Dinosaur deck.
I would argue that the Jurassic World Collection is much higher-impact in terms of enabling powerful Dinosaur decks.
The big gets here are Hunting Velociraptor and Savage Order. These cards are not remotely as powerful as the best ways in all Magic to cheat creatures onto the battlefield, but it’s not difficult to conceive of an environment where these are among the more powerful cards. At the very least, Hunting Velociraptor is not a creature that you’ll want to leave unblocked. Savage Order can’t find Craterhoof Behemoth, but in something like an Ixalan Cube, it can offer a way to make Gishath, Sun’s Avatar and Zacama, Primal Calamity far more relevant. These cards are quite niche, but they are awesome in that niche.
And now it’s time to talk about some cards with broader appeal. Let’s count down my Top 10 Cubeable cards from these releases for the wide world of Cube!
10. The Indomitable
It’s rare to see aggressive blue decks properly set up for success in Cube, but there are some boxes that you’ll want to check to make them work that The Indomitable helps with. Cards like Bident of Thassa (or Coastal Piracy, if you want to go there) go a long way in terms of making cards like Flying Men playable, and The Indomitable has the most relevant additional text on this sort of card that we’ve ever seen. A 6/6 trampling Vehicle is an effective tool for closing games!
The line about casting The Indomitable from your graveyard is mostly flavor text, and this card isn’t so powerful that you’ll suddenly see a massive surge in aggressive blue decks in Cube, but it does move the needle, and I would expect to see it in any Cube supporting Pirates as a creature type as well.
9. Compy Swarm
I will say that Compy Swarm suffers a lot for being green, given that Sacrifice themes don’t always go into green, so your Golgari deck will more often rely on killing your opponent’s creatures to double your Compy Swarms. At three mana, it’s a little tough to expect to trigger Compy Swarm the turn you cast it without having some ability to reliably bin your own creatures. A mono-black or two-mana version of this card would be much more desirable, but there are definitely some Young Wolf enjoyers out there who will be able to make good use of the card as is.
8. Dino DNA
Dino DNA can only be activated at sorcery speed and can only target creature cards, so it’s not the most effective graveyard hate. That’s part of why I like it. The more effective a card is as a hate card, the less enjoyable the play experience is for me in Cube. I’ll resist going on the full rant, but part of the beauty of Cube is that if something is performing so well that you would want a hate card, you can really easily remove the problematic cards instead of making the gameplay worse.
Anyway, Dino DNA makes Colossal Dreadmaw tokens, and that’s frankly just awesome. This is a nice tool for attempts at fair Urza’s Saga packages and is a huge breaker for midrange mirrors. This is the sort of silly and fun card that I’m always delighted to see in a Cube, and it has enough uses that I would be happy to see it in a range of different Cubes.
7. Indoraptor, the Perfect Hybrid
The mana cost on Indoraptor, the Perfect Hybrid makes it a bit weird to fit into a Cube, but it’s reasonable to just slot it in as a Gruul or Rakdos card, and some Cubes just have space for gold oddballs. The card is heavily aggressively slanted, which can work for either guild, depending on how your Cube is constructed. The ideal home for this card definitely has an aggressive slant to green, though, just to maximize its potential playability.
Bloodthirst X isn’t messing around in terms of scaling this threat into the late-game, and the enrage ability is decent upside that on occasion will give your opponent two bad choices. The most important aspect of the card is that a three-mana 3/1 with menace is a decent rate on its own, which makes it easier for this card to find a home than Compy Swarm.
6. Indominus Rex, Alpha
Another weird mana cost and another awesome Dinosaur, Indominus Rex, Alpha is an unquestionably cool card. As a longtime Soulflayer fan, I haven’t ever had the motivation to jump through the hoops to make it or similar cards work in Cube, and Indominus Rex is just easy mode in terms of offering that sort of play experience.
A giant monster isn’t out of place in Golgari, and Simic slots can be difficult to round out in a lot of Cubes, so I see a lot of potential for this card to show up. Even if you’re not giving it a lot of keywords, you can still use Indominus Rex to cycle weaker creatures that you drew past their window of relevance, like a topdecked Llanowar Elves or a maindeck Reclamation Sage that doesn’t have any targets.
5. Swooping Pteranodon
Swooping Pteranodon is kind of a chore to read, with it calling out flying Dinosaurs and making lands damage creatures, but it’s easy enough to understand once you’ve done your homework. It’s a Threaten effect with flying and haste that has the option to kill a smaller creature.
Unfortunately the card is not templated in a way to go infinite with Splinter Twin, but it’s a solid body for an honest Boros beatdown deck. It’s worth noting that, while the card doesn’t go infinite with copy effects, it does at least scale in a pretty messed-up way with Clone effects, which each subsequent Swooping Pteranodon giving you an additional Threaten by virtue of being a flying Dino itself. It shouldn’t take too much of that sort of thing to end a game, but it could lead to some sweet stories.
4. Illustrious Wanderglyph
Tendershoot Dryad, er… Illustrious Wanderglyph has a familiar text box, and while it might be one that shows up often in Cube, it is a body that can have very high impact when it does. Making a token on each upkeep means you’ll generally at least get the one on your opponent’s turn, and things will snowball very quickly if the card lives.
The big selling point that Illustrious Wanderglyph has over Tendershoot Dryad is that artifact creatures are much easier to come by than Saprolings. On rate, there is enough to show up here in a lot of Cubes, though I would mostly expect this card to show up in those with an artifact theme. In those environments, it will serve as a sort of value-generating card that sometimes just steals games by doing an Overrun impression, which leaves a lot to like.
3. Don’t Move
Delayed triggers can be a bit irritating to track, but Don’t Move is a massive flavor win. Only destroying tapped creatures will leave behind those with vigilance and most everything that entered the battlefield on the previous turn. More importantly, this effect won’t be destroying your own creatures.
It’s difficult to find balance with sweepers, as they have a way of either ending the game on their own or not mattering much at all, with games where they fall somewhere in-between being rarer than either extreme. Don’t Move tacks an extra mana onto Wrath of God, but in exchange offers you an extra turn of protection along with the aforementioned asymmetrical nature of the card. The card strikes me as very much worth trying in Cubes around a Modern or Legacy Cube power level.
2. Spitting Dilophosaurus
Spitting Dilophosaurus is better in aggressive decks than controlling ones for its ability to remove blockers, but it’s still kind of a house in controlling decks! It’s a bit fragile and does rely on attacking to generate value, but many one-toughness creatures have to live in fear of cards like this!
In terms of balance, Spitting Dilophosaurus is probably too weak in Cubes featuring Orcish Bowmasters and has potential to be on the strong side for Cubes of lower power levels, but the card comes at a solid rate and I would expect it to find a comfortable home in a lot of Cubes. Arena Cube and something like Pioneer Cube would be the environments where I would expect this one to really shine. It’s always funny to say that about a card that is printed in a capacity where it’s only legal in older formats, but here we are.
1. Broadside Bombardiers
Finally, we come to the most powerful card in either release. Broadside Bombardiers probably doesn’t read as powerful as it is, but it’s a Vintage Cube-caliber card. Its power level limits the appropriate homes that it can have, but it is meaningful to help red aggressive decks hang in high-power environments.
The 2/2 menace and haste body means that Broadside Bombardiers is unlikely to be blocked the turn you cast it, vital for making a three-mana creature relevant, but it’s the way that the boast ability gets better every time that you read it that puts the card over. Sacrificing creatures or artifacts makes it easy to find fodder, hitting any target is a big deal, and dealing two plus the card’s mana value means you can just cast something expensive and deal a ton of damage to your opponent immediately.
The boast ability doesn’t trigger when you attack; it’s something you can activate for the rest of the turn at instant speed after you’ve declared Broadside Bombardiers as an attacker. This means you can sacrifice a blocked creature, you can let damage resolve and then finish off an opposing blocker post-combat, or you can do something filthy like get in a bunch of damage with a Hellrider and then sacrifice the Hellrider itself for six more damage! Broadside Bombardiers has the makings of a Vintage Cube staple, one I hope to see in the Magic Online (MTGO) Vintage Cube’s next run.
The Lost Caverns of Ixalan and the supplemental product released alongside it feature awesome cards for generically powerful Cubes and those with specific themes. The set hit some great notes to end the year. I do wish that the graveyard stuff hit a lot harder, but I am happy with what we got.