Happy Wednesday, gamers! I hope you like digital Cubes, because they’ll be popping off for the next five weeks. This week we’ll be experiencing the third run of Carmen Handy’s Proliferate Cube, and I’m delighted to see its return.
It’s been a little over a year since we last saw Proliferate Cube (where does the time go?) and I imagine some players will be drafting the Cube for the first time this week. As the name suggests, this Cube is all about putting counters on things, often with the intention of then putting even more counters on those things. There are themes beyond just those based on counters, and not every counter is the sort that you’ll care to or be able to increment, but most of the decks and games with Proliferate Cube involve doing so.
For a deeper look at the history of the Cube, I’d recommend my article on the Cube’s debut and subsequent article on the Cube’s second run. You can find the current list on Cube Cobra here.
The last run of Proliferate Cube was before Modern Horizons 2, and that set in addition to a full year of Magic releases otherwise makes today’s update quite substantial. I’ve typed out the entire change log, though the impact of the individual card changes vary significantly. The broad notes are that the blink theme has been toned down some with the removal of disruptive creatures like Man-o’-War, creature-based artifact decks have gotten a huge boost, and that the Cube has shifted slightly to support more three- or more-color decks.
With those broad notes in mind, let’s take a look at the Cube by color, and talk about the most significant additions for the purpose of drafting successful decks.
White has performed very well in Proliferate Cube to this point, and shows no sign of stopping with this update. We see both additional support for artifact decks in white and a handful of generically powerful cards. Intrepid Adversary and Lion Sash are plainly Cube staples, and I see no reason that they won’t be powerful picks here. Elspeth, Resplendent is a little expensive for most Cubes, but Proliferate Cube tends to generate games with pretty bogged down battlefields, and a five-mana planeswalker that helps your creatures win in combat is quite significant in that sort of situation.
I’m pretty big on the artifact aggro deck with this update, and while Esper Sentinel is kind of whatever beyond having the text “is artifact” in this Cube, I fully expect Michiko’s Reign of Truth to deliver serious beatdowns. Oswald Fiddlebender is more of an oddball, and not one that I would pick nearly as highly. Oswald will be powerful alongside a handful of creatures with modular, but is a pretty slow card that doesn’t hit very hard compared to other artifact support cards.
Prismatic Ending is the other individual card that I believe is worth calling out. Proliferate Cube has a lot of powerful permanents, many of them have low mana values, and not all of them are creatures. Being able to hit cards like The Ozolith is a significant upside to have on your answer to Student of Warfare.
Blue got a serious facelift with the previous update to fully add the blink theme, and in this update that theme is being dialed back. Bounce effects are pretty brutal when you spend turns putting counters on your creatures, so I like this shift away from these effects in the interest of making the cool thing the good thing.
In terms of abstractly powerful individual cards, we see newly minted Ledger Shredder and The Reality Chip entering the fray. Normally I’d include Murktide Regent in this list, though I’m colder on the card here than I normally am. Proliferate Cube just doesn’t have the support in the “generically powerful instant and sorcery” department that you’d want for that sort of card. As a rule, I like the artifacts-matter cards in blue quite a lot better than Murktide Regent here.
I’m most excited to see Kappa Cannoneer make its digital Cube debut. Thought Monitor will also be a high pick for artifact decks, and any way to draw extra cards or to generate more artifacts over time will make closing games with Kappa Cannoneer trivial. I’m keeping a close eye on Animation Module for this run.
There’s little to say about black in this update. Overwhelmingly, it’s difficult to distinguish the cards coming in from those going out. One might think that Thoughtseize is the most significant cut, though with the gameplay in this Cube being so much about controlling the battlefield, Heartless Act is likely more significant. It does make sense, though, because there are plenty of creatures that won’t die to simply losing three counters.
I’m a fan of Profane Tutor in combo decks, though I’ve been disappointed by the card in Cubes that involve a lot of fair play on the battlefield. Bone Shards and Flay Essence are fine removal spells, and Okiba Reckoner Raid is a fine one-drop, but there’s just not much to write home about here. Yawgmoth, Thran Physician does remain the most powerful individual card in the Cube though, so the previous incentives to draft black are still there.
Red actually gets a lot of significant upgrades here. Whether we’re talking about generically powerful cards or support for the artifact decks, there’s a lot for red mages to like: beatdown cards like Kumano Faces Kakkazan and Rabbit Battery, value cards like Bloodthirsty Adversary and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, and even some generically powerful removal in Unholy Heat!
Dragonspark Reactor is the only new red card that I would completely avoid playing, and Glittering Stockpile is likely more cool than good, but everything else in this update is aces. Red did realistically need some help, but I’m optimistic that it can be a more consistently successful color now.
I’m going to miss Forgotten Ancient, and Emergent Sequence is quite strong, but most everything else being cut from the green column was either weak or a poor fit for the Cube. The cards being added aren’t overly impressive on balance, but they have better stats, so it’s hard to argue that this is an improvement for green.
Ochre Jelly plus Hardened Scales is kind of a combo. I mean, not really, but that’s a good thing to do sometimes, I suppose. The big get here for green is Paradox Zone. A constant stream of giant tokens will close the game in short order, as long as you can avoid dying first. Paradox Zone is among the most powerful win conditions in the Cube as far as individual cards go.
Most of the previous most powerful gold cards have remained in the Cube, except for Valki, God of Lies. I’m not surprising to see the card on the outs, given how miserable the gameplay of Tibalt is. I don’t generally buy into three-color cards for Cubes that don’t have some kind of color gimmick, so I’ll be avoiding most of those. Here’s my list of first-pickable gold cards from among the new additions:
That’s actually a pretty long list! I found myself playing three colors a decent amount of the time in this Cube as things were, so I’m less afraid of difficult casting costs and more unconvinced on power level of cards that didn’t make my short list. I could see being wrong about Falco Spara, but at a minimum the card seems dramatically worse than The Reality Chip. Also, I’d note that Zabaz is on my list not as a Boros card, but as a colorless card that you’ll want in any aggressive artifact deck. First-pickable is probably an overstatement regarding Zabaz, but the card is highly desirable all the same.
Not a lot to see here. I like Monoskelion and I like Iron Apprentice. Mostly we see some funky cards that require a little more work or that are a little inefficient being cut for cards that are more playable on average. For the artifact decks in this Cube or any other, their success is as dependent on getting a high volume of cheap artifacts as it is on finding a good clip of the high impact ones.
I couldn’t have told you what any of the cards from that Kaldheim cycle did, and now I will never have to. Y’all know that I like Thriving lands more than Triomes, but Triomes are more powerful and make sense with the addition of more three-color cards. For the most part I’ll be looking to draft untapped lands over Triomes, but they will make more greedy decks function more consistently, and I’m always happy to have the appropriate one for three-color decks.
Power Depot is generally quite weak, but Urza’s Saga is totally busted. It’s among the best Pack 1, Pick 1s in the Cube, and you’ll notice a huge difference between artifact decks that have Urza’s Saga and those that don’t. Amusingly, proliferating your opponent’s Urza’s Saga can be a good way to punish your opponent for playing the card, but more often than not I would expect the card to be excellent here.
Proliferate Cube is among my favorite Cubes in the Spotlight Series, and I’m happy to see Carmen Handy’s design get some time in the sun again. I certainly intend to get a lot of drafts in this week. Then next week we’re back to Vintage Cube for a full month! I doubt that I’ll be making any kind of trophy leader push again any time soon, but I’m looking forward to some joyful drafting.