Happy Wednesday, gamers! After a week of demonstrating the absurdity of Sublime Epiphany and how broken extra-turn effects are in Pioneer Cube, it’s time to revisit the design of a good friend of mine. That’s right, Emma Handy’s Proliferate Cube is returning to Magic Online (MTGO) and I’m pretty thrilled to battle with this one again.
The Proliferate Cube made its first appearance on MTGO last October, and you can find my writeup on the original list above. My position upon reviewing the Cube list was that it was best to try to draft proactive decks and to play to the battlefield in the Cube, and that held true in my experience drafting it.
The initial run was a bit before Emma started her time on the Play Design team, so she was able to show the Cube off on her stream back then. I had the pleasure of making a guest appearance on her stream with the highlight being us posting a 3-0 draft with a 54-card deck. I had quite a lot of fun with this Cube last time around.
A few sets have dropped between now and then, and Emma has made some updates to the Cube. You can find her writeup on the current state of the Cube here. I’ve ported the current Cube list over to Cube Cobra, and I’ve compared the old list to the new one to determine what all of the updates were to go over how every color looks in the new list as compared to the old. Let’s dig in!
A lot of the updates for this run involve trimming cards that were on the weak or narrow side as well as cards that didn’t play strongly to the themes of the Cube. Some of the new inclusions are more powerful and/or thematic cards to broadly work with the broad theme of proliferating, and others are there to support the new blink theme, which we see at work here.
It’s important to note that blinking your opponent’s things will matter more here than it does in a lot of Cubes, given that resetting the +1/+1 counters on a given creature will often set your opponent back significantly. Ephemerate is a solid card for dodging removal and otherwise generating value with enters-the-battlefield effects, but I’m actually looking at Flickerwisp to be a stronger contender in this environment for the ability to reset or even outright kill a lot of the creatures in the Cube that rely on counters to be relevant.
I slightly overstated white’s position in this Cube when I first reviewed it, suggesting that it might be the most powerful color, but it’s definitely a contender and got some slight upgrades here. None of the white cards being added to the Cube expand my list of white cards that I’d be thrilled to first pick, though, so take that as you will.
The upgrades to blue are far more dramatic. A long list of stinkers are leaving the Cube and the updates include cards that play well with the blink theme as well as some generically powerful cards. Add Venser, Shaper Savant and Tezzeret the Seeker to my list of blue cards that I’d happily first-pick. Venser is just awesome in any Cube and all of the reasons I like Flickerwisp apply, except Venser also has flash. I’ll also note here that Simic Manipulator should have been on my initial list of first-pickables. I let the creature’s fragility deceive me, but they don’t really make bad Control Magics.
Tezzeret the Seeker is one of my favorite cards for powerful Cube environments, and I’m happy to see it here. Whether he shows up in decks that snag a few mana rocks or the aggressive artifact decks, I believe he’ll perform admirably. I’m particularly excited to engineer situations where I can cast Tezzeret, proliferate immediately, and win that turn.
The blue blink deck that Emma added for this iteration offers a lot of cards that are solid as a baseline that will make for really powerful decks when they come together. The color blue overperformed for me (as it often does) previously, and I expect to draft blue a lot in this iteration.
I thought Sly Requisitioner was kind of a heater, but alas. The rest of the cuts from black were demonstrably weak, so these are generally nuts-and-bolts upgrades. Armix definitely pulls its weight as a three-drop, though I don’t expect Infernal Pet to make too many decks.
The big story here is Living Death. I basically never play this card in Vintage Cube because it’s just a lot worse than Reanimate, partly because you don’t have a lot of control over what the opponent has in their graveyard. In Proliferate Cube you shouldn’t expect many of your opponents to be able to fill their graveyards super-effectively. As such, Living Death will be a game-ender for the sacrifice decks. You just sacrifice all of your stuff for value, and then kill all of their creatures and get yours back! You’ll have to take care not to play too much removal alongside Living Death so that you can actually take full advantage of the card, but it’s easily first-pickable and is among the most powerful cards in the Cube.
On that note, I wasn’t sure whether Yawgmoth, Thran Physician would survive curation or not. I previously claimed that Yawgmoth would be my overall Pack 1, Pick 1 in Proliferate Cube and I didn’t see anybody lose any games with the card last time, so that’s not about to change. It does have the namesake keyword on the card, so I do see the value in allowing Yawgmoth to reign supreme.
Here we see more cards that technically played to the theme but weren’t very good or exciting getting the axe in favor of more stuff that gets on base. Most of the new red cards are replacement-level, but I am actively excited to try casting Wheel of Misfortune and I find Dockside Extortionist intriguing.
Dockside Extortionist is among the best red cards in Commander, and while Proliferate Cube is pretty different from Commander, the card still shows promise here. The artifact theme is pretty heavy and the addition of all ten Talismans means you’re likely to get a few Treasures off your Extortionist. You can’t really treat the card like a two-drop, and you need something to take advantage of the mana boost, but in the right circumstances the card is totally game-breaking. I’m going to consider it a sideboard card while I get a feel for it and as such won’t take it super-highly, but I’m willing to believe that the card is just bonkers.
I didn’t have a ton of success with red the first time around, though it’s definitely worth drafting if you open up on the very best red cards. Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin was easily the most impressive red card for me previously, and I expect that to carry forward. The red decks have good bones, but I’ll generally be leaving them to the rest of the table.
Green did in fact end up generally being the best color in the Cube for me last time, with the exception being that Yawgmoth isn’t a green card. There’s not much of consequence happening in the updates to green, though Emergent Sequence adds another good piece of mana acceleration. I’ve made my position on the power of “mana and stuff” clear by now, and such decks gained a lot in this Cube with the addition of the Talismans.
Green just has most of the best counter-adding, counter-iterating, and counter-doubling stuff. With the Cube largely being about playing for position with creatures, green’s natural size advantage on that front matters a lot, too. People passed Cytoplast Root-Kin too much last time. Don’t repeat their mistakes.
This is partly based on my process being more refined over time, but I neglected to do a write-up on the gold section of the Cube last time. This may have been partly because the gold cards in Proliferate Cube are on average less grabbing than the flagship mono-color and artifact cards, but I’ll admit that my initial article looks a little incomplete absent this information. Here’s my list of first-pickable gold cards in Proliferate Cube:
Unsurprisingly, the list is mostly cards that are very good at generating counters, though there is one exception. I believe that Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor gains a lot from the additional mana acceleration in this update, and even Valki is pretty strong if you’re expecting players to mostly draft creature decks.
I do want to highlight Soulherder here, because if you haven’t played it in an unpowered Cube, then you might not realize how powerful it is. Just gaining +1/+1 counters every turn should get your attention in this Cube, and there are tons of creatures with powerful enters-the-battlefield abilities to blink. I’ve already sung the praises of Flickerwisp and Venser, and the well runs much deeper than that. Soulherder is very likely one of the top five cards in the Cube.
The added support for blink decks is significant, though I believe that the changes to the artifact section are the most impactful part of the updates for this run. A bunch of the dregs for the artifact decks are being replaced by premium mana acceleration. You can largely ignore Campus Guide and Scorn Effigy, but the Talismans and Replicating Ring add a lot of support to midrange, controlling, and big mana decks.
If you’re newer to Cube draft you might think that I’m being dramatic, but adding two-mana rocks to Cubes increases the value of cards that cost four or more mana and causes all of the other two-mana cards to fall under much harsher scrutiny. I’m much more optimistic about living the Marionette Master dream this time around, and don’t think I could convince myself to register a Sunhome Stalwart.
The Cube is still very heavy on creatures, and most games will revolve around creatures. There will just be more of an emphasis on value and less on combat with the additional fast mana. The Cube is 600 cards, so it’s not like everybody will get to draft a ramp deck, but I expect many of the best-performing decks to be of this nature.
I also didn’t touch on lands as a category last time, and I feel very similarly about them as I do about gold cards in this Cube. I want to find the spells that I want to cast first and figure out the lands later. Most of the cards that I’m valuing highly are mono-color or colorless ramp, so I care more about finding the right lands than having a lot of them.
With creature lands, filter lands, shocks, duals, fetches, Thriving lands, and Vivid lands, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to fix your mana. It’s worth going out of your way to make Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice castable. For the most part I stuck to two-color decks last time, but the Talismans will make it easy to play three or more.
I generally like the changes that Emma has made to the Cube, and strongly agree with the philosophy of cutting the cards that just don’t show up in decks over time to increase the playable count and power level of the Cube. I’m cautiously optimistic about the addition of the Talismans, but I am at least excited to try out the big mana strategies the changes open up.