Cube play in my standard unpowered cube is starting to feel the most like booster limited as it ever has. I am less and less picking cards for curve or synergy reasons and am increasingly picking directly on power level. Pick the cards that win games, pick the bombs. This may seem like a good or a bad thing based upon what it is you look for in a format. There are certainly some good reasons behind why I am noticing this change but there are equally some bad reasons too. A big part of it is that there are enough good cheaper support cards at the lower costs, your mana dorks, card quality spells, disruption, etc. that you do not need to put such a high priority on them. They are no longer the bottleneck to having a good deck. That depth of support is great for cube.
Perhaps a less appealing cause is the sheer effectiveness of the bombs themselves. Things that close games do so much more consistently and quickly than ever before. It means that there is a lot less game time once the bombs land before the game ends giving a less interactive feel. It also used to feel like you won with your top end alongside your other cards, now it feels a lot more like your threats can just take the game home solo.
The game quality is still high but it can all end a little abruptly for my liking. The thing I am finding I like least about this shift is that games are feeling a lot more samey. The bomb cards are always picked and played and then they tend to be the cards winning the games. This means a small pool of cards feels like they account for most of the outcomes. Quirky and interesting cards are really failing to get a look in. Cards I want to see in play just don't get those opportunities like they used to. The result of this is that I am experimenting a lot more with alternate cubes and ways of playing. Cube felt like it had endless longevity when support cards were the bottleneck. I never tired of casting Preordain or Llanowar Elf on turn one. It turns out people do tire of winning and losing with the same cards.
Playing less cube is one way to tackle the longevity issues that power creep in threats has caused. Playing different types of cube is another, things like combo cubes, synergy/modular cubes, themed cubes, pauper cubes, etc. etc. A perhaps more simply solution is to cut/ban some of these offending articles. We had been playing with a couple of bans per player at the start of events for a while now but even that isn't enough to handle all the problematic cards. As such I have been strongly considering going to town on bans and significantly lowering the power level of my cube. I have already done this to a certain extent with the removal of Fractured Identity, True-Name Nemesis, and Ashiok Nightmare Weaver. These were cards that were really oppressive in cube and no fun at all to play into. Being either multiplayer design cards or ones tuned for 60 card lists not 40 a ban didn't feel like it went against my philosophy of trying to run the most powerful cards. As a cube curator I may now have to move away from that premise and hold on to simply trying to make the most fun to play format. The reason I tend to play unpowered cube is for the quality and diversity of games however the unpowered and powered cubes I run feel more similar than ever before with a scarily high degree overlap in pick order.
A significant proportion of the cards on my watch list are from Modern Horizons or Commander product and so I could simply forgo those sets in cube but there are loads of cards I love from those sets that add a lot to the format and so while it is an easy to understand fix I would prefer a more complicated one that had less in the way of drawbacks. It also doesn't protect against the power creep we are seeing in standard product. The cards on my watchlist not from Modern Horizons or Commander are mostly new cards. If they keep printing sets like they have been we will be back where we are now in a few years even without Commander and MH cards.
Power creep is dangerous in general but it turns out that it is particularly irksome in cube when on the kinds of cards that close out games. I think I liked the level of power we had in threats before The Scarab God and Glorybringer. Here is a list of the cards in my cube that are wearing a bit thin already due to how much visibility and impact they have.
Urza, Lord High Artificer
Yawgmoth, Thrann Physician
Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer
Laelia, the Blade Reforged
Emissary of Grudges
Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider
The Scarab God
Grist, the Hunger Tide
Omnath, Locus of Creation
This list is not hard and fast by any means. There are some cards that are pretty tedious not on this list. There are also plenty of non-threat cards that and comparably back breaking and some supporting cards that are just so good and rounded you see them all the time. These share some of the same issues of making games abrupt or samey as the oppressive threats. Cards such as;
Winds of Abandon
Teferi, Time Raveler