Jeskai Elder - C cube 4/10
I am a big fan of the Looter il-Kor and so I want this to be good despite knowing deep down it won't get the job done most of the time. Having to make contact and not having shadow, or "unblockable" as it basically is, makes this a very different card from the other looters simply because you cannot so reliably assume you will get to use this for card quality. As such you have to start looking at this as a tempo creature with added utility. A 1/2 with prowess is acceptable early game and will make blocking it annoying should you have mana up so as to represent the ability to trigger the prowess. Without a good supply of instants to back up the Elder however he is too insignificant to go in many tempo decks. There are certainly archetypes where he will shine such as Delver of Secrets style decks but outside of these few niche decks he is pretty unplayable. Blue does lack "beefy" two drops that are worth playing and this isn't that but it is closer than most of the other options so might be played as desperate filler for a devotion theme.
The Wedge Lands - A cube 7/10
Lands that can tap for three colours without an ongoing penalty are both strong and rare. Loads of lands come into play tapped and while it is annoying it is a more than acceptable price to pay for such reliable and broad fixing. The Shard Lands see cube play and are a very efficient way to offer a lot of fixing using relatively few card slots. Although a little rarer to get them when you are all three colours, when you do you are very grateful. I don't have them in my main cube because I have plenty of allied colour fixing and vast quantities of other dual lands as well. The Wedge lands however, as they offer two enemy colour fixing options each, go a long way to addressing the imbalance of fixing in my cube between allied colours and enemy ones. They are OK at bolstering a wide array of two colour mana bases and are golden when you are an exact match three colour deck.
Rattleclaw Mystic - C cube 3/10
Two mana ramp effects have to be fairly special in green to get cube play and this I fear is not in that special category. It looks like it does a lot but sadly it doesn't do it in the right way. The Mystic is vulnerable with only one or two toughness. To get the double ramp out of the card you have to spend three mana the turn before. Ramping to six mana on turn four is good but it is hardly explosive for the cube and unexciting compared to even the humble Generator Servant. The colour fixing Mystic offers is OK but not close to Sylvan Caryatid or even Lotus Cobra. The only thing that Mystic does that other green ramp doesn't is offer the ability to fix your green when you have none to begin with which is nice but so slow it is unlikely to sort out your bad situation very often. This is so far from Noble Hierarch it is offensive to have mentioned them in the same context.
Dragon Style Twins - C cube 3/10
This understated card is actually a really serious beater. It hits for six alone and effectively gets double prowess, something fairly easy to trigger a bunch in red. Sadly this is competing the slot with dragons that fly and haste, two things this card would really like! Five or so years ago this would likely have had a good run in the cube, today it probably wont get a look in.
Sultai Charm - A cube 7/10
One of the best three mana charms I have seen. All the abilities work well together and ensure you have a lot of options and control over any given situation. It fulfils several important control roles for cube decks thus offering you slot efficiency while remaining very powerful at the same time. In these colours you have a fairly decent array of broad removal so it won't necessaily be an auto include in any such control deck. Having a good card quality option built into removal is the golden ticket for control, you can go pretty weak on both the card quality side and the removal side and still have a good cube card, as demonstrated by Azorius Charm. Sultai Charm is pretty strong at both ends as well as being far broader. It also offers some graveyard synergy potential as well. While it is clearly a control card I am sure it will see some play in more tempo focused decks simply because it covers so many bases effectively while never being dead weight.
Crackling Doom - B cube 4.5/10
I am not a fan of this card but it does smack a little of Searing Blaze. Three colours and no colourless to ease the casting of this card make it unwieldy and a bit too narrow for my liking. That said it is very potent removal. It can go two for one should they have a low loyalty planeswalker out. It gets around a lot of annoying abilities like hexproof and indestructible. It is instant so as to cover you against pesky man lands and trickert and most importantly of all, unlike all other reasonable Edict effects Crackling Doom will get the scariest threat rather than the least relevant dork. Three is still a lot to pay for some spot removal even in mono coloured decks so I think this will not be commonly played but when it is it will be pretty decent for both agro and control decks.
Temur Ascendency - B cube 5/10
More Fires of Yavimaya style cards, for a bit more colour you get to draw cards along with your haste which not only gives you real punch but also some long game too. Usually the issue with cards like this is that they do nothing without other cards, obviously that is still the case with this as well but it fuels you getting more cards so overall you will wind up with this dead far less often than you would the classic Fires. Typically agro decks don't pack much card advantage and can find then run out of gas too soon if they are running too much support cards like these. Many of the good big agro red and green dorks already have haste however there are also very many that become very unreasonable when you do give them haste such as the Titans or Kalonian Hydra. If you have good mana I can see this being something you would splash for in an appropriate red green beatdown deck. Very narrow but suitably powerful is the verdict.
Narsef, Enlightened Master - C cube 3/10
Six mana for two toughness and only a bit of hexproof to help keep it safe terrifies me about this dork. You get value from just attacking but you need to get to the attack step and ideally survive it a couple of times before I think you have enough value to merit playing this dork. It is a lot of colours and requires you to have a high number of spells you want to cast off the trigger in your deck on top of this. All a bit too steep for me.
Mardu Skullhunter - C cube 2/10
Nice idea but neither large enough nor reliable enough to be replacing anything else you might want in this capacity. If you want them discarding cards you are playing Ravenous Rats, if you want to get generic card advantage on a fair body then you are going down the Dark Confidant and pals route and if you want to just beat down then you have so many better options...
Sarkhan the Dragonspeaker - A cube 8.5/10
Finally we have a well rounded red planeswalker on offer that gets the job done in most decks without much need to build around or be a specific archetype. Koth can be very powerful but is typically quite a linear planeswalker as well as really needing a tempo lead when you make him due to being so poor defensively. The various incarnations of Chandra don't really do enough on the board to make an immediate impact on the game. They are either situational, slow or fiddly and despite all of this they still see a bunch of play, all be it mostly the four mana variants. Dragonspeaker does serious things and he does them right away, either he burns away a pesky creature for a sizeable four damage or he is swinging into one of your planeswalkers or face for four. This makes him one of the best anti planeswalker planeswalkers on offer as well as one of the quickest to close out a game. He is a little weaker to lots of small creatures but can race fairly well even if he can't very effectively kill them off. Typically the Chandra's have the opposite issue, that they are weak to fat dorks but great against weenies which means they complement each other fairly well too. The ultimate is good fun as well, very powerful but certainly not as game winningly broken as some others which has the nice aside of it being cost so that you can get to use it with rather more frequency than most. I place this on a very comparable power level to Gideon Jura, comfortably one of the top ten planeswalkers of all time.
Icefeather Aven - C cube 3/10
Certainly better than Gaea's Skyfolk and Echo Tracer but then neither of those cards come close to getting cube play so I am not sure combining them does much to increase its chances of play. Elegant and versatile and I am sure a brilliant limited card but not a cube card.
Lens of Clarity - C cube 1/10
Needed some way to sacrifice and draw a card for this to be useful, as it is you can't support the card disadvantage for this effect in any deck I can think that would like it. Nice effect and well cost for it but not quite there. A far cry from Divining Top.
Mardu Warshrieker - C cube 3/10
Coal Stoker is very niche and far more a combo card than an agro one in cube. With this being more unreliable I cannot really see it seeing play in the same way however there is a small chance of it being used more as a midgame tempo boost like a slow Burning-Tree Emissary.
Ugin's Nexus - C cube 2/10
A funny way to hose certain strategies but not a reason it should ever be in a cube. As a way of taking extra turns outside of blue it is very interesting but due to needing a sacrifice outlet as well as having no way to really abuse because of its self exiling I cannot see this getting played more than once or twice.
Sorin, Solemn Visitor - A cube (just) 5/10
Comparable to the other Orzhoz Sorin and my gut is that the newer is the slightly weaker. Four loyalty for four mana is decent however his ability to protect himself reduces his loyalty significantly and is a better offensive tool than a defensive one. His plus one ability does nothing at all without you having a board presence already which greatly reduces the options he offers, which is one of the main strengths of planeswalkers. In an agro deck this will be pretty good, it will make racing hard and will pose as a dangerous threat however in a control deck I think this will be slow, underwhelming and overly restricted. Ral Zarek springs most to mind as a similar sort of planeswalker that typically does too little with its plus loyalty effect to be worth it in most decks. It is nice to see a planeswalker that finally makes flying tokens however I think a little too much caution has been used.
End Hostilities - no slot 0/10
With so many other board sweeper options this is a very specific half mast affair. To my mind either play simple four mana wraths or cover all six mana ones. This is too much mana for not a commonly useful effect.
Howl of the Hoard - C cube 3/10
Lots of potential fun and power but realistically it is going to be very hard to set up for maximum efficiency in the (few) decks that might want such an effect. Good old two mana Fork is just going to be better almost all of the time. BDM did suggest the fantastic play of Electromancer getting in for the raid trigger than casting this into triple Manamorphose!
Sidisi, Brood Tyrant - A cube 5.5/10
A mini Grave Titan that can be triggered outside of entering the battlefield or attacking. There are a lot of easy combos you can use to create a total army with this on the spot. You need a fairly creature heavy deck for Sidisi to be worth playing but you certainly don't need to be triggering him externally, so to speak, for him to be very powerful. He also has added value for any graveyard synergy your deck might be packing. This is a whole lot of monster however being three colours and needing around a third of your deck being dorks he is a very narrow card indeed. Comfortably A cube power level however if it will see enough play to retain the spot remains to be seen. This I suspect will be a strong theme from this set.
Sagu Mauler - A cube 6/10
I think this is just a direct replacement for Simic Sky Swallower in my cube. I think it will have overall a lot more playability due to doing more earlier in the game. The Sky Swallower is a better game ender as the flying makes it so hard to match with blockers however there are a wealth of strong game enders you can cheat into play. Aetherling is doing a lot of the work for control decks now that was done by Sky Swallower back in the day. Sagu Mauler represents a serious clock that needs some specific answers. Hexproof is vastly better than shroud and allows you more deck construction freedom. With the morph you can be attacking with it when you get to five mana as well as having more options with it. Certainly losing the flying changes the application of the card somewhat from how Sky Swallower was used but I think you gain much more overall from the hexproof, morph and reduced cost. More decks will be able to play it yet it will still do a similar and often better job in the old decks and roles it was found in.
Anafenza, the Foremost - B cube 4/10
Another card that is above the power curve in cube however on this occasion I don't think it does enough to merit the narrow cost. Doran the Seige Tower is a bigger dork than this for the same cost and has a more interesting effect and it rarely gets any play. The exile aspect of Anafenza is incredibly minor and does little more than hose the odd card and a few archetypes. Random hosing is not fun nor especially skill intensive so puts me off the card a lot. The counters on tapped attackers is strong but a bit clumsy, it has annoying synergy with vigilance for instance. It is not doing something you always will find useful nor is it contained within the card. For this level of restriction on cost you want a powerful unrestricted card which this doesn't quite achieve.
Mardu Ascendancy - B cube 3/10
This is a very powerful card indeed but I think too niche. Not only do you need to be an aggro deck in these three colours but you also really need to be focusing somewhat on working well with it by using haste creatures, battlecry effects and having lots of cheap dorks. As a persistent threat that gains you value you can do better with the more broadly playable Sulphuric Vortex, Bitterblossom or even just an appropriate god. The sac ability is a bonus and will help against some red mass removal or for an epic combat step. It adds to the interest and power of the card but certainly isn't the reason you should be considering playing it and will be blank most of the time.
Utter End - B cube 5/10
So close but ruined by the non-land clause I fear. Instant, exile, no drawbacks, no requirements and a near full range of targets gain this card top marks in almost all the categories for good removal. Then you have a two colour, four mana casting cost and you have to wonder how often you are going to be gaining a tempo advantage with your one for one removal spell? Without the ability to gain card advantage or much tempo you have to really want a total solution to certain things to run this in your deck. It is slot efficient but that is about it. Control decks are those that like really good answers that are broad however one of their main weaknesses is the man-land which this totally fails against and so I cannot see this getting enough play.
Abzan Ascendancy - C cube 3/10
If I wanted to turn my real dorks into tokens I would likely be running Spirit Bonds or things like Xathrid Necromancer. If I want to pump my guys I am running permanent pump like Spear of Heliod, versatile pump like Ajani Goldmane or gamewinning pump like Overrun. The pump is OK but a bit awkward as it does not work smoothly with the other half. This card is too narrow and way too much of a do nothing in many situations to cut it in cube play.
See the Unwritten - B cube 4/10
A kind of Tooth and Nail card that is very very cheap for what it can do but it a little bit unpredictable for my liking in the kinds of decks that flop out big guys. Eight cards is a lot, especially in 40 card decks and will usually find you something pretty good but it will be a lot weaker than you might hope for when it comes to choosing two dorks to flop out. The card is also a little middle of the road. Either I want it cheap like Natural Order or I want it really powerful like Tooth and Nail or Green Sun's Zenith. Even six mana Garruk does a better job in the midrange area than this as it comes with so many other options. A powerful card but one without a home in the cube.
Wingmate Roc - C cube 3/10
More powerful than the Cloudgoat Ranger but the raid requirement makes it too inconsistent. Cards like this you need to be powerful off the top late game when you both have nothing and not only good when you are curving out and maintaining tempo.
Crater's Claws - B cube 4.5/10
I am a big fan of the clause on this kind of Fireball card that allow you to do more damage than what you pay. When you have ferocious this is a Shock as well as a super hurty Fireball which vastly increases the utility of the card. It is the poor scaling with low mana investments that usually rules out X damage spells for most cube decks and this card gives you the potential for that not to be the case. Sadly I don't think you will be ferocious often enough when you want this as Shock for it to supplant the Devil's Play from my cube. A very interesting and different Fireball with some new potential applications. Not however as powerful, synergic or generally all round advantageous and stand alone good as just having a bit of flashback. Perhaps as they are so different the cube could support, for the first time ever, two Fireball equivalents.
War-Name Aspirant - B cube 3/10
The best in a long line of recent two mana three power 1R dorks but I suspect still not competing with the more direct aggro two drops like Hellspark elemental or the rarer RR ones like Kargan Dragonlord and Ash Zealot. Evading one power blockers is nice but likely not worth the drawback of needing to raid to not be just a 2/1. I am sure this will be a top rate limited and even standard aggro dork but for cube this is not enough dork. Suitable filler in a redundant deck but far too low power to get any play outside such strategies.
Suspension Field - no slot 0/10
Journey to Nowhere, but a whole lot worse. No thanks.
Clever Impersonator - A cube 6/10
I have never loved a Clone in cube as its usefulness very much depends on what you are playing against. That said they are still typically rather good, they give you a lot of power when your opponent is doing powerful things and they give you options. This clone is a lot more expensive than Phantasmal Image or Phyrexian Metalmorph (the two I have in my cube at present) but it can do a whole lot more. It is not specifically its broader range that makes it good but more what that means for more matchups. Lots of control decks are chock full of planeswalkers and have few other powerful permanents which they can make. Against these fairly common decks a more classic clone is poor while this remains useful. This is a more consistent Clone than any other which is good for a card effect that is inherently high variance in performance.
Mindswipe - No slot 0/10
Far far too expensive for cube play. This is not efficiently countering much nor is it doing any worthwhile damage when it does.
Mantis Rider - A cube 8/10
One of the best cards in the set. This has tempo and value all over it. In a meta rife with planeswalkers this dork is going to be getting a lot of work done. Three mana haste dorks with three power get a lot of cube play as it is, they offer a robust body that gets to work early, they are hard to play around and have a reasonable clock. Flinthoof Boar, Dreg Mangler and Boggart Ram-Gang are all powerful dangerous cube cards that get a lot of play in aggro decks. For just one more colour you get flying and vigilance thrown into the mix which is a world better than wither or scavenge, the vigilance alone likely is and flying is one of the very best things a dork can have making this head and shoulders above the comparisons. This blocks well, it attacks well, it offers a great threat to planeswalkers and as a result will often result in card advantage as it will Dreadbore then leave you with a Serra Avenger in play! It is colour intense but it is almost always going to be played when you are those colours, both aggro and control. It is simply one of the best, if not the best all round stand alone tempo dork for three mana. It is certainly competing for best three colour cube card too.
Savage Nuckleblade - A cube 6.5/10
Another well above the curve dork for an XYZ mana cost like the Mantis Rider. This one is fatter and has more utility but it is mana intense as well as a bit all over the place. Mantis Rider does one thing very well (the combat step), this does a bunch of different stuff that is going to be situationally useful. RUG is not a common colour combination which makes me a little concerned this guy won't see much play. Certainly more powerful and useful than Anafenza but similarly a card that is aimless, just fairly fat for the mana with some added bonus fluff. Very good fluff in Nuckleblades case but still fluff.
Sultai Ascendancy - C cube 3/10
Probably a more powerful effect overall than Sylvan Library but for three colours and a mana more you should really hope so! This gives you great control over your draw as well as some really nice graveyard synergy however it is a three mana total tempo void which I don't think you can afford in cube for an effect like this.
Mardu Charm - B cube 4/10
Very powerful and highly versatile however this Charm doesn't sit that well with me. Duress is an effect you typically want early and although instant is very handy it does not quite make up for the three mana cost. Four damage to a dork is nice too, it is widely useful and will kill most things in the cube. That is because most of the cube dorks cost one to three mana, once you get to four mana or more the Mardu Charm starts failing to deal with most monsters and as such is rather on the pricey side for what is essentially early removal. Making two 1/1s is the highest value ability on the Charm but it isn't very exciting and while it stops the card from ever being dead it is not even close to the card draw options on Sultai and Azban Charms. For an aggro deck Mardu Charm is not cheap enough to offer any real tempo advantages nor does it offer you any reach. For control decks the abilities are a little too limited, you should be able to put the card to use but it doesn't offer you the things you really need.
Rashaka Deathdealer - B cube 4/10
A cat demon you say? Fine, I guess it is no less silly than a bird wizard... This dork is like a mix of Putrid Leech, Nantuko Shade and Lotleth Troll. It is also more powerful than any of those three on paper but I think it will see less play. The thing about magic is that raw power is often trumped by synergy or consistency. Each of the three cards I compared this to serve quite specific purposes. The Shade is mono coloured and serves as a great tool in devotion decks, both aggro and control versions. It is a mana dump and a good devotion provider as well as a dangerous game ending threat for just two mana. Lotleth Troll is almost exclusively used when you have a discard or graveyard theme in the deck. Putrid Leech is used in very aggressive decks where it is a two drop that needs no further (relevant) investment that can potentially hit for four a turn. Deathdealer performs none of these roles and is just an OK cheap dork that scales better than most into the late game. When you flood, or even just in decks that you expect to have lots of available mana Deathdealer will be a strong card but most of the time he will either restrict you through forcing you to keep mana open or just be a Grizly Bear. I am sad to say I think River Boa is going to outperform this on average.
The Life Lands - A and B cubes 4.5 and 5.5 / 10 for allied and enemy colours respectively.
A set of functional reprints for the Refuges but this time complete with enemy colour pairings making them a whole lot more exciting. They have really nice art for the most part too which is a huge win for lands in particular. Overall Khans of Tarkir will really sort out the cube for decent balance options between allied and enemy colour pairings with these and the three colour lands now on offer. I intend only to put the enemy colour lands from this cycle into the cube. Presently I have the man lands, the quick lands and the Mirage sac lands that are only for allied and nothing that is just for enemy colours. I have no problem with enemy colours being harder to do or even less powerful for flavour and variation however it is no fun if that discrepancy is made up from mana and colour screws. The off colour versions of these lands will see lots of play simply through there being limited options. The allied ones much less so as demonstrated by the Refuge cycle as there are enough better options and hence why I wont bother adding them.
Temur Charm - B cube 2.5/10
Probably the worst of the cycle but still fairly strong. Mana Leak is a nice rounded option but sadly the other two are a bit situational and really only suited to creature based strategies. Even then this card isn't doing specific things you want in creature decks, like being a threat! A bit of evasion will break stalemates and allow for alpha strikes but not at all often, mostly it would be used to snipe out planeswalkers which is OK but more of a way to be less behind than one to get ahead. Fighting is also nice but like the evasion portion it needs you to have dorks in play, and the right sort too making it far less reliable or useful than the removal options on the other Charms. I am sure it would be fine but there is only so many slots you can have as non-threats in the decks this would be good it and this isn't powerful or versatile enough to get one of them very often.
Ashcloud Phoenix - B cube 3/10
A nicely designed card and one of the few morph cards that is interesting. Creatures that need a bit of extra killing are top rate in the cube as are those that fly. Sadly once you have killed this guy once he becomes a Grizly Bear and really doesn't do a lot until you throw six mana at him. Having only one toughness makes it a bit too easy to deal with this four mana card and six is too much to pay regularly to get it back again. I think I would just rather have a Hound of Griselbrand for that sort of thing to ensure both lives of my card were useful.
Stubborn Denial - B cube 5/10
Half the effect of Spell Pierce that turns into Negate at half the cost when you are ferocious! I really like this card and want it to be played but I have my doubts. Firstly there are only so many counters you can run with a limited range. Already I tend to run Negate or Spell Pierce in my control decks, not both. Stubborn Denial is a bit of a middle ground card between the other two. If you want a powerful one drop you play Pierce, if you want a reliable hard counter you play Negate. With Daze and Force Spike doing the rounds people will play around Stubborn Denial by accident and really diminish its value as a non-ferocious card. Obviously the overall quality of the card depends on how often you will have 4 power dork in play. The kinds of deck that want these kinds of effect are typically those with less ferocity about them. I want this to be good because I like the idea of using a Wolf Run or something to turn on ferocious. It just gives more options, more synergy and more interesting games.
Pearl Lake Ancient - B cube 4/10
If it were not for Aetherling doing this job better I think there may have been a place for this big fish. Flash is fantastic for control decks and it has a lot of stats compared to Aetherling. Sadly it lacks evasion and thus cannot be relied upon to end a game. Overall it is likely more mana intensive than Aetherling as you have to recast it after saving it as well as potentially getting back up to seven mana. With trample you might have to think about which unstoppable blue finisher you should go for but as it is I think it will rot for all of time in the B cube.
Murderous Cut - A cube 5.5/10
Instant unrestricted removal is interesting for black. Throw in the ability to have it cost one mana and you have quite a package. Sadly you want this cheap early in the game which isn't going to be happening as often as you would like. The scaling isn't great for the card but I think it is convenient enough to see play in a broad range of black decks.
Siege Rhino - B cube 5/10
Well above the curve and also has some synergy with the kinds of things its colour combination likes to do such as Recurring Nightmare. It is not doing anything that specific beyond being a high value dork and so with it being narrow as well due to three colour requirement I don't think it would see enough play to merit inclusion. Certainly I will try it out and almost as certainly it will perform well when it is played but as soon as a BWG deck passes it up I will look to relegate it!
Jeskai Charm - B cube 4/10
To me this just looks like Azorius Charm plus with a bit bolted on from Boros Charm. One of the best things about Azorius Charm for control was that it cycled away when you didn't want cheap removal, the other great thing about the Ravnica Charms in general was that they cost two mana and are only two colours! This is not particularly cheap removal given the quality of that removal. The best use of this card is going to be taking out planeswalkers in a control deck. Control has many better options than this but more tempo based decks do make good use of all the abilities. Lifelink and +1/+1 is a race winner as well as a decent combat trick. Being able to remove blockers is also handy which is something you cannot do with Azorius Charm. Probably this is just too clunky and niche for the cube despite likely being enough to see constructed play in tempo decks.
Hooded Hydra - no slot 0/10
A bit too mana intense for what it does. If you want dorks that make more dorks if they die you have a wealth of things to chose from that are better. The same applies if you want dorks with variable mana costs.
Kheru, Lich Lord - no slot
Six mana for a 4/4 with a three mana activation cost would need to be really good. At three colours it would need to be insane. Instead you get to Corpse Dance with a little more dazzle. No thank you cheers.
Butcher of the Hoard - A cube 7.5/10
Is it a Baneslayer? Is it a Thundermaw? No, it's kind of both! A four mana 5/4 flier with no drawback is a really good start. It would be a shoe in as two colour card. Add to this the ability to have lifelink, vigilance or haste and you have a winner even in a fairly awkward three colour pairing. Sacrificing a dork is quite a heavy price unless you have a strong token theme or are full of things like Bloodghast but it is an option not a requirement and makes the card better regardless of your deck. A sacrifice outlet is a useful thing to have in itself so coming on a bomb like dork that is reasonably cheap, and affords you powerful effects is another win. It is a dork that can put you ahead on the turn you make it and needs to die in short order or you will just win. A little narrow again but far enough above the curve to offset any such awkwardness.
Master of Pearls - C cube 2/10
Too weak as a stand alone guy to cut it in the cube. It is a nice effect to be able to have in a white weenie deck but it is hardly going to be much of a trick nor is it cheap compared to many of the other things you can do like this. Dictate of Heliod springs to mind as a card better on several fronts.
Bloodsoaked Champion - A cube 6.5/10
Hello Mr Gravecrawler MkII. Sadly not a zombie and doubly sadly twice the mana to recur. Having a zombie is comparable to having raid in fairly appropriately built decks however having to have a zombie is a much less potentially self harming thing to be doing and so this card is all round a fair chunk worse than the original but it remains cube worthy and each will increase the value of the other for redundancy in strategy. You cannot go too far wrong with one mana two power guys with added good effects in the cube and this is such a dork.
Jeskai Ascendancy - C cube 2/10
What a mess of a card. A do nothing alone, scales badly with itself, three colour horror! You need creatures to make it good, you need non-creatures to make it do anything. It is a huge investment to make for a loot effect and an even bigger one to make for a kind of global prowess. I don't see this having any combo application or sufficient aggro worth. Annoyingly it could still be bonkers, say after you make a Young Pyromancer and then chain cast cheap spells. Cool but all very wishful.
Disdainful Stroke - C cube 3.5/10
This is another card I quite want to be good but suspect it will be too inconsistent. My cube has a very cheap curve and while this counters all the most powerful cards it can easily face decks where it has no targets at all. Throw on top of this the fact that it is unlikely to be anything but a dead card in hand until turn four and you don't have the happiest looking spell. As things are still tend towards the midrange style of deck this will continue to improve in value but I can't see it appearing in cubes as a mainstay for a while yet.
Treasure Cruise - C cube 3/10
Oh to be instant! To be honest I am not sure that would be quite enough to make this good. A lot of the decks that want to draw cards, especially those happier to do it at instant speed, are those that want to reuse the cards in their graveyard. As such paying much of a delve cost will be damaging, the more you do it the more detrimental to your plan it will become. I am sure there will be the odd deck where this fits in rather well. It is a great late game top deck in most decks but likewise a pretty dead card for a lot of the early game.
Grim Haruspex - A cube 5/10
Somewhat of a Xathrid Necromancer effect, this in broader in range but offers less tempo despite having extra power over the zombie generator. This will be especially useful in decks where you have things like Gravecrawler and Bloodghast as well as a sacrifice outlet so that you have a draw engine to abuse that is made up of reasonable aggro monsters. It is a bit vulnerable and will be hard to get value out of it when facing any sort of removal but it is reasonably cost and has some nice synergies. You are not going to be distraught when this eats a Lightning Bolt or a Plow, often it will bait them and allow your better monster to get it done.
Surrak Dragonclaw - A cube 5.5/10
This doesn't at all excite me but I can't help thinking it is going to be rather good. It is a messy card that performs no particular role very well but that has so much value and power that it will likely get rammed into all sorts of decks and still be pretty good in them. A five mana 6/6 is a good start although not enough to be cube worthy when you compare it to things like Kalonian Hydra or Wolfir Silverheart for raw size. Throw in flash and you have a card that can engineer some added value as a surprise blocker or unexpected extra attacker when cast at end of turn. Then you make him uncounterable and you don't care that much about it but can't outright dismiss it as a little incidental bonus. Having all your dorks thereafter being uncounterable however is pretty significant in combination with his own counter-proofing and allows you to do whatever you want to do against any deck packing counter magic. Sure, it hoses one colour but it does so in a broad way and better than things like Thrun, the Lame Troll who is a bit of an auto pilot dullard. Finally gaining trample on all your dorks is really quite powerful even if he doesn't have it himself. Green is full of things that get chumped a lot, I find myself wishing I had trample a lot of the time, particularly for dealing with planeswalkers. Feeling like you are in an OK position to have this dork made at you end of turn throwing a 6/6 into the mix and also turning everything else trampling is going to be a huge swing in the game.
Goblinslide - C cube 1.5/10
Too much mana overall, it needed to be cheaper to play, have legs or have no cost for the trigger to cut it in cube. It is a little bit abusable and so I want a copy but I doubt anyone will ever bother trying to abuse it as it is just not as powerful as other things that can be abused.
Abzan Charm - A cube 7/10
One of the two best Charms with a good card draw ability, a top rate removal mode and a combat trick. A powerful card that will never be dead and affords you an abundance of options. Instant speed exile effects are what you want from a removal spell and this hits all the scary big things. Although it doesn't hit small dorks you ideally don't want to be using a three mana spell as the solution to them anyway. The combat trick covers you fairly well in this department. Of the various wedges the GBW pairing is one of the more popular which greatly helps the playability of this charm. This will work well in both aggro and control, as an out that doesn't deny a tempo option as well as not ever risking being dead for the agro player. For the control player it will be much more about having the option on card draw or really hard removal, a bit like a powered up Azorius Charm.
Chief of the Edge - C cube 2/10
Far more potent than the Scale Chief but not enough other good warrior synergy in those colours for this to be useful yet.
Gurmag Swiftwing - C cube 2/10
Too cheap with too many things for it not to be useful somewhere! A one power two mana beater isn't getting it done on its own even with a jumble of keyword abilities. I can't think what this would be helpful with and so until I do it will rot in the depths of my cube reserves.
Hordeling Outburst - C cube 2/10
Perphorus likes this! Spectral Procession this is not however there are a lot of things that work very well with goblins and mass tokens in general and so it would be remiss of me not to have this relatively clean and efficient midrange option unavailable.
Dig Through Time - A cube 8/10
While I poopooed the last delve draw spell I am much more drawn to this one despite its many similarities. Two cards from seven feels like it is going to be doing much more of what you need than just three random off the top. Doing it an instant speed means that you are far happier to play this for five mana in the mid game than you would be if it were a sorcery. This makes it far less of a dead card early and far less reliant on the delving to be good. Costing a minimum of UU seems a bunch worse than just U for Treasure Cruise however it will be so late in the day that you get to that level of delve that the difference of one U will be negligible. All in all this is a very powerful card advantage and card quality spell. It will go very well in many combo and control decks. I am going to go out on a limb here and compare this card to Fact or Fiction, it is refreshing to see card advantage being printed that isn't on dorks or planeswalkers or that require you to engineer some game state to become efficient. The power of dorks these days means you don't often have time to spend casting Fact or Fiction, hopefully this spell will be viable sooner as it gives more scope to do other things at the same time.
Monastery Swiftspear - C cube 4/10
As a stand alone card this is too much of a one power beater to be good. Even in an agro red deck with around half the non-lands as spells this would be getting through an unexciting amount of damage. I was trying to think of a card that I reckon would do a comparable amount of damage on average and the closest I came was with Mogg Fanatic! In a dedicated UR Kiln Fiend style of deck this becomes much more like a Goblin Guide and while such decks are fairly potent in cube they do have rather a lot of narrow cards and are hard to support. The potential for prowess trickery is nice but it comes back to being too much of a one power beater. It is not a high enough impact card given the degree of support it requires to become good.
Cranial Archive - C cube 2/10
Drawing cards is better than gaining life and so this is appealing over Elixir of Immortality despite the increased cost. Unfortunately this exiles itself thus giving you substantially less longevity than Elixir. In the kinds of decks that want this kind of thing you would probably still need to run something else better at that job and just use this as backup.
Alter of the Brood - C cube 3/10
Lots of infinite combos with this to mill someone to death but I can't think of one less than three cards nor one using cards that are all that useful outside of the combo. All in all I don't see this getting it done but it is cheap and potentially effective at doings its thing.
Kin-Tree Warden - C cube 1/10
Not doing enough but still a lot of stuff for one so cheap. I think River Boa is still the way to go for cheap green regenerators but this certainly puts Drudge Skeletons in their place.
Valley Dasher - B cube 3.5/10
This ranks close to the many options on 1R three power dorks in red. It is more reliable and more bursty but does rather lack combat prowess. Compared to Ash Zealot this is missing a lot of extra stuff but ultimately it comes down to the firststrike making it that much more combat ready. Fine but not powerful enough like the various 1R 3/X dorks on offer.
Tormenting Voice - A cube (very hopefully) 5/10
A very tenuous Lat-Nam's Legacy in red. Not only is it sorcery but it requires the discard as an additional cost making it vulnerable to counter magic and impossible to abuse on an empty hand. Wild Guess didn't see much play and is basically the same as this except with a double red cost. That all said, card quality is very good and rare outside of blue. This, unlike Faithless Looting costs no card advantage and still has graveyard synergies. Being 1R makes this a lot more playable in multi-colour decks and those with lots of colourless ramp than Wild Guess and those are the deck types which will want this sort of effect. Cheap card quality wants to be easy to cast and so the subtle casting cost difference I think will be just enough for this to see some play where Wild Guess did not.
Disowned Ancestor - C cube 3/10
Not a powerful card or a quick one however it is a rare cheap defensive dork in black which lets you hold the ground and even can become a threat later on. Black as a control colour is happy to tap out so outlast being a sorcery on this is no biggie. Pretty dull and weak card but performs a role better than a lot of alternatives.
Taigam's Scheming - C cube 4/10
Rather a specific combo binding tool. A reanimator deck is going to be all over this. It does more for you to set up your combo than a Careful Study usually achieves. Also particularly good with all the delve in this set. Sadly it is a card quality spell with card disadvantage and so you really need to have use for things in the graveyard for it to be considered.
Crippling Chill - C cube 2/10
This reminds me a little of Repulse, I like how it can lock out a dork for multiple turns but I don't like how it costs three mana for you and none for your opponent. It is also better than bounce when dealing with comes into play effect creatures. Average tempo filler on the three slot is fine but the cube is generally requiring better than that.
Timely Hoardmate - C cube 2/10
Mini Revailark meets Ranger of Eos.The requirement to have raid makes this worse than either of the comparison cards to my mind. If you have very specific two drops you want to be getting back then this is the cheapest way to do it but if you just want value and card advantage I think other cards are going to be better.
Seeker of the Way - B cube 4/10
Easy to cast, dangerous to block and a good tempo two drop. Knight of Meadowgrain is more robust and stand alone but has far less potential for abuse. Neither are that exciting and to my mind are filler cards that give good flavour and colour feel but that are also not at all missed. While perhaps not as rounded there are a lot of more interesting two drops like Thalia, Knight of the White Orchid, Precinct Captain etc. that do more specific things that consume the available two slots I have in the cube.
Zurgo Helmsmasher - B cube 4/10
Undeniably powerful but I fear missing a few key things to become a cube mainstay. With two toughness, perhaps three going in to your opponents turn Zurgo is very easy to deal with conventionally. Five mana for a threat that dies to a lot of removal is a little awkward. Haste means you get some value but not always in the way you want it. A Ball Lightning is always a big pile of damage, this might just be an expensive Edict or might be just an irrelevant seven to the face, either way, your opponent has a little too much control over things for my tastes. Indestructible isn't even that big of a deal in cube with rife Edict, exile, bounce, counter, wither, reshuffle effects and the humiliator Disfigure on offer allowing you to kill Zurgo whenever you like. Zurgo is best when you can do something like Wrath in your own turn but this seems a complete miss match of cards, really Zurgo wants to be a top end finisher in an aggro deck and nothing to do with board sweepers. While Zurgo will be fine in said aggro decks he is never going to look better than a five mana hasting dragon.
Top Cube Cards from Khans of Tarkir
1. Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
2. Mantis Rider
3. Dig Through Time
4. Butcher of the Hoard
5. The Wedge Lands
6. Azban Charm
7. Sultai Charm
8. Savage Nuckleblade
9. Bloodsoaked Champion
10. Clever Impersonator