So the spoiler is now fully out and it fails to live up to Return to Ravnica for cube offerings. Gatecrash will have one of the lowest number of representation of any set in the cube. I have probably only reviewed another fifteen or so cards out of the hundred and twenty last spoiled cards and most of them are C cube cards that won't ever see play. Gatecrash is not a powerful set which is fairly irrelevant in most formats outside of the cube but does mean most of the more interesting cards just wont cut it if played in a cube environment which is a shame. While it has not power cards to offer the cube nor any that will really effect the cube meta Gatecrash does have a vast number of cards that are just interesting or playable enough to not be entirely ruled out. This is not that relevant for cube in a low powered set such as this however in general it is better to raise the lower bar and not the upper bar which this set does very well.
Angelic Skirmisher - No slot
Good effect but on too weak of a body at that costing. A joke in limited though.
Blind Obedience - 1.2
This is an interesting little card. I was thinking Sydic of Tithes might be cube worthy as it is a cheap extort card bolted onto a generically useful body. Blind Obedience seems like a better alternative should you really want extort effects for late game reach or even life gain. That being said if you want extort then more extort is also good and could lead to both seeing play. Blind Obedience is much more resilient than the Syndic as it is an enchantment rather than a piddly little dork which makes it better purely as an extort outlet however the other effects of the card pretty much have to be worth playing on their own merits disregarding the extort to be a viable cube card. While this is no Kismet as it does not effect lands it is half the price and will still offer a tempo boost while in play against most decks. This is not a control card and will see most of its play in white weenie style decks where you have a lot of small dorks and really want to get in safe extra attacks when they make fatter monsters than yours. Against creature heavy decks it will be very solid and be well worthy of a slot however against control decks it is a lot weaker, it may well allow you to get in some extra damage but not as consistently as against the creature decks and it will be at the cost of not having a more proactive threat card in its place. As such I can see it being the kind of card that is side boarded both in and out rather a lot. The artifact portion of the card is generally less relevant in most matchups but will cripple some, Grim Monolith and Mana Vault are pretty unplayable if they begin life tapped. This will make it a more playable card but as a hoser which I am not a huge fan of.
Boros Elite - No slot
This is not the one drop you are looking for. Getting this to trigger, especially early is rarely going to happen and early is when you want your one drops to be good. As such, this is very bad.
Court Street Denizen - C Cube
This reminds me of Waxmane Baku which is clearly not a cube card but none the less was a beating in limited. As this is more generically easy to trigger than the Baku and needs no mana to do so this is somewhat better but I really cant see the Grey Ogre body cutting it even with the reasonable tempo tapping.
Daring Skyjek -C Cube
As 2 mana 3/1 dorks go I quite like this one however I am not sure people will often go looking for it as it is not exactly an exciting card. The other 3/1 white guys that get some play tend to be for other synergies, Porcelain Legionnaire for more Tempered Steel types of deck and the Accorder Paladin for token style decks. They buff the other cards in the deck where as the Skyjek doesn't and while flying is nice it is not the most reliable of flying and so I think this will see a few outings at best in my cube.
Dutiful Thrull - C cube
This is quite pesky and, although it isn't really worth it in any deck as a 1/1, should you be able to boost it then you start to have a decent looking dork. As an agro dork it is not doing enough for anyone to care that its hard to kill and in control decks you do not want to have mana pinned down for your defence to stay alive. Either equipment or Crusade effects are both good for boosting it and white decks are very frequently splashing black these days for Lingering Souls and Vindicate. The main problem with this card is that you rarely need both a one drop and a regenerator and so I think Spectral Lynx need not fear for its places in decks.
Frontline Medic - 2.0
Three is a more reasonable place on the curve to be getting a bit more value out of the battalion effect. A 3 mana 3/3 in white is decent enough on its own although not quite cube worthy, the battalion effect however is really rather powerful and will allow you to plow your men fearlessly into your opponents face. It is a touch on the narrow side as only really cheap agro decks will want to play this. The counter effect is neat and a quirky little bonus however it is a bit of a narrow hoser. There are few X spells in the cube and most are red with most of those being mass removal effects. As such this will be a real headache for any kind of red control or midrange deck and almost always bait some single target removal or countermagic. So, this will go in a lot of WW and Wx agro decks and will be brutal against blockers whenever you have battalion and still decent when you don't. It will be called upon more often when facing red decks to bring the counter ability into use but is highly unlikely to see play in any sort of control deck.
Gideon, Champion of Justice - 1.5 (although probably a B cube resident)
Being a 4 drop white card is a tough break and when you are awkward to use and marginal in terms of power things don't look to great for new Gideon. His -15 effect is serious and should almost always win the game however getting there is a bit tough. When they have lots of guys they are likely to be able to ignore Gideon and race you, when they have no guys he is never getting to 15 loyalty before something more significant happens and the game ends. When they have a couple of small dorks he will just eat the odd attack and save you a few life. This might be enough to win some close games but probably not as effectively as a Zuran Orb would. As a threat Gideon is more interesting as he is hard to kill with sorcery removal and near impossible to profitably block. To keep Gideon reasonable in a close creature combat style game he will need to be chumped and attacked a bit and so he is a very good tempo card in a midrange or agro deck. The problem he faces in this role is that he has weak synergy with many other white agro cards such as equipment, he is competing with some really serious creatures such as Hero of Bladehold and Sublime Archangel who pack a lot more punch while doing other useful things and to cap it all off the other white 4 drop planeswalkers are currently all more potent in decks capable of apply tempo pressure. I rate this walker about the same as Koth of the Hammer although obviously quite different cards. Being so odd in function I must play with new Gideon a fair amount before I can be sure about any of my initial assessment, my hunch is he is too situational and low power and will sit in the B cube for it but I could easily be wrong on this one. This is not a great planeswalker but they don't generally have to be all that good to perform fairly well in cube, planeswalkers are generally just a great permanent type.
Righteous Charge - No Slot
Mini Overrun for white, I am sure there are lots of other cards a bit like this, or in fact just like this, but just like this none of them are really cube quality either. If this were instant perhaps but I'd rather just have a persistent pump effect for the mana like Glorious Anthem.
Syndic of Tithes - B cube (but will start out in A cube)
I like this card but fear it is both a touch narrow and a touch underpowered to be keeping hold of an A cube slot. As a life gain card in white it is very poor compared to the myriad of other choices. I therefore see only two homes for this card, firstly as a life gain card in BW decks it is much more interesting simply because black has more need of life gain and few decent options to call upon, especially in cheap agro decks. Black has more card draw than white too and so will be able to fuel the extort. The second main use for this card is as reach in WW style decks who must usually rely on attacking to get through any damage. White has some evasion but not as much as it would like and so Syndic of Tithes might be the ticket. My suspicion is that it is too slow to be that dangerous of a late game threat when the board has clogged up but I would like it to be viable.
Aetherize - C cube
This would have been a frequent target for Cunning Wish when it was in use but it is a bit too narrow in application to be worth a main deck slot. When they are attacking with a couple of critters or more it is a savage tempo swing but this will not be very easy to set up and having four mana set by as well is both difficult and telling.
Cloudfin Raptor - 2.5
This is my favourite evolve card thus far as it is just what blue wants. There are few decent cheap flying creatures around and despite blue being the colour of the skies it is also the colour of lame one and two drop dorks (although Snapcaster and Delver of Secrets are doing their best to turn this around). The Raptor commands a decent creature count to become viable but overall needs less support from your decks design than either Delver or Snapcaster. Having zero power is almost an advantage as it allows you to very easily grow the Raptor and can kick things off with lowly 1/1s. Once you have got the Raptor to a 2/3 it is looking really rather good for the investment and hopefully it is not finished there. I suspect it will feel rather like Champion of the Parish to play with and is probably better despite having less damage output for both the evasion and the wider number of cards that will trigger it to grow. I think this card will herald the first time in cube that blue has been able to have a genuine serious tempo start, Imagine turn one Raptor into turn two Delver and then a Phantasmal Bear then hitting for two in the air. Turn three you could make a Serendib Efreet or a Vendillion Clique and lay in for 8, 6 in the sky should you have flipped the Delver! You would have a total of 11 power and potentially 12 toughness which is really not what blue should be up to! As a late draw the Raptor is pretty awful but then again it is not the worst late game top deck in the cube and blue is well set to somehow convert it into better cards. Flying is still pretty handy even on 0/1s and 1/2s all the way into the late game where you need flying chumps or evasive things to equip up. It is not the raw power of this card I find so exciting but more the potential new archetypes it will go a long way in facilitating.
Enter the Infinite - C cube
If you can't find a better thing to do with 12 mana in the cube something is amiss with your cube or your strategy. This only gets a C cube slot because it has a unique effect in case of some cool combo. Mostly this is just dead weight until it is total overkill.
Gridlock - No slot
No draw card, no cube slot.
Hands of Binding - C cube
Cheap cipher is interesting but with cipher being combat damage this is a very fragile and tenuous way of dealing with a dork. It has some reasonable tempo applications but for cube it is way below the bar and only really gets the C cube slot because I am not sure about the cipher mechanic yet and may find it has cool applications.
Incursion Specialist - C cube
Not exactly a great card but in blue it does raise an eyebrow. A 2 mana 3/3 evasion monster is decent and in blue it is unheard of. The trigger is hard to satisfy reliably and makes building decks with this in it much more constrained but in the right deck this is one of the very best aggressive two drops blue has to offer.
Rapid Hybridization - C cube
I have often thought about sticking a Pongify into the cube for a laugh but I don't see it being main deckable which means the same for this. The cube being so fast paced and powerful bounce is often as good as removal but it is nice to have options and so I'll keep a copy of this back for a rainy day.
Realmwright - C cube
I am a big fan of this little dork but sadly he doesn't do enough. He he funky synergy with Vedalken Shackles and High Tide but has little redundancy to rely on the effect and does so little else as a card while being highly vulnerable all make this card unlikely to see play.
This card is vulnerable, slow, unreliable, situational and really not even worthy of a C cube slot. There are a few redeeming things for this New Man of the Sea. One is that you get the guys for keeps regardless of the fate of the Manipulator, the second is that you can get a couple of guys on the go at once with it which is marginal but good against the swarmier decks like white weenie and elves. Lastly I quite fancy an evolve themed deck (not to be good, just to have some fun building and getting smashed with) which this could have enough forced synergy that it is playable.
Stolen Identity - C cube
You may get to double or more the effect of a Phyrexian Metalmorph however it is double the cost and just a bit too clumsy and situational for my liking. It gets the C cube slot like Hands of Binding but should I find cipher to be useless it probably wouldn't even keep that.
Crypt Ghast - 1.0
I am a fan of this card but I am aware that I like it rather than that I know it to be good. In fact I am fairly sure it will be average at best. It totally reminds me of Oracle of Mul Daya although a bit more quick to become dangerous. The Oracle will tend to slowly take the game out of reach of an opponent where as Ghast is much more likely to be devastating if allowed to live until your following untap step. The Extort is a nice little bolt on ability that makes the 4 mana 2/2 that little bit easier to stomach. It has good synergy with lots of extra mana and is generally a sought after effect in black. Crypt Ghast could be the thing mono black control needs to return to tier one status in the cube but is probably a bit high on the curve to do it alone.
Gutter Skulk - C Cube
Black has so few robust and easy to cast two drops that Grizzly Bear is close to playable in some decks, the fact that this also has two of the more useful creature types for black means it might actually be wanted one day.
Illness in the Ranks - C cube
I don't like this card, it limits formats and is not an exciting way of balancing meta games. It is a pure hoser which is a card style is dislike all round and am sad that it is powerful enough to be worth chucking a copy in the C cube.
Lord of the Void - No slot
No trample and unpredictable upsides both make 7 mana or the effort of cheating into play not worth it.
Ogre Slum Lord - C cube
I want this card to be playable as getting extra bonuses from having guys die is good synergy for black. Sadly at five mana for a 3/3 this guy is a bit too vulnerable and low board impact to be exciting. Sure you can trigger him the turn you make him however it is rare that you get much tempo boost or value from turning your men into 1/1 death touchers. He makes and boosts rats and so he at least deserves a C cube slot to appease my love of tribal warfare in the cube.
Undercity Plague - C cube
This seems better than the blue cipher cards however it really does need to proc off the cypher the turn you cast it to be close to good. Black does have the ramp to get this out and lock up games but it seems a touch hopeful and risky.
Thrull Parasite - 1.0
I think this is just enough stuff to make this card playable. Compared to Hex Parasite it is rather weak against planeswalkers and other counter based menaces, although it may cost less mana to remove the counters the need to tap and only being able to take one counter at a time makes it too ineffective to be played just for against walkers. Extort is great addition to any already playable black card as I so often harp on about black loving the life gain. It is not however a reason alone to play a card, most of the time you will want to spend your early game mana curving out optimally and not slowing yourself down to get minor extort value. Costing less is a bonus on extort because it means you have the option to do so for longer, it will make your sub par draws somewhat better. The reason I think this is playable is largely the huge number of creatures that make use of counters which give the Parasite both synergy and hosing potential. It will make evolve, level up, modular and more a lot more mechanisms and effects awkward to use for your opponents while giving your own persist, undying and unleash monsters some nifty trickery. You would probably not invest a whole slot in a situational disruption card, nor in a synergy card as weak as this is in isolation and you wouldn't play a 1/1 for 1 just for extort but when you wrap the whole lot up in one we have a cute and fun little utility card.
Wight of Precinct Six - C Cube
If Gutter Skulk is nearly playable this is also quite interesting. It has a good creature type and casting cost like the Skulk and scales somewhat better. Sadly it is really dependant on what you are up against as to how good it will be and while in some games it would outshine Tarmogoyf I fear in too many it would be poor, especially as it is unlikely to be anything short of embarrassing to curve out with. I will likely test this card unlike so many of the chaff I am condemning to the C cube from this set as it both cool and interesting and has rather more potential.
Bomber Corps - C cube
One of the better battalion dorks but still not good enough to be actually wanted by a deck and will sit in the C cube un-loved and un-tested until one of my cruel mates insists on a cull of the complete no hopers.
Five-Alarm Fire - No slot
This sounds like a juice drink and reads like a tongue twister. While I quite like the card and its design it is not powerful enough for cube as it is going to be too slow and unreliable to charge. The way it adds value to weaker dorks (well, it adds value to all dorks but relatively more to the cheaper ones) and can even encourage you to make bad attacks or blocks is done in a nice way on this card.
Foundry Street Denizen - C cube
In some situations it will be better than a Jackal Pup which isn't something to get to excited by, especially as there are many situations it will also be awkwardly worse.
Hellkite Tyrant - B cube
A lot of monster for not all that much mana but too much in general to pay for such a disparate card. There are better dorks, not to mention dragons if you just want to beat down. If you want to kill artifacts you are getting something cheaper to do the job and if you want to try and win the game with 20 artifacts you are mental and in for a disappointment.
Hellraiser Goblin - 1.0
I am not quite sure where this guy fits in yet but he is really rather powerful, red green beats seems the obvious place but time will tell. Giving all your guys haste on top of being a 2/2 haste for 3 himself is a lot and will make him a big target for removal. His drawback is quite significant, mostly in that it makes him a lot easier to block and get out of the picture, with combat tricks and burn however the overall tempo will quickly get out of hand. Without at least one deck that always wants him however he could quickly sink into the ranks of the B cube.
Legion Loyalist - B Cube
This is another interesting card, unlike the Boros Elite this is not just a pure beater and so not being able to trigger the battalion early is no huge drawback. Raging Goblin is not an exciting card however and so this does still need to have more late game applications like Goblin Bushwhacker to be viable. How useful the effect actually will be is something I am struggling to work out. Usually this will be used in weenie decks where giving trample is not that important and first strike will get less and less exciting as the game goes on. Not being able to be blocked by tokens is also somewhat niche and won't apply in a lot of situations. My best guess is that this will make blocking slightly more awkward and allow you to sneak in the odd couple of damage you otherwise couldn't. While a Bonesplitter probably does a lot more than this in a game it is not a simple case of the equipment being better as you need to have the right quantities of dorks, Legion Loyalist being a dork does make him quite a bit more all round useful despite being clearly less powerful. If he pumped power at all for other dorks he would almost certainly be good enough but as he is I am dubious. The place I see this being best is in a goblin deck where you have lots of weenies but also good pump effects and things like Piledriver that really benefit from trample and first strike. You also have good sacrifice outlets in goblin decks for when he is being no more use to you than a Mon's Goblin Raiders. I will test this out a bit but as its best archetype already resides in the B cube to make drafting better I think realistically this has to go there as well.
Skinbrand Goblin - C Cube
While I like the bloodrush mechanic, especially the cheap ones, this is a weak pump effect that neither gets through loads of damage or swings that many combats wildly in your favour. I tend to find I am looking at bloodrush cards as pump effects first and dorks second with this as no exception with such a limp and ineffective body all aspects of the card are not really worth having.
Skullcrack - 3.0
Dull but necessary is the verdict on this. While only hitting players used to be very weak with planeswalkers all about it is not half as bad and in addition to this it is a card that you only really play in decks where you want to be aiming some burn at peoples faces. Red deck wins is a big name in the cube meta and life gain is the best way to beat it which has put an unhealthy emphasis on Sulphuric Vortex, both in how important it is to the red player but also in other players ensuring they have sufficient answers to it. Stigma Lasher has been getting a lot more play recently but is neither very good compared to Kargan Dragonlord or Ash Zealot, nor much use against undying monsters, nor that reliable at stopping life gain. Skullcrack is much more to the point regarding life gain and should stop any of the Stigma Lasher desperation from happening. Skullcrack is nicely powered so that it is not sickening to play in your deck but it will ever so slightly reduce the over all power level. It is a necessary evil rather like Torch Fiend but it will make games more interesting and more balanced not coming down to just one card deciding things.
Experiment One - 1.0
Although green has the most abundance of choice for dorks at all points on the curve it has a distinct lack of solid one drop beaters. Wild Nacatl is very goof but basically a gold card or at least not at all a stand alone. Experiment One is far from exciting and not enough on his own to suddenly give enough viable one drops to bring back cube stompy. Although the regenerate is not all that exciting the card wouldn't be playable without it as it plays into greens biggest weakness. Green dumps lots of things into play and then easily folds to mass removal, you need to dump lots of things into play to make this card any use but as you usually won't lose it because of the regenerate you can afford to play it. Due to lack of interested archetypes I think this will quickly sink out of the A cube but it could see a return if enough good agro green one drops arrive.
Crocanura - 1.5
I initially dismissed this card as a limited card only, despite being a very good one. The more I look at it the more viable it seems, a little like Vampire Nighthawk turned out to be. Green has no early anti air and it has few good agro three drops both of which make it more likely to fit in. With only one power it is going to get to a good size pretty quick, especially so in green where 3/5 and 4/6 won't be uncommon end points that it reaches in just a few turns. I am keen to try this and keener still to get ribbed really hard for playing only to crush people with it.
Gyre Sage - C cube
I am not at all impressed with this which is a shame because at first glance I got all prepared to be very excited. Tapping for no mana until it has evolved is grim, it is slower, riskier and just a whole lot worse than Joraga Treespeaker. For an evolve card it has quite awkward power and toughness to begin with making it less likely to smoothly grow with your curve. Once you have grown it twice it does start to look rather good but I suspect it will end up just beating down most of the time because once you have grown it to a decent ramp card you will have cast the things that it would have been nice to ramp into. I have given it a C cube slot over no slot because there are some naughty tricks with counter cards like Bounty of the Hunt that could be quite abusive if not very optimistic.
Serene Remembrance - B cube
A nice cheap little card that needed to replace itself to be viable in all but the most specific of roles. The effectiveness of this card does mean it will be the best thing available for your (probably combo) deck from time to time but as either a hoser or a do nothing spell it is not really close to being maindeckable in normal decks. Losing card advantage and not effecting the board, even at the bargain price of one mana is not what most decks are after.
Skargg Goliath - C cube
A very powerful bloodrush effect that will win a lot of games. The problem is that the main dork is a bit too steep and one dimensional to be much use of ever really get cast without causing loads of dead card damage first. Craterhoof Behemoth seems to always do about the same as both halfs of this card combined and so this will probably never see play.
Slaughterhorn - 1.0
This is another one of those deceptive cards that is not what it seems. As a dork with a discard effect this is a bad card, but as a pump spell with a back up body it is actually quite playable I think. Typically you want to be pumping dorks in decks that want to be attacking and so the restriction on when you may use the bloodrush is not that limiting, it is far better than it being a sorcery for example. It will occasionally be annoying that you can't use it to put your guys out of removal range from something like an Earthquake but at least you then have a dork to make afterwards... In the games where you wished you could pump one of your blockers you are probably losing any ways so we have a card nearly as good as Giant Growth. This you may think is not much to get excited about however pump is great, it is just let down by one weakness that this card is not at all subject to. Pump is what you want to have in games where you are relying on tempo to win, it just too dangerous to play pure pump spells in case you run out of threats or hiccough curving because of them. Giant Growth is powerful, it scales with you dorks abilities and is very cheap and relatively versatile. This is a nicely designed card as neither aspect of the card is very powerful yet neither is it weak for the cost while the two aspects complement each other very elegantly. Just remember, this card is not playable when you want another dork to bolster you ranks, it is playable when considered as a pump spell as its primary role. Being cheap and mono coloured (also in a colour lacking much creature kill) it is likely to be the most useful of the bloodrush cards for cube play.
Verdant Haven - C cube
A few incarnations of enchantress decks reside in the C cube yet I have never really managed to get one working properly. One of the ways to build enchantress decks uses cards like this to power up its mana and while this is cute and offers much needed redundancy to the archetype the three mana price tag might push it out of viability for a deck that itself is not really cube viable.
Wasteland Viper - C cube
The decks you want pump effects and combat tricks in are heavy creature agro decks. In these decks you don't want to waste cards on one power dorks or one power pump spells. Unlike Sluahgterhorn which is a nicer versatile tempo card this is much more of a control or removal card and a clumsy unreliable awkward one at that. I don't see in what deck I would ever want this (and yet I feel compelled to C cube one anyway...).
Alms Beast - B Cube
A big solid threat for the mana that will probably see constructed play due to the not too savage drawback. I would quite like to abuse it with Kavu Predator but that feels tenuous. The problem with this dork is that it is restricted to BW decks which are not tripping over themselves to find more generic high powered 4 drops. Being just a fine but bland card in a deck that is not desperate for it nor played that frequently means this doesn't get an A cube slot despite obviously being more powerful than a lot of the rest of the set.
Assemble the Legion - 1.0
I am not sure why I am so drawn to this card as it is costly and gold and a bit bumbley. This is a fairly serious threat that is generally harder to deal with than planeswalkers while doing a similar sort of thing. It is a bit slow to get going but will get out of hand faster than most planeswalkers typically do. It also scales up more smoothly in power which walkers either never do or do so after a long period of doing more minor things. The obvious comparison card is Goblin Trenches however they are very different in application. The Trenches allows you to win much more rapidly and is a better tempo card however it requires a much greater resource investment, when using Trenches you are making a bit commitment, this can be chucked down and then ignored while it slowly powers you up. I see this being much more playable in typical control decks than Trenches because it is so self contained. It is worse than planeswalkers for taking the pressure off yourself as it cannot be attacked nor will it provide more than a single 1/1 defender for the first two turns you have it however the upside of this is that you are able to drop in onto a board in which you are so far behind that any walker you made would simply be a bad Fog and head directly to the graveyard. Being so hard to kill is a real benefit to a control deck as well where you are lighter on threats and want to avoid investing lots of mana into something that immediately eats a cheap removal spell. This will see play not only in control decks but also the various incarnations of decks that make some threat that survives an epic global removal spell and then cast said mass removal spell. Typically these decks are red or white for Wildfire, Jokulhaups, Armageddon, Cataclysm and so forth which makes Assemble the Legion an ideal card to play and gives it multiple archetypes where it is viable. Academy Rector is also always on the look out for new powerful targets to flop into play and while this is not a great mana saving nor has much in the way of combo appeal it is still a decent option.
Aurelia, the Warleader - B cube
Speaking of power, this might be the single most powerful card in the set. This Lightning Angel come Relentless Assault hits for 6 on its own and gives all your dorks double attacks. This will end games very fast however I don't think it will see enough play to deserve a slot. It is both gold and legendary which put me off it a little. It is also in colours and of a style that means the only decks that could really abuse it really don't want to play 6 drops. Control decks could play it but it is significantly worse than Baneslayer and a whole host of other cards and so with no viable homes this bundle of power must reside in the B cube.
Aurelia's Fury - B cube
A versatile card that I think is a bit too costly to be a mainstay in any archetype. You can Abeyance people, you can tap their team, you can kill creatures and you can finish off players but none of this is cheap. Unless going for the first option you are always going to be wanting at the very least 4 mana to throw into this and even then it is not coming close to the effectiveness of cards like Arc Trail, Bonfire of the Damned, Devil's Play etc. Removal really wants to be cost efficient and even as much versatility as this card offers doesn't offset the fact that you are basically never getting a good deal without spending at least 5 mana on it. In heavy control decks I can see this being good as a role a bit like Cryptic Command but obviously far worse. In other decks it is just too costly to be playable.
Anyone who wins a cube game with this is my hero and I am tempted to give it a slot just so I have a chance of being my own hero. Obviously unplayably awful.
Borborygmos the Enraged - No slot
Not brutal enough to be a cheat into play target and too expensive to be just a top end dork or backup for your Siesemic Assault.
Boros Charm - 2.0
Another pretty decent charm hits the deck. This is a little easier to assess than many of the others as it is more specific than most. I cannot really see this getting any play in control decks. Except for silly people trying to abuse indestructible stuff and things like Armageddon this won't see play in combo either however the three abilities are all quite streamlined for the sorts of things it might be nice to be doing in agro decks. The abilities are also all somewhat versatile, especially given their simplicity. Damage is always good and 4 for 2 at instant speed is tasty, it will usually deal with planeswalkers and offer good reach for finishing people off. The other two can both be used and combat tricks or for other things. Double strike can be given to a Phantasmal Image to kill it, it can be used to get a double trigger from an equipment, it can be used as a finisher when a relatively fat dork slips past blockers although in most of the decks this might see play the 4 damage is going to be better most of the time in this role. Mostly the double strike will see play to save or trade monsters in combat however this is rarely exciting as you are either losing tempo or card advantage and so I suspect it will be the least used of the three effects. Making all permanents indestructible is saucy, it gives you a pretty solid counter to most mass and targetted removal with the classic exceptions of Death Cloud and Terminus and the ever trumps Path and Plow... Not only does it counter most removal for all of your stuff but it can be used fairly often in combat to swing the outcome in your favour, you will be able to make horrid attacks that normally would put most of your men in the bin just to force through a few damage. If things are less stagnant on the board you will be able to get immense tempo from it when they make some blocks or attacks expecting to trade off dorks or life. Things like making your stuff indestructible or giving them double strike are not useful enough to be played on cards in their own right for the most part (obviously this depends on the power of the card in question or the aim of the deck but for a simple Boros Deck Wins style deck this is the case). When you start to put them with other nearly good enough effects the card becomes more useful throughout more of the games you play. This is particularly good as it means the games will become more varied. Effects that were not previously playable for being too situational will be cropping up on charms and giving us new interactions. Sadly I can't see this being used outside of Boros Decks Wins and so it will have to be an auto include in the deck to realistically keep its slot in the A cube but I am a fan and look forward to annoying people with it.
Clan Defiance - No slot
This is like the Angelic Skirmisher in that it is a limited bomb yet not playable in cube. This time it is because it is too slow and too situational, every now and again it would be the perfect game winning card however most of the time it would just be an awful narrow removal spell.
Cartel Aristocrat - C cube
Nothing very exciting with awkward costs to boot. Sac outlets are sometimes desirable and so I'll squirrel one away in case it is the most appropriate one day.
Deathpact Angel - No slot
Too slow and costly for what is not actually that serious of a threat given the competition at the six slot.
Dimir Charm - 2.5
I quite like this Charm and would rate it in the same sort of bracket as the other good ones from RtR block. It is not as all round useful as Izzet Charm nor does it have the potential to really effect games like Rakdos does but its effects are solid and focus on the core aspects of the game. Dimir Charm has two consistently quite useful effects and a third more versatile yet quite situational effect and so it will rarely be dead. All the effects are more than fair for the cost and so you will never be blown away when you use it either but it should always get used. The removal is probably the best of the three and will see most use, it also scales well with the other effects. In the early game the removal will be able to hit almost everything on the board and be really good however as the game progresses the targets you want to kill will all be out of range and it will feel weaker. The counter magic is however a hard counter and will work just as well as the game goes on, sorceries also tend to cost more than other spells and so it will be a strong late game card too. These are the two solid effects that will gain or maintain your tempo and keep parity on card advantage. The third ability has several applications however they tend to require the more extreme circumstances. As it loses you card advantage you only want to be using it when the gains (or potential losses are vast), the three such situations I can think of at the moment are; when you really can't afford to miss a land drop, when your opponent has very few turns to draw an out of which they have one or few copies of (like a limp Misinformation), or potentially in a late game top deck war although I would often be tempted to hold onto it and try not to throw away card advantage. The third ability is also quite good in decks that have Divining Top, Brainstorm or other top of library manipulation, particularly those which want to put things into the graveyard like reanimator. All in all it is a very versatile card with desirable effects at a reasonable cost. I think it will improve the quality of games and I think it will see play in a reasonably wide array of decks despite having a much more control feel about it.
Domri Rade - B cube
I have already been testing with this card since it was spoiled so early and I can't say that it has ever impressed. It is harsh but I think a simple Elvish Visionary would have been more effective in every situation where I have had Domri. His colouring and his requirement to play a high creature count makes him only worth playing in RG agro decks in which he just feels like he is going against what you are trying to do. He is rather awkward to curve out with without losing tempo because fighting is somewhat situational and the +1 does nothing to the boardstate. The ultimate is fairly irrelevant because the style of deck he goes in should have won or lost by then any ways. A very narrow card that I like the idea behind but fail to see how he could be any use in cube.
Drakewing Krasis - C cube
Perfect example of the crap I fill my C cube up with. While a good little dork for the mana it is bland and vulnerable as well as gold and much worse than all of the many options my cube has to offer in terms of three drop fliers. On paper it is good and will be great in limited but it is not a cube card, it does not do enough and is far to risky to waste 3 mana on against red players.
Duskmantle Seer - 1.5
I think this will probably not see enough play to keep an A cube slot but does certainly have the power to deserve it. The issue with the Seer is that it requires both a certain kind of deck and a reasonable amount of building around. In the decks it is good in it will be a three pronged assault, firstly in being a solid flying dork that is very reasonably priced, it will dominate boards, eat walkers and offer well paced clocks. The second prong is the steady feed of new cards it will provide you helping you to take the win. The third prong is that their decks will not be build accounting for the Seer and may well punish them, against certain ramp and cheaty big dork decks it will almost be a direct hoser. Nice Emrakul, take 15? It will also somewhat speed up any clock which is generally to the advantage of the player with a 4/4 flyer in play. All in all a very cool and powerful card that does rather a lot but sadly won't be doing it in that many different decks.
Elusive Krasis - C cube
Better than the previous Krasis as it does a specific something and is not so vulnerable but it is still not even close to the level of being good enough to see any play.
Fathom Mage - C cube
I like ongoing draw than costs you nothing but this is too vulnerable to be worth the mana cost, at 0/3 or 0/4 then I might be interested but as is I'll stick to more reliable card draw. If you really want to get free card draw out of a dork then either Consecrated Sphinx or Primordial Sage!
Firemane Avenger - B cube
To be honest I think the low power of this set is making me overly kind, the three previous cards (not including the Seer) should all really be no slotters because this is not good enough for the B cube but a whole level better than the previous Simic cards. White has a plethora of 4 mana flying dorks that are pretty decent and while the effect of this one is up there with some of the others, Emeria Angel springs to mind as a comparable sort of card to be getting some action with, the fact that it requires battalion and two colours makes it unworthy. It is narrow in where it will see play and rather hard to get value out of the trigger.
Ghor Clan Rampager - C cube
This is an actual C cube card, it is nothing special as a dork, just a fairly decent agro beater that is not close to the power of Bloodbraid Elf or Huntsmaster of the Fells and so will not see much play. This guy is deceptively good however and may well turn out to be better in a RG agro deck than Huntsmaster as it is sort of two rather good cards in one and really goes a long way to assuring you have all the tempo. Having the option of a solid beater or a powerful combat trick at different points on the curve make this a really nice smoothing card in an agro deck. If this were mono colour I think I might give it a slot to test it out but being gold it seems too niche to bother even if I am right and he is just the ticket for RG beats despite his lower power level than alternatives.
Gruul Charm - C cube
Not the best of the guild charm cycle but not without its uses. The problem with it is that the uses are all disparate and niche, there is no single ability that will be useful in most situations nor is there an ability which any archetype is desperate to have. The gaining control of all your owned permanents is only any real use against blue mages and smacks of a sideboard card. Killing fliers is great for red and green who are light on them and doing it on mass is game winning however this would rarely ever happen unless you were up against a Faeries deck which again smacks of a sideboard card. The effect would be far better if it just killed a single flier as you are already a red mage and can burn the pesky small ones away. I can see it now in testing losing to Baneslayer Angels and Consecrated Sphinx with this clogging up my hand. The final ability is nearly enough to make this playable in an aggressive red green deck except that it doesn't work on fliers, the fact that this card can deal with some of those is hardly much use at compensating for the failings of the unblockable effect.
Master Biomancer - 2.0
I think this is pretty dangerous, as a 2/4 for 4 it is not too bad for tempo in both agro and more control styles of decks, neither is it too vulnerable to be worry about investing 4 mana for little return. Once it is in play it seems as if things get really out of hand really fast even without you abusing the Biomancer in any form. Simply giving any dork you make +2/+2 is usually going to mean you can only lose to mass removal. I really fancy the idea of following a Biomancer with a Deranged Hermit for 21 powers worth of fun. Then there is all the abusive fun you can have with creatures than love counters or various things that pump your Biomancer.
Merciless Eviction - 1.5
Another card that suffers not only from being gold but also having relatively few decks in its colours that would want it. As far as power goes I am fairly happy in calling it the best of the various six mana mass removal effects. Austere Command is closer in power but being just one colour is vastly more playable so this will not be stealing its spot. Compared to Catastrophe, Akroma's Vengeance, and Planar Cleansing the Merciless Eviction is quite a leap more powerful. The others tend to be a bit inflexible and therefore don't easily allow you to abuse. Typically when you get to six mana you are not trying to blow all or most of it up again and so the Eviction has all of the most important options on it which is close to making it more powerful than Austere Command on its own. The ability to kill two kinds of thing is nice but as the dork options are divided into two categories it is often just a Wrath of God, being able to take out their weenies and leave you big threat or kill their while team and snipe out an equipment as well happens infrequently. Certainly it is an excellent bonus to have on a card and makes it more fun to play Austere Command with the many more options it brings to the table but sadly the simple yet effective exile trumps destroy effects so hard in applications across the board in cube that Eviction is quite a lot more powerful when you put aside the colour concerns.
Mystic Genesis - No slot
Not as good as Mystic Snake as it cant be abused with creature based effects, and the Snake ain't exactly hot.
Orzhov Charm - No slot
I really don't know what to make of this other than it seems utterly awful. The removal option makes it playable but as it is pretty much worse than all the other white and black spot removal cards in the cube the other options would have to be good, and they are not. Being able to bounce one of your guys for the not so wonderful cost of two mana and a card is situational and clumsy at best, the auras perk is so rarely doing anything it is worth no further mention. The final ability gets a one mana dork back of which there are few that are worth two mana and fewer still that are so essential to your plan that you would put in a terrible card to secure their safety. Basically, as I can see it you have one useful effect in an unpleasant suboptimal form complete with two nearly useless alternate options, all three of which cost you something more than they should such as tempo or life.
Obzedat, Ghost Council - B cube
This is another very powerful card that probably just wont find a home. It suffers from the being gold and being legendary troubles that many of the more powerful cards in this set seem to however this one feels more purposive and honed than the others. It has protection against any sorcery speed effects which is always nice and will assure some damage and life gain every turn regardless of how your attacks go. Five mana is rather a lot and so I can't see this getting play often both for colour requirements and because of the stiff competition from Baneslayer and Gideon Jura in that sort of slot and role.
Prime Speaker Zegana - C cube
This is a lot of fun with Tooth and Nail but sadly pretty unplayable on its own. Six mana for a dork dependant on other dorks in play is awkward and it is not an easy six at that with double blue and green. Being a legend here is at least less of an issue as bouncing it probably just helps your cause and if they kill with a clone it has at least done its job for you in terms of card draw. Consecrated Sphinx just sets an unreasonably high bar for card draw on dorks.
Shambleshark - C Cube
This is a pretty good beater, it should hit as a 3/2 to begin with and seems quite easy to get to 5/4 with. It is like a really poor mans Tarmogoyf. Flash is always nice to have on a card but I don't see here how it does much to work with the rest of the card. Even so it will help to surprise block those Dark Confidants that are so hard to deal with in UG, that is if it ever sees any play. Above the curve but not enough to offset the limited excitement value of the card and its gold restrictions.
Signal the Clans - no slot
Even if this was directly tutor a dork it wouldn't see much cube play at all. There are not many RG decks that want to lose tempo to find dorks and those that do have far better options in Fauna Shaman and Survival of the Fittest. Three is quite a hard number to reach in a 40 card deck of creatures that do equivalent things. You might be able to reliably get a mana critter or a reasonably fat threat but getting silver bullet cards and answer cards will not be happening from this limp tutor.
Simic Charm - 1.0
Not as good as the Boros Charm but fairly similar and not quite as restricted to agro decks as the RW offering. It is much more of a tempo card than an answer card, a finisher or a blow out effect. It will rarely gain you any card advantage but it will be ideal insurance for developing an early to mid game board position with a good chance of having the tempo advantage. Hexproof is far less exciting than indestructible and will rarely help against mass removal or offer you any synergy with your own global effects but it will do basically the same thing most of the time which is to counter a removal spell and in some situations it will be more effective such as against exile effects. Pump spells see little play and while I think people tend to underrate them there is good reason behind not playing them as they are not always a useful card to have. Giant Growth is quite a lot of extra stats and isn't an unreasonable effect for two mana, having it on an otherwise useful card makes it really appealing as you get all the benefits of having pump in your deck without the drawbacks. The bounce effect is probably the most generally playable option of all three and ensures the card, while not of vast power, will always have its uses and won't be a card you are always wishing was something else. Sadly I don't think this card will stick around all that long in the A cube, the sorts of decks that could play this sensibly are Opposition and UG tempo decks both of which are spoiled for choice in cards already. Not only this but in those sorts of decks when you want an effect you either go for the best one that comes bolted onto a dork or you go for the cheapest mana cost option available and so I suspect the Charm will always be on the short list for these decks but very rarely make the final cut.
Soul Ransom - No slot
This is a trick card, in no way is it better than Control Magic or any of the more powerful steal dork effects. The 4 card thing looks extreme but is only ever a downside to the card. Giving choices like to your opponent, even if they seem brutal is never good. When they need to give you a 4 for 1 they will and when it is a horrific thing to do they won't. When they need to kill a Control Magic they don't just have the option to give you two cards and lose two of their own and so without a Disenchant or something specific they will lose the game.
Spark Trooper - No Slot
Much worse than Blistering Firecat, life is never bad to have but it is not worth trading off power, utility or mana costs to get in the kind of deck that might play them. Ball Lightning only just clings onto a cube slot so good luck to this steamer.
Treasury Thrull - C cube if I happen to get one, certainly not trading for one of these to sit in the C cube.
Not as good as Sun Titan, or many other cards that do aspects of what this oddball dork does but better.
Truefire Paladin - C cube
A bit too good not to hold onto a copy but a bit too bland and generic to be seeing any play, there are lots of quite good dorks for the mana, without a specific need of that card or some synergy there is rarely a use for them unless they are the best. Particularly not gold ones.
Unexpected Results - C cube
A funny little card that could be abused in a Heartbeat or Show and Tell style of deck that not only has some combo potential but also some last chance unlikely outs that are such fun to win with. Realistically any deck that has a curve that would make this card consistently valuable would itself be unplayable and Mind's Desire is a much more consistent and powerful version of this.
Urban Evolution - No slot
A card that looks like the perfect fit for a UG Heartbeat of Spring style deck. The problem is that with the Explore and the Council of the Soratami bolted together you can't use it early when you want it. As such you are always going to play a 5 mana Time Walk, a two mana ramp spell or any of the many many better card draw spells over it depending on what you actually need.
Vizkopa Confessor - No slot
I like the card design but for cube this would need to cost at least two mana less. At least.
Whispering Madness - C cube
This is a very powerful effect, especially complete with a mechanism to reuse it every turn. It is highly abusable in decks that can lock people out with Tanglewire and the like or those which can dump their whole hands out very quickly. I really want to build a Whispering Madness affinity deck as it is somewhat of a match made in heaven. The problems this card has are that its colours have few decks that can abuse this card beyond affinity and that it is both a touch dependant on things you have little control over and easy to disrupt any abuses of. I look forward to tinkering about with this card but suspect it will never quite be reliable enough to play.
Lazav, Dimir Mastermind - No slot
Filthy cost, slow and unpredictable trigger and all round not cube worthy.
High Priest of Penance - C cube
If this were RW I would have it in the A cube for systematic abuse. I would slap a Slagwurm Armour on it and go to town on him with my burn! As it is he is very awkward to make much more effective than a 1/1 death touch.
Zamek Guildmage - C cube
This is the best of the three guildmages spoiled so far in Gatecrash and probably all of RtR for cube use. The problem with all the Guildmages is that they are too mana intensive to get any value from and typically offer low powered returns for the investments made. Great in limited and late game top deck mode but in cube where this happens less often they are not great. This has cheap abilities which is greatly to its credit, drawing cards for two is nice, especially if you can reset your Strangleroot Geist at the same time. Being able to grow all your guys is less exciting but more abusable with cards such as Deranged Hermit. Typically however it would just be used to sink spare mana.
Boros Reckoner - B Cube
I am struggling a little with this guy, sometimes I look at it and think its terrible and the next time it seems bomb like. On its good days it seems like a mini Phyrexian Obliterator that it undesirable to do combat in the same game as while being a reasonably beefy body for the mana. On its bad days it seems like a card that is only playable in two or three very similar agro weenie archetypes that don't want many three drops much less so do they want generic good dorks that serves no real purpose. Optional first strike makes it much harder to work out combat with this guy and could lead to some unexpected trickery. Power wise it is decent but it is too aimless and too restrictive to be an A cube mainstay.
Burning Tree Emissary - B cube
I really like this card but can't see it being what is needed in any deck. The low power of the card and infrequency of the mana being really useful make it not worth playing. It can help you fix your colours for a turn but unlike Manamorphose it is held back by being stuck on a 2/2 rather than being the more universal card draw. I want this to be good but fear there is no way of being able to rely on getting worthwhile tempo from him.
Immortal Servitude - B cube
I thought this was quite good until I was informed it was equal to X and not X or less upon which revelation I have revised my assessment to pretty awful. It feels like it must have some good combo applications but the card is a bit clunky and ugly for me to bother trying to work out what that combo might be. Outside of combo decks unless you have almost exclusively one or two drop dorks this card is unplayable and if you do then you could probably improve the power and curving abilities of your deck by making that not the case any more. If I pick one of these up I will definitely try to build a deck comprised of as many one mana black and white dorks as I can cram in before they are becoming much weaker than Dutiful Thrull...
Nightveil Specter - 2.0
I am a fan of this card, it is a great body, 2/3 is commanding against all the early and utility dorks and flying is great on its own, let alone when it has synergy with the effect. It is not quite drawing a card when you hit them with Specter and although it is not as good as drawing a card from your side of the board it can be very damaging to their strategy and therefore sometimes better than drawing a card yourself would be. Often it will get you lands which is nice and can be really pesky with some effects like fate steal that will let you pick and chose what you want to thieve. If it sticks around long enough you will get the mana to cast the spells you exile with it even if you are not in the same colours. I can see this being highly playable in a wide range of black, blue and black-blue decks from control to agro. Three colour decks or off colour two colour decks (such as UR or BW) will be unable to play this unless the non UB colour is the smallest of splashes so it does not have the typical wide scope of hybrid cards but remains still far more interesting that standard gold cards are.
Shattering Blow - 1.5
Cheap, instant, exile and viable in the majority of cube archetypes. This is one of the most all round playable cards I have seen print. It will painlessly deal with Wurmcoil Engines bringing joy to the world, particularly the world of the red mage. Unfortunately I cannot get to excited about cards like this that do the same as other cards just marginally better.
The Key Runes
Too expensive to be good ramp or fixing complete with dorks to low powered to be worth investing in as useful threats.
Glaring Spotlight - C Cube
I really hate cards like this, it is not a very good solution to a metagame issue nor is it a very fun card. The bonus sac ability is cool and makes the card better but is not really enough to make the card playable on its own and so you have to be using this as a hoser. It is probably the best answer to some things for some decks in the cube and I know I will be the one wanting it if I don't put one aside but I would much prefer to see this kind of effect on a dork if it must be printed at all.
Thespian's Stage - C cube
A bad Wasteland for legendary lands and a pretty bad fixer or wildly unreliable utility land. Lots of uses but none are going to be worth having a colourless land with a further 3 mana investment before it does anything at all, and when it does it will likely be marginal at best. Quite fun though and broad enough that I'll be stashing one away.
Top 10 Gatecrash Cards for Cube
Well, I say top ten but as I was doing it I realised there are only seventeen cards I am even going to slightly bother to go out of my way to put in the A cube with a slight possibility of them staying there a while. None of these cards have assured A cube slots which is very rare for a set not to have at least one clear lock in for the cube. In a years time I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that only a handful of Gatecrash cards remained in the A cube at all.
16. Hellraiser Goblin
14. Simic Charm
13. Assemble the Legion
12. Thrull Parasite
11. Duskmantle Seer
10. Blind Obedience
9. Master Biomancer
8. Merciless Eviction
7. Shattering Blow
6. Nightveil Specter
5. Boros Charm
4. Dimir Charm
3. Frontline Medic
1. Cloudfin Raptor