Monday 25 March 2013

Revised Reviews: Blue Creatures

It is time to go over the reviews of the main cube cards. Since I first did them over a year ago I have learned more about the newer cards and the cube metagame has changed a little. I have also added new cards and retired some to the B or C cube for the time being although I will still keep those cards in this list. While touching up the reviews it seems like a good opportunity to employ a more informative rating system which I have outlined here. In short the main rating is the same and in bold at the top, the two aspects that make up that composite rating are below. Power relates to the effects and stats of the card for its mana cost while support relates to the cards utility, synergy with other cards and how well in fits into the cube metagame and archetypes. The first set of reviews I did will remained unchanged in the earlier portions of the blog if any uber keen people want to see what, if anything has been changed

Delver of Secrets | Insectile Aberration
Delver of Secrets | Insectile AberrationDelver of Secrets  3.5
Power 3.8
Support 3.3

If immediately flipped this is one of the most powerful one drop aggressive creatures and its blue! This can work in control as well as agro as a 3 power evasion monster is a reasonable threat at any stage of the game, and for the bargain cost of one mana does not leave you vulnerable in order to get it out. In cube with Divining Top, Brainstorm and other blue library manipulation this dork is pretty easy to flip. Even if you fail to flip, a wizard is not the worst creature type to have floating around. In cube at present I think this is the best flip card although without any direct comparisons. Reckless Waif is just awful while Huntsmaster of the Fells is a totally different kind of card. The Delver card has found many homes and is often paired with Snapcaster Mage as they both demand a high count of instants and sorceries. These decks  often include red, splash blue, deck wins, counter burn, UW weenie, UB fairies style agro control and various mono blue creature decks with things like Vedalken Shackles, Grand Architect and Opposition. All said and done it is still a situational card and often a very poor rip off the top meaning you can't just throw this into a deck without thought and not have it cost you. This is a great example of the card I like to have in my cube, lots of potential power but needs to placed in an appropriately built deck rather than always just being a no-brainer include card sat too high on the power level devoid of any drawback. It is a touch swingy in that you are really really far ahead if you make it turn one and just luck out to flip it right away however not quite in the same league as Hymn to Tourach or Stripmine for random early free wins. With only one copy the random abusive starts are less commonplace and don't make me resent the Delver. Blue has now got a reasonable selection of one drop dorks that are impressively aggressive with Delver, Cloudfin Raptor and the weaker yet passable Phantasmal Bear which together have really opened up the colour. Delver sees the most play of the lot as it is most comfortable in the less tempo focused decks. 

Enclave CryptologistEnclave Cryptologist 2.1
Power 2.0
Support 2.3

The cryptologist is not definitely better than Merfolk Looter but the cube does not really want both. The Cryptologist gets the single slot as blue really lacks one drop creatures. The downsides compared to Looter are a lack of power and an additional mana to get up and running, the latter of which is very significant. The upsides include being able to loot reliably on turn two if in opening hand and that getting to level three is quite easy in the mid and late game turning this guy quickly into a game winner. Generally you only pump the 4th through 7th mana into this when you have nothing better to cast (or bluff) meaning you don't feel to ripped off when they do kill it in response to a level up. Level up has proved to be a great mechanic offering cards that scale well throughout that game complete with interesting choices. Cards that are useful early and late improve deck consistency giving better games. A bit too vulnerable to make than many heavy control decks and lacking in any tempo gaining prowess thus rendering him poor in agro decks the Cryptologist winds up in mindrange decks, combo decks utilizing discard effects and the odd tempo deck that requires bodies to tap for Opposition or put equipment on etc. There are no decks for which this is an auto include yet it is convenient to play, offers a good range of powers for the mana investment and has lots of incidental synergies and uses making it a great support card in a very wide and diverse selection of decks. 

CursecatcherCursecatcher 1.2 (B cube)
Power 1.0
Support 1.4

This guy doesn't affect the board very much and acts more as a Rishidan Port preventing them from tapping out to cast important spells. This in turn can provide useful information as to what is in their hand based on how they play around the card. This card is significantly improved by lords and equipment that make this guy relevant on the board and works best in tempo style blue decks and Opposition strategies. Cursecatcher is the best one drop merfolk and a mainstay of the merfolk deck should it be dredged out of the B cube. One problem with this card in cube is his lack of use late game resulting in him seeing less play than the other two blue one drops. He is also rather useless against heavy creature decks. Cursecatcher has now been utterly outclassed by Judge's Familiar which is easier to cast and a far more useful body. which means the Catcher only now sees play in tribal merfolk decks and so has joined them in the B cube. Even Judge's Familiar sees very little play which probably means this should never have been an A cube card in the first place. 


Lighthouse ChronologistLighthouse Chronologist 2.9
Power 3.0
Support 2.9

Another deceptively good card. The Lumengrid Warden body is a golden size in cube and it blocks and survives most attacks from early aggressive monsters. Almost all utility monsters in the cube have two or less power as well. He is reasonably comparable to Wall of Omens in function, simply as a speed bump and good use of early mana. The one power is very handy defensively and is better than the extra toughness that the Wall as it holds off most one toughness attackers and works effectively in combined blocks. Both this and Wall are 2 drop speed bumps, Wall offers a replacement card while this offers a later game bomb and a reasonable mana sink. The mid level is just a better speed bump than the 1/3 and while not exciting is a better use of mana than nothing. The ultimate level is however of insane power and wins games faster than Consecrated Sphynx if not dealt with but it is the initial body that takes most of the credit for his high rating. It is only really the potential for this to be a finisher that makes it playable in the same way Wall of Omens wouldn't be playable if it didn't draw a card. It doesn't frequently get to top level but more than you would think, and when it gets there it is really hard to lose. Blue has few good two drop creatures and even fewer good defensive ones which earns this guy many of his slots. The high blue mana requirement is less of an issue as he is most frequently played in mono blue decks as a result of their deficiency in two drops. He winds up in agro to midrange all the way to more heavy control however is typically a filler card in all of them. 

Spellstutter Sprite
Spellstutter Sprite 2.2
Power 2.5
Support 2.0

This dork is playable in cube if it is your only faerie as so many relevant spells cost 1. Flash and flying make this guy useful as a combat trick but is not his optimal use. As you increase your faerie count this gets better and better as a counterspell but the card should not really be included in you counter magic as a mystic snake would. The role this card fulfils is much more like Arc Trail offering a very cheap two for one and providing a tempo swing. The 1/1 body is only exciting aggressively if you have a reasonable number of equipment but is still useful for holding the skies and nibbling at walkers. Blue aggressive decks will usually be running equipment anyway just to make up for below average power and toughness monsters.This is more so the case as Trinket Mage and Grand Architect have good synergy with equipment making this a good card to use too. This little critter will find play in both agro and control decks but most typically those found somewhere between the two. Very pesky with waterfront bouncer and other mechanisms to recast too. 

Etherium Sculptor

Etherium Sculptor 1.5 (B cube)
Power 1.6
Support 1.4

A versatile little critter who ramps well while also offering a body for extra value. He finds play in affinity although not an auto include, tempo blue decks, storm style decks with high artifact counts and quick mana big artifact decks too.  As with many affinity style cards  he allows for ridiculous starts but is more frequently a poor top deck later in the game. Effects that reduce the cost of spells are very powerful and should always be considered closely. Most are symmetrical making them harder to abuse safely. Sunscape familiar is one of my all time favourite cards and I often splash it and no other white cards in to my blue green combo decks. This guy is a card that can work similarly being a two mana personal effect and although he is less powerful than Sunscape Familiar he is much more widely useful. If your deck needs to win early or has ways to filter weaker cards later in the game and has a healthy number of cards this accelerates it should probably be a consideration for your deck (assuming it as already blue which most artifact heavy decks are). One problem faced by this card is his middle of the road nature, in the most hardcore combo decks that wan't an effect like this they will probably opt for the more robust Helm of Awakening and in the decks being more aggressive they will either elect for a better ramp card or a better threat. This leaves the Sculptor more often than not being a filler card and a bit too narrow for an A cube slot at present. This is the kindo f card to keep an eye on as you wouldn't need much to make this a mainstay in something. 

Looter il-Kor
Looter il-Kor 3.3
Power 3.1
Support 3.6

I have been impressed with this card since its most recent return. It has always been one of those borderline cards that pops briefly into the cube to spice it up then sees to little play and leaves again. This time however blue has really powered up on the creature front and has a lot more decks that play dorks and wins by attacking. This Looter is a lot of things all in one neat package and so gets a lot of slots for doing two different things in the deck, sometimes you need a two drop to even your curve, sometimes you need evasion to utilize other effects and have a way of winning, sometimes you simply need more bodies in your build, sometimes you are land light and really want some more early draw to make your land drops more likely and sometimes you have some situational spells you really want a good way of putting to alternate use. When you are nearing a complete deck and you have just a few slots left but several holes still to plug I am often finding Looter to be a go to guy. The only other creature with shadow in my cube can't block so this is basically unblockable which makes this as reliable as any other looting effect dork. Part of why this is so playable is that blue is very thin on the ground for good playable aggressive one and two drops and while this does not scream aggression it is a fantastic support dork and scales very well with equipment and other pump effects. It is at least proactive on two fronts as well so works in most decks. I think this Looter will be staying in the A cube now for quite some time.

Gilded DrakeGilded Drake 2.7
Power 3.0
Support 2.5

This is the polar extreme end of blue Control Magic effects and very much the opposite of Sower of Temptation. Gilded Drake offers very cheap and very hard to undo or disrupt stealing of dorks. It is the most appropriate answer to the more extreme decks you might face that will have very serious things down potentially very fast. What drake does not offer is any value like the reuse from Vedalken Shackles, the dork from Sower of Temptation or the mana from Treachery. It in fact gives them a guy to compensate for its vast undercosting, and quite a mean 3/3 flyer at that. As such it cannot be used willy nilly against any agro deck as there is a good chance it is more problematic to face than whatever you got from them. If Gilded Drake were only good against ramp decks and cheating dorks into play decks it would be too narrow for an A cube slot. The reason the Drake is so playable is that it is highly abusable with bounce which is something abundant in blue. If you have consistent and reliable bounce the Drake is vastly better than Vedalken Shackles as it is cheaper, safer, more permanent and allows for multiple steals all at the same time. It is a royal pain trying to win against that sort of soft lock with a heavy creature deck, particularly one lacking in much instant removal. Typically blue struggles against agro creature decks as many of its solutions are too slow however the reuse of Gilded Drake strategies cope very well. 

Voidmage Prodigy
Voidmage Prodigy 1.6 
Power 1.7
Support 1.5

This guy is the only card in the A cube that provides an incentive to play wizards. Wizard is one of the most abundant creature types in the cube, certainly in blue. On top of this most wizards are utility guys, often offering their effect on entering the battlefield. This makes them good targets to sacrifice for counterspell fodder. Voidmage can provide a way to soft lock an opponent pretty effectively but this requires you to have reasonable board position and good amounts of blue mana. While he is cheap, his ability is far less so and thus for him to be consistently a useful card in your deck you need to not rely on him. This means casting him on turn two and trading for a Savannah lion or something enough of the time. The morph is rarely of use, particularly as the only monster in the A cube with morph somewhat reducing the surprise factor. A good card but generally restricted to heavy blue blue decks and rarely allowed the chance to shine due to his fragility. Voidmage is losing ground to better and better cheao blue dorks entering the cube as they offer what blue lacks while Voidmage offers more of the same, just well disguised. Despite the reasonable power to cost ratio of Voidmage he rare gets his beat on as most things kill him. You are better off with two drop dorks that yield good tempo or more robust disruptive four drops. One of the closest comparisons to this card is Glen Elandra Archmage who is significantly better despite having less re-usability and less range on its counter effect. The reason it is so much better is that is is a more useful and robust body with a cheaper activation. I suspect Voidmage will not remain in the A cube long at all with his ever declining play time unless a really juicy wizard lord is printed.

Phantasmal ImagePhantasmal Image 2.8
Power 3.0
Support 2.5

I dislike putting cards in my deck which I do not know what they will be doing for me. When you are able to play this you generally have weaker monsters and hoping to copy something big they make. If you always wait to copy something you have made you will typically be behind where you could have been. If you have some particularly high powered dorks in your deck and a reasonable count of them then the Image depends less on your opponent making something decent to be good.  Two mana is a bargain with the drawback being fairly inconsequential and offers blue the chance of a big cheap guy, something it otherwise fails at. My main attraction to this card is when you know you are facing legends making this become a reliable Hero's Demise. When I mentioned the drawback being inconsequential I was referring to how your opponent can play in order to take advantage of it, which mostly they cannot. When building a deck with Image you have to be mindful of things like equipment which can be annoying. Blue wants to equip guys if it is winning by swinging meaning Image is not something you can seamlessly slot into any old blue deck. With a high number of persist and undying monsters about the Image is much improved as they are ideal mid game targets to eek maximum value from your Image.  

Waterfront Bouncer

Waterfront Bouncer 2.3
Power 2.2
Support 2.5

A fantastic utility creature that offers synergy in many different ways. If your deck can support the card loss Bouncer offers huge tempo advantage, most frequently however his presence when he is active on the board just forces your opponent to play very differently while costing you no extra cards. He is at his best in decks wanting to abuse graveyard effects, usually with green. Apparently he has had an errata making him a merfolk in addition to his types which increases his usefulness in fish style archetypes although most of those cards reside in the B cube. Useful late game to save your own creatures, particularly those with come into play effects. Opposition decks also value this guy highly as his otherwise pretty irrelevant body become useful even when you don't want to be discarding. Very potent with Eternal Witness, Mystic Snake and even Spellstutter Sprite for an easy soft lock on your opponent. Not the best thing to flop down on turn two as even the small activation cost will hurt your curving and a 1/1 doesn't get much done in battle. Bouncing their cheaper early plays also is far less effective than hitting their four and five drops. As such this is best coming down while doing other things from about turn 4 onwards and is not the best card to lower your curve with. In other words, play bouncer when it has synergy and you really want the effect in your deck rather than because you want more two drops or think it will increase your early game tempo.

Snapcaster Mage
Snapcaster Mage 4.6
Power 4.7
Support 4.6

This guy is the best card printed for cube for quite a while. It was obviously going to be great without needing to play it in any decks but having now had a decent amount of time using the card I can confidently say it is far better than I anticipated. Most people think that Dark Confidant or Tarmogoyf are the best creatures ever printed and this may be so for constructed formats but in the cube I prefer the Snapcaster to both and think it is a very strong contender for the best dork slot in all of Magic. Confidant is a bit restrictive in how you can build your deck with him in it and Goyf is just a very undercosted beater with no added value. I have been trying the Snapcaster out in all sorts of decks from red deck wins to blue white control expecting it to be sub par and have always found the card to shine. He is basically an aggressively costed Eternal Witness thus fits well in both combo and control with the vast array of cheap spells to recur. Flash also makes this a viable two drop should you need to take out some early aggression or simply apply some pressure. Tutor and recursion effects are more powerful in singleton formats giving this guy another boost in power. Mostly it is a combination of his high potential power scaling well into the game combined with a lack of any drawback what so ever that make him so very good. While not strictly drawbacks he does not work well with alternate casting cost cards like Force of Will and Foil or mechanics like suspend which is probably just as well as this guy plus Ancestral Vision would get tedious very fast. Getting hit by Mental Misstep twice by turn two because of this guy is painful enough. He is also a touch risky to use on certain cards that you really want continued access to throughout the game due to them getting exiled. The more cheap instants and sorceries you play the better this gets but I have had as few as 6 targets and still been more than satisfied with Snapcasters performance. 

Kira, Great Glass-SpinnerKira, Great Glass-Spinner 2.6
Power 2.9
Support 2.4

This is another one of those surprise cards that was dug up one day to plug a hole in a deck and impressed so much she has not left the A cube since. Kira is fantastic protection for your guys and allows you to play more vulnerable utility dorks such as Waterfront Bouncer and Sower of Temptation. Generally Kira is not the creature they most want to kill and are forced into difficult choices, use two effects to kill the desired thing or use three to first deal with Kira. This buys a lot of time and tempo for the blue mage. Having evasion is useful because the effect is far more valuable than the body you would not often want it fighting in combat. With flying it usually gets to nibble away for two a turn providing even more tempo. Blue creature decks often desire equipment to give their weaker guys a bit more presence on the board and Kira has poor synergy with them which is critical in deck building. Generally it is all fine provided you have very cheap to put on equipment like Bonesplitter but will give your opponent the option to one for one remove the monster and so should be treated like putting an aura on. There are not all that many effects that allow people to easily expend the first target trigger from Kira but she is obviously much weaker when she does encounter them. Spellskite also fulfils a similar role without harming your own effects or options however is easier to deal with and less proactive. Typically agro blue decks will play Kira as one of the first names on the team sheet but is not quite at the level of being an auto include due to the potential anti synergy she can offer. Kira doesn't help protect your Phantasmal creatures either. She is also on the narrow side as she is too low impact to be played in heavy control decks. Most commonly found in mono blue agro decks but cropping up in the odd UX midrange deck too. 

Æther AdeptAether Adept 2.0 
Power 2.0
Support 2.0

Apparently being a wizard is worth costing 1UU over 2U for Man O War. While this has not been an issue as the Adept tends to only see play in heavy blue creature decks or UG decks where the fixing is very good I am pretty certain it is still wrong. Either way, a 2/2 for three that can bounce any dork when it comes into play is great although not quite great enough for two copies with the three slot being a very contested slot for blue guys. Early game the Adept is fantastic for giving great tempo swings and later on she finds good use bouncing your own guys to get extra value from their come into play effecst. She is always a firm favourite with Opposition as she is a great thing to proceed it with upping your creature count significantly compared to your opponents. She is especially useful in helping to set up attacks to kill off planeswalkers. Despite the many perks of this card the final body is of little use on its own and will likely trade for a similar creature that offered card advantage with its effect. Despite this blue has good ways to regain lost card advantage and far fewer good ways to gain tempo making this a good filler card to help all manner of quirky blue dork decks. Blue has vast redundancy in bounce and while this is fairly well rounded it does nothing really abusable or as synergic as the others and has been cut in favour of more interesting and powerful cards that do the same sort of thing. 

Serendib Efreet
Serendib Efreet 3.4
Power 3.2
Support 3.7

I love to be able to bring back classic cards and the format seems right for this guy at present. Flying is amazing and blue has enough dorks for it to be able to build creature decks too. Blue has few creatures with such a good ratio of power and toughness to mana cost, and less still that are low on the curve. The Efreet can block and live through doing so almost every creature in the cube that costs the same or less. Only Vampire Nighthawk is able to block and kill it and it dies in the process. When you have a card that is in some way on par with Nighthawk you know you have a very good card! Although I mentioned blue having enough dorks to make a creature based deck this is also pretty good in control decks despite the life loss although I suspect Fetter Geist would be better most of the time. Blue does have a vast array of powerful flying creatures that cost three mana but this is the most reliable of the bunch having only a consistent minor drawback. Sea Drake and Illusory Angel can both be better but this requires some effort in design while the Efreet is just good all of the time. Vendilion Clique is arguably a better card but it fulfils a very different role due to having three less toughness. If fails to dominate the board in quite the same way and is not something you are happy to get stuck in combat with. Being able to cheaply gain control of the board is very important in current metagame as it paves the way for you to establish your planeswalkers while at the same time makes their walkers a lot less effective. This is all amplified by the flying side of the card and is well worth the life cost. The reason this is so highly rated is that he fits so well into the meta rather than being of incredible power or even from having incredible support. I have mentioned that 1/3 and 2/3 are great sizes for cube dorks, particularly defensively due to the size of most aggressive one drops and the majority of the cheaper utility creatures. The next big power and toughness sweet spot is very much the 3/4 as it beats most dorks one on one as well as being out of burn range from most cheap spells, and more importantly completely trumps the high value 3 toughness dorks. 

Treasure MageTreasure Mage 1.0 (B cube)
Power 1.8
Support 0.3

I love cards that tutor and I love cheap dorks that offer card advantage. Treasure Mage is however a long long way from Trinket Mage and sees very little play. With just one target he is very hit and miss and even at two he will still miss finding something often enough to be annoying. Three or more targets and your deck is starting to be really top heavy. The only really viable deck for the Treasure Mage is a big mana artifact deck for which there are so many options on very powerful cards the Mage is frequently sidelined. Treasure Mage has very little impact on the game when he is made with you needing a few turns before you can make use of the tutored card. Six mana cards are generally not utility or answer cards which are the most useful to be able to tutor for, Treasure Mage will mostly go and find a win condition, which then begs the question as to why you are not just playing more win conditions or more effective draw spells. Perhaps it will find use in some combo deck or in some crazy affinity deck with Salvage Titan and Myr Enforcer when the right card is printed to go with them. Until then this card is way too narrow and only filler when it does get a slot making it not A cube material.

Trinket Mage
Trinket Mage 3.6
Power 3.5
Support 3.8

This would easily have been a 4.0 or higher with the power still in the cube and was comfortably in the top 10 creatures in the cube for a long long time. Even without being able to get cards of the same power as Black Lotus and Sol Ring the Trinket Mage is significantly better than his treasure loving cousin. Trinket Mage does not require you to clog up your deck with expensive targets and the things that he gets may be put to more immediate use. In addition to this Trinket Mage has at least five times as many targets as Treasure Mage in the cube. Depending on what kind of things you want this guy to be able to tutor for you can include appropriate cards in your deck so as to gain life, fix colours, find lands, find ramp spells, get card advantage, get mass removal, pump your guys and so on. Any artifcat printed costing one or less mana is always looked at more carefully as the presence of Trinket Mage alone will make the card much more powerful and playable. The Mage is so versatile and efficient that he winds up in more different decks than most other cube cards. He is great in control where he gets lands, Divining Top, Zuran Orb, Pithing Needle and Engineered Explosives, he is great in agro where he gets Cursed Scroll, Bonesplitter, Aether Vial, Skullclamp, dorks and yet more lands. He is great in ramp decks where he gets Mana Vault, Voltaic Key, Mana Crypt and of course lands and he is great in combo decks where he gets Lions Eye Diamond, Pyrite Spellbomb, Chromatic Star and many of the previously mentioned cards too. Despite the vulnerability of artifact lands you should always try and play at least one, often more, if you have the Trinket Mage. The pay off, even if they are main decking cards like Pernicious Deed will wind up in your favour overall. Although you do need to tailor your deck towards it and have the right cards to go with it the Trinket Mage is one of the very best all round utility dorks. It is the complete package like a Thragtusk or a Solemn Simulacrum yet more affordable and more flexible. It is some tempo and some card advantage in the form of a tutor effect!

Master of EtheriumMaster of Etherium 1.7 (B Cube)
Power 2.8
Support 0.8

This guy will happily see play in any heavy artifact deck and not just affinity. He is cheap and big and an artifact himself which adds to the synergy of the decks he is good in. That said he is not all that exciting, the +1/+1 buff is no way near as good as something like a Crusade as it is harder to put to good use and easier to remove from play for three and not two mana. As a big cheap guy he has no evasion or card advantage and is one of the easiest threats to kill in the whole cube. While blue might lack big cheap men this is not so much the case when using heavy artifacts and so this guy doesn't even plug a hole in blues repertoire. Dorks that don't do much else other than be fat have to be really good to make the cut and while this is the required power for such things it is quite narrow and so not highly rated on those two accounts. The place where this sees most play is in affinity where it pumps the most things and is vast from very early in the game. He is vastly better than things like Broodstar with him being an artifact himself and only costing a single blue. The problem is that even a single blue in affinity is a bit of a risk and so the more consistent but less powerful cards like Steel Overseer get played more often. 

Sea Gate OracleSea Gate Oracle 3.2
Power 3.0
Support 3.6

For a short while this dork occupied the happy position of top three blue creatures. Now I am not so sure where he stands with Augur of Bolas having the potential to be better and cards like Cloudfin Raptor and Delver of Secrets being wildly different sorts of card sand hard to directly compare. He is one of the most played blue creatures as there are no requirements for your deck in order to make good use of him. I have gone on somewhat about how three toughness is really good on a monster in the cube and various 1/3 and 2/3 dorks do better than they should for this reason. Throwing in not only a cantrip but also a card quality mechanism to this outstanding defensive body and you are onto a winner. Phyrexian Rager is a great card and this is basically superior in every regard except in the most aggressive of situations. Typically blue agro decks still want cards like this with high toughness as the majority of their threats are small bodied fliers. Great in control too where the extra cost over Wall of Omens is well worth it for the one power and Slight of Hand effect although typically played together for the redundancy despite different costs. The fourth land is often a swinging point in a game and if either player misses that land drop the chances of them losing increase significantly for most decks. Sea Gate Oracle is a hero for finding that land. There are many cards you can use to ensure you don't miss important land drops but very few also provide tempo gain. The most innocuous cards are often the most powerful and this is no exception. Sea Gate Oracle is a great stream liner of decks and the perfect glue to hold a surprising number of archetypes together. 

Vendilion Clique
Vendilion Clique 3.6
Power 3.6
Support 3.7

Clique is likely blues best aggressive monster costing two or more, with evasion as well as a good power to cost ratio and no support cards required to maximise their potential. The flash and the hand manipulation, particularly in combination are what make the card so versatile and playable. Synergic with counter and draw due to the flash, good at hitting planeswalkers both before and after they hit the board. The low toughness is a significant vulnerability but the flash and hand manipulation both mean you tend to get good value even if the card dies at the first opportunity to Arc Trail or Lava Dart. I find I target myself nearly as much as my opponent with the hand manipulation to lose the chaff and find what I need. Clique is top five in blue monsters in the cube and has been since it was released, sadly faeries is not a powerful archetype lacking sufficient depth in quality of cards like this to fill out a singleton deck. Spellstutter sprite is fine as a Mental Misstep but is still 50% of the relevant reason include faeries in your deck. Mistbind Clique, the other 50 and one of the most powerful faeries, does require more support to be playable and as such is not a viable A cube card and resides in the dusty B cube with the other non stand alone faeries. Should more faeries of this quality see print then the Mistbind may see promotion and afford this guy even more play. Vendillion Clique sees play as a supplementary win condition alongside cards like Vampire Nighthawk and man lands in control decks and in all blue based agro decks or tempo decks or Opposition decks. Blue is not spoilt for choice on above the curve monsters and so this sees play in decks where it doesn't have any specific role or synergy.

Pestermite 1.3 (C cube)
Power 1.2
Support 1.4

Three mana is a lot to pay for a 2/1 even if it does have flash and flying. This is compounded by blue having an abundance of three drop creatures. The tap effect is certainly useful across the board but in most cases it is about the most minor tempo swing on a card. Sometimes it is backbreaking such as against a Mana Vault however costing three mana makes it far weaker as disruption often being too late to the party. The untap is less useful still outside of Spliter Twin gimmicks. Overall the card manages to do a number of different roles quite poorly. If your deck wants most of these roles then it is OK filler, otherwise it is simply way too underpowered to be of much use. For the most part these are skies, faeries and mono blue opposition decks, all of which are very similar in the cube. It is the right sort of all round good card for a cube slot but is just too low power to get much play.

Grand ArchitectGrand Architect 3.5
Power 3.7
Support 3.3

One of blues best monsters, all of which are still legal in "Modern". This guy performs a couple of roles really rather well and finds play in a variety of decks, all be it mostly blue ones. So for starters he is a decent size being reasonably tough to kill and usable defensively in combat. Although his uses can be combined to both offer something to an archetype generally speaking one is the primary and the other is a nice secondary bonus. Essentially he is either there to pump all of your blue dorks giving you all round better tempo or he is there to generate mana for artifacts along with any other blue dorks you might have. It is rare for a card to have two abilities that are each good enough to merit a card seeing frequent cube play independently of one another. When used as pure ramp, as with all ramp spells he is most effective early on. While he may cost three which is quite a lot of mana for ramp he does at least tap on the turn he enters play and also lets all you existing guys do the same. As a crusade he is a little bit more vulnerable that you might like and perhaps even more costly than the white mage is used to however in blue this effect is huge. Many of your dorks are small utility dorks or smaller flying dorks both of which do a lot more for you when slightly bigger. Being a guy himself also has some tempo merits allowing you to block a bit better while your aerial force gets to work. He single handedly allows blue decks to forgo equipment and make full use of Phantasmal Creatures and Kira, the Great Glass-Spinner should you wish to go down that route. He is also much better to play with equipment than Crusade as he can himself be equipped and offers no negative synergy, not to mention his mana effect that is a powerful positive synergy. Turning artifact creatures blue is both a useful combat trick despite being an on the board one and also sometimes allows you to generate a little extra mana if you have some spare blue. The third ability is very much the minor of the three and is just occasionally nice rather than a reason to play the card. I tend to only play him for his ramping effect when I have a decent number of other blue creatures to tap as well which is not all that often in heavy artifact decks. When I am using him as a blue Crusade however I find I am a lot happier to start adding big equipment and cards like Vedalken Shackles to my deck as well. This implies he is better in the creature based decks than the artifact ones but I am perfectly happy to leave it at he is really good in both kinds of decks and outstanding when there is overlap. A card that really facilitates a lot of more tempo based blue strategies and gives blue great depth. 

Phyrexian Metamorph
Phyrexian Metamorph 3.3
Power 3.2
Support 3.5

This card is quite hard to rate as it is so varied. It is a Hero's Demise, a Clone or a Sculpting Steel, all of which are cards that often depend on what your opponent is doing. The Metamorph can literally go in any deck although blue is its favourite home as casting is more flexible and artifact synergy is highest. This makes it as hard to build with as it is to review as you always have it as a viable option and have to work out if it is something your deck will make good use of as well as factoring in what you are playing against. I find I end up only playing it in decks that want a high artifact count and have good synergy with them as middle curve filler, quite a lot like Solemn Simulacrum. If I am anticipating a Thrun I will be far more inclined towards inclusion too. Although it has the potential to be game winning, or saving, I shy away from regularly playing cards that I cannot rely on to do a specific thing. Including a card like this solely to copy your own stuff (thus making it more predictable) makes the card much weaker due to the need of having something good in play already to copy and making the card suffer from the win more issue of many good looking cards. It is far more flexible and reliable than the cheaper Phantasmal Image and doesn't cost all that much more. Metamorph still ends up copies creatures the vast majority of the time with their being fewer high powered artifacts. An odd card that is never really that bad in any deck at all and is often quite good yet still I find myself only playing it when I am able to particularly abuse it. 

Venser, Shaper Savant
Venser, Shaper Savant 2.4
Power 2.2
Support 2.7

This Boomerang come Remand style dork is pretty decent and often gets less credit than he deserves. He is both expensive and relatively low impact at first glance. You typically don't get card advantage with him and you might expect the tempo gains to be offset rather by having spent 4 mana for a poxy 2/2. These are all true of the card and stop him from being a real power house or a mainstay in any archetype but they are not sufficient to render him unworthy of an A cube slot. He is quite playable in most decks, with the general exception of combo, and tends to fulfil several roles within your deck thus being excellent filler. The four mana is a lot but having flash goes a really long way to solving this, it makes him playable in control and slower decks and makes it far easier to get lots of value from. Generally it is harder to lose tempo with a card when it has flash and makes it far safer, as well as all the other perks and tricks that comes with it. Being both a dork and an effect is always nice too as you get something you want with a bonus something thrown in. Control typically wants the bounce effect but is very greateful for the expendable blocker that comes with it. Generally the bounce effect is used over the Remand style one simply for the reason there are more often targets for it! There are relatively few expensive spells that paying 4 to return one to the hand is not amazing most of the time as well although stopping something like a Titan from getting its come into play effect can be pretty huge. Even with its lower usage the Remand option on the bounce makes you feel very safe when you have a Venser up, like a weak Cryptic Command. Bounce is really really good in cube, it is cheap and often effective removal and aids blue greatly in an area it is otherwise weak in. Venser is particularly good in that he is utility bounce that can hit lands as well as other permanent types. This is less abusable than it is on a card like Boomerang as it costs four but it still very powerful with there being man lands, Lake of the Dead and bounce lands all over the place. As he is a dork you can also soft lock people out of the game with cards like Waterfront Bouncer or get other utility from him that you cannot with many other good bounce effects. He is also not really reduced in power by being a legend as so many of the more costly ones are as he is not so important to keep in play for the investment as others and gets you value when cast for against Karakas abuse. Venser is less good as an agro card than Riftwing Cloudskate but is superior in all other regards and for all other archetypes while being a very similar kind of card.

Sower of Temptation
Sower of Temptation 3.0
Power 3.3
Support 2.8

Almost all cubes seem to pack Control Magic yet the Sower is less commonplace to my bewilderment. Certainly Control Magic is more robust but for those requirements you have the more powerful options of Vedalken Shackles and Treachery. Sower being a creature allows you much greater synergies with lots of good cards and offers you a massive tempo boost. Sower is a mainstay of blue aggressive strategies and while easy enough to kill if it should survive the game is pretty much over. Returning to Sower being a creature you can get repeat uses through bounce spells, cast it at instant speed with things like Aether Vial and easily protect it with effects like Kira or Spellskite. In addition to this it is an evasive body to equip or hit planeswalkers with or fuel an Opposition. Sower is also generally not too bothered about mass removal either as that still deals with the creature you stole as well most of the time and still leaves you with a two for one. Decent creature types as well, we just need to get faeries and merfolk breeding for the ultimate blue creature type... Normally I would say something like when you want to steel a guy you should go for the cheapest and most reliable option in Control Magic and not risk having it undone with something as simple as a Firebolt just for the sake of a 2/2 flier. The reason I am not saying this is because the Sower has much better synergies with other cards in many of the decks you want it in. While it might be easier to kill than an enchantment it is also easier to protect than an enchantment, not to mention abuse. On top of this you still get a 2/2 flier if they respond by saccing the dork you wanted to steal instead of just four tapped lands a fizzled Control Magic gives. The Sower I feel rounds out the options blue has if it wants to steal dorks in the cube very nicely. It is an incredibly swingy card that is often well worth some of the risks of playing it. 

Glen Elendra Archmage
Glen Elandra Archmage 3.2
Power 3.2
Support 3.3

This is to control decks what Sower of Temptation is to beat down decks in that if it is not appropriately dealt with the game shortly concludes. The ability to counter two spells just shuts down any deck not heavily based on winning with creatures (which includes many combo decks as well as control however getting this into play and active before a combo deck kills you can be a challenge). In many of the decks that look to play this card it will be able to protect something game winning such as equipment, Opposition, Sower of Temptation, planeswalkers or Vedalken Shackles or stop something ruinous like a Wrath of God or a planeswalker again as its main functions. Evasion is nice however applying the beat down is the least relevant function of the card and keeping her out of combat that will kill her is usually the correct play. Compared to Sower she is more robust due to having persist however most of the time you want to make this guy with a mana open as tapping out to drop a 2/2 you don't want involved in much combat and therefore doesn't offer much tempo can be very risky, it can easily lead to them untapping and getting out the card they were holding back for fear of other counters. It is at least nice to have the option of a reasonable blocker that is hard to shift out of the way when things get a bit rough. The thing is while it is more likely to stay in play and get the job of keeping you alive than Sower it is probably just delaying the inevitable while if the Sower does stick she may turn the game round single handedly. There are some pleasant synergies with this card that can soft lock your opponents out through resetting persist with things like Hex Parasite. This is a tedious and humiliating way to beat people and a good way to put them on tilt which can be a good or a bad thing depending on many non magic related things.
Glen finds herself in more decks than Sower as she does not need as much support from other cards to be at her best. She is fairly at home in tempo based decks, in control ones and everything in between. While she may not always be first choice in the four drops for control decks she will always come out of the board for any control on control mirrors where she is one of the best cards to have. If Glen is in play against a control deck you have incredible control over the course of the game. The counter effect is reliable against a lot of different spells and costs only one mana. This means you can safely spend most of your mana to put you further ahead. You can decide if you want to stop their card advantage effects, or their removal. It is even fine to just say no to a couple of counterspells. 

Mulldrifter 2.1
Power 1.8
Support 2.5

A nicely flexible dork that can be a reasonable chump, an evasive body or a pure card advantage spell. The downside of the card is a cost of 5 to get the dork which is the part where you are getting value and most utility. At three it is a great backup or out to a screw but more like super cycling barring the all important instant speed. So while Council of the Soratami is a brilliant side of a card to have as a backup it is not a great reason to include as the main function which it invariably is due to five being so very much in the cube. Compared to basically every other five drop permanent in the cube it will have less impact on the board. It is nice off the top in a stale late game and it is great when you have stupid amounts of spare mana however in a normal curve you will not be feeling too clever when this is your five drop. Better in slower cubes with less card synergy in favour of card power levels but in my cube it rarely finds a home. If you want chumps with cards you go for Sea Gate Oracles and cheaper dorks, if you want evasion you play Vendilion Clique and other efficient beaters and when you want card draw you play Fact or Fiction. Mulldrifter is just too expensive to be a jack of all trades usefully. It finds most play in decks expecting to have lots of mana spare or with cards such as Aether Vial but mostly it gets played in the most limited of formates like sealed deck where it is highly splashable and becomes top quality filler.  

Riftwing Cloudskate
Riftwing Cloudskate 2.2
Power 2.1
Support 2.3

This is one of those cards that a cube wont miss if it is not in but wont seem out of place when it is. No decks need it, nor even auto include it, but it is pretty playable in most decks. Cards like this are good for draft formats and I am happy enough to be bringing it back. The reasons behind which are reasonably convoluted, blue has a huge glut of three drop monsters to which I have recently added a whole lot more like the jolly fellow above and so I was looking to trim the ranks of blue three drops. In this bracket I found Aether Adept to be the most cuttable. The Riftwing is an attempt to replace that kind of comes into play bounce on a dork effect. It is not at all a direct replacement but I think Riftwing is the superior card. The body is more useful with flying even if it is a weaker creature type, the bounce is more versatile and makes the card have much broader application and the mana cost is variable giving you yet further versatility and smoothness. Blue lacks decent tempo things to do on turn two and Riftwing is a good use of your mana on turn two even if you don't get any tempo advantage for a few more turns. Five mana is a bit steep but in the late game it matters a lot less about the cost and a lot more about the immediate impact, this flexibility makes the card much stronger rather like Mull Drifter which is somewhat of a back up plan in one of its curve slots. Quite a nice card to go with Illusory Angel although not a reason to earn it a cube slot. Found most in tempo based blue decks but also found in a wide array of mid range decks. 

Meloku the Clouded Mirror
Meloku, the Clouded Mirror 2.0 (B cube)
Power 2.6
Support 1.5

Unlike Siege-Gang Commander and many of the other 5 drop one man army cards Meloku requires you to further invest to obtain your army. He flies and more importantly makes an army of fliers which is nice but he offers no extra utility beyond the returning of land which for the most part is just a drawback. There are quirky synergies and combos with the effect however in decks where you want to do that Trade Routes is simply a much more reliable way of doing this. Meloku is a great late game rip off the top and will win most games where he gets to live for a couple of turns however he is reasonably easy to deal with and offers little value if played when you first hit 5 mana and is then immediately dealt with. While you can get value from a dead Meloku that was killed with spot removal after you had spare mana he does nothing to give value through mass removal which can also be a pain. A good card but with too few homes and roles to be getting much play. In terms of a serious threat in blue that costs five mana Meluko trumps all the alternatives however when facing the likes of Banelsayer Angel, Wolfir Silverheart, Seige-Gang and Thundermaw Hellkite from other colours you are much better off casting a Time Warp and making a six drop. Being a legend also detracts from his worth with vulnerabilities to Karakas and Phyrexian Metamorph etc. A fairly solid dork but not in the same league as the top tier cube threats. 

Frost Titan
Frost Titan 2.9
Power 2.8
Support 3.0

Probably the third best of the titan cycle but sadly quite a step down from Grave and Inferno. The tap effect is very nice in blue as a way to lock down things you would otherwise struggle to deal with. The protection is surprisingly handy although no way near the power of hexproof. Lack of trample or other evasion is a problem on such a big investment of fat and makes it hard to get much done against lots of little dorks. Sphinx of Jwar Isle is the more effective threat with better protection and evasion however Frost Titan is basically a removal spell as well. Being a fairly robust and serious threat with the ability to lock out one thing as long as he is in play and attacking he is more all round playable than Jwar Isle. You want Titans to gain card advantage when you make them and you want the game to get quickly out of control when you get a few swings out of your Titan and Frosty here does neither of these things very well. Indeed another Sphinx of the Consecrated variety this time is very much the way to go if you want value and snowballing power.  On paper the Primeval Titan seems a bit better with the trample, the card advantage and the ability for the game to get very out of hand however you need the support cards for Primeval and you need the right deck. More decks exist that are good that can just throw in a Frost Titan and none of them need to worry much about the synergy with their other cards. Sun Titan does net you card advantage but manages to get less powerful as he remains in play rather than more brutal due to running out of viable targets. Sun Titan also requires as much, if not more building around than Primal Titan and is just a bit clumsy to get very excited about. Frost Titan is reliable and not at all situational, he is a great counter to other Titans and a nice supplement to blues rather patchy removal options. 

Consecrated Sphinx
Consecrated Sphinx 3.9
Power 3.9
Support 3.9

I hated this card when I first saw it and refused to put one in the cube for ages. Then I drafted someone else's cube and ended up with one that I was forced to play in my sub par UG deck. Suffice it to say I was quickly convinced of my error. The card draw seemed rather win more and the body alone for the mana did not excite. It is also plausible to lump Sphinx in the category of cards that offer no value if insta-gibbed however this is barely ever the case. The vast majority of the time you draw at least two cards from the effect, any more than two cards drawn and the game tends to be pretty over. A good finisher and as hard as most Titans to kill the Sphinx is about the best blue threat to end your curve on. I find I often play it instead of something like a Time Spiral or perhaps even a Fact or Fiction as it will be pretty effective as a card draw mechanism but then also doubles up as an extra threat. This means I am a lot less unhappy about losing this guy than I would be about losing something like a Baneslayer which earned its place in the deck as a pure threat and not a dual purpose card. Since adding Sphinx (rather later than I should have) poor old Frost Titan has seen very little play. Consecrated Sphinx has great synergy with Arcane Denial and Jace Beleren, it also has great synergy with Force of Will as you ideally want your late game cards to be blue so you can pitch them in the early stages if needed. Historically blue has outsourced most of its finishers in counter based control decks but more recently seems not to need to so much. Consecrated Sphinx feels a lot like playing with the best of the Titan cycle and is a happy inclusion in lots of decks. No control deck is unhappy with this at the top of its curve and any slightly more aggressive deck may still opt to stretch their mana to incorporate this bomb. Blue decks more than most are able to make use of cards they cannot immediately cast which means having access to this kind of power is far less of a risk even for some agro lists. 

Inkwell LeviathanInkwell Leviathan 2.5
Power 2.2
Support 2.9

This card is often a counterpart to Sphinx of the Steel Wind, it can be cheated into play by all the same mechanisms. It is one of the most easily cheated into play cards along with the Sphinx as it is an artifact and a creature while still having colour and can reside in a graveyard. It also compliments Sphinx in that it is quite tricky to deal with for quite a lot of decks. It has a slightly quicker clock than the Sphinx but leaves you a lot more vulnerable while you try to kill them, it is also fairly unplayable for the cost if you are not cheating it into play and so it only ever goes in combo decks unlike the Sphinx which has been run in the odd control build. It is particularly good against blue for the extra evasion although better at staying alive against white and black decks than the Sphinx of the Steel Wind is. Red and green decks may still not be able to kill it but they can just block it or kill you. Really I just see this as a combo piece and so it is somewhat narrow, it is not even that powerful compared to many of the possible targets, and certainly not for its mana cost, it is just so highly convenient for combo.


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