Wednesday 30 April 2014

Black Devotion

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
So rare is it to have a new archetype in the cube that even those that are slightly different are fairly exciting. This deck is essentially just another mono black good stuff deck that has a devotion focus rather than some other inbuilt main focus synergy. Despite only really having two worthwhile devotion cards in Grey Marchant and Nykthos the capabilities of the deck quite improved on the more standard mono black style decks. Many of the highest power black cards are heavy on the black mana, which of course devotion rewards you for. Black also has a bit of burst with Dark Ritual and Lake of the Dead which really help get Nykthos online that much faster. The combination of all those cards ensure you will have access to a lot more mana than a standard midrange deck and as such can build to exploit that.

Gray Merchant of Asphodel
Another reason that devotion naturally slots in with mono black so well is the life gain on Grey Merchant. Black loves to spend its life on other luxuries and so having worthy cards that can replenish the life total are of much higher value that they are in other colours. I was a bit surprised by quite how effective the Grey Merchant is, initially intending it to reside in the C cube only to come out for quirky decks but it seems comfortably powerful enough for a main cube slot. A quickly dangerous and very swingy comes into play effect on a reasonably decent body complete with a great array of support cards mean that black can be a little more nimble and keep their opponents playing more cautiously. Gray Mechant, as I am sure all of you standard players are all too aware, will simply end games out of nowhere.

Pack Rat
23 Spells

Inquisition of Kozilek

Tragic Slip
Deathrite Shaman
Vampiric Tutor
Dark Ritual

Pack Rat
Nantuko Shade
Vampire Hexmage
Phyrexian Obliterator
Geralf's Messengers
Vampire Nighthawk
Liliana of the Veil
Hero's Downfall

Pernicious Deed

Phyrexian Obliterator

Grey Merchant of Asphodel

Sorin Markov
Ink-Eye, Servant of the Oni

Lake of the Dead17 Lands

Lake of the Dead
Nykthos, Shrine to Nix
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Verdant Catacombs
Overgrown Tomb
11 Swamps

Other Considered Cards

Sickening Shoal
Drana Kalistrasa, Bloodchief
Nezumi Graverobber
Mox Diamond
Drain Life
Carrion Feeder

Hero's DownfallThe deck itself is fairly straight forwards and rarely presents those complicated turns chock full of complicated choices. The trick to being good with this kind of deck is being able to recognize the direction the game is taking as early on as possible. This will allow you to set up so that you always have something you want to be doing on the few following turns despite not having the breadth of options. The splash of green is painless and greatly increases the overall integrity of the deck, particularly with the Vampiric Tutor.

I tried this out using Boarderposts so as to increase my devotion but it really isn't worth it. The few devotion cards all work so well with the other black staples that you don't need to bother going to any extra effort to make them better. Having better consistency overall vastly outweighs powering up the devotion mechanic, this applies in black based decks more so than most other kind of deck.

The most notable thing to me in this list is the absence of Death Cloud, a card I rate as one of the most powerful in the cube and an auto include in heavy black decks. The simple answer is this deck is the first I have built in which I didn't feel forced into playing the Cloud. Black is typically limited in the ways in which it can deal with a lot of situations and is also a fairly inflexible colour. Death Cloud is not only highly versatile in what it allows you to do to a game but it also has great crippling potential. The logic being that you can't deal with certain things that might befall you should you leave your opponent sufficiently undisrupted and so you use the power of Death Cloud to pro actively sabotage what is going on.

Nantuko Shade
The reusable power of Nykthos combined with powerful card draw engines means that you don't want to hobble the momentum of the game as you will be powering out much harder than your opponent. The safety of newer cards like Hero's Downfall and good old Pernicious Deed mean you can feel more secure against scary things you might otherwise want a Cloud to prevent ever being cast.

Black doesn't have that many great mana sinks which are useful in this kind of deck should you fail to get a card advantage engine running. Pack Rat is fine but needs more fuel than just mana and so I found myself in the rare situation of bringing back an old retired monster of old - the Nantuko Shade. Despite its age it is still a fine little threat and can quickly become a must block dork.

I wanted a little more meat to the deck as I had so many slots filled with piddly little critters to enable quicker devotion and the Skullclamp engine. Grave Titan is certainly a lot more power than Ink-Eyes however the utility in being able to reuse various enter the battlefield effects was too tempting. This version worked fine despite the some what anti-synergy of Pernicious Deed and small critters.

Master of the FeastI have since done several other incarnations of this kind of deck that range from the very agro to the much slower control. The only main theme is that they all use Gray Merchant, Lake of the Dead and Nykthos combined with a selection of other heavy black costing dorks. Light splashes offer a lot and work fine but you cannot afford to have lands that don't tap for black and you want lots of swamps for your Lake of the Dead so the splashes have to stay light. Mono black also works perfectly well and can cover the full range of agro to control well. It even works pretty well just playing the most powerful spells you can without paying mind to what direction you are going in.

For the first time ever I have more black cards I want in the main cube than any other colour. Black has gained more than any other colour in recent magic sets and Theros block by far the most significant for the colour. It is the most powerful and versatile colour to go mono with and is a great support colour chock full of golden goodies. Black has so much inbuilt synergy with paying life and gaining it, discarding things and recurring them, sacrificing things in abusive ways etc. all on stand alone good cards that the hardest part is knowing which bits to let go of. In this list I was doing a bit too much but it was still a good way to learn about the new goodies and where they are most powerful, to which the answer seems to be everywhere heavy black.

Tuesday 29 April 2014

UR Seismic Control - A design exercise

Seismic Assault
I like to set myself challenges in terms of deck building. I find it helps creativity and provides unusual and entertaining  experiences that I learn a lot from. A common challenge is to remove a typically included colour from an established archetype. My most recent attempt at this was to have a straight red blue Seismic Assualt deck. Normally they would use green to find, recur and ramp lands or white to tutor easily for enchantments and have the Swans of Brynn Argol engine, or both! Obviously you can run Swans in RU but this felt a bit like cheating - I wanted to see if you could get it done without that sort of thing.

The plan was two fold, one involved using a high quantity of draw seven effects to both find your Assault and have sufficient lands in hand for the kill. The second involved getting to a high number of land in play and using either Trade Routes or Upheaval to get them back in hand ready to throw at your opponents face. Neither were quick nor that reliable and so a fairly control style deck was needed to house the elements. I wanted most of my cards to cycle and I was very happy to have lots of scry style effects and exile effects so that I could increase the frequency of my action cards.

Trade RoutesChrome Mox, the various Time Walk effects and Solemn Simulacrum were all simply to ramp up my mana in play. You need nine mana to be able to Upheaval and cast Seismic Assualt which is not a realistic thing to survive to in such a threadbare control deck. All of those bar the Mox effectively cycle as well so they comply with the general decks design.

As I didn't need any card advantage due to the big draw seven effects I could focus on card quality in things like Impulse. This was to make up for the lack of appropriate tutors for Seismic Assault - a card I simply needed to be able to win. I also played Spellskite to potentially offer some protection for the Assault due to its importance.

24 Spells

UpheavalChrome Mox

Divining Top

Trade Routes
Treasure Hunt
Snapcaster Mage

Fire / Ice
Arcane Denial

Lat-Nam's Legacy
Temporal Mastery
Seismic Assault
Time Twister
Wheel of Fortune

Cryptic Command
Solemn Simulacrum

Force of Will
Temporal Manipulation

Time Spiral

Temporal Manipulation

Bonfire of the Damned

Oboro, Palace in the Clouds16 Lands

Temple of Epiphany
Scalding Tarn
Volcanic Island
Steam Vents

Sulphur Falls
Izzet Boilerworks
Cascade Bluffs
Shivan Reef

Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
Shelldock Isle

2 Mountains
4 Islands

Some other stuff I wanted to play:

Trinket Mage
Reforge the Soul

Treasure Hunt
The only awful card was the Treasure Hunt which should have been something else. The deck did not have the land count nor the capacity to mould the library enough to abuse properly. There were a few other cards that could have easily been swapped for other things, Simulacrum for Electrolyse would have been fine, Ponder for Impulse etc. Not direct replacements but as a lot of the deck was simply appropriate filler cards these sorts of changes will make subtle differences but have little overall effect across lots of games versus lots of different decks.

Bonfire of the Damned was the only card I played simply as a powerful control card able to buy me lots of time and handle things. It felt a bit cheaty but mainly this was because it was really good, almost a necessity in what is essentially a combo deck trying to curve out like a control deck to nine mana. The combo was very hard to set up so that it could kill someone and was especially vulnerable to life gain. This was offset somewhat by the fairly unfair combination of draw seven effects and the taking of extra turns which I have seen obtain wins for far more tenuous things that Seismic Assault.

Shelldock IsleUltimately the deck would have been quite fun and fair if it were not for Shelldock Isle which utterly broke it and let all sorts of abusive things happen. With all the card filter and draw it was incredibly easy to turn on the Isle and common place to set it up to get a big spell under it for its obscene mana saving potential. Several games I used it multiple times with all the bounce land effects for extra card advantage goodness. Casting my spells at instant speed was also of great help. All this from a land felt unfair, and was frankly. It allowed me to go off that much faster and that much more dangerously.

A very fun deck to play but gets both of the slow aspects of control and combo leaving your opponents bored and miserable.

Friday 18 April 2014

Journey into Nyx Review: Part 2

I have fallen victim to my own OCD and continued to review every card in the set despite Wizards increasing ability to release all the good cards first and all the chaff at the end. As such a vast portion of the cards in this part of the review simply have “- no slot” written about them. Largely it should be obvious why those cards have no place in the cube. They are very expensive, offer nothing unique nor anything that cannot be found cheaper and better on other cards. OF the few cards that were of interest for cube the vast majority are largely unplayable niche cards that will sit in the C cube gathering dust.

Oreskos Swiftclaw – C cube

Stashed away for the cat tribal deck, gone are the days when a 3 power 2 drop was exciting.

Akroan Mastiff – no slot

Armament of Nyx – no slot

Banishing Light – A cube (2.8)

Oblivion Ring redundancy is now suffering from diminishing returns and while this is one of the better cube cards for the set it is deeply uninteresting and will cause very little change in the cube.

Dictate of Heliod – C cube

Although good as a combat trick or end of turn blow out card five mana for a card that needs others in play to do anything is really pushing it.

Eagle of the Watch – no slot

Harvestgaurd Alseids – no slot

Lagonna-Band Trailblazer – no slot

Leonin Iconoclast – no slot

Mortal Obstinacy – no slot

Oppressive Rays – B cube

For early removal this is really top notch. Sorcery speed is a downer but for one mana you will take a dork out regardless of its size or defensive abilities. Other white early removal has target restrictions or concedes some perk to your opponent which this does not. Sadly the recent increase in value to enchantment removal combined with this being very poor at dealing with the larger end game threats means it probably won't see much if any play. Only really a deck like white weenie would want this. Overall I peg this just below Oust in power and playability.

Phalanx Formation – no slot

Quarry Colossus – no slot

Skybind – C cube

Expensive and a bit convoluted but very interesting and abusable. With enough cheap enchantments and the capacity to do a load at instant speed Skybind is going to dominate a game much like Astral Slide. The cost and need to build around it do make this a niche card that will see play only very occasionally but a fun one none the less.

Skyspear Cavalry – no slot

Stonewise Fortifier – no slot

Supply-Line Cranes – no slot

Tethmos Highpriest – C cube

A mini Sun Titan that needs a heroic enabler seems tenuous but potentially very potent.

Ariel Formation - no slot

Cloaked Siren – no slot

Countermand – no slot

Hour of Need – B cube

Not often will you want to give away 4/4 fliers even though you are exiling their creatures at the same time. Upgrading your guys will be much more the thing to be planning to do with this card. Having it as backup removal for super serious fatties and a bit of extra bounce to cover yourself when taking that route seems like the thing to do. If you have a lot of cheap dorks that offer comes into play effects and poor stats then being able to suddenly have a bunch of evasive 4/4s at the end of their turn will be rather game winning. Mostly this will be played in mono blue or blue green decks due to their lack of removal. It is also limited in playability due to always needing to have a high creature count of a somewhat select group. Five mana instant speed Broodmate Dragon is hard to overlook and so fiddlyness aside this oddball should have a big impact on the games it does get to see.

Hubris – no slot

Pin to the Earth – no slot

Pull from the Deep – C cube

A two for one recursions spell that is a bit specific, sorcery and lacking in tempo to make a mainstay cube appearance. The extra power of recursion in singleton format makes me think this will be desirable in a couple of quirky storm / High Tide style combo decks.

Rise of Eagles – no slot

Thassa's Devourer – no slot

Thassa's Ire – C cube

Cool card but too much to activate to be of general use. With a way to reduce the activation cost or simply abuse with a massive mana effect then the Ire is viable for cube play.

Triton's Cavalry – no slot

Tritons Shorestalker – C cube

Merfolk decks are fairly strong and lack one drops more than anything else so this should see a lot of play in those and perhaps even some outside of tribal decks. Obviously this is only playable in an aggressive deck that also has a significant amount of creature pump effects. Agro blue decks do tend to play those kinds of effects as their dorks are the most feeble mana for mana compared to other colours. As such this will be a welcome little annoyance. It will come down early, do an unreasonable amount of damage, it will scale better than most other cheap dorks as the game goes on and they get their own fat down to block with, and it will be a huge help in sniping down planeswalkers. Not a thrilling card but a welcome addition in an under subscribed blue role.

War-Wing Siren – no slot

Aspect of Gorgon – no slot

Bloodcrazed Hoplite – C cube

I know this will never see play but it is too cute and different to not have one! Heroic is sadly just such a poor ability in the cube.

Brain Maggot – C cube

Mesmeric Fiend is too vulnerable to be good in cube most of the time, Ravenous Rats is usually played in preference and both are pretty weak and unplayed. This is no different.

Cast into Darkness – no slot

Cruel Feeding – no slot

Dictate of Erebos – no slot

Not a powerful effect in cube and the addition of flash barely covers the extra mana cost on this version of the card.

Dreadbringer Lampads – no slot

Feast of Dreams – no slot

Felhide Petrifier – C cube

The fact that this would make the cut in a 40 card Minotaur themed deck only really shows how far from viable such a deck still is in the cube...

Grim Guardian - C cube

This looks utterly unplayable at the moment but it is exactly the sort of junk that might turn out to be really strong in some form of enchantress deck and I would be annoyed to have not set one aside for that.

Nightmarish End – no slot

Nyx Infusion – no slot

Pharika's Chosen – no slot

Returned – Reveller – no slot

Rotted Hulk – no slot

Spiteful Blow – no slot

Thoughtrender Lamia – no slot

Tormented Thoughts – C cube

I don't rate this at all but do have to concede that it is about the cheapest way possible to annihilate someone’s hand even if it is tedious to set up. I wont be playing this card but I totally see others going for it.

Bladetusk Boar – no slot

Blinding Flare – no slot

Flamespeaker's Will – no slot

Flurry of Horns – no slot

Harness by Force – C cube

Great blow out potential but a rarely played effect where a variety of other interesting alternatives exist.

Gluttonous Cyclops – no slot

Knowledge and Power – no slot

Lightning Diadem – no slot

Pensive Minotaur – no slot

Rollick of Abandon – no slot

Rouse the Mob – no slot

Sigiled Skink – B cube

I am looking forward to Skinks bouncing off Starfish in a sigiled orgy of scrying. Much as I love a cheap scrying thing I am not convinced this has the legs to compete with other red two drops. Without removal or support this card is not getting you more than one scry very often at all. To make it into the A cube this would need first strike or something so as to make more impact on the board. Despite not quite being there for cube I think this is exactly the sort of card needed in MtG and I hope to see much more of the same sort of idea.

Starfall – no slot

Wildfire Cerebus – no slot

Bassara Tower Archer – B cube

Hexproof is a very powerful ability and works particularly well with bestow, equipment and auras. As much of the cube quotient of those things are from the most recent block the cube meta is still a little unsettled but I can easily see a desire for some more hexproof dorks. This is cheap, a fine tempo play and comes with free reach to help cover a green weak spot. A dull role filler but a fine enough card, mostly dull by virtue of hexproof being dull.

Colossal Heroics – no slot

Consign to Dust – no slot

It seems a little odd to leave no slot for this but I think when you want to kill loads of artifacts or enchantments in green for a lot of mana you do so with a fat dork of some description. These kinds of Naturalize effects are strong as early removal and instant disruption for which there are many vastly better alternatives despite their lack of card advantage potential.

Desecration Plague – C cube

A bit of a Befoul and only really playable in a deck planning to kill a lot of lands. A far from great spell but not totally disastrous redundancy.

Goldenhide Ox – no slot

Humbler of Mortals – no slot

Market Festival – no slot

Wild Growth effects are good in some enchantress archetypes however I think they lose a lot of their value when priced at four, even if they do offer twice the return in any flavour you like.
Nature's Panoply – no slot

Oakheart Dryads – no slot

Pheres-Band Thunderhoof – no slot

Reviving Melody – B cube

Yet more recursion that offers two for one potential and this bad boy costs just three and doesn't exile itself! This is cheap enough that you would happily just use it as soon as you get a two for one as a green card draw spell. Grim Discovery is both cheaper and easier to fulfil both portions and that does not see much play however green is far less able to draw cards than black. The limiting factor for Melody is enchantments, without a good number, say five or so, it will not be worth playing.

Satyr Grovedancer – no slot

Solidarity of Heroes – C cube

I hate this card a lot, not the sort of thing I want to mess around doing at all in cube. That said, I can't get over how much this and a Kalonian Hydra seems like a one shot kill a lot of the time. Hopefully this will never be a thing but it has the potential to give a lot of whack for very little mana.

Strength from the Fallen – C cube

A very very powerful effect in a deck full of enchantment creatures and perhaps some self mill. Not so many of those are cube worthy and so this seems like it is too lacking in appropriate synergy to be played. Perhaps after “Return to Theros” block...

Swarmborn Giant – no slot

Cheap and fat but an overly precarious drawback and a total lack of any complimentary abilities to go with the fat. Not even trample.

Fleetfeather Cockatrice – no slot

Revel of the Fallen God – C cube

This is cool but a lot of mana and a bit gold for my liking on this kind of niche card. There are certainly places I would play this but only really because the card is fun and cool, not because it is best in slot.

Stormchaser Chimera – no slot

Armoury of Iroas – no slot

Chariot of Victory – no slot

Deserter's Quarters – no slot

Gold-Forged Sentinel – no slot

Nessian Game Warden – no slot

Just a bit too underpowered for the mana cost, very nearly there and a nice card but not today.

Agent of Erebos – no slot

Desperate Stand – no slot

Disciple of Deceit – C cube

Powerful tutoring effect but overly awkward to trigger without anything else interesting going on. Cool card but I only see this cutting it in inspired themed decks or at least those with a vast array of self tapping effects such as Opposition.

Nyx Weaver – C cube

Although slow and terrible as a regrowth effect it is a great extra thing to have on the card. If you are all about the self mill and quite want a defensive three drop dork then this card is perfect (assuming you are black green as well...). Niche doesn't really cover this card fully but it still just gets a slot.

The Font Cycle – no slot

A nice enchantment take on the Spellbomb theme that I would like to have seen more of in this block. While a like the set a lot none of them are cube worthy, the blue one comes close but is ultimately too much mana for the return. They are a great way to build up safe devotion early but they are not going to be doing that in the cube.

In no specific order these are the only cards that are likely to stay in the cube long or see much play.

Temples of BG and UR

Master of Feasts

Prophetic Flamespeaker

Dictate of Kruphix

Ajani, Mentor of Heroes

Mana Confluence

Gnarled Scarhide

Dictate of Karametra

Doomwake Giant

Sigiled Starfish

Banishing Light

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Journey Into Nyx: Review so far

I am just going to review the cards as they come out and add them to the top of the post until the set is fully out so watch this space!


Bearer of the Heavens - B cube

A very cool card that has a lot of power and a lot of potential for abuse. Panic button for Sneak Attack style decks are a use I can think of for this bad boy but as you should probably just try and win in such a situation I am at a bit of a loss thinking of homes for this giant. No evasion also limits the uses of Mr Atlas.

Aegis of the Gods - B cube

An easier to cast True Believer with one less toughness. Very annoying for some decks and nothing more than a bad Grizzly Bear to others. The redundancy this offers is nice but it has very few natural homes when it is not being played directly to counter a specific deck (not something that leads to great games) and as such will not be getting a top flight spot.

Eidolon of Rhetoric - C Cube

The decks that want these effects on dorks want more aggressively cost dorks and so this shouldn't see much, if any play.

Battlefield Thuamaturge - C Cube

Less exciting than Goblin Electromancer. Not really useful or abuseable enough to merit a slot in any deck I can think of.

Daring Thief - C Cube

Not quite sure if this is even worth it as redundancy for Donate, it is a bad combo and this is about as bad away of completing it as there is. Still quite an unusual effect and not too costly, in mana terms at least...

Prophetic Flamespeaker 3.0 (A Cube)

A card with multiple strong applications that is most comparable to Ohran Viper. The Viper is perhaps more consistent however Flamespeaker dumps on it for power level. A 1/3 doublestrike trample dork for three mana is quite robust, offers a reasonable board presence and scales unreasonably well with and power boosting effects. The body is good enough that it can be a useful damage dealer in things like red deck wins and other agro decks. On top of this abusable body throw in the ability to get +2 card advantage each time it swings and you have a winning card. Red is a difficult colour in which to draw extra cards, it is also a streamlined colour that can rarely afford "exotic" cards in its archetypes. While Flamespeaker is certainly exotic it is pegged at an unusual middle ground in red that I think will see it played in a far wider spread of decks than almost all other red creatures. Despite no proper evasion and needing to connect to gain card advantage the allure of a whopping two cards per swing, in a colour hard pressed to get cards, all while not having to stop aggression will get this little guy a lot of play. Not drawing the cards and having to play them immediately is significantly worse than just drawing cards, in some decks it will be a little tedious and in others such as red deck wins it will only really matter for haste dorks and when you hit two lands.


Eidolon of the Great Revel – B cube

While this is a potent looking card that would have gone straight into the cube a few years back it is looking a bit like it needs more abilities to make the cut now. Pyrostatic Pillar is a more secure way to achieve this affect and it is not played as it is variable in its quality due to the diversity of the format. Adding a 2/2 body means you can get some extra damage in but does make your card vulnerable. Ash Zealot is a far less potent damage effect than Eidolon but the body it is on makes it a better all round investment of mana. There are also a vast number of very good RR costing dorks competing for cube slots so despite Eidolon being comparable in power to some like Ember Hauler it is too dull and offers too few choices to take their slots.

Kruphix, God of Horizons – C cube

A bit different and fun but hard to abuse, costly and clunky with somewhat disparate effects. I see no decks where this would be really strong and only a few where this would even be playable.

Spite of Mogis – C cube

While this is cheap removal it is not easy to use early - when cheap removal is at its best. It is hard to rule out a one mana scrying, scaling removal spell, even if it is sorcery speed and so this does merit some inclusion although I doubt anyone will bother digging this up to play it over one of the many reasonable alternatives.

Silence the Believers – B cube

While this costs an awful lot it does offer a lot as far as black removal goes. Exile is as good as it gets, as is instant speed and no target restrictions. On top of this you have the option to take out several dorks generating tasty card advantage. The aura exile aspect is not doing a great deal with only a couple of bestow cards and I guess Rancor in the cube to be that bothered about it. If slower black control decks come back into strength in the cube meta then this might be A cube material but for now I remain sceptical of four mana spot removal.

Interpret the Signs – no slot

Very powerful card draw that is easily abusable. As a six mana sorcery however this has no place in the cube.

Kruphix's Insight – no slot

Any deck where this will be good will be using Enchantress effects to draw cards and will not want to dilute the deck with sorceries doing the same thing.

Dictate of Karametra – B cube (A if supporting UG storm archetypes)

As the rating would suggest this is only not in my A cube due to the present lack of support cards for it. Heartbeat of Spring is still the better card in that kind of deck however the redundancy and utility from this version will be very welcome. The card I suspect it will compete with is Mirari's Wake rather than Heartbeat. The Wake requires white and is sorcery speed for the same mana cost but makes up for this a great deal by not being symmetrical. I think overall the extra playability of Dictate as a result of being just one colour will mean it gets a slot over Wake despite it being very close indeed for the main archetype that plays them.

Launch the Fleet – B cube

An interesting little token generator that is quite cheap and has good tempo. Needing other dorks in play makes this risky compared to Raise the Alarm style cards but the potential power it offers is easily enough to offset this in some decks. The question is really whether enough decks will find that this is good enough and I feel it will just fall short of being broad enough to get the slot. I will most certainly be building a token and Crusade heavy deck to push this card to the max. Token decks are the most able to get much benefit from the scaling portion of Launch the Fleet and the presence of a Crusade doubles the potency of that good scaling. You likely kill someone by going one drop dork, two drop crusade, three drop Spectral Procession and then turn four Launch the Fleet for four more guys.

Hypnotic Siren – C cube

Being a one drop that can scale in usefulness into the late game carries a lot of weight in the cube. Sadly just being a Flying Man really restricts which decks might have use for the one drop portion of the card. Essentially only those decks with significant amounts of creature pump will be able to support this and very very few of those will be able to realistically support a 7 mana control magic. The extreme polar nature of this card makes it incredibly niche and unlikely so see play more than a couple of times.

Mana Confluence – 2.6 (A cube)

This is a tiny bit better than City of Brass. While both have pros and cons I think the cons of not being able to pay life to activate this in weird combo decks are negligible compared to the forced damage people can apply to you with a City of Brass in play. This card will see play in almost every fast three or more colour deck and perhaps even a few slower ones. With combo less in the picture and a wealth of good dual lands to chose from the City of Brass style lands are seeing less cube play than ever so despite the quality of this card it will have very little impact on things.

Worst Fears – B cube

A somewhat unique effect (excuse the horrible use of words but they somehow capture the nature of the card). 8 mana is a lot and would see infrequent play with Mind Slaver being easier to cast for most of the decks that might consider it. The interest in this card lies in it being a sorcery not an artifact and as such having a different selection of synergies. Nothing immediately springs to mind where this would be broken however it is not a card to entirely disregard for cube. Just casting it a second time with a Snap Caster seems quite obnoxious.

Kiora's Dismissal – no slot

This isn't doing anything powerful or useful in cube.

Ritual of the Returned – C cube

A little bit combo like Sutured Ghoul but not very exciting. Would mostly just rather have a Zombify over this and would in turn rather most other reanimate effects over Zombify. Moving on.

Pheres-Band Warchief – C cube

Centaurs are a long way down the list of viable tribal cube decks and this clunker doesn't do a great deal to move them up that list.

Athreos, God of Passage – B cube

I am drawn to this card but I am pretty sure it is awful. Any time you give your opponent a choice you slash at least half the power of that effect. I like how the effect helps you keep up your devotion but then I dislike paying three mana for what will almost certainly be no effect on the board for the whole early portion of the game. Ultimately it is being gold and thus reduced playability that will keep this out of the A cube.

King Macar, the Gold Cursed – C cube

I will likely play this one time only in a silly inspired theme deck that is terrible. Macar wouldn't even be that great in such a deck but you kind of have to go for it when you do a mechanic theme. In normal cube circumstances this is unplayable bad, small for the cost, far too pricey and slow with little going for him beyond flavour. I kind of just wish they had kept the antiquity names for their Trojan horses and King Midas, hardly like Homer etc will be litigious.

Hydra Broodmaster – C cube

A good mana dump come fatty but not doing anything better or more interesting that a vast swathe of other green fatties. Hydra are not exactly a tribal archetype...

Polymorphous Rush – C cube

Situational and fiddly, only reason this gets a C cube slot is that I can't be bothered to rule it out as a possible combo despite looking very unlikely for one.

Forgeborn Oreads – C cube

It seems unfair to lump this in the same pile as Polymorphous Rush as this is vastly more interesting and playable. This isn't awful with few or no other enchantments and could be very potent in a themed deck. RR in the cost is a bit of a boon as most enchantment based decks are GW base but this block is adding a lot to the potential pool of enchantments. Perhaps this will become a B cuber when the new enchantment heavy meta is established in cube.

Twinflame – no slot

This is remarkably similar to Polymorphous Rush although agro rather than combo and as such gets no chance of a slot despite seeming to be the more powerful card all round.

Master of the Feast – 2.2 (A cube)

I love a 3 mana 5/5 flier and a lot of decks will just fold to it, especially when supported by other game enders like Phyrexian Obliterator. It is down to your opponents not getting to draw until your upkeep and thus having no downside if killed with sorcery speed effects that makes this just about viable for the A cube. Black has a selection of ways to negate the influx of extra cards the surviving Master of Feasts will deliver from its own extreme card advantage to land destruction strategies. You can even keep their hands low with a lot of discard and then remove many of the extra cards with things like Liliana. Or you could just ignor the few extra cards they probably wont get to play before they are very dead to your huge fat flier. I suspect many a game will just be over to this and a Dark Ritaul on turn one, let alone followed up with Duress or Sinkhole....

Parika, God of Affliction – B cube

This has most use as an indestructible dork. A lot of black green decks do not want to remove their own dorks from the bin very much. The odd free 1/1 deathtoucher for 2 is a decent blocker against non evasive, non trampling things but otherwise is doing very little for you. There are far better ways to make tokens on offer in the cube. As a potential 3 mana 5/5 indestructible Pharika is powerful but not exciting nor particularly easy to build around. If you work hard on having devotion she will be strong but not broken nor very exciting. Even with this work you will never be able to have a reliable early dork which makes her a lot less interesting. Overall this card is too much work for too little return despite the high power level.

Riddle of Lightning – C cube

Erratic Explosion is fairly good in the cube but not one of the top flight combo decks. This will improve it a fair degree but not enough to grant it an A cube slot, for that we need an easily tutorable 20 mana plus card! Being instant is a real perk for control matches where all the other effects that are like Erratic Explosion are I think sorcery speed. The scry is also going to help a great deal when you are going for the last ditch effort or just using the card as a more normal burn spell. Certainly a card worth picking up for cube play.

Riptide Chimera – C cube

Sarcomancy is what this card screams to me and I am sure there are plenty of other fairly nice enchantments to pair this up with. A Serendib Efreet body does not excite all that much, good but not doing something you need or are unable to get elsewhere. There will be the odd deck where this guy really gets it done and is the perfect filler but no where near enough decks for this to get near the A cube.

Nyx-Fleece Lamb – B cube

This feels like a bit of a hoser card against agro strategies, especially red ones. It is not quite enough life gain to be used solely in that fashion and so also needs to be pulling weight as a blocker. Combining these two facts makes it only really worth it when you know what you are facing which are not the sort of cards that should have slots in cube. As an enchantment support card it might see some play but would be little more than appropriate filler in such builds.


Spirespine – C cube

This is not good enough for cube as a card in its own right however it has some potential at getting play for having a lot of possible synergy and just filling a slot or role reasonably well in some enchantment based deck. It has quirkiness in effectively being able to provoke a blocker of theirs and force a trade leaving you with a 4/1. Great design and exploration of a mechanic just lacking in power and purpose.

Sightless Brawler – C cube

Similar good design on this card as with Spirespine resulting in a card that has three potential uses. Again it is rather underpowered and will therefore only make the cut in a deck with very heavy enchantment synergy. While the stats for the cost are very decent for a utility card the inability to attack without company makes it overly risky as an agro card with it too often doing nothing for you.

Mogis Warhound – C cube

I don't think this will ever see play as it is worse than Spiresine and Sightless Brawler while also being in a less enchantment themed colour. It is a very substandard body, the bestow is unlikely to be useful on their dorks very often and so you are left with a very average creature enchantment. That said, it is a unique card and so one day may be called upon and so I cannot just disregard it.

Crystalline Nautilus – C cube

Expensive as well as a risky clunky body but does offer blue an easy option for killing troublesome enemy creatures. The power level of this cycle of utility bestow creatures is sufficiently low that all three options need to be reasonably useful and likely to come up for them to stand a chance of being good enough. The Nautilus is struggling to be useful on any of its options so while it is fairly unplayable it is interesting, well designed and perhaps better than Mogis Warhound!

Gnarled Scarhide – A cube (3.1)

The clear best of the lot being a perfectly acceptable agro one drop in its own right while also having some of the most likely useful bestow gimmicks. For relatively cheap you can remove one of their blockers permanently, sure it will be attacking you back and a bit harder than before but assuming you are an agro deck you are probably OK with that. Alternatively you can just slightly boost one of your dorks so that you can carry on swinging. No part of the card is bad or that far under par making it one of the most versatile agro one drops on offer. I cannot really stress enough the value of redundancy in your one drops and for the simple reason that this is a fine agro one drop the small perks offered by the rest of the card are vastly scaled up in their worth.

Temples of The Remaining Three Colours – A cube (3.6)

The other scry lands have all been among the most popular duals, especially the off colour ones who are not as tied up with coming into play tap lands without any man land duals to play. The dual lands come in, roughly speaking, three classes in cube, the all ofs, the most ofs and the one ofs. It turns out that the scry lands find themselves at the top of the most ofs category over a lot of quality duals. This would make them about the 5th best cycle of dual lands which is pretty impressive. Kind of free card quality and information is really good it turns out, certainly well worth the cost.

Ajani, Mentor of Heroes – A cube (2.9)

A very powerful planeswalker with a healthy chunk of starting loyalty and two strong +1 effects. Elspeth, Knight-Errant is one of the very best planeswalkers in the cube primarily for these sorts of reasons. As Ajani is five mana across two colours he is not going to have anything like the wide playability as Elspeth but he should give her a decent run for her money in power level once both in play. Certainly he will be one of the top gold planeswalkers in cube and an unreasonably good midrange sort of card. Power level aside he shouldn't make that much of a wave in the cube as he will be relatively unplayed. He is not always going to neatly fit into a green white deck as he will typically need a high creature count to be good. There are lots of alternate top quality five mana green and white cards making him a fairly low pick priority. As this kind of card are very dangerous a lot of decks will be able to win before it is relevant, deal with it immediately or utterly ignore it for a little while. So not only will he not see as much play as a card like Gideon Jura or Thragtusk but when he is in decks he will typically spend less time being relevant and will be cast less often. He should end games fairly fast in the more midrange attrition style games, either growing in size while generating powerful card advantage or still growing in size while making your board position terrifying very quickly. Not a must have card but one that will never look out of place when in a cube.

Sage of Hours – C cube

A huge amount of effort is needed for this to get much done in a normal deck and without synergy for the heroic ability it is unplayable. It gets a C cube slot only because it has some combo potential, I suspect a few modern decks will be packing one of these for the infinite turns it can offer.

Godsend – no slot

Being restricted to white and having an ability that has a significantly reduced effect in singleton formats makes this substantially worse than most comparably cost equipment in the cube. Not a terrible card and would certainly still win a lot of games but just not the kind of card you want to take up cube slots with.

Keranos, God of Storms – C cube

Much as I like this card I don't quite see it being enough. To make full use of the card you would need a fairly midrange deck as control decks would rarely be able to get the devotion up and agro decks are not going to want five mana clunk. A control deck could still play this but I don't then see how it is better than a Future Sight or a Seismic Assault even if you have good control over which kind of card you draw on each of your turns. If you could trigger it in their turn as well it would be far more abusable and interesting. As a five mana gold card I am not sold, perhaps powerful enough but sadly no where near close to playable enough for a cube slot.

Dictate of Kruphix – A cube (3.5)

This is a card I am very drawn to. It seems outstanding in a wide selection of decks and is a very elegant card to boot. Having flash is huge for pure card draw spells. You typically want to hold mana up to be reactive so that you don't fall too far behind in tempo and only casting your card advantage effects when you don't need to be reactive. On this particular symmetrical card having flash is even better as it allows you to always get the first trigger and thus get a head start on things. There are many combo decks that delight in taking extra turns where symmetrical card draw spells are fairly strong anyway, this one will still be fairly strong when the deck is miss-firing a bit. I kind of see this as the blue Phyrexian Arena and imagine the card it will compete with most for getting slots in decks is Jace Beleren. Although combo abuse will be where this card is more powerful I can totally see it being played in simple control decks that are fairly happy to give their opponents some extra cards along the way. There is precious little in the way of instant speed middle ground card draw in blue and also not that much in the way of reliable card influx. As this is an enchantment it is about as safe as you can get, it should almost always cycle and should most of the time still be in play at the end of the game. A card like this will allow you to remain safe while getting it down and will stay down more reliably than most alternatives ensuring you continue to hit your land drops and have the necessary answers for the rest of the game. Control decks rely on things like Wrath of God to deal with loads of things at once and big efficient finishers which ultimately means that even if you are both drawing the same number of extra cards, in most match ups the control player is getting more value from those draws. In terms of widely playable new effects go I think this will be one of the more interesting and impactive cards from the set. It is also one of the better blue devotion enablers on offer giving us a better chance of an agro blue devotion themed deck.

Dictate of the Twin Gods – C cube

Sadly this is not cutting it in cube play. Five mana is an awful lot to pay simply to boost subsequent spells. Flash certainly helps this be playable but with it doing nothing on its own I think another burn spell is just going to be the better call over this optimistic pissing about card.

Underworld Coinsmith – C cube

If it were not for the joy that is Edgewalker I would not be at all excited by this bear. Neither ability is that exciting, while neither are useless or bad they are both just rather marginal and unlikely to be worth abusing or even providing synergy for.

Doomwake Giant – A cube (2.7)

This gets a tentative slot for now. It is hard to kill, of decent size and very spalshable which is a rare trait for a black card. It also offers a nice bit of one sided mass removal that you can fairly easily power up with the addition of extra enchantments to the deck. The ability to play out your own dorks while also not worrying about them just responding by overextending themselves and swarming you to death is of great value. While this won't ever be killing fatties, you have good spot removal for that, it is far more the swell of tokens and cheap dorks that causes trouble for black, especially black decks wanting to play creatures. Bane of the Living spent a lot of time in the early days of my cube and was a valuable powerful card but sadly the power creep has made him far too expensive and slow. While Doomwake might look the more expensive card it is in fact cheaper while being fatter and not having any negative effect on your team. Black has missed having decent mass removal creatures that are convenient and I feel this Giant is sufficiently powerful and convenient to see a slot worthy amount of play.

Spawn of Thraxes – C cube

Sadly I think Boggarden Hellkite has more playability and utility than this. Essentially this is a trumped up Flametongue Kavu that might hit players but does need you to have mountains in play. As such a control deck is rarely going to get more than a shot for four off while in big red deck, the only other likely home for this, I suspect the average shot would be lower.

Scourge of Fleets – B cube

This is nearly good enough but I think not quite. Something as simple as being a 7/7 might even have been enough. The effect is very powerful but won't always do what you need which for a seven mana card isn't really acceptable. The way it scales with islands as well makes it far less effective in a cheating creatures into play strategy like reanimate further reducing its playability. I think the best place for this card is a mono blue control deck not just for the island count but also because blue lacks much in the way of mass removal.

Dawnbringer Charioteers – no slot

Moving on.

Squelching Leaches – no slot

Clunky, unexciting and unabuseable.

Heroes Bane – B cube

Another in a long line of fat growing hydra. Both Kalonian and Primordial have this well beat in convenience and power and so while this is a fine threat I doubt I'll ever bother putting one in the A cube.

Iroas God of Victory – B cube

Very powerful in any agro Boros deck but pretty poor outside of that single archetype. The terrible trouble with gold cards and cube slots! Being able to fearlessly always turn your dorks sideways and require them to outnumber you two to one just to be able to block everything is going to make winning with weenies fairly easy. This also doesn't do much to protect your army from mass removal, the thing the agro creature deck is most afraid of. On balance I don't like the idea of this having a cube slot but it might just be powerful enough anyway.

Draka Mystic – B cube

Much as I want this in the A cube I think the number of decks that would actually play it are too few in number. A very cool card on the cheap with a powerful effect that also has a high skill requirement. This should always see play in a merfolk themed deck as they are so light on decent one drops however this offers very little board presence or tempo making it a vulnerable and risky investment in most other creature or control based decks.

Eidolon of Blossoms – B cube

This will be a significant part in a wide selection of Enchantress decks. It is the holy trinity of things in that it is an Enchantress effect and an enchantment and a dork. You can put auras on it and you get to draw lots with it. Four is not cheap but as it is so perfect for so many enchantment based decks I think this will be overlooked. Enchantress is unfortunately not something you can support in the cube at present although this block has offered a lot to potentially change that soon. It is a broad, different and fun archetype but it is vulnerable and inconsistent and while it is not viable in the A cube none of its component cards will get in on that alone. There is potential for this to be OK in a more normal sort of deck that has a few incidental synergies but I suspect there will be more appealing alternatives most of the time.

Extinguish all Hope – C cube

At five I would be interested simply as black is light on reliable Wrath effects rather than because this is that exciting. Six however is too much, the enchantment aspect is likely to be annoying rather than helpful as well.

Hall of Triumph – C cube

I cannot see this having enough synergy to be wanted. Only in blue can I see this being interesting but there is probably just never going to be the creature density in such decks to merit this over another dork. Many years ago this might have been interesting to green decks but that era is long gone.

Ravenous Leucrocota – no slot

Below the curve uninteresting dork.

Sigiled Starfish – A cube (3.0)

My kind of card! A decent tempo staller and complete with a great card quality mechanism. Although Merfolk Looter is usually more powerful scry does give it a good run for its money in cube with it being less prone to decking and allowing the preservation of late game cards for the late game. The thing with Looter is that it is a vulnerable 1/1 while this bad boy is a tough old 0/3 that can get involved in blocking and save you a lot of early nibbling. Starfish also helps to protect any planeswalkers you might want to lay. It is somewhat the blue equivalent of Wall of Omens/Blossoms in the role it will end up playing rather than the role of the Looter. As a result I think it will see a lot more play.

Satyr Hoplite – no slot

Not worth the effort nor are there many good cards that would help in making this work.

Cyclops of Eternal Fury – C cube

Perhaps the best card in some mass reanimate combo deck but otherwise unplayable in cube simply for his immense cost.

Ajani's Presence – A cube

Will likely need to try this out as it is a pretty powerful combat trick as well as good insurance against mass removal. Compared to the various cards like this that give protection rather than indestructible this is worse in creature vs creature games as you cannot use it to force through damage. I think however that this is more than made up for by the fact it is so much more useful against mass removal. Not only is mass removal the worst enemy of the type of deck that would want this but it is played by a different archetype to the creature decks. As this card is still fine against the creature decks yet so much better against the control decks I think it is a winner, all be it a rather unexciting one.

Whitewater Niads – no slot

Pricey, slow and not for cube.

Setassan Tactics – C cube

I don't see me ever wanting this although it is pretty good. It is just a bit too convoluted to be reliably good in cube and reliability is key in the decks this card would shine.