Friday 27 March 2015

Grandmaster Control

Soulfire Grand MasterSoulfire Grandmaster is a card I misjudged on first evaluation. I thought it was more of an aggro card that scaled well into the late game however it is turning out to be much more of a control beast. Much like Isochron Scepter it lets you repeatedly use a spell to hard or soft lock down a game. Unlike Isochron Scepter it is not dead on its own, does not make you vulnerable to two for ones, does not exile your spells and does give you a much broader range of spells you can abuse. You can even cast the same spell several times per turn if you have the mana! Certainly Soulfire Grandmaster is much more mana intensive than Isochron Scepter but all the other perks make the Grandmaster the much better card. Just being useful on its own is so important. Needing at least four mana, usually more like seven, to get him going is no big deal. Control decks are trying to get to that sort of stage in the game anyway. A 2/2 super lifelinker that your opponent is terrified of will be getting a lot of work done in the early game as well.

Obviously with his costings Soulfire Grandmaster naturally slots into a Jeskai control deck but any UW base comfortably supports him. I recently got pretty handed by an Esper list packing it. Mostly it was Cryptic Command shutting down my attacks that ended the game but repeat Vindicates on my stuff and Esper Charms in my draw step also did a lot of work! A card that is a fine two drop yet pretty much says win the game if you have it in play with a load of mana and the appropriate card to cast with it is just nutty good. Here is an example list of a standard Jeskai inevitability control deck using Grandmaster.

Elixir of Immortality
22 Spells

Lightning Bolt
Swords to Plowshares
Elixir of Immortality

Fire / Ice
Lightning Helix
Soulfire Grandmaster

Wall of Omens
Lat-Nam's Legacy
Cryptic Command
Mantis Rider
Councils Judgement
Wing Shards

Cryptic Command
Supreme Verdict
Jace, Architect of Thought

Elspeth, Sun's Champion

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

Bonfire of the Damned
Sphinx's Revelation

18 lands

Lat-Nam's LegacyLots of other cards obviously go in this deck as well, Timayo is great and is very much in keeping with the theme of the deck. Force of Will and Snapcaster Mage are always good but do exile cards which can get uncomfortable in some matchups. Sun Titan is a good way to add security to your deck should you be afraid of having your Elixir stripped from your hand or killed when you tap out.  Overall the Elixir is your most important card as it gives you the total inevitability however you don't much want to draw it, certainly not early when all it does is put itself at risk of getting killed so to speak. This is part of why you want Brainstorm and Lat-Nam's Legacy in such decks, both to protect Elixir against discard and to negate the ill effects of drawing it early. Karn is another good card as he adds to your total of exile removal effects which are incredibly potent against a lot of the high endurance decks. I am not overly into running 3+ planewalkers that cost 6+ mana in decks without ramp and that ideally like to leave countermagic mana open each turn even with card quality effects.

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
The Impulse can be anything but I find you are best off running a tight ship with the things you really need and then firmly binding them together with cards like this rather than padding it out with high powered cards. Jace and Elspeth are both multi-purpose. Jace is more card draw and Elspeth is a bit of a Wrath but both help you stall really well and both can be a win mechanism should you have your Elixir plan shut down. More cheap countermagic would be really good. You have the card advantage to comfortably use Memory Lapse well and the resilience to take good advantage of Arcane Denial too. Mana Leak and the like I am less into as you want the game to go super long and so it becomes really rather dead.

Non-black control decks used to struggle against planeswalkers resolving. Red could sometimes burn them down but usually this was at the cost of taking a two for one or worse on the resolved walker. With Council's Judgement on top of the burn, some bounce, Ugin and the lovely Mantis Rider this particular non-black control deck does just fine against planeswalkers. As so many of your spells are cheap and/or instant yet do a lot of work combined with the various sources of lifegain you have in the deck you are much less often in a position where you are tapped out and forced to let a planeswalker resolve. Usually what happens is you don't have the counterspell although this is quite a lot better as people are often too scared to run their walker into the potential for countermagic.

Mantis RiderWing Shards is a bit of an odd card in the deck when you have loads of great Wrath options open to you as well as cheaper spot removal (Path to Exile I have found to be good...). The reason behind it is down to diversity of solutions. You need to be able to deal with everything that is thrown at you. Hexproof and indestructible effects are very demanding on your removal and require you to have exactly the right thing. Wingshards sits in a lovely middle ground where it is a bit like a Wrath of God and a bit like Swords to Plowshares and really helps you to deal with problem cards.

As with Isochron Scepter decks, you very rarely ever need to win a game. Just so long as you can win most of the time people will save themselves a lot of pain and scoop well before it comes to that. All you need to do is live, survive and stall! Eventually you will have killed and exiled all their threats, shut them down with a Soulfire Grand Master or just be chain casting Sphinx's Revs and Elixirs gaining more life than you could lose!

Temur Zoo

Bloodbraid ElfZoo has been a deck in many magic formats for a long time, even before Wild Nacatl and Bloodbraid Elf you could be Tribal Flaming people and making aggressive gold strategies work with a green base and its good mana fixing. Typically Zoo is Naya however it can be done four and five colour, can add black or blue, and now with Tarkir block you can pretty much do any three or more colour Zoo deck so long as it is base green. There were a couple of good blue things pre-Khans but they tended to be tricksier and less robust and so less worth bothering with. The Temur clan is all about beefy things and gives lots of options to a Gru aggro list.

Typically aggro decks have had to employ various strategies in order to compete in the powerful and diverse cube meta. Historically just making a dork each turn with good aggressive stats is one of the easiest things to beat in cube. Removal is good against you, mass removal is killer against you and every two for one they get against you is crippling. Aggro decks had to go under, go over or throw redundancy out the window and play plenty of disruption and removal of their own. By going under I mean playing such a low curve that you can have pretty much closed out the game before Wrath of God can end you. By going over I mean playing lots of burn you can start to aim at the dome when you have got as far as you can with dorks or playing lots of evasive threats. The final option involves playing things like Path to Exile in your zoo deck, Armageddon in your white weenie or even countermagic in your beatdown deck! Slowly this became less necessary as threats became more persistent and more diverse. Being able to play several planeswalkers that are good threats as well as man lands, gods and creatures that need to be killed twice, exiled, dealt with without targeting or dealt with without using damage all stretch control decks too thin. For a while pure curving beatdown decks have been tier one in cube. It seems that now they are leaning less on planeswalkers and dorks that leave things behind after death than ever and just playing fast hard hitting threats. Why pay 3 mana for a 3/2 that comes back as a 2/1 when you can get a 4/4 is now a reasonable question.

Kird Ape
23 Spells

Birds of Paradise
Lightning Bolt
Kird Ape
Experiment One

Lotus Cobra
Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
Scavenging Ooze
Flinthoof Boar
Fauna Shaman
Coiling Oracle

Savage Knuckleblade
Boggart Ram-Gang
Kessig Wolf RunShardless Agent
Boon Satyr
Domri Rade
Flamewake Phoenix
Courser of Kruphix

Bloodbraid Elf
Ghor-Clan Rampager
Surrak, Caller of the Hunt
Shaman of the Great Hunt

Thundermaw Hellkite

17 Lands

2 Forest
4 Sac lands (3 pain, 1 CitPT)
3 Dauls
3 Shocks
Treetop Village
Raging Ravine
Kessig Wolf Run
Karplusan Forest
Fire-Lit Thicket

Savage Knuckleblade
This is my latest version of Temur Zoo, it performed perfectly for me and looks quite odd at first glance but is actually fairly carefully built. It is built for simplicity and directness, I wanted as many cards as possible to be threats. I wanted high power at low cost and I wanted redundancy. Typically my curves for such decks are flatter, more low powered one drops with more top end game winners but this list was far more bell curvy with a glut of three drops. This meant you are slightly slower off the mark than you could be however it also means you carry on packing punches consistently for longer. The two cascade dorks are huge for the deck, they allow, even encourage you to scrimp on the one drops as you can make so much happen out of nothing. Missing a one and two drop is awful for this kind of deck but a Shardless Agent into Flinthoof Boar is likely to give you the board dominance right away. Threats are good enough now that you can win a game with just one. This deck has built in card advantage and some ramp but everything is still a fairly decent threat for the mana except the Birds of Paradise and the flying is pretty relevant there.

Rattleclaw Mystic
Some cards stand out on the list as odd inclusions for an aggro deck, those being Courser of Kruphix, Fauna Shaman, Coiling Oracle and Rofellos. The latter of those was likely a mistake, it was the last card I added and should probably have been a Gyre Sage or even a Rattleclaw Mystic. The deck needed another two drop and I wanted more ability to power up mana without having a totally useless body. Rofellos is about a weak a body as you can get, cannot attack and provide mana like Lotus Cobra, only offers green mana and situationally so at that. Worst of all he is GG which is something I was trying to avoid in this deck. It made me play Fire-Lit Thicket which I would have preferred not to have. A big part of the decks simplicity is from the mana base and the choice of which cards to play, there is little double green, less double red and no double blue and the doubles all come high up the curve. In addition to this there are relatively few come into play tapped lands, only 3 lands that don't produce green and a good chance of being able to have red and/or green mana on turn one if needed. This level of consistency comes at a bit of a cost, there are lost of powerful and lovely cards you can just ram in and have be great for you when you run good. I highly favour consistency for these kinds of deck, it is the strongest ally of the aggressor and should be used to its full potential. Seventeen lands is quite a lot for a deck with such a low curve as well as some mana dorks however I would go 18 before 16 for the afore mentioned consistency thing. Not only do you have a number of dorks with some ways to usefully dump mana into them you have a high number of spell and man lands that are somewhat mana hungry. I call this a low curve deck which it is in some respects but the average cost is about 3 ( 62/23 to be more precise, which is unnecessary with all the alternate costs and activations... ) which is bordering on the midrange. Assuming you lay a land every turn and have a perfect balance of spells and lands as well as an appropriate curve that offers a good representation of the average cost you are not going to be running out of gas until turn seven at the earliest. This also assumes you are not activating things much on dorks or lands that cost mana and managing to spend all or most of your mana effectively every turn, nor drawing any extra cards from things like Arcane Denial. Overall you are not running out of gas very often, you don't need much in the way of two for ones or persistent dorks, you just want threats that can end the game. Being able to cast two good 2/3 drops is usually more effective than a single, easily dealt with five drop, the card advantage in the deck allows you to shave off the top of the deck and reapply it to the middle. This not only makes you more dangerous entering the late game but it gives you way better options in the mid game.

Domri Rade
Courser or Kruphix is not overly aggressive hence looking a little odd in such a deck however he is still a lot of stats for the mana and does good work on the board. In addition to this he really helps you make those mid to late game lands drops that keep you so threatening, the high number of shuffle effects in the deck as well as the synergy with Domri Rade made him hard to turn down. Domri himself is a little odd in the deck as he is not directly a threat but he works so well with Courser, the high creature count, the many sac lands thinning the lands from the deck as well as providing a valuable removal option that I was otherwise light on. I was pretty happy to run the Domri. Flame Tongue Kavu was likely the next best contender to fill his shoes and so again, Domri a clear winner. Coiling Oracle is even odder than any of the cards discussed and is a little counter intuitive but works really well. Oracle is 100% filler but it does everything you want at every stage of the game. Never costing you a card means it is never dead, being so cheap means you can cast it whenever you have no actual threats or as a way to statistically improve your plays on the next couple of turns. Free cheap bodies are nice to have with Wolf Run and Vengevine. It has the overall effect of thinning the deck and increasing the overall power level, a little like the sac lands do, although it costs mana it is not much and enough of the time ramps you negating this cost. I have had the god draw of Birds into turn two Shardless Agent into Coiling Oracle extra land a couple of times. Having five mana on turn three as well as 3 power and 3 bodies on the board for the cost of two cards is absurd! I have had Oracle ramp my mana on the turn I make him before through Lotus Cobra and hitting a sac land!
Shaman of the Great Hunt
Finally, for the odd choices we have Flamewake Phoenix and Fauna Shaman. Both weasly 2/2 bodies that are more utility than beatdown. Obviously they come as a bit of a pair but also have some suitable synergies throughout the rest of the deck such that they are good. Fauna Shaman is just another cheap body that it fine to cascade into, fine to get in for a few free damage and then get involved in the alpha strike and fine to just help you curve out with as a two drop. Beyond this it can get you card and mana advantage with Flamewake Phoenix and Vengevine if you need it as well as finding you the dorks you most need. Broadly you don't want to be activating it, you would rather it was just a Grizley Bear however when things do look a bit dicey or you need something specific you are very happy with your little Bear having a slot. It is insurance and options and it doesn't cost much at all for that, has good synergy and is easily paid for by the high power level of your pure threats. Likely I would run Tarmogoyf in the place of this card, a tired and tested winner but not a card I can easily rely on with this deck to be big at all early and with all the delve about at present poor old Goyf is finding that he is getting shrunk a lot more than before. Flamewake is least suitable becuase of the RR cost on a three drop, otherwise he is fine in the deck all be it not the most exciting. A little bit more flying in the deck is really helpful but I could happily have played Yasova Dragonclaw in that slot and they are fairly different implying that there is no real need of either.
Surrak, the Hunt Caller
Ancestral Vision and Sarkhan Unbroken both have appeal in the deck however again I favoured consistency over raw power and went without either. Ancestral Vision is one of the loveliest things to cascade into as well as being a fine use of mana early. The problem is you don't want to lose out on tempo to make the Visions when you have that option and so you have cross purpose cards. Additionally off the top late the Visions, as with a lot of decks, is just too slow to really be helpful. Sarkhan Unbroken is silly good but being five mana, not a dork, and not being able to do damage right away he seems not the best choice for this build.

Boon Satyr and Ghor-Clan Rampager are huge in the deck. They are decent threats with the creature type in their own right, both providing ferocious, having decent stats for the price and a flash/trample sweetener. More importantly however they are combat tricks that allow you to scrimp on removal effects and unflinchingly turn your men sideways into all sorts of horrific looking blockers. Shaman of the First Hunt and Surrak, Caller of the Hunt got their first trial in this deck and were both very impressive, great ambassadors for what the deck is trying to do. Surrak was probably better overall as he does more for less mana and more on his own but that is down to the deck, there is no denying that Shaman is the more powerful card overall.

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Top 10 Card Draw (updated)

Ancestral Recall
Treasure CruiseI did one of these a while back but now with Khans we have some much better cards to fill up the ranks with. I have also given some thought to how to define what the list "card draw" will specifically relate to. In magic card advantage comes in many forms. There are spells that deal with two or more things at once, there are spells that provide you will ongoing resources like Bitterblossom, and obviously the planeswalker type. There are cards which produce multiple threats at once or provide a threat on the back of a single card gain or single target removal. Then of course there are the simplest ones that simply draw two or more cards which was what my last list focused on. My last list was a little confused as there are a variety of different types of cards that provide card advantage in the pure draw cards form. There are those that provide a mechanism you can use to draw cards such as Necropotence, Consecrated Sphinx and Skull Clamp. There are those that are one off draws like Sphinx's Revelation and Memory Jar and those that are ongoing. There are those that can be used right away and there are those that are slow and easier to disrupt. My last list tried to lump all these types of draw card effect into the same list and as such it was difficult and overly perspective based. For this updated version of the list I was intending to do only instants and sorceries as things like Skullclamp are way to complex and and context dependant to meaningfully compare. All sorts of disruption will prevent Skullclamp providing any card advantage as will poor deck design. Certainly a Treasure Cruise can be pretty awful in a badly designed deck but at least it still draws cards and can only really be stopped by countermagic. What I then came to realise however is that a lot of the permanents that give a one off big shot of cards or an ongoing supply of them and cannot easily be disrupted by removal either. Certainly you can Disenchant a Necropotence but they can still draw as many they like for that turn and the damage is done. You can Hero's Downfall a Jace, Architect of Thought but not before they have had a chance to activate the -2. This leaves me in the odd position of classifying planeswalkers that only offer you one card on the turn you make them as unsuitable for this list as you can easily disrupt them before they draw you (net) two cards. Jace, the Mind Sculptor is even harder to rule out as he does draw three right away, just after the return you are still one for one.While it might seem like an odd set of stipulations to determine what qualifies for this list of card draw spells it makes good sense from an analytical perspective.
Dig Through Time

1.   Ancestral Recall
2.   Treasure Cruise
3.   Dig Through Time
4.   Ancestral Visions
5.   Jace, Architect of Thought
6.   Sphinx's Revelation
7.   Necropotence
8.   Fact or Fiction
9.   Esper Charm
10. Azban Charm

Ancestral VisionObviously Ancestral Recall sits at the one slot and isn't close. The test for a magic card is how many times you can add a mana to the cost and still have it be good. Ancetral Recall passes this test better than basically every other magic card out there. I mean, it would still be on this list at UUU or 3U cost! It is sufficiently over powered that it is one of a few cards I no longer bother to run in my cube. It offers very little in the way of decision making itself. See it, pick it. Draw it, cast it. Simple.

Treasure Cruise is a card I didn't get on board with right away. I saw it as being narrow, clunky and far less good than Dig Through Time for control builds. While the latter is true it is not close to the difference I thought it would be. Being a sorcery is far less of a drawback when it can be played for just one mana. Two cards from seven is also probably better than just three off the top in a control list but both are still quite fantastic and not to be complained about. Sure, you would probably pick Dig over Treasure Cruise when you know you are in control but you are still happy to run either, sometimes both. The reason I rate Cruise over Dig in this list is because Dig is only better in control and the odd combo deck. As soon as your deck is at all redundant Treasure Cruise is simply superior. It is a three for one not a two for one and can cost half the price. It is also far easier to splash costing just a single blue. On just those base attributes we have Cruise starting off as three times better than Dig, instant speed and card quality don't come close to making up that difference in a deck like RDW. Treasure Cruise is only narrow in that you need to have ways to fill up your graveyard quickly, be that lots of cycling, discard or just cheap spells. This more than anything just makes it more interesting to build decks with, those things must be taken into account but are rarely so serious that your Treasure Cruise is not even a consideration for your deck.

Jace, Architect of Thought
Dig Through Time I have discussed at length in comparison to Treasure Cruise because they both function so similarly and are both so good. Dig Through Time is a better mid game card than Treasure Cruise as it is more reasonable to cast it for 4-6 mana at the end of their turn. Again, this makes it most useful for control and reactive decks. In the same ways that you would prefer Dig to Cruise in a control list yet are still happy to play the Cruise you are happy to play Dig in a more proactive threat based deck (unless you are splashing for it in which case the UU is prohibitive).

Ancestral Visions is a bit like the inverse of Treasure Cruise being very good in your opening hands and getting increasingly slower and clunkier as the game goes on. This can make it more luck based, you can build and draft to obtain a suitable curve, you cannot do anything much extra to draw specific cards early. Aggressive mulligan to Ancestral Visions is quite the counter productive measure! We don't really need to go much into why the card is good, 3 cards for one mana is a bit of theme at the top end of this list! We can talk about some of the ways it is especially good and some of the ways in which it is weaker. Suspend interacts nicely with some things like cascade and prowess but it is gruesome to have it Remanded. It is weak with Snapcaster Mage but then delve is also weak against Remand and with Snapcaster. It is also great with Time Walk effects, but then having done much of anything scales well with those things...

Sphinx's Revelation
I didn't like Jace, Architech of Thought at all when first spoiled. Compared to the Mind Sculptor he is obviously horrible however it is not all about apt comparisons. All non Lightning Bolt burn is god awful compared to the mighty Bolt and we pack a lot of burn in the cube! Architect of Thought is still a good card in its own right and is a fine inclusion in your deck when you don't have the Mind Sculptor, sometimes you even play both! Architect of Thought is on this list because he is the only planeswalker that you can lay and guarantee getting two new cards in hand back if it resolves. All the others need you to have survive a turn or fulfil criteria on the board to be cards up right away. As pure card draw Jace is worse than Fact or Fiction, especially when viewed as a one off hit. Sorcery speed, an extra blue mana, two cards less seen, which usually results in one card less overall. The thing with Fact or Fiction is that it is a four mana spell which has no impact on the board and very little flexibility. Jace is a presence on the board, some utility and also a threat. Should you be sufficiently ahead and Jace gets two or more -2 activations then it is better card draw than Fact or Fiction as well. Putting cards on the bottom of your library rather than the graveyard is a double edged sword. On the one hand it does not power up your delve, threshold, flashback etc but on the other hand it gives you much more safety and ultimately information. I have had several games where I know what I am going to draw as I have ordered the bottom of my library with things like scry, Bow of Nylea, Dig Through Time etc and not hit a shuffle effect. In 40 card decks when you are drawing manipulating this happens fast. It is also much more dangerous discarding certain things in a 40 card deck which can make Fact or Fiction a little brutal.

Sphinx's Revelation is yet another card I really wasn't sold on when first spoiled. I just saw it as simply worse than Brain Geyser and Stroke of Genius. I heavily undervalued the life gain and how it would change the way you wanted to and could use the card. Geyser and Stroke are only cards and that makes them quite narrow. They are awful early and late game you often cannot afford the time to spend all that mana on them. As such they almost only saw play in combo decks or mana ramp decks. Sphinx's Revelation on the other hand is a card you pretty much always want in control deck with blue and white in it. The chunk of life you get from casting it has a great habit of offsetting any tempo loss you incur from spending the mana to cast it. Life gain is a thing you want in control decks but not something you want to pay cards or mana for. With this you don't have to, it is not at all dead in the matchups where you don't care about life and it is typically your best card in the ones you do. A good measure of how well you are doing in a game is how late you are able to hold off casting your Rev, a solid X = 7 is so hard to beat while when you are forced into doing it for 1-3 you are quite sad. A lot of control decks simply look like things that delay the game as long as possible to land a big Revelation.

Fact or FictionNecropotence has fallen far from its appearance in the first list. The metagame in cube has changed sufficiently that Necro is now a rather narrow card that only a few decks can put it to good use. It is still hands down the most cards you can get for the mana overall but it comes with so many penalties that it is hard to use well. Triple black makes it hard to use in anything much but mono black. Being a 3 mana sorcery speed effect with no board presence at all it is hard to deploy as things are getting pretty serious around then and lots needs doing so that the game doesn't get out of hand. In many ways it is the opposite to Sphinx's Revelation, instead of paying mana and gaining life you lose life and pay no mana. This makes Necropotence even better in the matchups where your life total is put under no timely threat however it makes it a liability against the ones that do. If you fall sufficiently behind or low on life against a RDW you just cannot sensibly play Necro and it winds up being card disadvantage for you. To get around this problem, which can occur against any deck, just most readily versus RDW, Necro based decks will pack a lot of life gain abilities. Grey Merchant of Asphodel was a real boost to Necropotence as it is a powerful effect regardless of the lifegain and has good devotion synergy with Necro. The life loss of Necro is the main problem with the card once you have managed to include it in your deck but it is not the only one! It gives you your cards at the end of turn which is is the drawing equivalent of having all your lands come into play tapped. It also removes your normal draw while in play and can bleed you out should you not hit the right things in time even if you manage to get ahead or stabilize before. In an even game or heavens forbid, one you get ahead in, a Necropotence is very hard to beat indeed. Getting to refill your entire hand every turn is very nutty indeed! Goldfishing it is at least 19 cards for 3 mana (and the odd draw step) as you require them, look at it like that and it starts to make Ancestral Recall look fair.

Esper Charm

Fact or Fiction is another card to have fallen far from grace. It was happening before Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise arrived but they hit it very hard as well. The main problem with FoF is that it is four mana and no board impact at all. Instant is all well and good but most of the time you need to use your mana to not be getting brutally killed so you only ever really get to cast it before turn seven if one of you is misfiring badly. Yes, FoF draws more than Jace does right away and often nominally too, but unlike Jace you cannot just cast it turn four very often nor can you easily afford the slot for something that is only card draw. With persistent creatures, man-lands, planeswalkers, equipment and all manner of other diverse and awkward threats control decks are stretched far too thing to have much freedom for luxuries like FoF in 40 card singleton cube decks. Dig Through Time is a more powerful effect than Fact or Fiction, it is castable faster and usually leaves you more mana spare to do other things with as well. While FoF cannot compete well with Dig Through Time it remains one of the most powerful and splashable straight card advantage spells ever printed. Sadly it is a little out of sorts in the current cube meta but it is also still very playable and a card often scooped to if resolved.

Abzan Charm
Esper Charm and Abzan Charm are new entries on this list and are fairly similar for the purposes of it. Abzan Charm is a more powerful card however the draw portion of it is less powerful than Esper Charm as well as it being in less commonly played colour pairings, all be it not by much these days. Neither Toil nor Council of the Soratami are that exciting as card draw effects however being instant is pretty huge for them, especially the Esper one. It allows you to leave up counter magic/removal early yet still do something profitable if you don't counter/kill anything. Three mana is cheap enough that you can use it a bit like card quality and continue to hit those vital land drops. Three coloured mana is uncomfortable but easily supportable with cube mana bases, certainly mine! While I would play instant Council of the Soratami in the cube it existed, it would be a dull filler card and not on this list. The fairly obvious reason why Esper and Abzan Charm are on this list is because they have two other modes, both quite handy ones at that. For many of the same reasons that Jace, Architect of Thought is better than FoF these days these Charms are better than the hypothetical instant speed Council of the Soratami. Stretched control decks need all the options they can get from their cards and anything that does several desirable things at a reasonable cost are the cards of choice. There is very little in the same casting cost region that is comparable just on the card draw front which makes these that little bit more desirable. FoF has to compete with the delve cards and planeswalkers while these Charms only really compete with utility dorks like Sea Gate Oracle.

Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
Honourable Mentions

Memory Jar
Commune with Lava
Thirst for Knowledge
Life from the Loam
Garruk, Caller of Beasts
Timayo, the Moon Sage
Time Twister
Time Spiral
Wheel of Fortune
Contract from Below
Yawgmoth's Bargain
Compulsive Research

Commune with LavaI can never do a list like this and just ignore the cards that do not make it, it is almost like guilt! As such I am going to briefly discuss why these great cards do not make it onto this list. For some like the planeswalkers it is for technical reasons, while both can offer a great influx of cards immediately they are dependant on the board state. You can definitely still consider them as part of your decks total card advantage capacity and both are great cards. What you cannot do is rely on them to provide that influx of cards, if you know you really want to fill up the hand and you are running out of slots then perhaps these walkers are not the best option.

Memory Jar has also fallen quite far from grace, now typically only being used when it can be abused with Goblin Welder and the new Daretti. It is not quite the same as other card draw as well, much like the new Commune with Lava you only get one turn to play with the cards so you need to set up well for the event. For this list in particular the Jar is very poor as in order to use it right away you have to have spent five mana. This means you either have to wait and leave yourself open to disruption or you have a fairly inefficient card draw card. Commune is kind of the same but being instant gives you all the flexibility and options as to when you want an influx of card on your for your upcoming turn. It is also more flexible on what it number of cards you can get or how little you chose to invest in it even if it is less cards per mana than Jar. Its overall flexibility and offering no cards to your opponent I think will have it see much more play than Jar.

Contract from BelowContract from Below is actually better for the most part than Ancestral Recall, the discard aspect is often more of an advantage! We even ran it using modified cube ante rules however it was obviously still far far far too powerful and no fun to play against.

Life from the Loam sits in a category of its own. It can be paired with cycling land to draw non-land cards or just happily used to get loads of free lands. It can help fill up graveyards should you wish and is just an all round interesting and powerful card. It needs to be built specifically around and is typically quite slow to yield returns despite being so cheap to cast itself. Being unique it is hard to compare directly to anything so it is fortunate it didn't qualify for this list, it can be powerful enough to have gotten a slot!

Wheel of Fortune, Time Twister and Time Spiral all see a lot less play than they used to. All still provide one of the most efficient and immediate returns on cards for the mana and still see occasional use but with most decks being more traditional agro, midrange and control these cards are too risky and too symmetrical to be appropriate very often. In a powered cube with more combo cards then these would see much more play and would likely be very high picks again.

Time Spiral
Griselbrand and now even Yawgmoth's Bargain are too highly costed to be reliably cast just as a card advantage machine. Griselbrand is a juicy threat as well but that extra two mana means you really do need to work on getting him into play to make him at all worth including. Griselbrand is great because he is two things at once and good at them both. As pure card advantage you can do way better hence not being on the list. At performing a specific role, Griselbrand remains the king.

Finally we have the humble Thirst for Knowledge and Compulsive Research, the wannabe instant Council of the Soratami. Both offer some bonus graveyard utility and card quality but both also have critical issues that make them niche cards in the cube these days. Thirst is perfect except that you need a far too high artifact count for it to be good. Research is tragically sorcery speed and typically is used to go looking for lands and winds up just being expensive card quality early game.

Thursday 12 March 2015

Chittering Lapse.dec

Chittering RatsBack in the good old days of magic when most cubes were powered, most creatures were awful and combo decks were a big part of cube there were a number of archetypes that could only compete by denying the opposition the ability to do their thing. Pox style black decks and Winter Orb Selesnya lists were the main two but there are a fair few varients. Generally these decks attack mana bases, occasionally the hand, which slows the game right down and allows you to take a lead with your weaker cards. As dorks got better and people tired of the power you no longer needed to supplement your weenie decks with this kind of disruption to be able to take games and so favouring more threats, consistency and redundancy we have seen a decline of these kinds of resource attack deck. Since the release of Unexpectedly Absent I have been wanting to try out a version of resource attacking that attacks your capacity to draw new cards or out of a situation. With a bit of focused removal, be it land, hand or threat the idea is to slow their ability to do much useful, with this gained time you can set them back further by forcing them to draw cards they already had or irrelevant things. Sadly this is only a strategy that goes as far as not losing, I had no actual idea how I intended to win games and having never tried a deck like this out before I was not so sure which sort of direction to go in. This is the list I ended up running, a couple of C cube cards and a couple of B cube things too. It is lovely when you reach a critical mass of a type of thing that you can make new archetypes in cube and while I only managed a 50/50 with this deck I had a lot of fun and some great games with it. 

23 Spells
Memory Lapse
Inquisition of Kozilek
Swords to Plowshares
Ancestral Visions

Delver of Secrets

Snapcaster Mage
Unexpectedly Absent
Memory Lapse

Dark Confident
Baleful Strix
Unexpectedly Absent
Azorius Charm
Tidehollow Sculler

Lapse of Certainty
Chittering Rats
Esper Charm

Lingering Souls

Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Sorin, Solemn Visitor
Restoration Angel

17 Lands


Wasteland, no other colourless
Single Basic (Island)
3x Sac Lands
2x Dual Man Lands

I considered playing green as well for Temporal Spring, Deathrite Shaman and perhaps even Plow Under but I thought I should leave that till I had some more experience with the deck. Deathrite would still have been decent in this list and would likely have done more work than Delver. Waterfront Bouncer was a serious consideration as it would allow for a Chittering Rats lock as well as some good utility with Snapcaster. Venser, Shaper Savant also had appeal but in the end I went for the more rounded Restoration Angel figuring that trying to get a lock on people was hopeful and I would be better off trying to actually win games. For this reason also I threw in Delver of Secrets and Lingering Souls, both powerful cheap cards that can win games if pushed to do so and are good for tempo. The Delver was fine but a little superfluous to requirements, perhaps if I had Diving Top or Brainstorm in the build for some reason. 

Azorius Charm was surprisingly good, for the first time ever I used the lifelink ability to blow someone out and win a race rather than just to edge a few life points further away from burn range! Lots of the cards were more useful in this deck than they usually are, little subtle things about them made quite a big difference. Esper Charm for example, being instant speed discard worked very well with knowing your opponents draws a lot of the time and wanting to deny them the opportunity to do anything useful with their mana and turn. Jace is obviously great but almost all of his uses were better in this deck. Fateseal is much in line with limiting the utility of drawing cards. Bounce can be a Timewalk if used on Chittering Rats or even Snapcaster Mage.

It is very satisfying to Memory Lapse a spell on a turn they miss a land drop only to then blow up a land so that they cannot recast what you Lapsed. Misinformation is a complete powerhouse that most people are unaware of. Best case scenario it is a one mana triple Timewalk! Obviously this is hard to engineer and so the card is a little too narrow for main cube use however this is the deck to best take advantage of the card and even though I was mostly only getting two wasted turns with the card that still felt pretty game winning. The deck is sadly a little polar, it is very good at punishing weak draws, floods and screws alike. It is good against threat light decks and decks taking risks. What it is not good against a cheap decks full of redundancy. A good white weenie or RDW should tear this to bits. Against the solid midrange decks you do also tend to need them to have a weaker draw to be in with a reasonable chance. I could easily see adding another one mana black discard spell to the deck and Looter il-Kor would be a great addition also. I would like to have squeezed a Mox in as well but didn't think I would be able to withstand the card disadvantage. This is not a viable tier one deck you can just make blind and hope to do well with however it is a good counter to certain types of thing and rewarding and fun to play with, if not against!                       

Tuesday 10 March 2015

Dragons of Tarkir Reveiw

Deathbringer Regent 
3/10 - B cube

Big and powerful but with no reanimation abuses possible and a stipulation as to when it will Wrath this is not good enough for the cube. There are many alternatives that offer better value, more synergy or more consistency that you will find with this.

Stratus Dancer
5/10 - A cube

As a counterspell this card is very expensive and quite narrow. As an aggressive creature it is fine but way to fair for the cube. Even as a tricksy tempo creature you are spending a lot of mana to get a two for one. The good monster comes once you have countered something so if they have no targets or play around you well then you have a Grey Ogre in your deck and that is sad for you. Certainly you can flip it over without a target and have yourself a 3/2 flier for the bargain price of five - better than a Grey Orge but not by much... Voidmage Prodigy is the obvious comparison to this card however in reality they function very differently. You cannot really get a 2 for 1 with Voidmage and it is a pretty awful body to do much with however he is better at countering things, cheaper to get online and can lock people out should you have sufficient wizards to put to death. While Stratus Dancer is not really that great at any one thing I still find I quite like him, I like his versatility. He gives you the option to lay out a two power evasive two drop if you need, if not you can invest some bonus mana and have a better threat and force awkward plays out of your opponent. He sits in the same kind of versatile bracket as Mulldrifter, Shriekmaw and Riftwing Cloudskate. Due to being more situational in effect I would say those other cards are all a bit better. The more morph cards that make it into the cube the better for Stratus Dancer, it will be less obvious and will add value to the other morphs just by being a possibility. I like to have agro blue as a possibility in my cube and this will help that archetype a fair amount. 

Sidisi, Undead Vizier
4/10 - B cube

This is too pricey for what it achieves in cube. Tutor effects are great but five mana and a sacrificial dork is too big an ask, even with a 4/6 deathtouch body free with it. Sacrifice outlets can be useful but again, at five mana for a one shot effect you don't offer much synergy. The overall deal you get with this card is fine and the fact you have the option on tutoring slightly eases the utility of Sidisi. All said and done, you don't get good tempo, you don't get card advantage and you don't get a body that is performing any real role well. There are certainly decks this would help glue together quite well and I am sure it will see some play however it is too narrow to really deserve an A cube slot. 

Profound Journey
2/10 - C cube

Laughable reanimate costing, there is little you can get that affords you a mana saving on the first hit. I see this more as a white Tooth and Nail type card rather than a Reanimate or even Unburial Rites. Ideally you ramp, then you cast your fat threats then you get them back with this. The problem with that is you are generally a lot better off just running another powerful seven mana threat than these kinds of things. In 40 card decks you only have so many slots you can afford to have as 6+ mana cards and ones that are not threats themselves make you that much more vulnerable to mill, exile, discard and all manner of common disruption effects. Two things I like about this card are that you can get back planeswalkers and that it is card advantage in white. Still likely only viable for the more silly and fun decks but interesting enough.

Dragonlord Silumgar
4/10 - B cube

For one more colour and two more mana you get +1/+3, deathtouch and the ability to steal planeswalkers as well when compared to Sower of Temptation. I am not sold. Certainly Silumgar is much harder to kill, being black is good for survivability as is a bunch of extra toughness. That said it is still not as good for survivability as say, not being a creature but being an enchantment. For the most part I would prefer Confiscate or Treachery. Silumgar feels way too win more. He is cost like a threat, and while he is a fine body he is not ending games quick nor adding much bonus value or threat if he is just killed. For the same mana you can have Titans and Wurmcoils that require a whole lot more killing. Sure, when this guy lives it is a very powerful 3 for 1 however that can ever so quickly return to a 1 for 1 when they Hero's Downfall it. You don't need it to be a threat as well as a Control Magic and so in the role you would want such a card it is just tediously pricey. A fine and playable card that will just win games plenty of games where removal cannot be found but it is not a very fun, skillful or synergic card and is not the soft of thing I really care to add or even play with.

Thunderbreak Regent
4/10 - B cube

A decent midrange threat that is likely to get you some bonus value. It can apply decent pressure or hold things up pretty well. It is cheap enough and aggressive enough that you could play it in red deck wins and it is rounded enough that you would be happy with it in slower decks. This card is not that exciting and offers little new, it is just a 4/4 flier for 4 with a cherry on top. As such it probably won't ever see much cube play, for that it needed haste! Then we would have on our hands a new Thundermaw Hellkite. As it is, you have fine filler for most red decks but rarely a choice card you would pick our for a finely sculpted deck.

Radiant Purge
3/10 - C cube

This I just don't know although I suspect it is a no and very much depends on how much gold stuff you have in your cube. My gold pile is growing rapidly and I cater for mana fixing very heavily as well so I suspect if this was playable in any cube mine would be quite high on that list. As removal goes this is top notch and does all of what you want for a very reasonable price. Sadly it is dead against most mono decks and will just frustrate you by not hitting the things you want it too even when it does have targets. Typically I shy away from gold fatties as they are already narrow enough and so most of the things this takes out cost 2-4 mana which is fine but not the great scaling of most spot removal. It is a shame you cannot take out gold planeswalkers with it - that might have been enough to get some A cube love.

Dragon Tempest 
1/10 - C cube

This is sillyness, all the best dragons have haste and there are too few good ones without to base much of a deck around it. As a card that just gives haste to stuff you would be better off with alternatives that didn't restrict you to fliers.

Silumgar Assassin 
4/10 - B cube

We have come a long way since Skinthinner and while this is a tremendous upgrade on the morphing zombie it is rather tentative a cube card. Six mana gets you a 3/2 with some evasion and kills a small to medium dork of your opponents. Two mana gets you a poor 2/1 with slightly better evasion but certainly not enough card that you would want it for being a 2 drop. Compared to Shriekmaw, which is a much more exciting two drop, I am underwhelmed with this Assassin. Shriekmaw is cheaper overall, has more useful alternate costs, scales better into the late game and is a slightly better dork. In favour of the Assassin however it is far less useless than Shreikmaw versus black decks where both the scaling and evasion of the maw cease. You can also use the Assassin to kill things at instant speed which is significant. I love instant speed removal, and I love removal on dorks however much of the good synergy for 187 dorks is with things like Recurring Nightmare which obviously doesn't do much with Assassin. I also like a card that isn't occasionally dead against some colours and so I shall test this however I suspect better 3 drops will edge it out of most decks. 

Pristine Skywise
4/10 - B cube

Broadly I think I much prefer Pristine Angel. Two power is nice but in every other respect Angel is better, all be it very slightly. Mostly it is the more playable nature of a mono coloured card that I prefer about the Angel, and I don't often have it in my cube. They are relentless threats and decent blockers but unlike Aetherling they are vulnerable to lots of mass removal and edicts and simultaneously make your own mass removal much weaker. 

Ojutai's Command
3/10 - C cube

This is a cute card but ultimately it is just a terrible Exclude/Absorb. It offers some good value and utility but it does not cover you fully for most things like Cryptic Command will, and is such far too costly for a fairly situational card. In a control deck you are unlikely to make much use of the recursion mode which is one of the more powerful ones. In a deck that can make good use of the recursion the life, counterspell and cycling options are all a lot less potent. A bit of incidental life is really good verses red decks but acknowledging that moves this card into more of a hoser bracket which does not endear me to include it. It is certainly playable but it is on the narrow side as well as a clunky card that is quite uncomfortable to make space for in a tight 40 card deck.

Shaman of the Forgotten Ways
5/10 - A cube

I am going to run this out in the main cube but it is quite marginal and may well get cut. I have not been overly impressed with ramp creatures that cost 3 thus far but I think this one offers just about enough. This Shaman is bigger than a lot of the comparable cards and can not only evade a bunch of the softer removal effects but can also be a useful body for combat. Certainly this is not a reason to play him but it does make him less of a risky investment of three mana. The thing I like most about this dork is that you get some bonus late game scaling from the formidable effect. Most ramp dorks scale poorly as the game goes on, this is a hit you take with things like Llanowar Elves as they are a small investment that has a much wider window of utility. With Shaman of the Forgotten Ways and similar cards you frequently cannot cast in before turn three, and cast much later than turn five and you wont be getting much in the way of useful mana from him. Although it is situational and stupidly expensive the Shaman's formidable ability poses a very serious threat that will likely one shot opponents most of the time you can get there. This gives it a bit of that Figure of Destiny / Kargan Dragonlord inevitability which adds so much to the card. I don't think many people will be killed by the formidable on this guy but I think a lot of people will make efforts to kill this well before that becomes a possibility which in turn means you will be able to ride some other better threat to victory instead.                   

Dragonlord Kolaghan
5/10 - B cube

A big pile of better than Rorix. Even though the last ability on this guy is dead in cube this guy is still pretty damn good. A 6/5 flying haste for 6 is a good old deal. It is so good that it detracts from giving all your other guys haste. The game will be over sufficiently quickly that you are unlikely to get many triggers from Kolaghan giving haste to things. On average I suspect it will be just below 1 per resolved Kolaghan. Sadly I don't think I am going to be running this in the cube, it is not different enough to offset the drawbacks of being gold despite easily being powerful enough. Mostly I would rather a Falkenrath Aristocrat and of course always I would rather Thundermaw Hellkite! 

Gudul Lurker
2.5/10 - C cube

Triton Shorestalker with a useless creature type and some megamorph utility to give it a bit of a boost. Shorestalker has seen some cube play and has proved itself to be one of the best merfolk one drops. Sadly I don't think this is quite enough monster to be cube worthy without the tribal support. It is already narrow as you typically don't need this level of creature when you are playing colours other than blue. Not an exciting creature nor a very powerful one but none the less a viable body to fill out your curve with in a mono blue agro build.

Marang River Skeleton
1.5/10 - C cube

Much as I like this card it is just too expensive for the stats at any stage to be of any real use in cube. It is only really because this has morph and there might be enough good things to pair with morph that you could potentially ever find yourself wanting something like this. 

Scalegaurd Sentinels
2/10 - C cube

Elvish Warriors looked quite good when they first came out but never did enough in cube, neither did Nissa's Chosen when they popped up. Creatures have become substantially better in that time and the Scalegaurds are insufficiently better than their predecessors to really be a consideration. A GG 3/4 would be viable, just about but it would commonly be unplayed for more robust cards like Strangleroot Giest, fatter cards like Tarmogoyf and Scavenging Ooze, and for that matter easier threats to cast for 1G too. Often you would just want a ramp card that allows you to play better value more serious threats or just some utility two drops. All this assumes you are getting a 3/4 for GG which you really aren't! There are few good dragons, fewer in green and dragons are not the kind of thing you can viably fill up a cube deck with. This is narrow, bland and weak.

Dragon Fodder
5/10 - A cube

While this is a reprint I actually think it has started to become more playable. Mainly Purphoros from red but also Young Pyromancer and lots of white and blue prowess and token themes have really taken off in cube and become a powerful strategy. There are many flavours of token based deck and lots of powerful cards that synergize well with them and as such I think it is time to add this humble support card to the mix. Gather the Townsfolk and Raise the Alarm have both been comfortably earning their slots in the A cube this last year or so and so I feel this similar red version should get some good work done. A low power card but a fantastic support card at a great spot on the curve. 

Dragonlord's Servant
4/10 - B cube

You do not sneak a card that reduces mana costs past me! These kinds of cards are very easy to abuse and are the sort of thing that allow well below average power level tribal decks compete with proper tier one cube decks. Dragons is one of the harder tribal decks to create as there are so few cards for your bottom end of curve. Should a dragons tribal deck become a thing you can do in the cube this will be the best and most important card in the deck. The older player might remember a fairly unplayable card called Dragonspeaker Shaman which is the bigger brother of this dude. While not as good as the Servant the combination of both is a fairly good starting place for a cube dragon themed deck. I'll try and throw a list for such a deck at some point as it has lovely fantasy flavour appeal and as yet I have not seen it done. 

Foe-Razer Regent
6/10 - A cube

I basically ignored this card on the spoiler until now when I have my analytical hat on. It is the kind of card that does nothing for me, high cost, dull monster, cumbersome abilities that look designed for block booster draft! While I hate this card the thing that stands out about it is that it is green and does two things green really has difficulty doing - those being flying and killing other monsters. This exact same card in red, black or white wouldn't merit a second glance really. Shriekmaw does most of what this does but without being disgustingly top end and hard to find space for. This is a basically a 6/7 flying Flame Tongue Kavu for green! It is rare you will ever get a second trigger of +1/+1 counters for fighting but it does give some decent synergy options to more unplayed cards such as Ulvenwald Tracker. Seven mana is a lot more viable in green than other colours and also has the potential for cheating into play for good effect too. Chancellor of the Tangle has managed to hold onto a cube slot since being printed and much of that is down to being a 6/7 that can block fliers. Beyond that they are rather different in application but the fact the fact that the body stands out on a card you are typically including for the other ability is testament to its quality. There are quite a number of viable seven drops in green and so there is going to be some competition for the few slots available. Hornet Queen, Avenger of Zendikar, Chancellor of the Tangle, Regal Force, Sylvan Primordial and a few others all now have a harder time finding themselves time in the main cube. As it is for space concerns rather than role replacement or upgrades which selection of cards wind up being the mainstays remains to be seen. 

Narset Transcendent 
5.5/10 - A cube

This is a very interesting planeswalker design. Rather than have some ability to protect itself it just has a much higher starting loyalty count than you typically expect on this costing of walker. You can much more easily than with a lot of other walkers just flop this out on to the board, ramp it up, take the full hit in the Narset from their attackers and still have yourself a working planeswalker the following turn. The +1 is alike to that of Domri Rades however it is easier to manipulate your library in white blue and gives you broader scope to build your deck towards maximising the Narset. The -2 is a lot like Chandra Firebrand's, in most respects it is weaker however on cards like Wrath of God rebound has some utility where Fork does not. In general Forking and other spell buffing effects on planeswalkers are nice as they don't cost you mana to use and allow you to multiply serious spells quicker. Her ultimate ability is powerful but somewhat polar, against some decks like control and combo it will simply be game over while a lot of midrange and agro decks will cope fairly well. Decks with Domri Rade in them might not even be affected by it! Nine is a lot to get to with only a +1 to get you there. Starting at six helps but this is significantly offset by Narset having no ability to protect herself. Overall Narset is basically just a card advantage engine and not a utility package like a lot of good planeswalkers. She is most comparable to Jace Beleren but is a lot more threatening as she is growing and drawing at the same time rather than one or the other. If your deck can cope with tapping out a bit more then I would prefer Narset to Fact or Fiction however in the higher counterspell builds I would likely err on the side of instant card draw effects. Any tempo you might lose through it being a sorcery you are likely to regain from Narset's huge loyalty absorbing damage. Rebound is ultimately just more card advantage but it does allow for good scaling, synergy and even trickery all of which add quite a lot to Narset over Jace Beleren. She is a bit clunky but I expect her to see a decent amount of play, seemingly a reasonably fair planeswalker. 

Lightning Berserker
6/10 - A cube

I love this card and I greatly appreciate the design. A very simple card that is powerful, fair and deep in terms of use, analysis and application. To my mind it has 3 main roles, as a one drop, as an off the top finisher and as a persistent source of damage that evades sorcery speed answers. As a one drop it is fine but not busted. It will be best in weaker draws where you flood a bit or miss curve drops, it will usually trade if blocked but this will often cost you making the plays you wanted to that turn. It offers far less initial tempo than Satyr Firedrinker but scales far better into the late game even when played early rather than drawn late. It allows you to expend your mana efficiently and forces difficult blocking options for your opponent. Late game off the top this is a pretty solid draw which cannot be said of many one drop threats. It is not quite Fireball as it can be blocked or killed and requires entirely red mana, but it is still pretty close to it. Many of those kinds of games come down to being able to draw some damage you can instantly apply which this is, and usually a big chunk of it. It is likely much more comparable to Lightning Elemental than Fireball but a card that can be like Satyr Firedrinker and like Lightning Elemental as you need is pretty interesting already and this is before we consider his application as a Viashano style threat! The third role of this card is being annoying and dodging Wrath of Gods or planeswalker pings by dashing it in and out of play all the time. I see this being the least common use for the card as it is not wildly mana efficient and quite situational but it is still a very strong bonus to an already versatile and decent card. It is the kind of card that makes your overall deck vastly better but rarely blows you away with what it did in any game. Vindicate is a similar card in this respect, it only ever goes 1 for 1 and often doesn't even get you ahead on mana but you still always want a Vindicate. I have a few reservations about this card, this first is that it might just be too weak of a one drop which is where it will most commonly be being played. It is fairly similar to Stonewright in form and although more versatile it is far less dangerous and less powerful as a one drop. The more firebreathing you have the weaker it gets. The more one drop 1 power guys you have the less powerful your deck! When you make this one turn one it is like a Grim Lavamancer, it is likely doing nothing better than getting in for one for a few turns and is only your play as you had nothing else better. I am hoping that these reservations are something that you can resolve with sensible deck construction. 

Risen Executioner
4.5/10 - B cube

This is rather close to the mark and may wind up only really being playable in tribal decks. A 4/3 for 4 mana is poo, even pooer when it can't block. Returning from the graveyard is lovely but at best it is doing so at 4 mana and given that you only get a 4/3 that can't block you are a little sad about it still. The kinds of decks that grind out wins by having recursive threats such as this need to be defensive so that they can have enough spare mana and time to do said things. This dork is about as bad a defensive thing as you could hope for. Additionally if you are going that route you need to be able to delve or Deathrite shaman away other dorks from your bin so that you are not paying even more over the odds for the card and this in turn will likely have loads of annoying interactions with the rest of your deck! As an agro card this is not much of threat in its own right except against a control deck lacking exile effects or when you have mostly zombies in your deck. You just never get away from having to spend 4 mana to get a 4/3 which is just not exciting tempo even if it doesn't cost you a card. In a zombie tribal deck this is good enough as it is chunky and persistent lord however I keep all tribal only cards out of the main cube as they are not good for drafting with in my experience. The only hope this card has of getting an A cube home is that there are enough good stand alone zombies that you would play in a deck that wanted a card a bit like this that the global pump started to do good work for you. Presently I think there are enough zombies to do such a thing but it would be about the narrowest card in the cube with only one real archetypal home and a low low stand alone power level. 

Atarka's Command
6/10 - A cube

This somewhat makes up for Gruul Charm being basically unplayable in cube. This command offers a wide array of utility in lots of different areas while remaining useful enough that it shouldn't be overly situational. It can be ramp, it can kill people or planeswalkers, it can counter lifegain effects, it can kill fliers, act as a mini Overrun. The go to base for this card will be as Skullcrack, as in you wouldn't play this if you wouldn't consider Skullcrack, however I imagine it will be frequently used in other capacities. Certainly the 3 damage will be the most common mode, almost always being one of the two options chosen as it always useful. I expect the other three modes will be used in a reasonably even split. Often you will be holding the Command with the aim of countering half of a Sphinx's Revelation or something and then realise you can actually just +1/+1 all your men and deal 3 damage for the win. Sometimes you will miss a two drop and have the lands in hand to merit blowing this as a bolt to the face and land drop. This is not what you want the card for but it will greatly increase the consistency of your deck having these extra curve options. There are even some situations where making an instant speed land could make some unexpected impact on a game. BAM - Khalni Gargen! This card is far from over powered but it offers a lot of flexibility to aggressive decks without compromising their redundancy. This is perfectly viable in more control or midrange builds as well however the base use of Skullcrack is a lot less exciting in those and so you must have a greater use for the other modes than normal.

Deathmist Raptor
3/10 - C cube

These look like they are a lot more potent when you can run up to four in a deck. In the cube these rely too much on you having other things you can turn face up to be good and as it stands there is not enough of that. I would love this to be another Vengevine but there just isn't the other morph cards to go with it. Even if there were sufficient top quality morph cards that you could run this in a deck you would then likely just be way too full on three drops and have a really clunky deck. I'll dust of the Birchlore Rangers and Nantuko Vigilantes and give it a try at some stage but we all know that it is all a bit too much effort just to get a free 3/3 deathtouch! There are a few quite close morph cards from this block I have not tried that much which are looking a little more interesting as this set is spoiled and some more interesting interactions are being seen. Things like Rattleclaw Mystic might well suddenly get a slot and make things like this that little more appealing invoking a cascade of morphers! Unlikely but it is good to keep an open mind. Ultimately too situational and for too much of a bland dork. If the body did more or the recursion was easier to pull off this would be straight in the cube. 

Zurgo Bellstriker 
7/10 - A cube

All round made of win. This will be a mainstay red one drop for some time. Less good than Goblin Guide, of course! And likely less good than Monastery Swiftspear although far easier to include in any old deck list and build with. Compared to the next best red one drop threat which is probably Stromkirk Noble or Satyr Firedrinker little Zurgo is vastly better. An unconditional one mana 2/2 is a rare treat. In red it is even more precious. Being a legend is pretty irrelevant in cube, this is not the minion you want to clone and the only other real interaction is with Karakas and that will likely help you more often than it is harming you. Without the dash Zurgo is very comparable to Rakdos Cackler, a fine rounded one drop threat. Once you include the dash in your analysis you wind up with a far more powerful and versatile card. Much like Lightning Berserker this card has 3 roles, as a solid one drop, as an off the top source of damage you can apply instantly or as a persistent threat that evades sorcery speed answers. His primary role is as a one drop in which he is very much top tier hence getting a higher rating than Lightning Berserker despite being similar. In both of the other dash based roles Zurgo is not quite as good as Berserker, he is not quite so dangerous a late game threat and cannot ever represent more than 2 damage per turn. Evading removal with a 2/2 is fine but it isn't rapidly closing out the game. His extra toughness is nice and allows you to safely attack into elves and the like. He is also a little less demanding on the coloured mana which will lead to the odd extra damage. That said, the Berserker is more flexible on mana so will also get in those extra bits of damage that Zurgo wouldn't.

Dragonlord Dromoka
3/10 - C cube

Big and powerful but not really what you want in a cube. Disruptive effects like this are decent but typically best on cheaper cards. This one in particular hoses some decks a lot and is pretty irrelevant against others which is another undesirable attribute to a card for cube use. A 5/7 flying lifelink is great, even at 6 mana it is pretty good but you can do better if you just want a big threat. Being gold is a real downer on cards like this as there is so much less in the way of slots for them. Ultimately this is certainly powerful enough for the cube but it is not improving games, not seeing a lot of play and not doing anything exciting. 

Ojutai Exemplars
4/10 - B cube

These were so nearly there, when I first read them I thought it was a flicker until end of turn effect which would have made them a very potent threat that could evade mass removal. As it is they are just a bit of a 4/4 you need to work at to get value from. In the perfect deck with Gut Shot and other silliness this will be a real pain for the midrange deck to beat and good in most situations however in normal decks not specifically built around triggering this then it will be getting a lot less done for you than pretty much any other four drop you want from the cube. It is too expensive to be an aggressive card and not fat enough to be relied on as a finisher threat. 

2/10 - C cube

So much worse than Impulse yet still so playable! It offends me a little that card quality is so awful these days. This I am sure will see loads of play in standard but for cube it is too far down the pecking list to be viable. Your deck would literally have to have double figures of cheap card quality spells before this was a consideration. Such a deck seems like it would have been misbuilt somewhat.

Arashin Foremost
1/10 - C cube

I spend a long time evaluating this before I realised it was warrior only. Silverblade Paladin is just so much better than this. Even without the warrior only clause Silverblade Paladin is still slightly better than this. The only possible home this will ever have is in a tribal warrior deck, and even then it is far from a lock it.

Den Protector
7/10 - A cube

This is a great card and one that doesn't overly suffer from being a morph dude. Certainly Eternal Witness is a better Regrowth than Den Protector however Regrowth is a better Regrowth than Eternal Witness yet it sees basically no play these days. The reason you typically play Eternal Witness is not for a cheap effective Regrowth but for a cheap, versatile and efficient two for one. Den Protector does a lot of these things better than Eternal Witness, it is more versatile, it offers a much better selection of possible bodies and it has better scaling. Although not a two for one when used as such it is also potentially a cheaper card than Witness! Sure, to get a body and a Regrowth right away you need to pay five mana and so there are times you would prefer Witness however I think these cards are very close overall. Den Protecter has decent evasion that scales not only with its megamorph but also with Wolfir Silverheart and other pump effects. This gives the body far greater relevance than with most utility creatures who are often just Skullclamp fodder, Gaea's Cradle/Nykthos fuel, and chump blockers. Overall I would say the more midrange and the more rounded your deck the better this is compared to Witness however the more direct and synergic your deck the more Witness will remain the card of choice. Timewalk combo decks and Recurring Nightmare for examples to the latter. Den Protecter is a value utility dork, in a similar group to Yavimaya Elder, Mulldrifter, Shriekmaw. Hard to compare directly but in power terms I find myself favouring the Den Protector to the others. A large part of why it compared so well to Witness is the fact that you can make a 3 mana body early in the game when you have few or no good targets to recur yet not waste the Regrowth. 

Blood-Chin Fanatic
1/10 - C cube

Another card I missed the warrior clause and spent too long analysing the card. Turns out even with no warrior stipulation the card is probably too middling for mainflight cube. A fine tribal card but not even a mainstay in their tribe nor a very exciting tribe.

Shorecrasher Elemental
3/10 - C cube

This reminds me a lot of Ashcloud Phoenix for many reasons. Both are morph dorks you don't want to make as morphs, both have mechanisms to persist and both are just that little bit too expensive for the body you get to be overly exciting in cube. Shorecrasher is a less exciting body than Ashcloud, and while cheaper to cast it is intense on the blue and needs you to leave more mana up to be anything more than a vulnerable Trained Armadon. I can see this being played in blue devotion decks but really I would just rather have one of the many better 1UU cards in his place. The exile effect does not even help against mass removal and it has no evasion leaving you with fiddly ineffective card. 

Silumgar's Command
3/10 - C cube

This is a lot of mana to pay for a situational card. The first card that came to mind when looking at this was Far / Away which has alternate cheaper casting costs but less utility. Getting two for ones with your removal is great but it is typically not the place you are looking to find card advantage. Good removal is cheap and reliable because that is what you need it to be. This is neither cheap nor reliable. Sure it does a lot but it doesn't always do what you need it to and it is always five mana! I would much rather just have the safe and solid Hero's Downfall and get my card advantage elsewhere. I am not sure if it would be enough to have; Counter target spell, Destroy target creature instead of the negate and -3/-3. It still feels like a bit too much mana to for that grouping of effects.

Dragonlord Atarka 
5/10 - A cube

This is a serious card. It is cheap for what it is and it is incredibly direct. Bogarden Hellkite is the obvious comparison however the flash makes them quite different cards. Hellkite is more of a control card as you can play it at end of turn much more safely and therefore negate a lot of the high mana cost downsides. As an actual threat Hellkite is fairly limp, the old 5/5 flier for 8 is a bit laughable these days. In a race Thundermaw Hellkite has finished by the time Bogarden Hellkite Starts! Atarka however is a whole mana cheaper, gains trample and +3/+3 only losing flash. I think five damage is a little different too but in a fairly marginal way. Atarka is a total beating, first it kills all your stuff then it kills you, and fast. 8/8, flying and trample just laughs at basically every other sensible monster in the cube. Sphinx of the Steel Wind is tedious for you and Baneslayer can sit in the way for a bit of a stand off. Emrakul is also trouble but most of these monsters are not things you can cast while Atarka totally is. It is in fact entirely reasonable to expect a very rampy red green deck to flop Atarka out turn four. Seven is becoming the new 6 so to speak and non rampy decks are starting to include the odd seven drop and so there is probably a home for this in the cube. Sadly Ruric Thar will have to give up his slot for Atarka is you cant have too much top end gold. The raw power and ideal direct nature of this card make it stand out as very good value and impressively unsituational. 

Dragonlord Ojutai
3/10 - C cube

This looks a lot like Prognostic Sphinx, you get more stuff for your mana but you get it in less suitable ways and areas resulting in an overall worse card. Losing hexproof when tapped and having only 4 toughness makes this a fairly vulnerable card. With a good way to untap Ojutai then it is a lot more playable but it is still relatively weak in combat making it a poor defensive play. As a threat it is decent but is doing two things at once that don't have great synergy, getting to swing for five with evasion is good and ends games at a good speed. Getting a free Anticipate per connection is wonderfully powerful as well however neither complement each other or combine to merit the high cost of the card. I would much rather a smaller body and cost or trade in the Anticipate for some more stats or combat abilities like first strike. Essentially I would rather have Baneslayer Angel, Prognostic Sphinx or even a Looter il-Kor in my deck than this thing. 

Sarkhan Unbroken
6/10 - A cube

A very powerful and well rounded planeswalker that has only one downside. Being a three colour card in a fairly uncommon set of colours instantly makes for a narrow card. Despite this I think the raw power and convenience of this new Sarkhan will push past his Temur reins. So he is a healthy four loyalty at five mana. You can use either of the first two modes right away and both are powerful and broadly useful. Cards and mana are the two main resources in magic and for +1 loyalty Sarkhan gives you one of each! You shouldn't need much in the way of colour fixing once you have resolved Sarkhan Unbroken but he gives it to you anyway. The best thing about it is that cards and mana are always useful, there is no "situational" about it. Much the same can be said of 4/4 fliers, they are broadly good. They protect Sarhkan, they block well and kill enemy players and planeswalkers. Sorin Solemn Visitor is very powerful and he only makes 2/2 fliers for the same price. If for some reason you have all the cards and mana you could want then churning out 4/4s is likely something you are keen to do. The first two abilites are so good and cover all areas so well you should, much like with Xenagos, never find yourself wanting to use the ultimate ability. For Sarkhan this is rather fortunate as his ultimate is pretty weak in cube. Most of the time you will have nothing to get and it isn't worth warping your deck to make it good. 

Collected Company
5.5/10 - A cube

This is a very interesting card and one I am being cautiously optimistic about. Best case scenario it is two free mana, a two for one, the application of flash to a pair of dorks and a little bit of tutor/card quality. If you were consistently hitting the best case scenario this card would be utterly insane, you would play it in agro decks and control decks and probably any combo deck you could squeeze it into as well. Without half your deck being targets for this or some significant library manipulation you can't hope for this to be hitting best case or close to half of the time. If you wind up getting a pair of mana elves with this it is looking a lot less exciting and so you have to consider the quality of your targets as well. I can still see this being good in a fair few archetypes but I am not sure how often they will want to take that risk over just playing another threat and not having to worry so much about how they build. The card I find most alike to this is Bloodbraid Elf, certainly it is not as easy to have be good for you but it also has the ability to outperform the mighty Elf as well which is an impressive feat. I also think it is a bit like a mini Tooth and Nail which is less of an accolade and also less of a useful comparison as the difference in cost alone makes them very different in application...

Savage Ventmore
1.5/10 - C cube

Only useful for combo style interactions or bizzare dragon themed synergy. Any card that adds mana is interesting and this adds a whole lot of it! The only place right now I can think you might have a use for this is in Sneak Attack and even that seems a little convoluted. Still not a card to overlook.

Hidden Dragonslayer
5/10 - A cube

I think I like this one more than the black one and I don't know why. Lifelink is fine, it helps your tempo a little, scales well with some things and is always doing something but it isn't that exciting nor that useful in white. Perhaps it is because black has more decent creatures that kill other creatures than white does. Maybe it is the potential human synergies? Perhaps it is that this kills bigger things, I can't quite put my finger on it. Eitherway, the cards are pretty close and neither is great. A clunky 187 dork in white, seems fine. It seems like a bunch of white based weenie and midrange decks will probably end up playing this. I doubt any of them will be thrilled by it either but there it is. 

Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
5/10 - A cube

New mono Anafenza is very close to the mark. For a WW 2/2 with no immediate impact on the board, no bonus abilities like first strike and no card advantage or persistence you have to be pretty nutty good and I am not sure this is that. It reminds me of Champion of the Parish. Although it is better on its own than Champion it is not by very much. It is also easier to trigger Anafenza than it is for Champion however both of these things probably only go as far as making up for being a two drop rather than the more appropriate (for what those kinds of deck want to do) one drop. Rather than grow out of control herself she will steadily grow your who team which will be nice but annoyingly slow to get past big blockers. Some good potential for scaling compensates a bit for the generic and random growing at least.

Kolaghan's Command
5.5/10 - A cube

I place this somewhere between Electrolyse and Rakdos Charm. Not the most exciting card but a reasonable utility two for one. Discard, especially one of their choice is weak however at instant speed it gains quite a lot. Shatter is always a nice thing to have, more so in draft where equipment are dangerous and common. Shock is the best mode and will always be useful, sadly it is a lot of mana for not a lot of damage so it might not do all of what you need it to. Raise Dead as the final option is fine as well, late game and in an appropriate deck it is a lot better than draw a card. There are also some comparisons to Blightning, a card that offers a good deal more punch than this but at the cost of having basically no utility. I substantially prefer the Command to Blightning as it adds so much more to a deck for the slot it takes up. 

Draconic Roar
3/10 - C cube

Searing Blaze is very potent indeed and Draconic Roar can be the same but easier to cast. Having dragons is much less common and reliable than having landfall however, even in red, and so I cannot imagine this will be a commonly used card. Unlike Searing Blaze however when you do not have the right trigger this remains reasonable creature removal. Sadly this is a bit the wrong way round, you want these effects in aggro decks where you gain the most from extra damage to players. In burn decks it is more important to be able to throw burn at peoples heads than at their dorks. 

Mirror Mockery
1.5/10 - C cube

A cheap way to repeatedly get use from an enter the battlefield trigger but a bit of a risky and situational card for it to be cube worthy. Some potential combo applications but in reality that seems too slow.

Dragon Whisperer 
5/10 - B cube

I really like this card but I don't think it is quite enough to compete with the likes of Kargan Dragonlord. Early on this is a 2/2, much like Kargan. Midgame they can both easily be about 4 power fliers however it is much more mana intense to keep this up with Dragon Whisperer. Lategame they both represent serious threats. Whisperer is again, much more mana intense and also less reliable however it does at least diversify your threats and make you more resilient to spot removal. It is nice that both the pump and the formidable effect work towards maintaining your formidable status more easily. Unfortunately 8 power is a lot to ask of the kinds of deck you would play this in, as is six mana all at once! Overall Kargan Dragonlord is better across the board and similar enough that it is hard to give them both slots. Red has gained a lot of good aggro cards that scale into the late game in this set and is unlikely to need to dig deep enough to play this. 

Silumgar's Scorn
3/10 - C cube

One of the closest things we have seen to Counterspell in many many years. Force Spike for UU is not dead but it is pretty impressively weak. You would need to be getting the dragon trigger at least 50% of the time before I would consider this for a deck and that seems really quite a lot of effort for the returns. 

Qarsi Deceiver 
2/10 - C cube

A cheap mana producer in blue is one to keep an eye on. It is a solid defensive body but a poor attacker. You need rather a lot of morph and manifest before this is viable and I am not sure there are enough in the cube to make such a deck, let alone if that deck would be anything other than horrible!

2/10 - C cube

Another mana reduction effect! Obviously only playable in a dash themed deck and a little sad in singleton formats as it has nice interaction with itself in multiples. Still, a two mana reduction is big and would make a lot of the existing dash dorks a lot more interesting.

Ire Shaman
6/10 - A cube

Of the cycle this is my second favourite behind the green offering and above the blue. It is cheap to morph and flip which results in an acceptably sized dork for the mana. Requiring double blocks is a really tall order against red decks and is often as good as unblockable. Being able to swing in for 3 unblockable from turn four is much better than you would think in cube. Then we move on to the main course of this card, the fact that it is pretty much draw a card - not the kind of thing we see on dorks that often. Obviously it is the awkward use it now red style draw which is a pain for some decks and cards but very easy to build around. With this set there is going to be a lot of playable cards with this effect and as such we will likely start to see more support for it in red decks with cards like Sylvan Library. With it being only one to morph you will have a lot of mana left over to play any spell you might exile. While you can wiff it is all on you, how you build your deck and when you chose to morph it. You can guarantee it never misses if you like but that is not the optimal way to play it. A card that rewards the sensible player, has interesting power scaling and should be broadly quite playable. All round a winner but sufficiently midrange to not be a massive deal. 

Pitiless Horde
5/10 - B cube

A well designed and well balanced card that has two equally viable use. It can simply be a Viashano Cutthroat, a hard hitting haste than requires non-sorcery spells or blockers to deal with it. Or it can be a very offensive fairly vanilla cheap threat. Both sides of the card are powerful but not overly powerful and both can be useful within the same deck resulting in a nicely versatile threat. Black is not overdone with haste monsters which gives this some further appeal. What concerns me about this card is that it isn't exciting, it is never doing anything more than being a body. Having only 3 toughness is another concern, it is going to be easily and cheaply burned away or blocked and killed by things as small as one drops all the time. I don't think this offers enough as it stands but it is still a lovely card. 

Assault Formation
3/10 - C cube

This card is more useful than it looks. Doran decks are actually kind of a thing in cube. You can get 3 card turn two wins with it (Tireless Tribe is brutal!) and so Assualt Formation allows you to do a 2 card turn 2 win (removing the need of something to ramp your mana). You can also just play high toughness dorks and throw Doran in your deck and have him be a very high quality 5/5 for 3 that buffs your guys power. I am not sure you would want the Formation in the midrange Doran decks but in the combo versions it is cheaper, more resilient and extra redundancy. 

Avatar of the Resolute
5/10 - B cube

Another card very close to the line. Things that are just good bodies for the mana have to be really really good to make the cut. Most of the time you are looking for your dorks to perform specific roles, get you card advantage and so on. Tarmogoyf is one of the few you play simply because it is cheap and fat. You could argue that the reach on Avatar is role performing and it is to a fairly minor extent, mostly you want to turn this sideways and kill people. Trample makes it better for that, it makes it scale significantly better with counters it gets as well as other cards like Wolfir Silverheart or equipment. The counters gaining ability is a mixed blessing, while it gives the card better late game scaling and synergies it means that if you build with that in mind you have made it a far less useful two drop. You want your two drops unfussy and direct, like Tarmogoyf, like Strangleroot Giest and this isn't so much of that. A two mana 3/2 trample is not enough to make the cut and that is what this card will be most of the time.

Orator of Ojutai
1/10 - C cube

Much as we wish it was another Wall of Omens it just isn't. You won't have enough dragons and as such this card will always make you sad. 

Sarkhan's Triumph
3/10 - C cube

As tutors go this is a pretty good one, it is cheapish and it is instant. It goes a long way to making the various dragon bonus cards playable in the cube. Obviously with the C cube rating for this I don't think it will make them enough more playable! Tutor cards, much like mana producers and mana reduction cards should always be looked at carefully and not lightly discarded. Dragons might be a fairly narrow range of things but they are powerful, have a wide range of uses and now they trigger other effects too.

The Monuments
4/10 - B cube

These are pretty good, especially for limited formats. Ramp, fixing and a powerful, hard to kill late game evasive threat. These cards offer a lot but they are also rather slow for cube. The Keyrunes and the monocolour man Totems basically saw no play at all in my cube. Three is just so much to pay for a ramp card in cube, by then a lot has happened and you will have a lot less things left to ramp into. Things are becoming slower and so ramp of this rounded nature might start to become more viable. The fact that these give big fliers makes them the best of the Totems and Keyrunes by quite a way. 

Surrak, the Hunt Caller
5.5/10 - A cube

I have some reservations about this for the A cube as it is just a dork. Vengevine offers more synergy and resilience, Polukranos offers more monster and more utility. Most of the good four drops are more reliable than Surrak, he only has 4 toughness and he has no other survival things. Beyond that his bonus perk is situational. That said, it is a lot easier to become formidable when you have a five power dork in play. Oddly the card I compare this most to, and hence the reason I am going to try it out in the cube, is Xenagos, God of Revels. For one mana and one colour less you get a similar sort of package that trades some resilience for some tempo. Always being a threat and potentially being able to give himself haste on the turn you make him yet carry on giving haste to your follow up plays makes Surrak a much more aggressive card than Xenagos while also giving you that element of danger even when he cannot be involved in the combat himself. 

Icefall Regent 
5/10 - A cube

This is only really getting an A grade rating as I want to try it out. It will likely not see enough play and then reside in the B cube there after. Basically it is just an upgraded Dungeon Giest, a good card but not a great card and one that did exactly what I expect Icefall Regent to do. It suffers from the same problem as things like Oblivion Ring, while alive it is great and doing what you want it to but as soon as you get it killed you are back in a bad position. While Regent has some protection it is let down by having only 3 toughness meaning a 2R Lightning Bolt is still a very easy way to deal with your five mana card. For just one more mana you can have a Frost Titan which cannot so easily be burned away. 

Damnable Pact
3/10 - C cube

Compared to the alternatives I can't say this ever looks that good. As soon as you are paying 4 or more mana for X Yawgmoth's Bargain is looking worlds better. At lower costs Nights Whisper and the like have it well beat again. The flexibility on this card is nice but being sorcery is gross. I think I would almost always prefer Skeletal Scrying to this as well. The one thing that lifts this above the other cards to some extent is that it is a bit of a split card Braingyser / Fireball. Draw a little, draw a lot or burn/mill someone out, lots of utility but none of the modes is good value for mana and all are pretty bad when behind.

Ainok Survivalist
3/10 - C cube

Poor old Nantuko Vigilante, you had a good run but now it is time to enjoy full retirement. This is unlikely ever to see play in cube as Reclamation Sage is so much more rounded and there are so many more other ways to naturalize stuff floating around. This will likely only be considered for morph or +1/+1 counter synergy based builds. 

Commune with Lava
6/10 - A cube

Red gets its very own Brain Geyser! This card is a little like Faithless Looting, not in function but in how  it opens up the colour. It is nowhere near as rounded or playable as Faithless Looting but it can be abusively powerful. The most comparable thing to this is Wheel of Fortune, a large influx of cards that you want to make use of right away. In the case of Commune it is because you lose the cards after one turn while with Wheel it is because your opponent has a vast chunk of new juice to wreak you with! This makes Commune a far safer card. Certainly it is a little more mana intense to gain similar advantages to Wheel however it is still fine cast for X = 1 or 2 earlier on in the game to smooth things out. The main difficulty I see with this card is getting the balance right in your deck. Obviously the cheaper your cards the more likely you will be able to cast lots of them via a Commune however the cheaper your cards are the less likely you are to be getting to the point in a game when you can fire off a big Commune. Cheap decks want less lands and ramp while ones with X spells benefit from more of those things. In a midrange deck you may well flip three or so potent threats of which you can only cast one of. This is one of many newer red cards that encourage and support more midrange strategies in aggro archetpyes. There is much more ability for red to gain two for ones and effective card advantage which means you can afford to be slower and and grind out games more or you can play more swarmy cheap cards and worry less about getting two for oned your self or having lower power per card in your deck. Overall this is a great card, it is pretty balanced and fair yet has the potential to be very powerful. It is very dependant on your deck design as to how well it will work yet remains a card I wouldn't describe as narrow. Cards like this make red a lot more interesting to play and build with and as a linear colour that is most welcome. 

Vial of Dragonfire
2/10 - C cube

A kind of one shot Cursed Scroll. If it were not for the blue artifact dude than can tutor for this I would't even be writing about it. Neither card is powerful enough to really merit the others inclusion in the main cube. This is certainly not a case of Stoneforge and Batterskull... That said, there are a number of decks where having this and Renowned Weaponsmith would be really quite good. 

Myth Realised
4/10 - B cube

A very interesting and nicely designed card. As a one drop this is quite a serious threat, it is problematic to kill, will passively grow as the game goes on and can be accelerated in growth should you have mana spare. It is a pain to block while you have mana up as it is pumpable both with mana and prowess effects. Where this falls down compared to a card like Student of Warfare is that it doesn't really do what you want a one drop to do, just to be able to attack you have to pay W to activate it which granted isn't lots but it adds up fast and will really harm your curving. It is not as bad as say an Elite Vanguard off the top late game but it is a whole lot worse than the afore mentioned Student which becomes an actual threat with far less mana investment. For any aggressive deck with an enchantment theme, perhaps even a prowess theme this might be good enough but as a stand alone card it isn't quite fulfilling the role you want it to. Play a Loyal Cathar, a man land, a levelling dork or a real threat before you play this otherwise.

Dromoka's Command
4/10 - B cube

Interesting but a little fiddly for my liking. Preventing the damage against a spell is only really relevant against one colour, certainly it wreaks a Bonfire of the Damned and can reasonably efficiently counter a single target burn too but generally worse than you would manage with Shelter. The other modes also become greatly worse when you are trying to hold the Command so as to counter a red burn spell. A big part of the issue with this card is that the base mode, the one you will likely do as half of the card is a meagre +1/+1. This is both low value and situational. It has a little bit of synergy with things including the fight mode on the card but is vastly weaker than the base modes on a lot of the other commands (draw a card, Shock, Lava Spike). Fighting and sacrificing enchantments are both pretty good but on the awkward side. Fighting can harm your combat potentials for the turn and it can simply not be viable, certain tricks can cause you to two for one yourself. Enchantments are still rare enough which means you should hit the one you want when forcing a sacrifice as well as being able to take out gods however a lot of the time it will just be another blank. That means against non-red deck that don't have an enchantment in play this is simply put a +1+1 counter on a dork and fight with it. OK but hardly a cube card. I'll take the more reliable and more direct Selesnya Charm over this thank you all the same. 

Dragon Hunter
6/10 - A cube

It seems as if we get a W 2/1 in most sets these days which suits me. This one is not quite Soldier of the Pantheon but is certainly worlds better than Elite Vanguard and possibly Woe-Reaper as well. There are not loads of dragons in the cube but Thundermaw Hellkite is in almost every cube I do so it feels like there are a lot! Being able to hold off most dragons or attack right past them is significant. It will mean things like being able to safely play out planeswalkers. Much of the time this will be Elite Vanguard which is fine, it is presumably what you want to be doing on turn one. Occasionally this will turn the tide of a game where most other cards in your deck, let alone just the one drops, are blanks. To my mind that makes for a pretty solid card. 

Glaring Aegis
2/10 - C cube

Not really doing enough to be a main cube consideration but in any sort of synergy deck this is incredibly cheap and does a hell of a lot for that mana. Compared to Holy Strength....

Secure the Wastes
6.5/10 - A cube

Well this seems rather good. It is an X spell, it is instant, it scales wonderfully well with any token synergies and global pump you might have. It is a threat, it is a combat trick, it is just fairly all round made of win. Not the worlds most exciting card but it just does what you want it to and without fuss or inconvenience. Mostly I suspect this will only see play in Purphoros and Crusade style decks but you could happily play it in UW control if you so felt inclined. Being able to impact the board so significantly at instant speed is gross and needs to be played around with lots of cation for the blow out possibilities. Threats that can be made instantly are the bane of control decks, they are also the bane of anyone trying to race you. Not only is this a card that is dangerous because it is instant but because of its presumed double scaling, with each mana you spend on it and for each effect you have that pumps everything. It is certainly at its most powerful early however being usable from early on in the game only improves the cards utility. The only fault I can lay on the card is that it is a little dull, otherwise this is just made of win. 

Living Lore
2/10 - C cube

A silly card but one that can be abused a little, there are some big cards that are pretty winning when you cast them for four mana, not to mention a 4 mana 7/7 or bigger. A little fiddly, vulnerable and lacking in redundancy to be a cube thing yet but fun and different. 

Profaner of the Dead
2/10 - C cube

Too much phaff for it to be a cube mainstay but this card has the potential to do some really swingy things and gain a lot of tempo for blue. 

Sidisi's Faithfull
3/10 - C cube

Unsummon at sorcery speed or a 0/4 dork for 1 or both if you have some less useful body to throw under the bus. It is had to be less useful than a 0/4 so unless you specifically have things you want dead I cannot see this being powerful enough for anyone to be seeking it out. Cheap, versatile and able to fulfil a couple of roles do at least make this a very interesting card. 

Sight Beyond Sight
0/10 - no thanks

This offends me greatly. Adding rebound to Slight of Hand for the cost of three colourless mana! Ouch. It is not even instant to soften the blow. I thought Impulse to Anticipate was a downgrade but I had no idea...

Silumgar Sorcerer
3/10 - C cube
Fine but too fiddly for cube. You would need some theme of having loads to sac or things you really want to sac. More tempo than Exclude but much much narrower, more situational and less potential power. 

Youthful Scholar
3/10 - C cube

Talking of things you really want to sac this is a fairly good call. Part Solemn Simulacrum part Mulldrifter, but worse than either sadly. Better tempo than Concentrate as well as some better synergies however it is a little too vulnerable to bounce and exile for my liking.

Zephyr Scribe
1/10 - C cube

The potential to loot lots and a bit of nice trickery options with the untap but costing three mana to play and one to loot combined with one toughness and no flying makes this unlikely to ever see cube play. A fine card none the less. 

Ambuscade Shaman
2/10 - C cube

A 4/4 dash for 4 or a Grey Ogre than one shot pumps things. Not great deals for either option but in a deck with mostly haste and dash creatures this dork is fairly punishing. 

Minister of Pain
1/10 - C cube

Likely I would rather Plague Spitter or Infest style cards to this but in a deck wanting sac outlets.... against token themed decks..... yeah, thin. 

Rakshasa Gravcaller
1/10 - C cube

Not insane at all but 7/10 worth of stats across three bodies for 5 mana is pretty good. If you can be sure of lots of things like Bloodghast to sac off to this then you have a pretty fine top end threat that lacks a little in utility. Grave Titan puts this to shame but if you really don't want to curve to high then this is at least an option. 

Shambling Goblin
3/10 - C cube

Festering Goblin is a total favourite card of mine and this is somewhat of an upgrade as it can't wind up killing your own things. Sadly not really of sufficient power to cut much mustard in the cube these days but nice to see none the less. If you want good cheap things to sac this is a fine card. 

Virulent Plague 
1/10 - C cube

A nasty little hoser card that I think is lazy design. Good at what it does but not fun, skillful or rewarding. Narrow as well, obviously. 

Hardened Berserker
1/10 - C cube

I am very glad to see this sort of thing on a common, it implies more to follow, and of much higher quality. This should not make waves as a 3 mana 3/2 is poor tempo and vulnerable. Needing to attack with it as well makes it unlikely to get ongoing value from the card. Bring on the one drop version! 

Impact Tremors 
3/10 - C cube 

If it were not for the power of Purphoros I would not really be looking at this. Half a Purphoros seems reasonable in the right deck. Great at killing planeswalkers, great synergy with Secure the Wastes and the like and some decent inevitability. Narrow, needing other cards to do much but direct, cheap and hard to deal with. 

Sarkhan's Rage
2/10 - C cube

Five mana for five instant damage anywhere you like is not all that common in magic. Beacon of Destruction would be my choice over this but perhaps I might want to. 

Twin Bolt
4/10 - B cube

Red finally gets Fire! As we know this card is great, it will miss having Enervate alongside it but none the less it will be very playable. Typically I prefer the higher punch sorcery cards of this nature like Forked Bolt and Arc Trail but there might be times people will most want this.

Obscuring Aether
3/10 - C cube

Only good enough in a deck chock full of morphs. Nicely designed but too narrow and dependent on a weaker mechanic to be of much use in the cube.

Not the best ever set due to lacking any real bomb cards nor that many interesting mainstays however it is nice to see a set with so many cards that are viable for cube play or near the margins. Here are the top mainstay cards for cube moving into the more plausible B cubers from Dragons of Tarkir

1.   Zurgo Bellstriker
2.   Den Protector
3.   Secure the Wastes
4.   Narset Transcendant
5.   Ire Shaman
6.   Atarka's Command  
7.   Sarkhan Unbroken
8.   Commune with Lava
9.   Dragon Hunter
10. Collected Company 
11. Kolghan's Command
12. Foe-Razer Regent
13. Surrak, the Huntcaller
14. Lightning Berserker
15. Stratus Dancer
16. Atarka, Dragonlord