Saturday 17 October 2015

The Burn Deck

Chain Lightning
The burn deck is at a glance a RDW list however it really isn't. It is a burn deck and is narrower and more direct than RDW. It probably is the easiest deck to play in the cube as you have one plan, one thing to do! It is also obvious when something it a race or just about total burn value. Adding and subtracting numbers that don't get much bigger than 20 is really all you need to be able to do to pilot this fairly well. RDW play involves much more choices and awareness of the game. This is the one deck where you can go turn one Firebolt you to the face and not be awful.

This list is white pretty much just because Boros Charm is a lot of damage for the mana. You can build this deck black, mainly for Bump in the Night but also for some potential draw or at a push some Kolghan's Command Value. You can also build it green for Atarka's Command should you wish or even several of these colours! Atarka's Command is just a hard to cast Skullcrack in this list for the most part as you have so few creatures you will be attacking with. This doesn't make it a bad splash however as lifegain is basically the only thing you care about at all. That is the strength of this deck, not caring much at all what your opponents are up to.

Bump in the Night
This list is a little greedy and should perhaps just be a mono red version. There are enough more viable cards for this list that it can be done. Tempo in terms of board position matters very little to you so you don't care that much about hitting your lands, you certainly don't want to flood. As such 15 lands is my preferred count however with Magmatic Insight and Molten Vortex in the mix red now has a lot more flexibility in how it builds its mana base. This list already has a Faithless Looting for a bit of hedging against floods however it is also useful to toss some of the more situational burn spells that are not looking so good. Ankh is far worse on the play and terrible against a lot of decks past various points in the mid game for example.

There are arguments to go entirely creatureless as they are more situational in terms of their potential damage output than burn and having none makes a lot of your opponents cards dead. The thing is you don't really care about their cards or what they do, they gunna be dead either way. If they use their turn to change kill your Goblin Guide and change its damage output from 6+ to 2 then you have still done 2 free damage and basically taken a Time Walk. The cheap good creatures are too good to forgo. Yes, you can draw them late but odds on you will still get one attack in as they will be forced into attacking you because of the burn clock they are on. The creatures without haste in the list do damage directly to the face by other means than attacking.

25 Spells

Shard VolleyLava Spike
Lightning Bolt
Chain Lightning
Rift Bolt

Shard Volley
Wild Slash
Grim Lavamancer
Goblin Guide

Monastery Swiftspear
Burst Lightning
Faithless Looting

Eidolon of the Great Revel
Ankh of Mishra
Searing Blaze
Skull Crack

Boros Charm
Lightning Helix
Pyrostatic Pillar

Zo-Zu, the Punisher
Ball Lightning
Sulphuric Vortex
Volcanic Fallout


15 Lands

Barbarian Ring
Arid Mesa
Battlefield Forge
Sacred Foundry
Clifftop Retreat
9x Mountains

Ankh of MishraThe thing I like most about this sort of deck is how you can apply statistical analysis to it. Because it is so linear you can do far more relevant number crunching. You could run it through one of Frank Karsten's simulators and get fairly decent information on it. The assessment of cards comes down to how much damage they do to the face and for how much mana. There are only a couple of cards you ever play that give you interesting choices!

Exquisite Firecraft should probably just replace Zo-Zu, if Ankh is bad on the draw.... Uncounterable is pretty nice in this deck and four is a nice big chunk. There are lots of ways to fine tune this deck, some give you better draws, some give you better uses for excess mana, some are better against creatures but all told the decks are very very similar. The deck isn't done very often, mostly because it isn't that fun or interactive while RDW is should you want to sling fire and lightning about the place. Also, to tune it at all or do exactly what you want you have to look outside of the main drafting cube. Ball Lightning is a bit narrow these days to be a maincube card, Pyrostatic Pillar the same. Then you have things like Lava Spike which is one of the best cards in the deck but has no place in any list bar this.

Volcanic FalloutVolcanic Fallout is a card you don't see in any RDW lists however in this deck it is well worth it. Against something like a white weenie deck you can lose race and will be inclined to aim some burn at early dorks to give you the time you need. The trouble with this however is that you can wind up without enough burn to actually close the game. Fallout does kill basically all your stuff but you don't have much of it and it isn't all that hard to plan around it a bit. It is two damage to face so never dead and reliably wreaks any aggressive weenie strategies.

This deck can win on turn 3 just through burn (4x one mana 3 damage spells, Fireblast and a 2 mana 4 damage spell with 3 lands)  however this is super unlikely, the deck is much more likely to win around turn five with a good draw and not having to aim burn at dorks or otherwise being disrupted. It is not the speed of the deck that makes it daunting, it is a terminator like relentless that makes the inevitability of RDW look quite limp. The deck is so redundant that you pretty much can say every card is 2 and a bit damage (including the lands, the non-land cards average more like 3 damage). I some how manage to have talked quite a lot about a deck which has really very little to say about it so I guess I should wrap it up here....

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Jeskai Prowess

Faithless LootingThis is a counterpart article to the Grixis Delver. By swapping the black cards for white cards but keeping the other concepts of the deck much the same you end up with a list rather like this. It is one of the best decks in the cube, it is slightly softer to control and mass removal than the black versions but it is stronger against midrange and aggro matchups. Overall I would say that the Grixis build has more raw power but the Jeskai version is more robust and reliable. Jeskai has more depth and redundancy in the card pool than Grixis making it easier and safer to draft. It also leans less heavily on any given card or card type which is kind of just another way to say it is more reliable and robust.

Another somewhat fascinating attribute of the Jeskai prowess deck is that you can morph it one card at a time from an aggro deck into a control one without ever passing a weak incarnation of the deck. It is a bit like those word puzzles where you have to change one letter at a time in a series of changes that lead to a final word, each step of the way however must spell another word. This should demonstrate why it is a pretty safe deck to draft. The further away from an aggro deck you go the less the deck is about prowess and so I have given an example list that is reasonably heavily on the aggressive end of the spectrum. The more aggressive you go the less blue you will typically play but the inclusion of the blue does still push it significantly past an aggro Boros deck in terms of power and versatility.

24 Spells
Monastery Swiftspear
Lightning Bolt
Path to Exile
Gitaxian Probe

Mother of Runes
Kytheon, Hero of Akros
Grim Lavamancer

Faithless Looting
Figure of Destiny

Seeker of the Way
Young Pyromaner
Abbot of Keral Keep
Jace, Vryns' Prodigy
Grim Lavamancer
Soulfire Grandmaster
Lightning Helix
Fire / Ice
Raise the Alarm

Monastery Mentor
Jeskai Ascendancy
Mantis Rider

Stoke the Flames

Treasure Cruise

16 Lands

3x Shock
3x Dual
Soulfire Grand Master3x Fetch
Celestial Colonade
Battlefield Forge
Clifftop Retreat
Sea Chrome Coast
Rugged Prarie
Sulfur Falls

Other strong contenders

Snapcaster Mage
Thundermaw Hellkite
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Spell Pierce
Abbot of Keral KeepSpell Snare
more burn!
True-Name Nemesis
Vendilion Clique
Geist of Saint Traft
Cryptic Command
Council's Judgement
Looter il-Kor
Jeskai Charm
Delver of Secrets
Force of Will
Cloudfin Raptor
4 mana Chandra's
Ajani Vengeant
Dualcaster Mage

Monastery MentorThe list has more threats and more removal while it has less card draw and quality. You need the draw and quality less because the deck is more consistent and redundant. This frees up space to further perpetuate this effect. You only play one Dig or Cruise in this list typically because it is not so painful when you don't see one and it is more damaging should you see both early. You are less focused on delve so you need less looting effects to power it. Although still good in the deck you don't want to be going over board on looting. Grim Lavamancer is basically a delve card and this list supports him far better than the Grixis one because it is supporting less other delve cards and the mechanic suffers from diminishing returns.

Jeskai Ascendancy is the Thoughtscour of this deck in that it is the only card I do not have in the main drafting cube that is in the list. While absurdly powerful it is narrow beyond belief. This is one of the few decks it is good in and basically the only one you can build using cards in my main cube. It doesn't do much on its own but should you have any sort of board then the game is basically over when you play it. Powerful though it is it probably makes the deck less consistent, you don't need it to have a great deck. You can throw in other build around cards like Opposition too and while they will win plenty of games for you they are much more work to sensibly include and don't make the deck that much noticeably better. It turns out this deck is just so good already you don't need to bother which such things. I may well look to cut the Raise the Alarm from this list without the Ascendancy or other global pump in it.

Stoke the Flames
Soulfire Grandmaster is somewhat of a game winner in this deck. Early he is just annoying but past four mana he is one of the most urgent kill targets going. I thought I had a game won against a list very similar to this, he was just bleeding out to fliers while the ground was stalemated and his hand was spent. Suddenly he drew a couple of cards, flopped out a Grandmaster and started Stoking me repeatedly to the face, once the first turn and then twice a turn until I was dead. Each cast representing an 8 point life swing at four mana and no cards (all be it tapping a lot of tokens!). It was like a Baneslayer Angel that I couldn't even use combat as a defense against.

Monastery Mentor is even more of a silly solo game ender. He is slow to do much work but if you leave him in play too long then you will lose to him. This deck does not struggle at all with casting several spells a turn, it can easily do it just off the top, it can do it at end of turn. You can feel safe with just a poxy Mentor in play when you pass, have them cast two or more things at end of turn, untap and cast a bunch more non-creatures and just kill you.

Mantis RiderAs ever these decks pose the counterspell question. The curve is more consistent and usually lower with Jeskai prowess than it is with Grixis delve and so I prefer to go with Abbot of Keral Keep and forego them entirely. When I have spells in my hand I want to cast them so that I can trigger my prowess! I also don't want to exclude one of the best prowess cards going just to play permission. That all being said, as aggro decks go, permission is better in this deck than most and only gets better the more you move towards midrange. Obviously the best ones to start out with are the cheap and free ones with room openening up for more standard ones as you become less aggro.

Seeker of the Way is a bit of a filler card. You don't really need the lifegain and although he has prowess he doesn't actually offer that much to the deck. He is not a game ender in the same way a lot of your dorks can be. He does however give a great tempo injection while being scary to block or burn should you have mana up and cards in hand.

This deck has less two for ones than the Grixis list but it comfortably makes up for that with more and better tempo cards and way more dangerous games ending cheap threats. Comparing the two lists is somewhat irrelevant anyhow, the point is that they are the best decks in cube at present and are very similar to each other. It will be rare for a table to have both decks being contructed and when that is the case both will be much weaker from having to share the Izzet lands and cards. Certainly it can be done, the mana is more of an issue than the card pool. At least one would have to end up with blue as the splash and no double blue casting costs. This list here is almost at the stage where the blue is a splash, it has no doubles and fewest blue mana requirements however it has a little too much one drop card quality in blue to be a real splash.

Both decks are very fun and very powerful. They let you use lots of cheap and powerful spells. They let you have tempo and card advantage all at once. They are full of choices and options and really let you play magic. They are also comprised almost entirely from cards currently in standard plus a dash of some legacy staples.

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Grixis Delver

Jace, Vryn's ProdigySince the release of Khans a new base blue/red archetype has arisen that uses a core of Tarkir cards. From this base come Grixis delve and Jeskai prowess. I plan to do a feature of both forms of this deck but in reality they are very similar. They heavily abuse the interactions from potent creatures and lots of cheap spells. This is the Grixis version, it is focused more on delve than prowess (as the names might hint at) but uses very similar cards to the Jeskai versions to get there. This is a slightly more control version than most of the Grixis Delver that is usually done in cube but it is intended to simply represent the most powerful options you can go with in a sensible looking list. There are loads of great cards I had to leave out. That is always the way with three colour decks and goes some way to explaining why generic three colour good stuff decks are king in cube at present. At least of the 10 options on three colour decks the ones with an Izzet component seem to be the best.

Lightning BoltWhat I love about this deck is the ability to flip flop from aggro to control with ease. Everything is cheap and most  things give great value allowing you to easily gain tempo against most opponents. The card advantage and trickery of the deck however allow you to go long without any fear of doing so. The biggest weakness of the deck is that it is quite threat light. You don't have enough burn to get you there and you are thin on dorks as well, most of them being smaller utility ones. If you don't get a Delver, Swiftspear or Pyromancer to stick in play early and do a reasonable amount of work then it is a lot harder to close out a game. This is a weakness of the modern version of the deck but the cube one has has another due to only having single copies and 40 card decks yet much better card draw options. Simply put you will come close to decking yourself so much quicker than other decks. Cards like Dack chew through libraries and can run your library dry before you are into double figure turns. Mostly this is fine, it is not like you want to be running Elixir of Immortality in this kind of deck. You should be able to win a game when you see that many powerful cards so quickly. Every now and again though you will find decks living and you have to tone down the draw a bit so as to have enough time.

There are three delve cards in this list which is too many for most decks in cube. You need Tasigur to up the threat count and because he is nutty good. Gurmag Angler however doesn't really offer enough to strain the delve further. The reason I am happy to play both Dig and Cruise in the list is the massive amount of looting. It means I can hit one consistently earlier and then I can throw one away if I don't have the graveyard, library or be in need of more cards. You need one and you really want it on cue so playing both seems best.

Brainstorm24 Spells

Lightning Bolt
Devler of Secrets
Grim Lavamancer

Burst Lightning
Monastery Swiftspear
Gitaxian Probe


Snapcaster Mage
Fire / Ice
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
Looter il-Kor
Monastery Swiftspear
Young Pyromancer
Baleful Strix
Abbot of Keral Keep

Kolaghan's Command
Dack Fayden
True-Name Nemesis

Cryptic Command

Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Treasure Cruise
Dig Through Time

16 Lands
Treasure Cruise
3x Sac
3x Shock
3x Dual
1x Island
1x Creeping Tar Pit
1x Lavaclaw Reaches
1x Shivan Reef
1x Cascade Bluffs
1x Temple of Epiphany
1x Sulphur Falls

Common cards also found in this archetype

Vendilion Clique
Goblin Guide
Dualcaster Mage
Send to Sleep
Serum Visions
Cyclonic Rift
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Thundermaw Hellkite
Chandra, (both the 4 mana ones have decent utility in the deck)
Spell Pierce
Spell Snare
Magmatic Insight
Faithless Looting
Chandra's Phoenix
Force of Will
Arcane Denial
Deathrite Shaman

Kolaghan's CommandThe strength of the deck is that it is full of cheap and powerful cards. Most decks that run lists as cheap as this one will be playing a significant quantity of weak redundancy cards like Elite Vanguard and Lightning Strike. Not to say these kinds of cards are bad at all, they just don't compare to the things this archetype gets to run. This list has several one drops that can basically win a game on their own. This deck has the mana curve of an aggro deck but so many of the cards in the list are two for ones that control decks play. This list will force through a win that it had no right doing. You will see games where it is behind on the board, mana and cards and facing down something it can't really deal with effectively like an Aetherling, a Batterskull, a Jitte etc. and just through casting more spells that are powerful and cheap and doing useful things it can create a window and suddenly steal a game all the while looking completely dead in the water.

Force of WillCountermagic is good and powerful but I prefer to play a lower count than most in this deck. Abbot of Keral Keep is a bit like Bloodbraid Elf in terms of not wanting to play it with countermagic if possible. Crypic is a great exception for both! I find I get better use from my mana when I am not playing with much countermagic. If you are sans Abbot then two or three of the most suitable counterspells is all I think you should want. Force and the one mana ones offer great tempo and harm your curve least. Remand and Arcane Denial are fine but getting on the clumsier side.

Thoughtscour is not commonly a maincube card and is easily replaced with one of a wide selection of cheap one mana card quality effects. After Brainstorm all your most powerful options are sorcery which isn't a huge deal but does offer less powerful interactions with your prowess cards. I love an Opt in this list! Sadly the two mana instant options are just a bit pricey for how this deck wants to operate. Ideally you found a powerful two drop you can make with your one mana card quality spell. When most of you "game ending" threats cost two or three mana you are hurting you tempo too much by trying to play cards like Impulse.

Gitaxian ProbeGitaxian Probe is disgustingly overpowered in this list. It is a free prowess trigger and a free mana for your delve spell. It is a cheap way to pull out of a screw by allowing interactions like usefully playing a two mana Snapcaster Mage. It improves the blind consistency of Abbot and the flip rate of Delver, all pretty much for free. This is all ignoring the "main" effect of the card which is to have a nice old look at what your opponent has going on for them. Perfect information for a turn.....for free! In a deck like RDW perfect information is nice but it isn't anywhere near as significant as it is in a deck like this which is full of options and utility. Probe is so powerful in this list I actually think Peek might be better than Opt! In all seriousness thought, Gitaxian Probe is aguably the most powerful one mana spell in this list for this list, that is a deck with Brainstorm, Lightning Bolt and Thoughtseize. Information is useful in all decks but in a deck packed with trickery and utility that same information becomes almost priceless.

16 Lands is an awful lot of lands for a deck with a curve this low and as much draw and cantrip effects as it does. You could get away with 14 lands in this deck and not feel like you were getting screwed every game. In my experience, when using this much looting and card quality effects you are better off playing slightly more lands than slightly less. This is a pretty safe rule in magic generally to be completely honest but I do take it a bit further with this list. It is a lot like the reason you don't play impulse. If you are forced into playing a turn two Preordain or something to find a suitable land drop or just ensure you are having a viable turn three then you are losing a lot of what makes this deck good - options. You want to have the land consistently early to give you the most chances to cast everything in your hand as soon as possible. You want to be looting away lands and not threats, you are already threat light and are likely to need most of your action.

Tasigur, the Golden FangPlaying the deck isn't easy and each matchup is different in how you need to do your things. You want the tempo advantage but once you have it there is little need to extend much beyond that. It is nice to just nibble away at your opponent while holding onto some great cards. This you can only really do against midrange and control decks which are by far your best matchups. RDW, white weenie or a good old Zoo deck are much harder work to beat, you are almost always forced into the position of control player at some point in the game but lack the mass removal and lifegain to do much more than steal a game once in that position. Despite being your weakest matchups the aggro decks are very beatable still, if you just go toe to toe with them the fact that a lot of your cards are two for ones means you will come out on top. This isn't one of the best decks in modern, cube and vintage for nothing... It is brutally consistent, more so than a RDW or white weenie deck by a mile which is why the deck performs so well. If the white weenie or RDW draw well it is hard for the Grixis delve list to win but if it stutters at all the Grixis deck will quickly punish it. Because of all the card quality/draw, great mana and cheap spells you are about the most consistent deck in cube. The deck is as good as it's mana base, and that can be truly excellent.

Saturday 10 October 2015

A different sort of Goblin deck

Goblin SledderGoblins has been a top tribal deck since the creation of my cube. The further back in time you go the more powerful a cube archetype goblins has been until you go past Onslaught block. In present day the powerhouse that is Goblin Piledriver is not quite as broken as they used to be. Goblins used to be an aggro deck that was good because it had powerful synergies and card advantage potential. Now it isn't really an aggro deck and is more of a midrange creature deck with combo like potentials. That is classic goblins build with Matrons, Ringleaders, Lackies and Recruiters. It is certainly a viable deck and lots of fun but it is easy to disrupt and probably a tier two deck these days.

This is a new build of goblins inspired by similar decks in standard and the impressive power that Purphorus offers. This very much is an aggro goblins list. Rather than try and cram all in the goblin tribal synergies into one deck this just focuses on a couple of the more aggressive overlapping synergies and maximises them using much cheaper cards. You might argue this is a token deck and not a goblin deck, in red there is little difference it seems. Young Pyromancer would be fine in this deck, he is a good cheap card and works with half the synergies of the deck. However you name it, this is roughly how to build it.

24 Spells
Dragon Fodder
Foundry Street Denizen
Goblin Guide
Mogg Fanatic
Skirk Prospector

Goblin Bushwhacker
Legion Loyalist
Mogg Raider
Goblin Sledder

Frenzied Goblin
Burst Lightning

Goblin Piledriver
Mogg War Marshall
Krenko's Command
Goblin KingDragon Fodder

Impact Tremors

Goblin Rabblemaster
Goblin Warchief
Goblin Chieftain
Goblin King

Hordeling Outburst

Perphorus, God of the Forge
Krenko, Mob Boss
Stoke the Flames

16 Lands

Barbarian Ring
14x Mountain

Purphoros, God of the ForgeThis is more like white weenie than any other deck in the cube. While it has some reach in the form of direct damage they are more intended as creature removal cards. The main way you win with this deck is swarming the board with little goblins and then pumping them all with a lord. Perphorus is the Armageddon style game ender, although they do very different things they are both pretty much four mana spells that win the game if they are successfully cast on cue. Mainly Porph is ongoing unstoppable damage but he has loads of utility. The pump effect is expensive but does a surprising amount of work if you much of a board at all and not infrequently becoming a massive indestructible dork is also rather nice!

Impact Tremors was just something I wanted to try out. While it was fine in the deck it is far too narrow to deserve a cube slot. I think the deck might just be better off playing a powerful standalone card. The previously mentioned Young Pyromancer seems a good fit. One damage per dork simply isn't game ending in the way Perphorus is and taking an early turn to lay it instead of applying pressure doesn't always seem good.

Foundry Street DenizenA few of the cards in this list are extra good. Foundry Street Denizen is possibly the best one drop in the deck. It seems to swing for an average of just below three and I have seen it swing as an 8/2 on turn 4 while backed up by Chieftain and Krenko. Other than the Guide most of the other one drops are not very exciting at all until you have built up a pile of sacrificial goblin tokens. They might nibble in for a few damage, they might just end up horribly dying. Bushwhacker and Loyalist vastly improve your combat and do some quite disgusting and unexpected damage. Frenzied Goblin on the other hand is pricey and rather inconsistently useful in this deck and likely the most cuttable card after Impact Tremors. Fanatic isn't exciting either but he does help your synergies as well as your removal suite.

It is hard not to include Siege-Gang Commander in a goblin tokens deck but I was trying to keep the curve low. Krenko is far more punishing if he has haste or he is not removed and so I elected for the cheaper high variance legend. Compared to white weenie this list has some strengths and some weaknesses. It is easier to disrupt, the pump effects are found on the back of 2/2s rather than on enchantments. Individually the creatures in this deck are also a lot worse than those in a white weenie deck. In the goblins favour however the deck is quicker and has much better reach. Good fun and a little bit different but only a viable drafting cube archetype if you already support tribal themes. Cards like Goblin Sledder are not good enough in the cube without significant tribal support.

Thursday 8 October 2015

Top 5 Boros Cards

Goblin Trenches
So it has taken me far far to long to do this series of best in guild cards. It is basically already time to revisit the earliest ones and redo them due to new releases and meta shifts. The reason for the long hold up was simply that Boros and Izzet really don't have the cards to make comparable lists to the other guilds. Another huge problem I have with Boros is that there are loads of new unplayed-in-cube Boros cards that are far better than a bunch of the older ones that have actually seen some play. Goblin Trenches and Goblin Legionnaire for example saw a lot of love in the early cube and have play counts above Boros Charm and other good new things. This means if I base my list on power alone I will include cards that have never and will never get used in the cube while if I base it on play counts it would be a really useless and wrong looking list. I cannot easily do a combination of the two factors as I normally do as there is no overlap.

Simply put, Boros is weak for its gold cards. It has very few that are cube worthy and also has poor depth and breadth in those cards that sit in reserve. Another issue with Boros cards is that they are fairly linear. The design scope for what lies within the overlap of red and white just isn't greatly exciting. Lots of first strike? Perhaps some doublestrike? Things that redirect damage? Super kill some artifacts? Certainly there are some fine RDW / white weenie style cards but the problem is that the plain red or white cards that are much more playable are also typically more powerful and interesting as well. There are only three Boros cards that have pretty safe slots in the cube and only five that at all merit a slot. As such we have a list of those five cards and another list of cards that have seen some play in the past and sit in the B and C cubes for the rare occasion someone digs one out. Jeskai almost has more viable A cube cards than Boros at present!

Boros Reckoner5. Boros Reckoner

Every now and again I put this guy back in the cube to even up the gold but he is really quite awful. He is usually just a Trained Armadon, sometimes worse! A 3 mana 3/3 has to do more than get a situational damage effect that might result in a two for one. The casting cost isn't all that helpful unless you are after devotion, otherwise it just harms you ability to play colourless lands. Being playable in mono white or red isn't very interesting either, both colours have much more potent three drops to chose from. The only real merit of this card is the quirky combos you can do with it. Sadly they are pretty long winded weak combos compared to what you can do in the cube. It is the fifth most viable cube card Boros has to offer but really it shouldn't be anywhere near a cube list.

Boros Charm4. Boros Charm

This is an actually good card that deserves a cube slot. It is powerful for the cost and does a wide selection of useful things. It is pretty comfortably the most powerful of all ten charms in that cycle in terms of what each ability does. The issue with Charm is that it is a little narrow and a little situational. Obviously having three modes offsets the latter of these problems somewhat but it does all result in a card that doesn't get a much play as its power level merits. If you don't know exactly what you are facing you might simply chose to play a Lightning Strike over the Boros Charm and trade some power for much greater consistency. You pretty much only play charm in very aggressive decks. There is a Kiln Fiend style combo deck in which it has great utility and there may be some others like that but this is not a common archetype at all and does not add much to the playability of the card. In an aggressive deck Boros Charm is a decent finisher and a decent way to counter a mass removal effect. I have lost several games to Charm in both capacities. Doublestrike is rarely more than doing 4 damage but it can be and has some naughty scaling potential. It can be used as an awkward combat trick as well. Boros Charm is also not the worst answer to planeswalkers going. All told Boros Charm is a great card that doesn't see much play because the good archetype you play it in isn't that fun of a deck to play nor is it that much more powerful than sticking mono red or mono white. Especially when you risk getting a bad mana base.

Ajani Vengeant3. Ajani Vengeant

A planeswalker I consider to be highly over rated. That said, he is still a good solid planeswalker. Vengeant has 3 great abilities that make him very capable of defending himself, gaining card advantage and/or tempo and posing as a scary game ending threat that needs dealing with. His only real weakness is that he starts on low loyalty. His +1 is also a little frustrating sometimes as it does nothing against a freshly made untapped dork or one with vigilance. Often I find I am keeping lands locked down with him. That is usually when I feel like I am winning most as a result of the Ajani. The reason he is good is that he does a lot of work in the control match disrupting and posing as a threat while he is still a great tempo play against an aggressive player. Just throwing him down, killing a thing, gaining three life and absorbing an attack is going to be well worth the four mana and a card against loads of decks. In both roles he is decent and in both he provides options. Destroying all their lands is terrifying for the opponent and one of the best ultimates on a planeswalker. It is not fired off very often, mostly because people go to all lengths to stop the ultimate happening but also because he only has a +1 to grow, starts at a measly 3 loyalty and often needs to fire off a couple of -2 effects en route so as to remain alive. More of a control or midrange card than an aggressive one. You can do far more punishing and game ending things for four mana in a Boros aggro deck. There are not many viable Boros (or Naya for that matter) midrange or control decks meaning you tend to only find Vengeant in Jeskai or Mardu decks. In such decks he faces strong competition with loads of juicy four drops and as a result sees a lot less play than his power level deserves.

Figure of Destiny2. Figure of Destiny

Here we have a great example of a card. It is a fine one drop, it gives you options and it scales into the late game. It has flexible colour and quantity of mana investments and requirements. Unlike Boros Reckoner this is a card you would play in red decks or white decks as well as the pure Boros. It is a card you play on its own merits and not because of potentially silly synergies or to boost your devotion. Figure has taken down a lot of games in his time, some as a mere 2/2, some as a 4/4 and some as a terrifying 8/8. He is narrow in that he is pretty much just an aggressive threat however he is flexible and powerful enough that he remains one of the best cards for those kinds of decks. Level up is a great mechanic in general and Figure lets you level at instant speed for extra convenience and trickery. It was a very close call for Figure not getting the number one slot.

Lightning Helix1. Lightning Helix

While I have never rated this card that highly I cannot deny its power. As the cube meta has moved towards grinding slow games the relevance of the extra value from the Helix has had it shoot up the playability rankings. Two mana for three damage to any target at instant speed is already a plenty good card and versatile enough to go in basically any deck. Throw three free life into the mix and you have equivalent value to an unconditional Searing Blaze, or a Lightning Bolt in mana terms. Life is not the rubbish resource it used to be. All decks find themselves needing to take some care with their life as there are so many powerful things that can end games out of nowhere if you don't. Even the aggressive ones need to take care and as such the Helix has regained a position in my cube that somewhat reflects the performance and power of the card in the wider MtG field. One of the most efficient and reliable cards in the whole game. Mana has also improved and so the difficulty of casting Helix instead of a Searing Spear is less significant.

Here is the list of Boros stragglers that have seen a smattering of play at some stage in the history of my cube. They are not that powerful or incredibly narrow as a general rule and many of them have only really one use they are ever  called upon for. Spitemare for example is only there to be a bad 2nd Reckoner for that particular (weak) combo. Double Cleave is again, more weak redundancy for Kiln Fiend style one shot combo decks. Flamekin Zealot has had its uses in Living Death or Bidding decks where it enables a kill right away. It still has its place in these narrow and rare decks but there are far more options now on ways to instantly end a game upon casting a Living Death or similar.

Flame-Kin ZealotAssemble the Legion
Shattering Blow
Goblin Legionnaire
Goblin Trenches
Boros Swiftblade
Duergar Hedge-Mage
Wear / Tear
Flame-kin Zealot
Aurelia's Warleader
Aurelia's Fury
Double Cleave
Deflecting Palm
Firemane Angel
Iroas, God of Victory
Release (/Catch)
Ride Down
Tajic, Blade of the Legion
Chain to the Rocks?!

Chained to the RocksI mentioned Goblin Trenches and Legionnaire as being pretty good back in the day and they were. Very little compared to Legionnaire in terms of utility or value as an aggressive little beater. Damage could go on the stack of course back then which really helped the card. Ember Hauler is basically the new mono Legionnaire and it sees very little play. A 2/2 for two is not really exciting enough and the mana to use the shock makes it not a very mana efficient card. Trenches suffers a similar fate, two mana to make a pair of 1/1s isn't exactly cheap, especially when you have paid three up front. Trenches used to represent inevitability if you got it down, it was a good way to turn excess land into decent threats and make end of turn armies. Now you have lots more to do with excess lands and better ways to spend your mana in general. Assemble the Legion is a more mana efficient way to make tokens than the Trenches and is the new Boros inevitability enchantment. At five mana it is just way too slow and linear when compared to what you get from most planeswalkers.

Aurelia's Fury saw a tiny bit of play but was just too clunky to be useful in the way you want a spell like that to be. Chain to the Rocks is quite a good removal spell but it isn't good enough to make up for how narrow it is. That is part of the problem with Boros cards in general. It is a vicious cycle where Boros has limited archetypes and so limited interest in varied and quirky cards. Most new Boros things don't get played, they then get cut and Boros stays narrow and unable to support much beyond Boros aggro decks which really are not any notable degree better than staying mono.

Wednesday 7 October 2015

Naya Landfall

Scythe LeopardWith the release of the second Zendikar based block we have been given a whole new pile of landfall cards. The more of something you have the more worthwhile it is building synergies around it. This deck was a test to see if landfall is a cube worthy way to go. It is essentially a Naya Zoo deck and aims to win in a similar sort of way. It is padded out with all the good landfall cards and some of the weaker ones. Most of the landfall enabling comes from the high quantities of sac (or "fetch" if you hail from across the pond. I'm sure they were always called sac lands but somehow fetch seems to now be the wording...) lands. There are a couple of other strong cards that have some land based trickery and there is a smattering of those too for good measure.

A deck like this trades raw individual card power for potential scaling synergy power. This is harder to do in cube as with only single copies of cards you need a lot of redundancy and depth of playables to make it work. This deck has both of those things however you have to get an awful lot of power back from your synergies as well as having them be incredibly consistent for cards like Snapping Gnarlid and Makindi Sliderunner to be better than Tarmogoyf and Scavenging Ooze. Over the ten years I have been cubing there has been a consistent trend away from heavy synergy decks and towards generally powerful well suited cards. Going into the games I had very little illusion that this list would outperform a classic good card zoo list.

Retreat to ValakutAnother sacrifice I made while building this deck is in the land count. Normally I would only go 17 in this kind of deck however most of my cards become awful if I am not making at least one land a turn. Going up to 18 seemed the least I could do, with 2 more sac lands than I normally run as well the mid and late game odds of drawing lands are not really improved.

On the topic of lands the new "battle" (awful name, we can do better community!) lands greatly improve this style of deck. By having more targets for sac lands you can play more sac lands. With more of those targets being dual lands you can more reliably cast your stuff. All good. I still wound up running two basics leaving me 10 fetch targets total although only Wooded Foothills can find them all. More sac lands is viable and would have been nice but I also wanted to play some spell/man lands so as to offset the high land count with some mid to late game value.

Snapping Gnarlid22 Spells

Wild Nacatl
Kird Ape
Scythe Leopard
Steppe Lynx

Lightning Bolt
Path to Exile

Plated Geopede
Snapping Gnarlid
Lotus Cobra
Makindi Sliderunner

Vinelasher Kudzu
Flinthoof Boar
Searing Blaze
Atarka's Command
Knight of the Reliquary
Valakut Predator
Retreat to Valakut
Knight of the Reliquary
Undergrowth Champion

Ghor-Clan Rampager
Bloodbraid Elf
Grove Rumbler

Thundermaw Hellkite

18 Lands

3 Dual
3 Shock
2 Battle
Canopy Vista5 sac lands (all the green ones and Arid Mesa)
Raging Ravine
Stirring Wildwood
Kessig Wolf-Run

Other considerations

Crop Rotation
Ground Swell
Swell of Growth
Courser of Kruphix
Adventuring Gear
Skyshroud Ranger
Boduka Gardener

Atarka's CommandKnight of the Reliquary, Atarka's Command and if really needed Path to Exile can all be used as ways to get and instant landfall trigger. This made the deck very scary to block against, you never knew how big everything was going to wind up. The list isn't overdone with burn or removal, the hope is simply that you have the tempo lead and that all your guys are bigger than theirs! Provided you can find the lands then they usually are. There were many more good landfall enablers however this being an aggro deck you want to focus on the threats first. Skyshroud Ranger is only good in a very ideal situation, otherwise it is a 1/1 non threatening card. Courser of Kruphix is always a great card however he isn't that aggressive for a three drop and is only marginally helping you with your landfall triggers. There are loads of potent combat tricks as well but they come after both threats and removal in terms of priority and so basically none of the outliers got a look in.

The deck performed decently overall but the consistency of good cards zoo is better. None of the non cube cards in this list will be migrating into the cube as a result of this deck. When this deck performed well it stomped very hard indeed but it was overkill. You don't need a deck to perform that well. People only have 20 life and so being able to deal 40 damage total on turn five is not that much more useful than being able to do 25. You are far better off trading some of that top end potential for low end consistency which goes a long way to demonstrating why individual card power is typically trumping deck-wide synergies in the cube these days.
Searing Blaze
Retreat to Valakut and Knight of the Reliquary were both surprisingly scary in the deck. Knight freely gave you two instant landfall triggers a turn and represents a serious threat himself pretty quickly. Retreat was somewhere between Perphorus and Opposition and was the most standout of the niche cards used.

A ramp version of this deck was considered as it lets you use some significantly more powerful landfall cards like Avenger of Zendikar and Rampaging Baloths. If going this route however you miss out on all the cheap aggressive monsters which are the most brutal. A one mana 4/5 attacker is substantially better than a six mana 6/6 trampler with some 4/4s thrown in. There is no better aggressive one drop than a Lynx that you reliably get to trigger twice a turn. Baloths and Avenger are powerful without needing to focus landfall while Steppe Lynx needs the support to be abusive.

Thursday 1 October 2015

Top 16 Equipment

O-NaginataEquipment, as with all new kinds of card a little unbalanced at the start. A few overpowered equipment were printed which dominated formats to the point of getting some kind of banning eventually. If not the equipment itself then all the good support cards for it instead! As such the top cards on the list are not very surprising. It is after the sharp fall off in quality that the fringe playable equipment in cube become more interesting and up for discussion. I only have six equipment in my cube presently. There is more incidental artifact removal which makes equipment riskier and more relevantly there are just a lot better dorks out there that do not really need equipment to be getting the job done. All the cards on this list have been in the cube at some point and perform very well when in the right sort of deck, the problem is with most equipment that there are not enough decks that are the right sort and as such the cards are generally too niche. The quality of equipment has declined since it was first introduced while creatures have got far better. The result is less equipment in the cube and less use of those that remain.

16. Manriki Gurasi

A relatively cheap equip that offers poor tempo and an average stats boost but offers one of the best outs to other equipment without being a dead card. Manriki is a card you play when you just can't beat certain equipment, usually played by blue and black decks and usually when they are fearful of Jitte. As the quality of creatures has risen so notably in the time since we first started getting equipment it is becoming ever more possible to simply stand up to the more powerful equipment and desperate solutions like Manriki have become less popular. That being said it is still called upon from time to time due to being able to perform its main function while also adding some additional pressure.

Grafted Wargear15. Grafter Wargear

When "all in" is what you want to go then this is the kind of card that will be up your street. For pure stats to cost on this card you cannot do much better. Wargear is at its best in agro black and/or red decks where you have either recursive dorks and card draw from black or ideal one shot creatures like Hellspark Elemental in red. Low on the list for being niche, high variance and risky however despite all of this it is one of the more powerful equipment that has been printed. Zero to equip is lovely and only three mana total for a +3/+2 boost is the hands down best tempo you can achieve with an equipment.

14. Mortarpod

From one of the most powerful we jump to one of the least powerful cards on this list. The Pod is a great little support card that offers a sac outlet, a body on the board and a way to ping things. It even gives a mighty extra toughness to one of your guys which can be enough to allow an attack or stop one. Costing two both to cast and equip makes it slow and unwieldy and demands a much higher than average synergy with the rest of your deck to be playable. Most typically found in white equipment heavy decks where having some equipment come with bodies drastically improves the consistency of the deck. Also white has the best array of creatures and cards that support and improve equipment which can turn the Pod into a really abusive card. Although it starts off at far lower power than the other equipment on this list it scales the best with cards like Leonin Shikari, Puresteel Paladin, Auriok Steelshaper and the likes. Sadly these cards are also too narrow to be main cube considerations but they are a lot of fun.

Sword of the Meek
13. Sword of the Meek

While almost exclusively a combo card it is fairly broad in the way that you can use it in that role. You can make a dedicated Thopter Foundry combo deck for it or you can just throw the main components into an agro affinity deck and give it some extra legs. All combo pieces are by definition niche cards however Sword of the Meek and Thopter Foundry is one of the better combo decks possible in the cube and would be an auto include in any cube trying to support at least some combo decks.

Loxodon Warhammer12. Loxodon Warhammer

Loxodon Warhammer is the sixth Sword of This and That in much the same way that Margaret Thatcher is the 6th Spice Girl – Not sexy or exciting while clunky and slow but far more to the point and better at getting the job done. The thing with Swords is that they are basically just bad Vulshock Morningstars when they are not connecting with the face. Loxodon Warhammer always offers its perk of loads of life and is far better at forcing through damage. One more to equip as well as offering no toughness bonus or protection makes Warhammer substatially clunkier than the Swords and can lead to huge tempo setbacks you have to be prepared for. It is certainly less powerful than any of the Swords but it is a better tool for ending the game fast or winning races and Magic is all about the right tool for the job.

Bonesplitter11. Bonesplitter

 Bonesplitter is not an exciting card nor is it that brutally powerful. It is however great value for mana as well as great tempo. Unlike most other equipment you are not really at risk of getting blown out with removal after having expended mana to equip something up. It often helps you spend your mana most efficiently, when you need all your mana to cast other things it is not the biggest loss to leave the Splitter unused however any spare mana you have gets put to good use with it around. It makes all the one and two drop dorks into far more relevant threats, scales very well with basic creature abilities like first strike and is an artifact thus offering a wide array of potential synergies. Although slightly less powerful than Rancor it is the more played card , not just for being colourless and having more potential homes but also because it tends be better support and synergy and not just a stats boost card. Sadly for the little Splitter it rarely gets any play these days, not because it is too weak nor because it doesn't have homes. It is in an odd position where despite being cheap and powerful it relies on you having other cards, it does nothing on its own. In the cube these days you need every card to do a lot of work and cannot often afford to have potential blanks in your final 40. In the last 18 months or so the only play this has seen is in artifact heavy RDW builds using Shrapnel Blast and then it is much more for being a cheap playable artifact than the effect it brings. 

Lightning Greaves10. Lightning Greves

It is hard to curve out well with Lightning Greaves in your bog standard creature deck. It is usually a terrible draw in the late game and scales poorly with any of your own dorks with haste. It is very rarely found in such decks now as a result. Very occasionally you will see it in white or black to give them a bit more of a threatening stance. Black and white have most of their spells, and more of the big impact ones at sorcery speed as well as few haste or flash creatures meaning Greaves offers that little more to them. Greaves is like the eternal Mother of Runes should you get a way to equip it at instant speed which is a nice combo use for it in white. The reason Greaves is so high up this list is nothing to do with anything previously mentioned but that it sits so very well in the heavy artifact ramp decks. It is a great combo card with Metal Worker to accelerate you at stupid speeds and then it will give haste to whatever fatty you cast with all your immediate mana from the Metal Worker. This equates to being two turns faster overall while offering some bonus protection to your important cards. Further to this it is an artifact itself costing only two mana thus powering up any of your other artifact synergies you may have. It is a touch optimistic as a plan but so powerful that it is often worth it. This sort of thing has happened numerous times in my cube; Turn one make Lightning Greaves off the back of something like an Ancient Tomb or City of Traitors, turn two make another land and a Metal Worker, equip it up and reveal a hand full of artifacts. Then make something huge like a Myr Battlesphere, equip it and swing for over half their life total. I have had turn two kills with this sort of thing, some lucky extra mana and a Blightsteel Colossus. All very fun and cubey.

Sword of Light and Shadow9. Sword of Light and Shadow

The Swords are hard to rate appropriately for lots of reasons. I only run three of the Swords in my cube as the demand for that type of thing is not enough to run all five. Light and Shadow is clearly the least powerful of all five yet is still one of the most powerful equipment there is out there. It is not that situational, offers lots of added value and will be particularly brutal against certain colours and strategies, all the while being a perfectly cheap and reasonable cost to pay. The same can be said of all the Swords and I want a bit more variation in my equipment slots in my cube than can be achieved with all five Swords. This is a personal preference for ratios of certain cards and a well spread mana curve built into a cube however if you are building a cube based more on power level alone it is hard to cut Swords, even this one. The protection colours are all good and all dependant on what you play against. Some colours are slightly better than others however overall that is fairly negligible to the power level of the cards in general. It only makes a marked difference when you are doing formats that give you lots of information on your opponents decks during construction. The reason that Light and Shadow is the weakest Sword then is down to the effects it has when it connects. Three life is fine but is low value, only strong verses a few match ups and often irrelevant. Getting a dork back from the bin is situational and offers no tempo or disruption. It is quite good, and will put you far ahead with a couple of triggers as any of the swords should however it is not very purposeful.

Cranial Plating8. Cranial Plating

This is one of the stupid power level cards only tempered by the fact that it is somewhat narrow in comparison to the other stupid equipment. Fortunately for Cranial Plating there is a top power level and greatly diverse archetype in which it fits perfectly and is comfortably the best card in the deck. Affinity or robots or whatever you want to call it is an incredibly powerful deck comprised of some very narrow cards. This makes it very awkward to include in most kinds of cube which is a shame as it is great fun, highly competitive and rather different. Not only can Cranial Plating offer ten extra power for three mana total fairly easily by turn three it has the added obnoxious ability to re-equip to something else at instant speed.

Sword of Feast and Famine7. Sword of Feast and Famine

I play this in my cube as the third Sword over Body and Mind despite it being less powerful. I find Body and Mind a rather tedious and unbalanced when playing 40 card decks. It is not a broken card but it is just no fun at all just losing to random mill. Feast and Famine offers more in terms of design scope that most of the other Swords. The untapping of lands can be the most powerful of all the Sword effects but it can also do nothing. You need good mana sinks or card advantage to ensure you are putting those triggers to good use. The discard portion is threatening and forces certain kinds of damage limitation play from people. It is weak however against agro decks and suffers diminishing returns for repeat hits after a point or just as the games goes gets long. The fact that it offers card advantage and disruption is nice, the only real downside is it triggering on empty hands. Although you can wiff both triggers on Feast and Famine you are at least hitting them with a sizeable threat while they are playing off the top and therefore probably winning. I think Feast and Famine is at its best in midrange decks where you are more inclined to grind out a win with gradual card, quality and mana advantages. It is certainly the slowest clock offered by any of the Swords or Loxodon Warhammer.

Sword of Body and Mind6. Sword of Body and Mind

As earlier mentioned, this does not have a place in my cube for being overly redundant in terms of generic Swords and for being tedious to lose to as a result of the mill effect. In cube play with 40 card decks two connections is usually enough to end any battle going at all past the midgame. Three is certain death unless you have ways to return things to your library. Before milling someone out however the effect does little for you and can often help out your opponent by giving them flashback and recursion options. I would rather the card gave 4 poison counters, it would be just as silly but somehow less tedious. The main downside is that you are expending some of the cards power working towards one victory condition in milling and another in damage, either way, your best case scenario is having pretty much wasted a portion of the cards value. Despite the inbuild anti-synergy the card is still powerful in the 40 card format. A 2/2 wolf is nice, fair and something you can put to good use in deck design, it is just a shame it is paired with something so annoying.

Sword of War and Peace5. Sword of War and Peace

This is the most direct of the Swords, it offers no card advantage and has the capacity to fully wiff when it connects if everyone has no cards in their hands, most of the time however it is dealing huge amounts of damage and gaining enough life to make racing not an option. It is more comparable to Loxodon Warhammer than any of the other Swords due to this direct feel and lack of card advantage. War and Peace is much better value than the Warhammer and consequently a better tempo card. Assuming you can evade disruption however the Warhammer is the more reliable card. You still need to connect with War and Peace to gain the full swingy effect and unless they have only red, white, or no blockers it is much more raceable. When at its worst War and Peace is a good chunk worse than Warhammer. It better by a far greater proportion when it is at its best which goes a long way to accounting for the difference in ranking of these two cards.

Batterskull4. Batterskull

Without the aid of Stoneforge Mystic this beastly equipment would be much lower down the list, although not out of the top 10 I expect. Being a hard to kill threat with lifegain and both offensive and defensive capabilities it has its uses in a variety of control and ramp decks. Compared to a lot of other threats in the cube it is not great value for mana, you are paying a lot for it being both a threat itself as well as an equipment in addition to the bounce. Although nearly impossible to race a Batterskull it is very easy to survive one being in play for a long time as it offers no evasion and is quite clunky and slow. Unless your deck is very low curve or very bent on ending the game quickly yet fears low life totals such as mono black aggro then Batterskull is usually going to be the better choice than Loxodon Warhammer in decks even without Stoneforge Mystic. When two good cards in their own right have a powerful synergy then you gain loads of free added value to your deck. Unsurprisingly when you get to go and find your Batterskull for two mana on the back of a 1/2 body, which, should it live will kindly play it for you past any countermagic with flash at a three mana cost reduction. Flash and card advantage aside, Batterskull would be stupidly unfair if it cost just two mana. Needless to say this is one of the most common and powerful marriages in the cube and makes Batterskull a fearsome card.

Sword of Fire and Ice3. Sword of Fire and Ice

The king of all the Swords and rightly so. It has the most widely powerful, reliable and useful effects of any of the set. Drawing a card is always good, it works with your build and offers the most reliable card advantage of any Sword. Dealing damage is also fantastic, it makes the Sword a quicker clock, helps take down planeswalkers while still getting the triggers to resolve. It even gets to ping down annoying critters should you manage to evade being blocked somehow. Potential Two for zeros with each connection, never dead abilities that have high power and broad utility all add up to give you the comfortable best of the Swords. Protection from red is probably the best colour on balance as it protects from a lot of spot removal as well as mass removal which the black and white ones do not. These colour differences are, as I mentioned earlier, fairly marginal and not worth worrying about in these kind of vaccum or blind considerations.

Skullclamp2. Skullclamp

I have always loved this card, cheap ways to draw cards are great fun and I got to play constructed with this bad before it was banned. One Skullclamp is good, four is fantastic! Clamp is far more utility than the other equipment which are on the whole board presence tools. Clamp is typically the opposite and trades board position for card advantage. This is a difficult trade to make, especially for a deck with lots of small creatures, an awkward pairing of combinations that are both good for clamp but also all about the tempo. By far and away Skullclamp is the hardest equipment to play well, I have won a lot of games I should not have done because my opponents got Clamp happy and threw away a tempo lead. Clamp can be used as protection on all but the smallest of dorks. Drawing two cards is a big disincentive to killing something! Clamp can also be used as a way to put weaker late game draws like Llanowar Elf to better use. Sometimes you need something specific and you just chew through all the creatures you can so as to find your out/win. Skullclamp is the kind of card that suddenly makes the choice between including Savannah Lions or Isamru in your deck interesting and not just obvious. It is so cheap it can be used in combo applications and shouldn't hurt your tempo if used well in aggro and midrange. While not as direct as things like Treasure Cruise or even Necropotence the mighty Skullclamp remains one of the most powerful, efficient and abusive card draw mechanics in all of magic.

Umezawa's Jitte1. Umezawa's Jitte

Not the unbeatable powerhouse it used to be but still a royal pain as well as one of the most versatile and cost efficient equipment going. It is ever so hard to race a Jitte, the dorks get too big to trade, your dorks get pinged down and you can ever take them down because they have a reserve of life in the form of the counters. Once Jitte is in play the game becomes about preventing counters going on the Jitte rather than anything else! Jitte is the main reason that having an instant speed sacrifice ability for a creature is so useful. The only real downside to Jitte is that it is a little slow to ramp up the power and with a little disruption it is far more feasible to race a Jitte these days. Still also one of the most common first pick first pack cards despite my claims it is not as powerful as it used to be. 

With the increase in creature power and the value of graveyard based effects in present cube I feel it may be time to trial out Mask of Memory and O-Naginata again after a very long absence. Both are a little situational but they also both offer quite a lot of gas for the mana. I could very easily see them creeping in to the lower parts of this list.