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. 


  1. I say that sword of feast and famine should be 3rd sword of the meek 4th batterskull 2nd and skull clamp 1st ez

    1. Much as I dislike Jitte I cannot get behind any list without it top 3. Feast and Famine certainly has one of the highest ceilings on the Sword cycle but it also has the lowest floor. I find Swords most useful later on in the game and later is bad for Feast and Famine scaling.