Sunday 30 July 2017

FPFP Cube Draft

So, new series attempt at articles. A total rip on the various crack a pack things where we look at a pack and discuss the pick options. Here is my first pack courtesy of

Here I would pick the Joraga Treespeaker mostly due to it being the only mono green card in the pack while still having some reasonable options to table. While much of the red and blue stuff is tempting the combination of other decent cards in those colours and three Izzet dual lands is a bit of a turn off. I would hope to wheel the Sheltered Thicket or the Nissa from this pack. This pack is sufficiently close that I would pick something else if I wasn't feeling the green. In that case the Tarn is the best card and most open, you will almost certain wheel something you can pair with it. It wouldn't be that bad taking any of the more directional coloured cards should you be particularly keen on that direction of deck. I would take the Archer if going red, the Censor if blue and the Ophiomancer if black. They are more open and playable than the alternatives and not that far off in power level. So, assuming we behaved and pick the Treespeaker, here is what we get in pack two;

Here we have some nice options. I am pretty happy to pickup the Avenger of Zendikar to go with my Treespeaker. It is super powerful and very well rounded for top end. It gives me a great framework to build a deck around with a very clear plan. Other tempting cards include the Lumbering Falls and the Borderlands Explorer. The latter is low powered but on theme and opens up some new directions. The Falls would be a good thing should we table the Nissa but I am much happier staying in mono green for now. If I am to splash I would rather it be red than blue and I really don't need to with what is offered here. Vizier is something we might table as is the Explorer due to their more filler nature and either probably makes the final list. Off to a decent start for this draft.  

Saturday 29 July 2017

Top 16 Multimodal Cards

Cryptic CommandCommands and Confluences cards along with escalate and perhaps some entwine/fuse style things are what we are looking at here. There are some of the most desirable cards in the cube on this list. Multimodal cards offer all the perks of Charms and much much more. Where a Charm has three modes in which it can be played all the Commands and Confluences thus far have 10 ways in which they may be cast. Options galore! The escalate cards on this list only have seven modes, just three for entwine, but they offer even more extra over other multimodal cards. They offer scaling potential in addition to their versatility. With enough of the appropriate resource you can turn a cheap utility card into a big swingy spell.

Typically spells in the cube are not that expensive however this list contains an incredibly high average mana cost, even so in just the main cube cards. This goes to show the potency of multimodal cards. When 70% of instants and sorceries in my cube are 1 or 2 mana and the average CMC of such cards is about 2.5 (realistically a lot lower as so many of the high cost cards have delve or pitch and alternate costs) you start to appreciate how good four mana and higher spells must be. In contrast to the Charms list which has a wopping 1 card in my cube this list has about 2/3rds of it in the cube. Every card here has been in the cube at one time or another. It may seem that the lower number of gold cards in this grouping helps to increase the playability of this list but every possible gold card is on this list. These cards are not just more playable than Charms, they are better too!

I feel a need to honorary mention Collective Effort. I am sure it will get some love eventually and be very good when in the right place. It is just one of those cards that slipped past in the testing and is almost certainly good despite me not being able to corroborate that. It might well be too narrow for the cube having only really one home but I would still expect it to get more play in constructed decks than it has (which is also none). I guess the thing is people tend not to build dull and common things like white weenie when they can do more exotic and exciting things! Both Tooth and Nail and Rude awakening probably also deserve than honourable mention. Both used to be good finishers in cube and both were greatly improved by the flexible modal nature of how you could cast them. Both now suck pretty hard compared to alternatives like Craterhoof Behemoth and Nissa Worldwaker and see absolutely no play.

Far // Away16. Far / Away

This is a great little card but it is ultimately a filler card. Gold filler is not what you want at all and so this isn't in my drafting cube anymore. When it was it performed very well. It was a nicely rounded removal spell that helped keep things calm early and could land pretty devastating blows later on. Both modes are over priced by a colourless if done on their own but effectively upgrading your Unsummon to a Repulse when you fuse the card makes it nicely on curve for cost to effect. Having both a 2 mana and a 3 mana removal option also gives you great curve flexibility. The difference between a Edict or a bounce in the early stages of the game is very minor. You will absolutely elect to use the mode which lets you cast your other most relevant 2 or 3 drop. This is just a removal spell and compared to a Terminate it doesn't seem super impressive. In practice it performed a lot better than expected. There are lots of untargettable dorks or dorks with brutal effects when they die. Being able to selectively bounce or edict as appropriate to avoid the issue at hand is a real winner. 

Blessed Alliance15. Blessed Alliance

This started out mostly as a sideboard tool but it is getting more popular. What initially held this back was the counter synergy between untapping creatures and the rest of the card. It felt like a pretty dead ability a lot of the time. You want the other two modes in a control deck but rarely have cause to untap stuff in a control list. Even so, this still looks pretty good compared to Azorius Charm for control decks. It is easier to cast, generally has a more potent removal effect, can scale up in power, and has that valuable lifegain option. This is much better against aggression than Azorius Charm and not that much worse against other decks. Cycling Azorius Charm is just a way to negate its low power. You don't need to cycle the Alliance as it is a decent enough removal spell in the late game against the slower decks. It may sit in your hand not doing much for a load longer than Azorius Charm but that it a price you will gladly pay for how much better it is in the matchups you actively want that kind of card in. Blessed Alliance is cute with Ojutai and can occasionally blow people out with other generic dorks. Most people smell a rat though, control does not often race, especially when it seems losing. If you attack with your Baneslayer Angel despite a brutal swingback leaving up six mana then I will be carefully considering my options! I would like to abuse some exert dorks with this but they are typically aggressive cards and Alliance really isn't so I don't expect that to be very relevant.

Silumgar's Command14. Silumgar's Command

I may have already spoiled the fact that all the gold commands make this list. As such you can conclude that this is the worst of the gold Commands. A Last Gasp, a Negate, a Boomerange and the ability to kill a planeswalker. A few things hurt this card quite badly. The cost is a big one, five mana is a lot. Most of the value of the spells contained in this command is their relative cheapness. Last Gasp is highly effective early removal but scales far worse into the late game than a Doom Blade. This only being a five mana spell means Last Gasp is well past its best and often not able to deal with the issues at hand. For the Negate mode to be good you need to have this up. That means you will often be taking damage from their attacks rather than bouncing/Last Gasping before damage so as to keep your pricey Negate up. It is also obvious as all hell. Killing a planeswalker is nice but you would much much rather Negate the thing. If you do have to use the planeswalker kill mode you are basically getting a 1 for 1 at very even mana. Any extra value you get from the other command ability is typically equivalent to the value they got from their single planeswalker activation. With all these awkward factors going on Silumgar's Command often ends up using the bounce mode as one of the two and often for relatively little value. When you get those golden hits like Negating and killing two relevant things it feels great but that is not the norm. With the black and blue Confluences both being five mana instants as well this doesn't get much of a look in any more. This had less than a year before it was wildly outclassed. Far / Away often feels like it does as much as this when fused and it isn't dead weight prior to five mana or should you fail to see one of those colours.

Plunge into Darkness13. Plunge into Darkness

Back when my drafting cube was powered and involved much more combo cards this was a pretty big name. It was one of the best Tutors in the game. Cheap, instant and no card disadvantage! Sadly, even in the 40 card decks of cube and even with the general irrelevance of life back in the day you cannot use this on turn two to reliably find exactly what you need. On turn two this is much more akin to an Impulse than it is to a Demonic Tutor or even a Lim-Dul's Vault. Later on this card scales a lot better than other tutors. I have won loads of games simply cycling this for one life and saccing off a pile of dorks for a huge life influx. There are some combo decks where a combined lifegain tool, sac outlet and tutor is the dream card. Plunge is a card that seems custom designed to perfectly fit a few combo decks while also being just fine to play without any synergies going on. This is a highly versatile and convenient tool and comfortably remains the most viable entwine card in cube.

Austere Command12. Austere Command

This had a long and illustrious career in the cube. It was and probably still is the best six mana mass removal spell on offer. Merciless Eviction is also potent but has less flexibility and is far less playable as a gold card. Despite this card being the best in its class for cube the value of six mana mass removal has dwindled greatly. A lot of decks will kill you before six mana. Most others will be able to avoid over extending into it and have enough value effects that you are not getting much more than an even trade with your six mana spell. Threats are now too diverse for Austere Command or any mass removal to be entirely effective. You are OK with a four mana spell that leaves a threat or two in play but on a six mana spell that is a much greater problem. Threats now offer too much resilience, value and tempo for the slower mass removal spells to do what they need to do. When Austere Command was more viable it was devastating. It was very easy to engineer a situation where you would wipe out all their threats and be able to keep some stuff of your own. Usually their threat diversification consisted of an equipment or a Sulphuric Vortex. You could Wrath their small team, keep your one fat dude and also take out their only other relevant threat. This was pretty common and utterly game breaking. Austere Command is far less restrictive on your own build than other six mana mass removal. You can play dorks or mana rocks as you saw the need where as with cards like Planar Cleansing and Akroma's Vengeance you have to be more conservative. It has far greater potential to end up with a board in your favour than all bar cards like Martial Coup. It is also far more rounded and useful disruption than most conventional Wrath effects in a diverse meta. You can brutally hard counter artifact synergies with your maindeck Shatterstorm and so forth. While still very playable it simply doesn't perform as well as it used to.

Primal Command11. Primal Command

This is another card that has a history like Austere Command. This was a big feature in quite a wide range of decks often for very different reasons. Things have sped up and other cards have come along offering some of the things Primal Command does but better. These factors combined means we don't see this very often in cube anymore. There was a time when more green decks would play this than not. The reshuffle mode gave great inevitability for the slow grindy decks. The tutor mode and the Temporal Spring mode would allow for a reliable and high value two for one. Find a recursive creature and gain 7 life was a common cause of concessions from aggressive decks. Sadly sometimes it was also just a five mana Bramblecrush. Combo elves would play this to lock people out, go off forever and tutor up relevant combo elves. Primal Command brings a lot of control and utility but it is rather unwieldy as a five mana sorcery that has relatively minimal impact on the board.

Ojutai's Command10. Ojutai's Command

Draw a card mode is so universally good this card is pretty playable. It is not the best Exclude nor is it the best (cycled) Renewed Faith but it is certainly a lot lot better for having these modes. The most potent mode is by far and away the Unearth effect which despite hitting smaller dorks, gains huge value from the instant speed. If you have a number of good targets for the recursion mode as well as a deck erring on the side of control then this is a great card. If your deck is aggressive this is not a great tool and if you have few low value recursion targets this will also under perform although will at least remain playable. Just the split card Exclude / Renewed Faith is pretty good for control. What you need are cards like Wall of Omens, little Jace, Snapcaster, Stoneforge Mystic, Mother of Runes, Dragonmaster Outcast and Selfless Spirit. These kinds of cards make the Command nuts. Being able to instantly bring one of these into play at the end of an opponents turn or perhaps while countering their play is a massive swing. It is hard to play round and great value, sometimes even tempo too. Needing support to perform optimally combined with being gold keeps this at the lower end of this list but get it in the right deck and it will look like one of the very best cards on this list.

9.   Collective Defiance
Collective Defiance
This is a very odd card indeed but it gets plenty of play and seems to do its job pretty effectively. It is weird because it seems like a worse card as you throw more mana into it. Four damage to a creature for 3 seems OK but 4 mana to also do them three seems like a very bad Searing Blaze indeed! This card is basically Flame Slash, Lava Spike and Faithless Looting rolled into one. They all cost one mana on their own but cost three on Collective Defiance. That is missleading however. Flameslash and Lava Spike can only cost 1 because they are so restrictive. You pay at least 1 more mana on either if it can do something to other types of target as well. Because Defiance can go face or creature it is unfair to compare it directly to such cards. Better comparisons are Exquisite Firecraft or Char. Thing that hit anything and can do 4 so as to cover those terrifying Kalitas style threats. While Defiance can't do 4 to face that is far less relevant than with creatures where it is all about reaching that toughness threshold. It makes up for not being able to do 4 to face by being able to do 7 total damage in one card which should equate to more than 4 face damage. It is the flood protection that pushes this otherwise fair card over the edge. Without the Looting mode Defiance would be very comparable in power level to things like Char and the Firecraft. When you can recycle a couple of dead late game cards on top of doing some relevant damage it is huge. It doesn't happen loads and loads, probably about as much as you flashback a Looting in RDW. When it does though it is a huge boost. Fair but on theme makes this card playable. Desirable options and flexibility in red is what makes it good.

Atarka's Command8.   Atarka's Command

This is only low on the list for being narrow. It is gold and only wants to go in very aggressive decks. I have seen it is burn, RDW, zoo and Izzet tempo but they are the most aggressive decks in the cube with the potential omission of white weenie. Worst case scenario this is a Skullcrack which is a fine burn card. Best case scenario this thing is dealing 10 damage or getting huge tempo and card advantage in combat. For a card with reasonable utility, low cost and a decently high floor on performance it has an utterly stupid ceiling. This card is pretty much open air! When in the right kind of deck this is comfortably one of the most powerful cards on this list, perhaps even the most. The land ability is pretty irrelevant for this cards performance in modern but in cube it has done some truly delightful things. Triggering landfall mechanics or just having more total mana than expected is something most people miss. Lifegain prevention is, much like lifegain itself, exactly the sort of narrow yet highly valuable mode you want on your modal cards. It is a perfect match on this card with high scaling pump and on theme direct damage. I would say in the right lists this card averages about 5 damage which is obviously stupid for 2 mana and huge versatility on top.

Dromoka's Command7.   Dromoka's Command

This is a really annoying little card. I think mostly that is me being on the wrong side of it far more often than the right side! I also think I don't play round this card as I properly should and that makes it seem a little better than it is. Like Atarka's Command this thing can be pretty devastating. It can straight up kill two things, either in combat resulting from the counter or because you randomly happen to have an enchantment like a Courser of Kruphix and you just die... When they pay 2 mana and one card to kill 2 things you are very far behind. Most 2 for 1 Arc Trail hits end in wins for the Arc Trailer. This has the potential to get far more mana's worth of value than Arc Trail. It randomly counters things like Bonfire of the Damned too which is pretty narrow and utterly devastating as well! Although that is the kind of mode you want on these cards it is so specific and situational that it feels like a massive rip off on the few occasions it has been used. Mostly this is just a +1/+1 counter and a fight which is a pretty decent removal spell at 2 mana in a green white list with creatures (which they basically all are). The mildly conditional use is well offset by the lasting counter, the two for one potential and any other combat utility or synergy it has with the counter.

Fiery Confluence6.   Fiery Confluence

This is one of those cards like Boros Charm that has a mode which is above curve. You can do 6 face damage for four mana with this card. That is a massive smack in the face. Since this thing saw print I have seen a lot of games end where people felt very safe and die to 10 direct damage from four mana with this and Fireblast. Due to this cards high finishing potential it is always something aggressive decks are happy to play. This wildly increases the value of the more situational other modes. You get to be nice and safe against artifacts without hurting you decks consistency if you are playing with this. You also get to play with Wrath effects in aggressive decks. I have also seen that catch people off guard. People over extend wildly into the RDW player forgetting the potential for them to get wrathed and lose too much tempo and cards to have any hope in the game. A controllable wrath effect is doubly nice. If you have some two toughness guys and they have a bunch of one toughness guys then this looks a lot better than Anger the Gods or Pyroclasm. It looks even better if they just made some artifact too! Power, utility, value, potential tempo. This card really does have it all. One of the very few cards above 2 mana that aggressive red decks still consider premium pick ups.

5.   Mystic Confluence
Mystic Confluence
Now we start to get to the real power. The top five on this list are all exceptional. You rarely see them left out of decks in their colours. While Mystic may be more powerful than some of the others it is somewhat less unique in blue. Unsummon, Mana Leak and draw a card  are all basic blue attributes. They are also worth one, two and one mana respectively. Modal cards do not tend to gain much value from having exclusively abilities you find throughout the colour(s), especially when you can get them for a lot less mana. While you can't get 3 instances of Mana Leak for 5 mana that isn't really a thing, you are not often countering 3 separate spells at once. The only time I have seen this card using more than one instance of the Mana Leak mode they are all targetting the same spell. This effectively means the best return on your mana for Mystic Confluence is 4 as you can only effectively get one use out of the most valuable mode. So why is it that Mystic Confluence succeeds where Izzet Charm fails when the former is very much like a scaled up version of the latter.

Much is down to the unusually good scaling of draw a card. Just cycling something doesn't achieve anything except spending mana. When you can turn one card into two or more cards however the value of it shoots up. An Unsummon plus a card draw is not worth UU as my costing analysis suggests but more like the 2U of Repulse. Draw two is also not something you can find for UU, at instant speed it isn't even something you can find at 2U. Draw bolted onto something you would otherwise pay a card for is worth more like 2 mana and not the single mana it costs when found on its own or near enough to. As such Mystic Confluence is generally on par with the cube power level of cost to return (assuming you don't have to repeatedly Mana Leak the same target). When you have a card that is doing things you almost always want with huge flexiblity on how it is used and that isn't over priced you have a big winner. This is easily the card with the most even spread across its modes in terms of total use. Sometimes it is a one sided board clear, sometimes it is Jace's Ingenuity, sometimes it is a Cryptic Command where you use all but the tap modes! Torrential Gearhulk and As Fortold have recently increased the value of this card a good amount. The Gearhulk is just great with powerful expensive instants and Mystic Confluence is one of the most expensive and powerful instants you play without the Gearhulk synergy. As Foretold loves card draw and instants allowing you to continue to abuse the mana savings efficiently. Confluence offers a great way to empower you when you have an active As Foretold but without overdoing it on raw card draw spells. It also enables some nasty soft locks with Eternal Witness. It is only because blue has so many potent cards that do much the same sorts of thing as Mystic Confluence that keeps this lower in the top five. Fact or Fiction, Repulse, Repeal, Cyclonic Rift, Crush of Tentacles, Exclude, Arcane Denial and of course Cryptic Command are all strong cards that have significant overlap with the Confluence. This list could be extended to include a significant portion of all of the blue cards ever printed! While only the good ones are relevant you get my point that Mystic Confluence, while both versatile and powerful, is far from a unique card.

Wretched Confluence4.   Wretched Confluence

This looks like it is less good than the other Confluences on this list but it has performed exceptionally. It seems less good because Raise Dead, Disfigure and pay a life for a card are all one mana abilities and because they cover less of a range than the other Confluences. Two of these modes are tempo loss card advantage modes. Even the lifeloss aspect of the card draw means it isn't scaling in quite the same way as the card draw on Mystic. You can generally pay X life and mana to draw X cards in the cube. It is mostly a collection of small subtle effects that combine to make this the best performing Confluence in cube. Firstly, black is a clunky colour that has poor card filtering capacity and a number of effects that are intrinsically situational or suffer poor scaling. Late game black often loses with action/answers in hand simply because it is the wrong time for those cards. The options on Confluence are greatly welcome in black. If you imagine in blue you can add a fraction of the cost of any pure card quality effects to the cost of your other spells. Lets say you have 24 non-land cards and 4 mana's worth of Ponder style cards. You have effectively increased the average CMC of your action spells by 1/6th of a mana. As black is not playing cards like Ponder it does not incur this effective increase in average CMC as all of its cards are action (when they are not just dead!). That means you can afford to splash out a little bit more in black for cards that provide options and won't ever be dead weight in hand (obviously once you can cast it, everything with a cost can be dead when you can't pay it...).  Most colours are very happy to invest some cards and mana in card quality in cube and do so when they can. With black (and white) having the least filtering and card quality they benefit most from cards like this.

Raise Dead
Next up is the value of Raise Dead in cube. Pretty quickly this becomes better than draw a card. It is guaranteed action if you want it and it lets you reuse things you often only get one shot with. Any sort of recursion in singleton is worth more than usual despite how poor it is in the early game. Being modal entirely negates the potential lack of value this has prior to useful things being in the bin. In those even games where it goes long the big refill cards are often what seal the deal. If you hit that Dig Through Time or you can blow a Garruk Primal Hunter for a load of cards you probably just won. In those cases I have found Wretched Confluence to be one of the absolute best. It often outperforms even the mighty Sphinx's Revelation. Most sensible cube decks don't have loads of closers, win conditions or super relevant late game and reach cards. Lots of games will be won with cards like 2/1s for 1 which are great early but typically add little once the game goes long. Even a white weenie deck with mostly creatures and that would be classically considered threat dense is actually very light on relevant tools in the late game. Anyway, if you move into the late game you should generally be about half way through your deck and as such will have seen roughly half your cards that retain significant relevance in the late game. If at that point you draw a big pile of cards you probably only get one more super relevant card and you may well put yourself in danger of milling to death. Big draw has a small window of utility in cube and is far less effective than it is in 60 card constructed. If instead of drawing 5 cards you return 3 relevant threats from the bin you not only preserve your library size and remaining threat count but you also get much more relevant action. So what if they got two more cards than you if all of them are lands and cycling things and other do nothing cards. When big card advantage tools are at their best this is generally the best of those on offer. Card advantage is made a lot better when you have alternate modes of use that gain you tempo rather than conceding it. Fact or Fiction is a better card draw spell than Mystic Confluence but it has no ability to be disruptive instead and is rarely played as a result. The same is true even of cards like Jace, Architect of Thought, you are happy to trade some card draw power for the option on playing defense.

DisfigureNext up we have the somewhat positive scaling of Disfigure. Basically the card Disfigure is great but a little limited, having it in this modal form reduces the limitations of the effect. A Disfigure cannot take out things with more than 2 toughness without help. As you can aim them as needed you rarely ever have a dead removal spell. It is not just mitigated by having other modes but also mitigated by being able to do itself multiple times. This might sound like the same argument that I used against Mana Leak mode but it is slightly different. You can't really get value off multiple leaks on different spells. You can kill three dorks with a Wretched Confluence. Or you can kill a massive one if that is what you need to do. It is generally better than Infest and better than Dismember just in terms of effect (very little is more effective than Dismember at 1 mana!). Basically stacking up Mana Leaks just showcases how the card is a limp counterspell and never more than while stacking up Disfigure increases the utility of the effect a lot. You can utterly wreak people in combat with it too using it to take out loads of unsuspecting fatties turning it from an Infest into more of a one sided Wrath!

Lastly we turn to the draw cards lose life option. As said, this doesn't scale up brilliantly. It is very much the backup mode. You want to return high value creatures and/or kill off theirs with your Confluence. When you only have a couple of targets for either you end up taking that card. It is nice as a never dead mode and ensures the card is very playable in control. What has stood out from this mode is how often it is used as a Bump in the Night. While not quite yet in double figures this card is close to having it in killing blows now. Yes, it is pretty narrow but having an extra mode which simply lets you win the game on the spot every now and again is actually pretty big on an otherwise very playable card. So while at first glance this looks like paying five mana for three mana's worth of stuff that is all a little narrow or unexciting when it all comes together it is substantially greater than the sum of its parts.

Kolaghan's Command3.   Kolaghan's Command

It is hard not to get a two for one with this card! A three mana instant 2 for 1 is a good card, Esper Charm was played a lot in that capacity. What makes this really quite nutty is that you can get a 2 for 1 as well as a decent tempo swing. The Shock rarely kills much more than 3 manas worth of stuff and probably averages around 2 manas worth of stuff killed. The Shatter on the other hand has a much higher range on the tempo value it can afford. When you take out a five mana artifact like a Gearhulk or Gilded Lotus you are wildly ahead! Kolaghan's Command is a great way to insure against artifacts without diluting your deck or risking dead cards. Raise Dead, as discussed at length in the Wretched Confluence section, is also a really good effect to have on a modal card. Discard modes when at instant speed are also more useful. Being able to hit people in their draw steps allows you to take out a lot of card types even when they have no hand. This card is so good and works so well in a couple of archetypes that you see it splashed for a surprising amount. The value this thing offers with Snapcaster Mage is pretty unreasonable! If this were a mono coloured card I would have it atop this list.

Collective Brutality2.   Collective Brutality

I have talked much about this card recently. It is used in a lot of places, it is new and it is very good, all of which give me lots of call to talk about it. Power wise it is not doing as much as many of these other cards but then it cost a whole lot less than anything else here. Even the cheap Commands are two different coloured mana to play. This is never getting you card advantage as you always discard cards to perform extra modes. Obviously this can be an advantage if you simply want to put cards in the bin. While Brutality is even better in the lists with graveyard synergy you don't need any for the card to be great. It is effective card quality and very good mana efficiency whenever you can usefully use more than one mode. When you can't you still have an effective and versatile spell. It is great against control and combo with the Duress option and great against aggression with the Disfigure and even the drain. The drain does often look like it isn't worth a card but it is actually used about as much as the other two modes. It is nice to have an ability that always does something so as to force a discard. It also turns out you want that life more than your cards in hand far far more often than you expect to.

1.   Cryptic Command

No surprise here. This card must have topped a lot of lists in its time. While I may have talked about Brutality a lot recently I think everyone will have talked plenty about this recently. We all know this to be great because it is and has been for a long while. Four is hefty and it is a little harder to get value and tempo out of compared to Kolaghan's Command. On the other hand Cryptic Command is in one colour and has a far far broader range on its abilities allowing you to be completely safe in almost any situation. You can get a two for one or you can get a Time Walk!

Wednesday 26 July 2017

Top Black One Mana Removal

Fatal Push
So this list is mostly for my own use! There is a growing need of effective one mana removal given my cube design. White was easy enough to sort out with already having the two best one mana removal cards and having an acceptable array of other options. I ultimately have gone with Oust and Sunlance although I may replace or even complement those with Condemn if either fails to perform.

Black is a harder beast to appease. After Fatal Push the options become more limited or more of a compromise. While there are vast numbers of one mana removal cards in black they all have fairly significant limitations or drawbacks. I am going to look at the best of the options and hopefully after comparing and contrasting them I will be better positions to make good choices on which additions to make.

As I don't already know how I rate these cards it is going to take the format of a "breakdown" with an out of ten rating rather than a top X list with a positional rating. For a long time black has been able to rest easy on its more consistent and less onerous two mana removal cards but it is all getting to be too much. Creatures are so good and tempo is so key that small mana changes, particularly between one and two, are massive deals.

RegicideFatal Push 10

For the purposes of this list this is a clear 10/10 card. It is the standard by which all the other options will be judged. While nothing is overall as good as this many cards on this list do have occasions where they will outperform this.

Regicide 8*

This gets anasterix because you can only use it in draft. Most other cube formats fall apart if trying to use this card which is a shame. It is great design and very well balanced. It is exactly the sort of card black wants more of in cube. If I could always play this  card then I probably wouldn't be doing this list in a desperate search for more playables.

Human FrailtyDisfigure 7

This is presently my 2nd one mana removal spell in black. It is overall slightly weaker than Shock but it does at least have some other mild perks (for killing all those 2 toughness indestructible dorks!). This just ticks enough boxes that it is the next best all round option after Fatal Push. I in fact wished I had played it over Fatal Push the other day when I couldn't usefully engineer the revolt trigger and was getting owned by Thalia Heretic Cathar. This is instant, it hits everything and kills about 70% of it. More relevantly it kills 90% or so of the things you will expect to see in the first couple of turns.

Human Frailty 2

I wondered if humans had sufficiently swelled in number so as to make this a viable option. Humans are certainly the most numerous creature type and crop up in all the colours. Sadly humans only account for about 30% of creatures in the cube. Most of them are fairly small too. This has about as much kill potential in cube as a Gut Shot and isn't getting a look in as a result.

DeathmarkDeathmark 3

This is a much more interesting proposition as a little over 50% of the dorks in cube are white or green. Both those colours have higher creature counts than the other colours and have more gold creature cards to offer as well. That is a much better hit rate than Human Frailty and it would be further increased given the Deathmark player will be black thus reducing the instances of other black cards at the table. Even with that Deathmark still has a lower hit rate than a Shock in cube, has no alternate utility, is sorcery, and will wind up a totally dead card in some matchups. This last issue means this is basically just a sideboard card which are not things I want to have in my drafting cube.

Sicken 3

This is weak removal, again with a similar hit rate to Gut Shot. You can turn a 2/2 beater into a 1/1 beater so Sicken does have value even when it can't actually kill something but it is painfully low value if used like that. The cycle option allows this to scale better than a lot of the other removal but again, it is super low powered. Paying two is far from trivial in cube and so this will spend a good amount of time in hand being too weak to cast usefully but too pricey to turn into something else. This sort of ticks a lot of the boxes but it does so on all accounts so poorly that I can't see this being too helpful.

Viper's Kiss 2

Viper's KissMore weak removal with low kill rates. This trades the ability to cycle it away for the ability to shut down utility creatures. While this has some appeal in practice I think it also fails. Most utility creatures are small enough that this kills them any way. You are not playing one mana removal to cope with utility dorks either, you want it so as to be able to combat tempo. Yes, this will ultimately gain you tempo when it kills and elf or Mother of Runes on turn one but all the other options here also at least manage that.

Borrowed Malevolence 4

Borrowed MalevolenceWring FleshYet more limp -1/-1 options. This is instant which makes it far more useful in combat than Sicken. Just making a dork smaller is not worth a card and is a pretty desperate move and so this is generally just better disruption. This tries to avoid being dead and narrow by having a mild pump option too further enhancing this cards potential in combat. Perhaps you save a dork of your from their spot removal outside of combat! You can get a two for one with this in perfect conditions. This card has some reasonable utility but it still seems overly situational and pretty low powered. Unless you also have a reasonable creature count this is not offering much at all. That makes this narrower than other removal on this list which is a problem. You want cube removal just to be something you can play regardless of what you are doing. Escalate cards have thus far performed very well in cube so this is probably a bit better than it looks.

Wring Flesh 3

This is exactly as limp as the previous 3 cards as a removal spell but it does have a much greater combat effect and has some decent defensive applications. For most blocks this should turn a losing exchange into a winning one. You should also be able to use this to save a planeswalker for a turn, prevent a Jitte charging, or even just to gain 3 life! This seems to fail in the same way that Borrowed Malevolance does, while both are more powerful than Kiss and Sicken they also both need further support to sufficiently perform (all be it very mild and generally common support in the form of creatures).

Innocent Blood 5

Here we have quite the different removal spell. This is very very powerful indeed. It kills everything in the cube without giving away lands or life. It may not be as effective against persist effects as exile removal but it is far better against shroud/hexproof and equally effective against indestructible. Two huge things hold this back. Poor scaling as opponents develop boards and can choose to sac off a weak thing and restrictions on your own build in that you don't want to put yourself in a position to sac off a relevant thing of your own. This is the opposite sort of narrow to Wring Flesh and Borrowed Malevolence in that you generally don't want creatures. As such only really combo and control decks run this. Absolutely one of the best turn one removal spells and still able to be effective throughout the game. Just severally let down by being inconsistent and on the narrow side. While cards with very wide ranges of performance can be fine you ideally don't want them to be your answers. You also ideally don't want the floor to be quite as low as it can be with Innocent Blood.

Tragic SlipTragic Slip 6

This is another card with a pretty huge range. It is one of many -1/-1 effects for one mana with a little bit of something else going on to try and spice up the deal. While -1/-1 is highly comparable to a Gut Shot and a little too low powered the morbid trigger is rather more serious. Sicken simply allows you to turn your dead spell into something else random for a tempo cost. It always feels awful cycling away removal to find removal... Tragic Slip simply upgrades from limp removal to one of the most powerful spot removal cards in the game. This means you are able to play the right amount of removal in your deck. Slip has great scaling. It is mediocre removal in the early game but still has a good chance of being useful disruption. Then as the game goes on and you are more able to affect the morbid trigger you can use Slip to take out whatever you need. Although Innocent Blood is technically a more potent removal spell the ability to target Tragic Slip makes it actually useful and scale well into the late game where Blood typically becomes less effective. While Slip is clearly one of the better options I have always found it frustratingly unreliable. Morbid is hard to trigger, you often need removal and when you don't have it the card feels like an even weaker Reciprocate. You have to chump block something just so you can kill something else post combat. This under performs a bit as -1/-1 and is disappointingly inconvenient to -13/-13 with.

Dead Weight
Dead Weight 6

This is sadly one of the more serious contenders for the slots. This is basically just a sorcery speed Disfigure and Disfigure is hardly a wildly exciting card. Red has enough tools that it doesn't even need Shock yet a Shock would be better than almost all the options black has at one mana including this. There are few instances where being an enchantment is relevant and much like with Sicken, the value of just making something you can't kill a bit smaller in an ongoing capacity is pretty weak. Your Siege Rhino is now a 2/3 and can't presently attack effectively! Hardly a cards worth of value. Certainly this is a mild advantage over Disfigure but it is a long long way off making up for being sorcery speed. When Disfigure already feels like a compromise it is a hard mental barrier to get over trying this out.

ParalyzeParalyze 7

This is an old old card that rarely gets any attention yet does do the job at hand fairly well. It is somewhat like an Arrest. Most activated abilities are ones that require tapping and so once this is on a dork that card is pretty neutered. Four mana is a massive cost, a creature has to be Titan levels of good or you have to have vast amounts of spare mana before you are paying it. You have to choose to pay before your draw as well which is harder to play for your opponent. If you Paralyze a Kird Ape then 95% of the time at least that Kird Ape is doing nothing relevant for the rest of the game. Some cards do sidestep the Paralyze rather such as Young Pyromancer and Spellskite. It is also weaker against vigilance or dorks needed purely for defense as they only need pay the mana once.Overall this is a lower number of things than would sidestep a Doom Blade or more common black restriction. The largest failing of Paralyze in black historically is that it works very poorly with Edict effects. You basically can't play Arrest and Edict's in the same list. Paralyze is a heavily underrated card and I do prefer it to all the Edict effects that are not Liliana of the Veil. Sorcery speed is the only real downside when compared to the other one mana removal options. This hits the most targets and has better scaling into the late game than most. It feels like a more potent Smother or Bileblight level of removal. It basically just removes the creatures those kinds of spell also kill yet it is able to affect larger and more powerful things in a more relevant way. Perhaps you just use it to tap down that Baneslayer for a fatal swing past it. Perhaps you are happy forcing them to tie up four mana a turn to keep some oppressive dork active because you have lots of gas and a plan! This is a very efficient and very well rounded card that I think I am able to try out in my cube presently due to such a low Edict count (1) in black. Dead Weight just seems like it is less effective against the range of 3 and lower CMC dorks and also significantly less useful against the bigger things.

UlcerateUlcerate 5

No question that this is the most potent one mana removal spell black has on offer. There are still some things Fatal Push can take out that this can't, a few even without need of revolt. Ulcerate is basically as good in the first few turns at killing things as Push, in the midgame it is nearly as effective but somewhat less awkward due to no revolt trigger setup needs. Finally in the late game this gains the most over Fatal Push. While not a great removal spell at killing bigger things it is still infinitely more useful than Push at killing anything at five or more mana. I will happily trade a 3/3 and an Ulcerate for your Titan! The issue for Ulcerate is of course nothing to do with the effect but the extra cost of 3 life. The difference between killing a one drop on turn one and paying 3 life to do so or killing it on turn two and not paying any life to do so is a funny one. Life wise you are better off with the two drop kill but if you have lots of two drops in your deck then the one drop kill is well worth that extra cost. Black already has a lot of great cards with a couple of life cost thrown in. The more such cards you play the weaker you become to red decks and some other aggressive plans. You also increase the cost of the life payment on your other cards by playing this. Ulcerate is great but when it makes your Thoughtsieze and your Night's Whisper both a bit worse it is a bit of a turn off. This card feels most like Sunlance except it hits non-red things rather than non-white ones. While this does hit red stuff you have to be pretty sure it is ultimately saving you life in doing so else you are helping your opponent. The more incidental life gain black gets the better this is and vice versa for incidental life costs. With big life cost cards such as Necropotence featuring less these days I think Ulcerate might have a shot in cube. Three life hurts but needs must. The biggest barrier for this card is how poorly it feels like it stacks up against Snuff Out on the one hand which is a zero mana card for just one life more and has a life free mode of play and will kill things with 4 or more thoughness. On the other hand you have Dismember which is -5/-5 for only 1 more life and again has a life free mode of casting. The only perk Ulcerate has over Snuff Out is the ability to hit black things. Ulcerate doesn't really have a perk over Dismember except that other colours wont be stealing it away from you!

VendettaVendetta 7

This is the other high powered removal option in black with a life cost. Vendetta is great early as it hits everything and the cost is low. It still kills things later in the game very well but the life cost goes up and up. This again looks pretty weak compared to Snuff Out however it scales sufficiently differently that it does have a bit more to offer. Most one drops have 1 toughness and most of the rest have 2 meaning you are saving between two and three life to kill something turn one with Vendatta compared to Snuff Out. Black already lacks one drops and so the opportunity cost of playing Vendetta for one on turn one compared to Snuff Out for zero on turn one is pretty low. Certainly a lot lower than skipping a two drop play in black. While the costs of Vendetta and Snuff Out are less painful together than either with Ulcerate the fact that they both have the same non-black target restriction (which is already the most common in black removal) is a mild concern. It might mean Ulcerate winder up being a better cube fit than Vendetta despite the latter seeming like the more rounded and appropriate card.

Wretched BanquetWretched Banquet 6

This is an interesting card I found while researching this topic. Despite being a card you never hear about it seems surprisingly suitable. It shares some of the limitations of Innocent Blood but not all of them. This is generally killing the lamest thing in play but at least it isn't also killing your own things. I think not killing your own stuff is a bigger perk than being able to take out hexproof, shroud, protection and indestructible things. Mostly this is only the case because you can't freely target either this or Innocent Blood. A spot removal spell like Council's Judgement that bypasses those troublesome abilities would be supremely good even if it killed your own stuff but an Edict isn't quite so exciting. If your opponent plans on making some Ulamog or something they can generally find a way to play round an Edict. This is great in the early game, it will always kill something very relevant and it will do so with no life cost. In the late game it will be a lot weaker often restricted to hitting tokens. Mass removal greatly improves the value of this thing so that you can reset a board and takeout a more significant thing without the chaff to draw fire. Sorcery speed on this thing feels like more of a problem than it does for much of the other removal. While I do have my concerns about the scaling of this card I think it is very suitable for both aggressive decks and control decks. Just taking out any early play is great for control and the various other control cards they will have enable this to scale somewhat better. In the aggressive decks it is so cheap and you are aiming to be ahead already that it is just a pretty good tempo tool. It is a very good value one mana edict. It might just kill a two drop but that is all good when you are leaving them with only lands and hitting in with a couple of guys and perhaps even doing other stuff. This is the option I feel I need to test most. It seems pretty good relative to must of this list but it could well flop.

DarkblastDarkblast 4

I have never found this to be impressive. That being said, all the testing I have really done on this in the drafting cube was a long time ago. The value of cheap removal has gone up tremendously and the number of targets for even weak removal like this has gone up a bit too. I still don't think this competes well with the alternatives but it does have a few unique roles it can fill. In general you want this on turn one and no there after as the ability ceases to deal with the things being made. That means in general you don't want to dredge this. On the flip side, the decks you need cheap removal most against are the ones with the most things this will hit. This is a good anti weenie tool verging on a hate card. It is also sometimes used in extreme graveyard synergy lists as on theme filler and cheap disruption. In those lists it does suffer more heavily from being a card you rarely want to draw in the late game. While I don't think this is drafting cube worthy I think it probably does still have more of a place in constructed cube than many of these other cards as a sideboard or graveyard support tool in a known meta.

I will test out all the cards not already in cube and getting a 6 or higher rating except for Tragic Slip which has already had a good amount of recent cube action. Hopefully I will be able to find at least two that are both sufficiently effective and broadly playable. Hopefully I won't have to resort to playing Tragic Slip, or Dead Weight for that matter. If I can get black up to having four (just about) cube worthy one mana removal spells (not including Dismember as that is any colour) I think the colour will be in a much better place. Perhaps one day black will have enough premium one drops that it will rely on free removal effects even more . Presently the quantity of good one drops in black is not nearly enough to make the extreme card cost of Contagion or Sickening Shoal consistently good enough.

Murderous Cut is a card I didn't even consider for this list. While the card may be excellent it fails to do what is needed here. Cheaply killing things in the late game is something black is already great at. The difference between a one mana Deadly Cut and a two mana Ultimate Price or whatever is marginal on turn five. The inability for Deadly Cut to kill a one drop beater or mana ramp dork on turn one is what makes it fairly useless. The same is true of Slaughter Pact. Murderous Cut may often be a one mana removal spell but it is almost never that one turn one which is what black is most lacking in presently. There are many other one mana removal spells in black that fail on turn one like Bone Splinters, Fatal Blow and Ghastly Demise. They are are also a lot worse than Murderous Cut!

Tuesday 25 July 2017

Splendid Genesis

Splendid Genesis - Richard Garfield

Release date 29/1/2018! Content may become less frequent...


Glory-Bound InitiateNothing too revolutionary here. This is simply an example of an aggro Boros deck that combines some of the best exert dorks with some of the best support tools for them. Mostly this is effects that give vigilance however there is an untap effect in Kytheon and flicker effects to untap as well. While there is not much synergy with EtB effects to abuse with the flicker effects in this list they are good enough stand alone cards so that when given two extra sets of mild synergy they should perform.

This list is simple enough in what it is trying to do that you could easily replace any of the exert or support cards with other cube aggressive staples. I imagine few cubes will have the narrower exert cards in this list but you really don't need them. The great thing about this deck is that basically all the cards are good solid stand alone cards. The bonus synergies they have are all for free.

With the Always watching this list has less reason to use token generation than most other white aggressive lists. Boros decks are typically either weenie decks, token decks or burn decks. This is unusual in that it is very zoo like. The dorks are generally pretty able to attack in this list and when exerted are easily the power of zoo stuff. As such this list is packing far less removal than you normally find in this colour pairing. It simply won't need to clear the path as often as other Boros decks do to get through the damage.

Gideon, Battle-ForgedI have overly forced the theme in this list so as to highlight as many new cards as possible. I am sure more refined builds using less new cards and more generically powerful things are possible. As mentioned, most cubes won't contain many of these newer things yet or ever and so some conventional filler is likely a necessity. Even with just a few exert cards it is worth considering things that have good synergy with them. Cubes may not have Always Watching but almost all will have Kytheon and Restoration Angel. The best exert cards (those with Glory in the name! and Crop Crasher) have performed so well thus far that I have added in more and expect all the cards to be much much better than initially rated. Essentially it is just one of those mechanisms I have underrated. You find that every now and again, a mechanism is just good and lots of cards with it make the cube. Things like escalate, evolve, level up, scry, cycling, delve and now apparently exert!

Always Watching24 Spells

Bloodlust Inciter
Gideon's Lawkeeper
Path to Exile
Forked Bolt

Kytheon, Hero of Akros
Soldier of the Pantheon
Town Gossipmonger
Thraben Inspector

Glory-Bound Initiate
Gust Walker
Battlefield Scavenger
Nef-Crop Entangler

Selfless Spirit
Ahn-Crop CrasherLightning Helix
Unexpectedly Absent
Khenra Earthshaker

Oketra's Avenger

Ahn-Crop Crasher
Always Watching
Devoted Crop-Mate / Combat Celebrant

Ajani Goldmane
Restoration Angel


16 Lands

Ajani GoldmaneThe last two cards I was considered were Devoted Crop-Mate and Combat Celebrant. Both are a little bit awkward. One messes around with value and the other is just a very high risk card. They are not the solid reliable direct tempo dorks you ideally want for this kind of deck. If either has a hope of being good this list should at least make it apparent. A nice testing ground due to some of the support.

This list looks very fair indeed. It contains few premium high pick things and would be fairly easy to replicate in drafts. Despite it looking pretty fair this list also looks brutally effective. It has far fewer weaknesses than RDW, white weenie or the usual things in between those archetypes. This is probably slower than most but the momentum this deck gets going seems much harder to stop. This list looks like it would perform very well in my cube meta with basically no bad matchups and plenty of good ones. When a synergy is so potent it propels a themed version of a somewhat existing archetype to the forefront it often leads to a number the support cards and in this case the lower power level exert things to actually find a home in cube.

Sunday 23 July 2017

Top 16 Charms

As promised, a list of the best Charms for cube use. I was going to try and ignore the issue gold has on the playability of cards as otherwise very few of the 3 colour Charms would be on this list. Despite being able to ignore the narrow nature of their casting cost I could not escape their archetypal homes. You are only playing Mardu Charm in a Mardu deck and if a Mardu deck doesn't want what the Charm offers then it is a pretty dud card. The result is a list which ignores how playable a card is given its colour requirements but doesn't ignore the context of where you will play it. If you are making a gold cube or are just keen to up your gold cards then you could add most of the ones on this list. This list tries to represent the relevant power level of the Charms. The two and one mana Charms a wildly more playable than the three colour ones but pack far less punch and as such slip down this list rather. Over half the RtR Charms see a reasonable amount of cube play. They are rarely great but they do the job. Most of the three mana Charms, certainly the newer ones, see next to no play but do often shine when they do get a run.

While I only have one Charm left in my drafting cube as a result of my crusade against gold cards I have played with well over half of the Charms ever printed in cube. They frequently still get use in more constructed cube events too. Of the Charms I haven't ever used or seen used in cubes at least half of those could be used. Of the modern legal Charms only six remain unused in cube and only three of the gold ones. Charms are an unusual kind of good. Having spent a long time recently thinking about them they feel a lot like the new Amonkhet cycling dual lands. They are both really useful building tools that can greatly help tie a deck together and make it more consistent. While they make the building process easier and the resulting deck look more powerful when it actually comes to using the card it feels less impressive. Canyon Slough (and company) is the comfortable worst dual land in my cube when you have to lay the thing! That doesn't stop it being a good card. It is just that what makes it good is different to what makes other cards good.

The top 7 on this list are a step above the others. They all offer exactly the tools their appropriately coloured archetypes want and are reasonably well powered. In a cube with a higher tolerance for gold cards I would happily run all of those seven. The three colour Charms in that group are all fairly common combinations and are made a lot more playable consequently. Temur and Mardu Charms are probably powerful enough to make that top 7 group but they are in sufficiently uncommon colours that they don't get the same opportunities to see play and feel much less worth their cube slot.

Sultai Charm16.   Sultai Charm

This card looks great, it is instant removal for loads of things and reasonable card quality. The card is never dead and does a lot of work as a rounded removal spell. While not quite the range of a Maelstrom Pulse it is better than a Putrify which being instant feels like a fairer comparison. The issue with Sultai Charm is that no mode is worth more than 2 mana. Despite being a card with three useful and complementing modes this card is a weak way to do whatever it is you do with it. When in blue play the good things, play the Ultimate Price and then play card quality to find it, not the draw two discard one for three kind. Sultai Charm is a deceptive Charm that appears better than it is. While never bad it has the issue of rarely being much good either.

Mardu Charm15.   Mardu Charm

Great card, in many ways the original Collective Brutality. This is exactly the kind of tool black need to stand up well as a control colour. Four damage to a creature at instant speed is not too far off the curve and generally useful. A Coercion at instant speed is also close enough to the mark. I know Thoughtsieze makes things like this look bad but it is just really good, leaving Mardu Charm in the fair range for that effect. Discard effects get a lot more potent when they have other modes you can use as do they with instant speed. The two 1/1  tokens play is both the always of some use and the narrow high potential option. You kill some attackers for free and wind up with some bonus tokens which is decent. Objectively this a great control card. The problem is this is not only Mardu but that it is also three mana. When you are competing with Vindicate, Kolaghan's Command etc. It is just rare to get a look in. Mardu is the least common three colour pairing and it is often build aggressively.

Dimir Charm14. Dimir Charm

This looked like one of the best when this large cycle was spoiled but in testing it turned out to be much weaker than hoped. This Charm really needed the card quality mode to be a lot better than this is. You can only really use this ability when you are desperate or you already know what is on top so that you can specifically put it in the bin. Two thirds of Taigam's Scheming, even if you can do it to opponents library's isn't generically useful. In theory you can counter things like Vampiric Tutor with it but I am yet to see that happen. I would much rather a Shadow of Doubt in such a situation however... The Envelop and the removal option are both very much one mana cards. Both are rather restrictive. The latter is rarely a positive tempo play unless you disrupt equipping with it or something or hit Oracle of Mul Daya. Envelop is potent, even at two mana, but it is surprisingly low on targets in the cube. There are about 5% sorceries in my cube that cost three or more. You are hardly pulling ahead with this countering Ponders. Ultimately you either blow this on a low value sorcery or creature just to use it or it sits in your hand being useless until you are desperate and use the card quality mode. A decent card when used for and against specific things but as generic filler and utility it is very poor.

Dawn Charm

13. Dawn Charm

This is great in the right kind of deck but there are few of those in cube and none in a drafting cube. Dawn Charm is only good when Fog effects are good for you and Fog effects are only good alongside couple of strategies. It can be OK in combo decks without black or blue (for some mad reason) that want to protect against things like Duress, all be it badly. If you can use it to regenerate something relevant to your combo that also improves it. Generally you just see this as a Fog with some exotic bonus utility.

Izzet Charm12. Izzet Charm

This was a real eye opener in terms of understanding Charm design. I thought this thing would be amazing and it turned out to be unimpressive. Izzet Charm is still very playable but it is rarely a good card. All the effects, while great effects, are one mana things. Blue red is all about efficiency, tempo and streamlining. I want Spell Pierce, one mana burn and card quality effects because they are great at one mana and let me pull ahead. Izzet Charm was so underwhelming in my cube it ultimately only saw play when it was enabling combos as a discard outlet. Izzet Charm has generic effects you want and when you are playing burn, disruption and card quality already you just don't need it. Izzet Charm is never dead and can generally find work for all of its modes with relative ease. The problem is that it has no great swing capacity and no abilities closer to the two mana tag on it. You always get a good one mana spell but a good one mana spell is rarely a good two mana spell (unless it was well above the curve before hand such as Lightning Bolt!). This Charm adds nothing new to a deck nor does it often get great trades due to being that bit over priced.

Evolution Charm11. Evolution Charm

This is a surprisingly good little tool. It is the original Grapple with the Past. Early this finds land and late it gets you action! The comparison somewhat ends there as this can't find you curve plays early nor can it enable graveyard synergies or find non-basic lands. The flying option is cute, it lets you snipe out a pesky attacking flier, go over to take down planeswalkers and even just end the game. While these are all one mana abilities they are on 1G card which is both easy to cast and in a colour with generally good mana production. Evolution Charm also has some blue and black colour pie one drop options. Although not entirely off theme for green having these rarer effects contained in a single colour card is nice. Traverse the Ulvenwald rather did a number on this card  although not a direct upgrade as there is a point at which Regrowth effects outscale Tutor ones. Overall this card is not quite powerful enough without any great supporting synergies. It is a filler tool and one that is a little outclassed these days. Very playable but a little tame.

Temur Charm10. Temur Charm

This card looks weak at first glance and is rather better than that. In the right deck this answers basically everything if it needs to, offers surprisingly good reach and is a generally good tempo card. This is best in a zoo style of deck where it is a pretty reliable removal spell due to the size and number of dorks you have. The can't block mode gives you a pretty good imitation of what a three mana Overrun might achieve and the Mana Leak is just a very rounded piece of disruption. While zoo decks rarely want to leave mana unspent they do have the odd flash creature and they can simply be in such a winning position already that holding a 3 mana Mana Leak is better odds on winning than making some 4 drop threat. Temur zoo is not a common archetype nor does any list pack a high spell count. When this is competing with things like Lightning Bolt it doesn't always make the final list of Termur zoo decks which really is the only place you want it. This is a perfect example of a Charm with some generally useful modes, some very swingy modes, some modes not wildly over priced and a mode which does a rare effect you otherwise are not having access to in a sensible way.

Jeskai Charm9.   Jeskai Charm

Another Charm that at first glance doesn't much excite however in action you gain appreciation for how brutal this card is. None of the modes are actually things you would play as cards on their own, even with reduced cost. Only the burn deck wants face only burn, only weenie decks want global pump and they can do far better than +1/+1 for a turn! The removal option is passable. Oust is in the cube mostly because white lacks spot removal after the big names and it is cheap. Oust is mediocre at one mana so at three it is super limp. I guess a better comparison is Unexpectedly Absent which still isn't considered a great removal spell, merely passable and it hits everything! So what is it that ends up making this a really good card in the right place when its constituent parts seem so weak on their own? Both the face damage and the pump scale very well with alternate options on a card. The removal option is the generally useful one and while it is seemingly weak compared to a lot of removal it is sufficiently effective in the right place. It can be great disruption and a good tempo swing. It will hit any target, it is a one for one, it will not trigger upon death abilities and it isn't too far off the par at that. When you need something gone 3 mana to do so at a 1 for 1 rate isn't a bad deal. Things like Maelstrom Pulse, Hero's Downfall and Vindicate see a lot of play. These broader heavy removal spells are not things you want to have to blow on turn three, you ideally want to hold them to take out a five drop or something. They might seem better than Jeskai Charm as they hit more things than just creatures but the Charm obviously has the other utility to make up for that. If you need it to remove a dork it will do so. When a Vindicate just hits a dork you are not making use of its bonus utility, it is just a sorcery Murder. That is pretty weak sounding but still great when you need it and that is kind of the point with Jeskai Charm. The instant and not going to the graveyard will be advantageous more often than the ability to recast the threat will be an issue.

So the burn mode is great even if it is pretty embarrassing compared to Boros Charm. Three mana for 4 damage at instant speed is a tiny bit above par for direct damage (for any target stuff at least). This is either great reach or great planeswalker control. Not hitting creatures is mitigated by the creature removal option nicely and so this has the feel of a meaty burn spell. Lastly the pump! This is what makes the card more focused, the other two abilities would be good in a control deck but the global pump really wants a good board count. Fortunately Jeskai does a pretty good token prowess thing in cube and in such a list this Charm is terrifying. It also has a somewhat Overrun theme. With so many dorks having prowess this is +2/+2. While it may not outright kill people due to lack of evasion the lifelink is such a huge swing that they can't swing back and will just have to wait there to be finished off. Overall this is good reach with or without a board, a combat trick and a Hero's Downfall. It almost has five modes! While a great card it neither draws cards nor costs less than two which is what prowess decks like to play a lot of if they can.

Rakdos Charm8.   Rakdos Charm

This is a super useful card but it tends to find most of its action in sideboards. Rakdos Charm does only narrow things and so is never a card you just play. It is also as good as what you are playing it against. You cannot build a deck in which it is a good card without knowing what you are up against. (unless... Varchild's War-Riders?) What makes Rakdos Charm so useful is how effectively it counters certain niche things. It can be like playing 3 totally different sideboard cards in one. I have seen it used to Tormod's Crypt Reanimator decks, be a Shatter, and be a delicious counter to Spliter Twin combo all in one. The damage mode is actually pretty scary and well worth the 2 mana more often than you think, you don't have to make a billion Deciever Exarchs for it to be good. You can just bring it in against any creature based deck as a heavy late game finisher. No one ever expects it or seems to play round it. When your Shatter can randomly do 8 damage to the affinity player it starts to seem rather more interesting than Smash to Smithereens.

Azorius Charm7.   Azorius Charm

Super low powered but still good enough. Turns out this is just a cycling removal spell for control decks. It is the Censor of creature kill. Either you just throw this down on whatever curve play they have going on to stall the game or you turn it into a card. The third mode is pretty dead in the control decks that play this. Removal contingent on attacking or blocking is not where aggressive decks want to be. This is the perfect padding for control decks, cheap instant disruption tools that scale well into the late game and are never dead. I hesitate to compare this to Remand due to such a difference in power level but the fundamental reason why they are good is much the same. While this has seen a good amount of play it does feel a lot more like a removal spell with cycling that it does a Charm.

Bant Charm6.   Bant Charm

This one used to confuse me. It seemed terrible yet got loads of play. This is because I was trying to take an average of the abilities for which two of the modes are one mana cards. Analysing the card as such you were never getting more than one and a half mana's worth of action. That is obviously missing the point. I rate the removal option at over two mana worth of effect. It is basically unrestricted on target instant speed exile quality removal. In most cases the returning it to the deck will not be relevant. At two mana that would be one of the premium removal cards in cube and be more desirable than Terminate. At three is it clunky but fine. If the removal mode on Jeskai Charm can help carry it then the one on Bant Charm should carry it and it does basically. The ability to randomly counter something is lovely. You can force something through with it or protect against a lot of removal. While certainly not cheap compared to Dispel it is a powerful option to have on a removal spell. The same goes for the Shatter. It is fantastic insurance that will help massively in some cases while being useless a lot of the time. Bant Charm has a very wide scope of interaction. It is great insurance against a wide array of unpleasant things. It does not matter than the Shatter and Dispel are wildly over priced as they save the day when they are useful. Having Bant Charm in hand and the mana to cast it makes you feel pretty safe.

Dromar's Charm5.   Dromar's Charm

The only old (non-modern) Charm to really cut it in cube at all any more. This card heavily leans on the Counterspell mode to carry it with both other modes being 1 mana effects. Mostly this is just used as a way to get another hard counter into a list without making it too counter heavy. It adds some nice options, low value but situationally useful ones at least. The lifegain is narrow but actually very good, it is like having a sideboard card in your main. Five life is basically a two for one vs most RDW lists and frequently outperforms Absorb. Having a free maindeck SB card vs the best deck in the field is nice. The Disfigure mode is the more general other mode. It is low value but it makes up for the limitations of counter magic well. It mops up some of the smaller things that can slip past countermagic. It is also a good way to ensure you don't get caught with a hand full of counters and nothing much to do. It is a counterspell that can be reactive after the fact. This is the best option when you are in Esper, you want another hard counterspell but you already have used up all the good two mana ones. While it is nice to have a role this card is too niche and too fair to deserve any real cube attention but it has aged very well with that three mana hard counter mode. It is also a rare example of a hard counter for a single blue mana.

Boros Charm4.   Boros Charm

Certainly the Charm with the most powerful single mode. Four face damage at two mana is not easy to come by and is one of the most efficient tools at a burn player's disposal. Of the cheap stand alone cards it is one of the highest damage per card things on offer. Shockingly the other two modes are also very competitively priced. Doublestike is basically a 2 mana ability and making everything indestructible feels like it is also 2 mana or a touch over. Any deck that always wants just one of these things will play it if they can. I have seen Kiln Fiend decks splash white just for this! A fairly rare case of wanting two modes of this thing. Unique among Charms simply for having these over powered modes. Only really made at all fair by the fact that it generally doesn't have an always useful mode.

Esper Charm3.   Esper Charm

This is another pretty underrated card. It has 3 useful modes including a narrow one and an always good one. It also has two good modes in terms of return for the mana. Arguably Esper Charm is the only other Charm alongside Boros that has a mode which is above curve. Drawing 2 for 3 mana cards at instant speed is not something you can do in magic without Ancestral Recall. It will cost you life or require you to have disposable artifacts. Council of the Soratami is an unplayable sorcery but at instant speed you can entirely mitigate tempo losses by representing countermagic. It is one of the most stark changes in card value from gaining flash. Discard two is another great effect for scaling with instant speed. You can easily find sorcery speed versions, better ones too, at two mana however adding the instant tag lets you to hit people in their draw step allowing you to wipe out people's turns and reduce capacity for the effect to become low value or dead. Killing an enchantment isn't great at 3 mana or very often useful but it is always nice to have those more unusual removal options. Every now and again your draw spell answers a game ending Opposition or Sulfuric Vortex and you are very smug about it! Mostly this is a versatile two for one. It is the kind of card every control deck wants to have space for.

Abzan Charm2.   Abzan Charm

While Esper Charm is wonderfully clean and a great example of a well rounded and incredibly playable Charm. it is hard to compete with this beast of a Charm. Abzan Charm does very powerful things that you often want. It has a great spread of abilities keeping it always relevant. It also has the good value never dead draw 2 for 3 mana. The life cost makes it feel like a lot worse of a deal but in these colours it seems about the same as the draw on Esper Charm. Then we have the premium removal option of exiling something 3 power or greater. This solves a lot of problems very well and cost effectively. There are a lot of matchups where you are wise to hold this even when you don't have much else going on because it is one of your only effective answers to certain threats. Lastly we have the +1/+1 counters. This can get a two for one on top of a massive tempo swing. It is very much the ability with the high ceiling on the card. Even just going 1 for 1 is a pretty huge swing when you do it with +1/+1 counters. Your dork remains alive and gets much bigger! There is even potential to gain synergy with the counters. Abzan Charm is reliable value, premium removal or a big swinging combat trick. It ticks all the boxes and is a fine example of a Charm.

Selesnya Charm1.   Selesnya Charm

This is the limp version of Abzan Charm. It does the same sorts of thing a little worse. It is much more playable due to being just the two colours and easily as powerful considering it is 50% cheaper to play as well. While the combat trick and removal modes are very comparable the "never dead" mode on Selesnya Charm is significantly weaker. A 2/2 flash vigilance token for GW and a card isn't something you would be playing. Even a 2/3 or 3/2 likely wouldn't see play. It is still fine and does do more work than you might expect but it is not what you want to be doing with the card. You would certainly rather be drawing two if you could! Ideally you want to kill a Wurmcoil Engine or devastate a combat step with the pump. I still find myself playing this over Dromoka's Command an awful lot. The Command can do a bit more each cast and has a larger pool of options but they are generally less impactful and useful than the Charm. Fighting, even with a +1/+1 counter really doesn't compete to a clean exile! The Command does have a higher ceiling but it also has a lower average performance in cube.