The essence of a rock deck is robustness. It likes to play lots of individually high powered cards often with dual function. Rock decks have the tools to deal with most situations and typically play a spread of such things. This is part of what makes this breakdown a bit of a mess to categorize, all the best rock cards fulfill several of the desired roles at once. The Rock has many strengths; Depth of card pool is one. Often long and grindy games allowing for lots of outplay potential is another. A very even spread of matchup win percentages across the board combined with a potent ability to hedge against specific things if needed. It has no large weaknesses and can compensate for them should you wish.
There are no strict guidelines with building rock as it is so diverse. You can have an 8-8-8 curve, a 4-5-5-3-3-2-2 curve and anything in between. Likely those polar examples are not even the furthest you can go in either direction and still retain a viable tier one list. Basically all rock lists play ramp in some form or another. They don't go overboard on it as it makes them vulnerable to mass removal and bad late game top decks. The amount and style of ramp varies given what you are doing with your list. Ideally most of the ramp is one mana ramp as that is the best thing about green. You don't have loads of good one mana cards on offer outside the mana dorks and that is another reason you typically want a bunch of them. If you want your rock deck to have a higher curve you should play more ramp, more value cards and more defensive things, both removal and creatures with better defense than offence. The most aggressive lists typically have the least ramp and least removal/disruption.
Most rock decks play a high creature count, those that don't tend to be heavier black as so many of the cube green cards are creatures. This lets them control the board pretty well and retain a good threat density. Often they will use their creatures to perform many of the other required roles in the deck from disruption, to ramp, to removal, to generating ongoing value. The more your rock deck shifts from an aggressive deck to a midrange one on to a control one the more you will be using your creatures in these multi role capacity. The aggressive lists will typically have more cheap dorks with a higher count of pure threats.
Rock decks blend seamlessly into many archetypes. Ramp and Blood Artistry decks if taken to the tall or wide extremes. Equally you can add any colour and retain a very rock like quality to the deck. Jund, Abzan and Sultai all have very rock builds within their extensive ranges. You can go even split if your mana is good or you can just splash. Obviously the latter are the most rock like, and typically the Abzan splash the most so. I am not going to cover the cards outside of Golgari colours mostly for space reasons. I am not even covering any where close to the viable cards for this archetype within its colours commonly found in cubes! The hope is that you can extrapolate the value and place of unmentioned cards given the spread of info in this article. Doing this article has however really driven home for me how much the rock is a deck that thrives on experience and information. When you know people, and their skill, play style, draft style, likely choices, tells. When you know something of the meta and are intimate with the cube you are playing, indeed, when you are just very familiar with magic, if you are the kind of person that has lived and breathed it then you are exactly the kind of person who can work wonders with a rock deck. They might look a bit easy mode and a bit clunky but it is an archetype that lets you find little edges all over the place. It is stunningly rewarding of experience and information. Much more so than skill even though they are linked. Certainly the rock scales with a skillful pilot but not as much as many other archetypes and not nearly as much as it does for experience and information, which is rare. With that in mind I would say that this article will only point you in the right direction, to truly excel as a pilot for a rock deck you just need to put in a whole lot of hours. When you have thousands of games with rock decks under your belt then you can legitimately run a deck without any bad matchups.
Of the cards most commonly tempting people into their third colour in a rock deck you will find most to be gold. Things like Kolaghan's Command and Lingering Souls are just too tasty to be easily resisted! I would say the best rock lists, not in any shocking reveal at all, are the midrange ones employing the greatest number of individually powerful cards! That is why the three colour decks shine, they have some lovely high powered extras. While the options for building your rock decks go mental with extra colours the build isn't that much more complicated. You are just typically replacing existing cards within a role with more powerful ones. With that in mind let us start the individual card breakdown.
Llanowar Elf / Fyndhorn Elf / Elvish Mystic 7.5
A good solid rock card. Turn one ramp is fairly premium and the rock can turn weak late game dorks into value in loads of ways. While this trio is not the best of the one mana ramp it is plenty good enough. I generally want 3 ramp effects in my rock deck and will happily take more if I have the cards for it. There is a near seamless blend from ramp lists into rock lists so you really can pack as many of these things as you like and have the top end and synergies for. Having a high number of your ramp cards only producing green does change what things you want to play, It makes BB and 1BB cards a little less comfortable.
Birds of Paradise 9
The premium ramp one drop. While decently better than most other ramp it is not so critical that you pick it over other things you are lacking. While I rarely pass up a BoP, if I already have loads of one drop ramp and no removal or top end I could easily see myself taking the Fatal Push or Grave Titan instead. There is enough redundancy in ramp within the cube and the rock is fine with most of it. That is one of the strengths of the rock, you don't have to pick certain top rate cards when you see them as you have alternatives. The right mix of average cards will outperform a bid mix of better ones.
Noble Hierarch 8
A little better than Llanowar and co but a little worse than BoP. Exalted is great but not as great as tapping for black mana. If you are paying white, or even blue obviously these jump up in value but they still don't top the Bop. The prevalence of Rock and Jund decks in cube is a huge part of why I rate BoP as a better card in cube overall than Hierarch despite that being the reverse of the case in modern.
Elves of Deep Shadow 8.5
Tapping for black makes this nearly as good as BoP. Pain and lack of green ensure it isn't. I can't see a situation where it is this or Noble Hierarch in a deck but if it were my final choice would depend on my colour split and fixing situation. I expect I would generally end up with the Elves of Deep Shadow. Make no mistake though, this is all on colour prodcution, exalted is far better than an extra power in almost all cases. You might take it into account if you are creature light and also running vehicles.
Arbor Elf 5
This elf is often either the worst or the best of the one mana ramp dorks. When you have all the Bayou style duals and sac lands to find them then this Elf consistently taps for whatever you need without pain and with some of its own power. Usually this isn't the case and this is just an inconsistent Llanowar.
Avacyn's Pilgrim 6
This jumps right up in value when you actually want white but a colourless mana dork isn't the worst. Play this if you need to make up numbers in your ramp and one slot. By extension, a Boreal Druid is comparable to this in your non-white decks. It is very rare you want to look at cards like Thought-Knot Seer in a rock deck. You don't need to introduce inconsistencies for effects you can already use. I have never had a snow theme outside of Skred in cube either so unless we revisit that mechanic some time that element seems of little value!
Joraga Tree Speaker 6
Great ramp but rather dependent on your curve and the like. In a deck with lots of green two drops and a good chunk of five drops then Tree Speaker is better than Llanowar Elf. If you can't play many of your two drops off the back of a leveled Tree Speaker turn two and you have a list heavy on the three slot then I would much rather a Llanowar, which is the norm. This is slightly higher risk higher reward ramp. It does shine above other one drop ramp on occasion but those situations are less common.
Deathrite Shaman 9.5
This is just a nutty over powered card. I'd take this over most things even when it isn't good ramp. When you have loads of sac lands and discard outlets Deathrite is pretty close to a BoP in the mana production department. If not it doesn't matter, the graveyard disruption, reach and lifegain are still usually enough to carry it. Obviously you want this to ramp and so it increases the value of some other cards that empower that aspect of it. I can't see not running this even if I expect it not to ramp although it might only be an 8/10 card then!
Search for Tomorrow 6
One mana ramp that has an extra turn of summoning sickness compared to an elf. As such this is better suited to decks lighter on the 3 slot which isn't super common for the rock. While this isn't as effective as an Elf it is still a one mana ramp card and has pretty high value at that. If you are playing much mass removal this pretty much jumps to being premium one drop ramp card but that is fairly rare.
Wild Growth 6.5
There isn't loads of land disruption in my cube and so this is a whole lot safer than your basic elf. You can play around Wastelands quite easily if needed and I banned Strip Mine. Rishadan Port and Tamiyo are the most annoying counters to this kind of ramp in my cube. They are far less common than the things that kill off mana dorks. The reason this gets a lower rating than the basic elves is a general lack of synergy. You cannot turn Wild Growth into alternate value or utility while loads of cards will do that for the elves. The elves can attack and block too which is a thing! As with the Search, this is better than elves in a list with a bunch of mass removal but being a rarity the elves win out. Delirium is a consideration for these cards but you need things to get them in the bin, they don't do so themselves like a Vessel of Nascency or Unbridled Growth. Delirium is also a far less common consideration than generic creature synergies.
Utopia Sprawl 3
The Arbor Elf of enchantment ramp. If you are pretty confidant of hitting an early forest then this card is very good. If not the card is trash. Quite confident on your forest doesn't really cut it either hence this having a below par rating. Cute with cards like the Arbor Elf and Garruk Wildspeaker for that extra ramp as with Wild Growth but generally left out of the party.
You can't go too far wrong with Explore. It is my general all round favourite two drop ramp card. It is much better late game than the rest and also helps you out with non-basic lands. It might not be the most reliable ramp but no ramp is great when you are also failing to make lands from hand, that sort of misses the point of ramping. Explore doesn't have any really bonus synergies in rock as many of the creature ramp cards do but it is still a fine all round card. I play this as filler if I need to so it is more dual purpose than other non creature ramp cards.
Nature's Lore 5
This is great in the rock too, it will fix if you have Bayou/Tomb and it only costs effectively one mana as the land comes in untapped. With lots of other cheap cards on offer this can really help power you out. You make an Elf on turn one you can make this and a two drop on turn two for example. There are a number of other ramp spells that do this, Explore for one should you have untapped land to make!
Farseek / Rampant Growth 4
Coming in tapped makes this always cost two mana and that makes them only OK. Play these if you are top heavy, have a weak mana base or really lack two drops and ramp. They get the job done but they are very fair. Be more willing to lose three drops for four drops when leaning on these kind of two mana ramp cards as well.
Lotus Cobra 5
This card ranges from utterly bonkers to a bit of a liability. When your god ramp draw of Treespeaker into turn two Cobra is countered by an Arc Trail you appreciate the very real cost of 2 mana 1 toughness dorks. While Cobra is more vulnerable than some other ramp it has way more pros than cons overall. It can double ramp with a fair number of cards, it can ramp the turn it comes into play, it can ramp and still get involved in combat, it is fixing and so on. Being able to chump or trade, buff and beatdown with Cobra just makes it a load more value and utility than most other ramp can offer. Cobra is a better zoo card but it is still very good in the rock and can be silly good with the right support (and not facing red players!).
Wall of Roots 5.5
The last of the ramp cards on this list that can produce mana the turn you make them. This is also a little bit Lotus Cobra in that it is also a useful body while being a mana source. It can also be "double" ramp if you can make use of mana in both yours and their turns. Mostly this is a great way to stay safe and develop the board while also ramping. It is one of your best anti aggro tools early.
Sakura-Tribe Elder 6
The other Wall of Roots. This only blocks once but it has a bunch of other utility. Mostly you just play this as a Rampant Growth that Fogs one attacker. Every now and again you make use of the 1/1, perhaps to trade or the Skullclamp. Sometimes you might need it to crew etc. While not overly powerful the suitability and all rounde usefulness of this card carry it a lot. Ramp and the ability to pull lands from your deck on the back of a creature is also really nice for abuse with cards like Recurring Nightmare, or Genesis back in the day! Absolutely Tribe Elder is the card I have most often bought back to my hand with Genesis.
Sylvan Caryatid 6
Another fantastic anti aggro card. This is a super safe blocker and will negate one early attacker. It is pretty much a Suspension Field that taps for mana, has hexproof and can move onto another target! This is slow ramp but it is reliable, fixes and has significant defensive utility.
Devoted Druid 5.5
The more top end that you have the better this gets. Just that one extra double ramp in a game can be a huge aid to curving and tempo. The drawback of Devoted Druid is that it is vulnerable compared to the other two drops, as well as lower utility in most other aspects. A Llanowar Elf provides as much ramp as a Devoted Druid over a game of the same length assuming that game goes beyond turn three and the Druid uses the double ramp. Devoted Druid adds later curving flexibility while Llanowar lets you get out of the gates quicker. A big reason you see less of Devoted Druid in cube than the one drop ramp dorks is due to their being far more competition for deck space in the two slot than the one slot. Functionally Devoted Druid is far closer in power to Llanowar Elf than you might think. If I have several five drops and at least something in the six or seven slot then I will be looking to include cards like this in my deck. Typically my rock lists have one or two five drops at the top which makes this less appealing. I prefer mana sinks in my cheaper cards to absorb usage in the late game to running expensive cards. That is not to say big rock decks don't work well, they are equally good, just less my preference. Card quality becomes more important in the bigger costed decks as well.
Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary 4
Pretty overrated Rock card. For this to be strong you need to reliably have over 50% of your lands as forests. If you can't tap this for at least two mana then it sucks. Ideally you want it to tap for more but that in itself causes problems. If you can expect to milk two or three mana from your Emissary then you are going to need top end to support that mana else you will be over producing and might as well be running cheaper or safer ramp cards. If you increase your decks cost you need to support that with other ramp cards. Rofellos is so extreme he is fairly hard to balance in building. Either he dies and you have too many pricey cards and lose that way or he lives and you run out of gas too fast. Obviously the payoff is that when the stars do align he is immense power and wins the game all by himself but that is less often than you might hope.
Channeler Initiate 4.5
Just a fine card, a bit of fixing with your ramp and then a relevant body at the end of it all. Not high powered at any point but well suited to the cube environment. The choice to play a card like this or a Rampant Growth card would very much depend on the rest of the build. I might want more bodies, I might want spells to empower delirium.
Rishkar, Peema Renegade 7
Much as I don't overly rate 3 mana ramp this is also tempo and utility. It is the mini Verdurous Gearhulk and it just sets you up really well. Either it keeps you safe or it lets you have a huge next turn. You do want a good cheap creature count to run this as it is a touch sad when you have to make it onto an empty board. It is even a tiny bit bad when you have to counter up something that already taps for mana but you get over it fast! A good all round card with a nice high power level. This should probably just be in the cheap dorks section as I totally think of it as a threat before a ramp card. One under valued aspect of this card is that it can essentially be two hasted power which affords a lot of planeswalker control. Golgari colours are not flush with great haste dorks and so people often feel safe passing on a stable board.
Wood Elves / Yavimaya Dryad 3.5
These are both nice little cards. Wood Elves is a touch easier to cast and you can use the land right away. Dryad is a more relevant body. While I don't normally like 3 mana ramp cards a couple of things make these pretty solid filler in rock. Your five slot is chock and full of power and these help you get there nicely. You also have a lot of one mana ramp so these come down on turn two sometimes. These are a useful little two for one that gives you useful champ or sacrificial bodies. Rock likes cards that do all its jobs, or as many as possible at once. This is value, ramp and board development with potential creature synergies to boot. That makes them very well suited to being filler when the right conditions occur.
Oracle of Mul Daya 5
This is more of a value card than a ramp card really. While it does happen it is not the norm to go wild consistently making two lands are turn with this. The effect is slightly better than Courser of Kruphix but the extra mana and two less toughness make this a bit of a risk in rock decks. Get this Shocked and you are so sad. With decent shuffle, perhaps a Sylvan Library, and some 6/7 drop area top end this can be great. As value it is unreliable and very low tempo, as ramp it is unreliable and too late in the day.
Fatal Push 8
Premium cheap spot removal. Staying afloat early can be an issue against tempo decks and this is the perfect tool against that. There are very few iterations of rock where I wouldn't play this and only then with silly themed rock decks that don't have enough space for generic good cards. If you have only one spot (somehow?) for a removal spell you are probably better off making it a Maelstrom Pulse or similar. Broader range and more reliable kill is what you need when you have few out cards. Odd to say it but the slower your rock build the more value this gains. It is good in every build but it is superb in the midrange and control builds. If you are packing early threats you should expect them to outclass other early plays. You would probably get more value out of a Mutagenic Growth in most aggressive builds. That being said, it is no fun losing to a Mother of Runes so really just don't leave home without your Fatal Push!
This is an underrated fill in card that you use to sure up a sketchy early game against aggressive decks. If you fear people making one drops on you then this and a number of cards like it are decent pick ups. They scale pretty poorly and reduce your win rate against slower decks but you have to make the call on how you want to balance your list and where you think your strong enough. This is my favourite of the non Fatal Push one mana removal spells on offer but the choices are wide. The golden oldie Paralyze is still surprisingly good for example. Tragic Slip is the best for scaling but does fail to kill a number of the scary early threats. Innocent Blood has some merits but generally your creature count is far too high for such things to be good. Mostly I get by with just this and Push and pricier removal. I did an article on Push vs Disfigure and found Push to be mildly weaker on average but I do have a mild preference for Push in rock for a couple of reasons. Revolt is typically easier to get in rock decks than most other archetypes. The ability to slowly plan out a line of plays also favours Push a little with its more potent upper range.
Tragic Slip 6.5
In much the same way that revolt is typically easier in rock decks, so it morbid and as such the rock is one of the best homes for Tragic Slip. It is often the tool you need as it does a couple of roles. It kills a lot of those turn one plays that can put you behind, other peoples ramp, Mother of Runes, a 2/1 etc. While it is a lot worse than Disfigure and Push at those things it does cover you on that critical turn one before your Doom Blade level removal kicks in. Then, unlike those other one mana removal spells Slip will offer sufficient scaling to kill pretty much anything you need it to. It is fairly soft cheap removal and fairly demanding late game removal but it does at least do both. It can help sure up an extreme you are concenred about without weakening you to other extremes.
Abrupt Decay 8.5
While this is an 8.5 for effect is certainly isn't for pick priority due to being gold. If you are playing rock you want to be the only person in Golgari at the table. While you have one of the greatest depths in card pool of any archetype it is still bad when people are in your colour pair. You will lose lands and you will have diminished pick and build options. One of the great strengths of rock lists is the ability to fine tune them and you lose that with people in your exact colours. Regardless of that this is a great cover all removal spell. It keeps you nice and safe in the early game and retains decent utility into the late game. The best way to avoid randomly losing to a Sulphuric Vortex, Shackles, or Jitte. Just try and wheel it rather than picking it over a green or black card.
Go for the Throat 7.5
A good solid removal spell. Not quite as broad or efficient as Fatal Push in the early game but rather better scaling into the late game. I am always perfectly happy to run this, it was pretty much the premium removal spell until Fatal Push. This has nearly a 90% hit rate in cube which is decent.
Dissenter's Deliverance 6.5
Always a better inclusion than a bad card and often a good way to just help sure up curve and land ratios. You lose very little by playing this and it covers you well in a number of ways. Fine tuning the build is one just mentioned, the obvious out to problem artifacts being the main perk, but also just easing the tension on other removal in your deck. You will think twice about using an Abrupt Decay just to keep the tempo stable on some dork on turn two if it is your only out to artifacts in the deck but if you also have Deliverance in your list then you are much happier using your broader removal when you want it.
Doom Blade 5
Also a good solid removal spell but a little less reliable than Go for the Throat. There are just more black dorks than artifact ones even if you are a significant part of the black drafters at the table. The main downside to this in a rock deck is that other viable and generally better cards also have the same target restriction. A dead card now and again is manageable but having two dead cards is so gross. I would always rather have me a Shriekmaw than a Doomblade and so the value of this drops again. Doom Blade effects hit a bit over 80% of things in my cube but this should effectively rise as you take away black creatures from the pool.
Ultimate Price 7.5
Yet more solid removal. Two mana to hit most things at instant speed is pretty fair. Fair cheap interactive cards are how you turn most games into games and allow for playskill to really shine through. You rarely want more than a couple of limited range (or indeed creature only) spot removal spells in your rock list but that is just because there is so much to fit in! In my cube this is about as restrictive as Doom Blade (just over 80% hit rate) but of course doesn't share the bad scaling with other non-black removal. Ultimate Price just always seems to rip me off, the thing I want to kill is always gold and every deck seems to have gold things in them despite me culling them ruthlessly from the cube! On paper this is great but my experience of it is less ideal.
Malcious Affliction 6
The better Doom Blade! While that may be so the BB casting cost is a serious consideration. These cards gain a lot of value from their ability to shut down things early, if you can't play this turn two, even three, with good consistency then the extra jazz isn't worth it at all. Filter Lands, things like Elves of Deep Shadow and of course Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth all make this far more playable. As do cards like Sakura Tribe Elder giving you the trigger on demand. First strike dudes are good for this too, as are any cheap spot removal cards really. When you get a 2 for 1 with this, particularly in the midgame it is utterly game winning. It happens less often than you would like. This is mostly just a fine one for one removal spell with an onerous cost and a potentially brutal upside. People rarely play around it either.
Cast Down 4
A passable card but frustratingly unreliable. You never know when a legend is popping up. There are increasingly large numbers of them and they tend to be the better creatures. While this might kill black dorks and thus in theory have better scaling with a number of key black removal spells it turns out that in practice this is a lower quality removal spell than the figures would suggest. Play this if you are light on removal and have no alternatives, otherwise avoid. It is like a bad version of Ultimate Price!
Diabolic/Chainer's Edict 2
The value of Edicts has diminished over time. Creatures got better, more cheaper ones get played. Loads of things make tokens as well. Early on edicts are just fine removal. Late game they are either total dead weight or pretty good. They are best against indestructible and hexproof fatties but they are not so common that you play unreliable removal to cover that side of things. These gain value if you have mass removal options but I rarely look to Edicts these days. If you know your matchups than you can more readily assess their potency. In the right meta they are more potent than Doom Blade style cards, just not on average.
Nasty little card but rarely something you have the luxury of playing. I would only look to this if I had some mana denial theme within my list. Sinkhole very much scales with other mana denial effects, it is only OK on its own and only really good if you get it early and on the play or against someone screwed while being fairly aggressive yourself. As a stand alone card it is too much of a dud draw late. Even with just a Waste Lands in your list Sinkhole starts to look a fair bit better. Great sideboard tool against a Colonnade or Wolf Run but rarely a maindeck card, you have to be aggressive or mana denial themed to be worth it. With you wanting discard effects more than this and both having the same sort of bad scaling you have to restrict yourself. Deck spaces are so tight that even if I did want outs to utility lands I would try and play a Field of Ruin or something over this.
Far narrower than Sinkhole but along the same lines. If you don't have a mana denial theme then this is likely not going to get it done. Smallpox can be brutal, it can enable some of your own graveyard themes while killing land and creatures of your opponents. When this is good it is hard to beat but it is an awkward card and not something you should play as a stand alone ever.
Nameless Inversion 3.5
An OK early removal spell with some nice perks to it. While this has far worse scaling than Doom Blade style cards it is a better early game removal card and it has the potential to add more to your plan. The +3 attack can be useful and I am sure there are occasions where removing a creature type will have significance... The real reason you chose to play this is when you have delirium style cards including Emrakul and Tarmogoyf in that list.
Vampire Hexmage 6.5
This little card continues to impress me. I typically play it as an extra tool against planeswalkers but then love the self sac utility, the first strike, the counterplay to things like Hangarback Walker and so forth. The card is just good utility and pleasantly cheap. The only real issue is the BB cost which requires a great mana base if you want to have it in play on turn two.
Walking Ballista 8.5
Great little card and a great fit in this kind of midrange deck. Black and green don't really have direct damage and so Ballista is not only good but it is filling niche roles as well. Great mana dump, great utility and reasonable all round control. We all presently know how good this card is in most places!
Ratchet Bomb / Powder Keg 4
Not ideal cards for this kind of deck but increasling necessary. If you don't get a premium mass removal option to combat the weenie and go wide token decks then you are really grateful when one of these shows up. Sadly they are pretty hard to get great value with against other archetypes either being painfully slow to remove the required thing, pretty symmetrical in total things killed, or just not really taking down high value targets.
Umezawa's Jitte 7
I am not a huge fan of equipment in my midrange decks. To really want this I would want hand disruption and information giving cards complemented with some extra resilient dorks and a solid overall creature count. In those settings Jitte is pretty busted. In a deck with soft dorks and not very many of them Jitte can cost you games. It is reach, removal and lifegain. The card is pretty hard to face and impossible to beat in a fair creature driven battle. Often rammed in for power level reasons but increasingly it is becoming wrong to do so.
Much better in a powered cube where it will hard counter a lot of decks and will reliably have targets. In an unpowered affair this is rather less exciting. The body and its effect isn't worth losing the utility other three mana removal cards can offer. It is often a dead card for much of the early and mid game and can ultimately get played without targets out of necessity.
Reclamation Sage 3
This is rather weak these days. The body is very weak and this doesn't always have targets. You can't just make it without killing something without falling (further) behind. It is not so great value when you do get it off on something that it swings the game. It keeps you safe against a number of cards but I would much rather have things like Abrupt Decay and Mealstrom Pulse doing those things for me that having to resort to this. The removal on a dork aspect has some useful synergies but I think you need to know you are facing artifacts or can't beat some you expect to see as well as having synergies to make this worth it.
This is a bit much really. Rarely are you aggressive enough to ignore the life cost. You want one mana removal to be better against the aggressive decks and doing yourself 4 is not that helpful there. This is nice and flexible, it has one of the widest take down ranges of black removal and has the option to be used cheaply and options never make cards worse. Certainly a fine card but I would usually rather just a Go for the Throat or a Disfigure as appropriate. This is about the worst deck for the card and it is still well above average!
Mealstrom Pulse 8.5
This is your main safety button. This will kill any problem dead. It even has the added bonus of being able to take out all of a like kind of token. If someone goes all in on Lingering Souls they can be handled by this. This is the rocks versions of Council's Judgement and is quite acceptable at that. It is not an exciting card, it is pretty fair but it is the kind of tool you want. It is a very space conserving card offering so much of your removal needs in one.
Heroes Downfall 7.5
The lower range on this does make it rather less appealing than Pulse, as does the casting cost. Instant is always lovely but against walkers it isn't that great, it doesn't stop a trigger. It is also hard to trick people and gain much tempo with your instant spot removal spell when it is three mana. This is just another fine option on removal. It is a good card, it hits the vast majority of important threats. The lower your dork count and the more they lean on the defensive side the better this gets as your need of killing walkers increases.
Ruinous Path 6
Just a fine card. It kills the majority of threats and does so at a fair price. If you have enough other Disenchant effects in your deck there is little difference between this and Maelstrom Pulse in power. The awaken is surprisingly useful in midrange decks with ramp. I have had some Glorybringer moments with Path in the late game.
Never / Return 6
The other ruinous path and probably a touch better overall although still too close to rate differently. Some useful, if low power graveyard disruption is nice. A bonus 2/2 is better than nothing as well. This is a lower power card than Ruinous Path but it is better utility and it makes its extra functionality available far sooner in the game. Where this and Ruinous Path are at their worst compared to other three mana removal is against vehicles and manlands. That is where you pay the real price for sorcery speed. Be mindful of that shortfall in construction. Having Ruinous Path instead of Pulse or Downfall say would make me far keener to run a Dissenter's Deliverance and a Rishadan Port so as to appropriately increase my countering tools.
Thrashing Brontodon 8
A great new addition for midrange green players. This is exactly the sort of thing you want to make off the back of a one drop mana dork. This blocks very well, attacks pretty well and is hardy enough in the face of removal. The mere existence of this card in the cube format has made the clunkier removal that hits just creatures and planeswalkers rather better. You don't need that Disenchant functionality on your removal so urgently as you have this fine card to cover you. It is not a concession in any way running this as it very much is with Reclamation Sage and that is why it helps so much and is so good for and in the archetype.
Artifacts are typically a more useful thing to have a removal option on than planeswalkers in a deck like the rock, particularly if you don't have any other spot removal for either. There is generally greater diminishing returns on artifact removal than planeswalker removal so you don't need loads but it is no fun losing to a single card you don't have an answer for in the deck. Planeswalkers are also something you can just kill in combat rather than needing spot removal to handle them. This is easier to cast than Downfall and also prevent's regeneration! Not the broadest nor the cheapest removal on offer but plenty effective and a good piece of insurance. A less common card to see in cubes these days but still an appropriate card. What it has over all other three mana broad removal other than Downfall is the ability to kill manlands. This is the best spot removal spell as such to pair with Damnation etc as it kills all the creature like things those cards miss.
Slaughter Pact 3
A fine enough card when you need that sort of thing. It is sadly worse than Dark Banishing in most cases. Three is never a good deal on removal and you are almost always paying three for your Pact and usually in a way that is more inconvenient to your game plan. It is fairly rare to get those huge blowout moments when you get value from the free spell. Best case is making a big swing turn in which you not only kill one of their walkers they didn't anticipate but you get to lay one of your own. These things do happen but not as often as you might like for your otherwise subpar Dark Banishing. Mostly I am only running this to make up for lack of removal.
Beast Within 1
I think this is terrible removal for the rock. Part of the appeal of being in Golgari colours is the ability to deal with everything and fairly efficiently. You can just easily cobble together the cards that do what this does without having to give away 3/3 dorks. I would play this if I had nothing else in my removal pool but I would be very sad about it.
Bone Shredder 5
Better than it looks. You rarely pay the echo cost for this, usually it kills something and chumps another buying you a good amount of time. Being one of the cheapest removal effects on a dork this has good general synergies despite being fairly low power. There are many things that find and recur dorks and so you can go to town with this against some decks. Fine as a stand alone but only something I would want in a deck with lots of things that work well with it.
Song of the Dryads 2
A less severe drawback than Beast Within but a sorcery speed removal that can be undone with a Demistify effect. Not what you want but you can do worse. Also better to have some answers than none.
Pernicious Deed 7
Shockingly this has fallen off loads in value of late. It is just actually quite a huge mana investment. Either it kills most of both players stuff or it is too slow to do enough because you don't have any ramp! Deed takes two turns to do its thing and that is quite the big investment. Deed hard counters a lot of combos, it is great against man lands and cheeky Entreat the Angels win conditions. This also hard counters weenie go wide strategies. It is great against loads but it is hard to include and weaker against the present unpowered cube meta than you would expect. The control lists really want this, the midrange ones however often skip it favouring spot removal that won't blow up your own stuff. Or simply cheaper more direct mass removal cards. Without some tutoring for Deed it is hard to rely on what it can bring to a deck in cube. It is good with but bad against planeswalkers as a general rule.
Toxic Deluge 7.5
Go wide strategies are effective in cube and can get a bit out of hand unless you get a great opener. Lots of things also just generate a load of tokens. This is less general than Pernicious Deed but it is typically more effective. It is just a lot less mana to kill things and that is a big help. Controllable mass removal is just nice in general as you have so many of your own permanents that you ideally want to avoid killing! While many of these mass removal options are getting high scores they are a bit of a burden on builds. Most have different mechanisms of action and all require a lot of consideration. The creature only mass removal favour land or enchantment ramp over elves. Toxic Deluge favours high toughness creatures like Courser of Kruphix and Wall of Roots and so on. Your whole deck has to adapt and rebalance itself after said adaption. In some ways the less potent mass removal effects, typically the artifact options like Keg and Explosives, are better as they require least building around. They ask less of a deck and pose less threat to your own cards and so can be more just tossed in to cover potential problem scenarios. Toxic Deluge puts the least burden on decks out of the powerful mass removal cards. Deluge is so much more controllable that the other mana efficient mass removal cards while also being so much more powerful than the other controllable mass removal effects.
Damnation 1 or 8!
More expensive and less control than Deluge. This is great in the super creature light builds but given the number of dorks in green and black it is normal for rock decks to be heavy creatures. If you are spell and planeswalker heavy and much of your ramp is land based then this is at least an 8/10 card. If you are just the typical rock deck it is more like a 1. It is one of those cards that is very good but only when you are a fairly specific build. An average score would be useless as it would be accurate for 0% of occasions. Even so, it would be much nearer 1, like 1.5 at most because so few rock decks are those that want a Wrath.
Vraska's Contempt 6
Powerful and effective but savagely costly. Four drops can usually start to threaten winning the game. This is just a one for one answer card. Absolutely play this if you don't have enough removal or effective removal. You always want a really certain hard answer and this is one of your most certain options on such things.
Snuff Out 2
Costly as a free spell, poor scaling with other black removal, super inefficient to cast normally and generally not the card you want. Better than no removal but better than basically no other removal spell you commonly find in cubes.
A classic rock style of thing. This is a 2 for 1, a utility creature, a removal card and a decent tempo play. While it doesn't kill everything it has to be a 7/7 or bigger to still challenge the 3/3 on your side! The lack of target restriction on this, even if it doesn't always fully kill stuff, is really nice. Many other good black 187 dorks have the Terror restrictions, that or they are Edicts.
Ravenous Chupacabra 8
An outstanding new tool for black than shines brightest in this kind of setting. It is a perfect utility card for the archetype. Having valuable utility on the back of a creature has many perks. It allows for abuse with things like Recurring Nightmare. The green card quality effects tend to find creatures and so it ups the power and utility of those kinds of card. It is also just a nice clean two for one. Despite the weak body Chupacabra is already one of the best 187 dorks simply because it has no target restrictions and always kills the target rather than just shrinking it. Chupacabra just gets things dead. It is what green wants to have as an ally. You play these cards for the removal, the body is gravy. Sure, a Skinrender is a bit bigger but a 3/3 for four is still bad. The body is there for synergies and some presence. It is gravy. It is the small portion of the card. So yes, it might be 50% more than Chupacabra but that is only a small fraction of what you are really paying for. The removal aspect only has to be a small percentage better to still outweigh that 50% difference in body size and the Terminate to Last Gasp comparison is a lot more separated than just a couple of percent!
So last in this group of four drop 187 dorks we have the original and worst. It is worst because Terror is worse than Terminate and generally also Last Gasp. The scaling with other black removal is worst for Nekrataal and having a card like this ever dead in hand is horrific. While Skinrender may not always kill a thing it is always still playable and almost always gets to impose a 6/6 swing on the board in stats. A floor level Nekrataal is an Elvish Archer for twice the price which no one wants.
Acidic Slime 5.5
Removal for the rarer things. This is a Disenchant or a Stone Rain. The latter is a massive part of what makes this good. Not only is it very possible to make this on turn three in a rock deck (and as such be quite scary as land destruction) but it ensures this always has targets. This solves annoying utility and man land issues as well as all the problems cards you typically want those Naturalize's for. The Deathtouch also really helps this otherwise meager body to get work done. Removal options on dorks is nice for ease of tutoring and recursion. Rock decks do really want access to Naturalize effects but due to how situational they can be and how sensitive rock is to that sort of thing you want it on cards that have other uses and avoid being dead. Acidic Slime is exactly that sort of card but it is also just a utility value removal spell and it is in the highly contested five slot. I would much rather have bonkers power level cards in my five slot and have my Disenchant's covered by Maelstrom Pulse and Abrupt Decay. I am always happy to play the Slime, it is what I have to cut for it that will makes me sad.
A superbly convenient card. Early this solves a lot of problems yet unlike a lot of your early game cards this has a lot more relevance in the mid and late game. Not only does this kill ever bigger things as the game goes on but it is an actually relevant threat with the evasion being annoyingly effective. Being a creature is also lovely as so many things allow you to reuse this thing with ease letting you milk the cheap spell feel efficiency early and then the value of the whole package later. This card card devastate a lot of midrange decks. Sadly it is about as weak as it gets against black decks both losing the evasion and having restricted or no targets.
Wretched Confluence 8.5
This thing is a total beating. It is a little hard to include being both a five drop and a spell but it rarely disappoints. It is huge late game gas with draw and Raise Dead modes. It hugely increases your threat density and ability to make use of key creatures. It is a surprisingly effective removal spell able to take out multiple things at once and devastate combats with its instant speed. Indeed, the five mana cost is a lot less painful with this being instant. Being able to leave mana up is not just relevant for blue decks and Wretched Confluence capitalizes on that very well. I have seen this burn people out multiple times as well. Really really good card. The more juicy creatures you have that can own certain matchups the better it gets too. Just so long as you do have some other top end threats and you are not too top heavy you should try and play this. Initially that scared me as I wanted game enders in my top end. What I found was that this just got me back two great threats when that was the needed thing.
Card disadvantage can be an issue for rock decks but certainly not all of them. If you are heavy black and want a way to sure up your early game versus aggressive decks then this is one of the best tools for the job. It is able to kill two dorks but does so significantly less than Arc Trial, like half of the time at best, and a very small fraction of the time if we are only counting actual two for one plays. When this isn't killing or effectively killing (reducing a vanilla dorks power to 0) two creatures it is just worse than a Disfigure. On average I would say rock decks slightly lean on the green side of things on average making this a little harder to use.
Murderous Cut 5
Amazing midgame removal in a delirium shell. Actually better use of delve in a deck than creatures I would say. Great as an answer that hits all the things, less good in that you can rarely use it in the first few turns. Play this if you only have soft removal or if you are light on removal or if you have a good deal of self mill and grave yard filling support cards.
Sky Sovereign, Consul Flagship 4
A bit reliant on support for a top end card and a little limited on range as a removal tool. This is good as a flier and as a way of protecting yourself against mass removal but you need not only a high creature count to run this but ideally also one with a lot of dorks that can solo crew this. I find this is best in Bant coloured decks which are either lacking in removal or have less in the way of low end repeatable effects. Black and red tend to have more than enough things that kill to need to lean on a card like this. Oddly you can use this card to hedge in several ways which probably means it is well designed. It makes up for a lack of removal nicely, it gives you some really good reach and it protects against some spot and most mass removals. Powerful tool but less consistent than I like from my five drops and a card you need to make build concessions for.
Vraska the Unseen 3
Mostly this is just an overcost Maelstrom Pulse. It is lovely when you can milk this for two Pulses but expect her to get attacked whenever you -3 over +1. Also, the ultimate is total garbage. This is just a slow source of removal. After the initial buffer of loyalty is spent so to speak this is a Pulse every 4 turns. Not hot. Rounded removal is nice, this is better than going bare into the night without any answer cards but Vraska is expensive sorcery speed removal in your value five slots. Don't be fooled into thinking this is a win condition. You might get a two for one, that is your best outcome. Think of it as a blend of Maelstrom Pulse and Acidic Slime, and not even that great of a blend.
Noxious Gearhulk 5.5
Surprisingly good card in rock. This is a huge swing in tempo and really punishes people with fatties. People without fatties will still find this kills their best thing and holds off the rest. The unrestricted nature of this removal goes a really long way. Six can be a little tall on the mana. This is more of a value and stabilizing tool than a true win condition. It will win a lot of games but there are certainly six drops out there that will do it a whole lot better. What this card does well is tick boxes, it is lifegain, it is a threat, a creature, and removal. If you need all those things but have little space then this might be a wise call. It even bolsters delirium for you!
Karn Liberated 4.5
I do not like my top end to be an answer rather than a question and Karn is more of a problem solver than a win condition. I want seven drops to be instantly devastating and Karn is only that when you are so far ahead that spending mana on anything useful should win the game, especially seven of it. Karn is still super powerful but the rock is not the place in which he shines best. Typically there are better top end cards, better cheap answer cards and usually better ways of building your deck without having to lean on a card like this. It sucks so hard when your seven drop comes down, kills a three drop and dies in the next attack, or worse still, fails to do enough to stop them just attacking you directly for the kill. There are a lot of potent top end Golgari planeswalkers that are capable sources of removal while also offering a bit more proactive of a win condition.
Engineered Explosives 6
I find these to be one of the more powerful counterplay cards to the go wide strategies. It can instantly kill the stuff other artifact mass removal can for the same mana without having to wait. It is even better when you have some of the cards that produce mana of any colour and you are able to get X upto 3 or even 4. Just a useful little tool that is rarely bad. Good for hedging, good for bolstering removal suits and good for being a fairly high powered card!
Death Cloud 5.5
Hard to use and hard to build with but pretty devastating. Best in the resource denial builds but perfectly playable all by itself. It is almost a modal Fireball, Wrath of God, Armageddon or Mind Twist. You can reset positions where you are behind and massively exploit being ahead in just one area yourself. A luxury card really as it is hard to setup and slow but it is reach and disruption and removal and all sorts of powerful. One of the few cards you play in the Pox style rock decks with mana disruption that is good enough to be playable on its own.
Inquisition of Kozilek 9.5
Currently one of the premium pickups for a rock deck. Black discard is the only way to interact with spells that the rock has and as such it is the only way to control a significant part of the game. There are not nearly as many good one mana black discard spells as there are good green ramp cards and so these come at a higher premium even if you want less total. This hits every thing that is going to be relevant in the early game short of things like Force of Will. It has a huge range hitting 75% of the non-land cards in my cube and generally a higher percentage of non-land cards in any given deck. It is cheap one for one disruption that provides huge information. Cheap one for one disruption is usually enough to be good so throw in perks and you are well on the way to very very good!
This is the only other fully rounded premium one drop discard spell on offer. This is a chunk better than Inquisition with a whopping 100% hit rate on the non-land cards! Two life is not an irrelevant cost and it will make you weaker against the red deck and also make other life cost cards a little more painful. It is almost never enough to make you not play this card but it does make it closer to Inquisition in desirability.
Harsh Scrutiny 4
The rock doesn't usually struggle with creatures that much. The value you get from this is often more about the information you get with the Peek and the scry. You can play this if you are light on creature removal or discard effects, ideally both! This is a good way to smooth out a deck with rough edges but it isn't something you actively want. While this has poor scaling compared to spot removal it does do a great amount of work countering EtB and other such triggers. There are plenty of creatures that are more like spells, killing a Craterhoof Behemoth isn't often enough to save you. If you know certain things you will be facing Harsh Scrutiny can be a wise choice of disruption.
Due to what you generally want your discard to do for you and what you are already good against Duress is actually perfectly positioned for rock decks. Most aggro decks have enough targets for this that you rarely ever miss with any midgame or earlier Duress these days. Unless I have both Inquisition and Thoughtsieze I will generally play a Duress. Two one drop discard spells feels like a good solid number! Duress is great against control and great against combo. It deals with most removal options and loads of potential disruption/removal coming your way. It is not able to consistently hit as well as Inquisition but it does hit better and more key things which most of your other tools do nothing against. It also stays relevant longer into the game than Inquisition and the creature hitting discard effects like Scrutiny.
Cabal Therapy 2-9!
The rock is one of the best places for the Therapy. You can combo it with other discard so as to not play guessing games. You also have loads of small utility dorks you are happy to toss away for discard value. Sometimes you even want sac outlets. Therapy is a great card but it should be used with great care. Unless you know the cube, the meta and the card itself very well then probably steer clear. Also, if you are a bit of a numpty then this isn't often going to be the best card for you either. Not a card you see in most cubes but plenty powerful enough for them if used right.
Better than Harsh Scrutiny and a lot better than Despise (which is so weak I am not even giving it a paragraph and rating). While in theory a simple Putrefy is a safer tool than this there are certainly reasons to play such things. I like one or two hand disruption cards in my rock decks. Ideally I want them to hit instants and sorceries as there are no Putrefy options in Golgari to cover you in those places. Despite that I will still happily make up the numbers on my hand disruption with cards like this if I don't get the Duress type cards. Divest is still a much better way of dealing with most cube creatures than spot removal. There are so many hardy dorks and so many EtB triggers that spot removal just isn't going to be getting the all round value you might want. The downside is of course having to play this first. Also just having the information on their hand is huge. I wouldn't play Divest and Harsh Scrutiny in the same deck even if I had no other hand disruption. As with removal you ideally want your restrictions on discard to have minimal overlap.
Collective Brutality 9
Rating this purely as discard then a 9 would be generous but for the card as a whole it may even be under doing it. This card is great. Really really great. And it doesn't seem to matter where you play it. It is always great. Even when you have zero utility for discard the card is great. I have cast this a number of times turn two verses RDW and always end up going all three modes as I come to the sad realization that all of them are better than all the cards in my hand in the matchup. Mostly this is a modal Disfigure and Duress card that lets you escalate, fuse or entangle as you wish for discarding cards. This lets you bump up your dork or hand disruption without having a dead card when one of those modes is dead. It covers you really well in most situations and in good cases it will turn dead cards in hand into useful effects. This card is one reason I might shy away from Duress as similar effects will have diminishing returns.
I didn't really know where to put this card. It isn't value, card quality, removal or a threat. As such it feels most at home with these hand disruption cards. It acts like a Kitesail Freebooter in many ways. Spellskite is immensely annoying and buggers up loads of synergies for opposing players. Generally it forces removal on it which is good for a four toughness two drop. The card is especially good when you are running vulnerable top end dorks. It is also just good when a wall is good.
Hymn to Tourach 6
Pretty brutal but also quite random. Sometimes it is a free win when you hit all their gas or all their lands. Other times it will cost you when you waste a card and two mana to take away irrelevant cards. Obviously this is powerful, it is one of the cheapest two for ones you can get and it comes with potent disruptive power. Mostly the double black cost makes this card overly hard to play but it scales poorly and offers little synergy options. Sometimes this is a good call, typically in the more just good powerful stand alone cards style of deck. It does a decent job of patching up holes left by missing the targetted discard one drops.
Kitesail Freebooter 8
I love this little dude. He hits the things you want to hit and he is actually relevant once in play. He has the creature synergies so as to work with green well. He is a pretty ideal early play against basically every archetype. Much as the Duress effect is the element you most want on your discard it is still subject to not wanting to over do the restriction overlap. I would not play Freebooter and Brutality and Duress in the same main deck. On the other hand it is the effect that diminishes in value least over a game and so the two drop versions are less of an issue. I can very well imagine situations where I choose Freebooter over Duress.
This is another surprising over achiever. It is hard to find room for this seemingly over cost card but I have yet to be disappointed with it. It is OK against the quicker decks but it shines against slower ones. It is one of the most scary things to play against if you have an Emrakul, the Promised End deck. The exile component on both modes is enough extra utility over Diabolic Edict or Thoughtsieze so as to carry weight. Having potent hand disruption that is unlikely to become dead at any point in the game and that has alternate tempo reducing capacity turns out to be enough to offset the significant cost. I will always run this in a rock deck light on hand disruption.
Mind Twist 5.5
Another very powerful card indeed but even riskier than Hymn. While this scales better with mana it scales worse with potential value than other discard as people deplete their hands. Mind Twist has a short window of power, usually around X = 3 in my cube although it feels more like X = 4 in a lot of other cubes I have played including the online ones. If you spend for or five mana to do nothing to the board you better hope you were not behind on the board when you did that else you are going to take a beating. Not only does Mind Twist have a small window but it is somewhat conditional on you being in a position to use it. The rock is one of the best houses for Twist as it has decent defensive board presence early and ramp. That being said rock decks also hate overly narrow cards and things that can wind up dead. It has relatively little access to card quality and filter given how many cards it has than can wind up dead. I much prefer consistent cards but I will stoop to a Mind Twist if I must to round out my discard suite. I mentioned two one drop discard spells was my go to number. Beyond that I don't tend to want more than one more. That could be a Liliana or a Hymn but it could be the Twist. Lili and Collective Brutality are more like half a discard effect. Certainly cards that let me tutor up or discard dud cards add a lot of value to Mind Twist. If I can fetch it with an EoT Vamp because a window opened up or toss it away with a Smuggler's Copter because it is way past doing anything then great, it is worth including that option. Without such tools the small chance on a game winning Twist feels less worth the risks the card brings with playing it. A polar card in almost every way.
Liliana of the Veil 9
This is at least a 9. The card is pretty oppressive. Being a green deck you can dump her down turn two but regardless the card works out very well. The rock can deplete its hand pretty quickly and has a number of cards it is generally happy to toss in any given matchup. This allows the rock to punish any slower decks really hard with the plus ability and the threat of the ultimate. Although a lot of the discard cards scale badly with other discard cards I would say that is not the case with Liliana. If you have attacked their hand already the discard is that much more damaging. Lili could also be in the removal section. A three mana sorcery speed Edict isn't great but it is substantially improved when it also leaves a 1 loyalty Liliana in play! She works very well with Deed. The combination of good board presence and some removal allows you to engineer good Edict situations for Lili more than most decks that play her. Early she is so tedious for any tempo deck with only one dork in play. It doesn't really matter what it is. It is such a huge tempo swing, either they have to deal with the Lili pretty soon and suffer the tempo hit and potentially the 2 for 1 or they will have to eat another Edict shortly and absolutely suffer a 2 for 1 and tempo hit! She is oppressive against the slow decks and solid against the quick ones resulting in a fantastic all round card.
Skull Clamp 8
The rock is one of the best places for Skullclamp but you do have to build with it in mind somewhat. If you don't have utility dorks like Satyr Wayfinder to clamp off and your only small things tap for mana then the Clamp is not going to be great until later in the game. That is still fine but certainly something to consider. Clamp is also great at allowing you to trade effectively in combat with your bigger dorks and that is a great way to use it in this archetype. A super good card in the deck but it will stretch the list even thinner, which in turn empowers recursion and tutoring effects somewhat. I am finding no difficulty in including plenty of card advantage cards in my rock builds and while none may be as efficient as Clamp they all do other things as well and carry less risk or burden. Unless I actually feel like I am light on card advantage effects or really need a lot more raw draw I am inclined to shy away from Clamp. I typically find I prefer Arguel's Bloodfast as a draw engine in rock decks these days.
Night's Whisper 5.5
A good solid two for one. This is cheap and does a good thing! Good filler or a way to patch potential build issues. I would generally rather get my value from things that also affect the board but I am fine playing this. It is the kind of thing I might play over a Demonic Tutor in the right deck.
Arguel's Blood Fast 8.5
This is an amazing card. In cube it has out performed Search for Azcanta so far. This is also its best home. It is cheap and easy to get into play and then provides a fantastic way to balance your resources and ensure you are always spending your mana and gaining options. It is also fantastic to flip and has won me many a game in land mode rather than due to card advantage. Having a source of instant lifegain is lovely against aggressive decks or against anyone racing. Having a sac outlet is also useful disruption and a good way to preserve your cards past exile effects. I am finding that I play this over Sylvan Library in most cases and I love Library more than most!
Wall of Blossoms / Sylvan Messenger / Elvish Visionary 5
These are only really value when you are making some reasonable use of the body. Be that negating an attacker each turn, trading with something somewhat relevant, activating a Recurring Nightmare type thing, crewing, equipping, you get the picture. They are in the value section because you do really want to be using the body for them to be a good inclusion. Wall of Bloss is just a bad cycler in control matchups without synergy. These are good support and filler cards but not overly powerful. You tend to only find the Wall in the control end of the rock spectrum these days as it has no good synergy with buff effects. The issue with these cards is that they are not good enough against the things they are good for. Sure, you might hold off or trade with a 2/1, perhaps eat a burn spell. That isn't going to save you when that is all you have done. Two mana can, and often needs to do more than that now. Kind of odd how much of a Staple Wall of Omens is yet how little the Bloss sees play. Omens just works well with white and Wraths, green needs to do more to the board to compete without the crutch of mass removal. Playable filler cards in most cases and more desirable as you increase the number of things that rely on dorks in your deck.
Eternal Witness 7
I have spoken a lot about being stretched thin in rock and that increasing the value of recursion effects. Witness is a classically good one. It gives you a chump body to abuse and lets you get a second go on a key card in the matchup. Ideally the early game is your opponent getting manhandled by discard spells or removal spells and Witness will be a sucker punch much like Snapcaster Mage. Should you get this off with Recurring Nightmare it is all sorts of game over. Witness can be a poor early game card and is rarely a good tempo play despite at least effecting the board. It is so sad when you have nothing else to play on curve and so you just make the Witness and get back a sac land you don't need. It happens a lot more than I would like. Where Witness is most valuable is when you lack depth in your answer cards. Typically recursion effects only get back creatures, or at least, rarely instants and sorceries which is what many of your answer cards will be. Witness can help turn other recursion into recursion for key removal cards and is still a second copy of a key card itself. A lot of my most synergy based rock decks will heavily rely on a few answer cards, a Vamp, and a Witness so as to leave enough room for the synergy stuff.
Ruin Raider 4.5
If you can expect to be attacking then this card is great and jumps above Eternal Witness in power. It is hard to build to do that in rock. Certain cards will help such as Sylvan Advocate, Kitesail Freebooter, even the humble Birds of Paradise. Without a lot of these cheaper tools to gain raid you need a very aggressive build to consider this. You also probably need to pay some attention to CMCs in your build. In the right deck Ruin Raider is the good bits of Dark Confidant and Rogue Refiner combined but in most decks he is a long way from reaching his potential.
Den Protector 4
Not as good with Recurring Nightmare and a bit more mana heavy than Eternal Witness. On the flip side this is a more relevant body and is able to be made proactively without wasting the effect. Fine filler. Good when you want recursion and also surprisingly good when you have pump effects. Mostly I am looking to run this to make up for some deficit in my deck. I might just have the one Maelstrom Pulse but I can make it feel like 4 with this, a Vampiric Tutor and an Eternal Witness!
Nissa, Vastwood Seer 7.5
A really solid two for one. This is just Civic Wayfinder a lot of the time which is totally fine when you are just trying to stabilize against aggression or edge ahead against control. Moving into the late game this card is a lot of potential value and even a threat. While a 4/4 token isn't exactly breaking the game around turn 7 it will hold the fort so that her ultimate can at least become threatening. All round a very powerful card that helps every aspect of your game. Not great in aggressive lists but not unplayable. Pretty spot on for most other builds of the rock.
Nissa, Voice of Zendikar 7.5
I really like this card. It is flavourful and well designed. She isn't oppressively powerful but she is far from useless. This on a mono coloured planswalker in green allowing her to come out on turn two with alarming regularity! She clogs up the board and buys a lot of time. Her threat level isn't huge unless you get a lot of board and loyalty but you do have to keep her in check. The ultimate is a nice little kicker as well. If you can't somehow win the game with a swarm of tokens that you grow then just draw a bunch of cards and gain some life. Either Nissa is the worlds slowest Avenger of Zendikar or she acts like a Wall of Omens into a nice big Sphinx's Revelation and this is why people need to deal with her. She is slow to act but quick and cheap to arrive and does so with the tools to defeat any deck all the while doing helpful and even scary things on the way to those end goals.
Liliana, the Last Hope 8.5
Super potent in the early game and indeed at any time against weenie decks. Against the slower decks the ultimate is a serious threat and the -2 represents good value and utility. A great all round card that benefits hugely from the ability to come down turn two on the back of a mana dork. It is so hard to deal with the Last Hope at that stage of the game without spot removal and even then you are usually eating a two for one on top of the tempo setback. While ideally a removal card it is a bit unpredictable as such and is more of an all rounder. It is a little polar in that it is just good against some decks but periodically it will dominate a game utterly.
Jadelight Ranger 7.5
Great all round card. Good options, good value and good tempo with just enough control over the direction of the card that you are happy with it in most builds and against most builds. This is the three drop dork that is your best all round on curve play. The others scale a bit better into the late game or perform better with extra investments but this little fish is just great from as soon as you can cast it and has no real extra needs, it is just reliably pretty good in all avenues and on theme for any rock direction.
Ramunap Excavator 8
One of the standout cards for this kind of deck. Not only does it often ensure never missing land drops with access to sac lands but it allows for some cheesy Waste Lands free wins. I have done that with Field of Ruin too but then I have so many duals in my cube that three colour decks frequently have 0-2 basic lands. This is pretty easy to think of as a Courser of Kruphix with a bigger range of performance. Excavator therefore also benefits more from support from other cards than Courser.
Yavimaya Elder 3
Old man rock himself. I pretty much think of this dork when I think of the early rock decks. He was the man for slow grindy value. Now he is too slow and you can get his value better elsewhere, say, the previous two cards! Playable but not good any more really.
Ohran Viper 4
Deceptively good card, although win more like other Shadowmage Style cards this having deathtouch makes it much more valuable when playing from behind. You can get some free wins with this and it is rarely a dud. Try not to ruin your own Ophiomancer with it however!
Recurring Nightmare 10
One of the most powerful tools in all of magic. This can generate tempo, it can generate value, offers reach, and it provides utility. Nightmare is a big part of what gives rock decks a lot of late game. The more mana you have and the wider spread of dorks, both in cost and effects, the better this gets. You don't need this in your rock decks but it is almost never a bad addition. You can build around it and have it be truly abusive or you can just throw it in and still have it be great. It is a lot less key than some card types but it is one of the most powerful pickups you can make.
Mimic Vat 6
A fluffy luxury card but a very powerful one and one well suited to this kind of deck. Make sure not to over do it on fluff! Vat is good because you have a high number of your own dorks and a high number of good EtB trigger dorks. Vat also has some neat utility as yet another graveyard disruption tool, all be it a rather limited one.
Birthing Pod 3
Really hard to build with well. You need a really good deep curve of dorks. If you go 1 through 5 with a mere four dorks in each slot you only have 3 or so non-creature cards you can play. Too much has to align for this to be good for very long. This is one of the rare examples of a card that really suffers from a change from 60 card decks to 40.
Garruk Wildspeaker 7
One of my favourite walkers but the original Garruk is seeing less and less play these days. Not because he is any less good but due to how many mentally good four drops there now are in these colours as well as how many really strong planeswalkers there are too. You want some walkers but too many affords diminishing returns. Walkers lose a lot of value when you are behind on the board and so you can overly restrict your options in a midrange deck by having too many. Garruk is typically now found in the bigger rock decks that want to play six and even seven drops. Those decks have the most to gain from the untapping of lands. The overrun ultimate is a great win condition but you don't want to rely on it.. You want to play Garruk as an all round card that can be mana, can be board and can win the game. If he is just in it for one of those modes then you should look to another card.
Garruk Relentless 6
This guy is pretty good, he is like Architect of Thought, just another four mana walker in the Shadow of the real big names. Typically this guy is called upon for green decks paired with colours less flush with removal than black. That extra little bit of removal goes a long way in green lists but in black ones you feel like you can generally do better. The utility Relentless offers is nice but it doesn't really kick in until you flip him which many decks will make difficult for you and those that don't will generally be able to kill your flipped Garruk before you can use him. A nice card, certainly one I would play if I had little to no other options on planeswalkers but likely it is one of the earlier ones I cut if I do have enough. Rock decks are all about reliability and this is a fairly unreliable walker which is already a fairly high risk card type. You can just play a solid four drop that is always good instead and often that is what happens.
Whip of Erebos 5
Certainly no Recurring Nightmare but a decent substitute for one. This is super serious lifegain and a great way to abuse EtB effects on your stuff. I am more than happy running this in my deck as a way to diversify threats and bolster my value and lifegain tools. You can't afford too much fluff like this but it is brutal when done right.
Nissa, Vital Force 7
This Nissa is great. Her emblem isn't very exciting but it is not without use. Lands into 5/5s is OK offensively or defensively but it isn't reach or inevitability. It will close out a game you are already ahead in fairly fast way which is always nice. My favourite thing about Nissa is that she can get key cards back for you like Recurring Nightmare. In some synergy decks this can be a suitable backup for not having Eternal Witness or something, or just a belt and bracers approach to ensuring you will have your thing once you find it. Nissa is more versatile and less of a tempo loss than most other recursion effects she is just a little harder to fit in than most.
Nissa, Worldwaker 7
Mostly only getting a 7 due to their being lots of five drops on offer. In actual power terms this card is a beating. It is super hard to stop her killing you. She is a massive tempo swing and makes really hard to answer threats. You need to kill a loads of 4/4 trampling lands and the Nissa herself to contain things and that is super hard to do. Turns out four toughness colourless non-token creatures with the land type rank incredibly highly on the hard to kill front! Nissa isn't really value, she is more of a pure threat planeswalker but she is so good at it you are totally OK with that. Ideally Nissa is more of a six drop as you want to attack right away. She can be used like a Garruk Wildspeaker to just untap lands and further develop the board but ideally I want to be making lands into threats every turn! With that being my main intent for her I am happy running her with complete disregard for my forest count. This card really is one of the premium finisher tools green has, certainly if we are talking as a stand alone. Play this for threat diversity, play it for the reach or just play it for the power. Great card, super hard to contain and answer well and fairly unlike any other planeswalker.
Primal Command 2
Most of the value from this card now comes in the ability to gain 7 life against burn decks. It used to be a good utility tool with lots of application but the increase in tempo rather killed this cards cube career. Five is just an awful lot for a card that is this clunky when it is supposedly a utility card that should bring convenience.
Ob Nixilus, Reignited 4.5
The rock is not short on five drops to chose from. This is a very powerful utility card but it is slow to take effect. Killing one thing and leaving a 2 loyalty walker is not a great recovery tool, you already need to be relatively stable or just desperate to do that. You really need Ob to stick around a few turns before he is getting out of hand. Three activations and he is looking better than Wretched Confluence and that is a great place to be. If you have a deck with good board control from solid blocking options and removal then Ob is a great tool to give you late game legs. If not he can be a little too short lived to be worth it.
Liliana, Death's Majesty 5
I don't much rate this Liliana in cube play but the rock is certainly one of the best places for her. You have good reanimation targets and good graveyard synergies. You also have ramp to power her out. She is fairly well on theme and offers a bit of everything in a decently high power and utility card.
Garruk, Primal Hunter 3
Heavy on the green, usually not an issue but can be if you are also supporting heavy black cards and don't have filter lands etc. Primal Hunter is a bit midmast between Nissa and Ob. He churns out 3/3 tokens and grows which will end a game but is substantially more disruptable and slower than a five mana Nissa kills people. Garrk also draws cards and can do so immediately should you have something in play. He is much quicker to draw than Ob but also more conditionally. Garruk is good but he isn't super threatening. He seems more versatile than he actually is, both his good abilities are essentially just value. Ob solves problems and Nissa is one. Garruk doesn't do that, he is just fine. Play him if you lack value or five drops but he is certainly not a go to given then range and power in the five slot.
Sword of Fire and Ice 3
Not ideal these days. I try and only play Swords when I need to and that tends to only then be in blue decks or for an extra Stoneforge target! You really want protective tools and evasive dorks to get all that much out of this and other worse Swords. Cards like this do take their toll on stretched decks and this is one I deem as rarely worth further stretching the deck for.
An exceptional top end card bringing both answers and threats with her. She wins the game very fast unhindered and develops the board fairly well. It is super hard to take Vraska down without spot removal. Her loyalty is too high and her board control too great. While she is very nicely rounded she doesn't have the same immediate impact on the game as most other top end you can run and not being a dork herself makes her typically less reusable as threats go. Being a half threat half answer kind of card I find I prefer to only run her when I have other serious threats I can lean on which in turn means I am only running Relic Seeker in the really big rock decks that are not all that far off a green ramp deck. Relic Seeker is like a slightly better version of Karn Liberated for the rock and really only the rock.
Season's Past 3
Super powerful but hellishly slow and quite hard to setup well. It is not far off a win condition in its own right. You will grind people out and not deck yourself with it at worst. You should however be winning off the back of the first cast which should net you at the very least four cards back, hopefully useful ones. I want this more in spell heavier decks and those much more on the control end of the spectrum. It is not at all bad but it is is narrow and basically a build around.
Garruk, Apex Predator 4
Super hard to include but pretty game ending when you can fire it off. I very rarely go all the way to seven in my rock decks, I need a lot of ramp to justify that. Most of the time you can offset it with some discard and Reanimate effects but not with planeswalkers. This has to get hard cast and that makes it rather deck defining. I do like an Apex Predator a lot, it is a massive threat and solves problems really well. While a very good control tool I tend to prefer getting my control options from cheaper cards and having my 6+ CMC cards incur massive swings to the board. Cards like Hornet Queen, Avenger of Zendikar and Sheoldred spring to mind. Apex Predator is great but on the narrow side.
Profane Command 4
I don't love this card as it is very hard to use effectively in the early or even mid game. That being said it is a total beating late and wins most situations. Either you kill their best guy and get your best guy back or you just drain them and alpha strike with your team for the win. Both good things! I would say only play this if you seriously lack reach. I might be tempted to run this if I was removal shy but it is not a good replacement there.
Low End Dorks
Warden of the Last Tree 3
A cute card but more of a finisher than an early play. It is never good for the mana invested. You have to spend all your first 2 turns just to get a Watchwolf... This is vulnerable to a lot of removal and a lot of blowout plays. It is fine filler and mana sink for more aggressive lists. It is also a way to replace a top end threat with a cheaper card if you fear not being able to get to and play your top end. Generally a pretty weak card despite the versatility in cost. Compared to other level dorks the only real edge this has is that you can keep pumping mana into it in the final level so to speak. That only beats a small number of decks, against most it is a risk. This is just a dork, a flexible one in terms of cost but still just a dork and not all that many rock builds want just dorks.
Experiment One 3
Just a beater and not the most exciting in a rock deck. It has no real extra distance synergies. Sure, you have some dorks and so ultimately this will get to at least a 3/3 if not answered and that is great, if you an agro deck. Otherwise it is really naff. Even the aggro rock decks tend to pack dorks with a bit more value or utility than this. That being said I would struggle to cut this from an aggro rock list just for being too efficient and on theme.
Gnarlwood Dryad 5
Of the various non-utility one drops this is my personal favourite. It is a fine defensive play at any stage in the game and a very efficient tempo play in the mid game. Despite being so simple it is pretty effective on offence or on defense. The deathtouch ensures it is always relevant although the size of the thing when delirious nearly does that by itself. Cards like this let you shift gear rapidly from defense to offense in any given matchup and even within games. A red deck for example needs killing as soon as you have stabilized else they will just draw into enough burn to seal the deal.
A slow card but a deceptively good one. Even without a discard engine or any zombie theme this card is still good all round. It solves the dead card issue by turning them all into 2/2 tokens. That isn't the best deal in the world but it will command an answer eventually. What makes it nuts is that while you amass your army of the dead you can be drawing loads of extra cards. This is a great enabler and more of a mid to late game card despite its cost. You don't have the mana spare to use this early in most playable hands. It is actually like a better version of the Warden but for replacing an expensive planeswalker with. This is more versatile, has way more synergies and is far less risky than warden and indeed has a different set of risks to the walkers. You probably don't want this in many aggressive lists however, not without some other zombies at least. If you can be drawing cards with this prior to 2 activations it gets a whole lot more potent of a draw engine.
Bloodsoaked Champion 3
Aggressive lists only for this guy. Inability to block makes it quite poor unless you are all about attacking. Some good yard and sac synergies but still only something you want in a list with an aggressive bent.
As above but really needs some zombies in the list to carry him. Not too hard to do but still, conditional cards are always weaker.
Diregraf Ghoul 2.5
Just a cheap dork with OK stats. Play this if you are aggressive or perhaps really desperate for low end.
Dread Wanderer 4
One of the best low end combat dorks you can run but you are really only running such cards if you are an aggro deck or you are hedging against them. This can block at least but not exactly well. The recursion element seem low value too if you are running it because you lack low end!
This is only something you play to enable other things. It really should be viewed more as an engine card than anything else. Perhaps you have a graveyard themed build and a Skullclamp. At that point this little vampire is looking quite nice. You can play this in aggressive lists but it is a little lackluster if you ever have to cast it. Pretty awful against the more aggressive decks too.
Scavenging Ooze 9.5
One of your best all round cards. This is a cheap early play and a big late game dork. It is a source of lifegain to counter aggression and replenish any overspending on life you might do. Most importantly it is the best disruption tool against graveyard tom-foolery and will give you a huge edge in those matchups. Delve, flashback (to include Vryn's Prodigy, Snapcaster and Torrential Gearhulk) and reanimator strategies hate an Ooze. The Ooze is so well rounded you just play it in any rock deck from the aggressive to the control. It is one of the few elements of disruption you have access to fairly well and other archetypes rather don't.
Not strictly a dork but it makes them and is a low end threat so here seems the best grouping. This is great if you can support it. It is doubly great if it is empowering delirium effects with its rare tribal type! Bitterblossom is a nice way to get an air presence in an archetype where that is fairly hard to do, especially early. It is also a very good way to put control decks under all sorts of pressure. I do find the card tediously slow and a little unimpressive when I don't have ways to abuse or empower the tokens but it certainly has its place. To seriously run this you have to have some reasonable sources of lifegain in your build, ideally some repeatable ones and some scaling ones.
Nezumi Graverobber 2
The limp Ooze. Only play this when you need graveyard hate. The card can win games but it is super mana intense and quite low powered, certainly low tempo.
Scrapheap Scrounger 3
Solid aggressive and/or self mill card but inability to block makes this a card I would avoid running in anything else.
Pack Rat 4
While this easily wins games all by itself it is super all in. The first three Rats you make are all poor tempo plays and that takes three turns early. Playing pretty subpar cards for three turns gets you super dead in my cube! Also walking into a Wrath with an all in Rats play is game over in any cube! I like these for their threat level and potential discard support. I like that they can help with dud cards you might have and how they can be a game ending card you can deploy early. Pack Rats feels like a polar (and less good) Cryptbreaker. Or a more all in Warden of the First Tree.
One of your best low end tempo plays and pretty much a combo with one mana hand disruption. If you can follow an Inquisition with a Gofy it is likely to live and likely to be the biggest thing in play. Both great offense and great defense. The potency of delirium cards have really improved the quality of Goyf in this archetype.
Putrid Imp 1
I would only ever want this in a combo list. You can include combo elements into a rock deck and still have it be a rock deck. Once you go so all in as to play a card like this you are just a combo deck. Or a rock deck with awful cards in it! There is a good ceiling on this card when you are playing two mana recursion and big dorks but it is so unlikely. The rock has access to great stand alone discard outlets. They might be slower but they are good so you don't have to play do nothings like this and forfeit your consistency and average card power.
Grim Flayer 8
This is a super powerful little card. You can just run him and he is OK or you can support him and he is great. He goes a bit hand in hand with Tarmogoyf in that respect. This dork is threatening, he is huge tempo, he is good as a supporting synergy tool and he provides immense card quality. The utility this offers is most of what pushes it above Goyf but trample is not to be underrated. Flayer will often outclass a bigger Gyof in combat just because it is sufficiently big and has that mild evasion. It becomes proper reach with any buffs which Goyf doesn't (unless one of those buffs affords evasion).
Lotleth Troll 3
I now only play this if I have a specific need of discarding creatures and not always even then. The only deck this is a lock in for is an aggressive graveyard deck with things like Vengevine and Bloodghast. You cannot go all in on this easily, the cost of pumping is too great just to casually use and usually very limited in how much you can do it.
Rakshasa Deathdealer 2
While this solves all the issues Lotleth Troll has it turns out to just be a bad card. Mostly it is a Grisly Bear. Two to regenerate it is not a bargain. Late game this card is pretty potent but until then it is bad and that is the important bit of the game. Warden of the First Tree is a better version of this kind of thing I would say.
Putrid Leech 3
While we are on the BG cards we might as well look at this one. Time has not been kind to this but it is still perfectly playable. It has some nice interactive elements and car fairly frequently just be a 4/4 for two which is exactly what the aggressive decks are about. I only run this in those decks and have not in some time but imagine it is not done yet with cube, if nothing else for its useful creature types.
Blood Artist / Zulaport Cutthroat 3ish
These are not really what you want in a rock deck but they are both still fine. They synergize with a lot of the goings on and afford reach and life buffer. Typically you will only play these to plug a hole such as lack or lifegain or lack of playables (some how). If you are building a deck that wants these you are doing a different archetype, there may be some significant overlaps but it isn't optimal. If these cards are not the focus of your deck then there are better inclusions you could make. If they are the foucs you are making a different deck (which I am presently in the midst of doing one of these for but it turns out to be one of the most complicated!).
Strangleroot Giest 4
Great little aggressive card with some staying power. Nice if you want to have bodies to sacrifice as well. It isn't much of a threat on its own so unless it is part of a redundant aggressive build it is generally not worth a slot. It is a linear threat but it isn't one capable of closing a game and that isn't the kind of pure threat card midrange decks want. They want utility or useful value from their early tempo plays.
Seeker's Squire / Merfolk Branchwalker 1.5
I thought these cards would be pretty impressive. I saw some value, some control and some synergy potential but it turns out these cards are pretty horrible in cube. I would play one and then reel at how little I wanted a generic 3/2 dork in that matchup. They may offer all those things but they don't offer enough of any of it or sufficient control to make them work for you. It is quite stunning how much better Jadelight is than these offerings.
Sylvan Advocate 7.5
Presently one of my favourite all round two drops for this list. It is just so wonderfully well rounded. It is big enough to apply some pressure yet ideally suited to holding off any early aggression against you. It is cheap yet has good scaling into the late game. I particualrly like this in Abzan lists as the various dual man lands you have scale nicely with it too. Hissing Quagmire is a little limp but 4/5 lifelinkers and 5/6 reach things do a lot of work! Don't forget this dude will help buff up any lands animated by Nissa too. The card is plenty good enough without any lands to buff so don't go out of your way to include those synergies. A 4/5 vigilance for 2 mana is winning enough!
Heir of Falkenrath 3
A good tool should you have discard themes and even just good enough that you can play it to randomly assist your early delirium of cheese out a Titan with a Recurring Nightmare. This card is low power but it does a great job of planeswalker control. It is hard to play walkers into the threat of a 3 power flyer. This means you draw fire with your low value card or it does a great job of controlling the game. I have won a bunch of times just going all in on it as it were. Just having it be a kind of Delver of Secrets and hope it gets there without me eating a 2 for 1. I would certainly look at this card if I was at all short on planeswalker control in my list.
Dark Confidant 4.5
Good but not nuts. There are much safer and more reliable ways to draw cards. Rock decks typically don't need the influx of cards as quickly as Confidant provides them. I find Bloodfast and Sylvan Library to be generally preferable sources of card advantage. They afford me more control over the draw and my life total while also being far more resilient to opposing removal. The more aggressive my list the more I want this sort of card but that does tend to be the least common way rock is played.
Glint-Sleeve Siphoner (and other lesser Confidants) 4ish
None of these are great in these decks. They are poor bodies on the board and vulnerable unreliable value sources. The Siphoner is the best simply from having the most useful body, mild evasion allowing it to pressurize walkers better. If you have a bunch of vehicles or cards like Springleaf Drum in your build somehow then the inspire one is OK (Pain Seer). Loads of discard effects empowers the madness one (Asylum Visitor), which is a close second best. The other two (Pain Seer and Blood Scrivener) likely only see play in the aggressive builds of the rock.
Carrier Thrall 2.5
An OK card but not really an exciting one. In the lists with lots of useful things to sacrifice stuff to then this is a fine supporting card. It is some utility and some presence while fulfilling the requisite synergies. Without such things as Skullclamp Carrier Thrall is just a low impact and low power card that you don't really want.
Satyr Wayfinder 8
I want to rate this higher. I perhaps should have put this in the card quality section, it really feels like it is with all the recursion options. It is one of my favourite support cards. It supports several different synergies/mechanisms you can use in rock decks including the best one - delirium. It is a cheap two for one and it increases consistency. This is fast becoming one of the most played green cards as it is just such an effective support tool. It is not just that it is a two for one, loads of cards do that, it is also that it is cheap, and pretty reliable (not dependent on opposing boards like Arc Trail is). All the reliable two mana two for ones see play but Wayfinder goes that extra bit of distance by offering so much support. It is less onerous on a build than a card that finds a basic land too! I have seen Wayfinders single handedly turn on delirium allowing a massive smack from a card type themed two drop. I have seen them pull out all sorts of juicy recursive targets. From basically nothing I have seen a Wayfinder pull out Vengevine plus some 2/1s and win the game. Ancestral Recall on legs! With every passing set it seems like this guy improves.
Borderlands Explorer 2.5
I was super hot for this guy but it turns out it just helps your opponent too much too often. I now only run this in decks that need discard outlets. A very powerful support card in those decks which can be anything from aggro to reanimate plans. In other plans, even including things like delirium, Explorer is too low powered for the risk he presents.
Courser of Kruphix 7.5
Another premium rock card that does a bit of everything and pretty well. This beats control and slower decks with the value. With shuffle and support this thing winds up netting you an extra card at least every other turn. It is generally also gaining you a life each turn. That combined with a 2/4 body shuts down aggression pretty effectively as well.
A super annoying card to deal with. This thing is almost always a two for one. It usually hampers the next attack even when removed and if not it will hold off so much for so long. It is also a nice ongoing source of things to sacrifice should that be something you want. Much better midrange and control card than an aggressive one. One thing to be aware of is your snake count. Green has some good ones and they will reduce the effectiveness of this a little.
Flesh Carver 8
An off radar card that is deceptively good. Worst case this is as much stats as a Kitchen Finks and the front end has evasion. Generally this is a whole lot scarier than that. Once you have mana up and spare dorks kicking around this is terrifying. It is very hard to block and can be hard to kill if you are using removal with damage or -X/-X effects. Even when you do kill it if you failed to bounce or exile it then you are going to face off against an equally large token. You get utility as well as a lot of value out of the sac outlet. If you don't fear bounce or exile removal then you can go ham on the sac and turn all your dorks into 4/4 worth of stats. This ends a lot of games, it gives great planeswalker control, great combat options and juicy things to do when you are ahead. On the back foot it is a great speed bump and tempo play. This is a perfect example of a good all round rock card. I rate it a little above most of the other three drops because it has the added utility of reach.
Tireless Tracker 7.5
Good card! A more offensively bent Courser of Kruphix style affair. A bit of a value store, a reasonable threat level and an acceptable tempo play. A bit of everything and an all round high power level card. Great midrange tool. It is this sort of card that really helps keep rock decks low to the ground. You simply don't need loads of top end if you have card advantage and mana sinks of this quality just in the three slot and doing that while also doing other things.
Kitchen Finks 6.5
Decent anti aggro tool and reasonable tempo play. No longer an impressive threat or source of value however. Play this to hedge against things you are weak to, don't jsut run this because it is historically powerful.
Drana, Liberator of Malakir 4
This is OK but I never have much luck with it. The card is too slow to take effect and too easily dealt with for my liking. It just goes one for one with loads and costs you tempo and/or a new game plan. Flying is nice, there is not loads of it on offer but Drana is only really good offensively and you typically want the fliers to assist in defense.
Liliana, Heretical Healer 6.5
Super powerful but a little tough to make work. If you can flip her in a cost free way then she is premium. She is even decent against aggressive red decks just as a 2/3 lifelinker. You rarely ever gain life with her as they will kill any lifelink dork on sight and failing that they will just force flip her by killing something else. Still, a little better against aggressive decks than Liliana of the Veil and generally better against other decks if you can flip. Cards like Cabal Therapy and Tribe Elder are your best buddies here although there are plenty of tools on offer.
Yehenni, Undying Partisan 3.5
Pretty poor in a general sense but somewhat empowered by a few things. Predominantly things that benefit from a nice secure sac outlet but also decks with a nice amount of mass removal. The more of a control lean you have to your deck the better I find this dork to be. That being said, the more control you are the less you want to give deck slots to small evasionless dorks. A great combo with Damnation or Pernicious Deed that can swing a game pretty far.
Vampire Nighthawk 4
This has fallen a long way since its hay day. It used to be called the little Baneslayer back when beign like Baneslayer was a desirable thing! While this is rarely wanted by any cube archetype the rock is the one that wants it most. Nighthawk offers strong air defenses that scale well into the late game. It offers decent race potential and the control over starting that race should you wish. Despite being just a dork Nighthawk manages to fulfill several desirable roles at once, a bit of reach and planeswalker control, lifegain and air control. The latter of which is hard to do well in rock.
High End Dorks
This used to be so above the curve you would stick it anywhere. Now it is somewhat fairer and as such is used more accordingly. I would only advise running this in either a graveyard themed deck with self mill and/or discard as well as sufficient creatures to reasonably get it back for free. The other is OK home for this is a plain aggressive rock deck with no exotic synergies.
Ripjaw Raptor 4
Just a meaty dork. Against red players this can be a real headache, against a lot of other colours this is pretty much an Ernham Djinn. It is soft to all non-red removal and that is an issue for a four drop. If I want a polar card against a red deck I really want that card to gain life. Even so, this is a hefty dork that is hard to attack into or block, you just really want to avoid combat with this. Being green slightly reduces the burden of the vulnerable high cost 1 for 1able dork with many ramp effects. Not my preferred kind of card but sufficiently powerful to be perfectly playable for curve or type reasons.
Surrak, the Hunt Caller 6
Much like Vengevine this is a rather more linear dork and it doesn't even have graveyard synergies. You play this in aggressive decks mostly but you can play it in some of the rampier rock lists where hasting up some Titan or something is massive value. That being said, the power of this dork is pretty impressive. If you expect to have three power already in play by the time you cast this then it is really rather good. Great at planeswalker control and tempo swings and quite a scary ongoing threat with what it can do for cards played after it.
Gonti, Lord of Luxury 8.5
This is another card I want to rate higher. It always vastly outperforms expectation. The card is nuts and it brings so much extra to an archetype like the rock. It is all sorts of disruption and value and it works perfectly with any sort of midrange or control rock game plan. Often Gonti plus ongoing recursion effects are all the reach a deck needs. Gonti performs exceptionally in all cube archetypes and is comfortably in the top ten black cube cards and the rock is the best place for him.
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet 8
Quite a beating of a card. Kalitas demands removal or he will own any aggressive deck. He gets pretty out of hand pretty fast and will be a headache for most decks. Having removal greatly improves Kalitas and helps jump start his momentum gain. Kalitas tends to either win the game on the spot or create board stalls.
Obstinate Baloth 3.5
This is mostly just a counter to black and red decks. Untimely discard giving you a free 4/4 and no lost card is a game winning swing. Four life and a 4/4 also does very well against red decks. Sadly this is very underwhelming in most other matchups. The life can equate to another card with a Sylvan Library but you are not much better off then than having played Kavu Climber... Great sidebaord tool but not the lifegain I want to be playing main ideally.
Polukranos, World Eater 4
Fine but mostly just fat. The supplementary removal is nice but not amazing, it is best for taking out small pesky fliers. You don't have the mana to take out much in the way of meaty things. This will be a good wall in a lot of matchups and just something that goes 1 for 1 in a lot of others. A fairly versatile card but not that good of a threat due to lacking any evasion and not that good of an answer due to high mana costs.
Bloodline Keeper 3.5
Easily removed one for one and a terrible tempo play. Keeper has to live a couple of turns to perform and this makes it a little bit dodgy. It does tend to win the games it isn't bad in but that is far from the likely outcome. I like this most for the air control it offers but despite the lack of it in Golgari you can still do rather better than this.
Master of the Wild Hunt 3
Basically just a worse version of Keeper as it loses the flying which is the main appeal of Keeper in Golgari! Master offers a passable removal option which you don't much need in black. It can also attack while also making 2/2 tokens which is super unexciting for your Hill Giant.
Thrun, the Last Troll 2
I am only doing this dude because so many cubes still insist on running him. Thrun needs empowering. Find a Loxodon Warhammer to slap on him and he is one of the best cards in the game. Just on his own however he is super tame. He is not all that big for his cost and doesn't get much done in combat which is his only real role. A great vessel for buffs but otherwise a wildly underwhelming card.
Abyssal Persecutor 6
A really good threat that is holding up impressively well. Persecutor remains one of the better reach cards a rock player has on offer, certainly lower down the curve. Ideally you want sac outlets to sensibly run Persecutor but you can get away with just some of your own removal that can deal with it. You can even get away with nothing at all that really deals with it but you have to keep that very much on the low down! This is made a whole lot better simply due to the lack of air power Golgari can muster in the cube. With a few good reach or flying dorks to see print, or indeed a third colour splash this will fall in value rather.
Meren of Clan Nel Toth 7.5
A really strong card in the archetype, made particularly so with cards like Shriekmaw and Sakura Tribe Elder. You don't need experience for this to be good, it is just a really top rate Grave Robber, or updated Genesis type of tool. If this sticks in play for a couple of turns and you get a couple of guys back then you are massively ahead. When you start to put 3+ drops directly into play with this it gets really out of hand. You play this as value but it turns into a threat just from the sheer extent and type of value it offers. A 3/4 is also just healthy stats, it isn't busted for the mana but it is a very effective and robust statline.
Penumbra Spider 5
The king of the Giant Spiders holds up very well in cube and particularly well in slower rock decks. When you want some flying defenses to allow you to safely deploy your planeswalkers you are short of options and this is one of the best. Not many fliers can get past it. You keep your removal for the ones that can and Spider holds back the rest. Either your opponent needs to use premium removal on it, or they need to eat a two for one, or they can no longer pressure in the air.
This is a great game ender. You play this to give yourself a good amount of reach. Generally if you have much of a board and untap with this it is game over. If you don't have a board this is still a big trampler that will be able to buff subsequent creatures. The card has a decent floor and a great ceiling. Super late game this thing can win on the spot like a Craterhoof. While this is great in that one capacity it is not bringing anything else to the table. The rock has a good number of game ending cards that also do more than just that. Great reach and closing power but otherwise not bringing anything else to the table.
Verdurous Gearhulk 8
Sheer power alone pushes this card. It has a huge impact on the game and isn't all that much mana. It isn't doing anything that specific for you other than being really really strong. There are better finishers, better reach cards, better pseudo-card advantage things. While this is vast tempo you typically want tempo cards a little lower on the curve! It is hard not to play this, it feels wrong. The card does also have some nice synergies with other counter effects and abilities but mostly it is just 8/8 worth of stats you can spread about as you need for the situation, for 5 mana with some trample, likely some haste and other abilities going on. This is busted on turn five, on turn four or even three it needs really effective answers or the game is over in short order. It is not so much that is is particluarly hard to answer, just that it is so much so soon and so conveniently.
Wolfir Silverheart 4.5
Wolfir Silverheart may well be more stats than Gearhulk but it lacks the convenience and threat (mostly down to the trample) of it. Silverheart will eat a Terror and leave no residual value, or it will just get chumped and not have that desired reach you want from your finishers. While Wolfir is immensely powerful it only does one job and it isn't very effective at it.
This guy is a bit of a turd. Mostly he is just a load of life and toughness for red decks to be really sad about. Thragtusk is always decent value, even if the lifegain isn't relevant. The issue with it is that it doesn't get that much done proactively. It is easy to take down the Tusk and stop it doing much of much. There are one drops that are harder to kill than the Tusk itself and a 3/3 token isn't too much of a tall order. Value Tusk may be but it isn't super effective value so late in the game and being five mana he eats the slot of a card with some real reach or threat level. Where Tusk does gain some value over other sticky dorks and other lifegain dorks is the fact that he gives his 3/3 token regardless of how the Tusk leaves play. Exile and bounce don't stop it and that makes Tusk a lot more tedious to efficiently deal with as the more controlling players. What will really push the value of a Tusk in a rock deck is either Recurring Nightmare or some white flicker effects.
Whisperwood Elemental 3
Value card rather than one that really secures a win. You want your value either more effective or lower costed. This dude is nice if you want to counter mass removal, it is also OK against weenie decks. Not a go to card for me but high power level and very playable. Just a bit slow and aimless. I want more precise tools for things needing this kind of investment.
Ishkanah, Grafwidow 9.5
An immense card and the best reason to empower delirium in a deck. Most decks can do this pretty easily before Ishkanah comes out even without a lot of the premium enablers. She is worth playing even if you expect to have to wait beyond turn five for your delirium to kick in. Nothing stabilizes a game quite so effectively as Ishkanah. Even Hornet Queen affords less safety and that is the main thing that card does and it costs two whole mana more! Ishkanah deals with most of the main forms of evasion very well. She goes wide, she goes tall and she is a bugger to clear out of the way. Mass removal is the only good way of dealing with her short of countering her and that is not an option for most other creature based decks. Her activated ability isn't great, it isn't a reason to play her but it does make her an all round winning machine in these kinds of decks. You can literally just stall the board with Ishkanah and then slowly drain them out without ever needing to attack. She has 11 toughness across four bodies. She is a five mana 6/11 with upside. She is the queen of walls. She would be a clean 10 if it were not for the delirium precondition. She is so good she adds value to any card that supports her at all well. Nissa Worldwaker is the hardest of the reasonably cost top end threats to stop winning but Ishkanah is even harder to win through!
Deranged Hermit 6
This old mucker holds up really well considering his age. If you want stats and bodies then this is your man. 9/9 for five is a good deal and spread across five bodies it covers a lot of ground. Hermit stops ground based assaults in their tracks and threatens to hit very hard against control and commands an answer. Due to how you want the card to work in most situations the echo cost is fairly negligible. Against control you didn't want to over extend and you are not in a rush so it is no problem. Due to Hermit buffing the squirrels he is often killed to reduce the stats a bit. Often you will block with him before echo costs and often you will sac him off to a Nightmare or Therapy too. While no Grave Titan or Grafwidow Hermit is not so far behind the premium armies in a can that you cannot use him to much the same effect.
Tasigur, the Golden Fang 5
If you have a lot of the self mill effects then this becomes rather better but if you are leaning on a couple of cards for that and otherwise have a fairly clunky deck I would steer well clear. When you start to get this Remanded or bounced it is pretty rough if your support for delve is thin. You often want to keep things in your bin as well for other recursive cards and delirium effects. Tasigur is a very slow value tool and actually has a fairly limited scope for use in the longer games. He is a poor threat being a 4/5 with no extra offensive abilities or key words, he has bad synergy with a number of cards you might play from Dark Confidant to Tarmogoyf, and he typically has to occupy the slot of a high end card in your build which he fails to perform the role of very well. Ideally you want to run this in builds aiming to win with tempo but those typically don't have the best delve support.
Primeval Titan 4.5
A good solid card but harder to make work in rock builds than you might think. Unless you have seven plus drops (plural) in your deck then the ramp is of minor use. It is better library thinning and even that can be a liability. Mostly Primeval Titan is a Carnage Tyrant that can be killed easily. You really want strong utility land, ones that can actually threaten a game for Prime Time to be really good. You can run Westvale Abbey or splash Wolf Run or even Gavony Township and this will help the Titan out a lot. Generally I find it is too much work to make it worth it and wind up with alternate top end cards. Prime Time is at his best when he is one level below the top end.
Grave Titan 8
One of the most monstrously above curve cards printed. This is 10/10 of stats minimum, across three bodies, and threatening to make more. It dominates a board like few other cards can do. It is great with Recurring Nightmare. It is just a great top end card all round. Brute forcing wins with raw power! The perfect cherry to top a generic middle of the road good stuff rock build.
I am rating this perhaps on the high side due to the prevalence of go wide decks in my cube meta at present. It is one of the most effective strategies, it is well supported and most colours have access to tools to do it. Wurm crushes those decks in hilarious fashion. It turns their win condition into yours! Massacre Wurm is a great way to sneak in some mass removal to your list without hurting any of your own inclusions. The cost is the onerous part of Wurm for inclusion (both elements), not the effect as is the case for cards like Damnation and Pernicious Deed.
Wurmcoil Engine 5.5
I only tend to run this if I find myself without a source of lifegain. It helps to have ways to sac it too. Other people like it more but I find it too vulnerable to be a card I want to put so much stock into. Super powerful but more of a haymaker card and less of the all rounder you want for your midrange decks.
Sheoldred, the Whispsering One 4
Pretty potent if you exepect to reach these kinds of mana. Such decks tend to need to invest a lot more deck slots in ramp which leaves a bit less space for the kinds of utility returns you would like to run with a card like this. Sheoldred is certainly very powerful and takes over a game impressively fast. Being somewhat vulnerable to spot removal I would want to play it alongside reasonable hand disruption.
Avenger of Zendikar 6
This is one of the more rounded top end dorks. It does good defensive work and good offensive work while generally gaining decent value in the face of spot removal. One awkward aspect of Avenger is that it is ideally more of an 8 drop so you can lay land on the same turn and make the plants relevant even if avenger dies.
Hornet Queen 6
This has neither the power nor the closing ability of the previous two seven drops but this does do a great job defensively. I have seen some pretty painful attempts to get through these. It is so sad watching five decent cards trade slowly for this one. The heartache in faces when you recur it to your hand! This may not close a game well but it does still do so and it is super safe while doing so. One of my preferred top end dorks within a rock shell.
Craterhood Behemoth / Griselbrand 1
I arbitrarily draw the line between rock decks and ramp decks at the seven mana mark. I think you can legitimately run seven drops in a rock deck but if you are trying to pull of eight drops you are really a ramp deck and should be approaching things very differently. A rock deck getting to seven mana will rarely be doing so before turn seven even when using ramp. It will be a slow defensive control deck. A deck getting to eight mana however will be typically trying to do so by turn five. You can still have a reanimate rock hybrid deck, you can even throw ramp into that mix but it still turns out that you are better off running six and seven drops than the really badass eight drops. The ability to hard cast such things is huge in those kinds of decks and comes up a lot due to the decks being hybrid. The marginal difference in power between the six, seven and eight drops is greatly over shadowed by the increasing difficulty of getting to those mana levels naturally.
Emrakul, the Promised End 7
While an 8 drop is too much this 13 drop is fine! Rarely does this cost more than 7 by the time you get there and frequently it costs less. It is a fantastic way of hedging against control decks. It provides decent inevitability and is just one of the best finishers in the game. It is pretty naughty to Whip of Erebos into play as well! The main mark against this is that you just kind of don't need it. Ishkanah is enough kick to win games if you have delirium themes and is significantly more castable.
Urza's / Mishra's Buable 4.5
Fine filler and better than weak cards. These jump a bit in value for the delirium themed decks. Otherwise they are not actively things you want.
Chromatic Star/Sphere etc 4ish
A passable way to up the artifact count in a delirium deck and also a help fixing. Sadly using a card like this to fix will undo early game tempo gains from ramp dorks. You really want that fixing to come on the mana producers.
Vampiric Tutor 9
This is the best tutor for the rock. It is massively improved when you have few answers for any given thing but really really good ones, also ideally late game power cards that will steal the game on their own. Say a deck with a Deed, a Mind Twist, a Recurring Nightmare, that sort of thing. It turns out that when you need to do a thing doing that thing asap is much more important than a card and 2 life. This is often two turns quicker than Demonic Tutor and really is a lot better specifically in this archetype. Not every rock deck wants tutors and very few need them but a lot of the slower ones do benefit a lot from them. Alongside recursion, Tutor effects do let you run a thinner more streamlined deck and they let you do some more exotic things.
Vessel of Nascency 4.5
This is great if you are packing strong graveyard and delirium themes. If not it is pretty shoddy. Unlike green ramp decks you are not flush with mana and despite having some ramp you still want to just spend your mana to do things. The problem with this more than any thing else is that it fails to find your answer cards a lot of the time and that is often what you are digging for.
Traverse the Ulvenwald 5.5
This is pretty good but not for every deck. You don't need to get delirium quickly for this to be playable but you do need to be able to get there. You also want some good targets, some creatures with effects and the like. Without at least some good reason to play this I suspect I would play a dork or a land instead. The good reason very much could be your ratios are about right, perhaps you are a tiny bit light on lands and as such this is a great filler card.
Oath of Nissa 5.5
The value of this is highly dependent on your decks makeup. All creatures, planeswalkers and lands then this is one of the best cards going. Unfortunately that probably means your deck is very clunky and inept at dealing with problems effectively! It tends to be the aggressive decks and the extreme synergy decks that have the highest hit rate for Oath of Nissa but each have their issues. Aggro lists don't want to waste mana on card quality (not unless it is fueling delve and prowess hard which is an Izzet thing not a Golgari one). The synergy lists usually rely on a card like Birthing Pod or something which invariably the Oath fails to find. This is like a Traverse the Ulvenwald in that I would mostly play it just to preserve decent ratios in my deck as sort of a final filler card. It is a little better early but a good deal worse late.
Adventurous Impulse 5
If Oath of Nissa is hard to get working well then this is even harder missing out on planeswalkers. Impulse is still very playable in the rock but it is typically in the role of "instead of a bad card" and not "because it is a good card". The rock is a deck spread sufficiently thin in its attempts to cope with everything that when it plays card quality it really needs it benefits to have a wide range. There are so many ways to just draw cards in these colours, or indeed use the graveyard as a source of card selection. You rarely need to fall back this far to get the consistency you desire.
Unbridled Growth 6
This is a great delirium enabler, a great pseudo deck size reducer, and of course extra fixing. It even turns on revolt. I might seem to be hyping it over Chromatic Star but it is better, better for fixing and easier to sac off. Mostly it is better because there are more playable artifacts in a deck like this than there are enchantments although it is fairly close.
Sylvan Library 7.5
Great card and some great synergies but sometimes a little hard to fit in, either casting it or building with it. Any of the cards that enjoy top of library conditions love this. Shuffle and other library manipulation things significantly empower it. As do lifegain tools when they are not needed to combat the red decks. I have seen Library draw five or more cards in games before which is a fantastic way to beat control or grindy midrange mirrors. This is a luxury card that I find hard to fit in but I have never regretted doing so!
Demonic Tutor 5.5
Two mana is a lot more in terms of tempo lost now than it was back in the day. Adding two to the cost of doing almost anything makes it a pretty weak thing. In rock Demonic Tutor often feels like a win more card. When you are behind it feels really painful. You often end up tutoring for the cheapest thing that does something just so you stay in the game. Mmm, nice three mana Disfigure... The rock is a list spread pretty thin as it like to be able to cope with most situations. The thinner you are spread and the better this is. Sadly the card winds up being Sylvan Scrying a large amount of the time. Under 50% but not loads under. A lot of good lists won't need a tutor but some equally good ones will want them. You will play this as perfectly decent filler in the former and you might even play this over Vamp in the latter. Some decks really struggle with card advantage more than mana and tempo. having the choice between either is a relatively rare luxury and so when you need a Tutor you play what you get.
Survival of the Fittest 3
This is coming down loads in value as the opportunity cost of spending mana to not affect the board grows and grows. This is three mana before it even does any thing. Then you actually have to do the thing having found it. Tutoring is nice, repeat tutoring will end a lot of games but this is really super bad in the early game unless you have some combo win style thing you can pull off. It can be an awful late game topdeck if you are not holding a dork. Generally I'd rather a cheaper one shot tutor if that was all I was playing it for. As a discard outlet and a tutor this is much more interesting.
Fauna Shaman 3
A weaker version of the Survival effect but compensated by offering some board control. This is a bit of an odd one as it is pretty bad at all the things it does but it is still a playable card. It lets you curve and it gives you loads of options. It might bait removal which is OK, it might trade and buy you valuable time and it might turn all your chaff into threats.
Grapple with the Past 6.5
Regrowth effects are nice in rock what with you being quite a thinly spread deck. You will have less top end than the ramp decks, less removal than the control decks and so forth. Most Regrowth effects are pretty weak due to sucking massively in the early game. Grapple with the Past is pretty comparable to Anticipate in the early game and can help enable synergies too. That is a good place to be and so this is one of the better all round card quality cards on offer. It has much better late game scaling than the rest, past a point even the tutors.
Grisly Salvage 6.5
Not many cubes run this which is reasonable being a fairly narrow gold card. It is a decent card quality tool but it is also a fantastic delve, delirium and other graveyard empowering beast. If you are working on those synergies and can run this, do. It isn't even bad when you are not and has comparable potency to Oath of Nissa.
Smuggler's Copter 9.5
Shocking, another archetype breakdown in which this thing comes out as a premium card in the deck. The rock absolutely loves this card. Looting is the perfect antidote to situational cards or ones with weak scaling. Copter is a great use for the small utility dorks the rock plays and it also gives reasonable air control which is another area the rock is a little weak in.
Treasure Map 5
This is pretty strong in the control builds but struggles to offer the right sort of thing for most other versions. The card quality is nice but a little slow. Rock is an odd deck in that the cards it has to work with can and do provide an abundance of card quality or value but they rarely do both. Being a deck that wishes to leverage the board somewhat, even in the control builds, it is best to have either pure cards (Nights Whisper / Vampiric Tutor) or juicy abilities bolted onto dorks.
Catacomb Sifter 5
Nice little filler card with a pile of utility. A pair of bodies, a sac effect, a tiny burst of ramp and of course the ongoing scry (with one locked in if you want). Sifter does a lot but it is the scry that pushes it. If you can sit there with this in play getting random scry triggers most turns then you are increasing your win percentage a huge amount.
Reaper of the Wilds 4
This should really be in the big dorks section. I rate is comparably to Josu Vess, Ripjaw Raptor, Thrun and Polukranos. Just a fairly fat midrange dork! Reaper affords more scry opportunity that Sifter but is far less useful as a card quality tool. You have to get some value from the body and that is rather harder to do.
Green Sun's Zenith 2
This isn't tempo, it eats valuable space in your deck and it only finds the green dorks in your deck. Give me Vampiric Tutor over this in most cases please! Unless I also have Dryad Arbor somehow in my pool I really don't like this card when not used in some combo capacty. Mono green decks have a better run with it but that is for the two fold effect of being super creature heavy (as green is all dorks) and having mostly green dorks. If you could find 187 dorks with Zenith then I would be far more into it.
Chord of Calling 6
Now this is a tutor effect I can get behind. Convoke means this can often provide tempo unlike the Zenith. Not being restricted to green dorks means it can have a fuller range of utility you want your tutors to offer. Being instant means you can use it more safely, more easily with convoke and in a much more disruptive and scary way. No one wants to run into a surprise Wurmcoil Engine! You can't go too overboard on tutor and card quality cards for risk of not having enough room for all your active deck components but a bit goes a long way and this is one of the better ones.
You may have noticed a lot of cards in the 4-7 range with relatively few outside of that. I didn't bother rating a lot of the weaker cards and that is basically the cards I have not detailed here (I think). This list has all the (non-land) cards you should be looking to play. Mostly however the 4-7 ratings are down to the nature of the deck. It is much more about correct ratios and being well tuned for the meta and well tuned to milk internal synergies than having the best stand alone cards. The real value of a rock deck is in how you build it, not so much the raw power of the component cards. The rock has lots of playables of comparable power level. Being a good rock player is knowing which of your myriad numbers of 7ish ranked three drop dorks are best suited on the day. In having the option to play those ideal cards because you prioritised them in drafting. The rock itself is a fairly simple deck in terms of game plan and even in terms of the number of options cards allow for and how those options might be put to use. These simple elements however do not make for a simple deck. The complexity of the rock comes from the need of having a holistic understanding of the interactions between your cards and a deep understanding of the cards you need to face and the cube meta you are playing. Doing OK with the rock is easy. Doing above average with the rock is hard and winning with it fairly consistently is proper hard.
Below is a super rough guide of how many tools of each kind I like to have at my disposal in the more typical rock builds.
At least 2 direct hand disruption cards and no more than 4. Ideally two at one mana.
At least 3 creature removal cards, ideally more. potentially upwards of 6 although at that stage all further ones will be on the back of planeswalkers, dorks or other multipurpose cards. I want one or two pure creature kill spells and the same again in removal spells that hit other targets as well and then I want to stock up on removal from 187 dorks and walkers beyond that.
At least 1 way to handle artifacts and/or enchantments, ideally closer to 3 each total.
Around 3 ramp effects for decks lower on the curve with a couple of five drops, at most one six drop. For decks with seven drops or more than one six drop I am looking at wanting five or more ramp cards.
I always want a couple of life gain effects but I want them without having to waste a card just for lifegain. I want it on cards I otherwise want. These can be overlooked if you are full aggro. The more you get the better you are against red decks and aggro.
I want at least one effect able to clear things en masse these days as well unless I am full aggro. The control versions want a minimum of two mass clear effects.
I want at least two cards that provide sufficient reach to win a game. This is a bit more open to interpretation. It also changes rather if you are running pure threats without reach (things like Putrid Leech for example). A sufficient mass of such cards constitutes reach itself. Rather than have a few specific cards you will win with the whole deck is a linear route towards winning. Still, it doesn't hurt to increase the closing power of such decks with some evasive dorks, Overrun effects, even haste dorks become quite reach like in the aggressive builds.
Another way in which this concept of reach is tricky is when cards combine to become reach. A Siege Rhino isn't really reach in the way I mean it, sure, if they are on 3 it is all the reach you need. If the 3 life loss doesn't put them in any immediate danger then the Rhino is a fairly low reach threat. It is only a little better than a delirious Grim Flayer. Combined with Recurring Nightmare however a Rhino is all the reach you need to close out a game. Rhino on its own is just a good solid all round midrange card. Nightmare is a do nothing on its own but is at least usually a value and utility tool. When you have both however you can have fewer other cards with game ending potential (reach) and not suffer ill effects from doing so.
Here are some fairly hastily thrown together lists. They should serve as reasonable examples but I wouldn't bother looking too deeply at them. All the refinement and nuance key to playing rock will likely be lacking unless by some happy chance I randomly proffered a polished, considered build!
Good Stuff Minrange Rock
Birds of Paradise
Elves of Deepshadow
Inquisition of Kozilek
Go for the Throat
Courser of Kruphix
Liliana of the Veil
Nissa, Vastwood Seer
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
Gonti, Lord of Luxury
Liliana, Death's Majesty
Creature Light Control Rock
Search for Tomorrow
Wall of Roots
Wall of Blossoms
Sakura Tribe Elder
Arguel's Blood Fast
Courser of Kruphix
Gonti, Lord of Luxury
Nissa, Vital Force
Ishkana, the Grafwidow
Ob Nixilus, Reignited
Vraska, Relic Seeker
Elves of Deep Shadow
Rishkar, Peema Renegade
Surrak, the Huntcaller
Tasigur, the Golden Fang
A Pox Style Rock Deck
Sakura Tribe Elder
Liliana of the Veil
Liliana, the Last Hope
Liliana, Heretical Healer
Never // Return
Braids, Cabal Minion
16 Lands inc Wasteland