Thursday, 9 August 2018

Top Ten Cards of 2014

Siege RhinoI had remembered Khans being more impactful than the quantity of relevant cards from this year suggests. I think while numbers are relatively low, the impact of a few of the big names significantly changed the cube landscape and made it feel like a bigger year. Product-released-wise, 2014 was a huge year with three normal sets (Journey into Nyx, Born of the Gods, and Khans of Tarkir), a base set (M15), Commander 2014 and Conspiracy as well. Given the relatively large number of cards and the relatively few of them that are cube relevant, I think we can actually call 2014 a fairly low powered year, at least for a recent one. Regardless of all that, I remember this year, specifically Khans, most fondly.  Here are some of those cards that are cube relevant, before we get to the top ten;

Myriad LandscapeSong of Dryads
Malicious Affliction
Mana Confluence
Dictate of Heliod
Stoke the Flames
Bloodsoaked Champion
Brimaz, King of Oreskos
Chandra, Pyromaster
Sorin, Solemn Visitor
Murderous Cut
Nissa, Worldwaker
Myriad Landscape
Hallowed Spiritkeeper
Temple Cycle
Abzan Charm
Altar of the Brood
Anafenza, the Foremost
Arcane Lighthouse
Nissa, Worldwaker
Brimaz, King of OreskosBassara Tower Archer
Become Immense
Brago, King Eternal
Brain Maggot
Clever Impersonator
Coercive Portal
Containment Priest
Daretti, Scrap Savant
Defiant Strike
Doomwake Giant
Dualcaster Mage
Eidolon of Blossoms
Eidolon of the Great Revel
Freyalise, Llanowar's Fury
Garruk, Apex Predator
Gnarled Scarhide
Grim Haruspex
Hall of Triumph
Hardened Scales
Jeskai Ascendancy
Jeskai Charm
Mantis Rider
Mardu Charm
Necromantic Selection
Nyx Weaver
Pain Seer
Return to the Ranks
Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
Savage Knuckleblade
Seeker of the Way
Sidisi, Brood Tyrant
Seige Rhino
Sultai Charm
Teferi, Termporal Archmage
Temur Charm
Titania, Protector of Argoth
Waste Not

Dack Fayden10. Dack Fayden

Dack is a bit less common to see (being gold) but he is relatively high impact on the cube. He is so swing-y when he can steal something strong that he is one of the more played-around cards. You walk into Dack and you probably throw. Dack is unlike any other Walker – firstly, he is no threat all by himself, (well, not unless you can realistically expect to mill out your opponent by forcing them to loot (It has happened!)). Secondly, because he is so polar - he is playable, but low key when he has no potential targets to steal. Hes fine when he just loots, hes good when he only uses the +1, but he also makes your opponents play differently. He is game-winning when he opens up with a Steal Artifact, even if this is as minor as a Talisman or Terrarion. With it being steal rather than destroy, the impact is generally more than doubled, particularly in the early game. Resource development games have an exponential scaling (as a general rule) and so minor edges gained early get quite out of hand, over time. If it is devastating to lose a cheap support artefact, imagine how filthy it is to take a Wurmcoil Engine! All in all, one of the biggest swings that occurs in my cube, with a casual three-for-one into the mix, you being up a Walker and a thing, and them being down the thing. 

Creeperhulk9.   Creeperhulk

Not super-exciting, but pretty effective. This is basically the card you play when you want to play Craterhoof Behemoth, but can't reasonably expect to get near eight mana in any sort of useful time frame. In any creature based deck, if you get to untap with a Creeperhulk you have likely won. Failing that, you should be pretty ahead, or forcing your opponent into acts of desperation. Creeperhulk is fairly punchy just on its own, being a decent 5/5 in stats complete with that key trample. The one downside of the card is that if you curve him out and walk into removal, you are typically falling behind due to the relative cheapness of said removal. Creeperhulk has no bonus value to offer on cast, on entering play, or leaving it, nor does it have any protection beyond the reasonable health pool. A Doom Blade or Swords to Plowshares see him off cleanly and efficiently, and that is the danger. Fortunately, in a creature-heavy deck you, will expect to force that kind of removal a lot earlier on three drops. You can also top deck Creeperhulk late, with seven or even nine mana, and get a bit of that Craterhoof feel. Ultimately this is a good finisher and nothing more - it is OK on its own and offers a lot of reach, but its not a value card or a utility one, although it is sufficiently good at its main job for that to not matter at all. The drawback it has is akin to that of Baneslayer Angel's and if you can work around it, then you are in the winning position. Typically, this will be the last threat you play, so as to best avoid removal and best position yourself to use the game closing power of the card. 

Courser of Kruphix8.   Courser of Kruphix

Green has had so many great-value three drops printed since Courser that he no longer seems quite as nuts as he once was. When this came out in 2014, it was the absolute business. The perfect all-inclusive midrange and control dork. Despite the heavy defensive leaning, Courser cropped up in all sorts of more tempo-driven decks, like Jund and Zoo, simply for being so far above the curve. Good stats, lifegain, ongoing card advantage what’s not to love? Sure, he might concede some information, but you can also turn that drawback into a perk with sneaky mindgames, or simply shuffle effects timed well. Courser is no less great than it was, it just has more comparable alternatives that rather reduce the urgency on having this in your list. With punchier-value three drops like Tireless Tracker and Jadelight Ranger to choose from, Courser now tends to find play in the midrange and control decks more exclusively, and that is why I could only have him at the bottom end of this list. If I had done this list at the time, this would have been a lot higher. 

Goblin Rabblemaster7.   Goblin Rabblemaster

I misread this in my initial review of it in 2014 and thought it produced 1/1s only when it attacked. I ran with that assumption, because that would have been pretty appropriate for the era. When I saw it getting some play, I was confused and properly re-read the card and instantly added it to the cube. Rabblemaster has found itself in a wide array of archetypes. It might look aggressive, but it has plenty of applications in slower decks. The card gets out of hand really fast, as it needs an answer and will often leave some residual value, even when removed. Rabblemaster is the bar I measure the dangerous three drop threats by, and little comes close! It is cards like Rabblemaster that make uninteractive decks need to be exceptional. Most decks are pretty well equipped with answer cards these days, and it is cards like Rabblemaster that make this such a necessity. It is not too hard to mitigate, just a couple of 2/2s will be more than enough,but things get well out of hand if no mitigation is available. Rabblemaster really punishes, while still having an impressive floor. It applies a lot of damage very quickly and it manages to go both wide and tall. Often, they have to block the Rabblemaster itself due to the high damage it represents, and so they trade their big thing with your small thing while all the little goblins live and nibble away. Goblin Bombardment decks as well as tribal decks also love Rabblemaster for his cheap ongoing token production.

Flesh Carver6.   Flesh Carver

One of the big, underrated cube cards out there. Mostly this is down to it not being appropriate for eternal formats and not being legal in other competitive ones. It was never in a draft format. It isn't exciting for EDH, either – really, this guy only shines in cube. It usually takes some dominance in another popular format before people really tune into a cards potential in cube and Carver has never had such attention. So why is he so good? He just does it all, in a safe and efficient way. Carver is a decent tempo buffer against aggression, providing a couple of OK blockers and a tough time of clearing the path entirely. He makes a planeswalker safer than most other three drops do in an average cube setting. He also threatens planeswalkers in the midgame and players as well, when the time comes. Evasion combined with the ability to grow in size is pretty scary. It is relatively safe investing in growing Carver and pretty easy to make him bigger than anything that can block him. He is also nice and safe to most mass removal and allows for a little more extension than most threats. Carver has some of the best reach you can find on a three drop. He wins more games than the high tempo threats like Ahn Crop Crasher, say. The same is true for meaty powerful cards like Brimaz as well, but none have the staying power or ability to force through damage that Carver does. When Flesh Carver is holding down the fort against aggression, or winning the game for you, he is providing powerful utility and a useful sac outlet.

Satyr Wayfinder5.   Satyr Wayfinder

This little dork seems to just be everywhere at the moment. There is just such a depth of things that interact with graveyards, in basically all colours and archetypes, that a nice bit of controlled self mill does a lot of work. Two mana for a 1/1 body and a land is a nice cheap two for one, albeit a very low impact one. It gets some presence on the board and it gives you some consistency going forwards. Sylvan Ranger is a more reliable two for one and a more reliable fixer, but it offers no synergies, doesn't find exciting lands and requires a mild degree of building around (in that you need to include targets). You barely ever see Ranger anymore and it was never that exciting of a card. Wayfinder, however, is pretty busted! It is a pretty good starting point for a card and then it has so much scaling power. I have seen it be pretty filthy value when it flips three cards that do things from the bin and a land. Literally better than an Ancestral Recal (once, but still). Just reducing a delve card by 3 is more than enough to make Wayfinder great. It is the selection aspects, more than the value or tempo ones, that I have found most useful. It turns out that most colours have access to some recursion tools, which are already pretty desirable in the singleton formats. Card quality, dig and tutoring have historically been the preserve of blue and black,but increasing quantities of playable self mill and recursion tools has allowed all the colours to get involved to some extent. I often think of Wayfinder as giving you an extra Anticipate with suspend that concludes when you use your recursion effects. While most colours do now have some forms of dig, tutoring and card quality of their own, being able to supplement it with self mill and recursion is a huge help and has opened up the cube amazingly. Control and midrange options are all over the place. Not so long ago at all, the idea of any red deck that wasn't racing was a joke - either go combo, go aggro or go home. Now, though, slow red decks are great. Wayfinder isn't itself playing a huge part in red having a wider range, but Wayfinder is the poster boy for good self mill in cube. After the good one mana ramp cards, Wayfinder is the most played green card in my cube. 

Council's Judgment4.   Council's Judgement

A pretty dull card and a pretty fair one. Three mana is a lot to pay for a sorcery speed spot removal card. Council's Judgement is not really a card for getting you ahead, it is a get out of jail free card. The aspects of the card that carry it are simply that it is one of the very few catch-all cards. It will not kill man lands and utility lands, or I guess Viashano Sandstalker! It will however kill everything else, from Purphoros to Thrun, True-Name to Darksteel Colossus. No form of    protection actually protects against Council's Judgement, short of not being in play anymore! While that may not be great card design in a standard format, it is fantastic in cube. It ensures there are counter-play options and that leads to a healthy format. It is a card that makes a deck look worse on paper, but in practice it increases your win percentage overall and leads to better games. I rarely leave it out of a white deck and never did prior to Cast Out getting printed. 

Dig Through Time3.   Dig Through Time

I was super hot for this card when I first saw it. So hot for it that it blinded me to other good things! I was missing the Fact or Fiction days of card draw that planeswalkers had slowly made obsolete and in Dig Through Time I saw powerful card advantage that was playable in all the ways Fact or Fiction no longer was. Not only was Dig Through Time playable, but it is oh-so-powerful too. It is better than two Impulses and yet it is one card, not two! It can be played for the same amount of mana, as well! It feels like a tutor in cube, with seven cards being a large chunk of libraries in forty card decks. Dig is highly desirable for combo and control decks, while also getting plenty of play in aggro and midrange, as well. Drawing cards is never bad, certainly at a one for one rate with mana paid. Selection on cards is also never bad! The instant speed of Dig also drastically reduces the onus on powering out your delve. Paying four for an EoT Dig is totally fine, and it is still better than Fact or Fiction!

Treasure Cruise2.  Treasure Cruise

Not quite Ancestral Recall, but certainly the closest we have come to the original busted draw spell. You need to have some support for this, but it is all good cards, all pretty painless and easy to do and oh-so-well worth it! I underrated this on release, because I was in the mindset that only control and combo decks really want to invest in raw card advantage cards. Obviously there is a point at which a card is just too powerful to pass up on, despite how off theme it is, much like Courser of Kruphix in aggro decks. Suffice it to say, Treasure Cruise is well past that point. Sure, card draw might be the opposite of tempo, but it is never really off theme’, as such. Original affinity decks ran Thoughtcast, after all. So yeah, every deck that can expect to cast this for one within a half reasonable time frame plays this. The only reason they might not is because they don't have it, or they already have too many other cards taxing and using the graveyard. Or, I guess they could just be wrong! Delve saturation is the only really bad thing about all the bonkers good delve cards from 2014. I have had at least four big delve spells in decks before, but I never expect to cast more than three, usually only two, and even then I will have built to fuel the delve somewhat more than usual. Delve might be cheap, but they are not super early and each tends to reset your progress. I did Cruise turn two the last time I played cube, but I had over supported my self mill, I lost that game and most of my matches. Much as you can't overload on delve effects in a deck, it isn't too problematic for Cruise as it is the best of them on average and tends to oust the competition. 

Monastery Swiftspear1.   Monastery Swiftspear

What a dork. No downside, just pure upside. This might well have still been a premium red one drop as a 1/1 or without haste. The latter, we can somewhat support with the subsequent printing of Soul-Scar Mage. I certainly rate Soul-Scar as the second best red one mana beater in my cube, but I can see the arguments against that while I will not hear of any suggestion Swiftspear isn't the number one. She has great scaling and the cards that support it well are also powerful cards. You can play Swiftspear in most aggressive decks and it is rarely bad. Even with practically zero triggers, your opponent will need to respect that you might have some which means Swiftspear will trumps 2/2s and even some key cards that are bigger. Scare off that 4/3 with your ferocious 1/2! So while you could technically argue that Goblin Guide was better in a vacuum, in practice it never is. I don't just rate this as better than Goblin Guide and thus better than any other red one drop beater, I rate this as the best one drop beater of all time. Keep your static, narrow Nacatls, keep your needy Delver of Secrets, your sac land fueled Lynx and your tribe locked Parish Champions! Swiftspear is not only more powerful than those cards, but it is also much more insteresting and interactive. It is rare for something to be at the top of a pile of things and actually be a well designed card. Sure, it could be toned down, but it isn't oppressive as it is, just as good as it can be. 


  1. Always enjoy these lists but I have a lot of disagreement with you in this one.

    I think cruise and dig are better than Taylor swiftspear. Taylor only plays in Aggro, specifically spell Aggro, so she is really only a first pick in blue red or URx tempo, or Rx burn decks. Obviously dominant in those situations, but still narrow.

    I would probably rank Dig first, because that card basically says "win the game" for the majority of decks that run it. The common combo deck play is EOT Dig, next turn go off. The control/midrange play is find the two answers or answer + threat that ends the game. I would always pick Dig over Taylor unless I were already deep into Mono red or UR tempo (and in UR it is a toss up depending on deck).

    Cruise is not quite as strong as Dig but more easily splashable. All the low curve Aggro decks like it bc it supercharges them right when an opponent stabilizes. For control and midrange it is just sub par ancestral. This card is not always quite as good in its ideal home as Taylor but it literally fits in EVERY deck that can generate blue mana.

    Finally Creeperhulk??!! Cmon man... that card got cut years ago. 5 drops need to win the game or at least give significant advantage and creeperdoesnt come close. He dies without giving you value unless your opponent is out of answers when played on curve. When he survives he wins the game fairly quickly but ANY five drop in cube does that. As a 6 or 7 drop he is still hohum bc then you are in prime time / craterhoof territory and those cards actually do win the game far more consistently due to the haste on craterhoof and instant value on the Titan. Creeperhulk is bad when behind, decent when even, and not even great when ahead. I think creeperhulk is last pickable. I'd take Brimaz over him any day as a difficult to deal with value threat or Sarkhan (threat plus removal) or Nissa.

    1. So I agree with all the comments and concerns you raise but not to the same extent. I agree that both Dig and Cruise and likely more potent cards than Swiftspear but they are reduced in value by their poor scaling with each other (plus other yard cards) and redundancy. Soul-Scar Mage made Swiftspear better while Cruise makes Dig a little worse, or at least lower priority, in cube. I do not find I play Cruise in any deck that has blue. I want to be able to play it by turn four consistently and that rules Cruise out of many lists. I certainly rate Dig above Cruise in power as well but it is narrower than it is better hence winding up below.

      In regards the narrowness of Swiftspear, you are correct. I think tempo and generally things that pair well with Swiftspear are just so dominant in my cube presently that I am rating it so highly. If I were only playing MODO cubes then I suspect I would be a lot less hot on it. Based on play numbers in my cube Swiftspear is absolutely top of the pile. In terms of shifting the meta I also have to give it to Swiftspear as she really did make a lot of new things possible.

      Creeperhulk I understand too. The card is very dull and not nearly the same potency or utility as things like Gearhulk, Nissa and Ishkanah, not to mention five drops outside of green. The think that keeps Creeperhulk so strong in the cube is how good it is at doing its job. It is more "if I untap with this I win" than most other cards in the game in most situations. It plays right into how green operates and it is appropriate for that point in the curve. Value and utility are less good at five mana, it is time to think about sealing the deal and that is what Creeperhulk does oh so well. Yes, it dies to a Doom Blade and that sucks but if they don't have it they die to it and they likely have just the one turn to come up with that answer. Suitability to purpose, especially as you get higher on the curve, is super important and so I have been unable to justify culling the dullard!

      I would be interested to see your top ten for this, and indeed any other year you strongly disagree with. Not to pick holes either, it is just interesting to see how different people and different groups value things. I am always trying to make sure I don't fall down the meta hole due to lack of external influences. The average cubes lists on CubeTutor are great for that but nothing beats talking to actual people!

  2. Ok, here goes:
    Off - Flesh carver, creeperhulk. For Creeper see above. Flesh Carver is a card I really wanted to like but I have never found that it gets there. My playgroup actually had a pretty in depth discussion about why it consistently sucks. Really it comes down to the cost of the sac effect and the prevalence of exile removal in the cube. If it were B or free to sac and instead of triggering on death triggered on leave the battlefield it would be great. Even just the sac outlet reduction would be good.
    10. Daretti Scrap Savant - Welder in PW form. This card is huge in artifact combo decks/graveyard decks and often serves as an enabler/win con in one. Often undervalued and definitely a build around but just a great versatile card.
    9. Dack Fayden - just what you said. good looter, game stealer against artifact mana and tinker decks. extra points for being so cool.
    8. Satyr Wayfinder - fantastic enabler. It is better than everything outside of the top 4 in ideal circumstances. Yet I still see this card sitting on the sidelines more often than not. I am not sure if that is because people undervalue it or if there are enough other filler cards in non super heavy graveyard decks.
    7. Brimaz - If this were 1 white I would probably rank it above both swiftspear and rabblemaster but the double white just narrows it's playability so much. Still strong on both offense and defense, and even plays with legend synergies. Aggro is it's natural home but also plays decently in control bc 3 is so cheap and it gums up the ground so well.
    6. Goblin Rabblemaster - similar to swiftspear, also plays well in token strategies, but not quite as strong
    5. Courser of Kruphix - card advantage and a potent anti aggro card. Also dominates the control matchups if unchecked. I agree with you that it's star has faded but still a premium green 3.
    4. Monastery Swiftspear - powerful, but far more narrow than the cards above it
    3. Treasure Cruise - love the draw three but this is a close call with Swiftspear
    2.Council's Judgment - unconditional removal, works in control or aggro. Just a workhorse card
    1.Treasure Cruise - biggest upside, biggest I win card

  3. 1 should be Dig through Time whoops

    1. Nice list! Daretti is great and should be in most cubes, he would have been on my list if it was not for my fairly recent culling of combo options from my drafting cube.

      Brimaz, and also probably the Flesh Carver are the interesting differences and I want to understand why we rate these cards so differently. I know you know your stuff and have a good cube understanding and so it must be a meta based thing. Do you have a list of your current cube on anything like cubetutor that I might have a gander at it?

      I am wondering if the cards value changes significantly based on how much you play before them. Brimaz rarely gets that much done in my cube, only the aggressive decks want him, and as you say, really only the heavy white decks due to the WW in the cost. Most of my aggressive white decks are really done with generic threats by the three drop and will play removal, anthems, walkers and dorks with a specific role in the top end leaving little room for the king of Oreskos. I can absolutely imagine that if both players have nothing much going on and one makes Brimaz and the other makes a Flesh Carver that the Brimaz player is well ahead. It is just that never happens in my cube as so much going on turns one and two. Perhaps you have support cards for Brimaz like Lightning Greaves or some ways to give him evasion that empower him?


    Here is the cube. We generally do not have more than 4 players so we play "team sealed" where each person gets 12 packs of 15 to make 3 decks. That is the main reason the cube is so large bc it allows for varied gameplay and more players in this format. I've also been busy lately so haven't gotten updates for last couple sets.

    Brimaz plays well in Bant 3 drop Aggro. Basically go t1 mana dork or rock and then follow it up w one of the multiple overpowered 3 drops in that color combo. Because he starts leaving bodies and puts a lot of pressure on + dodges red removal he is big game.

    I have also thought seriously about trimming the combo elements but I worry that doing so would reduce games to planeswalker grindfests.

    1. Nice cube. I have certainly never seen one so big, shuffling must be fun! You really do have all the good cube cards in there, despite how big it is there is an impressively high ratio of top rate cube cards. Mine would look like that if I never culled things!

      Game length without combo in cubes does increase but only a little while I found game quality to increase a lot. Not everyone is having fun when you lose without doing anything because they combo'd off on turn two before you made anything or you simply failed to put your combo together and died as if you didn't show up to play. I think there are enough answers and good tempo threats than planeswalkers are far less dominant in cube than they used to be. Look at how many walkers see play in modern and legacy and then consider that cube has been continually tending towards those formats. So many walkers I used to think of as bombs like Tamiyo, Moon Sage or Gideon Jura are now unexciting cards. Best thing to do is to try it! Just put your combo cards in a box and play without them for a bit and if you don't like it put them back! It is pretty much what I did with the power, every now and again we bust it out for some sillyness but mostly we just prefer the consistent fairer games without it.