Fires of Yavimaya was an infamous deck back in the day that brought impressive curving, tempo and high power to the table. It dominated standard (or type II at the time) and was considered oppressive. It is why a lot of the older player base filled with fear at the sights of Rhythm of the Wild. They recalled the oppressive unstoppable nature of the original version of the deck. The thing is, much has changed since then. The way in which creatures, removal, value and tempo work have all changed. Yes, creatures are much more powerful but then so are strategies that compete against them. Things are lower to the ground than before and a three mana do nothing is a much harder sell. I built this deck as a nostalgic nod to old times, not because I thought it would be a premium cube deck. I also got a little distracted with new cards and minor synergies and wound up with a fairly niche looking deck. Basically Rhythm of the Wild wants you to play high curve dorks with huge benefits from gaining haste or perhaps a +1/+1 counter. It does not want you to play token generating cards particularly. That sent me down a line where Goreclaw started to look amazing with all these four and five drop dorks with four or more power in my list of potentials. Between Goreclaw and Rhythm you do not have much wiggle room but both seems to work nicely with the new Nikya of the Old Ways. I couldn't resist the rare opportunity and so went fully into the rabbit hole. As such I stripped out all the burn that the old Fires decks played and just played creatures, lands and the two Fires cards. A little bit cute and gimmicky but not really compromising on the deck to include these narrower strategies.
Birds of Paradise
Fires of Yavimaya
Rhythm of the Wild
Rhonas, the Indomitable
Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma
Surrak, the Hunt Caller
Polukranos, World Eater
Nikya of the Old Ways
7 Duals that are mostly or always untapped
The reason this is not tier one is not the narrower cards used but the style of deck. They are fine, the loss of a few all round good cards and the odd cheap burn spell is very minor while the synergy gains probably do more than than just offset that. The reason this deck and those like it are no longer tier one in cube is just that they don't have quite enough in the way of positive meaningful choices. You want options and this deck doesn't provide as many as most other cube decks and that lets it get outplayed. Most decks have plans to deal with dorks and plans to deal with aggression. This just has one plan. This steamrolls some things but it is vulnerable to a number of control builds. It is vulnerable to decks with options. Decks that can react to a situation or win via several different styles of play. This deck and those like it make dorks and send them at face. If that isn't getting it done then they lose. Certainly the deck has choices and can totally throw a game due to making the wrong ones. Bad attacks, over extensions and that sort of thing. What it cannot do is make dynamic choices that win a game. You winning is the result of your opponent not having the right cards or not making the right choices. You have the power to throw and so does your opponent but all things being equal and noone misplaying RNG and matchups are going to decide your game. That lack of agency over winning is both unsatisfying and undesirable in a deck for most people unless the deck has such good percentages that it doesn't matter. The only time I want to be playing a cube deck without instants or interaction is when I have a combo deck. I almost always want card selection too. This kind of stompy zoo deck has a reasonable power level in cube and reasonable win percentages, just looking at those things you could argue a case for it being tier one. What it lacks is that upper range or ceiling where you can extend beyond the average performance and win an event. A lot of where a deck like this will pick up those win percentages is in how well it punishes a misstep. Miss a land drop and this kind of deck is capitalizing on that hard and fast. That is a perk that helps keep it viable but it certainly doesn't help the deck feel strong or provide those satisfying wins.
I got all excited by riot when it was spoiled because it is such a clean and useful ability to have on an aggressive tempo card but that critically provided options. While riot is a great mechanic it is a long way off being enough options to pull this archetype to where it needs to be. It is an infrequent choice and for the most part your choice is going to be pretty predetermined and fairly obvious when not. While that doesn't reduce the power of the ability it does reduce the capacity with which you can use it to outplay people. I initially ran Zhur-Tar Goblin in this list but cut it almost immediately. While the card is high powered it is not what the deck needs. You are trying to win with big haymakers and so little ones just don't do enough to be worth it. You want utility or ramp from 1 to 3 on the curve in a deck like this. I would play another land or another 4+ drop over a generic efficient low drop beater. A burn spell would be far better too, even with Nikya.
Despite that long section of me hating on this style of deck I did really like the build of this one. I love building these decks and I just get a little sad when playing them isn't as fun as I want it to be! A lot of it is my turns taking an average of a few seconds compared to my opponents legitimately needing far longer. Great for those days when you feel a little drained and want a less demanding game. Great as an archetype to go into when new to a cube so as to get a feel for what is going on and how the format plays as a whole. The same applies to newer players in general, a deck like this is a very good starting point. For old farts like me I look to get a lot more magic done when I play and so I tend to steer away from things like this a lot of the time. This list performed a little above average but nothing to get excited about. All the cool new cards used worked well and did their thing but they didn't solve the main problem this archetype has. I did discover some potential new ways to go about achieving such ends. Green has good card quality effects if you are mostly into creatures, and it has good mana production. This fails in this list with Nikya being the main source of mana and not working at all well with most card quality cards. It also doesn't assist all that much with the instant speed interaction. I think there is still a long way to go but this list at least shows some good ground work for potential places to start.
Without compromise on tempo this list contains the following effects on creatures; combat tricks, graveyard exile, Threaten effects, power and trample buffs, direct damage, fighting, naturalize effects and it could have run more of such things. Perhaps it needs to go into blue or black to find creatures with casting and hand disruption effects? Sounds ugly, low tempo and inconsistent but I should at least try it. The reason this deck contains so many effects on creatures is heavily due to Nikya prohibiting non-creature spells and providing a lot of mana to do stuff with. Part is for the simple desire to have a high creature count for scaling with the haste and riot providers. While the creatures themselves are not instant many of the effects they bring can be done at instant speed. You lose the surprise factor but not the option density. Indeed, on board tricks can be even harder to play around than the unknown ones. There are plenty of ways of making creatures instant too if you were desperate! One could move away from Nikya and build in more card quality effects and other mana ramp and do a decent job of providing enough interaction, disruption and options to become competitive again.
The other mild downer about this deck is that all the cool new stuff is at the top end. The bottom end is sparse and mostly just about getting to the top end in good shape. You want to make a mana dork into a three drop. Ideally one of the enchantments and then make four and five drops for the next couple of turns resulting in a swift win. Do that without significant disruption and nothing is going toe to toe with you. What that ultimately means is that you could run any old reasonable top end and forgo the minor synergies. You win if your top end sticks and you lose if it doesn't or never arrives. Having a bit more power when your top end is out does't offer value if you were winning anyway. That basically condemns the really cool big cards like Goreclaw and Nikya from performing well in a drafting cube where space is tight and narrow cards bear a big cost on the format. Despite their good power they do not offer it all in a useful way. It is like a badly built car with loads of horsepower but an inability to win a race or even produce a good top speed. Power is all well and good but how it is able to be utilized is what is important. This can be the result of the way the card itself is designed or it can be due to the way that it fits into the archetypes that would want it. These cards are also that bit narrower in application than other high powered four and five drops in cube and that hurts them again. Both Niyka and Goreclaw were great but then you should expect that of a potent card when built around. I did do the god opener of turn three Goreclaw post Fires and attack, turn four Nikya for three mana and follow it with another dork. It won but so would a vanilla 4/4 for 4 followed by a 5/5 for 5 I expect.
Curving is so important for this deck it is worth aggressively mulliganing more than you would with most other aggressive decks. You don't need many threats to win, you just need to have the tempo. This means that Merfolk Branchwalker and Jadelight Ranger would be good includes. Rix Maadi Reveler, Battlefield Scavenger, and even Borderland's Explorer all help towards these ends without significant tempo costs and would all make reasonable inclusions (not all at once!).
Some more protection against disruption would be nice but that is quite hard to achieve in this kind of deck. Xenagos, God of Revels and Hazoret, the Fervent both add to your indestructible card count but that isn't protecting you against exile removal. Nor are undying cards and the best of those isn't at all what you want in this deck. The Strangleroot Geist is about the nut low dork for scaling with Rhythm of the Wild! Vorapede would be the card of choice for that form of protection. Thrun and Vinemare can help a bit against spot removal but neither are premium threats and they still fail against most mass removal too. Usually aggressive decks will evade removal by spreading their threats out. A couple of planeswalkers, a vehicle, a Sulphuric Vortex and that sort of thing. This wide array of threats dodge a lot of mass removal and put a lot of strain on spot removal and trying to line it up effectively. Sadly this list loses value from a load of the synergy cards for each non-creature card you play. The best it really does is the land threats, which to be fair, are excellent! I would strongly consider tossing in a Treetop Village to bolster this complement of extra threats and to take advantage of Nikya. Here is the relatively short list of other dorks I considered for this deck;
Shaman of the Great Hunt
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