By: Dom Harvey
This is a clear staple for even the tightest power-max Cubes. While it requires a hefty mana investment to remove something ‘permanently’, the tempo boost makes this more than good enough most of the time. Typically the most flexible removal spells are sorcery speed; of the few exceptions, Beast Within carries a significant drawback and the most restrictive Abrupt Decay is a multi-format all star. Unexpectedly Absent will be a solid role player in Legacy and a valuable tool in Cube.
The choice of whether to include this card says a lot about the philosophy behind your Cube. Judging solely by power level, Nemesis is incredible. Does it lead to fun games, though? If you can stock the Cube with enough answers, or if racing against it proves to be competitive, maybe. Being under the gun against an untouchable 3/1 and forced to find a way to deal 20 in time can be exciting; when equipment and the like enters the picture, it isn’t.
This one is hard to evaluate. If played on curve it compounds any advantage you have, acting as an ersatz Bitterblossom. More often, your 2-drop will get killed or face an unprofitable trade and you’ll wish you had some guy – any guy – instead.
This is an excellent defensive card for any midrange black deck; either the opponent kills it on sight and still loses a guy to the Snake, or it lives and presents them with that same conundrum every turn. Note that it triggers on each upkeep; if you have a way to cash in a token for an instant-speed effect, it gets out of hand quickly.
We’ve been waiting for this for a long time. A splashable, 3-mana mass removal spell that scales as you want?! The life loss can be an issue, and it’s much worse in the occasional ‘Damnation your one creature away’ line, but those are downsides I’m happy to live with. It greatly increases the value of creatures that live through it but which would die to a normal sweeper: T2 Tarmogoyf T3 Deluge will be a common play in Legacy, to the distress of Mothers of Runes everywhere.
Sulfuric Vortex is one of the scariest cards in Cube, and so a turbo-charged version of it sounds good on paper. The appeal of Vortex is that it’s perfectly costed for its effect; it fits neatly into the ideal start of the decks that want it, applying continuous and unstoppable pressure. Those decks have a much harder time mustering 5 mana, and when they do it’s for an immediate game ender like Thundermaw Hellkite or Zealous Conscripts, which fit in a much wider range of decks. Witch Hunt is a narrow tool that’s not really wanted by its target market; still, I think this is more than just a watered down Havoc Festival.
Restore is a home run: great art and flavour married to a cheap and exploitable effect. It doesn’t slot easily into your normal singleton Cube, however. If you have maybe 15 cards that it can return with any regularity (fetches, Terramorphic Expanse/Evolving Wilds, Wasteland/Strip Mine, Horizon Canopy), it’s going to rot in your hand or, more likely, your sideboard. For this to not be worse than Life from the Loam, it has to be a better Rampant Growth when it matters (that can randomly deliver a one-two punch with Strip Mine or bring back a manland for a second bout); when you double up on fetchlands, this starts to look realistic.