Dom's Stream of Consciousness

Dom Harvey

Contributor
Catching up on the last few sets for Cube since I can't win at Constructed right now:

DOMINARIA:

Karn, Scion of Urza: I'm over planeswalkers atm but this one seems inoffensive for one that's so universally playable. I like that you get the subgame of how much work to put into attacking/defending Karn based on the cards in exile and you can make the -2 reward you for paying attention to artifacts without needing to be in 'the artifact deck'

Dauntless Bodyguard: A new twist on the Protect The Queen theme, the choice of whether to get aggressive with it or save it to protect something (while still giving Villain a short window to remove it) is a cool design; it's great to have enough CMC1 2/Xs in white that are all individually interesting and don't make you resort to Elite Vanguard and friends

History of Benalia: idk how suggestive this is of a Knight subtheme for the average drafter? I like incidental Tribal but most of my lists have enough weird stuff going on that unnecessary confusion should probably be avoided. Works nicely with Kor Skyfisher et al but I want more stuff like that and there are soooo many White 3s already

Knight of Grace/Malice: Weirdly these feel more directly targeted at their opposing colour than Knight of Glory/Infamy, which I mostly used for the Exalted anyway?

Shalai: Snuck onto this list because it looks exactly like Teshar but this might be good in its own right? Supports Protect The Queen while being a Queen itself (often in a non-green Wx deck where it has some awkward extra text but w/e)

Teshar: This is bad news because every Cube I build and deck I draft for the rest of time will display the remains of ambitious but aborted Teshar combos. I can't imagine ever wanting to cut this though

Urza's Ruinous Blast/Yawgmoth's Vile Offering: I like having payoffs for drafters caring about unusual things (the only other legendary check I'd run is Loyal Retainers AFAIK) but that makes it harder for them to infer how much support there is. I mention these here because I noticed a lot of my favourite creatures in W/B/G happen to be legends, but will drafters notice that without the visual spoiler laid out in front of them? It's natural to assume there are lots of planeswalkers to back these up, which is a route I could explore at some point but don't feel drawn to right now, so I don't want to hint at that either. Ultimately I don't think these are different enough to jump through those hoops as a designer, but I'll file them away in a spreadsheet column for future use

The Antiquities War: Not sure what to say about this but excited to see it in action

The Mirari Conjecture: Just fiddly enough (not Nucklavee) and promises more than the repetitive value generation of a Mnemonic Wall

Naban, Dean of Iteration: Can't wait for more ETB Wizards (Wizards WotC seems to be leaning into this tribe a lot so it won't be long) so I can justify playing this

Naru Meha: same but I wish there were more cheap spells I could copy

Dark Bargain: This feels right at exactly 3.5 mana

Phyrexian Scriptures: You need to be supporting artifacts hard and sad that black can't do that more easily to run this

Jaya Ballard: This is the type of planeswalker I want to run, if I do have them: narrowly tailored but exciting

The Mending of Dominaria: Does everything I ever want to do in a Cube game eventually, but shuffling everything else back in afterwards is deflating and life as a green 5-drop is competitive

Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar: Lots to like about this but especially the fact that its power scales with the length of the game: reanimating this on T3 isn't going to be game over

Song of Freyalise: I should like the payoff here but Cryptolith Rite/Earthcraft appeal mainly because you have control over the timing

Adeliz: see above

Garna, the Bloodflame: I see lots of bad Zombie Infestation/Apprentice Necromancer shenanigans in my future

Grand Warlord Radha: I liked the original back in the day and I want to try this one

Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain: This feels so uninspired as a payoff; if I want to draw cards in UR, it's not like this

Muldrotha, the Gravetide: Fine when castable, I guess?

Primevals' Glorious Rebirth: Love it but it's a pipe dream

Tatyova, Benthic Druid: So incredibly tempting but UG already has a lot of fragile CA mechanisms that it doesn't survive long enough to cast. I love it anyway!

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria: This card is incredible and the fact that the PW-happy power-max crowd was sceptical about it is completely baffling

Mox Amber: see the Legendary Sorcery discussion

Traxos, Scourge of Kroog: OTOH this is exactly what I want: a large blunt instrument that tells you exactly what to do and how to play it

Weatherlight: How strange

Memorials: G/B/W are all decent

Firesong and Sunspeaker: the missing piece for my Boros Reckoner/Blaze Commando/Didgeridoo deck


BATTLEBOND:

Will Kenrith: Very good if that's your jam; I've even seen some of the MTGS crowd suggest putting this and Rowan together but I can't imagine ever putting Rowan in a deck

Pir, Imaginative Rascal + Toothy, Imaginary Friend: reposting from the BBD spoiler thread:

Pir and Toothy are fantastic. Notably Pir works with *any* card type - planeswalkers, enchantments, lands - which opens up a lot of weird lines. Winding Constrictor is great but there's stiff competition for gold slots (especially in BG for the kind of deck Constrictor enables) and having this effect also be available in other Gx is perfect. As for Toothy, Chasm Skulker has been a mainstay of my Cube for a long time. The 'drawing cards matter' stuff is really fun but there aren't many payoffs that aren't expensive (Locust God) or busted (Sphinx's Tutelage) and this is a cheaper payoff that rewards you with more of the same afterwards. If I squadron Pir + Toothy, I can imagine first-picking them a lot and seeing which of those two silly nonsense decks I can make work (with the pipe dream of both at the same time!)

Brightling: There was a lot of buzz around this but it seems to have died down already? It's a cheap, flexible finisher that you can still save from your own sweeper when the time comes. 'Pitches to Force' with Oketra's Monument

Together Forever: Awfully narrow and hard to cast but amazing when it works; finally a card that makes Walking Ballista good

Arcane Artisan: I'm very keen to try this in a small blue cheating package - Flash and maybe Synthetic Destiny? - or maybe just on its own. It feels like a blue Feldon

Spellseeker: I've come down on Recruiters a bit as frequent shuffling is annoying and they add a little too much consistency (albeit in colours that don't get consistent filtering/tutoring). This one might feel different though: turning stuff that works with creatures into more spells is always fun, and having Balance/Life from the Loam/Reanimate etc on demand is a big deal

Inner Demon: Love this for a low power environment

Cheering Fanatic: Likely a trap the way Generator Servant was

Bramble Sovereign: I'm surprised I haven't seen more discussion of this thing; its stats are fine and it has great combo potential

Generous Patron: The final piece for the mythical -1/-1 counters deck?

Grothama: Probably not Cubing this but what a great design!


M19:

Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants: I love counters and finicky shit with creatures so this gets a gold star

Leonin Warleader: I'm more open to Hero of Bladehold than I used to be and I'd just play that

Militia Bugler: Relevant body + no shuffling makes me want to try this over Recruiter

Remorseful Cleric: Perfect at what it does; I'm surprised this wasn't printed already

Resplendent Angel: Technically a lifegain payoff?

Exclusion Mage: Relevant creature types makes up for horrible CGI art

Metamorphic Alteration: Fun on paper but probably not realistic in a Cube setting? I'm never sure what decks are meant to look like that contain cards like this (or similar stuff from supplemental products); I guess casual decks that are formless enough that this comes up sometimes and is fun?

Mystic Archaeologist: The Azure Mage that people (?) always wanted (??)

Sai, Master Thopterist: It's interesting that so many recent 'artifacts matter' cards have high toughness (Contraband Kingpin, Glint-Nest Crane, Padeem) but I like it as you don't have to put as much work into styming early aggression.

Graveyard Marshal: A 3/X black 2-drop that can block?! This would be great as a Vampire or Camel or w/e but it's yet another point in Zombies' favour if you're open to tribal

Isareth the Awakener: Very solid, can see playing this in any black deck

Stitcher's Supplier: I've been waiting for this for ages; black has always had very little self-mill for some reason, so a cheap self-mill Zombie that ties into sac themes and can block if need be is very helpful. Sam Black posted this revival of his Legacy Zombies deck:










Granted if this deck works it's because Deathrite Shaman is gone (and thank God for that), but it's cool that stuff like this is possible

Banefire: Now a whole new generation of Magic players can recommend putting this in every single combo or ramp deck for no discernible reason

Dark-Dweller Oracle: More sac outlets are always welcome, especially in red and especially on a creature

Dismissive Pyromancer: Sure? Very clean

Elvish Rejuvenator: Not sure who wins the head-to-head with Farhaven Elf

Nicol Bolas, the Ravager: I have no attention span and this has lots of words but it might be cool!

Desecrated Tomb: A funny build-round with a surprising number of interactions across all colours
 

Dom Harvey

Contributor
You all posted enough to knock my thread off the front page. Pretty rude tbh! It's ok though I still love you all

GUILDS OF RAVNICA:

I was very excited when I heard we were heading back to (back to) Ravnica. The OG Ravnica was my first full block as a new player and I loved the art, flavour, mechanics (...maybe not Radiance); Return to Ravnica was solid too. Given recent design missteps I had some concerns, and sadly some of those were justified. I've wanted enough gold cards to flesh out a gold Cube without having to stretch too far; based on this set, I don't think we're there yet.

Convoke: A great mechanic but didn't have many payoffs before; that's still kinda true, but I tried not to get my hopes up too high. Wx gets some solid role-players that can nudge drafters into going wide

Undergrowth: A massive flop for Constructed/Cube and possibly Limited, unfortunately. Mechanics like this really need to have generally playable enablers; none of the candidates in Guilds come close for Cube, and most aren't even good in Limited. There are no Satyr Wayfinders tying everything together and that's a conscious choice. It's too easy to get stuck with a bunch of Undergrowth cards without anything to set them up, and the reward just isn't there to justify that risk. I'm excited to Mausoleum Secrets for Goryo's Vengeance though...

Jump-start: Another flashback variant that doesn't feel like the wild experiments Izzet is meant to be known for? It's a slight downgrade from flashback but that hasn't been used to push the effects on the cards themselves (outside of Chemister's Insight)

Surveil: This makes up for most of the above. Surveil (or 'dig', copyright Chris Taylor) is a fantastic mechanic by itself and there's an obscene number of both surveil cards which in turn find your surveil payoffs. I don't know how much I want Cube decks to care about the word 'surveil' but any of them that have access to the effect care about it

Mentor: I like the idea a lot and the +1/+1 counter bleed into red/incidental support for going tall and wide at the same time are really nice, though idk how many good mentor cards there actually are

Looking down the spoiler:

Bounty Agent: Once again, clunky wording because god forbid something kill a planeswalker. Cool for what it is

Conclave Tribunal: Finally a card that works well with Jeskai Ascendancy

Hunted Witness: I want to dial back on this kind of thing for Cube as it's easy to go too far but it's nice having redundancy on Doomed Traveler effects for Modern (Return to the Ranks/Rally the Ancestors)

Venerated Loxodon: A+, can't wait to play with this

Chemister's Insight: Maybe the right power level for a four mana draw spell? The trinket text on Glimmer of Genius was always awkward and my attempts to make it relevant text were even more awkward

Dream Eater: A sweet finisher for a medium power level Cube where Torrential Gearhulk is too much

Mission Briefing: I wish I could like it but how often is it better than Flood of Recollection?

Sinister Sabotage: Instant staple if you like your Dissolves

Blood Operative: If anything gets me to support the character string 'surveil', this is it

Doom Whisperer: I'm glad we finally have a universally playable black 5 for Cube but... really?! I look forward to playing this but I'm stunned this saw print given current design philosophy

Midnight Reaper: A big upgrade over Grim Haruspex in efficiency, creature type, and ease of play (and psychologically since I won't try to play Deathmist Raptor again)

Plaguecrafter: I need to give more thought to what decks/sections want a Fleshbag Marauder; if you do, this is it, and if you don't you might want this anyway since it's so much more versatile

Arclight Phoenix: I'll try some turbo-Dredge deck in Modern with this but the stats just aren't there

Goblin Cratermaker: Remember when people played Hearth Kami?

Legion Warboss: I've soured on Goblin Rabblemaster a lot but this is a sweet implementation

Runaway Steam-Kin: I usually live for this shit but I'm not feeling this one

Beast Whisperer: A super clean and enticing effect if you're in the market for it

Hatchery Spider: I do like this as a galaxy brain Woodland Bellower

Pelt Collector: A home run for me; Experiment One is more interesting sometimes, but I love the tie-in to sac themes in Gx (especially as these usually involve sacrificing one or more big things anyway; imagine going off with Saproling Burst and a sac outlet!)

Sprouting Renewal: As I push artifacts in various shells I like having a high density of Naturalizes that are more than that, and this fits the bill nicely

Assassin's Trophy: Perfect design and execution (I hope!)

Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice: Lots of words but I've been looking for a strong WR 'Baneslayer' beyond Boros Reckoner and I love that this makes you think about how to get the most out of it (and works with the Recruiter/Bugler/Alesha/Reveillark nonsense I already like in WR)

Emmara, Soul of the Accord: I already have a solid 4-5 things that cost exactly WG competing for slots but this could get there. I'm glad the Selesnya/lore fans finally get a solid Emmara as a Commander

Knight of Autumn: A bit paint-by-numbers but it's good enough for me

Lazav, the Multifarious: This card is enigmatic in a very on-brand way: I like it, but I don't know what I'm meant to do with it?

March of the Multitudes: Token spam is a problem and there are less situational versions of it, but worth a slot in the shoebox

Molderhulk: A trap designed for people like me

Notion Rain: Read the Bones is a very underappreciated card; you have to be heavy in gold to justify this instead, but I'd rather support gold enough to play both

Swiftblade Vindicator: Maybe what I always wanted Prophetic Flamespeaker to be? This gets out of hand very quickly with any kind of power boost (Bloodforged Battle-Axe?!)

Tajic, Legion's Edge: I love that I'm not the only one here whose first thought is 'yay, another card for the Blasphemous Act pinatas deck'

Thief of Sanity: A fine upgrade to Nightveil Specter; this is the kind of card you move away from as you dive deep into weird webs of synergies, but I expect this to cause fun and interesting games as cards like it often do

Vraska, Golgari Queen: The power-max crowd isn't excited about this, and I don't blame them. I don't know if this right for us though? If you're sacrificing specifically Hatching Plans or Ichor Wellspring or something, this is fun and unique; otherwise, it's competing with a lot of 'sacrifice matters' GB cards

Whisper Agent: Rogue Refiner with a thick Slavic accent

Connive // Concoct: All split cards are beautiful... but these are ugly af, like everything with the M15 border. I've considered Extract from Darkness before and the tradeoff here is worth it IMO

Find // Finality, Flower // Flourish, Status // Statue: Nothing to say but fine!

Invert // Invent: What an embarrassing mess: needed errata as written and the intended text is still highly ambiguous!

Chamber Sentry: How soon we forget Sunburst. My current project pushes all of artifacts, counters, gold, and graveyard themes so this is the perfect flagship
 

Dom Harvey

Contributor
Now that I have nothing to test for and some time over the holidays I'll actually get a list up here for you all. In the meantime, following Standard has made me reevaluate a few cards:

Arclight Phoenix: The stats very much are there! Phoenix has taken over Modern and is doing its best in Standard. It's harder to replicate those conditions in Cube as you need such a high density of cheap instants, but it ties into the direction that I often take my red sections and in Cube there's less pressure to get Phoenix back ASAP. Honestly a red section with a bunch of different Phoenixes that you can chain together as recursive threats by jumping through various hoops sounds really cool

Runaway Steam-Kin: This card hasn't lived up to the initial hype but I'm shocked I was ever down on it for Cube given my design philosophy. It ties together all the disparate parts of red-based combo decks that are almost-but-not-quite there and enables 'big red' or X-spells for a lot without leaning on mana rocks that can mess with a format's balance.

Find // Finality: Coming around on this one a lot more; Find is fine without any work and great with any self-mill stuff

Expansion // Explosion: This might be a case of the 'Ancestral Recall would look worse if it also gained 3 life' problem: I wrote off the card because Explosion seemed too clunky even though I've wanted to Cube Fork/Reverberate/Increasing Vengeance in the past (which realistically are copying cheap spells a lot of the time) and Expansion fits in both the spell-heavy colours. I've seen some pretty big Explosions too and it's a fun endgame to work towards (and 'kill your thing + draw 2' for 6 is a fine card in Peasant Cube)

Niv-Mizzet, Parun: The mana cost did and does scare me off, and there are other really interesting finishers just in UR (The Locust God, Brudiclad) but this card is completely disgusting and it only takes one game with it in play to understand that

Experimental Frenzy: Completely insane and not just because I love Fastbond and Sensei's Divining Top too much

Discovery // Dispersal: Access to this effect in mono black is surprisingly hard to come by and this is a great tool for any black midrange/control deck. Dual types is nice if you care about delirium

Kraul Harpooner: I really really want to go off with this and Fling effects or Greater Good; if I get to eat a Birds of Paradise for free, that's nice too!

And from older sets:

Treasure Map: No reevaluation here, just reemphasis: play this card! It's fantastic at extending a certain style of gameplay and deck construction to other colours

Star of Extinction: I love that this is a Standard staple and I wonder if it's what I want for Cube: a flashy red spell that actually sweeps the board no questions asked and is a solid ramp payoff (and combo with Boros Reckoner/Soulfire Grand Master et al)
 
Now that I have nothing to test for and some time over the holidays I'll actually get a list up here for you all. In the meantime, following Standard has made me reevaluate a few cards:

Arclight Phoenix: The stats very much are there! Phoenix has taken over Modern and is doing its best in Standard. It's harder to replicate those conditions in Cube as you need such a high density of cheap instants, but it ties into the direction that I often take my red sections and in Cube there's less pressure to get Phoenix back ASAP. Honestly a red section with a bunch of different Phoenixes that you can chain together as recursive threats by jumping through various hoops sounds really cool

Niv-Mizzet, Parun: The mana cost did and does scare me off, and there are other really interesting finishers just in UR (The Locust God, Brudiclad) but this card is completely disgusting and it only takes one game with it in play to understand that)

Re: Niv-Mizzet, Parun I think players are going to have a pretty easy time casting this, considering the amount of good fixing in your cube. I've seen people reliably cast this on turn 6 in 3-color GRN Retail drafts. If they can do it, so can your drafters in cube. I think Arclight Phoenix is too hard to trigger in most lists. To quote myself from the SCD thread:

It completely depends on your environment. The Izzet Drakes deck running Arclight Phoenix in the pro tour top 8 was running 24 spells. To have that same ratio in a cube deck we would need to be running 15-16 spells, some of which have Flashback or Jump-Start. You could probably get away with running a couple fewer since you would only have a single Phoenix, but I don't think it can be cut that far down. Also, it is worth noting that every single noncreature spell in the PT deck cost either 1 or 2 mana. This high volume of low-cost spells can be hard to replicate in some environments.

For this card to be good, you need a lot of cantrips, cheap burn, and Cheap Flashback Spells. In short, Arclight Phoenix requires a lot of setup to be good. This doesn't mean it can't be good in the right deck in the right environment, but it requires jumping through some deck building hoops to work.

If you want to run Arclight Phoenix, you need to add at least one more Faithless Looting and Think Twice or Radical Idea. I would also recommend adding a second Staggershock and a new Surreal Memoir. It's a hard card to make work, one of my friends briefly tested it for his list and it almost never recurred. It's a fun card, but it could be perceived as a trap.
 
Honestly a red section with a bunch of different Phoenixes that you can chain together as recursive threats by jumping through various hoops sounds really cool

I've often thought of doing the same. I think a cool package would be:
for a series of cares-about-things-Red-does triggers.

I'm only running Flamewake (A+ love this bird) and Rekindling right now because I'm doing a lot of stuff with Dragons in R but I really enjoy the texture phoenixes give red as a colour.
 

Dom Harvey

Contributor
On Mulldrifters and Baneslayers in Cube

As is his style, Patrick Chapin brilliantly framed a crucial deckbuilding insight in the middle of one article in a multi-part set review, ensuring nobody would ever stumble on it by accident. In essence, most creatures are one of these:



You never feel good about spending removal on a Mulldrifter, but you don't have to. You always feel good about spending removal on a Baneslayer, but you do have to. Of course, sometimes you have to spend removal and still don't feel good because you're behind anyway:



Chapin offers examples of all three categories (and, 8 years on, it's easy to come up with more of your own), noting that these lines are often blurred - in some contexts, a mere Mulldrifter can become a Titan (or vice versa). This distinction has important implications for Constructed which, over the course of this decade, has become more and more about board development with creatures and planeswalkers. Most decks have enough removal that they can expect to draw some over the course of a game (but the presence of creatureless or Mulldrifter-heavy decks prevents them from running too much). Taking an otherwise threat-light deck and adding Baneslayers just invites otherwise subpar removal to trade for your threat; you often see control decks board into Baneslayers (or Lyras, for kids these days) but this assumes that Villain will shave their removal and be caught unawares, with that one threat being enough to win the game. Note the lack of symmetry here: adding Mulldrifters to a deck full of Baneslayers bolsters the strength of the latter as you will find more of them and can overload opposing removal. If you have enough Baneslayers you can keep jamming them until one sticks and takes over the game, so it makes sense to play as many as the structure of your deck allows.

All this assumes a level of agency that you rarely have in Cube. You'll have somewhere around X Mulldrifters and Y Baneslayers and possibly enough playables that you can shift those numbers if you really want to, but most decks will have a decent mix of both. For most drafters this distinction only comes up insofar as it defines gameplay: can you sequence your Mulldrifters to force removal on them, clearing the path for your Baneslayer? Can you identify which Baneslayer is most important and land it at the right time? Astute players will recognize this even if they don't formally articulate it. But what's the point? Retail Limited warps this by making it even more obvious: some cards are so clearly better by such a large margin that even newer drafters learn to conserve removal for them quickly.

For Cube designers, this takes on a new importance. When we try to seed archetypes into our Cubes we look for cards that hook players into taking a punt rather than going for the 'safe' choice of the obvious good card - often a Baneslayer - or solid filler that's guaranteed to make a deck - mostly Mulldrifters. God forbid there's a Titan there too! Peasant Cubes offer a cautionary tale here: the nature of set design means that most of the splashy payoffs for a set's theme reside at rare, and at lower rarities that theme tends to manifest as variations on standard Mulldrifters ('if you control X /do X, draw a card/deal damage to something'). Even when the designer makes an effort to push those themes and give colours or colour pairs strong identities, it's easy for gameplay to devolve into a midrange slugfest. The Masters sets are the same story told again and again: nominally there's a distinct theme in each colour pair, but the best strategy is always to take as many 2-for-1s as you can and the fixing to support them. When you have that many Mulldrifters, 1-for-1 removal becomes weaker and has to mullti-track draft into the same territory to compete, so you end up with literal Mulldrifters fighting Firebolts for format supremacy.

(For a classic Cube example, take the Blink archetype: it necessarily involves overflowing the game with Mulldrifters and usually the same Mulldrifter over and over again, removing the variety that's the main draw of a (quasi-)singleton format)

With a wider card pool and more control over the power level of individual cards and the Cube as a whole, this paradigm can inform how and where you plant these signposts. The key pieces that tie decks together and entice you to them in the first place tend to be Baneslayers or Titans, conditional on other things happening. For these to draw players in they have to match up well to the unconditional Baneslayers or Titans that are easy to include and even easier to slam over more interesting cards; the ceiling on them has to be high enough that you're happy to cross your fingers and hope it survives instead of taking the safe return on your investment from yet another Phyrexian Rager. Meanwhile, you want to ensure that bread-and-butter Cube decks are viable, someone who does take a risk on an archetype has a safety net, and newer drafters aren't overwhelmed by the Rube Goldberg machine that makes sense to you and only you as the omniscient being in your Cube's multiverse.

Let's flesh out this taxonomy:

Hero of Bladehold: Baneslayer, goes in any white deck
Winding Constrictor: Baneslayer, highly specialized
Kitchen Finks: Mulldrifter, goes in any deck with green and/or white
Wall of Omens: Mulldrifter earmarked for midrange and control decks
Inferno Titan: Titan that's a blunt instrument for beating opponents
Tireless Tracker: Baneslayer/Titan that goes in any green deck but also ties into lands matter, artifacts, Stax...

Note that these labels don't suggest anything about the type of game play these cards promote or their relative power level: Tireless Tracker, arguably a Titan, is less powerful but much more interesting than Hero of Bladehold. Trackers are the holy grail of Cube design and I love to pack as many in as I can, with enough Constrictors to keep things interesting and a smattering of Heroes, Finks, Walls et al. to aim for a delicate balance. When I start sketching a new Cube (... or delete an old one in frustration and start over), I begin with Trackers/Constrictors and build around them knowing that it's easy to make up the numbers elsewhere later.

Examples:

Trackers: Jace VP, Cryptbreaker, Flesh Carver, Walking Ballista, Kalitas, Courser of Kruphix
Constrictors: Thing in the Ice, Wharf Infiltrator, Arcbound Ravager, Teshar, Sai, Grand Architect, Carrion Feeder, Scrap Trawler, Goblin Welder, Feldon of the Third Path, Arcane Artisan
 

Dom Harvey

Contributor
Sure!

RAVNICA ALLEGIANCE:

Disappointing for the OG Ravnica fan in me. A handful of playables:

Lumbering Battlement: Very curious but no obvious use for it (which I suppose is what makes it curious!)

Benthic Biomancer: The latest heir to Enclave Cryptologist; I have visions of Grafting onto this or getting even more free value from Metallic Mimic or Rishkar etc

Pteramander: Better than most as a payoff for spells matter that isn't totally dead/fragile early

Sphinx of Foresight: Likely not worth an actual slot but I love the idea of using this, Chancellors, and the like with Looting/Brainstorm effects

Gutterbones: Might have interesting roles as a Madness-esque payoff?

Pestilent Spirit: Love the idea but most of my burn that can hit more than one creature is a big sweeper anyway so unclear how useful this will really be

Priest of Forgotten Gods: Like an inverse Skirsdag High Priest/Soldevi Adnate mashup? More restrictive than other Aristocrats cards and there's a lot of bookkeeping but the payoff may be worth it (or one of them, at least)

Spawn of Mayhem: I remember when people played Master of the Feast, we've come a long way!

Rix Maadi Reveler: This would already be appealing without the spectacle text as having this effect for a free on a bear is worth a lot, but the spectacle upside pushes it over the edge. Worth noting that you draw the card even if you don't discard, so drawing this when Hellbent is even better

Biogenic Ooze: Is this over the Whisperwood Elemental line?

Growth-Chamber Guardian: The new Squadron Hawk?!?! (maybe if I didn't already want twice as many green 2s as I can find room for)

Incubation Druid: WTF is this

Rampage of the Clans: I really want to play this in a deck full of Chromatic Stars and Ichor Wellsprings (or Hatching Plans...)

Wilderness Reclamation: Completely busted, I'mma try it

Biomancer's Familiar: Would be a lot nicer as a Baneslayer build-around if not for the adapt text

Deputy of Detention: I'm very close to Cubing Naban

Growth Spiral: Not enough better than Explore to justify the casting cost even in a gold-heavy Cube that pushes UG Flash, IMO

Hydroid Krasis: This has looked very impressive in Standard so far. If your format is such that a 2/2 ETB gain 1/draw 1 for 2UG is unembarrassing (some of us still play Eidolon of Blossoms!), this is great

Judith, the Scourge Diva: I have waited SO LONG for this card, I love her

Prime Speaker Vannifar: Better than Pod in some obvious ways but not being locked into specific colours is part of what let me justify running such a narrow card in the first place

Rhythm of the Wild: Looking forward to lots of weird combos with this one

Collision // Colossus: Plummet upside (even in mono red!) isn't enough to make Colossal Might > Ghor-Clan Rampager for me

Consecrate // Consume: Opening this effect up to white is neat; if this reliably counters a spell in your environment, why not?

Depose // Deploy: Solid role-player

Incubation // Incongruity: Your Cube has to be atypical for blue to even want this effect but if you'll find those Cubes anywhere, it's here

Revival // Revenge: White Unearth! White Unearth!

Thrash // Threat: Worth noting!
 

Dom Harvey

Contributor
WAR OF THE SPARK:

I was very sceptical of the set's premise when I first heard about it, but it made me a believer. In recent years I'd soured on planeswalkers to the point of cutting them altogether. This gave my sketches a curious old-school-but-not-really feel that I enjoyed but part of me hoped I could find a way to work them back in somehow. The designs in this set are what planeswalkers should have looked like all along - less Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, more Saheeli, Sublime Artificer - souped up World Enchantments that don't hose black and red by their very existence. Outside of the set's gimmick, it also has a ton of interesting cards for other applications as well as the long-awaited return of Proliferate!

Grateful Apparition: I kinda wish this was a colourshifted Skyship Plunderer instead, but I'll take it! White has quietly been getting more and more good +1/+1 counters cards and that theme is sustainable across the whole colour pie now

Bond of Insight: Red has to beg for Shreds of Sanity while blue gets this? Worth looking it at most of our power levels

Contentious Plan: Not sure if this is a companion or understudy to Tezzeret's Gambit; likely the latter

Fblthp, the Lost: Blue wanted an Elvish Visionary and it got an adorable one! I'll definitely forget about the shuffle trigger more than once

Flux Channeler: Definitely worse than I want it to be, but it knows I can't resist

God-Eternal Kefnet: Absolutely fantastic; the only problem is that you'll clobber them with the well-costed body before you get to set up any cute shenanigans

Narset, Parter of Veils: I'll go into this card in a lot more detail in a separate post; this is the perfect planeswalker for me

Teferi's Time Twist: I never had much interest in Otherworldly Journey but I've always been partial to Ghostly Flicker and you can do trickier things in blue (The Mirari Conjecture?!)

Eternal Taskmaster: Black is quickly catching up to green in having more solid 2-drops than I can realistically play

God-Eternal Bontu: This is what I wanted from Sidisi, Eternal Vizier without the repetitive gameplay and with additional thought/rewards

Lazotep Reaver: My favourite riff on the Butcher Ghoul/Sultai Emissary/Carrier Thrall archetype; having both bodies up-front is really useful, and I have dreams of curving Cryptbreaker into this

Liliana, Dreadhorde General: The generic marquee planeswalker but still more exploitable than your Elspeth, Sun's Champion or the like

Massacre Girl: Much sexier than Kagemaro (as is everything...)

Burning Prophet: A fine twist on Prowess but probably a little below-par still. Abbot of Keral Keep never really did it for me but maybe this is a little better?

Dreadhorde Arcanist: Works in spell-heavy aggro decks and Berserkers, which could use a little help on that front. The ceiling is so delightfully high on this (Ancestral Vision? Become Immense?)

Finale of Promise: Needs you to build your Cube and deck around it while caring about sheer quantity of spells cast but I want to do all of that

Grim Initiate: Doesn't jump out at you but ticks a lot of boxes: a cheap Zombie, a rare red Doomed Traveler, and the first strike makes it easier to pump and have good attacks past the first few turns.

Honor the God-Pharaoh: Longer post coming on this but I love a Tormenting Voice variant and the body this provides it makes it different enough to pose interesting choices

Ilharg, the Raze-Boar: A big pile of stats that probably doesn't need whatever you're cheating in with it?

Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin: I want to be more excited about this than I am?

Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion: It can be easy to lose track of 'Baneslayers' with all the other stuff going on but this is a great one that ties into what I'm doing with red

Bloom Hulk: I wonder how this stacks up to Cytoplast Root-Kin

Bond of Flourishing: Sure? Lots of Vessels of Nascency, Ancient Stirrings etc to go around

Evolution Sage: Counters and cute lands shit have been fighting for my attention forever so this is a nice pickup

Planewide Celebration: Maybe what Verdant Confluence wanted to be? Looping potential with Eternal Witness etc

Pollenbright Druid/Huatli's Raptor: Probably not but such a cheap Proliferate trigger on demand is always appealing

Return to Nature: I like Sundering Growth more still

Dreadhorde Butcher: Most Slith Firewalkers just don't cut it these days, and there are already a half dozen better BR 2-drops for aggro

Enter the God-Eternals: Back in my day we played Ribbons of Night and we were happy with it

Feather, the Redeemed: What a bizarre card! Remember when Aurelia's Fury was preordering for $50?

Gleaming Overseer: Not bad but UB is getting more and more crowded

Heartwarming Redemption: I want to play it but no conceivable deck wants to play it (other than the classic Alhammarret's Archive deck...)

Living Twister: Yay! I think?!

Mayhem Devil: Too similar to Judith? Or too sick with Greater Gargadon et al to ignore?

Merfolk Skydiver: The perfect 2-drop to give a direction to a colour pair

Ral, Storm Conduit: I just love to copy stuff so I'm sure I'll try this at some point

Ral's Outburst: Is it just nostalgia that makes this feel much more soulless than Prophetic Bolt?

Roalesk, Apex Hybrid: I wish UG had more ways to sac this on demand and that the focus was more on fetching dice than whacking them with a 4/5 (see Kefnet)

Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord: There are a ton of good 3s to recur in the heads-up comparison with Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants, and this is probably a better design overall. I like this more than the other 2WB Sorins as a signal for what WB is all about

Soul Diviner: I want both Zombies and Wizards to matter even more than they do. Good stats and a cool ability; I'm motivated to turn this into a real draw engine

Tamiyo, Collector of Tales: Having played against this card in Standard, it's much better than you think it is even in a singleton format where the +1 is a lottery

Teferi, Time Raveler: Very good at face value and there are a ton of satisfying synergies here

Tenth District Legionnaire: Battlewise Hoplite always felt out of place; this is exactly what FlowerSunRain (pbuh) would have wanted

Saheeli, Sublime Artificer: So nice to have an effect like this that bridges both spell-heavy colours and doesn't just care about instants/sorceries

Blast Zone/Karn's Bastion: I love lands!
 

Dom Harvey

Contributor
MODERN HORIZONS:

Astral Drift: I've loved Astral Slide for a decade and I'm thrilled to get one I can put in a Cube without twisting it in knots. A cantripping Flicker for 2W is enough if you support that theme, and this lets you lean into a cycling package without being dead too often if it doesn't come together

Ephemerate: Cloudshift was almost-but-not-quite there for me. The overlap with prowess has me seriously interested

Giver of Runes: Some cards in this set are lazy fixes/throwbacks but this is a good example to follow

On Thin Ice: This might be too efficient if anything

Vesperlark: I'll be picking up a set for various bad/broken Modern combo decks but one will definitely get lost and end up in my Cube box somehow. I'm a big fan of 'fair' reanimation and getting a discount on a Splicer with bonus ETB/dies triggers is the perfect use case

Bazaar Trademage: I want to play this with Naban until I realize that no deck could possibly want both at once

Urza, Lord High Artificer: This is absolutely bonkers and I love it

Endling: Intriguing as a much-needed black midgame threat/finisher in medium power Cubes

Ransack the Lab: It's cool that black is picking up more Strategic Plannings and Corpse Churns but it could use a Careful Study

Undead Augur: I need more Zombies tribal stuff but this may be too restrictive?

Yawgmoth, Thran Physician: The Platonic ideal of a sacrifice outlet/payoff that somehow loops into discard/counters nonsense too?!

Goblin Engineer: I keep trying to make Welders work in red but redundancy in Welder effects wasn't really the problem

Magmatic Sinkhole: A useful tool for red sections that find themselves rummaging a lot (although those Cubes typically have fewer planeswalkers to fend off)

Planebound Accomplice: A cool card that requires way more planeswalkers than I'm willing to play

Seasoned Pyromancer: The set would be worth it for this card alone. It reaches out to a lot of promising themes in red while being the perfect bridge card for almost any red deck. The forced discard can be frustrating but going up on cards when hellbent is a fine tradeoff.

Deep Forest Hermit: I'm not sure if making Deranged Hermit even better is desirable but this is much cleaner at least

Springbloom Druid: I Cubed Farhaven Elf many moons ago and Cube Harrow now. Harrow does a lot of things that this card doesn't but stapling half of that effect on a creature opens up a lot of doors, especially in green

Winding Way: The downside to Gather the Pack et al. was that often you already had a bunch of spells but just needed lands to cast them (strike that, reverse it for Mulch). This is whatever you need it to be while rewarding you for emphasizing lands or creatures more than you probably should

Icefang Coatl: I'm leaving my Coiling Oracle for a younger snake

Wrenn and Six: Notable as the first good 2-mana walker and a card that badly belonged in that "Lands Matter" Commander deck I got so hyped up for

Scrapyard Recombiner: I wasn't high on this at first but it turns out most of the good artifact/counters payoffs are Constructs so this helps tie the room together. I only wish this set had some good Changelings...

Horizon lands: Looking at WR and WB currently but could be convinced on the others

Prismatic Vista: The more rebellious among us were already Cubing this but now we get an official version with nice art that costs 40x as much as whatever printer you used before!


However, this is all saving the best for last...
 

Dom Harvey

Contributor
Made the mistake of writing this up in browser and lost it when I closed it accidentally. Take two!

Artifact Integration

Most Cubes see artifacts as an after-thought: once you dutifully fill out your chosen archetype for each colour pair, you sprinkle in some equipment and mana rocks and call it a day. In recent years many of us have tried to treat the artifact section itself as a cohesive package, with varying degrees of success. If you’re willing to break singleton, there are two seemingly innocuous cards in Modern Horizons that seriously bolster artifact decks or themes:



Astrolabe isn’t an impressive card by most metrics but its paves the way for cards that are; it lets you play Magic. You see Prophetic Prism in some lists but 1 mana is so, so much less than 2; it lets you feel much safer keeping a one lander and having another draw to the second or knowing you can cast a CC or CD spell on turn 2. You can almost always find one mana lying around early in the game so that you can cast that spell in your splash colour later on. From that perspective alone, loading up on Astrolabes makes a lot of sense.

If you can get further uses from it, it starts to look like a real gem. If you have any way to bounce or flicker permanents this is the cheapest draw effect possible and can’t be hit by most removal. If you need something to feed to Smokestack or God-Eternal Bontu or whatever Astrolabe is there. More importantly, if you just need a cheap artifact to set up something silly (Goblin Welder! Glint Hawk!), it’s hard to ask for anything more.



Like many others I was sceptical of the idea and execution of bringing snow back (as much as I love it flavour-wise - Coldsnap was the first set I drafted properly). It all works for Icehide Golem - we need a colourless Isamaru but they can’t really print one without warping the colour pie, so this is an ideal compromise. I wish there were enough snow payoff cards to make use of that here too, but I’m content with using 90% of the buffalo.

Recent printings have made the WR Artifact Aggro deck a viable and successful archetype. Upstream in this thread I proposed an aggro artifact starter pack that broke singleton to allow any colour or colour pair to field a decent aggro deck:



This is a good start but there aren’t enough cards here to satisfy the needs of all aggro drafters unless you double up on several to the point where decks start to look the same. Additionally, a colour or colour pair’s aggressive capability is still limited by the quantity and quality of its one-drops. Blue and green just don’t have enough unless you stretch your power band while it’s not easy to attack and block well in red or black. Outside of the best boy white can only field a bevy of 2/1s which are obsoleted quickly by a lot of the interesting cards I want to play (Baral is meant to be threatening because of its text, not its body). Enough of these are interesting that it isn’t a big deal but it’s a useful illustration of the larger issue.

Filling up on Icehide Golems can change all that. Every colour (/pair) now has enough one-drops, unlocking the potential of aggressive cards higher up the curve that didn’t get a fair shake before. The second toughness on Golem means it’s easier to make good attacks into the midgame and not have to view it as a burn spell on a brittle body, and it can leverage that second toughness well on defense which is more than can be said for the Zurgo Bellstrikers and Diregraf Ghouls of the world.

The type line is a gold mine too. Several posters here have used the Splicers as flagship cards for their Cube - tools that go in any deck that reach into various disparate themes. With enough icy hides, the Golem tribal deck we like to joke about is actually kinda real! There’s strong competition for these slots but Wing Splicer and Master Splicer look a lot more appealing…

More importantly, Golem is the cheap, aggressive artifact creature we’ve wanted. The WR Artifact decks mentioned above tend to gesture towards artifacts rather than leaning in; now, the sheer density of artifacts is high enough to support metalcraft and the likes of Glint Hawk or Kuldotha Rebirth/Shrapnel Blast. The starter pack is now a full toolbox transcending the colour pie which, rather than setting boundaries for what you can do, now adds a distinct flavour to variants of that deck - maybe artifact aggro in BR can build towards a grand finale with sac outlets and Marionette Master or Scrap Trawler, artifact aggro in WU aims to compound its board presence by bouncing/flickering its Astrolabes and Splicers, and the green deck exploits the +1/+1 counter synergies with Ravager, Steel Overseer, and Hangarback Walker/Walking Ballista. In particular, a blue artifact section now has enough cogs to build a truly impressive Rube Goldberg machine with its own clear identity.








 

Dom Harvey

Contributor
Got to draft with Chris' group yesterday. Cube was in a disorganized state but we still made a good night out of it!

Some of the notable pools/decks:

5c Snow Artifacts










This deck was very impressive when it worked! It could have used more removal (a Ballista would be great here!) but churned out formidable boards quickly. Rob ran Figure of Destiny in his build which was certainly one way to test the limits of the 5c manabase...

He was very happy with this deck and enthusiastic to try the Astrolabe/Icehide shell in other Cubes which was very reassuring!

WG Big Pod










This is a great illustration of what WG can get up to - and how hard it is to cut cards! It's quite possible that having >40 cards is actually right here and I'd love for that to be true (and to know when/why that is). There were some fantastic Teshar chains here; Palace Jailer and Archangel Avacyn were very powerful but in ways that created intricate games. I love the Gate + GPG package and you can slot it into basically any colour pair; I missed out on various pieces to assemble actual loops (Anafenza, Saffi, Finks etc) but maybe that's for the best since it's usually correct to just find your combo at all costs rather than working with the other tools you have.

At some point I'll write a post on why Nest Invader is the perfect Magic card

4c Blue











I believe/hope the Mizzix's Mastery was in this pool because it would have added a great new combo-control finish to this deck - a fairly tame 'cycle + reanimation' duet with Migratory Route, chaining Fractured Identity, or going full combo with a T4 Summon the Pack.

With no flashback etc cards and a fairly low instant/sorcery count, Thing in the Ice isn't at its best in this deck but I didn't know that when I played against it so the threat of it flipping was always real and scary

Esper Control










A classic control deck - not a ton of counters but lots of removal, sweepers, and card draw. With the few planeswalkers in the draft snapped up by the other blue deck, this looked like something straight out of the 2000s. The drafter didn't maindeck Topsy Turvy even though this would have been a great deck for it - he seems like a generally conservative drafter but it does bring up a downside of the wacky build-around cards, namely that people often shy away from cards that seem so weird.

Eternal Dragon was apparently a MVP here as a source of manafixing and a sticky win condition in an otherwise threat-light deck. My Eternal Dragon litmus test for a format is still in place and suggests that we're on roughly the right track


The other two decks were a BRw Sacrifice deck that didn't really come together but was completely absurd whenever it draw Yawgmoth, Thran Physician (that card might be way over the line...) and Chris' GRu Ramp deck, which was the kind of ramp deck I've been trying to shut out for a while! (a mix of miscellaneous creature/artifact/spell ramp and socks full of pennies, namely Dragonlord Atarka which single-handedly crushed me in all of our games)

As always people had lots of feedback and seemed to enjoy themselves even though the Cube was in a state of disrepair. I promise an actual list is coming soon!
 

Dom Harvey

Contributor
Time for a long overdue set review! There have been some momentous releases in the last few months. We have a set that's completely full of random bullshit that should never be printed and also Mystery Booster:

MYSTERY BOOSTER

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CUTE KITTY but more importantly it's another 2/1 that improves the density of aggressive creatures that also have utility later

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A fun twist on the Mitotic Ooze trope if that's what you're into

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I was on a real delirium kick in 2016 so this is bad news for me but maybe it's just a worse Riddlesmith most of the time?

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So much better if you play with the London Mulligan but Scry will get you there a lot of the time. Black doesn't have a lot of mass exile effects so this is a welcome addition there (it's more likely to harm you in theory since black has more recursive creatures but those cards aren't too common in decks that want this effect and your ample removal can clean up most other things)

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Often this is a worse rate than Firestorm but if you can find ways to play cards from other zones (Experimental Frenzy?) this can be seriously impressive. It's also a lot of Monastery Mentor/Jeskai Ascendancy triggers...

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It's hard for a deck that wants Giant Growth to also want Rampant Growth so this is usually a souped up Regrowth but maybe the sheer modality of it is enough to push it over the line

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This is a sweet Tinker/Welder target (in green of all colours...) that looks like it can lead to truly nonsensical turns. I worry that it suffers from the Tezzeret AoB problem where you bash them with the pushed stats so quickly that you never get to do the cute stuff, but I'm excited to try it

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This is a really interesting counters payoff - those slots are very competitive but I'm intrigued by this

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A sweet tool (...utensil?) for aggressive decks that demands good sequencing

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A symmetrical Settle the Wreckage of sorts. I like the idea of using this even while ahead as a mega ramp spell, though I try to design such that every deck has a lot of mana sinks so this is always somewhat risky

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I love cards that offer unique incentives around things you usually take for granted, and playing a dummy thicc decc is one of those. I don't like the actual incentive much since it just mitigates the decreased consistency it asks from you in the first place but hey, that's the joke!


THRONE OF ELDRAINE

Charming Prince: Great on both ends of a Blink deck and fits naturally into your curve to tie the room together while playing defense in a pinch. Love it!

Faerie Godmother
Giant Killer
Shepherd of the Flock

More solid modal cheap creatures to make the white swarm decks more intricate. The Adventure on Shepherd is especially compelling

Glass Casket: I've never wanted a Suspension Field so the artifact type has to do a lot here; it does, but probably not enough?

Harmonious Archon: The CMC:power ratio here is astonishing if you already have any real board presence but that makes it a very swingy card

Realm-Cloaked Giant: Just having a Wrath on a creature (that isn't ridiculous like Magister of Worth) opens up so many possibilities with digging, recursion, etc; enough to box out Fumigate and the like for me

Brazen Borrower: A great supplement to Vendilion Clique as a sound, generally useful flash threat in blue. I don't like the blue tempo decks but they can't ask for much more

Emry, Lurker of the Loch: Shocking that Affinity for artifacts would make a card busted, eh? I love the intersection of artifact + graveyard themes this promotes

Gadwick, the Wizened: An unsung hero so far that may finally be making a name for itself in Standard. The rate on this is very impressive and I'm happy to cast this anywhere from 3 to 8+

Vantress Gargoyle: Ties together a few disparate themes but easy to imagine this being cut from decks

Witching Well: Not sure how you compare the amortization here to personal favourite Courier's Capsule but just being a 1-mana artifact that finds the stuff that cares about that is good

Murderous Rider: See above re. Realm-Cloaked Giant. Finally we can Survival of the Fittest for Hero's Downfall!

Rankle, Master of Pranks: I remember feeling obliged to run Mirri the Cursed and this is... a lot better. I didn't even realize you could choose multiple modes at once until I was on the wrong end of that at the Invitational! It's a generally excellent card that pushes particular synergies ala Tireless Tracker so I'm keen to play with it

Syr Konrad, the Grim: Doesn't this seem way more like a mythic than an uncommon? If you untap with this in the average black deck you likely won't need to untap again

Bonecrusher Giant: A fantastic curve-filler; 'Firebolt but X' is a winning formula and this is the best yet

Embercleave: I was always impressed by Eidolon of Countless Battles' ability to tie going wide and going tall together; this does the same thing in dramatic fashion. It's terrifying in Standard and I'll audition it here

Fires of Invention: A busted card that isn't decried solely because Standard had some even more busted cards in it already. I love adding new dimensions to red decks and this does that; any deck that contains it is first and foremost a 'Fires deck' that works to make itself deserving of that title. In Standard you see it often with Cavalier of Flame, a card I already have my eye on, along with:

Kenrith, the Returned King: Whoops, the Buy a Box promo that's hard to find is great again. I vaguely remember a debate on this forum where Obelisk of Alara was called out for being some durdly shit; this is Obelisk on steroids (or he was; he's now in his retired sports pundit phase)

Irencrag Pyromancer: Very easy to trigger at least once in a turn cycle with the abundance of Looting/Rummaging effects in red these days and even better in UR if you want to do the Improbable Alliance/The Locust God thing

Rimrock Knight: If anyone's pushing Heroic/Berserkers, this is your man

Thrill of Possibility: Tormenting Voice could feel a little anaemic so this is an unnecessary but welcome upgrade

Torbran, Thane of Red Fell: The token red 4-drop that ends the game, in every sense, and maybe in more satisfying fashion than Hellrider and the like?

Beanstalk Giant: A delightful card that's fighting for space with lots of superficially similar cards. I can believe this is the best of the bunch

Gilded Goose: Despite enabling Oko in his quest to run wild over every Constructed format, I'm in love with this card. The Lotus Petal/Jeweled Amulet aspect means it doesn't enable the flawless curveouts that can feel helpless from the other side but the mana sink potential is completely in line with my Cube philosophy and the artifact synergies are very useful too

The Great Henge: I've spent too much time brainstorming ways to get this in play early and do silly things with it (Noose Constrictor! Hogaak!). 2GG with the occasional 3GG is a fine cost for this and most of my green decks can do that decently often?

Lovestruck Beast: Not sure why I'm just mentioning this now but the incidental Prowess trigger or equivalent on the Adventure cards really helps to mitigate the traditional tension in those decks between needing a lot of Prowess triggers and thereby having too few Prowess threats to be reliable

Once Upon a Time: What the fuck? I don't know how this card got cleared but I'll take the occasional but wonderful consistency boost in Cube even though it's absolutely format warping when you get to and ought to play 4

Questing Beast: FOH

Wildborn Preserver: The non-Human text on these cards is obnoxious in casual formats even if it has some flavour basis. The card itself is great though and one of my favourite green 2-drops

Doom Foretold: We don't see new playable Stax effects very often and especially ones that also work in slower decks. WB as a colour pair is priced into Stax in many Cubes so this is a nice signpost card for those if you believe in that sort of thing

Grumgully, the Generous: My RG sections have had an identity crisis for a while; a strong if quizzical 3-drop that works with other counters cards in green while helping out tokens strats is a nice pickup

Oko, Thief of Crowns: I'd completely understand anyone who never wants to see this card ever again. That said... giving UG hard removal and a continuous stream of artifacts is still appealing. I think I've fallen for his charms?!

Gingerbrute: What

Stonecoil Serpent: Joins the Hangarback Walker + Walking Ballista trifecta and is often better than both. I like giving people a free pass on walking into the reach here (maybe the pro-gold too...)

Witch's Oven: I like the creature -> artifact conversion but I'm worried this hints at Food synergies that aren't there (much as I'd like them to be!)

Castle Embereth: free real estate for red aggro


Throne is an absurdly pushed set and I'm told more like this is on the way so brace yourselves!
 
Throne is an absurdly pushed set and I'm told more like this is on the way so brace yourselves!
Throne has been absolutely wonderful for cube, soooo many goodies! You haven't even mentioned Stolen by the Fae, Midnight Clock, Order of Midnight, Opportunistic Dragon, Maraleaf Pixie, and Scalding Cauldron. Oh, and there's also the Brawl cards like Alela, Artful Provocateur, Chulane, Teller of Tales, Korvold, Fae-Cursed King, Banish into Fable, Thorn Mammoth...
 
Oh man, I completely missed Thorn Mammoth.

It seems like a really strong card that plays well with a number of themes and gives green some solid fight options alongside Voracious Hydra, Wicked Wolf (which I think is totally playable even without the food tokens), Vivien, Arkbow Ranger and Polukranos, World Eater. I was never keen on the fight spells (because of the blowout potential if they remove your dude), but fight creatures totally works for higher power levels.

Also 100% agree with Gilded Goose. I am running 2 in my cube because it's exactly what I want from my 1 drop accelerants. A powerful way to get ahead of your curve, but at a cost. Do you want a 3 drop on turn 2 or a 4 drop on turn 3? And of course a mana sink and artifacts in green.

I have been intrigued by Torbran, Thane of Red Fell. He seems like a nice crossover between aristocrats and tokens with cards such as Impact Tremors, Goblin Sharpshooter, Judith, Scourge Diva, Outpost Siege and Goblin Bombardment, as well as just being good with random burn spells. My one fear is the RRR casting cost, but I imagine he should be solid even if played on turns 5 or 6.

Thanks for the set reviews, always enjoy reading your take on cards.
 

Dom Harvey

Contributor
I even missed a set full of nonsense in there! M20 continues the trend of Core Sets being gold mines for Cube playables and interesting designs but also managed to break a few formats for the hell of it

M20

Ancestral Blade: Living weapon lives! A great pickup for artifact aggro stuff in white

Bishop of Wings: There are a LOT of playable Angels in white and it sounds fun to build around them but the other tribal support isn't there and this doesn't solve the issue of how clunky that whole theme is. Better as an incidental Tribal support, on which more soon...

Brought Back: I can see trying this just because white has so little wacky stuff to do that this at least grabs your attention. If only white could buy a sac outlet better than Martyr's Cause...

Hanged Executioner: A fine example of what it does at low-medium power level

Agent of Treachery: I didn't even realize the 'draw 3 if...' text was there until I found out the hard way recently. An unconditional Confiscate on a creature is an effect blue has wanted for long time and I'm surprised it took this long. The perfect Blink/Reanimation target that doesn't automatically end the game

Drawn from Dreams: A clean implementation of this aimed at a sensible power level. Still unclear to me if/when this is better than Modern unplayable Fact or Fiction

Flood of Tears: I was always partial to Crush of Tentacles and this gives you a big finish to work towards without Crush's sometimes awkward sequencing issues

Spectral Sailor: A slam dunk for any blue section that supports aggro-control; I don't and still want to find an excuse to put it in (my blue decks want cheap creatures and mana sinks so...)

Knight of the Ebon Legion: A generally strong card that addresses specific problems of black aggro being bad on defence and sometimes having issues tangling with bigger creatures in combat. More mana sinks never hurt either and the subgame of finding creative ways to trigger Knight is fun too!

Rotting Regisaur: One way of beating bigger creatures in combat is to have the biggest boi on the battlefield. These stats are unprecedented for any colour so it's startling to see them on a black card of all things. I enjoy trying to turn the drawbacks on otherwise overboard cards into advantages and that's trivial here - many of us already have a nascent discard/madness/graveyard theme in black. It's so big that it also turbocharges cards like The Great Henge, Embercleave/Berserk

Chandra, Acolyte of Flame: Even if you don't care about their type, making two creatures a turn for free is highly abusable and most other decks will have some juicy flashback targets. There's a developing red planeswalker theme with Sarkhan the Masterless (and the half-dozen good Chandras) too. Basically no deck can use every part of the buffalo here but you're guaranteed to get a leg

Glint-Horn Buccaneer: The high toughness is unusual but necessary to let this attack with reckless abandon. Discard as a keyword of sorts was restricted to UB before but if you're anything like me your Cube is already chock full of Faithless Looting and Thrill of Possibility clones so you get the potential for flashy combo finishes for very little effort

Nightpack Ambusher: The Flash/Faeries game is more a WG thing than a UG one for me these days but if you have a conventional blue section this is the perfect UG 'gold' card! Mayor of Avabruck never really did it for me but you can time this so that your shields are only down very briefly and this is a formidable combat trick and attacker if nothing else

Voracious Hydra: Like most modal cards both halves are inefficient but 1GG/2GG to eat something cheap and leave a body behind is a valuable effect in green and it can slot into your curve almost anywhere. In the Pioneer Scales decks the synergy with Scales/Constrictor is ridiculous (e.g. you pay 1GG for a Hydra with X=1; X becomes 2 from Scales; you choose to double it to 4, Scales makes it 5. Any additional mana gives you an extra 2 power on Hydra)

Kaalia, Zenith Seeker: I was hoping this might finally be a good Mardu card? It takes SO much work though unless you're willing to be creative...

Tomebound Lich: An incredibly workmanlike card that I can't say anything bad about

Yarok, the Desecrated: The Panharmonicon text alone would be excellent but there's a whole extra layer of wild stuff you can only do with exactly this card. Look at how many cards on this list alone work well with it! This makes me want to take on the big commitment of going into a specific shard/wedge

Golos, Tireless Pilgrim: I love the zero colour/five colour 'split' cards like this. You need to have a ton of fixing or good utility lands for this to move beyond a glorified Solemn Simulacrum but that card was already great

Mystic Forge: The dirty secret about artifact decks is that a lot of the artifacts kinda suck but the coloured cards that make or care about artifacts are really good so this doesn't fit well in the decks that seem like they should want it

Field of the Dead: Dumb and repetitive to have been banned in at least one format and hard to actually use properly in any format like this but that won't dissuade me yet!

Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord: This marries two of my greatest loves: Show and Tell effects and getting trapped by marginal tribal incentives. Most of the expensive Vampires are generally weak for their cost so you're looking at cheating in a 4-/5-drop, which is a more healthy play pattern anyway. I just wish there were more recursive Vampires beyond Bloodghast, which is already a trap in Cube IMO

Speaking of being trapped by tribal...

Risen Reef
Omnath, Locus of the Roil

I loved the Elementals decks in Lorwyn and I've had a soft spot for them ever since then so I was overjoyed to see cards like this. Reef may be more important here than Omnath as there are several generically strong cards - Master of Waves, Seasoned Pyromancer - that let you go bonkers with it and it helps to tie the room together. The Cavaliers are great pickups too - you finally have a reasonable non-Reveillark payoff for Incandescent Soulstoke (or Smokebraider if you want to run that)

Cavalier of Dawn
Cavalier of Gales
Cavalier of Night
Cavalier of Flame
Cavalier of Thorns

A decade ago, Titans redefined midrange/control finishers for both Constructed and Cube; a few years ago, the Gearhulks launched a bold attempt at repeating the job. Not all of these were hits (I'm still mad about Combustible Gearhulk) but they were welcome additions to the roster.

The Cavaliers are what those cycles always should have been, IMO. All of them are strong enough to do the job (and finish it) as required but have aspects that you can build around and incentivize other things you want to be doing in those colours.

Cavalier of Dawn: Generous Gift/Beast Within on a creature is refreshing variety after a million different Fiend Hunter/Angel of Sanctions iterations and the ability to blow up your own stuff for profit adds even more play to it. Argivian Find has always looked like it should be good but getting it for free (especially if you blow up your own Arcum's Astrolabe or something with the ETB) brings into sharp relief just how strong it can be

Cavalier of Gales: Maybe the least interesting of the cycle but I've Cubed Sphinx of Lost Truths in the past as a good bridge card for blue decks and this is a much younger and prettier model. If you like Miracles, this is rather hot with those

Cavalier of Night: Competes against many other cards in a similar space (Puppeteer Clique; God-Eternal Bontu; Sidisi, Undead Vizier) but the dual swords of removal and reanimation is hard to find anywhere else. A large lifelinker is a blessing for a colour that often plays fast and loose with its life total and isn't great at blocking. This is outstanding in any kind of sacrifice deck

Cavalier of Flame: The most exciting of the cycle in terms of what it represents for its colour. I've tried pushing rummaging/looting as a core component of red to the extent of playing Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion over other red 4s and seriously considering Glint-Horn Buccaneer above; the mass redraw here is so perfect for any kind of combo deck in red, Reanimator, ramp, and so on. The 1R ability is outstanding in late game scenarios where you have a ton of mana or in games where you cheat this into play somehow (the go-to in Standard is Fires of Invention and now I really want to do that in Cube too!) and plays great with the increasing number of good token creators in red. This is an flashy and often intricate card to play with and a terrifying card to play against

Cavalier of Thorns: Green has a ton of good 5s but this can match most of them on rate and impact. Finding a land - and lots of looks at a specific land - is good if you care about that sort of thing without being as narrow as the 'lands matter' cards can be
 

Dom Harvey

Contributor
So at SCG's exclusive end of year tournament I managed to get THREE drafts in! I was trying some experimental things that I'll write up soon (along with a Cubetutor/Cubecobra list for real this time I promise no takebacks)

DRAFT 1

Jund Sac










Matthias Hunt, a commentator who's known for his combo prowess, drafted this little number. A good template for tricky BG with a sac subtheme, this deck established a theme of the weekend - Yawgmoth is completely messed up and may need to be cut on power level


UGb Ramp










The result of a 2HG drafting process, this deck performed above expectations! Smuggler's Copter is apparently the ideal mana fixing


WUR Control










A man known for winning a lot with WUR Control decided to... win even more with WUR Control. Someone else playing a Flash deck passed Topsy Turvy not realizing how good it was only for this guy to read it once, slam it, and go on to lock the Flash player with Topsy Turvy + Soulfire Grand Master + Cryptic Command


WUB Grindy











This one doesn't have a coherent gameplan but still reassuring proof that someone without much Cube experience can navigate this confusing maze I've set up and draft a stock-ish midrange deck that still has some interesting elements


WB Stax











I 0-3ed my own Cube on my birthday! The WUB player above was on my right so I didn't get fixing or some of the hallmark cards like Lingering Souls that may have tied this together


Hogaak











I've been trying to split the difference between heavy artifact and heavy graveyard themes so to see both supported effectively was encouraging
 

Dom Harvey

Contributor
DRAFT 2


BUG Boosties











This deck had some predictably wild Summon the Packs and surprisingly great Booster Tutors (notably Split Screen for Courser/Jadelight/Kefnet!)

Boat Brew











A competitive, slower WR deck is always nice to see. Highlight here was a surprise blowout Ojutai's Command off Astrolabe when the pilot had just Plains and Mountains in play

BR Scrapheap Challenge










I'm not quite sure what happened here but it doesn't matter because Yawgmoth is busted!

5c OOL











excuse me?!

WU Artifact Aggro










This was my baby and it's perfect (outside of lacking removal). Even though it's the best shell for it, The Grand Calcutron more than lived up to its title

4c Conjecture











This was all over the place but Conjecture tied the whole room together - there are some nice Argivian Find/Regrowth loops in this deck

WU Prison?!










Displacer really messed me up - I thought I was about to fight through it, and then Avacyn turned up...

4c Tokens











Take a gander at this one. One way to get redundancy on your theme is to take the same card in all five colours. Another is to just take all copies of the same card...
 

Dom Harvey

Contributor
DRAFT 3

Didn't get pics of all the Draft 3 decks but from what I remember:
- RG Ramp with Fires of Invention, Pyromancer's Goggles, Cavalier of Flame, Wildfire/Devastating Dreams and a lot of burn
- WR Aggro that had good card quality but highlighted the problem that single-minded aggro strategies have in this Cube atm
- Bant Ramp/Flash, a neutered version of the beast from a previous draft this weekend
- The most absurd but brilliant 5c monstrosity I've seen: Gilded Goose, Urza, Breya, Yarok...

WUb Control











This 3-0ed very easily; control's still got it

Rb Aggro











BG Sac










Would it surprise you to learn that Yawgmoth was broken again?
 
So at SCG's exclusive end of year tournament I managed to get THREE drafts in! I was trying some experimental things that I'll write up soon (along with a Cubetutor/Cubecobra list for real this time I promise no takebacks)

I can't wait to see the list. A lot of the decks you post are powerful but interesting and your list seems to lean heavily on artifacts which is a goal of mine as well. You also seem to have very few planeswalkers which is refreshing to see.

Thanks for taking the time to write this all out!
 
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