Dom's Stream of Consciousness

Dom Harvey


What does old-school Magic mean to you? What comes to mind when you think of Alpha and Beta?

Part of what makes Magic so enriching and important to people after so much time is that there are many possible answers to those questions. But what would a newcomer find when they took their first look at the Alpha or Antiquities spoiler?

One answer is that there are so many cards that just... stop your opponent from playing Magic:

- OTT hosers (Karma/Gloom, Circle of Protection: Red, Island Sanctuary, Blood Moon)
- 'Symmetrical' punishment (Ankh of Mishra, Black Vise/The Rack)
- Resource constriction (Winter Orb, Stasis, Nether Void; Sinkhole, Armageddon, Strip Mine)

Our collective understanding of Magic was much worse back in the day and it was all too common for people to let these effects be even stronger by playing too few lands or too many colours (often at the same time!) without a coherent plan in mind. That said, there's only so much your Mono Red Aggro deck can do against COP: Red even if it's perfectly constructed or so much any deck can do when it literally can't cast its spells any more. This unrefined deckbuilding also stopped some of these cards from being as oppressive as they should have been - if your deck can't press the advantage from an early Strip Mine, your opponent has more time to recover. The various Old School formats offer a look at how strong these effects are when used by seasoned players and deckbuilders.

Magic today looks completely different. You can't buy a Stone Rain, let alone a Sinkhole - and even something relatively tame like Hokori, Dust Drinker looks inconceivable. There are Cataclysms everywhere but none of them let you touch lands. Colour hate comes more in the form of Aether Gust or Noxious Grasp - efficient ways to trade with cards from the target colours but nothing that stops them being played altogether. Modern Magic design is about accumulating resources and using as much of your mana as possible every turn - this formula is a recipe for success in any format younger than Legacy, where cards like Daze and Wasteland that would be unprintable today place severe constraints on what you can do.

I try to shy away from grand unified theories or speculation about what's going on in R&D because it's easy to sound like ~that guy~ from your LGS or Twitter with an exhaustingly certain answer about everything. With that caveat, let's look at the broader context. The success of Arena has brought many new players to the game and introduced them to typical Magic player complaints - first and foremost, mana screw. While the mana system is a crucial feature of Magic that separates it from the ever-growing hordes of competitors, thrusting its blunt form of variance in the face of new players is a good way to drive them away. At the same time, those players are drawn to the big, splashy designs that are just more exciting than an above-rate one-drop for aggro. To make more expensive cards playable, you can run more lands - but this simply relocates that frustration to not drawing your sixth land instead of your third. Instead, we have a holistic approach - firstly, lands do more:

It's much easier to run 28-30+ lands when a good chunk of those replace themselves in a pinch, help you find spells, or have some spell-like effect on demand. Manlands and standouts like Westvale Abbey or Gavony Township are so popular for a reason!

Secondly, and more importantly, early plays now scale very well into the lategame. In the last few sets alone we've seen many cheap 'engine' creatures that shape the game if deployed on curve but also give you a lethal mana sink later:

The result is that most midrange or control decks (it's easier than ever before to slide between those labels) are great at amassing resources and competing in longer games but also at operating on few resources on the rare occasion that happens. I think this trend is fantastic for Magic in general and Cube in particular but it does encourage an arms race where you always have to be doing the biggest thing. In Standard, this has meant Fires of Invention or Wilderness Reclamation effectively bypassing the entire mana system. In every format, this has meant Uro:

The contrast between these two giants is the perfect illustration of this. Uro is the best card in Standard, Pioneer, Modern, and Historic and has prompted calls to delete it from Constructed Magic altogether; Kroxa has seen modest success with zero complaints at all, as far as I can tell. Kroxa attempts to downsize the game in colours that are best at doing that - if we trade resources (with the ample discard and removal in black or burn in red), Kroxa can facilitate those trades while also being the biggest thing on a sparse board. In most Constructed formats, one key plank of that - cheap mana disruption - is off-limits and it's tough to effectively downsize the game in this new world. Meanwhile, Uro gets you more resources, the life buffer to use them, and accelerates you towards your big finish while being that perfect big finish without asking more of you than just playing normal Magic (cf. Treasure Cruise/Dig Through Time).

I love the games where both players have a bunch of mana and a bunch of ways to use it every turn but there's also a unique tension to games where you have to make tough, careful choices about what you can afford to keep or lose and the margins are super-thin. In other words, I want the mission statements of Uro and Kroxa to both be realistic in my environment.

These lock cards or mass destruction effects that I previously dismissed as GRBS are the cleanest way to enable that. A card like Winter Orb not just sweeps the legs out from under resource-intensive decks, suggesting an angle of attack that isn't 'deal 20 damage or combo off ASAP', but can also change the dynamics of big mana mirrors. Instead of casting the biggest and baddest Hydroid Krasis, I can use Winter Orb to ice the game and turn my temporary advantage into a permanent one - or I can do that with cards that explicitly work well with Orb like Urza, Lord High Artificer or Gaea's Cradle. Jockeying to set up the perfect Cataclysm can be interesting enough that ending the game on the spot with it doesn't have to feel so bad.

Black has a wide range of these cards if you're willing to pay the price:

These go mostly overlooked but Smallpox in particular is a realistic and appealing versions of this effect - it can reset the game (and swing it in your favour if you have recursive threats or a cheap follow-up) and has the distinction of being even stronger on the draw. Their grouchy older uncle, Death Cloud, fits more neatly into another popular category of cards:

These break the symmetry by encouraging you to amass resources first - equality over equity. For that reason they are worse candidates for the lower curve decks that I've discussed here, but the artifact- and planeswalker-heavy shells that love these cards are popular with drafters and open up 'Big Red' as a different direction for red than one-drops and burn spells.

Two personal favourites:

I've sung the praises of Devastating Dreams many times around these parts. Its main virtue is how well it scales - it's a highly tactical card that's as suited to the RG Aggro deck with big creatures as it is to the RG Midrange deck with planeswalkers or land recursion effects.

Rare-B-Gone is an outstanding card if you're in any position to build around it - it wreaks such havoc on the board that even just a Scrapheap Scrounger or something ready to come back is worth firing it off.

This is the card you want against someone going too big too fast; it definitely is swingier than most cards even in the Legacy Cube but I've found it to be much more reasonable than its reputation would suggest.

The old-school Stax contingent hasn't aged all that well but Braids is still brutal (even with stiff competition for similar cards at the exact same mana cost) and Rankle is one of the best designs of the past few years as well as a home-run curve-topper for black aggro of any kind.

The symmetrical resource denial card that's had the most success in Constructed, Liliana is less obnoxious to me than most generic value planeswalkers because it does the exact opposite. Liliana creates deep subgames in a way few other cards can

Dom Harvey


After a revisit to Ravnica that made me question why I fell in love with Magic in the original Ravnica block, I'm sceptical of this method of phoning in these callbacks that rely on nostalgia. The specific precedent here is discouraging too - Battle for Zendikar was a massive flop. Luckily, Zendikar Rising has a lot more of what made the original Zendikar exciting. I love lands and I love sets that care about lands, but I think most parts of the set hold up well beyond my own biases.

Let's address the big innovation first. The spell lands/modal DFCs are excellent as a group and there are already a bunch that I can't imagine ever wanting to cut from a Cube. That said, this isn't just a question of modality - space is a big concern in Cubes too. The one constant between Cubes (unless built around narrow themes) is that there are more cards we want to run than slots for them, leading to a Cube that becomes more and more bloated unless tough choices are made. Before this site was founded Jason was arguing for the Utility Land Draft as a way of accessing lands that would make for cool inclusions in decks but weren't worth an entire slot in a Cube or draft. I've tried to address this problem by grouping cards together - instead of having each of the 5 Onslaught cycling lands I could have up to 5 'cycling land vouchers' - and maybe I'm meant to just give them away for free (with an eye to the rest of the environment - can X/1s flourish at all if every deck has a bunch of Spikefield Hazards?). Faerie Conclave is a cool, iconic card that most blue decks in most Cubes would play - how many Cubes play Faerie Conclave though? There are already a lot of spells attached to lands that are edged out for space reasons and discussions of the middling DFCs should reflect that I think.

Additionally, the marginal value of a modal card is lower in Cubes that already have a lot of flexible tools and mana sinks. If my aggro decks can happily play 17-18 lands because they can use all their mana at most phases of the game, the unique selling point of these cards is less distinct.

This argument is easier to accept for the CIPT lands - I don't want Akoum Warrior enough to want Akoum Teeth - but still applies for the mythics 'Boltlands' that enter untapped. I wasn't optimistic about Sea Gate Restoration or Emeria's Call at first but have heard good reviews of both in Cube and Standard respectively. The others:

Agadeem's Awakening: A great pickup for sacrifice engine decks in black - increasingly I find those decks want a lot of mana so a card that can satisfy those needs while being the big finish itself is wonderful. These decks tend to have a diverse spread of mana costs as well as high-impact one-drops and two-drops to make a 'small' Awakening worthwhile

Turntimber Symbiosis: The ramp decks I want to support rely on making lots of land drops to play large creatures so this is perfect all around. Symbiosis has less build-around potential than something like See the Unwritten but is so much more widely playable that the exciting swings it can lead to will come up more frequently

Shatterskull Smashing: Highly inefficient on rate compared to any other red burn spell but I said the same about Walking Ballista and I expect it to impress. Notably, DFCs' flexibility is more useful in red, which is generally worse at filtering cards or ensuring a steady flow of cards to build towards your usual expensive payoffs

As for the rest:

Ondu Inversion: For some reason I like clunky white control cards a lot but it's hard for most white sections to justify running many (unless you run that a lot and make it a subtheme of white). This doesn't share the cross-archetype flexibility of other DFCs - your white aggro deck can never cast this and might not want to anyway - but if you support a slower, bigger UW Control or WG Ramp deck

Glasspool Mimic: LOVE this one even though there are already more good Clones than I can make room for. The idea of playing it as a land, targeting it with Flickerwisp, then having it copy the Flickerwisp and blink something else tickles me pink

Silundi Vision: Even with high-impact instants/sorceries it's hard to justify a Peer Through Depths or Pieces of the Puzzle but stapling that effect to a land makes it a lot more intriguing

Malakir Rebirth: Similarly, might be the star child of the Undying Evil, Supernatural Stamina etc family of cards solely because of this other mode

Kazuul's Fury: Ditto for Fling, a frequently embarrassing card that's often the only thing that can win the game

Valakut Awakening: I don't think this level of tire-spinning is worth it in a faster, focused aggro deck but if you have the time or care about drawing cards at all then sure

Bala Ged Recovery: Regrowth is an iconic card but also a subtly mana-intensive one so that's a great binary for a DFC - there's been a fair few times where I've wanted to Regrowth a land and that's priced in here

Tangled Florahedron: Solid but unexciting in an especially egregious way

Kazandu Mammoth: The best of the bunch - a Gnarled Mass variant usually needs more power/toughness and lots of bells and whistles but this is one of the strongest 'pure' beaters in a long time

Landfall is a delightful mechanic that resonates a lot with me personally but I think we've mostly exhausted the safe design space there - I'd love to see some super-juiced landfall cards in a Commander set. Maybe there's a 'more' missing there...

Omnath, Locus of Creation: In the weeks since the set release as I've been lazing around putting this off, Omnath has already prompted two rounds of Standard bans and has been axed in two formats. Omnath does basically everything you could ever ask for from a card - you do actually have to work for the mana in Cube (cf. Standard, where RGWU is somehow easier to cast than 2GG for Questing Beast and it's easier to get that 2GG in the 4c deck than in the RG deck that wants to cast it!) and my tolerance level for Constructed-ruining nonsense is a lot higher when it only occurs occasionally with more competitive and tailored counterplay. Omnath joins Breya and Atraxa as flashy, eye-catching 4c cards that let ambitious drafters chase the dream and I love that for them

Fearless Fledgling: We've come a long way since Vinelasher Kudzu eh? An excellent, aggressive, Force-pitching two-drop gives white aggro some helpful heft. If the 'base case' rounds to a 2/2 flier, that's roughly the same as the Mistral Charger and Stormfront Pegagus that used to round out many white aggro sections and it will often be quite a bit better. It doesn't fit as well in the land-light, low-curve hyperaggressive decks that white has to chase in many Legacy/Vintage Cubes but in any format I'd want to build my aggro decks already have reasons to play a lot of lands

Felidar Retreat: This Bant Retreat deck was one of my favourite Standard decks in a long time and i was always very keen to Cube with Retreat to Emeria despite its much lower power level so this might be the biggest home run of the set for me. The counters crossover is very welcome too!

Phylath, World Sculptor: More awkward bookkeeping than something like Avenger of Zendikar - the basic land clause makes sense on one level but makes it harder to splash and I don't like disincentivizing all the cool lands Cube gives you access to. I think its main role is actually for non-green ramp decks where it's easier to splash (though usually you're based in green and use its (basic) land searchers to enable splashes so idk)

Skyclave Shade: I tend to think Bloodghast is a very overrated card but the free return is the biggest thing going for it; is this the worst of all worlds? I don't think so, largely because this is a substantial threat in the midgame if you can force both players to trade off cards

Scute Swarm: The scourge of casual players on Arena, Scute Swarm quickly gets out of control if given enough time - I think that's a fine reward that late. I like crossovers between lands and tokens so this is intriguing on that front

Akoum Hellhound: Steppe Lynx always wanted to be red - the RG Landfall Berserkers deck I loved in Constructed would have loved to upgrade Scythe Leopard! Lynx never impressed me as a Cube card even in Waddellian double-fetches Cubes but the colour shift by itself makes it much stronger

Skyclave Pick-Axe: Cool if you support a landfall aggro package - worth a post in itself?

Brushfire Elemental: There are surprisingly few good RG 2-drops; this is a fine one if you're happy using gold slots on a card like this. Its form of evasion is useful for increasingly token-heavy environments

Inscription of Insight: Has the Izzet Charm issue but at least all modes were acceptable in various contexts for Izzet Charm - that's really not the case here. This card being fine is a good bellwether for how powerful your Cube is

Inscription of Ruin: Much better across the board - you'll kick it for good effect quite rarely but it's nice to have a semi-playable Mind Rot

Inscription of Abundance: The life mode is largely trinket text but that's an additive distraction - this compares decently to Primal Might, a card I've been incredibly impressed by

Luminarch Aspirant: Perfect two-drop with interesting choices over the whole course of the game. White has a lot of cards that push +1/+1 counters but few of those are on cheap creatures but Fledgling and this change that

Maul of the Skyclaves: This auto-attachment as an imitation of Living Weapon is a trend I really like. Another great piece of Equipment for stuff that cares about actual Equipment if you want to push that or the artifact aggro shell that's been discussed here on-and-off. I liked Griffin Guide in 2006 and I like this now!

Skyclave Apparition: An instant Cube staple that was sorely needed. THe Fiend Hunter family of cards has always had a role to play but I was never really happy with any of them - this is a smart design that keeps random stuff in check (notably planeswalkers!) while having a more interesting risk/reward calculus than any of its predecessors

Squad Commander: White has a surprising lack of army-in-a-can cards below 5 CMC but the party text will be misleading and minimal here most of the time

Deliberate: 'Draw a card' text can matter for this vs something like Anticipate/Impulse

Master of Winds: A great step up the curve from Champion of Wits - don't underrate the upgrade from Draw 2/Discard 2 to Draw 2/Discard 1 in decks that still care about card advantage

Sea Gate Stormcaller: Not sure if this card is good enough but I do know it has nothing to do with Snapcaster Mage so let's avoid those lazy comparisons please!

Bloodchief's Thirst: If you run enough planeswalkers that you sorely need extra removal like this then that's your problem but I like this as a backup to Fatal Push for CMC 1 removal given the glut at CMC 2

Nighthawk Scavenger: Better than Vampire Nighthawk the vast majority of the time but also much less elegant? Every card is a novel nowadays so ladling on complexity when you don't have to isn't necessarily worth it

Nullpriest of Oblivion: The base case of Child of Night+ needs to be good for this to be worth it but I think it is and the payoff is strong - I've found the sac-heavy black decks in particular often have a lot of mana sinks and once you reach a critical mass of those stuff like Ashnod's Altar starts to look more tempting

Kargan Intimidator: A good mana sink with lots of modality but it does that by virtue of just having lots of words on it? With a ___ Charm/Command/Confluence the options are the point and part of the charm appeal but this one feels like it's trying to be too clever. Maybe that's irrational, it's a cool card!

Magmatic Channeler: A free discard outlet is somewhat nice if you have themes in that space but people will find they get to pump this up much less often than they expect. By now there are enough strong creatures that key off instants/sorceries but we need the cheap enablers for those to flourish in a mostly-singleton format

Shatterskull Charger: This type of card hasn't aged well but this is the best of the bunch? I remember loving Dash as a mechanic back in 2015

Ashaya, Soul of the Wild: Very funny with stuff that actually counts lands like Multani or Sylvan Advocate but the nontoken clause kills this for me as I can't build my own Earthcraft

Swarm Shambler: Not bad for a one-drop as a Chronomaton+ and I don't think you need to be counter-heavy for this to be playable

Vastwood Surge: It's weird to have two strict upgrades to a longtime classic in Explosive Vegetation in the space of six months. By the time you're kicking this you don't really need the lands (unless you have a lot of landfall stuff going on) so it's basically an alternate mode

Grakmaw, Skyclave Ravager: I'd rather have Reyhan in a counters deck and maybe overall (though that one is a lot closer)? Wouldn't mind finding room for both and you can gladly run either in an aggressive/midrange BG deck

Nissa of Shadowed Boughs: A really interesting planeswalker design that goes far outside the normal template while still feeling very on-brand for Nissa

Forsaken Monument: I love the idea of this as a build-around payoff for artifact aggro or ramp decks but I expect it will be too narrow in practice for anything resembling a normal Cube

Myriad Construct: Some cool stuff going on here (especially cracking it with your own spell to get a bunch of tokens) but having several non-overlapping narrow conditions at once makes it hard to grok and easy to forget about something

Crawling Barrens: By far the best colourless manland outside once you move up from Mutavault and Mishra's Factory. Note that you can effectively pay 4 to charge it without having to attack just yet, making it the ideal mana sink in board stalls
Something I've tried in my cube instead of running the Onslaught cyclers is just to run a BUNCH of Ash Barrens. Like, 10 of them. You could do something similar and just mark them as follows: "Basic landcycling {1} "! Or just add "Cycling {1}" to the card and get something that still makes colored mana while cycling :)

I appreciate your takes, and I'm reviewing several of my own adds based on them (cough, cough, Tangled Florahedron, Nighthawk Scavenger, and Kargan Intimidator*), but I think you could not be more wrong about Skyclave Shade (at least for my cube . . . YMMV as always ;) ). For me, the single biggest selling point for the Shade over Bloodghast is the mana cost. Black is (usually) bad at playing a landfall deck, but adding in another color makes it a lot more appealing/more likely to come down on T2. Plus, 3 and especially 5 power are a lot better at breaking through stalls late game than a 2/1 with haste.

And I'd guess that with Vastwood Surge, you can call the 'ramp' of it's kicked mode deck-thinning at that point?

Inscription of Insight: Has the Izzet Charm issue but at least all modes were acceptable in various contexts for Izzet Charm - that's really not the case here. This card being fine is a good bellwether for how powerful your Cube is

What's the Izzet Charm issue you're talking about?

*I think that the text is a lot more excusable on Kargan Intimidator than on Nighthawk Scavenger, if only because one is an activated ability and the other is, as you've said, a dumb amount of bookkeeping for not that much payoff. Vampire Nighthawk is a pretty good Baneslayer already even if it's sloooow at closing out games.

Dom Harvey

You see Izzet Charm underperforming in a lot of Modern decks because it promises flexibility but isn't good enough at any of those things to make up for its clunkiness (which naturally is a format-specific term: 2-mana can be clunky in Modern, it's cheap in Cube)

Dom Harvey


I understand the view that it's nice to have a set off after the deluge of goodies we had with Zendikar Rising, especially with COVID hampering our ability to give any new card the audition it deserves. Personally, most of my engagement with Cube has always been theoretical so I'll gladly take as many new cards as I can whenever possible. That would make this set a disappointment at first glance but there's fun to be had if you're willing to do some mythmaking, as I'll explain later

The Monarch

Monarch is a controversial mechanic in the Cube community but I think I'm a bigger fan than most. In a world where card advantage is increasingly shifting from traditional draw engines to immediate ETB value (when everything is a Llanowar Visionary, what's the point of Phyrexian Arena or Harmonize?), it's refreshing to have an ongoing source of card draw with a new twist. I like that Monarch incentivizes combat and tactical positioning around seizing the crown (or forgoing that if the cost in time or material is too steep) and makes you think about deck construction on multiple levels - there's the obvious 'I want evasive creatures that can capture the flag on demand' but also stuff like 'smaller creatures that would normally get obsoleted quickly become more valuable on defense as chump blocking is important' as well as the more subtle flash support (and less subtle blink support) it offers. A Cube that already has a lot of fliers and flash creatures (or both like Vendilion Clique and Restoration Angel) can tie all that together with Monarch. In particular, I like that it gives white (and red) card advantage that isn't tied to planeswalkers

This new crop of Monarch cards are all fantastic or illegal in Pauper but cover the entire spectrum for Cube. The headline act is the Court cycle, which also displays that same variation. I like that all of them are at least somewhat functional even when you've been dethroned and threaten to blow the roof off the game if you can regain power

Court of Cunning: This card is obscenely good. When I was a baby Cuber there were endless debates over how good Jace, Memory Adept really was - some banned it for power level/gameplay reasons even in powered Vintage Cubes that had a high tolerance for BS, some thought it wasn't good enough for those Cubes in the first place. Court of Cunning issues the same ultimatum much quicker - three juiced triggers is always enough to win, two is almost guaranteed to get you there if you can keep Court around for another turn or two. Meanwhile, you can churn through your own deck (while imposing a safe limit) to power up any graveyard synergies. All of that aside, this is a cheap personal draw engine for a deck that can reliably remain the monarch. That's harder than blue than in other colours but there are enough Spectral Sailors etc to make it work if you want to

Court of Grace: White has no shortage of good token makers at 4 mana - Felidar Retreat is still warm from the oven! - but this promises to prolong and reshape the game unlike the latest twist on Battle Screech. It's embarrassing that white still can't buy a Divination but giving it high-power Monarch cards is an apology of sorts in the few formats that's legal in

Court of Ire: Can finish the opponent off ala Sulfuric Vortex even if they become the Monarch but even just a single shot for 7 with a bonus card is a great deal and this gives you so much more. I like this as a game-changer for bigger red aggro/midrange decks

Fall From Favor: Fills the same colour/CMC as Court of Cunning without being as completely busted - the removal adds a conditionality to it that makes it more fair and limiting

Dawnglade Regent: A very solid replacement for whatever other finisher you absent-mindedly throw in instead

Emberwilde Captain: Great for aggressive red decks that make the best use of Monarch


Another old source of controversy, cascade is frequently called out as a nonsense RNG mechanic but I think it adds an important spice and variety. When cascade is part of a card's power you can afford to run it without fear of cheaper reanimation/cheat effects exploiting it in the same way and it promises extra value without being predictable and potentially repetitive like most ETB triggers. If you can do the work to make your cascade reliable in a singleton format, that deserves a payoff IMO

Part of its (perceived?) bad reputation around these parts may stem from it being more functional in traditional power-max environments where there are fewer narrow/conditional synergy cards - a Bloodbraid Elf that always hits a solid 3-drop or burn spell is very different from one that might whiff and turn a card you're excited to put in your deck to one you actively hope to avoid. That said, even in those more mainstream Cubes Bloodbraid Elf aged poorly - watch any MTGO Cube stream/video and it was common to see it in the dregs of the pack after the wheel. Likewise, Shardless Agent tended to be a reluctant inclusion if at all for Cubes to pad out their UG sections before 2019-2020 made that laughably easy. The lesson there is that cascade plays poorly with purely reactive cards, which are concentrated in blue in a lot of Cubes

This batch are mostly more expensive cards aimed at slower multiplayer games so I won't get the cheap, aggro cascade creature I want just yet. Nevertheless:

Volcanic Torrent: Compares favourably with the 'base case' on Bonfire of the Damned, a real banger in its time, and can be devastating if you're able to build towards a big turn with it. This is Storm done right for me

Sweet-Gum Recluse: The cascade/blink hybrid card we all (ok, just me) wanted! I think this is really neat - it runs into the Shardless Agent issue with reactive cards in the UG decks that make best use of flash but is perfect for the WG Flash decks I alluded to in my OP four (FOUR?!) years ago

Apex Devastator: Don't think I'll Cube this but what a perfect, low-hanging design

The rest:

Keeper of the Accord: Kind of interesting but it's sad that this is the poster child for white supposedly getting more tools

Livio, Oathsworn Sentinel: A time-consuming way to build your own Ghostway but you can send your bear in while that's happening I suppose?

Slash the Ranks: An oddly polarized card as the firmly controlling UW decks in Cube love a sweeper that can hit planeswalkers but generic midrange decks in white tend to rely heavily on their own planeswalkers

Amphin Mutineer: For some reason I have a soft spot for Pongify/Beast Within on my own stuff so this piques my interest a bit

Hullbreacher: This is worthy of its own post but 'drawing cards matters' is a deep theme in UR and pairs nicely with any other themes as stuff that draws cards helps to assemble other synergies. One offshoot tries to invert the symmetry of mass draw effects in its favour - Timetwister is often good in general, great if you have other reasons to care about drawing 7 cards at once, and phenomenal if your opponent is getting that many back themselves. The Narset, Parter of Veils + Wheel(s) combo is a favourite in Vintage Cube but suffers from a lack of redundancy on Narset - there's Alms Collector in white, and Leovold if you can support a tri-colour card, but that's it. Hullbreacher is a monocolour + on-colour version of that effect that sets up sudden swings against anything that draws a card but also has a Twin-esque feel when you untap and follow up with a Wheel.

I'd already be in on Hullbreacher given that but it's actually the strongest version of its effect we've ever seen - the Treasure means your draw spell is at least free and probably gives you the mana to unload some of the cards you got to draw. Imagine chaining this into Time Spiral!

Trench Behemoth: A cool but interchangeable finisher if you run a lot of the new DFCs etc

Tormod, the Desecrator: I loved Desecrated Tomb more than I should have so I'm cautious here but the eponymous Desecrator is a lot more versatile (imagine Relic of Progenitus etc) so maybe I'll give it a test-drive

Necrotic Hex: Often a souped-up Martial Coup and I've been trying to push a sac/ramp crossover theme in black that this fits into nicely. A great splashable sweeper + finisher for other ramp decks too!

Dargo, the Shipwrecker: I love this as a strong but flexible sac payoff that doesn't compete with others - if I sac my board to Goblin Bombardment or Carrion Feeder I still get the discount - and makes you look for new things in token creators (Gilded Goose/Thraben Inspector are incredible with this!). Being a large, cheap creature is useful for stuff that cares about power (The Great Henge, Altar of Dementia) or converted mana cost (Vial Smasher). The biggest home run for me of this set

Krark, the Thumbless: A hilarious card if you care about casting spells a lot; along with stuff like Wildfire Devils or the cascade mechanic in general, you can generate a feeling of volatility/randomness that's very on-brand for Izzet

Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh: Incredible design and the perfect character to pair with it - already has my brain whirring about what I can do with it. Maybe the best 'Memnite' unless you care a lot about artifacts

Wheel of Misfortune: A Wheel that pushes aggro decks explicitly as well as implicitly and adds some interesting subgames (less so for heads-up play but so be it)

Ich-Tekik, Salvage Splicer: I've wanted a Splicer lord for a long time but didn't expect to get one - this is solid but weaker than the competition even in its narrow class (token-making green 5-drops). If you can move beyond those comparisons this is a cool card

Kodama of the East Tree: See Aesi but this is a fun twist on cascade

Aesi, Tyrant of Gyre Strait: Superficially a upgrade to Tatyova if you're into that sort of thing, but there are so many 6 CMC green creatures that work with lands that you might prefer the cheaper card as a default

Araumi of the Dead Tide: Beneath layers of very cumbersome text this is a powerful and intriguing card even if it's kinda in the wrong colours

Gor Muldrak, Amphinologist: Green decks tend to have a lot of creatures but this is a fun catch-up mechanism for spell-heavy, creature-light decks ala Oath of Druids (though obviously not with it)

Juri, Master of the Revue: The leader Mayhem Devil always wanted and often a bigger/badder Dreadhorde Butcher - between those, Falkenrath Aristocrat etc you can build a truly unhinged BR Sacrifice deck but that theme is so deep as it is that a gold card has a much higher bar to clear than normal unless you have a ton of fixing

Nevinyrral, Urborg Tyrant: This guy should have had his own card long ago and this one doesn't disappoint. A high complexity card as you need timing tricks and a weird deck to get the most out of this

Mythmaking: Build your own Legends

I've shied away from custom cards in my Cube even though they are the most obvious solution whenever I complain about or hope for something to be printed. While custom cards do cross a line aesthetically for some people and the challenge of building within existing constraints can be fun, my main objection is that it's harder for people playing your Cube for the first time to know what they are getting themselves into. I've Cubed with Chris a lot at this point and his customs feel generally well designed and integrated into his environment but I still have to check the wording on them a lot and feel blindsided sometimes when one takes me by surprise - and I devote too much headspace to Magic already!

This mental load is reduced when the card isn't 'new' but just errataed - I like the old companion rule as an incentive to draft around Gyruda, Lurrus etc and it's easy to tell people that without confusion. Similarly, when I'm on a multi-Astrolabe/Icehide Golem kick I can announce the 'all basics are snow' house rule without having to buy a bunch of uniform, ugly snow basics. In that vein, I want to try a hack that makes Commander Legends and similar sets a lot more interesting for Cube. What if, instead of referencing the single legend that's your commander, those cards referenced all eligible commanders - in other words, legends?

You can build a Legends subtheme in Boros very easily and the payoffs are certainly there. Protector and Steward are Lords that any tribal deck would kill for; Skyfire Phoenix hits harder and cheaper than any other Phoenix

There are two recent cycles of cards that care about commanders; none are that interesting to me but YMMV!

The Lieutenant creatures are very strong in a competitive, two-player game but you would never normally meet the requirement under those conditions - if you can, they make a great case for themselves. Loyal Apprentice in particular becomes the best two-drop you could ask for in red and an excellent build-around card. People used to say that red was missing its member of the broken two-drop cycle (Stoneforge Mystic, Snapcaster Mage, Dark Confidant, Tarmogoyf) - Young Pyromancer auditioned for that role but Loyal Apprentice might steal it if you consistently have a legend

This is the new release that made me embrace this idea and is the best card in the set for me if I do. I'm always looking for interesting build-arounds - ideally attached to cheap creatures - and this absolutely fits the bill. Here are Rx decks in various colour pairs that highlight some of the things you can do with it:

These days many of the most appealing build-around creatures are Legends for Commander purposes anyway so you don't have to stretch far to fill your deck with them - every legend here is a card I'd run in my list regardless or would happily play to support other themes. Even if Herald is effectively just 2R for a 3/2 Cascade, that's a fine rate on a card - often an upgrade on Bloodbraid Elf! - but the ceiling is sky-high. When you commit to this theme, cards become more interesting for 'free' than they were before - Kari Zev was already the best red 2-drop for many decks, now it's a source of two legendary bodies; Isamaru isn't just an Icehide Golem, he's a very good boy

Dom Harvey

Izzet Out Of My League?

The biggest recurring problem in my Cube sketches right now is figuring out what on earth blue is meant to do. More specifically, I can just about figure out what every colour pair involving blue is meant to do - with the glaring exception of UR/Izzet. The design heuristic of giving each colour pair a role/deck and building from there has flaws which I'm sure all of us have run up against ourselves but it's still a useful exercise to imagine what a 'XY deck' would look like since many drafters will think in terms of colours rather than archetypes and you want there to be a good generic fallback deck in those colours if the archetype doesn't come together.

Spellslingers/Spells Matter

This is the go-to choice and it's easy to see why - it's the most likely UR archetype in any Limited format and land-light, spell-heavy UR decks have a long Constructed pedigree. Attempts to transplant the Delver decks of Modern and Legacy yore to Cube have always failed in my experience. Those decks rely on card filtering to make up for their low threat density (and because of this they can just run a playset of the two or three best threats without scraping the bottom of the barrel for more) and have cheap ways to defend their threats. In Cube you struggle to get that ratio of spells at all (let alone premiere one-drops), it's a mostly singleton format so there aren't many good threats in the first place, and there's much more good removal than there are cheap ways to stop it.

There's also a familiar trap of assuming that cards that have 'instant or sorcery' on them must play well together when, often, they place competing incentives on you. Any slot devoted to a threat is one that can't be used on a spell to enable them (barring stuff like Adventure creatures, which are even better here than they always are). Once you've been lured into an aggressive UR Spells deck, a generically strong threat like Kari Zev or Serendib Efreet is probably better than a weaker on-theme threat that tugs you in another direction. Look at how many ways there are to care about spells:

- Key off one spell (Delver of Secrets)
- Play as many spells as you can (Prowess creatures, Kiln Fiend but also Young Pyromancer, Guttersnipe, WAR Saheeli etc)
- Play N spells (Magmatic Channeler, Thing in the Ice, Arclight Phoenix)
- You need N spells first (Stormwing Entity, Ethereal Forager)
- Your spells are better/cheaper (Baral)
- Spells with restrictions (Dreadhorde Arcanist)
- Rebuy your spells (Snapcaster Mage)
- Play good spells to copy (Sea Gate Stormcaller, God-Eternal Kefnet, Lutri)

This analysis extends to the type of spells you add to support this theme. It's obvious that cards with flashback, rebound, jump-start and the like that can be cast multiple times work well here but most of these are somewhat conditional - Reckless Charge and Lava Dart are terrifying in an aggro spells deck but poor in a controlling one. If your environment is fast and cutthroat, the gap between a one-mana and two-mana spell is even larger.

If you do want to support the aggro spells deck, it's worth asking if these are the right colours - unless you have a strong sentimental attachment to Delver of Secrets or are happy to commit to a wacky Wizards subtheme, there aren't many reasons to be in blue beyond the cheap blue card draw/filtering you'd want to play anyway. You can choose to keep the aggressive aspects of the deck in mono-red (allowing you to branch into RW or RG if you want to) and add the blue tools that open up a UR spells deck that plays differently.

Aside: Searching for Baney Slayer

Thinking abstractly about how to create varied play experiences and drawing my usual parallels with Constructed, I keep coming back to the importance of having high-impact early plays. In an era of Magic where every card is at least a Mulldrifter and often a Titan, the usual dynamic of threats vs answers breaks down and it's easy for games to feel like one long blur (see most Pauper/Peasant Cubes or Masters draft formats for good examples). Baneslayers help to define games by drawing sharp lines - next turn (and the rest of what might be a much shorter game) looks very different if my creature lives. Depending on the power level of your Cube and the cost of your removal, a Baneslayer that costs four or more mana needs to issue that kind of threat to be worth it at all. At its most extreme, this simplifies games into a binary question of whether you have the right removal at the right time - hardly an improvement over the mono-Mulldrifter world.

Cheap threats get to dodge this demand because it's hard for spot removal to trade up against them. It's still a problem if your games are slow enough that any two-drop inevitably gets chewed up by a Ravenous Chupacabra but the typical Terminate test doesn't apply. This opens up room for cheap cards to bring back the threat vs removal interplay in a more healthy way - if it lives, it becomes a big part of the game without necessarily ending it; if it dies, the game goes on as before. Many of the scariest blue decks in Constructed have had these marquee threats that make the game about themselves - Stoneforge Mystic, Bitterblossom, Young Pyromancer, Dreadhorde Arcanist - and themed aggro decks usually have lynchpin threats like Steel Overseer or Winding Constrictor.

In a Cube context, I've found my white aggro decks are a lot deeper now that so many of its one-drops can become something more - Figure of Destiny, Student of Warfare, Kytheon - versus the various Savannah Lions that are static, blunt instruments. Cards like Legion's Landing or Bomat's Courier have less immediate impact than most one-drops but they introduce their own subgames that make the main game more exciting. When my blue opponent suspends Ancestral Vision on Turn 1, I don't know what those cards will be but I do know that I feel on the clock to apply more pressure. A deck with several of these attention-seeking threats will have a varied range of openings that make playing with and against them more interesting.

This argument isn't here just to distract me from my quest - it highlights something useful about the Spellslinger concept. More than maybe any other deck or colour pair, UR Spells has an abundance of these mini-Baneslayers. Somehow, the spells deck has the most important creatures!

This configuration - a handful of key creatures backed up by a lot of spells - can feel distinct from creature-heavy decks or decks that don't rely on creatures much/at all, adding a nice variety.

The creature focus also suggests natural ties with other colours - green has instants/sorceries that can dig for creatures, black likes to reanimate/recur creatures (see the spell-heavy BR Arcanist decks in Historic/Pioneer), and even white has a light prowess focus (including the best Prowess threat of all in Monastery Mentor) and cost-restrictive reanimation.

The DFCs are perfect ways to increase your deck's spell count for 'free' while cheating the low land count that these decks are either happy to play or priced into. Shatterskull Smashing is incredibly flexible and the jewel of its cycle but the real workhorses here are Silundi Vision and Valakut Awakening, allowing you to find specific spells or dig aggressively for combos.

For more expensive spellslinger 'finishers' I've found both of these very effective for different reasons. Kefnet is a bit much - a nigh-unkillable 4/5 flier at 4 CMC wins a lot of games without ever interacting with spells - but also ties into the top of library stuff that's always tempting but never quite enough in blue (Riddle of Lightning for Sea Gate Restoration?!). Wildfire Devils is an Izzet card through and through, harnessing randomness in a way that's actually competitive and exciting.


It's not hard to shift your blue draw suite to contain a lot of draw + discard effects and red has an ever-growing number of good rummaging cards in addition to the iconic Faithless Looting (one of the first cards I ever wanted to break singleton for). Once you do, it doesn't cost much to sprinkle in some payoffs even if some are more narrow than others - not every Cube can support Surly Badgersaur but the ones that can should get on that right away. As above, concentrating the discard enablers in red can set up a more aggressive discard deck in RG or RB. The somehow rarer payoffs for drawing cards are natural fits for blue - the new star in Nadir Kraken, the original in Chasm Skulker, and a few more in between as well as Irencrag Pyromancer or Jolrael.

Breaking symmetry on mass draw effects is a proven strategy in Legacy/Vintage as well as Legacy/Vintage Cube. The problem is that people hate playing against it - I'm not one to use Commander as a guide but this thread is resounding in its unanimity. An early reply makes a good point - Hullbreacher isn't nearly as good when players run cards that do things and most Cube environments will feature cheap removal and fast decks that can apply pressure. However, the usual dynamics around timing your draw effects in the face of a possible Hullbreacher are so different in Constructed (especially with open decklists!) and it feels so bad to build around or lean into a cool card in Cube only for it to get 'accidentally' owned by Hullbreacher. If I draft Greater Good, invest the mana into it, and make a sacrifice, I'd better get what I paid for!

Narset is less offensive in some ways - you have to expose it at sorcery speed and it can be attacked so the Twin-esque EOT Hullbreacher into Wheel lines happen less often - but incredibly offensive in others. You don't forget about Hullbreacher; it's so easy to forget about Narset's static ability that it accounted for a large chunk of rules violations at tournaments by itself. After >18 months, people still routinely forget about Narset and I don't want to import that into a casual environment. I do like that Narset not only combos with a lot of cards but helps to find those combos and increases the consistency of other combos at the same time, enabling fun hybrid combo decks with several plans.


Sneak & Show is a tempting model for a deck even if Show and Tell itself tends to be a trap in Vintage Cube and redundancy on those effects is hard to come by. Flash is a shockingly underrated Cube card - every power-max Vintage Cube should run it but few do - and Arcane Artisan is as strong a removal check as you'll find. That said, I find it difficult to make Feldon work in a faster environment and Sneak Attack is generically good enough that it will show up in a combo medley deck where you have a Sneak and then some targets for it that doesn't feel like a 'Sneak Attack deck'

We now have a literal red Polymorph to join the various imitations and there are enough of these to make this a real archetype. Outside of the OG Polymorph, blue doesn't have much to add beyond Brainstorm et al - the good blue token makers that aren't themselves creatures are limited to exactly Shark Typhoon.


This thread goes into a lot of detail on how to make UR Artifacts work so I don't have much more to add. In my experience UR Artifacts epitomizes an issue many archetypes have - the cards that care about X (or incidentally do X) are better than X themselves. In this case, it's easy to flood the board with artifacts (or assemble a formidable squadron of Thopters) but there aren't many cards that really reward you for this - stuff like Karn, Scion of Urza or the eponymous Urza are good anyway whereas The Antiquities War suffers from the other major issue: the lack of good artifacts. I floated the idea a while back of having as many build-around or high-impact artifacts as possible to allow for new strategies to flourish across all five colours but this failed in part because there just weren't enough good candidates at each power level. Between Glint-Nest Crane, The Antiquities War, Tezzeret Agent of Bolas, Ancient Stirrings, and so on you can build an artifact theme that can find any one artifact consistently - but which one? Add that to my inability to make the Goblin Welder family of cards work as well as it seems like they should and I've found UR Artifacts surprisingly vexing.

Dom Harvey


Kaldheim is a curious set. In pure power level it's a welcome step down from the highs of the past year to what should be a happy medium. As an example of cohesive design it's tough to pin down - it feels more like a custom set than a real one, and one can only imagine the reaction if some of these designs were submitted for the Great Designer Search. The overall complexity of the set continues to increase - my Cube is aimed at enfranchised players who can bear that burden but I wonder what someone opening a Kaldheim pack as an entree to Magic makes of it all


This should really just be 'Changeling' - for as much as I like support for previously marginal tribes, it's hard for those to work in Cube without doubling up on certain cards and creating a paint-by-numbers template for the deck. Changelings are the glue that might make those work properly and good changelings at either end of the spectrum - aggressively costed ones or more expensive lords/payoffs - were the literal top of my wish list for Cube. Sadly the handful from Kaldheim didn't deliver so unless you're content with the old Changelings or willing to do some surgery to create more you won't have the glue that holds these decks together. I considered making Icehide Golem a changeling just to see what that would open up...

Giant Tribal flopped in the original Lorwyn because typical tribal decks rely heavily on cheap enablers and you can't really print those for the literal Giant tribe (without those juiced-up changelings). Faeries/Elves/Merfolk (especially Faeries) flourished in Standard at the time while Goblins, a well-developed and well-loved tribe, failed to make a mark because the few cheap Goblins weren't good enough. I had these concerns about Dragons of Tarkir - you can only put so many four-drop or five-drop Dragons in a deck so how do you get the required Dragon density? That set solved the problem by having cheap cards that cared about Dragons - Silumgar's Scorn/Draconic Roar/Foul-Tongue Invocation, Haven of the Spirit Dragon - enabling midrange/control decks with 6-8 Dragons as finishers that felt like 'Dragon decks' without needing a dozen Dragons in them.

This dual tribal approach is also promising - maybe you don't care for Giant tribal but you do like Wizard tribal and including the Giants stuff on those grounds let you backdoor some of those synergies. Unfortunately I don't think Wizards is quite there for me either but I'd love any excuse to Cube with cards like Naban, Dean of Iteration soon.

Calamity Bearer - A 3/4 with virtual double strike is a fine fail case and even one puny other Giant lets this translate into a ton of damage. Incredible with stuff like Inferno Titan if you can make it up there

Battle of Frost and Fire - More interesting as a Blink-able sweeper that does a bunch of other stuff than as a Giant synergy card. For some reason the idea of 'going off' with the final chapter with Pyrokinesis or Time Spiral or w/e tickles me pink

Cyclone Summoner - Unsure how this stacks up against Galecaster Colossus in basically the same role but it's funny that we have that choice. Summoner is a strong ramp payoff in its own right

Glimpse the Cosmos - A cheap payoff (that helps to smooth your draws) like this is nice for a tribe that's inherently clunky. Even activating a Mutavault to give this 'flashback' is a worthwhile play

Aegar, the Freezing Flame - An odd but intriguing card that makes an ideal signpost/build-around if that's how you like to see things. Sad that this doesn't work with Battle of Frost and Fire

Quakebringer - A sweet card but needs more Giants than you can reliably have in order to really be a long-term threat

As for other 'tribal' cards:

Righteous Valkyrie - A life gain tribal card more than anything else; that deck has got a lot of nice cards recently and this is the best of the bunch

Firja's Retribution - This card massively underperformed in Standard compared to the hype it was getting in preview season and I expect the same to happen here

Resplendent Marshal - A build-your-own-Lord of sorts for other obscure tribes; I like that this exists but I doubt I'll be running it


A great mechanic - the amortized mana payments and hidden information present both players with interesting choices. Like morph, that subgame is more interesting if any given Foretell card could be a range of different effects instead of exactly Exalted Angel; this scales oddly between Limited/Constructed and smaller/larger formats. In Kaldheim Limited, a Foretell card really could be anything (with the caveats about playability, sequencing, etc). In Standard, a UW Control deck could be hiding Doomskar, Beyond the Multiverse, or Saw it Coming - three cards that do totally different things and can encourage conflicting responses. Each of these dynamics is interesting in their own way.

With Cube, more hidden information problems present themselves - before we get to 'is it Doomskar or Starnheim Unleashed' we have 'is Doomskar in the Cube at all?' and 'did I see Starnheim Unleashed in the draft?' which muddy the waters. If your playgroup knows what's in the Cube or the list is easily referenced this shouldn't be a problem but I think it's easy to overlook the frustration this can cause for a new drafter.

Doomskar - The best Wrath of all time by some metrics. Broadcasting that you have this does give the opponent room to play around it but I think this downside is overstated - often they can just play into a face-up four-drop sweeper because that would be too slow and the discount makes a big difference. These days sweepers aren't instant KOs against aggro decks - they are temporary measures to buy time, and Doomskar is great at doing that

Glorious Protector - This method of saving your creatures can be great against the Doomskars of the world but it's hard to build-your-own-Blink (though if you're tired of how easy it is to Blink stuff, that might be a plus). I'm more into this as a cheap flash threat that can mess up combat or let you apply pressure in an aggro-control deck - it's worse than Restoration Angel, but at a job it's not trying out for

Starnheim Unleashed - An outstanding, flexible finisher that has the quirk of being a 'bad' topdeck if you need action late-game. I expect you'll make a 4/4 on Turn 3 with this most of the time if you can but a pair of 4/4s on Turn 5 is no slouch either

Behold the Multiverse - I like Glimmer of Genius but the Energy boost can be an additive distraction and this sets up your Turn 4 play (like a boomer Wrath of God) very nicely. I like the subtle support Foretell gives to a spells matter theme - you can park this until you have your payoff card and then get a cheap version of the effect

Mystic Reflection - There's a lot of wacky stuff you can do with this, namely not-technically-exponential growth with anything that creates tokens. I always had a soft spot for Mirrorweave and this is a suitably intriguing twist on that. This might end up with the Commander cards that have interesting applications on paper but never quite make it into Cubes (Shifting Shadow!) - I have higher hopes for this one though

Saw It Coming - There are enough worthy upgrades to Cancel that no particular one stands out any more (is this one that much more fun or strong than Neutralize?) but if you have other Foretell cards this is an obvious switch

Crush the Weak - Being able to follow up your sweeper with another spell (or vice versa) is so important that is generally better than Kozilek's Return et al

Battle Mammoth - There are few Foretell options in green so you will See this Coming but still an appealing card. I like that it's a Baneslayer with in-built removal resistance that doesn't just turn it into a Mulldrifter automatically

Dream Devourer - Lumping this in here but it's a unique self-contained 'ramp' card in a colour that rarely gets that these days. Between the up-front cost for Devourer and the foretell cost you're paying more in total but a Turn 4 Titan or the like is well worth it. Am I the only one that feels the 'when you foretell...' wording is a bit unclear on whether it's paying the 2 to exile or actually casting the spell?


In the vein of 'every other mechanic is just a reskinned kicker', Snow feels like an odd form of tribal that veers scarily close to Devoid. There doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason to what is/isn't snow and it sits uneasily across the colour pie. You also either have to replace your cherished basics with ugly uniform snow basics or institute a house rule that all basics are snow - easy enough but further saps what might make snow distinct. There aren't good 'snow payoffs' that care about stuff other than lands - my Icehide Golem doesn't unlock much in the way of snow synergies

That said, a handful of cards in this set may be worth all that effort:

Ascendant Spirit - If WR wants Figure of Destiny as a way to let aggro decks hit hard early while dominating late, blue decks desperately want a Figure of Destiny to apply pressure while holding up interaction (and having a good use for your mana if you don't need it). Nothing has fit that bill so far - stuff like Delver or Pteramander can come close but it's hard to have anywhere near the spell density needed for those cards. Spirit is an outstanding tempo card and control finisher that I'd honestly consider going snow for by itself

Avalanche Caller - Easy to overlook this one but this is a terrifying mana sink when most of your lands are snow

Blessing of Frost - A powerful card but even within its narrow niche there's a lot of competition (e.g. Increasing Savagery)

Blood on the Snow - I suspect there's less discussion on this one than there should be because it was spoiled so early. This is by the best and most flexible of the Phyrexian Rebirth class of sweepers and the upside is so high if you can recur something useful (you can set up loops with Eternal Witness etc!) and returning a planeswalker on an empty board (or even destroying a planeswalker and rebuying it to reset its loyalty) is very powerful. This is a perfect backbone + build-around for a black control deck

Narfi, Betrayer King - At first glance this is a self-mill reward with some incidental tribal synergies but the fact that you can recur it endlessly without other conditions/investment (cf. something like Haunted Dead where you quickly run out of cards) is clutch. I let the casting cost blind me to the fact that this is really a colourless card - your mono-G deck with Wild Mongrel or Survival of the Fittest or mono-R deck with a bunch of Looting effects can make great use of this (or return it to set up emerge like it's 2016)! I've splashed a lot of Scrapheap Scroungers in my time but this is the first true colourless self-returner and that's a really exciting prospect if you're trying to seed a graveyard theme across all five colours

Faceless Haven - A dummy thicc Mutavault, this hits so much harder than the other colourless manlands while retaining some of the tribal overlap. A subtle incentive to play a monocoloured deck that doesn't care what colour that is

Halvar, God of Battle // Sword of the Realms - The latest in a LONG line of equipment incentives but being able to moonlight as an equipment makes this the best by default. Sword of the Realms is a highly Cubeable card in its own right; Halvar is just an added bonus

Alrund, God of the Cosmos // Hakka, Whispering Raven - I love this as a Blink payoff that actually gets the game over with rather than drawing cards or spamming the board with the same type of card. This takes me back to the days of blinking a Morphed Akroma, Angel of Fury

Cosima, God of the Voyage // The Omenkeel - A wordy and confusing card even by this set's standards. A good landfall payoff/enabler in a colour where that's rare and likely a fine card in a 'normal' deck, I just don't know if it's worth the squeeze

Egon, God of Death // Throne of Death - A mediocre graveyard enabler and fine graveyard payoff, this one isn't much more than the sum of its parts I think. In Constructed I'm mainly into this as a self-mill artifact to help Emry do the same thing on the cheap - maybe the Welder Reanimator deck wants this?

Tergrid, God of Fright // Tergrid's Lantern - This card can do some truly insane things but needs help; the Lantern really doesn't do it for me unfortunately

Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor - Ruined Modern and Legacy for a mercifully short time thanks to the Cascade interaction which has now changed; that curtails some of the possible silliness with this card but this is a super-flexible card whose front half is very scary in an inherently creature-heavy format

Birgi, God of Storytelling // Harnfel, Horn of Bounty - The perfect card for a deck that doesn't really exist AFAICT; if you can build some combo spells deck around Runaway Steam-Kin etc this might be a good fit there

Kolvori, God of Kinship // The Ringhart Crest - It's easy to get a high density of legendary creatures almost by accident these days and I like having cards that explicitly push that and can dig for your build-around legends. What really intrigues me is the same line as Alrund/Hakka - playing this as the Crest for 1G and then blinking that into a cheap Kolvori. That's harder with an artifact than a creature but I can dream!

Usher of the Fallen - The best Savannah Lions ever behind Kytheon, which is great news for the power-max crowd who feel priced into running a dozen same-ish one-drops. The tokens are even Humans if you care about that! A slam dunk for Cubes that push white aggro

Clarion Spirit - In a low-curve aggro deck this type-agnostic condition is much easier to trigger than Prowess or similar and you can reliably get several tokens from this over the course of a game

Bloodsky Berserker - As part of a package with Clarion Spirit et al., this is a nice way to increase your total amount of spells payoffs while encouraging different things (going tall vs going wide, Managorger Hydra vs Monastery Mentor). As good in a black aggro deck with lots of Gravecrawlers and Bloodsoaked Champions as it is in BR Arcanist/Pyromancer or an actual Berserkers deck

Draugr Necromancer - I really think these 'steal your stuff' effects are conducive to great Cube experiences and this is up to par

Arni Brokenbrow - A fun companion for the default RG 'play big dumb animals' strat, fine stats by itself

Dragonkin Berserker - The latest in a line of two-drops that are useful mana sinks later but are a bit too flimsy to attack well in decks where that's the priority

Goldspan Dragon - A great candidate for the obligatory five-drop haste dragon slot that bridges you to your curve-toppers in a ramp deck, has artifact synergies, lets you hold up interaction or chain into another spell (ala Teferi, Hero of Dominaria but in a more versatile way). Turning any targeted spell into a free ramp/spell is a nice achievement when it comes up

Magda, Brazen Outlaw - One of the mini-Slayers I mentioned in the UR Spells post that can define a game by itself but sometimes this is just a slightly better Wily Goblin and that's ok!

Esika's Chariot - Cutest art in the set by a mile and one of the sweetest cards too. A high-impact artifact helps to drag an artifact theme into green and being a non-creature source of tokens makes it a fun puzzle piece for blink, populate, polymorph etc stuff

Old-Growth Troll - A wonky card that's a fine incentive for mono-green but those already exist and there are a ton of excellent three-drops in green for whatever you want to do

Path to the World Tree - Much more playable than the actual World Tree (unless you're really going ham on the 5c stuff), this is a fun fixer and goal to chase at a lower power level

Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider - Has the Tezzeret Agent of Bolas problem (I could do cool synergistic things or I could bash you with this giant animal instead) but if you're in the market for an otherwise interchangeable green finisher and want to freeroll some flashy nonsense this is a good option

Kaya the Inexorable - The best '-X: Kill something' of all the Ob Nixilis knockoffs but and you can find ways to exploit the +X but I'm so desensitized to this template that this doesn't inspire me

Niko Aris - A very strange card that's hard to clock at a glance. I've been crying out for more Investigate cards and this is... technically that? The tokens being enchantments opens up more space for a possible enchantment deck but the payoffs for that still aren't there even despite Theros Beyond Death so, until then, I'd rather have them be artifacts - luckily those are interchangeable for some more recent payoffs (Stone Haven Pilgrim, All That Glitters). I like the backdoor blink option the +1 gives you too

Showdown of the Skalds - Saving the best for last - Showdown is an early frontrunner for the best card in the set, the perfect card to signal a spells theme (and even more open-minded than the Prowess mechanic about what those spells are) that also intersects with counters, blink etc. An absolute home run and I'm so glad Boros finally has an eye-catching gold card

Dom Harvey

UW: Blink and You'll Miss it?

Blink has never been more popular as a Cube archetype - whenever I see someone go through the usual process of assigning a theme to each colour pair, you can bet Blink is at the top of that list. Blink has received great tools in the past year, including some that make it feel like a gold archetype and not just a Wx one, but this is in part because UW is a colour pair that's hard to find an identity for otherwise. This problem is on display in most of the Magic Online Modern/Legacy/Vintage Cubes, where you can lock in a 2-1 with a remarkably unremarkable pile of good UW cards.

You quickly find that Blink feels same-y too. You could argue that's the whole point - you're taking a card that was worth playing or defending in the first place and using a Blink effect to take it for another spin. If you played a Man-o'-War to bounce your opponent's creature last turn, that's probably a fine play again this turn. If it ain't broke, why fix it?

It's easy to discover this by accident - many Blink enablers are generically playable and powerful (think Flickerwisp or Restoration Angel) and one trend of modern design is that many of the most pushed creatures carry a 'when this enters the battlefield...' effect. Here are some stats from Reddit (number of creatures with a ETB trigger in the set):

Mirage: 21

Tempest: 18

Urza's: 38

Masques: 23

Invasion: 55

Odyssey: 42

Onslaught: 18

Mirrodin: 28

Kamigawa: 14

Ravnica: 56

Time Spiral: 57

Lorwyn: 53

Shadowmoor: 35

Alara: 42

Zendikar: 52

Scars: 48

Innistrad: 44

Return: 41

Theros: 47

Tarkir: 43

Battle: 38

Shadows: 52

Kaladesh: 87

Amonkhet: 45

Ixalan: 71

Dominaria: 31

Guilds: 103

Eldraine: 30

Beyond Death: 36

Ikoria: 22

(Note that some sets' mechanics skew the numbers - Ikoria had Mutate and BFZ had the 'when you cast...' Eldrazi, which play out in a similar way to ETB)

If a boring Blink deck is thrust upon you, I can't blame you for dismissing the theme entirely as a result. Let's see if we can spruce it up.

Variation in outcomes

Which of these cards is stronger? Which is more interesting?

Elvish Visionary is a safe, glue card - it fits more neatly in more decks. You can have an abstract discussion of which types of deck can afford to take the time to cast Visionary and who has more/less interest in drawing a random card, but it's clear that it's a more generic card than Satyr Wayfinder.

That said, Satyr Wayfinder is a much better card for my goals:

- Digging for a land guards against flooding, an important fail case as the type of deck that's looking to blink a value engine over and over will be very mana-hungry
- Conversely, finding lands instead of conventional 'action' means that blinking Wayfinder won't bury the opponent in value later on
- Digging for specific lands lets you build around those lands (e.g. Gavony Township, Windbrisk Heights, fetchlands in a landfall deck)
- The baseline return of Wayfinder is uncertain (you probably get a land but you never know!) and if there are several lands you have a choice that you don't have with Visionary, so it's naturally more dynamic
- If you have graveyard synergies, self-mill has some undefined value that effectively lets Wayfinder draw multiple cards

A more surgical consistency can be a trap too:

Recruiter of the Guard is brutally efficient in its predictability: Recruiter gets Soulherder, which blinks Recruiter, which gets another blink targ- stop me if you've heard this before. At least other Blink sequences have the decency of making you draw the cards first; this is repetitive in a whole new way.

By contrast, Militia Bugler makes you work for it - it rewards you for playing more eligible creatures and gives more consistency but not redundancy on any one of them. Recruiter's body is an afterthought that conveniently makes it Blinkable; Militia's stats let it tangle in combat.

Perhaps you have a build-around creature that you want players to have access to consistently (Karmic Guide?

Variation between colours

Blink effects are concentrated in white (the best blue one - Thassa, Deep-Dwelling, was only printed last year and is a good deal better than the rest). This lets you seed the blink payoffs across all five colours but it's easy for this to amount to more of the same:


If repetition is the issue you want to avoid, encouraging the same play patterns in all these colour pairs is self-defeating. One option is to curate the Blinkable creatures in each colour with variety in mind so that each colour's feel different:

Or you could emphasize unusual aspects of each colour to make it stand out:

Blink shenanigans

Moving some boring creature between zones is so passe. Why not try something more adventurous?

Blinking artifacts/enchantments to reset them offers synergy with card types that can be hard to come by

These incredibly wordy twists on reanimation open up some real bullshit with some of white's flashier flicker creatures - you can set up Sun Titan chains, loop Yorion (and the rest of your board) every turn, have Cavalier of Dawn destroy your Animate to immediately buy it back (amounting to '1B: Make a 3/3'), and so on.

Sagas are absolutely perfect here (as always) - they have a natural progression that involves something different each time and resetting them at the right moment so that you get the chapters you want again (and so that they are still around to do that) involves careful planning. Playing the same Showdown of the Skalds over and over again is one of my favourite things to do in Cube right now.

Some cards have a natural timer on them - Keldon Marauders in particular begs you to Blink it

Mechanics like Exert have more subtle Blink synergies - you can get full value from your attack and still do it again next turn

If a card's welcome expires soon, Blink can extend its visit.

Morph (and later manifest) have always dangled the promise of a big threat on the cheap via blink but there's a new and shinier way to do that now:

Upgrading a two-drop into a giant legend is so much cooler than your Wall of Omens drawing you yet another card; it's harder to blink an artifact or land (for the Zendikar Rising DFCs) but that's part of the fun. Glasspool Mimic is especially sweet here as it can copy a creature that blinked it to chain into something else.

Rather than doing the same thing over and over, cards that give you a choice up-front let you turn a Blink effect into something new.

We typically think of Blink effects as caring about their targets but sometimes you just want something to enter/leave play and the specifics aren't important.

If you can blink something out for the duration of the turn (e.g. Charming Prince, Flickerwisp, Teferi's Time Twist), you can save it from a sweeper from either side.

The living weapon mechanic was always a personal favourite and something like that has become a popular template for Equipment recently.

Monarch is a controversial mechanic but wresting it back with Blink is a good way to contest it without guaranteed long-term value. I like that Monarch also promotes combat and encourages you to think about what creatures and play patterns are best for keeping it; it also works well with the flash/instant-heavy nature of UW.

Build Your Own Blink

Blink itself is, for lack of a better word, an artificial play pattern but bouncing things back and replaying them feels a bit more natural. There are a lot of good ways to do that too:

You find a lot of this in white too but Planeshift had a 'gating' theme that spread this across all colours (and allied colour pairs) over 20 years ago.

Going through this cycle lets you cast spells again, which is great news for the various payoffs that care about that.

That of course includes:

Prowess creatures want a steady stream of spells and you can backdoor 'extra' spells like this in a way that feels very satisfying - Kor Skyfisher picking up Legion's Landing to get another token from it and another token from Monastery Mentor is a more rewarding sequence than blinking Blade Splicer again.

Adventures are a home run for Cube and like to be picked up for a second use; Shepherd of the Flock stands out as a card that can that role itself as well.

If white has a near-monopoly on conventional Blink, blue is best in the business at bouncing. Repeatable bounce can be highly obnoxious to play against but something like Vedalken Mastermind may be suitable depending on power level.

An unsung hero and personal favourite, Sidisi's Faithful is likely to have fodder in Blink between small tokens or small bodies that make tokens and sometimes you really want a Kraken Hatchling.

Let's not forget the most popular way of bouncing your own stuff:

Ninjas are very satisfying to play with and ask their own questions - do I make a risky attack to set up Ninjutsu, and is there anything I can do to trick the opponent into taking it or mistaking it for something else? Can I find cards that are good to bounce but are also likely to connect (Nullpriest of Oblivion, for example)? A lot of what I said about Monarch applies to Ninjutsu.

Sakashima's Student isn't just a Ninja but a Clone:

Clones lean into my main problem with Blink (more of the same!) but are much more open-ended (and can often copy the opponent's stuff which inherently adds variety). There's some unique and funky stuff to do with Clones that also intersects with Blink (Clone a Murderous Redcap, have it die and persist back as something else, then Blink it to reset). Blue is the leading colour for these too.

And of course:

There are great Wizards with ETB effects and WotC is supporting the tribe more and more - I look forward to the day I can justify Cubing Naban, Dean of Iteration.

Baneslayers vs Mulldrifters: An Obligatory Interlude

When the namesake Momentary Blink appeared in Time Spiral, it quickly took off in Standard. Nationals in that cycle saw every combination of UWx Blink its mark (UWR, UWB, UWG) and the printing of Reveillark in Morningtide was a real game-changer. The Lark decks were the most powerful thing you could do by some metrics but were always constrained by the popularity of Faeries, the best deck and an awful matchup - as long as Lark was legal, Bitterblossom would be too.

These decks were interesting and strong but not revolutionary - it was quite clear what kinds of card worked well with Reveillark.

Fast forward to 2009 - Time Spiral has rotated out long ago and Reveillark is a fringe player at best in Standard. Late in the season, UK Nationals is won by a UW deck with many of the same cards but a very different philosophy:

Instead of grinding the opponent down with a parade of Mulldrifters, this deck uses Mulldrifter to provide the fuel for a Protect the Queen strategy - Meddling Mage, Vendilion Clique, and Glen Elendra Archmage are all bodyguards for the literal Baneslayer Angel. 2009 Magic's It girl was good enough against anyone fighting on the board that it could close games by itself if it lived and single-handedly made the Faeries matchup winnable.

Against the mirror or other control decks, you could swap out Angel for Reveillark and effectively be a creature-heavy aggro prison deck where Reveillark could rebuy your lock pieces to fight through removal or just be the best Mulldrifter you could hope for (by buying back two Mulldrifters).

One card stands at the intersection of these two philosophies:

Sower is a Baneslayer - it's fragile but the upside is incredibly high. The Mage/Clique/Archmage package is exactly the kind of protection you'd want for it. On the other hand, the Lark deck can just keep recurring it with Lark, demanding removal each time.

Generally, you want to lean hard into one type of creature or the other - either overload their removal with high-value targets or render it less useful by playing exclusively Mulldrifters. Most Cube decks will have a mix of the two anyway but the contrast between these decks shows how fluid those lines can be.

Crucially, instant-speed Blink effects can be used to shield Baneslayers and offer a valuable crossover between these categories.

There's an interesting Skies tie-in if you want to promote an 'aggro Blink' deck. I've gained a ton of appreciation for Watcher of the Spheres recently - it lets you convert Blink on fliers/anything that creates fliers (mostly Thopters) into immediate damage, it enables Blink by making 'ETB flier + Blink' sequences easier (evoke Mulldrifter + cast Restoration Angel costs just five mana total now!), and it applies enough pressure that it can draw out a removal spell earmarked for your a Baneslayer (that costs less now).

After all that, we can finally look at the Blink effects themselves:

The best of the bunch, Ephemerate's efficiency makes it ideal for whatever use you'd want it for and also makes it appealing if you just want something with rebound to trigger Prowess several times etc. The ceiling is high enough that you can draft toward/build around this in a way you couldn't with a basic Cloudshift.

The eponymous Blink has been outmoded by Ephemerate in some ways but it still has a unique crossover with self-mill/graveyard stuff and you don't have to commit to using the second Blink immediately.

The most aggressive yet versatile Blink effect, Flickerwisp opens up some crazy lines - blinking the MDFC lands, lands in general, Sagas, random artifacts/equipment, and also Blinking your opponent's stuff to kill tokens or remove blockers (or Stone Rain some of their DFCs!). In a deck with many Blink effects, Flickerwisp makes it easy to chain them together and you can also Blink your Flickerwisp to turn that Blink effect into a more flexible version. I've moved away from doubling up on cards in general but Flickerwisp is one that always appeals to me.

A home-run of a Magic card - Resto is strong, resonant, and incredibly fun to play with. Part of what makes Blink so easy to support (for better or worse) is that there are on-theme cards like Resto that are so good in basically any on-colour Cube deck.

A recent addition overshadowed by all the broken nonsense in Throne of Eldraine, Prince is a fine draw smoother or defensive card in the early game that has fun applications later on clogged boards.

An incredibly powerful proactive card whose Blink interactions are incidental but well worth it when they come up (and sets up crazy tricks with anything that can bounce an enchantment at instant speed).

A rare payoff for the blue Blink style of bouncing your own stuff as well as a great Man-o'-War.

The best Blink enabler and continual source of Blink in blue, this Thassa has an effect on the board even when stranded alone. I always liked Blue Devotion and the incentives it gives to focus on permanents in blue and there are now several excellent payoffs (I especially like that the two Thassas push you in different directions)

A Baneslayer in its own right, you start to see incidental ways to exile things everywhere you look (...or explicit ones like Parallax Wave!) and it's an eye-catching card that will draw people into Blink and reward them handsomely.

A Blink enabler of sorts but so generally frustrating that I'd stay away.

If you want to move away from pure value planeswalkers, you can look for more thematic ones. This Venser used to be a mainstream Cube staple for lack of other UW options (until Teferi, Hero of Dominaria ended his whole career) but is still a fine card if you want to support non-creature Blink in particular. Kaya is rarely discussed but there's a lot of play to her and the minus modes push both aggressive and grindy strategies. Aminatou is a narrow but strong incentive card if you are open to tri-colour stuff.

I've fallen madly in love with this card despite (because of?) the havoc it used to wreak on Constructed. Its stats and flexibility mean its floor is high enough that you can put this in a deck that wouldn't want or couldn't cast other Blink effects - maybe you have a UR deck with stuff like Flametongue Kavu and Omen of the Sea and get to effectively freeroll Yorion, maybe you have the ideal UW Blink deck and Yorion is the best card you could ever hope for.

I'll end with some sketches that use Blink in creative ways:

This doesn't jump out as a Blink deck but Ephemerate is a solid Prowess enabler while having great targets (Abbot, Splicer, Lieutenant) and Shepherd/Flickerwisp are ridiculous (Landing, Volcano, Showdown).

This is a great synthesis of the aggro Skies/Blink stuff I alluded to before.
Following on from your mention of blue's "bounce to blink" strategy, I'd like to draw attention to a few pet cards of mine:

Withdrawal is probably the strongest card out of the three for this particular strategy (it can reset two of your creatures, bounce villain's creature and one of your own, or punish villain for tapping out by bouncing two of their creatures), but all three of them can do solid work. Of course, I'd be remiss to not mention those spells' big siblings:

I'll be honest, I think my favorite of the three has to be Inscription of Insight, if only because it suggests a uniquely UG ramp deck to me.

There's also another interesting set of possibilities if you decide to run a bunch of the Zendikar MDFCs/lands with cute ETBs:

Really liked the breakdown. One card that can be amazing in this type of deck is

It can bounce all types of permanents (minus artifacts) making it very versatile and it goes into any deck. Might lead to some repetitive gameplay though as chaining the same 2 creatures can get old.
Great post Dom! I'm thinking of revisiting my approach to blink in my cube. It used to be focused on more explicit payoffs like Gilded Drake and I now want to make it subtler. I would love for it to interact more clearly with enchantments as well, though that might be too expensive to really pay off.
Your post had me thinking about how to link blink to other colors and one option that I like is Threaten effects.

If you support any sort of typical BR sacrifice deck, then these cards tend to make sense. With a sacrifice outlet they are effectively a removal spell that deals a bunch of damage to boot. However, they also work with some blink effects to steal the creature permanently

This is particularly brutal with Conscripts, Sower and Dragonlord which can in turn be blinked to allow you to steal again.

Then you can use the threaten effects to tie green into the whole sacrifice theme with:

Maybe even Temur ETB/sac with the following along with Pod:

Clearly going too deep here, but I do think the Threaten effects have potential in bridging different strategies!
It also works well with a bounce theme. But hey, imagine threatening a creature, attacking with it, and then dropping this bad boy:

So I've tried some drafts and here is where I landed on my first impressions:

- Fixing feels decent even with the bots taking them highly, which likely means it's great.

- I like your use of spell lands as a way to manage mana troubles and fit more spells into decks.

- There are a lot of build arounds. So much so that at times I find myself looking for more generic card that would fit any deck better. This could be small sample size, my comfort zone as a drafter or my own cube philosophy coming into play.

- I admit I skip past the silver bordered cards. They are so wordy and unfamiliar that they are daunting.

- Aggro decks feel different, yet powerful. I find that you use good 1-3 drops to support your archetypes while they are still playable by themselves that you can just draft a low curved deck and still get away with it.

- The +1/+1 counter deck is fun. It spans a lot of archetypes and colors.

That's it for now!
Let me share my thoughts here.

1) I like the small snow splash. I've actually been thinking of running exactly the same cards. If you are running Icehide Golem to support aggro in different archetypes, please try Gingerbrute. It's a great, versatile card and has a bunch of cool synergies.

2) Cards that I think are too narrow, weak or questionable no matter where you take the cube:

Most of these are just unnecessary or won't work too well. It's a shame because Arcbound Raver is a lot of fun, but it's very demanding. The exceptions are Grave Titan and Plague Engineer which seem overly strong. Also, Look at me, I'm R&D needs a custom. It's unreadable. Interesting card, though. Some replacements for the above if you still want them:

I'm surprised you aren't running:

That said, you seems to support draw two more than actual spells so that could be it.

3) You have to many synergy cards, not enough meat. For example, you have a lot of sacrifice spells, more than one could reasonably need.

4) I don't think your +1/+1 counter theme overlaps well-enough with other archetypes. There probably are many cards that could benefit from a +1/+1 counter like, say, Spike Feeder.


There are a lot of cards and archetypes in your cube that could benefit from random trinkets like:

For example, I tried to make this card work but I didn't have enough draw spells in green:

I think the only partner it has is Sylvan Library. Just having 1-2 more cards in green that could draw could make her work better. Still, it's a fun card I should see if I can fit her in my cube.

I have to either abort the draft or give you a poor deck a high percentage of the time. This should change as you replace the extra synergy cards with meat and potatoes stuff.

Do you have a list of what archetypes you would like to support in which colours? I think that would help immensely.
I'm glad you guys managed to make it work. I couldn't and it felt like you had to have a very high number of artifact creatures for it to be worth playing.
Cards that I think are too narrow, weak or questionable no matter where you take the cube:

Gauntlet has been so good for my group. Let me make the case, I think there are a couple things going for it:

(1) It goes in a surprisingly large number of decks! Red/Blue spells with Turnabout or Frantic Search. Red-based artifact decks. Red-based aggro-combo and midrange decks (anything from Showdown of the Skalds to Exploration/Fastbond + Experimental Frenzy/Valakut Exploration to Kiki-Conscripts to Hordeling Outburst+Skullclamp etc etc etc).

(2) Let's zoom in on that last category of generic red aggro/midrange decks. Gauntlet lets you take otherwise pretty straightforward red decks and gives them a whole second set of play patterns when it hits the field. A bit like Experimental Frenzy worked for mono-red in standard. As long as you have any kind of mana-sink or card-advantage engine you become a weird spell-velocity deck even if you're never going to cast an Empty the Warrens at the end of the turn. In fact, I like the fact that you don't need to actually rely on finding and resolving a combo-finisher like in storm; the bursts of mana add a combo-flair to your normal red play patterns.

(3) Related to the second point, even within the same deck, Gauntlet plays different roles in different games because sometimes the mana burst matters more and sometimes the +1/+1 matters more depending on the current board state.

I don't have an enormous amount of playtest data to back this up, but since I included it, there have been two different drafts where a player built a weird mono-red deck featuring Gauntlet and both times the deck hit the sweet spot of having unusually diverse play patterns and winning games.

Dom Harvey


Strixhaven is the opposite of Kaldheim for me - the set feels much more cohesive and I love its general vibe but there are few cards that pique my interest for Cube so this post should be considerably shorter.


Like most people, I was worried that a top-down design for this world would make it feel derivative of Harry Potter or the other magic school IPs that I'm told exist (not that this is off-limits any more!) or that they would have trouble distinguishing the schools from the Ravnica guilds. I think the results are a mixed bag - Lorehold (WR) is excellent and a real expansion of these colours' identity and Prismari (UR) manages to reinvent the spells theme in an original way, but I can't summon up strong feelings on the others.

Mystical Archive

The latest take on Expeditions/Masterpieces/Inventions/etc, these aren't a rarity but an expected part of the Limited format as one appears in each pack. Notably, all of these are instants/sorceries so you have an added incentive to play this given Magecraft and the like. What you find is that even the most powerful cards in the abstract operate fairly in a Limited environment - Demonic Tutor can find your bomb but that's more about the bomb than the tutor, Swords to Plowshares is obviously great but not nonsense, Natural Order isn't turning up Craterhoof Behemoth in this format. It's a useful lesson in how important context is and a good template for anyone hoping to implement Occasionals.


Keywording Ward is a good change and I think it's encouraging that they are exploring this space enough that they feel the need to do that. It's a tough world for Baneslayers so some kind of protection is valuable but Hexproof often feels like a big overcorrection - Ward is a good way to meet in the middle.


I like Magecraft as an upgrade to the 'When you cast an instant/sorcery' condition less because of the Storm shenanigans it opens up and more because counting copies is much more intuitive.

Clever Lumimancer - Absurdly strong in larger Constructed formats but without that cheap spell density it won't be the card you dream of

Symmetry Sage - Fine when triggered but considering how often you won't be able to do that its average damage output will be unimpressive

Leonin Lightscribe - A cheap, repeatable anthem on a creature that gets pumped itself is a very easy sell; in contrast with a lot of Magecraft/spellslinger cards, triggering this once every few turns is still enough to make this exciting and the ceiling is sky-high

Sedgemoor Witch - Young Pyromancer gets put in a lot of decks where it will underperform but the body here is enough better in the base case that this issue is less severe with Witch. I love the BR Arcanist/Pyromancer decks in Historic/Pioneer and having a similar incentive card in black helps to give their Cube equivalents a stronger identity

Dragonsguard Elite - A 1G 3/3 that can threaten to double its power later is a good set of stats and that's without much work - a 4/4 or larger is a great deal. Green isn't the most natural colour for magecraft but you can pair it with a colour that is and there are cheap enablers in green that find/recur lands or creatures (for some reason the idea of suspending Search for Tomorrow and having it trigger something when you cast it gets me going)

Quandrix Apprentice - I'm a sucker for Elder Pine of Jukai and I saw Jason draw a lot of cards with this thing on stream so this piques my interest. The usual 'when you do X, draw a card' effects are narrow or expensive but this is neither. If you have a top of library theme in UG this is a cute signpost for that too


I think this mechanic is an absolute home run. It's the basis of Strixhaven Limited - already being hailed as an all-time great draft format - and it pushes the envelope in a set that otherwise feels quite safe. For Cube most discussion focuses on the logistics of getting Lessons to drafters but the other half of the Learn mechanic is being overlooked as a massive colour pie break that opens up new design space. Look at this card:

White getting rummaging would be unthinkable in a normal set, even with WotC making more explicit attempts to broaden white's access to card selection. The Learn mechanic being spread across all five colours means white gets to share in it anyway and that's pretty exciting given the ever-increasing range of conditional reanimation in white.

However, there's the issue of mental load. If a new drafter sees one of the double-sided novels in this set their eyes will probably glaze over and they will pick something else even if that DFC is perfect for their deck, but that can also apply to Lessons where you have to read the Learn card and then all the Lessons to understand what it can do. To me, that points towards committing to Learn/Lessons hard or not at all unless you know your drafters can handle that.

The Lessons are cheap enough that I think I'd just get several copies of each and let people take them on demand when they Learn.

As for the other Learn cards:

Poet's Quill - Rummaging is a big deal for white but also surprisingly for black. I like graveyard-centric aggro decks a lot and the other text on Quill is strong there too - your creatures are either really big or can't play defense well and lifelink is great in either case

Sparring Regimen - Probably a more healthy implementation of Curse of Predation anyway and solid with or without a good Lesson

Igneous Inspiration - The bar on a more expensive bread-and-butter effect is a bit higher (I generally want Volt Charge levels of upside) but if you can make this Annihilate most of the time that's a great deal

Divide by Zero - The wording here looks odd at first but is necessary to stop Fractal tokens being KOed too easily in Limited. This is a nice riff on Unsubstantiate that feels like you're achieving something instead of desperately buying time

Hunt for Specimens - Too anaemic at all but the lowest power levels I think. If I play this it's because I'm leaning hard on Learn/Lessons and want to make up the numbers

Field Trip - I'd be a lot more into this if you weren't restricted to basic Forest or there was a good 5 mana Lesson to curve into

Gnarled Professor - Rummaging is a rarity in green as well and here it comes on a decent body. Green also has enough ramp to make Learn + cast your Lesson lines more realistic. Finally another good Treefolk Harbinger target too...

And the others:

Torrent Sculptor // Flamethrower Sonata - I can imagine a UR big spells deck that could use both sides of this but even there it feels like putting two C+ cards together to make a B and if you can't use one side you won't want it

Valentin, Dean of the Vein // Lisette, Dean of the Root - On the other hand, I can see Bx or Gx decks happily playing just one side of this one and a BG deck with minimal lifegain synergies can play Valentin with the backup option of playing Lisette and going berserk with Scavenging Ooze or Courser of Kruphix or something. Valentin is a powerful one-drop in its own right if your Cube has a lot of sac/GY stuff in it. We're inching ever closer to Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord being a realistic Cube card...

Elite Spellbinder - Frogkin Kidnapper and Vendilion Clique had a child and it's the World Champion! A good card based on its text box alone that you would never find in white previously and a fun new dimension for Blink decks

Multiple Choice - I think there are diminishing returns on modality and you don't want to have modality for modality's sake but it's easy enough to justify this at the kind of power level you see around here

Callous Bloodmage - By contrast, I love this because all the options accomplish something - I like Phyrexian Rager and I like having extra sac fodder in black so consolidating that onto one card is nice, and if your format has enough graveyard synergies it's good to have ways to keep that in check without going out of your way to do it

Conspiracy Theorist - There are a lot of mopey red creatures that let you spin your tyres with discard matters stuff and it's hard to gauge if this is a cut above the rest. Needing to attack to get the rummage trigger is unfortunate so this is mostly good if you have a discard engine going already

Efreet Flamepainter - High upside and good support for a spell reanimation deck but will usually need some help to connect - red is the best colour at offering that

Bayou Groff - The type of Cube that wants Young Wolf loves to see Bayou Groff but it's not something you can just put in a normal deck

Emergent Sequence - A really cool twist on Rampant Growth with a higher ceiling and lower floor than its siblings but that's probably a good thing for the health of an environment. The idea of saving up land drops to make a giant Fractal later on tickles me too

Plumb the Forbidden - You need a decent amount to happen to make this better than Village Rites but this gets out of control once it scales above that. Plumb is cheap enough that you can unload your refilled hand on the same turn, which is crucial for card draw in general and especially when you're losing a lot of life in the process. I want to use this to dig for Living Death or a Caller of the Claw effect

Galazeth Prismari - The heads-up comparison with Urza is a little embarrassing but there's a lot of room for a card to be worse than Urza and still great, those artifact decks will take the redundancy where they can get it, an explicit tie-in between artifacts and spells is welcome, and Galazeth can help you cast colour-intensive instants/sorceries (any of the gold two-drops all the way up to stuff like Cruel Ultimatum). Also I like dragons

Velomachus Lorehold - ...such as this one, which is a flashy and powerful finisher that makes you work for it. The list of absolute bangers you can hit isn't actually that long in WR but hitting an Incinerate or something is usually fine

Hofri Ghostforge - We've had so many variants on Nightmare Shepherd/Luminous Broodmoth recently that I can't get excited for another

Magma Opus - I love this and not just for the self-enabling and worthwhile spell reanimation stuff with Mizzix's Mastery/Torrential Gearhulk or Wilderness Reclamation nonsense

Manifestation Sage - I had high hopes for the quad hybrid cards in Throne of Eldraine for devotion and general aesthetic purposes but they mostly failed to deliver. This one is fine (not least because green is such an amazing card advantage colour nowadays that your mono G deck can easily have a bunch of cards in hand for this)

Reconstruct History - Seasons Past is a pipe dream but this one is cheap enough to rope me in and there are a lot of baubles, enchantments that cycle/sacrifice themselves (Sagas! Omens! Shark Typhoon!), and so on to grease the wheels here. It's easily splashed in a UW or UR control deck (it's not like you're casting it on T4 either) and it's a good example of how to take WR in this new direction

Prismari Command - Early feedback is that this is a little worse than it looks but that's not fatal because it looks fantastic. The Lotus Petal mode is much stronger when stapled to an effect you'd be willing to pay some mana or a card on anyway. This is a big pickup for a Welder/Daretti deck too - those decks suffer from the classic reanimation problem of being a three-card combo but to an even more extreme degree, so a card that's two at once is ideal

Silverquill Command - Bolsters the white 'small reanimation' subtheme and ties into black, which is a good reanimation colour in its own right and WB is increasingly my favourite 'swarm' colour pair. The other modes are all useful in some combination in that context too

Dom Harvey


I remain in awe of how we ended up with Core Sets named after years that weren't [current year] but I'm glad we don't have to worry about that here.

The preview week for this year's Commander decks was an odd experience - the Boros deck was previewed first and was so good that this set promised to be the best haul of the year if the others were at the same level, but they turned out to be mostly duds. Still, the Boros cards by themselves are very welcome additions and there are some other bangers I'll be Cubing for as long as I can:

Cursed Mirror - Every Commander set has cards that look intriguing but don't really perform in any remotely fast two-player game. Cursed Mirror fits the mold of those but I have higher hopes for it - I'm happy scaling back my power level a little to make three-drop mana rocks good and this is one hell of a mana rock. There's all kinds of nonsense you can do with this that you'd struggle to justify chasing with a normal Clone

Archaeomancer's Map - A Divination in white!... I guess

Veyran, Voice of Duality - I remember being intensely but briefly excited about Adeliz, the Cinder Wind but that didn't turn out well. Doubling up Prowess/Magecraft triggers or permanent effects like Sprite Dragon/Young Pyromancer is less narrow but in an initial brainstorm with this card I couldn't find much I actually wanted to exploit with it so this will too often be a Nivix Cyclops

Fain, the Broker - There are so many good sac outlets that a new one has to offer something unique but Fain certainly does and I'm the exact audience for this kind of ploddy resource transfer

Laelia, the Blade Reforged - An outstanding card that has even the power-max crowd debating which Rabblemaster to cut for it. Note that the wording means you only get one trigger from a bunch of cards being exiled at once (cascade, delve) but more surgical exile effects (Relic of Progenitus, Scavenging Ooze) let you stack up counters quickly. Finding odd ways to trigger this is a treat in itself - pumping it by playing Windbrisk Heights or attacking with Bomat Courier (or activating Necropotence a million times if you get to live the dream...)

Digsite Engineer - Even in an artifact-heavy deck I think you'll struggle to trigger this multiple times and unless you have a bunch of cheap cogs it's hard to delay casting an artifact until you can pay the extra 2. Maybe it's fine anyway?

Gyome, Master Chef - There simply aren't enough Food cards to replicate the fun Food fights from Standard but the stats and base rate on this is good enough that you can play it as a self-contained engine. I love that its activated ability can protect anything or clear out blockers without needing a bunch of additional text. Food is a nice way to extend an artifact theme to green in case I end up revisiting that

Osgir, the Reconstructor - Looks promising for a more midrange WR artifact deck but idk if there are enough cheap cogs and artifact creatures to make that worthwhile. Maybe if you Cube with Black Lotus...

Rionya, Fire Dancer - For some reason I'm drawn to this card much more strongly than most. Even if you never get to cast a spell to double up again, just making one token is a worthwhile immediate impact for a card that has better stats + casting cost than Kiki-Jiki (while not contributing to obnoxious infinite combos). Cheating Rionya into play with a Reanimate or something lets you do obscene things while still requiring some prior setup

Ruin Grinder, Angel of the Ruins - I baited myself into playing a Welder theme for years despite its clear structural flaws and now that theme is getting everything it could want! I've always loved Eternal Dragon but the body often felt quite anaemic and it wasn't inspiring as a reanimation target unless it brought something else with it - Angel of the Ruins is enough stronger that it's the self-binning threat I want even if it's not as iconic

Sproutback Trudge - I've complained in the past that there weren't many good incentives for pursuing lifegain and this is a good rebuttal. You have to really really care about lifegain for this to be good but that's slightly more realistic now

Blight Mound - A very specific kind of sacrifice payoff but the bodies it produces are relevant (cf. Pawn of Ulamog)

Paradox Zone - Less immediate impact than even a Biogenic Ooze but arguably cooler and more akin to Assemble the Legion as an ongoing threat that resists sweepers (both yours and theirs)

Inkshield - This is a scarily powerful card that can swing a race harder than anything else. It's hard to play around it even if it's known information as you're getting some material in return, which may be an argument against including it at all?

Oversimplify - This may seem out of place in UG but there's some precedent with Ixidron and the like; if this doesn't sweep up your own things you'll just die to the token if you had to wipe the board, so it doesn't steal Wrath of God from white completely

Pest Infestation - I've saved the best for last - this is a beauty that will always be a staple unless I somehow end up with a Cube that doesn't have targets in it. Note that targeting artifacts/enchantments is optional so you can still cast this against an empty board (unlike Release the Gremlins) and that you're effectively paying XG to make X 1/1 Pests - a fine and flexible rate especially with all the ways green has to use tokens