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By: ablock, Anthony Block
May 11 2017 12:00pm
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Updating the Cube: Amonkhet Edition


Welcome to my first article about my favorite format in Magic, Cube draft! Powered, unpowered, common/uncommon cube, it doesn’t matter, it’s all great fun. I enjoy it for two reasons. One, I (generally) get to play with the most powerful cards in Magic’s history. Throwing down a Black Lotus or using Channel to cast a turn two (Emrakul, the Aeon’s Torn) is the epitome of sweet. There’s a reason a lot of these cards are banned or restricted in constructed formats: they are busted. But it’s nice to have busted fun from time to time.

The other reason is because it can be whatever the owner wishes it to be, allowing his or her innovation to shine. There are “standard” cube lists, both powered and unpowered, but I honestly appreciate the great deal of work some people put behind their own versions of cube and they are all fun in their own way.

With the release of Amonkhet, it’s once again time to take a look at the cards to update our cubes. This set looks like it’ll have its fair share of cards to include, between aftermath cards, aggressive exert cards in Red and White, and a host of new gods. I’ll take a look at every card that I believe stands out for a typical powered or unpowered cube (around 540 cards), and give my two cents on why or why not it should be included into yours.

✅: Add this!

❌: Pass on it

: User discretion advised

White

Angel of SanctionsCast OutGideon of the TrialsGlory-Bound InitiateOketra the TrueVizier of RemediesDusk /// Dawn

Angel of Sanctions: Cube hosts a plethora of powerful permanents. It deals with your opponent’s most annoying threat, and when they do deal with it, they have to prepare for its embalmed form. This synergizes nicely in reanimator decks, especially ones that play Unburial Rites. I can see it replacing other midrange angels that don’t quite have that “ugh” factor, like Archangel of Thune or Exalted Angel. I fully recommend you add this to your cube list. ✅

Cast Out: Oblivion Ring is already a good card for cube, so for a single more mana, you can cast it at instant speed. Not only that, you can cycle it when you either need the land drops early or your opponent's deck doesn’t have the best targets for it. The major hurdle is white’s four-drop slot, which is really stacked, but I believe in deserves to be in there somewhere. It’s a simple, but powerful effect, and I’ll enjoy adding this to my list. ✅

Gideon of the Trials: It’s really hard not to add a three-mana planeswalker to your cube list. All of them have been really powerful, and I think Gideon is no exception. In white-based aggro decks, he represents a cheap, resilient clock. It’s also important to not dilute your cube with planeswalkers. (I feel as if it cheapens the quality of it.) I think you can safely add Gideon, though. I think he’s a definite add if your cube sports any sort of Tendrils of Agony combo deck, as they will have a real hard time killing you without first dealing with the Gideon emblem. ✅

Glory-bound Initiate: White’s hits keep rolling in. A three-power two-mana creature is already up mono-white’s alley, and that was usually good enough in past cube lists, right Blade of the Sixth Pride? This is pure upgrade due to its exert ability, enabling it to get past most (if not all) early blockers as a 4/4 lifelinker at little cost. All cube owners will want this in their list. ✅

Oketra the True: This is the first white card from the set that I had to sit and think “do I think this is good enough?” Heliod, God of the Sun is a close comparison, and I don’t see him very often at all. I do think Oketra’s condition is easier to meet, though I think the rest of Heliod is better. I think for many people, they might want to include Oketra because she is a part of a cycle. I don’t think that’s necessary in cube (e.g, the command cycle and the praetors). I think white has a solid-enough list of four-mana creatures, so I won’t feel bad about not including Oketra, but that might change. ❌

Vizier of Remedies: The only thing to look for with this creature are with cards that make use of its special -1/-1 counter clause, because a 2/1 for 2 is not impressive in cube. Kitchen Finks comes to mind, and if you run Devoted Druid, you have an infinite mana combo. Other than that, there aren’t many uses for her, so I’m inclined to leave her out unless you really want to have a more combo-centric cube. ❌

Dusk//Dawn: Normally, running Wrath of God or (Day of Judgement) in your white weenie deck would not be super great, but this card seems way more appealing to those types of aggressive decks. A big problem with mono-white is sometimes it just gets stonewalled by large green creatures or giant, reanimated monsters. This will deal with those nicely while missing a few of your own two-power creatures. It refuels you toward the late game but only hitting your smaller dudes. I’m on the fence with this one, and the more I think about it, the more inconsistent it seems. I would not fault you for adding or ignoring this.

Blue

CensorCurator of MysteriesGlyph KeeperKefnet the MindfulVizier of Many FacesPull from TomorrowCommit /// Memory

Censor: It’s a combination of Force Spike and Miscalculation, and if your cube runs both, then I think you can probably leave this out. Not to take anything away from Censor, because I think it’s a great card. The main weakness of Force Spike is that it’s often a dead card later in the game, but Censor doesn’t have that problem. Use your own discretion when considering this; if you feel like your cube could benefit from another good counterspell, feel free to toss it in there.

Curator of Mysteries: I love the body, and the rest is upside, despite there not being a ton of cycle cards in traditional cube lists (usually). The one thing holding me back on the sphinx is the competition. Most cubes run powerhouses like Venser, Shaper Savant, Sower of Temptation, and Glen Elendra Archmage. For now, personally, I’m satisfied with some of the midrange creatures in blue, as I don’t think the body alone justifies a slot. ❌

Glyph Keeper: The same can almost be said about Glyph Keeper, although it’s two abilities are way more relevant. In a lot of cubes, it can be used as a wincon, providing a great clock and being very difficult to remove. Blue’s candidates for cube entries continue to sit on the fence for me, but I think it’s very close to joining my cube. I’ll have to play around with it, but for now, it’s a solid maybe.

Kefnet the Mindful: It’s tempting, but I’ll pass on Kefnet. I believe by the time you are able to attack with him, the opponent will more than likely be ahead on the board, and cube offers more ways to deal with indestructible creatures. I think there are better options for card draw, as well. He just doesn’t do enough quickly. ❌

Vizier of Many Faces:  I love this card and I think it’s perfectly reasonable to either run this alongside Phantasmal Image and Phyrexian Metamorph or just replace metamorph with this. The embalm cost is very reasonable and helps you guarantee that you’ll have the best creature on the board. Try it out and enjoy!  ✅

Pull from Tomorrow: Pull competes with other card draw in cubes, including Stroke of Genius and (Sphinx’s Revelation). The revelation is better and even splashable, but pull can pitch a reanimation target and starts drawing cards for one mana cheaper. It depends on the makeup of your cub. If you run another big draw spell like stroke, this can replace it, but for me, it’s another blue card sitting on the fence for me.

Commit//Memory: Unexpectedly Absent in blue for one half, and an expensive Timetwister on the other. I like this card more as I play with it. The surprise factor is big and setting your opponent back a draw helps in the tempo game. I’m not as big on memory. Six mana for a fresh set of cards for you and your opponent is risky, and often, your opponent will get to play with his first. If you’re up against any sort of mono-red aggro deck, casting memory could just be game over for you. Nevertheless, I’m still a big fan of this card and would advise making room for it. ✅

Black

Bone PickerDread WandererLiliana, Death’s MajestyPlague BelcherNever /// Return

Bone Picker: This has been compared to Delver of Secrets, and I don’t think it’s as good (and Delver was already pretty situational in most cubes). Getting it to cost one mana will be hard if your opponents play a low-creature-count deck or if they kill your stuff during their turn or your end step. I wouldn’t pick this bird. ❌

Dread Wanderer: Black gets another two-power creature on turn one, and this one fits into a lot cubes, I imagine. It can get in for a few points of damage early while being a constant thorn in the opponent’s side later, and I think if you run any sort of aggressive theme with black, this is an auto include. There are lists out there (like Wizard's vintage cube) that don't even run one-mana black creatures. If your cube doesn't have Gravecrawler, I wouldn't add this, so this card is up to the individual. Also goes well with any tribal cube list.

Liliana, Death’s Majesty: If you run the old school Liliana Vess or even Ob Nixilis Reignited, I would suggest moving them aside for the new Liliana for one main reason: synergy. I’m a big fan of synergistic cards, and while Ob Nixilis is strong, he is simple. Plain. Boring. Both of Liliana’s main abilities play well into a graveyard-themed deck and she acts as another reanimation spell (albeit an expensive one). Black could also use help at the five-drop slot. Find room for her. ✅

Plague Belcher:  Another one that is on the cusp of making it, I believe. If you can build around it, the belcher will feel extremely good. Other times, It’s going to be miserable to play a 3/2 menace for 3 and not get a trigger from its zombie clause. I think he fits into more tribal-themed cubes, but I’ll be keep my eye on him.

Never//Return: Simple and clean creature or planeswalker removal with the added bonus of a 2/2 and potentially hitting a valuable card in your opponent's yard. I think this is an auto include over Ruinous Path for most cubes. It’s versatile and almost never worthless. ✅

Red

Bloodrage BrawlerCombat CelebrantGlorybringerHarsh MentorHazoret the FerventSoul-Scar Mage

Bloodrage Brawler: Red wants to rumble, and that’s what the Brawler does best. The difficult part is finding room. Red has amazing two drops in Shrine of Burning Rage, Eidolon of the Great Revel, Abbot of Keral Keep, and more. That’s the main thing holding back the brawler, but I think some people will be inclined to give this a shot and see if it works out. It’s an auto-include in common/uncommon cube, and it might be good enough in regular ones, too.

Combat Celebrant: Typically, cards that grant an extra combat step have not fared too well. I think there’s too much variance surrounding this one. One toughness means it trades with anything that isn’t a wall, and sometimes you don’t have the creatures to make use of its exert ability. It does play well with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, and that might entice some people. I’m hesitant to add it in, but other people will love to play it. Use your own discretion.

Glorybringer: Probably the most talked-about card in Amonkhet. Flying Flametongue Kavu should be good enough to find a spot in your cube list, especially if you run both Stormbreath Dragon and Thundermaw Hellkite. You should be able to cut one of those to make room for glory. ✅

Harsh Mentor: In the land of cube, almost everything has some sort of activation. Between manlands, fetchlands, creature abilities, and equipment, it won’t be hard for the mentor to find some extra damage somewhere. It’s a shame this doesn’t punish mana rocks, but it’s still good enough. Cut your weakest two drop in red and take notes on how often his abilities trigger. ✅

Hazoret the Fervent: A curve topper in aggressive red decks needs to be able to win the game on the spot or the next turn. Hellrider does this well, and I think Hazoret can do the same. The lower the mana cost of our deck, the better the red god will be, enabling you to dump your hand quickly to turn it on. I wouldn’t cut Hellrider for this, but if you still run Hero of Oxid Ridge, I think Hazoret can replace it. ✅

Soul-Scar Mage: If it weren’t for its unique second ability, I would probably pass on this. Secretly, this could be red’s answer to Baneslayer Angel or Polukranos, World Eater. It also plays nicely with Grim Lavamancer. The innovation of this card pushes this into the yes pile for me. ✅

Green

Champion of RhonasManglehornProwling SerpopardRhonas the IndomitableVizier of the MenagerieMouth /// Feed

Champion of Rhonas: When you’re playing with Magic’s most powerful cards, you will always find a way to cheat its best creatures out. The champion can cough up an (Emrakul, the Aeon's Torn) or Griselbrand into play when it attacks, and that sounds very attractive to me. I’ll add this to your list and draft giant fat stuff to make use of it. ✅

Manglehorn: I’m not sure how good it is or how bad you need artifact destruction tied to a body. Reclamation Sage is better when you don’t include Manglehorn’s second ability, and I’m not exactly sure how relevant it is, even in powered cubes. If you feel your cube already possesses enough artifact hate, I would pass, but this is completely up to each individual's cube lists.

Prowling Serpopard: In cube, this looks like more of a sideboard card than anything, and I don’t like dedicated board cards in something like cube. Yeah, it’s still a 4/3 for three mana, but green has no shortage of cheap, fat creatures. I would pass on this. ❌

Rhonas the Indomitable: I don’t understand how this card was made when compared to his brothers and sisters. The turn-on ability is the easiest of the five, and he turns every single creature in your deck into a trampling threat while providing five points of damage every turn. You can play him on turn two with any mana dork and if you’re feeling ambitious, even turn one with Black Lotus. Throw Rhonas into your cube. ✅

Vizier of the Menagerie:  I think this card is not as good as it seems. It’s definitely no Oracle of Mul Daya for sure. There are times where you can just go off and chain cast creatures from the top of your deck during the late game, but I suppose when compared with oracle and Courser of Kruphix, it can make for a potent engine. Use your own discretion, but I wouldn’t hype yourself too much over him.

Mouth//Feed: Call me crazy, but I think this card is fantastic. The issue is in the feed portion of the card, as it's dependent on three-power creatures. That’s a very sweet spot for green decks. They usually have a ton of mana dorks with one power and large creatures that come down later in the game. I don’t think you’re getting much value if you cast mouth on turn 3 and feed on turn 4. Sadly, I think the variance is too high on it and I don’t see you getting a lot of value from feed unless you are already winning. ❌

Multicolored, Artifacts, Lands

Nissa, Steward of ElementsCut /// RibbonsOracle’s VaultIrrigated Farmland

Nissa, Steward of Elements: She is fantastic. The flexibility she provides is worth a lot; you can cast her on turn 3 on an empty board or cast her in the late game and immediately nug your opponent for 10 damage out of nowhere. I love Planeswakers with +2 abilities, as it makes them really hard to kill via combat. She should replace your weakest Simic card. ✅

Cut//Ribbons: Solid removal on one side and a more-expensive Fireball on the other. Red spells that don’t hit players are suspect in cube, and even the ribbons part doesn’t hit planeswalkers. In a super-committed Rakdos deck, this might be good, but its uses outside of that are too few. I would not add this. ❌

Oracle’s Vault: Awesome card advantage, but extremely slow. Not what you want to be doing in cube. Also, as an artifact, it’s vulnerable to the numerous amounts of artifact hate prevalent in many lists. Same goes for (Pyramid of the Pantheon). While I love that card (for some reason,) it just slows your developing board way too much. ❌

 

Cycling Lands: These are a welcome addition. Not because they fix mana. Always entering the battlefield tapped is a strike against these cards, but the versatility and interaction they provide are extremely good. They aren’t dead in the late game because of cycling, they fix your mana, and they play really nice with a ton of other cube worthy cards. Examples include Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary, Crucible of Worlds, Meloku the Clouded Mirror, and so on. They are even fetchable. Everyone’s land base is different in cube, so I would suggest cutting what you feel is the weakest of your allied dual-land cycle and replace it with these. ✅