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By: TugaChampion, Guilherme Carmona Alexandrino
Oct 13 2014 12:00pm
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I finally decided to see the changes they made and some of them I liked while others I didn't like. This inspired me to write about the MTGO Cube and how it could be improved. Keep in mind that I'll be talking about MTGO Cube but many of the things can be applied to any cube. Even MTGO has 2 different cubes: normal cube and holiday cube with power9 and some other very powerful cards. I'll be talking mostly about the normal cube since that is the one I have the most experience with. Here's the link to the article about the changes: magic.wizards.com/en/MTGO/articles/archive/magic-2015-cube-update-2014-09-01

The goal of cube:

Magic has to be fun. If Magic is not fun, people won't want to play. So their goal for every format is to make them fun for as many people as possible. But formats also have to be competitive because there are many tournaments with prizes on the line. So we always need this balance between the 2. Don't get me wrong, it's not like when fun is at 100% competitiveness is at 0%, but sometimes they have to reduce fun a bit to make sure the format is competitive enough. Maybe by not printing a card many people love because it would be too good during its Standard life. In cube, we have the option of keeping something, even if it's very good because the power level is very high and even if it ends up being too good, that card can get cut and no important tournaments were affected by it. It's a format where it's possible to experiment without fear.

My view of cube:

I think this is mostly a general opinion but some people can have different views. To me, cube, is the top form of Magic in terms of fun. When I play cube I want to see powerful cards I didn't get a chance to play with. I want to play with cards I enjoyed playing in Standard or the Extended of the past. I want to see cool interactions that might not make the cut in Legacy and Vintage but would have certainly be powerful in Standard and even Modern. I want to see old mechanics in action, maybe in ways not possible before.

To someone, fun is playing Channel on turn 2 and killing my opponent with an Eldrazi. To someone else it's playing Goblin Guide turn 1 and winning with burn to the face on turn 4 or 5. Or countering everything and eventually winning with 7 cards in hand still. Maybe even reanimating an Elesh Norn or Griselbrand. Or winning with 4 or 5 Planeswalkers on the board. Or assembling a cool combo like Bloodghast + Attrition.

The possibilities are infinite:

You can do basically anything. I know people in real life who have a pauper cube and I even know someone with a creatureless cube. You could even put Astral Slide, Spirit Cairn and Lightning Rift along with some cycling cards and provide each player the option of choosing X cycling lands when building their deck. You could even maybe duplicate the 3 play around me cycling cards to make sure there were more of them. You can change the rules in many ways to create a unique cube experience.

The latest changes:

Out In My opinion
Fathom Seer Chasm Skulker Both will see play sometimes but not often and they'll usually wheel. There's probably a better card for this slot.
Putrefy Garruk, Apex Predator I'm really happy with this one. Putrefy is a good card but it's doesn't make you wanna splash it. Garruk is a very cool card and deserves this slot.
Genju of the Spires Generator Servant Genju was good sometimes in monored but I think Servant does something different so I like it.
Genesis Genesis Hydra Sad to see Genesis go. Most of the time it would sit in someone's sideboard but once in a while it would be part of a sick value engine. Genesis Hydra can also do some cool stuff and it's going to be played more often.
Zo-Zu the Punisher Goblin Rabblemaster Zo-Zu punishes some decks too hard while being pretty weak in some match ups so I'm happy they replaced it with a much more consistent card.
Thelonite Hermit Hornet Queen I often played with Hermit and Queen is not really the 7drop I want to ramp into.
Turnabout Jalira, Master Polymorphist They are getting rid of storm but Jalira is really not good enough. I hope she gets replaced next time.
Brooding Saurian Nissa, Worldwaker Saurian would see some sideboard play but Nissa is a very cool planeswalker that I want to try.
Mold Shambler Reclamation Sage Another good one. Sage doesn't hit lands or planeswalkers but it costs half the mana making it much better overall.
Frost Titan Soul of Ravnica These 2 Titan for Soul changes are pretty bad in my opinion. I know they want to show new cards but Frost Titan was way better. I've seen Soul in the last 2 cards of a pack.
Inferno Titan Soul of Shandalar The same applies here. They say they want red to have more mid/late game and they remove the best red 6drop from cube.
Shrieking Grotesque Spirit Bonds Grotesque rarely saw play, mainly because BW is probably the worse 2 colors combination in cube but I've yet to see anyone play Bonds.
Golgari Rot Farm Abrupt Decay I agree with the removal of bounce lands since they were very vulnerable to land destruction and would go very late but adding a multicolor in its place is not correct in my opinion. Especially one that doesn't scream "pick me".
Brain Freeze Æther Adept Storm is out. I like creatures with this type of effect so it seems good.
Boros Garrison Assemble the Legion I haven't seen this in action yet, maybe it is too slow but this is the type of multicolor card to add. It can win the game on its own and it's worth splashing in a UW deck with few winning conditions.
Orzhov Basilica Athreos, God of Passage I don't think this god is good enough to be in cube.
Nightscape Familiar Bad Moon No storm make Familiar way worse and Bad Moon can help improve monoblack aggro.
Calciderm Banishing Light I haven't seen much Calciderm or Blastoderm action so adding another Oblivion Ring in its place seems good.
Yawgmoth's Will Brain Maggot Will is not unplayable outside of storm but it makes sense to take it out. However I don't really like Mesmeric Fiend and Brain Maggot is even easier to kill.
Wheel of Fortune Chandra Nalaar This is not the best Chandra but it's still very playable.
Phantasmal Bear Cloudfin Raptor Both are pretty bad but Raptor is even worse. Bear at least could be a fringe sideboard option against aggro.
Murmuring Bosk Craterhoof Behemoth This is basically a triland, it didn't need to go. I've yet to see Behemoth and it seems hard to abuse, but it should be able to win some games.
Spinning Darkness Diabolic Edict Edict is not the best removal but Spinning Darkness seems really hard to use.
Headhunter Dictate of Erebos Headhunter rarely saw play but I've yet to see Dictate in action and it seems hard to abuse.
Hallowed Burial Dictate of Heliod This Dictate seems more powerful but I also haven't seen it. Maybe they wanted less wraths? That's the only reason to take out Burial.
Pentad Prism Duplicant Prism was mostly for storm and I actually like Duplicant. I have played it a few times in green ramp where 6 mana for removal in a color without removal is fine.
Dimir Aqueduct Far&Away Far&Away seems decent and splashable.
Izzet Boilerworks Fire&Ice Fire&Ice is an old favourite and a very good card. Can even be played in monored if needed.
Firestorm Form of the Dragon I know Firestorm rarely saw play but replacing it with Form of the Dragon? No one picks it since it wheel all the time and even if someone tries to use it, they'll most likely fail. I hope to see it gone next time.
Gruul Turf Ghor-Clan Rampager Rampager will often stay in some sideboard because no one was RG but once in a while it will be a good card.
Manriki-Gusari Grafted Wargear I think Wargear is a better equipment and should see more play.
Empty the Warrens Guttersnipe I'm not a fan of Guttersnipe. And I've yet to see someone playing it. I don't know why Adam Prosak likes the card so much since it's a bigger trap than storm. It's like storm but very fragile.
Shrine of Burning Rage Hall of Triumph I am happy to not have to face Shrine. On turn 2 it would often mean you end up taking 10 or more damage from it, unless you are able to destroy it. Hall is a cool card and it encourages people to play monocolor decks.
Reckless Charge Hammer of Purphoros I was never a fan of Charge even in a fast monored and I don't think the archetype gets any weaker by losing it. Hammer is another card I've not seen in action yet but it does seem to have potential.
Exploration Hydra Broodmaster I think Hydra Broodmaster is not the best 6drop for green deck but it's still fine and way more useful than Exploration.
Cursecatcher Hypnotic Siren It's an improvement for sure but I still haven't seen Siren in action.
Fireblast Incinerate Here's one change that actually weakens monored. Now we don't have to fear dying when they are tapped out and staying at 4 life is much safer.
Etched Oracle Isochron Scepter Oracle very rarely saw play so it's good they are trying another cool card in its place.
Rout Karmic Guide Karmic Guide is a good card but they removed another wrath. Now it's harder to pass them because there aren't as many around.
Deadbridge Chant Lotleth Troll Deadbridge Chant has a huge drawback in limited. Milling yourself for 10 will end up costing you some long games and this is a card that shines in long games. Troll is not that great however because it's another multicolor card not powerful enough to make you splash or first pick slam. If someone happens to be GB, they might take it late, otherwise it will stay in a sideboard.
Hellspark Elemental Magma Spray Another change that nerfs monored and I like it. Magma Spray isn't that powerful but it deals with stuff like Bloodghast and Kitchen Finks.
City of Brass Mana Confluence Not really relevant.
Thunderscape Battlemage Manic Vandal This battlemage rarely got to do anything so it's better to have Manic Vandal.
Stupor Master of the Feast Stupor was not the most played card or anything but it saw play. Master of the Feast is pretty bad and most of the time someone plays it, it's gonna end up trading for an instant speed removal after letting them draw a card.
Lion's Eye Diamond Mimic Vat Mimic Vat was pretty powerful in Scars of Mirrodin limited. It can take over some games but it's probably a bit slow.
Lotus Bloom Mindslaver Mindslaver might be able to do some cool things.
Barbarian Ring Mogg Fanatic Mogg Fanatic is not as good anymore but it's still nice against mana elves. However Barbarian Ring was nice because it didn't take a spell slot.
Ball Lightning Mogis's Warhound I don't really think this change hurts monored. Ball Lightning is very good in the nut draw but Mogis's Warhound is better in the average draw making your deck more consistent.
Rakdos Carnarium Murderous Redcap This is a good change. Taking out a dual for a gold card is not good. Taking out a dual for an hybrid is what they should be doing.
Lake of the Dead Nezumi Graverobber Lake was in the cube for a long time and I always saw it wheeling so it's good to see it going. Nezumi Graverobber had been in MTGO cube before and while it's not a high pick, it's playable.
Liliana's Reaver Ophiomancer Both aren't unplayable but Reaver never saw much play and Ophiomancer is on the same path.
Nostalgic Dreams Overrun I haven't had the chance to play Overrun. It looks like it could be good in a midrange green deck but I have yet to see it cast.
Flagstones of Trokair Precinct Captain Flagstones could be nice in your deck if you had Braids, Smokestack or Armageddon but you'd never take it unless there was nothing else on the pack. If those cards are good in your deck, they are good with or without Flagstones and that's just a small advantage. Captain is a pretty good 2drop for WW.
Tendrils of Agony Profane Command I like Profane Command and have already put it to good use once.
Mind's Desire Repulse Good one. I have already seen Repulse played several time and it's a solid card.
Gamble Searing Spear Gamble was always wheeling and rarely saw play so another burn spell gets its place.
Restock Setessan Tactics Restock was usually not played but sometimes it was. Tactics always wheels and maybe people are undervaluing it but it seems like it's not good enough for cube.
Persecute Silence the Believers 4 mana to exile a creature isn't great but the option of upgrading it in the lategame makes it a decent card. Persecute saw some play, there were probably other black cards that could have been cut.
Ash Zealot Stormbreath Dragon I like this one. It does what they want, nerf monored aggro by taking out a double red 2drop and improves big red. It also doesn't hurt RX aggro because Ash was hard to cast on those.
Plague Sliver Tormented Hero Plague Sliver was simply outclassed and Hero improves black aggro.
Tainted Pact Toxic Deluge Black gets another wrath and loses another card that never saw much play.
Palladium Myr Triskelion I don't like this one. Palladium Myr was pretty nice, basically a more fragile Powerstone and Triskelion doesn't do enough for 6 mana most of the time.
Simic Growth Chamber Trygon Predator I still don't like taking out a dual for a gold card but at least this one is good enough to see play often.
 Loam Lion Unexpectedly Absent Loam Lion type cards are hard to play in cube. They're almost gold cards that not all duals help. Unexpectedly Absent is a decent card which I have already played a few times.
Woolly Thoctar Uril, the Miststalker Now this is an improvement but it's still pretty bad. Uril is not a bad card but it's not insane. No one's ever gonna first pick it. It's basically a 5/5 hexproof for 5. Thrun is way better and it only requires green mana. It's not good enough to splash so for people to play it they have to be in Naya already and also have good mana.
Azorius Chancery Venser, the Sojourner Venser is not insane but it can be good in the right deck. And those decks usually happen to be UW or at the very least one of those colors already.
Selesnya Sanctuary Voice of Resurgence This one not so much. Again, Voice is a good card but it's hard to play on turn 2.
Goblin Welder Young Pyromancer Sadly, Goblin Welder never saw much play. He's way better in powered cube. Pyromancer is a very good addition. It's a 2drop but it can also be good late game.

But more important than every individual changes it's to have a balanced and fun cube. I know not every player thinks like me so some of those cards that I don't like are aimed to other players. I also have much less data than Wizards so a card I might think never gets played might actually see some play.

I think a cube shouldn't have any cards that always go very late because they're not good enough. Obviously not every card is Jace, the Mind Sculptor but the cards that never get picked and are never played are basically blank picks. There's room for sideboard cards and there's room for cards that aren't good on their own but on a specific deck or combined with a certain card become very good.

Gold cards:

I think gold cards have to be good enough to justify being harder to cast. Ajani Vengeant is the perfect example: a very powerful card that you don't mind first picking. Sorin, Lord of Innistrad and most other gold planeswalkers, while not all on the same level, they're still good enough to get picked early, maybe even as a splash. Cards like Abrupt Decay and Lightning Helix are not bad but they're rarely splashed so they only get picked if someone is already on those 2 colors. We need some cards like this but not too many.

3 colors cards are even worse. Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker is the perfect example of a good 3 colors card for cube. If I'm UB I'll very likely splash it. Woolly Thoctar and even Uril I'm only gonna play if I'm already Naya, that's why it rarely gets played. I constantly see Bant Charm in the last 3 or 4 cards of the pack, along with way worse cards. If there's no one in Bant, it's not worse to splash for it. Even if someone is Bant, their manabase might not be very good and he won't even want to play it. Esper Charm and Broodmate Dragon are the other 3 colors cards in the cube and they are more or less in the same situation as Bant Charm. In my opinion, only Nicol Bolas should stay, and I'd reduce some of the weaker 2 colors cards.

Traps:

The biggest trap still in the MTGO Cube, after storm got out, is Delver of Secrets and to a certain extent Augur of Bolas. Both these cards require you to have many instants and sorceries in your deck. There are some problems with this. The first one is that you can only have one of each in your deck instead of 4 of each in constructed, so you are building your deck to improve 2 cards (or maybe just one of them) and these aren't cards that win on their own. In my experience, even control decks, end up playing several creatures so it's very rare that your deck will have enough spells to make those cards consistent enough. But if the deck does actually have mostly spells, Augur will be fine and even if it misses, it's still a blocker against aggressive decks, Delver is different because a deck that easily flips it, won't have enough creatures to back it up and the damage will end up not being very relevant.

New sets:

I think they try too much to add cards from the latest set. I understand that they want to show the newest cards in the cube and it's fun to change things around. But I think they should do it to a lesser extent. The Souls might be very good in M15 limited but in cube they are worse than Titans and while Inferno Titan was a high pick and Frost Titan a middle pick, now the Souls in their place always go very late.

My favourite cards:

Elspeth, Knight-Errant Karn Liberated Garruk, Primal Hunter Gideon Jura Jace, the Mind Sculptor Ajani Vengeant

That's just planeswalkers but my favourite card in cube is: Upheaval

That's it. I hope you enjoyed reading this and if you don't play cube, this made you want to try it.