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By: CottonRhetoric, Cotton Rhetoric
Dec 30 2019 1:00pm
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It's a companion piece to my article on the so-called broken cards: what about Vintage Cube's so-called bad cards?

You know the ones. You get passed them in the end of each pack. You scoff when you do. They never make your 40. You get actively excited when your opponent casts one. And that rare time you actually work one into your deck and win with it—it's a story you tell your Cube-playing friends.

Let's break it down one bad card at a time. How bad are they really? I'll rate them on a scale of 1 to 4, scaled for a discussion of bad cards. I'm conceiving it like this:

  • 4/4: Incorrectly classified as bad. Plays well in a typical deck. (No cards in this article receive this rating.)
  • 3/4: Not that bad. In the right deck, is actually helpful, and that right deck isn't hard to build.
  • 2/4: The few times this card's deck comes together, you won't mind drawing it.
  • 1/4: Either this card does so little for its right deck that it's not worth bothering, or there is no right deck. These are the kinds of cards that actively lower your winrate, even if maybe they do accomplish something on occasion. In Cube, no card is truly worthless, but these come close.

 

#1 Dreadhorde Arcanist

This card was the inspiration for the entire article. I dismissed him since he was first added, then one night I gave him a try and trophied with him.

This card's problem isn't his power level. It's his environment. It's rare to assemble a deck in which he can reliably do anything besides be a body.

If you do somehow end up in a deck with a 5+ one-drops worth recasting, I would give the Arcanist a try. The best-case scenario involves Ancestral Recall (and yes, he does work with Ancestral Vision). The best typical scenario involves blue's cantrips, then red's burn, then white's removal. The funniest use is pumping him twice with Umezawa's Jitte to recast an impactful five drop like Fractured Identity or Bribery. The most optimistic use is running him in storm to get a double High Tide turn.

Still, don't get it twisted. Even if you build the one-drop deck, this guy dies easily. His saving grace might be what Limited Resources refers to as "keyword crappy," meaning his badness lets him survive longer than he should, since the opponent won't want to waste their Go for the Throat on him. Those free cantrips are yours for the taking!!

Rating: 2/4

 

#2 Pteramander

"It's good in the spells deck" doesn't convince me because:

  • There's no such thing as a "spells deck" in Vintage Cube. (Unless you mean storm, but Pteramander doesn't exactly fit in storm.)
  • This is a format where a 5/5 flier with 2 or 3 other abilities is barely playable (see Thundermaw Hellkite, Baneslayer Angel, and Lyra Dawnbringer). Just how good could the vanilla version be?

As for "it flips for cheap"—yes, sometimes. I've done it myself. In the mid- to late-game, and to very little impact. This card is solely for the decks that couldn't find a full 23, which in Vintage Cube should not happen often.

Rating: 1/4

 

#3 Reveillark / Archangel Avacyn

Reveillark 

They're slow, they're unreliable, they're ineffectual, they look like combo pieces but aren't....

The closest thing Reveillark has to a home is white weenie, but those decks don't want it.

Archangel offers the fantasy of ruining an opponent's attack phase, but how often will this ever play that role better than Restoration Angel? We're talking about Vintage Cube, which is not a format of four midrange creatures attacking into four midrange creatures. Archangel has changed from GILBIC (Good In Limited Bad In Constructed) to, uh, the same acronym, but now the C stands for Cube.

White has six creatures costing five mana, needs to lose half of them, and these should be the first two on the chopping block.

Rating: 1/4

 

#4 Legion's Landing

Let's start with the basics. Its raw stats, W for a 1/1 lifelink, are incredibly poor.

The backside looks good, but the only deck to reliably reach it doesn't want it.

White aggro has better things to spend its mana on than 1/1 tokens. Nor does it care about the acceleration potential of the flipped land. The only decks that want those are the ones that can't flip this, so let's just leave it in our sideboards until it's taken out of Cube.

"But I never got passed Kytheon, Hero of Akros and my aggro deck needed a one-drop." Your deck is better off not having one-drops than resorting to one this poor.

Rating: 1/4

 

#5 Brightling

People hate this card. Should they?

Generally, yes. Brightling doesn't belong in a typical deck. For all its abilities, it does get stymied fairly easily. Its most common play pattern is trading with some random ground dork.

I wouldn't write the card off completely though. One actual use is sideboard against red aggro. They can't kill anything with five toughness, and the lifelink will brutalize them. (I'd still prefer a Baneslayer Angel here, so I don't have to leave up mana every turn, but why not both?)

Another home is that wrath-heavy defensive deck. If you keep clearing the board, this card keeps coming back, and it will wear the opponent out. They will find themselves resorting to using their Terminate as an Unsummon. But it won't be enough, hahaha!!

To be clear, I'm not recommending the above as something to eagerly force in your next draft. It's just something that, if you end up there, could be of some use. This card is underpowered and WotC knows it. That's actually why it's in the Cube—they swapped it in for Benalish Marshal and Mirran Crusader specifically to make white aggro less dominant.

Rating: 2/4

 

#6 Linvala, Keeper of Silence

Linvala, Keeper of Silence

It's sideboard material against elves and Splinter Twin.

The problem is it's a little slow to stop elves and a little vulnerable to the red-blue deck. It's still worth bringing in, just not something you should take over a more reliable card.

It occasionally gets other random creatures, but few make a big difference. OK, so your opponent's Pia and Kiran Nalaar can't sacrifice its own tokens anymore. Those tokens can still wear a Skullclamp or activate Opposition. I guess there's always the dream of halting a Palinchron recursion....

Rating: 2/4

 

#7 Sun Titan

Sun Titan

The other four titans are great. Then there's the white one....

"It can get a fetch land"—So can way cheaper cards. How much mana do you need if you have the 6 to cast this guy? And anyway isn't that still drastically worse than the two lands from Primeval TItan? Especially since white isn't trying to ramp into a Tooth and Nail.

"What about Strip Mine recursion?"—Isn't it a little late for that? It's not like your white deck was slamming this guy on Turn 3 off a Joraga Treespeaker.

"It can get white weenie creatures"—Do you still need them on turn 6? This should be your Elspeth, Sun's Champion turn, not the turn to get back a Thalia, Guardian of Thraben.

"It can get back my 3-drop planeswalkers."—This one's the first fair argument yet. If you want to run this guy in your multicolor value deck, you have my blessing. Just make sure you really have the support for it. Most of those decks' relevant permanents cost 4 mana and up, with the lower parts of the curve reserved for sorceries and Signets and such.

"What about this neat trick I have with Necromancy?"—Get out.

White's titan has potential. Most of us who have drafted enough have lost to it once. But think of all the cards you've lost to more than once, and how much more utility they have. For instance, the other four titans.

Rating: 2/4

 

#8 Land Tax

Land Tax

Oh boy, a way to get basic lands!

Either your opponent plays around this card, which feels nice but is not worth the cost, or they ignore it and you get three lands a few times, for which I'll say the same.

"The deck thinning can be relevant," but it's not worth a card. Would you mulligan yourself to thin your deck? I don't care if your favorite streamer likes this card. Let's be frank and admit its only real value is as a combo with a card removed years ago, Scroll Rack. Uh, I guess you could do a Cawblade-style trick with this and Jace, the Mind Sculptor, but Jace is already powerful enough without wasting a deck slot on a bad card.

Rating: 1/4

 

#9 Hypnotic Specter / Thief of Sanity / Trygon Predator

Hypnotic Specter  Trygon Predator

They're better in Vintage Cube than other Cubes in that fewer decks will be blocking or destroying them.

They're worse in that Vintage Cube is not a format to tolerate slow cards. Even if Hippie connects twice, which is not out of the question, why didn't you just cast Hymn to Tourach? That extra 4 damage will not impact the game as much as the extra mana and two-turn wait you had to pay for it.

Same with Trygon Predator. You're usually much better off with a Nature's Claim. And the few decks its repeatability matters against are likely too fast for it, with their Mana Vault into Metalworker into Tezzeret the Seeker into Turn 3 Sundering Titan (or worse).

If you're investing all that setup, you'll need a stronger payoff, like Thief of Sanity's for instance. It still won't be the best three-drop in your deck, and I'd rather just run Gonti, Lord of Luxury, but it has potential.

And a corner-case scenario for Thief: I once saw CalebD use it next to a non-storm-deck Brain Freeze to mill the opponent out.

Rating: 2/4 Hippie and Trygon, 3/4 Thief

Side note: As a late-90s frequenter of The Dojo, I'm pleased to see Hippie's nickname is still in common parlance. Not like Ancestral's, which people are apparently calling "Recall" now.

 

#10 Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni

Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni

I don't think I'd upset or surprise anyone by rating this a 1/4. I've never seen anyone play this card, or even verbally defend it, unless you count that one time I insulted Ink-Eyes in Twitch chat and somebody thought I was talking about Ink-Well (as in Inkwell Leviathan). "It's good against planeswalkers," they said. "What are you talking about?" I replied. We eventually figured it out.

I get why it's in Cube. I just don't get why it's still in Cube.

Rating: 1/4

 

#11 Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Tasigur, the Golden Fang

How much is there to say about it? It's occasionally decent and usually terrible. Few decks even consider it, blah blah remove it from Cube etc.

Rating: 1/4

 

#12 Mastermind's Acquisition

Cube's bold new experiment. How's it turning up?

Maybe I or the community will find a home for it later, but I don't think anyone has yet. This effect is certainly cool but I just don't think is defensible at four mana. At three, maybe. And obviously two would be broken, but maybe they could make a sideboard-only version for 2? (I don't expect that, but I would certainly draft it if they did.)

Rating: 1/4, pending future playtesting

 

#13 Magus of the Moon

Magus of the Moon

I just don't know. I want to like this guy. But there are so few decks to board him in against.

Tolarian Academy, Strip Mine, Gaea's Cradle, Library of Alexandria... all good cards, but the decks that run them can live without them. And if you're just hosing one land, aren't you better Wastelanding it than turning it into a Mountain? Especially when it rests on a fragile 2/2 body.

The five-color decks are certainly bothered by this guy, but most of them run Lightning Bolts anyway, and how often do you even face five-color decks?

Blood Moon or Back to Basics are obviously stronger versions of this card, but with enchantment removal being so sparse, perhaps WotC thought they would be oppressive/unfun, so the Magus was their compromise. Are they right to do so? Cube runs the real Wheel of Fortune and Library of Alexandria, not Magus of the Wheel or Magus of the Library. Maybe if the original isn't right, they should just remove it altogether. Or replace it with Fulminator Mage?

Rating: 1/4

 

#14 Goblin Dark-Dwellers

Goblin Dark-Dwellers

This card seems like it should be great, until you try to put it in a deck. It's just so rarely worth it. Although it promises the power of Snapcaster Mage, it's just so much clunkier, and notably cannot be used with Counterspells or Wraths.

There's always the dream of spiking a Time Walk, but usually this is just getting a removal spell, meaning it's a slower, less reliable Flametongue Kavu. As for the relevance of its body, 5 mana is too late for that to matter much. Wouldn't you rather have a larger, evasive, hasty dragon? (Most decks don't want either, honestly.)

Rating: 2/4

 

#15 Fauna Shaman

Fauna Shaman

This is not just worse than Survival of the Fittest. It is so much worse, and Survival is already a mediocre niche card.

Rating: 1/4

 

#16 Polukranos, World Eater / Thragtusk / Master of the Wild Hunt

Polukranos, World Eater  Thragtusk  Master of the Wild Hunt

WotC's done a good job of decluttering green's midrange doofuses over time. Still got a little left in here, though!

Poly K's and Thrag's best use are sideboard against red aggro, but it's not like they're even great at that.

Master's best use is against a deck with no removal, that's slow, and has lots of small creatures, which isn't an archetype, but you will have a few opponents who are new to cube and draft bad decks by accident. Then it's the Master's time to shine.

Rating: 2/4 (Unless you have Opposition, in which case Master is a windmill-slam 4/4.)

 

#17 Vivien, Champion of the Wilds / Wilderness Reclamation

 

Two more fine examples of "I'm glad we tried it but I'd be more glad to see it go."

Vivien's upside just isn't up enough. And whatever dream (Wilderness Reclamation) is hinting at just doesn't have enough support. It is rare to even see more than three counterspells while drafting, and I can't think of any activated ability you'd want to spam on everyone's turn. (The Scarab God does fine without the help.) I guess it gives your creaturelands vigilance....

Wilderness Reclamation is like Goblin Dark-Dwellers: alluring while drafting; disappointing while building. It could easily accomplish more in a different format.

Rating: 1/4

 

#18 Kodama's Reach / Yavimaya Elder

Kodama's Reach  Yavimaya Elder

Green needs lots of ramp. And at different CMCs. Which it has. And would still have, if Kodama's Reach, its worst member, were removed.

Ignoring ramp, both of these two are fair value cards—just not enough value to justify spending three mana in Vintage Cube.

Rating: 1/4

 

#19 Shardless Agent / Bloodbraid Elf

Shardless Agent  Bloodbraid Elf

Whatever you're using these things to cast, you were better off just casting naturally, and choosing when to cast them, instead of tacking on extra mana to get an (admit it) irrelevant body.

The only time I can endorse Shardless Agent is next to Opposition, where its body isn't irrelevant, or in Tinker / Tolarian Academy decks who are always happy for another artifact.

The only time I can endorse Bloodbraid Elf is in Public Service Announcements to educate people about the dangers of playing with bad cards. I don't care if it was banned in Modern for dominating the format—Vintage Cube isn't Modern!

Rating: 2/4 Shardless, 1/4 Bloodbraid

 

#20 Huntmaster of the Fells / Knight of the Reliquary

 Knight of the Reliquary

You need a lot to go right for these cards to do anything. And in Vintage Cube, a lot won't go right.

The most frustrating thing about Huntmaster is he costs the same 2RG as Xenagos, the Reveler, who they removed, and who was playable.

Rating: 1/4

 

#21 Kaya, Orzhov Usurper

I've looked at this card every which way, and I'm just not seeing it.

"She can kill Moxen." At the same cost, Dack Fayden is stealing those Moxen.

"She can kill Elves." For 3 mana? I'm not sideboarding this in against Green. I'm sideboarding in my one-mana Fatal Push.

"She hoses reanimator." No, she doesn't. Those decks can do everything on their turn, when you don't have the chance to activate a planeswalker.

"She gains you some life." So? Are you running this against aggro or something? That isn't stopping them.

"Her ultimate is mediocre." I agree.

If you've ever seen Kaya accomplish anything meaningful, it was likely against a slow and underpowered opponent. Like Master of the Wild Hunt, she's only good against bad decks.

Rating: 1/4

 

#22 Hangarback Walker / Stonecoil Serpent

Hangarback Walker 

"Bad? But what if you—" You won't.

Merely being an artifact bumps their ratings up, in a format where a no-value Relic of Progenitus is worth maindecking next to Tolarian Academy, but even then, I'd rather cast a non-imprinted Chrome Mox for 0 than either of these doofuses.

Make no mistake: if you aren't using these for their type line, they're on the same level as those mediocre green 4-drops people are always making fun of. Their bodies and abilities are so rarely relevant. 

Rating: 2/4

 

Thanks for reading, let me know what other bad cards you think deserve a 1 or a 2, and have fun cubing!