I had a chance to rack up some phantom points over the holiday break, digging into the Holiday Cube on MTGO. As usual, it’s a mixture of fun and “why the heck is that in there?” moments. In running through a few drafts, one element I strongly agree with was the addition of several cards from the Commander product into the Cube. I intend to roll them into my powered Cube as well, and I’d like to discuss them a bit today.
[ccProd]Unexpectedly Absent[/ccProd] is the reason I wanted to write this article. I’d been trying (and mostly failing) at drafting my favorite archetype, blue/black artifacts. It heavily drafted in most of my early pods, so going into a new one, I opened this and decided to give it a shot. I was shocked at how good it was and how late I could get them in subsequent drafts.
Let’s break this card down for a second. Assuming you spend X=0, you have a 2-mana [ccProd]Griptide[/ccProd] that hits any non-land permanent. That is astoundingly mana efficient, and in a color that typically doesn’t get that kind of flexibility at instant speed. You can also pay more for it if you need to stall off for more than a single turn, but typically, removing a troubling permanent from the board is enough to swing the tempo in your favor.
That said, let’s look at it within the context of the Holiday Cube. What is the primary goal of about ½ of the decks in the format?—Ramp out some degenerate monster quickly. Whether via [ccProd]Channel[/ccProd], [ccProd]Eureka[/ccProd], [ccProd]Mana Vault[/ccProd], [ccProd]Natural Order[/ccProd], [ccProd]Show and Tell[/ccProd], [ccProd]Reanimate[/ccProd], [ccProd]Black Lotus[/ccProd], [ccProd]Dark Ritual[/ccProd], etc., a fair number of the decks are trying to do something unfair on turn 2 or 3, but a lot of the sources are temporary. With [ccProd]Unexpectedly Absent[/ccProd], you can undo all of their work, often on the same turn. It can play a more fair role, resetting planeswalkers, bouncing equipment, clearing a key blocker or burying a [ccProd]Moat[/ccProd] to allow for a lethal attack. It’s one of the few cards that can deal with a turn 2 [ccProd]Kozilek[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Ulamog[/ccProd]—that is a lot of value for 2 mana. By the way, if anyone [ccProd]Bribery[/ccProd]s you, the look on their face when you play this is priceless (or likely would be if you could see faces on MTGO).
I ended up drafting it aggressively in subsequent events and have been happy picking it up above pretty much anything but the fast artifact mana and [ccProd]Ancestral Recall[/ccProd]. You should really try it out if you haven’t had the chance yet, it plays out much better than it looks on paper. It does commit you fairly heavily to white, but that’s not all bad. White is decent in the Cube, not broken in the way green or blue can be, but it’s pretty good at breaking up an opponent’s game plan. I particularly like pairing it with blue or black.
Speaking of black, this is another card that has been really overperforming for me. While not as flexible as Unexpectedly Absent, this card can be easily splashed and does deal with just about any number of creatures for 3 mana. While it’s not a great answer, this will address a ramped-out [ccProd]Emrakul[/ccProd]. I have to respect that ability, even if I don’t ever want to have to do it—it certainly beats losing on the spot. It’s also a great splash card for green, as you get the option to one-side the board with your bigger critters. This is another one that is definitely going into my Cube, it’s very solid. It’s already seeing play in Legacy and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it become more broadly adopted over time, the card is scary powerful against non-red decks.
Yes, he’s just as stupid in Cube as he is in Legacy. Equipment good, attacking good, blocking good, etc. Oh and in a pinch, he pitches to [ccProd]Force of Will[/ccProd]. All that said, he really is a solid pick up, giving the more “fair” decks in the format a solid clock that doesn’t need much protecting. This format is all about truly dumb things happening, and on that scale, Nemesis is somewhat tame, but still quite good. He’s not going to just get tossed into every blue deck (a la [ccProd]Ancestral Recall[/ccProd]) as the combo decks are trying to storm out or toss down massive artifacts, reanimator generally wants bigger bodies (though they can use him a pinch), but within a blue/white tempo shell (or blue/red) he’s a house. He’s certainly not very interactive, but then neither is storm. I didn’t get the feeling that he is out of place within all of the other powerful cards, just another strong option for the blue menace. That said, if you are looking for some options to fight him, you have the various wrath effects, counter magic, sacrifice effects (black has quite a few), [ccProd]All is Dust[/ccProd], [ccProd]Nevinyrral’s Disk[/ccProd] or my personal favorite, [ccProd]Bribery[/ccProd]. Unfortunately, red and green are both pretty soft to him, hopefully that is something Wizards comes up with a patch for in subsequent sets—the card is fairly obnoxious.
One other thought on the Holiday Cube, something to discuss in the comments perhaps—does anyone actually use the various [ccProd]Masticore[/ccProd]s in Cube? They seem like permanent fixtures, but they are almost always near the end of the packs and I never see them in play on either side of the table. Is it time for them to be retired in favor of fresher blood? I stripped them out of my Cube ages ago and I’ve never really missed them. I’d be curious on your feedback.
As always, thanks for reading.