I’m not a huge Commander player, but I love the Commander sets. It’s not because I love thinking of diplomatic uses for the brand new cards in games with multiple opponents. It’s because they tend to have pushed cards that can easily be added to a Cube. It’s a lot easier to print some of the big effects that we find in the Commander sets when you know they aren’t going to accidentally ruin Standard or Modern.
I also don’t mind looking at the applications for these sets in terms of Legacy or Vintage, but admittedly that’s not really my area of expertise. So today I’m going to talk about some of my favorite cards from Commander 2016 that I like for their Cube potential. Considering that everyone’s Cube is different, I’m going to talk about cards that seem generically good—ones that could potentially fit into anyone’s Cube, and not necessarily Steve’s “Tokens Matter” Cube. One thing to keep in mind is that I lean toward medium-powered, interactive Cubes rather than broken combo Cubes. So think more Mulldrifters and planeswalkers, and less Show and Tell and Moxen.
5. Deepglow Skate
I wasn’t terribly impressed with this when I first saw it. Adding a single counter to cards you may not even have in play? And don’t even get me started on art that implies flying when the card doesn’t fly. Yes, I know it’s underwater. That’s not an acceptable reason.
Then I realized that this doubled the counters on those permanents. In any sort of “counters matter” Cube (no, Steve, not tokens), this card is fantastic. In the planeswalker deck, this card is fantastic. It’s just a great effect that can really turn a game around. It’s like a one-time Doubling Season that doesn’t have to be in play before you cast the card it’s going to affect.
4. Selfless Squire
Part combat trick, part sizable threat, this card has a lot of functionality. The best part is that you never have to feel bad about not blocking with it and saving yourself some damage when you flash it in because it’s going to do that anyway.
I would ordinarily be reluctant to include a 1/1 for 4 mana in a list of potential Cube cards, but think about what happens to this if you prevent 7 damage, or if the opponent alphas and you prevent something like 13, only to crack back for the win with your 14/14. I’m impressed at how big this can get, as other times the wording might be such that it would get 1 counter each time damage is prevented, not 1 counter per damage that’s prevented.
3. Frenzied Fugue
This card is super interesting. The only reason it isn’t higher is due to the fact that there are a lot of ways to sabotage this effect and, well, because it’s red. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some kind of redist or something. I just don’t like red that much.
Okay, maybe that makes me exactly a redist. I’m not sure, but this card has such a unique ability. You could take something as simple as a land to ramp you every turn, or something as valuable as a planeswalker. While you’re only buying into a timeshare with the card in question, this is still pretty valuable if you’re talking about a card that has an ability you can use each turn. The opponent couldn’t even tap something like a Gilded Lotus in response because Frenzied Fugue will untap it for you.
Or just steal a Primeval Titan each turn. It’s your life. I’m not your dad.
2. Entrapment Maneuver
One thing I’m always looking for in Cubes is efficient removal that does more than one thing. Cards like Malicious Affliction or Martial Coup always feel great because of their inherent card advantage. I feel like Entrapment Maneuver falls somewhere in between.
Even when it’s at its least impressive, you’re going to get a 1/1 out of it. Ideally you’re killing a Mother of Runes in that situation, because yeesh, is that a good card. Presumably you’re playing this in a control deck and will have some… control *puts on shades*—over what creature is being sacrificed, either by removing the others beforehand or walking the opponent into a profitable attack for you. Don’t forget you can block and kill their other attackers and, after combat damage, force them to sacrifice their largest. While you’ll still take damage, this is an effective way to make sure you “trap” the right one. Being able to make four or five 1/1s for 4 mana while killing an attacker is a pretty big swing.
1. Faerie Artisans
Any card that you have to read at least twice, has a ton of lines of text, and is still really sweet is okay in my book. Though I guess that’s kind of covered by the “is still really sweet” clause. While Faerie Artisans is pretty fragile as a mere 2/2, its ability is totally legit. They get to copy any nontoken creature that your opponent puts into play! A Titan, a Gearhulk, a sweet… Llanowar Elves. You name it! Two perks are that you’ll get the first crack at the creature if it has a tap ability and it also doesn’t go away if the Artisans are killed.
The main problem is that you only get one token at a time, so it is possible to play around. Your opponent could play their good creature then follow it up with a Birds of Paradise. I imagine if the Artisan’s ability were a “may” ability, it would a lot more difficult to deal with. “No, you keep playing your guys. I’ll keep this Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite.”
Any card like this that causes the opponent to adjust their plan and fundamentally change how they play the game is super appealing to me. Also, these guys get to equip Inventor’s Goggles for free if that does anything for you. Just sayin’.
So those are my Top 5, but a few things to note…
- All of the 4-color legends seem great if your Cube is able to support players drafting 4 colors.
- Aside from the legends, there were a good number of cards—most notably artifacts like Crystalline Crawler and Prismatic Geoscope—that go up significantly if your Cube is built in such a way that allows multiple 4+ color decks.
- Unfortunately, as with all Commander sets, there is a good subset of cards that simply aren’t at their best in a Cube. Cards with mechanics such as partner, lieutenant, and undaunted are usually going to be underwhelming, but there could definitely be exceptions.
- There are 200 rares or mythics in Commander 2016. An impressive 46 of them (nearly 25%) have a converted mana cost of 4. I actually had to look this up after noticing that most of my picks cost 4 mana.
That’s about it. Have you guys explored the Commander 2016 options for your own Cubes yet? Let me know what gems you’ve found!