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Fun Cubed – Cube in the Year M11

You can find my complete cube list here.

Without the substantial rule changes and shake up of printing a majority of functional reprints, M11 had the potential to be a Cube let down as just another entry level set with little to nothing to offer such a rich format. Thankfully, M11 isn’t just another 10th edition to the Magic: the Gathering family. Instead, it offers more than its fair share of cards to consider for Cube. Of course this Cube update gets quite a few card changes and only about half are M11 related. This time around thanks to the often over critical eye of Channelfireball’s own LSV I took a microscope to my Cube list and found various cards that we both agreed could be changed for the better. Not to say my own list is now “LSV- approved” as we have many differing opinions on the format but this particular update is heavily LSV influenced outside of the M11 changes. So without further delay let’s get to the meat of the matter and look at what cards are moving in/out with the release of Magic 2011:

White:

Out -> In
Battlegrace Angel -> Sun Titan
Captain of the Watch -> Vengeful Archon
Sigiled Paladin -> War Priest of Thune
Voice of All -> Seht’s Tiger
Hoofprints of the Stag -> Miraculous Recovery
Renewed Faith -> Sunlance

Let’s start with the inclusions from M11. Sun Titan is my favorite white card from the set with the most potential without a doubt, and I am already looking forward to returning everything from fetchlands to Chaos Orb from the graveyard to play with this guy all day long. Vengeful Archon immediately makes me think of Glarecaster from Onslaught, who for everybody out there who remembers having to play against that guy in Limited can attest, is annoying and often forces the game to be played very differently after it hits the battlefield. Lastly, War Priest of Thune is often a better Ronom Unicorn and white always likes versatility in its cheap beaters, and the priest offers that without question.

Coming out for these M11 additions are two situational creatures and one major under performer.

Battlegrace Angel is the poor man’s Exalted Angel and Baneslayer Angel, which at the end of the day was still a poor man’s threat in Cube and left out this time around.

Captain of the Watch has taught me a valuable lesson about the difference between five and six mana for the white decks in Cube. Where five mana threats are still looking for hits, six mana has a plethora of options, but while Captain is a quality creature it just hasn’t been performing at the six mana slot in comparison to the other cards. If she had been a 2/4 or somehow cost five mana she would have survived this cut. But easy to kill in combination with high casting cost has shelved the captain with the release of M11.

Lastly there’s Sigiled Paladin, a paradox of aggressive vs. passive, where as the white weenie player I want to be attacking every turn. Of course I plan on attacking with more than a single creature making the paladin a vanilla 2/2 first striker.

More cuts include Voice of All, who isn’t the amazing answer it once was when Invasion block was first introduced in Standard; nowadays in Cube it really only has impact against mono-colored decks, where every two color deck can get around her, go through her, or just kill her. Outside of attempting to be a trump card against those mono color decks her best uses have been to hold off big creatures or dodge a particular color of removal from an opponent, which at the end of the day hasn’t been making her an all-star.

Hoofprints of the Stag is one of those cards that seems to be consistently in and out of the Cube and feels far more like a blue card than a white card that is far too slow to be effective in Cube.

I’m already missing Renewed Faith from Cube, mostly because a surprise gain of six life can be huge in so many games and all those times that it isn’t, you gain two life and get a new card.

Over on the inclusions side we’ll start with Seht’s Tiger, another one of those cards that’s come in and out of Cube, and at this point I like it as a surprise in Cube as much as anything. The midrange casting cost cards in white are the most difficult to manage and Tiger plays an important role of having flash plus an often relevant ability. Of course the dream is to stop a Mind Twist or a lethal Fireball, but almost every time you cast Seht’s Tiger it has a positive effect before entering the red zone the following turn.

Miraculous Recovery is a sweet combat trick in addition to being a quality reanimation spell; instant speed and the +1/+1 counter easily make up for the five mana price tag.

Lastly for white we have Sunlance. Simple and cheap and fitting perfectly into the white weenie draft arc type Sunlance is just the right kind of removal for that deck as well as playable in various other Cube decks.

Blue:

Out -> In
Dominating Licid -> Conundrum Sphinx
Ethersworn Adjudicator -> Stormtide Leviathan
Riptide Survivor -> Kira, Great Glass Spinner
Read the Runes -> Ancestral Vision
Treasure Hunt -> Jace’s Ingenuity

Every time, I find it difficult to talk about blue. The color could be twice the size of any other in Cube and the quality of the cards would be right on par almost across the board. For this edit, three M11 cards get the call while a couple of other Cube favorites finally find their way in. Conundrum Sphinx seems easy to make one sided and even if it doesn’t become that in all your future Cube drafts it’s still a 4/4 flyer for four with no drawback.

Stormtide Leviathan has cornered the market on awesome in my opinion, and his flavor plus power level finally made me glad to include an eight casting cost in Cube. Now all that ramp potential of green can put a threat into play that can hold off opposing forces and crush at the same time, and control decks have a finisher with the same attributes.

Jace’s Ingenuity is just what the control player wants, more card draw earlier and at instant speed. Treasure Hunt was hard to set up and the straightforward nature of Jace’s Ingenuity, in conjunction with being an instant, made it an easy change.

Ethersworn Adjudicator didn’t act enough like the Mortify on a stick that I hoped it would and while I think this big Vigilant Drake is a fine card, but it’s just not Cube caliber.

Dominating Licid is a card most people I talk to are split on. Some think it’s an amazing threat and lives forever as you steal your opponent’s creatures as an aura and then to a creature, while others see the Licid as a six mana investment into your opponent showing you a removal spell. While I’m fond of the Licid, blue is the tightest color in Cube and thusly doesn’t offer space for cards that only half the people I play with think are worthy.

For the non M11 related changes I have a couple of seemingly overdue additions in the form of Ancestral Vision and Kira, Great Glass Spinner. Drawing three cards is good, even waiting some turns to do it is mighty fine, and I feel like I’m behind the curve on people playing this card. Kira, Great Glass Spinner is a good card, period. In all honestly it would have been in Cube a couple updates ago had I managed to get my hands on a foil one, but I hadn’t, so I didn’t. Coming out for these additions are Riptide Survivor, one of the few surviving morph creatures in Cube, and Read the Runes, the seemingly below par draw spell that hasn’t been used in Cube in what feels like too long. The dream of course, is to use Read the Runes in conjunction with either Control Magic effects or Psychatog, but too many times it would go into player’s sideboards never to be cast. Meanwhile Riptide Survivor is amazing in the long game when your hand is empty but often is too slow and/or situational.

Black:
Out -> In
Kalitas, Bloodchief of Ghet -> Grave Titan
Nyxathid -> Cemetery Reaper
Phyrexian Negator -> Plague Sliver
Necropotence -> Reanimate
Quest for the Gravelord -> Zombie Infestation
Yawgmoth’s Bargain -> Dance of the Dead

I really hoped going into M11, that Wizards would continue their fascination with marketing to the Twilight lovers and add more quality vampires to the coming core set. Alas this is not the case as M11 yielded zero Cube quality vampires and overall only one card for inclusion. Grave Titan is obviously as good as advertised with minimum ten power for six mana that only gets better as the game progresses.

Since there’s only one M11 card coming in, le’ts stop to go over the cards coming out from black; starting with Yawgmoth’s Bargain and Necropotence, the two draw enchantments that just don’t have enough ammunition in Cube to be good often enough. I really like these cards as I’m sure many readers do, but without support it’s difficult to run either of them in most decks; even after adding such narrow cards as Zuran Orb and Ivory Tower, I just haven’t seen either of them played often enough to keep them in. Too often you spend too much time and energy setting up these enchantments and not keeping perishes life points needed to fuel them.

Cards like Nyxathid and Phyrexian Negator were situational beat down creatures that were too often the opposite when played, that of liabilities. It’s pretty straight forward where these creature fail and replacing them with versatile threats should improve black. A small number of zombies similar in tone to Imperious Perfect in green make Cemetery Reaper a welcome re-addition. Juzam Djinn’s cousin Plague Sliver is another previous Cube bullpen card that gets back in the game with its straightforward benefit versus cost, being black and having 5 toughness makes for a hard target whatever your format.

Kalitas has been the only vampire to be added that hasn’t seen much action and subsequently was an easy cut for the cheaper casting cost of Grave Titan. The last of the black cards cut this time around is Quest for the Gravelord; a card I always felt would be a suspend-style creature for control decks and a back up plan for the agro decks, but it didn’t make the grade and was too often an easy play for opponents. While Quest was a unique card for Cube it just doesn’t have the impact in a format with so many different ways to deal with threats. On the additions side for black there’s a minor reanimation theme coming back to the color. Thankfully cards like Reanimate and Dance of the Dead are strong enough without the necessity of being part of a dedicated reanimation deck that I have no worries about adding them as linear cards. Zombie Infestation walks the line between the reanimating package and the zombie sub-theme of black, while also offering another great card to Upheaval into.

Red:

Out -> In
Craggenwick Cremator -> Cyclops Gladiator
Goblin Welder -> Inferno Titan
Obliterate -> Destructive Force
Starstorm -> Molten Disaster
Mogg Flunkies -> Ember Hauler

Much like Mogg Flunkies, Obliterate almost never got cast and while they definitely were part of a winning game or two while in Cube, independently they were 15th picks regularly and easy to axe.

Goblin Welder, while suffering from being linear, has such a powerful effect and rich history of play that it was a difficult cut, but at the end of the day he’s too fragile and too linear to play well in Cube.

Craggenwick Cremtor had been the upgraded Balduvian Horde for Cube, but even with the upgrade, it wasn’t as good as other four-casting cost creatures. Another sad example of power level change over the years is the upgraded version of Balduvian Horde which gets put on the chopping block this time around. The last card cut from red was a bit of a surprise for me when I first thought about it.

Starstorm seems like a great card with instant speed, board sweeping for control decks, cycling when it wouldn’t be good, and in a color that doesn’t normally have access to such an effect. But the real surprise to me was in finding that all the things I thought were benefits from the card weren’t as great as I thought. It’s expensive to sweep the board when the starting costing cast is double red, and it’s expensive to cycle at three mana, and red doesn’t often want this effect at such a high casting cost.

Coming in were a couple easy includes in the form of Destructive Force and Ember Hauler. Mogg Fanatic’s older brother makes up for the “new” rules by being a Shock with legs, and Wildfire plus one is no problem for the dedicated ramp decks in Cube.

Molten Disaster was the closest Starstorm effect that I like because of its ability to be cast at split second against the control player. Inferno Titan has been compared to Flametongue Kavu while also having qualities of a more unique card yet to be flushed out. A quick game ender to an empty board or a potential problem solver against creature decks, Inferno Titan should see plenty of play in Cube games to come.

The last card being added in red is one of great debate over quality and while I understand triple red is a heavy price “Fight Club” guy as he’s lovely referred to as is great not just in mono-red decks in my opinion. Cyclops Gladiator will not only be clearing his own path directly to your opponents face but also assisting various agro decks in Cube in the near future. It’s a 4/4 for four that eats three or less power creatures for breakfast and while I understand it’s three red mana to get him onto the battlefield nine out of ten times he’s worth it in my opinion.

Green:

Out -> In
Cliffrunner Behemoth -> Obstinate Baloth
Forgotten Ancient -> Garruk’s Packleader
Loaming Shaman -> Garruk’s Companion
Silvos, Rogue Elemental -> Gaea’s Revenge
Twinblade Slasher -> Fauna Shaman
Crop Rotation -> Cultivate
Exploration -> Fastbond
Primal Boost -> Primal Command
Summoning Trap -> Pattern of Rebirth

Green gets the most changes from M11, not only because it had the most to offer Cube, but because it’s the color looking for the most help in Cube these days. With six cards from M11 including both of Garruk’s buddies, the new Kodama’s Reach, the new Loxodon Hierarch, the new Survival of the Fittest, and the revenge of Gaea, it looked from the beginning of Cube editing that green was getting a lot of old-school power added to its color with the release of Magic 2011.

While the Exploration experiment ended up being simply an experiment and obviously not a blowout in games it was played in, I thought it was time to up the ante by bringing in Fastbond. Sadly in the same update that Zuran Orb leaves the Cube, Fastbond gets added, but I still hold out hope that one day someone will have Zuran Orb, Fastbond, and Crucible of Worlds in Cube. Combat tricks are at a stable number in Cube so I thought I’d try a favorite card from other people’s lists that, ironically had a similar name as the card being cut, Primal Boost.

Primal Command, much like every command, has versatility. And with abilities like life gain, which is harder to find these days in Cube with other cards leaving, I wanted to give the card a shot.

Pattern of Rebirth is a great card that suffers from an age old curse, that of being a creature enchantment. In the age of auras, Wizards has done a lot to promote their play and make them far less often, a two-for-one waiting to happen. Sadly when your card reads Enchant Creature it has to be on the level of Moldervine Cloak, and Pattern of Rebirth is almost that as soon as your opponent taps out. If you have the chance to resolve this creature tutor, all of a sudden the games changes. The ability to get any creature from your library makes waiting for the right moment to cast Pattern worth the wait and a powerful tool for whichever mage is wielding it. Very different from Summoning Trap and far more often a hit in comparison makes Pattern a powerful addition to Cube. From the list of cards coming out for M11, the majority is straight forward and I’m only sad to see Forgotten Ancient leave, at it was a long time staple. With the improvement of removal from almost all colors this all too often 1/4 just wasn’t the threat it once was. Overall I think green got the best and the most improvements from this update with the creation of great new cards from M11 adding to the color. While it’s still the weakest color in Cube it got some strict upgrades from the newest set that I definitely feel will have a strong impact on Cube.

Artifacts

Out -> In
Helm of Obedience -> Crystal Ball
Ivory Tower -> Basilisk Collar
Zuran Orb -> Clearwater Goblet
Lotus Bloom -> Brittle Effigy

With Necropotence and Yawgmoth’s Bargain getting the axe, so did the life gain artifacts in the form of Ivory Tower and Zuran Orb. Ivory Tower was the easiest one to cut, as it only functioned when not backed by the two previously mentioned cards when included in a draw/go deck. Meanwhile, Zuran Orb had a slim chance to win some games when late in a match, a player could forgo his or her lands in order to almost double his or her life total. Nevertheless, both of these scenarios occurred so rarely that without the black card drawing enchantments these artifacts were easy cuts.

Similar in game play relevance are Helm of Obedience and Lotus Bloom, both cards that once in a blue moon would have great impact on a game but far more often did either nothing or too little too late. Helm is one of the more fun cards to play with, but ended up being far more of a lottery wheel spin than a home run when it ever became activated. Lotus Bloom was/is in many ways a place holder for black Lotus and since I don’t see myself putting the original Lotus in any time soon, this card was an easy cut. For the additions side we get two cards from M11 that are great as colorless effects for any deck. Brittle Effigy as a five mana removal in any deck is great, and the exile portion is a sweet bonus not to overlook.

Crystal Ball is versatile and also fits into almost any deck so it was an auto include. Meanwhile, Basilisk Collar is an addition that was overlooked for too long. With cheap casting cost and equip costs and the change to the rules on deathtouch means Basilisk Collar should have a long lifespan in Cube from here on out. The last artifact added was Clearwater Goblet. Life gain wasn’t something I wanted to strip completely from the artifacts and this card felt perfect for those five color control decks people I know are so fond of.

Multicolor:

Out -> In
Godhead of Awe -> Wall of Denial
Novablast Wurm -> Gaddock Teeg
Gobin Trenches -> Soltari Guerrillas
Rise of the Hobgoblins -> Firemane Angel
Intet, the Dreamer -> Guided Passage
Realm Razer -> Naya Charm

While core set still doesn’t have gold cards, that didn’t mean my good friend Luis couldn’t take the time to try to talk me off of some cards I have in that section. Five out of the six cuts from the multicolor section are simply under performing cards that I’ve had love for but needed to change, if only to give people different options an opportunities in draft.

The only style change was taking Intet, the Dreamer out in exchange for Guided Passage. Three-color cards are without a doubt the hardest to deal with in Cube and I’m tired of various three-color dragons that may or may not actually do anything during the course of a game.

Guided Passage has offered a different style of draft with the potential to be a tutor of sorts and I’m very much looking forward to seeing how people play this card in their decks.

On the additions side we have easy Cube inclusions from cards like Gaddock Teeg and Soltari Guerrillas. Both having previously been played in Cube before and having been added or subtracted to try something new, but this time around they both serve a purpose for their casting costs and I’m glad to see both back on the job.

Meanwhile, Wall of Denial hasn’t even been in my Cube, but I’m finally giving it a chance after so many people out there consider it to be great for holding down the fort.

Naya Charm has so much versatility I’m really looking forward to seeing all the different ways it will be played. Lastly there’s Firemane Angel, which if you’ve played Boros in Cube, you’ll know that having a card like this can sometimes be the difference. Sometimes it is a four power flyer for six, sometimes a Fountain of Youth from the graveyard, and every once in a while, a never-ending threat against those blue control decks makes Firemane Angel a solid inclusion.

Lands:
Out -> In
Gaea’s Cradle -> Evolving Wilds
Kjeldoran Outpost -> Kor Haven

Gaea’s Cradle has only had two modes of operation from my experience. The first is the positive which is all too often “win more” and the second is far more common, which is do nothing. Having a few guys on battlefield and playing green usually means you’re ahead, and for those times when it doesn’t, having a ton of green mana wasn’t making the difference. Meanwhile, there’s nothing quite like having a land in play that not only doesn’t tap for mana but doesn’t do anything. This circumstance occurred far too often and thusly Cradle gets the axe.

Kjeldoran Outpost too often didn’t have enough positive game impact, and even the white weenie decks had a hard time capitalizing on this card; they want to run the fewest land possible and after losing one in play you still have to devote three mana a turn to make a 1/1. Now Outpost isn’t a bad card and it often gives the control players fits, but that isn’t enough to keep it in Cube this time around. On the additions side Evolving Wilds is an easy add, and after recently adding more landfall effects makes it that much better; anything that lets you find any color for basically free is good, enough said.

Kor Haven is the next best white based land after removing Outpost and this Maze of Ith-style effect can give players fits when entering the red zone. There was a time when I thought the three land cost of Kor Haven was too much but I’ve come around to its power level and seen it played to great effect in other Cubes.

So concludes the exhaustive M11 based Cube update. Of course it’s a little late in the game as Scars has been released but I promise the next update will be on its way very shortly. Thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings and happy Cubing.

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