New cube columnist!

There’s a new columnist for SCG cube, and it’s Justin Parnell!

Here’s Justin’s inaugeral article – where he discusses his cubing manifesto

Here’s his twitter.

Enyjoy!


Card Evaluation – Leonin Relic-Warder

Pros

  • 2 power for 2
  • silver bullet on a stick

Contra

  • CC cost
  • in a stacked section
  • no evasion

General Comments

I really liked Ronom Unicorn when it was in my cube. It was a cool bear, and it could just swing until my opponent played control magic or whatever, and then I could kill the annoying enchantment, in my aggro deck, without being 2 for 1d. So, in short, I really like Leonin Relic-Warder. He’s got a big tempo bonus, and if you play in a powered environment, he gets a lot better. Turn 2, take out your mox? Sweet.

I can see this guy having tons of value in any WX aggro deck, since  LR-W is on a body, which makes it a lot better for those decks than Disenchant.  Getting a body to beat down with, in addition to a silver bullet is the key value piece for this card. My problem with it is, is that white two drops is probably the tightest section in cube (except like,green four drops?), and so a CC card has to be insane to make it in. My current CC cards are Knight of Meadowgrain , Soltari Monk and Soltari Priest. I don’t think LR-W is on that standard, so it doesn’t make the cut at 360.

I’m sure there’s some benefit to the animate dead combo with this. I just can’t see it.

Verdict:500+


New format!

Hey there!

In an effort to get more content out, and more people reading this, I’ve got a new schedule for segments coming out in this blog!

Monday : A card evaluation

Tuesday: Article about managing the cube

Wednesday:Nothing

Thursday:Nothing

Friday:A card evaluation

Saturday: article about drafting the cube

Sunday: You make the pick!

 

On Wednesday/ Thursday, I might highlight any interesting cube videos, or link to articles by other cube owners. I may also take the time , on a sunday, to make note of everything I’ve learned about cube in that week.

I hope I’ve been clear, and I hope this new structure works!

Sexy.

nb: These days are in the UK,and if I don’t get something out on the day, I’ll just double up the next.


You make the pick!

Imagine this is your first pack! What would your first, second, third, and last picks be?

Cards are :

Top Row : Vindicate , Mirror Entity, Mana Drain, Mystical Tutor, Duress

Middle Row: Great Sable Stag , Char, Tombstalker , Ajani Vengeant, Mox Jet

Bottom Row: Masticore, Mother of Runes, Nevinyrral’s Disk , Kargan Dragonlord, Eternal Witness

Thanks!

Put your reasons in the comments below!

Thanks,

Sexy.


Blue Sky Thinking, and cube

I hate the phrase ‘blue sky thinking’. I also hate the phrase ‘thinking outside the box’.  Because they don’t tell you what they mean. They mean thinking without regular constraint. Thinking outside the conventional. Thinking with the dogma of the ordinary.

 

I’ll give an example. Back when Mirrodin Besieged was released, I cut Flickerwisp for Mirran Crusader. My reasons for doing so were triplicate : It had a low MD % , it had one toughness, and double strike was ‘unique’ like Flickerwisps ability. So I cut it, there was some sadness, but in the end, I was happy with the change.

Fast forward to now.  My cube is the best it’s ever been. So , I’m looking for ideas for cube, and I compare my cube to Mark Oberdries’ cube. Literally, I got his list up on screen, went through my cube in my hands, and wrote down every card he ran which I didn’t (he has to run some of these, I’m at a smaller size), but more importantly, I made particular note of the cards I ran which he didn’t. The main culprits stood out : Black Knight and Glorious Anthem.

Why were they still there? In my head, the old dogmatic voice – ‘To promote aggro in a colour, you must have a sufficient density of one and two drops to ensure the deck can curve out properly from as early as possible as consisntently as possible’, so I left Black Knight in. Glorious Anthem though, stood out. With Hero of Bladehold, Accorder Paladin and Soltari Champion at 2,3 and 4 mana, did I really need another anthem? Yes, and that’s why I’ve got Ajani. but after that, really? a fifth one? No. With the variety of superior choices, I saw no reason to take Glorious Anthem anymore, and so I sought for choices ; To Flickerwisp we return. Now, instead of the poor points I listed before, what’s good about it? It enables blink, an archetype which struggles in my cube. It can move blockers. It’s a 3 evasive power for 3.  It’s interesting. Boom. Does it matter that a few cubes have dropped flickerwisp? Of course not. Does it matter that I dropped flickerwisp? It used to, but I got over my mental block, and rediscovered a great card.

There’s not a huge point to a lot of my pointless rambling, but I have this advice for any cuber (cubist?) who is stuck for ideas of what to add to their cube. Defy convention.Think past what everyone is thinking, and reanalyse staples. If you don’t experiment, you’ll never know. It was a generally accepted fact that 3 per pair was the minimum you could go to in any size cube for multicolour, but I recently dropped to 2, and the results have been fantastic.

Cheers for reading,

Sexy.


A holistic view

Generally speaking, there are two things I take into account when making a change my cube : Holism, and Power.

Power is defined by the raw power of the card. Time Walk is incredibly powerful, Woodfall Primus is very powerful.  The power of a card is it’s potency to do something insane, or to break a rule of magic. Obviously these are very rough guides of what power is, but you get the idea. To me, power is always a positive value, from 0 , like bog hoodlums, to 10 , ancestral recall.

Holism is a greek word, meaning that the cube is different from the sum of all it’s cards. In layman’s terms, it’s how well your cube functions as a set.  This means how well certain cards come together to form archetypes, whether you’ve got enough artifact hate, whether you’ve got a varied metagame. There are varying levels of holism in a card as well. For example, Darksteel Colossus is negatively holistic, since almost no deck will ever be able to run it.

Flickerwisp is a very interesting card in this way. You have a fairly high powered card, an evasive 3 power for 3, which can temporarily remove a blocker. However,you can also use it to blink your own creatures, to abuse their ETB/LTB effects.

For most cards, you have to find a balance. Tinker is a very powerful card, and can have an archetype built around it. The trouble comes when your deck is bad when you don’t find tinker, and I think that’s the kind of ‘build-around’ card which should be lost in cube. Build-around cards can define your cube in a rotisserie draft, where they can be abused to their fullest extent. Tinker is a good example of a build around card, where you’ll try and draft some massive artifact creature to cheat into play early ; However, if you don’t run many robots in your cube, Tinker will lose value. Upheaval and Wildfire encourage you to draft low casting mana artifacts, but in a powered cube, these are likely high picks anyway. The ease with which you can build around a card, given it early, is a factor in it’s place in cube.

An example of a powerful ‘build-around’ card which shouldn’t be in cubes is Oath of Druids. OaD shouldn’t be run in cubes because it encourages you to run very few creatures, which is pretty hard in green, and then relies on you drawing OaD. Without OaD, you’re probably left with a GX control deck, which isn’t necessarily bad ; UG control gets played fairly regularly here, but rarely any other type of GX control arises, so you can assume your GX control deck won’t be very good.

As you can see, for the most part, it’s pretty easy to see the balance between how a card interacts with the rest of your set, and how powerful a card is when it doesn’t come together. Then there are some harder examples. Tezzeret, the Seeker, for example, should be incredibly powerful the smaller your cube gets ; he can tutor up moxen, sol ring, and can untap them at will, functioning as a garruk, but with better ramp. On the flip side however, the value of tutoring these cards decreases as you go down in size, since there’s a higher density of them anyway, and the relative power level of your blue section increases faster than the power of tezzeret targets. In the same way, Ranger of Eos should get a lot better as your cube gets smaller, since there’s a higher density of powerful one drops, like Kird Ape, or Isamaru. The trouble is, as you get smaller, the number of cards at any given mana cost decreases too, so when you reach 360, where RoE should be at it’s best, it’s not as good as the other heavyweights at 4 mana in white ; Calciderm ,Hero of Bladehold and Kor Sanctifiers. I’d actually say RoE isn’t too far behind though, so hopefully it’s time will come.

Some entire cubes choose to be more holistic than powerful. Tribal cubes, artifact cubes, and other theme cubes are testament to this. Your cube is a set of your choosing ; that’s basically the definition. You need to find a balance between how powerful the cards you add are, and how well those cards interact as a set ; Where that balance is will define your cube, and how enjoyable it is for your group.

Thanks for reading,

Sexy.


M12 – Review

Ho ho ho!

I performed poorly in my prerelease, going 3-2 in a 30 man event. Oh well! M12 has provided us with some nice goodies, although generally fairly light on cubeable cards, there are some gems in the dirt.

For the purposes of this, I’ll only be covering the new cards.

White

Alabaster Mage – I really like this cycle, and it’s a pretty good cycle. A 2/1 for 1W is standard, and it’s ability is great in the midrange vs aggro match, or the midrange mirror. The body means it’s still relevant in the aggro too, so it kinda reminds me of lone missionary. Sadly, white two drops are stacked, so this won’t make the cut in mid – small sized cubes.  Perhaps if the activation cost was lower, it’d make the cut, but for now :

Verdict : 900+

Angelic Destiny – Ultimately, this is basically a midrange card. I can see it being sweet in aggro too, but turning your Troll Ascetic into a huge angel is the strength of this card. Like alabaster mage above, however, it suffers from being in a very very stacked section of cube, and I don’t think it’s powerful enough to displace wraths, geddon, moat etc. It also suffers that it’s not got rancors ability ; in fact, rancors’s ability is strictly better – Rancor gets returned if the wearer is exiled, bounced , or dies, whereas the angel auramancer has to die for it to recur. That takes it out of the list of considerables to me.

Verdict: 700+

Gideon’s Avenger – This badman reminds me a lot of Taurean Mauler – it’s a lot better in multiplayer. It’s fairly sweet, but too dependent on my opponent. If it’s going to be a serious problem for my opponent, they just won’t attack. it’s a great midrange card, and can break a stalemate. The problem is, I don’t know anyone who’s looking for a midrange only card.

Verdict : 800+

Gideon’s Lawkeeper – Very divided opinion of this. I’m a big fan of Goldmeadow Harrier, so I quite like this. It’s great news for pauper cubes, and it’s great news for cubes which run Goldmeadow Harrier, because now they can run two! yay!

Verdict : 600 + , pauper

Grand Abolisher  – I actually got one of these in my prerelease, and it was very solid. Thing is, is that a lot of decks really just won’t care about it. It forces your opponent to make moves which were otherwise not optimal , like killing your creature on their turn instead of yours, but not a huge amount. It won’t make it into smaller cubes, since it’s not as good as the soltaris or knight of meadowgrain, but if you include sideboard-only cards in your cube, this hoses blue, a LOT. If it were uncounterable, it’d be even better, but it stops Icy Manipulator, it stops counterspells, and it stops the uncertainty you get playing blue.

Verdict : 700+

Timely Reinforcements – I got this in my M12 prerelease, and it was certainly my MVP. It’s a great card for slower decks, since it blanks a a turn or two of damage, and the presence it gives you no the board is not awful. The problem is , is that it requires you to be losing to be used for maximum effect ,and you have to really be losing – using one mode or the other isn’t worth it, it’s only good when you get both modes. Unfortunately, this inconsistency makes it a lot worse – if it did both all the time, we’d all be very happy, but due to it’s conditions, a miss from me.

Verdict : 900+

Nothing for most cubes here, but there’s plenty to tighten up the big cubes with.

Blue

Frost Breath – A decent removal spell in blue. Two creatures for two turns is pretty fair for 3 mana, especially at instant speed. I don’t know a huge amount about pauper, but I imagine this is at least passable in a pauper cube. I rather like it, but I’m not sure it’s necessary in such a deep colour as blue.

Verdict : 1000+ , pauper

Jace, Memory Adept – This is the fastest clock in blue. If you have a choice of Morphling, Jwar Jwar, or Jace to have in play early on, Jace is easily the best. Jace wins in 3 turns flat. Morphling and Jwar Jwar both take 5, and Jwar Jwar even comes down a turn later. There isn’t a huge amount to say about Jace, other than that he should probably replace a blue finisher in your cube, since that’s the function he holds. Jace is also like Sorin, in that he only has one ability – the ultimate is nothing outside of EDH or crazy multiplayer, and the + ability should only be used if you’re struggling to protect jace for any reason. Heck, if you can only get 2 activations off jace, you can still kill your opponent by just stalling and letting themselves draw themselves out. Let’s say you’re on the play, and you’ve cast Jace on the curve. Your opponent has drawn 4 cards, plus their opening hand, so they’re down to 29 cards in their library. Mill them, pass the turn, they’re down to 18 cards in their library. Next turn, same deal, they’re down to 7 cards in their library. At this point, Ancestral Recall is your weapon, or Baby Jace.  They can kill jace now, and you can just stall to victory. I underested Jace at first, but like the others, Jace is insane.

Verdict: 360

Phantasmal Bear – No. This card is bad. Don’t be tricked by the fact it’s a 2/2 for U. Heck, even if it were a vanilla 2/2 for U, I wouldn’t include it. Including a single aggro card in a control-orientated blue section is like removing a card from your blue section. Blue isn’t currently at a stage where true U aggro is possible, only U tempo, and U tempo doesn’t even want this.

Verdict : Just don’t.

Phantasmal Dragon – It’s a plague sliver / blastoderm / calciderm for blue! Auto include, right? No. Bad! Blue has no need for easily to kill beatsticks. Blue has awesome four drops, awesome five drops, and awesome six drops.  I can see it coming in possibly in the smaller large cubes (about 600 cards), but to be honest, blue is so deep, there’s no need for this.

Verdict : 700+

Phantasmal Image – Pretty sweet. A clone for 2 mana is insane most of the time, especially when you either use it as a kill spell for a legend, negating kokushos and yoseis and all those other horrible legends, or you can copy somethnig with hexproof, and enjoy a cheaper creature, or you can steal someone’s CIP ability, which is always fun. I can imagine copying a skinrender, or a shriekmaw, and going to town. There’s a huge amount of scope for this card, and the effect is usually so expensive, the drawback shouldn’t matter.

Verdict : 450+

There are some fairly cool cards in blue this set, but only Jace and the Clone variant are top picks. Interesting, but not busted.

Black

Onyx Mage – Coming back to this cycle. Black aggro struggles in larger cubes , and this could help it out a little. On small bodies, deathtouch is like pseudo evasion. Your opponent can’t chump block, and that’s actually surprisingly useful. I’d also run this in pauper, perhaps.

Verdict : 550+ , pauper

Well, black sucked. Kinda.

Red

Chandra, the Firebrand – Here’s the jackpot! Chandra is easy to play, with only a single red mana symbol, which works in her favour. Her +1 is either a very very slow clock, or used to ping off some weenies. Not a great ability, but certainly useful. The -2 ability is pretty sweet ,since the worst you can copy is some cheap burn, which might be enough to give you  the win. At the other end of the spectrum, double wildfire sounds bonkers, and doubling an X spell seems awesome too. Don’t forget you can also copy multicolour cards, so terminate or lightning helix can be copied for awsesome fun, or double Plow Under would be unreasonable, and double timewalk is bonkers. Her ultimate is powerful, yet flexible. You can use it to kill a walker, kill 4 creatures and go to the dome for 6. Alternatively, you can wipe the board and swing ftw. I’m not sure what most people will cut for the new chandra. I pondered on the old chandra, but they perform very different duties.

Verdict : 360

Chandra’s Phoenix – Another sweet card. A colourshifted Skyknight Legionaire would’ve made it into a lot of cubes, but giving it a method of recursion is wonderful. I’m not sure where the flavour is with this card, but I really don’t care. This is a great source of reach for red decks, and gives red a second way to get through wrath effects. Even bonkers with Survival as a second Squee, or to make Chandra Ablaze vaguely playable.

Verdict :405

Stormblood Berserker – I’m of the opinion this is a sleeper in the cube community at the moment. In a hard aggro deck , this card is nuts. As we’ve seen from Accorder Paladin and Pork Leg, 3 power turn 2 is very very good, especially on an easy to play body. Now Wizards give up this, with evasion! If you think you can reliably play this in a deck turn 2 or 3, you should get it in your deck. If your cube produces red hard aggro regularly, then this card should easily be in. It’s a great feeling to go moutain, one drop, plains, swing, berserker, but it’s still very good if you’re attacking off a 2 drop. Hell, I think I’d still be happy to play this turn 4 off some burn in a lot of decks. Once you add the fact that red has very few good two drops, and only two great 1R drops, it almost seems absurd to me people aren’t running this more often. I could be wrong running this at 360, but it doesn’t feel like it.

Verdict : 405 

Red has some sweet cards in this set. As a general rule, it’s looking like the new core set format is good for red.

Green

Garruk, Primal Hunter  – The more I look at this card, the more obscene it seems. Pumping out 3/3s every turn seems pretty awesome in itself, since Elspeth for C less only makes 1/1s, and she’s a top-tier cube card. The – ability seems incredible in a midrange deck, where you can easily run out of cards.  The ultimate is the deal-breaker though. Short of a wrath effect, or Maelstrom pulse, I see very very few scenarios in which your opponent can last more than a turn or two after that ultimate has gone off.  There are two problems with this garruk. Firstly 2CCC means he might not come down til you’re at 6 or 7 lands in some games, and that also makes it harder to ramp into him with artifacts. Secondly, it’s not best to ramp into garruk with artifacts, since when that ultimate goes off, you want as many land as possible out to make it boom. The only thing I really want to change about this garruk though, is that the wurms don’t have trample. Still, this garruk is a great ‘walker, huge power, horrible cost, perfect.

Verdict:360

Garruk’s Horde – This is surprisingly unhorrible. It has trample, which is almost necessary. The creature playing ability is pretty sweet, but the only problem is the lack of passing the vindicate verdict.

Verdict : 800+

Primordial Hydra – *whistles* I really don’t know what to make of this card. If it has any sort of protection ,it’d be an auto include. the problem is, if you’re playing it early, like turn 3, it’s incredibly tiny, an awful turn 3 play, and gets eaten by red removal. At bigger sizes, it gets huge, but it still eats removal like a bitch. I don’t know, if you run a removal light cube,this is awesome. My problem with it is that it’s too slow and small early, and it doesn’t pass the vindicate verdict like a ‘real’ fatty should. However ,it is certainly a cool card :3

Verdict : 600+

Overall,green only got the ‘walker, but there’re no gaps in green, so finding a cut for this will be hard enough.

Conclusion

Overall, there are very few auto includes in M12, and only the three walkers are slam dunks.  My advice would be, wait, spend your cash on some cards you’re otherwise lacking, or pimping your cube, and wait til the insane prices on the ‘walkers drop. Unless you think one of them is the next JTMS.

Thanks for reading,

Sexy.