The Commander sealed products are always great for cubers. Wizards must partly design the cards for cube play, as every commander set has had at least 1 staple involved. This year is no different, and in fact might be the strongest set of cards that are cubeable so far! So without further ado, the cards:
Teferi, Temporal Archmage: I’ve read justifications where people say this guy is good because he’s either a 6 loyalty planeswalker that netted you a card or he can be a 4 loyalty planeswalker for free with the untapping ability. For 6 mana I’m not impressed, and as a baseline for planeswalkers that is not what I’m looking for. Cube is full of 6 mana cards that are way better and binders are full of 6 mana cards that are just better than Teferi in so many situations that aren’t being played that a planeswalker which gives me underwhelming card selection/advantage or untaps a bunch of stuff just isn’t going to cut it. I want my Planeswalkers to give me threats, protection ,or more than a card. And where other free spells are sweet in cube like Time Spiral and Treachery, you gain tangible results immediately with those cards. If I lose my Teferi the next turn, does it feel like I’ve gained anything but a 1 for 1? Perhaps in the largest of cubes or if you heavily support Time Vault combo he could find a space, but I’d rather a creature I can reanimate or a spell that does more.
Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath: Slob has been re-done, and holy crap is he awesome. He is essentially a 5/5 flier factory, and at the low cost of every other turn and some life that sounds like a sweet deal to me. Making 5/5 fliers for loyalty counters and some life is really good, and that’s the only ability that really matters. The other abilities might as well be blank because they don’t really register for me in terms of rating this card. Making up a point or two of life with the +2 ability does making the self-draining demon hurt less, but even if that ability did nothing I’d be excited about this card. That’s how amazing making 5/5 fliers is, it’s A-OK as a sole ability. Unchecked Ob Nixilis is a thorough beating, and even with some resistance a 5/5 flier will stop a lot of attacks and kill players quick. Ob Nixilis is insane with the Wildfire packages since both him and his demons live through the burn, adding another planeswalker you want to pair up with Wildfire and Burning. He’s a hard threat in cube, which is full of big bad beaters
The biggest issue with Slob is that he isn’t a creature. Black is huge into reanimation, and having fatties that you can’t pull from the graveyard is a liability in the mid-to-smaller cubes in that color. There is only so much space for top-end fat, so if you were to run Ob Nixilis you probably couldn’t run too many other non-creature curve toppers. But how many others in black do you really want to run? Sorin Markov is past his time, and outside of Academy Rector-supported cubes I’d never cube with Yawgmoth’s Bargain. Perhaps I’m missing some other options, but it seems OK that Ob Nixilis would be the only non-reanimateable fatty. All the evasive power that Ob Nixilis pushes out is worth not being able to bring him back from the graveyard to play.
Daretti, Scrap Savant: He is tough to judge. On one hand, costing 4 is not bad for a PW that loots and Trash for Treasures for his abilities. On the other hand, do cubes really want that? Personally I don’t run Goblin Welder as I never have big enough drafts with my playgroup to insure that the artifact.dec in red is consistently drafted. Welder is a lot worse when you aren’t getting all the artifacts you need in the draft pool, as you’ll be either missing the low or top-end. While Daretti is fine if you can’t pull that deck together as a looter, is that something I really want at 4, a spot that is tight across the board? Is fine OK for a card that is taking of valuable space? Including Daretti into your cube is very cube-dependent and playgroup-centric, since your players need to want to make that deck to need Daretti. He seems to be amazing in those decks, as multiple Trash for Treasures can blow games out quick, but he may also be too slow at 4.
Freyalise, Llanoway’s Fury: Repeatable Naturalizes are cool, but for 5 mana in green there needs to be a much better upside. In fact, you really have to work for those repeatable Naturalizes since she starts at 3 loyalty and you’re certainly not playing her because she makes elves. If Freyalise started at 5 loyalty I’d consider her more as 2 Naturalizes unanswered is OK, but there are better 5 drops in green that I’m not playing which put a ton of pressure on my opponent, which is the type of ability I want to ramp to.
Feldon of the Third Path: If red is drafted a lot as a reanimator color, then Feldon is a staple. If the Goblin Welder deck is drafted a lot, then he’s still a staple. Feldon is really cool, giving the reanimator and Welder decks a new and sometimes (often?) better way of bringing your fatty back, as you can activate it during your main step or EOT so you can potentially swing in with two of the same giant thing. Even without both of the above being true, Feldon is sweet in any cube where red is not strictly aggro-only, which I imagine would be a majority of them. There will be times where Feldon is a lot worse and you need a creature to enter the battlefield and stay there, but if blocking is the concern you can always hold him up on your opponent’s turn. Feldon gives your red side of things a unique angle at the reanimator concept, letting you trade a permanent presence for repeatable hastey guys. If you run Eldrazi Feldon finally gives you a consistent way to bring them back from the dead without losing them, as you activate Feldon in response to the shuffle trigger from the Eldrazi.
As my cube is currently situated, I’m middle of the road. My players and I don’t always go for Rakdos Reanimator builds, but with Feldon around I could see it being an incentive. Is Sneak Attack a necessary tool to make Feldon good enough to include? My instinct says he’d be good without it, or maybe Feldon is the one that gives Sneak Attack another point of legitimacy? I have mixed feelings about Feldon. Good! But mixed.
Containment Priest: In the largest of cubes where your sections could have room for silver bullet cards like Priest she might find a spot. The effect is super powerful, hosing reanimation and other cheating strategies at a cheap cost with an acceptable body to boot. But if you’re not stopping something from coming in then a 2/2 with flash is pretty meh. In the mid-to-small sized cubes you need either wider-spread hate bears or guys with evasion, since you can’t afford to be main decking a bear with flash in your aggressive decks. I’m not a fan because of my cube size, but if I went to 720-1000 I’d at least see if I had room for her.
Flesh Carver: Holy shit! Flesh Carver is insane. A 2/2 with intimidate as a base is OK. A solid limited card that always makes your black decks, but certainly not cubeable. The sacrifice effect makes Flesh Carver a pretty sizeable threat, along with working with many of the black cards. Whether it’s the recurrable creatures like Bloodsoaked Champion/Gravecrawler/Reassembling Skeleton or any of the many token makers, there are a lot of ways in black to abuse the ability. With these stats, I think Bloodsoaked Champion is a fine card, and…
…wait, when it dies it replaces itself with an X/X where X is equal to its horror? Jesus, that is nuts. If they answer it right away, you have a 2/2 which is fine for an immediate replacement. If you can activate the sac ability once and it resolves, you now have a 4/4 which is super hard to deal with after you’ve already dealt with one 4/4. You can see where I’m going, as a 6/6 as an 8/8 etc. are better and better. I think, over time, Flesh Carver will prove to be one of the best if not the best black 3 drop for cube. I might like Nighthawk more since it performs in multiple roles pretty effortlessly, but as an easier to cast card that not only performs multiple roles but becomes one of the best cards in certain archetypes, Flesh Carver seems like a swiss army knife of black doom. Beyond that I’d need to be convinced that any other 3 drops is better. Sign me up. Now.
Impact Resonance: Time for an exercise: think back to all the cube games involving red that you’d played in or seen. Replace burn you have with this card. Is it way worse? Is it actually unplayable in a lot of spots? The best case scenario of Impact Resonance might be an insane blow out, but ignoring the worst case scenario of “dead card that I wish was anything else” is not a price I’m willing to pay to include a card. If you’re running all 3 of the incinerate variants I could understand wanting to switch things up, but you’ll get sick of people complaining how Impact Resonance lost them the game by being uncastable quickly.
Siege Behemoth: If Craterhoof Behemoth needed to attack or something to activate his awesome ability, I could see Siege Behemoth being better since it will make it to combat more. But if you’re Craterhoof is triggering its ETB effect, then you’ve mostly likely lost as your team will still get some bonus + the trample. Costing 7 is not that much of a benefit to make the switch, and do cubes really need the Craterhoof effect? My cube would have to be pretty large and my players would have to be pretty loud about Siege Behemoth for me to include it at all, especially over the better-and-similar Craterhoof.
Scrap Mastery: It’s a nice idea, but like I’ve said earlier, I would have to be heavy into the Goblin Welder decks and archetypes to want to include Scrap Mastery. It’s an amazing card if you need something to be picked 15th every time. Perhaps down the line there will be enough for me to want to support it, and if the artifact deck is drafted a lot then Scrap Mastery is a one-sided Living Death a lot of the time. Not for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s not for anyone.
Song of the Dryads: Daaaamn, that is what green needs. Creature removal has always been one of green’s biggest issues, so why not give them an o-ring variant that deals with everything? Giving your opponent a land is not negligible, but that is a cost I am happy to pay for an o-ring in green, especially since I should be out-ramping my opponent. Too many times in base/heavy green decks there have been top-deck stand offs where you hope to out-creature them while they hope for their removal, which is a much better spot to be in. It sucks to have to force through your damage with attacks and give your opponent to cream of the blocks, and it’s much easier to just deal with the problem card and move on with your life. (And taking away theirs.) Song of the Dryads finally gives green a way to deal with things that are not just non-creature.
I think too much stock is being put into the fact that the thing becomes a land. Sure, ramping your opponent kind of sucks, but does it suck as much as an Inferno Titan? A Jitte? A Jace, the Mind Sculptor? Would we rather face that and try to out-thing those cards, something a green deck really has a tough time doing in a lot of spots? Or would we rather go back to the way things were, where big fatties took dumps on your board that were near impossible to wipe? There will be very few times where I’ll knowingly avoid casting this card to not give them a land.
Hallowed Spiritkeeper: As a card without consideration for anything else in your cube, Hallowed Spiritkeeper seems good. A 3/2 vigilence for 1WW is fine, and the dying clause is pretty nuts. In an empty GY he gives you one flier, and the further you get the harder the beating. Wrath? Army. Late game spot removal? Army. Army? Uh…army. Turning your 3/2 into fliers will spell certainly doom, and with Recurring Nightmare Hallowed Spiritkeeper seems like a lot of fun.
As a card with consideration for anything else in your cube, is this better than the other white 3 drops? I’d say it’s not better than: Brismaz, a strong threat on its own which doesn’t replace itself when it dies but can win games on his own; Blade Splicer, a lot of damage that performs better in the same recursion decks; Mirror Entity, which fits a specific role and is one of the reasons you try to play that deck; Flickerwhisp, which is pretty close IMO but gets the nod by enabling the blinks; Mirran Crusader, which I like as a unique paladin variant that’s gross with equipment; and Silverblade Paladin, because apparently I am a sucker for double strike. Beyond those guys, do you need him? At what size cube is he playable? Or is he just better than a lot of them? 5 years ago Hallowed Spiritkeeper is an easy include, but we don’t live in a Time Machine world unfortunately.
Overseer of the Damned: A cool card that will probably net you some value, but it’s kind of boring for a 7 drop/reanimator target. There are dream worlds where you Recurring Nightmare this card to either amass a giant army or clear away what they have, but there are cheaper token makers and 187 creatures. I think I’d want a bigger body too; call that greedy, but this is cube where you need to be greedy.
Dualcaster Mage: Typically I’m pretty good with letting go of a card that doesn’t seem great outside of best case scenarios. Dualcaster seems like one of these guys, but I really want Dualcaster Mage to be good! There is something awesome about copying spells, whether it’s yours or your opponents, and I want that ability in my cube. But at three mana, is this guy better than the unplayed Fork? How many red decks are going to be able to have 1RR + another spell open without being too red/clunky? And is he too expensive for mono red? How many non-mono red cards can we really run here? There are a lot of cheap instants and sorceries that you will want to copy, especially in red, and as a 4 or 5 drop in those aggressive decks he could be fine as an EOT Keldon Champion, but is that always going to be the case?
The more you support “spells matter” the better Dualcaster will probably be. This means you run cards like Talrand, Young Pyromancer (who is fine outside of the spells-matter deck but is certainly an all-star in it), Guttersnipe, etc. A majority of cubes don’t run that archetype, but more and more are popping up as Wizards keeps on printing Delver-type cards and his homies. Time will only tell with testing if Dualcaster Mage is only for cubes with the spells-matter deck available or if he’s still good if you’re not running 10-15 instants/sorceries in your deck.
Malicious Affliction: Last but not least, Malicious Affliction is a one-way ticket to value town. Things die, and black is much better at making sure things are dying on both sides of the table than other colors. In pre-and-post combat it should not be an issue turning Malicious Affliction into a 2-for-1. BB is a bit painful, but the upside seems to be worth it. If you can’t trigger morbid, Doom Blade has been a fine cube card since the day it was printed and there’s no reason we should be upset about 1 for 1 removal. The larger the cube the easier it is to include Malicious Affliction, though I have a feeling that double black won’t be enough to stop the affliction from reaching the smallest of cubes. A sometimes effortless, sometimes minimal effort built-in 2 for 1 has to be good enough for cube, right?
Did I miss any? Let us know in the comments, and thanks for reading!