Mirrodin Block was crazy over powered, and the cards included reflect upon this. Cube took a lot from this set, and there were a lot of strategy and archetype cards that emerged from the ranks. Without further adieu, let’s take a look!
Barter in blood: This card has been a funny one, and I’ve seen mixed results in play. Perhaps before Time Spiral and the second Mirrodin block Barter in Blood was a strong card for the black control decks that needed that type of effect or the token based decks that black can support. (Not too sure what cubing was like way back then, so this is all speculation.) Barter in Blood is nice because you can use it to try and manipulate the board in your favor, pumping out a bunch of cheaper threats in tokens and recurring creatures that you can return from the graveyard. This sounds nice, and sometimes works, but ends up being better in theory than practice. If your opponent reaches 3+ creatures, the neutering of the boards doesn’t really effect them if they still get to keep their best creature. Playing this into a Grave Titan or a Cloudgoat would be awful, since you’re not getting a whole card for yours plus whatever random creatures you’ll have to sacrifice. In smaller cubes I’d pass since Damnation is awesome and Black Sun’s Zenith pulls off the leave-a-guy method better, but if you’re looking for a lot of those types of effect in black in a larger cube, it’s worth a shot.
Bonesplitter: This is a fine card that is more powerful the stronger your cube and playgroup want to play aggro. Playing your one drop, dropping the splitter the next turn to equip it and swing for ideally 4 is such a fast start that you’ll soon get in range to alpha strike or burn them out. It turns Soltaris into threats that…erm…threaten lethal damage sooner than later, makes any flying or regular tokens into beat machines. Overall, it’s a card that’s awesome. That being said, if your cube is on the slower side or you don’t support aggro as heavily as others, it might not be the best. Outside of those decks, it’s fairly weak, and is pretty stream-lined as an aggressive-only card. In those aggressive decks, it’s one of the better cards you can have in your opener.
Bottle Gnomes: Aw shit. Tha bottle gnomes, dawg. I’m not sure if lists still run the gnomes, but there have been way too many good artifacts to justify running them now, especially if you’re playing with power. A 1/3 for 3 is way too much, and it ultimately ends up being a bit too slow for what you’re paying. When he’s awesome he kills it, since 3 life is pretty great if you can repeatedly get it and aggro decks get stopped in their tracks if you pull him out from the sideboard. The real reason cubes still run Bottlegnomes is because it’s hilarious when he takes over a game with the life he gains; “Oh shit, the gnomes are back!” Bottle Gnomes is inherently a jolly, fun card in a format that is intended for complex yet fun games—he’s almost a bit of comic relief in a sea of power-gaming. There are probably better options to run, to the detriment of the jolly water bellies.
Chrome Mox: The absolute worst cubeable mox, the usefulness of the card has eluded me. My biggest issue is that, too often, I want the card that I’m imprinting. Pumping out a powerful spell can be devestating, and Chrome Mox is great if you’re dropping a Jace or Show and Tell and what have you early on. But if your play or your mox gets destroyed or answered, you end up so far in the hole that you’ll probably lose. It’s painful to have a sick play only get devestated by an O-Ring or counter, leaving my hand bone dry while he only expels one piece of gas. If your deck can abuse fast starts–and most cubes carry cards that you’ll want to cast way earlier than their spot on the curve–then the Mox is worth running, but if you can’t shut out a game by casting that monster spell early or you lack the card draw to catch-up if things go wrong or your opponent stabilizes, perhaps you might want to avoid running it as a piece of fast mana.
Crystal Shard: Shard is sick; it’s so good, that it’s painful to pay for Erratic Portal since the difference between 3 and 4 is so huge. There are so many creatures in cube that you want to play over and over again. ETB effects that kill other creatures, gain you life, produce an army, and other assorted treats can really crush a match. Crystal Shard allows you to use these guys as your gas, building up a hand full of options until you draw into something better to do with your mana or the repeating creature wins you the game. While I’ve never seen the color option of the ability on the card used, it is nice that the option is there. Against some decks it might be a bit too slow, but if your deck is looking to grind it out through annoying bounce or by out-creaturing your opponent, shard is a sick piece to help that deck come together.
Duplicant: More like Duplican! But in all seriousness, I have been liking Duplicant less lately, although it is a sick card. Against some decks, Duplicant is an expensive 2/4 that has a swords attached to it for 6. Is that enough if I can’t abuse the card? Is 6 too expensive? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen Duplicant get really silly, eliminating boards as he’s flickered or recurred again and again. But when Duplicant is underwhelming, you wish it could be any other card. Also if you try to support a heavy, top-end tinker package, Duplicant is good and bad. It’s good against the decks where you might want to use your Tinker to remove their giant fatty they cheated into play, and it lets Tinker still be relevent if you’ve drawn your actual win condition. But you can’t reliably Tinker in a duplicant early in play, and if everyone snapped up the Wurmcoils and Battlespheres before you could see them, having a Duplicant instead of another bomb artifact can hurt. I wouldn’t fault people for playing this card, because it is certainly strong, but I probably wouldn’t notice if I played a bunch with a cube, it was removed without noticed, and I never saw it in the packs.
Gilded Lotus: I’m a sucker. What can I say? If you shove a card in front of me that says “play every color, draft what you want, just go nuts,” how do I say no to that? I have a hard time. This is a card I didn’t think anything of until I played with it and remembered that casting things that cost 7 plus is awesome, and doing it with any color is kinda crazy. Want to play Griselbrand and Woodfall Primus in the same deck? You’re crazy, but that’s the type of crazy Gilded Lotus subscribes too. If you can’t do anything with 8+ mana a turn, whether it’s multiple activations and castings of cards or just putting out crazy huge things, then running Lotus just to run it isn’t worth it.
Isochron Scepter: This is a silly card that takes a little too much work to make good. How many spells do you need before Isochron is good? How many can you actually get? Unless you’re dedicated control with tons of counters or removal, I find myself only have 4-5 instants at best that I would want to imprint, and that’s being super optimistic. While you can do insane stuff like Ancestral or Mana Drain, if those are one of the few reasons I’m running Isochron Scepter then it’s dangerous since you’ll want to use those earlier. If you don’t have the Isochron with them, then its a terrible late draw. Ancestraling into an Isochron without anything else makes the Visions a draw 2, still insane but not reaching its full value. Scepter ended up always needing too much to work, and it effected the way you played in the early game if you didn’t have it in your opener in a bad way. Not really a fan at all.
Lightning Greaves: I need to play the Greaves more. It’s a sweet card that has wrecked me a bunch, but I find in decks that aren’t playing huge fatties I can’t pull the trigger on including it if I’m deciding whether or not to include it, and this is a mistake I need to get past. I have it stained in my memory that lightning greaves doesn’t do enough; I’m spoiled by my equipment giving sick bonuses or protections from colors or having them be stupid like Jitte. The harder I think about it, the more I remember how often shroud is such a killer. Tapping out for your finisher and then giving it shroud can be such a beating, punishing opponents who do their own tapping out. A lightning greaves by itself is probably not enough to run with Stoneforge though, unless you’re planning on playing big stupid creatures.
Loxodon Warhammer: When I first started cubing, this card was the sickest. So many times in the big, grindy slow games we played, the Warhammer would allow you to slowly get ahead of your opponents, whether it was because you were gaining a ton of life or they would refuse to attack into you. It allowed your little guys to trade with just about everything, and it made a race impossible for your opponent to win. Slowly, as artifacts became better with the release of the second mirrodin block, justifying paying 3 to equip a Warhammer seemed unreasonable. You’ll notice that, other than Batterskull, all the cubable weapons cost 2 or less to equip. It’s insane how big a difference that one mana makes. Cube is a format where every turn could use every mana you could possibly produce. There are a lot of cheap, efficiently costed spells that you’ll want to hold up on your opponent’s turn or play on your own to continue applying pressure. The thing about Warhammer is that if I were to see it, it would definitely make decks, but I would need to accept that it could lose me games by being too expensive and too slow for equipment.
Mindslaver: I’m not so sure about this one. 10 mana to use it within a turn is kind of crazy, and waiting a turn to untap with it when it is an artifact that does nothing on its own or brings nothing to the table is asking a lot. When Mindslaver is good, it should be winning you the game, breaking open locked board states by sending defending creatures in to attack or tapping out a mana base so you can finally jam in your actual win condition. Typically though, Mindslaver needs you to be doing well for it to be good. If you’re behind without much impact on the board, Mindslaver might just be a Timewalk for 6 and 4 or 10. Is that good enough? The card can get silly if you can keep bringing it back with Academy Ruins or a Regrowth effect, but the artifact section is tight and I’d rather be running something that is consistently a bit more proactive and easier to use to your benefit.
Molten Rain: Red needs a disruption identity other than burn to help it against life-gaining abilities and decks reaching 4 on the curve for wraths. It’s not like there are a lot of ways to gain life, but they exist, and there are enough wraths and ways to crush aggressive red decks once you reach that high in the curve that could you leave you at a low life total but stable against a red player that has used all their resources and didn’t get there, going into top deck mode. Cards like Molten Rain, Pillage, and Stone Rain help red stifle an opponent’s board development while he continues to attack with the cheap threats his deck should be mostly made of. These cards are notable better in an unpowered environment, where a 3 mana LD spell can devastate most decks that lack the ability to ramp, but they’re also fine in powered environments where you’re not always facing moxen and such in the early game. Molten Rain is also a shock a high majority of the time, getting you a little bit more value out of a card in a color that needs every card run to do as much as possible in a short time frame. The one and
two drops are asked to do a lot of damage, the burn wants to hit both players and creatures, and the finishers want to get in there for crazy amount of damage that is tough to stop. Molten Rain is a piece of disruption that can shorten the amount of turns you need to kill them, and is a nice card because of that.
Oblivion Stone: Getting rid of planeswalkers is tough. Other than burn—which is not a reliable avenue to take—there is only a few pieces of spot removal and some less reliable cards like Ratchet Bomb. Oblivion Stone is a card that, while kind of slow, can be online by turn 5 if you cast it on curve and it lives, and could also net you a permanent of your own when it goes off. Dealing with not only planeswalkers but all the permanents they could have can let your hand flourish if you plan to have them overextend. If your match up is slow enough, you can get silly with the fate counters and turn Oblivion Stone into a colorless plague wind.
I don’t think Oblivion Stone is too crazy, but running it is cool if you enjoy sweepers and feel like you need an extra way to deal with Planeswalkers.
Platinum Angel: Meh. If it was a 5/5 or 6/6 for 7 it colorless plague wind. I don’t think Oblivion Stone is too crazy, but running it is cool if you enjoy sweepers and feel like you need an extra way to deal with Planeswalkers. might be a little different, but she still dies to disenchant and a variety of damage and burn. There are better artifacts you can run at that cost, and how many do you actually need?
Solemn Simulacrum: Sad Robot has made a lot of cubers happy over the years. The little chubby guy gives cubers so much versatility, whether he’s a speed bump, fixing, or a super abuse-able creature with recursion effects. Decks that have greedy mana, want to cheat up their curve, or can abuse enter and exit the battlefield triggers (well…dies; not every creature can be Thragtusk) want to play Solemn. He’s fine as a 2/2, not dying to absolutely everything, and the value he nets is crazy. In his life span, he’s going to ramp you up one land, give you a 2/2 body, and draw you a card, giving you a 3 for 1 out of one card for 4. Solemn has never won a game on his own, but he lends you the tools needed to get their quicker while fixing your mana and making your hand easier to cast. He’s been a staple, and still is.
Soul Foundry: One time I won a 3 player free-for-all cube game way back in the day with a Mourning Thrull imprinted on a Soul Foundry. I was awful back then, and didn’t understand how ridiculous this statement really is, because that’s ridiculous. \
Talisman Cycle: This is a pretty sweet set of cards. I think Signets are awesome, and will willingly run some that are partly colorless or completely colorless in my decks. Ramp is such a strong strategy that sometimes I do whatever it takes to get there, and if that means running Selesnya Signet in an Esper deck that is splashing white for a Swords or something…then so be it. Talisman is cool because it can be that colorless option while also giving you the colors for the lives. I think the Talismen are super underrated as cube cards—is paying a life for colors that you don’t always need that terrible that they can’t be run? Aren’t signets awesome? In my mind, the Talismen are in the same vein. The lack of auto colors does hurt, but ramp is still ramp, and being able to tap for colors for life is often enough.
Thirst for Knowledge: Drawing three for 2U at instant speed is very good, and when the discard clause can be nullified by a unneeded artifact like a signet that might not progress your board enough or if you’re running reanimator and can use a pitching card, Thirst for Knowledge gets much better. It’s tougher to throw Thirst into any deck than a similar card like Compulsive Research, but if your cube supports the artifact theme it’s a strong card there. Even without a ton of artifacts, draw 3-discard 2 is not absolutely awful, and if you’re a control deck that is lacking card advantage, you can be pitching bad spells for the match up or excess lands that you’re drawing. Thirst is not the craziest card, but its power level is high enough to justify inclusion if you like its style.
Tooth and Nail: If you run enough big dumb fatties, especially if some of those are Eldrazi, Tooth and Nail is one of the most fun cards you can play with. While casting the spell for 9 is how it typically goes, it’s a definite possibility that you have your two fatties—or just one big dumb one like Emrakul—in your hand with it to bring in that casting it for 7 is possible. There are few better feelings than casting this card, bringing in an Emrakul and something worse like a Griselbrand, and then winning the game. I love big dumb shit like this card, spells that reward you for reaching that mana and then finish the game soon after. Of course, if your cube is lacking in the top end it might not be worth running Tooth and Nail, but if you’re crazy enough to run Emrakul, be crazy enough for Tooth and Nail.
Troll Ascetic: The Thrun-before-Thrun, Ascetic is a good beater that can be downright deadly if played on turn 2 off an elf. 3/2 regenerate can trade with and get through a lot of boards, and the hexproof makes it so equipping the Ascetic will be good game soon after. Hexproof, especially in cube where all the decks should have a lot of removal, is such a broken ability. Cube is a format that has a lot of interaction from both sides of the table, and Ascetic flips the bird to their kill spells and attacks or blocks for years. This might be a crazy statement, but I think Ascetic is a staple.
Viridian Shaman: Uktabi Orangutan is good enough that having a second is worth it. There are enough problem Artifacts that you want to deal with early, and the naturalize effect on a creature can be abused nicely. Solid card that’s boring but effective—not too much more to say about that.
And thats the mirrodin set! Any cards you think I missed? Let me know how stupid I am in the comments! Thanks! Exclamation points!