It’s been a while, months, but we’re finally returning to finish our look-back set review on the original Mirrodin block, ending with Fifth Dawn! The third set in the block, there were a number of cubeable cards, both fringe and staples, that concluded the high power level that Mirrodin generally had. So without further ado, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and talk about why cards do or don’t suck.
All Sun’s Dawn: A super fringe card, All Sun’s Dawn is stronger the more you support combo. Casting this in some 3 or 4 color combo decks can net you a huge amount of card advantage, putting you right back into the game. You can buy back cantrips of multiple colors, or use it as a crutch to finish off a not-enough storm count to end the game a turn or two after you officially “went off”. This card is sweet with Dream Halls, either cast for free to leave the mana open to cast the spells or hard casted so you can use Dream Halls with whatever you grab. If you’re not casting All Sun’s Dawn for free or super cheap, it is kind of awful. In decks with 2 colors it’s often worse than Restock, and 5 is insanely bad if it’s only a Regrowth. If you heavily support combo and you have players actively looking to draft it, All Sun’s Dawn is probably worth it, but otherwise you’ll be disappointed.
Beacon of Unrest: My brother ran this card for a little bit. It was fine for what it was as Reanimation spells are solid at most costs, but targeting artifacts ultimately proved to be not enough to justify costing 5 for long-term inclusion. Drawing it again is nice, but that’s still unlikely when you’ll have ~20 cards left in your deck. I like Unburial Rites because it is an almost guaranteed 2 for 1, but with the average being once it seems pretty plain.
Condescend: The best of the x-counter spells, I think this is a little underpowered for a 360 but can be argued into any cube 400+. You don’t want too many x counters because they are so situationally good, but being able to make your own Mana Leak can be nice when your opponent can pay a lot of mana but not enough. The real reason Condescend is good is because Scry 2 is almost as good as Draw a Card. Countering their spell and then setting up your draws is super strong and something you want to be doing when you counter a spell. At Scry 1 this might still be playable, but 2 is that sweet spot where you’re start seeing enough cards to make a huge impact. It’s nice that you can Scry even if they are able to pay, turning a useless counter spell at times into at least a Scry 2, which is better than a dead card, and you’d also be forcing them to use more mana which can be better than countering the spell itself.
Crucible of Worlds: This is directly dependent on how many lands you can sacrifice for an ability. If you are lacking fetches, strip mine, wasteland—reasonable since these cards aren’t exactly cheap—then Crucible is not the best. If you have the full suite, then Crucible is pretty awesome. Locking an opponent out with Strip Mine ends a lot of games quickly, and Wasteland locks can keep a majority of their mana shut down. Crucible is nice combined with Armageddon and Wildfire too, taking what is a symmetrical effect and truly making it one sided. Even with cards like fetchlands or manlands you can rebuy them to thin your deck or use them as a perpetual blocker/attacker. I’m not sure I would add Crucible to a 360 cube since it does have a pretty specific application, but I like it in mid sized cubes.
Engineered Explosives: I’m not in love with EE but I think its fine and I’m never disappointed to see it. Destroying anything and his pals up to CMC 5 is pretty strong, knocking off anything from mana rocks to creatures to planeswalkers. The cost is not too prohibiting, but it does mean that you’ll want that 2 mana open often to make sure you’re not wasting an investment on something that seems important. Is this better than Oblivion Stone? Ratchet Bomb? This is the question you need to ask yourself when including any number of these cards, because they all have the same types of roles while doing different things. Depending on how much you like EE it could be included anywhere from 360 up.
Etched Oracle: I’ve never understood why people think this is cubeable. So I have to pay 3 different colored mana for it to start being OK, which makes it just a hill giant. THEN I need to sac it to draw 3 cards. That’s a lot of work to make an awful Harmonize. There are better cards you can run, though if you really love the card I could understand including it in a larger cube. Otherwise, I’m all set. It’s not that this is generally a bad effect, as drawing 3 is always awesome, but there are better artifacts you can run and as a guy who loves to play decks that would run Oracle I’ve been disappointed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks to OG CharonSquared for pointing out that you have to remove four token. No thanks.)
Eternal Witness: Now we’re talking. An actual staple, Eternal Witness is a serious card with serious applications. Regrowth is already a great cube card, and adding it to a cheaply costed creature is pretty absurd. There are so many ways to abuse Eternal Witness, whether through blinking him, returning him to your hand with Crystal Shard, or bringing him back from the graveyard with Recurring Nightmare or Sun Titan. Eternal Witness is a lot stronger in cube than regular limited since the quality of card he is grabbing his much higher; returning something like Time Walk or Ancestral Recall will result in a lot of scooped up boards and victories for you. Eternal Witness is a staple in any sized cube, probably good enough for the random 180s that you see floating around. (Also I know that Eternal Witness is technically a “she”, but I already wrote “he” a whole bunch so we’re sticking with that.)
Grafted Wargear: One of the most underrated cards in cube, people are easy to dismiss Grafted Wargear because you can get 2 for 1d off a Disenchant. While that is true and certainly sucky, this has been less often than not. Grafted Wargear equipping for zero is just insane and makes it the best aggro equipment behind Bonesplitter. (Jitte excluded, though in some decks it’s probably better than Skullclamp.) Imagine turn 2 Soltari into turn 3 Grafted Wargear—you’re swinging for 5 damage with shadow! Grafted Wargear turns every creature you have into a serious threat, and randomly it combines with things like Skullclamp to start giving yourself 1 mana draw 2s. Also, if your Wargear is getting destroyed and you needed it, the 2 for 1 is kind of irrelevant since you probably needed the Wargear to push through anyways, so you can tell yourself that to make the pain hurt less. Not sure if I would include Wargear in the smallest of cubes, but I think it’s a great card and easily one of the most underrated.
Magma Jet: Shocks for 2 suck and need a bonus; Magma Jet has the best one available. Scry 2 is nothing to laugh at and in red decks the card advantage is scarce so Magma Jet acts as a pseudo card draw effect. Removing their creature or planeswalker while you set up your next draws is clutch, and unlike Condescend you can play Magma Jet at the end of the turn or during your upkeep and fix your deck if you need spells or lands. Scry is such a good mechanic and where other burn might be sided out in match ups where they don’t kill, Magma Jet remains in the main board often because it can dig through your deck. Magma Jet’s recent resurgence in standard has proven how good attaching Scry to an overcosted card can make it. Not entirely sure if Magma Jet is 360 staple material, but I’m leaning towards yes because of the Scry.
Night’s Whisper: Black card draw is good, and Night’s Whisper is probably the best. Paying life to get ahead is generally worth it, and the easier cost compared to Read the Bones and Sign in Blood puts Night’s Whisper ahead for me. You can’t hit your opponent like with Sign in Blood nor can you scry like with Read the Bones, but hitting your opponent is a niche ability and paying the extra 1 for Read the Bones can be worth it but is often worse. Two mana for two cards is a pretty great price, and Night’s Whisper fits into a lot of decks while being an easy card to side out against decks trying to kill you as fast as possible. I think every cube should run at least one of the three, and Night’s Whisper is the best, so draw your own conclusions from there.
Razormane Masticore: People run this card, but never play it. I’ve taken it so many times, and by the time the draft ends it’s always in the sideboard. If you’re running a Masticore it needs to be able to do it’s cool stuff when you need it to. I mean, Razormane gets crushed by Disenchant—this is not a good cube card in my opinion, and I’d rather run something like Pristine Talisman or any signet if you’re not running them all. Yes it will win your games, but when Razormane Masticore bad it’s really awful.
Rude Awakening: This is another card that people love to take but ultimately is past it’s time. I’d be pretty disappointed to cast this for anything but lethal, and I don’t think this is something that a combo deck would like to untap their lands all the time. Perhaps if you run Heartbeat of Spring then Rude Awakening could be nice, but there are better expensive green spells that end the games quicker and more efficiently. The card is still fine and can attack for a lot, but cube isn’t a place where “fine” as your consistent result is good enough. In the biggest cube Rude Awakening could be nice, but anything less than a 700 is probably too tight to include it.
Serum Visions: Here Visions probably gets attention because it’s one of the premier cantrips in modern and people automatically assume that means its good enough for cube, but don’t forget that if Ponder and Preordain were legal than Serum Visions would maybe be included as a 1 of in decks at most, and even then that’s pushing it. The card is fine, but again “fine” is not good enough for cube, and there are certainly better cards that cost CMC 1. I even like Brainstorm better, a card which I feel is the most overrated in cube. (Not that brainstorm is not bad, but it’s certainly not the consistent powerhouse it is in Legacy.)
Trinket Mage: In a powered cube, I love Trinket Mage. In unpowered, it is a lot worse. There are way less targets to tutor up for that it often underperforms in an unpowered cube and spends a lot of time in sideboards. When you add power to the mix, you’re grabbing cards like Moxen, Sol Ring, Black Lotus, and instead of being a utility dude who is sometimes OK, Trinket Mage is a blue ramp spell that can also grab your other awesome spells. For a while I was unconvinced of his power until Kirk equated it to a Wood Elves that grabs power and other spells instead, which obviously sounds pretty insane. Since then I’ve given it the respect it deserves and will even pick it as a 5-8 pick when I’m in blue without any legal targets yet early in a draft because it is so good damn good when there is something you can go and grab.
Vedalken Shackles: Repeatable Control Magics on a stick seem pretty awesome, and “being heavy blue” as a detriment/clause seems like a barely issue. Oh no, I have to go into the color I’m probably going to play anyways! The horror! You obviously can’t throw Shackles into any deck, but in the heavy blue decks it’s the one card that fair decks really fear. Picking apart their board and slowly wearing down what they have by forcing their guys to block their pals for a minimal mana commitment is oppressive. Seeing Shackles late in a pack usually means that the people to my right are not interested in heavily committing to blue, and I’m happy to shoulder that burden. I would run Vedalken Shackles in any cube.
Any you think I missed? Just consider me a general dummy and want to let me know? Then leave a comment! And thanks for reading:)