Theros is slowly being spoiled and there are a few cards that excite me with their cube potential. Today I’d like to take a look at them. This is up to September 9th so far, so this review could miss some cards printed after.
Thassa, God of the Sea: This was one of the first overall spoilers to leak out and so far is one of the top cube cards from the set. While blue isn’t full of permanents to give you the necessary Devotion to make her consistently a 5/5 for 2U, she has enough going for her to make her a good play when she’s a non-creature and fairly insane when she has a body. Scrying for free every upkeep is pretty great, and one of the main reasons why she’s the top God. While 1 isn’t a ton, digging that extra card deeper can be just enough, finding you that last blue permanent or the necessary counter/removal to drop your own threat. When you do get a creature on the board, Thassa sends him in unscathed for 1U, which is pretty underrated. In cube you’re sometimes swinging in with creatures that can end the game in a few attacks, or your guys are wearing one of the many pieces of stellar equipment that lay a beating upon contact. To top it off it’s indestructible, as any God should be.
The biggest question with Thassa is how much of a concern is getting to 5 or more devotion? This is a legitimate issue with her being blue, because if it ends up being way more than not, then is an indestructible enchantment that Scry 1s and gives creatures unblockability good enough? I had a conversation about it with my brother about what it would take to make this a playable card if it had no chance of being a creature. While the difference may seem slight, Scry 2 would make this a playable card without the body. Regardless, I think that Devotion will hit enough that Thassa will be quite the addition to the blue section.
Omenspeaker: Speaking of Scry 2, putting that ability on a super cheap body that’s good at blocking is something else blue is interested in. Omenspeaker is not flashy–a 1/3 for 1U is nice against aggressive starts but is otherwise pretty underwhelming–but smoothing out your future draws to ensure land drops or dig for important spells is key for the blue decks, and putting that on a body which you can potentially abuse is great. There are a variety of blink or bounce to recur Omenspeaker over and over to allow you to dig for that card you’ll need. Pecking for 1 damage a turn isn’t what this guy is meant to do, but he can if it’s clear and he carries weapons without issue. I don’t think Omenspeaker is better than Snapcaster or Looter il-Kor, or Phantasmal Image, but filtering the top of your deck through an ETB could prove to be better than Waterfront Bouncer, which is what I’d say is the fourth best two drop in blue.
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion: I’m not sure what to think about this Elspeth. Puking out tokens is sick. A semi-workable wrath that works well with said tokens is also sick. Being in a color that can protect against fliers so she can amass an army after you wrath is also-also sick. The part of me that loves to drop giant, silly threats thinks this is a sweet card that gets the party bumping. Unlike Elspeth Tirel (2.0)–who found herself unable to hit some empty boards if they could attack in with a lethal/near-lethal flier and render 2.0 as a five-mana potentially-worse Timely Reinforcements–Elspeth is always improving as she constructs her army, which can be crucial for building loyalty to buy time or work towards an ultimate. Her ultimate is pretty solid as well, easy to reach and able to turn all those 1/1s you made into a lethal attack army.
But how many 6 drops does white really want? White has some of the best aggressive and evasive creatures at a cheap cost, and you really don’t want too many top-end cards in your cube. I tend to like creatures at the highest cost since there are much more ways to cheat them into play, whereas Elspeth will only be found in decks that can hard cast her. It’s enough of a draw back to hold her out of some cubes since space is so limited.
Read the Bones: Divination is not a cube card, but a black one that scrys 2 before hand could be. It’s not as good as Night’s Whisper and potentially Sign in Blood, as that extra mana really does hurt for the black aggressive decks that need these cards to gain the gas to get under their development quickly, but it’s an easy to splash draw spell that is kinda like drawing three, since getting rid of those two cards is super useful and could be considered as good as drawing a third card. This is not an insane card by any means but is solid and would find its way into a lot of decks since black card draw in cube isn’t as abundant as in other colors and having non-looting card draw in a non-blue color lends card advantage to a lot of decks that wouldn’t otherwise.
Lightning Strike: Cheaply costed burn. Red loves it! If your cube is large enough to support a third copy of Incinerate, you now have a third copy of incinerate. Now, for Wizards to make that second Lightning Bolt…
Sylvan Caryatid: Green-based 3-5 color decks are incredibly strong. There are so many high-impact cards and non-green pieces of removal that are easy to splash off of the millions of ways green has to fix your mana. Most of these fixers grab basic lands, but now there’s a second Birds of Paradise type card in Sylvan Caryatid. I love this card. Protecting my ability to make any color is awesome. There have been enough games where a killed Birds of Paradise ruined my draw, making certain key cards or important splashes uncastable and losing the game. With Caryatid you drastically reduce the amount of ways your opponent’s decks can interact with your fixing, keeping your mana ready for the important plays. 3 toughness blocks a shit ton of creatures too; if anything, this set has done a good job of stifling aggressive starts with a few cards that can stop the aggressive creatures early on. Caryatid does a great job at that, stopping a majority of the 1 and 2 drops that could attack into you. This card is so exciting. I can’t wait to draft awesome decks with both Birds of Paradise and the Caryatid.
Spear of Heliod: Glorious Anthem has always been a card that has been questionable as awesome or not. When you have an army out and about that is slowly getting outclassed, Glorious Anthem pumps them up enough to either allow them to get through or to jump in there for that extra 3 or 4 damage. But if you have nothing on the board then Glorious Anthem literally does nothing. Who cares about +1+1 if you can’t keep a creature resolved on the board? There would be some games where Glorious Anthem wins, and then there are others where I’d rather have just about any other on-color card in the cube.
Spear of Heliod allows you to potentially do something on an empty board for the exchange of being an artifact. But how much do you really care about creatures attacking into you? Against aggressive decks this could be good, but is it fast enough? You have to cast it, and then you need to do nothing on your fourth turn in order to get an advantage. There will be games where the Spear will stop potential swings, but you also still need to take the damage for have it actually have an effect. Is being an artifact too big of a draw back to make up for an effect that is kind of negligible in the decks that want a Glorious Anthem? Do not underestimate being an artifact as a big drawback, either. There is enough artifact removal that is readily available for cube, enough less than just enchantments, that this could make a difference. Regardless, I think this is still an easy switch for Glorious Anthem, since you can do more at times.
Hero’s Downfall: It annoys me when people say top-notch removal spells aren’t exciting. I’ve been guilty of this, and 1 for 1s aren’t the most insane thing in the world, but it’s exciting that there’s a solid tool in a mono color that does something that you couldn’t do on your own in that color; before Hero’s Downfall, there was no legitimate Dreadbore-style card in black, and certainly not one at instant speed. In fact, there really isn’t any instant-speed Planeswalker removal that is good enough. (The 3/3 from Beast Within is a major liability enough of the time.) All these new leafs turning is one of the more exciting things about cubing, other than actually doing it. When new sets come out, the possibilities and standards are raised; what we consider “good enough” goes up another level. Cube is evolving all the time. The standard archetype and certain cards will always be there, but new pieces that come out really do change everything. Hero’s Downfall isn’t exactly an archetype definer, but it sets a standard for what we consider good enough to run in cubes of all sizes at CMC 3 for removal. I’m excited to kill things with Hero’s Downfall.
[mtg_card]Thoughtseize[/mtg_card]: Got a feeling this will be a good one.
Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver: I have a feeling Ashiok won’t be good enough, but she’s cool enough to at least talk about. For starters, she’s a 3 mana planeswalker that goes up to five as you remain proactive in her use. That is pretty good. Her minus ability works fairly well with her plus ability, but once you start plussing you have to ask yourself how you are trying to win. Are you going to exile their entire deck as they try to stop that, or are you taking a threat? If you take a threat and it doesn’t work out, will you be able to plus them enough? If they’re putting pressure on you, do you have two turns to come back at them with their own creatures? Ashiok also has the major issue of being UB, which is one of the tighter multicolored sections. Perhaps in the biggest cubes ever, Ashiok could be fun, but ultimately she’s a bit too much of an all-in card for my liking.
Steam Augury: Fact or Fiction. The card is insane. But what if the roles are reversed? What if you can choose what the piles are and your opponent what you get? Steam Augury presents this question, and it’s tough to tell whether or not that’s insane, because Fact or Fiction–and now Steam Augury–is one of those cards whose power is only apparent in certain situations. Fact or Fiction is great when you can choose the pile with the cards you want, but is not as good when there are multiple good cards that work together and you need which your opponent can split up. Steam Augury is weak when you need a certain card from the five, but is much better when you can put the cards that work well with each other into their own piles and let your opponent broadcast what they have or what they’re able to counter with. Fact or Fiction is better when you can manipulate the graveyard. Steam Augury is nicer when you have cards like Tinker or certain Tutors and you need to get some of those cards out of your deck. Steam Augury is also in a color combination that has been historically weak in cube. Before the recent printings of Ral Zarek and Izzet Charm, there were only a couple cards that were must-includes. Before that, things like Jilt were considered good enough. Steam Augury could easily be one of the better, if not best, Izzet cards, but we’ll need to see how the change in decision making effects the stock of the effect of cards like that.
Tymaret, the Murder King: This card looks like it should be awesome, but I could see it not being awesome as well. Does that make sense? By that I mean I don’t know if it’s quick enough for an aggressive card, but it seems to be able to have the potential to reach as much as you want a card in RB to get there. With tokens and left over aggressive creatures, shooting your opponent who you’ve stalled out on at 6 or 8 becomes a thing. Cards like Bitterblossom or Gravecraweler make Tymaret an inevitability instead of a possibility, able to peck at them turn by turn if you can’t get in or if you need to add that extra little bit to your attacks. If the turn-by-turn shocks end up being a problem and your opponent deals with Tymaret, bringing him back to continue the damage dealing is pretty easy if you have those perpetual creatures or you have one that you can’t do anything with anymore. But if you don’t, and he’s your only threat, he’s fairly underwhelming. I like Tymaret, though there are a few cards I would play ahead of him. If your multicolored section runs 4-5 non-land cards, he’s worth trying out.
Xenagos, the Reveler: People are super excited for this card. I’m pretty pumped too. Planeswalkers are awesome, and this guy fits into a variety of strategies and fits in well. Red green is a difficult color to break into as well, but Xenagos could definitely be one of the better ones. In the Wildfire decks, which are often RG, Xenagos is sick. Play elves, play Xenagos, make a dude, make a bunch of mana, cast your Wildfire, and then take over the game with a stream of 2/2s. In an aggressive deck, which RG loves as well, you’re making a stream of hastey threats for no effort. The ultimate seems pretty unrealistic, but it’d be cool if you were making a Genesis Wave deck and could drop a bunch of Eldrazi from your deck. Xenagos is definitely better than Huntmaster, since it does what you typically want Huntmaster to do in making tokens but does it every turn, so that should be good switch.