First off, I’d like to apologize for the lack of articles from me lately. Work has been kicking my ass and I’m a bag of suck because of it. That being said, going through these sets are a lot of fun and today is another review from the Urza’s Legacy set. Like Urza’s Saga, this is a strong set, so let’s launch into it!
Avalanche Riders: The Riders are one of my favorite red cards in cube. Red is fairly streamlined into hard aggression, with random enablers for other archetypes and bombs thrown into the mix. The best part about Avalanche Riders is how versatile he is. In the aggressive decks his power is pretty obvious—he’s a 2/2 haster that destroys your opponent’s lands. The echo is rough, but if you have a better play then you don’t tap it. Otherwise, the nomad does everything you want from an aggressive creature. When you start really going deep with him and recursion effects is when the Riders gets to another level. He is awesome with Mimic Vat; being able to pitch him after you play him and get an Avalance rider for 3 every turn will end games quickly. In the same sense, he is bonkers with Recurring Nightmare. (I have to stop going back to this card, as every ETB creature is bonkers with it, but some end games quicker and the Riders are one.) With the shard and portal he’s cool too, as you can bounce in response to the Echo trigger or end of turn and then get the land and two damage again. I love the riders, they are great.
Bone Shredder: On some creatures, Echo is an issue. Crater Hellion will probably find himself on the sidelines when they inevitably print the next good red 6-drop, if he already hasn’t been pushed from your cube. But like with the Riders, sometimes it’s advantageous to ditch them after they served their purpose. Bone Shredder can be abused as previously mentioned with the Riders, but he is also a fine speed bump if you need to stall for a bomb or big play. 1/1 fliers are nothing special in cube, and paying 2B to keep him on the board is a rough one to make. Do you kill your tempo for a 1/1 flier that does nothing if you can’t recur it? There are times where you do, as evasion is relevant with equipment or for evasion’s sake, but there are usually better plays you can be making. Still, Shredder is a nice one and probably a cube staple.
Deranged Hermit: Echo, echo, echo…but in all seriousness, Deranged Hermit is a serious beating and one of the sicker five drops in green. 9 power for 3GG is a lot of power. How about 17 power? Or 25? Casting this guy multiple times off a shard or bringing it back in over and over with graveyard or Vat shenanigans is often a pretty quick GG. An army of 1/1s is nothing to sniff at; an army of 2/2s is when you start regretting life decisions. Be careful if your opponent decides to clone your hermit, though. The boost to squirrels is global, so their Squirrels are still killing it even if the cloned hermit is not.
Faerie Conclave: Having a creature attached to a land is awesome. In an environment filled with sorcery speed wraths and removal, it’s way better. Conclave is awesome as it has evasion and blue is a color that can ride a cheap man land to victory. If your deck is light on win cons, you can hold Faerie back, counter or bounce everything they throw at you, and then peck them for 2 damage at a time. This is not the most ideal route, but it’s one I’ve lost to and won with before. The best part about conclave is how cheap he/she/it is; 1U to activate it is really nothing. Without thinking too hard on it, I’d rank it as the 4th or 5th best man land, behind Mishra’s Factory, Mutavault, Creeping Tar Pit, and maybe Treetop Village.
Frantic Search: Free spells are always sweet in cube. Keeping your mana open for counter, removal, or another spell to put pressure on your opponent is often the key to victory. Frantic Search is cool because it fits into a lot of different archetypes. As a straight-up draw spell, it’s fine; most of the time you’ll have at least one easy pitch, and if you’ve reached the end game then pitching two dead lands is no problem. In reanimator, it’s exactly what you want to do—dig for you reanimation spells, pitch your fatties, and untap your lands so you can reanimate that bad mother fucker. My favorite application for the card is in the dream halls combo deck. Search is sweet there since, once you’re casting it with Dream Halls, you’re digging deeper and getting 3 free mana, since you paid nothing for the card. It’s also a fine card to pitch, as there will be times where you can’t afford to pitch 2 spells from you total hand. Search is a fine card, it’s not insane or unfair, but it has some cool applications and is an OK choice for inclusion.
Ghitu Encampment: I like this card, but I feel that it’s kind of weak. 2/1 first strikers trade with a lot, but they don’t actually get in. The Faerie flies, the Village has trample; when you put a weapon on these guys or need to get those last few points of damage in on a player or planeswalker, they have no problem doing it. Encampment, on the other hand, can get blocked by a lot and has no method of actually attacking. It’s a bit rough having him in the aggressive red decks since it’s a land that has to come into play tapped, but it’s not the worst choice since it still taps for red. There are enough man lands in cube that I don’t think Encampment is necessary, but I like playing with it when it’s there and there is nothing wrong with adding him if you feel like it.
Ghitu Slinger: The price of hitting either an opponent or a creature with a shock on a creature is Echo. Like with the other Echo cards, there are cool applications you can take with the slinger if you can abuse him. He is also a great 3 drop for the red aggressive decks, since 2 damage to the face is fine and deals with most creatures that will be in your way in the early games. Recursion blah blah blah; Slinger is a cool card.
Goblin Welder: In the right deck, Goblin Welder is pretty silly. Switching back and forth a wurmcoil and a sundering titan, for example, can leave your opponent in ruins and your board full of 3/3 mini wurms. That is nutty. The thing with Welder, though, is that he never seems to work how you want him to. Going back and forth between a Battlesphere and a Signet, for example, can be dangerous if you can’t reliably bring that Battlesphere back. Getting your board wrathed, including your Welder, can often mean GG unlike a Crystal Shard, which can protect your side from such spells. I think Welder is a lot better in powered cubes, but I’m still unsure of his actual power level. The ceiling is high, but the floor is low as well.
Grim Monolith: Hell yeah. The only Grim part of this Monolith is the face your opponent will make once he sees your drop this. T3 6 drops are pretty insane, and since a lot of unpowered cubes run Monolith, it’s a start that’s pretty tough to compete with. Unlike Manavault, which has a similar tap 4 to untap ability, you can untap Monolith whenever which is sweet, as it allows you bigger and broken-er plays. (Ignore broken-er for me, thanks.) It’s obviously not as good as Manavault, which allows you 5 drops on turn 2, but Monolith is still a top tier mana stone/tower/prison/home.
Karmic Guide: The Guide has fallen out of favor recently. White 5 drops are top tier, and sometimes it’s better to make an army than it is to bring a creature back. The thing about Guide though is that there is so much silly stuff you can do with it. As a base a 2/2 flier with protection from black is fine. Pro black is pretty nice, as it dodges a lot of the removal in cube. Bringing back giant fatties or value creatures is pretty nutty on a creature. There aren’t many creatures, if any at all, that are cubeable which also act like a reanimator. The only other one I can think of, Reveillark, is kind of crazy with Karmic Guide. Now, this may not actually work, but I believe if Lark dies somehow, the trigger goes off, bringing back Guide, who can bring back Lark who is in the graveyard by this point. Let Guide die to Echo and…you get the point. If this doesn’t work, please let me know, but I’m sure someone will anyways.
Memory Jar: This is one of those cards that looks powerful and everyone says it is, but I’ve always been kind of underwhelmed. I have the most experience with it in my brother’s cube, which supports aggro heavily, and I always find myself wondering if I actually have time to play a 5 drop which doesn’t really do anything the turn it comes into play and wait another turn. The card is undeniably strong; drawing 7 and making your opponent draw 7 cards that he can’t really use is pretty nice. I have just found it tougher to make it work then to have it blow up in my face.
Miscalculation: Single blue counters in cube are strong. Between Mana Leak and Miscalculation, I side with the latter more often since the ability to cycle it can be so crucial. There is nothing worse than holding the counter in your hand and your opponent playing around the possibility because they saw it earlier in the match. 2 open mana isn’t the toughest to keep open either, so being able to replace itself when Miscalculation isn’t effective anymore is a nice tough. Countering an on-curve spell can disrupt your opponent heavily. I’d say Miscalculation is a staple, and I don’t see it leaving unless they print a bunch of high-quality counters at CMC 2.
Mother of Runes: Mom is the bomb. A turn 1 Mother presents so many problems for your opponent. She is pretty much a counter on a creature, dodging the first piece of removal they have for the turn or giving yourself a favorable block where there would typically be a trade or a chump. The Mother fits in so many decks, from the aggressive to the midrange, and is a nice sideboard option for control decks versus aggro. Another staple, I don’t see Mom ever coming out of cube. She is bonkers.
Palinchron: Chron has fallen out of favor recently; a 4/5 flier for 7 free mana that can’t be killed is not good enough on its own anymore. In cubes that support storm combo, it’s sweet since you can combine it with Heartbeat of Spring and generate essentially infinite mana and storm with those two cards. I’d only run Palinchron in cubes that support combo.
Rancor: Yes, this card was a common. In regular limited, Rancor was the absolute nuts, allowing your creatures to trade with pretty much anything and get in for either incremental or devastating damage. In cube, where the quality of creatures are stronger overall, Rancor is still absolutely nuts. A resolved Rancor is so tough to deal with, you have to have a counter or a duress-like effect to get rid of it, and even then green has enough regrowth effects to get it back. In token decks it’s crazy, putting it on Koth mountains is fine since you can reset it every turn and wait until you have a better creature to equip it to. (4/4 mountains are usually the biggest creatures in those decks.) This set is insane, another cube staple that will stay in for a loooonnng time.
Ring of Gix: Icy Manipulator is sweet. Icy Manipulator that costs 1 less and has echo is still sweet. While obviously not as good as Icy because of the echo, Ring of Gix can situationally find itself in a better position on various boards. There will be times where you can’t afford to wait for 5 mana to tap something instantly and you need to stop an aggressive attack. That is not the best situation, since the echo will act as a pseudo time walk for your opponent’s fast deck, but you can also stop their pounding by tapping a solitary creature or important land. I think Gix is fine in mid-size to larger cubes, and performs quite nicely there.
Tinker: An uncommon. Why not. Tinker is bonkers. Just the other night I drafted a deck with 2 moxes, a signet, a black lotus, and a sundering titan. Even though Titan was my only target, I was able to consistently have an artifact on the board, and even had the potential to go turn 1. (There was actually a game where I could’ve gone turn 1 tinker on the draw, but the worst thing happened: I had 2 moxes, island, and Tinker, guess what the first card I drew in the game was? Sundering Titan. Fuck. Ing. A.) In unpowered cubes Tinker is a little weaker since you can’t have as explosive of starts, but if your unpowered cube runs signets then it’s not so bad. If you run Tinker, I think there should be at least one giant fatty that’s tough to remove. Inkwell Leviathan or Sphinx of the Steel Wind are nice choices there–”narrow” creatures that blow out games when tinkered into—but if you run the standard big artifact guys they are probably enough.
Treetop Village: I mentioned this card earlier when talking about Faerie Conclave, and rightfully so because Treetop is nuts. A 3/3 trampler in your land section that only takes 1G to activate is really strong. The trampling is great since a sword or jitte still hits, and against little chumpy guys you can get in with the damage. 3/3 is super big as well, blocking a lot of the creatures in cube and trading with a fair amount of them. This is, yet again, another staple.
The Urza block is ridiculous; so many cards are staples! There were a bunch of other cards that were borderline too, but I like writing about sweet cards so I stuck with that. Soon I’ll finish the cycle of Urza review with the next set. Until then, thanks for reading!