UW Venser Blink
In the same night I drafted the Griselbrand Reanimator deck, I pulled together this amalgamation of cards that won some games and also spent some time sitting around doing nothing. I went in the UW blink direction after 1st picking Sol Ring and following it up with Venser. After picking all white and blue cards in the first pack, it became pretty apparent that I went in the right direction, even though I didn’t wheel a supreme verdict, which must’ve been hate picked. This deck wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t the worst; ended up going 1-2 with the two losses coming in very close matches.
(Quick tangent: hate picking is an awful choice about 99% of the time to make. Rarely you’re picking a card in a pack without anything else your deck could want. Sure, hate drafting in cube is a lot less devastating than in regular limited where the card you pass up over the “better” card could be your 22nd or 23rd playable, but it is still pretty awful as you’re limiting your own options and possibilities. A card has to literally beat every card in your deck to warrant a hate pick, and I mean like all 22-24 of your action spells. Like, is Supreme Verdict really unbeatable? Is it so much better than a Manic Vandal or efficient 2 drop you think might wheel? When the cards you want don’t come back because you took a “better” card, you feel like a sucker and your deck hurts as a result. There is interaction in cube, but you’re ultimately playing your own game, and every time you take away a tool from your pool, the less sideboard options you have, and a wider variety of decks beat you. I mean, sure, if Moat comes back around and you literally have no fliers, it might be time to take it, but that is one of those few options.)
The deck list (in order from left to right, top to bottom; horizontal cards are sideboard options and won’t be mentioned unless I have something to say about their exclusion):
1x Noxious Revival
1x Sol Ring
1x Sensei’s Diving Top
1x Land Tax
1x Riftwing Cloudskate
1x Scroll Rack
1x Detention Sphere
1x Oblivion Ring
1x Blade Spicer
1x Elspeth, Knight-Errant
1x Wall of Reverence
1x Galepowder Mage
1x Faith’s Fetters
1x Entreat the Angels
1x Jace, Memory Adept
1x Venser, the Sojourner
1x Frost Titan
1x Strip Mine
1x Celestial Colonnade
1x UW dual that isn’t tundra
Entreat the Angels: This card is a funny one. I cracked it in a sealed event I did with my friends (event in the loosest sense of the word, it’s just to make it sound more official and fancy-shmancy) but Sky and I agreed at the time it seemed pretty bad if you’re not miracling it. But who was I to judge a card I never played with, especially one that seemed super powerful? The other day I brought it over and asked him if he wanted to try it out, and he was definitely willing to. This is the type of deck you want to draft for Entreat the Angels. With Top, Scroll Rack and Noxious Revival—a pretty filthy play, especially if they happen to have the wrath in hand—I had a multitude of options to put Entreat on top a variety of ways. If I got Mystical or Vampiric Tutor, this deck could’ve just been called UW Entreat, but we can’t get everything. Still, the card was super strong. Throwing it back on top with Scroll Rack or taking a peek at the top 3 and moving Entreat from 3rd to top is insane. Other than wraths, there isn’t a lot you can do to stop 12-20 points of flying damage; it’s nuts!
That being said, it was awful a couple times too. In one of the matches I lost I drew it with two mana out and never found a scroll rack. In another it was in a good opener and was eventually discard to Balance as an uncastable spell. This card is the definition of boom or bust. If I didn’t have all three of Top, Scroll Rack, and Noxious, I’m not sure if Entreat would’ve made the main deck. Decks can’t afford to sit around with a spell that is only castable when you have 7 mana and three of it is white, which makes it only playable in two color decks or decks with insane fixing. The jury is still out on this guy, but it was a lot of fun Entreating for a million in some games.
Jace, Memory Adept: The card is insanely strong—there is no debating that. Some people don’t run it because it’s unfun or it doesn’t protect itself, and those are both moot points to me. First, if you’re playing a powered cube, then “unfun” obviously is not important to you, as no one has fun facing down a t1-2 planeswalker, mind twist for your whole hand, etc., and that’s totally fine. You don’t walk into a soup kitchen expecting bacon-wrapped filet mignons, and you can’t walk into a powered cube draft without at least expecting to get blown out in a game you never had a chance in. And on the second point, it kind of needs this. If Jace, Memory Adept protected itself somehow, it could be the best blue finisher and would definitely be a higher pick than Jace, the Mind Sculptor. (There are instances I’d take JMA or JTMS anyways; a friend of mine said JMA is the easiest card to play, as the only thing you need to know is how to say “mill 10”.)
The reason I want to talk about it here is that, in the 3rd or 2nd pack around pick 2 or 3, I took it over an Upheaval, a pick I’m not sure was correct. There was also a Snapcaster, Mulldrifter, Shackles, and another strong card in the pack, but I was set on choosing between Upheaval and Jace. Upheaval is an insane card, and was one of the reasons I lost a match. The card is seriously bonkers; there was a game where my opponent (sky) was at 5 life and he upheavaled and won the game with pretty much nothing else out there except a Spellskite under a Detention Sphere. That was also another thing I should’ve considered: you can do some really funny stuff with Upheaval O-Ring. Play your bomb, O-Ring it, then Upheaval—you end up with your bomb in play staring down a board of nothing. If it’s something like a Titan or Wurmcoil, you’ve pretty much won.
I decided to take the Jace because other than O-Rings and Spheres, Upheaval doesn’t really synergize well with my deck. Sure, there is Sol Ring, but you can’t depend on single cards to run a strategy unless you have tutors or excessive card draw. That being said, I’m 50-50 on whether this was the correct pick or not. Jace certainly won me games, but there were times I wish I wasn’t upheavaled that being Jace’d would’ve been a much better option. If I only had to mill 10 cards instead of returning all my permanents, the games could’ve gone much different. On top of that, having a reset button seemed really strong in some match ups. I lost against a Survival Genesis deck that kirk drafted as I wasn’t able to keep up with the incremental value he was getting off all his creatures. (There was one game I was able to O-Ring an early Survival to stop Genesis from hitting the graveyard—and he’s in the hand. Kinda crappy, but you put the cards in your deck so you can draw them.) If I had upheaval, I’d at least be able to stop the Genesis onslaught from building up over time and mana, which could’ve been the difference between winning and losing. Overall, the pick could’ve gone either way, but I feel now that Upheaval was the correct choice.
Venser, the Sojourner: This guy is one of my favorites. When he gets going and is built around, he is seriously nuts. I’d like to take a moment to look at all his modes, as I feel it’s a card some people run but other people don’t because he’s not a “play him on an empty board and win” type of card, which is what a lot of PWs end up being.
+2 Exile target permanent you own. Return it to the battlefield under your control at the beginning of the next end step: This is the bread and butter of the card, the reason you run and play it. For starters, any kind of ETB creatures becomes pretty silly. I had a few creatures that got insane value out of it—in hindsight I should’ve taken out Reveillark for the other Splicer, I don’t know what I was thinking last night, probably because the first draft of my deck included more creatures that were nice with ‘lark—but there was also value in reseting Shackles, Rings, PWs and removing Moat to allow my Titan an open path. There was also a game where I was looking down a Moltentail Masticore with my opponent’s deck only having 5 cards left where bouncing a Faith’s Fetters kept me alive longer than I should’ve been. On top of all this, if you +2 once Venser hits the board, he already goes up to 5 loyalty, which is not too far from his super strong ultimate which I’ll get to in a moment.
-1 Creatures are unblockable this turn. Wait, Venser has a second ability? In all seriousness, the -1 takes a lot of players by surprise because they forget he isn’t just a blinker. This ability is awesome, especially when you can make a big army with Angels or Splicers. You can amass an alpha strike and, unless they have the removal, there’s not much you can do against an unblockable army.
-8 You get an emblem with “Whenever you cast a spell, exile target permanent.” Oh, ok. So I drop a Venser, and 3 turns later if he goes untouched I get this insane emblem—that’s pretty nuts. His ultimate is one of the best, and one of the easiest to pull off. If you have an opportunity to use it, it is typically worth it. (Results may vary.)
Not everyone runs Venser, but I would never make a cube without him. He is too much fun, and making giant armies of Beasts or Golems is silly-billy fun.
Moat: This card was an all-star. In the match I won, this was the card that won it for me. If your opponents lack fliers and can’t remove it, there is not a lot they can do instead of hoping you mill out before them, which is a slim possibility with Jace, Memory Adept in your deck. (Yeah, that’s why I picked it over Upheaval!…) Even in the matches I lost, if I saw Moat my chances for winning went way up. Combined with Elspeth and my few fliers I had a solid amount of damage coming in each turn without too much of a fear of fliers, though Lightning Greaves definitely killed it a couple times.
Wall of Reverence: If I’m going to have moat and minimal win conditions, I might as well have a giant bodied flier that gains me life every turn. It was nice sitting behind Wall of Reverence in some games, and it’s a card that I think is pretty strong. Would I always run it in a cube? Not necessarrily. If I noticed that fast, aggressive decks were getting under drafted, then pulling Wall should come under consideration. Sure, aggro isn’t too worried about facing four drops, but this is one of the worst 4-drops to face. Not only does it trade with a lot of your early plays, but sometimes you’re gaining 3-6 life at the end of the turn, which is devastating for the aggro deck. Take a look at your meta and play group and see whether or not you really need this card, as it’s a luxury most of the time.
Worship: For some reason I forgot that you needed a creature to make the effect work. I sided it in thinking you just needed it out there, and it was easily the worst card in my deck. In one game I felt like a fool when I said “ok, down to one…” only to have it brought to my attention that I didn’t have any creatures. I hope to not make that mistake again.
Land Tax: I should have not played this card. Land Tax is good, that’s undeniable, but you can’t just force it into every white deck. If I was to drop one and face an opponent’s aggressive start, then it is doing nothing but hurt me. If I needed to play lands in order to hit my curve, then it’s literally just a blank enchantment for W. I typically only like Land Tax in faster decks that want to drop Tax, a threat, and make your opponent deal with it; in slower decks such as this, I would rather drop all my mana and play my own game instead of sometimes having to play my opponent’s. Sure, there were games where it thinned my deck out, but there were also games where it did nothing and really hurt me. On the draw it wasn’t the worst, but even then I’m trying to operate at a low mana when my decks wants to play big spells. With the Mana Drain it’s pretty nice, but I can’t depend on that interaction.
Looking at this deck the next day, I’m not too surprised it went 1-2. It has some sweet stuff going for it, but overall it gets blown out in the early game and ground down against decks that get more incremental value than it. If I had to change anything in hindsight, other than picking Upheaval over Jace, I would’ve run the other Splicer and maybe the Sunblast Angel against some of the aggressive decks. Still had fun, but it’s disappointing when you reflect and your hindsight is 20/20 and probably spot-on. Oh well! How much can someone really complain after drafting a Sol Ring? The answer, apparently, is “a lot”, but that’s OK, as sometimes you need to kick yourself for bad plays and decisions so you know not to make them in the future. Still, any cubing is good cubing, and a lot of fun was had.