As you may or may not already know, I’m pretty enthusiastic about Cube. I try to get out for a draft at least once a week, and I’ve spent more than a few evenings updating, tweaking and upgrading my two cubes (The KaleidoCube and The Reject Rare Cube). This post is the first of a mini-series where I explain my top ten favourite cards in the cubes that I regularly draft. It could be one of my cubes or a friend’s, but since the advent of the miracle that is Cubetutor.com, you will not be missing out!
I tried to avoid the no-brainers for any given list. Swords, Jittes (sniff), Power, dual lands and fetch lands are all universally high picks, as well as powerful build-around-me cards like Survival of the Fittest and Recurring Nightmare. Instead, I wanted to focus on cards that are not only strong, but also offer opportunities for strategies that I prefer to draft.
Today, we’re highlighting my buddy (and eye-poking enthusiast) Ryan Abcede’s cube. Ryan’s cube is powered and features most of the mainstay cards and strategies you expect from the standard cube experience, plus a couple twists, including the spicy addition of Errand of Duty, which has prompted our go-to definition of Banding to be: “It’s basically like Soulbond.”
(Except it really isn’t.)
So! My top 10 favourites of the @RyeABC cube, in no particular order:
Aside from being value on wings, the Strix fits a number of strategies. It cycles and acts as a roadblock for control decks, an evasive pinger for UB tempo decks (with Ninjutsu and Shadow) and a synergistic cog in Tinker/Tezzeret shells. It can be cloned, bounced, reanimated and blinked for even more value. All for 2 mana! If you’re playing base UB, this little guy is a workhorse…workstrix…
Nothing rustles my jimmies like Channeling or Tinkering into a Battlesphere. If your deck features any kind of ramp and/or goes for the long game, the Battlesphere is a perfectly fine finisher, and does a good job of setting up a defensive line, although for 7 mana you should hope that it significantly impacts the board. The tokens also play well with Mirror Entity, and conveniently, white blink effects like Flickerwisp, Momentary Blink and Venser, the Sojourner.
The Toilet Trooper attacks, blocks, gets Tinkered, Metalworkered and more! In aggro decks he’s a fine soldier, and on the defense he isn’t half bad. He falls over to any spell that deals damage, but hey! No one’s perfect. He’s not flashy, he’s not broken, but he adds a not-insignificant board presence early on in the game.
This is one of my favourite sweepers in Cube, hands down. You don’t realize how busted a straight-up X sweeper is until it saves your ass or wins you the game. One of my favourite control archetypes involves base blue control and splashes red for burn, sweepers and Ral Zarek. Rolling Earthquake fits perfectly into this deck. This card is insanely splashable, and for its utility (if you’ve played Earthquake in Limited you know how good it is) it’s usually worth it.
To me, Karn skirts the line between good and busted. Like so many other cards in cubes, it is insane if you can ramp it out early. Even as a control finisher, it is insane. As with every other planeswalker, Karn introduces an angle of attack that can throw people off-guard, even years after they introduced the first ‘walkers in Lorwyn. Sure, he costs 7, but when he sticks and ticks up to 10 (!) loyalty, on any board where you are not severely behind he is an absolute terror to put away. On a board with parity, Karn can break the game wide open the turn he comes down. He is hard to play around and hard to answer, and in my experience only the fastest aggro decks have little fear of him in game 1.
In the right deck (and there are a few of them), Noble is the grease in the gears. A turn 1 Noble is one of the smoothest non-Powered opens in cube, and curving into a Sword, Geist, Edric or any other aggro-tempo keystone is fair but powerful game. She is one of the few mana dorks that retains a high amount of impact late into the game, and generally makes combat a pain for your opponent.
I have not always been a fan of Remand, but it is fast becoming one of my favourite counterspells in cube. Many deck strategies rely on plays turns 3-5, and depriving your opponent of their turn buys you valuable time and correspondingly takes it away from them. It doesn’t bin the spell, but a lot of times it does exactly what it’s supposed to do. It’s cheap, easy to cast, hard to telegraph, and gives you an opportunity to play around the spell in the future. Plus it cycles!
Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
Rofellos, like Karn, seems to me like he toes that line between good and insane. If you build around Rofellos, he gets nutty very fast. Otherwise, he’s just okay. I – as well as some other players, probably – am hesitant to go base green unless a Rofellos, Survival or Channel comes along. If you get one of these cards early, I think it’s reasonable to cut the colour in order to pursue a corresponding strategy.
I like putting Joraga Treespeaker in the same boat as Rofellos – obviously has less potential, but is a solid accelerator for a base green deck.
If I am in black and see this guy come around, I am over the moon. Nothing screams value like a black Flametongue Kavu. Despite the heavier colour commitment, being in black is a huge plus because most strategies could use a removal-on-a-stick like Skinrender. The 3/3 body is also sturdier than FTK, making him just as effective on attack as on defense, and he can hit bigger creatures to make life and combat easier for you.
I know Ral Zarek is an understated card, but I am astounded that people ranked it 23rd out of the top 25 planeswalkers (To the credit of TSG and Eck, they valued Ral higher than his meager community ranking). C’mon y’all, Ral Zarek does more to win you the game than Vraska, Chandra, Pyromaster and Ajani, Caller of the Pride. While everyone knows that repeatable Bolts are strong, I think some are turned off by the +1 ability. I believe that as time passes, people will come around to the flexibility and subtlety of this ability. He can affect combat by faltering a blocker and giving your attacker pseudo-vigilance. He can give back a mana with his untap – or more if you have the right mana artifacts. In a blue deck, one mana can mean the difference between holding up counterspell mana and letting a pivotal spell resolve. The incremental advantages this guy nets you will pay off, and if people continue to underestimate him, I am OK with that.
That’s it! Check out Ryan’s cube here, try a sample draft or two and share your own favourite picks!