Table of Contents
- Honorable Mentions
- 1. Jaya, Fiery Negotiator
- 2. Leyline Binding
- 3. Temporary Lockdown
- 4. Cut Down
- 5. Elas il-Kor, Sadistic Pilgrim
- 6. Mana Cannons
- 7. The Elder Dragon War
- 8. Squee, Dubious Monarch
- 9. Ertai Resurrected
- 10. Greensleeves, Maro-Sorcerer
- 11. Torsten, Founder of Benalia
- 12. King Darien XLVIII
- 13. Thran Portal
When it comes to Magic: the Gathering, while I have great passion for the game and most of it’s formats, my primary focus and love is Cube curation. For the uninitiated, Cube is a custom draft format wherein you, as the Cube designer, decide what cards and archetypes are in said draft environment.
Many players first got exposure to Cube via the Magic Online Vintage Cube, and since it’s inception we’ve seen numerous other Cubes appear for limited times on the Magic Online client, and even a few Cubes on Magic Arena, including one that’s running as of this writing. Dominaria United releases soon, and I figured I’d do my run down of what I think are the most exciting cards for Cube (or, at least, for my Cubes).
For context, here are my two Cubes:
- This is my primary Cube, which is a 512 Cube wherein you draft the entire pool in 4 packs of 16:
- My secondary Cube, and a work in progress, is intending to be a 540 wherein you draft 3 packs of 16, and aims to more-or-less closely imitate the gameplay and design of an MTGO Cube:
A lot has already been written about these three cards from various other sources, and likely more still will be written about them, but I figured they were worth touching upon here.
Cult Conscript and, to a lesser extent, Evolved Sleeper, are both solid 1 drops for Black-based Aggro decks. Cult Conscript can also do some work in Aristocrats (Sacrifice) builds in a pinch. I’d even go so far as to say Cult Conscript is one of the best Black-based aggro 1 drops ever printed. Definitely consider these two if you’re supporting black Aggro.
1. Jaya, Fiery Negotiator
Jaya is, by far, the card I consider to be the most exciting from this set with regards to both it’s Constructed potential and, more importantly, it’s future in Cubes. Planeswalker cards with four abilities typically are something that should always catch your attention as both a player and designer.
That being said, I’ve noticed many within the Cube community dismissing or ignoring Jaya overtly as a potential inclusion. I’m going to make the case for Jaya as a card you should be considering.
- Jaya, unlike her direct comparison point, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, creates a board state. Chandra can clean up a threat, but doesn’t actually advance your board presence, which can be super relevant when you’re on a large board stall. Often, being able to generate an extra threat every single turn will be what pushes you over the edge and allows you to eventually crack in to break the stall. The prowess on her Monk tokens also ensures that these tokens aren’t just 1/1s, they threaten to be a lot larger and smack for a lot more damage, meaning the opponent has to respect them in any given combat scenario.
- Jaya generates card advantage with selection. Yes, it costs loyalty, but when you’re desperately digging for an out to specific threats or situations, digging deeper has value.
- “Cube slots”, a specific term used when people feel like arbitrarily setting restrictions on their own Cubes, are just that: arbitrary. You can run two different 4 mana red Planeswalkers in your Cubes, and no one’s actually going to say it’s wrong to do so. You don’t have to cut Chandra for Jaya, or ignore Jaya in favor of Chandra. Both cards can serve different roles in draft decks.
- Jaya specifically bolsters the so-called “Izzet Spellslinger” archetype, which is a super popular archetype across a variety of Cubes, leveraging cheap spells and Prowess creatures to present a proactive, aggressive game plan. Jaya plays perfectly in that sort of deck, offering a top-end that generates threat after threat that perfectly aligns with your overall strategy.
I hope this has given you the impetus to give Jaya a chance if you haven’t already. I know she’s going to be a slam dunk in my primary Cube.
2. Leyline Binding
This one, unlike Jaya, already has a ton of hype behind it. A super flexible answer that potentially get more mana efficient as the game moves along is sweet. Leyline Binding does ask a very specific thing from you to fully leverage it’s real potential, and that’s Domain.
This is a card that specifically will function in my primary Cube, where I’ve broken Singleton on my lands within the Cube, and not in my secondary Cube, which is still fully Singleton and thus would struggle to get multiple land types out reliably. If your Cube is willing to make a concession for “better” mana, this is a card you’re going to want to try.
3. Temporary Lockdown
Divine Purge has proved to be a sick, powerful card in both Alchemy and Historic. Temporary Lockdown isn’t quite Divine Purge, but in a lot of ways feels like the paper equivalent of that card. It hits more card types, but doesn’t hit cards with mana value 3.
The opponent also lacks the option of casting a taxed version of their cards: They have to take out the Temporary Lockdown to get their cards back, and for some colors, that can be pretty difficult.
Used against a red Aggro player, for example, it’s likely that this is pretty close to a full-on board wipe. Keep an eye on this one, especially if you’re supporting aggressive decks and want a solid counter-measure.
4. Cut Down
Many have already spoken about how pushed this 1 mana removal spell is. It’s no Fatal Push, but it does a solid job of playing in that same space. Both of my Cubes are excited for another lean, efficient black removal spell.
There’s not a whole lot more I can say about it, other than it’s effectiveness in your own Cube can be gauged by using the different filters offered by the various Cube sites, such as Cube Artisan, to figure out how many of your creatures it can hit regularly.
5. Elas il-Kor, Sadistic Pilgrim
How does Elas compare to it’s counterparts? It offers a more solid body on offense and defense than most, as a 2 mana 2/2 with deathtouch is nothing to scoff at when presenting a clock, and the passive life gain from just playing to the board can go a long way to giving you time for your plans.
Often this archetype sticks strictly to Rakdos, but if your Cube is willing to stretch Aristocrats to full-on Mardu for this and other cards, the rewards can be very worthwhile.
6. Mana Cannons
Despite the somewhat goofy name, this card can be a house in “multicolor matters” decks, such as those drafted around cards like General Ferrous Rokiric, Niv-Mizzet Reborn, and Bring to Light. Being able to leverage just casting your spells to either eliminate threats or present a fast clock can really allow these sorts of decks, which can end up feeling a little clunky and slow at times, to become more proactive and effective.
Again, it’s not every Cube that wants this card, but if you want to play a larger gold section, and you want a higher density of fixing lands, you’re likely going to want to at least try out Mana Cannons.
7. The Elder Dragon War
This is a card that is extremely flexible, and the only Read Ahead Saga that I feel really has the chops for Cube. Pyroclasm on 4 isn’t great, exactly, but if you’re playing something like Big Red, a Cube deck that leverages artifact ramp and board wipes to win a long game with big dragons and expensive Planeswalkers, this may be the first card in a long while that’s basically aimed at you.
A turn 2 Signet or Talisman or Mind Stone can let you deploy this on turn 3, easing a lot of pressure from aggressive decks on a key turn, and later in the game being able to slam this down as just a large Dragon can give you the inertia to close out the game. Big Red is a deck that has fallen off in recent years, with cards like Wildfire no longer being very popular, but maybe The Elder Dragon War can convince some Cube designers to give these sorts of cards another go.
8. Squee, Dubious Monarch
Squee is a Goblin Rabblemaster with Escape. That’s it. That’s the story. Escape likely makes him the best overall Rabblemaster variant we’ve seen thus far. If you’re still on multiple Rabblemaster variants, you’re likely to want to add in Squee.
9. Ertai Resurrected
I want to be upfront with all of you: I don’t like this card very much. Yes, it’s extremely flexible, but I’m allergic to giving my opponent a free card. That said, I do want to include this here, because I will be running Ertai in my secondary Cube. He has the sort of flexibility that a lot of Magic players genuinely enjoy, and I’m willing to give him a shot if it means making my players happy.
Worth remembering that you can use him to target your own things, essentially turning a lousy creature into a re-draw later in the game.
10. Greensleeves, Maro-Sorcerer
I want to call Greensleeves “Titania at Home” because of her being a weaker variant of Titania, Protector of Argoth. Titania is an extremely powerful card in the right shell, and Greensleeves, despite mostly being weaker, is also just as potentially potent.
Her Protections, especially the Protection from Planeswalkers, can make her difficult for the opponent to deal with, and she builds out a board quickly, especially with fetch lands and Rampant Growth style effects. It’s a shame she won’t be coming to Magic Arena with this set release, as I’d love to see her showing up in Cubes on the client, but I’m definitely finding room for her somewhere.
11. Torsten, Founder of Benalia
Torsten is a 7 mana card that I never want to cast for 7 mana. He’s a Natural Order target in my secondary Cube. I had a friend of mine suggest that he’s the green Griselbrand for Natural Order decks, and given how much value he can accrue when cheated out early, I think that comparison is apt. The back-up plan of ramping him out isn’t as exciting, but it’s still a possibility if you have a lot of mana dorks in your Cube. He’s also a really solid cheat target for Winota, Joiner of Forces if that’s your jam.
12. King Darien XLVIII
The King of Go-Wide Tokens is here! Darien ticks a lot of boxes for this archetype that make him super appealing: He pumps the team, he can generate a board in the late game, and he can save your squad from an incoming board wipe. This card is a power house, and I expect him to show up in a LOT of Cubes.
13. Thran Portal
Rounding out my list is the newest rainbow fixing land. Thran Portal may look awkward, but I think, in the same vein as cards like City of Brass and Mana Confluence, it’s going to do a lot of work for your greedier Cube decks.
There’s additional value in being a Gate, too, if that’s something you want to support further, but even at face value, this card is pretty slick. Good mana means casting your spells when you need to, and that can lead you to winning more of your games.
And those are my main picks for Cube from the new cards in Dominaria United! This set seems, overall, a bit lower power than I’d like for Cube, with more niche cards on the whole, but there’s still some really solid cards to consider. On top of that, there’s some key reprints here of cards that you’ll likely want in most Cubes, as well (Liliana of the Veil, Lightning Strike, the six painlands). If you’re supporting a deeper well of non-singleton lands, you can also look into some of the Domain cards.
Dominaria United, like most sets, has me excited for Cube. I wanted to share that passion with you all. This is my first, but hopefully not my last, article here talking about sweet new Cube cards, so I hope you all enjoyed it, and I look forward to sharing more thoughts about Cube later this year with Unfinity and The Brothers’ War.