For the Magic Online Championship at PAX East, the Magic Online Cube was changed to add Gatecrash. However, the changes weren't just Gatecrash cards—plenty of other cards made their debut with this update, as well as cards from earlier updates.
In this article, I'll be discussing the changes that happened to the Magic Online Cube with the addition of Gatecrash.
In this update, the cube was changed from the base 720-card list. It went to 540 cards when it was powered, but it looks like that was a temporary change and that the normal cube will always be 720 cards. I'll be discussing the changes compared to the 720-card version.
Within the color sections, I'll be breaking down the changes by approximate decks like I did in previous update articles. Cards with asterisks are literally mono-color cards that act as multicolor cards, like Kird Ape.
Gideon's Lawkeeper -> Jotun Grunt
Burrenton Forge-Tender -> Ronom Unicorn
Spectral Lynx * -> Shrieking Grotesque *
Soltari Priest -> Knight of the White Orchid
Loyal Cathar -> Hand of Honor
Fencing Ace -> Nearheath Pilgrim
Ethersworn Canonist -> Descendant of Kiyomaro
Soltari Champion -> Linvala, Keeper of Silence
Most of these updates deal with white aggressive decks.
Cutting Soltari Champion for Linvala seems like a big downgrade since the room for four-mana white creatures is extremely tight and I'm generally happy to play all of the Anthems that I can on a body (and with Soltari Champion, the body isn't embarrassing either as a 2/2 shadow, although obviously you're not playing it with the hope of it attacking alone).
Other changes could be seen as washes—Loyal Cathar turning into Hand of Honor looks to be a downgrade for white aggressive decks, although neither of which is very exciting, but Soltari Priest leaving looks like a big downgrade.
Gideon's Lawkeeper turning into Jotun Grunt is interesting because it'll be the debut of Jotun Grunt in the Magic Online Cube. Admittedly, I haven't had much experience with it in Cube and wonder how often it'll attack more than once, but I also wonder if that's even necessary for it to be worth it. If need be, it'll be graveyard hate.
The Forge-Tender being replaced by Ronom Unicorn is also likely an overall upgrade. I was never really a fan of the Forge-Tender as a narrow sideboard card. My experience with Ronom Unicorn has been that it is filler in aggro decks. There are better options that the Magic Online cube isn't running like Kor Skyfisher and Cloistered Youth. Although I can see aggro decks using Ronom Unicorn, as "boring" as something like Cloistered Youth is, I'd much rather have that in the cube.
Fencing Ace becoming Nearheath Pilgrim is interesting since Nearheath Pilgrim was one of the few cards added when the Magic Online Cube went to 540 cards. It's a nice card for creature-centric midrange decks like Naya. Fencing Ace almost always acted like a Goblin Piker with the double strike not mattering very much, so it leaving is a good thing because it was typically a low pick. Descendent of Kiyomaro is another new addition. It used to see play in early cubes and should be nice as a midrange threat in slower decks. I think it'll end up doing more than the Canonist, which was usually a marginal sideboard card.
While Iona costs an additional mana more than Avacyn, it shouldn't matter too much since it's mostly cheated into play through things like Reanimation, although hitting the ninth mana may make it a bit more awkward in rampy decks.That said, I think that this change is an upgrade since Iona fits the role of giant white creature to cheat into play better by cutting off all sorts of spells and protecting your board state and makes it much harder for it to become the victim of a spell to negate your efforts (like a Venser, Shaper Savant or a Wrath).Its body is worse than Avacyn's, but I'd wager that its ability to lock the opponent out, especially if cheated into play, is better for the deck it's in.
That said, I could see it being cut altogether, but I'd rather have Iona as cheatyface fodder than Avacyn if one of those cards has to stay.
Angel of Serenity is a very welcome addition as both a Reanimation and a ramp target, and I was very happy to see it come in with this iteration since it was missing from the Return to Ravnica update. Eternal Dragon is much more of a two-mana spell that fetches a Plains than a Dragon (and at least in my cube experience, I've found that while the flexibility is good, it is quite slow). So while Eternal Dragon replacing Angel may have been a seven-mana guy for a seven-mana guy change, their roles tend to be quite different. Regardless, I'm happy to see Angel of Serenity in because it's a card that I've been happy with in my cube.
It's arguable whether Mikaeus turning into Hokori is an aggro upgrade or not (I'd personally argue downgrade since I see it making more sideboards due to the competitiveness of four-drops in white, but I'd likely end up maindecking it against the many slow decks out there). Luminarch Ascension was mostly a sideboard card to fight durdly decks, and it being replaced by the old standby in Academy Rector should be interesting. There aren't any crazy enchantments like Form of the Dragon, Debtors' Knell, or Omniscience to cheat into play, but white decks tend to have a lot of enchantments anyway, so it typically works well there.
I'm surprised it took Entreat the Angels this long to get into the cube—although it hasn't been as ubiquitous as Bonfire of the Damned in Standard, it typically acts as a nice pseudo Broodmate Dragon / Serra Angel type of card (with an absurd upside if miracled), which should work well in the Magic Online Cube.
Renewed Faith becoming Seal of Cleansing should be a nice change as another Disenchant effect (maindecking them is usually a good idea). Renewed Faith tended to be a narrow sideboard card that didn't do very much work. The new Gideon may look odd, especially considering that it hasn't really done much in the world of Constructed, but it's not bad as a Calciderm type of guy with its own set of pluses and minuses (although it's nowhere near making it into my 460-card cube, it's fine in this 720-card cube). Having it replace yet another life gain card is nice.
Thankfully, Martial Law didn't last long because it's pretty weak. It got replaced by Hallowed Burial. There are now nine Wrath effects in white (counting Cataclysm). It'll be interesting to see how these changes affect white, but it feels like it's tilting more towards midrange now.
Overall, I'm a fan of these changes. Brine Elemental is a pipe dream in Cube and isn't very good on its own. It's quite telling when common/uncommon cubes that have to resort to using finishers like Jetting Glasskite due to lack of options don't even bother using Brine Elemental. Trinket Mage is a nice addition that works solidly even without power. Tandem Lookout turning into Coralhelm Commander is mostly a wash as both are tempo cards (ignore the Merfolk pump ability) that boost attacking decks. I could go either way with it.
That said, it's odd seeing Thieving Magpie come in when Lu Xun, Scholar General isn't already in the Magic Online Cube (as it was printed in Master's Edition 3) and is better due to its evasion. Although Teferi's isn't the strongest five-mana creature for a cube this size, it's fine here as a way to screw up combat math and to act as a nice card in the control mirrors. I never was very happy with Stifle in the Magic Online Cube since it felt that it never did enough to warrant maindecking or sideboarding in, so I won't really miss it.
Intuition had some uses, so I'd honestly have rather have seen something like Dissipate leave for Hinder, although both aren't that great as three-mana counters with marginal upsides. Memory Lapse turning into Legacy's Allure looks to be a downgrade. Legacy's Allure is for slower control decks or possibly tempo decks to steal cheap blockers, while Memory Lapse is more a counter to keep the opponent on the back foot. I found that decks like W/U tempo were pretty decent in the Magic Online Cube and taking out tools like Memory Lapse (even if played in generic counterspell decks) seems like it's doing a disservice—not only for diversifying archetypes but to put in a card that looks to be overall worse.
Although I personally think that Time Warp is a bit on the expensive side, even in unpowered lists, it's good to see Time Warp coming back since it got cut for the pretty bad miracle version (Temporal Mastery) when AVR hit, which was a downgrade. I've been surprised by how good Careful Consideration has been in both control and Reanimation lists and am a bit surprised to see it cut in this iteration, especially when things that aren't really liked (Phantasmal Bear) remain.
Power Sink turning into Condescend is a big upgrade that I brought up in a previous article—one that I'm very glad was done, as the scry was much better than the ability to possibly Power Drain an opponent. Desertion turning into Misdirection will be good. Desertion was a card that I used to be a bigger fan of, but I found that needing to keep up five mana is a huge cost even with the blowout potential. I was also surprised to see fan favorite Dream Halls leave, especially considering its use in unfair decks, but Court Hussar should be at home in most U/W decks. It'll make more maindecks, but I am unsure if it'll make more of an impact.
Gloom Surgeon -> Ravenous Rats
Dauthi Horror -> Nightscape Familiar *
Black Knight -> Hand of Cruelty
Phyrexian Crusader -> Vampire Nighthawk
Zombie Cutthroat -> Undead Gladiator
Throat Slitter -> Okiba-Gang Shinobi
Lots of new cards, like Undead Gladiator and more questionable ones like Ravenous Rats. Like with white, the black Hand comes in (although it seems to be a straight-up switch for Black Knight, which is an upgrade because although it's worse with boosts like equipment and burn, Hand is better at dealing with things like 3/3s, etc.).
Some of the new cards like Ravenous Rats don't look to be very good, although Gloom Surgeon was a perpetual last pick. Speaking of Rats, I'm surprised Pack Rat still wasn't included, but I'm happy that Phyrexian Crusader got upgraded into Vampire Nighthawk—a change that most people should be happy with. Nightscape Familiar looks to be more fodder for the Storm deck, and I personally would rather have seen cards like Headhunter or Korlash leave than Dauthi Horror. It's also interesting to note that the mono-black theme with cards like Corrupt, Tendrils of Corruption, and Spinning Darkness is still there (which got cut when the cube went to 540 cards). I wonder if it will be undone in the future.
While black aggro got a bit worse by taking Dauthi Horror out, black control got an upgrade. The cut from Sheoldred to Visara is a downgrade and Skeletal Vampire is a distant third for black six-mana finishers for cube (behind Grave Titan and Kokusho), but it's definitely better than some of the other options like Laquatus' Champion and Nefarox which have been previously featured in this cube. Massacre Wurm is a card I'm surprised isn't in the cube, although it's not the greatest generic control finisher.
Innocent Blood -> Disfigure
Imperial Seal -> Sign in Blood
Despise -> Chainer's Edict
Deathmark -> Tainted Pact
Diabolic Edict -> Smother
Corpse Dance -> Snuff Out
Consuming Vapors -> Black Sun's Zenith
Liliana of the Dark Realms -> Death Cloud
Nothing -> Skeletal Scrying
An extra card was added to black, as it had 98 cards while the other sections had 99 (although it could be argued that Lashwrithe was the missing card, there are other cards like Vedalken Shackles in blue that are still in the blue section). It may have been an oversight, but it seems to have been corrected.
Out of the sections that I've covered so far, the spell section in black got some of the biggest downgrades. It's good that Chainer's Edict and Snuff Out are finally in the Magic Online Cube, but seeing cards like Innocent Blood, Imperial Seal, Diabolic Edict, and Consuming Vapors leave for it is a step backwards since these are all staples in most much smaller cubes as premium removal or Tutoring. Smother especially looks to be worse than either Diabolic Edict, Consuming Vapors, or Innocent Blood, and Black Sun's Zenith usually is a disappointment that combines poorly with your own larger creatures (unlike with cards like Rolling Earthquake).
I've talked about how Liliana of the Dark Realms has been underrated, but I'm interested to see how Death Cloud works out since it can work amazingly well in decks that can break the symmetry. Skeletal Scrying and Sign in Blood give black some card advantage at the cost of life, but they're quite far from Night's Whisper. I've never been happy with my experience with them in cube due to being very clunky.
Vexing Devil -> Stromkirk Noble
Slith Firewalker -> Goblin Patrol
Blood Knight -> Goblin Cadets
Vulshok Refugee -> Lightning Mauler
Goblin Goon -> Gore-House Chainwalker
Ingot Chewer -> Ash Zealot
Rorix Bladewing -> Magus of the Moon
Akroma, Angel of Fury -> Cunning Sparkmage
Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded -> Keldon Champion
Volcanic Hammer -> Zealous Conscripts
It looks like they're giving red aggressive decks more love—it's the only cube section that got an upgrade for aggro. During the Avacyn Restored update, one of the changes that I didn't like was replacing Stromkirk Noble with Vexing Devil, which was pure downgrade. I'm not as huge on Goblin Patrol as I used to be and think that there's way too much combat in Cube for Goblin Cadets to be worth using (but I can see siding it in versus more durdly decks), but it at least represents that they want red aggressive decks to be good. Since it's the only section that got an aggro upgrade, that's a very good thing. Lightning Mauler, Gore-House Chainwalker, and Ash Zealot are nice additions that replace some pretty weak cards that either didn't do much or were weak sideboard fodder.
While I'm not that big on Magus of the Moon since I've found that it is weak against the decks that it is meant to hose, most of these changes were big upgrades. Zealous Conscripts was finally added with the Return to Ravnica update with power, but it's good that it's in for good, along with perennial fan-favorite Keldon Champion. Akroma, Angel of Fury is replaced by newcomer Cunning Sparkmage, which I've been impressed with in Cube as a way to act as a pseudo Tooth of Chiss-Goria, a way to deal with annoying X/1s, and player pinger.
Flames of the Firebrand -> Forked Bolt
Pillar of Flame -> Firebolt
Devastating Dreams -> Faithless Looting
Pulse of the Forge -> Burst Lightning
Act of Aggression -> Skullcrack
Chandra Nalaar -> Price of Progress
These changes are a mixed bag. The Firebolt turning into Pillar of Flame change from Avacyn Restored was undone, and seeing some staples like Faithless Looting and Burst Lightning are nice. But other cards like Skullcrack look to be weak, as are things like seeing Flames of the Firebrand being replaced by Forked Bolt (the latter of which tended to act too often as a sorcery speed Shock than Flames of the Firebrand acted as a three-mana Volcanic Hammer).
One thing of note is that Chandra Nalaar got cut but Firebrand remains. When Chandra's Firebrand version came out, I had very high hopes for her, but she ended up being a pretty big disappointment as she couldn't really protect herself. I found that although when she was good, she was very good, she was usually pretty weak due to her weak board impact. Still, she's fine in a 720-card cube, and even though she can be slow (especially when compared to newer five-drops in red like Thundermaw Hellkite), I'd definitely rather have her than Firebrand and would much rather have her than the sideboard fodder like Price of Progress (when I used to run it in my cube, the greedy decks just hated it, and it wasn't good enough for the red decks to take early-mid pick.)
Banefire acts as the secondary X spell and is one of the cards that I can see leaving pretty soon, but it's definitely better than Magmaquake, which it replaces as an inefficient Wrath with a best-case scenario that almost never happened.
Rite of Ruin is replaced by Destructive Force. I'm unsure on whether Destructive Force will do much as it didn't really do very much before and it'll likely perform at a worse rate since there were a few mana rocks that got taken out with this iteration, but Destructive Force should be better than something like Rite of Ruin, which struggled to see play even in the Wildfire decks. I found cards like Jokulhaups and Obliterate to be prohibitively expensive unless paired with either planeswalkers or a ton of mana ramp.
This does make it so that red gets a bit narrower (along with the cutting of some of red's pricier cards like Beacon of Destruction), but I think that since those cards didn't really do much, it's better to see them become cards like Flame Javelin. Volcanic Fallout may be on the marginal side since this cube doesn't have Whipflare, but it's something that I can see bringing in when I'm a slower red deck.
Vinelasher Kudzu -> Experiment One
Jade Mage -> Boreal Druid
Leatherback Baloth -> Dryad Sophisticate
Somberwald Sage -> Wood Elves
Daybreak Ranger -> Civic Wayfinder
Phantom Centaur -> Borderland Ranger
There are some questionable changes, such as cutting Somberwald Sage for one of the Wood Elves / Civic Wayfinder / Borderland Ranger guys, but the path appears to be maxing out on the ramp, which is what green has mostly done in this cube. Civic Wayfinder and Borderland Ranger are more general value guys a la Phyrexian Rager and as such should make it into most green decks here; they won't be high picks, but you'll typically be happy to play them in the final 40.
Dryad Sophisticate looks to be an addition with all of the nonbasic lands that are entering this iteration of the cube. I found that when I used to run it in my cube, it was on the inconsistent side—letting the opponent choose sometimes whether it's unblockable was awkward, and it's doubly handicapped by green aggro's lack of support. But it can be nice as a miser's way of hitting planeswalkers like a Sorin, Lord of Innistrad.
While I usually like Experiment One in Cube, I don't have high hopes for it in the Magic Online Cube because it doesn't support green aggressive decks very much. It has potential in Cube in general, but I wouldn't be surprised if it only lasts for an iteration or two online.
Thornling -> Nature's Claim
Cloudthresher -> Exploration
Prey Upon -> Nature's Lore
Seal of Primordium -> Life from the Loam
Lead the Stampede -> Edge of Autumn
Moldervine Cloak -> Eureka
Overrun -> Chord of Calling
I'm very happy to see perpetual last-picks like Moldervine Cloak and Lead the Stampede leave—even if Edge of Autumn seems like a pretty meh card, it'll do more than either Lead or Moldervine Cloak. Other cards like Nature's Claim fit green's ramp role, as does Eureka, although Chord of Calling seems like it'll be too expensive to use.
It's good to see Detention Sphere coming in, as I talked about how it should have been in during the RTR update when weaker cards like Isperia, Supreme Judge came in, as "boring" as Detention Sphere is (it still deals with permanents very well). Isperia and Drogskol Reaver were good cuts because they were on the weak side of finishers.
I'm surprised to see Venser, the Sojourner leave because the Magic Online Cube emphasizes build around cards/cards that can have nice stories around them, but it's understandable as there are times when it can do stone nothing while being attacked by midrange beaters. I'd honestly prefer to have Venser remain over Absorb, a card that I feel costs too much mana since I find when the cost of a counterspell increases over two mana, it needs to do a lot of work to be worth it and the life gain, while useful in some matches, typically isn't. But there are worse things that Venser could have become.
Dimir is one of the sections where the changes were straight-up in terms of numbers, although it looks like they were on the downgrade side. Havengul Lich is the standout as a good change since even in the Magic Online Cube, Havengul Lich was typically too slow to do very much. I honestly can't think of many decks with U/B mana that I wouldn't want a Baleful Strix as a solid defensive blocker and a surprisingly good Sword holder.
Agony Warp turned into Dimir Charm, but it probably should have turned into Duskmantle Seer. I haven't really seen the "Delver" deck in the Magic Online Cube, but Duskmantle Seer does tend to work hard in the more tempo-oriented decks, and when it's in a deck where it's supported, it's one of the stronger centerpieces. Dimir Charm and Nightveil Specter are pretty weak cards. Dimir Charm is the better of the two because it has some flexibility by being able to kill things while countering annoying sorceries, but it still doesn't seem like it's worth the slot.
Bituminous Blast and Void seem like easy cuts since they were on the weaker side of Rakdos cards due to relative inefficiencies (as much as cascade is a fun mechanic, I typically found Bit Blast to be overcosted). Olivia being replaced by Blightning may be merely an archetype support change—I would argue that Olivia does more for Rakdos decks as the best Masticore ever, even though she's more at home in decks like Grixis/Jund, but it should be nice to see how it works out.
While I am fine with Tattermunge Maniac leaving, Boggart-Ram Gang being replaced by Domri Rade can be argued either way as it's very good for the midrange decks that feature a lot of creatures but not so great in aggressive decks. I would have liked to have seen something like Giant Solifuge come out instead of Boggart Ram-Gang, although Solifuge is a nice sideboard card against the Wrath-heavy decks.
Overall, Selesnya got a lot of cuts, and the changes appear to be downgrades. Turning Sigarda into Behemoth Sledge looks to be a downgrade (or turning Knight of the Reliquary / Armada Wurm into it as well). Gaddock Teeg looks to be fine, especially against white decks with many Wraths.
Although changing Angel of Despair into Obzedat is an easy upgrade, changing Tidehollow Sculler into Merciless Eviction is a downgrade. I'm not a fan of Austere Command in Cube (and it appears to be one of the few white Wrath variants that isn't in this cube), and Merciless Eviction compares poorly even to that. Tidehollow Sculler is on the weaker side of Orzhov cards admittedly, but what it got replaced by looks to be much worse as an inefficient Wrath variant.
The original Niv-Mizzet was a pretty easy cut since it was one of the weaker cards in the guild that compared poorly to other six-mana cards in the color pair and is outright replaced by the newer version.
Both changes appear to be easy upgrades. Thankfully, Boros had some weak cards that could be jettisoned for some stronger additions.
This was an upgrade, especially since Voidslime and Cold-Eyed Selkie aren't very good as either an overcosted counterspell with marginal upside or a mostly sideboarded card. People tend to underrate Shardless Agent since they are scared of it hitting counterspells. I've found it's fine to run in most U/G decks, but if the math bears out that there are more counterspells than cascade targets you should adjust accordingly.
Unfortunately, all three of these tricolor adds seem bad. Progenitus is the biggest offender, which just seems awful and is just about impossible to hard cast outside of 5CC. I think it could be replaced by Sphinx of the Steel Wind easily, even when considering the fun factor.
(30 multicolor out, 18 in)
Ankh of Mishra
Grafted Wargear -> Oblivion Stone
Phyrexian Processor -> Winter Orb
Eldrazi Monument -> Bonesplitter
Mindslaver -> Elixir of Immortality
Lashwrithe -> Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
Cards like Prismatic Lens, Fellwar Stone, and Coldsteel Heart, while being pretty marginal cards, were cards that I was usually wanted to play in the Magic Online Cube since most of the slow decks that I drafted needed generic mana rocks to get the job done. Although mana rocks like Prismatic Lens were pretty innocuous, they were cards that I almost always wanted to play in my midrange and control decks, and with the lack of Signets in this cube, the few two-mana rocks will have to be taken very highly. Thankfully, cards like Sphere of the Suns and Everflowing Chalice remain, although I'd honestly rather have something like Prismatic Lens over Sphere of the Suns, but you take what you can in a draft.
One could argue that this purging of mana rocks was done so that green could be "the mana ramp" color, which would be an evolution in the viewpoint earlier when Signets and bouncelands were intentionally taken out for that reason. Has the role now changed so that bouncelands no longer apply to that rule? If so, I am glad to see that change in mentality.
Unfortunately, the pro-black Swords are gone—they returned when the Magic Online Cube was powered, and I thought that represented a change in mentality—that they realized that cutting black swords isn't the right way to fix black—but that change seems to have been undone. I'm hoping to see this change as I've found that black has been good in my cube even with the pro-black Swords.
To make room for lands, a lot of artifacts were cut, and some of them like Phyrexian Processor, Mindslaver, and Platinum Angel were clunky cuts that I'm happy with (especially with replacements like Winter Orb and Bonesplitter). Elixir of Immortality looks to be a marginal sideboard card (possibly added in because of the purging of so many white life gain cards), and I was surprised by a few artifact cuts like Mimic Vat, Grafted Wargear, and Lightning Greaves when cards like Manriki-Gusari and Powder Keg remain.
(22 artifacts out, 5 artifacts in)
City of Brass
Flagstones of Trokair
5 Mirage Lands (Bad River)
10 Bouncelands (Rakdos Carnarium)
10 Filters (Graven Cairns)
5 Trilands (Savage Lands)
(10 lands cut, 37 lands added)
Aside from being happy about City of Brass finally making it in, the changes in this section may be the ones with the most impact and the one that I'm the most happy with. I've frequently talked about how it felt like the mana fixing in this cube was weak for aggressive decks, and although lands like the Shards of Alara trilands and the bouncelands aren't good for aggro decks, the filter lands are a huge boon for those archetypes, especially white aggro decks that value filter lands for the ability to hit WW easily. There are some drawbacks of course, like not being able to cast a Lightning Bolt on main phase 1 and then an Elite Vanguard on main 2, but those come with the territory and dismissing them for aggressive decks on that merit seems incorrect since they should fit most other needs of aggressive decks.
The retention of the bouncelands from the powered cube, as mentioned earlier, represents a possible change in the mentality that those lands make green decks/attack decks bad (because as I've found out those lands aren't to blame). Those lands will be powerful tools for midrange and control decks. The Mirage fetches should play nicely in most decks as a secondary source of fixing, and while it may be that the Lorwyn Vivid lands are better than the Alara trilands, they'll still be nice additions to help relieve the burden of mana fixing.
Aside from Shelldock Isle, none of the lands that were cut should be terribly missed, and the land section overall got boost—to the point where I would actually be ok if one of the cycles, either the trilands or the Mirage fetchlands, were cut due to the size of the land section. Some of the individual changes like replacing Shelldock Isle with Faerie Conclave look to be downgrades, but it seems like the section that needed the biggest change got a well-needed face-lift. I'm very happy that the fixing has increased in the Magic Online Cube. This means that you don't have to take it as highly while drafting—it'll be interesting to see if that influences how many colors people draft and if the slower decks with more colors will do better in this new metagame.
I hope that this article has given you some useful information on what changed with Gatecrash in the Magic Online Cube and will help you when drafting the Magic Online Cube once the Gatecrash version goes up.
May all of your opening packs containSol Rings!