Hello folks! Welcome to the close of 2014. As the end of the year hits, there are a ton of awesome changes that I've made to my Commander Cube since I last gave you an update in September. I've continued to add in some Khans cards here and there. This is a real life Cube, so I occasionally add cards as I pick up extra copies of them, which is pretty important for me.
Of course, the major news since September is Commander 2014, and specifically, what cards are going to make the cut. So let's begin with looking at those cards, and then I can discuss which ones I'm feeling for my Cube.
These are the cards from Commander 2014 that I like enough to give another look at:
Obviously, other cards might make the cut later on, particularly if they play well. Here are the ones good enough to hit things up.
Which ones are in the lead for getting space right now? In the order of importance…
Flesh Carver - If I could design my own card for my Cube, this is about as perfect a roleplayer as I could envision. It gives another sacrifice outlet to Rakdos, Golgari and Jund themes, and it gives a fun +1/+1 counter player to Marchesa, the Black Rose and two major Abzan generals. It's a perfect sweet spot.
Flamekin Village - Adding a land that makes red mana and also gives haste is an incredibly awesome addition to the Cube!
Stitcher Geralf - He also fits a lot of different options for blue. Dumping stuff in the graveyard works that self-milling theme that fuels stuff like Sultai and its Sidisi, Brood Tyrant leader. It works with the flashback cards we rock, as well as reanimation strategies. And it makes creatures while doing that. I really like it here.
Commander's Sphere - I love getting another five-color mana rock for your decks. Good stuff!
Jazal Goldmane - One of the best cards for my Cube has to be the brother of Ajani. He gives a lot to multiple strategies, particularly those that need it. There is an aggro Boros theme that he adores. If you grab Zurgo, Helmsmasher, he'll do well. He's just nasty for a Selenya token deck as well. You can also use him with Orzhov tokens or Naya smash. Plus, he's a good, strong 4/4 for four mana for any deck, even one not built to abuse his activated ability. Jazal is perfect for my Cube!
Titania, Protector of Argoth - I love that she is an elemental. We need more of those (for Horde of Notions). She also works well with virtually every conceivable green-based strategy. Tokens? Ramp? Sacrifice? Aggro? Reanimation? Self Mill? Yes please!
Dualcaster Mage - Definitely a card worth considering, right?
Daretti, Scrap Savant - Of the new set of planeswalkers, he fills the most unique role. I could slide him in right now. People love him!
Nahiri, the Lithomancer - I already have a lot of equipment loving. My Cube doesn't actually need Nahiri to work, it suffices on its own. But Nahiri certainly knows who she is and what she brings to the table, and equipment based decks are going to want her.
While the other three 'walkers are certainly nice cards, none of them have the power or usefulness to demand their inclusion. So it'll be about finding the right fit for the color.
Lifeblood Hydra - Because it has a nasty death trigger to give you life and cards (like a mono-green Sphinx's Revelation), I love it. It works in any green-based ramping strategy, as well as in Golgari or Jund sacrifice decks or Abzan or Simic counter decks. That's a strong synergy and a potent card combined in one, but my mono-green is really good right now. Can I find a spot for Lifeblood Hydra?
Angel of the Dire Hour - Zang! Flash is great, exiling stuff is great, and using it to hose an entire attack is greatly awesome. This card is a strong contender for one of the control creatures in white.
Feldon of the Third Path - He's good in a lot of situations, and the fact that he doesn't exile the creature upon use increases his power considerably.
The rest of the cards from C14 mentioned above certainly are worth considering, but none are strong enough to make the cut into my Cube at this time. So of those I'm looking at, which ones really sell me?
These are all swaps I'm sold on completely.
I'm considering Lifeblood Hydra for something like Pelakka Wurm. The Hydra is better for ramp strategies and sacrifice effects, but the Wurm is better for reanimation and the green mechanic of getting a creature into play for free (via Tooth and Nail or Pattern of Rebirth), so both have something to offer. I'm also considering Vorinclex, which is great but expensive, and hates on folks in a major, unfriendly manner. Some people don't like to draft it at all.
In my real life cube, I run Balance, and Balancing Act online, because it's banned. As my deck gets more and more tricked out, cards like Balance are getting too good, so I'm pulling it for Nahiri. That lets me to still have the same number of equipment enablers but to drop the weakest for the nasty Jazal.
So let's put those on hold for right now…
One of the important discoveries I've made via this project is the importance of synergy over power. Mer-Ek Nightblade is probably the best example of this principle. Nobody would include that guy in their list of the top 100 black multiplayer creatures of all time. And yet there he is in my list, despite just 64 black guys in the Commander Cube. And that's all down to the fact that he can aid a lot of commanders; in particular he aids Ghave, Guru of Spores (and Abzan leader Anafenza, the Foremost) as well as Marchesa, the Black Rose. But you'll see him a lot in other builds too--he's strong with a ton of multicolored generals that have +1/+1 counters in black. There are more than you think!
So in that notion, there are a few changes I'd like to make. Not every change is about empowering the Cube. Sure, some are. Below we are adding in Cyclonic Rift, Metalworker, Domri Rade, and Soul of New Phyrexia--all powerful additions. But we need a lot of synergy as well. More than I thought when I set out to build this Cube.
I'd love to add in some more outlast, token-making, and counters. A card I was heavily eying was Tuskguard Captain. Because it gives trample to +1/+1 countered creatures, you can break through with the big stuff. Meanwhile, he plays really well with other token cards because he can give himself counters as well (unlike something like, say, Crowned Ceratok). Simic has a counter theme with some of its legendary creatures (Vorel of the Hull Clade, Prime Speaker Zegana). It works well there, as well as with Abzan friends of Ghave and Anafenza. And you have the many generals that have counters as well (Thromok the Insatiable; Asmira, Holy Avenger; Skullbriar, the Walking Grave; Kresh the Bloodbraided; Marath, Will of the Wild; The Mimeoplasm; Vorosh, the Hunter; Animar, Soul of Elements--a very impressive list).
On similar notes, Herald of Anafenza is nice as an early drop that can outlast and grow or make an army. It can play multiple roles and works in multiple archetypes; Selesnya token-making and Boros aggro and Abzan counters. Meanwhile I like Abzan Falconer to jump these folks into the sky as a much cheaper and stronger variant of Sapphire Drake. Chasm Skulker has also hit my radar both for Simic tokens and Marchesa decks, as well as just a strong card overall to consider.
Which ones will sub in though?
Rogue's Passage heads in for Tower of the Magistrate - This cube really, really wants another way to make a creature unblockable. Sometimes you want to get in that commander trigger, like Medomai the Ageless, Aurelia, the Warleader or Narset, Enlightened Master. Sometimes you just have a creature so big that you can win with damage rocking guys like Thromak, the Insatiable or Zurgo Helmsmasher. The Passage is a better team player.
Devil's Play for Fireball - I've discussed moving Fireball for a while for this card. Fireball is normally a Blaze with the potential for card advantage if you spend a lot of mana. Devil's Play is guaranteed to be card advantage since you can flash it back. Flashback works very well with self-milling strategies that run recent additions like Bitter Revelation or Strategic Planning while flashback works well with stuff like Young Pyromancer and Quiet Contemplation. Welcome Devil's Play!
Coercive Portal for Panoptic Mirror - I made this switch online with my cube on CubeTutor because the Mirror is banned. It's not nearly as powerful in Draft, so we've had it running around, but it's not even good enough to keep its spot, so it is permanently being sidelined for the Portal.
Domri Rade replaces Predatory Advantage - I secured an extra Domri. It's just an awesome Gruul 'walker. It plays into a lot of on-color themes that stress creatures. All of its abilities are enabled by having many and strong critters, which Gruul excels at. It has the biggest creatures the fastest. But it could use some card-drawing, which Domri gives you.
Metalworker for Brittle Effigy - I've been mulling over including the Metalworker for a while. Now that's it been officially unbanned (a few months ago) it seems like a nice time to dust it off and give it another day in the shade. Brittle Effigy was once a nice target for um...Trinket Mage. It's a handy tutor for something like Enlightened Tutor or Reshape I suppose. But basically it's a weak card that doesn't do enough. So out it comes.
Clever Impersonator swaps for Clone - By waiting until the price plummeted on Clever Impersonator, I was able to get some copies for a lot less. It will be replacing that old-school classic, Clone. It's an obvious sub.
By the way, the number of artifacts the Trinket Mage can grab is swiftly moving downhill. We've pulled a strong number of one mana artifacts. That means it's growing weaker each time. And some options aren't really that great. There's going to come a time when it gets pulled due to numbers. Know what might be a better blue creature for the same cost? Chasm Skulker. The Trinket Mage only works in a handful of decks at best. Chasm Skulker works in lots of decks as a creature that gets bigger over time and gives you some dorks after death.
We won't be adding in Tuskguard Captain. It would be the best option, but I like all of our good solid green cards right now. I couldn't find an easy spot for that Titania, Protector of Argoth or Lifeblood Hydra either. The only cheap green creature I might be looking to pull is Wellwisher. But I am unconvinced that the Captain is the best choice for that spot. Both are synergetic for different things. I don't see one over the other right now.
And that brings us to the end of another set of Commander Cube changes!
Like always, you can view the cube over at cubetutor.com. They've recently made some improvements, so check it out! You can see the Cube, draft it (I recommend using six packs) and enjoy yourself!
If you are more of a Google docs person, I also have a link for you too. Check it out here.
Let me know what you think! What cards made your own Commander Cubes? What questions do you have?
Get ready, 2015!