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For the last few years, the holidays have meant one thing for me: battling in Roanoke. I must admit, I was a little sad to not be seeing Star Wars: The Last Jedi with my fellow Players' Championship competitors at the Valley View Theater in Roanoke, as had become a Players' Championship tradition. Still, that's the world we live in, and I had to settle for seeing it with John and Nicole instead.
With zero Ixalan drafts under my belt and happy for a break, I decided to skip Grand Prix New Jersey last weekend, despite it being less than two hours from my house, and as such my Magic year ended at the #SCGINVI a few weeks ago. In between preparing for the holidays and just enjoying time off from the road, I've been able to jam some Vintage Masters drafts on Magic Online as well as pursue my favorite relaxing Magic pastime – Cube!
I haven't had much time or opportunity to Cube draft or work on my Cube much in the last few years, so any time I get to work on it is fun time. Let's take a look at what 2017 had to offer our Cubes, with an overview of the best Cube cards released this year!
Search for Azcanta is one of my favorite cards to see print in a long time and is an even better fit into Cubes than competitive Constructed formats.
Cube design and card evaluation is different from how you would normally look at a Magic card, so it's important to understand what differences matter. The simplest difference between a designed Cube Limited format and any Constructed format is the self-imposed card limit – you will never have more than one copy of a card in your deck, which means that diminishing returns almost never come in to play.
Pretty much any Constructed deck running Search for Azcanta is really going to want to draw and cast it on Turn 2 if possible, but the more copies you play, the more you risk drawing that second or third copy in the mid-game that doesn't really do anything. As such, there is a natural limit to how many copies you're ever going to want to play.
Cube doesn't have that limitation. As such, legendary cards as well as cards that have serious diminishing returns are much more exciting in a Cube environment. Search for Azcanta is an extremely exciting card for any Cube deck that wants to be controlling, as well as an interesting tool for any non-creature deck to put together specific combination of cards.
Put simply, I'm in love.
Speaking of legendary permanents with diminishing returns, Hazoret the Fervent has been terrorizing Standard since her printing and fits the bill perfectly. Red has done very well recently as far as adding good creatures to the Cube, and Hazoret enters the Cube as perhaps the best aggressive curve-topper available.
I've worked very hard to make the red section of my Cube not as one-dimensional as it is in most Cubes, and because there's a smaller density of aggressive red cards, it's important that the ones that are present are very impactful. Hazoret is exactly that.
I still think we've only scratched the surface of Hazoret's potential, and I expect her to eventually make her way into Modern if there's a deck that gives her a home. The card is just too good to be relegated to only one Standard deck.
Speaking of cards that are extremely high on power level...
Fatal Push is one of the best removal spells ever printed, and you need to put it in your Cube. It carries extra value in my Cube because I've worked hard to keep the overall mana curve of the Cube low, but there's really no excuse not to have Fatal Push in your Cube.
Let's look at a card that is a bit more interesting.
An important factor to Cube design is "barrier to entry." A card like Fatal Push is very easy to add to your Cube because it is so cheap and universal. While there's a limit to the amount of cheap removal spells you are going to want in your Cube, the literal best one ever printed is a pretty easy sell. Things get more complicated when you get to the higher mana costs, weirder color combinations, and specific card types (namely planeswalkers). You can't really have a dozen green six-mana creatures, ten U/B multicolored cards, or 45 planeswalkers in your Cube (unless you're Magic Online; more on that disaster later) or things start to get very out of sync.
So when we hit a card like Hostage Taker, things get both interesting and exciting.
Hostage Taker is a very powerful and fun Magic card, but more importantly the Dimir section of my Cube has always been lacking:
Baleful Strix, Shadowmage Infiltrator, and Dimir Signet are all shoe-ins, with Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas being very powerful due to my heavy artifact theme. Otherwise, Lim-Dul's Vault is a very bad Vampiric Tutor and Far // Away is just embarrassingly bad. For the most part, cards like Undermine and Recoil are cute but underpowered, and the section as a whole has always been lacking.
So not only do we get to add a sweet card to a weak color pair section, but Hostage Taker is also a card that fits best in an aggressive tempo deck; whenever you get to add a sweet card that helps out an archetype that needs the help, that's a huge win for your Cube.