Cubers Anonymous - From The Vault: Cube
I gotta be honest with you. I'm a little jealous.
I'm happy for you Commander players; I really am. I was once one of you back four years ago before I knew what a Cube was. Now that Wizards has come along and decided to officialize—I'm writing you're reading it's a word—your format you get cards special made just for your little 100-card decks. Five Commander decks bursting with both sweet and new cards. Congratulations Commander contingent you hit the big time. Still a little jealous but at least we cubers were able to pick up a handful of cards out of the new 51 and shove them into our boxes.
And then they release From the Vault: Commander Legends.
Two special products aimed at one group in one summer. What the &@#%?!? Now I'm really jealous.
I just want to believe that most of R&D hasn't had the chance to sit down and have some pure unadulterated cube-ness but I know that isn't the case. They featured it as a format in the 2007 Magic Invitational so I know they know how awesome it is. My guess is they took away the Invitational because no one could handle how sweet cube drafting would be with the best players the game had to offer. But I digress. So why am I so bummed about Wizards releasing a From the Vault set just for Commander players? Well recently there has been some Twitter discussion regarding the From the Vault series and Mark Rosewater claimed that in essence a FTV: Cube had already been released in the form of FTV: Exiled. I'm going to have to disagree for a couple reasons:
1) FTV: Exiled was released two years ago. I know that I was cubing then but the general population was still getting their feet wet accepting it. That's like saying to Commander players “Look guys we released a multiplayer product! Surely you can find a Battle Royale box set somewhere on eBay…”
2) All of the cards in FTV: E aren't even cube playable (henceforth “cubable”). Trinisphere? Maybe if you snuck it into Kenny Mayer's cube as a sick joke. Goblin Lackey for a Tribal cube? Lotus Petal for a I dunno storm cube? It's not like they slipped Lin Sivvi Dralnu Lich Lord Haakon Stromgald Scourge into From the Vault: Legends and called it a day just because they formally saw Constructed play and are Legends.
Even if I accept the reasoning for calling FTV: Exiled the equivalent of FTV: Cube I'm holding you to the second part of your tweet where you say “Not saying we won't make another one.” For goodness sake Tom LaPille put a (proverbial) gun to their heads!
Now that the ranting is out of the way let's get down to the nitty gritty. Since this piece is far more relevant to the rallying of cube support rather than an outline for what I want them to do I am not concerning myself with what the print of these cards in a limited run box set would do to any secondary market value. This is just a potential sweet example of what could be done if Wizards were to go all in on an amazing FTV directed towards cubers. I will adhere to the Reserve List so if something isn't on it anything goes.
This list will be fifteen cards rather than fourteen + new mystery card since just putting that in spot 15 would be lazy as hell. I don't care what the average number of new art is compared to the previous FTV sets so if I want them all to have brand spanking new art (spoiler: I don't) then so be it. Pimping a cube out is one of the most fun aspects of owning a cube so I will give a little detail on each card of what art I would want as well as a tiny description if it gets new art. Remember this self-made list is generally for discussion and cube-boners so don't expect much of it to come to fruition. So without further ado…
From the Vault: Cube
1) Mind Twist
Guess what card isn't on the Reserved List? Mind Twist is my all-time favorite Magic card so of course that means it's my favorite Cube card. Strong discard is black's hallmark and nothing does it better than Mind Twist. I have actually heard stories of people casting this card and then claiming they didn't fall in love immediately. Luckily I know those stories aren't true.
For this iconic of a card I am a little squeamish on having new art that would do the card justice so I would want to stay as close to the original as possible if we did. Think the difference between Ron Spencer's Alpha Terror and his MPR Textless Terror. Julie Baroh was the original artist but I think the aforementioned Ron Spencer would knock it out of the park on a redo. Just thinking about opening this in foil in pack one gives me chills.
One of blue's heavy hitters in any Cube that will have it Bribery has been letting the blue mage steal your deck's best fatty for over a decade. I'm sure that I could legitimately fill up ten slots out of the fifteen with blue cards but I'm going to try to avoid doing so while still being true to what I think people would want to see in an ideal box set.
This card absolutely needs new art in a bad way. I would want to stay on the basic premise of the Masques block art with a port city theme and human/mercenary/Saprazzan dealings and everything else that goes with it. Since I don't want the art to accidentally suck again I would entrust Rebecca Guay to cook up something spicy.
3) Ravages of War
Was gonna go Armageddon in this spot but how else are we gonna get a sweet black-bordered Ravages in foil no less? This is the quintessential aggro finisher in white along with his more famous but cheaper twin brother. I made the mistake of temporarily taking it out of my cube during the first Rotisserie draft in Baltimore earlier this year since I didn't own one and didn't want any proxies to be played.
Poor Kenny Mayer drafted mono-white aggro expecting to have both land sweepers but soon found out his dreams were just that. I don't think he'll ever forgive me for that. I honestly I don't think he should.
The original art will do just fine here in a beautiful black foily border.
4) Sylvan Library
The only Library good (and legal) enough for this list is the ever-loved Sylvan Library. One of the only cards on the list that is correct to usually splash Sylvan Library is a card not too many decks don't want for its (arguably) better-than-Top library manipulation. Green is always in a tough place in most cubes with people including myself trying to figure out its identity. Sylvan Library is the de-facto best enchantment for green outside of Survival of the Fittest and since the Reserved List squashed those dreams the Library stands alone at the top.
We can all agree that the card's original art is just awful so a new commission would be needed. I'm envisioning a forest-y tomb with something interesting hiding inside so I'm handing the reins for new art over to Rob Alexander who would certainly deliver on a land-esque looking card.
5) Sulfuric Vortex
This is probably the least iconic card so far but for people who fancy tossing burn and small creatures at your opponent's face you know that Sulfuric Vortex absolutely deserves to be here. I still feel like this card is underutilized in cube. It's not that people don't run it in their cube—it does seem to be fairly ubiquitous—but I never hear it mentioned as the defining card that it is. Red is in a funny place in cube in that it only does one thing well and that's kill people ASAP. Lightning Bolt is the quintessential Red card but Vortex is like a really pissed off Bolt every turn. And no silly lifegain to get you out from under its vortex of rage either.
6) Jace the Mind Sculptor
I'm pretty sure at this point this card doesn't need any explaining why it's on this list. In cubes planeswalkers are at the top of the card advantage mountain and even though it's getting crowded up there I don't see anyone usurping the BAMF that is Jace the Mind Sculptor.
I'm sure some people will hem and haw about Jace being on the list but let's be realistic. If you open Jace and there isn't any Power Nine to be found you are usually taking him. Jason Chan's original art is absolutely perfect so no need to go on about that.
7) Eternal Witness
It may surprise some of you to find that (spoiler) Tarmogoyf is not on this list and Eternal Witness is. Cubers had long ago come to the conclusion that despite Goyf being pretty much the best at what he does attacking and blocking that is all he does and in most situations that just isn't exciting. Most people's favorite creatures in standard cubes are ones that are really fast or have a sweet enters/leaves the battlefield ability. The Witness has it all one of the best abilities of that category along with a Reanimate/Unearth-friendly casting cost a Reveillark-loving two power and beautiful original art by Terese Nielson making her a slam dunk for a spot on this list.
8) Umezawa's Jitte
Oh Jitte. The best Equipment in the game as well as the most iconic Jitte has been an easy first pick in cube drafts for as long as they have existed. Even in an environment as powerful as a fully powered cube where fast mana rules there are few decks that don't fear a JItte on a quick creature powering up and ready to take out their win conditions from the battlefield. The only other Equipment that are close in power level and meaningfulness are Sword of Fire and Ice and Skullclamp the latter of which has already had a FTV treatment. I absolutely love the original art by Chris Moeller so that gets the nod.
9) Vampiric Tutor
Another black card sneaks around the reserve list and onto ours. Vampiric Tutor is one of the most powerful cards in Magic hands down. In a format where you only have one of each card V Tutor is the only card that you can cast at instant speed after surveying your opponent's turn to get the one card to blow them out of the game or let you back into it. Another easy first pick and easily splashable at that.
I would like new art for this card something that is really sinister looking that catches your eye as you pass through the pack. Kev Walker should by now be the go to guy for epic and sinister so there isn't a reason to choose someone else.
10) Hymn to Tourach
Hymn as Mind Twist earlier highlights black's most powerful cards in a cube setting. As I'm sure you'll note this is the third black card on our list and the last black card on our list. That means that my favorite creature of all time Dark Confidant will find himself sitting on the sideline joining his brother in arms Tarmogoyf as the most debated cards not here. Even though Hymn doesn't quite have first-pick pedigree I would argue that Confidant usually finds himself in the same boat due to black's lack of early game as far as aggro goes.
So in the event of the coin-flip I'm going to side with the card that hasn't ever had the chance to be foiled. Liz Danforth's original art of the Druids gathering in a circle is one of my favorite arts in all of Magic so it's an easy pick for me in the art department.
11) Rishadan Port
The only land to grace this list is also the second Mercadian Masques card to appear obviously making Masques the most powerful set of all time*. Port is the only card in the list that the majority of decks would be happy to add. Its mana denial ability has always helped aggro decks and control decks alike slow down both answers and questions respectively as well as cutting off greedy three to five color decks.
The art has always been blah to me so I think we'll hand over the commission to this new artist named John Avon and see if he can draw a cool looking land.
12) Stoneforge Mystic
Mystic is likely going to be a debated inclusion on this list but she is one of the quintessential build-around-me cards. Obviously it isn't hard to figure out what to do once you draft her—eat up all the Equipment you see like that fat kid from Willy Wonka and the chocolate river. Having a toolbox full of sweet Swords is a phenomenal feeling and a deck you'll probably not want to take apart if you can get it.
I do like the original art but feel like it could be improved on a bit. Pete Venters is one of the best artists for creating a piece with a central figure so Ms. Mystic would be the perfect piece for him. I envision a small-esque Kor lady calling for a big ass sword. Come on down; you're not banned in this format!
13) Figure of Destiny
Figure of Destiny comes in as the only multicolor card on the list. Really he is the embodiment of what red and white (or any color really) want in an aggro card—cheap hits hard and wins the game on its own if left alone long enough. He can go in just about every deck that is about 50% of either color good at any point in the game and certainly first pick material.
The original art is horrendous and even though I guess I get what they're trying to portray with him “growing” into a warrior it still looks like a randomly generated image of Kithkin crap. So let's hand the new art over to one of the new powerhouse artists on the block Aleski Briclot. He's fantastic with lighting and extreme detail so I have no doubt he would knock a very epic looking Figure of Destiny out of the park.
14) Crucible of Worlds
The only other artifact on the list is one I predict will be somewhat controversial. Crucible of Worlds is one of the sneakiest great cube cards. It works great with manlands fetchlands and self-sacrificing lands like City of Traitors or Wasteland just like in Legacy. The sneaky interactions with things that put things directly into the graveyard from your library like Entomb or discarding lands with something like Thirst for Knowledge is what puts this value machine in overdrive.
I like the original art but feel like it doesn't quite fit what I think of for an artifact that works with lands. Since we're on controversial already let's pick an interesting artist too. For something as open as Crucible of Worlds I want to give the job to master alter-er and fellow cube lover Eric Klug. Klug hasn't illustrated any Magic cards for Wizards but I trust him to come up with something badass and original despite being known for sweet replication of known material for alters.
15) Mana Drain
Surprise! We started this list with a whammy and we sure as hell will end it with one. Mana Drain is by far one of the least fair cards in all of Magic making it one of the easiest first picks you can have in just about any pack. It's not unrealistic to end the game by countering a three-drop on your turn two and “curving” into a six-drop threat on your turn three.
Nothing more needs to be said about the mechanics of the card but how about the art? I might be in this camp alone but I have never been a fan of Mark Tedin's art. It just seems a little too basic and unexciting for me. Newer artist Steve Argyle on the other hand has illustrated just a few handfuls of cards that have all looked awesome. I think that he could do some great things with a new Mana Drain while keeping the original in mind.
I know I'm leaving out some cube favorites like Tarmogoyf Dark Confidant Solemn Simulacrum Reveillark Goblin Guide and Ancestral Vision but it took me quite a while to trim this list down to a svelte fifteen. But what would the cube-mmunity be without some intense discussion on what deserves to be where and what roles they play? This is my ideal From the Vault set and I have a sneaking suspicion that all of my readers would love to get their hands on something like this as well. Hit the comments to tell me why I'm right or wrong!
Before we get back to our cube drafting I do want to use my soapbox to direct everyone who didn't see it the first time to Jon Agley's article about bringing back Team Constructed. I was taking a magical sabbatical the earlier go round during Ravnica Standard and have been assured it was the most fun type of tournament that many had ever competed in. Let's rally support for this and help show Wizards we want this format back!
The Cube Rotisserie draft for SCG: Atlanta is almost complete and ready to be played in a couple of weeks on September 9th–11th. Look for coverage on some of your favorite personalities including SCG buyers Matt Gargiulo Travis Gibson and Wes Wise along with Coverage Manager Glenn Jones and SCG Open competitors John Winters and Matt Scott not to mention myself and US National Champion Ali Aintrazi! Follow along and see whose deck you like the best!
That will wrap it up for this week; remember to check out MTG Cube Drafting on Facebook! Let's get those likes higher than the Ali Aintazi Fan Club! Thanks for reading and see you next time!
*In the Masques block anyway.