Cube Picks: War of the Spark

Shiny blue zombie invaders, 36 enchanting planeswalkers plus a flavorful story of betrayals, redemption and sacrifice all set against the beloved backdrop of Ravnica. War of the Spark has all that, but how does the newest set fare when it comes to delivering interesting options for those of us who like to construct our own limited environments?

Wizards really put some effort into this one, and I can't wait to sink my teeth into War of the Spark (WAR) and discover what the set has to offer. So let's quell the temptation to talk about the set symbol looking like a spork, let's forget about the transformation of Nicol Bolas from a wise old dragon with nipples pouring over heavy old tomes into some sort of ferret-lizard-goblin with an Emrakul-sized Trix Rabbit / Hamburglar complex and take a straight-faced Cubes for Squares look at some cards you may want to consider for inclusion in your cube.

Liliana
War of the Spark apparently has everything – even a trailer so moving that it has me humming a tune by a nu-metal band and sincerely being touched by it. But does the set also have any cards for your cube?

Vivien's Arkbow

Vivien's Arkbow

Likely most janky card on this list, Vivien's Arkbow is one of those cards that may not do well in a limited environment, and usually I prefer to not to have cards that necessitates knowing the casting costs of cards in your library. However, I am willing to give this 2 CMC legendary artifact a "shot" at proving its worth in my cube. The ability seems like good value but because it comes at the price of discarding a card, players will want to make sure that they pay enough to actually hit a creature.

Narset's Reversal

Narset's Reversal

Narset's Reversal may be another one of the jankier picks on this list, and its stay in may cube could end up being a short one, but I really would like to give it a chance. I see a lot of scenarios where it could have an interesting and powerful effect. Besides the obvious of just getting to get the same effect an extra time, copying a spell while removing the original from the stack also fizzles any counters targeting the original, and of course, you can target your opponent's spells, getting a Remand-like effect albeit without the cantrip (but with an extra copy of what they're doing).

Gideon Blackblade

Gideon Blackblade

Even years after returning to Magic, I still see planeswalkers as an odd card type and I try to limit the number of planeswalkers in my cube to one of each color and one of each color pair plus a single colorless one. WAR may end up challenging that philosophy, but for now, none of the three dozen new walkers are likely to make an appearance in my cube. But, if you have the room to spare, the new (and perhaps last) Gideon is absolutely a worthy contender for the best planeswalker of WAR. Depending on your wallet, taste, and language skills, the wielder of the gruesome sword is available in three different versions with artwork by Victor Titov, a full-art mythic edition with Kieran Yanner's illustration, and the alternate manga version by Tada for the Japanese version.

Mizzium Tank

Mizzium Tank

I don't know about you, but personally I am thrilled to see vehicles make a return in WAR. Not as overpowered as when we first saw them in Kaladesh, but at least not all are as forgettable as the vehicles of Ixalan. For a war-themed set, a tank is the perfect pick, and Mizzium Tank is not just cute, but also the only one of the three new crewable artifacts I find interesting for a cube environment. Blue's Silent Submersible comes across as a little underwhelming, and while powerful, white's Parhelion II seems to be more fitting for commander. The tank may actually work better in a mono-red or Boros aggro deck than in the Izzet deck its name would suggest, but that remains to be seen when it is tested.

Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi

Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi

Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi is probably the most Timmy-pleasing instant in a long time. While you cannot expect to see it combo with Inkmoth Nexus in Cube, l will most definitely try to find a spot for it where it can create interesting interactions in both my Simic +1/+1 counter archetype and the hydra heavy Gruul segment of my cube. It shouldn't be hard to ramp into a turn three Kalonian Hydra followed by a turn four hasty Vitu-Ghazi for maximum fun. The biggest downside to the card is naturally the lack of evasion and trample.

Dreadhorde Invasion

Dreadhorde Invasion

I think it has been said enough times in the short span since this card was revealed, that Dreadhorde Invasion is not Bitterblossom… and it's not. It is, however, a card that can be cast just as early as the card which it is not, and it is a card which I would really like to try out an see in my cube to find out how it interacts with a number of different archetypes and strategies since it can find a home in a number of different decks. Who knows, perhaps my Simic +1/+1 counter theme will somehow be able to go Sultai with the new Amass keyword.

Finale of Promise

Finale of Promise

Being yet another card that does nothing by itself, Finale of Promise will have to see testing in my Cube before I make a final judgement on whether it has come to stay. While it does look promising and quite nicely priced, I understand why some of you may be sceptic about how it will perform. However, imagine in magical Christmas land, casting this with X=2 while having a Young Pyromancer in play and Raise the Alarm and Empty the Warrens in the graveyard. That makes for some tokens. And even in the less than ideal situation, I think this card might just be worth it.

Ilharg, the Raze-Boar

Ilharg, the Raze-Boar

A comparison to Sæhrímnir the pig used for feeding the warriors of Valhalla in Nordic mythology may displease the mighty Ilharg, the Raze-Boar but at least they share their immortality even if one is more domesticated than the other. CMC is the same as Through the Breach but Ilharg is both better and worse than this card.

The boar god requires more dedication to playing red, and you must keep it in play for a full round if you don't have a way to give it Haste. Also big nasty Eldrazi cheated into play with it won't trigger Annihilator, since they are already attacking when they enter the battlefield. On the other hand, you do get the creature back into your hand if it survives combat instead of having to sacrifice it, so you can attack with it again the following turn. And being a god of WAR, Ilharg like the other gods of the set is nearly impossible to get rid of unless you kill it and mill it.

Bolas's Citadel

Bolas's Citadel

At six mana, three of which must be black, Bolas's Citadel is not cheap to cast, but if your cube has a certain power level, getting to six early on is not too far a stretch and your cube may also have ways of cheating artifacts into play. Bolas's Citadel is absolutely a worthy Tinker target letting you trade life for permanents – a step up from other effects that put the cards into your hand. Talking about not being other cards, Bolas's Citadel is neither Ad Nauseam or Dark Confidant, it's its own thing, and while having a higher price tag, it does work in a wider variety of decks making it an interesting card to test out in your own limited environment. Also, I like to imagine that this is where Bolas goes to read his books instead of where he screams orders at his eternals like some Saturday morning cartoon villain hyped on sugary cereal.

God-Eternal Kefnet

God-Eternal Kefnet

While only one of the set's 36 planeswalkers made it to this list, nearly half the gods are present, and at least one of the others may be bubbling just below the line of the top ten. Doing the so-called "vanilla test" (where you ignore other incidental upsides and just look at basic stats and perhaps some evasion abilities) already makes God-Eternal Kefnet interesting.

The game does not have many 4/5 fliers at four mana, and nearly every single one at that price with stats like that or better come with unpleasant to horrifying downsides – I mean, there is a 9/8 flier available at CMC 4, but I don't know what cube would want Eater of Days in it. Kefnet then has the extra plus of being almost impossible to get rid of and it can even occasionally reduce the casting cost of some spells. So, while it will probably fit best in some sort of control shell it can also do a respectable job in other types of deck.

Having compiled this list earlier than usual and before any live experience with War of the Spark I may have overlooked some really obvious cards or even chosen some absolutely useless jank for inclusion. Well the last would happen no matter what, I am a Johnny after all. But I am still open to suggestions in the comments below, and of course I do plan on trying many other cards from the set out in my cube over the coming months.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.


Check out our War of the Spark page if you're interested in picking these up before everyone else catches on! 

1 Comment

Arjan(2019-05-27 12:25)

Nice article! War of the Spark has been one of the most difficult sets for me to evaluate for cube. The set is full of spicy cards, but in the end it doesn't provide as many cubecards as Guilds of Ravnica did for example. The biggest problem is that WAR is all about planeswalkers and I've the rather strict policy of not wanting to add too many planeswalkers to my list. Wotc itself lately announced the same policy for their own cube (albeit a bit late imo). Planeswalkers are fine, but add too many and it leads to monotonous playing paterns.

That being said I've added about 8 cards from WAR, although I expect probably to cut some of them later on.
- Dreadhorde Invasion (Although I wasn't very high on this card when it came out I have a zombie theme in my cube so this one is at least interesting for that reason. It also enables some aristocrat shennanigans.)
- Finale of Devastation (Apparently I am higher on this card than most. It's more expensive than GSZ, but it's also kind of a reanimation spell, so I like it's versatility. Furthermore is the 12 mana also doable in cube.
- God-Eternal Oketra (Personally I think this is silently one of the strongest new gods, but 5 mana is quite a lot in cube. It has however the potential to take over the board pretty fast. It also has a bit of synergy with some other zombies but it doesn't need it.)
- Vivien, champion of the Wilds (I've replaced Nissa, voice of Zendikar for now. Vivien seems to be very interesting for gameplay when it enables the player to play creatures at instant speed while also giving card advantage. Interesting fun card).
- Saheeli, Sublime Artificer (I always love cards that enable spellheavy decks, and I think the minus ability is also a lot better in cube than in WAR limited).
- Teferi. Time Raveler (Aargh, too many planeswalkers. This card seems too good not to include. I am going to give this one a spin, but would gladly cut it later on since Azorius has enough fun and/or powerful options in the PW-department.)
- God-Eternal Kefnet (Sometimes you have cards that do a lot of fun things, but are simply better at beating the opponent down. Enter Kefnet. Although I dream of copying timewalk effects, Kefnet won't let you have too much fun since he is such an efficient hard to stop creature he just kills your opponent straight up. I really consider this a downside, but it's a pretty unique and powerful card, so he is on the team for now! ;)
- Nicol-Bolas, Dragon God (okay, I still ran Cruel Ultimatum and this card seems like a decent replacement. That being said it's still very difficult to cast. Furthermore it's epic ability to replicate all abilities of all planeswalkers in play is often just not that necessary. It's own abilities are often good enough. Nevertheless I got my hands on a Mythic edition version, so I am going to give Bolas his day in the sunlight.

Watchlist: Evolution Sage. I like this card, but I am not sure if it's has enough synergy in my cube.

Kind regards,

Arjan

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