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.
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 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).
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.
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 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.
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
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
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.
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.
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!