M20 and C19 Cube Picks
Wizards has blessed 2019 with a cornucopia of new and exciting cards to pick from when it comes to constructing and updating your own limited environment. Many cube builders have probably felt like puppies chasing one colorful butterfly after another in a vast meadow, but will M20 and C19 continue this trend?
Twenty in Twenty-Twenty
Judging by the speed at which the research development department at Wizards of the Coast bless us with new designs, 2020 will be the year where you will have more than 20.000 unique cards to choose from when constructing your cube. This means that even if you have ample space with a 720-card singleton environment more than 25 cards compete for each and every slot, and unless all design restrictions meant to keep power creep at bay are thrown by the roadside, it follows as a consequence that new cube-able cards will be fewer and more far between.
With stronger cards being just a trickle alongside the veritable deluge of new cards what cube builders will look for, whenever a new set is spoiled, are cards that create more interesting interactions and cards that provide more flexibility, so they can function for a variety of different archetypes in a cube. When writing these lists of cards to consider for your cube, I have at times had to struggle to cut the list down to ten. But this time, even when bundling my review of the cards from Core Set 2020 and Commander 2019 into a single article, the task of boiling the list down has been a lot easier.
Slim Pickings for Cube Curators
This is not really a critique of either set, since I think both have some great cards. I'm merely ascertaining the fact that the cost of keeping Magic healthy as a game is, that we cannot get flooded with new cards for our cubes from every set. If you are anything like me, you are probably into other formats than just cube, and you will be rejoicing at the many new cards for example for your Commander decks not only from this year's release aimed at that format, but also from the core set. Luckily for me though, there are actually cards that might work particularly well with certain archetypes and tribal synergies in my own cube. This has indeed been a factor in choosing some the following cards, even if that makes the list a little less universal that some of my previous top-ten lists.
10. Scroll of Fate
I am not really too sure about how well Scroll of Fate will work in even a moderately strong cube. Turning your excess land draws or other cards that would sit dead in your hand into creatures, or even playing creatures face-down to surprise flip them later, when you have the mana seems interesting. But whether it is worth it in the end only time and testing will tell.
9. Drawn from Dreams
If you ever thought you cube could do with an extra Dig Through Time sans delve, Drawn from Dreams may be just what you were looking for. Any blue card is up against tough competition, and 2UU is not a negligible cost to pay, but on the other hand when casting this card in limited changes are, that you get to look through at least one fourth of your remaining library and pick two cards, which is something. If I should cut something for this card, it could indeed be its delving cousin.
8. Manifold Key
Do cubes with Time Vault really need another way to untap it and give you infinite turns? Not having that particular piece of near-power in my cube, I honestly don't have any idea. But since I have other cards that provide the individual functionalities of Manifold Key (untapping artifacts and making creatures unblockable) a card that does both things is exactly the increased flexibility I look for in newly printed cards.
7. Lotus Field
Why spend 4,500 € on a single Black Lotus when you can get a whole field for less than 1/1000 of that? Well I probably don't have to explain that, but you may want to know why I would consider Lotus Field for my cube. The card doesn't even provide ramp, but quite the opposite. It could even be likened to a tap land which is calculated to cost you one mana to play as your land for turn. On the other hand, when that price is paid, you do have the fixing to play all those two and three pip cards you so greedily drafted.
6. Dread Presence
I remember a time when most new cards were weak and really useless and when Dread Presence would have been a strong card if it had merely been a four-mana enchantment that did not immediately affect the board. Well, those days are long gone, and without a healthy though not impressive 3/3 body stapled to the modal effect, it is unlikely I would even vaguely consider the card for inclusion here. But the body is there, and the effect being modal with the second mode having the very import words "any target" makes me think that this flexible nightmare at least deserves a chance to prove its worth.
5. Icon of Ancestry
In my cube there are 71 humans, 50 elves, 47 wizards, 42 goblins and 32 vampires plus spells and effects that generate tokens belonging to most of those tribes. If your cube has a similar level of tribal support, you may be interested in Icon of Ancestry, which, besides providing an anthem effect for any chosen tribe also lets you dig for additional cards of the same creature type.
4. Hanged Executioner
Hanged Executioner is not the only card on this list which initially provides you with two 1/1 bodies for 2W. This price puts the card in direct competition for a relevant 3 CMC spot with classics such as Lingering Souls and Spectral Procession that respectively offer additional value through flashback or by simply giving you a third spirit. Hanged Executioner's upside is the flexibility that comes with being able to use one of the creatures as removal if needed.
3. Doomed Artisan
Having both a white/green token strategy and a white/black aristocrats style deck available in my cube, Doomed Artisan is the card from Commander 2019 that I am most likely to give a trial run. If he lives until your end step, you get two bodies to sacrifice for three mana and a card, which is more or less okay. Keep the busy artificer around a little longer, and his army of sculptures may even win you the game.
2. Voracious Hydra
Hydra is an iconic creature type in Magic, said WotC when they announced the cards reprinted in Iconic Masters. I tend to agree, since I found the original Rock Hydra that I first got acquainted with in Revised Edition to be a rather memorable and unique card, even if a total of 45 hydras printed through more than 25 years is something of a meager offering. And while a masters set perhaps wasn't the right home for this particular tribe, their trademark X casting cost works well in a limited environment, because they can almost always be cast on curve. Currently there are nine hydras serving as payoffs for a red/green ramp deck in my own cube, and Voracious Hydra may well become the tenth.
1. Rotting Regisaur
Rotting Regisaur is one of those cards that speaks to the Timmy in us all. I remember ripping open the 36 boosters of an Ice Age box with some friends when the set first came out and thinking that eight mana was a fair enough price for casting a 7/6 Scaled Wurm which we probably opened three or four of that day. Even by today's standards and with the added discard requirement (which just as often is an upside) three mana seems like a really good deal for a creature of this size, and while my cube has no support for dinosaurs or zombies, this fella looks like it will handle most situations without needing any support.
Well, that wraps up my cube picks from the two probably least cube-able sets released so far this year. As always, I would like to hear your views on the matter. Do you agree that Commander 2019 and Core Set 2020 offer slim picking for cube builders, or do you feel that the sets have a lot more to get excited about? Which cards would you include in your cube, and what needs to go to make room for them? Feel free to share your views and insights in the comment section below.
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