Sum of Cubes - Summer Cube Catch Up
- Sancho Napora
No deeper [Nexus of Fate] may connect the three latest bigger releases from Wizards of the Coast. But simply being chronologically adjacent have destined Battlebond, Core 2019 and Commander 2018 to be reviewed together by Cubes for Squares. See which 10 cards we chose to recommend for testing in your own limited environment.
It may seem like a long time since we last had a Cubes for Squares review of a new Magic release. But as it turns out, it is merely three and a half months since Dominaria was the object of our focus, but despite this, we're doing a roundup of no less than three new products unleashed upon the hungering masses of Magic by Wizards of the Coast. Today, it is time to have a look at which cards from Battlebond (BBD), Core 2019 (M19) and Commander 2018 (C18) should catch the attention of budding cube builders or at least merit closer examination.
Let's first sum up the three releases for those of you who have been on holiday on a desert island or for some reason is reading this article in a distant future. Battlebond is a set aimed at drafting for a limited version of Two-Headed Giant, where players play 2 vs. 2. The set has unique mechanics for multiplayer such as Assist that lets teammates help each other cast spells by supplying some of the mana needed to cast them. There is also a new variant of the keyword Partner known from Commander, which in Battlebond lets anyone on a team tutor up a specific and named partner to a creature or planeswalker as it is being cast. The Battlebond boosters are packed to make sure that a team opening one partner can get both relevant cards. The cards chosen in our list here are not aimed at multiplayer and cards with the partner keyword have not been included since they make for more work with preparing your cube for each draft. There are 85 new cards in Battlebond of which four made it to the combined Top-10.
Core 2019 (M19) heralds the return of the core sets meant to supplement the normal block sets that make up Standard. As a core set M19 has a high number of reprints that WotC's R&D would like to be available in the Standard format, but it also has no less than 181 all new cards for you to discover, consider and perhaps try out in your own limited environment. Of the four cards from M19 on the following list only two are actually available in normal boosters, but now we are perhaps getting ahead of ourselves, so let's first sum up the cards from Commander.
The new Commander set for 2018 (C18 – which has been fully spoiled but not yet released at the time of writing) consists of four decks of 99 cards plus a commander for each – and all four main commanders are planeswalkers this year. Out of those cards 59 are brand new. As with Battlebond, some cards are specifically aimed at multiplayer, and have therefore not been considered for our list, and the same goes for cards with abilities aimed specifically at the Commander format. Only two cards from this release made it to the Top-10 here, but I am sure that your own personal inspection will reveal more cards that you may want to try out in in your specific cube – if nothing else just for a short stay to add some fun and variation.
I have decided not to include reprints in the following list. This is not because I don't think that there are cubeable reprints in the three sets. There are, indeed, plenty of reprints to consider for inclusion in your own limited environment, and right now may be an ideal time to pick up some of those reprints as singles at a reasonably price. But to give the new cards room to shine, I have chosen not to make a top-10 consisting of cards such as Terminus, True-Name Nemesis, Chain Lightning, Pacifism and what-have-you.
Well that must be ado enough for the intro, and without further of it, let's get down to business:
With a collector's number of 302 out of 280 this angry Elephant from M19 is not a card you will charging out of any booster you open. The Aggressive Mammoth is only available in the free Welcome Decks stores give out to new players. And even though the 8/8 trampler is a rare, it has not seen the crazy price spike seen by its fellow Welcome Deck exclusive but very common Llanowar Elves. The Mammoth has made it to this list for being a nice target for early reanimation in a Golgari (Green/Black) archetype with the added bonus of giving all your other creatures trample too. For the more pimp-oriented cube builders a big minus is of course, that the card does not exist in a foil version yet.
If your Cube has Goblins you probably already have cards such as Krenko's Command, Dragon Fodder, Hordeling Outburst, and/or Empty the Warrens. M19 gives you a new way to grow your hordes of green-skinned troublemakers with multiple new member for the price of one card (and a bit of mana). Goblin Instigator costs the same as Krenko's Command and Dragon Fodder, but instead of being a sorcery, you here get a 1/1 Goblin Rogue that creates an additional 1/1 goblin when entering the battlefield. The upside over the old sorceries is the possibility of flickering or reanimating the instigator and the downside is of course that the creature does not trigger Prowess if that is a thing in your cube. On a side note, white has a similar creature in Gallant Cavalry which is the equivalent of a Call the Cavalry stapled to a creature.
Deathtouch is always a fine ability for a creature in a limited environment, and with a toughness of four Night Incarnate can both survive blocking many a cube creature plus being struck by a wide selection of common burn spells. Even better than its fatal touch and bolt-proof toughness is the card's excellent leave-the-battlefield effect of this black elemental creature from C17. In many cases, giving all creatures -3/-3 until end of turn will function as something near a board wipe, whether achieved through blinking Night Incarnate or by casting it for its Evoke cost.
At a CMC of one generic mana, Retrofitter Foundry is an easy include in decks that, for one reason or another, needs a steady supply of creatures or artifacts. Beyond giving any player who drafts it an unlimited stream of Servos, it also lets the player convert the same Servos to flying Thopters – along with other Servos created by Angel of Invention or other cards with Fabricate in your cube. In short, a fun card to have in your cube for any deck in need of small critters and a peculiar and versatile mana sink.
6. Bonus Round
It could even be a boat! Okay, Bonus Round from Battlebond will probably not win you a boat since that would be a Vehicle rather than an Instant or a Sorcery. The copies of spells this red sorcery creates also won't add to your Storm Count or trigger Aetherflux Reservoir. That said Bonus Round can do lots of other stuff at least as entertaining as the big finale of any game show. Of course, not least if your cube is powered with cards such as Ancestral Recall and Time Walk. Being a sorcery does restrict the fun somewhat, but I still think this card is worth trying out in your cube if it contains some sort of spells matter archetype.
Speaking of spells matter, Spellseeker is another interesting card for exactly that archetype, and a card which can also find a place in a blink archetype, and even in Wizard tribal. This 1/1 Wizard doesn't only find its caster some of the strongest cards in Magic, but it also digs up finishers with X in the casting cost since most of those will also have a converted casting cost of 2 or less.
Stunning Reversal is a sweet and unique new card from Battlebond and one that I knew I wanted in my own cube the moment I saw it. While the mythic black instant perhaps looks too janky for many cube builders' taste, I ask you to consider one thing: The card's text box contains three word that should call any Magic player to attention … "draw seven cards"! Those words on a card prized at a CMC of 4 are just too sweet to pass on. Even if the caster still loses the game after casting a Stunning Reversal, it is probably hard to be salty about it, because drawing seven cards almost always feels wonderful in Magic.
If your cube is like most limited environments, a 3/3 flyer for three mana is quite all right. Add the ability to increase its power and toughness while giving it Lifelink and the chance of creating the equivalent of a Serra Angel every turn, and you have Resplendent Angel. This shining guy is quite deservedly among the more expensive cards in M19, even if the truly shiny (read: Foil) version of the card is one of the cheaper among that crowd at its current price of 15 €. If that price, or the non-foil price of just below 10 € (at the time of writing and still falling), is within what is considered a reasonable prize for a single for in cube, then Resplendent Angel is without doubt a card worth considering for inclusion.
Just like number three, our number two on the present Top-10 is a white mythic costed a 1WW and with a 3/3 body. But hold onto your seats, hats and glasses and false Wizard beard, because the Shapeshifter Brightling from Battlebond comes with quite a different price tag. A foil version of this creature with no less than four different activated abilities is … Eighty-five Euros! Don't take my word for it – check it out yourself – and at a rising curve the prize may be higher still when you read this. Even a non-foil you probably won't find at a price much below 20 €.
Well, Cubes for Squares is neither about building pauper nor budget cubes. At least not today's installment. With a couple of the pricier Mythics at number two and three of the Top-10, it is good that the Mythic at the top of our list is a janky and not too costly card … Ahem, at the time I began writing this article. The blue instant Nexus of Fate is just like the green creature at number 10 not a card that you will find in a booster, despite the fact that its expansion symbol clearly places it in Core 2019. But even if obtaining the card technically requires you to buy an entire booster box of the set, luckily this card is just too janky to cost you a lot on the secondary market (Cardmarket) despite being somewhat rare. Seven mana for a Time Walk, even at instant speed is just too crazy and only cube builder who love jank or a few Commander brewers will ever be interested in such a card, right? Well, time will tell. I bought my copy of Nexus of Fate a month ago and felt I paid a bit of a premium shelling out nearly 13 € for an English version. When I began writing this article and decided where to place each card on the Top-10, my number one was still easily found at nearly half the prize I had paid. Spikes, flukes or adjustments to scarcity versus demand can move prizes up and down. And the same can reprints. So, while I have no idea what the future holds for this timewalking card with a flavor text about a man who went back in time and changed everything, one thing is sure: No one who followed Magic related social media in the weekend when I finished these words can have missed hearing about Nexus of Fate. Reading this in the future you may laugh at that card having ever been that high, or you may wish that you had acquired the card for your cube before the prize on Cardmarket made the same wild prize jump as it just did across the Atlantic.
Okay, that's all folks, or is it? Did I miss the card you found the most interesting, cool, janky or powerful for cube in the three releases covered here, or do you think that I totally overrated some of the cards? Feel free to share your thoughts, opinions. and insight in the comment field below.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.