It’s been a while since Kaladesh release, which means, after some testings, it’s time to talk about what it brings for Cube. I’ll be doing this review breaking the cards down by the set mechanics and what they can bring for Cube.
There aren’t many “army in a can” cards in Cube. A lot of token producers tend to either be Planeswalkers or one shot ones like Secure the Wastes, but aside from a scant few, there aren’t many in Cubes. Similarly, anthems are underrepresented in Cube, and ones that have been “anthems on a stick” don’t see much play.
Angel of Invention seeks to bridge that gap by having both options available. The most obvious analogue, creature wise, is Cloudgoat Ranger as a mid sized creature that makes others. Flexibility is often underrated in card evaluation, since it’s hard to quantify how useful having multiple options is.
Discounting artifact shenanigans, a nice thing about Cloudgoat was just how good it was at gumming up the ground and when being cast in Servo mode, the Angel being a flying, vigilant lifelinker works to work around those board states by getting in a few points of damage in the air. One could even argue that because of the anthem, that the primary mode of the Angel, i.e. making servos, is better than other creatures that are white “army in a can” five drops. This doesn’t even take into account the secondary of giving it counters, allowing it to act as a weaker Baneslayer. Servos being artifact creatures isn’t a huge factor for evaluation, because while it helps with some individual cards, there aren’t enough effects that care about them being artifacts in many Cubes to make an impact on whether to include this or not, but as Cube designers, this is something we can change.
I see this three being the other possible inclusions. More likely in a Pauper Cube, rhather than in a Powered Cube. The Pioneer and the Outrider have good chances of becoming staples of their color, because both modes of Fabricate are great and accomplish what some archetypes, in which they fit in, are trying to do. The artisan is rather mediocre, but maybe it will see some niche play due to the fact of producing artifact creature, which can matters if there is an artifact theme in the Cube.
Vehicles should be considered closer to equipment since they require other creatures to power up and to upgrade creatures. While some of the best of them have methods to help get around that, generally decks that don’t have consistent ways of crewing them up aren’t enough to get around the crew requirement. Dodging sorcery speed removal is a great way to get around wraths, and vehicles help to get around those cards, as well as helping boost smaller freshly produced creatures.
As Crew 3 is currently the ceiling for the good vehicles for Cube, stats show that most Cube creatures have 2 power, and as there aren’t as many 3 power ones, Skyship requires either a few 2 power creatures, a 3 power one or a much larger creature to use. Becaue of this, I’ve found that it’s worked well in slower decks that can generate value 2/2s or larger creatures to crew it up, and, while it can be stranded in a state where it isn’t attacking, the trigger usually ends up either killing something or putting a large dent in a planeswalker, making it so that if it at least gets one attack in, it’s done its job by dealing a ton of damage, making it a solid Cube card.
Artifact attacking 4 drops generally lag behind their mono color counterparts, which is why they always have a hard time competing with other attacking 4 drops in their respective colors. The Cruiser helps to close games out and it’s typically in the best interest for the opponent to snap trade with it and represents a lot of damage. The worst case scenarios when it attacks for 5 without any enough crew don’t tend to happen that often, especially since aggressive decks have gotten so many good 2/1s recently and I’ve been very happy with its performance.
The Caravan is currently slightly underrated and works on a different paradigm than the other good vehicles as a mana rock first. As 3 crew can result in times when either you don’t have enough crew to power it, or all that you have are larger creatures like titans to power it up, but I’ve found that doesn’t happen as often as one would think, particularly in Green decks with access to 3/3 generators and can help to close out the game very quickly. I’ve liked it more as a mana rock thus far in not only Green decks, but control decks that are on the more creature heavy spectrum.
The Copter may very well be the best vehicle for Cube. It’s nice to give filtering to colors like White which traditionally don’t have it (not to mention how well it works in Black decks to filter.) I was surprised at how useful the looting was and how, unlike other filtering cards, how much velocity it provides aggressive decks as it deals 3 damage while looting since traditional looters deal chip shots of damage. It’s made a very high impact in Standard already and it’s performed similarly well in Cube.
The Freighter is ostensibly worse than the others but turning 2 drops into 5/4 attacking tramplers is no joke, making it a nice 2nd tier vehicle card for attack decks. Typically, artifacts haven’t favored attack decks outside of the all stars as a lot of them tend to be mana rocks or giant high cost robots. Cards like this help to bridge that gap. Freighter will be a slam dunk inclusion for Pauper Cube and a great inclusion for regular Cubes.
The Hub is a nice supplement/replacement for Tendo Ice Bridge as a land that supports colorless cards as well as being an untapped source for aggressive decks. Having most of your colorless sources as mana rocks turns colorless Eldrazi as de facto non-aggro Cube cards since aggro decks don’t want to play mana rocks. But cardslike the Hub can help to bridge that role.
Raw stats wise, the Brawler is the best of the bunch and works well even without more energy as a 3/2 that can pump into a 4/3 trampler for just two mana makes potential blocking awkward as they can’t just throw a 2/2 in front of it to trade and even without energy in the mix, a 3/2 isn’t a bad rate either once it’s used its energy. Green aggressive decks have been on the downswing of popularity in Cubes and generally people have focused more on the Dragonlord Atarka side of Gruul than the Kird Ape side and its inclusion mainly depends on what you want to do with your Gruul section.
Servant works best in decks that want to get the most use out of 4-5 drops, decks like U/G control, to leverage advantage out of a strong 4-mana card while having the reliability of being able to get a few shots out of it. This limited scope may make it hard to include in Cube since there’s already a glut of great acceleration and attack decks’ general plan isn’t one that asks for a 2 mana accelerant. It’s something to keep an eye out on if you want to have that as an option.
Grubs is essentially 3/2 creature that can block as a 2/1 the turn it comes into play. Two drop red creatures tend to be on the lower end in Cubes that run them and aren’t as integral to success as red’s one drops are. It is clear that are the one drops the essential key for Red aggressive decks to have success in Cube. In general, in lack of better options at two, I would run this card.
Cataclysmic Gearhulk has been undervalued. The fact that this card combines the worst parts of other two historical cards, Cataclysm and Tragic Arrogance has led to dismissing the card as bad, without taking into context the fact that it comes with a 4/5 vigilance attached to it. It may be a difficult add because the white five drop section is really stacked but it’s another strong option which can reward cleverly building decks to take advantage of its symmetrical trigger.
Combustible Gearhulk can seem bad because we’ve been trained to say that cards that give an opponent a choice are bad because giving an opponent a choice tends to end badly. Of course this isn’t a hard and fast rule.Arguably other cards that give an opponent a choice to take damage or block a creature work on a very similar axis. Allora that being said, cards with the punisher mechanic tend to be much less efficient than they appear. As a 6 mana red creature, its roles are ad follows:
- An aggro curve topper. Its immediate impact is rather questionable since its trigger does a poor job of closing out the game because it can’t reliably deals damage, and if the opponent is at a low life total, they’ll let you draw three.
- In slower red decks, it can be awkward if the opponent’s life total has not been pressured enough ad they can let you deal damage, making it run on axis that may not even matter in that state of the game if they don’t care that much about taking that damage. That being said, if the oponent has a Planeswalker it can help the Gearhulk operate on an axis that does matter a kit more.
While the blue Gearhulk can’t get back sorceries, it hasn’t been enough of a drawback to make it less impressive. Having flash makes it work very well in a Blue control deck’s game plan and, by the time it can be cast, typically there’s something for it to cast for free. I’ve found there are plenty of targets for it to cast and in general is a solid Blue control card.
The black Gearhulk is kinda nice. Black 6 drops are pretty low value and lack of different choices. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how it’s been playing out in Cube as a good black 6 drop that does a decent amount with its enter the battlefield effect. However, as a lot of its value comes from its trigger and not from the body, it doesn’t shift the state of the game quite as much as the titans but the large, menacing body means that it can’t be ignored.
The green Gearhulk hits incredibly hard as a worst case 8/8 trample, but it’s easy to dismiss (or at least not factor in) how useful it is to spread out a lot of power across several bodies, impacting how combat can occur on the 5th (or sooner) turns. I’ve found that it hits incredibly hard and performs the role of giant Green non value well, due to the flexibility that it has.
ARTIFACT MATTERS: CARDS & PAYOFF
The exemplar gives the best payoff for being aggressive, as 3 power for 1 mana is hard to come by, and artifact decks have no problem making it a 3/2. It works best in a deck that can consistently hit metalcraft (deck that counts on 10 to 12 artifacts), rather than a generic White deck with a few pieces of equipment.
The Crane only requires about 10 hits in a deck, which is about as many as the above deck has, and while it loses out on card selection, being able to get a 1/3 for 2 while cantripping into an artifact is still great value, giving a nice payoff for artifact centric decks to be drafted.
The Scourger has a nice mana cost and its recursion is easy to achieve in Cube. Its ability to recur himself at instant speed works well with equipment and vehicles and to pressure Planeswalkers while representing open mana and have found it to be a great addition to all Black aggro decks, even ones that don’t go deep on graveyard recursion.
The Familiar’s triggers are structured so that it’s best in matches where it’s expected to die soon after casting, since its worst trigger is on the front side. This is best in matchups against aggressive decks and other decks that will need to get through the 2/2 in order to advance their game plan. Its greatest weakness is in matchups where the opponent can safely ignore both the 2/2 and the gain life trigger until the later stages of the game, or even in its entirety. It promises a lot of value, but matchups where it doesn’t die can make it worse than it looks and may make it leave your Cube sooner than you may think.
Chandra is the best Red planeswalker. It is really versatile and while she can be poor at defending herself against several mid sized threats, I’ve found that her abilities to gain card advantage and act as a damage dealing source have been embraced by red Cube decks, with Chandra performing well so far.
Nissa on the other hand, is underrated but very good. It’s kind of an aggressive Planeswalker since it +1s to make a creature and ultimates incredibly quickly. Also her minus ability works very well with the goals of the decks that are going to play her.
Saheeli compares to a lot of Izzet cards that all have been about value. It’s true that she doesn’t easily protect herself, unless she’s using her minus ability to copy a trigger that would defend her. However, her ability to scry repeatedly while increasing loyalty does allow for a more subtle form of advantage by sculpting draws. Decks that have utilized her well are decks that maximize enter the battlefield triggers and aggressive leaning Izzet decks.
Dovin is another card that works in the Azorius control decks as something that can neutralize threats while gaining card advantage. Him being relatively boring isn’t so much of a strike against him so much as he doesn’t really do that much.
The Responder is kinda mediocre, the Warden however is quite good because is easy to cast and could be a solid inclusion for the Cube. Fumigate is probably the best five mana wrath available for Cube. Fragmentize effect has matchups where it does about nothing and limiting the number of targets just amplifies this weakness, compounded with sorcery speed makes it more limited. It’s another knob for Cube designers to twist, but its natural limitations may render it difficult to utilize effectively (in terms of how often it’s used).
Summoning is unfortunately quite slow for Cube. Gonti allows your deck to get things that may be good in a matchup that your deck doesn’t have, either because of different color(s) or mana costs and it surely is an impactful and powerful card for Cube. Pia is a 3 mana value card. It’s a value creature that can have subtle effects on a board state, giving several bodies to block or attack with and even working toward the later stages of the game with her ability to pump robots or set up board states where leaving a single blocker behind is a poor decision because the thopter can stun it. The fanatic is simply pretty good by the fact that is a 2/1 haste vanilla creature.
Wildest Dreams is not so good at getting individual cards, it’s amazing at getting a lot of value in the late stages of the game. About Defense, historically cards that pump single creatures have had a card time in Cube since they can result in blowouts if used in response to a pump effect, or just blanked due to wraths getting rid of all of your creatures. Better as a reactive protection spell that just happens to pump, but these kinds of cards are still difficult to crack into Cube and generally tend to be late picks in Cubes that include them. Getting a trigger or two with Rashmi is enough card advantage to win the game with (which is much better than just drawing a card especially when leading with more expensive cards,) and with Blue countermagic or draw, it’s not terribly difficult to get it to trigger on the opponent’s turn
These are all fine cards in their own rights, but ultimately lose out from being outclassed by other cards in their respective color combinations.
- The 5 Enemy Fast Lands
These are mid tier color fixing lands that offer another option for color combinations like R/W that want their early lands to come into play tapped, but as 4 mana cards are so powerful in Cube, it’s a weakness to take note of in colors like White, Red, and Blue.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this analysis of Kaladesh for Cube. Thanks for reading!