Hip to Be Square: Day of Judgment

Hip to be Square:
Day of Judgment
by Tom Fowler

In case you missed it, there's a new Wrath on the horizon in Zendikar. Like the original Wrath of God, this one comes priced to move at $15 2WW. Like the original Wrath of God, it destroys all creatures. Here, have a look-see:

Is it just me, or does anyone else think
of "War Pigs" when they read the card name?

You'll notice that the "They can't be regenerated" qualifier is missing from this particular Wrath variant. Instead of a cheekier title like "Wrath of a Lesser God," or "Moderate Annoyance of God," Wizards opted to call this one Day of Judgment. How much worse does the fact that creatures can regenerate make this card? We know it will see Standard play while it's legal, but will it (and should it) see play in your cube? That's what we're here to discuss today: mass removal, Wrath of God style. You can't build a cube without it, but which ones should you use to build it? And how many Wraths are too many?

There are quite a few playable Wrath effects, and some that are unplayable to varying degrees. We'll talk about the playable ones first. Even though all of these are cube-worthy, you can't put them all in (unless you have an unusually large cube) because your cube will be over-saturated with Wrath effects. No one will be able to play aggro if they have to account for three Wraths from each of their opponents.

Note: I'm going to exclude any card which only destroys creatures of a particular type, a particular color, and other specific qualifiers. In addition, I'm going to ignore cards like Jokulhaups, since they do a lot more than just Wrath. I'm also going to exclude really crappy pseudo-Wraths like Mogg Infestation. You forgot about Mogg Infestation? Me too, until I did a Gatherer search, and now that particular bit of suckitude is back in my memory. I now share my pain with you.

Now that we're all miserable, let's look at some cards. These are in order of quality, though that matters less the father we go down the list.

Wrath of God: The original, and still the champion. It's simple, it's elegant, and it's unquestionably powerful. Destroy all creatures, not so much on that whole regeneration thing, and all for just 2WW. Wrath is easily available because it was in every basic set from Alpha up through Tenth Edition. With the release of Magic 2010, though, Wrath of God has finally been left on the sidelines. Don't leave it out of your cube, though. There's a reason it's the eponym for "destroy all creatures" effects. It's a welcome ingredient in any W/X control deck, and those archetypes should be supported in your cube.

Damnation: White isn't the only color that gets to nuke all animals in an efficient, elegant fashion. The wackiness of Planar Chaos gave us this "planeshifted" version of Wrath of God, moving it to black. You could make an argument that black is a better home for Wrath than white. Regardless, this card should be a staple of your cube. Mono-Black Control, or any B/X control deck, will want a copy. Mono-Black has another nice piece of mass removal, which we'll look at shortly, but don't omit this one.

If you missed picking up a Damnation when Planar Chaos was still around, you can also look for the textless promo Player Rewards version. The pimp factor on that one is higher, too.

Day of Judgment: Yep, I'm going there. This card is that good. It's a tick below Wrath of God and Damnation, but not that much. I've seen some discussion that maybe this card isn't cube-worthy. Poppycock. Anything that says "destroy all creatures" and costs 2WW is worthy of being added to your cube. "But creatures can regenerate from Day of Judgment!" you might say. Fair enough. Quick, name me five regenerators you're likely to see in a cube game.

. . .

. . .

. . .

Here, I'll help you out: River Boa, Masticore, Troll Ascetic, Cudgel Troll, and Mire Boa. The last two on that list are far from universal, but you can count on the first three being in most cubes (and I think Cudgel Troll should). There are some others that see play, too, but the point is this: not that many creatures regenerate. Don't get hung up on the fact that creatures can regenerate from Day of Judgment. Odds are in your favor that your opponent doesn't even have one of those creatures. Even if he does, you're still blowing up the rest of his squad. Ah, but what if you control a Cudgel Troll? Then Day of Judgment has a perk that Wrath of God would never have: you can blow up all creatures, but keep a 4/3 beater around. Seems fair, don't you think?

Don't buy the hate. Play this card.

Aside: there has been plenty of talk that Day of Judgment is a "cash grab." Maybe it is; I don't know. (Wizards wants us to buy cards so they can, y'know, stay in business, so you could make the argument that every chase rare is a "cash grab.") Regardless, as someone who plays Standard, I would have liked to have seen an environment with no four-mana Wrath for longer than three months. Give us a year and see what happens. Day of Judgment could have been printed in Magic 2011, or maybe the third Zendikar set. I wanted to see what would happen with just Hallowed Burial and Planar Cleansing to hold down the fort (and not for much longer on the former). Alas. End aside.

Rout: It costs 1 mana more than Wrath of God for the exact same effect. That means is has to be a lot worse, right? After all, that's a lot more damage you could be taking in that one turn longer it takes to cast Rout. While that's true, Rout has a perk of its own: you can pay 5WW and play it as an instant. Wrathing at instant speed is devastating. Your opponent doesn't really expect it, so you let him play out that extra creature or two, then blow them all up at the end of his turn. Then you can use your turn to play a nice creature of your own. And if that creature has haste, so much the better.

Really, isn't "end of your turn, Rout. My turn, land, play Akroma, smash you" about the sexiest play sequence you can think of?

Akroma's Vengeance: What happens when you take the ability of Nevinyrral's Disk, put it on a sorcery, and add everyone's favorite busty angel of wrath for good measure? You get a very playable card. Akroma's Vengeance is more than just a Wrath, of course, since it also destroys all artifacts and enchantments, too. The cost of 4WW is worth it for the effect. However, 6 is more than 5, and is a lot more than 4. It's possible for an aggro deck to run you over before you can assemble the mana for Akroma's Vengeance. Even if you can, you've had to soak up one more attack than if you had Rout, and two more than if you had Wrath (or Day of Judgment). That's significant. You might cast Akroma's Vengeance, only to die to a burn spell or a hasty creature in short order. Don't let that discourage you from playing it, though. You always want quality Wraths like this in your limited decks, cube or otherwise.

It's a disaster, such a catastrophe...
Catastrophe: What happens if you put two classics like Armageddon and Wrath of God on the same card? No, you don't get the best split card ever (you know it would be); you get Catastrophe. It feels like it should be modal, but it isn't; still, you only get one or the other, but those are two very nice effects to choose from. Having the choice makes Catastrophe cost 2 mana more than either Armageddon of Wrath, but the flexibility is worth it. If you have a more aggressive deck, or if your opponent is off to a slow start, Armageddon is always nice. If you're the control deck, you have a Wrath. This fits into your deck either way.

Just imagine if this were modal had been printed during the days of entwine, in Mirrodin block? What do you think the mana cost and entwine cost would have been?

Mutilate: Along with Nantuko Shade, this is the card that powered Mono-Black Control back in the day. Those two cards are still good in a cube. Both require a heavy commitment to the Swamps, but the rewards are worth it. Mutilate, cast with enough Swamps in play, can kill pretty much every creature you'll face. Because it depends on your Swamp count, Mutilate isn't guaranteed to kill larger creatures, which is why Damnation is the better black Wrath. Still, Mutilate should be in your cube, and if you're playing black, you'll want this in your 45. If it's still early in the draft, this is a good reason to switch to black and try Mono- or Mostly-Black Control.

Austere Command: And here, we have even more flexibility than with Catastrophe. Okay, you don't have a choice for Armageddon, but the choices you do have are pretty dashed good. Want to kill only your aggro opponent's small men, while keeping your lone large creature? You can. Want to kill all creatures? You can. Want to do a lot of Disenchanting? You can do that, too. If you have all large creatures, and your opponent has a bunch of small men and a few pieces of equipment, Austere Command is the droid you're looking for.

Winds of Rath: I guess this is bad if your opponent drafted Auras.dec. Otherwise, it's Wrath of God that costs 1 mana more. And really, how many Auras with enchant creature get played in your cube? I think you'll find that it's not a lot. If you're the only player with an enchanted creature, then this becomes a one-sided Wrath. I hear those are pretty good.

Hallowed Burial: This is the Wrath of choice (and necessity) in Standard right now. It has a unique effect, one we haven't seen on any of the many Wrath variants to date. Instead of destroying or exiling all creatures, Hallowed Burial puts them on the bottom of their owner's libraries. In LOR/SHM block, that was relevant since it avoided all the pesky persist triggers. In Cube, persist won't come up very often, but you're still getting all creatures to go away for 3WW. That's certainly playable.

Martial Coup: As long as you're paying at least 5WW, you'll have the only remaining creatures. They'll be 1/1, but you'll have at least five of them, and your opponent will be left with an empty board. That's not bad, but I think the spells listed above do better work for less mana. I don't think Martial Coup is bad in Cube, but I don't think it's optimal, either. It's more of a late-game bomb that happens to have a Wrath stapled onto it than just a Wrath. If you think of it that way, it makes the decision of whether to include it in your cube easier.

Infest: It's not really a Wrath, but more of a mini-Mutilate. Still, -2/-2 to all creatures can be huge. This is a great early spell for any B/x control deck, since it kills an awful lot of relevant creatures. This should be in most cubes.

The decree was written on expensive parchment
and transcribed by albino midget monks.
Why do you think it costs 8?
Decree of Pain: If something costs 8, it had better be damn big and splashy, and it had better go a long way toward ending the game. Decree of Pain fills both of these roles. Destroying, say, five creatures and drawing five cards for 6BB? Sign me up. As a bonus, you can even cycle Decree of Pain to get an instant, uncounterable, cantripping Infest. I can understand hating on this card because it costs 8, but look at what you're getting for that price. It's probably not for all cubes, but I think it should make the cut.

Massacre: I mention this separately from Infest because of the chance to play it for free. Free spells tend to be good. Granted, the conditions to cast this for free are a little restrictive, but with original and RAV block duals floating around, it's not impossible. If you cast this once for free, you just might fall in love with the card. While it's good, it's not as cubeable as Infest; if you only have room for one, go with the cheaper one.

Those are the good ones. There are also some Wraths out there that are less good. They might still be playable, especially if you're on a budget, but they lack the power of the good ones listed above. Let's take a look at them (in no particular order).

Final Judgment: Exiling all creatures is nice. Doing it for 6 mana, though, isn't so nice. This was a "block Wrath" that was very relevant when it was printed because of things like soulshift and legendary Dragon triggers. You'll only have to worry about the latter in cube, and even then, not very often. For 6 mana, you can do better.

Kirtar's Wrath: For a such a mediocre creature, I'm surprised Kirtar got a Wrath named after him. I'm not surprised that it isn't very good. If you have threshold, you can Wrath and get a pair of 1/1's. Why not just pay 1 mana more, play Martial Coup, and get five 1/1's?

Wave of Reckoning: This is a very interesting variation on the usual Wrath effect. I admit that I built a sucky deck around this card back in the day, packed full of creatures whose toughness exceeded their power. It did OK in pickup games at the store, but I didn't play it in anything that mattered. Cube matters, friends. Don't play cards like Wave of Reckoning in your cubes.

Planar Cleansing: This effect is worth 6 mana. The problem is the WWW in the cost. Casting this requires you to be heavily into White. Other Wraths, with only WW in their costs, are more forgiving of your mana. You can't splash them easily, but you can play a three or four-color deck and still feel confident that you can make WW when you need to. Making WWW in a deck of more than two colors is a lot harder. The effect is good, so I can't fault anyone for putting this in their cubes, but to me, the cost makes it not good enough overall.

The meek shall inherit the earth, and it
shall be filled with bad cards. (Maro 3:16)
Retribution of the Meek: I mention this one solely because of its low mana cost: 2W. Granted, it's just a big Reprisal, but that can be important in cube. There are quite a few good creatures with power 4 or greater. This is a great card to have if you're playing aggro and your opponent drops a couple creatures that give you problems. Because it's limited in scope, I wouldn't recommend it for all cubes, but it just might be right for yours.

Scourglass: If you're going to pay 3WW for a Wrath, shouldn't you get it right away? Yeah, I know, Esper hearts its artifacts. What I heart is not letting my Wrath linger on the board to be Disenchanted. Your mileage may vary, but I suspect that it doesn't. For what it's worth, I don't think this card is unplayable—it's possible to build around it, after all—just rather crap. It does get rid of planeswalkers, though.

Planar Collapse: This is another Wrath you have to wait for—and have a specific condition be met—so it's vulnerable to getting destroyed in the interim. However, 1W is a hell of a lot cheaper than 3WW. Planar Collapse is less selective in what it destroys than Scourglass, but the lower cost more than makes up for it. Since it's an enchantment, there are some decks that will be wholly unable to deal with it. I'm not saying I would play it, but it's definitely more playable than Scourglass, and can't be very expensive to acquire.

Planar Despair: Think of it as a Drag Down on steroids. I love me some Drag Down in ACR draft. I even liked Planar Despair in IPA Limited. For Cube, it's much sketchier. You don't have the block mechanics encouraging domain, for one thing. There's probably enough fetching and fixing in most cubes to splash a basic land or two to get domain. Still, I don't rank this very highly. Mutilate is simply better, since it costs less and has an effect that's much easier to meet.

Breaking Point: Yeah, the "punisher" mechanic is just bad. Do you think Frank Castle gives the people he kills a choice in the matter? Shouldn't this be called the "Spider-Man" mechanic, since he never kills anyone? The cheap 1RR cost is enticing, but don't be lured in. Unless your opponent is at 6 life, he's bound to make the choice that's better for him and worse for you. And if your opponent is at 6 or less, there are quite a few other red cards I could suggest you cast.
Forced March: Potentially powerful, but very expensive if you're killing off anything but a weenie horde. Also, it's a Mercadian Masques card. Isn't there a limit on how many of those you can have in a cube? If not, shouldn't there be?

Is a thousand-li march anything like
making the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs?
Guan Yu's 1,000-Li March / Righteous Fury: Both of them destroy all tapped creatures for 4WW. Righteous Fury has the bonus of gaining you 2 life for each creature it destroys. If your opponent has just attacked you with all his animals, these are really good. If he held a couple back, they become much less good. Because they're so situational, I don't recommend them.

Mageta the Lion: I confess that I like this card, and that I had it in my cube until recently. However, to get the Wrath ability off, you have to leave a 3/3 with a huge target on its head in play for a turn, then pay Wrath's mana cost, then discard two cards. So for [mana]5WWWW) over two turns, plus two cards, you got to Wrath everything except for your 3/3. That's really not a very good deal. I finally came to realize this and cut Mageta from my cube.

Plague Wind: Uh yeah . . . 9 mana. Next.

March of Souls: This wins the prize for "Weirdest effect you probably didn't want on a Wrath variant." If you were outnumbered in terms of creatures before, you're still going to be outnumbered afterwards. What the devil is the point, then?

Overwhelming Forces: It does cost 8, but it's kind of like Decree of Pain in a way. Instead of destroying your creatures, too, however, you destroy only your opponent's, and draw that many cards. I still prefer Decree of Pain for the fact that you can cycle it, but if you really want a Black wrath that costs 6BB, I can't fault you for choosing this one. It does get style points from being a P3K card, after all.

Retaliate: While it costs less than Guan Yu's 1,000-Li March and Righteous Fury (and has the perk of being an instant), it suffers from the same problem: if your opponent didn't attack you with all his men, it becomes less good. Maybe he drafted a few exalted guys and is just beating you down with one creature. In that case, Retaliate sucks. I like the idea, but it's too situational to be included in the cube.

Solar Tide: Because when I'm outnumbered in terms of creatures, I want to sacrifice two lands to make sure I get rid of them all. Oh, wait, no I don't. Next.

Sunscour: Being able to pitch two cards is convenient. The fact that they both have to be white cards is less convenient. The fact that a Wrath costs 7 freaking mana and still allows creatures to regenerate is even less convenient. In short, don't play this card.

That concludes our look at Wrath effects for cube. Did I miss any, good or bad? Let me know in the forums.

Part Deux: Cube changes and updated list

I've made several changes to my cube recently. Gone is the Jund Hackblade cycle from Alara Reborn. They didn't fit into any certain color combo, and more importantly, I want to de-emphasize multicolored cards a little. In addition, I cut one card from each color pair. I added one card of each color as replacements for the Blades (those added cards will be listed last on the lists below), and some other cards to replace the missing gold ones. Other changes are listed below. For my up-to-date cube list, look in this thread in Salvation's awesome Cube Forum.

White: Out: Ramosian Captain, Mageta the Lion
In: Temple Acolyte, Miraculous Recovery, Galepowder Mage

I've thought my cube included too many rebels for a while. This gets rid of one of them. Mageta is a strong card, but ultimately, as mentioned above, he's kind of slow and vulnerable. I can't recall a single game when his ability has been activated. Temple Acolyte and Miraculous Recovery are two cards I had completely forgotten about until I saw them in other people's cubes. Galepowder Mage has an interesting ability that can potentially be abused, and it's a 3/3 flier besides.

Blue: Out: Guile, Whispers of the Muse, Hinder, Compulsive Research, Delay, Fathom Seer
In: Miscalculation, Riftwing Cloudskate, Body Double, Propaganda, Compulsion, Turnabout, Rainbow Efreet

You have to cut some cards to add some cards. While I think the cards I cut are good, I think the cards I added are ultimately better. Rainbow Efreet got cut as part of my adjustment for the M10 rules changes, but I think that was a mistake, so she goes back in. No, the card isn't as good as before, but it's still an evasive 3-power flier that's very hard to kill.

Black: Out: Flesh Reaver, Pox, Ascendant Evincar, Avatar of Woe
In: Okiba-Gang Shinobi, Priest of Gix, Skeletal Vampire, Predatory Nightstalker, Cabal Interrogator

Pox is outclassed by its cousin, Smallpox. Avatar of Woe never gets cast on the cheap. Why pay more for Visara the Dreadful? Skeletal Vampire has been on the waiting list for a while, as has Cabal Interrogator. The Vampire was an important card in B/x control during his time in Standard, while the Interrogator makes it hard for control decks to hang onto cards. It's a useful tool, especially when you consider that the quality of noncreature spells is an incentive to draft control.
Red: Out: Covetous Dragon, Tribal Flames
In: Keldon Champion, Ogre Arsonist, Sulfur Elemental

I like Covetous Dragon, but it's hard to have enough artifacts to justify keeping it around. Tribal Flames met a similar end: the de-emphasis of multicolored cards means players are less likely to be playing three or more colors. That makes Tribal Flames a bad burn spell. Keldon Champion, on the other hand, is a good burn spell. It's also a burn spell that attacks for 3.

Green: Out: Joiner Adept, Groundbreaker, Anavolver, Kamahl, Fist of Krosa
In: Cudgel Troll, Ant Queen, Great Sable Stag, Briarhorn, Berserk

None of the cuts will be big losses. Kamahl got played a few times, but the rest were clearly in the bottom tier of my green cards. Cudgel Troll is a good beater for a reasonable cost. Ant Queen makes her own army if left unhindered. I finally got an extra Great Sable Stag, so it's time to see how he does. And if nothing else, Berserk allows me to sing the "Berserker" song from Clerks if I get to cast it. That alone is worth it, right?

Multi: Out: Grave-Shell Scarab, Aether Mutation, Void, Jhoira of the Ghitu, Invoke the Firemind, Shivan Wurm, Brion Stoutarm, Azorius First-Wing, Hindering Light, Soul Manipulation, Deathbringer Liege, Knight of the Reliquary, Jund Hackblade, Esper Stormblade, Bant Sureblade, Grixis Grimblade, Naya Hushblade
In: Teferi's Moat, Izzet Chronarch

That's a lot of cuts. Basically, I took what I thought was the worst card in each color pair and cut it. There was a lot of debate in the cube forum about the number of multicolor cards. After looking at that, I thought I had too many, and I bought in to the argument that reducing my gold count would up the overall quality of the packs. Terferi's Moat and Izzet Chronarch replaced other subpar cards in their color combinations.

Lands: Out: None
In: Kor Haven, Barbarian Ring, Gaea's Cradle, Academy Ruins

Cutting the chaff from the gold section allowed me to add a few more lands. These four complete a loose cycle with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth: one land that does something for each color. Does the presence of Kor Haven make Maze of Ith redundant?

Artifacts: Out: None
In: Gorgon Flail

That's the last addition. In M10 play, Gorgon Flail has shown itself to be a solid card. There isn't a lot of really good Equipment out there, but I think Gorgon Flail deserves to make the list in most cubes.

See you in two weeks.

~Tom Fowler


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