Small update between sets
This is mostly an update to metagame changes. There are two themes in this update – fattie cheat support and reanimation support.
Cut: Nether Void, Sinkhole, Terror
Add: Exhume, Life // Death, Dance of the Dead
Reanimation did was not a successful strategy in this cube in a long time. I’m always torn between the need to dedicate slots to it and the fear that committing cube space to a failing underplayed strategy will reduce playability. Perhaps a critical mass is needed. Last draft someone was picking fatties and discard outlets yet did not see reanimation spells during the draft at all. Three spells is not a huge amount, barely enough for a single dedicated deck. But, we are all fairly sure new cubeable reanimator spells will never be printed again, this is the best we have got. If it will continue failing, it will be cut almost completely and for a long time. Reanimator should also enjoy some cross-pollination from other cheat strategies.
As for the cuts, Nether Void played more like Rule of Law than Armageddon for us (and we have been playing it for over 5 years). Also, an unpopular opinion, but in the last few years Armageddons dropped in power level (and my local increase in mana rocks count can be a big part of it).
Sinkhole is disappointing for the second time. It needs a really good mana base to shine, as the spell loses value rapidly after turn two. It faces two problems. One, there are relatively many cards that cost BB and the cube cannot support many of them. Two, it is hard to find space in decks for cards that are not threats, removal or card advantage, and that space is already quite full in black by targeted discard.
Terror is almost assuredly better than Fatal Push. But Push is new so it needs more testing. Push is certainly better for diversifying the curve and against aggro. Ultimate Price hits slightly less targets than Terror if we count manlands, but Terror has a large overlap of targets, with Shriekmaw, Doom Blade and Snuff Out.
This is a change that would happen independently of reanimator support, but nevertheless bolsters the archetype somewhat. Tutor is rarely played. It is very rare you need a specific creature that badly, you usually opt to play another threat. Plus, green has other better tutors. It is a bad topdeck for midrange decks, and even combo decks do not usually want it. It underperforms for the second time in this cube.
Wayfinder is a broadly playable filler. It fetches nonbasics lands, and is a body for Gaea's Cradle, Survival of the Fittest, Natural Order and Cratehoof Behemoth. Amonkhet added new graveyard synergies with embalm and aftermath. It is always a nice way to fuel Tarmogoyf!
Cheat strategies support –
The broad scope of strategies thst try to play giant creatures for cheap without paying their mana cost fairly with ramp is what I call cheat strategies. The main enablers are Sneak Attack, Show and Tell, Oath of Druids, Tinker, Channel, Eureka, Selvala's Stampede and Natural Order. I recently added Emrakul, the Eons Torn, several years after its release. I feared two things:
1. The card, not being reanimatable, is too narrow and will not see play often.
2. The card is uninteractive and binary – in games where you get emrakul into play you win, and there is very little your opponent can do about it.
Turns out both were wrong. Emrakul excites player, people want to break her. She is the sort of stuff decks are built around. Also, not being reanimatable was not a big deal, the other ways are more numerous even after this update. Turns out she is not as overpowering as I’ve thought. I’ve seen people survive and win more than once an Emrakul that was cheated with Through the Breach or Sneak Attack.
As such, I am less fearful of adding other powerful cheat-only fatties.
Titan has just a miserable body. A 7/10 without evasion is easy to contain, it is quite manageable to consistently stall until you get a creature or artifact removal for him. He is also a rather slow clock anyway, having no haste. Breaking the symmetry with his trigger is also hard and not that rewarding in reality against the average opponent. It usually destroys two lands per player. Clossus is a prime target for cheating, especially with Sneak Attack, but probably fair, as enough toughness in blockers renders that use of the card near meaningless. It is also by far the best Tinker target, which is somewhat of an unwanted side effect.
-Foundry of the Consuls, +Sensei's Divining Top
Foundry is a playable filler in many decks. That said, it dropped in value lately. There are less colorless costing cards now, and with amonkhet you have plenty more mana sinks with cycling, embalm and aftermath. Color intensive decks never played it, others probably will not really notice. Top is still a good card. It feels wrong to cube without him. Now that cheat strategies are on the rise, it also fills a role. It is of the few nonblue card selection outlets. It is great fodder for Daretti and Welder. I also noticed a gap at the curve of some decks with one drops, and this is a fairly widely playable one. It still has two downsides and those are time consumption and being overrated by some players. Oh well, at least Monastery Mentor got his old toy back!
-Sorin, Grim Nemesis, +Sphinx of the Steel Wind
Large Sorin is a fine card, but doesn’t compare well to six drops. It is not great when you are behind against the common diverse cube boards. If you kill something meaningful, Sorin will die to any attacker. The lifegain is nice, but still capped and arrives late to the party. Sorin is also a reliable win condition, but slower than all other six drops in that role.
Sphinx is a new toy for Daretti and Goblin Welder. It can also be reanimated. It is basically unanswerable to red and green decks, but cheat decks need some favorable matchups, especially given how much life you usually lose with Reanimate or Life // Death. Such cards already exist in cube, Elesh Norn is unanswerable for red aggro, but in small numbers it should be fine. Also unwillingly boosts Tinker.
Decimator was a failed experiment. Decimator requires board presence, and his emerge has counter synergy with his effect. He is also green intensive. A major strike against him is that he doesn’t work well when ramped into, when cheated or reanimated and he cannot even just be a big body for Green Sun's Zenith or Natural Order. Now, Avenger basically suffers from the same problems, but at least it has strong synergies going for him and more game-winning potential. Avenger is great with Recurring Nightmare, Gaea's Cradle, Opposition etc. It is still more feasible to ramp into him, and he offers better value if you are creature light.
-Renegade Rallier, +Vial Smasher, the Fierce
Revolt, like morbid, is inconsistent in cube. Vial Smasher has a high damage output ceiling, with some cards like Tasigur or Fireblast. Still, it is a 2/3 body without ability that does nothing the turn you cast him. A risky experiment.