Thursday, November 25, 2010

Good Sets For the Cube (part 3)

The third and last part of an evaluation of all magic sets from the cube builder perspective.

Champions of Kamigawa, Betrayers of Kamigawa, Saviors of Kamigawa

If one counted only the commons and uncommons in these sets, they might have been the worst block for cubes, due to the very linear mechanics splice onto arcane, spirits matter and cards in hand matter. The rare legendary creatures, enchantments and lands, however, are typically modular and very welcome - see Meloku, the Dragon Spirits, the Myojins, Kiku, Masako, Kira, the flip creatures, Isamaru and others. Betrayers brings ninjutsu, Jitte and a few more rare legends. Saviors is a bit worse, feature a few more flip creatures, some good channel creatures and a lot of linear cards with the hand matters theme.

Ravnica: City of Guilds, Guildpact, Dissension

This block continues to improve the creature power level - which can be seen in Watchwolf, Vinelasher Kudzu, Dark Confidant and others -, and despite being a multicolor themed block, few cards care about which colors you play, being the most modular block since the terribly weak Masques. There are a lot of good mana fixers and multicolor enablers here, like the bounce lands and the signets, awesome multicolored and hybrid cards, and interesting mechanics - dredge, convoke, transmute and graft. The shocklands might be the best duals in history, too. The whole block is worth checking.

Time Spiral, Planar Chaos, Future Sight

Time Spiral block is my favorite one for cubes. Most card in these sets are highly modular. In Time Spiral, apart from slivers and a few things with suspend matters, the nostalgia theme brought a lot of legends that do unique things in one single set, such as Ith, Jaya Ballard amd Kaervek. The new shadow creatures coming back are nice as well. Do not forget to check the timeshifted cards, that brought several old favorites such as Call of the Herd, Gemstone Mine, Psionic Blast and Mirari, just to name a few. Planar Chaos keeps up the quality, in a much different way: the color shifted cards, eg. Harmonize, Mana Tithe and Damnation, the Magi that incarnate old artifacts, and alternative legends like Akroma, Angel of Fury and Mirri the Cursed. Future Sight is a great ending, bringing a lot of cards that do unique things, some mechanics that did not appear in any other set still and might never appear, and all sorts of interesting cards. Examples are Dryar Arbor, Ghostfire, the enchantment Magi and the Pacts.

Lorwyn, Morningtide

While is dislike the linearity of the commons and uncommons in these two sets, which go too deep into the tribal theme, the rares and mythics are very interesting: the Elemental Incarnations, the Hideaway lands, the Commands, the Planeswalkers, some legends (Brigid and Doran), Bitterblossom, Taurean Mauler, Reveillark and Thoughtseize. The evoke Elementals and Oblivion Ring are good commons, but the rest of the cards in lower rarities just don't make the cut, unless your cube supports tribal archetypes.

Shadowmoor, Eventide

These sets contribute a lot to the cube in the hybrid category, as expected. Cards as Spitemare, Firespout, Kitchen Flinks, Unmake, Boggart-Ram Gang, Oona and Kulrath Knight are good additions to most cubes. However, most hybrids only fit decks that are either monocolored or of the exact combination, as is the case with the Demigod and the Lieges. They will help shaping a cube that rewards monocolored decks, but is sort of awkward for limited. Many non-hybrid cards fall in this category as well, which is a pity given several of them are interesting and aggressively costed. The untap theme does not add much, and the -1/-1 theme is a bit too linear.

Shards of Alara, Conflux, Alara Reborn

Since this block revolves around 3-color combinations, most cards are automatically discarded because they require one of those 10 specific color combinations to work. 3-colored decks are uncommon in limited, and it's even more unlikely someone will be playing a specific combination. The 2-colored multicoloreds are bad comparing to those from Invasion and Ravnica blocks, so there is little to be found here. The Conflux domain theme is very impractical in limited, and even worse in high power cubes - getting all 5 basic lands is too awkward against good beatdown and control decks. What is decent in these sets are some unearth creatures, mana fixing (tri-lands, Noble Hierarch, Ancient Ziggurat, Rupture Spire, basic landcycling) and very occasional good cards such as Thornling, Banefire, Volcanic Fallout, Bloodbraid Elf and the planeswalkers. Alara is, though, a good block if your cube wants to force 3-color combinations. This might, however, not be a good idea.

Zendikar, Worldwake

Zendikar block is the most modular block since Time Spiral, apart from the allys part, which I greatly dislike. The non-basic lands introduced in this block are good additions (especially enemy fetchlands, manlands and, for the sake of budget, the 1-life taplands), as several landfall cards (Emeria Angel and Plated Geopede for instance), some traps and quests. Several other cards, both related (Scute Mob, Beastmaster Ascension, Burst Lightning, Stoneforge Mystic) and non-related (Seagate Oracle, Vampire Nighthawk and the new Planeswalkers) to the land/exploration theme also shine.

Rise of the Eldrazi

Rise is a good set to find cards for a cube. The Eldrazi cards are nice for the cube because they appeal greatly to Timmies and are playable in decks of any color. Some level up creatures, such as Lighthouse Chronologist and Transcedent Master, stand out as powerhouses as well. Many interesting cards, however, are unrelated, like Vengevine, Narcolepsy, Linvala, Flame Slash and Wall of Omens. Several rebound spell are good as well, for instance Consuming Vapors and Staggershock. Another set worth taking a good look, especially for slower cubes, or ones seeking to improve control.

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