Now that the full spoiler for Journey into Nyx is out, it’s time to theory-craft what the impact on Cube will be. I will be holding off on a full review like the ones I did for the Commander 2013 series until I have a chance to play with these cards and see how they impact Commander tables. For now, I’m going to write about the cards I will be testing in my cube and what applications I see them having for existing archetypes.
The one-armed cow-man will likely be making his way into more cubes than any other card from Journey by virtue of being accessible to C/Ubes and by providing valuable redundancy in the black aggro one-drop slot. [card]Gnarled Scarhide[/card]’s bestow modes might actually push him to best-in-slot for that category depending on how relevant bestowing on your opponent’s guy plays out. Turn one two-power one-drop into turn two disruption is a very solid archetype for black that is getting easier to support thanks to cards like the Scarhide.
White is the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of Cube since it’s the only color that typically supports both aggro and control archetypes. [card]Nyx-Fleece Ram[/card] clearly plays for the latter team but fills a role there that previously only [card]Wall of Omens[/card] and [card]Perimeter Captain[/card] volunteered for. How it compares to those two remains to be seen, but I can definitely see how the extra toughness and incidental life gain could be worth a card in some matchups. I will test it but it might have a tough time competing for a slot, unlike the next card.
[card]Oblivion Ring[/card] 2.0 is a snap include for pretty much every cube as [card]Oblivion Ring[/card] supports both the aforementioned control and aggro archetypes and is picked highly even in powered environments. [card]Banishing Light[/card] is a functional reprint for our purposes since in practice the stack trick only ever comes up on creatures.
I run a larger cube (~640 cards) and green is the only color where the lack of depth is truly felt. Even though I feel [card]Setessan Tactics[/card] may be weaker than any other Journey into Nyx card discussed in this article, I will be giving it a shot since it has a role to play. Like in many other cubes, green aggro has fallen by the wayside in my list to support ramp and better midrange four- and five-drops. In that paradigm shift, most combat tricks have made their way out (only [card]Vines of Vastwood[/card] remains). Not only is green looking to improve card quality more than any other color, but [card]Setessan Tactics[/card] can fill the role of a trick while playing much better with green’s creatures, which are large enough to win combat anyway. How it plays might show that it’s not good enough since attacking may just be better most of the time. That said, it is green removal and sometimes you just need to kill that [card]Sower of Temptation[/card] or [card]Looter il-Kor[/card].
The red Johnny Magic comes to the party with very exciting rules text, all for the low cost of 3 mana. As soon as I saw this card I though “I want me some of that!” The theory-crafting jury is still out on this guy, which is one of the prerequisites for a card to break out. Even the question of whether the Flamespeaker slots better into aggro, control, or midrange is still unanswered. What is known is that he has a strike against him—he needs some help to reach his full potential. Luckily, he accepts it in all forms: pump spells, equipment, removal, burn or other creatures all get the Flamespeaker to connect. Once he does, [card]Prophetic Flamespeaker[/card] helps himself quite well, as his trigger can pile on up to two cards of pressure per turn. Card advantage considerations aside, double strike and trample on the same card threaten a huge amount of damage should anything be done to change that one power. The fact that the printing of this guy makes me want to put [card]Reckless Charge[/card] back in my cube is making me really pay attention to him. Of course, Cube might be the best format for him since that’s where he’ll get to play with the best toys like swords and [card]Umezawa’s Jitte[/card].
[card]Ajani, Mentor of Heroes[/card]
Gold cards are so difficult to evaluate for cube because they have to compete for five slots rather than 70 or more. Ajani does compete and the easy cards to put him against are [card]Mirari’s Wake[/card] and [card]Gavony Township[/card]. Ajani is hands down a better anthem than both cards, but it is dangerous to stop there—Wake was always played for the mana doubling and Township is so good because it’s a land. In my list, I may actually just cheat and slide Township into my land section just to get some testing in. Though Ajani doesn’t protect himself the way other ‘walkers do, waiting a turn to drop him so as to put three counters on a mana elf gets the job done. What is clear is that Ajani passes the mustard for a spot on team Selesnya; what you cut comes down to preference.
[card]Keranos, God of Storms[/card]
Of all ten multicolour gods, Keranos may be the only one to get a slot in Cube. Not even Xenagod made the cut in my list, even though he’s much better than some of the mono-colored cards I run. Luckily for Keranos, his competition isn’t as stiff and his abilities line up well with what UR wants to do. I’m not sure if drawing and casting [card]Lightning Bolt[/card] is always worth a card, but the board states where it’s not are few and far between. He’s unlikely to be a creature very often, which is fine since he has enough value frontloaded on his enchantment half. [card]Steam Augury[/card] has under-performed for me and will be making room for some playtests with Keranos. You could also cut some low-impact cards: [card]Izzet Charm[/card], [card]Fire/Ice[/card], or the similar [card]Prophetic Bolt[/card] to make room for the god.
I am slightly upset by the printing of this card since it seems marginally better than [card]City of Brass[/card], of which I have an original Arabian Nights version in my cube. I could cut that, [card]City of Ass[/card] (not going to happen), or make room for a third five-color land. I like this last option most, since in practice CoB sees as much play supporting two-colour decks that still need mana fixing late in the draft as it does supporting four- and five-colour decks. When you think of it as a 10-way split card with a downside, [card]Mana Confluence[/card] definitely needs to “get in there.”
[card]Temple of Malady[/card]/[card]Temple of Epiphany[/card]
I will be testing [card]Temple of Epiphany[/card] in my cube, but not [card]Temple of Malady[/card]. I find the temples excellent lands for filling out each guild’s section but not as a 10-card land cycle for cube. As we get more cubable dual lands, I feel like the musical chairs remaining after shocks/fetches/duals have taken their seats should be filled by lands that support each guild’s strategies. For example, some guilds really need a land that is untapped on turn one. Another example is how critical [card]Fetid Heath[/card] is for a B/W deck, even after most of the WW two-drops have been removed from Cube. These two temples illustrate this effect perfectly. B/G needs to have its green source untapped on turn one to cast an elf, but the best UR usually does on turn one is cast [card]Ponder[/card] or [card]Preordain[/card], which is an effect a free scry 1 emulates quite well.
So that’s it! With nine cards to test, six of which I believe will have a long-term stay in my cube, Journey into Nyx seems like a very good set for Cube. Let me know in comments, by Twitter, or email what you think about JOU and what cards you will be testing.
Until next time,
Email: djkensai at gmail dot com