Greetings! It's been a while since I've written an article for Quiet Speculation, but I've been working quietly behind the scenes to help ensure the content on the site is getting better all the time.
You clicked on this article, so you already know we're talking about Cube cards from Amonkhet today. I'm an avid fan of Cube, but unlike many who make it a challenge to get rare, foil versions of every card, I'm working from the opposite perspective: I want to get the cheapest playable version of cards, whether that means picking up moderately played non-foils at discounts or getting high-quality proxies for thing like duals and Power.
When a new set comes out, I identify the cards I'd like to get for my cube and take a look at current prices. Then I set rough price and timing guidelines for picking them up.
I'm also coming at this from a Powered Cube perspective, where we're looking to do some of the most broken things each color has to offer. There are commons in this set that look like they would be great in pauper or peasant cubes (which I will refer collectively to as "C/Ubes"), and creatures that would be perfect fits in tribal cubes. I'll call these out as I see them, but my focus is going to be on the most powerful cards in this set—the ones that have a chance of breaking into the 450 I've selected from among Magic's best cards.
No more intro; let's go.
Angel of Sanctions is undoubtedly good. At this mana cost, it's competing with the likes of Baneslayer Angel, Reveillark, Cloudgoat Ranger, and Wingmate Roc. This could absolutely end up being as good as any of those, so I think it's definitely worth testing.
Its current price is about $6. If it starts seeing play in Standard, this could go up. Taking a long view of things, though, this isn't going to catch on in Modern or Legacy, and it's only going to be okay in Commander. After leaving Standard, the only draw this will have is for collectors of Angels.
I personally don't love this card enough to pay $6 just to test it in my Cube, so my goal price is going to be $1 to $2. That could happen while the card is still in Standard, but I'm comfortable waiting as long as it takes to hit that price. This card looks good, but it's not so crazy that I must have it.
I don't have this in my cube, but it's a decent hate card that could easily be included in one's list. This is your opportunity to pick up the reprint in the $1 range, which is pretty great when you consider it was previously over $10.
This isn't going to make the cut in Powered Cube where it's competing with the likes of Brimaz, King of Oreskos, Blade Splicer, Flickerwisp, and Monastery Mentor, but this could be a decently powerful piece of a C/Ube. Creature recursion is no joke, and white aggro is always a thing where it's wanted.
This is fine. It's probably really good, even. I'm just so bored with Gideons that all kind of do the same thing. The low casting cost could indeed make this the best one yet, but man, there are so many planeswalkers in cubes these days. My cube is already eight percent planeswalker.
I'm just in no hurry, especially at $25. I'd be happy to snag it in a trade if the opportunity arises, but I'm more happy to just wait until this is $5 to $10; again, even if that's in two years when it's no longer in Standard. Your mileage may vary, but when it comes to this cube, I'm playing the long game here and not trying to needlessly dump cash on cards that will plummet anyway.
This is powerful card that will deserve some testing in white weenie strategies. I'm not making any sweeping declarations, as I think exert looks kind of bad, but this particular card has potential. Less than $2 isn't a bad price, either, so I think it's justifiable to grab this whenever.
If there's one thing I learned from the Theros gods, it's that you have to play with them to see how good they actually are. Cards like this, with big stats matched with big clauses to make them active, are just too hard to evaluate accurately without experience. For this reason, I don't currently have strong opinions on any of the Amonkhet gods other than that I am skeptical but curious.
I'm not setting any acquisition goals for these at this time, but I'm looking forward to seeing how they play once they're added to the MTGO Cube. I will say that I cautiously think these look better than the Theros gods, but that's not saying much, as even the Theros gods I currently have in my cube are underwhelming (except for Keranos, God of Storms—that's guy's nuts).
This could be situationally better than Baneslayer Angel or Cloudgoat Ranger, but I really don't think it will usually be better. This strikes me as a card that you put in your cube until you find a better five-drop to replace it. That's still valuable for those of you still working on a list, though! It's certainly cost-effective to pick up, right on its way to bulk-rare-dom.
I think these cards are hideous, so even though this seems reasonably powerful, I'm not playing it. I'm not telling you how to think, though, so if you can stand to look at this, give it a shot. It's already less than a dollar.
This card looks cool, but I think it's going to be too slow. I would be happy to be proven wrong. I'm not going to be acquiring this card until I am proven wrong, though. Certainly not for $13.
There is a lot of competition in cubes for counterspells. I play sideboard-free drafts (to avoid piles of cards sitting around everywhere) in my playgroups, so I don't personally run Force Spike or Mana Tithe at this time, as those are cards you often want to sideboard out after your opponent has seen them.
To that end, Aven Mindcensor isn't going in my list any time soon, but this is certainly a card. My skeptical side says that a Force Spike that costs two just isn't good enough, though, even if you add cycling. I don't know; I think it would be cool if this was good.
Great for C/Ubes; it won't be cutting it in ones that include rares. It ticks the "card draw" and "versatility" boxes I love so much, though.
Probably worth consideration for C/Ubes, and an argument could be made that this is better than Imprisoned in the Moon, given that ramping your opponent is likely better for them than providing a chump blocker.
See what I had to say about Oketra. Drawing cards and having a big hand is certainly appealing; I'll give it that. This is the one I'm most hopeful for, which seems to be the opposite opinion of the rest of the community as this is available under $5.
So, blue offered pretty much nothing to Cube in this set, but given this historic power of blue, cards always have a much higher bar to clear. This has happened before, and it will happen again.
Black can be taken a few different directions in Cube. There are some lists that support a self-sacrifice theme in black, where this card would be at its best. In my cube, where black is primarily focused on reanimation and being a control support color, this isn't making the cut.
See what I said about Oketra. This is the one I'm most skeptical about.
Black aggro is also an option for Cube. There's a whole bunch of two-power black one-drops at this point, and this will assimilate easily into that group. Again, this won't be going into my cube in its current iteration, but I've got all the black aggro cards on standby, so I'll need to be picking this up at some point. A dollar or less is my goal; this kind of creature is easy to find these days. If it sees Standard play, I might have to wait, but that's fine.
Like most planeswalkers, this one would be fine in Cube. I have to admit, though: I still don't own either Liliana, Heretical Healer // Liliana, Defiant Necromancer or Liliana, the Last Hope, and those are just straight-up better. I'm sorry, but this card, like Gideon, is boring and just like all the other Lilianas that preceded it, and is just not going to be a priority for me. At five mana, this isn't even going to come down consistently early to do broken stuff, which is what Powered Cube is all about.
All that being said, this is obviously a fine card, and if I stumble into a cheap copy or a decent trade, I'll be more than happy to own it and likely include it in my list, but I'm honestly feeling a combination of boredom and overwhelmed by all these Gatewatch planeswalkers lately. Give me some instants and sorceries to be excited about instead, Wizards. That's what I really want.
Tribal Cube alert. If you support Zombies, you probably want this. The end.
Despite thinking the aftermath cards are aesthetically horrendous, I have to recognize the value this one offers. Can I get over its ugliness? If so, I'd be looking to pick it up for $1 or less, and hey, that's where it is now.
We made it all the way to "h" before I found something worth mentioning in red. If this was three power, it would be a snap-include. As it is, I guess we're wondering if this is more likely to perform as an Eidolon of the Great Revel or if it will be a rarely activated hate card with not enough power to compete. The hype is clearly strong with this one, and at $7 I'm staying far away. This is a rare, man. It will be a $1 or $2 before long.
See what I said about Oketra above. This strikes me as the easiest to activate in the group and could be pretty nuts in mono-red if that is the case.
You can't see this and not consider its similarity to Monastery Swiftspear, but will adding wither to your burn spells while giving up haste put this at the same level? My guess is it will be worse, but it could still very well be worth a spot. At nearly $3 right now, I'm not a huge fan–I think this will be readily available for $1 or less before long.
Do you play Pyroclasm or Anger of the Gods in your cube? You could consider this as an additional or replacement option for a red sweeper. I could see this being better than Anger in most situations. The price is right to try it out at just about $1.
Most of these exert cards seem average at best to me, but this one could do some pretty broken things. Think of all the fatties available in green. You'll have to protect this for a turn or find a way to give it haste, but it's not unreasonable to ramp this out on turn three and then have a Woodfall Primus on four.
It's the whole, "protect it or give it haste," that makes things questionable and possibly not good enough to make the cut. It certainly doesn't pass the vanilla test; not in Cube, at least. I'd be looking to get this at bulk pricing for testing. If it proves itself outside of my testing, I'd consider a higher price.
This card seems pretty strong. Let's compare to Sylvan Caryatid: we lose the ability to block early 2/2s or dodge targeted removal, but we gain a relatively strong beater by the mid- or late-game. We also lose the ability to make mana after three shots (sans additional manipulation), which could be bad if you need to keep making mana.
This is a strong card, but I think that Sylvan Caryatid is better in most cases. Channeler Initiate is clearly not going to replace better mana-makers like Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary or Lotus Cobra, but I could see it getting a spot over something like Sakura-Tribe Elder or Wall of Blossoms.
For a card that will probably see play in Standard, just under $3 may be reasonable if you want to get a copy before it rotates. I also don't think it's so insane that I need it before rotation, so you could go either way on this one.
This card is strictly better Uktabi Orangutan unless you're supporting an Ape tribal theme. Are you doing that? I didn't think so. It's pretty cool to get cards that are straight upgrades, and I think this one is very well positioned to find a spot in many cubes.
I don't think this really good enough for Cube, at least Powered Cube. Thrun, the Last Troll is already pretty borderline, and I just don't think counterspell protection is worth playing an otherwise vanilla body in green where we want to play either mana dorks, value creatures, or fatties.
See what I said about Oketra above. This one makes me yawn the most of the five. It's just big numbers, pretty much. Boring.
This makes me think of Courser of Kruphix and Oracle of Mul Daya, but I think in reality it is far worse. Playing lands off the top is awesome and free. Seeing a six-drop on top when you have only five lands is just going to be painful. I'm not ruling it out just yet, but despite my initial reaction being, "Daaaaaaaamn," I think there's a good chance this won't make the cut. It's certainly not going to make the cut as an unproved card at $7.
I'm not into this one too much. It doesn't protect itself and none of its abilities are all that crazy. Unless a cube is specifically multicolor-focused, multicolor cards have extremely high barriers to clear to make the cut. Currently I'm running Edric, Spymaster of Trest, Trygon Predator, Shardless Agent, Mystic Snake, and Kiora, the Crashing Wave. Nissa is not displacing any of those cards, so yeah, I guess I might target this for my on-deck binder at $5 or less, but even that is a "meh."
This is a lot of abilities on one card, but again, multicolored cards have a higher bar to clear, and I don't think this will clear it. There's also the complication that this is technically a Naya card, which might trouble some people who care about color balance (I am one of them). I don't care what the price is; this card needs to convince me that it's worth it before I make any moves.
This could be a pretty brutal card in aggressive mono-red or mono-white decks, which are both supported in my Cube. It lacks versatility, which is a huge knock against it, but I had to list one of the artifacts to justify that "Artifact" heading, so here it is.
These are snap-includes... once the cycle is complete. I personally cannot fathom including a dual-land cycle that is only half complete, so as much as I love these cards and think they will be a perfect fit with the fetch-dual-shock manabases I'm currently supporting, right now it's just a waiting game. I'll be looking to pick up my copies for $1 to $2, and there is absolutely no rush, because it could be years until we see the rest of these.
Ever since Wizards printed the colorless symbol in Oath of the Gatewatch, I've been collecting playable colorless lands to potentially support those cards in the future. These are very minor effects, but you don't need something huge from your utility lands to make them good. These are not making the cut any time soon, but I am looking to acquire them for my on-deck binder.
This was long, so let's be quick on the wrap-up. As you will see, I'm not bullish on many cards in this set—this is typical, because most new cards aren't worth being bullish on. There will be a handful of cards that go up in price, but most will go down. Always keep this in mind. There's no reason to overspend except for hype, and the safest thing is to assume that everything is way too expensive.
Want to praise me for nailing the cards you also like from the set? Want to curse my very name for leaving your pet card off the list? Want to debate with me about my feelings on a particular card, mentioned here or not? You can do all these things and more, right down below in the comment section.