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Hey there! Let's not waste a ton of time on the intro. As established previously, my goal is to create a cube including the best cards over the history of Magic: The Gathering, but at the lowest possible cost to myself. We're not talking about foils today, folks – we'll be looking at the least expensive version of each card in question.
Cubing inexpensively while still trying to pick up the best cards means early identification, periodic price checking, and lots of patience. Cards from Shadows over Innistrad block that have been expensive due to Standard play (Archangel Avacyn, Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, etc.) are finally primed for pickup. In some cases, a card is fine to pick up while still in Standard, either because it sees no Standard play or not enough to greatly impact its price. That's why early identification is important – why wait to pick up a card if you don't have to?
To that end, let's take a look at Ixalan. For reference, this is my current cube list. I'm not touching on reprints today, as they are probably already in tuned lists if they deserve to be. Onward!
We've got a few cards here that in a developing cube, a pauper/peasant cube, or a budget cube might be good for aggressive white decks. All of these cards could be good enough in the right list, but none will be making powered or well-tuned lists. Cost shouldn't be any concern with these, including Kinjalli's Sunwing, which should be a bulk rare or slightly above at best.
A mini Sun Titan is pretty spicy, but again, I think this will be more for developing cubes than tuned ones. This is going to have to compete with the likes of Cloudgoat Ranger, Angel of Sanctions, Wingmate Roc, Baneslayer Angel, Reveillark and more at its mana cost. And let's not forget: Cube has access to actual Sun Titan. As a bulk rare to fill out a growing cube, though, I don't hate it.
If you're one of those cube designers who has three or four copies of Squadron Hawk as a single pick in the cube, here's another option for you.
Wow. It's an instant-speed Wrath of God that's also kind of a hit-everything Path to Exile. In practice, I could see this not being as good as either card, due to the clause requiring the creatures to be attacking. Is it good enough for Cube? I can't say for sure. It's on my watchlist, but as a rare from a large fall set, the supply on this card is going to be huge, and sweepers never go over a few bucks anyway. With a current market price around $2.50, there's a good chance you could save a buck or two by waiting on this, and I consider there to be little chance of getting blown out by it going above $5.
Not a lot going on for white. None of the above cards are must-includes in my list, but maybe you feel differently.
I don't hate this at all. It's best if your cube supports aggro in blue, but I think it's an arguable inclusion even if you're not planning to attack often. Finding a slot in blue, as always, is the difficult part. I was expecting this to be starting at $1 and it's half that, so there's no shame in buying early if you want a copy.
Pirate Jace is pretty cool. I don't like to overreact to planeswalkers, and frankly, there's so many these days that they're not auto-includes just on the basis of being printed like they used to be. But at this mana cost, I'm not counting this card out. That said, planeswalkers are exactly the kind of card I prefer to wait until rotating out of Standard to buy – any kind of Standard play will make a huge difference between a planeswalker's Standard price and non-Standard price. It's on my watchlist; I'd buy for $5 or so while in Standard, or just wait for a couple years and get it for even less than that.
This is an automatic include. Did you know that it's an instant? Holy crap. It's common so you should have no trouble finding a copy, even though it will be a Standard staple for sure.
It's good in aggro; it's good in control. Yeah, this is very likely getting a slot. At a little more than a $1, you could risk waiting, but if this catches on in an Eternal format, that $1 price tag could look like a bargain in the future.
Blue got better cards than white, that's for sure. Other than Jace, the standouts are not flashy, but they are going to slot in to many a deck.
Flashy? Sure. Good? I don't think enough so for Cube. I'm not really interested, but black isn't offering much this set.
I saw this card for the first time at the prerelease, and at first I missed the "noncreature" clause, and I was blown away that Mesmeric Fiend and Brain Maggot had been so outclassed. Now that I see what it actually does, it's still quite a good card. Flying gives it a good chance to ping for a lot more damage than Fiend or Maggot ever did, and in a Powered Cube environment, you're often most happy to take the non-creature anyway. This is generating no buzz as an uncommon, so pick it up at your leisure.
You could use these as placeholders in a developing cube, but neither has a place in a well-tuned list. Compare Vraska's Contempt to Hero's Downfall and Walk the Plank to every other two-cost black removal spell from history (hint: most of the good ones are instants and cost 1B).
It's too bad that black didn't give us much at all this set, because it's perhaps the color in Cube that needs the most help. Oh well.
This isn't an auto-include, but it's definitely a worthy consideration for cubes that support red aggro. It doesn't displace Goblin Rabblemaster or Manic Vandal, but there's an argument to be made that it's better than Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh or Sin Prodder. The "players can't gain life" clause may push it over the edge of Sin Prodder in particular – I think I just convinced myself to make the switch. At nearly $3, it looks like people are taking a look at this for Ramunap Red or Standard Dinosaurs. It could push up a little higher in the short term, but if you're a long-term planner, this is a card that will be a bulk rare someday, guaranteed.
As a side note: two or three years ago, Chandra's Phoenix and Manic Vandal were the best three-drops red had to offer – now it seems like there is a borderline Cube-playable red three-drop in every single set. Craziness.
As someone with a deep love of Hammer of Bogardan, I can't help but love this card. As someone who has played a lot of Cube, I can't help but know that an improved Hammer is still not good enough.
Red has even less than black. I'm starting to think this set isn't offering a lot for Cube – at least in the mono-color section.
I have to talk about this guy given that he's by far the most expensive card in the set. That being the case, I don't think he's remotely close to good enough. We're talking Cube here. Primeval Titan is available. Woodland Bellower. Greenwarden of Murasa. And let's consider that six isn't even hard to reach for green. If you're building a green deck with fatties in Cube, you want Avenger of Zendikar, Craterhoof Behemoth, Woodfall Primus, or Terastodon. To me, Carnage Tyrant is just a big, dumb, vanilla fatty. Yeah, he'll give blue decks a hell of a time, but that's not enough to devote a whole slot to this. I'm passing, especially at its current price. This card will be around $2 after it rotates. How could it possibly maintain this price or anything close in the face of all of Magic's cardpool?
Now here is a green card worth a slot. Green has an abundance of four-drops, and this strikes me as better than Thrun, the Last Troll, but not better than Master of the Wild Hunt or Oracle of Mul Daya. The hard part will be deciding whether I want the Raptor or Polukranos, World Eater. That said, this is a rare that is currently near $10. Even if it becomes a Standard staple, and it probably will, it should be $5 before too long. Whether you want to buy at that price or for $1 in a couple years is totally up to you.
That's it for green. Slim pickings, man.
Let's be real. Unless you're going to completely warp your cube around Pirates or Dinosaurs, you're just not going to play cards that care about them. That makes Admiral Beckett Brass and Gishath, Sun's Avatar overwhelmingly "meh" for our purposes here. What would be good in Cube from this section?
This is pretty borderline. Dimir has lots of good cards available to it in Cube and finding a slot is going to be difficult. That said, this offers a potential three-for-one if you're able to cast the card you exile. It's just that one of those three is a vanilla 2/3. It's worth a look, but not a purchase at $5. This is a rare; target it at $1 or less.
I don't have a problem with what this card does, and at $10, it could even be a worse price. But might I suggest that for an even lower price (money and mana cost), you can purchase the freshly rotated Nahiri, the Harbinger, a better card by far that has seen Modern play. For even less money than that, you could get a copy of Ajani Vengeant, one of the coolest and arguably most powerful planeswalkers of all time. If you've got both of those in your list, and you still want a Huatli, by all means, pick one up. This should be easily available for $5 unless it catches on in Standard, which doesn't seem especially likely to me.
Golgari has, in my opinion, some of the weaker offerings among multicolor cards in Cube. Vraska, Relic Seeker does a nice job of adding to the color pair's playable cards. Coming down and either adding to your board or subtracting from your opponent's is just what you need for a six-cost planeswalker. I don't think this is displacing Garruk, Apex Predator, but I do think it will be a nice companion. Before you go paying $14 for this card, may I suggest first thinking about which six-cost planeswalkers have actually seen Standard play (or were anticipated to), and their current prices today as well as over their Standard lifetimes:
It's honestly really hard to evaluate these double-faced cards. They're not super great on the front, but on the back, oh man, they are also absolutely gorgeous land designs, and I wish we could have face-up lands with those designs. Maybe I'll just do that. Just play them as absolutely overpowered lands that make the Power Nine get relegated to later picks. ... Yeah, maybe not.
The above seven cards I think are so underwhelming on the front half that they're not really worth considering for the back half. (Primal Amulet could very easily be good enough in a cube that supports Storm, though.)
These three are kind of interesting on the front, and being able to flip into overpowered lands makes them quite interesting in my opinion. Unless they turn out to be even better than they look or people just love the land designs on the back, I don't see why these won't be available for $1 to $2 before long. I wouldn't call any of them auto-includes, but they're definitely worth some testing.
Whoa. There's nothing in the artifact section worth discussing. Maybe you could play Vanquisher's Banner in a tribal cube, but the card seems more suited to Commander based on its mana cost.
Even if your cube isn't tribal by design, if your individual colors have a plethora of one or two particular creature types, this can absolutely be good enough. Bonus if you're trying to support Oath of the Gatewatch colorless cards. Casual demand should keep the price of this card up, I expect. Paying $2 might not be so bad if you really want a copy.
That's it! Ixalan is honestly pretty underwhelming when it comes to Cube, but every set has a piece or two that's worth considering. As a player who usually picks Ponder and Preordain highly, I'm most excited for Opt.
What's got you most excited for cubing with Ixalan? Did I omit a card you think is great? Let it be known below. Thanks for reading!
2 thoughts on “Insider: Cubing with Ixalan (as Inexpensively as Possible)”
opt is a reprint, so I’m skeptical of “auto-include” status
Hey, I didn’t know! That’s pretty cool. Not surprised it’s an old-border card, as it would clearly be played in Modern if available. I automatically included it in *my* list, but others may not see it that way. This is a lesson to me that I can always find great new cards, even among very old sets.