Updating My Commander Cube
I just finished a big update to my cube and I wanted to write about what changed and why and what that process is like for me.
First, the reason for the update: Most obviously, there’s a new set of cards to consider, but I hadn’t really taken stock of everything for a few sets and just added sweet cards as I happened to think of them. As with any cube, I’m sure some cards would play well that I haven’t properly considered, but I wanted to pay close attention to the last few sets and make sure I have everything I think I should.
There are also a couple of big structural changes I’ve been considering that I decided to try out. When I made the cube it had no searching except for basic lands, but I haven’t felt like I need the cards that search for lands and I like the cleaner and faster (gameplay-wise) solution of no search entirely, so I cut everything that searches.
I also decided to try out another house rule, which is treating Partner, Background, and Friends Forever as the same thing–if a card in this cube has a mechanic that allows it to be one of two commanders, it can be paired with any other card that allows that. I also decided to line up the partners in each color–there are four cards in each color with one of those mechanics and one card of each color pair with one of those mechanics. Four felt like a good number to allow options and have the cards show up at a decent rate without needing to play any truly horrible options to hit the target in any color.
For reference, the other house rules:
- Everyone gets a Command Tower to include in their deck at the end of the draft.
- If you have a mono-colored commander (or two partners that are only one single color), you can splash up to 6 cards of one single other color and you can play lands of that color.
- Decks must be a minimum of 60 cards not including your commander(s).
- Draft two cards at a time for each pick.
Changes by color:
I’d previously been particularly happy with White, but there were some new cards I wanted to make room for and I needed to make room for some additional partners.
Speaker of the Heavens is a little too narrow–I tried to cut almost everything that’s a payoff for a specific thing one could build around because I worry that their presence implies a density of enablers for what it’s trying to do, and I don’t want to commit to the idea that lifegain is sufficiently supported for that card to work as one might hope.
Charming Prince and Farsight Adept both felt a little too small a ball. They’re fine cards to include in white decks, especially with blink synergies, but you’re never really excited about either.
Mentor of the Meek is slow and the mana cost to draw cards makes it remarkably unappealing. Ultimately just felt worse than Tocasia’s Welcome or Welcoming Vampire.
Great Desert Prospector was a card I had some vague aspirations about, but I didn’t expect it would ever really work out.
Sculpted Sunburst is a cool card, but it’s kind of a mouthful and weird to wrap your head around if you haven’t seen it before, and I just felt like a cleaner wrath would probably be better, so this was upgraded to Sunfall.
Mastery of the Unseen is a pet card of mine, but mana sinks are just so bad in this cube because you don’t typically run out of things to do that it’s hard to justify this card anymore.
I like both Path to Exile and The Restoration of Eiganjo, but cut both to change to no search.
These cuts let me add:
Abdel Adrian, Gorion’s Ward, Far Traveler, and Veteran Soldier to fill white’s partner quota,
Elesh Norn (the new card with that full title)–I’m not including Mother of Machines because I think it’s stronger than I’d like and in a way that seems more frustrating than fun. I’m not sure exactly how I’ll feel about this one, but I want to see it play.
Serra Paragon–an addition I’m excited about after playing with it in Standard recently. This card’s sweet.
Guardian of Ghirapur–A slightly higher impact Charming Prince, I suppose, not blown away by this, but happy to see if people like it.
Mondrak, Glory Dominus–Anointed Procession’s a weird one–high ceiling, but one of the cards that asks a bit more than I’d like of the rest of your draft. I think there are enough things that work with it to keep it around, but I like this one that offers a body regardless more here.
White Sun’s Twilight–I didn’t have Martial Coup, but I think this is a bit better and I’m curious to see how it plays here.
Invasion of Gobakhan–I don’t love that the front side of this targets a single opponent, but it flips easily and the back is pretty appealing, and I want to get a few battles in the cube.
Like white, blue needed three additional partner-style cards, and I went with Clan Crafter, Volo, Itinerant Scholar, and Zellix, Sanity Flayer.
The other cards I wanted to try adding were Faerie Mastermind, Invasion of Segovia, Transcendent Message, and Blue Sun’s Twilight.
Faerie Mastermind is a strong card in Commander, and I’m always happy to have more cheap creatures. Invasion of Segovia is pretty exciting, and I’m interested to see what kinds of things people can do with giving their stuff convoke. Transcendent Message is another card I’m excited about–it’s pretty easy to make a lot of creatures and I think this should lead to some fun moments. Blue Sun’s Twilight is a decent expensive spell that can do some swingy stuff. I’m least excited about it, but it seems fine.
To make room I lost:
Crystal Shard because mana sinks aren’t as good as I once expected and its play pattern is pretty repetitive.
Prosperous Thief, which I had big dreams for in terms of resetting a value creature and making treasures, but in practice is a bit slow and low impact.
Sower of Temptation, which just feels a little too risky.
Enclave Cryptologist, which I don’t like cutting because there aren’t a lot of good blue one drops, but it’s just too much of a mana sink.
Wall of Stolen Identity and Vizier of Many Faces because blue has way too many kinda cool twists on Clone, and it’s felt like I have too many, and these felt like the least interesting I had in at the moment.
Ixidron, which is fine, but kinda mediocre, and I didn’t think it’d be missed.
First, the mandatory partners: Agent of the Iron Throne, Armix, Filigree Thrasher, Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools, and Shadowheart, Dark Justiciar. I’ve previously tried Keskit, the Flesh Sculptor and it never really did anything. Maybe I should give it another chance with more support for partners, but I went with these instead. I think black has better options here than some of the other colors and might change these around soon.
I also added:
Sheoldred (as with Elesh Norn, this is just Sheoldred, not Sheoldred, the Apocalypse. Sheoldred, the Apocalypse might be fine, but it’s also a lot, and I think black is already enough better at impacting life totals than other colors that I’ve chosen to be cautious here. Five mana Sheoldred, again, I’m not sure about, but I want to see it play.
Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor, happy to have another cheap creature that promotes playing to the battlefield early.
Vraan, Executioner Thane, which might be low impact, and maybe I’m supposed to just have Sheoldred, the Apocalypse in this slow, but I like one and two mana creatures and I want to see if this can feel like it’s pulling its weight.
The cards I cut to make room for these:
Westgate Regent, Witch of the Moors, God-Eternal Bontu, Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni, Rakshasa Debaser–I felt like I had too many five and six-mana black creatures, and these were the bottom of the barrel.
Predators’ Hour–this is a really sweet card that I wanted to see shine, but I think it’s just a little too hard to set up.
From the Catacombs–this card’s awesome, but I’ve cut all of the initiative cards from my cube. Players felt like it was too much to track, and the decision to cut search made it an easy decision to finalize.
First, the new partners: Dargo, the Shipwrecker and Guild Artisan. These join Toggo, Goblin Weaponsmith and Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh. I was also interested in Gut, True Soul Zealot, but it fell outside of my top four.
I noticed that I had an issue with red that there were very few two-mana creatures and a ton of three-mana creatures. I don’t feel like I’ve fixed that problem, but an attempt was made to move things in the right direction. There just aren’t very many twos that I like. I added Goblin Cratermaker and Loyal Apprentice.
I also added Wild Magic Surge, City on Fire, and Bitter Reunion. Wild Magic Surge is a sweet answer I’d previously overlooked. City on Fire is one I’m taking a shot on, I’m not sure how it’ll play out. Bitter Reunion is awesome and I’m looking forward to it, even if I’m a little disappointed that I feel like it pushed out Invasion of Mercadia, I just think Bitter Reunion is clearer and better.
I cut Moraug, Fury of Akoum, which might have been wrong–the card is kind of strong, but again, I just felt like I had too many genetically threatening six-mana red creatures and I liked this least.
Visions of Phyrexia I think is the best of the cards like it, but I think it’s a little too slow.
Outside of that, I just cut the three mana creatures I liked least since red had so many: Feldon of the Third Path, Volatile Chimera, Bothersome Quasit, and Komainu Battle Armor. Nothing against any of those cards, there are just so many reasonable red threes. I may cut Agitator Ant for a battle.
Cloakwood Hermit and Jaheira, Friend of the Forest came in to complete my Partner update, sadly pushing out Kamahl, Heart of Krosa.
Sakura-Tribe Elder and Topiary Stomper were the last green cards that searched my library, so they had to go.
Setessan Champion, Sanctum Weaver, and Cryptolith Rite were all trying to support an enchantress package that I’ve given up on (again, just trying to find cards that work independently given the size of the cube). Steelbane Hydra was the one other cut, which has just felt too clunky.
I added Citanul Stalwart, Invasion of Ixalan, Invasion of Shandalar, Overwhelming Stampede, Howlback Piper, and Pulse of Murasa.
There were more cards that I wanted to cut than there were new cards I was trying to add, so I went back to some old cards I’d been considering and wanted to try, but didn’t previously have room for. Overwhelming Stampede is the right kind of finisher, in terms of only ending a game when I’m ready for it to end.
This is the big one. A lot of three-color groups had cards I didn’t like because there just aren’t that many options and a lot of them are heavy build-around cards. March of the Machine helps a lot on this front, introducing a lot of new three-color legends. I also got to cut some Partners that I didn’t like that had been the only options in their colors for some Friends Forever cards that look a little more interesting.
|Tuvasa the Sunlit
|Enchantress theme cut
|Falco Spara, Pactweaver
|Unimpressive without counters theme
|Riku of Two Reflections
|Never liked this card, few Temur options
|Illuna, Apex of Wishes
|Never liked this card, which implies other mutate that doesn’t exist
|Extus, Oriq Overlord
|Don’t like the sneaky third color on the back
|Kelsien, the Plague
|Wanted this to do something, but it never did.
|Bhaal, Lord of Murder
|Too much mana
|Sidisi, Brood Tyrant
|Not enough graveyard theme
|Kethis, the Hidden Hand
|Not enough density of legends
|Pramikon, Sky Rampart
|Hated it, lack of Jeskai options
|Anhelo, the Painted
|I wish I could support spellslinger more than I can
|Sidar Kondo of Jamuraa
|only used for the colors.
|Sythis, Harvest’s Hand
|Enchantress theme cut
|Esix, Fractal Bloom
|Too hard to pull off
|Love this card, but it’s too hard to find enough hits
|Tana, the Bloodsower
|Another 4 mana 2/2 that’s only played for color ID
|Grand Warlord Radha
|Gruul commanders are pretty good
|Grenzo, Dungeon Warden
|Another unnecessary mana sink
|Chatterfang, Squirrel General
|I don’t like the color ID living in the activated ability.
|Lazav, Dimir Mastermind
|I kinda like this, just liked others more
|Upgraded to Third Path Iconoclast
|Tameshi, Reality Architect
|Returning lands is deeply unappealing in this format
|Tymna, the Weaver
|Tocasia, Dig Site Mentor
|I’m skeptical of this, but want to see how nice surveil is here.
|Shanna, Purifying Blade
|Worried about mana sink issue, but upfront rate is good.
|Borborygmos and Fblthp
|Very happy to add this.
|Rashmi and Ragavan
|Less excited, but Temur’s rough.
|Kroxa and Kunoros
|Another I need to see a few times to decide on.
|Slimefoot and Squee
|This is another that I need to see, might not like it
|Gyrus, Waker of Corpses
|Another weird one, but I wasn’t happy with my Jund cards
|Zimone and Dina
|Curious to try this
|Thalia and the Gitrog Monster
|It’s tricky with these legends I’ve never seen in play.
|Zurgo and Ojutai
|just happy to have a generically functional Jeskai option.
|Sol’Kanar the Tainted
|This card’s pretty cool.
|Othelm, Sigardian Outcast
|Better than Sidar
|Gluntch, the Bestower
|This card’s super weird, I need to see if any of my players like it.
|Inga and Esika
|Open enough of a build-around that I think this cube can support it
|Weird card to evaluate, cautiously optimistic.
|Elmar, Ulvenwald Informant
|Better than Tana
|Kogla and Yidaro
|I suspect this will be played in deck more than as a commander
|Hoping this isn’t too strong.
|Worried about this as a commander locking out enchantments
|Hidetsugu and Kairi
|I think this won’t be too strong in this context.
A lot of the gold cards were looking for an overhaul, and this is the part that makes me most excited to try the updated version.
I also cut Plaza of Heroes and Vesuva–I don’t want lands that do things, and Plaza of Heroes has too much of an impact. Vesuva doesn’t make sense when none of the lands do anything.