Five Underrated Cards for Your Magic Cube

January 4th, 2011 by Ed Grabianowski

Part of the fun of building a Magic Cube is tinkering with it, deciding which cards to put in, which to take out, comparing power levels and building in interesting synergies. One of my favorite ways to tinker is finding cards that outperform expectations in the Cube. Here are five cards that you might have overlooked.

If you’re not familiar with Cube drafting, here’s a primer. If you’re an experienced Cube builder, please note that I’m not saying these cards are great. If you have a high-power or finely tuned Cube, these will probably not make the cut. However, if you like experimenting with different cards or change your Cube frequently to keep your drafters on their toes, give some of these cards a try.

1. Golden Wish

This card is used with minor errata for Cube use, sort of like Booster Tutor. You get 60 seconds to search all the undrafted cards in the Cube. The effectiveness of this varies tremendously based on the skill level of the player and the number of people drafting. If a lot of people are drafting, not only will the “leftovers” be slim pickings, you’ll have almost no idea what’s there. If half the Cube is still in the box after drafting, there will be plenty to choose from.

In a case like that, using this card turns into a fun skill challenge. Before you play it, you really need to decide what you’re looking for. 60 seconds goes by faster than you think. Looking for a specific card can be hard, especially if you’re not 100% sure it’s in there to be found, so you generally need to consider a category of cards that you can find quickly. “Big artifact creature” will work, while “enchantment that will remove a Planewalker” is more of a challenge.

You could use any of the “outside the game fetching” wish cards, but I like Golden Wish because there are a lot of powerful artifacts, and a few really juicy enchantments, in a typical Cube, but the choice isn’t necessarily obvious. With Burning Wish you pretty much find the burn spell you need to win or the sweeper to clear your opponent’s board, and Cunning Wish will turn into a massively overpriced counterspell 98 percent of the time.

2. Canker Abomination

My perception of Canker Abomination is somewhat warped by the fact that I play multiplayer games with my Cube more often than most Cubes. This card is much more powerful when you’ve got several opponents to choose from. Someone is bound to have gotten off to a slow start or be playing a control deck with a low creature count.

Of course, it’s a pretty flawed card even in the best of situations. It fits perfectly into the “mid-range black/green stompy” deck archetype that is very seductive in a Cube draft, but generally sucks. It has no evasion (Trample, Flying, etc.) to help make sure the damage gets through, so even if he hits the ground turn three or four as a full 6/6, chump blockers slow him down.

On the other hand, it’s a fun card and in the right situation, a 6/6 for four mana with no drawbacks (assuming you’ve either avoided or gotten rid of the counters) is a pretty nice thing to have. It could be an interesting sideboard choice against a control deck, since you can stomp through early defenses and hopefully get the win before they get all their control set up. You also run it with Quillspike, which might already have a place in your Cube as an element in several infinite combos.

3. Holistic Wisdom

This card was in my “on deck” pile of cards I was considering for the Cube for quite a while. I finally put it in and had a chance to draft and play it, and wow. I don’t see this in many Cube lists, and it can be really powerful. The casting cost is reasonable and the mana cost of the effect is a pittance.

The most basic way to use Holistic Wisdom is to simply get things back that you’d rather hadn’t died. In the late game, you may find that your opponent has destroyed some major threats, and you’re drawing things that are good on turn 2 but useless now. So you can chuck that Armillary Sphere you just drew and bring back a Wurmcoil Engine or the Umezawa’s Jitte that got destroyed. Trade Llanowar Elves for Kodama of the North Tree.

If you want to make Holistic Wisdom more effective, you can use it in a deck with a lot of dredge effects. Fill your graveyard up early and then you can use it like a repeatable tutor.

If you think a card isn’t good enough for the Cube unless it can be truly broken, consider Holistic Wisdom in a deck with Strip Mine or Wasteland.

4. Somnophore

Before there was Frost Titan, there was Somnophore. Of course, it’s worse than the Titan in so many ways. I mean, think about what you get for just two more mana. But there can only be one Frost Titan in a Cube, and control decks still need ways to do damage. Combining a way to get damage through while simultaneously shutting down aggro strategies seems ok.

There’s not really a whole lot to say about Somnophore. It does what it does. It would be better if it cost only UU1, or had Shroud. More often than not, it will draw the Lightning Bolt or the Doom Blade. Maybe that’s a good sign that it’s working — when your opponent feels very strongly about killing it.

This card was originally put into the Cube because it’s one of my brother’s pet cards (we all have cards we love playing). It will probably get swapped out for something stronger at some point, but it’s actually quite an interesting card. If you can protect with a Neurok Stealthsuit or a few counterspells, it can seriously ruin someone’s day.

5. Salvage Scout

Whenever a new set comes out, Cube builders are all abuzz about what new cards are good enough to include in their Cubes. Scars of Mirrodin had no shortage of Cubeworthy cards: Wurmcoil Engine, Ratchet Bomb, Elspeth Tirel, and Mimic Vat are all Cube staples.

(As an aside, it’s rough when you play against a control deck in a Cube draft and run into Ratchet Bomb. You think to yourself, “That’s a good card, pretty tough to play around.” Then you run into a control deck in a Standard tournament and realize your opponent probably has three or four of them.)

Anyway, all those cards are mythics and rares. I immediately scan the commons for good Cube material. It’s more interesting to me to find hidden gems. One that I thought had some potential is the Salvage Scout.

There are a lot of ways in the Cube to get artifacts back from the graveyard. Sanctum Gargoyle is a good example. But you won’t find many at this spot on the mana curve. One-drops without haste are usually pretty useless, but Salvage will often do a little dirty work for you and then bring back that Mindslaver for another shot. Are there more aggressive white creatures? Sure. But I’ve drafted the scout a few times and never felt bad about playing it.

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3 Responses to “Five Underrated Cards for Your Magic Cube”

  1. Comment by zizhou

    Man, it seems like all my comments are rules related nitpicks, but Brittle Effigy rfgs itself on activation, so Salvage Scout can’t fetch it back.

  2. Comment by Ed Grabianowski

    Durf! [forehead slap]

    I always do something like that. And I always appreciate when someone points it out so I can at least fix it. :-)

  3. Comment by Ed Grabianowski

    Fix’d.