M20 Cube Set Review

All of M20 just got spoiled which means it’s time for another cube review! (There have been so many of these recently 0_o).

Ajani, Strength of the Pride

If you support lifegain themes this card is an absolute house. Ajani’s Pridemate is a key card in the archetype and getting to make 2 in one card, while also being able to enable lifegain with his plus means that you have the whole lifegain archetype rolled up in one package. His ultimate seems like something you won’t be activating all too often because if you have 35 life it usually means you are playing against a deck that doesn’t have many creatures. If you aren’t supporting a lifegain theme, this card drops much further down the list because 4 mana for a bear or two just isn’t worth it in most cubes. If you are supporting lifegain this Ajani gets an A.

Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer

3 mana walkers are always worth considering as they can get down before most countermagic can get online, and this walker seems to be better than most. Her plus can neuter most early game creatures and cashing her in for an Air Elemental early is respectable. I think that the main thing that could stop Mu Yanling from seeing play is the starting loyalty of 2. If the opponent has two bears she can’t stop them from overrunning her, and you need creatures to effectively protect her, something blue is known for not being good at. Still, 3 mana gives her an effective chance of competing, and I expect her to show up in cube. Grade B+

Chandra, Awakened Inferno

The first thing that sticks out to everyone is the +2 creating an emblem. This is the first time we have seen an effect like this, and being that there is no way to interact with emblems, this means that one activation of this Chandra is guaranteed to kill your opponent eventually. The problem lies in the fact that 1 damage per turn is extremely slow. Curse of the Pierced Heart does the same effect for only 2 mana. By turn 6 you could be casting an Inferno Titan and killing your opponent in 2 turns. So, we have to evaluate her based on her other abilities. -3 is a Sweltering Suns which kills a lot of things, but by turn 6 you could be staring down a Baneslayer Angel. Her -X can deal with that, but then there’s the board of creatures. Personally, for a 6 mana walker, I would prefer Chandra Flamecaller. She generates card advantage and can kill the opponent much faster with the two 3/1’s then a Curse of the Pierced Heart. Grade B-

Cavalier of Dawn

The Cavalier cycle to me feels like a watered down Titan cycle. The Titan cycle was pretty nuts, so these cards are still worth considering, even if they are worse in almost every way. I’m only going to say this once, but the triple pip restrictions are a downside and make these cards much more difficult to play. Now onto the cards themselves. Beast Within is an ok effect in cube. Being able to deal with anything is nice, but the 3/3 is actually a threat when your life total is 20. This card can beat the token on its own, so that makes the golem you give to them less problematic, but tokens can still be used in other ways. Its death trigger seems like it will only matter some of the time, as it’s kind of hard to get artifacts and enchantments in your graveyard. Compared to the other 5’s in white, I’m not even sure I would want to play this over something like Cloudgoat Ranger. Grade C

Cavalier of Gales

The most interesting cards of the cycle would have to be the blue and black ones because they are the colors most desperate for good 5 drops. Cavalier of Gales is a good start, and getting a 5/5 flyer stapled to Brainstorm is pretty good. Its death trigger is one of the weakest of the cycle, but it’s always guaranteed to go off whereas something like the white one has a fail case that happens more often than not. This card isn’t doing anything too crazy, but I can see it being a solid playable in a color that needs cards like this. Grade B

Cavalier of Night

Out of all the cards in the cycle, this one has the most potential for doing powerful things in cube. Sacrificing other creatures is a theme that black can support, and even if the creature you are sacrificing doesn’t want to be sacrificed, you have the option to choose whether your creature is more important than the one your opponent controls. Its death trigger can bring back a lot of powerful creatures, such as Ophiomancer and Plague Crafter and lets you swing in and get that lifelink trigger without worrying. A 4/5 lifelink is probably the worst body out of the cycle and pales in comparison to Doom Whisperer, but I still think that this card does a lot for black and is worth considering. Grade B

Cavalier of Flame

Out of all the Cavaliers, this one seems to have the best body attached to it. This comes at the cost of not having any keywords such as haste, which would go a long way towards selling this card for me. I guess you can give it haste if you are willing to pay 3RRRR which is kind of ridiculous. I will say that it’s etb is pretty good, but by turn 5 in a mono-red deck, it’s unlikely that you will have that many cards to discard for value. It’s death trigger also seems unlikely to trigger unless you have a lot of fetchlands or discard some lands, and getting a shock for its death trigger isn’t all that impressive. Being able to give other creatures haste is probably my favorite part of the card, but unfortunately, the rest of the card doesn’t feel like it’s doing enough. Grade B-

Cavalier of Thorns

The main thing I like about this Cavalier is that it’s etb synergizes really well with it’s death trigger. Getting your pick of the top 5 cards means that this card has a lot of late game potential, and the second card you pick doesn’t have to be from the 5 you milled. However, it still has a lot of things I don’t like about it. I would have much preferred this creature having trample, and this is the only Cavalier that exiles itself as part of it’s death trigger. Putting that card on top of the library hurts this card a lot, and this leads me to not be very impressed by the cycle, unfortunately. Grade C

Sephara, Sky’s Blade

A one-mana 7/7 flying lifelink is kind of awesome! The catch is that you need to be playing lots of flyers to actually get this effect. If I had to use 4 different cards to get Sephara on the battlefield I wouldn’t be too happy about it, but Sephara says nothing about using tokens. A single Lingering Souls fulfills the conditions of this card, and there are plenty of ways to get a bunch of different flyers on the battlefield with minimal card investment. If you can’t get a critical mass of flyers, then this card gets significantly worse and you do have to tap your flyers which means you aren’t attacking with them, but a huge lifelinking flyer could still be worth it. In a lower power cube that supports a flying archetype, I believe that this card could be a really splashy bomb for the archetype. Grade A-

Villis, Broker of Blood

It’s no Griselbrand, but getting compared to that card is already a compliment. If you cast Reanimate or Life // Death on this, the way it works is you lose the life after it enters the battlefield which means you immediately get to draw 8 cards. In that case, this card actually becomes a better Griselbrand because you don’t have to pay an additional 7 life to get those cards. Turning fetches and shocks into Ancestral Recalls is also crazy good, and there are dozens of effects in cube that make you lose life in exchange for something else. The main problem with this card is getting it on the battlefield, but as we have seen with Griselbrand that doesn’t stop the card from seeing play. I would play this in larger cubes that can support 2 huge demons that want to be raised from the dead. Grade B+

Dread Presence

This is not an enchantment, it is a creature. I have to keep reminding myself of that every time I see this card because it just seems like another version of Phyrexian Arena. With that out of the way, this card is another Phyrexian Arena in the decks that can support it. Getting your choice between a shock helix or a card draw is really nice and can support a lot of different strategies. Its flavor text is also pretty apt, as I can totally see someone swinging into this not realizing that there’s a 3/3 behind the effects. The only reason I am not excited about this card is the Swamp clause. If this just had landfall and these effects I would be really excited to try this card out, but the Swamp restriction holds it back and keeps it from seeing play in lots of cubes. I personally might change the text on the card to say landfall, but as it stands this seems like a good card for lower power and not much else. Grade C+

Chandra, Acolyte of Flame

We have another 3 mana walker, this time in Chandra, Acolyte of Flame. Her first ability is effectively a plus one, but if you play a lot of Planeswalkers that ability suddenly becomes really good. But that won’t always come up so we have to rate this Chandra based on her other abilities. Creating 2 tokens for a 0 is ok, but can become excellent if you can combine this with sacrifice outlets such as Goblin Bombardment. Curving Chandra out after the enchantment has a lot of potential, and there are lots of other sac outlets that can take those tokens really far. The final ability is basically Snapcaster Mage except that whatever spell you flashback doesn’t have an additional cost of 1U. Being able to untap and have all of your mana open lets you do really cool things, but the restriction of CMC 3 or less does hurt that a little bit. Even though this Chandra is only a Rare, I am personally more excited for this than the Mythic and I think that it does more for cube than another 6 drop. Grade B

Elvish Reclaimer

Crop Rotation is a card that I have considered running in my cube because the utility of being able to find any land is really powerful. Getting Maze of Ith against White Weenie is huge, Nykthos is just necessary for certain strategies, and Wasteland is a classic. I have never added it because in the wrong deck it does nothing, but Elvish Reclaimer may make me rethink Crop Rotation effects. This does take a turn to come online which is a hit against it, but this is a repeatable Crop Rotation, which means you will have lots of lands in your graveyard to do fun things with. The other advantage of this card is that once you get enough lands in the yard this transforms from enabler to beater, a role that Knight of the Reliquary loves to take up. The main downside of this card is how narrow its role is, and how it will never be drafted unless they are drafting a dedicated lands deck, but for that deck, it can serve a powerful role. I’ll be testing this, but I won’t be surprised if I cut it for not doing enough for other strategies. B

Drawn From Dreams

Initially, I completely overlooked this card as it was just a worse Dig Through Time. But, as I’ve heard other people talk about the card I’ve come around on it being a potentially great card. The main thing that made me reevaluate the card is that this can be played in the same deck as another delve card and not be a strain on the graveyard. However, the biggest hit against this card in favor of Dig is sorcery speed. Being able to hold up Dig and a Counterspell for their end step is part of the reason why that card is so good. If all your searching for is combo pieces like Kiki-Jiki this card is great, but in other decks, they get a chance to slam down a Baneslayer Angel while your shields are down. I still feel that it is worth talking about, and if you feel your graveyard is taxed too much this might be a good alternative to Dig Through Time. Grade B-

Rotting Regisaur

Who doesn’t love massive creatures with downsides? The best part about this massive Zombinosaur is that the discard can in many instances actually be an upside. Discard a card and raise it from the dead, pitch a flashback spell like Deep Analysis and recoup that card disadvantage immediately. Being a zombie is also extremely relevant for anyone who supports the tribe as this is one of the biggest zombies you can get. The main downside of this card, even bigger than the discard, is the lack of evasion. Plague Belcher is one of my favorite versions of this kind of card because it has Menace. Without a keyword like that this card can just be chumped for days, and really holds it back from being a truly terrifying threat. I still love the card. Grade C

Bag of Holding

This card is awesome, and as someone who already runs Sword of Dungeons and Dragons, I just want to add this card purely for flavor reasons. Besides that, I think that this card has potential in cube because it is only 1 mana. There aren’t a lot of playable 1 mana artifacts, and Bag of Holding provides a looting engine for many decks which is great for decks that aren’t playing blue. The secondary value of being able to get back all of your spells in the late game can be huge and can revitalize a losing game. If you have this out you are also much more willing to commit more heavily into cards like Collective Brutality, Faithless Looting, Chart a Course, Vivien’s Arkbow, and any card with cycling knowing that you can buy them back later. And would you look at that art??? There’s a fucking Dinosaur in that bag! Grade A-

Conclusion

M20 is a more powerful set than I was initially expecting, but the more I look over the set, the more I realize how flat the power level is. I was half tempted to give every card in the set a B grade simply because they are all solid cards, but nothing in the set is an absolute slam dunk for every cube. I think I prefer it this way, as part of the fun in cube is seeing how your list differs from others, and the more must plays there are, the less diversity there is. My favorite card in the set for cube will probably end up being Bag of Holding as that synergizes with so many cards, and functions perfectly fine on its own. What’s your favorite card in the set? Do you agree with my ratings or do you think I’m an idiot? I gave Vivien a C- last year so I’m open to being wrong. Thank you all for reading, I hope you all have a great week and an amazing Tuesday!