Commander 2019 releases next week and with it come a brand new suite of cards for cube. Commander sets have traditionally been really great for cube, giving us great cards such as Ophiomancer, Fractured Identity, the Confluence cycle and much more. This year gave us 59 brand new cards, many of them worth testing and looking into. I narrowed this list of 59 cards down to my top 10 cards I believe will make an impact with cube. It was a hard list to narrow down, but these are the cards that I am interested in testing and seeing if they have what it takes to make it into Magic’s best format.
A few disclaimers: I didn’t include any tri-colored cards in this list or cards that are very specific on certain archetypes such as madness. I find tri-colored cards hard to support and don’t think they are worth it for the average cube, but if you can support them there are some great tri-color cards in this set. There are also some cards such as Anje that are no-brainers to run if you are supporting Madness, but don’t make the cut for an average cube. I elected to not include these cards in the list as it isn’t relevant to the average cube. With that out of the way let’s get on to the honorable mentions!
10. Backdraft Hellkite
This card is so cool, but I don’t see it realistically competing with the other 5 drops. Every other 5 drop that is played does something really powerful when it enters the battlefield while this takes a turn to come online. Getting to Past in Flames on every combat step is powerful, but there’s a very real chance that this dragon gets removed before you even get a chance to attack with it. In lower-powered cubes, this card could be a great bomb as it’s slow to set up but can completely change the game when it attacks. In this way it reminds of a Baneslayer, but the reason I don’t want to call this card a Baneslayer is that it requires a lot more setup and if you draw the wrong half of your deck this is just a 4/4 flyer which is far below the baseline. Still, a really cool card but I don’t see it doing anything in cube anytime soon.
9. Scroll of Fate
One card that I have been incredibly impressed with in my testing has been Primordial Mist from last year’s Commander set so when I saw another way to manifest more cards for cheaper I was immediately intrigued. For 3 colorless mana it’s a much better rate for getting a 2/2, but it comes with a lot of things that make it worse than Primordial Mist. The main thing that makes this card not as good is that instead of pulling cards off the top of the deck you have to use cards from your hand to make the 2/2. Most cards in cube are much better than a vanilla 2/2 and discarding a card to make it. It’s not quite discarding the card because as long it’s a creature you can still cast it, but if you throw anything else under there it’s just going to be a 2/2. This card becomes much more interesting the turn after you cast it because it’s free to make a 2/2. Are 0 mana 2/2’s worth it on turn 4 and onwards? If it was pulling cards off the top of the library instead of out of the hand I would be much happier with the card.
8. Wildfire Devils
This card represents a ton of value and is a really sweet card, but it is really held back by it’s toughness and of course the randomness of the ability. A 4/2 is incredibly fragile and folds to so many different effects in cube which makes it hard to see this as a value engine. The randomness also makes this really hard to plan ahead with. If it targets a graveyard with nothing in it, all you have left for your troubles is a 4/2. Compared to Flametongue Kavu, Wildfire Devils has the potential to snowball the game if left unchecked. Flametongue, on the other hand, will always Flame Slash something and it doesn’t matter if it dies from then on. It’s free to attack with Flametongue whereas you want to keep Wildfire Devils safe and away from blockers so that you can get more value. If you prefer having a Flametongue that can cast better spells than Flameslash with a lot more risk involved, this card could be fun to try.
7. Greven, Predator Captain
5/5’s for 5 with evasion have a name in cube and that’s Baneslayer Angel. A lot of Baneslayer cards have made the cut for cube and I believe they are an important part of cube design as they can end the game quickly. Greven does a great job of ending the game as he offers a great clock with 5+ damage being available every turn and drawing cards. Greven doesn’t stabilize the board in the same way an Angel would, but he’s mainly there for killing the opponent. I believe that Greven is strong enough to make the cut, but the real question we should be asking is whether Rakdos needs a Baneslayer? Rakdos is usually geared either to be really aggressive or having every removal spell ever. For cubes that are trying to be low to the ground and fast Greven might be too slow as a 5 drop that doesn’t do anything immediately. However, for Rakdos sections that have all the removal spells under the sun, Greven could be a great finisher. I’m still not sure that Rakdos needs a Baneslayer, but this is a powerful card that is worth testing.
6. Mass Diminish
This card can neuter your opponent’s army for 2 whole turns, which is really powerful in any tempo decks. If you have one or two flyers out you can effectively race your opponent while their Carnage Tyrant hits you for 1 damage. I like that this card can get around Hexproof and even makes creatures with haste become 1/1’s for the turn. Against go wide strategies this card is a lot less effective as most of their creatures and tokens are probably already 1/1’s. When I first read this card, I thought it was an instant which would have made this card crazy powerful, but even as a sorcery it’s still an interesting card that is great in tempo strategies and should be given a look.
5. Doomed Artisan
This card can serve multiple purposes and that is why I am interested in it for cube. First off, this thing is an endless source of fodder for whatever sacrifice shenanigans you might be up to. If you don’t need the tokens right away you can also hold off and sacrifice this guy later in the game to get 9 power or more out of nowhere. In decks that can’t sacrifice very easily, Doomed Artisan can be one of the scariest chump blockers in the game. If he’s been left alone for too long attacking into him can enable an army. If this card never has the threat of dying and awakening the statues it becomes signficantly worse as it’s a 3 mana 1/1. But if you have the ability to control when this guy dies, you can get a lot of great value out of him.
4. Ohran Frostfang
Giving your entire team Ophidian Eye’s is a pretty powerful effect, and can easily draw you a ton of cards. By turn 5 your hand should be pretty empty and getting to refuel when you try to kill your opponent is very enticing. What’s even better is that if your opponent doesn’t want you to draw any cards they’ll most likely have to lose a card in the process whether it’s a kill spell or a creature. A 2/6 is also really beefy and isn’t likely to die to any non-black based removal. Ohran Frostfang isn’t a clock in the same sense of a Kalonian Hydra, but this card can easily outdraw your opponent in one or two combat steps. The main point against it is that it’s competing with a stacked 5 drop section. I would have much preferred to see a stronger version of this card at 6 mana as it’s a lot easier to test there. As it stands, I still think it is a good card but it’s got a lot more competition for its slot.
3. Grismold, the Dreadsower
Symmetrical effects are never balanced and I think this card is a perfect example of how it may seem bad to give your opponent a plant but is actually really beneficial for you. This card is a 3 mana 4/4 the turn you play him and grows bigger every single turn whether tokens are dying or not. Triggering off of tokens dying instead of plants dying is huge, and can let this grow much bigger than it would in a vacuum. Most cube decks play tokens of some kind and you can skew your deck to play more tokens than normal. If you have a free sacrifice outlet your tokens can become +1/+1 counters at instant speed and if your opponent does anything with their tokens it will just grow the troll. My main gripe with this card is that it makes plants instead of saprolings. Saprolings are so much cooler why would they shaft their tribe like this. Who the hell cares about plants????
2. Chainer, Nightmare Adept
This is one of the coolest cards in the set and is a super sweet value card. Being able to cast any creature from your graveyard is a powerful late-game ability, and granting them haste helps to make them much more relevant. The haste granting ability works for any creature that isn’t cast normally, so if you reanimate a Griselbrand with this guy out you can immediately swing in. The main strike against Chainer is his weak body and if you just sneeze at him he dies. You also don’t get to reanimate anything until after the turn he comes into play unless you have a ton of leftover mana. Chainer is still a really cool card, and a great way to enable reanimator and value strategies.
1. Anje’s Ravager
Out of all the cards in this set, the one that I feel was most designed for cube was Anje’s Ravager. The stats are a fantastic rate and make the downside of attacking not as bad. The real juice behind this card is being able to cast an Ancestral Recall every time you attack with him. Of course, you do have to discard your hand, but in a mono-red deck, you should be empty-handed by the time he is attacking anyways. Slapping Madness on this card was just the cherry on top of a great card. In a world filled with 3 drops that all create tokens when attacking, it’s nice to have a different style of aggressive 3 drop that provides a new angle of attack.
As far as I can tell, this set doesn’t have nearly as many home runs for cube. Many of these cards were designed with multiplayer in mind, have mechanics such as madness that are relevant only to a small number of cubes, or are 3 color cards and are only good if you choose to run 3 color cards. For the average cube the only card I would consider great would be Anje’s Ravager. I’m ok with getting less cards that are great for cube every once in a while, especially since the last few months have completely changed cube. I’ll be over this by the time Throne of Eldraine comes out so hopefully by then we get some killer cards. What are your thoughts on the set? Is there a sleeper card that is busted in 1v1? Do you think a top 10 from the set is a better way to go about cube set reviews, or should I go back to giving a letter grade to each card? Thank you all for reading I hope you have a great week and an amazing Tuesday!