I am a sucker for core sets. M14 was when I got into the game, and there is so much nostalgia associated with this set. These sets are also great because they have the potential to print evergreen staples that will stick around for years to come. M21 already has plenty of exciting cards so lets dive into it. This is part 2 in which I’ll be covering the second half of WUBRG. I’m analyzing these cards in the context of a 360 unpowered legacy environment, specifically my main cub. (https://cubecobra.com/cube/list/tuesdaytastic). I will also be using a grading system that works as follows.
S: Instant cube staple with the potential to be banned to power. Examples inlcude Lutri, the Spellchaser, and Oko, Thief of Crowns.
A: An archetype defining card, or a solid playable that has a place in most cubes. Examples include Thassa, Deep Dwelling, Heartless Act, and Saheeli, Sublime Artificer.
B: A roleplayer that is more dependent on the cube environment to be great. Examples include Thassa’s Oracle, Yawgmoth, Thran Physician, and Vivien, Monster’s Advocate.
C: These cards aren’t for every cube, but if you support the archetype they are a part of they will excel. Examples include Vivien, Champion of the Wilds, Cabal Therapist, and Lavabrink Venturer.
D: They have a lot of potential but have some serious flaws holding them back. A good fit for lower power environments. Examples include Narset of the Ancient Way, and Mox Tantalite
F: These cards are inefficient, underpowered, and not fit for a cube environment. Examples include Finale of Revelation, Kaya, Orzhov Usurper, and Bedeck // Bedazzle.
Finally, I want to stress that this everything I say is just my opinion. My cubes environment is not the same as yours, and what is bad in my cube might be good for you. If you disagree with a rating I give, let me know why in the comments below. Without further adieu, let us begin.
Chandra, Heart of Fire
Chandra has come a long way since her first iteration. +1 to Shock any target is really strong, and putting her at 6 loyalty after killing something may make it difficult for your opponent to take her down. While Shock may not be Bolt, getting to do it every turn will clean up your opponents board pretty easily. The other +1 is a massive card advantage engine as well, provided you don’t mind discarding your hand the first time. Her ultimate may be tricky to pull off in a cube deck, especially when you are drawing 3 cards a turn, but even without it she’ll still probably take over the game. This is no Torch of Defiance, but she is still a solid walker that will serve you well if you choose to run it. Grade B
Terror of the Peaks
An absolute stat monster that suffers from one problem. This is a Baneslayer. For those of you who don’t know, Baneslayers and Mulldrifters is a term used to describe creatures. Baneslayers are powerful creatures that will take over the game, but fold to a Doom Blade and have no value otherwise. Mulldrifters are creatures that get their value immediately, and it doesn’t matter if they die. Terror of the Peaks is the former, and while everything it says sounds awesome, if you don’t untap with it you wasted your turn. I’d argue that even though it is a Baneslayer it is still worth playing. Part of the strategy behind cards like this is baiting your opponent to use removal on your other creatures so that this can stick and take over the game. Terror of the Peaks may not have an ETB, but it is still a strong card and one I would recommend testing. Grade A-
Initially, I wasn’t too keen on this card, but someone else pointed out to me that with this card there is now enough cards to support another combo deck in cube. Polymorph, Lukka, and this are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to effects that let you cheat out huge creatures. Add in a lot of effects that create creatures without being creatures such as Dragon Fodder and you can cheat out anything you want by turn 4. This is not a strong combo deck, but it is now an option that cubes can choose to run. Grade C
If you ever want to beat it over your drafters heads that Gruul is big creatures, this is the perfect card for you. Worst case scenario, you get your board wiped and they play a Baneslayer Angel while you stare at this longingly in your hands. Best case scenario, your mana dorks power out a Rabblemaster on turn 2, and you can remove their two best blockers by turn 4. This card is feast or famine and even when you are feasting, not being able to target their face is a huge letdown. Grade D
This is a tough card to evaluate because it’s so hard to tell what it’s cmc will even be. Costing anywhere from 1 to 6 mana, this card will either rot in your hand or be a one mana 6/6. The primary way you will be cheating this guy out is with burn spells, and fortunately, most burn spells that are being cubed deal more damage than you pay for. Fireblast enables this as early as turn two. Even considering the worst case scenario, a 6 mana 6/6 that can have your burn spells hit face while controlling the board is still appealing. Given that it’s floor is still pretty decent, I’m inclined to test it to see what it’s ceiling can be. Grade B
Gadrak, the Crown-Scourge
3 mana 5/4 flyer is beefy and comes down really early. If it weren’t for that artifact clause preventing it from attacking, this would have been really good. That being said, Gadrak can still block and 4 toughness will be stopping most things at that stage of the game. He can enable himself to attack with creatures dying, but if you want to maximize him, he will have to be a part of an artifact strategy. My biggest gripe with Gadrak is that the red artifact deck that would want to play him, also kills him with Wildfire. If it didn’t die to Wildfire I’d advocate playing Gadrak, but he can still see play in less powerful cubes. Grade C+
I am always happy to see more Goblin Cratermaker impressions, and Heartfire Immolator does a good job at that. A 2/2 with prowess is decent, even if it’s not exciting, but the real meat behind this card is getting to sacrifice him. Pump him up a few times, swing with a 4/4 and then blow up one of their dorks or walkers. Threat of activation is also really potent with this fellow as if they do decide to block it you can just blow up something else. I think Heartfire Immolator will not only lead to interesting and exciting gameplay, but will also be a staple of many cube decks moving forward. Grade A
Crackling Drake is a pretty powerful card that is held back by it’s atrocious mana cost. Kinetic Augur has most of the upside of Crackling Drake, with only one red pip. Obviously Trample isn’t as good as flying, and rummaging two isn’t as good as drawing a card, but all in all I’ll take that for something that is so much easier to cast. Kinetic Augur can also serve roles outside of UR spells, it’s a good top end for aggro and control decks are going to love it. If you don’t support a heavy spells section I wouldn’t care for this, but for those who do I think this has a lot of potential. Grade C+
When analyzing this Garruk, I think there is no better comparison than his first apperance in Garruk Wildspeaker. Wildspeaker is what I would describe as the perfect Planeswalker. (Not the most powerful mind you). He can protect himself, facilitates other strategies in ramping, and has an easy to access ultimate. Garruk, Unleashed doesn’t compare as well in my eyes. +1 to Giant Growth is great and can push through damage, and the -2 that can actually be a -1 is cute. But I don’t see as cohesive of a package with this Garruk as I do Wildspeaker. I still think this is a solid card, just one that I’m not interested in playing. Grade B-
The Baneslayers are getting thiccer. A 5 mana 6/6 with a ton of keywords and a modal way to advance your board state, life, or card advantage on attacks and blocks is insanely pushed. The main thing holding this back is the fact that it’s a Baneslayer of course. Ultimately, just like with Terror of the Peaks, I think this is more than ok. If you figured out how to give this guy haste, or protect it for a turn, or ran your opponent out of removal you deserve to have a game ending threat. Grade A-
Uncommon build arounds are always fun to take a look at, and this one supports beefy creatures really well. Draw a bunch of cards and give everyone trample. This card also pairs really well with flicker effects. Garruk’s Uprising isn’t really doing anything special, however. If you support 4 power matters I can see this being a decent inclusion, but even then it doesn’t do much on it’s own. Grade C-
Regrowth is a pretty powerful effect, and Fungal Rebirth is one of the more interesting versions to come out in a while. Regrowing something at instant speed is pretty cool, even if it’s limited to just permanents but the real reason we are playing this card is for the morbid trigger. This is the kind of card I see as being the glue for multiple archetypes. Selesnya tokens will want this, golgari removal decks can use it, and simic flash loves casting things on other players turns. This is not the strongest version of this effect, but I think that many different decks can use it making it have more value than at first glance. Grade C+
Another card that doesn’t blow your socks off, but is instead another roleplayer that can see play in many different decks. Llanowar Visionary compares really favorably to Cultivate. Drawing a card on etb allows it to work well with a bunch of different cards, and the 2/2 body is not useless. I really enjoy the design of this card as it’s an effect that isn’t broken but is something that every green deck wouldn’t mind having access to. Grade B-
Sanctum of All
Shrines are a really fun strategy that are probably not good enough for most cubes. However, much like Maze’s End, one strategy you can employ to make this card better is to hand all 10 shrines to whoever drafts this card. Even doing that I don’t know if this is strong enough since you have to fill your deck up with so much shash to get there. If you really want to make this good, allow it to pull the shrines out of your sideboard as well, but if you using it as written I’m not convinced this makes it. Grade C
Radha, Heart of Keld
There is a lot to like about this card that may not be immediately apparent. For one, it’s not priced at 2RG which it feels like all the Gruul cards are priced at. Second, it’s a land matters card that also functions in multiple different strategies. Third, you get to play lands from the top without giving away any information. Radha has a lot going for her, but ultimately I still don’t think she quite gets there. She’s pretty basic and there are a lot of effects in Gruul that can replace her easily. Grade C+
Niambi, Esteemed Speaker
If you’re still playing Deputy of Acquittals, Niambi is much better than that. However, compared to the absolute wealth of playables that UW has access to, Niambi is pretty low on the list. Bouncing your own creatures is tempo negative, and unless you have a Legendary focused cube that second ability won’t come up often. You need a very specific environment to want to play Niambi, and most cubes don’t qualify. Grade D+
GW is often tagged as being tokens, even if the token support in Green doesn’t go that deep. Conclave Mentor offers an option for players to move outside of that archetype and try to go tall instead of wide. Hardened Scales is a powerful effect that has been lacking density, and now with this and Winding Constrictor an Abzan +1/+1 counter deck can start to emerge. Grade B-
Weaponizing lifegain is always appealing, and this provides a dual color option for just that. The 1/4 body is going to stop most aggressive starts and you will only need to gain 2 life to trigger her. That being said, you still need a pretty dedicated lifegain section to effectively use her. Gaining 2 life repeatedly every turn can be hard to set up, but the payoff creates a huge delta of life between you and your opponent. At the very least, I like this a lot more than Griffin Aerie. Grade C
This is the complete package when it comes to reanimator. Pitch your fatty on their end step and bring it back to torment them later. My main gripe with her is that you need to tap her for both of her abilities but that’s not enough to make me dislike her. If UB wasn’t so stacked these days, she would have been a slam dunk. Even with that being the case Obsessive Stitcher pulls her weight and is a very respectable card for lower power environments. Grade B-
Two mana value artifacts are wonderful little things. Mazemind Tome to me reads as an artifact that puts 4 clues into play, which also has a use outside of cracking the clues. If your opponent develops their board really quickly and you don’t have time to draw cards, it is more than ok to scry a couple times with this and gain some life. The beauty of this card is how it can be applied to different matchups and can be used to fill in spots in the mana curve. It’s easy to slot into most cubes and has the potential for lots of value. Grade B+
M21 is not going to be a set filled with the Okos, Uros, and Kinnans of the world. (Fortunately there is no Simic mythic slot). Instead what this set provides cube owners with is a ton of evergreen staples that are always valuable cards that will see play in almost every deck. It’s important for a cube to have access to glue to keep things together, and there is a ton of roleplayers present in this set. What cards are you most excited for in this set? If I missed anything or didn’t grade a card appropriately, let me know in the comments below. Thank you for reading, and have a great week and an amazing Tuesday!
Cards I will be testing from M21. https://cubecobra.com/cube/playtest/1np
Experimental Frenzy > Terror of the Peaks
Phoenix of Ash > Heartfire Immolator
Satyr Wayfinder > Elder Gargaroth
Lightning Greaves > Mazemind Tome
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