MTG Cube: Commander 2018 Review

Commander 2018 just came out and with it a whole new slew of goodies that players in multiple formats get to enjoy. This week I will be reviewing Commander 2018 for cube and examining what cards might make it into our awesome format. I will only be looking over cards that I think have potential for cube, and thus will be ignoring reprints, and cards that don’t have relevance in our format (Commander Storm is pretty cool though). If you think there is a card I missed, or you feel as if I misevalutated a card let me know in the comments below. Let’s get to it!

Heavenly Blademaster

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At face value, this card is basically a 6 mana 6/6 flyer. Not all that impressive on its own. However, read a little further, and you can quickly understand why this card can be insanely powerful in the right decks. In the turns leading up to this, you can play a Sword or 2, a Batterskull, or even something as innocuous as Bonesplitter and your opponent is suddenly staring down lethal. It being 6 mana and with no protection makes it pretty hard to put in, but if you can play this with a Swiftfoot Boots out you can really make your opponent sweat. If you have an archetype such as Boros Equipment, this might be a sweet new addition to your list. Grade B-

Magus of the Balance

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Balance is an incredibly powerful Magic card that is very far from being balanced appropriately. Balance is so powerful, many cubes opt to leave it out simply for being too good. Magus of the Balance is an attempt to downgrade such a powerful card and is no longer a card your opponent will scoop against upon resolution. This nerf might have gone too far, however, in that Magus of the Balance is pretty bad and far too slow to have a significant impact on the game. If you are interested in a more fair version of Balance, it now exists but is pretty mediocre and probably won’t make the cut for a lot of cubes. Grade D+

Ever-Watching Threshold

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Ghostly Prison and Propaganda are very powerful cards. Your opponent has to decide between developing their board further and not attacking or swinging in and leaving powerful cards stuck in their hand. Ever-Watching  Threshold plays really well with these cards because if your opponent can only send in one creature a turn, you will constantly be drawing cards off of it, and drowning your opponent in value. On its own, however, it’s pretty lackluster. You can’t do anything with the cards you draw if you are dead, and if they swing in with multiple creatures you are still only drawing one card. Spending 3 mana to have a Phyrexian Arena that your opponent has control over seems fairly mediocre on its own, and would need to see a lot of support from other cards in the cube before I would consider it. Grade C-

Octopus Umbra

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5 drops in blue are pretty lacking these days, with most cubes only opting to play Mystic Confluence or Mulldrifter. This card is exciting for that reason, as it seems like a powerful option at 5 mana that can quickly close out a game. Something that is really neat about this card is the fact that it changes the base power and toughness, instead of replacing the text box. Targeting a Wind Drake means you will have an 8/8 flyer! Even in the case that you can’t target something with a cool keyword, enchanting a creature shouldn’t be too hard, as you might have a random Man-O’-War or Snapcaster Mage lying around. Grade B

Primordial Mist

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Primordial Mists is weird. Just like Octopus Umbra, Primordial Mists is a 5 mana card in a color that is severely lacking this spot in the curve. While it is clear to see the value that Octopus Umbra will provide on the surface, Primordial Mists is a little trickier to evaluate. Comparing this to another card in Phyrexian Arena we can begin to see the value in it. Immediately drawing a card that can serve as a chump blocker is a very interesting and powerful ability that can help at any point in Quadrant Theory. If we are ahead, Primordial Mists serves as a win condition by drawing us cards and giving us a board of creatures. When we are at parity, Primordial Mists can draw us cards to break that parity, and when we are behind it gives us the creatures we need to survive, and the cards necessary to find an answer. The more I look at this card, the more I realize how powerful it is. I really hope I get a chance to play with this soon. Grade A

Bloodtracker

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Do you like Greed? Then you will probably like this card. It being a creature means it is much more vulnerable to removal, and not drawing the cards immediately is a pretty big downside. If they choose to remove this in response to you activating its ability, not only will you not draw a card, but you will also lose 2 life for doing so. With bolt like effects being so common in cube, you will often lose 4 life, and spend 6 mana to draw 1 card. While this card can serve as a control finisher, it is just far too fragile for me to be on board with it. Grade D

Entreat the Dead

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I like this card. I think it is a sweet effect and an awesome reanimation card that will have awesome games where someone flips this and reanimates all the creatures. I don’t think this is good in cube. Reanimator already has a large swath of options available to it, and when your fail case for this card is 5 mana it’s not doing you any favors. Mass Reanimate, on the other hand, is much more difficult to find and would give this card a home, if Living Death didn’t already exist. Simply put, I think there is too much competition around for this card to be good, and setting up the Miracle cost is really hard to do without Blue. Grade C

Night Incarnate

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Black 5 drops are in a similar spot as Blue 5 drops in that there simply aren’t very many good ones around. Night Incarnate is looking like it might fix that. A 5 mana 3/4 with deathtouch is not very impressive, but it’s leave the battlefield ability combined with the wonderful Evoke mechanic allows for a really elegant card design that can serve multiple functions. This card will probably see play before similar cards such as Yahenni’s Expertise, due to being at a better spot on the curve, and also might replace Languish depending on the list. Night Incarnate isn’t a home run like Grave Titan, but it’s a solid card that should see play in a lot of cubes. Grade A-

Emissary of Grudges

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There aren’t many cards that can compete with Inferno Titan in the 6 mana slot, but this is one of the first I’ve seen that threatens to usurp the giant. A 6 power flyer with haste is a lot of damage out of nowhere, and removing this card can be an absolute nightmare. Target it with a Path to Exile, and you will soon be losing your best creature. Try to Bolt your opponent for lethal and this Efreet will throw it right back at you. It is extremely easy to splash with only one red pip and can threaten to close a game so fast that your opponent won’t have time to draw 2 removal spells for it. It may not replace Inferno Titan as the best 6 drop in red, but it comes really damn close and will probably see a lot of play right alongside it. Grade A

Nesting Dragon

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I’m conflicted about this card. On one hand, I want to see amazing landfall decks in cube, that keep on recurring fetchlands with Crucible of Worlds and trigger landfall for days. On the other hand, these decks seem more like pipe dreams that would require far too much support to pull off. Nesting Dragon is one of those cards that would fall into the latter category, only being included to power up the lands archetype. On its face value its not too bad, as a 5/4 flyer can definitely close out games, but when compared to cards such as Siege-Gang Commander or Thundermaw Hellkite, it just doesn’t do enough on its own to warrant its spot. Grade C

Treasure Nabber

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Treasure Nabber is a very unique card. The more powerful the meta, the better this Goblin Rogue becomes. As soon as you enter the field where cards such as Mana Crypt and the Moxes are being played, Treasure Nabber becomes insane. Stealing these artifacts for even one turn can allow for a huge boost of mana that will allow you to play cards such as Emissary of Grudges way ahead of schedule. And if your opponent chooses not to tap their Mox on their turn, for fear of you gaining control of it, you have already accrued a huge advantage. If you aren’t running power, however, I don’t see this card being particularly amazing. Grade B+

Varchild, Betrayer of Kjeldor

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Varchild is a very sweet card. Swinging in with a 3/3, with a bunch of tokens on layaway seems like a pretty good deal. Get in more than once, and Varchild soon begins to represent a huge army of survivors that your opponent may not be prepared to deal with. Varchild, however, is very much a win-more card. If Varchild gets in once, you are feeling great, but when she’s staring down a creature with 4 toughness she becomes a lot worse. If you can swing in multiple times without being blocked you are already winning, and getting all of those tokens is only insurance to keep it that way. Most of the time she is a vanilla 3/3, and with so many other good red 3 drops such as Goblin Rabblemaster, I see no reason to play Varchild. Grade C-

Ravenous Slime

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Ravenous Slime is an interesting card. Growing bigger the more creatures that die is fantastic, and it will eventually get to a point where your opponent will have to throw decent creatures under the bus to save themselves, only further growing the slime. Ravenous Slime seems to be at it’s best at the heart of a Jund deck, where you can constantly remove your opponents best threat and keep on swinging in with a huge blob of Jello. However, without these supporting colors, the slime is a little bit worse and probably won’t make the cut whereas a card like Managorger Hydra would. While I want this death slime to wiggle closer to my cube, I, unfortunately, feel that the competition is too stiff for it at 3 mana. Grade C

Turntimber Sower

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Turntimber Sower suffers a very similar problem as Ravenous Slime in that it is a good card surrounded by powerful cards. While this card is attempting to create value instead of creating a threat, the value it creates is mediocre at best especially when something like Tireless Tracker can do a similar thing, except much better. And even if you are trying to support the land matters theme in your cube, this card simply doesn’t do enough for the archetype to warrant it’s inclusion. Grade F

Animatou, the Fateshifter

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As soon as you hear the words “3 mana Planeswalker” you should pay attention. 3 mana Planeswalkers are notorious for being too good because they can come down before your opponent has the chance to deal with it. Animatou is a 3 mana Planeswalker, but it being 3 colors makes it much more difficult to cast. Her abilities are also mediocre and don’t generate enough value to really pull me into playing a 3 color deck, which 3 color cards should always do. Her plus 1 doesn’t actually draw you a card, and her minus 1 serves as a very color intensive way to flicker something. Unless top of the deck matters is a significant part of your cube, I would pass on the Fateshifter. Grade C-

Estrid, the Masked

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The only reason I would choose to play this over Tamiyo, Field Researcher is if my cube had a huge enchantment subtheme. My cube does not currently support that theme, and likely won’t so Estrid seems to be far too narrow for my taste. Even if you are supporting a heavy enchantment themed deck, Estrid doesn’t do much for it unless you are playing all of the enchantments that target lands. When you can start untapping those and generate a ton of mana, Estrid becomes really good. But outside of that pretty niche situation Estrid doesn’t seem like the kind of card for cube. Grade D

Gyrus, Waker of Corpses

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Gyrus is a curious card in cube. Gyrus is always going to be a vanilla beater only as big as the mana you have for him. He will be exactly on curve, due to his +1/+1 counters not being tied to the X in the casting cost. And he can reanimate creatures with no further investment besides the upfront cost. I don’t believe this card is as good as Broodmate Dragon, but it plays a very interesting and unique role in Jund. Bringing back creatures in a way like Alesha meshes better with the GB graveyard-based decks, but he himself is a terrible card to reanimate. I’d look to include Gyrus if you don’t want reanimate getting out of hand, and also want to support the grindier midrange decks. Grade B-

Lord Windgrace

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Out of all the cards that would convince me to create a land matters theme, Lord Windgrace is the most tempting. Going up to 7 loyalty after a single plus is really big, and even though he doesn’t do anything to protect himself, your opponents are less likely to attack him due to the huge loyalty, and non-threatening nature of the card. Windgrace will simply generate huge amounts of value all the time, especially when combined with cards such as Crucible, The Gitrog Monster, and Titania, Protector of Argoth. It’s cards like this that make me want to do a land matters theme in my cube, and maybe with Lord Windgrace, that’s more of a possibility than ever before. Grade B

Saheeli, the Gifted

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I think a lot of people looked at Saheeli and dismissed her as a card that would only see play if their Izzet section ran a lot of artifacts. This is a huge oversight as Saheeli seems to be the sleeper card of the set for cube. One of the decks I always want to make work is an Upheaval/Wildfire deck. Saheeli is the perfect dual color card for this. Upheaval/Wildfire decks tend to play a lot of artifacts which works really well with Saheeli’s second ability. She’s a planeswalker that produces creatures which is exactly what you need in a Wildfire deck, and she can make your Upheaval cost as little as 2 mana, allowing you to play even more cards after you bounce the world. And even when you aren’t playing her in this specific archetype, Saheeli can give your Sundering Titan Affinity for Artifacts. I can see many cubes choosing to play her even over Dack Fayden, and this is a card that you should heavily consider for your cube. Grade A+

Xantcha, Sleeper Agent

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What an awesome card! Xantcha is so weird, unique, and interesting, I’m still not sure on how I want to judge her. In Commander, she seems incredible and if I ever pick her up I will happily play her in all the decks I can. For cube, however, I am much less impressed. In a 1v1 she is effectively a creature that can’t attack but can draw you a card and shock your opponent. It’s a really slow effect that would only see play in control decks, which Red/Black isn’t exactly known for. With so many good RB cards already, I don’t see Xantcha seeing play in cube. Grade C

Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow

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I had to read this card a few times before I realized that Yuriko’s Dark Confidant like effect actually hurts your opponent instead of you. Once I realized that, I immediately realized the strength of this card. Costing about as much as Bob, and doming your opponent instead of you is crazy value. I looked through all the available Ninjas in Magic, and unfortunately, there isn’t much support for them with the best of the bunch most likely being Ninja of the Deep Hours. Yuriko’s effect is powerful enough that it might be worth including other ninjas such as Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni in order to turn on this extremely dangerous bob. She isn’t perfect, and won’t always get in, but when you reveal a Grave Titan off the top, your opponent will really be feeling it. Grade B

Coveted Jewel

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Black Lotus slapped onto an Ancestral Recall would easily be the most broken card ever printed in Magic. Even when it costs 6 mana, this kind of effect is still tempting. Even when it has the chance that your opponent will gain control of it I still want to see if I can make it work. Coveted Jewel has some very interesting lines of play, where you won’t want to play it on a board with a creature, but the chance you might draw that Doom Blade is so high that you consider doing it anyway. Coveted Jewel is not a card that every cube will run, but it will make for some interesting games of Magic once it hits the table. Grade B-

Retrofitter Foundry

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The mini Staff of Domination, Retrofitter Foundry seems to be a very sweet card for cube. Recently I have been on the hunt for 1 mana artifacts that do more than a Short Sword and have either come across options that are way too powerful such as Sol Ring, or cards that do too little such as Brittle Effigy. Retrofitter fills in that sweet spot in that it has a unique effect and will slowly accrue value over the course of a game. Cube also has an abundance of ways to create Servos and Thopters, which really helps to speed up the process of churning out 4/4’s. I’ll be giving Retrofitter Foundry a whirl, and I’m pretty optimistic about its place in my cube. Grade B+

Overall Thoughts

Commander 2018 was a weird set for cube. On one hand, the cards provided are really powerful for their specific archetypes and can allow for really interesting decks. On the other, these cards are only good in those specific kinds of decks making them much harder to throw into a draftable environment. For cubers whose archetypes line up with the chosen themes, these decks are fantastic. But if your cube isn’t looking to be adding these archetypes to the cube, it isn’t nearly as impressive of a set.

My top 5 cards for Commander 2018 are going to be:

5: Retrofitter Foundry

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4: Night Incarnate

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3: Emissary of Grudges

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2: Primordial Mist

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1: Saheeli, the Gifted

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