Magic Origins Cube Set Review by Ben Cottee

Magic Origins Cube Set Review by Ben Cottee

Hello Readers,

A new set and new cards to evaluate for Cube. Each new addition to the Magic universe puts pressure on the slots we have. I am a fan of jamming more new cards in than less just to try them out. But they have to have some rationale for doing so: either taking a colour in a new direction, potentially supporting an archetype more closely, or you just think it’s a better version of what it is replacing.

I will go through by colour and I will pick out cards that at least peak my interest for Cube, mostly with an eye towards my own but taking into account Powered, Peasant and Pauper along the way.

Feedback from the Dragons of Tarkir review was to include a rating system, so the loose one will be:

Run it – should make any Cube it is eligible for.
Try it – worth adding and testing but might not last (most will go here).
Maybe – if you have a Cube of a certain persuasion but not in mine.
Just no – you won’t see many of these because I won’t tend to discuss them. Sometimes a card will look good/interesting, but is actually just not good enough.

I will not look at reprints as they were already available to Cube.

Kytheon, Hero of Akros

But First

A couple of weeks ago I looked at the new Magic Origins walkers, after seeing them played a little I have not wildly changed my mind but have some other reflections to add.

[draft]Kytheon, Hero of Akros[/draft]

Thoughts haven’t changed: great as a 2/1 with massive upside.

Verdict – Run it

[draft]Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy[/draft]

Initially I saw this as an upgraded Merfolk Looter, but the actual problem is sometimes you want to just have a Looter all game and this might only loot once! The backside is very weak even with one flashback activation. The investment is cheap, but you get out what you put in.

Verdict – Try it

[draft]Liliana, Heretical Healer[/draft]

A sweet card. It’s a home run in my Cube, but if you lack ways to trigger it on your own turn she could underwhelm.

Verdict – Run it

[draft]Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh[/draft]

I probably was a little harsh in my initial assessment, but it’s still a no for me. The big strike is, even if you can flip, the play style she pushes is exactly what I am trying to slide Red from. So you untap on turn 4 go tap Chandra, Lightning Bolt, tap Chandra, Chain Lightning, tap Chandra, flip and shoot for 2. You just did 11 damage on turn four. That’s awesome, but you burned them…..yay? Yes, in theory she can get into the Red zone, but how often does she survive…..

Red loses a lot of ground to other colours in Powered Cubes. Maybe the shift to heavy fast burn is good then and Chandra focuses that strategy and is more likely to get through in combat as less creature heavy decks exist?

Verdict – Maybe

[draft]Nissa, Vastwood Seer[/draft]

Nissa is a great Constructed card as she offers flexibility in the early and late game and in multiples is never really a dead draw. In Cube where you are not struggling for options, this kind of flexibility loses its appeal to me. It is worse than every other three drop and every 6+ drop. Having played with her I was not impressed at all and she might not last long. But still – worth more testing.

Verdict – Try it


[draft]Archangel of Tithes[/draft]

Oh, the White four slot, how much you demand. The Archangel may be able to break through here. I think she will be at her strongest as a topper in a White Weenie strategy looking to push through. Hero of Bladehold and Restoration Angel are the best four drops and go well in any White deck. Ranger of Eos gives White some nice Wrath protection, so to make room to try her out I think the Sublime Archangel variant gets the chop. The only strike is the triple White but as her home is likely nearly Mono-White I think that’s ok.

Verdict – Try it

[draft]Vryn Wingmare[/draft]

Flying Thalia might be a rare beast that is better in Powered than unpowered Cubes as creatures tend to be more dense. This doesn’t hit as hard as the other White three’s, though.

Verdict – Maybe in Powered?


[draft]Harbinger of the Tides[/draft]

I love Man-o’-War. It was my first Blue crush from Visions and lives long in my Cube alongside AEther Adept. I have seen many Mono-Blue decks and Harbinger is at home there as a potentially cheaper Man-o’-War with flexibility. Currently the only double Blue two-drop I have is Coralhelm Commander, but Blue has a number of other UU spells and it can strain the mana. That said I think Harbinger is better than Coralhelm for a start.

Verdict – Run it

[draft]Whirler Rogue[/draft]

This is no Pia and Kiran Nalaar (spoiler: they are really good!). Being an uncommon is important for Peasant Cubes, so it’s an auto include there.

Verdict – Maybe



When once there was only Damnation, we now have 6 playable Black sweepers. Mutilate is for the Cubes that run the Swamp/Black matters themes, Toxic Deluge gets my vote as second best thanks to the flexibility at only three mana. Black Sun’s Zenith always felt super slow and I was never a fan when staring down Green’s fatties (full art version is rather pretty). Crux of Fate was my third Black sweeper as it killed everything (Dragon type doesn’t come up often).

Languish sits in an odd spot. The argument is you generally want to sweep on turn four against Aggro with turn 5 being too late. I agree, but Cube presents such varied angles and threats that you really want your cards to be as useful as possible in different scenarios. Crux functioning as a spot removal for a fatty is fine. How much difference in effectiveness is Black Sun’s Zenith for two turn four than Languish, if you really needed a turn four sweep? I am going to try it, but I am not convinced. It does allow you to prioritise five toughness creatures in the same way Wildfire decks do, offering deck building decisions that Crux’s lack of Dragons does not.

If you are not as adverse to all the Sweepers as I am, then it makes a fine addition.

Verdict – Try it

[draft]Despoiler of Souls[/draft]

Is this how far Black Aggro has fallen? A three-power two-drop is just what this archetype needed and this creature does boast a badly rated but existing rebuy ability. But it can’t block meaning it is destined for only one deck. Better if you care about Black pips, but Bloodghast this isn’t and I probably want Nantuko Shade first.

Verdict – Just no

[draft]Erebos’s Titan[/draft]

Pairs well with Languish if you run it. Outside of Scavenging Ooze and the occasional delve cards the return clause isn’t triggering too often. Indestructabilty in a control deck is possible and nice to have.

If you care about Black pips, then Phyrexian Obliterator is better. The Magic world where 5/5 for four with upside is longer good enough is a little depressing, especially for Juzam Djinn, but Black does appreciate this more than Green.

Competition at four isn’t huge with other beefy guys like Desecration Demon and Abyssal Persecutor offering significant downsides not present with the Titan.

Verdict – Try it

[draft]Thornbow Archer[/draft]

Really good one-drop for Pauper and at least in the discussion for other Cubes as it swings for 2 95% of the time, can block, and has two toughness – which most Black two-drops cannot boast. On the other hand, it will feel really bad facing a Green ramp deck.

Verdict – Maybe

[draft]Priest of the Blood Rite[/draft]

The Black five-drop slot had an overhaul with Dragons of Tarkir taking both slots in Sidisi, Undead Vizier and Rakshasa Gravecaller. so the question is: can the Priest do a better job? You make 7 power with a 5/5 flying body without having to sacrifice a creature, but you get less bodies (one detrimental) and less relevant creature types. I need to consult my playgroup – as I haven’t seen Sidisi even be played in our drafts since she went in. If people have been drafting her but not making the deck, then I could see this is where we find room.

Verdict – Try it


[draft]Pia and Kiran Nalaar[/draft]

Comparisons to Beetleback Chief and Siege-Gang Commander are a good place to start as both have been/are in my Cube. Unless you really care about a Goblin subtheme, then the Nalaars beat off the Beetleback. I think Siege-Gang and the Nalaars are very comparable – when you take everything they bring to the table. Really, the Nalaars’ competition are the other Red four-drops, which is a really crowded place.

The reason I like the Nalaars so much and would make room for them is their contribution to so many archetypes. They go great in Grixis Artifacts, Red Artifact Reanimator (yes, that is now a thing), W/R Tokens, and BR Sacrifice, and really the value against spot removal in any Red Midrange deck.

In my Cube I am looking at Ashcloud Phoenix and (say it in hush tones) Flametongue Kavu to make way. Not long ago I would have said Kavu was untouchable, but so many other creatures provide value when they come into the battlefield and don’t need a target with 4 or less toughness.

Verdict – Run it

[draft]Abbot of Keral Keep[/draft]

There is a huge number of 2/1 creatures that do something in Red now. Red two-drops start with the 3 power options: Borderland Marauder and Gore-House Chainwalker. After them I like Reckless Reveler and Torch Fiend. After those four I think you could happily chop and change between the others draft to draft. Young Pyromancer isn’t as strong in Cube where it isn’t as easy to build around and the best RR two drop is Ember Hauler. The Abbot is another interesting addition probably attacking for 3 a large portion of the time if played as a two-drop and offering some value later on. A fine card to have in your Cube or just another waiting in the wings for a go if you don’t.

Verdict – Try it

[draft]Molten Vortex[/draft]

This is a really good rate and could pair well with Cultivate effects for value. Its most obvious application is to ditch spare lands in an aggressive Red deck, but even say on turn four you cast this to turn subsequent land draws into 2 damage. Not sure it is worth a card. Much easier to cast than Seismic Assault, that’s for sure.

Verdict – Maybe


[draft]Woodland Bellower[/draft]

Any tutor is worth a look. Oddly, while Green boasts epic 7- and 8-drops other than prime time, the 6 slot is a little bare. Reclamation Sage or Eternal Witness are probably the best targets. Adding it would prompt me to revaluate any good three or less hybrid/multicolour cards also. Fetching Horned Kavu brings value if mana intensive. The fact it has no trample is a big downer.

Verdict – Try it

[draft]Bounding Krasis[/draft]

A tough sell to crack Simic’s current options which include two good three-drop creatures already: Edric, Spymaster of Trest and Shardless Agent. However, adding another creature to combo off with Splinter Twin and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker – as I just added the Twin combo to my Cube – this makes it more interesting than it otherwise would have been. The Krasis also acts as a kind of a removal spell against Aggro decks by flashing itself in to block.

I don’t think this breaks most Simic sections of a Cube, but if you have the Splinter Twin combo and a large enough Gold section could be worth a punt.

Verdict – Maybe

[draft]Chief of the Foundry
Hangarback Walker
Bonded Construct[/draft]

I have lumped these all together, because unless you are heavily supporting a Robots deck (that is one with attacking artifact creatures), then they do not do enough. A colourless 2/1 for one is very interesting, but the drawback is just a little too much – unless you strongly need a one-drop artifact. I can see a day when Wizards gives us a vanilla colourless Savannah Lions, but not for a little while.

Verdict – Maybe

For me, it’s one of the best Core sets for Cube, competing with playables with many larger “pro” sets. I see five cards that definitely have a big impact in drafts to come and nearly twenty others that are worth trying out.

Community Question: What is your favourite Magic Origins card for Cube?

What is your favourite Magic Origins card for Cube

Thanks for reading,

Ben Cottee

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