War of the Spark Cube Review

The finale of several years of storytelling has finally reached its conclusion with the defeat of Nicol Bolas on Ravnica. With such a momentous moment in the story, I’m glad they made a really great set to complement it! Today, I want to go over the cards in the set in the context of cube and see what cards can make it into Magic’s greatest format. If you feel that there are any relevant cards that I have missed, please let me know in the comments below.

Gideon Blackblade

The main thing that I like about this Gideon compared to all others, is that he is a 4/4 attacker in addition to being a planeswalker. What I mean by this is that Gideon can use one of his planeswalker abilities, and still smack the opponent for 4/4. A 3 mana 4/4 indestructible is already pushing cube viability, but having the ability to add more keywords to your creatures makes for a very powerful card that I can see making a lot of lists. Grade A

Liliana, Dreadhorde General

There are a lot of great abilities on this card. The way I like to look at this card is that it’s a 6 mana Barter in Blood that can draw you 2 cards, and also threatens to win the game if left unchecked. This card is great Ahead, behind, and at parity. The only thing holding it back is 6 mana, but I believe that this Liliana is in the same league as Grave Titan. Without the passive ability, I wouldn’t be nearly as high of her. Grade A-

Nissa, Who Shakes the World

If Mirari’s Wake can see play, I believe that this Nissa has a chance. Only giving the manaflare effect to Forests is a big downside and restricts what decks can play this. (At the very least it doesn’t specify basic Forests so that’s nice). On the other hand, making 3/3’s every turn is very good, and losing a Forest in combat isn’t as bad because your other lands can pick up the slack. There is also flexibility in how you can distribute the +1/+1 counters, letting you build a 6/6 or 9/9 to combat their board. I think this card will play really well in practice, and the Forest only restriction won’t hurt it’s playability all too much. Grade B-

God-Eternal Oketra

Moving onto the God cycle, we have ourselves a doozy here. If you can untap once with Oketra you will probably win the game. The same is true of most White 5-drops, however. If you get to swing with a Baneslayer Angel it’s probably game over. Another problem you might run into with Oketra is that you won’t have any creatures to follow her up with, as 5 mana is the top of the curve for a lot of White decks. I think the main reason to include Oketra is that she synergizes well with a lot of common cube strategies such as tokens and equipment, in addition to being a sticky and dangerous threat. The days of Cloudgoat Ranger at 360 are long gone. Grade B

God-Eternal Kefnet

A 4/5 flying for 4 is pretty good stats to start off with, but stats can only go so far. Kefnet’s ability to copy spells is pretty cool and is a unique source of card advantage. However, without a way to manipulate the top of your deck, it won’t trigger all that often. Sometimes, you may even reveal a spell that doesn’t do anything at the moment, such as a Counterspell. Honestly, if Kefnet just drew me a card every turn It’d be a much better cube card. Grade C

God-Eternal Bontu

I am always on the lookout for 5 mana Black cards for cube and this one has a lot of potential. Its body is very respectable, and menace means that it is most likely cracking in for 5 each turn. The real sauce is in the aristocrat’s effect and is what gives Bontu a chance in cube. As long as you can sacrifice at least 3 permanents with Bontu, you are getting some serious value. Throw in some beneficial death triggers and you have a fantastic curve topper for any attrition style of deck. Bontu isn’t quite as generically powerful as Doom Whisperer is, but the traitor gator will still lead to some great plays and decisions. Grade B+

God-Eternal Rhonas

I think, out of all the gods, Rhonas benefits the most from being put back into your deck. Rhonas’ etb allows your deck to play defense and aggro incredibly well, and sets you up for massive attacks similar to Craterhoof. While this card is not going to win the game on the spot, it’s going to create one huge turn for you where you get to swing without caring what is on your opponents side of the battlefield. You then block with Rhonas, and threaten to do it again in a few turns. Combine it with flicker and reanimate effects and you can repeat his etb much sooner. I initially didn’t think this card was all that good, and it still might be bad, but the more I think about it the more I like it. Grade B-

Ilharg, the Raze Boar

A repeatable Through the Breach is a very exciting effect to have! Putting an Eldrazi into play every turn this attacks is just back breaking. However, a lot of people have pointed out to me that this card plays a lot more like a Baneslayer Angel than a Through the Breach. Baneslayer is a card that wins the game if it can get through one attack step but has to survive through a turn. The same is true of Ilharg. There are also a lot of 5 mana haymakers in red, so this doesn’t really make the biggest splash. It still has a cool effect though and will probaly see play in a lot of cubes. Grade B+

Finale of Glory

If we compare this card to Secure the Wastes we can see that it has really good value for the cost that goes into it. For 3 mana both cards get you 2 power. For one more mana this card starts to outpace it’s competitor and gets really crazy once you dump 6+ into it. (And if you somehow manage to get 12 mana you deserve to win). What I think kills this card is the fact that it’s a sorcery (and this is something I find true of the entire Finale cycle). With Secure the Wastes you can play control for the entire game and then end step them with 5 soldiers or more. With this card, you have to commit a lot of mana to get good value out of it, only to get wrecked by Pyroclasm. Grade B-

Finale of Glory

If this card were an instant it’d be more interesting but as a sorcery it just doesn’t do enough. For 3 mana you draw 1 card. That is much worse than Divination. This card is only decent if you can draw 10 cards, and that is a pipe dream even for EDH. Grade F

Finale of Eternity

This card is pretty interesting. If X is 3 or more it can most likely kill the majority of all creatures in cube and become a one-sided board wipe. You’ll be wishing you had Damnation when they cheat out something like Griselbrand, but if they are playing a very fair game of magic, this card can be a beating. But if their version of fair magic is just big creatures like Lyra, you’ll have to spend 7 mana to get rid of her. This card is going to have a very low floor and a very high ceiling and will require some testing to get a complete grasp of the card. Grade B

Finale of Promise

This card is weird. This card is very rarely going to be cast early, but it is a lot of value if you can cast it with 2 targets. I think that the best home for this card is in cubes that support storm. Getting back a cantrip and a ritual seems like incredible gas, and this by itself gives you storm count 3. If your cube doesn’t have storm support, it’s much less likely that you will be able to use this card to the fullest extent. Grade B+/C

Finale of Devastation

Not having the restriction of only green creatures is huge for this card, and is the reason it might get to see more play in cube than Green Sun’s Zenith. Spending 2 mana more to tutor any creature out of the deck or graveyard is pretty awesome, and makes this card really important for decks like Kiki-Jiki where redundancy is super important, and this card keeps them alive even after they die. Because this card can grab from graveyards, I think it makes it relevant in a different way than Chord of Calling. You don’t get instant speed shenanigans, but you always have an out if the most important creature in your deck dies. Grade B+

Vivien, Champion of the Wilds

I love flash as a mechanic. Casting things at instant speed is so much fun, and lets you completely catch your opponent off guard with an Obstinate Baloth in their combat step. Her planeswalker abilities aren’t all that impressive to me, however. Vivien to me reads as a 3 mana enchantment giving all of my creatures flash, with minimal upside rather than being a planeswalker. She is not going to take over the game, but she will change the way the game is played which is always worth a try in my cube. Grade B

Awakening of the Vitu-Ghazi

When I first read this card I thought it was crazy! An instant speed 5 mana hasty 9/9 is insane! Now that I’ve cooled off of my initial perception of the card, I’ve started to see a lot of problems with the card. This card doesn’t actually cost 5 mana if you want to attack with the Vhitu Ghazi on turn 5. The Vitu-Ghazi also lacks trample, meaning it can get stopped in its tracks by the smallest of tokens. And finally, if they murder the Vitu Ghazi they also get to Strip Mine you for free. Overall, I’d much rather play Verdurous Gearhulk as an 8/8 because he has the magical word trample. Grade C-

Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin

Another Rabblemaster variant is always worth talking about, and out of the recent few we have had I think I like this one the most. I don’t think that Krenko is going to kill other people nearly as fast as Najeela or Hanweir Garrison, but what he lacks in explosiveness he makes up for in synergy. If you have an equipment theme Krenko can go from one of the worst Rabblemasters to one of the best. Cast a Giant Growth and you can make 5 or more tokens off of one combat step. Krenko can also attack when the other Rabblemasters get walled out because he keeps growing bigger. Overall I’m interested to play this card because he will play differently to the other Rabblemasters, while still providing that effect to the cube. Grade B+

Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God

This Nicol Bolas is powerful. I really love his +1 and how it forces the opponent to bend to Bolas’ will, and his -3 will destroy anything that you don’t like. His passive is really cool, and the more planeswalker centric the cube is the better. The problem, of course, lies in that atrocious mana cost. Very few cube decks can reliably cast a spell with 5 pips, and by the time they can cast this card it’s impact might be too minimal. Compare this to Nicol Bolas, God-Pharoah, a card that can cast a spell immediately, tear through your opponent’s hand, and kill a creature and it only requires three individual pips. God-Pharoah is a card that people can splash for, Dragon-God is almost impossible to cast even if you build your deck around it. Grade C

Vivien’s Arkbow

This card is a strange mix between Birthing Pod and Chord of Calling, and I really like it. Sink a ton of mana into this in the late game and flash in whatever creature of your choice. This gets around counterspells and keeps you from running out of gas in the late game. This card is likely to whiff if you are paying 4 or less mana into it, but once you can start sinking huge amounts of mana into it you can start to get huge dividends. If you can cast a lot of things at instant speed (perhaps utilizing the new Vivien) you can hold up counterspells on your opponents turn and then just use this when they do nothing. Grade A-

Ugin, the Ineffable

One deck that I like to see come together is the mono-brown deck. That deck plays a lot of colorless ramp such as Worn Powerstone and Thran Dynamo to power out huge threats such as Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Ugin here plays a vital role in that kind of deck, functioning both as a ramp card and a payoff. Ugin’s passive lets your powerhouses such as Ulamog cost 2 less, while also giving you a constant stream of 2/2’s to block with or attack with, and his -3 will destroy most permanents in the cube. Ugin seems like a solid card to add to the cube due to being generically powerful but also pushing a lot of players to try out mono-brown. Grade A-

Roalesk, Apex Hybrid

Simic mythics are always worth looking into, as this guild doesn’t really have the largest pool of playables to pull from. Roalesk is a fine enough card, making one of your other creatues bigger, a 4/5 flample body, and double proliferate are all nice abilities, but they don’t really affect the game in any significant way. All of these abilities can be played around really easily as well, such as killing the creature Roalesk targets as he enters the battlefield, or exiling Roalesk so he can’t proliferate. However, Doom Blade does not make a card bad and Roalesk seems good enough to see cube play. I’ll still keep my eyes out for more Simic playables. Grade B

Blast Zone

Ratchet Bomb on a land is a unique concept that could end up being very powerful. The opportunity cost of adding it to your deck is super low, and when you need to wipe away everything the white weenie player has attempted to do all you need to do is play a land and blow up all the one mana 2/1’s. Putting charge counters on this does cost a lot of mana, and it can’t blow up tokens, one of the main functions of Ratchet Bomb. But, a removal spell on a land is much better than it initially looks. Grade B+

Conclusion

War of the Spark has given us a lot of cards that I would describe as interesting. Nothing in the set seems particularly overpowered, but many of the cards provide unique effects that will make for fun cards to draft. Out of all the cards I am going to play, the one I am most excited to test is Vivien, as adding her means I will also get to add a flash archetype to my cube, something I have been wanting to do for a very long time. Thank you all for reading, I hope you have a great week and an amazing Tuesday!

 

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