The Mirrodin Besieged Cube Update
While the Test Lab article previewed some purely additive changes here is a breakdown of changes by color along with the requisite reasoning. Today isn’t about trying to be clever or entertaining: it’s straight-up facts and an open call for discussion.
This time around I’m going to describe what’s coming out followed then by the appropriate number of things being added, noting where relationships between the two exist (like double-white mana costs going out and coming in simultaneously as an exchange).
This should help clarify that when I make changes I seek the weakest existing links then bring in the next strongest contenders. It’s this iterative process that has helped shape my cube and its small oddities over time. Other methods will yield different results and are a great staging point for discussion below.
So grab some lemons and put on your thinking cap as we’re about to punch the improbability drive.
Knight of Sursi – While serving as a virtual one-drop, the flanking served little purpose other than a little extra evasion on an already sufficiently evasive body. Playing this as a four-drop felt awkward and underwhelming; playing it on suspend late in the game even moreso.
Skyhunter Prowler & Griffin Sentinel – While the appeal of redundant flying creatures with vigilance has been appreciated the disappointing power of both of these cards has become clear. There are certainly more useful options out there.
Veteran Swordsmith & Veteran Armorsmith – The common Soldier “lords” from Magic 2010 were fine additions. However there are only a scant few Soldiers to work with and are just okay in general use. The double-white cost of Armorsmith is being replaced by a much more aggressive body for a white-heavy deck, and Veteran Armorer is a likely addition in the future, serving much the same purpose but for all creatures instead.
Totem-Guide Hartebeest – Usman and several others have won me over. A solid pseudo-Wall that tutors for removal should be both a fine tool for any deck with white but also reinforce blue-white control especially well. Black-white, too, stands to gain when the removal unique to it (Pillory of the Sleepless) can be tutored as well.
Whitemane Lion – While this is a creature it’s actually being brought in as both a combat/anti-removal trick and support spell for white’s more controlling color pairs. Resetting creatures with “enters the battlefield” tricks is something that’s old-hat at this point, but building in these types of tricks will allow them to both appear more often and become more relevant as the decks that want to do it (namely, blue-white) will have the redundancy available.
Phantom Nomad – The precursor to persist is the “phantom mechanic” and any toughness-boosting equipment or enchantment makes these guys nearly indestructible. The value of being able to just chump twice is often relevant as well.
Prismatic Strands – A long time in coming in and I’m pleased to have squeezed another spell into the cube. This should serve any deck with a strong slide of white very well.
Leonin Skyhunter – Replacing one double-white cost creature with another, this one with evasion, serves to reinforce white-heavy getting access to the most aggressive flying creatures.
Diminish – I tried it. It was sometimes okay. It generally wasn’t what I wanted most. If this had the additional text that’s on Humble, as my brain kept trying to force onto it anyway, it would get to stay. As it is blue is losing a very awkward, situational removal spell for something that’s similarly conditional but provides a value regardless.
Deprive – This is really easy: I’m switching back to Miscalculation. Soft counters are generally less exciting but Deprive is a secret conditional counter: I’ve seen it used on turn 2 exactly once, and I lost that game horrifically. Tempo loss of bouncing a land is just too much early on. You can read more below with Miscalculation.
Infiltrator il-Kor – It’s a weird, aggressive blue dude. Not necessarily bad per se, just a little awkward and better served by being a utility slot than okay aggression.
Miscalculation – Picking up from above, this card is something that is fine to play on the second turn as most of the time it will do its job and nail an aggressive two- or three-drop. Later on it can cycle away or randomly catch an opponent. It’s a richer decision space and lower opportunity cost than Deprive.
Waterfront Bouncer – I’ve seen good things with it and transforming chaff cards into Unsummons seems fine given the larger quantity of creatures in my cube. I’m hopeful that this will help blue finishers close out easier by removing resistance.
Æthersnipe – Is coming back as, like the Test Lab preview of capsize, there are more tools that allow blue to slow the game down and go long. While a sorcery speed Regress isn’t particularly exciting it is fine if needed; hard-casting this bay boy is always solid, with the 4/4 size impressively powerful and out of most burn’s reach.
Null Champion – He was pretty meh. While a fully leveled, regenerating machine was handy the fact that virtually every burn spell still took him out of the combat equation was rough, especially when he’s usually take it right as the last level up activation was on the stack.
Rathi Trapper – Black has enough removal. White has generally superior tappers. This guy just never felt right and always sat on the sideline.
Dread Warlock – Although I really like the evasion of this guy, black has too many double-black mana costs and bringing in slightly more aggressive, easier-to-cast dudes feels better.
Rotting Legion – I’ve been searching for a black “finisher” of sort and this guy is no Zombie; it’s a beast. Instead of being unable to block permanently, it’s just one turn. And instead of having a frail toughness number this one can eat a Lightning Bolt for dinner. I’ve seen this pop up in a few other places and I believe it will feel right here, especially in blue-black (for later in the game) and black-green (which can power him out on turn three or four in some cases.
Surrakar Marauder – The little 2/1 that could, this guy has similar evasion to the outgoing Warlock but is easier to cast and quicker to come out. In Limited there should be plenty of land drops to help out.
Wretched Anurid – A total beatstick, this guy should have come in a long time ago.
Goblin Skycutter – Red has plenty of burn and a “Shock for flying on-a-stick” was neat but rarely something you really wanted to do. There are other creatures red would like to be casting and attacking with.
Vithian Stinger – While unearth is interesting, ultimately this guy failed to live up to where he needed to be.
Spur Grappler – There is another Prophecy card that deals with lands that feels much better than forcefully tapping yourself out before attacking.
Fault Riders – First strike is powerful in combat, and going up to four power is quite strong. Red usually needs fewer lands to work with and feeding a monster in combat feels right.
Hulking Ogre – It can’t block but, really, why would you want to? Throwing a 3/3 dude into the red zone on turn four is great, and later in the game this size stays relevant. It’s also a body that can’t be stolen by the more controlling versions of decks running red.
Flameborn Hellion – A red “finisher” that does what you were going to do anyway. This guy is huge and tops off a more interested twist in pushing red to be more powerful on its own, rather than as the splash.
Wait… That’s All?
Recall that through the Test Lab green is picking up Viridian Emissary and artifacts add Flayer Husk to the count. There lie the Mirrodin Besieged changes for those two. Looking ahead there is a great opportunity to push red to be more interesting for its own sake (Goblin Shortcutter is the next probably step in that direction).
So that’s that! See the updated spreadsheet then sound off and tell me how these changes sit with you!