Innistrad Update + Indy Haul   6 comments

I went to the Star City Games Indianapolis Open, didn’t play a single game of sanctioned Magic, but cubed with Kranny and Pringlesman, as well as Winchestering Adam Styborski’s pauper cube (and helping him with some updates for it, which should be coming on his blog soon-ish.) RK post was at the Open, so he altered my Morphling and Simic Sky Swallower for $1 each and got some nice alters/pimpage (for free!)


Adam gave me the Nekrataal (upgraded from a foil 9th) and altered the Blastoderm, Pringlesman donated the Siege-Gang Commander (previously a Scourge non-foil) and the Fire//Ice, signed by Richard Garfield (previously a proxy.) Eric Klug edited the Stormblood Berserker (for free as well, sweet!) with a caption that Kenny Mayer would approve of!  (I was originally going to ask Eric to alter an uncommon and he said he’d do an uncommon red card as he and Mr. Mayer ❤ drafting uncommon red cards.  I asked him to alter a Keldon Champion, but I didn’t have it in my cube and my on-deck binder was hours away, so I gave him Stormblood Berserker, Ember Hauler and Arc Trail and he chose the Berserker.  Still works though!)  Much thanks, everyone.  😀

Now that I’ve done my article reviewing Innistrad in approximately a billion words, here are my Innistrad (and other) changes behind the cut.  Just note that these aren’t changes that I’m doing because of Innistrad, but a culmination of months of testing and gradual changes that I’ve made “behind the scenes” and is inspired by Evan Erwin’s old cube updates when he did them on The Magic Show (don’t be scared, the cube stuff is about half of it, not the whole 27 min.)   Where was I again?  Oh, right, updates.

Figured that some pictures should help to illustrate the overall changes.  Let’s go!


-Blade Splicer, -Weathered Wayfarer, -Silver Knight, -Akroma, Angel of Wrath
+Mikaeus, the Lunarch, +Cloistered Youth, +Mentor of the Meek, +Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite

White’s changes are mostly centered around aggressive archetypes.

I’ve never been too huge on Weathered Wayfarer in my cube, taking it out, putting it back in and taking it out again. It feels like a card that just doesn’t do quite enough, as the body is not too great in aggressive archetypes but control decks don’t really want to fall behind on lands unless they’re on the play in a control mirror. Mentor of the Meek replacing Blade Splicer is one that I’m not sure on whether it’s an upgrade/downgrade/neutral, but initial impressions of the Mentor have been solid, so long as he has creatures to cycle with. Silver Knight also leaves from being just so… average, versus non-red opponents. It’s definitely better than cards like Kor Firewalker but it still always felt like its worth was derived from its use in red matchups, something that can’t be said of something like Soltari Monk. I talked about Mikaeus in my Innistrad review, but to summarize, it’s a card that looked very unimpressive, but it wasn’t until Kranny from the In Contention podcast started talking about it that I started to pay more attention and test it out. It’s been quite solid so far (I talked about it in the article, so I won’t go too much into depth here) and I think these changes should beef up white aggro strategies in my cube.

Elesh Norn, on the other hand, isn’t a very good aggro card, but has gone from a test card that I tried in exchange for Akroma to a card that I’ve become a fan of.  It does surprisingly well on the Vindicate test and almost always kills a dude or two and unless it’s killed with a white or black removal spells, tends to be a huge pain as it makes it so that almost nothing can survive a fight with her.  There’s also a lot of utility 2/2s and Norn kills them outright or turns them into overcosted spells (nice Viridian Shaman.)  I was definitely down on Norn but I think she’s a lot better than I thought.


-Spellstutter Sprite, -Faerie Conclave, -Future Sight
+Snapcaster Mage, +Ancestral Vision, +Tolarian Academy

I’ve been tinkering with the blue tempo/midrange strategy as, again mentioned by Kranny and it’s been nice to diversify the cube experience for blue mages so they aren’t just jamming blue control. Cards like Wake Thrasher aren’t so hot in 3Creature.dec, but can’t the same be said of other aggressive creatures in other colors like Bloodghast? Similar ideology applies here, where those cards are useful in more attacking blue decks since they have support. Blue can support aggressive strategies, similar to black before I ran Sarcomancy, but I think it’s going to be some time before it becomes a “thing” like white or red-based aggro, if only because its 1 and 2-drop support for aggressive decks is weak.

It’s a common misconception from those who don’t support aggro strategies (of any stripe) in cube that the aggressive cards are weak, but creatures like Spellstutter Sprite actually felt like they were weak, unfortunately.  Due to the limited spell slots you get from pushing blue midrange/tempo/aggro, the creatures had better be really good, which Spellstutter Sprite unfortunately wasn’t.  Snapcaster, while being an obvious upgrade, is a total shoe-in for cube, even in cubes that don’t support non-control strategies. I’m tinkering with helping those archetypes a bit more as well as the “artifact deck,” which is why Tolarian Academy comes in (that and it should have been here anyway) and Future Sight becomes Ancestral Vision for an overall efficiency upgrade, despite the higher ceiling on Future Sight (and Future Sight being a very good card, but yada yada hard cuts are hard.) I won’t go as far as to say that Ancestral Vision always resolves, but it resolving isn’t too unheard of and when it does, it’s usually game.


-Pulse Tracker, -Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni, -Black Sun’s Zenith
+Diregraf Ghoul, +Bloodgift Demon, +Liliana of the Veil

The first two changes are essentially obvious upgrades, with Pulse Tracker’s pseudo-2/1 body becoming an actual 2/2. Ink-Eyes has been surprisingly good as a solid combat trick in a world of few combat tricks, but Bloodgift’s upside of a ton of evasive power + card advantage is hard to beat (and I’d like to fit a few more 5 mana creatures in here like Drana and Ink-Eyes, but I just don’t have room for either right now.) Black Sun’s Zenith comes out from being generally disappointing with its counters instead of damage being more of a nombo with large creatures than a benefit (whereas cards like Rolling Earthquake/Starstorm would let your big guys stay huge,) and Liliana being, well, Liliana. More of an aggro card than a control card due to the discard clause, but she’s been very good.


-Countryside Crusher, -Starstorm, -Fire Ambush, -Banefire, -Ravenous Baboons, -Gorilla Shaman, -Volcanic Hammer
+Ghitu Slinger, +Shrine of Burning Rage, +Brimstone Volley, +Devil’s Play, +Instigator Gang, +Reckless Waif, +Fireslinger

Lots of changes in red, including the “looks awful on paper but has been very good in red decks” Shrine of Burning Rage, which typically deals a ton of damage (even with its awkward 3, T, sac cost to use.) I’ve been happy with Ghitu Slinger in my common cube and have seen it in many powered lists, so in Ghitu Slinger goes (even though I absolutely ❤ Countryside Crusher, a card that I feel is quite underrated) which I hope does well. Devil’s Play has been a very good X-spell and appears to be better than Banefire in the time that both cards have been in my cube, and I’m hoping that the red werewolves play out as well as I think they may. Kenny Mayer said that Reckless Waif has been very good as an aggro dude (but then again, he’s always gotten it on T1, must be nice) and Gorilla Shaman never really did all that much in my cube, generally being too expensive for its task. In testing Instigator Gang, the drafter said that it was very good and often flipped (which surprised me, to be honest,) so in it goes as the rotating 4-drop that has cycled between Ravenous Baboons and Keldon Champion (and the call’s likely Keldon Champion, as the guy just gives so much damage and it’s a card that’s definitely a solid addition to red cards.)  But is it better than Instigator Gang?  I don’t know (likely not) but giving the potential 8/5 can’t hurt too much.


-Terastodon, -Kodama of the North Tree, -Beast Within, -Skinshifter, -Caller of the Claw, -Oracle of Mul Daya
+Moldgraf Monstrosity, +Garruk Relentless, +Bramblecrush, +Pelakka Wurm, +Ambush Viper, +Primeval Titan

In green’s update, I’ve decided to push green ramp strategies as I felt that it didn’t have as much support as it should have and it typically had to compete with other “big mana” decks like blue-control to try to get the giant robots. I still don’t think cards like Moldgraf and Pelakka Wurm can hold a candle to Myr Battlesphere and Wurmcoil Engine, but I still want to see how this experiment works (and if it does, perhaps another 6-drop or Terastodon could come in.) Kodama of the North Tree was the hardest cut as I feel that its body+shroud was really solid against threat-light decks, so it may come back, but felt that its time to go was now. A lot of the others were just disappointments: Beast Within’s 3/3 generally was a significant drawback, Caller of the Claw was better in theory than in practice and Skinshifter’s G activation was surprisingly awkward for aggro decks that wanted to curve out.  Primeval Titan has been surprisingly good in the context of being a land tutor – like other tutor cards, it needs some things worth fetching on T6 (so fixers don’t generally apply) but I’ve been happy when it gets things like Maze of Ith or manlands, especially the Worldwake ones.  I still think it’s the weakest Titan and could see cutting it in the near future, but it’s been surprisingly… not bad so far.


-Crystal Ball, +Precursor Golem

Not too much in colorless, but wanting to see how Precursor plays out as 9 power for 5 is really nice, even if it’s relatively fragile. In theory, it should be a nice ramp target (for green, perhaps, as well as others.) While Crystal Ball has been very good, it isn’t as good as other library manipulators. Still, I think it’s a very solid card (hard cuts are hard after all) so if Precursor doesn’t work, Ball’s coming back.


-Sarkhan the Mad, +Olivia Voldaren

The “untap with this and you’ll win” type of cards that don’t have an immediate effect when they enter the battlefield typically disappoint me, Hero of Bladehold and Juzam/Persecutor aside, so I’m dubious about Olivia’s performance. I’ve yet to draft Innistrad but I assume that she’s insane in limited, but of course, success in limited != success in cube (see cards like Kumano and Massacre Wurm.) Still, I’m hoping she does good things and if not, Sarkhan will come back or I may try the Mr. Mayer-approved Demigod of Revenge.


-Simic Signet, +Mystic Snake

How important is blue losing another signet? I’m not really sure, but green’s already nuts at mana production, so in theory, it shouldn’t be much of a loss. Still, I’ll see how it goes and if a UG card goes to bring back Simic Signet, it’ll probably be either the Snake or Edric (as painful as either of those cuts are.)

So there you go!  I’m definitely a fan of Innistrad for cube and some cards like Geist-Honored Monk are ones that I’ve considered and could very well come in, but we’ll see how they are in the future.  Hope you’ve enjoyed it!


Posted October 4, 2011 by Usman in List Updates, Uncategorized, Usman's Cube

6 responses to “Innistrad Update + Indy Haul

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  1. Great updates! The only cards cut that I would probably miss at this size would be Blade Splicer, Oracle of Mul Daya (if the goal is to push Ramp decks, this card is an all-star), and Skinshifter. I’ll agree with you that Elesh Norn has been much, much better in application than it appears on paper.

    Also, while I do really like Moltensteel Dragon, if cutting a four drop is necessary to make room for Keldon Champion, the Dragon should be it (that is to say if Instigator Gang ends up working out in the end).

    I think you’ll be happily surprised in Precursor Golem’s performance. He has been an all-star at the top of the curve for aggro while serving as an incredibly efficient creature to clog the ground in midrange and control decks. Don’t let anyone try to Searing Blaze it and tell you to take 9 either (if Smash to Smithereens was in here that would be another story)!

    • How would you rate Oracle of Mul Daya vs other ramp spells like Kodama’s Reach/Harrow? I think it’d definitely be solid as a card to support green ramp, but I’m not sure how it ranks compared to other rampy spells.

      I had been testing out Instigator Gang since it got spoiled and unfortunately, I still can’t really conclusively say how it compares to the other 4 drops but yeah, Keldon Champion is just sick and if there was any card that I wish I could run, it’s that guy.

      • I’m personally not a Harrow fan, so my ranking regarding that card would be skewed a bit. I will say that when you are green ramp the Oracle is probably the best 4-drop creature you can have. In other archetypes like mid-range and aggro that’s not necessarily true since cards like Thrun, Chameleon Colossus, Vengevine, and Phantom Centaur for example shine there. When your goal is to turbo out threats and “go big”, the Oracle is fantastic enabler.

        • Hmm… do you think Oracle replacing Harrow be a good change for the archetype?

          • I do think it would be a very good change in support of the ramp archetype and an overall positive net change to the cube as a whole. There are certainly supporters of Harrow out there, but it was disappointing in comparison to other green ramp spells when I had it in my cube. Green seems to be continually getting access to powerful new cards these days, so it’s becoming very competitive. The biggest problem is how many awesome green cards rest at the 4cc spot on the curve. Luckily, not all of them fight for the same slots in decks. You won’t run Vengevine in a Ramp deck if your draft isn’t a train wreck, and vice-versa for Oracle in aggro.

  2. The Harrow -> Oracle is now done 🙂 (not in the official list, but in my actual cube.)

    Behind the scenes, I put Master of the Wild Hunt, Drana and Keldon Champion back in my cube to give the “awesome if you untap with them, not so much if they die ASAP” dudes another chance. I’m going to very carefully track their overall performance to see how quickly they die to removal vs dominate a board state.

    I also pushed the blue tempo theme to its absolute limit (30 creatures, Tolarian Academy, 31 spells) to see how the theme works at its maxim in my cube. I doubt that all of the creatures will have permanent homes and it’ll probably like the last time (although I didn’t push the theme as hard) where some cards from previous iterations of testing the theme like Pestermite and Coralhelm Commander (a mini Kargan Dragonlord whose final form is easier to reach than Dragonlord’s, forget the whole Merfolk thing) have stayed in my cube before.

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