This is the 10th entry in a series where I comment on and explain my choices for my limited card pool in detail. Here are my previous entries:
In this entry I listed a number of guidelines I follow when deciding which cards I want in my cubes.
Here’s a PDF you can open in a new window to look at the part of my list I’m taking about while reading:
And here’s a link to an explanation of the shortcuts I use in that list, if you need it.
Flight Spellbomb and Panic Spellbomb are the only survivors from one-and-a-half cycles of Spellbombs. I realized I didn’t need nearly as many of those, and found many of their designs not convincing. In the original cycle from Mirrodin, you mostly knew if you’d cycle a bomb or use it for its effect before the game even started – some effects were too weak to be worth a card, some were too good that cycling were a realistic alternative. Also, there was the issue of players using off-color Spellbombs, which was not what I had in mind when I included a whole cycle of them. The new Spellbombs from Scars of Mirrodin, on the other hand, are mostly useless without the right colored mana, which is good. The blue and the red one had the most interesting and elegant effects, so I decided to keep those.
Just like Seal of Strength did with Giant Growth, so has Seal of Removal shoved out the classic Unsummon for being too similar. Not that these cards couldn’t coexist, but the spots for bounce spells are already crowded, and Blue needs only so many of them. Silent Departure, Into the Roil, Rescind and Time Ebb do everything I need, and let us not forget AEther Adept and AEthersnipe…
Think Tank and Strategic Planning obviously support graveyard-based strategies, but this is not their main function in my pool: I use them primarily for card selection (and I was really happy that Planning got reprinted, making it affordable!) Therefore they are not tagged „yard“ and „mill“ – unlike Mental Note, which is meant for environments with such a theme. I use Note over Thought Scour on principle, because milling the opponent is one of the biggest no-nos in Next Level Cubes.
Vow of Flight has some unnecessary and annoying text, and I’m not too happy with that card – all I really want is Spectral Flight to cost one mana more. Granted, playing the Vow on an opponent’s creature will seldom lead to a win, and it’s certainly not too strong a „removal“ option for Blue, but sometimes players will be forced to do it and then probably watch a game they would have lost fast otherwise drag on a lot longer – until they still lose it. Still, this kind auf aura really needs to be there, and Vow is the best choice – Zephid’s Embrace giving shroud is too much, and Nimbus Naiad is a different, and very special concept. Of course, there is Drake Umbra, but that is another really special card, and sitting in a clearly different mana slot.
For me, Sleight of Hand is the most basic 1-mana card selection spell, not using scry, and not involving putting cards from your hand back or shuffling your library.
The options for countermagic are overhwelming. In addition to permanent-based stuff (like Daring Apprentice or Lilting Refrain), I have no less than 8 monoblue cards which explicitly say „counter target spell“ on them in my pool, and a couple more which do similar things (Mage’s Guile, Meddle…), and I still left out a good number of perfectly fine candidates, most noteworthy Essence Scatter, Negate and Mana Leak, which lose out to Counterspell and Miscalculation; and Dismal Failure, losing out to Dismiss.
Perilous Research is effectively a much better Altar’s Reap, so I took out the latter – there are still enough sacrifice synergies in Black. Impulse, however, had to go (a pity, since I had made the effort to get a somehow pricey version with correct wording) – it was just a bit too good. Strategic Planning is a better fit, which pushed out the too similar Compulsive Research. With Mulldrifter gone, the elegant Divination could return and fill that slot, but Thirst for Knowledge still sports that kind of mechanic.
There were several options for a strong tempo card affecting more than one creature. I got away from Undo and Into the Void and returned to the slightly fairer Sleep, which can not be used just to remove tokens, counters and auras, and is an honest pure tempo play instead.
I love Mind Control for nostalgic reasons (which go back to Control Magic of course), but turning your opponent’s best creature against him is still too cheap at 5 mana. Confiscate sits in the right spot, though.
I am a bit wary of any spell which draws more than 3 cards, but since my cubes never are as slow as Magic 2014 was, costing 6 mana makes Opportunity not too unfair.