Khans Cube All-Stars

Posted in How to Play Limited on March 1, 2016

By Melissa DeTora

Melissa is a former Magic pro player and strategy writer who is now working in R&D on the Play Design team.

The entire Magic community is gearing up for new things on the horizon—things like Eternal Masters and Shadows over Innistrad—and Khans of Tarkir is just getting left out in the cold. You may think that Siege Rhino has already had its time in the spotlight, but the show is not quite over yet. Khans was a powerful block, and while Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged may be leaving Standard in a few months, there is still plenty of innovation to be done with these cards. Today I'm going to be talking about the best Khans block cards for Cube.

First, what is a cube?

A cube is a large pool of cards that is used for drafting and playing Limited games of Magic. Most cubes are 360 cards, which is conveniently enough cards to support an eight-player draft. It's also common to build cubes with 720 cards, which allows players to draft their cube twice without seeing any of the same cards. The Vintage Cube and Legacy Cube on Magic Online follow this structure.

There are many great things about building your own cube. Not only do you get some extra play value out of your cards, but you can also customize your cube however you'd like. If you like Vintage, you can build a cube using the most powerful cards of all time. If you've got a smaller collection, pauper or common-only cubes are both fun and surprisingly powerful. If you prefer certain archetypes, you can build around those. I've seen Modern cubes, multicolor cubes, uncommon cubes, tribal cubes, Limited-archetype-only cubes (think Burning Vengeance and Dampen Thought), and plenty of others. The bottom line is that the possibilities for cubes are endless and you can build your cube to suit your play style and personality.

Getting back on topic, what are some of the best cards in Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged for your cubes? Note that there are a lot of great three-color cards like Siege Rhino that would work well in multicolor cubes, but most cubes do not support three-or-more-color decks, so I will not be talking about those cards today. Many cubes support one- and two-color decks, and one of the most important aspects of building successful cubes is to have archetypes for each color pair. Many of the cards I'll be discussing today will have a specific color pair that they fit best in. Here are my top picks from Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged.

Sorin, Solemn Visitor

Sorin does a lot of great things in cubes. Control players love him because he can create a Vampire token and then gain life with that token on subsequent turns. Midrange players love him because he can grant all of your creatures lifelink, which can put the game out of reach for some opponents. Where Sorin really shines, however, is in the White-Black Tokens archetype. This is a popular cube archetype that looks to flood the board with tokens through spells such as Lingering Souls, Raise the Alarm, and Martial Coup. Sorin can give all of these tokens a nice boost, which can help end the game quickly.

Honorable mentions for the White-Black Tokens archetype: Herald of Anafenza and Brutal Hordechief

Monastery Mentor

Monastery Mentor shines in a spell-heavy deck and is great in a color pair like white-blue. Monastery Mentor has sort of spawned a new archetype in cubes. You don't really want to play it in a pure control deck with Wrath of God and Day of Judgment, but you'd love to play it in a tempo deck with spells like Ponder, Brainstorm, Vapor Snag, and Into the Roil. Inexpensive counterspells like Mana Leak and Remand are also great with Mentor. Mentor can really get out of hand and can win the game quickly if your deck is built right.

Honorable mentions for the White-Blue Tempo archetype: Seeker of the Way, Soulfire Grand Master, and Treasure Cruise

Whisperwood Elemental

Large creatures with utility are great in any green deck. Green-white (and to a lesser extent red-green) makes the best use out of creatures like this, as they are relatively fragile decks that rely on creatures that generate card advantage. Decks like black-green would also love Whisperwood, but they need it far less due to having access to strong removal and discard spells, and they can deal with creatures and other permanents far more reliably. Overall, the green-white archetype wants creatures that can gain an edge or are just harder to deal with than your average green or white creature. Whisperwood Elemental does this perfectly, as it not only makes creatures but also protects your creatures from sweepers.

Valorous Stance—Speaking of green-white, Valorous Stance is a fantastic spell for this deck. It has two modes that this type of deck wants: save your creature, or kill an opponent's creature. Valorous Stance isn't great in a deck like Blue-White Control because while killing an opposing creature is great, you're very unlikely to have targets for the first mode. Similarly, the White-Black Tokens archetype also won't find this card useful because you won't have enough meaningful creatures to make the most out of the first mode.

Honorable mentions for the green-white archetype: Wingmate Roc and Warden of the First Tree

See the Unwritten

See the Unwritten is a card that never caught on in Standard but has lots of uses in Cube. This card shines mostly in a strategy that uses Show and Tell, Eureka, Sneak Attack, or Tooth and Nail. Let's call this the "Sneak and Show" archetype. What's more fun than drafting a pile of giant monsters along with ways to sneak them onto the battlefield? The most fun creature (for you, not your opponent) is definitely Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, but large creatures with strong enters-the-battlefield triggers, such as Dragonlord Atarka and Grave Titan, are also great with See the Unwritten.

Clever Impersonator

Clones are very common in Cube. My favorites are Sakashima's Student (Ninjas!) and Phantasmal Image. What I like about Clever Impersonator is that it can copy any permanent on the battlefield, not just a creature. We have all copied Grave Titans and Thragtusks before, but have you ever copied a Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Elspeth, Knight-Errant? Clever Impersonator is great in archetypes that don't have many ways to deal with planeswalkers, like White-Blue Control or Blue-Black Control.

Honorable mentions for the control archetype: Dig Through Time, Disdainful Stroke, and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

Bloodsoaked Champion

Bloodsoaked Champion works well in a black aggro deck, but I think it shines the most in an archetype like Black-Green Aristocrats. In Black-Green Aristocrats, you are looking to sacrifice your creatures to gain an advantage. Blood Artist, Zulaport Cutthroat, and Nantuko Husk are the most commonly played cards that reward you for sacrificing your own creatures. Bloodsoaked Champion can enter the battlefield as early as turn one and get in some quick damage, and after that he can be used as sacrifice fodder. Any time you attack, you can return it to the battlefield for 1B, and you can do this as many times as you want. If you have six lands in play, you can return it three times—and with Blood Artist and Zulaport Cutthroat in play, all of that life loss really adds up.

Honorable mention for Black-Green Sacrifice: Grim Haruspex

Monastery Swiftspear

Monastery Swiftspear made a huge impact across all formats, and it's no surprise that it's also great for Cube. Mono-Red Aggro is a widely popular Cube archetype that most cubes support. Tiny creatures and burn are the all-stars here, and Monastery Swiftspear is a tiny creature that has great synergy with burn. It would be foolish not to include it in your cube!

Goblin Heelcutter

Mono-red picks up a lot from Khans block. Dash is one of the more powerful aggressive mechanics in recent history. It's great at keeping your creatures out of range of sorcery-speed removal and can also sneak in those last few points of damage. Goblin Heelcutter is especially useful because it can make an opposing creature unable to block, and with dash this will often be a game-ending surprise to the opponent.

Honorable mentions for the mono-red archetype: Mardu Scout, Hordeling Outburst, Outpost Siege, and Wild Slash

Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Tasigur, the Golden Fang has made appearances in both Standard and Modern due to the delve mechanic being super strong. Efficient cantrips like Preordain and Serum Visions as well as fetch lands can fuel delve and help you cast Tasigur very early in the game—sometimes as early as turn two! There is really no specific archetype for Tasigur; any black deck will love a turn-two 4/5 creature.

Honorable mentions for delve decks: Hooting Mandrills and Gurmag Angler

Last but Not Least—The Fetch Lands

The five Khans of Tarkir fetch lands have been Cube staples ever since Cube Drafting has been around, although in the beginning they were known as the Onslaught fetch lands. Fetches are useful for a variety of things, the most common being fixing your mana. They have great synergy with dual lands such as Underground Sea and Watery Grave, and help tremendously in allowing you to play more than two colors. They also fuel delve, thin your deck, and shuffle your library after a Brainstorm or a Scroll Rack activation.

Wrapping Up

Cube Draft is a fantastic format, and while it may look intimidating to get into due to the sheer number of cards you need, it's actually quite fun to build a cube and tweak it over time. There is a cube for everybody, and Khans of Tarkir block is a great way to get into the format. Khans block especially has a high number of Cube-worthy cards, including plenty of commons and uncommons to get you started!

Thanks for reading and see you next time!

Melissa DeTora


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