Shadows over Innistrad Cube All-Stars

Posted in Ways to Play on June 14, 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.

Cube is a format that is loved by many and is one of my favorite Magic formats of all time. There are just so many things you can do with a cube besides draft it. In fact, one reason why I love Cube so much is because of how you can customize and personalize your cube to suit your style. If you want to learn more about the basics of Cube, check out my beginner's article here.

Today we're going to go over my top Cube picks from Shadows over Innistrad. The set has some great flavor and gameplay, and many of the cards can fit nicely into existing cubes. Shadows is also unique in that it contains the building blocks for custom cubes. Maybe you want to build a tribal cube or a Gothic horror cube. Shadows over Innistrad is a perfect starting point for those. This article will mostly focus on general-cube cards, but we'll touch on some of the custom-cube stuff as well.

Here are my top picks for Cube from Shadows over Innistrad.

Archangel Avacyn

This card is truly an all-star. She fits into any white deck, whether it's aggressive or controlling. In aggro decks, she acts as an anti-sweeper effect, giving your team indestructible at instant speed. In control, she's a great finisher. You can keep up mana for instants like counters or removal spells and can cast Avacyn when you find the right window. Transforming Avacyn does require some setup, but if you do manage to transform her, she can Wrath the board while also providing you with an even larger, harder-to-deal with threat.

Archetype: Any white deck

Duskwatch Recruiter

Duskwatch Recruiter has been a huge hit in Standard and I think it has applications in Cube as well. There are some Cube archetypes that want to play mostly creatures, like red-green with Domri Rade or a Collected Company deck. These decks usually lack card advantage and will often suffer in the late game. That's where Duskwatch Recruiter comes in. While it's a little mana-intensive, this is the exact type of card you'll play in the all-creature deck. Its transformed side can give you some explosive turns as well.

Archetype: Red-Green Aggro or Green-White Aggro

Declaration in Stone

If you ask anyone what the strongest removal spells is in most cubes, the top answer would be Swords to Plowshares followed by Path to Exile. Both of these spells are super-efficient and are sometimes even considered too strong. Declaration in Stone is not on the same power level as these instants, but it's still quite strong. Any deck that wants to play Swords or Path will want this. Declaration is a bit better in an aggressive deck, because if you are applying constant pressure, your opponent may not get the chance to crack the Clue. Like Archangel Avacyn, Declaration in Stone will be played in any white deck and is not archetype-specific.

Archetype: Any white deck, but stronger in White Weenie

Seasons Past

This is another card that is seeing quite a bit of Standard play. In Cube, this card shines in ramp decks. If you're playing spells like Farseek and Cultivate, you'll want Seasons Past. You may not necessarily want to return the ramp spells to your hand, but having ramp is important because if you have a lot of lands in play you can cast Seasons Past and then cast some of the spells you return right away. I imagine casting this and returning a fetch land, a Mana Leak, a Genesis Wave, a four-mana planeswalker, and a Primeval Titan that may have died earlier in the turn. The best part is that having Seasons Past in your deck means that you will never deck yourself, something that will surely come up when playing a 40-card deck with Genesis Wave.

Archetype: Green-X Ramp

Tireless Tracker

Tireless Tracker is a great midrange creature that can fit in a variety of decks. It's a vanilla 3/2 creature for 2G that will gain you value at very little cost. You're going to be playing lands anyway and are free to sacrifice the Clues at your leisure. If you do have time to crack the Clues, Tireless Tracker will quickly become a threat. Tireless Tracker even has some applications in combo decks. When it's combined with ramp spells, you can churn out Clues and then combine them with cards like Arcbound Ravager, Trading Post, or Pia and Kiran Nalaar.

Archetype: Green-X Midrange

Anguished Unmaking

Anguished Unmaking is a solid removal spell. It may be a little weak compared to similar Cube staples, such as Vindicate, but being an instant makes it a valuable addition. This card is worth considering for your cube if you are lacking ways to deal with noncreature permanents like planeswalkers, enchantments, or artifacts. There are not many spells that can outright kill a planeswalker, and removal for enchantments and artifacts is usually green and red, respectively. It's always good to have an option like this in these colors. It's also possible that your playgroup finds Vindicate too strong (no one likes turn-three land destruction!) and you would prefer to just make this swap.

Archetype: White-Black Control, White-Black Tokens, and Esper Control

The Gitrog Monster

Players have tried to play The Gitrog Monster in Standard, but it really hasn't found a home yet. In Cube, there are many cards that make The Gitrog Monster great, such as fetch lands, cycling lands, or any effect that lets you sacrifice lands. The Exploration clause gets better when combined with similar effects like Oracle of Mul Daya; Mina and Denn, Wildborn; and Azusa, Lost but Seeking. Having all of these cards in the same cube can just let you go crazy with lands! Let's not forget that The Gitrog Monster is a 6/6 creature with deathtouch—not bad for five mana.

Archetype: Black-Green Sacrifice, Black-Green Ramp, and Turbo Land

Nahiri, the Harbinger

Nahiri plays many roles in Cube. She can just be used as a strong support card for control decks, helping to control the board, filter away useless cards, or search up your win condition. Nahiri can also be played as a combo piece for decks that play Sneak Attack, Show and Tell, or Eureka. If your cube supports this kind of combo deck, you'll definitely want Nahiri as a way to find a giant Eldrazi like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Even if you don't have this combo deck in your cube, playing Nahiri and Emrakul in the same deck is a combo in itself!

Archetype: Jeskai Control and Sneak and Show

Westvale Abbey

Westvale Abbey is a fun, well-designed card. Not every cube has room to run utility lands like this. Slots for lands are so tight that most players opt for lands that are strictly for mana fixing, like dual lands and shock lands. However, if your cube wants a utility land, this is a great one. It plays multiple roles in games, including making tokens when you don't have much else to do with your mana. The option to transform Westvale Abbey is very strong and easy to do if your cube supports the White-Black Tokens archetype with cards like Lingering Souls and Spectral Procession.

Archetype: White-Black Tokens

Fevered Visions

Fevered Visions is a deceptively powerful card, and it has been slowly popping up in Standard decks. This is not a card you'd play in a typical blue deck, but rather a card that you'll want in an aggressive deck or a red deck that may be splashing blue. Think Delver of Secrets or Blue-Red Burn. Fevered Visions is amazing in a burn deck. Your spells are cheap, and you will benefit from the card draw way more than your opponent. If your extra cards are Lightning Bolts and Chain Lightnings and your opponent's are four-mana planeswalkers, you will surely have the advantage. Plus you'll be dealing them an additional 2 damage every turn. What's not to love?

Archetype: Blue-Red Burn/Aggro

Where's Blue?

You may have noticed that there aren't many blue cards on my list. While there are plenty of blue cards in Shadows over Innistrad that are cool enough to make the cut in some cubes, blue has a problem in that it has been overpowered for years. Think about the blue cards that are typical in most cubes: Treachery, Counterspell, Consecrated Sphinx, Fact or Fiction. These cards were all too powerful in their respective Standard formats and are usually top picks in most Cube drafts. We just don't see cards anywhere close to this power level in blue anymore. For this reason, it's really hard to find new blue cards for cubes, especially when you are trying to make one-for-one swaps.

Blue in Shadows over Innistrad is a synergy color. The color works best if you have cards that support its themes. In Shadows over Innistrad, those themes are madness, instants and sorceries matter, and (very minor) self-mill. If you wish to include these themes in your cube, then Shadows over Innistrad has a lot of offerings for you in blue.

Madness: Welcome to the Fold

Instants and Sorceries Matter (also relevant for Storm Combo): Thing in the Ice, Pieces of the Puzzle, and Rise from the Tides

Self-Mill: Epiphany at the Drownyard and Rise from the Tides

These cards are great, but only in specific decks. I wouldn't just throw them into your cube without some careful consideration.


Lastly, tribal has returned in Shadows over Innistrad, and if your cube supports decks for Humans, Werewolves, Spirits, Zombies, and Vampires, there are plenty of cards in the set that are worth your while. When choosing cards for this type of cube, the things to look for are the rewards. You don't want to just jam any creature that happens to have the appropriate creature type into your cube. You want to make sure that the cards matter and give you a reason to play that tribe.

Humans: Thalia's Lieutenant

Werewolves: Howlpack Resurgence

Spirits: Rattlechains

Zombies: Compelling Deterrence, Diregraf Colossus, and Relentless Dead

Vampires: Indulgent Aristocrat and Olivia's Bloodsworn

Honorable Mentions

There are plenty more cards from Shadows that are great fits for cubes, but it's really hard to justify adding cards that are either A) strictly worse than cards we already have access to, or B) not necessarily the best rate for powered cubes. Here are some of my picks for honorable mentions. I would strongly consider adding these if you are looking to make changes, but for the most part they are not more powerful than what's already out there.

Those are my top picks for Shadows over Innistrad Cube all-stars. Do you agree or disagree? Was there anything I missed? Tweet at me @MelissaDeTora and we'll get the discussion going!

Until next time,

Melissa DeTora

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