It took me a bit longer than last time to generate this pack, but this one is a doozy. There are a ton of strong cards, and some serious frontline contenders, but there’s nothing that stands head-and-shoulders above the rest. Some of you will disagree with that sentiment, and I certainly have my own biases that pull me in one direction more than another, but when it comes down to it there are many strong cards that appeal to a variety of archetypes.
For starters there’s my old favorite, Recurring Nightmare. This is an ideal spot to take the card: early on where I can focus on building around the Nightmare, and I can jump off into other directions without completely abandoning the card. It’s possible to build a variety of builds in other colors and only splash black, and still have Recurring Nightmare be a high impact card that is able to be casted and activated multiple times in a turn even off a slight commitment. While it’s not a guarantee that we’ll pull a helpful, synergistic piece off the wheel, Nightmare is strong enough that you don’t need every card to be focused around it, though it’s better when you can add more to the mixture. There are more universal picks in this pack, some that could be stronger in a vacuum, but if you need a focus while you’re drafting then Recurring Nightmare is an excellent choice.
Heading to brown-town is one of the easiest ways to stay open while still picking a powerful card that can either be archetypal or powerful for a bunch of different decks, and Grim Monolith is one of those brown cards I’m seriously eyeing up. Big mana decks beat a lot of the others, since they operate early in the game with bombs where other decks are still developing. Dropping your bombs ahead of curve where they are tough to deal with will trump a lot of decks, and while Grim Monolith is certainly worse than cards like Mana Vault or other like-pieces of ramp, it’s as close as you can get without being over-the-top broken. In fact Grim Monolith is the extent I’d go to with brown ramp in an unpowered cube, since it is inherently amazing but is not going to completely bury a deck. A turn 2 four-or-five drop off of a mana vault in much tougher to deal with than a turn 3 five-drop. Picking Grim Monolith allows you to play off whatever you’re being passed as well, since so many different strategies are looking to play big spells early on. Grim Monolith is the one I expect most people to want, but I could be wrong there.
The other brown card I really enjoy is the sword, but if we’re looking at the sword we need to consider Stoneforge Mystic as well. Sword of Body and Mind is insane and will win games quick. Like Jace, Adept at Winning, it only takes a few connections to win off of Body and Mind connects, and if the sword-wielding critter gets killed, then there could be a wolf waiting to hold the sword in its teeth. I’m a huge fan of Sword of Body and Mind. But I’m a bigger fan of two copies of Jitte. Or two Batterskulls. Or two of the same sword. Or a copy of one sword or another. Perhaps I think of Stoneforge higher than other people do, but providing a cheap tutor on a body where you can cheat the weapon in or make it uncounterable propels Stoneforge to great heights. Taking Stoneforge early can lead to the risk of missing out on a weapon, and it’s almost crazy to pass a sword for a card that gets one of the few targets it has in the cube. If you spike an amazing weapon later on, it’s much better having the Stoneforge and the weapon instead of two different weapons. Like I said earlier, it’s much better have two Jittes than it is to have a Jitte and a Sword.
If Planeswalkers are more your speed then Sorin, Lord of Innistrad is a great choice and the last card I’m seriously considering. Sorin functions as a mostly-worse Elspeth, Knight-Errant, but when you’re compared to one of the greatest Planeswalkers then you’re in good company. Sorin may not give you as big of an evasive threat, start with as much loyalty, or continually churn upwards towards his finisher, but he does bring a lot of positives to the table. In the token or BW-aggressive based decks it’s nice to be able to pump out threats that gain life. Combined with the various Glorious Anthem type of cards that the archetypes prefer, Sorin can pump out multiple permanent boosts to power that can turn a decent-sized army into a 1 or 2 turn clock. There are also a lot of cards that you could potentially wheel if you take the sorin, from the other Planeswalker Ajani to any of the black creatures. If you’re looking to make a slower build then you could wheel the Terminus, a great card with a Sorin on the board when you want to clear creatures off an start adding your own.
There are some great options here, let us know what you would choose in the comments!