Spoiler season has, for the past year, always managed to feel like another Cube Christmas. The impact 2019 had on cube design is without a doubt the highest saturation point in recent memory; and with Theros Beyond Death, 2020 is off to a pretty decent start. It’s always exciting to collectively dive right into these new sets. I know I’m not alone here, but I feel the most connected to my inner childhood Magic player whenever new cards are spoiled. And now with my involvement in Cube curation and design, there’s this additional layer of excitement to the most wonderful time of the year.

Each morning I lay in bed, my imagination spinning as I cruise through the newly spoiled cards wondering which of the bunch are worth consideration. Of course, there’s a lot of qualifying each card has to stand up to; in the moment it can be difficult to ascertain if something is genuinely worthy, or merely new. This week I will go over what I, and some of you, deem the necessary evaluation tools for any potential cube inclusion prior to, and during your testing.

Let’s use one of the cards from Theros Beyond Death that I’m very excited about to illustrate.

Woe Strider certainly got many people’s minds a-churning. There’s a good amount to unpack with this card, so let’s dissect Woe Strider using some tools we know to be well-vetted. Our time with our cubes are precious; gathering data on whether a card is good enough for inclusion into your specific environment can sometimes take a fair amount of testing. The following should help you whittle down your selection of new card choices for testing, and make the process of updating your cube with each set release more streamlined.


Power level is the most natural and easiest place to begin. What is Woe Strider’s inherent power level? Powerful cards in cube are generally defined by how capable they are of winning the game on their own (think Oko, Thief of Crowns or Emrakul, the Aeons Torn), or are efficient or hyper-efficient spells relative to their casting cost (Terminate or Birds of Paradise), or have a commanding impact on a particular synergy or archetype (Craterhoof Behemoth or Splinter Twin). Often, cards that can win the game on their own or are hyper efficient spells are worth testing based on this metric alone.

If, however, the cards power exists as synergistic within an archetype, or even creates its own archetype entirely, we can then look back to our cube and establish a greater context by which to evaluate. Here is where I believe the power of Woe Strider lies: as a high synergy threat for already existing archetypes.

Woe Strider’s rate—three power and toughness across two bodies for three mana—is serviceable, but unexciting. Being a 3/2 means Woe Strider ideally wants to be attacking, but it lacks evasion and is small enough to die in combat fairly easily. It’s the activated ability of “Sacrifice a creature: Scry 1” which gives us some direction as to where its power level lies. A sacrifice outlet that doesn’t cost mana to activate is rare and has potential for abuse in concert with recursive creatures or repeatable token generation.


So where then does Woe Strider seem desirable? There’s a want for “free” sacrifice outlets in both aggressive Black decks and across multiple token shells, alongside cards like Gutterbones and Bitterblossom. Being able to sacrifice and recur creatures can be powerful when combined with the death triggers of Zulaport Cutthroat or Skullclamp, but merely enabling a repeatable Scry 1 isn’t exactly a payoff given the setup cost. It’s fine, but without any outside help is not all that powerful.

Which means Woe Strider’s power is ostensibly in enabling “free” sacrifices. However, this isn’t exactly a unique effect: we have access already to creature-based sacrifice enablers with Carrion Feeder, Viscera Seer, and Nantuko Husk. So why bother playing Woe Strider over these other available options? Redundancy isn’t a strong enough reason to start testing a new card. If it’s not strictly better than an existing card, what can a new card offer?

Well, getting the extra body along with your Woe Strider is certainly unique. In a similar vein to Catacomb Sifter, Woe Strider brings a friend along—and a goat friend, at that—for your mana investment. While Catacomb Sifter rewards us whenever one of our creatures dies, Woe Strider needs to “eat” another creature to get its money. This is an important distinction, one that’s critical when considering Woe Strider’s power level: while you get your enabler freely attached to a creature, you’ll still want to generate repeatable food for the Woe Strider to eat. Again, setting this all up so you can Scry 1 every turn doesn’t feel powerful enough for cube.

Unless we’re digging towards something specific, like a combo, in which case Scry 1 gets a bit more enticing. Can I interest you in a persist combo kill? With Kitchen Finks or Murderous Redcap in play alongside Good Fortune Unicorn or Vizier of Remedies, it’s infinite life for you or infinite damage for your opponent. Yes, a cube deck built around getting multiple, specific creatures in play is a lot to ask for in a singleton format, so I’d want to see some support cards—like Birthing Pod or Chord of Calling—to help put the pieces together.

On Escape

We’re still in the early stages of this set so it’s difficult to properly evaluate Escape. What we know so far is that the Escape mechanic is wildly unique, probably most closely related to Delve (and yes, I know, they’re altogether different), and in a vacuum is unquestionably powerful given a long enough timeline. But how challenging is it to exile four other cards from your graveyard once, twice, even three times per game? Time and testing will tell, but it’s unclear now just how much value we’ll be able to get, on average, out of our Escape cards.

Woe Strider’s Escape can either be taken at face value—”Hey, I can recast this again from the graveyard!”—or as a threat for more dedicated graveyard and self-mill strategies. Using cards like Stitchers Supplier and Ransack the Lab, we can mill our Escape cards right into the graveyard, which unlike Flashback, doesn’t negate getting full value from the spell. In fact, by milling Woe Strider into your graveyard you get to more consistently cast the better half of the spell!

From there, Escape can be further abused by bouncing Woe Strider back to your hand, or using it as sacrifice fodder to gain value off your other enablers. Which means that Woe Strider isn’t only an enabler, it can also be a payoff! It’s a floor wax, and a dessert topping!

Surely the Escape mechanic on Woe Strider is more than just a value play, and the questions I have on the nature of Escape itself is reason enough to want some testing.

But That Floor, Tho

It’s natural to evaluate new cards by imagining the Best Case Scenario, or even the Average Case Scenario. But I can’t stress enough how important it is to consider not only how and why a card is powerful but how and when it fails. A cards failstate is never to be overlooked, and lucky for Woe Strider it ain’t half bad.

In a game where you’re behind, a spell that makes two bodies that can block and buy you an extra turn has value, with the scry helping dig you a hair deeper into your deck. And if it’s later on in the game, you can recast it on your next turn with Escape! Now you have a bigger threat that might be able to trade off, and then recast the next turn with Escape again!

It’s impressive that a card which seems slanted towards aggressive and midrange decks could be a reasonable defensive topdeck. Performing well when behind is one of the hallmarks of a truly powerful Magic card.

Okay, So…

While I’ve already made my decision to test this card—and several others from Theros Beyond Death—there is still value in pulling the card apart in order to explore the possible roles a card can fulfill, and ultimately questioning why any one card is powerful enough to test. I’m excited to try out Woe Strider, and I hope you are too.

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