Of all the parts of the cube UR is probably the part that’s changed the most since the earliest builds.
At the beginning there were the ill fated attempts at mono colour tribal themes (I could never make my mind up between merfolk and faeries for blue as I wanted True-Name Nemesis and Vendilion Clique to both make the cut, red was goblins which lasted longer but ultimately went too). Blue and red have both also had a pretty heavy artifact theme (this was in all the non green colours) at points in the past with cards like Grand Architect, Chief Engineer, Megatog and Pia and Kiran Nalaar.
When the cube got its last big review and I decided to focus a lot more on the colour pair archetypes as the basis for the whole thing I was down to a choice of two real options for UR. Keeping and expanding the artifact theme (I might have gone this was had there been some more good thopter token cards in the style of Origins…maybe if we ever go to Kaladesh I might end up revisiting that decision) or going for a prowess style deck.
I settled on prowess as it worked better with a lot of the UR gold cards I liked (Nivix Cyclops, Hypersonic Dragon, Melek, Izzet Paragon etc) and a few pet cards like Talrand, Sky Summoner and Young Pyromancer fitted better. Jeskai Ascendancy in the three colour section, along with Monastery Mentor in white were also a major motivator here as I’d like a jeskai Mentor/Pyromancer/Ascendancy deck to be a thing.
Although this is the most spell heavy archetype in the cube (except possibly some builds of UW or Esper control) you are still reliant on creatures to stay alive and sometimes to win the game. The creatures are also the big indicators that this deck is viable in the cube.
Young Pyromancer and Talrand, Sky Summoner are probably the biggest draws to playing this deck. They turn all the cantrips and burn spells in your deck into board presence. Monastery Mentor also fits into this deck, and it’s very possible to play a Jeskai version of this.
Spell recursion is also a significant component as keeping yourself from running out of gas, given that on average you have quite small creatures and may be quite reliant on prowess triggers. Snapcaster Mage is, well…Snapcaster Mage…enough said. The bombier version of this, in this cube, is Charmbreaker Devils. As long as you can keep your graveyard intact you can keep triggering prowess and keep Charmbreaker Devils big on the attack every turn.
The core of the deck though are the prowess creatures. Most of the good ones printed so far appear in the cube. Monastery Swiftspear and Abbot of Keral Keep, are in red. Jeskai Elder, Jeskai Sage, Jhessian Thief, Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest, Mistfire Adept, Sage-Eye Avengers and Pearl-Lake Ancient (because you really need prowess on a 7-drop 6/7) are in blue. There is also Soulblade Djinn with super prowess along with the aforementioned Jeskai Ascendancy.
The “creatures with prowess” section of the cube is probably going to get upgrades with almost every set from here on, with its new evergreen status. The 1R, 1/3, prowess vampire in Shadows over Innistrad is almost definitely going to make the cut due to being a good crossover card with BR vampires.
The other half of this deck is the spells (well DUH). You will generally want a few categories of spells.
- Bounce and tempo
- Cantrips and card draw
There’s plenty of burn spells in the cube and they are largely interchangeable. Lightning Bolt, Incinerate and Lightning Strike aren’t THAT different (yeah, bolt is the best you can get and incinerate has a nice bonus…but strike is still 3 damage on a cheap card). Mizzium Mortars is probably the most desirable just due to flexibility.
Tempo and bounce cards are rather interchangeable, there are a few cheap bounce and tempo spells which you can usually pick up fairly late. Rush of Ice and Clutch of Currents are recent additions which can give you a bit more board presence as well. The absolute best is Cyclonic Rift, but that is first pick good for any blue deck. It’s even worth splashing as the effect is that big.
The cantrip spells fit in here better than any other deck. Brainstorm, Ponder, Preordain and Serum Visions are all good for getting prowess triggers while keeping your hand full, plus they’re good for just digging to your better cards. The fetchlands are also available to combo with Brainstorm.
Next up: Shadows Over Innistrad, cube alterations!