Esports Hearthstone

Is Carnivorous Cube a problem?

Cube has a huge impact on the meta; is it too strong?

I don’t think anyone expected Carnivorous Cube to be quite as successful as it was. Sure, it got some five star reviews prior to Kobolds and Catacombs’ release, but they tended to see it as a sticky value tool for midrange decks, rather than the combo-creating powerhouse it ended up as. Thanks to decks like Cube Warlock, Hadronox Druid and Recruit Hunter, it has come to define the meta, and made silence a must-include tech for many control decks. But is this hungry polyhedron a threat to design space and the balance of the meta? Or is it a healthy inclusion that validates a whole load of fascinating decks?

A copy of a copy of a copy

Cube has key advantages over Faceless

The first point of comparison for Carnivorous Cube is Faceless Manipulator. Many, myself included, thought of Cube as a kind of more limited but easier to play Faceless, with better stats in exchange for more limited targeting options. In pure value terms, you can evaluate it as an additional 4/6 over running a Faceless, at the risk of Silence vulnerability.

But Cube is far stronger than Faceless in a number of vital situations. For one, it instantly triggers deathrattles, allowing you a tempo effect to counteract its anti-tempo battlecry. This makes it perfect to combo with cards like Hadronox and Voidlord. What’s more, it also acts as a heal effect, making it perfect for getting value out of that Giant that just traded into a Twilight Drake. Not to mention its ridiculous combo with Spiritsinger Umbra, giving you four additional copies with two appearing instantly. But by far its strongest and most troubling interaction occurs with Charge.

Charging up the Cube

Charge and Deathrattles are the main reason to include Cube

One vital advantage Cube creates over Faceless is that with an activator, it generates an additional minion overall. While this is often irrelevant, as it destroys a minion in the process, it has a huge impact on certain situations. For one thing, it generates an additional Deathrattle effect on Deathrattle minions, and an additional minion is added to the revive pool for Hadronox or Bloodreaver Gul’dan. But by far the most impactful is with charge. Whereas faceless only generates one further charge attack, Cube creates two with an activator.

This strength was famously exploited by Cubelock, which uses Cubes to generate 15 charge damage as early as turn 6. In the later stages of the game, the Cubelock can do up to 25 damage in a single turn with judicious use of Umbra, Cube, Dark Pact and Skull of the Man’ari. There are also jankier decks that build on this, using Witching Hour with Charged Devilsaur to achieve similar results. As the card pool increases, these combos will likely only get stronger and more limiting to the design space.

Look at that body

However, I think discussions of these detrimental aspects of Carnivorous Cube miss a fundamental aspect that makes the card problematic. After all, combos involving Cube are very hard to set up, skill testing, have counterplay and can be blocked with taunts and can rarely OTK.

Instead, I think the biggest issue with Cube is simply its incredibly competitive statline. Very few combo tools of such power have such a beefy body behind its combo potential. A 4/6 for 5 is Arena-viable stats, not bad for a combo piece. Tempo Cubes are often extremely potent plays. Its high health makes it much harder for the opponent to pop the Cube prior to using AOE. Its decent attack means they cannot easily ignore it. It’s this versatility that makes it potentially overpowered.

Were cube a 2/6 or a 4/4, then perhaps we wouldn’t be quite so dazzled by its deadly combo ability. And maybe Team 5 could be a bit braver in printing potential synergy effects.

Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com.

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