Secret Lairs and Cube

Once in a while, I do want to talk about secret lairs and what they mean for cube. They are currently one of the products I look at intently because they give us the singles and bling that I look for. Each of these kind of post are just focused more so on the artwork and availability rather than the utility of the card.


I am picking up for sure Showcase: New Capenna. Magali Villenue, and Sidharth Chaturvedi because the artwork on these cards is so good. I am debating on the rest because I don't need them for cube or their artwork ruins the magic immersion for me. 


Secret Lairs were introduced right before the Pandemic and were met with controversy and skepticism. I remembers parts of the community were crying foul, claiming Wizards of the Coast, WotC, wanted to undercut local game stores, LGS. I was a skeptic thinking this would be a short time gimmick, much like From the Vaults, Master Editions, and Planeswalker's Spellbooks were. WotC has a track record of trying to sell the singles themselves, but they always find a way to annoy the community with each attempt. Fast forward a couple years, my attitude and the communities' towards them seems to have become more positive. 

For myself, I enjoy that secret lairs have done the obvious, which is make it easier to obtain singles at a reduced price. Aside from this, I'm not sure if other cube designers feel this way, but I see cube as the epitome of personal expression in Magic. It allows its designers to control the play environment, what cards are being played, and the theme if that matters. The overall player experience if you will. You are sharing your personality when you play your cube with other people. Part of that is your art choices. Some people may not care what their cards look like, but when presented with options, you can see the preferences. 

Strong Studio Ghibli Vibes

The real boon from Secret Lairs has been the alternate art cards. It is the main reason why I buy these. WotC made a solid decision in contracting different artist to create their own interpretation of the cards we enjoy as well as non-Magic artist. We get some of the best artwork from these. Just take a look at Mother of Runes (pictured above) and Archaeomancer (pictured below). They really allow cube designers to take their personal expression one step further without resorting to proxies and alters. (I'm not a fan of proxies and will use a different real card over if possible)

The Artist Series Secret Lairs have been the real delight in this regard. Majority of these have the artist creating multiple illustrations for 1 set. This is great for fans of these artists as they get even more of their artwork (bring back Terese Nielsen, WotC). The best part is when they really take the cards to the next level with the inclusion of a panorama (the Bitterblossom secret lair at the beginning) or storytelling (Johannes Voss' secret lair below). As a player, it makes it really hard for me to break them up as I want the whole experience of the cards together and share with my players. Just have us soak in how cool it is and appreciate Magic art collectively. So I make weird, less than optimal decisions in my cube to keep these cards together. (It's why I won't play Hanweir Garrison without Hanweir Battlements). These things existed in Magic without the secret lairs before and now, but I am not as enthralled with it as I am with the secret lair. This is might be because it's not as clearly present and too many of the cards are not good in cube. (Delver of Secrets, Abberrant Researcher, and Docent of Perfection)
This is just absolutely gorgeous and needs to be together

April's Secret Lair

This was written on April 30th, so this information might be forgone by the time you read it. Reminder, this is your money spend it how you will. This isn't a section on mtg finance but rather me saying whether or not I'm buying a secret lair and why.

Did Disney find their way into WotC?
The Showcase: New Capenna is one of the secret lairs to consider if you're running an EDH cube. If you run a 1v1 cube, I would not buy this unless you do include any one of these already. As shown, it contains Atraxa, Yidris, and Breya. The artwork on these cards is pretty slick and very fitting into the New Capenna world. This is also the first time these three cards have an alternate art. Atraxa is the main highlight of this secret lair. It's been printed 3 times prior to this and still is at a high price point ($35 cheapest). The other 2 cards are fairly affordable and I think they lead to more interesting decks than Atraxa does. One thing to note is the extra card included. Based on other secret lairs, the extra card is either a sketch print of one of the three cards included, a gilded foil of Kynaios and Tiro or Saskia, or a foil basic land. I am planning to purchase this for my edh cube, so I can have a non proxied Atraxa  as well as stylish prints of the other two card since I run them already. Really hope they do the other two in this same style. (5/2 edit: I have learned towards a sketch print because the pride secret lair has been announced and Saskia was part of the Women's Day secret lair)

Look at that Mother of Runes
The Magali Villenue's art is just always so good and this secret lair is a godsend for her fans. If you don't need any of the cards, easy skip. None of the cards are double digits in price as of the time of writing and have been printed multiple times. For Death's Shadow this is the first time it has received alternate artwork, but I currently don't run Death's Shadow and don't plan too. Mother of Runes has too many variants at this point thanks to the dedicated secret lair. This one still looks amazing, but I am skipping as I already  have an artwork I like (Mother of Rune 298).  Elvish Mystic looks great and this is the 2nd alternate art is has received with the first one being an FNM Promo. I'm sticking with the FNM print since it's rarer at this point, but that Villenue one has a lot going for it. The forest art is good, but trying to get 40 for cube is going to be a nightmare. I am getting this secret lair for the other formats I play, but not for cube. Remember that an extra card is coming with it. As as educated guess, it will probably be either a sketch version of one of these cards or an extra unannounced card done by Magali Villenue.

The whole package is just so good
Artist Series: Siddharth Chaturvedi is my favorite secret lair for April. The storytelling on the cards combined with the great art really just does it for me. It's hard to explain but there's an added wow factor to it. In addition, it has made a card (Concordant Crossroads) more widely available to the player base.  Concordant Crossroads is the highlight card of this package and if you want one, this is the easiest way to get one. That card hasn't been reprinted since Chronicles. That's more that 25 years ago! The alternate arts on Nomad Outpost and Ghost Quarter are just great. I am planning to add everything but the basic island to my EDH cube since I already run everything but Concordant Crossroad, which was just hard to get in general. Really hoping my players notice and appreciate the story between these card.

The rest of the package does not excite me the way these do. 

There is something to admire in the simplicity

Special Guest: Matt Jukes are not what I'm looking for in cube. I originally ran all 10 buddy lands when I first started both of my cubes, but as time has gone on the buddy lands are cards I am actively trying to cut. I'm not a fan of abstract art, but there is something to admire from these. Had I still been running these lands, easy slam dunk upgrade. There is still the extra card, but its up in the air as to what it could be. 

This same mindset applies to the Artist Series : Wayne Reynolds. I don't run any of those cards and do not plan too. 

The Left Handed Magic cards seems silly and there's nothing special about it otherwise since the only card I might be interested in the the Geralf's Messenger.

It's missing Jake and Finn

Just Some Totally Normal Guys has 0 appeal to me. There are some exciting card in Vengevine and Void Winnower for the graveyard stategies, but the artwork isn't for me. Earlier I mentioned, player experience and the artwork for these cards is too out there for me similar to the Extra Life 2021 secret lair. It ruins the immersion when I go through a pack where I am expecting a cool fantasy themed art (I wasn't a fan of the NEO art direction either) and instead get Adventure Time. Without any staples for cube, this is an easy skip for me.

This post was harder to write than my other ones because this was way more subjective and I thought I could be more eloquent with my words. Had to really analyze why I didn't certain sets over other. I do plan to write more of these as some people are not aware of the impact that secret lair provides to cube.

Last Minute Edit: May Secret Lair

On Monday 5/2/2022, Wizards announced the latest Secret Lair, Secret Lair: Pride Across the Multiverse. From what I saw among the community, there is a divide on how players feel about this one. Aside from the obvious, players were torn on the art direction of the game. Bearscape and Heartbeat of Springs were heavily discussed with detractors claiming these cards ruin the feel of Magic, while supporters feel more welcomed into the game. Regardless of this, as a cube designer, part of designing your cube experience is your art choices. 

Winona Nelson depicts Alesha, Who Smiles at Death in her older years, guiding the next generation.

That is why for myself, there is really one card that I am excited to include in my cube: Alesha, Who Smiles at Death. This card is found in my main cube as the Mardu card. The context behind the artwork on this card is amazing. With Alesha being a pet card of mine, this artwork will solidify the card's position in my main cube. It does not exist in my edh cube because I already have a commander deck built around it and the goal of the edh cube is to play differently. As a cube designer, it's a card that provides interesting game play while remaining flexible in a good number of decks. So if you're interested in an altered art or a copy, this could be something you want to pick up.

This concludes my opinion on these secret lairs. If you want to see the two I didn't picture you can head over to the secret lair website to take a look. If you like what you read, please consider sharing the article. If you disagree with me, you can leave a comment below. If you want to follow me elsewhere, all my socials are in my contacts page at the top. Make sure to check weekly as I do do 2 post every week on various topics on cube. Thanks for reading.