Cube Night, 7 decks

Another cube nights worth of decks. Seven people so there was a bye floating around.

Nate: UW Tempo - 1-2

Creatures (14)
Augur of Bolas
Reflector Mage
Kitchen Finks
Banisher Priest
Thassa, God of the Sea
Thought-Knot Seer
Sakashima's Student
Restoration Angel
Grand Arbiter Augustin IV
Lavinia of the Tenth
Prognostic Sphinx
Frost Titan
Ætherling
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite

Spells (6)
Force of Will
Rush of Ice
Revoke Existence
Roil Spout
Sleep
Planar Outburst

Non-Creature Permenants (4)
Sensei's Divining Top
Gilded Lotus
Blind Obedience
Venser the Sojourner

Land (16)
Hallowed Fountain
Plains
Island
Wastes

Ollie: 1-2

Ollie: GB Midrange - 1-2

Creatures (19)
Dryad Militant
Gravecrawler
Vampire Lacerator
Lotleth Troll
Tarmogoyf
Kalastria Highborn
Heir of the Wilds
Knight of Infamy
Wolfir Avenger
Ghoulraiser
Pharika, God of Affliction
Renegade Krasis
Crocanura
Lumberknot
Nylea, God of the Hunt
Acidic Slime
Anowon, the Ruin Sage
Hydra Broodmaster
Foe-Razer Regent

Spells (1)
Putrefy

Non-Creature Permenants (2)
Throwing Knife
Hedron Archive

Land (18)
Swamp
Forest

Chris: 1-2

Chris: Sultai - 1-2

Creatures (12)
Fyndhorn Elves
Screeching Skaab
Armored Skaab
Diregraf Captain
Varolz, the Scar-Striped
Lord of the Undead
Dreg Mangler
Stitched Drake
Havengul Runebinder
Sidisi, Brood Tyrant
Havengul Lich
Relentless Skaabs

Spells (8)
Dimir Charm
Tribute to Hunger
Ætherize
Far / Away
Sign in Blood
Cultivate
Moan of the Unhallowed
Unburial Rites

Non-Creature Permenants (3)
Phyrexian Arena
Whip of Erebos
Ashiok Nightmare Weaver

Land (17)
Nephalia Drownyard
Overgrown Tomb
Jungle Hollow
Watery Grave
Opulent Palace
Swamp
Forest
Island
Plains

Rich: 2-1

Rich: Abzan - 2-1

Creatures (17)
Gideon's Lawkeeper
Birds of paradise
Scavenging Ooze
Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
Silverblade Paladin
Sin Collector
Fiend Hunter
Wayfaring Temple
Gideon's Avenger
Odric, Master Tactician
Trostani, Selesnya's Voice
Hero of Bladehold
Lurking Automaton
Karametra, God of Harvests
Blood Baron of Vizkopa
Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis
Breaker of Armies

Spells (2)
Selesnya Charm
Abzan Charm

Non-Creature Permenants (6)
Glaring Spotlight
Thran Dynamo
Unflinching Courage
Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
Ajani, Mentor of Heroes
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

Land (16)
Sandsteppe Citadel
Grim Backwoods
Temple of Plenty
Blossoming Sands
Godless Shrine
Gavony Township
Temple of Silence
Plains
Forest
Swamp

Adam: 2-1

Adam: BR - 2-1

Creatures (18)
Grim Lavamancer
Firedrinker Satyr
Rix Maadi Guildmage
Skinbrand Goblin
Generator Servant
Vampire Hexmage
Blood Artist
Markov Blademaster
Chandra's Phoenix
Rakish heir
Pyrewild Shaman
Archetype of Aggression
Hellhole Flailer
Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch
Murderous Redcap
Falkenrath Aristocrat
Thunderbreak Regent
Rakdos, Lord of Riots

Spells (6)
Coordinated Assault
Rakdos Charm
Searing Blaze
Blinding Flare
Red Sun's Zenith
Toil / Trouble

Land (14)
Crumbling Necropolis
Savage Lands
Blood Crypt
Mountain
Swamp

Jim: 2-1

Jim: Temur - 2-1

Creatures (12)
Goblin Guide
Strangleroot Geist
Phantasmal Image
Shambleshark
Jeskai Elder
Yasova Dragonclaw
Eternal Witness
Æther Adept
True-Name Nemesis
Bloodbraid Elf
Mistfire Adept
Rubblehulk

Spells (10)
Magma Jet
Lightning Strike
Brimstone Volley
Char
Temur Charm
Dissolve
Distortion Strike
Pillar of Flame
Clan Defiance
Urban Evolution

Non-Creature Permenants (1)
Sword of War and Peace

Land (18)
Kessig Wolf Run
Frontier Bivouac
Steam Vents
Seaside Citadel
Rugged Highlands
Swiftwater Cliffs
Mountain
Forest
Island

Danny: 3-0

Danny: Jeskai Midrange - 3-0

Creatures (15)
Dragonmaster Outcast
Young Pyromancer
Nearheath Pilgrim
Ash Zealot
Seeker of the Way
Firefist Striker
Mindsparker
Brimaz, King of Oreskos
Monastery Mentor
Fiendslayer Paladin
Purphoros, God of the Forge
Firemane Avenger
Thundermaw Hellkite
Keranos, God of Storms
Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius

Spells (9)
Lightning Bolt
Searing Spear
Anticipate
Counterspell
Midnight Haunting
Winterflame
Ponder
Mizzium Mortars
Coastal Discovery

Non-Creature Permenants (1)
Assemble the Legion

Land (17)
Arcane Sanctum
Temple of Enlightenment
Wind-Scarred Crag
Temple of Epiphany
Mountain
Plains
Island

 

Cube Archetypes – UR Spells/Prowess

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.

The backbone

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.

Spells

The other half of this deck is the spells (well DUH). You will generally want a few categories of spells.

  • Burn
  • 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.

Sample decks

 

UR Prowess

Creatures (14)
x Dragonmaster Outcast
x Monastery Swiftspear
x Abbot of Keral Keep
x Augur of Bolas
x Jeskai Elder
x Jhessian Thief
x Markov Blademaster
x Prophetic Flamespeaker
x Talrand, Sky Summoner
x Thunderbreak Regent
x Meloku the Clouded Mirror
x Stormbreath Dragon
x Charmbreaker Devils
x Inferno Titan

Non-Creature Permanents (1)
x Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Spells (9)
x Lightning Bolt
x Cyclonic Rift
x Incinerate
x Lightning Strike
x Searing Spear
x Scatter to the Winds
x Dig Through Time
x Clutch of Currents
x Treasure Cruise

Land (16)
x Volcanic Island
x Island
x Mountain
Sideboard (20)
x Battle Hymn
x Birds of Paradise
x Black Sun's Zenith
x Blue Sun's Zenith
x Coastal Discovery
x Commune with the Gods
x Crocanura
x Deathbringer Regent
x Elspeth, Sun's Champion
x Eternal Witness
x Fact or Fiction
x Goblin Bushwhacker
x Magma Jet
x Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper
x Pillar of Flame
x Sakura-Tribe Elder
x Slayers' Stronghold
x Soldier of the Pantheon
x Splinterfright
x Tithe Drinker

UR Prowess

Creatures (12)
x Goblin Guide
x Monastery Swiftspear
x Abbot of Keral Keep
x Augur of Bolas
x Jeskai Sage
x Snapcaster Mage
x Young Pyromancer
x Jhessian Thief
x Kira, Great Glass-Spinner
x Mindsparker
x Nivix Cyclops
x Vendilion Clique

Non-Creature Permanents (3)
x Umezawa's Jitte
x Bident of Thassa
x Thassa, God of the Sea

Spells (8)
x Izzet Charm
x Lightning Strike
x Electrolyze
x Volt Charge
x Fact or Fiction
x Pillar of Flame
x Mizzium Mortars
x Coastal Discovery

Land (17)
x Scalding Tarn
x Island
x Mountain
Sideboard (21)
x Brainstorm
x Celestial Colonnade
x Claustrophobia
x Coordinated Assault
x Crosis, the Purger
x Cultivate
x Faithless Looting
x Falkenrath Aristocrat
x Koth of the Hammer
x Lightning Helix
x Liliana of the Veil
x Mortify
x Nemesis of Mortals
x Ninja of the Deep Hours
x Rush of Ice
x Shaman of Forgotten Ways
x Sublime Archangel
x Sunscorch Regent
x Sword of Body and Mind
x Think Twice
x Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

Next up: Shadows Over Innistrad, cube alterations!

Cube Archetypes – WR Aggro

The most aggressive archetype in the cube is red white. Red and white have the most one drop creatures (currently 6 in white and 8 in red), plenty of ways to get a blocker out of the way, temporarily or permanently, along with benefits to attacking with multiple creatures.

You do have the traditional problem of running out of steam if your opponent manages to stabilise but there are a few cards available that get you out of that.

Aggressive Creatures

The core of an aggressive deck are the cheap effective creatures. As mentioned one drops, especially two power one drops are a big deal for the deck with the bulk of your deck being at one, two and three CMC.

Soldier of the Pantheon is a good one to take in a cube as heavily multi coloured as this one. Firedrinker Satyr can be costly but has the benefit of being a one cmc creature that can trade up to take out a larger creature or a big toughness blocker. The life loss may become problematic but there are ways to mitigate that, especially in white such as Alabaster Mage and Nearheath Pilgrim for lifelink or just giving it first strike with Archetype of Courage.

At two mana the Battlecry creatures Accorder Paladin and Goblin Wardriver should be high picks when throwing your creatures at the opponent every turn. Firefist Striker is another one which benefits a beatdown strategy, keeping your opponents best blocker out of the game. Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit is another beneficial effect in a deck that has a lot of smaller creatures.

Boros Reckoner is another favourite card of mine. In Inn/RtR standard I ran it in a mono red deck with the good one drops, ash zealot, Hellrider etc. Blocking this guy is never fun. The hasty three drops Skynight Legionnaire and Viashino Firstblade also attack well on the curve.

Game Winners

Your top end bombs in this kind of deck are a lot lower on the curve than for other decks and you probably want fewer of them unless you go for a midrange build. Assemble the legion will eventually win pretty much any game given enough time. Aurelia, the Warleader usually wins the game the turn she hits the field. The big hasty dragons Stormbreath Dragon and Thundermaw Hellkite are good at ending a game quickly.

Although it lacks haste my favourite for this slot is probably Baneslayer Angel. It severely discourages attacking with anything less than huge the turn it comes down, has protection from a not insignificant selection of cards and keeps you in the game if the game drags on.

Staying Alive

This cube isn’t particularly big on combat tricks but there are a few good ways to keep your creatures alive through combat. Ride Down and Celestial Flare both get rid of a blocking creature. Ride Down obviously gives you more choice but in the early game removing the first creature your opponent blocks with is going to be significant. Flare also lets you remove a pesky attacker such as a creature with evasion if the game gets close.

Pyreheart Wolf and Iroas, God of Victory both give you evasion on all your creatures. Iroas also makes your creatures unkillable in combat so I can see games where I would intentionally not get to sufficient devotion to animate him if i think theres a good chance of a path/swords happening.

Legion’s Initiative is yet another of my cards I liked but never really found a use for (beginning to think the ideal format for me is “janky-ass casual 60 card constructed, a format which sadly was brutally murdered by commander). Wrath protection is pretty relevant in this cube between traditional wraths, red damage based sweepers, Black Sun’s Zenith, Deathbringer Regent etc there are a LOT of times you can hold a card up in the opponents hand by keeping Initiative on the table and two mana up. Re-triggering all of your enter the battlefield abilities is also relevant (re targeting a Banisher Priest or getting an extra card off of Abbot of Keral Keep are all on the plausible end of the scale…Extra attack steps with Aurelia are closer to magical christmas land, but it’s a nice place to visit)

A Sample Deck

This sample came out pretty much as you would expect. A pile of assorted cheap creatures, a couple of burn spells and a couple of top end cards (the top end being 4 or 5 in this case).

WR Aggro Tempo/Counters

Creatures (19)
Dryad Militant
Firedrinker Satyr
Goblin Guide
Mother of Runes
Accorder Paladin
Elite Inquisitor
Firefist Striker
Knight of Glory
Seeker of the Way
Alesha, Who Smiles at Death
Banisher Priest
Fiend Hunter
Fiendslayer Paladin
Mentor of the Meek
Monastery Mentor
Hero of Bladehold
Baneslayer Angel
Archetype of Courage
Eidolon of Countless Battles

Non-Creature Permanents (3)
Sulfuric Vortex
Ajani Vengeant
Chandra, Pyromaster

Spells (2)
Lightning Bolt
Brimstone Volley

Land (16)
Plains
Mountain
Sideboard (21)
Archangel of Tithes
Archetype of Aggression
Bloodfray Giant
Bonesplitter
Celestial Flare
Chandra's Outrage
Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch
Gavony Township
Gideon Jura
Gideon's Lawkeeper
Goblin Chieftain
Halimar Tidecaller
Hellrider
Honor's Reward
Inferno Titan
Mulch
Ray of Revelation
Scorchwalker
Skaab Goliath
Vampire Lacerator
War Priest of Thune

When I first built the cube I was perhaps overly concerned with aggro strategies being too dominant. As it stands they are viable but not at too many per table which is about where I wanted it.

Cube Archetype – UG Counters

Of all the archetypes in the cube UG +1/+1 counters is probably the one most dependant on one of it’s colours (green) and it’s multicolour section. Blue provides some good cards but not a huge amount of them. Luckily the odds are good that you will get these as they are rather low picks for other decks.

I actually incorrectly believed that this deck had won the cubes first real outing (possibly due to it absolutely steamrolling me repeatedly with  Gyre Sage > Fathom MageLorescale Coatl > Prime Speaker Zegana. I have since been informed that it came in in second place getting beaten in the finals by a deck I have sadly forgotten.

If you get the right cards this one, as you can imagine from the above, can turn into an almost unstoppable engine of grindy card advantage. Granted it can fall completely on it’s arse as well, perhaps more than anything but the tribal decks but that’s the gamble.

I would also say that it’s also probably the least “all-in” deck in the cube usually playing a tempo strategy with some late game inevitability.

+1/+1 Counters

There are plenty of sources of counters throughout the cube, the most common being evolve from RTR block. Most of the good evolve creatures are in, especially the ones with any kind of interesting effect (most notably Simic Manipulator‘s mind control ability, Gyre Sage‘s ramp and Fathom Mage‘s card draw). There isn’t really a huge deal to be said about the evolve ability.

There are a small number of monstrous creatures from Theros, most relevantly Fleetfeather Cockatrice, Arbor Colossus, Polukranos, World-Eater and Hydra Broodmother.

There are also creatures with incidental counter abilities such as Undergrowth Champion, Lorescale Coatl and Prime Speaker Zegana. If all things go well in this deck you should accumulate plenty of counters during the normal course of events without actually having to put too much effort in. The ultimate version of this is Master Biomancer.

This leads of course into why you should bother going out of your way to pick up plenty of +1/+1 counter generators during the draft…

Going Overboard

The payoff cards for +1/+1 counters are a little limited in the current build and something I’m looking to improve but you do get a few good ones.

Avatar of the Resolute scales through the game as you play more evolve and monstrous creatures and get’s silly if you have a Master Biomancer out.

Renegade Krasis is another entry on my ever expanding list of cards which I wished had worked in standard….or anything for that matter. In theory he should be pretty good here so long as you have plenty of creatures with counters and can keep up the flow of guys (combos nicely with Fathom Mage).

There’s also Vorel of the Hull clade who can take any creature with a reasonable number of counters on it and turn it into a potentially game ending threat. Like Renegade Krasis he also combos with Fathom Mage to get you burning through your deck.

A Sample Deck

Illustrating my point above this deck came out as a fairly normal UG midrange deck with plenty of draw and a counters theme (sticking Vorel does seem pretty good here, especially with a counterspell up).

UG Tempo/Counters

Creatures (14)
Fyndhorn Elves
Avatar of the Resolute
Gyre Sage
Shambleshark
Elder of Laurels
Elusive Krasis
Jhessian Thief
Lorescale Coatl
Simic Fluxmage
Tandem Lookout
True-Name Nemesis
Vorel of the Hull Clade
Aetherling
Hydra Broodmaster

Non-Creature Permenants (4)
Bident of Thassa
Kruphix, God of Horizons
Garruk, Primal Hunter
Karn Liberated

Spells (5)
Counterspell
Mana Leak
Dissipate
Dig Through Time
Treasure Cruise

Land (17)
Island
Forest
Sideboard (22)
Archangel of Tithes
Bitterblossom
Brainstorm
Coastal Discovery
Evolutionary Leap
Graverobber Spider
Jade Mage
Jeskai Sage
Kodama's Reach
Korozda Monitor
Mistblade Shinobi
Mizzium Mortars
Nylea's Emissary
Rally the Peasants
Rush of Ice
Satyr Wayfinder
Shaman of Forgotten Ways
Silent-Blade Oni
Snapcaster Mage
Thassa's Emissary
Tithe Drinker
Xenagos, the Reveler

In the next big round of changes this archetype will get a bit of refinement, hopefully with some new releases as it needs some more cards to make it clear that this is actually a thing to draft.

PS: This is Daghatar, FEAR HIM, FEAR HIM.

Daghatar the Adamant

Cube Archetype – WG Tokens

The token deck in this cube tends to play quite differently each time. In the example decks below it’s happened to come out as a chunky midrange deck in one and an almost mono white in another. In person the last time I played it it started the draft looking like a modern Abzan deck and picked up the most valuable token makers (particularly spirits) as the draft went on (with plenty of soldiers going to the Boros player).

It’s also one of the simplest archetypes to get into as you don’t need a particular signal that the archetype exists (such as a tribal lord for vampires or zombies) nor do you need any particular combination of cards to come out with a deck which is at the minimum viable.

Token Makers

In the earliest version of the cube there was a tribal sub-theme to each colour. In white it was soldiers. That never really amounted to anything but the bulk of the soldier cards stayed in as they’re mostly good and play well with Selesnya and Boros.

There are two soldier lords in white, Field Marshal and Captain of the Watch. Mass first strike from Field Marshal gives you a defensive buff until you can sufficiently swarm the opponent on the attack (there’s often a period in the mid game where 1/1’s can’t profitably get through the enemies blockers).

Precinct Captain, Brimaz, King of Oreskos and Hero of Bladehold all churn out soldier tokens on the attack to pump up your body count.

Martial Coup is one of the best cards you can have in a limited deck as a board wipe which doesn’t leave you a turn behind in reestablishing board presence is massive (speaking as someone who was Duneblasted on average twice a week for the whole time triple-khans was the draft format….blegh). It’s a high pick for any white deck but gets some bonuses in the token deck from Intangible Virtue, Doubling Season and if you’re lucky Elspeth, Sun’s Champion or Gideon Jura.

Spirits don’t really have any specific tribal support in the cube but are a big part of the token deck. Those little 1/1 flyers can easily grind out an opponent as long as you can defend yourself on the ground.

The big three spirit token spells are all in here (Midnight Haunting, Lingering Souls and Spectral Procession) along with Geist-Honored Monk. Anecdotally I have a peculiar soft spot for Midnight Haunting as back during it’s time in standard I won a copy of FTV: Realms in a standard tournament after winning the final due to running a full set of hauntings in my Esper tokens standard deck. It turns out flashing in Midnight Haunting to block a swinging-for-lethal Thundermaw Hellkite after it’s attack trigger resolves is pretty good when everyones forgotten theres an instant speed version of Lingering Souls knocking around.

There are also plenty of “misc” token maker around, including most of greens token makers. There are a couple of saproling makers (Jade Mage and Mycoloth), beasts (Garruk, Primal Hunter and Thragtusk), Eldrazi Scions (From Beyond…go on, splash Ulamog…ok more realistically Breaker of Armies could be very reasonably included) and other minor ones.

Lastly in colourless there is Orochi Hatchery. That one might be slightly more suited to the ramp decks but isnt a bad late game card to churn out a handful of tokens every turn where you don’t need to cast something (and it’s always nice to have something to maintain the bluff/mystery of whether thats removal/a wrath in your hand).

Unrelated aside: Armada Wurm looks like a giant penis. A giant armoured penis. Many jokes were made about this. That is all.

Going Wide

Although every colour in the cube has tokens to some degree green-white has the ways to really take advantage of that. At the top of the list is Doubling Season which is probably my favourite “does nothing on it’s own” limited card (the first time I ever got to play with one was in a modern masters draft where I was full on in the GW Thallid deck splashing black a tiny bit for….actually I can’t for the life of me remember now. But I was already in a good version of the deck with plenty of the better thallids including Sporoloth Ancient and Sporesower Thallid. Games effectively boiled down to durdle…durdle…durdle…dude I’m out of dice again can I borrow some extras.

Theres also a couple of populate cards, Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice (the star and ultimate removal magnet of my Conjuror’s Closet standard flicker deck) and Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage (THE mythic uncommon).

One of the big benefit’s of running a lot of token maker cards is that you gain an oversized effect from anything you run which impacts all creatures you control.

The most obvious card here is Intangible Virtue which is hard to remove, effectively doubles the power level of anything which makes tokens and gives you the ability to swing all out every turn without ever letting your defences down. Spear of Heliod isn’t just for the token deck, as any heavy white deck will probably want it, but it is disproportionately good here and has the benefit of pumping your cards like Precinct Captain as well. Tolsimir Wolfblood is a favourite card of mine which I missed during the years I was out of the game and never got to play with before drafting him in one of our cube nights.

Some of our planeswalkers also work particularly well in a token deck (well again any deck, but the effects are SO MUCH better here). Nissa, Voice of Zendikar pumps all your creatures every few rounds and Garruk, Primal Hunter draws silly numbers of cards while spawning some of the larger tokens in the cube. Ajani, Mentor of Heroes is also good here, throwing counters around liberally or digging for your Hero of Bladehold or Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. Off colour there is Sorin, Lord of Innistrad giving you a choice between lifelink tokens (and again in a slower deck lifelink is a valuable way to stay alive) or creating unremovable emblems.

There are any cards with battalion or pseudo battalion effects (there is quite a bit of crossover here into the Boros deck). Odric, Master Tactician, when you can trigger him, varies in power from “all my creatures are unblockable” to a one sided boardwipe if the numbers stack up right.

A Sample Deck

My first attempt at using the draft sim to get a token deck ended up with this, which while theoretically a token deck, is very much the opposite of what I imagined effectively being a ramp deck with various big X cost token makers and planeswalkers for value.

WGb Tokens Ramp

Creatures (13)
Birds of Paradise
Llanowar Elves
Kitchen Finks
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Flickerwisp
Hero of Bladehold
Siege Rhino
Thrun, the Last Troll
Rampaging Baloths
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Karn Liberated
Wurmcoil Engine
Hangarback Walker

Non-Creature Permenants (5)
Sol Ring
Orochi Hatchery
From Beyond
Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
Garruk, Primal Hunter

Spells (6)
Path to Exile
Hero's Downfall
White Sun's Zenith
Rampant Growth
Cultivate
Martial Coup

Land (17)
Gavony Township
Plains
Swamp
Forest
Sideboard (20)
Blind Obedience
Bloodgift Demon
Chromatic Lantern
Clutch of Currents
Containment Priest
Deathbringer Regent
Hooting Mandrills
Hymn to Tourach
Impulse
Accorder Paladin
Mycoloth
Mycosynth Wellspring
Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper
Surrak Dragonclaw
Titanic Growth
Tundra
Unburial Rites
Varolz, the Scar-Striped
Viscera Seer
Witchstalker

Then I had another crack and got an almost mono white deck splashing black and green (you could play it as straight black white but mycoloth is basically a token deck on one card).

Wbg Tokens

Creatures (10)
Doomed Traveler
Nearheath Pilgrim
Brimaz, King of Oreskos
Fiendslayer Paladin
Archangel of Tithes
Sublime Archangel
Mycoloth
Sunscorch Regent
Captain of the Watch
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite

Non-Creature Permenants (7)
Rancor
Bitterblossom
Intangible Virtue
Spear of Heliod
Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
Umezawa's Jitte
Orochi Hatchery

Spells (6)
Swords to Plowshares
Raise the Alarm
White Sun's Zenith
Lingering Souls
Spectral Procession
Martial Coup

Land (17)
Savannah
Plains
Swamp
Forest
Sideboard (21)
Alabaster Mage
Containment Priest
Drana's Emissary
Ghoulraiser
Gideon's Avenger
Goblin Chieftain
Ichor Wellspring
Inferno Titan
Knight of Obligation
Nightveil Specter
Obzedat, Ghost Council
Odric, Master Tactician
Primeval Titan
Rampant Growth
Seeker of the Way
Silverchase Fox
Skyknight Legionnaire
Strangleroot Geist
Talrand, Sky Summoner
Unflinching Courage
Yasova Dragonclaw

Definitely a hint this deck likes to spread into black (Lingering Souls flashback is a big part, Sorin, Lord of Innistrad is also a major player in that). You can also spread into red for Assemble the Legion and some of the mass creature effects. Young Pyromancer and Monastery Mentor plus the spell based token makers such as Hordeling Outburst and Midnight Haunting is also pretty nice.

I think this might also be the deck that most wants Loxodon Warhammer…however if I’m in the draft it’s one of very few cards I never EVER pass so you’d better open it.

When I played a variation on this in one of our previous drafts I found myself in abzan, running Abzan Ascendancy, Mortify and Putrefy which was nice (there is very little main deckable artifact and enchantment removal in the cube and having some cards like these can bag some unexpected wins, as it did for me that night vs a red white deck running both Soldier lords and Assemble the Legion.

Cube Archetype – RG Ramp

Green in the cube in the oldest versions was a bit of a mess. There were plenty of good cards but the attempt at an elf tribal sub theme caused it some problems.

I’m experimenting with the red green archetype deck being the big ramp deck of the cube. Green will provide the bulk of the ramp itself, with red providing a couple of one shot rituals plus a couple of creatures with mana effects.

The payoff for the ramp will be both some big bombs in the red green section, colourless bombs and reds high end and X spells.

Ramp

Green has a number of spells to search up basic lands or dig into your deck for them as is normal. There are also a couple of rituals in red. Geosurge jumps you up by quite a bit and Battle Hymn, depending on your deck, could easily be 6+ mana.

Green has a reasonable assortment of ramp creatures, a few elves and Birds of Paradise at one cmc, various creatures that search up a land such as Sakura-Tribe Elder and a couple of larger mana dorks that do any colour for creatures only.

Red has Generator Servant (I’m perhaps unduly fond of the idea of this being the last step in a turn 5 or 6 Ulamog or Kozilek with haste. A little silly perhaps but it would be cool) and Grinning Ignus.

Pay Off

Big spells are one of the ways to top out a ramp deck and in this cube these take the form of a selection of X spells. There is Crater’s Claws in red and Clan Defiance in Gruul. In addition to these there is the full “X Sun’s Zenith” cycles. Red obviously can serve as removal or go to the dome. Green is a little more utilitarian (the worst case scenario is fetching up more ramp creatures and that’s not bad). The ramp deck has the easiest time splashing off colour cards and the rest of the cycle are all possibilities here.

Titanic Ultimatum in Naya colours is another good option. Who doesn’t love killing their opponent with the worlds buffest llanowar elves.

Ramping out a great big fatty is the other traditional ramp win condition. There are a couple of strong ones in Gruul. Borborygmos Enraged and Omnath, Locus of Rage both have the additional benefit of providing value from any additional lands you may draw into or turn a late game Cultivate into something less frustrating.

In mono green there is also Giant Adephage (for fun) and Craterhoof Behemoth (for the massive game winning swing).

Support and Mana Smoothing

On top of mana ramp, with the way games go in this cube, you will want some ways to keep yourselves alive and Courser of Kruphix does a good job of this while smoothing out your draws or getting you lands out a little earlier. It also combos with Mina and Denn, Wildborn to improve your draws by quite a bit.

There are some creatures available which in some way draw a land on casting such as Solemn Simulacrum and Sakura-Tribe Elder which can be used to keep you in the game until you can get out a bomb as well.

Colourless

While you will be competing with other decks for these the colourless ramp cards  are a strong pick for this deck. Sol Ring is the best, and arguably a little too powerful for the cube. Fractured Powerstone is notable as it’ll be a much higher pick when I finally finish the full set of planechase planes and do a big multiplayer draft planechase event of some kind.

There’s also Thran Dynamo and Gilded Lotus to help power out the top end stuff.

Chromatic Lantern is there too but it is more a tool for a heavily multicoloured deck or for the guy who got a P1P1 Progenitus.

The earliest version of the cube contained a multicolour artifact subtheme. The idea was you drafted a heavily colourless affinity/modular type of deck and splashed cards from a couple of colours depending on how your deck went (perhaps Pia and Kiran Nalaar and Megatog from red for example). This never really worked however so in the newest builds I have removed it entirely.

The colourless slots have been replaced in part with some of the better Eldrazi. I’ve avoided the Annihilator Eldrazi as that effect isnt one I’m hugely fond of, plus I prefer the newer versions of the Eldrazi titans.

As an aside I intend to make Wastes available in the land box (I might throw in a couple of other colourless mana cards on top of Kozilek) but with a limit such as 4 per person.

A Sample Deck

RG Ramp

Creatures (12)
Elvish Mystic
Gyre Sage
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Zhur-Taa Druid
Mindsparker
Bloodbraid Elf
Ghor-Clan Rampager
Mina and Denn, Wildborn
Thragtusk
Craterhoof Behemoth
Void Winnower
Wurmcoil Engine

Non-Creature Permenants (5)
Sol Ring
Loxodon Warhammer
Gilded Lotus
Koth of the Hammer
Xenagos, the Reveler

Spells (5)
Farseek
Rampant Growth
Kodama's Reach
Crater's Claws
Clan Defiance

Land (18)
Mountain
10 Forest
Sideboard (23)
Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
Ancient Grudge
Breaker of Armies
Coastal Discovery
Crocanura
Delver of Secrets
Doubling Season
Geosurge
Giant Adephage
Honor's Reward
Hydra Broodmaster
Jade Mage
Jeskai Sage
Martial Coup
Prophet of Kruphix
Purphoros, God of the Forge
Rancor
Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
Ryusei, the Falling Star
Satyr Wayfinder
Skarrg Guildmage
Think Twice
Titanic Ultimatum

 

Interlude: Cycle Completionism Cube-builders OCD

When I started building the cube I had two big driving forces behind doing it. The first was playing with cards I liked but didn’t really have a use for only really playing commander and limited formats (i do play the odd bit of standard and modern but not as much as I’d like). The single card that most set this off was Deathrite Shaman as I had a set and had not really gotten any use since rotation (I used them a little in Inn-RTR standard Jund). A close second was the pack fresh Force of Will I had opened in an ice age/alliance/cold snap draft we did one night.

The second was that I like cycles of cards and outside of the 5 colour Progenitus commander deck I keep meaning to make you never really get to make use of a whole cycle in something. On top of that no matter how much you like a cycle most of the time there are only one or two playable in a given constructed format. Doing all this gave me a chance to make use of all the big cycles I liked without thought to format competitiveness.

The earliest build of the cube was in fact a lot heavier on cycles but quite a few got removed to make way for more archetype cards and to increase the power level in general.

That original build also had set amounts of different rarities of cards of each colour, a concept rapidly abandoned.

Titans

The first decision I made on the cube and it’s play style was that I wanted it to be big and splashy, more intended for games to go long and be full of commander style shenanigans.

In part I wanted the cube to be approachable to people who only play occasionally or very casually so the archetypes are all fairly direct (see a tribal lord, pick up cards of the same type etc) and some of the traditional cube staples like twin don’t really work for that.

With that in mind some of the first cards I picked to go in were the M11 titans. Anyone who knows the basic rules can read one of the titans and say “that’s powerful, I’ll take that first” and be happy with that pick later on. They’re also popular with experienced players and fit in any deck in the colour.

I also include an honourable mention colourless bonus card in this cycle: Wurmcoil Engine. It maintains the CMC 6, 6/6 mythic with powerful ability stats and it’s something I remember as part of that standard along with the titans (I jammed 4 in damn near every deck I played except bad RDW).

As a fun aside this is also something I’m fond of from a pimp perspective as I have an alt art version of each titan (don’t have the Wurmcoil Engine promo yet). The Grave Titan promo is in fact the card that brought me back into playing magic after many years off. A friend was playing the original Duels of the Planeswalkers on steam and I jumped in out of curiosity and got the ad for the promo real cards…I soon found a new LGS where I picked up way more than I intended to including the Grave Titan promo. I then spent most of the next three years in there until the shop sadly closed.

Star Dragons

Rolling back to the first time I played the game, Kamigawa block, I wanted to include the Star Dragon cycle. These ones haven’t aged as well as the titan cycle but they still pack a reasonable punch.

Kokusho in particular was a favourite of mine back in the day and one of the few things I got back then that was still in any particular way playable when I came back, once we passed the “what the hell is this” phase when I brought out my old decks (they were terrible but we all go through that phase).

I like to think that Ugin, the Spirit Dragon is an honorary member of this team.

Khans

When I was building the early versions of the cube I was drafting Khans of Tarkir   multiple times a week so I picked up a liking for 3 colour shenanigans.

There are, at present, almost no face down (morph or manifest) cards in the cube even though I’m a huge tarkir fan as for a while I planned a second cube including every face down or face down matters card ever printed. I had an attack of sanity however and that idea faded into the background. In the near future I shall probably add some in.

The Khans do fit fairly nicely into what these colour groups want to be doing such as Narset sitting between Spellslinging (UR) and Temp (UW).

Guild Leaders

The Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash mythic legendary creatures come from a time I played in a weekly standard league where I actually (unlike a lot here) played quite a lot of this cycle at one time or another, so this is another cycle with some memories for me.

Trostani was my favourite card in my Conjurer’s Closet flicker deck (it was very much like the reanimator deck just replacing Advent of the Wurm with Armada Wurm and the reanimation package with some more ramp and Conjurer’s Closet).

Niv-Mizzet was one of the value engine/win con cards in the UWR midrange deck I used occasionally (and more often loaned out). It was way more creature heavy than many of the decks in those colours at the time (it ran Snapcaster Mage, Boros Reckoner, Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius and some other value creatures on top of 4 Bonfire of the Damned and 4 Mizzium Mortars…take THAT aggro decks).

I attempted (and failed) many times to build a GB zombies deck, but I did get some fun wins sacrificing Thragtusks to Jarad, Golgari Lich lord. Some early (bad) versions of my vampire tribal deck ran Rakdos, Lord of Riots as a big beater before I got better cards.

Prime Speaker Zegana joined Trostani later on in RTR-Theros in a bant deck I made around Ajani, Mentor of Heroes (and Armada Wurm again). I also played a pretty standard BW midrange during RTR-Theros with Obzedat, Ghost Council (although blood baron was my favourite). Aurelia was in my first commander deck (Kaalia of the Vast, I’ve dismantled it since as I grew to find it a little too linear to keep amusing me, eventually I plan to make it into Zurgo Helmsmasher….with Aurelia again).

Lava, Borborygmos and Isperia are the only ones I never really made much use of.

Maze Runners

While I’ve played less with these than their Mythic counterparts I still quite like them and a fair few fit very nicely into their matching archetype (not that I’m that strict on cards having to match archetypes, especially in a big cube like this, plenty of room for just fun cards).

This is also the only cycle I’ve included where one (and possibly soon a second) is subbed out for a different card.

Melek, Varolz, Lavinia, Vorel, Ruric Thar, Tajic and to a lesser extent Teysa all fit into their matching themed deck. Mirko doesn’t really fit either his tribe or the theme but is a viable win condition in a control UR deck as all you need to do is hit a couple of times and you could conceivably in from there by stalling out the game.

Exava is on the chopping block at the moment as her ability just doesn’t work AT ALL with the other cards in these colours, which is a shame as I like her. She’ll probably be swapped with something else soon, possibly (another Innistrad 2 wishlist item here) for a new RB vampire legend to buddy up with Olivia.

This leaves the elephant in the room (or more accurately the turd in the booster pack)…You can probably see this coming a mile away…Emmara Tandris…I just can’t do it. Even though her ability actually fits the GW deck the only way shed get in is if I proxied a “fixed” version perhaps with “Affinity for Token Creatures” or with dramatically toned down cost and stats, maybe a 2GW 2/2 or even push her into a GW 1/1 (dies to everything but none of your other stuff does). But for now I don’t want to really play around with errata so she doesn’t make the cut. Her replacement is a favourite of mine, Tolsimir Wolfblood.

RTR Guildmages

The Return to Ravnica Guildmages are mostly in as fun multi colour cards but for the most part they do actually fit the themes of the decks they would be in. Duskmantle is the only one that really stands out as not being part of the deck.

The Pantheon

All 15 of the gods of theros are in the cube. There’s not a lot to say here except this was a cycle where I liked enough of them individually that I decided to put in the lot. There is a little archetype crossover in the minor gods (Iroas and Pharika spring most to mind but many of them fit tangentially into the decks such as Xenagos in Gruul ramp…doesnt directly ramp you but make everything you cast just that bit better). It’s only really Phenax who stands out as wrong as there are only really her and Mirko-Vosk as enemy mill, but like the maze runner she can be a mill deck win condition in a can.

It saddens me to this day that Chromanticore, god of Jank-ass 5 colour decks could be neither Legendary nor a God. Perhaps its for the best though, that double height type line would have been nasty. Maybe he could have been the first landscape orientation non split magic card. Now THERES a proxy.

Weapons of the Gods

This cycle made it in largely due to my irrational love for Whip of Erebos. Seriously I didn’t play a swamp for two years without a pair of these in the 75. And it’s in every black commander deck I play. And the cube.

Spear of Heliod is something I at least experimented with in standard. For a couple of weeks I ran a version of mono blue devotion that splashed white for a pair of Spear of Heliod and a set of Azorius Charms. The idea was that the Spear would keep my tokens alive when Master of Waves inevitably bit the dust. It was just slightly too clunky to work, as were most “splash a colour for x” versions of “hopelessly devoted to U” (come on wizards, bring back the silly deck names). Bident of course made it into all my versions of the same deck because why wouldn’t it.

Bow and Hammer are among the first cards in these cycles to purely be here for completion, not that either are terrible cards, they just don’t appeal to me that much personally.

Ascendancies

Another leftover from my massive amount of KTK drafts is my love for the ascendancy cycle. Mechanically I like what they all do but more than that they all, for me at least, define in a single card what each clan is all about. If you showed someone familiar with the game these 5 cards long before KTK was spoiled they could probably work out a lot both mechanically and thematically about the set which I think is quite cool. I’m a big fan of cards which kind of tell a story just through one card in isolation (not necessarily counting flavour text) and I’ve always thought these do well at that (the single best example of single card storytelling is of course…Desert Wooder).

Zeniths

The zenith cycles inclusion comes from the presence of Green Sun’s in FTV 20. I had a pair and had no real use for it as it was banned in modern and I wouldn’t want to run it outside of mono green commander (which I don’t have).

RSZ was also a card I was quite fond of (recurring fireball is never bad). The rest just slotted in nicely. USZ is just a big draw spell, nothing controversial there. BSZ is a great control card and WSZ fitted into the WG tokens deck.

I considered including an altered Lightning Shrieker, bearing the new name I gave it but sadly Dragon Sun’s Zenith wasn’t really good enough to make the cut.

Charms

The 10 guild charms and the 10 shard/wedge charms were all pretty much auto includes. The former in the very first build of the cube and the latter as soon as I decided to have the small set of cards in each 3 colour combination.

Of them all the only one that has any real personal significance is Izzet Charm, both one of my favourite cards and the only card I ever won a full playset of over a month of FNMs (it was also one of my favourite FNM promos so that was a nice month for me).

I think they’re all good to some degree and it’s nice to throw in some cards that give people more options in game, plus modal spells are almost never dead but still give you some of the niche effects of things like situational counter spells and narrow removal without being dead cards without the targets. I considered the dragon lords charms as well but those 15 card guild coloured sections are already chock full with more cards I want to include.

Swords of Chalk and Cheese

For me the swords hold a special place as the only set of cards I missed out on twice. As mentioned earlier when I first started playing the game it was Kamigawa block so I just missed out on the original swords, and as I didn’t spend much on singles then I ended up seeing them as the cool powerful cards I just couldn’t get my hands on.

When I returned to the game it was just before M12 game day so I had once again missed the boat on the new swords. I know I could have just ponied up and bought them but playing standard at the time there was always something else I needed for the league that bumped them down the list. It was only around the release of BFZ that I ever obtained a set and it was specifically to go in here.

Under Consideration: Tarkir Elder Dragons

Four of the cards in this cycle are almost definite shoe-ins. Dromoka and Silumgar are both rock solid cards despite not overly fitting into the archetypes. Ojutai is a fantastic tempo card/control finisher for UW and Atarka would make a great top end ramp target for the RG deck.

The thing is however that it would annoy me greatly to have the 4 cards without the fifth to complete the cycle and Kolaghan has an issue. Although it’s base stats and first ability are fine something severely bugs me about the concept of having a card in the cube where a significant chunk of the text is non functional. I may buckle under anyway and include it but it will be with a slight persistent sense of irritation.

(Commence Ramble: I did hear maro discussing this on his podcast and while I do understand his point that Legendary Creatures are not solely for commander I sort of feel that one member of a cycle of mythic legends which are obviously going to be desirable commanders isn’t necessarily the place for that logic. I would probably feel better about that ability if it were some random standalone guy or a creature which was obviously pushed to fill a role in standard or modern but to me Kologhan sticks out as out of place among the cycle).

Under Consideration: Manlands

The original plan for the cube was for ten two colour archetypes, five mono colour tribal sub themes and a multicolour artifact deck. Over time Iv’e cut back the mono colour tribal elements (as I go through each archetype they shall probably gradually fall back out of the cube…Zombies have become a full two colour deck, elves have been purged as a theme, I could never decide between merfolk and faeries for blue and that leaves goblins in red and soldiers in white and they shall probably become a supported sub theme of the RW aggro/battalion deck) to the point they effectively no longer exist. The artifact deck is rapidly fizzling out as in my tests I just can’t make it a viable thing without screwing up the actual proper archetypes.

There is an alternative option I’m considering which is making artifacts the UR mechanic but this would most likely be a lot of shoehorning to allow me to keep a couple of pet cards in (Pia and Kiran Nalaar, Atog, Megatog, Whirler Rogue etc).

Another concern is that the current mana fixing setup of Duals, Shocks, Fetches and Trilands doesn’t seem to appear quite enough for a heavy multicolour cube of this size.

This all leads me to the conclusion that I shall likely strip the artifact theme out and reduce it to just “some good artifacts that go anywhere” and use some of those slots to add an extra cycle of lands. I considered filters or temples but in light of the completion of the dual colour manland cycle I shall likely include these.

Broken Cycles

Although I clearly like to include whole cycles, perhaps to slightly to high a degree, there are a few isolated cards that came out of cycles.

The most prominent is Cryptic Command. That card in particular is one I like due to it’s inclusion in my modern UW Geist of Saint Traft deck but the others were from the time I was out of the game and don’t have any particular resonance with me.

Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite and Sheoldred, Whispering One are both in but the remaining praetors haven’t really made the cut. I was considering Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger until I remembered that the card I was actually thinking of was Omnath, Locus of Mana.

 

Cube Archetype – WU Control/Tempo

Along with some of the cards from the previous WB section, WU will be a mix of control and tempo in this cube.

Card Advantage and Selection

Every control deck needs a way to avoid running out of gas, whether it’s card draw spells, 2 for 1’s or recurring effects in some way. You also want to have ways to filter your deck to get to the answers you need for what your opponents have done (control in this cube is pretty reactionary as there aren’t the resources to lock an opponent out of the game, this is a deliberate choice on my part as this is intended to be playable be the much less experienced). Blue is, obviously, the best colour for this, probably followed by black (and Esper control is a perfectly viable deck in this cube too).

Ponder, Preordain and Serum Visions are all traditional cheap card selection options. Slightly higher up the curve are Anticipate and Impulse. There’s also Thassa, God of the Sea for constant scrying, plus her second ability could be helpful in a more tempo focused build (getting your Jhessian Thief style creatures through).

For multiple card draw there’s Divination, Coastal Discovery, Ugin’s Insight and a few others. There’s also Bident of Thassa for the more creature heavy decks. Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time round out the top end. I don’t think it will be particularly difficult to fill up the graveyard enough to cast them at a reasonable time.

White doesn’t have a lot in the way of card draw in this, Mentor of the Meek does NOT fit this deck will if at all (he’s more for WR or WG). White’s card advantage comes more from the boardwipes or from generating multiple bodies off of a single card.

There are also a few creatures with selection and draw bolted on, such as Augur of Bolas and Omenspeaker. Snapcaster Mage also counts in a way as card advantage, letting you get back some spell or other.

There is Brainstorm (and Sensei’s Divining Top and Jace the Mind Sculptor) but if you want to make the best of it you’ll need to prioritise fetchlands as there are only a few ways to shuffle away dead cards.

Tempo

There are plenty of options in here to make a tempo deck in UW.

The classic tempo plays are bounce and tap effects, disrupting your enemy until you can either grind them out, assemble some form of game winning combo or land some unanswerable bomb (Geist of Saint Traft springs to mind, a card I love but haven’t yet steeled myself on putting in the cube…I can see some bad games coming from “here’s my unanswerable threat, come at me bro”). There are plenty of both in here. Feeling of dread is one of my favourite of these, and there’s a few others plus sleep, the king of “and now I’m swinging with everything” tap spells. Bounce has an assortment too, most notably cyclonic rift, the all star of the last time the cube was played in person (a UG counters deck with a crap ton of draw leading into a massive rift induced kerb stomp).

A tempo deck also wants to get the most out of its creatures and there are plenty in U/W with beneficial effects for this kind of deck such as Jhessian Thief and Aether Adept at the lower end. There is also Venser the Sojourner who works well with many of the value creatures in these colours (bonus points for locking an aggro deck out with Lavinia of the Tenth and Venser).

There is also a little sub theme of awaken with Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper and a small assortment of awaken spells. I’m also considering throwing in the 10 mainlands so that would be a little extra edge (there is also Ruinous Path in black).

Control

Differing from tempo there’s hard control. Most decks will be a mix of the two but you could build quite a hard “counters, removal, board wipes and win cons” style control deck and I think it would work. I do feel like this would be the time you would be leaning most into Esper for blacks removal (and possibly cards like Phyrexian Arena).

In a creature heavy format board wipes are absolutely essential and theres no shortage in here. Wrath of God is the classic and pretty reliably gets rid of everything. There’s also Planar Outburst and Martial Coup in white, both of which come with built in win conditions and the aforementioned cyclonic rift in blue (upheaval is a card I’ve left out as I’m leaning away from screwing that much with lands for now…maybe in the next round of changes. The power level might be allowed to increase as cards are released to improve the potentially weaker archetypes like zombies and vampires).

While there aren’t a huge variety of counter spells I’ve opted for the ones I think are the better ones. Counterspell, the pair Negate and Essence Scatter, Dissipate, Dissolve and Scatter to the winds along with a few others. There is also Force of Will. I admit that’s slightly out of place but It’s one of the more valuable cards I have and I have nowhere else it would really fit (opened last year in a paper draft, all nice and pack fresh).

Point removal isn’t the strength of this pair outside of Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile…but they are pretty much the best point removal.

An example deck

This time I got a midrangey deck with some counterspells, card selection and chunky midrange creatures, backed up by an assortment of wrath effects.

The deck also dips into black for Merciless Eviction and Sphinx of the Steel Wind at the top end (I threw in Tithe Drinker too, but that’s only because I like it, not because it was a good idea).

WB Taxman

Creatures (10)
Containment Priest
Tithe Drinker
Brimaz, King of Oreskos
Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest
Grand Arbiter Augustin IV
Heliod's Emissary
Heliod, God of the Sun
Soulblade Djinn
Sun Titan
Sphinx of the Steel Wind

Non-Creature Permenants (4)
Ghostly Prison
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Gideon Jura
Tamiyo, the Moon Sage

Spells (9)
Preordain
Serum Visions
Anticipate
Dissipate
Scatter to the Winds
Planar Outburst
Ugin's Insight
Merciless Eviction
Martial Coup

Land (17)
Maze of Ith
Underground Sea
Plains
Island
Swamp
Sideboard (20)
Abzan Ascendancy
Ainok Bond-Kin
Alesha, Who Smiles at Death
Fact or Fiction
Falkenrath Noble
Forbidden Alchemy
Force of Will
Keiga, the Tide Star
Megatog
Midnight Haunting
Moorland Haunt
Murderous Cut
Norn's Annex
Shrine of Burning Rage
Steam Augury
Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
Tower Gargoyle
Tragic Slip
Vorel of the Hull Clade
Zhur-Taa Druid

The complete list

Fun fact, the entire non creature contents of blue fits in here. Blue just loves control and tempo…it’s just to what degree does any card care.

BG Cube Subtheme (Graveyard/Morbid) - December 2015

White (32)
Gideon's Lawkeeper
Azorius Arrester
Seeker of the Way
Stoneforge Mystic
Nyx-Fleece Ram
Banisher Priest
Brimaz, King of Oreskos
Crusader of Odric
Field Marshal
Fiend Hunter
Flickerwisp
Gideon's Avenger
Monastery Mentor
Archangel of Tithes
Knight of Obligation
Restoration Angel
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Gideon Jura
Elspeth, Sun's Champion
Path to Exile
Swords to Plowshares
Celestial Flare
Feeling of Dread
Midnight Haunting
Rebuke
Lingering Souls
Spectral Procession
Wrath of God
Planar Outburst
Martial Coup
Pacifism
Oblivion Ring

Blue (59)
Augur of Bolas
Jeskai Elder
Omenspeaker
Snapcaster Mage
Tidebinder Mage
Aether Adept
Jhessian Thief
Mistblade Shinobi
Tandem Lookout
Vendilion Clique
Lhassa, God of the Sea
Master of Waves
Ninja of the Deep Hours
Thassa's Emissary
Meloku the Clouded Mirror
Prognostic Sphinx
Frost Titan
Pearl Lake Ancient
Jace the Mind Sculptor
Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
Brainstorm
Vapor Snag
Anticipate
Counterspell
Cyclonic Rift
Echoing Truth
Essence Scatter
Impulse
Mana Leak
Negate
Remand
Think Twice
Turn to Frog
Crippling Chill
Dissipate
Dissolve
Forbidden Alchemy
Scatter to the Winds
Aetherize
Cryptic Command
Fact or Fiction
Force of Will
Blue Sun's Zenith
Dig Through Time
Distortion Strike
Gitaxian Probe
Ponder
Preordain
Serum Visions
Silent Departure
Divination
Coastal Discovery
Sleep
Ugin's Insight
Curse of the Swine
Treasure Cruise
Claustrophobia
Mind Control
Bident of Thassa

Azorius (12)
Judge's Familiar
New Praha Guildmage
Azorius Charm
Lyev Skyknight
Roil Spout
Grand Arbiter Augustin IV
Skymark Roc
Supreme Verdict
Lavinia of the Tenth
Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper
Venser the Sojourner
Sphinx's Revelation

The recently spoiled Reflector Mage is going into this as soon as hes on cubetutor, hes just lovely. Throw in Venser, the Sojourner and your opponents best thing is never coming back down.

Cube Archetype – The Taxman Cometh (WB)

Completing the four black colour pairs is Orzhov. The basic concept of this deck is to put together a large bulk of cards which in various ways hinder your opponents. Effects include making your opponents pay more to attack or block, making them pay more to cast spells, anything with the extort keyword and effects which, in general, are just a bloody nuisance.

There are also a few exalted cards in these colours too to make combat less predictable for your opponent.

I’ve pulled ideas on what to include from decks like pillowfort, hatebears, death and taxes etc.

Disruption and removal

This deck doesn’t have the advantages of some of the other colour combinations in terms of card synergy (the tribal decks), grinding advantage (graveyard decks) or just silly hugeness (ramp) but what this pair does have is some of the best disruption in the cube.  Both colours have some of the strongest single target removal (I actually cut back on whites targeted removal while doing this as it was a little too good, I’ve kept Path and Swords as a “best in class” kinda thing).

Black also gives you plenty of options for hand disruption, the latest addition being Hymn to Tourach which now I’m increasing the cubes power level should be fine. I considered Cabal Therapy but outside of a constructed format the first cast is basically luck based which I wanted to avoid.

Also as is a theme in this deck you get many extra copies of the same effects bolted onto creatures, such as Fiend Hunter and Banisher Priest for removal and Tidehollow Sculler and Sin Collector for hand disruption.

Taxes and interference

Another section of this archetype is permanent which disrupt the general course of play for your opponent. I’m aiming for a variation on the sort of cards you would see in a WB hatebears/pillowfort type of thing.

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Vryn Wingmare punish your opponent for playing non creature spells. Ghostly Prison, Norn’s Annex and Archangel of Tithes all make attacking difficult for your opponent and are particularly punishing for any deck that wants to go wide, such as a GW tokens deck.

There are also a few cards to reduce the effectiveness of your opponents cards. Blind Obedience, Hushwing Gryff, Containment Priest, Aegis of the Gods, Spirit of the Labyrinth and Eidolon of Rhetoric all nerf or outright prevent something on your opponents side from functioning (the effects are largely symmetrical, but as is often the case in magic the person controlling an apparently symmetrical effect usually gets a disproportionate benefit from it).

Winning the game

All this is well and good but you do need to eventually be able to win the game. You could just throw in a Baneslayer Angel or a Grave Titan but there are some slightly more subtle ways available.

Exalted is the first way this deck has to win. Sublime Archangel turns just about any creature you can protect into a huge threat, plus there are a few extra sources of exalted triggers dotted throughout white and black including my personal favourite exalted creatures Knight of Glory and Knight of Infamy. Speaking of…

Protection is something I tried to keep to a minimum in building this cube and most of it is in this deck. The aforementioned knights, Soldier of the Pantheon and a few others have protection (there’s a little outside of black white but its either at the high end or fairly niche…except for Stormbreath Dragon which is basically trinket text unless you have a StP in hand and True Name Nemesis…because True Name Nemesis). You also get Mother of Runes, a card which just makes everything difficult for the other guy, basically blanking one removal spell or combat interaction per turn.

There’s also Pontiff of Blight to win without even attacking, Bitterblossom to gradually overwhelm your opponents with flyers (bitterblossom + pontiff + just about anything = fun).

Off-Colour/Crossover cards

This deck doesn’t have a great deal of synergy with other colours but there are some deficiencies which are helped by pulling cards from other colours. Green works particularly well as both the Selesnya (WG) and Abzan (WBG) sections have some big chunky creatures (such as Siege Rhino) and some good hate effects (such as Dryad Militant and Voice of Resurgence).

This may change as I’m thinking of heavily reworking the artifact deck (currently spread across all non green colours) into either UR or entirely replacing it with eldrazi.

An example deck

Realising I should really have been doing this with the other archetypes as I go (hmm….TO THE EDIT BUTTON…when I can be arsed), here’s an example deck.

This one came out a little low on spells but, the cards that come up are the cards that come up.

WB Taxman

Creatures (18)
Mother of Runes
Thrull Parasite
Alabaster Mage
Aven Squire
Basilica Screecher
Child of Night
Spirit of the Labyrinth
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Tidehollow Sculler
Banisher Priest
Drana's Emissary
Fiend Hunter
Hushwing Gryff
Sin Collector
Bloodgift Demon
Divinity of Pride
Treasury Thrull
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite

Non-Creature Permenants (3)
Blind Obedience
Spear of Heliod
Thran Dynamo

Spells (2)
Smallpox
Wrath of God

Land (17)
Plains
Swamp
Sideboard (22)
Black Sun's Zenith
Blood Seeker
Charmbreaker Devils
Eternal Witness
Farseek
Goblin Guide
Gurmag Angler
Hellhole Flailer
Jiwari, the Earth Aflame
Llanowar Elves
Moorland Haunt
Read the Bones
Servant of Nefarox
Siege Rhino
Sign in Blood
Spectral Procession
Stoneforge Mystic
Tandem Lookout
Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts
Unburial Rites
White Sun's Zenith
Windswept Heath

The complete list

BG Cube Subtheme (Graveyard/Morbid) - December 2015

White (21)
Mother of Runes
Soldier of the Pantheon
Aven Squire
Containment Priest
Elite Inquisitor
Knight of Glory
Suture Priest
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Aegis of the Gods
Spirit of the Labyrinth
Banisher Priest
Fiend Hunter
Hushwing Gryff
Vryn Wingmare
Eidolon of Rhetoric
Archangel of Tithes
Knight of Obligation
Sublime Archangel
Blind Obedience
Ghostly Prison
Norn's Annex

Black (13)
Thrull Parasite
Basilica Screecher
Blood Seeker
Knight of Infamy
Servant of Nefarox
Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis
Pontiff of Blight
Despise
Duress
Inquisition of Kozilek
Thoughtseize
Hymn to Tourach
Smallpox

Orzhov (5)
Tithe Drinker
Tidehollow Sculler
Drana's Emissary
Sin Collector
Treasury Thrull

On looking at all this I think the raw power level on some of the cards in this section is higher than most of the BG/BR/UB section but the cards in this section will be more fought over for generic good stuff decks, whereas the tribal or graveyard cards will be easier to pick up a larger number of the cards for.

Cube Archetype – Graveyard (BG)

Completing the Sultai/graveyard/zombies/sacrifice wedge of the cube is the Golgari graveyard section.

There will be some sacrifice effects, discard and self mill to fill up the graveyard and a variety of effects that make this desirable. Specifically the main pay off is “Creature cards in graveyards matter” in keeping with the old Innistrad Spider Spawning draft deck, although there will be other benefits too. Sacrifice effects, death triggers and undying all play into this theme as well.

This section, if you look to the full list at the bottom of the post, is quite a bit longer than some of the others. This is largely because of the number of cards from Zombies/Vampires and just general goodstuff cards that play well into this archetype. Murderous Cut  or Whip of Erebos are happy in any black deck, it just happens to have an even bigger edge in this deck. This also leads to the conclusion that the person going all in on the graveyard deck won’t have a ridiculously good card pool as many of these will be shared with the other black or green decks.

The All-In Cards

As mentioned before a lot of the relevant cards in this colour pair are just “good cards” which happen to fit into the deck, either through being improved by a full graveyard or just being generally good. There are of course a few cards which just don’t work if you’re not in “the graveyard deck”.

Spider Spawning (sad note: the spider spawning deck was always overdrafted back in the day of Innistrad draft where I used to play so I never actually pulled it off successfully) and Boneyard Wurm both do precisely jack if you have no creature cards in your graveyard. Splinterfright and Nemesis of Mortals are both at least viable in another deck but in both cases they would be overshadowed by most of the other options available.

Corpseweft, Deathreap Ritual and Deadbridge Chant all stand out as cards that work a lot better when the graveyard is being filled, or in the case of Deadbridge Chant when you can selectively pull stuff OUT of the graveyard (Deadbridge Chant plus Scavenging Ooze/Deathrite Shaman/some delve cards makes “random” a lot less iffy).

The Standalone Cards

Sheoldred, Whispering One is a great top end in both this deck and…well…any deck that can get to that mana cost (a rampy green deck could conceivably get this out early enough to be a major pain). Outside of green the cube didnt really have much if anything over the CMC 6 level in its early iterations. Having got some play in ive reached the conclusion that I can push that up a bit across all the colours due to its midrange silliness level.

Whip of Erebos and Birthing Pod are both grindy value engines that fit into any deck in the colours (although pod requires a bit more set up). If you happen to get both so much the better.

The exploit cards in black all fill your graveyard while giving you some form of value, while also playing very nicely if you end up in the 3 colour zombie/graveyard deck.  Given that Gurmag Angler made it into modern and just what Tasigur does everywhere he goes I don’t think any explanation is really needed here.

The Filler Cards

I haven’t worked out yet just how good Tarmogoyf will be in this cube. Outside of the full on graveyard deck I don’t really have a handle on how quickly the different types will get into the graveyard. There aren’t a huge number of enchantments and they won’t be dying that much, and there aren’t that many lands that will end up in the graveyard (I might improve the land section in the near future with wasteland, strip mine and some other higher power goodies). My intuition says he belongs mostly in the BG deck….I may be wildly and hilariously wrong on that though.

There are plenty of other less dramatic cards that play with the graveyard and theres not much to be gained by writing about them, and theyre also pretty interchangeable.

Honorouble mention for failing to make the cut goes to Grisly Salvage…It really SHOULD be in here, but im trying to stick strictly to the numbers in each colour section and I really like what’s currently in the Golgari section. Without breaking a cycle (charms, RTR guildmages, guild leaders, maze runners) or taking out Deathrite Shaman (the card that prompted me to actually make the cube in the first place) the only one that really fits to go is Dreg Mangler…He may not last much longer.

Crossover With Other Archetypes

As ive mentioned before (and I shant bother retreading here) there is a lot of crossover between this deck and the UB zombie archetype, and to a lesser degree with the BR vampire deck.

Evolutionary Leap is most intended here, but works pretty well in any creature heavy green deck. Blanking your opponents removal spells is always nice but if you can get any repeatable reanimation or token generation then this becomes a source of gradual card advantage too, especially in something like GW tokens.

The Off-Colour Bleed Cards

Unburial Rites might as well be a WB card. You would definitely want at least a small white splash just to flash it back. Timely Hordemate (assuming it survives the next round of cuts) fits relatively well if you have some aggressive creatures (might let you recur a small value creature like a Sakur-Tribe Elder). The token makers in white give you some fodder creatures for the sac effects but the best one for this deck is clearly Lingering Souls, as you can at least get some use if you mill it.

Other colours also have a couple of nice graveyard fillers, Forbidden Alchemy in blue and Faithless Looting in red. Both also have flashback which is a bonus in this deck.

The bloodrush creatures in RG also are a good way to up your creatures in the graveyard count. Pyrewild Shaman in particular is good as you can recur him for multiple triggers off of cards such as Blood Artist.

The Sultai selection also has some good options. Sultai Ascendancy improves your draws and fills the graveyard. Sultai Soothsayer gives you a good defensive body, card selection and also fills the graveyard. Lastly Sidisi, Brood Tyrant once again fills the graveyard and also gets you blockers and combos with anything else you have that mills you.

The complete list

BG Cube Subtheme (Graveyard/Morbid) - December 2015

Black (28)
Gravecrawler
Viscera Seer
Blood Artist
Sultai Emissary
Blood Bairn
Cemetery Reaper
Fleshbag Marauder
Geralf's Messenger
Nantuko Husk
Falkenrath Noble
Erebos's Emissary
Anowon, the Ruin Sage
Rakshasa Gravecaller
Shadowborn Demon
Sidisi, Undead Vizier
Silumgar Butcher
Mikeaus, the Unhallowed
Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Butcher of Malakir
Gurmag Angler
Sheoldred, Whispering One
Liliana of the Veil
Tragic Slip
Murderous Cut
Barter in Blood
Unburial Rites
Corpseweft
Whip of Erebos

Green (20)
Boneyard Wurm
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Satyr Wayfinder
Scavenging Ooze
Strangleroot Geist
Tarmogoyf
Eternal Witness
Splinterfright
Graverobber Spider
Lumberknot
Thragtusk
Vorapede
Hooting Mandrills
Nemesis of Mortals
Commune with the Gods
Mulch
Spider Spawning
Evolutionary Leap
Birthing Pod
Bow of Nylea

White (2)
Timely Hordemate
Lingering Souls

Blue (1)
Forbidden Alchemy

Red (1)
Faithless Looting

Golgari (11)
Deathrite Shaman
Korozda Guildmage
Lotleth Troll
Dreg Mangler
Nyx Weaver
Pharika, God of Affliction
Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord
Reaper of the Wilds
Deathreap Ritual
Golgari Rotwurm
Deadbridge Chant

Sultai (3)
Sidisi, Brood Tyrant
Sultai Soothsayer
Sultai Ascendancy

While I make changes to the cube I do a lot of sim drafts just to see if enough of a given archetype appears that it’s even a thing. This one so far has definitely come across as less “all-in” than the previous vampire and zombie ones. It comes across a little more like a grindy midrange deck. This doesn’t strike me as a bad thing but I do plan to come back and review this section post SoI.