2019 Holiday Exchange!
 
A New and Exciting Beginning
 
The End of an Era
  • posted a message on The Magic Buffalo: Using Every Part of the Card
    Inspired by the comments preceding and around the current power level rankings, an ongoing desire to revive and update the "A Comprehensive List of Cube Archetypes" thread, and a few other posts I've seen here and on Reddit, I decided to share my thoughts on card selection and curation for cubes on a different axis. Much of this will already be known to cube enthusiasts, and I have no illusions about the fact I'm not saying anything new, but I want to consolidate a few concepts and resources into one location and provide a different type of resource for people new to cube or after a different type of custom draft experience. I'm aware MTGsal is not the target audience for this, and it might be recieved better elsewhere like Reddit or Riptide, but I kinda want to throw this idea into a real crucible and see if it survives.
    I know my experiences won't cleanly translate to everyone, so I figured I'd focus on the facet that I care most about and feel will have the most relevance, something I have dubbed Buffalo Cards.

    There are all sorts of animal 'totems' cards get sorted under. "Rattlesnake" cards are ones that warn other players away from targeting you, I've heard cheap, recursive threats referred to as "Cockroaches" and it is a fact universally acknowledged that "Bears" are 2/2s for 2. What then, is a "Buffalo"?
    In the same way we are told that native Americans used 'every part of the buffalo', so too can we use 'every part of the card'. The ideal Buffalo card is one where every part of its text leads is relevant or meaningful, or leads to neat interactions, decisions or discoveries. Ideally, this is also a diverse set of interactions that are relevant at different stages of the game so as to increase how attractive it is to each player during the draft. Is every Buffalo card good in every deck? Hell, is every Buffalo card "powerful"? No, but that's not the goal. The goal is to reduce the linearity of drafts and encourage players to fight over cards so the draft portion of your night is as interesting and interactive as the games. Ideally this will also be making the games themselves more interesting and interactive as well, by increasing the number of decisions made, the options available for those decisions, and allowing for new discoveries or "Aha!" moments. In order for this to happen the cards do have to be good enough to consider playing for power level reasons alone, but as cube power levels vary wildly I'm not going to consider that axis when listing examples later on.
    There is a ten* (Eleven? Thirteen? Eighteen?) card cycle in Magic that are the archetypal ideal of the Buffalo card. Almost every word in their text box has the opportunity to be relevant in a game of Magic, and each of those words matters differently to different decks at different stages of the game. They're also at a power level that leads players to actively fight over them during the draft regardless of archetype. In fact they're so good they may be in your cube already. Yes, you guessed it: Fetchlands.
    Let's have a look at the text box of a generic fetchland and see just how much room there is for interaction.

    [CARDNAME]


    Land.
    (T), Sacrifice [CARDNAME]: Search your library
    for a (land that meets condition), put it onto
    the battlefield, then shuffle your library.


    Ignoring the super obvious ("They fix your mana!"), there are a lot of potent effects taking place at a very competitive cost here, all at instant speed. You likely know all of this already, but for those who want or need it I'll deploy the ugly nested spoiler.
    "Pay 1 life"
    Okay, we start on the weakest. Maybe you care about this, maybe you cube with Death's Shadow or Font of Agonies or... uuuuh... Gonti's Machinations? Maybe you find being Stasis-locked fun too, I don't want to kinkshame. You do you.

    Sacrifice {CARDNAME}
    Here we go! We're putting something in the 'yard for free! A land at that! This triggers Revolt, fuels Delve, turns on Threshold, adds a type for'Goyf and Delirium, gives you a target for Deathrite Shaman, Grim Lavamancer and Life from the Loam, pumps Knight of the Reliquary and Centaur Vinecrasher, lets you ramp with Crucible, Ramunap Excavator and Sun Titan, does nasty things with Titania. Gorgeous.

    Search your library
    Uuuh... Panglacial Wurm is a card? Maybe you want to "Gotcha!" opponents who fetch with Archive Trap? Maybe a Winter Orb on the other side of the table fills you with delight too, you beautiful disaster of a Magic player.

    for a (land that meets condition)
    The meat of the card, you know why this is good. Whatever you want to do you need mana to do it, and this gets the right colour, right away. And hey, if you're running that Gonti's Machinations you can get a shockland and get a *~second trigger~*... if you wait a turn to crack it. what value.

    put it onto the battlefield,
    Bloodghast! Courser of Kruphix! Evolution Sage! Okay, I'm just listing Landfall creatures here. Yes it doesn't say tapped. Yes we all know that's very good. That's a power level thing much more than a Buffalo thing, so I'm going to stop passive-aggressively talking about it now.

    then shuffle your library.
    Brainstorm! Top! JtMS! (On either side of the table, at that!). Don't draw that irrelevant crap you left on top, shuffle it away!
    In this list we've seen cheap threats, turbo ramp cards, midrange and control creatures, value engines and card draw, running the gamut of archetypes and hitting every colour. Every drafter at your table is at least considering picking a fetch, and none of them will be unhappy to have it in their pool when it comes time for deckbuilding, even if it only hits one of their colours. This is why we want Buffaloes.
    From a power standpoint, you get all of this at the very very competitive cost of

    1. A draft pick
    2. Including a land in your deck, and
    3. Playing that land.
    I don't know if you've noticed this, but these are all things that players have to do anyway. This obviously adds to the appeal, as for cards to be considered on the basis of versatility they need to reach the minimum standards of playability (for your cube).
    There are two real reasons I consider Buffalo desirable, and both relate to archetypes in cube. The third is a personal benefit I've found that you may consider relevant

    1. The more players have to fight over cards during a draft, the more variance there will be between individual instances of the same 'deck' or 'archetype'. This solves an unfortunate element of overtuning towards archetypes, that of "choosing a lane" or "drafting on rails" - see Ixalan retail limited for why this is undesirable. Reducing the linearity of the drafting process while still encouraging decks to have a specific game plan is pretty high on my list of priorities
    2. The more interactions a card can have during a game, the more decisions that will need to be made and the wider the possibility space for a deck that can use all the parts of the Buffalo. On a personal level, I also find that this makes that decision making process more rewarding, choosing (or discovering) 'the play' from a broader list of options is more enjoyable to me than jamming a powerful effect and this holds true for a (narrow) majority of my playgroup. This won't be true for everyone and there isn't a 'right' way here, so don't feel attacked if that's not your preference.
    3. A side-effect of choosing to build via Buffalo rather than or in addition to via Archetype is the -designer- getting a chance to discover interactions in games rather than in curation. An example that happened to me was taking 10 through my defensive board when my opponent Hail-Mary'd Faithless Looting into a Liliana's Caress, then activated their Magus of the Wheel. I put all of those cards in the cube, I decided I wanted graveyard synergies and madness cards and cycling synergies and hand attack to all feature, yet I didn't specifically include that interaction as a "combo" for people to play. It's not an amazing combo by any stretch, but it's an out that particular deck had against me that particular game, it came up, and both I and my opponent found it pretty cool. In that very same draft, I was playing a grindy Green/Black aggro enchantress after my draft went a bit wrong, and Kruphix's Insight drawing Sarcomancy, Rancor and Boon Satyr while also binning a Gravecrawler felt pretty good. That's another 'archetype' that I did not deliberately build into the cube but was a way to rescue my draft thanks to the decision to choose cards for possibility space over power. Not every one of those cards is a Buffalo in my cube, but those that are enabled those that aren't.
    We want to maximize interactions, so is a wall of text desirable? More words = more opportunities for them to be relevant, right? Well, no. Dance of the Dead is pretty wordy but in the end it doesn't have many more interactions than the (/slightly/ less wordy) Animate Dead or Necromancy. Unless you build your cube to take advantage of the difference in card type, none of them do meaningfully more than any other Reanimate effect either, or may even do less.

    Modal spells all have to be Buffalo right? They do all sorts of things!
    Well, Chaos Charm may do three things, but I doubt you care all that much about any of its modes in any given board state - after all how often do you /need/ to destroy target Wall? Honestly, Forked Bolt is a better modal spell than Chaos Charm. It can kill a bird, it can kill a bear, it can push damage, it can be a 2-for-1 in control decks and a burn spell in aggro ones.
    Does that make Forked Bolt a Buffalo then? Well, not for those reasons - that's just a versatile card. All of that versatility and possibility space comes from one line of text. Doesn't mean it can't -be- a Buffalo though, as it's pretty contingent on the design space your cube occupies - if you have a "Spells Matter" deck, or a "Bloodthirst" deck, or a "CMC = 1 Matters" deck or whatever, you now have more parts of Forked Bolt to care about, more ways for it to do things - a Buffalo. If you don't, it's 'just' a very solid spell.

    What are the main traits we care about here? Well, pretty much anything, as long as you consistently pay attention to the same characteristics and provide payoffs for them. Most commonly I care about the following:

    (Super and Sub)Types
    Zones it interacts with
    Other permanents or effects it interacts with
    Characteristics of other permanents or effects it interacts with

    Lets take a card at random from Gatherer to see if it has the potential to be a Buffalo.


    Types -
    Creature: Pretty good, they do things I hear.
    Homunculus: Oh well, we can't have everything.
    Effects -
    1U, Tap: Well, we aren't getting the effect cheaply, nor are we getting it straight away, but these are concerns for power level reasons than the breadth of possibility space. Maybe you care about the creature tapping - Umbral Mantle exists I guess?
    Create a 2/2 blue Homunculus creature token: Ooh, we get a creature, and it's a bear! This is good.
    Then sacrifice a creature: Even better! This fills the graveyard, triggers Morbid and Revolt, etc.

    At the end of this exercise, we have a card with a universally relevant type, that makes something with a universally relevant type, that does things for two zones (the battlefield and the graveyard), interacts with itself in interesting ways (1/2 that can block and leave behind a 2/2? Even better, as long as you keep it around it gives you a free block every turn by sacrificing a chump and making a new one for next turn!) and has the potential to interact with other cards that care about the same zones or are triggered by it's ability. Seems like a Buffalo to me, at least in the context of Innistrad limited with its Morbid effects and its Gnaw to the Bones.

    Should you jam it in your cube? That depends on whether you care about what it does and the costs at which it does them, which is why you need to be able to recognise Buffalo for yourself. If you're running Homunculus Tribal (in a cube where that's powerful enough to be an archetype), this is probably pretty far up there on your list of "cards with relevant interactions". On the other hand, if this card is competing with Thing in the Ice backed up by Snap and Snappy in a blue section stocked with instant and sorcery enablers and payoffs it's probably not going to pull its weight, as even irrespective of power level concerns it's just not doing anything in the same space as your other effects in blue.

    Some examples of Buffalo from my cube:



    1WW for a 2/2 lifelinking flier is okay at my cube's power level, certainly not embarrassing. It goes in both aggressive and defensive Enchantress builds thanks to the evasion and lifelink, while also pumping/triggering key effects. Its tutorable and recurrable in mono-W too, which is a nice benefit. It's also super sweet in decks that want to cheat things into play. It adds to the 'creature density' of a polymorph deck without adding a creature card so you can hit your fatties more reliably in the same way some token makers do. If you have any topdeck manipulation or tutoring, any flicker effect will cheat things into play that way too. Then we get to the super fringe - if the 2/2 dies, that's two cards in the yard for the price of one. Efficient? No. Relevant? Well, yeah actually. Delve is a hungry beast, so is Grim Lavamancer. An evasive creature that heals you is relevant in both control and aggro, as mentioned, so it's not unusual to see this paired with one of the above. The only part of that textbox I don't have a use for is the fact that the Manifest is colourless, but there are cards out that that could care about this if that's a route someone wanted to take.


    I like this guy a lot. Okay, as a creature he's not great, but he's an option and there will be boards where you just need a decent body. He cycles, which has a whole host of interactions in my list - I run a fair few "whenever a player cycles/discards a card" effects. He puts himself in the 'yard, for the things that care about that - Living Death, Nemesis of Mortals, whatever. Here's where it gets less relevant to most people: He's 7 mana. I run a suite of cards that care about high CMC, but you can't just jam exclusively 7-11 mana spells and hope you don't die. A 7 mana "hit" for Combustible Gearhulk that also performs double-duty as an uncounterable cantrip that helps you -cast- those expensive spells should you need to is exactly what that deck needs - so much so that I also run Shefet Monitor and Elvish Aberration.



    I was going to do a whole write-up on these, but there's nothing I wanted to say that hadn't already been said over in the "Comprehensive List of Cube Archetypes" Multi-Archetype All Stars section. For the two whole people who haven't checked that thread out, give it a read.


    Limitations of Buffalo

    There are some limitations to this approach, and I've run headlong into all of them in my ever-ongoing attempts to further tune my 360. The three major ones that have come up time and time again are:

    Any increase in the amount or complexity of decisions in your game demands an increase in attentiveness, which isn't ideal for all players. I have had drafts where a player or players were tired, and the complexity of a draft where so many cards interact in so many ways with so many other cards was just too much for them. In iterations of the cube where I've had obvious and linear draft strategies present ("Humans" or "Gx Midrange") this hasn't been a problem, those players have opted-out of that level of attentiveness and still been involved in a draft where they have a stake and a decent deck at the end. In iterations where I'd gone overboard on complexity (or the draft hadn't aligned), and those linear strategies were either non-obvious or not present. If your cube drafts go long or late, there's also the possibility of previously attentive and engaged players to become less so should they reach a critical mass of complexity in their deck or gameplan. Anecdotally, this is solved by having clearly signposted linear strategies available, and seems to decrease as familiarity with Magic or the specifics of the cube increases - once players have a rote awareness of cards and aren't actively reading them every time they see them, this decreases. Having a "draft strategies", "list of archetypes" or "common combos" sheet may help, I've certainly tried the 'list of archetypes' before.

    Once the complexity of a decision reaches a certain threshold, either because of the range of options available or the potential for unforeseen consequences, some players will deem it "too complicated" and opt out of making a decision at all. This seems to come from a fear of making the wrong decision. Decision paralysis may manifest in refusing to play a card until well after it was relevant, or in refusing to draft a card that has too many possible uses. In my experience it's always a negative for the player in question, leads to a bad feeling associated with drafting or cubing and should always be avoided. This one I don't have advice on. I've had a player relatively new to Magic draft my cube and just cast "Living Death" as a "Weird board wipe" that's gotten them there, and I've had an experienced drafter stare at the comparatively simple "Life from the Loam" and then just give up and pass it despite being in a green self mill deck that featured cycling lands. People are odd. Again, rote awareness seems to help.

    The more complex the cube, the more unforeseen interactions that may arise, and the more room for those interactions, once discovered, to be oppressive. You may even be -aware- of an interaction and underrate its strength - this has happened to me more than once, sometimes bringing a niche interaction up to the standard of 'actual archetype", sometimes pushing something from 'not a deck' to 'how do I beat this?'. Unless something has gotten really wacky, just run broad enough answers. Answers don't have to be Buffalo. In fact, they probably shouldn't be. Sure, I run Ichor Slick and Complicate because they do cool things in the right deck. I also run Malicious Affliction and Counterspell because they do the job. They aren't oppressively powerful and mechanically dull cards, they're just simple and effective ways of dealing with things.

    Well, that's about it for this nascent theory of mine. It's been a useful way to think about cards for me, and a way of breaking out of linear archetypes in my cube, and as such I wanted to share. Even if you don't take this approach (And I don't expect people to), I hope that it sparks new thought about card analysis on a different axis - ambitious, admittedly.

    Thanks for reading Smile


    At the start of this post I mentioned not wanting to cube cards on the basis of power yet multiple times now have I commented on how cards need to be powerful enough to justify their inclusion. How do I reconcile these statements? Well, card power doesn't exist in a vacuum. It exists in the context of other cards. Cube started as a way of playing with all of the best cards in magic, but has evolved to encompass every custom draft experience imaginable and I think we're much richer for it. I am of the opinion that if you picked the 360 objectively "most powerful" cards in Magic, you would end up with a pretty awful cube. My assumption is that Blue cards and Artifacts would be disproportionately represented, Red and White would be both shallow and narrow and the density of different effects, enablers, payoffs and mana costs would be all out of whack, with a heavy weighting towards payoffs and nowhere near enough set up or enablers. As a result, a lot of very powerful cards would not be in a position to show off the full extent of their power, and some may be stone cold duds in this hypothetical format. You would have assembled a list of powerful cards, sure, but would you have powerful feeling games? Probably not.
    Yet, cubes that are designed around power level exist and are fun to draft. Their designers and curators have made /concessions/ on power level to show off power level; by including enough Savannah Lions they make Armageddon and Ravages of War both back-breaking and game ending; by including token makers they allow Opposition to be oppressive; in running second-string discard outlets they make turn 2 Griselbrand a real possibility. Even on a more fundamental level, just having a hard number of cards per colour is a restriction that prevents the inclusion of just "the best" 360 cards - after all what are the odds that, of "the best" 360, exactly 60 or so are Blue? So then, those who design around power make concessions for a playable draft environment.

    I say that designing from the perspective of maximising power level is too harsh a limitation - if you have powerful feeling magic by excluding a subset "the most powerful cards", why can't you have powerful feeling magic regardless of that constraint at all? Why not build from the perspective of "What is the most interesting draft environment for my players", with the power level concern not being "how do I turn it up to 11" but instead "How do I level the playing field for as many decks as I can meaningfully support?", bringing power down not to show off how frustrating Jitte is in creature-based matchups, but instead to allow as many different decks and games as possible in your tiny box of wizard cards.


    TBC


    TBC

    EDIT: My tags went all wonky, the post got very ugly, and I couldn't get the floats, links and boxes to work the way they were in the preview. Resorted to spoilers (And nested spoilers), hope it still reads well enough.

    Posted in: The Cube Forum
  • posted a message on Renowned Weaponsmith granting it's artifacts
    Squadron Hawk coming in playsets, or Avarax/Accumulated Knowledge/Muscle Burst, etc, has all definitely been done, and people have talked about the benefits and pitfalls here before. My takeaway, as someone who has never 'squadroned' cards, is that there are consequences you may not have foreseen. Getting a triple or quadruple pick lets you take riskier other picks, maybe messing up signals or archetypes for neighbouring drafters. The cards themselves are often traps, with the "burst" cards (Muscle Burst and friends), Ripple cards and self-tutors being over costed for their initial impact. Net result, the drafter who picks the squadron and their neighbours all end up with worse decks.

    If you're doing this, ask yourself why it matters that you're doing it. My example would be Squadron Hawk in standard caw-blade, and why that card was worth including in the deck - it was a decent impression of an actual recursive threat, sure, but it also let you turn Jace's Brainstorm into an Ancestral Recall and carried equipment like a champ. If you're jamming Renowned Weaponsmith and associates because the act of tutoring those two cards opens up interesting interactions and new possibility space, while also being of an appropriate power level for the rest of your cube, awesome, that's ideal. If you're jamming the Renowned Weaponsmith and his squad because 'it'll be cool I promise", it probably won't be.
    Posted in: Cube Card and Archetype Discussion
  • posted a message on Ranking Project 2019 Planning
    I've never taken part in one of these before, mostly because I'm more of a lurker, but as someone with a janky, non-traditional cube who largely talks to curators of other janky and/or non-traditional cubes both in person and online, I don't feel like my input would be valid or useful with a "power level" list. I don't run Power, I don't run Moxen, and I don't run cards just because they're straight gas, so how do I know whether Land Tax or Monastery Mentor is a better "15th best white card" in that environment?
    That said, MTGSalvation seems to have a pretty strong lean towards the power-level cube, where "but is it -strong-" is the most relevant criteria for inclusion, so I don't want to hate on the idea of a power level list here.

    OTOH, if you want a list of "top 20 white cards that fit in a bunch of decks", or "top 20 white cards that lead to interactive games" or "top 20 white cards that make for meaningful decisions during the draft", now I'm happy to vote as my experiences are relevant to that. To have a list of straight power is only considering one axis of cube design, an axis that is being edged out as cube is getting more popular and people are wanting to do their own thing. From my own experiences, the 10-cards list of multi archetype all-stars and the descriptions of cards within was -way- more influential to my cube and how I consider cards for inclusion than every single one of the power rankings lists on this forum, and that post and approach to archetype-based design seems to have been abandoned in discussions here.

    Still, just one voice, and there are room for many. For what it's worth, I agree with hoodwink and wtwlf on colour identity even if my own cube has Lingering Souls as a white card (forgive me)
    Posted in: Cube Card and Archetype Discussion
  • posted a message on Hybrid Mana and Split Cards
    I run one hybrid card per colour in my guild section, and I gotta say you are missing some real nice (read: niche) cards here.

    Swans of Bryn Argoll is a... 'respectable' finisher for a white deck, a fun blocker if you support mill, but most importantly part of a couple of sweet wins if you're in Izzet, Boros or Jeskai- think Pyroclasm/Earthquake effects or my favourite; Chain of Plasma. It's been maindecked a -lot- in my cube, over cards like Meloku, Exalted Angel, Karmic Guide and once even a Restoration Angel (Though that was a mistake rectified after round one).

    The other is Evershrike. It's a -lot- worse on its own and you absolutely need a density of playable auras to use it. As I run Enchantress as a control deck across Abzan, with a self-mill approach (Commune with the Gods, Kruphix's Insight, Benefaction of Rhonas), Evershrike is a really nice recursive threat. It gets nasty with a Rancor, Fallen Ideal, Spirit Loop, Glistening Oil - any of the auras that have recursion themselves.

    These are definitely not for every cube, but they do what I want my gold and hybrid cards to do: Signpost that something interesting can happen in this colour combination. Having someone see a Swans in a pack and watching them start to imagine why they might want to pick it is really cool.
    Posted in: The Cube Forum
  • posted a message on Artifact Cube
    Curse of Opulence seems good. Like, really really good. I can see 5 ways the red deck can just have that enchantment read "whenever enchanted player is attacked, deal 2 damage to [target]", which is a pretty solid deal for a one-mana enchantment that already was ramping you for doing the aggro thing. Tried drafting around it, got Atog, Orcish Vandal, Salivating Gremlins, Orcish Mechanics and Quicksmith Genius for that synergy, and passed up on an Embraal Gear-Smasher because there was a Thopter Engineer in the pack.

    I think you'll also be surprised by how good the contraption makers are. Anything that lets you get more stuff into your deck without actually taking up space/draws is pretty solid - obviously the common contraptions aren't nearly as strong as the average conspiracy, but only having the one contraption so you can just go "My turn one creature is going to be a 4/4 next turn" and then getting a Giant Growth every third turn until your opponent spends some artifact removal on that 'half a card' that a contraption represents seems pretty okay to me, and at a minuscule opportunity cost.
    Posted in: Pauper & Peasant Discussion
  • posted a message on [MH1] [CUBE] Cabal Therapist
    I totally missed that it only triggered on the precombat main, and with that additional limitation it's definitely lost a lot of stock for me, no longer on my radar.
    Posted in: Cube Card and Archetype Discussion
  • posted a message on [MH1] [CUBE] Cabal Therapist
    I quite like this card, and I do have an aristocrats/sacrifice thing going on in my list. I'm pretty full on black one-drops though, and I'd much rather keep Putrid Imp as my stretch-playable 1 mana 1/1 with evasion. Will probably test because Therapy is such a sweet effect and having a repeatable one that adds a little mini-game of your opponent playing out stuff that the previous trigger saw while you decide how aggressively you sac to match their pace of play.
    I just wish the creature type was Nightmare Minion or something, something that actually linked to the Otarian cabal.

    Edit: I guess Horror is relevant for Thing In The Ice :p
    Posted in: Cube Card and Archetype Discussion
  • posted a message on Help with modular microcube
    Holy wall of text, batman!

    I've been thinking about and working on a 120 card modular micro-cube for my group, and have run into a few issues. I was hoping some of you kind people would be able to give advice on how to support multiple theaters (Aggro, control, etc) and archetypes (Tokens, spells matter) within some harsh limitations.
    Don't feel the need to read my entire wall of text as a lot of it is just preamble to establish my approach and give context to the concerns below. It's really just the "Concerns" tab that matters.

    The cube is currently a 5-module, 120 card micro-cube for 4 players, just for testing the concept and working out the most obvious kinks.
    The goal however is to have 10 modules and probably 300 cards, for a variable number of players (Probably 4 or less, occasionally up to 8). While strictly speaking this wouldn't be a microcube, it would be most often drafted as a 150 card list, so for all intents and purposes it shares a lot of the limitations.
    Each player picks one of the tri-colour modules, each of which is primarily built around one archetype. Each module overlaps the archetypes of the others to create variance in game plans, so you have to tailor your draft around other players decisions here.
    It's then drafted as three packs of 10 cards, with a minimum deck of 30 cards.
    The modules are shuffled, then the draft happens.
    Players have an interest in shorter, convenient, and very importantly tactical drafts, but intricate, decision-heavy games; all of which which has informed this peculiar approach.
    My current approach has been to keep all archetypes relatively low to the ground, with few spells getting to or above 5 cmc, due to a vague fear about 30 card decks with the goal to cast a specific game ending threat dying due to the lack of redundancy in their decks or by decking themselves - I'll talk more about this in "Concerns"
    I also have an assumption that decks will end up being three colour, and I'm not worried about this at all - as long as everyone is on even footing at the end of it. Half of my players have enjoyed the challenge of playing heavily multicolour draft decks which my primary cube does not strongly support, and those that don't seek it out are more interested in the in-game decision trees then in the colours they are or aren't playing, or (in one blessedly undemanding case) simply want to draft with friends.
    There are 5 modules at the moment, one for each wedge.
    The modules are built around the central colour for each wedge, and are colour-skewed towards the central colour by one card (Black in Abzan, for example). This gave room for one ally guild card (So Selesnya for Abzan) and one card that representa all three colours somehow, usually mono-coloured cards with off-colour activated abilities. I would like to add appropriate lands to each module to suit their colours and theme, but at the moment they just have one of the appropriate tri-lands and one Ash Barrens each.
    I have plans to expand it to 10 modules by adding one for each shard as well.

    The current modules and associated archetypes are:

    Turns out Wizards has printed a lot of cards that reanimate creatures of CMC 2 or less in the past few years, all of them in black and white. Turns out green has a lot of efficient cheap creatures. That's the point of this module. Cards like Devoted Crop-Mate, Timely Hordemate or Isareth the Awakener can bring back cheap threats like Warden of the First Tree, Moldgraf Scavenger or the terrifying Tarmogoyf again and again as you bludgeon your way to victory. There are a lot of cheap legends with nice stats or rules text too, so Teshar was included to see if that historic trigger is worth working for. If it is, the module will probably end up with more cheap overstatted legends like Isamaru to help aggro out.

    The archetype overlaps with Mardu Aristocrats, giving the cheap creatures with death triggers a way to be brought back for extra value, and Sultai Delve, by letting the self-mill cards pay off with Delirium or reanimate effects rather than by giving you things to exile
    This is basically what you'd expect. Creatures with abilities that trigger of casting spells. Spells to trigger those abilities, protect those creatures, or draw more creatures and spells. The obvious includes are here, from Kiln Fiend to Young Pyromancer and Monastery Mentor. Emerge Unscathed and Center Soul pull double duty, protecting your creatures one moment, helping you push through damage the next, and other cheap recastable spells like Firebolt and Reckless Charge keep the damage flowing as free spells like Gush and Frantic Search keep your hand full and the pressure high.

    The archetype overlaps with Mardu Aristocrats in their shared goal of making tokens (Jeskai off triggered abilities, Mardu from spells like Goblin Fodder or Hordeling Outburst) and the payoffs that result from this horde, and with Temur in their shared Spells Matter creatures.
    It was hard to give control a place in the tiny space I allowed myself, but the Sultai stepped in and saved me. A blue black control 'suite' buys time for you to Think Twice and Grapple with the Past your way to whatever big finishers you field, be they the big Delve creatures in the module or other on-colour threats outside it.

    The archetype overlaps with Abzan, which speeds thing up with its discard outlets and Delirium-enabled threats trading a control plan for a tempo one, while Temur gives the archetype access to ramp and mana-sinks, as well as a few other niche toys.
    This was the first module I thought about, as I like the archetype (And it's an old favourite for two of my players) but find it too hard to squeeze into my regular cube. Hopefully this lower powered cube will do it justice.
    Token makers like Hordeling Outburst and Ophiomancer, or creatures that leave a body behind like Doomed Traveller or Doomed Dissenter, poke for damage while cards like Blood Artist, Zulaport Cutthroat and Falkenrath Noble threaten to rack up scary amounts of damage if you block or off a sacrifice outlet like Goblin Bombardment or Falkenrath Aristocrat.

    This module overlaps with Abzan and Jeskai, with Abzans' ability to recur token makers or important enablers (And even adds an Alesha to the cheap recursion game plan), while Jeskai adds a few token makers of its own as well as ways of protecting key pieces.
    Okay okay I know this is a hard sell which is why I've saved it for last, but it also was the first module I finished building due to the nature of its gimmick.
    Every card bar one in the module is double faced or manipulates double faced cards. If this sounds limiting, well... I mean it sort of is, but there's a lot of common threads in the DFCs printed thus far.
    Red transform cards are pretty much all cheap threats, oftentimes helping other creatures become more threatening themselves like in the case of Instigator Gang or his little buddy Breakneck Rider, and I wanted some extra density there. There are enough green transform cards that exist to ramp you (Ulvenwald Captive, Scorned Villager), provide mana sinks (Ulvenwald Captive again, Duskwatch Recruiter, Wolfbitten Captive) or draw cards Duskwatch Recruiter again, Hermit of the Natterknolls) that they all have a gameplan in common too, and should they flip they too are quite threatening. Finally, the blue transform cards either provide a degree of card selection (Search for Azcanta, Civilized Scholar or benefit from that (Delver of Secrets and his grown up forms).
    If that still sounds like a stretch, then it kind of is. But at the same time, transform tribal! Haven't you ever wanted to equip Neglected Heirloom to a Delver of Secrets, then cast Moonmist with Aberrant Researcher in play?

    While it has some of the most parasitic cards in the cube, with Heirloom and Moonmist doing stone-cold nothing in most decks and Immerwolf being only slightly more relevant than them, there's still a lot of overlap with both Sultai and Jeskai. Sultai appreciates access to additional sources of self-mill from Search for Azcanta, Civilized Scholar, Grizzled Angler and Aberrant Researcher as well as the ramp and instant speed mana sinks green provides. Jeskai also benefits from some of this card selection, but also appreciates the hasty creatures from red... Okay, casting lots of spells to trigger prowess in your deck with werewolves is a bad idea, and the overlap is minimal. There's a Curious Homunculus though?

    I'm going to be honest, I didn't have an idea for Temur other than "Ramp and value" until I saw Ulvenwald Captive and went "That's ramp -and- something to ramp into!", and I went off the deep end.
    There are a number of inclusions in some archetypes just to fill needed roles, from cards like Mana Leak to Lightning Bolt, so don't worry that every card is a niche role-player with way too much text. Only most of them are.
    I'll throw a link to the CubeTutor down below if you want to see more of the inclusions.

    My plan for the 5 Shard modules is to build them around the myriad ways we now have of making incidental artifact tokens. Clues, Treasures, Servos and Thopters, and cards that care about artifacts coming in to play, being sacrificed, getting tapped, all that nonsense. I do have a preliminary list of cards I'd lilke to include, but the archetypes are still somewhat nebulous. All I know is, I want to colour shift them. Green Metalcraft aggro up against Grixis coloured artifacts, while Esper is on an artifact aristocrats (Aristifacts!) plan off things like Disciple of the Vault, Hidden Stockpile and Marionette Master. Obviously there will be overlap with the current modules (Teshar and Grizzled Angler will have Actual Support, but I'd like to tailor the existing wedges to fit the shards once I believe this cube idea will work in practice.
    Okay, here's the meat and veg of the post, what I actually care about:
    There are a lot of problems with my approach and with my current results. To begin with, different archetypes and theaters require different levels of support. As everyone here already know, an aggro deck like Jeskai Spells is going to need a lot more cheap dudes than a control deck like Sultai needs big ones, yet both are allocated the same number of total cards (24 right now, 30 eventually). I think I've done an adequate job managing this through the internal structuring of each modules curve, the decision to keep the cube within a narrower curve and by spending some time on the cross archetype support, but this can only go so far. An archetype like Aristocrats needs an utterly absurd density of very specific enablers and payoffs, while Sultai control (again) is happy with any sort of instant speed interaction and card selection that buys time for whatever finishers it can nab up.

    My decision to have every module in some way interact with the graveyard was also deliberate, and I'm pretty happy with the results. A Jeskai deck fighting with the Sultai drafter very heavily despite only sharing one colour, a UB control deck stealing Unearth from under the BW reanimator player to use with their Snapcaster, both have happened in the 4 and 2 player tests done.
    Thanks to the small cube size making the synergies easy to parse and the small pack size making pick time shorter, drafts and deckbuilds have been very very quick, which is fantastic... But we've had no time to actually -play- yet. Due to the graveyard theme, 30 card decks and lack of real testing I'm (probably overly) worried about people reliably decking themselves before the game is over, and as much as the mana bases can be finagled to resemble recommended ratios, I can't yet grok just how much worse your mana gets when you have to split your colours over 12 lands rather than 17 to 18.

    Also, a cube this small has me worried about lack of redundancy in important effects will lead to massive imbalances over who got the two to four cards that Do The Thing. I've seen a blue green tempo deck just not get any discard outlets to set up its cards after not seeing things like Noose Constrictor or Frantic Search before other drafters snapped them up, and then not pick any self mill because it "wouldn't fit the tempo plan". They had the instant speed interaction and card draw, but can't turn on Delirium for anything and even 'Goyf looked like it'd get to a 4/5 only in the most optimistic of situations.
    I've tried to include more redundancy, and skewed things towards repeatable effects rather than one-shot ones so you don't require the same density within the decks, but Crop Sigil and Crawling Sensation are awfully deep cuts and make for terrible Azcantas' #2 and #3, and even then they only do anything if you draw them.

    In short, can anyone with Micro and/or Modular cube experience save me? As much as I've had fun poring through cards for interesting interactions (Lieutenant Kirtar and Teshar seem sweet together! They're even both Otarian Aven in white robes with crooks, which totally matters!), I'm worried the results just don't stack up, and I'm quite happy to change directions on my draft set up, archetypes, etc. I would prefer to keep the cube modular and quite small, but beyond that I'm really open to ideas.
    While this is much less important at this point I'm also looking for advice on inclusions and cuts, keeping in mind the drafters expressed preference for low turn count, high internal and interplayer interaction games with no heavily skewed matchups, minimal non-games, and unique or underrepresented archetypes with a total power level only just above a good set or block draft. You know, a simple request that any cube manager could quite easily accomplish.


    Cube Tutor: Here
    More interested in browse and impressions/feedback.
    Feel no obligation to draft it as it's still underdeveloped, but if you do you'll have to set pack size to 10 and players to 4 for now.

    Edit: Cut down the preamble
    Posted in: The Cube Forum
  • posted a message on Aristocrats
    I'm excited to hear about Aristocrats in 2019 as well. I'm currently trying to slowly add some aspects of that archetype into my cube starting with Goblin Bombardmenet. Anyone got a recent decklist or a mockup of a deck that they think might do fine nowadays?


    I've been trying to build a very small (30 card decks) 4 player cube with a Mardu aristocrats archetype in it, and even in a 150 card cube, -good- Aristocrats cards are pretty light on the ground. I only just made it to enough cards to support the archetype, and I had to run Barrage of Expendables and other deep cuts to reach a density I was happy with. Alesha and Isareth have been -really- good in testing with Mogg War Marshall and friends, getting an extra two or three creatures for the engine (once assembled) every turn, and they both also reanimate Blood Artist, Zulaport Cutthroat and Falkenrath Noble. If that sounds like a clunky magical christmasland to you, in which Alesha or Isareth dodge removal long enough to grind value from Goblin Bombardment and equally fragile creatures, it sorta is, and that's the best case scenario I've had in testing. It's really nice against Toxic Deluge (You pay how much life? Oh, okay, sac my board and finish the job!), but somehow still feels very fragile to well timed removal. Instant speed free sac outlets are a must. Any sort of timing restriction or mana payment on your sac outlet really messes with your ability to blank removal or get value out of suicidal or counterintuitive attacks.
    That being said, I did set out to build a cube of three colour archetypes predominantly out of mono-coloured cards (One card per guild, one hybrid card per wedge), made for four players and 30 card decks, so my experiences are very likely not to translate. My approach to looking at archetypes might help though?

    Whenever I've had to find cards to fit an archetype, I've looked at decklists for competitive Canadian and Australian Highlander. There are a surprising number of similarities between Highlander and Cube - No ban list, singleton format, very high power level and a -very- fast format despite the deck-building restrictions. I would suggest starting by checking out decklists or primers there.

    Aristocrats, specifically, -is- a deck in Highlander, but more of a tier 2.5 deck rather than a real powerhouse. This is probably due in part to the fact that it's a low to the ground three colour deck, with a curve that tops out at Butcher of the Horde and Falkenrath Aristocrat. There's no time to stumble on your mana, and no huge payoff as reward for the wonky manabase, with the only advantage over straight aggro being the room for tricky or counterintuitive plays and the amount of reach the various engines provide. It has a lot of overlap with some of the red aggro decks in that format, especially Goblins, so I don't really think mono-black Aristocrats archetype would be super viable replacement for Pox or aggro. That all being said, I think there's a place for lower power environments and in fact prefer them, and I am equally interesting in hearing about interesting Aristocrats inclusions or tech for my own current project.
    Posted in: Cube Card and Archetype Discussion
  • posted a message on Advice for Storm variant
    Thousand-Year Storm doesn't excite me(*) in the same way as Sentinel Tower and Aetherflux Reservoir do, though I do love the card - expensive red enchantments with game-altering rules text are what I'm all about. It's just that a 6 mana gold card in colours that have trouble ramping just isn't the same as a 4 drop artifact in terms of what it lets you draft and play, even if the text is basically "Your instants and sorceries have "You win the game".
    Don't get me wrong, I will play this in so many formats, I already have a Standard deck for it, its going to get jammed it into so many of my EDH and casual decks, and yes I will try it in my cube. I just very much doubt it'll have anywhere approaching the relevance of the already niche Sentinel Tower on the outcome of games. Bear in mind, I'm saying that as someone with a copy of Undying Flames in my cube. No one can deny that -that- is a card that ends games.

    I'll be testing Thousand-Year Storm alongside Sentinel Tower and Aetherflux Reservoir, but I don't even know how I'd go about building a deck that wanted the enchantment, or if there are other includes (Outside Manamorphose) that I'd really want to add to make the card worth a pick.


    I don't run any regular Storm cards in my cube, though Brain Freeze was in an early version. I like the archetype, I like draft, I dislike the way the archetype drafts. I really like having the draft portion of the night be as much a part of the gameplay as the sitting down and shuffling up decks part, and draft strategies that come down to "I pick the cards that only go in my deck, you pick the cards that only go in yours" to be a waste of a draft. Sadly, traditional Storm plays right into that, with only some mild overlap with some burn or control decks that's usually mitigated by the degree of redundancy of damage-based removal and card selection required to support any form of reliable archetype-based draft environment. My experience with drafting Storm in other cubes (Or Modern Masters) has been pretty disappointing, even when the resulting decks are fun.
    On the other hand, I have found Sentinel Tower and Aetherflux Reservoir are great. You still have to fight for relevant cards, there are no safe passes, and if things go wrong mid-draft you can migrate into another archetype relatively painlessly. Should it all go well, you still get a Storm deck that plays like a Storm deck, you just don't get to say "Tendrils for 80" at the end.

    (*) Edit for clarity, the card excites the **** outta me. I read it when it was spoiled and got giddy with excitement. Opened a copy at the prerelease, got giddy. Opened a copy in my prize boosters, got giddy. Opened a third in the -next- prerelease, -still- got giddy. Had it played against me, made the guy discard like 4 cards so I didn't die to it when he untapped, but I did so hoping he'd fight through it and kill me anyway because the card makes me giddy. Thousand-Year Storm makes me happy in all the right ways. It just doesn't excite the **** outta me in the context of my cube.
    Posted in: Cube Card and Archetype Discussion
  • posted a message on Momir Basic Cube!
    I have had a Momir cube for a few years now, and I sometimes bring it out for quick games before FNM begins. We play multiplayer, so all of my advice is with that in mind. The biggest pitfall I ran into was including stuff because it was cute. Have stuff that ends games or creates a clock, because durdly jank is not fun in Momir, and it gets even worse with more than 2 players. One of my favourite cards in my pile is Sleeper Agent for this very reason, and I also run every Hunted creature from Ravnica to further this. If you want to go big and bomby, Skyward Eye Prophets is great for getting to those high cost cards super fast.

    Because my list is paper, we count it as though you are casting the creature, sight unseen. This distinction might seem minor and arbitrary, but it lets a few fun effects sneak into the list. Crypt Champion, for example, can feel like a massive dud, but when someone accidentally gets the colours right and has a decent target it feels like the biggest bomb. That's a way of running bricks that are also exciting, as opposed to "I will never go for a 7 drop ever again" (which did happen for multiple people after seeing Phage).
    Posted in: The Cube Forum
  • posted a message on [C18][Cube] Reality Scramble


    Reusable Polymorph that cares about more than just creatures
    I have a pretty heavy graveyard, topdeck manipulation and token theme throughout my cube, and Mass Polymorph is already a deck, so this looks pretty attractive to me. To others, it could be a non-reanimator Fatty Cheat effect. I don't know how good this would be if you don't already have a Polymorphdeck or at least the non-creature 'creature' density in order to have it reliably pay off, but it's pretty cool that you can reroll off lands.
    There may also be shenanigans for cheating in other permanent types - red doesn't really run enchantments other than Sneak Attack, for example. I can imagine could grab that as a plan A, then later if Sneak Attack is already around it can just polymorph creatures directly.
    I don't see this ever getting an Omniscience or an (insert huge artifact here), but it totally could if you wanted to build that way. Seems versatile and fun.
    Posted in: Cube Card and Archetype Discussion
  • posted a message on [360][Powered][Custom] Bohemian Cube
    Firstly, this is amazing.

    Secondly, I want that Psychatog for my cube. I can't stop laughing.

    I have no suggestions for cards, but I do want to see them when they're done. This is an amazing piece of work.

    Edit: I want to compliment you on your choice of flavour texts - Thraben Inspector in particular, but there are so many more.
    Posted in: Cube Lists
  • posted a message on Advice for Storm variant
    Glad to see people like the idea. I'm really looking forward to hearing about your experiences with the cards.

    I was considering this when Sentinel Tower was spoiled. My initial thoughts was that it could be an additional pay-off card (apart from Monastery Mentor and Young Pyromancer) for the spells matter archetype
    First of all, thanks for the input Grin
    I've been wanting to include Monastery Mentor for a little while actually. Last week someone gave me a copy of Soulfire Grand Master to combo with the Reservoir, which was both generous and seems like a cute idea if a little too deep. Now I want to try a colour-shifted archetypes cube with a white spells matter/storm deck. Could be a fun theorycrafting exercise.

    My considerations were all revolved around free spells such as Gitaxian Probe, Manamorphose, Frantic Search and Time Spiral. I wouldn't want to add any rituals since they mainly slot into storm decks without doing anything in other archetypes. You could also consider cards like Guttersnipe, Firebrand Archer and Thermo-Alchemist, although these seem a bit narrow.
    I do want to include Probe and Manamorphose both for this archetype and others, but they aren't in my list for space reasons - I use my guild/hybrid slots to signal archetypes or include a unique build around, and I think having Manamorphose in Gruul would be misleading even though I want to have access to the card. Gitaxian Probe I should just jam in - the reason I haven't is that there's exactly one phyrexian mana spell in each colour, and Tezzeret's Gambit is very heavily maindecked with even off colour aggro decks taking it pretty highly. Might have to swallow my pride and let blue have an extra Phyrexian spell :p
    As far as the trifecta of red payoffs go, I'm running Guttersnipe, Thermo-Alchemist was pretty dead when we tested it and I hadn't even thought about Firebrand Archer. Thank-you for pointing that last one out, I like it a lot and will be looking for a slot for it.
    I love Time Spiral too, but I know my cube is the wrong place for it. It's a shame, because I have a totally different (really bad-but-fun) archetype that wants critical mass of big expensive stuff, and Time Spiral could be a really cool alternate payoff for that deck too. Maybe if I include Git Probe and Manamorphose and some other cheap set up I'll test the card.

    Another thing to consider with both Sentinel Tower and Aetherflux Reservoir is that they incentivice you to hold on to your spells until they hit the battlefield, meaning that your first four turns may be a bit too uninteractive - but i guess that is part of the Storm style of play and the consequences of this depend on how fast the meta is.
    In the very limited experience I've had with trying this deck, I fortunately haven't found that the case. That's more than likely a side effect of my cube having a very high density of flashback and similar. In the early turns of most games, I've been forced to fairly aggressively filter through my deck for removal, or throw cards away to regain a bit of tempo, but stuff like Deep Analysis or Dig Through Time have pulled me back out of that. This is all coming from one Winston and one four man draft, so it's pretty hard on the anecdotal rather than statistically meaningful side.
    My cube is admittedly not incredibly tuned and durdling can happen, but aggro decks have been on top pretty consistently. Turn four is about as fast as a aggro deck can clock you, for reference.
    Quote from TheGroglord »

    I like the thought of Sentinel Tower over Aetherflux Reservoir, might just be personal taste but I dislike the fact it is harder to win games with if you fall short, Sentinel Tower means I can at least go on a burn backup plan.

    I do think the Tower is significantly better for limited than the Reservoir, even though I have played 0 games with the former and I prefer the templating and playstyle on the latter. I'm including both for redundancy and because I like jank. I'd really like to hear how the Tower plays in burn, as I like the archetype but we've never seen it succeed with my cube.

    I did have another go at forcing a Aetherflux deck, this time in UB, and the card was a bit of an also-ran. Retracing Raven's Crime with a River Kelpie in play was a perfectly fine engine and clock, if slow, and the Reservoir added nothing of note. I really felt the lack of free spells and cheap red looting too.
    In this draft, I think Sentinel Tower would have been a lot better, letting me somewhat blank creature removal, interact with the board, and still have a clock once Raven's Crime is doing its job. That being said, not being able to hold up counters, removal or card draw if you want to get the damage triggers could be a bigger deal than I think.
    Posted in: Cube Card and Archetype Discussion
  • posted a message on Advice for Storm variant
    I managed to find room for Aetherflux Reservoir, still waiting for a copy of Sentinel Tower. It slotted right into my cube without any further tweaks - I already have Burning Vengeance as a build-around and a discard and madness theme, so Faithless Looting and friends are all there for card selection and there's stuff like Snap for the tempo decks to play with.

    My partner and I squeezed in a Winston draft with the entire cube with the intention of me building around Aetherflux Reservoir, so the card pool for building the deck was absurdly generous.

    Only two pieces of anecdotal evidence regarding gameplay -
    Against a Naya humans deck I managed to stabilise, and Aetherflux Reservoir bought me enough time without ever reaching the activated ability. Once I had looted and drawn my way up to like 27 life, Burning Vengeance and burn spells cleared the board on later turns and it was easy sailing from there.
    The combo win did happen once, and from a really low life total too. I've tried writing the story a few times, but it's really boring to read. Suffice to say, Baral and Electromancer let Frantic Search and Snap do absurd things with Snapcaster Mage for very little mana.
    In fairness sake, Aetherflux Reservoir was a dead draw in one game as I never found a space to cast it before I died.

    In both cases where Aetherflux Reservoir did anything, Sentinel Tower would have worked in its place - Either clearing enough of the board that I wasn't facing lethal (And freeing up Burning Vengeance to go face), or also getting the combo kill. Snap and Snapcaster seem almost mandatory for the combo win in the absence of rituals. The sheer value of Electromancer/Baral in both games where the Reservoir did have an impact makes me want to find room for Curious Homunculus, a pet card of mine. Anything else I can say feels obvious - Free spells are broken, cheap card selection is good.

    I had a lot of fun with it, so it's staying in the cube. I even have a slot ready for Sentinel Tower when I find a copy.
    Hopefully I'll have a real draft with the archetype soon so I can talk about how easy it is to build when you're fighting for cards rather than basically just splitting the cube in half.

    edit: I also want to see how it fares against disruption/counterspells, as I did actually have to get spells to resolve to get the combo win. Lifegain or damage triggers alone would not have done it.
    Posted in: Cube Card and Archetype Discussion
  • To post a comment, please or register a new account.