Author’s note: This is the third in a series of articles about both Cube in general and my own personal Cube. Thefirst article covered the basics of Cube design, while the second went into much further detail about my own Cube. In
this week’s article, we will be delving directly into my Cube section by section.
We’ve spent the last two weeks waxing philosophical about Cube design, but it’s time to get empirical.
My Cube is 473 cards, and it breaks down as follows:
– 50 of each color
– 65 multicolored cards
– 70 colorless cards
– 88 lands
It’s important to note that not every card in the “multicolored” card section is a true multicolored ‘gold’ card, and that the colorless section features
not only artifacts but colorless cards, non-mana lands, and conspiracies.
I’ve worked hard to have ‘artifact’ be in essence a sixth color in the Cube, and like the other five colors, it has a number of possible themes ranging
from aggro, control, combo, and prison. There are a ton of colored artifacts and artifact-friendly spells sprinkled across all of the colors that help
produce the critical mass of artifact effects necessary to promote the different deck types. These are mostly found in blue and white.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, as it is always best to start at the beginning.
White – 50 Cards
White is definitely a creature-heavy color, and it supports a number of themes. The typical aggressive white theme is present, but it is backed up by a
rather significant token theme as well. There are also a number of powerful control components as well, which are best served when paired with another
color. Lastly, white is one of the major components of the deep artifact theme, presenting many good aggressive additions.
Creatures – 35
As we spoke about last week, one of the hallmarks of my Cube is how low the average converted mana cost is. This of course means that the most populated
sections of my Cube are by far the one and two mana slots. I also spoke about how I try to avoid redundant cards, but I am willing to relax on this at the
lower mana costs due to how important having a critical mass of certain effects is.
We’ve gotten a lot of great Cube one-drops in all colors over the last year or so, and white is no different. Savannah Lions, once a staple of my Cube
since the very beginning, has made way for a trio of strictly better and much more interesting cards: Dragon Hunter, Mardu Woe-Reaper, and Soldier of the
Pantheon. All present interesting effects on the game at various stages while also just giving aggressive decks the start they need alongside Isamaru,
Hound of Konda and Steppe Lynx.
Mother of Runes needs no explanation, and while I don’t love it, Student of Warfare provides a one-drop that is still relevant later in the game. The most
interesting addition to the section though is Champion of the Parish. You may have never noticed, but there are a ton of Humans both in Cube and
in white specifically, which means that Champion is often growing on almost every turn throughout the game. While I don’t love having tribal effects in the
Cube because creature type errata can make it a bit awkward, it’s not hard to deduce which old creatures have been changed to Human, and the payoff is
Like the one-drop section, we again see a fairly high concentration of cards at the two-drop slot. Yet unlike the one-drops, we can begin to see how each
of the cards looks to fit into their own niche strategy.
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is a great aggressive disruption card, while Kami of Ancient Law provides some utility. Accorder Paladin and Precinct Captain
are fine beatdown cards that also support the token theme, while Seeker of the Way is just a fine beater.
The artifact theme can be seen in Ethersworn Canonist and the very impressive Myrsmith (who also helps the token theme), and don’t forget that while
Stoneforge Mystic is an awesome card, it is essentially an artifact enabler as well.
Lastly, we have Wall of Omens as a control card, and Sunscape Familiar, which can either help G/W decks ramp, U/W decks cast their card draw faster, or
support combo decks as a Sapphire Medallion effect.
The same goes for Monastery Mentor, Hallowed Spiritkeeper, Mentor of the Meek, Brimaz, King of Oreskos, and Spectral Procession helping the token theme,
all the while being solid cards on their own. Mentor of the Meek is definitely an overlooked card that performs quite well in a number of decks. Lastly,
Flickerwisp is just a fun and interesting card that can do everything from removing blockers to resetting Tangle Wire.
The four-drop slot is a tough one, as there are always a ton of awesome options, and you can really only have so many. Between creatures and spells, there
are nine total four-drops in my Cube, and that may be one too many.
Ranger of Eos is a fantastic Magic card, and because my Cube has such a high density of one-mana creatures, he is very potent. I also love tutor effects in
the Cube because they allow you to really put together synergies in your deck. Lastly, we have more disruption in Hokori, Dusk Drinker.
As we talked about last week, once we hit the five+ mana mark, I am extremely stingy about which cards will go in. For all colors, it really is only the
best of the best.
There’s no doubting that Revillark is one of the best white five-drops ever, and also one of the most fun. Baneslayer Angel and Sun Titan provide control
decks with their finishers, and Sun Titan can do all sorts of awesome stuff. Lastly, there’s Angel of Serenity, which can either act as a control finisher
or a very interesting reanimation target.
Non-Creature Spells – 15
White has the lowest number of non-creature spells of any color, but the ones that are present are all absolutely fantastic.
Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile are no brainers, while Land Tax is a very interesting build around me card that plays well with some of the
artifacts. Enlightened Tutor introduces the theme of trying to have every reasonable tutor present to help out the combo decks.
There may only be one two-mana spell in white, but it’s a doozy. Some people put Balance on par with cards like Mind Twist and Mana Drain, but I am okay
with it because of how difficult it can be to use. If you are a control deck and use it to sweep up the aggro deck’s creatures on turn 3, you are often
going to have to discard a few cards to do so and risk losing a land. Moreover, creature decks can’t really play it effectively either.
I’m okay with absurdly powerful cards as long as they take some finesse to use properly.
One of the most important things about Cube design is making sure you have a good amount of flexible answers to all sorts of things. Many times Cubing is
done without sideboards, and it’s no fun to lose to your opponent’s Vedalken Shackles or Liliana of the Veil and have no answer in your deck. Both
Council’s Judgment and Oblivion Ring do an excellent job as flexible removal spells that can handle anything.
Spear of Heliod is just the best anthem effect to support the token theme, and while Honor of the Pure is more efficient, Spear of Heliod allows you to use
cards like Bitterblossom or Sorin, Lord of Innistrad in your token deck. It also allows you to use the card fairly to just pump your creatures in a
multi-color deck, or to pump your artifact creatures as well.
Again, we come to the slightly overcrowded four-mana slot.
Elspeth, Knight-Errant is the white planeswalker of choice, as she works well in aggressive decks, control decks, token decks, and even prison decks.
Planeswalker versatility is a huge factor when deciding which one or ones to use, and while Ajani Goldmane would be amazing for the token theme,
or Elspeth, Sun’s Champion for control decks, I feel they are too limited for me to want to risk planeswalker overpopulation in the Cube.
Wrath of God is a control staple, but I don’t feel that there needs to be a ton of the effect. There are a few other sweeper options, but control decks
don’t need a ton of them to work. It also makes sure that they are at premium and not too easy to draft.
Armageddon is the gold standard for white disruption, and it does not disappoint. Parallax Wave is a bit outdated, but it is still capable of quite a few
interesting stack tricks, and it’s useful in a few different types of decks, so it remains.
The other white sweeper effect is what I like to call the white Cruel Ultimatum, Martial Coup. While expensive, it is exceedingly powerful and a great
sweeper and win condition all in one. You’ve also never lived until you’ve cast one with an Opposition in play.
The last card in white is Decree of Justice, and while it is no longer the powerhouse it once was, it is still a great control card or good use of copious
amounts of artifact mana. I can definitely imagine a day where it is no longer good enough, but that day has not come yet.
We’ve already discussed a number of these, and I am sure there are countless others that could be on this list. Many of these just don’t do the jobs as
well as cards already in the Cube, or just don’t provide enough impact.
Blue – 50 Cards
Blue is by far the most difficult color in the Cube. As blue has historically been the most powerful color in Magic, there are an absurd amount of cards
that could easily make the Cube, and having to limit yourself to 50 is very difficult. Blue’s spells tend to be exponentially better than blue’s creatures,
which also presents a problem.
Regardless, I have worked extra hard to make sure blue has a number of possible themes. Of course, there are all the powerful control cards, but blue is
also the most important combo color, as it features powerful combo cards and enablers. The difficult thing to do is making a blue aggressive deck possible,
but between making sure the counterspells are tempo-oriented and pushing the artifact theme, it is certainly there.
Creatures – 16
Unfortunately, the list of playable blue one-drops is quite short. As such, only one makes it into the Cube despite the fact that every other color has at
least eight. Despite this shortcoming, blue’s solitary one-drop is at least an interesting one.
Like white, blue’s creatures are also fairly polarized. Snapcaster Mage and Phantasmal Image require a bit of work but are good basically everywhere.
Waterfront Bouncer and Looter il-Kor, however, are both great aggressive tempo cards that can also double as discard outlets for any sort of graveyard
strategies. Stratus Walker is a new addition that is fine either face up or face down, and it pushes a very minor morph subtheme we see in the Simic
The most interesting two-drop, however, is the unassuming Etherium Sculptor and what it represents. There are a number of artifacts in the blue section
itself, and they not only foreshadow how deep the artifact theme is, but they also make it tick. By having so much help spread through the colors, the true
artifact count of the Cube is actually much higher than it seems.
We see more artifact love in Trinket Mage and Master of Etherium, both cards with a bit more pedigree than Etherium Sculptor. Cards like Trinket Mage and
Stoneforge Mystic are already great cards, and the fact that they basically count as artifacts as well really helps push the theme.
Another great artifact card is Phyrexian Metamorph. I’ve chosen to place the phyrexian mana cards into their respective colors, as even though you can play
Porcelain Legionnaire and Phyrexian Metamorph in any deck, they will be most effective if you have the option not to pay the life.
Venser, Shaper Savant is like Vendilion Clique in that it’s good in everything, and Ninja of the Deep Hours is a pet card that is great with the high
density of one-drops. Ninja is a great tempo card and can help push blue decks in that direction with the tempo-based counterspells.
Meloku is not the absurd finisher it used to be, but it is still quite good, while Mulldrifter is awesome. Not too much to say about either.
Non-Creature Spells – 34
All the one mana blue cantrips aren’t flashy, but they make decks hum. One of the goals of my Cube is to emulate Constructed Magic, and cards like these do
a great job of that. They are also great for the combo decks.
Blue’s two-mana slot holds most of the Cube’s counterspells. While the gold standard Counterspell is present, most of the other counters are various
tempo-based counters. They are still useable in control decks but work very well as disruptive tempo elements, which further helps push the idea that blue
can be aggressive as well.
A card like Standstill is my favorite kind of Cube card. It’s nostalgic, it’s powerful, and it takes some ingenuity to use properly. While very good in
aggressive decks as a follow up to a quick start, you can also use it with the various man-lands and do all sorts of interesting stuff.
Brain Freeze highlights half of the Cube’s storm cards.
The three-mana blue section is probably the most powerful section in the entire Cube. It includes the only piece of the power nine in the Cube in
Timetwister, along with a number of cards banned in various formats.
Timetwister, Show and Tell, and Frantic Search are all extremely powerful combo cards and take some work to use properly. Tinker is absurdly powerful and
requires a certain deck but is a bit easier to use.
Hey wait, Vedalken Shackles is clearly not blue! Well… yeah, actually it is. Considering it requires even more of a commitment to blue than half the cards
on the list, this is definitely where it belongs.
Another obscenely powerful section with some of the most powerful four-mana spells ever printed. Jace, the Mind Sculptor was of course the obvious choice
for blue planeswalker, and Fact or Fiction, Cryptic Command, and Gifts Ungiven need no introduction.
Opposition, however, is an absurdly powerful Magic card that gets almost no love because of how difficult it is to use. There are only sixteen creatures in
the blue section of the Cube, which means that it likely needs to be paired with another color, but Opposition is almost unbeatable when it’s online.
Dream Halls is a great combo card, and while quite difficult to use, you can do some absurd things with it.
Man, the good blue cards never stop coming, do they?
Nope, they don’t stop at all. We are all familiar with how powerful Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time are, and in a singleton environment, they don’t
have many other delve cards to fight with. Condescend is a solid counter.
There really are just too many to list. You could likely build a reasonable 50-card blue section out of all the blue cards not currently in the Cube.
Regardless, many of these don’t make the cut since there are just better options available for the desired effect.
We will continue next week with black and red!