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Cubeamajigs – Beta (P)Review

On April 10, I got email confirmation that I was selected for the @cardamajigs beta test for their new reusable card pack product, Cubeamajigs. Today, I got a sample of five in the mail, so I get to show everyone how they look and feel, and give my general impressions!


Five minty fresh card packs – three solid green, two illustrated by Jason Engle


Beta feedback request

Before I move on, I want to disclose that this product is still in-development. This will be a preview of their current state which may change, and everything below is also meant as feedback to Cardamajigs, who provided them to me free of charge. I have no professional association with Cardamajigs, and being a potential customer I am reviewing these as much for myself as I am for you or them.

Putting Them Together

At first, I was a little worried that something was wrong with the plastic, or that the illustrated cards were printed on a film simply wrapped around a standard plastic case:

The back of the feedback request form contained instructions for folding the packs into a box. Step 1 alleviated my concerns and actually impressed me!


The graphic design here is great, too!

The plastic is protective and meant to come off! It’s also really satisfying to peel, like ASMR for your fingers.

The sleeves are made of thin, pliable, yet sturdy plastic


They’re fairly easy to manipulate while putting them together.


A fully constructed Cubeamajigs pack (open)

I filled them up with cards, single- and double-sleeved:

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Packs will also fit up to 40 unsleeved cards (very snugly, which means they may not work well for keeping a limited deck together, but are fine for say, 35 card “teaching/intro” decks).


Packs fit perfectly in a standard white cardboard card box.

The boxes are almost half as thin than a duel deck box, but also a little wider

I also tried various other boxes, including an Origins Clash Pack, Dragon Shield sleeve box, Ultra-Pro sleeve box, Ultra Pro premium deck box:

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I also put them into the Dominaria prerelease kit that I got this past weekend, and it also works perfectly as a personal draft box:


If only the Dominaria box would last as long as the Cubeamajigs before it falls apart.

Look & Feel

Overall, these look and feel great. The packs feel like they’re going to keep my cards together well, and provide more protection than a thin cardboard deck box. As a minor quibble, because the middle section of the box is not connected to the top and bottom flaps, it has the potential to feel off-center from the flaps once everything is closed (this is partly based on how well you fold the box together, and may be an issue for boxes that have been used a lot or flattened/re-folded many times). Maybe the edges of the flaps could taper inward to prevent this, but this is very minor.

One thing I noticed is that may put people off is that the solid-color Cubeamajig packs I received are not entirely opaque. The front side of the packs have the flaps which obscure what’s behind them, but the back side does not:

The art packs on the other hand, completely obscure what’s underneath. You’d never know that inside this pack is….


Dr. Teeth?

I also really like that artist credit is given on the bottom end:


Overall Impressions

I think these are going to be a really good way to make prepared packs for cube drafts. I’ve used “team bags” before and while they work well once, they quickly lose their seal strength and look messy after the first time you use them. And there’s no way to obscure the contents other than flipping cards.

I’m a little concerned about the strength of the parts of these packs that would get folded back and forth a lot – the tiny flaps underneath of the large ones. These give the pack some rigidity while it’s empty and closed, like a playing card box, but also kind of just get in the way while trying to slide cards out. I think the top set of these is probably unnecessary.

I’ve heard that there will be a lot of print options for artwork and colors, so that’s a big plus. One suggestion I would have is the option to put custom text on either the flaps or the top end or sides. This could be nice for cube owners that have developed their own custom drafts with specific pack orders, such as a 3-set block retail simulation.

I’m also impressed with the amount of effort that was put into the beta process itself. It seems like the sign-up process went off without a hitch, and the information from Cardamajigs appears very professional. If there are no issues with supply or the custom ordering process, I will definitely be ordering a few sets of these for my cubes. Pre-orders begin in just a few weeks!


Archetype Cube – Theme Breakdown

So a little while back I joined a XMage cube draft group on Discord, and had a chance to draft my Archetype Cube. Players wanted to know what strategies were good, so I made a Reddit post about it, and I think it’s worth having somewhere more permanent than Reddit. So with a little updating: here is a run-down of the deck archetypes in the cube and some representative cards in those decks.

Cube Archetypes

Major Archetypes

These are broad archetypes that exist in shards/wedges. Most decks will incorporate elements from one or more of these as a part of their strategy, even if they are more focused on a more traditional role like Boros aggro.

Many support cards have been cross-pollinated to be usable in multiple archetypes.

  • Artifacts – Centered in WUR, this archetype can be drafted as an aggro deck (Toolcraft Exemplar, Stoneforge Mystic, Porcelain Legionnaire, Grand Architect, Esperzoa, Spined Thopter, Pia Nalaar, Shrapnel Blast, Reclusive Artificer, Signal Pest, Chief of the Foundry, Ghostfire Blade, Cranial Plating) or welder/control deck (Auriok Salvagers, Razor Hippogriff, Riddlesmith, Padeem, Consul of Innovation, Inkwell Leviathan, Scrap Mastery, Hanna, Ship’s Navigator, Thopter Foundry, Bosh, Iron Golem)
  • Enchantments – Centered in WBG, this combines enchantress/constellation effects, Bestow abilities, and enchantment-based spells. Usually grindy (Sigil of the Empty Throne, Sphere of Safety, Palace Siege, Grim Guardian, Mana Bloom Sterling Grove, Pharika’s Mender), but can also combo with an Academy Rector package (Form of the Dragon, Saproling Burst, Dovescape) or be explosive (Hero of Iroas, Eidolon of Countless Battles, Ethereal Armor, Aura Gnarlid) or weird (Auratog, Demonic Pact).
  • Self-Mill/Dredge – Centered in UBG, this combines milling and dredging (Armored Skaab, Forbidden Alchemy, Stinkweed Imp, Darkblast, Splinterfright, Tracker’s Instincts) and Delerium/Delve graveyard payoffs (Body Double, Logic Knot, Liliana’s Elite, Necropolis Fiend, Raven’s Crime, Obsessive Skinner, Werebear, Ghoultree, Spider Spawning)
  • Counters (+1/+1) – Centered in WUG, this includes creatures that enter or gain counters, combined with anthems and other effects using those counters (Ainok Bond-Kin, Abzan Falconer, Stalwart Aven, Collective Effort, Cloudfin Raptor, Sage of Fables, Simic Manipulator, Cytoplast Manipulator, Ordeal of Thassa, Experiment One, Avatar of the Resolute, Cytoplast Root-Kin, Hardened Scales, Plaxcaster Frogling, Bred for the Hunt, Endless One)
  • Land-Matters – Centered in RUG, this has landfall, land-threshold, and land bounce (Fathom Seer, Sea Drake, Dragonmaster Outcast, Akoum Stonewaker, Devour in Flames, Scute Mob, Terravore, Centaur Vinecrasher, Omnath, Locus of Rage), Retrace, sacrifice, and discard (Countryside Crusher, Ember Swallower, Devastating Summons, Burning of Xinye, Wildfire, Titania, Protector of Argoth, Borborygmos Enraged, Worm Harvest, Call the Skybreaker, Waves of Aggression). Bonus points if you kill someone using Swans of Bryn Argoll as a draw engine.
  • Madness – Centered in UBR, this has enablers (Magus of the Bazaar, Overtaker, Riptide Survivor, Forgotten Creation, Cryptbreaker, Heir of Falkenrath, Undead Gladiator, Sinister Concoction, Furyblade Vampire, Arc Mage, Faithless Looting, Psychatog) and Madness abilities (Circular Logic, From Under the Floorboards, Reckless Wurm, Violent Eruption).
  • Sacrifice – Centered in Bwru (primarily in black), sacrifice creatures and other permanents for value (using Pious Evangel, Angelic Purge, Carrion Feeder, Disciple of Griselbrand, Nantuko Husk, Diabolic Intent, Rakshasa Gravecrawler, Collateral Damage, Barrage of Expendables, Falkenrath Aristocrat, Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim, Wretched Gryff). Gain more value with Mortician Beetle, Skirsdag High Priest, Quest for the Gravelord, Athreos, and Galvanic Juggernaut.

Minor Archetypes

  • Reanimation – In BWu, reanimate and recur (Order of Whiteclay, Karmic Guide, Adarkar Valkyrie, Eternal Dragon, Return to the Ranks, Corpse Connoisseur, Unburial Rites, Extract from Darkness, Immortal Servitude)
  • Life Gain/Drain – In BW, ping your opponent to death! (Ajani’s Pridemate, Suture Priest, Zulaport Cutthroat, Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Stab Wound, Ghost Council of Orzhova, Pillory of the Sleepless)
  • Blink – In WU, bounce around for value (Aviary Mechanic, Wall of Omens, Whitemane Lion, Aven Riftwatcher, Flickerwisp, Man-o’-War, Cloudblazer, Brago, King Eternal, Ephara, God of the Polis) with additional targets in other colors (Beetleback Chief, Arborback Stomper, Trostani’s Summoner, Baloth Null, Prime Speaker Zegana, Triskelion)
  • Spells Matter/Prowess – In RU, chain together a flurry of spells to kill your opponent quickly (Talrand, Sky Summoner, Docent of Prefection, Silent Departure, Abbot of Keral Keep, Kiln Fiend, Nightbird’s Clutches, Wee Dragonauts) or over time (Thermo-Alchemist, Guttersipe, Gelectrode, Sphinx-Bone Wand)
  • Token Aggro – In WR, swarm your opponent with tokens (Doomed Traveler, Master Trinketeer, Twilight Drover, Servo Exhibition, Sacred Mesa, Mogg War Marshal, Devastating Summons, Kuldotha Rebirth, Hordling Outburst, Rise of the Hobgoblins), draw cards (Bygon Bishop, Mentor of the Meek) and pump them up (Accorder Paladin, Consul’s Lieutenant, Reckless Bushwhacker, Ogre Battledriver, Dynacharge, Abandon Reason, Raid Bombardment, Legion’s Initiative).
  • Morph & Saboteurs – In UB, keep your opponent on their toes (Riptide Pilferer, Ninja of the Deep Hours, Willbender, Ruthless Ripper, Grim Haruspex, Zombie Cutthroat, Silent Specter) or control then lock them out of the game (Bane of the Living, Vesuvan Shapeshifter, Brine Elemental)
  • Traditional Aggro – In WGR, you’ll find more cards suited for traditional aggro strategies (Burning-Tree Shaman, Ghor-Clan Rampager, Advent of the Wurm, Call of the Conclave) and also some removal and other cards that punishes the more powerful permanent-based strategies in the cube (Polis Crusher, Destructive Revelry, Hull Breach, Aura Mutation, Wear//Tear)

Land Base

Lands in the cube are primarily multiple sets of original (Alpha) duals and fetchlands, as this will enable strong 2-color and 3-color decks with less impact on speed and life totals, as this is a cube designed with a little grind in mind.

Removal and Utility Spells in the cube

Most removal or utility spells (i.e. draw spells) in the cube is less either less efficient than in most unpowered cubes, and often pointed toward a specific archetype (though almost always playable outside of those archetypes). Most archetypes that a color supports is represented in some way with these spells. More efficient spells are chosen where the deck relies on casting multiple spells quickly (RU Prowess) or where the effects are narrow or with drawbacks (Nature’s Claim, Tragic Slip).

Feedback/Last Thoughts

If you draft the cube, please experiment during the draft. Do something that looks fun as well as powerful. My hope is that you are able to find ways to combine card combinations during the draft or your games in order to produce fun interactions. This is a complex draft format, not unlike Time Spiral, and players are likely to be unfamiliar with a lot of the cards in the cube.

I am mostly looking for feedback when cards feel too oppressive/unbeatable when both decks are running smoothly, or when cards are too ineffective within the deck they are intended for.

I’m looking to add a cycling theme going forward, likely spanning all 5 colors, since new support with the Amonkhet block seems strong combined with some of the older cycling cards/synergies. Some of these are already in the cube since they are very good on their own.

A non-set release update?!

This is a really great write-up on how Usman updated his cube to include more support for colorless. I particularly enjoyed the reasoning for which kind of lands were included for each color pair.

The Third Power Podcast

Yep, I did a (small) change to my list.  🙂

I got to thinking of colorless sources to integrate {C} cards more easily and in my article review of OGW, I talked about some of the colorless mana fixers.  Some of the more frequently cited sources are painlands and filters, etc.

I hesitated on including another land fixing cycle to my list since it seemed like it wasn’t, for lack of better terms, necessary.

However, this wasn’t really based on anything quantitative, just a general “feeling” and realized that data trumps “feeling” handily and thought to include another cycle of {C}-friendly lands to accommodate for cards like Thought-Knot Seer.  A few days later, I remembered Andy Cooperfauss’ article for cube land fixers (it seemed he misread my article on signets as he thought my POV on signets was the opposite view that I had and still hold – tl;dr are…

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Eldrazi Mana: It’s Not Going To Break Magic



By now, you’ve probably seen this spoiler from Oath of the Gatewatch:


Not-Barry’s-Land! Woooo!

And these:


And if you’re on social media at all, this:

MaRo Troll

Not-Barry’s-Land! Woooo!

Anyway, if you’re like me at all, you had the same reaction as everyone else (OMGWTFBBQ), so we’re all on the same page.

So let’s think about the implications of this potential mechanic, in terms of Magic design and development. Maybe we can make a good guess as to the most likely way it works before more cards are spoiled.

Let’s start with getting a sense of the general flavor behind the cards, even disregarding what they do.

Obviously, the mechanic has something to do with the Eldrazi. Kozilek requires some kind of new mana, or a forced way of producing mana, because he is an Eldrazi. This sense of otherness, and their insatiable desire to destroy, consume, and reshape the plane of Zendikar (and also other planes for dessert). The biggest way that this is represented in Magic, much like anything else in the game, is their color; or in this case, lack of it.

When we first saw Eldrazi, they were represented thusly:

  • Large colorless creatures with colorless mana costs
  • Their spawn, also colorless
  • Colorless tribal spells
  • Themed lands that cared about Eldrazi or colorless cards
  • A sampling of colored creatures heralding their masters

Mostly everything to do with the Eldrazi was about their colorlessness.

In Battle for Zendikar, we see an evolution of that concept, wherein the Eldrazi have reshaped themselves into the fauna of Zendikar and vice versa. We have:

  • More colorless spells (with colorless costs)
  • Loads of colorless spells and creatures with colored mana costs (none in white); some of these specifically referencing colorlessness
  • An almost entirely parasitic mechanic that builds on those cards
  • A specifically opposite mechanic representing the Eldrazi’s foil/enemy/food (converge)
  • More themed colorless lands!

OK, that’s a lot of words to beat a dead Hipparion with. Time to dive into the various meanings the diamond symbol could have.

Scenario #1: “Not” Snow Mana

Excerpts from the actual Magic: The Gathering Comprehensive Rules:

107.4h. The snow mana symbol {S} represents one generic mana in a cost. This generic mana can be paid with one mana of any type produced by a snow permanent (see rule 205.4f). Effects that reduce the amount of generic mana you pay don’t affect {S} costs. (There is no such thing as “snow mana”; “snow” is not a type of mana.)

205.4f. Any permanent with the supertype “snow” is a snow permanent. Any permanent that doesn’t have this supertype
is a nonsnow permanent, regardless of its name.

So there’s actually no such thing as “Snow Mana”, even if it’s self referential in the rule describing the totally-not-snow-mana snow mana symbol. But let’s make a new rule for Eldrazi Mana:

(from here further all CR rules and their numbers are fake but non-conflicting with current rules)

107.4i. The eldrazi mana symbol {E} represents one generic mana in a cost. This generic mana can be paid with one mana of any type produced by an eldrazi permanent (see rule …….). Effects that reduce the amount of generic mana you pay don’t affect {E} costs. (There is no such thing as “eldrazi mana”; “eldrazi” is not a type of mana.)

Seems straightforward so far, except where 205.4f needs to exist for snow, doesn’t for Eldrazi. It’s already a creature type. And because it’s a type, it technically wouldn’t go under 205.4. If WotC made a new rule just for
Eldrazi types, it likely goes somewhere else.

Okay, we’ve defined what it is. Basically, it is colorless mana, and gives a way for WotC to “gate” certain cards and mechanics to the ability to produce a type of mana only seen in Oath of the Gatewatch. What does that mean, design/development-wise?

  • Cards printed with {E} as a cost can be less expensive, because it is typically harder to produce than mana from traditional sources.
  • You are limited almost solely to cards only printed in the set they accompany and cards that produce Eldrazi Spawn or Scion tokens. This is similar to how snow mana works, with a logical evolution of actually putting the symbol into casting costs (an even more restrictive result than how Snow was implemented on cards)
  • It’s extremely parasitic for limited, in multiple ways: You need to draft lands and other cards that produce {E} and cards that want {E} to benefit, and those cards are at odds with producing {WUBURG} and requiring {WUBURG}, the mechanic that all of the cards in Battle for Zendikar currently use. Battle for Zendikar is multicolor friendly due to the easy nature of splashing colors in the format, but colorless lands such as Blighted Cataract still have implications for color screw when doing so. A format that encourages drafting/playing colorless lands (from OGW) even more will put a lot of pressure on players, particularly new players.
  • Powerful and unintentionally powerful cards can be gated from eternal formats by way of their parasitic nature on mana and the current format. The mana restrictions may create a new deck archetype that is very specialized, or players may find ways to make Show and Tell an even more powerful archetype, but it’s not likely that players will just jam an Eldrazi of Runes or Emrakul the Planeswalker That Eats Through the Aeons into their Legacy deck.
  • The Standard format would roll with the punches. The current mana system is very friendly to multicolor decks, and two deck types could emerge: Oops, All Eldrazi; and Two-color Eldrazi; The former, a narrow deck centered on the new cards and their raw power, running mostly Wastes and other colorless utility lands; and the latter, two color decks using fetches, Battle for Zendikar cares-about-basics lands and Wastes with a few new cards supplementing the current
    deck types. A deck like Abzan may not be able to support an effective fourth color (unfetchable with Khans fetches), and have to drop down to GWE or BGE.

I think this would be the most restricted option for players, in terms of deck options, and an easier option for developers with respect to limiting card power, creating a little colorless microcosm that doesn’t play well with other sets. Looking at Kozilek’s new card, for a card that is already 10 mana, it doesn’t seem to gain any benefit from the more restrictive cost. The “newness” is reserved simply for restrictive mana costs, and those aren’t fun.

Another point against this option, is that WotC didn’t make Wastes work as a basic land with type or supertype “Eldrazi”, instead making the lands produce a specific mana symbol – a specific kind of mana, in contrast with Snow-Covered basic lands, which have a rules construction regarding what kind of permanent the mana came from (and interestingly, the current rules don’t handle making mana from a Snow Sorcery). They’ve deftly manuvered away from creating Barry’s Land with another implementation.

So, basically, I think it’s a good starting off point for how to think about {E} as a mechanic, but not a very likely option for WotC, who has seen how this plays out before (in truth, no one plays snow permanents).

Scenario #2: It’s just Purple Mana

Actually, it’s not just Purple Mana, and heres why: It’s too disruptive without going far enough. What I mean by that, is that it has all the problems with starting a new color, without being consistent in design moving forward, so it’s likely not an evergreen mechanic. It didn’t get an actually-new basic land type. It doesn’t play well with any of the 10K+ cards currently printed in Magic – not just in terms of a new basic land that can’t cast Benalish Hero, but the larger scope of interaction with colorless cards that isn’t already present in Magic’s history (no Circle of
Protection: Colorless, tons of cards that care about color and land types). It would cause a gigantic shift in marketing and packaging and supplemental products and store product support from this point forward if it were evergreen.

Scenario #3: It’s just Colorless Mana

I think this is one of the more realistic scenarios. Essentially, {D} is specifically colorless when referenced in costs, and would also be used as a nice visual aide for new lands to remind players that the mana they produce is definitely totally colorless.

107.4i. The devoid mana symbol {D} represents one colorless mana in a cost. This symbol is used to represent colorless mana, and also to represent colorless mana in costs. Colorless mana in costs can be paid only with colorless mana. See rule 202, “Mana Cost and Color.”

I have used the term “devoid mana” here to tie it back to the devoid mechanic from Battle for Zendikar. It lets me avoid the usage of {C} which is casual parlance for the color intensity of a cost when talking about converted mana costs with color restrictions (e.g. Serra Angel and Tamiyo, the Moon Sage are costed “3CC”).

So in this way, there is a benefit: it only restricts costs, but not so far that you can’t play with your new cards in older/wider formats like Legacy or Commander. You don’t have to restrict your ability to produce that mana to Wastes; using Temple of the False God to cast Kozilek is just fine (as it should be, considering it’s an awesome false god).

If WotC has determined that the restrictions put on deckbuilding for limited and Standard are surmountable, this scenario has a high chance of being correct.

Scenario #4: It’s just Colorless Mana, buuuuuut…

This is my dream scenario. But you have to wait for my lead-in about an old idea I had for Purple Mana.

So, lots of people think adding a new color to Magic would be cool. But a lot of people realize the major problems with it: It has no history behind it, and it breaks the color pie, by virtue of not being in it currently. There’s no way to put it on the back of the card, sorry. Magic is a five point star/pentagon, not a hexagon. No room at the table. I wanted to get around that with this old idea:

Purple mana is “all colors”.

You can use it to pay for any color of mana in a cost, and it counts for every traditional color if something cared about what color was used to
cast/activate a spell or ability. So your Converge costs are five, automatically, if paid for with purple mana. I came up with some interesting/lame name like Fusion, the implication being that because it was all colors, you needed to feed multiple colors through another spell or ability to produce it, like a super Celestial Prism or Gemstone Array that produced purple. And hey, let’s bring back mana burn, specifically for purple (due to risk of producing too much somehow, like radiation?), along with some re-costed purple mythic cards from back in the day like Ancestral Recall or whatever.

Big idea, maybe not good. I didn’t go any further than that like with real card designs. But I’m thinking maybe WotC came up with something similar, going the opposite direction:

Devoid Mana, {D}, is specifically colorless mana, that can pay for colored mana in costs of colorless cards.

Maybe devoid mana can showcase how the Eldrazi have some other way that they get their power, that doesn’t require a traditional link to the land like planeswalkers typically do. Some otherworldly link beyond the plane, that they can channel into more of their colorless creations.

I think this is the kind of answer Mark Rosewater is going to give, when he explains his initial skepticism of colorlessness and how to really show how it matters in the game, whereas our current situation with Battle for Zendikar is that it matters very little. We currently don’t care very much at all that our cards are colorless because we still cast them with Islands and Mountains and such.

The biggest, most impactful meaning of this scenario, is that Wastes interact with other cards in Magic in ways that simple colorless mana does not. All of the Eldrazi from Battle for Zendikar? Congratulations, you can be cast with Wastes! This is really good for limited and constructed formats! It would really tie together Oath of the Gatewatch and Battle for Zendikar thematically and mechanically in a way that changes the current draft format drastically.

It also seems very strange to me, from a flavor standpoint, that a tribe without hard faction boundaries (in contrast with the Phyrexians) would be separated by the color system of Magic. Normally, we might get a tribal land that produces mana of any color for that tribe (Primal Beyond, Ally Encampment, Haven of the Spirit Dragon, Sliver Hive, etc.). But Eldrazi are colorless. Their nature is defined as being without color, so it makes little sense for a land to produce lots of colors to cast them.

Instead, maybe we get our “multicolor” Eldrazi land, under the pretense of a new basic land.


I, for one, welcome our new Eldrazi overlords.

Black is Not Bad

Today, I talk about black in cube.


Within the cube community, the very utterance of the name of Magic’s dark slice of the color pie causes a crescendo of groans and complaints and confusion, infecting everyone with its viral contagion.

This article is partly prompted by the recent changes to the Magic Online Cube and the subsequent reactions from many people that think those changes are, well, less than ideal. I agree. It’s unfortunate that these changes only reinforce the negative view of black cards and decks in cube. Black is frequently called the worst color in cube by a vocal majority of players, and I don’t agree with giving a blanket statement like that.

I’d like to do away with a few popular notions:

  1. That black cards are weak and bad in cube.
  2. That black cards live in a vacuum.
  3. That there are too many oppressive cards preventing black from being powerful in cube.
  4. That black can or should do everything in cube.
  5. That there is one-method-to-rule-them-all of improving black’s performance in cube.

Read more…

Quarterly Cube Update – Return to Ravnica (WUBRG and Colorless)

It’s the Return to Ravnica update, part deux.

With today’s update I’ll finish inserting any of the non-multicolor cards from Return to Ravnica I want to add into the cube, and cut cards as necessary.

On to the changes, starting with Colorless, and a random color starting point going around the wheel:


Triskelion –> Chromatic Lantern

Best source of colored mana acceleration after Coalition Relic? Accelerates less, fixes more. It’s so good

Triskelion is fine, but is not a high-value card in terms of average effectiveness compared to other 6-mana creatures in the cube. With the trend of multicolor cards with intense colored mana costs being very playable despite that drawback, it’s hard for Triskelion to compete. Reveillark will just have to find other creatures to value-town with.


Flame Slash –> Mizzium Mortars
Ghitu Slinger –> Guttersnipe
Ember Hauler
–> Ash Zealot

I’m eager to try out the Mortars, and it’s replacing a card with a cheaper base casting cost but no late-game upside. It should prove to be nearly as good early, and very good late in the decks that can Overload it.

Guttersnipe looks interesting for different reasons, as a build-around card that should perform best in red, black, and blue decks, where the high concentration of removal spells give plenty of ways of triggering the ability. The lower density of spells in white and green mean it will be less good there, but can still provide a bit of reach in aggro decks with those colors.

Ember Hauler is pretty nice actually, able to pick off small creatures, help take out large ones, and assassinate planeswalkers with low loyalty, but I’m putting it on the bench so that adding Ash Zealot doesn’t mess with red’s curve or increase the number of spells with double-red in their casting costs. The utility lost by its absence should be shored up somewhat by Ash Zealot’s aggressiveness and Guttersnipe’s ability to deal damage outside of combat. I’m treating the Zealot’s last ability as a sort of bonus – the card is plenty good enough without it.


Fledgling Djinn –> Pack Rat
Sudden Death –> Ultimate Price
Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief –> Desecration Demon

Let’s face facts: Fledgling Djinn (and many other cheap black creatures) are just filler. Pack Rat is a limited bomb that has the capability to win the game on its own (albeit combined with the other cards in your hand as fodder), and has synergy with the cube reanimator archetype! Get in my cube!

Sudden Death is an unanswerable kill spell for, well, just too much mana nowadays. Ultimate Price should fill in cuves better, can kill larger creatures (like Titans), and isn’t necessarily horrible versus Mother of Runes, one of the few plusses Sudden Death had going for it. Ultimate Price won’t hit the new multicolored creatures in the cube, but it’s still a great Terror variant.

I’ve been wanting to try one of the huge undercosted black fliers for a while, but never had my hands on an Abyssal Persecutor before. Desecration Demon is similar, but doesn’t have a “you can’t win the game” clause. The ability to chump it with ground-based creatures looks bad (for the controller), but it’s really not a big drawback, certainly not worse than what you see on Blastoderm. And if your opponent has no creatures, for some reason (perhaps they paid the Ultimate Price already), they’re taking six damage or more in combat. Drana has been consistently good once she hits the table, but does tie up a lot of mana for her ability, and costs more up front.


NEW –> Jace, Architect of Thought
Repeal –> Cyclonic Rift

I mean, come on. It’s a Jace. It costs four. It protects itself with its first ability, and draws cards with the second. And it has a decent amount of loyalty for a blue planeswalker, too. Adding Jace without cutting a card seems like cheating, but I already have plans on expanding my colors by one or two cards in the next update. Blue justifiably gets an extra card early because it’s blue and it always gets nice things first. 😉

I really like both of the cantripping bounce spells in my cube (Repeal and Into the Roil), and though Cyclonic Rift can’t draw cards, it has a massive potential upside with built-in card advantage. I’m not quite sure which cantrip is the right one to cut for Cyclonic Rift, but I think I might value the ability to hit large creatures for a bare minimum of mana over the ability to hit non-creatures. On the other hand, situations like hitting an equipment mid-combat, or a planeswalker, are really important actions that give Repeal versatility. Right now, Into the Roil stays.


Decree of Justice –> Angel of Serenity

I’m a big fan of preventing my opponent from winning the game. A few angel tokens don’t have quite the same effect as one angel that Oblivion Rings up to three of your opponent’s best threats. These are both at about the same mana cost when hard-cast, and the Angel has blink and reanimation potential to boot.

Thanks for taking a look at my cube changes. Return to Ravnica gave a little bit in every color, and combined with the multicolor additions, turned out to be a really great set for cube.

Quarterly Cube Update – Return to Ravnica (Multicolor)

Return to Ravnica is here! There are a LOT of cards to update with this set, so I’m going to split this up into multiple posts. It’ll let me get a little in-depth into my choices, as well. We’ll start with the thing firmly on everyone’s mind when it comes to the plane of Ravnica: Multicolor.

Before I get into my choices for inclusion this time around, I’m going to reiterate and explain my current and future multicolor setup (as well as my general philosophy, which I explained in some previous posts here on the blog).

My current setup is a Guild-based model, where each two-color combination (UB, GW, RW, etc.) get up to 9 fixing lands and spells devoted to that combination’s needs and each of the tri-color combinations get up to one card for a support card or flashy card (Wild Nacatl, Broodmate Dragon, Murmuring Bosk, etc.) where there is a card I deem “good enough” to play in the slot. I try to have at least 4 fixing lands and/or artifacts in each combination, to ensure people have plenty of ways of casting their spells.

From now on, I’m adding a hybrid slot to each pair as well as another multicolor slot, bringing that total to 10+1. There will be a restriction, in that combinations will not be able to get over 5 non-fixing cards in the combination until the hybrid slot is filled. This should be easy enough for most combinations. I’m also going to give leeway to cards like Signets and lands with multicolor activated abilities like Kessig Wolf Run. The latter are sometimes run as a ‘bonus’ splash card in a deck with only few ways of activating them, and also don’t count as spell slots in deck construction, and thus are more like hybrid cards than a spell that can become dead in-hand. This will all eventually mean a 20-card increase in my cube, which I’m fine with.

My general philosophy is that multicolor cards should be either flashy finishers (Olivia Voldaren, Simic Sky Swallower), powerful archetype support cards (like tokens, or the artifact deck), or efficient cards people like to play that fit into a variety of decks or archetypes (i.e. if you are these colors, you are likely to play the card). Some cards fall into multiple categories. Also, I’m OK with leaving out certain powerful cards playable in all decks in favor of more “interesting” ones that fill more narrow niches in the cube, which is, of course, all subjective. 🙂

I’m not going to fill up all of the new slots in all of the color combinations with this update, but all of the Return to Ravnica guilds will receive the full complement of cards, and some of the others will get a new card or two. This won’t unbalance the cube too much in the short term (since not even half of the guilds will be missing cards) and it will definitely be fully balanced by the time Gatecrash and [Sinker] are released.

On to the changes! First, the Return to Ravnica guilds:


NEW –> Armada Wurm
–> Dryad Militant (hybrid)

Armada Wurm is the kind of finisher that should do well in my cube. It puts out multiple threats, which gives it some permanence versus spot removal, something green and white finishers sometimes have problems with. I like it a lot better as a cube card than Sigarda for a couple of reasons: It is harder to cast, ensuring it is both a motivator for a drafter to move into the color combination hard early in a draft, and also gets to the drafter that wants it late. And, it provides card advantage but not feel-bads for an opponent that has no outs to a 5/5 hexproof flier, which some decks are just cold to. I’m not particularly fond of hexproof in general, since it reduces interactivity in-game, and Sigarda is also immune to just about every black removal spell in the cube.

Dryad Militant is another welcome 2/1 for 1 to support aggro, and should be solid. It will occupy the new hybrid slot.

I’d like to also include Selesnya Charm as well, but simply don’t have the space.


NEW –> Dreadbore
NEW –> Rakdos Cackler (hybrid)

Oh look, two very efficient cards: a removal spell and an aggressive creature, in a color that wants lots of those things! These are probably the simplest of my Return to Ravnica updates.

Rakdos Shred-Freak looks close to being included, but I don’t like it better than my other current options.


Azorius Signet –> Detention Sphere
NEW –> Supreme Verdict
NEW –> Judge’s Familiar (hybrid)

The Signets are slowly but surely being removed for more interesting cards. I don’t think they’re too powerful, or have too much of a detrimental effect on the number of colors a deck can draft. Azorius Signet, being one of the blue ones, hurts to cut, but I am fine cutting it for a unique effect, and its function can be replaced with other artifacts in the cube. Detention Sphere is going to be just as good as Oblivion Ring. Being harder to cast sometimes (being multicolor) and having a bigger effect sometimes (taking out multiple tokens) should balance out in the end.

Supreme Verdict will be a wrath, like other wraths. It will be good, and it will get passed to the drafter that needs it on occasion. I’m curious to see how often the immunity to counterspells will be relevant in control and tempo matchups.

Judge’s Familiar might be the first cubeable Suntail Hawk. We’ll try it out, and if it doesn’t work out, Moorland Haunt can take its place in the hybrid slot, freeing room for some other UW card from [Sinker].


Fire//Ice –> Fire//Ice (hybrid)
NEW –> Niv Mizzet, Dracogenius
NEW –> Izzet Charm

Fire//Ice gets moved to the hybrid slot, where it belongs. It gets used more for the Fire side than the Ice side on average, but it’s fine in both roles.

Niv Mizzet is like a big Olivia Voldaren, that also kills your opponent with direct damage while drawing lots of cards. Seems good enough to me! Like Armada Wurm, it also has a somewhat restrictive casting cost, making it more enticing to drafters early and requiring a deck to be deep enough in its colors to play most effectively.

Izzet Charm is simply an efficient spells that will act as a support card in a variety of red-blue decks. I like charms in general, and this one almost always has a relevant mode.


Glissa, the Traitor –> Lotleth Troll
NEW –> Abrupt Decay
NEW –> Deathrite Shaman (hybrid)

Not for trying, I don’t have a Vraska to include in this update. That would make my decision a little harder, as Glissa was the only card I was “prepared” to cut from my current lineup of spells (which is Putrefy, Putrid Leech, Pernicious Deed, Maelstrom Pulse, and Glissa). I suspect that I may decide to cut Abrupt Decay once I have a Vraska, since it is the most restrictive of the removal spells and doesn’t really fill an archetype need, while Vraska is a flashy spell that is fun to play with. Putrid Leech is another option, but will depend more on how much I find it necessary to have a very efficient beater in this color combination once my black section is overhauled (Pox support). I support aggressive strategies in green, so this is worth looking at harder than in cubes where ramp is the premier green strategy over a more moderate strategy.

So, Glissa is out for Lotleth Troll. Lotleth Troll is going to be just as aggressive, and will support the reanimator and stax/pox archetypes more than Glissa supports the artifact archetype.

Abrupt Decay is an efficient removal spell and worth playing while I have the space. I’m sure it will be destroying a number of aggro creatures and equipment for the time being.

Deathrite Shaman is an interesting card. It will be less good than in its best format (Modern), but still has plenty of targets for its second and third abilities, gradually gaining resource advantages and light graveyard hate. I think I like it quite a bit after personally playing with it in limited and Standard, so I have high hopes. It’s also just a cool flavorful card, interacting with the graveyard in an interesting way, so it has that going for it as well. 🙂

I’d also like to try out a few cards from the other guilds, and now have some more space to work with. Here are my new inclusions:


Kessig Wolf Run –> Kessig Wolf Run (hybrid)
NEW –> Sarkhan Vol

I’ve played with Sarkhan in the cube before, but didn’t have too much time before Huntmaster of the Fells showed up and took his place. I’d like to play with it more, so let’s give him another shot.


Dimir Signet –> Dimir Signet (hybrid)
NEW –> Havengul Lich

Havengul Lich is a fun card. It’s not the most powerful card in the world, being a multicolor Durkwood Boars with an activated ability, but it will lead to interesting board states. It could be a blue-black Genesis vulnerable to removal, but that’s actually fine. There will be times where it brings back utility creatures or bombs from an opponent’s graveyard as well, and that leads to fun games and stories to remember.


NEW –> Tidehollow Sculler
NEW –> Vault of the Archangel (hybrid)

Orzhov gets another cheap creature with a “discard” ability, further cementing black-based hand disruption as a reliable strategy.

Vault of the Archangel has the capability to turn stalled board states into finished games quickly by changing the race dynamic. It will go into the hybrid slot since I could see it splashed into any white- or black-based aggro deck.

I don’t have any cards to add to Boros at this time, and Simic needs a hybrid card before I add anything to it (other than what is in Gatecrash, I’d like to try out Voidslime at some point as a catchall counterspell).

This update is more of a “cube additions” update than a true “cut-and-add” update, but I would still like feedback, especially if you have any suggestions or feedback from playing with the new Return to Ravnica cards. Thanks for reading!

Quick M13 Planeswalker Update

Whoops! I forgot to add in the new planeswalkers in my latest blog update! Here are the changes:


Decree of Justice –> Ajani, Caller of the Pride

Decree of Justice is pretty awesome, but it hasn’t been used to as much effect as I’d like, when other finishers have performed more consistently. White is definitely the premiere aggressive color in my cube other than red, so adding Ajani in its place further supports that strategy. I’m going to be testing Shrine of Loyal Legions in an artifact slot behind the scenes, so as to not lose the token support. And as with any other card removal from my cube, nothing stops a card from coming back in the future.


Makeshift Mannequin –> Liliana of the Dark Realms

Liliana is just more versatile of a spell than the Mannequin, which only hits your graveyard. I’d really like another 3 mana or less reanimation spell without restrictions like this, but I don’t think we’ll see any new cards with that kind of power unless they are printed in a not-for-Standard product like Commander. In any case, Liliana serves a mostly midrange and control role in cube, and this meshes well with where I am taking black as a color in my cube.

Quarterly Cube Update – Magic 2013

Let’s add some cards to my cube! Today, I’m finalizing some Magic 2013 updates after testing cards for a few weeks.


NEW –> Cathedral of War

Cathedral of War has been a nice splashable card, pushing some extra damage through in any deck wanting to attack often with a solid threat. Its opportunity cost in a deck is small, and the ability can be turned on the same turn it enters the battlefield.


Silver Knight –> Serra Avenger
White Knight –> Knight of Glory
–> Aven Mindcensor

I’m trying out some new options for cheap creatures in white. White Knight and Silver Knight are iconic creatures, but are honestly not all that impressive in cube. The creatures you receive for their double-white mana costs feel slightly expensive, as if it should actually be a splashable 1W. Knight of Glory does exactly that, and removal of first strike is not that big of a loss when it is replaced with exalted, which is usually decent.

Serra Avenger still costs double-white, but it gives white decks another evasive attacker, and one that is not outclassed on turn four (and not difficult to cast on turn four, either). In fact, helps to enable more dynamic turn fours for aggressive decks, and plays into a control deck’s plan of playing a cheap threat while leaving mana up to protect it.

Aven Mindcensor is more of a test card, but I’m a big fan of flash as well as tricky abilities that “counter” your opponent’s spells in white. This will also likely see play in a variety of decks. It’s not from Magic 2013, but there are no other white cards from the set that I’m looking to add and I would like to keep the update even in number across the colors.


River Boa –> Yeva, Nature’s Herald
NEW –> Thragtusk

First Mire Boa, now River Boa? Yep. It’s just that so often, they’re simply 2/1 creatures for two mana, and only sometimes evasive. Green doesn’t want to fight aggressively in exactly the same way white does, so why play a worse Stormfront Pegasus? Yeva is going to be another creature for green that lets it play a little less on its own turn (helpful with werewolf creatures and with response-heavy colors like blue, red, and black for use with counterspells and creature removal), and enabling the rest of your green team to pop in with flash is not to be overlooked, either.

Thragtusk is simply one of the best recent five-drops to be printed for green. I think it will end up being better than both Vorapede (due to casting cost) and Wolfir Silverheart (due to resiliency) on average. Interactions with blink effects are are pretty obvious, and it’s not a bad Kiki-Jiki or Mimic Vat target, either.


Crater Hellion –> Thundermaw Hellkite
Forked Bolt –> Searing Spear
NEW –> Flames of the Firebrand

Crater Hellion has seen better days. Its largest effect just doesn’t deal with the variety of large threats that your opponents can play anymore, like the titans and other common 6-toughness finishers. As with many cards with echo, that drawback is becoming increasingly more difficult to justify in a world of 5- and 6-mana creatures with great abilities that don’t require a payment encore. Thundermaw Hellkite is simply a high-reaching finisher that even aggro decks can play. It’s also easier to cast and a bit more interesting than another comparable card, Rorix Bladewing.

Forked Bolt has a fairly small effect, and is just outclassed by Searing Spear, which will kill larger creatures and provide more consistency for burn directed at players’ faces.

Flames of the Firebrand will shore up the loss of Forked Bolt by giving red back the dividable damage in a slightly more expensive, more damaging package.


Black Knight –> Knight of Infamy
Dauthi Marauder –> Ravenous Rats
NEW –> Disciple of Bolas

This update for black continues the trend of knight-cutting. Black Knight is being removed for Knight of Infamy, for the same reason I’m adding Knight of Glory.

Dauthi Marauder might be considered a strange cut, but it’s very weak to removal, and doesn’t do anything other than attack. I’m getting to the point in my cube where, for three mana, I want my cards to do something other than just enter the battlefield and wait a turn to affect the board. This is especially relevant for a creature with shadow, since it can’t block. Ravenous Rats will “do something” early an immediately, and in the right deck combined with other threats, can run your opponent on the defensive without any answers.

Disciple of Bolas is a pretty cool value engine card that lets various black decks refill their hand for the long game if needed.

Blue is the odd color out, with no new cards from Magic 2013 that I’d like to add.

Return to Ravnica is looking pretty sweet already. I’m eagerly awaiting the full spoiler list, and once it’s out I’m going to set up a review of the interesting cards from the set.

Cube Update – Planechase 2 and Miscellaneous Changes

I made some changes recently to my cube, adding in cards from the latest Planechase set, plus a few other additions that I’ve been wanting to make for a while, having finally acquired the cards:


NEW –> Thawing Glaciers

Every now and then I like to throw a bone to control decks, and this is a nice source of slow source of card advantage. After adding it in the latest draft, it already saw interesting play with Venser, the Sojourner enabling a much faster source of lands.


NEW –> Chrome Mox

Chrome Mox is just a cool card that can enable some fast starts by aggro and control decks alike.


Wall of Denial –> Moorland Haunt
Simic Signet
–> Shardless Agent
Nemesis of Reason
–> Baleful Strix
Oona, Queen of the Fae
–> Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
–> Maelstrom Wanderer

What we have here is removal of a few “boring” cards and additions of some narrower cards to help support specific archetypes. Wall of Denial, while a generally powerful card, is just not interactive. Moorland Haunt supports the blue-white aggro/tempo plan and still provides a few chump blockers for more controlling decks. I didn’t really want to remove Simic Signet, but it’s the weakest of the options in its color combination, and Shardless Agent is going to be a nice option for card advantage in the same sorts of tap-out blue-green decks that would want to play the signet. Nemesis of Reason and Oona are both great finishers, but I’d like to support the artifact deck more with Baleful Strix (also wonderful in any blue-black control deck) and Tezzeret. I may even find myself adding back Tezzeret the Seeker back in to the cube at a later date. Maelstrom Wanderer is a wonderful card that will give players a reason to play big green ramp decks.


Ghostly Prison –> Mikaeus, the Lunarch

Ghostly Prison hasn’t been used in a while, and for understandable reasons – at its most effective time, early in the game, your opponent has probably already played a threat and can either pay the mana, destroy the enchantment, or do other things with the mana. In exchange, you have cast a three mana spell that doesn’t do anything to improve your own threats or card advantage – unlike, say, a Man-o’-War or Blade Splicer, which have similar applications as defensive cards. Mikaeus is a way for aggro and token decks to gain some reach, as well as give them a decent variable cost threat.


Yavimaya Elder –> Avacyn’s Pilgrim
Mire Boa 
–> Caller of the Claw
Albino Troll
–> Master of the Wild Hunt

I’m removing a few old staples here, so there’s got to be an explanation, right? Well, Yavimaya Elder is a fine card, but to get the most value out of it, you have to spend quite a bit of mana (for the equivalent of an awkward Harmonize). I’m replacing it with Avacyn’s Pilgrim, which will serve a similar but more aggressive role in ramp decks and green-white aggro. Mire Boa is sometimes evasive, and sometimes hard to kill – but there are plenty of spells that will deal with it, including the incoming Tragic Slip. Caller of the Claw is going to give green yet another flash creature, adding to recent and incoming additions Wolfir Avenger and Yeva, Nature’s Herald. I’ve been very happy with the way green is transforming into a more tricky color with these creature options, and I hope more get printed in the future. Master of the Wild Hunt is another card that I’ve been wanting to play with for a while, and have finally gotten the chance. This token creator will have a bit of an impact for green midrange and control decks, and while removing Albino Troll is sort of efficient, echo is always a feel-bad mechanic and I don’t think I or my fellow drafters will miss it much.


Crater Hellion –> Goblin Welder

While I like having some control options in red, I’m making way for a future addition of Thundermaw Hellkite and allowing myself an easy change for now. Goblin Welder has already done awesome work as a busted card in an already busted Tinker deck, bouncing Wurmcoil Engine and Sundering Titan into and out of play over multiple turns, proving its going to have a home in my cube for quite a while. It’s narrow, but justifies its inclusion by helping to create a more consistent artifact-based control deck.


Fume Spitter –> Tragic Slip
Fallen Askari
–> Yawgmoth’s Will
Nameless Inversion
–> Terror

Black is getting a fairly simple update this time. Tragic Slip performs a similar role to Fume Spitter, while also sometimes ridding the battlefield of larger threats. Fallen Askari is removed for Yawgmoth’s Will, trading a simple aggro creature for a combo and control finisher. And Nameless Inversion moves out for Terror – Inversion is cute, but Terror is a bit more useful at killing larger creatures (and it has awesome Foil art!).

I’m starting to shift black a little bit away from aggro and more toward control – though it is less about removing aggro than it is about removing aggro creatures that don’t “do something,” whether that means having activated abilities or triggers that improve board position or card advantage. Straight 2-power beaters with drawbacks are going to start making way for more useful creatures and spells.


Capsize –> Tradewind Rider

Tradewind Rider is a card I got a chance to play both with and against in the MTGO Cube events, and I ended up liking it a lot more than I thought I would. I run plenty of creatures in my blue section, so it’s definitely worth the inclusion. It’ll replace Capsize as a similar repeatable removal option, but one that doesn’t require spending a whole lot of mana to keep up once it’s online. And in the meantime, is a fine blocker in the same control decks that would play Capsize.

Additional Cards I’m Testing

Alchemist’s Refuge
Cathedral of War
Academy Ruins
Havengul Lich
Ethersworn Canonist
Geist-Honored Monk
Birthing Pod
Skyshroud Elite
Krenko, Mob Boss
Bloodhunter Bat

These are simply additional older cards I’m testing out. There are some Magic 2013 cards in here I’m not sure about yet as well. Birthing Pod has already seen play in a 4-color Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker deck that could combo off with all three infinite combo options in my cube (sadly, it only got to perform it once in the draft – but it did all three ways in one turn as a consolation!), and I think it will probably find its way in as a permanent addition to the cube in the next few updates. Cathedral of War seems to be a decent “value” card that has low opportunity cost.

That’s it for this update. Magic 2013 changes will come as soon as possible. There aren’t too many cards, but there are some gems. I’m also really looking forward to some Return to Ravnica spoilers, as there are bound to be interesting cards in a new multicolor block.