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Cube Design Philosophy – Multicolor

November 26, 2011

Multicolor cards are fun, right? Of course! They’re flavorful cards that combine aspects of each of their color’s strengths and weaknesses, and are typically more powerful than other cards of their converted mana costs. All of the makings for interesting and powerful cube cards — or so one would think.

When I started my cube, I had missed about 10 years of Magic. That meant I hadn’t played with any cards from Invasion block, Ravnica block, and the Shadowmoor and Eventide sets. I didn’t even get to play with much from Shards of Alara block either, considering Magic 2010 had just come out. That meant that multicolor was on my mind, and I had such a wealth of cards to discover and explore. Thus, I wanted a lot of multicolor cards in my cube. I planned on having 5-6 cards per two-color combination, and a few hybrid cards in each as well.

Maybe you’re thinking of doing the same thing.

That would be a mistake.

The problem is that the some multicolor cards are among the best cards in the whole game, and some are just plain bad. After trying to force my original cube design parameters, I quickly found this to be the case. Some cards are just better than others. Some color combinations just have more powerful cards available to them for a cube environment. And cubes full of multicolor cards (without being a themed cube with abnormal support for that kind of thing) will find the draft and resulting decks difficult to build and play.

The best multicolor cards typically do one or more of a few things:

  • Extremely efficient cost:effect ratio, like Vindicate or Putrid Leech
  • Perform repeatable powerful effects, like Ajani Vengeant or Stormbind
  • Performs a very unique effect
  • Is a huge game-ending bomb

And that’s really it. Now, the interesting thing about that list is that “being hybrid” isn’t on it. In fact, there isn’t a single hybrid card in my cube right now that I wouldn’t at least consider playing if it were only one of its component colors (and sorted into that color, of course). Kitchen Finks? Murderous Redcap? These are great cards and would probably be worthy inclusions in either of their mono-color sections. That they are hybrid makes them even more versatile, but not the sole reason I play them over Loxodon Hierarch and Blazing Specter. So, hybrid cards are able to compete with their purer multicolor counterparts mostly on power level alone.

I have begun thinking more about the card choices in my cube, and what cards are necessary in my multicolor section to promote certain play styles. I want my multicolor cards to do one or more of the following:

  • Draw you into a color
  • Provide unique or iconic feeling cards
  • Directly support archetypes
  • Serve as control finishers and indirect archetype support

Notably, this excludes some cards other people might include, like Mortify or Gelectrode, in favor of the more unusual choices of Angel of Despair and Spellbound Dragon. The former cards have relatively minor effects on a game and do not do anything interesting that you couldn’t do inside their component colors. The Angel and Dragon, however, provide huge creatures that destroy problem permanents, provide card selection, etc. These are generally more powerful effects that simply create more “interesting” board states.

A side effect of this is that I can use these decisions to change how I select cards for the other sections of my cube. For instance, I could omit certain control finishers from each color. For example, I have never included Eternal Dragon or Akroma, Angel of Wrath in my cube. Or maybe since I use Edric, Spymaster of Trest in my UG section, I should include more token producers in green, and more cheap evasive creatures in blue.

I have already made some changes to my own cube, and I plan on taking a closer look at which cards I include based on these criteria. I encourage everyone with a cube to take another look at their cube and determine if they are using the best cards for their cube as a whole. Whether for you, this means the most powerful cards available, or cards with a history behind them, or particular archetype support, or other reasons.

Basically, multicolor cards should not be thought of in a vacuum. They are an important part of each cube, but should used as sparingly as possible because of their difficulty to draft. Because there are so few slots available, care should be taken to include only the ones that will truly have an impact on the games they are a part of, and should affect those games in ways that you or I, as a cube builder, want the format to play. They should not simply be powerful in a generic way, but rather a part of the way your cube is unique and fun to play.

I have begun a 10-part series on updating my multicolor section with these principles in mind. Follow along here with each of the guilds, and re-evaluate your own multicolor cards:


From → Cube Philosophy

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