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Quarterly Cube Update – Return to Ravnica (Multicolor)

October 30, 2012

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:

Selesnya

NEW –> Armada Wurm
NEW
–> 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.

Rakdos

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

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].

Izzet

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.

Golgari

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:

Gruul

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

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.

Orzhov

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!

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