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By: kelvinmai, Kelvin Mai
Aug 22 2013 6:03am
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As I have said I have felt a little stale when it comes to standard so I wanted to step out and do something different. I was thinking about writing up some modern stuff but I am still trying to learn that format and don't want to do anything until I'm more familiar with it. So I decided to write about something that I have been actively doing lately. And it's cube! So I'm sure you all have the same question and that question would be;

What is a cube?

A cube is a custom draft format where you can put whatever cards you want into it and just draft it and play it. MTGO has its own cube that shows up every now and again and it goes in the usual cube direction of putting all the best cards in it and seeing what can happen. But we don't always have to wait for MTGO to put out a cube for us to actually play it! You can always put together a cube and let people draft it, although it has to be done outside of MTGO on websites like tappedout.com. Another negative to this is that after you're done drafting it and import it into MTGO to challenge everyone in your draft table is that you actually have to own all the cards that are featured in that cube for the deck to work. So playing a normal powered cube is out of the question because I'm sure you don't want to drop thousands of dollars to play a casual format. Not to worry there is something friendlier to your wallet. 

Enter the Peasant

Peasant is a term for uncommons and commons, just like how pauper is the term for only commons. So getting together the cards for something like this is much more attainable. And there have been player run events that have already done this; the one that I'm most familiar with is the unified Ravnica pauper cube being run at PDCMagic.com. Unified Ravnica features one of each card from both Ravnica blocks and pauper of course means only the commons. Mirrodin is another plane that has had more than one block so a Mirrodin unified cube also exists. Synergies you've never thought about can happen and cards that you wished were in the same block can finally be used together. Such examples of these are Affinity and Tainted Strike in Mirrodin unified for a massive infection and you will see how well the old Ravnica mechanics mesh with the new ones such as Dredge and Scavenge.

Deckbuilding to the Extreme

So the unified cube is fun for everybody at the draft table but what about the deck builder? Of course there's the deckbuilding portion of draft but the best part of cubing is building the monstrosity yourself. A unified cube takes all the fun and challenge away, so instead you'd want to make the cube from scratch. And cube building is the ultimate test of deckbuilding because you are now building ten, if not more, decks that have to work well against each other but balanced so that not any one deck can beat the rest. That is the challenge, but that doesn't mean you can't have any creativity. As many of you will know I enjoy unconventional decks so that means that the cube will have tons of unconventional archetypes that will be included. So I will share with you some of them below.

Orzhov Bleed

Bloodhunter Bat Blood Artist Tithe Drinker 

This is an archetype that wizards have pushed in RTR block with the Orzhov Guild. The focus of this kind of deck is to slowly kill them by poking them all while gaining life so that you, yourself, don't die first. And I haven't mentioned this but the trick to cube making is making sure every card can work even outside it's designated archetype. All four cards pictured fit this category: Bloodhunter Bat is an evasive creature in black, Blood Artist is a great blocker and control enabler, Tithe Drinker is a great beater with lifelink and could fit in both aggro and control and finally Slaughter is an almost unconditional kill spell. None of these cards are too narrow so any drafter can pick them up without having to commit to this specific archetype. But the magic happens when they are all in the same deck. All three of these creatures contribute to the life gain and life poking and then the deck can infinitely buy back Slaughter. Some other great cards that fit in this is Suture Priest, Blood Seeker and then Exsanguinate as a finisher.

Izzet Spells Matter

Kiln Fiend Archaeomancer Guttersnipe Gelectrode

Remember when I said that for a good cube all cards should be flexible and fit in any deck possible? Well scratch that and replace it with "most" because it's alright to have some narrow cards. And what better color combination to do that with than Blue and Red. These two colors are all about going all in and this is the archetype to do so. There is still some wiggle room where the drafter can decide to either be more controlling or more aggressive but they will still have to pick up the cards for this deck. And it's all about the spells here! Every creature will benefit from a spell, ranging from Delver of Secrets, Kiln Fiend and Guttersnipe. If they don't they'll benefit you like Archaeomancer to bring back a spell. This is also the archetype that I'd include the combos. Now I would advise against real storm because it'll take up too much space in the cube, but combos that are possible are the standard Kiln Fiend combo, making it unblockable and have double strike to attack for at least 20 in one swing. Another is Archaeomancer with Ghostly Flicker and something like Pestermite to generate a huge turn. And how do we make these combos work? Well luckily we're in the right colors to include things like Ponder and Manamorphose.

Myr Tribal Ramp

Silver Myr Ulamog's Crusher Myr Galvanizer Myrsmith

This is still just a concept as I'm not done with the actual practice of it. And the idea came about by me putting in the mana Myrs from Mirrodin, things like Silver Myr, because I wanted more creatures and less land in the cube. But then it occurred to me that this could mean I don't have to run any elves and that would definitely make my cube feel different. So with the addition of Palladium Myr and Alloy Myr we have the ramp tools and then add in some big eldrazi for the ramp targets like Ulamog's Crusher. But I discovered something else, Myr Galvanizer is one of the few uncommon lords that generate a +1/+1 stat boost so going myr tribal in peasant is definitely an option and I added that in. And of course the token producers like Myrsmith and Shrine of Loyal Legions are automatic inclusions. So you would think this archetype is strong because of all of these features? Well it is in the artifact section so anyone can take them up so it is a fragile one to draft but it definitely seems like a powerful one. This is one that needs some testing to see if it's even a viable and fair deck.

 Golgari Dredge

Stinkweed Imp Spider Spawning  

I am a big fan of the graveyard and this archetype isn't all that eccentric but it is great fun. The point of this deck is simple, mill yourself and get value from your graveyard. Whether the value is from flashback spells like Spider Spawning, retracing a Worm Harvest or reanimating a fattie to finish the game. Self mill does deviate into two different types of decks, reanimation and graveyard abuse. Graveyard Abuse is great because you can include cards like Wreath of Geists and Boneyard Wurm without needing the key finisher in the graveyard like Worm Harvest. But Reanimation is a bit trickier because it is somewhat a 5 color deck but you can't cast any of the cards, instead you are more worried about discarding the right cards with the use of Wild Mongrel or Zombie Infestation and bringing out your giant creature before your opponent can do anything about it. 

Bant Pants

Slippery Bogle Unflinching Courage Invisible Stalker Ethereal Armor

Another not so unconventional archetype that I am interested in including is Bant Hexproof. Invisible Stalker might as well be a rare, but since it's not it's fair to put him in and of course we have other hexproof creatures like Gladecover Scout and Slippery Bogle but say we want some evasion? In those cases there is always Ascended Lawmage and Silhana Ledgewalker. Now there is no shortage of auras to enchant these hexproof creatures with. Rancor is a staple of all cubes and it is very important here, but if we can't get that single card there is always the suite of Ethereal Armor, Spectral Flight, Armadillo Cloak and the list goes on and on. Now moving to the more unconventional side, I'm also putting a prison enchantment control style deck in the same colors except with a heavier white focus. Things like Faith's Fetters, which also goes well with the black white bleed plan, Oblivion Ring and Sphere of Safety. This way Ethereal Armor is serves a dual purpose, both as a finisher but one for a more aggressive deck and the other for a very slow and grindy control deck. 

This brings us to the end of the article. You can check out my cube here. It is unfinished as of writing this article and doesn't have all the fully formed ideas that I wrote about above but you can subscribe to it and see my progress to slowly finish it. It is also all in paper at the moment so I can't run an MTGO event of it just yet but I would be more than happy to organize that whenever I finish the cube. Quite honestly I would probably write a follow up article to announce that since I still have a long way to go. And I want to emphasize that I wrote this not only because it is something that I'm interested in and a bit passionate about but also because I wanted to spark some interest on pureMTGO on the subject and maybe bring some authors out to start writing about cube too. 

As always be sure to check out the rest of my articles.
MTGO: kelvinmai
twitter: @kelvinmai