Friday, 29 April 2016

The Cube Combo Archetypes Links

Having listed the possible combo decks for cube I realized I had left people hanging with too little detail. Not only have I not done listings for the majority of the combo decks it is also fairly difficult to search and navigate my blog when looking for something specific. As both a checklist for me and a slight aid in navigation for you I have done this list. I will be keeping it updated as I complete deck techs for those missing. Some archetypes will wind up withe several entries as there is much overlap in combo, lots of different ways to go about most combos and then of course changes over time as new cards arrive and the meta evolves. Indeed looking at some of the older offerings I have put up it is quite evident how much things change, both the cards and my understanding of how best to do things! As such the older something is the more loosely it should be used as a guide.

Ad Nauseam

Fastbond Crucible

Auriok Salvagers

Thopter Foundry Sword of the Meek

Grindstone Servant

Panoptic Mirror

Draco Explosion

Severence Belcher

No Land Belcher


Siesmic Swans

Illusions Donate

Scepter Chant



Darkdepths Hexmage

Splinter Twin

Flash Hulk

Melira Pod

Metalworker Staff of Domination

Pili Pala Architect

Body Double Reveillark




Reckoner Blasphemous Act

Brine Elemental Shapeshifter

Devoted Druid Quillspike

Pandemonium Burst

Power Artifact Monolith

Intruder Alarm

Kiln Fiend

Living End

Living Death

Zombie Bidding

Goblin Bidding

Foodchain Goblins



Show and Tell


Oath of Druids

Sneak Attack

Goblin Welder

Natural Order

Tooth and Nail

Volrath's Shapeshifter


Cad Bloom

Dream Halls / Omiscience

Mind Over Matter

Lab Maniac




Jeskai Ascendancy

Glimpse Elves

High Tide

Artifact Storm

Ritual Storm

Heartbeat Storm

Endless Turns



Sneaky Oath

Sneak AttackThis is a reasonably nice pairing of cheaty effects that also doesn't require you to be in blue. While not a combo that outright kills people when you get it, nor is it the most reliable, nor the quickest, it is very robust. This deck is quite a solid midrange shell and has lots of tools to cope with whatever else is going on. This deck can easily just cast things and win without ever seeing Oath or Sneak Attack.

If you want to be in these sorts of colours and this style of combo you do have some options. You can go the reanimator route using green discard tools like Survival of the Fittest. Or you can pair Sneak Attack with Natural Order instead of the Oath which has both pros and cons. With Oath you cannot go running lots of little crappy dorks which means you can't play things like Survival of the Fittest, Recurring Nightmare or Natural Order. This does limit the design of your deck as a lot of the good green cards are creatures. Looking at it the other way round, you have to play little critters to play those other cards which limits available deck space and also therefore limits design. While creatures are great and do lots of good things there are basically none with decent library manipulation in Jund colours. As such the Natural Order Sneak Attack lists fall victim to their own poor draws a lot of the time. You either see the Sneak and not the dorks or you see the Order and have all the targets you want from it.
Oath of Druids
Another issue with running Sneak and Order is that the best targets for both don't have massive overlap. You end up running a couple that don't work well or at all with the other combo piece. Oath of Druids is a kinder cheaty spell in terms of the dorks you can play with it. This means with Oath and Sneak you can play a suite of dorks that are always pretty good whatever cheaty card you happen to have. I much prefer Sneak and Oath to Sneak and Order for overall consistency, Reanimator is much closer in power level to Sneaky Oath if you want to play with dorks. Natural Order is usually best as a supplement card in a ramp deck. If you want to play with little dorks you should probably go Reanimator with green, if you want to have the mightiest of big dorks then you should look to Sneak Attack and Oath!

24 Spells

Faithless Looting
Vampiric Tutor
Inquisition of Kozilek

Search for Tomorrow
Lighting Bolt

Oath of Druids
Moment's Peace
Scroll Rack

Moment's PeaceSylvan Library
Demonic Tutor
Abrupt Decay

Nature's Lore

Wheel of Fortune
Kolghan's Command
Bow of Nylea

Sneak Attack

Wurmcoil Engine
Grave Titan
Worldspine Wurm
Emrakul, the Eons Torn

16 Lands

(only including Forbidden Orchard if against creature light decks)

Worldspine WurmWhile you can get away with running just one or two threats with Oath should you be brave you need more than that to make a Sneak Attack worth it. Even with the pure Sneak cards like Serra Avatar it is rare you kill people in a single activation of it and Serra Avatar is very weak these days. You are better off running good creatures, sure they might not one shot people ever but even things like Titans do way way more for you towards winning the game than a single swing with your non evasive Avatar. The advantage of having some of your targets as six drops is that you can fairly easily cast them should you need. This gives you a reasonable amount of game against control players.

This list feels like it should have planeswalkers in it, they give you good action and utility and offer a lot of what utility utility dorks offer without disrupting your Oath. Sadly of the various Jund planeswalkers very few offer much to this list. As removal options spells are just cheaper and better, the ways in which Jund planeswalkers tend to yield card advantage is either too slow or not in a useful form. Discard outlets do little for this deck too. All told I couldn't find any planeswalkers that seemed to do something I wanted. The closest was Arlinn Kord for being able to haste up Oathed creatures and he clearly isn't a great fit for a deck with so few dorks in general.

ExploreThe deck has some ramp but not loads, it is partly for fixing, thinning and shuffling your library. The deck likes more mana but it operates fine without ramp. Being able to threaten a Sneak a turn earlier is significant even if you don't actually do it that often. Likewise, your six drop threats are a lot more relevant if you can cast them on turn five. They may actually save you from getting your head kicked in by an aggro deck.

There is some tutor, some draw, some dig, some removal and some recursion to fill out the list. Pernicious Deed is an obvious omission from the list, it is a bit slow and hits a couple of things you don't want it to but is also still nutty good. Well worth forcing in against any deck with lots of low CMC permanents. Moments Peace is nice as it gives you a free spell some of the time when you Oath. This list has no Swan Song (not being blue!) and no Forbidden Orchard with which to force an Oath activation. In my experience the decks that Oath is good against can't win without making dorks. Decks like blue control can avoid making any dorks all game and still win, the thing is they are generally pretty good at coping with what you Oath up so often you end up just milling yourself to death when you try that. Oath is just as great without playing weak lands in your list and bonus tutors to find them.

Bow of Nylea is the most cuttable card from this list. You have lifegain and reshuffle elsewhere in the list which are the useful things Bow offers the deck. Despite this I have found the Bow to be quite nice in this deck and makes you feel very safe in most situations. As cube combo decks go this is one of the more straight forward to play and build yet doesn't pay a cost for this simplicity in its power level.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

The Best Mana Rocks

I am doing this as the result of a request however I am surprised that I have not embarked upon it before as it is quite an obvious, powerful and highly played group of cards to consider. The reason that I have not done this before is that there are a couple of stages of ramp cards when it comes to artifacts. It is rarely much use playing power like Gilded Lotus if you don't have any way to play it before turn five. Ramp that you can play on turns one or two with any reliability is generally not as powerful as the bigger cards but you need far more of it in decks and cubes. I will do this list based entirely on how often mana rocks are played specifically in artifact ramp decks. To do this list and include all archetypes would unfairly show up the cheaper colour producing mana rocks which are typically weaker in the decks trying to ramp up to something really big. A lot of the cards on this list are on my banned list. More oddly a lot of the cards on this list are lands, it turns out that they are some of the best and most important cards at performing the role of the early mana rock cards despite not technically counting as such.

This list includes every mana rock that I have played or seen played in the cube format and is surprisingly small as a result. Much of this is down to the imbalance of the early stuff making only the top quality fair things viable for cube use. I am starting with the best because they are much more obvious and far less interesting. When you are playing any sort of artifact ramp deck you will simply play every single card you have that is on the top 13 of this list, they are all just so nutty good. The interesting part is which of the fair ramp cards are best used to fill in the gaps your power cards are missing. 

Sol Ring1.   Sol Ring

Playable turn one for one mana and offers immediate ramp that turn and a double ramp the subsequent turns. There are no penalties, no downsides, nothing. Sol Ring is utterly unreasonably good, it is the honorary power nine that is better most of the time than the rest of the power nine. You could argue that colourless mana production is a weakness I guess... The only decks that don't happily auto include a Sol Ring when they can are those like RDW and white weenie (sometimes) where the vast majority of the cost of their cards is R or W mana and not colourless. Sol Ring is doubly good as an artifact ramp spell because most of the other artifact ramp cards are incredibly easy to cast off the back of a Sol Ring.

Mox Ruby

2.  The Good Mox

Very similar to Sol Ring in terms of power. The Mox offer the same ramp on the fist turn as Sol Ring but provide coloured mana as well allowing you to be much more flexible in what you can follow them with. On following turns they only offer a single ramp rather than the double Sol Ring offers making them somewhat less abusive. A good Mox draw is just a little unfair while a good Sol Ring draw is totally unfair. 

Tolarian Academy

3.   Tolarian Academy

The very best of the naughty lands that tap for way too much. Because of cards like Mox and Sol Ring the Academy is bonkers, it can tap for several blue on turn one and only gets more obnoxious as the game develops. It is much narrower than Mox and Sol Ring as you need support cards for it to reliably tap for loads. Despite this is it easily one of the most powerful cards in the game when you get it right allowing you to do whatever you want from turn two onwards.

Mana Crypt

4.   Mana Crypt

Sol Rings dangerous cousin the Mana Crypt is more potent ramp than the mighty Ring however it is only something you can play when you are able to win quickly. It is not a card you want with an infinite turns combo! As it is overall less playable the mana Crypt is easier to pick up than the premium mana ramp cards however when you are able to stomach 1.5 damage a turn then Mana Crypt is about as good as it gets.

Mishra's Workshop

5.   Mishra's Workshop

A land, that taps for three, from the get go, with no penalty, not even life loss or coming into play tapped. The mana is awkward to use, far far more so than with Sol Ring but when you are offered three times the usual for a land it is well worth finding things you can effectively play off the Workshop. It is fortunate for Workshop that it has great synergy with things like Tolarian Academy and the sorts of decks that want to generate lots of mana and use powerful artifacts.

Mana Vault

6.   Mana Vault

The first of the cards I haven't banned along with the power for most forms of cube play. It is not uncommon to see this banned however, it is certainly one of the closest to the line. For one mana you can ramp two right away like a Dark Ritual or you can save it for a triple ramp on a later turn. It has great synergy with sac effects and untap effects and affords you great artifact synergy simply by being a useful one drop artifact. You can get it down and power up your other stuff without ever tapping it for mana! Used more for combos and big plays and not so much as a generic midrange ramp card.

Grim Monolith

7.   Grim Monolith

Slightly safer and slightly fairer the Grim Monolith is the other Mana Vault. It only ramps one on the turn you make it so it is far less common to have it surprise someone with a big play however once it is down it is going to do a big old ramp into something scary. It can be untapped at instant speed any time you like or it can just be left tapped doing nothing to hurt anyone. Most of the "unbeatable" openers in unpowered cube come from Vault and Monolith but they do require very tailored decks to appropriately use the power they offer. They are not quite as broken as the silly Workshop and Academy yet they are basically just as narrow.

Ancient Tomb

8.   Ancient Tomb

Lands that tap for three are too good even when you can only use them to cast a small fraction of the cards in the game. Lands that tap for two are pretty darn good, most that have seen print have seen play in some form or another and Ancient Tomb is the best of the bunch. It can be used right away and costs a mere two life. Being able to play a turn one Grim Monolith or even just a humble Talisman allows for some serious things to happen very fast indeed. Ancient Tomb follows many of the same deckbuilding guidelines as Mana Crypt. You want to win fast and you want lots of cards you can play with two colourless mana. As Tomb is a land not a spell you cannot usually cast anything coloured with it on turn one making it a little more restrictive than Crypt.

City of Traitors9.  City of Traitors

The other Ancient Tomb is a lot less painful and may be tapped many more times throughout the course of a game than you are able with Tomb. Sadly the City doesn't tend to stick around long enough to get tapped more than the Tomb does. You want to make City early and get loads of ramp out of it however you also want to make it as you last land so that you don't just put it in the bin after two taps. This makes it less reliable ramp and an inconvenient card but still almost always played happily in places you play Ancient Tomb. Even making it on turn one and losing it on turn two is four mana from one card which is pretty good. Often you can use that early burst to gain enough tempo to secure the game. Someone making conventional land drops will be behind in mana until turn four overall.

Mox Opal

10. Mox Opal

Tapping for any colour is nice but does not make up for the need of metalcraft for this to do anything at all. Fortunately, as is the case for Academy and Workshop you typically play lots of artifacts in the sorts of decks that abuse many of these cards and as such you should have a pretty reliable Mox Opal, typically online from turn two in unpowered cubes and turn one in the powered. Narrow but comfortably one of the most powerful magic cards in the right environment.

11. Metalworker

Another somewhat narrow mana ramp card that not only requires you to have a heavy artifact count in your deck but also costs three mana and comes with all the drawbacks of being a dork (summoning sickness and ease of killing). The reason Metalworker sits so high on this list is simply down to the raw mana production the card offers. I have seen these tapping for over 20, I have seen them tap on turn 2 for 10. That kind of mana lets you do basically everything you could want to all there and then. Metalworker likes cards such as Lightning Greaves or even Spellskite to help protect it and speed it up. Needing cards in hand is not really a drawback as you don't need mana when you have nothing in hand to play! Even when you only tap for 2 or 4 Metalworker is still nutty good. Even the green mana producing dudes don't really compare well to metalworker.

Gilded Lotus
12. Gilded Lotus

Gilded Lotus is often the card you use your early ramp to get out. Once you have a Lotus in play you feel incredibly powerful, able to cast whatever you like and simply overwhelm your opponent. Gilded Lotus is by far and away the most common non-creature Tinker target. Three mana of any colour typically means you can do useful things immediately after making the Gilded Lotus thus effectively reducing its cost to two. While not the most appropriate comparison it would be pretty clear how overpowered a 2 mana Gilded Lotus that came into play tapped was! Likely better than Sol Ring, certainly close.

Thran Dynamo13. Thran Dynamo

Gilded Lotus's colourless little brother the Thran Dynamo is a fine card in many of the same ways the Gilded Lotus is. The difference between four and five is not actually that much in the kinds of decks you play them in. Trying to cast something actually useful off the back of a Thran Dynamo is substantially harder than it is with Gilded Lotus which means you actually do tend to pay four mana for the card rather than the pseudo two for Lotus. Dynamo typically sets you back a turn so that all your following turns are terrifying. It is almost always the second or third big ramp card used in artifact ramp decks but it sees almost no play outside those archetypes.

Everflowing Chalice

14. Everflowing Chalice

A flexible little card you can throw down as a no mana do nothing to power up other things like Academy or Mox Opal, that you can make as a standard two mana ramp for one card, or that you can scale up for later use as a slightly pricier Thran Dynamo. By far and away the best use is as a two drop where it is most on curve for power level. Artifact ramp deck's biggest weakness is consistency and the strength of the Chalice is being able to fill a couple of different roles therefore greatly increasing the consistency of the deck. Part Talisman, part Thran Dynamo and still fetchable with a Trinket Mage.

Talisman of Dominance15. The Talismans

Great little ramp cards that let you get a deceptive amount of extra work done. As with the Gilded Lotus the real cost of Talismans tends to be less than the printed cost as you use them for mana right away. It is even easier to spend one mana usefully early in the game than it is to use three when you have usually already ramped a bit. Talismans are a great way to smoothly develop the board and gain momentum without costing yourself much in the way of tempo. It is also a nice way to turn colourless mana from something like a Thran Dynamo into coloured mana which is of more use to you. If this list was accounting for actual amount played rather than amount played in just artifact ramp decks then the Talismans would be pretty near the top of the list likely just behind Chrome Mox and Mox Diamond.

Mox Diamond
16. Mox Diamond

Early game Mox Diamond is neither the biggest ramp nor the easiest to support in the kinds of deck that look to play a lot of artifact mana. Mox Diamond is outstanding in the right sorts of decks, usually blue or black ones with lots of card draw. In heavy artifact decks you have relatively few lands meaning most of your draws don't have spare land to toss to the Diamond. It does tend to become better later on in the game when you do things like Memory Jar but generally you are just better off running Talismans. Affinity decks often play it because they can't support Chrome at all and really want that early burst plus fixing. The bigger ramp decks want this a lot less.

Voltaic Key17.  Voltaic Key

Technically not a mana rock but certainly an honorary one as it is basically never used without cards like Grim Monolith and Mana Vault. Key has a lot of utility with things like Divining Top, Steel Overseer and so forth but it is most reliably a card that essentially mimics a Sol Ring rather effectively once you have some kind of artifact that taps for 3. Useful as a way to produce more coloured mana as well in combination with artifact lands or Talisman. While one of the most versatile and powerful of the mana rocks the key is even more narrow than things like Metalworker as it does nothing on its own.

Coalition Relic

18. Coalition Relic

Not exactly quick as a ramp card but very convenient. It produces any coloured mana, it can produce mana the turn you make it or it can be left to charge and provide a double ramp the following turn. Three is quite a big investment despite the convenience this card offers. It is part Talisman, part Gilded Lotus and part Worn Powerstone of which all are playable and only one isn't a good card. Sadly middle of the road cards tend to wind up as filler in the polar decks like artifact ramp. When this isn't being used as filler in artifact ramp decks it is as desperation fixing.

Mind Stone19. Mindstone

A bit like Everflowing Chalice, a nice little early boosting two drop ramp card that scales well into the late game. Chalice simply offers higher mana returns while Mindstone instead turns into a new card. When you have things like Academy it is very easy to over ramp and run out of gas making Mindstone really handy. Although reducing your mana output isn't ideal for a ramp deck that somewhat misses how those decks function. You need a stepping stone card to get you to the big stuff quicker. Mindstone can be that step and then it is pretty irrelevant, if you can make 9 or 10 mana mos of the time won't make much difference while an extra card really can.

Dreamstone Hedron
20. Dreamstone Hedron

This is the top end of the ramp, really when you can play a six drop you shouldn't need to carry on ramping. The only reason this sees play is that there are lots of cards that make playing artifacts much easier, Mishra's Workshop for one but in fairer formats there are still plenty such things. The card is three Mindstones all rolled into one which results in either a Thran Dynamo for 50% increased cost or an Ancestral Recall for 900% the cost! Draw three is a healthy chunk and can be split over two turns but it isn't a great use for an already not great card. Versatile yes but efficient no. It is not even that versatile as it doesn't work quite so well with itself as the Mindstone. This is played more than it should be simply because there isn't as much redundancy for the big mana producers as there is for the two drops ones.

Izzet Signet21. The Signets

Much as though these appear like the Talisman, better even to the untrained eye, they are quite substantially weaker. This is almost entirely down to them needing that mana input to produce further mana. As such you cannot play something off the back of one if you make it turn two. While Talisman are pseudo one drops the Signets are closer to psuedo three drops. Later in the game when the activation mana isn't an issue the Signets are sill a little awkward to use and occasionally make things a problem. While a minor drawback compared to the other problem with Signets it is still comparable to the pain you can take from Talisman. Signets are played mostly as colour fixing for artifact decks and as such you see the opposing colours played more. The blue/black and blue/white ones also see a bit of play as backup to the corresponding Talisman.

Khalni Gem22. Khalni Gem

While this looks pretty awful it is surprisingly good in the kinds of deck that want artifact ramp. On paper this looks like a two to four mana investment for something that doesn't even ramp you for following turns unless you didn't otherwise have lands to make. For these reasons you never see this played in anything but heavy artifact decks but it does have a good place in those. Being able to turn a lot of colourless mana into coloured mana is very helpful and having access to it right away is a delight. When Khlani Gem starts to really shine is where returning lands is either irrelevant or even an advantage. Commonly used with City of Traitors as a way to carry on making land without having to put the City in the bin. Also commonly used with things like Wildfire as a way of saving a couple of your lands. I have had it often enough where I am able to play the Gem with one or no lands in play, I have even cast it simply as a way to relay my Tolarian Academy so that I could tap it again for substantially more than the four mana used to play the Gem with! If your deck has the right sort of synergy the Gem can outperform some of the best top end ramp cards but it is a lot narrower than them in general. It is certainly one of the more interesting and unexpected cards on this list.

Hedron Archive23. Hedron Archive

Between the Mindstone and the Dreamstone Hedron we have this middle of the road card. You almost always see Solemn Simulacrum played over this as both ramp and offer value but Archive is one or the other while Crum is both. In the midrange decks doing several things quite well is really good but in the polar decks like ramp you want the best tool for the job which means cards like this rarely see play despite being very acceptable cards. If your deck wants these things you are playing Thrann Dynamo/Gilded Lotus and Memory Jar.

Chrome Mox
24. Chrome Mox

It seems harsh to have Chrome so low on this list but it is pretty unplayable in the decks looking to play lots of mana rocks. Generally those decks have very few coloured cards and those that they do have are either key cards to the deck or just very powerful important cards you rarely want to give up. It is also not uncommon for those kinds of decks to be several colours with just one or two coloured cards from each. As such your Chrome Mox has few imprint targets, less of which you are happy to imprint and that rarely fix the colour you need them too. A risky unreliable two for one that offers just a single ramp is too weak most of the time. Some storm decks and affinity decks will run it but primarily because it still does stuff for them without imprinting it.

Palladium Myr25. Palladium Myr

The tame Metalworker is fairly acceptable as cards go but is just wildly overshadowed by the actual Metal Worker. When dorks are fine and you want artifact ramp, odds on Metalworker is vastly better than Palladium Myr. There are decks with low artifact counts that still want some meatier ramp in which this fits the bill fairly well. The trouble is that Palladium Myr still only gets 50% of the play it should in those situations because of Worn Powerstone. As ramp cards they are pretty comparable in function and utility so it all comes down to weather being on 2/2 legs will be a help or a hindrance. You don't want your 3 drop ramp spell Shocked but then a free 2/2 can do a lot of work. Synergy with things that give haste makes this slightly better than the Powerstone but much the same sort of thing.
One thing I will say for the Palladium Myr compared to the Metalworker is that the extra power it has makes it substantially more useful as a body. It can trade fine and threaten
planeswalkers etc.

Fellwar Stone

26. Fellwar Stone

In my mind this is the sixth Talisman and is rather underused relative to its power. This can produce as much mana as a Talisman just as quickly without any pain. It can offer more than one or two colours but it is good fortune when those colours are the ones you want. Basically you play Talismans when you want to fix colour and things like Mindstone when you don't care about colours. If you care then Fellwar Stone is going to be very unreliable and if you don't then you have marginally better options. There are situations when Fellwar is the best fit but they are quite a lot rarer than for the other colour producers as it is such a thin line between caring and not caring about your colour production.

Serum Powder27. Serum Powder

There are very few cube decks that would both want this card and that can afford to exile six random cards from their list and still hope to function well. If you have such a deck then the Powder is decent filler but no where near the utility it has offered in constructed formats. A free muligan may sound nice but it does come with the cost of playing one of the worst ramp cards going.

Sky Diamond

28. The Diamonds

Slow and unexciting these little cards do still see occasional play. Almost always in mono coloured decks and usually ones where life is an issue and speed is less of a priority. The green one never sees play, I should clarify that. Primairly it is red and blue that get used but given how infrequently that is it is probably not statistically relevant! The best thing about the Diamond cycle is how lovely they all look!

Basalt Monolith29. Basalt Monolith

Slow ramp, no burst and no sustained mana yield. It is pretty obvious how much better a 1 mana Grim Monolith that untapped for 5 would be compared to what it is, or even a 0 mana cost, 6 to untap variant if you need further convincing! Basalt Monolith is in the sweet spot of weakness as any furhter reduction to the untap cost turns it into an infinite mana producer! Basalt Monolith is poor all round but does have some combo potential with Power Artifact in the manner just mentioned. That is where it gets most of its play. Some decks do play it over Worn Powerstone as it gets you to 6 or 7 a little more reliably and quickly. Given that 7 tends to be pretty near the end of the curve the Monolith therefore gives more effective burst than the Powerstone. This is a pretty minor distinction as they all pale in comparison to Metalworker.

Worn Powerstone
30. Worn Powerstone

If you really want your mid level ramp to live then Worn Powerstone is safer than Palladium Myr. Rarely is this the case, the effect is not so key you need to overly worry about protecting it and the utility loss playing Powerstone instead of the Myr is relevant. To merit playing Powerstone over Coalition Relic however you need to have a very heavy artifact deck with few coloured spells at all. It is incredibly rare for both these conditions to occur at once resulting in Powerstone seeing almost no play these days. There are time even Sisay's Ring would out perform this and that is a really weak card.

Darksteel Ingot31. Darksteel Ingot

Every now and again people think it is a good idea to Obliterate things and cast Jokulhaups. While typically a little less reliable than the Wildfire approach there are some upsides to the strategy. This is often used in such decks as it is acceptable ramp and offers another extra edge post Jokulhaups. Outside of such lists three mana is just too much to pay for a single ramp.

Thought Vessel

32. Thought Vessel

Although I don't recall this ever actually being used it does seem to offer more of the right sort of utility than many of the other cards on this list. It is also very much on par with things like Mindstone in terms of its main function. As such I am surprised I haven't seen this used as part of some Upheaval plan as yet and feel that it deserves an honorary last spot on the list. Certainly a playable mana rock.

Monday, 25 April 2016


Llanowar Elves
While trying to archive what I have and haven't done lists for I was shocked to see no lists for an elf deck of any sort and so have thrown this together as a matter of urgency! Elves is one of the oldest and most powerful archetypes in cube and has the feel of playing with all the artifact and blue power cards while goldfishing. Despite being one of the highest raw power decks with some of the most impressive goldfishing displays the deck is vulnerable to quite a lot of things. Wrath of God effects are common place in cube, many costing quite a bit less yet still wiping not just your entire army but also all your mana production. Common cards like Fire, Arc Trail and Forked Bolt can set you back at least two turns, Goblin Sharpshooter is basically unbeatable!

Elves is unique in that it can be described as numerous kinds of deck simultaneously. It is tribal, it is weenie and it typically wins by beating down. Despite this it is much more like an engine combo deck in how it plays and feels. There are so many ways you can go with an elf deck as well. Not only can you benefit from splashing any of the other colours (which I will cover in a little ore detail later) you are able to build the deck distinctively in one of three main directions. You can aim to be like a combo deck and do as much stuff as you can and win with a big turn out of nowhere, you can be like a ramp deck mainly using elves and elf synergy as a means to ramp quickly, or you can be like an affinity style aggro deck that dumps out onto the board with alarming speed.

Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
This version is a mono green list with a heavy combo focus. The modern combo elves list that eventually got Glimpse of Nature banned was able to do things this list can't. With only one copy of Nettle Sentinel available you cannot create a certain infinite loop therefore mostly removing the need of an actual win condition. Despite that this list can go pretty nutty pretty quickly easily ending games on turn three just with stuff. Redundancy is nice for combo decks but stupid levels of power go a long way too. Modern lists never had access to Gaea's Cradle, Skullclamp, Rofellos, Priest of Titania and so on. In terms of a constructed deck this is most alike to it would be "Elf and Nail" in standard about 13 years ago!

Glimpse of NatureThis list uses Glimpse but it is typically just an efficient way to fully develop a board that threatens lethal while having a hand left to back it up should they Wrath you in some way. Rarely will your Glimpse turn be the turn you kill or at least secure the kill on, it just helps you set it up. Skullclamp is a much better tool for the job at hand as it persists and doesn't harm your ability to curve out optimally. The drawback with Clamp is that you have to lose elves to draw cards thus diminishing your explosive outlay. To compensate for this and improve the quality of Glimpse in the deck there are a number of more situational or throwaway one drop elves in this than the other lists run. You barely ever want to Clamp Llanowar Elves but Llanowar Mentor on the other hand is great for turning into cards.

At first glance this list has an awful lot of overlap with green ramp decks and could be confused. The ramp decks tend to have a few more things that ramp with land so as to be safer against mass removal effects. The ramp decks are easily built from main cube cards however the elf deck uses a couple of much more niche cards you rarely see in non-tribal drafting cubes. Cards like Priest of Titania put most other ramp tools to shame and make elves able to ramp to higher mana values and also ramp quicker than the more conventional ramp lists.

Quirion Ranger
26 Spells

Llanowar Elves
Fyndhorn Elves
Elvish Mystic
Joraga Treespeaker

Quirion Ranger
Heritage Druid
Wirewood Symbiote

Glimpse of Nature
Arbor Elf
Skyshroud Ranger
Llanowar Mentor
Wirewood Symbiote
Priest of Titania
Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
Wirewood Hivemaster
Elvish Visionary

Elvish Archdruid
Elvish Spirit Guide
Eruzi, Renegade Leader

Garruk Wildspeaker

Primal Command

Chancellor of the Tangle
Regal Force
Wirewood Hivemaster
Craterhoof Behemoth

Green Sun's Zenith

14 Lands

Dryad Arbor
Gaea's Cradle
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
11 Forests

Other Decent Elf Deck Cards

Nettle Sentinel
Brichlore Rangers
Joraga Warcaller
Priest of TitaniaConcordant Crossroads

Wirewood Herald
Fauna Shaman
Devoted Druid
Seeker of Skybreak
Land Grant

Fierce Empath
Reclamation Sage
Caller of the Claw
Imperious Perfect
Tangle Wire
Song of the Dryads
Nissa, Vastwood Seer
Eternal Witness
Thousand Year Elixir

Natural Order
Elvish Ringleader
Skyshroud Poacher
Oracle of Mul Daya
Deranged Hermit

Craterhoof BehemothAs with most elf decks the most effective and common way to win comes off the back of Overrun effects. Nowadays we are spoiled for choice in this area and have no need to look to the original. Craterhoof Behemoth is a lot more punchy, is not dead when all your elves just ate a Wrath and is easily tutorable. Garruk is an obscene ramp card with Cradle or Nykthos while also offering a cheeky Overrun, while again, not being dead when you have nothing else to cast and no dorks to pump. Lastly in this role you have Ezuri, not gripping but cheap enough that he isn't useless in the early stages of the game.

There are lots of tutor options but given that you can easily just draw your whole deck by turn three I don't really think you need them. Even the mighty Natural Order isn't really worth it in this list. The risk on the 2 for 1 and the weaker starting hands it gives make it quite a liability and you can pretty consistently just cast your massive things so the mana saving aspect of Natural Order is pretty negligible. Green Sun's Zenith is my favourite pure tutor effect for the list as it really helps early and late. Despite this, without the Dryad Arbor combo I probably wouldn't bother with the Zenith either.

Primal CommandYou do need the Primal Command however and not for the tutor bit (although that is nice!). I may have mentioned you can draw your whole deck by turn three. That can become an issue if you don't happen to win right away and so you really need the Command to keep the gas flowing. There are other options for this effect but they are all a bit slow or do nothing else for the deck leaving Primal Command the clear winner. Primal Command was basically the win condition in the modern list that could loop its who deck infinitely as it would put all the opponents cards back on top of their deck making it very easy to win.

There are a lot of Onslaught powerhouse cards that not really on peoples radar in this list. At the time Goblins ruled constructed which left elves rather out in the cold. Four copies of Sharpshooter makes for sad elves. Onslaught is too old for modern and pure tribal elves are generally too niche for most cubes to run. As such cards like Wirewood Hivemaster and Symbiote are not respected as much as they should be. I have won an awful lot of cube games with basically just Symbiote and a couple of filler elves. Hivemaster makes Skullclamp and Cradle really silly and accelerates you rapidly to the point where any sort of Overrun effect is game.

Concordant CrossroadsYou can go a bit more combo orientated and add cards like Concordant Crossroads and Thousand Year Elixir to speed everything up and even Earthcraft to further mimic that Heritage Druid effect. These cards do allow you to win basically out of nowhere but they do reduce the consistency of the deck, I prefer to keep things purer. An alternative way to help your elves live long enough to use their tap effects, instead of giving haste you can use Tangle Wire or other mana denial effects. Again, these are great at the right time but otherwise just hurt the consistency of the deck.

The least damaging way to endure a Wrath effect is the combination of Wirewood Herald and Caller of the Claw. You have to have three mana open which is manageable most of the time that they can afford a Wrath but is annoying. Generally however this staves off any mass removal until they can afford counter magic as well or have something like a Pernicious Deed as a second instant speed Wrath for the tokens. If you just straight Wrath and elf deck on turn four and they cast an end of turn Caller of the Claw it is almost always good games.

Chancellor of the Tangle
Elves is very much a momentum deck, once you get going you can do anything and everything but early mishaps can set you back in a game ending way. A simple shock to your first dork is usually a two turn setback. On the flip side of this having an Elvish Spirit Guide or Chancellor in your opener can accelerate you to a turn three kill. I prefer these cards to Fair Mox in the list, you only really want that little bit of burst at the start, the elves take card of the rest. The Fair Mox are generally a bit too awkward to pitch things too and are even more horrible to have when you don't want the mana.

The game plan is pretty simple, ramp as hard and fast as you can for a couple of turns then either draw a bunch of cards, cast an Overrun and win, or just skip the card drawing bit and move straight to the winning bit. Despite this ramping safely and efficiently is not an easy task to manage. The deck presents so many alternate routes to ramping you have to carefully consider the cards they might have and those which you want to try and play.

Shaman of the PackThere are lots of splash options for elves each with their merits. You don't ever want to go too far from a splash, not only will this tend to over dilute your elf synergies but it will also hurt your Rofellos and Nykthos. Opposition is always temping but the double blue is off putting and it has never really seemed to need it. When you have 15 dorks and 30 mana you dont really care that much about their 2 dorks and 3 mana!

Blue is still a good splash despite Opposition seeming to under perform. Upheaval is likely better than Opposition for elves and still loads worse than Overrun! Coiling Oracle and Edric, Spymaster of Trest are great elves that up the quality of your cards but are not worth a splash on their own. It is Beck of "Beck and Call" that is the main reason you splash blue as it is the best redundancy for Glimpse. Should you really want to push that avenue then this is the way to do it.

White has been used for Ranger of Eos primarily but there are a few other white elves of mild interest you can stick in. Ranger of Eos was far more useful in the modern lists aiming to combo off with Glimpse, a Heritage Druid and a couple of Nettle Sentinels as it could find most of the things you wanted.

Gaea's CradleBlack has now too become a colour of interest for elves with Shaman of the Pack. While not quite as killy as the Overrun the Shaman is cheaper, safer and reusable. Black also complements green well with some removal options, even ones on elves! There is Patriarch's Bidding as an alternate solution to being Wrathed. Some of the highest power elf cards are black so if you are going the Skyshroud Poacher route black is probably the way to go.

Despite having so much card choice and so many directional options the core of all elf decks is roughly the same. As many one mana elves that produce mana as possible, then as many two mana elves that tap for a bunch of mana as there are, enough card draw to keep up with your mana production and then a way of winning, usually Overrun effects and of course Gaea's Cradle and now Nykthos too. The Nythos you can forgo but the Cradle is the most powerful card in the deck. In many ways this is a Cradle deck not an Elf deck. The deck gains a lot of its power as a result of being the best housing for a Cradle.