Sunday, 27 November 2016

Most Overrated Cards

This is to go as a pair with the most underrated cards list. This one was quite a lot harder to do as there are many cards that are misused rather than overrated. A good card like Brainstorm is often just used in the wrong place or at the wrong time. It is not that the player has overestimated the power of the Brainstorm and getting less than the expected value, they are generally just using it wrong! It is a different thing but looks very similar to the observer. A big part of what makes this list are cards that you make and visibly see people just giving up. It is like you have already won but you haven't actually done anything yet. When I think the game is still close but my opponent thinks the game is over it is usually because they overrate the card I have that they are facing. It may also be the reverse effect of the Brainstorm example I gave earlier where they simply don't know how to play against the card. I think there are a lot of things at play that affect how people rate and react to cards and I think psychological factors are more significant than game mechanic ones for this particular list. That any why particular cards mislead people's perceptions is potentially more interesting than the magic itself!

True-Name NemesisTrue-Name Nemesis

Obviously a very tedious card as well as a very powerful one but it is super easy to beat a True-Name. It is just one fairly feeble body and you can be sure that the heavy blue mage with the True-Name doesn't have much more meat to back it up with. You can go wide with loads of dorks (even forcing mass removal is less issue as that will also remove the pesky Merfolk), you can go round with various forms of evasion or you can just plow right through it. Three power won't kill your premium dorks and one toughness does barely anything against trample. You can force a defensive True Name to attack by making planeswalkers. The game is far from over, you have lots of options to beat it. Often times a Wall of Omens does more than the True-Name does. A True Name will either put a clock on the game or it will slow it down somewhat but it isn't getting any value, it just sits there not interacting with much in any interesting way. It is a reasonably significant investment and is only ever really the nail in the coffin when that player is already quite ahead. It is a good anti aggro tool but probably not better than a Kitchen Finks. Against control and midrange it often does little to nothing. Occasionally it still wins games that any respectable man land would also have won in that same situation and gets a bunch of respect for doing nothing special. I think there is a bias surrounding any cards perceived to be OP that they are the reason the result went that way when loads of "weaker" cards would have done the same thing or even completely different cards used earlier in the game already decided it.

Umezawa's JitteUmezwa's Jitte

This is only a problem if you are relying on small creatures. Otherwise it really isn't all that. The Jitte costs four mana to get online and requires you to have a dork. It is utterly brutal to have your mana wasted with removal when you go to equip Jitte. It isn't too hard to find ways to prevent the Jitte getting counters in combat with plenty of sac outlets and other trickery floating around. Jitte is inconsistent, it is a large tempo risk and it is only really strong against a relatively small section of the meta. These days you can usually just race a Jitte, they invest so much tempo in this one card that ultimately gains them four life or four damage a turn in the race. Might as well play a Vampire Nighthawk... Yes, if you have loads of X/1s and X/2s, no way to kill the Jitte and no way to kill creatures or prevent combat damage then the Jitte is going to ruin you. This is far from the normal state of affairs however. Certainly still a card well worthy of cube in terms of power but none the less one of the most overrated cards on the list.

Fact or FictionFact or Fiction

Card draw got a whole lot better around the time of Tarkir! Fact or Fiction was the big card draw card for such a long time before then people just assume it is good because it has had so much love over the course of magic history. Fact or Fiction was already stating to struggle competing with a lot of the card draw planeswalkers before Treasure Cruise and the more damning Dig Through Time came along to really ruin the day of Fact or Fiction. Another aspect to this issue is how other people see it. You only ever cast Fact or Fiction when you can and that pretty much means every Fact or Fiction seems brutal. You never really get to appreciate when playing against Fact or Fiction how often it sits in hand as an unplayable card while you die to cheap tempo cards. When against Fact or Fiction it purely seems good and so people rate it above where it should be. It is a great card when you have the time to cast it, lots of dig and decent return on cards, but in a quick and powerful format like cube that is just far too infrequently for this to be any sort of big name card any more. Four mana is a lot, having it spare all in one go to do something that has no impact on the board just isn't viable too much of the time.

Ancestral VisionAncestral Vision

Another card draw spell that now finds itself incredibly lacking. This one suffers a similar issue to Fact or Fiction in that it is rarely that appropriate. When you get this turn one and are able to relatively freely drop it down then you are in for a good time. When you need to do other things in the early turns to not fall too far behind or don't draw this until turn four then it is far too close to a dead card. Cube games are high powered and fast paced. You might be ahead on turn four when you make your Vision but you might also still be completely dead within three turns and quite possibly as a direct result of doing nothing with one of your cards. I want a lot of card quality in my deck before I play this one. I am finding more and more these days that even when I get the Visions in my opener that it will put me behind if I play it turn one instead of something else. More playable than Fact or Fiction for sure but equally risky and a little narrower in range.


Apparently I am hating on some blue cards. It feels a bit off me laying into Treachery as it singlehandedly won me the last cube event I played in. Treachery is certainly on of the most swingy cards in the game or at least has the potential to be. In practice the thing is much more of a liability. While it is a huge win when you snag the best dork on the table for no mana it is also a pretty big lose when it wiffs in some way, often a game ending lose. Against ramp and reanimate decks the ability to steal one of their massive fatties is insane. Just having that one card will make your matchup a pretty good one. Against almost any other creature deck the card does surprisingly little. When they are beating you down and you have to steal a tapped guy and it is just too slow to help. When they just kill you before you hit five mana. When all you can steal is a 2/1 and that just doesn't matter. When they have some way to fizzle the spell and just wreak you by denying you the untap of lands. This one is especially brutal, I have lost a lot of games to people using spot removal on their own stuff to wreck a Treachery turn. Against most midrange decks Treachery is just a bit of stall, you will take something, the game will stalemate for a while and then they will find a way to kill the Treachery and carry on winning as before. Utterly brutal card in the right situation but getting to the stage where I consider this more of a sideboard card.

Coalition RelicCoalition Relic

This is good ramp and great fixing. You can get mana right away with it or you can stockpile it and get a double hit the following turn. In a cube without enough one and two drops this is a fantastic card. Against any well built cube deck this is just far to slow. You play artifact ramp when you don't have other quicker ramp available to you however this is a ramp card you need to ramp into for the ramp to be that effective. If you just do a bunch of nothing on your first three turns and hope to cast some exotic six drop off the back of this on turn four and not just be totally and completely already dead then you are perhaps too full of optimism. Talisman and Signets are far less onerous of a cost and far more conveniently timed to get into play. Being a bit better is of no use if you are too late and too expensive. This is a good card that should just be too slow for what it does to be viable in any refined (non-speciality) cube. Gilded Lotus is the kind of card Relic has to compete with because of its cost and it falls incredibly short there too. It sits in an unfortunate middle ground.

Library of AlexandriaLibrary of Alexandria

Remember when I said that even a turn one Ancestral Vision was frequently an awkward thing to fit in? Well, Library is a whole lot harder than that. You still ideally want it on turn one but then it costs you a mana every use there after ensuring you are super behind on tempo. Library pretty much says, OK, I'll draw double for the rest of the game but you can have a Time Walk right now, on me. It is a total liability to use and even when you can get away with it you are still going to face tough choices to sensibly recover your tempo so that you can win with your card advantage. I have had Library in my unpowered drafting cube for nearing a year now and it has like a 40% win rate at best as a turn one play. Certainly much of that will be misuse and greed but still. Library is old enough that it spent most of its life in metas where you could do nothing in the early game or waste a bunch of mana and be totally fine. Threats mostly sucked and so there was no real punish for obscene early Library usage. Now there really is. Library is a decent card still but it is far from broken. Much of why it is decent is that it isn't a dead card on turn seven like Ancestral Vision, it is still a land and that makes it low risk to build with at least.

Mind TwistMind Twist

Another super powerful card I want to poo poo. Obviously this is still a very unfair card and well worthy of inclusion in any cube professing to contain the powerful cards in magic. There are two issues with Mind Twist that make it a Treachery like card. I like to win with reliable cards and play skill rather than powerful cards that situationally win the game. This means I do have a bias against cards like Mind Twist and Treachery so while I class them as overrated that should be taken with a pinch of salt as I certainly underrate them! Anyway, Mind Twist has a very small window of power. As you mana up and gain potential value on the Twist they will generally be using their resources to power up. If they are not directly emptying their hand onto the board they will at least be developing mana and things themselves so as to be able to protect against what may come. Often you will be faced with the choice of Twisting now for half their hand due to your mana restrictions or Twisting next turn for likely as many card due to them having so few left at that point. You want to Twist around turn four but that is also one of the most important and powerful turns of the game. Doing something that has no impact on the board can mean death. Then if you don't Twist on those key turns it is often just dead weight for the rest of the game hitting a land at best. .


I'm not sure this has ever been good, certainly not in cube. In constructed I think it was Spellstutter Sprite and Mistbind Clique that were good rather than the Bitterblossom. In cube this is painfully slow and frequently a liability. I only really rate this cards worth when you have a strong need of lots of creatures, or at least permanents. This is an OK card for a blue black Opposition deck or some Smokestack affair. Otherwise I think it is pretty bad. Bitterblossom is like the Ancestral Vision of Ancestral Recal to Lingering Souls! It is relatively limp aggressive card, it is a weak late game top deck, it is a risk to play when your life total is being attacked or you are in a long game without lifegain tools. All told I think this is one of the most overrated cards on this list.

Flametongue KavuFlame Tongue Kavu

Sad to see the mighty fallen. This was one of the very best creatures ever for a pretty long time period. Now he is all just clunky and wrong. He is a pretty midrange card. Any self respecting red aggro deck does not want a four drop that does no immediate face damage. They generally don't want any situational cards or four drops at all so FTK is a double no no there. Red midrange isn't really that much of a thing. When you do see it the four drops they play are way more versatile and powerful than a fairly limp 2 for 1. You don't see much Civic Wayfinder in cube and FTK is much the same sort of thing. A fairly bland effect on a fairly weak body for its cost. Sure, four damage to a dork can be good but it doesn't kill everything, it kill almost nothing that important to kill and leaves you with a body that is almost impossible to get any value from offensively. Most one drops trade with it... Burn is only good removal because it is cheap and versatile. Four damage is more than three but make it only hit dorks, cost four mana and at sorcery speed and it is limp. You can Control Magic something for four or exile it and gain a load of life. Mizzium Mortar's sees very little play and it has quite a lot over the FTK as a removal option. If your not playing FTK as removal then you are going to struggle to convince me that a 4/2 is good. With cards like Torch of Defiance now available this thing shouldn't really even be in most cubes any more. Not a great fit anywhere and no longer even a great card.


Time for the big one. Just because I call something overrated doesn't mean it isn't still good. In the case of the last two cards that might be so but Goyf is still certainly very strong and well worthy of a cube slot. What Goyf isn't is anywhere near the power level he is in modern, or legacy for that matter. Goyf is just big and cheap, that is all he brings to the table. He isn't even that reliably big without some effort towards that end when you make him early. He is not so big that other stuff doesn't trump him and he is not so cheap that he is outpacing much of anything. He is meaty, good stat value but he isn't more exciting than Wild Nacatl in that capacity. Typically it is best to squeeze in some value or utility alongside your basic meat and that is entirely doable in cube. Sylvan Advocate, Scavenging Ooze and many more spring to mind. Cards that will be bigger than what your opponent does with that amount of mana but offering a little more on the side.

Natural OrderNatural Order

The green Tinker right? Kind of but blue needs that burst a lot and can protect it. Green really doesn't need the burst and can't easily protect any juice it does Order up. Natural Order is very strong but it is a bit of a risk to play, a tiny bit situational and it comes at the cost of making your deck less threat dense. You have to really want that extra turn or two with the fatty or want a very specific fatty for Natural Order to be that much better than just not playing it in favour of another Rampant Growth or Llanowar Elf! The real issue with Natural Order is that you have to get something that can resist removal else you put yourself down too many cards to recover well. You have to guess if they have mass removal or exile effects and accordingly get your persist dork or token generator. Alternatively you can pack things like Progenitus that you have no hope of actually casting and this further reduces the consistency of your deck. All told, Natural Order is one of the worst cheat effect cards commonly used in cube. It isn't that it isn't powerful, it just isn't very well suited or offering anything green desperately needs.

Ajani VengeantAjani Vengeant

Ajani rarely performs that well in cube, it is mostly about a Warleader's Helix level of value. There are two issues with Ajani that combine to make him simply not very exciting. The first is that his +1 does nothing to protect him against haste creatures, or untapped creatures he can't Bolt down, or say, something as uncommon as more than one creature. The second is that he starts at 3 loyalty. This makes him one of the hardest walkers to keep in play for very long and one of the hardest to get real value from. Just to get a pair of Lightning Helix you need Ajani to live two turns taking no damage. With so many things that can deal four damage right away the risk of trying to +1 Ajani right away is often too great as you get barely any value at all if that happens. His ultimate is great but I have seen it once ever in cube and this version of Ajani has been about for a very long time now. To get there you need your opponent to do basically nothing the whole time you have Ajani ramping up. What happens with Ajani is you make him, kill their 2nd best dork and force at least some of their next attack into Ajani. This is about as much as you should hope from this card. Want for more and you will be met with disappointment.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Top 20 Underrated Cards

Ok, this isn't really a top 20, it is just 20 underrated cards. Not having a wide enough view of the cube meta I wouldn't really like to assert relative levels of underratedness! This is just 20 cards I think people don't value as highly as they should. I will likely do another of these in a couple of years as the meta changes, people learn about some of these underdogs, new sleepers are printed and once honoured cards fall by the wayside! It is a relatively interesting list as it is far more subject to opinion being that it is not just my opinion but my opinion of other people's opinions! As such I think it will be one that fluctuates more readily and in unusual ways.

Chancellor of the TangleChancellor of the Tangle

This wouldn't even need to be good and people would still generally underrate it. I see this as a good value Elvish Spirit Guide however most people see it as an awful value Avenger of Zendikar or something. Chancellor of the Tangle is good but it isn't great. Typically it is an odd kind of filler being part ramp and part threat you can use it in ramp decks to give you list greater depth. I am a big fan of the card, being able to throw out two manas worth of stuff on turn one is such a huge leg up, especially when it costs you no card advantage. This doesn't happen often, of the 20% of the time you get an opener with Chancellor you find that you don't have two manas worth of stuff that is better than one mana worth some of the time. At best you are looking at a 10% chance of getting some busted Roffellos openers. This may not sound like it is worth including an underpar seven drop for however in green ramp a seven drop is generally pretty playable. It turns out that a 6/7 reach solves a lot of issues in green and generally trumps everything else in the cube you expect people to cast barring Dragonlord Atarka (which is typically in the deck along with the Chancellor!). A 6/7 reach holds off any aggression and with vigilance too it can wear your opponent down at the same time. A surprisingly good body on a surprisingly good card.

Falkenrath AristocratFalkenrath Aristocrat

This card is a big part of the reason Butcher of the Hoard never really got a look in despite looking like the business. Falkenrath Aristocrat is one of the best threats in the game put simply. It has four power on an evasive hasting body for just four mana. That is already looking fantastic value. The one toughness at first glance does make the card look dodgy however when you realise you can both pump the card and make it indestructible with zero mana sacrifices the low toughness is pretty irrelevant. It is very hard to remove and very efficient at dealing damage fast. Olivia Voldaren looks a little more powerful on paper but is so slow that Falkenrath tends to outperform it in any kind of deck. Rakdos is not the most common or powerful colour pairing in cube and so Falkenrath rarely gets to shine. When you can play it however it is Thundermaw plus, all that efficient evasive aggression combined with removal protection!

Myriad LandscapeMyriad Landscape

This land offers everything you could want, it is ramp, fixing, card advantage, card quality and a shuffle effect. The only trade off it speed. Myriad Landscape itself comes into play tapped (an effective cost of one sorcery speed mana) and then requires three more mana cost at instant speed to obtain the value from the card. It is also a colourless source itself which makes it a very weak early land but still far outperforming Temple of the False God as an early drop! Any slower one or two colour deck should look to play this land, it is too good to miss out on. A lot of slower decks can't really afford to pack loads of ramp into the deck as they won't have enough gas to get the job done. This is where Myraid Landscape really shines, you pay a minimal initial mana cost and no card cost followed by a fair, instant and at your convenience cost to obtain your ramp. You need at least six targets in one colour or more like 8 if you want to be able to actually reliably fix for two colours with the Landscape. This is why it isn't so good for three or more colour decks in cube. If you are packing 4 of each of three kinds of basic then the mana base for your three colour deck is pretty awful. I like my three colour mana bases to have two or fewer basics, twelve is way off!


Another commander card makes the list in Creeperhulk. Commander cards  never got to shine in drafts, standard or modern and so they typically sit under people's radar. They are also a bit more tedious to get hold of than many other cube cards meaning they are further unseen cards. Creeperhulk is a two purpose card. On the one hand it is a stand alone 5/5 trample for an affordable five mana. You often find it topping out the curve alongside Thundermaw in RG stompy decks. It is far from the best five drop stand alone threat you can find however it still very much needs dealing with. On the other side of things Creeperhulk is a Craterhoof Behemoth that you can play in a deck that isn't dedicated to ramping. You can't play an 8 drop in a normal deck and have much chance of it doing anything. You can play a five drop. When Creeperhulk hits play suddenly all your other dorks can be 5/5 tramplers too and that is a whole lot of reach. Any stalemate situation Creeperhulk will end things the turn after you make him, in super late game situations or ones where you have gotten them to low life you can activate it right away and finish the game on the spot. A great finisher that doesn't suffer much at all in the way of situational weakness.

Wing ShardsWing Shards

Pretty dull as removal goes but I think that is where the misconception lies. If you look at this as spot removal is seems like a situational expensive card. If, like me, you consider this more of a Wrath effect then it looks insane! Three mana plus instant speed and getting through indestructible, yes please! While it is obviously not a Wrath against a massive board full of weenies and tokens it is pretty easy to get a couple of copies of your Wingshards and cripple most of the more common archetypes. It is one of the best answers to man lands in the control arsenal, it is THE hard counter to a Bloodbraid Elf. Indeed it is especially good against all haste dorks which accounts for a large proportion of the good aggressive cube dorks. Because of how you use it Wingshards is exclusively a control card but it is a go to for me. I find it to consistently be a more effective control tool than four mana sorcery speed mass removal (although both is ideal!).


People undervalue card quality in general, they waste their Brainstorms and they often don't play the other stuff. Opt is low value, it is the weakest card quality card in the cube. Preordain is twice as much scry. This is where the misconception with this kind of card lies however. Scry isn't what you are paying most of the cost for, that is tied up in the drawing of a card. It would be very generous to say that the scry accounted for 50% of the cost of a Preordain, I would need a more than a one mana sorcery with scry 4 on it to be at all interested. Anyway, lets say it was 50%, that still means that opt is 75% of the effect of Preordain, an established top end card quality spell. The reason Opt is so valuable is that it is instant, an effect easily worth a 25% decrease in power for this kind of card. You can play Opt anywhere and it will be fine but there are two standout homes for it. Control decks love it because being instant means it often effectively costs you nothing, whenever they don't make much of a play you can freely Opt. You can turn one Opt and still have them play around your Force Spike etc. The other home for Opt is in the prowess deck where a cheap card neutral prowess enabler goes a very long way. The only other one mana card quality spell that is instant is the highly contested Brainstorm, Opt is meek by comparison but nevertheless effective.

Sarkhan UnbrokenSarkhan Unbroken

So I have actually cut this guy from my cube because he so rarely gets play. This is the fault of Temur rather than Sarkhan himself. The clan is a bit aimless and generally just winds up as a guild two colour pair archetype with a splash. Sarkhan Unbroken is a total house, he is the total package that does everything good that is almost always universally good. Draw cards and add mana, of any colour no less, on a plus loyalty ability is a delight. It is the most raw and pure form of gas. Then there is the nice calm 4/4 flying dragon for a mere two loyalty cost! Defense, tempo and great value. Sarkhan is always good, he is good against all the decks and has the least disasterous bad case scenarios for playing him than most other planeswalkers. Sarkhan is a game winning machine but he is incredibly held back by being pretty unplayable! Should Temur ever get its shit in order then do not forget about this guy.

Death CloudDeath Cloud

This was very underrated five plus years ago but with modo cube and EDH and all that jazz the community seem to have accepted the immense power of the Death Cloud. The problem for the card now is that people don't know how to use that power and so still avoid playing with it. It might be better described as underplayed rather than underrated. When you can play it the Cloud brings awesome power offering a pretty good representation of a Mind Twist, an Armageddon, a Wrath of God or a Fireball, often a couple of those things and almost always far worse for your opponent than you. The card is very like Balance, it is far more mana but it gives you way more control over the effect such that it is actually a lot easier to engineer favourable Clouds than it is for Balance. There are several ways to play with the Cloud but all do involve being fairly heavy black. It works well with artifacts, mana producers especially. It does OK with some enchantments, it works well with lots of dorks, no dorks at all or recursive dorks. These things make it a bit better but I find just so long as I can cast the thing I am very happy with its results.

Sublime ArchangelSublime Archangel

One of the premium threats in the game and the ideal curve topper for white weenie lists. She is plenty dangerous all on her own able to attack for five in the air. Where she shines is when you have a board and are able to not only get value with her right away with a big swing. You can also hold off attacking with the Angel but still apply pressure with other dorks if they have something that can block and trade with her. Sublime is one of the hardest hitting cards cost so reasonably and isn't a high risk card despite being a 4 mana 3 toughness dork as she generally has a strong effect on the game the turn you make her. Much punchier and more dangerous than most planeswalkers.

Glen Elandra Archmage
Glen Elendra Archmage
I have started watching a Magic TV Top 8's, turns out I have been doing their format and here I thought I was being all novel. I mention this because this was on their list of underrated cube cards. They were right, but the thing is they have quite a ridiculous level of reach into the community compared to the likes of me. Just by saying this is underrated likely means it isn't anymore by the wider community. I have not been playing enough cube outside my local group of friends to really be able to comment on exactly how underrated this is now. I have certainly noticed an upturn in the valuation in general of the other cards on their list. I at least have the advantage of it being four years since CFB did theirs and so have many more newer cards to talk about. The older a card is the less chance there is that it will be underrated. Anyway, I think that Glen is still a little underappreciated. Most people know she is good but find it hard to fit her into decks over other things or don't appreciate the ways in which she is crippling for your opponent. Suffice it to say there are a lot of matchups I just feel like I have won when I play her and have blue open.

Arcane DenialArcane Denial

Speaking of old cards, I still have a good few that people just don't have love for. I have done quite a lot on why this card is so good so will keep this super brief. Very much one of the top tier counterspells. Arcane Denial is one of those cards old enough to predate a lot of the competitive magic scene. It sits in a place where it is just so overshadowed by cards like Force of Will that people don't pay it much attention. It is fair to say that the card disadvantage aspect of it is a bigger problem in non-singleton formats. In cube the drawing one for you is often more relevant than them drawing two.

Orcish Lumberjack

Orcish Lumberjack

This is another one that never really had any sort of time in any competitive constructed format as is likely more unknown than underrated. We lovingly call him the Lotus Orc. Making five mana on turn two isn't really something you are supposed to be able to do in unpowered cubes, certainly not coloured mana! Quite a risky card but well worth it if you have a solid mana base and some really good things to burst out for four and five mana. Typically you want these to be planeswalkers as they are that much harder to kill than creatures early in the game. Still, a turn two Thundermaw poses some pretty serious questions that command a rapid reply!

Lat-Nam's LegacyLat-Nam's Legacy

Instant and fairly cheap card quality that does a rather unique thing. The card quality effect is decent, it is like a card neutral double loot. The thing that pushes this to a level above cards like Impulse for me is that you can put things back into your deck and that is something not many cards in magic allow for, certainly not in such a cheap and painless way as this (except of course Brainstorm...). If you want to Oath of Druids, Tinker or cast miracles then this is an important tool. Also still just really good to reshuffle a six drop on turn two.

Lim-Dûl's Vault

Lim-Dul's Vault

Last of the golden oldies. I reckon it is basic reading, attention span and comprehension capacity that has this as one of the more underrated cards. I don't mean to be rude, I completely missed this one for far too long. Being so old it is not exactly a clearly written card! I recently did an extensive spotlight on the card so won't say much on it here. It does still seem underplayed and it is very much up there with the top tier tutor effects in cube.

Flesh CarverFlesh Carver

Although done for old stuff we are not yet done with the commander cards. People never play this, it is always left in boards. There is something clearly underwhelming about it. You cast it, people glance at it and are unimpressed. It is not until you are killing them with it a few turns later that they bother to properly read it. I have no idea why it commands so little respect and attention, the thing is pretty terrifying and relentless. It is a powerful stalemate breaker, a solid threat, good value and good utility all rolled into one. It is a fine tempo play and rarely does worse than being a pair of Grey Ogres. The sac outlet aspect is pretty disruptive and allows Felsh Carver, combined with his evasion, to dominate the game. If you let him become even a 4/4 then anything other than bounce or exile seems like a bad answer. A very midrange card but one of the best. Better than Kalitas for my money although quite similar cards in a lot of ways.

Garruk WildspeakerGarruk Wildspeaker

Certainly everyone knows this dude is good but I think he is generally considered fair and unexciting and is not played in favour of more exotic planeswalkers a lot as a result. The reason for Garruk being so potent in cube is pretty simple. For the most part he is a two mana investment and not a four mana investment. Yes, you have to hit four mana first but this is quick and easy in green. The problem with walkers is not having four mana but having four mana spare after you create a board in which a planeswalker won't just die. Wildspeaker comes down turn three or four and then typically casts something else that ensures he lives to the following turn. A lot of the time this means you can threaten some serious Overrun plays. Garruk is four manas worth of walker but you only have to invest two making him super duper strong.

Teferi, Temporal ArchmageTeferi, Temporal Archmage

For exactly the same reason Garruk Wildspeaker is much better than he looks or is perceived Teferi is also rather a beast. Part Gilded Lotus and part Jace this clumsy looking overpriced six drop is actually bonkers. If you resolve Teferi and can untap into casting a Cryptic Command or a Time Warp effect then it is almost impossible to lose from that position. Teferi gives you access to either more gas in the form of cards or more gas in the form of loads of mana. You can play him on curve much much more safely than most planeswalkers because his effective cost is just two mana (normally, it can be a lot less if you have things that tap for more than one). He is harder to include than Garruk as a prerequisite mana of six in blue is a much taller order than four in green. There is also less room in construction for things that cost six regardless of any mana returns they might offer. Too many six drops will ruin your early game consistency.

Selesnya CharmSelesnya Charm

For some reason this has taken a backseat to Dromoka's Command. I think it was to do with how the two cards performed in standard relative to each other. Dromoka's Command is a fine cube card but Selesnya Charm is a great one. It is one of the best removal cards in the game. Two mana instant speed exile removal is about as good as it gets. Although it has to hit big stuff that is what you want it to hit. Your dorks are generally a lot better than their small ones. When you need to kill a small thing the combat trick aspect of the card generally has you covered. Combat tricks are pretty swingy when the times is right which makes this Charm not just an out but also quite a dangerous threat that needs respecting. On top of all that, if for some reason you don't have use for a combat trick or a top rate removal card you can just throw down a 2/2 flash vigilance knight and get some reasonable value that way. Never dead and potentially very powerful in a couple of ways on a two mana card sounds like a winning mix.

Grand ArchitectGrand Architect

This one is quite hard to build a suitable deck for and so I am not overly surprised it isn't a big cube hit. It is rarely even in cube lists so there is no surprise at all that it isn't played much! For this to work well you want a tempo based blue deck with a relatively high creature count that is supplemented with some useful artifacts. When you have that mix this guys is a Glorious Anthem and a Sol Ring that also makes all your other dorks Sol Rings as well. The dream is making a one drop and two drop blue dork into Grand Architect and then tapping two of the three to make and equip a Jitte to the remaining one and smack them with it! It is great with Vedalken Shackles and Crused Scroll and basically any useful artifact that has a high ongoing mana consumption. Even cards like Molten-Tail Masticore become pretty saucy when you have this guy. Another fantastic pairing for Achitecht is with Master of Waves as you can lose the Master and still keep all the 1/0 tokens courtesy of the Architects buff. The most common place I play this now is in merfolk/fish decks as an honorary lord. He is way better than a Merfolk Sovereign in the Merfolk deck!

Kaya, Ghost AssassinKaya, Ghost Assassin

The power of this one is well hidden. I spent ages thinking about her and wasn't that impressed. Then I starting playing with her and was blown away. I have to remind myself how good she is in play rather than looking at her abilities when it comes to building with her. They don't seem that strong or exciting on paper but in reality Kaya seems to give more control over the game than most planeswalkers. She has a threat style effect, a value effect. both of which appear simple but are highly interesting choices on when to use. Then she has her 0 ability which seems to do everything else. It stops an attacker, it removes a blocker, it can protect your stuff from a Wrath, yours or theirs, you can kill tokens, you can re-trigger etb effects or you can just say "nothing will be killing my Kaya this turn". Truly one of the most versatile walkers on offer.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Land Ratios

In cube decks, especially those in the midrange drafting cube, I almost always pack 16 or 17 lands. I play a 41 card deck more often than I step outside those land counts(and hopefully if you make it at least some way through this epic you will understand why I go 41 cards so much). Typically my RDW, Rock and white weenie lists are 16 lands while my Zoo and Control decks are 17. There are of course exceptions and the more exotic the cube format the more extreme it can get. I have had a no land Belcher deck with I think 3 lands and my all land Seismic Swans deck at about 31/40 lands. When you have Mox and things you can drop lower and so a 14 or 15 land aggressive deck is not at all uncommon, particularly in the powered cube. There is a lot going on in working out mana bases and the cube is of course one of the most involved. Despite this, the frequency with which I find myself packing either 16 or 17 lands is surprisingly high (95%+).

There are two things I have noticed about cube mana bases compared to other formats that felt like it needed further investigation. The first is that there appears to be a smaller range, or a narrower bell curve if you will, for cube decks land ratios than other magic formats. Further to this, on the whole, cube decks tend to play more lands than constructed versions of those archetypes. Take my 16 land RDW list and compare it to a modern burn deck which has 20 lands and a lot more of those that thin the deck of lands. The modern burn decks are at most 33.3% land while a cube version is more like 40% land. Aggressive cube decks typically play significantly more lands than modern constructed counterparts. Cube control decks play slightly more lands than constructed modern counterparts. It is not until you look at some standard decks and limited decks that you find higher land ratios than cube decks. Some limited decks want up to 18/40 lands in them and I have seen loads of standard decks with 27/60 lands. What factors are accounting for this low range of high land ratios in cube decks? Why do both aggressive and control decks play such comparable land counts in cube yet not in other formats?

Obviously this is not even close to a simple answer or even just one answer but I shall do my best to shed light on these factors. One of the more general factors is the stability of a 60 card deck relative to a 40 card one. This stability of which I speak is a mixed blessing. Every card carriers more weight in terms of ratios in a 40 card deck than does one in a 60 card deck. This is significant in how you build the thing but it also has an impact on how it plays. Getting the ratio right to start with is harder with 40 cards as you have less fine tuning capability. When it comes to playing however the instability of the deck plays a significant part in smoothing your draw.

Let us compare two decks with an identical land ratio. A 16 lands out of 40 cube deck and a comparable constructed archetype with 24 lands in 60 cards. Both have exactly 40% lands. Now, let us consider some opening hands that are classically close mulligan calls just because of the ratios you have. A two land hand or a five land hand. In both cases the cube deck is far better positioned to be able to keep the hand compared to the constructed deck and here is some basic maths to demonstrate why!

In the 2 land hands the constructed deck now has a library with 22/53 (41.5%) lands while my cube deck is 14/33 (42.4%). As you can see, the chance of either deck drawing a land is increased but it is more noticeable for the cube deck. The same kind of thing happens for the flood simulations. With 5 lands in hand the constructed deck now has a 19/53 (35.8%) lands in library while the cube deck has 11/33 (33.3%) lands in the deck. Now both decks have a lower chance to draw a land but again, it is more pronounced in the cube deck. Essentially your deck has a negative feedback mechanism in play that helps correct for your previous draws where expected ratios have not occurred. This mechanism is stronger in 40 card decks than in 60 card ones. What might seem like an equally big risk in either format is generally less of a risk in cube.

A difference of three lands in hand for the 60 card deck has a range of 5.7% on how it affects your decks land ratios while the cube deck has a 9.1% range in that same scenario. A constructed deck is stable in that the expectation on your draws changes somewhat less with every draw. Stable is perhaps a bad word in hindsight as a significant result of its affect is that extreme screws and floods occur with greater frequency in 60 card decks than 40 card ones. I have seen so many constructed games lost where people see like ten lands in thirteen or fourteen cards, or just two lands, and the game is over. Flood and screw still occurs in cube but no where near that level.

Now, you may ask, why, if there is less risk with screw and flood in a 40 card deck do you not play fewer lands rather than the more lands we tend to see? That is somewhat the wrong question to ask. All my previous maths was based on the assumption that a 40% starting land count was correct for both decks. The feedback mechanism works towards your starting % not your ideal %, if you missbuild your deck and mana base then the feedback mechanism will mostly work against you. Greater instability in the 40 card deck makes it much more important to have exactly the right land count for your deck. With a greater feedback mechanism forcing your draw towards your starting build's ratios you cannot afford the luxury of playing too few or too many lands. You will more consistently flood with too many lands and screw with too few. Sixty card constructed decks can hedge on various things and are able to employ a higher variance in their initial build land ratios in order to do so.

The question should be, why do constructed decks typically hedge on fewer lands than perhaps they should if they were trying to optimise a goldfish timing. That is basically your answer right there. Real games are interactive and resources are consumed in some attrition. When nothing goes to waste you want exactly the right amount of lands in the shortest time span. The more waste you get the fewer lands you want relative to this perfect start. If you are just looking at goldfish stats then you will think you want way more land than you really do. A goldfish game is super short, you may only see 12 or so cards. Even for an aggressive deck you are absolutely going to want at least 3 lands in those 12 cards and that means you want a very high percentage of lands in your deck. If the games go on longer however you really don't need much more land than the ones you need on your early turns and so the key to working out the mana ratios for a constructed deck is to know how long the average game with the affects of attrition will be, or at least the average length of games you win!  This length will always be longer than the goldfish number and it will significantly reduce your ideal land count. Now, interaction happens just as much in cube as it does in other formats on the whole. For the most part your deck will not be goldfishing against people. I have gone some way to explaining why 40 card decks sensibly have a narrower range of land counts than 60 card decks but I have not done much to explain why cube decks typically have higher land ratios than other comparable decks.

Most of the reasoning from here on in is more down to the kinds of cards used and archetypes in play as to why land rations are not as you might expect them to be as you change from format to format.
Lands have pretty high diminishing returns in most constructed decks and formats. You are typically better off having enough to get started, using mulligans intentionally to help with that, and risk having too few than having more than you need from the outset. Hedging on fewer lands, especially with the option on mulligans greatly increases the late game potential of contstructed decks, particularly aggressive ones and those with a low CMC cap (noting in the modern burn deck costs more than two mana and so the deck can chug along with just two lands and be fine).

Cube decks are generally more powerful than modern decks in that they have more synergy and more powerful cards. This description of cube decks is rather misleading however. A modern deck is far more consistent and direct. Modern decks do their thing and they do it quickly and consistently. Sure, the individual cards may not be quite as powerful as the cube ones but having the redundancy is massive. If you could play a 15 card cube burn deck then it would be more direct and more consistent than the modern one but at 40 cards it feels incredibly midrange by comparison. The very best cube aggressive cube decks have roughly 12 one drops, 8 two drops and 4 three drops. If you compare that to modern burn decks their curve is lower at 24 one drops and 16 two drops. The average CMC of the cube list is at best 1.67 mana per spell while the modern list is 1.3 mana. A 20% price hike is very significant and in typically the case with cube decks and is a significant reason why cube decks play a slightly higher land count than constructed decks. Constructed decks basically play 4 of all the one drops that cube can only play 1 copy of and this gives them lower curves which need fewer lands. This is why we find standard and limited decks with the only higher land counts. They are the only formats that have higher mana curves. The actual power of the cards is pretty irrelevant, it is all just the CMC of them that dictates your mana. It might sounds really obvious to some but for some reason this wasn't immediately apparent to me. I kind of just assumed that increasing power equated to reducing the need of lands. The actual thing going on is that by increasing the power you typically speed up formats and naturally only the cheaper cards remain viable. More powerful formats also have deeper card pools from which there are more options on good cheap cards. Essentially powerful formats have decks with lower average CMCs than less powerful formats. You would think that powerful formats inherently play fewer lands but if and when they do the power of the cards is nothing to do with it. It is what they are doing rather than how well they do it that can give rise to unexpected land counts.

Cube is certainly very powerful but it is limited in a very different way to other formats. Having only one copy of a card means that there is significantly less scope in what you can find to pad out the low curve parts of your deck. There is precious little premium stuff and barely even enough playable cheap stuff to be able to mimic the constructed decks. Constructed burn can play 4 Guides, 4 Bolts and 4 Swiftspear, that is 20% of the deck full of cheap premium cards while a cube deck with all those isn't even at 10%. It is either playing garbage like Jackal Pup to make up the low curve numbers or, more sensibly it is playing Sulphuric Vortex or Fiery Confluence instead. A much more powerful card that is also much more CMC. Cube decks will still typically play a tier of one and two drop cards under that which is considered playable in powerful constructed formats but they don't stoop any lower, instead they use more powerful and more expensive stuff to give the best balance of speed and power that they can with the available tools. All this is to say that yes, generally a cube deck has more powerful cards than a modern deck, and may well be "more powerful" however you would measure that. Despite this the cube decks almost always have higher average CMC in their spells and more things to use mana on. This is the main reason you see a higher % of lands in cube decks than modern ones. Standard and limited are the only formats with card pools small enough that you see them having higher average CMCs than cube decks and hence higher land ratios.

Cube mana bases and decks typically suffer far less diminishing returns than most other formats. Being direct and pure like modern burn is great for playing very few lands but it does leave you with lots of weaknesses. Cube decks tend to be far more rounded, they are forced into just playing some good cards that fit and these cards offer a wide range of utility to archetypes that don't have that sort of thing at all in constructed formats. Mana sinks like Kargan Dragon Lord, card quality like Faithless Looting, lands with utility like Barbarian Ring and Mishra's Factory and many more like them mean that aggressive cube red decks are not just wasting a draw when they see their 4th and later lands. Your higher curve means you want more and your better late game means you don't need to hedge and play fewer than you should.

Almost every cube archetype has these useful lands and ways to put excess or dead cards to some other practical use, not just the red deck as used in the example. Most in fact have far more access to such things than the red deck. Cube decks are happier to continue drawing lands for a little longer than comparable constructed versions. Card quality is another huge thing in cube and there is way more of it in cube than most other magic formats and most importantly, it scales far more effectively in 40 card formats than any other. A scry is arguably 50% more powerful in a 40 card deck than it is in a 60 card one, perhaps more once you take cards already drawn into account. Essentially they just see a much higher proportion of your library and thus offer much more returns for their mana. This is again a little misleading as seeing a higher percentage of your library is only better if that library contains the same percentage of things. A constructed deck will typically have four of each of the cards it needs. Beyond the simple land or not land aspect of card quality the effect it has on a non-singleton deck is more reliable. You need a Bolt or a Path, your Preordain is more likely to hit in your 60 card modern deck than a cube one both containing the maximum possible count for those cards. Card quality in cube typically gives you more options than in constructed and it is more potent at handling screw or flood. On the flip side, it is much more important to be able to get the cards you need with your card quality in cube than it is to sort out your mana base. You feel a little behind if you basically just use your Preordain to hit a land drop. Card quality may be more powerful in cube but it is that much more important not to be using it just to hit your land drops. Those things are best used in cube for helping with the your inconsistent spells rather than your relatively consistent (compared to constructed) lands.

So, in somewhat of a conclusion; cube decks generally have higher average CMC in their spells that their constructed counterpart archetypes. They also typically have better mana sinks both of which lead to wanting higher starting land counts on average and being happier to draw more total lands as the game progresses. The strong feedback mechanism towards initial ratios of the 40 card deck combined with a strong desire to use card quality on spells rather than lands in a singleton format leads to a narrower range of land ratios on the whole in cube decks. It is also noteworthy that the shift in average spell CMC moves less in cube when you move from aggro to midrange and then to control than it does in modern. Ramp cards have way more of an impact on the decks spell CMC than what it is trying to do. With less of a shift in CMC the less you need to add more lands and this helps to keep the range of cube mana ratios narrow.  (Control) Decks that want to cap out at higher land counts generally play more in the way of raw card draw to achieve this if they are not green and playing cards specifically to do this for them asap!

Having started down this epic rabbit hole there is one last little place I want to have a look as it was what got me thinking about this topic in the first place. I recently did an affinity archetype breakdown in which I gave a load of advice and examples on how to build the deck. I was painfully aware however that I was advocating a significantly higher land count than ones finds in constructed versions of the deck. Robots in modern has 16/60 lands which is the terrifying equivalent of 10 and 2/3rds land in a 40 card deck. I don't pack loads in my affinity decks but it is usually 13 or 14 which is still vastly more than it should be if I was taking the modern list as a guide. It is the biggest discrepancy of all the archetype comparisons for land ratios. All of the more general things I talked about in this essay apply to cube affinity when compared to modern robots. It has a slightly higher CMC, it has more mana sinks and more uses for lands late game. Further to this modern affinity has 8 Mox Opal and Springleaf Drum with 7 zero mana dorks to go with them compared to the 2 and 2 that cube can offer. Sure, you can throw in a Chrome or Diamond, perhaps you can get a Frogmite out on turn one in cube but all that jazz doesn't equate to the same kinds of consistency or redundancy. You can probably consider those cards to be worth about seven lands in the modern list while they are not that much more than one in the cube deck. The cube version also has more utility from its lands in that more of them are artifact lands and they have some ramping lands that modern doesn't. Experience taught me that 13 or 14 lands in an unpowered affinity cube deck is about right but evidence from modern lists suggested otherwise. I had to spend ages working through all this to be happy going against the sage wisdom of the robot loving pros. Only with all these many subtle factors on top of the more obvious Opal/Drum count does the difference in land counts seem reasonable.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Affinity Archetype Breakdown

FrogmiteI first played cube and built my own during Mirrodin block (the original one) and as such affinity has always been a thing. While I have not always had the key affinity components in the drafting portion of the cube it is still a popular and powerful deck that is fairly frequently done when available. While many of the cards are narrow and only really of use in the affinity deck itself (hence being a little onerous to include in the drafting cube) the archetype remains one of the most powerful in any kind of cube. I have done many lists over the years and I am sure many of those have made it into articles however there are many ways to go about building the deck. Just showing one or two examples is not overly helpful in showing how you should set about building a good version of the deck or how you can best take the deck in a specific direction of your own. As such I am going to do an overview of the archetype and discuss each of the options and how they relate specifically to affinity. Having just proclaimed it the best archetype in a powered rotisserie draft now seems like a good time to bust out this archetypal epic!

OrnithopterFirstly we have the core cards. Each of these are auto includes in my book and they make up about 60% of the deck. This means you should only really have about 16 cards to work with that are choices. While this doesn't seem like a lot but it is huge. You can use all the core card and exclusively other good cards yet end up with a horrible list that struggles to win. Affinity is an aggro deck and a synergy deck both at once. This means consistency and redundancy are at their most important. The main thing the core cards have in common is that they are able to be played regardless of colour or having coloured mana and they are predominantly artifacts themselves. Every card that needs coloured mana to use that you add to the deck reduces the consistency. Every card that you add which is not an artifact reduces the synergy.

I should note that I am not going to talk about the power, this article will exclusively discuss affinity in an unpowered cube. Affinity is one of the best decks for scaling with power and by far and away the best aggressive deck. All the Mox, Sol Ring and Mana Crypt are bonkers good in the deck. Black Lotus is obviously decent too as are all the stupid blue things (Ancestral Recall and Time Walk). Black Lotus, Mishra's Workshop and Tolarian Academy are all auto includes if you can get them in the archetype but they are also all a little bit overkill. You don't actually need that much mana with the deck and while they give you some busted starts you do quickly find that you are wasting all that extra mana. Massive card advantage spells start to become more important when you have things like Academy.
Seat of the Synod

24 Core Cards

11 Lands

6x Artifact Lands
Inkmoth Nexus
Blinkmoth Nexus
Mishra's Factory
Ancient Tomb
City of Traitors

Basically these are all the lands that are artifact creatures, permanent artifacts or that tap for more than one mana right away. The on colour artifact lands are the best but you should still play all the off colour ones too. The man lands are great mass removal protection, a great way to use spare mana as you approach the midgame and provide a lot of general utility for the deck. They hold modular counters well, are often evasive and can even one shot people out of nowhere! A turn one City of Traitors is a little bit dodgy in a lot of other decks but in affinity you can get so far ahead from just using it turn one and two that it is totally worth it.

Signal Pest

13 Spells

Mox Opal

Springleaf Drum
Signal Pest
Arcbound Worker
Vault Skirge

Arcbound Ravager
Steel Overseer
Cranial Plating

Etched Champion
Myr Enforcer

Springleaf DrumThe core spells include all the best cheap artifact creatures for the deck, all the premium ramp and fixing and the mighty Cranial Plating. Plating is your big card, you main payoff for having such a high artifact count and your main threat even when you don't have it (as far as your opponents will be concerned). It is the Sulphuric Vortex of the deck, the thing everyone is most scared of.

Mox Opal is generally better than a real power Mox in this archetype. It may not always tap on turn one but the fixing of any colour is super relevant. With so many cheap and free creatures Drum is not far off being a one mana Mox Opal which is still a really good deal for both fixing and burst.

You need a certain mass of bodies, ideally ones that attack in some relevant way and with such a small selection of cheap aggressive artifacts to chose from these are very much the cream of the crop. I could go on about why these creatures are good in affinity but with the majority having been constructed staples in the deck I am sure there is more than enough literature out there already on why they are good. They are all artifacts that have no colour requirement to cast that either bring utility, value, evasion or low casting cost, the best have several of these things. Myr Enforcer is likely the closest to not being an auto include. If you find yourself with a relatively low cheap artifact count then turn two Myr Enforcer is hard to do and as such far less worth playing. It is only because of access to the artifact lands which decks in modern do not have that enables Enforcer to be viable. Enforcer is just big and cheap, he has no evasion or utility. It is because he is a colourless artifact more than because he can be good value that gains him this high esteem spot. In cube it is a little easier to get high artifact counts quickly and so Enforcer and Frogmite are somewhat replacing the 3rd and 4th Ornithopter and Memnite you wold like to play (Modern lists typically run 7/60 of these 0 mana dorks and this translates to wanting roughly 4/40 in a cube list).

Cranial Plating
While the majority of these core cards are lands, creatures and artifacts they still don't meet the full requirements of the list in any of those categories. This core needs to be built upon with more fixing, generally more mana sources, more dorks and more artifacts. Below are the various options for the remaining slots in your affinity deck. I tend to find a slightly higher land count than seems needed is best. Many of your lands have utility outside of being lands and your deck is so strong when it works you are better off with a higher land count. A higher land count than 60 card equivalent constructed counterparts is a common theme in cube decks, especially the aggressive ones and affinity is the most pronounced of these. The reasoning behind it is an article in itself!


ThoughtcastThoughtcast 7/10

The next best thing to an Ancestral Recall! While on paper this is a no brainer it is more what you need to have in place before you can play this than makes this not an auto include. You need a healthy amount of blue mana in your deck as well as a high count of zero and one mana artifacts before Thoughtcast is worth it. As it is just drawing you two cards Thoughtcast can be considered as an artifact ultimately, likely two. It is great for drawing you into bigger cards and more gas but it is useless for getting you setup. It will not help you draw into your fixing or your ramp because you won't be able to cast it cheaply or at all in those situations. One of the best cards off the top in the mid game but rather a liability in your opener. Even if you can fire it off for one mana on turn two you still have to spend that mana which is going to slow you down. You would much rather have a one mana threat to play in your opener than this sort of thing. Although better early than the bigger card advantage effects the fact that Thoughtcast isn't really something you want to do early I tend to find I play heavier draw over it if at all.
Etherium Sculptor

Etherium Sculptor 3/10

A nice way to increase your burst potential but needing blue mana makes it quite hard to pull off with any consistency. Often by the time you make this you have already made most of the things it would have sped up. Although an artifact the 1/2 body doesn't do that much itself. I will only actively want to play this if I am fairly heavily blue and have a much higher curve than I typically like.

Master of EtheriumMaster of Etherium 9/10

This is one of the very best cards I don't have as an auto include. It is a cheap threat that pumps all your other dorks while being immense himself. It is like a Tarmogoyf and a Glorious Anthem all in one! The only reason he is not an auto include is because I don't always bother playing blue. Even with things like Mox Opal fixing any colour for you, without any actual effort made to support a colour even a single splash for a super powerful card such as this is just not worth it for your consistency. I would want seven sources of blue in my deck (including the three auto include ones) even if this was my only blue card. One of the best all round threats the deck has and one of the few ways you can attack for lethal on turn three without a Cranial Plating or sacrificing all your artifacts.

Somber Hoverguard
Somber Hoverguard 2/10

Fairly weak threat that needs coloured mana and isn't even an artifact. The best use for this is a counter to green decks which struggle against fliers and have no answer to non-artifact creatures. I think these days I would only ever have this as a sideboard option. The deck already has plenty of evasion and so this little guy really doesn't bring enough to the table. The same is true of the bigger options but more so. Both Qumulox and Broodstar being double blue are just far too onerous on the deck and building aroudn them properly would lead to a very different (and much weaker) sort of deck.

Tezzeret the SeekerTezzeret the Seeker 6/10

This is by far and away the most onerous card I ever play in affinity. Both in terms of mana cost and colour requirement. Double blue is a real chore to get online and demands too much of most affinity mana bases. Five mana is also a really tall order, affinity never really wants to pay more than three for anything. Tezzeret does typically win the game when you make him. He finds the Plating or the Ravager you need or he just untaps some stuff and sends in an army of 5/5s the next turn. The only time I will want to play Tezz is when I am packing things like Mana Vault, Chomratic Star and Talisman in my deck. This way you can much more reasonably expect to cast Tezz on turn three and have him be utterly bonkers rather than too late to the party.

Ensoul Artifact

Ensoul Artifact 2/10

A cute little trick that has some good synergy with Inkmoth Nexus and Darksteel Citadel but has much of the same problems as Somber Hovergaurd. It is blue and not an artifact itself. You have very limited space for such cards and you can get a lot more power than this with most of the others on this list. I think Copy Artifact would be more useful, perhaps even Phyrexian Metalmorpth and those are just more examples of cards that are a little too situational, slow or hard to cast to be worth it.

Trinket MageTrinket Mage 3/10

Back in the day when there were that much fewer options this was pretty hot in affinity, a two for one with some utility was pretty good. These days this is really rather on the slow side. Mostly it is a Civic Wayfinder which is great for fixing but generally to late to save the day. The more diverse your range of targets for the Trinket Mage the better it becomes but it is very much a card I try and avoid. You only have so many slots for 3 drop coloured cards and a lot of the alternatives to this offer a much more powerful effect.

Spined Thopter

Spined Thopter 3/10

Although this ticks a lot of the right boxes (no need of colour to play, an artifact, an evasive body) it is still a very underwhelming two drop with very low power level. This is easy to race, easy to kill and all together a bit too fair. Affinity can find evasion on lands, token producers and cards that cost half this or less. This is acceptable filler but you don't really want it ever.


Galvanic BlastGalvanic Blast 9/10

Comically I think this is one of the very best coloured non-artifact for the deck. I love me a Lightning Bolt and this is almost always just better. This is reach, it is removal for a lot of stuff and it packs a big punch for a bargain price. Any aggressive deck is made better with a bit of burn and affinity is no exception.

Shrapnel Blast
Shrapnel Blast 6/10

This hits a bit harder than Blast but is twice the price and needs you to sac something. A great finisher and a reasonable way to shift a fat midrange dork out of the way but a little too costly to be a good early interactive tool. There is some merit to having the ability to sacrifice stuff but overall it is still quite the drawback. Galvanic Blast would still be better in this deck even if you didn't have to sac something for Shrapnel.

Goblin Welder

Goblin Welder 8/10

One of the reasons affinity is so bonkers in cube is that it gets to abuse all manner of otherwise powerful cards. While Welder is never swapping Wurmcoils and Battlespheres in and out of play in affinity it still does far far too much for a one mana card! Just recurring your powerful cards like Ravager and Plating is a huge problem for most decks. Welder also yields loads of value from quite a wide selection of your cards. Loads have effects when they enter the battlefield or die. Even if it is just one card or a +1/+1 counter it is quite a big deal every turn from the get go. For one mana Welder offers about as much value and utility as you could hope for. It is like super proactive Mother of Runes.

AtogAtog 5/10

The poor mans Ravager. Atog is fairly killable and fairly blockable. It is nice against colours without hard answers to be able to represent lethal every turn with a two drop but this is pretty rare. The mono green deck can probably chump it all day without a second thought! The black decks are just begging you to try and go all in on the Atog for the kill so that they can change the text on their Terror variant to "win the game". Unlike Ravager, not only is Atog not an artifact, but going all in on it is a one turn thing. Going all in on Ravager is fine against removal and chumps enough of the time as you can save and move the counters. The best reason to play Atog is to have another sac outlet. There are a number of good affinity cards that highly benefit from a sac outlet. The more you have of those the more Atog rises in value. If you just want a threat play one that is an artifact and doesn't need coloured mana.

Bomat CourierBomat Courier 8/10?

A new little option for affinity and one I have not yet tested. There is a good chance this is actually an auto include just because it is a Raging Goblin that fulfils the no colour casting cost and artifact types criteria. When you can activate the draw aspect profitably the card shoots up in value and this is fairly likely with affinities ability to dump its hand rapidly. Haste is not something affinity has had before and as such the Courier makes a Plating even scarier! They can Wrath your whole board and you can still untap and hit them with a Plated creature right away.

Wheel of FortuneWheel of Fortune 8/10

Speaking of affinities ability to dump its hand quickly we have this little gem as an option. There are loads of ways to refill on gas in affinity but this is one of the best. Affinity is also probably the best place for Wheel of Fortune! You can cast it on curve and discard nothing! It is better disruption against most other kinds of deck than most other symmetrical draw effects too. Wheel returns more cards per mana than Thoughcast (for one). It is still quite a big risk to play it as it will sit in hand hurting your burst and synergy until you are able to play it. I only want to play Wheel in my affinity decks when they are starting to look really cheap, consistent and good. If I have a bunch of situational stuff or expensive stuff then Wheel is just going to make that worse before it makes it better.

Slobad, Goblin TinkererSlobad, Goblin Tinkerer 4/10

While Slobad is an awful proactive card he is one of the most brutal defensive ones you can find in affinity. If you are up against, Wraths, Pernicious Deed and Meltdown effects then Slobad is your man. Not only does he make such effects pretty limp he also makes combat even more of a headache than usual. He is an OK sac outlet as well. Generally a sideboard style of card but one that is often overlooked. Affinity really wants to extend, being able to do so without fear of mass removal is a delight.

Thopter EngineerThopter Engineer 5/10

This is a little like Etherium Sculptor, a weak body with colour requirement to play that then buffs you other cards somewhat. Haste is a lot easier to abuse than a cost reduction effect and continues to be of use throughout the game. A 1/1 flier is also way more useful than either a 1/2 or 1/3 body on the ground and so Thopter Engineer is a much more rounded and independently playable card. Being a 3 drop the haste is still quite late to come into effect. I feel like the more powerful dorks and the higher your curve the better this will be in general. Those things however move you away from the optimal sort of build and as such Engineer is still probably the kind of card I would try and avoid if possible. Really very well suited to the deck and lots of potential power but just a little bit too much of a luxury card. Pia Nalaar is another new card that could work in affinity and has many similarities to this. Pia is a mana sink, offers a wide array of utility both as a threat and as a sac outlet and is generally all round good. Overall I think Engineer offers more impact and more power yet both suffer the same issue of being coloured three drops that take a little while to proffer a good return. They are all a bit like a Trinket Mage too. More proactive power makes these new Grey Ogre like offerings more appealing at least.


Disciple of the VaultDisciple of the Vault 9/10

The main reason you want sac outlets is the mighty Disciple. Back in block this was the card you feared and not the Cranial Plating. This wasn't because Plating was worse for some reason back then, Disciple is just that good. In constructed you could have multiples of these which you cannot in cube and that does detract quite a lot from its potential value. The ability to drop two of these and just sac all your permanents to a Ravager at any given point for the win was the norm. Although cube affinity does have the suitably high artifact count to abuse the Disciple it is a fair amount of effort. You need a couple of extra sac outlets, you need the black mana and you need to cut a non-artifact for it. Disciple is also a pretty useless one drop and tends to do nothing until the late game. A good way to compensate for only having one is to play it with some burn so that you can realistically burst someone down without having to attack.

Salvage TitanSalvage Titan 3/10

This is a bit of a Myr Enforcer dork. Just big and cheap. He can come out quicker than Enforcer but to do so really hurts your ability to further your board. Later on he just gets blocked loads and doesn't really get any easier to play. The recursion starts to get more relevant against the slower and more control decks but you typically have better ways to gain value and gas against them.  Titan also offers some mild utility as a sac outlet but being sorcery speed it really is mild.

Salvage Slasher

Salvage Slasher 3/10

Cheap and hard hitting but way too vulnerable and colour intense. Back in the day this was a great counter to creature light decks but there are so few of those these days that I can't see this being worth it ever. Perhaps if a good way to make stuff hard to block presents itself then this will become viable again but for now I would steer well clear of this. The one nice thing about this is that it is the one card that gets better with more stuff in the bin rather than in play so a brutal follow up to a Wrath or a good pairing with an Atog.

Scrapheap ScroungerScrapheap Scrounger 9/10?

Another new and untested affinity potential. Hard hitting, cheap, easy to play and some late game utility as well. This has all the hallmarks of an auto include. My reservations (other than a lack of testing) on that matter are down to it just being a dork when in play. It is easy to block and kill and isn't above the curve in any way. If they trade with a Frogmite you have gained a big tempo lead, if you trade with this you are probably fairly even on tempo. Lands like Ancient Tomb make this a lot better, this is a lot more impressive turn one than turn two... As a generic two drop artifact this is probably one of the better things to be getting on with. While it doesn't overly interact or offer synergy beyond being an artifact with your other cards it is one of the best stand alone cards. A lone Ravager is a bit of a 1/1, a lone Signal Pest or Vault Skirge get very little done. This at least hits hard enough that your opponent will feel it.

Yawgmoth's WillYawgmoth's Will 8/10

One of the best gas and value tools on offer to the affinity deck. It doesn't help your opponent in any way like Wheel of Fortune and it gets you back important key cards which is of huge value in the singleton format. The issues with Will are that it is even harder to be in a good position for it than with Wheel. If you don't have your good cards it won't help you find them, if you don't have anything in the bin of value then the Will is doing very little. Further to this there are loads of subtle things you can do that go a long way to making Will a lot better in the deck. Things like Chromatic Sphere instead of Chromatic Star suddenly seem like they have merit. Will benefits from sac outlets so you can set it up as you need it. It also benefits from free artifacts or those that generate mana like Lotus Petal and Mana Vault. It is one of the better reasons to pack an Etherium Sculptor too. I do love the power of Wheel or Will in my lists but typically it is one or the other for me. Both is too much greed!

Dark Confidant

Dark Confidant 6/10

Zero synergy with the deck but just so good that it is a fine inclusion. You are aggressive enough to not care about the life and bursty enough that card draw is really valuable. Even with things like Myr Enforcer in the deck this is still great in most matchups if you can reliably play it.

Glaze FiendGlaze Fiend 3/10

This is pretty weak in general but it does have some nutty scaling potential in combination with the right cards. If you have loads of draw or token generation then you can have this represent a one shot kill pretty well. Although much less robust than an Atog the card has built in evasion, it itself an artifact and does not require you to go all in to represent lethal damage. Typically I am looking for consistency in my cheap filler artifacts and so playing ones that further require build attention to are a bit of a turn off.


DuressIf you really need to interact and disrupt your opponent than black discard is the way to go. Duress, Thoughtsieze and even Inquisition are the best way to deal with the very few combo decks that can outpace you as well as the control decks that have some brutal counters to you. Obviously including these kinds of card makes your deck a lot worse so you have to be pretty sure you are going to lose without it before you take that leap. Good sideboard tools at the least if you are able to avoid needing them main.


There is little to no reason to be in green. The metalcraft dudes that get huge are fine enough in pauper formats but they fail pretty hard in the big boy league. I briefly experimented with Birthing Pod in affinity but I created something unholy. Tree of Tales is generally just a bad Darksteel Citadel in the deck which is enough that it is still one of the top ten most important cards in the deck! There are at best a couple playable affinity card in green and they are not even that exciting;

Shardless AgentShardless Agent 2/10

Fine enough filler as it is an artifact and draws (and plays) you a card. Rather too intense on the colour for my liking and a bit late in the curve for what is essentially just a good value dork. If there was other reasons to be in green then this would get more play but as it stand I wouldn't bother. If you think of this as a Frogmite where you have to pay 1UG to draw and play a random card from your deck it sounds a lot less value, more like a Think Twice...

Ancient StirringsAncient Stirrings 3/10

I thought of another green card you could play (and shouldn't). Aggressive decks don't want card quality. Being so light on colours this isn't going to be that helpful very often for fixing you so it is just a way to increase your chances of seeing the key cards like Ravager and Plating. Likely not worth the mana but for more viable in cube than in constructed variants of the deck.


Time SieveTime Sieve 4/10

Colour intense and very costly to use. It is somewhat of a safe Final Fortune in the deck but it is pretty rarely a Time Walk. If saccing three artifacts for Salvage Titan is a big deal then losing five for this is going to be super hard work. Where Time Sieve starts to become good is when you have a variety of ways to produce a bunch of tokens. Genesis Chamber is the most potent of these producers but there are others you can use as well.

Thopter FoundryThopter Foundry 8/10

This is probably the second best sac outlet after Ravager. It is a cheap artifact, it provides ongoing instant speed sacrifice options and most importantly of all it does not diminish your artifact count when you sac stuff. Being able to turn anything into a life and a 1/1 flier is a pretty big deal, well worth the mana activation cost over the other good sac outlets. While fairly colour intense the option on black or white makes a pretty huge difference in the ease of playing it. Foundry is a great stand alone card in affinity but you can still fairly effectively pair it with Sword of the Meek. You give yourself some powerful late game options as well as potential infinite turns courtesy of Time Sieve. While you have little tutoring to piece together the combo it doesn't matter much as all the cards conveniently support affinity as well as the combo. Sword is great to sac to loads of things and is triggered by quite a wide selection of the cards you want to play in the deck anyway.

Baleful StrixBaleful Strix 7/10

Being an artifact in addition to one of the best all round creatures ever printed makes this a viable option for affinity as well as every other deck that can produce black and blue mana! Flying is great, deathtouch isn't irrelevant and drawing a card is spot on. This is a better body than Shardless Agent, is in better colours, costs less and typically gains you the same amount of value. I have lost to basically just Baleful Strix in combination with Academy Ruins when playing against affinity so the card actually can offer some pretty powerful late game in the right situation.

Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast

Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast 5/10

Removal, artifact producer, sac outlet and a dangerous threat. Although a three drop in two colours Daretti is about as much utility as you can get from a playable affinity card. In a meta with lots of midrange or lots of sweepers then Daretti is a great way to diversify your stuff and have a bit more longevity.

Saheeli Rai
Saheeli 1/10

While untested Saheeli does seem rather too weak for the deck. The +1 is far to low impact to be worth it so the -2 has to do a lot of work. While you can certainly do some scary things with the -2 it isn't going to be as reliable as an aggro decks needs. Goblin Welder gets away with not reaching his full abusive potential because he is only one mana. Saheeli really does need things like Wurmcoil kicking about to cut it I fear.

Tidehollow Sculler

Tidehollow Sculler 4/10

Super colour intense and not that great of a tempo play. Due to them getting the card back should this die much of the value of it being a body and being an artifact is lost. Despite this it is still one of the only proactive disruption cards affinity has access to. If you really want to disrupt and you have a really solid mana base then this is a good call. Otherwise, steer clear.

Breya, Etherium ShaperBreya, Etherium Shaper

Mental though this looks this is just so stupidly powerful you might go to the efforts of being able to play it. In a generic four colour good stuff list you should have good enough fixing to play this, you might need to lose some of the colourless lands that tap for two and play a Talisman or two to house her sensibly but it actually might be worth it. This card is just such a joke in any deck yet naturally scales the best in affinity! Three artifacts and three bodies in one card, 6/6 total stats with some evasion for four mana, a sac outlet and basically a freely equipped Jitte! She is hard to cast, pricey and slow but she is supremely powerful easily able to win just one her own and brings all of the synergy. I will absolutely try her. If Tezz can be good then this has to have a good build.


Glint Hawk
Glint Hawk 2/10

While a good aggressive body the fact that this is neither an artifact nor colourless makes this a far far weaker one drop than it might seem. To my mind there is only one good reason to play this card and that is when you can abuse the return effect. Mox Opal and Pearl work well with the card as do the few come into play effect artifacts in the deck. You need a fair few of the latter as well as a heavy commitment to white before you can look at this for your list. Kor Shyfisher also starts to look good in your deck when you have the things to make the Hawk good.

Glint Hawk IdolGlint Hawk Idol 5/10

This is actually quite comparable to Scrapheap Scrounger. It evades removal to some extent, all be it in a different way. It is also a colourless two drop that is just a fairly reasonable aggressive body. You don't need the coloured mana for either for them to do most of what you want of them but you should have access to the colour at the very least before playing either. You have a fair amount of protection against removal and loads of evasion anyway and so the Idol isn't fulfilling any role better than your staples. To me it is just a fine filler card. Certainly keeping Spined Thopter well out of the running!

Court HomunculusCourt Homunculus 6/10

A much weaker body than Glint Hawk but a far better card just because it is an artifact itself. It is still a fine enough one drop. You don't expect to be winning the game with just your one drops. As such it is far more important to have them support your deck than it is to have them as individually powerful as possible. This is a pretty low powered card but it is a solid inclusion if you have strong white mana support.


Dispatch 7/10

Because affinity needs the only removal spell in the game that is better than Path or Plow.... Oh wait, it doesn't. That is right, affinity is so powerful that it doesn't need or care that much about Dispatch. It is incredibly powerful and almost always useful but it doesn't further your synergy or do anything proactive. It is a bit like playing a Thoughtsieze, your consistency is better without. Galvanic Blast kills most of what this does and it can go face or take out walkers. Typically this is the kind of thing I keep in the board for reanimate decks or some other archetype that can produce something before affinity kills it that four damage can't handle.

Tempered SteelTempered Steel 8/10

This is the main reason to go white. It is so powerful and so demanding on your build that I would almost consider a Tempered Steel deck to be a distinct archetype. It is a lot like Plating in effect, it just turns all your dorks into total beat sticks. You can be attacking for over ten on turn two with the card! I think you can attack for 19 on turn two in modern with it. The issue is of course the double white in the cost which makes it a massive chore to include. You are probably having to dedicate a significant number of deck slots to reliably playing it and with only one copy of the card this is a blow to your overall consistency. So much so that it might be worth running some kind of tutor effect for such as Vampiric or Enlightened if you do go down that route. Tempered Steel is by far and away the best way to beat aggressive red decks which are one of your only tier one matchups that is not a good one pre board. The trick is to hold all your cards like Ornithopter back until you cast the Steel, then they are all far to hard to remove with burn.

Servo Exhibition

Servo Exhibition 6/10

In a lot of ways I feel this new offering is like a cross between Thoughcast and Court Homunculus. Like the Homunculus it is a decent enough tempo play that provides artifacts. Like Thoughtcast it is something that can provide multiple artifacts in one card yet like both cards it is heavily hobbled by the colour requirement to actually play it. You want this out asap so that it does the most for you but to do that you have to have a focused selection of white mana producers. Obviously this scales with most things in the deck pretty well however it is especially good with Tempered Steel. It is also good with Chrome Mox as it increases your imprint targets without reducing your potential artifact count.

Stoneforge MysticStoneforge Mystic 8/10

With Plating being the best card in the deck and with most cube equipment being somewhere between viable and good in the deck the Stoneforge is a pretty potent tutor effect. Another case of generically good and powerful cards happening to work out well in affinity. The card is pretty slow in such a quick deck and is quite substantially worse than just drawing your Plating. I like to run two equipment in almost any deck in which I play Stoneforge. For affinity the penalty for having no targets left in your deck for the Stoneforge is steeper than most other decks. It would be like having a Squire in your Splinter Twin deck.

Ethersworn Canonist

Ethersworn Canonist 6/10

Great sideboard card or maindeck hedge card. It almost never harms you and can be a pain against quite a like of normal decks not just the silly storm combos. The thing again is that your deck is so damn good that you just don't want to downgrade the quality of your threats so as to get a bit of disruption. Nothing is quicker than you and so reducing your power and consistency is really not worth slowing them down. This is just a Grizzly Bear and not even a free disposable one like Frogmite.

Porcelain Legionnaire

Porcelain Legionnaire 5/10

Apart from being like the hardest card to spell in the game this little card is fine filler in affinity. Although perhaps a more rounded dork than Scrapheap Scrounger it plays into red which is probably your biggest fear in cube. Both paying life and having just one toughness makes this a risky two drop


Myrsmith 1/10

Far too slow for conventional aggressive affinity lists but with the way magic is going I am fairly sure there will be a midrange version of affinity which has loads more legs than normal and a much slower curve as well. In such decks this could start to be pretty good as an ongoing source of value. It is also probably worth it in a well constructed Tempered Steel deck because it scales so well and already has sufficient white mana. It does make Young Pyromancer look really quite good by comparison however.


SkullclampSkullclamp 9/10

Affinity loves to draw cards, more so than most decks. It also loves to power out with cheap and useful artifacts for which Skullclamp is the top of the pile in terms of power. Affinity and Skullclamp are both really hard to play well, combine the two and you have a head melting experience. Affinity is a tempo deck and Skullclamp typically costs you tempo. Ideally you use it to get profitable trades and protect things against removal. Sometimes you just use it as a mana sink to convert your weaker cards into more gas. You can certainly throw a lot of games by overusing the card. Clamp is greatly improved in value with token producers and with sacrifice outlets. Obviously nutty good but at least this rating comes with a caution!

Tangle WireTanglewire 9/10

This is the best disruption card available to affinity. It fairly well shuts down most other decks for a couple of turns while barely having an impact on you. Once it is done Time Walking your opponent you can recycle the card with one of your sacrifice outlets. You can even reuse it with things like Glint Hawk and Goblin Welder for a horrific lockdown experience for your opponent. The only reason this is not an auto include card is that it isn't a threat. You are already the quickest deck in the format and so you don't need to slow your opponents down if that comes at any cost to you. While this does cost you a card and three mana the effect is so powerful and one sided that it is still worth it most of the time.

Chromatic SphereChromatic Sphere 7/10
Chromatic Star 9/10
Terrarion 8/10

All three of these cards are some of the best filler you can find. They are all one mana artifacts that ultimately cycle helping you dig to your big cards and powering you out. In addition to this they offer a one off fixing which is huge for a deck that has so few specific coloured sources and often wants to play three or four different colours! Star and Terrarion both offer great synergy with sac outlets when you don't need the fixing. Sphere works best with Yawgmoth's will and the exile effect it has. Star and Sphere offer more consistency with cheaper and quicker activations possibile. Terrarion does keep up with the others in usefulness as it is able to double fix and is a great tool when you have things like Baleful Strix, Thopter Foundry and Tempered Steel to play.

Chrome MoxChrome Mox 7/10

Quite awkward to imprint. Even in your opening hand you rarely have options on what you can imprint, far more often you just can't at all. Even when you can imprint it it doesn't always provide the fixing you want. By imprinting a coloured card you massively reduce your need for that colour in your deck. You can't even imprint things like Thopter Foundry despite being coloured they are also artifacts. All this is a little academic, when you do imprint stuff it gives you a vast tempo boost and when you don't you still have a card which you can put to use. It still adds to metalcraft and affinity and can still be sacrificed for value later on. I have played Chrome Mox in 60 card constructed affinity with no regrets. That was in standard too where nothing like Wheel existed to refresh your hand size. Mox is best when you have a lot of coloured non-artifact cards but this is how to make your affinity deck worse as a general rule. Even with as low as five imprint targets I still find Chrome Mox to be quite reasonable in the deck. It gives you a lot of options and is far less of a cost when you don't use it than it is for other decks. The fewer different colours you have the more you can rely on it for fixing. In a two colour affinity deck I often look to play Chrome. With more colours than two it would only be something I used to solve other issues with my deck and patch up some holes.

Mox DiamondMox Diamond 7/10

Fantastic fixer and pretty decent burst tool. When I am three or more colours I am generally quite keen to include a Mox Diamond in my list. While you have a low land count you don't need much mana to go nuts. You still get a lot of benefit from a turn one Mox Diamond even if you then cannot make your second land drop on turn two, sometimes even the first! Once you have three or four mana sources all further ones are your weakest draws and so losing them is far less severe than losing a coloured card. The real issue with Diamond is that you cannot usefully use it when you have nothing to discard as you can with Chrome. There are absolutely times it does nothing at all for you and that is a little bit painful.

Hangarback Walker

Hangarback Walker 8/10

A great filler dork that has a lot of different angles. This is a colourless two drop, it offers wrath protection, evasion, ongoing value and powerful synergy with Steel Overseer and modular. It acts as a great one turn mana dump should things get to the late game. The only reason this is not an auto include is that the card is really rather slow to do all that much. Myr Sire is not something to get excited about and a lot of the time Walker will essentially be just that. Walker benefits from a sac outlet so that you can generate fliers as and when you need them.

Bonded ConstructBonded Construct 6/10

Savannah Lion with a Mogg Flunkies style drawback. While this has quite a lot more individual tempo and power than most of the other one drop filler dorks you can play it doesn't further your synergy. Being a synergy deck you want your cheap support cards to further your options rather than just be efficient linear cards. No one is going to argue that Goblin Sledder is a better card than Goblin Guide yet in the tribal goblins deck the Sledder is far more powerful. I can't believe I am comparing Bonded Construct to Goblin Guide but still... In decks with Skullclamp, Tempered Steel and such things the value of this goes up. Without these things to improve upon the card I don't think it is really worth it any more. Pre Memnite days this would have been straight into the archetype, now it looks a little fair.

Phyrexian Walker
Phyrexian Walker 3/10

This is basically all the bad bits of Memnite and Ornithopter combined. It doesn't do anything offensive on its own and it is very easy to block. The extra toughness is pretty irrelevant, it is not like they are gutted they have a Shock not a Bolt because of it. They will be aiming that burn somewhere else 99% of the time. You can only play the Walker if you have loads of creature buffs. Just Plating and Ravager is no where close to enough. Powering up with cheap artifacts is great but you do need some of them to actually do stuff. Both Frogmite and My Enforcer are much much better at what this is trying to do, play them.

Phyrexian Revoker

Phyrexian Revoker 7/10

A decent filler card that can become something you actively want if you are facing specific known nasties such as Pernicious Deed or some combo like Painter's Servant / Grindstone. Even in matchups without things you would play the Revoker for there are almost always good targets to chose that will make it act quite like removal. It is similar to Tidehollow Sculler in that it is a fairly limp tempo play and a little too easy to deal with to be a super strong answer to anything. Fortunately for it the lack of colour in the casting cost makes Revoker substantially better than the Sculler in a general sense.


Spellskite 6/10

A decent protection tool for an affinity list that is spread quite thin and going in a couple of directions. Perhaps one that is trying to include a light Thopter Foundry combo. Spellskite is generally very annoying regardless of what you are playing and with three more Toughness than Revoker it is often a more effective disruption tool. The issue faced by Spellskite is that it is basically just a slightly bigger Phyrexian Walker that does nothing aggressive on its own. Much better in Tempered Steel lists or ones with higher equipment counts but generally still very playable filler even when you have no specific use for it.

Hex ParasiteHex Parasite 4/10

More low impact utility filler. There are some cute things you can do with this but it is all a bit too much mana to be super powerful. Most of the time this is just an over cost Memnite. This probably means I am somewhat overestimating Bomat Courier's potential for the deck.

Mana Vault

Mana Vault 6/10

While this gives some nutty burst potential it is a pretty dead draw anytime after turn two which greatly reduces its value. For a non-threat card this doesn't do enough throughout the course of the game to be a high priority. The more colourless stuff you have in your deck the better this becomes. The more stuff that draws huge amounts of cards like Wheel of Fortune and Yawgmoth's Will the better too. In the optimal lists this isn't a thing I want but the more off piste you go with the deck the more powerful and important Mana Vault and even Grim Monolith can become. They do give you access to some otherwise non-viable cards that are pretty potent in the archetype.

Cursed ScrollCursed Scroll 6/10

A bit of reach, a bit of removal and an OK mana dump. The more consistent the deck the better this becomes. The more exotic stuff you have such as Wheel of Fortune the weaker this gets. The versions of affinity that look less powerful are often the ones that benefit most from Scroll. If you have loads of burst mana and high impact threats then you will either do nothing or auto win. In both of these situations Scroll does very little to help you. If you have a good spread of things and few do nothing or situational cards then Scroll will typically do enough work to be a good inclusion. Cards like Grim Lavamancer are a real pain against you and being able to take them out with Scroll is delightful.

Myr RetrieverMyr Retriever 9/10

This is the only card I initially had on the auto include list but ultimately decided it should be here. The reason being that you really want a sacrifice outlet for this guy to shine and you can't always have enough of those. Basically this card is a value filler insurance card. It is easy to play, clogs up the board and contributes to your synergy. It makes mass removal less scary and it allows you to get back your key cards should they get dealt with. In singleton formats recursion is far more valuable. While a weak tempo play the ability to have a second Ravager or Plating is super worth that cost. Just the ability to play a little more loosely with your valuable cards can alone be enough to return that tempo cost. Retriever has fantastic synergy with Goblin Welder, so much so always try and play them as a pair.

Smuggler's CopterSmuggler's Copter 9/10 at least I presume

Obviously this can't be bad. Wrath proof, evasive threat that is also a cheap artifact. If Glint Hawk Idol can get a look in this certainly can. Looting is amazing for any deck, those with consistency issues even more so. There is synergy with graveyard stuff on a bunch of decent affinity cards and so you can get some bonus value there too. The one issue there might be with this card is that the deck already has equipment in it and is not the most threat dense of the aggressive decks. Even with just this and Plating you risk situations where you are tied up each turn pissing around with man lands and re-equipping or worse still just doing nothing. The looting should help with that a bit but still, playing this will demand a slightly higher creature count than normal. Neither Signal Pest nor Ornithopter help to crew this either which is not ideal. There is also negative synergy going on with Springleaf Drum and Copter. On the reverse side of things Suggler's Copter does allow you to play a little greedier on things as you have some ability to loot them away. Perhaps you play both Chrome and Diamond or even both Will and Wheel!

Talisman of DominanceTalismans 6/10

You don't really ramp this late in the day as your curve ends at three for the most part. The Talisman simply offer a great way to fix your mana without costing you too much tempo or synergy. As they come down untapped you can usually put that mana to use right away making your card only a one mana investment and as such a smaller tempo hit than most alternatives. They are basically a Chromatic Star that finds a land and continues to fix for you in future turns. I do like what Talisman bring to the archetype however you have to be careful to not play too many of that sort of thing. Threat density is something you have to keep an eye on. As an aside, the Signets are significantly worse being that much more awkward to use immediately. I would advise against ever playing Signets. Play Felwar Stone instead if there isn't the appropriate Talisman and hope it fixes what you need!

Genesis ChamberGenesis Chamber 7/10

This is quite the big risk card but it does offer huge returns, likely more so than any other support card you can add. Even against decks that are full of creatures you get far more from Chamber than they could hope for. Not only do your guys frequently cost nothing and come down in one big go giving you massive tempo you can also put a horde of 1/1 artifacts to really good use. They will make Plating nearly twice is painful, they will make Ravager twice as scary. The reasons to not play Genesis Chamber have little to do with your opponent. Firstly the card is an awful top deck once your hand is empty. Secondly, you have to invest a little bit of tempo to get back that huge swing. Against fair decks this is well worth it but against a combo deck where it is just a pure race this massive momentum swing can be too late. Lastly you need to built somewhat with Chamber in mind. You need a very high creature count to ensure you are getting triggers every turn. You also need a very cheap creature count which in turn means you run out of gas a bit quicker. Sac outlets that offer good returns, global pump effects and/or Skullclamp are the best things to pair with the Chamber.

Cultivator's Caravan
Cultivator's Caravan 2/10

I think this is too slow to really be the thing affinity is looking for. I am more interested in the ability for it to fix than I am about the 5/5. Crew three is quite a tall order and a generic 5/5 isn't very exciting. As a threat I prefer Myr Enforcer, as Fixing I probably just prefer a land. I think that you probably need burst mana from things like Mishra's Workshop before you want to include this in your deck but as I haven't tested it I cannot be totally sure.

Æther VialAether Vial 4/10

This is yet another non-threat card that becomes pretty weak beyond the first couple of turns. It is also a little more awkward than something simple like a Springleaf Drum in terms of how it helps you play out your stuff. It can offer some good fixing but only on creature cards. This means you can afford to be more exotic with stuff like Tidehollow Sculler and Baleful Strix. One of the biggest perks of the card is it's ability to let you flash in things. All the utility cards like Ravager become far scarier when they can turn up at any time. Obviously it is quite nice against countermagic but your raw speed is usually enough there. I try and avoid playing it, despite a huge upside I feel it lowers overall consistency. When you have such a potent archetype you are just best off trying to do your thing as reliably as possible and Vial in singleton is not what you call reliable.

Lotus PetalLotus Petal 5/10

Fine for both burst and fixing but a fairly hefty price on your power level and threat density. A lot of the coloured cards you play are things you play at the end of your curve and so the burst this offers typically isn't useful. If you use this for mana you are a card down and you no longer have an artifact in play. There are plenty of situations this is good in but I want a lot of card advantage in my list before I am super happy about playing it. Yawgmoth's Will is perhaps the best reason for playing this.

Black Vise

Black Vise 6/10

Somewhat of a threat, arguably the most efficient one you can make on turn one. The issue I have with it is that ultimately it is not a threat making it much like Mana Vault and Aether Vial and all those other dead draws in the mid game. Vise scales very well with any mana disruption (Port, Wastelands, Tanglewire) and also any symmetrical draw seven effects you may be packing. Decent filler and very good in the right time or place but all the wrong sorts of consistency for what you are trying to do with the deck.
Engineered Explosives

Engineered Explosives 3/10

A versatile removal effect that you can tutor for with Trinket Mage should you need that sort of thing. As with all the reactive cards this is something I try and avoid playing. If I do it will be for a specific thing I struggle with. While this fits it neatly with a lot of things it is a pretty expensive and inconvenient way to remove stuff. Generally you are better off with cheap targetted removal like Dispatch for known problems. Being a deck that makes a load of stuff on the board you generally wind up killing some of your own stuff with the Explosives and that is really lame.

Lupine PrototypeLupine Prototype 2/10

Lots of power and pretty easy to turn on yourself. The issue is that you don't really need fat efficient dorks. You have plenty of those already and they are far less unreliable. Myr Enforcer may only be a 4/4 but you can often make it for nothing on turn two which makes it wildly better than a 2 mana 5/5 even without the drawback. The better your deck is in terms of consistency the better this will be. If Cursed Scroll is good in your deck then this is likely not that much worse than Myr Enforcer. As soon as you have things like Wheel of Fortune in your deck or several colours of different cards then your Prototype is pretty unplayable.


Epochrasite 2/10

More slow filler two drop dorks. This one is one of the best midrange dorks but affinity is not at all afraid of midrange decks. This is like an even slower, less powerful Hangerback Walker. There is enough exile effects going around that it isn't even that tenacious of a threat anymore. You need lots of sacrifice outlets to turn this on so to speak otherwise your opponent will just perpetually ignore it as a 1/1. Some mild Wrath protection but really still too slow and generic to be a counterplay to any strategy.

Arcbound StingerArcbound Stinger 3/10

The most fillery of filler dorks. This is utter poo but having extra guys with modular is nice for retaining counters. Basically, if you already have a ravager this is quite a nice thing to have access to however before that it is very limp indeed. Poo cards that tick all the boxes and support your deck synergies well often become good. I would at least play this before I played Spined Thopter I am pretty sure.

Lodestone Golem

Lodestone Golem 7/10

This dude is surprisingly good in cube affinity despite being a four drop with no cost reduction or alternate casting mode. Having access to some lands that tap for two combined with a small amount of other ramp makes a turn two Golem possible and a turn three one pretty reliably. He is a much better disruption effect than Aethersworn Canonist or any of that non-sense and a pretty meaty threat as well. Tanglewire is probably the only better disruption and you can't hit people for five with a Tanglewire. I only run Lodestone Golem when I have a healthy amount of ramp and a low non-artifact count.

Umezawa's JitteUmezawa's Jitte 4/10

Surprisingly weak in this deck. Being so expensive to use it really slows you down and leaves you wide open to painful disruption in the form of instant removal. You already have two better equipment for the deck (Plating and Clamp) and equipment (and now vehicles) have diminishing returns. While it looks like a good problem solver card it feels like it exacerbates your weaknesses first. Like against a red deck, sure, it can kill a Lavamancer but you need to get it on something that lives to do combat damage first. Certainly powerful, a lot more so if somehow it is your only equipment, but not what you want to optimise the deck.


City of BrassCity of Brass/Mana Confluence/Glimmervoid

These are your go to lands whenever you are three or more colours. If you are just two then any dual that comes in untapped is better. Glimmervoid might seem like the best but it is so ruinous those few occasions you do have to put it in the bin. I'll take some pain over that chance with such an aggressive deck all day. While there are some exotic colourless lands you can play beyond the auto includes I think it is much more important to finish off your land count with reliable fixing.

Academy Ruins

Academy Ruins / Volrath's Stronghold

Both of these add some lasting power and help to let you reuse key cards. Ruins is generally better as it gets back Plating and Ravager but Stronghold gets back most of the things you want as well as some of the really spicy creatures like Welder and Disciple. I prefer to use things like Myr Retriever or Yawgmoth's Will for recursion so that I can rely on a better mana base. Without those adding one of these to your deck may be worth it but it is the kind of thing I would counterbalance by adding more fixing or increasing my land count to do.

Rishadan PortRishadan Port and Wasteland

Both are pretty good disruption effects that you can use to burst out early and then get to using that spare mana slowing down the opposition. If for some reason you end up with a basically colourless deck then these are the next best lands you can include after the auto include (and the banned power stuff). Mostly you want some of the coloured stuff and so, again, you are better of with colour fixing lands to take you to the appropriate land count. Also again, you are hte quickest deck and so hurting your consistency isn't really worth the disruption most of the time. That said, affinity is yet again one of the best placed decks to take advantage of these effects. You can have emptied your hand on turn two and be ready to use your spare mana to tie up theirs with little to no impact on your curve at all.

I am now going to try and give three example lists of how you can build affinity in different ways. Sadly my personal bias on builds and card has lead them to look more similar than I had hoped!

Ancient TombFour Colour Best Stuff

14 Lands

6x Artifact Lands
Inkmoth Nexus
Blinkmoth Nexus
Mishra's Factory
Ancient Tomb
City of Traitors
City of Brass
Mana Confluence

26 Spells

Mox Opal
Arcbound WorkerMox Diamond

Springleaf Drum
Signal Pest
Arcbound Worker
Vault Skirge

Galvanic Blast
Goblin Welder
Disciple of the Vault
Chromatic Star


Arcbound Ravager
Steel Overseer
Cranial Plating
Thopter Foundry

Steel OverseerMyr Retreiver
Stoneforge Mystic
Baleful Strix

Etched Champion
Myr Enforcer

Master of Etherium
Tanglewire / Smuggler's Copter

Two Colour Refined

13 Lands

Darksteel Citadel
6x Artifact Lands
Inkmoth Nexus
Blinkmoth Nexus
Mishra's Factory
Ancient Tomb
City of Traitors
Sulphurous Springs
Blackcleave Cliffs

27 Spells

Mox Opal
Chrome Mox

Springleaf Drum
Signal Pest
Mox OpalArcbound Worker
Vault Skirge

Bomat Courier
Galvanic Blast
Disciple of the Vault
Goblin Welder

Cursed Scroll
Chromatic Star

Scrapheap Scrounger
Arcbound Ravager
Steel Overseer
Cranial Plating

Talisman of Indulgence
Etched ChampionAtog
Myr Retriever
Smuggler's Copter

Etched Champion
Wheel of Fortune
Myr Enforcer

Tempered Steel

14 Lands

6x Artifact Lands
Mishra's FactoryInkmoth Nexus
Blinkmoth Nexus
Mishra's Factory
Ancient Tomb
City of Traitors
Mystic Gate
Adakar Wastes

22 Spells

Mox Opal
Vault SkirgeOrnithopter
Phyrexian Walker

Springleaf Drum
Signal Pest
Arcbound Worker
Vault Skirge

Court Homunculus
Bonded Construct

Arcbound Ravager
Steel Overseer
Cranial Plating
Hangerback Walker

Genesis Chamber
Porcelain Legionnaire
Servo Exhibition
Stoneforge Mystic

Thopter Foundry

Tempered Steel
Etched Champion
Myr Enforcer

Hopefully that should be enough information and examples of what goes with what, ratios of things, and ultimately what you are aiming for to be able to build any sort of cube affinity deck with good success. I don't think I have missed anything, certainly nothing that isn't greatly overshadowed by another card for that role in this breakdown but I am keen to hear if anyone thinks there is something worthy I have missed mentioning. Have fun swiftly and powerfully ending people with this archetype!