Friday, 24 November 2017

Tribal Zombies


Noxious Ghoul
I have been doing a lot of tribal lists of late and it has been the black ones that have improved most. Vampires have become viable and zombies seem like they are getting ever stronger. Zombies has always been a thing in cube but it has never been very good. It has some interesting late game but the early plays typically suck meaning it has never been a high  tier deck (low? the good one... the deck has never been good!). Zombies have always leaned on Patriarch's Bidding, it gives them a big swing card/I win button and inevitability. I did a post for a BG Bidding list a while back. It is a little dated now but most of the core elements are there. This is a non-Bidding zombie deck for the first time in my cube. Losing the Bidding feels like losing a lot of power however it means I can also lose a lot of the clunky support cards that go with it like Noxious Ghoul. This means the deck can be much more streamlined and actually get ahead in the early game and not need to rely on one big spell.

Most of the colours now offer something to the zombie archetype, be that some spicy zombies, some good discard outlets, that sort of thing. Unlike vampires however the zombies can easily keep it all in house. Staying mono reduces your options but it greatly increases your consistency and any fighting you might have to do over fixing. Zombies has all the tools it needs in sufficient number to stay mono. The thing it lacks most is a nice deep pool of two drops. The black two mana zombies mostly suck while the white and green two drop zombies are pretty decent. I found some unlikely cards to fill in at the two slot and as such had some good success with a non-bidding mono black zombies list. It is the closest any zombie deck has felt to anything like a tier one deck. It felt like it had the ability to compete in any kind of matchup with basically none of the free wins and auto losses it used to suffer with (yes, not all consider free wins to be a suffering! Still won't be fun for some people and isn't great for loads of other reasons). This new build of zombies felt like it could play a good range of strategies well. It could race well, it could go wide, it could grind out value and go long, it could go big, it could go through, it was just a capable deck. It actually felt like it had depth and power in the way a goblin deck does!

Diregraf Ghoul
24 Spells

Diregraf Ghoul
Cryptbreaker
Dread Wanderer
Grave Crawler

Carnophage
Carrion Feeder

Fatal Push

Relentless Dead
Butcher Ghoul
Sultai Emissary
Blood Scrivener
Diregraf Colossus
Collective Brutality
Arguel's Bloodfast

Lord of the Undead
Cemetery Reaper
Death Baron
Lord of the Accursed

Diregraf Colossus
Curse of Disturbance
Plague Belcher

Skinrender
Undead Warchief

Dark Salvation
Grey Merchant of Asphodel

16 Lands

Mutavault
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
14 Swamps


Butcher GhoulSo what is it about Butcher Ghoul and Sultai Emissary that, despite sucking themselves, stop the deck from sucking so much? This deck is chock full of lords and synergy. The individual card power level is less important when you have all that and so these are pretty much two cards in one. You just have a lot more staying power on the board against removal or aggression which empowers your synergies more quickly. A 2 mana 1/1 isn't exciting but when it holds off their 2/1 or wastes their turn as they are not going to Terminate it and then suddenly grows or taps to draw cards then it is all good. The Ghoul is better as both halves are zombies. The Emissary can find zombies but you have to pay extra mana to flip them and you lose the EtB effect of them as well which greatly reduces the value of a couple of the more top end ones. Both were depressingly good in all the matchups I played them in. Depressing because Young Wolf is barely playable and Ghoul is half as good...

CryptbreakerThe two best cards in the deck are the utility one drops; Carrion Feeder and Cryptbreaker. Both have a surprising amount of effect on the game. Feeder can one shot people with Plague Belcher, it can negate removal effects, it can upgrade the undying style dorks or just grow very out of hand with a Gravecrawler and win on its own. The Cryptbreaker on the other hand provides quick and reliable card draw as well as getting free value with certain from the bin cards or dud draws.

Zombies have never been short of lords but the newest addition is the best of them in a tempo sense. Mostly this is down to having 3 toughness rather than two making it that little bit safer and more able to get involed in combat. More lords is only good when you have lots of good cards to empower them with. This list has all the 3 drop lords (except Zombie Master as he doesn't pump stats and thus doesn't really feel like a lord). There are more in the way of four drop lords but it is all a bit too much at that point. Warchief is just a bit of an Overrun, two lords in one and remains the best of the four drop options for most occasions, even if not using the cost reduction to good effect. A couple of cards, including the Warchief made me want to include more burst mana like Dark Ritual so as to power them out and make better use of things like the cost reduction.

Other new things enhancing zombies effectiveness include the decently powered one drop Dread Wanderer and the lesser known Curse of Disturbance. The latter is really good with the recursive dorks, be that Butcher Ghoul style or Gravecrawler. It just makes it very painless to get a free 2/2 every turn. While not the quickest of cards the Curse does grind people down pretty well and greatly helps empower the lords.

Dark SalvationArguel's Blood Fast was great, as it has been in most places. That being said, a Skullclamp would probably be better. As that point you probably want a Bloodghast to go with it. You don't want too many non-zombie cards in the deck and this eats up a bunch of those slots without providing much disruption. Brutality is hand and creature disruption so is a premium non-zombie card you can run. Liliana is decent at this too but you are not at all short on the three slot. I would prefere targetted hand and dork removal at one or two mana in this list. With a slower Bidding plan Liliana goes up a bit in value, as does the Brutality. Dark Salvation is a bit clunky as removal goes but there are not many good zombies that disrupt beyond Skinrender and so it seems like one of your better removal options.

The rest of the deck somewhat speaks for itself. It is just the highest individual powered zombies left padding out the deck as best it can in the CMC slots available. There are some surprising omissions still which is mostly an indication of the progress made by the tribe. Liliana's Mastery is one such card. It is decent being both a lord effect and a pile of zombie. The problem is it is just a bit too late and expensive. Not for what it does, just in general. Even Grey Merchant is not all that in this list, certainly one of the more cuttable cards. In decks like this five drops want to be devastating or game ending which Mastery is not. Merchant can be but typically is more of a warped Seige Rhino.

Geralf's Messenger
Geralf's Messengers is another big absentee. He is a good stand alone but beyond being a zombie  he isn't really empowering other cards. The three slot is where the zombie power level suddenly jumps and slots being so tight makes the bar for three drops significantly higher. An influx of decently high powered zombies across the curve has certainly helped the tribe out and given it depth and directional options. That change is fairly gradual and probably not enough by it's self to elevate zombies to the status of top tier tribal. The real breakthrough and why the change feels more sudden is simply the cheap sticky zombies. Taking that extreme power hit to fill up the deck with cards in needs in the places it needs them. It may sounds like madness playing Butcher Ghoul because it is a sticky zombie and not Geralf's Messengers but it felt so right when playing it. A turn two Ghoul pretty much always felt like what I wanted to do. Tribal decks are on the rise and it is far more to do with getting more viable one and two drop support cards than it is powerful payoff cards. We had a good number of those already for most of the stronger tribes. With zombie being thematic to black and generally well established in the realms of fantasy as the rank and file of the bad guys I fully anticipate zombies improving at a faster pace than most other tribes going forwards. It has more room to grow into as well.

Plague Belcher
Here are some of the most appealing zombie cards left out of this list. As you can see, the two drops that are considerations are thin!

Risen Executioner
Sarcomancy
Dregscape Zombie
Gnawing Zombie
Stromgald Crusader
Festering Mummy
Liliana's Mastery
Skullclamp (+Bloodghast)
Geralf's Messengers
Grave Defiler
Graveborn Muse
Nantuko Husk
Dark Ritual
Liliana's Reaver
Vindictive Lich
Custodi Lich
Noxious Ghoul + Patriarch's Bidding + Zombie Infestation and other potential discard outlets/tutors.

Mogis Marauder also feels like he is an honorary zombie in some of the more aggressive lists. He is a surprisingly good push through card. The haste and the intimidate give extra reach and burst which the colour typically lacks. Grey Merchant and Plague Belcher only really get their slots in this list because of the reach they offer.


Unstable Thoughts (Review) Part II

This is the last part of the review for Unstable. Due to the nature of the set I am giving it a lot less attention than other magic releases. Having discussed a couple of the cards with people I have already realized some bad evaluation on my part due to the lower consideration. Better than One is one such card. It is quite abusable but you do have to build around it rather or have a fairly robust and low curve deck. It is far from the all round bomb I thought it was at first. Any way, on with the remaining stuff;


Hot Fix

The ultimate Index! I have actually had theoretical discussions about the cost of this kind of effect in the past. I also like the concept of the time limit on effects, I would like to impose it on some cards like Diving Top! In practice it should be less significant on Hot Fix as you should be able to plan what you are doing before casting it. I highly recommend getting to the point where you know what it in your deck if you are not there already. I would wager all the top tier magic players can tell you 100% of their deck list from memory on the spot be it limited or constructed. I still can and I'm a rusty old fart as my mother would say! You need to be aware of all the cards so you can play to your outs and play the odds on things in an informed way. Anyway, the 10 seconds limit on Hot Fix practically stops you ordering your whole deck, which is a shame as for 6 mana that feels pretty fair. I think you can probably look to get about five cards to the top with this making it somewhat of Lim-Dul's Vault with any inconvenience removed. At six mana that isn't good enough, tutor effects need to be cheap and a tutor effect is all this is. With full ordering potential this might have had some very niche combo potentials such as Goblin Charbelcher but again at the six mana mark I don't really see it. Index for your whole library is something they will likely never print in any playable way. Not only would it be one of the slowest and most tedious cards to play with or against if ever printed but it would also be one of those cards that moves from unplayable garbage to utterly broken without ever being a fair card in between.


Masterful Ninja

This is a fairly well balanced card. It is obviously strong being a zero mana card with plenty of utility but it isn't oppressively good nor likely to become so. It is probably not dissimilar to Bloodghast in power and utility levels although rather different in role. The only thing I don't really like about this is the general tedium and confusion on how this interacts with stuff. Rules are not my thing and this card looks like hard work.


X

Cute card, took me a while to work out what this does and how it does it! This does some cool things for sure and would add a lot of intrigue into games. For cube this is all a bit slow and mana intense. A good mana sink but not very useful in the early game beyond being a 2/2 for two.


Clocknapper

This isn't the cheapest of cards but it seems very strong indeed. Not only is it fairly powerful it is also fairly versatile. This is able to stop an untap phase which is pretty close to a Time Warp in the right situation. Stealing the combat step may allow you to reuse some vigilance dorks while fogging their attack. Just taking away their draw and having one more of your own makes this quite like a Muldrifter. It may not have flying or evoke but denying them a draw while progressing the board and getting an extra draw of your own is a big deal in any topdeck war. Also great to shut down their ability to dig for things they might need. I am not sure what the best things you can do with upkeep or end step steals but I am sure there are some cool things. This has a wide range of potentially powerful effects but the swing potential from the untap steal seems utterly bonkers. If you prevent them casting or attacking with anything and give yourself a bonus 5 mana in their turn to cast a big draw spell or flash threat with then good times!


Animate Library

Pretty silly card but probably not that unreasonable in cube. If libraries are considered to have been in play already and can attack as soon as animated then this card is probably over powered even for cube but if not then this is probably fine. Just a very big dork for blue! The cool thing about this in cube is that it is entirely possible to have libraries getting quite small quite fast and so this will have unique scaling and won't always represent a one hit kill.


Urza

I have mixed feelings on this. I like cards that you can just play with. This is not such a card. It is fiddly and un-magicy. It is uninteresting enough that I have not even bothered to see what the abilities are. I suspect the power of the card will be pretty extreme but this is very much the opposite of how I want to do things.


Squirrel Dealer

Assuming everyone likes squirrels then this is a cool card. In green it isn't too good either, just a useful support card. Sadly I suspect, as with many of these "let other people affect your game" people will not do as you want them too. I suspect if I play this card there will be a decided lack of love for the cute little tree rats.


Infinity Elemental

Not oppressively good but none the less quite strong in some roles. Certainly better than Phage! This has fine enough playability as a tool to try and cheat in and one shot people with. It has the added advantage of working with cards like Fling so as to mitigate its lack of evasion. Trample would get a lot done on this too! A cute aspect to this card is that it can kill anyone who has gained infinite life through some loop combo. As a raw 7 drop this seems too weak, with only 5 toughness it is all sorts of vulnerable and slow. You have to pair this with things.


Just Desserts

I had no idea a smidgen was such a specific number, nor that it was irrational! So this is just a Searing Spear? If you copy it six times does it round up to 22 total damage? Searing Spear is a great card so this is fine at just that if you need more two drop 3 damage burn in your cube. It is not a mechanically interesting card, just a decent one.


Five-Finger Discount

I actually quite like this new fundamental alteration of what is allowed in magic, for cube at least where moving cards about the place shouldn't matter at all. The sleeves will be the same as will the real owner owner of the cards. This is not really that far off what Gonti does and so this effect of playing your opponents cards is at least fine. This is a very strong card indeed, not unlike Fractured Identity or Hostage Taker. For six mana you get to effectively Utter End something and get a copy of that card in your hand. It is slow for spot removal but it is huge value and it is effective mono blue spot removal. This may not be as good a tempo play as Confiscate but it is vastly more reliable.


 Blurry Beeble

This is pretty nuts! Looter il-Kor is nuts and this is half the price and able to block things. It also has artifact synergies. If this was 100% unblockable it would be one of the best all round one drops. The mechanism to decide if this does have evasion is not by any means a fair one and so this is an unsuitable cube card as far as I am concerned. Without the evasion ever I would still consider running this in a lot of decks and so that is probably the house rule to run this card with if you want to have access to it but don't want random unfair things deciding games.


Knight of the Kitchen Sink

I mean, if you like True Name Nemesis then you can run this. If you like dull uninterative cards of low cost and high power level... You could throw this in to make white more powerful if you were desperate but you would struggle to argue the case for adding this in to improve the quality of your cube games. The few white bordered cards I have in my cube don't even target this and so it is pretty much another Nemesis. Some cubes my have a bit more in the way of white bordered dorks and removal and not find this to be such a tedious card but still... I guess you can't abuse equipment with this at least.


Common Iguana

Not a great card by any means but one I can see getting used (excluding any augmentation as that is a bit deep for cube). A 1/3 body with an EtB rummage is OK, it has a lot of support potential in a number of archetypes. The body isn't aggressive and so it won't be used as a tempo card and as such is probably a little bit narrow for cube given its power level. Mostly I think cards like Tormenting Voice will take its place but this may make the cut for creature synergy reasons.


Spy Eye

Theiving Magpie hasn't been cube worthy for a long long time now but given how nuts Gonti has proven to be I can see this being quite a substantial upgrade on the old Corvidae. If you want to go down the crazy rabbit hole of anyone's cards anywhere then this is probably up to the task.



Overall the set looks awesome fun. The art is lovely and nicely thematic. I already want the 3x3 contraption sets without the magic boxes, art only, just to have as things I could put on a wall. There are lots of interesting things going on and lots of powerful things. I do want to have a play with a lot of this stuff but I think contained within Unstable is the best way to experience the majority of what I see.

There are plenty of cards from Unstable you could run in cube. Some good filler and support things and a couple of really powerful cards. I don't like the way a lot of the more powerful cards would play in cube for one reason or another so while I am keen to play with a lot of these things I am no longer at all temped to stick any of these things in the cube. The trample burn spell and the last strike zombie remain the two most tempting cards and the burn spell isn't even really cube worthy. I like Clocknapper a lot too. Hopefully some of the designs will be reworked into proper magic cards as there is a lot of really cool ideas in this set.

From a draft perspective there are rather more contraptions than I expected, many of which have a pretty high power level. What I did not see were lots of good ways to assemble contraptions and that could be a point of tension in picking. No point in picking up bomb contraptions if the assemble cards all go really fast. The 1/1 goblin for R seems like the only solid way to assemble but that is only worth doing if your contraptions are all of decent quality with the 1/1 body being somewhat of a blank in limited. The high contraption count is also a concern if this is a conventional 15 card booster packof which 3 each are drafted among eight. In that case you will be thin on playables for your main deck (again, assuming it is a 40 card one, I have not read up on this beyond how the set mechanics work). This set makes me want to go out and draft it more than any set printed since I became a cube only player. I hope others feel the same way!


Thursday, 23 November 2017

Rivals of Ixalan Preliminary Review Part I


Ghlatra, Primal Hungerer 1/10

Not very interesting. This will be very hard to cast early and it simply isn't worth cheating into play. Worldspine Wurm and Progenitus and Atarka and many more green dorks are better than Ghlatra when price isn't a factor. Ghlatra as such depends on getting a decent cost reduction to be exciting. When matched up against cards like Wolfir Silverheart and Gearhulk you really need to be looking at a 6-8 mana cost reduction to get to cube power levels. That makes this card narrow, win more, and super unreliable. There are far more situations in cube than other formats where both players have big boards and it is somewhat of a stalemate which are the best occasions for Ghlatra and I still don't see this being good enough often enough. You never want to completely rule out cost reduction cards but this one is quite the stretch to see how it overcomes any of its issues.


Vault of Catlacan 1/10

Well they did as much as they could to ensure this wouldn't be abused. This is a pretty awful card. Remeber the buzz over Growing Rites of Itlimoc? Well this has all the same problems and they are a lot worse. It has extra problems of its own too. Like Itlimoc this is a big upfront cost with a relatively tall order as a flip condition leading to the flipped card being rather win more or superfluous. This is basically a Curse of Opulence, for 2U more to cast. Even Growing Rites isn't that over cost, nor is it in two colours. To get five artifacts with this card alone you need five turns, or creatures with first strike or the capacity to attack again. You also need things that can attack. You should have won if you get to attack five times. Not only do you need artifacts to empower the back end of this card you also need them to get there. If your deck is full of artifacts your are not attacking much or often. What I am trying to say is in the decks that can flip this and might want the back end, the front end is a complete blank. So, is a Tolarian Academy with extreme metalcraft that you have to pay 2UR for and that has effectively got summoning sickness too worth it? Pretty unlikely I would say. You need too many mana sinks for this to be good, not enough decks will support it. Academy was far more about burst which this has none of. This is much more like a super slow and narrow Gilded Lotus. I feel like Pyramid of the Pantheon is better than this and that was a pretty bad card. I haven't even really touched on the likelihood of having extreme metalcraft online. Even the most extreme affinity decks with the highest artifact counts in the cube come out at around 3/4 artifacts. Big artifact decks which would have more use for this kind of thing are rather lower and have been increasingly cutting artifacts for other spells as time goes on. Even in dedicated decks it is neither an assured thing flipping this nor something you can reliably do on curve.

This card has a shockingly underpowered front end which is fairly useless at doing what it does for the price you have to pay for it. Curse of Opulence is a fantastic early game play but it is rather less interesting from about turn four onwards. This has a fairly difficult flip condition which isn't overly helped by the front end of the card based on the kinds of deck that might want the back end. It makes it narrow rather more than it reduces the power but it does do both! The back end and the front end have no real overlap in decks that want them. The front end is far too poor to be worth playing and so you exclusively looking at the back end. In the perfect deck with the perfect draw you will make and flip this on turn three and untap with access to about ten mana. That is still pretty good but you can do it with loads of less onerous and fiddly cards. Thran Dynamo and Gilded Lots and a selection of others when combined with the Talisman you would also need to empower the Vault all have much the same kinds of effect. This may make a little bit more mana when the going is good but floor is more important than ceiling. I don't see me using this in cube but much like with the cost reduction cards being hard to fully rule out, cards that can produce huge amounts of mana are also danger cards. Wizards know this which is why they were so careful to ensure these were designed in a safe way. In this case, safe translates to embarrassingly bad.


Tetzimoc, Death Primordial 0/10

Nope! This is pretty awful for a wide array of reasons. It is a bad body, it is just quite big but for the mana that isn't close to cutting it. You want some evasion or something else to make this relevant. Next up, the ability, very weak. If I want to kill the thing you just made this is a seven drop not a six drop. If I want this to be a six drop I have to totally reveal my plan, take a beating from the thing I want dead and pay mana ahead of time. Sounds like that could go wrong in many ways. Best case scenario with this is what exactly? Ripping it off the top when you have 8+ mana and can Wrath with it? Reiver Demon is looking generally better in that sort of area. Massacre Wurm and many others more so.  Setting up anything better than a two for one with this and making it as on curve as you can will be neat impossible. You might get to take out a couple of irrelevant cards that you can afford to let sit about in play for a while but at actually killing relevant cards this fails pretty hard. If you are un the business for top end 187 dorks then Noxious Ghoul is a far better alternative in that direction. Tetzimoc has the illusion of utility but in practice he is an impotent middle ground card that doesn't do any of the things you want it to or that it looks like it might do for you. Cards like Maze of Ith and Darkness could be used to make the ability more effective but that doesn't seem at all worth it.


The Immortal Sun 2/10

Here we have a card. I cannot really do the classic compare and contrast form of analysis to this because there is simply nothing like it in the rest of MtG. Sure, there is pap like Caged Sun, Staff of Nin, or the less pap Mirrari's Wake but these do rather less and are rather narrower. The Immortal Sun does it all. Unlike those other cards you don't really need to put all of the cards effects to use for it to be a good deal. Just double draw and something else is going to get a lot of work done. This card feels more like a planeswalker that fires all its abilities off all the time. Value wise this card is fairly off the charts but that is somewhat meaningless. Scaling up in mana cost is not a linear thing nor even a consistent thing depending on what it is you are scaling up. A six mana card really needs to be more than twice a three mana card. Even so, this is three mana's worth of Glorius Anthem, about four on the personal Howling Mine, call it a stingy three mana on the personal Helm of Awakening and round it off with a one mana Pithing Needle style effect. Toss in a casual draw three for having all those cards in one card and you have at least twelve manas worth of card in your six drop. Sadly that paints a very rosy picture. Helm of Awakening is specifically good early, the later you play it the less relevant it is. On a six drop it could easily be irrelevant and thus worth no mana. The same will typically be true to some extent on most of the effects.

If you do consider all these effects to be worth mana and cards then you instantly lose your draw three to spot removal and likely a swathe of tempo as well. It also seems highly unlikely that all the abilities will be of use. That was often an issue with Wake, it was just a personal Mana Flare, the Anthem side was typically wasted. The double draw will always be good on the Immortal Sun but the other three will be far less consistent. The planeswalker shutdown rather depends on your opponent and you cannot really control that. The cost reduction and the pump have the potential to be strong in some kinds of decks but rarely the same ones and never as strong as the two and three mana streamlined version. I cannot think of any deck that would really put all of this card to work effectively. For optimal use this card is incredibly narrow but given the card has so much raw power you may well not need to use it optimally or even that close to for it to shine. Perhaps it is good enough to merit an actual build around. It is fairly easy to find and power out artifacts in most colours in cube. My gut is that this is too all over the place, too expensive and situational to be all that in cube, especially a drafting one but probably all cube formats. Cards with this level of raw power however do sometimes have a way of forcing a home for themselves somewhere...

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Lifegain .dec (Soul Sisters)


Soul Warden
This will be the white weenie version rather than the infinite life combo. It is quite the interesting deck. It is essentially a less powerful white weenie deck that has some free wins. In a meta with some midrange creature decks, an aggressive red deck and combo decks that have a cap on how much damage they can deal with their combo (Charbelcher, Illusions of Grandeur, Sutured Ghoul, Erratic Explosion etc) then this take on a white weenie deck will have a huge edge over a conventional list. While this will goldfish kill slower than your normal white weenie deck it still has all the strengths of the deck. It is super consistent being a proactive mono list and having a relatively low and smooth curve. It will punish decks that get bad starts or some kind of screw. It will get wins by going wide or by going past with evasion. It will get wins with good curve draws or a standout card in the matchup such as Spectral Procession or Mother of Runes. White weenie is somewhat of a free wins deck as it is and so this build really does capitalize on that by significantly increasing the potential for it to get free wins. This makes some good sense what with this being the strongest (and only viable?) of the white weenie options in modern. Sadly the majority of the cards on this list are not good stand alone cards and so this doesn't feel like an archetype you can ever really support in a drafting cube. As a strategy for a rotisserie or other more constructed and open card pool event it seems like a great trick to have in the arsenal.

Despite being a heavy synergy deck with quite a defined set of cards in constructed formats it seems to have translated into singleton well. There is a bit of extra redundancy you can put up with to make up the numbers as well as some relatively on theme conventional gems. As with all first outings I am keeping this simple. There are some really nice options for this list in black and ultimately that is probably the most powerful way to go. Black has some payoff cards for having high life which is ideal. It also has plenty of things you can pay life to do and this Pandora's Box of possibility and potential counter-synergy is a big part of my wanting to try out a mono white list to get a handle on things before experimenting further afield! Here is my proposed list;

Serra Ascendant24 Spells

Serra Ascendant
Soul's Attendant
Soul Warden
Martyr of Sands

Legions Landing
Soldier of the Pantheon
Mardu Woe Reaper
Mother of Runes

Sword to Plowshares

Auriok Champion
Ajani's Pridemate
Lone Missionary
Ajani's PridemateLone Rider

Suture Priest
Serene Steward
Honor the Pure

Proclamation of Rebirth
Spectral Procession

Ajani Goldmane
Faith's Fetters
Ranger of Eos

Archangel of Thune
Crested Sunmare

Felidar Soveriegn
Archangel of Thune
16 Lands

Kabira Cross Roads
Windbrisk Heights
14 Plains


So the core of the deck is the same core as the modern builds, that being -

Serra Ascendant
Soul's Attendant
Soul Warden
Auriok Champion
Ajani's Pridemate
Spectral Procession
Ranger of Eos
Archangel of Thune




Swords to PlowsharesThey also tend to pack four Path to Exile which I have substituted for the more thematic Swords. I like the idea of having a cheap instant lifegain effect for cheeky unexpected triggers! In practice both would be ideal but it is trickier picking up both. Honor the Pure also crops up a lot in the constructed lists although not often as a four of. That usually gets them to 36 spells and 24 lands. In cube those cards only make up a third of the deck and so we need to find rather more playables. Honor is better in modern where turning 1/1s into 2/2 is significant. In cube it will help less as your utility dorks will still not really want to get into combat much.

Ascendant, Archangel and Pridemate are the best payoff cards for lifegain in this kind of deck. I was concerned that this would be the limiting aspect of the deck, not having enough payoff to merit having all the weaker lifegain cards. Several things add up to make this not seem like an issue. Firstly there are a bunch of OK lifegain payoff cards I padded things out a bit with. There are some pretty weak ones as well like Test of Endurance which seemed too deep and bad! Secondly, you have a bit of tutoring and recursion for your Ascendant, which being the cheapest of the lot is generally going to be the biggest player. I would consider Recruiter of the Guard for more tutoring before turning to any of the weaker payoff cards. Lastly, the mere fact you are perpetually gaining life will be enough in itself. You won't always need a payoff for your lifegain in cube for it to win the game. Something like an Izzet tempo list simply won't have enough legs in its whole deck to win a game if you gain a couple of life every turn against it.

Ranger of EosSpectral Procession is not wildly on theme being neither a source of lifegain nor a lifegain payoff card however it has synergy everywhere else. It is a huge payoff card for being mono white with its high stand alone power level. It also has great synergy with the Soul's Attendant style cards offering a lot of triggers in one card and brutal synergy with the Anthem effects.

Ranger of Eos seems pretty important in this list, more so than in the modern version. A source of value and the ability to find a wide selection of relevant cards. He seems so good it makes me want to play Recruiter of the Guard even more but you probably then need to run Aether Vial or something to support it all.

Suture Priest is the 4th sister in this list who isn't good enough for the modern versions. She is quite a lot weaker than the others but I think still worth it given your aim and synergies. Marty of Sands is a bit of an odd one. She was part of a different sort of modern deck than the Soul Sisters setup. While both lists have some overlap the Martyr list is much more of a lockout control deck. It would use Proclamation of Rebirth and Emeria, the Sky Ruin to have ongoing access to the Martyr and then it would use cards like Squadron Hawk to ensure a lot of life was gained each sacrifice. The soul sisters list, both this cube one and the modern ones, have less in the way of hand refill and are more inclined towards developing a board both of which hit the value of Martyr pretty hard. I think she is still worth it overall in my list but she is one of the more cuttable things. I like the ability to get a massive early bump in life to turn on an Ascendant. I like the ability to have an instant lifegain trigger on the board as well. The tutoring and recursion of one drops in this list all help empower Martyr too.

Serene StewardAjani's Pridemate is the best tempo card in the deck. Following a one drop sister it is the best two drop in the deck. It grows rapidly in this list and can just win a game all by itself Long Tusk Cub style. It was a card I was scared of lacking redundancy for. Serene Steward is a whole lot worse. The mana cost makes her a far less impressive tempo card. Expect utility and value from it rather than tempo.

At the top end we have Crested Sunmare and Felidar Sovereign doing their best to be Archanagles two and three. Sunmare is powerful in this list, you should be able to trigger it the turn you make it and perhaps even deny your opponent the ability to make dorks else incur a total of 15/15 worth of horses coming at them! While powerful it is not a great finisher card being fairly slow and having no evasion. It has less immediate impact than Archangel as well. Mostly the Sunmare will draw out removal but it should leave a 5/5 token behind which is still fine. The Sovereign is a bit more awkward. It has minimal impact and is a six drop. In a 16 land deck with basically no draw in it you are looking at about a 40% chance of having six lands on turn six, a bit over 50% for turn seven. It is a bad body for the mana, it is pretty easy to kill, it is going to come much later than other people's top end and there is a very real chance you have no where near 40 life nor look like getting there even if you do manage to get it to stick on the board. It does say win the game on it and it isn't a dud otherwise. It is useful to have a stalemate breaker and nothing breaks a stalemate quite like a card with actual win the game text on it. I imagine the best the card will be will all be at the hands of Windbrisk Heights.

Ajani GoldmaneAjani Goldmane is a cute addition. This is like the only deck where both the +1 and the -1 are good abilities! Ajani has always been the ultimate Procession follow up play, his issue is being so linear usually. In practice Elspeth or Gideon are probably going to perform better but it seemed wrong not including Ajani in the perfect spot for him! The vigilance is also going to be more relevant than usual as you are often in the business of protecting your life total.

Another cute addition is Faith's Fetters and it is probably just inferior to Cast Out, Council's Judgement or Unexpectedly Absent. I felt like I needed some general purpose removal and as all of it is somewhat clunky I figured I might as well play a clunky card that also has some bonus synergy.

Soldier of the Pantheon and Mardu Woe Reaper are probably necessary evils just to get that one drop count up. They can offer a feeble amount of lifegain but no where close to being good on that basis. You cannot abuse these cards in the way you can with Soul's Attendant or Martyr of Sands and you need the abuse to properly empower the payoffs. These two additions are primarily 2/1's for one. They give you more early plays and help to empower your global buffs. They help you play like a white weenie deck a bit more and they give you some dorks you are happy to use in a disposable manner. The lifegain aspect of these cards probably just falls into the cute category again and mean that you would be better off with Thraben Inspector and Kytheon in those slots. Sacred Cat is another interesting option in the one drop slot going a bit deeper on the support aspect at the cost of being a less potent stand alone card.

Legion's LandingWhile the Cat felt like an option Legions Landing felt like a must. It has all round ideal support element. The 1/1 token is good, it gets you on the board and it gets you gaining life. It triggers your sisters, gets bigger with your global buffs, and gains life as Sacred Cat would do! Then you get to flip it into a land which means you are kind of playing 17 which is super helpful what with all the 5+ CMC cards you are running. Lastly, if it goes that long, a 1/1 lifelink or bigger every turn will really really stall out a game and let you win with Sovereign or going wide.

Proclamation of RebirthProclamation of Rebirth is an odd one. The three mana mode will rarely be optimal in the early or mid game. You only have seven one drops so having three in the bin is going to be somewhat later in the game. Probably when you have already hit six mana. This is another reasons to consider Recruiter of the Gaurd. More things that can pull the one drops out of the deck when so much of the key cards are one drops sounds nice! As a forcast card this is super late game. It is later than Adanto, the First Fort or Felidar Sovereign. I feel like the card is going to get cast least out of all the cards in the deck but sadly I feel it is required. With less redundancy and a general lack of card advantage or protection against sweepers I think the deck is too fragile without it. In constructed the card is primarily used to abuse Martyr of Sands but that isn't how I expect the card to be used in cube. In cube it will be more copies of the soul sisters and Serra Ascendant. While other cards protect better against mass or spot removal specifically the Proclamation is the only card that really helps against both. It does also offer another aspect of inevitability. So much so that I considered Mistveil Plains. If you can perpetually recur threats and restock your library you don't loose the long game to very much. I think at that stage we are looking at more of a Proclamtion Martyr control deck and a cascade of potential changes would ensue. Dusk / Dawn is another potential way to get some more late game gas in this list. It is a bit clunky and awkward but also potentially very powerful even with some imperfect synergies.

Lone RiderThere are cards that could be refined all over the place in this list and I have drawn attention to them. Before doing anything like swapping Ajani for an Elspeth or Woe Reaper for an Inspector or anything like that I would look to simply replace Lone Missionary and Lone Rider. They are just filler cards. Off theme one drops would probably be better because one drops! These were the most powerful two drop dorks I could find that had lifegain aspects to them. Missionary is just a one off shot of life and has a pretty pathetic body. While it is nice having loads of incidental lifegain throughout the deck you are mostly trying to abuse multiple triggers or cards that will have a huge payout. Just gaining four life once is never a huge payout. You probably don't need that little bit of life at the cost of having a weak card. Knight of Meadowgrain is an upgrade in power now that I think of it and a pretty easy substitution and even Knight isn' thrilling  It is still just a dork and a relatively slow and small lifegain potential. Lone Rider is both a source of lifegain and a lifegain payoff card. The issue is much the same however. It is just a dork, either a terrible one or a decent one (that no longer benefits from Honor the Pure). You are not looking to win with these little edges. The payoff with Ascendant is huge while the payoff for Rider is fairly tame. It is good for a two drop but not just good period. Good luck winning with your 4/4 lifelink trample first strike thing once the four mana plus cards start to hit the deck. It is somewhat on theme but on closer inspection not in the most effective of ways.

Selfless SpiritSelfless Spirit is probably too important an insurance policy to not play over one of these weaker two drops. Although it has no life aspect to it it just covers you nicely in the area you are most vulnerable while also being a fine stand alone card. This deck needs to extend onto the board to really push the majority of the lifegain triggers and as such it is going to fold to a well placed Wrath of God. With no hand disruption or countermagic the deck is just a sitting duck. Proclamation is some help at recovering but more would be very welcome indeed. If I were doing this in a rotisserie I would likely draft some anti mass removal sideboard tech like Second Sunrise or just Hallowed Spiritkeeper in addition to running Selfless Spirit main. Even the shockingly slow Emeria starts to appeal more!

Land Tax is something I wanted to run but didn't find the space for. Such sillyness would make me want to run a Kor Skyfisher which would then in turn make me consider Oketra's Monument and another cascade of changes goes down! Path to Exile coming back being the first of those in this case. Should the list show promise and be fun to play I will likely try out all the variants I can imagine.

As ever I have presented a list chock full of the most synergy options so as to showcase the range of the less commonly seen cards. In practice the refined build of this deck is going to have a handful of less exciting but wildly more powerful cube mainstays. While I am fairly sure of which cards I want to cut and the kinds of things they should be instead. I will test out this pushed linear version first. The weaknesses of the deck will be better exposed so I can best assess how to patch them up. The various support cards may also surprise me, I might find Lone Rider is exactly what the deck wants! Testing is essential but I find I learn more in the testing process if I form expectations on cards before doing so. I know what Selfless Spirit does and how it will help so I can use that slot in testing for something like the Lone Rider in one of the only lists it will ever be viable. Not only do I get to see what such a card can do I also get to see how savage the matchup is in the face of mass removal.

Chalice of Life
Challice of Life is perhaps something I should test out as well. It is fairly slow and doesn't have any overlap with the creature aspect of the deck but it is both a lifegain trigger and and a payoff card. This seems like it would be more effective at ending a game than the Soverign and more all round use than Lone Rider. While I want to test it out it is not a card I wish to replace a creature with and so it is a bit harder to find the room for. Honor the Pure is the thing I would cut for it from this test list but that is just for testing reasons. In practice I have no idea what slot this should take or if it even merits one.

Lastly for the alternate options for this list we have the black aspect. There are three fairly big payoff cards in black for lifegain although sadly two of them are five drops. The addition of black to this list makes it very top heavy and that in itself would need some significant adjusting to accommodate. A black version would either be more midrange with better odds of hitting land drops all the way to five perhaps even with some ramp, or it would cut much of the white top end. Blood Baron of Vizkopa and Divinity of Pride are high stand alone power cards and good game ending threats.

Ayli, Eternal PilgrimAyli, the Eternal Pilgrim is the other black lifegain payoff card and is the thing I most want in this list. She is cheap, has a great starting body that controls the board well, offers utility and support with the lifegain ability and then turns into a complete beast should you hit 30 life. I expect the best builds to use Ayli. Once you go down that path, even if you ignore the five drops you still have things like Lingering Souls looking better than Procession, Sorin looking better than Ajani and that kind of thing. Even extort cards have something to offer a list like this. For an archetype that seems fairly narrow this has a lot of options and a fair degree of direction it can go it. It is going to take several goes at it to get it properly honed. At least with a weaker mono white starting point I will know which are the weakest links and therefor less likely to get carried over into alternate builds. Given how much I have talked about what should be changed from my proposed list it seems cruel not to give a proper one. The reason I shy away from doing so is because I don't know for sure, I can guess at what seems good but I will learn more about how to make a good thing by intentionally testing a weaker list. Anyway, this is the expected form of the best build;

24 Spells

Martyr of Sands
Serra Ascendant
Soul's Attendant
Soul Warden
Martyr of Sands

Legions Landing
Kythoen, Hero of Akros
Thraben Inspector
Mother of Runes

Sword to Plowshares

Auriok Champion
Ajani's Pridemate
Ayli, the Eternal Pilgrim
Selfless Spirit

Suture Priest
Suture Priest
Serene Steward

Spectral Procession
Proclamation of Rebirth
Lingering Souls
Recruiter of the Guard

Ajani Goldmane
Sorin, Solemn Visitor
Faith's Fetters
Ranger of Eos

Archangel of Thune

16 Lands


Friday, 17 November 2017

Unstable Thoughts

Blast from the PastOminous title! I don't play any of the "Un" sets in my cube. Mostly this is down to time saving, I don't need even more cards to consider. The main issue with the un cards is that some are too extreme or comic. You have to draw a line somewhere and that is the main thing I can't be bothered with. The only card I have ever really wanted to put in the cube is Blast from the Past but once you start down that path... Red also really doesn't need the help! Just the multiplayer and draft mechanic cards from Commander and Conspiracy are awkward enough for cube consideration, especially when it comes to rule sets for different kinds of event. So basically I have avoided Un-sets for convenience and not because I don't like them. One of the best MtG experiences I have had was a six man Unhinged draft. I think the sets are fantastic, the design and everything, all great. I see them more like an exotic, fun and different thing to do every now and again. Almost like doing a full powered cube!

Broadly speaking there are two kinds of Un card. Those which are funny in their word play and flavour but that still function like a fairly normal magic card. Then there are those that employ some whacky mechanic that isn't really a magic thing such as breath holding competitions and doing daft shit. The former are much more reasonable considerations for putting into a cube and may be used to good effect without changing the experience away from what is expected of a cube. I thought I would have a look at some of those cards from the latest Un set as it seems to be rather more powerful in the sensible card department. I won't be adding any of these into the cube.... yet. Reading some of these for the first time I am not only being more tempted to try some out than ever before but I am also considering if some of the potentials are too good and would just be tedious additions a little like True Name Nemesis.

Contraptions and augmentation seem fun but Unstable seems like the right place for them. Both are a bit unweildy both as a game mechanic and as a logistical thing! Neither are very well suited to cube based on there not being a high enough density to support them. Even if you put every single host, augmentation and contraption in the cube and had a relatively small cube you wouldn't be getting the most out of the cards. If energy can't break into the cube then these things certainly can't!

So, lets havea very quick look at some of the sensible cards that have some cube potential in the same vein as Blast from the Past.


Sword of Dungeons and Dragons

Lovely design, nice homage, but we have more than enough Swords already and this is probably the weakest. You could argue the trigger was better on this than on other things but the downgrade on protection is a big deal.


Kindly  Cognician

Feels like an upgrade on Etherim Sculptor. While this might not hit every artifact in your list it should hit a significant number of any non artifact spells in your deck, things like Tinker, Daretti, etc. It also has another toughness! While this isn't much of a drafting cube card, certainly not in an unpowered cube, it is potentially very dangerous in constructed and powered cubes.


Watermarket

When has a land that taps for 2 not been abused? This has no real cost! I can't be arsed to go and find all the cards with watermarks but I am sure there are enough to fill a deck. They don't even need to be all that great when you can power them out with cards like this. A narrow card but a potentially bomb like power level.


Hangman

This is just well made. It isn't abusive or over powered but it is still pretty playable. Just a one drop with some utility and a bit of a subgame that isn't too far outside the realms of magic to be lame. The card is fairly low impact and probably a bit slow and annoying to play with in practice but the design of it is great. I would love to see a more streamlined and sensible design of this for normal magic use.


Earl of Squirrel

Well this one made me laugh! Card is poo but I adore squirrellink. It is just fun to say. I also quite like the mechanic, just not on this card. I want a 1/3 squirrellink for 1G please!


The Grand Calcutron

Wow! This is a lot of card for not much mana. This has a fancinating effect on the game upping the complexity massively both by adding in restrictions that require extreme planning to navigate and by providing much more complete information to make your choices with! While I would quite like to play with this card just to experience magic that way I fear this card will just makes games painfully slow. A number of cards in this set have that issue but this is the biggest offender by far. I want to watch my opponents face slowly work out how bad the Daze sitting as the first card in my program is for their whole program as the Calcutron hits play. I also quite want to abuse a two mana card that appears to allow me to draw five extra cards a turn... I think this card is slower than a game where both players start with Divining Tops in play and get a free trigger whenever anything happens (I guess excluding other Tops triggering or that would be a dull old draw).


Ineffable Blessing

I have no idea what the ratios of flavour text to not on dorks is in the cube or just in green. It doesn't really matter much. Even if it was 50/50 you could still draft and build in such a way to make this trigger from 3/4 of your dorks pretty easily. This isn't super powerful but it is cost in a way that makes it very playable. I think this would find its way into most green decks with 15 or more dorks in it. It isn't quite as fun as Sylvan Library or Search for Azcanta but it is going to get you a lot more card advantage than either. This is simple and clean enough that you could run it in a cube no trouble and it would be pretty strong. The previous cards, while potentially powerful and abused, are all a bit narrow for the cube. This really isn't. OK, I just realized tokens trigger this. I now think this is on the too good side to be something that would improve a cube.


Crow Storm

This is likely less effective at ending a game than most of the alternative storm cards. It is still however a storm card, a known broken and abusable mechanic. It is on the cheaper side and it is blue. I can totally see this being used as a backup win mechanism with some great defensive utility if you need to blow it as part of a fizzled attempt in going off. In the right deck this should be pretty easy to wildly outclass a Lingering Souls.


Spike, Tournament Grinder

Speaking of mechanics we know to be broken... Yeah, this card is way too much. Not going near this one. Insane potential power level and abuse potential plus the need of stipulating rule sets for each format.


Jackknight

I would probably play this in a Tempered Steel deck.


Split Screen

Cool design, if a touch fiddly. Very powerful card quality but at four mana this is too pricey even if going a synergy route with Mul Daya or miracles.


Baron Von Count

Not a busted card but a playable enough one. I suspect it is pretty easy to do this in a couple of turns with a deck built around doing so. Tasigur for example does every number bar 3. As this card can be activated pretty quickly it has to be respected and dealt with. It is like a Vial Smasher the Fierce but rather more polar. Either it is a Trained Armadon or it wins the game.


Extremely Slow Zombie

Great design, probably the card I most want in the cube now despite being so vanilla. Last strike is super interesting. While it is typically a drawback it is not the largest and it does come with some perks. You can trigger a Jace, Cunning Castaway loot with it three times in one combat! This is just a very clean and easy to understand card that will lead to some nice things going on. I like how last strike encourages double blocks which in turn makes combat tricks more dangerous.


More or Less

Danger! I am not sure what the most dangerous thing this can do but it is none the less a scary card. It is too narrow for normal use, it will be draw an extra card at best and often worse. However, you can probably make a load of new infinite combos with this or just improve existing ones.


Super-Duper Death Ray

This sits somewhere between an Arc Lightning and a Searing Blaze. I like how this card gives you a nice meaty four damage removal spell that you don't lose value on when you have to aim it at small things. Having this as a burn option in hand would lead to many interesting options. You might intentionally use it on a small thing to gain maximum face damage, you may want to hold it back so you can go 1 for 1 against something with four toughness. This can punish planeswalkers quite nicely, especially the token generators. This is a  well designed card. It isn't directly better than any of the decent 3 mana four damage burn options nor is it directly worse. As with last strike I would like to see this mechanic come to conventional magic in some way.


Better than One

So this card just seems utterly broken regardless of what format you play it in. If all you do is give your opponent half your deck you now have double draws for the rest of the game. You can lay two land a turn as well making this really oppressive early. In those cases it is probably correct to give stuff from hand you wont immediately need away as well to empower your new buddy. Late game you will likely be able to spare a bunch of permanents to give them that leg up. This is batty good on turn two. Literally this, the ability to cast it and six lands would be a fantastic hand. Four or five lands, this and a couple of useful cheap plays would be even better. Some cards like Wheel of Fortune get rather improved when you are playing a two verses one as well! I don't really see how this is close to fair at two mana. Luckily I won't be playing with it!


Amateur Auteur

Kami of Ancient Law with a better creature type, somehow this is a pretty tempting card despite being pretty fair and dull. I just know I will want a Kami and wish it was a human and resent this card when I do.


Very Cryptic Command

Certainly not as good as the original but still a pretty dangerous card. Basic lands have one word in their name as do most of the original duals. This will hit a lot of decks pretty hard as a Mana Short. Very very few other cards have one words names in cube, most of those that do after the ones already named are instants and sorceries. If this isn't able to shut off over half their mana then this isn't a great card. The reshuffle mode is nice but somewhat of a last ditch thing. The recursion is also nice, the equivalent of the draw a card mode on the original and probably better, just a reliable safe value thing. The untap is either a limp combat trick or a way to make this effectively cost two. I can see this getting back Counterspell and untapping two lands so as to immediately cast said Counterspell. Snapcaster without the 2/1 but with the ability to hold onto your card if you need, or just Cryptic countering without the draw in that case. I think mostly you want to Mistbind Clique their land with this in their upkeep and get back something good with it. Then this is a good card with some nice extra utility. When they are all middling non-basic lands and you can't tap down anything at all this thing becomes overpriced and a little limited.


Target Minotaur

A red Umara Entangler. I can imagine wanting this to be a real card for something despite just being a bad Abbot of Keral Keep. It is a playable on theme support card and those go a good way in cube. It is the depth of support cards this set brings like this one that are the things that will make me regret not using the Un set cards most.


Over My Dead Bodies

This is a fairly solid build around card. You should be able to set up one shotting most people with this in good time to cast it, perhaps even accelerating it out too. It has some comparison to Living Death and Twilight's Call but the inbuilt haste makes it rather less effort to get lots of immediate value from it.


That is it for the sensible playable stuff so far but we are just under a third spoiled so far so I expect plenty more interesting cards to come.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Top 13 Colourless Lands



WastesI have found colourless lands being less and less used in cube. They have to bring quite a significant benefit or they simply don't outweigh the drawback of not being able to play your spells every now and again. There are lots of reasons why this trend makes sense but they are all a little subtle. It involves the various dual lands that fail to help provide colour on turn one, the increasing overall power level of things, the increased value of one drops and of tempo in general and the increase of dual lands that require other specific land types. There is also a lot more good mana sinks and things that you can recur in various ways too.

The only time it is actually zero cost to run a colourless land is when you are mono, you have no double colour two drops and you will not be keeping any 2 or fewer land hands. This is not at all common in cube. You also don't need to incur zero cost to play colourless lands. It is more just a case of the lower the cost the better they are. A deck which will keep a selection of 2 land hands, is splashing a second colour and that has one or two double cost two drops will be fine to run a colourless land. Every now and again it will be awkward but rarely critical. Assuming it is adding much at all with its utility it is likely worth it.

The issue is that most decks are not like that at all. You will have two colour aggressive decks with 12 one drops. In such decks you are best off playing colourless land in spell slots as they will be incredibly harmful if you have to make them as your 2nd land. Perhaps you will have a three colour midrange deck with a bunch of different double costs on your four drops. The old Mind Sculptor, Knight-Errant and Wildspeaker super friends decks at the dawn of the walkers! In such decks mostly you will get away with a colourless land, even two. The thing is that the one time you can't cast a big four drop on the turn you needed to you will actually lose. The risk, even if low odds compared to the cheaper decks, is just as ruinous, perhaps more so. Very few colourless lands offset that kind of game losing risk.

Ancient TombBack in the day I would just throw in a colourless man land in any old deck. It just felt worth it. Spells were weaker, you had more time and much more buffer room in which you could fail to do useful things in. Colourless lands were low cost and low risk. When I first built my cube the fixing included 5 sac lands, the 10 original duals, the 10 pain lands and City of Brass! I think I actually had the Odyssey filter lands in there too desperate as we were... Suffice it to say there was much more incentive to stay mono back then! The better fixing we have now encourages a higher colour intensity in casting costs. The better spells we have means that not casting things with your mana is a much greater cost. Many of the good dual lands, most notably the filter lands, but also the check lands, while generally being untapped colour producers fail to do so on turn one. You might have a great mana base  however changing one basic into a colourless land is almost like triple the risk due to potential openers with it and the filter land etc. Very few decks now run Mutavault or Mishra's Factory, they are really only wanted in some narrow (and usually undraftable) archetypes like Goblins, Affinity or Merfolk. A good RDW list will have at least 8 one drops, ideally more. It will probably also have the odd RR two drop. You keep most 2 land hands with RDW, if one of those doesn't tap for red you are in for a rough time if you don't find another red source quick. Red has more option on late game ways to use its mana without having to play late game cards. This was a large part of the role of these kinds of utility lands. If you don't need to find ways to spend spare mana late game then there is little point taking those early game risks. The few premium colourless lands still see plenty of play but almost everything else is rarely seen in cube drafts.

In this list I have not considered cards like Ancient Tomb and City of Traitors. While both clearly colourless lands they are not at all included in the same way that the others are. These are specifically for ramp, they are not something you replace a basic land with for some extra free value because you think you can get away with it.  Lands that tap for two can be pretty powerful and these are probably the two best. They just don't really fit in this list as they are not really the same kinds of card at all and won't compare in very relevant ways.


Volrath's Stronghold13. Volrath's Stronghold / Academy Ruins

Back when the latter of these was a new card you would use these things to recur powerful cards and that would be your inevitability and win condition. It turns out if you add three mana to the cost of anything in cube it gets pretty awful. Even Ancestral Recall fails this test looking a lot worse when it is Concentrate... These only become good in the super late game when you have no gas in hand or anywhere else and are drawing blind. Even then you need a relevant target. Suffice it to say with the increase in tempo and card power these slow tools became quickly useless in most draft decks. The only real play either of these now see is in a combo deck where they allow you to recur a key component should you let it fall into the bin somehow. While this effect does become quite dominant in those super late game scenarios they occur so infrequently you don't want to over do it on improving that aspect of your game. These are irrelevant in most games in any beneficial way. A minor cost to the early game to gain a decent boost in an area of the game that rarely happens turns out to be a bad trade. Stronghold is typically less risky simply due to the existence of Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. That being said, the Ruins is found mostly in artifact based decks which are very light on coloured mana needs compared to all other decks containing coloured spells. Both still see fringe play but neither has done anything of note in a long time.


Inkmoth Nexus12. Inkmoth Nexus / Blinkmoth Nexus

Without ways to buff these cards they don't have enough impact to be worth it. A lot of buff effects cost mana to use much like activating these. If you want to hit someone with a Sword on one of these then it is 4 mana every turn rather than 2 mana once. Affinity loves these cards as it has great ways to buff these for little to no mana and also greatly benefits from the artifact synergies. Outside of affinity these are almost never used. Inkmoth obviously goes in the infect deck, which is bad. I have seen it also used with Primeval Titan and Wolf Run to provide a land based win condition which is OK but not thrilling. White weenie using Glorious Anthem effects would absolutely play the Blinkmoth if it were not for Spectral Procession, some WW two drops and loads of one drops. Figure of Destiny is another card that really devalues the colourless lands in red and white aggressive decks. The aggressive decks tend to prefer punchier lands to chip damage ones like these. You need to win before something like a Wurmcoil hits play, you can't just sit there for five turns doing them one a go to deal the last quarter of their life, you will have lost by then.


Mishra's Factory
11. Mishra's Factory / Mutavault

Two power goes a way to making these more playable than the Nexus options. You don't need buff cards for these to be somewhat significant. Most plays are based on what you can do immediately to counter them or punish them. A planeswalker will make you consider how much potential damage you can hit it for. A mass removal spell will take into account the known things that will be able to attack after. A Nexus is likely able to do more damage over the course of a game than either of these but these are able to threaten twice the damage at the same mana investment on any given turn. These are nice useful lands to have. They do some meaningful damage now and again when you have mana spare and conditions allow for it. They improve any alpha strike move be it on a walker or player. They incur play round costs for your opponent as well. Both these man lands are more useful throughout a game that most other man lands and utility lands but they don't offer any real big late game payoff. The value they offer in game is also not massive. You are going to be better off playing spells and that is the real problem for these cards. Factory is mostly just found in affinity lists and Mutavault finds its way into most tribal decks. Beyond those they are rarely seen. Red is just going to play a Barbarian Ring or Ramunap Ruins over this. Even Teetering Peeks and Smoldering Spires typically do more work and incur less risk.


Gavony Township10.   Gavony Township

Great late game win potential and some nice synergy options. This card destroys stalemates. It is a pretty cost and turn efficient way to push through compared to most other utility lands too. The issues for Township are that you need a board for it to do anything and it is a colourless land with two colours of activation needed. Narrow as a gold card and narrow as a colourless land. While very very good in some decks it is not playable in enough situations to merit a drafting cube slot. This land will directly win far more games than a Mutavault and it comes online much faster than something like a Volrath's Stronghold. The cost/risk of including any of these 3 lands is the same and so it really is just the number of lists than can use Township that keeps it down on this list as it really is quite a step up in potency.



9.   Ash Barrens
Ash Barrens
This is kind of cheating as it really isn't a colourless land unless you are foolish enough to play it without basics. This is much more of an Evolving Wilds that you can use for mana the turn it comes into play if you need and are happy to forgo the option on coloured later on. A lovely little fixing tool and very well designed card. Given the criteria for this list however it should almost be discounted. It is almost like calling a pain or filter land a colourless land. True but only in the sense of casting some colourless mana BfZ Eldrazi things. Either way, this marks the point on this list where cards above it are drafting cube worthy and cards below it I now feel are too narrow and/or low powered to use up slots in drafting cubes. Especially if those are land slots you could have fixing in! This being so high on the list of colourless lands just goes to show how important fixing is!


Westvale Abbey8.   Westvale Abbey

This thing is ultimately what did for the other colourless man lands and even Gavony Township in my cube. This card has great reach but it is also able to contribute to the board on its own. While it doesn't have that combat ready in play feel of the other man lands it does the other things that they do and generally rather better. Westvale can provide ongoing chumps, empower sac outlets and useful things like that. Really it is about the game ending potential of this card. If you are going to take a risk on mana base you want big rewards and this provides. Lots of decks that would be considering scooping are able to continue in the game due to just having this in their list. This is one of the more late game only lands but being playable so widely and having both huge impact and utility carry it a long way. Ormendahl is a beating. He is super hard to remove and super hard to race. Unless you happen to have a bunch of fliers he is going to end you rapidly as well.


Library of Alexandria7.   Library of Alexandria

Good but overrated. In most good cubes you can only use this if you are a combo deck or a control deck against a control or slower deck. For any other archetype the cost of losing early mana and perhaps juggling hand size is just too great. Library in the right spot is near impossible to beat but there are very little of those relative to the wrong ones. On balance the card is not over powered but it is so polar as to be pretty tedious. When it is good it is pretty unbeatable and not in a fun way (for one player..). When it is bad it does nothing beyond occasionally hurting your ability to cast things. The best argument for this in a cube is that so many people misuse it that it becomes a trap card! If that is something you are in for then go nuts. For good players they can usually include this with basically no risk and take the odd free win. It is no Strip Mine but it is in that vein of badly designed cards! I like to make weaker players better rather than setting them traps. I also like games to involve more skill and less random free wins because you drew the good card for the matchup. To recap, this card is near unbeatable if two slower decks face off and someone makes it turn one. As soon as one of the decks is a tempo deck Library becomes a pretty poor card.


Rishadan Port6. Rishadan Port

Port has fallen off a little of late. I find it is usually used as the reserve for when you didn't get the premium land disruption land for your given archetype. That or you are looking to go deep on a mana denial theme. Port is low cost to run and will be a significant factor in some of your games. It is not quite the free win card something like a Strip Mine is so often but it will play a major role in your games when it is strong. The nice thing about Port is the ongoing options it provides. It covers you to some degree at any stage of the game where you are drawing a little weak. If you have no two drop play then you can just use your Port to disrupt what your opponent is up to. Later on you can use it to force through your plays or keep them off a double colour and at any point you can just not use it and tap out for a big on curve haymaker. They wont know when you are going to Port them and so they will have to always respect that you can and that can be pretty tedious to play against. It can have the "losing to the Daze they never had" effect. Port is a good control tool for handling manlands but sadly it is much weaker at dealing with utility lands such as Kessig Wolf Run and the like. All it can do to them is force them to use it at a specific time. Port is very much a card than shines on the play and loses its luster on the draw. While most archetypes will toss in a Port when it is super low risk doing so but I have found with increasing reliance on specific land types and having sufficient basic lands for them that there just isn't room. Battle and Shadow lands on top of check lands and having things for Tribe Elders to find etc. all take their toll and mean than Rishadan Port is a cost. It is a small cost but increasingly less worth the payoff. Other colourless lands steal the few slots with their much higher and known returns.


Myriad Landscape5.   Myriad Landscape

This is an impressively powerful ramp card being fixing and card advantage into the bargain. Landscape is basically a Kodoma's Reach for any deck... on a land. You do really want to pack at least 4 basics of any type you wish to fix. I have gotten away with a 4/3 split on basics in a two colour deck and not been punished when trying to milk this for some late game value but I wouldn't want to go lower. While this does have a more significant early game cost than any other card on this list being both colourless and coming into play tapped it is able to convert into value quickly and easily which in turn can completely swing a game. One of my more memorable uses of it involved doing nothing but laying lands and activating my Landscape until turn four, the last land I made was a Temple of the False God which my landscape had turned on a turn sooner than expected. I promptly made a Teferi, Temporal Archamge and used the -1 to untap sufficient of my lands to cast a Temporal Manipulation. Having access to 12 mana on my effective turn four with six cards in hand and the option on Sleight of Hand if needed is about as big a swing as one could expect in an unpowered cube from a control deck. This card gets run in any slower deck that wants access to plenty of mana which is a lot of them. While less so than Ash Barrens this is not a pure colourless land due to being able to fix. It is not a million miles away from calling a pain land a colourless land. Like, technically yes but practically no. It is misleading despite being "correct". A pain land is absolutely a colourless source but to my mind a colourless land is one that is limited to producing colourless. If we are going to get super pedantic all lands are colourless and so we are left with no appropriate simple term for a land that produces colourless mana without the ability to produce any coloured mana. Semantics aside Myriad Landscape feels more like the other colourless lands on this list than Ash Barens due to spending the relevant early stages of the game unsacrificed for the most part.




Kessig Wolf Run4. Kessig Wolf-Run

This is the control killer. It is in fact the killer of any long game. The player who has the Wolf Run has all of the reach and inevitability. In many ways it is the perfect mana sink. It is a low cost card to include in your deck and it provides almost everything you could ask for. All you need are creatures, even manlands will do the job. With enough mana every creature becomes a game ending threat. A late game Wold Run is more oppressive than a Jitte or Sword that you lack an answer to. Lands are that much harder to shut down than artifacts and that is a huge part of the strength of the card. You cannot counter it. Very few cards actually kill it and even then you have to exile it to stop it just getting recurred some way. While exiling lands from bins is easy to do there is no removal in cube that exiles lands from play directly. This means you are using a niche or premium card to take out a Wolf Run and another thing to stop it finding its way back into play. Wolf Run's insane inevitability means that any deck with some dorks and it can just become the control player if they need to. Control decks knew this and as such had to effectively race down aggro lists that contain it. It was like a multistage boss fight, in the early game you just have to survive but the moment you stabilize you are then in a race to beat the enrage timer (which is Wolf Run plus some mana). Wolf Run is one of the reasons Primeval Titan is so brutal. If the Titan doesn't get there he has left behind a significant mana advantage plus a manland and a Wolf Run to seal the deal. Wolf Run is probably one of my most splashed for cards after Lingering Souls. I always want it in my mono green decks and have run it to good effect in a couple of aggressive red decks as well.


Field of Ruin3.   Field of Ruin

I didn't expect this card to be this good but it is just so incredibly playable and such a low cost. Field of Ruin simply brings a lot to the table, an unexpectedly large amount in fact. Firstly it can fix for you so it sits somewhere between Myriad Landscape and Ash Barrens in terms of cost, and much closer to the latter. Basically it is one of the least painful colourless lands to include. It offers valuable interaction of a kind that is hard to obtain on other cards. Any deck wishing to develop mana and cast some bigger things is not going to be interested in Wastelands and Rishadan Port is a bigger cost to play and use and doesn't shut down a number of the problem lands. Field can be used to shut down utility lands and any archetype can play it if they want. You can even use it to disrupt colour production if you have a good read on what basics they have in their deck. Three colour lists are vulnerable to not having the right basics to find or better still, have none left at all! The goodness doesn't stop there. Field offers you the ability to shuffle your own deck and your opponents. This means you can combo it with all sorts of funky things. It can be a soft counter to a Vampiric Tutor or turn an Oust into more permanent removal. As Field is relatively low cost to use it will often sit in play acting as a deterrent. They never activate their man land as you will just kill it and be ahead on mana for the exchange. As such you are presented with loads of options for how and when you are going to cash in the Field. As we know, options are great! Field of Ruin is great and yet it is also wonderfully fair. It has been a significant part of taming Wolf Run hence nudging it out of the top three.


Wasteland2.   Wasteland

Free wins you say? Why thank you yes, I'll take one. While perhaps giving the illusion of being fair this card is far from it. As most will be more than aware of what with its three figure price despite being a non-reserve list uncommon! Little is more brutal than being on the draw and having them go one drop, Wasteland and another one drop. You start your second turn with nothing in play and they have three things of which one is already beating down... So many memories of asking or being asked "did you miss your land drop?" immediately following the forlorn nod a Wastelands goes from hand directly to the bin and the game is pretty much done. Wasteland is a savage punish card for mana and colour screw. It is also good insurance against your own floods. You have nothing to do this turn? Just blow up a land and stall for a bit and hope to draw into a curve play. Wastelands ensures basic land are premium finds with sac lands in the early game of legacy. In cube it is just more of a consideration due to the lower frequency of facing the card. Giving it only mild consideration however leads to bigger blowouts. The card is dangerously good but at least it has play around potential.




Strip Mine1.   Strip Mine

Yup. All the goodness of the Wasteland and absolutely no play around potential. I deem this too good and have banned it along with the power. In any unpowered cube that runs Strip Mine it would be my first pick over anything. Over Jitte, over Jace, over Bolt, over BoP. It is open, it affects the game early, it leads to free wins. It combos with things like Crucible of Worlds. All round highly oppressive card. People are well aware of how good it is yet I still think people undervalue and under pick it in cube.


Maze's EndThe list would feel incomplete without a few honorable mentions. We have Darksteel Citadal which does a lot of work supporting artifact decks. It shows up in most of them from the combo to the beatdown ones. It even crops up in the odd Armageddon style of deck. Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is another potent colourless land that is narrow but is still an important card in a couple of archetypes. Both these cards are better than the low end of this list but neither are really draft cards. There are some other cute land disruption lands that see some fringe use like Dustbowl, Tectonic Edge and Ghost Quarter. A couple of cute lands from the same cycle as Wolf Run and Township also get some fringe use. Nephalia Drownyard is in all the mill decks. Desolate Lighthouse has seen some love. Some really cool and quirky stuff has been used in constructed events recently such as Maze's End and High Market. Land are very playable cards! As they are so easily used their effects have to be fairly marginal else they are broken. With the cube being all about high playability this doesn't leave much room for the cool lands. When you start constructing decks however loads of appropriate and useful lands are out there and win up doing cool things in cool decks. I have won a cube game with Maze's End and it was one of my most enjoyable wins of all time!