Recently I have been having some discussion with fellow cube enthusiasts and it turns out that we feel a little under catered for by the good folk at Wizards. We have money we want to spend on Magic cards but not the product worth doing so for. Certainly it is a hard task making all the people who play the many formats of magic happy. I am not a man who knows about marketing, business strategies and all that sort of crap. All I know is what kinds of cards I want to see that would make me excited to get and cube with. I suspect my wish list will be incredibly dull compared to others. I am all about the cheap cards! I want to make things more consistent and more skill based. I want new cards that will see lots of play and change up the pick dynamics and potential archetypes and this can only be done with cheap cards. We need more in the way of core staple cards but this is trickier than it sounds with the cube power level being so high. Luckily there are some things cube is more keen on than other formats and so you can print things that would be a lock in for cube use but not also for modern and legacy. This article will simply be ten of the cards I have designed myself and some discussion about what problems there are in cube and how best to solve them.
The Inquisition iteration is especially valuable as black has so few playable one drop discard effects and those are really what define it in most other high powered formats. Most constructed black decks are at least 10% (including lands!) Thoughtsieze/Inquisition when they can be but cube decks can't get above 5% of those cards. Green has one drop ramp for days, white literally gets a new 2/1 for 1 every set, red has a long old list of playable one mana burn and blue has swathes of card quality and disruption in the one slot. In cube draft black players need to hit all their good one drops to keep up while everyone else has far more to choose from and should always have enough. Black sorely needs more one drops and the cube would appreciate more discard and disruption effects. Only blue and black really have the ability to interact with spells. Without access to one of those two you are at the mercy of what your opponent wishes to do to you which might be Armageddon or something equally revolting. Blue counterspells in cube outnumber black targetted discard effects a good five to one. That puts strain on things and simply isn't great for balance. My cycling Inquisition injects more playable one drop discard effects into the cube without going above the existing power level. It also allows individual decks to play more discard effects due to this one not suffering any diminishing returns.
I have been so impressed with Dissenter's Deliverance I really want to see a lot more of that sort of thing. A red version would be nice, another one to hit enchantments, perhaps a blue Remove Soul iteration with cycling. Cycling is just one of the best mechanics they have ever added to the game, perhaps only behind scry, and we don't see it enough. It is a good thing in general to have but for certain kinds of cards, like these two, and like Shatter, it makes all the difference. Amonkhet gave us a taste of some really good appropriate uses of cycling on fair situational cards and now I am hungry for more!
Another one of my favourite mechanics is investigate and it has only been in the one set unlike cycling things so there is still plenty of design space to explore. Cards are a huge resource in magic. They are one of the most important ones alongside mana and they are of high value. A lot of effects are simply not worth a card regardless of the cost. Sadly you cannot fix this simply by adding "draw a card" to such things as drawing a card is so powerful, it is a major change not a minor one. Gut Shot is often too low damage per card to merit inclusion however Zap is simply too much mana for that kind of effect. This leaves a big gap in potential design. You want to be able to add on 0.2 of a card or something so that you can fairly balance cards in the low mana cost region. Clues are the perfect balancing tool and really help you explore design areas on cheap cards with low value effects without having to tangle with awkward or impossible fractions of things.
Next up on my wish list is more interesting one mana ramp. While green probably has enough one drop ramp to sustain it the pool is a bit bland. Wizards don't look like printing any new one mana ramp, even in green, and certainly no better than Llanowar Elf. This means unless they have a big change of heart with regards to their design policy we won't be seeing cards like this printed in standard legal sets ever again. People don't get overly excited for one mana ramp cards and so there is not much call to print stuff like this in the non-standard legal sets like commander and conspiracy. Cube could really use it though, just one every now and again, like every four or five years would be fine! This Ignoble Anarchist is pushing it in terms of power level. It isn't better than the other premium ones but it is in the same league and might well end up seeing legacy play. It is designed for flavour but also for colour balance. Green feels like it has loads of incomplete cycles of mana creatures.
A card such as these Forest Goblins would also be very satisfying to have in a cube for a number of reasons. It would pad out the Avacyn's Pilgrim / Elves of Deepshadow partial cycle. It would offer an interesting alternative to Llanowar Elf without being strictly better or worse. It would offer good redundancy to the Grove of the Burnwillows forced lifegain effect and could be paired up with Punishing Fire and Kavu Predator with better consistency than before. That is one thing that could be done in general to cater better for cube players. Many great cards are not worth getting and using in cubes. Punishing Fire is a fine example of such a card as it simply doesn't have enough support with most cubes being singleton. Redundancy is a huge feature in making archetypes a thing. Red deck wins and white weenie are not the best decks because of their raw power or high numbers of broken cards. It is because they simply have a lot of good redundancy in the low curve of key on-theme cards.
This is my favourite of the black card quality cards. It it not as well themed as some of the others but it is a lot more interesting. I had very dull scry 3, lose 2 life, draw a card for a black mana at sorcery and that felt black and felt on par for power in cube. It just felt a bit unimaginative! The Old Three Cup Trick however does some really cool things. It is essentially a Sleight of Hand with some upside and some downside. It feels black because it has graveyard interaction and the capacity for your opponent to do some nasty things to you with your own card. Best case scenario this card looks three things deep, finds you something you want and puts two cards in the graveyard ready to be put to use in some other way. Worst case scenario this cycles into the card you didn't need costing you mana, conceding information, and reducing the number of "hits" left in your deck. While I don't normally go for cards with a large range on performance I don't really consider this card to have a wide range nominally, only when compared to Sleight of Hand. The range on this is fine, what makes it really cool is that Fact or Fiction feel of incomplete information and bluff. This is a very interactive card and it adds a whole lot to the game without doing too much. It is entirely fair on power level yet is very playable in a wide array of archetypes. It is a pretty simple card yet has so much to offer the game on many different levels and for both players. It is an all round incredibly skill intensive card and that it what I want to see more of most of all. This makes the game better not only because of the type of card it is but because of the card design itself.
Lastly we have this beast! Not only is this the most dangerous card of the ones offered here this is one I would want as a cycle as well, every colour needs one of these! Tutoring is considered highly dangerous by the people who make the cards and historically that is accurate. Tutors are good because they empower combos and combos are good because they often bypass convention. Lots of decks in the past have simply had no equipment available to them to counter combos. Either they went faster or they lost and tutors make combos fast. I think this is a bit of an outdated hangup though. It is like those people who always dismantle their car stereo whenever they park. No one wants to steal your crappy car stereo OK? Just leave it there and save us all some time. I don't think combo should be feared the way it is nor should it be countered in the way it is. Printing better answers to combos in all the colours like Dissenter's Deliverance, like Rampaging Ferocidon and Harsh Mentor. That is how you keep combo in check. I want to see tutors being used like the old school rock decks used to do in extended. You would see people Vampiric Tutor for Duress and that was great. We don't get to see Tutors being used in midrange and control decks because they are printed prohibitively weak for such decks. Any way, once you take combo decks out of the equation tutors like these are incredibly fair. Paying a card and a mana is a big deal. In cube however with it being a singleton format having access to more reasonable tutors would be lovely.
So that is the sort of stuff I want. Cards that see lots of play because they help the game rather than because they are rife with power. I appreciate all these cards are all potent cards but I was designing them for cube and not for standard or limited. I tried to ensure none of these would just ruin any of those formats. Rarity can solve a lot of problems you might have in limited already so that is probably fine. Standard would be the main concern but there are ways of bypassing that issue. Most of the things I have designed that I think would benefit the cube are cheap card quality cards and removal. This is a slice of the best of those but I have done far far more over the years and this sample is not all that far off representative of those! In a nutshell then I think we need more cheap cards, more card quality, more removal and more things to challenge some of the staples. I have designed quite a lot more exotic cards with escalate and other modal excitement. Cards generally with a lot more text than a lot of those shown here. While they might be slightly more interesting cards the point was finding stuff the cube needs most and it turns out the cube needs cheap and simple things more than it needs exotic stuff. There is a huge amount of space in the cube for cards like these shown here yet we rarely see a card of this caliber. There are far fewer spaces in the cube for top end threats and gold cards and yet we are offered far more of those kinds of cards than we are those that we actually need.