Monday 28 July 2014


Historically Aluren was one of the combo decks that did not translate very well into the cube format. Having only one of so many of the various cards you want to have most of the time made it inconsistent and unreliable. As such I have not played around with it for ages, it was infact just using Cavern Harpy in a tempo based tricksy BUG deck that made me think that Aluren could be a real powerhouse in the current meta. A lot of the cards you previously needed to make the combo work have been replaced by much more powerful stand alone cards and as such you can have a deck that can just win even if it utterly fails to combo off. I didn't do any looking into the most suitable cards and just threw a list together out of what seemed sensible, I went as middle of the road as I could so as to gauge whether I wanted to be more combo focused in future or more powerful stand alone cards.

Cavern HarpyThe basic premise of the Aluren combo for those of you too new to the game to remember these silly old school extended combo decks I shall briefly outline the idea. Find and make the Aluren such that you can then make all your dorks for zero mana and at instant speed. Then find a Cavern Harpy which you can use to return a blue or black creature to your hand and thus allow you to abuse the comes into play effect over and over. This will cost one life per go so you need to find an Essence Warden so you can gain infinite life (if you bounce the Cavern Harpy with itself you don't need to pay a life each time) should you not be able to get a kill off with the life you are on.

Here is my list:

25 Spells

Essence Warden
Vampiric Tutor

Bird of Paradise
Noble Hierarch
Elves of Deep Shadow
Essence Warden

Baleful Strix
Coiling Oracle
Mesmeric Fiend
Cavern Harpy

Demonic Tutor
Geralf's MessengerSurvival of the Fittest
Spellstutter Sprite

Quirion Dryad?

Geralf's Messenger
Reclaimation Sage
Shardless Agent
Eternal Witness

Vendilion Clique


15 Lands
Shardless Agent
3x Sac lands
3x Shock lands
3x Dual lands

Llanowar Wastes
Yavimaya Coast
City of Brass
Mana Confluence
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

Other Potential Cards

Kira, Great Glass-Spinner
Force of Will
Sea Gate Oracle
Inquisition of Kozilek
Maggot Carrier
Soul Warden

QuicklingWhile the deck still relies on the use of Cavern Harpy and Aluren to go off there are now so many more options for the various other things you want to do with the deck that it filled out very quickly. I was most vulnerable to Path and Plow as they could take out the Messenger's or the Essence Warden and completely close those avenues off to me. I threw in a Quirion Dryad as a backup win condition but it was awful, I would have been much better off running redundancy in my infinite life gain and life loss tactics. I had intended to use clever disruption effects in the form of Quickling and Spellskite to protect my dorks and these were good but made life difficult knowing I had to set things up just so to remain protected. Just having redundancy would have allowed for more reckless "safe" play which means you can go for the win much sooner. There must be better options that Soul Warden and Maggot Carrier as the back up. There might even be something out there than can operate as a makeshift Cavern Harpy that I forgot about. Suggestions on a postcard, er, comments section.

Coiling Oracle
Shardless Agent is a great addition as it means you can tap out to make an Aluren and still cast everything in your deck, with Brainstorm you can even cast two things from your hand. Strix and Coiling Oracle are just better cards than Raven Familiar and so although they are not quite as good for digging they do greatly increase the power and consistency of the deck. A full Tutor package of Demonic, Vampiric and Survival seems essential in a deck that not only needs two specific cards to go off but then also wants to find other bits and bobs to finish the job once going off. The rest of the deck was just glue like the ramp dorks and Ponder effects and some synergic disruption. I actually had Deathrite in the list I played over the Boneshredder but that was a massive oversight. Deathrite was just a weak mana elf and I was really struggling with a few cards like the humble Soldier of the Pantheon!

With midrange decks being all the rage this kind of thing is a real beating in cube. It is not even that onerous of a deck to include within a cube design as most of the cards are cube worthy alone or perform interesting other roles. As combos go it is not the best but it has the huge advantage of just having loads of reasonable dorks which can get the job done. It is also great fun and rather different even if it can't beat a Hushwing Gryff...

Friday 18 July 2014

Top 10 Dual Land Cycles

Murmuring Bosk
I have basically all the good dual land cycles in my cube, about a quarter of the total cards in my cube are land and I would happily add more. Decks are usually about a third land so on that basis alone there is justification for a very high land count in the cube. Land are not always the most interesting of cards or picks however they underpin everything else. Have a bad mana base and lose regardless of the quality of your spells. I heavily emphasise consistency and cards that offer it within the cube. Magic is at its best when both players get to curve out as their deck should and neither screw nor flood. Things like the humble cycling land allow you to fine tune your mana base so as to minimise screws and floods.

Without dual lands it would be near impossible to construct competitive two or more colour decks and the result would be a very boring and narrow meta game. The mono colour decks are still more consistent than multicolour decks in the cube however the increased power potential from another colour tends to offset the loss of consistency reasonably evenly. Not until there were at least 16 dual lands of the same kind of quality as the original duals would the two colour deck be as consistent as the mono coloured. Things like Path to Exile, Land Tax and Waste Lands also naturally increase the consistency of decks using basic lands and so even with unlimited duals there are still advantages to the mono coloured decks.

Seaside CitadelThere is one awkward outcome of having very high quantities of dual land in the cube as it allows three colour decks to have comparable consistency to two colour decks in terms of having the right coloured mana. An even split two colour deck is usually 4 of each basic and about 8 dual lands however a three colour deck is usually about 6 dual lands from each of the three colour pairings. So while your mana base has little change in consistency in going from 2 to 3 colours your access to powerful gold cards and synergies rises by about the largest possible margin (theoretically this should just increase ever more as you add colours but in practice and with 40 card decks you just start to run out of space to include all the power and synergy you might want). The result is that three colour decks are one of the more dominant "archetypes" in my cube although they are typically just a pile of good cards rather than a honed archetype. The three colour decks are a little more vulnerable to mana base disruption and the mana bases are harder to optimise so can turn out very clunky in a small draft where you see less cards.

Overall I can live with three colour decks having relatively more strength than other kinds as a result of very high quantities of dual lands because it gives the best games. I recently went on a look through the Magic archives to see if there was any more viable land to be added to the cube and found very little left of interest. There are many more options for allied colours and I was mainly looking for ones that I could add to bolster the off colour pairings. Here is a list of the most powerful to the most unplayable of the dual land cycles in all of Magic. I will try to spend less time on the obvious ones we all know why they are good and focus on the relative qualities of the less commonly used options.

Polluted Delta1. Sac Lands

Obviously these are only the best lands because of the original duals and the shock lands allowing you to basically fix any two colours with any sac land in the right deck. They allow you at least two colours of mana untapped from turn one. This last sentence is of huge importance and one of the main factors in determining land quality. Sac lands do this most important thing impressively and then they come with a whole bunch of added utility in shuffling libraries, thinning lands from your deck, filling up the graveyard, generating landfall and so on. The sac lands are so good they can wind up in mono coloured decks just to take advantage of the added utility.

Tropical Island

2. Original Duals

So, they tap for two colours of mana from turn one and they basically present no downside for doing this. They make sac lands incredibly comfortable to abuse for fixing and are just a delight of convenience. Like Lightning Bolt and Ancestral Recall they are so painfully simple that there is little to say about them beyond their obvious goodness.

Stirring Wildwood
3. Man Lands

Only coming in allied colours gives a huge advantage to the allied colour players. Not only are these five lands perfectly good fixing but they come complete with a free, powerful and hard to kill threat. For cards that have closed out the most numbers of games the man lands would be well up there with all the best threats in the cube. Unlike other cycles these lands are all of different power level due to the different bodies they turn into. Colonnade is likely the best however all the others bar the Lavaclaw Reaches are incredibly strong and Reaches is still always played when on colour. Why wouldn't you? It is still a threat at little or no cost to you.

Steam Vents
4. Shock Lands

These would surpass the man lands in this list if it were not for the Original Dual lands doing what these do better. These are fairer lands, they tap for two colours and can do so from turn one and so are very good lands but they do become painful if used with abandon. If, like in modern, you had no original duals to go with your sac lands then the shock lands would be essential rather than just high quality redundancy. Regardless of the sac land synergy it is very rare to see this cycle of lands left on the sidelines in any multicolour deck.

5. Pain Lands
Caves of Koilos
I don't know why but there is not much love for the humble pain land in the world of magic. If the pain lands had basic land types or the shock lands did not then there would be basically nothing to chose between these two cycles of dual lands. These are the last lands that you will find on this list that, without any stipulations or requirements, that will provide you one of two colours of mana from turn one. You don't take much damage from pain lands in the course of a game of magic, zero pain is the most common by far as you barely ever need to tap for colour later on. One is the next most common amount of pain and I don't think I have seen over three which is very rare as it is. The average damage they do you over the course of a game is lower than that for shock lands, if only by a tiny amount. They are also much more convenient to lay as a land drop later in the game than shock lands. The cube is a fast and powerful format, you want to be involved from the outset and you never want to be prevented from casting something because you couldn't have the right mana at the right time. Nothing is more frustrating that having a mana creature to play on turn one yet only having a filter land and a check land to offer you green mana. If tempo and curving out in the early turns is important to your deck then you should be playing your on colour pain land and no excuses! They might look mean but pain lands are your friends. They get worse the more you have of them but in singleton this is fine. I almost never don't run them (horrible horrible sentence, I'm sorry) if I am a two colour deck, the times I wouldn't would be a red splash in a Gr ramp deck where I wanted maximum forests for other synergies and I can reliably fix with spells as well. In three or more colour decks I am less likely to run the full set, usually one or two tidies up your mana nicely, often one colour has no one drops and so you can afford not to have pain lands over slower options.

Temple of Enlightenment6. Scry Lands

It was very hard to chose between these and pain lands because they are somewhat different in application. The pain lands are purely about offering convenience of mana options with no tempo cost. Scry lands offer you mana convenience for a tempo cost but add a little scry sweetener into the mix. Tap lands first arrived in invasion block and did feature in my cube for a time. They were only allied colours and simply came into play tapped and tapped for two colours. This was the fair benchmark for a dual land, any worse was unplayably bad, better made it quite good, and as they were they were very unexciting. Dull though they are I would 100% have off colour tap lands in my cube now if there were any on offer. Then Refuges came along a few blocks back and put any chances of the original tap lands seeing play out to pasture. A free life isn't exciting but it is a whole bunch better than nothing. Again, being only allied colour made the Refuge cycle rather uninspiring although they have all seen a bit of play they have never been mainstays. Typically it is when you know you are facing a burny red deck that you think the Refuges are a good thing to add in, or perhaps you are running a few too many pay life black cards without enough life gain and you are getting scared! So, with the Refuges, over the history of my cube, seeing a comparable amount of play to the original tap lands yet offering a fairly similar seeming perk to the scry lands, why is it that the scry lands are so highly played? Firstly, a scry is worth more than 1 life in magic, not a lot more but definitely more. Secondly, and much more importantly, life is a resource that has no baring on the game until the end of the game while a scry has an immediate impact that can continue to accelerate your momentum throughout the game. Just imagine the situation where you are going to miss your next land drop but have the rest of the lands you need on top of your deck after the one dud draw. Should you scry than one non land away with a scry land you will have more powerful things sooner and more mana on each of your subsequent turns. While this is an extreme example you can kind of say that the scry in this case is worth a free mana and a free +1/+1 counter (to account for the higher power of cards played) on each of your next three turns. The earlier you scry the more powerful it is yet it retains value throughout the game. It greatly increases the consistency of your deck and is kind of free. It basically feels like casting an Opt or I guess more accurately a Serum Visions with scry 1 (as the card you "draw" is the land you make thus you draw it first which is not the case with Opt but I digress...) whenever you make one. Typically coming into play tapped is most annoying in the earlier portions of the game however the increased value of scry at that stage rather tempers that drawback. Also, with check and filter lands not working better than Scry lands on turn one you are far happier making a Temple than either of those. There are only four other dual lands that can be better to make on turn one and without a one drop there is no better land to make. There after they are a little clumsier to lay but this is made more comfortable with the scry and a well worth it trade off. The final thing scry lands have strongly in their favour in the cube is their synergy with a wide array of other card. Ponder, Brainstorm, Divining Top and Sylvan Library all become much more potent card quality in combination with a bit of incidental scry for 1. Domri Rade, Courser of Kruphix, Delver of Secrets, cascade and any other card/ability that has effects based on the top of your library also enjoy the company of scry lands. Scry is more powerful in 40 card decks than in 60 card decks as well. Despite being a lowly six on this list I really love a scry land, there is a huge gap in power between the best six land cycles in the cube and those after.

Graven Cairns7. Filter Lands

These can be a little awkward if used in large numbers or with other awkward mana sources and loads of colourless lands etc however in singleton format that is rarely an issue. I am generally happy to play two although one is optimal. Three however will tend to bite you. After turn one the filter lands are pretty much the best mana fixing in the cube. They come untapped and ready for use, they provide two colours of mana themselves but in addition are able to convert another one of either of the two colours to the other. In effect a filter land turns one of your mono coloured lands in to a dual land as well. Although they do not offer much in the way of fixing on turn one they do at least tap for mana and can help throw out an Aether Vial or Divining Top etc. Typically you cannot tap them for coloured mana on turn but if you run the original Mox in your cube or just have a deck with loads of fair Mox then the Filter Lands get even better. Not only because they are then powerful fixing from turn one but also because the draw back of Chrome and the Original Mox is that they usually only offer one colour of mana and can be a little restrictive on the casting of colour intense spells. Turn one Mox plus Filter Land usually equates to casting whatever two drops are in your deck which is far less consistently so with any other land you could make. Another reason I am fond of the filter lands is the increased ability you have to play colour heavy spells like Cryptic Command and Necropotence in multicoloured decks. Prior to filter lands you could splash cards into Necro decks such as Vindicate or Pernicious Deed but the splash could never extend to a point where you wanted to run lands that didn't tap for black like Forests and Plains. With the presence of the filter lands I am happier to go a little deeper on a splash in such decks. This is the practical result of filter lands being able to count as two dual lands in certain situations.

Clifftop Retreat8. Check Lands

Boring lands that get the job done. At worst these are the same as the original tap lands from Invasion block but with off colour options. At best they are without fault. Check lands are safe duals that will never royally screw you. Yes, they might sometimes come into play tapped or not turn on your Kird Ape but this is a minor inconvenience compared to having a bounce land bounced or having only filter lands and colourless lands. They obviously scale in quality with both the length you are trying to make the game go on for and with your count of appropriate basic land types. With dual, sac and shock lands taking the first spots in most decks mana bases the Check Lands are still good with one or zero basics in a three land deck. The longer a game goes the more lands you are likely to have out therefore an increased chance of having the right basic to have your check land be optimal. This makes them more suited to control decks, especially as they cause you no pain or option to take pain. Agro decks will still resort to the Check Lands a lot of the time but do typically prefer the quick lands when they are an option. No turn one mana from them can be a kick right in the tempo and with no scry perk to dampen the blow you feel really ripped off when you make one of these tapped and fail to curve as you would like.

Copperline Gorge9. Quick Lands

I hate a lot about these lands, I hate them being only on colour, I hate them being inflexible and devoid of choices, both in play and in construction. I really hate the art, metal and nature are an ugly mix (no fault of the artists at least). I hate the term Quick lands too... they are not quick, they are just not shit early on. All said and done however these lands get the job done, they are never worse than the benchmark Invasion tap lands and are about as good as you can get in the all important first few turns of the game. I would have these above the Check lands if there were a full cycle on offer in the ratings. The early turns are the more important ones in magic as the rest of the game has to follow from them so any momentum you gain in them helps for all the subsequent ones. When a Check land is bad it can cripple your whole game plan, when a Quick land is bad you will have that many more alternate plays and options that they are fairly negligible most of the time.
Quick lands are "bad" more often than a Check land will be however they are comparably less bad when both are being bad as well as of more benefit when both are being good.

Golgari Rot Farm10. Bounce Lands

The lands which have the highest variance of all the offerings. When these are good they are mana fixing, card advantage and potentially a ramp in mana (when used with untap land effects). When they are bad they are crippling. An early land destruction or even simple bounce spell will usually be game over if it hits a Bounce Land. One land handers with bounce lands are worse than those with Filter lands. Even when you have other lands and can make them later in the game a bounce land is still a slow and clumsy land that is more awkward to use efficiently than any other in the cube. Their variance makes them interesting as it leads to difficult deck building choices. You can be greedy and play fewer lands by ramming these into your list or you can sure up a weak looking mana base by replacing lands with these. They work well with Frantic Search, Garruk Wildspeaker and other such cards thus making deck building more interesting due to the potential synergies on offer. You can just run them as you think your deck is weak and needs to take risks on lucking out and getting the good end of the variance to be able to win much. They have been seeing a lot less play since the introduction of scry lands as they have similar perks and flaws yet the scry lands are far far safer and more consistent.

Honourable Mentions

Mirage Sac Lands are in my cube but tend to only see play when you are really pushing landfall and shuffle synergies and the other viable painful sac lands have all be used up. As sac lands only really need to have one appropriate colour to work amazingly these offerings are seldom needed. They are fine but annoyingly slow and see less play than the bounce lands although I suspect this would not be the case if we had off colour ones to chose from.

The Vivid lands are outstanding fixers and unlike most dual lands they work better the more colours you have in your deck. The thing with the Vivid lands is that the more colours you have the more options you have on other dual lands. As I mentioned before, 3 colour decks in my cube have equally good mana bases to 2 colour decks and so having these in the cube just adds unneeded redundancy to decks already well catered for.

In much the same vein we have the Alara block triple lands that are a little less versatile in where you can play them but are more powerful when in the right deck than the Vivid lands. They would probably also see play in opposing two colour decks due to lack of other options. I do not have these in my cube for similar reasons to the Vivid lands however this might well be wrong due to the off colour fixing potential in two colour decks. For prettiness sake I think I would rather just play the off colour Guildgates instead!

Grove of the Burnwillows is not yet a cycle but supposedly will be one day. As Check lands are to Quick lands these will be to pain lands. Essentially really good quality dual lands that favour control decks. They will also offer some better synergies than the pain lands such as the beloved Kavu Predator or the not so well liked Punishing Fire. All in all they will be instantly added to the cube and would probably rank 7th or so.

The Horizon Canopy cycle is a little too niche due to the certainty of the pain and as such only a few archetypes will want them, mostly I suspect the red and green ones. The Nimbus Maze cycle is more interesting and is probably on balance a tiny bit better than the Check lands due to always being untapped and having colourless options. The blue/black Time Spiralled dual of the cycle is gross and has a far too unreliable trigger to be interesting for cube play and the Graven Cairns cycle has been printed and does rank 7th currently!

Original Filter lands from Odyssey block are not good lands but they do offer you the ability to turn colourless into coloured mana and as such are quite interesting for decks that both produce a lot of colourless mana and have lots of coloured spells to play. Despite being far from good these are occasionally dug up to sooth such problems in decks.

Tuesday 8 July 2014

Cube Set Breakdown

This is just a very quick article for those of you who like me love some statistics. I organized my cube into the various blocks from which cards were first printed in. I did this because I wanted to see evidence for the power creep I am always on about but also just to see if the blocks and times that I associate with powerful Magic were better represented in the cube. I have done this once before a long while back, I think around the time of Ravnica or Timespiral. Then I had power in my cube and the stand out piles were Mirroden, Urza's and of course the original base set. Those sets still represent little bumps of power in the overall curve but have no way near the same sort of potion of the cube they held before. Obviously the fact that we have so many new blocks since then will dilute everything as well but you can easily account for that.

Here is how my cube as it currently stands breaks down. Most cards are in blocks which I have arranged as chronologically as possible. I split those cards in the base sets into two groups which are basically the old ones and then the most recent ones where they started printed new cards and not just reprints in the base sets. All the non-base sets before Ice Age were not arranged in blocks and so I have just rolled them all up into one group including Arabian Nights, Legends, The Dark, Antiquities, Fallen Empires and I guess probably Homelands if they had anything to offer...). Finally there are those cards first printed in Portal sets and promotional cards as well as Commander box sets. This group spans the largest time frame but is rather on the small side so is fairly negligible. I have put the dual lands offered from each group in brackets to the side of the other number (which is all the cards inclusive of dual lands). The fact that dual lands a such big cycles and that my cube is so land heavy means that to just ignore their contributions would really skew the data. Dual lands feel like they run a somewhat removed and separate path to spells in terms of power creep etc. I probably should have included the mono land cycles I include such as the cycling lands and the artifact lands within the dual land remit as it makes Mirroden and Onslaught look more powerful overall.

Promo/Portal                                                           8          

Coldsnap                                                                1

Base Set                                                                 32 (10)

Arabian Nights - > Fallen Empires                           13

Ice Age                                                                   19 (5)

Mirage                                                                    11 (5)

Tempest                                                                   20

Urza's                                                                      27

Masques                                                                   7

Invasion                                                                    15 (5)

Oddessy                                                                    10

Onslaught                                                                   19 (5)

Mirroden                                                                    30

Kamigawa                                                                   10

Ravnica                                                                       31 (20)

Time Spiral                                                                   17 (3)

Lorwyn                                                                       39 (9)

Alara                                                                            16

Zendikar                                                                       52 (10)

Mirroden Besiged                                                          38 (5)

Innistrad                                                                         44 (5)

Return to Rav                                                                 39

Theros                                                                            45 (10)

M sets                                                                             38 (5)

As you can clearly see, the last five sets and the base set cards from that time contribute about as much to the cube as the previous 15 or so years of Magic cards combined. Zenikar and Theros blocks have felt like the most powerful in Magic and the statistics support that. There is certainly a bias I have towards new cards and so the last couple of blocks tend to be a bit higher than they really deserve but it certainly doesn't stretch as far back as Zendikar.

Alara surprised me a little, I didn't think it stood out as being that weak compared to the previous blocks to it. Return to Ravnica also surprised me as I thought it was one of the weaker sets to come out recently but statistics suggest it is comparable to its neighbours. Primarily it added gold cards which I have less respect for but can't think of a sensible way to analyse separately.

A further breakdown into spells and permanents, or a few groups there of, would also be fairly telling I feel of the kinds of power shift going on in Magic. Most of the best disruption and acceleration and even card draw is found in the earlier cards and sets. There is more power in the newer cards but it is a much more balanced and narrow kind of power. Magic I feel has changed from being about exploring the full range of things you can do within the game to a more symmetrical affair where both players are playing within the same sphere of the game.

Monday 7 July 2014

Top 10 Orzhov Cards

EvershrikeOrzhov is an odd guild, you might think black and white are the most different, distinct and opposite of the possible pairs in the colour pie for flavour reasons however in reality they are very similar colours. Clunky is how I would describe both overall. Not because they lack good cheap cards but because their cards tend to be very one dimensional, they do one thing well but are dead weight when you don't need to be doing that thing. Neither have great card quality either so you tend to have just work with what you have got. There are not even that many things one colour can do that the other cannot. White can Disenchant things and black has the capacity to draw cards are the two major ones. Most times that you play a black white deck you are basically playing a mono archetype and splashing a few power cards from the other. Even split black white decks tend not to add much over a splash and are typically awkward on the mana base. More control black white decks can be made but they are slow, vulnerable and rather boring to play. This doesn't mean that they can't be really good but I do try and avoid them.

Specifically looking at the gold cards and we have a fairly odd bunch. As the colours are quite similar the most powerful cards tend to be versions of things that the mono colours basically do but just that bit cheaper or better. There is a decent number of fairly powerful and worthy cards however they are less played than the weaker Azorius and Izzet cards because the colour pairing is uninspiring rather than the gold cards themselves. Some of the best Orzhov cards are not technically gold cards but do need to be played with access to both colours of mana to be worth it, as such the top ten is a top thirteen just in case you don't think they should count! Before the top thirteen however I am going to talk about the cards that are not on the list but have had a little cube love in their time.
Necrotic Sliver
Zealous Persecution
Necrotic Sliver
Cartel Aristocrat

Deathgrasp is a good combo kill card and an OK midrange utility card. It is a bit like Aurelia's Fury, very occasionally you still want it but overall it is just slightly too expensive to be convenient. With black devotion decks being able to produce epic amounts of mana and still have no problem splashing I could see Deathgrasp increasing a little in popularity but then Drain Life works pretty fine in that slot too without the phaff of a splash.

Zealous Persecution is great in a weenie deck against another weenie deck. Thing is, this is not a common occurence in cube even before you consider that to play this you need to be black and white, which means that less black and white drafters should be at the table, and so with black and white being the main weenie colours you will find this to be rarely at its best. It can be OK as a cheap mini wrath for a control player who can get some use out of the other ability with tokens etc but at that it is not worth a cube slot, certainly not a gold one.

EdgewalkerNecrotic Sliver is a great sliver to the point it is fully playable with no other slivers at all. Sadly it totally epitomises Orzhov in that it is the slowest clunkiest midrange card you can find. Great draft all rounder but too expensive to be a good removal spell and too impotent a body to be gaining much tempo.

Edgewalker is wonderful, you can cast BW clerics for free! Very few cards reduce the coloured mana requirement of spells and so this will always be a very interesting card even if clerics are a fairly awkward tribe to try and build with. As yet I have not had one stand out but it is only a matter of time before we hit some good cleric lords or top quality stand alone clerics that make the tribe and the Edgewalker viable.

Evershrike is one of the more interesting  Orzhov cards. Graveyard recursion is easy to build around and abuse and this does so in an unusual way. I have not found a deck that easily breaks the Shrike but I have not tried that hard at doing so. Too narrow for most cube situations but easily cube power level in the right deck.

Cartel AristocratCartel Aristocrat is the most played of all those card not in the Top 13 list and gets a bit more play than some on the list. I have always deemed it too niche and low powered for the cube as it not only narrow but a support card in an archetype that is itself narrow. Having a sacrifice outlet is very powerful in certain decks, it is useful in general to fizzle things like Lightning Helix and when it makes your guy unblockable and very hard to kill into the bargain a humble 2/2 starts to look pretty good. It won't make a huge impact on the board but it will be annoying and will probably still be there when the game ends. Great in the BW humans and tokens themed decks but otherwise basically unplayed.

Orzhov Charm is one of the few that has seen no play at all and it probably wont unless some graveyard based combo deck operates around a one drop. The removal portion is fine but not good enough without at least one of the other effects being really powerful which they struggle to be close to in any present archetype.

Right, on with the top 13.

Gerrard's Verdict13. Gerrad's Verdict

A cheap way to get a two for one but usually far less brutal than a Thoughtsieze or similar. The life aspect is nice and gave the card some added utility when you needed to just gain life and used it on yourself. In very much the same way that a bit of life doesn't make Lightning Helix better than simple old Bolt the life on this comes nowhere near making it better than Hymn to Tourach. With this being double colours and a bit too far down the pecking order of card discard spells it has not had a main cube slot for very many years now. It is hard to time it well compared to other discard, use it too early when their hand is full and allow them to pitch irrelevant cards, save it too long and it doesn't hit much of anything at all. This on top of black white having little card quality of its own means you cannot have too many cards that do nothing for your position but cost you a valuable card.

Unburial Rites12. Unburial Rites

Unburial Rites is the first of the cards that isn't really gold, infact, to play it you don't even need to have black mana which at least is the case for the other versions. In reality this is too slow for the cube. Reanimation needs to be done early to be having the most advantage from your stupid fatty, by the time you can be doing this your opponent can have easily hard cast things that don't look to bad compared to what you plan to cheat down. The only places you can suitably play this is in controlly decks using cards like Gifts Ungiven to tutor up the bits you needs. Basically it is OK if it is consistently going to be a card you get to your bin before casting it. Getting a two for one out of it is fine as well but really you should either be making something with it that is going to make the 2 for 1 off the Rites irrelevant. Nine is also a lot of mana for a two for one, see Gerrads Verdict and how that doesn't make the cut at two...

Tidehollow Sculler11. Tidehollow Sculler

A fine 2/2 body for 2 with both Mesmeric Fiend and potential artifact synergy bolted on. The artifact synergy makes him a lot more viable in a lot of different decks however the intense colour requirement on him usually rules him out of those in the end. Mesmeric Fiend effect on a 2/2 is usually some decent tempo, it is back breaking against removal light decks (typically combo) and at worst tends to eat a removal spell they would rather have aimed at something more than a Grizzly Bear. Sadly the quality of creatures has risen so much that Sculler is no longer played much. Combo is weak and uncommon, there is lots more removal floating around and a 2/2 will just trade badly with any number of similar dorks that have already obtained card advantage (Snapcaster, Trinket Mage etc) or sit on the sidelines and do nothing compared to actual threats people might make. He don't do that well against lots of the agro one drops so from two mana onwards he is basically an Oblivion Ring waiting to be removed. That being said any deck entirely relying on black for it's removal will struggle more than usual to deal with Sculler what with it being black, gold and an artifact leaving only Edict effects, mass removal and -X/-X effects.

Stillmoon Cavalier10. Stillmoon Cavalier

This is a great draft card as it is such great filler. You can play it in either mono coloured deck to good effect, it is very strong when you come up against white or black mages, it is a fine early play and it scales well into the late game. It is a zombie too for all those lovely Gravecrawlers... Outside of draft it gets basically no play by virtue of costing three mana, doing nothing immediately and nothing much without further mana investment all the while being utterly dead to a single ping. The red mages chuckle to themselves at this kind of card. I don't typically like protection cards but this somehow feels fairer as it is only its own colours!

Spectral Lynx9. Spectral Lynx

A golden oldie that just about manages to keep up with the times. Most comparable to River/Mire Boas but essentially two colours not one. Protection is usually better than a landwalk effect, it is vastly better defensively and usually about as good offensively but this probably only makes the Lynx equal to the Boas in light of being a gold card. People avoid specific colour hosers in all but draft formats in the cube and so it is more that gentlemanly behaviour than the power of the cards that means they get little play. The Lynx is more commonly found in people's decks than the Boas because there is less similar sorts of cards in white and black while green is full of high endurance cheap threats.

8. Ashen Rider

Ashen RiderI don't think I have seen this hard cast yet in my cube but then you don't really play 8 mana 5/5s to hard cast them. Generally speaking this is the insurance card in the cheat it into play decks. It is good in that it works fairly well with most of the ways you can go about doing this from Oath to Reanimate and co to Sneak Attack, Show and Tell and even Flash. You don't tend to play it to win the game but as a way to not lose the game. It turns out a 5/5 flier is not that quick of a clock nor that scary of a threat but it is certainly a lot better than no body attached. You are of course playing it to exile one or two things you have few other ways to deal with in the deck and in this capacity there is no better card to play. It condenses your list being both a combo piece as well as a valuable out card allowing your deck to be more consistent and powerful at once. Fairly niche card, even when you play with it you usually don't want to have to find it and play it, but as it is the best at doing what it does it has retained its main cube slot.

Sin Collector7. Sin Collector

While Sin Collector deals with all the problems Tidehollow Sculler has it is a little bit narrow and looks most like a sideboard card in the cube. Costing one more than Sculler would be totally fine to pay to ensure the card doesn't return when you lose your dork, sadly the reduction in possible targets makes it dead far too often against the meta. Even if it just had Duress functionality it would be a commonly played card but as it is you risk having a 2/1 for 3 too often.

6. Mortify

Mortify used to look like the runt of the litter when placed next to Putrify but Theros block has thrown in a bunch more targets for the card. Most of those are also creatures and so the Mortify has not gained as much value as Ronom Unicorn has. The thing with Mortify is that there are not many quality cards you can play that kill enchantments but also have other useful functionality. Mortify will basically never be dead and it will give you a whole added bit of security over something like a Doom Blade. When your options are play Disenchant and risk having a do nothing card, play nothing and risk losing to awkward enchantments, play Kami of Ancient Law and have a weak card, or play Mortify I know where I am going most of the time with my control decks. It is not a bargain price but it is fair, comes with no restrictions and has the all important instant speed.

Sorin, Lord of Innistrad5. Sorin, Lord of Innistrad

Not the best planeswalker and not the worst. Compared to Elspeth, Knight-Errant he is really limp but then most things are. She is the walker he is most comparable to in effects at least. Sorin is fairly slow to grow but has some useful things you can be getting on with right away. He has reasonable in built synergy and fairly unusually a really strong ultimate. It is cheap and not only gives you great legs to win with it will stop your opponents onslaught dead in its tracks. I thought he would be better than he is and don't know exactly why he hasn't performed that well. Lifelinking 1/1s don't do that much to the board state, three loyalty to begin with is low and only a single +1 to grow keep him quite calm. On colour and in a draft situation it is hard not to play him as basically all planeswalkers that do something are good. In more constructed events it is very hard to include him because you have so many more powerful or direct options.

Obzedat, Ghost Council4. Obzedat, Ghost Council

Another fantastic reason why sorcery speed removal is the nut low. This dork is very powerful for the mana cost and he is also just a stand alone powerful threat. On top of this he is a clunky gold card in clunky colours with a horrendous coloured mana requirement. Typically these are the kinds of cards I avoid putting in the cube but at just five mana rather than the six plus you tend to find most stand alone gold legendary threats occupying Obzedat has seen a fairly decent amount of play, and not just in two colour decks I should add! I like that he gives you choices, do you blink them out to protect from sorceries and to trigger the Syphon Soul or do you leave them about to block? A 5/5 for 5 with no firststrike/flying/trample etc is not that great of a deal. While the body is fine it is the versatility of the card that makes it good. You can slap it down and go full steam ahead doing 23 points of damage over 3 attacks and gaining you 8 to boot. You can leave it there doing nothing bar flickering in and out and just apply the Vampire Nighthawk effect. It has great synergy with any instant speed global removal and he is very hard to kill. Five toughness, immune to sorcery speed things should you like and being black heavily limit what actually deals with him and unlike other medium sized no frills fatties you have to kill him, you can't just stale mate and wait for something else.

Merciless Eviction3. Merciless Eviction

This is the accept no substitutes wrath card. When you absolutely positively need to kill all of one kind of thing this is your spell. It is not cheap, it is not that tricksy or clever, it isn't instant or one sided but it totally deals with stuff and that is what you want your Wraths to do. Usually this is just killing creatures and so it can seem weak compared to a 4 mana wrath but in reality the cube dorks are so robust the four mana wraths tend to me more like a mild cull. Merciless Eviction will clear a board and it will do so without a whole bunch of them jumping right back out of the graveyard and into your face. In addition to being a super Wrath you can also use this card as the worlds worst Revoke Existance come Dreadbore. Often you really need to kill a non creature (non land) permanent more than the dorks in play but it is really rare to hit more than one of those targets. It feels terrible when you have to spend six mana to take out one thing but then it is a lot better than not having that option and losing to that one thing. You will occasionally play against artifact based decks such as big red or affinity with Merciless Eviction and if you are not already dead by the time you can cast it you will pretty much end them. Safety and versatility at the cost of being unwieldy.

Lingering Souls2. Lingering Souls

One of those fairly generic cards that is just a good chunk above the curve of what you should expect for your mana. This makes useful tokens more effectively than any other token generating card. It is cheap, it is powerful, it is flexible, it has synergy with graveyardy things and global pump things and is made of win. It is one of those cards plenty good enough that it winds up in control decks and agro decks. As you get to cast it twice and as each half provides you with a suitably annoying board presence that you generally have to deal with it you can fairly easily turn Lingering Souls into a two for one at worst. It is very splashable both in white and black decks, the latter due to heavy numbers of good discard outlets enabling you to play it even without any white mana.

1. Vindicate
Obviously Vindicate at number one, one of the greatest ever gold spells. Like Lingering Souls it goes in most decks that have black and white mana yet much more so. Desert Twister is the functional comparison of this card and that bad boy is an unplayable six mana which doesn't seem an unreasonable price for the effect. Vindicate just always solves your current problem, it isn't often that unfair when you do so as paying three mana to kill a single target is the top end of what you expect to pay. The quality of the card lies in the fact that it is which ever removal spell you want it to be from Dreadbore to Pillage to Creeping Mould. It is the least dead a card can ever be. On top of this it grabs the occasional free win by virtue of kicking someone right in the mana base when they are struggling. The very best cards are always hardest to explain why they are so good. They do a very basic thing cheaper than any alternatives without any fiddly stipulations such as Lightning Bolt. They do what they say on the tin, they do it effectively and they do it for a bargain.

Sunday 6 July 2014

UB Tempo

Vapor SnagSomeone commented on the How to Mox article with simply "UB tempo". Whoever they are they are on the money, UB tempo decks are hard to build but are one of the very best places for Chrome Mox and Mox Diamond. One of the reasons they are not easy to build is the many number of different ways to go about building such a deck. I have two fairly polar examples here, both of which I fairly recently played with. The first is very much like UR tempo in cube however it uses more disruption in the slots burn would occupy. The second list is far more like a Pox deck or even a GW hatebears deck. Essentially both decks are very similar but they go about getting tempo in a different way, the former works on being cheaper and faster while the second deck is all about making your opponents slower.

Gnarled Scarhide
UB Cheap Tempo

25 Spells

Chrome Mox

Black Vice
Delver of Secrets
Cloudfin Raptor
Phantasmal Bear

Diregraf Goul
Gnarled Scarhide
Vapour Snag

RemandSpell Pierce

Dark Confidant
Blood Scrivener

Pain Seer
Snapcaster Mage
Memory Lapse

Arcane Denial
Looter il-Kor

Riftwing Cloudskate

15 lands

Rishidan Port
Underground Sea
Underground River

Polluted Delta
Watery Grave
Darkslick Shores
Drowned Catacomb

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Sunken Ruins
Temple of Deciet
Creeping Tarpit

Faerie Conclave
1 Island
1 Swamp

Chrome MoxSo this list is fairly simple, the aim being to make a one drop threat and then back that up with enough disruption that it basically goes the distance. Mana Leak is an excellent card I am not playing, Deathrite would also fit in this list very easily but would likely command a higher land count with more sac lands to get the best from him. With so few lands a green splash to use his life gain is probably not worth it unless you know your match ups and really want life gain. If that is the case this is not the best kind of deck to be playing! This list can run either Mox or both however it is so cheap that a second Mox is somewhat overkill, you are not ramping into much useful beyond two mana. The Chrome is easier to fit in around a greedy mana base and I have a lot of low power cards I am going to be happier losing than land.

The playing of this deck is the hardest part as you need to know when to carry on laying threats and when you need to be representing counter magic. A Wrath effect will really take a lot of the wind out of your sails and with no red to burn people out you really need to be making mass removal as awkward as possible for your opponent. This deck commands a really strong knowledge of what is in the format and what cards your opponent is likely to have. As a result Gitaxian Probe might be more value than Brainstorm in the deck. You can of course go the targetted discard route however they are not great tempo cards nor do they work brilliantly with Black Vise or mana denial strategies. A nice safe Inquisition of Kozilek is still going to be very strong in this deck even with a few anti-synergies on the go. While this deck may be a little weaker than the red version due to having to play narrow cards like Disfigure instead of juicy burn it rather compensates by being a total free win should there be any kind of hiccough from your opponent. Woe betide the player who misses a land drop against you or is forced to keep a hand with nothing cheaper than a three drop. It also has a lot more late game than the red version due to the card advantage from Dark Confidant and company. Both Pain Seer and Blood Scrivener are able to perform near their best in this kind of deck as you have other more pressing threats out and the ability to expend your hand very fast.

UB Pox Tempo

23 Spells

Chrome Mox
Mox Diamond

Vapour Snag
Black Vice
Deathrite Shaman

Baleful Strix

Baleful StrixBitterblossom
Talisman of Dominance
Snapcaster Mage


Dictate of Kruphix
Jace Beleren
Trinket Mage

Venser, Shaper Savant


Braids, Cabal Minion17 Lands

Tropical Island
Underground Sea
Underground River

Verdant Catacombs
Misty Rainforest
Polluted Delta
Watery Grave

Darkslick Shores
Drowned Catacomb
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Sunken Ruins

Temple of Deciet
Seat of Synod
Vault of Whispers
Creeping Tar Pit


Eye of NowhereThis list is not as refined as the former one. Bitterblossom and Bloodghast are awkward in this deck and do not usually offer a complementary game plan. There are a lot of cards that would really love more support such as the Skullclamp however there just isn't the space and so sometimes they will really under perform.
I was really tempted to sling a Mox Opal into this deck while speaking of cards that need more support! Although it leaves you very light on ways to actually kill people I would be tempted to cut all three of the afore mentioned cards in this list in favour of more cheap mana denial in the form of Eye of Nowhere, Hoodwink and likely Cryptic Command. Such a change would make games more one sided, should you get on top of the game and get a mana advantage then you should be able to sustain them doing nothing at you for the rest of the game however if they were to sneak some stuff out before you got going then you are much more likely to just fold to it. The deck is a little one sided anyway, it will obliterate any midrange thing you run against it yet it will fold pretty hard to a white weenie or red deck wins list. It can even struggle against certain builds of control and combo as they can respectively disrupt your few key spells or they can sneak their key spells out despite the very low economy of the game.

Jace Beleren
Jace Beleren is one of your best cards. The +2 is usually better than the -1 to draw yourself cards and so you have a very powerful cheap card draw tool that drastically reduces the pressure you are under and doubles up as an actual threat, something you are light on even with the Bitterblossom etc in the list. The Dictate is basically just your backup Jace and between the two of them they allow you to be able to expand so much of your resources on killing and bouncing lands. Small Pox is one of your other best cards although it is also a little awkward. The best way to beat a turn one Goblin Guide is to lay a pair of Mox and Small Pox, sure you will only have a couple of cards to work with from there on but they are going to be restarting the game while you already have a huge mana advantage. You simultaneously can cripple someone's economy and their tempo and you can do it early. Death Cloud is obviously better overall and will end most games for you in your favour but it does nothing for you in the early game. Unfortunately Small Pox is about the worst card you can play should you be doing a Deathrite Shaman opener and so you have to make your game plan work around your various awkward cards.

Black ViseSadly there is no viable redundancy for Black Vice because it is your best win condition. You will win most games where you are on the play and you open with the Vice, the rest of the deck just supports it so well. Follow it up with thigns like Remand and Boomerang and you will find that sometimes the damage goes up from three rather than down! Black Vice is the only real chance this deck has of ending the game quickly, otherwise you will usually end up just de-permanenting your opponent and have them concede.

These decks look like they have completely different game plans which they kind of do but if you reduce it down they are both just tempo decks. The former tries to go quicker and earlier with the things it does while the latter wreaks havoc with the economy of the game so that its opponent has to go slower than it. The first is full of threats while the second has very few but I reckon if you could plot some curve of threat density per turn assuming an average number of turns for each deck specifically they would wind up about the same. In some ways the same analogy can be drawn between a ramp deck and a control deck, their plan is both to place a large powerful threat into play, the ramp deck goes fast to get to that point while the control deck slows the opponent down so as to get to the same point. The main point of these decks was to reinforce the previous article on Mox use by giving some examples of decks that can utilize, and compensate for, them in many ways I discussed.

Tuesday 1 July 2014

How to Mox

I recently read a really good PV article on how to use planeswalkers. A friend of mine commented that a similar article regarding the use of Moxen would be a great help. While I fear I may not have the literary grace of PV nor his magical prowess I have played a whole lot of Moxen in my time. I was playing the heaviest Magic of my life around the era of Mirrodin and did not play a deck in any tournament that did not support at least 3 Chrome Mox. Obviously this article will focus on the cube usage of the various Moxen however much of what I say here will apply generally when playing and building with Mox.

There are four distinct types of Mox presently in Magic, the original five making one group, Jet, Sapphire, Emerald, Ruby and Pearl and then there are the unique Chrome, Diamond and Opal which collectively make up the fair Moxen but work differently as so must be looked at separately. I no longer play with the original Moxen in my cube, they are fun and allow a lot of cool things to happen and compared to the other power cards I have stopped using they are the most fair and ruin the least games. Despite this they are so outrageously powerful that every single deck possible in Magic would play at the very least the on colour ones. There is little to say about the original Moxen and you can't go too far wrong with them even if used in a noob like manner. Pick on colour ones incredibly highly with only other power or the absolute bomb cards like Jitte and Jace giving you pause for thought in terms of what to take. Only the most extreme agro decks and mono colour decks might not want off colour Mox in their list and only then when they have the nuts version. A good RDW isn't going to get much out of a non Ruby Mox as at least 80% of the mana requirement on all spells and abilities in the deck will be R not colourless. You don't need much of your mana expenditure to be colourless, say 35%,  before off colour original Moxes become high picks, things that should be going 1st to 3rd in packs.

The original Moxes you do get you should play unless the afore mentioned RDW or similar situation occurs. To play these you should generally remove land however it is not always this cut and dry. Lets say you are a three colour Naya Zoo deck and you were going to run 17 lands and 23 spells but then you realised you picked up a handy Mox Emerald, Pearl and Ruby. By removing 3 lands and playing all three Mox you have increased your early mana potential however you will be regularly missing early lands drops and thus won't have much of a notable mana advantage on the no Mox version in the mid and late game. You will have hopefully gotten good mileage with the early mana advantage and potentially not need to have much mana later but this is not always the case, especailly if your deck is running any sort of powerful top end (four and five drops for the agro decks). In this situation you are best of cutting the least powerful card from your deck, perhaps even the two least powerful cards, usually one drops and keeping a reasonably high land count. Rather than just exploding out with three drops and staying at three mana for several turns you will curve out more normally but skip the first turn or two and thus have a huge tempo advantage right the way through to your finishers as opposed to just to the midgame. In this hypothetical situution I would play all three of my Moxen and either 15 or 16 land and then 21 or 22 other spells respectively (this final distinction would be down to the quality of my colour fixing and the power of my top end. More powerful top end and/or worse fixing lend to higher land counts. I think this is the only really pertinent advice I can offer on these simple, supremely powerful little cards. You can see them as a land you can lay without restriction and just cut lands which is fine to do and often correct in the really cheap decks like white weenie or RDW but in the more control or midrange deck you are often wiser to view the Mox as a Time Walk and replace a cheap spell with it instead. A Force Spike is something I chose to play as it gives me an OK card than has a lot of power on turn one when I am feeling vulnerable. This is the right sort of card to be replacing with a Mox if I feel that level of early boost is sufficient as the Mox will provide way more both on turn one and as the game goes on than the Spike will.

There are some great synergies with Mox such as Kor Shyfisher and there are some nombos such as Pernicious Deed, in the latter case you play both anyway as they are just so very good. Trinket Mage loves a Mox and Gorilla Shaman are great at breaking them. Decks with Upheaval love a Mox, or all the Mox! Decks with Armageddon, affinity, metalcraft, storm etc etc love the Mox. They banned artifact lands for being too good and the Mox have all the artifact lands perks as an incidental side effect and would still be first picks and in every deck regardless of that fact!

Mox Opal is the most niche of the Moxen as well as the one I have played with least, and exclusively in the singleton cube format thus making this part of the essay least relevant for non cuber readers. Rather useless I realize as it is the only Modern legal Mox but never mind, on with the show. Despite being the most niche it is also the most powerful Mox in a singleton format as it has no card disadvantage and taps for any colour. This is of course assuming you have metalcraft. When you can reliably and, importantly, at the stage of the game you most want the mana, be able to activate metalcraft then you should ALWAYS play Mox Opal. As I said, you always play an on colour Original Mox and this is better than that... Lots of decks have a high artifact count, or certainly sufficient to make the Mox Opal good but then you realize that most of those artifacts are near the top of the curve with little use for excess mana beyond that point and so the Opal is actually fairly useless. For all the artifact based combo decks and affinity/robots style agro decks the card is the absolute nut high. In most other kinds of deck it can be rather awkward, even in some of the less optimal artifact based ramp decks it can just wind up being less use than a land when you needed it in the all important early game. This is of course assuming you took the greedy route and played it as a good land and not a Time Walk by replacing a spell rather than a land with it.

The most interesting aspect of Mox Opal is that it is so powerful yet so dependant on your (cheap) artifact count that it has a very smooth curve of power in a variety of archetypes and deck lists. In some it will be blank and in others it will be one of the very very best cards possible in MtG with every possible power level inbetween accounted for. This means in a lot of decks the Mox will be roughly as powerful as the weaker cards in your deck list and will present some very interesting deck building options. In such situations you are essentially looking at taking a risk on the potential for the lucky high power outcomes rather than the blank card possibilities. You can consider ramming in a few more artifacts to increase the power of the Mox but this might well just be counter productive as the power level of the deck overall goes down due to the other changes. Ultimately I find it comes down to two things, one, do I need to be lucky to win verses what my opponents have? If I feel my matchups are good I will be inclined not to run the hopeful Mox, otherwise I will take the gambit. Two, do I have other non Mox uses I can put the card to? Do I have things like Tangle Wire and Smoke Stack that I just want to feed blank permanents too? Do I have a sac outlet I could use it for such as Goblin Welder? Do I have card quality and filter that I can throw it away with should it be miss firing? Finally, do I have powerful card draw mechanisms which can negate its deadness some of the time or abuse the extra mana with when I do explode? The more of these questions I can answer with a strong yes to the more inclined I will be towards running a hopeful Mox Opal. I can't recall what the lowest artifact count I have run a Mox Opal in a deck with but it was definitely below ten, which when a couple of them cost four of more, is more than just a hopeful Mox. I can't say either what rigid levels of artifacts you must have for it to become good / playable / bomb like. This depends on the synergies and support in your deck as well as the cost of your cards, the other artifacts in particular. Ball park I would say fifteen other artifacts with at least two thrids of them costing two or less in 40 cards and you are looking at a good card. You don't need to pick it very high though as so few other decks could dream of supporting it, eapecially given most of the appropriate support cards should be in your pool.

Chrome Mox is my favourite of the Moxen mostly because of the options it gives you compared to the others. With all the other Moxen you are either getting on predetermined colour or any colour you like, with Chrome you control the colour output. With Chrome and Diamond you have to lose a card in your hand to activate them however the choice is very easy with Diamond as to what to lose and has no bearing on the utility of the card once in play. Lands are lands and the worst one is usually obvious, the only real choice with Diamond is whether it is worth tossing the land and playing the Mox or keeping it and not. Chrome is easier to fit into a deck than Diamond but neither are easy cards to include sensibly within a deck list. Chrome is much like any other Mox and can simply replace a land card if you are inclined while this is not so much the case for Diamond as it needs lands itself and so commands a slightly higher land count.

So what is it about a deck that makes a Chrome or Diamond worth playing? Broadly speaking I would say three kinds of different thing potentially qualify your deck for one of these two card disadvantage Mox. One, the most common reason you can include one of these Mox is that your deck is full of card draw in some way, either an engine or just lots of powerful raw draw. Usually these decks are ones supporting Necropotence, Skullclamp and Land Tax or the symmetrical draw seven cards. Two, your deck is fairly non-interactive which is usually a combo deck but can be an all in agro or heavy disruption kind of deck. In these situations you have far more complete knowledge about what you can afford to lose in order to do your thing and so the frequency with which your Mox is viable to play increases a lot, this is especially the case with Chrome. These all in or non interactive decks do have a strong tendency to rely on the speed at which you make things happen as well which further increases the value of the Mox. Finally, three, decks that stand to gain a huge amount by being able to do a particular thing a turn early or having an extra mana at a particular point in the game. This may sound a bit silly as all decks are going to be keen to have an extra mana, in this case I mean much more specifically. A control deck reliant on having counter mana up from turn one due to lack of ability to deal with certain things. A mana denial deck where you need to be able to get those expensive mana denial spells down before they can cast serious things you are not set to deal with. The only time in history I can recall of red deck wins playing Chrome Mox is when Slith Firewalker was one of it's best threats and the potential to get it going on turn one was sufficiently powerful that it merited the card disadvantage of the Mox.

None of these are simple yes no answers and all come with a variety of shades, you simply have to judge when your deck has enough of these qualities that a Chrome or Diamond become viable. It is much like and increasing artifact count with Mox Opal but harder to judge. There are all sorts of sweeteners that have some synergy with your Mox which also encourage their play. Cards like Cataclysm, Upheaval and Armageddon all love a Mox go a way to making your deck more suitable for them should you be a little light on the more general reasons to play the Mox. There are other more subtle cards that like a Mox such as Kor Skyfisher, storm cards, Smokestack and Tanglewire, Balance, hellbent cards although most specifically Blood Scrivener, any card that involves a discard of your hand such as Liliana of the Veil or Wheel of Fortune, things that miss artifacts such as Death Cloud and so on that also help to make your Moxen get value. The two most common decks I find myself playing Chrome and/or Diamond in these days are black based Skullclamp and Necropotence decks and a wide array of mono blue decks. Both of these colours are fairly slow compared to what tempo Naya colours can lay on. To offset these both black and blue have far more raw card drawing potential. Blue in particular has very few strong cheap cards, notably for more permanent based strategies and by using Mox you can offset this deficiency and hope to skip that part of the curve.

So the next big question is when do you reach for Chrome and when do you reach for Diamond? Typically you want them for the same reasons and so in principle either would get the job done however usually one will be far more suitable than the other based on the nature of your deck. There are bunch of trends which will help you chose between the two. Chrome is better with fewer colours in your deck and can work well with low land counts as well as high. Diamond gets better as your deck includes more colours and not just for the obvious fixing but also because of the ratio of what you can pitch to help you out favours it as you increase colour count compared to Chrome. Diamond obviously operates better with higher land counts but awkwardly with lower mana curves. Should you want to boost up to two or three mana and stay there Diamond is likely better than Chrome while in the deck where you just want to skip one drops and carry on curving from two upwards then Chrome has the edge. When your deck is more about redundancy then Diamond has an edge while decks more about solutions favours a Chrome. Diamond discards a land rather than exiling it and so offers a bit of utility which can act as a sweetener for it, Deathrite Shaman, Tarmogoyf, Life from the Loam, Yawgmoth's Will and even Eternal Witness all have better synergy with Diamond than Chrome. Life from the Loam is also in another category of cards that make Diamond vastly more playable than Chrome, things like Land Tax, bounce lands, Treasure Hunt, Tithe and basically anything that offers card advantage but specifically in the form of land cards. I will basically never play a Chrome Mox in a white weenie deck as you have fairly little card advantage and the deck is a lot about redundancy. I will however fairly often play Mox Diamond as I have a lot of ways to get the lands I need and more plus the fact that my curve typically ends at four (and this is a key one, it means any land beyond my 4th is pretty irrelevant and so I can afford to lose one for an early boost).

There are those glorious decks than can run both Chrome and Diamond. I have done it in affinity which is a bit of a stretch in terms of using the cards as intended but given that cube affinity has so much artifact based synergy and the ability to pack a lot of card draw it is perfectly doable. This is of course on top of Mox Opal! Mono black Necropotence decks are the other place I find I can usually ram both into. It is an unusual deck in that it operates well off both low mana and few cards yet has the capacity to explode and run well off lots of cards and lots of mana. This makes both Chrome and Diamond good at giving you a tempo and options boost in the early game without overly gimping you on the things you will need later on while allowing you to go off later in the game in a more explosive way at minimal or no cost. Turn one Sinkholes, Hymns to Tourach, Pack Rats and Dark Confidants also add appeal to both Mox in question for the Necro deck.

The power and versatility of the original five Mox demonstrate very well how powerful Opal, Diamond and Chrome can be when you effectively negate their downside. Knowing when you have a deck that is able to negate the drawbacks and that has the sufficient qualities to be able to include one of the fair Mox is the hard part. For those areas my article failed to shed sufficient light on which Mox and when my advice would be to air on the side of playing the Mox you think is right. You can only learn from experience and by getting it wrong, if you never take the plunge and risk that Mox you will never master the art of Moxing and never be able to fully unleash their power on your hapless opponents. Even in the best decks for them you will still have them be the worst possible top deck. I notice the fair Moxen going very late in MODO cube drafts, I think this is in part due to inexperience with how and where to play them well but also about human bias and association. With Chrome and Diamond you always feel a little hurt when you play them because you have to lose something to do so, once you have them down you basically forget about them as they are a boring old land. The times they stand out most are when you draw them dead in the late game and they are more of an insult than a basic land at that point. Our memories of the Mox tend to be negative ones even when it has done great work for us and won us several games. We often accredit the win to the threat and not the mana that got it there for us however we are more than happy to blame the Mox for our losses. Certainly the Mox are not for every deck but I feel they are an undervalued and underplayed card by the Magic community. They are among the more niche cards in the cube yet they still utterly deserve their place in any good one!