Time for a funky brew! This deck has been floating around for a while, but this was my first go at building a cube variant of it. The deck has some fairly polar pros and cons. The main con is lack of interactive or even protective capabilities. Resolve a Rampaging Ferocidon against this and it is basically game over, and the same applies for a fairly large number of cards, even if most of them are only hate tools and not the sort of thing you find main. This somewhat has to the be the way you build this deck, as it is an engine combo and suffers for every non-combo card added to the list. The deck makes up for this uninteractive, defenceless position it takes in a couple of ways. Firstly, it has multiple different ways in which it can actually win, meaning if a hate card renders aspects of the deck useless, you are not dead in the water. The second main perk of the deck is speed, potentially finding a win on turn one. Although that is highly unlikely, the chances of a win increase significantly over the next couple of turns. For a cube combo deck, this probably has some of the higher chances of winning on turns two or three. It also has that storm-like quality of being able to try and go off on almost any given turn. This means you can bide your time when not under pressure and win with the best odds at the best moment.
This is the list I would run, if doing this again. It is not yet perfect, but it is a reasonable improvement on my first attempt, which itself was not bad. I will discuss the options and changes after the list.
Kobalds of Kher Keep
Glimpse of Nature
Beck // Call
Elvish Spirit Guide
Simian Spirit Guide
Empty the Warrens
Spire of Industry
City of Brass
Tree of Tales
So the win conditions for this deck are as follows:
1. Create sufficient attacking dorks and then Bushwhacker them up for an alpha strike
2. Make Impact Tremors and then follow it with the production of creatures equal to their life total
3. Draw your deck plus one and have a Laboratory Maniac in play.
This last win condition is actually a problem solving tool and replaced an engine revolving around Cloudstone Curio. The issue was simply that if using the Curio to generate unlimited storm or Impact Tremor triggers on a turn in which you played Glimpse, then you would have to have more cards in library than opponents life or the required storm count. This made the Curio pretty weak. It also lowered the demands on free non-artifact creatures. I was initially running Burning Tree Emissary and tried to fit in Priest of Urabrask as well, but found such forms of free creature card to be really hard to use effectively. You want to stockpile dorks in hand and then start playing them out after a Glimpse or Beck. Often, you want to hold off until you can make a two- or three-drop permanent as well, and this all means that you either miss triggers, don't get to use those dorks, or you simply can't go off for another turn. Without leaning on Curio, you can ease up on the weaker creatures and you don't have to worry about decking yourself before you can win! Luckily, Glimpse only works on non-tokens and Beck is a may effect on the drawing. This means you can go nuts with Empty the Warrens and Genesis Chamber, and not have to worry about it. Despite not needing protection against decking, the Lab Maniac does seem like a good alternate win condition, as it has the "win the game" text that bypasses a lot of hate. It is pretty easy to draw everything with this list and when you are in that position, it is not too hard to find three more mana. As an aside, I would presently run Frogmite as the next free creature in this list over the Hidden Herbalist, Priest of Gix, Blood Pet, Skirk Prospector array of cards. Of those, the ones that sac to return mana are better than those that just give it back to you right away. You can preplay those that sac and mitigate the mana cost, thus turning such cards into effective rituals. Just being free is the best and Frogmite is the next most free.
This list is unusually good at burning through it's deck, as that is the engine and what the deck does. The win conditions are just ways you can focus the power of that engine into productive directions. Glimpse of Nature, Beck, Skullclamp and Paradoxical Outcome are your card-draw tools. Two are just big, one sided draw effects that are unusually efficient with the support in this deck (Glimpse and Outcome). Beck and Skullclamp, however, are far more able to facilitate the drawing of the whole deck. Beck gets the benefit from the token producers, which gets pretty out of hand. Skullclamp does afford a lot of draw, but it also has mana demands on it, which means you typically need to pair it with the Tangleroot or Phyrexian Altar. These mana sources also let you go off out of nowhere and are not solely there to support Clamp. This is also why some of the mana fixing cards are included in the list. Both Manamorphose and Wild Cantor allow you to turn green mana from Tangleroot into whatever you need, or indeed a stray red mana! Tinder Wall also lets you turn green into red, but it is more than good enough in its own right, being the only creature in all of magic that actually generates more mana than it cost immediately. It is the only ritual dork that is mana positive, however used. Tinder Wall is arguably one of the best cards in the deck, due to doing the only two things the deck really cares about in the support cards and doing both pretty well.
Paradoxical Outcome seems like it is too good to pass up on. I very nearly played Scapegoat, which has no card draw and puts you a creature down. You could argue a case for both, but it would be hard to make the case for Scapegoat without the Outcome as well. Outcome works like another retrospective Glimpse, due to the card draw side of it. You can use it to get your creatures back in hand to setup a storm turn, or another load of card draw with the other Glimpse/Beck, or you can use it first in a bid to find a Glimpse or Beck. You are almost always better off having Outcome plus one of the other two spells, rather than Glimpse and Beck, due to how they work with the permanents. While probably an overly narrow example, it is very much like using locks on a navigable river. It is much more efficient for those involved to always go in alternate directions! Mystical Tutor is a huge help it getting you these key cards when you need them, but also having the most suitable one for the occasion. Mystical Tutor finds your big card draw effects which in turn find you the other things you might need.
The free mana cards are all pretty good, you have the card draw to support them and they assist both in the midst of going off and in the setup of doing so. They make you more consistent in getting to the end of a sequence you start and they allow you to start that bit sooner. Lotus Petal and Opal work better with the Outcome and also tend to offer better fixing, but the Spirit Guides have their own perks. On more than one occasion I found it useful to simply cast my Grey Ogre so as to trigger more card draw effects. Being able to have some wiggle room in your ratio of card gain and mana access while going off is surprisingly useful in this deck, despite how poor a Grey Ogre might seem to be.
Ancient Stirrings was originally a Preordain, but I wanted a card that was not in the splash colour. Preordain is really good but it is also mild and fairly all round. Stirrings is great, because it is better at finding lands, easier to cast, and still has good odds and range on the non-land pulls. Faithless Looting was also a strong consideration, as I really wanted it when I was going off so as to turn dud lands accumulating in hand into gas, but when used more as a tool to setup a position for going off, I think it is rather weaker. It doesn't dig as heavily into the deck and it costs you a card, which can really hurt if you don't know your exact plan. These cards are all very much performing the same function, upping your consistency a good amount for a minimal tempo cost. That is great, but there are diminishing returns on them so you don't want to overdo it. This list is sufficiently tight enough that I think one or two such cards (excluding the tutors) is about right.
Land Grant is a potential cut. It offers mild perks and comes with some risks. The risks are low, but the problems they cause might not be so mild and thus might not actually be worth it. Essentially you are just trying to run a deck that is land light, so that when you are going off you reduce the risk of fizzling. It is just a sac land that costs information concession or mana, rather than life. The biggest advantage this has over a sac land in this deck is that it is not as contested.
The main potential cut card is the Conjurer's Bauble. It serves a pretty limited purpose. Its inclusion is a bit of a gut reflex I have when building certain types of combo deck in cube. It mildly ticks a lot of boxes, cheap cycling card, artifact support, mild recursion and all that sort of good stuff. It is a bit of a Chromatic Star sort-of card. The thing is that this deck is a bit too focused to really want mild filler, it wants dedicated support and to be super streamlined, and that is not what Bauble brings to the table. If I am not going to be playing answer cards and problem solvers, I likely shouldn't bother playing recursion. If I need it then it probably means it is too late already. If I was really serious about recursion, I would be playing Snapcaster Mage or Eternal Witness for their interaction with the engine cards in the deck. Likely the better direction to go in for this slot would be going up to two card quality cards or going ham and having a big draw spell, like Time Twister or Wheel of Fortune. That, or just cramming a bit more actual support in like the Frogmite, but cutting a cheap artifact for the Frog in a deck needing him to be free and worrying about him not being so feels pretty bad!
Another interesting way to take this list is to run Earthcraft and some basics, which would then essentially just be a cheaper and more versatile Tangleroot without giving anything extra to your opponent. This probably is a more powerful direction to take the deck in, but it does need a full rework on the mana base (and support for said mana base) which is beyond me at this stage! You can always run more storm cards as win conditions if you like. I like the Warrens due to the synergy overlaps, but Brainfreeze and Tendrils just feel pretty tired and cheesy. They are also probably the best alternate win conditions, but they are not cool, not original and not all that fun for anyone involved.
I looked at Trophy Mage to tutor up my engine artifacts, but if I needed to tutor those things I would just play black tutors and not more Grey Ogres. The deck is not after value cards or cute things, and that is what Trophy Mage is.
City of Traitors is another good inclusion for the deck. It would make me more inclined towards running Chromatic Star in place of the Bauble, though. I looked at Chief Engineer, but felt he was likely a little on the cute side. You have to get him into play before going off, if he is to have much chance of generating you effective mana while you are going off. While potentially very powerful in the right setting, I suspect the card would be doing too little the rest of the time.
Overall, the deck was surprisingly good. While not one of the top tier combo decks, it was not far off and had some unusual strengths and card requirements, making it a more useful deck than some that are more powerful. While good, the deck does not have much wiggle room for improvement. It is also likely quite vulnerable to sideboard cards, which should probably be expected in the formats you could potentially wind up with this sort of deck. Really, what this deck is best at is being a vessel for playing solitaire magic with. The experience of playing this on your own is not that different from playing against someone else. Just seeing how efficient you can be, how quick you can be, exploring the deck and getting good at using it, can all be done on your own, and probably should be! This deck has all the best qualities for playing on your own, you can throw due to bad choices, and you often have to follow the combo through right the way to the end, you don't just reach a point where you have enough stuff that the win is inevitable. For this list to become a force in cube it needs more cards that support it, while it has enough to compete already it needs to seem like an oppressively good deck before it will tangle well in the cube meta. Affinity, for example, always feels like it is two levels more powerful than anything else, but when the games start to happen and the disruption flies about, and peoples preparation pay off, the mighty affinity list feels fairly average. For the constructed cube events where decks like this are viable, you are super vulnerable to hate cards and so, while this deck is good, it is still a fair way off competitive. Awesome fun, however. It is also just a delight to play with Kobolds.
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