Monday, 25 February 2019
Top 8 Gods
I should probably have made this a top five rather than a top eight. With only 23 gods in the game so far this list contains over a third of them. The bottom end of this list is particularly thin, there will certainly be no honorable mentions. I have run The Scorpion God in several places but it is a push to claim those are note worthy! Heliod is a cute mana sink for your Serra's Sanctum in enchantress decks. Erebos and Bontu crop up now and again in a variety of themed (and usually bad) black builds. Even the lowly Kefnet has done some work in modern with Porphyry Nodes. Being so unique most of the gods have their uses but for the most part they are rare and minor. None feel honorable!
In terms of flavour I love the gods, I also like how the design of the cards emulates a different kind of magic card. The way in which they contain a huge amount of power makes them feel godlike. While the design is great from a flavour point of view I do not have a huge love of the gods from a play perspective. They are a little too uninteractive for such potent cards and can lead to polar games with little relevant options once the god is doing it's thing. I would like to see more gods introduced to the game but I would like them to come with some viable counterplay, in particular to red and green. The poor colours only just got done being bodies by things like Sphinx of the Steel Wind and now they are getting it from the far cheaper and more playable gods. At least the Gruul colours do contain a decent chunk of the better gods.
8. Phenax, God of Deception
This is the main reason I should have done a top five not a top eight! Phenax is super narrow and super lame. No one likes losing to mill in cube. Phenax is extremely powerful but he is in need of some specific support and just isn't in any way fun or interactive, even by the standard of other gods. Even if he is powerful enough for cube I advise against running him in any capacity. You will have more fun without him. The thing that makes Phenax so potent is that he can win the game the turn you make him with ease. In any sort of board stall Phenax is going to be able to end the game quicker than most other sources of reach. This does mean you need a lot of creatures in your blue black deck which isn't all that natural for Dimir. When you don't have any dorks Phenax does nothing at all. Phenax is polar in the extreme. He is also immune to much disruption or able to bypass it making him a doubly poorly designed card.
7. Keranos, God of the Storm
Of the gods that have seen enough play to make any statistical sort of claims I would say Keranos is the least often found in combat. I don't ever recall having seen one in creature form at least. Keranos has seen some love in the past due to Izzet having relatively poor planeswalker options. Most of them are vulnerable and low powered or fairly niche in application. It is not yet clear if new five mana Ral Zarek, Izzet Viceroy is superior, inferior or simply for a different sort of role. If the former then we will likely not see that much more of Keranos in cube but we were not seeing much of him anyway. Most of the four mana Jace and Chandra offerings are just more powerful cards. The real advantage Keranos has is that he is hard to kill but these days if you make a five mana do nothing in a control deck you have already won or you are about to lose. So the fact that planeswalkers are more vulnerable is somewhat irrelevant. If there was a good way to sneak out Kernos before your draw step, say with an Aether Vial, then that speed up would help. Perhaps if you could trigger him with draws in your opponents turns! Then he would just be yet another card desperate to be paired with Divining Top. He somewhat is already given that is allows you some choice over what Keranos does. That segues neatly into the other reason Keranos is mostly inferior to planeswalkers - you get no control over drawing a card or doing three damage. Options is a big part of the power of walkers and Keranos has none. Keranos will win you basically any game given long enough but he lacks the immediate impact, control and safety to really help you survive long enough to take advantage of him.
6. Rhonas, the Indomitable
While clearly a potent god I have found Rhonas to underperform. I think it is just because it is a green beater with some conditionality. If you are beating down in green you are typically at the mercy of your opponents disruption. That tends to make Rhonas a bit of a win more card or a total do nothing. At best he tends to just be a bad Kessig Wolf Run. That in itself isn't a terrible place to be. Wolf Run is the card I splash into green decks most commonly! Rhonas is a great way to turn mana into reach. Especially so in green where he is a creature and thus works well with all the card quality effects and tutors. He is a pretty good way to diversify your threats. This is mostly just a way of taxing and stretching opposing removal. Rhonas may just be a creature but he is immune to most removal and lets you extend into mass removal with a little more confidence than usual. Rhonas makes your mana dorks relevant in the latter parts of the game as well. Unlike a lot of the gods on this list Rhonas fails to do anything at all by himself and has no ongoing perks. Green also has a wealth of robust, high value and high power three drops taking his deck slots. Unless you have a specific need of playing Rhonas it is fairly hard to play him over something like a Jadelight Ranger. He is a great card but hard to find a suitable place for where you cannot find superior alternatives.
5. Thassa, God of the Sea
Power wise Thassa is one of the more impressive gods. She under performs because she is in blue and blue has poor aggressive strategies and has to play dodgy cards to empower devotion. It is not even like you can do much to pick up the shortfall by packing another colour because then you either ruin your mana base or your ability to turn on the devotion cards. Unlike many other Theros gods Thassa is one that you very much want as a creature. A three mana 5/5 indestructible is the stuff of dreams for blue. The other abilities are good but they are not worth the investment without getting that 5/5 body to see some action. Scry every turn is lovely but it is terrible compared to Search for Azcanta. It is also an incredibly slow affair. You would have to have double figures worth of turns to come close to making a card and three mana back in value from just the scry. Thassa is an aggressive card and that just makes the scry worth a bit less. The unblockable ability is great. It provides some reasonable reach but it is pretty late game as it does not come all that cheap. Blue isn't great at racing or at tempo and so you are pretty unlikely to be using it while you still have ways you can invest your mana in tempo. Much as I have marked down Thassa due to weak blue aggressive devotion cards I expect that to change. Blue got several good cheap aggressive cards this year and I fully expect to see it continuing to get more. It really wont be that long before you can support Thassa in an actually quite reasonable deck and then she will be pretty oppressive.
4. Xenagos, God of Revels
Oddly I find Xenagos to be the devotion based god most frequently in creature form. There are some quite playable cards that really empower Gruul devotion (Burning Tree Emissary, Boggart Ram-Gang etc) for one. More over, the kinds of deck that want a card like Xenagos are typically packing some meaty permanents. Green allows you to play more double coloured cost cards in other colours too so you will find even the mono coloured cards adding to the devotion count decently well. Xenagos does a really good job of ending games. He basically gives all your subsequent cards haste while being a pretty unkillable Wolfir Silverheart as well. Ideally you play him and pump up a 3 or 4 drop beater such that thy either chump block or take a massive hit in the face. The following turn you make something else fairly fat and swing in with Xenagos himself, the new empowered dork and your previous dork for what is usually more than enough damage to end things there and then. Xenagos is like having a Kessig Wolf Run that is also a Hanweir Battlements and that fully activates each turn without costing you any mana. Xenagos is the king of haymaker cards. Often a bit overkill but the real reason he sees little play is that he can do nothing the turn you make him and does do nothing if you have nothing else. When you can just play it safe with haste dragons, potent planeswalkers or massive green dorks Xenagos tends to get endged out. There are not that many occassions when your 4/4s and 5/5s being 8/8s and 10/10s makes a huge difference. Surrak is a mana cheaper, a colour less, still gives things haste and can attack himself on the first turn most of the time. Surrak and top of the line five drops are really what killed Xenagos, Elspeth and Godsend had nothing to do with it outside of the storyline! While historically Xenagos has performed better than Thassa and Rhonas I expect both those gods to overtake Xenagos over the upcoming years. Being significantly cheaper and mono coloured puts them at a huge playability advantage.
3. Hazoret, the Fervant
A great standalone card offering huge tempo, reach and power. Hazoret is one of few gods that works well without any real support and towards fairly universal on-theme ends. You can just toss Hazoret into most cube decks that are at all tempo based. My cube is sufficiently low to the ground that you can get away with Hazoret in decks that are basically midrange. You don't need to be just red or even heavy red either. You can splash in a Hazoret no trouble. She is tempo because a 5/4 hasting indestructible is a savage beating. She is unafraid of combat and kills most that stand in her path. While fairly hard to make on curve and attack it is not impossible nor is it even bad to make her and not attack. She would still be a solid card without the haste! It is certainly a whole lot easier in cube to empty most of your hand by turn four. Making her later is no bad thing either. Her power is still pretty extreme if made on turns five onward. It is lovely when you get to make a punchy threat and even have some mana left over to activate a Grim Lavamancer or something. Powerful enough to rival Thundermaw yet cheap enough to run in decks too low to the ground for five drops. The discard for damage ability is nasty too. It ensures attacking is going to be an option but it just ensures victory eventually regardless of attacks. You can sit back and chip people down in some degree of safety behind your 5/4 indestructible wall! The only thing really working against Hazoret is the vast swathes of other great red four drops and only being able to sensibly play a couple of them at any time. Rekindling Phoenix offers more control, Chandra offers more utility, Hellrider offers more burst, Pia and Kiran Nalaar offer more coverage and that is just some of the non-gold stuff.
2. Porphoros, God of the Forge
While this is a bit of an engine card it is in a common and powerful range of archetypes. Porph may look narrow but he sees a massive amount of play. He is just so powerful. He is very hard to deal with and provides inevitability and reach. All the gods a quite hard to deal with, the Theros ones most so with them being non-creature cards often. Of those Purphoros feels like the hardest to remove as he gives you least time alive to do so! Mostly it is about adding two damage to every creature you get, if Purph was just an enchantment with that effect, like a doubling up of Impact Tremors, then he would still see loads of play. Becoming a creature is rare and often more of a risk than anything else! As soon as he animates he becomes vulnerable to Vraska's Contempt, Path, Plow, Repulse, Edicts and swaths of other ways to remove him that only affect creatures. The mini Trumpet Blast Porph offers is also nice, it means he is a huge threat if you have your gas in play or if it is in your hand. In a well built Porph deck you don't really need either provided your library is full of things like Goblin Rabblemaster and Seige Gang Commander. Everything suddenly packs so much punch, good threats become obscene threats when Purph is lending a hand.
1. The Scarab God
In cube, much like in standard, this card is oppressive. It is incredibly hard to deal with outside of blue and white and far from easy for either of those colours. Untapping with Scarab God is usually game over. Making it on 9 mana for the instant recursion so as to get value in the face of exile quality removal is also a huge swing capable of ending most games. The Scarab God is a defensive beast bringing huge bodies to the board. He ends the game quickly if it is clear to do so or he does so safely with scry, loads of blockers and direct life loss. I strongly hope Jund colours get more in the way of answers to the Scarab God going forwards. It is just way too safe and reliable of a finisher in the present meta. Most decks in one of the colours will splash for it given half a chance and it seems to be consistently powerful enough to reward people for doing so. Even the graveyard disruptive element of the card is annoying. It is just a little bit too good in a few too many ways. It probably should be a 4/5 and it probably should cost five to recur things and it doesn't really need the scry and the drain. I think you could make all those changes and the card would still be pretty strong. As it stands the card is a total all star in cube and one of the most desirable game enders out there. The Scarab God is hard to counter and will win through almost all situations, most quickly and easily. It reminds me of playing with Jitte when that was in block/standard. As soon as such cards enter play the whole dynamic of the game shifts and totally revolves around them. You will do drastic things with low value simply to prevent a charge or an eternalize from happening. It is all a bit too much power with no real downsides. At least over time answers and power creep have reduced the tedium of Jitte play. Hopefully the same will be true of this naughty God.
Wednesday, 20 February 2019
I recently did a similar deck to this which I imaginatively dubbed "auras". While it was quite cool it felt a little bit unfocused. It was a little too caught up in the card draw elements of enchantment heavy decks and that detracted from the speed of the deck. Given that in practice this sort of deck is a combo aggro hybrid speed is your friend and lack of focus not so much. Here is that list;
With what was learned from that experience and with what modern Bogles lists can teach us I ran a more focused version. Rather than try and setup a situation where I would draw cards as I buffed up dorks I thought I would just skip the disruptible card draw dorks and play near exclusively hexproof stuff. By increasing the power level of the auras a little you can fairly reliably create a pretty lethal threat without need of drawing a whole bunch of extra cards. This list is both quicker and less vulnerable than my previous attempt.
Cartouch of Solidarity
Green Sun's Zenith
Basra Tower Archer
Cartouche of Knowledge
Ancestral MaskTroll Ascetic
Geist of St Traft
Thrun, the Last Troll
16 Lands including;
A big part of what makes this deck good is how little it cares about what you are up to. It literally only cares about a couple of things and they do not include opposing creatures, opposing damage output or spot removal. Your lifegain and oversized evasive dorks will comfortably race almost any aggressive draw. Your pure suite of hexproof dorks will make you safe in doing so and provide some duds for your opponents.
This deck does still like to draw cards but it does so in a far cheaper, quicker and safer way. It skips the Enchantress step which is slow and often vulnerable and it uses cantrip cards and Curiosity effects to do so instead. While Curiosity is limited to one draw per Curiosity enchant per turn that is still plenty for your needs. I wanted to play more with Sixth and Keen Sense on offer but felt that was my bias towards wanting to draw card at play and doing so would likely be overkill. Snake Umbra is probably the next inline on that front as it is dual purpose with the protection elements. The cantrip Cartouch and Abundant Growth are nice cute little ways of helping to thin the deck and maximize your key cards turnout.
Being a deck than needs lands and action but having that action split into fairly limp halves on their own adds to the deck building problem. If you draw all auras you do nothing at all and if it is all dorks you are wildly under powered. A mix is essential but this is quite hard to do. You can use card quality to get there but it is going to slow you down a lot. The blue stuff would be best as it is the only reasonably priced things that find you lands, creatures and auras. Just getting 2/3rd of those things as per Adventurous Impulse or Commune with the Gods isn't enough help to make it worth it. The issue with using blue cards is the mana base, you really want to be heavy green and light blue. The best solution appears to be simply focus. By running no disruption or dedicated interactive cards you can make your whole deck lands, auras and hexproof dorks and in an appropriate ratio so as to maximise your chances. Just a couple of cards that are not part of the combo such as a Path to Exile significantly increase the odds of a dud draw. Each more so than the last. As you are a deck than is fairly resistant to disruption while also caring about very little and being pretty quick and proactive you are one of the few decks that can go bare naked into the night and run no disruption. Given that you have limited dig and draw as it is you are pretty unlikely to have the right piece when you need it anyway so when you are going all in you should go all in! Answers, interaction and disruption can all live in the imagined sideboard of this beast! If I were to run disruption it would likely come in a form like Incubation // Incongruity or Cast Out as both are effectively things you can cycle away to some degree and thus hurt your consistency least.
I actually found I was more creature heavy than I needed to be. As the deck can't do much of anything without a hexproof dork I played nearly every single option at 3 or less mana. There are some low power Portal: Three Kingdoms ones at three in green that I don't have and that probably cost an arm and a leg to get .There is also Witchstalker, Sacred Wolf and arguably Jungleborn Pioneer at three. The Pioneer comes with its own Edict protection which might make it good but it also might be awkward in the face of something like Evacuation. The smattering of Edict protection combined with the apparently high creature count made me feel sufficiently safe in that department. I tried the deck out against a deck pretty much tailored to handle this list and despite facing three Edict effects and recursion that aspect of things felt fine. I would absolutely cut Dungrove Elder, I only had enough Forests to make him a 7/7 and he was usually a 2/2 on cast. I don't think he needs replacing either although Witchstalker would be my first choice to do so with. You could try and streamline by cutting both Thrun and Dungrove and adding in the Stalker but I actually quite liked Thrun in this deck. He is that much meatier that you can make him incredibly threatening with less enchantments and as such he is a reasonable recovery tool if you eat something devastating. The partial mass removal and combat protection found on the Trolls in this list was nice and lessened the burden on totem armor and other protection effects.
The suite of auras I ran was pretty spot on. I liked the range of costs and spread of effects. I would change little about that side of the deck. There is just the right balance of card that protect and cards that buff, those that give evasion and those that make racing you impossible via lifelink and arguably vigilance too. There are a couple more playable totem armour cards I would consider with Snake at the top of the pile. There are some cheap cantrip auras like Frog Tongue but these do not do much without a dork to play them on and so they don't have the perks of consistency that Abundant Growth gives. Without Enchantress effects the cheap do nothing cards lose a lot of value. Battlemastery is perhaps the only hard hitting encahntment I would consider but it is a bit win more and does little on its own. Mask of Law and Grace would be a fantastic hate card stopping blockers and preventing damage but as your stuff is hexproof the value of protection is diminished. That is partly why there is no Flickering Ward in this list either. It just doesn't reliably do enough and has some negative synergies. This list already has all the good synergy auras, those that scale appropriately and those that are unreasonably powerful for their cost. This deck is a good 90% locked in with very little wiggle room to try and improve it (beyond the Dungrove change to probably Snake Umbra). Being so specific and so pure of a decklist I can state that pretty extreme claim with decent confidence.
This deck is sufficiently narrow that it is only going to be viable in singleton constructed and open draft formats but it is a good one. It is so pure, quick and hard to interact with. It is like a burn deck but without any fear of lifegain. It does trade some consistency for this but not an amount that offsets the power gains. Although there are sideboard tools that can be used against this kind of deck they are not all that effective or can be countered by your own sideboard tools. You really stretch peoples sideboards by running a deck like this. Often the returns on boarding against a list are not worth the slots and so people just forgo it and accept the loss or try and luck out against you. The one thing I have against this deck is that it is no real fun for anyone to play. As the pilot of this deck you are limited in options and game plan. You just make the dork you can and put on the buffs you can in the best order you are able and start turning sideways. Your opponent usually just gets to watch that unfurl and try and race you. If you want to win this deck is a good one to have in the repertoire but if you are all about the fun games this is not the direction to go in.
Friday, 15 February 2019
Undergrowth Dredge .dec
I have never really managed to get a good cube dredge deck, which isn't a huge surprise. There isn't the redundancy for such things and it would be wildly inconsistent as a result of just having singleton copies of the payoff and synergy pieces for lists like they have in vintage and legacy. Dredge cards get used here and there but I have never made or seen a successful cube dredge deck in that style. I still haven't but I have made the first bits of progress towards such ends. Although I made a functioning deck I wound up massively culling all bar one of the dredge cards and wouldn't feel like it was missing much if the last one went as well. While this deck might have been good it doesn't seem useful for anything much. I just don't see the occasion you can build or draft this kind of deck and have that be a good plan. The deck has limited interaction which doesn't greatly help it but it has bigger problems than that. Mainly it is going to really struggle in a constructed event where any sort of sideboards exist. Or indeed in a draft where information is a thing. A Tormod's Crypt is going to savage this list pretty hard. A Leyline of the Void is probably just game over if you follow it with anything at all. Most of the cards in this list are far too low powered an narrow to ever be in a drafting cube and trying to force them in would be madness! Lastly the mana for this deck is so demanding that you are going to really struggle without the premium lands and that is going to be incredibly hard to achieve in any sort of draft of cards.
So what is this deck? What is it doing and given all the problems with it I just stated, why? It started out life as a dredge deck in design and wound up being much more of an undergrowth deck. It just fills up the bin with dorks as quickly as possible and abuses that mostly to make free weenies and wildly undercost fatties. The real challenge for this deck was keeping the creature count high while managing to fit in all the functionality required. It meant playing lots of bad cards like Hapless Researcher over good cards like Mental Note. Most lists are considered creature heavy at 40% (16/40) while very few lists indeed manage to get to 50% creature count. Such things are just impractical in most cases. This list really needs it for the scaling. I tried a couple of builds with a range of 55% to 62.5% creatures. Below is my best amalgamation of the two sitting at a pretty 60% dork count. Combined with a reasonable number of sac lands your effective deck density of dorks is nicely high and allows for some lovely undergrowth synergies.
There is another balance to be struck between the three kinds of dorks that recur from the bin, that benefit from a full bin, and that fill up the bin. The more you have in the first group the more you hurt the second group. Luckily the last group empower both of the others and so that is the main focus. You need some recursive dorks to empower sacrifice mechanics but they are very rarely game winning by themselves. Each of the different recursive dorks needs specific conditions to be met in order to come back and so each tends to send you in different directions regarding support cards. The best free graveyard cards are the ones with the most relevant bodies but obviously those are the hardest to get back. The emphasis on cheap creatures is to assist Vengevine. Both the BB recursive dorks are there primarily to help get back Amalgam although they are fine for some nibble damage and as sacrificial dudes. You could possibly cut most or all of this recursion package and focus more on having high undergrowth with the right payoff cards in hand. We shall get to the possible directions later, for now here is my amalgamated list to describe the archetype;
Birds of Paradise
Minister of Inquiries
Champion of Wits
Golgari Grave Troll
Scourge of Nel Toth
City of Brass
The list is part way between a combo deck and beatdown deck. It is actually much more like modern and cube Hollow One decks than anything else. Both are trying to abuse synergies to empower the deployment of undercost threats and both heavily use the graveyard. This list is more reliant on the graveyard and benefits more from being many colours but it does have a lot more options than Hollow One builds. It is a lot of fun to play assuming you are not facing graveyard hate! It is generally a little less explosive than the Hollow One decks but it does pack a lot more punch and carries on scaling throughout the game. The only really significant difference between the cards you can run in this deck and those you can run in a Hollow One deck are the result of the differences between a self mill focus and a looting focus. Self mill is typically cheaper than looting as a way of filling up the bin but doing so prevents the use of cards like Flameblade Adept and of course the Hollow One. With most of best and quickest looting cards being spells the Hollow One deck is a natural fit for Arclight Phoenix. This list needs to push the creature count to the max and so cannot really entertain such things.
The Anger and Wonder combo actually reduce the value of a number of the recursive threats. All the good red Phoenix already have both flying and haste and so their poor synergies make them less worth a slot. The Incarnations are the best bit of the deck and a big part of what makes it so lethal. With most of your deck in the bin you can pretty reliably expect to be able to play or Dread Return a Splinterfright or Golgari Grave Troll into play which will be large enough to one shot people. It is a bit like the old Sutured Ghoul decks in extended Reanimator many many years back before threats got good enough on their own. Literally Akroma was the best recursion target if you were not empowering a Ghoul! Anyway, I digress. Anger and Wonder are amazing but they put a huge burden on your mana base. You simply can't play them if you don't have the good land support and the deck dumps some value at that point. Dragon Breath is a potential alternative to Anger but it is a lot worse. Your spell count is precious and so the type difference between Breath and Anger is an issue as well as the functional differences.
While on the topic of the non-creature spells we might as well cover the two that wound up getting play. Faithless Looting is just all round amazing. It gives you good graveyard filling potential, it lets you get things out of your hand in a controlled way, it is still useful if milled directly into the bin and it is super cheap letting you get into things right away. It is a meek spell but it is the perfect support card. Dread Return is the opposite. It is a bit like cheating, you just get to put cheap useless crappy dorks into the bin and pull out massive game ending ones for free. No mana cost, no card cost, and based on the nature of the deck, something you will see every game before too long! One of the most reasonable cards to be banned in modern!
I really wanted to play Cabal Therapy for that free from the bin feel and also for its ability to sacrifice something in play I wanted dead like a Stitcher's Supplier but it is just too much of a luxury. You have no real idea what they are up to and one blind guess isn't the kind of disruption this deck needs. Just play an Assasin's Trophy or Thoughtsieze if you want disruption. Those will provide far more mileage despite having zero synergy. Collective Brutality is likely the best disruption card is it offers the discard synergy and has both hand and creature hitting modes. It is space efficient and not a total drain on your synergies. Spider Spawning was the other card I really wanted to play but it just isn't the deck for it. Five mana is a lot for the initial cast and seven is just wishful for the recursion. This list doesn't need to get over three mana. I will be doing an article on a less all in version of this deck that is much slower and fewer colours. It will be an undergrowth Golgari midrange affair and it will be able to put Spider Spawning to far better use. It has Crypt of Agadeem which is a spicy undergrowth payoff this tempo list can't exploit. Izoni, Thousand-Eyed is the way to go for this list as you can recur him with the Dread Return for free. The thing is, you don't need him either. Cards like Splinterfright are just better at putting stats into play given their low cost. Izoni is again, better suited to the slower undergrowth plans. Either that or ones that will abuse Phyrexian Altar and Goblin Bombardment in some exotic combo.
So other than the incarnations (Anger and Wonder) and the couple of spells what is good in this list, what are the payoffs for playing so many do nothing self mill gribblies and so few spells? There are two kinds of payoff, the cards that come back from the bin on the cheap and those that become either cheap or massive as a result of a bin full of dorks. In the first group we have Vengevine, Prized Amalgam, Bloodghast, Nether Shadow and Scourge of Nel Toth. All bar the Scourge are pretty low power but they all share two things in common. None of them cost mana to recur and none eat your bin so as to recur either. Both of these things are important and why a number of reasonably good looking options are missing. Mostly these freely recurred dorks empower the Scourge and the Dread Return. They do some chip damage and assist in going wide, providing Wrath protection, that sort of thing. They are not your haymakers or the main focus of the deck. They are more like support cards themselves in many ways even though they need support in working efficiently. It just so happens that the support you play for your main group of payoff cards also supports them and so they become low cost additions. I occasionally chose not to recur them so as to keep sufficient undergrowth for whatever reason.
The focus of the deck is the payoff cards in the latter group. Your cheap undergrowth dorks in the form of Moulderhulk and Ghoul Tree one thee one hand. These are mostly just big and fat but they are abusive when combined with the incarnations. A flying hasting one mana 10/10 is a big step up on what the conventional ceiling on Ghoul Tree is. Moulderhulk was also really good despite being more expensive and smaller. Most of this was a result of how good Cephalid Coliseum is in the deck. Worth playing in a non-land slot if you can't make the mana base work while counting it as a land. The land has never been a bad one and it was the best I have seen it be in this deck by a big margin. It was sacrificed about once a game on average. It was sacrificed nearly 100% of the times it was put into play. Much as these cost reduction threats are nice I didn't feel the need to go all the way to Nemesis of Mortals. Although loads of the deck could have the undergrowth keyword it turns out this list also only has this one card baring the namesake of the deck!
These big payoff cards were great. They gave impressive game ending potential and made the deck impressively threat dense. The star of the show was however the Scourge of Nel Toth. It recurs from the bin cheaply and is an impressive threat without need of empowerment. The sac utility was more of a perk than a drawback. It was the card you could mill into the bin and still easily win with and that made it great. The others you needed to get into the hand and cast or burn your Dread Return on. This made them harder to rely on and more demanding on your game plan. I spent a long time toying with Lotleth Giant. He fits the combo element quite well and can make Dread Return lethal without the need of a combat step. Sadly I think I was trying too hard as if this isn't his deck he probably has no deck. In reality you have plenty enough good threats you can expect to cast that you don't need the Giant.
Beyond that everything was just the cheapest and most effective self mill I could find on the creatures in these colours. I rather liked that aspect of the deck and would change little. There are a few cute cards I might consider as additions in this group too. Mostly they are spells. There are effective but costly options like Cathartic Reunion or the braver Burning Inquiry style of things. I tend to prefer the Impulse style cards that fill up the yard as well in this list. Grisly Salvage is the most potent of those on offer but I would start with Tracker's Instincts as you can use it from the bin. The more cards you include that are blanks in the graveyard the lower the value of your self mill. This list basically only cares about creatures and things with flashback. It has one card that gets back land at you can manage that without needing to mill lands away.
The one drop dorks that fill the bin are all lock in cards. There are no more that seem at all good so you play all the ones you can. The two drops are a little more changeable but I quite like the range and balance my selection offers. You basically either get high self mill or good utility. Glowspore is mediocre, you frequently don't use the ability but it is still nice to have the option. Fuana Shaman is great but it is so slow both in filling the yard and just in general. The pair together give a nicer average of what you want. Likely the most cuttable support dork is the Champion of Wits as at three mana you want to be doing more than setup and especially more than two cards worth of it. Eternalize is certainly not a thing you should look to be doing! Looting is amazing however as it lets you get those cheap fatties into hand.
The deck was great fun and much much harder to play than I expected. A total lack of experience of decks like it almost certainly added to the difficulty I had in playing it. I certainly threw some games with poor play. It is entirely possible I threw even more and didn't even spot my error. Like I said at the start, this deck is a bit of an oddity as I don't know what kind of format it is useful for. All told, that isn't that big of an issue. It is like science for science sake! I learned things, I had fun and perhaps one day I will find more "useful" places to apply the results of this exercise to. The deck is also very powerful. It crushed every fair deck and most of the unfair ones. That is however a lot more meaningless with the inviable nature of this build. Especially given how weak this is to sideboard hate and how poor it is at dealing with problems. You can beat this with a Leyline but you can also just beat it with an Ensnaring Bridge. Power only means something if you can usefully deploy it and this deck will struggle with that. Too much fun not to play around with if you get the chance though. I will certainly be revisiting this and undergrowth things like it again. For reference her is a list of cards I looked at and considered or just made a note of so as to facilitate alternate directions. Some even got played in one of my two versions although they range from the potent to the crap and the suitable all the way through to the wacky;
Nemesis of Mortals
Grapple with the Past
Magus of the Bazaar
Song of the Damned
Crypt of Agadeem
Avatar of Woe
Survival of the Fittest
Commune with the Gods
Sidisi, Blood Tyrant
Bridge from Below
Saturday, 9 February 2019
Heroic Boros .dec
Heroic is a surprisingly strong and diverse archetype in cube. It can be built in most combinations of red, blue, green and white so long as it includes the white. It also has a vast depth of powerful and interesting cards that can trigger heroic. I have called it a surprisingly good archetype as it has several warning flags fundamental to it. Firstly it is an aggressive deck that has few key threat cards and a bunch do nothing buff cards when those threats are not in play. Typically the best aggressive decks have high threat counts and minimal potential do nothing cards. This makes the deck vulnerable to disruption and less consistent. Next up we have relatively few actual heroic cards meaning we can't tweak the balance of buffs to dorks beyond a certain point without seriously hammering the power level of the deck. Lastly the list has pitifully few on theme one drop dorks. Good one drop dorks is why red and white aggro decks are so potent and it just feels wrong limiting yourself to a handful of good ones. I initially planned to do this deck in Bant colours but when I started laying it out the red one drops lured me in. As I refined the deck the green got thinner and thinner to the point where I just cut it for simplicity sake. I find that the simplest versions of decks are a good place to start with the more unfamiliar archetypes and while I have played against heroic decks a number of times I have never piloted one myself until now.
So what is it that makes a heroic deck strong in the face of all these dodgy elements? Well, it is a couple of things that all add up. Many of the heroic cards are highly tuned because the development team is also aware of the natural weakness of creature buff strategies and compensated for that a little. You get to play with some very powerful and cheap cards when you build around them. Next up, the buff cards are incredibly potent for much the same reasons as the heroic dudes but you also get to pick and choose from the whole of magic history rather than being restricted to one block as you are for your threats. You get to tune your buffs to exactly what you want and you get to stay very low to the ground without hurting your power levels. Essentially both your threats and your buffs are a little over tuned and then on top of that you get to scale them both up with the synergies between them. Other perks of the deck include impressive speed. When goldfishing this list tends to outpace most other aggro decks. It trades a little bit of consistency and resilience to disruption for that increased speed. The deck holds its own very well in combat too as the dorks it has typically get powerful fast. Some cheap creature based aggro decks come unstuck in the face of medium to large dorks hitting play on the other side of the board but this one just ploughs on through. The last perk this list has is the burst damage it can output. You can feel relatively safe with some blockers and a good life total and suddenly a small dude gets massive, evasive and double strikes you to death all with just a few mana. Here is the list I played, it has several poor cards I would change in future builds which we will cover along with replacements after;
Launch the Fleet
Gird for Battle
Cartouch of Solidarity
Integrity // Intervention
Vanguard of Brimaz
Hero of Iroas
Tethmos High Priest
City of Brass
I used a lot of the space in the deck to try and compensate for the issues it faces. This means packing lots of protective cards to ensure my heroic dudes survive. It also means finding ways to up the creature count without hurting the game plan and synergies of the deck. This latter issue I was attempting to resolve with bestow creatures. While both buffs and potential threats they are sadly just low powered versions of both. Buffing up a Nyxborn Rollicker sounds like a pretty poor game plan! He was also the best of the bestow cards I played simply for being the cheapest all round. I would probably keep him in future builds but cut the Sheildmate and Warhound. I think I would probably try Everflame Eidolon, Sightless Brawler or even Hopeful Eidolon over the more vanilla ones I played. They are less efficient overall but they all offer something unique you can leverage in games. One or two bestow guys is plenty to help round out the deck a little. At least the bestow cards make Hero of Iroas a little less sad looking as he gets to make use of his cost reduction ability! Perhaps there is an enchantment subtheme (Mesa Enchantress anyone?) you can make work in this deck at which point the bestow dorks jump massively in value.
Luckily you can lean more on protective creatures to bolster your threat count and those are typically a lot higher power than the bestow dorks. I didn't bother playing Mother of Runes or Selfless Spirit as they are fairly known quantities but both/either would obviously be amazing. As I had gone so hard on the bestow dorks I only felt like I needed a tiny bit more in the way of creature cards and just ran Dauntless Bodyguard. He is the most aggressive of the options at least. Even Benevolent Bodyguard is more aggressive than Mother and perhaps even spirit. Low cost did turn out to be a very big deal. For that reason I should absolutely have been playing Mutagenic Growth as one of my buff cards but that is a bit of a tangent.
Playing fewer protective creatures allowed me to play more spells that protect and also therefor trigger heroic! You want to strike a bit of a balance between protection effects and indestructible ones. Typically indestructible are a little better against mass removal and the protection ones a little better against spot removal. The latter can also help force through damage but it does have the downside of potentially removing or fizzling buff effects. Red and white are two removal heavy colours after all! I totally failed to include any protection cards and had an over reliance on Gryf's Boon to force through damage. Emerge Unscathed is the spell of choice for low cost and double heroic trigger potential. Hyena Umbra is another kind of spell that affords protection and heroic triggers and it also has the bonus of being proactive.
Much as many of the sorcery speed buffs are the most powerful they also don't afford that same level of threat to combat. With a couple of mana open you can ensure no creatures of value will block for your opponent until they need to. This means you only want the cream of the crop. I liked the Cartouch for the high power and that it helped increase the body count. Sadly it doesn't do what you need extra bodies to do which is be something useful when you don't have a body! As such I would cut it. Launch the Fleet is a far better tool for making bodies with and you don't even have that much payoff for going wide. Launch is good value but mostly it is about the multiple heroic triggers it affords.
This is why Gird for Battle and Coordinated Assault are so good in the deck. Gird is huge tempo and Assault is a deadly combat trick. It is also why I ran the Conflagrate although in hindsight it was a bit cute. It is nice because you can target any number of things and do them 0 damage so you can trigger all your heroic cards for one mana and then again for another two red. You even have the option on some pinging with extra cards and mana. All nice in theory but a little bit situational to really cut it. This deck is already an aggro deck that needs land threat and enablers rather than just land and threats. Adding in conditional cute cards to that kind of mix is super dodgy. Cauldron Haze is likely a better version of Conflagrate. It is cheaper, more trickery and offers some protection elements.
What might be a better means of getting bonus heroic triggers are the enchantments that you can bounce and replay. The most suitable of which include Crown of Flames, Flickering Ward, Mark of Fury, Conviction and Ghitu Firebreathing. The latter two are a little pricey without a Hero of Iroas in play. The others would likely need fitting in appropriately. Mark of Fury for Wisps or Flickering Ward for a protection card. That sort of thing. These bounce cards give you some solid late game but feel limp early when you are trying to press your advantage most heavily. I think more than one such card would be overdoing it.
Removal is light but that is OK. You plow through most dorks and kill quick enough to mitigate the relevance of many other high priority threats. Arc Trail was included as a high powered card that you can use to trigger you own cards thus upping the value of it somewhat. Integrity // Intervention is also a great split card that allows this deck to stay streamlined while adding to its overall utility. Guilds of Ravnica has helped this deck out more than I would expect. Arena Athlete might even be a better tool to add in that more removal. Sadly it would often feel like a waste using heroic triggers on him. Ordeal of Purphoros is another option on removal that fits into the theme of the deck without lowering the synergies. I quite like it but it does feel clunky. Pyrokinesis is another potentially cute card. It can freely trigger up to four heroic targets and it is also a solid removal card. I felt my list was a little light on red cards to run but it was close.
One thing this list really lacked was global pump. There isn't that much that also triggers heroic which is a shame. With two heroic dudes that churn out 1/1s and Launch the Fleet it feels like you really want more pump than just Phalanx Leader which is already one of your best cards. Perhaps you can make Benalish Marshall work. Perhaps you can just run Glorious Anthem and take the hit on no primary synergies. What might be the best call is to run Anax and Cymede. They don't buff forever but they are decently powerful, on theme and probably enough punch that you only need the one turn with them and some tokens to win. You can easily fit them in as both the other three drops felt underwhelming. Simply too slow to be as one theme as you would want them to be. Fabled Hero is punchy but easy to see coming and block. You are far better off with spells that give doublestrike so as to turn any of your cheaper dorks into instant finishers.
In that light Boros Charm was one of the best cards in the deck. It was protection and a finisher with the doublestrike. It was the last spell I cast in my winning games more than any other. I would strongly consider bolstering that ability count to two in the list with either Temur Battlerage or Double Cleave. The only other obvious inclusions you could make are Monastery Swiftspear and perhaps Soul-Scar Mage. These are semi heroic and don't even need to be targetted! They are both high tempo and high powered cards that could round out the one drop section without having to resort to vanilla 1/1 and 1/2 bestow cards. Even Bomat Courier is probably sufficiently more powerful to consider as an extra early drop although it is in a bit of a different role and is far less on theme. Another land probably isn't a bad call either. While the deck is super cheap it also wants to dump its load very quickly and thus wants to see three lands quickly. I had more bother than I would like with my lands being awkward and preventing optimal curving. I was leaning a little bit hard on my cantrip cards counting for that extra land but this resulted in slowing me down. Here is roughly what I think I would try and run next time with the benefit of hindsight;
Launch the Fleet
Gird for Battle
Integrity // Intervention
Vanguard of Brimaz
Hero of Iroas
Anax and Cymede
City of Brass
Monday, 4 February 2019
Mizzix's Mastery .dec
I did a nice mono red build around of the namesake the other day and thought it would be a brand new deck. What I realized is not only that I had just built another deck, it was that this so called other deck is fundamentally every novel red deck I have done over the last couple of years. Basically the underlying theme of these decks is all the red looting spells and all the red ritual effects. Now these will vary from build to build based on what synergies work best and how deep you need to go on such things. Regardless of the exact balance all the many lists run at least 25% of the deck as these two broad groups of cards, usually more like 40%. Every deck contains Desperate Ritual, Pyretic Ritual, Tormenting Voice and Cathartic Reunion and a few more. Most decks contain most of the other good cards like them which we shall get to. How you actually win with these cards is really quite up to you it would seem. You can pack your list with beaters and have a Runaway Red style of deck. You can have prowess dorks or ones that trigger on casts. You can go for the storm wins with Grape Shot and Empty the Warrens or the pseudo storm wins with cards like Sentinel Tower. You can go big burn with Pyromancer's Goggles or you can go wide burn as this list will show. You can just play big solid threats like Chandras and Dragons and Titans or you can play Mr No Fun and pack all the prison cards and win very slowly. I have even tried to win with Fling although that is the only dodgy build so far using this base. On top of all these red builds you can also dip into other colours for more Rituals, Looting or otherwise ramp and discard synergies. I was too caught up in the method by which the deck won and not the route to it. I thought we had many different mono red and base red decks on our hands but in practice it is one archetype with many possible garnishes and finishing touches that can be made to it. They should probably all come under the umbrella term of ritual red decks. I kind of count Hollow One lists in this group too although they don't want rituals much beyond the Manamorphose. Hollow One decks do at least go nuts on the looting side of the archetype.
The garnish for this list is the casting of Mizzix's Mastery as the title might have given away. The idea is to go through your deck fast and power off a Mastery that will provide enough gas to freely one shot your opponent with burn spells. The lovely thing about this deck is that the burn keeps you highly safe and interactive on your way to going off. There are actually two other more distinct builds using the Mastery and so that is why I am doing this deck tech more about the broader style and less about the mechanism of winning. You can do an Izzet burn style deck like this but focus on control elements rather than speed. Alternatively or additionally to the control route you can go a more combo route and use devastating spells like Time Stretch or Cruel Ultimatum. This plan leans less on the Overload function of Mastery and will happily fire it off at four mana for the one game winning spell. It is the pure combo build as opposed to this, the aggressive combo and the Izzet, which is the control combo. At least it showcases the impressive design of Mizzix's Mastery in that it can have so many distinct uses with their own styles.
Below is a fairly extensive list of the more commonly used tools for these mono red ritual decks. Most lists run most or all of the top five cards from each category and then round out using a selection of the most suitable cards from the rest of the list. Most also lean on a couple of lands, artifacts and even the odd dork to empower everything. Chrome Mox, Lotus Petal, Steam-Kin and the Medallion effects are the most powerful and most commonly seen along with Ancient Tomb and City of Traitors. These supporting ramp cards are so common they are pretty much staples. Being a Mastery deck this list has to focus on the instants and sorceries and cannot have too many cards outside this group. That will largely dictate which ramp and looting cards are used. There are some builds that have a bigger focus on the artifact synergies and so forth.
Wheel of Fortune
Reforge the Soul
Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded
Daretti, Scrap Savant
Rite of Flame
Helm of Awakening
Simian Spirit Guide
Vessel of Volatility
Captain Lannery Storm
City of Traitors
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Koth of the Hammer
A few other commonly seen cards used in this ritual red archetype;
Past in Flames
Act on Impulse
Light the Stage
Flame of Keld
Here is my list;
Rite of Flame
Sensai's Divining Top
Helm of Awakening
Act on Impulse
Past in Flames
City of Traitors
Despite trying to maximize the instant and sorcery count in this deck it only manages to make it to 45%. You could push it a bit further but too much and you compromise on power. We are already having to play cards like Incendiary Command in the instant/sorcery slots while amazing cards like Torch of Defiance and Lotus Petal sit out unplayed. Jaya Ballard seems like the most appropriate planeswalker to give the slot to what with being both a ritual and a loot. This deck is a perfect Steamkin deck as well. Often I would shy away from running just a single dork in a deck. You can so easily make cards dead if you skip playing creatures, they are so common these days most decks dedicate multiple slots for creature specific answers. The thing is Steamkin is so good and so out of nowhere that it is still worth playing. You can abuse it right away so it can be held until safe to deploy. It also takes mana and thus time to kill creatures and so you will be buying yourself time by playing it regardless of what might happen to it. The tempo in magic is such a big deal these days that playing something so good it forces a response is often to your advantage.
Experimental Frenzy is a bit of an odd one in this deck. It is a bit of a liability a lot of the time and utterly nutty when you also have the Divining Top. Sadly that is exactly the situation we find ourselves in when looking at Wheel of Fortune. I was playing the Frenzy (and the Act on Impulse) as a way of trying to loosen the dependence of red combo decks on Wheel. It was one of the only strong red card advantage cards for ages but times are now slowly changing which is nice to see and fun to experiment with. The reason Frenzy is a liability is the sequencing primarily. Either you play something when it is on top or you draw it and lock it away for some time. It makes hitting one of your looting cards a bit scary as you will draw and thus lock away random cards. It can work out when you just fire off some rituals early on but mostly you want the Top. It is also a draw your whole deck combo with Helm of Awakening in play as well which is all the more reason to play it. It is hard not to win when you have all your rituals in hand and all the rest of your gas and a Helm in play. Losing then means you played wrong or built wrong almost all of the time.
Past in Flames is a common element in the more combo and spell orientated versions of the red rituals list. It is surprisingly close to Yawgmoth's Will in potency in unpowered singleton formats. It even works from the bin giving it a significant edge over Will. Past in Flames is what keeps you safe and consistent, all you need to do is work through your deck without dying and you should be able to win just out of the bin. Bonus Round is a newer addition that is working its way into the spell heavy combo iterations of ritual red. Things just get wildly out of hand very fast with it. It is not unlike when a mono blue storm deck flops out the High Tide. Your spells scale a lot more purely and directly with Bonus Round. Pyretic Ritual suddenly costs two and makes six! Tormenting Voice is two mana for four cards (still at the cost of one plus the Voice). Your deck becomes better than Black Lotus and Ancestral Recalls! With these great scaling cards like Frenzy, Steamkin and Bonus Round combined with burst mana the deck can win at any time almost out of nowhere. It can win with a couple of mana and a couple of cards or it can win with like five mana and no cards if it gets lucky. A few more resources in any pile and the luck needed rapidly falls off. Bonus Round also take a lot of the strain off the Past in Flames. You used to struggle to graveyard hate and running out of gas but a well placed Bonus Round gives you all the gas you need without ever having to touch your bin.
This list is super simple in its plan. Go through as much of your deck as quickly as you can and find 20 points of burn along the way you can aim at face. This can be 10 with a Bonus Round or it can be all 20 from the bin with a Mizzix's Mastery allowing you to aim it at enemy threats the first time round so as to stay alive. The deck might look like it has limited burn and might struggle against lifegain but given you have the ability to flash all your burn back and the Bonus Round as well if you time it all perfectly you have I think six times the total burn count in the deck (I think as a flashed back bonus round in the same turn would itself be forked and thus give three active bonus rounds for all your flashback spells, that would be four times the value for all them plus two times the value on them first time round. What looks like not enough damage to kill someone is actually enough to kill comfortably through anything other than infinite life gain. The list only has 15 to 17 burn initially depending on how you count the Firebolt but we can put out upwards of 75 and comfortably manage forty in a game.
Part of why this ritual red archetype is so successful in cube relative to other formats is redundancy. While the black rituals are much better than the red ones there are only two of them in singleton. Blue might have the better card quality but when it comes to looting effects red is taking over rather, or rummage effects at least. Blue has better creatures for the job but worse planeswalkers and fewer spells. Blue is also less flexible than red and despite having a lot of good filtering and looting finds it a lot harder to convert that into a win. Blue normally needs to pair with another colour for the win conditions. Red has multiple ways it can go about winning and it has the appropriate looting and rituals all in house. This adds consistency all over the shop. Blue card quality does a lot of different things, some mills to the bin, some back into the library, some loots from the hand. Red basically all loots, mostly rummages. Yes, Chart a Course is way better than Tormenting Voice but having access to multiple Tormenting Voice effects lets you really focus on synergies. What does a blue deck do with a graveyard full of Mental Note, Frantic Search, Chart a Course, Careful Study and Strategic Planning do? Probably play red to capitalize....
It would seem in cube that base and mono red decks come in two broad forms. The aggressive ones that take advantage of the effective tempo and modal reach properties of burn to win games and those discussed in this article which use rituals and looting to power out some winning synergy. Both are great starting points for making top rate cube decks. Both are surprisingly consistent and redundant and both also have a surprising range within that broader plan. The former gives rise to classic RDW lists, burn lists, go wide weenie decks, most forms of tribal goblins as well as some flavours of prowess/Kiln Fiend decks. I would also argue that midrange red decks are an extension of this plan but that is getting to be more about semantics than anything else. The latter style of red deck with the looting and ritual base gives rise to all those I mentioned at the start of this essay ranging from red storm all the way through to Runaway red passing by all manner of quirky decks on the way like prison and Goggles! Even Hollow One and Goblin Welder have strong roots in the same base support cards. Red is an impressively diverse colour these days, arguably the most diverse. This list is a good example of a ritual / looting build but there are many more! Just scan back through the .dec articles of the last few years, well since Kaladesh really, and you will find multiple examples of more looting / ritual decks in red. I even have another one in draft form due for publication soon.
I am a little caught up in this new found understanding of red builds, not because it changes anything much about the decks, the games or anything like that. I just find that obtaining a fundamental understanding of how things go together, scale or any thing like that to greatly improve my understanding of the game. It will help me in almost every aspect of Magic from reviews to conceptions of fun things to do. This is a big part of why I do some obscurely specific top X lists. I find by comparing a bunch of cards with similar effects that you really distill the function out. By doing them I gain a fuller appreciation of the strengths and weaknesses of the card. Good examples of this have been my top X lists on groups of removal spells, card quality spells and the three mana green value dorks. I have found it useful because it forces me to come at the cards from a different direction. Generally we all learn new cards in a top down way. We know how to play magic and probably to some extent the kind of deck we are playing. Whenever we encounter a new card in play and are forced into considering it we are doing so in a context we already understand. We are fitting that new thing into that rather than understanding it fully as what it is. Top X lists force me to look at cards in a more isolated way and consider what they are doing generally. You build up a picture of why you play a card and what you want it to do and from that it becomes far clearer which cards are the best in a group for doing that. It also illuminates why some cards are so much better in some settings than others. Card quality has perhaps been the most stark in change. I thought I knew the difference between a Ponder, a Brainstorm, a Serum Visions and a Sleight of Hand having played with such cards extensively and competitively but not until I tried to put it into words did I really appreciate the nuances. These cards are some of the most prone to top down learning not being revealing. When you cast a Serum Visions you are entirely thinking about the cards you are looking at, facing down and that are elsewhere in the game. You are not thinking about the Serum Visions itself. When you think about casting it in the first place all you are really taking into account is when you want to spend that mana, sometimes at a push when you want to trigger prowess or storm count but again it is not so much about what it does. You would cast a Sleight of Hand guided by the exact same logic, it is only when you are faced with a choice of playing either Sleight or Visions that you really think about what the cards do. A great example of this is a recent change some pro players made to a Dimir Death's Shadow deck in legacy. They replaced one, perhaps two Ponder with Preordain. Their reasoning was a low land count and no desire to go above two lands. This meant that a Ponder done with two lands in play would be far less likely to freely benefit from the shuffle of a sac land and so lost value as a result. This kind of subtle improvement that might even go in the face of commonly conceived ideas is only possible with that deeper understanding of what you are trying to do with a card and how that card is able to do that for you. The main takeaway in cube is that most people overrate Brainstorm and Ponder because they are the premium card quality spells in other formats due to abundance of free shuffle effects. So, a massive tangent there simply to try and highlight why it is useful to understand things like core deck structure and how archetypes are linked even if you are perfectly capable of building those decks well without that knowledge. I don't yet know how my new found appreciation of red archetype foundations will improve my game, analysis, or creativity but I am confidant that it will.
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