Sunday 28 July 2019

Desecrated Tomb Zombies .dec

Desecrated TombI set out to build a deck based around Desecrated Tomb but instead wound up doing a refined version of my undergrowth dredge build as found here;

This build and article predates the Mythic Championship IV and Modern Horizons by a long time, I built this deck around the start of the year and just had too much reviewing going on to get round to posting it. With Hogaak now on the scene the greater community has mapped this archetype out rather better and I will be posting some Jund and Sultai Hogaak builds soon that are less of a gimmick than this list and less of a wishful mess than the four colour undergrowth deck. Given how powerful these silly unrefined lists have been in cube I suspect the sensible three colour builds to be brutal top tier affairs. Now, back to this list.

Stitcher's SupplierNot only is this a graveyard based deck but this also has a tribal theme of zombies as teh title may have hinted at. Excitingly the tribal thing arose naturally rather than being forced. It just so happened that a lot of the cards I wanted to use in my Desecrated Tomb deck were already zombies and so it was free synergy if I wanted to build upon that angle. Historically most zombie decks have felt forced and clunky. There are so many zombies on offer it feels criminal playing non-zombies in a tribal deck when you set out to build a zombie deck. This being a Desecrated Tomb deck freed me from the strict allegiance to exclusively zombie typed creatures! As such the end result felt a lot more streamlined and purposeful.

It even looked sufficiently good on paper that I felt I didn't need to go nuts empowering the namesake of the deck. I had planned on ramming in Tutors and recursion for it so as to get my payoff but the deck had so much else going on with the synergies that it seemed best to just have it be good when I draw it and leave it at that. I certainly milled Desecrated Tomb myself more than I cast it but it was also absolutely outstanding when I did play it. Sai, Master Thopterist has proven that three mana cards that generate 1/1 fliers are pretty darn good. Desecrated Tomb has some significant perks over Sai as well. Not being a creature makes it harder to deal with once in play. Not needing to play cards also makes it much easier to fuel the Tomb.

GravecrawlerEasier is a risky word to use and should probably have been "more efficient". Drawing cards so as to be able to play out cheap artifacts for Sai to trigger is relatively expensive business. In most cases, even a lot of the more combo orientated ones you don't expect to go that nuts on making tokens. Tomb however just needs things leaving the bin. It is a lot cheaper to mill yourself than it is to draw cards. There are also plenty of great payoffs on the back of cheap ways to remove dorks from the bin. Gravecrawler plus another zombie and a Phyrexian Altar for example is infinite bats! I didn't even bother with the Altar as the deck is more aggressive than combo. Just using any old sac outlet and being able to pay a black mana for a bat on repeat is going to win most games pretty easily. Back to the point, which is that while you need to go through a couple more hoops to get returns on Tomb when compared to Sai, the returns for doing so are more rapid and abundant and will close out a game that much more reliably.

Overall this deck is very tricksy. It fronts like a typical black aggressive deck but then quickly turns into going nutty and killing like a hardened scales deck out of nowhere or it turns into a grindfest fighting it out over value and efficiency. This latter plan also typically ends up in the favour of this deck unless it is facing disruption. That, like so many synergy decks in 40 card builds, is the main issue this list has. It is disruption light and vulnerable to disruption as well. The deck is incredibly option dense for an aggressive deck as it has so much action from the graveyard. Choosing what and if to discard from hand as well affords yet more high relevance option density. For a linear and relatively uninteractive aggro deck this list sure is complicated! If played well however it is impressively strong being able to race very well, do unfair looking things, and duke it out over a long game too.
Graveyard Marshal

25 Spells

Carrion Feeder
Crypt Breaker
Stitcher's Supplier

Deathrite Shaman
Putrid Imp
Dread Wanderer

Plague BelcherPriest of Forgotten Gods
Nether Traitor
Graveyard Marshal

Satyr Wayfinder
Lotleth Troll
Grapple with the Past
Grisley Salvage

Collective Brutality

Desecrated Tomb
Lord of the Undead
Liliana, Heretical Healer
Plague Belcher

Liliana, Untouched by Death
Crypt of Agadeem
Scourge of Nel Toth
Gurmag Angler

15 Lands

Volrath's Stronghold
Phyrexian Tower
Crypt of Agadeem
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Basics and Duals

Grisly Salvage
The list is far from refined despite feeling streamlined to play. I have only done things close to it a handful of times and so I am light on experience to draw on. To get a list like this looking good you not only need to work out what the best cards are but you also have to work out the ideal ratios of things like self mill, discard outlets, sac outlets, etc in addition to all the usual things like curve, threats, disruption, mana etc. All told I expect this list can be improved upon more than most I put up. I know that the self mill element is near impossible to get right as things currently stand. While there are great tools to do this very few of these tools are high tempo cards. If you could play 3 or 4 Stitcher's Supplier then that would be problem solved. As it stands you have to play cards like Grisly Salvage in your aggro deck. While they do wonders for your consistency they do undermine the aggression a little. I have tried to go a little leaner on the self mill for this reason and attempted to make up for this with more discard effects. This is rather more draining on resources and leads to you leaning a bit more on your card draw tools. With there being so much value potential in the graveyard recursion cards you don't really feel like you need much card draw either. All one big juggling act. Really the deck just wants more playable cheap self mill zombies.

Liliana, Untouched by DeathAs with any synergy deck it is key to keep your concentration of participating cards as high as possible. With lands rarely being a part of such things it is typically hard to get above 50%. This list manages exactly 50% as it is leaning on creatures - the most abundant card type. This greatly increases the value on utility creatures and cards that can perform multiple roles. Skinrender is a relatively poor card by cube standards these days. It is only in this list because it ticks all the support boxes; it is black, it is a zombie, it is a creature, it has a spell effect. I would love to have found room for more such cards, especially ones with hand disruption effects. Sadly there just wasn't the room given all the things this deck is trying to do.

The deck has a lot of generic recursion as well as cards that recur themselves. This combined with the self mill makes you fairly able to find specific cards. As such a single disruptive addition goes a fairly long way. Gurmag Angler is probably the most cuttable card from the deck. You don't want to exile more than one creature at a time with the Tomb but more importantly you don't want to exile that many of your cards. Most have a use and so getting rid of a load is more of a cost than usual. Especailly when the payoff for Angler isn't all that impressive, it is just a 5/5 with no other value. Tarmogoyf probably outperforms it a lot of the time! With that six month delay on releasing this article we also now have Hogaak who is an obvious replacement for Angler, or any of the top end really!

Priest of Forgotten GodsAt the other end of the spectrum we have the standout cards. Priest of Forgotten Gods is certainly one of those. This list has near endless fuel and so Priest feels a lot like it has no cost beyond tapping it. Suffice it to say that it wins games all by itself. It hits your opponent everywhere while powering you up. It is a must kill card. Crypt of Agadeem also shines bright in this deck. It can fairly quickly output a lot of mana and while this deck does have a lot of cheap cards it also has plenty of mana sinks. Two of the other standout cards are ways of putting your free stuff to use. Carrion Feeder, as ever in cube, is one of the best sac outlets. The card gets huge quickly and is one of your most dangerous threats. I won a lot of games with the mana from Crypt making a vast Feeder via a Gravecrawler. Phyrexian Tower also shone as a different kind of sac outlet. It simply allowed for a lot of options and cool plays. When a sac is generally low cost and sometimes a perk the resultant average performance equates to a land that simply taps for BB which is obviously obscenely potent, even if it can't on turn one.

Scourge of Nel TothScourge of Nel Toth is a standout card again as it was in the undergrowth dredge list. It is the original Hogaak and even if it isn't quite as impressive it is still a brutal card in this list. Being a card you can recur from the bin and a sac outlet it has a lot of synergy overlap. On top of that it is a fatty you can cheat the cost on. While this archetype has those in abundance it does not have cheap fatties with evasion built in and that is really what pushes this dragon over the top. It makes it one of the more reliable finishers. It doesn't matter if you mill or discard it like the Tomb nor does it fail against a board stall like the Angler or Molderhulk.

Then there are the standout one drops. Obviously Stitcher's Supplier is the perfect support card we want more of. It isn't exciting but it is a big part of why this kind of thing is even viable. Cryptbreaker is the other big name in the one drops. It is good in zombie decks and it is good in decks that want more discard outlets and so it is already starting from a really good place, not to mention also being a cheap black zombie itself! What really pushes the otherwise good card is that you can do so much in a turn. I was able to use Gravecrawler as part of a "tap 3 zombies to draw a card" more than once in the same turn on multiple occasions. Scourge of Nel Toth didn't need improving but it is still lovely when it comes into play with an extra third of a card! Cryptbreaker is so good it puts a bit of a damper on zombies that come in tapped as per Marshall tokens and Wanderer.

Here is a list of the things I considered playing but didn't wind up in the final list this time around. I will absolutely be revisiting this archetype repeatedly and starting soon. Lots of fun and lots going on with lots still to learn. This was good as a graveyard deck and also the best tribal zombie list I have ever built. Sadly the best version of this deck, while containing plenty of zombies, will not really be any sort of tribal deck. It will rather more obviously resemble the modern incarnations of Hogaak lists as they are at the time of Mythic Championship IV or those just before the banning of Bridge from Below. The only real thing left is to determine for 40 card singleton compared to the more solved modern lists is which cards from outside of modern will be good for the deck and which others from within modern that are not presently played will be needed to fill out the ranks. Also whether red or blue is the preferred third colour although I strongly suspect it is blue with it's superior number of self mill and looting one and two drop dorks.

Relentless Dead

Corpse Churn
Embalmer's Tools
Scavenging Ooze
Liliana, the Last Hope
Liliana, Death's Majesty
Lord of the Accursed
Barrow Ghoul
Zombie Infestation
Heir of Falkenrath
Ashen Ghoul
Barrow GhoulDreg Mangler
Entrails Feaster
Grave Scrabbler
Midnight Reaper
Nantuko Husk / Ghoul
Relentless Dead
Rotting Giant
Rotting Rats
Shambling Shell
Skirk Ridge Exhumer
Undead Gladiator
Spider Spawning
Dread Return

Monday 22 July 2019

Tribal Chandra .dec

Chandra, Acolyte of FlameThis is a meme deck I made purely for the joy of creating. Turned out to be surprisingly brutal, especially in oathbreaker formats! The idea started out simply trying to play as many Chandra themed cards as possible without building an actually unplayable deck. About half way through that build I found I wanted to make use of more planeswalkers ultimately resulting in a dragon sub-theme. The new Acolyte of Flame is ever so pleasing to play with other red planeswalkers and Sarkhan the Masterless becomes utterly busted when you have many other walkers on the board. Due to this deck looking pretty clunky what with being a planeswalker and dragon themed deck, most of which start coming in at the four mana mark, I lot of early ramp was included. Looting effects and a big top end incentivize a high land count. Those in combination with any of the walkers that can generate mana allowed things to get very out of hand far too quickly for opponents to cope with. How does two planeswalkers on turn three sounds? nasty? How about turn two then? Pretty unrecoverable on both accounts it seems and that sort of thing was happening with alarming regularity. Torch of Defiance and Acolyte of Flame both had a go at being the Oathbreaker and both had their merits. Ultimately Acolyte is more synergy and fun but Torch is more powerful. It was hard to trump Chandra's Triumph as the signature spell at least, regardless of the flavour of Chandra being run. This is just the standard cube version I ran.

Chandra's Triumph
Sarkhan the Masterless

23 Spells

Chrome Mox

Lightning Bolt

Chandra's Regulator
Oath of Chandra
Chandra's Triumph
Ruby Medallion
Mind Stone
Chandra's Embercat
Chandra's Pyrohelix

Chandra's Phoenix
Chandra, Acolyte of Flame
Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh
Sarkhan, Fireblood
Sweltering Suns

Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Chandra, Novice Pyromancer
Koth of the Hammer
Verix / Thunderbreak Regent

Sarkhan, the Masterless
Skargan Hellkite

Chandra, Flamecaller
Chandra, Awakened Inferno

17 Mountains

Ruby MedallionThe two best cards by a mile were Ruby Medallion and Chrome Mox. It made me want to run Mox Diamond as well despite the card disadvantage. The burst these cards provided is what made the whole thing so oppressive and so focusing on that aspect is no bad thing. In fair formats (non-combo) ramping planeswalkers out tends to be one of the more oppressive things you can do and this list was one of the best at doing it. Other cards that have been run in this sphere include Ancient Tomb, although this hurts Koth and can be awkward with heavy red cards. It makes you want to play red producing mana rocks like Talisman and Fire Diamond over colourless alternatives. Various rituals also appeal but they are generally further down the line than more ongoing ramp what with this broadly being a midrange deck.

If you are looking for space for other cards the easy cuts are all Chandra cards. It likely allows you to improve the deck but does detract from the elegance and meme aspects. Flamecaller is simply a little outclassed these days and might be better off as a Pyroclasm or Fiery Confluence. Fire of Kaladesh is a good card but much more of an aggressive one than a midrange one, she doesn't overly fit with the theme of the list. The Phoenix is cuttable too as it isn't supported that heavily and isn't that powerful of a card. It is a nice bit of flexibility offering value or pressure as you require but it is rather wishing there was a tad more looting on offer. A Faithless Looting is always welcome and would be a fine addition to this list, as would Seasoned Pyromancer. Either of these would make the Phoenix that little more reliable on the value front. Pyrohelix is a fairly easy cut too, there are just better burn spells you can run from Arc Trail to Forked Bolt to Abrade to Burst Lightning to Chain Lightning to Pyrokenis....

Chandra, PyromasterIf on the other hand you want to up the meme level of the deck both Chandra, Pyromaster and Chandra, Flame Artisan are high powered Chandra cards I didn't manage to find space for. They are certainly more powerful than a lot of the Chandra cards already in the deck and no less off theme than the low end of the Chandra cards like Fire of Kaladesh.

The worst thing about the deck is how little time you get to enjoy all your cool cards. When it gets ahead it wins very quickly indeed and it seems incredibly good at getting ahead quickly. Even when you are not ramping out multiple walkers on the same turn ahead of time you are still often flopping out a walker ahead of time and using it to produce mana so as to make further tempo plays. Especially common in oathbreaker is making Torch on turn three and adding two red and do five damage to the only relevant card on your opponents board. Without a very strong response this is usually game over.

Chandra's RegulatorIt was Chandra's Regulator that really made me want to build this deck. Acolyte too but I will get to play with her plenty in the cube as she is such a strong stand alone. I didn't get to play with the Regulator as much as I would have liked, in part due to lack of drawing it but also due to how quickly you win with it when you have it out! I had a lot of fun using Regulator with the growing effect on Acolyte for some surprise ultimate abilities and that was lovely.           

Red midrange decks have become pretty fearsome in cube these days. They have good tempo, reasonable value, and high power. They also have the added bonus of still having a bunch of direct damage and incidental damage. If a planeswalker survives a little too long or Oath of Chandra does a little bit too much work then without really trying to apply pressure you will find your opponents well within burst range. Suddenly aim a removal spell or two at face along with a planeswalker activation and perhaps toss in a hasting dragon and that is all she wrote. A game that was close and should have gone long is just over. This capability is well known and so people have to play against your midrange deck overly cautiously which is easily exploitable. It was only three or four years ago that a midrange red deck was a pretty meme thing in itself. Now the archetype is one of the best that sit in the midrange camp. In many ways it is more of an argument in favour of increasing starting life total to 24 or 25 that it is a plug for the archetype! Red very much continues to be the best colour in my cube.

Oath of Chandra
As for "tribal" planeswalker decks I am a big fan. I hope we see more cards that empower a specific type of walker as we have with Regulator, Embercat. and Acolyte of Flame for Chandra. I love tribal decks and getting to play a tribal deck that didn't revolve around creatures was delightful. It was fresh and fun and far more powerful than expected. The idea of tribal walkers is only really just becoming a thing. Chandra is the perfect candidate to launch it with having the most planeswalker iterations and cards with her name on them. Only really the main gatewatch characters have much of a shot at making a good tribal planeswalker in the near future and they will need to be pushed at least as much by a set as Core 2020 has done for Chandra. Jace is the next most common but it would be harder to frame an archetype around his cards. We are probably better off looking towards Liliana or Nissa for our next planeswalker to get heavy support in a tribal kind of way. They would probably need some better offerings in the four slot, at the very least more options there. Perhaps the Commander series of product is a good way to launch these things what with them having most appeal to the casual market. Regardless, I hope to see more. If you like tribal decks then I expect you will like planeswalker iterations.

Tuesday 16 July 2019

Ninjas .dec

I have played with plenty of Ninjas in my time. Who doesn't love them? Cool as they might be they are not all that good and never really were if we are honest with ourselves. I wrote this well before the Modern Horizons spoilers started and obviously now we have some rather spicier new ninja at our disposal. I will account for this at the end of the article and proffer an undated list.

There was not enough ninja and there was no real reason to build around the tribe. Then I saw a Commander's Quarters episode on a Yuriko commander deck and thought it would translate into cube fairly well. Yuriko does provide good reasons to play with Ninjas as a tribe with potent payoffs on offer. Due to not having the card as a commander the synergies had to be toned down rather but I was a big fan of the resulting deck. It is the first time I have translated a commander deck to cube despite having done countless translations from standard, legacy, vintage and modern. I suspect I will be doing more based on the fun and success of this list.

Yuriko, the Tiger's ShadowSo what is the plan for this deck? Broadly speaking it is a tempo based Dimir deck that houses some nice synergies. It has a lot of value through those synergies as well as a lot of reach. The deck uses cheap evasive dorks to allow you to ninjitsu out cards easily. It uses things that give evasion to let ninja cards in play continue to do work too. It then uses some cards with unusually high CMC and library manipulation to pull out a massive Yuriko hit. This last part is very lightly supported and uses cards that are otherwise good to do so as it is a little bit of a win more synergy. That being said it does give you confidence going into a race and massively ups the threat value of your low power evasive cards. Another good ninja synergy is dorks with EtB effects that you can reuse should you get to bounce them with the ninjitsu. What with this also falling into the win more camp this is a synergy that is only very lightly addressed.

This kind of deck is typically weak to other tempo creature decks as blue and black creatures are less good at generating tempo than the Naya colours. The ninja variant seemed better equipped to handle other creature decks. It blocks the cheaper aggressive creatures fairly well and can effectively disrupt and then race the decks packing meatier dorks. As such this list seems to have favourable matches against aggro, midrange and control for the most part. It would however lose a lot of game against combo when compared with many other Dimir tempo builds but you can't have it all! Here is my list as of pre Horizons;

Ninja of the Deep Hours

24 Spells

Mothdust Changeling
Siren Stormtamer
Fatal Push
Vampiric Tutor
Inquisition of Kozilek

Baleful Strix
Looter il-Kor
Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive
Surge Mare
Collective Brutality

Thassa, God of the Sea
Never // Return
Mistblade Shinobi
Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow
Thief of Sanity
Vendilion Clique

Ninja of the Deep Hours
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Hostage Taker
Whirler Rogue

Temporal Trespass

16 Lands

Mothdust ChangelingComically the MVP of the list was the Mothdust Changeling. It really did it all. It is an evasive one drop that will easily assist a ninjitsu trigger and secure a hit with Yuriko or Deep Hours. If you manage to get your Yuriko out then Mothdust acts as an evasive ninja itself and can be one of the most dangerous threats you have. Horizons not only brought us new ninja cards but also new changeling cards and so we have some extra redundancy for that side of the deck going forwards too. The other one drop dorks all do work in the list too. Stormtamer protects your key ninjas and Wingcrafter helps to get them through after their initial hit.  Vampiric Tutor is a little heavy handed but it sets up a big Yuriko hit nicely as well as finding it in the first place for you. A smattering of card quality, hand disruption and removal round out the non-creature complement of the one drops nicely.

In the two slot we have some more potent evasive and utility dorks as well as some value in the EtB effect of Baleful Strix. Tetsuko Umezawa is outstanding in this list. She gives most of your ninjas complete evasion as well as a lot of your other cards and she does all this while costing little and having a nice solid body.

Tetsuko Umezawa, FugitiveThief of Sanity just works well in the list given that it is also a high value card you want to make connect with face. The protective and evasion granting tools empower Thief while in turn it taxes the removal of your opponents and increases the chances it or a ninja are doing work. Thassa is a bit of everything. Some card quality, some evasion, and a decent chance of being a massive body to hold the board. Clique is a bit of everything too being disruption or card quality, an EtB effect to recur, an evasive body to ninjitsu with, and just a good stand alone card. Whirler Rogue also does a great job of being an all rounder. It offers a good degree of stats and board presence, has and gives evasion, and has an EtB effect that is nice to reuse. One of the best things about Rogue is that the evasion it offers is no mana cost and as such can allow you to make big plays with ninjas and EtB effects.

Never // Return is reasonably low powered removal in this list being fairly low tempo however it has a lovely CMC of 7 when flipped with a Yuirko trigger. There are a bunch of other split cards like this that work well to give you more options on big damage hits. Typically they are a minor downgrade on a best in slot effect and so you don't want to go over board on such things. Discovery // Dispersal could well replace the Preordain in this list. You would gain utility and payoff potential but you would lose some tempo, potency and consistency for doing so. We are talking very minor amounts of all these things but it will add up fast across a couple of cards.

Temporal TrespassDelve cards are another great way to cheat on your CMC and thus get some naughty Yuriko hits. Temporal Trespass does feel like the very best on offer. Not only is it the highest CMC of the delve cards but it also does what you most want. Things like Gurmag Angler are just big dorks and offer no real synergy. Cruise and Dig are value but you have plenty of that already. Murderous Cut is great but it isn't that high of a CMC and you have plenty of other good options on spot removal. With this list not being one heavily able to fuel delve I am reluctant to play more than one delve card and so Trespass gets the nod.

Jace is in the list for two reasons. Firstly I wanted a Brainstorm effect so as to setup Yuriko hits on big cards. Secondly I wanted a planeswalker in the list so as to have better threat diversity. Mind Sculptor is the most well suited to what the deck is trying to do of any on colour walker and conveniently has one of the highest power levels on offer too! Below is a list of the cards I considered for this list. They are generally similar to those already in the list and fall into one or more of the categories of; cheap evasive dork, high CMC relative to real cost of playing, a ninja, an EtB effect, and/or disruption. I leaned towards blue cards in the build to support Thassa hence not playing some of the lovely black fliers main.

Kitesail Freebooter
Shadowmage Infiltrator
Merfolk Trickster
Nightveil Sprite
Mausoleum Wanderer
Pilfering Imp
Kitesail Freebooter
Connive // Concoct
Discovery// Dispersal
Commit // Memory
Force of Will
Walker of the Secret Ways
Jace, Cunning Castaway
Waterfront Bouncer
Higure, the Still Wind

Nightveil SpriteI liked how this list functioned. It had enough synergy going on to give you things to be working towards. It had a lot of potential power and a lot of interaction from the synergy however it was not reliant on it at all. The deck functioned well simply as a Dimir tempo deck. It had sufficiently high powered cards and a good rounding of interaction to allow it to go toe to toe without ninja abuses. The synergies were worth including and added a lot to the deck without taking much away from it. It is a deck that can play fair or unfair as the situation commands. It has very good matchups in some places and the ability to compete in others. Dimir tempo is typically good against control and bad against a red aggro deck. This is just as good against control as a more conventional tempo list and while it might be weaker in a lot of ways to the red aggro deck it can just aim for full combo mode and easily race the red deck. It is able to play a 0/4 and a 0/5 because the potential damage output of Yuriko and this helps offset having a lot of 1/1s in the deck against the aggressive lists even when not combo-ing off. The main deck has a lot of replaceable cards and non-essentials and there is a significant number of alternate options too meaning this is a build I can revisit frequently and still have a new experience without compromise on power. That and the ability to tweak it according to meta requirements.

Fallen ShinobiHere is a first pass at how I would look to build it now with a deeper pool of high powered ninja on offer;

24 Spells

Chrome Mox

Mothdust Changeling
Changeling Outcast
Siren Stormtamer
Fatal Push
Vampiric Tutor
Inquisition of Kozilek

Baleful Strix
Looter il-Kor
Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive
Changeling OutcastSpellskite
Kitesail Freebooter

Never // Return
Mistblade Shinobi
Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow
Mist-Syndicate Naga

Ninja of the Deep Hours
Ingenious Infiltrator
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Hostage Taker
Whirler Rogue

Fallen Shinobi

Temporal Trespass

16 Lands

Mist-Syndicate NagaI have cut Thief of Sanity, Vendilion Clique, Thassa, God of the Sea, Preordain, Surge Mare, and Collective Brutality. For these I have added in Chrome Mox, three new ninja, Changeling Outcast and Kitesail Freebooter. We have more reasons to have ninja connecting with Ingenious Infiltrator. This makes the changelings better and means we can expect more card advantage coming through our attacks. This supports the Mox addition and Preordain cuts reasonably. Mox is really nice for powering out the snowball cards which can simply be card draw ones but is most notably Mist-Syndicate Naga which needs to be answered urgently! The Mox also helps support the increase in cost of the deck. Not just the slight CMC average increase but also the fact that with more ninjitsu on the go more things will need playing twice. With more ninjitsu we needed more dorks and early ones hence the addition of Freebooter over Brutality. I would like to add in another one or two drop dork that fits the bill but nothing sprang to mind and cuts are hard! Thief of Sanity was an easy cut as Fallen Shinobi does much the same sort of thing. Thassa and the supporting Surge Mare got cut simply for being a little unreliable and likely at the low end of the power and performance end of the deck. I want to fit in Cunning Evasion to this list but it looks like it would need a total rework rather than this simple update. Cunning Evasion is nuts with ninja cards but you probably want to support it more directly than the ninjas and include more cheaper creature cards with more EtB (and leaves play) effects and less evasion. This new list looks like there is much more reason to be doing it and seems to pack a lot more punch with a wide array of dangerous looking angles of attack.

Tuesday 9 July 2019

The Combo Cube

TinkerI have spent the last couple on months on a side project which as the title suggests is a combo cube. The premise is fairly simple, it is a cube that only supports combo archetypes. While there are many challenges in designing and balancing a combo cube the project was a resounding success. While it was certainly not as fair and balanced as my normal drafting cube it did exactly what I wanted it too by the end of the project. It was more polar and a little more random but it made up for that with vast diversity in game play and deck building. It was a delightfully refreshing change to my conventional cube and gave some memorable and exotic games.

I elected to use the exact same ban list that I use for my normal cube* essentially cutting the power from the equation yet it felt like powered cubes tend to feel. It had that craziness without the one sided nature. It was also vastly closer in balance to my normal cube than it was to any silly powered cube I have played. When I wanted to mix things up in the past I would do some sort of powered event, now I suspect I will lean towards commander style events or ones using this combo cube. Here is the list I ended up with after much cutting and adding over the time. The blog of the cube details much of these changes if any are interested in the design process. It is not as well tuned as it could be but it is a solid starting place to further refine from. Introducing The Combo Cube;

Enduring RenewalThis is certainly not the first time this has been done. I took inspiration from a couple of other cube tutor lists, one of which was clearly very well tuned and loved. This is just my take on the idea. I can thoroughly recommend it as a refreshingly different and fun way to play Magic. I don't think it the only thing you should play but I think mixing it in with your other Magic will increase the overall enjoyment! A great nostalgia trip as well for any longstanding players of the game. The main downside of this cube is cost. Even if you have an unpowered cube as a starting place you will need a lot more cards (400 or so) to make the change over and most of those cards are expensive for one reason or another. If you have the cards or are happy with proxies of some flavour then that is not an issue.

The rest of this article will be covering some of the design choices and parameters of The Combo Cube. If that is of no interest then read no further! There were a lot of issues to overcome with this design project, some evident from the outset and others that arose through testing. The most obvious one was that the cube shouldn't be too big. With many combos requiring specific cards you want to have a decent chance of seeing them in a draft. I find 360 card cubes or those little bigger to have very short longevity and draft in a less satisfying way. I have always liked a 540 minimum for variation and consistency balance. For the midrange cube the difference between 540 and 720 is minimal and only really changes things in terms of the value of the good one drops! For the combo cube it felt much more important to stay close to the 540 mark.

Vampiric TutorThis in turn meant that space efficiency was going to be important. This was done all over the place with a variety of strategies. An example is playing things like Vivid lands and most of the lands that tap for any colour in place of lands that just tap for two specific colours. I played a lot less lands overall as well to further save space. Much as I don't rate fixing any less in this format than for others picking up dual lands is a bit of a luxury. You just need to have more picks and options on cards for your non-land cards to balance the deck consistency appropriately with the colour consistency. Being able to cast your spells is only relevant if you have a deck capable of winning! It is noteworthy that the average land count for decks built in the combo cube is over a land less than it is for my midrange cube, and probably closer to the two lands less mark. This means you need more playable non-land cards from the draft as well further incentivizing a lower land count than normal. That being said I run a massive amount of lands in my midrange cube so those that I have in the combo cube probably just look fairly normal to many people.

Hallowed MoonlightKeeping other non-combo game plans out of the equation was another big issue although it did help with keeping the card count down. In a format focused around combo a control deck or aggro deck can run riot if you let it slip through the cracks. It is fairly easy to keep the aggressive decks back but you do have to pay attention to it. It means playing things like Hallowed Moonlight in place of the more potent Containment Priest and that kind of thing. If you have too many useful utility dorks, especially the disruptive ones, then that kind of deck will do very well. Offending cards are Phyrexian Revoker, too many Mesmeric Fiend style cards and the like. These just rip apart any combo game plan and then impose enough of a clock that they can win reliably. In a field of unsuspecting combo decks an aggro deck does not need efficient Monastery Swiftspear beatdown to come out ahead, it can get there with a couple of Bears quite comfortably.

It is important to keep the non-combo strategies out because you are drafting combo decks many of which are engine decks. These decks are never going to be as good as constructed versions, even the singleton ones. To include defensive options in the draft and then in the decks takes a huge toll on the quality and ultimately viability of the combo decks to the point of which several cease to be worth running. As such you are just best off making sure you don't have too many dorks that are at all efficient cheap beaters, especially ones that can also disrupt.

Mindbreak TrapThe disruption is a huge issue in itself as that is what makes up the control decks. Too much and too effective and the best decks are the control decks pretty obviously. Especially when there is no aggro to put a check on them. A good control deck in a field of combo is all a bit fish in a barrel. They don't even need much in the way of win conditions, they can hold out long enough to hard cast some card meant to cheat in or just win with some random value dork intended for some Birthing Pod or Aluren combo! The only good way we found to counter this issue was limiting the disruption card available and to just include those that are found in combo decks themselves. This drastically cut the countermagic complement and took out some of the black hand disruption too. With reduced availability on such things they became somewhat higher picks regardless of direction which in turn spread them out enough to ensure there was no one able to stockpile them and make a control deck.

The kinds of disruption used are key as well. Those on permanents are easier to deal with and so those afford better game play. Those that exile are brutal and can one shot a lot of decks with ease. As such I was very careful to keep the exile cards that hit hands and libraries to a minimum while also being somewhat conservative on those affecting the graveyard. This meant all iterations of Ashiok were non-starters. Gonti, Transgress the Mind and Extract were also all out. An unexpected card in need of banning was the new Narset. Most of the decks are a smattering of outs and disruption, the combo, lands, and then just card selection and draw. With so many decks playing so much draw Narset would just win games. Throw in an abundance of symmetrical draw seven effects which mostly just Mind Twist an otherwise brutally locked out opponent and Narset quickly became no fun for any one.

Splinter TwinPlaneswalkers in general are pretty potent cards in this meta with less disruption to prevent them and far less in the way of board control so as to be able to kill them off quickly and easily. I only ran planeswalkers that are important to combos and played none of the generically good ones. This is a wise move generally but necessary to curtail the control builds.

There are combos that did not make the list and some that wound up getting cut. The perfect combos had some redundancy in all their components and significant overlap for their support cards with other combos. Splinter Twin is a great example of this with it being a two card combo with at least two bits of redundancy on both halves. All the support cards it uses are just generic disruption, dig and draw. It is easy to add into the cube in that it takes up relatively few slots while not being damaging to the draft due to having many narrow cards that other players have no interest in.

On the other hand an infect combo has almost zero overlap with any other combo what with it being mostly just pump effects and infect dorks. Despite being a very good combo deck it is a very poor one to add into a cube. This general premise of space efficiency basically dictated which combos went in. Testing then let us tweak the direct support and degrees of redundancy added in for them.

Birthing Pod
While this made for a very consistent drafting experience with minimal narrow cards and lots of broad and diverse support cards it did mean there was a distinct power difference in the combos. This is the case anyway but framing it in a cube and then drafting it greatly exacerbated the difference. It was apparent fairly early that storm decks were the best decks in the format. The solution to this given that it is either impossible or inadvisable to empower the weaker combos up to the same level as storm is simply to gimp the storm decks a bit. You can do this by taking away good storm cards but my preference is to up the disruption effects that are good against storm and keep it in check that way. Where you find particularly focused hoser cards you will likely find a top tier combo at the receiving end.

With there being so much overlap between the combo support cards I found that often people would run two or three combos in their deck. This was certainly the case for the weaker combos but it seemed to work a charm when done right. It gave a much greater degree of resilience to disruption and allowed a lot of the less potent combos to compete well with the more powerful ones.

I think that is all I have to say on this for now. I would be interested to hear of any combos people think would fit into this cube that are missing or indeed see any lists people have for their own combo cubes. Not the best format in the game but one of the most different and diverse. Impressive given  how similar it is in many ways to many other cubes. A format you want to run like a Cadbury's Creme egg! Just some of the time, all a bit sickly to have all year round! Absolutely worth trying if you can.

Narset, Parter of Veils
*General Ban List;

Ancestral Recall
Mana Drain
Time Walk
5x Original Mox
Black Lotus
Sol Ring
Mana Crypt
Mana Vault
Grim Monolith
Time Vault
Strip Mine
Tolarian Academy
Shelldock Isle
Library of Alexandria

Wednesday 3 July 2019

Top Planeswalkers

I was asked which planeswalkers I would run in a cube if I were allowed five of each colour and one of each guild exactly. This was a fairly easy task given that it is not that far off what I currently run in my cube. I do prefer a fluid approach to cube design but I also fully appreciate the desire to have balance and symmetry in design as well. If you are going for a set number across the colours this seems like a great arrangement. Without further ado lets dive right in!

Nahiri, the Harbinger

Boros - Nahiri, the Harbinger

Easy call for me here with Ajani Vengeant being the only other consideration. I have never loved Ajani even back when he was good. His low loyalty count make him play most like a bad Warleader's Helix. Far too vulnerable to wide boards and unable to generate value against slower decks that easily. Nahiri on the other hand is more diverse and better scaling removal backed up with a far more robust loyalty count. Her ultimate is threatening due to how fast she can get there and the card quality element is huge in the colour pairing. Nahiri is one of the most powerful midrange and control planeswalkers out there for her reasonable cost and would see a lot more play if Boros wasn't such an aggressively focused pairing.

Vraska, Golgari QueenGolgari - Vraska, Golgari Queen

While Relic Seeker and big Garruk Apex Predator are both rather more powerful than the Queen the four mana offering is far more desirable. Black has no good four drop walkers and green only has a couple of fairly limited walkers in the four slot. The Golgari Queen is impressively versatile being able to deal with lots of problem cards while reasonably well protecting herself and/or you. Like with Nahiri her ultimate is relevant and attainable and acts as a very real threat on the game even if it is still rarely used. Having a +2 loyalty ability on top of a decent starting count is a great way to empower ultimate abilities! I do really like Relic Seeker but there are just too many other non-gold cards that compete with what she offers that are better or more playable.

Dack Fayden
Izzet - Dack Fayden

Another quite easy one with Dack being such a cut above the other Izzet options. Looting is good generally but particularly good in Izzet colours. Stealing an artifact and having a powerful looter left over after is utterly brutal and wins a lot of games outright in cube. Almost anytime you play an artifact in cube you have to consider the Dack. Even something as simple as a mana rock will cost you the game if your opponent just instantly steals it while also making Dack. An unusual walker in that the value option is conditional and beyond that he is just a looter. It is rare that the ultimate does anything. I have certainly won many more games milling my opponent out with Dack than I have using the ultimate. Most walkers offer a game winning threat, some board control and some value options while Dack only offers one and only some of the time. He is just that good!

Sorin, Vengeful BloodlordOrzhov - Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord

This is one of the closest calls for the gold section with a couple of decent Kaya options and a bunch of Sorin cards too, most of which have decent power. I used to be a big fan of Solemn Visitor for the immense swing potential of the +1 however over time the -2 has gotten worse and worse simply not bringing enough defense to the board and leaving Sorin too vulnerable. This makes for a fairly win more card. Bloodlord can offer this big life swing while going even higher on loyalty or he can recur a more meaningful threat and get some assured value at the same time. This makes him the best of the Sorin options but there is still a pair of strong Kaya also vying for the slot. Ghost Assassin is a tricksy and diverse walker. She offers power in a unique way but is hard to use and consequently to fit into lists. The smaller Usurper is great but being a bit more low key works against her as a gold card. Normally I love a three mana walker but Usurper isn't a huge pull to the colour pairing as she isn't often all that relevant of a play later in the game.

Nissa, Steward of ElementsSimic - Nissa, Steward of Elements.

Kiora alternatives are pretty poor. One is bad and the other is too vulnerable at a startling loyalty of two and only a +1 to grow with. This Nissa is also decent although one of the most complicated planeswalkers on offer. I rarely feel like I lost the game because I misused a planeswalker but most of the times I do it is with the Steward. Nissa is great as she scales so well. You can flop her out at three mana and have good options or you can hold her back till eight mana and win out of nowhere with her. Or indeed anything in between. The only thing she lacks is self protection but the +2 and the scaling of her loyalty offset that somewhat. Being the only walker you can just 10 someone with off the bat also helps compensate rather! The most annoying thing about her is that she has fairly poor synergy with Hydriod Krasis and Shardless Agent which are some of the best Simic cards.

Daretti, Ingenious IconoclastRakdos - Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast

This guy is really impressive but as with many sets that bypass the main competitive formats he is also rather under the radar. Daretti protects himself very well, better than any other three mana walker and he does so in multiple ways. The servo is a decent blocker and puts Daretti up in loyalty. It usually forces attacks in as Daretti with artifact food gets really scary. If your plan was to win with creatures but your opponent has a 5 loyalty Daretti in play and a couple of servo tokens you have lost without spot removal or some other god draw. When Daretti gets played and you have a Chromatic Star waiting for him or perhaps it is late game and you have a spare mana rock then the -1 ability is pretty back breaking. Being able to just kill a relevant card is huge. Getting to play a Bedevil (almost) and have a two loyalty Daretti leftover is strong at any stage of the game. Daretti benefits from artifacts kicking around but he also empowers a lot of other cards that enjoy having artifacts from Galvanic Blast to Pia Nalaar. No other Rakdos planeswalker comes close to cube worthly, let alone close to Daretti.

Wrenn and Six

Gruul - Wrenn and Six

Pretty easy one here with this being so cheap and rounded. Direct damage to any target is great and the +1 is reasonably reliable value in formats with sac lands, not to mention looting, cycling lands and the rest of it. This is just a cut above the rest in both power and playability. While there are some decent Domri options on the table that are also both cheap and powerful they are rather narrower and focused around creatures. Wrenn is good in most places and almost oppressive when well supported, mostly with the right lands!

Ajani, Mentor of Heroes
Selesnya - Ajani, Mentor of Heroes

While Greathearted is perhaps a better planeswalker in an abstract sense Mentor of Heroes is more powerful and better suited to cube play. While I normally dislike abilities that require you to have a dork in play Mentor has so many things about it that make it a non-issue. Selesnya colours have lots of good and sturdy dorks and build dork heavy lists. There is also another +1 ability that will find you a creature on the rare occasion you don't have one and really want one. Mentor is really muscular, he always grows and advances your board or draws you action while doing so. Three +1/+1 counters is far far better than making a 3/3 when you can also dig for dorks. Creatures are way more sturdy than tokens and a lot of them scale with counters or just getting bigger. The distribution also helps you craft the perfect board state to press a win. Any deck trying to win in conventional combat is going to get beaten my Mentor. He doesn't win quickly but he wins very reliably, every turn he remains in play that win becomes significantly more assured. This can be said of most walkers but it is pronounced with Ajani as he so directly bolsters the main route to victory. While I think he is very powerful I have not found room in my cube for him due to white and green having so many premium mono coloured walkers and with Selesnya being a less common pairing to see.

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Azorius - Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

This is a tough call between the two rampantly good Teferi cards in these colours. Ultimately Hero is more rounded of a walker and is not quite so tedious or annoying. He is more of a reason to splash or go in a direction and that is the best way to have your gold cards. He is also really spot on for the blueprint of what you generally want a walker to do, + to get cards in hand, - to get things out of play and ultimate to win the game! Tef ticks all these boxes and better than most.

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

Dimir  - Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

There isn't anything even close to this. Ashiok is a brutally good cube card that is cheap, disruptive, hard to deal with and threatens the game on multiple fronts while often gaining loyalty as they do so. I cut Ashiok from my cube due to how little fun it was to play against and how warping it was on the game. Essentially a ban, in which case the only gold card and only walker I have ever banned, not to mention highest CMC card too. It was easily one of the best cards against control without being a slouch in any other matchup. It isn't even just that Ashiok is one of the best cube walkers period, Dimir also happens to have no other decent walkers that are generally playable. The Tezzeret options generally need too high of an artifact count to be good cube inclusions.

Jace BelerenBlue

Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Narset, Parter of Veils
Jace, Architect of Thought
Jace Beleren
Tezzeret, Artifice Master

The first three on this list are a lock in. Architect of Thought is one of the most underrated walkers being so good against go wide strategies. I wouldn't entertain the idea of cutting him. The last couple of slots are more up for debate. You could run Jace, Memory Adept as it is a fairly brutal milling win condition in 40 card lists. I dislike this route and prefer less linear and more interactive planeswalkers. It just turns out that mill is over powered in cube and that no one enjoys losing to it. The real alternatives to the bottom of this list are Teferi, Temporal Archmage and Tamiyo, the Moon Sage. Both of these are fine midrange and control planeswalkers. Tef is very powerful and fun when you have suitable cards to protect him with but he is a bit win more and a bit of a luxury. Tamiyo is potent and is one of the best planeswalkers against man-lands. She also has a lovely ultimate that has won more games than most other planeswalker ultimates in her time in my cube. The only reason Tez is beating her to the last slot is that there are a lot of exciting artifact matters cards in blue at present with things like Urza, Sai and the like. You could make room for both by cutting the fairly linear Beleren who is basically a jumped up Divination! The thing is that Beleren is still pretty good and being a three mana walker he sees a lot more play than any of the five or more mana options. Narset may well outclass Beleren but getting a card draw walker down on turn three is a great place to be in.

Gideon of the Trials

Elspeth, Knight-Errant
Elspeth, Sun's Champion
Gideon. Ally of Zendikar
Gideon Blackblade
Gideon of the Trials

This was the easiest of the colours to do with five very powerful options on offer containing a good spread of costs and abilities, especially considering they are mono white! Knight-Errant remains one of the best cube walkers offering great tempo, reach, planeswalker control, and self protection. Sun's Champion is simply one of the most powerful planeswalkers utterly shutting down the board and winning a few turns there after. She even answers some of the best threats in the game when making a small army each turn isn't going to contain things. Ally of Zendikar is one of the most overrated planeswalkers in the cube but he is still very much a top tier card. The instantly useful ultimate combined with the high tempo and fast win clock of Ally make him a perfect top end card for any deck beating down. Blackblade is similarly a great beater offering a bit of support to the attacks, a bit of extra utility and value, but mostly just a very hard to handle threat. Gideon of the Trials is what Kiora wishes she was! He is a great control card that provides a wide array of protection and has perfect synergy with Wrath effects. He forces the over extension and can animate post Wrath to attack down opposing walkers. White has some potent walkers not on this list but these five are just so good at what they do the others don't get a look in. Gideon Jura used to be great but these days he is just far too quickly and easily attacked down when he tires to use his +2 ability. Ajani Goldmane is still very potent as a team buff card but he is linear and terrible from behind. Adversary of Tyrants or Serra the Benevolent are those next in line on this list and are both strong, rounded walkers with their uses. Neither would be out of place in a cube setting and both are better than the 4th and 5th placed cards for some of the other colours.

Garruk RelentlessGreen

Nissa, Who Shakes the World
Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
Garruk Wildspeaker
Vivien Reid
Garruk Relentless

Green is like white in that it also has a great depth of top rate planeswalkers. Unlike white however green does not have the same spread of power in their walkers in terms of CMC or even really numbers. Relentless makes this list not because he is all that good but because he is a source of removal in green which is rare. That, and he costs four which precious few green walkers do. Nissa Vital Force and Worldwaker are both better and more powerful cards but they see rather less action with so many other competing five drops. Indeed I rate Worldwaker as one of the best threats in cube but when you are limiting yourself to few walkers you want ones that do planeswalker things. Worldwaker is very narrow and offers no removal or value. A Wolfir Silverheart or other such creature performs a similar sort of role while only planeswalkers really act like planeswalkers. It is this sort of logic that made me chose big Tef over little Tef for Azorious. One is a very potent planeswalker, the other a jumped up Repulse! Vivien Reid gets a pass for being such a strong way to include a solution to problematic fliers. She is otherwise decent and versatile but when she kills some dragon you are eternally grateful. Wildspeaker is very efficient often only costing two and coming out on turn three alongside another two drop. He can threaten an Overrun win immediately on the following turn and is pretty spot on for green. Voice of Zendikar is greens only proper rounded three mana walkers and does a lot of good work, especially coming out on turn two! Nissa, Who Shakes the World is just a monster. She does everything and seemingly all at once! She has kicked all the other five mana Nissa cards squarely in the teeth for the amount of play they now get.

Tibalt, Rakish InstigatorRed

Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Chandra, Acolyte of Flame
Chandra, Awakened Inferno
Chandra, Fire Artisan
Tibalt, Rakish Instigator

This was probably the hardest of the categories to chose. As you can see we have a lot of very new walkers on this list. Only Torch is a real lock in with neither of the Core 2020 Chandra inclusions having any testing from me as yet. They do seem very potent, and other red walkers are not all that. Either they are of mediocre power or they are overly situational, often linear too. Koth for example is strong but despite having a high power level he has all the other problems while also being a win more card. You are jsut better off playing a creature like Hazoret or Rekindling Phoenix. As you can also see the other two inclusions on this list are both War of the Spark cards meaning this list would have looked very different a mere six months ago. It would have been Chandra Flamecaller and Pyromaster alongside Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker and Fireblood. Both these Chandra are fine but are fairly hard to weave into builds. The Sarkhan cards are also fine but one is a bad Dack and the other a bad Glorybringer. All four are a touch clunky, inflexible and a little lacking in power compared to the better walkers in other colours. None of them are that exciting or different. Fire Artisan and Rakish Instigator on the other hand are something completely different. They give red new tools rather than mediocre alternatives to better walkers. They are much more playable than Koth, more powerful than the Sarkhans, and more interesting and diverse than the many older Chandra cards. Tibalt is surprisingly good, especially in cube. Red wants to prevent lifegain but it rarely wants to run Vortex anymore. Tiblat is the least painful and most reliable way to get this affect now. He is good in aggro for that but also good in both token strategies all the way to through to more controlling midrange decks. It is all fairly minor and it would not be unreasonable to run any of the red walkers I have discussed in any combination really just so long as Torch was always involved. I do expect big things from the Core 2020 walkers, or at least the three drop. Just being better than the other red six mana walkers doesn't automatically make you a good card... Nothing has really come closer to touching Inferno Titan in the six slot in red.

Ob Nixilis ReignitedBlack

Liliana, the Last Hope
Liliana of the Veil
Liliana, Dreadhorde General
Davriel. Rogue Shadowmage
Ob Nixilus Reignited

This one was a pretty easy five as well simply as black has so few options and less still that are good. The first three Liliana are all lock in cards with high power. The three drops are efficient and versatile and some of the best walkers in the whole game. The General is just a beastly card! Davriel is something a little different, while linear he is a very good threat that provides value and disruption and needs dealing with. It is like he has a passive ultimate. Not to be underestimated. Ob is low powered but he is a good blueprint for a walker, kill a threat on the -ability and draw a card on the +ability! He is clean on both accounts but just slightly pricier than you might like when compared to the likes of Torch of Defiance or Golgari Queen. Both Liliana Vess and Death's Majesty are viable alternatives for this underwhelming five drop walker slot in black. Even the other Obs both have some merit. The more boring nature of Ob Nixilis Reignited does play into him seeing more action. Quirky interesting things tend to be more situational or narrow and thus less playable.

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
Colourless - Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

So much power it is worth building a mana base to support this monster. He can usually come down and clear everything relevant out of the way with ease and then dominate the game from then on. So often the only out to a situation is an Ugin. Karn Liberated is great against control but weak against go wide plans and just doesn't have that huge recovery ability you want from such a top end card. Ugin, the Ineffable has a similar issue to Karn Liberated although is a little more rounded and enough cheaper to be that bit more playable. The other cheaper Karn options are both strong cards but generally a little on the narrow side for drafting cubes. All the colourless walkers are very good and most of them are playable in most cubes despite some of their narrower aspects. Even so, the Spirit Dragon stands head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to drafting cubes.