Saturday 26 March 2022

Synergy Cubes


I have been tinkering a lot recently with various cube designs so as to spice things up. Synergy, or modular cubes as some call them, are somewhere between a combo cube and a normal cube and can be a lot of fun. They are curated cube environments where your archetypes are all based on high synergy cards you cannot usually play in cubes due to their narrowness and high support requirements. These archetypes are things like a +1/+1 counters deck or a madness deck. You get to play some very different magic cards with some really things going on in games. The decks have a more constructed feel to them and you are often playing many more weaker cards than in traditional cubes however you typically wind up with a more powerful deck. Much as there are many advantages to synergy cubes designing them is tricky and they do have their issues. They are sensitive to a variety of things and need to be constructed sensibly, more so even than the combo cube. In my recent exploits with synergy cubes I have had a lot of my favourite cube games and experiences however I have also had rather more one sided games and non-events than usual too. This is to be expected when developing new things and I would at least expect the duds to decrease over time with refinement. 

There were some assumptions I had while designing these cubes that wound up to be entirely false. I thought I wanted to contain synergies in a variety of ways. Broadly I thought I wanted my synergies to total around 10 in an attempt to mimic the first two (full) Ravnica sets. Further to this I thought I wanted to contain the synergies to their own colour pairing, being ideally two colours, and at maximum three if needed. I also thought I wanted each of these 10 synergies to be roughly equal in terms of power level and numbers of cards. All of these assumptions were wrong, some simply didn't matter and were an exercise in time wasting trying to achieve and others actively made the format weaker. 

As with any draft environment you want tension and competition else it is all fairly academic and you might as well be doing sealed pools. If everything is contained within a module and colour pair everyone just gets in a lane and takes "their" cards and there is not much interesting going on. To avoid this you want overlap. You want it between the synergies as much possible. I like to think of archetypes in cubes like Venn diagrams. The overlap regions are cards you will play in other synergies or archetypes and the goal is to maximize the areas of overlap. Normal cubes are fairly good at this but you need to work at it to get it looking healthy in a synergy focused cube. This can mean playing some weaker cards that work in multiple archetypes in place of some good support cards you would only play in the one. The degree to which you can overlap cards within different synergies depends greatly on the synergies in question. Some simply don't have many cards that work well in other places while some have loads. Some archetypes are doing similar sorts of things to others and can make use of many of the same support cards. Picking a good blend of synergies that maximize card overlap is a big part of the battle to make a good synergy cube. 

Dual lands suffer the same narrowing as spells if you lock all the synergies to unique colour pairs. If the only deck that wants the Izzet lands is a spells matter archetype then there is no tension on those cards. They will be free late pickups for the spells matter player. You obviously want fixing in your cube environment as losing to colour screw is lame however you don't want the inclusion of fixing to dampen the draft experience by filling up packs with cards only one player ever wants. The simple fix to this is giving people reasons to splash outside of their core colours. When building your synergy cube intentionally stick cards from outside a synergies core colours into the mix. This makes decks more interesting and diverse while adding that much needed tension to a not insignificant percentage of the card pool in the dual lands.  

As far as colour ratios go I found this to be less important than with other cubes. I spent a long time trying to find synergies that used all the colour pairings so that there would be demand and balance on the dual lands. In practice it seemed not really to matter as you were drafting synergies much more than you were colours. The best way to address a colour imbalance is simply to reduce/increase the fixing support in those colours. For example, I quickly found the Rakdos sacrifice archetype to be too powerful for the competition and simply cut it from the cube along with most of the black red duals that supported it. This left a significant but seemingly irrelevant imbalance in the colours. Therefore, just get the synergies you want to play and maximize their overlap and worry about the mana base afterwards. If it transpires you are barely using some colour (pairs) and heavily using others then adjust your dual lands accordingly. Just so long as you have good balance and overlap between your chosen synergies all will be well. 

The other fix to lacking tension on your dual lands (through single archetype usage rather than no usage at all!) this is having more synergies present in your cube. Having more synergies but smaller ones in size and support that cannot really work all by themselves seems to lead to a more interesting format. It somewhat forces players into mashing a couple of synergies together leading to more variety in decks and more tension at the draft table for both spells and lands. Gates and energy are quite good examples of part synergies in that they are not deep enough to be able to consistently draft a deck that only uses a single one of those synergies however either are well suited to being paired up with other synergies. 

While adding more synergies is great in this regard it has the issue of bloating the cube. In any format where you have support cards and specific payoff cards every inclusions counts. If you add too much fluff then you reduce the chances of getting enough of the cards you need to put together in order to make your synergies work. You cannot draft and infect deck ever if you are only going to see a handful of infect creatures every draft. Card inclusions need to be sparing. This is where the sensitivity of the format comes into play. You also need to consider how many people will be drafting your cube. If you design it for 8 people then draft it with only six you will find that players are not able to make their decks work so well. This can be fixed to some extent by drafting more cards but a lean design for the expected player base is always going to give the best results. Certainly I would lean towards 16 or so synergies than work well with others but struggle to work on their own over running 8 to 10 solid stand alone well fleshed out synergies. I have always found I like my normal cubes to be 540ish cards. Too much higher and it gets vague and saggy, too much lower and it gets quickly repetitive. I would aim to get a synergy cube to a maximum of 480 cards for 8 players to draft. 

Removal is another issue I found when building and testing these cubes. The synergy based removal looks like it is cool and appropriate but for the most part you just want to stick with the classic broad top tier removal. As you might expect in a format driven by synergy, disruption is very powerful. That being said, you cannot afford to play too much as you start hurting your own synergies when you do. If you are too lean with removal the draft will tend towards favouring the player who managed to pick up the most suitable and powerful of the available removal. If you go too ham on removal you start inviting decks that are just anti- decks, not quite control but not exactly synergy either. The balance on removal as such felt tighter than that of overall cube size and ratios between synergies. I also found that the mass removal spells were just too devastating. Most synergies get pretty wrecked by a well placed Wrath and so I strongly advise against including any generic mass removal or supporting any purely control strategies. Removal spells are those with the most tension on them in drafts and are in many ways alike to colourless cards in that they are pretty open picks early in an event. Most archetypes want some removal and disruption and most are picking those cards from a shared pool. 

Power level of synergies proved to be my biggest issue but it does have a very easy solution and that is simply to down-power the over performing synergies. As someone who likes to rigorously test cards and formats I have always avoided the Pandora's box of either down-powering or abandoning singleton. It is just a lot easier to reach conclusions when you have narrowed your parameters. What works best when aiming at the most powerful singleton iteration possible is a lot easier to find than simply what works best out of all the possible combinations of cards at any power level. Ultimately I think this is a format where one does bite the bullet and do some tactical de-powering so as to get a more optimized format. You can start by just aiming for the most powerful inclusions but with some testing you will find some things rising to the top and these can just be trimmed a little. A really clear example of this was how unreasonable Yawgmoth, Thrann Physician was. He would utterly dominate any game in which he showed up and would often still win even if immediately met with removal. 

The main take away from my findings is that the name "modular" cube is utterly inappropriate for these kinds of cube. No module sensibly exists in isolation. The inclusions will all depend on what other synergies you have used in your design and how they might work together. The idea that you can simply remove one synergy and slap in another, even if they share colours, simply fails to understand how a well designed cube functions. Yes, in practice you can blend any synergies together and in that way the concept can be thought of as modular but the process of chopping and changing is not simple or easy if done properly. 

Having given an overview of the concept of synergy cubes and some of the basics in regards building them it would seem time to cover some of the various synergies themselves. We will take a look at what colours they are, how powerful they are, how deep the pool is to build from, the amount of payoff, the other synergies they have good overlap with, and ultimately how well they play as an archetype in a drafted setting. There are three groups of synergies here, those I tested together in my first synergy cube, those I tested together in my second build, and those I have not tested at all. I have also tried to give each a rating out of 10 but it is super vague. It tries to represent how good of an inclusion the synergy group is.

I have made two synergy cubes this year and tested a good number of synergies within them (hence writing this article, it is most of what I have been doing with cube these last months hence so little other content). I used Cubecobra to draft out my designs. These were my starting points rather than my end points but they serve as good lists of the sorts of things you want to be including. Here are links to the Cubecobra lists and then I shall discuss the various synergies I have considered and tested individually. 

1st Cube

2nd Cube

Synergies from 1st Cube

Flicker -  a fine 6

Flicker is base blue white with some more support in black and payoff where ever you look. Flicker is arguably on the dull side as it uses a lot of the same cards you find in traditional cubes. The best payoff cards are the best EtB dorks and the best EtB dorks are generally among the best dorks in cube. Flicker decks wind up just being good stuff pile and while strong, are not that innovative or different. This may of course just be my preference/experience, if you like Flicker stuff then you should absolutely throw this in. It pairs well with other stuff and is on the easier side to build in. The support is plenty deep enough and the payoff is effectively limitless. You can add a flicker theme to your cube while remaining very economical on space as so many of the cards work well across the board. You can expand on the synergy with things that bounce your dorks or things that bring them back from death like Malakir Rebirth. While flicker may have good overlap in things that work with it and being able to take advantage of many generic good cards it doesn't really work all that well with other synergies directly. It gives a decent game being fairly middle of the road and fairly interactive but it is the kind of game you can find in many traditional cubes. We are playing around with synergy cubes for a different experience and as such I cannot really recommend a flicker package all that highly. 

Graveyard Matters - a great 9

This is a huge area for synergy and exists across all colours. Given how extensive it is throughout magic and how little you find in white you could well argue it was a non-white offering. It also tends to function a little differently depending on what colours you are using. You can fill the bin with discard or self mill and the payoffs are not always suitable for both. The depth and power here is large and the overlaps are significant. Most archetypes have some use for graveyard shenanigans. The most notable overlap is with the madness mechanic and I would strongly advise playing both together. Spells matters also has fairly significant overlap with the graveyard matters stuff. It is one of my favourite ways to play singleton magic, I love having my yard as a resource and putting things in there for value. While the games are very fun it is not the most interactive of archetypes and needs a bit of consideration on this front. You cannot just throw in yard hate as this just ruins this archetype however you can't ignore it either. As such you are looking to include cards like Callous Bloodmage, Cling to Dust, Return to Nature, and Dawnbringer Cleric rather than cheaper ongoing graveyard hosers. Also focusing on fair creature combat ensures a degree of interactivity for the archetype. All told I am a big fan of this one. Typically I will aim for this to be Sultai and bleed into red with a more Grixis madness complement. The main downside of the synergy is that you are best off going all in on it making it less good if you don't fully support it. 

Lands Matter - a useful 6

This one is quite hard to get coherent. While green based it has support in all colours and indeed all kinds of strategy. If you just put the best cards in your cube relating to landfall you have some combo stuff, some beatdown stuff, and some value stuff. Really you want to be focusing on just one of these lines else no one is going to wind up playing them. The best thing about lands matter is that you can base it effectively in red and green which is otherwise a fairly hard colour pair to find good interesting draft synergies for. It also tends to blend well with most other strategies what with most strategies using lands! The best pairing is with Gates for this reason! It is a fairly deep pool to draw upon but the payoffs are not only overly diverse, they are also not always that potent due to laying lands being a thing you want to be doing regardless. Certainly something I would aim to have as a partial or supporting synergy. The game play and interaction is generally on the lower side with lands being harder to disrupt than any other card type as well as the landfall triggers rarely being disruptive or even interactive. 

Artifacts Matter - an awkward but potent 7

A very deep pool of support and payoffs with a potentially extreme power level. While all colours have things to offer and gain from artifact synergies we are mostly looking at Jeskai colours here. There are loads of artifact cards that have crossover with most other synergies however in practice there is very little overlap between artifacts matters cards and other synergies as the power level of artifact synergy cards is so absurd. I tried to make artifacts overlap with +1/+1 counters but it didn't extend much beyond The Ozolith and Hardened Scales. There was also a mild bit overlap with graveyard matters cards and sacrifice cards but given the depth of the pools it is hardly a significant portion. The best solution (after padding out with good support artifacts everyone can play like Chromatic Star) I found was simply to extend artifacts into a couple of synergies that all pay off each other. A bit like I wanted to do with landfall but lacked the support and a bit like I actually did with madness and graveyard matters. Essentially white got the really aggressive artifact stuff, blue got the more midrange style of cards, and red got a more combo leaning angle although it was not shying away from the aggressive aspects in red either! This gave the cards some tension and overlap with the cube being able to support multiple artifact matters decks providing they had slightly different leanings/bases. 

Madness - a surprisingly cool 8

Not only was this really fun it was shockingly powerful. Being based in black and red it is one of the few synergies with a heavy degree of removal baked into the mechanics and synergies at play. This means you can have a a high synergy deck that also has high disruption output and as such, competes rather well in the meta. Violent Eruption is easily one of the most oppressive cards I tested! Madness is base black and red with some potential support and options in both blue and green. I would always look to play this synergy in a cube with graveyard matters cards. Some reasonable overlap with cycling mechanics too. The depth here isn't massive but it doesn't seem to be a problem for it. I have marked madness down slightly for power reasons, I suspect it needs a ban or two to keep it in check. 

+1/+1 counters - a decent 7

Loads of support, a decent amount of payoff, and very powerful. While the deck tends towards dorky midrange combat there are a selection of starts that simply cannot be kept up with in any fair sort of way. As such games with this one tend to be rather one sided. The primary colour is green with both white and black adding a good amount and suitable dorks from all over the place. Overlaps can also be found all over the place with modular, life, proliferate, energy, and I am sure many more. Sensitivity to disruption with fairly uninteractive gameplay are the main things keeping this one down. 

Proliferate - a cute but aimless 5

There is no real endgame for this mechanic although it does support plenty of others well. It is one of my favourite mechanics so I cram it in where I can but in practice this is not able to compete as a stand alone module and is just there to support +1/+1 counters, infect, energy, and a few other bits and bobs. Most colours have a dash of proliferate although blue and green have the broadest and best range of cards you can use. Proliferate is really just a random collection of good support cards for other mechanics rather than a synergy that does something itself. 

Life - robust and rigid 6

This is a very powerful and very deep synergy based heavily in white with some strong black support and reasonable green support. Life has so much payoff you will likely find that even some good cards are not making the cut. It has decent overlap with +1/+1 counters but in practice the power here is sufficient that you rarely want to be mixing it with other stuff, rather like the case with artifact matters stuff. Life decks have a tendency to stall the game and then overwhelm the opponent which doesn't lead to the greatest game play. It is a little uninteractive and directly counters a bunch of other strategies that are aggressive. In a format without mass removal or traditional combo decks life builds are somewhat over powered. You do at least get those really insane games where +1/+1 counters goes up against life and they both just wind up with insane boards as they both match each others silylness and power! 

Energy - a fragile 4

Much as I love energy it is not quite deep enough to be an archetype by itself. A good number of the cards stand up well by them selves and so you can run energy as a cute little support package if you are a fan of the mechanic. In practice though we will likely need to wait for at least another set that makes use of energy before we are past the requisite threshold of payoff and support. While energy cards do exist all over the colour pie the best of the bunch are fairly well rooted in Temur with green rather taking the lead. Much as I love energy cards they just don't bring enough to a drafted cube environment. Perhaps one day I will solve this by breaking that singleton rule if we don't get that return trip to Kaladesh for some more energy cards. 

Synergies from Second Cube

Spells Matter - solid 7

This is a synergy so broadly supported and powerful it is found in most cubes already to some degree or other. Any cards with prowess or magecraft are payoffs and any cheap spells are support. There is an abundance of payoff with all the very best and most playable cards acting as support for it. Izzet is the traditional home of spells matter with cheap red burn and cheap blue cantrips fuelling the payoffs. White and even black have a smattering of payoff as well as an array of more diverse support they can add as well. Green even shows up a bit too although typically in cards like Manamorphose and Mutagenic Growth which are rarely played with green mana. While the archetype is competitive, interactive, and fun, it is not something that is all that unique. I get to play spells matters decks all over the place in magic and so while it is a great fit for synergy cubes it rather misses the point of why I did this in the first place hence marking it down. When your support cards are the likes of Firebolt and Serum Visions your overlap is pretty extreme. There is particularly good overlap with graveyard matters cards due to lots of delve, escape and flashback cards that are found in spells matter builds. There is some overlap with heroic and "draw two" shenanigans too.

Sac - seemingly too good 8

This is another synergy based in black red and while it doesn't have quite the same level of baked in removal as the madness deck it is just a much more powerful and consistent archetype to begin with. The support cards are powerful and deep, the payoff is impressive, and the play pattern does very well in the meta. While Rakdos by nature there are plenty of reasons to dip into green, sometimes white, and even blue (all be it just for Breya!). To make this close to fair relative to the other decks it is likely needed the banning out of Yawgmoth and Goblin Bombardment. You may also need to hit Judith and Meyhem Devil on the head with the ban-hammer as well. Simply put, too many of the cards you play in the deck are those you would find in normal high power cubes resulting in not just an oppressive archetype but also one that probably isn't offering much new. The spells matter deck is not as oppressive in a synergy cube as a sacrifice one for two reasons. Firstly spells matter is an inherently fairer type of deck that plays an interactive tempo game. Secondly, it is a control killer that does not fair so well against the beefier or quicker dork based lists which is pretty much all of the synergy cube. Sac decks play best when they can setup without fear of mass removal and that is exactly what this meta allows them to do and so they get yet another thing pushing them right to the top of the pile.  

Infect (poison) - an inflexible 4

While powerful there are some issues with infect as a supported mechanic much like there was in booster draft at the time. It is just a very linear strategy that pairs poorly with non-infect creatures. Yes, there is overlap with loads of other mechanics in terms of the support (auras, heroic, +1/+1 counters, ninja, and proliferate) but the actual infect creatures are useless elsewhere and essential for the build. You can simply not get enough of them through bad luck or somehow winding up with another infect drafter at the table and this will end your chances before you even get to the games. There is not enough depth in the infect creatures to solve this with numbers nor would you really want to as it would harm the rest of the cubes performance. The archetype is somewhat interactive and different and plays fairly well all with a reasonable power level but this isn't enough to make up for how poorly it drafts. There is a cool deathtouch angle with Fynn the Fangbearer you can employ to diversify your infect angle with. There is also a changeling package you can use to support it as well as some other synergies which I quite liked. These all helped but it is a lot of work for the payoff. I based Infect in green with a healthy bit of black and a dash of blue. The best thing about having an infect deck in play is that you get your best odds on one of the big achievements in MtG which is winning a game while on 1 life, 9 poison, and an empty library. I came close but alas, as yet it remains elusive. 

Heroic - impressive 9

This was a surprising standout that was lots of fun and played really well. I was concerned that it would be underpowered and easily disrupted being a strategy that relies on dorks in play that you target with things but that didn't seem to be the case. It is cheap and proactive enough Cards like Feather the Redeemed and Zada gave some nice fun power while the cheaper heroic dorks are surprisingly numerous. If they blow removal of the cheap stuff then you win with your big cards like Feather (who was another real standout card in testing). Heroic pairs fairly nicely alongside auras, spells matter, and even things like +1/+1 counters and proliferate. Unshockingly some of the stand out cards in the synergy cubes were things like Snakeskin Veil, Ajani's Presence, and Dive Down which were double impressive in heroic builds. Boros is the main home of heroic although blue adds some nice things. 

Auras/Enchantress - can be solid 7

This is a pretty huge synergy pool like artifacts and as such you either need to be very sparing with inclusions, very focused on what aspects you include, or consider it as two separate synergies with a higher than normal degree of overlap (which is a good thing). Auras can be done in a couple of ways, one like the heroic direction and the other like Boggles. The latter is no fun for anyone and has some issues in game play. Avoid hexproof dorks, your player base will thank you. The heroic style direction has better overlap with other synergies as well as much more enjoyable and interactive game play. The enchantress direction is a lot more open than the auras and can range from combo, to prison, to simply good stuff. All are quite good fun to play but typically lack interaction so you might as well play on your own! The power level and depth of the enchantment synergy is impressive. It is typically based in Selesnya but has plenty to take on from other colours. Enchantress gets some powerful cards like Doomwake Giant in black and auras get plenty of treats from blue. It is good to be mindful or appropriate removal if running a non-aura enchantress synergy in your cube. You will want to replace some dork only removal with stuff that can hit enchantments. Enchantment removal is one of the hardest things to add to a cube as you really need it to be modal.

Skies - middling 5

This is just a flying matters synergy using cheap fliers and cards like Favourable Winds. It is mostly based in Azorius and has good overlap with auras and ninja but not much else. It isn't the most fun or interactive deck but it certainly isn't the worst either. It suffers a bit from the meta in that it is typically a tempo deck that is good against control which is absent. There is plenty of support for the strategy but not quite enough payoff. It would be a fine inclusion if it were not for the issue of being based around small evasive creatures that lead to games being uninteractive races. Not infect levels of bad but certainly in that direction. 

Ninja - a cute 5

Too small to be a stand alone strategy and is really just a cute little support package. It works well with skies and flicker and it encourages the inclusion of cards that give evasion which are sought after by most of the strategies here. They are some of the best game closing tools in a format without control and mass removal. Ninja are entirely Dimir colours and have mediocre power and low depth but they are a whole lot of fun! They are really well supported by changeling cards.

Gates - a thin 4

While this is a long way from being an archetype by itself it has the perks of coming with a cycle of lands which make it very space efficient. The lands are the support and so everything else is just payoff. It pairs very well with lands matter synergies and can easily work into any colours. It is base green with a smattering of cards in other colours and is one of the closest thing to a control deck out of the synergies used. The depth of Gates is tiny but the power is acceptable. Sadly it does not pair all that well with Snow which is the other main control synergy as it wants all of its lands to be snow-covered which gates are not. That might be for the best however as these synergies have mass removal options and being able to play all of them might well break the balance. 

Snow - a concerning 6

Although you can find snow cards in all colours Sultai offer the best options by quite a long way. Snow really depends on you allowing basics to be snow covered for free. If you do not do this snow is not really playable. Snow decks offer good removal options and great value options with some fairly powerful top end threats. It is also another synergy with a set of dual lands to really help round it out in a cube setting. Despite having power and good removal snow decks tend to play a fairer game than a lot of the other synergies and can struggle to keep up or actually win with the resources it has. Due to drawing so much I found I was often close to decking myself by the time I stabilized and lacked the ability to pile on enough pressure. There is also the big issue of snow having two snow based mass removal cards which lets it be really quite scary in the meta. 

Toughness Matters - an unfortunate 2

While I really like this one to play it was a little shaky in cube as it really needed you to have one of the payoff cards and as such really struggled against removal. There is reasonable redundancy for things like Assault Formation, Doran, Arcades, and High Alert but you need to always have one else your deck does nothing. The wise opponent realizes this and holds removal and renders your deck pretty useless. It looks good on paper but in practice is too easily contained. There is also some difficulty in marrying up the payoff cards as some want walls and some just want high toughness cards. They are also spread across a range of different colours, sometimes Bant, sometimes Abzan. To make this viable it needs more active means of protecting the payoff cards with hand disruption or countermagic which can be a little rough to add to a synergy based meta. They would likely end up hurting the archetype more than helping it. The archetype is deep in support and sufficient in payoff and it is very powerful when it can dodge removal. Sadly it lacks overlap which is pretty damning on top of it being one of the dodgier plans to go for. 

Changeling - a handy 6

This is not a synergy by itself at all but instead a neat little support package that can do some cute synergies even when you are not strictly tribal. I was really pleased with how they helped glue together ninja and infect decks in my second cube and would include them again with either. They would then continue to gain in strength if you were to include other tribal synergies. That however is another cube type all-together and is fraught with its own issues! I have put a lot of thought into a tribal cube over the years and never found a good way to do it. You need to blend races and classes together to create some tension in the drafts and that is hard to do with very limited payoff for the classes when compared to the races. It will also always tend to favour the races like Goblins who get removal baked into their tribal cards. While going full tribal feels really hard to do well I can see including a tribe or two within a synergy cube and have that working out nicely if the meta happens to align for them well. 

The Synergies I haven't tested yet

Discard/Rack - a cautious 4

This is a black synergy and a rare example of a mono coloured one with little to gain from other colours. The support is extensive but the payoffs are rather less abundant. This likely matters little as discard is a strategy by itself without the need of extra perks. While I am not concerned for viability of the archetype I do worry that it is not going to be a fun strategy to play against. Having disruption baked into the synergy makes things rather scarier! It is also going to be trickier to get the balance right as other players in black will pilfer a number of the discard spells as disruption for their own plans. It might ultimately result in too much disruption in the meta. There are decent overlaps with both madness and graveyard matters cards and the deck should be interactive as far as you can be with a denial/prison style of deck. 

Kicker - middling 5

Not all that much payoff nor tonnes of support for this one. This is a very midrange affair that takes a while to get going what with kicker increasing mana costs resulting in a rather slow payoff. It is likely a bit fair to compete with most of the other synergies although it does have a reasonable amount of removal options with kicker helping it out rather. While all colours have kicker spells the payoff is mostly in Simic with most of the best and suitable kicker cards being in Temur. 

Cycling - 8

A very deep synergy pool that can be run as a control deck, an aggressive one, or even a combo one. The support is effectively endless and there is a good amount of payoff too. While cards can be found in all colours the main setting is Boros with blue likely the third most used colour and green the least. There is overlap with most things as there are so many cards with cycling however the stronger overlaps include some of the madness synergies and the "draw 2" things. 

Second Draw - a timid 4

There are very few cards that reward you for drawing multiple cards in a turn however there is a lot of support than can be happily used in all manner of different synergies as everyone loves to draw cards!  The second draw cards are mostly Izzet which is good with most of the draw being blue.  Draw two is a good way to bolster a spells matter or cycling theme. It probably works well with most things that share the Izzet colours. There is also an array of second cast cards which are spread over more colours but do also work well in this package. Typically I would just consider those to be spells matter cards but there is a relevant distinction all be it a minor one. 

Any tribal - an ill fitting 2

Tribal decks in and of themselves are not a good fit for cube formats. At best the interaction is one way. No one wants your lords or payoff cards, all they might want are some members of your tribe that work for their synergy. The only way to solve this is by going full tribal and mixing up the races and classes as much as possible and we have discussed the challenges about that. The other issue is that tribal decks tend to just be about high density of dorks from the tribe. You want your payoff cards and then you want basically every thing else to have the relevant creature type. This means to support tribal decks you need a whole load of support cards. That being said there are mechanics unique to, or heavily rooted in some tribes which you can build around much more sensibly in this kind of setting such as soulshift or ninjutsu. Mostly I think we can stick to keywords and mechanics for these synergy cubes and leave tribal stuff to be contained in some hellish cube of its own!