Monday 28 August 2023

Wilds of Eldraine Review


This set I simply don't have sufficient interest to bother doing a full set review. Mostly this is down to my homemade cube project taking up most of my Magic energy, but obviously Wizards has not helped much with my interest over the past few years either! I tried to read the spoiler as it was coming out and there were so many adventures and wordy cards I just couldn't care enough to focus. This will be the first set I have not reviewed since I started doing so over a decade ago! That being said, I still am going to do a checklist of cards to get, where I think they will wind up, and a rating for them. All that will be missing is the blurb that goes with my rating trying to justify it. Sadly, without having to think quite so hard about my opinion of a card and formulating that into words I am going to be rather more off the mark than usual. It will be interesting to see by how much post testing! Once done with ratings then finally a perhaps a paragraph or two about any thoughts I might have on the set as a whole. 

Auto Includes

Restless Fortress 8

Restless Vinestalk 8

Restless Spire 7.5

Restless Cottage 8.5

Virtue of Courage 7.5

Decadent Dragon 8

Charming Scoundrel 7

Horned Loch-Whale 8

Pickock Prankster 7.5

Lord Skitter, Swere King 7.5

Virtue of Persistence 7.5

Goddric, Cloaked Reveler 7.5

To Test (High expectations)

Court of Locthwain* 7

Tegwyll's Scouring* 7

Candy Trail 7.5

Restless Bivouac 7.5

The Huntsman's Redemption 7

Questing Druid 7

Mosswood Dreadknight 7.5

Hearth Elemental 7

Embereth Veteran 7.5

Specter of Mortality 7

Faerie Dreamthief 7

Twinning Twins 7

Frolicking Familiar 7

Farsight Ritual 7

Elusive Otter 7

Pollen-Shield Hare 7

Heartflame Delist 6.5

Regal Bunnicorn (The white Tarmogoyf!) 7

Virtue of Loyalty 7.5

Werefox Bodyguard 7.5

Torch the Tower 7

Asinine Antics 7

Beseech the Mirror 6.5

Rankle's Prank 7

Tangled Colony 7

Food Fight 7

Kellan, the Fae-Blooded 7

Scalding Viper 7

Elvish Archivist 7.5

The Goose Mother 7

Agatha's Soul Cauldron 7

To Test (Low expectations)

Tough Cookie 6

Three Bowls of Porridge 5

Gruff Triplets 5

Flick a Coin 6

The irencrag 5

Syr Gginger, the Meal Ender 6

Witchstalker Frenzy 6.5

The Witche's Vanity 5

Spiteful Hexmage 5

Woodland Acolyte 6

Cheeky House Mouse 6

Cooped Up 6

Hylda's Crown of Winter 6

Expel the Interlopers 6

Lady of Laughter 6.5

Plunge into Winter 5

Shrounded Shepherd 5

Spellbook Vendor 6.5

Stroke of Midnight 6

Freeze in Place 5

Gadwick's First Duel 5

Sleep-Cursed Faerie 5

Talion's Messenger 6

Tenacious Tomeseeker 6

Ashiok, Wicked Manipulator 6

Devouring Sugarmaw 6

Voracious Vermin 5

Immodane, the Pyrohammer 4

Monstrous Rage 5

Raging Battlemouse 6

Redcap Gutter-Dweller 6.5

Rotisserie Elemental 5

Beanstalk Wurm 4

Blossoming Tortoise 6.5

Bramble Familiar 6

Up the Beanstalk 6

Welcome to Sweettooth 6

Talion, the Kindly Lord 7

Constructed Reserve Stuff

Hopeful Vigil 5

Moonshaker Cavalry 6

Slumbering Keepguard 3

Stockpiling Celebrant 2

Ingenious Prodigy 6

Snaremaster Sprite 4

Spell Stutter 3

Callous Sell-Sword 5

Hopeless Nightmare 5

Not Dead After All 6

Harried Spearguard 6

Brave the Wilds 6

Night of the Sweets' Revenge 3

Virtue of Strength 5

Likeness Looter 6

Obyra, Dreaming Duelist 4

Rowan, Scion of War 5

Collector's Vault 5

Throne of Eldraine* 6

Not a whole lot to say about this set. I don't think my lack of excitement or interest is any real reflection of the set. It seems fine. I like the plane. It is perhaps a little too cartoony and cute for my tastes but not by much, and that certainly isn't how we should be looking at sets. The power level is about where you would want it which is a relief, the first Eldraine visit was marred rather by unreasonable power levels. There are lots of potentially good cube cards here but none that look to be oppressive in power or staples in their frequency of play, other than the manlands of course. Just a bunch of fine looking mid and top end variations of stuff. 

Thursday 24 August 2023

Homemade Cube Part 8


Today we are going to be making some predictions based on design choices. I currently play a pretty reliable 17 lands in my 40 when playing my main cube these days. This is up over the years as mana sinks and sources of value have gotten better. Scrap that, as tempo has become more important, is the predominant reason. Those first two things mean you don't suffer floods as badly when and if they happen but really it is about the tempo. You want to just curve and you want to do so in tempo positive ways, either efficiently shutting down theirs, or progressing your own. The best way to win in my cube these days is by having a powerful midrange deck full of generically good cards and then curving out all the way to five while managing to usefully spend all fifteen mana along the way, ideally capping it off with some absurd five drop. More lands makes this more likely. I would likely be playing nearer 18 lands per deck if it were not for the fact that so many cube cards draw and dig and generally help you to curve.

I predict that in my homemade cube I will be playing closer to 15 lands on average. There are a lot of reasons why I think this will be the case so lets have a look at each in turn. Firstly my curve is lower in the home made cube. There are a lot more one drops and rather less three drops and upward, all pulling the average down somewhat. In a very simplified way, if there is less to spend mana on you are going to need less of it! I think this will be the more significant of the factors that reduce the number lands I want to play.

A more subtle factor is that I think the top end in my homemade cube is less powerful and less able to brute force a win. In a world where your five drop is winning you the game quickly and reliably you want to get there as fast as possible as is increasingly the case in my main cube. I don't think my homemade top end is quite so alluring and as such not as important to arrive at punctually. 

One of the other factors that I tweaked in the homemade cube was the reduced cost of card advantage and card quality, with an increased abundance in the latter. If it costs less, you are going to be able to play more, and are incentivized to do so, and there being more around makes that easy to do. More filtering and digging effects typically result in fewer lands getting played. 

The card above also reminds me that there is a fair amount of incidental treasure in the set as well. Both cards give you treasure and those giving it away. These really help get you over those key threshold. You might have a deck which only ever needs five mana for two five drops. For those five drops to be relevant enough of the time they need supporting with sufficient lands. You might well however be able to trade a couple of lands into treasure generating cards, get the same level of playability out of your five drops, and increase the overall threat and power density of your deck. 

Inspired by the quality of the one mana basic land cyclers in Tales of Middle Earth I ended up packing two full cycles in my home made cube. This is comprised of a 4 and a 5 drop dork in each colour, each with a single flavourful key word and a relatively low power, by cube standards at least. These cheap cyclers are very alike to the MDFC cards in function and I expect them to see a lot of play and replace a lot of lands in the process. Lorien Revealed is one of the most played five drops in the more powerful constructed formats already. I similarly expect the land cyclers to be some of the most played in my cube. 

Further to that I slapped on a lot of "Lay of the Land" effects onto Charms and other modal card fairly often, both as a way to give low impact card neutral options thus lowering the narrowness of some of these cards, but also just as a good way to increase game consistency. While not quite as potent as the land cyclers I suspect the relative abundance of these will add to that effect in a relevant way.

Mana sinks are getting better and more common. There is just always some land to activate, some card in the bin to escape or flashback. Just some dork you can pump a load of mana into. This is not the reason I am playing at least 17 lands in my normal cube, as discussed, that is mostly for the tempo. The perk of the mana sinks is simply that I am happier about playing more. Things do not go so disastrously when you flood out a bit. A flood these days is far less problematic than a screw. While I do have mana sinks a plenty in my home made cube they likely fail to impress more than the raw card advantage tools on offer. As such I expect people to be drawing more cards and playing more cards, rather than investing more mana in cards already in play. I feel like my mana sinks offer less in the way of reach than existing ones, and there is relatively less power in them. If you are drawing more cards rather than investing more mana in existing ones then you will draw more lands with them and not need such a high ratio of lands to spells in the first place. 

So there we have it, a collection of reasons as to why I expect to play significantly less lend per deck in this homemade cube meta than I am accustomed to; 

Lower curve. 

Less powerful top end. 

Abundant card quality and cheap land cyclers.

Efficient card advantage.

Pleanty of treasure and cards that search up basics.

Less exciting and powerful mana sinks.

Looking forward to seeing if I am right and if I have managed to artificially cut land counts in decks by a significant margin (well over 10% in terms of lands and by 5% considering all cards) simply with considered card design. If so I might try my hand at other similar challenges. That is of course, assuming we also hit the main objective, that of being a fun format to play!

Friday 18 August 2023

Homemade Cube Part 7


I made a post already  regarding intended tweaks to the general power level of the cards I was making. It only covered half the story however. They were the cards I chose to shift a little, for the sake of learning or achieving specific goals. There are a pile of other types of card that I designed with rather unconventional power level bars based on where they are going - a cube. Occasions where I am forced into going against conventions in card power level rather than electing to. It is a bit like how the balance of cards in MtG sets differs between Commander product, things going into standard, and things going straight to modern. The Cards are not uniformly different in power level. Commander cards can afford loads of stuff that would be egregious in 1v1 formats, cheap efficient dorks are rarely all that exciting in commander, nor are single target counterspells, discard effects, or cheaper removal. Those sorts of cards in commander products are often way more powerful when looked at through the lens of a modern or cube player. In modern you can afford to really push the high curve cards, from about 4 mana up the card wants to be utterly devastating, the kind of top end card that is wildly oppressive in standard just isn't going to be close to playable in modern most of the time etc. etc. All formats have their different bars for power and cube is no different, some types of cards perform much better and need no pushing to get attention while other kinds of cards need a lot more of a push, or can simply take a much bigger push in power without upsetting any balances. The card below is wildly over powered and shouldn't be printed in any constructed format but as a one of in a limited setting it is going to do no real harm at all. It is a one for one answer that will often leave the caster behind on multiple metrics. I was going to balance it to be less powerful relative to exiting removal but I was happy with how clean and simple the card was and so I have chosen to keep it as it is. Being gold and removal grants extra licence to push limits.

First and foremost cube is a limited format and in those there are some reasonable heuristics that ring reasonably true throughout. The majority of your non-land cards want to be threats or answers. This means that any card outside of that group has a bit more work to do. Some groups rather more than others. Ramp, card quality, and card draw, while all suffering from diminishing returns in a deck, are all desirable and playable to a good extent in cube. They don't need any sort of buff or nerf compared to the reasonable and balanced iterations of these cards you find in cubes. These ramp, card draw, card quality cards, and one other group - creature buffs,  make up the bulk of the non-threat, non-answer cards you find in cubes. Below is simply a minor, yet significant, buff to Sleight of Hand, which is a playable but relatively low tier card quality spell in cube. This is significantly more option dense than Sleight which is a nice win for so few extra words or complexity. It is also a much cooler synergy piece in a world with lots of graveyard stuff.

Creature buffs come in such a variety of forms that we need to break it down. There are persistent global buffs that I usually just call Anthems and there are persistent single target buffs like equipment and vehicles. These are all strong tools that can add scaling and reach and good raw power but that must be used with caution as they do nothing when you don't have dorks to use with them. The various persistent buff effects, although suffering some diminishing returns, do not need any help to perform well in cube, you just can't go nuts playing and including them. The card below is a side grade on Glorious Anthem, which itself is the sort of baseline acceptable power for an Anthem. While this might not be more powerful it does manage to be a little more interesting and interactive which is always nice. 

It is the other kinds of buff cards that need real help. The "at the time" buffs which are your Giant Growth cards and your Curiosities. These not only need you to have creatures, they need you to have them at the time of deployment. They are narrower and riskier as a result and really need a massive push to become playable. Combat tricks tend to be quite swingy when they work out well so I typically try and improve them by increasing playability. This means tossing on some cycling or putting them as part of a Charm or other modal card. That is my preferred means of aiding a combat trick. Adding power just makes them more swingy. Tucking narrow effects onto modal cards; Charms, Commands, Planeswalkers, Confluences, things with escalate, entwine, and the like has been my main way of including things that are either too narrow or too low powered to merit their own card. 

As far as aura based buffs go it is really hard to say. Rancor is really the only one to have ever done much work in cube but this is because it was more of an equipment in function if used carefully. That, and it was over powered in its time of course too, yet it doesn't get a look in now. Armadillo Cloak is another card you could put a case forward for but it only really did anything because it was put on cards with hexproof and other tedious such things. It was more of a combo as a result. In an attempt to make some aura buffs playable I have really pushed the boat out. These are some of the highest power auras out there and shouldn't be printed for any constructed setting ever! Likely my most pushed cards in the set. Hopefully it is enough to get them some action without being too oppressive in terms of game play. I have attempted to achieve this by offering relatively meagre tempo gains and focusing more on safety and value. This card is just Curiosity but pushed significantly, twice. So much so that it gives the card a kind of modality where it can be used as protection or as card draw.

In cubes that do not include combo archetypes and strategies the various Tutor cards are not very exciting. In my midrange cube things like the Recruiters are too low powered and narrow. Even Demonic Tutor is rarely worth it. No spell stays competitive once you add two mana unless it has impressive scaling or you are a toolbox deck. Neither are really things in most cubes. Synergy cards just put parasitic strain on the limited side of things. That gave me a bunch of room to toss in some fairly safe tutor cards that would be a little too dangerous to include in most other formats. While not the most powerful of the tutors I have made, the one below is one of the more interesting ones. I have a lot of small dorks like this that find a colour pie appropriate range of stuff that is cheaper than you would expect to see on a real card. 

Utility lands are almost never worth it in cube as they not only tend to have quite a low impact on games, they also "waste" a pick you could just have run a basic land over. In constructed it is nice to get all sorts of extra value in your mana base with cool utility lands. It is almost never worth doing that in cubes as the opportunity cost is so high. I didn't make many utility lands, most of those I did make also did some fixing. The more pure utility lands I made I pushed pretty hard so as to make them actually worth a slot. I also slapped on some land types to make them more accessible and thus able to be part of a plan or synergy more readily. Even with all this pushing I am not sure these will last. This is still a Plains that comes in tapped and requires effective 4 mana to draw a card. That is still not a cost you can pay in most stages of most games. 

Fixing, like removal, is another area you cannot do too much damage with. I thought I had finished all my required land cycles relatively early on in proceedings but I overshot the mark rather significantly on cards made (just shy of 700 as we head towards the printing), and so to accommodate them properly I had to make some more lands dedicated to fixing. As lands in cube dilute playable spells, you want as few as possible. You also want enough so as to not be having games decided all the time by bad mana. A solution to this is to have land cycles that are compact, they offer a lot of fixing range in relatively few cards. Being a bit short of nice clean designs I threw out these seemingly insanely good lands. I threw out a token "legendary" status as a nod to how good they would be in constructed. But, even with all that, they still actually fall short of the raw power of sac lands in cube and so I am not even all that fussed on power level. I get some nice pretty, space efficient, and oh so clean, tri lands for my home made cube. And I feel justified in doing so based on existing precedent. 

There are those cards that are inherently a bit narrow. Raise Dead is a classic black effect you want to give a nod to. The card is cheap and card neutral which is usually enough. Things that are card neutral are those that get away with not being a threat or an answer themselves. Indeed, Raise Dead can be a threat or an answer if you have the right cards in the bin! The issue with it is that it can do nothing. You need the things there to play it and as such it can fail to offer opportunities. By making it a Seal effect rather than an immediate one you can get the card out of your hand and invest the mana in playing it without having a (useful) target. By bolting on a very low value passive you can make the card a bit more self contained and a bit more useful. This is now arguably at its best on turn one as opposed to its least playable. This might even be the case without the mill in a lot of settings. 

Lastly we have those build around and support cards at either end of the synergy spectrum. The card below is just an attempt to "fix" Goblin Bombardment. This is at the payoff end of the synergy spectrum. I like Goblin Bombardment and the archetypes you play it in but I find it a little oppressive in power, allowing too much freedom and negating too many effects on the way. I have certainly tuned down the impunity with which you can use and abuse it but I think I have managed to keep it reasonably decent by expanding its range to toss artifact as well. You want cards like this not on creatures so that they stick around a bit better and offer their services more consistently. That however makes it not technically a direct threat itself and thus demanding of more scrutiny as well as plenty of power and as much playability as possible. Ultimately this kind of card should exist in the group of the creature buffs. It doesn't make them better in combat but it does still add power to them in much the same way. This is a creature buff and an artifact buff so that is nice. I don't have many of the latter.

The support end of the synergy spectrum looks more like the card below. Synergies are pretty dependent on their support cards. The payoff determines the ceiling but the support card determine the floor, a less exciting but ultimately way more important feature of any card or strategy. Support cards typically do nothing on their own so while you need to be a bit careful with how much power you slap on a payoff effect you can be rather more safe dumping a bunch into a support effect. This self mill tool isn't a safe card to print at all for any sort of constructed setting but it is rather more appealing to cube than something like a Stitcher's Supplier. The extra mill off supplier isn't worth the lower power and increased narrowness of a 1/1 body when compared to a card in hand. You may have noticed that just between this and the Imp shown earlier black graveyard based decks are well supported. There is plenty of payoff but again, it tends to be in the form of value rather than tempo. There is just lots of escape stuff meaning self mill in black is a big like card quality and a bit like card draw. These kinds of cards in a setting where the payoff was tempo and threat based would be a lot scarier. Luckily no Hogaak, Vengevine, Bloodghast, and the like here. We are all a lot more Woe Strider! 

Saturday 12 August 2023

Homemade Cube Part 6


In this instalment we are simply going to take a look at some of the many cards I have "designed" that are just slightly tweaked versions of another card. Perhaps they cost a mana less or they have a stat or two more. Perhaps they got a scry bolted on or something like that. Turns out a lot of the best design space is just where cards missed the mark. Plenty of good ideas have been squandered by lack of power, or rendered useless by power creep, and I am here to clean up on those missed opportunities! 

As this cube design is a tribute to Magic I have been trying hard to evoke a lot of the classic cards. Bringing classic cards up in power level to where they need to be to compete with modern cards can be simple but it can also be quite a shift. Retaining the essence of the original card is the most important aspect of the transition. The more a card moves the harder it is to keep a resemblance of the starting point. This is a bit of a trade off with the fact that you do have more design space the further away you get from a muse. 

Giant Spider is a card that I think is emblematic and is one of the more extreme examples. We had already needed to power creep to Punumbra Spider before the halfway point between alpha and now! That and the last few years have been the most intense for power creep. All in all a Giant Spider needs to be a lot more card to have a chance of seeing play. Keeping the body and basic frame of the card the same is the best way to evoke a classic creature. Just one simple ability however is the cleanest from a design point of view. Finding the right ability that feels spidery and green, while also being able to do one massive but precise power jump in a perfect neat step was not immediately easy or obvious but I am happy with my shot at it. 

Where possible I like to add interest to a card. If I can not add complexity to the design but add interest or option density to a card somehow then that feels like a win. The classic tapper is a fine card in white but it needs a bit of a push to get cube attention these days. This slight tweak on the cost is clean, i.e. adding no real complexity. The card is just as busy as before and the change feels like it adds at least enough power. And it does so while offering an extra dimension of choice in how one uses the card. I even feel like I managed to pull off the flavour somehow. That was generally the hardest part of designing with Phyrexian mana.  The flavour felt quite tied in but the mechanic actually gives a lot of freedom and design space. Obviously also super dangerous if used inconsiderately but hopefuly that has been avoided here!

I have always kindof resented Adventurous Impulse for being the clean flagship green card quality spell in terms of neat design, but also sucking a bit and not seeing much play. While that role in green has now probably been filled by Abundant Harvest I still want to see the Impulse at cube power level. It even has Impulse in the name! Anywho, a simple tweak for looking at 3 card to looking 4 deep really removes the risk and general narrowness of the card. It makes it a lot more than a third better! It is still card neutral and tempo negative and so a long long wat off being too powerful, just nice and fair. The kind of card I want to see in my hand and in my cube. 

Cube, as with every different Magic format, has slightly different values for things. I harp on a lot about gold cards and their specific nuances to cube. This card is that born out in design. There are almost no "generic" cards that see play in Modern but not in cube. Terminate is basically it. It is a solid and dependable removal spell, the best for two mana, and being gold has perks for being used as a pitch card. In cube however the loss of playability it gets from being tied to two colours does way more damage to the card than the amount it is better than things like Go for the Throat. Gold cards need to be more of a step up from mono coloured cards than you might expect. With that in mind I took a card that was already "best in class" and felt more than happy improving its power level. I can get away with this in cube not just because it is gold but also because it is a removal spell. A one for one removal spell at that and in a singleton format that really isn't causing any problems or breaking the format. You are generally at much lower risk dumping a bit more power into certain types of card, and spot removal like Exterminate, for a limited only environment is one such situation. Further to that there are different ways you can empower a card. There are direct ways that will relate to cost and effect in terms of card economy and those will have pronounced effects and can be dangerous business. In this case I have simply broadened the card, it is more powerful in that it will perform better overall but the ceiling of any instance of performance is basically unchanged. 

There is also adding power to a card without adding anything but choice. I like Storm's Wrath in cube, it suits some decks very nicely but it is a bit narrow and it certainly isn't a bomb or anything. Simply by making it modal we not only add a lot of interest to the card, we also add power and playability. Same effective output but the refined control results in a lot more card. I am not even sure this version will be anything more than an average spell. I could probably make it even more option rich, interesting, and powerful with a third mode that deals four to both players so as to try and reel in those aggro players as well!

I also did a lot of converting cards into "energy" cards. By that I mean the cards are as good as identical to a fine existing card in function assuming you have no other sources or uses for energy. Below is a Giant Growth in isolation which is pretty sub par as far as cube goes. Given the energy mechanic however you get to add in other energy if you want more pump or save some for the next thing if you need less. It is exactly why Harnessed Lightening wound up being so much better than basically all other red "3 damage for 2 mana" spells. It could kill big things and was efficient at killing small stuff. Hopefully this Giant Growth homage will prove equally empowered on the original! Hopefully it will not result in too many one shot kill combo decks getting drafted.

Savannah Lion is a card that I have added to a lot in a variety of ways. There must be over ten white one mana 2/1 dorks and at least the same again in the other colours combined as well. This is nothing new though, Wizards have been printing direct upgrades to the Lions for near two decades themselves. I was going to showcase some Savannah Lions upgrades that were also direct upgrades to other cards simultaneously but that isn't too hard to imagine when you take a 1/1 like Icatian Javelineer or Goblin Balloon Brigade and make it a 2/1. The best Lion however is simply the one I gave cycling to. It provides interesting choices in the midgame when you need to work out if it is tempo you need or more gas in your card. It helps you get out of screws and it has ideal scaling being a high tempo turn one play you can fight early with or a card you can cash in for more juice later when it isn't packing the punch you want anymore. Simple is best and that is very much the case here. From a game theory point of view this is likely one of the best Lions in the set even though there are some that have seemingly more going on.

So there we have it, a little overview of a couple of cards and ways in which I have adjusted existing things to suit my needs. This is absolutely one of the larger areas in which I could have pulled example cards from but that is rather unsurprising. In the same way there is supposedly only seven types of storey you can tell, there are likely few distinct forms a magic card can take and everything is just a tweaking of  that! That being said, I have in many cases tried to make it clear what cards we are pulling inspiration from or trying to emulate.

Friday 4 August 2023

Homemade Cube Part 5


Saving space with efficient dual land cycles and fixing is the order of today's article. Saving space is not something most magic players have had to consider. It is a design element rather specific to the curators of cubes. Put simply there is a inbuilt tension on dual lands and fixing. You want fixing effects so that games are more consistent but they take up valuable cube space. By adding more dual lands your mana bases get better and less games are decided by colour screw which is great. However you also dilute the pool. People have less options and less playables when it comes to building their decks. There are several compounding reasons behind this. 

Firstly when you pick lands they are typically going to replace a free basic land and so picking lands results in you having fewer playable cards to build from. Secondly there are just more dead cards floating around in packs. It is very rare that every colour pair is being played in a draft, or at least not to the degree that is going to mean dual lands are hoovered up for that colour pair (as is usually the case when you have players in four or five colours, they are just cherry picking the odd premium dual). Factors can exacerbate this further such as having fewer than eight players in a draft, or draft formats that typically provide weaker card quality overall such as Winston or team Rochester. Or indeed, both of those things at once!

In constructed deck building you are looking to max out your dual lands. You do not want to provide this option in cube. I would look to only run a couple of basic lands in a two colour constructed deck if I were blessed with enough sufficiently good dual lands in that format. In cube however, if you could pack that many lands your deck is likely a bit thin and building it didn't come with all that many choices.

There are some tricks that one can use as a curator to increase the effective fixing present within the land section of your cube. This is by using lands that are effectively fixing for more than just one colour pair. A land like City of Brass is effectively all 10 colour pairs in one. It is always fixing for you regardless of what you are in and this makes it a more interesting pick consideration. The thing with City of Brass is that it isn't a great land despite being one of the best that fix for any colour. It is a lot weaker than a simple on colour pain land in your typical two colour deck! Further to that there are few other rainbow lands within a reasonable distance of City of Brass in power. In a singleton cube therefor you just can't lean on cards that offer such broad fixing.

Sac lands often act a bit like the City of Brass in cube assuming you can pick up at least one of the on colour lands with the appropriate types. This is actually the main reason sac lands are so highly picked and played in cube and not so much the synergies they have with revolt, landfall, delve, and Brainstorm as is more the case in constructed settings! The synergies are nice but just having a nice reliable piece of fixing that is probably going to work for all your colours whatever you end up in is pretty great. 

The Triomes help with this massively. Not only do they empower the sac lands massively but they also represent three dual land cycles in one. It is in part this space economy that has made the Triomes so successful in cube. They just offer so much fixing in very little cardboard. There are many more powerful lands you could play but there are not that have quite that degree of space economy as well which is really to their credit.


In between rainbow lands and the tri colours lands are the half cycles. Things like the Thriving and Vivid lands. They offer effectively four dual lands in one card and they are complete cycles in five cards and not ten. This makes it feel like they are eight times more efficient on space in a cube per amount of fixing than a traditional cycle of ten lands with each colour pair (although I would argue it is only four times in practice but even so, a massive upgrade). Typically these half cycles are lopsided offering better fixing on the "main" colour and less potent fixing on the other(s). 

These half cycles have not been explored all that fully by Wizards for what I suspect are several reasons. One of which is simply that they do not love printing lands that are functionally better than basic lands, which in turn results in rather restricted design space as far as lands that might wind up being heavily played goes. I think that this is an outdated design premise as basic lands confer lots of natural benefits while non-basics tend to come with their own risks. I was happy to produce a couple of half cycles that fix for one of their colours as well as a basic land. It seemed like a great way to increase the consistency on the mana side of things without harming other areas of the cube. 

My main cube is 540 cards and has four dual lands in each colour pair plus all 10 sac lands and all 10 triomes taking up a total of 60 card slots. I always want more fixing in my decks but if I add a cycle of land you really feel it in the drafts. In my homemade cube I still have 4 sets of cycles that are 10 cards each but then I have three half cycles (pictured two directly above and one directly below) instead of sacs and Triomes which feels like it gives a comparable amount of fixing without it being so polarized, and while taking up a little less space. Much of that freed up space has been used on rainbow lands to further increase consistency. 

Given that cube is different from constructed you can afford to be more generous on your lands when designing specifically for it. As such I have pushed some of the rainbow lands a little further than you could for the likes of standard and even modern. I have also found I was slapping on some below par, but otherwise "bonus" fixing modes on some of my utility lands. And that pretty much sums up my strategy for fixing as far as the land portion of the homemade cube goes. Half cycles, pushed rainbow lands, and being happy to make non-basic lands that are a direct fixing upgrade on a basic. I didn't want anything as powerful as the original duals or the sac lands but I was aiming for not all that far behind that mark. Good playable fixing isn't broken as such, it just lets people play the game, and so it is a great place to be generous with the power levels.