When we think of Magic’s most exciting and iconic cards, regular mana-producing lands aren’t high on the list; as any competitive player quickly learns, however, they are the glue that holds everything together. This is nowhere more true than in Cube, and fixing is an important topic to think about when building your list.
– What do you want from your fixing?
The obvious purpose of any one piece of mana-fixing is to help cast your spells, but there are other considerations for mana-fixing as a whole. Do you want players to have consistent access to good fixing, allowing them to play three or more colours? Do you want two-colour decks to have reasonable manabases but anything more ambitious than that to require effort?
One approach is to limit the available manafixing to encourage conventional two-colour strategies; otherwise, the theory goes, players can take the best cards from their packs with little regard
for mana requirements in the knowledge that they can pick up fixing later. This leads to multicolour ‘good stuff’ decks emerging as the best strategy. As this quote from Tom LaPille shows, the Magic Online Cube was designed with this in mind: “I chose to put the total amount of mana fixing where it is because I wanted color commitments to mean something”.
Recently, as creatures have become better and Cube has got faster, those decks are less viable as they can’t afford to wait around for their mana to come together in-game. As a result, some have added more fixing to create more decisions and opportunities during the draft – instead of just looking for the best card in their colour(s), players can and must consider the merits of possible splash cards.
The availability of fixing has other consequences that ought to be noted. Some shy away from including Signets in their Cube on the grounds that it takes away one incentive to draft green – its near-monopoly on ramp; that argument also applies to fixing to a degree. Using the same logic deployed to argue for a high density of aggro cards, we should be aware of the need for mana-fixing if aggro is to be viable: it needs it immediately, and so it needs as much as it can pick up without compromising its strategy.
– Types of fixing, and fixing cycles
One of the nice things about lands when it comes to Cube construction is that there are lots of readily available cycles: fetchlands, duals, shocklands, buddy lands (Glacial Fortress), filter lands (Graven Cairns), and so on. As long as you have a nice round number of spaces set aside for lands, you can get the job done very quickly by slotting in cycles.
However, not all fixing is created equal. Some types of fixing are better suited to certain deck types or colour pairs; and, if maintaining balance is the main goal, some diversity is needed. Control lands can support scry lands or Karoos, while aggro decks want fewer enters-the-battlefield-tapped lands and are more drawn to things like Scars lands and painlands. W/R, which lends itself to aggro decks, would prefer Battlefield Forge over Temple of Triumph, whereas W/B might prefer Temple of Silence instead of Caves of Koilos (for example). Strict adherence to cycles may be aesthetically satisfying, but it ends poorly.
It is worth noting that, although tailoring your lands to the natural strength of each guild may seem appealing, it can also restrict your ability to support niche strategies, like attacking decks in conventionally controlling color pairs. A controlling deck will still run a land like Seachrome Coast, but most attacking decks have no interest in Azorius Chancery. For this reason, many cube designers opt to run only lands that decks of all speeds are interested in playing.
In addition, within some cycles there might be members that are stronger than others. Of the Worldwake manlands, for example, Celestial Colonnade and Creeping Tar Pit stand tall, Raging Ravine is well-regarded too, but Stirring Wildwood and Lavaclaw Reaches languish behind. It’s definitely possible that they’re all strong enough to play, but jamming them in with no regard for the merits of each will benefit some colour combinations at the expense of others.
There are also individual pieces of fixing that are clearly worth playing but which aren’t part of any neat cycle. Horizon Canopy definitely deserves a G/W slot, and you’d certainly play Horizon Canopy copies in most colour pairs, but as it is you have to choose between disrupting a cycle to fit it in or imbalancing the level of fixing available; either way, you need to find a way to remedy that problem.
– How much fixing?
The ‘baseline’ for most Cubes is 10-15% (which, for a 360 card Cube, works out at 4-5 pieces of manafixing in each player’s set of packs). This figure isn’t grounded in anything in particular; rather, it’s what feels right to most people after a lot of iterations. It’s by no means set in stone, though. If your Cube departs from consensus in ways that suggest more fixing – a larger gold section, or a higher number of colour-intensive cards (think Kargan Dragonlord over Plated Geopede) – don’t hesitate to adjust the ratio accordingly.