Cantrippin’ Balls: Doubling up on Cantrips

by: CML

The great thing about multiplayer games — games of incomplete information, specifically — is that no two games are completely the same. This doesn’t mean that some decks don’t try to surmount this. I once built a Standard deck and told Travis Woo that I loved it because ‘every game was different.’ ‘Ah,’ he said, ‘that’s the problem. I like decks where every game is the same.’

This concept is familiar to Constructed players. EDH, whose singleton format promotes diversity of games, has a focus on tutors (you repeatedly ‘tutor’ for your general) that emphasize consistency. Legacy has had its share of linear strategies (Survival, Reanimator) banned or at least castrated. In Modern, Wizards has aggressively banned Ponder and Preordain, which enable combo decks to assemble their wins at the trivial cost of U.

In Cube, there are almost no degenerate combos, the format is heavily singletons (if not strictly Highlander), and linear strategies are hard to put together to the point where I was thinking about how to best promote them. The flattened power level of my build made me ask myself: would doubling up on cantrips be fun?


This idea has its precedents. Jason Waddell is one of the first Cube designers to break singleton, and I’ve been happy to ‘double up’ on cards like Deathrite Shaman to combat graveyard strategies, and Scalding Tarn to provide an appropriate density of high-power-level fixing. I like making my Cube games resemble Constructed games, so I’ve also gone heavy on card types like mana-dorks and cheap spells, to mimic the fast and interactive nature of modern Magic. Since cantrips fall into all of these categories, and there’s no realistic way to abuse the consistency they grant in Cube, trying out two apiece seemed like a no-brainer.

On Wednesday, I got together a pod of six and drafted this deck:


The cantrips functioned perfectly in the deck — by which I mean not that they were overpowered, but that they made the games more fun. I had far more decisions per game than usual, and was happy to reintroduce Delver of Secrets, oftentimes a card without a Cube home, to my build. The two cantrips led to more punts and swindles. If a card increases complexity in a format whose entire purpose is to make good players screw up horribly, what’s not to like? The one-mana cost was also non-trivial, especially when facing down a Thalia or needing to dig for a specific answer that would be castable if not for the loss of a blue mana. Also, as Wednesday’s winner showed, you don’t even need cantrips to win with Blue:


I’m happy to include two copies of Ponder, Preordain, and Brainstorm in my Cube for the foreseeable future.

Last thing: lovers of Legacy will find this of interest. In Cube, the best cantrip is Preordain, then Ponder, then Brainstorm.

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