Category: Contest

CubeTutor Champion Contest Champion

Far too long ago, I announced a CubeTutor design contest, where participants were tasked with shaking off seasons of dust off my cube and bringing it into the present day. The not-so-subtle goal was to get myself excited about cubing again. From that perspective, mission accomplished.

As for the contest itself, you’ve all noticed that I’ve dragged my feet on announcing a winner. The blame lies on me for designing the contest in the way that I did. The submissions were all pretty great, but crowning a winner has been difficult.

Grillo’s submission seemed brilliant in spots, but doubling and trippling down on ETB Tapped lands and cutting aggressive black 1-drops (while retaining control bombs like Grave and Inferno Titan) feels like a pretty significant departure. There are some alterations made to compensate (white can no longer wipe the board with 4 mana), but on the whole it feels like a solid entry that I don’t personally identify with.

Aoeret’s list intrigues me with double Collected Company and generally aggressive singleton breaking, but then there’s the eyesore of triple Pridemate, effectively giving me flashbacks of a memory I had tried to repress.

Ultimately, the list I chose was Kirblinx’s, whose wonderful and elaborate submission I’ve posed in the linked forum thread. This was the entry I came to over and over again when revising my own cube.

That said, I don’t agree with all of Kirblinx’s design decisions. In particular, he proposes replacing Shocklands with Battle Lands, a change that dramatically alters the balance of the environment, and not for the better. If the current Standard environment serves as any indication, the Battle-Fetch dynamic really emphasizes Turn 3 and 4 plays, and that’s with on-color fetches being used. In cube, you usually end up with an assortment of fetches that can grab your on-color dual lands, and if these dual lands enter the battlefield tapped, aggro is already opening the game on the back foot.

I do agree that they are great in terms of adding meaningful sequencing decisions, but I would want to build an environment around them, not slot them into an environment tuned to ETB untapped mana sources.

Congratulations to Kirblinx, our CubeTutor Champion Contest Champion!

Honorable mentions:

Discuss this article in our forums

CFB Store Credit Contest Entries

by: Jason Waddell

Last month I announced a cube design contest, where contestants were asked to propose a card that could work well in multiples in a cube draft environment, and explain what changes would need to be made to said environment in order to execute the design properly.

The contest closed on Friday, and the entries are in! Eric Chan and I wrote our critiques of each of the seven submissions, found below.

Entry 1 – Green Sun’s Zenith and Knight of the Reliquary

Entry 2 – Accumulated Knowledge and Kindle

Entry 3 – Splinter Twin

Entry 4 – Young Pyromancer

Entry 5 – Scuttlemutt

Entry 6 – Phyrexian Metamorph

Entry 7 – Tinker

After you’ve reviewed each submission, visit this forum thread to debate the entries and vote for the winner of the contest. Voting for the contest will close Friday, after which we will open a new thread to vote for the contest runner-up.

[Contest] Tinker

The Submission


Arguably one of the most broken cards know to magic-playing part of mankind, wouldn’t you say? Busted beyond belief in the constructed formats where it would be legal if it wasn’t banned in 5 formats and restricted in 2 others.


The remaining two … let’s just say they are slightly underplayed.
This is a good thing though! A copy of tinker is quite cheap, just four dollar at MTG Madness.

Mox SapphireSol RingTinkerBlightsteel Colossus

Tinker is quite notorious for what it enables. Turn 2 or 3 Blightsteel Colossus attacks being the most recent. It’s a play that’s strong enough to win many a Top 8 in Vintage, and yet some of us allow it to exist in out cubes. These are not the tinkers we’re looking for.

Snapcaster MageStoneforge Mystic

A tinker deck can be a fun, interesting and “enabling” archetype. Tinker is a scaling card. Many cards are like this, Snapcaster being a prime example. It’s only as good as the spells available in the card pool (and then just a wee bit better) the same goes for tutors, recursion, and most of the “specific” card-advantage mechanics. Tinker is one of these. It’s power is limited by the strongest Artifact in your cube. From here, I’ll start by disassembeling my own cube, and explaining the place the Tinker archetype has in that cube.


TinkerJhoira of the Ghitu

First and foremost, I support a wildfire archetype. It plans to drop a hefty critter like Hellkite Igniter, Pentavus or Thopter Assembly into play and resolve a wildfire afterwards. It plays many Mana-stones , and occasionally even splashes blue for control. Jhoira of the Ghitu, poster child for Tinker, is also often seen in this U/R version of the deck. A good primer on wildfire can be found here.

Tinker is a perfect fit for the deck. The abundance of fast artifact mana and fat artifact creatures makes it possible to tutor up a threat quickly and clean the field quickly afterwards. Tinker’s reasonable mana cost makes sure you can put it on the stack even after you cast a wildfire, make the deck quite flexible in a position where it normally would feel pressurized without a threat. The more often than not splash for blue makes it even more worth the effort.

Birthing PodBirthing PodBirthing PodBirthing Pod

Pod, as a four-of opens up a really interesting archetype. Tinker Pod. Tinker fetches your Pod, Pod fetches your creatures. Tinkering your Pod away can get you your ultimate artifact creature and push the game in the players favor in a desperate but strong way, right away. The deck can be a normal Blue/Green pod deck apart from the tinkers, and the artifact beater at the top of the cmc-chain and some manarocks down below, and is really easy to implement. (4 pods, 10-odd creatures and 2 tinkers)

Solemn SimulacrumMyr Battlesphere

PentavusThopter Assembly
Control is often in need of early mana in the form of rocks, but can just as often get sanded down when it starts drawing lands it needs to do so in rapid concession. As a result it loses options in hand, and eventually can get overthrown, losing your grip on the fight. A card-advantage machine combined with inevitabilitymakes such a deck increasingly more consistent, and generally stronger and more flexible. Enter Staff of Nin, a very nice card in any deck that doesn’t stay at Mach 2 fighting speed for the entirety of their planned 5 rounds of playing. It can almost slot into any deck tinker can slot into, making it an even greater card in combination.

Staff of Nin

A dash of uncertainty.

Elbrus, the Binding BladeBatterskull

Molten-Tail Masticore

There are many, many fun combinations to be made around Tinker, and around its targets.

Stoneforge MysticTinker

Withengar UnboundDominate

Stoneforge a Withengar, be a cool kid.
Tinker a Withengar, be a Hero
Dominate Withengar Unbound and become a God.

Jason’s Critique

The observation that Tinker is a card that scales to its environment. One of the major challenges in including a card like Tinker is finding targets that are sufficiently powerful to be included in decks when hardcast, yet not overwhelmingly broken when cheated into play. I usually cringe at the site of Tinker combos in cube, and as argued in The Cube Fallacy, the “big cheats” style of cards often provide the least satisfying gameplay when explicitly power maximized.

Tinker’s efficacy as a card is primarily dictated by the combination of the following:
– The quality of the targets
– The speed (power) level of your environment
– The density of artifacts in the draft
– The specific array of Tinker targets

This entry did a good job covering the first bullet point, I didn’t get a great sense of the others. Cards like Myr Battlesphere and Pentavus are wildly different in power level, and I don’t know that a cube that could handle a third turn Battlesphere would ever be interested in casting Pentavus.

Further I like to see some competing demand for cards. The touch of using Stoneforge Mystic and Tinker as layered support for a card like Elbrus is smart. Maybe we could go a step further and include some blue unblockable creatures?

Lastly, it’d be neat to see “Value Tinker” as a playable route. Maybe some artifacts that want to be sacrificed?

Ichor WellspringMycosynth Wellspring

On the whole, I like the idea of building an environment that makes the most (design wise, not power wise) of Tinker, and it’s a concept I’ve discussed before. It’s a fun idea in abstract, and one that requires significant tweaking and development to execute properly in a real cube.

Eric’s Critique

So. Tinker, huh? This is positively frightening and exciting at the same time. Tinker is only one of the most broken Big Cheat-type cards of all time, but I’ll always keep my ears open as to how it can be incorporated into an environment in a fair and fun way.

Jason outlined the four parameters that control how well Tinker plays out, and I wish the author had explored each of these areas a bit further. Right away, Myr Battlesphere makes me a little nervous. This is a card that can get out of hand pretty easily, and I don’t see that being able to consistently Tinker into it turn three or four being a positive for net fun.

I’d like to hear more about the overlap of Tinker with the Wildfire archetype, as this seems like a natural place for mana rocks to reside. For the Wildfire archetype to have any chance at viability, a cube often needs to have double digits’ worth of signets and other mana rocks, to ensure that there’s enough to go around between that and the control decks. Is this what the author had in mind? Would the abundance of mana rocks skew the environment in favour of control, and slow down the pace of the cube overall? How would this affect the player going deep on Tinker? As someone who doesn’t have much experience with either deck type, I would’ve liked to hear more firsthand accounts of how this plays out in practice.

Tinker unquestionably holds the among the most promise for cards worth doubling up on, and this entry is one that gets the gears turning. But what’s on offer here is just a skeleton, and it needs some fleshing out before a cube could adopt it with some level of confidence.

Return to contest entries.

[Contest] Scuttlemutt

The Submission


Cube archetypes are reliant upon two different types of cards, the flashy spotlight cards, such as Exhume or Reanimate in a reanimation archetype, and the supporting cast, which act to drive multiple archetypes forward, such as the large creatures which represent reanimation targets. These large creatures are not added expressly to support reanimation, and they can also act as ramp targets, finishers in control decks, curve-toppers in mid-range decks, etc. These multi-purpose support cards come in many forms, but a particular support card that simply begs to be featured in multiples, and indeed to have the rest of the cube shaped around it, is Scuttlemutt.

Now that you are back after reading Scuttlemutt‘s text and trying to figure out exactly what it does, and why you would ever want it in a cube, let’s lay out the basics:

  • It is a colourless creature which taps for any colour of mana.
  • It taps to change the colour of creatures.

Now, the use of the first should be pretty obvious. Ramp is great, and mana fixing is great, especially with no colour requirements, but it is the second ability that is the truly interesting part of the card. Changing the colours of a creature is normally pretty worthless in a regular cube, with the exception of the occasional creature with Fear or Intimidate that needs blocking. That said, many effects and abilities throughout Magic’s history reference the colours of a card, and adding the ability to change a creature’s colours with decent regularity allows for the construction of a cube based around a simple concept, ‘Colour-Matters’.

Whilst Scuttlemutt could be as simple as a vulnerable mana-rock which occasionally transforms an otherwise sideboard card such as Celestial Purge into maindeck removal, this article is going to go the way of Shadowmoor, and make colour a central component to the cube. It is here that multiple Scuttlemutts allows cards which otherwise wouldn’t have a chance of making a cube to become true powerhouses.

As mentioned, Scuttlemutt’s colour changing allows Celestial Purge to become a much stronger card, as well as boosting Deathmark and Combust from the same cycle. Now, with the addition of the Theros ‘self-hate’ cycle, there is now a wide selection of removal which is colour dependent. Celestial PurgeCombust and Deathmark are joined by Glare of Heresy and Dark Betrayal, which when combined with colour changing options, such as Scuttlemutt, and a greater inclusion of hybrid cards (discussed below), have the potential to become premium removal options.

In order for this type of beneficial colour-changing to be anything more than an occasional fortuitous occurrence, supplementary colour changing options are required. Focusing on the playable (and believe me, there are unplayable ones…) options, we have Cloudchaser Kestrel, the more frequently seen Eight-and-a-Half-TailsGovern the Guildless and Blind Seer (Who I assume works of the principle of “I can’t see which colour this is. I am going to assume it is red.”). Multiple copies of some of these cards, in combination with Scuttlemutt, allows for colour-changing to become a more consistent drafting strategy.

There are a large number of cards which care about the colour of a creature for more than just killing them, such as the cycle of ‘colour-lords’ from the Shadowmoor block, such as Wilt-Leaf Liege and Glen Elendra Liege. These are all very powerful cards, although they usually miss the call up to cube (often because of the Hybrid/Gold card classification issue, which is only an issue if you let it be one). When these cards can become flexible in the creatures that they buff, they become much more palatable than simply relying on the 1-2 other green/white creatures in the cube. Scuttlemutt gives this flexibility, but these cards do still rely upon a critical mass of multi-coloured a hybrid permanents to be worthwhile. (Aside: Civic Saber)
Of course, adding an increased number of cards which rely upon certain and indeed multiple colours to a cube requires a expanded multi-colour section, which in turn requires good mana-fixing, so the land section must be adjusted to accommodate. Slower lands such as the Alara tri-lands and lands such as Rupture Spire suddenly begin to look more acceptable, and suddenly the initially obvious colour-fixing utility of Scuttlemutt becomes important again.

After having gone through all of the excitement of trying to break colour changing effects, it feels a little mundane to discuss a creature type. Nevertheless, Scuttlemutt has a creature type. It is Scarecrow. If only there was some sort of card that cared about Scarecrows…

Reaper KingReaper King cares about scarecrows (Apparently to throw at other permanents, but who are we to judge?). In addition, it is a multi-colour creature for all of the above shenanigans. Reaper King acts as the anchor card for something of a scarecrow mini-archetype, and the whole cycle of Skulkins are scarecrows who act to support the colour-matters archetypes established previously (It is almost as if the Shadowmoor block designers meant it this way…).

While there are a number of ways you can take this initial sketch of a cube shaped by Scuttlemutt (For instance, how Shadowmoor’s wither plays really nicely with Proliferate and other counter-manipulation, which in turn plays beautifully with Sunburst, which just loops us back to the multi-color concept… Or how anyone paying attention to Standard lately knows just how good hybrid mana symbols are for devotion…), at that point I am taking the focus away from Scuttlemutt and instead designing an entire cube, which was not the point of this article. Scuttlemutt is a unique card that is functional in a vacuum as nothing more than a ramp and fixing effect, yet the effects of colour-changing transform it into a card which has the potential to be a powerful player in many archetypes, if you can just design the perfect cube for it.


One of the primary reasons why I chose to focus upon Scuttlemutt is that it is one of very few cards that affect colour, yet is playable even if you only treat that as an unlikely bonus. Color changing is an effect which was much more popular early in Magic’s history, and the power disparity of cards from that era is nearly unforgivable from a game design standpoint. You have to be going really really deep to play something like Lifelace in any conceivable environment.

When brainstorming for this idea, I saw the colour changing affects to be something of a U/W concept in this Cube (With blue having a ‘meddling’ feel, with colour-changing and counter-manipulation). Scuttlemutt is however designed as a somewhat universal support card, buoyed in part by the fact that it is colourless. It fixes colour for the enlarged multi-colour section, as well as improving Sunburst (which was the cross-over point between the counter-manipulation theme (Which focused on charge counters on artifacts) and the multi-colour themes).

The above article chose to focus upon the colour-related sections, as they more directly relate to the role of Scuttlemutt in that Cube. Supporting the colour-changing archetype are Cloudchaser Kestrel (probably two copies) and Eight-and-a-Half-Tails in White, and Govern the Guildless (Again, probably two copies) and Blind Seer (Who I cannot help but imagine works on the principle of ‘They all look the same colour to me.’).

At some point I was digging pretty deep, and was considering Painter’s ServantGlamerdye, and Swirl the Mists to increase the range of colour-targeting spells (and including cards such as Gainsay and Flashfreeze). It must be said, Painter’s Servant and indeed Swirl the Mists can become pretty broken pretty quickly with Llawan, Cephalid Empress in the Cube.

I will update the initial post to further expand the supporting colour-change cards. As for how many Scuttlemutts? Well, it feels strange to ever say more than 4 of a card, but assuming we are building this cube to resemble a booster draft environment, that number could be higher. It seems like sacrilege to say so though, so 4.

Jason’s Critique

This idea is pretty imaginative, and I think there’s potential in building an off-beat cube where some of these themes can thrive. Color matters is a theme that hasn’t been explored much in Magic’s history, and part of my worry is that the changes listed here haven’t quite gone deep enough. Scuttlemutt is at its most interesting when it can affect the board in interesting ways. Maybe you’re turning off your opponents enchantments or messing with various protection effects on their side or your side of the board.
Scourge of the NobilisSoldier of the PantheonThick-Skinned GoblinStormbreath Dragon

Although it is true that something like Celestial Purge becomes more viable, how many color changing effects do you need in your deck before such a card becomes maindeckable? Are we going to have a greater gold and hybrid density in the set to make these cards less narrow? Unless the removal options are incredibly sparse, I can’t imagine turning to Dark Betrayal without a high density of color changing effects in my deck. If I have a high density of these cards, chances are others don’t. Is there competing demand for a card like Dark Betrayal?

And how many players at the table will really want these cards in their decks? My worry is that we begin to jam our environment with narrow cards that are only of interest if heavily committed to a given deck.

All said, I think there are some great ideas, including the astute find Civic Saber and the various color lords. I would direct my attention away from the super narrow effects and more towards finding a web of cards and mechanics that Scuttlemutt can interact with that aren’t useless in the absence of a color-changing effect. There’s some real potential here, and with some work you could build a fleshed out environment along the lines of something like the Eldrazi Domain cube.

Eric’s Critique

I have to admit, I didn’t know what a Scuttlemutt was. I had to read the card. Then I had to read it again. Huh. Innnnnnteresting. I’m immediately reminded of the time that people tried to get Liquimetal Coating to work in Standard, by pairing it with a heap of Tuktuk Scrappers. Suddenly all your Shatters were Vindicates, and your Scrappers were Flametongues.

My first thoughts are that this isn’t a card you can just jam multiples of into any ol’ cube, but rather, Scuttlemutt would be optimal in a cube that is built around the color matters theme, as Jason mentioned. I have to admit I’m a little skeptical as to how deep this theme could go, though, and am more than a little worried that the best color hosers haven’t been historically distributed evenly across the colors (assuming we’re ignoring the mass color hosers that were a staple of early Magic). Celestial Purge and Eight-and-a-Half-Tails give white a lot of space to play around with in this theme, but what about poor green? Stuff like Autumn’s Veil is hard to salvage, even with creative uses of Scuttlemutt. Even the good color hosers have the same problem that commonly used protection creatures, like Mirran Crusader, have in cube: they can be all-stars in some matches, and duds in others, and it’s randomly determined by which colors your opponent happened to draft. That Crusader or Deathmark might completely dominate in one matchup, and then be decidedly mediocre (or useless!) in other, without any interesting or meaningful decisions on either your or your opponent’s parts. Not everybody is always going to have a Scuttlemutt handy, and the situations where people don’t should still provide for good interaction.

Like Jason, I think there’s an interesting concept here, but without seeing this idea fully developed, I worry that there isn’t enough meat here to sustain hungry cube drafters. And while I love the idea of Scuttlemutt being an all-star in some cube out there, it requires too much warping of a non-themed cube for most people to commit to.

Return to contest entries.

[Contest] Accumulated Knowledge and Kindle

The Submission

Accumulated KnowledgeKindle

I have a cube that is still in the building stages, where I am going to run Accumulated Knowledge and Kindle as four of, which could be very interesting, seeing as how both are easily splashable, and can go in a lot of different decks.

Jason’s Critique

This submissions operates on many designer’s base instincts when thinking of ways to break singleton within a cube environment. Start with the question “what cards go well in multiples in a deck”, and take that idea to the cube level. The same type of thinking leads to designers turning to cards like Rune Snag and Squadron Hawk. Even multiples of Birthing Pod arguably come from the same concept.

One litmus test when looking to break singleton with a card is “would I play this card if I only had one copy of it in my deck?”. Cards like Steppe Lynx, Gravecrawler and Rune Snag are sufficiently playable on their own, but improve in multiples.

By contrast, Accumulated Knowledge is pretty terrible when cast for the first time. Compare to random value cantrips like Gitaxian Probe, Quicken and Twisted Image. We don’t start to yield value from it until casting it for a second time in the game, meaning, realistically, we likely need at least three of the four copies in our deck before it’s worthwhile to run them (this may change with cube power level, of course). Even in Pauper constructed, Think Twice often gets the nod over Accumulated Knowledge anyways. The result is that we don’t really have competing demand for the card. There’s no use to having only one or two, so if I don’t get my hands on one in Pack 1, the only reason I would select them later in the draft is for the sake of hate drafting.

Is this an interesting drafting mechanic? Maybe. I suppose it could be fun to play a 40 card deck with 4 Accumulated Knowledges, but I don’t know that it warrants the design space you’d have to allocate to it to pull the concept off.

Kindle needs to be cast a third time before gaining a power edge on the already marginal Searing Spear.

Eric’s Critique

As someone who runs a playset of Rune Snag, I fully agree with Jason’s assessment that the first copy of the card needs to not be embarrassing. Rune Snag passes that test, if only barely. People in my cube sometimes run the only copy that they nab, and while it won’t win any awards for efficiency, sometimes you have to make them pay 2.

My biggest problem with Kindle is that Magic has printed a lot – a lot – of interesting burn spells over the years, but a two-mana Shock variant isn’t one of them. Shock itself isn’t playable in most people’s cubes, so the power level of a cube would have to be pretty low before a drafter is interested in ponying up an additional mana for it.

With blue, the issue again is I feel like there’s a lot of cheap drawing and sifting cards for one or two mana, most of which do something interesting. The other problem is that as a cube designer, you can’t waste too much space with do-nothing durdly draw spells, and four Accumulated Knowledges eats up nearly all of the room you would normally allot for such an effect. I think this one is more defensible than Kindle, but as a drafter, I wouldn’t be particularly excited to start accumulating (ahem) them.

Return to contest entries.