One of the big advantages to having a singleton cube is that there is a lot of variety in the cards. However, without duplicates, sometimes it’s hard to support more niche, build-around strategies. Adding duplicates can create interesting new strategies that, while decreasing the variety in the cards, creates more variety in the deck archetypes. I like how including duplicates of Birthing Pod opens up a new archetype and also helps to give black more of an identity.
The color in most need of a refresh in standard cubes is red. Red is generally very focused on burn and aggressive creatures, and other aspects of the red color pie, for example, land destruction, aren’t robust enough to support a new archetype. My proposal then is to use duplicates to create a new archetype in red that doesn’t focus on attacking or burning and meshes well with other colors. The card that I think would best accomplish this is Splinter Twin.
Splinter Twin is an interesting choice because it would help diversify red and give cube something that people have been interested in, a viable combo deck. The main combo is Splinter Twin + Zealous Conscripts, but it can also pair with blue to combo with Pestermite. Like Birthing Pod, Splinter Twin is a versatile card that is good with almost every ETB creature. Constructed decks have used Wall of Omens to generate card advantage and other choices like Thragtusk can easily overwhelm the opponent as well. Something like Venser, Shaper Savant is a soft-lock
However, the Twin combos are easy to interact with because they are fundamentally creature-based, which creates an interesting tension and requires no additional hate to control; the cube already has a ton of answers. It’s a high risk, high reward option, which fits well into the red philosophy.
The Splinter Twin package I propose is as follows:
Most of these cards are supporters for the aggressive decks, and the idea is to diversity red, so the weakest players are the ones to go.
Both cards are decent in blue tempo decks so this is a fairly even trade.
You won’t get any argument from me that red is the colour that could most use some sprucing up. There’s only so many decks you can include Hellspark Elemental in, after all. So colour me intrigued when you say you want to add some capacity for combo.
But then you say you want to go all-in on the Splinter Twin / Kiki-Jiki combo. Uh oh. My alarm bells are going off.
I like the idea of Splinter Twin as a value card, where it might create a couple additional copies of a body with ETB effects, and then hopefully lead to some interesting game states from there. I’m less interested in two card combos that immediately end the game in draft formats. Limited is not Constructed, and it’s not really reasonable to expect everyone to pack redundant copies of instant-speed, one-mana removal spells to deal with a combo that one drafter may or may not have assembled. Think about the drafter who’s predominantly in green, maybe with a splash of blue. Would they need to go out of their way to draft some bounce spells, ensure that they draw them, and then leave mana up once their opponent has three mana available? Unless you plan on going up to at least 4 Dismember effects – and then, even if you do – this kind of instant-win combo will lead to a net reduction in interesting gameplay.
Now, having said all that, I think there’s plenty of potential for Splinter Twin as a pure high-risk, moderate reward value spell. Maybe you get a pile of extra bodies from a Mogg War Marshal. Maybe that Ghitu Slinger keeps on slinging fire. Or that Avalanche Riders keeps eating land. Relatively harmless stuff like that. Even with those interactions, though, it may not be worth doubling down on Twin. While there’s a bevy of cute tricks to be had, I can’t say I’m on board with going heavy on the “Oops I Win” combo package.
If you dig deep enough into the MTGS archives, you’ll find a certain poster by the name of Trunkers who started all sorts of threads on combo related topics, from Dream Halls to Reanimation to Splinter Twin. I was quite enthusiastic about this combo, and slotted the various combo pieces (including Restoration Angel) into my cube, and happily drafted the deck.
Then I played with the deck.
My opponent made some play on their third turn, and on their end step I killed them. Was it satisfying? Not particularly. Good Magic? Certainly not.
I don’t mind the combo in a constructed setting, but one thing to keep in mind is that in a constructed setting, all sorts of decks and matchups produce Bad Magic. It’s one thing to fight the deck when packing playsets of Lightning Bolt, Path to Exile and Lightning Helix. Although I’m sure the deck can and does “work” (in the sense that it wins), I don’t think the tools are there for making it a healthy part of a limited environment. Our instant speed removal density is naturally constrained by the strength of our aggressive decks. To me, this combo seems like one best left to the halls of constructed, where more decks are equipped with the tools to produce a tactical, interactive experience.