Article Cross-Appeal in Cube — Recipes to Avoid the Pitfalls of Parasitic Archetypes


Ecstatic Orb
Cross-Appeal in Cube — Recipes to Avoid the Pitfalls of Parasitic Archetypes
Magic players regularly complain about archetypes being too parasitic in draft. An archetype is said to be parasitic when it seemlingly stands on its own, requiring a threshold number of specific effects to function that are not wanted by other archetypes. A parasitic archetype is like the kid who's happily playing by themselves in a quiet corner of the schoolyard. There might be nothing to worry about, but it would be nice to see them get along with the other kids in the schoolyard. As a cube owner, you might wonder why should we care about parasitic archetypes? As it happens, various parasitic archetypes are in fact well-loved by drafters, and they are more common than you might think. Examples include Storm, tribal decks, infect, aristocrats, enchantress, and dedicated aggro. All of these archetypes have one downside in common; if a drafter tries to force a parasitic archetype, but the pieces don't show up, they're left with a trainwreck of a draft that's hard to salvage. Because parasitic archetypes are so demanding, any number of factors can cause this problem. Maybe a seemingly supported strategy actually isn't, maybe two drafters try to force the same archetype, maybe multiple required cards show up in the same booster, or maybe you own a 450 card cube and the enablers show up, but the payoffs never do. Whatever the reason, one of your drafters just went on a wild goose chase, and all they got is a bad deck to play for the rest of the night. Obviously this isn't an optimal situation, we want our drafters to enjoy our cubes after all. While situations like this can always crop up, there are ways to rein in parasitism, and make your decks play happily together in your cube's schoolyard.

An Imperfect Storm
Before we look at ways to mitigate parasitism, let's take some time to examine a parasitic deck in greater detail and see if we can spot some common pitfalls. Storm is the textbook of example of a parasitic archetype, and below I've included a sample decklist from a January 2021 Vintage Cube draft by Caleb Gannon.

Let's take a look at the cards that make this deck tick, and examine why we consider the Storm archetype parasitic. First up is Tendrils of Agony, featuring the deck's namesake mechanic. When you cast Tendrils, it creates a copy of itself for each other spell that was cast before it during the same turn. Since this deck features no removal, and less than a handful of very weak creatures, Tendrils is the only win condition. A Storm player will usually need to string together a turn where they cast nine other spells before firing of a lethal Tendrils. Already, we can imagine how Tendrils of Agony is very bad in a typical cube deck. It doesn't affect the board at all, and you need to cast at least two other spells on the same turn for it to even outperform the eminently unplayable Soul Feast. If nothing else, we can conclude that the win condition is definitely parasitic.

To make Tendrils a playable win condition, the Storm archetype typically relies on three other specific effects: card draw & tutoring, fast mana, and mass recycle effects. Starting off with the least parasitic component of this trifecta, most commonly played card draw effects and tutors are playable in the average cube deck. Ponder is a great cantrip, and while Impulse is less efficient, it won't make a deck worse. We can see, however, that this deck also plays a few less universally applicable card "draw" spells. Wishclaw Talisman is generally a bad card outside of combo and bounce shenanigans, because you don't want to give your opponent the ability to tutor up the perfect foil to your plans. Likewise, Bolas's Citadel is very expensive if you can't cheat it out, and therefore not desirable for most cube decks.

Next up is the fast mana. There's no question the Moxen are a boon to every deck, but cards like Lotus Petal and Dark Ritual are a lot more suspect, and Lotus Bloom is downright bad in most decks. For decks operating along a more conventional axis, fast mana might enable earlier pressure, but this advantage comes at the cost of a card (the mana accelerant) and a lower density of cards in your deck that affect the board. A Storm deck, however, can not function without fast mana. They both increase the storm count (the number of spells played in the turn), and increase the amount of mana available to keep the chain going.

The third pillar under Tendril's success are mass recycle effects, cards that allow the Storm player to reuse all of their cards and keep the chain going. A player doesn't need many of these effects, due to the abundance of card filtering and tutoring a good version of the deck contains. One or two are often enough. Caleb plays a single Yawgmoth's Will. Some other cards that fill this role are Timetwister and Past in Flames. While vital for a good Storm deck, these cards are much harder to use in other archetypes. A common theme in these cards is that they have a significant upfront mana cost, which makes it hard to abuse their effect to the fullest, unless you happen to run fast mana effects, of course.

Despite its parasitic nature, Storm is a beloved archetype for many drafters, as both drafting it and playing it can be a rush, and you end up with a very powerful deck if everything goes comes together. When it doesn't though, you're left with a train wreck of a draft that can be hard to salvage, as various pieces don't really have a home in another archetype. For cube owners, the decision to support storm means dedicating a lot of slots to a very insular archetype. Especially if you go beyond 360 cards, or don't always draft with a full table, you run a real risk of players not being able to find the pieces, essentially leading your drafter into a trap.

While Storm may be one of the most famous parasitic archetypes in cube, like I said in the introduction, it's by no means the only one. there are many archetypes that share a lot of the same problems, and it's about time I talk about how to address them. The common thread in the dissection above is clear, the very cards that are the foundation for the Storm archetype have little to no use in other archetypes in cube, and the same is true for other parasitic archetypes. No matter your approach then, solving, or at least minimizing, the problem of parasitism revolves around one singular concept: cross-appeal. It's the secret ingredient, and there's many different recipes your can follow. Let's discuss a few ways in which you can build more cross-appeal into your cube, and make your archetypes less parasitic in the process.

Recipe One — Increase Versatility
Often, different archetypes are looking for different effects. Take the lowly burn spell. Aggro decks may use burn spells to clear out blockers, but a very important aspect for those decks is the ability to kill the opponent after they stabilize. Control decks usually aim to wrest control of the game, and bury their opponent in card advantage, be it from actual card draw spells or repeated planeswalker activations. These decks might employ burn spells to mop up dangerous utility creatures and early threats that can grow out of control before their wrath effects can take over. Let's take a look at three sample burn spells.

Looking at these three burn spells, we can see that Lava Spike is of absolutely no interest to a control deck. It doesn't affect the board, and control decks are not interested in ending the game with a measly 3 damage spell. At the other end of the spectrum, we find Flame Slash, a card that is very efficient, but unlike Lava Spike exclusively affects the board. While an aggro deck might run it if the opponent has shown troublesome blockers, it's not ideal for the archetype, because it can't go face. Lightning Strike, while more expensive, is also the more versatile card. It can be used to control keep an early board in check, but it can also go face, making it suited for both archetypes. Lava Spike and Flame Slash are cards that inherently make your archetypes more parasitic, by virtue of not fitting in as many as they could. Lava Spike is especially guilty of this, as it has absolutely no home outside of the hyper aggressive red aggro deck. In contrast, Lightning Strike is an open-ended inclusion that enables the drafter to switch between multiple archetypes, based on what other cards are coming their way during the draft.

Versatility can also come from cards that combine effects. Either by simply stapling effects together, or in the form of (pardon my continuation of the food theme here) menu-style cards. Like a menu, these are cards offer you a list of options to choose from. Consider the following three black cards.

Both Disfigure and Duress are serviceable cards in cube, though neither of them is super exciting in traditional environments. Collective Brutality, while more expensive, has the ability to mimic both of these effects in a single card. I've found the card to be incredible in my own cube, not in the least because, in addition to the Disfigure and Duress modes, it also can gain a little bit of life, and it functions as a discard outlet. The card may not be as efficient at a single task as either of the other two black cards, but it offers so much flexibility, that it's often the superior pick. Replacing narrow cards by more versatile effects is one way of making your cube feel less parasitic.

Recipe Two - Consider the Mana Curve
Another tool to curb parasitism is curbing the average mana cost in your cube. Let's, again, look at some burn spells.

I don't need to tell anyone that Lightning Bolt is a better card than Lightning Strike, and Lightning Strike is a better card than Open Fire. But have you ever though on the impact of converted mana cost (cmc) on relative draft picks between different archetypes? If not, it might be time to pore over your cube list, and figure out if you are running different effects at the right mana cost. For example, Lightning Bolt is universally playable for any red deck in cube, and Lightning Strike is still a solid card. Open Fire, though? Fine for slower decks, but we're getting into territory where aggressive decks are no longer happy running the effect because it's too inefficient. An aggro deck that has to pay three mana to remove a blocker or burn face, probably doesn't have the resources to deploy another threat or cast another burn spell on the same turn, effectively giving the opponent more time to stabilize and find a way out. This can be the death knell for a deck built for speed. Of course tuning the average cmc of spells has a direct impact on the pace of your cube games, and if you're looking for a slower pace, you might very well want to inhibit the effectiveness of burn spells. Know the effect your choices have on your format though.

Let's frame the same principle in another way, here are three white creatures.

All of these cards could conceivably see play in the same deck, but aggressive decks will be most interested in the first two, while slower midrange deck will eye the last two. The overlap? The 3 cmc creature! When we were looking at the burn spells, we saw that when the exact same effect is printed at different casting costs, the cheapest version offers the most flexibility and thus is the least parasitic. For cards that can't be directly compared, this rule does not hold. Different archetypes operate at different average converted casting costs, because they exploit different characteristics of the game. Aggresive decks want to capitalize on tempo to defeat opponents, deploying threats before their opponents develop a board. Low-curve threats like Isamaru fit that goal (provided the cube isn't flooded with 2 cmc 2/3's and 3/3's). Midrange decks take a slower approach, ignoring early threats in favor of individually more impactful creatures (or planeswalkers). Considering all this, the Blade Splicer is the least parasitic of the three. This doesn't mean you should cut 1 cmc and 5 cmc creatures though. After all, an aggro deck can't operate unless it plays a considerable number of one drops. If you want to support aggro, or at least aggressive decks, as a cube owner, you will have to include low cmc options for the deck. Notice that I called out aggro as a parasitic archetype earlier, this is why.

Recipe Three - Build Bridges
This last observation leads us nicely into our third recipe. If you want to increase the cross-appeal of your cards, why not try cards that naturally have cross-appeal? Staying with white one drops, there's a wealth of options to choose from, but not all of them are equally desirable for different archetypes.

Elite Vanguard is exclusively a card for aggressive decks, whereas Weathered Wayfarer is only useful for decks that aim for a longer game. Giver of Runes, however, is a card that is desirable for both aggressive decks and slower decks. Sometimes building bridges really is that easy! Other times, though, you have to get a bit more creative.

Whirler Rogue is a card that works in the artifact matters deck, but has cross-appeal for the ninja archetype, where it can both make a ninja unblockable, or make itself unblockable and serve as a ninjutsu target. Risen Executioner is a clear hit for the zombie archetype, but it has cross-appeal for dredge and self-mill decks. Dreadhorde Arcanist is good in red aggro decks featuring cheap burn spells and cantrips, but it also happens to be amazing in cubes that have room for a pump spell archetype, where suddenly you are able to rebuy much more expensive spells and make much better use of the trample ability. It's even an incidental zombie!

Cards from this category aren't as obvious as cards from the first category, and it's impossible to turn all of your cards into natural born cross-appeal cards. Be on the lookout for effects like this though, because these effects are the natural grease that keep the gears of your cube turning!

Recipe Four - Affect the Board
When I talked about the Storm deck, I noted how Tendrils of Agony is a bad card unless it is lethal, because it doesn't affect the board. It also doesn't advance your nonboard position in a meaningful way. Cards like Lava Spike and Nourish are bad for the same reason. Storm happens to play a lot of cards that don't affect the board, and that is another reason it is so parasitic, because decks that don't revolve around a single combo can't afford to ignore the board. Let's compare the following two cards.

Pyretic Ritual is often included in cubes that want to support Storm decks, appearing in nearly 60% of the cubes on CubeCobra that run Tendrils of Agony (at the time of writing). It ups the Storm count by one, and adds a bit of mana, which is exactly what you're looking for in that deck. Burning-Tree Emissary is worse in Storm, no doubt, but it's a creature! As a creature, it has immediately more value than Pyretic Ritual for other decks, because creatures can attack and block, and thus affect the board, something Pyretic Ritual will never be able to do. An aggressive red-green deck will happily play an Emissary, and the card still ups the Storm count by one at effectively no mana cost in a pinch. And yet, Burning-Tree Emissary is run in only about 10% of the CubeCobra cubes running Tendrils of Agony!

Effects that don't affect the board can gain a lot of value when tacked onto a creature, simply because creatures create board presence. Other examples are Siege Rhino and Vraska's Contempt, that put life drain and life gain effects on impactful cards. If you find certain archetypes in your cube need these board-ignoring effects, looking for cards that add these effects to a desirable body, a removal spell, or a card draw spell can be an effective strategy to make them more interesting to a wider variety of archetypes.

Recipe Five - Make Payoffs Self-Contained
We arrive at the fifth recipe, and it's a doozy. I bet almost every cube owner has a pet tribal or card type archetype they want to support against their better judgment. Maybe you love elves, or artifacts, or zombies. Tribes have always been popular for a certain segment of the Magic community, and it's no wonder cube owners are trying to make it work in cube.

You might be tempted to include Lord of the Accursed, in the zombie deck, it's quite a nice buffer after all, and it can break board stalls pretty effectively. Conceptually, however, Cemetery Reaper is a far superior card. Why? Because it's what I call a self-contained payoff. Lord of the Accursed is only good if you run a lot of other zombies, on its own it's effectively a vanilla creature with a miserable statline. Contrast this with Cemetery Reaper. It has even worse stats, and in theory it's also miserable on its own, but the trick is, it never really is all on its own, is it? It creates the very tokens it cares about, thereby fulfilling its own demand. And there you have it, tribal (or typal) archetypes are less parasitic if their payoffs are self-contained. Go ahead and pull those Cryptbreakers, Siege-Gang Commanders, and Urza, Lord High Artificers from your binder!

Recipe Six - Reduce Required Critical Mass, Increase Fail States
It isn't always possible, or even desirable, to make all payoffs self-contained. A tribal cube with elf support won't be able to foster a strong tribal identity without relying on payoffs that are not self contained. When you do need, or want, to include those payoffs, you can still be mindful of how demanding they are. Limited Resources actually touched upon this in one of their Kaldheim Set Reviews when they talked about snow cards. Consider the following three cards.

All of these cards require snow lands to function, but the critical mass needed for each of them to shine varies wildly. Least demanding is Icebind Pillar, which absolutely shines as a cheaper to cast Icy Manipulator with just a single snow land out. Next is Avalanche Caller, which needs slightly more, because the lands you animate can die in combat, and because activating it more than once can be pretty powerful. Lastly we have the very needy Ascendant Spirit. While a monocolored Figure of Destiny looks like a great addition, the amount of snow mana you need to play in your deck for Ascendant Spirit to reliably level is quite staggering (see also the next recipe). Unlike Figure of Destiny, most dual lands will not produce the required mana, so you almost need a deck to be monoblue with plenty of Snow-Covered Islands in the basic land box to pick from for it to be playable. Clearly, the less demanding a payoff is, the easier it is to slot into a draft deck, or pivot to another archetype if a heavy commitment isn't in the cards.

Let's look at that elf tribe for a few more examples.

Another way to look at payoffs is to consider the fail case when the required enablers don't show up. Allosaurus Shepherd is an early 1/1 with a bit of utility against blue based decks. Even if you never draw another elf, it's a mana sink that turns itself into a 5/5 once your reach six mana and have nothing else to spend it on. Even if you do, you might still be able to attack with it for free when the threat of activation deters your opponent from blocking. If you do manage to land a few elves, it can turn your board into an unstoppable stampede of dinosaur elves. In short, Allosaurus Shepherd is a situationally excellent utility card that doesn't even really need another elf to be decent, but thrives when you do find more. The fail case of Ezuri, Renegade Leader is a little worse. It has a very strong cheap ability that lets your other elves attack with impunity, but if no other elves turn up in your hand, it's a slightly bigger Allosaurus Shepherd, turning itself into a 5/5 and for a comparable cost, albeit with trample and the ability to activate it again if you really flooded. Lastly we have Elvish Champion, which by far the worst fail case, being a hard to cast Gray Ogre without any other elves. While it does provide an arguably more immediate bonus than the other two elves, it's abominable fail case means it's generally a worse include for cube if you want to reduce parasitism.

Recipe Seven - Reduce Your Colored Pips
We've looked at converted casting cost, and we've looked at card types, but we haven't looked at another important characteristic of Magic cards, and that's color. Gold cards are often splashy and enticing, and we love to play with them, but in a sense, they are parasitic in nature. We can't really call a given color combination an archetype, but the same principle of cross-appeal applies. Consider the following cards.

Recalling recipe one - versatility, one could argue that Sultai Charm is more versatile, and therefore less parasitic, than Putrefy, and Putrify in turn is more versatile, and therefore less parasitic, than Murder. However, this ignores the colors required to cast each spell. If we imagine an eight man cube draft as a bingo game, with a random set of eight decks and color combinations as the outcome, it's easy to see that the monocolored card has the highest chance of fitting a random deck from our bingo result. After all, it can be played in any deck that includes black. Putrefy is up next, and there are a lot less decks it fits in. If we ignore, for a moment, that in the average cube, drafters often end up with a two color deck, possibly splashing a third color, and just look at the 32 possible color combinations a player could draft, a monocolored card would fit into 16 of those combinations. A two-color card would fit into only 8, and a three-color card? Yep, we're slashing the odds in half again, four color combinations. Needless to say, the odds become worse when we consider the actual color combinations needed, because for three-color cards, you either play the exact three colors, or you play more! In other words, unless you specifically intend to foster a multicolor environment, monocolored cards are more flexible, and less parasitic than multicolor cards. There is, however, one caveat. Consider the following cards.

All of these are monocolored, but we have to consider that often, drafters end up in a two-color deck. Mana bases in cube are seldomly as reliable as they are in constructed (shoutout to those madmen and -women running 20% mana fixing counts). This means Benalish Marshal may be very hard to cast on turn 3 in the average draft deck. The card can be an excellent signpost that mono white weenie is a supported archetype, but since we're discussing parasitism, and not signposting, we have to conclude that Piana is easier to cast for more decks, and Soltari Champion is easier to cast still for even more decks. Most new cube owners severely underestimate how hard it is to cast a CC drop like Ember Hauler on curve in a two-color deck. For those who don't know, 'C' is shorthand for colored mana of any one color, and additional colors in the same casting cost are denoted by 'D', 'E', etc. So 'CC' stands for a casting cost of two colored mana of the same color, and 'CD' denotes a casting cost requiring two different colors. If you want to read more about supporting CC drops and more, I encourage to read this article by Frank Karsten. For quick reference, for a CC drop you need 14 lands of the required color in a 40 card draft deck to reliable cast it on turn two, whereas a 1C drop only needs 9! The effect becomes even more pronounced for our three team buffers, with the Marshal requiring a whopping 16 lands that tap for white to reliable come out on turn 3, Pianna requiring 12, and Soltari Champion only needing 8. So, looping back to the chapter title, reduce the number of colored pips in your cards' casting cost.

Parasitic cards are desirable to only a very small subset of possible decks and archetypes in your cube, and parasitic archetypes require certain cards to function that are not desirable to other archetypes in your cube. This doesn't mean you need to completely eliminate parasitism from your cube. Aggro, for example, is an important macro-archetype in many cubes, even though it is parasitic in nature. However, a cube filled with too many parasitic cards and archetypes makes for a very isolated draft experience. The way to combat overly parasitic cards and archetypes is by increasing the cross-appeal of those cards / the cards required for those archetypes to function. You can increase the cross-appeal of cards by replacing them by cards that:
  • are more versatile
  • have a better place on the mana curve
  • build bridges
  • affect the board
  • are self-contained payoffs
  • are less demanding payoffs with a higher fail state
  • require less colored mana to be cast
Wrapping up, I hope that, even though a lot of these points are pretty obvious when you stop to think about them, I have inspired you to take another look at your cube. Thank you for reading!

A special thank you goes out to TrainmasterGT, who was kind enough to proofread this article (twice!) and make some excellent suggestions. From one vehicle-inspired username to another, it was greatly appreciated!

Thank you to Reddit user chipzes for pointing out I was using the term 'self-contained enablers' when I was, in fact, talking about 'self-contained payoffs'. Fixed!

Thank you to landofMordor for inspiring me to find a better counterpart for Burning-Tree Emissary in Recipe Four - Affect the Board. The article now uses Pyretic Ritual as an example instead of Manamorphose.

The point of this article was not to convince all of you to run no parasitic cards at all, so thank you japahn for pointing out it might come across that way. I edited the conclusion to better reflect that the goal is to reduce parasitism, not eliminate it.

Special thanks to Lady Lynn for the excellent remark about evaluating critical mass needed for payoffs. Chapter six was moved to chapter seven, and the new chapter six is dedicated to you!
Yeah, that's what I thought - you see, I'm also bad at English, not at understanding it, but at expressing myself. It's not that I had a problem with figuring out what it means, the german 'U-Boot' is actually short for 'Unterseeboot'. :D I should've rather asked 'is it Dutch, Belgian or Luxembourg' (had to use google for the last one).


Ecstatic Orb
:D I should've rather asked 'is it Dutch, Belgian or Luxembourg' (had to use google for the last one).
Dutch and Flemish (which is spoken roughly in the northern half of Belgium) are closely related, but they (the Flemish) use the word 'Duikboot' (dive boat). Luxembourgish sounds and looks nothing like Dutch. It's much closer related to German, for example, they also capitalize their nouns, and they actually also use the word U-Boot. Now that we're derailing the conversation anyway, I wanted to mention that, while 'onderzeeboot' literally translates to 'under sea boat', 'submarine' also means 'under the sea' ;)
I love how we immediately swerved from discussing the article to discussing how various Germanic languages talk about submarines.

For the article itself... I liked it. One thing I've been wondering about vis-a-vis pips is whether or not it would be helpful to treat stuff like Benalish Marshal as if it had a higher CMC for cubes with a larger multicolor component.


Ecstatic Orb
I love how we immediately swerved from discussing the article to discussing how various Germanic languages talk about submarines.
Classic Riptide, I'm not even mad :)

For the article itself... I liked it. One thing I've been wondering about vis-a-vis pips is whether or not it would be helpful to treat stuff like Benalish Marshal as if it had a higher CMC for cubes with a larger multicolor component.
You can sort of think of them like that. My own cube has a very high multicolor component, and I try to avoid monocolored cards with a lot of pips as much as possible. In fact, Counterspell is currently my only two drop that has two pips of the same color. When you want an environment where it's safe to play two colors with a split mana base, you have to assume a lot of the time your players will not play the "required" 14 colored mana sources advocated by Karsten to run CC drops. Say someone drafting your cube is able to pick up 3 nonbasics in their colors, and runs 17 lands, that means they play 7 basics of each color (if we assume an even split) for a total of 10 sources of each color. With that mana base you'ld be able to reliably play a CC drop on turn 5 (in Karsten's article we can see a 3CC drop requires 10 sources in a 40-card deck). Of course that doesn't mean it actually has a higher cmc, you can still spend the other 3 mana on that turn on another spell.

Bottom line, if you want to support multicolor decks and CC drops (let alone CCC drops) you need to allocate much more space to mana fixing. For example, SirFunchalot's main cube runs a whopping 96 lands in a 384 cube, and 40 of those are the extremely flexible fetchlands! With 1 in 4 slots dedicated to mana fixing, you should be able to comfortably construct a mana base that can support CC drops in one of your colors and still play enough sources to reliably run 1C drops in your other color, even splash a third color. Take a look at his list though... The only CC drop he runs is Counterspell! Even though his list nearly guarantees perfect mana, he still opts to reduce the number of unwieldy casting costs. Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God and conceivably Vedalken Shackles are the only two cards that require more than one mana of a single color.
I really like the point about the CC cards, because having two colored pips really does make it much harder to play your two colored decks, which is the norm in draft, and since we all probably have the goal of getting as fun and interactive games of limited magic as possible, it seems like an easy thing to make sure your cube doesn't have too many CC cards.


Loved the article! These are indeed very reliable ways to decrease parasitism -- and through this relatively focused discussion you also touched on macroarchetype support, castability considerations, and some fundamentals of Magic gameplay regarding the curve considerations of different decks. Great stuff!

Your examples were well-chosen, too, and clearly illustrated your points. The one quibble I have (which might just be hairsplitting) is Manamorphose vs B-TE. The former card, since it is also a cantrip, seems like it'd be less parasitic, since its rules text boils down to "your minimum deck size is decreased by 1". Every deck can use that effect, but not every deck can use a 0-mana 2/2. Perhaps the difference between Rite of Flame to BTE would be a more apt comparison?


Ecstatic Orb
If you're reading this chipzes, I'm not active on Reddit, but you're absolutely right, I'm talking about self-contained payoffs, not enablers! I changed the article, thanks for the feedback! :)

Loved the article! These are indeed very reliable ways to decrease parasitism -- and through this relatively focused discussion you also touched on macroarchetype support, castability considerations, and some fundamentals of Magic gameplay regarding the curve considerations of different decks. Great stuff!

Your examples were well-chosen, too, and clearly illustrated your points. The one quibble I have (which might just be hairsplitting) is Manamorphose vs B-TE. The former card, since it is also a cantrip, seems like it'd be less parasitic, since its rules text boils down to "your minimum deck size is decreased by 1". Every deck can use that effect, but not every deck can use a 0-mana 2/2. Perhaps the difference between Rite of Flame to BTE would be a more apt comparison?

I chose Manamorphose because it's also a {R/G} hybrid card, and because both cards don't increase your mana count, they just pay themselves back. While drawing a card is definitely okay, the card completely replaces itself after all, for the {R/G} beatdown deck the upside of being able to put two bodies on the board in the early turns outweighs drawing the card, in my opinion.


Ecstatic Orb
Yeah, Manamorphose is definitely way less parasitic than Rite of Flame! Given that it completely replaces itself, you might be right that calling it parasitic is a bit of a stretch, and maybe I should edit the article!
Onder, I read this article as "here are tools you may use to reduce parasitism" and it does that really well :) Thanks for writing it.

I think a lot of people are reading it as "this is the gospel, do not run parasitic cards at all", and concerned that the combination of all cards being playable by themselves, plus pulling the mana curve to the center, plus pulling the colors towards low-pip requirements causes all decks to blend together and the cube to become a mass of prismatic midrange in which the combinations of cards that work together are maximized, but the distinction between different decks and archetypes is minimal.

As with a lot of other things in cube and in life, there is a balance.

Most of the time in synergy-oriented cubes we struggle with too much parasitism so much that we forget that some amount of parasitic cards is fine, and beneficial. Being passed Dauntless Bodyguard, then Isamaru, Hound of Konda signals that white aggro is supported and rewards you for speculatively picking the first one up. It also add to the environment a deck that does something the other don't, which is dump a bunch of 2/1s on the board early. Gold signposts like Empyrean Eagle are, as well, useful for signaling and rewarding whoever goes into the archetype they are intended for. High-pip cards like Cryptic Command reward decks for being less than three colors and effectively have synergy with fixing.
Onder, I read this article as "here are tools you may use to reduce parasitism" and it does that really well :) Thanks for writing it. I think a lot of people are reading it as "this is the gospel, do not run parasitic cards at all."
That is an interesting perspective, I thought this article was about Submarines.

On a more serious note, it has been interesting reading some of the responses on reddit. One comment I found to be interesting was:
MusicSDP said:
Yeah, it reads like the anti "you need more aggro support" argument. I don't think supporting the three main archetypes is the same thing as supporting parasitic deck themes, so I found most of the arguments in this article to fall flat. However, if I wanted to build a cube that focused on midrange variety, this feels like decent advice.
...Which is an interesting take. I've read this article three times now (twice in editing and once this morning), and never really got that point out of it. I thought the point was "here are some tools that can assist in making parasitic archetypes easier to implement and draft."
People are calling it "anti 'you need more aggro support' " because of this current of thought:

Hypergeometric math, like Onder's Cookbook to Reduce Parasitism (I'll take the right over the title, thanks) is a tool to calculate the amount N of a certain category of cards you need to have in a deck (say, 1-drops) to have a certain chance to draw at least X of them over Y draws.

Cultic Cube's video shows as an example that the chances of a deck with 8 1-drops drawing at least 1 in their starting hand is about 82% and states that 8 one-drops is a good starting place as the number of 1-drops in a color that supports aggro for a 360-card cube.

Obviously this clashes with what Onder is saying, which is that 1-drops are parasitic because they only go in the aggro deck. That's also where "this makes your cube a midrange cube" comes from, because if you take as true the statement that "you need 8 1-drops to support aggro" then your cube with few 1-drops cannot support aggro.

We know that "you need 8 1-drops to support aggro" does not hold true for all cubes. It might be true at high power levels, where aggro decks must be so low to the ground that they break it or make it on turn 4, and they require a starting hand with a 1-drop to have a shot at winning. 82% might not be the right cutoff either, there are mulligans to help (and aggro mulligans well) and some percentage of the games where you don't have a 1-drop you might win with a 2-drop, it's not impossible. At lower speeds and low power levels, aggro definitely doesn't need that many 1-drops to be functional - 2-drops can get there.


Ecstatic Orb
Moreover, my point never was to eliminate parasitism. It's okay to dedicate slots to aggro, but you can at least pick a few options that have more cross-appeal so your drafters has the option of pivoting into another archetype more easily when the right pieces for the aggro deck aren't showing up. You might not want to play that Elite Vanguard you picked up in pack 1, but at least you can play the Giver of Runes and the Thraben Inspector.

I'm enjoying the back and forth between landofMordor and phinneassmith over on the Reddit thread, by the way. Good stuff!