General Cultic Cube video series

In what respects do you find the mechanic to be inelegant? I'm not trying to give you a hard time at all; I'm genuinely curious. I recognize that the mechanic is a divisive one for 1v1, and I plan to begin by outlining reasons that one might like or dislike it. I totally understand shamizy's concern above about how the effect snowballs.

I'm getting a little careless in labeling Monarch inelegant for 1v1. The inelegance for me lies more in including a single instance of a non-evergreen mechanic in my cube that has only been featured in a small run multi-player set. Monarch is fine for 1v1, but is more dynamic in a multiplayer setting. I have a few archetypes in my cube that don't win via combat so Monarch would occasionally function as an emblem which I didn't love. I haven't given it THAT much thought tbh, so I'm interested to hear what you have to say.

Will of the council in 1v1 is more clunky, having a vote between two people when you already know the outcome...

Related, I came across this about the original development of the Monarch mechanic for 1v1 play....

https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/making-magic/just-ixalan-part-1-2017-09-04

Mark Rosewater said:
We were about two months from starting exploratory design for Ixalan (codenamed "Ham") when Shawn Main came to see me. He was working on Conspiracy: Take the Crown. Because of the success of the first Conspiracy (and a desire to move Unstable away from Kaladesh, as both had a steampunk vibe—although taken in very different directions), Conspiracy: Take the Crown had been put on the fast track for 2016, and Shawn was the obvious choice to lead the design.

He came to me because they only had two months left of design and they were having trouble finding a mechanic they liked. He wanted permission to explore an edge-like mechanic (what would eventually become the monarch mechanic). He knew I was interested in it for Ixalan, but he also knew that there were some in R&D who felt it was a multiplayer mechanic that wouldn't work in two-player games. The problem was that Ixalan exploratory design (where'd we figure out whether or not the mechanic worked in two-player) wasn't scheduled to start until after Conspiracy: Take the Crown design ended.

I told Shawn to start exploring it in Conspiracy: Take the Crown. I was going to start up Ixalan exploratory design early so that I could test an edge mechanic in Magic for six weeks. That would let me know whether or not it was something I felt I could use for Ixalan. He needed to explore alternative designs in addition to testing an edge mechanic because if I found it was useful for Ixalan, he couldn't use it for Conspiracy: Take the Crown since a whole block would have priority over a supplemental set. But there was chance it worked in his set and not in mine, and I wanted to allow that possibility.

So Shawn and his design team started doing their own investigation while I quickly put together my Ixalan exploratory design team and began testing. The Conspiracy: Take the Crown team came up with monarch and it worked beautifully. The mechanic lent itself ideally to both multiplayer play and the flavor of the world. Meanwhile, the testing of the exploratory design team also showed great promise. The give and take worked just as well with two players as it had worked with many. When Shawn and I met up after six weeks, I told him that I was going to use the edge in Ixalan and that he was going to have to use another mechanic.

But Shawn and his team hadn't found another mechanic that was anywhere near as good as monarch. He didn't have another viable option and there were only two weeks left of design. Losing the edge threw Ixalan design into disarray, but we still had all our exploratory design time (remember I started early to test out the edge) and all of our design time. We'd have over a year to find a new solution. Conspiracy: Take the Crown got its monarch mechanic and Ixalan had to start from scratch.
 

Chris Taylor

Contributor
The prevailing wisdom among my playgroup is that any of the even vaguely "out there" sets are "Not real magic". Commander, Conspiracy, etc.

These are people who are totally fine with my literal custom cards for reference :p
 
Potential Cons
Gives non-blue access to card draw

I don't think this should be listed as a con. In my opinion, every color should have access to at least a little bit of card draw/selection, blue should just be the only color that gets to draw cards efficiently. I don't think drawing an extra card on your end step as long as your opponent isn't slapping you steps on blue's portion of the color pie at all.
 
Related, I came across this about the original development of the Monarch mechanic for 1v1 play

Wow, that's super interesting. Thank you for sharing!

I don't think this should be listed as a con. In my opinion, every color should have access to at least a little bit of card draw/selection, blue should just be the only color that gets to draw cards efficiently.

I agree with you 100%. I will argue that one does not have to think of this as a con, but you can imagine that just as there are people in Chris Taylor's playgroup who disdain supplemental product, there are those who object to colors other than blue getting the opportunity to access a steady stream of extra cards. I'm sure you know the type -- those who think that Harmonize is an abhorrent aberration. And that's totally fine! Cube represents, of course, an opportunity to sculpt one's ideal environment.
 
In the latest of the Cultic Cube video series on cube theory and strategy, we consider the wisdom of introducing a multiplayer mechanic to a 1v1 environment. The Monarch mechanic fundamentally and powerfully changes Magic's card economy. We look at some of the best enablers for the mechanic for different sorts of cubes.

Thanks to my Riptide peeps for good discussion of the mechanic. Your ideas and specific resources helped me immeasurably in formulating my thoughts for the video. A number of y'all appear in the credits at the end. Many sincere apologies if I left out anyone with whom I discussed the topic at hand.

 
Signets are contentious in MTG cube. This video shows cube drafters the power of Signets and why they should be a high priority at the draft table. We discuss how to "cheat" with mana rocks, how Signets compare to alternatives, and what sorts of decks want Signets. A follow-up video will address the cube curator and will survey arguments for and against including this class of mana rock in one's environment. Please like the video and subscribe to the channel if you'd like to see more cube theory and strategy content!
 
Ha! Bad advice for my Cube :p

I run 3+ mana artifact ramp exclusively, with all of the 3 cmc options tapping for only one mana, and upped the cost of Wrath effects to five mana, so there's a natural progression for control decks. Meanwhile, green accelerates at 2+ mana (yup, that means no mana elves in my cube), to still make it the king of ramp. In short, I think it's perfectly possible to cube with Manalith variants, if you shift your environment around that premise.

That said, nice video, and you're very correct in your assessments for regular cube environments, I feel ;)
 
I run 3+ mana artifact ramp exclusively, with all of the 3 cmc options tapping for only one mana, and upped the cost of Wrath effects to five mana, so there's a natural progression for control decks. Meanwhile, green accelerates at 2+ mana (yup, that means no mana elves in my cube), to still make it the king of ramp. In short, I think it's perfectly possible to cube with Manalith variants, if you shift your environment around that premise.

Oh that's super interesting. That makes a lot of sense if one wants to slow down games -- assuming, of course, that one doesn't have super quick and dirty mono-colored aggressive decks that kill reliably on turn 4 and will hence punish these slower decks.

I am developing part two of the Signets series. Here's the thumbnail sketch of the arguments that I have collected against running Signets -- or at least all ten of them:

Arguments against running 10 signets:
-Depress Aggro
-Impinge on green's design space
-Encourage 4/5c goodstuff
-Occupy many card slots

The arguments in favor seem relatively straightforward:

powerful; p1p1s; mana ramp + fixing for two colorless; good for control, combo, cheat; complement moxen in vintage ("consolation prize" if you miss on powered mana)

I'd love to hear you all's take on Signets! Do you have other arguments for or against their inclusion? What has been your experience with them in cube? Do you run ten, some subset thereof, or zero?
 
Oh that's super interesting. That makes a lot of sense if one wants to slow down games -- assuming, of course, that one doesn't have super quick and dirty mono-colored aggressive decks that kill reliably on turn 4 and will hence punish these slower decks.

I am developing part two of the Signets series. Here's the thumbnail sketch of the arguments that I have collected against running Signets -- or at least all ten of them:

Arguments against running 10 signets:
-Depress Aggro
-Impinge on green's design space
-Encourage 4/5c goodstuff
-Occupy many card slots

The arguments in favor seem relatively straightforward:

powerful; p1p1s; mana ramp + fixing for two colorless; good for control, combo, cheat; complement moxen in vintage ("consolation prize" if you miss on powered mana)

I'd love to hear you all's take on Signets! Do you have other arguments for or against their inclusion? What has been your experience with them in cube? Do you run ten, some subset thereof, or zero?


I've been running the signets for about 2 years in mid-power. I was using them in place of fixing lands since I'm a poor college student without infinite money to spend on magic who doesn't like using proxies. People either don't play the signets or jam them into every deck. They make drafts feel pretty same-y and without proper synergies just amount to being lands that systematically disenfranchise aggro strategies. That said, I think that they are very good at the vintage power level (seeing them in play on the MTGO Vintage cube was what made me want to add them in the first place), and I think that larger cubes, even at lower power levels, can accommodate them.
 
Oh that's super interesting. That makes a lot of sense if one wants to slow down games -- assuming, of course, that one doesn't have super quick and dirty mono-colored aggressive decks that kill reliably on turn 4 and will hence punish these slower decks.
Sulfuric Vortex and Hellrider are indeed failing from my cube :)


I'd love to hear you all's take on Signets! Do you have other arguments for or against their inclusion? What has been your experience with them in cube? Do you run ten, some subset thereof, or zero?
I think you have a pretty solid list there. Basically they're colorless Rampant Growths that are easier to abuse, and Rampant Growth is a pretty decent ramp spell anyway. Better actually, because they fix two colors. Since most cubes run Wrath effects at four mana (Wrath of God, Damnation), 2 cmc mana rocks can be so, so crushing for aggro decks, since you just don't have the time to get damage in before that wrath hits.
 
Onder hit the nail on the head, signets are just highly underrated piecing of fixing with how they can accelerate you and help you fix colors in strategies that usually don't have access to it. Splashes are made easier, you push your gameplan forward by one whole turn, and there's very little opportunity cost since most cubes don't have incredible T2 plays to keep you in check. In most cubes, unless you're an aggressive deck hoping to curve 1/2/3 drops or a G/x ramp deck trying to play a ton of dorks early, your first two turns are usually spent playing draw/play land/pass turn.

I personally run zero of them because I feel like they're quite warping in the actual draft. My drafters are old hands at the game and drafting in general, and they can sniff out the value of early fixing like that from a mile away. Unless you're playing in a super powered environment where degenerate things happen on the regular, I feel like picking a signet early is just a safe pick 9/10 times. Even then, a signet is often a great P1P2 or P1P3 in a pack that might contain actual bombs that will win you games. They're that good. You'll play them in all but the most aggressive of decks, I think it would be wrong not to.

I think it's actually one of the biggest problems in MTGO cube design because they make midrange and control decks so much more appealing to the average drafter. When all else fails and synergy doesn't come through, you can always just play a pile of good cards and the signets let you splash for whatever you might need. Sadly, that tends to be the default for most people unless they pick up crazy combo pieces or end up being the only Mono-Red Aggro drafter in a given pod. Aggressive decks can't really compete on the same axis because their gameplan requires that critical mass of bodies to push through 2+ damage in the early game and some form of reach to cross the finish line later in the game. Usually that comes in the form of burn, but that's also rendered inefficient if you end up having to point those spells at a large x/4 body to 2-for-1 yourself before removing a roadblock. You end up needing real haymakers like Sulfuric Vortex or an on-curve Armageddon prior to your opponent stabilizing with a big body to get there.

It's just not good design to include them as a default in the majority of cubes in my opinion. They're just a bit too strong in any environment where you're hoping to push synergistic gameplay instead of focusing from a raw power level perspective.
 
Thanks very much for the thoughtful replies, all. Expect to find yourselves in the acknowledgements. I have the essay written -- or at least a solid draft of it -- and I am starting the visual design for the video now.
 
Thanks very much for the thoughtful replies, all. Expect to find yourselves in the acknowledgements. I have the essay written -- or at least a solid draft of it -- and I am starting the visual design for the video now.

I think you maybe should say that it can be a mistake to add them as fixing for smaller lower powered cubes in place of lands. Unless you need the synergy, they can throw off drafts a bit, especially for newer drafters who don't realize how good they are.
 
Just saw part 2 of the Signets video, very good stuff :)

Regarding the Signet debate I've settled on a solution based on mana myrs:




They are just a little less powerful than Mirage mana rocks because they can be easily disrupted with white/black creature removal, red direct damage and green/red/white artifact removal, while they play nice with Myr Battlesphere (which I like as a Tinker target), hold equipment or auras, crew vehicles and chump block on a pinch, leading to more interesting board states and interactions.


If the ramp still feels oppressive against aggro after I implement the full cycle (currently I'm not running copper nor palladium), it's just a matter of moving Wrath effects to 5cc, doing a favour to my wallet at the same time.
 
Regarding the Signet debate I've settled on a solution based on mana myrs

Ah, I just responded to your comment on the video page! I like the Myr approach. I ran Palladium for a time, and he underperformed for me thanks to his fragility. But that was in the context of more traditional mana rocks as well, so people had options that were simply preferable to the Myr. I can totally see that in an environment whose only "rocks" are the Myr, then they would be super interesting and add cool counterplay to artifact-based ramp.
 
Ah, I just responded to your comment on the video page! I like the Myr approach. I ran Palladium for a time, and he underperformed for me thanks to his fragility. But that was in the context of more traditional mana rocks as well, so people had options that were simply preferable to the Myr. I can totally see that in an environment whose only "rocks" are the Myr, then they would be super interesting and add cool counterplay to artifact-based ramp.


I've also answered your answer on the video so people on youtube have context hah!

One of the things I'm trying to do with my cube (sans unlimited time and resources) is to question some widespread practices, and I identified the signets debate as one point that could have widespread ramifications for gameplay (albeit looking deceptively minor).

After I thoroughly test mana myrs, if succesful, I'm going to look for fixing solutions that do not ramp outside of green (I wan't green to have the "monopoly" of ramp + fixing on one card).
 
In 2010, Mark Rosewater, with characteristic enthusiasm, likened creature lands to the iPad. We discuss what he meant by this, which of these you should include in your cube, and when you should draft them. We'll touch on the recently spoiled creature land from Modern Horizons 1, and the new one from War of the Spark. There's also a shout-out to Riptide Lab for turning me on to Hostile Desert.
 
Wizards introduced vehicles a few short years ago, but it feels as if we have already seen the best of them. (R.I.P. Weatherlight and Parhelion II). Which are the best vehicles for your cube deck? How highly should you take them in draft? Which belong in your cube? And which of those that might appear reasonable should you avoid like the plague?
 
Ah, the mana rock discussion sneakily pops up again :) Cultivator's Caravan turned out to be an excellent vehicle in my cube, because of the shift to 3 cmc mana rocks and 5 cmc wrath effects! The crew 3 does sting sometimes, but as a 5/5, it routinely attacks better than any of the creatures needed to crew it could.

I used to run Fleetwheel Cruiser and might revisit it one day, but the sweetest take-away from the video is the recommendation for Mizzium Tank, which I hadn't even considered, despite running a spells matter theme in red!
 
Ah, the mana rock discussion sneakily pops up again :)

So it does! :) I am on a quiet crusade against Manaliths, I guess. But I entirely see your point that the 3 cmc rocks make a lot of sense in an environment sculpted around them, and one that eschews wrath of god for fumigate and so on. I'll take all the cheap wraths I can get, and I additionally run a couple at five just for greater access to the effect. Anyway, good to know that Caravan is putting in work for you!

Let me know how you like Tank! As I hope I made clear, while I don't think it is top tier, it surprised me how good it is. UR spells is a great home for it, but honestly RDW might be the best spot for it. You *can* get cute with the vehicle, but also you can just smash face with it and occasionally get some extra value.
 
Force of Negation is the slightly ungainly love-child of Negate and Force of Will, though it turned out looking rather more like Cancel than either of its parents. Here we consider whether the new blue Force deserves a spot in your cube or a slot in your cube deck.
 
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