Erik's "The cool side of Magic" cube

I've been drafting the cube a bit and trying to force black decks to get an idea of what the colour needs and it has proven a bit difficult. The reason is that many of the possible decks rely on colours that are still far from finished and, hence, archetypes don't come out too well. For example, I think this is one of the reasons the WB control decks don't come out so well. Some random thoughts:

This is far more useful than Tortured Existence ever was because you can run it in creature-light builds if those creatures have ETB effects or the like. I'm liking it a lot.

Artifacts will have a fairly large presence on the cube and, weirdly, Green will be one of its main colours. So I've been thinking about adding this card to signal a potential BG artifact theme. I don't like that it's pushed a 3/3 First Strike Deathtouch creature but it might be interesting.

The lack of 2-drops is fairly noticiable and one of the main problems with Black on my cube. I suppose cards like Nantuko Shade and Ravenous Rats have become obsolete and would fare rather poorly on the cube. I also hate that Brain Maggot is such a good fit (Disruption, versatile, Enchantment so it can come back with Replenish) but has such a disgusting-looking art.

I wish Dhund Operative got +1/+1 or even +0/+1. I thought Dire Fleet Poisoner was strong but then I read "target attacking Pirate" and saw it doesn't work as surprise removal. Knight of Malice is a 2 or 3 strenght first strike creature which helps both offensive and defensive decks but is otherwise not particularly synergetic. And that's all I can find for 1B on Scryfall.BB isn't much better, for the record. There are some cards that use energy counters that are interesting but I do not want to include the mechanic.

For the record, there are only 600 cards with a CC of 2 and B in their mana costs. Is it any surprise these drops are so hard to find? Either way, I don't think it matters much if all other colours do have valuable 2-drops and pick up enough black removal or other spells for 2CC.

By the way, I just discovered this card. How awful is it? Disrupting Scepter is one of my pet cards and I'm not sure making it 1 mana cheaper will make it work in an environment like this:

I also hate that Brain Maggot is such a good fit (Disruption, versatile, Enchantment so it can come back with Replenish) but has such a disgusting-looking art.


Ah yes, the insectile neural leech in all its glory... how could you say no to this charming fellow?

That art might seem unappealing, but you ain't seen nuthin' till you've feasted your eyes upon the FNM promo version:
What a beauty to have in foil!
So after checking out other cubes and every single black card with costs 1B or BB I've decided to give up for now and start looking into other colours. I'm a bit of weary of the high number of enchanments but half of them are reanimation spells that are not really that different from sorceries. And many of the slots are not tight, the colour feels weaker and less focused than Red.

Still, I think I have a very traditional understanding of how to play Black control or hatebears and that does impact my choices. But I do think that walking a bit away from the colour for a couple of days and fixing White or Green can help make things easier later on.
Some random thoughts:

I'm a bit unhappy about the "fastlands". I like having a scale of power, because I believe it creates an interesting draft dynamic. However, issue is not power level itself, but the fact that they are not synergetic with the other cycles of lands because they don't have basic land types and can't be played through fetchlands.

This gives you two sources of red mana:

This gives you just one.

The issue is that this causes splashes to become radically more or less viable depending on you being lucky enough to grab the appropiate dual/fetch than if you got passed one of these. Hence I've been thinking, what if I replace them with a second set of fetchlands? That would work and would allow for more interesting colour choices and would also provide some additional shuffle effects which are sorely needed.

The issue is that it might be too much. It is possible to build a heavy tricolour deck just by priorotizing fixing. Here's a quick example:

Does this deck need to get better fixing? It's already doing fine. Sure, it nabbed a rather large number of lands but I'm not sure improving the fixing will lead to homogenization or not.

I've also added a couple tricolour cards to the cube:

It's mostly a test, I would not run more than 5 tricolour cards at best. I do like the, though.
First of all, I went and replaced all the fastlands with fetchlands. How is the change? Well, I can't say, the draft bots rank lands too low, probably because I tried forcing too many decks. Still, the different is large and three colour decks are now much, much more viable than they were before. I might keep it that way or change half of the new fetchlands for other lands to keep the fixing down.

Still, I keep thinking that, while a 4c or 5c might technically become the best deck, I know most of my players won't build it and better fixing would improve their experience. I guess it's a bit like Ravnica bouncelands. They were, on an objective level, kind of overpowered because they provided card advantage and ended up getting picked far earlier than the designers expected to. However, for most of the duration of competitive drafting, people weren't picking them so early or abusing them as much so most people just enjoyed them as raw mana fixing for their decks.


Ok, it's now time to work on green.

First, the ramp. I'm not fully sure how much is needed but I have 7 now so let's aim for that number.

Now, this is not that high on power level. I would say 4 of these cards are great and the 3 others are just ok. I might need to change things a little later on. Power level is important because ramp needs to compete against control and reanimator, as well as the artifact deck. I might add Joraga Treespeaker later on to compensate.

Let's now add some basic build-around staples:

Some good cards I'm running either way:

Some cards I'm not sure of, but I want to try.

I'm not sure whether to run one of these or both:

That's 37 cards, assuming I run everything. I'm missing fatties, aggro-supporting creatures and then spells to keep green less linear. I should keep an eye on creatures that get +1/+1 counters too, as I'm thinking of supporting a Green Artifact subtheme.
I don't fancy writing today so here's a draft of a +1/+1 theme in green and why I'm thorn on it:


And also

First issue: Hardened Scales is busted. The difference between getting one counter and getting two with each enabler is massive and the difference in power between drawing it and not is going to be massive.

Second issue: I'm not sure the BG artifact matters deck makes sense and it seems worse from a design perspective than focusing on the graveyard. Similarly, I'm not sure if expanding RG into +1/+1 is better than focusing on lands, though Red does have a pretty large artifact presence already and Welder Survival can be a thing. WG seems to have the most ground, but it's also the dullest colour combination so it isn't hard.
Here's an example of a GB Artifacts deck. I'm not sure if the archetype has legs or not, what do you think? Do you find decks like this (which is on the weaker side of the archetype) good enough to support? I'm not sure if it can compete with a more traditional GB deck.

I've also added a couple more cards.

Dryad should be good if I build my cube properly and there's more to UG and GW than putting creaturs together.

All Suns' Dawn seems fun to build and to play and less backbreacking than the card that returns different mana costs.

Roar of the Wurm seems weak but there's a lot of graveyard/discard support.

Zur is fun, not overly restrictive and supports the enchantment theme that I want to run in WB. Note that all my reanimation spells are enchantments and can bring back enemy creatures.

I wanted an artifact that said "draw one more card per turn" so I decided to test Staff of Nin. It's expensive but I'm in the minority that has played with both Bottled Cloister and Grafted Skullcap.
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Chris Taylor

There is also coercive portal if you're okay with more words but less downside.
Tied voting just draws you another card each turn
Yeah, I also thought of Coercive Portal but, truth to be told, it seems both too good* and too uglily designed. It's a bit like the reason not to include Council's Will, it's such a clear multiplayer design that it just looks confusing in here. I plan to play with players of fairly diverse skill levels and knowledge of modern Magic so it's something I want to keep in mind, too.

*It's...probably not that good. Being colourless and having no drawback is huge, but I don't think it would be that far off from planeswalkers.
That's actually pretty nice. It's actually the same on a power level (one card per turn), but it's clean (cleaner than "at the beginning of your upkeep", even) and I don't think the synergy with untapping is at all bad. At least as cube goes. I would be tempted to run something of the sort if I ran custom cards, thanks!
I've finally decided to abandon the +1/+1 archetype. While it gave a much needed identity to GW, it was very closed on itself and ended up feeling parasitic. None of the cards involved in the archetype helped the other colours, or forced me to make significant changes that worsened them. Most importantly, I think it made the draft far less approcheable and narrower for people who aren't as experienced as I am.

I decided to try to build up Green for midrange and then tweak to support other kinds of decks. It's difficult to test your changes when Green is missing a third of its cards.


I fear GW is the weakest colour combination. Historically, I can't think of many GW decks that did well at tournaments and there aren't many lists of that combination in the "lists that have 3-0'ed your cube". Most importantly, the few lists there are tend to run only the same handful of cards, with White either driving the deck or providing a couple fatties. I don't think GW can work on the back of Rancor and the Lands archetype, but it seems hard when the best of each colour identity doesn't lead to a good deck. After all, why go GW when you can go UG (and play Survival), GB (And play all the good stuff) or GR (And ramp into great stuff). The only GW combination that seems somewhat reasonable so far is Zoo.


I also wanted to note how ugly it is to have extremely similar keywords in the same format. Vanishing AND Fading, Undying AND Persist.


I've cut some of the synergy cards that weren't working, like Marionette Master and added some random stuff:

The addition of man lands has opened the space available for some minor decks, which I appreciate. Sun Titan is a test, he seems worth trying and not busted. On the other hand, I thought Primeval Titan was a nice addition until I realized it could be cheated in play and ramp the Reanimator deck to victory so it will be cut.

EDIT: I think Selesnya might improve if I can refocus the colours into the graveyard. My cube has a lot of graveyard synergy. The question is how to move white into it because it doesn't have many discard outlets and few payoffs (Replenish being the big one).
I gave up on getting a main theme for white in the GY. There just isn't enough density of discard/mill effects.

White does have a few token makers that care about the GY though: Battle Screech, Increasing Devotion (speaking of, could GW humans be a theme for you?), Lingering Souls, Sunscourge Champion, Hallowed Spiritkeeper
Green has a bunch too if that is enough of a theme.

WG can be an ETB deck, with Kor Skyfisher, Aura Shards, Mentor of the Meek, Bramble Sovereign, Temur Sabretooth, Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit, Flickerwisp, Pelt Collector, Path of Discovery, Good-Fortune Unicorn
That's sad to hear, but helpful. Like you say, there are some cards that care about the graveyard but there just aren't enough ways to put the actual cards there.

You do bring up two themes that I I like, but the issue is that they are significantly better in other colours. In fact, it's the problem I keep facing with GW, that all the themes I like are a much better fit for other colours. Blink works very well in UW but is too slow and expensive to work well in green. Similarly WB Humans works very well, because black disruption fits the archetype and there are some very good B creatures you want. However, Green doesn't have much disruption so it pairs poorly with the small humans of White.

Similarly, I'm trying to make WG midrange a thing, but it so far seems plainly worse than GR Midrange. It really is annoying because the potential is there. Really, there should be a deck where Restoration Angel into Eternal Witness is good, but so far I haven't found it.
I would try to push GW humans if this was my cube. I would try to make room for noble hierarch, Experiment One, Avacyn's pilgrim, Hamlet Captain, Deranged Outcast, Budoka Gardener, and/or Elder of Laurels.

I would probably start by axeing Birds of paradise, elves of deep shadow, :( Lotus Cobra, Satyr Wayfinder, Acidic Slime.

I would cut Mirari's Wake for either Heron's Grace Champion (blunt instrument) or Juniper Order Ranger (bonus to itself with creaturefall, also bonus to go-wide dorkiness, maybe underpowered for you though)

EDIT: this deck actually looks kind of terribly dorky, so maybe some more green human fat like Kessig Cagebreakers, Anthousa, Lady Zhurong (lol) or Empprer's Vanguard
I'm not sold on those cards Knifethrower. The theme is very questionable when you have the disruption and better, less parasitic humans of Blue and Black. In my experience Humans doesn't care about mana dorks much, if simply because the linchpin of the deck is Champion of the Parish at the mere cost of one. After all, there are only 3 cards that care about humans in my cube, four if you count Adaptative Automaton. I'm also not fond of how narrow Deranged Outcast is, though I didn't know Experiment One was a human.

I think it would be a mistake to replace highly versatile, interesting cards like Satyr Wayfinde or Acidic Slime that go on every deck for a lesser human theme.
I've found that the GW pair almost runs itself. People in my group have plenty of fun throwing together ""generic"" GW decks of varying kinds without really putting that much effort into it.
Well I just went, drafted your cube and got a nice GW deck going without much effort. So it shouldn't be that hard, should it? ;)

GW Aggro from

Either way, I must remember I'm not the best drafter or Magic player and the decks I build do not necessarily reflect the power of each archetype. More importantly, I tend to overdraft decks I like and I am considerably worse at building certain decks than others. Let's be honest, I tend to overvalue, well "value" over actually winning.

Anyways, I'm making some changes.

I had forgotten about Bloom Tender. It's a beautiful card and it actually does a few great things: It ramps by more than 1 with some restrictions and supports a multicolour theme alongside All Suns' Dawn. Most importantly, it provides a good baseline effect and a better, more interesting and fun effect if you work for it.

Edge of Autumn is another beautiful design. Love the way both effects interact. Sakura-Tribe Elder is versatile and the blocking comes handy. I'm not sure Kodama's Reach is the best choice given it has a cost of 3, but it's card advantage and helps multicolour decks. I'm also somewhat nostalgic for it. Interestingly, I thought STE was a gonner when they changed the damage rules. A decade later and he's one of the few creatures to have survived the creature creep. Go figure.

I think 9 ramp spells is a good number. Mana Dorks are in high demand and decks often want several of them so I found I was a bit short with my previous numbers.

I like Kiki-Jiki a lot. It's a very fun card and I'm attached to it because I used to run it back in the day. But it goes infinite with Restoration Angel so I ended up cutting it. However, it might not be a bad idea to replace Restoration Angel with Galepowder Mage. It's a step down in power, but it seems worth trying. I removed Goblin Dark-Dwellers because it's a less interesting 5-drop and it has been underperforming in testing.

I didn't know about Visara the Dreadful and I'm thinking it should replace Avatar of Woe. I've found it's surprisingly difficult to get the alternative casting cost for Avatar going. The issue is not the lack of setup, but the fact that it's difficult to get so many creatures in the graveyard when you only have 23 non-land cards in your deck. And at a cost of six, she seems more widely playable. Flying is more elegant than fear. I might revert the change, but, at a glance, it seems like an obvious swap. The reduction in power from 6 to 5 is noticiable, though.

Ravenous Baloth was a midrange staple back in my day, providing both a large body and the life to put it into practice. Obstinate Baloth is the same card, but fixed to work with the new rules. It replaces Blastoderm, which is fun and has historical appeal, but is otherwise much narrower.


With these changes I'm at 51 Green cards out of 54. My cube is being slighty reduced in size, which I like. I decided to keep Oath of Druids because, while it can be kind of bullshit, it creates a very unique archetype which is a challenge to draft.

I think there's a small area I can work on that would streamline my cube and make it easier to work on other areas: Artifact mana.


This section is kind of a mess. There are some very powerful cards here, but the overall composition doesn't seem right to me. I think the top is a bit too heavy and the various cards have little synergy with each other. I think I should cut Wayfarer's Bauble. And while I love, love Voltaic Key I think it might be a trap. Cards are scarce in limited and spending one for more mana or another activation is not being as consistently good as I hoped. I also don't run the big spells that could make use for so much artifact mana. I want to, mind, but I think the mana should come first.

Surprisingly enough, Grim Monolith hasn't been busted. However, I'm adding more 6-drops so it's starting to reveal its power. For someone who has written a whole article on why the card is busted I tend to underestimate it. I just like it, dammit.
I'm not sure of the right cards or amount of archetype-support that would be best, but I think I'm going to try this:

First, I'm pretty sure I want 3 "big mana" artifacts:

I'm also sure I want Mox Diamond. It's not the same type of card, it's more specific and doesn't need "critical mass" to function. I'm also sure I don't want Chrome Mox because the card disadvantage is real and I don't think it benefits interesting archetypes. I think it will be misplayed quite often, unlike Mox Diamond.

That's four. Now, I need a few more mana rocks, but choices get hairy. Signets and Talismans are too versatile and powerful, while all 3cc mana rocks with the exception of Coalitic Relic are very low-powered. I think some of the second-tier rocks are the way to go here:

That's eight mana rocks, of which 4 and a half are general-use. I've found that 9 ramp spells in green is a few too little so I'm going to compensate a bit here and then adjust as necessary.

I've also been thinking about removing some cards:

The mana filters seem unnecesary with 2x Fetchland, 2x Dual and take up valuable slots. I like them and they are nice artifacts for Red to play with but they aren't pulling their weight enough.

For some reason, Ratchet Bomb has been a total flop. I'm not sure why, because Powder Keg wasn't lacking in target when I played it in Legacy and Ratchet Bomb is pretty much the same card. I'm probably either testing it wrong or the environment is too different.

Icy Manipulator is one of my favourite cards, but it's in an extremely crowded slot and it tends to get cut. I might replace it with Pacification Array or see if other changes to the cube improve it.
Some random thoughts:

Two sets of fetchlands and two sets of duals have been a massive success. They have made drafting more tense, more interesting and the decks more varied. There's this fear that very good mana fixing leads to drafters just "picking up the best cards" but I haven't found this to be the case

1) Good drafters will prioritize fixing, so you can't get a ton of duals and fetches.
2) You cannot get everything: You can't get both the best cards and the best lands.
3) If the cube is synergy-based, you'll be forced to choose between a possible splash and cards that are good in your deck right now.
4) Building heavily multicolor decks is difficult, but rewarding.

In fact, I'm temtped to do what Wadenell does and run 2.5 sets of fetches and two sets of duals. He's right that the shuffling effect is interesting, at least, as is the landfall trigger. Either way, this leaves room for five utility lands. And I'm not sure what to run.

I'm pretty sure I want these:

But I'm less sure about

I don't know how to evaluate Nykthos. I've never played with the card and I assume it would go into permanent-heavy Green, White and perhaps Black decks. But that's it. I like City of Brass (it's a pretty card) but it's unnecessary. Ancient Tomb is an evil card, but given the design of my cube I don't think

I'm also sure I don't want this one:

Nice card, but only one deck wants it.I'm not sure it's worth the slot.

A part of me thinks of running two Wastelands, two Mishra's Factory and a support land like Tomb and calling it a day. Doesn't seem that bad. On the other hand, I'm also tempted of just not running any utility lands whatsoever if they aren't attached to a certain colour, like Treetop Village and Faerie Conclave are. Those two have been a great addition, though, I recommend them.


I've also been thinking about three-colour cards again. I'm having a lot of fun with my inclusions and I think they promote interesting deckbuilding decisions. Unlike others, I haven't found them to be overly narrow or parasitic. The main issue I've found with them is that the good cards are heavily centered on the same colour pairings.

These three are cool, interesting and work very well. (GGWURRBBB)

Broodmate is kind of replaceable, though.

These are interesting, though they are a bit narrower. (Adding the above, I get GGGWWWUUURRRBBBB which is 3 of each colour. Neat)

Zur is a buildaround and, hence, interesting to build and play. It is, however, a creature and doesn't work as often as I might like.
Jeskai Ascendancy is obviously neat and has one of the best track-records in cube, but it sees play in two kinds of decks: Spells Matter and "combo" and I'm not supporting combo right now.
Rafiq of the Many fits the remaining colour combination and produces an interesting shift in the game but I have never played it so I can't say how well it works. He requires some build-around to make his blue-side work, but I support UG Survival so it shouldn't be difficult.

From here, it's one step below:

I think all these have issues.

Woolly is just an above-the-curve creature. And while the 4 toughness is nice, I don't think it's good enough.
Fiery Justice is interesting, but it goes on an extremely small number of decks. I mean, GWR control? Not that likely.
Maelstrom Wanderer seems far cooler than it is necessary. It's also very expensive and doesn't play well with counterspells.
Violent Ultimatum is good, powerful and castable but it seems less interesting than Broodmate Dragon so I'm going to run the later. It's also a bigger blow-out and I dislike blow-outs.
Lighting Angel is tempting. It has been hit by creature creep, but it's less specific than Jeskai Ascendancy in that it doesn't need as many spells to work well.
Rhor War Monk I dislike. I don't think an undercosted lifelinker is a good reason to run a hard-to-cast card.
Butcher of the Horde is one of the nicest designs on this list. He's too narrow for my taste, however, and so I prefer to run Falkencraft Aristocrat instead.
Doran is an undercosted 5/5 with an interesting ability but there's only one of him so you can't actually build around it. Arcades, the Strategist is similar but he's Defender-only.
The Mimeoplasm. Goodstuff, would jump higher if I shifted my colour combinations. I like that you have to build around him a bit and that he is different in each game.
Sidisi. A value engine. Less fun than Mimeoplasm but better overall. Like it, it would jump higher if I shifted my colour combinations.
Real Razer is what Netrunner players call "spicy". It's Parallax Tide attached to an aggressive body. I'm not sure my group would appreciate it, but I do and respect people who would run it.
Fervent Charge. This is two Glorious Anthems in one. Can be brutal and a build-around but it doesn't seem as fun or interesting as some of the cards above.

Then there are also some cards that people run but that just seem terrible to me.
Have you considered the "fake" tricolor cards?

Now not all of these will fit your themes, but they are really good and flexible. My favorites are Alesha, Tasigur, Hordechief and Soulfire.

I also like your new artifact mana rocks, it seems more streamlined. However if you don't have anything crazy to ramp out, then replacing Thran Dynamo by Hedron Archive could be a nice swap. Keeps the card relevant even when drawn when ramp is no longer necessary.
In the same vein, I like multiple Mind Stones as they stay live late game.
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Hey, Nanonox, thanks for the suggestion! I indeed have, at least some of them. While they are fine cards, I've found them a bit weird. They are like guild cards that go in two guilds but I never felt as comfortable running them as I would with an actual guild card.

Warden: Played it for some time, ended up cutting it. It's a worse Figure of Destiny though I think he might come back if the cube becomes right for him. But, for now, I'm running other cards instead.
Soulfire Grand Master: Cool card, though its secondary ability comes up less often than it seems. In the end, it played as yet another URw Spells-matter card so I cut it.

Alesha, Who Smiles at Death: I don't quite know how to evaluate this card, but I don't like it over the many 3cc red cards.
Brutal Hordechief: Really like the first ability, I ran a similar card in a Standard Vampires deck. Unlike the other cards in this cycle, it's good in monoblack and in non WR splashes. I dislike the second ability, though.
Tasigur, the Golden Fang: This is an Angler variant. However, it's not in the combination of colors I want an Angler variant.
Shaman of the Great Hunt: Another card with a nice ability and a less interesting second. Mostly a Gruul card.
Yasova: Another Gruul card. I dislike repeated Threaten abilities, they are very inconsistent. I think there are more interesting green 3ccs.

Let's re-revise the guild section, cutting down to the cards I'm sure about:


Very happy with all these picks. Sin Collector is incredibly versatile, a hatebear that supports blink and is good in any and all decks. Kambal gives BW some defensive capabilities, warps the game but is very fair. Love it.

Angel of Despair is a personal pick. It's expensive, heavily coloured and probably replaceable by a white angel that does the same thing. But I like it. It's also a fair reanimation target.


These are not very synergetic but they are all great cards. If I were Wadell, I would increase the power level and replace Glare with Oppossition and end up with a better cube. But I don't want to increase the power level for now.


Being UW gives you a four-mana wrath. Sphinx is the best X draw spell and Spell Queller is a versatile, very cute card that works in both control and tempo.


Judith goes into any creature-heavy deck and is fun to play. Not to oppressive, either, but very strong. Falkenraft is a strong finisher and a bit of a headache but cool.

The third slot is loose. I tried a Command, but Rakdo's Return supports big mana decks in RB.


Three picks, but other than Psychatog, they are all easily replaceable. Infiltrator has been surprisingly underwhelming.


I have Dragonlord Atarka on the third slot, which is a placeholder. Stormbind is a synergetic pick with usability in more "normal" decks than it seems at first glance. Bloodbraid is just pure value.



Golgari is the guild with the most options and the one I'm most undecided about.


I'm sure Edric is kind of busted, but he should die easily and turn into a relatively undercosted draw spell. Hydroid Krasis rewards players for doing what UG wants to be doing.


Helix is a great card that helps expand the role of Boros. Rally the Peasants is Boros: The Card, though it can be played as a Trumpet Blast in other white decks.


So far I'm only happy with Expansion/Explosion. Thousand-Year Storm is fun, but unsupported. Izzet Charm is versatile, but a filler card.
I claned up my lands and now run these 5 utilities:

I'm a bit thorn about replacing the Port with a second Wasteland to better support aggro, tempo and Crucible of Worlds but I don't want to punish splashes and three colour decks too much.


Ecstatic Orb
Some random thoughts:

I'm a bit unhappy about the "fastlands". I like having a scale of power, because I believe it creates an interesting draft dynamic. However, issue is not power level itself, but the fact that they are not synergetic with the other cycles of lands because they don't have basic land types and can't be played through fetchlands.

This gives you two sources of red mana:

This gives you just one.

I would be tempted to run something of the sort if I ran custom cards, thanks!

It's a pity you don't, because I can tell you from experience that fastlands with basic land types are great! :)