Highball: Legacy of the Rails

Could this replace Sai as a more versatile token maker? Triggers off of anything and the incubator tokens are great for control decks since you can hold up interaction and transform or wait after your wrath. Also fun with big delve spells like Dig.
You lose out on the flying from the thopters, but the +1/+1 counters work well with Ensoul.

I think cards that aren’t overly narrow (Third Path Iconoclast) would help integrate your artifacts trinkets into multiple archetypes.
I do like your Thought Monitors as a payoffs.

Could this replace Sai as a more versatile token maker? Triggers off of anything and the incubator tokens are great for control decks since you can hold up interaction and transform or wait after your wrath. Also fun with big delve spells like Dig.
You lose out on the flying from the thopters, but the +1/+1 counters work well with Ensoul.
Simply put, I don't know! This card does make artifact tokens like no tomorrow, but I think it will usually be making very small incubators. Mostly 1/1 and 2/2s. There just aren't a ton of high-cost noncreature spells like Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time in the Cube, so while you might be able to make a single large incubator in a game, making multiple seems highly difficult. The artifact deck especially won't have a ton of big noncreatures to cast: you might literally be incubating for 0 on the regular! Now, this wouldn't be a problem if the incubators were free to transform into creatures, but I don't know if paying {2} every time someone wants to make a 1/1 or 2/2 creature off of their token factory is all that good. My play experience with Incubators so far has indicated that small incubators aren't that great to flip. I definitely like the Idea of this card but I think in practice it would be better in one of the other spell decks and not the artifact deck. I want to try this, though, so if my initial inclination is wrong that would be fantastic!

I think you're onto something with the +1/+1 counters on the Incubators working well with stuff like Ensoul and Blackstaff. I wasn't initially planning on including any Incubate cards but this could change the calculus a bit.
imagine incubating 3 and then making an 8/8 or whatever with your ensoul, thats value
Ok that's pretty cool. The basic play pattern you outline here would also work well with Modular Creatures and Counter Scalers. I think you and Nanonox are onto something with Counters+Animaiton!

The Chrome Shark leads you to this

You know, I really do not think that is the direction I want to take Blue in the Cube. Frantic Search is cool, but it's more of a weird combo card than something fair. I think there are decks where it could work, but I think it would be more of a cute synergy piece than something actively fantastic.

Regardless, I like the suggestion; very creative!
Red Artifacts: Taylor's Version
An Artifact Section by Taylor Swift


Designing the Red portion of the artifact deck is going to be a little different than the Blue section for a couple of reasons. First, the Red cards are not as important to the overall artfiact deck I want to build as the Blue cards. Second, Red has fewer slots I can afford to dedicate to Artifacts since it is the main color for both Burn and Prowess, as well as including support for Reanimator and Dragons. Third and most importantly, Red has a lot of slots spent on redundancy for key effects which could be upgraded/sidegraded into cards with the word "artifact" somewhere in the rules text. In many ways, while the space constraints in Red are stricter than in Blue, I think designing the section will actually be easier!

For a start, let's look at the glue that keeps Red Artifacts tied into the rest of the Cube:

Pia and Kiran Nalaar and Voldaren Epicure are already in the Cube. These cards work nicely with artifacts by providing lots of artifact fodder at competitive rates. Voldaren Epicure is especially good because it's a reanimator enabler. Galvanic Blast is great because it acts as an "upgrade" for less synergistic burn.

Next, let's review some "Red" artifacts that work as the glue between artifacts matter and other decks:

I've been coming down a bit on including too many cards for the sake of glue alone over the years because I think it's easy to fall into the trap of playing stuff that is well below the overall rate of the Cube simply as a means to present things that go into multiple archetypes. However, I think these two cards is fine because they're both (mostly) colorless. Scrapwork Mutt is a Merfolk Traders variant that every color can play. It's a useful card for Artifact decks, Reanimator, and Goyf decks alike. The Unearth ability also gives it some additional value in base red decks, although I don't think someone needs to be heavily red for this card to work. I think even looping this card with Emry, Lurker of the Lock is a decent way to generate value, even without red mana. Phyrexian Dragon Engine is a little more dubious since its base mode is "2/2 Double Strike for {3}," but I think it's still good enough to consider. I think it is playable in the Unearth deck.

To continue, let's take a look at some red Equipment that can help tie into artifacts while also giving Stoneforge Mystic more robust support:

Lizard Blades is already in the Cube and is fine. While I think it's one of the most cuttable two-drops in Red at present, it also doesn't do much right now other than be a dual Fencing Ace//Fireshrieker package, which isn't that impressive. I feel like using The Blackstaff of Waterdeep with is a very different story than the base mode. Ogre-Head Helm seems fine; send Tweet. Barbed Batterfist and Hexgold Halberd are sticky "creatures" that leave behind reasonably good equipment when they die. I don't think any of these pieces of equipment are great, but I think they fill the artifact hole pretty well.

Finally, let's review what "the deep end" of artifact support could look like for Red:

All of these cards lean into the "sacrifice artifacts" space. Shrapnel Blast is the easiest inclusion– it works well with Trinkets, Thopter Tokens, For Mirrodin! Equipment, Hangarback Walker, and even the Bridges! I'm a little iffy on Breya's Apprentice, but as I've previously mentioned, @kactuus has had good things to say about it in some of her very powerful Cubes, so I'm willing to give it a try. Thopter Engineer is even iffier, but it's worth a mention for being thematically relevant. Sokenzan Smelter has a good base rate with a large upside for playing cheap artifacts. Getting a 3/1 haste every turn for one mana seems pretty good, especially if you have some sort of value loop assembled. Experimental Synthesizer is the first red "Bauble" I'm looking at. I think the card is good, but I wonder if it really works without a major Artifact sacrifice theme. Goblin Engineer tutors an artifact to the graveyard and can be used to set up some sort of value loop with Chromatic Star and friends. I've played this card in the past and wasn't overly impressed by it, but I think I lacked the proper support for it to be good. 2x Gleeful Demolition simply seems good with the Bridges, while also having combo potential with other decks. Maybe it's time for me to whip out a copy of Ancient Imperiosaur, Nest Invader, and Chatterstorm to make Dino Demolition a deck? It would definitely be a novel use for these Goblin creation cards, and even give Ornithopter more reasons to be in the Cube! The one thing I don't like about the "sac" direction is that it takes the Cube in a very... Oni–Cult Anvil direction. As much as I like Oni–Cult Anvil, I don't think I want (or would even be able) to support it at this time.

I think Red is actually going to be really easy to retrofit with Artifact support. While I don't know how much I will be supporting the deck in Red yet, I know the card pool is deep enough and flexible enough to make what I'm looking for work.

Thanks for reading!
Abzan Antiquities

Abzan isn't going to be going particularly deep into the artifact theme. Black has basically no room for artifacts matter cards, and Green doesn't really doesn't need the extra archetype. White, by contrast, is going to be getting a little bit of artifact support, hopefully to give U/W an interesting direction to go that isn't hard control. The main goal here will be to minimize space usage while increasing play options.

First, let's look at the artifact cards already in the Cube in these colors:

Honestly, there's a little less here than I initially remembered. Right now, I'm on triple Thraben Inspector, which may or may not change in the future. I like how it's a value creature for low-curving white decks, especially ones that care about tokens. Lion Sash is a great value card and is a Scavenging Ooze variant in a color that needs that effect. Stoneforge Mystic and Maul of the Skyclaves are both cards that work in a deck trying to leverage equipment, with Mystic being a good build around and Maul being a good evasion dispenser. Blood Fountain is another "blood for reanimator" card that also has value in the graveyard midrange decks. Gilded Goose is a trinket-making mana dork. Briarbridge Tracker is an above-rate beater that can replace itself. Tireless Tracker is a great value engine and snowballing threat. Esika's Chariot is a good card that is an artifact. Lonis, Cryptozoologist is a clue engine like Tireless Tracker, with the added bonus of being really cool. I think all of these cards are likely to remain in the Cube for the long haul, minus maybe the extra copies of Thraben Inspector and potentially Lonis depending on whether or not other UG cards I want to play get printed.

Next, let's examine some good White cards to add for artifacts:

Toolcraft Exemplar and Yotian Frontliner are both good aggressive cards with an "artifacts matter" tilt. I don't know if I necessarily want to go this direction with White, but I think they're worth a mention. Glimmer Lens and Barbed Spike are both "equipment bears." They combine well with artifact synergy pieces, especially Stoneforge Mystic, but are nice playables for other decks. Platoon Dispenser is a little suspect, but it is a good recursive card advantage engine. I think it could be a cool potential option if I choose to go in that direction. Recommission is first and foremost redundancy for the Unearth Deck, but it does play well with artifacts.

Black is a little thinner on potential inclusions:

Phyrexian Fleshgorger is a "colorless" card that is realistically mostly for black decks. It's definitely more of a reanimator card than an "artifacts matter" card, but I think it could have legs in some sort of Artifact archetype. It's definitely an upgrade to Scuttling Doom Engine! Transmogrant's Crown is another "colorless" card that is better in black decks. Blade of the Oni is a nice aggressively–slanted card that could be used in multiple decks. Deadly Dispute pairs nicely with baubles and trinkets and is great at deck filtering.

Finally, Green is really light on more artifact options, but there are a few cards of note:

Prosperous Innkeeper is the best of the bunch here. I think this could be a good midrange card with some nice token/treasure synergy Dodgy Jalopy and Killer Service are incredibly suspect, but I've been interested in them since they were released in some degree. Ultimately, I think I'm already running the best green artifact support, and I probably don't need to scrape the barrel of what currently exists to bolster this section. I can certainly add more new good artifact cards as they are printed, but I think I'm mostly good for now.

So what can we learn here?

First, the Artifact deck is really a base-Blue institution that bleeds into Red. Blue/White artifacts will probably be a fine option for a proactively oriented build of Blue/White, but it's not a key archetype for the color pair. Red/White is probably still mainly a Burn deck that could potentially gain an equipment theme. Second, Black and Green don't have the tools to support the kind of Artifact deck I'm looking for. While Green and Black do have good artifact synergy cards, I think my target deck works on a different axis than what these colors can support. Third and Finally, this deck isn't going to have a huge impact on the way I handle the other colors. I can make something work in a Blue/Red base without necessarily screwing up the rest of the Cube. This is a huge confidence booster!

Thank you for reading,
Second, Black and Green don't have the tools to support the kind of Artifact deck I'm looking for.
Throwing more suggestions at you, feel free to let me know if they are too far off, I can stop :p

dbs wrote a great post about "artifactified" archetypes. I think it could work for your Black and Green sections if you are adding all the artifact trinkets you mentioned.

That's it! With these 4 cards and in addition to all the delve stuff that benefits from Baubles hitting the yard, you have an "artifact" GY deck in Sultai. Grim Flayer can replace Grisly Salvage and Traverse can replace Dig Up.

You can push it further by tweaking your removal


Or by adding additional cards that care about different card types

But all that is superfluous. I think the base package is enough to push people into maindecking the Baubles even outside of the dedicated artifact deck.

I agree with your takeaway regarding Abzan, it's going to be tough to make artifacts work without a huge overhaul!
Throwing more suggestions at you, feel free to let me know if they are too far off, I can stop :p

dbs wrote a great post about "artifactified" archetypes. I think it could work for your Black and Green sections if you are adding all the artifact trinkets you mentioned.


That's it! With these 4 cards and in addition to all the delve stuff that benefits from Baubles hitting the yard, you have an "artifact" GY deck in Sultai. Grim Flayer can replace Grisly Salvage and Traverse can replace Dig Up.
I think you're 100% on the money here! Stuff like Grim Flayer can act as an extra "Tarmogoyf" while giving more incentives for people to play artifacts outside of the dedicated artifact pile decks. Other Delirium cards can also help to get people going in an artifact-y direction. I'm a little sad Unholy Heat is too pushed for my Cube because that would also be a good card for this space.

Emry as a card for mill decks wasn't something I had really considered, but she is a good follow-up for a bridge! Maybe I play her and take the Cube in a more Executioner's Capsule-y direction?

But all that is superfluous. I think the base package is enough to push people into maindecking the Baubles even outside of the dedicated artifact deck.
people who are not maindecking 0 mana cantrips are PROBABLY just playing incorrectly
I agree with both of these points. Baubles (and Chromatic Star) are pretty good by themselves, so I think players don't need a ton of extra support for them to work. The "problem" is just giving incentives, but since this is a high synergy environment, I don't think that should be too difficult!

Thank you both!
Rallying the Ancestors Part 1
One thing that I have failed to do since writing the first Digging Through Time post almost three years ago was actually write a coherent description of what this Cube is all about and what archetypes I'm trying to support. My original plan was to keep the Cube mostly under wraps until I was ready to write a real article series about its design process, but after getting way too busy with School, I started just posting everything in this thread instead. My intention with the next two posts is to discuss the overall vision of the Cube, and the broad strokes of what archetypes I'm trying to support. I will also discuss what I want to make work in the near future, and what I've tried and stopped supporting during the design process of this Cube.

Overall Vision

I have two primary goals with this Cube. First, I want to re-create the feeling I had playing Magic when I was younger in a way that feels authentic without being forced. I don't just want a pile of cards from the mid-2010s. Instead, I want a real, living Cube environment that takes things that I enjoyed about the past and iterates upon them to create an optimized, constructed-like game experience. Second, I want cards that evoke the emotions I associate with my Magic past to be the best cards in the format and to set the tone for what works in the draft. I am not trying to build a Museum of Magic. I am trying to build an environment where the good cards just happen to be ones I have fond memories of playing. Notice that this can and does include cards from outside the main time frame I'm trying to recapture. I am just as happy to play old friends like Unearth and new favorites like Fable of the Mirror Breaker when they lead to the kind of games that I want to play.

A good analogy for this Cube is the Talyllyn Railway in Wales. The Talyllyn Railway was originally built to haul Slate from the quarries at Bryn Eglwys to the transport hub city of Tywyn. The Railroad would eventually be preserved in the 1950s as a passenger line, with very little time between the end of quarrying and the transition to exclusively passenger service. Today, the Talyllyn Railway is an authentic experience reminiscent of late Victorian narrow-gauge railroading. While the railway doesn't work exactly the same as in the past, the experience is similar enough to feel completely authentic. You can read more about the Talyllyn's history here. My goals mirror the history of the Talyllyn. I'm trying to use historic cards in an updated context, supplemented with modern design techniques and advancements in the field of Cubing.

Some cards I think exemplify my primary goals include:

My goals translate to archetype design in one major way. My early memories of Magic are almost completely constructed-oriented. As such, to recapture the feel I want, I need a high-power, open-ended, decks-not-cards environment. I am incredibly fortunate that I started playing during the Theros-Khans era, as this is one of the easiest time periods to translate to a Cube setting while maintaining the feel I'm looking to replicate. This era was just at the beginning of the switch to contemporary creature design, with more value being added to threats, making them more resilient. It was also at the end of the old spell design paradigm. Cheap burn that damaged players was abundant, one-mana mana-dorks ruled green, and broken cantrips backed up by cheap counterspells were still a recent memory. Replicating this era gives me access to the best of old Magic, minus the bad game design of the 90s and 2000’s, while also getting the foundational elements of new Magic, without the power level mistakes or complexity creep.

The primary side effect of my vision is that most of the archetypes are going to be based on Standard decks. While I can and do look to Modern, Legacy, and a little bit of Prerelease Sealed for my design inspiration, most of the decks from this time period use poisonous components that don't translate well to a draft environment, even one which is non-singleton like this Cube. The main reason why this Cube is being built as a draft environment and not a deck gauntlet is because it's fun to build a completely new deck on the fly and explore cards in new combinations. Using highly parasitic archetypes goes against this philosophy by putting the draft "on rails," making the experience much less dynamic than is desirable. The Standard decks from this time period largely avoided this trap, because they were basically just quirky versions of core Cube archetypes such as Burn, Midrange, Control, and Reanimator. While the Standard decks played a very different card pool than their common Cube counterparts, the basic plans are close enough to make them pretty straightforward translations. The main point of bringing this up is to kill the main misconception people often have about this Cube: this is not a Standard Cube; it just has many key similarities to the Theros-Khans Standard format because that's what I was following closest at the time and because those decks translate to Cube the best. Inspiration from other formats is present, but isn't as prominent due to the constraints of my design goals and good Cube design.

I'm splitting this post into two parts to make it a little easier to follow. Thank you so much for reading so far, and enjoy the second half!
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Rallying the Ancestors Part 2
Welcome back! In the previous post, I discussed the overall vision for the Cube and how my main goals impact my design decisions. This post will outline the individual archetypes I'm trying to support in the Cube. I will also cover some archetypes that I have tried and removed in the past and some things that I wish to try in the future. Please note that I don't plan on discussing every possible deck in the Cube. While I will cover everything I am actively supporting, certain emergent decks aren't things that I am actively pushing. There are also archetypes that are subsets of other decks, such as the {U}{W} control builds that are a sub-component of the {W}{U}{B} Dragon decks.

Control Decks
{W}{U}{B}Esper Dragons{W}{U}{B}

Esper Dragons does a good job of illustrating what I meant when I said the inspiration for these decks are "quirky versions of core Cube archetypes." Esper Dragons is fundamentally a normal control deck. The main plan of the deck was to control the game with board wipes, removal, and counterspells, then to win with card draw and inevitable finishers. The big place where the constructed version of the deck deviates from its counterparts in eternal formats was with how the spell package interacted with the finishers. There weren't a lot of good cantrips or board wipes in Theros–Khans Standard, so the average control deck had to play more spot removal and finishers than normal while placing a heavy reliance on big draw spells like Dig Through Time to find answers. This led the decks to play cards like Foul-Tongue Invocation and Silumgar's Scorn, in conjunction with their finishers Dragonlord Ojutai, Dragonlord Silumgar, and Silumgar, the Drifting Death. The deck even got to play Crux of Fate as a one-sided sweeper! Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa's 1st Place Esper Dragons from Grand Prix Sao Paulo is a perfect example of this archetype.

My version of the Esper Dragons archetype is modified to work better in a Cube environment. I dropped the weak Dragon synergy cards like Foul-Tongue Invocation and Silumgar's Scorn in return for more playable interaction like Counterspell and Go for the Throat. Some of the peripheral multicolor dragons have been dropped in favor of mono-color counterparts. For example, Dragonlord Ojutai remains but is supplemented by Timeless Dragon, Kairi, the Swirling Sky, and Junji, the Midnight Sky. The Cube also plays better cantrips, so some of the pressure for an insane density of removal and board wipes is reduced. I have also biased my board wipes towards black more than the normal Cube. While white still gets board wipes, Black is given some of the conditional tools that replicate the play patterns of Crux of Fate, such as Crux itself and Languish. While the Cube deck plays many different cards than the constructed counterpart, the basic game loop of "control the game and then kill them with a Dragon" remains intact. This is a repeating theme for many of the decks in this Cube– while they aren't 1 to 1 ports of their constructed inspiration, the most fun elements of the deck are preserved.

General Midrange Decks
{W}{B}{G}Abzan Midrange{W}{B}{G}

This "deck" is an amalgamation of several different Abzan variants from throughout the Theros-Khans standard season. Abzan evolved a lot between the time Khans of Tarkir was released and the day Theros block rotated out of Standard. For example, the Abzan Midrange deck Ari Lax piloted to victory in Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir looks different from the more aggressive Abzan deck Mike Sigrist played to third place the same tournament. By Pro Tour Magic Origins, some versions of the deck would morph into a Control Build. However, the deck never settled into a single
"best" build by the end of the format, with both controlling and aggressive versions showing up in the top 3 of the 2015 world championships. The major through line in all of these decks is four copies of Siege Rhino and four copies of Thoughtseize. Otherwise, there are repetitive motifs of Elspeth, Sun's Champion, Sylvan Caryatid, Elvish Visionary, and Courser of Kruphix, however these inclusions are not nearly as consistent.

Because of the intense amount of diversity in the space, I've opted to build Abzan as a fairly "normal" midrange deck, with care taken to include as many of the Abzan staples from back in the day as I can reasonably include. The result is a "choose your own adventure" style deck, where players can adjust their Abzan build based on what cards they're getting passed. This is a pretty nice way to draft the archetype, as it provides a wide range of potential decks based on player preference and "what's open." Card like Elspeth, Sun's Champion and Languish help to reinforce the controlling builds of the deck, while Herald of Torment and Fleecemane Lion make aggressive builds more appealing.

{W}{U}{B}{G}34 Rhinos{W}{U}{B}{G}

One of the challenges of building a constructed-like Cube is ensuring the correct density of key effects while still maintaining a healthy draft environment. While key effects such as Thoughtseize can be replicated with similar spells and cards such as Faithless Looting can safely be played in multiples, not every spell is easy to duplicate. Finishers and gold cards are especially hard to work into a format, because going too heavily on these cards can make games feel "samey." Siege Rhino especially represents a challenge, because it is both a keystone of the mid-2010s while also being a 3-color gold card that only goes into Abzan Midrange decks. The solution to this issue lies with an "old against the odds" deck Seth "probably better known as Saffron Olive," played back in 2015:
In this deck, Seth uses Tutors and clone effects to get more than 4 Siege Rhinos into his Standard deck. We can use similar cards to help "increase the density" of key effects without actually needing to heavily support them in the Cube. Bring to Light is a great example of a card that can do this: it "tutors" for any creature, instant, or sorcery, and lets the player cast the card. Cantrips such as Abundant Harvest can help with this goal as well. The nice thing about the "card selection and clones" method is that it helps make every card in the deck easier to find, meaning decks can be more consistent without feeling the same every game.

{G}Green-Based Ramp{G}

Green-based ramp decks are an important thing to "get right" in this Cube, for two key reasons. First, Green Devotion was a very important deck in both RTR-Threos and Theros-Khans Standard. In fact, it was the best in the format for a while after Fate Reforged brought Mastery of the Unseen and Whisperwood Elemental into the format. Second, I played multiple green ramp decks during my first three years of playing Magic, including a mono-green deck during Theros block and various Temur decks after Khans was released. My first ever 3-0 at FNM was achieved with a Temur deck using Savage Ventmaw and Crater's Claws to one-shot the opponent. Needless to say, the history here makes getting these decks correct very important to me.

Luckily, green ramp is a staple Cube archetype, with basically everyone including some version of the deck in at least one of their Cubes. It's very well explored space, so it's not too difficult to build. The core of the deck, a turn one Elvish Mystic into a second mana dork or Courser of Kruphix into a thicc creature isn't too hard to replicate. I have access to better thick things than original Polukranos (including his Reborn Counterpart and a Cat Car), but I can get away with playing the old king alongside some new hotness here without ruining the balance of the format. Additionally, I'm going to use some fixing dorks including the heirarchs, Birds of Paradise, and Gilded Goose to compliment the multicolor midrange decks in the format. This should help to keep mana dorks from being late or commital picks, while giving ramp players a more interesting draft environment to navigate.

The key omission here is Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. If there is any card this deck needs that I don't have, it's this insane mono-green devotion enabler. No other card is so efficient at converting Green board presence into mana, except for maybe Gaea's Cradle. Unfortunately, since I use this Cube as the primary means to play with my collection, I'm not going to proxy Nykthos, and getting a copy is more expensive than I would like at the minute. Hopefully, it gets a reprint in Commander Masters, and the price of the card decreases. I'm also not going to be playing Mastery of the Unseen. I have tested this card in the past and it just doesn't match the power level of the other manifest cards without Nykthos being around. Heck, even with Nykthos it's probably not that great in limited. Instead, I'm opting to play Primordial Mist as a second copy of Whisperwood Elemental. This pushes the "Ramp into Manifests" version of the deck into a blue/green angle instead of Selesnya, but I don't think this is a big issue since the deck was always mostly green anyway.


I hesitate to call Jund a "supported archetype" in this Cube, but it is the shard deck I think about most second to Esper. The presence of hand attack, good burn, and cheap oversized threats has meant that a sort of "Boomer Jund" deck has come into existence. Jund is such an iconic midrange deck that I thought this Cube would benefit from trying to replicate some of its play patterns. The aforementioned card categories already give Jund some legs, but I want to try and help it along a little further by providing better interactive and value gold Cards for the {B}{G}{R} colors to use. I could also try adding classic Jund staples like Liliana of the Veil to help the deck along. The key here will be to give Jund enough support so that it can exist, but not so much so that it is upstaging the more interesting Midrange decks in the Cube. Jund is fun by itself, but it doesn't do anything particularly special. The main thing here is to help integrate Red cards into the Midrange dynamic of the Cube, which I think the Jund deck can do very well.

Graveyard and Reanimation Decks
{B}{G}{U}Sultai Delve{B}{G}{U}

The general idea behind Sultai Delve is to combine cheap cards that fill the graveyard with Delve cards. Delve cards can very easily become above-rate threats with minimal mana investment in decks that can fill the yard. Cheap self-mill cantrips like Winding Way, Thought Scour, and Ransack the Lab can both find and cast Delve threats. Imagine all of your card selection was also Dark Ritual. That is basically what this deck is trying to achieve. The Delve threats themselves are generally quite fun to play, with their abilities ranging from raw stats to synergy pieces. Cards like Hooting Mandrills and Gurmag Angler are piles of stats that can be easily cast for one mana. Meanwhile, cards like Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Ethereal Forager offer more synergistic rewards for players. The Cube also plays Soulflayer and soon will play Murktide Regent, both of which will reward players for taking Delve builds in more niche directions.

{G}{W}{U}{B}Whip and Whipless Reanimator{G}{W}{U}{B}

Whip of Erebos was a fun and important card throughout its time in Standard. While the Whip slotted nicely into many normal Black midrange decks, there were also decks specifically designed to leverage the card's ability to bring back big creatures with good ETBs repeatedly. Decks built around Whip of Erebos used Satyr Wayfinder and Sidisi, Brood Tyrant to mill tons of cards into the graveyard, fueling multiple Whip activations on big impactful creatures like Hornet Queen and later Dragonlord Atarka. Whip was popular especially during the first half of Theros-Khans standard, with the finals of the 2014 World Magic Cup being a face off between two Whip decks. Team Denmark and Simon Nielsen's Abzan Midrange beat Team Greece and Panagiotis Savvidis' Sidisi Whip deck.

My goal is to re-create a similar play pattern to the Whip deck, using Whip of Erebos proper supplemented by other reanimation effects to help build out a cool take on midrange reanimation. Priest of Fell Rites and Unburial Rites are both great examples of this paradigm, since they can be used to reanimate creatures multiple times, like the Whip. The big difference here is that the other reanimation effects, even the repeatable ones, don't exile the creature at end of turn. This means that reanimating big things for their ability to impact the board long-term can be a relevant in some builds of the reanimator deck. I will still be erring on the side of things with good enters the battlefield effects for this deck, but I will be using some cards with good bodies like Apex Altisaur and Archon of Cruelty to help the non-Whip reanimation decks have more legs. Overall, this is an exciting deck for the format and it has been one of my favorite decks to play so far.

{R}{W}{B}Mardu Unearth{R}{W}{B}

Mardu is a problem child for any Cube with an emphasis on enemy colors. While Red, Black, and White have a lot of internal synergy, they don't really have a clear, unifying direction to work with. This is further compounded by the fact that the Mardu archetype in Khans of Tarkir was simply "attack your opponent." Usually, people default to "aristocrats" for this space, given the fact that red, white, and black can all contribute pretty well to this deck. However, Aristocrats really do not fit my design goals particularly well. First, black is already stretched pretty thin in what it can support given the intensive needs of the reanimation decks and the control decks. Second, red and white are support colors for aristocrats, even though they both really needed to be primary colors for more archetypes. The solution here was to deviate from Mardu norms and build something that relied more on red and white than black. The place I landed was an updated version of the Mardu Pyromancer decks that were popular in Modern at the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018, a deck I'm calling Mardu Unearth.

The basic idea behind this deck is to take high-value Spells Matter payoffs like Young Pyromancer, Monastery Mentor, and Sedgemoor Witch and combine them with cheap removal and card filtering to generate an advantage. In the event one of the good payoffs is removed, Unearth and its backup variants such as Recommission and No One Left Behind can bring them back to keep the loop going. This combo can be combined with "scammy" cards such as Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger to keep the value train rolling. This deck is one of the main success stories with nonsingleton design, with three copies each of Faithless Looting and Unearth along with an extra Young Pyromancer serving as cornerstones of the deck.

Aggressive and Tempo Decks

One of the most popular eternal format decks of all time is Izzet Delver. These decks use the titular Delver of Secrets in conjunction with a rogue's gallery of cheap interaction and card draw to win a tempo-oriented game. Khans of Tarkir was an important set for Delver, introducing both Monastery Swiftspear and Treasure Cruise being printed. The post-Khans version of the delver deck was so good to earn it a place as the top deck during the first day of the 2014 World Championships. The delver list played by Patrick Chapin was the only 12-point deck of the day. Treasure Cruise's reign was short-lived, with it being banned in both Modern and Legacy in the first ban announcement after the card was printed, but Swiftspear has continued to be a relevant card in multiple decks ever since.
This era of Delver was defined by the new cards: you had access to both a brand new aggro one drop and an overpowered draw spell! For my build of Delver, I've decided to eschew the namesake card in favor of focusing on the Monastery Swiftspear and Treasure Cruise portion of the deck. This makes the deck easier to draft because players will have more flexibility in the ratios of cards they need to play, and lets me save space by not needing to include multiple copies of Delver of Secrets. The result is a prowess deck built around applying early pressure with scaling threats like Monastery Swiftspear, Soul-Scar Mage, and Sprite Dragon, supported by a cast of cheap interaction and card filtration. I also get to make use of cantrips that are banned in Modern and weren't in Standard since I don't have to worry about Storm or any other problematic combo decks. My version of the deck also bleeds a little bit into white, making cards like Leonin Lightscribe and Monastery Mentor into powerful damage and value engines. As a whole, my design philosophy for Prowess makes the deck fun and flexible in a way that I think most players will be able to appreciate.

{R}Rabble Red{R}

Mono-red aggro is one of my favorite Cube archetypes, and coincidentally one that aligns very well with the goals of this project. Mono-red evolved a lot throughout the mid-2010s. The decks during this era almost serve as a template for most present-day Cube mono-red archetypes. Needless to say, this is perfect for my needs. There are two main schools of red during this time period: Atarka Red and Mono-Red. Atarka Red, exemplified by the deck Martin Dang came in 1st place at Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir with, used an aggressive start with roughly 12 one-drop creatures, curving out into bigger finishers like Goblin Rabblemaster. The deck would use Convoke spells like Stoke the Flames and team pump like Atarka's Command to win the game. When Magic Origins was released, a Mono-Red variant of the deck using the newly printed Exquisite Firecraft dominated the field. A more prowess-like version of the deck without Goblin Rabblemaster even won Pro Tour Magic Origins.

I've decided on combining the best elements of both decks into my Red section. I don't currently have Atarka's Command in the Cube (although it wouldn't necessarily be a bad inclusion), but I do run multiple different Goblin Rabblemaster variants supporting the original, including Legion Warboss and Squee, Dubious Monarch. I also get access to some newer cards such as Anax, Hardened in the Forge and Phoenix of Ash, which feel like they could have come from this era, and good value cards like Bonecrusher Giant to help keep these aggro decks competitive against the midrange builds. Like with Abzan, I am able to help get the "feel" right by playing lots of popular cards from the deck for redundancy's sake, such as Lightning Berserker, Firedrinker Satyr, Zurgo Bellstriker, and Abbot of Keral Keep. As a whole, I am happy with how this deck has turned out so far and I look forward to continue playing it in the future.

{G}{U}{R}Temur Goyfs{G}{U}{R}

This deck is all about getting big. The best way to describe this deck is "threshold reborn." While it shares many key elements with old Legacy Threshold and Miracle Grow decks, the Goyf deck in this Cube is more of a bridge between Prowess and the various graveyard decks that call this format home. The basic idea is to combine the efficient card filtering found in all three of the Temur colors with scaling threats including Tarmogoyf, Dragon's Rage Channeler, Sprite Dragon, and even Bedlam Reveler. This deck will also be benefiting from the inclusion of the artifact deck in the near future, getting powered up by cards like Mishra's Bauble and Urza's Saga. While the "Goyf Deck" is not quite as well fleshed out as some of the other archetypes in the Cube, it is still very well supported because of how well it fits with the other themes at play. I'm mainly drawing special attention to it despite it's status as a mainly emergent deck because it is a deck I think about when working in other areas.

Future Inclusions
{U}{R}Thopter Scissors{U}{R}

I've talked at length about this deck here, here, here and here.


Zoo was a staple aggro deck during the early stages of the Modern format, and it's roughly appropriate for this version of the Cube. I still remember reading the ban and restricted announcement where Wild Nacatl was unbanned and wondering, "why was this card ever illegal in the first place?" Turns out, it's because Zoo is a good deck. In my Cube, the Triomes, in conjunction with the Shocklands and Fetchlands, make it very easy for decks that care about land types to get what they need. In fact, I would probably extend this deck to include domain cards such as Territorial Kavu, Nioshiba Brawler, and Scion of Drago. I could even play some additional domain support like Leyline Binding and Prismatic Ending to help hammer home the deck further. This also gives some good gold threats, such as Fleecemane Lion, an additional place to call home. I think Zoo is definitely a good direction to take the Naya colors in the future, although I might wait until after working with the artifact deck for a bit before making any more major changes.

Cut to Ribbons
{W}White Weenie{W}

I still haven't completely cut all of the White Weenie cards, because I like having some sort of base-white aggressive deck around. The problem is that the white aggressive decks have a hard time punching through big midrange threats. The Prowess and Burn decks both have ways to do damage to the opponent directly. White doesn't have these tools. While I think some sort of Stoneforge/Prison/D&T deck could work, it would require a different pool of cards than I am currently working with. Death and Taxes is one of my favorite eternal format decks of all time, so I would like to try and work it back into the Cube at some point. However, I think the route I took of using the classic "play Savannah Lions" plan with a turn two Thalia and a couple of other D&T staples added to the mix is not sustainable anymore. This deck will probably benefit from leaving the format for a while so I can better assess what White needs to be competitive.

{U}{R}Izzet Tutelage{U}{R}

I was so excited when I started this project to build the Sphinx's Tutelage deck into my Cube. It was a deck I remembered well from Pro Tour Magic Origins, and it felt like a great fit for the Cube given my experiences with Teferi's Tutelage in the Arena Cube a few months earlier. While I thought my increased number of cantrips and looting effects would let me enable the deck with a relatively small real estate cost, this was not the case. Despite being a 40-card format, the deck often struggled to kill the opponent fast enough to be competitive, especially in a world without wheel of fortune effects or an excess of red board wipes. I stand by the fact that the Tutelage deck could have worked in this Cube, but it would have required me to both play a lot red board wipes and rebuild the deck to work more like the "wheels" deck often seen in boomer Vintage Cubes. Unfortunately, I really dislike the play patterns of the wheels archetype, and combining that negative play pattern with a Mill finish seems like it would be downright infuriating for some players. As such, I decided to cut my losses and work with a different Blue deck.

We've come to the end of the "primer" for this Cube. Now all I have to do is finish the last year's worth of Card updates before my first play session for the summer in a couple of weeks. Now that I have finished my undergraduate degree, I have a little bit of time to explore Cubing again before starting a graduate program later this summer. This project is taking longer than I had intended, but I am still enjoying the results! Hopefully, I will still have more time for my Cube going forward!

Thank you for reading!
The Ehrmantraut Update: No More Half Measures

Recruitment Officer
Portable Hole
Glimmer Lens
Planar Disruption
Invasion of Gobakhan
Sevinne's Reclamation
Archangel of Wrath
Leyline Binding
The Blackstaff of Waterdeep
The Reality Chip
The Modern Age
Snapcaster Mage
Mercurial Spelldancer
Ensoul Artifact
Ensoul Artifact
Emry, Lurker of the Loch
Haughty Djinn
Hurkyl, Master Wizard
Sai, Master Thopterist
Cryptic Command
Urza, Lord High Artificer
Tezzeret, Betrayer of Flesh
Thought Monitor
Thought Monitor
Murktide Regent
Tenacious Underdog
Lethal Scheme
No One Left Behind
The Cruelty of Gix
Galvanic Blast
Galvanic Blast
Invasion of Mercadia
Shrapnel Blast
Breya's Apprentice
Squee, Dubious Monarch
The Elder Dragon War
Birds of Paradise
Shigeki, Jukai Visionary
Urborg Lhurgoyf
Deeproot Wayfinder
Fauna Shaman
Invasion of Ixalan
Polukranos Reborn
Faithful Mending
Fleecemane Lion
King Darien XLVIII
Third Path Iconoclast
Balmor, Battlemage Captain
Prismari Command
Colossal Skyturtle
Invasion of Tolvada
Jor Kadeen, First Goldwarden
Atarka's Command
Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis
Grim Flayer
Borborygmos and Fblthp
Niv-Mizzet Reborn
Urza's Saga
Mishra's Bauble
Mishra's Bauble
Mishra's Bauble
Currency Converter
Chromatic Star
Vault Skirge
Scrapwork Mutt
Phyrexian Dragon Engine
Scion of Draco
Horizon Canopy
Marsh Flats
Verdant Catacombs
Misty Rainforest
Scalding Tarn
Arid Mesa

Thraben Inspector
Thraben Inspector
Undermountain Adventurer
From the Catacombs
Altar of Bhaal
Inquisition of Kozilek
Gale, Waterdeep Prodigy
Poppet Stitcher
Supreme Will
Hypnotic Sprite
Sleight of Hand
Brokers Charm
Dig Up
Iymrith, Desert Doom
Mnemonic Sphere
Advent of the Wurm
Selesnya Charm
Spirit-Sister's Call
Workshop Warchief
Make Disappear
Shorikai, Genesis Engine
Play with Fire
Falkenrath Pit Fighter
Otawara, Soaring City
Sea Gate Stormcaller
Unexpectedly Absent
Scuttling Doom Engine
Champion of Wits
Teferi, Master of Time
Deadbridge Goliath
Mire Triton
Stirring Wildwood
Felidar Retreat
Dread Return
Crater's Claws
Basri's Lieutenant
Herald of Anafenza
Thrashing Brontodon
Kazandu Mammoth
Luminarch Aspirant
Remorseful Cleric
Dragon Hunter
Ritual of Soot
Dead Weight
Rekindling Phoenix
Seasoned Pyromancer
Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin
Jace Beleren
Vulshok Morningstar
Giant Killer
Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
Earthshaker Khenra
Goblin Banneret
Grapple with the Past
Paradise Druid
Wolfwillow Haven
Fyndhorn Elves
Elves of Deep Shadow
Fblthp, the Lost
Omen of the Sea
Boon of the Wish-Giver
Hieroglyphic Illumination
Curator of Mysteries
Binding the Old Gods
Surrak Dragonclaw
Xenagos, God of Revels
Boros Charm
Saheeli, Sublime Artificer
Izzet Charm
Blistercoil Weird
Grisly Salvage
Quandrix Command

This was an update I made about nine months ago at the time of posting. My main goal was to provide support for the new and existing archetypes outlined in Rallying the Ancestors Part 2, and cut support for the archetypes that I was no longer happy with. Additionally, I added a bunch of new cards from Dominaria United through March of the Machine, cleaned up the gold section, and removed underperforming cards.

For this update, I consciously decided to go above and beyond supporting the new archetypes. In the past, I had been non-commital to archetype support. I often played cards that I "knew" were good enough to play in the given archetype, but I frequently didn't include all possible support pieces. For example, in the first version of Highball, I had a couple of powerful enchantress payoffs, specifically Doomwake Giant and Starfield of Nyx. There were enough random enchantments and enchantment creatures that it was possible to build an enchantment deck, but there wasn't enough support for the deck to come together consistently. I cut those cards after only a single update. This has happened to me multiple times over the years, where something doesn't work as well as I had hoped because I didn't bite the bullet and play everything I could have. The half-measures killed me. To avoid letting history repeat itself with this update, I went all out and added all of the cards I had been looking at to support my new archetype. This is why I dubbed this "The Ehrmantraut Update:" because I committed to no more half-measures.

About halfway through cutting cards, I realized that I would probably only have the resources to implement one of the new archetypes I wanted to try. I started with the Izzet Ensoul Artifact archetype as there was already some support for that deck in the Cube, and a lot of the new cards from The Brother's War and Phyrexia: All Will Be One tied into the artifact theme. The zoo would have to wait
until after the release of The Lord of the Rings set. Ironically, this has meant that my "no more half measures" update is a sort of half-measure: even though the Artifact deck was beyond fully supported, zoo was never implemented. I haven't Cubed much since starting graduate school in June, so I still am waiting on the Zoo update. Ehrmantraut was also when I added the Modern Horizons II Bridges to the Cube's Basic Land Box (BLB). I only included two copies of each bridge in the BLB since artifacts matter strategies are the only deck I anticipated wanting something like the bridges.

As a whole, the artifacts matter portion of The Ehrmantraut Update was successful. The first draft saw a player draft a Jeskai artifacts build and crush all of the competition, including a pretty sweet Niv to Light deck I drafted. Here is their deck:
Creatures (10)
Phyrexian Revoker
Hangarback Walker
The Reality Chip
Stoneforge Mystic
Scrapwork Mutt
Sai, Master Thopterist
Breya's Apprentice
Urza, Lord High Artificer
Pia and Kiran Nalaar

Artifacts (8)
Mishra's Bauble
The Blackstaff of Waterdeep
Chromatic Star
Portable Hole #Finally added Hole to the Cube
Maul of the Skyclaves

Planeswalkers (2)
Tezzeret, Betrayer of Flesh
Tezzeret, Artifice Master

Instants (2)
Galvanic Blast

Enchantments (2)
Journey to Nowhere
Banishing Light

Lands (16)
Silverbluff Bridge
Glacial Fortress
Sacred Foundry
Hallowed Fountain
Raugrin Triome
Rustvale Bridge
Marsh Flats
Razortide Bridge
Sulfur Falls
Celestial Colonnade
Clifftop Retreat


Notably, the player was able to build their winning deck without being passed Urza's Saga, and without playing Thought Monitor or Ensoul Artifact. The deck was still able to play "the ensoul plan" thanks to The Blackstaff of Waterdeep and Tezzeret, Betrayer of Flesh, so it wasn't totally ignoring the ensoul stuff. However, I did appreciate that the artifact deck was able to crush other people without Ensoul proper. This experience validates my "full measure" approach to the Artifact deck, and has even given me an idea of what I could potentially cut from the current artifact package while still retaining deck function.

I'm still unhappy with White after The Ehrmantraut Update, mostly because I cut a ton of cards that acted as anchors for the Mono-White deck while adding nothing substantive in return. The inevitable Zoo update should fix this issue, especially now that I have another year's worth of sets to work with.

The last few months I have had a lot of time to reflect on my Cube and where it needs to go. I think The Ehrmantraut Update was a good step in the right direction. As new sets have released and given us even more support for artifact decks, I have had some new revelations about how to handle some of the changes I made in this update. Specifcially, I think Lost Caverns of Ixalan brining Zoetic Glyph, Diamond Pickaxe, and Map Tokens all will make a big difference to the ensoul/artifact pile deck. Samwise Gamgee, Sentinel of the Lost City and Tough Cookie may also be the final pieces required to fully implement the deck into green as well! The proliferation of artifact tokens has left me with a big question about design goals and play feel, but that is a discussion for another post.

The Ehrmantraut Update succeded in it's goals, but there is still more to explore in the future.

Thanks for Reading!