Mox Cube v2

Mox Cube v2

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Link to the Original Thread

I'm pushing a new version number of the Mox Cube. The big-picture goals have remained the same. The environment is about explosive and velocity-centric gameplay - casting a lot of spells and drawing a lot of cards - with fast mana and a heavy emphasis on flexibility and creativity in deckbuilding. I've built the mission statement by example: I want a smooth, low-variance environment but subject to the constraint that you should still be able to draw 10 cards off Paradoxical Outcome to win game 1, draw 10 cards off Glimpse of Nature in game 2, but narrowly lose and go on to game 3.

The implementation details have drifted considerably since the original thread. At a surface level, whereas the original list had two of each of the OG moxen, now each player gets two moxen of their choice at the end of the draft. At a deeper level, the first list was built largely on Penny-Pincher principles with a pauper-inspired focus on slow and complicated engine assembly. Before I had put together an actual list, I started with a handful of deck sketches. These included Esper Eggs with Marionnette Master, Chromatic Star, Vedalken Archmage, and Second Sunrise; Jund Elves with Glimpse of Nature and Llanowar Elves, but also Sneak Attack, Essence of the Wild, Yahenni, Undying Partisan, and Blood Artist; and Artifact Madness with Dream Halls, double Circular Logic, Mycosynth Lattice, Reclamation Sage, and Memnarch. I wanted the control decks to try to lock the game out, so there was Lantern of Insight and Counterbalance but no Counterspell. Likewise, I wanted exciting expensive cards to have place to excel, which meant limiting the efficient disruption and removal. I envisioned creature decks winning without doing combat damage, so there was Kyren Negotiations and Intruder Alarm but no aggressive or midrange threats.

It turns out that maintaining both Penny-Pincher-style expensive engines and explosive plays ([like Seething Song into Timetwister) created a fun but uneven gameplay experience. I quickly found myself aggressively cutting from the bottom of the power band and slowly but surely increasing the level of disruption to guarantee interactive games. After sitting on two copies of Force of Will for a while and finding that zero-mana countermagic always felt fun in the environment, my stance on efficient removal changed. I also found that some pure combo decks were a bit too durdle-y (even with the more clunky individual cards removed) - especially the eggs-y Red/White sacrifice and/or artifact decks. This style of deck typically had very low curve and a natural solution was to hybridize them into aggro-combo decks with the addition of a few more threats and powerful equipment like Umezawa's Jitte and Embercleave. The introduction of aggro-combo made cards like Marionnete Master even less viable and increased the demand for cheap removal. Fortunately, I've found that it's really the cheap, generically-strong cards that make a lot of the explosive spell-velocity game play possible anyway. Marionette Master needs the Dark Rituals and Chromatic Stars to be good, but it's casting the rituals and baubles that makes the game play enjoyable, not an instant kill by nugging them for 4 with each sacrificed artifact.

As before, my new design still avoids midrange good-stuff piles, aggro is replaced by aggro-combo (no Goblin Guide or Savannah Lions), and control either needs a proactive plan or a prison lock (no Counterspell, no Jace). But based on the experience hinted at above, now I've arrived at a set of animating principles that make the cube simultaneously more flexible for the deck-builder but also more streamlined in execution. The first set of animating principles focus on the individual engine components that I find so enjoyable in storm decks: (1) mana generation, (2) card advantage, and (3) pay-offs. The second set of animating principles are a blueprint for my preferred style of archetype design: (a) high quality theme-adjacent glue cards, (b) stretching the themes across four or five colors, (c) some very high-power narrow cards encouraging specialization, and (d) cross-pollination across themes.

As a result of building on these principles, some things have changed radically. Now decks are faster and more sharply-tuned, and so I've dramatically increased the volume and quantity of one- and zero-mana interaction available to keep the games tense. Likewise, the most recent version puts a heavy emphasis on multiple copies of workhorse cards that many drafters will want; two Chromatic Star, two Faithless Looting, two Abundant Harvest, two Preordain, three copies of Lightning Bolt etc. I'm also increasingly inclined toward very broken cards that open up new strategies on their own, like Aluren or Doomsday. Overall, I think the list is in a great place, our remote drafts have been fun, and I'm especially excited to get in some in-person draft nights in the near future.

Through the rest of this post, I'll expand upon the animating principles described above, usually through examples. The deck gallery at the end includes lists from our most recent drafts. I'll begin with the key components of casting a lot of spells on one turn: mana generation, card advantage, and then something to do with it all.

Three Basic Parts of a Storm Engine:

As I see it, "explosive" gameplay relies first and foremost on mana generation and so the Mox Cube is deeply infused with ways to build mana. Different themes and different game plans find bursts of mana in various ways. There's the eponymous rocks, one time bursts (Lion's Eye Diamond, Lotus Petal), untapping effects (Paradox Engine, Turnabout), ways to convert creatures into mana (Earthcraft, Skirk Prospector), ways to convert aritfacts into mana (Urza, Lord High Artificer, Krark-Clan Ironworks), cost reducers (Helm of Awakening, Nightscape Familiar), mana doublers (High Tide, Heartbeat of Spring), ignoring costs (Sneak Attack, Reanimate), and playing multiple lands (Fastbond). This isn't an exhaustive list (rituals! delve!) but emphasizes the modular and interwoven ways to "combo off".

Some decks use their burst of mana to empty their hand and pressure the opponent early. Perhaps the prototypical example in my cube is the UR spells aggro deck that wants to stick a Monastery Swiftspear or a Guttersnipe, and then chain together a flurry of Frantic Search, Seething Song, Lighting Bolt, Windfall, and the like. But mana generation reaches its pinnacle when you have a flow of new cards to cast with it. Card advantage in the Mox Cube comes in many shades. There's card draw (Brainstorm, Gush), draw 7s (Wheel of Fortune, Timetwister), stocking the 'yard (Faithless Looting, Bazaar of Baghdad), reusing the 'yard (Underworld Breach, Yawgmoth's Will), recursive creatures (Kor Skyfisher, Gravecrawler), turning creatures into cards (Glimpse of Nature, Skullclamp), ETBs (Thought Monitor, Elvish Visionary) and using the top of library (Experimental Frenzy, Mystic Forge). An even less exhaustive list than the last! These card advantage strategies can be mixed and matched to the mana generation with which to abuse them. Some pairings are made for each other, like Phyrexian Altar and Fecundity, and some cards do both at once like Manamorphose, and Time Spiral.

Finally, you have to actually kill them - but this is the easy part, and it certainty doesn't require a single card with the word "Storm" written on it. There are countless ways to convert cards and mana into victory, from Goblin Bombardment to Walking Ballista to Teferi's Tutelage. Here we see decks differentiate into many distinct play patterns on top of the fast mana, including aggro decks that pack a combo finish. The crass 1+1+1 formula above might be underselling the variety, but it gets the basic flavor of the cube across. In fact, here I'll pause the discussion on spell velocity for a moment, since the point is not just to goldfish, not to die or kill sollipstically on turns 2 through 4. I want to keep the games back and forth and interactive, and to do that we need top-tier disruption.


On our very first cube night with the original Mox Cube, I drafted blue-green storm with Heartbeat of Spring, Turnabout, and Hunting Pack. My big takeaway: the match-up against the disruptive black-red deck packing double Duress turned out to be the most fun. My deck had enough raw mana generation that I could still partially go-off, but after Duress, maybe Hunting Pack would be in the yard. I was close to enough mana to kill them with Blue Sun's Zenith instead, but Blue Sun's Zenith is the one card that might also dig me to my one Eternal Witness to grab Hunting Pack. Then would I still have enough mana? It turns out that when your deck is busted, it's way more fun to not win on the spot, but be forced to really stretch the lines and pass the turn. In a more recent match, I was facing down Stasis + [/c]Smothering Tithe[/c], but I had Palinchron + Mana Flare for infinite mana every turn anyway - I still narrowly lost because my Kiki-Jiki and Magmatic Channeler were tapped down.

Given that it's more fun - even as the combo player - to be disrupted and adapt, the newest Mox Cube has a solid foundation of both cheap and free disruption. The cheap disruption includes top-tier creature removal (Swords of Plowshares, Lightning Bolt), non-creature removal (Fragmentize, Ancient Grudge), and countermagic (Mana Tithe, Flusterstorm). I've more or less decided that for 1 mana disruptive spells, nothing can be considered too powerful, and I use multiples of the stronger version of effects where I feel appropriate: e.g. three copies of Lightning Bolt instead of playing
Shock or Lightning Strike.

Many decks don't play out their strategy on the board, but instead build up resources until they can "go off", usually all in one turn. An interactive game against these decks requires being able to attack the resources they're building, which includes specific cards in hand, cards stocked in the yard, and amount of mana on board going into the combo turn. To attack the stocking-up of combo cards, the cube features a solid foundation of hand-disruption (Duress, Thoughtseize)
and graveyard hate (Deathrite Shaman, Soul-Guide Lantern). To attack mana available, there's taxing effects (Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Lodestone Golem), prison pieces (Winter Orb, Stasis), and three copies of Wasteland. It's difficult to precisely balance the match up between combo decks and this style of disruption. If someone plays turn 1 Duress, turn 2 Thalia, that shouldn't mean game-over on the spot, but should force the combo player to go-off suboptimally, improvise, or use busted fast mana to fish for removal options.

When decks have particularly fast lines available to them - undisrupted, many decks win on turns 2 through 4 - I've found it fun and healthy to have a lot of free disruption as well. Therefore you'll see Snuff Out, Force of Vigor, and Force of Negation, but also two copies each of Daze
and Mental Misstep, plus a full three copies of Force of Will. MH2 rounds out the count with the free evoke creatures, Endurance, Solitude and Grief. Note that these cards are best both in and against combo decks. In fact, I do not include typical card-neutral countermagic,
like literal Counterspell: I like the way that the free disruption (usually with card disadvantage) pushes proactive strategies, helping to maintain the flavor and identity of the cube.

As an aside: without access to Planeswalkers and with the disruption slanted towards proactive strategies, it is difficult to play a purely-reactive control deck. The few examples of pure control decks that we've drafted usually only hold off an explosive combo from the opponent for so long before dying. So instead, control decks either need a combo finish of their own, or need to assemble some kind of powerful lock (think Urza + Winter Orb).

Themes and Cross-Pollination:

One of my foremost goals is to make space for creativity and flexibility in deck-building. To that end I've aspired to make the cube's archetypes/themes as broad as possible, typically supported across 4-5 colors. Each theme should come in many viable flavors depending on the cards you see and the playstyle you prefer.
Consider graveyard synergies for example, and even though many decks play 3-4 colors, let's limit ourselves to 2-color pairs for illustratrive purposes. A graveyard-centric decks can exist in many base color pairs (BW, RW, RG, UB, GB, RB, GU are probably the most common). But even in a specific color pair - let's say UB - you can have multiple, very different configurations:

UB Dredge Aggro

UB Reanimator

UB Reanimator Storm

UB Self-Mill

These decks each share a common core of blue and black graveyard synergy cards, but have quite divergent game plans and play patterns. I hope to accomplish a large variety of strategies within a theme by including generically powerful enablers (Entomb, Frantic Search, Bazaar of Baghdad), some flexible pay-offs (e.g. Reanimate which goes in either aggro, pure reanimator, or tendrils-y reanimator), and then a handful of very powerful, narrow pay-offs which incentivize decks to specialize (e.g. Thassa's Oracle, Bridge From Below). Note that the degree of flexibility across themes and color pairs is intended to be pushed beyond shard/wedge archetypes where you might have Sultai be the graveyard colors with UB as reanimator and GB as dredge. Instead all five colors are involved, but UB individually can be either reanimator or dredge.

I don't plan on attempting an enumeration of all my themes, but I can give a handful of additional examples.


Creature themes are found in GWRB with many of the strongest options available in Green. There are ways to make mana (Earthcraft, Burning-Tree Emissary, Phyrexian Altar), gain card advantage (Glimpse of Nature, Midnight Reaper, Thraben Inspector), and pressure your opponent (Goblin Bombardment, Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis, Purphoros, God of the Forge). Subthemes include creature bounce (Cloudstone Curio, Kor Skyfisher), ETBs (Panharmonicon, Ephemerate), Recursion (Second Sunrise, Bloodghast), tokens (Pia and Kiran Nalaar, Chatterstorm), etc.

There are many opportunities for cross-pollination here. Sacrifice and recursive creatures help bridge cards that care about creatures and cards that care about the graveyard. Cards like Glimpse of Nature and Kor Skyfisher are great at upping the storm count. Artifact creature decks with Arcbound Ravager
and Hardened Scales go naturally with combo creature toolbox decks; Metallic Mimic + Kitchen Finks and Heliod, Sun-Crowned+Walking Ballista draw these strategies together. Even the instants/sorcercies theme can merge with the creature themes e.g. with creatures like Dragonsguard Elite together with Green Sun's Zenith which opens up creature toolbox options but lets you lower your actual creature count.


The lands theme is healthily available in all five colors, again with green as a core pivot. Generic subthemes include recursion (Crucible of Worlds, Zuran Orb), land destruction (Cataclysm, Wildfire), landfall (Hedron Crab, Lotus Cobra), mana doublers (High Tide, Bubbling Muck), etc. The lands theme can fit into prison (e.g. Stasis, Quirion Ranger), aggro (Elvish Reclaimer, Knight of the Reliquary),
and various combo shells from Thespian's Stage + Dark Depths to Titania, Protector of Argoth + Zuran Orb to Dryad of the Ilysian Grove + Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle.

Again, the lands theme can be mixed and matched with other archetypes. Life from the Loam and the graveyard is an obvious pairing. Dryad of the Ilysian Grove is right at home alongside Bubbling Muck, Dark Ritual and Tendrils of Agony. The lands and artifacts themes also play nice with each other: Elvish Reclaimer can grab Mishra's Workshop; Mirage Mirror can copy Dark Depths after Golos, Tireless Pilgrim fetches it.

More generally, I want the ability to mix and match themes to feel like a core part of the drafting process. For drafting dynamics, this requires the ability to switch direction but not abandon previous picks. I think spreading the themes over 4-5 colors and emphasizing cross-pollination of archetypes helps make this a reality.
For example, a combo deck can choose to "aggro-ify", like when you start a draft with Dark Ritual, and Tendrils of Agony, but then snap up Clever Lumimancer and Giver of Runes. Likewise an aggro deck might choose to "artifact-ify", as when you start with Esper Sentinel and Ranger-Captain of Eos but then open Mishra's Workshop and Nettlecyst.

Combos and Build-arounds:

I suspect that the power-level of individual cards helps make this off-rails draft experience more viable. In fact, I think I have more of a "cards not decks" type of format. I absolutely don't want the extreme (straw-man) case with 10 decks that you're supposed to draft where you find the open lane and then take the corresponding cards. One of the best ways I've found to create the type of drafting experience I want is to include a very high density of combo engines based
on individual cards. Some examples chosen more or less at random: Valakut Exploration + Fastbond, Underworld Breach + Lion's Eye Diamond, Palinchron + Mana Flare, Muderous Redcap + Metallic Mimic, Earthcraft + Intruder Alarm, Dryad of the Ilysian Grove + High Tide, Greater Gargadon + Balance, Heliod, Sun-Crowned + Walking Ballista, Golos, Tireless Pilgrim + Karakas, and so on and so on and so on.

Some cards create a whole archetype all on their own. These usually have highly centralizing game-play: once the card resolves, the game suddenly becomes all about the dynamics of that card. Examples include Stasis, Doomsday, Oath of Druids, Opposition, Aluren, and Experimental Frenzy. Since these cards can basically produce deck gameplans on their own, they vastly increase the variety of strategies in an enjoyable way - especially when you pick one up early in the draft. From glancing at the examples above, you can see that these combo engines and build-arounds usually synegize with one or more of the cube themes, often slotting into multiple shells and helping to bridge them.

Format Balance:

At a high power level, and with some inherently higher variance themes at play, format balance can be difficult. In the original list, this took the form of general rules, e.g. no generic beaters, no two-card infinite combos, and no two-card infinite combos so that combo engines got the chance ot shine. Now I don't work with hard and fast balancing rules but focus on trimming the total volume of tools available for what might become a less fun/interactive deck. So for example, there's Kiki-Jiki, the Mirror Breaker and Zealous Conscripts, but no Pestermite. There's Sneak Attack and Show and Tell but no Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. I run Tinker and Kaldra Compleat but no Blightsteel Colossus. One of the great things about cube is that we get the chance to control the volume and power-level of each different cog for a given strategy.

The current cube has a lot more support for disruptive aggro decks and aggro-combo decks. But this also requires careful policing of a certain density of effects so that the cube still maintains its identity and flavor. In particular, I heavily cut back on generic and efficient beaters to prevent disruption + good-stuff threats from becoming a dominant strategy. This means no Brazen Borrower, no Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, no Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, no Gurmag Angler, and no Tarmogoyf. Other cuts are made because they don't line up with the format's goals. For example, I cut Glen Elendra Archmage, not because it's too powerful, but because two negates on a stick conflicted with the high-velocity format I want to curate.

The balance between deck styles like combo, aggro-combo, disruptive aggro, and prison is delicate and an on-going process. One inherent difficulty is that a card you want to include to improve some strategy might be even stronger for a different deck. I'd love to include Strip Mine as a unique prison lock piece alongside Crucible of Worlds. The issue is that Strip Mine is even stronger in disruptive aggressive decks. I tested Hullbreacher but ran afoul of the same issue and I cut it after one draft. I'm sure the list still has more balancing to be done. I'm trying out some cards like Hexdrinker and Berserk which may simply be at odds with the format I want to achieve; but it's worth testing to see if there might be new avenues which do gel with everything else.

On the whole, after nearly two years of tinkering on the list, I have a cube that I'm thoroughly happy with. For our draft a week ago, we didn't get to finish the last round and decided to schedule the games asynchronously. I popped into Slack a few days later, and saw one of the players had posted a glowing match report featuring Standstill and Library of Alexandira facing down Valakut Exploration and Fastbond in one game and an Experimental Frenzy + Tendrils of Agony finish in another. Since my players still consistently get excited about the tense and wacky matches after dozens of drafts, I think I'm doing at least some things right.

Recent Decklists:

Draft 1

UG High Tide Depths


Bant Titania Mentor

UBw Reanimator

Draft 2

4C Delver

Jund Storm

Grixis Storm

Blue White Control

We fired our first in-person draft since March 2020. The decks were very very good and highlight the most recent direction I've taken the cube. I'll go over some of the decklists!

Up first, we have UB Doomsday with Lurrus as a companion. The deck was sick; very fun and finicky to pilot. One thing to note: the deck played 13 lands and the mana was excellent. Some games I went down to 12 lands, and still never came close to being mana screwed.

The doomsday plan was enormously strong, but slightly inconsistent compared to the speed of the other decks. The storm plan was an okay back-up that stole one game, but the deck had so many ways to spin its wheels that I wish I had gone for a tempo-y magecraft theme - Delvers and Sedgemoor Witch for example. Having the main plan be wheel-spinning + counterspells + spells-matter creatures and then a back-up plan of instantly winning when you hit Doomsday would have been simultaneously stronger and more interactive. As far as individual cards go, Gush was easily the best card in the deck, which would have remained true with the tempo axis as well.

The second deck, is a cool BW Control deck packing a lot of disruption, sweepers, and removal. The goal is to play slow and eventually arrive at either Depths+Stage or Heliod+Ballista to close out the game. It has enough strong card advantage ala Library, Confidant, and Palace Jailer plus it has enough 1 drops that it still has a high-velocity feel. It's the type of deck that looks straightforward, but just plays well for both sides of the table.

As an aside, I think this is the type of deck that usually packs a lot of planeswalkers, but in this case it was unnecessary. Cards like Palace Jailer / Library / Monastery Mentor basically play the same role. For now I'm not interested in introducing walkers, but if I do it will probably be only in White to diversify that color a little more.

Third, is a bit of an odd Naya Spells deck, featuring Titania + Zuran Orb as an alternative win condition. It has snowballing creatures, two wheels, and the full three copies of lightning bolts to put the game away. I think an optimal build probably has more instants and sorceries, so the draws were often inconsistent. But when you go wheel into double bolt with swiftspear and lightscribe on board, the opponent dies super fast. Overall, I think the potential here is promising. Red- and/or Green-based, non-blue spells decks look like the real deal.

The Titania / Orb plan definitely snuck in a win or two, but felt disconnected from the rest of the deck. Zuran Orb can trigger prowess but not much else. Since literally no one else in the draft cares about dealing damage, the lifegain was also a blank. Again, I chalk this up to a bit of draft error.

The final deck is a UW artifacts decks, similar to previous decks I've seen in this vein from prior drafts. This time, the deck had a heavier creature angle which enables powerhouses like Skullclamp and Opposition. Also, time and time again, Urza's Sage and Kaldra Compleat stood out as real bombs.

I really like the mix of combo alongside a beater creature plan as I've mentioned in previous posts. But, this deck also had a pretty brutal sideboard plan against high-velocity combo decks including Trinisphere and Thorn of Amethyst. These cards - Winter Orb, Thalia, etc - are important for format health and diversity but are still a bit polarizing. I'll be keeping an eye out for better options, but they stay in for now.

For next steps, I'm planning on making no changes going into the next draft just so I can get some more stable playtesting in. But I have a few sets of changes that I'd like to roll out on a trial basis sometime soon. Maybe I'll write something about them and I definitely will when I have test results.
We did another in-person draft, and I'm continuing to test the current list without changes. I'm finalizing my big set of cards I want to change but that's still in progress. Here I'll give a quick rundown of card reviews from the most recent draft, including some that surprised me.

I wasn't sure that this card would be consistent enough, but boy was I wrong. Lumimancer was virtually always a 4/5. It capped out at 8 power on a turn where I flashbacked Chain of Vapor with Dreadhorde Arcanist to bounce a blocker and then Mental Misstep-ed the copy my opponent made. Of course the context here is important. I had a deck packed with free spells including multiple Gitaxian Probes. I was running 10 lands and no spells that cost more than two mana. But as a result Clever Lumimancer is an easy fit for my environment.

As above, I was skeptically of moving up to two copies of Delver for 3 reasons. First, I wasn't sure about the consistency. Second, when Delver did flip I was worried it would muscle out the more finicky combo decks. Third, I was worried that the two copies would have poor drafting dynamics if only one narrow "delver deck" wanted them. Turns out all of these were wrong. Delver is insanely consistent in this cube, but decks are just busted enough that they are able to fight back without much problem. In fact, the Delver vs combo matchups were especially fun because with so much free interaction the game never just ends to a random two-card combo draw. Finally, as I push more and more heavily on spell-velocity heavy aggro-combo decks, Delver becomes less and less parasitic so the drafting dynamics were better than I expected. I'm happy to stay at two copies going forward.

Hexdrinker is another one of those cards where I was worried about disruptive good-stuff decks just steamrolling the competition. I was actually ready to pre-emptively cut it, but again I was totally wrong. Hexdrinker played great in practice! It's a 2/1 baseline which is nice for applying pressure, but not even close to too fast against busted combo. It takes a lot of investment before it becomes a scary problem card and it protects that investment by becoming gradually more difficult to interact with which was consistently a nice dynamic in practice. The player was on a cool mix of Green lands (featuring Crop Rotation, Primeval Titan and Depths/Stage combo) and Blue artifacts synergies (with both Urza and Urza's Saga). Hexdrinker was nice because it enabled a beatdown plan when the combos didn't come together. But a lands+artifacts deck excels at generating bursts of mana, which enabled the mana-sink nature of the level up mechanic. It was a great mix.

Show and Tell was really really fun. We had a Show and Tell + Sneak Attack player with Griselbrand, Archon of Cruelty, Atarka, Woodfall Primus etc. The dynamics against the Depths/Stage player was particularly interesting since Show and Tell could let the opponent cheat in their Primeval Titan to fetch both Depths and Stage making Marit Lage immediately a problem. There were some interesting choices re going for Griselbrand for maximum value, choosing Archon to force the opponent to sac what they cheat into play, or going for a Woodfall Primus play which might give you an out to blowing up Stage if you can sac it. The symmetric draw back of giving your opponent a strong permanent made the card more fun instead of less.

I'm speculatively on duplicates of Dryad. My reasoning was originally I was running both Courser of Kruphix and Dryad, but most decks would prefer the second Dryad so I just replaced Courser. For the second draft now, we've had two different players both with Dryad in their deck, so I feel vindicated about this decision.

I found two things going for this card. First, it goes in any deck. I threw it into my Delver deck and it did a ton of work without any particular instant/sorcery synergies. Second, it just plays well once it hits the battlefield. It's not quite mass pump, it just slowly turns all your dorky creatures into real clocks. In one match, my opponent bolted and then proceeded to reanimate my Aspirant since I had repeatedly stopped him from dumping Griselbrand into the yard. From my perspective it was one of those "wow that card is bomb" scenarios.
My cube went through some relatively tempestuous changes in the last six months so recently I've been doing testing with a single fixed list. In part, now that the whole cube is in paper it takes more time and investment to iterate. But now I have a big list of potential additions and probable cuts based on my recent drafting experience. I'll break these additions down by category along with some comments.

Expanding Spell Velocity:

First, I'm expanding the number of basic spell velocity effects. More fast mana, a free creature, a free burn spell, and the new reckless impulse. Lotus Petal and Mishra's Bauble would be going up to two copies and this is exactly the kind of card I want for duplicates.

Then, I'm expanding the number of cards that pay-off spell velocity while slotting in to shells that plan on attacking with creatures. In general, this is a direction I want to flush out to reduce the overall amount of parasitism. This will dovetail with Inscho-inspired changes I'll detail below. Of these, I'm most excited about Birgi which fits very naturally into the style of my cube. I'm also speculatively adding duplicates of Monastery Swiftspear and Dragon's Rage Channeler. This type of red 1 drop is simply so on-theme for me, I'd rather double up on them than add the first Goblin Guide or Ragavan. Deeproot Champion is replacing the second copy of Dragonsguard Elite. I think this reflects where I want to have variability, versus which cards I'm treating as "draft commons" (like Force of Will, Lightning Bolt, Mishra's Bauble, etc).

Pushed Combo:

Here, I'm continuing to upgrade the span and power of combo decks. The spell velocity additions above I'm pretty confident about including. Some of these cards like Emrakul I'm less certain about. Right now there's no real reason to run a cheat strategy that's not reanimator, especially considering that I include two copies of Reanimate. Emrakul is a real pull to running Sneak Attack and Show and Tell. Plus the library re-shuffling is an interesting mechanic. Natural Order is a similar non-reanimator cheat option which makes Archon of Valor's Reach specifically much more playable.

Tainted Pact adds to the Thassa's Oracle combo theme with bonus synergy with Laelia. Laelia also looks pretty strong with Underworld Breach, plus fits into the general spell velocity tempo shells so this is an easy include. Zirda goes infinte with Grim Monolith and Mana Vault, and Goblin Charbelcher is an "achievement unlocked" addition which I outlined in my separate post about spell velocity. Armageddon replaces Cataclysm (which had become nearly unplayable). The abundance of non-land mana generation help make sure that Geddon doesn't win the game on the spot - and in fact that was part of what was making Cataclysm so weak.

Finally, there's Goblin Recruiter. I was testing out Skirk Prospector as a "one card Goblins archetype". The idea was that I had lots of random goblin cards and goblin tokens running around, and Skirk Prospector gives you a way of turning that into an explosive theme. The issue was that Skirk Propsector isn't powerful enough to pull you in that direction early. You only want to pick it at the end if you've just happened to draft some goblins earlier. So I'm replacing the prospector with Recruiter which has the potential to stack the deck into an instant-win via persist combo or kiki combo. I won't take the extra step of adding Snoop or Ringleader since I like the idea of having only one card that explicitly cares about the tribe.

Inscho-flavored spell-velocity-adjacent midrange with a graveyard/artifact-themed flourish:

Inspired by @inscho, these are slightly midrange-y cards that still fit nicely into the style of my cube. After testing Hexdrinker and Luminarch Aspirant and being impressed by how well they play alongside the combo heavy elements, I'm more willing to take a step in this direction. Many of these cards have different versions of graveyard/artifact/land synergies without being pure combo enablers or pure combo payoffs. They fill in a different texture of the cube experience without sacrificing my main gameplay pillars. I especially like how Gurmag Angler and Hooting Mandrills fit right in with the super heavy spell-velocity or delver-y decks. I don't think anything here is too narrow, which is a nice benefit.


I'm continuing to add more quality interaction that is specific to how my cube has been playing recently. There's another free removal spell in Fury. There's Veil of Summer and Lavinia to help provide more counterplay to the decks with multiple copies of Force of Will. There's Plague Engineer because my token count is starting to creep up. Dress Down is versatile, providing an answer to Thassa's Oracle, a combo piece with Death's Shadow, and so on and so on.

I'm going up to a second copy of Chalice of the Void, specifically swapping out Trinisphere. Trinisphere just shuts the game down so hard, leaving some decks that heavily rely on one and zero mana cards with no outs. Chalice is quite strong given how hard I'm pushing one and zero mana cards, but leaves some agency and counterplay. The Chalice player has to reason through whether or not to shut down 1 or 0 (typically) and the combo player should have just enough really broken cards to either use their 0 mana cards to deploy their more expensive combo piececs or use 1 mana cards to fish for an answer.

Some random cards I'm considering but won't be including yet:

Anyway, any playtesting experience (along with the relevant environment context) for any of the above cards would be much appreciated. Please let me know how any of these have done for you!
Very exciting. I like a lot of these additions. Will you be updating your CC list soon? I’d love to see the current list to help me better understand how this update shifts the landscape, and allow me make relevant observations
Looking forward to seeing the updated cube!

With your velocity push, Emry seems like a slam dunk. He will be cheap thanks to all the 0/1 mana baubles. The mill will go great with your new GY package.
Also should be close to infinite with Jeskai Ascendency and a 0 mana artifact pushing combo further. It seems to fit perfectly with your goals.

Might even be able to get some kind of grindy artifact deck with Emry + Lurrus + Scrap Trawler!
Alright, I did an initial update to the CubeCobra list. Looking forward to comments. If you do a draft, make sure to lower the drafters and/or give yourself plenty of packs. Regardless of number of drafters I think I prefer to expand the pools in order to see the whole cube and get stronger decks.

In addition to Emry I think I'll also add these cards to the maybe list:

I appreciate the design clarity of this update. I think the changes make a lot of sense, and you cut some slow/awkward cards.

I assume you are against Un-cards? Crow Storm would be interesting in general, but especially bananas with the Magecraft cards.

I know slots are tight, but I think this is worth a look....

I'm testing it out. Since it copies the next spell you cast it gives it a lot of flexibility when it comes to timing. It doesn't exile like Snapcaster. Your curve is so low that I think it could provide some real value. It's also just a fun card.

I could see a second Ephemerate making a lot of sense here. Instead of Flickerwisp or Reveillark...maybe?

I think you are close to having enough targets for Vesperlark to be worth considering. Especially if you bring in Emry, Lurker of the Loch and Dockside Extortionist. It might be too cute and require too much designing around, but you'd be surprised at how out of hand it can get. It can really weaponize blink and sacrifice strategies in a way that the cumbersome cmc of Reveillark doesn't. Obviously Reveillark brings much more back, but it's starting to feel too slow even for my cube.

Just something to consider as your cube's average CMC continues to lower.
On the subject of interaction, does Cling to Dust have a place in your cube?

It can disrupt some graveyard strategies without crippling them, act as a cantrip or even a mana sink.

What about

It's a tool that can be used proactively to protect your combo or it can be used on opponent's turn to slow them down while cantripping. Could see it being good in a GW deck with Deeproot Champion and Dragonsguard Elite.
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Thanks for the feedback, @inscho, @Nanonox. I'm especially happy to hear the point about "design clarity" because I think that summarizes my general approach to these changes. It's a focus on the actual mechanical nature of "combo" gameplay that I enjoy and how that can be widely and flexibly realized.

First, Reveillark is definitely on the chopping block. It's still in because Lark + Guide create this signpost of sorts for the "sacrifice deck" which has this highly centralized win condition. For example, more than one drafter has built a deck around Lark + Guide with pure BW, Abzan dredge, and Protean Hulk variants. So then the question is, can you have a white graveyard sacrifice-focused combo deck which is playing at high velocity moving many pieces around but without "endpoint" of Lark loops that end the game. At this point I think the answer is clearly yes, but it looks more like a more streamlined deck with sacrifice + spells in BW magecraft or a Bazaar deck with Bloodghast and Scrounger, but where you've decided to add Thraben Inspector or Thalia or Armageddon. See @Kirblinx's decklist in this post: . Baby Lark might be more in the spirit of this style of deck, but I'd have to test it.

Sea Gate Stormcaller and Cling to Dust looks like cards I would consider. Currently my gravehate is: 2 copies of Deathrite Shaman, 1 Soulguide Lantern, 1 Endurance. So having a non-creature option in Black might be good, especially one that cantrips and doesn't nuke the whole yard. Abeyance on the other hand I don't like the look of. I think I'm trying to avoid cards that actively prevent spell velocity shenanigans and long cascades of spells (including back and forth on the stack). This is part of the reason I'm cutting Trinisphere for a second Chalice. My suspicion (although obviously I would have to test) is that Abeyance wouldn't push the kind of gameplay I want to see.
More Singleton Breaks

So far, my most successful singleton breaks have been on (1) cheap removal (bolt, swords); (2) free counterspells (force, mental misstep); (3) fast mana (dark ritual, lotus petal); (4) cantrips (abundant harvest, preordain); and (5) one drop creatures. Basically, I'm not using duplicates to supply a single deck with the density of a particular effect it needs to get there, I'm trying to increase the count of really good, flexible cards that make gameplay better.

I had it in my head that it was a bad idea to break singleton on engines/build-arounds. But I think there are two easy exceptions:

Both of these are cards where I already played or was considering a similar effect:

The issue is that exploration and PiF are actually more narrow cards. Fastbond is at home in Lands like Exploration, but also in a variety of combo decks that my drafters have really enjoyed exploring. Past in Flames is narrowly playable in ritual storm, whereas Underworld Breach is both better at that role, and unlocks combos with Brain Freeze and/or LED, while also being more impressive than I expected in non-combo decks that play to the yard. Basically Fastbond and Breach have more variability at the drafting/deck-building level. They also have vastly more variable game play patterns in the actual matches. So this is an straightforward place, where including 4 different cards only creates an illusion of more variety.

The only downside is @landofMordor and @Feld's point: that it becomes less exciting to windmill slam a Fastbond. In my playgroup, this emotional factor doesn't matter for solid cards that let everyone play magic like fetches, bolt, bauble, etc. It might be a factor for some of our favorite iconic engine cards. But for now, I'll test it. If I replace PiF in my mind with Breach every time I see it in a draft, it feels like a huge win.
Finally got around to doing another in-person draft after several delays (busy schedules and omicron). This time we finally tested the spell velocity update which I outlined here. At least two of the decks were heavily focused on casting as many spells as possible and I think they both nicely highlight the design space opened up by aggressive singleton breaks.

4c Blitz

The first deck was a very scary aggressive deck that sticks a growing threat or two and then strings a half-dozen spells together in at turn to burst down the opponent. When I played against this deck, the most damage I took in a single turn was 17. Not shabby. The pilot also had a sideboard of around 6-7 specific interactive cards like Veil of Summer, Nature's Claim, etc. These small disruption packages ended up being very very impactful in most of the matches.

Of the individual cards, I'm still blown away by Sprite Dragon. It's miles stronger than the next best threat in this kind of deck, and this is the second draft that the card has impressed. Mutagenic Growth also earned its place in the list - I was happy to see it in action in a shell that could abuse it. Finally, the Flusterstorm + Magecraft combo turns out to be fairly strong and realistic to pull off, mostly because Flusterstorm is a generally relevant and maindeckable card in my environment.

Ub Tinker Storm

I drafted this Brain Freeze deck that mostly won with Tinker for Citadel. This confirms my suspicion that it's a good idea to go up to two copies of Mystical Tutor. Tutor was great: having the second effective copy of Tinker helped me have a more cohesive and focused game plan. Overall, the deck was fun to play but I spent a lot of time in the tank. Pure win-rate wise, I probably would have been better off with a hybrid artifact midrange deck that could storm off with Citadel as a secondary win condition.

This is a good time to talk about disruption. Without the heavy level of disruption in the cube, the storm deck would probably have walked all over everyone. The fact that literally every player had either free counterspells or hand disruption made the games considerably more fun and more complicated. I was particularly impressed by the match up between Tinker and the Blitz deck. You would think that both decks would just be solipsistically racing to their own win condition. But my three copies of FoW and their sideboard plan with Veil of Summer and artifact removal ended up making the games some of the most interesting I've played. The pilot mentioned to me specifically that he was surprised that the match up turned out so fun.

UW Tempo

Our resident prison/control drafter whipped up this tempo concoction that was quite strong. The removal suite is very good, but Skyclave Apparition, Thieving Skydiver, Wasteland, and Stifle all also attack the manabase. Apparition can hit a mox without any downside, Skydiver steals a mox for 3 mana, and Stifle hits fetchlands. It was interesting to see how this played out in practice. As the storm player, I didn't stand a chance, I was crushed 0-3. The interaction suite lined up quite well with my gameplay, including a sideboard Fragmentize.

On the other hand, the tempo deck lost 0-2 to Blitz. But they were the kind of games that we all cube for: players standing up and shouting, 1 life versus 1 life type games. The Solituding your own guy type games. This is what I hope to achieve by matching the degenerate combo-style decks up against degenerate disruptive decks.

RB Cheat

Finally we have everyone's favorite. A true classic. The Dark Confidant Emrakul deck. A bizarre mash up of cheat strategies and graveyard midrange that could steal wins by doubling down on the right plan at the right time. I saw this player reanimate DRS and Grief more times than I saw them reanimate Griselbrand. I saw them Sneak Attack in a Gravecrawler to give it haste in multiple games. Plus they had a variety of sideboard options to focus either more on the cheat plan or more on the midrange plan. A very cool list.

I liked how effective the deck was by eschewing blue all together. The drafter decided to not fight over snagging the Force of Wills and Dazes, but grabbed some solid hand disruption plus Pyroblast. Then in the board, they had multiple taxing effects like Thorn of Amethyst to come in against Storm and Blitz. Thorn is a powerful card and it was nice to see it shine outside of Workshop decks.

Overall: it was a fun draft and I got a lot of good testing info. Parts of the spell velocity update were perfect. But also, I feel confident about committing to my scratch list which aggressively cuts out cards which don't quite fit to focus more on the core game plan of the cube. I'll have those updates ready to go in paper soon and hopefully will get a test draft in within a month. Here's looking forward to a triple Urza's Saga world.
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