No Free Lunches, A Cube

Long time lurker, first-time poster, blah blah blah blah. You all make some rich, dense cubes, and as quarantine drags on I tinker with my cube more and more, hoping that by the time my playgroup meets again mine will stand up well. So! A first draft!

In this cube, there are no free lunches. You want to play 4C? Work for it. All-encompassing color pair themes? I said work for it! Fixing? Take some eggs and make yourself that lunch! (I'll see myself out.)

Seriously, it's harder to do a lot of things.
gets the boot in favor of ;
is swapped for .

Threats are powered down so that answers and enablers can be powered both down and up so that players can still do flashy, memorable, iconically "Cube" things but matchup/hand luck variance have less of an impact on winrates. Reanimator can have its

without ending games on T2.

The cube will be around 420 cards (currently 385) so as to provide some variance and so as to allow cards from Conspiracy and Un-sets. Drafting naturally, we'll see 86% of the cube throughout a 8-person draft, but with , and the like, most or all of the cards should get seen throughout a night of play. Which brings me to my first big (rhetorical) ask--what five cards would you like to see in a cube like this?


In true Riptide fashion, I've eschewed the fetch/shock manabase to help restrain power levels. Instead, we have full cycles of bouncelands, temples, painlands, and a split cycle of bicycles and horizon lands. There's also a pair of playsets of the good cycling lands.

and , because there're only 5 of each

I'm not against breaking cycles, but this seems (to me) like a good mix, as I'd (mostly) like to let each color participate in each macro-archetype of aggro, midrange, control, and value/combo*. The bouncelands are fantastic per-card value for slower decks, and bicycles help fix and avoid flood. Painlands and horizon lands are better for aggro decks, and both temples and single-type scrylands are good for everyone. You don't have the shuffling issue with fetches, and while you don't get as many landfall triggers as with fetches, you can still get lands into the GY via cycling.

Intended themes are to come, but I'm cutting this post here so it doesn't turn into a wall of text. But I've learned a lot from you all's cubes, specifically from Inscho's Graveyard Cube and Grillo's Penny Pincher. Thank you to everyone on this forum for creating a space to both draw inspiration from and to use to hold myself accountable!

Themes are meant to be more suggestive rather than prescriptive. Your lunch isn't free, make it yourself! As many interesting engine pieces as possible are shunted to the artifact section to allow them to pop up in atypical color combinations; this is one of the primary reasons for downshifting the speed/power from powermax. Themes are in order from fewest color to most.

Steal (or Clone) Your Stuff (Ub) (How many versions of this effect does a guy want? Hmm...)

Transmutation/Library-Based Cheatyface (R) is based off of just a few cards; I'm debating the addition of Sneak Attack, but will probably not.

Weenie Reanimator (Wb)

Ninjas (UB) Bounce your flying men! Or, if you're happy with losing stuff, your tokens from GWB! Value and tricks!*1

Go Wide (GW)

Karoo Abuse and Valuetown(GU)

Blink (WU) I'm looking for good ETB creatures that don't just become the tasty meat nuggets in midrange soup, and it's hard to find good resources on this--perhaps most people find blink to be 'solved' and that's why I can't find them? Please let me know about cubes with really juicy blink sections! For example, Man-o'-War seems too powerful for this environment, but maybe I need to get comfortable with a higher power level.

Discard/Draw Matters (UR) (cycling, mainly)*2

Aristocrats (RBW) is a natural complement to Weenie Reanimator.

Artifacts (5C, principally RB)

Graveyard Value (BG, mainly, but 5C)


*1 Each color has a couple of combat tricks apart from the best combat trick of removal. You can't just wade into combat and know how it's gonna go, folks.*1.5
*1.5 Oh yeah, you might have noticed that instant-speed removal is SUPER limited. I'm trying to have a small amount of premium removal and then a lot more second-tier removal that tends to be either limited in some way or sorcery-speed. This makes tricks a lot better AND means that I don't have to push ETB effects as much.
*2 Note here that my BLUE section features much more selection than raw card draw. However, this lets me ramp up the power of counterspells to include, well, counterspell. You get the beef, but you have to choose what to use it on--no drowning people in card advantage willy-nilly.

Welcome to the forums! It's always nice to see some new faces around Riptide, especially when they seem to have good design chops as you do. I think this cube has a lot of cool concepts going on, and there looks to be a lot of strategic complexity when it comes to the gameplay side of things, which is great! I have a couple of ideas for you to consider when going forward with your design in the future. These suggestions are based on what you say in your original post, this cube looks pretty good as-is, these tips will just help you further streamline your environment if you wish to take them into account.

1. Multicolor Greedpiles are still a little too easy.
I did a couple of test drafts of your cube, and it was pretty easy for me to draft 4-color greed piles. This was for two reasons.

First, since you're running 40 dual lands, one could still easily acquire a good 4-color mana base if they prioritize fixing lands highly. If one were to simply take all of the nonbasics and board wipes they saw, they could easily play a 4-color control deck without too many issues. Frankly, some of the control piles I was able to assemble looked like they could beat pretty much any deck in the format. Second, the majority of the ramp in your green section is focused on getting basic lands out of the library or tapping to add mana of any color. Cards like Harrow, Springbloom Druid, and Edge of Autumn can easily be used to fuel 4-color nonsense manabases.

Luckily, this problem is easy to fix. The first thing I would do is cut your gold section from 40 to 30 cards. This would give players less of an incentive to draft more than two or three colors, since there would be more mono-colored cards running around for them to pick up. Remember: most gold cards are going to rot in the sideboard of a player who isn't running either color. Using 10 gold slots on mono-colored cards would push drafters away from trying to play greedy 4-color decks since they would have an easier time getting playables for 2 and or 3 color decks. I'd also recommend cutting Migration Path and Ancient Excavation. In my experience with these cards, they are normally cycled instead of cast, effectively just making them Expedition Map with extra steps.

As for your green section, I'd suggest modifying your ramp package a little bit. As a bare minimum, swap out Gilded Goose and Utopia Sprawl. These cards can help decks running lots of colors easily enable their plans without too much of a cost. For these slots, I'd recommend using Arbor Elf and Wild Growth. Wild Growth is basically Utopia Sprawl that only adds green mana, meaning it doesn't help with fixing while still being a great ramp card. Meanwhile, Arbor Elf helps your super-ramp decks create tons of mana in conjunction with land enchantments while still keeping it's player focused on forests. I know you say that Llanowar Elves is a little bit above the power level you wish to foster, but I think Gilded Goose is actually a bit more powerful in riptide style formats. While the goose can't add mana every turn, the payoff is that it can fix for mana of any color, gain life, and provide artifact synergy. Arbor Elf is a fairer option since it both can't fix and can have synergy with your Blue-Green ramp deck. Plus, unlike Llanowar Elves, Arbor Elf needs a forest to function, so it can't be abused by greed piles casting it off some random nonbasic. Some other cards to help bolster the U/G untap deck without fixing greedipiles are Wolfwillow Haven and Overgrowth.

2. Cycling Matters Complications
The new Ikoria cycling matters cards are far worse than their Amonkhet block counterparts, for the simple reason that they don't trigger off of cards being discarded normally. A Red/White player in your cube isn't going to be able to make a very good Zenith Flare//Valiant Rescuer deck because your entire boros section only has 10 cycling cards, including the lands. Unless your players are running random cards of other colors to make the deck work, they're not going to be able to build a functioning cycling deck. That's not to say the broader cycling//discard archetype doesn't work in your cube, far from it. Drake Haven and Flameblade Adept are two of the best cycling payoffs ever printed. This is because they are enabled by looting effects and other general discard, without needing too much support from cards that have the exact line of text "cycling" on them. In fact, I think you should be running more cards with a "cycle or discard" trigger, like Archfiend of Ifnir and Curator of Mysteries.

I'd recommend cutting the cycling-specific payoffs like Zenith Flare and Valiant Rescuer in favor of cards which still help to support the archetype like Seasoned Hallowblade. Wether or not you keep Astral Drift is another question. I've run the card before in environments without too many white cyclers, and I've generally seen my drafters ignore the card. People don't normally want to run Acrobatic Maneuver in their decks at medium to high power levels. However, if your drafters see the value in the card, by all means keep it, it's a good blink enabler.

3. Aggressively Increase your Aggro Section
In your opening post, you say you want to let each color take place in each of the major macro-archetypes. While you have control and midrange pretty well covered, your aggro section is in dire need of some extra support. Usually, a 360 card cube trying to support an aggro deck in a color wants between 7 and 12 1-drop creatures which can attack on turn two in that section, with an additional 2-5 colorless and or hybrid cards for that deck. It appears your trying to have aggro decks in White and Red. In red, you really only have two or three 1-drop creatures which a player wants to attack with. Your white section fares better, with six 1-drops which are good early attackers. What I would recommend doing is trying to hit 8 1-drop attackers in each of your aggro colors.

Note that you don't have to run "boring" creatures like Jackal Pup and Staunch Shieldmate just to reach a proper density of ago dudes. There are lots of interesting options in red and white that can improve the cube experience. For White, I'd recommend playing Court Homunculus (in true Grillo fashion) and Faerie Guidemother. In Red, I really like Goblin Banneret and Insolent Neonate. Both of these creatures are really great at wearing equipment, and Neonate supports your discard decks. I also like Figure of Destiny, as it is a Mana Sink for aggro decks which maintains value even as a top deck in the late game.

4. Replace the OP Reanimation spells with Lower-Powered Options.
I know you want players to be able to experience classic powered cube decks like reanimatior, and that's perfectly doable at lower power levels. However, cutting the deck's good finishers is not the way to do it. I've been experimenting with this concept for a while, and I've come to realize that cards like Animate Dead are just too good at two mana. While reanimating a Shivan Dragon isn't ending the game in the same way Griselbrand will, the dragon can still effectively do the same thing. It just gives the opponent an extra turn or two to find an answer. The games are still just as polar, they just take a little longer. Fear not, however. There are ways to make classic reanimation decks fair!

One successful approach to making a fairer reanimation work was showcased in the Cultic Cube, which was recently featured on Magic Online. This cube's designer opted to eschew reanimation spells that costed less than 4 mana from their environment. Basically, Animate Dead and Reanimate are replaced with Zombify and friends.This way, reanimation decks could still have deadly efficient kills with giant creatures, without just killing the opponent on turn two. Remember, reanimation decks need to be able to close the game quickly after bringing their giant creature back, or else the opponent has a high chance of killing their threat. By increasing the cost of the reanimation, you slow down these decks enough that they don't mop the floor with everything else in the format, but still give them a good chance of winning when their game plan comes together.

Now, I'm not saying add Griselbrand to your cube once Animate Dead is gone. Grizzy B is broken at pretty much any point in the game before a player could normally naturally cast him. Instead, consider adding some big creatures with Cycling like Titanoth Rex and Striped Riverwinder.

Single Card Notes
Auriok Salvagers- It's great to see a new Riptider continue in the Penny-Pincher cube's tradition of playing Auriok Salvagers. However, you are not running enough 1 mana artifacts which can Sacrifice themselves to make this card worth running. In the Penny Pincher 2.0 Cube, Grillo ran 11 artifacts that could sacrifice themselves for value, plus additional artifact creatures at 1 mana. You're only running 4 of these artifacts. I would recommend playing the Red and Blue Spellbombs alongside some other assorted Eggs. Also, adding more 1-mana artifact creatures like Signal Pest and the aforementioned Court Homunculus makes the Salvagers much better.

Direct Current- I know many other riptide users like this card, but I think it's just bad. Paying {2}{R}{R}{R}{R} and discarding a card to deal a measly 4 damage at sorcery speed (even when spread out across two turns!) is a terrible rate. Since shock effects are not too powerful for this format, I think cutting the current would be a wise decision. Some similar options you can include are Staggershock, Fiery Temper, and Firebolt.

Overall, this cube looks like a lot of fun to draft and play. Heck, I had a fun time just analyzing and writing about it. This is a great first (public) draft of a list, and I think with some tinkering and streamlining you could have one for the history books.

Thanks for your time,
Welcome to the forums!
Just drafted your cube and I really like a lot of what you’ve going on.
I did however draft the following possible play sequence:

And I had several other token generators in my colors as well.
If you’re aiming for a mid or low power level, I think the red tokens decks may need a little toning down. I P1P1’d Purph and didn’t see anything that would entice me away from going all-in on my fast indestructible 4-mana wincon.
Now I would love to play that, but just be aware it’s an incredibly strong sequence that can win games at high power levels too. I used to run Purph in a cube alongside Recurring Nightmare and True-Name Nemesis and he was still high.
Thank you both for the feedback! This is really helpful. And to the half-dozen other drafters, thank you as well; you're my first outside data points, so it's given me a ton of perspective on what someone who's not me would do with this environment.

@blacksmithy--I didn't even realize that this particular strain of token deck was in here, mostly due to thinking that Assemble the Legion cost 4RW, making it more of a weird controlling finisher than some sort of realistic engine. That's an incredible curve, but as you say probably a bit too strong.

Purphoros is also the only creature with (permanent) indestructible, so he probably has to go, if only to stress interactivity. I like the effect, though, so I'll swap him out for Terror of the Peaks for something similar that a) is easier to remove, b) is more restrictive in casting cost/more expensive, and c) is less bonkers with tokens. I'd avoided Terror because I was concerned that the clock it represents would overshadow a cool engine-type ability, but you've convinced me that Purph is just as bad, if not worse in that regard. Thanks for the feedback, and I'll keep an eye out for further issues with that deck!


@TrainmasterGT--Wow, thank you for this cornucopia of insight. I'm so glad you had fun with it! Your comments helped clarify my thinking a lot, so, in no particular order:

Regarding Greedpiles

I crunched the numbers and even with the full suite of 420ish cards there are (were. [would have been?? Tenses are hard.]) still something like 4.28 duals per person, which is absolutely too many even if we chalk your 9 (!!!) duals up to CubeCobra's admittedly inferior draft bots. (Sorry, Cobra. I know that's something you're working hard on.) I'm cutting the temples, as they're the most generic of the duals to me--painlands are best for aggro, bouncelands are better for shenanigans or controlling decks, and the various 'draw a card' lands are good for most everything. This brings us down to 3.21 duals/person, which should help. I want to keep SOME untapped duals, hence the painlands, but they're next on the chopping block.

On a similar note, I'm cutting a multicolor card from each guild as you suggested. The only guild that gave me pause was Selesnya, oddly enough, but turning Conclave Mentor into Hardened Scales should give the counters deck a little more flexibility. On the bright side, I now have 20 free spots in addition to the previous openings! Almost 10 whole cards for each color!!!

Your points about divorcing ramp from fixing are, I think, the crux of the matter, and something that I had completely lost track of along the way to this cube. Green should be able to ramp, but fixing should largely be the province of artifacts. To this end, I'm enacting the majority of your proposed reforms, though I really want to make Gilded Goose work because it ties into so many themes--heck, it even carries equipment well. As for artifact-ifying my fixing, this should go a long way towards making Auriok Salvagers a better pick, though I know I need to at least add some spellbombs.

OP Reanimator Spells

...this is an awkward one because I never actually put Animate Dead into the cube. I have a box of old-ish cards from my godfather and this is one of them that got me inspired right before I wrote this post. Whoops! However, your point about HOW to go about adding reasonable reanimation targets is very useful because my current targets are incredibly underwhelming. Cycling beefslabs, especially those from Ikoria, is a great way to get into the next topic, which is...

UP Cycling Spells

...absolutely spot-on! I just really really want Valiant Rescuer to be good. I may Sharpie it to be cycle or discard, as I think that would make this (and a lot of 'cycle but not discard') cards actually quite attractive. I don't think I'll go quite that far, but once again, I like the idea of the cycling deck as a different axis for Boros. On a different note, is Archfiend of Ifnir actually okay? He seems too good to me, but perhaps that's because I've been overestimating how many times people get to cycle in a given cube game, which would also explain why I'm mis-evaluating the archetype as a whole. Serves me right for playing cycling on Arena.

My other concern with cards that explicitly reference other mechanics is that I want to avoid the rails as much as possible. I want to be surprised by the decks that I create, by the decks that I'm beaten by, by the decks that fail spectacularly. (And yes, I get how seeding the cycling archetype goes against this. We are such fickle things.)


I swear these dudes are relevant to my aggro problem. All nine of them.

In previous drafts of this cube (visible on my CubeCobra account, but if you look please don't judge too harshly) I had contemplated adding a bunch of Icehide Golems (seriously, like 8 or 10) and offering three-packs of the snow basic of your choice as squadron picks. I had also added in a roughly equivalent number of Arcum's Astrolabe to entice non-aggro players to pick up snow lands. The idea was...not great. However, I think the idea behind it remains noble: to let each and every color participate in aggro. I'm still going to try to do that (maybe), although the flavors of aggro may differ (see ninjas for the way I've chosen to let BLUE play a very blue form of aggro/tempo. Now I need to figure out GREEN's aggro plan. Counters and evolve? Overstatted monsters? Just let ramp be my aggro? All I know is that it'll probably feature Pelt Collector).

This half-baked idea was still rattling around, because as a result of COMPLEATING THE BEEF I suddenly had far fewer reasons to include one-drops anywhere else because let's face it--Jackal Pup is completely outclassed, and even a lot of the more interesting cards get pushed out by the RELENTLESS TIDE OF FROZEN, STEELY MUSCLE. I had thought that this was a good idea, but it turns out that this version of it isn't, especially because it led to me shoving a lot of engines into my enchantments, which made things an undraftable mess.

One better solution may be to take a sharpie to a bunch of our disappointing yet loyal friends

A vanilla 2/1 for 1 is a lot more killable and therefore, I think, a lot more reasonable than 2/2 for 1, even when accounting for a slight-to-moderate difficulty in casting the latter. This may be a project for an entire branch of this cube.

However, until I branch off another version of this cube, thanks for the tip on these interesting one-drops! With the cuts I made earlier, I now have space to add a bunch more without feeling like I crowd out my fun 2-4 CMC toys.What can I say--at heart I'm an Esper mage who loves to durdle.

Final note: I really like the font used for this forum. It hasn't been until I've been typing and editing in it that I noticed just how satisfying it is. Good choice!
you know what would actually be amazing.
a cube where the basic land box is snow lands.
or, a “Tundra Cube” where the only basic lands are the snow basics you have to draft a la “Desert Cube.”
@TrainmasterGT--Wow, thank you for this cornucopia of insight. I'm so glad you had fun with it! Your comments helped clarify my thinking a lot, so, in no particular order:

...On a different note, is Archfiend of Ifnir actually okay? He seems too good to me, but perhaps that's because I've been overestimating how many times people get to cycle in a given cube game, which would also explain why I'm mis-evaluating the archetype as a whole. Serves me right for playing cycling on Arena.

My other concern with cards that explicitly reference other mechanics is that I want to avoid the rails as much as possible. I want to be surprised by the decks that I create, by the decks that I'm beaten by, by the decks that fail spectacularly. (And yes, I get how seeding the cycling archetype goes against this. We are such fickle things.)

I'm glad my post could be of help :)

Archfiend of Ifnir only strafes the line of "too good" at lower power levels when there are lots of free discard outlets running around. Most of your discard outlets are either only able to be activated once, have some sort of cost attached to them, or can only happen at a specific timing window. I don't think it would end up being too powerful in your environment.

As for the fact that archfiend specifically references cycling- you don't need to be worried about this. Archfiend was only designed to "cycle or discard a card" to make it easier for new players to understand that cycling a card would still cause the ability to fire. Archfiend could end up in a deck with 0 cycling cards and still be decent, so long as there are other forms of discard in the deck. For example, you could have a Dismissive Pyromancer//Archfiend of Ifnir deck which turns every rummage trigger from the Wizard into a Shrivel. Archfiend provides a lot of flexibility, and I think you will be pleasantly surprised by how many decks can play it if you give it a test.


I swear these dudes are relevant to my aggro problem. All nine of them.

In previous drafts of this cube (visible on my CubeCobra account, but if you look please don't judge too harshly) I had contemplated adding a bunch of Icehide Golems (seriously, like 8 or 10) and offering three-packs of the snow basic of your choice as squadron picks. I had also added in a roughly equivalent number of Arcum's Astrolabe to entice non-aggro players to pick up snow lands. The idea was...not great. However, I think the idea behind it remains noble: to let each and every color participate in aggro. I'm still going to try to do that (maybe), although the flavors of aggro may differ (see ninjas for the way I've chosen to let BLUE play a very blue form of aggro/tempo. Now I need to figure out GREEN's aggro plan. Counters and evolve? Overstatted monsters? Just let ramp be my aggro? All I know is that it'll probably feature Pelt Collector).
It's hard to make aggro work in every color since the deck has to play so many parasitic cards. At the power level of your current cube, aggro curves really look like they want to start at 1 mana and go up from there. While the Bonded Construct definitely has some water to it, I wouldn't recommend adding too many versions of the same card. It's going to make your aggressive decks feel very samey, regardless of color. Here are some ideas that could help you to create different feeling aggro decks that will be viable in each color.


For black, your best bet for aggro is the same as Red and White: hit the 7-12 one drop creature threshold. Black aggro decks are recursive in nature. They are totally fine with letting their creatures die, because they can come back later. These decks are easily able to cross-pollinate with archetypes like Aristocrats and Zombie Tribal, since the creatures are often inherently recursive and many of them are Zombies. I know many people who have had success running random 2/1 fliers in black like Aphemia, the Cacophony and Wasp of the Bitter End as ways to deal evasive damage.


Blue aggro decks are not go-wide swarm decks in the same way other aggro decks tend to be. Instead, a blue aggro player is looking to slam an evasive creature or two and then protect them with Counterspells. Make sure to have plenty of small fliers and unblock able creatures to enable this deck. These cards also help you to enable a ninjas plan. You don't need as many 1-drops for this deck, since almost all of the blue aggro cards are only things someone playing an aggro or tempo deck would want. I'd try to get around 5. However, make sure to have many cheap counterspells and instant-speed cantrips so that a blue aggro player can always protect their threats and spend their mana efficiently.


While green is capable of playing a traditional "Savannah Lions" aggro deck, the vast majority of these cards are extremely boring and not playable in any other green deck. Instead, many people opt to play a "stompy" style deck. The game plan of these decks is to play a 1-mana accelerant followed up by a 3-mana creature with above-curve stats. Use the slots normally reserved for aggro 1-drops on 1-cmc mana ramp like Llanowar Elves, Search for Tomorrow, and Gilded Goose. These decks are almost like a hybrid of Aggro and midrange decks- many of the cards are interchangeable between the two strategies. This is nice because it means players can have a little more agency in tailoring the speed of their decks to their play style.

One more thing.

Your cube runs a lot of board wipes. This is a good thing since you're trying to support aggro. One of the ways control decks get an advantage over an aggro player is by using a single spell to deal with multiple threats. If a control player is forced to do 1-for-1 trades on every random aggro creature, they probably lose the game. When you go to add more aggro-specific cards, just keep in mind that you already have answers for many of the threads you'll be adding. If the aggro decks do prove to be better than intended in the control matchup, add more wipes instead of removing aggro enablers. The only time you need to worry about aggro decks being too good is when they are consistently beating the midrange decks which are supposed to keep them in check. If your players are complaining about aggro being too good but their win rates are not reflective of this, change the power level, but not the number, of small creatures in the environment.

Hopefully this can be of some help to you when going forward with aggro designs.
@blacksmithy--That would honestly be pretty cool, but with the small number of cards that mechanically care about snow (just 87!!) and the fact that most of them are balanced around a limited number of snow lands makes me leery of the idea. Most of the snow cards from Modern Horizons are great, but about half of those from prior sets are either uninspiring or super unwieldy. For example, look at this card.

Ew. I would not run that even in a dedicated snow cube. My biggest complaint is that it's a punisher mechanic, which a lot of those 87 cards that reference 'snow' are. That being said, other people definitely have made snow cubes, though not many post-Modern Horizons, and few (none??) look like they're really utilizing the space to its fullest. I found this reddit post talking about some of the benefits and drawbacks to having a snow day with your cube, and I really liked the idea that snow can provide a clear benefit to maxing out on basic lands and eschewing fixing, which is a dynamic I'd love to play with--once snow gets another couple hundred cards. I see it as an alternative to colorless as a 'sixth color.'


I think I mis-emphasized my main issue with Archfiend of Ifnir, which is the fact that it uses -1/-1 counters as opposed to -1/-1 until EoT. That seems crazy strong to me, but again I'm probably misevaluating the number of times these sorts of abilities will be able to trigger a la Terror of the Peaks.

Thanks for the continued feedback on aggro! Your suggestions all look good, and I'll go through them as I work on the big update with cutting temples and gold cards. I'm absolutely with you on the blue tempo plan, and a lot of those green cards look interesting as well--I think I included most of these cards in preliminary drafts of previous cubes. I don't know what the opinion here is on He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named (Funch), but I've been thinking a lot about his ideas about green aggro/early midrange presenting moderately difficult threats repeatedly. While his personality is abrasive, to put it politely, his cubes are fascinating. These aren't mutually exclusive theories on how to enable green, though, and I think I'm going to try to combine them going forward.

Your ideas on including many wraths to actually ENABLE aggro is fascinating, but makes a lot of sense. I'm going to mull that one over, but you've given me a better sense of what levers even exist to pull, so thank you!
I think I mis-emphasized my main issue with Archfiend of Ifnir, which is the fact that it uses -1/-1 counters as opposed to -1/-1 until EoT. That seems crazy strong to me, but again I'm probably misevaluating the number of times these sorts of abilities will be able to trigger a la Terror of the Peaks.

Archfiend of Ifnir is not as easy to make work as Terror of the Peaks. If you test the card, I don't think you'll have issues with it.

Thanks for the continued feedback on aggro! Your suggestions all look good, and I'll go through them as I work on the big update with cutting temples and gold cards. I'm absolutely with you on the blue tempo plan, and a lot of those green cards look interesting as well--I think I included most of these cards in preliminary drafts of previous cubes. I don't know what the opinion here is on He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named (Funch), but I've been thinking a lot about his ideas about green aggro/early midrange presenting moderately difficult threats repeatedly. While his personality is abrasive, to put it politely, his cubes are fascinating. These aren't mutually exclusive theories on how to enable green, though, and I think I'm going to try to combine them going forward.

Your ideas on including many wraths to actually ENABLE aggro is fascinating, but makes a lot of sense. I'm going to mull that one over, but you've given me a better sense of what levers even exist to pull, so thank you!

You're welcome. Building good cubes is hard so I try to share what I know with people whenever I can.

As for Sirfunchalot, I'm not really sure what the general consensus on him is around here. I know a few of us have joined his cube brainstorming discord. I think he's a bit of a crude person but he's one of the best new cube philosophers to come around in probably 5 years. I think the reddit drama is very stupid and reminiscent of the MTGS-Riptide Schism of the early 2010s- an old guard group being upset that new ideas are challenging their long-held beliefs. I wish the cube community as a whole would be willing to reconcile, given the fairly niche part of Magic we represent.

Philosophically speaking, I'd say Funchian cubes are a different take on the decks-not-cards philosophy often found here on Riptide. Both types of cube are working to facilitate drafting focused on decks as opposed to individual cards. The key difference is how those decks are constructed. Riptide cubes are looking to create decks full of small-scale synergies. Meanwhile, Funchian cubes are designed to facilitate decks which fit into one of the three major macro-archetype strategies on a consistent basis. Onderzeeboot and I discussed this on my cube's blog back at the beginning of the summer if you'd like to read more. I've been working on trying to marry the two philosophies with my designs (although I have not posted anything on this subject since may- I haven't gotten to a place I'm 100% happy with yet and WOTC keeps releasing sets full of very cubeable cards).
Anyone else have one of those months that seems to try to derail you? Between my cat doing her best to off my computer and work asking me to suddenly shift to nights and then back, I've completely lost all track of time. Luckily, Zendikar Rising spoilers gave me the kick in the pants I needed to get back to this project.

@TrainmasterGT--Sorry, I seem to have done a poor job of expressing myself! I didn't mean to say that I thought that Terror of the Peaks and Archfiend of Ifnir would trigger a similar number of times, but rather that I've been overestimating how often I'd trigger abilities like these on chunky creatures in general. Realistically, they either a) get removed or b) villain loses. I've never drafted a cube with real people, only retail draft formats and solo bot drafts of cubes, so I underestimate the speed of these environments a lot. For example, my bimonthly draft group took on Kamigawa block today, which really hit home just how clunky of a velocity I'm used to--but I'll get back to that experience in my general notes.

RE Funchian design, I think we're all just about on the same page here, and that's why I like Riptide better than, say, r/cube. The link you posted gives me a lot more perspective on the design consensus around here, so thank you! We're trying to do something similar, which, as you said there, is a little off the rails. (Please pardon the pun, no offense meant.)

General Update Notes--Brought to you by Kamigawa block

(Note: this section isn't addressed to anyone in particular, with the exception of myself. The following is me having fun getting ideas out of my head and into a medium I can inspect them from all angles, preserve them, and, yes, play around with them.)

This may be old news to folks here, but drafting the full Kamigawa block made me realize that I've been making a big mistake by confounding format velocity and power. Kamigawa is, surprisingly enough, a decently powerful format, if not a terribly fast one. Ixalan on the other hand is fast, though not terribly powerful. War of the Spark might be both fast and powerful, whereas drafting Alpha is likely both weak and slow.

The big caveat is that I'm not quite sure what I mean by power and velocity. It's not quite as simple as saying that in fast formats games end faster and that in more powerful formats the last person to play a card wins--or is it? Nevertheless, there's a difference between the two. I'm also not sure where I want my 'ideal' format to lie on those two axes. From what I've read, a lot of cube curators struggle with a similar issue, regardless of how it's phrased. I don't want games dragging on in unwinnable situations--when its over, the player in the lead should be able to close things out quickly. Furthermore, I want decision points to matter--the winner shouldn't be determined by who draws better or by how two decks match up. 'Good' matchups should be 60/40, not 70/30 or better (though of course some amount of that is inevitable).

Which brings me to the main issue that I'm still clarifying for myself: have the changes I've made improved the fun value of my cube for me personally?

In short, not really.

In long, there are some changes I'm very happy with. Greedpiles had to go, and there were definitely some power outliers and/or combo cards that just didn't fit (looking at you, Paradoxical Outcome). That being said, drafts haven't had that spark of discovery. I'm treading a beaten path--not the paved highway of the MTGO cubes or even of flagship draft formats, perhaps, but I'm no longer surprised by the decks I fall into. I assure you, I'm no rebel without a cause, but if I wanted a traditional cube experience, I'd just lift a time-tested cube and make some tweaks to suit my preferences.

One bit of dogma I've been mulling is why aggro has to start on turn 1 and non-aggro does not. (Bear with me! I can hear you rolling your eyes again!) My issue here is one of parasitism. If you grab aggro one-drops, then you're effectively off to the side doing your own thing during the draft. You can reliably wheel FANTASTIC cards that have no right wheeling simply because midrange and control want similar stuff that is on a completely orthogonal axis to your game plan. Those two are playing an actual game during the draft (what do other people want? What do I need? What don't I need?), whereas the aggro player just needs to determine whether or not anyone else at all wants what they want (take removal and wheel weenies). The issue is exacerbated by monocolor aggro. You're in R aggro? Cool, I'm in W aggro, so unless we're fighting over equipment or artifacts, we can entirely ignore one another. Yes, I'm simplifying the issues of finding your lane and archetype mixing, but the point stands--aggro cards are only relevant to aggro, whereas control, midrange, ramp, and combo all want a slice of one another's cake.

This means that the issue is NOT finding interesting aggro cards. As TrainmasterGT did a fantastic job of pointing out, if you look just a little harder than I had there are plenty of good aggro cards. However, I've realized that I'm looking for aggro/non-aggro hybrid cards, not just spicy aggro cards.

Do they exist? I'm working on finding out, but having a good question is at least half the battle! I hope!

I have similar bones to pick with redundancy. If you're running 6 flavors of Llanowar Elves, then it's no longer special when you land an elf, either in a game or during the draft (oh no, I only got three elves instead of four. Darn.). Furthermore, because I'm not explicitly running tribal synergies (except for some accidental Minotaur tribal???), multiple elves don't do anything cool in multiples. I'd much rather see

than see

EVEN if the latter is definitively more interactive*. Why? The first one makes me feel cleverer! There are a lot more knobs for the player to fiddle with, even if the end result is similar in that you get bigger things out earlier.

*this is a lie. While the first set of three cards is indeed more wrath-proof than the latter, it's significantly more vulnerable to spot removal (as well as turning on enchantment removal!!) AND it's more vulnerable to aggro. Also, the latter works better with Overrun effects than former, and it doesn't have as high of a ceiling for mana production.

Speaking of knobs, I like having to invest in cards for them to reach their full effect. Most elves are binary, in that their either alive and doing their thing or they eat a bolt. Sure, you can argue that you can use them as emergency blockers, but that's both a one-time deal and it likely means that you're just drawing out the inevitable, unless you can plan out an awesome crackback and win from there. Two (and a half) states of usefulness.

Now, when you have Arbor Elf / Wild Growth / Joraga Treespeaker, each of them has two (and a half, for two-thirds of them) states. When they bond, these states split, meaning that you have a bunch of different sub-states dependent on their interactions. More choices! More cleverness! Build yourself the kind of sandwich you wish to see in the world! Topple the sandwiches of others! Force-feed your sandwich to your friends! Burn capitalist institutions to the ground and create a new gift economy based entirely on sandwiches!


Sidenote: is anyone else terrified by Dagwood's acquisitive gaze? I feel like it's only a matter of time before he decides to put me into his sandwich.

The question NOW becomes, why don't I just run both? The answer: I find that boring. If I wanted a format where cards are easily replaceable, I'd draft a core set. There's very little functional difference between the following pair.


Sure, there are incidental synergies that might make you prefer one over another in a specific situation, but it's mostly a difference of incremental quality. If you want a big control finisher, you're okay with either; if you want to win through evasive aggro/midrange nonsense, the birds are both tolerable. Granted, we don't have to work within rarity restrictions and power bands in the same matter, being a largely singleton format, but so are most draft experiences. Put it this way: which of the following two would you rather build with?



... okay, I admit that to a non-LEGO afficianado, the two may look a bit similar. Let me break it down for you.

The first pile, with its beautiful colors, is the more 'artistic' choice. This is what you use to make LEGO sculptures, which are works of art. The second pile has a lot more variation in terms of the pieces, and to my eye (others can--and will--disagree) is a lot more fun to build playthings out of, even if it's not the 'correct' choice in terms of quality. If I'm playing (which, face it, I am), the latter looks a lot more inviting to me, though I'd love to make use of the colors of the former if it's available.

My cube is not a sculpture. I don't want it to be a sculpture, not even a LEGO one. I want it to be a cardboard box full of LEGO that I dump on the floor and mess around with to find that one perfect piece. To that end, I'm going to be selectively rolling back some of my changes to my cube to try to figure out where I lost the magic of discovery. And if I step on a few LEGO bricks--that's funny for my friends to watch!

Cheers everyone, and thanks for reading! I'm setting a goal for myself to have a post on specific changes up by the middle of the week.
I'm setting a goal for myself to have a post on specific changes up by the middle of the week.

So that was a freaking lie. I've gone ahead and torn things down, then built back up. W and G still need a little more love, but it's feeling good. My biggest change is the first thing in bold (hybrid cards), but the idea I'm most interested in is way at the very end (archetypes vs themes), the last bolded point.

Anyways--onto the specifics! I am back to my bad habits again, trying to fit a fourth card into each guild. However, I'm a bit more intentional this time, as the fourth card is hybrid in some way. Specifically, my 'hybrid' cards are as follows.

For WB, I actually have a pair of cards making a "hybrid" slot, because none of the true hybrid options are speaking to me (and because both of these cards speak to me :p). My inner Melvin also really likes the symmetry--raise the bodies, leaving the souls to linger.

Some notes: I chose Spitemare over Boros Reckoner solely because of the restrictive pips on the Reckoner. The intent behind these hybrid cards is to have something that fits reasonably well in a deck in either color instead of pushing a specific strategy in a given color pair, which is the job of the multicolor cards. Worm Harvest is pushing it, but because it's both a higher-CMC card and because it has Retrace I'm okay with it.

Also, I know that it's not a balanced cycle, as the U/B, B/R, and both of the W/B ones are flashback hybrid, but I'm okay with that. Both of the W/B cards are perfectly acceptable as just the front halves, if not ideal, and U/B/R have the highest density or looting and rummaging, so they should have the easiest time facilitating a splash, and that's the secret second purpose of these hybrid cards: providing an onramp to a splash. What I mean is that by picking up Kiora in an otherwise GR deck makes any further U picks that much more attractive, both mathematically due to the ease of casting and also psychologically, especially with less-experienced drafters (sidenote: in my current draft group [which so far only drafts retail formats online], I'm one of the most experienced drafters. It's really cool seeing what other people come up with, but it's not always the leanest build of their pool.). Is that evil of me to tempt my players in this way? Perhaps, but if we get more rounds where everyone gathers around a single match to see that one sweet deck go off, it's all worth it to me.

A further note on looting/rummaging/discard/madness synergies--I haven't appreciated until now just how well these strategies merged with flashback and retrace. I love how these two mechanics allow you to control the timing of these effects, and this flexibility adds a bunch of power to these interactions!


I added UB Ninjas as a theme! There just aren't that many of them, though, which is a little disappointing. I'd love to see ninjas in other colors, as they enable a ton of fun synergies (save an Unearth creature? Bounce a Threatened creature?) but that likely means I'd have to make my own. Which I'm not opposed to, but that's not the goal of this project here.

There's also some UR Prowess! Anything to reverse New World Order is a good thing in my book, and turning everything into a combat trick certainly does that. I also really like cards that make people think about their sequencing decisions. The idea isn't to have Prowess.dec or Ninjas.dec, but rather to have theme as overarching themes that are likely to salt into any decks in those color combinations.

On that note, I'd like to extend the idea of having themes rather than archetypes throughout my cube (More on this later). Rather than having decks that draw from a collection of viable cards and unshuffle Jumpstart modules, I'd like to see decks as weaving together a number

Two Questions I'm Pondering--

How do I make blink work in an ETB-lite world? Some have made it their mission to pare down ETB effects in their cubes in order to allow baby Baneslayers to thrive and to force players to make risky investments. Generally, I agree with this. However, I love blink as an archetype. The question then becomes how to choose ETB effects that are satisfying without having to crank my removal up which in turn increases the linear speed of games, making them pistol duels instead of a swordfights.

One way to do this is to make the ETB effects highly synergy dependent. (ex. energy) I'm not a fan of this because it pigeonholes the ETB decks, and I want to reduce parasitism within reason, as I believe that doing so makes decisions more contentious and that this makes the draft and playing more interesting, as cards are less replaceable.

Alternatively, I can make ETB effects relatively marginal. (i.e., no Nekrataal or Yavimaya Granger) However, this takes away a lot of fun effects. Maybe this is a more-acceptable way to keep ETBs? This approach would mean that some classics like the Splicers would likely be removed from consideration, though I do like incidental Golem tribal.

Anyways, I've been looking for cubes that incorporate the blink archetype really well but still haven't found anything that screams out to me as an especially elegant interpretation. I'll keep looking for how to walk this line, but...

Speaking of which, I'm still trying to figure out the appropriate UW blink enabler/payoffs for my particular power level. I currently have these three, which seems like too many, considering that I don't have any other gold section nearly as focused (Okay, UB Stealy has 3 separate thieves, with two of them being saboteurs. And RG is land-focused, GW makes more of what you already have, BW deals with stuff dying, GU is all about cheating on mana, UR likes casting stuff...maybe this is an okay amount okay and I'm making a big deal about nothing.)

Personally, I feel like they play very different roles--Mistmeadow can and will blink Villain's stuff, Venser gives UW a way to end games differently by making your creatures unblockable, and Soulherder gets really big. This is by far the most focused out of my guild sections, and I'd like to have some diversity. However, a lot of the UW choices that *aren't* blink are either super mediocre or way too good. (Fractured Identity and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria come to mind. I don't like spending gold slots on removal OR "I win" buttons. If they only show up for a moment, they don't define the game, and that's what I want gold cards to do!)

What is the difference between themes and archetypes*, and how can I move from the latter to the former? When comparing my decks built from my cube in its rough state before feedback and the decks built after that update, I found that the two categories varied most in how strongly different archetypes came across. Post-update, I was building Archetype Decks that wanted to Do Their Thing while Interacting. However, before the update, decks felt much more organic. Picture cubes as being networks, with cards being nodes, and each node having connections or "links" of various distance and strength to other nodes. Here is a diagram showing different ways of connecting networks.


In an archetype-based cube, you'd see a large number of fully-connected networks, as on the upper left. For example, all cards with Populate perform similarly well with similar cards. Each mechanic or each mechanical heart has its own network, and perhaps has linkages with similar networks. Some cards might be linked to multiple entire networks, such as Merfolk Looter, but generally speaking these cards exist OUTSIDE of the common networks. Such island-and-bridge models necessarily turn the draft process into a set of binary decisions: am I looking for Madness cards or not? You don't just run a single Madness card and hope it works well with stray looting abilities, not unless you're running a large number of cards from similarly related clusters.

However, in a theme-based cube, you see every card connected as in the mesh-network topology, as in the center. The main difference between the two (as they are, admittedly, very similar in nature) is that in a mesh network, the strength of the connection between two cards does not have as large a correlation with the chance of them having mutual connections to a third card as in a network made up of a group of fully-connected networks with bridges in between. (I'm sorry, I'm a little tipsy and so cannot come up with a more intuitive way of phrasing that. I'll try again soon.)

The benefit of a theme-based cube structure rather than an archetype-based structure lies in how well we as curators merge our thematic clusters. Designating just a few cards as bridges between islands will always be insufficient in attempting to derive spontaneity from the draft section. Of course, part of making this sort of architecture work necessitates careful consideration of your mechanical themes. Energy, for example, will not work well, as it inherently doesn't interact with any mechanics or even game actions other than proliferate, at least as far as I know. Again, this may not be a price worth paying for the results, but I would be remiss if I did not at least mention it.

Oh dear, there aren't many specifics. I'll do that...tomorrow. Yeah. I definitely will. Until then!

*I think that this is a different way to describe degrees of parasitism, actually.
I just started back at school so I don't have time to write something huge but I have a couple of opinions on this.

Some notes: I chose Spitemare over Boros Reckoner solely because of the restrictive pips on the Reckoner. The intent behind these hybrid cards is to have something that fits reasonably well in a deck in either color instead of pushing a specific strategy in a given color pair, which is the job of the multicolor cards.
I really think this slot should go to Figure of Destiny. Figure is one of the best cards for cubes trying to support both red and white aggro decks, as it can go in both and be a reasonably sized creature in either. Spitemare, by contrast, is just a random midrange creature that sometimes does a little damage to a target if it died in combat or to a burn spell. While Spitemare can sometimes act as a combo piece in Blasphemous Act/Stuffy Doll type combo decks, your cube really doesn't have the parts to unlock this emergent property.

In short, Spitemare is a cool card, but you're lacking support for it. Figure of Destiny is going to end up being played in more decks and to better results.
How do I make blink work in an ETB-lite world?
But... why? If you want to keep your cube ETB light, adding an archetype contradicting that vision is a little strange.

If your cube is not running a lot of payoffs for playing a blink deck, there isn't a point to using space implementing the reasonably high density of enablers required to make the deck work. Let's say you have 8 blink enablers in your cube. That's a little more than 2% of your whole list being spent on cards which often only do one thing. Now, that's fine, but if you don't have the proper support for those 8 cards, that 2% of your cube is as good as wasted. To be fair, your cube looks like it has a reasonable base to do something blink-based if you really want to, but it would require adding a bunch of Blade Splicer-esque payoffs in order to achieve that archetype as being playable.

I have some ideas for other U/W archetypes you could try if you'd like to hear them- but I think the primary question you should be asking right now is: "Am I willing to play mid to high tier ETB effects in my cube." If the answer to that question is no, it would make sense to explore other thematic elements for your Blue/White section that are more in line with the rest of what you are doing.
(modern horizons had blink as it’s UW archetype if you want to see what Wizards thinks of it. iirc it was mostly drawing extra cards or making extra token 2/2s while pumping your soulherder.)

UW Blink “without” ETBs.

(Ok, so calciderm And reality acid are hard to hit with most blinks.)

Another option would be “hard to work” ETBs, Which don’t do much by themselves, like:

(Maybe peregrine Drake is the right size here?)

and finally, “another creature” ETBs, which involve some risk and have appeal outside the archetype, like:

powered down ETBs may also be an option (e.g, instead of mulldrifter, play mnemonic wall or something)


is infinite mana and infinite storm count.

illusionist’s stratagem would also draw the deck, if you wanted a labman or approach the second sun win; or crow storm is probably the fairest “storm” card in the color pair (and Ok if not used on infinite). That’s mono blue though, too bad “exile up to two” was never printed on a white blink.
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i kind of agree with Train here. why do blink in a baneslayer cube? fliers, flashers, saboteurs, historic/prowess, heck even stax are all perfectly good WU archetypes that you could be doing instead and not having to contort your design philosophy to make work.
These are good points. I think I've figured out what I meant to say.

@Jerichoalar--Oh, those are some COOL cards. Thanks for the suggestions! I especially like Reality Acid, though it's probably a little too low-powered for the cube at this point. Maybe a custom that's slightly cheaper or Vanishes quicker or has flash...? I think you're right about including "when other cards ETB" effects to broaden my horizons a bit. Crow Storm has been on my short list for a while, but I don't explicitly support either storm or infinite combos, so it might be too much of a trap.

@Trainmaster/blacksmithy--After some soul-searching, I realized that I'm not actually against ETB effects per se. What I am against are ETB effects that just staple choiceless effects onto vanilla creatures to make them guaranteed 2-for-1s. Grinding people out simply by stuffing your deck full of these guaranteed value machines is, IMO, boring. *These* are the free lunches I'm against.

For example, I like three of these and hate one of them.

You guessed it, it's the Chupacabra. Why? Its value never changes based on the scenario. The effect always reads "destroy Villain's most powerful creature and get a bear at sorcery speed for {2} {B}{B} ." The only control you have over maximizing its value lies in deciding when you play it. Sure, there's a lot that goes into that decision, but ultimately casting Chupacabra is pretty much the same from game to game.

It's not just a problem with B, though--these sorts of hyperefficient blandwiches rear their ugly heads in every color. On the left, I have things that are, I find, prime culprits of optimizing the fun out of a game. On the right, I offer an alternative that, while less efficient overall, has more room for optimization, both during the draft phase and during the actual game.






These are obviously imperfect substitutions, but the point stands: there are both choice-minimizing and choice-maximizing ways of accomplishing similar things. I would like to find ETBs that feature a decent number of choices.

However, I'm worried about making this sort of 'free' value too powerful because I want most value to come from synergy. My vision for my environment is one where creatures can be part of engines that are substantial but not game-ending in the way that Baneslayers usually are, hence the name baby Baneslayers. That's because the game then becomes less about saving your removal for one single Baneslayer and more about deciding which engine pieces you can work around and which ones you can't. Or at least that's the concept I have.

The problem I foresee is that if generic goodstuff ETB creatures can get that sort of value, then where's the attraction in trying to assemble a fragile, creature-based engine? Artifacts and enchantments are hard to interact with, but sticking engine pieces on creatures both a) makes them more vulnerable and b) gives players more options--do I attack with my engine creature? Do I bluff a combat trick by attacking with them? Finally, it's a lot easier to move creatures around through zones than it is enchantments or artifacts.

Currently, it looks like I'm a little *too* cautious about value (that is, too ETB-lite), at least for this particular engine. I'll tinker with it and see if anything comes up! This may be a symptom of a larger problem I have in that I'm too goodstuff-lite.

Also, @blacksmithy, WU as saboteurs?! That sounds incredibly spicy, though I can't seem to find many good W creatures that fit that strategy. Maybe W provides more of the disruption or muscle end of things? Moving stax outside of black also seems really cool, I might look into that as well.
Nice! I hadn't been thinking about global effects nearly as much for saboteurs, not had I thought about double strike meshing well with these effects (or at least the "combat damage" ones), so thank you for opening my eyes to the possibilities there.

For stax, I do like this take on it, but I think I've been conceptualizing the archetype you're talking about here as a tempo style (I've never played a format with true stax decks, just kitchen table way back when, retail limited, and Arena standard). I've been shying away from these sorts of effects, but I think I'll love trying them out! Incidentally, I think you're the second person to recontexstualize Cloud of Faeries, which has been in my cube from the beginning--thanks for helping me see it in another light!
Okay, details of the rebuild! I've torn down a lot of my latest additions and rebuilt from what was left with my ZNR additions.

@Trainmaster--I owe you an apology about multicolored cards. Trying to fit a fourth into each pair was hubris, and a testament to how much I love my gigantic, do-nothing enchantments. So I cut out a lot of the clunkier EDH cards. (ex. Arixmethes provided a fair bit of ramp, sure, but there just wasn't that much to ramp into.)

On the topic of killing my darlings, I'm removing a pet cards that just won't work, mostly because the supporting cast is bad/in every color except white.

In return, I'm giving White another pet card that is probably way too powerful (2WW 4 creatures can't block as a floor? Kills tokens outright? It's one of those blink-and-it-will-end-games type of cards that I don't really like on principle, but White needs some spice.). Is it still too powerful? We'll see!

Collateral Damage (or, mediocre cards I can swap for better versions now that I'm not trying to force something that just isn't there. It's a real shame, because if Drift/Flourishing Fox/Valiant Rescuer triggered on cycling or discard, they would be fantastic options for White, but as it is they only fit into Ikoria-style mono-cycling decks and just stink anywhere else.)


Speaking of which, this removal means that I'm no longer beholden to Ash Barrens to shoehorn a cycling theme! This means that I'm going to add the Pathway cycle in as soon as it's completed in Kaldheim. Hopefully, these lands will boost aggro decks and play well with the bouncelands we know and love.

Animating Reanimation

I made a point of giving each color one 'super-heavyweight' class creature (CMC 7+) to make reanimation somewhat attractive and not just a way of extracting value from discard. The goal was to strike a balance between 'cool' and 'gamewinning,' so none of the creatures are likely to win without at least a turn going by. This certainly makes them a bit of a removal check, but that's one of the things you get to do when you power down your removal. Blue gets two, which are each individually less impressive but offer more utility and feel generally "trickier", as befits my vision for blue. (Pictured below) Speaking of which, I'm looking for one more big colorless reanimation/ramp target. Currently, I'm eyeballing Grim Poppet, Artisan of Kozilek, Angelic Rocket, Tetravus, and Sundering Titan for this slot (the last is probably way too powerful, but it's really cool!).

Removing (some) Removal

Speaking of the removal suite available, why yes, I'd love to talk about removal! Here is all the single-target removal that was in my cube. Turns out it was pretty unbalanced, oops.

and 9 burn instants and 6 sorceries, as well as an artifact and two enchantments.

(And I totally forgot to add Khalni Ambush into the cube--oops!)

This is too much of a pain typing everything out, so I'll just tell you: White has 4 wipes with 2 conditional (Dusk // Dawn and Settle the Wreckage), Black has 3 with one of them being conditional (Evincar's Justice), and Red has 1 (Fiery Confluence).

The point here, apart from giving me an easy way to catalogue what I'm doing, is a) I had waaaay too much removal in Black and b) while a lot of this removal was conditional removal, it was really "conditional" removal. 40% of my cube has one toughness (okay, probably closer to 30% or 35% once counters and buffs are added), which makes Battle at the Bridge STRICTLY BETTER THAN [/c]Doom Blade[/c] against at least a third of the field, which is NOT what I'm going for. I committed a crime familiar to may of you, which is not considering how my removal stacks up against my specific environment (i.e. I'm judging based on other, stock limited environments, in which creatures pretty commonly get to 4 toughness. Here, it's 40% toughness 1, 27% toughness 2, and 16% toughness 3. Only 17% of my cube survives Volcanic Hammer! That means that even what I might think of as mediocre removal, like the Hammer, is pretty dang good at killing at least 75% of anything you might want dead. Honestly, Epic Downfall will only ever hit 25% of this cube, which makes it ironically a more restrictive removal spell than the Hammer, and by a lot. I would not have anticipated that.). (It's kind of like how Mana Leak is unconditional, while Negate is absolutely conditional.)

So I removed some--specifically, I'm trying to go down to 10 removal spells in Black, and tried to make about half of what's left actually conditional. Details below.


(honestly, this is too close to Ravenous Chupacabra in this cube.

(kinda plays itself. Snore.)

(Murder with upside. Yikes!)

To replace them, I'm adding the following:

Call of the Death-Dweller, Corpse Churn, Ill-Gotten Gains (no, not Ill-Gotten Inheritance), Mind Rake, and Stitch Together.

And also, Volcanic Hammer -> Roil Eruption and Roast -> Cathartic Reunion. Shh, don't tell anyone I snuck some changes to Red in here!

This brings my as-fan of removal down to 2, which is definitely more reasonable. There may still be too many burn spells, but I want one of Red's features to be its ability to send damage to the face. (only three of my 17 burn spells are restricted to creatures, which might still be too great a percentage...but that's a lot of burn. It's been discussed here before, and my burn percentage of ~4% sits pretty high. I'm curious as to how well these numbers stack up against the cubes of today!

ZNR additions have landed!

I love MDFCs, and having played with them never want to play limited without them ever again. I am trying most of them, with the exceptions of some stinkers that I object to using slots on (Sea Gate Restoration) and those with effects that I don't want to see in my cube (Pelakka Predation). I'm getting around the inherent clunkiness of DFCs by sleeving them in a transparent inner/outer sleeve combo and drafting the placeholder cards that WOTC has provided instead. The player (in my vision) will grab the DFC after the draft has finished, and use that when the appropriate helper card exits their hand.

I'm also adding some (admittedly pretty basic) cards from ZNR.

MDFCs used:

Other ZNR Additions:


Personally, I think the helper cards look quite nice.

Sticking the Landing

That's it for my second big update! What remains to be done:

--adding the Pathways when the cycle is finished to give aggro decks some juice.

--considering further land cycles and how that might impact the dynamics of the cube. In no particular order, I think the bouncelands, horizon lands, bicycles, and pathways all make for interesting decisions and act as a good baseline. Fast lands and pain lands are my favorite choices for strengthening aggro, and triomes are my land of choice for control decks. I'll tune as necessary.

--continuing to tweak!

I'll be posting again at some point going into more detail on why I've done all this, but I've already grown long-winded enough here. Thanks for reading, and of course, I'd love to hear if you think I'm horribly wrong somewhere ;)
Big Day Out Update--Commander Legends and Early Kaldheim

My draft group is taking a swing at my cube on the 16th, so I'm dusting all the corners and carefully arranging my coffee table books. This will be the first time I have a group of real, live human beings playtest the cube, so I want to make sure we're all shipshape. Plus, there have been a couple of very cool new sets that have at least started to be spoiled with some juicy stuff. Let's dig in, shall we?


I've settled on a mana base (I think), but it still needs some testing. For 420 cards, the consensus seems to be that anywhere from 30 to 50 fixing lands are appropriate, so I chose to include 50 but to make them somewhat weaker. I'll give you the list and explain my thought process below.

-5x enemy horizon lands (Waterlogged Grove) and 5x ally bicycle lands (Fetid Pools)

-10x pain lands (Caves of Koilos)

-10x Ravnica bounce lands (Gruul Turf)

-10x Pathways (Needleverge Pathway)

-10x Ash Barrens, numbers subject to change.

Why these lands?

Note that lands either come into play tapped OR require life payment OR don't continuously fix (pain lands, Ash Barrens, and pathways). This is part of how I'm using my mana base to beef up aggro strategies without having to go overboard on my Savannah Lions count. I want to incentivize people to try the goofy EDH things that I love so much, so the fixing has to be pretty good, but I don't want everyone running 4C goodstuff, so there has to be a real downside to running fixing. Ideally, I want decks to average two colors and a splash, but I'm perfectly happy for there to be one or two 4C/5C decks in a pod. I'd also like there to be monocolor decks, but that's a tall order.

Why complete cycles?

I don't like colors being shoehorned into certain roles of aggro, control, midrange, etc. Each color should have distinct ways of playing aggro, control, etc., but they should all have some agency in each theater, so I don't want to artificially constrain my players from running Simic aggro. That being said, I'm perfectly happy to have some lands in each cycle be more or less valuable than others, largely because the lands have been chosen to have some peripheral bonuses (replacement effects for the horizon/bicycle lands and ramp/slot compression for bounce lands).

Bonus question: Why do you have 10x Ash Barrens?

I had a crazy idea about how to support the colorless Eldrazi without completely goofing up my draft: include the pain lands and a BUNCH of Ash Barrens, as each of those provide {c} while still remaining an attractive target for non-Eldrazi drafters. While I abandoned that plan as either a couple players went on a side quest or the Eldrazi were all last picks, a pleasant side effect is that having a bunch of Ash Barrens is that decks that wanted to thin the library, discard, get lands into the graveyard, and fix colors could do so regardless of color. Ash Barrens is a really cool card that subtly provides a lot of flexibility, and in many ways I like them a lot better than the monocolor cycling lands (Lonely Sandbar and company, much though I love their art).

Commander Legends

Generally speaking, I liked this set a lot. As it's Commander-focused, a lot of the coolest effects were strapped to creatures rather than artifacts or enchantments, and as I've stated before, I like the tension that comes from making effects vulnerable. Also, there are a lot more kill spells than artifact/enchantment destruction effects. However, a lot of new cards have Designed-For-Commander syndrome, as perhaps best exemplified by Nevinyrral, Urborg Tyrant. What a loveable mess of a card. Contrast this with Dargo, the Shipwrecker for a neat, self-contained package that enables and pays off all at once. My includes are relatively conservative, but I'm dedicated to adding and subtracting them as needed.


There is a bunch to go over here, but for now I'm just adding the Pathways. I'll be testing out more later. Some of the Gods are interesting (Halvar, God of Battle, Kaya the Inexorable, Esika, God of the Tree, Kardur's Vicious Return, Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider, and Niko Aris look interesting); a lot of these things aren't. I may go deep on foretell, or maybe I'll just have a few. We'll see, but overall I'm excited!

The Changes


WHITE--this is the big one.

Stoneforge Mystic -> Thalia's Lieutenant I like Relic Seeker better for a search effect, and I don't really have many equipment cards that need to be cheated out.
Mardu Woe-Reaper -> Dauntless Bodyguard Random graveyard hate is the worst kind of graveyard hate.
Gideon Blackblade -> Elspeth Tirel Maybe I want her to be Basri Ket instead? A 4/4 indestructable for 3 that hides from sorcery-speed removal is kind of obnoxious in this format. The issue with Basri is that he's pretty much only good when you're ahead.
Do-It-Yourself Seraph -> Captain of the Watch Another pet card gone, but replaced by a different pet card! Also is a GREAT follow-up to Elspeth, and I love the idea of 'micro-tribal'. If I was keeping God-Pharaoh's Gift, I'd keep the Seraph, but GPG is GRBS. If it made 3/3s I'd be happy, but wow is that card obnoxious.
Teferi's Protection -> Oketra's Monument Let's have something that will actually see play, shall we? I like Tef's Protection as a universal counterspell in White, but 3 mana is a lot for something that doesn't counter a threat.
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben -> Fiend Hunter I don't have a dedicated taxing theme, so it's got to go. Synergy rules, I guess.
Vesperlark -> Dust Elemental There just aren't that many targets for Vesperlark, unfortunately, but I love Dust Elemental. Maybe it'll be good?
Auriok Salvagers -> Galepowder Mage Uh, I just didn't include enough eggs, unfortunately.
Ondu Inversion -> Together Forever I was very impressed by Together Forever in my draft of Lady Mapi's Afternoon Delight (check it out! It's really good), and Inversion costs eight mana. Eight. It's the most expensive noncreature spell in the cube, and I already have a bunch of sweepers. If I want more sweepers, I'll find something cheaper.


Counterspell -> Wizard's Retort A classic, and a reason to play mono-blue, but counterspell is probably too good. Wizard's Retort seems reasonable, and is often Counterspell in the late game.
Cryptic Command -> Disallow Cryptic is a little too 'win out of nowhere' for me. I'd play it without the Sleep option.
Sublime Epiphany -> Archmage's Charm Stealing a token can be legit.
Faerie Vandal -> Faerie Seer Works way better with blink, and I no longer really support cycling here. Well, I kinda do, but I also kinda don't.

BLACK--No real substitutions here. See adds and removals for what I did.


Fiery Temper -> Wizard's Lightning I have 5 Wizards in Red and 8 in Blue, so it's entirely possible to build micro tribal, which is just the way I like it. Also, I only have two Madness cards, and Ichor Slick at least enables itself.
Earthshaker Khenra -> Song-Mad Treachery The first is mostly just good glue, and Red has a bunch of 2-drops.

GREEN--Just removals (see below). I'm probably happiest with Green as a color overall, but we'll see on Saturday!


All 10 pathways--been looking forward to this one! But I have to make some space.

Armix, Filigree Thrasher -- There's no point replacement here, but I wanted to try it! I like madness in Rakdos. (Yes, I know that this is in contrast with what I said earlier. I've redefined each of my guilds in an attempt to help out my drafters and will be posting that guide soon. For now, I'll tease you with the fact that I'm calling the Rakdos strategy "Mosh Pit.")

Vampire Nighthawk -- Now THIS is a nice Baneslayer! Again, there's no point replacement here.

Dargo, the Shipwrecker -- Reanimates nicely, works with Aristocrats, and fuels itself. What's not to love about the best boy?

Golos, Tireless Pilgrim -- Why didn't I have Happy Robot in my cube yet?

Skyscanner -- it's good filler.

Removals--literally just to make space for the Pathways. Well, that and I need my cube to work well over Cockatrice.

Veteran Explorer -- Wow, why did I include this? It's aggressive, it ramps, it's happy to tussle and lose, but I don't need us to jump from turn 2 straight into turn 5. That'll upend games waaaay too quickly for my tastes.

Traverse the Ulvenwald -- I don't support delirium, much though I love it. It's gotta go.

Burst Lightning -- I don't need half of my Red section dealing non-combat damage.

Volt Charge -- It's fine, I guess, and pretty nice in Gruul/Boros, but...yeah. Lots of burn and this was the one I got rid of. Maybe I should have cut Fiery Confluence instead, as this is more flavorful than that, but idk.

Ill-Gotten Gains -- it's a cute EDH card. Too slow for cube.

Blackmail -- yeah, no. It's a great idea for a more-balanced Thoughtseize, but I'd much rather run another Kitesail Freebooter variant.

Booster Tutor -- works poorly online.

Bitterblossom -- Bitterblossom was way too strong. I like it so much, but man, it's just disgustingly good.

Mirror Entity -- the face of GRBS, much though I love it. Bye.

Emeria's Call -- Kind of bad? An aggro deck isn't going to get there, and I don't have dedicated defensive options in White, so it's gone. After this weekend's draft, I'll take a step back and examine White's defensive options, as it's entirely possible that I've gutted the possibility of White control too much. Without these defensive options, this just won't come up.

Whirler Rogue -- Removal check, though she's great with Ninjutsu and Blink. I wish she just made the tokens; that would be perfect.

Into the Roil -- Blue is supposed to have issues getting rid of stuff; this gets rid of stuff (temporarily). Besides, my Blue removal is mostly stealing.

Is this the end? Well, yes and no. I'm eagerly looking over the cards from Kaldheim and I'm considering expanding my multicolor section now that I'm at 50 lands. (Zur the Enchanter and Siege Rhino are calling my name...) Green has too many creatures; I'd love to beat it back to 33 to leave White as the army color. I'd love to do a bit more with my artifact section: one of the main reasons for cutting DIY Seraph was because most of my artifacts are either equipment or eggs, and I miss giant edifices. I don't want to expand the cube much further than this, as we're seeing only 86% of it each draft without the Conspiracy cards. This feels reasonable, but I don't want to dilute it much more. Cuts are tough!

If you made it this far, let me point out a new card I want to make room for: Dingus Staff. Has anyone ever played this? Will I?? Find out at some point!
Drafted this:

WR Control

Deck looks gross to me. Assemble the Legion's the main wincon, any creature that lives is a finisher with Citadel Siege and Heirloom Blade. Approach of the Second Sun is a backup. The smaller creatures don't care if they die. Elspeth Tirel, Angel of Invention and Terror of the Peaks are just some removal checks to randomly win. And there's Fires of Invention! Deck might only be soft to blue control if they know exactly what they're doing.
Hey Japahn,

That was quick! I really appreciate the draft. I've noticed that both you and TrainmasterGT have drafted Boros control at various times. Why did you draft it? Did it seem exceptionally powerful? Did Boros aggro not come together? Are my gold cards especially control-focused? Or did it just seem neat? I really like the concept of Boros aggro, but I don't want it to push out other decks. That is, yeah, this does look gross, but if everything else is gross too I'm down with it.
I wouldn't read much into the choice of colors, cube cobra bots skew away from WR in all cubes.

What led me to Boros was the card quality of the 4-5 drops combined with abundance of red removal, which makes it easy for a deck to get to 4-5 mana without pressure. Theoretically :)
That's really good to know about the bots! And good to know that the top end is attractive enough.

I've been wondering about the number of burn spells--by my last count I had 13, and lost one in this update, so maybe you getting 6 can be written off as an anomaly, what with the bots undervaluing red. I'll let you know how things shake out on Sunday!
I had the joy and privilege of having my cube drafted last weekend with a full 8-person pod, and it was awesome. I owe a huge thank you to the other seven folks who helped me draft and to everyone else here who has helped me get this cube to where it is today. Now, the part we're really here for: the nit-picking!

Overall, the cube played out just about how I'd hoped it would: synergy-driven fun that collided in unexpected ways, with a lot of cool cards that individually made people 'ooh' and 'ahh' during the draft. I'm very happy with the power level balance and especially with the removal suite, and I'm happy that everyone wound up with a more-or-less reasonable deck. There were some false flag archetypes--namely cycling, madness, and lands--which I need to either beef up or cut altogether, and some glaring omissions in graveyard hate, but they didn't seem to spoil anyone's experience.

The Damage Report

My apologies for the images, I'll slowly replace the jpegs with proper decklists as time permits.

Starting things off is the Jund graveyard-focused pile from the only other cube cultivator in the group, an inveterate Johnny and EDH player (his cube, for reference: Also known for EDH decks like 5C Big Fling: He managed to turn Worm Harvest into big game, and noted that Seasons Past works really well in this environment. His suggestions, which were really helpful, included both adding some GY hate and also helping the lands theme shine through a little more. Also, he noted that creatures seem a little smaller than in most cubes, which is actually about where I'd hoped we'd be--I may be able to beef up the top end of things a bit, meaning that I've been disciplined about supporting aggro!

This Temur value stack was driven by my best mate, another goofy EDH guy, who reluctantly loved Jace, the Mirror Mage. (I told you it was good!) He was also able to tell me that yes, Terror of the Peaks is not just broken but is in fact stupidly broken. (I, uh, hmmm. Yeah.) He also loves assembling combos, but felt that Madness just wasn't quite there (granted, I'm not supporting Madness, but I probably should). He's love to see me double up on Hollow Ones or Flameblade Adepts, and I can't disagree. (Pathways are missing and are U/R, G/U, and R/G. Someone got hooked up! In general, pathways felt very good to play, even though Cockatrice isn't happy about handling them.)

This Boros aggro deck was a bit unfocused, likely due to not getting nearly enough 1-drops--apparently we were fighting over aggro pretty hard. The standout combo here was Basilisk Collar and Solemn Recruit, which pretty routinely got to 10/10 or greater thanks to Lightning Berserker. This led to a 2-hour match versus the following deck. (Missing: Rimrock Knight // Boulder Rush.)

Simic value pile? Yes please. Elixir of Immortality was the other culprit in making matches last forever, and is going to be cut very, very quickly. I had thought it might be fun. (Narrator: it wasn't.) A high point in that 2-hour match was the combo of Ridgescale Tusker + Hardened Scales + Oran-Rief Ooze + Saheeli, Sublime Artificer giving their entire board (flooded with Eldrazi Spawn from Awakening Zone) 6 +1/+1 counters for exactsies.\

(Missing: Kazandu Mammoth // Kazandu Valley and Jwari Disruption // Jwari Ruins)




Another Boros deck, you say? Wild.

In all seriousness, this deck is probably why the other Boros deck failed to come together, which is a reason I'm totally okay with. Standouts here included Bloodforged Battle-Axe and Ranger-Captain of Eos. The pilot noted that Dusk // Dawn is oftentimes mediocre on the front end when most creatures are so small, which is in line with what the Jund player was saying. Maybe the number of small creatures is part of why games last so long?


The ninjutsu deck came together! It's very exciting to see an archetype pop up 'as intended,' though some key ninjas got stolen by yours truly. The pilot was drawn to Fallen Shinobi, as their very first EDH deck was helmed by Yuriko, and managed to build this beauty (and do pretty dang well, iirc). One card that was mediocre for them was Mardu Strike Leader, though I'm wondering if that might not be a case of a) being in the wrong deck and b) additive distraction--he reported that dash and ninjutsu felt like a nonbo, but the correct play may have just been to hard cast it, as you'd still get the 2/1 when it attacks, boosting the damage even when you bounce it while making it harder to block everything.

Finally, here's my decklist! UW blink may be a touch overtuned, and I had thought it would be weak (spoiler alert: it is not weak at all. Blinking Captain of the Watch is really good.) Here's where the other ninjas went, mostly.

(Not displayed well: Kabira Takedown // Kabira Plateau, Sejiri Shelter // Sejiri Glacier,
Clearwater Pathway // Murkwater Pathway, and Hengegate Pathway // Mistgate Pathway.)

And that's it, with the exception of a 5C Golos deck I'm still waiting on the list for! I'll be writing up another post shortly on what changes I'm making as a result of this.

The Golos deck has arrived!

Missing: Darkbore Pathway // Slitherbore Pathway, Shatterskull Smashing // Shatterskull, the Hammer Pass, and Tangled Florahedron // Tangled Vale.
Lessons Learned

My Group and How I Got Feedback

My group is a bit bimodal in terms of their drafting experience: four of us, (Myself/Esper, Temur, Jund, and Golos) have a fair bit of draft experience, whereas the other four of us (Lucky Boros, Unlucky Boros, Ninjas, and Simic) tend to have less draft experience, with at least two of them (Unlucky Boros and Ninjas) having drafted fewer than a half-dozen times each! They did a fantastic job, and I'm so glad they're still talking to me <3. Because we're not all draft-focused, I chose to ask each member to share:

1) the card that overperformed the most from their deck,
2) the card they disliked seeing the most, whether it was an underperformer, a disappointment, or GRBS, and
3) the card that was the most fun to play (with or against)

This seems to be a pretty concise way of getting feedback in a way that is both manageable for people who aren't intimately familiar with this cube/cube in general and lets my drafters have direct input on how to make it better for next time. Does anyone else have feedback forms that work with drafters with a wide range of experience levels? If so, I'd love to hear about them! I also solicited more detailed feedback from the three other experienced drafters.

Color Fixing and Color Balance

Remember how the experienced drafters went for an average of 3+ colors and the less-experienced drafters stuck entirely to 2-color pairs? I think it's indicative of a multicolor soup simmering, and it's one that more technical drafters can exploit. This problem becomes clearer when you consider that a couple of the less-experienced drafters explicitly stated that their draft style is "find a color pair and stick with it." Sure, this is probably part of the reason why the 3C decks wound up with a bunch of fixing, but in the average pool there's going to be roughly 34 "true" dual lands and 8.6 Ash Barrens, for a total of 43 land-based sources of fixing. or 5.3 fixers per player before counting spells, eggs, or MDFCs. Jinkies.

So what am I doing about the potential for soup? With a heavy heart, I am discarding both the pain lands and the Ash Barrens, even though I wrote a love song to them just over a week ago. This package was originally intended to support the colorless-costing Eldrazi without warping the rest of the cube and it works really well at that, but when I pivoted away from including that these lands lost their purpose. If they're not serving the overall purpose of the cube, they must go. But on the bright side, I now have 20 more slots to work with! (Side note: I'm happy with 420 cards as it allows me to run quite a few Conspiracy/Un cards that require more cards, but I don't include those online as they don't really work over Cockatrice. The variance is nice too, but I may like 400 better than 420.)

The other problem here is Blue. As the other Cube cultivator pointed out, my environment is very low to the ground. This is great for a lot of things, but one thing that it disadvantages is counterspells, especially taxing counterspells, and for a Blue section that's almost 1/5 counterspells this is bad news. To break this down, counterspells become bad when they trade down on mana, so having things being low is bad for counterspells in general, and when you're playing more things for less mana each, there are fewer windows for taxing counterspells to be effective. I think I have to raise some curves a little bit, or, if I insist on keeping CMCs low, I need to raise the power of counterspells quite a bit. I'm not interested in getting into an arms race à la MTGO cubes, so raising CMCs is what's going to have to happen. (For context, raising the power level of counterspells, while technically possible to do without raising the overall powerlevel, is liable to push out less-efficient threats. Generally speaking, I tend to not enjoy the most efficient threats because a lot of them are intentionally difficult to interact with, or interacting with them is pointless as they've already done their job. If I'm already committed to less-efficient threats, I may as well make the rest of the cube less efficient too, right? ;) )

Too Much Aggro Support?


The Blue issue brings me to this question: is it even possible to over-support aggro?? I might have done that, or at least balanced my environment such that traditional control isn't really possible. I think that rebalancing the macro-archetypes is also a reason to shift things up the curve very slightly, so that's another good reason to not just increase power on my counterspells. I've also been very cautious about including anything resembling a wall, so to walk back that decision I'll sprinkle in one or two defensive options in each color and go from there. While Wall of Blossoms isn't something I'm interested in, Thing in the Ice looks very, very nice. Of course, I'll have to think about power/toughness breakpoints, which will change the balance of removal, at least in Red . . . . ugh, why did we pick a hobby in which everything's interconnected? I'm thinking roughly one 1/3 and one X/4 per color might help, but we'll see.

Relevant additions I'm considering (I'll swap in a maximum of two per color, but these are what interest me right now): Thing in the Ice, Baral, Chief of Compliance, Kami of the Crescent Moon, Atzocan Archer, Weaver of Lightning, Ghitu Chronicler, Reckless Fireweaver, Thermo-Alchemist, Vorel of the Hull Clade, Jeskai Barricade, Anointer Priest, Skyclave Cleric // Skyclave Basilica, Graveblade Marauder, Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose.

False Signposting--Madness, Lands, Prowess, and Cycling

An issuethat each of my three other experienced drafters faced was at least one false signpost. Specifically, they felt that Madness, Lands (in the graveyard or otherwise), Prowess, and Cycling felt undersupported. It's worth noting that I don't support Madness or Cycling as full archetypes, but it felt to my drafters as if I supported it, so I either have to cut away the parts that seem to support that or go all-in on supporting them. I did support each of these themes in previous versions of this cube, so that's probably what's going on here. Lands seems easy to support, but Cycling, Prowess, and Madness each have their own difficulties. In reverse order, and therefore in the order of decreasing confidence of how to treat them, I'm going to address each.

Madness--On the surface, Madness is a parasitic A + B theme, in which you play cards that say "Madness" and cards that say "discard a card." This is made more difficult by the fact that there are roughly half a dozen Madness cards that are tolerable both for the Madness cost and for their normal cost, and that they're spread pretty evenly across four colors. However, the space opens up a lot when you realize that a bunch of different mechanics play well with Madness: Aftermath, Flashback, Delve, Scavenge, Jump-Start, Delirium, and Dredge, just to name a few. Didn't find that W splash for Start // Finish? Dump it and remove something! I'll be updating the cube to include a dozen or so new cards with these keywords, maybe more.

Side note: the other cube cultivator mentioned that there's no GY hate. I'm going to add in at least one option per color, as well as a couple artifacts, but my big fear is that people won't snag them unless they realize that graveyard-based decks are Big Game in this format. Basing balance around silver bullets seems dicey, but if I include some "accidental" hate that should take care of it.

Prowess--There are not a lot of cards that have the word Prowess on them, but, similar to the Madness issue, a bunch of related cards like Murmuring Mystic and Weaver of Lightning play really well with Prowess. However, there aren't as many options, so I'm wondering if I mightn't be better served by having something different in Izzet.

Cycling--What do you know, Cycling is even narrower than Prowess! Anything that triggers on discard is fair game, but there aren't as many of them. Do I keep the cycling payoffs, such as they are, or do they overlap enough with Madness that I can keep them in? I think I may need more Flameblade Adepts and Hollow Ones. . .

. . .

Blink--Okay, not an issue with signposting, but it's potentially a balance issue. I overshot the mark on Blink, but I think I don't have enough enablers. Is "return to your hand" an acceptable substitute with blink? Also, is the Kor Skyfisher + Oketra's Monument combo tolerable, or is it GRBS? So many questions.

Cleanup Step

I have some actual swaps to make and discuss, but it's getting towards my bedtime, so in my usual fashion I'm going to say I'll do it later this week and not get to it until March. Until then, thanks for reading!
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