Simplicity Cube

I've had the nagging feeling that this cube has too many wordy cards, too many tokens, and some unneeded keywords for a cube that purports to be as simple as possible. But it seems to be balanced enough to be worth keeping around, so I made a new ultra simple version that addresses my gripes.

This version has no tokens, no library searching, no keywords except the evergreen ones, and the cards have less text in general. There's not much extra junk in the rules text here, and I tried to favor cards with better names and flavor. This trades off some of the strategy possibilities for a less cluttered experience for brand new players. I find it nice to view the visual spoiler and see mostly clean cards.
just did a draft and i think you’re really onto something here. with the Beginner version that is.
cards are simple but don’t feel weak.
i was able to dip into an archetype without having to put my draft on rails.
fixing was just plentiful enough to consider splashing a third color.
there are Bombs, Removal, and Evasion, but the bombs feel fair and the removal isn’t crazy pushed.
overall i would absolutely draft this format if it was featured on MTGO, it’s clean, engaging, and just really solid. your patience and discipline in cultivating the environment are really showing here.

that said, a note about the manabase. i think you should cut the Thriving lands as they can create a memory issue that goes against the spirit of the cube. i’d recommend doubling up on the trilands instead. they are very good for your 2 color decks and enable a 1-card splash in a third color.

i will definitely be drafting this again. thanks for sharing it!
Thanks for the kind words! Ok, I'll go with two sets of tri-lands. I was trying to increase the number of lands that can support a given 2 color deck, but having 20 tri-lands is probably a good setup. I suppose that also supports more of a normal draft experience for teaching purposes.

I've had some 2 and 3 player Simplicity tests, but not a 4 player draft yet. Plans keep getting pushed back, but I think I'll be able to get that together sooner or later and get some actual results to look at. If you want to attempt an MTGO draft with this cube, you can PM me an email address and we can attempt to make something happen. I have 4 accounts with copies of cubes, so I'm able to host.
that said, a note about the manabase. i think you should cut the Thriving lands as they can create a memory issue that goes against the spirit of the cube. i’d recommend doubling up on the trilands instead. they are very good for your 2 color decks and enable a 1-card splash in a third color.

I am thinking of using colored beads or just printing laminated labels to use with the Thriving lands; just something in the token/dice cube peripherals. There is no need to leave the choice for memory to recall. :)
one more thing after doing a couple more drafts...

This card seems out of place. very opponent-specific text that’s usually trinket text.
i assume what you’re trying to signal is a Ferocious/Stompy archetype? here are some suggestions:

EDIT: added Leafkin Avenger even though the “or planeswalker” is a bit awkward. rest of the card seems perfect.
You're not wrong. I was just looking for good enough stats to pull somebody into the colors, but really, 4/4 for 4 mana is still fine in this cube. I'll switch to the Raging Regisaur. That's a pretty good card design that would probably be good in any RG deck this format can muster. I overlooked Leafkin Avenger when I was digging for Gruul cards. That's not a bad choice, either. I think Raging Regisaur's ping ability will figure into more games, so I'll go with that.
I've updated a few things in the beginner cube.

Disenchant is always a sideboard card, and the number of important targets isn't that big. Replacing with Guided Strike.

Kitesail Freebooter has 7 lines of rules text and flavor isn't especially resonant. Replacing with Gurmag Swiftwing, which seems versatile enough to help on both offense and defense for some decks.
a) One Toughness Creatures: I found that each color has around 7 creatures with toughness=1. Except red, which has only two. Red shouldn't be the color with higher toughness creatures.

b) Prowess Variants: Some "spells matters" cards are "noncreature" while others are "instant or sorcery." This is potentially confusing, so I'm addressing that by removing Weaver of Lightning and Kiln Fiend to standardize around "noncreature."

c) Goblins: I only have three other goblins, so that's why there's no tribal lord. But I'd like to remedy that and support goblins.

Weaver of Lightning -> Goblin Skycutter
Kiln Fiend -> Lightning Visionary
Borderland Marauder -> Ornery Goblin
Cunning Sparkmage -> Spikeshot Goblin (Too bad... I really like Cunning Sparkmage)
Dismissive Pyromancer -> Goblin Chieftain

There are a few other irksome things that aren't going to get fixed right now.
  • I'd like to eliminate the two legendary cards, and their hideous borders with them, but I like both cards: Syr Alin, the Lion's Claw and Judith, the Scourge Diva.
  • I'd like a white utility creature that can deal with enchantments and artifacts to replace Disenchant, but I don't like the options. I could do Rambunctious Mutt to replace Syr Alin. That could work, but it seems a bit too weak for 5 mana.
  • Watermarks: the cube has four that would be nice to eliminate.
  • Spell Queller is the only card with the words "converted mana cost." It would be cool to have zero of those, but the card is too suitable to cut.
  • Heartfire Immolator is the only card with "planeswalker" in its rules text. It would be great to eliminate every instance of the p-word, but I think I want to keep this card. (Trample rules explanation text also has the p-word)
  • Three snow cards
  • One foil: Confiscate, which is only available in black border and modern frame/rules text in 9ED foil. So I bought the foil, but it's unsurprisingly a bit curled, and as a foil it stands out a bit.
  • A bit of block specific cruddy flavor: Hand of Silumgar and Umara Entangler
  • Gingerbrute is useful, but it would be better without the life gain ability and if its flavor was something more badass than a cookie.
  • Goblin Guide's land reveal ability is annoying. I could switch that to a weaker, but cooler, goblin.
I tried a couple drafts, and I liked the list very much!
I too am a big fan of simplicity, so I appreciate what you are trying to accomplish. It's funny how difficult it is to make things look simple :D

I think you have a very solid list, and I like many of your choices.
The biggest issue I see is that Black feels very strong, compared to the other colours. The number of rares is a good proxy to notice this: there are 9 in Black, while Blue (which is on the opposite side of the spectrum) has 3. Moreover, Black has multiple repeatable card-advantage tools that require no mana investment. I think all of this makes the colour much more powerful than the others: in one of my drafts, I basically rare-drafted Black bombs and ended up with a very respectable control deck.

I would also try and include more ways to interact with the graveyard: at present, I think only White has some ways to exile cards. This is another way in which Black is advantaged, as the other colours cannot really disrupt its recursive elements. Cards like Incendiary Flow, Return to Nature and Dissipate can help a lot in this regard, and they are not particularly wordy or hard to understand.

Talking about specific card choices, these are some ideas that come to mind:

  • Master of Diversion is only slightly worse than Territorial Hammerskull, but it's a Human for Perimeter Sergeant. Not sure which is better, just putting this out
  • Maybe try something like Mentor of the Meek in White? There's zero card draw at the moment, and Mentor plays well with what you are trying to do in that colour
  • If you want a versatile creature in White to deal with artifacts and enchantments, Mangara of Corondor is a good option. If you had some more instant-speed blink and bounce effect, it could even become an engine. Not sure you'd want that, though :p
  • I think Fortify is much more versatile than Righteous Charge, it's a combat trick when you need to close the game and a protection spell for your entire team
  • Thought Courier over Merfolk Looter? It will rarely come up, but it's a Human for Perimeter Sergeant, and there's no downside to the swap
  • I would go with either Aether Adept or Man-o'-War over Exclusion Mage. There could be cases when bouncing your own stuff is the right call (getting rid of Pacifism, or getting another ETB trigger - you have a lot of those). Newer players may not realise this at first, but when they do, it will be a true 'eureka' moment. Worth the swap, I think :)
  • Leapfrog still has the "instant or sorcery" text you wanted to remove. I can't think of any obvious replacements, maybe Elusive Spellfist?
  • Waker of Waves is quite wordy, but it's a versatile card with built-in reanimation synergy
  • I like Fell Specter a lot, maybe as a replacement for Hypnotic Specter to cut a rare? You play some other discard spells too, so it can be a fun build-around
  • I agree Crux of Fate is not super elegant. I am a fan of Extinction Event in this spot. It forces a player to plan ahead, so it could be a good learning experience for your drafters. The exile clause makes it not ideal for decks focusing on graveyard recursion, though
  • I think Phyrexian Arena is way too strong. The investment in mana and life is minimal, and enchantments are hard to interact with. If you really want this type of effect, at least make it a Dark Tutelage or, even better, one of the many creatures with card draw stapled on them
  • Goblin Guide is really, really strong
  • Spikeshot Goblin was a true powerhouse in Mirrodin limited, and I think it's very good also here. You have a lot of X/1's, and multiple equipmens that can increase the Goblin's reach. Curiosity is a mini-combo, too. Not that there's anything wrong with this, just pointing out that this little guy is much better than it may seem
  • Rancor is a very strong card, especially in a world of X/1s that make trample even more relevant. I think it produces unfun play patterns, but this is quite personal I guess
  • Heraldic Banner could be a good replacement for Coldsteel Heart, if you want to cut Snow permanents. Slightly more expensive, but the extra utility makes it desirable for more decks
I hope this wall of text doesn't give you the impression that I dislike your current list. It's quite the opposite, I think it's well crafted and interesting, so I just tried to help iron out some things that I think could make it even better. Hope it helps :)
Thanks for this feedback - that gives me some useful stuff to chew on. I have to process a few of those things, but here are some initial reactions.

Master of Diversions is something I had considered at one point and then forgotten to switch in. I like its flavor better than a dinosaur that rams into things.

In the case of Thought Courier and Merfolk Looter, I prefer the card that is more well known. More players would recognize Merfolk Looter, and it's also the source of the MtG verb "loot." It's a nice little teaching bonus.

This familiarity bias is why I included Phyrexian Arena against my better judgment, but you are correct that the card is too much for this environment. It's great when non-diehard players recognize cards they've seen before, and it's also nice to expose newer players to cards they're likely to see again if they continue dabbling in MTG. For now that's replaced with Ambition's Cost as a placeholder. That could also be Skeletal Scrying, Read the Bones, Damnable Pact, or maybe Harrowing Journey, or I could go another direction since it's a bit redundant with Night's Whisper. Phyrexian Arena was meant to represent the "life for cards" flavor and function of black. I'm half tempted to run Demonic Pact, since it doesn't break any of my guidelines apart from being a little wordy... but, no.

Staff of Nin is the only remaining card with the word "upkeep" with Arena gone, and I can't resist the chance to eliminate a pesky vocabulary term. The replacement card I want doesn't exist. I think I'll go with Darksteel Pendant, despite its flaws. All of these are in the right neighborhood, but none are what I want:
Arcane Encyclopedia (nice design, too weak)
Crystal Ball (nice design, too strong)
Sunset Pyramid
Seer's Lantern
Endless Atlas
Eventually they'll print something better that I can use.

I might go with Spikeshot Elder and take out both Goblin Guide and Spikeshot Goblin. The more expensive activation cost should make that less risky, right?

I have Deadly Tempest in for Crux of Fate. Extinction Event would work too, but even/odd cmc is a mechanic that I would rather avoid for this cube. Extinction event could be an asymmetrical wrath often enough to be a little too powerful, similar to Languish.

I need to think more on black power level, black rares, graveyard stuff, and instant/sorcery stuff.
Staff of Nin is the only remaining card with the word "upkeep" with Arena gone, and I can't resist the chance to eliminate a pesky vocabulary term. The replacement card I want doesn't exist. I think I'll go with Darksteel Pendant, despite its flaws. All of these are in the right neighborhood, but none are what I want:
Arcane Encyclopedia (nice design, too weak)
Crystal Ball (nice design, too strong)
Sunset Pyramid
Seer's Lantern
Endless Atlas
Eventually they'll print something better that I can use.

Have you considered Mazemind Tome for this slot? I guess the use of counters makes it a no for your list, but I've been very impressed playing with the card on Arena. It has an 'expiry date' and you actually need to invest mana to get card advantage, so it feels balanced.
It's probably a bit wordy for your list's standards, but I think the wording is quite straightforward.

Since you care about evocativeness in your card choices, Jayemdae Tome could also be a choice with classic MtG vibes. But it's strictly worse than Arcane Encyclopedia, which you consider too weak, so I think the Tome wouldn't make the cut either. I guess this speaks volumes (pun intended :rolleyes:) on the power creep we've seen over the years.

I might go with Spikeshot Elder and take out both Goblin Guide and Spikeshot Goblin. The more expensive activation cost should make that less risky, right?
Yes, I think so!
I've been grappling with the graveyard challenge with black. I like the graveyard theme, but facing off against Gutterbones or Gravecrawler or even Reassembling Skeleton would get frustrating with Death Baron in play to give them deathtouch. So at a minimum, I'm switching to Lord of the Accursed to tone that down. I also find Gutterbones to be unappealing in flavor and wordiness, so I think that needs to go. Those two changes might be enough to make the presence of the recursive creatures a non-issue, because an opponent can make blockers to deal with it up to a point.

I switched in two "exile" cards over "scry 1" cards, but I probably like it better the other way. The Scry cards are less wordy and scry is relevant more often and provides the deck consistency bonus.

Broken Wings is good enough to throw in the main deck with all the flying creatures in this cube, and green needs ways to deal with fliers. Return to Nature is a sideboard card, and I don't want sideboard cards. New players will main deck them and lose games.

Loaming Shaman would be an acceptable addition in green.

Maybe changing from zombies to vampires would be good for black. This would shift focus away from the graveyard somewhat and move it to some combination of aristocrats, life gain, or just a more vanilla aggro style, depending on card choices. I think a very beginner friendly strategy could be put together based on vampires, but it would require an overhaul of black. I'm considering it. Some suitable cards are available:

I'm going to figure out what an actual Zombies to Vampires update might look like and try to figure out which way I like it better.
I gave the vampire update a try:
Gutterbones -> Vampire Lacerator ("upkeep"... dammit)
Gravecrawler -> Vampire of the Dire Moon
Shambling Ghoul -> Child of Night
Royal Assassin -> Blood Artist
Cursed Minotaur->Marauding Blight-Priest
Death Baron/Lord of the Accursed-> Thirsting Bloodlord
Searchlight Geist->Nocturnal Feeder
Ambition's Cost->Essence Extraction

This makes black a little weaker, but I'm mostly okay with the cards I'm losing. Adding the life theme seems pretty beginner friendly, and there's still some graveyard stuff in black.

I could also do Ghoulsteed -> Champion of Dusk, but I think I like Ghoulsteed.

Other changes:
Darksteel Pendant -> Spare Supplies (I'm okay with this, I believe; also, maybe Jalum Tome)
Thrashing Brontodon -> Loaming Shaman
Gingerbrute -> Hope of Ghirapur -> Filigree Familiar -> Perilous Myr -> ????
Spined Megalodon -> Waker of Waves
Reading what other people write makes me find more flaws.

Reversing course on parasitic tribal: I changed my mind and took out Goblin Chieftain and Thirsting Bloodlord. I went back to Champion of Dusk, which is fine on its own and even better with an extra vampire. Goblins don't have a tribal payoff now, but red gets an improvement in creature quality and agency:
Goblin Chieftain --> Destructive Digger
Goblin Skycutter --> Burning-Fist Minotaur
Ornery Goblin --> Dismissive Pyromancer

Elvish Archdruid stayed in since it does something in the absence of other elves. Perimeter Sergeant is also ok on its own. Both cards start to be pretty decent with even one other member of the tribe.

Too much blue card draw / selection: I looked at blue and realized half the cards draw and scry and loot. I reduced that a bit, but it's probably still too much. I also noticed that I had two vanilla bounce spells, which is one too many.

Spectral Sailor --> Siren Stormtamer
Curiosity --> Diminish
Disperse --> Time Warp

How about Time Warp for some variety of blue effects while keeping things simple? I think that could actually work in this cube.

Large Red Creatures: After reading Charging Monstrosaur and Trample, which specifically compares Charging Monstrosaur to Lava Axe, I feel torn. Charging Monstrosaur is awesome, but I don't think this beginner cube needs something that strong in this slot. Here's what I went with for now:

Charging Monstrosaur --> Wayward Giant
Goblin Bombardment --> Havoc Devils

This gives red one more card in the 4-5 CC range, where it only had 3 cards before. I've looked at 5CC creatures in red, such as Havoc Jester, and they always look awful next to Charging Monstrosaur. Goblin Bombardment is limited by the lack of tokens and because some of red's creatures already sacrifice themselves. Also, I had previously swapped Judith, the Scourge Diva for Blazing Hellhound to rid the cube of a legend and a watermark, so that means this type of sacrifice effect is still present. In this environment, having that effect attached to a black-red creature makes more sense than having a red enchantment that doesn't do anything else.

Random side note: I played a few games with my daughter using decks from Beginner Cube, and she top-decked a Lava Axe for the win in one of them. I made sure to buy a version of the card with the "Catch!" flavor text, and it was entertaining to me when she read that out loud to herself as she was reading the card for the first time.

Green Creatures: Related to the trample topic, I decided I wanted one of the big green creatures not to have trample for the sake of varied gameplay.

Pelakka Wurm --> Skysnare Spider

It was either that or Scaled Behemoth, which would offer a different sort of variety. I like the contrast of one big green creature with good evasion and another one that's harder to get rid of. Skysnare Spider seems pretty nice, though. A player who's getting chipped away by fliers or whatever will be able to stabilize and start hitting back while still defending. Also, I like having a spider with reach for flavor and history reasons. I'd consider Sentinel Spider over Somberwald Stag or Temur Sabertooth if I take out Skysnare Spider.

Artifact Card Draw / Selection:
Spare Supplies --> Bag of Holding
Explosive Apparatus --> Seer's Lantern

I changed my mind and decided those two are too weak, even for this cube. Bag of Holding is wordy, but it's just hard to justify Jalem Tome for 3 when Bag of Holding costs one. Bag of Holding has the D&D resonance, and I'm hoping the upcoming D&D core set will offer more good stuff in that vein. Anyway, colorless card selection seems like a good thing, so I'm going with two instead of one.

To Do:
These changes are just some cleanup I've been meaning to do. What I really want to do moving forward is develop a larger companion cube that adds complexity to this one, including the use of Occasionals. This cube would still treat complexity as a resource to be used appropriately, but it can include tokens, counters, more keywords, and some wordier cards up to a point. If the bigger cube uses a large number of cards from the Beginner Cube, it won't be that hard for a novice play group to make the jump. And then the Occasionals can include some good cards with oddball keywords, which is less of an issue there since it won't result in every pack you open having five new keywords you've never heard of. I've given some thought to how this cube can be approached. My next step is to go through the available cube archetypes and try to figure out which ones offer the best ratio of fun to complexity.
I was thinking about Pigment Storm as I look through the full Stryxhaven spoiler. It seems to me that a red "trample" damage spell that targets a creature is a really nice lenticular design. I think my cube can handle a 5 mana spell for 5 damage, but 5 mana is on the high side, and the idea of magical art supplies dealing more damage than fire and lightning is pretty lame.

Then I looked back and found this card again:
Now that's a card I can get behind. The card title nicely explains the rules text. It's a 4 damage removal to add variety to the usual 2 and 3 damage burn spells. And it offers some different game play compared to a bolt.

If you're an aggro player who draws this early, you have to figure out how it fits into your plans. It might be your finisher to get the last 3 points of damage, or it might clear the most troubling blocker. If you want to use it for reach at the end of the game, you have to try to engineer a situation where the opponent still has an x/1 creature on the board OR a creature with enough damage on it after blocking to allow 3 points of damage to spill through. It might be an edge case, but there are definitely some times when you'd have to consider whether you want to play this before blockers or after blockers, depending on whether life totals or creatures on the board are more important. The opponent can respond to Flame Spill by pumping their creature or removing it, so a swingy finish to the game is very possible.
I've worked toward a bigger version of my cube that is less geared toward beginners.

I'm adding keywords (sparingly) and trying to nail down some archetypes.

Which keywords? I considered this first since it influences the archetype selection, but the archetypes will also influence the keywords.
Easy Choice #1: Cycling. Over 200 cards printed. Cycling smooths draws, is easy to understand, offers some player agency, and interacts with archetypes a bit.
Easy Choice #2: Flashback. Over 100 cards printed. Flashback offers a mana sink, it interacts nicely with self mill and spells strategies.
Assorted mechanics that are in this initial list or which I've looked into:
Kicker, Exert, Morbid, Heroic, Changeling, Fabricate, Madness, Magecraft, Totem Armor, Investigate
Under consideration: Vehicles/Crew. A few of these could be nice, but the interaction between equipment and vehicles is awkward.
Triangle Archetypes

In general I want archetypes that span 3+ colors. Ideally, I'd like potential for overlap between some of the triangles. Ideally all or most two color combinations would have more than one triangle archetype available to get into. In my head, this type of setup would make the drafting process more open ended, allowing for nice variety within each combination of 2-3 colors.
My work in progress is setup with these archetypes in mind:
{W}{R}{G} Heroic / Berserker / Go Tall
{B}{R}{W} Sacrifice / Aristocrats / Stax
{U}{B}{G} Graveyard / Self-Mill
{U}{B}{G}{R} Madness / Discard / Cycling
{U}{R}{W} Spells / Prowess
{W}{U}{R} Artifacts / Equipment

Some of the color combinations don't have a lot going on, so some two color archetypes can fill in:
{W}{B} Life gain
{W}{U} Blink
{R}{W} Tokens / Go Wide

Things I like with this setup:
  • Spells can overlap with Berserkers/Heroic
  • Artifacts / Equipment can overlap with Berserkers/Heroic
  • Sacrifice is a solid archetype - plenty of tools to support it at the desired power level
Issues with the setup:
  • The triangles don't form a nice, perfect set of five trios that represent each color three times. Most troublingly, UG doesn't fit into the picture very well.
  • Artifacts is a hard theme to figure out how to support properly.
  • The graveyard themes and the distinction between them are muddy.
  • I can't figure out if green should be in on the tokens/sacrifice stuff. I changed the sacrifice triangle from {B}{R}{G} to {B}{R}{W} to even out the triangle coverage a bit, so white needs updates now.
  • Green is pulled in many directions: sacrifice, go tall, graveyard self mill, discard/madness. It is capable of being a player in all of those areas, but I think I have some work to do with this color. It might have too much grindy value stuff right now.
Getting started on this has been surprisingly tough, because I've run into some sort of dead end for each combination of archetypes I've considered. At least this is a start.
That sounds a structure pretty similar to my cube.

I've tried to rearrange my triangles into some sort of symmetrical combination, but it's very, very hard. In your setup, white, blue and red have a ton of archetypes, but green and black don't. You run the risk of having them become insular because graveyard and madness are so interlinked and make up a large part of both colors.

I ran into the same problem with UG - I currently have it as a UG Flash only that has part in no other archetypes. The easiest archetypes for UG in a triangle/tetra is definitely graveyard, and the self-mill / discard / cycling / reanimator distinction is really blurry, and I also had trouble making sense of it.

My green section is pretty stretched to cover:
  • G Elves
  • BRG Sacrifice
  • WBG Counters
  • WRG Tokens
  • Gx Ramp
  • UG Flash
I tried to cram in graveyard back because I really like UG/RG Madness, but the green madness cards are pretty narrow and not dense enough to be a part of the other decks.

I make the distinction between WRG Tokens and BRG Sacrifice because I think they are actually different decks, though they share a ton of cards.

Green Sacrifice:

Green Tokens:

It might be worth keeping green in the tokens/stax/sacrifice/wide cluster to have stronger bridges between green and white/red, but it could stretch it too thin.

One thing I do to organize archetypes is a table like this:
That sounds a structure pretty similar to my cube.

Oh, it certainly is.

The archetype setup I chose has enough issues that I decided to take a systematic look at the challenge of creating five balanced triangle archetypes. There are twelve ways to combine the colors into five color-balanced triangles. Using those possibilities and a list of the viable triangle archetypes for each shard and wedge, one should be able to tease out a balanced set of triangles.

Esper{W}{U}{B} Artifacts, ETB/Blink
Grixis{U}{B}{R} Madness
Jund{B}{R}{G} Sacrifice
Naya{R}{G}{W} Tokens/Wide, Berserkers/Tall/Heroic
Bant{G}{W}{U} ETB/Blink, Counters
Jeskai{W}{U}{R} Spells, Artifacts
Sultai{U}{B}{G} Graveyard, Counters
Mardu{B}{R}{W} Sacrifice/Stax
Temur{R}{G}{U} Counters? Madness?
Abzan{G}{W}{B} Counters

Ideally each triangle has three distinct two color decks that are all playable, just like the archetype shapes article mentions. Some triangles have more appealing options than others. This thread is a nice discussion of the triangles. I've dismissed some known archetypes, such as lands and enchantments. I don't see those as good fits, but I could be wrong.

Triangles I feel least confident with:
Esper, Bant, Abzan, and Temur

Triangles I feel best about:
Naya, Jeskai, Jund, Grixis, Sultai

If I have both Jund and Mardu, I don't want two sacrifice archetypes.
If I have both Sultai and Grixis, I don't want Graveyard + Madness. (I think.)

Here's a set that looks appealing, except that Esper Artifacts seems a weak link - especially the blank portion of Esper.
Esper{W}{U}{B} Artifacts
Jund{B}{R}{G} Sacrifice
Naya{R}{G}{W} Berserkers/Heroic/Tall
Jeskai{W}{U}{R} Spells
Sultai{U}{B}{G} Graveyard Self Mill

This one could be ok if I decide to go with counters. This sidesteps the confusion of the Sultai graveyard archetype soup.

In this, Sultai is Counters to avoid overlap with Grixis Madness:
Naya{R}{G}{W} Tall or Wide
Bant{G}{W}{U} Blink
Grixis{U}{B}{R} Madness
Sultai{U}{B}{G} Counters
Mardu{B}{R}{W} Sacrifice

And here's another attempt at making Sultai and Grixis coexist:
Grixis{U}{B}{R} Artifacts Reanimator
Naya{R}{G}{W} Berserkers / Tall
Jeskai{W}{U}{R} Spells
Sultai{U}{B}{G} Graveyard Self Mill
Abzan{G}{W}{B} Counters

The five shards could work:
Esper{W}{U}{B} Artifacts
Grixis{U}{B}{R} Madness
Jund{B}{R}{G} Sacrifice
Naya{R}{G}{W} Tokens or Berserkers/Tall
Bant{G}{W}{U} Blink or Counters

I also wanted to look at what a list of five tetra archetypes could look like for me:
No White {U}{B}{R}{G} Graveyard + Madness
No Blue {W}{B}{R}{G} Sacrifice
No Black {W}{U}{R}{G} Spells + Heroic
No Red {W}{U}{B}{G} Counters
No Green {W}{U}{B}{R} Artifacts

I can't see a clear best choice yet, but I think this is helping me pick a better archetype scheme.
I'm following this plan for now:

Esper {W}{U}{B} Artifacts
Jund {B}{R}{G} Sacrifice
Naya {R}{G}{W} Berserkers/Heroic/Tall
Jeskai {W}{U}{R} Spells
Sultai {U}{B}{G} Graveyard Self Mill

This meant removing some madness stuff from R/B and removing some tokens/wide/sacrifice stuff from white. I also added some more spells matters cards to white, anticipating that as an area of weakness.

So my next goal is to interrogate the 15 color pairs that emerge from those and think about weak areas and see where I can allow things to overlap in some interesting ways. I'd love to be able to define all three colors pairs in an interesting way within each of the triangles.

1. Esper Artifacts

{U}{W} Aggro / Flying / Equip
Side note: UW Fliers has been nerfed compared to my other cube lists. Japahn blogged about some issues with too many fliers, and I had actually come to some similar conclusions independently. It's too easy and strong, so I went lighter on the fliers didn't include any overt payoffs for fliers.
Equipment naturally helps fliers that aren't strong enough on their own. Some artifact synergies are available to help out with an aggro plan, such as Skilled Animator. I included Esper Commorants and Sanctum Gargoyle, which are questionably weak, but I like the concept of fliers that are also artifacts. That means green and red can get rid of them more easily, and it improves the density of artifacts for decks that need them.

{U}{W} Grindy Engines: I'll need to play around with this to get it right, but I think the cards are there to make it work. I love sacrificing artifacts for value with cards like Trading Post. I need to think about the payoffs and enablers that I provide, but I think there are enough options to work with. Sword of the Meek is a fun inclusion here.

{U}{B} UB artifact engine control? This one needs some work. Black needs more to do in artifacts. I'd like it to get in on recurring some artifacts from the graveyard. Perhaps Skeleton Shard goes in. I might need to add a couple of suboptimal cards like Glaze Fiend , Puppet Conjurer, and Vault Skirge (curse the Phyrexian Mana on that card). I can picture a deck where black can create enough little blockers to get to the mid-late game and then generate enough card advantage and power to win from there.

The other UB combination will come from Sultai graveyard/self-mill, so a few recursive engine pieces in artifacts could add nicely into the mix. Scrapheap Scrounger is an easy inclusion. Witch's Cauldron works nicely with artifact sacrifice engines and will also be a desirable card in Jund sacrifice.

{W}{B} ??? Artifacts: This combination gets awkward. It can be WB stax/artifact sacrifice, but white isn't supposed to be in on the Stax archetype anymore. I could do some artifact weenie recursion stuff with WB. There can be a WB life gain related theme that ties into artifacts. It could be more of an aggressive WB deck that uses equipment. Maybe WB could figure out how to do an aggro-control thing given their removal suites. I need to do some deck building in these colors and see where it leads.

WB doesn't have a part in any of the other triangles, so I'll have to decide if and how I want to support the WB life archetype as a secondary option or not. The same question will apply to the other four pairs that only appear in one triangle.

I'm going to look at the remaining triangles soon enough, but I'm finding that it takes more than one sitting to do all of them. And after the first pass, I'll have to iterate back through them again, probably. That's okay - this is fun.
2. Jeskai Spells

{U}{R} Prowess: UR prowess is an easily supported deck, but it needs to avoid being all prowess and nothing else. I'd like UR spells to be available in more controlling forms or more aggressive forms that play significantly differently from each other. Slagstorm is a card that can make this more of a control deck, and it's also a reach card. That seems feasible. The red half can decide how all-in it wants to go on a berserker creature finish to end the game and how to utilize its burn spells. The blue half can dial the control elements up and down as needed during deckbuilding. It should be possible to build the deck with the prowess as merely an incidental theme, so there needs to be variety in both colors to allow for that.

I was thinking about Temur archetypes to see if I wanted a Temur triangle. I didn't come up with anything amazing, but I will be interested to see if it's possible to create some nice UG and RG aggro-control decks given the existing shells of Naya berserkers and Jeskai Spells.

{R}{W} Spells / Heroic / Berserkers
The distinction between a spells deck from Jeskai Spells and a berserkers deck from Naya Berserkers is pretty fuzzy. Maybe it's good that the mix of cards is a little murky. Combat tricks are good for Heroic, Magecraft, and Prowess alike, but they're also potentially weak on their own. Equipment is nice for creatures with prowess or double strike or flying, but it doesn't direct interact with Magecraft or Heroic. Auras are good with Prowess and Heroic but not Magecraft. Countermagic and burn are good with Prowess and Magecraft but not Heroic. Hopefully all of this leads to some interesting draft choices and some deck variety. Putting the pieces together in the right way can create synergy that should prove to be better than a pure goodstuff strategy. (I'm trying to avoid including too many powerful generic goodstuff cards.)

{U}{W} Prowess Spells: Both colors have some prowess and Magecraft. Blue lacks the type of combat tricks white has, but it still has instant spells to trigger abilities, and it can bounce and shrink the opponent's creatures. Bounce can be a very powerful effect against berserkers and equipment, so I need to think about how many of those effects to include. I'm not sure if I have the right tools in the deck to support an actual UW control deck; blue has Evacuation as a pseudo-wrath, and I think that is an interesting and powerful and simple spell. Some tools are there for UW to focus on staying alive and building up card advantage, and that deck can still make incidental use of spells-matter cards like Murmuring Mystic, Shipwreck Dowser, and Spellkeeper Weird. Those work best with white removal. Valorous Stance has some decent overlap with multiple spells strategies.

Balancing the amount of available removal might be tricky. I might consider a Fog or targeted damage prevention effect or two as an alternative to more and more removal. Maybe Dazzling Reflection or Boros Fury Shield.

UW spells can play nicely, at least in its aggressive forms, with UW artifacts.
3) Naya Berserkers / Go Tall / Heroic

{R}{G} Berserkers/Heroic: That can still mean winning with a big creature swing. Compared to the other two Naya colors, green has bigger creatures and far less spell synergy. It also has a better ability to draw cards and try to win a long game. Green does have abilities to pump its creatures, and the stat boosts it grants are generally larger. Green unfortunately only has one decent heroic creature, Gnarlback Rhino, so I've tried to give it some other pump-worthy creatures or creatures that can grow on their own. I put a couple of Totem Armor auras in there for insurance. Those should be effective since exiling removal is scarce. Bounce is an issue, but there are at least a couple of hexproof creatures plus Swiftfoot Boots as another way of avoiding the crushing blowout from having your champion killed or bounced. Green's pump spells give the creature the biggest stat boost. In combination with red, green can pump some appealing red creatures, such as Spikeshot Elder and Hero of the Games. Red probably needs more appealing pump creatures. A Kiln Fiend can get out of hand quickly if green and red combine their combat tricks and green provides a bit of extra mana for a big turn.

Green has some fight abilities attached to pump spells. Combined with red's burn, that could allow RG to be more controlling. I'm considering Savage Twister or possibly Firespout as RG cards to signal a sort of wildfire control build. For now, I like Savage Smash and Raging Regisaur.

None of the other triangles have a RG combination.
Edit: Oops - Jund has a RG deck which I'll discuss below.

{R}{W} Berserkers/Heroic: This deck was discussed in with {R}{W} spells, but in theory berserkers is focused more on getting a double strike or evasive creature with some equipment/aura/combat trick pumps and less concerned with getting prowess triggers. This is the color combination that has the least large creatures but the most removal and smaller combat tricks and the most synergy with the noncreature spells. As one would expect, this should be the fastest aggro deck.

{G}{W} Berserkers/Heroic: The combination of white and green has the best ability to protect a pumped berserker creature. Both colors have some removal, but the removal isn't as cheap or as plentiful as combinations with red. I gave white what card advantage generators I could, so that should allow it to avoid petering out in the middle of the game. These colors ought to be able to play a control game with their combinations of removal and card advantage generators, and a longer game would offer the ability to pick the best spots and maximize the combat tricks.

This is the only triangle with a GW combination.
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4. Sultai Graveyard / Self-Mill

This triangle caused me to add a bunch of stuff. I gathered some ideas from Inscho's list, but I have plenty more to learn in this area.

{U}{G} Value Mill: Green and blue both have a selection of draw/discard/mill effects. Both colors have some cards that provide value when they're in the graveyard and a few cards that can pull stuff out of the yard. So far I don't know that this archetype is strong enough, but I'm working to give it the density of effects it needs to at least exist. Green blue should also be capable of a ramp deck. Right now a UG tempo deck isn't really there, so I might look at that at a later time. With the presence of some blue bounce and some green combat tricks, maybe that can be pulled off.

{U}{B} Mill - Reanimate - Grave Value: Both colors can get things into the graveyard in some fashion. Black has a suite of several reanimation spells starting at 4 mana (other than Unearth). Black has the usual creatures that can come back from the graveyard. The artifact section of UB can interact more heavily with graveyard stuff. I am a long time fan of Pentavus, and saw it in Inscho's list and decided to add it myself. Having an artifact reanimation target is an efficient use of a slot, I think. Some of the black value can come from reanimation, but I think it will be more common to get grindy value from the graveyard from sacrificing recurring creatures or making zombie tokens.

{G}{B} Self-Mill: These two colors mill themselves a more blindly than a blue deck, but they'll fill the yard. They should be able to find enough value from all that milling to make something happen, but right now I probably have too many enablers for the number of payoffs. Honored Hydra might have to go in as the sole Embalm card. I'm trying to avoid random lone keywords, but that one might be worth it. I like Splinterfright as a mill enabler, a minor mill payoff, and also a hexproof card for the heroic berserker decks to safely pump up. Green has more big creatures to reanimate than the other colors, so black should have some fun with that.

The card advantage from all of black's little creatures might be too much. I want a low enough power level to run some of the weaker stuff that fits the other archetypes. Fortunately, black has weaker graveyard value options that I can switch to if needed.

After adding some cards to support this triangle, my under-construction list has gotten bloated past the size I want. Some difficult cuts are ahead.
5. Jund Sacrifice

Since there isn't a tokens/wide archetype, this is the main place tokens can be found. I avoided effects that pump the whole army.

{B}{R} Sacrifice / Stax: This archetype should be easy to pick out. Lots of sacrifice outlets are available, and some payoffs for sacrificing are available. If anything this pair will need to be nerfed a bit.

{B}{G} Sacrifice: This bleeds into BG graveyard / mill, so I'll imagine this as a deck that focuses more on sacrifice. The green deck has Evolutionary Leap and Life's Legacy, and that's about it for sacrifice outlets. The other sacrifice outlets need to come from artifacts like Skull Catapult and black cards. Fortunately, black has plenty of outlets. Green has some nice cheap sacrifice targets that add some vaule on their way to the graveyard.

A general comment about the black decks: with all the recursive black creatures and all the equipment, it should be pretty strong to just equip those things and attack.

{R}{G} Sacrifice: Red has Destructive Digger in addition to Goblin Bombardment and Skirsdag Cultist. Havoc Jester is a nice little sacrifice payoff. So the red based sacrifice decks will have some damage capability as compared to green which gets more creatures and draw from the graveyard. Graveyard isn't going to be as big of a deal in this combination, but there is a bit of value to be had from sacrificing green creatures that do something in the graveyard. Both colors have some ability to make tokens, but not too many armies in a can.

The sacrificing RG decks should be able to occupy a range from decks that are more focused on burn and a bit of creature pump over to something that's playing a longer game and going for some card advantage over many turns.
I overhauled my Beginner Cube. My concept has been to put the focus on the combat phase in the style of retail draft. This entails providing every color with viable instant speed combat tricks of various types: creatures can be damaged, pumped, shrunk, rescued, bounced, untapped, or flash summoned. I trimmed back the power of removal spells and card advantage providers accordingly. I removed all of the 5/5 flying bomb creatures.

My reasoning is that combat tricks are available, whereas this cube can't do justice to other strategies due to the constraints I've imposed. For example, it's hard to do justice to Sacrifice strategy or a Go Wide strategy when you don't have any token producers. On the other hand, it's not a problem to support spells.

Removal is chosen such that it typically takes two cards to kill a powerful creature. I've mostly chosen removal spells that can be combined, either with other removal spells or with creature damage during combat. The few removal spells that can kill any creature are all sorcery speed.

Interestingly, every color has its own unique ways to rescue a creature from dying, at least in certain circumstances.

I attempted to select many cards in every color that provide agency. Given this cube's constraints, green seems to be the most challenging in this regard.

Tribal themes have been removed, partly for agency reasons - card that provide static +1/+1 bonuses don't offer the player any choices.
Every color has some sources of card advantage, but the opportunities to gain more than one extra card at a time are quite limited. Incremental value must be sought out.

Some nice new cards have been printed for this cube in AFR and MID. I don't like the italicized ability names from AFR, but otherwise that set provided some nice stuff. For example, Red Dragon seems like a nice power level for what passes as a bomb in this format. Sepulcher Ghoul is a useful 2 drop since it's a 2/1 at worst, but it still shows off the black sacrifice concept and provides the ability to hit for 4. I really like Shocking Grasp for this version of the cube; none of the previous designs for this type of blue -X/-O cantrip card were quite what I wanted.

Some of the flash cards in MID are great here - Nebelgast Intruder, Cathar Commando, Bounding Wolf, and Loyal Griff are the others that I added. These are some uncluttered cards that I love to see. (I also included Manticore from AFR.)

I counted up the number of lines of rules text per card in each color, and the median is 3 lines of text in each of the five colors. I didn't run the Python word counts on it, but I think it's still in a decent place on word count.
Beginner Simplicity Cube Updates as of 12/5/21


I made substitutions to make the whole cube cheap. Just now I was able to order 193 of the 195 cards on TCGplayer for about $24 in one shipment using Mass Entry and Cart Optimizer. Add ~100 basic lands, and that’s a beginner cube for the price of a cheap board game. I like the idea of having this as a separate pile of cards that doesn’t require the use of any cards from my regular paper collection.

The cheap cost makes sleeves optional. Depending on your personality, you can just shuffle it up and play, saving time and cost. No sleeves also reduces reflections from overhead lighting, making cards easier to read from across the table.

Color Pairs
The color pairs have some semblance of archetypes now; what passes for an archetype in this cube might only consist of a few cards that can work together in some cases. Light support is about as good as I can do without access to the types of denser cards that more rules text would allow. That said, there are some fun combinations of cards for players to discover and try out.

If anybody sees an opportunity to add a light archetype for a low complexity cost, let me know! For this beginner cube I’m not going to budge on tokens, counters, and keywords. That said, I’m still processing to figure out what level of extra stuff I should add to a bigger cube that allows those things, so those types of ideas are still useful.

Here’s an idea of what the color pairs can (sort of) do:
WB: fliers, blink, flash/tempo
UB: reanimator
BR: sacrifice, reanimator
RG: ramp, fatties/trample
GW: blink, ramp, go wide
BW: blink / reanimate (?)
GB: Self-mill, reanimator
UG: Tempo / flash
UR: Spells
RW: Weenie Aggro, spells

15 Thriving lands are in. These are cheaper than tri-color lands, and they work in any deck. Even if a drafter refuses to draft an off-color land, there’s still 2/5 that fit their two color deck, which is a better hit rate than the tri-lands offer.

Word Count / Keywords
18 keywords appear in this iteration of the cube. All are evergreen except perhaps Prowess. Keywords appear multiple times. In fact, they appear at least four times, except fight (2), menace (3), and indestructible (3).
Keyword report courtesy of japahn:

Flying (24)
Thunderclap Wyvern
Frost Trickster
Fallen Angel
Trusted Pegasus
Horizon Scholar
Stormchaser Mage
Seraph of Dawn
Ornithopter of Paradise
Nebelgast Intruder
Silver Raven
Keening Banshee
Gorging Vulture
Battlefield Raptor
Kitesail Freebooter
Snare Thopter
Stormchaser Drake
Stormfront Pegasus
Living Tempest
Loyal Gryff
Angel of the Dawn
Wispweaver Angel
Red Dragon

Scry (12)
Mana Geode
Burning Prophet
Horizon Scholar
Piercing Light
Seer's Lantern
Silver Raven
Warteye Witch
Fateful End

Flash (12)
Thunderclap Wyvern
Bounding Wolf
Nebelgast Intruder
Briarpack Alpha
Feral Invocation
Cathar Commando
Dueling Rapier
Ambush Viper
Living Tempest
Paladin's Shield
Loyal Gryff

Equip (6)
Vulshok Morningstar
Rogue's Gloves
Trusty Machete
Dueling Rapier
Paladin's Shield

Reach (6)
Bounding Wolf
Weaver of Lightning
Atzocan Archer
Thornweald Archer
Skyraker Giant
Noose Constrictor
// Witch's Web grants reach

Mill (6)
Mire Triton
Gorging Vulture
Eccentric Farmer
Grapple with the Past

Trample (5)
Colossal Dreadmaw
Gnarlback Rhino
Elderwood Scion
Cinder Hellion
// Ride Down, Press the Advantage, Somberwald Alpha, Run Amok, and Stolen Vitality can grant trample

Prowess (5)
Stormchaser Mage
Lightning Visionary
Umara Entangler
Shipwreck Dowser
Seeker of the Way

Deathtouch (4)
Acidic Slime
Mire Triton
Ambush Viper
Thornweald Archer

Haste (4)
Stormchaser Mage
Bolt Hound
Breakneck Berserker
Snare Thopter

Enchant (4)
Feral Invocation
Dead Weight
Demonic Embrace

Lifelink (3)
Seraph of Dawn
Disciple of the Sun
Elderwood Scion
// Seeker of the Way can gain lifelink

First strike (3)
Burning-Fist Minotaur
Battlefield Raptor
Youthful Knight
// Stolen Vitality can grant first strike

Vigilance (2)
Tormod's Cryptkeeper
Glimmerpoint Stag
// Angel of the Dawn and Devoted Paladin can grant vigilance

Menace (3)
Unwilling Ingredient
Ripscale Predator
Boggart Brute

Fight (2)
Affectionate Indrik
Atzocan Archer

Total unique keywords: 16

// Notes added by Nemo:
Indestructible appears on 3 cards:
Dauntless Bodyguard
Angelheart Protector
Adamant Will

Hexproof appears on 4 cards:
Dive Down
Paradise Druid
Blossoming Defense
Simic Charm

With those added, keyword count is now 18.

The average word count is 15.4 words per card excluding reminder text, or 18.0 words including reminder text. The Thriving lands (28 words) skew things a bit; nonland cards have 14.4 words per card (17.2 with reminders).
W: average 15.60 [of 30 cards]
U: average 12.67 [of 30 cards]
B: average 16.33 [of 30 cards]
R: average 13.30 [of 30 cards]
G: average 14.97 [of 30 cards]
Multicolor: average 17.00 [of 10 cards]
Non-basic land: average 28.00 [of 15 cards]

Non-land colorless: average 10.90 [of 20 cards]
Scuttling Doom Engine: 27
Fountain of Ichor: 21
Filigree Familiar: 17
Rogue's Gloves: 16
Mana Geode: 15
Nevinyrral's Disk: 14
Pierce Strider: 11
Prismatic Lens: 11
Perilous Myr: 11
Jalum Tome: 9
Tormod's Cryptkeeper: 9
Brittle Effigy: 8
Ornithopter of Paradise: 8
Seer's Lantern: 7
Pacification Array: 7
Alloy Myr: 7
Vulshok Morningstar: 6
Trusty Machete: 6
Bonesplitter: 6
Snare Thopter: 2

W: average 15.60 [of 30 cards]
You Hear Something on Watch: 31
Glimmerpoint Stag: 29
Wispweaver Angel: 26
Disciple of the Sun: 25
Search Party Captain: 25
Mentor of the Meek: 24
Fortify: 23
Dauntless Bodyguard: 23
Devoted Paladin: 22
Angel of the Dawn: 21
Paladin's Shield: 20
Loyal Gryff: 19
Banisher Priest: 18
Seeker of the Way: 17
Trusted Pegasus: 16
Angelheart Protector: 16
Priest of Ancient Lore: 16
Cloudshift: 15
Piercing Light: 13
Cleansing Nova: 13
Adamant Will: 11
Dwarfhold Champion: 10
Cathar Commando: 10
Pacifism: 8
Blinding Mage: 5
Take Vengeance: 4
Battlefield Raptor: 3
Seraph of Dawn: 2
Youthful Knight: 2
Stormfront Pegasus: 1

U: average 12.67 [of 30 cards]
Sea Gate Oracle: 32
Skilled Animator: 30
Frost Trickster: 23
You Find the Villains' Lair: 23
Nebelgast Intruder: 22
Tolarian Kraken: 19
Shipwreck Dowser: 19
Clone: 16
Serpentine Ambush: 16
Leapfrog: 15
Stormchaser Drake: 15
Aeromoeba: 13
Dive Down: 13
Chart a Course: 12
Man-o'-War: 12
Shocking Grasp: 11
Horizon Scholar: 9
Erratic Visionary: 9
Silver Raven: 9
Keen Glidemaster: 9
Mana Leak: 8
Omenspeaker: 7
Rain of Revelation: 7
Unsummon: 7
Octoprophet: 7
Dissolve: 5
Opt: 5
Negate: 4
Living Tempest: 2
Umara Entangler: 1

B: average 16.33 [of 30 cards]
Demonic Embrace: 41
Dreadhound: 29
Kitesail Freebooter: 29
Young Necromancer: 27
Eternal Taskmaster: 27
Gorging Vulture: 24
Demonic Gifts: 23
Victimize: 22
Manticore: 22
Gravedigger: 17
Unwilling Ingredient: 17
Gilt-Blade Prowler: 17
Sepulcher Ghoul: 16
Doomed Necromancer: 15
Mire Triton: 15
Keening Banshee: 15
Phyrexian Rager: 15
Essence Extraction: 13
Skeleton Archer: 13
Ghoulsteed: 13
Novice Occultist: 13
Fallen Angel: 12
Warteye Witch: 11
Persistent Specimen: 11
Disfigure: 8
Last Gasp: 8
Dead Weight: 6
Barter in Blood: 5
Eviscerate: 3
Final Reward: 3

R: average 13.30 [of 30 cards]
Warfire Javelineer: 29
Stolen Vitality: 29
Goblin Cratermaker: 22
Weaver of Lightning: 21
Dueling Rapier: 20
Dismissive Pyromancer: 20
Voldaren Stinger: 19
Ardent Elementalist: 18
Burning Prophet: 17
Raze the Effigy: 17
Red Dragon: 17
Cinder Hellion: 16
Bolt Hound: 15
Abrade: 15
Burning-Fist Minotaur: 14
Tormenting Voice: 14
Zealot of the God-Pharaoh: 13
Spikeshot Elder: 12
Magmaw: 12
Run Amok: 12
Destructive Digger: 10
Fateful End: 10
Lightning Strike: 8
Blaze: 7
Shock: 7
Lightning Visionary: 1
Ripscale Predator: 1
Boggart Brute: 1
Breakneck Berserker: 1
Skyraker Giant: 1

G: average 14.97 [of 30 cards]
Winding Way: 31
Masked Admirers: 31
Genesis: 29
Splinterfright: 26
Somberwald Alpha: 25
Reclusive Taxidermist: 24
Clear Shot: 23
Eccentric Farmer: 22
Elder of Laurels: 18
Grapple with the Past: 18
Affectionate Indrik: 16
Paradise Druid: 16
Briarpack Alpha: 15
Press the Advantage: 15
Atzocan Archer: 15
Darkthicket Wolf: 14
Reclamation Sage: 13
Gnarlback Rhino: 13
Acidic Slime: 13
Blossoming Defense: 13
Witch's Web: 13
Noose Constrictor: 12
Regrowth: 9
Broken Wings: 8
Feral Invocation: 7
Elvish Mystic: 3
Bounding Wolf: 2
Ambush Viper: 2
Thornweald Archer: 2
Colossal Dreadmaw: 1

Multicolor: average 17.00 [of 10 cards]
Simic Charm: 30
Elderwood Scion: 27
Obsessive Stitcher: 23
Baloth Null: 19
Ride Down: 19
Zealous Persecution: 16
Blazing Hellhound: 12
Raging Regisaur: 11
Thunderclap Wyvern: 10
Stormchaser Mage: 3

Non-basic land: average 28.00 [of 15 cards]
Thriving Isle: 28
Thriving Isle: 28
Thriving Isle: 28
Thriving Bluff: 28
Thriving Bluff: 28
Thriving Bluff: 28
Thriving Grove: 28
Thriving Grove: 28
Thriving Grove: 28
Thriving Moor: 28
Thriving Moor: 28
Thriving Moor: 28
Thriving Heath: 28
Thriving Heath: 28
Thriving Heath: 28

Avg Words/Card (no reminders): 15.4
Avg Words/Card (full text): 18.0

These are low numbers that I am happy with. I could lower the word count further (e.g. Sure Strike instead of Stolen Vitality) but in some cases the extra words support a theme. In other cases I've already made the less wordy substitution.

Minor Victories

None of the cards have watermarks!
None have the word “upkeep,” and “planeswalker” only appears on trample’s reminder text.


There aren’t that many cards with references to plane-specific places or people in the titles. Here’s a listing of the ones that don’t sound like generic fantasy names to my ear. It’s only 11 cards, which I consider to be pretty good! Also, zero cards have the name of a planeswalker in the title.

Blue: Umara Entangler, Nebelgast Intruder, Tolarian Kraken
Black: Phyrexian Rager
Red: Voldaren Stinger, Zealot of the God-Pharaoh
Green: Atzocan Archer, Somberwald Alpha
Simic: Simic Charm
Artifact: Tormod’s Cryptkeeper, Vulshok Morningstar


The format doesn’t have actual bombs, but I settled in with a few 4/4 fliers for 6 mana as a benchmark, along with a few other curve toppers that I think are at a similar power level.


I counted the cards that provide a meaningful choice, according to my subjective judgment, to the player in each color.

White: 19 / 30
Blue: 24 / 30
Black: 23 / 30
Red: 21 / 30
Green: 18 / 30


Blue needs some few alluring cards to draw a drafter into the color.

Dimir could use an identify apart from a sketchy reanimator plan, but I think it’s fine as control or aggro-control.

I’d like to have a bit more of a clear identity for Orzhov. Weenie Recursion was an appealing concept, but some of the cards I want for that don’t fit my constraints. I considered a life gain theme and might still go back to that.


I still don’t have a playgroup, but I do have a daughter that likes games. We are going to play some games with some decks and see what happens. If I'm ambitious, I might prepare a half dozen Jumpstart style packs and let her pick two.[/c][/c]


I like the idea of a simplicity cube. I also like the budget version. The couple times you mention planeswalkers does have me scratching my head a bit, though. When I started Magic, I learned using the Ajani Vengeant duel deck, and I loved having a splashy mythic that could blow up all my opponents' lands, even if I didn't know exactly how to use a planeswalker. Eventually I figured the rules out, but it was that magic (no pun intended) of having a powerful/evocative/exciting/fun game piece that made the experience special to me and gave me a reason to memorize a bunch of rules in the first place.

I'm not saying you need to add a million 'walkers right now, just curious what leads you to categorically exclude any trace of them, since they can be some of the most flavorful parts of Magic for new players.