Building My Own Cube, pt. 1 – Themes

Admittedly I haven’t played cube much, but the ones I have played have two attributes I don’t like very much: They are incredibly expensive, even if you don’t take into account all the foiling and other hard to find versions, and they focus too much on powerful cards and synergies instead of interesting strategies or interactions.

Now, I haven’t really build a cube before, so I’m clearly out of my depth, but gladly, I have Dunning-Kruger-effect on my side (meaning I don’t know enough on the subject to know what I don’t know, so I can walk into this confidently and without fear). Hopefully, when I finally get this done I have learned much in the process and can teach you something as well. Learning together, yey.

Rules

First, I’m going to set some rules for myself:

I am not going to budget this, but I am going to stay away from very expensive cards. I’m setting a soft limit of five euros, and I’m mostly going to be staying well below that in most cases. I am going to make exceptions to the limit (thus its ‘soft’), especially some key theme cards (which we’ll get to later).

I want clear a clear theme for the cube, although it will be more mechanical and about synergy than flavor.

I want clear themes for each color and each two-color combination, but I also want enough overlap to keep the decks from always devolving into the same ones.

There aren’t going to be any game-winning combos, such as storm or Channel, even though this is going to cause some problems, as we’ll see later.

Just to make my cube different, I’m going to try and stay away from cards used in the MTGO Powered Cube and Holiday Cube. I can’t make this a hard rule, because all the good burn is on those lists and I do want to have some in the cube, even if I leave out Lightning Bolt. We’ll see what other colors will need from those lists. For example, now that white has been pretty nerfed in many ways in the last few years, it seems like planeswalkers are now their thing (with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Elspeth, Sun’s Champion being two defining cards of their respective Standard formats), so I might need those.

Color Combinations

To find the right themes for our cube, we need to look at the two-color combinations and what those colors have in common. Gladly, Mark Rosewater has written and talked about these plenty and Salvation’s Wiki has compiled some of that information for easy use.

White-Blue: Philosophically these two overlap in how they see society as important. Rule of law is important, or at least a set of rules, you live by. They are both building something better, but may have very different ideas on what that better is. White relies on structures, while blue is more interested in furthering knowledge and finding something new. Both like planning. Blue is just better at it. They are the ‘man’ red feels is keep it down.

Mechanically they have some things in common, although for different reasons. White can fly, because that’s a good aggressive strategy in its conflicts, blue can fly because that’s a way you can win by avoiding the conflicts you can’t win. Both have the ability to tap and untap, but again for different reasons. White likes to clear the way or keep its men ready for action, while blue is more likely to protect itself or take their opponents resources. Sometimes blue is most interested in reusing certain resources. They both also blink or flicker and sometimes go so far as to move the creature back into the library.

Ascended LawmageOjutai, Soul of WinterRoil SpoutVassal Soul

Blue-Black: These two are the colors that toy with your mind the most, both literally and figuratively, as well as both flavourwise and in pure gameplay. They both believe in personal growth, but whereas that is key to blue, for black its just one more weapon in their arsenal. They are both quite sneaky, but again, its the main weapon of blue, whereas black will only go that way if needed.

Mechanically they don’t have much in common. They are the only two-color combination without a common creature keyword (they can both fly, but black is much lower on that totem pole) and they don’t share much outside of that either, except maybe scry, but that is available to everyone. However, they do work well together. They are both very good manipulating the situation to their benefit, a little bit at a time, and when they come together, it can be pretty bad. They can both draw cards and can both mill, but both have somewhat different approaches to that. Black usually sacrifices something to be able to draw and likes to mill themselves, whereas drawing is blue’s thing and can do it better than anyone else. Also, milling is a great weapon for them. Both colors also have tools for taking control of their opponents things, although black is way down in this regard when compared to blue.

RecoilDeathcult RogueDragonlord SilumgarNightveil Specter

Black-Red: These are the colors of nihilism. The ruthlessness of black paired with the impulsiveness of red leads to explosion of blood and violence. If there’s an evil color combination (and I’m not sure there is), this is it. They do have good qualities, such as the way they hold individuality in high esteem, but they are destructive. MaRo likes to use Joker as the example for this pairing.

Mechanically these colors don’t like to block and they are horrible enough to make blocking hard (you know, first Fear, then intimidate and now Menace). They can also be fast out of the gate with Haste, but that’s more of a red thing. They can also both inflict direct damage, although red usually deals more damage, while black syphons life. There is some graveyard interactions in both colors, but red only tends to do that in worlds where grave is important resource.

Carnage GladiatorFlayer DroneHavoc FestivalSire of Insanity

Red-Green: Red and green is about following your instincts, but when you have to decide between fight and flight, you’ll take the former. They don’t quite reach the level of destructiveness of black-red, but they are close enough. Although there’s some sense of community, its might makes right kind of society. Combat and fighting is an integral part of the philosophy.

Mechanically they have the biggest creatures, although red does have less than average number of creatures overall, so Trample is their thing. Any color can get them, but these two have it regularly at common and uncommon. They are also the two colors that get fight, although green gets it more (as it needs it more), while red’s fighting is often more like ambushing. Recently, red has been getting reach as well, as the two colors have a dislike for flying. They also have a tendency to make blocking difficult, red through Menace, but green sometimes has the ability to limit the number of blockers to one. These colors also have most to do with mana. Green ramps fast, while red has its oneshot bursts of mana through rituals. These colors also have the best affinity with lands, whether destroying them or animating them.

Burning-Tree EmissaryGruul RagebeastPolis CrusherSkarrg Guildmage

Green-White: These are the colors of tradition. They rely most on community and the protection it gives. They are most aware of the past, which they consider a strength. They are very utilitarian. The whole always goes first before the individual.

These are the creature colors. These two always get the most creatures and most bang for their buck as well. White is usually better with small creatures, while green rules the world of true fatties. Their overlap in keywords is Vigilance. They both make tokens, although the white ones tend to be small and green ones tend to be bigger. Gaining life is their thing, as is indestrucibility.

Chronicler of HeroesCall of the ConclaveFleecemane LionWayfaring Temple

White-Black: White is about structures, while black is about individuality. When they mesh, its about taking advantage of the society. Not everyone is equal and some people will have edges in the society. Black-white wants to be one of those people. They use whatever structures they can, usually religion, to obtain the status and power they want.

Black and white have the common keyword of lifelink. They have somewhat different flavors on this, but they still do the same, no matter how white justifies it to itself. They are also the best colors at destroying creatures. Black is the king, but white always gets good, playable cards for this. Often white has angles black doesn’t in that specific format.

Ayli, Eternal PilgrimCartel AristocratTithe DrinkerUtter End

Blue-Red: Do you follow your head or your heart? Blue-reds don’t compromise. Their heart is full of curiosity and a passion for discovery. Their head gives them the tools to study these things. There are compromises, but despite the commonly held view in popular culture, scientists are passionate. Einstein was blue-red.

These are the colors that care the most about spells. They have the least amount of creatures. They recently received a common keyword, finally, Prowess, which plays into this. They can copy spells, they can redirect spells, they can replay spells from the graveyard, and so forth. They also both play around with artifacts and have access to ways to controlling creatures. While blue is good at getting real card advantage, red isn’t, but they are both great at card selection, althouh they do it somewhat differently, where red usually discards first and draws second, and blue gets to see what they draw before discarding.

Blistercoil WeirdEpic ExperimentNivix GuildmageSpellheart Chimera

Black-Green: Things are finite. Things need to die in order to make room for new life. Although green is closely associated with life and black is closely associated with death, some of them have found this common ground. Its a bleak worldview, but it has its place.

Both colors are actually pretty good at staying alive (Regenerate) and killing (Deathtouch), but this combination is mostly interested in graveyard and using it. Black is good at destroying creatures and planeswalkers, while green can destroy everything else. This creates a pretty strong combination.

Baloth NullDeadbridge ChantNyx WeaverGrisly Salvage

Red-White: This is the color-combination of many classic heroes and armies. White is about society, red is about individuality and passion. Together, they red brings the passion and white brings the structure. Their main tool is combat. There’s no subtlety in when these two come together. They tend to come in big groups.

Their common keyword is First Strike and Double Strike is the extension of that. When they do cast spells, its mostly about combat. They are most interested in equipment as well.

Weapons TrainerTruefire PaladinResolute BlademasterAkroan Hoplite

Green-Blue: Both colors like change, but they just approach it differently. Green likes natural change, while blue likes to bring change about. Together, blue likes to bring those natural processes to the fore and accelerate them. They are kind of like mad scientists with a biological bent, like Dr. Moreau.

Green and blue are quite different, but have surprisingly much in common. Both are good against spells (Hexproof) and have access to Flash. Both are also good at untapping and drawing cards, even though green has to do the latter through creatures (like most things).

Biomass MutationElusive KrasisKiora’s FollowerPrime Speaker Zegana

The Overall Theme

I was asked by Lauri on our forums if this cube would include the gods from Theros block. My initial response was that maybe some, but now that I have had time to think about it, maybe that’s the theme of the cube.

Heliod, God of the SunThassa, God of the SeaErebos, God of the DeadPurphoros, God of the ForgeNylea, God of the Hunt
Ephara, God of the PolisPhenax, God of DeceptionMogis, God of SlaughterXenagos, God of RevelsKarametra, God of Harvests
Athreos, God of PassageKeranos, God of StormsPharika, God of AfflictionIroas, God of VictoryKruphix, God of Horizons

I’m not quite sure about this, because these are all strong, but Phenax is just ridiculously good in limited, although you can fight it through just playing more cards in your deck. I can also choose not to support the archetype by leaving out most walls and other very defensive creatures.

The next problem is Kruphex. Its just very hard to justify playing it if you don’t have something to use it on. As I said before, I’ll stay away from gamewinning combos in my cube. This will leave Kruphix behind a bit, but I do have a feeling I’ll be putting some hydras into the cube just to give this guy something to do.

Do I want the weapons of the gods in the cube? I don’t know, actually. Depends on variety of things.

I’m not going to use only Theros cards or cards similarly themed. I’m going to prioritize other things.

Next

Now that I have a basic idea on what I want to do, I’ll be going through the individual card choices. I’ll go through them in the same two-color combination order as here (although, only a handful of these cards will be two-colored) and then finally I’ll fill in the holes from individual colors. I’ll also write a post on the fixing and artifacts (or colorless) I’ll be including.

See you next time.

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