Rant of Valakut: Cube Route pt. 4 – All Things Being Equal Ben Iverach-Brereton May 25, 2020 Rants of Valakut The Cube project continues! If you missed any of the saga so far, you can catch up here: Part 1 – Finding the Beginning Part 2 – Counters and Counters Part 3 – Sorted by Colour When picking out the cards for the remaining colours, I kept running into the same issue: I had too many interchangable cards. These cards were so similar that it made it difficult to decide which ones to include. I knew that I would need some redundancy here and there, like the sacrifice outlets for the aristocrats archetype, or the payoffs for casting instant and sorcery spells, but how many of these cards do these archetypes even need? And what about more generic cards, like removal? If a group of similar cards can straddle multiple archetypes, should I include more of them because they’ll be in higher demand, or do I increase scarcity by only including one or two of them? Trying to juggle all of these factors, while also considering the subtle differences of creature size and mana cost, I was starting to feel very overwhelmed. A Recurring Problem Black cards in particular have a lot of redundancy. Whether it’s a removal spell, or a way to draw cards, there are so many small variations on the same basic card that it’s incredibly difficult to choose between them. Take these self-reassembling creatures, for example: The artistocrats archetype loves creatures like this, and depending on which creature you include, aggro and control decks can make good use of them, too. The trouble is, which one, or ones, should I put in my Cube? Reassembling Skeleton and Bloodsoaked Champion are probably two of the more generically powerful cards, but Sanitarium Skeleton pairs better with discard effects, and Oathsworn Vampire is one of the best ones in a pure life gain archetype. My personal playstyle tends toward aristocrats as an archetype, so I knew that I’d have to watch myself; it would be very easy for me to make it the single best archetype in my Cube, throwing all attempts at balance out the window, but that would be a disaster. Including too many of these reassembling creatures would easily pave the way for that, so I decided to rein it in. After a lot of back and forth, I ultimately decided to include Oathsworn Vampire in my first version of the Cube, but none of these other creatures. It would serve as a unique payoff for the life gain deck, but could still be a strong choice in the aristocrats decks if they were able to build around it a little bit. Knowing that there would be at least one Blood Artist equivalent in the Cube, I figured that wouldn’t be too difficult in the long run. Of course, this just led to the problem of which Blood Artist creatures to include, and the cycle continued… CMC 11 x Carrion Feeder1 x Cruel Sadist1 x Night Market Lookout1 x Pilfering Imp1 x Spark Harvest1 x Tragic Slip1 x Ulcerate1 x Vampiric Rites CMC 21 x Butcher Ghoul1 x Ghoulcaller’s Accomplice1 x Mire Triton1 x Oathsworn Vampire1 x Pain Seer1 x Qarsi Sadist1 x Zulaport Cutthroat1 x Agonizing Remorse1 x Grave Strength1 x Shadows of the Past1 x Ultimate Price1 x Vicious Offering CMC 31 x Bloodthirsty Aerialist1 x Dutiful Attendant1 x Hooded Assassin1 x Lawless Broker1 x Plague Mare1 x Royal Assassin1 x Skymarch Bloodletter1 x Weaponcraft Enthusiast1 x Dark Deal1 x Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage1 x Read the Bones1 x Tribute to Hunger CMC 41 x Bone Picker1 x Corpse Traders1 x Skeleton Archer1 x Vampire Outcasts1 x Vindictive Vampire1 x Vulturous Aven1 x Blood for Bones1 x Moan of the Unhallowed CMC 51 x Morkrut Banshee1 x Nested Ghoul1 x Orzhov Racketeers1 x Murderous Cut CMC 61 x Endless Obedience CMC 71 x Gurmag Angler Buy This List Redundant Redundacy With each subsequent colour, it felt like my task was getting harder and harder. Once I’d figured out the black cards I moved on to red, and while a couple of picks felt easy, I quickly hit the same wall. In particular, I struggled with red’s removal; how good should a Cube’s burn spells be? Red’s primary source of removal is damage based, meaning how good it is is entirely dependent on the average toughness of the creatures surrounding it. For instance, Electrickery is one of the go-to mass-removal spells in Pauper because so many creatures in that format have 1 toughness, but trying to use it in Modern or Commander would be foolhardy. Generally, two damage is enough to take out anything that costs two or less, while three damage will kill most things up to about four mana; Magic Origins was a great example of this formula in action, and Fiery Impulse was right in the middle of these two categories. At only one mana you were never sad to use it on a small creature, but if you could get enough spells in your graveyard to turn it into a Lightning Bolt it would be so much better. Most of the creatures in my Cube paralleled the sizes in Magic Origins, with three or more toughness rarely showing up at lower mana costs. With that in mind, and not wanting my removal to be too strong, I decided against using Lightning Bolt itself, but Lightning Strike seemed like it hit a good balance between quality and cost. I spiced things up a bit with some of the other spells, like Volt Charge and Stoke the Flames, but my personal favourite might be Twin Bolt; it’s not big and splashy, but you always feel so clever when you can take out two creatures with it. I also determined that the burn spells in red could afford to be a little bit worse on average, and a little less abundant since they would be supplemented by a number of damage-dealing creatures, like Grim Lavamancer and the tokens from Dance with Devils. This meant that red wouldn’t feel like it was just a stock Burn deck, with a pile of interchangeable direct-damage spells. I was able to do a few different things with the colour, hopefully making each card serve a similar, but ultimately unique role in the Cube. CMC 11 x Ghitu Lavarunner1 x Goblin Banneret1 x Grim Lavamancer1 x Monastery Swiftspear1 x Rigging Runner1 x Barrage of Expendables1 x Devil’s Play1 x Fiery Impulse1 x Titan’s Strength1 x Warlord’s Fury CMC 21 x Battlefield Scavenger1 x Burning Prophet1 x Goblin Cratermaker1 x Lightning Mare1 x Nef-Crop Entangler1 x Vengeful Devil1 x Dragon Fodder1 x Goblin Oriflamme1 x Lightning Strike1 x Thrill of Possibility1 x Twin Bolt CMC 31 x Ahn-Crop Crasher1 x Ahn-Crop Invader1 x Fervent Paincaster1 x Frilled Deathspitter1 x Reckless Racer1 x Spikeshot Goblin1 x Goblinslide1 x Rush of Blood1 x Tibalt, Rakish Instigator1 x Volt Charge CMC 41 x Emberhorn Minotaur1 x Keldon Raider1 x Pyre Hound1 x Skirsdag Cultist1 x Dance with Devils1 x Inner Struggle1 x Stoke the Flames CMC 51 x Cyclops Electromancer1 x Trueheart Twins1 x Flurry of Horns1 x Press into Service CMC 61 x Markov Warlord1 x Devils’ Playground CMC 71 x Chaos Maw Buy This List The Same, but Different Ultimately, each colour needs an assortment of cards that are similar enough to provide redundancy, but different enough that they don’t all feel identical. It’s a tough balance to strike. Trying to decide on which mana creatures to include in green was arguably the hardest decision yet; these creatures are incredibly similar by definition, and in many cases they are effectively the same card. Looking at most Cubes, they typically include several one-cost mana elves, whether they are Llanowar Elves, Elvish Mystic, Fyndhorn Elves, or any of the others. For a while I thought I’d follow suit in my Cube, but the more I tweaked my list of green cards, the less I actually wanted any of the Llanowar clones. I know they’re strong, and enough of them together support strong ramp strategies, but it occurred to me that none of my archetypes quite fit into stock “mana ramp”. Red/green wanted big creatures, and green/blue wanted creatures to untap, but I wanted something other than the stock Llanowar Elves. My choices at two mana proved far more interesting from the onset. Not only was there a a variety of power and toughness, but the mana abilites themselves were more nuanced. Did I want mana of any colour from a Paradise Druid, or would I prefer occasionally adding two green mana with a Leafkin Druid or Whisperer of the Wilds? CMC 11 x Copperhorn Scout1 x Loam Dryad1 x Pelt Collector1 x Spore Frog1 x Young Wolf1 x Burst of Strength1 x Prey Upon1 x Reclaim CMC 21 x Ambush Viper1 x Baloth Pup1 x Deeproot Warrior1 x Noose Constrictor1 x Saddled Rimestag1 x Voyaging Satyr1 x Whisperer of the Wilds1 x Woodland Champion1 x Aim High1 x Fertile Ground1 x Return to Nature1 x Saproling Migration CMC 31 x Ainok Artillerist1 x Blossom Dryad1 x Brindle Boar1 x Highspire Artisan1 x Hyrax Tower Scout1 x Ranging Raptors1 x Tajuru Stalwart1 x Ulvenwald Bear1 x Jiang Yanggu, Wildcrafter1 x New Horizons1 x Squirrel Nest CMC 41 x Cacophodon1 x Greenhilt Trainee1 x Pack Guardian1 x Peema Outrider1 x Pheres-Band Tromper1 x Saddleback Lagac1 x Vine Mare1 x Outmuscle1 x Predator’s Howl CMC 51 x Conclave Naturalists1 x Plaguemaw Beast1 x Somberwald Stag1 x Scatter the Seeds CMC 61 x Elegant Edgecrafters CMC 71 x Greater Sandwurm Buy This List At the end of the day I settled on a few different mana creatures, namely Loam Dryad, Whisperer of the Wilds, Voyaging Satyr and Blossom Dryad. To supplement these I also included Fertile Ground and New Horizons, which could each bolster a land. These enchantments are especially good alongside Voyaging Satyr and Blossom Dryad, as well as the blue untap effects, like Vizier of Tumbling Sands. Compared to Llanowar Elves, these all seemed far more interesting. Once I settled on the mana creatures I could focus on other issues, like the giant pile of four-mana creatures I wanted to include. After a lot of puzzling I went back and took a hard look at my green archetypes, cutting out the four-drops that didn’t fit anywhere. In the end I had to cut a lot of cards I like, but I think I finally settled on a good selection. My one indulgence was Greenhilt Trainee, which I fear won’t see much play in my Cube. He’s really powerful when you can activate his ability, but getting him to that point may requires far too much effort. I guess I’ll have to wait and see. Nearly There It’s been a long journey, and I appreciate all of you who have joined me up to this point. I hope you’ll come back next time for the conclusion of my Cube Route saga. I only have artifacts and lands left to add and then it’s done. Finally. Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName Email Website Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.