Welcome back to The Puzzle Box everyone,
First of all, just in case you thought the title implies that I’m going to cover the blue, black, and artifact sections in this article, sorry to disappoint, I’m not. A Black & Tan is a mixed beer drink, and if you haven’t had one, I recommend it!
This week we’re going to dig into the blue and black sections of our cube as well as talk about the value of a card slot. Blue is typically recognized as the strongest color and black the weakest color in Cube. Blue is strongest for obvious reasons: Ancestral Recall, Force of Will, Jace the Mind Sculptor, Time Walk, and as we are all very aware, the list goes on an on and on. As of very recently, we even got an affordable (CMC wise) Progenitus in the blue corner. Rumblings are often heard that WOTC hates blue and continues to nerf it. It turns out with True-Name Nemesis that they are still just as much in love with the color as ever.
As for black, the problem became apparent as I was trying to find the core things that the color does. Basically, it kills creatures, trades life for resources, and brings things back to life. This is where I think the small size of this cube is really going to shine! Black will be a worthy aggro color, because the concentration of one and two drops it has is comparable to red. It has a high enough concentration of reanimator spells versus discard outlets that reanimator is going to be very strong. Finally, black control might just be a thing if it splashes for some support from another color.
Before we look at the lists for these sections, I will note that this cube is going to be far more balanced than many other cubes, as the cards that really push blue over the top are so expensive. The cards that we do have access to are still strong, but more in line with the strength of the rest of the colors in the cube. This leads us into how it is that we choose specific cards and why we pick them.
The Value of a Card Slot
One thing that I like about this list is the minimal amount of Control Magic effects. This actually reflects my personal cube list closer than most. In many lists you see Bribery, Treachery, and Control Magic. I personally dislike this type of effect (not to mention the art of the original Control Magic) so much that I’ve decided to run Mind Control instead. In place of extra Mind Controleffects, I run Sakashima’s Student, which is a really fun Clone variant.
As I have said many times, this list is just a starter list that will get you playing a very powerful Limited format consistently. Because we have such a small list it opens the doors for many more archetypes to be considered viable. For instance, if you would like your blue section to be more tempo oriented, it has a much better shot of being competitive in this size of a list over even a 360 because you’ll see more or the same types of cards more often. It’s all about concentration.
This format is meant to let you decide the archetypes and strategies you and your group want to play – if someone in your regular playgroup only ever wants to mill people out, here we have small enough cube that you can get in enough mill cards to make that consistently viable. However, there is a bit of a caveat for those of you who have not really spent a lot of time considering what a card slot in a cube is really worth. A question: how many mill cards do you need in a deck to reliably mill someone out? I don’t know if there’s a “correct” answer, but let’s say it’s eight. We then need to replace at least 12 cards in the list below with mill cards. So here’s your challenge: pick 12 cards you want to replace with mill and then look at them and ask whether having a mill archetype in your cube is really worth not playing with these 12 cards. If the answer is yes, sweet, do it to it! If the answer is no, then you know how I feel. I would love to get mill in here, but all of the mill cards we have access to are just not flexible enough to warrant a slot.
This brings us to the point that is at the nub of cube card selection: let’s talk about the flexibility of a card, or card elasticity, if you like. Each inclusion in your cube should be considered with this question in mind: how many roles does this card fill? If it’s only one, then it bloody well do something seriously powerful (think Tinker). If it is something like Mind Sculpt, which fills its role powerfully but in any other context does absolutely nothing, then you have to ask, is the play experience of this card worth its reduced flexibility?
If you take a close look, you’ll see we are firmly rooted in the realm of control. There isn’t much room for a blue tempo deck even though it’s been unlocked for us with True-Name Nemesis and Thassa, God of the Sea. Nor do we get the artifact deck, as its cards are too narrow when you don’t have inherent support like the Moxen.
For finishers, we are reaching a bit into cube past and pulling out Frost Titan and Sphinx of Jwar Isle. Meloku the Clouded Mirror was never too expensive but with the recent MM printing, she is even more affordable and will have a happy home here as one of the best blue cards in the list.
As for counterspells and draw spells, the expensive ones were naturally scaled out with the decrease in size, so again, the concentration is bang on. As a bit of a glance to future sections, it looks like Izzet is going to be pretty strong in this cube because the concentration of good cheap spells and the cards that interact favorably with them is going to be pretty high.
The List According to Type
List According to Cost
The key archetypes in black we’re going to support are reanimator, control, and black aggro, the last of which is enabled by the smaller cube, giving us the ability to have a higher concentration of low-cost creatures.
As a little aside, I’d like to point out a brand new card, Curse of Shallow Graves. Because we are missing cards like Bitter Blossom, the power level of our cube will inevitably be lower, so taking things that are close analogues to the high-powered missing cards will garner us some serious advantage. Curse goes well with creatures. The same could be said about the Mirrodin swords! Yes, I’ve just compared Curse of Shallow Gravesto Bitter Blossom and the swords, which could get someone kicked out of the MTG community. But this card has been doing some work, so I say take it high and play it often.
With reanimator decks, we will often have to reach into other colors for our bombs because Griselbrand is on his way up in price and would eat up half of our budget. However, Massacre Wurm should shine in this list due to a high concentration of aggro creatures.
The List According to Type
List According to Cost
Well, that’s that. I think there are some serious talking points regarding these two lists. If you think I am totally out to lunch on card selections or observations I’ve made please leave a comment! I think these will be the most debatable sections in this cube, so let’s get the debate started.
And as always, thanks for hangin’.
Andrew (@awcolman on Twitter)