At The Tables: The “B” Cube from a “C” Player

We’re going to go pretty light this week, as I was originally going to write about the Organized Play changes, but from the perspective of how it would affect the casual player rather than the pro player (as I’m most definitely the former), but then it occurred to me that:

  1. I probably wouldn’t have accomplished anything with that piece, as there are so many more qualified individuals that have opinions on both sides of the issue, and there’s nothing I would impart upon you that you couldn’t get from reading the likes of Patrick Chapin, Jeph Foster (on ManaDeprived, in fact!), Brian Kibler, and Dan Lanthier (also on ManaDeprived!).
  2. The horse is dead.  Beating it like it owes me money is just silly.

The bottom line is that whether you love or hate the changes (or even remain indifferent to the whole thing), if you want to educate yourself, I’m sure you’ll know where to look. Still, I encourage you to get involved with this, casual player or not.

Instead, this week I’m going to delve into a new pet project I have recently decided to undertake, after observing a curious event that has been occurring at my local store (The Wizard’s Tower in Barrhaven, ON) on a weekly basis. The event: A Cube Draft.

I have only ever Cube Drafted once, and while it was a fun experience with some high rollers (GP Montreal Top 4 competitor Andrew Noworaj and ManaDeprived’s own Johnathan Bentley were among the participants) it was quite apparent to me within a few picks that I was in way over my head.  In a normal draft situation, a 1st or 2nd pick is pretty easy to make, but when I saw 8 or 9 cards from sets that I’d never even seen before, and watched as my opponents casually gave the nod to cards after only a quick scan of the choices presented to them, it became painfully obvious to me that knowing how to draft this format was a skill unto itself.  Sure, you could still use the Bomb/Removal/Evasion technique and probably do alright, but the advantage of playing years of Magic and understanding the mechanics of all the sets, as well as knowing what kind of cards you are now looking for to synergize with your latest pick, would put you far ahead of a player like yours truly. I went 0-3, and couldn’t even begin to remember what I picked over what, or what the plan to “get there” was. OH. WAIT!  I picked a [card]Karakas[/card] for sure….yah…THAT’S the ticket!

But after witnessing a few more cube drafts since then at the Wizards Tower using my friend Mahmoud’s “FULLY ARMED AND OPERATIONAL BATTLESTATION!” powered cube, I was still mildly intrigued with the idea of it, but questioned what kind of fun it might be to only use commons and uncommons.  What an idea!  Would that work?  Imagine the skill one would have to have to draft a deck of nothing but commons and uncommons, and not only play well with it without the power of rares, but actually win with it!  I shared my idea with a few players excitedly, hoping they would see the value/fun in a format like this.

Player #1: “JSP, that’s a Peasant cube.”

Player #2: “Yah, and they are hella fun to play by the way.  You’ve never heard of that before JSP?”

Player #3: “You say you’ve been playing off and on for 15 years? Wow, dude, you need to read more.”

Yet again JSP was looking for a little validation that he might have something interesting to say on the subject of variant Magic: The Gathering games, but he CAME UP SHORT!  Nonetheless, at least that meant I would have a good group to sound some ideas off of if I decided to build this thing.

So let’s build it!

Question from the guy in the back: Why in the blue hell would anyone want to play Magic without rare cards? Rare cards end games faster, help you get out of bad situations, and can put you over the top and lock out a game.

Answer: Anyone can win with a [CARD]Warstorm Surge[/CARD], [CARD]Grave Titan[/CARD], and [CARD]Sorin’s Vengeance[/CARD], but can you win with a [CARD]Qasali Pridemage[/CARD], a [CARD]Crossway Vampire[/CARD]  and a [CARD]Hymn to Tourach[/CARD]?

After doing a little poking around, (and looking at a few others lists) I’m going to start with 420 cards.  This consists of 55 cards of each colour, 50 multicoulored cards, 45 artifacts, and 50 lands.  The cards will be chosen on 3 criteria: Mana Cost, Balance, and Skill.  Since I’m using my level of skill for the third criteria, it should be a pretty easy cube to play. We’ll start with 6 choices for each color (5 creatures on each curve spot, and 1 spell) to test the waters for you, my good reader.

Black Cards:

[CARD]Vampire Lacerator[/CARD] – A 2/2 for 1, with just the right amount of balance that you want to turn this guy sideways as much as possible.  It’s not Goblin Guide pressure, but it’s ridiculous in an early peasant game.

[CARD]Black Knight[/CARD] – Oldie, but a goodie.

[CARD]Vampire Nighthawk[/CARD] – This one was a no brainer.  I don’t think I’ve seen better value on a three-drop, even with the double black, ever.

[CARD]Viscera Dragger[/CARD] – There’s just so much utility this guy can bring to the table, and also, I have a foily version of him!

[CARD]Shriekmaw[/CARD] – Pretty standard choice here.

Spell: [CARD]Evincar’s Justice[/CARD] – This seems like it should always be always cast with buyback, as a recurring pyroclasm that hits players as well just screams so much value to me.

Blue Cards:

[CARD]Enclave Cryptologist[/CARD] – Some people think I should just use a Merfolk Looter, but the point of peasant magic is that you have to work hard for your rewards, and looting without the discard is something to aspire to.

[CARD]Augury Owl[/CARD] – I loved this card in sealed, and the Scry 3 is really good in any draft I would think.

[CARD]Stitched Drake[/CARD] – This actually works really well with the Cryptologist, and provides a nice big body that blue does not usually get.

[CARD]Ninja of the Deep Hours[/CARD] – While the Kamigawa block was universally terrible, some good things did come out of it. I played “Ninjas” when I was a kid, because “Enter the Ninja” was the best movie ever, and Sho Kosugi was THE MAN (second only to Chuck Norris, or course!).  I was always the black or the red ninja to my brother’s white ninja.  A blue ninja though, with a power called “Ninjitsu”?  SOLD!

[CARD]Murder of Crows[/CARD] – A solid body and card draw with evasion is awesome in limited, so it definitely makes the cut here.

Spell: [CARD]Force of Will[/CARD] – This would be the most expensive card in the cube, and I’m actually looking for a reason to not include it, but read a lot of cube lists and reviews that say this is a staple. Am I reading the wrong stuff?

Green Cards:

[CARD]Twinblade Slasher[/CARD] – The wither mechanic wasn’t that bad, and it’s a lot more oriented for the skilled player than infect is.  For those who think this should just be a Wild Nacatl, I do agree somewhat, but this one takes more work and can be a ton more useful.

[CARD]River Boa[/CARD] – Islandwalking and Regenerate on a 2 power body.  Good solid uncommon here.

[CARD]Leatherback Baloth[/CARD] – Fatty for 3? Nice!

[CARD]Cudgel Troll[/CARD] – In days before [card]Thrun, the Last Troll[/card] was cool, this guy makes it easy to select him for the cube.

[CARD]Bellowing Tanglewurm[/CARD] – This card might be a trap, but it could also make for a few multicolored creature choices as well.  It’s also pretty good on it’s own, if a little narrow at times.

Spell: [CARD]Centaur Glade[/CARD] – No, don’t say “OVERRUN!”  I kind of like this one a lot better than Overrun.  It makes 3/3’s, which are pretty relevant in this format, as most damage is done in 1’s or 2’s.  Maybe both could make it in?

Red Cards:

[CARD]Goblin Bushwacker[/CARD] – I lost to this card so much in Zendikar limited, so much so that I started first picking it at some points.  He gives so much value when kicked, that he really belongs in the 2 slot on your curve.

[CARD]Plated Geopede[/CARD] – This guy makes me also think that a [card]Steppe Lynx[/card] should be in the 1-cmc in white, and the Shards of Alara Panorama lands would be a good addition to the lands section as well.  Is Landfall a good thing to sprinkle in a cube?

[CARD]Cunning Sparkmage[/CARD] – Remember, [card]Basilisk Collar[/card] is rare, and not included in this cube.  The ability to ping, though, is going to be very relevant.

[CARD]Dragon Whelp[/CARD] – The Whelp gets the nod for it’s evasion and it’s obvious pump ability. (For those of you who had an aneurysm when they didn’t read “Flametongue Kavu”, there are still plenty slots left to go in red.)

[CARD]Gathan Raiders[/CARD] – It will take a bit of work to get this card to full capacity, but I think it will be worth it for the size of him.

Spell: [CARD]Fireblast[/CARD] – I wonder if this should be Flame Javelin?

White Cards:

[CARD]Akrasan Squire[/CARD] – Exalted. ‘Nuff said

[CARD]Kazandu Blademaster[/CARD]/[CARD]Sigiled Paladin[/CARD] – I think I need some help here.  If I include the Blademaster, should I sprinkle some other allies in as well? If so, what color(s) should they be in?

[CARD]Aven Riftwatcher[/CARD] – A 2/3 flyer for 3, that gains you 4 life? Good value! He’s in line with Vampire Nighthawk, except he’s also splashable.  Great addition!

[CARD]Glimmerpoint Stag[/CARD] – This guy essentially gives another guy vigilance, which I can’t seem to find in a lot of good creatures for peasant, aside from Serra Angel

[CARD]Changeling Hero[/CARD] – I didn’t say “[CARD]Serra Angel[/CARD]”, because everyone knows that’s going to go in, but this 5 cost 4/4 with Lifelink can also be affected by tribal pumps, so what’s not to love? He/she/it also buys back a creature when it dies, which is swell.

Spell: [CARD]Griffin Guide[/CARD] – Whoa!  Really? After seeing [CARD]Angelic Destiny[/CARD], I can see why that’s a mythic, but why wasn’t this a rare at the time? Someone will have to educate me.  This card is sick!

Gold Cards (not necessarily on the 1-5 curve):

[CARD]Watchwolf[/CARD] – Anytime I see a 3/3 for 2 mana, even at G/W, I like the curve.  A lot of people thought this card was power creep when it debuted in Ravnica, and they might have been right.  He’s got a home in my cube for sure!

[CARD]Wall of Denial[/CARD] – I’m still on the fence about this card.  My thinking is that this might be just way too powerful for the cube, but I’m still kind of new to this whole thing, so this is another “Let me know” card.

[CARD]Ashenmoor Gouger[/CARD] – Another fatty for 3, but the not being able to block makes this card incredibly aggressive, and in a B/R draft, it’s right where you want to be.

[CARD]Slash Panther[/CARD] – One of my only Phyrexian Mana choices so far, I’m just not sure about the 2 toughness on it for the cube.

[CARD]Bull Cerodon[/CARD] – Haste and vigilance on a big guy, and could make for a pretty good addition to a Boros draft deck if the sun and moon aligned for the right player.

Spell: [CARD]Bituminous Blast[/CARD] Give me one good reason why not? Can I also go [CARD]Bloodbraid Elf[/CARD] and [CARD]Blightning[/CARD] as well? I feel dirty even suggesting this, to be honest!

Artifacts and Lands:

Staples so far are the 10 Signets, the 5 Borderposts, the Ravnica bouncelands, and the 5 Zendikar CITP tapped dual lands.  It’s here that I will leave it to some discussion and suggestions.  What kind of Artifacts and Lands should make it into this fledgling cube of mine?  How much equipment should be in it?  What about [card]Sol Ring[/card], or [card]Skullclamp[/card]? These cards make me think that they might warp the cube too much, but I’m really not sure. Finally, once this is done, who’s coming over to my wickedly awesome man cave to play?

I’m anxious to read your feedback below.

See you at the tables!


I LOVE Bonuses!  I just thought I’d share this story, cause it’s kind of cool.  A buddy of mine who played Magic with me 100 years ago in high school, recently got back into it, thanks to a little nudging from yours truly!  One Sunday afternoon, he decides to head down to his basement and pull out his old binders, just to see what he has amassed over the years.  Keep in mind, he has no idea what cards are worth nowadays, and hasn’t really played magic beyond the kitchen table.  He started in Revised, like me, and is a casual player at best, also like me.  He needs a little help, so I hop in my car, make a stop at the Tim Horton’s to grab a couple double-doubles, and a box of 20 timbits, and head over to help him go through and see what he’s got. It sounds like a pretty relaxing Sunday afternoon, with no real goal other than to shoot the breeze and reminisce about simpler times.  I really wasn’t expecting this:

Fort Knox

Believe me when I say that this isn’t the half of it.  We spent two hours on his collection, and after several NERDGASMS and a lot of Star City searches, we came to the conclusion that the above pictures are probably worth in the neighborhood of about 6-7 grand, which he could conceivable sell for 4.  This doesn’t include the Allied Fetchlands, Ravnica Shocklands, and all those other cards we looked up and discovered they’re  worth at 15-20 dollars and he didn’t even knew he had.  Bottom line: This guy just won the lottery.  We are currently in discussions on what should be done with this collection, as he doesn’t want to keep ALL these cards, but does want to get back into Magic in a Commander capacity at least.  I suggested he keep a playset of each dual land, and sell the rest of the duals off.   His response was a relaxed “Meh. We’ll see. I don’t want to make money. I just want to play!” Epic.

Now…what’s in YOUR basement?