In this entry I listed a number of guidelines I follow when deciding which cards I want in my cubes.
Here’s a PDF you can open in a new window to look at the part of my list I’m taking about while reading:
And here’s a link to an explanation of the shortcuts I use in that list, if you need it.
The generic cards in this list are mostly made up of mana artifacts and removal. Because interaction is essential to good gameplay, stuff like Brittle Effigy or Icy Manipulator is common, and Ratchet Bomb and Nevinyrral’s Disk will almost always make my cubes (remember that single rares show up with the same frequency as uncommons in my cubes, 1/3). I really wish there were a few more, reasonable designs of colorless cards which can deal with enchantments (for artifacts, there are at least a few options), but there aren’t, so I will always have to be extremely careful with enchantments in my cubes – they must be a relevant part of it, but cannot be too poweful, since they’re so hard to get rid of for some colors. Since Theros block has enchantments as a major theme, there’s a small chance that will change with the next two expansions, but I’m not holding my breath.
I trimmed my equipment selection to mostly include only very basic effects, because I found those to play best – equipment is already offering a lot in its most basic form, and I wouldn’t want to use more complicated equipment instead of simple stuff, but there’s not enough space in a cube for too much equipment. Even very simple equipments, like [Trusty Machete[/card], already became a victim of the crunch, since I only need so many choices.
A few card-specific notes:
Chimeric Mass is a bit annoying, since it will often be a creature with charge counters on it (instead of simply using +1/+1 counters), and I wish there were a cleaner version, but it will do.
It always annoys me when a colorless card needlessly (for flavor reasons) produces colored tokens, like Orochi Hatchery, because in some environments, this makes it color-affiliated (if there’s Kaysa in it, for example), but usually it isn’t. There’s no better choice, though.
Aeolipile is superior to Moonglove Extract, because it is one one hand less clumsy (the point of such cards is to be put on the board pre-emptively for secureness, so cheaper is better), but on the other hand creates what R&D calls „shields-down moments“, allowing the opponent to avoid its effect when you’re completely tapped out.
I avoid indestructible whenever possible (it prevents interaction and is slightly confusing), but it’s not too big a deal on Darksteel Pendant, which provides an important basic function.
Mind Stone clearly edges out Guardian Idol, since drawing a card is better flood protection than providing a clumsy 2/2. Prophetic Prism teams up with it and Millikin for my choice of two-mana artifacts. Coldsteel Heart had for some time been the only snow card in my cube, but I finally got rid of it after I realized I actualy preferred to separate acceleration and mana fixing.
Titan Forge and Lux Cannon are newcomers in my pool. I was looking for a couple more high-end cards for control decks and found these, which play differently from simply expensive cards, because they’re not as attractive for ramp strategies, and specifically reward you for dragging the game out. That’s a pretty small niche in my cubes, but I feel two rares are just right to potentially fill it.
Medicine Bag is the last survivor of a couple cards which I had previously used specifically as discard outlets. See, I knew I forgot something when I listed my guidelines: I got rid of madness, all hellbent cards except Keldon Megaliths, spellshapers, and most discard outlets. Mechanics which specifically encourage you to empty your hand are nearly as bad as those which encourage you to keep it full, madness is rather complicated and confusing, and spellshapers make for repetitive play (and are usually extremely annoying to play against). The whole complex of these mechanics didn’t convince me anymore, and thus I only kept a few select cards which could stand on their own. (The Bag still somehow supports threshold, obviously, but that is not important.)
Seer’s Sundial, although featuring landfall, is now my „generic“ card-drawing artifact. I finally got rid of Jayemdae Tome, which no one, including me, ever used. In the really early limited days, there was a time when the Tome was quite useful, but nowadays, and especially in my cubes, paying 12 mana for an Inspiration is just beyond awful. Cannon and Forge seem to have similar egregious initial investments, but at least produce an impressive effect impacting the board; helping you to win where the Tome might just have gotten you closer to decking yourself.
I wasn’t too happy with my overall selection of high-end colorless creatures, so I included a couple more high-end non-creature artifacts instead. Minion Reflector, Mirari, Mindslaver, Staff of Nin and Aladdin’s Ring are my toys of choice for lategame or ramp decks here, with Mindslaver intended for cubes in the top segment of the power level spectrum.
Some important cards I removed are Serrated Arrows, which are overpowered, and Spine of Ish Sah, which is too expensive to fulfill the role I wanted it to (a catch-all colorless removal spell), and at the same time lends itself to silly combo plays recurring it every turn. Though the Arrows are an excellent design, they need to cast at least one mana more to be fair. It’s funny how strong they are, yet how weak [cast]Dragon Blood[/card] is – a design I’d gladly include in my pool if its activation cost were just tapping it.
Another card which finally got kicked out is Disrupting Scepter, which is essentially a sideboard card in my cubes (reason enough not to use it), and for the rare control-on-control matchup to boot, because it is too clumsy otherwise. I kept it so long because there is just no alternative to it – but then again, in contrast to card drawing, discard probably isn’t an effect which is really needed on a colorless card.