Schlagwort-Archiv: card pool

My Limited Card Pool: Multicolor without White

This is the 14th and last entry in a series where I comment on and explain my choices for my limited card pool in detail. Here are my previous entries:

Lands & Artifact Creatures

Non-Creature Artifacts

White Lands & Creatures

White Non-Creature Spells

Black Lands & Creatures

Black Non-Creature Spells

Green Lands & Creatures

Green Non-Creature Spells

Blue Lands & Creatures

Blue Non-Creature Spells

Red Lands & Creatures

Red Non-Creature Spells

Multicolor with White

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:

Multicolor without White

And here’s a link to an explanation of the shortcuts I use in that list, if you need it.

Golgari is probably the guild giving me the most trouble to find good candidates to fill up its slots (with Izzet a close runner-up). Llanowar Dead is really underwhelming, seeing that Selesnya has Steward of Valeron, while Dreg Mangler is a bit better than I like. (At least that balances itself out a little.) These are already average choices, though: Many other cards are just waiting for me to find a better replacement for them, with the worst offenders being Woodwraith Strangler and Golgari Germination.

Golgari has a mini theme which only shows up here, scavenge. That is because I no longer intended to support these cards as a theme, just used a few because they play well (or, in the case of the Mangler, at least better than the alternatives). They still happen to have some synergy with Rot Farm Skeleton and Grisly Salvage – more cards I mostly use for a lack of better options – and those in turn are justified because they feed a couple other cards which use the graveyard.

Marrow Chomper is my only card with devour in the pool, again because I am not really interested in that mechanic anymore. It just happens to be text on a usable card.

Seeing Pernicious Deed, which is certainly one of the strongest cards in my pool, let me explain that multicolor cards are generally allowed and even supposed to be a bit stronger, for three reasons: 1) They should encourage drafters to commit to a color pair, 2) they need to reward you for such a commitment, and 3) they are meant to be used in a multicolored environment, which tends to have a higher power level with regard to available threats and answers (but usually not with regard to speed and focus) in general.

Also, answers have more leeway when it comes to card strength, because they will not win a game by themselves. This is why a creature like Shivan Dragon, which hasn’t seen the light of constructed play since essentially forever, is too strong for a Next Level Cube, while constructed staples like Thoughtseize or Wrath of God aren’t.

Dimir, while quantitatively supported well as a friendly color combination, surprisingly also has issues, at least in the creature department. This is because WotC, for some reason, always seems to put stupid or unwieldy mechanics in that guild: Milling is the worst (and unfortunately, most persistent) by far, but transmute wasn’t great either, and cipher didn’t even go on creatures. There’s nothing outstandingly terrible here, but my selection doesn’t look like a best-of of card design either.

In Rakdos, the challenge was to not make everything about creature removal. I know I only succeeded partially here. Using nearly unplayable cards as a counterweight, as WotC usually does, isn’t an option for me, though.

Simic, even though an enemy color combination, provides plenty of good choices, now that I decided that I can use evolve as a generic mechanic, with one annoying exception: For some unfathomable reason, its hybrid cards suck. I got quite creative by making Biomass Mutation the uncommon, and Snakeform is fine, but Groundling Pouncer and Trapjaw Kelpie fall squarely into the category „best of the rest“, with the first having a rather silly abilty, and the second being sorely overcosted.

As I write this, Kiora’s Follower (mouseover will probably not work for a while) from Born of the Gods has already been spoiled. While a bit similar to Seeker of Skybreak, this is a really cool, elegant card, and it might replace Coiling Oracle in my pool. I’ll have to think about that for a while, though, because new toys always seem cooler than old ones, and it is possible that after some reflection I’ll keep the more unique Oracle instead. The Follower seems the favorite at the moment, though. Edit: And I’ve decided to use it.

In Gruul, I have considered another change: Hunting Kavu, whose ability is really a strange fit in this guild, could make room for Fanatic of Xenagos (as with the Follower, mouseover will take a while) from Born of the Gods. Gruul has, overall, a rather boring selection of creatures, which is why I decided to use the „gating“ cards from Planeshift to give that guild a more unique feel, and why I ended up with that Kavu. While that is a bit of a strange Gruul creature, the Fanatic would yet be another haste guy, using a mechanic (tribute) I do not see tied to Gruul, and a bit more powerful than I like. Edit: I decided to keep the Kavu.

It’s a pity that the Gruul bloodrush creatures play so similarly (okay, Ghor-Clan Rampager stands out by being insanely pushed), so I can only use one. I’m happy I stumbled about the arcane (no, not in that sense, obviously) Sunastian Falconer, which does something quite unique. Now, I’m not a fan of mana acceleration which costs more than 4 mana, but here this is just a bonus ability on a 4/4, so it’s fine.

In Izzet, which is possibly the worst supported guild overall (so much weird, crappy, „fun“ cards!), I had no choice than to wholeheartedly embrace the instery theme, and also use overload. Still, I always watch out for possible improvements. Especially Blistercoil Weird and Noggle Bridgebreaker (really, does that card need a disadvantage?) annoy me, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Blast of Genius, although at least not a coinflip card – all of R&D should receive a sound flogging whenever they create such an abomination! –  is still too random for my taste, but I’ll have to put up with it, because a guild with an instery theme cannot just have Teleportal as a sorcery.

Okay, that was it! 20 or so entries overall, and I still only touched the surface of my considerations. Next up will be my overview of Born of the Gods updates to my pool. Then, it will be time to phsyically acquire the missing cards and start building Next Level Cubes again!

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My Limited Card Pool: Multicolor with White

This is the 13th entry in a series where I comment on and explain my choices for my limited card pool in detail. Here are my previous entries:

Lands & Artifact Creatures

Non-Creature Artifacts

White Lands & Creatures

White Non-Creature Spells

Black Lands & Creatures

Black Non-Creature Spells

Green Lands & Creatures

Green Non-Creature Spells

Blue Lands & Creatures

Blue Non-Creature Spells

Red Lands & Creatures

Red Non-Creature Spells

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:

Multicolor with White

And here’s a link to an explanation of the shortcuts I use in that list, if you need it.

My multicolor cards are structured extremely symmetrically, because color combinations are a theme which needs to be balanced out carefully. There is one odd card here: Femeref Enchantress. She doesn’t belong to any of the cycles and groups which all color combinations share, but is instead a dedicated support card for an enchantment theme. Since this happens to manifest in White and Green only (and you probably want both colors, if possible), she’s a perfect fit. The reason she is in such a solitary position is simply that there is no other theme requiring and offering that kind of additional support.

Disregarding that exception, each guild has 27 cards in my pool. I’ll use Orzhov as an example to break them down:

Isolated Chapel, Marsh Flats and Orzhov Signet make up my guild-affiliated color fixers of choice (which are, of course, common). I do not want any non-basics with basic land types in my pool, and those duals are too strong anyway, making decks with three or more colors too easy to come by. Of course, if a cube is meant to support 3-color-decks, my manafixing is absolutely sufficient, but you better have a clear idea in which colors you want to end up instead of just wildly grabbing duals and seeing where this leads you. There are two more cycles of manafixers which would also work for me, the ones represented by Fetid Heath and Caves of Koilos, but I do not need more of those cards anymore.

While hybrid cards will usually also be present in a multicolor-themed cube, they are even a bit more important supporting cubes which encourage (nearly) monocolored decks, increasing options for players of two colors at the same time, and thus helping to make the math work out. (Colorless cards are another big help here.) There is a common hybrid creature requiring only one colored mana (Mourning Thrull), a common instant or sorcery requiring only one colored mana (Cauldron Haze), and a third common without fast rules to supply the needed density (Harvest Gwyllion). Then, there is an uncommon requring two colored mana (Gift of Orzhova), and offering a bit more power. Lastly, I use the complete cycle of hybrid auras from Shadowmoor and EventideEdge of the Divinity in this case – as uncommons, but although these are technically hybrid spells, they are obviously intended to be used as dualcolored cards.

Two more common cards are not strictly dualcolored, but obviously not too useful otherwise: Mournful Zombie and Scholar of Athreos. One is a black card needing white support to be decent, the second the other way around. Each of those cards only needs one colored mana to be cast. As for the support color, I made sure it works in a variety of ways: Sometimes the card asks if color of that mana was spend to cast it, sometimes there’s a kicker cost requiring that color of mana, and sometimes an activation cost. Sometimes the card looks for another permanant of that color, and sometimes for a basic land with the corresponding type.

For a while, I also used split cards (later the newer fuse cards), and cards with off-color flashback here. I gave up on that because of wildly varying power levels, and because the flashback cards always had players look out for self-milling effects even if a cube didn’t have a graveyard theme. Lately, I realized that even without those mechanics I still had more cross-color cards than I needed, so I’m probably not going back. Enough excellent new split-card designs in all color combinations might sway me, but this is really unlikely to happen anytime soon.

That leaves 17 „real“ 2-colored cards: 8 commons, 7 uncommons and two rares. (In Orzhov, these feature a minor theme of extort. Naturally, I can also use those cards to enhance a cube without a pronounced multicolor theme, but with an extort theme.) Not all my choices are perfect yet, especially in the enemy colored pairs, which have less support overall. Here, Putrid Warrior is a bit close to Tithe Drinker, Sin Collector feels a bit specialized, Alms Beast isn’t an especially elegant design, Agent of Masks feels like a misdesigned extort card, and Maw of the Obzedat encourages alpha strikes a bit too much. These are rather minor complaints, but after so many years, I wish there was a better selection available.

I’m back to Pillory of the Sleepless over One Thousand Lashes, since the latter is too close to Faith’s Fetters, while there is no card too similar to Pillory anymore in my pool.

I neither like convoke nor populate, but Selesnya still shows traces of a token theme in Selesnya Evangel, Pollenbright Wings and Seed Spark.

Azorius features a bit detain with Lyev Skyknight and Archon of the Triumvirate. Its selection of non-creatures is overall a bit weak – mostly, because it does not offer decent removal. Shield of the Righteous and Demonspine Whip in Rakdos are a bit an experiment, but they should work out.

Boros offers the combination of White and Red another battalion creature in Wojek Halberdiers. It has the most 2-drop creatures of all guilds in my pool, because WotC seems to concentrate most of its cool designs here.

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My Limited Card Pool: Red Non-Creature Spells

This is the 12th entry in a series where I comment on and explain my choices for my limited card pool in detail. Here are my previous entries:

Lands & Artifact Creatures

Non-Creature Artifacts

White Lands & Creatures

White Non-Creature Spells

Black Lands & Creatures

Black Non-Creature Spells

Green Lands & Creatures

Green Non-Creature Spells

Blue Lands & Creatures

Blue Non-Creature Spells

Red Lands & Creatures

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:

Red Non-Creature Spells (Claws of Valakut and Lightning Cloud should be rare, while Slagstorm should be uncommon.)

And here’s a link to an explanation of the shortcuts I use in that list, if you need it.

I consider Maniacal Rage to be a superior design to Furor of the Bitten, but Furor sits in a better mana slot – on two mana Madcap Skills and Ordeal of Purphoros give me enough options.

Claws of Valakut is not quite as powerful as Armored Ascension or even Blanchwood Armor, but still at the top of the power level spectrum for my cubes. I need it as a companion to Spitting Earth, just as Nightmare is a companion to Tendrils of Corruption, but I don’t like how it threatens to kill out of nowhere.

Disintegrate is my burn x-spell of choice. I do not think Fireball is as overpowered in limited as it once was – games go a lot faster today – but it’s unnecessarily complicated. Rolling Thunder was the bogeyman of Tempest limited, but what’s true about Fireball is also true about the Thunder: Games go faster, creatures are bigger, and that spell isn’t terribly mana-efficient. Since Red has few ways to attain card advantage, it is a good option. Back to Disintegrate: It is a way to deal with regenerating creatures (Red has a few more, but that is a good thing) of any size, and it also makes sure they do not come back, although that isn’t quite as important anymore, since I removed most self-recurring creatures from my pool.

It is probably telling that I already run out of things I want to say about my red non-creature spells here: Red really lacks variance a bit. Then again, since this is the last entry about monocolored cards, I already said everything which pertains to colorspanning cycles, making this entry especially short.

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My Limited Card Pool: Red Lands & Creatures

This is the 11th entry in a series where I comment on and explain my choices for my limited card pool in detail. Here are my previous entries:

Lands & Artifact Creatures

Non-Creature Artifacts

White Lands & Creatures

White Non-Creature Spells

Black Lands & Creatures

Black Non-Creature Spells

Green Lands & Creatures

Green Non-Creature Spells

Blue Lands & Creatures

Blue Non-Creature Spells

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:

Red Lands & Creatures (Hellion Crucible should be uncommon.)

And here’s a link to an explanation of the shortcuts I use in that list, if you need it.

Keldon Megaliths is the only card with hellbent left in my pool. I gave up on that mechanic, which simply didn’t play well. The Megaliths are not meant to specifically encourage players to build a deck which empties its hand fast, but as a land with an upside in the lategame red decks can use, just like Hellion Crucible

I upgraded Jackal Pup to Firedrinker Satyr, because the Pup could do with a little extra oomph in limited.

Jackal Familiar and Mogg Flunkies are meant to encourage a weenie strategy, where they are stronger than Ember Beast, which plays more like a slightly undercosted generic creature with a disadvantage.

Skitter of Lizards is a great way to get a usable haste creature for 1 mana in my pool (Goblin Guide does not really work in limited).

AEtherflame Wall is Red’s concession towards the shadow theme, which is why it’s common, but it also provides a generally useful pumpable defender in the vein of Wall of Fire.

Stormblood Berserker, the 2-drop, being uncommon, and Gorehorn Minotaurs, the 4-drop, common, is just as things were in Magic 2012, but feels a bit unintuitive to me, especially because it is the other way around than the rarities of the black bloodthirst creatures. It makes sense, though, as the Berserker is a little more powerful, and the switched rarities make the mechanic feel a little different in both colors.

Attributing rarities was also an issue with Young Pyromancer and Guttersnipe. While the Pyromancer is probably a bit more powerful even in limited (but it’s a lot closer than in constructed), he is more generally useful, while Guttersnipe isn’t too interesting without a strong instery component in the deck. Also, it’s nice if the producer of 1/1 tokens is common, while Talrand, Sky Summoner is rare.

Fire Imp is the smaller variant of Flametongue Kavu, which means it is on an acceptable power level.

Granite Gargoyle, Highland Giant and Earth Elemental are generic creatures helping to balance out Red’s overall very aggressive nature a little, which is of course a defining feature of that color, but makes it play a little too one-dimensional if it is the only strategic option. These creatures still work reasonably well on the attack, though.

Outrage Shaman is one of the few cards with devotion (yes, it doesn’t technically have it) which isn’t too swingy. Thus, I’m not interested in that mechanic for its own sake, but I needed a red color themed uncommon, and this is a great fit.

6 mana is the highest acceptable cost for cards which support a theme. Rustmouth Ogre still is no great choice, but a superior replacement which fits in an uncommon slot and isn’t too similar to other cards in my pool is hard to come by.

Conquering Manticore is overall probably stronger than Shivan Dragon, but it isn’t quite as efficient at winnig a game on its own in short time, which is the problematic part. Also, the Dragon, while one of the most iconic Magic cards, isn’t that unique in my card pool, with Furnace Whelp and Shivan Hellkite doing similar things.

Magmatic Force is the most powerful 8-mana card in my pool. On one hand, that’s strange, since having the best fatty seems to belong into either the green or blue part of the color pie. On the other hand, it is kinda fair, since Red has probably the most trouble supporting a lategame strategy. I still wish there was a slightly weaker alternative, but the only other card in the right power band is Scourge of Kher Ridges, which is too similar to the (much better designed) Shivan Hellkite, and whose abilities effectively clean the board repeatedly, which isn’t a desirable feature.

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My Limited Card Pool: Blue Non-Creature Spells

This is the 10th entry in a series where I comment on and explain my choices for my limited card pool in detail. Here are my previous entries:

Lands & Artifact Creatures

Non-Creature Artifacts

White Lands & Creatures

White Non-Creature Spells

Black Lands & Creatures

Black Non-Creature Spells

Green Lands & Creatures

Green Non-Creature Spells

Blue Lands & Creatures

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:

Blue Non-Creature Spells

And here’s a link to an explanation of the shortcuts I use in that list, if you need it.

Flight Spellbomb and Panic Spellbomb are the only survivors from one-and-a-half cycles of Spellbombs. I realized I didn’t need nearly as many of those, and found many of their designs not convincing. In the original cycle from Mirrodin, you mostly knew if you’d cycle a bomb or use it for its effect before the game even started – some effects were too weak to be worth a card, some were too good that cycling were a realistic alternative. Also, there was the issue of players using off-color Spellbombs, which was not what I had in mind when I included a whole cycle of them. The new Spellbombs from Scars of Mirrodin, on the other hand, are mostly useless without the right colored mana, which is good. The blue and the red one had the most interesting and elegant effects, so I decided to keep those.

Just like Seal of Strength did with Giant Growth, so has Seal of Removal shoved out the classic Unsummon for being too similar. Not that these cards couldn’t coexist, but the spots for bounce spells are already crowded, and Blue needs only so many of them. Silent Departure, Into the Roil, Rescind and Time Ebb do everything I need, and let us not forget AEther Adept and AEthersnipe

Think Tank and Strategic Planning obviously support graveyard-based strategies, but this is not their main function in my pool: I use them primarily for card selection (and I was really happy that Planning got reprinted, making it affordable!) Therefore they are not tagged „yard“ and „mill“ – unlike Mental Note, which is meant for environments with such a theme. I use Note over Thought Scour on principle, because milling the opponent is one of the biggest no-nos in Next Level Cubes.

Vow of Flight has some unnecessary and annoying text, and I’m not too happy with that card – all I really want is Spectral Flight to cost one mana more. Granted, playing the Vow on an opponent’s creature will seldom lead to a win, and it’s certainly not too strong a „removal“ option for Blue, but sometimes players will be forced to do it and then probably watch a game they would have lost fast otherwise drag on a lot longer – until they still lose it. Still, this kind auf aura really needs to be there, and Vow is the best choice – Zephid’s Embrace giving shroud is too much, and Nimbus Naiad is a different, and very special concept. Of course, there is Drake Umbra, but that is another really special card, and sitting in a clearly different mana slot.

For me, Sleight of Hand is the most basic 1-mana card selection spell, not using scry, and not involving putting cards from your hand back or shuffling your library.

The options for countermagic are overhwelming. In addition to permanent-based stuff (like Daring Apprentice or Lilting Refrain), I have no less than 8 monoblue cards which explicitly say „counter target spell“ on them in my pool, and a couple more which do similar things (Mage’s Guile, Meddle…), and I still left out a good number of perfectly fine candidates, most noteworthy Essence Scatter, Negate and Mana Leak, which lose out to Counterspell and Miscalculation; and Dismal Failure, losing out to Dismiss.

Perilous Research is effectively a much better Altar’s Reap, so I took out the latter – there are still enough sacrifice synergies in Black. Impulse, however, had to go (a pity, since I had made the effort to get a somehow pricey version with correct wording) – it was just a bit too good. Strategic Planning is a better fit, which pushed out the too similar Compulsive Research. With Mulldrifter gone, the elegant Divination could return and fill that slot, but Thirst for Knowledge still sports that kind of mechanic.

There were several options for a strong tempo card affecting more than one creature. I got away from Undo and Into the Void and returned to the slightly fairer Sleep, which can not be used just to remove tokens, counters and auras, and is an honest pure tempo play instead.

I love Mind Control for nostalgic reasons (which go back to Control Magic of course), but turning your opponent’s best creature against him is still too cheap at 5 mana. Confiscate sits in the right spot, though.

I am a bit wary of any spell which draws more than 3 cards, but since my cubes never are as slow as Magic 2014 was, costing 6 mana makes Opportunity not too unfair.

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My Limited Card Pool: Blue Lands & Creatures

This is the 9th entry in a series where I comment on and explain my choices for my limited card pool in detail. Here are my previous entries:

Lands & Artifact Creatures

Non-Creature Artifacts

White Lands & Creatures

White Non-Creature Spells

Black Lands & Creatures

Black Non-Creature Spells

Green Lands & Creatures

Green Non-Creature Spells

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:

Blue Lands & Creatures (The rarities of Daring Apprentice and Clone were switched inadvertently; the former should be uncommon, the latter common.)

And here’s a link to an explanation of the shortcuts I use in that list, if you need it.

I never understood the fascination of many players with the bouncelands from the old Ravnica block. „Card advantage on a land“ is what some pro uttered in awe – well, yes (although an extra mana isn’t even technically card advantage unless you can exchange that mana or another land for a card somehow), but at the same time these lands are so slow that Thawing Glaciers seems to work at hypersonic speed in comparison. They can’t be laid on turn one, need another „normal“ land to be played at all, cost you your second turn (and might even lose you a card when you’re on the draw – so much for card advantage!), and do not provide an extra mana before the turn where you would have run out of land drops otherwise. In addition, they make you extremely vulnerable to land destruction, tapping or bouncing.

I was still a somehow active player at the time of Ravnica / Time Spiral block, and I remember two things clearly: 1. Unlike practically everyone else, I picked signets over bouncelands in Ravnica block draft (meaning I got very few of the latter, since some people took to actually firstpicking them), and my win ratio in that format was the highest ever. 2. I playtested standard a lot back then, and whenever I came upon a deck using bouncelands, I very soon tuned them out of the deck, vastly improving that deck’s strength.

That seemed to be a lot off-topic text, didn’t it? Yet I wanted to explain why I got rid of those bouncelands in my pool: They simply sucked. I used them as an additional cycle of manafixers, but noone, including myself, was ever happy drawing them, and when I realized that I didn’t need that much manafixing in my pool anymore after committing to reasonably sized cubes, I gladly threw them out.

However, the idea of a land which would provide mana advantage in a long game for the cost of slowing down your early game wasn’t that bad in itself, if that was the expressive purpose of that land. So, when I was looking for a special blue-affiliated land beyond the fundamental cycles of manlands and cycling lands (every color should have at least one of those), I decided that I could include Coral Atoll from the Visions predecessor cycle of the bouncelands. Blue is the color most likely to want this effect, since it is usually best equipped for the endgame, so that fitted.

Giant Tortoise is cool, because it is a vanilla 1/4 for 1U. (Well, almost.) There’s a million 1/3 creatures for 1U, but a 1/4 is just what’s needed, and there’s no good reason it has to cost 3 mana, unless it has a significant upside. (Armored Skaab brings that upside, if an environment has a strong graveyard theme.) Making a 1/4 cost UU, like Plated Seastrider, is also silly, as Frostburn Weird shows.

Void Stalker as a common highlights again how much value I place on available creature removal as the most important form of interaction in limited.

Latch Seeker edges out Phantom Warrior for crunch reasons – if you’re not careful, you’ll end up with a dozen 2/1 or 2/2 flying creatures for 3 mana in Blue when assembling your limited card pool (but you certainly want a few of those).

Scroll Thief is a bit closer to Thieving Magpie than I like, but Stealer of Secrets isn’t too unique either (see Dimir Cutpurse or Augury Adept), and the slow, accumulating advantage this creature threatens to grind out goes better with only a single point of power. (Having it deal combat damage, unlike Ophidian, is still a good idea, because you want to reward players who power this creature up.)

The archetypal pinger, Prodigal Sorcerer, shows that I still see that ability in Blue, where it once belonged (although Red gets to join the party, of course, like with Vulshok Sorcerer), and his big sister, Reveka, Wizard Savant, underscores that.

Clone is common, not only because Blue is a bit short on creatures which makes sense at common, but also because, nonewithstanding its rather complex underlying rules, it represents a really basic version of a typical blue effect, and it isn’t powerful in itself – just playing it on curve, for example, will usually result in a not too impressive effect.

Tower Geist is a hybrid between the acceptable, but not too exciting Screeching Drake and the overpowered Mulldrifter.

From a flavor-based aesthetic perspective, it sucks that I use Air Elemental, Water Elemental and Earth Elemental, but not Fire Elemental – but that is just one vanilla creature too many, and too similar to the others. The blue flyer is listed as uncommon, but I already reversed my stance on that, and it is common again, to fall into line with the other elementals, and to show that Blue can get big flyers at common, but they are not as strong as the rarer creatures of other colors (see White’s Serra Angel).

Ephemeron is the best companion I found as a generic 6-drop creature for Mahamoti Djinn, it being nearly unkillable and all, but I keep my eyes open for a better solution, which feels more generic, and differs more from the Djinn (and Air Elemental).

Tidal Force replaced Tidespout Tyrant, because an 8-drop shouldn’t require additional spells to be worth its mana.

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My Limited Card Pool: Green Non-Creature Spells

This is the 8th entry in a series where I comment on and explain my choices for my limited card pool in detail. Here are my previous entries:

Lands & Artifact Creatures

Non-Creature Artifacts

White Lands & Creatures

White Non-Creature Spells

Black Lands & Creatures

Black Non-Creature Spells

Green Lands & Creatures

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:

Green Non-Creature Spells

And here’s a link to an explanation of the shortcuts I use in that list, if you need it.

Frog Tongue allows me to complete this cycle, since Nylea’s Presence doesn’t work for me on any level: Not an enchant creature, and green mana fixing.

There’s Keen Sense instead of Curiosity, because Green needed that effect more – Blue has all the card draw in the world, and especially creatures with that ability inbuilt.

After trying out a lot of similar cards, most of which were more powerful, I decided that the simplest execution was the best: Oakenform is a terribly fine limited card and really needs no additional power-up.

Into the Wilds is a bit slower than I like – I’d prefer an alternative creating card advantage a little faster and more reliable. But Oracle of Mul Daya, which I had before, is just too good; and all other choices are either also too powerful or not generic enough.

It may seem strange that, of all things, Giant Growth is missing among Green’s very numerous pump spells, but it makes more sense to have Brute Force in Red instead, which is happy to have an instant which does not directly do damage, and Green wants Seal of Strength and Predator’s Strike more.

Fog is too weak to get played, but its effect is something Green should have. Lull makes it maindeckable via cycling; Moment’s Peace is strong enough because it can be used twice; and Terrifying Presence can act as creature removal.

Lead the Stampede is another of those spells which is waiting for a better replacement. Honestly, why can Green not simply have a Divination? Something like that is needed on three mana – there’s kind of a gap here. Gift of the Gargantuan has the same randomness issues, but provides less value on average. I don’t like that Lead can possibly draw three or more creatures, but the chance not to get anything worthwhile out of Gift is too high and makes it unusable. If it looked at five cards, I’d prefer it over Lead (I really was agonizing over that decision). You know what would work? A Nature’s Lore for one mana more with scry 2 (Born of the Gods is only partly spoiled as I write this, so there is some hope)! Edit: Meanwhile, Peregrination (mouseover isn’t working yet) has been spoiled, which is a Cultivate for one mana more with scry 1. Close, and yet so far!

Talking about the Lore: It’s useful, but not excellent. Explore is a bit stronger, which is fine, requires no shuffling, and fills a cantrip slot.

Green has Naturalize, which means White has no Disenchant – but it gets Seal of Cleansing and Revoke Existence instead, which seems fair.

After trying out Red and Black, I now have scry in Red and Green. Red desperately needs it both for variety and card flow, Blue has enough card draw and card selection, and White is filled to the brim with interesting spells of all kinds and really doesn’t need an extra mechanic. Black has some card draw in addition to card advantage via discard, and its selection of scry spells didn’t impress me too much, while Green still isn’t quite where I want it to be with regard to card flow.

I’m not using scry in all colors, because cycling and cantrips already do a pretty similar thing, and I want scry to show up in cubes where those other mechanics don’t have too much of a presence, as a special element of Red and Green. I won’t be unhappy, though, if Born of the Gods gives me a superior option to Artisan’s Sorrow, which is quite similar to Creeping Mold. Something with scry 1 would be nice for symmetry (Red has one scry 1 and one scry 2 spell), if I do not get my wish above. (But not that manafixing spell.)

Unyaro Bee Sting finally replaces Bee Sting: I’m a fan of the more generic name, but it is silly not to use the up-to-date wording when one plans to draft with less experienced players.

Dosan’s Oldest Chant is the only acceptable green lifegain spell, although its power level is in Unhinge territory. I don’t think anything would break if it cost a mana less, though.

Incremental Growth replaces Stand Together, which has too much competition and too much of a blowout potential. Growth is baseline more powerful, but allows the opponent better to deal with it. It also serves as my version of Overrun, which is a good green effect to have, but way overpowered. A closer variant wouldn’t do here – Growth is considerably weaker, and still about as powerful as I like to go.

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My Limited Card Pool: Green Lands & Creatures

This is the 7th entry in a series where I comment on and explain my choices for my limited card pool in detail. Here are my previous entries:

Lands & Artifact Creatures

Non-Creature Artifacts

White Lands & Creatures

White Non-Creature Spells

Black Lands & Creatures

Black Non-Creature Spells

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:

Green Lands & Creatures

And here’s a link to an explanation of the shortcuts I use in that list, if you need it.

Arbor Elf and Leaf Gilder are my choices for green creature-based mana acceleration on one or two mana, respectively. (Their non-creature counterparts are Wild Growth and Explore.) The Elf edges out creatures which directly produce mana, partly because it can provide extra value with the Growth and some other land-enchanting auras, but also because it ties the acceleration to the need of actually having a Forest, which I like – you really have to make sure you are into Green if you want to use it, without cheating too much with nonbasic lands or artifact mana.

The Gilder provides just a little more extra value than its competitor, Vine Trellis, which also is a bit too similar to Wall of Blossoms. Gyre Sage and Werebear also play around in that territory, but are different enough and serve more special purposes. I found I liked the Gilder a lot more than the cycle of mana myrs, which are a design failure for me, since people tend to pick them up almost regardless of the color of mana they produce, which is because they only get used in cubes where several of their aspects (mana acceleration, being creatures, being artifacts) are important. The signets don’t have that issue in my cubes, since their a little unwieldy acceleration alone isn’t attractive enough if you do not want them for the fixing. Millikin and Mind Stone are there to help those drafters valuing acceleration, so the myrs aren’t needed, and the Gilder is a reasonable creature on top of providing mana, but needs you to be green to use him.

Greenweaver Druid is out, just as Cultivate is, but for another reason: I decided to keep mana multiplication (cards which provide more than 1 mana) colorless – Coral Atoll is a special exception – because dedicated ramp isn’t a strategy which needs to support more than one drafter, or even has to be present at all in every cube, but certainly has to be available in other colors as well. Green is still special by providing high quality cheap ramp, while Palladium Myr, Coalition Relic and Thran Dynamo provide more expensive ramp options to anyone.

Dryad Sophisticate is technically a landwalker, but unlike „real“ landwalkers does not punish players for using a certain color. It’s also a nice evasive green creature in the spot between Treetop Scout and Treetop Rangers.

Elvish Visionary, Wall of Blossoms and Kavu Climber give Green a nice little card advantage theme. Striped Bears look like they would fit in, but are a bit underwhelming, comparing unfavorably to Black’s standard Phyrexian Rager.

It took WotC some time, but efficiently costed vanilla creatures finally are now found in monogreen. Kalonian Tusker and Rumbling Baloth thus replaced Watchwolf and Rhox Brute.

Sporecap Spider is my concession to the insight that Wall of Air just isn’t special enough to deserve a slot in my card pool, especially with Fog Bank around. Between this very defensive Spider and the solid stats sporting Cloudcrown Oak, there is no place for the classic Giant Spider, which I never really liked – it specifically hoses flyers too efficiently, while not being a great defensive card overall, and an inefficient attacker.

I moved evoke completely out of Green and Black, with no acceptable candidate in Black, and Briarhorn, the only reasonable choice in Green, a bit too strong, and contributing to the glut of green combat tricks. Briarpack Alpha is strong enough in limited, and without the Giant Growth option.

Cudgel Troll was too squeezed in between Wolfir Avenger, Rumbling Baloth and Charging Troll, although it is a very nice design.

Green is the only color where a generic common 6-drop creature makes sense, and that is what Vastwood Gorger provides. (I would be fine with it being a 6/6, though.) Vorstclaw is a bit too strong for a common and had to make room for Ruination Wurm. Other possible choices were too close to Kodama of the North Tree, which is an important powerful 5-drop in a color which, astonishingly enough, has few good options here. Plated Rootwalla is my second generic green common 5-drop, complementing Kavu Climber.

I feel Verdant Force, while acceptable in the 8-mana-slot, is a bit underwhelming for Green – after all, that color is supposed to have the strongest creatures! – but among the available options, it comes the closest.

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My Limited Card Pool: Black Non-Creature Spells

This is the sixth entry in a series where I comment on and explain my choices for my limited card pool in detail. Here are my previous entries:

Lands & Artifact Creatures

Non-Creature Artifacts

White Lands & Creatures

White Non-Creature Spells

Black Lands & Creatures

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:

Black Non-Creature Spells (Phyrexian Boon should no longer be on that list.)

And here’s a link to an explanation of the shortcuts I use in that list, if you need it.

One annoying thing which I cannot get out of my pool, although I wish I could, is that needless „non-black“ rider on black removal spells. It’s fine to have a couple of those specifically for a color themed cube, but that restriction pops up on way too many cards which otherwise are (and should be) generic choices, like Executioner’s Capsule, Seal of Doom or Befoul. I would actually prefer to dispense with all „color (spare)“ tagged cards completely, since that card aspect does not provide much play value in Zweidritteldraft even if I use a color theme, but I simply need them for their main function (Saltblast and Befoul, for example, provide hard-to-come-by maindeckable land destruction; and the aforementioned Capsule and the Seal are members of essential cycles).

WotC has stopped to use that rider on black removal spells lately, providing a couple of truly generic choices, but I will probably never be able to completely get rid of it. Note that removal cards which spare artifact creatures, on the other hand, make perfect sense in an artifact cube, since artifacts will be plentiful enough there that these cards aren’t just randomly weaker against one player. That makes an additional non-black rider, like on Ritual of the Machine – which is a wonderful design otherwise – especially annoying, though.

Black, to a slightly lesser extent Green, and to an even larger extent Red are the colors where a certain uniformity of non-creatures spells is an issue. Both White and Blue have so many noticeably different designs to choose from that cutting that variety down to a manageable level is hard. The other colors, however, provide too much of a few good things, and too little variety overall – at least if we only look at usable limited cards.

For Green, one mostly has to make sure there’s some creature removal present, and a little card draw (which Green should have), then cut down the plethora of pump spells and mana providers to a reasonable level. Green is a fine color to sport an above-average creature ratio, and there’s no dearth of choices in that area, so you do not need to go scavenging for fillers. In Red, however, almost every spell seems to deal damage or destroy something, which is severely limiting that color’s scope in limited, and making it necessary too look pretty hard which versions of these basic effects play noticeable different due to varying numbers in their costs and effects.

With Black it isn’t quite as bad, but you still have to wade through a sea of creature removal. Discard is the second most pronounced theme, but many basic discard spells, like Duress, Ostracize or Coercion don’t really work that well in limited due to being too situational or inefficient. (Discard tacked on creatures, however, plays well and is powerful, which is why I had to make a lot of cuts there and maybe will do even more). Returning creatures from your graveyard to your hand or directly to the battlefield is number three. Overall, Black has less of an issue with variety itself, but with power level: Creature removal is powerful (and it needs to be, to keep the game interactive), so it needs to be supplemented with less powerful (but still playable) stuff. There’s a bit of a gap between „strong“ and „weak“ in Black non-creature, non-removal spells, though, which I haven’t been able to satisfactorily close in all areas.

Unholy Strength is back in my pool over Predator’s Gambit. I wanted the additional rider to raise the power of that aura a little, but I should have realized that wasn’t achieving much, while sacrificing elegance.

I’m happy Scavenged Weaponry exists, since it fits better into that cycle between Chosen by Heliod and Dragon Mantle than Scourgemark; the latter isn’t too exciting unless you have a very pronounced heroic theme (which I won’t); and I wanted this cycle’s mana costs to be less uniform.

Feast of the Unicorn being common and Mark of the Vampire being uncommon has only indirectly to do with power level. The Mark is more generically useful due to its higher power level, and because succesfully attacking just once with it already almost justifies playing it (which, of course, is part of the reason why its power level is rather high). The Feast, on the other hand, is meant to help create the very environment where putting it on a creature is something players want to do, and thus needs to show up at common there.

Auras like Caustic Tar obviously can enhance an enchantment theme by representing an independent, non-creature actor on the board, but they’re actually more important supporting a land theme in the same way, making maindeck land destruction more viable.

About land destruction: A focussed LD strategy obviously has no place in a Next Level Cube. Being able to punish players with too greedy mana bases or running too many high-end cards by destroying a land as a tempo play has some merit, but is a sideboard strategy, and cards which cannot be maindecked have no place in Zweidritteldraft. This is why I got rid of all dedicated LD (Sinkhole, Ice Storm, Molten Rain, Ark of Blight…) other than Tectonic Edge, which is maindeckable since it sits in a land slot.

If I want a „lands-which-do-things“ theme, however, I need both a crucial mass of maindeckable cards which interact with lands and of cards which makes running those interactive cards desirable. If I just want a few utility lands (or land auras) for a cube, I still have to make sure players can interact with those. Multiple-purpose cards like Befoul or Pillage are excellent choices here, and they also can serve as tempo plays or to punish shaky mana bases.

Is it a good idea to punish those? Yes, it is! I always make sure that my cubes contain enough mana fixing so that players can assemble a working mana base for the type of decks supported by that cube (which means between one-and-a-half and three colors, unless it is a monocolored cube, obviously) – this is why I use fetchlands, spotlands AND signets at common. In concert with the house rule of starting the game with 8 cards this means players can usually avoid color screw, even if confronted with a stray LD spell. However, sometimes a player decides to go beyond the number of colors which is the norm for decks in a cube. That is fine, and the tools are there to do this, but there needs to be a substantial cost involved, and that cost is the requirement to invest extra picks into mana fixing, but also opening up the opportunity for their opponents to attack a vulnerable mana base. The latter is also just fair towards the other players, since it is frustrating to lose to a multicolor best-of deck which gets lucky with its mana.

Thoughtseize is, at the moment, a much maligned card in standard, since it can deal with any (non-land) card. That it is situational, costs you 2 life, and requires you to spend a mana to remove a spell which your opponent had not to invest any mana in before, is usually left out of consideration. With Counterspell nowadays only a faint memory for many players, and even a blast from the past they never encountered in a competitive setting for many others, that discard spell seems to have inherited the mantle of the bogeyman for those who hate interaction in Magic. The complaints are so similar, as is the reasoning donwplaying or ignoring the card’s inherent disadvantages, and the lack of willingless to simply build more robust decks which do not fall apart if they are forced to trade one or two crucial cards.

Just like countermagic is for blue, discard is essential for Black’s color identity and its ability to interact. In limited, one-for one discard is weaker than in constructed, because decks do not rely on specific key cards to function, and because games tend do go longer on average, and there are fewer reactive cards, so players are in topdeck mode more often, rendering a discard spell a blank. (Discarding multiple cards, on the other hand, is stronger in limited, because there is fewer card draw.) For Black to have a useful, generic discard spell of that kind at all, Thoughtseize needs to be a common.

Unhinge is a candidate for the weakest card in my pool (way weaker than Mind Rot, just as draining a point of damage is weaker than dealing two), and I’m always looking out for a replacement cantrip, but so far there’s nothing better.

Between Doomed Necromancer, Ashen Powder and Phyrexian Delver, but also all those Raise Dead variants, giving Breath of Life to White and leaving out Zombify seems only logical.

Whew, that was long – a lot of general things sprang into my mind this time!

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My Limited Card Pool: Black Lands & Creatures

This is the fifth entry in a series where I comment on and explain my choices for my limited card pool in detail. Here are my previous entries:

Lands & Artifact Creatures

Non-Creature Artifacts

White Lands & Creatures

White Non-Creature Spells

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:

Black Lands & Creatures  (Gluttonous Zombie is missing in that list. It should be a common, tagged with „intim“. Disciple of Phenax, however, shouldn’t be there anymore.)

And here’s a link to an explanation of the shortcuts I use in that list, if you need it.

I once had a kinda lopsided cycle of threshold lands in my pool, consisting of 4 cards, with Nantuko Monastery filling both the green and the whte slot. (The reason for that was that Nomad Stadium is completely unplayable.) I have in the meantime thrown all lands which need two colors of mana out of my pool – they’re too unwieldy, and also seldom well balanced. I also didn’t like how Barbarian Ring is essentially a weaker version of Cabal Pit (in limited, obviously), and Cephalid Coliseum just did more of what Blue was already doing in that environment, and probably already had done to turn the land’s ability on. It came down to the black member of the cycle being the only one I really stood behind, so I left it in, both as a special land and support for Black’s threshold theme.

Tormented Hero is very likely to leave my pool soon to make room for a replacement from Born of the Gods, Ashiok’s Adept (the mouseover here won’t work for a while, since that set isn’t out yet.). The issue with the Hero is that its stats are more remarkable than its heroic ability. If that switch happens, Vampire Lacerator will have to go as well, because Diregraf Ghoul returns. Those cards are quite similar. The Ghoul is the slightly better choice (and I got rid of the 10-life-mechanic in my pool otherwise), but was too similar to the Hero. With that gone, it can come back.

Nezumi Cutthroat has already made a similar comeback, formerly edged out by Vampire Interloper, because it was too close to Surrakar Marauder. That card now has become a victim of my trimming down the landfall theme (and pulling it away a bit from dedicated aggression), and so the Cutthroat, which fits better into Black, has returned.

Painsmith, like the other three Smiths I use, has to be common for theme density reasons. Without that concern, I would certainly make them common.

Goblin Turncoat and Weirding Shaman are not exactly the most exciting tribal support cards, but they are still the best choices available, and in an important mana slot. There’s also a card which only made my pool due to my need of a black 3-mana goblin for that tribe: Spiderwig Boggart. (Yup, I misspelled that card in my list.) It is also useful as a generic creature, but would not have made the cut otherwise.

Typhoid Rats and Giant Scorpion were selected in concert with my choice of green deathtouch creatures, which means they pushed out Sedge Scorpion and Daggerback Basilisk for being too similar.

Liliana’s Specter freed up space for Scholar of Athreos by pushing out Shrieking Grotesque. It also killed one of my favorite commons, Chittering Rats, but if fits better with Ravenous Rats. Also, being denied a draw step can be really annoying if you are in a place where you cannot play a card at the moment.

There’s a certain glut of black 4-mana creatures involved in discard, although they all do it in different ways: Abyssal Specter, Cunning Advisor and Disciple of Phenax. I’d like to get rid of the latter for that reason, but right now I need it to fill a slot among the Black matters cards, and it makes more sense than any other option (Gray Merchant of Asphodel is too swingy, thanks for aksing).

Edit: I didn’t realize that the Disciple and Phyrexian Boon were already out of my list (or should have been), so that problem is solved!

Marsh Flitter is another creature which feels strange at common, but needs to be there for theme density reasons. It also provides important extra goblins for all those tribal support cards asking for sacrifices.

Phyrexian Scuta, while a fine design, would be Juzam Djinn if it wasn’t for RL reasons (hint: Look its price up).

Gluttonous Zombie is my choice of a black 5-mana common creature. I just noticed it is missing in my list.

For a while I had Fallen Angel in the 5-mana black flying creature slot, but that card could win a bit too fast out of nowhere. Skyshroud Vampire is a very reasonable replacement. (Sengir Vampire, on the other hand, is just a black Air Elemental with mostly superfluous extra text.)

Aphetto Vulture (yeah, another misspelt card in my list) is, once again, not exactly my idea of a common, and I’m not really a fan of that kind of recursion, but this time, the zombie tribal theme needs it, and the alternatives play worse or are too similar too other cards (Vengeful Dead would be the FOURTH zombie tribal support card at 4 mana, and is kinda similar to Shepherd of Rot).

Kokusho, the Evening Star marks the very highend of 6-mana creatures I use. (Luckily, there’s a lot of ways to deal with it all over my card pool which do not send it to the graveyard.)

Chancellor of the Dross would be a cleaner design without the Chancellor ability, which I do not like at all, but isn’t too annoying ( I hope). A 6/6 flyer with lifelink, however, is perfect for a 7-mana creature.

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