Peasant Cube & It’s Good to be Back – Fact not Fiction with Michael Maxwell
It’s been a long time since my last article, almost 6 months in fact, and since then we’ve gone through one whole PTQ season and into the next. I’ve recently submitted my PhD thesis though, so I should be back to bringing you regular content. If there’s anything in particular you’d like me to write about now that I’m back, whether that’s Standard, Legacy, EDH, or anything else, please let me know in the comments – there’s no point me writing about stuff you don’t want to hear about!
I figure there aren’t many of you out there interested in Modern now that the PTQ season is done, so I wont go over that, and there isn’t the full spoiler out for Dragon’s Maze yet so I wont dive into that until we have a better idea of what the set will bring. Given all that this seems like a good opportunity so talk about something a little different – building my Peasant Cube.
A Peasant Cube contains only commons and uncommons. I built it because nobody had a cube in my local community, and although I initially built it as a peasant cube to keep the cost down I can honestly say that I have as much fun drafting it as I do ‘normal’ cubes. Rather than go through how I built it card-by-card or colour-by-colour I’m going to go over some of the things that make peasant cubes different from rare cubes and some of the decisions you’ll make whilst building your cube. Hopefully there should be something in here for those of you who already have cubes, peasant or otherwise, or who want to build a cube of any type.
Cubes tend to vary in size from 360 to 720 cards. 360 is the minimum number you’ll need to allow 8 people to draft, and in a cube of this size every card will be drafted every time. When I first built my cube it was 360 cards – it’s a lot of work building a cube, so starting with the minimum number helps you to not become overwhelmed. I’ve since expanded mine to 450, which is a number I’m quite happy with. If there’s an archetype you really like you’ve got a good chance of getting there with a cube of 450, but there is no guarantee that you’ll see a particular card.
Colours and curve
When I first built my cube, at 360 cards, I broke it down like this: 50 of each colour, 50 multicolour, 30 lands, 30 colourless. When I expanded it I didn’t end up with every section having exactly the same number of cards, and that’s fine. Some colours are deeper than others, and if you end up with 59 green cards and 61 black cards in your cube it really doesn’t matter.
This is especially true for multicolour – don’t force yourself to include 10 U/G cards just because you have 10 U/B cards, otherwise you’ll end up including some real dross pretty quickly. Obviously you don’t want to end up with twice as many red cards as white cards in your cube, unless you’re designing it that way for a specific reason, but the point is not to be a slave to quotas.
You also have to keep an eye on curve, and also the creature to spells ratio. You probably don’t want the creature to spells ration to be more than 2:1 in either direction for any colour, and you need to make sure people aren’t going to repeatedly end up with 2 1-drops, 12 2-drops, and 1 3-drop because you didn’t bother to lay out each colour by cost and check that there’s a curve for people to draft.
Power or no?
Power? Isn’t this a peasant cube? Well, it is, but there have been some seriously powerful uncommons printed over the years, including the best card in any cube. Whether to include Sol Ring or not, as well as cards such as Skullclamp and the Sword of the Meek/Thopter Foundry combo, requires a bit of thought.
Although occasionally they lead to lop-sided games, I have Sol Ring and Skullclamp in my cube since the fun you get from playing with them makes up for the misery of playing against them, at least that’s how most of my local group seem to feel. The ample artifact removal in my cube, including plenty of maindeckable answers, helps to keep Skullclamp in check too.
Don’t be afraid to cut them if they lead to too many people having a negative experience though. I had the Thopter-Sword combo in my cube for all of I think two drafts before cutting it. Neither card does a lot by itself, its not particularly interactive, and people felt obliged to hate draft one of the pieces if they’d already seen the other piece earlier in the draft. Uncommon lands such as Strip Mine, Wasteland, and Ancient Tomb are also very powerful additions to any cube, let alone a peasant one.
Even without the fetchlands and shocklands, there are plenty of good mana fixing options available at common/uncommon. Signets, bouncelands, and trilands are all pretty decent, with refuges, borderposts, and panoramas filling the rest of the slots.
The main issue with most of these it that they come into play (or enter the battlefield, whatever) tapped, making them better options for control than aggro in general. This is somewhat mitigated by some of the tools that are taken away from control decks by not allowing rares, as I’ll discuss later. Since there are more ways to fix allied colours than enemy colours I only have the enemy colour signets in my cube.
I think the most important thing to bear in mind when building a cube, regardless of whether it’s a fully powered cube, pauper cube, or anywhere in between, is that you need to include archetypes not cards. There’s no point including Mother of Runes if you aren’t going to include enough cards to support an aggressive white strategy, just like there’s not a lot of point including Reanimate if you aren’t going to include enablers and reanimation targets.
You also have to accept that you aren’t going to be able to include every archetype ever in your cube, at least not if its on the smaller side. My cube, of 450 cards, has a reanimator deck but not a storm deck, white aggro is decent whereas black aggro is non-existent. Black aggro isn’t a deck in my cube, so I haven’t included Diregraf Ghoul, Carnophage, or any black creature that only beats down. Make sure there are decks for people to draft, not just a pile of cards that don’t fit together to do anything.
So, no rares then? If that makes things worse for aggro in terms of mana fixing then I think it hurts control is most other ways. Don’t get me wrong, control can be very powerful in a peasant cube as a lot of the best card drawing spells and counterspells are common/uncommon, but it suffers in two main ways from the lack of rares: sweepers and finishers.
Every Wrath of God variant printed is rare, leaving white without a good sweeper. Red and black have access to cards like Firespout, Infest, Pyroclasm, and Barter in Blood, which are all decent but conditional. This makes control somewhat weak to creatures with toughness 4 or greater, and means control decks are usually esper or grixis.
Finishers are also at somewhat of a premium, since all the good angels/dragons/vampires/etc are rare. This impacts reanimator a bit too, but with guys like Pathrazer of Ulamog, Ulamog’s Crusher, and the new 7 mana make 10-power worth of guys dude its not too bad. Control has to rely on cards like the invasion Djinns, Air Servant, or good old Serra Angel.
And There We Have It
Hopefully that’s given you an idea of some of the though processes that go into building a peasant cube. If no-one in your area has a cube I cant recommend building one highly enough. Peasant cubes are much cheaper than regular cubes if that is an issue for you, but are still very powerful and lead to some really awesome games.
Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about how to build a cube, specific cards in the cube, and as I mentioned earlier what you’d like me to write about next!