A Practical Guide to Power Up a Cube by Ben Cottee
I have talked about a number of different types of Cube in past weeks: from Pauper to Powered.
The last draft I ran was the first time I have ever Powered up my Cube and I wanted to go over what this means and the process I went through. There was a lot more to it than just slamming in a few busted cards.
What do I mean by Powered? It refers to the Power Nine (pictured below): nine cards considered to have been the strongest ones printed in the original Magic set Alpha and arguably still the strongest ever.
[card]Timetwister[/card] is the slight odd one out, in that there is probably a card that has the same effect but it’s better in most situations. I’m talking about [card]Time Spiral[/card] from Urza’s Saga set.
The ‘Powered’ term also includes cards that are a step above in power level from the next tier in an unpowered Cube, or that create undesirable play patterns such as fast mana. The Legacy Online Cube recently cut [card]Umezawa’s Jitte[/card] for being a universal and a bit too strong first pick.
Your opinion of what is too powerful is one of the inputs that will shape your personal Cube. The following lists are indicative and not exhaustive.
While technically not producing mana, [card]Tinker[/card] allows you to cheat into play something that costs a lot for only three mana. In an environment with the Moxen, having an artifact in play and three mana available on turn two is not much of a challenge.
[draft]Library of Alexandria
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn[/draft]
This is the starting point: releasing of these extraordinarily powerful cards into your Cube environment. You could just swap out similar cards for them and call it a day.
What you will likely find is that people will be drafting these along with powerful midrange cards to almost completely outclass aggressive decks. Plus, a large gap will happen between the lucky Haves (people that opened a Powerful card) and the Havenot’s – because you have spiked the distribution of cards’ strength. Midrange threats will get better, because they will happen a few turns sooner than expected (your normal Cube on steroids.
Also, Blue colour will go up to be a lot better.
Unlimited Power Baby
After a bit of consideration, I decided to take things a bit further. If you are going to allow the crazy, then let it all in.
However, this required changing here and there in other colours. Here’s how I used this information to mould the Cube for the players: going colour by colour.
To help White Weenie continue to be relevant in the new world, I brought in creature elements to fight the unfair cards. Hate Bears such as [card]Containment Priest[/card] and [card]Spirit of the Labyrinth[/card] and Shadow creatures package. Since Powered can also be interpreted as non-interactive, having the ultimate evasion looks to be a good way to play against it. I did not cut any one-drops, as the best opening is still three 2-power guys on the battlefield, at the end of turn 2.
Blue had the most Power cards added, so needed deep cuts. The majority came in the already thinly supported creature suite and also in the over-populated card draw. This is the only Cube format I would ever let [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card] see the light of day. The other main additions were meant to support the Artifact theme and the re-introduction of Storm.
Black was probably the least changed colour with the aggressive creatures stripped back to the bone and removal suite trimmed to reflect the drop in overall creatures and to help those that remained flourish. Additions were the Black Storm cards
Red burn decks become much fairer when they were having to race degenerate turn two plays. Red doesn’t have a huge direction to move in when Powering, so it saw a general shaving across the board to accommodate Storm with [card]Eidolon of the Great Revel[/card] added to battle against combo and the lower mana curve overall. Artifact hate cards were increased, while the Wildfire deck got better thanks to the increase in mana rocks.
Green probably saw the most change. Aggro elements were taken out as well as some midrange filler to make room for the cheatyface package [card]Channel[/card], [card]Natural Order[/card] and [card]Eureka[/card]. I also added an experiemental Lands theme with [card]Fastbond[/card] and [card]Exploration[/card] to allow fast land drops, the green Ravnica bouncelands to enable some really rampy starts, and [card]Life from the Loam[/card] to restock.
Multicoloured & Lands
I removed the three colour cycle and added some additional planeswalkers. In the mana compartment I removed 14 mixed painlands and temples. I was decreasing the Cube size and multicolour is harder to pull off when decks are all crazy fast. I added the four green bouncelands as mentioned to support the green changes. [card]Mishra’s Workshop[/card] was added for the Artifact-based decks.
I already include Ravnica Guilds’ signets, so other additions on top of the Power and fast mana mentioned above were [card]Voltaic Key[/card], [card]Basalt Monolith[/card] and [card]Blightsteel Colossus[/card].
Other than the Spaghetti Monster (Emrakul), the big change was the removal of the Conspiracy cards and the draft-matters cards from the same set. The addition of Power was enough cool factor to make these unnecessary. I mean, can you imagine [card]Backup Plan[/card] with this power level? Scaaary!
The coloured sections were cut down to make room for the increase in Artifacts and I actually took the size of the Cube down from 540 to 500 intentionally. This Cube was going to be played with so infrequently I wanted the Power to be more likely in play.
The Rise of Combo
Other than the ridiculous Time Vault + Voltaic Key combo to take infinite turns, I added the [card]Splinter Twin[/card] package, spiced up Reanimator with [card]Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur[/card] and brought in Vintage staples: [card]Forbidden Orchard[/card] and [card]Oath of Druids[/card]. These cards plus the return of Storm gave all the Johnnies plenty to love. I think the Splinter Twin combo is slow enough that it will keep its place in the normal Cube.
The end result is like eating all the eggs on Easter day: it feels great but may end up leaving you feeling a little queasy. The person on the end of the Vault-Key the first time is probably cool with it, but it gets old pretty fast, even for the person casting said combo. The Powered Cube really focusses in on what each colour is really good at. Trying to go outside these paths except for some two card combinations is dangerous. Nobody ended up brave enough to go for Storm or to play the new Green package – so they will have to wait to be tested in the future. Red and White are the colours of aggro, and White Weenie went 2-1 proving it still had some chops.
I ended up going 3-0 on the back of [card]Balance[/card] and [card]Greater Gargadon[/card], which are two cards that exist in a normal Cube, but have never wrecked house like they did here. So why did they perform so well this time? Part of the reason is how good [card]Balance[/card] is with mana rocks. Other part is [card]Ancestral Recall[/card] I was splashing for. I also had redundancy in and [card]Cataclysm[/card] – which isn’t in the normal Cube.
Hang on a second, let’s read that back. Balance is ok in your normal Cube and Cataclysm isn’t? What gives?
Well, in the last paragraph I mentioned that Balance plays well with mana rocks. In a normal Cube there are far fewer of these. Also, aggro is more prevalent. Opponents are coming out faster – a slower development on your side means that the wrath effect on Balance often comes with a discard price. Cataclysm is much easier to make backbreaking in the normal Cube and I don’t want two different copies of the effect there.
Other cards that I deem “safe” in the normal Cube – which can seem at odds – are [card]Mind Twist[/card] and [card]Grim Monolith[/card]. Both get brought in line in the slower mana development world. Say, you play a signet on turn two, then Mind Twist for three on turn four. That’s really good, but has given your opponent two turns of development, to play two creatures, while you haven’t developed your board. It also makes a bad top deck. That line of play is comparable in power level to [card]Show and Tell[/card], Reanimator or just dropping [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card]. Grim Monolith hints at what Artifact ramp can do, but kicks in much later than its Powered Cube friends do. Going from 2 to 6 mana is much less powerful than going from 0/1 to 4 before you even factor in that for a while this is a one-shot effort.
The last thing I should mention is that I proxied the Power Nine and Mishra’s Workshop. I plan on owning these at some point in the future, but it’s a long process to save up. These cards and foils keep my trading fire burning.
Until next time!
Community Question: In a Powered Cube what do you first pick: Ancestral Recall, Black Lotus, Sol Ring, or something else?
Thanks for reading,
You can find me on:
Facebook: Benjamin William Cottee
My Cube on Cubetutor: http://www.cubetutor.com/viewcube/24587