The Cube, According to Gatherer Part Two – The Great Big Vending Machine of Love
Last week we went to Gatherer, that great Magic: the Gathering vending machine of the Internet, pulled the handle five times, and watched five capsules roll down a clear plastic spiral slide and come to rest at a little metal door. We greedily popped open the capsules to find five random Magic cards to add to our cube, then designed five new cards so those first five cards made sense.
Ten cards out of three-hundred and sixty. We got a long way to go. But I got a pocket full of quarters. Time to crank the handle and get…
Skyraker Giant. Now that card doesn’t mess around. I thought about doing some Giant tribal stuff, but I can’t get past this creature’s most obvious trait: it’s a mono-red creature with Reach. That’s a rare combination. In fact, only four mono-red creatures feature Reach (Chaosphere grants Reach… though that card feels more like it’s reversing the natural order of things, rather than granting your creatures an ability.) The lack of anti-flying defense in Red is weird when you think of it. Common red flyers are anything but. Any random set might include a baby dragon, a mama dragon, and a phoenix. And while phoenixes with weird not-very-red abilities can provide air defense in a pitch, the dragons are built to attack. Usually, Red can’t stop attacking flyers unless it burns them out of the sky, or kills their controller.
Which seems problematic. I know Red always be attacking. That’s why people like it. But Red shouldn’t never do control. Let’s presume Red will continue its trend of not sporting a flock of flyers while we support and early anti-flying agenda.
This should help support the Skyraker, and take down anything it can’t. I also added cycling, since there are going to be games where this ability isn’t useful. I’m trying to avoid throwing random keywords around without building upon them. But cycling is on the edge of evergreen. so it seems fine.
If Red gets the anti-flying agenda, then Green can take a holiday. Here’s hoping Gatherer doesn’t mess with our expectations by spitting out a small army of Spiders and Archers…
Hi Kingfisher! It’s been a while! Kingfisher is a decent middle of the road flyer, with a bonus card trapped inside. Back in Urza’s block draft, I marveled at the number of players willing to chump block Kingfisher just to draw into another mediocre card, instead of swinging with the two power flyer they already got.
A Wind Drake with a bonus ability for is a good deal. But let’s be honest with ourselves. Some people will use any excuse to sacrifice their team. So let’s give them a hand, shall we?
Granted, blue isn’t the color most people associate with sacrifice. But it does it occasionally enough that I don’t feel it’s necessary to knock on Black’s front door to borrow a cup of sacrifice. Many times it won’t be worth it to sacrifice Kingfisher to Research Leader. You’re still better off attacking for two if your opponent is showing no opposition. But if you’re going to chump blocking anyway, why not get a quick mill and scry in there too.
Like I mentioned before with Cycling, Scry is quasi-evergreen. And no, I don’t think cycling and scry would end up in the same set, but hush. It’s a cube. People come to expect a bit more complexity with these things. Incidental mill was chosen to help support the already existing mill in the set added by Upend Memories in part one.
Viashino Slaughtermaster. That’s the second card to represent three colors (the third if you count Behemoth’s Herald and Godsire as two separate cards.) Godsire shops in the Big and Tall section of the store, while Slaughtermaster is forced to do its shopping in the children’s department (at least the prices are cheaper.) But I get the impression I should work to get five cards with a three color focus anyway. Godsire features the three colors in its cost, and Slaughtermaster only asks for those color in its activated ability. They feel very different. And since one card is centered on Green, and one is centered on Red… maybe we should make one centered on the shared enemy color of blue?
This is intended to be a compromise between the two cards. It can be played straight as a three color card with a strong ability. You could play this card in a mono-blue Spirit deck, hoping to work a 4/4 on the cheap. Or you could play it somewhere in the middle. Oh, and we got a chance to support our Spirit theme from part one, so that’s good.
Mortipede! Following up a card with an off-color activations with another off-color activation. I’m a big fan of cards like Mortipede. It makes good draft spackle. I suppose the only appropriate thing to do is to make more off color activations. Since Mortipede is Green-Black, perhaps we should make our response card another two color enemy combination.
If it wasn’t obvious, we’re also continuing the red anti-flying theme. Also, who needs Lovecraftian horrors when we can exaggerate about the sizes of moles? Unfortunately, this giant mole is too big for his 2/2 britches (he’s picking the head off a tiny human soldier in that picture.) I just can’t resist the awesome Matt Katz artwork.
Murderous Betrayal ranges from completely useless, to crazy bonkers, depending on who you ask, and what deck they’re playing. Rarely will you be eager to activate this enchantment when you’re at 20 or more life. ‘Pay 10 life: Kill target creature’ is a good ability only if your life total is meaningless. But if you’re at 4 life? Paying three life to knock out two critical attackers is clutch (if not risky. But you’re already in the dangerzone at four. Might as well push yourself to the edge. Isn’t that right my dark apprentice?
Ideally, You want Murderous Betrayal in a deck you expect to lose a lot of life with while playing. And what would be really great is if you could re-gain a bunch of life after activating Murderous Betrayals… if for no other reason than to activate the enchantment a couple more times.
Kaerevek’s Malcontent is built to do just that. It plays into the Suicide Black tradition which is all too eager to throw away your life, if it means the opponent is throwing away more. But when the game gets too tight and you need that life back, you can sacrifice the Malcontent, or toss it into an attack which will likely result in its nightmarish death, and gain your investment of life right back. I made Kaerevek’s Malcontent a Nightmare, because it operates in a similar fashion to Soul Scourge and Laquatus’s Champion. How come I don’t remember seeing the order of these two abilities ever swapped, like on the Malcontent? The design seems intuitive. I’m sure someone else must have come up with this.
Originally, I made this card a 7/7 trampler for five. Then I reasoned that may be too much, so I dropped it to 7/5. Funny thing. This is one of those oddball cards that might get better the more you reduce its toughness. There’s going to be a lot of plays where you would prefer to kill two creatures, trample for two, lose the Nightmare, and regain your five life investment at the same time. Realistically speaking, the Malcontent Is probably a better card the greater its toughness; but we can pretend can’t we?
Avacyn Priest is solid on its own. This card makes good fill material in even the weirdest of cubes. Just make sure there’s a fair number of non-Humans, and we should be all set. And while I’m relying on found art from the Internet, and most of these pictures will end up depicting humans, I’m sure my chances of accidentally creating an all-Human Cube ranks down there with my chances of accidentally forgetting to eat food for a week. This seems like a good time to reinforce our other white theme, while we give a small consideration to the Priest.
Order of the Ceaseless is a more universal White Knight that continues to strengthen the ‘gain 3 life’ trigger, all while making Avacyn Priest’s ability look a little less random. I don’t think I’ll be focusing on a Human v. Non-Human fight here. But that mostly depends on what other cards I randomly get. This time around, I’m getting…
Shauku, Endbringer! We’re starting to go off the rails. And to think I was concerned that this Cube would end up underpowered! (Oh, and in case you’re wondering, no that’s not the artwork for Shauku. I was doing an image search and found that MCLT made a tribute to Shauku at Deviant Art. Given the option, I like using the alternate art, if for no other reason than to link to a cool artist. But like I said in part one of this series, I really like to see when players get confused as to which design is a real Magic card, and which is my custom design. Occasional non-standard style on a real card helps to blur that line.)
Beyond my general fear of tilting the balance of this Cube, I must admit that this was a lucky scoop. A creature that sits on your side of the board and forces you to lose three life per turn feeds directly into the ‘gain 3 life occasionally’ mechanic. It also feeds directly into a Suicide Black theme I’m apparently working toward. That, and I’ve been invoking the Mirage storyline through both accidental picks, and minor pieces of flavor on cards I designed, so I find it funny that Gatherer served me a named character from that story. Randomness can have a wicked sense of humor.
Anyhow, I clearly need to make another card that gains its controller life. How about this?
Hahaha! How am I supposed to resist using a picture of a spellcasting squirrel? Thank you Brian Luk for conjuring such an awesome image.
Sciuridae Sorceror gains incidental life throughout a match, while refilling the library. But I made sure to use instead of , so that players could gain life in batches of three at a time, if they have cards in their deck where that matters. Hopefully I can pull forward more cards that can give multiple batches of three, but inconsistently, because it’s no fun to fight an uphill battle against a deck that gains more life per turn than your deck is capable of ever dealing.
Okay, that’s cards 11-24. Move on to Part Three – You Got to do the Cooking by the Book. Or perhaps you’d prefer to peruse the According to Gatherer archive?