Is imitation the sincerest form of flattery?
I have a set of Magic websites and blogs in my favorites section that include some very talented writers. Take, as one example, Wally D. over at www.mtgcasualplay.com/ who has written some compelling Commander stuff. There are others there too. But a few days ago I found someone who just took my breath away. After I found his website, I stayed up way past my bedtime reading all of his old Magic articles, and some of his D&D stuff, because, well, you know, Dungeons and Dragons is so vital to life.
http://www.jmgariepy.com/ is the site, so go check out the various stuff he is writing, including the audio drama, “Say Hello to Black Jack”. It’s just high quality. But the best thing he is doing is a project where every few weeks he spends some time grabbing random cards from Gatherer and then adds them to a random Gatherer Cube. But, to make sure that the Cube is consistent and has the right themes, for each card he adds randomly, he creates a card to suit the themes of the set that are chosen randomly. The idea is awesome, and the project is rocking.
I was inspired and wanted to do something similar. I want to randomly choose cards from Gatherer as well for my Cube. However, I will not be creating my own cards. Instead I’ll just choose another card that already exists, because frankly, that’s a lot of work and I just don’t have the time to invest in that project, and it would easily stretch over weeks or months before it was finished. So I need to do something smaller in scope.
Here is what I am looking to do. I am going to head to Gatherer, and grab a random card. If it’s Cube-worthy, it will head in. After that, I’ll choose a card that’ll hopefully help make this stuff work and bring it all together. Now we’ll need to know some stuff going in. First, there are cards that I’ll veto for a Cube for a variety of reasons. We want this to be a fun, crazy, and wacky Cube, right? So what if I flip something that is really really unfun? Like Yawgmoth's Will? So stuff like Un- cards, or overly powerful or overly unfun cards are going to be an issue for this format.
Also, as the project nears completion, I may just add in cards to make it all work. I expect the last few dozen cards may be added to shore up needs and archetypes. What if I never flip a White creature with a casting cost higher than 4? Or what if I never flipped any Black cards that’ll destroy target creature. I also will hold off if I reveal a random card that is overly duplicative. What if I flip over a Resurrection early, and then a False Defeat later? Can a normal sized Cube of 360 really have space for both? If I flip over Fissure early in Red, will flipping Aftershock make sense too? If I randomly selected a card like Nantuko Shade, do I want that Frozen Shade I grab later? You get the idea.
And then the goal after completing this project is to build it over at CubeTutor.com and let you actually see it via a visual spoiler and draft away! I don’t know if I will personally own all of the cards in the Cube, but if I do, I’d like to make it real life too. I am in for the long haul.
Are you ready?
Let’s get this thing started!!!
The first card is I randomly grab is likely to be the single most important card in guiding my whole Cube, so are you ready for this? I am, here we go!
Okay, now that’s not bad. I could go in a few directions with this. It’s solid option for targeted removal. But it also suggests a tiny bit of an Elf theme, right? Maybe we could make Elves a draft archetype like Magic Origins and Lorwyn. There are a couple of ways I could make that a real theme. There are two cards I’m considering, both from the Origins section. I like Shaman of the Pack, but it’s too early to add a gold card that’s that clear with Elves.
But I’m going with:
It has the same mechanical theme as the Ending, it’s a nice fun creature with a strong enters-the-battlefield trigger, and multiple decks will want it. But it’ll have enhanced value in the Elf deck, where your foes will naturally have fewer potential targets as you drafted the Elves. Also, the great thing about adding in the Winnower is that we can still move my off to something else, since these are both just normal cards that happen to play into the theme if it’s there.
Next card is . . . Flashfreeze . . .
I’m not sure that’s Cube-able. Counter target Red or Green spell? That feels a bit off to me. Hosers that obvious aren’t what I’m looking for. Now, something like a Black Knight would be fine, with its protection, but would you want Gloom or Karma? Nah. The same is true here, right?
So here is what’s next:
An interesting variant on Wrath of God or Day of Judgment effects. Now, if this were a multiplayer Cube, the Sublime Exhalation would likely be one of the top 3 or 4 choices for Cube, and drafting. And a lot of folks look for mass removal like this in all sorts of Cube. This is a bit of a niche due to the fact that it’ll cost six mana in a duel. But this is still limited, and it’s still a Wrath!
Now what do I want to add that makes a six mana Wrath work? What I’m thinking is a cheap early drop for White that would help you get to the place where you could cast a Wrath. Like Perimeter Captain. If I knew I was going to have either a defender or a Soldier theme, then I’d toss this in right now. But I’m not sure we’ll have either. I could go with something more generic like Steel Wall too. But, you know what? Now that I’ve talked about it, I really like it, so I’ve talked myself into it:
I love it! And that’s really funny as a card. Could I make Boros () Soldiers a draftable archetype? I feel like Goblin Legionnaire is a card that a lot of people have forgotten, but its time is not yet over. Now I feel like it’s way too early to commit to another potential creature type as supported this early, but what I could do is support this bit of an aggro theme. Now we are going to have some wonky cards get added later so. So far I’ve got a Wrath, a removal spell, a wall, an aggro beater and an ETB variant of Nekrataal. So we have a solid set up with quality, but we’re going to eventually flip over Coral Eel or something, right? And we all know it. My initial idea was to toss in Figure of Destiny. It’ll do a lot for Mono-White, Mono-Red and Boros aggro all at the same time. It also is a creature that mid-range is more than happy to welcome, and even control wouldn’t kick it out of bed for eating crackers. But will it be too good? Hmmm . . .
Let’s do it.
And of course, if it feels overpowered later, then I can pull it back with something else instead.
Now this is an interesting card and it opens up a bunch of different lanes of thought for me. Can I use this as one of a few token makers of various types? I thought about Lingering Souls and making a powerful token archetype, or Selesnya () one with one of the various token cards or populate or something. I could also do as a backdoor sort of graveyard-fueled fun deck. For example, if I wind up with a card like Buried Alive or stuff that self-mills, this could be one of a few ways to push that in the Cube. It also makes a Cleric and Spirit Tokens, in case that matters. Without knowing which way I’ll wind up going, forcing creature tokens this early for a particular feels like a little wonky. So what about . . . say . . .
I like the Promise for a few reasons. It’s a card that plays well with aggro, tokens, or even a deck with some self-sacrifice action. Now the issue here is that the Spirits made by Promise are 1/1 colorless vs. White flyers with the Chaplain, but this keeps my options open from a few different directions.
Well this is an interesting card from a few angles. The interesting thing here is the card draw, untap, and discard. Now I could just take this as is and move on. But I like the idea of pushing the “untap lands” angle just a bit. Would it be okay to add in something like Temple of the False God or Ancient Tomb? Or Maze of Ith? Nah, Maze feels a bit too much. But I like the idea of adding in a land with a reusable tap ability.
It’s a great card, fits a lot of different roles, and if we wind up with multiple strong non-basics it’ll go to town. Later on I’m free to revisit this, and I may swap it out to make it work due to a lack of quality lands.
What do we get next? Uh oh . . .
Now that’s a little harsh. This is a rough hit for several builds, and a 7 mana sorcery needs to actually be good to make sense. How can I make this work? I need to run this with some stuff that makes sense. Would a Dimir () mill-theme make sense? Or how about this:
It will fill up graveyards with a few goods, give us a solid reanimation spell, and if we don’t have the cards or archetype to support it, then it doesn’t feel forced. But remember, we aren’t playing multiplayer, so anything I can do to make this stuff work in a duel I need to assist.
Now what random card will Gatherer bless me with today?
I love this pull. Why? Well there are a few reasons. First, this gives the aggro side of White something interesting. Second, one of the ways for cheaper decks to face bigger ones is to have a little tempo in there that slows them down, and this certainly qualifies. On the 4th or 5th turn, after you drop this, then their land arrives tapped, and next turn the 4- or 5-drop they would have played will arrive tapped as well. It’s cumulative. Plus, it’s four mana — folks have had a lot of chance to build up in the meantime. It’s not an uber-powerful machine like Thalia, Heretic Cathar. It plays nice.
How about the first of the Decoys? It fills the role suitably, and is a pretty solid card all on its own. You might also notice a theme (all are Soldiers, in case that matters later)
Let’s move on . . .
Okay. Huh. What can I do with Manabarbs? Now I could leave it as is. Red often has these wonky rare enchantments that do something to everyone. It works on everyone, right? Now there are some mechanics out there that would work. One of them might be a Tax and Hurt you draft archetype with Red and White marrying cards like this to Windborn Muse. But with Goblin Legionnaire and Figure of Destiny, it looks Boros aggro is likely the theme here. And that would be a non-bo with Figure. Whoa. What if I went as this archetype instead? Like with cards like Propaganda? That’s interesting. I don’t know if it’s feasible with the setting, but I like it in theory.
Instead, for now let’s do something a little nicer:
Clearly, that’s a solid card. With Manabarbs out, are you really going to pay three life and 3 mana to stop me from getting a 3/3 Ogre token? Plus a 5/4 for 5 is very much a useful on-curve card. Kazuul works well
Why am I getting all of these White aggro creatures early? I don’t know. But I like this card for a few reasons, and one of my favorite, is that it works with both tokens and aggro strategies. What if I gave you another card to do the same thing?
It’s cheap to play, it’s aggro-y, and when it hits, you get another creature for free. It plays into creature token and aggro and Soldier space all perfectly making it a good partner for what we are doing right now.
Who’s got next?
Demonic Consultation Does!
That is a bad card for limited, especially for Cube. If the card you need is in the exiled six cards, you lose. And there’s a good chance of that happening, as we all know. Sorry DC!
We mulligan to . . .
The Whip is great. Lifelink for your stuff? Check. Bring a dead creature back for a turn for another run? Check. Get some more triggers from it? Check. Counts as both an enchantment and an artifact for those effects? Check. There is nothing not to like.
Now what follows? Well, there are a few directions I like here. One is to push graveyard-infused fun, and add a card like Buried Alive or something weaker like Corpse Connoisseur. Both of those strike me as pretty strong stuff. I could also head into something that enjoys lifelink, such as life-gain triggers. There are several paths, but remember that I haven’t committed to any major archetypes yet. I could still wind up with Golgari () Reanimation or Boros () equipment or something. But Orzhov () graveyard fun times feels like a potential direction, given the presence of Nearheath Chaplain in the Cube already. So let’s . . .
I think that works. How you doin’ Gatherer . . .
Wow. That would have been a very interesting pick if this were a multiplayer Cube, and an early drop that could prevent people from attacking into it just like Veteran Explorer invites attacking into it. No one wants to sacrifice their land! I love it there. Hmm. It also has an odd but intriguing synergy with my only two Red cards thus far. What if I gave you a something like Fissure, as I mentioned before, that’s a useful removal spell that can go after lands, but can hit a creature too? You knew what just blew my mind? Crucible of Worlds. But that’s way too powerful a card for this Cube. Could I do a one shot like Restore instead? Got it!
There we are. Sticks with the Red taxing stuff, and you can see here how it works aggressively almost better than Kazuul’s defensive trigger. Perfect.
This a weird Cube. I’m having Red tax things and Blue do direct damage. We could flesh this out with something like Prodigal Sorcerer? Or, and this might be really funny, but how about Char? Or I could rock more Blue removal with Pongify. What about Talrand, Sky Summoner? Although that gives Blue two strong additions. Or I could just back up a bit with something like Quiet Contemplation. Yeah I like that better. It works with more cards that just instants or sorceries, and is a lot nicer.
Gatherer, hit me up!
Well, there’s my first, “WTF moment”
What do you do with Ancient Kavu? Umm . . . ?
I think the only obvious way to have this make sense to run something that has protection from Red to make this ability pertinent. Right? Now that would normally mean we’d be looking at something like White for a Silver Knight or something. But we’ve been running White creatures all over this Cube so far, especially aggro ones. Could I add in something like Narwhal or something better like Master of Waves? But actually something else just struck me . . . colorless matters themes . . .
There are some intriguing cards in the Eldrazi line. All is Dust? Barrage Tyrant? Ghostfire Blade? Nah, Barrage Tyrant is it! I love it, its ability only requires Red mana so it’s totally playable, and you can get your sacrifice on!
All right Gatherer, Ancient Kavu solved. What’s your next challenge?
Okay. Torture feels like an anti-+1/+1 counter card, or a pro- -1/-1 one. Both are there. Hmmm . . . Flourishing Defenses? Blowfly Infestation? Crumbling Ashes? Something with proliferate? I feel like that’s a little too much of a commitment to a theme that I may not flip later for more support. How about just . . .
In case I go with -1/-1 counters later.
What else? Wow . . . sorry White . . .
That is a sucky card. Four mana for a 1/1 flyer that draws you a card, later. Even with a serious commitment to a blink theme, this card sucks. A broken engine like Deadeye Navigator is needed to make this useful. Or something nasty like Skullclamp. I just don’t see an obvious way to toss this into my Cube without making it a very different Cube. But am I being overly hasty in wanting to dump it? I would run Merchant of Secrets right? Is the slow draw and the four mana cost not worth adding flying and putting it on a color that never draws cards? And it would work with fun cards out there. Let’s add in something that could build into an Azorous () Blink theme later, but doesn’t have to.
Okay. Removal ain’t bad. And this works with the subtle tapping with have going on with cards like Master Decoy and Loxodon Gatekeeper. My favorite art of this card is the Portal 2 one. Guns are awesome. What can I run with Vengeance?
It works with a few themes here. Both the Red taxathon and the White tap-your-stuff works.
All right, hit me with your best shot! Fire away!
Here’s our first Green card:
It’s a fun instant trick. But I have no idea where to go with it. Lure? Oh, I got it
All right then. Fun card. Nice cycle. Solid addition to a three color deck. I’m in. I don’t want to push the three color theme too much. I don’t want to add in another three-color card, and then flip another and another. Instead, let’s have to build the infrastructure to make this happen.
Huh . . . Did I just add an Azorius defender matters theme to this Cube? I have Perimeter Captain too. And this is a decent-ish tool for a milling theme as well. Do I want to toss in something like Wakestone Gargoyle? All right, let’s do it . . .
Next is . . .
All right, we have a fun +1/+1 counter getting added. Now this is fine in an aggro capacity, it’s a two mana Grizzly Bears, or can pump an early drop while leaving you a 1/1 creature. And it could work with a +1/+1 counter theme too. So it has a few different vectors I could explore. But I really like Avatar of the Resolute here. It’s a cheap 2-drop that already has two abilities, and can be enhanced later. It doesn’t have to be played with +1/+1 counters to be good.
All right Gatherer!
How about another in this vein. It’s a solid way to make an artifact colorless land, so let’s do another too.
Both of those work for me.
How about another dose of awesome?
Are you kidding me? How did this happen? I almost feel like I should stream this live online because no one would believe what I just cracked . . .
Well, that’s just weird. Now why would I want a card that changes to colorless when I can just play a colorless one. I got it . . .
Check it out. If you want to self-bounce it to deal with stuff, activate the Spirit or Kavu. Or you can keep it around to keep up the swinging. It’s nice, big, and fun.
It looks like we’ve locked into our first theme. Rakdos () colorless matters. That’s an odd theme. But we’ll make it work.
What next proud Cube?
Nah. I’m not there for this Cube. We’ll see something else instead.
Well, it was time to get a counter. Convolute is nice and splashable too. Now there is a way to help make Mana Leak effects like this one work, a little tempo, like taxes and such. But in a duel, a Convolute is likely countering anything they play.
I want to use this as a time to add in another just boring and bland tool. How about . . .
Our next card is a fun one . . .
Now it’s a Spider that has reach, and you can kick it and give it . . . a +1/+1 counter! Sounds like fun. And I’m sure that you can see a little synergy with Avatar of the Resolute here too. Kicker plays well with ramp and stuff too, early and later. Now I have an idea for a couple of cards to follow up here. The single best, by far, is Joraga Warcaller. It’s an Elf that gets +1/+1 counters as you multikicker it, and those counters, will pump Elfs. That’s an Elf lord, with a counter theme too. Another option in there is just to run the 1-drop Llanowar Elite that can become a monster later. Let’s go with the power and synergy of the Warcaller
This really sort of solidifies our Elf theme in Golgari.
And I think that’s time to call it. Whew!
After that group of cards, you can see some themes slipping in. We have tokens in Mono-White, and counters in Mono-Green, colorless matters in Rakdos, Elves in Golgari, and defender in Azorius. Crazy, right?
So what did you think of this Random Cube concept? Did you like it? Are you looking forward to seeing how it works later? Do you want to do something similar? Let me know! And I’ll see you next time as we move deeper into the Random Cube.