Last week, I began a project where I decided to build a Cube using Gatherer to randomly choose a card for the Cube, and then I would add in one card of my own to supplement that selection. My goal was to invigorate the Cube-making process by allowing random cards to take the lead. And then I just follow them to the promised land.
Now I will totally reject a random card if it’s too gross, illegal, or just too weak. And we’ll move from random to chosen as the project nears conclusion.
So where are we now?
We have a few cards in the Cube right now. Here are the themes that are already set:
Rakdos is colorless; Golgari is Elves, Boros is aggro, Mono-Green is counters, Mono-Red taxing, Mono-White tokens, and Azorius defender. Today I want to plug up more themes, and lock down the good stuff.
All right — are you ready? Here are the cards in the Cube, and then, we’ll look at those added today!
The Cube So Far ? The Random Cube | Abe Sargent
- Green (6)
- 1 Joraga Warcaller
- 1 Pincer Spider
- 1 Satyr Grovedancer
- 1 Avatar of the Resolute
- 1 Elvish Bard
- 1 Venomous Breath
- White (12)
- 1 Perimeter Captain
- 1 Wakestone Gargoyle
- 1 Vengeance
- 1 Loxodon Gatekeeper
- 1 Master Decoy
- 1 Carrier Pigeons
- 1 Momentary Blink
- 1 Trusty Companion
- 1 Precinct Captain
- 1 Promise of Bunrei
- 1 Nearheath Chaplain
- 1 Sublime Exhalation
- Red (7)
- 1 Manabarbs
- 1 Raging Spirit
- 1 Ancient Kavu
- 1 Barrage Tyrant
- 1 Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs
- 1 Hurloon Shaman
- 1 War Cadence
- Gold (5)
- 1 Dust Stalker
- 1 Darigaaz, the Igniter
- 1 Extract from Darkness
- 1 Figure of Destiny
- 1 Goblin Legionnaire
Here we go . . .
First up is:
It’s a nice card with some built-in flexibility. You can use it offensively on an opposing creature or defensively on your own. It also has a secret built-in in-color theme with blinking effects, while also working with control decks and such too. So it’s a fine aura.
Let’s toss in another ETB effect.
Solid, versatile, and we have nothing that bounces yet. Next card . . .
Ancestral Recall . . . LOL! No. Random?
All right how about . . .
What is going on with my Red? Why am I not getting things like burn and Dragons, and instead all of my stuff is about sacrificing lands?
All right, it’s time. Time to lock down another draft archetype — Gruul () . . .
How about this:
And we make Gruul about dropping and sacrificing lands? Then stuff like Hurloon Shaman is right on point.
What do we have next?
Well good news is that Green has so many +1/+1 counter effects that they sort of multiply by default. The Spike concept works awesome with Avatar of the Resolute, spreading out counters to make it better. Let’s do something a little different. Do I have enough counters for this?
I guess we’ll find out, but I think so.
That’s the next random selection. Not bad as a Pyroclasm effect for clearing out the big stuff. I want to make Steam Blast do something. Have value. So I am adding in a solid token maker to give it something to clear out. Right now my only major token cards are White. So how about . . .
It’s solid, and plays into fun space. I was considering an Elf token maker, but felt that would be too obvious.
Here we go for the next random card . . .
That’s an interesting card. It makes a creature that is . . . colorless. Sadly, it won’t remain that for too long, unlike some effects, but I’m sure you can see the value here. In fact, why don’t I push the colorless land support for the Rakdos deck . . .
So what up is coming next?
It’s a random card that’s pretty good. It actually can be used on a lot of junk out there as a versatile answer. But I have a fun card to toss out there in the same vein
What’s next for you and yours?
I don’t mind Frogmite per se, but it’s the higher level affinity stuff. And I was hoping to flip over artifacts and creatures soon. There are a lot of artifact creatures that are great potential additions to the Cube. Is Frogmite’s affinity something I want in my Cube? It’s a real commitment to make for this to not be an overcosted Gray Ogre. Artifact lands? Zero drop artifacts? I’m just not sure that I want this running around. I don’t feel that this is a direction my Cube has been going. So instead, I’m tossing Frogmite back.
Why does my Cube keep moving to this tempo and mana based infusion? The more cards I flip the better that Icy Manipulator looks! I have an interesting creature to toss out that slides into a few themes:
Enjoy the ETB and tax fun times. Expect to see a few more taxing cards here and there to play into the apparent theme Gatherer is giving me.
Sacrifice is up
Is that . . . playable? There are a few cards so janky that we would be hard pressed to find a home. This is one. Now it would work. Reanimate a giant casting cost and sacrifice it for a ton of mana to do something sick. Morph over Scornful Egotist. Run with high casting cost stuff. Food Chain. But without a serious investment of cards it’ll hurt. So let’s move on.
Now that’s a little more money. It’s a good card, works well from multiple angles, and has different and enhanced value in certain situations. How about running it with something like . . .
Counters? Card drawing ish?
I love it. Big flyer, adds a major presence to the battlefield, and gives me an interesting option. Now should I make my Simic () archetype tie into the counter theme? I think so, let’s lock it in:
I was considering the Zameck Guildmage, but it’s too good in this Cube for now. This has multiple uses and more value while not as powerful. What else will come our way?
Why would I want to tax myself in a set with a tax feel? This card flip is off to me. But whatever. It’s a nice little quick beater. I’d like to do the same for another color that could use one. How about Black? Just have two Black creatures so far…
It’s also an uncommon 3 mana flyer with 3 power and a disadvantage. I like it. All right folks, Gatherer wants . . .
That’s not a bad spell. It replaces itself, and flashing out some as a surprise, rather than a spell that can be played around like Leyline of Anticipation is pretty keen. It’s a great card for the Cube, and does something a little different. I think we’d all like it. It has good value. As does . . .
It’s the sort of solid support that we all like. Now, later, if there just aren’t enough sorceries for this to matter, we could do something like Insist instead.
Gatherer’s random function demands . . .
Umm . . . It’s the artifact Lucky Charm, and if it read “colorless” rather than artifact, I think that would be an interesting card. Right now my Cube has just 7 artifacts, other 6 colorless cards, and I was not feeling a large artifact theme yet. Hmmm . . . Let me do some quick math. 360 cards in the Cube. I was thinking 50 of each color, and 25 creatures and 25 non-creatures in each color — so 250 cards there, and the last 110 split among gold, lands, and artifacts. That’s, at best, 30 or 40 artifacts. So we have fewer artifacts that any given color, which means a card like Throne of Bone is better in this Cube than Urza's Chalice. If I was looking in an artifact direction, then sure, let’s do it. But not here. Now, if I flip over some other pro-artifact stuff and decide that an artifact theme fits the Cube, I can massage my numbers, and make it work. And I’ll add this and Frogmite in if that happens. But for now . . .
That is perfectly fine here. No issues with the ItR, right? I mean it’s well suited as a useful bounce spell, with card drawing potential if you have the spare mana. What else could use some support in the Cube? How about . . .
It adds a sometimes-working counter that also can draw a bunch of cards with the multikicker functionality. It adds a fun aspect to the Cube, because there will be times you may kick it and not expect to counter, just to get a few cards. Or you can use it as a double Force Spike and counter something around turn three or 4 when it’s likely to be a hard counter, and then just move on.
That’s a pretty powerful land. So I’m in. While I’m messing about with lands, how about some mana-fixing as well? Enter . . .
Yup, lands it is!
All right, G. Give it to me, baby!
Wow. You certainly gave it to me. Um . . . wow. Let’s use this as a way to lock in the creature token theme. Because your 0/1 Caribou suddenly look a lot better as . . .
Now I’m going with the General over something like Intangible Virtue because it’s more vulnerable to removal, and comes down later. It’s a good card to get those Caribou to become a threat, rather than just a block-atorium. Although there’s nothing wrong with that in a control build. Make a token, block, and then sacrifice for a life. But still, I think we’ll love some better stuff.
So what junk card will be next?
This is what Werewolves looked like before the double face technology of Innistrad came along. It’s 2/2 early, and then when you get threshold, transforms to a 4/4 with a disadvantage. So let’s give it some tools to help that threshold strategy. Because otherwise it’s a Scathe Zombies
I will be looking for some more Black ways to build that ‘yard up, but this is a good way early. It draws you two cards, and puts three in the graveyard on the turn after you play the Werewolf. That’s not bad at all. Note that we have a couple of discard or self-mill themes in Blue that we could use to make my Dimir () archetype a graveyard-fueled fest, and this would slide right in. Such as Extract from Darkness and Doorkeeper.
The next card . . .
I think Treasury Thrull is one of the best-kept secrets at a multiplayer game. Cards that swing and get card advantage while doing so are great at keeping the game going. The extort is more money on the table as well. But six mana is a bit much for a 4/4 in a duel like this one. The good thing is that we were potentially discussing an Orzhov () reanimation and graveyard theme, and this could lock us in. So let’s help it out a bit . . .
Like Momentary Blink that I added in earlier, you don’t have to run this in Orzhov for it to work. It’s fine as a Zombify variant in Golgari’s or Rakdos’. And you can even try to splash the flashback. But the card works well and helps to shore up my newly committed theme for Black and White.
Ummm . . . This card is a non-bo with what we are doing in Red’s land sacrifice theme. Compare to Lithophage. Now it’s a fine card, and I’d be happy to run it in another Gatherer challenge. But it doesn’t fit this one, right . . . ?
Wrong . . .
All right what’s next?
Meh. What a sucky card that is for my Simic theme. After these updates, here is where we are on themes right now:
Azorius – Defender? Maybe Blink?
Simic - +1/+1 counters?
Izzet – Unknown
Dimir – Self Mill? Graveyard fun?
Golgari – Elf
Orzhov – Graveyard fun times, reanimation?
Rakdos – Colorless
Boros – Aggro?
Gruul – Sacrificing and putting lands back into play
Selesnya – Unknown.
That’s my two color combo archetypes right now. Now we may wind up with Izzet () artifacts or spells, Selesnya tokens, or whatever. But you never know. I could flip over Sunforger and move Boros to equipment-artifacts and then Mesa Enchantress and make Selesnya about enchantments. You really don’t know right now, right?
I do like how two of these themes aren’t real themes in Magic — Rakdos colorless matters? That’s not a Black and Red theme. Rakdos aggro? Rakdos control? Rakdos suicide? Those are draftable themes throughout Magic. Ditto the lands into and out of play of Red/Green. I’m glad neither of those were featured in Modern Masters 2017.
Given that, the Krasis is just a French-vanilla junky creature. It’s not that good even. Ah well. Let’s toss it in. We do need some creatures that are meant to swing and smash, right? I can’t have that many Carrier Pigeons, defenders, and 0/1 Caribou tokens? At least the Krasis is a 3/1 trampling flyer for just 3 mana, and thus represents a solid enough threat. And a flying trampler is not a bad body for +1/+1 counterage either. Now, what about something like
It’s basically a 3/1 for 3 mana that can’t block, and can’t be blocked, unless I randomly flip over something with shadow. It gives us a nice tool for, you know, winning the game
All right, Gatherer? Would you give me a little more love?
Huh. Okay, that’s definitely some love! The good thing about Sharuum is that she doesn’t really require any major commitment to artifacts to work and make sense. I have Darigaaz already as a three color, over the top creature, and Sharuum does the same. So let’s toss her in.
Let’s also get some more mana fixing as well, to help. How about an artifact one?
It’s an artifact for Sharuum! It’s a mana rock! It’s a creature! It’s colorless! It works on many levels!
Hit me up Gatherer!
All right fine, Red is weird this Cube. Wall of Stone! Because you never know if your cool Lithophage swing is going to get blocked or stopped and leave you open! For all of your bizarre Red blocking needs, Wall of Stone! And what works here? I could add a defender theme to the whole set, add in Vent Sentinel, and then swap Azorius to blinking officially. Then Overgrown Battlement? Yeah, this is . . . crazy. All right Red, since you are wearing your defensive glasses today, while Blue is rocking burn, let’s really push what you are doing . . .
Red counters! Enjoy!
All right Gatherer, once more with feeling!
Will Selesnya () have a lifegain theme? I don’t know if I have enough life gain triggers to really make it worth it. But just because I flip it doesn’t mean we have to build around it. Getting 7 life from 2 mana at instant speed in a 20 life format ain’t bad. And on that note . . .
It’s a solid card. And the bloodrush is virtually a Giant Growth in cost and effect when you are attacking, so it encourages the swinging. It can help folks break through the Walls here. So I like that. In fact, let’s push that a bit more with the same mechanic . . .
+3/+3 and double strike? Good night! And it’s perfectly fine as a 3/3 double strike for 5 mana with a solid board presence as well. It’ll even make my junkier creatures something strong when you swing.
What else, “Oh mighty Gatherer?”
Huh. All right. I’m in. And let’s give Red the exact same card that fits the Prismatic Omen Green has . . .
All right folks! What are we looking for next?
Hmmm . . . One valid archetype for Orzhov is a fun, life-gain matters theme, and this suits that perfectly. Both abilities work quite well together. But without that, this is a goofy, off-theme 2-drop that makes no sense for Orzhov and has little value. Sorry, but I’m sending it back
Wow. Not that’s on theme folks. Return a land from my graveyard to my hand? That’s awesome for Gruul. Or a creature? Like a hot Elf? And I gain some life too? And at instant speed? Love it! How about another cool card that’s on theme?
Do you see the synergies? First, it’s totally playable in any Green deck as solid removal of the Naturalize variety. Because it has megamorph, and not normal morph, it flips over with a +1/+1 counter which plays into the Simic theme there. And you could certainly see Rakdos grabbing it as a colorless Gray Ogre, with no major intention to flip, unless it has some splashing. Lots of synergy here!
1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . .
That’s our first equipment, and it’s pretty weak. What card would make a zero drop equipment better? With a cheap equip cost? Umm . . . powerful cards like Puresteel Paladin certainly would, but I’m not sure that’s where I’d want to be. Know what I could do? Use it to trigger the colorless trigger of Red devoid cards like Nettle Drone or Molten Nursery. Or I could do something like Sram, Senior Edificer.
Sram is both more powerful than the Paladin generally, and yet not as broken due to the lack of a free equip. More card drawing, but not as abusable. That seems right up my alley.
What up G?
Not exactly the quality of artifact creature I was hoping for, but okay; whatever works. Convoke works with tokens to make it better, so it’s not unwelcome. Just odd. Hmm . . . What else does that suggest to me? I like the cost reduction ability. At first I thought about more convoke or dredge, but I figured emerge made more sense. Now I decided to play into a different theme. Not colorless with Red or Black necessarily, but the tapping of stuff.
How about next?
Nah. I’ll do a 2-drop mana artifact, Mind Stone, instead
How about . . . ?
Thanks Gatherer! That was a fun pick. It’s a mana accelerant and a creature that will help get cards into the yard for Dimir and/or Orzhov. There’s nothing major I want to follow it up with right now, so . . .
Works with a number of interesting fun times and evokes an interesting take on Naturalize fun times.
All right Gatherer . . . AGAIN!
Wow. I feel like Blue just had its power level ramped hard. I’m good with tempo stuff for now. What else would be out there? How about . . .
White hasn’t gotten a lot of answers yet other than the mass removal spell, and it has a lot to recommend it later.
Nah. Too much of a hoser. Come on Gatherer, you can do better than that!
Hmmm . . . Why I am getting the crap equipment. Not even something solid like Bonesplitter. But Strandwalker. A 5 mana Giant Spider ain’t special. But it’s not the worst thing ever. Too bad the Germ token is Black. What about a better piece of in-Cube-flavor as well . . .
I like the deathtouch for clearing out blockers, and giving smaller stuff a real chance of equaling the odds, and making something like Carrier Pigeons not suck as much. Deathtouch is the great leveler of creature combat.
All right. I think it’s interesting, because we have several life gain spells for Green — Quiet Disrepair, Pulse of Murasa, and Heroes' Reunion for example. So this is pretty interesting. Why not? It’s a great 1-drop, because as you swing and hit their life drops, and you keep it. How about an early drop for Black, the only (non-Blue) color without a Loam Lion, Kird Ape, or Ogre.
I chose the best option, but there are certainly other choices out there as well. Gatherer?
Why not? More counters are fine, and it’s a solid enough card in a limited Cube. Removal-ish. Drop it early, load up counters as you have mana, and blow stuff up. It’s not exciting, but it works. It does lead me to something important though. I want to have a colorless way of adding counters to stuff. But Dragon Blood is meaningless on a Hydra, if you have the mana for the Blood, you have the mana for the Hydra. What else? Gavony Township? Nah, let’s hold off for now, and go with another 2-drop that can get counters on it . . .
This is a major force for my Gruul themed deck, so it works well, and the presence of counters also has obvious synergies as well.
Really? More direct-ish, damage from Blue? The problem with Psionic Entity is that it takes a lot of set up for this card to not stupidly kill itself. Equipment? Damage prevention? Something like Blue Ward or Unquestioned Authority? Is this good enough to run? Is it worth the support?
Unquestioned Authority it is! Draws you a card, does a lot of good stuff, and works in multiple shells.
Again with the weird equipment. Its’s pretty slow removal, but at least it is removal. And it works with cards like the Psionic Entity, Steam Blast, and other smaller bits of damage here and there in the Cube thus far in case you need to handle something a little bigger.
Is this my Izzet deck? I thought I might have a few options, like a tax theme or a sorcery/instant matters theme. But maybe I’m just control? Counterburn? Something simple like that.
How committed am I to the Simic counter theme? I thought we were moving that direction when the Sphinx of Magosi flipped. But I haven’t had a Blue or gold counter card added in yet, unless you count the Simic Guildmage. So for now, let’s give Green a tool to fight some of the strong tempo themes.
Seeker, what do you see in Gatherer’s future?
All right, head on in. Feels like a solid choice if my Rakdos colorless matters player drafts a deck that emphasizes artifacts. What else? What makes sense? How about a fun cheap on-flavor artifact?
All righty, how about . . .
For a similar effect! First strike and one fewer mana to play! It’s on fire! Now, Gatherer?
Well . . . all right. There’s more abuse for destroying tapped creatures. One card, Vengeance, was a fun entry. This is downright a theme. I wish I could add in stuff like Royal Assassin and make this the Orzhov theme! Tap and kill your stuff! At least we didn’t flip up an annoying card like Gideon Jura, Deathbringer Liege, or Sunblast Angel. Let’s give me another cheap artifact, because I don’t know how good I want to make this theme right now.
I have always been a fan of playing good mana, even when not in the flavor of the deck. For example, I have a Crap Cube with the worst cards ever printed. But I still have great lands and mana artifacts in the Cube. Why? Because you need to actually play the game. Now I don’t have broken mana like Sol Ring, but stuff like Darksteel Ingot rather than Celestial Prism? Absolutely. The same is true here, and I think the Chalice is fine outside of some seriously bad proliferate junk, but we’ve not gotten any of that yet.
Boring . . . But a nice vanilla creature that can swing certainly isn’t. How about . . .
You are welcome Elementalists!! I actually like the Water Elemental here, when I have so many strong Blue creatures recently added. Torrent Elemental? Sphinx of Magosi? Gatherer was good with the top end stuff. So having a generic, but solid, vanilla creature makes sense to me. Next?
Veto’d. Duh. Next?
All right, that’s fine. Not sexy, but it works. How about a fun flyer in another color too?
We have a 4/4 flying with an ability, just like the Volcanic Dragon, trample vs haste, plus the ability to grow and stuff as well.
Fire Away, Gatherer!
Yay for burn and normal, average, adequate removal! What would make sense with this? How about something like . . .
It’s fun, Shocks stuff, and is an interesting effect too!
Okay G, whatcha got?
Well, it looks like we are locked on Elf archetype. I figured I’d get another lord sooner or later. They are so common in the archetype. How about I double down here with . . .
Seems like a cool choice to get our Elves in there. Eyeblight's Ending was the first card we flipped, and we’ve kept to that theme even through today.
And there we have it for today! Whew!
Well, we’ve hashed out some more archetypes, like Gruul and probably Izzet’s burn and that tap-and-burn stuff theme of cards like Psionic Entity and Quicksilver Dagger. We have Orzhov looking at reanimation, and we’re just blowing up support for other themes with cards like Phantom General, Shaman of the Pack, or Armorcraft Judge really setting some archetypes up for success. Good stuff!
Today knocked out at ton more cards for this Random Cube Project. But as you can clearly, see, we are not there yet.
So what did you think? Anything here you liked? Are you going to be embracing the random for your next Cube as well? Any cards in here that inspired your own decks, Cubes, or other projects?