Hello, folks! Way "back in my Magic-resolutions-for-2015 article, I mentioned that I had been working on and off (mostly off) on a mono-black Cube that I wanted to finish this year. Well, guess what! Check off one resolution, baby!
Today, I want to spend some time talking about mono-colored Cubes in general, mono-black Cubes, and then mine specially, and I’ll give you my basic outline of the Cube. Next week, I’ll go over the specifics, card choices, and more!
Why Would You Even Want to Run a Mono-Colored Cube?
A second reason to rock the single color is that it’s a really fun challenge to try to come up with a balanced, one-color Cube. At first, it might seem balanced naturally. After all, it won’t matter if I include too many powerful, cheap creatures if everyone can use them equally, right? Who cares if I run too many of a certain spell or effect—we can just have everyone draft them?
But the Cube is more nuanced than that. Consider this: If every drafter can play and draft every card, how will the decks appear different? Imagine if we had a mono-blue Cube. How would my mono-blue deck be any different than yours? It would just come down to what cards were opened in the packs. Just rank the cards, draft them, and then build, almost like a robot. Each deck is essentially a good-stuff deck.
We need to avoid that, and that’s a fun challenge.
Plus, who wouldn’t want to have an all-red or all-white Cube Draft for a nice diversion? It’s going to be a lot of fun!
Now, which color would you like to play? I like black because I think it’s a nice challenge. Some of its best cards and mechanics don’t do anything against a fellow black deck. What good is fear or intimidate when every creature my opponent uses is black or artifact? The nonblack clause in a lot of cards, from Doom Blade to Nekrataal to Throat Slitter, is a real roadblock in this thing.
The other colors have fewer issues—blue has always rocked a serious love for turning opposing lands into Islands in order to use anything from Seasinger to swinging with Sea Serpent. With guaranteed Islands out there, it’s a race for that mechanic. It’s easy to do. White can destroy anything and handle anything, and it probably most resembles a normal Cube. Red shares black’s awkwardness with handling enchantments, but it can blow up Planeswalkers, artifacts, lands, and creatures with aplomb, and it doesn’t have to side out a bunch of its iconic and great removal—Lightning Bolt works just fine, thank you very much. Green has the obvious ramp strategies that might play very similarly, and I just don’t think it has the nuance that black can give you.
So Black It Is!
After all, we not only have the advantages of digging deeply into different cards, but we have the inability to really deal with artifacts and enchantments, and the nonblack stuff can create new spaces for cards to explore. And that’s what it’s all about, right? Right!
A mono-colored Cube is going to have some issues that other Cubes won’t. Here they are, all laid out for you, from a black-centric viewpoint:
Can’t Be Just Mono-Colored
From white to red, every color has weaknesses, and you’ll want to add in cards that attack those weaknesses. That means you will need to add in some cards that aren’t in your color. From artifacts to nonbasic lands, you’ll want to dig into some useful colorless territory. If you aren’t in green, you’ll probably want a bit of land-fetching. Playing blue? Then sweeping removal or removal that can hit artifacts and/or enchantments is probably going to make the cut. From mana rocks and Equipment to card-draw and strong creatures, you will need to grab some colorless cards to even things out.
A follow-up question is to consider just how many colorless cards can you realistically run before things get out of hand. I don’t want my mono-black Cube to be 40% artifacts. That’s not the point. The point is to find artifacts that shore up various mechanics that the Cube wants but can’t easily get on its own.
The Good-Stuff Problem
As we mentioned before, we simply can’t run the best black cards and call it a day. Imagine if we grabbed a list from CubeTutor.com of the top four hundred black cards that are used in Cube, trimmed out forty cards such as Doom Blade that make no sense, and then kept the rest. There’s your Cube! Draft away, my friends! But every deck will look alike, and that’s a problem. So what we have to do is build some intentionality into the Cube that allows differentiation of decks. Now your deck can look different than mine. That’s okay.
For example, take a mono-green Cube. Maybe we could have the pro-enchantment cards in the Cube (such as Eidolon of Blossoms and Verduran Enchantress) alongside some useful enchantments. That would be one subtheme of the Cube. Then, layer in the ramp theme and maybe some others on top of that. Meanwhile, your mono-blue Cube might have a quick-beater fish theme with Merfolk, a draw-go control deck around counters and a few finishers, a mono-blue tempo deck that stalls and uses cards to take you to the end game to use powerful tempo enablers to win the game, and finally a pro-artifact theme as well. So you can layer in these themes to fight the good-stuff tendencies of an unthemed Cube.
Same Evaluation in Draft
Cabal Coffers. Obviously, every good-stuff black deck wants Cabal Coffers, right? It’ll make the top ten of every drafter’s list of cards. Now maybe it’s number four on your list of the best cards in the Cube, and maybe it’s number eight on my list. But we all rate it extremely highly. So the Draft becomes overly rote, as there is no change in how things work together.
With those issues in mind, there are six major archetypes that my mono-black Cube wants to support. What are they?
What Are the Archetypes That My Cube Intentionally Supports?
Ever since Animate Dead, black has rocked a strong reanimation theme in the color. In order to flesh it out properly, we need a way to put bigger creatures into the graveyard early on. That’s where cards like Entomb, Putrid Imp, and Bitter Revelation come in, filling up the graveyard with goodies. Meanwhile, we are going to want some strong creatures to reanimate, and finally, we need good reanimation spells. I’m looking for cards like Twisted Abomination (to cycle to the graveyard) and Spirit of the Night to bring back as well as Dread Return and Doomed Necromancer.
Black has had a mono-aggro push to it since the very beginning. Playing a spell like Dark Ritual and following it with mad beats was serious old-school fun. With the power of newer creatures, that strategy is even more potent. Now, I wanted to steer clear of too many things like Bad Moon that pump everything. With those cards not in the equation, I wanted to have some good, quality early drops to harness for an aggro deck, such as Carnophage or Diregraf Ghoul. But I have to make sure that the aggressive suicide archetype isn’t so good that it takes out other decks too early or easily.
One of the most popular archetypes of all time is this one. People still adore their MBC decks! The goal of this deck is to play great black-centric control cards to establish that the game is yours. Check out sweepers like Mutilate, Damnation, and Drown in Sorrow. These can help you make it to the later game. Meanwhile, your deck really wants the Cabal Coffers–, Caged Sun–, and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx–style mass mana-making effects. You can win the game with big effects like Consume Spirit for 12 or a big beater.
Another major subtheme is the black discarding angle. You can run cards that trigger when someone is forced to discard, such as Waste Not and Megrim. Then you can easily toss in the many black discarding elements. Once those are in, finish off with some damage-dealing to folks with lower hand counts, such as Wheel of Torture or Rackling.
Sacrifice and Serve
Black always wants to sacrifice things, particularly creatures, for everything from life to cards to mana. Since you already want to run these effects, you can find sacrifice outlets in the project, such as Infernal Tribute, Gate to Phyrexia, High Market, Fallen Angel, and Phyrexian Plaguelord. I also included a few creatures with death triggers, such as Black Cat, for you to toss into the machine. Don’t forget to include death triggers from other cards as well—Pawn of Ulamog, Grave Pact, and Jar of Eyeballs are some options. Finally, we have a handful of self-reanimation creatures that you can bring back for another sacrifice. From Krovikan Horror to Gravecrawler, there are plenty of options for your team.
Enter the Zombie
Black’s best tribe is Zombies—ever since Zombie Master was printed way back in Limited Edition Alpha and Limited Edition Beta. Why not draft a tribe for you to build a fun deck? We have a number of lords for you to consider, such as Undead Warchief and Cemetery Reaper. Now toss in Zombies early and late, and you have a deck easily built and layered into the Cube.
That gives us six solid archetypes to consider when drafting. You certainly aren’t limited to those. Perhaps you just want to build a black good-stuff deck, or maybe you build an archetype that I didn’t even intend. That happens! But these six archetypes are intentionally in the deck.
Necromancy much more highly than a card like Cabal Coffers. On the other hand, cards that are already really strong, such as Volrath's Stronghold, become downright essential in a reanimation deck. That is the sort of altered value and internal Draft conflict that I want to bring to the project.
So what does my Mono-Black Cube look like? That’s a great question!
Check out the visual spoiler here.
Now, next week, we’ve delve into the particulars of the Cube. What are some lessons I learned from other Cubes and translated here to strengthen this project? We’ll take a look and see!
In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed a first look at the mono-colored Cube generally and my own black challenge specially. Any thoughts on the Cube?
Let’s head into next week!