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From the Ground Up: White and Innistrad

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So, I just did the Innistrad update for the Cube. There were no changes in artifacts, lands, or multicolored spells. The following changes were made:

Blue:

Air ElementalMurder of Crows

CloudskateStitched Drake

Snapping DrakeMoon Heron

Worldly CounselForbidden Alchemy

Black:

Zombie CutthroatDiregraf Ghoul

Reassembling SkeletonVampire Interloper

Scavenger DrakeFalkenrath Noble

Drain LifeConsume Spirit

Ill-Gotten GainsMoan of the Unhallowed

Red:

Axegrinder GiantStromkirk Noble

Hearthcage GiantFalkenrath Marauders

Thoughtbound PrimocAshmouth Hound

Panic AttackNightbird's Clutches

Tribal FlamesBrimstone Volley

I want to go through these changes quickly, before I start with White.

Worldly Counsel, Tribal FlamesBoth of these were cut because they weren't really doing their jobs effectively. They were ostensibly included to support more multicolored decks, but it just wasn't working out. Thus, I cut them for similar spells that were simply more effective.

Snapping DrakeThis became Moon Heron, because Moon Heron is prettier.

CloudskateThis was my way of fitting one of the Blue Zombies into the Cube. I felt that Stitched Drake, being an aggressively costed flyer, was the most reasonable choice. While it might be a bit difficult to cast on turn three, casting this later (like on turn five) and holding up countermagic is perfectly reasonable, and thus it, like Cloudskate, supports the aggro flyers deck.

Air ElementalThis was cut and turned into Murder of Crows, because I finally had a 5-mana 4/4 flyer with an ability that wasn't too over the top.

Zombie CutthroatThis card is just flat-out bad, so I cut it for Diregraf Ghoul to help increase the aggro support.

Reassembling SkeletonI talked about this in my Black article a bit, but the main reason for the cut is that sacrificing dudes is no longer a big deal in Black, so the interactions with this card are just limited. The decision to move this to an agro-support slot was to help out aggro decks a bit. At the moment, the Cube supports one real aggressive drafter at a six-man table, and about one and a half at an eight-man. I would like to bump that up a bit, but I still want Red to be the only color that aggro drafters can viably share. Thus, increasing aggro support slightly across the board is consistent with this goal. As far as Skeleton is concerned, I would like for it to make a comeback. I hope that Wizards prints more beneficial sacrifice outlets, because it is an effect I like. However, the options that exist right now are largely too powerful or not powerful enough.

Scavenger DrakeI changed this to Falkenrath Noble, because both cards want things to die, but I felt that Falkenrath Noble is a slightly stronger card. The Drake simply wasn't seeing enough play, so I put in a more powerful card with similar strategic functionality.

Drain LifeAwkward that, the day after I wrote my article, I managed to get my hands on a foil Consume Spirit, so the change was made.

Ill-Gotten GainsI said in my article that the experiment wasn't working out. I made the change I talked about. Moan of the Unhallowed should prove to be a solid card.

Axegrinder Giant, Hearthcage GiantBoth of these were cut to drop the curve. Stromkirk Noble was the auto-include. I didn't want to cut these for two low-drops, so Falkenrath Marauders was the midrange drop I chose.

Thoughtbound PrimocPeople seemed to be afraid of this card, despite the fact that, in actuality, it rarely changed controllers. I liked this card because it had evasion. Ashmouth Hound has pseudo-evasion and can trade profitably, so it seemed like an okay replacement.

Panic AttackNightbird's Clutches is simply a better card that has similar functionality.

I'm still looking at a number of cards from Innistrad, headlined primarily by Bloodgift Demon and Ghoulraiser. My issue with Ghoulraiser is that the card is simply not efficient enough if you aren't getting value out of it. The card would definitely be stronger if I found a way to include more of the Changelings or if Wizards prints more tribal cards (although they have said this is unlikely); however, I feel that there really just isn't much room. I really like tribal cards, and I wish Wizards had made it an evergreen card type. Sadly, I suppose tribals are going the way of Enchant World. Bloodgift Demon is the second really big card I'm looking at. My problem is that my “Phyrexian Arena dude” is Graveborn Muse, which is a Zombie. I'm not sure I really want a third Arena. I could replace something like Sengir Vampire, but that is fundamentally changing the functionality of the card slot, which is not something I do lightly.

The Innistrad update was actually quite substantial (as you will also see in White and Green), mainly because the set deals so well with graveyard-related things. Before, there wasn't as much of that as I wanted in the Cube, so Innistrad was definitely important. I expect more changes over the course of the block, as I bring the graveyard more into play.

The full Cube, complete with updates, is here on GoogleDocs.




All right, let's move on to the White cards.

Rebels – Amrou Scout, Amrou Seekers, Aven Riftwatcher, Blade of the Sixth Pride, Bound in Silence, Defiant Falcon, Defiant Vanguard, Errant Doomsayers, Knight of the Holy Nimbus, Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero, Nightwind Glider, Ramosian Captain, Ramosian Commander, Ramosian Lieutenant, Ramosian Sergeant, Ramosian Sky Marshal, Reveille Squad, Riftmarked Knight, Thermal Glider, Whipcorder, Zealot il-Vec

I was honestly sort of railroaded into my Rebel selection by the fact that, for the most part, they only exist in Masques block and Time Spiral block. There are a small number of Rebels lying around in other blocks, but those were the two big places to look. I pretty much went with the vast majority of the searchers and the best of the rest, while ensuring that my Rebels were (1) relatively spread out across the curve and (2) able to operate on their own as much as possible.

Ramosian Sky Marshal and Ramosian Commander are cards I haven't really been happy with, but my options for searchers are light, and they are definitely the only searchers at 4 and 5 mana. The 4-drop searcher is especially important because it finds Changeling Titan and Changeling Hero. Outside of that, Sky Marshal is expendable. The problem lies in the fact that they are both searchers, and searching is an integral part of the Rebel mechanic. Candidates for replacing either of these cards are Cho-Manno, Revolutionary, Ramosian Revivalist, and Saltfield Recluse. The problem with those cards is that none of them are searchers. If I were to make a change, at this point, it would likely be Sky Marshal for Ramosian Revivalist. Still, I would rather replace Sky Marshal with another searcher.

Rebels are unique in that they have a spell, Bound in Silence, which occupies one of the “Rebel” slots. That's because, the way the mechanic works, Bound in Silence is effectively a Rebel. This was one of the “cool” little things that drew me toward Rebels in the first place.

All in all, I have been very happy with Rebels as a tribe. I was skeptical initially (I even had a Knights and a Soldiers replacement ready), but it's proven to be an interesting tactical and strategic option. I had two main concerns with the tribe.

  1. It would feel weird, because it would be underrepresented or just not work very well.
  2. The tribe simply wouldn't be powerful enough.

The power concerns were quickly dispelled, since, in my second eight-man, someone drafted Rebels very effectively. The nice thing is that because the creatures are individually underpowered, they tend to go later, which means you can pick them up on wheels. This means that drafting for synergy turns out very well, since, with Rebels, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The “feel” concern endured a while, but, ultimately, the tribe showed a property that I liked—it very rarely shows up in four-mans, sometimes shows up in six-mans, and is usually available in eight-mans. This is different than the other tribes, each of which shows up in varying amounts in all drafts. The reason the other tribes don't become substantially stronger as the number of players go up is that the cards are so strong individually. Drafting a tribal deck becomes slightly easier in an eight-man, but the quality of the tribe remains relatively flat. Rebels don't function this way, which makes me like it as a tribe, since it gives the Cube a unique strategic feature.

All in all, while I was initially unsure that Rebels was a viable tribe, it's proven to be overall a surprisingly good choice. I have no doubt many people would go with Soldiers or Knights, but I urge you to consider Rebels, since it definitely attacks from a completely different angle, which is always nice.

Other White creatures – Accorder Paladin, Akroma, Angel of Wrath, Avian Changeling, Benalish Trapper, Calming Licid, Celestial Crusader, Changeling Hero, Cloudchaser Kestrel, Cloudgoat Ranger, Commander Eesha, Elite Vanguard, Eternal Dragon, Exalted Angel, Fiend Hunter, Goldmeadow Harrier, Hero of Bladehold, Infantry Veteran, Isamaru, Hound of Konda, Knight of Cliffhaven, Knight of Meadowgrain, Linvala, Keeper of Silence, Mageta the Lion, Magus of the Moat, Mirror Entity, Mother of Runes, Paladin en-Vec, Pianna, Nomad Captain, Porcelain Legionnaire, Pristine Angel, Reveillark, Seht's Tiger, Serra Angel, Soul Warden, Stonehorn Dignitary, Stormfront Pegasus, Sun Titan, Sunscape Battlemage, Transcendent Master, Wall of Omens, White Knight, Yosei, the Morning Star

Nothing to see here, move on – Accorder Paladin, Akroma, Angel of Wrath, Cloudgoat Ranger, Elite Vanguard, Goldmeadow Harrier, Fiend Hunter, Hero of Bladehold, Isamaru, Hound of Konda, Knight of Meadowgrain, Mother of Runes, Porcelain Legionnaire, Reveillark, Wall of Omens, White Knight, Yosei, the Morning Star

I think most will have no issues with any of these cards. They are overall of high quality and do the jobs they are intended to do. Those who are observant will notice that Isamaru was not in the initial Cube list I posted. This was for two reasons.

  1. The file I was using hadn't been updated to reflect my recent intentions.
  2. I knew Isamaru was going in; I just hadn't yet decided what to cut.

The cut ended up being Aven Cloudchaser, for those who are curious. I felt that I had enough enchantment and artifact removal, so cutting the weakest piece for Isamaru made sense.

Now, I want to take a look at the grouping for the rest of the White creatures. Some of these may deserve to be in the “no need to look at this” pile, but I feel that it's worth talking about them, so I will.

The remaining fat – Eternal Dragon, Exalted Angel, Pristine Angel, Sun Titan

Eternal DragonI always liked the dual usability of this card. Cycle it away early, and bring it back as an actual threat late. The mechanistic smoothness of this card is what made it among my “fatty” selections, over many viable options in White.

Pristine AngelI like White to showcase its various “protection” abilities, and Pristine Angel is a great way of doing that.

Exalted AngelThis was selected over the more powerful Baneslayer Angel. Why would I run the weaker creature? Simple—Baneslayer Angel is too good against aggro. I knew I wanted a lifelinking Angel that was relevant, but not overpowering, and thus Exalted Angel was the choice.

Baneslayer Angel, I feel, is representative of a fundamental misconception people have about format design—the aggro deck is strong, so we need to print cards that are good against it (Kor Firewalker, for example). Here's the biggest news flash: The aggro deck is almost never too strong! (At least for Constructed.) Kor Firewalker really, really pissed me off, because it was a completely unnecessary nerfing of the Red deck. I have talked at length about format balance, and the aggro deck, defined by 1-drops, is, by necessity, a major player. Look at right now, when we have an actual format developing. The reason this is happening is that we have two viable aggro decks that can deploy pressure starting on turn one: Mono-Red and Tempered Steel. The ability of these two decks to apply a consistent clock acts as sort of a gateway to the format, weeding out noninteractive strategies and strategies that are underpowered.

The aggro deck does not need to be nerfed. This is true in almost every Constructed format, and it is also true in Cube. It is not true in regular Limited formats (which is why I'm not raging at Timely Reinforcements, although I think Wizards could have gone about that card differently, as well). The fact of the matter is that cards like Kor Firewalker destroy formats, because they singlehandedly keep down a major player in balanced formats—the aggro deck.

Baneslayer Angel would have a similar effect in Cube, and it is something I worked very hard to avoid. Exalted Angel is good enough to be powerful, but not good enough to be “kill me now or you lose.” That's exactly where I want my lifelinking big flyer.

Sun TitanHistorically, White has had some way of interacting with the graveyard, and I feel that putting it on a big fatty is not a bad thing. Also, I needed a ground fatty, since all my fatties already flew, and this just seemed like a good option to fulfill multiple design roles.

Defensive creature suite – Benalish Trapper, Calming Licid, Mageta the Lion, Magus of the Moat, Stonehorn Dignitary

Benalish TrapperI wanted a third tapper, and you can never really go wrong with the basic. This card exists in three forms: Benalish Trapper, Master Decoy, and Blinding Mage. This was the card I happened to have handy at the time.

Calming LicidI actually like the Licid cycle. I wouldn't want it to be used regularly, but, for a one-time mechanic, it was pretty cool. Calming Licid, in particular, is a card I like, and, as a creature, it's deceptively strong. The ability to jump around from creature to enchantment makes it difficult to remove and frequently allows you to lock down your opponent's strongest guy. The ability to move it from one guy to another is also relevant. This is why Prison Term is such a strong Pacifism effect. While the Licid still allows the creature to block, frequently you can find your way by with an evasive creature or a recurring threat like Eternal Dragon. Overall, I like the resiliency and uniqueness of this card.

Mageta the LionWhat's not to like about Wrath of God on a stick? Sure, it's expensive, but it's pretty good at doing its job.

Magus of the MoatI went with this over its enchantment brother, because I felt that this effect makes for fairly noninteractive games, but that it is an effect I wanted to have. White definitely has a “restricting attackers” theme that I wanted to represent. I thought the “taxing” made more sense in Blue (hence Propaganda instead of Ghostly Prison), whereas this sort of thing makes more sense in White. The reason this is a creature is that it is easier to kill, thus making for a little bit more interactivity.

Stonehorn DignitaryI loved this creature from the moment I saw it. Blinding Angel was always a creature I wanted, but it suffered from the same problem as Moat: It's fundamentally very noninteractive. Skipping combat phases is something that I would like to see more of out of White, though, and this was an excellent way of doing it without it being overpowered. I guess you can put this on the table with Venser, but that's a specific two-card combo. To be fair, that combo is Standard-legal right now . . . just sayin'.

More aggro support – Infantry Veteran, Knight of Cliffhaven, Pianna, Nomad Captain, Stormfront Pegasus

Infantry VeteranI selected this over Isamaru and Savannah Lions initially, because I felt that I wanted to diversify my aggro support. This guy is pretty good at supporting aggro decks and came in from a slightly different angle. In fact, he pretty much is the sole reason that M11 Limited was such a good format. It turns out that I need at least one more 1-drop, so Isamaru is headed into the Cube. Savannah Lions may follow, depending on how Isamaru shakes out. I'm going to let it percolate for a while.

Knight of CliffhavenWhite has a lot of awesome 2-drops, but they all cost ww. I wanted another beater at 1w, and, when I looked, the options were actually pretty thin. I ended up settling on Knight of Cliffhaven, because I wanted a ground-pounder. Knight of Cliffhaven technically flies, but it takes more mana investment, so I compromised there. What I really want is something like the following creature:

1w

[insert name here]

Creature – Human Soldier

Vigilance

2/2

Can I just have something like that? Please, Wizards?

It's not that there aren't other options—it's just that I wasn't happy with them. The other major options were Kami of Ancient Law/Ronom Unicorn, War Priest of Thune, and Sensei Golden-Tail. Each of these had its own issues. The first three frequently end up just being Grizzly Bears, and I wanted the creature to be more than that. Sensei Golden-Tail was something I looked at, but I remember playing with that card in Champions block, Wacky Draft, and in a couple Cubes. The one constant was that it, like, never attacked. Basically, Sensei Golden-Tail sat around and gave all your dudes Bushido. Like I said, I wanted a beater, so Sensei Golden-Tail was out.

Stormfront PegasusThe reason I wanted a ground-pounder was that I knew I was going to have this card at 1w. I could've gone with Kor Skyfisher, but I like the simplicity of this card.

Pianna, Nomad CaptainI always felt that the “+1/+1 to attacking creatures” buff made sense in White as sort of a rallying-cry type thing. I like the idea of having it on a creature, because it makes sense both flavorfully and mechanically. Pianna does this and is sufficiently powerful, so it made it in.

The rest – Avian Changeling, Celestial Crusader, Changeling Hero, Cloudchaser Kestrel, Commander Eesha, Linvala, Keeper of Silence, Mirror Entity, Paladin en-Vec, Seht's Tiger, Serra Angel, Soul Warden, Sunscape Battlemage, Transcendent Master

Avian Changeling, Changeling HeroI tried to put at least one Changeling in every color. Black ended up having no good Changelings, but White had two that were fine, so they made it.

Celestial CrusaderI like Crusade effects, and I felt that having one on a guy made sense.

Cloudchaser KestrelThis is among the “enters-the-battlefield-and-blows-up-an-enchantment” dudes that I like. Paying 3 for a 2/2 flyer is reasonable, and the value only makes it better. It's occasionally relevant that it can turn things White, as well (Honor of the Pure, etc.).

Commander EeshaThis is a unique creature that I really like. Protection from creatures is a cool ability, and this is the creature I like it best on. Beloved Chaplain simply doesn't do enough.

Linvala, Keeper of SilenceI wanted both a decently sized midrange flyer and a card that had some way of shutting off abilities in White. This card accomplishes both, and thus seemed like the best option. I mean, it's definitely better than, say, Voidstone Gargoyle.

Mirror EntityThis really didn't make it on the back of being a Changeling. I like the effect of transforming all your dudes into X/X dudes. The fact that it is a Changeling is simply a bonus.

Paladin en-VecI definitely wanted to showcase White's penchant for having Protection from Red and Protection from Black. The issue was that I wanted to limit the number of Protection from Red creatures (this goes back to my point on nerfing aggro). The initial design list called for Silver Knight and White Knight in addition to this card, but I already had both Thermal Glider and Nightwind Glider in Rebels. I felt that I wanted to go with the bare minimum of pro-Red guys, so I made the decision to cut Silver Knight and leave this guy in.

Seht's TigerOnce again, this is among those unique cards that has a very White spin on it. I love cards that attack from unique tactical angles, and this is one of them.

Serra AngelHow could I make a Cube and not include my favorite Angel?

Soul WardenThis could easily be Soul's Attendant, but backtracking in casual formats is easy enough. The fact of the matter is that this card is hard enough to justify when you draw it later, so I felt that the trigger could be mandatory without many issues. The symmetry with Essence Warden didn't hurt, either.

Sunscape BattlemageI really like the Battlemage cycle, since it supports multicolored decks very well by providing numerous potential benefits. The Battlemages that had solid, relevant Kicker costs all made it. This is no exception. Thunderscape Battlemage was the borderline card in the cycle, but it doesn't really do what I want Red to be doing, so I ended up not including it for that reason. Nightscape Battlemage is just bad. The other three, though, are fine.

Transcendent MasterThis is in because it's a solid threat that can be played early. I like the Indestructible ability on the final form, as well. If there's any color that should receive an Indestructible dude, it's White.

Spells – Abolish, Ajani Goldmane, Akroma's Vengeance, Angelic Renewal, Battle Screech, Feeling of Dread, Bound in Silence, Condemn, Crib Swap, Purify the Grave, Day of Judgment, Disenchant, Dispeller's Capsule, Elspeth, Knight-Errant, Faith's Fetters, Glorious Anthem, Griffin Guide, Harm's Way, Honor of the Pure, Lashknife Barrier, Luminarch Ascension, Martial Coup, Mighty Leap, Momentary Blink, Oblivion Ring, Orim's Thunder, Pacifism, Parallax Wave, Pariah, Path to Exile, Phyrexian Rebirth, Pulse of the Fields, Resurrection, Safe Passage, Seed Spark, Shining Shoal, Spectral Procession, Story Circle, Sunlance, Swords to Plowshares, Wrath of God

Nothing to see here, move on – Bound in Silence, Condemn, Crib Swap, Day of Judgment, Disenchant, Elspeth, Knight-Errant, Faith's Fetters, Oblivion Ring, Pacifism, Path to Exile, Spectral Procession, Swords to Plowshares, Wrath of God

Bonus Wraths: Akroma's Vengeance, Martial Coup, Phyrexian RebirthI was shooting for five total Wraths. I obviously had a huge number of options. These are three of my favorite Wraths, because they accomplish different things. Phyrexian Rebirth and Martial Coup leave around threats, whereas Akroma's Vengeance deals with different permanent types. The Cube could probably support a sixth Wrath (almost certainly Hallowed Burial), but I've been happy with five. They show up a good amount, but it's hard to draft three, which is, I feel, fine.

Abolish, Dispeller's Capsule, Orim's Thunder, Seed SparkThis is obviously bonus enchantment and artifact removal. Like I said in my design column, I wanted to make sure both White and Green had access to large amounts of enchantment and artifact removal. I wanted more of it in Green, but I still wanted White to have some quality removal as well. With the cutting of Aven Cloudchaser, it's possible I'll move one of these to be enchantment-only, but I really like all four of these spells. Abolish can be free, Dispeller's Capsule can sit on the table have its mana cost split up over multiple turns, while Orim's Thunder and Seed Spark both generate advantages in different ways. I am a fan of the versatility of the “bonus” attached to these various enchantment/artifact removal spells.

Glorious Anthem, Honor of the PureI feel that it might look strange to have both of these cards, even though they are both solid. I just felt that White wanted two pump effects as enchantments, and I didn't really like Crusade. It's the original, but the fact that it helps your opponent's creatures is something that a lot of players forget. It's really not something I wanted to deal with. Glorious Anthem has been around enough, and it's relatively simple, so I chose it over other options.

Discussing the rest – Ajani Goldmane, Angelic Renewal, Battle Screech, Feeling of Dread, Griffin Guide, Harm's Way, Lashknife Barrier, Luminarch Ascension, Mighty Leap, Momentary Blink, Parallax Wave, Pariah, Purify the Grave, Pulse of the Fields, Resurrection, Safe Passage, Shining Shoal, Story Circle, Sunlance

Ajani GoldmaneYou might wonder why I selected this over Elspeth Tirel and Gideon Jura. I like this card better than Elspeth Tirel from a power standpoint, mainly because of the interaction with tokens, so that's why I put it over that card. As far as Gideon is concerned, Gideon is the more powerful planeswalker, but I am not a fan of what that card does to Limited games. It generally promotes noninteractivity and an “uggh” feeling, since you're forced to make bad attack after bad attack, and you subsequently lose your team. I really hate that sort of thing, and thus went with Ajani Goldmane.

Angelic RenewalI always liked reanimation in White, because it made sense flavorfully to me. This is an excellent way of doing that sort of thing in White—sort of a “guardian angel/near death experience” type card. Plus, it's Rebecca, and I love Rebecca.

Battle ScreechToken-generation is among the biggest things in White, and this is among my favorite White token-generators. It goes alongside Spectral Procession quite well and is deceptively powerful.

Feeling of DreadI'm trying this out in place of Blinding Beam right now. I was very happy with the way Blinding Beam performed, so this card has pretty big shoes to fill, but I feel that it's good enough to warrant the shot. The ability to tap four creatures at once, or to divide it into two castings, is definitely worth looking at.

Griffin GuideAuras have historically had a problem in that they generate card disadvantage, and thus are not very good. Wizards has gone a long way in recent years toward mitigating that problem, but I still like some of the old ways of doing it. The poster child for this idea is Rancor, but I also like the concept of an Aura giving you some advantage if it goes away. When I was looking at Auras to play, this came up very high, because the 2/2 flyer it gives you is definitely relevant, and the bonus the Aura provides is substantial for the cost. Thus, I feel that this card has both halves of the “good Aura” equation.

Harm's Way, Shining ShoalDamage redirection was something that I definitely wanted to include in White. I had a number of options and ended up settling on these two. Harm's Way is arguably the most powerful cheap version of this effect, and I like Shining Shoal for the bigger version. I'm sad people don't play the Shoal more, because it really is quite good. I frequently use it to good effect when I draft it.

Lashknife BarrierThis is a really unique card that makes games very interesting. It has a far bigger effect on combat than it might initially appear, and it turns cards like Pestilence into gigantic powerhouses. It also turns off all the pingers, and it makes cards like Jaya and Siege-Gang Commander significantly less effective. Overall, this card is extremely underrated, and I wish I saw it in more Cubes. If you consider that “being a cantrip” is worth 1.5 to 2 mana, that means you are only paying 1 to 1.5 for the other effect. The card has a very strong effect for that low of a cost.

Luminarch AscensionThis ended up replacing Sacred Mesa as my “flying token-generator.” This card is much more powerful and is still not difficult to get online.

Mighty LeapIt was either this or Angelic Blessing, and I liked the instant speed of this card. Flexibility wins out again.

Momentary BlinkThere are a lot of enters-the-battlefield triggers in most Cubes—mine included. I didn't really go back and look at what this card could affect, mainly because I figured there would be enough stuff, because there almost always is. This should be an auto-include in most Cubes for that reason. It's just a lot of good value.

Parallax WaveI love this card. This is another card that a lot of people forget about, but it's excellent at controlling tempo. I feel that players don't often get to interact with tempo, so any time I see a card that can do that, I love it. The fact that it acts as bonus exile removal with Fiend Hunter and Faceless Butcher is sort of secondary. This card is in there, because it allows you control over the flow of the game, from both an aggressive and a controlling standpoint. Aggressively, it can be used to wave out blockers, which is something that I feel many people miss the first time they look at the card. This is a very, very good card.

PariahThis is an effect unique to White that I liked, and part of the reason I am hesitant to put Cho-Manno in the Cube.

Purify the GraveWith Innistrad entering the Cube, it was important to put in some more graveyard control. I don't know if this will be enough, but this is a reasonable starting point. I want players to be able to interact with all zones, so including some graveyard control is definitely relevant.




I want to talk here about why I still haven't included Recurring Nightmare. I mean, I am putting in graveyard control, so why can't I add that card? The answer is that Recurring Nightmare forces a lot of graveyard control all by itself. Because of my basic principle of allowing every player to interact, I would need graveyard control to be available in reasonable amounts every time Recurring Nightmare showed up in a Draft. This would entail doing the following:

  1. Including graveyard control in the artifacts—likely two cards.
  2. Moving Dissipate and/or Faerie Trickery into the Cube.
  3. Upping the graveyard control in Black, White, and Green.
  4. Moving at least Disintegrate into the Cube, and probably another Red burn spell that exiles.

The first thing to look at is why Recurring Nightmare forces these changes. The main reason is that Nightmare isn't vulnerable to enchantment removal or discard. Because the “return to hand” is part of the cost, the Nightmare player can simply hold priority and leave the Nightmare where he wants it. If he wants it in his hand, he can activate it immediately after it resolves, thus giving the opponent no window to actually kill it. If he wants it on the table, he can activate it, then recast it, also not giving the player an opportunity to play a discard spell. Even at instant speed, the discard ability won't catch the Nightmare unless the controller of the Nightmare allows it.

This means that in order to interact with Nightmare, you need to interact with the stack (counterspells) or interact with the graveyard (everything else).

(1), (2), and (4) are not huge changes, but (4), in particular, is not a change I like. Disintegrate would be replacing Comet Storm. While Disintegrate is not a bad card, it is definitely worse than Comet Storm. I would also likely end up with a hugely suboptimal burn spell like Carbonize, just because I needed ways for Red to keep things out of the 'yard.

The problem really occurs in (3). I would need to up the 'yard control in Black to three to four cards, and ditto in Green. White would probably gain Morningtide, as well. The problem with a lot of these cards is that they do nothing outside of graveyard control. They have no tactical or strategic flexibility, and they are dead cards if Nightmare doesn't show up. Because Recurring Nightmare is such a high pick, people may not even see the Nightmare to know to pick up the graveyard hate, thus reducing players' overall ability to have an answer.

Thus, Recurring Nightmare would force a bunch of dead cards. Given the space constraints of Cube, in general, there is very little reason to make this sacrifice. If it ends up that there is sufficient graveyard interaction outside Nightmare to force these anyway, Nightmare will make its way in. Until that time, it will remain on the sidelines.




Pulse of the FieldsI wanted a life-gain spell, and this is one of the best ever printed. Done deal.

ResurrectionI said earlier that I liked reanimation in White. I wanted to limit the number, though, because I still wanted Black to have more. This was a great way of compromising: by giving White a good reanimation spell.

Safe PassageI wanted a Fog, as well, in White, because White receives this effect on a semi-regular basis. The options were basically this or Pollen Lullaby. I like the ability of this card to stop burn, as well, so I went with Safe Passage. Pollen Lullaby is perfectly fine, however.

Story CircleI didn't want to spend five slots on Circles of Protection, but I definitely wanted that effect available to the white mage tactically. Story Circle was the logical choice.

SunlanceCan't go wrong with more removal—especially a solid piece like this.




Well, that's really all for White. As usual, diversification of card effect was a big deal, because I want tactical and strategic diversity for my players. Next week, I'll look at Green, with the final week being a wrap-up looking at design retrospectives. After that, I'll talk a little bit about what I feel fundamental format design is about, beginning with the most fundamental matchup: aggro versus control.

Until next time,

Chingsung Chang

Conelead most everywhere and on MTGO

Khan32k5 at gmail dot com

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