MTG: Cubes, Commander, and Limited – OH MY!

Every once in a while, I get to play a whole bunch of MTG, and its almost always an enjoyable experience. Over the past few weeks, I was able to get a bunch of different format games in One Draft, 3 Cube Drafts, a Commander game, and two sealed matches, ranging from Modern Horizons to Core 2020, and these games have a lot of cools stories – typical of Magic, right?

The Eternal Allure

Magic has so many layers to it, and it creates such an enchanting puzzle every time, that its one of the few hobbies I’ve been able to come back to after leaving, often for long stretches of time. I don’t know how long I will come back each time, but I know that I’ll always enjoy the game. 2011/12 saw me come back for EDH and the drafting in Return to Ravnica block and eventually ended with the birth of the little girl. Going out to draft, to play Warmachine and to play D&D was just too much. It still is, honestly. Raising a kid takes a lot of time!

MTG has this quality that allows one to think about the game even when not playing it. You analyze cards, weigh decisions on deck construction, and even decide what type of deck you want to build. Legacy Delver, Modern Tron, and a Zur the Enchanter EDH decks are all different from a Standard Izzet deck. These decisions keep you in touch with the game much longer than a standard game, keeping your attention and making sure that you’re invested over a longer period of time. This is exactly the same appeal that D&D, WoW classic and MKII Warmachine have – the ability to dwell on the game.

This time I came back, much like WoW, completely by accident. I stumbled across a MTG youtube channel, Alpha Investments, and through them Vintage MTG and Open Boosters, and later on The Command Zone. It brought up the nostalgia and the joy of playing games, which I’d not been able to do for a while. I had been able to play at some of the midnight pre-releases for a few sets, but it’s not the same.

So, I gathered some rare time I had and started playing some Magic.

Modern Horizons Draft

I went to a Friday Night Magic Draft at the local game store and was pretty excited to be drafting War of the Spark. Who doesn’t want to get a small pile of planeswalkers? Well, it turns out that They weren’t doing War of the Spark, and instead were drafting Modern Horizons. This was fine, I’d only read up on the War of the Spark set and was prepared for that set, with no foreknowledge of Modern Horizons. It’ll be fine.

I wasn’t fine.

I drafted a pretty standard U/W fliers deck that, honestly, just got destroyed. Magic has come a long way from Arabian Knights, where 1/1 fliers for 1 mana were considered solid. Now, A 1/1 Flying vigilance isn’t even considered playable. Insane to me.

I played 10 games. I lost every single one of them. It was a complete disaster. 4 games in a row against my first opponent, 4 again against the second, and then 2 against the final opponent. Only two of the games were even close! I did get an enormous shapeshifter thing?

It was fun to get a bunch of games in, however, and that is what mattered, right? No one cares about winning or losing.

Cube Draft

Cube Draft is my second favorite form of Magic, and that is only because I cannot make my own, completely randomized sets with cards of my own. Instead, We’re limited to making our own “sets” in a cube and drafting those. My brother and I have both made cubes, and drafting those are a ton of fun.

Most cubes are singletons, using only one of a given card, but we both designed set-reflective cards, with power levels, build around cards, themes, and multiple copies of common and uncommon cards, and it has been an interesting exercise in game design and the need for playtesting, both for power and fun.

My brother’s cube is an excellent 3rd or 4th iteration Cube based on the draft-interactive sets of Conspiracy. These have some great cards that interact with both drafting itself and have effects that follow along from drafting, one of my favorites of which is Garbage Fire.

I drafted this card as the 9th card in the round and managed to grab two more over the course of the draft. 3 CMC for 9 damage at instant speed is absolutely amazing.

This cube is built with a focus on enemy color pairs and is meant to be played in multiplayer games, which emphasizes its fun and insane style. We drafted it twice and played three games, each with four players. The first deck I drafted was an R/U spells matter deck, and the second was an all-color deck enabled by the awesome Conspiracy card Sovereign’s Realm

The First game we played, one of the players game states was getting way, way out of hand, so I looked at the two other players and asked them not to attack me if I took this uppity player down a peg or two. Without waiting for any sort of confirmation, I went in and just leveled everything I could, and blasted his board down to nearly nothing. The issue, though, was that I had a guttersnipe on the board, and needed to play a whole pile of instants during the turn, blasting the whole board for sheets of damage. This did not endear me to the rest of the players, including the ones I had made assumed I made an alliance with. Well, I should have verified that alliance instead of assuming it. One player smashed into my face with everything he had in retribution for me torching the board, and the last player (my brother) in the turn swung into everyone and took us all down thanks to my hubris. It was an amazing and amusing blunder on my part and was glorious the whole time.

The second game with the U/R deck went much better for me. I didn’t get the guttersnipe out for longer than a single round, but that was fine because I was able to cast Seize the Day 4 times (it was copied twice), and get 5 Combat phases with a 9/9 menace and a flyer. Turns out, that wins the game pretty handily.

After that, we took our second draft, pulling new cards from the cube. drafting Sovereign’s Realm helped make a strange deck. It enabled a huge board state because I could just play whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Unfortunately, A buddy of mine picked up a Bonehoard, which gave him a huge creature that just got bigger and bigger as the game went on. He ended up pitting his 20/20 flying vigilance angel against my face, which didn’t end up exactly as I wanted it, but exactly as expected. The bonehoard and my brother went on an epic duel once they were the last two, with the massive vigilance bonehoard crushing top-decked blocker after blocker until he missed the top deck and got hoarded. If you were keeping track, that’s three different games, three different players winning.

the third and final cube game was using my Return to Ravnica Block Cube. This tried to play up the guild themes from Return to Ravnica in a single block, and let me relive my favorite draft format. I pulled what I thought was a pretty reasonable Simic deck, and even started out with a turn 1 Cloudfin Raptor. I was not, however, prepared for the predictable and inevitable betrayal. We all had strong board states, with plenty of creatures on board, and we’d all been punching each other rather well when the only player who’d not won a game yet attacked me and announced that the game was going to be over. No one took him seriously. His attack was lethal to me no matter what I did, so I announced no blocks, to which he seemed a bit disappointed. I died. He shrugged a bit and tossed down a Rakdos charm, declaring that every creature would do damage to its controller. and everyone had more creatures than they had life.

Well. With that, everyone was dead. He’d really wanted me to block and kill at least one of his creatures, but because I didn’t, he died along with the rest of us. Honestly, though, that is the type of move I give him a ton of credit for and he deserves the win for that game.

Commander

Last up for the games was a massive, late-night commander game. No one else had decks, so we all used mine. I learned that day that I don’t make all my decks equal, and they are not always clear in their execution. Riku of Two Reflections; Daretii, Scrap Savant; Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord; and Sek’Kuar, Deathkeeper were the four generals. Sadly, the Riku deck just straight up failed its pilot, and my Jarad deck was rolling extremely slowly. I did, however, cast a 15 life Necrologia, filling up my graveyard, which was fun. Sek’Kuar and Daretii went at each other a lot, which was fine for me, and they filled up the graveyard, as did I, with numerous bodies. The game was griding away, each of us looking for haymakers and finishers which I’d not put into the decks (this is something I am looking to change), but at the end, I was able to pull a 30/30 Mortivore onto the field and sacrifice it to Jarad not once, but twice, killing two opponents, and after absorbing a swath of damage from my brother on his last turn, exploded another huge monster to end the game.

People like a Good Story

Besides keeping you enthralled building good decks, analyzing cards and making the best possible decisions with limited cards, Magic creates strong stories that you’ll remember for a long time.

If you’re coming to NOVA this year, and you want to play some commander or Ravnicube, feel free to drop me a line, I’ll likely have the cards on hand. Also, if you have a large history of MTG playing and want to help me flesh out/test and finish my Great Off-color Cube of Nonsense, feel free to playtest it on Cubetutor and let me know what you think.

until next time!