MTG: Cubism

I’ve talked a couple of times about cube, but I wanted to take a few minutes and speak not to the cube I have, but the bizarre and strange off-color one I’m building because I enjoy it so much, and making these cubes, for me, may be more enjoyable than actually playing them. Maybe

What Magic Does

In Magic, there are five colors of mana, each one representing a different type of magical power and perspective. There are cards that are single color, no color, multiple colors, and either/or colors. There are Artifacts, Enchantments (of both the personal and global variety) spells, counterspells, creatures, and powerful planeswalker allies.

All of these different card types are available and used by each color, but each color has its own identity that is central to the way Magic is balanced.

White is the color of Law, Order, and Justice. It has a multitude of smaller creatures, protective and defensive spells, and a number of ways to gain life and restrain others.

Black is the color of power, selfishness, and greed. It has strong, big creatures, is willing to trade resources for power, and is the best at simply removing enemy threats from the game.

Blue is the color of learning, knowledge, and perfection. It has powerful spells that allow it to gain knowledge (draw cards), the best and most numerous counterspells, with a bevy of small, evasive creatures.

Red is the color of impulse and emotion. It has the best ways to deal with direct damage, fast, small land-based creatures and powerful, big dragons. It deals with everything directly, so anything it can’t crush physically stymies it.

Green is the color of equilibrium, growth, and instinct. It has huge land based and efficient creatures, ways of dealing with unnatural objects and magics, and methods to grow its magical power beyond the accepted speed (ramp)

These identities, as mentioned, are central to how the game balances. Red deals with things physically and have problems with enchantments. Black ends problems to it swiftly and ruthlessly without giving it a chance to return, white is about the good of the one over the good of the many, etc.

Thes ideas are, relatively speaking, a modern idea. There was color identity, early on, and it was moderately respected, but the prevailing thought was that out of color effects were not impossible, but inefficient and expensive to use. Additionally, flavor mattered much more about which color a given card would be in than color identity. Only in the second half of the games life did they really cement in how the color pie works mechanically, but also philosophically. Each color has a strong feeling and develops cards and strategies within that feeling. These color definitions also evolved, moving abilities from one color to another to more strongly reflect the true colors.

The Cube Concept

With all of this in place, I always enjoyed the strange cards that were either color bends – cards that are reasonable within the concept of the color but really belong to another color, or breaks – cards that simply shouldn’t exist given how the color pie works. Mana Tithe and Withering boon are my favorite two examples of this

They are cool spells that most people won’t expect from the color.

What I decided to do was to see if I could build my own set of color bent cards, one that still felt cohesive and fun when drafted and played well on the table as well. So, I set out doing a lot of intense research to try and find problem cards, what the colors do or do not do, and how to work all these spells into the cube. Well, let me tell you. It was all worth it.

The Bent Colors

There aren’t, honestly, a lot of resources I can find on the color bend/broken cards. Instead, you have to be intimately familiar with the flavor of each of the colors, what their favored abilities and roles are, and how each of them interacts. To that end, this article helped a lot – when it was published 2 years into my research and building (I didn’t work on it all the time).

Each color had its own difficulties in trying to make sure that there was both a theme and the off colorness of the cards to the selections I am making.

Black, for instance, is a fairly difficult one to work with. Its power and greed allows it to do many different effects within the game, but often at significant cost. Finding those cards that cost nothing and still give you advantages is extremely hard. It’s also not particularly defensive, so spells that tax the opponent for doing what they normally do without really punishing them was another ability I searched for.

Black

When looking at what black should do, and what was printed for it, I ended up settling in on small, fast creatures (aggro) and spells that did direct damage and controlled the opponent, as well as classic off-color spells that we all know and love. It ended up being very fast and full of disruption, something that Black just isn’t known for, with a small Knight tribal in the mix. Normally, black has a small creature advantage when it comes to its cards, so I chose to include a few more spells than normal.

Blue

Blue was one of the hardest of the colors to find off color abilities. Its creatures and spells span the possibilities of all sorts of cards, which forced me into a different tack for the blue cards. I wanted removal cards and damage, when possible, but it turns out that most cards feel very blue. Taking another direction, I decided I wanted to get blue as big and huge as I could. While doing that I noticed that many of these same blue monstrosities have the drawback that they can’t attack if the opponent doesn’t have any islands, so I tossed a few creatures and spells that can change lands either into other lands or Islands to enable these giant monsters to eat the opponent whole. This turned blue into a real fatty monster battlecruiser style deck that wants to make it to the end of the game alive and crush all resistance with enormous tramplers! Blue also, in a standard world, has more spells than creatures, so I upended the ratio in the cube to push the creatures.

Green

Green was one of the easier colors to find bend and breaks in because for a good portion of the game, green just kinda meandered about doing whatever it could find. Now, with it getting settled pretty recently into the form it is now, I knew I could go for direct damage, Flyers, and protective enchantments. It also has a few more ways to control players than I initially expected, making green a flying, card advantage tempoish thing. Not bad. Green has a fairly heavy creature ratio in standard sets, so I made sure to put plenty more spells than I did creatures.

Red

Red is an extremely fast and brutal color normally, so I wanted to slow it down a bit and take away all the brutality. It’s a little hard to do because red has been so focused for so many years, but in the early days, it also did some very, very strange things. Red also tends to live without a lot of flying, so I tossed as much as I could into the set, that wasn’t a dragon. I did sneak a few phoenixes in here, though, which are both in and out of color, and i figured it fit the theme well enough. I also swapped the common higher than normal spell ratio to be much more in favor of creatures like I did with blue.

White

With White’s typical speed and protection, I wanted to lumber into an aggressive, land ramp, green and blue style, as they have some bunch and strange removal spells in the catalog, putting cards back on the deck or in the deck or other interesting forms. White also has the problem that its pie has a lot of different concepts it encompasses already, but I was able to find enough big monsters, land ramp and disruption that I think it’ll do just fine. This color also had its creature – spell ratio swapped, ending up with a vast number fewer creatures than normal.

If you want to check out the full cube, you can do it here, and feel free to recommend cards that you think would make the whole thing better!

Thanks for reading, and until next time!