zaterdag 10 februari 2018

Treasure Hunting: Onslaught Block

Once in a while, I like to go over a subset of cards to see if there's anything fun/cool/good I (we as a peasant cube community) might have overlooked or forgotten about. Sometimes this yields nothing, sometimes I find a handful hidden gems.

In my post about the amount of cards per set, Onslaught block was far and away the smallest contributor to my cube with a sad 3. Since then, I made a couple of changes that salvaged the number slightly, but it's still not super high.

This brings up the question: is it because of the fact that the major themes of the deck are nor good enough (cycling matters and tribal are somewhat parasitic, morph is very slow), or did I miss something potentially good?

Let's go treasure hunting!


Cards currently in my cube from Onslaught (3): Nantuko Husk, Slice and Dice, Centaur Glade.
Other cards I've seen in cubes: Cycling lands, Complicate, Festering Goblin, Krosan Tusker, Naturalize, Pacifism, Threaten, Whipcorder, Wretched Anurid, Symbiotic Wurm (downgraded in Vintage Masters).

Astral Slide and Lightning Rift - Yeah, these aren't hidden gems per se, they're just really good cards. I'd love to play them, but that would mean restructuring a big portion of my cube for only 2 cards. Who knows, I might try them out sometime in the future, but the cost of inclusion is just too high.

Overwhelming Instinct - Green occasionally gets these 3 mana cards that *might* be able to draw you a card each turn if you meet a certain condition. In a tokens deck, this one seems doable, but three creatures is not a small cost. It also just feels wrong Military Intelligence is both cheaper and needs less creatures, and is in a color that wants it less.

Renewed Faith - For some reason I've always like this card. It's a sweet little control deck smoother that can put the game out of reach for your opponent in the later turns. In most cases you just cycle it and gain some life. Pretty good filler, but also somewhat unexciting.

Sparksmith - I've played with Sparksmith before, and it can be a really scary card. Even on its own it can be an annoying little pinger, but it also opens the door to snag a couple incidental goblins while drafting to start gunning down X/2's and X/3's. If you're looking for such a thing, this one is fun.

Taunting Elf - I don't think I mentioned this in my Urza block hunt. One of my favorite decks ever was a monogreen enchantress deck with 4 Taunting Elf in it. It looked to pump the elf to kill off all the creatures your opponent played every turn. Coincidentally, my cube runs a lot of auras. 


Cards currently in my cube from Legions (0): 
Other cards I've seen in cubes: Havoc Demon (downgraded in Eternal Masters)

Deftblade Elite - On a 1/1 that can save itself, provoke gets a blocker out of the way. Not unlike a Frenzied Goblin. The fun starts when you pump the p/t to be bigger than your opponent's creatures. Provoke even untaps a target, so this would actually be able to pick off creatures that your opponent attacked with. I can actually see this working out well enough in W/R or W/G pants decks in my cube that already seek to pump creatures. In those decks, the Elite even has the ability to do both. Taking a blocker out of the way of the pumped double striker isn't half bad. Question is: is it better than an ordinary tapper? Probably not.

By the way, I might be cheating a bit here. I do remember playing Deftblade and seeing it in other cubes back when I started my cube. 



Cards currently in my cube from Scourge (0): Carrion Feeder.

Dragon Breath - Giving haste to reanimated targets (or just to fatties) is pretty great. I don't think this is the best card in the cube to enable BR reanimate, but I still wanted to mention it because it has been used traditionally in combo reanimate decks.

Long-Term Plans - Totally forgot this card existed! My cube has been seeing a steady increase in build around cards, making tutors better. Mystical Tutor found its way back, we enjoy Razaketh's Rite  and my Dimir section currently runs Lim-Dûl's Vault. I guess this might not be bad as a straight up, as long as you *cough* plan ahead. It's quite unique as far as blue tutors go, because it can find anything. Third from the top isn't even that bad if the card is powerful enough to make an impact.

Top pick

In the end, I don't think Onslaught (the set) is as bad as it looked purely from a number-of-cards-included standpoint. A number of cards have been in my cube and can come back depending on if I think the cube might need them. Legions is a lot worse though. You'd think that a creature-only set would have a couple of great staples for cube, but most ones are either very narrow or just overpriced. Scourge is only slightly better. I mean, there are cards in the set that people actually play. 

The card I'm most likely to find room for is (drumroll):

Yep, I think I might actually add both. I don't expect them to be rock stars, but I like what they could do for my cube enough that I'm excited to try them.

Archetype overview

You have an archetype-driven cube, right? Well, what archetypes can I draft then?

Glad you asked!

This is going to be an overview of the archetypes that are supported in my cube today (Februari 10th, 2018). I'll try and update this post when necessary, putting obsolete archetype at the bottom in the future.
If you can click on the archetype's name, I wrote a more detailed post about it. Links to example decks go to decks drafted on my CubeTutor page. Some of the decks may have cards in it that are cut,  but still work well as example.

Let's get into it.

Before we start:
- Every color has enough support to be part of a generic 'goodstuff' deck of different speeds. This, in turn, means that you can draft aggro, midrange or control decks in every color combination.
- We try to have at least three different distinct archetypes/flavors available per color combination (in addition to, or overlapping, the goodstuff decks). Wherever possible, every guild has an aggro or tempo deck, a control deck and an 'other' deck. 'Other' decks can be midrange, combo or something else that doesn't really fall into the other two speeds.
- Archetypes are supported enough that you should be able to draft a 2-color version of it. While it's not strange to splash for a couple of strong cards, if an archetype is only viable if you have 3+ colors in your deck, it's out.
- We do try to overlap archetypes so you are able to switch colors or focus in-draft, even if you are building around a certain (non-gold) card. Overlap can be between guilds (like enchantress or +1/+1 counters) or in-guild (Golgari has a plethora of different graveyard options).
- Generally, if you see something in the cube, you can expect there's support for it.

Azorius (white/blue)

Flyers (aggro/tempo) - example deck
Heroic/double strike pants (other) - example deck

Dimir (blue/black)

U/B Mill (Psychic Spiral and/or other) (control/combo)
Graveyard value control Psychatog/Delve (control) - example deck
Reanimate (control/combo) - example deck
'Classic' bounce/discard (tempo) - example deck

Rakdos (black/red)

Discard (aggro/tempo) - example deck
Aristocrats/sacrfice (midrange/combo) - example deckexample splashing white
Reanimate (aggro/combo) - example deck

Gruul (red/green)

+1/+1 Counters/Warriors (aggro) - example deck
Pump aggro Berserk/Temur Battle Rage (aggro/combo) - example deck
Fires of Yavimaya (aggro/midrange) - example deck
Threshold/flashback (aggro/combo) - example deck w/Young Pyromancer 

Selesnya (green/white)

Tokens (midrange)
Enchantress control (midrange/control) - example deck
+1/+1 Counter (midrange) - example deck
"Bogles"/Double strike (aggro/combo) - example deck

Orzhov (white/black)

Tokens (aggro)
Aristocrats/sacrifice (midrange/combo)
Enchantment matters (midrange/control) - example deck splashing Goblin Trenches
Discard (aggro/tempo) - example deck

Golgari (black/green)

Reanimate (combo) - example deck
Slow dredge Spider Spawning (midrange/control) - example deck splashing red
Fast dredge delve/Hermit (aggro/combo)
Worm Harvest (control/combo) - example deck
Enchantress (midrange)

Simic (green/blue)

Threshold/flashback (aggro/midrange) - example deck
Miracle Gro-ish (control/combo) - example deck
TurboFog (control) - example deck

Izzet (blue/red)

Delver/spells aggro (tempo) - example deck, example without actual Delver
Spells control (control) - example deck
Mill combo (control/combo)

Boros (red/blue)

Tokens (aggro) - example deck
Double strike/pants (aggro/combo) - example deck, example with heroic/aura overlap
+1/+1 Counters (aggro) - example deck
Trenches/Land Tax (control) - example splashing blue

maandag 5 februari 2018

I just (don't) like it

After doing my 2017 in review, and coming to the conclusion that the last year was good but uneventful, I set myself the task of finding something new and exciting for my cube. While my cube was in a sweet place, I felt I wanted it sweeter.

The first thing I did after I found the time for a Rivals of Ixalan update was add both a life gain matters and a vampire tribal theme. I went up to 600 to save myself the trouble of cutting too many cards I liked.

It lasted a day.

Only a handful of test drafts on CubeTutor after the update, I already started looking for alternatives. Why did this feel off? We were stoked to add both a new archetype and a new tribe. It's not like there aren't other narrow archetypes in the cube, nor are all the archetypes super duper powerful. Then it hit me. We just didn't like most of the cards it required to set up. No feeling of joy when seeing them in the cube. Just a lot of 'meh'. Instead of adding excitement and spice, I took excitement away!

Maybe it sounds obvious. After all, cubes are designed to reflect the personal preference of their owners. Still, I was caught off guard by how important it was for me to like individual cards. Even before I really got to play with them. To be fair, both the life gain archetype and the vampire tribe didn't look that powerful to begin with. But the same thing can be said about other archetypes that I tried and surprised me.

Not sure where I'm going with this, other than that I (re)discovered that I think 'I just (don't) like it' can be a valid argument to cut or run something in your cube. Regardless if it's a decision based on power level, format health, nostalgia or even art. There's a consensus that running Sol Ring in peasant cube is a bad idea because it's too powerful. But what if a playgroup just gets really excited to play with the iconic card? I remember reading somewhere that someone didn't include a (good) card because the art freaked him/her out.

I just added Ravenous Chupacabra to my cube over Bone Shredder. You'd think that most cube owners should have an easy time to make this switch. I did too, but only because I the word Chupacabra is fun and after I realized I was able to play with Bone Shredder in my friend's Urza block cube.

In the meantime, I finished a pretty huge update to my cube and am super excited to see it play out. Some of the cards are probably bad, but I don't care because they do something I like.
That's my favorite thing about cube. It can be all the things that you, personally, enjoy about Magic.