I may have bitten off more than I can chew. I might have developed a bit of foot-in-mouth disease. I may be eating some crow, humble pie, etc.
I've really gotten myself into a pickle this time. You see, I'm not one to ask someone to do something without doing it myself first or alongside them. At the end of my article last time, I asked what I thought was "simple" homework from my readers. I also said if prompted I would do that very same homework myself.
Let's start at the beginning.
I want to give you a bit of homework. As an exercise in Cube design, find an up-to-date 360-card Cube list somewhere online (or maybe your own!) and try to build a new Cube list using no more than 25% of the cards in the current list. This is to prove that there are so many great cards for Cube now that you don't need to add everything under the sun to make your list as powerful as it can be!
This is a thought that has been in the back of my mind for some time. I can think of tons of cards that don't appear in smaller lists that could make small Cubes! I've seen Cubes with 450, 540, 630, 720, and even over 800 cards, so it wouldn't be a difficult thing to simply build a Cube with only 90 of the same cards. At worst you have a less powerful 360-card Cube but one that is still functionally powerful per card but less so as a whole. The weekend after my article came out, I sat down to work on what I thought would be a couple-hour brain exercise using reader Matt DeFisher's 360-card Cube list. (You can find Matt's cube list here on CubeTutor.com.) I drafted Matt's Cube a few times on Cube Tutor to get a hold of the archetypes and just a general feel of the Cube before I got to work.
I poured over his list and pulled up Gatherer and several other Cube lists of various sizes from multiple Cube community members in preparation. After looking at Matt's Cube from several different angles, I knew I was going to be in trouble. This was not the cakewalk I had made it out to be.
The most notable issue that would continue to rear its head was the curve for each color. With less meat to work with, I really had to change each individual color and the concept of raw power taking hold of 360-card Cubes, which are inevitably have the tightest archetypes among Cubes of all due to the size.
So without raw efficiency to work with, I had to go deep on archetypes. I could only use 90 of the cards in his entire list, so some very difficult cuts were about to be made. Since some archetypes require multiple pieces to be successful, they got the cut entirely. Reanimator, Tinker, Wildfire, and Upheaval strategies would be forgone. Red aggro would take a slightly different face, as would the bottom part of the curve for every color. A major overarching theme of tokens throughout the Cube was to be adopted, as each individual color has great support to offer.
This allowed me to work different colors together while removing some of the most powerful cards in each since drafters wouldn't really need to lean on the individual power of cards to put together a cohesive deck. New power cards emerged: Opposition, Natural Order, Goblin Bombardment, and Intangible Virtue. As the Cube list filled out more and more, I realized the most important part of what I was doing—this cube looked like an absolute blast to play.
After many hours and many days in the tank, I'm ready to show my work. Without further ado, here's the 25% Cube. The cards that are from Matt's Cube are bolded for ease of identification. I'll call those cards remainders from here forward.
White: 50 Cards (12 Remainders)
Champion of the Parish
Mother of Runes
Soldier of the Pantheon
Student of Warfare
Hero of Bladehold
Archangel of Thune
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Mikaeus, the Lunarch
Swords to Plowshares
Path to Exile
Ravages of War
Raise the Alarm
Honor of the Pure
Gather the Townsfolk
Wrath of God
White's strength is coming from its token support (both in making them and pumping them) as well as its aggression centered on Champion of the Parish. Control elements are still present, but the finishers are likely to be token based as well, utilizing some of the large token makers like Cloudgoat Ranger and Geist-Honored Monk. Wrath of God (and Damnation in black) are extremely important for control, as they're going to be better in this Cube than they would in most despite the ability for most opponents to refill the board. Sweeping and playing an immediate threat is going to be very difficult for opponents to deal with.
White remains a great support and primary color like it is in most Cubes. I've included only ten planeswalkers in the Cube and only one for each individual color. Elspeth Tirel got the nod because the +2 puts in serious work in this Cube.
Blue: 50 Cards (13 Remainders)
Venser, Shaper Savant
Ninja of the Deep Hours
Thassa, God of the Sea
Master of Waves
Sea Gate Oracle
Sower of Temptation
Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
This Cube is more about the combat phase, and due to that blue (and red) only have two fewer creatures than noncreatures. Blue has the least token support but does have the game-breaking Opposition. Blue is full of bounce and Shapeshifter effects and is an excellent pair with red for you Izzet mages. The control elements still reign supreme, and the two Time Warp effects are going to be most used to allow the user to get another combat step rather than draw more cards. The counterspells are a bit less general, causing more drafting and deckbuilding tension.
Black: 50 Cards (14 Remainders)
Guul Draz Assassin
Skirsdag High Priest
Disciple of Bolas
Pawn of Ulamog
NoncreaturesLiliana of the Veil
Sever the Bloodline
Inquisition of Kozilek
Curse of Shallow Graves
Hymn to Tourach
Illness in the Ranks
Decree of Pain
Ritual of the Machine
Tokens get support here from a few generators as well as the back-breaking Blood Artist and Falkenrath Noble. Black does have aggro support on the front end of the tokens help, with a large number of one-drops to rival white's section. Control is great in black with the maindeckable Illness in the Ranks. I'm not 100% sure this is the type of card I want in this Cube, as it is generally hateful to a large number of decks, but if there is a color to have a direct trump card, I'd like black to have it (this is why you won't find Goblin Sharpshooter in the red section). Decree of Pain is great as black's truly best sweeper, giving an opportunity to go big and win the game through massive card advantage when you don't need to cycle it for five.
Red: 50 Cards (17 Remainders)
Mogg War Marshal
Hero of Oxid Ridge
Purphoros, God of the Forge
Tempt With Vengeance
Shrine of Burning Rage
Red has another bomb in Goblin Bombardment, aka the machine gun. Red had to lose the traditional curve-dependent aggressive start and is set up similarly to white and black with the meat being in the one-drop slot. Young Pyromancer is the glue that ties the U/R spells archetype and the tokens archetype together. The burn is a tiny bit slower but still almost as impactful, and red has some great damage-based sweepers, including the potential for a Sudden Impact blowout every time it's cast. Purphoros is also fantastic in this Cube capable of racking up massive amounts of damage very quickly.
Green: 50 Cards (11 Remainders)
Priest of Titania
Avenger of Zendikar
Mayor of Avabruck
Champion of Lambholt
Rhys the Redeemed
Master of the Wild Hunt
Polukranos, World Eater
Green Sun's Zenith
Curse of Predation
Tooth and Nail
Elves, ramp, tokens, and just enough to tie each together if you'd like. Green is my favorite section in this Cube; it took me the least amount of time to fill it out once I figured out the direction I wanted to go. Everything here is in harmony, and I don't feel like I had to leave anything too important out to get all of the part of green that I wanted to include. Natural Order remains while Tinker leaves (I think NO is better anyway, but I digress) and gets to play nice with other big-mana friends Tooth and Nail and Genesis Wave.
Four certified fatties (three that make or love tokens!) is the perfect number, and sneaky anthem Curse of Predation turns your Elves or tokens into monsters. The only sad change I had to make was Garruk Wildspeaker into Garruk Relentless, but it does give green some much-needed removal and a very useful tutor ability so it may not be as much of a downgrade as I initially thought.
Multicolor: 30 Cards (10 Remainders)
Lots of bombs and great removal in the two-color sections, as well as four more planeswalkers. I think all of the cards here are pretty self-explanatory; most support or efficiently deal with tokens. Murderous Redcap and Falkenrath Aristocrat support the B/R sacrifice theme; Gelectrode, Spellheart Chimera, and Izzet Chronarch all support the U/R spells theme; and all of the U/B cards fit into the Cube's purest control deck. Though there are only 30 two-color cards, this is where you'll be helped in finding your direction in the draft.
Artifact: 20 Cards (3 Remainders)
Shrine of Loyal Legions
Ankh of Mishra
All Is Dust
Artifacts were cut to make room to flesh out each of the colors and the fact that they're mostly boring without a bunch of support independently. You'll notice Mortarpod is the only Equipment, which probably made you scroll up to notice white was without hallmark Kor Artificer Stoneforge Mystic. There is a very small group of truly Cubeable Equipment, and Matt was using just about every single one of them sans Lightning Greaves, which is much worse in this Cube anyway.
The only thing I wanted to have in this Cube but couldn't fit it under the 90 remainder limit was a Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas archetype with blue and black. I feel like I could have been a bit more creative to work it in, but Matt's Cube just had a few too many of the key cards already present (including Tez himself) to make it work under the restriction. If anyone wants to try their hand at it in the comments, I'd love to find a way to make it work!
Other: 4 Cards
Three-plus-color cards go here; just some fun ones to build around.
Lands: 56 Cards (11 Remainders)
Temple of Deceit
Temple of Mystery
Temple of Silence
Temple of Triumph
Temple of Abandon
Okay, so I cheated a bit here. I really feel that the Temples are the right lands for the job, and I know they'll exist within the next six months, so I'm okay with including them. The land section was the easiest part despite losing the most efficient fixers in the ABU cycle and the shock-land cycle. They just took up too many cards and really only sped the games up. You can still get your fixing in, but now you have to work a tiny bit harder.
The fetch lands remained as ways to trigger the landfall subtheme you see in multiple colors, though that would be the first place I'd cut if I wanted to try to make the Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas deck work. You do want some lands that come into play untapped all of the time, and these support more things that the ABU lands and the shock lands do on their own. We had room for some specialty lands and had a ton of great ones to choose from.
So there you have it! I'm super excited about the way this Cube fleshed out, and I plan on proxying it up sometime soon and giving it a spin in real life. Check it out here on Cube Tutor and give it a couple drafts! It'll be listed as the second Cube under my profile.
I'd love to hear if anyone tried the exercise in the comments below and what you would have done differently with this one too. I had a great time putting this Cube together and anticipate having a better time drafting it. Slightly on theme today is a deck I drafted with my Cube, one that you can put together pretty closely in the new Cube we made today!