Hello, and welcome to another installment of The Cube Ten! This week, I’ll be talking about my favourite 10 cards in my buddy Jon Mac’s Tribal cube.
To start, let me give a bit of background about Jon’s cube. It started out as a Modern-themed, multiplayer cube. It was fun, but it was rather susceptible to Dragon Cube syndrome; that is, the format was heavily dominated by fatties and 6-7 drops . In an effort to create a faster, more interactive environment, Jon blew up this cube and created a 720 Tribal-themed cube.
Jon’s cube is the first time any of us had really interacted with a Tribal cube, so it was a new cube experience for everyone. I personally feel the cube size could be trimmed down to weed out a few of the weaker creatures, but the expanded card count means that there are a lot of interactions going on, which also means a lot of unexpected gameplay experiences. And that’s why we cube draft, right?
It’s important to note that this format is very creature and combat-oriented – a whopping 61% of the cube is made up of creatures! One of the most prominent tensions in any Tribal cube draft is between abstract power and synergy: are you going to first pick a Garruk Wildspeaker, or are you jumping on the Goblin Warchief train and forcing the nut aggro deck? Understanding the makeups of the tribes in the cube is essential to drafting a synergistic deck. You need to know what pieces you need for any particular tribe. You can have all the 3-drop Zombie lords in the world, but they don’t fare quite as well if you don’t have the Diregraf Ghouls and Carnophages to help you build momentum.
Before going to my list, the usual caveat: I tried to avoid the no-brainers for any given list. Swords, Jittes, Power, dual lands and fetch lands are all generally high picks, in addition to powerful build-around-me cards like Survival of the Fittest and Recurring Nightmare.
Without further ado, my top 10 favourites of the Jon Mac Tribal Cube, in no particular order:
The Tribal cube is on a power level that’s less “broken” and more “block constructed”. Considering how often creatures smash against each other and die, it’s especially important to be able to grind out incremental advantages and avoid banking on topdecks, as one single piece of your Tribal puzzle isn’t going to save you from a bad situation. It’s one of the reasons why I like Geralf’s Mindcrusher. It has a large body – uncommon for your average Tribal creature – making it perfectly reasonable as a standalone creature, and its Undying is almost back-breaking, especially since the first iteration was already a reasonable threat.
As anyone who has drafted Modern Masters (or Time Spiral, or Lorwyn…) knows, Changelings can be the glue that holds a deck together. There are other Changelings in the cube that are quite solid, but I have a soft spot for Changeling Berserker specifically because it beautifully tops out an aggro curve while requiring only a single coloured mana. Being able to consistently power out the Berserker on turn 4 is a wonderful thing, and it applies a ton of pressure a lot of opponents aren’t necessarily prepared for.
As I mentioned, the Tribal cube is a creature heavy format, which makes Pyroclasm one of my favourite sweepers. There is a certain point when people start dropping lords to obsolete the Pyroclasm in your hand, but lords lose a ton of steam and momentum when your first two drops are wiped and you have no other creatures. A well-built Tribal deck can reach a critical mass very quickly, and short of a Wrath of God, Pyroclasm is a cheap and efficient way of cutting short those fast starts.
There are a lot of combat exchanges in this format, and when both players reach topdeck mode, Aphetto Dredging basically gives you back your best three creatures to break the opponent’s back. Black especially has a number of high-end fliers such as Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief or Skeletal Vampire to make a Dredging even more worthwhile.
Captain of the Watch
The thing about the Soldier archetype is that the majority of their cards are actual creatures. There aren’t all that many ways to efficiently produce Soldier tokens in the same way Goblins can. You have Mobilization, Benalish Commander and a few other token generators, but nothing on the level of Beetleback Chief or Siege-Gang Commander, which are essentially armies in a can. Captain of the Watch is the rare Soldier card that fills this role admirably. Although its mana cost is high, the Captain puts out an impressive amount of power and buffs for your existing soldiers. By itself, it makes its presence known. If paired with a Daru Warchief or an Assemble the Legion, bad things just start happening.
Blades of Velis Vel
There aren’t a whole ton of combat tricks in the cube, but this is one that can really put your opponent on his ass. I’ve seen Blades of Velis Vel steal a game or two on the back of the numerous lords and Coat of Arms (!) that were scattered about the battlefield. Being able to scoop up all those Tribal bonuses for your own creatures often means that Blades will be gifting a lot more than +2/+0 for your guys.
I’ve had a blazing crush on Phyrexian Crusader ever since it was printed, and it is with no small amount of pride that I can say that I’m the sole reason the Crusader is in the cube. Being a creature with a super-relevant creature type (Zombie) and a semi-relevant one (Knight), there are a more than a few ways to buff the Crusader to highly infectious levels. It is the only Infect creature in the cube, which limits its potency, but I find it does such a good job of defense (and with some help, offence) that I feel it’s a spicy addition to the cube.
Weirding Shaman is one of those Goblin cards that doesn’t quite fit the super-aggressive mold, but can yield wonderful returns if you have the mana and the patience. Because of just how many Goblin lords there are, even mere 1/1 tokens can eventually grow to 3/3 beaters with a little help. I think the Shaman also shines in stalemates where you have the time to repeatedly sacrifice your tokens to the Arms Dealer or Siege-Gang Commander. As a 2-drop Goblin it’s serviceable, but the potential for mayhem is just on the edge.
Immaculate Magistrate embodies everything I like about the Tribal cube. In an ideal draft, everything just runs like clockwork and you reach a critical mass of synergy within the first five turns. The Magistrate is reasonable by itself, being able to slowly buff some of your creatures, but when you have even 2 or 3 Elves on the table, its power is magnified exponentially. The Magistrate cannot be left to hang around, or else any kind of combat exchange is virtually futile.
Mistmeadow Witch is generally a very awkward card. It’s fragile. It doesn’t make much of an impact when you play it on turn 2. Most people are wise to how absurd it is, so they try to kill it on sight. You also need a lot of mana to truly abuse it, so its function is limited to a much smaller subset of deck strategies. But if you’re a slower deck that can make it to the late game and get the Witch going, it will cause no end of frustration for your opponent and will likely win you the game. The Witch is also great at removing tokens in a pinch – no small detail in a Tribal format!