KaleidoCube: Part 1

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Imagine you’re sitting down for your first pack of a cube draft. You pick up pack 1 and have to choose from the following:

kaleido-pack1

WTF?

whaaatWelcome to KaleidoCube, a scatterbrained column about my multicolour cube. I originally intended to write one giant article about this cube once it was “finished,” but like all cube owners well know, a cube is never really finished and I honestly should have known better. So, this article (and any subsequent ones) will instead go over certain aspects of the cube. If there’s further interest, I’m happy to talk about more in-depth topics such as archetypes and strategies, or significant cube updates – whether it’s because a new set was released or because I went a little crazy and changed 30 cards on a whim at 4am on a Sunday. I wouldn’t put it past me.

This week I’ll be introducing the basic concept of the KaleidoCube!

The first question I should answer is, “Why multicolour?” Cube-building has been on the rise at my LGS for the past little while, and I wanted to try building a cube that was a) a little different from the average cube, and b) cheaper than the average cube.

(This was around last November or December, and at this point I was pretty new not just to cube building, but also cube drafting. I’m much better at both these days!)

I wanted to offer a drafting experience that players hadn’t experienced before. I considered all sorts of themed cubes, like peasant cubes and tribal cubes, before remembering how awesome Invasion block was (the last set I played before quitting Magic in 2002). I considered multicolour (which is my catch-all term for gold, hybrid and colour-matters cards) a good starting point for a sort of cube experiment. I had (and still have) very little cube-building experience, and I’d only seen a few sample lists online, and there didn’t seem to be any real in-depth multicolour discussion that I could find. So, with my heart set on building a cube that offered sweet cards like Wilt-Leaf Liege, Jilt and Cruel Ultimatum, I started building my initial list.

EN MTGHOP Cards V3.indd
Pew pew!

I knew from the get-go that the power level of this cube would be somewhat lower than that of the average cube. Cube staples like Umezawa’s Jitte, Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bitterblossom are just far beyond the average power level of this cube’s cards. Gold and hybrid cards can be very powerful, but are obviously balanced out by the colour commitment required to play them, so to include mono/colourless cards that are superior to the multicolour suite kind of defeats the purpose of the cube. The strongest mono-coloured card you can expect to find in this cube is probably something like Flametongue Kavu: powerful and efficient, but hardly game-breaking.

Breaking it Down

[CUBE LIST]

My cube currently sits at 450 cards. I feel like this card count is a nice balance between variety and card quality, as it isn’t worth scraping the bottom of the gold/hybrid barrel just to raise the card count. Keeping the cube trim is also more helpful for testing card and archetype interactions. This IS an unorthodox cube, after all, so I place more emphasis on gathering relevant information to further refine the cube.

When I introduce the multicolour cube to would-be drafters, one of the assumptions I sometimes encounter is that it’s 100% gold/hybrid, aka Alara Reborn Style. The truth is that only about 45% of the cube is actually made up of gold and hybrid cards. Another 33% is made up of mono-coloured cards, with the rest being artifacts and lands.

cube-jhess
No one likes you, Jhessian Infiltrator!

Gold cards tend to skew toward the middle-upper end in mana cost in terms of power level. While there are certainly some aggressive multicoloured creatures and spells, I wanted to avoid including some of the less powerful multicoloured low drops just for the sake of including them (Get out of here, Jhessian Infiltrator!). This selective process creates a void in the lower half of the cube’s overall curve. To complement my multicoloured section, I turned to a specialized suite of mono-coloured cards.

I cannot stress enough how important mono-coloured cards are to this cube. One of the most impacting attributes that I had to build around was the prohibitive mana costs of the multicoloured portion. In order to cast multicoloured cards on curve, there needed to be enough mana fixing. But this was just one side of the coin. The other side of the coin is having the archetype and mechanic-related support that mono-coloured cards provide.

Let me explain this a bit. It is difficult to build a dedicated aggro deck with just gold cards. Sure, the cube has Dreg Mangler and Truefire Paladin, but creatures like these are too few and far between to support a draft deck that wants to curve out in the first four turns. Indeed, when I first built the cube, it was very much what Matt “KStube” Kranstuber calls a Dragon Cube – one in which 6 and 7-drops rule the format. (Dragon-type bombs are still very powerful and one of the most compelling reasons to play this cube, but dragon decks are not the only act in town anymore.)

I want to point out here that the mono-coloured section of the cube isn’t simply made up of Goblin Guides and Mana Leaks – mono-coloured cards that support certain archetypes. The majority of the cards here in this section are also “colour matters” cards, such as Kird Ape, Steamcore Weird and Tin Street Hooligan; that is, they are cards that fulfill a role but can only be utilized by players drafting with a certain archetype or colour combination in mind.

Other times, they’re just sweet Invasion-block cards like Repulse and Exclude – because, you know, Invasion block.

Tasting the Rainbow was never easier

One of the other obvious challenges to building a multicoloured cube is determining how much mana fixing is necessary to support eight players who are all building 3+ colour decks.

(Side note: This notion sounds like a hot mess, but I’ve been surprised by the ability of my drafters to build focused decks. That, or I’m just awesome at building cubes.)

The mana foundation started with selecting the cube’s complement of lands. I originally wanted to go full budget and just jam all the uncommon Shards lands, Vivid lands and other assorted cheapass tapped lands, but Charlie Chan aka ChaCha, a friend of mine who is an experienced cube builder and a very sound player, suggested starting with the full complement of duals, shocklands and fetchlands, and I haven’t looked back since (I had most of these lands in my collection so the wallet wasn’t hit too hard.)

There’s a reason why fetches, duals and shocks are played in every format in which they’re legal – they’re just the most effective and precise form of mana fixing. In addition, there are a number of card cycles in the cube that care about land types – an extra dose of synergy for cube drafters to be aware of.

Rounding out the 20 dual lands and 10 fetchlands are Shards trilands, a handful of rainbow lands, land destruction lands and utility dual lands like Raging Ravine, for a total of 55 lands.

Probably a first pick?
Probably a first pick?

Artifacts are largely slotted as mana fixing and acceleration. A lot of the heavy lifting is done by Signets, with Keyrunes playing a support role, although they sacrifice speed for utility. Rainbow mana rocks are very flexible picks, despite generally costing 3. As you can imagine, Chromatic Lantern is the cream of the crop of artifact mana acceleration in this format.

Because I see artifact mana acceleration as a necessary evil, the role of green as an acceleration colour needed to be shifted a bit. Instead of focusing on 2 and 3 CMC acceleration, green’s acceleration role is focused on 1 CMC accelerators such as Noble Hierarch, Birds of Paradise and Llanowar Elves, alongside a suite of cheap, aggressive creatures like Werewolves and River/Mire Boas. Yes, this cube is so underpowered that Werewolves are a viable choice of aggressive creatures!

Wrapping it up

I feel like I was a little all over the place trying to write an overview about my cube. As other cube owners can attest, there are countless card interactions that need to be observed, managed and tweaked at any given time, and trying to describe the cube’s network of card choices felt like being pulled in all directions.

CUBE LIST

I’m happy to answer any questions you might have about card choices or strategies, as I’m positive I didn’t cover nearly as much as I could have. If you’re interested in reading more, I could cover topics like new set updates, introducing new archetypes and testing card cycles not often seen in other cubes. Hope you enjoyed!

Until next time, enjoy all the colours of Magic at once!

Dave Lee
@derfington

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