Hi everyone, and welcome back to our monthly discussion on budget cubing. Cube is a draft format, this we know. In the last few years, Wizards of the Coast have dabbled with releasing a couple of draft-specific sets… how well do they match what we’re trying to do in a cube? Those sets were Conspiracy and Conspiracy: Take the Crown, and, as it turns out, they can take your cube and dial up the fun to eleven while remaining budget.
These two sets added a few different cards styles that interact well with cubing – conspiracies, draft-matters cards and monarch cards. Let’s look at what each of them brings to the draft, and how we can use them!
Conspiracies as a card type were first introduced (ironically) in Conspiracy. There are currently 25 conspiracies printed, and rather than trying to mash them into a 40-card deck as per other cards you’ve drafted, they start each game out in your command zone. Some are revealed to all players on the start of the game, some stay hidden. Given that there is virtually no way of interacting with their effects, they can turn your deck (and the game) on its head.
There isn’t an agreement on which conspiracy is best, but there is certainly agreement on the fact that many of them are busted beyond belief in draft formats. Some of the nastiest I’ve seen in action are:
- Double Stroke. This routinely gets listed as not only one of the best conspiracies, but also one of the best cards in 1v1 cube matches, period. Think of the nastiest instant or sorcery you could be playing. Now imagine it going off twice for the same cost, every time you resolve it. Lightning Bolt for six? Sure. Path to Exile two creatures at once? Why not. Last time I drafted this, I stuck Putrefy under it, and even that felt dirty.
- Backup Plan. Know how Serum Powder has spent the last couple of months becoming a $10+ card thanks to the London Mulligan being a thing? Backup Plan was a free London Mulligan before one even existed. Now remember you’re only running a 40-card deck – this means you’ve got a 35% chance of seeing the bombiest card in your deck in your starting hand (whichever one you choose, anyway). It might look and sound a little underrated… but it’s definitely not. It’s a huge swing in this environment.
- Worldknit. This card has spawned some amazing drafts and some equally amazing decks. So long as you draft smartly after picking this, you can have a whale of a time. I’ve seen one particularly amazing effort online where someone drafted Worldknit early, and then managed to spend the entire rest of the draft either picking up bombs, card advantage or lands. Who cares if I need to play every card I draft if it’s all either a land, something that gets me more cards or wins the game on resolution?
- Muzzio’s Preparations. Let’s go infinite with every persist creature ever printed, shall we?
- Hymn of the Wilds. Basically the “You’re playing Gruul” conspiracy, I’ve seen this paired with Animar, Soul of Elements for a deck that filled the board with creatures in record time.
- Sovereign’s Realm. Another conspiracy that turns your draft and game on its head and has you reaching for the land base left in the cube box, this usually gets paired with cards that let you play extra lands in a turn (e.g. Oracle of Mul Daya, Azusa, Lost But Seeking). But, like Worldknit, you’re then fine to play a five-color deck in a format where it’s normally impossible.
Conspiracy kicked this style of cards off with a bunch of artifact creatures that had abilities that interacted with the draft process. Conspiracy: Take the Crown then turned that up a notch again, adding colored cards, and even a non-creature or two. Some of the craziest of these are:
- Cogwork Librarian. A card that actually cracked our Peasant Cube on a Budget list. Ever had that booster that you just wish you could pick two cards from? Problem solved!
- Lore Seeker. Throws an extra booster into the draft. This is fun enough if you’ve got 15 cards still in the cube box. However, if you juuuust so happen to have a secret, extra-juicy fifteen-card stash hiding somewhere… and those fifteen keep getting changed at random to spice things up… Lore Seeker starts turning into the proverbial box of chocolates when you draft it – you just never know what you’re going to get. And that adds all sorts of wild fun to the draft.
- Arcane Savant. Quite possibly the most busted of the lot, this easily goes infinite if you stick a “take an extra turn” card underneath it and then find a way of bouncing it repeatedly. But there are all manner of other horrible things you can do with this. Ridiculously-costed spells that you likely wouldn’t be able to cast on an average day, like Rise of the Dark Realms, Cruel Ultimatum and so on? They’re now costing you 3UU and giving you a warm body in the process. One of the nastiest decks I have ever drafted in Cube stuck Balance underneath this and ran a multitude of bounce spells.
- Volatile Chimera. Another seriously nasty card, this encourages you to draft three off-color behemoths and then drop this on Turn 3. Imagine picking this out of Pack 1, and then stumbling into stuff like Sphinx of the Steel Wind and so on in the remaining two packs. I once drafted this and stuck Stormbreath Dragon, Thundermaw Hellkite and another large red Dragon underneath it. Monstrosifying it, and then having it morph into the largest Thundermaw Hellkite you’ve seen felt seriously nasty.
- Regicide. A special mention for this innocuous-looking spell. You might only get to pick three of the five colors for this to hit, but it consistently feels like a Doom Blade that costs just B when you play it. That, and you’ve usually picked an enemy color that you haven’t drafted… which is usually exactly what the guy across the table ends up drafting heavily. You’d be amazed how many times you draw this and point it directly across the table, killing the worst thing your opponent has drafted for the princely cost of a single mana.
The concept of the Monarch came in with Conspiracy: Take the Crown, and became an instant hit. Battle-hardened cubers declared it the best new mechanic printed in ages; one of the cards even became a Legacy staple. In cube, particularly in multiplayer environments, having the Monarch available is a catalyst to speed the game up – not only does it provide the holder with a wealth of card advantage, it also paints a big sign on their foreheads for everyone else at the table. The best of these cards are:
- Skyline Despot. Of all the beatings you can hand out as the Monarch, this guy is at the top. One of the highest picks in Conspiracy: Take the Crown Limited, if your opponents don’t immediately find a way of dethroning you, they’re facing down another angry dragon every turn. And with every angry dragon, it gets harder to break through and take the crown away from you. And it’s giving you card advantage. Just a nasty combination of red aggro and control.
- Queen Marchesa. The queen herself likes to find you ways of dealing with your opponent when they hold the crown. She turns the game political in unexpected ways, making your opponents question whether they really do want to be damaging you.
- Palace Jailer. The little Monarch card that could, it’s now a Legacy staple and a $40+ foil. Removal and card advantage? Yes, please.
- Custodi Lich. Speaking of removal and card advantage in one horrible package, this guy also does a fairly serviceable job of things in a different color.
- Regal Behemoth. Actually quite cheap to purchase and to play, given it’s a 5/5 trampler for six mana that just so happens to double your mana. Then consider the fact that it’s drawing you extra cards that you can spend all that extra mana on, and you begin to realise how good a deal this is.
- Throne of the High City. The “Make me a king” land, this gets paired with Life From the Loam and other land retrieval techniques to ensure you’re always the Monarch. Good deal!
So How Do I Cube With These Awesome Cards?
There are a variety of ways to add these into your cube. Firstly, the most obvious method is to simply have these sitting in your main 360 (or however large your cube is), always being drafted, always turning the draft and deck-building process sideways.
But you may also find that your playgroup is not up for such silliness at every cube draft. Some like to stick all these cards out in an extra add-on “module”, capable of being tossed in as one of the boosters on a given night if people are up for it.
Personally, I am running Lore Seeker in the main 360 of my multiplayer cube, and sitting fifteen more of these out in an extra booster that we toss into the draft when we feel like it. You don’t have to follow the same process, but this method gives your playgroup variety. They can draft your cube in any manner of different ways if you have a module like this sitting off to the side.
The vast majority of these cards are also very cheap to pick up still – most are desirable only for limited environments like cube, so there isn’t a lot of demand for them. I encourage you to toss them into your own cube and enjoy the wackiness that they bring!
Martin first caught the Magic: the Gathering bug at university in Australia in 1995, just as Fourth Edition was released (naturally just missing the era of opening dual lands in booster packs). One degree, career, marriage and two kids later, he is still slinging cards across a kitchen table with friends and is spreading the infection to the next generation via cube, EDH and multiplayer formats.