Hi everyone, welcome back to our monthly chat on how to construct a peasant cube on a budget! We’re now through the five mono-colored sections, and (some would say) into the really interesting corners. Today, we’ll look at how to create an example colorless section of the cube.
But First, the Rules
Before we go charging in, let’s remind ourselves of what we’re trying to achieve here:
- We’re aiming to build a 360-card cube
- We’re going to stick to the rules of Peasant construction – only cards that have had at least one printing at a rarity of common or uncommon are legal
- Because we’re on a budget, we want to limit ourselves to cards that are currently $3 a copy or less
- We’re going to aim for an even color distribution within the cube
- We’re going to fill out the first 80% of the cube using the Top Cards list at CubeTutor to find the most popular cards within the boundaries above… and then fill out the last 20% to our own tastes
- We’re definitely not going to pretend that this is the empirical, definitive list-to-end-all-lists for a peasant cube
As already mentioned, we’ve taken a look at the five mono-colored sections already (you can catch up on what we did for white, blue, black, red and green by following the links). It’s now time to talk colorless. Let’s go!
How Do We Break This Section Up?
Now we’re getting into the more esoteric corners of the cube, our design changes a bit. We’ve used 250 of the 360 slots so far filling out the individual colors, so we have 110 left to add across colorless, multicolored and non-basic land. In a traditional 360-card cube, this is traditionally split 40/30/40 (meaning we want to add 40 colorless, 30 multicolored and 40 non-basic land).
This is also where we traditionally throw the rules of creature-to-spell balance out of the window. Colorless spells are heavily weighted against creatures, non-basic land doesn’t even start to try and weight itself, and trying to maintain this balance in the multicolored section while also trying to maintain an even balance between colors, mana curves and power levels is a shortcut to a headache. So we usually maintain the creature-to-spell balance when constructing the mono-colored sections, and then don’t bother for the last three (by all means try to yourself, but don’t say you weren’t warned)!
However, you can balance your colorless section according to their function. This helps you make sure you’re not solely filling your colorless section up with mana rocks. Or equipment. Or Myr or something.
Traditionally, we do this by splitting the colorless section into four – Equipment, Mana Rocks, Creatures and Utility (which is basically everything else – not an equipment, creature or mana-generator). Given we’re chasing 40 colorless cards here, this falls really nicely for us – we’re looking for ten cards in each section, and we want to take the first eight from the CubeTutor list.
Let’s start with the equipment. The first eight Peasant-legal colorless equipment that appear in the CubeTutor Top Cards list are as follows:
- Lightning Greaves
- Loxodon Warhammer
- Grafted Wargear
- Flayer Husk
- Swiftfoot Boots
Yes, all of that is legal. Even Skullclamp. We don’t care where else it’s banned – this is the lawless kitchen table we’re dealing with here!
We’re defining mana rocks as any non-creature artifact that can tap to produce mana for us. Now, we’re always presented with a problem here – the Signets are a cycle of ten very good cards, and they inevitably turn up in some way, shape or form at the top of the list of fantastic Peasant-legal mana rocks. And indeed, our top eight off Cube Tutor are about what we expect:
- Mind Stone
- Izzet Signet
- Dimir Signet
- Azorius Signet
- Sol Ring
- Simic Signet
- Orzhov Signet
- Everflowing Chalice
Admittedly, this is where a lot of cube designers will break the design rules we have in place here, carve a couple of spots out elsewhere and just throw the entire cycle of ten Signets in. For now, we’ll stick with this list of eight and deal with this later on.
Now for the colorless creatures. And where there are colorless creatures, there are usually Eldrazi…
- Perilous Myr
- Cogwork Librarian
- Pilgrim’s Eye
- Ulamog’s Crusher
- Artisan of Kozilek
- Palladium Myr
- Filigree Familiar
Yes, Epochrasite is Peasant-legal – it was printed at uncommon in Modern Masters for a lark.
It’s also interesting to see a funky draft-matters card like Cogwork Librarian ranked so highly by CubeTutor – if you haven’t drafted with cards like these before, I totally recommend trying them out. The Librarian in particular turns what can be one of the quieter, slower periods of the cube night into one filled with politics and laughter.
Finally, anything with “Annihilator” written on it is inherently powerful, and the two Eldrazi listed here are no exception – in this powered-down format, they hit harder than they normally would anyway. Some choose to cube without overpowered cards like these, but you’re free to salt your cube to taste. I figure we had Skullclamp added above too, so….
And finally, here’s the colorless cards that don’t fit into any of the three previous buckets.
- Sensei’s Divining Top
- Icy Manipulator
- Isochron Scepter
- Wayfarer’s Bauble
- Relic of Progenitus
- Aether Vial
- Traveler’s Amulet
- Elixir of Immortality
Well… half of that isn’t going to survive the section below, is it…
Sticking to the Budget
Obviously we’re dropping Sensei’s Divining Top and Aether Vial here. Also over our $3 limit are Skullclamp (I know, I know…), Lightning Greaves, Sol Ring, Relic of Progenitus and Isochron Scepter. So we’re looking for seven replacements.
Let’s start with the equipment. We’re losing two here – the next two equipment off the CubeTutor list that are under our budget are Sylvok Lifestaff and Vulshok Morningstar. They’re both perfectly playable.
Next is the mana rock. We’re losing Sol Ring here, but we also probably don’t want to pick yet another Signet, as we know things are still in need of work there. The next non-Signet rock in CubeTutor’s list is Worn Powerstone – nothing wrong with that.
Finally, no less than half of our utility cards go overboard. Thankfully, there are some fairly sensible cards a little lower down in CubeTutor’s list – digging further down gives us Serrated Arrows, Expedition Map, Black Vise and Contagion Clasp. They’re all bags of fun to play with (maybe not against, but definitely with)!
Looking at the Curve
As per the creature-to-spell balance, we care a lot less about the curve here – the different sections we’ve just defined above all tend to play in different sections of the curve (with mana rocks tending to be low in the curve, equipment and utility somewhere in the mid-range and the top end usually populated by a couple of Eldrazi). For that reason, we really only want to look at the curve for the colorless section as a whole – this will at least inform us whether we have any gaping holes in the curve as we come to fill the last 20% of the slots.
Our curve overall is currently 9-12-6-3-0-2. That massive lump at CMC2 is all of our Signets, and that’s perfectly okay. We’ve also counted Overflowing Chalice as a CMC2 card here for the purposes of our curve (as you’ll want to play it for at least 2 every time you resolve it). If anything, we could do with something, anything at CMC5, but that’s about it. Considering a large portion of our colorless section is devoted to ramping, this sort of curve is acceptable.
Having Fun With the Final Adds
So we now need to add our last two equipment, mana rocks, creatures and utility cards. We also need to sort that glut of Signets out, and we also want to keep one eye on the draft archetypes we’ve already set up out in our mono-colored sections.
Firstly, let’s deal with the Signets. Normally, I’d try like anything to keep the entire cycle of ten in, but we set our rules above, so we’ll trim to just the five allied color copies (this means we’re dropping Simic, Izzet and Orzhov Signets from the initial list above and replacing them with Selesnya, Gruul and Rakdos Signets). We’ve still got Everflowing Chalice, Mind Stone and Worn Powerstone in the list, so we’re still only chasing two mana rocks after this. Let’s bump them off while we’re here. Basalt Monolith plays like a baby Mana Vault, and is almost as broken (and blue even gives us a couple of ways of untapping it). And Darksteel Ingot will live through most of the artifact removal we’ve already put in. Both are more than decent.
Equipment-wise, we have one glaring omission so far that I want to correct – Whispersilk Cloak is a staple that was off the list by the barest of margins, and it deserves to be in. There are any number of other fun cards we could put in the final equipment slot (with Fireshrieker, Trusty Machete and Explorer’s Scope high on the list)… but I love the high-risk, high-reward play of Trepanation Blade here. Can we mill a player out and buff our aggressive attacker at the same time? Is that black player I’ve just swung at holding some reanimation? Why are they laughing at me?
For the creatures, we want to add a couple more hefty ones, preferably around the CMC4-5 slots (we’ve just stocked up on three-drops above, so that bulge in the curve is getting a little more pronounced). Fortunately, we have some ready-made ones available. Juggernaut is a classic card that I’ve spent a lot of time playing with in my own peasant cube. It may be old, but it still shines in this format, and it’s well worth throwing in here. I’d love to say there’s a great 5-drop to put in here too… but, spoiler alert, there isn’t (there’s maybe only two cards I’d even attempt in Lurking Automaton and Warden of Geometries… but there are better things to add). Instead, I find myself reaching for another card I’ve played with a lot in this format… and another Juggernaut. Galvanic Juggernaut, to be precise. It’s not quite as evasive as its older brother, but it’s a beating and it’s harder to get rid of (given its superior toughness). I have seen it paired with red burn decks before to horrible effect.
Finally, two more utility cards. Maybe we can fill our 5-drops out here? Er… no. Not even close. CMC5 is just a wasteland, unfortunately, so we’re not even going to bother filling it. Given the mana rocks we’ve put in, we’re probably just ramping straight past 5 anyway. The one thing we haven’t added much of yet is card advantage. We had Skullclamp, but it was cruelly taken away from us when we checked our budget. So let’s add two higher-cost card advantage artifacts. Jayemdae Tome and Jalum Tome (which was uncommon in Antiquities) are both perfectly fine in this format, and they’ll do here.
Okay, that’s the lot! A quick look at our curve shows that we’re at 9-12-11-6-0-2. It drops off pretty steeply, but it’s at least a curve, and it’s fine here.
The Final Product
We have our 40-card colorless section! It’s loaded with ramp, fun equipment, a few angry creatures and some good utility – exactly the sort of all-purpose section we want colorless to be.
And that’s it for the colorless section of our peasant cube! Join me again next month as we wade through the maze of multicolor!
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.