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Cubing 101: White Enchantments in Standard

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Last week, we kicked off a project on building a Standard cube. Today we'll be going a little further into it. By limiting the card pool to today's Standard environment, to actually model that environment, we take a lot of the confusion and uncertainty away from cube construction, making this the perfect starter for the new cubist as well as the veteran. At it's heart, there's something rather novel and fun about a narrow environment, and it's my hope that others might be similarly inspired to create 'Standard in miniature' cubes from years gone by.

Today we'll be tacking the color white, but before we begin I'd like to visit a reader's comment from last week. Said Robert,

In most Standard formats, I'd totally agree with giving artifacts/nonbasic lands their own section that was the same size as the other.

In this Standard environment, I think that would be a grave mistake. The two blocks are built around...artifacts and lands. I think that you should, in this case, double that section if possible, cutting each of the other sections down slightly to compensate.

The building of any cube, no matter how simple we make the construction, nevertheless relies upon countless small value judgments by the creator, and the Standard cube is no exception. One early judgment call was to make the nonbasic/artifact pool equal to those of any one color for simplicity's sake, but Robert's comment made me realise that to do so was an opportunity missed. If the cube should be a proportional representation of Standard, then the abundance of these cards should be better reflected (although looking at the numbers, doubling them would be too much). There are 323 nonbasics/artifacts in Standard (and remember, reprints get counted for each printing, not just once), while each color only has around 250 cards.

Here's the math. There are 1570 cards in Standard (not counting planeswalkers or the tiny amount of multicolour, which we're disregarding). That's 323 nonbasics/artifacts, 248 White, 249 Blue, 252 Black, 248 Red, and 250 Green. Bumping that against 450 (the number of cards we'll have in our cube), we get 93 nonbasics/arts, and either 71 or 72 for each colour. Since we don't want to short any colour on the basis of a rounded number, we'll nudge the numbers just a hair and declare a 90/72/72/72/72/72 split. Going forward, we're certain to encounter the occasional rounding issue (no colour category can be given 'half a card' as Little Girl isn't in our card pool. When this happens, I'll usually round in favor of whatever category has the lesser card quantity (read: creatures).

When we revise our numbers to take into account this new proportional allotment which gives nonbasics/artifacts a larger piece of the pie, we find when the dust settles White will look as follows:

Largely unchanged! Now it's time for the fun part: getting under the hood of the white engine, and rebuilding it from the ground up. Remember, we're building a 450-card cube, which means we'll have to narrow down to only eleven cards by the end of this article.

Enchantments

We'll begin with white's enchantments, and there are a fair number to choose from with some 36 of them currently Standard-legal. Let's go ahead and clump them into smaller groupings based on their broad similarities, which should give us a pretty clear indication of what White tries to accomplish with these types of cards. Note that a some cards may overlap categories and thus be listed more than once.

Removal

Creature Enhancement

Lifegain

Miscellaneous

It seems, then, that the soul of white enchantment is bound up in removal and buffing your creatures. With our list before us, it's now time to take the scalpel and cut out as much as we can before having to make the final decisions. The easiest place to begin is at the higher rarities, then work our way down the ladder. Large lists can be overwhelming, so the more we can cut out before we need to start selecting cards, the easier it will be.

Angelic Destiny is automatically out, as it's a mythic and we're not including mythics in this cube.

Celestial Mantle has a potentially substantial effect. But it's conditional and, at three white mana, too expensive. We'll want to avoid cards that force such a heavy commitment to a single color, as the chances of drafting a mono-color deck (to take full advantage of cards like this) is somewhat lower. This also gives True Conviction the red card. Tempered Steel is more reasonably-costed, but it's conditional nature demands more opportunities to play around it, and those opportunities won't appear often enough for the White player to make optimal use of it.

Leyline of Sanctity is more of a constructed-worthy card. Giving yourself hexproof is nice, but with a quota of only eleven enchantments, we'll want cards with bigger impacts than this, especially at rare. Luminarch Ascension doesn't work either; it's too conditional of an effect to be worth the card slot. In constructed play these were occasionally seen as potent threats in a control mirror, but in the more creature-centric limited environment we'll pass.

Near-Death Experience, Personal Sanctuary, and Terra Eternal  all follow the same footprint. Time of Heroes is right out too, as there won't be enough level up creatures to make it worthwhile in this singleton format.

In uncommon, we find few others we can so easily disqualify, like Exclusion Ritual (significantly less useful in singleton formats), so it starts to come down to judgment, choice, and preference. We know that we want to include as much quality removal as we can, so we'll take Arrest, Forced WorshipOblivion RingPacifism, and Journey to Nowhere. I don't like Guard Duty enough to include it. While Forced Worship is equally limited, its ability to return to hand tips the scale in its favor.

I'm also going to include the quasi-removal card Luminous Wake. While I ordinarily don't give much consideration to lifegain, the card's versatility brigns some diversity to the card pool. Use it on your own beater for a solid chunk of life, or put it on an attacker to blunt their effectiveness.

Moving on to creature enhancement, these are cards which might not get so much as a sniff in constructed play, but in the limited environment have a greater chance to shine. Armored Ascension is best used in a mono-White deck (since it cares about Plains), but still can be quite strong in a W/x or W/X deck. Spirit Mantle gives its creature tremendous versatility as either an indestructible chump blocker or an unblockable attacker. And while not giving the biggest power/toughness bonus of the group, let's add a Hyena Umbra for its first strike capability. I like Mammoth Umbra as well, but not at five mana.

That gives us two more slots to work with. Even restricting the available card pool to Standard gives us some room to add a personal touch, and personally I'm a big fan of cycles (series of cards that are related to one another). For that reason, I'll include a Guardian Zendikon. Finally, we'll make a decision here and grab a rare card to round out the category. We still have a trio of options open to us: Honor of the Pure, Lightmine Field, and Marshal's Anthem. As a defensive-minded card that will discourage your opponent from attacking (thus leaving more defenders for you to have to grind through), I'm not a fan of Lightmine Field here. Honor of the Pure is cheap and powerful, but fairly limited in its effect. That gives us Marshal's Anthem as the only way to boost all of our creatures, and late in the game the ability to dump mana into its multikicker to bring back a dead creature or two offers us some powerful card advantage. Looked at this way, it's really no choice at all.

We've now whittled our way down to 11 cards. While this is a solid selection, we won't consider it written in stone until we've also looked at creatures, instants, and sorceries, because we may have to tinker with our selections to fill our rarity quotas. Still, seven commons, three uncommons and a rare seems like a good start, so we'll wrap it up here with the following:

White Enchantments

Like anything with a subjective angle, different folks will have a different perspective. Did I miss a choice card you've had great success with? Was there anything I selected that you think is a mistake? Wondering why I took one card over another? Let me know in the comments below!

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Jay Kirkman

@ErtaisLament

www.ErtaisLament.com

11 thoughts on “Cubing 101: White Enchantments in Standard

  1. I didn't put in Guardian Zendikon or Marshall's Anthem, and instead chose Nimbus Wings and Tempered Steel.

    I don't really like the Zendikons, so that was my biggest reason for cutting it, plus Nimbus Wings felt like a really unassuming card that can actually win games in limited. Flying is important.

    I like Tempered Steel better because it's a little narrower but potentially more rewarding if they can pull it off.

    1. I'm actually toying with not using a rare Enchantment. The reason is that looking at the sorceries, I would really like to include Phyrexian Rebirth, and it's a rare. Sorceries are sparse enough in white that they don't get a rare slot, so I'm thinking I can just not put in a rare enchantment instead.

      1. I've left where to put rares (and other card commonalities) as a matter of discretion, though it certainly follows that you can use the statistical method to determine what card types get what rarities for the most part. White Sorceries + Instants is coming up, and I make a very similar choice as you…

    1. Actually, the intention is to make a cube of the current Standard environment, not one that happens to be currently Standard-compatible. I've found the best results in doing so (building a Standard cube right before a block change) because you have the largest card pool available. If I were to do one based on Scars block + Innistrad, it would feel fairly thin. Similarly if I tried ZEN block + Scars only (no MBS or NPH).

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