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Cubing 101: White’s Sorceries and Instants

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Welcome back to our third installment of "Building a Standard Cube," where we are constructing a Standard-legal cube piece by piece in an effort to help illustrate the principles behind cube construction. With so many options it's easy to get overwhelmed, but we'll be taking a lot of the guesswork out by building off of the Standard framework (as we defined here). In our last column we took a look at white's enchantment cards and narrowed down our selection. Today we'll be looking that the two card types that many argue are really one category: sorceries and instants. Although far richer in instants than in its slower brethren, white has also built up a reputation as having a number of powerful sorceries, often coming in the form of board-sweeping [card Wrath of God]Wrath[/card] effects.

The first thing we want to do is determine how many of each card type we'll be needing to include in our cube. As you'll recall, when we crunched the numbers we arrived at the following:

Since we're building a 45-card cube, that means we'll be selecting a total of 13 instants and 5 sorceries today. You might think that given all this structure there's little room for customization with regards to the contents of the cube, but the good news is that the framework only gives us card quantities which reflect today's Standard. It's up to us to choose the actual cards themselves, and that includes making a judgment call on rarity distribution. Some, upon seeing that creatures represent 60.48% of white's cards in Standard, might opt to give out two rare slots here. Others might instead opt to spread them around a little more, and that's the approach we'll be taking here.

A Word on Rarity

Quick mental math tells us that 450 cards translates into 30 15-card boosters for our cube, giving enough for a full draft table of eight players and a few left over for mystery. This in turn means that we'll need 30 rares, and we'll make sure to keep the distribution even across the colors for the sake of fairness. One approach might be to just divvy them out evenly, with five rares going to each of the five colours, and the remaining five for artifacts and nonbasic lands. There's certainly nothing wrong with that approach, and it gives each color a little more impact.

On the other hand, our Standard environment hits both non-colour categories squarely. Zendikar block was an 'adventure world' setting where land mattered, while a return to the artificial world of Mirrodin yielded a trove of artifacts. In order to better reflect this, we'll instead be giving each color only four rares, with a full ten going for nonbasic lands and artifacts.

How about uncommons? Well, our cube will require 90 of them. An even slice across all six categories yields 15 uncommons each. As with the rares, though, we'd like to tip the scales a little heavier in favor of the nonbasics/artifacts to reflect the feel of the sets we're using. Luckily, having more uncommons means we can fine-tune the balance a little better than we could at rares without shorting any of the other colours. Borrowing two cards from each color would leave thirteen uncommons each, and a reasonable 25 reserved for nonbasics/artifacts.

You'll recall last week we selected eleven cards from the pool of enchantments: seven commons, three uncommons, and a single rare (Marshal's Anthem). That means we still have ten uncommon and three rare slots left to fill.

With that said, it's time to look at some cards!

Instants

Once again, it's easiest to begin by breaking the card pool down into smaller groupings of cards that play a similar role.

Removal

Protection

Combat Tricks

Life Gain

Miscellaneous

There aren't a lot of insta-cuts to make here in the form of rares we know we won't want. Silence is a cute card, but not what we're going for here. White Sun's Zenith? As mentioned last week I'm a big fan of cycles, and adding the Zenith cycle at rare would lend a lot of flavor to the cube. That one we'll keep. Now for the hard part: getting the other 12.

Plainly, combat tricks and removal form the largest portion of white's instant pie, so we'll be awarding them the lion's share of cards. Removal in particular is a critical element for any Limited format, so let's give them five cards to start with. But which five to take? I want to give white the ability to answer a number of threats without being overly wedded to the philosophy of 'target attacking or blocking creature' white is so often saddled with. That lets me cut Arrow Volley Trap, Choking Fumes, Condemn, Pitfall Trap, and Puncturing Light. I'm passing over Celestial Purge in an attempt to avoid color hosers.

That still leaves Dispense Justice, which we'll take alongside Dispatch to give some representation to metalcraft. These are both uncommons, so we'd better stick to commons next. Divine Offering is a no-brainer in this artifact-rich environment. Smite is very conditional (the creature needs to be attacking and you need to be blocking), but its cheap cost means you don't have to hold much open to make the most of it. This leaves us needong one common removal card, and there aren't many more that fit the bill. That means we'll go back and take Puncturing Light. Not for the first time, this project takes on a truly Limited feel.

Moving next to the combat tricks, we'll start with Bold Defense. I like this card because it's common, features the kicker mechanic, affects all your creatures (the reason we're passing on cards like Guardian's Pledge), and with its first strike can even act as ersatz removal. For another creature-pumper, we'll also take Inspired Charge which can also serve as a finisher. Repel the Darkness can help get some nettlesome defenders out of the way, and it also replaces itself in your hand. Finally, we'll opt for Mighty Leap to enable a flyer in a pinch. Like the reactive removal above, I've tended to avoid another feature of white instants which are Holy Day effects. They tend to be of limited applicability and are poster-children for 'best-case scenario' thinking.

The same might often be said of life gain, as it's fairly useless when you're ahead. But a certain sense of obligation moves me to snare one as a representative of the species, so I'll take War Report, which can be absolutely vulgar in a creature-dense environment. Protection? We'll do the same, and snare an Apostle's Blessing as a nod to Phyrexian mana. Lastly, we'll pluck a couple of effects out of the 'miscellaneous' category. We've already opted for White Sun's Zenith, so that leaves one more. I like the tension that goes into cards that summon token creatures, so that provides us with Join the Ranks and Master's Call. Both will have their uses, but the cheaper cost of the latter gives it the nod.

For those keeping score at home, that's thirteen cards: a rare, two uncommons, and ten commons. As is common when trying to balance the different considerations of card types and rarities, we may find ourselves tinkering with the mix even after we've made our selections. In this case, seeing that I only needed two uncommons tells me I can safely add another, so let's cut Puncturing Light (a card that's a bit too conditional for my liking anyway) and add in Arrow Volley Trap. Yes, it's expensive, but much of what we've taken thus far tends to be on the cheaper side, and it gives us a chance to get a trap into the mix.

With the dust now settled, here are our picks for instants:

Sorceries

Sorceries, being a fairly limited bunch overall, don't need to be divided into categories for ease of reference.T his is a judgment call we can easily make just by looking at the full list.

With a number of rares to choose from, that makes narrowing down our choices somewhat easier. To be fair, it's not much of a contest. You don't get more iconically white than Wraths, and we have two to choose from here. I'll take Day of Judgment over Phyrexian Rebirth due to the mana cost. Although getting a free reset + critter is an attractive prospect, I often like to use Wraths to punish my opponent for overcommitting in the early game when I feign defenselessness, then unload my hand and dominate the board. The six-casting-cost Phyrexian Rebirth trades some versatility for card advantage, but here I'd prefer the versatility.

Next we'll move to bolster our removal credentials with Iona's Judgment, Revoke Existence, and Solemn Offering. We'll close with Survival Cache as a way to get rebound in white. The aggro-punishing Timely Reinforcements was tempting, but just too conditional. If you're ahead in both creature count and life, it does absolutely nothing.

To summarize, our sorceries will be as follows:

As always, different folks will have a different ideas on what they'd take in their cube. Any choice you felt was absolutely bonkers and proves I am divorced from reason? Wondering why I took one card and left another behind? Let me know in the comments below!

Jay Kirkman
@ErtaisLament
www.ErtaisLament.com

4 thoughts on “Cubing 101: White’s Sorceries and Instants

  1. Oooh, this is where your version and my version (I'm playing along at home, you see) diverge rather sharply. For example, I totally dept Condemn, didn't add White Sun's Zenith, and chose Phyrexian Rebirth over Day of Judgement. I included things like Oust, Remember the Fallen, and Choking Fumes too. This is nifty to see where people make different decisions.

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