Jason’s Archives: Cubes Made of Liquid, Trees Wielding Swords & Other Boggling Riddles

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We all play this game to have fun. Winning usually is, but the same can't always be said for the work put in to get there. Grinding the 90th consecutive Delver versus Pod match to optimize sideboards can get miserable and start to feel like a job. Certain aspects of Magic are quite the opposite of fun.

But all is not lost when the specter of drudgery rears its head. Over the years playgroups have invented their own variants or sidegames to keep the game interesting and the barrels of guns out of their mouths.

You may recognize some or all of these. Formats like 2-Headed Giant and Commander (I don't want to get sued by Duncan McLeod; he's not particularly litigious but he lets his [card Tatsumasa, the Dragons Fang]Tatsumasa[/card] do the talking) were so universally embraced by the community that Wizards decided to adopt them as sanctioned formats (read "found a way to monetize them").

The most meta example ever: my long-time partner in crime and 2HG, "The Godslayer" (née Aaron Sulla), and I were paired against other friends at a 2HG tournament, so we decided to intentionally draw and kill the next hour with 2HG Type 4 instead.

In addition to being a ton of fun, these formats sometimes lead to the discovery of new tech.

Once, bored at a tournament and lacking anything besides a box of bad rares, I suggested to my buddy Travis Cullum that we build a Type 4 pile and derp around to kill some time. Two of the three games we played, he managed to use Sovereigns of Lost Alara to grab Celestial Mantle and cave my dome piece in (our all-rare pile lacked the removal most often printed at uncommon or common). "This card HAS to be good!" Travis kept saying, referring to Sovereigns. "What," I said "you want to fetch up Celestial Mantle in Standard? Yea, good play, chief."

A little later they printed Eldrazi Conscription and Travis finally had what he needed to make Sovereigns a card. You know how the rest of that season went. Travis didn't have to play Celestial Mantle, Zvi's Mythic deck didn't have to run Rampaging Baloths and there was finally a credible alternative to Jund. The combo between Sovereigns and Conscription was so good that I jammed three Sovereigns and two Conscriptions in my Naya deck. It was like the Spanish Inquisition.

The New Arrival

The point is, boredom has contributed both to good tech and the creation of new formats that help players blow off steam when Magic has starting to feel like a grind. Recently a new development, promising the most potential for a good time since the arrival of EDH, has materialized.

I'm referring, of course, to The Booze Cube. The Booze Cube is designed to turn any gathering of Magic players into a date with a stomach pump. While I don't condone underage drinking, binge drinking, public intoxication, drunken driving, worm eating or listening to Party Rock Anthem, responsible adults can use a Booze Cube to spice up their night of cube drafting.

The Booze Cube Needs Your Help

The Booze Cube recently contacted some Magic podcasts about submitting cards for potential future expansions. One of the participants was Brainstorm Brewery. While it's too late to get cards submitted to Brainstorm Brewery in time for our contest, if you have a great idea submit it to The Booze Cube directly.

Even if they decide it's not for them, the booze cube is meant to be printed and drafted at home (I would double sleeve; drinks WILL be spilled) so making your own cards is half the fun. If you're inclined, you can check out the Brewery Crew's contributions at this link.

Jason's Anal-Retentive Bum Cover

The Booze Cube isn't for everyone. The website has some no-no words. It advocates drinking alcohol. Some of the puns are of a sexual nature. First, let me stress that I did not invent The Booze Cube. I am sharing it with my audience because I think most of you are grownups and you can handle hearing about something fun. However, if you

  1. Are under 21.
  2. Don't approve of profane language.
  3. Don't approve of "adult" humor.
  4. Are otherwise a curmudgeon.

then The Booze Cube may not be for you, and if you click on the link and it ruins your day, I warned you.

If you're a grownup and you think The Booze Cube looks like fun, you're right. I would advocate pacing yourself; many of the cards are designed to give you drinks in lieu of damage and I can see games going VERY long. Anything that says "chug a beer" or "drink a shot" strikes me as something to avoid, but I know my limits.

Print it out. Invent your own cards. Get some cheap, filthy beer (you won't taste it after turn six anyway), some good friends and make a night out of it.

Magic is supposed to be fun and The Booze Cube is a good way to guarantee the good times. If you have a Booze Cube party, send me some pictures at and I will share your drunken revelry with the rest of my reading audience.

Back in the World of Sober Magic

Competitive players in the community congregated in our nation's capitol this weekend to sling some cardboard and prove things actually can get done in DC. Let's see how it played out.

Top 32 Standard Decks

Wolf Run's Lesser-Known 'Blue Phase'

Last week I got a kick out of the concept of adding blue to the traditional Wolf Run build, and it looks like that concept paid big dividends for Reid Duke.

Temporal Mastery is a clunky-looking card in an aggro-ramp deck, but it serves a valuable purpose. Ramp often taps out to cast an enormous spell, hoping their hard work isn't undone by a board sweeper. With Ponder to set it up and the mana-producing juice to hardcast it, Temporal Mastery lets a ramp player take that next turn right away and hit them when their defenses are down. Two swings with any beater and an active [card Kessig Wolf Run]Wolf Run[/card] are usually enough to put any game away.

The deck also gets mileage out of a terrific interaction between two cards that haven't been tried in concert that often: Primeval Titan and Phantasmal Image. Although imaging a titan is nothing new, ramp in particular stands to benefit from a double rampant growth for any two lands at the mere cost of a Farseek.

A man after my own heart, Duke also included a block favorite that I expect to pop up more as we approach rotation -- Blasphemous Act. Act, or BA as I like to call it because I grew up watching the A-Team, deals with pesky swarms of opposing spirits, larger-than life praetors, hexproof ghosts and trolls. It even deals with opponents at thirteen life or less if you're monkey enough to jimmy jam a Stuffy Doll or two into your 75 (I am!). It's a one-of in Duke's list, but sometimes the best part of [card Bonfire of the Damned]Bonfire[/card] is wiping the board, and ramp has the mana to cast this no matter how few creatures you need to kill.

Should you be going after super cheap copies of Temporal Mastery? It's not my place to say, but I will mention that I have been squirreling away a few playsets. EDH guys will never reject Time Walk effects and with a Mastery deck taking down an SCG event, there is potential. If Temporal Mastery starts to see more play, you may see yourself vindicated.

Angry Trees (with Swords)

After the delicious tequilla shot that was Reid Duke's winning list, came the cold, sobering bite of lime wedge. Four Delver decks in the Top 8. One-ofs of Frites, Naya Pod and Dungrove Beats rounded out the Top 8 nicely, seeming to mitigate the multiple copies of Delver piles with the reassurance that perhaps the format is healthy after all.

Seven Delver decks in the Top 8 seems unhealthy. Four is doable, especially given my suspicion that the percentage composition of the Top 8 pretty closely mirrored the percentage of the field represented by each deck. I bet there were way more than four times as many copies of U/W Delver as there were copies of Dungrove Aggro, so in that sense, Dungrove outperformed Delver.

And how could it not? The biggest complaint about Dungrove Elder before was his idiotic inability to deal with chump blockers. This necessitated the clunky inclusion of Bellowing Tanglewurm to help him muster the courage to face a couple of the g-g-g-g-ghosts that control was only too happy to present. Dungrove Elder was obviously a beast when wrapping his little tree branch mitts around a Sword of War and Peace (mostly war, let's be honest) or bellowing his way past chumps, but when his advance was stymied by a cluttered battlefield he fell short.

Now Elder has a new friend and the game has changed. Rancor is the new weapon in the fight against flying [card Wild Nacatl]nacatl[/card] and the key to Dungrove Elder's recent resurgence in popularity. Trampling and hexproof, a rancorous Dungrove Elder is nearly impossible to deal with barring a bigger blocker or a wrath effect.

Top 8 finisher Joseph Smith (I won't make the joke, I'm sure he's sick of hearing it) tried to minimize the number of times he'd need to attack with Elder by including several copies of what Corbin affectionately calls "kick the castle": everyone's favorite Might of Oaks substitute, Revenge of the Hunted. Predator Ooze, another card I've been picking up for quarters and squirreling away for a day like today when he is front and center in a beats-heavy green list, makes an appearance and is quite good wearing a Rancor.

The Frites list is pretty stock-standard, but Michael Wayne still deserves a high five, if only because he chose not to play Delver.

Congrats to the entire Top 8!

Top 32 Legacy Decks

Travis Gibson, who the Star City coverage referred to as William Gibson at one point (any Neuromancer fans here?) decided that Delver was too good for one format and jammed him in Legacy to great effect. Gibson's list bears mention because he went back to nine months ago and dragged along a popular card that has recently fallen by the wayside a bit: Grim Lavamancer.

Grims is the man in so many situations it's hard to fathom his ever having fallen out of favor. What's the toughness on a flipped [card Delver of Secrets]Delver[/card]? If you answered "the exact number as the amount of damage dealt by a Grim Lavamancer" you're starting to see why being prepared for the RUG Delver mirror pays. And well, in the form of giant novelty checks and trophies. To beat the mirror Gibson also had four copies of Submerge riding the pine in the sideboard. Someone read this metagame like a book. Congrats Will..., er, Travis!

Being prepared for Maverick can't hurt as the deck put an impressive nine copies in the Top 32, including 2nd and 3rd place piloted by Chas Hinkle and Orrin Beasley respectively.

Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the Top 32 was a higher frequency of burn decks (one) than Sneak and Show decks (zero). After the community clamored for a ban of some of the Sneak and Show components a few months ago, it turns out the best answer to the deck is to "play a better one." With Show and Tell pushing $60, clearly lots of players are sleeving this deck up. But where are they when prizes are announced? Perhaps this deck isn't the boogeyman we thought.

Platinum Qualifier Top 8

Also worth a quick mention was the Platinum Qualifier at Phoenix games over the weekend. The Top 8 was pretty unremarkable with one major exception. Joseph Neuman recognized the awesome power of the Black Market deck and since he Top 8'd with it, it seems worthy of some analysis.

Abusing the absurd interactions between Trading Post and artifact creatures, this monoblack control deck revels in the long game. Between a wall of removal and reusable sources of lifegain, this deck seems pretty miserable to play against when it gets a good draw. Trading Post is a card that merits building around and this is just one example of the success some players have found with it. Great job, Joseph!

That's What I Got for You

Remember to send me some booze cube party snaps. I'll be back next week with a collection of homemade Magic cards representing some of science fiction and fantasy's favorite characters. You won't want to miss that, so meet me right back here in a week. Same Alt time, same Alt channel.

Jason Alt
@JasonEAlt on Twitter

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