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Cube Goldberg Machine: Thanksgiving Special

Howdy folks! This time, I may have to apologize to our international readers, because I’m centering on a decidedly American theme: Thanksgiving. I’ll be going over the cube cards I’m most thankful for. Let’s jump right in, before the tryptophan from all that turkey kicks in! 

Fetches and Shocks

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First things first, I wanted to recognize the importance of these special lands. The quintessential staples of eternal manabases – and occasionally, heaven forbid, standard ones – these cards allow your players to PLAY THEIR SPELLS. It’s not too much to ask. If they were a part of the Thanksgiving meal, they would be the table. Unfortunately, my table is oak, not mahogany; I can't afford to run the old-school duals like Taiga -  but these still work nicely!

Lim Dul’s Vault

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I’m gonna call this card “LDV” for short. It’s a little bit of a mouthful – in name, and in rules text. But it’s SWEET. It’s like Demonic Tutor and Ponder had a baby, except instead of being incredibly broken, it’s just very broken. Its life loss and card disadvantage are important limitations to an otherwise limitless card. But the Vault so much more interesting to play, too. If you’ve never seen the card, a common approach is to use it as a Vampiric Tutor. You need a removal spell, or a combo piece, so you just cycle through your deck until you find the card you need, then leave it on top. Then, as a sweet bonus, you get the extra choice of how to order the other four cards! The life loss is mitigated by the smaller decks, which is an important consideration too.

This goes back to one of my favorite parts of cube design: giving people choices. Because it allows so many choices, it’s like mashed potatoes. Gravy? No Gravy? Cranberry Sauce?? Personally, I tend to just mix in the turkey and veggies and gravy and make a crazy hash. Each to their own, though.

Brass Herald

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I really don’t like tribal archetypes in normal cubes. I’ve hinted at that, and I’ll elaborate on it later. But I really like italics tribal decks. So, I’ve been in the process of working on a peasant tribal cube. (Peasant because money) It’s quite the adventure; it’s challenging to design to prevent linear play. On that adventure, Brass Herald is my best friend. It – and flexible cards that go with it – are the glue that unite the archetypes, allowing cards that multiple players will use. Like the popular sauce, it can go with just about anything. Brass Herald is my gravy.

Urza, Academy Headmaster

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I’m going to say this right away: Urza, Academy Headmaster is a divisive card. It is emblematic of two of my most contentious decisions – including the five-color-matters archetype, and including cards from the Un-sets – and it also has a weird and annoying game mechanic. Some people have told me that I should take it out. Sorry, folks; it stays. I love it. Urza is wacky and powerful and promotes archetypes that require careful tuning but have interesting payoffs. Like cranberry sauce, it’s not for everyone, but it’s going to keep getting served until the end of time because some people love it.

What else am I forgetting? There’s gotta be more to this meal…


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Ponder is the turkey. Without it, the meal/cube/extended metaphor wouldn’t be the same, but its inclusion doesn’t get people excited. (In my lower-power peasant cube, Opt plays a similar role.) It’s iconic, it’s impactful, and it can be fairly dry. Still, it’s an important excuse for everything else.

Young Pyromancer

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Young Pyromancer takes a color that has a risk to be boring, and adds a cool wrinkle. It plays nicely with red burn, but is even better with blue’s suite of cantrips. It’s also not a card that will surprise you when you see it, but it’s often much better than it looks. Enabled by – but often much cooler than – the turkey, Young Pyrolad is the stuffing, which somehow makes stale bread interesting.

The Changelings - All of Them

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Back to the peasant cube for a second. The changelings are so deeply flexible, so they're a sweet pickup for any drafter in their colors. Because they slot into so many archetypes, they help increase the number of archetypes without diluting the cube with pieces that only fit one tribe. Like sweet potatoes, they're great because everyone loves them, even if they're simple; like sweet potatoes, they're great with marshmallows (sold separately). That's not really a metaphor; it's just good to provide snacks for your drafters! Ok, maybe don't serve marshmallows, but you get the idea.

Sultai Charm

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I had to pick a green one for this one.

I’m thankful for Sultai Charm and all its flexible bretheren. These cards are not exciting. Swords to Plowshares is a better removal spell, the dubious Naturalize somehow a better disenchant effect, and Thirst for Knowledge a better draw spell. But the flexibility means that it’s a healthy addition to a cube environment. (Its mana cost is aggressive, and honestly how much that neuters the flexibility is a strong reason to consider dropping it. However, see item #1 on this list.) A healthy option? Some people love it; others decline? Green? Sultai Charm is a nice serving of your favorite fall veggie.

And finally, the pumpkin pie. Everyone likes pumpkin pie. Maybe even with a little whipped cream…

Sword of Dungeons & Dragons

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I’ve talked about this card a bit before. But everyone always seems excited to see it. It’s a powerful card, but balanced. It’s cool, but not too gimmicky. It doesn't have protection from whole swaths of cards. All together, it lends a welcome palate cleanser to a wholesome meal.

Foil Old-Border lands

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This is my whipped cream. It has no impact on the pie, or the rest of the meal, but it makes me happy. It’s also a bit of a brag – I apologize. Normally, I’m not much one for vanity, but a long time ago I picked up a ton of these at a very low price and I love how they make the cube feel.


Thanksgiving is a time to come together. Whether as a family over a meal, or a playgroup over a cube, it’s a wonderful time to share in the pleasures of life. Although the food metaphors may have been tacky – let me know in the comment section! – they are a reminder of what I love about cube in the first place. Cube is a blast, but even more, it’s an excuse to spend time with people you enjoy. I hope your feasts – metaphorical and otherwise – are rich and nourishing, and your black Fridays spent sharing moments with those you care about, instead of frantically shopping. (More deals for me!)

In keeping with the season, a few words of gratitude. First, thanks to everyone from summer camp who introduced me to the game in the first place! It's a big part of my life now. Thanks to everyone who's helped me refine my cube, and especially my cube development co-conspirator. You know who you are! Lastly, thank all of you readers so much. Writing these articles is a blast, but it means nothing without you. I hope your Thanksgivings are wonderful.

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