It’s time to talk about cube archetypes.

When you’re laying out the groundwork for your cube it is important to think about supporting some archetypes. So let’s talk about which archetypes you should think about supporting, why you might support them, and how you would go about doing that. Keep in mind that all of this is going to be in reference to constructing a generic cube with no theme. Theme trumps all. If you have a mono red cube, you don’t need to listen to anything I say about colors.

So which archetypes are you going to support? Whichever ones you want. That’s the beauty of it. But try to keep a few things in mind. Some archetypes play well with others and some do not. Aristocrats, for example, shares a lot of common cards with stax/sacrifice-matters and tokens and is propped up by all the small creatures that make aggro possible. Storm, on the other hand, might share some cards with a spells-matter archetype, but otherwise needs a critical mass of cards that are only good in storm. Trying to find archetypes that overlap and share supporting cards really helps to make a cohesive drafting environment.

While looking for archetypes that mesh well together, it is also important to note which colors you want to represent them. Even if your hypothetical U/R archetype plays really well with another G/B archetype, they aren’t going to be sharing many cards. When you are supporting strategies, trying to confine them to a specific color identity makes balance much easier. Many cube designers like to assign an archetype to each guild combination, while others (including myself) prefer to work with shards and wedges.

One more thing to consider is power level. Some strategies are just inherently weaker or may not have very many supporting cards, requiring you to include weaker cards to offer enough support. If you include strong, well supported archetypes, you need to be prepared to water them down if you want to include the more fringe archetypes. Balance is key. Nobody will draft tribal leviathans if your prowess archetype is strong, fast, and consistent.

Now we need to make a list of cards to include to support our archetypes. To do this, let’s take a look at 5 categories that your potential includes will fall into:

Too good not to include. These are cards that have a very high power level but don’t support any of your archetypes. These are cards to keep an eye on. Many people will tell you that “X card is a cube staple. X card is too good not to include”. This is untrue. No card is a “must include”. There is nothing wrong with including very powerful cards for the sake of power alone, but do not feel bad about cutting them when they just don’t jive with the rest of your cube. These are also cards that you will want to keep an eye on, as they have the highest likelihood of being too powerful and throwing off the balance of your cube.

Anchor Cards. These are cards that are powerful enough to stand on their own in cube while also synergizing with one or more of your archetypes. These are the heart and soul of your cube. These are cards that you can draft based on power level, but then use to justify drafting other synergistic cards. Usually, you are going to want as many of these as you can get your hands on.

Cross-archetype support cards. These cards might not be strong enough to include in just any cube, but they support multiple of your archetypes and are desperately needed. These make decks actually draft-able, allowing for players to consistently find synergistic support for the decks they are drafting.

Single archetype support cards. These are cards that are not powerful enough on their own, but really shine in the decks that they synergize with. These are the cards that you can pass and be fairly confident that they will wheel back around to you, as they are going to be very valuable to a drafter deep in that archetype, but lackluster to everyone else. These help you fill out archetype support, but be careful not to have too many of these. Too many single archetype support cards will force people to commit to decks early, streamlining the draft and causing many of the same decks to be drafted over and over.

Pet cards. These are cards that are not strong enough by themselves and don’t have enough synergy with your archetypes to justify running them. Maybe you run a card because you really like the art, or maybe it was your favorite card in your first ever standard deck. Whatever your reasoning, it is fine to run a few pet cards in your cube, but own up to it. If you try to tell me that Axebane Stag fits perfectly in your 360 powered cube because he fills out the curve just right, I’m going to laugh in your face. But if you tell me you want it in your cube because it is “Majestic AF”, I can respect that. Be honest with yourself and make sure you can identify which cards are there because they are good for the cube and which cards are there because you really like them. Too many of these makes for a clunky drafting experience, but a couple of them won’t hurt too much.

Last of all, keep in mind why you are doing this. If you are maintaining a cube as a mental exercise that’s one thing. But if you are building a cube to play with your friends and have fun, that’s what is important. If you think True-Name Nemesis is unhealthy for your cube (It almost always is) but your playgroup has a blast every time it hits the table, then maybe you should keep it in. If your playgroup groans every time someone reanimates an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, you should consider cutting it for something else.

So what archetypes do you support? Any “must-includes” that you recently cut? Disagree with something I’ve said here? Leave a comment, let me know what you think.

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