Behold! The Innistrad Cube

With all the hubbub about Cube Drafts on Magic Online, this is a perfect time to talk about my latest project: the Innistrad Tribal Cube. I briefly talked about it in my last Cube article, and here it is, ready to be unleashed to the world.

The basic geist gist of it is that it’s a tribal Cube with the tribes of Innistrad supported: Humans, Spirits, Zombies, Vampires, Werewolves, and to a lesser degree Angels and Demons.

Tribal Cubes are usually difficult to balance, as some tribes are much better than others, like Goblins and Elves for instance, but I’m hoping to avoid that particular problem with these particular tribes. None of these tribes has ever been a Tier 1 Constructed deck, so there shouldn’t be anything too overpowering. And while the focus is on creatures and creature combat, I don’t want players to feel forced into drafting a particular deck or archetype. It’s still possible to draft durdly control decks, and I wanted self-mill/Spider Spawning/Burning Vengeance to still be a thing. I’ll go over each tribe and describe my overall design philosophy when choosing cards.

Werewolves

Terror of Kruin Pass
I should tackle the elephant in the room first. There’s no way around this: Eeven if you include Wolves, there really isn’t too much to choose from. I’ve tried to include every playable Wolf and Werewolf, but it isn’t quite enough to make it a full tribe. My solution was to allow the other tribes to bleed into red and green more than the other colors.

I have fond memories of drafting R/G spiritcraft in Kamigawa block, but I’ll get to that in the Spirits section. I’m satisfied with having Werewolves be a sub-tribe, but Immerwolf still provides incentive to pick up as many as you can. There are a few cards that make Wolf tokens such as Master of the Wild Hunt, Wolfbriar Elemental, and Tolsimir Wolfblood. The last one is a flavor fail and is cut from my Cube for that reason alone, but if you want to build something similar, you can do what you want. Huntmaster of the Fells is also a great reason to be in R/G. These two colors should have a lot of options, so I’m not bothered by the lack of Werewolves.

Humans

Daru Stinger
With creature-type errata on older cards, this type has the largest pool to choose from. It’s pretty easy to just grab all the sweetest Humans that you’d normally put in a Cube and call it a day, but there need to be some tribal synergies or Human decks would be just a bunch of dorks. That means that there needs to be a substantial chunk of cards from Innistrad block, as it’s the only one in which Humans are referenced in the rules text. You’re only going to find cards such as Champion of the Parish or Hamlet Captain in this block.

You’ll also want interaction with the other tribes, so look for cards such as Slayer of the Wicked and Holy Justiciar. Some older Human cards I’ve included are Daru Stinger and Teysa, Orzhov Scion. Daru Stinger’s creature type update changes how the card works because of how amplify is worded, so you’ll want to make that clear to your players. Teysa is a card that I’m pretty excited to see in action, and I can definitely see W/B Humans/Spirits being a strong deck.

Spirits

Strangleroot Geist
Spirits were a big thing in Kamigawa block, and I definitely wanted to include mechanics such as soulshift and arcane. Spirits have also been around since the dawn of Magic, so there were plenty of cards to choose from. I do want the tribes to bleed a bit more than in Innistrad, and Spirits conveniently has something to offer for every color. I mentioned before that I want red and green to get a bigger slice of that pie, but I should also mention that black will get a smaller slice. There are a ton of really good Vampires and Zombies, and I found myself having a black stack about fifty percent larger than any other color’s. That meant cutting most of the non-Vampire, non-Zombie creatures, but I still found room for some sweet ones.

R/G Spirits is a deck I wanted to be good, and with the soulshift mechanic, it has plenty of ways of grinding out card advantage. Ever draw four cards with an Elder Pine of Jukai, trade with a creature, and bring back Strangleroot Geist? I didn’t forget white and blue, the usual Spirit colors. Drogskol Captain, Lingering Souls, and friends lead the charge. There’s a good selection of cheap flyers and ways to hold down the ground, such as Waxmane Baku.

Vampires

Sengir Vampire
Team Edward strikes again! Between Innistrad and Zendikar blocks, there are a ton of good Vampires to choose from, but that doesn’t mean you can’t include some old classics such as Sengir Vampire. Prior to Zendikar, Vampires were almost entirely 5- and 6-mana finishers, so for cheap creatures, you’ll have to stick to the more recent sets. Skeletal Vampire is a personal favorite for the top end, but you can also use Sengir Nosferatu or Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief.

Vampires also have more options for lords than the other tribes, and for the sake of keeping things fair, I wouldn’t include more than one or two. Stromkirk Captain is what I would go with, as Captivating Vampire and Vampire Nocturnus are a bit too swingy for my tastes. I did find that I was struggling to come up with enough red Vampires, so you don’t want to go overboard with the black ones.

Zombies

Screeching Skaab
Zombies have a long history in Magic, going all the way back to Zombie Master in Alpha, but Onslaught block is where they really were pushed as a tribe, and the Cube should reflect that.

There are some sweet morph cards to take advantage of cards such as Skinthinner and Zombie Cutthroat. As with Vampires, I don’t want to include more than one or two lords. Undead Warchief is a bit too powerful, but the rest are fine. With the blue Zombies in Innistrad, you’ll also want to make sure there are enough self-mill enablers such as Armored Skaab and Screeching Skaab. You can also allow Zombies to bleed into red a bit. Deadapult is awesome, and Invasion block has some nice ones, such as Grave Defiler, Nightscape Battlemage, and Pyre Zombie. Alara block has a lot to offer as well, as the unearth mechanic works very well with self-mill.

Angels and Demons

This is a subtheme, so there are fewer Angels and Demons than the other tribes, with the possible exception of Werewolves. Interaction with the other tribes and flavor were my biggest considerations, and any of the Angels or Demons from Innistrad block will fit the bill nicely. There was still room for some sweet non-Innistrad cards to sneak through. Exalted Angel is one of my favorites, and there’s even a Whipcorder to go along with it for those of you who remember the old Whipcorder-fake-out shenanigans. Grinning Demon is a card that would fit in very well, what with all the other morph creatures, but I would prioritize having good Vampires and Zombies over Demons.

Spells

Firebolt
I’ve used the Magic Online Cube and www.cubedrafting.com as a general guideline for deciding on spells. For the purposes of the Spirit tribe, I wanted to include as many decent arcane cards as possible. Sometimes, that meant replacing a similar card, and sometimes, it was in addition—it really depended on color balance.

Flashback is a mechanic I wanted to be very well represented, so I made full use of Odyssey and Time Spiral blocks. The usual Cube suspects are still there, but I didn’t want spell power to be too out of hand. My usual rule of “No Sol Ring” still applies, and nothing ridiculously broken is allowed. I still want most of the games to have a Limited-like feel to them, so that means creature combat.

As for planeswalkers, I did put a few in for flavor reasons, but I feel that having too many of them might ruin what I’m going for. Gideon Jura becomes a Human, so that has some neat synergies. Jace, Memory Adept feels right at home in Innistrad, and flavor-wise, it makes sense for Garruk, Liliana, and Sorin to be included. Last, I wanted to include a few miracle cards to try them out. I’m not a huge fan of the mechanic, but like it or not, it is a part of Innistrad, so it’s on theme.

An Aside on Budget

If you’re like I am and don’t like to spend a lot of money on Magic cards, this Cube (and the Full Mirrodin Cube I posted before) is right for you. I don’t own a ton of cards, but I was still able to build this Cube for less than $20. Obviously, it won’t cost you that to build it from scratch, but this Cube is composed mostly of commons and uncommons, so it’s much easier on the wallet than many Cubes. Because I’m cheap (starving student, etc.) and lazy, there are a bunch of cards that I would like to have in the Cube but was unwilling to shell out for or was too lazy to find. So, basically what I’m saying is: Don’t be surprised if some of the cards I mentioned above aren’t in the actual list. You’re not meant to copy the list card-for-card anyway; it’s just there as a guideline.

So without further ado, here’s the Cube list. Feel free to leave me a comment if you have any questions.

Nassim Ketita
arcticninja on Magic Online
www.youtube.com/nketita