Hi all, welcome to the 2015 Optimal Multiplayer Cube! For newcomers, the Optimal Multiplayer Cube is an attempt to find the best cards to put in a 360-card multiplayer cube. This list of 360 cards has existed in various forms for many years now for 1-vs-1 play, but a multiplayer-based one did not exist, so we set about trying to fix it. As in previous years, we did this by voting on the best cards in a multiplayer setting for each of the cube sections. As per usual, we are in furious agreement on some cards being top-tier for multiplayer (such as Blatant Thievery, Exsanguinate and Insurrection), but finding the best 360 is an altogether different prospect, so a vote is needed. We carried out the 2015 vote between September and December, and you can see the results here. We'll take these results and piece together an optimal cube list. This is now the fourth year we've done this - if you want to catch up on previous efforts, you can see the 2012, 2013 and 2014 optimal cubes, and you can draft the 2013 and 2014 cubes on CubeTutor (with links either in my signature, or in the articles themselves).
A Cube, You Say?
Unless you've been under a rock, or are fairly new to Magic: the Gathering, you probably know what a Cube is by now. For those who are yet to explore the fun that is Cube, the MTGS Cube Forum's Great Cube Resource Thread is a great place to start. It'll hopefully help you catch the cube drafting bug and make you want to build your own. For our results, we need to set some boundaries as to what our optimal cube is going to look like. A 360-card cube is the bare minimum for eight-player drafting, so this is a good baseline. For each of the sections, we'll use the sizes specified by Tom Fowler in his excellent Hip To Be Square series - 50 of each of the five colours, 50 gold, 30 artifact, 30 nonbasic land. We also need to account for taste. There are all sorts of wonderful variant cubes floating about already, and you will likely want to account for your own (and your playgroup's) personal tastes when constructing your own. So we're going to suggest 80% of the cards for each cube section, and then suggest a couple of viable archetypes that could be added in the remaining space. Finally, some of the cards that have come out on top are heinously expensive, and are obviously only going to be available to those who truly want to power their cubes. Multiplayer guys are inevitably playing at their own kitchen tables, and not operating on a top-tier tourney player's funds, so we'll also look at the more budget options available.
The Card Pool
These power rankings began in September 2015, after the release of Magic Origins. This is the cut-off point for these rankings. The 2015 rankings do not include new cards printed in Battle for Zendikar, Commander 2015 or onwards.
The Results Format
For each cube section, we'll reveal the cards that were voted into the top 80% of each section (that means the top 40 cards for each of the sections that carry 50, and the top 24 for each of the sections that carry 30). We'll look at them according to casting cost, as well as creature vs. non-creature - those who've built a cube before know that it's important to get this balance right. We'll then list cards that just missed the cut, and potential budget alternatives to some of the money cards that appear in that list. Finally, we'll look at the options we have for filling that final 20% - the archetypes that fit well with the cube we've wound up with. Where a price for a card is listed, it is refers to the cheapest printing available according to PucaTrade's PucaPoints system as of the time of publishing.
This year, you will also see me referring to the Best Multiplayer Cards Available list when swapping cards out for alternatives - this is a list of all cards from the last four years' worth of Power Rankings votes, ordered by popularity (you can see the thread itself for more details on the stats behind it, or lack thereof!). In essence, this gives us a way of finding the best multiplayer card in a particular slot when we're seeking a replacement card.
So It's Multiplayer.... What Changes?
What makes the optimal multiplayer list different to the optimal 1-on-1 list already floating about the MTGS Cube Forum, or the list of most-run cards on CubeTutor? Two things. Firstly, the optimal 1-on-1 list contains many cards that shine in duels, but are downright unplayable in multiplayer settings. In particular, traditional aggro strategies go out the window in multiplayer - they simply run out of steam against multiple opponents. A case in point is Goblin Guide - it is ranked as one of the top ten red cards in a traditional cube, but is pretty much useless in a multiplayer arena. It is still yet to garner a single vote in the multiplayer power rankings in four years of voting. Secondly, you are usually afforded more time and space in a multiplayer setting, so the average casting cost of the cards in the cube can afford to be higher than they are traditionally. This gives us the room we need to fit in expensive multiplayer staples like Insurrection and Blatant Thievery.
So now, you can sit back, relax and enjoy (while I try and find the time to feverishly hammer out the results)!
Please feel free to add your comments in this thread - feedback is always appreciated!
The white vote was completed on September 7th 2015.
The Top 40
The white section in a 360-card cube is 50 cards in size. As we are listing the top 80% we are after the top 40 cards in our power rankings for white. This year, we had only 38 cards receive votes, so we will stick with these, and add two more down the bottom. In order, these 38 were:
Our creature-to-spell balance is actually really good for once! We're at 18 creatures and 20 spells. So, to round out the 40, let's throw in two budget white creatures that are on our Best Multiplayer Cards Available list - Stonehewer Giant and Mother of Runes.
There are a few obvious problems with the initial curve:
As per usual, white is carrying a lot of reset cards. Thankfully, we've only got seven this year (which is much less than years past), but we probably want to get down to three, as we have in previous optimal cubes.
Our creatures are also a bit top-heavy, with lots at CC5+, and not many down low.
The curve is currently at 7-7-4-8-6-8. There is a bit of a gap at CC3 that would be nice to fill out.
Fixing the Holes
Let's remove a couple of resets and a couple of bigger creatures, and try to round out the edges as we go.
Fixing the Reset Cards
We're currently sitting at seven reset cards, and we want to get down to three. The bottom four in our vote were Armageddon / Ravages of War, Catastrophe, Cataclysm and Day of Judgment (which leaves us with ***, Balance and Austere Command... a good mix, and one we've carried in years past). We want to add four non-creature, non-reset cards, and we want to try and add a 3CC card or two while we're at it. Let's see if there's anything in our Best Available list that wasn't in this year... and we find just two white spells that aren't in the list - Replenish and Humility. Well, they're both worthy, at least.
Fixing the Creature Curve
This has now stuck the curve at 7-7-6-7-6-7, which isn't curved so much as almost dead flat. Our creature curve is currently 2-4-2-3-5-4. If we can drop a 5CC and 6CC+ creature for a 3CC and 4CC one, that's going to look pretty good.
Stonehewer Giant was the last creature in, so we'll just drop him again. The bottom of our four top finishers was Yosei, so he can be the other one overboard.
The blue vote was completed on September 14th 2015.
The Top 40
The blue section in a 360-card cube is 50 cards in size. As we are listing the top 80% we are after the top 40 cards in our power rankings for blue. This year, we had only 23 cards receive votes, so we will stick with these, and add 17 more down the bottom. In order, these 23 were:
Okay, first things first - let's add the next 17. This is blue, so we want to have roughly a 60/40 split in favour of spells. This means 24 spells and 16 creatures, and we're currently at 8 creatures / 15 spells. So, to round out the 40, let's throw in the best nine spells and eight creatures off our Best Multiplayer Cards Available list that aren't in yet. This adds the following:
The black vote was completed on September 21st 2015.
The Top 40
The black section in a 360-card cube is 50 cards in size. As we are listing the top 80% we are after the top 40 cards in our power rankings for blue. This year, we had only 20 cards receive votes, so we will stick with these, and add 20 more down the bottom. In order, these 20 were:
Okay, first things first - let's add the next 20. We need 20 spells and 20 creatures, and we're currently at 8 creatures / 12 spells. So, to round out the 40, let's throw in the best eight spells and twelve creatures off our Best Multiplayer Cards Available list that aren't in yet. This adds the following:
Dropping the Tribal Elements
This has now stuck the curve at 3-7-8-10-7-5, which is much better. However, we had Death Baron before, and we've now just added Noxious Ghoul and Malakir Bloodwitch. These are all cards that are very dependent on having a lot of their fellow tribe members floating about to work well, so we'd best check out exactly how many zombies and vampires we currently have before we commit to them.
Checking this sees us currently running just two other zombies (Gray Merchant and Fleshbag), and just three other vampires (Blood Artist, Vampire Nighthawk and Bloodghast) - not enough to support any of these guys. Picking the next creatures in the list at the same CC gives us the following changes:
-1 Death Baron
-1 Noxious Ghoul
-1 Malakir Bloodwitch
+1 Stinkweed Imp
+1 Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon
+1 Thrashing Wumpus
The red vote was completed on September 28th 2015.
The Top 40
The red section in a 360-card cube is 50 cards in size. As we are listing the top 80% we are after the top 40 cards in our power rankings for red. This year, we had only 15 cards receive votes, so we will stick with these, and add 25 more down the bottom. In order, these 15 were:
Okay, first things first - let's add the next 25. We need 20 spells and 20 creatures, and we're currently at 4 creatures / 11 spells. So, to round out the 40, let's throw in the best nine spells and sixteen creatures off our Best Multiplayer Cards Available list that aren't in yet. This adds the following:
Dropping the Finishers
This has now stuck the curve at 5-5-9-6-6-9, which is much better. However, out of those nine at CC6+, six of them are creatures, which is a few too many. Let's drop the bottom three. We then want to spread our swaps out over the curve. If we add two CC4s and one CC5, that brings the curve to a very pretty 5-5-9-8-7-6. Delving back into the list gives us the following:
-1 Utvara Hellkite
+1 Lavaborn Muse
We're starting to dredge our rankings a bit, but this is red we're talking about, I suppose!
I'm not going to pretend that anyone will actually draft Aladdin - he's too old, too fragile and too niche. I have Purphoros sitting on the non-creature side. If I classify him as a creature, as some do, let's see what the next non-creature spell at CC4 is...
+1 Chain Reaction
The green vote was completed on October 7th 2015.
The Top 40
The green section in a 360-card cube is 50 cards in size. As we are listing the top 80% we are after the top 40 cards in our power rankings for green. This year, we had only 26 cards receive votes, so we will stick with these, and add 14 more down the bottom. In order, these 26 were:
Okay, first things first - let's add the next 14. Given we are in green, and we are aiming for a 60/40 split between creatures and spells here (in order to balance out against blue, which is the opposite), we need 16 spells and 24 creatures. We find ourselves currently at 13 creatures / 13 spells. So, to round out the 40, let's throw in the best three spells and eleven creatures off our Best Multiplayer Cards Available list that aren't in yet. This adds the following:
Fixing the Curve
This has now stuck the curve at 7-6-4-9-8-6, which is much better. However, we've still got a dip in the curve at CC3. Unfortunately, the creatures at this CC are a pretty sick and sorry bunch, so we'll have to fix this by playing with spells instead. Dropping a CC4 spell and a CC5 spell for two at CC3 will give us a curve of 7-6-6-8-7-6. Close to flat, but better than it was. Delving back into the list gives us the following:
-1 Natural Order
-1 Garruk, Primal Hunter
+1 Beast Within
+1 Enchantress's Presence
Nice cards! We might have to play with enchantments later on to make Enchantress's Presence worthwhile, but it's already got seven other enchantments to play with in green, so it's good enough.
The gold vote was completed on November 2nd 2015.
The Top 40
The gold section in a 360-card cube is 50 cards in size. As we are listing the top 80% we are after the top 40 cards in our power rankings for gold. We split the rankings up amongst guilds this year, and the aim with our 50 gold cards is to break this down further into five cards for each allied guild, four for each enemy guild, and five cards with three or more colours. In order to reach our Top 40, let's take the top four cards from each allied guild, and the top three from each enemy guild, along with the top five with three or more colours.
This gives us the following:
All of this puts our curve at 1-5-9-9-8-8. That's actually really good for gold, which traditionally carries a much higher curve than single colours. Our creature to spell ratio is 24-16, but that's OK, as we normally make up for that in the colourless section. There are just a couple of light tinkers that we need to make:
Gruul is full of beaters, and not carrying anything smaller.
Fixing the Holes
This should be pretty quick...
Swapping Out Dragonlord Kolaghan
Let's delve back into the Best available list and find the next best Rakdos card.... and wow, it's our old friend Kaervek, who barely rated a mention this year, but streeted the competition in the three years previous. Given our curve and creature/spell ratio are OK, that's an easy straight swap:
-1 Dragonlord Kolaghan
+1 Kaervek the Merciless
Lowering Gruul's Curve
Gruul is running the two Xenagoses (Xenagi? I dunno...) and two CC6 beaters in Broodmother and Ruric Thar. Let's at least pretend to care about the curve here, and drop Ruric Thar (who was the lower ranked of the two finishers). Delving back into the list gives us Huntmaster of the Fells further down the curve, which is good enough:
-1 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
+1 Huntmaster of the Fells
This doesn't look too bad for a colourless section, but there are still a few things to play with:
Our curve is 11-2-4-1-0-6. While it's natural to have a big figure in the CC0-1 slot here (given all the mana rocks), the fact we have so many, along with the almost complete lack of CC4-5 cards, is not good for our curve.
We normally try and go for six creatures, six equipment, six mana rocks and six others here, but we have heaps of mana rocks and hardly any equipment.
Our creatures are also really top-heavy - five of our six are CC6 or above.
Fixing the Holes
Let's remove a couple of resets and a couple of bigger creatures, and try to round out the edges as we go.
Fixing the Creature Curve
This has now stuck the curve at 9-2-4-2-1-6. It's not perfect yet, but we've got a finisher or two to drop. If we throw two finishers overboard, and replace them with a CC2 creature and a CC5 creature, we get our curve to an almost-palatable 9-3-4-2-2-4. That's probably as good as it gets, while fielding all that jewelry.
The bottom two finishers were Blightsteel Colossus and Artisan of Kozilek, so we'll drop those two. We didn't have any other colourless creatures receive votes this year, though, so we'll have to dig back into the Best Available list to find a decent CC2 and CC5 creature to add. Doing so yields us Spellskite and Psychosis Crawler, both of whom are perfectly acceptable.
-1 Blightsteel Colossus
-1 Artisan of Kozilek
+1 Psychosis Crawler
In order to break the tie with the fetches, we'll drop them and add the card that finished at #25 - Cabal Coffers.
We also have a problem adding a single Cloudpost to a cube - it becomes a really terrible colourless land when used in isolation. So we'll swap that for the card that finished at #26 - Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx.
Nice that we're only swapping 12 of the land out this year. Two years ago, it was the whole set of 24! Let's delve back into the Best Available list and find the next twelve to swap in that are under budget. Technically, Windswept Heath will qualify for this list, but it's the only fetch of the ten that does, so we'll only use cycles that are completely under our $20 threshold.
-10 Alpha Duals
-1 Tolarian Academy
-1 Gaea's Cradle
+10 Ravnica Bouncelands
+1 Emeria, the Sky Ruin
+1 Kessig Wolf Run
Optimal Multiplayer Cube 2015
Righto, we've done the hard work and put the top 80% of the cube in. It's now time to fill the last section in with our archetypes. As mentioned, we're doing this a little differently this year, adding an archetype per two-colour guild. We have 72 cards left to add, but six of these are land and six are colourless (which aren't normally too guild-related). So for the remaining 60, let's hand six to each guild. For each guild, we'll add one gold card, three of the first guild colour and two of the second. Let's go!
It's important to note here that the archetypes being added here are by no means the best possible to add. That will always be subjective and meta-dependent. What you should be considering when adding archetypes to your cube is whether it forms a cohesive strategy, whether every element is draftable, and, most importantly, whether it is fun.
This is usually where the cube designer adds the pet cards and strategies that their meta loves. As an example, my own personal cube has an Enchantress archetype onboard - not because it's the most effective strategy, even in a Limited environment (because it isn't - I won't waste any more pixels on why openly inviting people to two-for-one your creatures is a bad idea), but because the guys I play with adore it (and yes, it has won games out of my cube)! This is what keeps people coming back to an environment like Cube - not because they can draft what they know are the best cards available, but because of the stonkingly fun time they can have doing so. In that regard, it makes sense to have a bit of fun with the last 20% of your cube!
This time around, I'm going to try and add a strong archetype for each of the ten guilds. Some are known commodities, some are hard work. Let's see what we end up with.
Azorius - Artifacts
White and blue are both quite artifact-centric when they want to be, and, importantly, blue never got a chance to add Tezzeret the Seeker earlier on. He loves Moxen, and wants to help!
So we know we want Tezzeret. We also need to add three white cards, one blue card and an Azorius card to help out.
+1 Tezzeret the Seeker(One of the centrepieces - tutors and ramps fast mana)
+1 Dispeller's Capsule(Good removal, capable of some excellent recursion)
+1 Fountain Watch(Annoying control card for artifact and enchantment decks)
+1 Scourglass(The all-artifact reset)
+1 Muzzio, Visionary Architect(Free artifacts! What could possibly go wrong?)
+1 Hanna, Ship's Navigator(Recursion)
Selesnya - Enchantments
This guild stood a good chance of doing tokens pretty well too, but enchantments are fun too! Enchantress's Presence is already in. We should be able to add three green, two white and one Selesnya pretty easily.
+1 Eidolon of Blossoms(Enchantress effect #2)
+1 Ancestral Mask(Turns any old creature into a surprise finisher)
+1 Asceticism(Another strong enchantment that plays well with this theme)
+1 Sigil of the Empty Throne(A win-con for this archetype)
+1 Soul Snare(Great rattlesnake removal card that triggers Enchantress)
+1 Sterling Grove(Enchantment tutor, protection)
Izzet - Spells Matter
This archetype is fairly well established, and we've been fortunate enough to have a few of the centrepieces miss the initial 80%. This is going to be one of the easier ones to fill out...
+1 Talrand, Sky Summoner(Spams the board and creates value)
+1 Archaeomancer(Recursion, creates combos with Evacuation / Cyclonic Rift)
+1 Mystical Tutor(Fetches the best spell available)
+1 Guttersnipe(Win condition for this archetype)
+1 Young Pyromancer(Another creator of value)
+1 Melek, Izzet Paragon(Another guy to help chew through the spells with)
Golgari - Group Creature Sacrifice
Another one that is fairly easily chosen - Golgari is already rocking Deathreap Ritual, Grave Pact, Innocent Blood, Fleshbag Marauder and Pox. It wants to be all about making people sacrifice creatures and then profiting on it. We're chasing three black, two green and one Golgari card here.
+1 Dictate of Erebos(Grave Pact #2)
+1 Sheoldred, Whispering One (Complete house in this archetype)
+1 Dread Return(Reanimation spell that can also trigger Grave Pact)
+1 Gamekeeper (Excellent creature to throw overboard to sac outlets)
+1 Mitotic Slime (Another guy who produces value when sacrificed. Bonkers with Doubling Season, too)
+1 Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord(And here's our sac outlet of choice. Potential to win the game)
Boros - Damage Redirection
We already have most of the pieces of the classical Repercussion archetype in the cube (including Blasphemous Act, Chain Reaction and Boros Reckoner), so let's build on that.
+1 Mogg Maniac(The little Reckoner)
+1 Arcbond(Surprise finisher spell, essentially forks Acts, Reactions and Earthquakes for three mana)
+1 Coalhauler Swine(Another guy that likes being damaged)
+1 Cho-Manno, Revolutionary(A dude that plays through our strategies)
+1 Solitary Confinement(Prevents damage from our own red things, works well with Enchantress and Reanimator too)
+1 Spitemare(Another pseudo-Reckoner)
Simic - Bounce and Blink
Simic is all about Prophet of Kruphix and Deadeye Navigator right now. We want things with awesome enter-the-battlefield effects that we can flash in at opportune times and then abuse with Deadeye. We've already been handed Eternal Witness, Mystic Snake, Mulldrifter and a few others. Let's see what else we can dig up...
+1 Elvish Harbinger(Surprisingly good creature tutor and mana-fixer that likes being blinked)
+1 Hornet Queen(Spams the board with deathtouching tokens)
+1 Reclamation Sage(Artifact/enchantment removal that works well with blink and the Harbinger)
+1 Whirler Rogue(Spams tokens, produces unblockability, good with artifacts too)
+1 Draining Whelk (A second Mystic Snake)
+1 Prime Speaker Zegana(Quickly ridiculous when bounced repeatedly)
Almost there. We need to add six colourless cards that play nicely with the archetypes above. Let's go with the following:
+1 Mana Vault (A card we dropped early that is tailor-made for artifact decks)
+1 Myr Battlesphere(Lovely with tokens, Goblin Welder, Mimic Vat etc. etc.)
+1 Sculpting Steel(Works with just about everything else)
+1 Trading Post(Wonderful utility)
+1 Loxodon Warhammer (The Noobstick loves working with our Boros and Orzhov cards)
+1 Mirari (Another spell forker for Izzet and Boros)
Okay, we have our optimal cube for 2015. But look at it... it's full of Power Nine, dual lands... if you're just starting out with cube building, this is hardly the cube you're going to build off the bat.
As we've gone through the construction of the optimal cube, we've had budget suggestions the whole way through, as those starting out with cube construction will definitely have a budget of some kind (because we're all playing at kitchen tables as it is). The $20 price limit on any single card cuts out a lot of the unfeasible stuff that the average person is never going to be able to sleeve up in real life, but it also gives a big enough range that someone starting out will be able to see the money cards that they should be aiming to pick up if they haven't already.
Here are the suggested changes from earlier:
So we have an optimal cube, as well as a budget version - it's time for a Legacy-legal version. Why do we do this? As well as being the most accepted Banned/Restricted list for kitchen tables, a Legacy-legal version of the optimal cube ends up quite close to what a cube designer would consider the best feasible thing they can construct (in that they're not going to be shelling out thousands of dollars to power their cube, but it remains carrying some of the most powerful cards ever printed, and has a lot of the unfair stuff identified and removed).
This version will keep cards that are a couple of hundred dollars in value, but will inevitably drop all of the Power Nine and cards rightfully banned for their brokenness.
Removing the Banned Cards
The current Legacy Banned List can be seen here. Thankfully, our budget version already identified replacements for quite a few of these, so we'll make our budget swaps where possible. Where we need something else, we'll discuss it.
White loses a single card in Balance. Let's head back into the construction of our white section, and replace it with the last white reset we dropped (because we sure dropped a few!)... that would be Armageddon (or Ravages of War, if that's how you roll).
-1 Balance / +1 Armageddon
Well, that's it. Thanks to all who voted in the power rankings to aid in the construction of this year's cubes, as well as for your continued interest in my annual mad folly.
If you're just starting out building a Multiplayer-centric cube, by all means use this as a guide, and don't stop if you're missing half of the cards - replace them with whatever is lying around and draft like no tomorrow. Your group will enjoy it regardless! From there, the continual upgrading of your cube is one of life's simple pleasures (but perhaps not your wallet's)!
Thanks to CubeTutor's fan-diddly-tastic cube comparison page, it's easy to have a look at what has changed since last year. Rather than going into it in gory detail here, it's easier to just link to the pages.
* - Chosen as part of an archetype in the final phase of cube construction. Or, in other words, you didn't vote for them, I just stuck them in later because I felt like it.
What It Costs To Build
Thankfully for me, CubeTutor has added a pricing feature in the last twelve months. Running that across our three cubes gives us the following:
Optimal Cube - $71,753.09
Legacy-Legal Cube - $1,790.77
Budget Cube - $1,341.73
The Optimal Cube's price is assuming Alpha copies of the Power Nine and dual lands, so it is through the roof appropriately!
As you can see, we basically cull $450 off the cost of construction simply by swapping out anything over $20 a copy in the Budget Cube. Don't let the price of the Budget Cube keep you away from building your own - this only proves how easy it is to build a cube on a budget, culling a quarter of the price off it without even trying. I have even seen the beginnings of attempts at Multiplayer Pauper in the last twelve months, and it should theoretically be possible (97 of the 360 cards in the Budget Cube are Pauper-legal, so it's more than a quarter of the way there already).
Even my own cube started out as roughly 50% coming from a Lorwyn common/uncommon playset I had bought (and the cube was very, very tribal for the first year or two as a result!), so don't be frightened off building your own by price or card availability - this is an optimal cube (and even mine is not optimal!), and is only a guide to aim for long-term. Until then, sleeve up what you have, and go have more fun than you could possibly imagine.
Ready, Set, Draft!
Anyway, that's enough facts and stats. I'm not silly. I know what you want. You want to hurry up and draft the suckers! Ask and you shall receive - here are the links to all three cubes on CubeTutor. Enjoy drafting them, feel free to give me any feedback, and, as always, please support Ben, the CubeTutor admin!