Spotlight Cube Series – Live the Dream

Posted in Magic Online on September 7, 2020

By David McDarby

Hello! My name is David McDarby, and I'm an operations administrator and game designer here at Wizards of the Coast. You might know me from being the creator of Commander VS, or that guy who's been cosplaying as Jace Beleren or Ral Zarek for about a decade.

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2011: The last U.S. Nationals at Gen Con

I'm here to tell you about a cube that I've been working on, which is the next entry in the Spotlight Cube Series: Live the Dream!

Ask any of my friends or coworkers, and they'll tell you that I'm pretty into Commander. I've been on multiple design teams for it and have created tons of content for it, with this cube being my most recent endeavor. The main goal of this cube is to carry over some of the feelings of playing that format into a Limited environment where you get to feel like you're building a Commander deck on the fly! What this means is that this is a format with multiple layered synergies and archetypes in a slow enough environment to allow crazy multi-card machinations to unfold, but not quite as time-consuming as your average Commander game. Shenanigans abound in this cube, with so many wacky combos and decision trees that you might even experience something that inspires you to build a new Commander deck. I sure did!

The power band here is a bit lower than in most cubes, with cards generally chosen for their raw potential for greatness and their interactivity with other parts of the cube, rather than for their brutal efficiency. We'll leave that for 60-card formats. Here, cards cost more mana, have more versatility, and are more, dare I say, mythic. So instead of cards like Jackal Pup and Counterspell, we're talking Fiery Emancipation and Sublime Epiphany.

But I had a lot of help devising this complex web of maniacal synergies. David White (@thrilryder) was there 11 years ago when I just started playing this wonderful game to tell me that Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind and Curiosity was not a good way to make friends while navigating a format called "EDH." It is only fitting that over a decade later, he applied some rationality to my more ambitious ideas and reined in my fierce appetite to make every card have an average of three mana symbols and a converted mana cost of 5.

Working on every Limited environment we construct here at Wizards combined with my love of Commander deck building drew me to an archetype-heavy cube that aims to blend the line between synergy and combo. Now, when I say combo, I don't mean combining Deceiver Exarch and Splinter Twin on turn four to immediately end the game. I mean things like Righteous Confluence and Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose. Mizzix's Mastery and Aminatou's Augury. Each color pair has an archetype with the potential to, as we say in the biz, Live the Dream.

Let's just take a look at each of the eleven archetypes.

White-Blue Blink

  • Brago, King Eternal
  • Conjurer's Closet
  • Cavalier of Dawn
  • Watcher for Tomorrow

Enter the battlefield effects are aplenty in all the colors in this format, but white and blue have the best tools to abuse them. Attempt to wreak havoc in the skies and grind all who oppose you to dust one cantrip at a time! Now Thassa good time.

Blue-Black Ninja Thievery

  • Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow
  • Thief of Sanity
  • Knowledge Exploitation
  • Praetor's Grasp

Ninja Pose! Sneak through your opponent's defenses with evasive creatures and turn their own spells against them! Maybe even pick up some of your own creatures for ninjutsu value as you pick up your opponent's goodies. Plus, you get to say cool things like "I Despise you" and "I attack with Looter il-Kor" as you turn your opponent's dreams into their own nightmares.

Black-Red Self-Discard

  • Chainer, Nightmare Adept
  • Azra Oddsmaker
  • Bone Miser
  • Squee, Goblin Nabob

Generally, you want your opponents to discard cards, but here, you want to pitch those cards from your hand into your graveyard and turn it into a rave-yard. Madness? No, this is Cube. Whether you're cheating Yidaro, Wandering Monster into play, churning through your deck with Tomb Robber, or just casting big 'ol Rakdos, the Showstopper, your music will be playing at double speed, as somebody's life total is sure to be low.

Red-Green Bigguns

  • Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
  • Sarkhan's Unsealing
  • Warstorm Surge
  • Ghalta, Primal Hunger

If you prefer large creatures, and you cannot slander, have I got an archetype for you. Set up with some small creatures that make mana, then go to town and start deploying high-powered creatures to mess up said town. All creatures beeg and smol are able to help keep the cards and damage flowing at a remarkable rate, and I've yet to meet somebody who can outsmart a 12/12 on turn four.

Green-White Copy Populate

  • Trostani, Selesnya's Voice
  • Spitting Image
  • Doubling Season
  • Helm of the Host

Like most everything else in this cube, this theme goes over the top. Going wide with a battalion of 1/1s is fine and all, but what about an army of Honored Hydras? Sculptures, Food, Cats, Wolves, Wurms, Treasure, Phyrexian Praetors; really anything in this cube can be doubled. Splash a Mirror March, and you could even go infinite! Doubling Season's interaction with planeswalkers in this cube is a feature, not a bug.

White-Black Life Manipulation

  • Karlov of the Ghost Council
  • Witch of the Moors
  • Felidar Sovereign
  • Crested Sunmare

People may laugh at you for playing cards that gain life in your deck, but they won't be laughing when you drain them for 15. The game's only over once somebody runs out of life, and you've got the most of it. This is the archetype that will make you the most thankful when Play Design puts "gain two life" onto a removal sell.

Blue-Red Chonky Spells

  • Jhoira of the Ghitu
  • Omnispell Adept
  • Expropriate
  • Searing Wind

Cast spells with more chonk than is reasonable for the midgame, and if you're really feeling it, copy them a time or two. Planeswalkers and extra turns are a combo, and you don't need mana fixing for Cruel Ultimatum or Inspired Ultimatum when you're casting them without paying their mana costs. For you math fans, I've included Double Vision, Precursor Golem, and Rite of Replication. Good luck!

Black-Green Graveyard Critters

  • Izoni, Thousand-Eyed
  • Spider Spawning
  • Syr Konrad, the Grim
  • Genesis

If you're reading this, you probably enjoy Spider Spawning. Good news everyone: it's an entire archetype! Mill it with Carrion Grub, find it with Gravebreaker Lamia, or rebuy it with Greenwarden of Murasa; the possibilities are endless. As long as these possibilities involve arachnids or insects.

Red-White Damage Redirection

  • Boros Reckoner
  • Blasphemous Act
  • Stuffy Doll
  • Swans of Bryn Argoll

Sometimes red spells deal more damage than is reasonable to creatures, and being unreasonable is what this cube is all about. While removal spells alone cannot traditionally win you the game, it sure can here. Red-white decks are not as combat oriented in this cube as in most environments but pile up the damage doublers, and even Thraben Inspector will be a force to reckon with in the archetype that finally proves Chain Lightning can be better than Lightning Bolt.

Green-Blue Flash

  • Prophet of Kruphix
  • Glademuse
  • Yeva, Nature's Herald
  • Voracious Greatshark

Everybody loves mana, but instead of doubling it to cast ten mana spells on turn five, here we double it wide to cast spells on your opponent's turn. Getting to "untap" every turn means you're playing twice as much! Plus, who wants to auto yield all the time when you've got cards to draw? This is the color pair most likely to draw two cards with Fblthp, the Lost, and is there any greater dream than that?

Five-Color Dream

  • Coalition Victory
  • Chromatic Orrery
  • Niv-Mizzet Reborn
  • Sisay, Weatherlight Captain

The dreamiest archetype of them all aims to cast all the sweetest cards in the multiverse. Bloom Tender and Faeburrow Elder will be your BFFs, and ideally, your cards will just be better than your opponents'. Get yourself a good Companion at your side, some nice mana fixing, and if your cards don't say "win the game" de jure, they sure say it de facto.

And those are just the eleven main archetypes of the cube! If you're not feeling any of these, I've also included a dino-sized helping of single-card build-arounds. Like any Izzet mage worth their Mizzium, not even I can fully comprehend what this cube is capable of, but I hope y'all find ways to break it, and most importantly, have fun doing so.

  • Unbound Flourishing
  • Prime Speaker Vannifar
  • Offspring's Revenge
  • Sunforger
  • Reki, the History of Kamigawa
  • Yarok, the Desecrated
  • Kess, Dissident Mage

I've dedicated my life to this game and have had a blast designing and playing this cube, and I plan on streaming it all next week at Feel free to reach out to me in whatever way works for you if you'd like to chat about this cube or Magic. While I've been living the dream being #WotCStaff for over half a decade, I sincerely hope you are also able to live your own dream; whether it's while drafting this cube, aspiring to achieve any other goal you may have in life, or just casting Cruel Ultimatum.

—David McDarby
@J_Beleren on Twitter
Linuka on Twitch

Full Cube List

Card Name Color
Giver of Runes W
Rhys the Redeemed W
Thraben Inspector W
Bounty Agent W
Charming Prince W
Hero of Precinct One W
Knight of the White Orchid W
Selfless Spirit W
Soulfire Grand Master W
Wall of Omens W
Blade Splicer W
Doomed Artisan W
Flickerwisp W
Kitchen Finks GW
Lurrus of the Dream-Den WB
Mangara of Corondor W
Mentor of the Meek W
Mirror Entity W
Recruiter of the Guard W
Resplendent Angel W
Stormwild Capridor W
Verge Rangers W
Emiel the Blessed W
Gisela, the Broken Blade W
Palace Jailer W
Restoration Angel W
Rhox Faithmender W
Selfless Squire W
Swans of Bryn Argoll WU
Angel of Sanctions W
Archangel of Thune W
Cavalier of Dawn W
Crested Sunmare W
Karmic Guide W
Lyra Dawnbringer W
Regal Caracal W
Reveillark W
Wingmate Roc W
Felidar Sovereign W
Sun Titan W
Sunblast Angel W
Bruna, the Fading Light W
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite W
Ajani, Strength of the Pride W
Serra the Benevolent W
Elspeth Tirel W
Elspeth, Sun's Champion W
Ephemerate W
Angelic Ascension W
Blessed Alliance W
Sundering Growth GW
Unexpectedly Absent W
Valorous Stance W
Generous Gift W
Orim's Thunder W
Entrapment Maneuver W
Settle the Wreckage W
Finale of Glory W
Martial Coup W
Entreat the Angels W
Righteous Confluence W
Austere Command W
Dawn of Hope W
Banishing Light W
Oblivion Ring W
Anointed Procession W
Cast Out W
Faith's Fetters W
Elspeth Conquers Death W
True Conviction W
Spectral Sailor U
Fblthp, the Lost U
Ghostly Pilferer U
Lighthouse Chronologist U
Looter il-Kor U
Mindshrieker U
Snapcaster Mage U
Watcher for Tomorrow U
Barrin, Tolarian Archmage U
Champion of Wits U
Sea Gate Oracle U
Thada Adel, Acquisitor U
Vizier of Tumbling Sands U
Wavebreak Hippocamp U
Phyrexian Metamorph U
Sakashima's Student U
Sower of Temptation U
Spark Double U
Thassa, Deep-Dwelling U
Urza, Lord High Artificer U
Djinn of Wishes U
Master of Predicaments U
Mulldrifter U
Omnispell Adept U
Riftwing Cloudskate U
Thryx, the Sudden Storm U
Voracious Greatshark U
Yorion, Sky Nomad WU
Deadeye Navigator U
Dream Eater U
Torrential Gearhulk U
Scholar of the Lost Trove U
Teferi, Master of Time U
Censor U
Narset's Reversal U
Pull from Tomorrow U
Remand U
Thassa's Intervention U
Complicate U
Dominate U
Supreme Will U
Whirlwind Denial U
Fact or Fiction U
Insidious Will U
Ætherspouts U
Spell Swindle U
Sublime Epiphany U
Supplant Form U
Commit // Memory U
Dig Through Time U
Nexus of Fate U
See the Truth U
Mythos of Illuna U
Rite of Replication U
Part the Waterveil U
Aminatou's Augury U
Expropriate U
Knowledge Exploitation U
Temporal Mastery U
Temporal Trespass U
Midnight Clock U
Search for Azcanta U
Shark Typhoon U
Asylum Visitor B
Brain Maggot B
Glint-Sleeve Siphoner B
Kitesail Freebooter B
Mire Triton B
Order of Midnight B
Coffin Queen B
Doomed Necromancer B
Embodiment of Agonies B
Isareth the Awakener B
Kheru Mind-Eater B
Murderous Rider B
Plaguecrafter B
Stinkweed Imp B
Tomb Robber B
Undead Gladiator B
Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose B
Carrion Grub B
Corpse Augur B
Gonti, Lord of Luxury B
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet B
Nightmare Shepherd B
Rankle, Master of Pranks B
Ravenous Chupacabra B
Archfiend of Ifnir B
Bone Miser B
Doom Whisperer B
Gravebreaker Lamia B
Puppeteer Clique B
Shadowborn Demon B
Shriekmaw B
Street Wraith B
Syr Konrad, the Grim B
Witch of the Moors B
Gyruda, Doom of Depths UB
Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni B
Noxious Gearhulk B
Rune-Scarred Demon B
Sheoldred, Whispering One B
Liliana, Death's Majesty B
Erebos's Intervention B
Tragic Slip B
Heartless Act B
Mythos of Nethroi B
Makeshift Mannequin B
Price of Fame B
Vraska's Contempt B
Despise B
Divest B
Agonizing Remorse B
Collective Brutality B
Finale of Eternity B
Mire in Misery B
Murderous Compulsion B
Ransack the Lab B
Ichor Slick B
Parting Thoughts B
Praetor's Grasp B
Extinction Event B
Final Parting B
Living Death B
Whip of Erebos B
Bolas's Citadel B
Heartless Summoning B
Necromancy B
Sanguine Bond B
Dismissive Pyromancer R
Generator Servant R
Marauding Raptor R
Rix Maadi Reveler R
Bonecrusher Giant R
Dualcaster Mage R
Feldon of the Third Path R
Glint-Horn Buccaneer R
Imperial Recruiter R
Izzet Chemister R
Seasoned Pyromancer R
Sin Prodder R
Squee, Goblin Nabob R
Stromkirk Occultist R
Heart-Piercer Manticore R
Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion R
Rosheen Meanderer RG
Shaman of the Great Hunt R
Spitemare RW
Surly Badgersaur R
Wildfire Devils R
Brash Taunter R
Ilharg, the Raze-Boar R
Neheb, the Eternal R
Obosh, the Preypiercer BR
Terror of the Peaks R
Thunderblust R
Combustible Gearhulk R
Etali, Primal Storm R
Flayer of the Hatebound R
Spitebellows R
Drakuseth, Maw of Flames R
Yidaro, Wandering Monster R
Chandra, Torch of Defiance R
Jaya Ballard R
Lightning Bolt R
Abrade R
Electrodominance R
Fists of Flame R
Shredded Sails R
Thrill of Possibility R
Chaos Warp R
Fiery Temper R
Grab the Reins R
Violent Eruption R
Searing Wind R
Chain Lightning R
Faithless Looting R
Gamble R
Rolling Earthquake R
Avacyn's Judgment R
Cathartic Reunion R
Collective Defiance R
Fight with Fire R
Cut // Ribbons BR
Fiery Confluence R
Ignite the Future R
Mizzix's Mastery R
Chandra's Ignition R
Blasphemous Act R
Star of Extinction R
Pyromancer's Goggles R
Pyrohemia R
Sarkhan's Unsealing R
Double Vision R
Fiery Emancipation R
Mirror March R
Warstorm Surge R
Avacyn's Pilgrim G
Gilded Goose G
Llanowar Elves G
Bloom Tender G
Fauna Shaman G
Fiend Artisan BG
Génesis Hydra G
Incubation Druid G
Lotus Cobra G
Satyr Wayfinder G
Scavenging Ooze G
Voracious Hydra G
Wildborn Preserver G
Beanstalk Giant G
Courser of Kruphix G
Dryad of the Ilysian Grove G
Eternal Witness G
Glademuse G
Llanowar Visionary G
Reclamation Sage G
Reki, the History of Kamigawa G
Selesnya Eulogist G
Selvala, Heart of the Wilds G
Shaman of Forgotten Ways G
Somberwald Sage G
Tireless Tracker G
Beast Whisperer G
Bramble Sovereign G
Briarhorn G
Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma G
Neyith of the Dire Hunt G
Nightpack Ambusher G
Seed Guardian G
Vizier of the Menagerie G
Yeva, Nature's Herald G
Conclave Naturalists G
Génesis G
Keruga, the Macrosage GU
Kessig Cagebreakers G
Seedborn Muse G
Greenwarden of Murasa G
Honored Hydra G
Kogla, the Titan Ape G
End-Raze Forerunners G
Ghalta, Primal Hunger G
Nyxbloom Ancient G
Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner GU
Garruk, Primal Hunter G
Vivien, Monsters' Advocate G
Grapple with the Past G
Beast Within G
Primal Might G
Commune with the Gods G
Finale of Devastation G
Rhonas's Last Stand G
Winding Way G
Migration Path G
Spitting Image GU
Vivien's Arkbow G
Birthing Pod G
The Great Henge G
Garruk's Uprising G
Unbound Flourishing G
Guardian Project G
Parallel Lives G
Wilderness Reclamation G
Doubling Season G
Momentary Blink WU
Soulherder WU
Brago, King Eternal WU
Elite Guardmage WU
Cloudblazer WU
Venser, the Sojourner WU
Thief of Sanity UB
Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow UB
Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths UB
Etrata, the Silencer UB
Hostage Taker UB
Fallen Shinobi UB
Havengul Lich UB
Silent-Blade Oni UB
Angrath's Rampage BR
Grenzo, Dungeon Warden BR
Anje Falkenrath BR
Azra Oddsmaker BR
Kolaghan's Command BR
Chainer, Nightmare Adept BR
Rakdos, the Showstopper BR
Apocalypse Hydra RG
Radha, Heart of Keld RG
Nikya of the Old Ways RG
Zilortha, Strength Incarnate RG
Ravager Wurm RG
Ruric Thar, the Unbowed RG
Dragonlord Atarka RG
Eladamri's Call GW
Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage GW
Voice of Resurgence GW
Faeburrow Elder GW
Knight of Autumn GW
Advent of the Wurm GW
Trostani, Selesnya's Voice GW
Karlov of the Ghost Council WB
Vizkopa Guildmage WB
Kaya's Guile WB
Kaya, Ghost Assassin WB
Vona, Butcher of Magan WB
Sorin, Grim Nemesis WB
Skull Prophet BG
Nyx Weaver BG
Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord BG
Polukranos, Unchained BG
Spider Spawning BG
Underrealm Lich BG
Izoni, Thousand-Eyed BG
Hydroid Krasis GU
Frilled Mystic GU
Mystic Snake GU
Prime Speaker Vannifar GU
Rashmi, Eternities Crafter GU
Prophet of Kruphix GU
Progenitor Mimic GU
Electrolyze UR
Jhoira of the Ghitu UR
Ral Zarek UR
Ral, Storm Conduit UR
Prophetic Bolt UR
Expansion // Explosion UR
Boros Charm RW
Lightning Helix RW
Boros Reckoner RW
Sunforger RW
Truefire Captain RW
Gisela, Blade of Goldnight RW
Response // Resurgence RW
Kess, Dissident Mage UBR
Cruel Ultimatum UBR
Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker UBR
Ghired, Conclave Exile RGW
Inspired Ultimatum URW
Villainous Wealth BGU
Zaxara, the Exemplary BGU
Yarok, the Desecrated BGU
Alesha, Who Smiles at Death RWB
Offspring's Revenge RWB
Temur Ascendancy GUR
Kalamax, the Stormsire GUR
Riku of Two Reflections GUR
Sisay, Weatherlight Captain WUBRG
Chromanticore WUBRG
Golos, Tireless Pilgrim WUBRG
Jegantha, the Wellspring WUBRG
Kenrith, the Returned King WUBRG
Maelstrom Archangel WUBRG
Maelstrom Nexus WUBRG
Niv-Mizzet Reborn WUBRG
Coalition Victory WUBRG
Stonecoil Serpent colorless
Walking Ballista colorless
Burnished Hart colorless
Palladium Myr colorless
Pilgrim's Eye colorless
Crystalline Crawler colorless
Solemn Simulacrum colorless
Precursor Golem colorless
Stuffy Doll colorless
Wurmcoil Engine colorless
Karn, Scion of Urza colorless
Shadowspear colorless
Wayfarer's Bauble colorless
Azor's Gateway colorless
Azorius Signet colorless
Blackblade Reforged colorless
Boros Signet colorless
Dimir Signet colorless
Fellwar Stone colorless
Golgari Signet colorless
Gruul Signet colorless
Idol of Oblivion colorless
Izzet Signet colorless
Key to the City colorless
Mind Stone colorless
Orzhov Signet colorless
Prismatic Lens colorless
Rakdos Signet colorless
Selesnya Signet colorless
Simic Signet colorless
Sword of the Animist colorless
Thaumatic Compass colorless
Treasure Map colorless
Bonder's Ornament colorless
Chromatic Lantern colorless
Heirloom Blade colorless
Mimic Vat colorless
Oblivion Stone colorless
Empowered Autogenerator colorless
Firemind Vessel colorless
Hedron Archive colorless
Helm of the Host colorless
Conjurer's Closet colorless
Chromatic Orrery colorless
God-Pharaoh's Gift colorless
Glacial Fortress WU land
Hallowed Fountain WU land
Irrigated Farmland WU land
Tundra WU land
Drowned Catacomb UB land
Fetid Pools UB land
Underground Sea UB land
Watery Grave UB land
Badlands BR land
Blood Crypt BR land
Canyon Slough BR land
Dragonskull Summit BR land
Kessig Wolf Run RG land
Rootbound Crag RG land
Sheltered Thicket RG land
Stomping Ground RG land
Taiga RG land
Savannah GW land
Scattered Groves GW land
Sunpetal Grove GW land
Temple Garden GW land
Godless Shrine WB land
Isolated Chapel WB land
Scoured Barrens WB land
Scrubland WB land
Vault of the Archangel WB land
Bayou BG land
Blooming Marsh BG land
Overgrown Tomb BG land
Woodland Cemetery BG land
Breeding Pool GU land
Hinterland Harbor GU land
Lumbering Falls GU land
Tropical Island GU land
Steam Vents UR land
Sulfur Falls UR land
Temple of Epiphany UR land
Volcanic Island UR land
Clifftop Retreat RW land
Plateau RW land
Sacred Foundry RW land
Sunbaked Canyon RW land
Seaside Citadel GWU land
Arcane Sanctum WUB land
Crumbling Necropolis UBR land
Savage Lands BRG land
Jungle Shrine RGW land
Indatha Triome WBG land
Raugrin Triome URW land
Zagoth Triome BGU land
Savai Triome RWB land
Ketria Triome GUR land
Arid Mesa RW land
Bloodstained Mire BR land
City of Brass WUBRG land
Exotic Orchard Land
Fabled Passage Land
Field of the Dead colorless land
Flooded Strand WU land
Grand Coliseum WUBRG land
Mana Confluence Land
Marsh Flats WB land
Misty Rainforest GU land
Polluted Delta UB land
Prismatic Vista Land
Reflecting Pool Land
Scalding Tarn UR land
Shelldock Isle U land
Verdant Catacombs BG land
Windswept Heath GW land
Wooded Foothills RG land

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