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.
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.
Let's just take a look at each of the eleven archetypes.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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 www.twitch.tv/linuka. 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.