Spotlight Cube Series – Nega-Cube

Posted in Magic Online on March 30, 2021

By Natalie Weizenbaum

Natalie Weizenbaum is a longtime cube designer and entrant into the You Make the Cube contest. Her submission for a Cube designed around the Modern format helped inform the Magic Online Modern Cube.

Welcome to Nega-Cube! Available on Magic Online from March 31 through April 7, the latest in the Spotlight Cube Series looks at great cards that haven't been a part of the popular Eternal format cubes before.

Filled with surprises and focused on interesting choices, Nega-Cube gives players one week to explore everything it has to offer. Hop into the Magic Online Limited Lobby to check out a cube unlike any other you've seen before!

Hey there, cubists! My name is Natalie Weizenbaum (@nex3 on Twitter), and I've been running drafts of my personal cube here in Seattle for about a decade now. I call it "Moddy," and you may know it as the basis for the first two iterations of Magic Online's Modern cube, which I also designed!

When Allison reached out about doing a spotlight cube, I decided I wanted to make something new and unusual. To that end, I came up with a restriction that's only possible in this new era of cubing where Magic Online's cubes are the center of gravity for what constitutes a "canonical" cube: only cards that are not in the most recent versions of Magic Online's Modern Cube, Legacy Cube, and Vintage Cube are legal.

I call it Nega-Cube, for the negative space it inhabits.

A New Kind of Low-Power Cube

I've always been intrigued by the idea of low-power cubes that are designed to play down the incredible bombs and massive blowouts that are a staple of traditional "all the best cards" cube construction. This is usually accomplished by limiting the cube to a subset of cards that tend to be more "fair," such as Pauper cubes that only allow commons, Peasant cubes that also allow uncommons, and even more unusual concepts like Harper O'Neill's Core Set Cube. But even though each of these restrictions lends its own unique flavor to the resulting cube, they also exclude many thousands of possible cards that would otherwise match those cubes' power levels.

When I was designing Nega-Cube, there were only 899 cards that I couldn't use. Because those 899 included the majority of the most powerful cards ever printed, the power level was inherently limited but the card selection was wide open. This let me create an environment that had the depth of drafting and deck building that I wanted from a cube while also featuring interactive creature-based gameplay that's closer to a booster draft.

  • Sylvan Library
  • Goblin Guide
  • Swords to Plowshares
  • 489754
  • Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Not found in Nega-Cube.

I didn't just take all the most powerful cards in the remainder of Magic, of course. Every draft format will have some power variation from card to card, and thus some number of cards that function like "bombs," so I carefully curated which bombs would exist in the cube. There are only sixteen planeswalkers in the cube: one for each single color, one for each color pair, and Ugin, the Ineffable. Although none of these planeswalkers is the most powerful in its color pair, I tried to put the cube at a level where they're among the best cards available. I want to capture the excitement you feel when you crack open a booster at the start of a draft and see a planeswalker beckoning you to draft it.

Restrictions Breed Headaches

When I started building Nega-Cube, I realized that my clever restriction was going to cause me a bit more hassle than I had originally anticipated. Of course, it blocked my access to all the most powerful cards, but the MTGO cubes also have their fair share of role-players: cards that fill a specific need or enable a specific synergy without being all that powerful by their own merits. When I needed better early plays for the blink strategy, I realized that Wall of Omens and Satyr Wayfinder were off limits. When a play tester told me red wanted more discard to grease the wheels of black-red sacrifice reanimator, I discovered that Rix Maadi Reveler was forbidden. Even Wilt-Leaf Liege snuck her way into the Modern Cube at some point when I wasn't paying attention!

This is especially tricky for more recent sets, where the MTGO cubes tend to test out a bunch of cards at first and only later cut those that aren't a good fit. I don't know whether Thassa, Deep-Dwelling will make it into the next iteration of Modern Cube, but I certainly can't use it today!

The other side of that coin, though, is that I get almost unfettered access to cards from Kaldheim. Only the Vintage Cube has seen play since Kaldheim released, so I get to use any cards that might yet make it into Legacy Cube or Modern Cube—as long as I don't think they're too powerful, of course.

If you pay very close attention, you may also see a place where I followed the letter of the law more than the spirit by including a card that's functionally identical to one in Modern Cube. In my defense, if it were really that powerful, they'd have included multiple copies in the first place like they do for Llanowar Elves, Fyndhorn Elves, and Elvish Mystic. (Don't tell Allison!) [I won't. – Allison]

Archetype Clusters and Overlap Cards

To my mind, some of the most fun you can have when drafting is finding ways to mix and match different aspects of different archetypes to build a deck that feels wholly unique. To that end, when building Nega-Cube, I wanted to make the supported archetypes extend beyond two-color pairs doing something in isolation and into clusters that could overlap and interact in interesting ways. Most archetypes are present in three (or more) colors, even though most decks in those archetypes will tend to play two colors or a splash. Which two colors a deck chooses and how it overlaps with other archetypes strongly influences that deck's feel.

To make this all run smoothly, I use as many overlap cards as I can find. These are cards that can fit in multiple archetypes and are at their best when those archetypes are combined. Much like creatures with changeling help enable tribal synergies in Kaldheim, these overlap cards provide synergistic options for multiple decks at once and make it possible to bridge archetypes.

Here are the primary archetype clusters I've designed for Nega-Cube:

Artifacts (White-Blue-Red)

This archetype cluster is all about the silver frames, but it doesn't play like the colorless ramp decks you may be used to in Vintage Cube and Legacy Cube.

Colorless cards like Foundry Inspector and Scrap Trawler help bind it all together.

Blink (Green-White-Blue)

This archetype cluster, which is built around enters-the-battlefield (ETB) abilities and ways to rebuy them, was a staple of high-power cubes back when I first started cubing. It was gradually pushed out as the high end of raw power increased, so I'm excited to bring it back to life in Nega-Cube. Each color brings its own skills to the table:

Conjurer's Closet and Panharmonicon are both excellent colorless supports, although there are enough ETBs throughout the cube that you'll need to take them quickly!

Sacrifice (Black-Red-Green)

This archetype cluster may seem familiar to Historic players: send your creatures (or artifacts!) to the graveyard for fun and profit. Although Korvold, Fae-Cursed King would love it if you played a full Jund deck, you can also specialize in a two-color archetype:

The colorless section provides support in the form of sacrifice fodder like Perilous Myr and outlets like Mortarpod.

Reanimator (Black and X)

This archetype cluster will probably feel the most familiar to drafters of the official MTGO cubes. The bones are the same: put a big strong creature into the graveyard, then bring it back for way less than its normal mana cost (maybe even multiple times!). The core cards of this archetype, like Blood for Bones, Diabolic Servitude, and Stitcher's Supplier, are all black, but it can combine well with any other color for unique benefits:

There aren't many colorless cards specifically devoted to this archetype, but there are high-cost, high-power creatures scattered throughout the colors that are great reanimation targets, such as Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger and Zetalpa, Primal Dawn.

Aggro (Red-White and X)

It's crucial for a well-balanced cube to have viable aggressive archetypes to keep the pace of play quick and keep the most grindy strategies in check. I've already talked about the red-white equipment deck, but either red or white can also serve as a base for an aggressive deck with any other color.

Each secondary color also brings something valuable to the table:

Cheaty Ramp (Green)

This archetype isn't part of a cluster. It can work well on its own as a monocolored deck, or it can be spliced onto another archetype as an extra angle of attack. All it cares about is getting big, expensive creatures into play by any means possible. You can either ramp to them with cards like Fertile Ground and Overgrowth or put them directly into play with Elvish Piper or Champion of Rhonas. Make your inner Timmy happy!

Click to see full Cube List

Card Name
Castle Ardenvale
Benevolent Bodyguard
Dauntless Bodyguard
Gideon's Lawkeeper
Harm's Way
Skymarcher Aspirant
Soldier of the Pantheon
Soul Warden
Stave Off
Toolcraft Exemplar
Adorned Pouncer
Auriok Sunchaser
Cloistered Youth
Hanweir Militia Captain
Imposing Sovereign
Kor Blademaster
Luminarch Aspirant
Mikaeus, the Lunarch
Momentary Blink
Puresteel Paladin
Shrine of Loyal Legions
Stone Haven Outfitter
Swift Response
Temporal Isolation
Valorous Stance
Halvar, God of Battle
Banisher Priest
Bygone Bishop
Collective Effort
Doomed Artisan
Hanged Executioner
Kemba, Kha Regent
Kor Hookmaster
Maul of the Skyclaves
Prison Realm
Prison Term
Sigrid, God-Favored
Starnheim Courser
Thopter Arrest
Vizier of Deferment
Ajani Goldmane
Basri's Lieutenant
Breath of Life
False Defeat
Force of Virtue
Galepowder Mage
Glimmerpoint Stag
Hieromancer's Cage
Kongming, "Sleeping Dragon"
Leonin Warleader
Marshal's Anthem
Master Splicer
Sanctum Gargoyle
Archangel of Thune
Cataclysmic Gearhulk
Dictate of Heliod
Geist-Honored Monk
Karmic Guide
Miraculous Recovery
Stonehewer Giant
Wingmate Roc
Heavenly Blademaster
Linvala, the Preserver
Phyrexian Rebirth
Highcliff Felidar
Zetalpa, Primal Dawn
Castle Vantress
Curator of Mysteries
Enclave Cryptologist
Faerie Seer
Force Spike
Hieroglyphic Illumination
Mental Note
Phantasmal Bear
Spectral Sailor
Wishing Well
Daring Saboteur
Etherium Sculptor
False Summoning
Frost Walker
Glint-Neck Crane
Memory Lapse
Radical Idea
Scour all Possibilities
Thought Courier
Warkite Marauder
Watcher for Tomorrow
Aether Adept
Alirios, Enraptured
Barrin, Tolarian Archmage
Cloudkin Seer
Crystal Shard
Exclusion Mage
Frost Lynx
Midnight Clock
Psionic Blast
Sai, Master Thopterist
Saw it Coming
Sea Gate Oracle
Sinister Sabotage
Tome Raider
Tribute Mage
Wake Thrasher
Behold the Multiverse
Clever Impersonator
Faerie Mechanist
Master of Winds
Master Transmuter
Mist Raven
Rain of Revelation
Reverse Engineer
Thopter Spy Network
Wing Splicer
Body Double
Cavalier of Gales
Icefall Regent
Mind Control
Pondering Mage
Primordial Mist
Shipwreck Dowser
Tezzeret, Artifice Master
Boon of the Wish-Giver
Deadeye Navigator
Shimmer Dragon
Scholar of the Lost Trove
Waker of Waves
Castle Locthwain
Bloodsoaked Champion
Carrion Feeder
Diregraf Ghoul
Guul Draz Assassin
Mortician Beetle
Spark Harvest
Stitcher's Supplier
Tragic Slip
Vampire Lacerator
Village Rites
Viscera Seer
Asylum Visitor
Blind Creeper
Blood Artist
Cast Down
Dreadhorde Invasion
Epic Downfall
Mire Triton
Priest of Forgotten Gods
Reassembling Skeleton
Sign in Blood
Skirsdag High Priest
Ultimate Price
Victim of Night
Zulaport Cutthroat
Price of Fame
Bastion of Remembrance
Doomed Necromancer
Herald of Torment
Inscription of Ruin
Liliana's Specter
Nadier's Nightblade
Pitiless Horde
Poison the Cup
Rise of the Dread Marn
Ruinous Path
Stinkweed Imp
Undead Gladiator
Underworld Connections
Abyssal Persecutor
Blood for Bones
Diabolic Servitude
Eradicator Valkyrie
Hell's Caretaker
Rite of Belzenlok
Vigor Mortis
Whisper, Blood Liturgist
Beacon of Unrest
Bloodgift Demon
Crux of Fate
Ghoulcaller Gisa
Massacre Girl
Rescue from the Underworld
Sidisi, Undead Vizier
Unbreakable Bond
Command the Dreadhorde
Demonlord Belzenlok
Ever After
Patron of the Vein
Sorin Markov
Rune-Scarred Demon
Scion of Darkness
Vilis, Broker of Blood
Black Sun's Zenith
Kazuul's Fury
Song-Mad Treachery
Claim the Firstborn
Dead // Gone
Fervent Champion
Fireblade Charger
Galvanic Blast
Jackal Pup
Kuldotha Rebirth
Magma Spray
Reckless Abandon
Reckless Waif
Spikeshot Elder
Stromkirk Noble
Weaponize the Monsters
Aether Chaser
Arc Trail
Careless Celebrant
Cathartic Reunion
Dark-Dweller Oracle
Fearless Liberator
Fissure Wizard
Goblin Bombardment
Goblin Engineer
Heartfire Immolator
Incendiary Flow
Lightning Mauler
Mask of Immolation
Mogg War Marshal
Orcish Vandal
Robber of the Rich
Roil Eruption
Shrapnel Blast
Shredded Sails
Thriving Grubs
Toralf, God of Fury
Demon Bolt
Feldon of the Third Path
Furnace Celebration
Gadrak the Crown-Scourge
Ghirapur Aether Grid
Goblin Sharpshooter
Hordeling Outburst
Jinxed Choker
Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin
Manic Vandal
Slaying Fire
Spiteful Prankster
Toggo, Goblin Weaponsmith
Tuktuk the Explorer
Beetleback Chief
Fires of Invention
Flame Lash
Frontier Warmonger
Moltensteel Dragon
Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion
Quicksmith Rebel
Rivals' Duel
Vance's Blasting Cannons
Verix, Bladewing
Dargo, the Shipwrecker
Havoc Jester
Nesting Dragon
Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
Combustible Gearhulk
Godo, Bandit Warlord
Drakuseth, Maw of Flames
Skyline Despot
Purphoros's Intervention
Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
Boreal Druid
Experiment One
Honored Hierarch
Kessig Prowler
Pelt Collector
Scute Mob
Snakeskin Veil
Traverse the Ulvenwald
Wild Growth
Wolfbitten Captive
Primal Might
Channeler Initiate
Duskwatch Recruiter
Edge of Autumn
Elvish Visionary
Evolutionary Leap
Fertile Ground
Ilysian Caryatid
Incubation Druid
Mayor of Avabruck
Nest Invader
Paradise Druid
Strangleroot Geist
Sylvan Ranger
Viridian Emissary
Voyaging Satyr
Winding Way
Bala Ged Recovery
Beastmaster Ascension
Borderland Ranger
Emrakul's Evangel
Gaea's Anthem
Imperious Perfect
Kazandu Mammoth
Llanowar Visionary
Rhonas, the Indomitable
Rishkar, Peema Renegade
Scute Swarm
Song of the Dryads
Springbloom Druid
Scatter the Seeds
Bramble Sovereign
Champion of Rhonas
Elvish Piper
Esika's Chariot
Guardian Project
Kozilek's Predator
Masked Admirers
Migration Path
Nighpack Ambusher
Toski, Bearer of Secrets
Conclave Naturalists
Gutter Grime
Overwhelming Stampede
Ridgescale Tusker
Tendershoot Dryad
Garruk, Caller of Beasts
Greenwarden of Murasa
Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar
See the Unwritten
Pelakka Wurm
Sylvan Primordial
End-Raze Forerunners
Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger
Apex Altisaur
Crawling Barrens
Basilisk Collar
Chromatic Star
Retrofitter Foundry
It That Betrays
Arcbound Ravager
Cranial Plating
Culling Dais
Key to the City
Myr Retriever
Perilous Myr
Blasting Station
Champion's Helm
Crystalline Giant
Foundry Inspector
Grafted Wargear
Palladium Myr
Scrap Trawler
Sword of Truth and Justice
Sword of Vengeance
Haunted Plate Mail
Helm of the Host
Icy Manipulator
Nevinyrral's Disk
Quicksilver Amulet
Trading Post
Treasure Keeper
Conjurer's Closet
Eldrazi Monument
Precursor Golem
Razormane Masticore
Steel Hellkite
Thopter Assembly
Ugin, the Ineffable
Angel of Despair
God-Pharaoh's Gift
Metalwork Colossus
Meteor Golem
Ancient Stone Idol
Platinum Emperion
Creakwood Liege
Rakdos Cackler
Spitting Image
Dryad Militant
Rhys the Redeemed
Sundering Growth
Boggart Ram-Gang
Jegantha, the Wellspring
Boros Reckoner
Connive // Concoct
Discovery // Dispersal
Oona, Queen of the Fae
Keruga, the Macrosage
Arcanist's Owl
Grisly Salvage
Catacomb Sifter
Meren of Clan Nel Toth
Nissa of Shadowed Boughs
Back for More
Juri, Master of the Revue
Tymaret, the Murder King
Mayhem Devil
Falkenrath Aristocrat
Sarkhan the Mad
Korvold, Fae-Cursed King
Littjara Mirrorlake
Coiling Oracle
Rashmi, Eternities Crafter
Roalesk, Apex Hybrid
Nissa, Steward of Elements
Maelstrom Wanderer
Fleecemane Lion
Battle for Bretagard
Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist
Glare of Subdual
Ajani, Mentor of Heroes
Flinthoof Boar
Voltaic Brawler
Gruul Spellbreaker
Grand Warlord Radha
Sarkhan Vol
Koll, the Forgemaster
Reyav, Master Smith
Weapons Trainer
Akiri, Fearless Voyager
Nahiri, Heir to the Ancients
Port of Karfell
Obsessive Stitcher
Extract from Darkness
Ashiok, Sculptor of Fears
Dinrova Horror
Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh
Rielle, the Everwise
The Royal Scions
Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain
The Locust God
Battle of Frost and Fire
Firja's Retribution
Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
Athreos, Shroud-Veiled
Ethereal Absolution
Siege Rhino
Reflector Mage
Venser, the Sojourner
Dance of the Manse
Thopter Foundry
Thriving Moor
Vivid Marsh
Talisman of Resilience
Darkbore Pathway
Llanowar Wastes
Temple of Malady
Twilight Mire
Talisman of Indulgence
Blightstep Pathway
Graven Cairns
Sulfurous Springs
Temple of Malice
Thriving Grove
Vivid Grove
Talisman of Curiosity
Barkchannel Pathway
Flooded Grove
Temple of Mystery
Yavimaya Coast
Talisman of Unity
Branchloft Pathway
Temple of Plenty
Wooded Bastion
Thriving Bluff
Vivid Crag
Talisman of Impulse
Cragcrown Pathway
Fire-Lit Thicket
Karplusan Forest
Temple of Abandon
Talisman of Conviction
Battlefield Forge
Needleverge Pathway
Rugged Prairie
Temple of Triumph
Thriving Isle
Vivid Creek
Talisman of Dominance
Clearwater Pathway
Sunken Ruins
Temple of Deceit
Underground River
Talisman of Creativity
Cascade Bluffs
Riverglide Pathway
Shivan Reef
Temple of Epiphany
Thriving Heath
Vivid Meadow
Talisman of Hierarchy
Brightclimb Pathway
Caves of Koilos
Fetid Heath
Temple of Silence
Talisman of Progress
Adarkar Wastes
Hengegate Pathway
Mystic Gate
Temple of Enlightenment
Sphere of the Suns
Pilgrim's Eye
Skittering Surveyor
Skyclave Relic
Ash Barrens
Evolving Wilds
Myriad Landscape
Terramorphic Expanse

Latest Magic Online Articles


January 18, 2022

Magic Online Announcements, January 22, 2022 by, Wizards of the Coast

Magic Online Announcements, January 18, 2022 What Is the Magic Online Weekly Announcements Blog? Every Tuesday, we round up all the biggest Magic Online news for the Weekly Announcement...

Learn More


January 18, 2022

Spotlight Cube Series – Ravnica Cube by, Usman Jamil

I'm Usman, the designer of Ravnica Cube. I've been playing Magic since 1994—when you could get easily grab Fallen Empires packs just about anywhere. I've been deep in the trenches of cube...

Learn More



Magic Online Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All