Keith McGee Jr.
Cube Draft – the best format in Magic.
Not only is cube draft the best format for a multitude of reasons, but it is also one of the most contentious within playgroups. Everyone agrees that cube is fun (well, anyone worth playing with), but everyone also has their own opinion about whether or not certain cards should be in the cube:
“What about Wolfir Silverheart? He’s 12 power for 5 mana! FIVE!!!”
“But Rampaging Baloths makes free 4/4’s every turn! Green shouldn’t have any problem ramping into him and making more land drops. And just imagine if you get a fetch!”
Conversations like this are more than commonplace in playgroups before, during and after cube drafts. Part of the fun of cubing – for me, at least – is examining individual card choices and crafting your cube with specific archetypes, mana curves and play styles in mind.
This brings me to the most contentious card in my cube:
Squee, Goblin Nabob
Legendary Creature – Goblin
At the beginning of your upkeep, you may return Squee, Goblin Nabob from your graveyard to your hand.
When I first built my cube back in November of 2010, the first semester of my freshman year of college, I had this guy in the list just because everyone else did. I first built my cube by looking at tons of other lists online and comparing various sizes and lists until I found one I liked. This card was a cheap one to get, and those who played him defended him with their lives, so I figured I’d give it a shot.
And I haven’t looked back.
This card is a lot like Braids, Cabal Minion for me; when I looked at it for the first time (and second, and third…), I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why it was good in this format. So, for many drafts, Squee stayed in sideboards and was 15th picked constantly. No one wanted a 3-mana 1/1 in what is supposed to be the most aggressive color in cube, and at the time that line of thinking made sense.
For me, the epiphany happened when I realized the following: Squee isn’t a red card.
“But look at the mana cost”, you tell me. “His color identity is red!”, the Commander player points out. Sure, in just about every format in Magic, Squee is red, and belongs in red decks. In cube however, he belongs firmly in the colorless section.
I could discuss sections and card classification here, but I’ll save that for another article. Long story short, I keep the number of cards in each color the same, so instead of classifying Squee as a red card, I put him in the artifacts/colorless section along with Spellskite and Myr Battlesphere.
Back to the goblin at hand - what red deck in cube is going to want this guy? Mono-Red or Boros? They just want to be slamming a 2 drop and a burn spell on Turn 3. R/X Control? They should have many better things to be doing on Turn 3 than putting this Legendary Goblin down on the table, like leaving counter/draw mana open, or ramping with some artifacts. R/G Midrange? They should be playing a 4 or 5 drop on turn 3, not this chump.
So where does he fit in? What decks want him?
G/X Survival decks, for starters. This guy is nuts with cards like Survival of the Fittest and Fauna Shaman, and ranks among the top Survival targets with cards like Genesis. Any self-discard effects can benefit from Squee as well - the U/B control deck with cards like Liliana of the Veil, Psychatog and Masticore (and friends) could put the goblin to work. Any U/X deck with looter effects, like Merfolk Looter, or Looter il-Kor, make Squee look pretty good as well.
These are only a few of the applications Squee has – he combos well with cards across all 5 colors, and has so much versatility in a wide variety of decks and archetypes. Sure, the value you get from him in any given activation of a particular combo is small, but cube is a format all about value, and Squee does more than one card’s worth of work in any of the above situations.
Now, of course, the doubters will say something like: “But wait, he’s not good because he’s always the second card of a two-card combo!”
Sure, that’s true. But what other card combos with the sheer number of cards Squee does? There are more than 30 cards in my cube alone that Squee is either good with or against – that’s much less narrow than a card like Tinker, which many cubes also run. Now, there’s something to be said about the power level of Tinker vs. that of Squee, but the cube designer has to evaluate versatility vs. power in these situations.
Desolation Angel is another card that falls in the “Tinker” category of “powerful but narrow” – cubes are littered with these kinds of cards, but for some reason, many cube designers seem to think that the most versatile cards don’t deserve a spot. Another example of a card in the “Versatile” pile would be Stifle – a card I’ve seen some people cube with, but it isn’t nearly as popular as Squee. Stifle is even more versatile than Squee is (Fetchlands, Evoke creatures, Planeswalker ultimates, etc), so should Stifle be considered by more cube designers as well? I haven’t has experience with it, but I plan on testing it when I get one. Let me know what you think about Squee, Stifle, and other versatile/unpopular cards in your cube, and perhaps I’ll address a list of them in a future article.
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