I’ve been thinking about the “guild” system used for cubes. My cube has used it for a while, but I’ve been considering making a change to it.
The premise of the guild system is a “have your cake and eat it too” with the Ravnica manafixers. The main problem with them isn’t that they’re too good and make aggro suck (which is incorrect, I’ll write an article about, likely in a few weeks) but moreso that the ones in non-control archetypes like Boros Signet, Gruul Signet and Rakdos Signet aren’t very good for those decks, since they’re aggressive in nature. Similarly with the “bouncelands”, the turn lost is huge for those decks that want to end the game ASAP – so they just end up as splash enablers or cards in 5CC, giving it an insane manabase.
The guild system seeks to address that by allowing those colors to have multicolor cards in the place of the suboptimal fixers (at least, in those guilds.) BR has little use for Rakdos Signet, so it gets Blazing Specter/Blightning/Sarkhan the Mad (whichever of those you feel like using.) UW likes its signet so it gets it in lieu of something suboptimal like Mistmeadow Witch/Plumeveil/Augury Adept. Everyone wins. Right? Well, not really.
The main problem is that manafixers, particularly land, play a unique role in cube in that if you’re in the guild, a (good) fixer is almost never going in your sideboard. (Ones like Boros Garrison and Gruul Signet probably will, but they’re not very good.) While, in theory, it makes color combinations play to their strengths, the ones with superior manafixing get a bigger boost. Combine with the fact that no matter how good multicolor cards are, they’re harder to cast (and thus are harder to cast) and it doesn’t really live up to its expectations.
In my QS article “Governing the Guildless,” I talked about using something similar to the wildcard method but never got around to it, maybe because I could never think of what to cut from BG to make it work.
To address the point that mana plays differently than multicolor due to the much higher maindeck %, I’m going to revise the guild system into the following.
Artifacts, multicolor, (multicolor) mana.
Artifacts are pretty obvious, the same with multicolor (using the ‘functional’ method as described in my article. In other words, Kird Ape is a RG card) and mana being its own section.
The 10 colorless “mana” lands stay the same. Artifacts don’t require any cuts either.
The (multicolor) “mana” section will have each color combination having the 3 staple cycles – the original duals (Tundra,) the Ravnica shockland cycle (Hallowed Fountain,) and the Zendikar/Onslaught fetchland cycle (Flooded Strand.) The multicolor pairs will get 2 pairs of additional aligned fixers: (new cards bolded and italicized)
UW: Celestial Colonnade, Azorius Signet
UR: Izzet Boilerworks, Izzet Signet
UG: Simic Growth Chamber, Simic Signet
UB: Creeping Tar Pit, Dimir Signet
WR: Rugged Prairie, Battlefield Forge
WG: Brushland, Horizon Canopy
GR: Karplusan Forest, Raging Ravine
GB: Twilight Mire, Golgari Rot Farm
RB: Sulfurous Springs, Lavaclaw Reaches
WB: Orzhov Signet, Fetid Heath
In addition to the multicolor cards themselves being cut to 3 (cards being cut in parentheses and italicized.)
UW: Venser, the Sojourner, Wall of Denial, Grand Arbiter Augustin IV (NONE)
UR: Fire/Ice, Electrolyze, Prophetic Bolt (Gelectrode)
UG: Simic Sky Swallower, Mystic Snake, Trygon Predator (Edric, Spymaster of Trest)
UB: Oona, Queen of the Fae, Psychatog, Shadowmage Infiltrator (NONE)
WR: Ajani Vengeant, Lightning Helix, Figure of Destiny (Goblin Trenches)
WG: Kitchen Finks, Qasali Pridemage, Mirari’s Wake (Loam Lion)
GR: Kird Ape, Bloodbraid Elf, Sarkhan Vol (Stormbind)
GB: Maelstrom Pulse, Putrefy, Pernicious Deed (Putrid Leech, Spiritmonger)
RB: Terminate, Bituminous Blast, Murderous Redcap (Blazing Specter)
WB: Stillmoon Cavalier, Desolation Angel, Vindicate (Mortify)
Which essentially just means that multicolor cards got cut for fixers. I’d probably have cut the “wildcard cycle” to one, but UB and WU would have to go down to either manland or signet and I don’t know if I’m ready to make that cut yet (but, granted, cube is all about making hard cuts.) In a similar vein, most of the multicolor cuts were easy when it came down to it, but a few were hard (Mortify, Putrid Leech.) If I did cut a card from the ‘wildcard’ cycle, they’d probably go to WUBRG with 2 cards added for each or 5 artifacts and 1 to WUBRG. The funny thing is that if I were to cut a manafixer from each color pair, most of the new ones would be the ones to cut.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t address my having cards like Volrath’s Stronghold in black and things like that. It’s still a work in progress and I may address that when I do more of the changes to the system, it just feels rather awkward having that inconsistency. Still, I think the “mana” system addresses the main problem with the guild system – that mana and multicolor cards are at pretty opposite ends of the spectrum, playability-wise.
Let me know what you think of the idea/cuts, etc. Thanks!