Conspiracy: Take the Crown is a multiplayer set, like the original Conspiracy. Due to the sets being centered around multiplayer it’s not always easy to find cards good at 1 vs 1 but also that means that the cards don’t have a chance to impact Standard, and they can be pushed more in power level. However more recent multiplayer sets have had their “pushed” cards tempered in power level, but with that being said, how do Conspiracy: Take the Crown fare for cube?
Like in the previous article, I’ll be breaking these down by mechanics and non-mechanic cards.
CONSPIRACY: TAKE THE CROWN MECHANICS
The Conspiracies themselves
I won’t go into whether you should use them or not since that’s ultimately your call. I know this is not really helpful but all in all, it’s another one of the “macro” decisions that you can make as a Cube designer. A lot of early Cube articles talked about the distinction between including power and not, and while those can change the context of a Cube environment, there are other constraints like changing the dimensions of a Cube (more heavily weighted toward artifacts, multicolored, lands, , etc.)
Power level wise, they all positively contribute to winning strategies (which is all we really want for Cube cards in the first place.)
Even the color aligned conspiracies, while subtlety impacting the power of individual cards, look better than they appear since they don’t require a deck slot and most boost the power level of individual creatures. Hired Heist, for example, can turn something as innocuous as an EOT Deceiver Exarch upgrades it into an Ophidian with flash, which is great for taxing resources of slower decks.
It wasn’t until the MTGO Cube used Karakas that it started getting used more in Cubes, as the fear was the opportunity cost of the slot of upgrading a Plains in a deck wouldn’t have enough targets in the average Cube match or would require it to be built around to an unrealistic manner, neither of which ended up being true. That said, there’s a big difference between upgrading a plains to Karakas and marginally upgrading a White creature via Adriana’s Valor (easily the worst of the cycle.) If you’re looking to include these in a section, don’t be surprised if some make it and some don’t.
Many of the others are similar. If you want to include them, it’s mainly a question of opportunity cost against other cards. Some cards like Sovereign’s Realm (not a combo with Backup Plan) are riffs on cards like Worldknit where others like Emissary’s Ploy can inspire new decks, like Mono Blue aggro.
The best cards for Cube with becoming the monarch have some utility in addition to being something that grants monarch. Oddly, it’s similar to how the best Kaladesh Vehicles had the best of them do something in addition to just being a vehicle, to give them some utility outside of just their primary function.
Black creatures at the 5+ mana range aren’t really competitive as there’s been only a few high tier cards like Shriekmaw and Grave Titan, with other cards occupying a secondary tier. Cards like Priest of the Blood Rite didn’t really give enough payoff for the price that it asked to pay, but Custodi Lich is a good solid role filler. It’s similar to cards like Predatory Nightstalker and Nekrataal as a value creature. Its 2 toughness means that it generally trades down and that combined with making the opponent sacrifice makes it poor against decks that can pump out several small creatures, but even if it can (and has) backfire, generally it’s been a lot of value for 5 mana by killing something decent, trading and getting some card advantage out of the deal. Don’t be surprised if you end up sideboarding these out in matchups where the opponent can get around potential blockers. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Custodi Lich or other Monarch cards are bad if that’s the case but just take caution of these scenarios when evaluating, as Custodi Lich is better than it may look.
Similarly, outside of Primeval Titan, there hasn’t really been a Green 6 drop that’s been comparable. The Titan cycle was represented an unprecedented push for large creature power levels that we likely won’t see for a while and it’s likely going to be some time until we get a Primeval (or Grave) Titan-caliber 6 drop, and while colors like Red also have similar issues, it isn’t as much of an issue because Red’s aggressive stance means that it’s not in the market as much as Green or Black. Cards like Greenwarden of Murasa are generally solid as they give a ton of value for Green decks, but are quite the power level drop from the Titan. Regal Behemoth operates on a similar basis as Custodi Lich as a dude that gives you the crown and its mana doubling ability lets it work similarly to Mirari’s Wake, a card that has some immediate impact, but banks on the promise of being able to leverage the use of double mana. It’s by no means Primeval Titan, but it’s better than a lot of other Green 6 drops; I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t last long in many Cubes if another great 6 comes out.
As a colorless mana producing land, this is a pretty non commital way to become the Monarch since it can still be played on board states where the opponent may be able to just wrestle control of the monarch back. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well it’s performed and a lot can be factored to it being a land that can be cashed in to become the monarch; think of it like a Mind Stone or a Horizon Canopy, but one that requires more resources to cash in. Decks like ramp decks that have enough ground pounders and tramplers tend to be able to cash the Throne in for monarch sooner and control decks can also crack it on the opponent’s end step while holding up mana to do things on the opponent’s turn. All in all, it can be a solid land.
Years ago, 2/X fliers for 2 were considered “fine” for Cubes, cards that helped aggressive decks get in damage as aggressive deck support to get under control decks. We’ve seen cards like Selfless Spirit recently, but with the abundance of 2/Xs for 1 that we’ve gotten in the past few years, the role of these cards has diminished in Cube, as they’re better at supporting the aggressive role, so cards like Mistral Charger are harder to find in many lists. Wings of the Guard‘s Melee essentially means that it’s a 2/2 flying attacker. Unfotunately having 2 toughness on attack doesn’t really mean very much aside from meaning that it requires 2 Lingering Souls/Spectral Procession tokens to trade, but since it has 1 toughness when not attacking, it doesn’t really mean much in the face of removal. While it’s a solid consideration for Pauper Cube as Mistral Charger 2.0, it’s an incredibly hard sell for other Cubes. The other Melee cards don’t really have the raw power for Cube, since while they were created to scale “fairly” for multiplayer games, they’re just not efficient enough to really do much in Cubes.
Color-aligned “drafts matter” cards.
In Cube, tribal linear cards just aren’t very good since there isn’t a critical mass of cards that are impacted to make cards like Master of the Pearl Trident very good; The experiment to make Vampire tribal in the MTGO Cube a thing was looked upon with much skepticism from experienced Cube designers and many of those same people were unsurprised that it performed poorly. The best tribal cards for Cube are the ones that stand alone on their own, like Goblin Rabblemaster, Siege-Gang Commander and Cloudgoat Ranger. Since Paliano Vanguard doesn’t have any other impact aside from boosting tribals, we’ll look at it in the context of cards like Master of the Pearl Trident.
Looking at the 450-card CubeTutor average list, we can see the following:
Creature Types Breakdown:
- Human: 53
- Shaman: 16
- Wizard: 15
- Warrior, Elf: 14
- Soldier: 12
Also White is the color that can utilize this card best, as it can have some various options for choices based on what’s in your deck; like naming Soldier if your deck has a few Soldier token generators. These stats are here to illustrate that the card is not as good as it may look and how tribal linears just don’t really work in Cube, unless you’re looking to drastically change your Cube.
Black has had a history of having cards that act as conditional removal for 1 mana; cards like Tragic Slip, Innocent Blood, and arguably Murderous Cut. I’ve found that since it hits 3/5 of the colors, it generally hits about half of the targets in Cube, think of how conditional removal like shatter effects in artifact heavy draft formats like the Mirrodin blocks and Kaladesh played out. Cards like Natural State suffer in Cube because Naturalize effects naturally have Limited targets, whereas most Cube decks play creatures. I’ve liked it less than traditional removal like Go For the Throat, as a nice supplement to other removal, but it’s certainly not a staple.
This works as a riff on cards like Stoneforge Mystic; like a lot of recent Black 4s, it’s more of a value creature than others and requires finding something for it, but that’s generally fine; instead of being a 2/1 first strike that has Terror stapled to it, it instead acts as a weird style of tutor for that cost. Compared to standouts like Demonic Tutor, that rate isn’t really that good, but people aren’t playing Man-o’-War because Unsummon is so good, so we will need to temper our expectations accordingly. Like with Gonti, Lord of Luxury, who I’ve found has performed well in most Black decks, it being a value creature is nice and it’s been mainly played in decks that want to get additional value either out of very powerful cards as a “2nd” copy of them, or to find silver bullets like Necromancy. There’s some fear that it’ll come around too late in the draft to matter, but I haven’t found that to occur very much.
This is another card in the key word soup family that Soulflayer and Chromanticore are in, and while it does miss trample, there aren’t really many Green creatures with trample in Cube anyway. Soulflayer has a decent amount of targets, but most Cube decks will have issues making it work. Animus does help with that by not requiring you to draft around it, but to take cards that work well with it during the draft. The problem with Animus lies with that same critical mass, where in theory, you just take a bunch of junk and make this strong. But that fails on a few levels:
- This assumes that most targets will be in packs without anything else you’d want to take, which usually isn’t true unless you’re at the last few picks in a pack and even, that’s very debatable.
- The number of keywords that you’d have to take to get this to be better than the average cube 5-drop in green, is critically high.
- Let’s take Verderous Gearhulk for example.
- How many keywords would it take for Durkwood Boars to be better than Verderous Gearhulk? 2 isn’t really enough. It’s likely at least 3 (and even that depends as keywords aren’t created equally – as Flying > Deathtouch, for example) and even that’s a stretch.
This is just all around bad. Since the card is playable in Eternal formats, there was likely a concern to not print an undercosted flier with no drawback in Legacy, so its 4 mana 5/4 flying body isn’t really even that good to begin with; not even considering other great Black 4-drops like Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and 4 mana 6/6 fliers like Abyssal Persecutor and Desecration Demon and the joke of getting it last pick and being forced to pick several more random cards lends little to the format or the enjoyment of a draft.
Volatile Chimera operates similarly to “big dumb monster” a Exalted Angel that starts out as a pretty mediocre creature but has a potential to get much larger. I’ve found that most Red decks won’t play it unless there’s 3 large creatures to combine it with, to make sure that rolling the dice doesn’t result in a whammy, but I’ve found that it isn’t very hard either for those decks to find 3 targets to copy. Even something with a highly impactful enters-the-battlefield trigger with a big body, like Angel of Serenity, is still fine to hit as a 5/6 flier for + isn’t a bad rate, but a deck playing it likely will want it as a card that isn’t the ceiling for it. While Red 3s have been getting better, especially for attack decks, this is a standout.
Arcane Savant is the clear winner of these cards. Its Sea Snidd body isn’t making waves and even without playing cards that few decks want, like Cruel Ultimatum, it’s still a very powerful 5 drop in Blue. Not even accounting for it being able to copy things outside of its color (like Volatile Chimera can do with cards like Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite and Griselbrand) to access things that a deck may not normally have access to, like Enlightened Tutor in an Izzet control deck, it generally creates an absurd amount of value, as I’ve seen it copy things like Wretched Confluence, Spectral Procession and Seasons Past, all to great effect. Even something as innocuous as Lightning Strike lets it act as a Flametongue Kavu and one of the few reasons I can see to not include it in Cube is if you’re worried about power level, but if your Cube is designed to handle it, it’s an easy include.
Caller of the Untamed on the other hand, doesn’t warp mana costs like Volatile Chimera or Arcane Savant and while it compares to cards that never see Cube play like Soul Foundry, it’s a solid addition to Green value decks as it comes with a body. I’ve found that it can generate a lot of value if it lives and being able to copy something with a powerful enters the battlefield trigger like Skinrender can help Green midrange and ramp decks to get to the later stages of the game. Like Chimera and Savant, Caller can also help to shore up some weaknesses in the color, giving it access to removal creatures like Skinrender and Flametongue Kavu. It can require some setup to keep it alive and to protect it, but I’ve found most Green decks have liked Caller of the Untamed.
The only Council’s Dilemma card that has the power to compete in Cube. Like with Melee, a lot of the cards are meant to scale up in multiplayer and lots of these cards just don’t stack up well. Selvala’s Stampede works well in the Green ramp decks that play cards like Oath of Druids, where they play only a few high impact creatures but ones that are great value and can take over the game. Being 6 mana means that it can’t just cheat something into play, but it’s a nice supplement for ramp decks those decks, as it also provides the possibility to just cheat something from the hand into play.
This works very similarly to Imperial Recruiter since it’s a tutor for small creatures on a stick. When I tallied the targets, numbers-wise, they weren’t really that different, as the Cube Tutor 450-card average has 104 targets for both. However 16 creatures can be fetched only by Imperial Recruiter and 12 only by Recruiter of the Guard. Purely numbers-wise, Imperial Recruiter wins, albeit, barely. One could argue just how different how Red and White would get more value out of a non-aggressive 3 drop since, while White supports aggressive decks incredibly well, it doesn’t tend to lean quite as aggressively as Red. One could also argue that Vendilion Clique, Shriekmaw and Flametongue Kavu are better tutor targets than Courser of Kruphix, Reflector Mage and Spellskite. Regardless, all things being considered, they’re about the same in terms of function and power level. Both work well to act as a mini tutor which have a surprisingly higher number of targets than you’d initially think and with more solid and efficient creature threats coming out, it’s just going to get better with age.
This suffers by making it so that it’s hard to really nail much with it, but it can help to punish some decks. Naming 4 as the mana cost helps to stop wraths and a lot of the best Planeswalkers, and naming either 1 or 2 helps it to stop some of the most powerful spells and spot removal and spells in the game. That said, it doesn’t really do much on its own and while it also impacts you, the competition’s just getting better and it’s hard to justify in a Cube with cards like Recruiter of the Guard essentially taking the card slot that Sanctum Prelate would.
“Yet another Clone,” and as few Cubes outside of peasant play Clone, it’s competing with cards like Sakashima’s Student, as Phantasmal Image and Phyrexian Metamorph are top tier clones that are staples in many lists. One could argue that Sakashima’s Student was in an awkward position as a card that wanted to work in a deck with a critical mass of smaller creatures to enable it being able to be ninjutsued early out and in Blue, that didn’t amount to many decks. People joke that flash is “Blue haste” and the closest analog is Dack’s Duplicate (as Dethrone was mostly flavor text.) But as cliché as it sounds, Blue 4 drops are pretty hard to find room for and one that requires having something else to copy, makes it so that a 4 drop that can be reasonably argued as being situational is hard to find room for.
A solid supplement to the great Red 1 and 3 drops we’ve been getting for Cube lately. It’s an on color card that plays similarly to Edric, Spymaster of Trest by letting chip shots act draws, even if they’re in the vein of cards like Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Outpost Siege (following the Chandra style of being unable to play lands.) Since it requires the cards being cast on the same turn, being able to “draw” 3 cards from 3 triggers means it can behave closer to having card selection than pure card advantage, but it’s still very good. Goading is also useful by making it so that creatures need to suicide into your larger threats, which is somewhat unlikely in a Red aggressive decks, so it’s more to clear future blockers out of the way. With the exception of Thriving Grubs, most of the 2 drops we’ve gotten are more utility creatures than 3 power creatures for 2 and because of that, it supplements straight up attackers like War-Name Aspirant and the more flexible ones like Abbot of Keral Keep and Mogg War Marshal.
Subterranean Tremors is in a weird spot for Cube, as “big Red” decks like Wildfire decks tend to have mana rocks like Mind Stone and signets, so casting it for 4+ mana can do more damage to your own board state by Shatterstorming all of the artifacts away. Cubes that don’t run as many mana rocks can definitely get something more out of it, but it’s more for control decks that don’t rely as much on them. There’s been a lot of talk about how signets are too good for Cube (which I’ve found isn’t true at all) but even in decks with a signet or two, it still works well in slower Red decks as, it can act as a cheap wrath effect that can scale up. Generally, it doesn’t create an 8/8 but it’s a nice mana sink if need be. As non-aggressive Red cards don’t populate a high percentage of Red cards, it offers some nice utility for those slower Red decks, since it’s nice to have a wrath that doesn’t hurt you for decks that use their life total as a resource.
Another riff on cards like Somberwald Sage and Shaman of Forgotten Ways as a way to bolster Green ramp by generating mana for creature spells. Like the others, she synergizes well with mana elves to be cast on turn two and it’s not difficult for her to start drawing cards, since she can help to power out larger creatures, which help to keep providing fuel for creatures. I’ve found that it’s not that difficult for her to draw cards and, like a few other 3 drops referenced, is another of the “if you untap with this, your chances of winning increase,” and helps to generate mana for mostly Green decks that splash for other colors, due to Green’s easy access to mana fixing. She’s a solid addition for Green ramp decks if you’re looking to give those decks some love.
Tricolored cards need to do a whole lot in Cube to really be worth.They have to make up for the fact that many decks just don’t want them, as they require a very specific triad to be hit. Because of this, while both of these do what they do relatively well, since they occupy a slot where only a few decks can realistically play them, it’s more a question of whether it’s something you want to explicitly include.
A solid B/W Planeswalker that oddly compares to a constant damage source like Sulfuric Vortex and Venser, the Sojourner. She unfortunately doesn’t work quite as well as the various Sorins as the 4 mana Sorins (Lord of Innistrad and Solemn Visitor) work well in all decks, Sorin, Grim Nemesis is a solid B/W control finisher, but Kaya, Ghost Assassin works as a game ender or a blinking recursive threat. Most cards that tend to work by blinking tend to be a bit too slow for Cubes without explicitly supporting them, but she’s a great way to encourage those types of decks but likely falls short of the Sorins for many Cubes.
Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast is the 2nd best B/R card next to Kolaghan’s Command. Initial impressions were that Daretti needs to be in an artifact centered deck, but I’ve found him to be great even in B/R decks that don’t really care about artifacts. Being a 3 mana Planeswalker that generates blockers is great to stall for the late game, but I’ve found that even in faster B/R decks, while that’s not his optimal home, being able to generate artifacts for his aggressively costed -1 ability helps to kill opposing blockers or the occasional non creature artifact. His ultimate is pretty lackluster if you don’t have anything worth copying, but I’ve found that his ability to generate an absurd amount of value makes him a top tier Rakdos card.
Sinuous Vermin and Skittering Crustacean. While none of these monstrous cards have a hope of making non Pauper Cubes, I wanted to briefly mention them as they’re incredible adds for Pauper Cube. The format tends to have an issue with a lack of powerful big creatures (unlike in Cubes with rares) and because of this, both of these creatures bridge the gap between early beaters and late-game threats. Skittering Crustacean is great for getting around all of the efficient spot removal in the format and I’ve been very impressed with both.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this analysis of Conspiracy: Take the Crown for Cube. Thanks for reading!