Early Access Corner: Episode 2
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Welcome to Cube of Force, the article series where we build a Dungeons and Dragons themed Magic: The Gathering cube. Wizards’ two biggest properties have always had thematic overlap, and they have actually crossed over a few times with core DND books like Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica and Mythic Oddyseys of Theros. We even have a Dungeons and Dragons themed magic set coming out this year: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms!
I always wanted to play Magic: The Gathering in the cooperative storytelling approach Dungeons and Dragons is played, and this cube looks to make that a reality. Throughout the series, we will look at different mechanics from Magic that help bring the Dungeons and Dragons theme to the cube. Today, we will be looking at the first thing you need to play any good game of Dungeons and Dragons: a party.
“A cloaked figure walks into the tavern and makes their way toward a table of adventurers. The other patrons look at the scene while speaking in hushed tones as the stranger sits at the table headed by a motley warrior, a cunning rogue, a humble cleric, and an astute wizard, who each raise their flasks as they await the stranger’s proposal.”
Zendikar Rising introduced the Party mechanic, which puts emphasis on a single player controlling creatures from four unique creature types: Rogues, Clerics, Warriors, and Wizards. Most of the cards from Zendikar Rising that reference the party made it into the cube, and established our earliest archetypal focus would be on tribal effects, especially ones that reward playing those four specific creature types. The party mechanic also comes preloaded with Dungeons and Dragons flavor with cards like Spoils of Adventure and Coveted Prize invoking the feeling of the party claiming treasure after a hard-fought battle, Concerted Defense and Strength of Solidarity representing the power of the party working together, and cards like Journey to Oblivion representing the deadliest adventures your party may encounter.
“The stranger looks to each of the heroes as they explain the task ahead, before finally extending a gnarled hand holding a scroll. The wizard unfurls the scroll, their eyes rapidly scanning the text for the details of their next quest.“
One thing I knew going into this cube is it would be sealed format, as opposed to the draft format in most cubes. That is because it is intended to be played cooperatively as an archenemy format with three players against the Dungeon Master. This will really let our team cards shine, with three players making 60 card sealed decks to play together. However, the party mechanic, as designed, cares about one player controlling all four creature types themselves.
Fortunately, Wizards of the Coast has printed an impressive stable of changelings, adding even more with Kaldheim, to fill out the rosters of all four creature types. Including several cards with Changeling, including cards that make shapeshifter tokens such as Birthing Boughs and Maskwood Nexus, allows players to complete a party easily in all color combinations, and allows the rest of the creatures in the cube to focus on the most impactful and flavorful creatures of a given type, instead of having to focus specifically on careful distribution of Warriors, Clerics, Rogues, and Wizards.
“The heroes embark the tavern and make their way together into the wilderness. They know not what dangers lie ahead, but march forward boldly nonetheless because of the trust they have in one another. As they make their way into the enchanted forest, a dense mist whirls around them and they hear the snarling of a titanic beast.“
The other element we need to focus on before digging deeper into the cube is providing support for team-based play. This covers three specific mechanics for the time being: “Team Matters” cards from Battlebond, “Partner with” cards, and cards with the “Surge” mechanic.
Fortunately, most of the Team Matters and Partner with cards are Warriors, with a few also being wizards and clerics. It was here we started to see some of the individual team roles emerge for each color, with cards like Comparative Analysis and Lore Weaver defining blue as the color that helps everyone draw cards, cards like Ley Weaver establishing green’s role as ramping the party, and cards like Aurora Champion and Proud Mentor establishing white as a control and tempo color, to name a few examples. Flavor wise, I especially liked Fall of the Titans as a surge spell, since it invokes the idea of the party defeating a challenging boss.
“As the smoke clears, the heroes stand with their weapons still raised, huffing and puffing from exhaustion after the battle they just waged. They had narrowly escaped with their lives, but were able in the end to ultimately slay the terrible monster that had been threatening the town.“
Over the course of this series, we will look at making additions to each of the cube’s four core creature types, as fleshing out how each color provides support to the others. One theme we can see emerging very quickly is the presence of strong counters synergies with cards like Pir, Imaginative Rascal and Toothy, Imaginary Friend. Cards like Dwarven Lightsmith highlight the need to add more cards that can pump creatures of multiple players, and to look at other cards with the Assist mechanic.
However, one thing I intend on doing throughout the series is focusing on flavor over function. This cube is not about using the most optimal cards, but instead enabling the flavorful mechanics that make the gameplay feel like a game of Dungeons and Dragons.
This cube is an ongoing project planned to be completed with the release of Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. You can track progress on this cube here.
“Making their way into the next town, our heroes find an inn where they can dine and rest for the night after another successful adventure. They don’t know what dangers the next day may bring, but there is one singular truth that stays with them always: adventure awaits.”