Welcome back to Cube of Force, the article series where we build a Dungeons and Dragons themed Magic: The Gathering cube step-by-step. Last time, we built our party and focused on strengthening their bonds as a team. Today, our party will level up for the first time.
As the party defeats the dragon, they feel a great power rise within themselves, as if the knowledge and experience of the encounter has given them inner strength.
I am, of course, referring to the often-forgotten Level Up mechanic from the original Zendikar block. In case you don’t remember, Level up focused on playing early game, affordable creatures, and sinking mana into them throughout the course of the game to upgrade them into bigger, stronger creatures. For purposes of synergizing with the Party mechanic, I decided to look at what rogues, clerics, warriors, and wizards could help us Level up.
I ultimately added 11 total creatures with Level Up to the cube. While some of these just provided reasonable attackers such as Skywatcher Adept and Zulaport Enforcer, there was some neat utility to be found here as well. Enclave Cryptologist is a source of card draw, Echo Mage lets us copy our spells, and Hedron-Field Purists can help prevent damage from the archenemy! I also thought it would be worth looking at the handful of creatures that reference experience counters, and settled on just two additions: Ezuri, Claw of Progress (who is a warrior) and Mizzix of the Izmagnus (who is a wizard). Izzet was already shaping up to have a spellslinger subtheme for the cube, which made Mizzix a solid addition. Several of the Battlebond cards we added last time also supported a counter mechanic, which Ezuri can help advance.
|Enclave Cryptologist||Skywatcher Adept||Zulaport Enforcer|
|Beastbreaker of Bala Ged||Hada Spy Patrol||Kargan Dragonlord|
|Null Champion||Transcendent Master||Hedron-Field Purists|
|Nirkana Cutthroat||Mizzix of the Izmagnus||Echo Mage|
|Ezuri, Claw of Progress|
How do the players get experience to level up in actual Dungeons and Dragons? If you said “By going on adventures,” you’d be right. I had this in mind when I was working on my recent Chulane article, and took note of the small collection of adventures that had relevant creature types for the cube. I was saddened to realize there were only three: Brazen Borrower // Petty Theft (rogue), Queen of Ice // Rage of Winter (wizard), and Garenbrig Carver // Shield’s Might (warrior). This also added the card “Adventure Awaits”, which is not actually an adventure, but brings an extra splash of flavor.
Not the types to rest for long, the party immediately found another quest at the local tavern. After stocking up on supplies, they embark to free the village of the bandits plaguing it.
That’s not the only area where my Chulane article inspired me. The Dungeon Master might be the one who carefully crafts the sagas for the players, but the sagas tell stories of their adventures. When I took a look at all of the sagas currently available, I knew we would be able to make great use of them in this cube for even more flavor and function! Song of Freyalise, Triumph of Gerrard, Arni Slays the Troll, and Fall of the Imposter all support our +1/+1 counter subtheme in addition to their other effects. Time of Ice, Kiora Bests the Sea God and Binding the Old Gods all serve as solid removal. Most interestingly, we are able to get creatures with relevant creature types thanks to sagas like Ascent of the Worthy, Battle for Bretagard, and Firja’s Retribution.
I knew before I expanded further, I needed to revisit some of the themes that were brought up by my additions last article. Dwarven Lightsmith was a reminder to take a look at the rest of the cards with Assist, a mechanic that really lets teams work together, instead of just side-by-side. Spellweaver Duo, Gang Up, Bring Down, Play of the Game, and Out of Bounds provide some excellent sources of removal and interaction. Vampire Charmseeker is a versatile card that can let anyone on the team recur a card from their graveyard, while Fan Favorite can also get pumped by the team’s extra mana to come in and hit hard. The Crowd Goes Wild not only has Assist, but further supports our counter subtheme. Join Forces is a similar mechanic, letting players put as much mana in they like in Collective Voyage to search for lands or Minds Aglow to refill their hands. For those cards, the Archenemy will also benefit, but only one third as much as our party will.
There are countless other cards in Magic’s history that reward team work, however. I was absolutely giddy when I realized how well the “Will of the Council” mechanic from Conspiracy works in Archenemy. A clever party will always get their desired result with cards like Split Decision, Council’s Judgement, Coercive Portal, and Plea for Power! I also added Victory Chimes and Spectral Searchlight, which will enable the party to fix one another’s mana, and Well of Knowledge, which will let them all have affordable access to card draw when they have extra mana. I also like Mad Science Fair Project for the cube since it ramps and fixes mana with a neat little dice roll mechanic.
Odds and Ends
After my last article, I found some additional cards that expanded on my changeling subtheme and should have been included in that article: Stonework Packbeast, Runed Stalactite, Amorpous Axe, and Arachnoform all help us fill out our party nicely. I also missed Outlaws’ Merriment, which makes 3 of our 4 relevant creature types as tokens, and Base Camp, which can fix colors for all four creature types.
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.
Paul, the Rocking Bard