Cartographia Cube Returns
Posted on Sep 26, 2023
The Cube Spotlight Series is back - time to jump back into the geographic nirvana of Cartographia for a land-attuned Cube experience!
One short year ago, you, intrepid explorer, embarked on a daring voyage across the Perilous Sea and found the land of Cartographia. Upon your return, you are astonished to find Cartographia changed. The terrain shifts with newfound unpredictability, enchantments weave a thicker tapestry in the charged air, and arcane artifacts beckon with strange music. In Cartographia, every return is a new adventure.
I’m John Terrill, a.k.a. Cultic Cube, and I’m honored to share a third Cube with you on Magic Online! The Cube Spotlight Series on MTGO is such a treat, as it puts novel and idiosyncratic environments in front of people around the world and shows off a breadth of Cube design sensibilities! I am one of the founders of the CubeCon convention (being held next month, October 19-22, in Madison, Wisconsin, USA), and our guiding vision is to spotlight Cube and the Cube community. We have 49 Cubes in our Main Event this year! I hope that whether or not you are able to attend CubeCon, taking a tour of Cartographia will allow you the joy of exploring a unique Cube environment.
Cartographia invites you to build decks that revolve around three pivotal features: Lands, Enchantments, and Artifacts. The vast landscape offers enormous variation and possibility, allowing for many strategies to emerge within and between these categories. Join me on a journey through the strategies that undergird the environment, and let’s chart new territory!
Navigating the Terrain
Cartographia unfolds before you as a riot of exotic climes. Despite its picturesque appearance, there's an underlying tremor running beneath the land. Adjusting your pack, ensuring your quiver is stocked with feathered pens and rolls of parchment, you ready yourself to embark on a fresh expedition, eager to chart this land anew!
One of the defining features of Cartographia is its deep access to Lands, which account for more than 20% of the cards in the Cube! The overriding principle here is that Lands allow more of your draft picks to matter—more cards that can go in your deck and that can fix your mana or can function as creatures or spells.
Restless Bivouac; Inventor’s Fair; Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire; Jwari Disruption
You can build all sorts of strategies around Lands, from classic Zoo decks that beat down with aggressive green and multicolor cards, to strategies that trigger off Lands entering the battlefield or the graveyard, to domain strategies that encourage you to collect Basic Land types, to Lands that attack. We break the unwritten rule of Cube design that all cards appear only once. We include two copies of certain Lands, such as fetches. As a result of this emphasis on Lands, you may have the luxury of making Lands a lower priority pick in Cartographia than you might in other Cubes. But the deck that wishes to see five cards from Worldly Counsel or to cast a Two-Headed Hellkite will draft all the fixing that it can.
Territorial Kavu; Felidar Retreat; Jolrael, Voice of Zhalfir; Omnath, Locus of Creation
The mystical energies coursing through the heart of Cartographia are a wondrous enigma. In certain places, for reasons as yet unfathomed, these energies surge forth as knots of great power, their influence subtly reshaping the very fabric of Cartographia’s logic and laws. You are determined to chart the intricate webs of influence of these forces.
The second hallmark of the environment is its deep access to Enchantments. These range across the color pie and allow for many approaches to Enchantment-centric strategies. Green specializes in classic Enchantress effects that make Enchantments into cantrips that replace themselves. White turns Enchantments into armies. Blue, black, and red enchantments tend to be utility pieces (drawing cards, cheating mana, disrupting the opponent) that have additional combo value by virtue of their type line.
Eidolon of Blossoms; Hallowed Haunting; Calix, Guided by Fate; Primordial Mist
There are myriad ways that Enchantments work in concert on the battlefield, and you can lean into these synergies by locating Enchantment-based versions of many useful effects. But Enchantments that are otherwise disposable can find new life through being animated, reanimated, or regrown.
Seal of Cleansing; Anikthea, Hand of Erebos; Starfield of Nyx; Aphemia, the Cacophony
Arcane Baubles and Mechanical Marvels
Cartographia is a living record of a profound history, which you have thus far only begun to excavate. Shimmering across the land are wondrous machines of uncertain origin and opaque purpose. The key to unlocking the secrets that lie dormant within these arcane mechanisms is for you to discover!
Cartographia’s third major feature is its complement of Artifacts. Like Enchantments, Artifacts and Artifact synergies are to be found throughout the color pie. Artifacts lend themselves to a second model of aggro beyond multicolor Zoo. Artifact aggro centers around white and red with inexpensive Artifact Creatures, non-Artifact Creatures that improve when surrounded by Artifacts, and lots of Equipment. Metalcraft, Modular, Vehicles and other classic Artifact-centric beatdown mechanics and card types can be leveraged to help secure that undefeated trophy.
Toolcraft Exemplar; Sanwell, Avenger Ace; Hexplate Wallbreaker; Arcbound Shikari
You can take more controlling or more combo-oriented approaches to Artifacts. Blue, for instance, likes nothing more than turning heavy lumps of metal into magically mobile constructions. White, red, and black all have ways of tutoring for or reanimating Artifacts. Goblin Welder and friends are fixtures of the environment, and tools such as Audacious Reshapers and Oswald Fiddlebender are more and less chaotic ways of pulling Artifacts from your library. Even green can get in on the fun with mid-range value Artifact synergies that often cross-pollinate with other deck strategies. Green Artifacts synergies draw cards, place +1/+1 counters, and interact with Lands and tokens.
Cyberdrive Awakener; Digsite Engineer; Goblin Engineer; Sarinth Steelseeker
A year has passed since your last daring voyage to Cartographia. A year is a mere heartbeat for this ancient land, which measures its seasons in ages and epochs. And yet you recognize astonishing alterations all around you. Cartographia is at once familiar and strange, and it will take all your skill as master mapmaker to chart its ever-evolving wonders anew.
Those intrepid explorers who charted the land last year may well be wondering what changes to expect when they return to its shores. A first note is that there have been many, many cards published since our last voyage that work beautifully with the environment, engaging each of the major archetypal categories (Lands, Enchantments, Artifacts) and often building bridges between them.
Hew the Entwood; Blossoming Tortoise; Yenna, Redtooth Regent; Urza, Prince of Kroog
More substantively, you’ll find increased support and clearer signposts for specific deck strategies that function within and among the major archetypes. One such strategy is self-sacrifice (Aristocrats), which we push further into the Artifact camp with cards that sacrifice Artifacts, that create Artifacts when creatures die, and so on.
Jan Jansen, Chaos Crafter; Time Sieve; Gut, True Soul Zealot; Ayara, Widow of the Realm
We get to do still more fun things with Lands now, including discarding them for value, regrowing them, and stealing opponent’s Lands.
Smeagol, Helpful Guide; Borborygmos and Fblthp; Loamcrafter Faun; Tameshi, Reality Architect
Counters of the +1/+1 variety remain supported. As was the case last year, counters are a generically useful lasting benefit to Creatures. But increasingly this year, the explorer who is dedicated to counters can build around the mechanic if they like, making counters a central concept of their deck.
Patchwork Automaton; Feast of the Victorious Dead; Chishiro, the Shattered Blade; Ozolith, the Shattered Spire
A final fun strategy that is worth exploring is token creation. Of course, going wide is a tried and true path to victory, and it’s a strategy that Lands, Enchantments, and Artifacts can deploy. But this year, we bring additional payoffs for decks that are particularly adept at conjuring forth these ephemeral armies.
Mondrak, Glory Dominus; Mirkwood Bats; Idol of Oblivion; Rosie Cotton of South Lane
You have poured over your journals and maps long enough. The time has come to cinch up your knapsack, square your shoulders, and embark once again into the heart of Cartographia. Ahead lies the promise of uncharted marvels and untold adventures!
Cartographia is a project that originated in conversation with friends and that has benefitted immeasurably from theorycrafting, playtesting, and feedback from many wonderful people. All my love to the wonderful group of 25 people who playtested the environment! Do read last year’s article about Cartographia for more insights into the Cube and for recognition of more amazing colleagues who have contributed to its design.
To conclude, let us heed the call of Odysseus, that legendary wanderer, as reimagined by Tennyson:
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: …
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
—Alfred, Lord Tennyson; Ulysses, 1833
I can’t wait to see what exciting new coordinates you chart as you explore Cartographia! If I don’t see you at CubeCon, be sure to tag me on Twitter with your sweet builds. Here’s to dizzying vistas, sublime prospects, and the magic of Cube Draft!
by John Terrill