Today, let’s talk about one of my favorite underrated, underpowered, and uncommon (in all senses of the word) cube cards: Ribbons of Night.

Not remotely fair

Ribbons of Night hails from Ravnica: City of Guilds, one of the best Limited formats of all time. Ravnican creatures were small, meaning that Ribbons of Night killed almost anything while cantripping and swinging the race to your favor. It’s the perfect control card, but still nuts in any other archetype. It’s the kind of card we don’t see often anymore because of how demonstrably unfair it is (and how unfun it can be to play against). It’s a splashable 1.5-for-1 that easily becomes a 2.5-for-1, particularly in a format rife with fixing. Ribbons of Night isn’t the most novel design, it’s just really friggin’ strong. I’m not really sure what the flavor is behind the card—draining life makes sense, and blue mana drawing cards makes sense independently of that—but sometimes, you just gotta enjoy a huge swing in a card.

A fish out of water

Ribbons of Night was one of my favorite cards in Hugh Kramer’s Peasant (common and uncommon) cube. Card advantage wasn’t always easy to come by, folks really enjoyed aggro, and Ribbons addressed both considerations with aplomb. I’d been thinking about it lately, both because Guilds of Ravnica is only a month away, and because with the lull of Core 2019, I’ve had plenty of time to update my cube.

I really wanted to fit Ribbons of Night in my cube, but unfortunately it’s too weak. Sure, it’s a bomb in a real Limited format, but cube cards are taken from among the best of the best of all Limited (and Constructed) cards. Ribbons of Night matches up terribly against threats like Polukranos, World Eater, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and Geist of Saint Traft. It can’t interact with planeswalkers, it’s sorcery-speed, and it’s a five-drop (making it potentially too slow to stymie aggro, which is where it’s supposed to be at its best). It’s sweet, but sweet pet cards get picked last in cubes across the globe.

Power Level

As I hemmed and hawwed about whether I could justify Ribbons of Night being in my cube (and not being an unplayable last pick), power level was at the forefront of my mind. When most folks think of cube, they tend to think of insanely powerful ones like Magic Online’s Legacy or Vintage cube. Ribbons of Night doesn’t stand a chance when it has to compete with cards like Upheaval, Sneak Attack, and Channel. However, my cube isn’t like those—it’s much weaker. It doesn’t have any restrictions or global themes like Pauper, Peasant, Modern, artifact, or set cubes. My cube is sort of a midrange cube, full of many creatures not quite good enough for Legacy Cube. It’s a medium-powered cube, and I realized that it had strayed from its intended power level when Ribbons of Night, a card which had been in the first iteration, was no longer close to good enough.

So, I set about depowering my cube. My threats and card draw had gotten a bit too good over time. It was too easy to accrue card advantage, too many threats would take over the game on the spot without being answerable, and too many cards were included that are ubiquitous in Legacy and even Vintage Cube. So, I cut Thragtusk, Dig Through Time, and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger (to name a few cards that generate enormous, often unsurmountable advantages in my cube). Haymakers are important, but I prefer mine to be a bit weaker and less prevalent.

With a bit of the top of my cube shaved off, I went over my creature curve to confirm that my cube has sufficient small creatures for Ribbons of Night to usually have a target, enough fixing that it can be splashed, and insufficient card advantage that Ribbons of Night becomes attractive to folks wanting it. Once these conditions seemed satisfied, my favorite uncommon from Ravnica: City of Guilds was back in my cube for the first time in years. Here’s hoping it plays an important role and neither is relegated to the sidelines all the time, nor is as ridiculous as it was in RGD Limited.

Looking ahead to Guilds of Ravnica, I highly doubt that Ribbons of Night will be reprinted, but I am quite excited to see what House Dimir brings to bear this October. Dimir didn’t get many cube goodies in Gatecrash and Dragon’s Maze (Far//Away is sweet but not spectacular, Duskmantle Seer is sweet but bad, and Nightveil Specter is a devotion enabler more than it is a blue/black card), so hopefully cubes everywhere get some sweet new goodies like Azorius and and Izzet got last time. And by this time next week, we might even have seen them. Here’s looking forward to finding out and the first third return to a world (outside of Dominaria).

And, as always, thanks for reading!

—Zachary Barash

Zachary Barash is a New York City-based game designer. He designs for Kingdom Death: Monster, has a Game Design MFA from the NYU Game Center, and does freelance game design. When the stars align, he streams Magic.

His favorite card of the month (and all time) is Prophetic Prism. It’s quintessentially fair, enormously powerful, and allows incredible greed at a reasonable cost (but little opportunity cost). Also, every version of its art is unspeakably beautiful.

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