Morality, Order, Unity.
White exercises these values through law, religion and a trained militia. This flavor is expressed mechanically through cards that control, cards that level the playing field and its large army of small, white creatures to "maintain the peace".
Today we are going to focus on filling out the white cards in a small cube. My cube clocks in at only 180 cards - but even if you are building a more "traditional" 320 card (or larger!) cube, this will serve as a great structural skeleton to start your cube experience. It is a lot easier to build out a cube if you have the core cards in place. Let's take a look.
White is known for small, cheap creatures - and lots of them. Known as "White weenie", this is a primary archetype of white and it is easy to support as a viable deck build. You have to include creatures in every color - so why not start your focus in white here.
Let's start with the token makers. Elspeth, Suns Champion, Cloudgoat Ranger, Brimaz, King of Oreskos and Hero of Bladehold all produce 1/1 Soldier tokens. This is great for swarming the enemy, and the complex interactions that these cards also bring to the table is one of the things that makes cube such an amazing format. In a smaller cube it is important to prioritize "army-in-a-can" cards, and these are four of the best printed in the history of the game.
Elspeth may seem an odd choice as the single planeswalker include, but in a cube this small her emblem means that she does "double duty". White is traditionally the strongest color for "anthems" - cards that buff all your creatures, and this card along with Spear of Heliod get the nod over the more iconic Glorious Anthem since they both bring additional abilities with them. Remember... a smaller cube like this is all about value and both these cards have that in spades.
Round out this archetype by picking more of those "double duty" creatures that white has at its disposal. I like Accorder Paladin for his board-wide buff, Kor Skyfisher for her bounce effect and the Porcelain Legionnaire for its aggressive stance and the possibility it can be used by anyone that needs "one more creature". Finally... Take a look at Lingering Souls. While not strictly a creature card, (or even strictly a white card) the value is fantastic and its evasion is a huge bonus. Sometimes you just need a flyer (or two) to block.
As a designer, you do have latitude here for customization, but remember that a lot of people cube for the "nostalgia factor" and the interaction of powerful cards. All three of these cards are a bit ahead of the normal power curve, and all three were iconic draft picks in their respective blocks. Remember to respect the power of cube's emotional experience as you design.
These are the cards that drive the stories your playgroup will be telling for years to come. They change the course of games and are all solid "first picks" in a draft. Other cards can fall into this category if they fuel player nostalgia. These may vary from group to group, but even at lower power levels than other picks, the playgroup just "expects them to be there". Finally "iconics" can describe the creature that Wizards has chosen to associate with that color - in White's case, angels.
Balance. Armageddon. Wrath of God. These cards are powerhouses, mechanically representing the color identity of White. They are must includes in any cube list of any size. Swords to Plowshares and Disenchant are both critical utility players in the cube, providing much needed spot removal. Land Tax is on the bubble, but it is a really fun card with an unique and powerful ability. Its "nostalgia factor" puts it over the top for me, and I always include it in my cube builds.
Together these cards allow even the smallest of cubes to support the Control archetype. Paired with blue counter-magic, white control cards slow the game or level the playing field, giving the player an opportunity to drop its cheap army onto a clear (or at least evenly matched) battlefield and swarm for the win.
Angels. In Magic, they are the arbiters of justice. Keepers of the peace. In a small cube, two or three slots are all you will have to evoke the feel of this iconic race, and we are cheating here since Reveillark isn't an angel. An "elemental" mechanically, Rev's art does evoke an angelic feel and its powerful recursion ability makes it a must include in cubes anyway. The fact that it also helps us with flavor is a bonus. Restoration Angel, only printed once in Avacyn Restored, has a great "enters the battlefield" flicker ability and has a lower than casting cost than most angels, making it easier to slot into tiny cubes. Archangel Avacyn is the newest on my list of includes, taking the place once held by Baneslayer Angel in my structural skeleton. Baneslayer is still a great "lower cost" option if you are cutting corners or just prefer the art.
White is a fantastic slice of the color pie for cube and provides solid control and aggro strategies for players to build around. It's one of the easier colors to draft, so its a great color for beginners. Veterans will find a great toolbox of cards in this color, and may splash a few white mana in their decks to just run a card or two.
Join me next week as we dip our toe in the waters of... Blue.
This is a seven part, introductory series on cube. Here's how to catch up.
Travel Cubed (Introduction)
As always, if you want to skip ahead and start building, my entire list is up on Cube Tutor.