Today's article covers a topic I've yet to talk about: playing a Cube. More specifically, playing my Cube.
Several readers requested a recorded draft of my Cube, so after figuring out the logistics of recording a paper draft, I gathered 7 local players around the table to be my guinea pigs via the promise of free drinks.
My personal drafting abilities don't hold a candle to those of the other authors on this site, but like most Cube designers, I hold a fairly pronounced “home Cube” advantage. That said, the competition has gotten stiffer week by week, as my articles here on ChannelFireball have started to draw more and more local PTQ grinders out of the woodwork.
For context, the Cube list used for this draft can be found here.
Pack 1, pick 1
The first pack gives us a bit of a freebie with Umezawa's Jitte. I'm not always enthusiastic about Jitte, as, like playing a Sword, Jitte can set you up to some tempo blowouts via instant-speed removal. Jitte is a weaker card in my fast 360-card Cube than in other cubes, and people lose games with an on-board Jitte often. It's still the clear pick here.
My Pick: Umezawa's Jitte
Pack 1, pick 2:
Our second pack is very removal-heavy, with five solid red cards available. I am drawn to the two black cards. Abyssal Persecutor is a very efficient threat, and with my Cube's abundance of sacrifice outlets, getting him off the table is rarely problematic. There's a case to be made for Mogg War Marshal, who gives us multiple bodies for Jitte. With the shape of my deck still undetermined, I opt for the solid removal spell.
My Pick: Doom Blade
Pack 1, pick 3:
Enlightened Tutor is a strong pairing with Jitte, but given the strength of this pack I suspect it might wheel. Green continues to present very little, and there's an indication that blue is open. However, I need beaters to go with Jitte, and Silverblade pairs especially well.
My Pick: Silverblade Paladin
Pack 1, pick 4:
Sylvan Library is a strong card, but too far off our radar, especially considering the dearth of green cards. Although it's still early, it looks like I'm settling into a BW beatdown deck. These decks are often short on reach, and rely on hand disruption to shape the game. Gravecrawler is an option, but I suspect I can pick up 1-drops from white as well.
My Pick: Thoughtseize
Pack 1, pick 5:
My top prospects from this pack are Fencing Ace, Nekrataal, Bonesplitter and Arid Mesa. Fencing Ace gives us another double-striker, but Nekrataal's first-strike ability works with equipment as well. I opt for the greater raw card-power.
My Pick: Nekrataal
Pack 1, pick 6:
A trio of red aggressive cards arrive, and it's possible I should make a move at this point. My only tie to white so far is Silverblade Paladin. However, I don't have any fixing and haven't seen a great deal passing through, which makes me inclined to draft more conservatively. I add another removal spell to my arsenal.
My Pick: Chainer's Edict
Pack 1, pick 7:
Another pack without relevant fixing, and the choice is between Tidehollow Sculler and Go for the Throat. I think I made a mistake here. At this point I'm not hurting for removal, and only have two creatures. Taking Go for the Throat does continue to cut black. I passed good black cards in my opening pack, but not much since.
My Pick: Go for the Throat
Pack 1, pick 8:
I snap up the evasive creature. With any luck I can rebuy a Nekrataal.
My Pick: Kor Skyfisher
Pack 1, pick 9:
My Pick: Grafted Wargear
Pack 1, pick 10:
Only two of the five red cards were taken, and with Sundering Growth as the only card in my colors, I move into red. This was another suboptimal pick, as I am starting to run the risk of drafting more removal than I want in my deck.
My Pick: Incinerate
Pack 1, pick 11:
The gamble pays off!
My Pick: Enlightened Tutor
Pack 1, pick 12:
My Pick: Dreadbore
Pack 1, pick 13:
My Pick: Harrow
Pack 1, pick 14:
My Pick: Hell's Thunder
Pack 1, pick 15:
My Pick: Craterhoof Behemoth
Pack 2, pick 1:
Swords are pretty clunky and often bad in my Cube. Five mana is a pretty huge investment to get a Sword online, and I already have two better equipments. It's very possible I wouldn't even include Sword of Feast and Famine in my final 40. Plateau is an option, but I'm not really committed to the red splash yet, and moving into red might even involve dropping white, rendering Plateau pretty pointless.
My Pick: Kitchen Finks
Pack 2, pick 2:
At this pick I feel the need to determine the speed of my deck. I don't have any one-drops, and my deck is tending toward midrange. I continue down that path.
My Pick: Baneslayer Angel
Pack 2, pick 3:
As well as Fire // Ice.
Despite cutting a number of black cards in pack 1, I'm not seeing much payoff in pack 2. I'm eager to fill out the lower end of my curve, and take the Lynx. I don't anticipate wheeling anything useful from this pack.
My Pick: Steppe Lynx
Pack 2, pick 4:
Yet another fairly dry pack. I'm starving for lands, which will be necessary with or without an extra splash.
My Pick: Verdant Catacombs
Pack 2, pick 5
It's very possible that I'm overly biased toward removal. Dismember is one of the best removal spells ever printed, and as much as my deck might need a Ranger of Eos or another Steppe Lynx, I find myself hard-pressed to pass it.
My Pick: Dismember
Pack 2, pick 6
The third and final Steppe Lynx makes its way around.
My Pick: Steppe Lynx
Pack 2, pick 7
This pack is brought to you by the Simic Combine. It's very well possible that I'm in completely the wrong colors, but with one fetchland I'm not exactly positioned to make the leap. I'm unlikely to play any of these cards, but if I do go into blue or green I'll need additional fixing.
My Pick: Kodama's Reach
Pack 2, pick 8
I'll take all the first-strikers I can get.
My Pick: Porcelain Legionnaire
Pack 2, pick 9
My Pick: Mirran Crusader
Pack 2, pick 10
My Pick: Badlands
Pack 2, pick 11
My Pick: Red Sun's Zenith
Pack 2, pick 12
Welcome to Greenland.
My Pick: Scavenging Ooze
Pack 2, pick 13
My Pick: Force Spike
Pack 2, pick 14
My Pick: Adventuring Gear
Pack 2, pick 15
My Pick: Opposition
Utility land pick:
Pack 3, pick 1:
I debated over this pick for a good long while. Obviously it's between Lingering Souls and Bitterblossom. Bitterblossom is slow at times. When you cast it, you don't actually get an attacking creature until a full two turns later, and the life loss is not irrelevant. Although it's a different metagame, I don't think it's an accident that Lingering Souls has seen far more Legacy success than Bitterblossom.
My Pick: Lingering Souls
Pack 3, pick 2:
Well, if there's one card to make me regret my colors it's Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Blue has certainly been underdrafted, but it's far too late for me to try and muster the double-blue for his casting cost. Phyrexian Arena and Vampire Hexmage are both options, and as of this pick I only have two 2-drop creatures. I don't know that this pick was correct, but at the time I felt a pretty desperate need for additional creatures.
My Pick: Vampire Hexmage
Pack 3, pick 3:
I don't think my deck is aggressive enough to take advantage of Tangle Wire, and I still have next to no fixing.
My Pick: Sacred Foundry
Pack 3, pick 4:
Scrubland and Marsh Flats end up in the same pack (disappointingly), and it's not very close. Scrubland does let my Verdant Catacombs fetch white, but I have two Steppe Lynxes and an Adventuring Gear. Further, Marsh Flats can give me access to either black or white, and grabs both Sacred Foundry and Badlands if our red splash ever comes together.
My Pick: Marsh Flats
Pack 3, pick 5:
This is mildly ridiculous. As if Lingering Souls and Bitterblossom in the same pack wasn't bad enough. It turned out that the four drafters to my right were all not in black, leading to both Liliana and Dark Confidant reaching me for pick five. My deck much preferred the body, and wouldn't mind the life loss either.
My Pick: Dark Confidant
Pack 3, pick 6:
None of these cards were all that likely to make my deck. Tezzeret serves as yet another reminder of the awesome deck I could have made if I had moved into Esper colors.
My Pick: Mentor of the Meek
Pack 3, pick 7:
Somewhere along the line, somebody messed up the packs. We'll blame it on the first time recording. Flickerwisp is a strong option here, but at the time I really had this lingering feeling of being short on fixing, a relic of picking up no fixing lands in pack 1. Further, I have a number of solid 3-drops that I am likely to run over Flickerwisp (Lingering Souls, Kitchen Finks, Mirran Crusader, Silverblade Paladin), with Nekrataal as my only permanent that benefited from a blink effect. I didn't know if Flickerwisp would make my 40, but City of Brass would certainly make the cut.
My Pick: City of Brass
Pack 3, pick 8:
Sometimes you punt and get there anyways.
My Pick: Phyrexian Arena
Pack 3, pick 9:
Picking up the red lands finally pays off!
My Pick: Flametongue Kavu
Pack 3, pick 10:
My Pick: Tangle Wire
Pack 3, pick 11:
My Pick: Scrubland
Pack 3, pick 12:
My Pick: Kor Sanctifiers
Pack 3, pick 13:
The table really botched pack 3, and I only end up with 13 picks (for now).
My Pick: Dark Ritual
Utility Land Pick:
For a while I experimented with including a couple multi-color lands in my utility land pile. I took two here, and as much fun as it was to fetch Murmuring Bosk with Verdant Catacombs, these additional fixers were unnecessary both for my deck and the utility land pile. I've since removed them from the utility land stack, and my deck would have been better off with lands like Blinkmoth Nexus and Secluded Steppe.
After the draft was “over,” a player discovered a pack that had somehow stopped circulating the table. Oops.
Pack 3, pick 14:
My Pick: Marsh Flats
Pack 3, pick 15:
My Pick: Duress
I built the following WBr beatdown deck, with relevant cards listed in the sideboard:
This certainly was not the strongest deck I've built, but it's one that has the potential to 3–0. These decks don't have as many lines of play as other Cube decks, and success usually depends on how well you draw. On to the matches!
Round 1: Maxime, WBr
In the first round I'm paired against first-time Cuber Maxime in a WBR mirror. His deck is a strange control-ish build, sporting the likes of Day of Judgment, Gideon Jura, Nevinyrral's Disk, and the Blood Artist/Terminus nombo.
I win the roll and keep the following loose hand:
Maxime keeps. I pass with no turn 1 play, and draw a Porcelain Legionnaire off the top for turn 2. On turn 3 I draw Kor Sanctifier and cast Lingering Souls. Maxime has no plays during the opening three turns, indicating a likely board wipe incoming. On turn 4 I draw Dismember, swing in for 5 knocking Maxime to 11, and pass with no play to not over-commit.
Maxime then reveals the expected board wipe, dropping Nevinyrral's Disk on the table. Turn 5 I blow up the disk with a kicked Kor Sanctifier and swing for 5 again. Maxime plays an Abyssal Persecutor. Turn 6 I swing with the Legionnaire, Sanctifier and two Spirit tokens. Maxime blocks the Legionnaire with his Persecutor, and I Dismember the Persecutor before first-strike damage. Maxime scoops.
I sideboard to better configure myself against his Gideon, board wipes, and black creatures.
Maxime and I both keep. My opening hand is:
Maxime plays “land, go” his opening two turns. I draw and play Steppe Lynx on turn 1. Next turn I crack in for 4 off of Marsh Flats and play Dark Confidant. Maxime kills my Steppe Lynx with a Bone Shredder and passes back.
My biggest concern at this point is keeping Dark Confidant alive. Despite Maxime having no white sources, I take the Vindicate and play Vampire Hexmage as protection against Liliana's sacrifice ability.
Maxime opts not to pay the echo, and plays a Sphere of the Suns. On my fourth turn I play and Equip Grafted Wargear to Vampire Hexmage, and swing for 7, knocking Maxime to 8. Turn 5 I kill Blade Splicer and the token with Go for the Throat and Chainer's Edict, and attack Maxime down to 1. With no means of dealing with two creatures, Maxime scoops.
Round 2: Gert, UR
I win the roll and keep:
My T4: Gert Vendilion Cliques on my upkeep, putting Go for the Throat on the bottom of my library. Draw Plains and Grand Coliseum. I play Grand Coliseum and attack with Kitchen Finks and Steppe Lynx. Gert trades Vendilion Clique for Steppe Lynx. (Me: 19, Gert: 11)
Gert's T4: Faerie Conclave tapped, go.
My T5: Draw Swamp. Activate Factory, swing with Finks, Factory and Mirran Crusader. Gert kills the factory with Electrolyze. (Gert: 4)
Gert's T5: Sower of Temptation, taking my tapped Mirran Crusader.
My T6: Draw Grafted Wargear. Here I make a pretty big punt. My plan was to trade Kitchen Finks with the Sower of Temptation, then play Kor Skyfisher post-combat to rebuy a fresh Finks, holding Grafted Wargear for the following turn. Instead, Gert takes the damage and goes to 1. I should have played and equipped Wargear to force the trade and get my Mirran Crusader back.
Post-combat I play Kor Skyfisher and Grafted Wargear, equip Wargear to Skyfisher to put him out of burn range.
Gert's T6: Fettergeist, go.
My T8: Draw Fetid Heath. I suspect Gert has a trick, as I saw him play Cyclonic Rift in the previous match. As the life totals stand 19 to 1 in my favor, I don't need to equip Grafted Wargear for added life gain. I attack, and Gert casts Cyclonic Rift returning Baneslayer to my hand.
Over the following turns Gert continues to try and dig for answers with a Mulldrifter, but eventually Baneslayer punches through for a final score of 34 life to -4.
Gert Keeps his hand, and I mulligan a hand that had 4 lands and 3 removal spells. Gert had the better late game so I needed a hand that could field some threats. I kept the following 6:
Gert's T2: Ludevic's Test Subject.
Gert's T7: Gert transforms his Test Subject with a fifth counter. He attacks me from 19 to 6.
My T7: I draw a blank on my turn and scoop.
I side out a Plains and bring in Vampire Hexmage to up my threat density. I mulligan a 6-lander and keep the following:
This game was fairly straightforward. Each of my creatures were killed before they could do any damage, and I drew one spell over 9 draw steps. Despite the unlucky draws, this game really highlighted some of my drafting mistakes. Particularly, picking up an additional manland would have helped immensely.
Round 3: Hannes, Ubg
For the final round, I play against Hannes, who has brewed some ungodly Tezzeret, Birthing Pod, Crucible of Worlds concoction.
I win the roll and keep:
My Turn 1: Steppe Lynx.
Hannes' Turn 1: Fetchland, go.
I don't really care about the Crucible, and have Kor Sanctifiers to answer any Birthing Pod shenanigans. I take Geralf's Messenger, then swing for 2 with Steppe Lynx.
Hannes' T2: Fetch, Phantasmal Image, copying Steppe Lynx.
My T4: Draw Verdant Catacombs and Marsh Flats. Crack fetch, Dismember (paying 2 life) his Phantasmal Image and play Porcelain Legionnaire (paying 2 life). Swing for 4. (Me: 8, Hannes: 9)
Hannes' T4: Hannes played a fetchland, a hasty Bloodghast and promptly swung his Bloodghast into my Porcelain Legionnaire (whoops). Post-combat he cracked his fetchland out of shame, bringing back Bloodghast.
My T4: Fetch, swing for 7, bringing Hannes to 1. Kor Sanctifier blows up the Crucible and Hannes scoops.
I keep on the draw:
Hannes' Turn 1: Fetch, go.
My Turn 1: Draw Plains, play Plains and Steppe Lynx.
Hannes' T4: Fetch, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, bounce a token (Jace at 2 loyalty).
My T4: Draw Plains. Activate Factory, equip Jitte to Spirit token, swing with Factory to kill Jace, and swing at Hannes with the token.
Final Match Record: 2 wins, 1 loss (2–0, 1–2, 2–0).
The table layout looked as follows:
I was positioned ideally for black, with all the players in black seated to my left. With the benefit of hindsight, it looks like my seat was better suited for Esper than WBr.
Gert, my Round 2 opponent, took the draft with the following deck:
Thanks for reading!
Jason's Cube Discussion Site: http://riptidelab.com/