My Modern article is taking a little longer than I anticipated to put together, but it should be done soon, with Magic Online data, UR Delver chatter, and thoughts on GP Madrid and the future of Treasure Cruise. For now, my non-judging Magic time has been taken up by the return of Cube, Legacy Cube to be precise!
1) Play Mono-Red
As usual, mono-red strategies are among the best in the Cube and they even moved back from some of their previous anti-red changes in the last iterations of Cube. For example, Shrine of Burning Rage is back to give us another reasonable top pick and Fireblast comes back as the ultimate “Does he have it?” slowroll card.
See, mono-red is just the brutal justice of an uncaring world smacking you down for going over your excess quantity of fun in a day. A common trick by these Cube designers is to continue to tell everyone that, “You can do anything!” (with the exception of Storm apparently) and it’ll all turn out fine in the end. This is all well and good except that the red deck is added specifically to hunt out and eliminate anyone deviating from a prescribed set of actions.
Lesson number one is really to build an archetype and focus on the goals for your deck based on your early picks. Coherent strategies are usually better than hot messes and this is especially true when dealing with non-power Cube and many of the free-win cards have been removed.
2) Have a Plan
One of the best ways to determine whether or not you want narrower cards in your deck is by having a plan. Wrath of God is a very solid pick in almost any deck for a normal Limited format, but in Cube there’s plenty of white archetypes that don’t want to go near it. Niche effects like Upheaval and Splinter Twin fall under the same categories, if you aren’t actively shooting for these strategies, ganking them isn’t particularly valuable.
Of course exploring some of these weird niche cards like the red token theme with Goblin Bombardment is interesting. So if you see these types of cards early and are willing to take a chance on building around them, then you can take your shot and hopefully get a solid payout. Obviously the Splinter Twin combo is the highlight of all of these options, but like I said you just want to focus on whatever plan you feel will work out the best.
As far as signals go—ignore them. In Cube they really don’t matter all that much unless you play with a consistent group, and people are so random online that it’s worthless. There’s just no reason to care about them since you can easily be drafting in the same colors and still have tons of playables. The more powerful the drafting format, the less important coloring between the lines becomes. It helps that the extra mana-fixing in the format means you can always slam a bunch of lands and random mana rocks early if you need too.
Remember that you don’t need to commit to a color early and in fact it’s one of the best parts of playing the Cube. There’s so much power and mana-fixing that you can whiff on some of your earlier picks and still make a reasonable switch down the line and come out with a good deck. All those double-colored cards you’re worried about whiffing on? They table. Multicolored cards? Table. People really overrate the multicolored cards in Cube, they aren’t the easiest to splash if you haven’t taken a fair amount of mana early and often aren’t worth the extra trouble.
Speaking of double-colored and multicolored cards…
4) Don’t Take Multicolored Cards Early
Just don’t. They come around late and the difference between snagging a Huntmaster of the Fells over a similar four-mana value creature isn’t big enough to be worth the trouble. Multicolored cards have always had a troubled history in Cube. The entire problem is that 99% of Cubes don’t have a multicolor focus and without that focus it means the support isn’t there to fix for those cards.
In fact, Cube often punishes you for doing so since it means missing out on a card 3-4 people at the table want over one that at most one other player is going to take. I love Prophetic Bolt and it’s in one of the best color combinations, but I’m almost always going to take a card like Stoke the Flames over it when given the option. Prime Speaker Zegana is an awesome card when it works, but again, the mana requirements are so steep I’m basically taking an eight-drop. It just doesn’t hold up well.
On the flip side, being multicolored is rewarded in its own way when you take a lot of lands early or go heavy into green fixing because the cards go so late and are similar to high-pick single-color cards. Cards like Olivia Voldaren, Sphinx’s Revelation, and Supreme Verdict do have big payoffs if you put the work in. It also helps a lot if you end up as an aggro deck in GW since Voice of Resurgence, Qasali Pridemage, and Fleecemane Lion are all excellent and very rarely get sniped.
What Archetypes Are Good?
Previously, besides mono-red, this was the best deck in the Cube according to the data. Of course, a lot has changed since then and it may have been knocked down a peg or two, for now though with the double down on Splinter Twin I think it’ll likely remain one of the best plans. My limited time with it has shown that the UR control decks are just as good as ever since they have the utility to directly counter G/X ramp decks and still have a shot against red.
Between all the cheap removal, countermagic, and bombs like Treachery, it takes a lot for a creature-based plan to get over the hump against this deck. While it lacks a proper Wrath of God, it has plenty of other ways to keep the board in check from various Pyroclasm effects to overload Cyclonic Rift.
Building WU Control is a pretty simple endeavor—nab some sweepers, removal, counters, and card draw. Click “add land” and submit a deck. There’s really not much else you need to be doing here and building the deck is pretty simple. Building a more tempo-oriented version comes down to a combination of cheap threats, cheap interaction, flash creatures, and a few bombs.
Key cards include Blade Splicer, Snapcaster Mage, Restoration Angel, and Vendilion Clique. Any of the Control Magic cards should be a snap-pick and creatures that help keep tempo like Venser, Riftwing Cloudskate, and Man-o’-War should be highly valued. In general the more blue oriented builds will have less creatures, less hard removal, and a bigger curve. Meanwhile the white side focuses more heavily on attacking early and often and clearing the way. You also get rewarded in these colors by picking up Detention Sphere, Geist of Saint Traft, and Venser, the Sojourner quite late.
Key cards to watch out for are the reanimation spells, specifically Animate Dead, Exhume, and Reanimate. There are a few more spells that fit in the deck, specifically Unburial Rites and Entomb, but without at least two of those three you just don’t have much of a deck. Recurring Nightmare and Whip of Erebos are also reasonable engines but both require more setup to really maximize. Still, you have about ten reasonable ways to buyback giant monstrosities so getting four or five in the deck is quite fine.
Other things to nab are cheap cantrips and filter cards because the whole idea is getting your reanimated creature into play before ramp decks do. Titans tend to fit best here since it gives you a reasonable plan B in case you can’t easily bring back your creatures.
Not much in the way of detail here—Pick mana creatures, mana fixing if going more than two colors, 6-, 7- and 8-drops and make sure you have enough early defense to not auto-scoop to red. Wall of Roots is one of the absolute best picks, buying you time against aggro and allowing for a lot of fun mana tricks later. Wall of Blossoms is fine, but far less impressive since it doesn’t enable your game plan. Also remember that some amount of interaction is good, so take Indrik Stomphowler and similar cards more highly later in the draft. Once your core is in place, it’s worth taking more utility to make sure you don’t get slammed. You shouldn’t really be fighting over the best fat in the packs and if you’re three colors or more then it’s very low on the list.
Splashing is almost entirely based on how much utility you feel you really need from other colors and how easy it would be to play late-pick gold cards. If they don’t add a ton, don’t go out of your way to throw them into the deck. This is especially true if you have a Rofellos in your deck and want to keep the Forest count high.
Which New Additions Are Awesome?
Seeker of the Way
Not actually that great in the traditional WW deck since you don’t want to end up casting that many spells early. It does get around some of the traditional walls people have to brick you early like Blade Splicer, Kitchen Finks, and Wall of Blossoms, but is a lot better in WU or WR decks. Obviously in WU Tempo the card is very potent and with countermagic to protect it, it’s one of the few really good ways the deck has to win races with other decks. It also can get absolutely absurd with anthems, Silverblade Paladin, and Sublime Archangel.
Great against the durdle Ux control decks that run low creature counters and with equipment. Usually a better Bloodghast, though sacrifice shenanigans work better with the Ghast. Not usually a high pick due to the nature of black in the Cube.
Best black removal spell in the Cube and easily splashable. A+
Not in Snapcaster Mage‘s league, however a it’s solid four- or five-drop. Usually you’ll just be using it to copy a one-mana burn or a draw effect from the opponent. Every so often you get to go deep though and it’s one of the few red cards with real late-game implications, much like Zealous Conscripts or Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker.
Song of the Dryads
A real green removal spell and one of the best picks for a heavy-green strategy. Having planeswalker and creature removal is one of the few drawbacks about being mono-green ramp, now at least you have one card that works.
Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury
Freyalise is a rather unassuming planeswalker, pretty expensive, and doesn’t exactly do a lot when she first hits the battlefield. However she adds a bit of utility to the deck by giving you another Naturalize effect when it matters and going up to 5 loyalty while putting mana Elves onto the field is pretty reasonable. She threatens a quick ultimate if the opponent doesn’t deal with her and helps get you to the 8-9 mana range where your best bombs come online. She’s limited in that she only really fits in the G/X ramp shell, but goes very well there alongside the various flavors of Garruk.
Enjoy the Cube while we’ve got it folks, it’s one of the only joys I still take from Magic Online at this point. Buggy or not, Cube Magic is one of the best formats around and definitely the wildest outside of Vintage. Have a great Thanksgiving!