Monsters in Cube
Hey there! By the time you read this, there will be no more Cube action on Magic Online, but I still thought I would write about some of the experiences I had with this iteration of the Magic Online Cube. I did a lot of Cube Drafts during the two weeks it was up, and I found that it was a lot different than the previous versions of the Magic Online Cube. Previously, you could draft a whole bunch of different decks, and all of them had a decent chance of doing well. This time around, I really felt that there were a lot of decks that you can’t draft if you want to win the queue.
In general, I think that there are two viable strategies in the Magic Online Cube. You can either be super-aggressive or go very big. Mono-red is the classic example of a good aggressive archetype, and it does perform very well this time around, too. After the queues started giving out Qualifier Points again, my friend started forcing mono-red, and his match record was 16–6 with it.
Go Big or Go Home
While forcing this archetype might be a good idea, I’ve been spending most of my time swinging with creatures like Grave Titan, Inkwell Leviathan, and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. In this article, I’ll try to cover the basic strategies that involve these huge monsters.
The way I see it, there are three distinct ways to cheat these big monsters into play. The first is from your graveyard, the second is to put them into play from your hand, and the third way is to actually cast them. All colors except white have a way to accomplish one of these—unless you of course count the flashback cost of Unburial Rites. I’m going to go through each of these three ways and show you some of the decks that I have drafted to give a better understanding how things should look.
Ramp It Up!
This deck was almost perfect, with only Tinker missing to make it actually perfect. I cast a fair share of turn-three Myr Battlespheres and other assorted crazy stuff. This deck also features Upheaval, which is among the best cards in the Cube, especially when combined with all the artifact mana that this deck has access to. This deck only has one way to actually cheat creatures into play in the form of Show and Tell—and Mystical Tutor to find it—but all of the creatures are also easily castable.
The most important thing when trying to ramp up to 7 or more mana is to pick up the artifacts that generate more than 1 mana, such as Grim Monolith, Basalt Monolith, Thran Dynamo, Gilded Lotus, and other similar cards. These allow you to cast all the expensive creatures around turn three and four, especially if you have some smaller acceleration such as Signets to go along with these. The safest creatures to pick up here are artifact creatures such as Sundering Titan and Myr Battlesphere, as you can cast them no matter which colors your deck actually ends up being.
Back from Beyond
I actually had a harder time finding a good Reanimator deck from my saved Draft decks than I thought I would, but this was quite a good deck, though mainly because of the support cards. It does, however, have some of the better creatures to reanimate and good reanimation spells. This archetype can be tough to draft, as you need a good balance of discard outlets, reanimation spells, and fatties. The reanimation spells in this Cube are Reanimate, Animate Dead, Exhume, Necromancy, Unburial Rites, Corpse Dance, and Living Death. Because there are not all that many to go around, you will mostly end up having two or three in your deck. Usually, the whole reanimation strategy is paired with another supporting strategy, as can be seen from this deck, which features Tinker and Show and Tell.
The most important cards when going for the Reanimator deck are the good reanimation spells, but the good enablers such as Entomb and Buried Alive are also important. Good discard outlets such as Liliana of the Veil, Putrid Imp, and Oona's Prowler are also important and something you need to pay attention to. It’s usually easy to pick up the discard outlets quite late, but Entomb and the reanimation spells should be picked up as soon as you see them—they will most definitely not be wheeling.
This is by no means the perfect example of this archetype, as it does feature a fair number of midrange durdles, but I still think it shows off some of the cornerstones of the archetype. This deck features Channel, Show and Tell, Tinker, and Tooth and Nail. These allow you to put Blightsteel Colossus or Emrakul, the Aeons Torn into play around turn two or three, which is pretty tough to beat for most decks. The other notable cards that fit into this category but are missing from this list are Natural Order, Eureka, and Sneak Attack. Of these, the two latter are the best, as they allow you to put Eldrazi into play, but Natural Order is no slouch either, with Woodfall Primus, Terastodon, and Avenger of Zendikar being the best green targets.
If I see a Channel early in the Draft, I usually pick it over pretty much everything but Power Nine cards, as the card allows for some really insane plays to be made. Tinker, Show and Tell, Eureka, and Sneak Attack are similar cards, in that I pick them up very early. Tooth and Nail is usually not very good unless you have a lot of mana acceleration, because 9 mana is still a lot. The fatties that you want with these kind of cards are in general are artifact and colorless creatures, but green creatures such as the aforementioned Terastodon and Woodfall Primus are good, too, as you are looking to play a lot of Forests for Channel and Eureka.
Drafting these kinds of decks is very fun in my opinion, as you get to do very powerful things. The holiday edition of the Magic Online Cube might not be the best if you are looking for a balanced playing experience, and if I would need to play it competitively, I would probably not like it due to all the blowouts. But when you are playing it just to have fun, I don’t really mind the variance involved with all the high-powered cards such as the Power Nine and all the other mana artifacts that enable insane plays in the early game. I hope this was not the last time we have the chance to play with a powered Cube, as I really enjoy it much more than the normal Magic Online Cube that we have been used to seeing the past year.
As usual, if you have any questions or comments, be sure to contact me either via Twitter or the comments section below. Spoilers for Gatecrash are starting up, so I’m sure I’ll write about those in the near future. I’ve also planned to write a bit more about Legacy, but if there is anything else you would like me to write about, be sure to let me know!