It’s the early evening on December 25th. After a wonderful day of spending Christmas with my family, it’s time to sit down and write my article for the week. I’d be remiss if I didn’t get a Cube article under my belt while I have the chance. The format is great, and I love drafting wonky decks more than anything. Here we go! [Spoiler: These were some of the most epic Cube games I have ever played.]
Pack 1 Pick 1
Not the best opening pack, but there are a few winners to be sure. Normally I would like taking Opposition since the card is ridiculously powerful and will win pretty much every game you cast it with a few creatures in play. However, this is Holiday Cube, so there’s pretty much no choice but to force something awesome. Animate Dead is a great card and a key piece to a Reanimator strategy, but I want to go even bigger than that. It’s time to force Storm.
Pack 1 Pick 2
If you’re forcing Storm, a second-pick Mind’s Desire is pretty good place to be. Although Brainstorm is nice, getting a hold of as many actual storm cards as possible is essential to making the archetype work.
Pack 1 Pick 3
Ancestral Vision is a great pickup for the Storm deck. Extra cards are always welcome when trying to combo off, and you can even set the Visions up to add a spell to your storm count the turn you want to go off.
Pack 1 Pick 4
Although Mulldrifter is an awesome blue card, it isn’t really what the Storm deck is trying to do. To have a successful Storm deck, you need to get at least one of a card like Time Spiral, Timetwister, or Wheel of Fortune. Lion’s Eye Diamond works great with this type of effect, adding to your storm count for free and providing mana for after you resolve your refuel spell.
Pack 1 Pick 5
It is hard to argue with free mana and free storm count. We’re not even passing up on anything with this pick to boot.
Pack 1 Pick 6
Sensei’s Divining Top is a great way to filter your draws and set up that big storm turn. Before the turn you go off, you can even tap it to draw so you redraw it on your turn and get an extra storm count for the low price of one mana.
Pack 1 Pick 7
Getting a hold of rituals is a must when drafting this deck. Although moving into red might seem rough, it isn’t hard to build a three-color mana base in cube if you prioritize fixing.
Pack 1 Pick 8
A great tool for the deck, especially now that we might be moving into red. Being able to block a huge creature and regenerate comes up in the clutch often as well.
Pack 1 Pick 9
Pack 1 Pick 10
Mana fixing that also helps you hit your land drops. The big risk to bounce lands in Cube is how hard a card like Wasteland can set you back. However, they do have the upside of being great with Time Spiral and other untap-land effects.
Pack 1 Pick 11
Removal that also helps dig through the deck gets the nod over Char.
Pack 1 Pick 12
Although Liliana is a bit too slow to play maindeck, it can be a great tool against any slower control deck. Being able to tutor multiple times can give you a huge edge against a counterspell-heavy opponent.
Pack 1 Pick 13
Another solid anti-control sideboard card.
Pack 1 Pick 14
Pack 1 Pick 15
Coming out of pack 1, I’m pretty happy with how the deck is shaping up. A lot of the tools are there, but I know the deck needs a few more cards to really flesh it out. Rituals are definitely a priority moving into pack 2.
Pack 2 Pick 1
Not really the pack I’m looking for. The only other real option is Dismember, but I don’t like spending life on removal spells when playing a combo deck. Shivan Reef at least provides some needed fixing even if it’s not top of the line.
Pack 2 Pick 2
Everflowing Chalice is a very versatile card for a deck like this. It can either ramp you to four or simply act as a huge mana setup the turn before you try to go off. You can even just cast it for zero if you need to add to the storm count in a pinch.
Pack 2 Pick 3
Again, a pack that doesn’t really have what we’re looking for. We could just grab Inferno Titan here and try to have an alternate win condition, but when I draft Storm I like to stay as all in as possible. Picking up some fixing now also means that we won’t have prioritize it later if there are quality combo cards floating around.
Pack 2 Pick 4
Picking up a third storm spell creates a nice safety net for the deck. On top of adding a level of consistency, it makes sure we don’t just fold to a few discard spells.
Pack 2 Pick 5
Dark Confidant’s a strong consideration here for the extra raw power, but it looks like our curve is going to be a little bit too high to risk Bob’s inclusion. Fetch lands are great mana fixers in Cube because now if we can manage a U/R or U/B dual or shock Bloodstained Mire gives us access to all three colors of mana.
Pack 2 Pick 6
Another blank. At this point I’m starting to get a little worried that the deck isn’t going to come together. Epochrasite is a decent sideboard option here, as it can stem early aggression and add to the big storm turn when it comes off suspend if things line up appropriately.
Pack 2 Pick 7
Riftwing Cloudskate isn’t a slam-dunk but is a card I’m happy to add to the team. Any card with suspend helps fuel storm, and Cloudskate does a respectable job of bouncing problem permanents or helping you survive.
Pack 2 Pick 8
Nothing more than a random piece of removal.
Pack 2 Pick 9
I don’t like starting Thawing Glaciers, but it is an excellent option to have against slow control decks where hitting all your land drops can greatly help win the game.
Pack 2 Pick 10
Random piece of removal part two.
Pack 2 Pick 11
I’m not actually sure that Steam Augury is playable in any Cube deck, but at this point the pickings were pretty slim.
Pack 2 Pick 12
I was a little pleased to pick up Consuming Vapors here. Removal that gains you life is a great way to fend off the aggro decks until the turn you want to go off. Additionally, Vapors coming off of rebound adds to the storm count.
Pack 2 Pick 13
Pack 2 Pick 14
Pack 2 Pick 15
I think it’s pretty safe to say that pack 2 went about as bad as it realistically could have. The best cards we picked up were Everflowing Chalice, Brain Freeze, and Riftwing Cloudskate, with the rest of the picks falling off hard. Pack 3 needs a few godsends to bring this deck up to par. Any sort of hand-refuel spell like Wheel of Fortune is our top priority.
Pack 3 Pick 1
Although it isn’t starting off with a bang, getting Pentad Prism is a fine addition. It can either act as a ritual you set up early in the game or a free storm count the turn you are going off. I’m also happy with this pack because I have a good feeling Trinket Mage will table and we already have multiple great targets in Lion’s Eye Diamond, Sensei’s Divining Top, and Lotus Bloom.
Pack 3 Pick 2
As it turns out, this is where I almost punt the entire draft. Upon seeing this pack, I tilt off at the fact that there are no obviously good cards for the deck and snap up Show and Tell as an unrealistic hedge. I’m lucky enough to table Toxic Deluge, and it turns out to be absolutely instrumental in winning all of my games in rounds 2 and 3 of the draft. Keep in mind that even if a draft is going poorly getting angry and making bad picks is never going to help pull it up from the gutter.
Pack 3 Pick 3
Free mana and storm count. It’s not a ritual, but I’ll take it at this point.
Pack 3 Pick 4
This is a very important pick in the draft. I’m tempted to take Compulsive Research here because of how important both card advantage and selection are in a deck like this. However, Mystical Tutor is way too important in a deck like this, basically doubling the effective count of our important cards. As it turns out, it’s also a sweet way to combo Lion’s Eye Diamond and Sensei’s Divining Top.
Pack 3 Pick 5
Finally another ritual! A step in the right direction.
Pack 3 Pick 6
In the third-to-last pack possible comes the salvation of this deck. Vampiric Tutor is incredible in a combo deck, but having access to Timetwister is a must. For my sake, it’s a good thing the Holiday Cube plays with the Power Nine.
Pack 3 Pick 7
Good fixing that turns our Bloodstained Mire into a tri land.
Pack 3 Pick 8
Looks like that Show and Tell hedge is really coming together.
Pack 3 Pick 9
Pack 3 Pick 10
As I mentioned, luck played its hand in letting me table what would be one of the most important cards in the deck. Mystical Tutor in the mix makes this sweeper all the more important.
Pack 3 Pick 11
Izzet Charm does three things that a combo deck likes to have access to—kill problem creatures like Thalia, dig for important spells, and help defend important spells. A good pick, especially this late.
Pack 3 Pick 12
Pack 3 Pick 13
Getting a third-to-last pick Preordain actually gave me some faith that this deck might work out after all.
Pack 3 Pick 14
Pack 3 Pick 15
Pack 3 was thankfully much kinder than pack 2 by a country mile. We managed to get the all-important Timetwister while adding another ritual, some card selection, a sweeper, and a tutor to the mix. While I knew things weren’t going to be easy, we managed to move the deck from unplayable to having a fighting shot.
The one “benefit” of not getting a boatload of playable is that the deck pretty much built itself. The hardest decision I had to make was whether to play seventeen or sixteen lands and Prophetic Bolt. Even with a few rituals and extra mana sources, I opted to go for seventeen lands because hitting land drops in a combo deck is essential if the game goes long. Getting to play an additional colored source was also nice.
In game 1 of round 1, I kept a speculative hand featuring a curve of Ancestral Vision into Riftwing Cloudskate. My opponent was playing a U/B Control deck and didn’t have much in the way of pressure early aside from a Guul Draz Assassin. On my turn 5, both Riftwing Cloudskate and Ancestral Vision came off of suspend, and my opponent opted to counter Ancestral Vision, which left us with few relevant cards in hand. Fortunately, I drew Mind’s Desire for the turn and was able to ritual it out for five thanks to the suspend cards and the opponent’s counterspell. Hitting Lotus Bloom and a few spells was enough to provide both the mana and storm count to make the Brain Freeze in hand lethal.
Sideboarding for game 2, I added Liliana Vess, Duress, and Prophetic Bolt to the deck in favor of Magma Jet, Firebolt and Toxic Deluge. Since my opponent was a control deck, the removal wasn’t necessary, and I wanted to slow things down a bit.
Game 2 looked like it wasn’t going to be much of a game at all. My opponent mulliganed to five on the play, and I had a very strong opening seven. As it turned out, however, his five-card hand contained a Grim Monolith and a Mind Twist. While it was frustrating to lose this way, such is the game you play when working with a fully powered Cube.
Game 3 I was able to pay the opponent back with one of the most insane wins I have ever seen. My opening seven was a multiple ritual hand completely reliant on Timetwister and Lion’s Eye Diamond to go off. I kept the hand because I hadn’t seen any discard other than Mind Twist at this point. A Trinket Mage on turn 3 further set up a huge Timetwister turn by finding a Lotus Bloom to suspend.
As it turned out, however, the opponent played a Vendilion Clique on turn 5 that stripped the Timetwister from my hand, rendering most of my cards useless and putting a decent damage clock on. The following turn I used Izzet Charm to dig and discard an excess land and now defunct Lion’s Eye Diamond. Although it drew into two more lands, one of them was at least Bloodstained Mire. By using the Mire, I was able to shuffle my deck and remove Timetwister from the bottom, which gave me a chance of redrawing it and getting back into the game. Knowing things had to go exactly right, I played an Everflowing Chalice on three the following turn, hoping to bait out a counterspell and protect the Timetwister we needed to draw into. Luckily, the opponent took the bait and used Force of Will to counter it.
The following turn was the last I was going to get thanks to the Vendilion Clique and friends beating down. I couldn’t help but get excited when Timetwister came back off the top of the deck. With phase one out of the way, the next step was to hope the opponent didn’t have a counterspell. Let me tell you, this was one awful feeling:
Thankfully the Force of Will from last turn was the only counter the opponent hand, and Timetwister resolved. Our new seven-card hand had a ritual, Sensei’s Divining Top, Nightscape Familiar, and Mind’s Desire. After playing the other spells, I was able to fire off a Desire for eight. Although eight seems like a lot, the sweat was still unreal. Although I didn’t outright hit Brain Freeze or Tendrils of Agony, I did flip into Duress, a few rituals, and Mystical Tutor. The Duress stripped the Mana Drain the opponent had drawn off of Timetwister and showed that the way was now clear. One Mystical Tutor and a tap of the Top later and this was the screen I was looking at:
There’s nothing quite as sweet as playing well and winning a really tough game of Magic as a result.
The start of round 2 saw another speculative keep involving a Magma Jet, Dark Ritual, and Izzet Charm. As it turned out, my opponent this round was playing a G/W Aggro strategy backed by a few planeswalkers. The way the game progressed, I needed to use Izzet Charm to dig and hit the first of many clutch Toxic Deluges to wipe the opponent’s board and buy crucial time. The turn before I was once again facing lethal, I managed to draw a Mind’s Desire and fuel it out for a storm of five. After hitting Preordain, Chrome Mox, and Nightscape Familiar, a spin of the Top revealed a Tendrils of Agony that I was able to cast for exactly lethal thanks to a Temple Garden shock from earlier in the game.
Sideboarding for this matchup was pretty simple. The opponent had a few ways to make tokens, which made Consuming Vapors a much worse option. Incinerate provided a more reliable point-and-click removal spell for mid-sized creatures.
Game 2 saw a decent hand with Sensei’s Divining Top, Trinket Mage, and Mystical Tutor. Spinning the Top on upkeep set up an Ancestral Vision suspend on turn 2 that was followed up with a Trinket Mage into Lotus Bloom suspend on turn 3 to prepare for the big storm turn. Although I had Tendrils and Brainstorm in hand, the turn they both went off I drew three lands and was forced to Mystical Tutor for a Toxic Deluge to stall instead of risking a small Mind’s Desire. A few turns later I was able to get enough mana to pump out a small Mind’s Desire and still have enough to cast Tendrils after. A couple of spell flips and a swing from Cloudskate later and the opponent was deadskies.
A bit to my surprise, it was time to play the finals with this Stormy brew. After a mulligan from the opponent, I decided to keep this seven-card hand on the draw:
I decided to get aggressive and use Chrome Mox on turn 1 to remove Consuming Vapors and suspend Cloudskate. The plan was to go all in on tutoring for Timetwister after dumping a bunch of mana into play. The opponent this round was surprisingly on another G/W creature plan, although this time more midrange based. A Flickerwisp on their turn 3 threw a huge wrench into the plan since it blinked Izzet Boilerworks as the only land in play and forced me to return it to hand. I ended up needing to use a Toxic Deluge to stall and continue making land drops until I could Mystical for Timetwister with a lot of extra mana to spare. Unfortunately the turn before I died tragedy struck, and I clicked the wrong card when casting Mystical Tutor, ending any hope of winning the game on the spot.
Oops . . .
After coming down from colossal life tilt, I decided not to make any sideboard changes to the deck. G/W tends to be a good matchup for a deck like this because all they can do is a put a clock on you and hope to close things out before you go off.
Game 2 opened up with a reasonable if not speculative hand:
Things started off in a similar fashion to the first, with Flickerwisp resetting my Everflowing Chalice to remove its charge counters. I ended up digging into a Timetwister that I had to expend early to refill and have a chance of storming out. Unfortunately I failed to draw much other than the now legendary Toxic Deluge that cleared the board out. Following the Deluge the opponent dropped a Primeval Titan into play that threatened to close things out quickly.
However, it ended up acting as a blessing in disguise. By using a small Tendrils storm to stay alive, my opponent got multiple Titan triggers and lowered his deck size. The turn before the Titan crashed in for lethal, I was able to use the Sensei’s Divining Top draw trick and play a few spells to set up a Hail Mary Desire for four, which hit two lands, an Ancestral Vision, and an Izzet Charm. The Vision drew into Chrome Mox, land, and Nightscape Familiar. The last hope of Izzet Charm drew into Brain Freeze, which when paired with the free storm from Mox and Prism were able to mill the opponent out thanks to the extra cards he removed from his library with Titan.
Game 3 started out on a decent note, with an aggro mana hand that could potentially fuel a big Mind’s Desire or refuel with Timetwister if necessary. I ended up playing Chrome Mox on turn 3 to cast an Everflowing Chalice for two even though the opponent had out a Scavenging Ooze and Birthing Pod that could find Flickerwisp. The opponent used the Pod to search out the annoying 3/1 flier and once again render our Chalice useless. I ended up having to use Timetwister to refuel after not drawing anything to make Mind’s Desire worth casting.
Unfortunately the opponent’s turn following Timetwister was almost deadly. They played a Black Lotus, sacrificed it to play Sun Titan, and brought back the Lotus. The Lotus was recracked to add a Sword of War and Peace to the board and suit up a Flickerwisp. Along with his other attacking creatures and a fresh seven-card hand, this hit would have basically killed us if not for the Slaughter Pact that finally put that blasted Flickerwisp to rest. Although paying for the Pact tied up most of my mana, I was able to use the mighty Toxic Deluge to go low on life and wipe the board to buy time for next turn. Then my opponent played a Deranged Hermit for their turn, which meant it was going to be now or never.
On the final turn of the tournament, a final drop of luck came my way in the form of a Mind’s Desire off the top. A Pentad Prism and a Trinket Mage for Lion’s Eye Diamond later and it was another desperate Desire for four. The four flips revealed Shivan Reef, Sensei’s Divining Top, Riftwing Cloudskate, and Tendrils of Agony. I played the Top and went for a spin, revealing a Mystical Tutor. Cracking the Lion’s Eye Diamond for mana, I was able to use the Top to draw and play Mystical Tutor, finding nothing to add a crucial tick to the storm count. Cloudskate came in and bounced the seemingly useless Everflowing Chalice for two more storm count, bringing our final Tendrils total to eighteen damage. Add in the three taken from Birthing Pod and a fetch land and that’s the game baby!!!
I’m on the top for this screenshot; I had to take it from the replay. You’ll notice the 54 seconds left on our clock for style points.
I can’t really say that going into round 1 I expected to take the whole thing down with this deck. If nothing else, it’s safe to say that the games were truly epic and Storm is a sick deck to draft. I know I’m going to be bummed when the 2013 Holiday Cube runs its course. Better get more games in while I can!