How About That Magic Online Cube?

Last weekend Jonathan Sukenik, who had only played Cube a few times before, honed his skills by playing a lot of Cube during the special event on Magic Online. Learn more about the Magic Online Cube and Cube in general!

Yup, that was this past weekend…and it was super sweet!

At PAX East, the Magic Online Cube was released. For those of you who haven’t heard of this release, let me give you the run down. Wizards of the Coast (or more specifically Tom LaPille and Max McCall) put together 720 cards from all of Magic into a pool. Using this pool, unique booster packs were determined when one played a Cube Draft. This was a special event that only ran throughout last weekend

Besides Cube being brought to Magic Online, this past weekend was, in my opinion, the first large scale Phantom Draft event ran on Magic Online. For those of you who don’t know, a Phantom Draft is one in which you get to draft and play with certain cards but don’t get to keep the cards.

Another point is that you were allowed to draft for seven tickets. This made drafting Cube very affordable for both Magic Online players and the people who only go online for special events (such as this one). From an investment standpoint, at seven tickets the Phantom Cube Drafts were fairly high EV (expected value). If you made the finals of an 8-4, you doubled your entry fee; if you won the 8-4, you quadrupled your investment. However, if you chose to play in 4-3-2-2s, you really only had to win the first round to break even. Infinite fun, anyone?

Before I go any further, let me first clarify something. Before this past weekend, I’d only drafted Cube about four or five times; I am more or less a novice/beginner when it comes to Cube. However, with the amount of time that I spent drafting Cube online while it was available, I feel like I have a fairly good understanding of how it works. Now I can share with you how I was able to learn about The Magic Online Cube slowly but surely.

When I first looked at the list of the 720 cards in the Magic Online Cube, the first thing I noticed was the lack of certain levels of fixing, specifically Signets (such as Izzet Signet) and bounce lands/Karoos (such as Boros Garrison). Both before and after drafting for a bit, it always felt like it was hard to get a good amount of mana fixing, even if I valued the mana fixing highly. Signets allow you to jump from two mana to four mana along with fixing your mana, and bounce lands both help you significantly and make the land destruction in the set more relevant. This makes both of these ideal for Cube. Or maybe I just like Ravnica… good thing we’ll be returning to there this fall!

Another thing I noticed was that the cards they put into the Magic Online Cube were pretty interesting. I never thought I would be able to see a pack containing three of my five favorite cards (Spectral Lynx, Rorix Bladewing, and Firemane Angel). I hadn’t seen cards like Old Man of the Sea since my Shandalar days in elementary school. For those of you who have never played Shandalar, I highly recommend it! Lastly, there were a ton of cards in this cube that I’d never seen before, like those Portal Three Kingdoms cards with horsemanship, Stunted Growth (which was unfair all weekend), and Yavimaya Hollow. Quite interesting cards, eh?

Alright, well that’s enough of an introduction. How about I share some of the archetypes I drafted or saw drafted over the course of this past weekend? I know I won’t be able to cover everything, but hey, maybe you’ll be able to try something the next time they allow us to have Cube on Magic Online (which I hope is soon!). I know that a ton of people out there play Cube all the time, but sometimes the people that don’t play Cube often (like me) would like to be able to read about strategies in this format. I suppose an article of this topic would be hard if everyone wasn’t playing from the same cube, but in this case we were all definitely drafting from the same cube. So here we go!

Red Deck Wins

Oh man, Eric Tang (the red mage of the suite) and I had a field day with this one. First, you have your one-drops. Grim Lavamancer and Goblin Guide lead the brigade, while you can always play Kird Ape, Tattermunge Maniac, Jackal Pup, Figure of Destiny, and co. At two mana, you can always run out Kargan Dragonlord, Keldon Marauders, or Stormblood Berserker. A turn 2Shrine of Burning Rage is just as deadly in this format as it is in Standard, especially when you can follow it up with a Sulfuric Vortex.

Another thing that is fairly interesting is the amount of haste, then sacrifice it guys there are: Ball Lightning, Hellspark Elemental, Blistering Firecat, Skizzik sometimes, and Hell’s Thunder just to name a few. These cards are fairly hard to play around since you don’t really want to block them because they’ll die anyways, but sometimes you just can’t block because you keep on attacking into their empty board.

Eric and I had a game where our opponent played a Temple Garden and a dude on turn 1. He played another dude on turn 2 and kept attacking with just those. In the meantime, I played a turn 3 Ball Lightning, turn 4 Blistering Firecat, and turn 5 Skizzik. Eighteen damage from three creatures that kill themselves is pretty sweet, am I right? Imagine how well these types of cards combo with Greater Gargadon.

The last thing that really cements this archetype is the amount of quality burn spells in this cube. You have both Bolts in Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning. The amount of reach that Fireblast, Char, and Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] give you is not one to be underestimated. There are also about a billion cards for two mana that you can smack something for three (i.e., Volcanic Hammer). Just remember that Pyrokinesis can only hit creatures…

Next up is the archetype that I had the most fun executing.


When I first saw the cube, I felt like there were enough card draw/Tutors and Reanimator spells to make this archetype work. Animate Dead, Necromancy, Diabolic Servitude, Exhume, Makeshift Mannequin, Reanimate, Living Death, and if we’re pushing it, Corpse Dance, Profane Command, and Recurring Nightmare are the reanimator spells that we have access to in this format. If you have a lot of Tutor effects, Living Death is by far the most powerful one.

One version of this deck that I played was B/U and was the sickest Cube deck that I got all weekend. It featured both Imperial Seal and Vampiric Tutor, Thirst for Knowledge, Compulsive Research, Careful Consideration, and Buried Alive. With these, I was able to dump cards like Frost Titan, Sphinx of the Steel Wind, Myr Battlesphere, and Woodfall Primus into my graveyard. I was able to cast Living Death as early as turn 4 via Mind Stone and Everflowing Chalice.

The best part was I was able to cast most of my fatties if I accelerated into them. While one game was won with a turn 5 Skeletal Vampire, another was won with turn 2 Everflowing Chalice, turn 3 Buried Alive for Frost Titan, Woodfall Primus, and Myr Battlesphere with an end of turn Vampiric Tutor in order to casually lay down my Living Death to both Wrath of God him and put his lands on lockdown. Someone must have been a sad panda after that match, but it certainly wasn’t me!

Needless to say, if you can assemble the cards to execute this strategy with enough consistency, I highly recommend it. It’s the most powerful archetype in my opinion.

Next up will be more of an umbrella then a specific archetype.

Small Creature Beatdown (a.k.a. Aggro)

These decks usually feature red or white as their main color and use a different color to support them (or if you are Kai Ruan, you can just simply get every single good White Weenie card at the table). The reason why this archetype is so powerful is because you can generate a consistent and powerful deck that can smash your opponent while they’re doing something cute. In all honesty, most of the powerful cards are four or less mana, so why not just pick all of those and go the beatdown route.

In my experience (since we’re excluding Red Deck Wins here), W/G and W/B are the best two color combinations. We need to represent Watchwolf and Spectral Lynx somehow, right? White is able to provide certain types of threats that are more or less hard to answer. All of the shadow cards are very strong, with Soltari Champion being the best of them. Eight-and-a-Half Tails is a card that I’ve been trying to utilize in Modern (mostly just because I like him so much), and it was really great to play him this weekend. Have you ever used Eight-and-a-Half Tails to make your opponent’s Sword of War and Peace or Sword of Light and Shadow white while it’s attached onto one of your opponent’s creature? No? Well…it’s pretty sweet!

Other awesome cards include Student of Warfare, Mother of Runes (yup Reuben, we can plow their mom in this format…over and over again), Flickerwisp (with Stoneforge Mystic? I don’t mind if I do!), and Mirror Entity.

Since I saw this come up over the weekend, I may as well take this time to sneak in a tip or two. If Mirror Entity is the only creature on your side of the battlefield, you can pay zero to have it kill itself in response to Sower of Temptation, but if you have Glorious Anthem out, they will become 1/1s instead.

Lastly, if you can snag any of the five Swords, please do. They are very, very strong in this format as there are not that many good artifact removal spells that people will want to play in their maindecks. I will conclude this analysis with some random thoughts about the Magic Online Cube Draft format:

  • I hope that Wizards of the Coast has these events fairly often.
  • Control decks are powerful, but it’s hard to be consistent enough to keep up with both the aggressive decks and the unfair combo decks. However, if you can draw your specific answers to various decks, you will be in a very strong position.
  • Channel is the nuts in any green deck with a higher end. Turn 3 Terastodons and turn 2 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyres were seen roaming around last weekend, and that’s not what I like waking up in the morning to…
  • Mono-Black can be powerful; Lake of the Dead is a card I underestimated. Also, Necropotence goes by very late along with Phyrexian Obliterator. You can really catch people off guard by going this route.
  • Planeswalkers are more or less unfair, but what else is new?
  • People should learn how to play against Land Tax and Weathered Wayfarer. You either accept that they get free lands or you skip your land drop. Just remember that the second one is a possibility (and another reason why bounce lands would be good in this cube).
  • Storm combo is probably the most fun deck you can draft, but the support doesn’t feel like it is fully there in the Magic Online Cube.
  • Morphs OP (I love morphs in Cube, Mental Magic, Modern… just wherever I can play them). How do you play around Willbender, Gathan Raiders, Zombie Cutthroat, and Vesuvan Shapeshifter? And that’s only someone in blue…
  • Draft fixing whenever there isn’t an extremely powerful card in the pack; you will thank me later.
  • Magic Online Cube Draft is so much fun!

The next time they have Cube Drafts on Magic Online, I encourage you to give it a spin and maybe even read this article again help get the juices flowing.

Thanks for reading,

Jonathan "Watchwolf92" Sukenik