It’s a busy time in the world of Cube, gamers! We just had two weeks of the Modern Cube on Magic Online (MTGO) and next week we’ll be getting our hands on Carmen Handy’s Magic 30 Cube! This week also marks the debut of a new Cube on MTGO, with John Terrill’s CubeCon Cartographia coming to the client today. Spellcheck doesn’t like the word “cartographia” and it’s a new one to me, but it’s something to do with maps. The Cube features over 100 lands in the 540-card spread, so that much makes sense to me!
You can find Terrill’s breakdown of the Cube on the mothership, and I’ve also ported the posted list over to Cube Cobra. The macro themes in the Cube center around artifacts, enchantments, and lands as card types, with all of these themes gaining significantly from recent releases. Triomes, Modern Horizons 2, Theros Beyond Death, and Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty all make their presences known here.
The Cube notably breaks singleton, but only for a selection of fetchlands. This includes the proper fetches like Bloodstained Mire in addition to Ash Barrens, Fabled Passage, and Prismatic Vista. Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse only made it in as singletons, but they’re both present.
I’ve explored each of the macro themes of the Cube in my own designs, but I haven’t brought them together quite in this way or at this size or power level. All the same, there are a lot of things that I find familiar coming together to form a new environment, which is always cool to see. Without further ado, let’s get to my usual breakdown of how I would approach drafting the Cube!
There’s a fair amount of the usual suspects in the white column of the Cube, with avenues to play aggressive or controlling decks featuring a bevy of one mana creatures or Wrath of God, respectively. White also opens up avenues for artifact and/or enchantments synergies, with Monastery Mentor being a payoff for any non-creature spells. Despite the Cube not having many other traditional prowess payoffs, there are good bones for a more generic spells matter deck that Monastery Mentor could realistically headline.
This Cube has a significant focus on synergy over abstract power level, and white offers as few individual power level outliers as you’d usually expect. As such, I’m looking at engine-building cards to move in on white. Michiko’s Reign of Truth and Hallowed Hunting are some standouts in this department. I would also expect Felidar Retreat to perform admirably here with the high volume of fetchlands and absence of fast combos.
A couple things to keep in mind when approaching the Cube with regard to expectation management are knowing the peripherals around Stoneforge Mystic and Swift Reconfiguration. Stoneforge Mystic usually screams “Batterskull” and “Sword of Word and Other Word” which you won’t find here. You’re looking for Nettlecyst and Maul of the Skyclaves in this Cube. Swift Reconfiguration had me immediately checking for Devoted Druid, and you won’t find that here either. It’s just a pseudo-removal spell for the Enchantress decks.
White looks to be a firmly middle of the pack color on balance in this environment, with Kenrith, the Returned King arguably being the standout card. If you weren’t playing or paying attention when Kenrith was Standard legal you should know that the red ability is busted and that you’re generally happy to have access to any part of the card’s textbox.
Blue ranges from “Oh, that’s cute” cards like Animating Faerie to “Oh, that’s really strong” card like Urza, Lord High Artificer. The Reality Chip has been incredibly powerful in environments like this in my experience, and is one of many reasons that you’ll want to maindeck cards like Nature’s Chant.
There’s a pretty long list of cards that you can’t go wrong with in the blue column. Ponder, Preordain, Counterspell, Mana Leak… the gang’s all here! Blue has some good payoffs for the artifact and enchantment themes with powerful individual cards like Primordial Mist, Shark Typhoon, and Kiora Bests the Sea God, with a long list of generically powerful cards to supplement whatever archetype you pursue.
It’s incredibly easy to endorse blue in this environment. I would only caution against trying to get too aggressive with cards like Ensoul Artifact instead of taking the safer route of playing the long game with haymakers and permission spells.
Black looks to be another middle of the pack color. You get some nice enchantments and artifacts with Doomwake Giant showing up as a significant Enchantress payoff, but quite a lot of cards that are merely fine to fill in the gaps. There’s a Sacrifice archetype with quite a few solid cogs featured here, though I’d have a hard time endorsing this strategy without access to The Meathook Massacre and/or red mana for Goblin Bombardment. It’s worth noting that Attrition is absolutely backbreaking in some matchups, so that’s a good one to watch out for, too.
Some spot removal and sweepers are good reasons to play some black cards, though for the most part I’d be looking to take advantage of the abundance of mana-fixing in the Cube to splash black rather than looking to draft a heavily black deck. I am quite fond of many of the cards featured here, they just don’t hold a candle to what blue and green are bringing to the table.
There’s quite a lot more support for generic red beatdowns in this Cube than I was expecting, which you won’t catch me complaining about! The GOAT, Sulfuric Vortex, is absent, but there are a lot of cheap creatures as well as Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning, and most surprisingly to me, Fireblast. I’ll also note Embercleave in the spread being one of the more significant finds for Stoneforge Mystic.
This Cube is very long on creatures, so red players need to be wary of blockers. That sort of thing can make Fireblast a risky proposition, but having a good spread of removal and/or Embercleave to push damage through goes a long way. Picking up some sticky creatures in black to go along with Goblin Bombardment and Mayhem Devil also looks like a powerful avenue to explore.
Much like white and black, I’ll be looking for specific red cards to move in rather than just expecting a red beatdown deck to work. In a pack 1 situation I’m more inclined to draft Fable to the Mirror Breaker and build some kind of value-generating deck rather than something like Goblin Guide and hoping to get there quickly and consistently.
I’ve never beaten a turn one Utopia Sprawl in my life and I’m not about to start now. The green column is long on mana acceleration as well as powerful draw engines like Setessan Champion and generically powerful top-end like Avenger of Zendikar. Titania, Protector of Argoth and Rampaging Baloth are presumably busted with all of the fetchlands, and Primeval Titan is outrageous with Field of the Dead and/or Dark Depths combo.
It’s just hard to go too wrong with “mana and stuff” and some of the scariest accelerants are here alongside enough spells that are powerful enough on their own that green is arguably the most powerful color in the Cube. I’d shy away from stuff like Pelt Collector and Bramblewood Paragon in the average draft, and would be pretty thrilled about Fertile Ground and Courser of Kruphix.
I’m really happy to see both Seal of Primordium and Seal of Cleansing in the Cube. These cards are both great role-players in Enchantress decks as well as answers to some of the more powerful cards in the Cube. I’d value them fairly highly, especially if you’re trying to draft Eidolon of Blossoms.
The gold section in this Cube is fairly small, with a pretty wide range of power levels. The most important note that I have would be not to consider a card being gold too big of a strike in a Cube with this many mana-fixing lands. I’m having a difficult time imagining passing Omnath, Locus of Creation and I expect the card to be relatively easy to cast if I can draft with it in mind.
We’ve seen the aggressive artifact strategy supported in quite a few digital Cubes at this point, and by now it’s clear that they should be approached with some caution. Arcbound Ravager is awesome when you get all the right pieces, but it’s a precarious card to move on early in a Cube of this size. Figuring out your big payoffs and the colors that you want to be playing will benefit you more than trying to stay open in this environment.
I have my eye on Treasure Map, the two mana rocks, and Worn Powerstone as standouts, though notably there are going to be lean decks that don’t care about artifacts that won’t be able to take too much advantage of these cards. Treasure Map should fit well about anywhere, at the very least. The big card to look out for though is Retrofitter Foundry. The card consistently surpasses my expectations in every Cube that I’ve seen it in.
Last, and most abundant by category, we have lands. You’ll have ample opportunity to fix your mana for two and three-color decks, and it shouldn’t be all that difficult to make four and five-color mana work when you’re so inclined. I like drafting archetype-defining cards over mana-fixing in environments like this, and mana-fixing over less significant role-players when I’m less certain of what colors I want to play or am generally unconfident in my mana base.
Field of the Dead should be quite strong here with or without Primeval Titan and I imagine that you’ll be quite happy to have Wasteland in about any deck. My general guideline would be a wishy-washy suggestion to draft lands “early-ish” and “often-ish”.
This week’s spotlight Cube is quite different from what we usually see, and I’m excited to see how the drafts go. Happy drafting, and I’ll see you next week for my breakdown of the Magic 30 Cube!