Emma Handy’s Proliferate Cube is live on Magic Online (MTGO) for a one-week run, and as a huge fan of Emma Handy and Cube Draft I could not be more excited. Emma wrote a rundown of the Cube that offers great insights on her design and today I’m going to break down how I would approach drafting the Cube.
After reading Emma’s article, I’d recommend analyzing the Cube using this Cube Cobra link. It’s incredibly difficult to parse a Cube, especially one this novel, just by looking at a list of cards sorted alphabetically. The two things that jump out immediately are that the mana curve of the Cube is pretty low and that the Cube is overwhelmingly creatures. Lands, creatures, and noncreature cards that make tokens comprise over 400 of the Cube’s 600 cards. Take that high creature density coupled with the low mana curve and the first major conclusion that you can draw about this Cube is that you’ll want to get on the battlefield quickly.
The Cube’s general theme being proliferate reinforces the incentive to be proactive. Proliferate and other +1/+1 counters themes by their nature present threats that snowball quickly. Turn 2 Winding Constrictor into Turn 3 Rishkar, Peema Renegade was a backbreaking curve during its time in Aether Revolt Standard, and you’ll see that interaction and many like it in this Cube.
There are a few sweepers in the Cube and a number of powerful spot removal spells, but it’s clear to me I want to be presenting the threats in Proliferate Cube. Some disruption will be good to have, but I’m having difficulty imagining wanting to draft a purely reactive deck in this environment. In all likelihood, the most successful controlling decks in the Cube will feature one or more of the combos that Emma outlined in her preview article.
When I crack a pack, I’ll ask myself how the deck I’m drafting is trying to win the game and which of the threats in the pack are most conducive to accomplishing this. It’s super-interesting that Emma lists Kitchen Finks as an easy Pack 1, Pick 1 in the Cube, and from looking over the list I’m inclined to agree with her. Kitchen Finks is in and of itself an efficient threat and it also lends itself to getting much better if you hit the right synergies.
There’s no shortage of powerful synergies in the Cube, though it’s also important to acknowledge that there are a lot of cards that are just inherently powerful on their own. My expectation is that Hero of Bladehold is going to be weaker on average than Conclave Mentor due to the Mentor’s ability to make all of your creatures outsize those of your opponent, but I’d take Hero first over all but the best synergistic cards.
Given the low curve and theme of the Cube, I’d expect that most decks are going to be two or three colors, largely in the interest of curving out. The heavy artifact theme and high land count will make it possible to play four or five colors when the situation calls for it, though I’ll be navigating my initial drafts under the assumption that I want to play two colors. That in mind, let’s take a look at what each color has to offer.
Given my general biases in Magic, I would not take my assessment that white might be the best color in this Cube lightly. Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile will be great at efficiently breaking up whatever creature synergies the opponent is going for and white offers great threats for going wide and tall as well. I’d be thrilled to take any of the following cards first overall:
Great threats, great answers, and some combo potential – white really does it all in this Cube. White loses a lot in Cubes that are about stack-based interactions and just generally zones that aren’t the battlefield, but in Proliferate Cube the generically good white cards can all hold their own and the sorts of synergies that white offers get their chance to really shine.
When it comes to Vintage Cube or Modern Cube I end up in the white aggressive decks sometimes largely due to them being underdrafted and mostly underpowered, but I would imagine that white will be a highly contested color in Proliferate Cube.
If you’re looking to counter spells and draw extra cards there are some options for you, but for the most part blue in Proliferate Cube is radically different from what you’d traditionally expect. Blue here is largely about combat, which is a pretty cool change of pace.
The best synergies blue offers will be a handful of proliferate cards as well as some cards that are going to play very well in the aggressive artifact decks.
I’m confident that a lot of games will end on the spot when Deepglow Skate hits the table. That’s a card that a lot of players might be seeing for the first time here due to it’s release in a Commander product, and it’s one that’s worth a read. The ability to double the counters on as many permanents as you choose is going to result in some huge swings in a Cube where so many creatures naturally have +1/+1 counters.
Corrupted Conscience and Riftwing Cloudskate offer some of the generically powerful stuff that you’d typically see in blue, though for the most part I’ll be looking to draft the artifact matters deck if I’m in blue.
Black is really heavily focused around a sacrifice theme with multiple powerful sacrifice outlets and sticky creatures, and I love that design. Pepper in some strong removal and powerful beatdown cards like Drana, Liberator of Malakir and it’s easy to justify drafting black in this Cube.
My overall Pack 1, Pick 1 for Proliferate Cube is Yawgmoth, Thran Physician. Yawgmoth plays great with the sacrifice theme, gets some combo potential with undying creatures, and also just has the marquee mechanic.
I’m also interested in the tools that black offers to the artifact deck in cards like Disciple of the Vault and Sly Requisitioner. I’m really hoping I get to combo kill somebody somehow with Marionette Master while the Cube is live.
Black looks really well-defined and really deep, and I have to commend that design. It’s really easy to figure out looking at the one- and two-drops that there’s a powerful sacrifice-matters deck that is worth drafting, but beyond there are are tons of cool options to explore further up the curve.
I always enjoy casting Koth of the Hammer and Hellrider so I’m happy to see them and other traditional red staples in the Cube. My initial read is that I’d want to take Bonecrusher Giant over Atog, though I’m hoping that the Atog deck ends up exceeding my expectations. It definitely allows for some cool overlap in Rakdos between the artifacts-matter and sacrifice decks.
At a glance it looks like red offers a little less in terms of synergy than the colors, but it does offer a good amount of power and a few sleeper hits. The positive things that I said about Deepglow Skate are largely true of Volt Charge and I imagine that card will lead to a ton of blowouts in combat.
If white isn’t the most powerful color in this Cube, it’s green. Green gives a ton of efficient counters payoffs and I have to imagine that the Hardened Scales decks will generally be able to outsize anything and make good attacks early and often.
Beyond that, green has some incredibly impactful five-mana spells and Joraga Treespeaker snuck its way in by caring about counters. There’s not much fast mana in the Cube, which I view as a positive, but I’m also confident that Turn 1 Joraga Treespeaker is going to put a lot of games on its back.
Green gets two more compelling first picks in The Great Henge and Nissa, Voice of Zendikar. The Great Henge will be pretty easy to cast in this environment given that the gameplay is mostly about large creatures, and I expect it will be difficult to overpower an active Henge. Nissa, Voice of Zendikar is another generically good and efficient card that gets pushed way over by all of the +1/+1 counters synergies in the Cube.
I don’t think that the Proliferate Cube is a ploy by Emma to make me say I want to draft Selesnya, but I’m also not ready to explicitly rule that out.
I touched on the artifacts-matter decks a bit as they relate to specific colors, but it’s also worth discussing them independently. The most important thing to understand about the artifact decks is that there’s a ton of replacement-level filler in the Cube to give these decks the volume of artifacts you need to make them tick, and that you’ll want to avoid a lot of the weaker artifacts until you get your hands on the more powerful and synergistic cards for these decks.
There’s a short list of very powerful synergistic cards for these decks that I would pick highly and then once I have them in my pool I would start to pick more of the weaker artifacts. These are all cards that efficiently make it so every artifact creature becomes a real threat.
It will be important to pick up a few of these cards as well as some of the colored artifacts-matter cards to make these decks work, though I could see Steel Overseer being among the most powerful cards in the Cube when it gets to do its thing unchecked.
Proliferate Cube offers a lot of cards and synergies that you don’t see in most Cubes and I’m looking forward to exploring the environment. Shout-out to Emma Handy on an exciting and unique design. She put a lot of work into this and it shows.