Proliferate Cube: Make It What You Want It To Be

Ryan Saxe wants you to have maximum fun with Emma Handy’s Proliferate Cube on Magic Online. Let him guide you through three tricky picks.

Contagion Clasp, illustrated by Anthony Palumbo

I have to give credit where credit is due. Emma Handy did a beautiful job designing the Proliferate Cube. The gameplay is wild, complex, and novel. The draft provides so many different paths to explore. I feel like I could draft this Cube every day for at least a year before it would start feeling repetitive.

Given that it’s only on Magic Online for a week, I can’t speak to its balance. It’s possible a small subset of strategies should prove better than the rest. But this Cube is so fun, I honestly don’t even care and I would rather explore all the novel strategies and lose more. This Cube provides a flexible environment. It is what you make of it.

If I had to guess, like in most Cubes, potent monocolored aggressive strategies and multicolor good-stuff strategies are likely to be the most consistent archetypes that perform well. And I’m confident that they’re good in this Cube because I can attribute most of my losses to them. But if you want my advice, don’t draft them. They’re not the reason to draft the Proliferate Cube. You can draft those decks in any Cube, and this one offers a plethora of unique archetypes. If you’d like to review the surface of what this Cube has to offer, Emma Handy wrote a very nice piece on the matter, and Ryan Overturf even took that a bit further in a great article last week.

For me, this Cube is all about novel interactions between cards. How often do you get to go pseudo-infinite with Yawgmoth, Thran Physician and two undying creatures? Or sacrifice a bunch of artifacts to Atog in order to one-shot your opponent? Take advantage of the short time left in this wonderful environment to win with Magic cards that you rarely have the opportunity to see side-by-side.

In my opinion, persist combo and Affinity-style decks are the best archetypes this Cube has to offer within the novel framework. But much more than that is viable. Let’s jump into a draft and try and carve out a super-sweet deck!

Pack 1, Pick 1

The Pack:

Recruiter of the Guard Heliod, Sun-Crowned Imprisoned in the Moon Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer Painsmith Quest for the Gravelord Legion Warboss Ravenous Intruder Strangleroot Geist Steelbane Hydra Lurrus of the Dream-Den Contagion Clasp Scrapyard Recombiner Fire-Lit Thicket Vivid Crag

The Pick:

My take!

Heliod, Sun-Crowned is better in this Cube than most thanks to Walking Ballista, Spike Feeder, and just the extra value from +1/+1 counters as a strongly supported archetype. I could absolutely get behind taking this card for the combo potential if the list was smaller, but it’s 600 cards. I take Walking Ballista and Spike Feeder very very highly, and once I have one, I won’t ever pass Heliod. However, I’m not going to take Heliod particularly highly without them.

Contagion Clasp is awesome. Repeatable proliferate is extremely valuable in this Cube, and it’s stapled to a conditional removal spell to boot. However, this card is more reactive than proactive. It can be proactive with excess mana and the right battlefield, but this card wouldn’t be good without the reactive aspect. Because this Cube is all about building a battlefield for proliferating, being proactive and playing potent threats is the most important thing. Hence, while I like Contagion Clasp a lot and would play it in most of my decks, but I don’t believe it’s better than the other options in this pack.

Legion Warboss, Mu Yanling, and Lurrus fit in that “good cards” camp that I have advised against, so why are they options? Good cards are still very important to success. I refuse to draft these cards without surrounding them by a cohesive strategy that is in the spirit of the Cube. Mu Yanling can fit in a tempo-based proliferate strategy with cards like Thrummingbird. Legion Warboss can go into any red deck that likes +1/+1 counters, although I would love to see it used in an aggressive Rakdos deck to reset the persist on Putrid Goblin. And black has a very strong sacrifice subtheme to use Lurrus for amazing value.

I took Lurrus, and a big reason for this is the potential to wheel Ravenous Intruder, since recycling artifacts sacrificed via Ravenous Intruder, Atog, and Arcbound Ravager sounds exactly my speed. But it’s important to note that Lurrus is just a good card and I will happily play it if my mana supports it even if I cannot play it as my companion.

Because this is Cube, and my goal is to explore, this Lurrus with the intention of wheeling Ravenous Intruder sets the stage. The next packs I will look at with this lens. My goal is to maximize my own enjoyment of this Cube, and I believe it’s so rich with novelty that anybody can approach the Cube this way and still win quite a lot.

Pack 1, Pick 2

The Picks So Far:

Lurrus of the Dream-Den

The Pack:

Luminarch Aspirant Burrenton Bombardier Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor Leech Bonder Spread the Sickness Grafted Exoskeleton Volt Charge Slith Firewalker Nissa, Vastwood Seer Banishing Light Far Wingrattle Scarecrow Bayou Raging Ravine

The Pick:

My take!

I’m ruling out Volt Charge and Far // Away immediately on the same proactive versus reactive reasoning discussed in the previous pack.

Bayou is a great piece of fixing and I wouldn’t fault anybody for taking it. In fact, I think it’s a better “green” pick than Nissa, Vastwood Seer. Nissa is a good card, but not one that pushes extra synergies I appreciate in this Cube. I would rather have better fixing.

This leaves Luminarch Aspirant, which I believe is one of the best white cards in the Cube. If we abide by “proactive rather than reactive,” this two-drop is about as proactive as it gets. It scales beautifully into the late-game, which is the perfect kind of two-drop to recycle with Lurrus.

Pack 1, Pick 4

The Picks So Far:

Lurrus of the Dream-Den Luminarch Aspirant Giant Killer

The Pack:

Planar Outburst Crystalline Giant Infiltrator il-Kor Sai, Master Thopterist Ruinous Path Fatal Push Fiery Confluence Young Wolf Fungal Behemoth Ral Zarek Perilous Myr Lavaclaw Reaches

The Pick:

My take!

Crystalline Giant and Perilous Myr are solid artifacts and will always make my deck (unless I can companion Lurrus). They get additional stock given that I’m trying to wheel Ravenous Intruder. However, they just don’t compete card-quality-wise with Sai, Master Thopterist or Fiery Confluence.

I think many players here would slam Fiery Confluence on power level without considering Sai. This Cube has an abundance of artifacts. In fact, I’m likely to wheel Perilous Myr out of this pack, which is a great artifact creature to recycle with Lurrus after sacrificing it to Sai. Lurrus promotes a sacrifice theme, while Sai promotes an artifact theme, but both cards are proactive. Given that Dimir can easily support both of these strategies, I believe that Sai, Master Thopterist is a justifiable pick. However, I still landed on Fiery Confluence.

Fiery Confluence is good in this Cube for the same reason Sai is: artifacts are everywhere. I believe most decks will have at least one artifact and the majority will have multiples. Four mana for a triple-removal-spell may be “reactive,” but given that there’s at least a proactive mode for direct damage, I think Fiery Confluence is just too good in this environment. Again, I’m trying to set myself up for a red Atog deck, and even though this card is “a good card,” that doesn’t detract from my goals.

As you can see from the deck below, I succeeded. This deck was an absolute blast to play, and I can’t recommend the Atog archetype enough!