We’re one week away from Vintage Cube’s return to Magic Online (MTGO), and if you’ve been counting down the days, then I have some great news that will help this week go by faster. It’s not time for Black Lotus and company just yet, but for the new week we’ll be able to draft the latest installment in the Spotlight Cube Series, the Artifact Cube!
As you could probably guess, the Artifact Cube has a lot of artifacts. It doesn’t quite have the saturation of my Artifact Twobert, but at 570 cards that wouldn’t really be viable. Many of the cards do overlap though, and I’m excited to take this one for a spin. You can find David McDarby’s writeup of the Cube here, and I’ve also ported the Cube list over to Cube Cobra.
Before I get into my usual breakdown by color, there are a couple of broad points about this Cube that I feel it’s appropriate to address. As David points out, there are no green cards in this Cube. Well, there are a couple of green activation costs and a Birthing Pod, but I’d be surprised to see a deck playing more than one Forest. This makes a lot of sense to me, as most of what green does to artifacts is destroy them, and making the color really work in a 570-card Cube is kind of a non-starter for me, so I love this call.
You’ll also note that singleton is broken specifically for four copies of every nongreen Bridge from Modern Horizons 2. These lands offer decent fixing at the cost of entering tapped, and this Cube really demands a high-volume artifact, so I like this call, too. Some decks will want a ton of Bridges and some decks will want few if any, but no matter what you’re drafting, it’s good to know that you’ll often get multiple looks at Razortide Bridge if you want one.
I’ll also make the note that I always make with color-restricted Cubes, and here it’s one reinforced by the heavy colorless column, and that is that it’s both easier to be monocolor and to play all of the colors in these Cubes. I like the look of some of the monocolor decks in this Cube, though I would keep in mind that valuing whatever the most powerful card is in a pack highly is more forgiving here than usual, as you can either find the fixing to play all of those cards or round your deck our with colorless cards with relative ease if you can’t reliably hit all of your colors.
Blue and red are the first colors that come to mind for me for the most powerful artifact synergies, but the well also runs deep for white. Many of white’s artifact synergies are a little more honest, but there’s some powerful stuff going on here.
The influx of cheap white artifact creatures in Modern Horizons 2 is among the bigger draws to white, and allows white aggressive decks to have a very high volume of artifacts. I’m much bigger on the modular creatures than Esper Sentinel, but just being an artifact is a big deal in this Cube with so many artifact synergies. Amusingly, Toolcraft Exemplar is convincingly the worst of the one-mana white creatures in the Cube, and it’s still a creature that I’d value relatively highly for an aggressive deck.
Most of white’s best artifact synergies care specifically about Equipment, and I’d expect Sram, Senior Edificer to be undervalued initially. There are many Equipment in the Cube, with living weapon cards like Flayer Husk filling our your curve effectively and Shadowspear breaking any damage race wide open. It’s also worth pointing out that Umezawa’s Jitte is in the Cube, and my initial impression is that even a dead average deck otherwise with Stoneforge Mystic and Umezawa’s Jitte is one of the scarier things that you might play against.
Losheel, Clockwork Scholar and Digsite Engineer are a couple of Commander releases from this year and are both cards that I have tried in my Artifact Twobert. Digsite Engineer is a house, and any card that can generate scaling Constructs is a high pick in this environment. Losheel got crowded out of my own Cube due to curve concerns and I’d value it lower than the Engineer, but it also generates value that’s well worth the price of admission.
White also presents a few different flavors of Glorious Anthem effects that are somewhat desirable. I would caution that Tempered Steel is much worse than it looks unless you’re combining it with cards that make multiple artifact creatures like Shrine of Loyal Legions and Servo Exhibition. If you get the right setup, though, it’s exceptional. On average, Angel of Invention will be the best of these options for having by far the highest floor.
Another strength of white is having some of the best spot removal spells in the Cube. Portable Hole is awesome for being an artifact itself, which also extends to Glass Casket (or Glassket if you will). Dispatch in this environment is basically a better version of Swords to Plowshares and ranks pretty highly on my pick order.
Lastly, I want to touch on two cards that you’ll really want to look out for. As I was scrolling through the Cube list, my jaw dropped when I got to Akroma’s Vengeance. I’m fully expecting to right-click and concede in response to this one at least once. Your creatures, your value artifacts and enchantments…this will reset a lot of decks to zero.
The one thing I will say is that it’s a little difficult to draft a deck that wants to play Akroma’s Vengeance given that this Cube incentivizes building your own battlefield more than anything, but if your opponent is just playing fiddly stuff like Myr Retriever and Scrap Trawler and can produce white mana, I’d be prepared to get completely demolished. I’m not saying to play around these cards, as there’s really not much you can do there, just to get all of your affairs in order and make peace with what’s coming.
I’m not going to give my usual claim that blue is the best color in this Cube, as a good clip of the cards that would cement this sort of claim are absent, but there’s a good spread of very powerful blue cards and it’s absolutely a contender.
Both of these cards have a Constructed pedigree in artifact decks, and they both perform well in my Artifact Twobert. I would say that Emry is significantly better in artifact Cubes than it is in Constructed, and Sai is a little weaker. Either way, I’m happy to play both of these cards, and I will also say that Emry is dramatically better here than in Vintage Cube given that games are slower, there’s only so much removal, and Emry recurs more of your cards.
Now we get to the real powerhouses. Urza is very easily one of the five most powerful cards in Artifact Cube, and all of the cards that I could argue to value more highly are colorless artifacts. Rarely if ever would I pass Urza. Whirler Rogue definitely isn’t on that level, but the multiple bodies and evasion it provides makes winning combat very easy in a lot of games in environments like this. Shimmer Dragon is a bit more expensive, but it’s really easy to imagine drawing a ton of cards with it and overwhelming your opponent with card advantage.
Speaking of card advantage, you’ll be able to cast these draw spells for one blue mana very quickly and I’m having difficulty imagining cutting them from any deck in this Cube. They’re not as good in Cube as they are in Constructed due to the singleton nature of the environment, but there are plenty of zero- and one-mana value artifacts and an abundance of Bridges to quickly cover any affinity costs.
Blue also offers some powerful value cards and sort of Overrun-esque effects that close with relative ease. “Bridges plus The Antiquities War and/or Rise and Shine” strikes me as an easy-to-draft attrition-based archetype with a sort of combo finish. These cards take a little more work than Urza, but when Urza isn’t available, I like any of these as build-arounds.
Lastly, blue offers a small selection of counterspells to insulate against the assorted haymakers of the Cube. Metallic Rebuke is by far the most powerful of the options, and is one I would hope to have in my blue decks more often than not. There are three five-mana counters with neat synergies in the Cube, and while Desertion and company certainly aren’t bad, I am much less interested in those than the cheaper counterspells and comparably costed threats.
Black is a little light on artifact synergies as compared to the other colors, but it does have a few powerful options there as well as some useful interactive spells.
These are the two black cards that I’m really looking for in this Cube. Disciple of the Vault is brutal in any artifact mirror, and Marionette Master can typically combine with any sacrifice outlet to end the game immediately. Marionette Master plus Krark-Clan Ironworks is the ideal setup, and there are plenty of ways to leverage Marionette Master otherwise.
Good spot removal spells are among the bigger draws to black, and while I would generally want to keep my artifact count high and only dip minorly into interactive spells, I will say that a good removal spell has higher value over replacement than many of the cheap creatures in the Cube. I’d take Fatal Push over any Gingerbrute-adjacent card, but I would also recommend more powerful options like Steel Overseer over either.
I don’t really care for the discard spells or the tutors in this environment, and would pick almost anything that I could cast over these cards. The one exception that I would make is that in League play it does seem pretty nice to have Praetor’s Grasp in a Krark-Clan Ironworks mirror.
And last but certainly not least for black, there’s Cranial Plating. You can and should play this in any aggressive deck in this Cube, but having access to double black to attach it at instant speed will put your opponent in no-win scenarios most often.
Red gets some unique opportunities to thrive in Artifact Cube, with artifact synergies allowing red decks to do far more than just attack and deal damage. There’s some of that, and Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer has a potentially high ceiling if you can get it to connect. I’m expecting a lot of blockers on that front, and more excited about some other red options.
Goblin Welder has generally aged like milk as a Magic card, but Artifact Cube allows the card to relive some of its glory days as both a proactive tool and a powerful option for sabotaging opponents. Goblin Engineer offers less utility, but both are high picks for red decks. You’re going to see a wide range of impact from Dockside Extortionist, but the ceiling is exciting. I would value it lower than Goblin Welder to start, but wouldn’t be surprised if Dockside Extortionist ends up being the best red card in the Cube. It’s definitely one that I’m looking to pair with Marionette Master.
Pia and Kiran Nalaar is a bit worse than Whirler Rogue given that Whirler Rogue’s ability doesn’t cost any mana to activate, but providing three bodies and two artifacts for four mana is a big deal either way. Ghirapur Aether Grid was once a mirror-breaker in Modern Affinity sideboards and any card that fits that bill is going to be great in Artifact Cube. Whether you’re plinking away at opposing cheap creatures or just leveraging your Bridges as a win condition, the card is great.
Red is pretty light on interaction in this Cube, but you have a few great options and the Blasts in particular are great at closing games. Galvanic Blast is a high pick that I’d look to play in basically any deck, while I’d reserve Shrapnel Blast mostly for aggressive strategies.
The last red card that I find intriguing is Indomitable Creativity. Most decks are going to have a lot of artifacts and creatures in them, so you won’t be able to set up to do the same thing every time, but you get a lot of looks and can upgrade stuff like Treasures and Servos into impactful permanents. You can also try to turn your opponent’s good permanents into bad ones in a pinch. I’m not sure exactly how good the card is here, but I intend to find out. Madcap Experiment is also in the Cube alongside Platinum Angel and Platinum Emperion, but I’m much less interested in trying to pull that off considering, again, that most decks will have a lot of other cards that they can hit.
With no green cards, that means it’s time to talk about gold ones. While I do expect that decks playing a lot of colors will be common, I would still say that you’re still going to want to have a high volume of colorless cards to exploit all of the artifact synergies. As such, I would say that multiple colored pips make a notable downside in this environment, so I’m mostly only looking for the very best gold cards. Cards like these:
In my estimation, Dimir is the clear winner in terms of two-color pairs, with a great concentration of card advantage cards and win conditions. As such, Mistvault Bridge is the best Bridge. Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast is a powerhouse even in Vintage Cube, so I would absolutely stress my mana to cast it here.
Golos is an interesting one, because Glimmervoid and Power Depot are the only green nonbasic lands in the Cube and basic Forest isn’t doing a ton otherwise. All the same, if you want to try to go big, Golos continues to be one of the best ways of going about that sort of thing.
Perhaps the most important column for an artifact Cube, it’s time for the colorless cards. I expect that you’re going to want a lot of these on volume, with some individual cards standing out with particularly high value over replacement:
I’m being a little generous to Kuldotha Forgemaster here, but it is a card that I expect to play a good amount as one that really props up the value of any high-mana card in the Cube as well as unique and powerful effects like Krark-Clan Ironworks. Whether you have access to Marionette Master or doing something wonky with Scrap Trawler, you can definitely expect to do some messed-up stuff with KCI.
Beyond that, we have some of the best rates in the Cube and ways to make the largest creatures. Of these, I’d expect Retrofitter Foundry to be significantly undervalued initially. The card is one of the best mana sinks in the Cube and also randomly synergizes with a lot of other cards by upgrading Thopters into 4/4s. Legacy players know.
On the other side of things, I would expect the following cards to be considerably overvalued:
The easier to turn on metalcraft it is in a Cube, the less likely that granting your Etched Champion protection from all colors matters. The Swords still have great effects if you can get them to connect, but just keep in mind that they’re not providing nearly the level of evasion that you would usually expect from them.
In addition to Bridges, you’ll find one copy of the appropriate fetchlands, dual lands, shocklands, a couple of utility lands, a couple of creature-lands, and a couple of five-color mana fixers. Outside of having a Dimir bias based on the Cube list, I would generally try to figure out what spells I’m playing and what my deck looks like before worrying too much about mana fixing. In fact, the two lands that really jump out at me only produce generic mana.
To be clear, Urza’s Saga is miles ahead of Inkmoth Nexus, really any land and most spells, but Inkmoth Nexus deserves some attention, too. The first time Inkmoth Nexus showed up in a game of my Artifact Twobert, I was poisoned to death shortly thereafter, and while that’s going to be more difficult to regularly pull off in a 570-card Cube, it’s still something to pay mind to.
Arcbound Ravager, Cranial Plating, Steel Overseer, and a handful of other options all make Inkmoth Nexus a card to watch out for. And then Urza’s Saga will just win the game no matter what you do. If you want to feel clever though, you can keep it around indefinitely by eating the lore counters with Hex Parasite.
Something that I really enjoy about artifact-heavy Cubes is that the power ceiling is absurdly high, but you still end up playing with cards like Ornithopter. I’m pretty excited to give the MTGO Artifact Cube a spin this week, and I can’t wait to hook up Myr Sire with Umezawa’s Jitte.