Vintage Cube Supreme Draft has come and gone from Magic Online (MTGO), which means that Usman Jamil’s Ravnica Cube is live this week. Supreme Draft led to some of the most broken decks conceivable, and this week’s offering pulls things very much in the other direction. Ravnica Cube is among the flatter powerbands that we’ve seen in the digital Cube offerings, and at a glance it looks like it should have a lot of appeal to fans of traditional Booster Draft.
For a rundown on the Cube, there’s no better place to start than with Usman’s article on the mothership. I’ve also done my usual porting of the Cube to Cube Cobra to make better sense of the list. A friend of mine maintained a Cube that only featured cards from Ravnica expansions or with Ravnica flavor a few years back and this list looks very similar. Some non-Ravnican cards have made it into the list, but nothing that disrupts the aesthetic or would be surprising to fans of the plane.
The major broad note I want to make about the Cube is that the heavy multicolor focus and absence of fetchlands means that successful decks in Ravnica Cube will overwhelmingly be midrange or controlling, with aggressive decks having their work cut out for them. Despite the focus on two-color cards, decks will often end up being three colors with four or five also being possible with the right mana fixing. I would generally advise against trying to draft a monocolor deck, though hybrid mana does make this possible and the idea is quite charming. This paradigm will be familiar for those who drafted original Ravnica block.
I considered altering my usual write-up format for this Cube to talk about things in terms of color pairs, but given that decks will often be three or more colors, I see it as more appropriate to keep things to my usual breakdown by color with some specific notes on gold cards in each color’s section. So let’s get to it!
The most significant line for white is a token theme, with Battle Screech headlining the mono-white cards in this department. I could actually see Divine Visitation being excellent in this Cube as opposed to its typical win-more nature given that I don’t expect many fast games. Similarly, Unbreakable Formation looks to be among white’s strongest tools for these token decks either to punch through a stalled battlefield or to take advantage of indestructability in a more clever way.
The removal spells in white are fairly anemic, with cards like Pacifism slotting in where you might normally find Swords to Plowshares. Given the token theme across the Cube, I’m wary of a lot of white’s spot removal, though it is important to note that you will need access to white for many of the Cube’s sweepers.
As a general rule I find these sweepers, the token makers, and larger creatures like Angel of Grace and Scion of Vitu-Ghazi to be the most significant draws to white, as opposed to most of the cheap creatures in the spread. One card that I do want to highlight that you don’t normally see in Cube is Hero of Precinct One. With the high volume of gold cards, Hero looks excellent either as a two-drop for aggressive decks that are heavy on hybrid spells or midrange decks comprised heavily of gold cards. If I’m drafting a cheap white creature highly, it’s Hero of Precinct One.
Normally, this would be the part where I tell you how blue is the most powerful color in the Cube, though Ravnica Cube looks well-balanced by color. There are some great blue cards here, but nothing on the level of Sublime Epiphany, which is a pleasant departure. I also like that the creature section in blue is small enough as to not give anybody any ideas of trying to play an aggressive blue deck.
Even with the ceiling pulled down some, blue’s strength still comes from card drawing spells and some robust win conditions, with a lot of its strength attached to instants and cards with flash.
Blue also gets a couple of really solid threats on rate in the form of cards like Sphinx of Foresight. Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor plays better than it reads, and Murmuring Mystic is the bar for powerful spells-matter cards in this Cube.
Counterspells are pretty watered down in this environment, which is appropriate for a midrange-leaning Cube. Amusingly, Remand may actually be the best of the spread if you can properly leverage the tempo that it generates, where other options like Quench and Syncopate tend to put a good amount of strain on you with regard to leaving up mana and making sure you can meaningfully cast them.
Blue looks solid, though I do have a different pick for the most powerful color in the Cube. Even if it’s not the absolute best, the more controlling the deck that I’m drafting, the more I want that deck to be blue. Whether we’re talking about an Esper deck with draw spells to go with sweepers or an Izzet/X deck for Niv-Mizzets and other big plays, blue absolutely still has a place here.
Black will often be the weakest color in a Cube, but there’s plenty of draw to black relative to what’s going on in Ravnica Cube. Keening Banshee and Midnight Reaper are really solid forms of card advantage, and black delivers some spot removal that’s more desirable than white’s suite along with some efficient sweepers for cleaning up tokens.
The efficiency of black’s removal is one of the most compelling reasons against trying to draft too aggressive a deck in this environment. You’ll want to make sure to pack some creatures that can survive an Infest effect as well as some ways to recoup your losses if you’re weak to cards like Ritual of Soot. Finale of Eternity also jumps off the page as a card that can send aggressive decks packing, and it’s one that I would be mindful of in terms of playing against as well as a card that I would intend to draft highly. Don’t let the “10 or more” reminder text trick you; this is just three Doom Blades in a trench coat.
The black card that I’m most excited about in Ravnica Cube is Skeletal Vampire. A card once feared in Standard, now all but forgotten and shamed by today’s metrics, gets a rare opportunity to shine in this environment. In terms of mono-black threats, it leads the pack along with Spawn of Mayhem and The Haunt of Hightower.
Low-to-the-ground red aggressive decks in this Cube look dicey, but there are a handful of creatures that I really like for midrange decks with an aggressive slant. I don’t love Grim Initiate and company here like I do in Arena Cube, but the slightly bigger token-makers all seem great.
Mizzium Tank is the only aggressive red card that seems worth highlighting. It’s very easy to crew with creatures or spells and can really put the hurt on your opponent quickly with cards like Opt and Consider gassing it up. I would intend to play a controlling deck with those cards more often than not, but if I were to skew aggressive, Mizzium Tank would be one of the draws to do so.
The burn spells in the Cube look better-suited to pummeling aggressive decks than finishing opponents with cards like Shock and Seal of Fire in the spread, and I’d more likely pick these spells up as sideboard options for the occasional aggressive deck than as powerful maindeck options. I’m definitely trying to attack with Ilharg, the Raze-Boar more than I’m trying to Char people here. This Cube is the first I’ve heard of Fiendish Duo, but I also like it more than many of the red cards that I have heard of in this environment. I particularly like the idea of a Fiendish Duo + Guttersnipe combo.
Electrodominance is my pick for a dark-horse overperformer in red. Being able to sneak some large creature like a Niv-Mizzet in at instant speed will catch a lot of opponents off-guard and I also expect that you’ll have plenty of time to generate large quantities of mana. Conversely, Risk Factor is a card that I expect many players to draft more highly than they should. If you have a strong aggressive deck, then the card can deal some real damage, but for the most part I plan on picking up where I left off with the card by shrugging and taking four most of the time when my opponent casts it. I’m not saying that the card is an absolute non-starter, but if you intend to play with it, it’s at a power level where you’ll want to try to wheel it out of most packs.
Green would be my pick for the most powerful color in Ravnica Cube. There are a number of unremarkable cards like Beast Within and Slaughterhorn, but the two-mana ramp spells will lead to the most lopsided games that the Cube can offer.
There isn’t a terribly high volume of this sort of thing, and I do really like that there aren’t any one-mana mana creatures present, but Farseek on Turn 2 is the opening that I’m most terrified of facing down in this environment. With a general emphasis on hitting land drops and casting the high-end spells in the Cube, I would also value Borderland Ranger and Civic Wayfinder very highly.
The green beatdown decks are interesting, and I think that they have some legs. You just have to be aware of the power of the sweepers in the Cube relative to the creatures. The curve of Pelt Collector into Vinelash Kudzu into Renegade Krasis into Giant Solifuge excites me, but it’s kind of a best-case scenario that isn’t difficult to imagine being foiled by a small number of interactive spells and blockers. A good clip of flash creatures and haste threats to recover seems imperative to the success of these decks. Keep an eye out for Advent of the Wurm and Gruul Spellbreaker.
Green also offers some choice payoffs for the token strategies in the Cube. End-Raze Forerunners is on the expensive side and won’t always work out, but I’m pretty big on Earthshaker Giant. It’s no Craterhoof Behemoth, but it’s relative power in Ravnica Cube is quite high. The Overrun has a real chance of ending the game immediately and the 6/6 outsizes most creatures in the Cube anyway.
With over 30% of the Cube being gold cards, most decks will play at least a few. Many players are inclined to shy away from gold spells, and while I would be mindful to only draft the ones that I’d be very happy to play early I’d also say that having some gold spells in your pool is unavoidable and you should be more willing to take a chance on a gold card here than usual. I would generally value making my mana work over gold cards and pick lands first, but don’t be afraid to first-pick a gold card. There are quite a few that can significantly steer the direction of your deck:
This is the list of best threats, sweepers, and value-generating gold cards in the Cube, which is consistent with what has been appealing in the individual colors broadly. I also wouldn’t shy away from first picking a card like Elite Guardmage or Crackling Drake, but I would put them slightly below this spread.
Every Niv-Mizzet looks like a fine place to start a draft in Ravnica Cube, but I will say specifically that this is the best Niv-Mizzet Reborn has ever looked to me. Five-color mana is challenging but not impossible, you’re likely to have a high volume of hits the way that the Cube is set up, and the 6/6 body is more relevant here than in Cubes that have more powerful aggressive and combo setups.
The other gold card that looks like a major player is Fuliminator Mage. Overwhelmingly, I would expect to play Fulminator Mage in any aggressive deck in Ravnica Cube, and probably just in any deck that can cast it. One of the best ways to stop your opponent from going over the top of you is to disrupt their mana, and Fulminator Mage is one of very few ways to do that in this Cube. To say nothing of destroying a bounceland!
The artifact column in Ravnica Cube is quite short, which makes sense in terms of wanting players to play with gold cards. There’s not a ton to write home about here, but I’d definitely play Sword of the Animist in any aggressively slanted midrange deck. Prophetic Prism will be fine in most decks, and Heraldic Banner will be quite good. The big find though is Chromatic Lantern.
You want to go over the top of your opponent with all of those great five-plus-mana spells? Do you specifically want to do so with Niv-Mizzet Reborn? Chromatic Lantern makes a convincing argument for overall Pack 1, Pick 1 in the Cube. I could also see Tome of the Guildpact completely taking over a midrange mirror. While I don’t think I would necessarily first-pick the card, I would consider doing so absent any of the more immediately impactful spells in the Cube.
If you’re in the mood to fully go the beatdown route, it would be wise to pick up any of the Equipment in the spread, as they’ll help you present a high damage output without overcommitting into a sweeper. Civic Saber may not look like much, but I’ll have you know that the card was featured in a Pro Tour-winning Constructed deck.
Last but certainly not least, we have the lands. Ravnica Cube features a high volume of mana-fixing duals, though you won’t find fetchlands here.
I would expect to first-pick some form of mana-fixing very commonly, and most any mana-fixing land will do for me. I’m personally not very big on painlands or Mana Confluence and don’t even always play them when they’re on-color, but if you don’t expect to play against aggressive decks, they do increase in stock significantly. I’d still pick most of these other styles of lands over them, with shocklands and filter lands being the types that I would value most highly.
Bouncelands are touchy, because it’s really difficult to recover if you have one destroyed by the small selection of cards that do so in the Cube, but they’re more or less a form of card advantage when they don’t get destroyed. With the Cube being so midrangy, I would plan on playing eighteen lands more often than seventeen, which is the sort of texture that inclines me to play a bounceland or two.
The specifics of your manabase seem generally less important than just making sure that your multicolor mana works. My advice is to pick lands early and often and to draft the sort of spells that can keep pace on card advantage. If you’re into midrange slugfests, then I think you’ll really enjoy Ravnica Cube.