Happy Monday, gamers! Longtime and particularly astute readers will know that if I’m publishing on a Monday, that means that there’s an Arena Cube live this week! Everyone else was likely clued in by the title of the article. Either way, the Chromatic Cube is back on Magic Arena this week, and I’m here to break down the new list and my approach to drafting the Cube.
As we’ve come to expect with all Arena Cube offerings, this run features a massive update from when we saw the Cube last year. Just over 200 cards swapped in and out, but despite this, the Cube looks like it isn’t changing in any fundamental way. The idea is still to cast big spells and develop massive battlefield states!
The Digital-Only Divide
Before I get into my breakdown of the Cube by color, I’d like to list all of the digital-only cards featured in the Cube, which I know is a big help to me when studying the Arena Cube lists. The last Arena Cube run featured no digital-only cards, but Chromatic Cube is a very different beast in this regard:
I find it especially difficult to keep track of balance changes as the rebalanced cards rotate out of Standard, but this list will be useful to study for anybody jumping into the Cube.
With that out of the way, let’s break the Cube down by color and talk about the heavy-hitters joining the Cube for the first time!
White is once again losing a little of its aggressive power, with changes incentivizing going in on token and/or blink themes and playing to the battlefield with big scary permanents. A couple of two-drops have been removed along with Adeline, Resplendent Cathar, which is definitely consistent with the Cube’s philosophy. There are some more individually powerful cards with higher mana values entering the Cube along with cards like Monastery Mentor that push you towards drafting a specific style of deck:
The Eternal Wanderer is my pick for the most noteworthy white card entering the fray as both a backbreaking sweeper and support for the blink theme. Rarely is a white card so hard to beat. Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines is also a huge deal in a Cube designed around slower games and a lot of enters-the-battlefield effects. I’m normally wary of cards that try to double up on enters-the-battlefield effects that should already be good anyway, but Elesh Norn’s doubling ability also comes with a hoser and large body attached to it.
The other thing to be mindful of in white is an influx of additional sweepers:
My approach to Chromatic Cube is going to involve more not over-committing into these cards than actually casting them, but either way they’re something to be aware of. Sweepers matter a lot more in Cubes with lower curves, but it’s not bad to have access to one in an environment like this, especially if it’s a card like White Sun’s Twilight that also threatens to end the game.
Blue is getting some solid additions with this update, and still holding on to the most powerful in the Cube in Sublime Epiphany. I really like the cheeky addition of Snapcaster Mage in a Cube that doesn’t have much in the way of efficient spells to flash back. I expect the card to underperform in this environment relative to what we usually see from the card, which I honestly think makes it an excellent inclusion here.
These are the new blue cards that I’d keep an eye out for:
I think Commit is just a generally underrated Cube card. It stands to really put you in the driver’s seat at instant speed. Being able to target a spell or permanent just gives you so much agency, and I’m rarely disappointed to draw the card, even if I also rarely flash it back. Dismiss is just a powerful card and is more powerful the more mana your opponent sinks into the countered spell, which is even more true of Gale’s Redirection.
Most of the other cards here are more transparently just powerful haymakers, with Warzone Duplicator being a new one to me that is maybe the most busted Man-o’-War / Duplicant / Clone variant I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure how often you’ll cast it for four here, but I would intend on happily casting it for six often.
I originally underrated Oracle of the Alpha when it was added to Arena, and there is definitely some variance attached to the card. A Mox is going to be a pretty flat draw if it can’t show up until Turn 4, though this Cube’s higher mana curve does make that somewhat less true. Ancestral Recall and Time Walk are always welcome, though, and the thing that really puts Oracle of the Alpha over is the ability to draw Timetwister. Most decks in this Cube just aren’t set up to take advantage of a draw-seven, given the high mana values of so many of the cards, but your deck freshly flush with fast mana will be very happy to resolve one. It’s also just a totally berserk card to copy.
A lot of cards are changing in black, but I still think the color is, on the balance, one I’d try to avoid in Chromatic Cube as a primary color for a deck. I wouldn’t call swapping Woe Strider for Ophiomancer an upgrade, and ideally I’d want both cards in my deck. Evolved Sleeper and Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor are both powerful cheaper cards for the Cube with powerful mana sinks attached, but the cards I’m really excited for in black cost a little bit more upfront:
Breach the Multiverse has demonstrated in Standard that it’s well worth the price of admission at seven, especially if you can expect your opponent to be packing expensive creatures and planeswalkers. The story is similar with The Cruelty of Gix, and that card is especially powerful when you can expect to have three life to spare for the second chapter in slower environments like this.
Forgefire Automaton could possibly end up being a little weak due to triggering on your upkeep and not with any immediacy, but a recurring reanimator effect seems like exactly the sort of permanent I want to control in this Cube. I could see being lower on that card after playing with it, but Hoarding Broodlord being a giant tutoring monster that comes with some ability to cheat on mana is one I expect to happily play, even with the heavy black mana requirement.
A potentially big change for red in this update is the addition of some one-drops! They’re not really the kind that close games quickly, but the value that Dragonmaster Outcast generates in this environment is really inviting. I will say that once again I am looking more at some more expensive cards here, even in red:
I’ve played with Jaya, Fiery Negotiator far more than the average player, and I think it can realistically hang even in higher-powered Cubes. Prowess tokens can really get out of hand, and the high loyalty and alternative options for card advantage definitely matter.
Devil’s Play and Explosive Singularity offer powerful ways to close the game outside of combat, with a handful of ways to double Singularity and just one-shot your opponent. Among them is Chandra, Hope’s Beacon, which is just a very powerful individual card. I expect that to be one of the better first-picks in the Cube at large.
I already liked green quite a lot in Chromatic Cube, and I think the case is pretty open and shut for it being the most-improved color with this update. There’s a significant influx in both mana ramp and payoffs for big mana decks, which is a huge deal. Perhaps the most significant is a second mana Elf (no, Gilded Goose doesn’t count) being added in Elvish Mystic.
We’re talking about a handful of Vintage Cube-caliber cards here, and with Chromatic Cube looking to emulate Commander in some ways, that’s just another parallel that demonstrates the significance of the addition of Craterhoof Behemoth, the biggest, baddest ender of battlefield-stalled games to ever do it.
The addition of Craterhoof, along with some other heavy hitters like Titan of Industry and Nissa, Ascended Animist, does make drafting mono-green a much more realistic option with this update, though the mana-fixing is strong enough that you’ll probably be able to support as many additional colors as you like. I’d skew towards playing more untapped green sources than Triomes if I got my hands on either or both of the Cube’s one-mana Elves.
There is so little incentive to play mono-color decks in Chromatic Cube, with the games generally going longer and playing eighteen lands being inviting, that I don’t shy away from gold as a first pick. A lot of the new gold cards entering the Cube aren’t all that significant, but there is one big one to pay a lot of mind to:
Talk about a reason to draft some Triomes! Chromatic Cube involves casting a lot of big and swingy effects, meaning that Atraxa won’t end the game on its own as much as you could expect from cheating the card onto the battlefield in environments where you’d see more cheap creatures, but what it does here is give you ten looks towards your other finishers, all while being a huge lifelinking threat on its own. Atraxa is definitely in the conversation for cards that I’m happy to first-pick, but more than anything, I just want to emphasize how eminently castable the card is here.
The colorless column isn’t super-long in Chromatic Cube, but even still, there are two new additions that are worth making mention of.
A ton of hours were put into making Emrakul, the Promised End work on Arena, and this is a great opportunity to get some mileage out of casting the card! I don’t know if you’ll be spending much less than ten mana to cast Emrakul here, but ten mana is doable, and the card will swing games in big ways when you do cast it!
Much more significantly, Timeless Lotus is close to unpassable in this Cube. I saw some weird reactions to this card when it debuted in the Magic Online (MTGO) Vintage Cube, and I assure you that it’s playable there and completely busted here. Like, how do you untap with that much extra mana and lose? How badly would you have to flood or have sabotaged yourself in deck construction for that to be possible? I can’t remember losing any game where I untapped with Timeless Lotus in Vintage Cube, and it seems even more likely that you can live that dream here.
There are actually only three lands changing with this update, and every land entering is some manner of five-color option:
I would value Mana Confluence very low because you tap out a lot in this Cube, and eventually the damage does catch up to you, even in slow games. In an environment where you have incentive to play an extra land, you just have more time to get your mana online without paying much of any cost. I’d value Cascading Cataracts similarly low because it costs you a mana for it to fix your colors, and tapping for colorless isn’t especially good in a Cube where you want to be open to drafting three to five colors.
The World Tree is actually just great, though. I don’t know if the last ability necessarily does anything (no spoilers!), but I’m very willing to play Triomes in this Cube, and it just kind of logically follows that I have an interest in making all of my lands five-color lands. I guarantee that you have the time for some of your lands to enter the battlefield tapped.
Chromatic Cube is back, starting today through June 20. If you’re a fan of big, flashy spells, then this is definitely the Cube for you! Cube Drafts fire very quickly on Arena and you get to play a lot of games with your decks, which I definitely consider a feature. The digital-only cards are the biggest barrier to entry in my estimation, but even so, I definitely recommend giving Chromatic Cube a spin.