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Taking The Cultic Cube On Magic Online For A Spin

Ryan Saxe drafts the Cultic Cube on Magic Online and shows you how to navigate a Cube that throws the usual deckbuilding rules out the window!

Incinerate, illustrated by Zoltan Boros & Gabor Szikszai

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The Cultic Cube on Magic Online (MTGO) isn’t like any other Cube that has been available there before. Most Cubes preach micro-archetypal diversity: design to support a wide breadth of strategies and card combinations. However, there is a small subset of the Cube community that preaches linear macro-archetypes: supporting aggro, midrange, control, and combo such that the decks always execute a specific, linear plan. But what does that really mean for what you can expect in drafting the Cultic Cube on MTGO? Feel free to take a minute and look at the list on CubeCobra.

1. If your deck doesn’t look like a Constructed deck with a very specific plan, do not expect to win all of your matches.

2. Redundancy matters a lot more than power.

Decks should look like they’re built of four-ofs, unlike the Cube decks you’re familiar with. Play all five Shock variants. Play Revolutionary Rebuff in every blue deck.

This may seem counterintuitive. In most Cube environments, control decks don’t want to start more than a couple of sweepers because there’s such a large portion of noncreature strategies. In the Cultic Cube, you know that you’re playing against hyper-linearized creature strategies more than 50% of the time. I would play five sweepers if I could.

I knew all of this going into my first draft of the Cultic Cube. Would you make the same decisions I did?

Pack 1, Pick 1

The Pack:

The Pick:

My take!
Thoughtseize is a great piece of cheap interaction that can double back as a discard outlet for reanimator decks in this Cube. Normally, I’m a huge fan of Thoughtseize in Cube, but I believe it’s significantly worse in the Cultic Cube for two reasons:

1. The push for redundancy decreases the probability that a discard spell functions as gameplan interaction.

2. The midrange and aggressive decks present fast clocks so quickly that the two life actually matters.

I would take Thoughtseize out of this pack for most Cubes, but not this one, which goes to show the importance of understanding the Cube environment.

Garruk Wildspeaker is a powerful card, but the ramp ability is less relevant than you might think. Green in the Cultic Cube has two main themes:

1. Cheat big creatures onto the battlefield with cards like Elvish Piper and Norwood Priestess.

2. Play a midrange strategy attempting to curve Elf into three-drop into four-drop. These decks rarely play cards more expensive than five mana.

Garruk is a great card for the second archetype, as it’s another piece of redundancy for Trumpeting Herd and Call of the Herd. And I guess in the cheaty deck, maybe hard-casting the cards comes up, but it’s certainly a backup plan. The card makes most green decks, but like Thoughtseize, the architecture of the Cultic Cube makes it a middle-of-the-pack kind of card.

Normally, lands are in the discussion for Pack 1, Pick 1, but Plateau just isn’t in a color pair that cares for it. Boros is what happens when a Mono-Red or Mono-White draft goes awry or when an Izzet control deck wants to splash. So it isn’t actually much of a flexible pick. If the goal is to take a flexible card, Hangarback Walker would be the correct pick out of this pack.

Generally I’m not a huge fan of taking Hangarback Walker early. My control decks don’t always care for it, and my aggro decks don’t either. Midrange “good stuff” in most Cubes will play it, but not happily. The only decks in most Cubes that like the card are the ones that have artifact or sacrifice synergies. That being said, it’s still a great Cube card because so many decks will include it, just not as a top card. However, in this environment, the card is impressive. Midrange creature decks love value creatures and want cards that line up well blocking versus aggro and against removal versus control. It’s still not good enough for me to first-pick the card, but it’s better than normal.

This pick boils down to Intuition and Fireblast. This is because they both push for fundamentally broken strategies. Fireblast is often one of the best cards in Mono-Red, and Intuition can pull together unbelievable combo kills out of nowhere, all while allowing you to hold up removal thanks to instant speed. I’m a huge fan of value Gifts Ungiven in Cube, and can see Intuition being a fine backup to that. Often “draw the third-best card in your deck for the current scenario” is game-winning.

Ultimately, I took Fireblast, and a lot of this has to do with the contents of the pack. Assault // Battery, Earthshaker Khenra, and Ankh of Mishra are all cards I would be happy to wheel for Mono-Red. And Fireblast that comes with any of those cards is better than Intuition.

Pack 1, Pick 2

The Picks So Far:

The Pack:

The Pick:

My take!
Does the normal heuristic of “just take the land” work for this pack? Plateau wasn’t enticing last pack, but fetchlands are always extremely premium. Between all the lands, Misty Rainforest is the best here. Even though Bloodstained Mire technically goes with Fireblast, Fireblast accompanies Mono-Red 99% of the time, and blue decks care a lot more about fixing than red and black decks.

However, I took Incinerate. This might seem crazy, because I should “stay open” and take the land. However, Incinerate actually stays more open than you may realize. In most Cubes, Incinerate doesn’t always make every red control deck. There’s a limited amount of slots given to red creature removal that non-aggressive decks can play. That’s not true in the Cultic Cube. Given how fast the aggressive decks are, having access to removal on Turns 1 and 2 is paramount to success in non-aggressive decks. Hence, I am taking the card that maximizes my first pick, yet also is not committing me to it. Should Earthshaker Khenra and/or Ankh of Mishra not wheel out of my first pack, I can pivot. Notice that this is exactly the draft strategy discussed in Tuesday’s article!

I ended up in what looks like the most busted Mono-Red deck you’ve ever seen. It’s good, but if you’re drafting properly, aggro decks just look like this in this Cube. Either draft decks that are this fast, or prepare to play against them. I think this environment is cool and actually balanced; however, the Magic Online general population often leans away from aggro. This means the aggressive decks are likely uncontested, and there’s enough support for more than one drafter. If my goal was to win, I’d certainly look to capitalize on that.

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