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Everything I Know About Legacy Cube’s Return To Magic Online

A new week brings a new Magic Online Cube. Ryan Overturf breaks down the Legacy Cube by color, giving his first picks and secret tricks.

Slash the Ranks, illustrated by Svetlin Velinov

After a week of Pioneering and a week of Proliferating, it’s time for the Legacy Cube to return to Magic Online (MTGO). We haven’t seen the MTGO Legacy Cube in almost a year, so be sure to get your fill over the course of the next two weeks. There are quite a few updates to the Legacy Cube, though because it’s been so long since we’ve seen it, this is actually my first Legacy Cube article. I’ll touch on some of these changes today, especially as they pertain to cards that we haven’t previously seen in any of the digital Cubes, though this will mostly be a more general overview of the Cube and how to go about drafting it. Let’s dig in.

The announcement of Legacy Cube’s return wasn’t accompanied by any sort of write-up, so I’ve dug around for a few older pieces to acquaint those who aren’t familiar with the Cube. Reggie Valk offered a brief rundown of the supported archetypes and some choice cards in 2019, and if you’re really interested in the history of the Cube, then I’d check out Randy Buehler’s initial announcement introducing Legacy Cube back in 2014. I really enjoy reading old breakdowns like this, especially when they serve as reminders of cards that I haven’t seen in a Cube for years or when they show evidence of positions that have changed or reversed over time. The original Legacy Cube list featuring none of the Sword of Fire and Ice cycle is quite the contrast with today’s list featuring six Swords and an Umezawa’s Jitte.

I’ve ported the current list over to Cube Cobra as per usual. The power level on this Cube is generally lower than Vintage Cube, but it’s also much high than the non-MenguCube Spotlight Cubes that we’ve seen lately. You can’t draft the Power Nine, but you can draft a number of otherwise first-pickable Vintage Cube cards.

Mystic Confluence Entomb Sneak Attack Fractured Identity Oko, Thief of Crowns Grim Monolith Gaea's Cradle

The power level outliers are enough better than the rest of the Cube that the general strategy of just trying to do something broken like you would in Vintage Cube translates directly to Legacy Cube, though the number of cards in the class above everything else is smaller. This means that you’ll have fewer looks at the totally broken cards, but it also means that you’ll play against them less often. All the same, you won’t want to pass or face down an Oko, Thief of Crowns. Keep that in mind as I break down the general strengths and weaknesses of each color in Legacy Cube.

White

It’s really difficult to tell most of these Cubes apart if you’re looking at only the white cards. You have a spread of creatures that are good at beating down and cards that play well in Azorius Control decks. The beatdown decks can end up being multiple colors and from time to time you’ll play different flavors of white control, but those are the two historically best homes for the white cards in these Cubes.

Despite the creature and removal suite being more or less the same, there’s a steep drop-off in the power level of Mono-White Aggro in Legacy Cube as it compares to Vintage Cube, given that the best cards in these decks are often power or Strip Mine. There’s very little in white that serves as a significant draw to drafting the white aggressive decks, and these are more the sorts of decks that you draft when they’re open. I will say that Armageddon goes up in stock significantly in the absence of power and with the general dearth of mana rocks, so it is a bigger draw here than it is in Vintage Cube. These are the white cards that I’m most interested in first-picking:

Mother of Runes Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite Elspeth, Knight Errant Gideon, Ally of Zendikar Elspeth, Sun's Champion Swords to Plowshares Armageddon Ravages of War Starnheim Unleashed

Weirdly, see Starnheim Unleashed and Glorious Protector in this Cube absent Doomskar. I see both of these cards are really solid additions to the Cube, though knowing that the foretold card can never be a sweeper does diminish their power somewhat. All the same, Starnheim Unleashed is a massively impactful card to have at the top of your curve that can be cast earlier if you stumble, and Glorious Protector is an awesome flash blocker that makes pretty good attacks as well.

Slash the Ranks is making its debut appearance in a digital Cube, and I expect this one to be a fairly high pick for the controlling white decks. Five mana is a lot for a sweeper, but hitting planeswalkers is a huge bit of upside that puts this card over. It’s true that these decks typically play a number of planeswalkers of their own, but when your planeswalkers are successfully winning the game you just don’t cast your Slash the Ranks, and when they’re not it’s a very powerful catch-up tool. This is another card that you’ll really have to keep in mind when playing aggressive decks against the controlling white decks in Legacy Cube. Given the nature of the card, it’s really difficult to avoid playing into Slash the Ranks, so for the most part that will mean doing your best to race it.

I rank white in Legacy Cube as a very good control color and a passable aggressive color. It’s really strange to see cards like Adanto Vanguard omitted when in my mind it’s arguably the best white two-drop for Cube of all time, but alas. Most of the best white cards are here and you can’t ask for much more than that.

Blue

I tried to think of some clever way to slowroll that blue is the best color in Legacy Cube, but what would be the point? You know it, I know it, pass the Delver of Secrets. Literally, like, don’t ever draft Delver of Secrets. The counterspells, the extra turn effects, the card selection, and the card advantage are the draws to blue. Leave the creatures that attack and block to everyone else.

Snapcaster Mage Urza, Lord High Artificer Jace, the Mind Sculptor Counterspell Mystic Confluence Preordain Time Warp Upheaval Treachery Shelldock Isle

It’s tougher to pull off mono-blue in Legacy Cube than Vintage Cube due to the lack of Signets and Talismans, but fortunately for aspiring blue drafters the best gold cards are all blue as well. There’s plenty of reason to play Azorius or Dimir Control or Simic Ramp. Splinter Twin combo is also present if you’re into that sort of thing. Really any set of colors that includes blue gives plenty of powerful options.

You realistically need to cut a ton of blue’s best cards to bring the other colors up to blue on average, and beyond cutting the Power Nine and Mana Drain, Legacy Cube doesn’t much bother with that. Move in on blue early. Draft blue often.

Black

Black is fighting uphill in Legacy Cube for a couple of reasons. Reanimator has a very high ceiling, though losing all of the broken tutors brings its consistency down considerably, and black very much has the second archetype problem where the non-Reanimator black decks are much weaker. Instead of Storm, you get a little more in the way of aggressive black creatures, but not enough to consistently draft a good aggressive black deck. Once again Scrapheap Scrounger is conspicuously absent, and a few more one-drops would go a long way.

The black control decks are reasonable, and black devotion can come together really well when it’s open, though the big draws to black are few and far between. These are the black cards I’d be most interested in first-picking:

Yawgmoth, Thran Physician Griselbrand Entomb Reanimate Mind Shatter Recurring Nightmare

This is being a little general to Yawgmoth, though Yawgmoth is incredibly powerful when you draft a good amount of sacrifice support. All the same, this list is pretty short and the drop-off is steep. I’d be happy to play a lot of the black interactive cards, especially if the lane is open to draft Dimir. That said, I just don’t see the draw to Dimir to be as strong as the draw to Azorius.

I do want to highlight Extinction Event as a high pick for controlling black decks. When Ikoria first released, I mostly wrote this card off as a riff on Gyruda, Doom of Depths and Obosh, the Preypiercer having evens-only and odds-only companion restrictions, but at this point I’ve lost to the card enough in Constructed to know better. Extinction Event is incredibly splashable, and answers a lot of creatures that black can normally have difficulty answering because it exiles them.

Pair all that with the fact that it will very often answer multiple threats and the card is an incredibly powerful answer. If you set it up properly, it can even be a sweeper that leaves you with creatures on the battlefield! I can respect drafting Damnation over Extinction Event because Damnation likely has the higher floor, but Extinction Event has the higher ceiling.

Black is fine in Legacy Cube and its best cards are very powerful, but on balance it makes a strong argument for being the weakest color in the Cube.

Red

There’s a good representation of red one-drops in Legacy Cube, though the heavy amount of removal and general midrange support makes these decks generally uninviting. There’s enough going on here to draft a solid red aggressive deck, but the support for controlling and combo decks is much louder. I do adore that Wheel of Misfortune had made the cut though, and if nothing else I’ll try to draft a red beatdown deck or two to spin the Wheel.

In trying to determine the list of red cards I would happily first-pick, things look… bleak. I’m going to go with these:

Bonecrusher Giant Hellrider Rekindling Phoenix Chandra, Torch of Defiance Koth of the Hammer Lightning Bolt Sneak Attack

It’s a really bad sign that the red four-drops are about all that’s exciting about the red aggressive deck. You just can’t draft too much of that sort of thing and expect to be successful. Would it really be too much to ask to get Sulfuric Vortex? Rampaging Ferodicon is solid and all, but it’s really not the same. Realistically, the Splinter Twin players will have a much better time with red in this Cube than I will.

I love drafting red decks in Cube, but I can’t find it in me to endorse red here. It’s in direct competition with black for the weakest color in the Cube. There are some things to like, but mostly everything is medium and aimless. It really looks like you’re supposed to play red midrange decks, which is convincingly worse than a lot of the other stuff going on. The heavy removal suite in the Cube and the increasing volume of green creatures that dwarf the red creatures on curve make it harder to justify playing average red decks all the time. I really wish there was a stronger aggressive slant here and/or support for sacrifice decks with powerful cards like Goblin Bombardment.

Green

Green in Legacy Cube is similar to Vintage Cube in all the right ways, and it also gets considerably better in the absence of most of the artifact fast mana. It plays second fiddle to blue, yet still offers a lot in the first-pick department.

Arbor Elf Birds of Paradise Elvish Mystic Fyndhorn Elves Llanowar Elves Noble Hierarch Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary Deep Forest Hermit Craterhoof Behemoth Garruk Wildspeaker Nissa, Who Shakes the World Natural Order Utopia Sprawl Court of Bounty Gaea's Cradle

I don’t know who we’re trying to fool with Allosaurus Shepherd and Kazandu Mamoth, but the green ramp deck is excellent. I’ll continue to endorse the “mana and stuff” deck in good-stuff Cubes, and green has most of the best mana and a good amount of the best stuff. You’ll want to draft some cards that are resilient against the removal-heavy decks, but there are plenty of green sources of card advantage and planeswalkers that can give you an edge against the grindy decks.

I’m thrilled to see Court of Bounty finally getting its due in a digital Cube after being passed over multiple times for Vintage Cube at this point. It’s among the more powerful cards that you can ramp into, as your opponent won’t be especially likely to win the fight over the monarch on Turn 3. From there it gives you card advantage and lets you cheat your large creatures onto the battlefield for free, all from a card that doesn’t much sweat removal spells. I would currently value it as the third-best green card after Gaea’s Cradle and Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary.

I’m big on mono-green, and most every color combination including green seems solid to me. I don’t really see the draw to Selesnya specifically, but that’s nothing out of the ordinary. Gruul is also not generally great, but Escape to the Wilds and Dragonlord Atarka are powerful options for ramp decks. Blue offers unreal gold cards and green is the best color for Opposition decks. Black specifically offers Recurring Nightmare as an excellent pairing with the green value creatures. As long as you get some of green’s best cards and your mana curve is reasonable, you can’t go too wrong.

Gold

You can pretty easily extrapolate on the color pairs that I like and dislike from what I’ve gone over the this point, with some even stated explicitly, so let’s take a look at the most first-pickable gold cards:

Fractured Identity Teferi, Hero of Dominaria Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver Fallen Shinobi Escape to the Wilds Oko, Thief of Crowns Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath Omnath, Locus of Creation

The usual suspects. With blue and green being the best colors in the Cube and multiple absurd gold cards that are blue and green, it stands to reason that many of the best Legacy Cube decks will be blue and green. I honestly had to double-check that they banned Oko in Legacy upon seeing him here in the Legacy Cube list. What gives? I tried Oko in a personal project recently because I acknowledge that I have a strong bias against the card, and I even made it a couple of drafts before I regretted ever trying it. I just don’t see what positive contributions the card makes to this, or any, unpowered Cube.

Artifacts

Even without Signets or Talismans, there are still a number of very powerful colorless options in Legacy Cube. The fast mana that’s present comes at even more of a premium in their absence, and there are a number of first-pickable colorless cards otherwise:

Walking Ballista Karn Liberated Ugin, the Spirit Dragon Everflowing Chalice Grim Monolith Mind Stone Prismatic Lens Smuggler's Copter Treasure Map Umezawa's Jitte Basalt Monolith Chromatic Lantern Coalition Relic Mimic Vat Sword of Body and Mind Worn Powerstone Coercive Portal

I generally believe the Swords to be overrated, but one hit with a Sword of Body and Mind is so likely to end the game on the spot that it’s worth valuing more highly than the rest of the lot, even if Sword of Fire and Ice is much cooler.

Mimic Vat is worth taking note of. If your deck is at all interested in playing a long game, you’ll be able to get something imprinted on Mimic Vat and generate value from it. This can be really any creature getting hit by a removal spell, but Mulldrifter and Shriekmaw are also sweet combos with the Vat. The idea of imprinting an opposing Uro on my Vat also just sounds disgusting. Alternatively, you could use it with Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger to lock out your opponent’s draw step! If you haven’t Cubed with this one before, I guarantee that it will exceed your expectations.

I’ll probably be forcing blue and green decks more often than not in Legacy Cube, but any of the better colorless cards will suffice in a pack that doesn’t have a great blue or green option. Not to beat a dead horse, but all two-mana mana rocks are windmill slams in most packs.

Lands

All of the best mana fixing is here in the form of fetches, duals, shocks, and creature-lands. Fastlands and buddy lands also show up, as well as a couple of extra mana fixing options.

Flooded Strand Underground Sea Blood Crypt Copperline Gorge Sunpetal Grove City of Brass Fabled Passage Mana Confluence

Weirdly there’s no Prismatic Vista, but understandably there’s no Strip Mine. For the most part, I value blue mana fixing relatively highly, and specifically would value Azorius and Simic lands over other color pairs so that I’m most likely to be able to play a Fractured Identity or an Oko if I see them late in the draft.

Ancient Tomb and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx are the other two lands that I would value highly. Ancient Tomb rates well for all the same reasons that you would value a mana rock. I treat Nykthos as a sort of knock-off Gaea’s Cradle. You’ll know when it’s good in your deck, and specifically green is positioned to take the most advantage of it.

It’s a bit strange that it has been so long since we’ve had the Legacy Cube, though I suppose we did have quite a lot of Vintage Cube over the last year. It’s always fun to change things up to keep everything fresh, and I hope everyone enjoys the next two weeks. I’m definitely excited for all of the cards that are making their first appearance in digital Cubes, even if I’m over some of the cards that I’ve seen a thousand times.