An Introduction to Arena Cube: Foundings and Strategies

Magic: the Gathering

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An Introduction to Arena Cube: Foundings and Strategies

Today I'll explain the basics of the Cube Draft and some specific details to play it well on MTG: Arena !

By Luiz, 04/05/21, translated by Humberto

Greetings ! As announced on the last few days, between April 2 and 14, we'll have the return of the Arena Cube. But first, what is

Cube

? I don't know the reason it has this name, but the idea of making a Cube is to build a list of cards that make up a Limited format, and then play drafts with those cards instead of a sealed with conventional boosters. Usually a list is made with 360 cards = 3 boosters from 15 to 8 players, using one copy of each card.

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The result is a rich experience, which lives in a space between the Limited and the Constructed and offers interactions between cards never seen in other formats. You can assemble a Cube from any bulk of cards to have fun with your friends, but as we still live in a pandemic, we only have the digital options for now. Magic Online has been offering us cube experiences for many years - like the famous Vintage Cube, offering powerful options at the

Black Lotus

and

Ancestral Recall

level; even more specific Cubes like the Proliferate-themed Cube built by Emma Handy.
The Arena Cube
Before we talk about the format itself, take a look at the card lists available on this link. This Cube has 545 cards (selected among the best options in the platform), so there is no guarantee that we will see a certain card with 100% certainty during the draft, and there are no duplicates. Most cards are things that you would be quite happy to get p1p1 in a normal draft, so how do you navigate this sea of powerful cards? A few central statements regarding Cube formats as this one are: 1.

Pick the cheap cards

. It's easy to fall into the trap of picking up an incredible 5 mana bomb like

Lyra Dawnbringer

or

Elder Gargaroth

on the first pick. What ends up happening is that there are so many "amazing" 5 mana options in the format, and your deck doesn't have room for all of them if you consider your mana curve. By prioritizing cheap and flexible cards you can guarantee that you can spend your mana every turn of the game and "keep the pace" with the format. 2.

Mana base is very important.

There is the "9 basic one color and 8 another" pattern that we use as a starting point for regular Draft. This works part of the time, but in a way it is only acceptable because we know that our opponents will go through the same thing - and because you can still go back to a game where you get mana screwed for a turn or two. At Cube, as everything is more efficient, you cannot afford the same luxury. There are five duals in each color combination, apart from

Fabled Passage

- and they are very high picks, keep an eye out! 3.

Does your deck look like a Constructed deck?

Some say that Cube looks more like Constructed than Limited, which still has a background of truth. The idea of "reading the signs, identifying the open colors" does not matter as much as "having a plan and building around that plan". There are a few main archetypes and we are going to introduce them, just as there are several "secret archetypes" based on a card or combination of cards. The important thing is to realize synergies between your cards to take them beyond the raw power that all decks already have. When building your deck, ask yourself the usual question: "is my deck a deck or a stack of cards?"
Base Archetypes
Don't forget that a Cube format is for fun and learning, so don't be afraid to experiment outside the box!

Monored / Monowhite / Boros Aggro

The most basic and efficient decks, Monored and Monowhite take great advantage of the people who are just trying to play - the famous fun police. You don't have to waste time picking up duals. Several packs will be "empty" but that's not a problem, it's easy to get over 23-24 playable cards and you don't need to change much after sideboarding. Splashing other color for some higher power card on these decks is valid, if you had the discipline to pick up the duals. The "full Boros", on the other hand, sometimes ends up being too midrange, with the worst of both worlds and a mana base that cannot be trusted.

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UW Control

On the other side of the spectrum, Azorius Control is quite feasible if you pick up any card(s) that clear the board like

Doomskar

or

Cleansing Nova

. Couple this with a finisher like

Approach of the Second Sun

, counters, removals, draws, value creatures, etc ... the classic recipe is very valid in this format.

UGxxx Ramp

In this Cube, more than an aggressive color, Green works very well as a support for ramp and fixing. Blue usually goes hand in hand as it gives you access to draw spells for a better use your excess mana. If there is enough fixing, you can splash any bomb in any color - going up to all five colors for our friend

Golos, Tireless Pilgrim

and his favorite yard

Field of the Dead

.

Bx Grind

Black is a very synergistic color in this format, using the themes of sacrifice, attrition creatures, discards and efficient removals. You can play monoblack - incentives like

Ayara, First of Locthwain

and

Phyrexian Obliterator

, but the black base is very versatile with other colors. Personally, in the last round of the Cube it was my favorite archetype, especially when it involved

Lurrus of the Dream-Den

.
My Top 10

Lurrus of the Dream-Den

If you pick it early, it is very easy to build the deck to use it as a Companion, and if it appears in the middle of the Draft it is still an insane card to include in your main deck.

Wilderness Reclamation

Doubles your mana. It is not at all difficult to build around - just add instants and activated abilities on your deck. Banned in Standard and Historic. No comments. In the last incarnation of the Cube, it was well underestimated, coming late in packs.

Hazoret, the Fervent

It shines to the maximum in Monored, but it is a powerful addition to any deck that is interested in spitting the hand on the board. Super hard to deal with and even converts lands into damage later on.

Goals, Tireless Pilgrim

Already mentioned in the archetypes, it really is a huge threat when you untap and start activating it - and the trigger still helps in that regard. One of the best ramp deck payoffs.

Doomskar

The classic

Wrath of God

has been removed from the cube, but honestly maybe Doomskar is even better? Also already mentioned in the archetypes, it is a key part of the decks that want to play Control.

Fabled Passage

It may seem innocuous, but it is the only card that has an almost 100% chance of entering your deck. Corrects your mana, facilitates splashes and allows more daring decisions later in the draft.

Pact of Negation

The feeling of being able to lower the shields and knock down the hammer that will turn the game around, knowing that you have a zero mana counterspell for any possible answer. The cost of "losing" five mana in the future is irrelevant when this kind of play puts you so far ahead in the game. It is difficult to understand its raw power until you play with it, or worse, until your opponent plays with it.

Showdown of the Skalds

This is one that I'm not so sure if it lives in the top 10, but in theory it caught my attention, after seeing play in the draft of Kaldheim and Standard. Right on the first deck I set up today, I already picked a Showdown (quite late, by the way) and yes, it is very strong, I recommend it.

Stanrheim Unleashed

The best card from Kaldheim, I also used it today - twice - and it's still pretty impressive - and it's ridiculously easy to splash on almost any deck here given the quality of the mana fixing.

Midnight Clock

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A simple mana rock that in an eventual future makes you draw up to 7 cards. In later stages of the game the part of returning to the graveyard is also hugely relevant, improving the density of spells on your deck and ensuring that you have the resources to take any long game. Unless I'm playing aggro, I worry a lot about seeing one of these on the opponent's side of the table. Out of curiosity, the card that were on my Top 10 on the last Cube but were removed are:

The Scarab God

,

Hydroid Krasis

,

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

e

Wrath of God

.
The Cube and the Farm
A question I always see is "is the Cube worth it?". You are investing 4000 in-game coins for a chance to win your coins back, but you do not keep the cards you pick. The simple answer is: if you just want to win cards and "farm" and that is the reason why you play regular Draft, no, it is not worth it. On the other hand, one thing that I usually say on my lives is that the goal of Arena (oddly enough) is not to earn cards. The cards are a means for you to play with the meta decks in Constructed but the cards and pennies are there to serve the purpose of the game which is to have fun. I recommend to watch some Cube gameplay and see the interactions that arise; the learning potential is enormous.

Best of 1 or Best of 3?

Both events cost the same entry. The game structure is the same as the regular Draft : 7-3 games in Bo1, 3 Matches in Bo3. Personally I think that Bo3 is more worthwhile in Cube, given the higher power level, which opens the door to more results built by variance in the Bo1 games. Another factor is that since the cards are generally good, you do not end up with a garbage sideboard as in a regular Draft, which allows you to have more possibilities for post-side adjustments in more specific matchups. Finally, if your winrate in a given game is greater than 50%, it will be mathematically higher in Bo3 matches. To help you on your decision, I prepared this EV calculator. Just save a copy, fill the purple cell with your winrate, and the yellow cell will tell you what your average "expected value" is in a Cube event - how much you will spend to play. That is all we have for today and I hope this brief introduction serves to give you some starting point to explore the format, which is totally worth it ! Thanks for reading !
Bonus
The decks I built on the live during the first day of Cube>
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Grade

0

Mtg Limited Cube Draft Arena
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Luiz

30 years old and father, plays Magic in his spare time. Booster Draft enthusiast, he met the game in 2000.

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