Editor’s note: The Arena Cube Draft is available on Arena until January 1, 2023. It is a phantom draft, which means the cards you draft are not added to your collection. Entry is 600 gems or 4000 gold.
The author of this article hit #11 Mythic in Limited last season and is currently Mythic #516.
The Arena Cube Mentality
Cube is not draft. I’ve found that the easiest way to fail at this Cube is to play it as if it was a Standard set draft. Cards that are great in draft will sometimes be bad in this Cube. My favorite example of this is Titania’s Command. It’s the best card in Brother’s War draft, but not a card that I want to end up with in my Cube deck. Six mana is too much for an aggro format, and there are better top-end cards to ramp into. The cheap cards are better than the top end in this Cube. You don’t want to end up with more than four five-drops in your deck – even if they are all very good (with the exception of ramp decks).
In aggro, I’m looking for a bunch of one-drops, two-drops and three-drops and then only the three-to-five best expensive top-end cards. It’s the same in midrange. The cheap cards are powerful, and you need to be able to keep up with the aggro decks. Even in Blue Control decks, you really only need about five top-end finishers in your deck. The only exception to this are ramp decks, which can afford more than five expensive cards (but still don’t overload on them; you don’t need ten ramp payoffs).
The New Cube Archetypes
This iteration of the Arena Cube does not have defined archetypes the same way some of the past versions have had. However, you still can’t reasonably just draft a midrange pile. It’s easy to fall into the trap of just picking good cards in two or three colors, but that doesn’t tend to win games. In this Cube, you need a plan.
The aggro decks are very good. Mono-Red and Mono-White are amazing, but hard to get. Boros is also good. Black can be aggressive, using recursive one-drops and powerful top-end such as Rankle, Master of Pranks and Sheoldred, the Apocalypse.
Mono-Green is more of a ramp deck, but when paired with White or Red it can be very aggressive. Mono-Color Aggro decks are great, but don’t always come together. Don’t be afraid to turn a mono-color deck into a two-color deck after pack one or two (this is what happened with my Boros deck below).
The key to two-color aggro decks is to not be split down the middle if possible, leaning more into one color than the other. You can see my winning Boros aggro deck below only has eight Red cards. Dual lands are also critical – even on-color Triomes can be good..
You also can draft midrange, but looking toward strong synergies is better than drafting a pile. Good cards are good cards, but you should still have a gameplan. Often, Black Midrange decks are aggressive or have a sacrifice subtheme. Blue Midrange decks often look like constructed control decks. Just don’t end up drafting an Orzhov deck with both a bunch of white one-drops and Cruelty of Gix in it (more on that later).
Green Ramp decks are very powerful, but five-color green decks aren’t. Field of the Dead and Golos, Tireless Pilgrim are not actually very good in this Cube – they are too slow. When drafting a Green Ramp deck, I’m looking to be Mono-Green or Mono-Green with a splash of a color.
The First Pick
(The pickings are slim in Blue; it’s definitely the worst color in the cube)
(Green is strong, but it is over-drafted and rarely open.)
Take lands! You’re probably not prioritizing taking lands highly enough. The way I like to think about it is that the first land is always better than the 24th card that ends up in your sideboard.
You should be taking a land over everything except the top 15 cards in your deck. A land is better than a Blade Splicer, but worse than an Elite Spellbinder. Because it’s Cube, you will most likely not be short on playables, which makes taking lands early much easier.
The “Attack All” button
The “Attack All” button is very underrated. You should always be considering whether you should just “attack all”. Often, it is the correct play to sacrifice your board for a few damage – especially if you’re playing Red or Black and have some reach. Think about how much damage you will get through. Are you going to kill your opponent in the next combat phase? How about top-decks: does your attack turn more of the cards in your deck into wins when you draw them?
Mulligans are hard in cube because they are between regular Standard set draft mulligans and constructed mulligans. Don’t keep overly slow hands; the aggro decks are very good and they will punish you for keeping hands that don’t impact the board until turn three or four. However, some hands that you might think are bad can be keeps – especially hands with only one of your colors in a two-color deck. Keep in mind how many sources of each color you have, and how long you can play the game without drawing one of your sources.
Think about different ways to play out your turn and next few turns. You shouldn’t immediately rule anything out. Consider all of your options – even ones that look bad. Plan your turns ahead before doing anything and decide what you want to play before deciding which land to play.
- In Red Aggro, try to limit your burn spells to ones that can target players.
- In general, your removal should be one and two mana, unless it’s attached to something like Elspeth Conquers Death
- You probably shouldn’t be playing mana rocks in your midrange decks
- Flyers are better than you think here
- Keep your curve low
- Obosh, the Preypiercer is good in the right deck!
- The other companions are medium, but can be good in the right deck.
- Try cool stuff – Cube is supposed to be fun!
Pack 3, Pick 13
I’m not a master of the Arena Cube – the White One-Drops and Cruelty of Gix deck I mentioned? That was me. The mono-color deck that should have been two-color? Me. Overrating Golos and Field of the Dead? Also me. I’m just trying to get better, not make the same mistakes twice and share some tips along the way. Anyway, thanks for reading and get Cubing!