Tales of the Squire- Who doesn’t Love to Cube?

by Dan Rae

Since the Legacy format has changed I have not really had any breakthroughs on decks, and I’m not going to try to tell you what is winning at other events because I’m sure everyone is checking coverage and such.  My friends are very generously lending me the  cards for my BUG list from the last article, so I plan on playing that at the NELC Qualifier at Jupiter on October 15th.  You should come and play.  Before deciding on the BUG list, I tested out my list running Mindshrieker against the legend Ken Adams. I mean seriously, this guy is on SCG sleeves! Who else has that going for them? Mindshrieker proved to be a pretty decent creature, but I never got to flip Draco or cast Erratic Explosion to hit Draco.  To defend my deck, Ken’s list was a combo list like he always plays and we did not play any sideboard games, but I don’t know that I’m confident enough yet with the deck to play it in an actual event.  Oh well, I guess Draco will stay in the binder for now.

This week I will talk about Cube Drafting and some problems with cubes.  If you don’t know about cube I suggest you check out this site, cubedrafting.com.  Basically, cube drafting is the most fun you can have playing Magic (assuming you like drafting powerful cards).  My cube is based off of Ryan McKinney’s list, with some changes that I have made to it.  My list has 525 cards with the colors all balanced in card numbers.  Usually when I find a card I want to add, I either find another card for each color or cut something else from the color I’m adding to.  This is the most important part of maintaining a cube- keeping everything balanced.  For example, I have a relevant utility land in each color.  I cannot give black Volrath’s Stronghold without giving the other colors a land.

Now in most cubes blue is the strongest color, and I have noticed in my own that blue tends to be dominating.  But who doesn’t love a nice blue deck?  I have been trying to balance out my blue by cutting some of the control magic cards.  Even though I love casting them, I realized I didn’t need every Control Magic spell in the game and made some cuts. Often when drafting the cube, the players do their best to make sure that one player does not have all the blue bombs.  I actually was in a draft with some friends once in which they straight out said, “I’m not going to take this [blue] card because I know Dan is playing blue.”  This clearly is not the way to draft a cube or any set for that matter.  I know that when some people go into a draft they may subconsciously or even consciously  choose to not play a color because they have an aversion to that color.  When I went into an M12 draft, I never played green.  I could get passed 8 Overruns and still would not play that damn color.  I would hate draft Jade Mage all day, but never actually put her in my deck.  I won’t say this cost me a lot of drafts, but I will say that you do yourself a service by going into a draft with an open mind and reading signals.  Don’t plan to play Red/Black because you know it has the best removal in your draft.  Sometimes the players around you just hate out a color and you need to jump colors to make sure your deck doesn’t turn into a complete pile.  In cube this is a lot different.  Every card in the “pack” is usually first-pickable- even if you are getting cut in a color, it does not mean good picks are drying up.

This is the first problem that initially comes with cube drafting- if you are new to a cube you see a lot of great cards in your opening pack but because you have never drafted that particular cube you may have no idea what to pick.  In a normal draft, you can take certain cards in your pack and dismiss them immediately as early picks.  Why in the world would you want to pick Fortress Crab or Fog early on in your pack?  It takes some skill to read your opponents and figure out what sort of card that may be a first pick for you, may possibly come around the table again.  Let’s look at a sample pack from a cube on tappedout.net:


Albino Troll Arid Mesa Bramblecrush
Dark Confidant Eight-and-a-Half-Tails Firebolt
Koth of the Hammer Maelstrom Pulse Mogg Fanatic
Rolling Earthquake Spellskite Sphinx of Jwar Isle
Sword of Feast and Famine Thrun, the Last Troll Urabrask the Hidden
This pack generated from TappedOut.net, the MTG Deck Builder


As you can all see, this pack is not very blue, and that makes me sad.  The cards that stand out to me are Dark Confidant, Koth of the Hammer, Spellskite, Maelstrom Pulse, Rolling Earthquake, Sword of Feast and Famine, and Thrun.  I realize that is seven cards but those are just the ones I would even put in my possible top picks.  My top four picks would be, Rolling Earthquake, Spellskite, Sword of Feast and Famine, and finally Dark Confidant.  Now Rolling Earthquake is a great removal spell because it will kill everything on the battlefield and possibly an opponent who has less life than you.  Because it only requires a single red, it is easily splash-able and that Arid Mesa might even come back around.  Most cubes have a lot of removal, so Spellskite is a nice way to protect your other permanents.  Plus being a 0/4 does make it a pretty good blocker vs. the aggro decks.  Now Sword of Feast and Famine is a nice addition to any deck and if the cube happens to have Stoneforge Mystic, that makes it even better.  It completely trumps the green black players and the discard and untap can just be huge.  But I’m sure most people know how good Swords are.  Finally comes Dark Confidant and card advantage is just amazing assuming you aren’t worried about milling your 40 card deck.  The reason I placed Bob lower on the list is because cube cards can have expensive mana costs and, while running fetch lands other spells which hurt you, you may not want to be flipping that Sphinx and taking six to the dome.  The reason I passed up the other three cards are just personal play style.  Koth requires you to play heavy red and while this pack does support that, it does not mean that Koth is going to be your MVP.  He may come down, untap your mountain to have it removed and then get beaten to death.  Maelstrom Pulse requires you to be in those colors, or at least able to splash those colors, and I feel it would be too early to figure out if you are capable of that.  Finally comes Thrun and while evasion and regeneration is relevant the double green can be tough and he is only a 4/4, so he may end up as just a blocker for you.  Let me know in the comments section what you would pick with a brief explanation.

Okay the last thing I want to talk about is the power of Planeswalkers in the cube format.  There are currently 26 planeswalkers (assuming I counted correctly) and my cube plays 24 of them.  Chandra Ablaze is just a piece of garbage (yes, offense to people who think it’s good) and Nissa Revane is too narrow for a cube.  Planeswalkers are straight-up powerhouses in cube because they just do so much.  In any constructed format Planeswalkers can come out and just die, but cube and other limited formats there are fewer cards available to deal with them, so they have more power.  In the smaller cubes it becomes a problem because every card in the cube is a part of each draft.  My cube is fairly large so players generally will not see as many Planeswalkers.  I haven’t actually played with or seen anyone play with Jace, Memory Adept but he just seems nutty in cube.  On turn 5 your opponent has gone through at least 11 cards and now you can mill them another 10.  Assuming they can’t just kill your Jace outright, you can hit them for another 10 cards.  Their deck is quite slim now and all you have to do is not die for a couple turns.  So how does one limit Planeswalkers in their cube? I find it so hard to decide which planeswalkers to cut while Wizards keeps pumping them out like they have been. At the moment, I do not think there is a need to cut any of them, and I refuse to cut Jace, Memory Adept because I have a foil one and he looks like a BAMF.  Tezzeret, in both forms, may be considered too narrow for cube but most cubes runs a lot of artifacts and some of those even produce mana.  So I guess they shouldn’t be cut.  I honestly hope someone smarter than myself comes up with the answer because I don’t know if I have one.  But I do know that I don’t want my cube to be all about who has the better Planeswalker.

All right I hope this gives some insight into the cube world and if any of you want a list of my cube just ask me on facebook or twitter: @rocketrae21.  One last thing, don’t think you need a lot of people to actually cube draft, there are plenty of ways to draft with just two people, but I think I will save that information for a later date.

4 thoughts on “Tales of the Squire- Who doesn’t Love to Cube?”

  1. Chances are I would go with SoFF since it’s always good if you’ve got a creature and it makes your opponents use a removal spell as soon as possible if they can still target the creature, and a lot of colors don’t really have too many ways to deal with artifacts.

  2. I’d take either rolling earthquake or the sphinx. the earthquake because it’s powerful and insanely splashable with all the fixing in cube; and the sphinx because I love blue and it’s a decent finisher. 

  3. Sphinx is just about the worst option. You would think it’s a bomb. But this is cube and there a lot of better 6 drops. I would take rolling earthquake. It’s splashable mass removal that can also kill planeswalkers… Which makes it better than Koth for red, more versatile then pulse. Bob is an option, but he’s not as powerful.

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