Dominaria is approaching and I’m sure you’ll have no shortage of good articles about the new Standard and Limited, but today I want to talk about the Cube Draft, a format very popular on Magic Online. There is lot of Cube formats – Vintage, Legacy, Modern, etc., but they have one obvious thing in common – the power level of a cube deck is closer to constructed deck than a limited one.
A good interactive deck will show better results than a pile of mythics. The cube format is very diverse and there are different strategies of drafting, this time we’ll have a look at Mono-Colored decks. You may disagree with Cube designers on some card choices, but in general, I think cube lists are pretty balanced and every color is doing what it is supposed to do, that is why I prefer playing one color. We are talking about different Cube formats, so there will be different cards in it, but the playstyle of every color remains the same. Here are the base concepts of the decks (if you want to talk about some specific archetype-please write in comments):
White Weenie consists of 15-16 creatures with cmc (converted mana cost) 3 or less, a couple of 《Crusade》 effects or equipment, 2 or 3 powerful 4 drops like Planeswalkers or some 《Hero of Bladehold》 and a couple of finisher 5 drops.
Token generators like 《Spectral Procession》 are very useful thanks to 《Glorious Anthem》 effects, it makes opposing removal less effective and it’s pretty likely you’ll see 《Windbrisk Heights》 in the last 5 picks.
Red Burn consists of ~10 aggressive 1 and 2 drops, a couple of 5 cc haste dragons, a couple of 4 cmc “premium” burn spells like 《Fiery Confluence》 or Planeswalkers, the rest of the slots are filled with cheap burn spells you are usually have a wide selection of.
Try to get all of the 《Searing Blaze》 effects – clearing the way for your creatures and damaging the opponent with the same card is the best thing you can do.
Green Ramp is not that strong in Modern cube, but it absolutely shines in Legacy and Vintage ones, 《Gaea's Cradle》 and 《Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary》 are my favorite first picks. There are so many mana dorks and 6+cc bombs, even if you are not the only one interested in it, you are still going to have your cut.
Once you have picked the “cheat” mana spell try to get 《Green Sun's Zenith》, 《Nissa, Worldwaker》 or 《Garruk Wildspeaker》 – these cards are great at any stage of the game. There are some “premium” cards for your deck like 《Craterhoof Behemoth》 or 《Tooth and Nail》 to finish the game quickly, though they are not vital.
I think ramp is the easiest deck to draft, because you need very little specific cards, apart from that you are happy with almost any acceleration spell or beefy green creature and there are just too many of them.
Mono Black Devotion-Reanimator
Mono Black Devotion-Reanimator is my second favorite deck after Mono-Green in Legacy-Vintage formats, but Mono Black a bit more tricky. With a lot of cheap reanimation spells you’d probably want to be on a reanimator plan, but the best card for the deck is not some 《Griselbrand》, it’s 《Grave Titan》 or 《Gray Merchant of Asphodel》. A good target for 《Recurring Nightmare》 should be great on turn 3 or 4, however you should still be able to hardcast it on turn 6-7, it also keeps you from conceding to some sideboarded 《Relic of Progenitus》.
Black color offers a lot of graveyard interactions, try to use value ways to fill it – 《Buried Alive》 gives you a reanimation target + some 《Bloodghast》 and 《Gravecrawler》, 《Oona's Prowler》 or 《Smuggler's Copter》 are a good beaters with the ability to discard anything you don’t want in your hand, while some 《Entomb》 has no virtual advantage attached.
What about Mono Blue? The general idea of blue in Cube is being a support color, it is the only color that needs a friend. I strongly advice you to keep from drafting Mono Blue, there is just too few cards that will win you the game, 《Consecrated Sphinx》 is a great magic card, but the game should already be sealed on turn 6. Even though 《Counterspell》 effects are ok in Cube you are going to have a very hard time dealing with threats that hit the battlefield and there is not much crowd control, so the only favorable opponent would be some kind of a heavy ramp or pure reanimator deck where you have to counter just a couple of crucial spells.
In Vintage cube you could try to assemble some 《Mind's Desire》 Storm deck, I’ve never tried it myself, but as far as I saw it seems a bit more fragile than you can allow your storm deck to be.
Differences In Every Formats
Just as in any other draft format, do not start the draft with the idea of a deck you are going to have already in your head! Make some safe early picks, for Modern it’s like 《Smuggler's Copter》, 《Sword of Fire and Ice》 or a powerful Planeswalker (《Liliana of the Veil》, 《Elspeth, Knight-Errant》, 《Chandra, Pyromaster》, etc.), some Titan is ok I guess.
In Legacy I have a very strong preference for 1st picking a green card – 《Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary》, 《Gaea's Cradle》 or 《Natural Order》 are literally a cheat spells that will win you the game in no time, 《Recurring Nightmare》 is broken for sure.
As for Vintage, I can’t say I like it very much because of power 9, having like 4 mana on turn 1 makes it more about the coin flip and less about your drafting or your plays. My most hated card is a 《Mana Crypt》, while 《Black Lotus》 pushes just one threat that can be deal with, the crypt allows you to sustain the onslaught 2 turns ahead, even losing 3 life every single turn is acceptable.
Strengths Of Drafting Mono-Colored Decks
Now to the drafting process, there are two main advantages in drafting a Mono-Colored deck:
In an average 2 color deck you want 1 non basic land on the battlefield and 3-4 in the deck, probably more, double costs or some 《Cryptic Command》 – like costs are not a rare thing in Cube. Lands are getting depleted pretty quickly and you have to pick them early in order to make sure you have the stabilization. I saw people taking off-color fetchlands early, don’t do that, then you’ll have to find 1 exact dual land from the whole pool or your fetchland becomes like a random pick.
There are no such problems in Mono-Colored decks, you still want some specific lands like the “Hideaway” cycle or colorless manlands, but since no one else is interested in them, they will make a fine 11th pick. Summarizing that, you are immune to mana screw and you don’t have to choose between a card you want in your deck and a color fixing land.
Mono-Colored decks use specific cards and the chances to see them wheel is very high, for example, 《Adanto Vanguard》 or 《Isamaru, Hound of Konda》 are a great cards for the White Weenie, but no other deck will ever want to play it. Of course there is always a chance someone will counterdraft it, but so far I’m sure the risk is acceptable. 30 playables are not a rare thing and sometimes you can even allow yourself to make a sideboard pick over the average main deck filler.
I understand Cube is a kind of “Timmy” format, but if you want to “Spike” through it, give Mono-Colors a try, maybe you’ll eventually agree with me, maybe you’ll prove me wrong, but I think it would be a useful experience anyway. What could be better than playing your 《Phyrexian Obliterator》 on turn 4 while opponent is struggling to find his 2nd color or casting an Entwined 《Tooth and Nail》 on turn 3?
Of all the formats, I think Cube is the hardest to find one “true” strategy. I hope you will find this approach interesting and put it to good use!
Thanks for reading and best of luck to you!