Last updated on October 19, 2020
If you’ve been living under a rock recently, you may not have noticed that WotC has introduced a long-awaited format to MTG Arena: Cube.
While MTG Arena started slow in April 2020 with Cube Sealed, it’s official, there is now Cube Draft starting June 12, 2020.
We’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves, though. First things first. If you’re like me, you weren’t really all that familiar with Cube before it was introduced to Arena. So, what is this format, how does it work, and where did it come from? Let’s talk about that.
The Full Story of Cube, Simplified
So, Cube. It’s pretty simple, in that it’s basically a custom draft format. A “cube” is created containing whatever cards the organizer wants to include (360 is the recommended size of a cube for beginners, which can support eight players just like a regular draft), usually using powerful cards.
Players then pick cards to build their deck one at a time from rotating 15-card packs that use cards from the cube, just like you would in draft. After the game, the cards go back to the cube. Basically, Cube is a custom draft game where the players use the organizer’s cards and then give them back afterwards.
If you’re unfamiliar with drafting in MTGA in general, I’d recommend checking out this article.
Some cubes follow other themes or restrictions or are built around specific archetypes/synergies. Cube is also generally singleton, meaning there’s only one copy of each card in the cube. We’ll get to all that in just a bit, though.
MTG Arena and Cube: The Juicy Details
This is the first time Cube has come to Arena, though players have been asking about it for quite some time. Wait, there’s more… Just one more. Yeah, OK, that’s it. But I’m sure you get the point. This has been a long time coming, and even then, there’s still more to be done.
Now that human drafts (aka player drafts) have been implemented on Arena, Cube Draft is finally here.
Arena’s Cube is Historic, mainly to offer a larger card pool (555, if you were wondering). Standard Cube is a thing, but the format is much better with a larger card pool. Since MTGA has sets from Ixalan forward along with the Historic anthologies, it makes the most sense to have a Historic Cube event. It’s generally more fun and provides more variety and opportunity for interesting/unique gameplay that you just can’t get in any of the other formats on Arena. Which, really, is the biggest appeal for Cube to begin with.
The best example of this is Vintage Cube, which you can play on MTG Online. There’s plenty of different ways to create a cube, with different “rules” and requirements going into it. Pauper Cube includes only common cards, Legacy Cube allows cards from all sets, and Powered Cube (referring to the Power Nine cards) uses cards considered “too powerful” in other cubes.
Power Nine cards
Now that we’ve covered the “technical” side of Cube on MTG Arena, let’s jump into the event itself.
The Cube Sealed Event
We’ve got all of the details in our events calendar, but let’s jot them down here, too, so that you’ve got everything Cube in one spot:
It’s also worth noting that the Cube Sealed event is “phantom,” and Cube Draft is too. This means that you don’t get to keep any of the cards that you pick. On the flip side, though, you’ll see more rares and mythic rares in the cube because of this and so you’ll be able to build a more kick-ass deck than you would in a normal draft.
Looking at those numbers, you might be wondering if the event is worth it. Well, if you’re looking for a different format to play and have fun in, then yes, I’d say it’s worth it. If you’re not particularly interested in Cube, though, and are just wondering if the entry fee is worth the rewards, then that’s another story.
Reddit has done the math for me—thank god—so all I have to do is present you with their findings. And, with those findings, the answer to the “is it worth it?” question would be a resounding no. As the user who so helpfully put that nifty table together points out in their comment, the final value of the event depends on how much gold a gem is worth to you, which depends on what you do with your gems. But either way it doesn’t really pan out.
You don’t even really need all that fancy math to see that the event is not worth the entry fee, though, at least not in terms of rewards. I’d say it’s obvious that this event is meant to be for players to have fun with, rather than to offer enticing rewards if you can manage to max out your wins. That doesn’t mean this is the best way to go about something like that because 3,000 gold or 600 gems is a pretty hefty price to pay for a new format.
The other thing I’ll say is that Cube would be much better if it was BO3 instead of BO1. The format can often see games totally shut down in one turn with a lucky draw from a broken, jank deck and end up leaving you with no opportunity to actually enjoy the format before your turn is over and you have to pay again.
Cube Draft Events
Cube Draft is coming to Arena on June 12! Again, all the juicy details can be found in our events calendar, but here they are for your viewing pleasure:
It’s also worth noting that your first Cube Draft will have no entry fee, so you get to try out the new Draft experience for free! How cool is that? I think that’s pretty cool.
And remember, just like the Cube Sealed event, Cube Draft will be phantom, so you don’t get to keep any of the cards you draft.
General Play and Deck Building Tips
By Draftsim Head Honcho Dan Troha
Having had a chance to play the cube a little now, it seems to be mostly about splashy, powerful cards and incredible engines.
You need to have a cohesive deck with a very well defined plan. This is not normal limited, it’s “Standard Lite” — so you want a mini-Standard deck. Don’t throw together two colors worth of “good cards,” or you will likely start losing.
The cube has many limited all-stars of sets past (the “Incredible Bombs” category in the Draftsim card ratings), and many of those cards continue to be bombs in the cube. A card that was incredibly powerful by itself in draft, such as The Immortal Sun still is insane in cube. You want to take these bombs early and draft your decks around them. Other examples are Patient Rebuilding and planeswalkers.
A real bomb provides card advantage and is a win condition
Planeswalkers appear a lot more than they do in typical limited. This means that your deck needs to have a way to deal with them, either through establishing an early board presence, having evasion, or having flexible removal spells that are capable of interacting with them. I’ve even liked Redcap Melee a lot more than I expected because it cheaply nukes planeswalkers.
Maybe it goes without saying, but you should be taking planeswalkers highly and putting them in your own deck, too. Some of the War of the Spark uncommons are a little less good or have niche roles, but they’re still playable.
Don’t put “just stats” or semi-vanilla creatures in your deck just to have creatures. They should be generating value. So—unless you’re an aggro deck —basically every creature you grab should generate a two- or three-for-one or be part of some insane engine.
Many of the planeswalkers and cards in the cube generate copious amounts of tokens. Especially if you are a controlling or ramp style deck, it is crucial to have a couple sweepers in your deck to come back from when the board gets out of control. It feels great to cleanly answer a Biogenic Ooze. So don’t sleep on Massacre Girl. I feel like people don’t think it’s good for some reason.
Top MTG Arena Cube Archetypes and Sample Decks
Here are some sample winning (seven wins) decks from Draftsim’s decklist account, Limited Decklists. We showcase decks over there so you can see what people are winning with in the current draft/sealed format. If you’re not following the account, you definitely should be.
3-5 Color Good Stuff Bombs/Control/Ramp
The mana in the cube is great. There are a ton of dual lands and they are not being taken super highly. As usual in draft, and abundance of dual lands means that you’ll be able to splash more bombs and increase the power level of your deck relative to your opponents.
The power level of the cards in Standard (and many of these cards are constructed playable) scales incredibly each step up the mana curve that you go. So, a 3-drop is going to be quite a bit more powerful than a 2- or 1-drop, and a 4- or 5-drop is going to be insane compared to a 2- or 3-drop. It then stands to reason that you want to get to playing these four to six mana mythics and generate value as quickly as possible.
Besides bombs, make sure to fill your decks with either some cheap interaction (in a more controlling shell) to prevent yourself from dying, or ramp cards like Mengucci did to get you into the mid/late game with enough mana and high enough life total.
And it bears repeating, but you also need sweepers to catch up when you can’t effectively 1-for-1 your opponent while you’re getting beat down.
Here’s one more sweet one:
What do you do when people are being as greedy as possible and trying to play expensive things? Go under them and kill them before they can play their powerful cards.
Play lots of cheap creatures on curve and throw out interaction that disrupts your opponent’s game plan long enough for you to close out the game from their low life total. Burn them out.
As you can see with the second deck, I would not say that it is easy to get a critical mass of one and two drops to have a traditional super-low-to-the-ground-aggro-deck. So some of these decks play a little more midrangey. Things really get going at 3 or 4 on the curve.
Here’s one more example of “bigger” aggro:
Synergy Engine Decks
Here’s one I won with and it was a blast to play. I can’t say I know all the well-supported synergy clusters in the cube yet, but I do know that black/red sacrifice is certainly one of them.
Those cards may not be as good on their own as just jamming a planeswalker in your deck, but when A+B is very powerful, and it’s easy to get lots of redundancy in both A and B, it’s worth doing.
If you’ve been winning with anything I haven’t mentioned here, be sure to leave a comment on this article or Tweet at the Limited Decklists account so we can all see!
What the Future Holds
Based on the announcements from WotC, it looks like Cube is here to stay. And it’s the fact that we can finally draft with other human beings that has enabled that decision.
WotC had mentioned that their intended set-up for Cube Draft apparently wouldn’t be super fun with bot drafting. The problem with it in Arena is that it’s just not very realistic. Bots have leaned towards or away from certain colors in the past which allowed players to exploit that and tweak their picks accordingly.
Wizards pretty much met my expectations with player drafting. There are timers on each pick: longest on your P1P1 (70 seconds) and shortest on the last pick of the draft (30 seconds).
People have also talked about having Cube with its own regular, rotating spot in Arena’s menagerie of events, which is a definite possibility. This may be the first of many to come, and it would be great if Cube Sealed or Cube Draft took a spot alongside the ranked drafts as a recurring event. It’s a good change of pace, and new formats on Arena is never a bad thing.
The Complete Card List for Arena’s Cube Draft
Instants and Sorceries
That’s all we’ve got for you today! Hopefully we were able to shed some light on this new and exciting addition to Arena’s event roster.
Cube is a great format, and certainly a breath of fresh air for MTGA. It’s fun, unique, and an awesome combination of limited and constructed. If you’ve never played, it may be worth a shot if you’ve got the gold or gems to spare.
Alternatively, if you’re into limited in general and draft like there’s no tomorrow, Arena Tutor could potentially be your best friend. Not familiar with my usual spiel? Perfect! Arena Tutor is our awesome tracker for MTGA drafting that can also help you with your picks thanks to our signature AI. Give it a try. Go on, don’t be shy. It won’t bite.
What are your thoughts on Cube? If you’ve played it, did you enjoy it or find it to be too short as a BO1 format? Let us know in the comments down there!