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Drafting Pro Tour Cube

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The Pro Tour Cube hits MTGO today, Wednesday, August 15. As the Cube's designer, and general Cube enthusiast, I could not be more excited. Today, I want to delve into some of the ins-and-outs of drafting the Pro Tour Cube, its archetypes, some details about the card pool, and anything else you'll want to know before jumping in a queue.

Archetypes

The Cube presents a full array of archetypes to draft, both ones ever-present in normal Cubes, and ones unique to the Pro Tour Cube alone. Mono-Red Aggro, Mono-White Aggro, Blue-based Control, Green-based Ramp, ur Splinter Twin, and a variety of midange options are among the more recognizable decks available to draft.

Unique archetypes of the Cube include but are not limited to: Affinity/Artifact Matters, Zombies, Elves, Mono-Blue Devotion, and Miracles; all of which I want to breakdown one-by-one.

Affinity/Artifact Matters

Affinity and/or artifact matter cards are primarily present in Blue and Red, but there are some in White (Toolcraft Exemplar, Ethersworn Canonist, and Dispatch to name a few). The deck can exist as both combo/control or aggro. The former utilizes fast mana to drop large creatures or powerful spells quickly, combo off with Goblin Welder, or simply cast an early Tinker. The latter swarms the board with creatures and end the game soon after much like its Modern counterpart. Some things to keep in mind when drafting either version are the colorless matters cards (Ruination Guide, Vile Aggregate, etc) which play well with artifacts but can be awkward with mechanics like Modular and Affinity. There's certainly a balancing act to be had there.

Key cards for Aggo: Arcbound Ravager, Cranial Plating, Artifact lands

Key cards for Combo/Control: Tinker, Metalworker, Tolarian Academy

Zombies

Zombies offers one of the two tribal options in the Cube. The deck operates almost entirely off the power of cards from Gerry Thompson's winning deck from Pro Tour Amonkhet. Some "hidden" zombies are present in Putrid Leech and Rakdos Guildmage, as well as powerhouse cards like The Scarab God and Grave Titan, that aren't zombies in their own right but produce them in droves.

Key cards: Cryptbreaker, Diregraf Colossus, Lord of the Accursed, Liliana's Mastery, Metallic Mimic

Elves

The precursor to Luis Scott-Vargas' several years of dominance over professional Magic, Elves is the other tribal entity of Pro Tour Cube. The Cube version functions very differently from LSV's Extended deck, not really combing off (Grapeshot is not present in this version of the Cube), rather usually populating the board and beating down. Wirewood Symbiote does things it never did in Berlin, including endless streams of Bloodbraid Elf and Rishkar, Peema Renegade.

Key cards: Wirewood Symbiote, Imperious Perfect, Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, Metallic Mimic

Mono-Blue Devotion

Thassa, God of the Sea and Master of Waves are the only strict devotion payoffs in the Cube, but they're potent ones. The ability to easily cast powerful, color intensive cards like Cryptic Command and Nightveil Specter, in addition to Blue traditionally being a dominant color in Cube, make pursuing a Mono-Blue strategy a good one. Many drafters at the table with be vying for cards like Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Counterspell, or Fact or Fiction, but a benefit to this archetype is scooping up late pieces that only you're interested in; cards like Cloudfin Raptor or Frostburn Weird.

Key cards: Nightveil Specter, Thassa, God of the Sea, Master of Waves, Cryptic Command

Miracles

Miracles is not so much a distinct archetype, but instead a take on uw Control that utilizes the cards in Cube with the Miracle mechanic. It's a sweet deck when it comes together, that I feel is worth mentioning. Alexander Hayne introduced Terminus, Temporal Mastery, and Entreat the Angels into the Cube when he took down Pro Tour Avacyn Restored. What his deck didn't have access to was Sensei's Divining Top, Preordain, Brainstorm, Scroll Rack, or Jace, the Mind Sculptor. All potential inhabitants of packs of Pro Tour Cube.

Key cards: Terminus, Temporal Mastery, Entreat the Angels

Mad Scientist Decks

One archetype not on my initial list is what I'm calling "mad scientist decks". These are crazy, off-the-wall strategies utilizing, and potentially abusing, some of the most bizarre cards in the Cube. There are not a lot of these cards in the list, but hopefully just enough to wet the beak of aspiring lunatics. These decks prioritize mana fixing over any other archetype as you never know what card in the next pack will slot perfectly into your engine. Or you might just want the ability to cast Cruel Ultimatum. I can't say these decks will 3-0 with any sort of consistency, but stories will be had.

Key combos and cards: Cadaverous Bloom/Prosperity, Donate/Illusions of Grandeur, Oath of Druids/Cognivore, Mind Over Matter, Cruel Ultimatum

Planeswalkers

The Pro Tour Cube only has 17 Planeswalkers in its 540 total cards. Compare that to the 33 in the most recent MTGO Vintage Cube. Theoretically that means fewer games in this Cube will end in a flurry of loyalty counters. As Planeswalkers are intrinsically powerful cards, it also means they're even higher picks with fewer to be had. Prioritize them, and as always, ways to deal with them.

Creatures

Because the Pro Tour Cube spans 22 years of Pro Tour history, the power level of creatures falls slightly below what you might expect in Cube. Notable heavy hitters such as Hero of Bladehold, Mulldrifter, Shriekmaw, Goblin Rabblemaster, and Primeval Titan are present, and on the other side of the spectrum Black and White Knight are again facing off as Richard Garfield intended. It's important to evaluate each and every card in the context of the Cube. I'm perfectly happy running an Order of the Ebon Hand in my Zombie deck or a Mogg Conscripts in my Mono-Red deck, even if those cards wouldn't typically make the cut in a Legacy or Modern Cube draft.

Lands

A very unique aspect of the Pro Tour Cube is the state of its lands. Not all Alpha dual lands have won a Pro Tour and the same goes for their predecessors. That means the Cube has incomplete cycles of lands, though all ten color combinations have five duals available to them. It can take a little getting used to. Here's what that looks like:

br: Badlands, Blood Crypt, Sulfurous Springs, Lavaclaw Reaches, Smoldering Marsh

gw: Savannah, Windswept Heath, Brushland, Horizon Canopy, Temple Garden

wu: Tundra, Flooded Strand, Flood Plain, Celestial Colonnade, Hallowed Fountain

ub: Watery Grave, Polluted Delta, Underground River, Creeping Tar Pit, Bad River

rg: Stomping Ground, Wooded Foothills, Karplusan Forest, Raging Ravine, Grove of the Burnwillows

ug: Tropical Island, Misty Rainforest, Yavimaya Coast, Breeding Pool, Botanical Sanctum

bg: Overgrown Tomb, Verdant Catacombs, Llanowar Wastes, Temple of Mystery, Blooming Marsh

wr: Sacred Foundry, Arid Mesa, Clifftop Retreat, Needle Spires, Inspiring Vantage

ur: Volcanic Island, Scalding Tarn, Cascade Bluffs, Steam Vents, Spirebluff Canal

bw: Scrubland, Marsh Flats, Caves of Koilos, Shambling Vent, Godless Shrine

In addition to these there are also twenty non-dual lands in the Cube.

Putting the Pieces Together

Drafting any Cube is often about pursuing the strategies that you enjoy most and I feel the Pro Tour Cube is no different in that regard. No matter what type of player you are, this Cube has a multitude of successful decks that all play very differently from one another. The same goes for drafting styles. There are benefits to forcing archetypes and benefits for staying open. For someone encountering the Pro Tour Cube for the very first time, which should be most of those drafting it this week on Magic Online, this guide should serve to at least demonstrate a tiny bit of what's possible. It's by no means comprehensive. And that's the beauty of this particular Cube. As someone who's drafted these cards plenty of times, I'm certain that a week's worth of cubing will not be enough to explore everything possible. See you in the queues!