For those of you who haven’t noticed the official announcement regarding the holiday season version of the Magic Online Cube, you can check it out here. This is huge news, as it’s the first time we get to cast Ancestral Recall and friends on Magic Online. Wizards has thought about how they should bring the actual Power Nine cards to Magic Online for a long time, and this is not the final step, but it’s a small nudge in the direction anyway. We’ll have to wait a while longer before we can actually build decks with Mox Sapphire and Time Walk, but in December, we’ll have the chance to at least try out these cards.
In this article, I’ll be taking a look at how these new cards affect current archetypes in Cube and try to make an educated guess as to which become better and which become worse. I’ll also talk a bit about the general implications these new cards have on the Cube design philosophy.
Cube: Power Up!
The biggest news is of course that the Power Nine cards are coming to the Magic Online Cube, but there are a whole lot of other sweet new cards as well. I tried to compile a list of new cards that are very good as well as cards that are currently in the Cube but that now become much better.
I think that Sol Ring is the most powerful card in Cube now, and I know there are many people who share my opinion. Casting a 4-drop on turn one with Black Lotus is sick, but casting a 4-drop on turn two, a 5-drop on turn three, and so forth with the help of Sol Ring is even better. All of the artifact mana sources are in a position that makes them very good in your opening hand, but they become worse quickly, whereas Ancestral Recall is always awesome. Library of Alexandria is also somewhat similar since it is almost unbeatable in some matchups, but in others, it’s merely okay. It’s also quite often just a colorless land if you draw it late—unless you have something like Wheel of Fortune.
Movers and Shakers
- Storm cards (Mind's Desire, Brain Freeze, Tendrils of Agony, Empty the Warrens)
- General combo cards (Time Spiral, Wheel of Fortune, Dream Halls)
- Tutors (Demonic Tutor, Vampiric Tutor, Enlightened Tutor, Mystical Tutor)
Tinker is perhaps the card that is impacted the most—having access to cheap mana artifacts let you cast it more reliably. I think it was very good in the previous Cube as well, but you often just had a few cheap artifacts to help cast it. The five Moxen alone don’t really help as much here, as you are not going to see those after the first pick, but the ten Ravnica Signets are the main reason Tinker moves up quite a lot in value. The tutors become better, as there are more powerful cards to search for. Balance becomes better with the addition of artifact mana. If you can draft a control deck with a lot of nonland permanents, Balance can be really brutal. The fact that your opponent also has access to the same artifact mana of course makes things a bit more awkward, but I still think you will be able to pull ahead as the Balance player. The combo cards in general become better, as the overall card pool supports the decks better.
Timetwister. It’s been part of the Power Nine from the start, but it doesn’t really compare to the rest; plus, it really doesn’t fit into many decks. The only deck in which you actually want to play Timetwister is in some form of storm combo or as a splash in a burn deck. It’s also easy to overestimate the impact the Power Nine and other powerful old cards will have on Drafts, but the truth is that only half of the card pool will be seen in any given Draft. This means roughly four people will end up with pieces of Power in their decks, and if we expand the group of powerful cards beyond that, every person in the Draft will on average have one “Power” card. That Mox Emerald might sometimes do the exact thing as Noble Hierarch, and sometimes, it might be worse, so if you are a person who doesn’t like the idea of a powered Cube, don’t despair. The play experience will be roughly the same.
That isn’t to say that nothing will be changing. Thanks to the big change in general design philosophy for this iteration of the Magic Online Cube, some archetypes will be becoming much better, and some will be becoming worse. In the article regarding the changes, Max McCall on the behalf of Wizards of the Coast stated that midrange will be becoming better, and dedicated aggro will be worse. Mono-red has been a very strong deck in previous versions of the Magic Online Cube, and it will most likely be slightly worse. This doesn’t mean that you should not draft it, as being the only red drafter at the table still means you are going to end up with a really good deck. When we play Cube locally, red is often under-drafted, as people want to try out all the cool strategies available, and usually, someone just ends up in red and then wins the Draft. Cube isn’t all about winning, of course, so it is understandable that people want to do cool things and not just cast Lightning Bolt targeting the opponent.
Another general archetype that I believe will be much better is four- and five-color good-stuff decks. The ten Signets and Karoo (Izzet Boilerworks, Orzhov Basilica, and so on) lands help make multicolored mana bases much better—maybe even too good, according to many. I like the change, as it’s fun to try out these various multicolored strategies for a change. Having access to a lot of mana fixing means you can just pick up the most powerful cards that are available for your strategy. This strategy will most often be more controlling, as an aggro deck will not want to spend its time casting Signets. The addition of the Signets also means that cards that cost 4 mana become a lot better, as you are able to reliably cast them on turn three even if you are not a green deck. The shift toward Signets and Karoos signifies a huge change in the Cube design philosophy at Wizards. It may be that this is just a short experiment and that things will go back to normal for the next version of the Magic Online Cube.
As mentioned, some general strategies such as midrange and five-color control will be better, but there are also some other more specific archetypes that will see a huge boost. I’ll try to cover some of these shortly and talk about why they will be better and what is wrong at the moment.
Timetwister. I think the threshold for making this a real deck has been reached now, and you can draft it as a legitimate strategy. I might be wrong, and it might still be bad, but I’ll at least try to make it happen when I have a chance to try the format.
Mono-blue artifact creatures also see a boost. The added colorless mana fixing means you are able to play your threats earlier, and casting Sundering Titan with the help of Mana Drain is among the more powerful things you can be doing. This is also the archetype in which Tinker is at its best.
The Wildfire deck also becomes much better with the added artifact mana acceleration. I really enjoyed drafting this archetype when Cube first came to Magic Online, but at some point, it wasn’t as good. The same thing I talked about with regards to Balance applies here, as artifact mana is something that everyone has access to, but as with Balance, I think you will still be able to pull ahead as the Wildfire player . . . not to mention if you are able to blow up multiple Karoo lands.
Fighting the Change
Duress, Thoughtseize, and Inquisition of Kozilek rise in value, as the cards you are making opponents discard will be more powerful. All sorts of artifact-destruction are now more main-deckable than ever, as are land-destruction spells such as Avalanche Riders and Goblin Ruinblaster. If you are an aggressive deck and get to destroy your opponent’s Karoo land with one of these, you just set your opponent back two turns, which should be enough to close out the game.
I’m sure there are a lot of cards and lots of strategies that I missed, and this was in no way supposed to be a full-on review of the whole holiday edition Magic Online Cube. I’ll try to write another article on the subject at the end of December, once I’ve had an actual opportunity to play with the new Cube. I’m really looking forward to it, as it features many of the cards that I have been longing for in the Magic Online Cube experience. As a closing note, I’d like to point out that Wizards mentioned that the Power Nine will be coming to Magic Online as actual collectible cards by the end of 2013. It will be interesting to see what kind of release method they come up with, as this is something they only have the opportunity to do once, and they have to make it impressive.
As always, if you have any feedback, comments, or questions, feel free to contact me via Twitter or through the comments section below. Let me know if there is anything in particular you would want me to write about, be it Standard, Modern, Legacy, Cube or some other topic.
Thanks for reading,
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