The time is finally here! A couple of days ago the Arena Cube premiered on MTG Arena in its long anticipated 8-player draft form.
Many of us are familiar with the Legacy, Vintage, and more recently, Modern Cubes on MTGO. The Arena Cube is a collection of the strongest cards in the MTG Arena card pool, which is comprised of prints going as far back as Ixalan to present day Ikoria. Additionally, there are three smaller curated sets called the Historic Anthologies which form part of this card pool as well. The Historic Anthologies include the likes of Serra Ascendant, Merrow Reejerey and Phyrexian Obliterator, to name a few.
What can I expect from the Arena Cube?
In line with how each of MTGO’s Cubes have progressively lower power levels (with Vintage being the most powerful and featuring Magic’s all time greatest cards like the Power 9, Sol Ring and Strip Mine) the Arena Cube is on the lower end of the spectrum. Don’t let this turn you off of it though. Games feel comparable to Standard’s power level where successful decks boast tight curves, synergy and, of course, bombs.
What are the best cards in the Cube?
In the modern era of Magic, planeswalkers have become the focal point of the game in terms of peak power level. This is also true in the Arena Cube. Other top cards include mana engines, self-sufficient card advantage engines, versatile answers, and mana efficient spells.
In recent years, archetypes have come to be defined by their “signpost”gold uncommons in their respective Limited environments. This is very much the case in the Arena Cube as well. At the same time, there are more broad archetypes that are, although are not explicitly spelled out for you, still very good. Your classic 2–3 color blue-based control decks, RW aggro, or green–based midrange. While not as flashy, what separates the good builds of these decks from the bad are a number of small, incidental synergies within them. An example of this would be something like a legendary sorcery package that could be made up of Fblthp the Lost, a couple of planeswalkers, and Karn’s Temporal Sundering.
Clear Cut Archetypes:
The idea here is to assemble some “sticky” recursive creatures that generate value when they die. The deck has a dynamic identity where it can play aggressively or in a controlling manner and grind incremental advantages over time.
This is a classic “fish” deck that is tempo–oriented with evasive creatures and lords to spike the power level. The best versions of this deck feature some disruption like Spell Pierce, protection like Dive Down, and card advantage like Chart a Course or Curious Obsession.
A tried and true classic, this is a go-wide, creature based strategy that preys on aggressive and midrange creature decks. However, it is particularly vulnerable to sweeper effects.
Go big or go home! Accelerate into some of the Cube’s best payoffs and bury your opponent by going over the top of them!
A lot of the best cards in the Cube are enchantments. Between sagas, white exile effects and the Theros Beyond Death cards, it is very easy to move into this archetype organically if it is clear that it’s open.
Esper Colors Reanimator:
It’s not clear to me what the best way to get into this deck is. Honestly, I don’t think it’s a competitive strategy. Key cards to ensuring this meme isn’t just a dream include: Unburial Rites, Yawgmoth’s Vile Offering, Blood for Bone, Whisper Blood Liturgist, Elspeth Conquers Death, and Connive//Concoct. Some of the better reanimate targets are Zetalpa, Drakuseth, End-raze forerunners and Ulamog.
I find this to be a really exciting archetype that I’m still looking forward to drafting. When built correctly, it can be very powerful. A big point in this deck’s favor is the fact that a lot of the cards it wants are not sought after by other decks, so you should be able to wheel the core components if you prioritize the right cards. Some key players include: Field of the Dead, Crucible of Worlds, Knight of the Reliquary, Elvish Reclaimer, Mending of Dominaria, Golos Tireless Pilgrim, The Gitrog Monster, Cycling Lands (1 & 3 mana cost), Evolving Wilds/Fabled Passage, Lotus Field, Field of Ruin and Arch of Orazca.
A fan favorite, in my first draft I had already faced all three of the above cards. Don’t be fooled–mill is not to be taken lightly. Keep in mind that a big aspect of this Cube is winning through card advantage. As such, engines like Phyrexian Arena, Bolas’s Citadel and The Immortal Sun are some of the best cards available. Games are grindy and go long. In fact, I have found myself in danger of decking out naturally multiple times already. So something as unassuming as a single Ashiok, Dream Render can be enough to go the distance.
She is the type of card you pick when you already have some cards that combine well with her. Do not take the bait and fall into the trap of picking her early with the intention of going deep into “artifacts matter.” Emry shines best alongside artifacts you already want to be playing such as Mindstone and Treasure Map. Once that’s the case, prioritize sub-synergies like legendary sorceries, Tezzeret Artifice Master, and Mox Amber.
A coveted card for creature based tempo decks which are typically UW weenies/fliers decks. The Arena Cube also features one of its contemporaries in Staggering Insight.
You’ll need about 5-7 good ETB effects in order to see real payoffs from Thassa and Portal.
The “Achievement Unlocked” deck of the Arena Cube. Sadly, Niv is significantly worse here than in the Modern Cube as the mana base is not as generous and there aren’t as many worthwhile multicolor cards.
Edict effects belong in Constructed. This would be best out of the sideboard, but this Cube is Bo1.
Sadly, if you don’t draft exactly the nut version of the deck, you simply cannot measure up to the Cube’s haymakers. The card quality just doesn’t line up. The best way to make this archetype competitively viable would be to bring down the overall power level of the Cube.
While this looks like the pinnacle of payoffs for the Constellation deck, I think you’d be going too deep by including it. You typically want to be playing your good enchantments on curve, so you won’t be guaranteed to have any left in hand by the time Sigil comes down. Also, keep in mind that you only start getting payoffs the turn after you play it. In my mind, it’s asking too much of you and ultimately isn’t worth it.
You shouldn’t be playing this card in your midrange deck; only include in dedicated ramp/reanimator decks.
Big Picture Stance:
As I have alluded to previously (and from my individual card rankings below), I believe aggro to generally be a losing proposition. This is particularly true in the case of the Aristocrats decks and decks that didn’t quite get there. The exception to this is when you have spent your first few picks on powerful, versatile cards, then later move into a dedicated aggro strategy once it is clear that it is open.
It’s a matter of card quality. Standard players from the last couple years can vouch for the fact that aggressive strategies have been steadily overshadowed by increasingly more powerful planeswalkers and big top end. As a result, it would make sense that a Cube composed of Standard’s current all stars would be representative of this fact as well.
Magic Players Literally Only Want One Thing and it’s Disgusting…
History of Benalia
Shatter the Sky
Settle the Wreckage
Thalia Guardian of Thraben
Finale of Glory
In Bolas’ Clutches
Karn’s Temporal Sundering
Mythos of Illuna
Tezzeret Artifice Master
Knight of the Ebon Legion
Rankle, Master of Pranks
Spawn of Mayhem
Yawgmoth’s Vile Offering
Sarkhan the Masterless
Fight with Fire
Fires of Invention
Cavalier of Thorns
Ghalta, Primal Hunger
The Questing Beast
Vivien Monster’s Advocate
Mythos of Nethroi (Kicked)
Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths
Deputy of Detention
Domri, Anarch of Bolas
Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain
The Gitrog Monster
Thief of Sanity
Tajic, Legion’s Edge
Winota, Joiner of Forces
Vraska, Golgari Queen
Karn Scion of Urza
Ugin the Ineffable
Elspeth Sun’s Nemesis
Commence the Endgame
Boon of the Wishgiver
Search for Azcanta
Josu Vess, Lich Knight
Jaya’s Immolating Inferno
Vivien Arkbow Ranger
Mending of Dominaria
Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice
Judith, the Scourge Diva
Knight of Autumn
Seraph of the Scales
Golos Tireless Pilgrim
If you would like to contact me and talk all things Cube, you can find me on Twitter at @kaloyan_petkov. I’ll be posting pictures of my Arena Cube decklists over there.
Catch ya next time,