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Arena Cube Primer

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?

 

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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.

Cube Archetypes:

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 23 color blue-based control decks, RW aggro, or greenbased 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:

Mardu Aristocrats:

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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.

Azorius Fliers:

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This is a classic “fish” deck that is tempooriented 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.

Selesnya Tokens:

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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.

UGX Ramp:

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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!

Abzan Constellation:

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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.

Subtle Archetypes:

Esper Colors Reanimator:

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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.

Lands Matter:

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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.

Blue-Based Mill:

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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.

Build Arounds:

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Emry, Lurker of the Loch:

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.

Curious Obsession:

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.

Thassa, Deep Dwelling/Portal of Sanctuary:

You’ll need about 5-7 good ETB effects in order to see real payoffs from Thassa and Portal.

Niv-Mizzet Reborn:

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.

Underrated Cards:

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Broad Answers:

Universal answers like Conclave Tribunal and Banishing Light that can deal with planeswalkers and other bombs that have different permanent types like Bolas’ Citadel and Mirrari’s Wake.

Overrated/Misused Cards:

Mill Cards:

Remember Jace Wielder of Mysteries and Thassa’s Oracle are in the cube!

Chainer’s Edict:

Edict effects belong in Constructed. This would be best out of the sideboard, but this Cube is Bo1.

Aristocrats-Style Cards:

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.

Sigil of the Empty Throne:

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.

Ulamog the Ceaseless Hunger:

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.

Drizzy 1

Drizzy 2

Magic Players Literally Only Want One Thing and it’s Disgusting…

Tierlist:

White

Blue

Black

Red

Green

Multi C

Artifact

S

Venerated Loxodon

Archon of Sun’s Grace

Elspeth Conquers Death

Brazen Borrower

Jace Wielder of Mysteries

Shark Typhoon

Thassa’s Oracle

Bolas’ Citadel

Finale of Eternity

Liliana Dreadhorde General

Chandra Awakened Inferno

Llanowar Elves

Gilded Goose

The Great Henge

Ashiok, Nightmae Muse

Klothys, God of Destiny

Hyroid Krasis

Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger

Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath

Mirari’s Wake

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

The Immortal Sun

A

Legion’s Landing

History of Benalia

Resplendent Angel

Shatter the Sky

Settle the Wreckage

Thalia Guardian of Thraben

Conclave Tribunal

Banishing Light

Gideon Blackblade

Finale of Glory

In Bolas’ Clutches

Karn’s Temporal Sundering

Mythos of Illuna

Tezzeret Artifice Master

Knight of the Ebon Legion

Massacre Girl

Murderous Rider

Rankle, Master of Pranks

Phyrexian Arena

Spawn of Mayhem

Eldest Reborn

Yawgmoth’s Vile Offering

Banefire

Sarkhan the Masterless

Bonecrusher Giant

Embercleave

Experimental Frenzy

Fight with Fire

Fires of Invention

Legion Warboss

Rekindling Phoenix

Rampaging Ferocidon

Siege-gang Commander

Skarrgan Hellkite

Biogenic Ooze

Cavalier of Thorns

Ghalta, Primal Hunger

The Questing Beast

Vivien Monster’s Advocate

Mythos of Nethroi (Kicked)

Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths

Connive//Concoct

Deputy of Detention

Domri, Anarch of Bolas

Ethereal Absolution

Elite Guardmage

Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain

Maelstrom Pulse

The Gitrog Monster

Polukranos, Unchained

Thief of Sanity

Tajic, Legion’s Edge

Winota, Joiner of Forces

Vraska, Golgari Queen

Time Wipe

Trostani Discordant

Mindstone

Karn Scion of Urza

Platinum Angel

Treasure Map

Ugin the Ineffable

Stonecoil Serpent

Chromatic Lantern

B

Heliod Sun-Crowned

Lyra Dawnbreaker

Luminous Broomoth

Elspeth Sun’s Nemesis

Benalish Marshall

Adanto Vanguard

Commence the Endgame

Dream Eater

Entrancing Melody

Boon of the Wishgiver

Search for Azcanta

Elspeth’s Nightmare

Hypnotic Specter

Josu Vess, Lich Knight

Heartless Act

Charging Monstrosaur

Direfleet Daredevil

Jaya’s Immolating Inferno

Lightning Strike

Lovestruck Beast

Thrashing Brontodon

Vivien Arkbow Ranger

Voracious Hydra

Tendershoot Dryad

Setessan Champion

Paradise Druid

Incubation Druid

Mending of Dominaria

Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice

Judith, the Scourge Diva

Gruul Spellbreaker

Heroic Reinforcements

Growth Spiral

Knight of Autumn

Seraph of the Scales

Saheeli, SublimeArtificer

Crystalline Giant

Golos Tireless Pilgrim

Skittering Surveyor

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,

-Kal

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