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MTGO Cube Drafts were offered online a few weeks ago, and they'll be appearing again later this week. I didn't play any cube drafts the first time, largely because I was intimidated: I've never drafted any kind of cube before, a large portion of the cards are unknown to me, and there was no way I was going to be able to read through the 720 cards in the list and find a strategy on my own.

However, I'd really like to play the cube this time around, so I'm wondering: what strategies are recommended? How should I approach cube drafting in general, and the MTGO cube in particular?

Here is the current cube list. Have at it.

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Not sure how the answer to this question will be any different than this one. It seems to me the cube is large and varied enough not to have any overarching "standard" archetypes… Just draft with a strategy in mind (Aggro, Control, Combo, some hybrid) and draft cards that fit that strategy. –  ghoppe Apr 30 '12 at 9:32
    
@ghoppe I believe the answer will be a lot different, specially because the card pool is known. It's different to ask for general draft strategies or INN draft strategies, for example: in INN draft we can actually talk about decks like self-mill with spider spawning. In cube it's the same: there's the general archetypes like aggro, control, etc, but you can also build something a lot more specific like reanimator, burn, wildfire, ramp, white weenie, etc. –  rahzark Apr 30 '12 at 11:28
    
@ghoppe, aside from what rahzark said, the fact is that in a cube you might open a pack with 8 cards that are first-pick bombs in any other format. This makes BREAD a little less useful as a guide. –  JSBձոգչ Apr 30 '12 at 12:56
    
What is unclear to me from the link, is this a Rotisserie draft (all cards face up, pick the card you want, choice rotates to the person to your left 8-player draft), or are these cards just the ones that make up 15 card packs? –  user1873 May 1 '12 at 3:45
    
@user1873 : it's a standard draft other than the cardpool; 15-card 'packs' are built at random from the cube pool (ideally without duplicating any cards, i.e. 'singleton' style, but the MTGO cube had a minor bug in its first go-round) and then distributed to the players in usual draft fashion. –  Steven Stadnicki May 1 '12 at 19:18

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

To provide a different perspective on thesunneversets' answer: the most important concept in cube drafting isn't power level, it's synergy. It's easy to look at your deck after you've drafted - or while you're drafting - and say 'this is chock-full of great cards, it should be awesome.' The problem is that everyone's deck is chock-full of great cards; to put yourself above the pack, you need to have more than just great cards. And that's where synergy comes into play.

It's impossible to provide a full list (or even a reasonable partial list) of the synergies in the MTGO cube just because there are so many there; instead, just look for potential little synergies and combos when you're drafting. Already snagged Channel? Keep an eye out for high-cost artifacts and colorless cards that you can run out in the first few turns - surprisingly few decks can beat a turn-2 Ulamog or Karn. Picked up Recurring Nightmare? Maybe you want that Myr Battlesphere a little more; maybe Entomb or Buried Alive or even just Careful Consideration bump a bit higher up your pick order. These sorts of synergies are what you want to be looking for.

This strategy extends to your first few picks, too - there you want to keep an eye out for cards that can synergize with a number of different cards. I'd cheerfully pick Survival of the Fittest over many other cards in the format, for instance, simply because I know I'm likely to pick something up to go with it: maybe it'll be Vengevine for a green aggro deck (and boo on Wizards for skipping Basking Rootwalla!); maybe it'll be Recurring Nightmare or just Animate Dead for a reanimator deck; maybe it'll even be Myr Battlesphere and Goblin Welder for different sorts of reanimator shenanigans. Maybe it'll just be a collections of walls, Acidic Slime and its kin, and Birthing Pod up to Elesh Norn for a toolbox-style deck. But any way it shakes out, I've got good chances of finding something that'll work with Survival.

As far as specific card advice, there are a few things that come to mind:

  • Artifact acceleration is sparse, and key for the high-end control and board control decks - maybe even moreso than plain fixing is. Early on cards like Prismatic Lens were being overlooked and you even had a reasonable chance of tabling them, but at this point they've moved much higher up peoples' pick orders and need (and deserve) to be picked highly: I've gladly first-picked Grim Monolith - and then used it to cast a turn-3 Grave Titan in multiple games. The non-accelerating mana fixing (duals, fetchlands, etc.) is important especially for many-color decks, but I've tried to avoid splashing beyond 2 as much as feasible, so it's been less crucial for me.
  • Similarly, being able to delay color commitment for a bit is a useful thing - cards like Wurmcoil Engine and Myr Battlesphere are high picks in part on raw power, but even more because they're universally applicable, and I'd gladly snag either with my first few picks.
  • Artifact removal has some value, but most people leave enchantment removal (unless it's something universally versatile like Acidic Slime) in their boards, and many decks don't even have access to that sort of effect. Because of this (and of course the general power level of the creatures), the control enchantments - Control Magic and Treachery - are even more powerful than they might appear at first glance.
  • The red deck is strong and it is the clock of the format, but it doesn't seem like quite the beast that people are making it out to be. If one person is drafting it then they get all the goods, but there isn't enough redundancy in the MTGO cube for it to comfortably support multiple drafters; if you don't have Goblin Guide or Keldon Marauders, for instance, then you probably won't be nearly fast enough to keep up with the accelerated high-end decks. Mind you, I have a mild allergy to red aggro so I can't speak from the other side of the table, but in the few drafts I've played against it I've had quite a bit of success - it's something you have to keep in mind and it does force a reasonable curve, but it's not something to actively fear.
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I'm also a beginner at cube draft, but I would recommend watching a few cube drafts by good drafters, e.g. at http://www.channelfireball.com. I feel they give a good feeling for what kind of decks can be drafted.

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Channel Fireball's Cube coverage has been amazing over the past week or two. +1! –  thesunneversets Apr 30 '12 at 12:36

One thing I'm noticing from watching lots of Cube drafts is that red burn is pretty much a benchmark deck for the format.

With a pool filled with so many "power cards" the temptation is always going to be to pack your deck full of flashy plays at the top end of the curve. But just because this is Cube, it doesn't mean that good deckbuilding can go out of the window! The red deck takes advantage of quality burn and efficient cheap creatures to win the game before clunkier decks have even managed to deploy more than a couple of their 5++ casting cost threats.

Cube is an interesting one, because it always seems to me that there are ready-made decks just sitting there in the pool waiting for someone to draft them. If no one else drafts red aggro, and you get every card you need for the archetype, you are going to do very well indeed. On the other hand, you are going to do much less well if you're competing for these resources with several other players. I guess this is the story behind all Magic drafting really, but it's more obvious in Cube because you know what decks are in there for the making. As such, watching for archetypes being passed to you, and trying not to hand them to the player on your left on a plate, is extra important.

I guess to cut a long answer short, in ordinary drafting you would slam a power rare first pick every time and be glad for it. In Cube, more of the cards are good or great, so it's less necessary to jump on bombs. Having a good deck archetype will serve you a lot better than a random pile of overpowered (in isolation) cards...

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Ok, but what are the ready-made archetypes in the MTGO cube? –  JSBձոգչ Apr 30 '12 at 13:03

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