Cubing with Carlos

Are you a Quiet Speculation member?

If not, now is a perfect time to join up! Our powerful tools, breaking-news analysis, and exclusive Discord channel will make sure you stay up to date and ahead of the curve.

    For the longest time, the only kind of Magic I played was limited. My favorite limited formats were Champions of Kamigawa, Lorwyn, and Shards of Alara blocks, and I drafted those almost compulsively while I was in college. Over my first year, I made a name for myself as "the limited guy" at our local FNMs. Big fish, small pond, etc., I know.

    Everything changed at the end of that year when one of my friends built a Cube.

    The initial list was based on Evan Erwin's Cube, and that was pretty sweet. There's no limited format quite like Cube, and if you haven't tried it yet, I suggest you look into it. Cubing is easily the most fun I have ever had playing Magic. The ability to build a limited format to play exactly the way you want it to is just incredible!

    This is the format where I got to lock someone with Mindslaver and Goblin Welder, and then kill them with Chain of Plasma, making them discard their hand to Lightning Bolt themselves.

    Our first Two-Headed Giant draft ended up with each team having a U/x control deck and a combo deck. What other format does that happen in? Where else do you get to Volcanic Fallout someone after they cast Rude Awakening? The amount of pure shenanigans and awesome things that can happen are completely unparalleled by any other format I've ever played.

    Unfortunately, our Cube group died after my Junior year. Too many Magic players graduated and there weren't enough people interested after that year. That's when we started playing Commander instead.

    Recently though, someone at our local shop decided to build a Cube and we got to draft it after FNM. Needless to say, I was incredibly hyped about the opportunity to get back into cubing and decided that it'd make an interesting article, since there aren't too many Cube draft recaps.


    Pack 1, Pick 1 style=options:true toggle;pick:Sword of Fire and Ice;

    Cards I considered out of this pack were: Sword of Fire and Ice, Birds of Paradise, Karn Liberated, and Mogg Fanatic. Sword of Fire and Ice and Karn Liberated are the best cards when you're unfamiliar with the Cube. The key thing to understand here is that drafting an archetype is much more important than drafting good cards. If you know that Green- or Red-based beatdown decks are supported, then you can easily crush people drafting slower decks by building a deck with a good mana curve.

    Since I don't know what the Cube looked like, I thought that Sword of Fire and Ice was just the safest pick, since it leaves you open and will make your deck every single time. That said, it won't always be the all star that a Birds of Paradise might be in the appropriate deck.

    Pack 1, Pick 2 style=options:true toggle;pick:Day of Judgment;

    The cards I'm looking at here were Wheel of Fortune, Day of Judgment, Snuff Out and Garruk Wildspeaker. Wheel of Fortune and Snuff Out are great beatdown cards and help enable you to get in with your Sword. Planeswalkers are just as good in Cube as they are in any other limited format. Sweepers are slightly less good but still very important tools.

    Pack 1, Pick 3 style=options:true toggle;pick:Vendilion Clique;

    At this point I'd seen some of the pieces for a deck very similar to one of my favorite: Blue-White tempo with Swords. Besides that, Cube is a fun, casual format, which provides infinite opportunities to improve your technical play. Since Vendilion Clique is such a difficult card to play with, I thought I'd take that opportunity.

    Pack 1, Pick 4 style=options:true toggle;pick:Razormane Masticore;

    I think the pick here is very clearly between Flooded Strand and Razormane Masticore. Generally I tend to take non-basics lands very highly. However, new Cubes tend to run a lot more fixing than they really should, so I figured I could get that later. Razormane Masticore, on the other hand, just wins games against non-Red creature decks. Good five-drops are hard to come by!

    Pack 1, Pick 5 style=options:true toggle;pick:Land Tax;

    Here there were a few cards I wanted. There's Force Spike for a more tempo-oriented deck, Land Tax for a more controlling deck, and Academy Ruins for an artifact-based deck. Of these, I woud prefer a Force Spike or a Land Tax since I don't have a way to take advantage of Academy Ruins. Land Tax has a much higher upside, since it interacts favorably with Brainstorm and Scroll Rack and other card selection engines.

    Pack 1, Pick 6 style=options:true toggle;pick:Glen Elendra Archmage;

    I think this pick is pretty straight forward. Glen Elendra Archmage is clearly the best card for a U/W control deck. However, it's worth noting that I could have taken Force Spike and then Cloistered Youth // Unholy Fiend to start looking like a sweet U/W tempo deck.

    Pack 1, Pick 7 style=options:true toggle;pick:Absorb;

    Now here's an interesting pick. Faerie Conclave carries Swords like a champ, but there's two U/W cards I want here: Grand Arbiter and Absorb. I took Absorb, since I think it's good against more decks, where Grand Arbiter is only at his best against mana hungry decks. It's also worth mentioning Solemn Simulacrum. I don't like him in U/W because you care much more about going from two mana to four mana, rather than four to six.

    Pack 1, Pick 8 style=options:true toggle;pick:Calciderm;

    Now, I'd usually pick up a Doom Blade and splash it. But in a draft with multiple new players, I'd rather send as clear a signal as possible. Besides, Calciderm is sweet for buying time against beatdown decks or just crushing control decks that tap out too early.

    Pack 1, Pick 9 style=options:true toggle;pick:Scroll Rack;

    We do already have Land Tax, so might as well, right?

    Pack 1, Pick 10 style=options:true toggle;pick:Celestial Colonnade;

    I really want both Decree of Justice and Remand, but Colonnade is the best kind of win condition since it doesn't take up slots that typically go to answers. That said, I wouldn't fault anyone for taking either of the other two cards here.

    Pack 1, Pick 11 style=options:true toggle;pick:Kor Sanctifiers;

    Another easy pick. It's great to have a way to deal with artifacts and enchantments in our pool this early.

    Pack 1, Pick 12 style=options:true toggle;pick:Hellspark Elemental;

    I could pick up a splash here, but I really don't want to play against a good Hellspark Elemental Deck and I don't think I really need a splash unless I find the fixing for it.

    Pack 1, Pick 13 style=options:true toggle;pick:Academy Ruins;

    Wheeled it anyway. Maybe we'll find Nevinyrral's Disk or something. I am sad to see a Smokestack this late, since it's hands down one of my favorite Cube cards.

    Pack 1, Pick 14 style=options:true toggle;pick:Hypnotic Specter;

    I'm very happy with where we are after Pack 1. Plenty of countermagic, a sweeper, and great mid- and late-game cards. Now I just want some spot removal and redundancy and to fill out some of the lower spots on our curve.

    Pack 2, Pick 1 style=options:true toggle;pick:Balance;

    So this is a pack. We're obviously taking Balance, but just look at everything else that's here. We'll be able to learn a lot about the table by what wheels out of this pack, since there are so many other cards we want out of it. I'd most like a Wall of Denial or Journey to Nowhere, and I'd be shocked if Wall of Denial doesn't come back.

    Pack 2, Pick 2 style=options:true toggle;pick:Cryptic Command;

    As much as I said I wanted removal, there's a Cryptic Command. There are very few cards I like casting more than Cryptic Command, and it's pretty far and away the most powerful card here.

    Pack 2, Pick 3 style=options:true toggle;pick:Forbid;

    This is a pick that I regret looking back. I don't need more countermagic at this point, I need Porcelain Legionnaire. Forbid was very good for me, but I definitely end up wanting more guys at the lower end of my curve, even if they are vulnerable to every kind of removal.

    Pack 2, Pick 4 style=options:true toggle;pick:Force of Will;

    Huh. Even more counterspells. This one at least puts you ahead on tempo. It plays really well with Balance too! With a card like this, I'm certainly going to want to be on the draw against other control decks.

    Pack 2, Pick 5 style=options:true toggle;pick:Mana Leak;

    I'd love to take Preordain here, but I think Mana Leak is just better, since it gives us more game against aggressive starts. Cloudgoat Ranger is pretty reasonable, but I think a control deck can generally do better.

    Pack 2, Pick 6 style=options:true toggle;pick:Swords to Plowshares;

    Well. We can either go for the old-school Zuran Orb/Balance combo, or take the rock solid, tier one removal spell. I've already gone on about how much I want some removal and this is as good as it gets.

    Pack 2, Pick 7 style=options:true toggle;pick:Gideon Jura;

    I'm suddenly much less concerned about beatdown. Gideon Jura is about as close as it gets to a card that says "win the game" in a lot of matchups. Gideon is very tough to deal with and is certainly going to crush a few of our games.

    Pack 2, Pick 8 style=options:true toggle;pick:Sword of Body and Mind;

    The choices here are City of Brass or Sword of Body and Mind. Sword is a super fast clock against control decks, while City makes our mana slightly better, but is just the worst against aggro. I think we can be more demanding of our fixing.

    Pack 2, Pick 9 style=options:true toggle;pick:Man-o'-War;

    Well, Wall of Denial wheeled, but now I have a second sword, and I want bodies that will carry them. Man-o'-War is still a sweet tempo card and it'll do just fine carrying swords.

    Pack 2, Pick 10 style=options:true toggle;pick:Memory Lapse;

    Pack 2, Pick 11 style=options:true toggle;pick:Porcelain Legionnaire;

    Somehow this wheeled? I'm not at all sure how that happened, but I'll gladly take the gift.

    Pack 2, Pick 12 style=options:true toggle;pick:Sinkhole;

    Pack 2, Pick 13 style=options:true toggle;pick:Great Sable Stag;

    Pack 2, Pick 14 style=options:true toggle;pick:Raging Ravine;

    Pack 3, Pick 1 style=options:true toggle;pick:Mystical Tutor;

    There are a number of cards I very much want from this pack, like Oblivion Stone and Stillmoon Cavalier. That said, I think a second copy of Balance is too good to pass up, since that's by far our best card right now.

    Pack 3, Pick 2 style=options:true toggle;pick:Stoneforge Mystic;

    Awww yeah! Sometimes you run good and sometimes you run the best! Now we'll just play Stoneforge Mystic turn two on the play every game! Now we have two copies of our best two cards, Sword of Fire and Ice and Balance!

    Pack 3, Pick 3 style=options:true toggle;pick:Strip Mine;

    This is a tough pick, but I think that Strip Mine is just the best card. There are a lot of good lands, and you can always just mana screw your opponents. It's sad to pass Jace, Memory Adept, but hopefully Wall of Omens makes it back our way.

    Pack 3, Pick 4 style=options:true toggle;pick:Blade Splicer;

    Easy pick, I think. I guess you could make an argument for Disenchant or Ancient Tomb, but I don't think this is particularly close.

    Pack 3, Pick 5 style=options:true toggle;pick:Tundra;

    I'm pretty glad I didn't take that City of Brass, but I wish I'd picked up one of the fetchlands we saw.

    Pack 3, Pick 6 style=options:true toggle;pick:River Boa;

    Hello card we can't beat. Why don't we keep you safely away from everyone else?

    Pack 3, Pick 7 style=options:true toggle;pick:Faiths Fetters;

    I really wanted a Brainstorm here, but I think that Faith's Fetters is correct. It's infinitely better against aggressive strategies and does a little of everything. The fact that it answers any permanent type makes it also very good against control.

    Pack 3, Pick 8 style=options:true toggle;pick:Enlightened Tutor;

    Why not. Another Sword of Fire and Ice. Maybe we'll find Crucible of Worlds!

    Pack 3, Pick 9 style=options:true toggle;pick:Arid Mesa;

    Aaaaand wheeled the fetch. Must be nice, etc, etc.

    Pack 3, Pick 10 style=options:true toggle;pick:Bloodbraid Elf;

    Pack 3, Pick 11 style=options:true toggle;pick:Soltari Priest;

    Pack 3, Pick 12 style=options:true toggle;pick:Disenchant;

    Pack 3, Pick 13 style=options:true toggle;pick:Nantuko Shade;

    Pack 3, Pick 14 style=options:true toggle;pick:Albino Troll;

    Out of this mess, here's the deck I ended up building:

    [deckbox did="a139" size="small" width="560"]


    Match one I payed against a W/Bb beatdown deck with discard and Armageddon. Game one I lost the die roll but had an early Mystical Tutor to find Balance to sweep away his board. Razormane Masticore came down two turns later and locked the game down. Game two I had Stoneforge Mystic turn two on the play, and Sword of Fire and Ice took over the game pretty easily. We played game three for pride. And he crushed me. He had one drop, two drop, Duress away my Sword of Fire and Ice off of Stoneforge Mystic, then Armageddon me. Sometimes there's not much you can do about that.

    In the second match I played against a sweet B/G reanimator deck. He started off with a turn two Wild Mongrel then pitched and dredged Life from the Loam. Then he reanimated Grave Titan and I died shortly thereafter. In the next game, I stuck an early Land Tax and Enlightened Tutor for Scroll Rack. From there I was able to Mystical Tutor for Day of Judgment and sweep the board, then Forbid all of his relevant plays. In the last game he played a few aggressive guys, which I got to Balance away. Then his reanimated Wurmcoil Engine got Faith's Fettersed. Next turn, Stoneforge Mystic found Sword of Body and Mind and closed the game shortly thereafter.

    In the last match I played against my girlfriend, who'd forced mono-Green ramp. She won the die roll and led off with Forest, Mox Emerald and Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary. Then on her next turn, she Primal Commanded my land and fetched Eternal Witness. Next turn, she Primal Commanded again for Terastodon. And I died. The next game was very similar, but involved Joraga Treespeaker into Plow Under, which was equally one-sided.

    All in all, it was a blast being able to Cube again and I'm definitely hoping it becomes a post-FNM tradition of sorts, in addition to the typical Commander games. On the note of typical Commander games, be sure to let me know what you think of these alternative articles as a change of pace once in awhile. N

    ext time we'll see a return to form, looking at Zedruu, the Greathearted. Someone I've been pretty excited to build around!

    Carlos Gutierrez
    @cag5383 on Twitter

One thought on “Cubing with Carlos

  1. Wow, I have been interested in cubing but never went for it. After getting to see what the cardpool was like I think I will have to look into building one. Great article, looking forward to Zedruu

Join the conversation

Want Prices?

Browse thousands of prices with the first and most comprehensive MTG Finance tool around.

Trader Tools lists both buylist and retail prices for every MTG card, going back a decade.