A Comprehensive Guide to MTG Arena Cube Draft – June 2021 Update
Hello everyone! Today I’m going to go over one of my favorite Arena events ever: Arena Cube. Arena Cube is a combination of all the coolest cards ever released on Arena and bundled together for a fun, yet competitive Limited format. There’s a lot of people who are unfamiliar with Cube in general, but lucky for them, Drifter wrote an amazing guide on Cube drafting philosophy some time ago that is still relevant now! If you want a general strategy guide to how to draft Cube, give that article a read.
If you want a full list of the cards in this iteration of Arena Cube, you can check out the full updated card list here, and the changes made since the last iteration! For best results, also be sure to check out Arena Cube Draft Deep Dive where I’m going to show you all of my picks, tell you what I went with, explain the reasoning why, and talk about anything else I was considering.
Without further adieu, I’ll be focusing on the best archetypes in Cube and the key cards to look out for to see if that archetype is open. Happy Drafting!
IMPORTANT NOTES FOR ARENA CUBE
MANY MYSTICAL ARCHIVE CARDS WERE ADDED
Generally speaking, Cube always feels like a strong format even with a card pool limited to just Arena cards. That being said, the Mystical Archive really bumped up the power level of Cube in general. We aren’t just talking about the Historic legal Archive cards either. Swords to Plowshares, Counterspell, Demonic Tutor, and Lightning Bolt were all added as well as a host of the other Archive cards. Be on the lookout for these 4 specifically, but the Archives cards in general.
RED IS INSANE
Out of all the colors, I would say Red has the highest amount of playables overall and the highest amount of the “best” cards in the cube. Between removal, aggressive threats, and bombs like Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Embercleave, and Experimental Frenzy. Realistically you can pair Red with any color and your deck should work out pretty well.
BLUE IS ALSO INSANE
In the last iteration of the Arena Cube, Blue was strong but was splintered as there were the great Blue cards and a bunch of random tempo cards included. Now that functionally all the random tempo filler have been replaced by mostly universally good cards, Blue is easily tied for first with Red, if not just outright better than it. Red I would still consider a safer color as it pairs well with everything where Blue isn’t as easy to pair with colors like Green or Black, but it’s still extremely good.
GREEN ISN’T AS OBVIOUSLY NUTS AS RED OR BLUE, BUT IT’S EXTREMELY SOLID
The last iteration of Arena cube I slated Red to be the best color to draft as it has a lot of great cards and pairs with other colors easily and slated Green to be the “best” color in terms of power level. With the Cube changes, I think Green is now firmly in the camp of being the third best color, but it’s not that far from the power level of Red and Blue. My issue with Green is that it doesn’t pair the best with Blue or Black, but a lot of the cards are pretty replaceable beyond the ramp/mana dorks which makes this a color that can generally support multiple drafters.
WHITE IS DECENT, BUT FRAGMENTED
White is an interesting color as the card quality is solid, but it feels like its split down the middle between aggressive cards and control cards. With that, I would say if a White card doesn’t fall into one of those 2 categories, it’s either extremely narrow in application or just not very good. Since the cards are so divisive, if you sense that someone is both in White and the same subtype as you, it’s going to be very hard to get good picks as White generally isn’t deep enough to support two players in the same subtype.
BLACK IS VERY WEAK
I feel like this has been the case in most iterations of Arena Cube, but Black has been the lowest power color for as long as I can remember. When you look at the list of cards, it just isn’t very good. Unlike the last iteration of the Cube, Black finally has a really strong card in Demonic Tutor, but the rest of the card pool is still very weak compared to the other colors.
Although this may sound like I’m telling you to stay away from Black, that’s not necessarily what I mean. Personally, I love when people think they should avoid the weakest color in a set as it can constantly be open for you to make highly synergistic deck when you can bet on key cards wheeling.
That being said, if you want to go base black and you feel like someone else may be doing the same, I’d immediately jump ship if you have the option. Black is definitely not strong enough to support 2 players going for it at the same time.
BEST ARENA CUBE ARCHETYPES
- Benalish Marshal
- History of Benalia
- Unbreakable Formation
- Venerated Loxodon
- All the aggressive creatures
Monowhite unsurprisingly, is one of the premiere aggro decks of Arena Cube. The deck looks to get on the board extremely quickly and overwhelm the opponent before they have a chance to enact their game plan. Although many people assume that Monowhite and Monored play out and are drafted similarly, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Monowhite’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness, most of the cards you want are geared towards the early game.
The issue with this plan is that once the game starts getting towards turns 5+, you will start easily getting outvalued every turn until you can either close (another issue Monowhite can have) or you lose. Although this may seem like a massive downside, a good Monowhite deck can easily win the game between 4-6 very consistently anyway, so assuming you can get most of the cards you need, this downside is completely mitigated by the power of your deck.
To summarize, the advantage of going Monowhite is that it’s the fastest deck when you get the cards together, but you need to have a very low curve and this archetype won’t come together easily if someone else is also going for it.
- Bomat Courier
- Lightning Bolt
- Bonecrusher Giant
- Chandra, Torch of Defiance
- Experimental Frenzy
- Anax, Hardened in the Forge
- All the aggressive creatures
Like Monowhite, Monored is the other great Aggro deck you can get in Arena Cube. For better or for worse, Monored is generally a better Monowhite. You can be almost as fast, you can grind way better, and the card quality is generally higher. This may sound like I’m saying to always choose Red over White, but that’s not exactly the case. As I said before, since Reds card quality is so much higher, the chance of you fighting over the good Red cards is significantly higher than you fighting over the good White cards. Beyond Red being more highly drafted, Monored doesn’t really have any significant weakness. If you’re a Red mage, Arena cube is definitely for you!
KEY SPLASH CARDS
I think there’s a big misconception that a lot of people have about aggro decks when drafting not just Arena Cube, but any Cube. I see so many people go for 2 color aggro decks where your colors are split down the middle, and that’s the easiest way to end up with an extremely mediocre deck. The sad reality about Cube is that you almost always can’t get the mana to work when you need to cast cheap cards that are different colors.
With that, I almost always opt going completely one color or to go for a very light splash of a color. If you decide you want to splash for a powerful card, make sure it’s a more expensive card so it gives you more time to find the colors you need to cast it. For Monored or Monowhite, Heroic Reinforcements and Showdown of the Skalds are more than worth the splash. They’re both 4 drops, both only require one off color mana, and both are insanely powerful.
Keep in mind though, if you’re looking to splash this, I would limit it to just one or two cards. Don’t start adding Lightning Strike to your Monowhite deck. In a similar vein, although Lightning Helix is a solid card, destroying your mana base to play it is definitely not worth it.
Big Green is as straightforward as it is powerful, ramp a bit, play a bunch of good spells, win the game. On top of being one of the best archetypes in the Cube, it’s also very easy to draft. The only issue I stated with it before is that since it can be so easy to draft, it’s easy to fight over green with other players at the table. The nice part about Green though, is that there’s a lot of good green cards and splashing for random good cards is relatively easy as Green is the color of ramp and color fixing.
The main issue with Big Green is that most of the decks lack interaction, so getting creatures that help you stabilize like Elder Gargaroth, Kogla, the Titan Ape, and Thragtusk are extremely important.
This is a deck that I completely missed last Cube as I didn’t expect Selesnya to be so good, but the Magic community disagreed! I was seeing all over Twitter that many players were just forcing Selesnya every cube and crushing, but now that the archetype is more well known and the power level of the cube increased, I doubt it’ll be as dominant, but still a great choice.
Although the archetype is proactive and powerful, my issue is that the general lack of interaction can make it hard to beat decks that are better than yours where weak decks with solid interaction can more easily cheese out wins. That being said, a fast go wide deck is also inherently good at beating out the opponent before they can get their plan set up, so it’s hard to say how well positioned this archetype is compared to the other top archetypes.
Rakdos Sacrifice is an interesting archetype as of all the decks listed, this is probably the weakest overall and the deck most reliant on what cards you see. That being said, all the cards that go in this deck generally don’t pair with any other deck well (beyond Orzhov), so there’s a pretty good chance that if you see a bunch of Rakdos cards, you can easily get them.
I would say the best way to draft this deck is to take the universally best cards in the deck first and let the specific cards wheel. If something like Judith wheels, you can safely assume you’re the only Rakdos drafter and go all in. If a Rakdos card doesn’t wheel, you may be fighting with someone else and you should probably not try to win that fight. This archetype is not powerful enough to support multiple players in it so be ready to switch out when possible.
I know what you’re thinking though, why would you go through the trouble if the archetype isn’t that powerful? You should consider it as the archetype is really well positioned. Although none of the cards are that powerful, this may be the best synergy deck in the cube and can destroy most decks in Cube beyond pure Control when it comes together.
- Swords to Plowshares
- Approach of the Second Sun
- Shark Typhoon
- Torrential Gearhulk
- Sublime Epiphany
Although there are a lot of ways to build Control in Arena Cube, I think Azorius stands out as the best among all the color combinations. Having access to Wraths, cheap removal, and the busted Azorius cards makes it really easy to get a great UW Control deck together. The most underrated aspect of UW though is easily Approach the Second Sun. A big issue Control can have in Cube is not having enough ways to win the game, but Approach functionally solves that problem single handedly.
A well built Control deck can easily smash every creature deck and most midrange strategies, but will struggle against decks that are just back to back powerful cards. When drafting the archetype, make sure to prioritize early removal and counterspells higher than everything else. The easiest way to get a mediocre Control deck is that you have a bunch of payoffs, but not enough ways to live early in the game leading you to get run over constantly.
Blue did lose a lot of tempo cards, but most of those cards weren’t that good anyway so it’s no great loss. Izzet is one of the scariest archetypes when it comes together as it’s such a good blend of aggression and interaction that it’s easily capable of crushing any other archetype pretty handily. You’re predominately looking for cheap spells and threats as your ability to cast way more spells than the opponent can carry you to victory.
The main issue with Izzet is that it’s the blend of the 2 best colors so the odds are you’re going to get a bunch of great Red and Blue cards seems very low most of the time. That being said, a lot of the tempo based Blue cards can go pretty late so if this deck is going to come together, it’s most likely off the back of the multicolor cards and the Blue cards nobody else wanted.
5 COLOR SOUP
- Chromatic Lantern
- Esika, God of the Tree
- Oracle of Mul Daya
- Ulvenwald Hydra
- Golos, Tireless Pilgrim
- Field of the Dead
- Every Color Fixing Land
The last and potentially best archetype in Arena Cube is 5 Color Soup. Unlike all the other archetypes, this is by far the easiest to draft as there’s two rules: take lands and take bombs. The goal of this deck is to have as much fixing as possible so any good card you happen across becomes playable. Furthermore, if you notice that a lot of the packs are missing lands, that’s a huge signal that someone else is going for this strategy as well and you can decide what to do from there.
Although it may seem like you’ll end up with a mish mosh of random cards, 5 color soup can very easily come together assuming you have enough fixing for it. The few issues that 5 color can have is that it can be hard to know when to know when to pick a land over a spell and since the deck is naturally slow, aggro decks can be problematic if you don’t have adequate ways to deal with creatures.
Beyond that, the archetype is consistently powerful and is easily the deck I drafted the most, and to the most frequent success, in Arena Cube.
Although I listed what I believe to be the best archetypes, realistically speaking, every deck in Arena Cube is more than viable if you draft correctly. Don’t be dissuaded to try out other Color combinations if they seem open and/or you just want to try it out. Arena Cube is meant to be fun first, but use this guide to get more acquainted with the format or to try and break even as often as possible.