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Hello everyone! For those who don’t know, Arena Cube Draft is easily my favorite thing to do on Arena as I absolutely love playing it. Maybe I’m a bit biased, but I also think I’m pretty damn good at Cube too with functionally all my drafts ending with the trophy or just shy of it.
Every time it comes through (usually before a set release,) it’s a great opportunity to help bolster gold as well as playing a really fun cube, however, I know this isn’t the case for everyone. While it is a very fun format, it can also feel very punishing, as if you don’t perform well, you can easily lose a lot of gold in a hurry – the reward structure is not too great. No matter your skill level, I think I can help you prevent that! I know one article isn’t going to automatically make you capable of going minimum net neutral with every draft, but these are tips that I believe are going to make a relatively big difference to help you get on that path.
Before I dive in, other resources that could help you are my Cube guide and Cube breakdown to get a better idea of what cards and archetypes to prioritize. Understanding the best cards and decks is critical for success, and in conjunction with these tips should help you start going infinite today!
1. Play Bo3 Over Bo1
This feels like a cop out tip almost, but it seems next to zero people follow it. Maybe players think Bo1 is easier or it’s more fun (though the matches are certainly faster,) but if you want to go infinite, Best of 3 (Bo3) is pretty much the strictly better choice. To trophy (maximum wins) in Best of 1 (Bo1), you have to get 7 wins and up to 2 losses (as you’re out with the third.) In Bo3, you have to get 3 wins and 0 losses. Seems much more challenging right? Well, that’s because it’s not exactly correct. You don’t need to get 3 wins and 0 losses, you need to get 6 wins and can get up to 3 losses if they’re spread out correctly!
In fairness, getting 2 losses in the same match will bar you from trophying, but your goal isn’t to trophy every time, but to win enough to not lose value. If we’re talking about it in those terms, the breakeven point in Bo1 is 5 wins with up to two losses, and in Bo3, it’s 4 wins with up to 4 losses (losing a match, and losing a game in each match.) Personally, I think it’s so much better to go Bo3 as getting the breakeven amount is much simpler. For what it’s worth, I could see the argument that netting gold is a bit harder in Bo3 than it can be in Bo1, but I’m not even sure if that’s the case either. Nevertheless, if you’re struggling to go infinite in drafts, going with the format that’s easier to keep redrafting in is an easy choice.
2. Look For The Signpost Cards
This goes well in conjunction with the Comprehensive Cube guide (and you can see it in action in the Deep Dive) on looking for the signpost cards. Pretty much every player knows the obvious of you should look for powerful cards to take, but in Cube, many of the cards are powerful, so which ones do you take?
So the first thing I look for are the standout cards that lead to some of the best archetypes as these are the cards that are so good you likely shouldn’t pass it unless your aren’t interested in that archetype. If you’re seeing something like Embercleave pack 1 pick 4, it would be pretty telling that the previous three players aren’t interested in drafting Red aggro at the moment. To get an idea of what those cards are, again, you can read the Comprehensive Guide to help you out.
The second thing I look for are just the generically powerful cards that are coming around late. If you’re getting halfway through the pack and you see something like a Shark Typhoon or Elder Gargaroth, it’s easy to tell that the color is open.
The last thing I look for are the powerful multicolor cards which could be telling of an open archetype. While this isn’t the best indicator as players tend not to take gold cards early and the colors could be contested while the specific pair (or trio) isn’t, I tend to find if powerful Gold cards are wheeling, you can likely sneak your way into that archetype.
To put this idea into simpler terms, this is drafting the hard way as you want to keep yourself open early on in the draft. However, that doesn’t mean I’m looking to be open the whole way through.
3. Learn How To Soft Force
I feel this is the biggest area where my draft strategy deviates from most other players. I think there’s a line that you can ride with “forcing” an archetype that many players don’t get close enough to. Whether you’re a player who is way too quick to force or a player who is always looking for the most open lane, there’s merit to both, but at the same time, I think you’re leaving value on the table.
In normal drafts, I think drafting the hard way is almost always correct. Having a functional deck is definitely much more important than the small chance of having an incredible deck if you are looking for long term consistency. Is this not true for Cube? No, you definitely still want a functional deck that can do well rather than the nuts. However, the meaning of this is much different in Cube.
In a regular draft format, it’s pretty easy to find yourself with a bad deck. Whether your curve sucks, your cards have no synergy, or your cards are weak, there are a lot of things that can go wrong. While these things can also happen in Cube, it is substantially harder for them to. In Cube, the cards are, on average, much stronger than your typical format’s cards with smaller deltas between relative card strengths. While there are definitely bombs in Cube, they aren’t so much better than the average cube card that they feel indomitable. Furthermore, synergies are much more pronounced in Cube as the cards that synergize will be more powerful and thus feel more impactful. So considering there’s a big difference between cube drafting and set drafting, I think it makes sense to adopt a slightly different game plan.
For Cube, and admittedly in normal drafts too since it seems to work well for me, I use the concept of the soft force. For players with the propensity to force, if they pick up one power card, they are just locked into that color or colors now. For the soft force, once we get a power card, we shift up our ratings for each card in a color. Let me elaborate on that point.
Let’s say I’m doing a Cube and I get a pack 1 pick 3 Embercleave, which is the card I believe to be the best in the Cube. Now that I have Embercleave, I bring up the evaluation of all Red cards up 1 to 1.5 points of value on a 10 point scale. So say next pack I see a Magda, Brazen Outlaw which I would say is roughly a 5 to 5.5 out of 10 as the only Red card and a Dismiss which is roughly a 6.5 to 7 out of 10 for me. Drafting the hard way would make this choice simple, Dismiss is a good deal better than Magda, so that should be the pick. However, since I already have the Embercleave, I shift my evaluations up. While Dismiss is definitely the better card in a vacuum, since I have Embercleave, I would rate Dismiss and Magda as roughly the same strength, and in this case, I would take the Magda.
Let’s take the same example except we’ll replace Dismiss with Midnight Clock which I evaluate as a 7.5-8, what do we take now? Well we happily slam the Midnight Clock! Even with the most generous application of this, Magda can still only reach a 7 while Midnight Clock is generally a 7.5 at it’s worst, so if we’re still following the principles of drafting the hard way, Clock is the clear pick. All that said, once I see the second bomb, it’s much easier just to stick to whatever archetype is coming your way. It’s going to be pretty rare that you get cut after receiving two power cards in the same archetype, so at that point, I’m more or less forcing it.
What I like about this system is that it gives you the opportunity to get a ridiculous deck without the high risk of forcing it. I’ve drafted many insanely powerful decks because I decided to stay the course in both Cube and regular Draft, and when I see I’m getting cut, it’s not like I took a lot of now useless cards in a vain attempt to make something work. On average, I feel this system will give you anywhere from a solid deck to a busted deck depending on what happens, which definitely works for me.
4. Know When To Value Power And When To Value Consistency
This is a tip that’s only for Arena Cube, but it’s something that’s easy to mess up. There are a lot of powerful cards in Cube, and when you see them in your colors, it’s obviously very exciting. Most of the time when you get later in a draft, you’re going to keep windmill slamming the best card in the pack that’s your color as that’s the most logical thing to do. However, like I said before, the delta between the best cube cards and the average cube card isn’t that large. A trap you want to avoid, if possible, is the all bombs trap.
Whether you’re playing aggro or control, this is an easy enough trap to fall into. Generally, splashy and powerful cards are going to be more expensive. Thus, if you keep seeing these cards, it’s very tempting to keep taking them. However, therein lies the trap. If you only focus on the best card in the pack in cube, it’s going to be very easy to end up with a deck that has a bad curve. The very first draft I did this season it happened to me. I was drafting Mono White Aggro and I kept seeing bomb after bomb for the deck (using the term bomb somewhat lightly for Mono White.) I thought that draft was going amazingly well as the archetype was clearly wide open and I was getting a lot of the best hits. However, in my excitement, I failed to take into account my deck’s curve. By the end of the draft I had 6 one drops, 2 two drops, and 11 three drops. Uh oh, that’s very fair from an ideal curve.
Despite me being able to trophy with the deck anyway, I had many games where I didn’t cast anything until turn 3, and I frequently struggled to double spell due to the high curve. If I was more cognizant of what I needed for the deck to be consistent rather than just taking the best card in a vacuum, I likely wouldn’t have run into this issue. This almost happened again in my most recent draft where Blue was wide open and I was seeing a large amount of the expensive power cards. I was tempted to keep taking win conditions over medium counterspells when I realized I already had enough ways to win the game, but not nearly enough to stop myself from getting run over. If I didn’t adjust in time, I likely would’ve had a deck that hardly functioned rather than one that nabbed a 2-1.
5. Take Sideboard Cards Higher Than You May Think
For my final tip and another one much more reserved for Arena Cube than normal draft (although I think players don’t do this enough regularly) is taking sideboard cards highly. There are a lot of powerful cards and strategies in Cube, but all of them have foils. For aggro it’s wraths, control it’s counterspells and discard, for midrange its power card that may not have made the cut the first time, and so on. While you could pick up a card that you may want to play, picking up something you know you can safely board in against particular matchups is very important as well. You’d be surprised at what cards can bail you out in certain matchups.
While it just got cut from the cube, Folio of Fancies was the perfect card for this category as it basically never made the cut main deck, but once I found another slow matchup, it would come in and easily take over the match whenever drawn. Don’t be afraid to take these cards that wont fit into your current strategy as you may end up needing them down the road. I’ve taken my fair share of Sweltering Suns when I was an aggro deck, and while you may not always need them, it has much more utility than playable number 27.
Thank you for reading!