Tinkerer’s Cube Draft Guide
As I was killing time waiting for Kaldheim to release, I noticed a cool little event dropped to help us Limited players bridge the gap:
This event comes in two flavors. Both the Traditional (BO3) and BO1 versions are available from January 15th through January 28th. I like that the cost of entry is a bit lower than typical drafts (600 gems or 4000), and the prizes are proportional. You need to earn 5 wins before 3 losses in BO1 or 2 wins out of three matches in Traditional to break even on Gold, while your maximum prize is 6000 gold (and 3 Historic cards).
I think what this boils down to is simply a fun event with relatively low stakes. Still, none of us want to scrub out 0-3 and throw away 4000 gold, which is why I am writing this guide!
What is this cube thing anyway?
Think of it as an ordinary draft except the packs are created from a large pool (~540) of historic cards. The cards are ‘singleton’ in that you won’t be able to get multiple copies of the same cards, and ‘phantom’ so unfortunately you won’t be able to keep them. You are going to wish you could keep them though because cubes are comprised of largely powerful cards and there are multiple rares in each pack. Although ‘Tinkerer’s Cube’ does include many individually powerful cards, the idea behind this one is each card supports different synergies you can use to create a deck that is much more than the sum of its parts. I find this type of cube especially intriguing because this is basically what you are always trying to do in Limited.
You can check out the full card list here:
540 may sound like a ton of cards, but when 8 drafters are cracking three packs each you are actually getting more than half of the cards in each draft pool. So, after a few of these drafts you are going to start to recognize many of the spells. However, the specific cards are much less important in this version of cube than understanding the fundamental archetypes that pull them together.
Before we dive into those key archetypes I want to really emphasize a few things:
- Finding an open archetype is by far the best way to end up with a strong deck. For this reason I try to take strong single-color cards from at least two archetypes early in Pack 1. It is going to be tempting to take a strong gold card and force an archetype but this can really get you in trouble. It may seem like taking a bomb or two off the menu will help corner the market on your deck of choice, but each archetype is supported by many bombs in the format. If you can be patient and corner an archetype in pack 2 you will often be rewarded with strong payables or even bombs late in packs 2 and 3.
- Prioritize more flexible spells, at least until you fully commit to an archetype. For example, you may have fond memories of Priest of the Forgotten Gods like me. While it can definitely be a great card in this format, you are narrowing your deck selection considerably taking it early. Luminarch Aspirant on the other hand will be great in any deck that has plains. Although Aspirant would be best in more aggressive decks or a +1/+1 counter archetype, you are always going to get good value from it. This is just another way of keeping your options open until you are ready to lock in to a specific archetype.
- Do not neglect your curve. Although Tinkerer’s cube stresses synergy more than individual powerhouse cards, you can still get blown out if you get too durdly. Aggro is pretty easy to build in this format and it can absolutely blow out unprepared opponents. Be mindful of your deck strategy while you draft. It will be tempting to take 4+ mana bombs because they are abundant, but getting overrun before you can cast them can be really frustrating. Good 2-3 mana spells are often better picks than great 4+ mana ones.
- Be patient with your removal. This is always good advice in Limited, but in this Tinkerer’s format it is absolutely essential. Most decks are going to be comprised of payoffs and enablers for specific mechanics (Life gain, +1/+1 counters, Enchantments, etc..). What often happens is there is an imbalance where they may be stacked with payoffs but only have a single enabler. In these situations it can be crippling to remove that key spell. It is generally a good line of play to let the board develop a bit and let those moments arise where you can maximize the impact of your removal. Similarly, if you have a key spell in hand it is often wise to slow play it in order to bait out removal spells with your less impactful stuff.
Now, let’s go through what I believe are the best types of decks to draft in this format. This is not to say there aren’t other serviceable options, but these decks can be absolutely nuts when they come together.
Green +1/+1 Counters/Tokens
This is one of the nastier combinations of cards I saw in my games. Don’t sleep on Animation Module, it is completely bonkers in the right deck. Now, most of the +1/+1 counter payoffs are in Green, but you can pair Green with most other colors in support of this archetype. Most importantly, it also plays well with other mechanics like Proliferate (e.g. Evolution Sage, Merfolk Skydiver), Amass (e.g. Dreadhorde Invasion), or even singularly great spells like Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin.
With all of these possibilities hopefully it is coming across why this is a ‘Tinkerer’s’ format. However, I would suggest keeping these decks fairly straightforward and try not to get too combo-y with it. Spells like Branching Evolution or Ridgescale Tusker may seem great but they are too slow and reliant on you having other stuff. Drafting enough (16+) creatures is also really important here so that you are always able to build up your counters.
There are a plethora of ways to gain life in this format, but there actually aren’t too many payoffs for doing so (I have assembled them all here). This may seem like a bunch of cards, but 12 out of 500+ can be slim pickings. The first six here are my favorite though, and if you can find 1-2 of them this archetype is really easy to build. What I like the most about it is you basically auto win against any Aggro decks you get matched up with. The amount of life gain enablers you can choose from in these colors is actually kind of silly, so it is nearly impossible for Aggro to keep pace with you. It is good to be familiar with these spells generally, since if you go up against this archetype you absolutely need to save your removal for these payoff spells. But, Black recursion or White protection spells can still help keep the dream alive.
Boros ‘Go-Wide’ Aggro
It feels pretty mean to play this deck against all of the combo stuff running around, but boy can it be effective. This archetype has plenty of tools for going wide, and if you can pack in some cheap removal like Pacifism, Fire Prophecy, etc.. it is really easy to roll over unprepared opponents. Don’t sleep on 1-drops either, as there are plenty of serviceable ones such as Goblin Banneret or Healer’s Hawk to help get you that first mover advantage.
I also want to point out that cards like Mikaeus, the Lunarch are clear 1st pick material, slotting in quite well in basically any White deck. Heroic Reinforcements is one of those cards that I still reach early on though, it is simply too amazing to pass most of the time. While it does sort of force you into Boros, it is very difficult to lose when you draw it, and splashing isn’t out of the question in a format that has something like 40 nonbasic lands. In other Cube formats these lands were fairly coveted since most decks needed to be 3+ color ‘good stuff’ builds, but in Tinkerer’s Cube the 2-color synergy seems well enough supported that the lands tend to wrap. The clear exception to this being the 3+ color Enchantment-oriented decks.
3+ Color Enchantments
At first glance, Enchantments/Auras seems like a Green-White thing, but there are a ridiculous number of great Enchantments in every color in this format. Setessan Champion is probably the most ridiculous payoff in the format, but there are a lot of ways to find and benefit from playing Enchantments. Running too many auras does run the risk of getting 2-for-1’d, which is part of why I love the Enchantment package as a part of a 3+ color deck that has several ways of generating card advantage. It has seemed pretty easy to get an engine going where you are digging through your deck and finding all of your key payoffs/enablers. As I have mentioned you do need to be careful against Aggro when building this sort of deck, but cards like On Serra’s Wings or Trostani Discordant can do wonders for stabilizing. I’ve played or seen quite a few decks that blend +1/+1 Counters, Enchantments, and Creature-Token synergy into the same deck, and it is largely effective.
The four above are what I would consider the best at this point. Being a Cube format, it is easy to splash and blend the lines between 2-color decks though, so please keep that in mind. To help conceptualize the rest of the format I do want to run through the remaining archetypes and list the types of synergy they support. My main issue with most of these is they tend to be slow or their mechanics too thinly supported:
UW Flyers, Enchantments
UB Amass, Mill
UR Noncreature Spells, Draw 2
BR Amass, Sacrifice
BG +1/+1 Counters, Graveyard Interaction
GR Midrange, Nonhumans, 4+ Power Matters
UG Proliferate, 4+ Power Matters
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out these three as must-pick cards for any deck (spells like these also help you stay open in Pack 1):
Have Fun Tinkering!
I’ve had a blast playing this format so far. There are tons of possible permutations within the card pool, and all sorts of interesting combos and card interactions. I am excited to go back and keep drafting it as the waiting for Kaldheim winds down. I am excited to say I will be bringing you some more Limited content for Kaldheim leading up to its release, so be on the lookout for that over the next couple weeks!