Hi all, today I’m bringing you something a little different. I may not have been going to more PPTQs but the Legacy Cube went up on Magic Online a week or so ago, and I have been really enjoying doing some drafts with it!
Cube is a popular casual format because it embodies the most appealing elements of normal Limited and Constructed. By combining the drafting process with the possibility of playing your favourite cards or constructed archetypes from past years (or ‘creating’ new ones), the end result is an experience that delivers enjoyment for many.
I’m quite fond of the Cube format and am fortunate enough to know a few local players who have built them for live group play. This ranges from a commons/uncommons Cube to a fully powered ‘Vintage’ Cube!
I actually played a bit of Vintage Cube on Magic Online over the Christmas/New Year holidays. I know a few people who consider it ‘too busted’ – however I think this is down to what kind of Cube experiences you are used to, and thus your existing comfort zone. I don’t blame anyone for developing a comfort zone with more creature-oriented or lower power cubes as it’s more likely you will play with these kinds of environment than with one with a Black Lotus and broken combos. To sum up my Vintage Cube experience, I knew what I was signing up for and faced down my opponent’s Griselbrand on turn two, Splinter Twin combos, Tolarian Academy and Lodestone Golem with varying degrees of success. I think I did about five or six drafts, to an average record of 2-1 but only came away with one Trophy courtesy of a fast red Burn deck.
The Legacy Cube is much more akin to what people are used to. There are very few ‘busted’ combos flying around. You can technically put an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn into play on turn two as there are mana dorks and Show and Tell. Splinter Twin and Deceiver Exarch are still in as well, but the whole cube is more oriented around traditional creature and non-creature strategies – aggro, midrange and control (broadly speaking). I’ve done about six drafts this week and already have four undefeated trophies – all with the same archetype (which I’m now trying very hard not to draft in any more Cubes unless it is painfully open) MONO GREEN!
I really like drafting green in non-powered Cube. This may come as a surprise to those who know me, and it’s true that when it has come to deck choices for Standard, Modern or Legacy, I’ve played almost anything not resembling green creature beatdown (Temur Energy doesn’t really count!). However, I really like the archetype and, from my experience, many people do not rate it particularly highly. In this article I’ll break down some of the thought process behind my ‘green drafting’ including the strengths and weaknesses of the archetype. For reference, the cube list is HERE, but I’ll try to link each card as I go along.
- Underrated: It seems to be really underrated, and therefore under-drafted. My friend Matt Duggan recently reminded me of a (less than obvious) possible reason why many players really like playing (mostly blue) control or midrange decks in constructed (even when they aren’t good) – and that is “people want to feel smart”. I think there’s a lot of truth in this. Mono-green is definitely not going to make you “feel smart” while playing it. It is literally about making creatures and turning them sideways for either mana or attacking. However, if you use ‘match wins’ as a metric for how smart you feel, you could end up feeling very smart for having drafted mono green. From my experience drafting it (live or online), it’s so commonly open that I definitely don’t struggle to pull things together.
- Easy on the mana: This means it is harder to get manascrewed or colour-screwed, especially in the early game, given that you will be playing a lot of mana sources and mostly one colour. Many people count the mana creatures as additional lands and make the case that there’s a high risk of flooding. This is true to an extent, but it’s foolhardy to keep a hand of ‘all ramp’ and ‘no gas’. You will actually run a lower land count than is normal for a deck that runs multiple cards costing 6 or more mana, this puts a slight emphasis on speed and power over simply ‘having many mana sources’.
- Fast and furious: I’ve mentioned speed just then. The payoff of playing ‘gas’ one or two turns ahead of schedule is definitely worth running the extra mana sources as your opponent won’t always be able to deal with them straight away. Every Planeswalker that enters the battlefield ahead of curve means extra loyalty activations, every creature means extra turns of attacking/blocking. You can respond quicker with utility cards like Primal Command or Acidic Slime before your opponent gets value our of their Coercive Portal. Added to this, you get to feasibly add a higher than normal amount of Finishers to your deck, cards that usually cost six or more mana, purely on the basis that you’re highly guaranteed to get that mana, and these are the most powerful things to be doing ahead of schedule!
Deck’s main components
I’m going to list only the cards I think you really want to prioritize if you’re going into this archetype. There are many other green cards in the Cube, which I would happily pick up as part of this deck, but they would be considered second-rate to similar cards listed below.
These come primarily in the form of the creatures that unconditionally tap to add mana with converted mana cost one (and to a lesser extent two).
- Arbor Elf
- Avacyn’s Pilgrim
- Birds of Paradise
- Elves of Deep Shadow
- Elvish Mystic
- Fyndhorn Elves
- Joraga Treespeaker
- Llanowar Elves
- Noble Hierarch
These are absolutely crucial to the archetype and are the easiest way to try and play your other cards ahead of schedule. I try to get as many of these as I can. Three is a fair effort and what you can normally expect to get, but the more you have, the better! You can back these up with some of the two drop creatures that add mana which I’ll quickly indicate below. Since you’re playing mainly green, the colour of mana they generate isn’t particularly important. Avacyn’s Pilgrim and Elves of Deep Shadow get a little better if you’re splashing white or black, but I’d definitely try and pick them up in mono-green. Noble Hierarch is the best of the bunch as it provides Exalted. Note, I haven’t included Deathrite Shaman on this list. Its ability to add mana is definitely not unconditional (unlike in Legacy where it’s almost guaranteed). Fetchlands are popular, but very limited in supply, so I wouldn’t view the Shaman in the same category. There’s also Utopia Sprawl at one, but I do think you want to be aiming for the creatures in the first instance.
- Bloom Tender
- Devoted Druid
- Lotus Cobra
- Overgrown Battlement
- Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
- Sakura-Tribe Elder
- Sylvan Caryatid
- Fertile Ground
- Rampant Growth
Of the cards on this list, Rofellos is the absolute jackpot! If you untap with this card on turn three you can often play a six or seven drop, which is practically game-winning! I do generally prefer the creatures to the spells, mostly because their ability to attack and block, especially if drawn off-curve, really gives them the nod over the enchantments or sorceries. Those cards are much better in decks where you want to fix your colours or play effects that wipe out multiple creatures. This archetype isn’t really interested in either particularly, but I can see the value of some of these cards going up if you’ve splashed a high powered ‘off colour’ bomb such as a non-green titan or something like Garruk, Apex Predator.
There are other cards in the cube costing one or two but I haven’t included them because I believe to be successful in this archetype, you want to devote your 1-drops and 2-drops to generating mana and supporting the bigger cards in favour of the utility the other cards offer, or the beatdown power of a Tarmogoyf.
Consider this my top picks for cards that fit in the middle of the pack. Cards in this category have multiple roles so I’ve broken them down into different sections.
- Gaea’s Cradle
- Coalition Relic
- Courser of Kruphix
- Jadelight Ranger
- Selvala, Heart of the Wilds
- Garruk Wildspeaker
- Oracle of Mul Daya
- Solemn Simulacrum
- Gilded Lotus
- Green Sun’s Zenith
These cards do a great job of making sure you ‘get there’ – as in, have enough mana to cast your Finishers, but they often do a little more than the 1-2 drop mana dorks. Gaea’s Cradle is an obvious include and I’ve put it here as it’s best played on turn three or five to ramp out a finisher (though you can play it to success on turn two). Selvala, can sometimes feel like Rofellos 2.0 and double up as card advantage and Garruk also provides a win condition as his overrun is very easy to achieve and combines well with mana creatures. Zenith is really valuable as it gives you extra redundancy at all stages but I’ve put it here as you’re likely going to cast it to get one of these or the mana dorks if you don’t already have one on the battlefield.
Stone raining your opponent in the early game while adding a threat to the board or tutoring up a bomb is quite ‘rude’ but can be effective. There are plenty of ‘Mana rocks’ that get played by those non-green ramp decks so Reclamation Sage can actually provide a similar effect. There is also obvious utility in being able to get rid of any troublesome artifacts/enchantments even if they don’t produce mana.
These cards speak for themselves providing incredible value which is also somewhat ‘defensive’ to help propel you into the late game.
Don’t forget you can use this to tutor up some of the cards we will mention later as early as turn three! I wouldn’t recommend picking this card up too early unless you already have about three or four green creatures you can play early on.
- Primeval Titan
- Wurmcoil Engine
- Avenger of Zendikar
- Hornet Queen
- Karn Liberated
- Myr Battlesphere
- Tooth and Nail
- Craterhoof Behemoth
- Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
- Woodfall Primus
- Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
- Emrakul, the Promised End
Craterhoof is what you’re aiming for, and I would put Primeval Titan, Karn LIberated and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger playing second fiddle, the remainder are all serviceable. I haven’t included Genesis Wave on this list as I don’t rate it too highly. You need nine mana to get the cheaper finishers into play, and although you get multiple permanents out of it, from my experience, it doesn’t reliably perform until you have about ten or more mana, which is feasible in this deck. Emrakul the Aeons torn is also feasible but only just! Ugin is fine, but you often won’t be using the -X ability.
It is possible to splash in this archetype and this can be achieved by picking up lands that generate green and another colour of mana. Just bear in mind that too many non-forest lands will impact the strength of Rofellos. If you’ve picked up the mana creatures that add non-green mana then this also helps, but this is where the ramp spells like Sakura Tribe Elder or Rampant Growth really help as you want to run as few non-forest lands as possible as having early green mana is so important! If you fall short on Finishers that can only be cast with green mana then it may make sense to splash another colour for these, but most of the good finishers in other colours require at least two colours of that mana to cast, at which point its arguable whether we’re splashing or committing to one of the green Ravnica Guilds at this point.
- Red: The easiest colour to splash in my opinion because Xenagos, the Reveler and the ‘Fireball’ spells Banefire, Bonfire of the Damned, Crater’s Claws and Devil’s Play combine very well with the deck’s aim of having lots of mana with very little of it being green. You are also playing big monsters which can be effective with Sneak Attack.
- Black: The main thing this gives you are Garruk, Apex Predator and Vraska, Relic Seeker. Black ubiquitous removal is not really what this archetype is about so I wouldn’t go out of my way to splash a Maelstrom Pulse. Dismember can be played without black mana.
- Blue: The cards that appeal to me out of blue are Edric, Spymaster of Trest, Opposition, Time Warp, Consecrated Sphinx and Upheaval but most of these require double blue in their casting cost. Beyond this you’re probably more likely to end up playing either a blue-green creature-based tempo deck with Man-o’-War and Vendilion Clique – or a straight up value deck with slightly faster mana to get that Jace, the Mind Sculptor out on turn three, which I don’t really consider splashing!
- White: You get Mirari’s Wake just in case you didn’t have enough mana as well as Mirror Entity. Dragonlord Dromoka, Approach of the Second Sun and Secure the Wastes are also splashable, but I don’t think any of them are as powerful as the mono-green threats.
- Lacks removal: If your opponent is ahead on creatures or plays a creature that you need to interact with (such as Grim Lavamancer, Monastery Mentor or Inferno Titan) then they could run away with the game on the basis of those cards alone.
- Vulnerable to sweepers: A well timed Pyroclasm, Toxic Deluge, or Wrath of God will easily undo all the additional mana investment from previous turns and can then leave you with insufficient mana to cast your finisher, this is your worst case scenario, sometimes doing no less than turning the game around completely for your opponent.
- Plays poorly when behind: If your opponent is ahead, the best you can do is cast your big spells, hope they will aid you and keep attacking. This is why I value cards like Primal Command and Acidic Slime quite highly, they can help you get out of some tough situations. Umezawa’s Jitte and some of the Planeswalkers like Liliana, the Last Hope or Chandra, Pyromaster can be really troublesome.
I hope you enjoyed this quick breakdown of the archetype and found the rationale behind my choices and preferences useful. There are a ton more green cards in the cube which have their uses so don’t worry if your favourite card hasn’t been included – it’s just not my favourite card. I’m also mindful that this is just my approach so if you’ve also been drafting mono-green to good results with other cards and approaches I’m more than willing to hear about your stompy success, especially if there are cards I haven’t seriously considered! There’s still about another week of Legacy Cube online so get them in while you can!