Cube Drafting Storm — by Rowan Sheehan

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Welcome to my Cube article! On a weekly basis, some people and I get together to shuffle up and play our paper version of the MTGO Holiday Cube, one of the most fun draft formats that there is. It follows normal draft style, but plays with high-powered cards, including Black Lotus! There’s only about four or five changes from the MTGO list, none of which are notable. Everybody arranges themselves, we count out packs, and start playing!

Pick: Mana Drain

P1P1s are difficult to really focus around, as picks are nearly exclusively up to personal taste. In general, the only snap-picks in a P1P1 of Holiday Cube would be Sol Ring, Black Lotus, Moxen, Time Walk, or Ancestral Recall. I picked Mana Drain because it’s a pillar of Vintage for a reason, but it took awhile to decide.

Pick: Demonic Tutor

Oh man, black is looking pretty solid. I could force mono-black and take the Obliterator, or go tempo with Dark Confidant. Timetwister is also vital for ramp or storm. However, I strongly value tutors, as they are as good as the best card in your deck, and Demonic Tutor is pretty undeniably the best tutor.

Pick: Oracle of Mul Daya

I could snag Miscalculation and go hard into UB Control. Given that Holiday Cube is a bomb-oriented format, I think it’s important to stay open in pack one, so I went for Oracle of Mul Daya. Currently I’m looking at a UG rampy deck, so I hope that Timetwister last pack wheels. Ravnica bounce lands interact well with Oracle, because you often run out of lands to play, but with karoo lands, you can play the lands from your hand more often. I’ve already seen two of them that will likely come back around.

Pick: Wheel of Fortune

Land Tax and Oracle of Mul Daya are a non-bo, so no sense going for that. I’m feeling one of the two wheels right now and in retrospect I probably should have picked Time Spiral. However, I go for the Wheel of Fortune because it requires a lower storm count. The fact that it’s single red means that it’s fairly splashable and Time Spiral would probably dedicate me to going blue.

Pick: Wake Thrasher

I have a Wheel and a Tutor in the first four picks, so there’s a good chance I’m going to be playing combo. As such, I pick Wake Thrasher, as it combos with Basalt Monolith in the cube to give an infinitely powerful dude. Armageddon is powerful in the early picks, but is a non-bo with a ramp/combo strategy that I seem to be setting up. Nether Void isn’t bad, but I don’t enjoy playing a stax deck until I’ve snagged a Crucible of Worlds.

Pick: Frantic Search

Cryptic Command is far too color intense for an already four-color deck. I’m not on the red aggro train, otherwise Hellrider is a good pick. The Fauna Shaman is rather pretty, especially with the consistent reanimator support I see in the previous packs. I have the Tutor and Wheel to play reanimator, but the Frantic Search also works for U/B reanimator and works well with Oracle, bounce lands, and wheels. I pick up Frantic Search because it allows me to go for reanimator, storm, or ramp.

Pick: Mind Stone

I started playing cube consistently with a good unpowered cube, which proved the power of Mind Stone. It’s not an exciting pick, but it allows for ramp, is recurrable, and is a card draw later.

Pick: Prophetic Bolt

I’m not sure what to make of this pack. The three notables are Grand Arbiter to make cheaper spells, Dismember for an easy kill spell regardless of my mana colors, and Prophetic Bolt for damage and card draw. None of the three are too bad, but I picked Prophetic Bolt because I wanted to get some more testing in with that card.

Pick: Shivan Reef

There isn’t much calling in this pack, so I pick up Shivan Reef as land drafting is vital.

Pick: Gruul Turf

Sweet, got that bounce land action going on. This is also vital because this is the first pack that I can read signals on. Both Garruks are gone, as are most green cards. I make a mental note that I’ll probably be moving out of green-based ramp. Also the Necromancy is gone and if I don’t see the reanimator cards in the next pack then I’ll probably move out of reanimator.

Pick: Golgari Rot Farm

Oh, the Animate Dead is gone. I’m going to stay away from reanimator and just do an easy pick on the bounce land and dedicate myself further to this Oracle / Frantic Search strategy, wherever it leads me.

Pick: Agony Warp

None of the creatures seem to represent anything I want, so I pick up an Agony Warp for sideboard tech against creature decks.

Pick: Land Tax

White, white everywhere! I pick up Land Tax as a method of early deck thinning and the ability to support my already insane mana base. Land Tax also works very well with karoos, but doesn’t work too well with Oracle.

Don’t want either, take the Reveillark because somebody else might want it.

p1p15: Life from the Loam

Life from the Loam isn’t too bad of a last pick! My karoos are going to be prime targets for land destruction, so I am going to need a reliable way to get them back to my hand. However, the dredge is problematic because I haven’t seen any recursion yet or way to replay my graveyard, so I’ll try to value that higher in later picks.

Pick: Mind’s Desire

Oh boy, this pack is fun. There’s a lot of valuable things here, notably Sun Titan, Metalworker, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and Mind’s Desire. I’ve picked exactly one artifact so far, so I don’t pick up the Metalworker. I have the Mana Drain which complements Jace, the Mind Sculptor very well, but Minds Desire is one of the most bonkers storm cards ever in cube (and too bonkers for Legacy). I pick Mind’s Desire because I love playing storm and I think that it will contribute to an interesting article. Around now I decide that I will be forcing storm.

Pick: Overgrown Tomb

Lands are always a wonderful pick. I think in hindsight, I should have grabbed the Damnation because it’s difficult for me to deal with problematic creatures. Also, the Signet is good for fixing and basically costs one mana to create one storm count (after playing and tapping it).

Pick: Lion’s Eye Diamond

LED is one of the classic storm cards, I have to go for it. I’ll be happy on the wheel to get any dual lands or Erebos, though.

Pick: Mox Ruby

Oh boy! This pack is absolutely beautiful. Mox Ruby, Tendrils, and Basalt Monolith stand out. The first is a piece of power, and the second and third are win conditions (remember that I mentioned the infinite combo with Wake Thrasher and Basalt Monolith?). I’m okay with letting the Basalt Monolith go—the people I’m playing with are experienced enough to know the combo so I won’t get as many free wins. Tendrils is my least favorite storm win-con because it’s the only one that requires you to hit the full count to win. Brain Freeze can be fired off early and cheaply and they will naturally continue to draw and after a Wheel or two they will meet their death. A small army of goblins is never not scary. However, a player can sit at two life comfortably for the rest of the game. Therefore, I pick the piece of power (which is still a fantastic pick!)

Pick: Electrolyze

Electrolyze is important for taking down the early aggro decks and providing card draw. Ravages of War is also in this pack: the mono-white aggro or stax player will be very pleased by the second mass-LD card.

Pick: Everflowing Chalice

Yesss, I love Everflowing Chalice in a storm deck. It can be used as ramp early and mid-game, while being able to be played for free to get one storm count when you’re going off.

Pick: Necropotence

Necropotence is another iconic storm card beside LED. However, my mana base currently obviously doesn’t support it. I pick it up in hopes that I’ll get a Dark Ritual later.

Pick: Breeding Pool

I think about snagging the Wall of Omens because at the least it cantrips, but fixing is over cantrips, even in storm.

Pick: Chandra, the Firebrand

If I got a Crucible in pack one, I would be going for that stax action so much. However, Chandra can copy instants and sorceries and is an alternate win-con, so she goes in!

Pick: Sphinx’s Revelation

Sphinx’s Revelation is good for card draw and works well with a land-based storm strategy. I really love this card in storm when you start getting the land-doubles, notably Mirari’s Wake and Heartbeat of Spring.

Pick: Path to Exile

I pick up Path to Exile because it’s a cheap spell that interacts with my opponents’ problematic creatures and gives storm count. I can also path my own creatures after they’ve outlived their usefulness to get a much-needed land.

Pick: Hallowed Fountain

Laaaands! I pick Hallowed Fountain because it’s fetchable and pain lands aren’t as good in Cube Storm, because you so often tap and untap your lands.

Pick: Impulse

An almost last-picked cantrip? Yes, please!

Hate draft the Ravages.

p2p15: Savannah Lions

White weenies is clearly reading open, as I’ve now seen good low-drop white creatures at the end of both packs one and two.

Pick: Channel

Oh, my! I have to pick the Channel—I already have a Sphinx’s Revelation. The double green is a bit restrictive, but I should be able to get there. I hope to get some of those lands on the wheel or the Signet. I thought about Gifts Ungiven, but I don’t have any recursion so it loses its effectiveness.

Pick: Upheaval

P3P1 Channel into a P3P2 Upheaval makes me so happy. Although it’s not a hard-combo such as Wake Thrasher / Basalt Monolith, these two cards work very well together. I’ll be happy with a lot of these things wheeling, such as Snappy or Misty or SDT.

Pick: Windswept Heath

The Windswept Heath is very appealing because it fetches three dual lands I currently have. Rude Awakening is obviously indispensable, but I can easily expect that to wheel. It’s not  commonly highly picked, especially in my meta.

Pick: Heartbeat of Spring

I went for the Thoughtseize and did a double-take—there’s Heartbeat of Spring in this pack. There was a Palinchron two packs ago. I could get infinite mana and storm count that way. Also Heartbeat of Spring works wonderfully with Sphinx’s Revelation. I pick it. I have a few comments on the card in Cube: don’t forget it’s two-sided. There have been so many situations where I drop it on turn three and my opponent untaps then quickly wins on turn four through an insane play. Due to that, I strongly advise that you only drop Heartbeat of Spring on the same turn that you are planning to go off, while they are tapped out (if they are playing permission).

Pick: Empty the Warrens

I let out a sigh and snap-pick Empty the Warrens. It’s my second card with “storm” printed on it, and the first one that will kill an opponent. This is the exact card I wanted and needed.

Pick: Orzhov Basilica

I’m going full in on the bounce lands here. I could have hate-drafted the Thalia or the Wasteland, but either is an acceptable route.

I go for Mirari’s Wake which will serve as another mana-doubler. It’s funny that I get both doublers that are in the cube and within four picks. I quickly think about picking the Gruul Signet, but I think mana doublers with an already picked Sphinx’s Revelation, Frantic Search, and bounce lands is too strong.

Pick: Ancestral Vision

I think that I’m doing pretty good on the fixing so I don’t take the Savannah and instead focus on almost-free card draw. It’s also interesting to note that Ancestral is basically only good in your opening hand, moreso with storm. Suspending a card doesn’t contribute to storm count, but when it pops, you do get spell for your count. I often suspend this on turn one and plan to go off on turn five when I get a free storm count and three free cards.

Pick: Unexpectedly Absent

I frequently play Legacy Storm, where the majority of hate that you will interact with will be through counterspells. In Cube, people don’t play Force of Will or Daze unless they’re a dedicated control/tempo deck, as opposed to 60-percent of top Legacy decks running Force of Will. Therefore, most of the hate on storm in Cube is going to be through permanents. Unexpectedly Absent does well against that. However, it’s bad with our five colors so it will probably go straight to the sideboard.

Pick: Karplusan Forest

Lands are always good. I pick up the land, although the signet would have also been a good pick.

Toxic Deluge is important to allow me to interact with fast creature decks, which is even more important because the mana elves have been picked up very quickly from this pool. Palinchron does not wheel.

Wow, that’s a late Balance. However, I hoped that Rude Awakening would wheel and it did (and it’s now better for my deck than the first time around!)

Pick: Exalted Angel

SB tech against burn.

I didn’t document p3p14 or p3p15, but in one of these packs I picked up a Solemn Simulacrum.

I hemmed and hawed a bit about the Mana Drain being in the main deck or sideboard, but decided to put in a Path to Exile over it. With five colors, it’s nearly impossible to hit the double blue on a regular basis, even if it allows me to storm off early.

Prophetic Bolt is another good card for a combo/storm deck, but my curve was already fairly high and I wanted to decrease it. I would side this in against midrange decks. It also becomes marginally better when you’re playing Tendrils of Agony because it can decrease the amount of copies needed.

Exalted Angel will come in versus burn and Ravages of War will come in against permanent hate.

Round One

Due to an odd number of players, I got a bye! How unfortunate. I do some goldfishing and watch some matches. I notice that there’s another storm player in our pod of nine, which was not expected. However, in hindsight, I should have realized the Tendrils and Time Spiral didn’t wheel. He’s playing with more artifacts, notably the Signets that I passed, while I’m playing with land ramp, so we didn’t cut each other too hard on the fillers cards. However, he picked up some of the important cards I could have used, such as Brain Freeze.

Round Two

In game one, I play against a guy named Ian, who’s a nice fellow. He’s playing mono-black, which is a matchup that I’d prefer to not see. He sets up a commanding board state and hits me down to 10 life, keeping cards out of my hand with Nezumi Shortfang. I topdeck an Upheaval and float enough mana to play it and replay Oracle of Mul Daya. We restart the game, but with me being able to play two lands per turn (including bounce lands, meaning I didn’t have to discard after the Upheaval due to my hand size) is too strong. I fire off a cantrip, an LED, Wheel (crack LED with Wheel on the stack), Chalice for 0, then make 10 goblins. Next turn I untap and entwine Rude Awakening for lethal.

Sideboarding:
-1 Heartbeat of Spring
-1 Solemn Simulacrum
+1 Mana Drain
+1 Land Tax

I side out Heartbeat of Spring because I check his graveyard after the Wheel and notice that he has a Griselbrand. Well, let’s try to make sure that he doesn’t get to that mana. Solemn is just too slow and most of his creatures have evasion. I put in the Mana Drain because he played a lot of high curve-toppers (like Griselbrand!), so I’ll have time to hit the double blue and be able to counter. I put in Land Tax because I know he has random discard, so I want to try to improve my ratios and thin my deck. Also, I’ll be on the draw, so I’ll probably always be one land behind. Land Tax does help make topdecks better, which is great against black!

In game two, he plays a turn-two Hymn to Tourach into a turn-three Hypnotic Specter. Even though I’m improving my odds with Land Tax, all his hits take out important things. Over a few turns, he hits the Upheaval, Empty the Warrens, and Rude Awakening. I realize that he’s hit all my win-cons, so I Revelation out my deck for value and we go to game three.

Game three is fantastic. He pressures hard with creatures and I have to Toxic Deluge and Path to Exile to stay alive. He untaps and drops a Griselbrand. Oh my. I do some quick math and realize that because he has 10 life, I can kill him in two turns and be fine. I’m at 12 life and he’s at 10, with a Griselbrand, Guul Draz Assassin, and Hypnotic Specter. If I swing out with 15 tokens and keep one back as a blocker, then I’ll be fine. He blocks and goes to four life, then untaps and swings. I block his Guul Draz Assassin, confident that I did my math right. He ninjitsu’s in an Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni on the Hypnotic Specter. Ouch. Exactly lethal. But it was a good, close game.

Round Three

In game one, I learn I am facing David, who is playing GB Rock. Nooooo, another black discard deck. That’s alright—David is a wonderful opponent and it’s always a pleasure to play him. In game one he plays a turn-three Liliana of the Veil followed up with some solid creatures. I Toxic Deluge away the creatures and play a Chandra, the Firebrand to keep keeping Liliana one away from her ultimate. The repeated discard never allows me to stabilize. He gets down a Thrun, the Lats Troll, kills Chandra, and ultimates Liliana. I end up with three lands, one of which he continuously taps down with Rishadan Port. I scoop.

Sideboarding:
-1 Solemn Simulacrum
+1 Land Tax

I bring in Land Tax to combat that pesky Liliana and side out sad robot again. I feel like he’s often not making the cut in this deck.

Game two is a hideous beating. He lands a turn-three Liliana followed by a turn-four Dust Bowl, which destroys my double karoo land draw. If I had seen Dust Bowl, I would have sided in Life from the Loam. I hang on, but never get anywhere and scoop to stop the abuse. Not a good start to this draft!

Round Four

Cameron, playing Counter-Burn, is another nice regular that I often play with. In game one, he keeps throwing burn at me, taking me down to eight life. I use an Electrolyze to take out  his early attackers and I cast a Sphinx’s Revelation for a life buffer. I draw my cards and realize that I can win. I untap, cast Heartbeat of Spring, then Channel, Upheaval, replay the Mox and Mind Stone, and produce 12 goblins. I swing twice with my goblins and win easily, as he is now back to no lands in play.

Sideboarding:
-1 Toxic Deluge
-1 Solemn Simulacrum
+1 Exalted Angel
+1 Mana Drain

He doesn’t have enough creatures to justify keeping in Toxic Deluge or Solemn Simulacrum. Mana Drain is important against his X-damage burn spells and Exalted Angel is important to stabilize against burn. A single hit is influential, and oftentimes hitting twice with Angel is game-changing.

On turn five, I’m put in an odd predicament with my mana, so I unfortunately have to play a Heartbeat of Spring and pass the turn. I’ve seen two fireball effects from him in game one, so I could easily just lose the game right here. Cameron takes this opportunity to Devil’s Play me from 19 down to nine. On my turn I cast Channel, Rude Awakening, Wheel of Fortune, and a few cantrips to produce 16 tokens. I pass the turn, fearful for my life total. He plays a creature and casts firestorm, hitting me and four of my tokens for five damage. I untap, play Mirari’s Wake, and hit for exactly lethal. GG.

Total Record: 2-2

Thoughts on Cube Storm and this Draft

I only saw Mind’s Desire in my hand once and I only got to cast it for four, but it was still a fantastic card. It allowed me to cast free spells that contributed to storm count, easily allowing for a large amount of goblins.

In terms of Cube, I think storm cards should be picked in this order (from best to worst): Mind’s Desire, Brain Freeze, Empty the Warrens, Tendrils of Agony. Brain Freeze is the only one that can be played at instant speed, and you should always pay attention to the storm count of your opponent: I have lost by playing an Upheaval deck versus a storm player, and after replaying all my permanents, getting Brain Frozen for lethal with floating mana.

I am a huge fan of bouncelands in storm. However, land destruction wrecked me in one game. ThEse are definitely high-risk, high reward-cards. When they start being untapped through Frantic Search, Time Spiral, etc., they can net some good profit. However, there are quite a few specific land destruction effects and those are easy targets to functionally set you back on two land drops with a single target.

There was another storm player at the table, which is exceptionally rare in a draft pod of nine people. He cut me hard on the Sensei’s Divining Top, Yawgmoth’s Will, Brain Freeze, Dream Halls, and some other important normal storm cards. Therefore, I had to get a bit janky with this odd five-color storm deck without any recursion. However, it was a fun and skill-intensive deck to pilot and most of my games were enjoyable, so I left very pleased.

I hope you enjoyed my write-up! I’d like to hear comments on criticism on picks and MD/SB choices! Should I have done something differently?

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