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By: Melestav, Lance Bohac
Jan 02 2015 12:00pm
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MTGO seems to have gotten it right again with another fun Holiday Cube format. I’ve spent the last week or so drafting the hell out of it pretty successfully. I’m playing primarily Swiss format due to the poor EV on the 8-4s and wanting more games to test builds. I'm going to take a look at some of my most successful archetypes and talk a bit about this very vibrant format.


This first deck is a Wildfire centric build and was a blast to play. Both Mana Crypt and Ancient Tomb were instrumental to powering out a quick planeswalker into blowing up the board. Crucible of Worlds was an allstar, comboing well with Strip Mine, the fetches, and the wildfires for easy recovery.

I would have liked at least one counterspell, but sometimes going fast ends up working. Daretti, Scrap Savant is amazing in this archetype. He comes out quick with just a signet and the double loot enables his second Trash for Treasure ability to quickly Tinker in a monster.


This Splinter Twin build would’ve worked much better with either Pestermite or Zealous Conscripts. As it was, I won about half my games via traditional beatdown and half via Deceiver Exarch combo. I ended up going 2-1 with the deck due to misclicking while comboing off. I’d been playing cards all day and a momentary lapse in concentration led to an unfortunate match loss. Hopefully someday MTGO will have a macro capability to automate infinite combos. Until then, my only suggestion is to focus on each individual step of the process and practice a few times out of competition. Imperial Recruiter continues to shine as an excellent card in the majority of my U/R builds. Having one card function on all 3 combo/agro/control axes is incredible. He is even a combo himself with Kiki – value!

On Vedalken Shackles:

I’ve found shackles to be an incredible card in previous iterations of the MTGO cubes and this one is…different. There are a number of creatureless/large creature only strategies in the Holiday cube this time around which certainly hampers its usefulness. Additionally, I’ve found it much harder to draft MonoBlue and the format is just faster. While shackles is a useful pickup for some matchups like MonoWhite, MonoRed, or the durdly green midrange decks, overall, it is much less important than in the past. Depending on your build, consider starting it in the side.


Splinter Twin without the twin. This is a more agro/control variant that still gets to run the cheaty combo kill. Extra nice due to both Kiki and Pestermite being good cards in the build anyway. Manic Vandal always makes the main deck in my red decks. Your opponent is going to have some sort of game breaking combo or equipment in this format and Vandal is an amazingly powerful response. Worst case is often a 3-mana 2/2 Stone Rain. I’ve found running a few small, aggressive creatures works out very well when attempting the twin combo. They control your opponent’s planeswalkers, make it more difficult to keep removal/counters up to stop the combo, and threaten a fine clock on their own.

On Library of Alexandria:

I’ve picked it every time I’ve seen it to date. I’ve won approximately 85% of the games I’ve had it in my opening 8. I could potentially see picking an on-color Mox over it, maybe a Lotus if I was hard combo. I don’t expect to have that choice to make. Just take it. Or don’t, if I’m playing with you.


One of my first Holiday cube drafts, the above is what can happen if you miss on half of the splinter combo. I’ve got all 3 of one half of the combo, but no twin/Kiki and have to try for the tempo/damage win. Fortunately, I end up getting matched against creature centric decks twice and get to Bribery a monster before my MonoGreen ramp opponent manages to cast one in the finals. I’m not a big fan of green ramp strategies in this format, particularly compared to the Legacy Cube. There are few Rampant Growth type effects and having most of your ramp in the form of creatures leaves you very cold to wraths.

On Thada Adel, Acquisitor:

She is pretty mediocre, but you can snatch people’s combo pieces or good equipment sometimes. Worth playing against the blue based midrange strategies. I needed her in this deck because I was low on ways to interact with control/planeswalker centric decks.


I was really happy with this deck, if just because Mana Drain into (Sphinx’s Revelation) feels dirty. In Holiday Cube, one can expect a large variety of threats to be coming from opposing decks. With that in mind, a control deck needs a large variety of answers and it needs to have the right one at the right time. I’m always happy to be playing counterspells in this format so I don’t have to care.

I value blue card selection very highly, with Brainstorm being the best. Brainstorm can combo with any fetchland or miracle spell and the ability to hide key cards from Thoughtseize has come up repeatedly. Keep an eye out for cards like Isamaru, Hound of Konda even when you’re more controllish. There is a very good chance you’ll be siding out 2-3 answers of the wrong type, and being able to bring in very efficient agro creatures can be great.


On Daze effects:

I love these so much right now. They give excellent early game defense to the control builds and just as solid disruption for the combo/agro decks. There is also that particular warm, fuzzy glow that emanates from the center of my being whenever I get someone with Mana Tithe in my white weenie builds.


Last one just for fun. I wouldn’t suggest drafting this deck as it is weak against a good portion of the field. It is amazing against the slower control/combo decks though. I started with a first pick Demonic Tutor that never got cast into a 2nd pick Hymn to Tourach, 3rd pick Necropotence and I never looked back.

Thinking about it, this list is only about 5 cards off what I think would be the best possible Mono Black build possible in Cube. (Something like Mox Jet Gravecrawler Bloodghast Black Lotus (Skull Clamp)) Amusing that I’m not even sure I’d take it every draft if I was guaranteed all the cards — would be a close call. Still, it did very well and had some broken openings with the Dark Ritual. One game went T1 ritual into Diregraf Ghoul + Bitterblossom. T2 Hymn to Tourach. T3 Liliana of the Veil. Won that one. I played Necropotence twice and won both games after drawing a billion cards against opponents that couldn’t pressure my life total quickly enough. 

I picked up the (Umezawa’s Jitte) 7th pick or so pack 2. This feels really late. Even though you don’t want to overload on equipment, Jitte just has that single card win-the-game potential you want. I’m generally going to be drafting it when I see it. I ended up not needing it, but the sideboard did contain a bit more disruption with the green splash for Reclamation Sage and Abrupt Decay. I would have brought it in vs. Oath of Druids or a heavy artifact style deck, along with the Null Rod.

On reanimator strategies:

I think they're a trap. You're incredibly easy to disrupt, often have to telegraph your plays a turn ahead of time and have a slower kill than the combo decks. You'll likely do great against the agro decks and some midrange though; hope for fortunate pairings!

 Closing thoughts

Black is really underdrafted. It is also pretty bad. If your draft isn’t going great, keep an eye out for the possibility of splashing black.

I would avoid straight green ramp strategies. It is tough to get to Eldrazi mana even with a very good deck and your other threats are all easily answerable. I like U/G the most, but I've also had successful hate bears-esque G/W decks. B/G and G/R are a bit lackluster due to their difficulty in addressing some types of threats.

Blue is awesome as always, but be ready to jump out of it if you don’t see a blue playable for 4-5 picks 1st pack. While deep, you can expect roughly half the table to be in blue.

Red is good stuff. Either R/W or R/U make for a good tempo deck. The wildfire/artifact centric builds are also a thing. A fun, fun thing. 

White is okay. Works well in U/W or Esper control. R/W agro is also pretty good with the two geddons available. White has the best removal in the cube and it is mostly very splashable. Having any of the three mana Oblivion Ring-esque answers for a resolved combo piece or ramped out monstrosity is nice.

Don’t go too deep down the rabbit hole for your combo builds or you’ll just lose to your own horrible mana base and non-synergistic cards.

There are an awful lot of planeswalkers in the cube. Make sure your deck has some good ways to interact with them or expect to be blown out. Have fun!


I have the free phantom by Joe Fiorini at Fri, 01/02/2015 - 18:07
Joe Fiorini's picture

I have the free phantom points everyone got, and I still haven't done a cube draft ever. It does seem fun, but I just haven't gotten around to it.

And I have to say, MTGO needs some way to repeat an infinite combo. not having a way to do this is 2015 is dumb.

Couldn't the program be set to realize a pattern, and once you clicked through it so many times, you'd get a prompt asking you if you wanted to repeat the process and how many times? Maybe because you're opponent is allowed to respond it makes it too complicated, i don't know.

You're right about Library of by TugaChampion at Sat, 01/03/2015 - 06:45
TugaChampion's picture

You're right about Library of Alexandria. It's crazy how it sometimes is passed more than once. Today I took it 4th or 5th pick! That is insane, it shouldn't happen. Obviously there are decks that want some cards more. Maybe your deck with Voltaic Key and Tezzeret with a lot of card draw needs Time Vault more than Library. Some artifact decks need Workshop more than Library. But most of the time, you can't really pass it.

I agree with everything here. by Doctor Anime at Sun, 01/04/2015 - 12:45
Doctor Anime's picture

I agree with everything here. I found UR to be the best colors because Splinter/Kiki is the easiest combo in deck design and execution, plus Blue is the best color, and wow is Dack Fayden amazing here with all these mana rocks!

Also had a lot of good experiences with UG. The awesomeness of Blue, the mana dorks + natural order + GSZ + artifact/enchantment hate of green, plus there's always the dream of opening a Time Vault and then late picking a Kiora's Follower. I traditionally loathe playing Green but it's so good in this Cube!

Mono Red Aggro is brutal and usually avoided like the plague. Only drafted it once, but Eidolon + Sulfuric Vortex + Hellrider in the same deck is unstoppable.

EDIT: Also Nissa in Green.. if you don't have sufficient removal those 4/4's are going to ruin your day.