Cube Drafting Strategy : Drafting around your bombs

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When I first started cube drafting, I wasn’t much of a magic player. (not that I am now) I had been playing casual magic with Sam, Kirk, and some other friends for only a few months and Sam invited me to his brother, Pete’s, house to draft his cube. Having no idea what a cube was or how to draft it, I, naturally, instantly agreed to join.

When we got to Pete’s house he asked me if I had drafted before and when my answer was no, he and Sam began explaining drafting mono-red aggro to me. Then, I was on my own. I think I ended up playing an awful UR deck that didn’t really do anything but i had a blast.

Since that time I have learned quite a bit about drafting cube through hundreds of cube drafts and lots of quality advice from people who whopped me. One thing my friend Kirk has always said about his drafts is that he always likes to draft around his most powerful cards. And that brings us to the point of this article:

Drafting Around Your Bombs

To help illustrate what Kirk means by all this, I am including his most recent decklist.

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[mtg_card]Black Lotus[/mtg_card] [mtg_card]Snuff Out[/mtg_card] [mtg_card]Maze of Ith[/mtg_card] [mtg_card]Repeal[/mtg_card] [mtg_card]Porcelain Legionnaire[/mtg_card]Oona, Queen of the Fae
[mtg_card]Riftwing Cloudskate[/mtg_card] [mtg_card]Regrowth[/mtg_card] [mtg_card]Demonic Tutor[/mtg_card] [mtg_card]Condescend[/mtg_card] [mtg_card]Fire/Ice[/mtg_card] [mtg_card]Mimic Vat[/mtg_card] [mtg_card]Phyrexian Arena[/mtg_card] [mtg_card]Sword of Body and Mind[/mtg_card] [mtg_card]Necromancy[/mtg_card] [mtg_card]Liliana of the Veil[/mtg_card] [mtg_card]Clone[/mtg_card] [mtg_card]Lodestone Golem[/mtg_card] [mtg_card]Sower of Temptation[/mtg_card] [mtg_card]Living Death[/mtg_card] [mtg_card]Mind Twist[/mtg_card] [mtg_card]Jace, Memory Adept[/mtg_card] [mtg_card]Oona, Queen of the Fae[/mtg_card] [mtg_card]Myr Battlesphere[/mtg_card] [mtg_card]Tropical Island[/mtg_card] [mtg_card]Misty Rainforest[/mtg_card]

What we mean by “Draft around your bombs”

When drafting cube, since all the cards are nasty, it can be difficult for new comers to sort out which one are first picks and which are not really first picks. However, hopefully everyone can see the obvious high picks in Kirk’s decklist.

I’m talking about the [mtg_card]Mind Twist[/mtg_card], [mtg_card]Jace Memory Adept[/mtg_card], [mtg_card]Liliana of the Veil[/mtg_card], [mtg_card]Sword of Body and Mind[/mtg_card], [mtg_card]Phyrexian Arena[/mtg_card],  [mtg_card]Living Death[/mtg_card] all the way to the [mtg_card]Black Lotus[/mtg_card]. These are the cards you want to draft around.

Black Lotus

After Kirk stomped me with this Winston-drafted monster, I asked him what his first pick of the draft was.

His answer: Black Lotus.

He went on to talk about how immediately after he got that lotus he started the hunt – digging for cards that make for ruthless plays off of a turn one  or turn two lotus.

His favorite first turn plays to make were turn one Liliana and turn one [mtg_card]Lodestone Golem[/mtg_card] – since either one of them would almost absolutely result in a win. The other card in this list that really is worth cracking a turn one lotus over is the [mtg_card]Phyrexian Arena[/mtg_card] – as I would argue that this play also should almost always mean a big W on the scoreboard.

Now, I know what you are saying and you’re right. Turn one lotus is not going to happen all the time and, when it does, you are not always going to have these cards with it. There will be times when you draw seven to find lotus sitting there with Sword, Necromancy, and Fire/Ice, and in these situations you just have to hope that you can top deck a sweet five drop.

Can you say, “Mind twist for five” on turn three? Sure ya can.

Beat the Living Death Out of ’em

Living Death

While Living Death might not be an incredible card to play early off of a Black Lotus, it has some nice synergy in this list.

Suppose your opening hand has Liliana, [mtg_card]Demonic Tutor[/mtg_card], Living Death, and lands. No lotus is alright, because we’re going to tutor for Myr Battlesphere, play [mtg_card]Liliana of the Veil[/mtg_card], discard the [mtg_card]Myr Battlesphere[/mtg_card] to her, then bring back the Myr Battlesphere while killing off their creatures with Living Death.

Not too shabby for a five drop.

Speaking of five drops, Jace, Memory Adept is precisely the kind of turn two play you want to have off of the lotus. But the fun doesn’t stop at just dropping him early. He also combo’s with [mtg_card]Living Death[/mtg_card].

Ever dump ten into your own graveyard just to Living Death all those creatures back?


And people say that [mtg_card]Jace, Memory Adept[/mtg_card] isn’t interactive enough…

Mill ’em Out

Maybe the Living Death is nowhere to be found and you just want to mill your opponent out. Well, Jace should be pretty good at doing that for you, too. But, what if your opponent manages to kill Jace after he has only hit their stack once?

No worries. Pop a Sword of Body and Mind onto a creature and take away ten more. Easy enough…

It’s getting into the real late game now. Your sword is gone and you’re staring down a strong opposing board. Your opponents library is down to six cards but without a great top deck, you’ll be dead in two turns. Then it happens: you pull an Oona off the top. Plop that beautiful Wizard into play and crank all the mana you’ve got into her. Good game.

Alright, lets really break this down.

Bomb Cards and Their Support

Bomb #1 – Black Lotus

Cards that have synergy with Black Lotus:

All of them. But particularly,

  • [mtg_card]Liliana of the Veil[/mtg_card]
  • [mtg_card]Lodestone Golem[/mtg_card]
  • [mtg_card]Phyrexian Arena[/mtg_card]
  • [mtg_card]Jace, Memory Adept[/mtg_card]
  • [mtg_card]Oona, Queen of the Fae[/mtg_card]
  • [mtg_card]Myr Battlesphere[/mtg_card]
  • [mtg_card]Mind Twist[/mtg_card]

Bomb #2 – Liliana of the Veil Liliana of the Veil

Cards that have synergy with Liliana:

  • Black Lotus
  • [mtg_card]Necromancy[/mtg_card]
  • [mtg_card]Lodestone Golem[/mtg_card] – Allows Lilliana to wreck their hand
  • [mtg_card]Living Death[/mtg_card]
  • [mtg_card]Mind Twist[/mtg_card] – immediately wreck their hand
  • [mtg_card]Maze of Ith[/mtg_card] – protection

Bomb #3 –  Jace, Memory Adept

Cards that have synergy with Jace:

  • Black Lotus
  • [mtg_card]Necromancy[/mtg_card]
  • [mtg_card]Sword of Body and Mind[/mtg_card]
  • [mtg_card]Lodestone Golem[/mtg_card]
  • [mtg_card]Living Death[/mtg_card] – sometimes
  • [mtg_card]Oona, Queen of the Fae[/mtg_card]

Bomb #4 – Living Death

Cards that have synergy with Living Death:

  • [mtg_card]Riftwing Cloudskate[/mtg_card] – avoids wrath while suspended
  • [mtg_card]Liliana of the Veil[/mtg_card]
  • [mtg_card]Oona, Queen of the Fae[/mtg_card] – Exiles off the top
  • [mtg_card]Myr Battlesphere[/mtg_card]

I have to stop because I could keep going all day.

This deck had bombs. And, the bombs were abused by other bombs.

I mean, seriously? Tutor out whatever you need and Regrow whatever you lose? It doesn’t get much meaner than that.

The hard part in Winston drafting is having the self discipline to put the cards that are so-so (synergistic-ally) with you’re awesome cards back and diggin’ on for synergy-gold.

Follow Kirk’s example by drafting around your bombs and you’ll be whopping people like he whopped me.

Until next time,

Happy Drafting