Pack 1 Pick 1 #11

Recently I tried to record a mock draft for the site again. I ended up not finishing it because a card that had no business tabling tabled and it felt way too fake for me to happily release the video, but the pack 1 pick 1 was quite interesting and I feel warranted a closer look. I spent a lot of time talking about my options, so without further adieu here is what was in the pack (sorry about the lack of visual spoiler, I couldn’t recreate the pack from the video):

Mind Stone
Wurmcoil Engine
Hallowed Fountain
Pithing Needle
Faith’s Fetters
Flooded Strand
Qasali Pridemage
Wild Mongrel
Arc Lightning
Into the Roil
Myr Battlesphere

There are a few cards that are clearly in consideration, but there are a bunch of fine cards as ell. For starters, the lands are all pretty good. UW are both colors that are splashed since you want to play the single blue power cards in almost all decks, and white removal is some of the best removal in cube. Mind Stone is a great card since it ramps you up and replaces itself once you don’t need the excess mana, even though it doesn’t fix you like a majority of the cubeable 2 mana artifact rampers. Man-o-War is a fine card that fits into a lot of deck, and the same can be said about Into the Roil. Overall, this is a pretty strong pack if you’re not looking at the first pickable cards.

The 4 cards I’d seriously be considering here are Skullclamp, Wurmcoil Engine, Myr Battlesphere, and Bribery. Some have a stronger case than others, so I’d like to go through why I would or wouldn’t take each one.

Myr Battlesphere is the weakest of the four, but if it was only the Battlesphere I’d happily take it here. I think this card is just super sick. 7 mana is a decent amount, but you’re playing it in decks that can either cast or cheat it into play. It survives the Terminate test in that it leaves a sizable army behind if your opponent manages to deal with it. Overall, Battlesphere is insane. But is it as strong as Skullclamp? Wurmcoil? And who cares about a Battlesphere when you can wreck that deck with a well-timed Bribery? Battlesphere is a sick sick 7 drop, and one that I would go as far as to classify as a staple in cube, but it is without a doubt the 4th strongest card here.

The next three cards are on a similar power level but all do a bit different things, so the order I talk about them from here on out are not indicative of which one I would choose.

Wurmcoil Engine is the best finisher in cube. It’s super resilient, only getting destroyed by the few pieces of white removal that exile it. 6 mana is not an insane amount against most decks in cube, and if you are on the ropes by the time you can cast it, Wurmcoil will typically allow you to stabilize by gaining you 6 life against whatever attack they send your way. It’s an insanely strong first pick since it allows you to go into any midrange to control strategy, of which there are a lot of possible decks that can play that way in cube. If they manage to send it to the graveyard, you still have a sizable army of 3/3s, and once you start recurring the Wurmcoil in a variety of ways then things get out of hand. I wish they still printed pre-release promos that are as strong as the Wurmcoil Engine, because it’s sweet to get those special foils for cube.

If you take Wurmcoil here, you have to watch out for Bribery, which is one of the sickest cards in cube. Yes, there’s power and crazy fast mana and what not, but Bribery does so friggin much. For starters, it does what it obviously does and grabs the best creature out of your opponent’s deck, reducing one more good draw for them while giving you what will most likely be a monster. But since you can look through their whole deck, you get to figure out what’s in their hand, what they can draw into, and if it’s a game 1 you learn what their whole gameplan is and what can beat you. Because of this Bribery is one of the more skill intensive cards in cube. Sure, anyone can look through a deck and grab a big dumb creature, but it takes some cube knowledge and insight to what was in the draft and in your opponent’s deck to look through the whole thing and know what they have in their hand, allowing you to prepare for what are known commodities. They may have a strong bomb left in the deck, but if you notice a lot of removal–or lack of cards seen in the first game–you can try to guarantee your new creature sticking around by looking for something with hexproof or protection from the spell of sorts. Bribery in games 2 or 3 can be weaker if they side out their massive bombs against you, but you can also see the new cards they brought in if they’re still in the deck. Bribery does a lot for a focused card. (This was the card that tabled which I mentioned earlier. Saw that and had to quit. Oh bots, you don’t know anything!)

Finally there’s Skullclamp. In contrast to Bribery and Wurmcoil Engine–which are both insane bombs that go in decks which can cast them–Skullclamp wants you to build around it and rewards you insanely if you do, but is a fine card regardless if you don’t have a lot of token producers/1 toughness creatures but you’re still running creatures that can wear it. Face to face against Bribery or Wurmcoil, you can’t clearly pick out which would win, since skullclamp is less high-impact when it hits the board and instead gains you tons of card advantage which you can funnel out of your hand. Skullclamp draws a lot of cards in decks which typically can’t and gives creatures pseudo-unblockability, as trading with an early 3/1 on turn two off equipping a 2/2 and giving that aggressive deck two more cards to drop against you in a rush is not advantageous. Most decks at that point will be blocking with mana dorks or their own offense, and they’re losing that race.

In the mock draft I ended up taking Skullclamp, but I’m not sure I would make that pick again. I mean, I definitely could take Skullclamp on any given day, but there are good reasons to strongly consider Wurmcoil and Bribery versus the Skullclamp. With Bribery, there is not a lot of blue in the pack; when thinking about this article and looking back on my choice I thought there was, but cards like fetches, duals, and the bounce spells aren’t reasons withing the first 4 picks to go into blue. (I would take a fetch and maybe a dual that early, but taking lands don’t force you into a color, they allow you to play more and stay open minded about what’s available.) Blue is a place I’m looking to be in cube, since blue is an amazing color in cube. Recall, Time Walk, JTMS; some of the best overall cards are blue, and to take them without hesitation is great. Wurmcoil is also a crazy pick here as having the best finisher in cube is pretty great. He fits in a variety of decks as well, from the Tinker blue decks to green ramp and even as a top-end card in a variety of other slow or mid range strategies.

For me it’s really between Skullclamp and Bribery. If I’m going to take the bomb, I’d rather take the bomb that nullifies both the Wurmcoil and Battlesphere. But if I want to build the specific deck, I’d take skullclamp. Today I am feeling a tad lazy and kinda want to make an aggressive deck if I were to draft, so I’m leaning towards skullclamp, but Bribery is extremely close as well. I don’t know! This is tough.

What would you choose? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading.