Playing Chromatic Cube

 At the end of June till the beginning of July of 2022, Magic: The Gathering Arena (MTGA) brought back their Chromatic Cube event. As mentioned previously, I got on Arena to play and test more Magic to create a better cube. This event was something I had to check out. I played it multiple times to get a feel for it and I genuinely had a lot of fun, though I did misunderstand the environment. 


When I first saw the announcement, I was a little skeptical about how they could have a decent cube on MTGA since the card pool was relatively shallow with a lot of the cooler cards being in supplemental products that may have not made it to MTGA.  I did a brief reading of the description and saw that the emphasis was on big spells color dense spelled, which hurt my sensibilities. I presume the gameplay would be clunky and lead to a poor experience. I proceeded to do slightly more research by clicking the link they provided to their cube list and boy did that deter me from doing further research. If you have never seen how WotC displays their cube list, I posted a picture below for you to see. The layout is inefficient for cube and I do not understand why WotC uses it (WotC if you see this just contact the Cube Cobra guys). Since I entirely forgot that the list could exist on Cube Cobra, I decided I'm going to just enter the mayhem and figure things out as I go along with it. It's the way I learn things normally anyways since I'm not a fan of doing intense prep work. 

Why you do this WotC? This could be used better

Strategic Planning (Drafting and Deck Building)

I was able to get into a fair amount of drafts near the end of the event since I had other priorities that took me away from doing it. The draft phase (and really any cube draft) was overwhelming. There's so many cards just in your face at once and it takes me a little while to figure what the pick is, especially since I can't rare draft and I really didn't look at the card list. What I ended up starting off with was to pick a really general card that could fit in any deck to play it safe and I proceeded to just keep picking value cards. During the first draft, this seemed like an okay strategy, I was able to draft this really sweet UW Flicker deck that was just value. I believe this was the draft where I managed to avoid playing any Arena only cards, which did take me by surprise since I didn't really spend the time to evaluate the cards. 

During my subsequent drafts, the realization hit me that I could get away with drafting whatever I wanted and I did. This is something I notice in my own cubes at time that players can draft almost anything they want and still build a coherent deck. The only time I've seen this as an issue is when I have 2-3 people fighting for the same colors. With this mindset, I was putting less thought into what I was drafting, but it became way more enjoyable to make decisions since I chose a deck to play and navigated the draft to get me playing that deck. This only backfired on me once (which is on YouTube) since I tried to draft monored aggro when it wasn't a supported playstyle and got wrecked since I realized too late. As a general preference I drafted primarily 2 color deck. The main reason for this was that I was concerned about getting colored screwed, even though the cube did encourage you to go crazy.

The hell is this WotC?
I also began experimenting with the Arena only cards and I gotta say they're busted. Some create interesting lines of play since the interaction with other cards was just insane (in my game play videos, check out Lurrus and Sigardian Evangel). Other cards were boring to use, though they were strong and took over games when played (Arming Gala). At heart, I'm still a purist for paper MTG and playing with these card did not interest me in including them into my cube. In addition, these cards did not feel like Magic cards. The arena mechanics just felt wrong to play with. They gave too much value and I felt they ruined the color pie by giving every color the same type of card advantage.

When it came to deckbuilding, naturally through the drafting process the deck came together mostly on its own. I was a little overwhelmed since I was able to grab almost everything I wanted, which made the hardest part the cutting process. I tried to keep my curve low since I was concerned that playing a slow deck would only lead to me getting ran over. During each building phase, I noticed that there were barely any 1 drops and so I stacked on a lot of  2 drops and had this great curve that topped off at 5MV. It wasn't until I tried to draft an aggressive monored deck did I notice that aggro was not supported.  

Into the Fray (Gameplay)

The gameplay for this cube was really fun when the decks were operational. At first, I was concerned that they might have been too clunky, however upon multiple play throughs, the games did not really play anything until turn 3-4. Often, land go was the play turns 1 and 2. I noticed that my opponents (and myself occasionally) would even do it turn 3. What this lead to was me pushing as much damage as I could since I was on a lower curve. Games really didn't get going until turn 4 or 5 where people had their more impactful plays set up. I believe that gameplay during those moments was what the cube designer was going for since the turns were so crazy on both ends. An example was when I was playing Azorius Flicker, I was able to do peak value plays with Barrin, Master Wizard, Welcoming Vampire and Thassa, Deep Dwelling. 

These types of plays were a common occurrence. It actually reminds me a lot of playing commander in more casual environments. Since removal is lighter at that level of play, people are able to play their synergies out and do some wild things like Barrin+ Thassa every turn. Interesting, I did not feel that the games were swingy even though value plays were going on all game. From my experience, removal was slower than traditional cubes, which allowed plays like this to happen. When these plays were made, the game never polarized or the other player just died, meaning he/she did not have to sit through another several turns of possible slow playing.

Reflections of the Mirror Breaker

One of the things I like about playing other formats outside of cube is that it inspires me to include different playstyles and interactions in. One example is the inclusion of RW Kiki Combo in my traditional cube, which is played mostly in EDH and is part of my Alesha Commander deck (Mardu Supremacy). From this cube, I saw a lot I liked about it. While it doesn't really fit into how I want my traditional cube to operate, this is ideally how I'm wanting my EDH cube to operate. The game play was slow, but it wasn't as noticeable thanks to the automation from MTGA. Games didn't start feeling like games until turn 3-5, which in traditional cubes is either when games end or when they start to end. I did like that the games spent a couple turns to set up since that's about when casual edh games really start moving along since those first few turns are typically setting up your mana rocks and any engines that get your deck moving. I might have said this already, but I really do want to replicate this pace and play experience for my commander cube, which I feel is currently a loss child.

Much like in casual edh, every player will get a chance to have their big explosive plays, which is always a good experience. One of the problems with large plays  is the best and worst aspects of in person Magic: the human element. I'm not referring to the social aspect either ( I think its hilarious when people popoff and the most memorable parts are always the swings in emotion), I am referring to keeping track of all the triggers. I love playing Storm and think it's one of the most exciting things to do, but keeping track of mana and storm count is not the most fun activity for the other 3 players at the table. This reason has made MTGA's automation of triggers a blessing, since you can go crazier and the system in place ensures that you did it correctly. One of the games I got 3-5 triggers for Soul Herder and I wouldn't have caught that on paper because I misread how Soul Herder works due to my lack of experience with the card. This is a deterrent to include too many interactions since it turns waiting for these turns to resolve into a chore and really detracts from how exciting these really are.

Overall, this cube was a great experience and will be an influence on how I'm restructuring my EDH cube. If you want to see some of the game play from Chromatic Cube, I have it recorded without commentary which you can check by clicking this link or going to my YouTube channel Wake Up Gaming. With all that being said, thanks for taking the time to read. If you appreciate my work, just leave a comment to let me know someone is actually reading these or to say I'm utter trash. If you have questions or corrections you can use the contact form or leave a comment on Reddit. If you want to stay up to date with my stuff, feel free to join my email list at the bottom of the post or click here for the link to join. If you want to support the work I'm doing, please consider using my affiliate link with TCGplayer if you were already using them to buy cards or going to my Patreon. Your support will go to upgrading this website to become more user friendly and informative.