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SPOTLIGHT CUBE SERIES: LIVE THE DREAM CUBE RETURNS
Posted in Magic Online on February 9, 2021
The Live the Dream Cube is coming back on Magic Online! That's right—everybody's favorite big-mana, wacky interaction, text-heavy cube has returned for another week of Commander-scaled battles!
For this run, we've got more Karoos, Ultimatums, Jaces, and cascade spells, plus even more mana fixing and unique build-arounds than last time—all here in the Magic Online Limited Lobby from February 10–17.
EVERYBODY HAS A DREAM
Since the cube was last on Magic Online, I've become a product manager for MTG Arena and have been making constant updates to the cube to prepare it for its second season. If you'd like to hear about the genesis of the cube, you can read up on its first run here. Since its last showing, I've added Zendikar Rising, Commander Legends, and Kaldheim cards to the cube. Today, I'll be going over the updated archetypes and digging a little deeper into some of my design philosophy.
I again worked with fellow David (David White, also known as @thrilryder) in testing a lot my new crazy ideas for the cube. While some were too crazy, and others weren't crazy enough, he was never afraid to give his thoughts when I would go down a path that could lead to less fun. His knowledge of how Magic and Commander used to play in the "good old days" was vital in making sure its return was the best version of the cube it could be. I recommend finding somebody you can trust to tell you how they see their views on the end goal when working together on something new, and I can think of no better person for me than Mr. White.
PRINCIPLES OF A DREAM
My main goal with the cube was to craft an environment that blends Commander and Cube. I aimed to take the "build your own deck/strategy" of Draft (I believe the kids nowadays call that a "roguelike") and combine it with the epic big-mana plays of Commander. As the creator of Commander VS, it's no surprise it's my favorite format, and while I've been designing cards for it for years and jamming it on SpellTable almost every weekend, Draft was my introduction to Magic, so it made sense to create an environment that fans of both 40- and 100-card formats could enjoy.
Other than the cube being almost as much fun to watch as it is to play, the other main area I've focused on is dynamic gameplay. What does that mean exactly? Sometimes it means more rules text and more decision making, sometimes it means fewer cards like Sanguine Bond that are only useful in a single archetype, but really it means each turn and each game is different from the previous.
All these spells can have a different impact in each game you cast them.
It also means that players get a chance to interact with each other. This means that threats don't come out early and that players don't have their ability to play the game inhibited at the early stages. Either the interaction is context-dependent, allowing skill to shine in Draft, sideboarding, or gameplay, or doesn't come down until the mid-game when other choices in the game have been made by both players.
These spells aren't weak, but they don't come down quite as fast as in, say, Vintage Cube.
A lot of removal in this format also functions as smoothing. To illuminate my creative bias, you won't find anything close to a Savannah Lions in any cube I make. To that end, the interactive spells here help bridge the early to mid-game into the late game when players can cast their threats, as here games rarely end when a traditional aggro would deem so. And since additional effects on spells cost additional mana, the more expensive nature of the interaction spells in the cube gives the more expensive threats and build-arounds time to breathe.
These spells aren't as efficient as they come but can help you draw out of mana flood or screw.
For this iteration, I completely reworked four of the archetypes, reconfigured gold cards to make playing more colors easier, and included at least one card of each three-color combination! Needless to say, if you played the initial version, the card selection has changed, but the plan is still the same: get some mana ramp, play some expensive spells, and create fun and weird interactions that make you think about Magic in a different way. In this environment, try to judge cards by their high ceilings and be prepared to construct even more eccentric decks and synergies you've never experienced before.
Here, I explain the eleven main archetypes you can draft around in this iteration. The environment is less on rails this time around, but almost every card has been chosen as it has a dream, or at least facilitates one, and one of my main goals while drafting is to get you to think about Magic in a way that's different from what you're used to.
The strongest archetype from the first run of the cube returns! There's a reason it was the winningest deck before, and that reason is still mostly here: play some creatures with enters-the-battlefield effects, cheaply reuse those effects, and board the train to Valuetown. Most decks cheat on mana by playing different, more expensive creatures. Why should you do that when your cheaper creatures can do the job just fine again and again. Your opponent better not turn their back or look away—you blink, and they're dead.
BLUE-BLACK ROGUES AND NINJAS
Unite two of Magic's sneakiest tribes into one evasive unit! In a uniquely aggressive take on this color pairing, use your small evasive creatures to get hits in, and then take all you can from your opponent's deck and give nothing back. Or just draw more cards because that's cool, too. And for all you Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni fans out there, don't worry! Even though we've increased the Rogue count, everybody's favorite Rat Ninja isn't going anywhere in this Magic Online cube.
BLACK-RED STEAL 'N' SAC
Not only is this the most threatening archetype, but it's willing to sacrifice anything for the win; namely the other player's cards! In the case your opponent isn't playing with good creatures, don't worry, just make some of your own all in the name of victory while you attack early on with menacing monsters. There are tons of ways to reap rewards for either player sacrificing permanents, and you'll often be rewarded for your removal. This deck is as aggro as this cube gets and commits piracy in more ways than one!
Creatures that let you cast other and better creatures is what's on the menu for this archetype. Why settle for playing one puny creature a turn when you can play more? And those creatures munch on your opponent's puny creatures. This deck doesn't even know the definition of puny, which is not good for the other archetypes. Not Gruul? Then puny.
GREEN-WHITE TITANIC TOKENS
While other decks are mucking around with graveyards, this archetype will have you playing the most mana and the most creatures! Use creatures that generate mana to deploy more creatures and more planeswalkers that deploy more creatures than your opponent can keep up with. And before you know it, those 1/1 Soldiers become 6/6 Angels, and you're onto your next match!
Just because a creature costs seven mana doesn't mean you have to wait until turn seven for it to hit the battlefield. While black-green wants the graveyard full of small things, white-black wants just the good stuff. Grind your opponents to dust with removal spells and the best creatures in the cube. And even if your threats are sent back from whence they came, you know the saying: you can't keep a good angel down.
BLUE-RED CHONKY SPELLS
The most unfair deck of them all is back! Most of the blue and red gold cards both deal damage and draw cards. Now, I could stop there for most folks (me included), but the dreams don't end! Put some expensive spells in your graveyard and take some extra turns on the cheap, or cast any of the three blue and red Ultimatums in the game without paying their mana costs. All copied of course, because Izzet.
Spider Spawning is back, with even more spiders! If that statement is the kind of thing that makes you happy, then come and join the Swarm. Put your opponent between a Rock and a hard place as here, your graveyard is merely an extension of your hand. Get some self-mill, some solid removal, and some creatures that just won't stay dead to drop that "g" and turn your graveyard into a raveyard.
Step 1: Play red and white creatures that, once damaged, can pay out large dividends.
Step 2: Deal unreasonable amounts of damage to said creatures.
Step 3: ????
Step 4: Profit!
Some people say Commander is about two things: mana and card draw. If you agree with that, this is the archetype for you! Accrue lands from all sorts of places, and then cast some spells where X=20. Many of the cards in the cube allow you to play cards from the top of your library, so try to wrestle some Time Walk effects from those pesky Izzet mages. Just be sure you have enough threats, as there's no Laboratory Maniac to bail you out. This is the one archetype where you might play 20 lands in a 42-card deck!
The dreamiest archetype of them all aims to cast all the sweetest cards in the Multiverse. With some mana acceleration in your domain, you'll be able to cast the biggest, baddest spells in the cube. While Coalition Victory was made of imperfect parts, the Prismatic Dream lives on and continues to be the defining feature of the cube.
And those are just the fully supported archetypes! There are plenty of other build-around cards that I'm sure will create some play patterns I never expected and hope will spark some joy!
That's enough from me! There's nothing I enjoy more than making fun experiences for folks, so if you can find some time to try out this cube, give it a shot and let me know with #MTGOCube on Twitter. Bringing this cube to all of you has been living a dream of my own, and I hope that in a small way, this cube can help you live your own dream, whether it's an escape from reality, making your own games, or anything in between.
LIVE THE DREAM CUBE ACHIEVEMENTS
Hiding in Plain Sight: Activate Zareth San, the Trickster returning a creature that isn't printed as a Rogue.
Birthing Birthing Pod: Populate a Birthing Pod.
Plus Ultra: Deal 100 damage or more with a single spell.
Fourtell: Have four foretold cards in exile at once.
Select All Adaptation: Cast Selective Adaptation to put six creatures into your hand.
The Last Unicorn: Target a Unicorn with Emiel the Blessed.
Coin Flipper: Create at least four tokens of a single creature with Mirror March.
Critical Turn: Win the game on turn two without a concession.
Speedrun: Trigger all three chapters of a Saga on the same turn.
The Ultra-Matum: Cast all three of this cube's Ultimatums in the same game.