Close to the Edge: Mono-Blue Cube Overview By ElMikkino Jan 14, 2014 Category Icon Articles 0 Comments are available here. A look of utter disgust hits your face. As you recover from the shock, you slouch your head forward, holding it in your hand, wide-eyed. You shake your head from side to side, so appalled at someone having the nerve to even think of that. You're aware you may never be able to come to terms with it, and you decide to click on the link only out of morbid fascination. That might've happened just now. Or... Your eyes light up like a kid's on Christmas morning. Almost unwillingly, a grin begins to stretch across your face; one that may be described as "creepy" by someone sitting beside you. You think of how you'll never feel forced into Mono-Red or a green ramp strategy. You'll always have your old friend or something like it somewhere in your deck, as your safeguard against the monsters, countering them as they're being cast. You need to know the specifics, and you click on the link joyously. I've never seen someone react to the fact that I've made a Mono-Blue Cube in any other way. Only those two options exist. It's a shame that two-thirds of people go for the first one, because what started out as just a curiosity-fuelled experiment has blossomed into an actually extremely fun draft format. There's ramp, midrange, combo, control, aggro... any broad strategy you can find in a regular cube exists here, albeit looking drastically different. There are also a few narrower ones that you could never even dream of drafting normally. It's surprisingly varied, and the only constant is knowing your opponent has something when coloured mana's untapped. I got the idea and started work on this back in August, when someone came to my local card shop with what he called his "Mono-Brown" cube—a cube that contained almost all artifacts, with many weird and wacky strategies available. After drafting that a couple of times, it got me thinking, instead of excluding all the colours, what if I included only one in a cube? The idea of cubing always intrigued me, but I'm a guy who likes to do things in a unique way, and regular cubing seemed too much of a "solved format" to really make it seem like my own creation. I've also found that many players, including myself, are simply overwhelmed when they open a cube pack, and don't know what to take, what to draft, or really what to do at all. I figured that limiting it to one colour would take away most of that uncertainty, and I chose blue for a few reasons: I guessed it was the only colour that had good control, combo and aggro strategies, the first being obvious, the second being decks reminiscent of the one's in Urza's Block, and the third being Merfolk.It would probably lead to the most interaction out of all of the colours due to the counterspells."Mono-Blue" just sounds more exciting to people than mono-black, white, or, god forbid, red or green. Marketing and presentation is an important aspect of cubing, because even if your cube is awesome, if no one knows that, it might was well be terrible. After many months of advertising, adjusting, testing, collecting most of the cards and sadly proxying the ones above $30, I was recently able to unleash this beast upon the world in mid-December. It's been drafted a few times since then, and all of them have been amazing experiences. I bet even the naysayers among you are now all itching to hear more, am I right? But one last thing before we get into the main part of the article: as many (fairly annoying) nitpickers have pointed out, I can't technically call this a Mono-Blue cube. It also includes artifacts, lands, and a few hybrid cards. What matters, though, is that there is no logical reason to play any non-blue basics. While the name may not be technically correct, I've found that it's catchiness makes up for the occasional complaint. It's certainly better than anything else I could call it. Mono-Blue CubeMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards Creatures (138)1 Adaptive Automaton1 Aeon Chronicler1 AEtherling1 Ambassador Laquatus1 Arcanis the Omnipotent1 Archaeomancer1 Augur of Bolas1 Blightsteel Colossus1 Braids, Conjurer Adept1 Briarberry Cohort1 Chancellor of the Spires1 Cloud of Faeries1 Cloudfin Raptor1 Cold-Eyed Selkie1 Conundrum Sphinx1 Copper Gnomes1 Coralhelm Commander1 Cursecatcher1 Darksteel Colossus1 Delver of Secrets1 Dewdrop Spy1 Draining Whelk1 Drift of Phantasms1 Drowner Initiate1 Dungeon Geists1 Duplicant1 Elite Arcanist1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn1 Enclave Cryptologist1 Errant Ephemeron1 Ertai, Wizard Adept1 Faerie Harbinger1 Frost Titan1 Geralf's Mindcrusher1 Glen Elendra Archmage1 Gomazoa1 Grand Architect1 Hammerhead Shark1 Hedron Crab1 Horizon Drake1 Illusionary Servant1 Illusory Angel1 Inkfathom Infiltrator1 Inkwell Leviathan1 Inspired Sprite1 Jace's Archivist1 Jushi Apprentice1 Kederekt Leviathan1 Kuldotha Forgemaster1 Laboratory Maniac1 Lighthouse Chronologist1 Llawan, Cephalid Empress1 Looter il-Kor1 Lord of Atlantis1 Lullmage Mentor1 Master of the Pearl Trident1 Master of Waves1 Master Thief1 Master Transmuter1 Meloku the Clouded Mirror1 Merfolk Assassin1 Merfolk Looter1 Merfolk Mesmerist1 Merfolk Sovereign1 Merfolk Spy1 Merrow Harbinger1 Merrow Reejerey1 Metalworker1 Minister of Impediments1 Mothdust Changeling1 Mulldrifter1 Myr Battlesphere1 Nightveil Specter1 Nimbus Naiad1 Ninja of the Deep Hours1 Oona, Queen of the Fae1 Overtaker1 Painter's Servant1 Palinchron1 Patron Wizard1 Pestermite1 Phantasmal Bear1 Phantasmal Dragon1 Phantasmal Image1 Phyrexian Ingester1 Phyrexian Metamorph1 Platinum Angel1 Plumeveil1 Precursor Golem1 Prognostic Sphinx1 Puresight Merrow1 Raven Guild Master1 Riftwing Cloudskate1 Riptide Director1 Sage of Fables1 Sand Squid1 Sea Drake1 Sea Gate Oracle1 Sea Scryer1 Seasinger1 Serendib Efreet1 Shapesharer1 Signal Pest1 Silvergill Adept1 Skywatcher Adept1 Snapcaster Mage1 Sower of Temptation1 Spellstutter Sprite1 Spiketail Drakeling1 Spire Golem1 Sprite Noble1 Steel Hellkite1 Stern Mentor1 Stonybrook Banneret1 Sygg, River Cutthroat1 Talrand, Sky Summoner1 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir1 Temporal Adept1 Thada Adel, Acquisitor1 Thalakos Deceiver1 Thassa, God of the Sea1 Thistledown Liege1 True-Name Nemesis1 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre1 Vaporkin1 Vedalken AEthermage1 Vendilion Clique1 Venser, Shaper Savant1 Vesuvan Shapeshifter1 Vexing Sphinx1 Vodalian Knights1 Void Stalker1 Voidmage Prodigy1 Wake Thrasher1 Wasp Lancer1 Waterfront Bouncer1 Welkin Tern1 Wurmcoil EngineInstants (82)1 Ancestral Recall1 Annul1 Archive Trap1 Blue Sun's Zenith1 Boomerang1 Brain Freeze1 Brainstorm1 Broken Ambitions1 Capsize1 Careful Consideration1 Commandeer1 Complicate1 Condescend1 Counterspell1 Crippling Chill1 Cryptic Command1 Cyclonic Rift1 Daze1 Delay1 Deprive1 Dismiss1 Dispel1 Disrupt1 Dissipate1 Dissolve1 Dizzy Spell1 Dream Twist1 Evacuation1 Exclude1 Fact or Fiction1 Flash of Insight1 Flusterstorm1 Foil1 Forbid1 Force of Will1 Force Spike1 Frantic Search1 Gainsay1 Gush1 High Tide1 Impulse1 Into the Roil1 Logic Knot1 Long-Term Plans1 Mana Drain1 Mana Leak1 Meditate1 Mental Misstep1 Miscalculation1 Misdirection1 Muddle the Mixture1 Mystical Tutor1 Negate1 Opportunity1 Pact of Negation1 Peek1 Peer Through Depths1 Piracy Charm1 Pongify1 Psionic Blast1 Psychic Barrier1 Rapid Hybridization1 Ray of Command1 Remand1 Repeal1 Rewind1 Spell Pierce1 Spell Snare1 Steel Sabotage1 Stroke of Genius1 Swan Song1 Syncopate1 Telling Time1 Think Twice1 Thought Scour1 Thwart1 Turnabout1 Vapor Snag1 Vision Charm1 Visions of Beyond1 Wheel and Deal1 WithdrawArtifacts (58)1 Aeolipile1 Aether Spellbomb1 AEther Vial1 Ankh of Mishra1 Basalt Monolith1 Black Lotus1 Black Vise1 Bonesplitter1 Brittle Effigy1 Caged Sun1 Candelabra of Tawnos1 Chalice of the Void1 Coalition Relic1 Coat of Arms1 Codex Shredder1 Elixir of Immortality1 Extraplanar Lens1 Gilded Lotus1 Grafted Wargear1 Grim Monolith1 Grindclock1 Grindstone1 Howling Mine1 Isochron Scepter1 Keening Stone1 Knowledge Pool1 Mana Crypt1 Mana Vault1 Memory Jar1 Mind Stone1 Mindslaver1 Mishra's Helix1 Mortarpod1 Mox Diamond1 Mox Sapphire1 Nevinyrral's Disk1 Oblivion Stone1 Powder Keg1 Pyxis of Pandemonium1 Ratchet Bomb1 Runechanter's Pike1 Sands of Delirium1 Sapphire Medallion1 Sensei's Divining Top1 Skullclamp1 Smokestack1 Sol Ring1 Strata Scythe1 Sword of Body and Mind1 Sword of Fire and Ice1 Tangle Wire1 Thran Dynamo1 Time Vault1 Umezawa's Jitte1 Vedalken Shackles1 Voltaic Key1 Winter Orb1 Worn PowerstoneSorceries (33)1 All Is Dust1 Ancestral Vision1 Braingeyser1 Call to Mind1 Deep Analysis1 Devastation Tide1 Enter the Infinite1 Fabricate1 Gitaxian Probe1 Ideas Unbound1 Increasing Confusion1 Legerdemain1 Memory Sluice1 Merchant Scroll1 Mind Sculpt1 Personal Tutor1 Ponder1 Portent1 Preordain1 Serum Visions1 Shape Anew1 Show and Tell1 Sleight of Hand1 Temporal Fissure1 Time Spiral1 Time Stretch1 Time Walk1 Timetwister1 Tinker1 Tome Scour1 Undo1 Upheaval1 WindfallLands (27)1 Academy Ruins1 Ancient Tomb1 Blinkmoth Nexus1 Buried Ruin1 Cavern of Souls1 Contested War Zone1 Desert1 Faerie Conclave1 Inkmoth Nexus1 Library of Alexandria1 Lonely Sandbar1 Maze of Ith1 Mishra's Factory1 Mishra's Workshop1 Mutavault1 Quicksand1 Rath's Edge1 Reliquary Tower1 Remote Isle1 Riptide Laboratory1 Rishadan Port1 Shelldock Isle1 Strip Mine1 The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale1 Tolaria West1 Tolarian Academy1 Tower of the MagistrateEnchantments (17)1 Bident of Thassa1 Claustrophobia1 Control Magic1 Curiosity1 Eye of the Storm1 Flood1 Leyline of Anticipation1 Meishin, the Mind Cage1 Mind Over Matter1 Omniscience1 Power Artifact1 Propaganda1 Sensory Deprivation1 Standstill1 Take Possession1 Treachery1 Veiled SerpentPlaneswalkers (5)1 Jace, Architect of Thought1 Jace Beleren1 Jace, Memory Adept1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor1 Karn Liberated This is the current list of 360, but it changes a fair amount. At the moment, I'm fairly happy with it, but I'm always on the lookout for underperforming cards, or just cards that no-one's performing with at all. The cube is powered, and I personally believe that it'd be a mistake to try and go without. The counterspells prevent things like Sol Ring and Black Lotus from being too broken, and without them, one of the largest archetypes loses a lot of support. Because the cube's limit to one colour, some things just don't show up as much as they usually do. Removal in particular is hard to come by, and the removal spells that exist, while overcosted, are actually all decent picks. Psionic Blast in particular can even be a first pick, as it's the only spell that can burn someone out effectively. Artifact removal is also hard to come by and overcosted, forcing me to get creative with the cards I put in (though it is pretty sweet to steal someone's Blightsteel Colossus with a Master Thief off a Show and Tell). Another facet that's a product of the whole thing being blue is just the sheer number of counterspells that are in it, and how their ubiquitous presence warps the whole format. Cards like Pestermite get miles better because of it, since you'll constantly get games where the first few turns just consist of playing Islands and passing. This can make games a very skill-testing and cerebral affair. Knowing if it's better to cast Conundrum Sphinx now or to hold up Mana Leak for another turn can be the difference between winning and losing. Once something is on the board, it largely stays there. Now for the archetypes. These are what prevent the cube from just being everyone fighting for everything. Most of these were artificially created, but they're now all pretty much organic, changing from deck to deck with some cards proving themselves to be much better than I expected. Eight distinct archetypes are supported, and I'll go into detail on each one: Control The most basic of all the archetypes, and the one that is the easiest to see. In practice, though, it's one of the hardest to draft. Counterspells are the backbone of this archetype, but how many is too many? Is this three-mana hard counter better than this two-mana soft one? Which is better, Ratchet Bomb or Evacuation? These are only a few of the many questions a control pilot will have to answer while drafting, deckbuilding, and playing. The lack of good answers to anything onboard makes it so control drafters have to value bounce spells higher than they otherwise would. Dealing with troublesome artifacts is especially problematic, so you should also keep an eye out for cards like Legerdemain or Steel Sabotage. All of these ins and outs make for a tough archetype to be successful with, but it you know the cube and deck type well, you'll be well on your way to crushing more inexperienced players in the longest, most drawn-out way possible. Aggro-Control A slightly more forgiving archetype than pure control. This deck focuses on playing evasive threats that are small, have flash, or both, and eventually winning with them while staying safe behind a curtain of countermagic. I describe this archetype as more forgiving because your creatures give you some answers to smaller on-board threats; additionally, bounce spells are things you actively want to play rather than being forced to, as you value tempo as well as card advantage. Anyone who remembers playing Delver or Faeries fondly will feel very familiar with this strategy. Merfolk If you want to draft aggro, this is what you go for if you're shooting high. A Merfolk deck that gets the right density of them can be nigh-unbeatable, especially if backed up by cheap counters and broken cards like the Swords. On the other hand, if they just don't get opened, or if two or more people are forcing it, everyone can just end up with a bad aggro deck--non-evasive Merfolk are fairly lame. But if you like drafting Mono-Red in normal cubes, I think you'll be able to find happiness with this deck. It's got the risk, it's got the reward, and it certainly has the good beats. Flier Aggro The less ambitious aggro strategy. Unlike Merfolk, this deck's power level is fairly consistent—a Horizon Drake is an Illusionary Servant is a Sea Drake. Don't go thinking this is an easy strategy to beat, though—if you're unprepared, what just looks like a mere Core Set Skies deck will come flying over and crashing through your skull. These little beasties are ones to be feared and respected, and they've already won over at least one of my regular drafters. Tinker/Show and Tell/Academy Artifacts When someone says they've drafted a "combo deck" in this cube, 80% of the time, it can fall under this broad category. Decks here can range from glass cannon turn 1 Blightsteel Colossus decks to engine-y, resilient, combo-laden Tolarian Academy artifact decks. But whether they're smashing face with an 11/11 infect or untapping a Time Vault with a Voltaic Key, these decks can be downright dangerous and deadly if you don't have counters aplenty. This deck alone makes Annul a maindeckable card, and warrants Shape Anew's and Master Thief's inclusion. No doubt do these decks warp the metagame around them, but to tell the truth, I wouldn't have it any other way. Mill Blue burn, but better. These decks prey on the natural card-drawing tendencies of many decks in this cube, and can be very powerful if the right cards are opened. There are mill cards like Mind Sculpt that can outrace aggro, and slow, inevitable mill cards like Pyxis of Pandemonium that give control decks fits. A well-drafted and constructed mill deck can be the bane of most any deck at the table, but a poorly-drafted one can crash and burn extremely quickly. High Tide/Storm On a rare occassion, this deck gets opened like magic, and someone is gifted with a fun and powerful combo deck that rewards play skill a lot more than a simple Tinker/Show list. Unfortunately, nine times out of ten, the namesake card just gets opened too late, or there are less than eight people at the table and not all the cards needed are opened at all. Trying to draft it is a risky proposition in and of itself, but the rewards can be great. Think of it like normal storm decks in the MTGO Cube. If you consider all of those trainwrecks, you won't much like this deck either; on the other hand, if you're the guy who's always snapping up Tendrils of Agony, I think you'll be very happy to get this deck whenever you can. Midrange/Ramp When I first made the Cube, I didn't even consider this to be a viable archetype. "Wouldn't they just counter your big dude?" I thought, as well as said to the people around me. But when it all came together and people other than me started drafting it, the results proved me wrong. To my astonishment, "overloading" their counterspells with threat after threat was actually a good strategy to a downright scary degree. The fact that many of the counterspells in the cube are soft counters makes this deck even more dangerous, as decks playing them are faced with a lose-lose proposition: "Do I counter their ramp spell now, and only delay the inevitable whammy-slam, or do I let it resolve and have my counter become potentially useless?" This question may sometimes be infuriating, but I am still happy to say that if you do like drafting green ramp strategies, then you'll be happy to know that there's a successful analogue here, as well. Those are the main archetypes, but there are also a few other cards thrown in that can make for less-seen strategies or just simply plan Bs in other decks, cards and combos like: DeckMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards 1 Painter's Servant1 Grindstone1 Grim Monolith1 Basalt Monolith1 Power Artifact1 Time Vault1 Voltaic Key1 Academy Ruins1 Mindslaver1 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir1 Knowledge Pool1 Mind Over Matter1 Upheaval1 Omniscience1 Enter the Infinite1 Skullclamp1 Patron Wizard1 Riptide Director Painter's Servant + Grindstone and Time Vault + Voltaic Key are the two most potent combos in the entire cube, capable of a win on turn 3 with no other nonland cards. The downside about them is that the pieces are all unplayable without the other half, and that they're both too fragile to support building a whole deck around them. One counterspell shouldn't make you scoop on the spot, and spending precious turns Mystical Tutoring for Fabricate are turns your opponent gets to set himself up for the inevitable plays. However, if you have three or four of the two-card combos listed, it may be worth it to just play something akin to a weird combo-midrange deck, just trying to force through one of them. If they counter the first, search up the second. That strategy is only conjecture, though; I've never seen someone actually try it out. In conclusion, I've seen most, if not all, of the main archetypes drafted, and a lot of varied builds leading to success by many different pilots. The matches I've played are some of the most skill-rewarding and intensive ones I've ever had, and every time I come away from a draft, I feel more knowledgeable than when it began. Look forward to part two of this article soon, where I'll recap a recent draft that went down, and go into why some of the decks were successful and others weren't. I'll see you all then.