Chromatic Cube: How to Ride the Rainbow

Explore the strategies for dominating the Chromatic Cube in Magic: The Gathering. Learn how to effectively use the full spectrum of colors to your advantage.

Welcome Magic lovers!

With only two short months left until the massive, three-year Standard format rotation happens at the end of July, many players are already brainstorming for other formats, as the imminent release of Modern Horizons 3 on Magic Arena should have a significant impact on Historic and Timeless.

However, today we'll be leaving behind the constructed, sixty-card decks in order to focus on a Limited format that has skyrocketed in popularity recently: Cube Draft!

While Cube Draft is an incredibly fun way to play Magic, both online and in paper, I often encounter players who aren't familiar with how it works, or are put off by what they perceive to be the heightened difficulty level of the format. While there are countless different cubes out there for people to draft and enjoy, Magic Arena showcases only a select few from time to time, with Chromatic Cube being the version currently on offer. Therefore, let's break down the Chromatic Cube on Magic Arena, how it works, and how to draft it successfully!

What is Cube?

Essentially, a Cube draft is played in exactly the same way as a draft with a regular set, such as Outlaws of Thunder Junction or Murders at Karlov Manor, except instead of using the booster packs from the current set, players draft cards from a hand-picked set list consisting of cards which often span many different official sets. In Chromatic Cube, this includes cards from every set and format available on Magic Arena. However, the one difference is that there are no multiples. That's right, there is only a single copy available of each card in the Cube, which means if one snaps up that Atraxa, Grand Unifier in the first pack, one can be certain that no other player in the draft pod will have a chance to take it. Aside from the singleton rule, the draft itself and the games are conducted according to the usual rules for a typical set draft.

Cube is also similar to regular set drafting in that each Cube typically has a 'theme', and the cards are selected based on how they contribute to that overall theme. For example, in the Chromatic Cube that's currently being drafted on Arena, the theme is, as you can guess, playing plenty of gold-colored cards across many colors. This means decks are often three or more colors in order to splash for the big, over-the-top cards that abound in this Cube. This also means that things which interact favorably on the stack with the many bombs flying around are deliberately in short supply, so as to give players the chance to resolve and play with said bombs. Sweepers are almost non-existent, and cheap counter-magic is nowhere to be found. In fact, there is only a single counterspell at three mana, with a couple more at four and five, making them very clunky and easy to play around. There aren't cards like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben to stop late-game dekcs in their tracks, before they can resolve their Magma Opus or One With the Multiverse. Also absent are one and two-mana red aggressive creatures. Yes, Lightning Bolt shows up here, but more as a piece to buy the Izzet spells deck time to set up a Chandra, Hope's Beacon or Sublime Epiphany. There simply aren't enough aggressive, cheap creatures to make these early-game decks viable. Slow Azorius control decks and low-to-the-ground aggro decks are not what the designers of this cube want players to try and force, and the cards they've made available here signify this.

To facilitate the splashy nature of the Chromatic Cube, its chock-full of great mana-fixing, with the full cycle of tri-lands, plenty of different dual-lands and other assorted 'mana rocks' (two or three-mana artifacts that tap to add a mana of any color). It's also packed with big, splashy, bomb rare/mythic creatures and spells that can easily win a game by themselves, and this is actually what causes many players to trip up when drafting Cube. This is because, when drafting a typical set, one is always on the lookout for game-warping, powerhouse cards in their colors in order to beef up one's deck, and if one is lucky enough to open or get passed a powerful creature or spell, its usually a no-brainer to simply pick it.

Prioritize Mana Ramp/Fixing

However, in Chromatic Cube, where almost every card in the pack is a rare or mythic-level bomb, players can get overwhelmed by choice paralysis, as they're not sure whether to take that Chandra, Hope's Beacon, or Craterhoof Behemoth, or Magma Opus, etc. To navigate this successfully, one must flip that heuristic on its head: instead of taking powerful creatures and spells first, focus on taking the cards that allow one to cast said cards more quickly and consistently, such as multi-colored lands, or cheap artifacts and creatures that ramp one's mana production and/or generate different colors of mana.

To this end, the tri-lands are fantastic early picks, as are any one or two-casting cost ramp cards, such as Llanowar Elves, Coldsteel Heart, Ornithopter of Paradise or Mindstone. Creatures like Paradise Druid, Ilysian Caryatid or Incubation Druid are great early picks, despite being one color, as they let one essentially play any or all the colors one wants, as long as the final deck is base green. Even at three mana, Chromatic Lantern or Cultivator Caravan are quite good, as they ramp while also fixing for any color of mana, and can go into any deck since they're colorless. In addition, many of the bombs one would ideally ramp into are six or more mana. Remember, one will never be short on big, powerful things to cast in Chromatic Cube, so taking lands and mana ramp/fixing highly is a much bigger priority early in the draft.

The Top 5 Cards in Chromatic Cube

The next thing to consider when drafting Cube are the big, powerhouse cards themselves, and how they stack up against one another. That's right, not all bombs are equal! When evaluating many of these haymaker cards in a vacuum, its clear that they are all fantastic and can win a game by themselves. However, some are far more impactful than others, or are harder for the opponent to deal with, or combine with other cards to perform game-winning combos that can steal victory from the jaws of defeat. Knowing which cards are head and shoulders above the rest is paramount to success in Chromatic Cube, so without further ado, here are my personal top five cards in Chromatic Cube, which I never pass during the draft:

Magic the Gathering Card - Grenzo, Crooked Jailer - MTG Circle

Grenzo, Crooked Jailer is a creature that many players may not have heard of or played with yet, as it's a card that just released in Alchemy: Outlaws of Thunder Junction, and features the new Alchemy-only Heist mechanic (which is completely broken). After playing with and against this card several times, I can confidently say its almost certainly one of the best, if not the best, card in the entire Chromatic Cube. While six mana across two colors may seem like a lot, it's trivially easy to splash for and ramp into, and its impact on the game is more akin to a spell that costs seven, eight or more. Being able to enter the battlefield and immediately choose a card from three random spells (never lands), in the opponent's deck, then cast that spell for free, is absolutely backbreaking in a format where most player's decks will be stuffed with huge, swingy bombs. Its not uncommon to get thirteen or more mana's worth of spells off of this six-drop when it enters the battlefield, hitting things like Etali, Primal Conqueror or Breach the Multiverse, and the fact that Grenzo does this every upkeep means he will end the game in very short order. This goblin rogue is a 'never-pass' card, and if you're not red or black when you open it, it's time to shift priorities in order to splash for it. It's just that good.

Magic the Gathering Card - Lutri, the Spellchaser - MTG Circle

Lutri, the Spellchaser is incredible as it will always function as an eighth card in one's hand, every single game, while not even taking up a slot in the deck due to the fact that, in Cube, a deck will never have multiple copies of any one card. This makes Lutri the most powerful Companion creature in the cube. Not much more needs to be said about how powerful the Companion mechanic is, and if you're not aware of the power of starting every game with eight cards to your opponent's seven, I suggest you take a look at how many of these cards are banned across multiple other formats. Additionally, the fact that Chromatic Cube has a ton of extremely powerful instants and sorceries to copy makes Lutri, the Spellchaser an absolutely premium pick.

Magic the Gathering Card - Atraxa, Grand Unifier - MTG Circle

Atraxa, Grand Unifier embodies everything the Chromatic Cube is all about: its huge, its swingy and its expensive. However, what puts Atraxa head and shoulders above many of the other incredibly powerful curve-toppers in this Cube is its rock-solid consistency. Looking at the top ten cards of one's library and getting to hand-pick which four or five to draw is even more ridiculous in a wild format like Chromatic Cube, where every deck is stacked with powerful things to find. This makes Atraxa a very high pick, and something that every big mana deck wants. It can, of course, be tricky to cast, but if one is drafting dual and tri-lands highly, as outlined above, it's not very difficult to cast in most decks.

Magic the Gathering Card - Breach the Multiverse - MTG Circle

Breach the Multiverse is another seven-mana monster that almost always ends the game once cast, for many of the same reasons as Atraxa; most decks are stuffed to the gills with extremely potent creatures and spells. It's less consistent than the Phyrexian angel, or Grenzo for that matter, but its ceiling is much higher, as hitting the right couple of free spells can instantly end the game. Digging into an Alerund's Epiphany, Etali, Primal Conqueror, or any of the top fifteen cards in the cube is usually enough to induce a concession, and the sheer volume of cards that the Breach can mill makes decking the opponent a viable win condition against many decks. Other advantages it has over Atraxa or Etali are that it can be copied with things like Lutri, the Spellchaser, Ral, Storm Conduit, Chandra, Hope's Beacon or Jin-Gitaxis, Progress Tyrant, and even recurred with Snapcaster Mage and Saiba Siphoner.

Magic the Gathering Card - Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes - MTG Circle

Rounding out the top five is a card that almost certainly would be closer to number one overall if it weren't the victim of an Alchemy nerf, Minsc and Boo, Timeless Heroes. Despite being nerfed to cost five mana instead of its original four, this impressive planeswalker is still one of the best cards in the cube, immediately creating pressure while also threatening to draw a ton of cards or burn an opponent out. Removing Boo, the token, won't do much, so if the opponent has no direct way to deal with Minsc, its usually game over very quickly. Unlike Breach the Multiverse or Etali, Primal Conqueror, or even Grenzo, Crooked Jailer, Minsc and Boo doesn't require hitting other spells or creatures to take over the game as its power is totally self-contained. Since its only five mana and two colors, it's the perfect threat to ramp into on turn four, a point in the game during which very few of the other cards on this list will even be possible to cast. Due to its power, consistency, flexibility and mana cost, it ranks as one of the best cards in Chromatic Cube, and should almost never be passed during the draft portion.

While this top five list that I perceive to be the best cards in Chromatic Cube, there are so many more that could have made the list. In fact, one could argue that there are several other cards that definitely belong in the top five, and some of them are so similar in power to the ones listed here that it simply comes down to a matter of preference.

Let me know what YOUR top five Chromatic Cube cards are in the comments below!

Hi, I'm Damien! I'm a Canadian television and voice actor turned streamer! I've been playing Magic: the Gathering since the early 1990's when the game first released, and was heavily involved in competitive Magic for many years.