The next entry in the Spotlight Cube Series is the Grixis Cube, created by well-known Magic commentator Ryan Overturf (@RyanOverdrive). Like those that came before it, most recently the Khans Expanded Cube, the Grixis Cube offers a pretty radical take on what Cube means. Ryan had a pitch to adapt his personal cube to Magic Online. I have to admit, we were a little skeptical at first: skipping two colors? Really? But then how do I cast my Kitchen Finks? Setting our doubts aside, we played an early draft, gave it a chance, and were quickly won over.
Ryan's cube is deep and interesting, with a novel concept that pushes the boundaries of what cubes on Magic Online are without sacrificing even one iota of fun. I'm confident you'll really enjoy the Grixis Cube.
Events will begin around 10 a.m. PT on Wednesday, August 28, and last until the same time the following week, when we swap out for the Modern Cube.
Digital Product Manager, Magic Online
Greetings, Magic fans! Ryan Overturf here, and if you're reading this, that means that you're about to be able to share in one of my absolute favorite ways to play Magic. Many of you know me from the commentary I provide for the SCG Tour, but what you might not know is that on my off weekends I'm a huge Cube enthusiast. Today's spotlight might not be quite what you're used to, so prepare yourself, because the Grixis Cube is coming to Magic Online!
Back when I first started cubing, every cube was more or less a stack of the same powerful cards with a few of the cube owner's personal favorites peppered in to taste. The only question you'd really ask before drafting was whether a cube was powered or not. Cube design has come a long way since then, and there's no shortage of creative ways to build your own Draft experience. The first unique design I ever encountered was one featuring only blue cards, and it completely changed how I thought about Cube.
I'm largely known as a Grixis mage, so building a cube that eschewed green and white cards was something that immediately excited me. On its face, the guiding principle for construction is simply "no Selesnya allowed." I do break this rule a little by including some hybrid mana cards, but in my defense I have blacked out the green and white costs on the physical cards. Of course, the Grixis Cube isn't so much about not playing green and white as it is about experiencing the full range of effects that blue, black, and red have to offer.
Playing a cube with fewer colors changes drafting and deck construction in some interesting ways. For starters, drafting a three-color deck with good mana is much easier than doing so with all five colors. As such, you'll generally be able to play most or all the cards in your Draft pool. We've all had the experience of being short on cards that you want to put in your Draft deck, but the Grixis Cube actually tends to generate the opposite experience. Most Grixis Cube decks have robust main decks as well as access to a number of relevant sideboard options to adjust to whatever your opponent has brought to the table. There are a handful of cards in the cube that are deliberately included as sideboard options, such as Pyroblast and Hydroblast, but if you're feeling feisty they can pay off in the main deck, too.
I find that this increased relevance of sideboards adds a lot to the gameplay and mitigates the feeling of just running into a bad matchup. I recently drafted an aggressive mono-white deck in Vintage Cube and immediately ran afoul of a Reanimated Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, which made every card I had brought to the table feel embarrassing. The Grixis Cube has a heavy emphasis on interaction, so you'll typically have something in your Draft pool that will help you more directly engage with your opponent's strategy. This emphasis on interaction combined with increased relevance of sideboards helps to make matches more competitive on average.
Beyond that, featuring fewer colors in the cube makes it easier to support multiple archetypes within the represented colors. Storm and other spell-based combos have historically struggled in unpowered cubes, but these archetypes get much better support here given that you just get more slots for red rituals and what have you without having to cut slots from the other red decks. A few notable recent printings have improved these decks quite a bit as well, such as Bolas's Citadel and Thousand-Year Storm.
The cube features great support for the fully Grixis decks, though there's a lot to explore in every two-color pair, as well as powerful monocolor options. Colorless is sort of a "fourth color" for the cube in many ways as well. The artifact count is very high, which supports multicolor artifacts-matter strategies as well as making monocolor decks easier to draft. Colorless is also more literally a fourth color with the inclusion of Though-Knot Seer and a few other Eldrazi. There are a handful of lands that generate colorless mana, such as Shivan Reef, to cast these Eldrazi, and they certainly increase the value of Mutavault. There aren't a ton of Eldrazi in the cube, but I wouldn't sleep on Eldrazi Temple!
Basically every on-color two-mana artifact that taps for mana is included in the cube, which allows ample acceleration for control decks to get on the table quickly as well as adding a strong supporting cast for cards like Urza, Lord High Artificer and Goblin Welder. The artifact-heavy decks take many forms, from being Upheaval or Wildfire decks to beating down with Master of Etherium. You don't see Mox Opal in many cubes, but it's right at home here.
While artifacts and answers to them are abundant, that's not the only card type that functions a little differently in the Grixis Cube as compared to other environments. The Grixis shard is notably pretty vulnerable to enchantments, and as such enchantments should be valued more highly here than they would be in something like the Legacy Cube. Sulfuric Vortex and Phyrexian Arena tend to be very high picks for their respective archetypes, but they should be valued even more highly in a field of all-Grixis decks.
The Grixis Cube is unpowered, but I often describe it as being about as powerful as a cube can be without including Black Lotus et al. The cutoff for cards that are too powerful to include exists somewhere between Grim Monolith and Mana Vault. Grim Monolith is included and is among the higher picks in the cube, being both an artifact and a tremendous mana accelerant, though the power level of the cube is otherwise high enough that you can cast the card on turn two and lose often enough. Mana Vault on the other hand is excluded, as it gives you a little too much mana if cast during a combo turn while also facilitating really messed up turn-two plays before your opponent can even get Abrade mana online.
I offer my sincerest apologies to Selesnya mages. While I do have an affinity for Gaea's Cradle and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, they are more "sometimes foods" for me. When it comes to cantrips, direct damage, and Yawgmoth's Will, I am always ready for another plate. I do implore you to give the Grixis Cube a try, though. The Conclave will be waiting for you when you're done, or perhaps you'll acquire a taste for the Grixis section of the color pie.
The Grixis Cube was the first design of mine I ever fell in love with, and if half of you love it half as much as I do then this will have been a huge success for me. Happy drafting!