Spotlight Cube Series – Live the Dream Cube Returns

Posted in Magic Online on February 9, 2021

By David McDarby

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.

  • Dire Fleet Daredevil
  • Clever Impersonator
  • Purphoros's Intervention
  • Burning-Rune Demon
  • Lithoform Engine

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.

  • Star of Extinction
  • Spell Swindle
  • Quarantine Field
  • Crystalline Crawler

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.

  • Eat to Extinction
  • Giant Killer
  • Inscription of Insight
  • Fire Prophecy
  • Ral's Outburst

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.

The Archetypes

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.

White-Blue Blink

  • Watcher for Tomorrow
  • Galepowder Mage
  • Ethereal Valkyrie
  • Brago, King Eternal

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

  • Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow
  • Silent-Blade Oni
  • Zareth San, the Trickster
  • Gonti, Lord of Luxury

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

  • Zealous Conscripts
  • Kels, Fight Fixer
  • Mayhem Devil
  • Greven, Predator Captain

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!

Red-Green Cheat

  • Nikya of the Old Ways
  • Ilharg, the Raze-Boar
  • Svella, Ice Shaper
  • Apex Devastator

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

  • Esika's Chariot
  • Mirari's Wake
  • Trostani's Summoner
  • Divine Visitation

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!

White-Black Reanimator

  • Unburial Rites
  • Angel of Despair
  • Marshal's Anthem
  • Debtors' Knell

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

  • Izzet Charm
  • Alrund's Epiphany
  • Mizzix's Mastery
  • Mnemonic Deluge

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.

Black-Green Raveyard

  • Spider Spawning
  • Virtus's Maneuver
  • Ishkanah, Grafwidow
  • Meren of Clan Nel Toth

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.

Red-White Piñatas

  • Boros Reckoner
  • Blasphemous Act
  • Stormwild Capridor
  • Swans of Bryn Argoll

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!

Green-Blue Lands

  • Future Sight
  • Harrow
  • Tatyova, Benthic Druid
  • Aesi, Tyrant of Gyre Strait

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!

Five-Color Dream

  • Skyclave Relic
  • Chromatic Orrery
  • Niv-Mizzet Reborn
  • Esika, God of the Tree

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!

  • Jodah, Archmage Eternal
  • Warp World
  • Aegar, the Freezing Flame
  • Selective Adaptation
  • Yawgmoth, Thran Physician
  • Arcane Artisan

Dream On

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.

David McDarby
@J_Beleren on Twitter
Linuka on Twitch

Live the Dream Cube Achievements

The Queen's Gambit: Activate Coffin Queen targeting Bishop of Binding to exile a Knight.

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.

Maelstrom Tribal: Put Maelstrom Nexus into play with Maelstrom Archangel.

The Last Unicorn: Target a Unicorn with Emiel the Blessed.

Diplomatic Susceptibility: Put a Sphinx Ambassador into play with Sphinx Ambassador.

Jund 'em Out: Cast Bituminous Blast and cascade into Bloodbraid Elf and Lightning Bolt.

Apex Search: Cast Garruk, Apex Predator with In Search of Greatness.

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.

Emrakul's Shadow: Reveal Emrakul, the Promised End with Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow.

Speedrun: Trigger all three chapters of a Saga on the same turn.

Golem the Distance: Cast Part the Waterveil, triggering a Precursor Golem.

The Ultra-Matum: Cast all three of this cube's Ultimatums in the same game.

Live the Dream Cube List

Card Name
Giant Killer
Thraben Inspector
Bounty Agent
Charming Prince
Hero of Precinct One
Knight of the White Orchid
Selfless Spirit
Wall of Omens
Blade Splicer
Mentor of the Meek
Mirror Entity
Recruiter of the Guard
Sigrid, God-Favored
Skyclave Apparition
Stormwild Capridor
Bishop of Binding
Emiel the Blessed
Galepowder Mage
Luminous Broodmoth
Restoration Angel
Swans of Bryn Argoll
Angel of Invention
Angel of Sanctions
Cavalier of Dawn
God-Eternal Oketra
Karmic Guide
Regal Caracal
Harmonious Archon
Sun Titan
Angel of Serenity
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Emeria Shepherd
Realm-Cloaked Giant
Elspeth, Knight-Errant
Serra the Benevolent
Elspeth Tirel
Elspeth, Sun's Champion
Brought Back
Sundering Growth
Unexpectedly Absent
Valorous Stance
Orim's Thunder
Finale of Glory
Martial Coup
Collective Effort
Council's Judgment
Breath of Life
Starnheim Unleashed
Austere Command
Quarantine Field
Banishing Light
Oblivion Ring
Anointed Procession
Cast Out
Faith's Fetters
Felidar Retreat
Marshal's Anthem
Divine Visitation
Elspeth Conquers Death
Fblthp, the Lost
Ghostly Pilferer
Looter il-Kor
Snapcaster Mage
Watcher for Tomorrow
Arcane Artisan
Barrin, Tolarian Archmage
Champion of Wits
Cosima, God of the Voyage
Sea Gate Oracle
Vizier of Tumbling Sands
Clever Impersonator
Sower of Temptation
Thassa, Deep-Dwelling
Urza, Lord High Artificer
Whirler Rogue
Alrund, God of the Cosmos
Cavalier of Gales
Djinn of Wishes
Magus of the Future
Yorion, Sky Nomad
Deadeye Navigator
Dream Eater
Gyruda, Doom of Depths
Sakashima's Protege
Agent of Treachery
Scholar of the Lost Trove
Sphinx Ambassador
Jace, Mirror Mage
Saheeli, Sublime Artificer
Teferi, Master of Time
Pull from Tomorrow
Thassa's Intervention
Supreme Will
Whirlwind Denial
Fact or Fiction
Spell Swindle
Sublime Epiphany
Supplant Form
Commit // Memory
Ancestral Vision
Chart a Course
See the Truth
Savor the Moment
Inscription of Insight
Mythos of Illuna
Rite of Replication
Baral's Expertise
Part the Waterveil
Walk the Aeons
Alrund's Epiphany
Aminatou's Augury
Discovery // Dispersal
Mnemonic Deluge
Temporal Mastery
Midnight Clock
Search for Azcanta
Future Sight
The Mirari Conjecture
Shark Typhoon
Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
Mesmeric Fiend
Nezumi Graverobber
Nullpriest of Oblivion
Piper of the Swarm
Priest of Forgotten Gods
Valki, God of Lies
Coffin Queen
Murderous Rider
Rotting Regisaur
Varragoth, Bloodsky Sire
Woe Strider
Yahenni, Undying Partisan
Carrion Grub
Eradicator Valkyrie
Gonti, Lord of Luxury
Kels, Fight Fixer
Marsh Flitter
Nightmare Shepherd
Rankle, Master of Pranks
Ravenous Chupacabra
Yawgmoth, Thran Physician
Cavalier of Night
Doom Whisperer
Gravebreaker Lamia
Puppeteer Clique
Syr Konrad, the Grim
Tergrid, God of Fright
Burning-Rune Demon
Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni
Noxious Gearhulk
Sheoldred, Whispering One
Liliana, Waker of the Dead
Liliana, Death's Majesty
Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools
Erebos's Intervention
Tragic Slip
Heartless Act
Mythos of Nethroi
Eat to Extinction
Price of Fame
Appetite for Brains
Innocent Blood
Agonizing Remorse
Collective Brutality
Dread Summons
Feed the Swarm
Finale of Eternity
Ransack the Lab
Agadeem's Awakening
Entreat the Dead
Funeral Rites
Virtus's Maneuver
Living Death
Ever After
Necromantic Selection
The Eldest Reborn
Debtors' Knell
Dire Fleet Daredevil
Dismissive Pyromancer
Generator Servant
Goblin Cratermaker
Marauding Raptor
Bonecrusher Giant
Feldon of the Third Path
Legion Warboss
Najeela, the Blade-Blossom
Seasoned Pyromancer
Sin Prodder
Toggo, Goblin Weaponsmith
Captivating Crew
Fireflux Squad
Murderous Redcap
Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion
Ogre Battledriver
Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Rosheen Meanderer
Toralf, God of Fury
Wildfire Devils
Brash Taunter
Coercive Recruiter
Emrakul's Hatcher
Ilharg, the Raze-Boar
Siege-Gang Commander
Terror of the Peaks
Zealous Conscripts
Combustible Gearhulk
Etali, Primal Storm
Inferno Titan
Chandra, Heart of Fire
Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast
Lightning Bolt
Fire Prophecy
Shredded Sails
Thrill of Possibility
Tibalt's Trickery
Act of Aggression
Chain Lightning
Faithless Looting
Purphoros's Intervention
Shatterskull Smashing
Collective Defiance
Fight with Fire
Seize the Spoils
Cut // Ribbons
Ignite the Future
Mizzix's Mastery
Storm's Wrath
Shivan Meteor
Blasphemous Act
Star of Extinction
Warp World
Hammer of Purphoros
Pyromancer's Goggles
Frenzied Fugue
Double Vision
Fiery Emancipation
Mirror March
Avacyn's Pilgrim
Elves of Deep Shadow
Gilded Goose
Llanowar Elves
Bloom Tender
Fauna Shaman
Fiend Artisan
Incubation Druid
Lotus Cobra
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Satyr Wayfinder
Scavenging Ooze
Voracious Hydra
Beanstalk Giant
Courser of Kruphix
Dryad of the Ilysian Grove
Eternal Witness
Llanowar Visionary
Nissa, Vastwood Seer
Reclamation Sage
Selvala, Heart of the Wilds
Shaman of Forgotten Ways
Tireless Tracker
Beast Whisperer
Bramble Sovereign
Champion of Rhonas
Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma
Kolvori, God of Kinship
Oracle of Mul Daya
Vizier of the Menagerie
World Shaper
Cavalier of Thorns
Ishkanah, Grafwidow
Keruga, the Macrosage
Ohran Frostfang
Kogla, the Titan Ape
Primeval Titan
Sweet-Gum Recluse
Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider
Apex Devastator
Avenger of Zendikar
End-Raze Forerunners
Nyxbloom Ancient
Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner
Garruk Wildspeaker
Garruk, Primal Hunter
Nissa, Vital Force
Vivien, Monsters' Advocate
Grapple with the Past
Inscription of Abundance
Primal Might
Winding Way
Genesis Wave
Selective Adaptation
Lifecrafter's Bestiary
Birthing Pod
Esika's Chariot
The Great Henge
In Search of Greatness
Parallel Lives
Doubling Season
Momentary Blink
Deputy of Detention
Brago, King Eternal
Elite Guardmage
Venser, the Sojourner
Ethereal Valkyrie
Nightveil Specter
Thief of Sanity
Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow
Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths
Hostage Taker
Fallen Shinobi
Zareth San, the Trickster
Silent-Blade Oni
Grenzo, Dungeon Warden
Kolaghan's Command
Mayhem Devil
Chainer, Nightmare Adept
Immersturm Predator
Angrath, the Flame-Chained
Bituminous Blast
Greven, Predator Captain
Radha, Heart of Keld
Svella, Ice Shaper
Bloodbraid Elf
Hans Eriksson
Escape to the Wilds
Nikya of the Old Ways
Ravager Wurm
Dragonlord Atarka
Eladamri's Call
Faeburrow Elder
Knight of Autumn
Selvala, Explorer Returned
Mirari's Wake
Trostani Discordant
Trostani's Summoner
Anguished Unmaking
Utter End
Unburial Rites
Magister of Worth
Angel of Despair
Ashen Rider
Grisly Salvage
Skull Prophet
Nyx Weaver
Binding the Old Gods
Meren of Clan Nel Toth
Nissa of Shadowed Boughs
Polukranos, Unchained
Spider Spawning
The Gitrog Monster
Growth Spiral
Hydroid Krasis
Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy
Nissa, Steward of Elements
Unexpected Results
Tatyova, Benthic Druid
Aesi, Tyrant of Gyre Strait
Progenitor Mimic
Izzet Charm
Aegar, the Freezing Flame
Ral Zarek
Ral, Storm Conduit
Ral's Outburst
Battle of Frost and Fire
Prophetic Bolt
Justice Strike
Lightning Helix
Alesha, Who Smiles at Death
Boros Reckoner
Bell Borca, Spectral Sergeant
Nahiri, the Harbinger
Winota, Joiner of Forces
Gisela, Blade of Goldnight
Chulane, Teller of Tales
Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign
Cruel Ultimatum
Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker
Korvold, Fae-Cursed King
Zacama, Primal Calamity
Nethroi, Apex of Death
Narset, Enlightened Master
Inspired Ultimatum
Villainous Wealth
Zaxara, the Exemplary
Yarok, the Desecrated
Mathas, Fiend Seeker
Offspring's Revenge
Genesis Ultimatum
Maelstrom Wanderer
Omnath, Locus of Creation
Esika, God of the Tree
Jodah, Archmage Eternal
Golos, Tireless Pilgrim
Jegantha, the Wellspring
Kenrith, the Returned King
Maelstrom Archangel
Maelstrom Nexus
Niv-Mizzet Reborn
Hangarback Walker
Stonecoil Serpent
Walking Ballista
Palladium Myr
Pilgrim's Eye
Crystalline Crawler
Phyrexian Metamorph
Solemn Simulacrum
Precursor Golem
Stuffy Doll
Steel Hellkite
Wurmcoil Engine
Emrakul, the Promised End
Myr Battlesphere
Karn, Scion of Urza
Ugin, the Ineffable
Tezzeret's Gambit
Everflowing Chalice
Wayfarer's Bauble
Azorius Signet
Boros Signet
Coldsteel Heart
Dimir Signet
Fellwar Stone
Golgari Signet
Gruul Signet
Izzet Signet
Mazemind Tome
Mind Stone
Orzhov Signet
Prismatic Lens
Rakdos Signet
Selesnya Signet
Simic Signet
Smuggler's Copter
Treasure Map
Bonder's Ornament
Chromatic Lantern
Heirloom Blade
Mimic Vat
Mirage Mirror
Replicating Ring
Skyclave Relic
Empowered Autogenerator
Firemind Vessel
Hedron Archive
Lithoform Engine
Conjurer's Closet
The Immortal Sun
Chromatic Orrery
God-Pharaoh's Gift
Azorius Chancery
Glacial Fortress
Hallowed Fountain
Dimir Aqueduct
Drowned Catacomb
Underground Sea
Watery Grave
Blood Crypt
Dragonskull Summit
Rakdos Carnarium
Gruul Turf
Rootbound Crag
Stomping Ground
Selesnya Sanctuary
Sunpetal Grove
Temple Garden
Godless Shrine
Isolated Chapel
Orzhov Basilica
Golgari Rot Farm
Overgrown Tomb
Woodland Cemetery
Breeding Pool
Simic Growth Chamber
Tropical Island
Waterlogged Grove
Izzet Boilerworks
Steam Vents
Sulfur Falls
Volcanic Island
Boros Garrison
Clifftop Retreat
Sacred Foundry
Seaside Citadel
Arcane Sanctum
Crumbling Necropolis
Savage Lands
Jungle Shrine
Indatha Triome
Raugrin Triome
Zagoth Triome
Savai Triome
Ketria Triome
Arid Mesa
Bloodstained Mire
City of Brass
Fabled Passage
Flooded Strand
Mana Confluence
Marsh Flats
Mirrodin's Core
Misty Rainforest
Polluted Delta
Prismatic Vista
Scalding Tarn
Shelldock Isle
Verdant Catacombs
Windswept Heath
Wooded Foothills

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