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Owen’s a Win – Butakov Cube Draft Review

MOCS Draft Viewer

This week, I wanted to try something a little different. Since I don’t have any major tournaments coming up, I can’t do my usual breakdown of a deck I know and like. I was following the coverage of the Magic Online Championship Series (MOCS) and enjoyed it quite a bit.

This week, I’m going to do a play-by-play of the eventual champion Dmitriy Butakov’s Cube draft. I am pretty familiar with the Magic Online Cube as I playtested with it a ton in preparation for the Players Championship—that said they have changed a few cards, so not everything is the same.

[draft]All Suns’ Dawn
Catastrophe
Chaos Warp
Doom Blade
Eight-and-a-Half-Tails
Frost Titan
Gathan Raiders
Graveborn Muse
Gruul Turf
Mirror Entity
Sundering Titan
Tectonic Edge
Thornscape Battlemage
Venser, Shaper Savant
Zo-Zu the Punisher[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:

[draft]Frost Titan[/draft]

[card]Frost Titan[/card] is an excellent card in the Cube and one of the better finishers—I like the card overall. One of the most important aspects of Cube, and one of my strengths, is knowing to just take the cheapest card in the pack at all times. When you can get a Keiga with five cards in the pack while other people are first-picking cards like [card]Goblin Guide[/card], a Frost Titan looks much less powerful.

My pick:

[draft]venser, shaper savant[/draft]

This is a weak pack and I like to start off with a blue card, so taking Frost Titan isn’t horrendous, but I would prefer to take [card]Venser, Shaper Savant[/card]. It’s much cheaper, flexible, and works perfectly in the blue control style decks I like to draft. After the blue cards, the best card is [card]Doom Blade[/card].

[draft]Attrition
Bane of the Living
Behemoth Sledge
Fire-Lit Thicket
Fireblast
Forbidden Alchemy
Great Sable Stag
Honor of the Pure
Knight of Infamy
Magus of the Moon
Miscalculation
Phyrexian Rager
Qasali Pridemage
Slagstorm[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:

[draft]Bane of the living[/draft]

Butakov takes [card]Bane of the Living[/card], out of another weak pack. I like a willingness to take creature-removal, but I hate that he so quickly wants to switch colors for a card that isn’t great. I would rather have [card]Phyrexian Rager[/card] in almost any black deck, even a blue-based one.

My pick:

[draft]miscalculation[/draft]

My pick is [card]Miscalculation[/card], but it’s possible that he has a strong preference for black, in which case this pick isn’t too bad.

[draft]Basalt Monolith
Borderland Ranger
Cursecatcher
Descendant of Kiyomaro
Empty the Warrens
Enlightened Tutor
Lion’s Eye Diamond
Mogg War Marshal
Mold Shambler
Okiba-Gang Shinobi
Plague Sliver
Shrieking Grotesque
Volcanic Island[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:

[draft]Descendant of Kiyomaro[/draft]

Not a single good blue card here to pair with the [card]Frost Titan[/card], and no good black cards either. It’s unfortunate that almost no matter what you do, you’re going to have to branch into a new color. He takes [card]Descendant of Kiyomaro[/card], which I haven’t played with much, but it’s easy to identify at this point that he likes to draft Esper-colored, anti-creature control decks, and Descendant fits perfectly into that plan.

My pick:

[draft]basalt monolith[/draft]

My pick is [card]Basalt Monolith[/card], because it allows me to avoid commitment to a new color, and I value artifact acceleration very highly in this Cube. It allows for broken starts and does some very nice things with the various [card]Wildfire[/card]s.

[draft]Call of the Herd
Crucible of Worlds
Force of Will
Gideon, Champion of Justice
Murmuring Bosk
Nightveil Specter
Reveillark
Sensei’s Divining Top
Terastodon
Vampire Hexmage
Woodfall Primus
Woolly Thoctar[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:

[draft]Sensei’s Divining Top[/draft]

Nothing stands out here as a strong pick for an Esper deck aside [card]Sensei’s Divining Top[/card] and [card]Force of Will[/card].

My pick:

[draft]Force of will[/draft]

I don’t blame him for taking the Top here as it’s a solid card—but with my picks of Venser, Miscalculation, and Basalt Monolith, the pick for me would be Force of Will.

[draft]Disfigure
Go for the Throat
Jungle Shrine
Nantuko Vigilante
Relic of Progenitus
Sea Gate Oracle
Torch Fiend
Undead Gladiator
Underground River
Whipcorder
Yavimaya Coast[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:

[draft]Sea Gate Oracle[/draft]

[card]Sea Gate Oracle[/card] is an excellent card, and I completely agree with his pick here. I think it is important to note, however, that if I were solidly locked into blue and black, I would much prefer [card]Go for the Throat[/card] to the Oracle as my anti-aggro card of choice. I think Go for the Throat is on the power level of [card]Swords to Plowshares[/card], the main difference being that it’s black, and it’s really hard to justify going black in Cube since half the cards are so hard to utilize, like [card]Geralf’s Messenger[/card] or [card]Phyrexian Obliterator[/card].

[draft]Coralhelm Commander
Destructive Force
Dismember
Ember Hauler
Nightscape Familiar
Pernicious Deed
Phyrexian Revoker
Ravenous Rats
Rocky Tar Pit
Seal of Cleansing[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:

[draft]Dismember[/draft]

[card]Dismember[/card] is an amazing pickup here—I would select it as well. I have a very strong preference for cheap spot removal that is unconditional. Dismember can’t quite kill everything, but it kills most things. The pain you take from it will bite you against mono-red, and even then it’s often still worth it. I love a Dismember against any green or white deck. [card]Destructive Force[/card] is a consideration if you’re UR and have Basalt Monolith, but I still prefer Dismember here.

[draft]Abrupt Decay
Angelic Destiny
Boreal Druid
Creeping Tar Pit
Kokusho, the Evening Star
Orcish Lumberjack
Urabrask the Hidden
Wrench Mind
Yosei, the Morning Star[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:

[draft]Creeping Tar Pit[/draft]

[card]Creeping Tar Pit[/card] is amazing. Mana fixing and a win condition is basically the perfect card, and an excellent pickup. Much, MUCH better than a Kokusho. There is essentially nothing playable for the deck I would have been trying to draft.

[draft]Calciderm
Drowned Catacomb
Nantuko Shade
Ohran Viper
Seething Song
Strangleroot Geist
Thieving Magpie
Vindicate[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Thieving Magpie[/draft]

He takes [card]Thieving Magpie[/card] here, and I think this is the first truly awful pick he makes. Thieving Magpie isn’t particularly well-costed against fast aggro or slow control, where it is even more vulnerable. I hate it, and I think it may be unplayable.

My pick:

[draft]Drowned Catacomb[/draft]

Dismissing the [card]Drowned Catacomb[/card] here when you have already shown an interest in Dimir is very strange.

[draft]All Suns’ Dawn
Chaos Warp
Eight-and-a-Half-Tails
Graveborn Muse
Gruul Turf
Tectonic Edge
Thornscape Battlemage[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Graveborn Muse[/draft]

Looks good to me.

[draft]Attrition
Fire-Lit Thicket
Great Sable Stag
Knight of Infamy
Phyrexian Rager
Slagstorm[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Knight of Infamy[/draft]

Still no love for [card]Phyrexian Rager[/card]? I can’t say I understand why, since he’s so sweet, but I can see a world in which my deck would be aggressive enough to want [card]Knight of Infamy[/card] over the Rager. That deck usually takes [card]Nantuko Shade[/card] over [card]Thieving Magpie[/card] though.

My pick:
[draft]Phyrexian Rager[/draft]

[draft]Cursecatcher
Lion’s Eye Diamond
Okiba-Gang Shinobi
Plague Sliver
Shrieking Grotesque[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Okiba-Gang Shinobi[/draft]

Good pick for an aggressive deck, but [card]Plague Sliver[/card] is much better in control. I like the direction this deck is headed in.

[draft]Crucible of Worlds
Murmuring Bosk
Nightveil Specter
Vampire Hexmage[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Nightveil Specter[/draft]

Great late pickup, though it’s no surprise that no other deck at the table wants this card.

[draft]Disfigure
Nantuko Vigilante
Undead Gladiator[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Disfigure[/draft]

Ding!

[draft]Coralhelm Commander
Ravenous Rats[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Ravenous Rats[/draft]

Imagine [card]Ravenous Rats[/card] into [card]Phyrexian Rager[/card] into [card]Okiba-Gang Shinobi[/card]… value!

[draft]Wrench Mind[/draft]

[draft]Burning of Xinye
Cryptic Command
Decree of Justice
Deep Analysis
Dismantling Blow
Garruk Wildspeaker
Living Death
Lodestone Golem
Mark of Mutiny
Nature’s Lore
Remand
Restock
Shining Shoal
Shivan Reef
Winter Orb[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Cryptic Command[/draft]

[card]Cryptic Command[/card] is amazing, and one of the sickest cards in the Cube. I love this pick. The pack doesn’t have much we might want otherwise anyway. [card]Living Death[/card] is an outstanding card, but we have creature removal and cheap creatures of our own making, it a little too inconsistent for my taste. I like [card]Remand[/card] a lot as well, but it just isn’t even in the same stratosphere of power as Cryptic Command.

[draft]Broodmate Dragon
Death Cloud
Eureka
Isamaru, Hound of Konda
Jackal Pup
Llanowar Wastes
Looter il-Kor
Paladin en-Vec
Phantasmal Image
Rampant Growth
Ratchet Bomb
Sinkhole
Sower of Temptation
Wildfire[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Looter il-Kor[/draft]

I disagree with this pick. [card]Looter il-Kor[/card] is a nice card, but it isn’t nearly as good as [card]Sower of Temptation[/card].

My pick:
[draft]Sower of Temptation[/draft]

While both suffer from fragility to spot removal, the Sower has a much more obvious and powerful upside. I like Sower for the same reasons I like [card]Dismember[/card], since it can be an all-star against any normal creature deck trying to do fair things. [card]Phantasmal Image[/card] here is also a consideration, since it’s a naturally powerful card, but I think if you’re going to risk it, just go for the Sower.

[draft]Augur of Bolas
Aven Mindcensor
Brain Freeze
Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni
Lightning Helix
Lotus Cobra
Phyrexian Arena
Rakdos Cackler
Ranger of Eos
Sunken Ruins
Ultimate Price
Vengevine
Wooded Bastion[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni[/draft]

If I were drafting this deck, I would take [card]Ultimate Price[/card] for the same reasons I would have taken Go for the Throat.

My pick:
[draft]Ultimate Price[/draft]

That said, I really haven’t played with Ink-Eyes all that much, and if ever there was a deck for it, I think it’s this one. He has cheap evasive creatures with the [card]Looter il-Kor[/card] and [card]Nightveil Specter[/card], and the upside is very high. Ink-Eyes is incredible if it connects.

[draft]Bloodstained Mire
Delver of Secrets
Dismiss
Falkenrath Aristocrat
Gore-House Chainwalker
Lavaclaw Reaches
Makeshift Mannequin
Misty Rainforest
Putrefy
Tithe
Troll Ascetic
Wheel of Fortune[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Bloodstained Mire[/draft]

This deck doesn’t look like it wants a [card]Dismiss[/card] or a [card]Delver of Secrets[/card]. Tapping out every turn for creatures makes both of those cards much worse in theory. I like taking the fetchland here, in hopes of getting a [card]Watery Grave[/card] or [card]Underground Sea[/card].

My pick:
[draft]Misty Rainforest[/draft]

It’s a coin toss between [card]Bloodstained Mire[/card] and [card]Misty Rainforest[/card], but with [card]Cryptic Command[/card] in my deck I like the Misty better.

[draft]Bant Charm
Blue Elemental Blast
Braids, Cabal Minion
Chandra, the Firebrand
Condescend
Diregraf Ghoul
Enclave Cryptologist
Rude Awakening
Rugged Prairie
Simic Sky Swallower
Ulvenwald Tracker[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Condescend[/draft]

Great pick. Cheap counterspells are very good, and [card]Condescend[/card] is one of the best. [card]Braids, Cabal Minion[/card] is just a weak card that should be avoided.

[draft]Academy Ruins
Akroma’s Vengeance
Dimir Aqueduct
Gifts Ungiven
Mentor of the Meek
Skeletal Scrying
Thragtusk
Tin Street Hooligan
Trygon Predator
Wickerbough Elder[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Thragtusk[/draft]

Even in Cube you can’t deny the power of the Thragdad.

[draft]Hell’s Thunder
Man-o’-War
Mountain Valley
Sphinx of Jwar Isle
Stonecloaker
Stupor
Sulfur Falls
Unburial Rites
Wall of Roots[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Man-o’-War[/draft]

An awesome pickup in a blue/black tempo deck with Ninjas, I like Man-o’-war much better than [card]Sphinx of Jwar Isle[/card] in almost any deck, and the creature will be stronger here than [card]Stupor[/card].

[draft]Azorius Chancery
Brooding Saurian
Glen Elendra Archmage
Hinterland Harbor
Liliana Vess
Sign in Blood
Thoughtseize
Vesuvan Shapeshifter[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Liliana Vess[/draft]

This pick really upsets me. If I was a dedicated blue control deck, I would take the [card]Liliana Vess[/card] here because planeswalkers are great in Cube, but he just isn’t drafting that type of deck.

My pick:
[draft]Glen elendra archmage[/draft]

I hate that Butakov took [card]Liliana Vess[/card] here over [card]Glen Eledra Archmage[/card], which is basically unbeatable by any control deck ever, and I also hate that he didn’t even PLAY the card he took from this pack in his final deck. At least take a [card]Thoughtseize[/card] that would be good, or the Archmage which would be amazing if you’re just going to leave Liliana on the sidelines.

[draft]Burning of Xinye
Deep Analysis
Dismantling Blow
Nature’s Lore
Restock
Shining Shoal
Shivan Reef[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Deep Analysis[/draft]

Going deep.

[draft]Broodmate Dragon
Llanowar Wastes
Paladin en-Vec
Sinkhole
Sower of Temptation
Wildfire[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Sower of Temptation[/draft]

I guess everyone else at the table also undervalues this card. A great late pickup.

[draft]Aven Mindcensor
Brain Freeze
Ranger of Eos
Sunken Ruins
Vengevine[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Sunken Ruins[/draft]

This should help cast [card]Cryptic Command[/card].

[draft]Delver of Secrets
Falkenrath Aristocrat
Lavaclaw Reaches
Makeshift Mannequin[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Falkenrath Aristocrat[/draft]

He basically never plays this card, so at least take the [card]Makeshift Mannequin[/card] which works nicely with [card]Man-o’-War[/card] and [card]Sower of Temptation[/card].

My pick:
[draft]Makeshift Mannequin[/draft]

[draft]Bant Charm
Enclave Cryptologist
Simic Sky Swallower[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Enclave Cryptologist[/draft]

Sure.

[draft]Academy Ruins
Gifts Ungiven[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Gifts Ungiven[/draft]

At least nobody else at the table got this with the [card]Unburial Rites[/card].

[draft]Sulfur Falls[/draft]

[draft]Birthing Pod
Bloodline Keeper
Boros Charm
Elspeth, Knight-Errant
Faithless Looting
Hero of Oxid Ridge
Martial Coup
Nature’s Claim
Rootbound Crag
Skinrender
Sphere of the Suns
Treachery
Trinket Mage
Vampire Lacerator
Willbender[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Treachery[/draft]

One of the top 5 cards in the Cube, and a great card to open on your way to winning the tournament.

[draft]Duress
Fetid Heath
Flood Plain
Kira, Great Glass-Spinner
Knight of the White Orchid
Kodama of the North Tree
Lightning Mauler
Mesmeric Fiend
Mizzium Mortars
Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker
Plated Geopede
Raging Ravine
Student of Warfare
Yavimaya Elder[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Mesmeric Fiend[/draft]

This pack is pretty terrible, and [card]Mesmeric Fiend[/card] is a fine addition, though I usually hate it when my deck has to play cards like this. [card]Duress[/card] is a pretty mediocre card in the Cube too, and I’m not thrilled with a [card]Thoughtseize[/card] either, but it is a very good sideboard card to have and I’ll play every effect like it I can get when I draft a combo strategy.

[draft]Ajani, Caller of the Pride
Emeria Angel
FAErie Conclave
Firespout
Firestorm
Glacial Fortress
Greater Gargadon
Green Sun
Momentary Blink
Riftwing Cloudskate
Scavenging Ooze
Sulfurous Springs
Zealous Conscripts[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Riftwing Cloudskate[/draft]

Another pretty weak pack, but [card]Riftwing Cloudskate[/card] is a good grab here. I will take Riftwing Cloudskate pretty highly and play it in basically any and every blue deck. It falls under the all-important “good cheap blue plays,” and allows you to stabilize to the late game and win with your interchangeable fatty—Keiga, [card]Consecrated Sphinx[/card], or [card]Frost Titan[/card].

[draft]Academy Rector
Adarkar Wastes
Avacyn’s Pilgrim
Boros Garrison
Chrome Mox
Entreat the Angels
Essence Scatter
Future Sight
Inquisition of Kozilek
Karplusan Forest
Mox Diamond
Tombstalker[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Essence Scatter[/draft]

Butakov took [card]Essence Scatter[/card] here, which is a card I like, but I think taking it here is a mistake. I think that because he didn’t play it in his final deck list, and he very easily could have wanted a card like [card]Chrome Mox[/card] or [card]Future Sight[/card]. I like Chrome Mox much more in an aggressive deck and [card]Mox Diamond[/card] in a control deck. I could explain here, but I’m sure I could write a whole separate article on the matter, so just take my word for it.

[draft]AEther Vial
Blastoderm
Flagstones of Trokair
Lotus Bloom
Opposition
Plateau
Polluted Delta
Sublime Archangel
Talrand, Sky Summoner
Terminus
Volcanic Fallout[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Opposition[/draft]

[card]Opposition[/card] is also one of the best cards in the Cube, and a great card to pickup 5th while you already have a very strong creature theme in place. [card]Aether Vial[/card] is unplayable—don’t be fooled.

[draft]Chandra’s Phoenix
Dark Confidant
Disenchant
Dreadbore
Dungeon Geists
Frantic Search
Hymn to Tourach
Mutavault
Powder Keg
Thelonite Hermit[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Dungeon Geists[/draft]

[card]Dungeon Geists[/card] is awesome for many of the same reasons as [card]Sower of Temptation[/card], but is a worse card. I think it’s a fine pick, but the best pick is [card]Dark Confidant[/card].

My pick:
[draft]Dark Confidant[/draft]

It IS as good as it is in Constructed in Cube, and he already has a [card]Sensei’s Diving Top[/card]. It would be much sweeter with a [card]Chrome Mox[/card] as well. This should come as a surprise to nobody, but [card]Dark Confidant[/card] is an incredible Magic card.

[draft]Bloodgift Demon
Hand of Cruelty
Sneak Attack
Sorin’s Thirst
Steam Vents
Thrun, the Last Troll
Time Spiral
Turnabout
Watery Grave[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Hand of Cruelty[/draft]

Horrendous pick. You have [card]Cryptic Command[/card] and [card]Bloodstained Mire[/card], so the clear pick is [card]Watery Grave[/card].

My pick:
[draft]Watery Grave[/draft]

Even without those cards, I would still take the shockland, because manafixing is very important in a Cube deck, especially in a deck that is solidly two colors. With his willingness to pass the [card]Drowned Catacomb[/card], I see he undervalues having consistent mana, which could not be as incorrect as I think it is. Also, he didn’t play the [card]Hand of Cruelty[/card] in his deck, and I’ve found it to be a weak card which makes this pick more confusing.

[draft]Chord of Calling
Fauna Shaman
Goblin Ruinblaster
Graven Cairns
Korlash, Heir to Blackblade
Lake of the Dead
Phantasmal Bear
Steppe Lynx[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Graven Cairns[/draft]

[card]Phantasmal Bear[/card] is pretty mediocre, so all bad choices here. I don’t know why he chose [card]Graven Cairns[/card], but I can’t blame him for it.

[draft]Birthing Pod
Boros Charm
Faithless Looting
Skinrender
Trinket Mage
Vampire Lacerator
Willbender[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Trinket Mage[/draft]

Go get my [card]Sensei’s Diving Top[/card]? Don’t mind if I do!

[draft]Duress
Flood Plain
Kira, Great Glass-Spinner
Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker
Plated Geopede
Raging Ravine[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker[/draft]

I guess with a [card]Graven Cairns[/card] and a [card]Bloodstained Mire[/card] you could splash this guy in a control matchup?

My pick:
[draft]Duress[/draft]

My gut says [card]Duress[/card] is a better sideboard card anyway.

[draft]Faerie Conclave
Firespout
Firestorm
Momentary Blink
Sulfurous Springs[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Faerie Conclave[/draft]

Great card and I’m glad he played it, I think most players would not.

[draft]Academy Rector
Avacyn’s Pilgrim
Future Sight
Mox Diamond[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Future Sight[/draft]

Neat.

[draft]AEther Vial
Flagstones of Trokair
Lotus Bloom[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Lotus Bloom[/draft]

[card]Aether Vial[/card] and basic Plains right where they belong.

[draft]Dreadbore
Frantic Search[/draft]

Butakov’s pick:
[draft]Frantic Search[/draft]

[draft]Turnabout[/draft]

I think Butakov drafted pretty well, and with his 2-1 record in the Cube was a deserving champion (Correction: His actual record in the Cube portion was 3-0). I think a 2-1 record is about average for a deck like this, while 3-0 would be running above expectation and 1-2 would be pretty unlucky. I think his biggest weaknesses were undervaluing mana-fixing like the [card]Drowned Catacomb[/card] and [card]Watery Grave[/card], and I disagree with his distaste for [card]Dark Confidant[/card].

That’s the reason people love Cube so much—you can never really agree with every pick each person made in a particular draft, so everyone gets to put their own personal touch on it. Let me know what you thought of this format in the comments, see you next week.

Owen Turtenwald
qazwsxedcrfvtgbyhnuj on Magic Online

Discussion

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