Drafting the cube : ‘The Upheaval Deck’

If you open up your first pack, and you’re seeing a fairly mediocre pack : mind stone, jackal pup, yavimaya elder, firebolt, kor sanctifiers, crystal ball etc. Then, at the end, a 6 mana sorcery. Could it be? yes! you’ve first picked upheaval,and now you’re ready to draft one of the most powerful decks in cube.

The Upheaval Deck (hereafter referred to as TUD) is usually UG, or sometimes UGb. The blue is full of card draw, the green is mana ramp and both are fatties. The occaisonal black splash is for a tutor. The general aim of the deck is to ramp a silly amount early on, and either drop a huge fatty turn 2 or 3 (like a normal ramp deck), or play a midrange game, wait til you’re not winning, then drop upheaval, replay your mana artifacts and be ahead, or float mana, play upheaval, and drop a midrange fatty. There are a good few game plans, but my personal favourite is this : Try and get the ultimate trifector : Eternal Witness, Crystal Shard, and Upheaval. If you get the right hand, you end up upheavaling every turn and winning in 10 turns. This does, however, require 13 mana, so usually upheavaling every other turn is the way to go.

Drafting TUD

There are  a few key components to TUD, which should be aquired in this order:

1.Get Upheaval. Sounds obvious, but the deck gets much better with it.

2. Get ramp. The best 4 to get are Sol Ring, Mana Vault, Mana Crypt and Grim Monolith, since they can all get replayed together off a single land. Failing that, Joraga Treespeaker, or any of the mana elves are usually pretty good, as are mana rocks. Of course, Moxen are great here.

3.Get some weight. Grab fatties where possible. My 4 favourites are Wurmcoil Engine (ease of play and lifelink) , Terastodon (destroy lands then upheaval, leaving them 3 lands behind), Jwar Jwar Sphinx (nigh-unkillable) and Simic Sky Swallower (Sphinx on ‘roids).

4.Search! You’re essentially playing a combo deck a lot of the time, so Impulse, Demonic Tutor, Fact or Fiction and Brainstorm/Ponder/Preordain can be great friends to you. The more of these you guy, the more consistent your deck will be, but bear in mind, if you get too many, you’ll end up digging, see nothing, grab a cantrip, and have to repeat for a while. There are plenty of these cards in cube, and they’re likely to wheel a lot of the time (except DT) – they’re not huge picks for a lot of decks, especially the one mana ones.

5.Praetors gonna praet. If you can’t get any of these in the pack, hate draft to hell. Ankh of Mishra and counterspells should be your primary targets, since setting yourself up to upheaval, then it getting countered really, really sucks.

What to do when the draft isn’t going well

One point of drafing TUD is that if you’re looking for these (above) cards, and they’re not coming to you, don’t try and force the deck. The mana ramp cards are taken early, and the finishers are taken pretty early too,so if you’re not getting what you need for your deck, bail. The easiest deck to move into it probably some sort of blue based control, since you’ll have hated the counterspells, and you’ll have drafted Upheaval and some card draw anyway, it’s a good build to bail into. When in doubt, draft both, since a lot of cards can easily double up to be good in both decks.

If you failed to get the cantrips, and you instead got the mana elves, then it’s probably a good idea to drop into UG tempo. Try and grab the nice blue and green 3 and 4 drops : Kira, Sower of Tempation , Thrun, and Mystic Snake are all good cards for this archetype. Like bailing into blue based control, a lot of these cards are good to double up into anyway, so it’s not a huge problem.

Sample Decklist


  • Mulldrifter
  • Thieving Magpie
  • Vendilion Clique
  • Joraga Treespeaker
  • Noble Hierarch
  • Fyndhorn Elves
  • Thrun, the last troll
  • Eternal Witness
  • Wurmcoil Engine
  • Sphinx of Jwar Isle
  • Mind Stone
  • Sol Ring
  • Grim Monolith
  • Mana Vault
  • Gifts Ungiven
  • Upheaval
  • Remand
  • Brainstorm
  • Demonic Tutor
  • Sensei’s Divining Top
  • Crystal Shard
  • Ponder
  • Impulse
  • Arcane Denial


If you’re drafting a smaller, powered cube, this deck isn’t too hard to make, provided you get Upheaval P1P1. This is because of the higher density of mana artifacts and mana elves, and given the right hand, you can absolutely destroy opponents if drafted properly. However,in a larger cube, it gets a bit harder, since the overall power level is a little lower, and so Moxen and manafacts are taken earlier, meaning you’re less likely to see them. In essence, it’s like you’re drafting a combo deck, and it’s one which doesn’t come together too often, since the combo piece isn’t narrow, and is a great spell in blue based control. Provided you draft hard, and value each card correctly, you should be fine with this deck. As such , I’d actually draft it as one of the harder decks to draft, but probably the easiest combo deck.

Thanks for reading,



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