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Let’s talk about Cube. Of all the for­mats I will talk about in Magic the Gathering, Cube is one of the most unusual, but one of the most reward­ing because it involves you build­ing your own for­mat out of cards you like and want to play with. On its most basic level, Cube is a lim­ited for­mat with a large pool of cards that play­ers use to draft from repeat­edly, with only one of each of those cards being included in the pool. The advan­tage of doing this over booster drafts is obvi­ous: you don’t need to keep buy­ing sealed pro­duct in order to have fun lim­ited game­play. So play­ers with a reg­u­lar play­group who play a large amount of lim­ited would really ben­e­fit from cre­at­ing and curat­ing a Cube. Cube is gen­er­ally a casual for­mat in most of its iter­a­tions and so the goal of Cube is to just have fun.

How does a Cube Draft Function?

cube-side-1When you draft Cube, you don’t assem­ble packs like you would in a reg­u­lar booster draft. You assem­ble three fif­teen card sim­u­lated “packs” at ran­dom from the card-pool. Many first time Cubers make the mis­take of also try­ing to have the same ratio of rar­ity as in a sealed pack. In Cube, a card’s rar­ity isn’t impor­tant it’s func­tion is, and so you don’t have to worry about orga­niz­ing packs as long as your Cube is well ran­dom­ized — Cube is a very good demon­stra­tion of why you shouldn’t be blinded by rar­ity in Magic. Apart from this, Cube drafts gen­er­ally work the same as any other draft you would attend. Be sure to ask who­ever is run­ning the Cube if there are any spe­cial con­di­tions or quirks with how they run their drafts.

Where can I play Cube?

If you are not inter­ested in build­ing a Cube but want to expe­ri­ence the for­mat then your best bet is to ask around your local card shops or in your cir­cle of Magic play­ing friends to see if any­one has a Cube they are will­ing to run drafts with. Some Magic shops them­selves keep an in-store Cube — so there is no harm in ask­ing. Some stores may ask for a small fee to help improve the Cube, so be pre­pared for that even­tu­al­ity. Outside of phys­i­cal MtG, the first place many play­ers will come into con­tact with Cube is on Magic the Gathering Online. They run a legacy Cube, hol­i­day Cube and other sea­sonal Cube events that are a great way for peo­ple out­side of a play­group or out of reach of a local game store to expe­ri­ence the for­mat. If it is your first time play­ing lim­ited, a casual play­group or store event is a great place to learn in a more relaxed envi­ron­ment than a com­pet­i­tive booster draft. Cube should be a casual, fun for­mat.

How Big Does a Cube Need to be?

To start with, I would sug­gest assem­bling a small Cube which requires a pool of 360 unique cards. This is a Cube that serves 4 – 8 play­ers and is the least com­plex to assem­ble. Once again Cube is gen­er­ally a sin­gle­ton for­mat. They can become more advanced as skilled play­ers build in mul­ti­ples of cer­tain cards, but this not gen­er­ally the norm. Complexity increases sig­nif­i­cantly when mov­ing to a medium Cube (540 cards for 8 – 12 play­ers) and even a large Cube that can ser­vice two pods of eight play­ers for par­al­lel drafts.  For assem­bling packs and run­ning drafts smoothly, it is gen­er­ally rec­om­mended to keep to these nice round num­bers as they divide by 15 and scale quite nicely depend­ing on the size of your play­group. If you stick to any of the “guide­li­nes” of the loose Cube for­mat, this would be the one to stick to clos­est. For those won­der­ing, yes all of these num­bers exclude basic lands.


Basics of Building a Cube

Building a Cube can be intim­i­dat­ing, but once you get over the ini­tial hur­dles it’s one of the best ways to express your­self as a player. Be sure to check out Cube-lists on forums and ded­i­cated Cube resources such as CubeTutor. The best way to learn about Cube is to look at other people’s Cube lists that might have years worth of refine­ment put into them. You can stick to tem­plates as closely or loosely as you want. A Cube is very per­sonal. These are your favourite cards.

Cube is about draft­ing with the best and most fun cards avail­able to you; no one likes play­ing with bad cards so you are not look­ing for filler or janky cards. That’s the appeal of Cube: it’s the cream off the top of your col­lec­tion and that leads to exit­ing game­play and inter­est­ing inter­ac­tions. If a few cards are strictly worse than the rest of the Cube then they will always be drafted last — gen­er­ally never mak­ing it into well-built decks. The most solid rule in Cube-building is mak­ing sure each colour is equally rep­re­sented. There is no per­fect num­ber of each colour or type of card but there needs to be a bal­ance between all five colours. Be sure to take into account multi-coloured cards in this process too as they add to each colour’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion. More tricky than sim­ply ensur­ing numer­i­cal par­ity is ensur­ing equal­ity of power-level between the colours and mak­ing sure you have a mana-curve. A mana curve is the num­ber of each card you have for any given mana-cost. For exam­ple: a deck just filled with cards cost­ing seven mana and over would be mis­er­able to play. You need a good mix of cast­ing costs with a higher num­ber of lower and mid-cost cards.

This gen­er­ally comes with test­ing and refine­ment or by using pre-existing tem­plates, no Cube is per­fect on its first out­ing. You shouldn’t try to build a Cube from the ground up on your first try because it might not even func­tion — never mind be a reward­ing play expe­ri­ence. Conversely, don’t feel pres­sured to spend hun­dreds of dol­lars on the most pow­er­ful cards in magic. Balance is key in a Cube and you can achieve that at almost any power-level. Look for more bud­get lists or lists that include cards you already own.


Types of Cube

Cubes come in many forms and vari­a­tions. These are some of the most com­mon arche­types:

Themed Cube

Many Cubes have cer­tain restric­tions or themes to them that help nar­row down the cards used in, or sim­ply as a way of cre­at­ing inter­est­ing game play. For exam­ple: a Cube might con­sist of only arti­facts, or a Cube might have only cer­tain tribes in it. The theme could be only multi-coloured cards or only cards below a cer­tain mana cost. Themed Cubes can be the most dif­fi­cult to get right and bal­ance as the restric­tions may end up push­ing you into under-power cer­tain colours, or not putting in enough cards to fill basic roles like removal. I would rec­om­mend a first time Cube focus more on func­tion­al­ity than theme or flavour, but when done cor­rectly it can pro­duce a reward­ing and unique expe­ri­ence.

Block or Set Cube

One of the best ways to make a Cube in my opin­ion is to use exist­ing lim­ited envi­ron­ments. Most mod­ern sets are built with draft­ing in mind and so sim­ply choos­ing the 360 best draft cards in a full block or large set can go a long way towards a func­tional draft expe­ri­ence. Having a block made into a Cube also lets you re-live past sets with­out hav­ing to open — often — expen­sive older boost­ers. A good tip when mak­ing a block or set Cube is to iden­tify cycles and arche­types that work well in draft and retain those whilst simul­ta­ne­ously remov­ing all the cards con­sid­ered unplayable in nor­mal draft. Look at the viable decks in the exist­ing for­mat and retain what was good about their game play. Cube is meant to be the best of cards: the first thing to go should be over­costed or use­less lim­ited filler.

Pauper Cube

As I talked about in my Pauper arti­cle, assem­bling decks from just com­mons is a good value way to expe­ri­ence a for­mat. Cube is much the same with a Pauper Cube being assem­bled out of only com­mon cards. This also removes some of the worry of play­ing with strangers as you will not be los­ing a $300 mythic to light fin­gers.

Powered Cube

A pow­ered Cube will go all out. Its aim is to assem­ble the ulti­mate pool of the most pow­er­ful cards in the his­tory of Magic the Gathering. This includes cards from the power nine, orig­i­nal dual-lands, over­pow­ered banned cards and unfair com­bos. Many play­ers will go so far as to foil out these Cubes and make them the max­i­mum value. If a Cube is worth a lot of money then it is unlikely the owner will lend it to play­ers or let strangers draft with it since pow­ered Cubes can run into the tens of thou­sands of dol­lars at the top end. You don’t need to have a fully pow­ered Cube to have fun, but boy are they impres­sive col­lec­tions of cards in of them­selves. Like the fan­tasy foot­ball of Magic the Gathering.

Silly or Unusual Cube

Some Cubes include cards from the “Un-“ joke sets or “draft mat­ters.” Cards like those from Conspiracy that effect how cards are drafted. This can lead to very fun and inter­est­ing game play but it can also lead to chaos. Be sure to know what spe­cial or unusual con­di­tions a Cube may have if it is using these cards as play­ers unfa­mil­iar with them may strug­gle to under­stand inter­ac­tions dur­ing draft or game play.


So to Recap

Cube is a sin­gle­ton for­mat con­sist­ing of a card pool of 360 – 720 cards with the aim of cre­at­ing a bal­anced and fun draft­ing for­mat. It’s dri­ven by the kind of cards the cre­ator of the Cube likes to play with. It comes in many vari­a­tions, but is works best when fol­low­ing cer­tain guide­li­nes.

I hope this has taken some of the mys­tery away from what a Cube is and have inspired you to seek out a Cube or build one of your own. As you grow as a Magic player — and your col­lec­tion expands — so will your basic Cube grow into a for­mat you can put your mark on. Cube is also a great way to learn how lim­ited for­mats them­selves are con­structed and see some of the rea­sons behind the place­ment of cards in cer­tain sets. As always, be sure to have fun, and good luck on the next step in your Magic jour­ney.

https://supernerdland.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/header-cube.pnghttps://supernerdland.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/header-cube-150x150.pngJohn SweeneyTrading Card GamesTraditional GamesCube,Magic The GatherhingLet’s talk about Cube. Of all the for­mats I will talk about in Magic the Gathering, Cube is one of the most unusual, but one of the most reward­ing because it involves you build­ing your own for­mat out of cards you like and want to play with. On its…
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John Sweeney
John Sweeney is a ter­ri­bly British man with a back­ground in engi­neer­ing. He writes long-form edi­to­rial con­tent with analy­sis of gam­ing, games media and inter­net cul­ture. He also does the occa­sional video game ret­ro­spec­tive with a weekly column about Magic the Gathering thrown in for good mea­sure. He also does most of our inter­views for some rea­son, we have no idea why. A staunch sup­porter of free speech and con­sumer rights; skep­ti­cal of agenda dri­ven media and sus­pi­cious of unac­cou­table author­ity but always hope­ful for change.