Cube is, in my opinion, the best casual format for Magic: the Gathering. For those who are unaware of the Cube format, it is a collection of cards gathered together to be used for various forms of Limited (limited is any format in which you construct a deck from a pool of cards on the spot as opposed to a head of time, such as Draft and Sealed). Cube provides a wonderful and exciting environment for players that is unparalleled by any other format. Cube allows for the chance to experience unique interactions between cards all across the expansive twenty years of Magic the Gathering while still maintaining balance amongst all of the decks. How often do you get to play with cards like [card]Treachery[/card], [card]Tinker[/card], and [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card]? Cube isn’t all about playing with the most powerful cards of magic(although some may disagree). One of the best parts about Cube is that each Cube is different and with that one can do a multitude of things in their Cube.
Constructing a Cube
There is a myriad of options when it comes to building a Cube. The openness of Cube may at first seem daunting. Do I want tribal? What archetypes do I want to be viable? Should I limit myself to singleton? Is there a specific block that I would like to use? The questions are truly endless. I will provide a few examples and a few some what rules of cube.
Examples of different Cubes:
Good Stuff Cube
This type of cube is normally just a pile of fun powerful cards that synergize well with each other. This type of cube can also serve as a “highlight reel” of magic’s past with cards like [card]Necropotence[/card] and [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]. Essentially powerful cards that are iconic in magic. There isn’t a real theme to this type of cube. It is more about getting to play with fun and powerful cards.
A tribal cube is a cube that emphasizes creature types. This would be a cube that would reward players for sticking to a specific tribe whilst drafting. Any creature type would do for this type of cube as long as it can remain viable against the other creature types in the cube. You would get to play with tribes like goblins, rebels, merfolk, or my personal favorite, ninja. It is entirely up to the designer of the cube.
This is one of the easiest Cubes to build. Just take a specific block that you enjoyed playing sleeve it up with some lands and you have a Cube. All of the hassles of balance issues are sorted out already since blocks are always constructed with limited in mind. This is a great option for people who really enjoyed a specific block and they want to experience again and again.
A Bad Cube is a cube made up of entirely bad cards. It seems like a bit of a novelty, but it can actually provide some complex interactions. Also you get to play with cards that most people would never play such as [card]Wood Elemental[/card] and [card]Chimney Imp[/card]. I would be careful with this type of cube though. It is easy to fall into the trap of jamming in a bunch of do nothing cards like [card]Trip Wire[/card] with no other cards for it to interact with. Sure it makes the card bad, but it leads to a terrible limited environment. People play cube to play Magic not to stare at a bunch of cards in their hand that they wish they could play.
These are only a few examples of Cubes. When it comes to constructing a Cube, it is really up to the creativity of the designer. One could even mix and match between various cube themes to find a Cubing environment that he or she likes best.
Other Things To Think About
What Archetypes Should be Viable?
Within each cube there should generally be certain archetypes that are supported to make drafting more interesting. Examples of archetypes would be: reanimator, ramp, aggro/monored, control, combo, ect. I think it makes for a better drafting environment to reward drafters for drafting for synergy over raw power. This makes drafting much more interesting and complex. Instead of just choosing the best card in your colors every pack, one drafter may choose to pick a less powerful card because the overall power gained from synergy is much greater. Alternatively, there shouldn’t be any traps. A trap would be like having a bunch of reanimation spells([card]Animate Dead[/card], [card]Reanimate[/card], [card]Unburial Rites[/card]) but no enablers([card]Entomb[/card], [card]Buried Alive[/card], [card]Putrid Imp[/card]). Having traps punishes drafters for making what seem to be correct picks, and that is not a good thing to punish drafters for doing.
Powered or Unpowered?
Power in cube refers to the power nine cards and some other cards that gives you access to doing just crazy broken things. Cards like [card]Sol Ring[/card], [card]Mana Crypt[/card], [card]Mind Twist[/card], [card]Library of Alexandria[/card], [card]Mana Drain[/card] are all cards generally considered to be power in cube. Powered Cubes let you do incredibly broken things, and with that the games tend to be really swingy. In my opinion, I prefer unpowered cubes because I like that there normally isn’t a clear pick this card over every other card in the pack. In powered cubes, it is almost always not correct to pass power even if the card isn’t in your colors. But with that being said, I do like to play with power every once in awhile.
Balance is probably one of the most difficult things to do with a cube. You need to make sure that there are answers to certain strategies, but not too many answers to make the strategy not viable. E.G. there needs to be removal for creature based strategies, but the removal can’t be so prevalent that the creature based strategies aren’t viable. Also personal biases can often come into play when it comes to balancing a cube. I tend to be a control player, so I like control to be a viable archetype in my cube. So if a certain decision to change the cube in favor an archetype is iffy, I tend to side with the archetype s that are less creature based. Really, the best way to balance a cube is just to draft it repeatedly and make tweaks after so many drafts.
How Big Should My Cube Be?
I would first look at how many drafters you wish to support, and then think about if you want to see different cards every time you draft. I have a pretty large cube. It is a little over 450(I can’t remember the exact number), but this ensures that with each draft I will see different cards. This could be a negative though. Larger cubes can make certain cards worse or certain archetypes worse. E.G. [card]Kird Ape[/card] will be worse in a large cube since it will be harder to draft the Ravnica shocks and true duals or they might not even be in the draft. My rule of thumb is that for each player you want to support have 45 cards(45 cards is pretty standard for a draft set) in your cube.
What Do I Need Aside From the Cards?
It is good to have all of your cards in the cube sleeved along with a certain number of basic lands for people to add to their deck after drafting. The number of basic lands entirely depend upon the size of the cube. My Cube, which supports up to 10 drafters, has 40 of each basic land, but a smaller cube could get away with less.
Also, you will need a good way to store the cube. A lot of people use a large card storage box with a box from a fat pack to hold the land in. I just use three fat pack boxes. Two boxes for the actually cube itself and one for the basic land.
I hope this article was informative enough to let people get started on their own cubes. Obviously, one article won’t be enough to delve into all of the facets of Cube, but this should be enough to begin with. Happy Cubing!
[Written by contributor Max Magnuson]