What is CUBE

by Thom Krone (after Evan Erwin, Tom LaPille and Tom Fowler)

What is The Cube?

The Cube IS Magic.

Pure. Simple. Powerful.

The Cube is a collection of the most powerful cards ever printed in Magic: The Gathering. This doesn’t mean just Moxes and Mana Drains. This can be any collection of powerful cards. The sky is the limit.

After collecting a balanced set, you divide the cards into draft packs and you then draft The Cube. You can opt for a regular eight man draft, but eight player Two Headed Giant draft is hands down the most fun we've had with The Cube so far. Making sealed pools is also a fine variant. Other options are: Rotisserie, Rochester, Winston (for 2 players) and of course Crazy-Wacky-Format.

Anyway: Fun. Guaranteed.

If you’ve never tried a cube draft, you should. Maybe someone at your local store has one, or perhaps the store has made one of its own. Maybe someone you know at a large event is doing a cube after several people have dropped. If you have a chance to get into a cube draft, I highly recommend it. If you want to make your own, I’ll give you some advice.

1. Decide how many players you want to support

This involves some simple math. If you just want to do eight-person drafts, then you’ll need three 15-card packs for each player. That’s 45 cards per player, for a total of at leat 360 cards. My cube has 672, for 16 drafters drafting 14-card packs and for much desired variance when drafting with 8 players.

You might want to do 16-person drafts, but if you can’t get a two tables at the store, you might have to scale it down a bit. If eight players is the most you can fit in your apartment, or the most the local watering hole can support, then go with that. You may also not have a vast collection, and thus, a 400-card cube could be the right choice based on that. Consider the size of your collection, how many good cards you have that you aren ’t playing with somewhere else, and where you can play.

2. Pick your card pool

How far back do you want to go? Do you have Power 9? Do you want to use them in your cube if you do?

These are things you have to consider. My cube runs the entire scope of Magic, from Alpha/Beta/Unlimited up thru the newest set.
That brings up another point: other people will be playing with your cards. At the end of the draft, you need to trust them to give your cards back. Personally, I only let people I know (or those strongly vouched for by one of my regulars) into my cube drafts. Remember, they’re your cards: you have the right to restrict who gets to play with them. This might be harder in a public place like a game store, but stick to your guns. If you think someone is sketchy, don’t let them play. The most important thing about cubing is getting your cards back so you can cube again.

3. Pick your cards

Let’s say you’ve decided on an eight-player cube, so you’re looking at at least 360 cards. My tip is to start low, say around 400. The extra 40 cards will provide some randomness that's very welcome in my opinion and experience, but you of course may decide against it. Still, you'll no doubt expand towards 450 or even 500 later on and that's not something you should be afraid of or should dislike. Reasons for that are simple: broadening the options that a color gives you and not having to cut cards you really like when you add cards from new sets, which you will do… Oh, and the variance becomes even greater of course.

You need to divide that 400 among the five colors, nonbasic lands, artifacts, and multicolored cards. Some cubers make a distinction between normal multicolor and hybrid cards. I don’t; they’re all in the same pile for me. With 400 the divide is straightforward:

Each color: 50 cards
Nonbasic lands: 50 cards
Artifacts: 50 cards
Multicolor: 50 cards

So you’ve settled on your numbers. Now you need to find a bunch of cards. I recommend just building piles of good cards. Look at other people’s cubes for guidance, of course, but don’t feel like you have to play something just because other cubers are. If you think putting Squire in your cube and watching someone open it would be hilarious, then do it. It’s your cube, after all. Make piles, and then pare down. Be merciless. Eliminate the cards you think are worse, and keep the good ones. Eventually, you’ll be at your numbers.

Along with this…

4. Keep in mind what the colors are like and what they do

Your green pile shouldn’t be 20 creatures and 30 other spells. That’s a fine breakdown for your blue stack, but green is all about smashing people with big dumb monsters.(It’s also about cool things like Hurricane and Plow Under, but the smash-you-with-large-animals motif is the primary one.) Keep that in mind when you’re building your stacks. Green should be heavier on creatures than other spells. Blue should be the opposite. The other three colors should be pretty evenly balanced between the two.

Also, blue counters spells and draws cards. Don’t be afraid to put Remand in your cube just because you already have Counterspell and Force of Will in there. All those cards are perfectly in theme for blue. Sleeve them up and put them in your cube. (Besides, Remand is far more splashable than the other two, and could very easily end up in a different deck.) Red burns things. Play burn spells. Black makes people discard and then reanimates the dead. Put those cards in. Don’t go crazy with a particular theme. Pick the best three or four and ditch the rest, but make sure the theme is present. If you’re unsure of where the dividing line is, look at other people’s cubes for some guidance. Also pay attention to (creature)curve. Don't run 4 one-drops, 7 two-drops and no three-drops. You should even it out a bit: 5 one-drops, 5 two-drops, 4 three-drops, 4 four-drops, 3 five-drops, 3 six-drops, 1 seven-plus-drops. This, or something akin to it, seems fine for white, red and green, but might a bit off for black and blue. You get it, I think…

Part of this is making sure archetypes are represented. If someone wants to draft U/W control, the cards should be there for them to do so. If you didn’t include cards like Wrath of God, Mana Leak, and some good late-game creatures in those colors, that archetype won’t be draftable. You don’t need to re-create everything—the Merfolk mill deck in Lorwyn limited can be safely omitted—but the classics should be there. R/G beats. U/W control. Mono-Black. People have played those decks, both in limited and constructed events, for years. They should be able to play them in your cube, too.

Even if you personally hate an archetype, like U/W control, there will be people who want to draft it. Cubing is supposed to be fun. Make your players happy. Even if you want to stab someone in the face every time their Wall of Blossoms stops your Hellspark Elemental, you need to keep your players happy. Think of it this way: you're making a Magic set. You need to make the colors good, make sure they represent what they do, and try to keep them in balance. You also need to make sure Timmy, Johnny, and Spike have something in there they like.

Make no mistake: The pool of good cards is so big, now that Magic is 20 years old, that building a Cube is about making tough choices. Some people choose to be archetype heavy to make cuts and adds more defined. Although I have some archetypes I try to be a good cards Cube. Not restricting a color to a single archetype is good Cubing-practice and this is especially true for the color pairs.

 

 

5. Sleeve the bloody thing

They’re your cards, after all. Maybe you don’t care much about how they end up, but that puts you in a small minority of players. Sleeve your cube, especially if you’re playing with valuable cards like Force of Will, dual lands, or Library of Alexandria You should also have a stock of basic lands for use in the drafts, and sleeve those, too. How many basics will be a function of how many people your cube can support.

Obviously, all your sleeves should be the same color and from the same manufacturer. They don’t all have to be new and shiny; maybe you have a ton of spare black sleeves from all the PTQs you play in. Use those. I would avoid any that are damaged or obviously marked, but worn sleeves are perfectly good. They’ll also save you money over buying a half dozen 100-count boxes of new sleeves.

6. Keep track of your cube

It’s OK to jot down a decklist idea on a cocktail napkin. It’s not OK to record the contents of your cube like that. Make sure you get a list. That way, you know exactly what’s in your cube and can keep tabs on it from time to time. Also, you can share the list with others and get feedback on your card choices. Personally, I use the AWESOME cubetutor.com and my own website to document my cube. A Word document would do just as well. You might even keep a handwritten list, but I think you’ll find that an electronic one is easier to update when you make changes. Another benefit to using an electronic one is that you can easily see how many cards you have of each color.

7. Have a plan for future sets

Some sets might only have a couple of cube-worthy cards. Some may have quite a few. Then you’ll have a set like Alara Reborn that some cube-worthy cards, but not in the conventional way (in this case, of course, they’re all multicolored). Whatever the set and however many good cards it contains, you need to figure out a plan for adding them to your cube.

Are you dead set on keeping your cube at its current size? If so, that means you need to make a cut for each card you add. If you have a 360-card cube fashioned from a vast collection, your cube’s power level is going to be high. Making cuts won’t be easy. A cube of the same size made from a more shallow collection will have more cards easily cut. You could also expand your cube as new sets come out. Maybe you have 360 cards you really like right now. But once Magic 2015 and the next block are out, there might be 100 cards you want to add. Add them and you could cut  'in reverse' order: Add cards, then make cuts after a couple of sessions. Because you can think about it all you want, but there's no better judge to a cards' right to be included better than actual play. Which brings me to:

8. Try to draft regularly

You may look at the saucy cards in your cube and cackle like a bad movie villain, but at some point, you’ll want to show it to other people. The best way to do that is to play. If you can get a table or two at your local game store, so much the better. If not, someone could host a night of cube drafting at their apartment/house. If you build it, they will come, and someone will provide a place to play.

How regularly you draft is, of course, a function of how often everyone can get together and do it. If you have an eight-player cube and 15 friends interested, then you should be able to get eight together pretty easily. It’s when you get to be adults, and everyone has a job, and some guys are married with kids, that cubing becomes more difficult to set up. Yes, I speak from experience there.

9. Get feedback from your players

Just because you think a particular card is the cat’s pyjamas doesn’t mean everyone else will, too. After a draft, you should ask your players what worked and what didn’t. What cards did well for them? What cards did poorly? Which cards were better than they thought, or worse than they thought? Were any cards out of flavor for their color(s)? Was is possible to draft an archetype, like U/W control? These are the things you want to know so that you can tweak your cube. It is, of course, your cube, but your fellow players are going to have some good suggestions.

Now, go play or build a cube!

Other reading: