To many Magic: the Gathering players Cube is the quintessential format. Cube has that feeling of kitchen table decks you made years ago, the best-limited environment you’ll ever play, and the experience of a constructed deck all rolled into one. It is Magic in one of its purest forms and combines everything people love about this game into one package. Building a cube is no easy task, but in order to help introduce more people to this wonderful format, I decided I would write this article to provide a jumping-off point for those who want to start their own cube. What is a cube?
According to Melissa DeTora’s article Building Your First Cube cube is described as “a large collection of (often powerful) cards used for drafting and playing Limited. Drafting a cube is similar to drafting booster packs, but instead of drafting from three fifteen-card Magic booster packs, you draft from fifteen-card “packs” that you create from your cube.”
This is a very accurate description of cube, but cube is more than what is said here. What makes cube one of the greatest formats of all time is that it can be whatever you want it to be. Cube is essentially several different decks designed to work well with each other if they were to be mashed together. This intricate balance of different decks culminating into one whole is really the heart and soul behind cube. Building and maintiaining a cube is much more akin to refining a deck in any other kind of format and is an extremely rewarding experience.
Of all the things I say in this article, the main thing I want people to take away from this is that if you want a cube you have to start one. It is possible to get stuck theorycrafting a cube for years and have nothing to show for your work. The cube you have now will look significantly different from the cube you have 5 years from now, and the only way to get to the 5 year cube is to start one now. Get a stack of cards in front of you that you can call your cube and the rest is iteration and experimentation.
Deciding On Your Power Level
The first decision you have to make when designing a cube is figuring out the power level you want to have. Whether you want a vintage environment or a standard limited experience, deciding on your power level when you begin is important for balancing the cube. When opening up a pack, ideally, each pick should be equally viable. If you have a cube filled mostly with draft chaff, Sol Ring would stick out like a sore thumb. Likewise, a Grizzly Bear has no place in a vintage cube.
Now, the only way to create a cube where every card is equal is to have every card to be the same. This is where I would recommend choosing your favorite card and comparing all the other cards in the cube to it. Half the cube should be more powerful than it, and the other half should be less powerful than it. You don’t have to go through each individual card and compare them specifically, but keep in mind your ideal power level as you go through choosing new cards.
Starting the Cube
There are many different paths one can take when starting a cube. The 3 main methods would be:
- Steal someone else’s design
- Build yours from scratch
- Make a set cube
Probably the simplest and most effective way to start a cube would be to steal a design from another player. They have already put in a lot of work tweaking and designing the cube to get it to the specifications that they would want. After copying someone else’s list, you can then make changes to better suit you and your playgroup. I would also recommend proxying as much of their list as you can before you go out and buy cards that you may realize later you don’t want in the cube. Especially be sure to proxy the cube if you intend to foil it out. There are many different cubes to choose from, but here are a few starting places that I would recommend.
- The Board Game Cube by SolelySingleton (360 cards, $100)
- The Miser’s Cube by SolelySingleton (450 cards, $500)
- Pauper Cube by Thanimal (360 cards)
- Peasant Cube by /u/SpootyOne (450 cards)
- 360 Legacy Cube by /u/TuesdayTastic (360 cards)
- 540 Legacy Cube by /u/DrRuler (540 cards)
- 720 Legacy Cube by wtwlf123 (720 cards)
- MTGO Vintage Cube (540 cards)
- Commander Cube by Brandon Sanderson (952 cards and custom cards)
- Desert Cube by Loxodon_Meyerarch (480 cards, must draft lands)
This is only the tip of the iceberg in what is possible in cube. I did my best to try to cover the spectrum including budget cubes, cubes without a budget, and even cubes that don’t do a traditional draft and offer an experience that only cube can provide. Cube can encompass formats such as the Jund Cube by /u/Riku which has no blue or white cards, the Modular Cube by PathToCube which has packages for different draft archetypes, or even the Strictly Worse Cube by Loading Ready Run which can only run cards that are strictly worse, such as Shock compared to Lightning Bolt. And this isn’t even considering the many different ways one can draft a cube such as Rotisserie, Winston, Burn and more. While the average cube may play more like a regular draft where each pick is equivalent to a rare, cube has the potential for so much more.
This is how I built my first cube and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to build a cube and spend as little money as possible. To do this, grab your big box of cards that you aren’t playing with and make a pile with as equal of a color distribution as you can manage. Then draft it and make changes from there. It really is that simple.
There is a little more to it than this but the easiest way to get into cubing is to have a cube. While it may seem bad to have a cube that is filled with literal draft chaff, it’ll be much more fun than you expect. My first cube didn’t have enough multicolor cards for each section, didn’t consciously support any deck, and was drafted and played unsleeved because the value of the cube was so low. (I apologize for subjecting a playgroup to an unsleeved cube). Despite all of this it was a blast and my players were able to find decks in the cube that I didn’t know existed. Many of them came to me after the draft and told me it was a lot of fun which surprised me because it was not refined in any way.
A few years later and I have an extremely tuned and polished cube that supports many different decks and gives everyone an equal chance of winning. I gradually upgraded it until it finally got to a place where I was very happy with it. Acquiring cards like Dark Confidant and Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy was legitimate milestones that I still remember fondly. I learned more about this format by building my own cube from scratch and if you have a tight budget, this is the cheapest way to do it and still have fun.
Set cubes are another way to play and are more akin to drafting then cube. If there is a limited environment that you really enjoyed whether it be Innistrad, Khans, Dominaria, or another interesting limited environment you can create a set cube of it. The way to do this is simple.
- 4 of each common
- 2 of each uncommon
- 1 of each rare/mythic
Then, it’s up to you to cut any cards that you find make the format unfun. Don’t like Invisible Stalker in Innistrad? It’s your cube, and if you think it’ll make for a more fun and healthy environment, by all means, cut it. You can also use this opportunity to cut cards that are higher in rarity because they are meant for constructed instead of draft.
You also aren’t limited from grabbing cards from one block. If you are building a Ravnica cube, it is well within your right to use cards from core sets that feature Ravnica, or even just cards that you think will be good for the environment. Ravnica may not have had fetchlands, but if it makes the draft more engaging feel free to add them.
Cube is far and away my favorite way to play Magic. It is a dynamic format that is completely different for each person’s cube and offers a lot of imaginative ways to play Magic. Whether you decide to build a draft chaff cube or a fully powered vintage cube, in the end, we are all playing the same wonderful format that is cube. In my next article concerning cube, I will be discussing how one can iterate on their cube and make it into a fantastic draft environment.