I've been playing Magic: The Gathering for some time, and today I want to share my tricks.
What Is a Cube?
A cube is a set of cards that simulates the draft of a Magic: The Gathering expansion and can be drafted through specific software or even in paper format with friends. The cube is the quintessence of the draft and is the best format for true Limited enthusiasts.
Cubes are sometimes available on platforms such as MTG Online or MTG Arena, but they can also be made by passionate fans, helping you spend evenings (and sometimes even late nights) drafting with your friends. Cubes also let you use cards that you would not normally have the opportunity to play in certain formats, and they help you improve your skills with the Limited format. In fact, some people record their picks so they can review them and reevaluate their choices later in order to improve their strategies.
How Is a Cube Made?
First of all, we start by evaluating the general atmosphere we want to give to the cube, the archetypes for the main color combinations, and the thematic and mechanical overlaps between the colors. This choice is made at the beginning in order to understand in which direction the subsequent choices will have to be made and the feeling we want to convey with our cube.
It is important that there are thematic overlaps between the colors in order to give options to the players, but these must not be too marked so that each color maintains its own identity. In fact, it is extremely important to keep the cards in the color pie so as not to create confusion, as well as to facilitate general understanding of the cube. For example, Green cannot have an archetype based on flying creatures, just as Blue cannot be the best in combat and so on.
These rules are general and can be slightly bent in case you want to create a cube with a particular theme. The main purpose of these choices is to give your cube an identity and make it fresh and beautiful to play and draft. This is the key difference between a cube and a random stack of cards or a list of the most powerful cards in Magic history.
Mana Fixing and Multicolored Cards
At this stage, it is also important to define what the contribution of mana fixing elements and multicolored cards will be in order to understand how players might play our cube. In fact, depending on the mechanics of the archetypes and the presence of mana fixing and multicolored cards, a cube could lead to the choice of playing monocolor, bicolor, or tricolor themes.
Players could choose monocolor when cards with specific mechanics, such as Devotion or Adamant, end up in our cube. They might also choose monocolor with cards that refer to the number of basic lands controlled to calculate card effects (such as cards like Vedalken Shackles or Gray Merchant of Asphodel) and with little mana fixing.
Likewise, they may identify patterns with color pairs or color triplets. In this case, it might be useful to use two-color card cycles linked to archetypes or cards with certain watermarks or with certain names in order to suggest these connections. You can also use creatures with activated abilities of a different color to suggest this connection, or you can enter tribal rewards such as playing Elves, Goblins, Elementals, etc.
Cube Design Scheme and Single-Copy Cards
Subsequently, it could be useful to make a scheme for the design of our cube. Generally, the cubes collect about 360 cards in single copy and are particularly suitable for being played by four to eight players.
Usually, single-copy cards are used to facilitate statistical calculation operations and avoid too many redundancies that would make the final decks too similar.
Another important benefit of the single copy is the ease of finding the missing cards to complete the cube (some old cards can be quite pricey) and also allow the possibility of inserting fairly important combos without the excessive risk that they may break the format.
What if You Have More Than Eight Players?
There are also 720-card cubes in single copy to allow the game to be played by a greater number of players at the same time or to allow a double round to a group of eight players without redoing the packs or to have a greater variance.
How Do You Fill the Slots?
Filling all the slots can be quite a long activity, especially if there are several similar cards that could compete for the same slot.
Choose Versatile, Non-Parasitic Cards
In this case, the best choice is always to insert the card with the greatest versatility and which does not refer to mechanics that are too parasitic. "Parasitic" refers to mechanics that require a certain environment or mechanics that must be present in large numbers in the cube in order to be effective.
An example of this type could be the Energy mechanic or the Infect mechanic, which require a minimum number of cards to be reached in order to be played consistently. Unless they are the main theme of the archetype, it is better not to include them in order not to give false signals and confuse the players who play our cube for the first time.
Avoid Cards That Aren't Relevant to the Rest of the Cube
Similarly, try not to insert cards with abilities that are not relevant to the cube, such as cards that refer to mechanics or types of creatures that are not present in the cube. This has the dual purpose of not giving false signals and not overloading players with too much information so that they can focus more on enjoying the draft.
Make Sure Cards Are Useful in Multiple Strategies
When building a cube, it is highly recommended to choose cards that can easily be used in different strategies in order to support players in building different decks or filling any holes. The purpose of these choices is to ensure that players do not find themselves with suboptimal pools due to the presence of too many build-around cards without a thematic or functional coherence.
Check the Percentage of Creatures
To make sure that my cubes can give the same feeling as a normal Magic: The Gathering expansion set, I make sure that the percentages of the creatures roughly match those of a set:
- White: 62% Creature / 38% Non Creature cards
- Blue: 50% Creature / 50% Non Creature cards
- Black: 56% Creature / 44% Non Creature cards
- Red: 53% Creature / 47% Non Creature cards
- Green: 59% Creature / 41% Non Creature cards
In this case, sorceries that spawn creatures count as creatures (usually found in White).
Other Useful Tips
- Evolve your cube as new cards are released: Creating a Cube from scratch is a great commitment, but it can also become a great source of fun and experimentation. Once a cube is created, it is not a "finished" product; it can continue to evolve and change over time according to the new cards being created in Magic: The Gathering, either to replace underperforming strategies and archetypes or to try out new options.
- Take inspiration from cubes created by other players: It can also be useful to take a cue from cube already made by other users and from the lists on the net, especially if we are beginners or want to understand what type of cube we want to create. Fantasy is the first ingredient of a good cube, and the possibilities are virtually endless. You can make thematic cubes based only on cards from the Innistrad expansions to deepen the Gothic theme or on Mirrodin for an artifact theme or on Ravnica with a focus on guilds. The craziest cube I've seen was only made up of cards of a single color!
- Try a Cubeamajig: For the true pros, there are also Cubeamajigs that can be used and reused to create packs and simplify drafts.
© 2021 Christian Allasia