Cube is a Magic: The Gathering limited format where all the cards come from a pre-prepared pool of cards that were chosen for the purpose of playing limited with them. The format originated in Toronto, Canada and spread from there. I found out about the idea from Gabe Walls, and about a year later I started building my own. Now, the format has grown in popularity and three rounds of cube will be part of the 2007 Magic Invitational. This is a guide to the cube experience for both cube caretakers and players.
What is a cube?
A cube is a large pool of cards selected for the purposes of limited. It should should contain at least enough cards to support a standard eight-player booster draft. The actual selection of the cards will depend on the feel that you want games of your cube to have. Ben Bleiweiss owns a box containing one copy of each unique card that has been printed that he uses to draft, and although he does not call it a cube, it could be called one. On the other hand, my cube contains 512 cards, and almost every card is strong enough to have seen constructed play at one point or another. However, I have tried to avoid cards that make games unfun by being too powerful, such as Black Lotus, Wheel of Fortune, and Ancestral Recall; Gabe Walls does not worry about this, and includes pretty much anything and everything in his cube.
What you put in your own cube will reflect what you want out of it. If you want to have really powerful games, you can build something similar to mine. If you just want a change of pace but prefer limited to constructed, why not make a cube with all strong limited commons? Even a cube consisting of cards from only one block could be interesting. Your imagination is the limit.
Practically speaking, the cube should be sleeved so that expensive cards don’t get destroyed. You will also need to have enough sleeved basic lands to go around.
What do you do with a cube?
In general, the cube is drafted. Eight-player team booster draft is my preferred format, because having eight players makes it feel most like a normal draft and using teams means that no one has to lose and not play anymore. However, any limited format can be played with the cube. I have killed many between-round breaks by playing cube sealed, and I have also done an eight-player Rotisserie draft- that is, we put the entire cube face up on the table and rochester drafted the entire thing all at once. This was riotous fun and attracted many confused spectators. To do a normal booster draft, have everyone shuffle the cube together and then make random fifteen card packs out of the randomized cards. Then, draft, add basic lands, and play. When there is too little time or too few players for this, I often play Winston draft, which is a two-player draft format.
How do I build a cube?
A cube must be constructed very carefully. In general, it is important that a cube have equal numbers of cards in each color, enough creatures in each color for everyone, and a mana curve within each color. It is also important that the each color have a similar power level. Past that, do what you think is fun. Balancing the cube in power level is much easier when you make consistent choices across colors. You wouldn’t want to put a bunch of strong limited cards in white and then fill red up with the best burn that has ever been printed. My cube began with only cards that were legal in legacy or unrestricted in vintage, but a few cards that I deem to be fun and not overpowered are now allowed to break that rule. You also want to be able to accomodate eight players, which means having at least 360 cards. I used to have exactly 360 cards because I liked having every card in play when we did an eight-player draft. Adam Prosak’s cube has something like 400 cards, as in Arizona they prefer to not have every card available every time; I now subscribe to this philosophy, since it leads to more variety and interest. I’ve gotten so big now that only a fourth of the cube gets used in a two on two draft, and I am quite happy with this.
The way I originally balanced the colors when I built the cube was to lay out each color in the same way that one lays out a limited deck and make sure that things were reasonable with respect to mana curve and creatures. Most of the implications of the cube design decisions you make will not become clear to you until you have drafted your cube multiple times, so don’t worry too much about getting it right to begin with and just try what you think is reasonable. Eventually, you will figure out what your preferences are and adjust your cube accordingly.
Why should I build a cube?
It’s the most fun I’ve ever had playing Magic. Most people I have shared the cube with have expressed similar feelings.
For example, imagine opening this as your first pack in a draft…
Akroma, Angel of Fury
Swords to Plowshares
Decree of Justice
…or ending a draft with this deck:
Isamaru, Hound of Konda
Mother of Runes
Ravages of War
City of Brass
If that didn’t make you smile, you haven’t been playing Magic long enough or you aren’t capable of feeling happiness.
Go make a cube, or at least convince someone else to. That cube will enhance your life and the lives of everyone else it touches.