Gleaming the Cube: MTG Style Part 1 of 3

Standard

This is the first part of a 3 part series on my experiences playing in the Cube Draft format of casual Magic: The Gathering trading card game.

So, way back in February, I was starting to research and play a new to me format of Magic the Gathering… and well, some things in life got in the way of the production.

However, I took some time to keep researching via gameplay and construction… so I will be doing a few short articles that go over my experiences playing with various cubes, and how I feel about it all.

In the coming articles I will get into what I put in my cube, but until then I want to talk a little more about how it feels to get further into the format. lamentcube

Part 1: That first time around and building some cubes.

Back in January of this year, I was introduced to cube drafting. I had not done it before, but I was invited to a friend’s house to give it a try.

It was a cube designed to support at least 8 players, and the power levels of the cube were good, but in the right hands, very steep (splinter twin combo is a bit of a bastard… just saying), but overall, even though I lost, a lot, it was a really fun experience. I even began to draft cards to act as an obstruction, playing to annoy and generate laughs rather than to win.

Fast forward a couple of sessions, and trying a cube that was even more powerful… including use of the “Power 9”… and while I seemed to perform better in that particular cube, I could see how it would be still prohibitive for someone new to the game to even want to try… but it was that observation that led to my first conclusion of what makes cube so fun, and what can also make it a terrible experience.

It’s all about the players.

I have done the cube draft more than a dozen times now, and while I am still new to playing that format, I have been playing MTG since release of Beta, and can say with authority that the sets don’t make the difference that a good group of players can make.

My first time doing a draft, there was one player that seemed fixated on “helping” other players with their matches when he wasn’t playing one of his own… this was rather off putting, but the following week, he ceased doing so… and it was then that I realized that his intention was well meaning, but infuriating at the same time… such is life sometimes.

I draft with 2 different groups. One here and there on Friday nights, and another on Sunday afternoons.

Friday is exclusive drafting, while Sunday we play other formats as well… and while both are fun, I end up preferring the more laid back feel of the Sunday game, as we are all pretty much casual.

This to me is the best way to do cube drafting, as to be honest… casual is way more fun.

So with that in mind, I decided that I would try to build up a “pauper cube”, meaning that the cube would consist of cards that are of the common rarity as the common limit kind of keeps the format more on the simple side of things.

pauper cube

Some of the cards in my Pauper Cube, the light reflection is on a Scryb Sprites.

I built the cube on the basic premise of not using anything above common rarity. Which is easier than I thought, until I started…

And why the hidden difficulty?

I went in with the thought of, I would use the best commons that I could, build the cube, and then play… what I didn’t take into account is that I would have to really think about what I would need to use, and what I would need to cut from each color in order to prevent the colors from being unbalanced.

So, I went with the basic formula of 60 cards of the prime colors, 40 artifacts and 20 non basic lands for a total of 360 cards, and then adding 40 basic lands of each type to make a total of a 560 card cube with mana.

As a result, I would have to pick and choose what I wanted in each color, and the end result was a cube that had some deceptive power, but not so over the top that it would be lopsided.

Thankfully, my pauper cube works out pretty well, all of the matches that we ran were rather close and/or competitive, and it really showed that one of the members of the group is not as far behind in his deck building skills as we thought. It was really pleasantly surprising.

I decided to build a more refined cube a couple of weeks later, and as a result, I called it the “proper cube” and as such, the power level of this cube was quite a bit higher.

proper cubeConsisting of mostly rare cards and higher powered commons/uncommon cards, this cube was much more fun, and still gave some serious competition among all of the players in the draft.

The breakdown this go around was 50 cards of the prime colors, 50 multicolor/gold, 30 artifacts, and 2 non basic lands.

Best part, was that I was able to provide at least 1 planes walker per color, as well as roughly 1 planes walker per 2 color guild color combination. All in all I was able to fit roughly 16 planes walkers into the cube resulting in some interesting matches, as well as win conditions.

Cube so far has been fantastic as a play experience… tune in next time when I break down what happens when players start winning more in draft format than they do in constructed.

Video to check out on this topic, credit to Tolarian Community College

Cube for Beginners

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