We're excited to continue Coast to Coast Casual (CCC), a blog series written by East2West, published on MTG Cardsmith.
It's early summer of 2014 and I've just ducked into my LGS to get out of the heat and pick up some new dice. I'm still about a year away from getting serious enough into the Magic community that I would know when a new set was dropping so you can imagine my surprise seeing tables laid out with drafts and games going on all around me. Something looks off about the games though and I soon realize that each game is four players. I'm floored, I thought multiplayer was for EDH only! I ask the store owner what's going on and he tells me about the new and exciting expansion, Conspiracy. I pay my admission and get three packs from the new and mysterious plane of Fiora. I open and read these cards slowly, my wheels turning at every hint at a multiplayer mechanic. When I saw the card at the back of my pack I think I may have actually squeaked. Pack one, pick one of my first ever Conspiracy draft was Worldknit. I tell you this because it sets the tone for what I want to talk about today. Draft is one of my favorite formats, not only for it's low price bar but for the inherent balancing effect it has. No player will win just because they spent thousands on their deck. Having a cube means you can draft with your friends anytime and without paying an entrance fee, if you have 360 cards I recommend trying to make one. You may ask yourself, "Where do I start?" "Do I need archetypes?" "What should my power level be?" now I make no claims to be a professional, or even good, Magic player but I do know how to have fun with this game. So please, sit back, crack open a box of bulk rares, and let me tell you my thoughts on how to make an amazing cube.
Part 1: Technical details and things for the uninitiated.
First step to making your cube is figure out the size and makeup. 360 is your minimum but you can go with more if you'd like, for example my personal cube is 600 cards total. I'd recommend starting with the 360 card size and upping it as you get more of a feel for the brewing aspect of it. 360 cards may seem large but it's the exact number you'll draft in an eight person pod, this means that most times you draft your cube the same cards will be available. This can lower variation and overtime make your cube predictable and less fun to draft. You also need to decide how much of any given color you want in your cube. Generally you want an equal amount of each so all players can play the combinations they want. In a 360 card cube the breakdown is usually 60 of each color with the remaining slots divided among multi colored, artifact, and land cards. Multi colored cards are important, they can help you establish the themes and draftable archetypes of your cube. Artifacts are super useful since they can be in any deck but be careful not to put too many in, it'll dilute the other colors. Fixing is important as well but for a different reason. If you provide too much 4-5 color decks will take over your cubes meta and if you provide too little your cube may become clunky and unplayable.
Next is deciding on archetypes, playstyle, and general tone. Deciding your playstyle should definitely come first. Is your cube going to be early game or late game focused? Single player or multiplayer? These decisions will impact what cards you'll put in your cube so decide on this before moving forward. Personally I don't think archetypes are strictly necessary but some swear a cube needs them. You can go with mechanical archetypes (Storm, Fliers, Undergrowth), type of play (Control, Aggro, Midrange), or functional themes (Flicker, Burn, Ramp). Your archetypes should generally fit within the ally and enemy color pairings. It can be hard to balance how many cards in any color go towards an archetype. For a 360 card cube the breakdown that works is to first decide what color combinations your archetypes are in. Enemy pairs, ally pairs, wedges, and shards are all options along with a mix of any of them. For this example let's say we're doing all two color pairings have archetypes. 12 card slots should be given to each archetype in each color it inhabits and 12 slots should be left in each color for cards that don't fit in the archetypes but you'd still want to include. Your tone should be decided based on what experience you want your players to have. Do you want your cube to be fun or competitive? Are Un-cards something you want to include and, if so, which ones won't take away from the experience? These are all questions you'll have to answer for yourself. Remember that this is your cube, what I'm laying out are just suggestions to get you started.
Part 2: My personal cubes and experience with them.
Over the course of my magic career I've built and used three total cubes, the most recent of which was made just for this article. The first cube I ever made was designed to be played in 1v1 matches, it was constructed of (at the time) cheap cards that I thought deserved to be played. This cube was dubbed, Best of the Bulk. It was playable and introduced the drafters to some cards that they probably wouldn't have seen otherwise. The decks that would consistently come into being were Naya Midrange, Esper Control, Rainbow Jund, Rakdos Aggro, and Four Color Azorius Artifacts. This cube was super fun and super casual but it's also an example of what not to do with your fixing. The fixing was too easy to slide in so three plus color decks and splash decks dominated the meta. It's also a good example of why you need to decide playstyle before sliding cards in. Bazaar Trader is a bad card in 1v1 magic, never forget that. NEVER FORGET THAT. Don't be embarrassed if you're first cube is kinda jank, we all start somewhere.
My second cube, known as The Power Cube was where I learned two important things. Number one, don't be afraid to put good cards in your cube. Number two, sleeve your cube. Trust me on the sleeve thing, people aren't very careful with cards that aren't theirs. This cube is the one I still maintain, the list changes often so I can keep it fresh but I keep a few cards consistent no matter what. Power Cube is a multiplayer cube that I made with the intention being pure fun. Draft matters and Un-cards are present in the list but the main focus was putting in cards that are fun to play with. This is also where I learned that the playgroup shapes the cube. Remember Bazaar Trader? Well in its first iteration Power Cube contained a Zedruu package that I thought was solid but I noticed more and more that no one would play it. In a more casual group maybe Zedruu would work as intended but in my group her donations were seen as bribes. To my chagrin, Zedruu was phased out for a much less interesting Mantis Rider. I'm not going to go too much into Power Cube here but I will write a supplementary article soon about just Power Cube and what makes it fun.
Finally the third cube, the Budget Cube. When I decided to write this article I thought it might be nice to give anyone out there a cheap (ish) way to start your cube career. I spent all month compiling, testing, and constructing my first cube to have archetypes and a cube that carries a price tag cheaper than most Modern decks. The Budget Cube is meant to be played with 1v1 matches and contains the following archetypes; Selesnya Tokens, Izzet Spells, Dimir Mill, Orzhov Flicker, Rakdos Aristocrats, Azorius Bird/Flier Tribal, Simic Counters, Golgari Graveyard, Boros Aggro, and Gruul Land Ramp. I actually goofed on this and forgot to put in any non-basic lands but it remains a playable cube. I encourage you to build it if you'd like or even just proxy it and sleeve it up.I hope I've inspired you to go out and craft your own cube, and if not please consider building one of the ones below. See you in the supplement. Until then this is East2West, signing off.
Here are the lists for the cubes
Best of Bulk
Here are links to test draft the cubes
Best of Bulk
East2West is an aspiring writer from NJ currently seeking fame and fortune on the internet. She's been playing Magic since Zendikar block (the original one) and is a commander player with one deck for each two color pair and one for each single color. The only non EDH deck she plays is her own personal Pauper brew, Pauper Eggs. Follow her on her newly created and probably soon to be underused twitter @East2WestMTG.