It begins! Today is the dawning of a new age, the age of the Cube! Join Weasel in his mad, fever-induced plan to design, build, and play a Cube with the local Magic community. In this installment, the Heeziest of Weasels goes over Cube basics, and invites you to help pick what type of Cube we will be building!
First and foremost, I want to welcome you to the Dayton Magic Club Community Cube Project. It going to be a long and interesting trip, strap in motherfucker!
Now most of us by now know what sealed and drafts are. Every prerelease event is a sealed pool usually followed by an optional draft. These events are usually very exciting because we are getting our first shot at playing new cards. Another great thing about this format is that it is generally a fair format, outside of obvious luck.
While there is much to be said for pulling "bomb" rares on color in every pack, there are a number of instances where I have either witnessed or played decks with few to no rares with success. During the Dragon's Maze prerelease I played a Naya deck with no rares in a five round tournament and ended up 4-1. Thatís pretty solid.
The downside to Sealed/drafts is that if you play them a lot, it can be expensive! The cost of either 3 packs + prize support (Draft) or six packs + prize support (Sealed) can be financially arduous. If for instance someone plays 8 sealed events within one year that is roughly $200 dollars that year. Now, I can understand playing the prereleases, they are super fun and they are the first glimpse at new cards.
If you are looking to just play Sealed, a cube is for sure the way to go. Say for instance, a cube project cost the creator(s) $350 to complete. They then play that cube's sealed pool ten times with eight people that year. To replicate that experience with packs the cost would be $2000 split between the eight players.
While playing a cube is a great time, let me tell you from experience that creating one is a true pleasure, and one of my favorite experiences thus far with Magic. Through the course of this column, I will lay out the basics of cube creation, and begin the cube creation process. I will periodically update the site with design updates. This will culminate with a get-together to play the cube when it is done. To be clear, I believe that this process will be a lengthy one, and I do not have a target complete date.
With that all said, lets dive into section one, Cube design!
Important Considerations When Starting a Cube
When starting your Cube project, there are many considerations that you must take note. It can be as complex as converted mana cost curves in each color, creature to spell ratios or cards per color. It can be as simple as how much money you want to spend. We will get to most of those in the follow-up article to this one. Those are all important cube design factors, but I would be jumping the gun if I went right into that. In this segment, we will cover cube size, budget, and types.
I also will briefly mention my new cube project. My goal for this column is to walk through a cube build on the site as I work it in real life. Then, when Iíve completed the cube, we can all get together and play it! Keep in mind, building a cube is a process, not something that you can tackle overnight. Last time I designed and built a cube, I dropped a class in college, and yes there was a direct correlation. YAY priorities!
It Takes All Kinds
Now we come to it, the big decision of the article, what type of cube should you build? There are 4 basic themes that a cube can follow; Power/ Pauper, Crap, Block/Format and Themed cubes. I will break down each cube style below as far as the concept behind it and a brief financial blip.
Power/Pauper(Peasant Too I Guess)
These two may seem like polar opposites, but they really are one and the same. The main difference it one of finance. The idea behind the power cube is to be able to replicate the powerful effects of vintage and legacy in cube format. The interactions are strong and the card power level is high. It gets its namesake from the power nine, as it is often inclusive of those windmill-dunk style cards. Obviously, from the financial standpoint, putting power 9 into a cube is going to be a cha-ching unless you already own them. And even if you do, I wouldnít want people playing with my power 9... but that might just be me.
The Pauper cube is the financially the exact opposite. This cube is designed around playing only commons (or uncommon for peasant). The interactions are still powerful none-the-less. All you have to do is to look at the pauper format to know that there are powerful interactions among commons. Realistically, one of the best cards in all of magic is a common,Brainstorm, but again I digress.
Now youíre probably still wondering why I have grouped these cube types together. The reason is that from the designer standpoint, building these cubes is exactly the same. Card selection for cubes like this generally start out with selecting the archetypes that you would like to have present, smashing a bunch of decks together, then bridging the gaps. By bridge the gap I mean include cards that allow hybridization of decks.
In power cubes this often includes, but is not limited to: Reanimator, Workshop-based decks, Tinker-based themes, Oath-based themes, and the list goes on. One thing is for sure, it includes some of the most powerful interactions in magic and some of the most powerful cards ever printed (if you want it to...).
When putting a pauper cube together, the method is the same. Decide which pauper archetypes you wish to represent then smash some more decks together. You can bridge the gaps in this one two by adding generic creatures, removal and other cards to diversify the pool. If it was just the decks, both cubes would always end up with people playing the same decks.
Ever look at you stack of unplayable rares and think what you should do with them? I mean we could have a crap rare bonfire, and that would be kinda cool... or you could make a crap cube. A crap cube is a cube designed to specifically play bad cards, or cards that arenít constructed playable. Crap cubes could also be as nifty as a Homelands block cube!
The thing you would have to watch out for in a crap cube is the do-nothing rares (unless thatís something you are going for). Some rares literally do nothing, and while Steamflogger Boss is a funny card, if you are trying to build a playable crap cube, he will have no interactions besides being a dude (with awesome flavor albeit).
Now we come to it, my favorite type of cube. Block/Format cube are in my opinion the easiest type to construct. The purpose of this cube is to create a limited card pool to imitate the limited environment of the format/block. This can be done on varying power levels. For instance, my Invasion cube for sure has a higher rarity level than one per pack. The card pools you have to work with are frankly internally balanced (for the most part) and already set for you. Cycles often make the leg work of card choices easier for you. If you were to build a Return to Ravinca Block cube, most of the balance work has already been done for you by the lovely people at Wizards of the Coast.
I believe that for the first time cube builder this is the best option. If you were to build a modern cube, we already have an established metagame by which you can make card choices. The real beauty of format/block is the ease of which you can exclude oppressive strategies in the cube. Any one card sticks out as a windmill slam dunk every time in every deck based on format knowledge? Donít put it in the cube! Easy-peasy-lemon-squeesy!
A thing worth mentioning is that the color division in block cubes especially should mirror the color distribution in that block. If you were to design a Mirrodin block cube with 50 artifacts out of 720 cards, would you really be capturing the spirit of Mirrodin block. No way! We will get deeper into that in a future article when we dive into skeletons and card selection.
A strong recommendation that I do have regarding Block cubes is refraining from building a block cube with a block that is currently standard legal. Standard drives up card prices like WHOA! If you wait till right after a certain block rotates, the cards are still readily available and significantly cheaper. If you are the "box buyer" collector, you might come out of this process having to spend very little money.
To me this is the most confusing and complicated of cube types to construct. Some common examples of Themed cubes would be: entire Mirrodin or Ravinca cubes (all six sets), and the monstrous endeavor that is the Urza storyline cube (If you didnít know, the Urza storyline is the definitive storyline in magic, of which we are still experiencing the echos of today). The difficulty of these types of cubes is making a fair and balanced cube out of a huge card base that still represents the story that you are trying to capture the flavor of.
There are other issues involved including budget and size. In a six block cube, how do you decide which abilities to focus on? Its gonna be a hard road to get the balance between the sets and abilities correct to match the theme conveyed through the double block. I would be terrified trying to tackle a entire Ravinca cube.
Size Does Matter
After you decide your cube type, the next decision is how large you would like your cube to be. When making this decision, really you have to examine yourself (or group) as a player. How many people will you be able to reliably pull together to play your cube? If the number is never greater than six, there is no sense in designing a 900 card cube that can sit ten people in Sealed. This is all about knowing your audience.
Generally, there are a few popular cube sizes; 360, 540 and 720 being the most common. The thing about these numbers is that they allow for an even number of people to play six pack sealed pools. These pool sizes allow for exact pack distribution with no left over packs. A cube can seat two times as many people in draft as sealed (three packs vs. six packs, duh). While these numbers are far and away the most common, they are by no means set in stone rules. The only "REALLY STRONG" guideline is that the total card count is divisible by 15.
Where things really get interesting with the larger size cubes is that the cards pulled will have some variance. For example, if you have six people drafting your 540 card cube, that is 270 cards that are not even being seen. This allows you to create a repeatable semi-randomized fresh experience every time. Personally, I am a fan of erring on the larger side, and I basically just jump to the next even number of players for my card count. However, some cubes can be designed with specific deck archetype construction in mind; those cubes find nice homes in the smaller sizes. Below is a chart of Cube sizes and the number of players per format (chart includes exact card counts, no variance included).
Money is always a consideration when it comes to magic. I hardly feel that this even needs to be said. Budget is one of the largest factors when it comes to the beginning of cube design, and it can also heavily influence what type of cube you make. There are lots of financial factors that donít even enter into peopleís minds when they first start a cube project. I will handle the first part of budgeting here, but we will also come back to budgeting when we come to card choices in our next article.
Generally, I would guestimate that bottom end price range you are still looking at investing near $100 for a cube. Before you go about starting with lists of cards, or cube types, set a budget for yourself and donít forget to include sleeves and a box to store it in. (A 720 with 250 basic lands uses 1000 sleeves, roughly $60 before tax, and trust me you want sleeves) Once you have your budget you can go about starting the design process.
DMC Community Cube Project
OK, so now we have a basic outline of what a cube consists of. Next come some of the basic cube decisions we need to make as a group.
Of these decisions that we have to make, I have made a few for us. First the cube size. I have decided on 810 cards because it allows for 8 people to play sealed pool with a 6 pack variance, or if need be 9 people with no variance. As far as draft goes, it allows for two 8 person pods to draft, again with a 6 pack variance.
The second decision that I have made for us is that all cards will be of the original printing, basic lands included. This also means that cards that have cheaper printings are a no go. With this being said, I am aiming for a total card budget hopefully no higher than 250. Then after that we would need sleeves roughly 70$. These figures donít include cards that I own or contributions from the community.
Why did I get to make these decisions without your council? Because Iím doing the leg work!
Now we come to the first community decision, and probably the most important community decision there will be. What is the card base for this cube? I present you with the options that I feel would be reasonably affordable. Some options are more affordable than others, I will rate them from $ to $$$ with $$$ being the most expensive. I will create a poll on the Facebook page after this has been published and we will get the results in part 2, as well as a skeleton!
Ravinca/RTR Singleton Cube $$$
This option is probably tied for the most expensive option I am putting before the community. This cube will have the monetary constraints of both a play set of shocks as well as being partially Standard legal. The guilds will be represented equally. Standard legal scares me.
Mirrodin and Scars Singleton Cube $$/$$$
This cube could potentially be as expensive as a Ravinca cube depending on which cards we chose to include. A set of Sword of X and Yís would run a pretty penny to include in the cube. That with other staples, and we are looking at a serious price tag. This block does have the benefit of not being standard legal, but that is probably eclipsed by the popularity of the block in Modern and Commander.
Shadowmoor/Eventide/Lorywn/Morningtide Singleton Cube $$/$$$
This is the most expensive cube proposition. The four set cube would include a set of popular Modern lands as well as a slew of popular Commander cards. It would be a bit more difficult to construct because the keywords arenít as related between blocks as in Mirrodin and Ravinca.
Modern Peasant Singleton $-$$
This cube, while being easily the cheapest to construct, is also the most difficult to design. The potential card pool is EXTREMELY large. I will not even feign being able to tackle this cube by myself. There would have to be significant community involvement for me to want to undertake this project. This would most likely be the most unique play experience that we could create, but it is important that we arenít just trying to emulate Modern masters sealed. If we chose this project, it should be representative of all of the modern card pool. If we go this route, we will have to have some times to meet up and work together on the card lists.
Shards of Alara Block Cube[*NOT Singleton] $$
This is the last option that I will present. I believe that it will be affordable, but due to the smaller size of the card pool compared to the other multiple block cubes above, we will not be making this a Singleton cube. The only difficulty with this cube construction would be the balance of Shards. In the skeleton, we would have to take into consideration the fact that one shard would be including artifacts. The difficulty is doing this while keeping the mono colored and bi-colored power levels relatively equal. This block does have some commander and modern staples, but most are not terribly expensive.
Community Presents a Good Sixth Option With Strong Arguments
None of these options sound fun? Come up with something impressive and sell us on it. Ideally they would all have the same boarder, donít recommend Ice Age block, that would look terrible in sleeves.
Some Closing Notes
I am very particular regarding style in cubes. All of the cards will be of the set that the cube is based. This includes basic lands.
I am very on the fence regarding Foils. I feel it should be an all or nothing thing. As I am tentatively going to be solo funding this, I tentatively say fuck that noise.
I would be remiss if I did not credit the software that I use to track cube construction, and honestly all my magic deck construction. MTG studio by Palmroot is fantastic. It comes with a life time license and numerous features that are helpful. I am not being paid to say this, just thought I should shout out about this great software.
Moving forward, each proceeding article will have community choices and opportunities for your input. Next time, we will have a selected cube! I will lay out our cube skeleton and talk briefly on cycles. Then from there we will proceed into other articles with lists in this order:
- Article 3) Artifacts & Lands (if we go with Mirrodin, this will be a doozie!)
- Article 4) Blue & White
- Article 5) Red & Green
- Article 6) Black & a list of still needed cards
- Article 7) Invitation to Inaugural cube event, either 8-9 man sealed or Two 8man draft pods based on attendance.
Please participate in helping me in this project. I am only moving forward with the community. These hopefully well reasoned discussions should take place in the comments, for the purposes of me being able to track them for the project. I will make note of cut offs for card decisions on the Facebook page. This will be a long term project, donít expect this at Game Haven in the at least till sometime middle 2014(I am expecting my second child in April).