Arcane Teachings – Six Sides on the Cube

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The cube has recently taken the Magic world by storm, starting with the Magic Invitational and spreading around the world; it even infiltrated Wizards of the Coast’s internal Draft Club. Tom shows you how to make a cube, talks about his own cube, talks with Aaron Forsythe about the Magic Invitational cube, and gives a brief recap of the Saturday Night Cube Draft that he and Evan Erwin hosted at Worlds.

… The air was thick. Both teams in our three on three side draft had won four matches, and I was my squad’s representative in the only remaining match. Our collective fate was squarely on my shoulders.

My deck was Red-Green, with a small Blue splash for two cards. My opponent’s Mono-Black deck was very mana hungry, and I took advantage of that in the first game with a devastating Burning of Xinye on my fourth turn that killed all of his lands, his Nantuko Shade, and his third turn Dark Ritualed Thrashing Wumpus, and left me with two signets and a Crucible of Worlds. He only drew three more lands, one of which was an Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth that I had Ravenous Baboons for. I cleaned up with a Phantom Centaur.

In the second game, my whole game plan was shot when his first turn Thoughtseize took my Obliterate. I thought that even without that late game bomb that I would be okay, but a fully powered Mind Sludge on turn 5 took left me without a hand. I was able to Intuition for Life From the Loam, Slippery Karst, and Forgotten Cave in response, but I didn’t expect that to save me; indeed, four turns later the two creatures I drew had died, a Korlash had hit me twice, and I died to a huge Profane Command fuelled by Cabal Coffers.

I started game 3 with Windswept Heath fetching Taiga, Mox Diamond discarding Horizon Canopy, and Life From the Loam to get the two lands back. My opponent recoiled in his seat, but composed himself enough to respond with Swamp and Chrome Mox imprinting Contagion and then Nantuko Shade. I smiled and showed him Fire Imp. His second turn brought a Coalition Relic, but my Keldon Vandals was happy to snack on it. My opponent smugly used Mutilate to kill both of my creatures; however, I had an Avalanche Riders waiting in my hand and my fourth turn’s draw step brought me Strip Mine! Thanks to it, the Riders, and Life From the Loam, my poor opponent never had the mana for another relevant spell and he conceded to my Gifts Ungiven for Covetous Dragon, Phantom Centaur, Genesis, and Albino Troll.

After a round of high fives with my teammates, we looked at the clock. It was only half past midnight, and no one had anything to do tomorrow… “So, go again?”

My first pack in the next draft had Tarmogoyf, Psychatog, and Living Death as possible first picks….

Side One: Introduction

A cube is a collection of cards built for Limited play. Traditionally a cube includes lots of the best Magic cards ever printed, but that’s not required. I’ve played with cubes that were Standard legal and cubes made up entirely of commons and uncommons, and both of those were fun too. Another traditional rule is that cubes contain only one of any card, but not even this is strictly necessary. If you’re playing a Limited format with something other than sealed packs, it probably counts as a cube. Some old school players call this “box draft” and the French call it “Wagic,” but as far as I know the concept originated in Ontario, Canada and those players called it a cube so that’s the name I use.

Anything that you can do with sealed packs can be done with a sufficiently large cube. You can do a standard eight-player draft with three “packs” of fifteen cards per player if you have 360 or more cards; less than that and you can Winston Draft or play some kind of sealed deck. If you’re feeling frisky, you might even Rotisserie Draft or play Two-Headed Giant Limited. Logistically speaking, you want your cube to be entirely protected in matching sleeves, and you will need enough sleeved basic lands for the number of players you expect to support all at one time.

A well-built cube will give you hours and hours of fun. It can help you kill between-round breaks at tournaments, salvage a PTQ trip gone bad, make you new friends at big events, or just be the main attraction for an afternoon or evening of casual Magic. I have owned a cube for over two years now, and it has brought me by far the greatest joy of any Magic-related thing I have ever experienced. Go make a cube, or convince someone you know to do it if you can’t yourself. That cube will make your life better, and it will make the world a happier place wherever it goes.

Side Two: Cube Design

Starting a cube from scratch is a daunting proposition. I think that my cube played reasonably well from day one, but only because I stood on the shoulders of giants in the form of Evan Erwin, Sam Gomersall, and a mysterious man named Brett who lives in Canada but whose last name I cannot find on the internet. Their published cube lists allowed me to reverse-engineer the principles governing their card selection, which helped me greatly as I built my first list. My goal here is to save you that step by giving you a loose framework to build on. Keep in mind throughout the process that building a cube puts you in the same shoes that Wizards R&D walks in every day. You are responsible for every game that is played with your cube and you want as many of them to be fun as possible. If I make things sound too complicated feel free to just toss a cube together and work out the kinks later, but I can give you a jump start toward a healthy limited format if you’re willing to put a little time in. With that, let’s begin.

How big do you want your cube to be? I think that 360 is a hard minimum, because at some point you’ll want to do a full eight-player draft and not having enough cards for that will limit you too much. Past that, more cards in your cube mean more variance in game play. I started my cube at 360 cards, and that level of card repetition from draft to draft made it feel similar to a triple big set draft environment. I next moved to 512 cards, and the effect of that was quite similar to replacing the third big set pack with one pack of a small set. At my current size of 720, it feels a lot like a full block draft format. Choose whatever size you want, but be aware of what that will mean in terms of variance.

Your next decision is to determine the power level that you want your cube to have. Some people include anything and everything, all the way up to Moxes, Library of Alexandria, Ancestral Recall, Wheel of Fortune, and so on. My cube excludes cards like those that are both unfair and unfun, but does include cards like Balance and Skullclamp that are obviously mistakes but are still interesting to play with. I’ve also played with a cube that confined itself to Standard-legal cards and one that was made up entirely of non-rares. None of these choices are right or wrong, but it is important that you have a standard to guide you through the rest of the decisions you make so that your cube is internally consistent. Putting Sol Ring in a cube otherwise made up of Extended-legal commons and uncommons is fun for the guy who gets the Ring but miserable for everyone else. It’s even less fun if an entire color is so underpowered that it is essentially unplayable. Internal consistency with regard to the criteria you use to include and exclude cards will keep these things from happening.

With regard to color balance, you should have the same number of cards of each color and each color should be about halfway made up of creatures with a little leeway in either direction so that things feel normal. You also need a reasonable mana curve in each color’s creatures, and also in the non-creature spells. It’s unlikely that one color will be too much better than another if you are consistent with your card selection criteria, but you should still be aware of that possibility. A Standard-legal cube is unlikely to have relative color power problems, but allowing any card regardless of power level will naturally reward blue with goodies like Ancestral Recall and Time Walk and punish Green and White for not having any similar broken cards to add.

The last decision that will heavily impact the way games in your cube feel is to decide how many gold cards and how much artifact and land mana fixing to include. Generally speaking, gold cards are better than mono-colored cards at the same cost, so larger amounts of gold cards will increase players’ incentive to stretch their manabases into many colors. The amount of artifact and land mana fixing you put in will determine how easy it is for players to stretch their mana and still have it work. If around an eighth of your cube is gold and you have lots of multicolor mana support, you will get a draft environment reminiscent of Ravnica block in which it’s almost impossible to be successful while staying in only two colors and the costs to playing more are near zero. The Invitational cube, on the other hand, had only about ten artifact mana fixers and about twenty-five multilands in 720 cards, but only thirty gold cards, and that produced almost exclusively two-color decks whose mana mostly depended on basic lands. My cube has a fairly large amount of mana fixing so that decks can have crazy manabases, but only a twelfth of the cube is gold so the rewards for doing that are low enough that one and two-color decks aren’t at a huge disadvantage to multicolor monstrosities. I think the only wrong answer to this question is to have a large amount of gold cards but not enough mana fixing for people to play them and still have reasonable mana. That would give you a draft format that felt like full Invasion block in which no one’s mana ever worked unless they were Green, but you had no choice other than to suck it up and pray if you wanted a powerful enough deck. That makes too many games about who drew their mana right and who didn’t, which isn’t fun.

One subtle thing that I think is key is that players who have never seen your cube before need be able to trust you. By this, I mean that if someone were to see a narrow card in your cube that supports a niche strategy and ask you if they can draft a deck around it, the answer should always be yes. For example, seeing Buried Alive and Crusade indicates to a player that there are enough cards to support Reanimator and White Weenie. If they try to draft one of those strategies and those cards aren’t there, they will feel betrayed. My cube does have Buried Alive, but it also has Entomb, a smattering of things that allow you to discard cards in Black and Blue, ten reanimation spells, and a small amount of truly gigantic monsters that make all of that feel worthwhile. I include Crusade, but also along for the ride are Glorious Anthem, Divine Sacrament, Pianna Nomad Captain, Soltari Champion, Griffin Guide, Empyrial Armor, and forty White creatures that cost three or less. You can’t go halfway with things like this and have it work, so go all the way or consider not going at all.

This all may sound intense, but don’t worry too much. The first reason not to worry is that you’ll be drafting your cube so any imbalances will work themselves out once players learn what is going on and adjust their pick orders accordingly. The second reason is that if you build a cube and play with it for a while, you’ll start wanting to change things and the process will teach you more about cube design than I ever could. I have learned a lot about designing sets for limited from my two years of cube ownership, and there’s really no substitute for experience. The last reason is that even if you don’t balance it perfectly, your players will still have a blast because they are playing with a cube. A somewhat unbalanced cube is still far better than no cube at all.

Now, go make a cube.

Side Three: A Cube Skeleton

If you’ve never made a cube before, you probably want more direction than I just gave you. Here’s a quick formula that you can use that should be fine no matter what level of cards you use: commons, standard-legal cards, or whatever else. There are only 360 cards in the skeleton because if it’s your first cube, you won’t need more cards than that to feel that your experience is fresh and new for at least a few months. Just decide on a card pool- standard-only, commons only, everything ever printed, or whatever- and fill in the blanks.

• 50 cards per color; 30 creatures in Green and White, 25 in Black and Red, and 20 in Blue
• A reasonable mana curve in each color, with plenty of two and three drops, less four and five drops, and hopefully not more than five cards that cost six or more in each color
• 30 gold cards; aim for three each two-color combination
• 30 artifacts, about ten of which are mana fixers
• 50 nonbasic lands, about 25 of which make multiple colors

These proportions will give some multicolor flavor without punishing people who choose not to stretch their mana. You could dial back the nonbasic lands even more if your selection criteria don’t give you access to enough good ones. In that case, just add more colored cards, but keep each color’s card total equal to the others and try to keep the creature to spell ratio reasonably close to this.

Side Four: Inside Tom’s Cube

I often get questions from people about why things are the way they are in my cube. Everything is very deliberately constructed, but it would take a book to explain every little detail. This is a quick overview that will put you inside my mind and explain some of the logic behind my choices. My list is included as an appendix.

My cube is built to produce games that feel like they could have happened in a constructed format. I’ve always been a constructed player at heart, and I love the greater variety of games that happen when people get to bring their own deck. A limited set would have to be very strange to produce anything like a Psychatog or Mirari’s Wake control deck, a Red Deck Wins with twelve burn spells and a few 2/1’s for R, or a dedicated reanimator deck. I think that these kinds of corner strategies make for fun, varied, and interesting games of Magic, so my cube supports as many of them as I can fit.

I cube most often with experienced players who can handle complex and intricate interactions, so I prefer interesting cards to simpler cards whenever possible. One good recent example of this was cutting Last Gasp for Nameless Inversion. Last Gasp is a beautifully simple card that could easily find itself in a core set a few years from now. I like Nameless Inversion more in my cube because it does almost all the same things as Last Gasp in terms of killing things, but it also pumps Tarmogoyf, can’t be touched by Faerie Trickery, and can double as a quasi-Reckless Charge on a big creature. That gives people more options and marginally interacts more with other cards, so I made the change.

I avoid obviously broken cards that ruin games. Library of Alexandria, all the pieces of power, Wheel of Fortune, and cheap fast mana like Sol Ring and Mana Vault can just end games with little work on the part of the player behind them. I don’t think that’s fun, so I don’t include any of them. The closest things to truly problematic cards that I do have in the cube are Balance and Skullclamp. However, I think Balance is worth it because of how much effort it takes to set up. It’s an incredibly powerful effect, but it rewards unconventional play and sometimes it’s not hard to sense that it might be coming when your opponent starts making strange blocks. Skullclamp is quite obviously broken, but I like it because it provides a nice incentive for someone to draft a small creature beatdown deck. Quite often only two or three decks at a full cube table can support Skullclamp with enough cheap creatures that it would feel truly broken, and it’s quite common for people to draft near-creatureless control decks for which the card is useless. It also takes a few turns to do its thing, giving you the chance to kill it or change to a racing plan instead of an attrition plan. Each of these cards may be powerful, but I believe that they change what games are about in ways that are usually interesting as opposed to just flat-out ruining them.

When my cube was only 360 cards, it was fairly easy to just fill up each color with the best cards that had ever been printed and then call it a day. All the decks in that cube were very powerful, but it was essentially impossible to support niche themes because there just wasn’t room for cards that weren’t individually awesome. The games were fun because of the ridiculous power level, but there weren’t opportunities for people to be creative in the draft. Adding more and more cards changed that, since there are only so many best cards ever. Having more space was both an opportunity and a challenge, since I had a lot of room to enable subthemes but if I failed to do that then the cube would feel just like it did before, but with worse cards.

To deal with this, I picked certain things within each color that I would push. White got a lot of dedicated White Weenie cards. Blue received more ways to steal things. Black picked up a reanimator subtheme and a lot of cards that make you want to play a lot of Swamps. Torment helped a lot with Mutilate and Mind Sludge, but there’s also Corrupt, Tendrils of Corruption, and Korlash from other sets. Nantuko Shade, Thrashing Wumpus, and Stromgald Crusader don’t explicitly ask you to be monoblack, but they sure get better if you are. I also use cards like Sinkhole, Smallpox, Pox, and Necropotence as less obvious rewards. I gave Red cards like Obliterate and Jokulhaups that are really good for blowing lots of things up. Green got utility creatures that mimic other colors’ spells- think Nantuko Vigilante, Spike Weaver, or Simian Grunts– as well as some cards like Wild Dogs and Ghazban Ogre that help out very aggressive decks.

The increased size along with the highlander rule also meant that I had to find more cards that performed each basic effect that I wanted to feel common. For example, there are twenty White two-drops, around fifteen Black creature removal spells depending on how you count, and sixty or so color-fixing nonbasic lands, but naturally they aren’t all of the same quality. One side effect of this diversity that I absolutely love is that it tests skill in ways that normal limited sometimes does not. A standard big set right now has only 121 commons, so it’s fairly easy to make a lot of your card evaluation decisions before the draft. If you’re drafting the Blue-Red Sprite-Chaser faerie deck, you probably already know what order you are taking Lash Out, Mulldrifter, Silvergill Douser, Tarfire, and Broken Ambitions in. In contrast, my 20 different counterspells, 20 different card drawing spells and 30 different burn spells force a Blue-Red cube drafter to make decisions on the fly. Would he rather have Dismiss or Magma Jet? Forbid or Compulsive Research? Sift or Blast From the Past? To be fair, Lorwyn solves this problem in a very cool way with cards like Elvish Branchbender and Facevaulter that vary wildly in quality depending on what people already have in their piles, but that’s still not the same thing as having actual different cards. This is why I would never consider breaking the highlander rule; the first Lava Dart is far more interesting to me than the second Lightning Bolt even if the cards barely compare in terms of power.

The only thing that I’m unsure about right now is the nonbasic lands in my cube. I have 100 out of 720, which is a lot. Only about sixty four of them fix colors, and the rest are either color-aligned or colorless. However, many of those cards are somewhat marginal- think Llanowar Reborn or Keldon Metropolis- and perhaps those slots would be better used on actual cards of the appropriate color, which would allow me to support even more small subthemes. I originally tried the lands because I hate mana flood and I like it when people have more in-game options because their lands do more than make mana, but I may have pushed it too far. I’m also slightly unhappy with how easy it is to play lots of colors; I’m thrilled with the twenty dual lands, ten bounce lands, and ten fetchlands, but the painlands and Future Sight lands could get cut and I would barely care. The signets and the rest of the lands would still give people plenty of fixing, but cutting a little bit would keep people from really going hog wild with all five colors. I could see cutting the lands down to only 80 or even 60 cards and splitting up the freed slots between the colors, but I haven’t had time to try it yet.

Side Five: Twenty Minutes with Aaron Forsythe

I have owned a cube for over two years now, and during that time I developed some strong opinions about how cubes should be built. I was thrilled when I found out that the Invitational would use cube draft as a format, but also somewhat shell-shocked when I saw the list of the actual cube that was played there. Their cube could not possibly have been more different than mine; it had almost no artifact mana fixing, no nonbasic land cycles other than the original dual lands and Ravnica’s karoos, and scads of narrow and/or “bad” cards like Replenish, Flash, Flying Men, and the Illusions of GrandeurDonate combination. The builders of that cube and I clearly had very different ideas about what belonged in a cube, and I wanted to know what they were thinking. It turns out that the men behind the Invitational cube were Magic lead developer Aaron Forsythe and fellow Wizards employee Paul Sottosanti. Aaron graciously agreed to talk with me at Worlds about building cubes in general and that cube in specific, which gave me the chance to find out the logic behind its construction.

The story of cube at the Invitational is surprisingly simple. Aaron and cube draft go way back, although to him it was called “big box draft” back in Invasion when Aaron built his first one. He doesn’t remember where he got the idea, but he does know it wasn’t his own. His first cube had no power, had little thought put into it, and consisted mainly of cards he happened to own already. It was also huge so as to achieve maximum replay value, with over a thousand cards. Mark Rosewater put out an internal call for format ideas earlier this year when he announced that this year’s Invitational would be played with paper cards, and Aaron immediately pitched cube to him. Mark had never heard of the format before, but loved the idea. He needed an actual cube to use, however, and he assigned Aaron the task of building it.

Aaron didn’t want to go it alone, so he tapped Paul, who had also been around for the big box draft days back at CMU. Both men knew that blindly putting all the “best cards ever” in the cube would make it almost impossible for aggressive decks to compete, and also make blue incredibly powerful and white very weak. Therefore, they split up the design task: Paul would build half of each color to encourage beatdown decks, and Aaron would fill the rest of each color with whatever good cards were left over. They hoped that this would help balance the colors and also make aggressive decks competitive with the control decks that seemed to naturally dominate. They also chose to encourage aggressive decks by minimizing the amount of artifact mana acceleration they included. If an attack deck was going to succeed, turn four needed to actually be turn four and too many signets would keep that from happening.

Another design goal that they had was to have their cube feel like a normal limited environment in the sense that color commitments meant something. They knew that they were going to include utterly broken cards like Wheel of Fortune, Ancestral Recall, and Time Walk, but they didn’t want a situation where those cards would get taken by anyone who opened them and then splashed via strong non-basic land mana fixing. To them, picking Ancestral Recall shouldn’t a commitment to pick up a few blue nonbasic lands; it should mean that you are going to actually play blue.

To this end, they included very minimal amounts of mana fixing nonbasic lands. They started with only the cycle of Alpha dual lands and a few other individual standouts, but eventually added Ravnica’s karoos because of how well they played. There were other individual lands like City of Brass, but no more cycles of lands. Aaron knew that he had succeeded when Stephen Menendian was faced with the first pick first pack choice of Time Walk against Dark Confidant, and ended up picking the Confidant because “Confidant is a better black card than Time Walk is a blue card.” I suggested to him that perhaps mana fixing has less of a distorting effect when there simply aren’t cards on the level of Time Walk to splash, which he thought was reasonable. He said that the amount of mana fixing in a cube is really a matter of taste in his opinion, but he was happy with how the Invitational cube felt.

I also asked Aaron about the inclusion of goofy cards like Flying Men and Unstable Mutation as well as narrow combinations like the Illusions of GrandeurDonate combination, wondering if the only way they could find to balance blue was to include cards that were effectively blank. Aaron laughed at that and came close to agreeing, but also cautioned those cards still did serve purposes. Between Rishadan Airship, Cloud Spirit, Flying Men, Waterspout Djinn, and so on, it was entirely possible to draft a Blue Skies deck. He also defended the existence of their cube’s many narrow two-card combinations; they may not come together in the same deck very often, but their cost to inclusion is very low since it’s only two cards out of 720 and great stories are produced when someone actually manages to pull one of them off. He also told me that in development they cut all the three-card combinations they started with because the third card was just too much to ask for someone to find in the draft.

The biggest takeaway for me from speaking with Aaron is that he really enjoyed how many things were hidden inside the Invitational cube if you looked for them. There are many cards with non-obvious implications there, like Flash, Mind Over Matter, and Life From the Loam. The most common negative reaction to Time Spiral block has been that it is too confusing, and Lorwyn’s linear tribal theme is quite clearly a reaction to that. However, when a Pro Tour quality player looks at a card like one of the ones above, he starts to think furiously about what he can do with it instead of shutting down due to stimulus overload. Aaron and Paul were free to build a monstrously intricate limited environment for the Invitational because they knew that they were only dealing with very good players, and I think they had a lot of fun doing just that.

Thanks again to Aaron for taking the time to speak with me.

Side Six: Saturday Night Open Cube Draft at Worlds

Once I knew that I could attend Worlds, I decided that I was going to do something on a large scale to promote cube drafting there. I didn’t know what it would be until I found out that StarCityGames’ own videographer extraordinaire Evan Erwin would be there as well. Evan had just launched cubedrafting.com and had connections within Wizards thanks to the Magic Invitational, so I knew that I would be able to reach more people with his help than I could dream of reaching on my own. Wizards expressed interest in the idea of a public cube draft event and offered us table space when Evan pitched it to them, and I wrote up an announcement for my blog and for the StarCityGames front page. I also got a message from Kenny Mayer, who graciously offered to help us by hosting sixteen more players with his own cube.

One of the first reactions I got from people was incredulity that I would allow people I didn’t know to play with my expensive cards. It surprised me at the time that so many people were concerned about card security, but I realize now that it shouldn’t have. Evan’s cube was almost entirely made up of high-quality proxies, but my cube and Kenny Mayer’s cube are all real. We both have all kinds of rare and expensive cards in them; original dual lands, Berserk, Rolling Earthquake, and so on. Inviting random people to play with all of our cards seemed to many people to be tantamount to asking for expensive cards to disappear.

My perspective on this is a little bit different. The first time I cubed a lot with people I didn’t know was Grand Prix Massachusetts earlier this year. I ran several eight-player drafts, including a full rotisserie draft that drew a huge crowd and made me very nervous about card safety. About halfway through the day, I was pulled aside by Gabe Walls. My first encounter with a cube was with Gabe’s in Salt Lake City back in 2004, and his cube was fully powered for several years. Gabe’s advice to me was simply to stop worrying; if someone really wanted to take cards from me, there was going to be very little I could do to stop them. However, his experience was that most of the people he cubed with were honest people who were genuinely happy to have the opportunity to play. He had never had cards deliberately stolen, and he didn’t see any reason why I shouldn’t have the same experience. I decided to trust people from then on, and happily no one has yet betrayed that trust.

Of course, I’m not naïve either and Evan, Kenny, and I took steps to ensure that our cards would be safe. One thing we did was locating the event inside the actual World Championships drafting area, which was separated from the rest of the hall by white cloth barriers, and we asked players not to leave that area with cards. This also minimized the amount of random spectators around, who are the people that would have worried me the most. The other step that Kenny and I took was to seed both of the drafts using each of our cubes with friends that we trusted who were watching for shadiness. My last step was to put away all the unplayed cards after deckbuilding to minimize the amount of things people had to keep track of. Happily, neither Kenny nor I lost a single card.

Regarding the event itself, I ended up not actually playing because we had one more person than we expected and it seemed right for me to just stand up instead of excluding someone who doesn’t normally have access to a cube. I was hovering around the matches played with my own cube the whole time so I wasn’t able to interact with everyone who was there but as far as I know everyone in my two drafts had a great time. The cube is a non-intuitive concept, but it’s a strong enough product that it sells itself once someone tries it.

I also learned a lot about what was possible in my cube from the people who had never touched it before. One of the many faces in the crowd that I don’t remember a name for made me very happy by successfully drafting a dedicated reanimator deck. Right before worlds I had increased the number of reanimation enablers with cards like Makeshift Mannequin, Corpse Dance, Entomb, and Putrid Imp, hoping that this would make a full reanimation deck possible, and that player showed me that I had succeeded. Zac Hill found himself an impressive collection of extremely cheap creatures in Red and Green, and happily killed people with Rogue Elephant, Wild Dogs, and Ghazban Ogre backed up by a little burn. Those cards were intended to give very fast aggressive decks more food, and apparently it worked as he easily ran over the ponderous control decks on the opposing team. Adam Yurchick even managed to draft a surprisingly faithful version of the Honolulu-era Magnivore deck that included Wildfire, Burning of Xinye, Riftwing Cloudskate, Man-o’-War, Venser, Avalanche Riders, Ravenous Baboons, and Pillage. I knew that I had pushed red’s ability to blow things up, but I expected that to be teamed up with green’s mana acceleration and gigantic creatures rather than blue’s bounce and counterspells. I was surprised but happy that Adam succeeded, and I can only assume that this is how Magic R&D feels when the public starts doing unanticipated but interesting things with its cards.

I was thrilled with how the event turned out. We had forty players drafting in total, and I would guess that twenty-five to thirty of them had never cubed before. Everyone I talked to was glad they played, although I wasn’t surprised about that because cubes tend to make people happy wherever they go. However, my favorite response came from a player who stuck around to do a two on two cube draft with me and a few others after the main event had concluded, who said “I expected the games to be really overpowered and swingy, but it was actually just like normal draft except with really awesome cards.” That’s exactly what I try to create with my cube, and I was glad to hear someone tell me that it was working.

To Evan, thank you for working with Wizards to make this happen. To the Wizards event staff, thank you for letting us be part of the show. To Kenny, thank you for helping us share the cube with the world. To everyone who participated, thank you for honoring our trust and I hope you enjoyed it. I couldn’t talk to everyone who was there, but I would love to hear any of your stories in the forums.

Happy cubing!

Tom LaPille

Appendix: Tom’s Cube List



Goldmeadow Harrier
Icatian Javelineer
Isamaru, Hound of Konda
Martyr of Sands
Mother of Runes
Savannah Lions
Soul Warden
Weathered Wayfarer

Blade of the Sixth Pride
Eight and a Half Tails
Hand of Honor
Kami of Ancient Law
Knight of the Holy Nimbus
Knight of Meadowgrain
Jotun Grunt
Leonin Skyhunter
Mistral Charger
Order of the Leitbur
Order of the White Shield
Ronom Unicorn
Serra Avenger
Silver Knight
Soltari Monk
Soltari Priest
Spectral Lynx
White Knight
White Shield Crusader

Aven Mindcensor
Descendant of Kiyomaro
Devout Witness
Mirror Entity
Mystic Crusader
Paladin en-Vec
Pianna, Nomad Captain
Skyhunter Skirmisher
Soltari Champion
Soltari Visionary

Academy Rector
Battle Screech
Dawn Elemental
False Prophet
Hokori, Dust Drinker
Magus of the Disk
Windborn Muse
Voice of All

Blinding Angel
Karmic Guide
Mageta the Lion

Adarkar Valkyrie
Crovax, Ascendant Hero
Exalted Angel
Pristine Angel
Yosei, The Morning Star

Eternal Dragon

Akroma, Angel of Wrath

Decree of Justice


Ajani Goldmane


Land Tax
Temporal Isolation
Griffin Guide
Oblivion Ring
Glorious Anthem
Aura of Silence
Divine Sacrament
Solitary Confinement
Ghostly Prison
Sacred Mesa
Story Circle
Empyrial Armor
Faith’s Fetters
Parallax Wave


Enlightened Tutor
Swords to Plowshares
Mana Tithe
Momentary Blink
Pulse of the Fields
Renewed Faith
Wing Shards
Shining Shoal


Ravages of War
Wrath of God
Winds of Rath
Akroma’s Vengeance
Austere Command



Fathom Seer
Jushi Apprentice
Looter il-Kor
Merfolk Looter
Thought Courier
Voidmage Prodigy

Ambassador Laquatus
Man O’War
Serendib Efreet
Trinket Mage

Lu Xun, Scholar General
Ninja of the Deep Hours
Rainbow Efreet
Sower of Temptation
Thieving Magpie
Venser, Shaper Savant
Waterspout Djinn

Aeon Chronicler
Meloku the Clouded Mirror
Magus of the Future
Riftwing Cloudskate
Sun Ce, Young Conquerer
Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
Vesuvan Shapeshifter

Arcanis the Omnipotent
Brine Elemental
Keiga, the Tide Star
Quicksilver Dragon
Sun Quan, Lord of Wu



Jace Beleren


Legacy’s Allure
Collective Restraint
Control Magic
Future Sight
Take Possession


Pact of Negation

Force Spike
Mystical Tutor

Arcane Denial
Remove Soul
Mana Leak
Memory Lapse

Faerie Trickery
Psionic Blast
Thirst for Knowledge

Careful Consideration
Cryptic Command
Fact or Fiction
Gifts Ungiven
Mystical Teachings

Force of Will


Stroke of Genius


Ancestral Vision
Serum Visions
Compulsive Research
Deep Analysis
Time Warp



Shadow Guildmage
Plagued Rusalka

Black Knight
Dark Confidant
Dauthi Horror
Dauthi Slayer
Hand of Cruelty
Knight of Stromgald
Mesmeric Fiend
Nantuko Shade
Nezumi Graverobber
Nezumi Shortfang
Nightscape Familiar
Oona’s Prowler
Order of the Ebon Hand
Stromgald Crusader

Aphetto Exterminator
Bone Shredder
Coffin Queen
Hypnotic Specter
Nether Spirit
Phyrexian Rager
Undead Gladiator

Bane of the Living
Braids, Cabal Minion
Faceless Butcher
Graveborn Muse
Korlash, Heir to Blackblade
Phyrexian Scuta
Plague Sliver
Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed

Desolation Angel
Phyrexian Plaguelord
Thrashing Wumpus
Kagemaro, First to Suffer

Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni
Silent Specter
Laquatus’s Champion
Twisted Abomination
Kokusho, the Evening Star
Skeletal Vampire
Visara the Dreadful

Avatar of Woe

Spirit of the Night


Liliana Vess


Animate Dead
Phyrexian Arena
Recurring Nightmare
Yagwmoth’s Bargain


Slaughter Pact
Dark Ritual
Vampiric Tutor
Diabolic Edict
Last Gasp
Tainted Pact
Sudden Death
Corpse Dance
Tendrils of Corruption
Makeshift Mannequin
Skeletal Scrying


Chainer’s Edict
Hymn to Tourach
Night’s Whisper
Demonic Tutor
Drain Life
Yawgmoth’s Will
Choking Sands
Dread Return
Living Death
Mind Sludge
Ribbons of Night
Profane Command
Consume Spirit
Death Cloud



Goblin Cadets
Goblin Patrol
Grim Lavamancer
Frenzied Goblin
Jackal Pup
Kird Ape
Kris Mage
Magus of the Scroll
Martyr of Ashes
Mogg Fanatic
Scorched Rusalka

Skirk Marauder
Blood Knight
Hearth Kami
Dwarven Blastminer
Slith Firewalker
Tin Street Hooligan
Mogg War Marshal
Keldon Marauders
Mogg Flunkies

Ball Lightning
Sedge Sliver
Sulfur Elemental
Zo-Zu, The Punisher
Jaya Ballard, Task Mage
Thunderscape Battlemage
Ghitu Slinger
Magus of the Moon
Fire Imp
Keldon Vandals
Imperial Recruiter

Avalanche Riders
Blistering Firecat
Flametongue Kavu
Lava Hounds
Ravenous Baboons
Lightning Dragon
Keldon Champion
Rathi Dragon

Ancient Hydra
Siege-Gang Commander
Kumano, Master Yamabushi
Covetous Dragon

Rorix Bladewing

Akroma, Angel of Fury
Bogardan Hellkite

Greater Gargadon


Chandra Naalar


Genju of the Spires
Seal of Fire


Brute Force
Lightning Bolt
Lava Dart
Dead / Gone
Magma Jet
Shrapnel Blast
Sudden Shock
Seething Song
Blast From the Past
Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]
Urza’s Rage
Fiery Temper
Violent Eruption
Word of Seizing


Chain Lightning
Reckless Charge
Tribal Flames
Volcanic Hammer
Arc Lightning
Hammer of Bogardan
Molten Rain
Thunderblade Charge
Rift Bolt
Burning of Xinye
Boom / Bust
Ghitu Fire
Rolling Earthquake
Molten Disaster



Birds of Paradise
Elves of Deep Shadow
Fyndhorn Elves
Llanowar Elves
Skyshroud Elite
Pouncing Jaguar
Basking Rootwalla
Granger Guildmage
Ghazban Ogre
Rogue Elephant
Jungle Lion
Wild Dogs

Albino Troll
Dryad Sophisticate
Kavu Titan
Mire Boa
River Boa
Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Wall of Blossoms
Wall of Roots
Wild Mongrel
Viridian Zealot

Call of the Herd
Carven Caryatid
Eternal Witness
Heartwood Storyteller
Hedge Troll
Ohran Viper
Simian Grunts
Spike Feeder
Thornscape Battlemage
Troll Ascetic
Uktabi Orangutan
Wood Elves
Viridian Shaman
Yavimaya Elder

Iwamori of the Open Fist
Jade Leech
Masked Admirers
Phantom Centaur
Ravenous Baloth
Brooding Saurian
Nantuko Vigilante
Thelonite Hermit
Spike Weaver
Erhnam Djinn

Arashi, the Sky Asunder
Deranged Hermit
Indrik Stomphowler
Kodama of the North Tree
Saproling Burst
Spectral Force
Molder Slug

Silvos, Rogue Elemental

Krosan Tusker
Protean Hulk
Thorn Elemental

Verdant Force


Garruk Wildspeaker


Survival of the Fittest
Sylvan Library
Elephant Guide
Moldervine Cloak
Pattern of Rebirth


Crop Rotation
Giant Growth
Moment’s Peace
Worldly Tutor
Krosan Grip
Might of Oaks
Stonewood Invocation


Edge of Autumn
Sylvan Scrying
Gaea’s Blessing
Life from the Loam
Natural Order
Nostalgic Dreams
Search for Tomorrow
Kodama’s Reach
Rude Awakening
Plow Under
Tooth and Nail



Azorius Guildmage
Grand Arbiter Augustin IV
Iridescent Angel
Teferi’s Moat


Gerrard’s Verdict
Debtor’s Knell
Death Grasp


Goblin Legionnaire
Brion Stoutarm
Firemane Angel
Lightning Helix
Goblin Trenches


Gaddock Teeg
Mystic Enforcer
Loxodon Hierarch
Armadillo Cloak
Mirari’s Wake


Shadowmage Infiltrator


Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind
Suffocating Blast
Prophetic Bolt
Invoke the Firemind


Trygon Predator
Jungle Barrier
Mystic Snake
Simic Sky Swallower


Rakdos Guildmage
Blazing Specter
Wrecking Ball


Grave-Shell Scarab
Life / Death
Pernicious Deed


Burning-Tree Shaman
Rumbling Slum
Giant Solifuge
Savage Twister


Dromar’s Charm
Lightning Angel
Questing Phelddagrif
Doran, the Siege Tower
Fiery Justice
Elemental Augury
Fungal Shambler
Guided Passage



Umezawa’s Jitte
Lightning Greaves
Sword of Fire and Ice
Sword of Light and Shadow
Grafted Wargear
Loxodon Warhammer


Zombie Cutthroat
Gathan Raiders
Chimeric Idol
Etched Oracle
Solemn Simulacrum
Razormane Masticore
Platinum Angel
Sundering Titan


Zuran Orb
Engineered Explosives
Cursed Scroll
Aether Vial
Sensei’s Divining Top
Chaos Orb (Errata: “1, tap, sacrifice Chaos Orb: Choose a permanent in play, then destroy that permanent.)
Scroll Rack
Winter Orb
Isochron Scepter
Crucible of Worlds
Oblivion Stone
Tangle Wire
Vedalken Shackles
Phyrexian Processor
Icy Manipulator
Nevinyrral’s Disk
Memory Jar


Lotus Bloom
Chrome Mox
Mox Diamond

Azorius Signet
Orzhov Signet
Boros Signet
Selesnya Signet
Dimir Signet
Izzet Signet
Simic Signet
Rakdos Signet
Golgari Signet
Gruul Signet

Prismatic Lens
Mind Stone
Coldsteel Heart
Fellwar Stone

Coalition Relic
Darksteel Ingot
Gilded Lotus

This doesn’t fit anywhere else

Who / What / Where / When / Why


Dual lands

Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author]
Tropical Island
Underground Sea
Volcanic Island

Ravnica Dual Lands

Blood Crypt
Breeding Pool
Godless Shrine
Hallowed Fountain
Overgrown Tomb
Sacred Foundry
Steam Vents
Stomping Ground
Temple Garden
Watery Grave


Bloodstained Mire
Flooded Strand
Polluted Delta
Windswept Heath
Wooded Foothills

Bad River
Flood Plain
Rocky Tar Pit
Mountain Valley


Azorius Chancery
Boros Garrison
Dimir Aqueduct
Golgari Rot Farm
Gruul Turf
Izzet Boilerworks
Orzhov Basilica
Rakdos Carnarium
Selesnya Sanctuary
Simic Growth Chamber


Adarkar Wastes
Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]
Caves of Koilos
Karplusan Forest
Llanowar Wastes
Shivan Reef
Sulfurous Springs
Underground River
Yavimaya Coast

Future Sight Lands (almost)

Nimbus Maze
River of Tears
Graven Cairns
Mossfire Valley
Horizon Canopy

Cycle Lands

Secluded Steppe
Lonely Sandbar
Barren Moor
Forgotten Cave
Tranquil Thicket

Drifting Meadow
Remote Isle
Polluted Mire
Smoldering Crater
Slippery Karst

Color-Aligned Lands

Kor Haven
Flagstones of Trokair
Kjeldoran Outpost

Faerie Conclave
Academy Ruins
Tolaria West
Soldevi Excavations

Volrath’s Stronghold
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Shizo, Death’s Storehouse
Cabal Coffers

Ghitu Encampment
Barbarian Ring
Keldon Megaliths
Keldon Metropolis

Treetop Village
Gaea’s Cradle
Yavimaya Hollow
Llanowar Reborn

Colorless Lands

Urza’s Factory
Mishra’s Factory
Strip Mine
Thawing Glaciers
City of Brass
Rishadan Port
Gemstone Mine
Mirrodin’s Core
Maze of Ith
Krosan Verge
Terramorphic Expanse
Reflecting Pool
Undiscovered Paradise