Cubers Anonymous – Introduction And The Ten Cube-Mandments

Justin Parnell admits that he has a problem. He’s addicted to Cube Drafting. Today, he kicks off his new column at Star City Games: Cubers Anonymous.


I’m here because I have a problem.

I’ve been told it’s not a problem. I mean, how could something that feels so good be so detrimental? I do it with my friends, but I think they’re addicts too. I can never think about anything else; I always just want more. I even try to get my friends who aren’t addicts to try it. Just one time I always say. Secretly I want them to get hooked too. Does that make me a bad person? Maybe, but I just can’t stop.

My name is Justin Parnell, and I’m addicted to Cube Drafting. Welcome to Cubers Anonymous.

I did lie in the paragraph above: when I said that I “secretly” wanted people to get hooked. If you’ve ever met me, you know it’s no secret. If you haven’t met me, then you’re in the much larger group, so allow me to give you a little background info on the man they call Ice Cuber, Stone Cold Cube Austin, Grand Master Cube and/or Dr. Kenneth Cubewater (note: no one has ever called me any of those names).

I’ve been playing Magic for right around twelve years, since Urza’s Destiny/6th Edition. I quit from Champions of Kamigawa until Future Sight and have been back playing competitively ever since. I travel as much as possible around the southeast and beyond to the willingness of my North Carolina and Virginia compatriots. You may have seen my name in two of my best friends articles, Ali Aintrazi and Wes Wise, although they’re usually blaming me for something. I first played a (lackluster) Cube about four years ago, but brushed it off. Then a year later, my then-roommate Adam Westnedge (coming to a SCG buying booth near you!) decided to put together a Cube. Watching construction and playing from the early stages had me hooked. I had to have one, and gosh darn it; it was gonna be the best Cube ever.

Flash forward to today, where I am the proud owner of an entirely foiled, powered, 540-cardCube. It’s my pride and joy. I carry my Cube around with me everywhere that there’s Magic to be played, in its black and white box with my facebookpageforcubing brandished on the top. I am truly addicted to Cube drafting and don’t have any intentions of intervention. I would rather Cube than playtest (not close), brew decks, and probably even play in real tournaments, but luckily I can do both (one poorly). I look over my Cube every few days, looking for holes and fixing needs like an obsessive plumber. Seriously, thinking of how I can fix Black and wondering what Green’s real role is has kept me up many nights. It gets so bad that my girlfriend has removed all Cube-shaped objects from our house just so I don’t relapse into Cube-coma when we’re watching a movie or something.

Enough about me, you came here for the gooey Cube-goodness and I don’t intend to let you down. I want to start off with a bang, so today I’ll unveil my personal manifesto for Cube ownership. I call them The Ten Cube-Mandments. These are the rules I live by when thinking about my Cube, cultivated over the last few years. Hopefully they will do you well. So without further ado, The Ten Cube-Mandments.

1. Thou SHALL NOT play with cards people hate

This is usually the rule that comes at the end of lists. You know, the one that says have fun at all costs and hug puppies and poop rainbows and stuff. This is similar, only what I mean is don’t do things that are specifically not fun for a large majority of people. The only person that is going to love all of the cards that are in your Cube is…you. Which is perfectly fine. Cube construction and life share the similarity of not being able to please everyone all the time. But you should go out of your way to not include cards that people flat out don’t like or people won’t like once they play with/against them.

I’m not talking about Fact or Fiction because you’re too dumb to understand how to correctly split piles or Umezawa’s Jitte because you’re playing an all dudes deck with no way to interact with it. Cards like Shahrazad, Humility, awful ante cards, Stasis, One With Nothing, and Chameleon Colossus (kidding) (kinda). The majority of those cards named I have never seen in a Cube and were really extreme examples, but the point is sometimes people go off a ledge to try something new. In their attempts to have interactions that normally wouldn’t be in a Cube, they often just put in bad to terrible cards. This is good way to make people never want to play with your Cube again.

2. Thou SHALL play with thy Cube

Seems obvious, right? It blows my mind when people tell me that they have a Cube, and then tell me they’ve only used it once or twice. Wait, what? I get that lots of people love to draft more than they love to play games with said decks, but it makes me sad to hear about all these Cubes sitting in boxes all by their lonesome. (Good) Cubes are difficult to build, and all that hard work shouldn’t go unattended to. I know several Cube owners have initially built a Cube for the construction aspect, but the most obvious part shouldn’t be forgotten. Go out of you’re way to make it convenient for others to play with your Cube. Use blackmail if needed, but don’t let people miss out on the fun they will certainly have just due to laziness.

3. Thou SHALL NOT be too reliant on cycles

This is one of my biggest pet peeves about Cube construction. There are a couple truly great cycles in Magic history. The Lorwyn Command cycle. The Alpha Moxen. Lorwyn Planeswalkers. The Mirrodin set’s Swords. I could go on and on except…. I can’t. There are veeeeery few cycles in all of Magic that deserve to have all of their members included in most Cubes.

Magic players really love themselves some cycles, which is all fine and good, but they get too starry eyed when it comes to Cube. I know there is a pretty large split in the Cube community on Signets vs. no Signets, and I can happily say that I run exactly six out of ten signets in my Cube. Sounds like blasphemy right? I’ve had it like that for over a year and couldn’t be happier. Aggro decks, and aggro color combinations, do not want cards that do nothing to advance their plan. In most cycles, have one or two entrants that are not up to the power level of the rest (Primeval Titan, Spawning Pool/Forbidding Watchtower), are too narrow or focus on a non-Cube block mechanic (Bringer of the White Dawn), simply suck compared to the rest (Jugan, the Rising Star and Ryusei, the Falling Star). Judge each card by its own merit and let go of adding cards five at a time. The only time I believe this is acceptable is when adding land cycles of 5 or 10, only to keep balance between the colors.

4. Thou SHALL update thy Cube at least quarterly

There are times that I do wish sets would slow down coming out, if only for how difficult it is to make cuts sometimes for new cards. But even if a new card never came out ever again, I would still hold to this rule. No Cube is perfect, and even though I think mine is the best of its kind (which every Cube owner should), anyone who knows me knows that I constantly am tinkering and making small changes to the Cube.

Every Cube can always play better, period. There is a card for every role and sometimes they just take a lot of trial and error to find. If you haven’t changed your Cube in a while other than adding in the newest cards, make notes, ask others, just do anything you can to at least force some change. Notice cards that are undrafted and that sit in sideboards time and time again. Try something different in its place. I have a binder with cards that have recently come out or could possibly come in, and I know that fellow SCG Cube writer Usman Jamil doesaswell. Something like this is a great tool for when you need a change.

5. Thou SHALL NOT have any sacred cows

This is one of the hardest rules to go by, even for me. There are times when you grow so attached to a particular card that you can’t cut it even though you know it’s not pulling its weight. I know you love your Japanese foil Brian Kibler signed Rith the Awakener, but once its the last pick in 30 straight packs, it might be time to move on. The best example of this is Morphling. Once widely considered the best creature ever, Morphling has slowly been shoved over by better, more efficient creatures, less narrow removal, and rules changes. Luckily he doesn’t appear much anymore, but it took folks awhile to accept that his time had passed.

I recently had to take out Smother from my Cube to make room for Go for the Throat, a card that kills every creature in the Cube that Smother does but three, plus 45 more. Sorry Smother, we had some good times, but it’s time for you to go. Don’t let your Cube be held hostage by cards that no longer pull their weight despite fond memories of them. This will definitely be elaborated on in the future, so I don’t want to bog you down with rambling about it to.

6. Thou SHALL listen to suggestions by others

Magic players are some of the most stubborn people ever. They always think they know best (which is why I’m making this list). There can be a lot to gain from just reading message boards, articles that mention cards, and other Cube lists. There are a lot of kinds of Cubes out there, so this is especially important if you have a specialty Cube that isn’t as common or an unusual size. The best way to do this is to simply ask others for feedback after completing an event with your Cube.

Often most people don’t realize how scarce space is and will ask about cards that you’ve contemplated several times, but every now and then someone will hit you with a perfect card that you hadn’t seen or thought of before. Take one of those sacred cows out for something suggested by someone else. Chances are you know someone else with a Cube. Use this to your advantage. Ask them about a hole you need filling, why they play with a certain card, or how a certain card has been in their drafts. If you don’t know anyone personally, go to a Cube-related forum online and just ask questions. You can learn a lot when you allow yourself to listen. Most people do use other Cubes as a jumping off point for starting their own, but…

7. Thou SHALL NOT copy a Cube card for card

Even myCube. Don’t be a slave to a Cube list when starting out. It would be a massive undertaking to not reference any Cube list when initially building a Cube, so I’m not recommending putting together a 400+ card Cube off the top of your head or using the StarCityGames.com AdvancedSearch. I would instead suggest getting as many other Cube lists as you can and cross referencing them to see trends. This seems like a lot of work (it is) but if you’re committed to building and maintaining a Cube then you’re in for some work and you may as well know on the front end.

The same goes for already constructed Cubes, including my own. Whenever I want to replace a card and don’t have one readily available, I hit the forums and look at tons of lists, to try and find a sweet card to try out. I believe this way will yield the best results if you’re starting from the ground up

8. Thou SHALL finish thy Cube events

For some crazy reason, this is a tough one. The only way to learn about what cards are working is for you to play and observe games. If you’re doing a 5-man sealed round robin and people want to quit after two rounds, you’ve basically made decks for deck making sake. Implore your crew to finish what they start. The best way to do this is to have something on the line, you know, like actual money. If your crew is stingy/doesn’t like losing money, some combination of bullying, threats and name-calling help. If you’re at a sanctioned event, pride points are a great stand in for dollars. If you feel like you’ll be short on time, try a format that takes less time than the standard team draft.

9. Thou SHALL NOT only play with thine own Cube

My personal most difficult commandment. As important it is to play with your own Cube, it is equally important to play with other Cubes if you have time. Not only will you gain incredibly important perspective into another owners construction habits, you can talk with someone on the same level with you as far as how to improve Cube drafting as a whole and how their ideas differ from yours.

Many people have different kinds of Cubes (Pauper, Tribal, artifact based, etc.) and playing with things you don’t normally play with might inspire you to try something new. Or it might inspire you to make a Cube, like it did me. We all first played in a Cube draft before we decided to build our own, so don’t become so egotistical that you refuse to Cube unless you are playing with your own.

10. Thou SHALL play different formats

My favorite entrant on this list, and a very important one if you Cube often. This topic will get its own article in the future, but I can elaborate a little bit here. Although the default setting for most people is either 6-man team draft or 8-man single elimination draft, it doesn’t have to be. Expand your cubing horizons! Some of the formats I’ve played include team elimination, Winston draft, sealed deck, two headed giant, back-draft, Rochester, and my personal favorite, the Iron Cube (you’ll have to wait to find out about that one!). Every Magic format ever was born out of a crazy idea, so make stuff up and see if it’s fun!

I hope you enjoyed my first article on my absolute favorite thing about Magic, because there will be tons more Cubers Anonymous in the future! Before I sign off for today, I do have one more sweet Cube-related tidbit for you. At StarCityGames.com Open Baltimore, there was somecoverage on a Cube Rotisserie draft that took place six weeks prior on Google Docs and played out in Baltimore. The draft was a ton of fun, and I was asked to do it again. I don’t think I’ve ever turned down anything related to cubing, so last week I set up another draft on Google DocstobeplayedoutatStarCityGames.comOpen: Atlanta on the weekend of September 9th-11th. The draft features myself alongside SCG buyers Matt Gargiulo, Travis Gibson, and Wes Wise, SCG Coverage Manager Glenn Jones, SCG Open Series competitors John Winters and Ali Aintrazi, and fellow Cube-lover and rooster enthusiast, Matt Scott. Follow along our picks and watch out for an update in Atlanta!

Thanks for reading everyone and I’ll see you next time!

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