Now I’m not sure who first came up with the idea for this format, but whoever it was, I salute you and you are a genius. My first experience with Cube was when I spent a month staying with Canadian Magic Pro Mark Zadjner, testing for Team Pro Tour in Seattle. Now we didn’t do much testing, as all I wanted to do was cube all day long and Josh Wagner (who was staying as well) is a big fan too. The basic concept of the Cube is to compile a collection of the most powerful 300-500 Magic cards ever made, in singleton form (only one copy of each card). The problem I found was when you did this, you ended up with about 150 Blue cards and only 10 White, ones which is really bad for drafting purposes, so we had to refine our parameters to the best 50-70 cards from each color and that worked out a lot better. I have played “a Cube draft” as it is known with many Magic pros from around the world and they have all loved it and attempted to build their own. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have all the cards – just proxy up the expensive ones if you want, and you don’t even need to play with them, just the best cards from your own collection can work fine. This is a list of the cards I have in my Cube (be it proxied or not) up until the release of Saviours.
Library of Alexandra
Kiki-Jiki Mirror Breaker
Ravenous Ba loth
Tooth n’ Nail
Mind over Matter
Man o’ War
Meloku, the Clouded Mirror
There are many different formats that are possible once you have made your Cube. We haven’t worked out how to play Constructed with it yet, although it might be possible. This leaves us with Limited, which as we all know is way more fun anyway. Now there is no real number of people that you need to play any format of the Cube with. Two people can just heads up Solomon draft against each other, while any number of players can either draft or rotisserie or anything else you can come up with. The first Limited format that we played was a draft, and this is how we made it work.
First as always you need to shuffle the Cube. The only way we have found to successfully do this is with a pile shuffle. It is simply impossible to riffle shuffle 500 cards at once, and even if you break it down, you would need to keep mixing up the bunches of cards that you are shuffling so often that you would get very bored very quickly. Next you need each player to make themselves 3 boosters of 15 cards chosen at random from the Cube. Since you have just shuffled, 15 cards from the top of the pile should be sufficient. Then you simply booster draft as normal and add basic lands if you require them afterwards.
The real trick here is not to take the cards that are powerful in Limited, but rather to draft a Constructed deck and see if you can pull off any cool combos before you’re opponent does. I myself prefer a good combo to any amount of little beaters and attacking, but beatdown is probably the way to go, as it always seems to win when we draft. It is quite hard to draft a theme deck such as goblins because some of them just won’t be opened, due to the fact that you are only using about half of the Cube even in a normal 8-man.
To begin this you need to separate all the cards into their own colors, as this will make it easier to search for an individual card when someone picks it for their deck. The basic way a rotisserie works is to have all the cards laid out in front of you, then take turns to choose one card at a time and add it to your stack. Then you repeat until you reach a set amount of picks. You never need to go all the way and draft the whole Cube as the decks are usually a lot more powerful in rotisserie, so many cards won’t see play.
It may seem a very unfair advantage to be picking first as this effectively gives you the first pick of the remaining set of cards every time it comes round for you’re turn to pick, but the other alternative is to have a wheel so the first guy isn’t always picking first each round. This turns out to be a lot worse, as the power of wheeling is deceptively good. For example there are so many good two-card combos that whenever someone wheels he can just take them both, where as when someone in the middle wants to wheel he has to bounce one of the cards off of an opponent who may decide to hate draft the other half. Rotisserie is a lot more about building a deck as all the cards are there in front of you so you can plan out your deck with many picks left. The real trick is to find the cards that everyone else has missed, or to find a color that is perhaps being underdrafted. This is where drafting theme decks becomes a lot easier, because if you pick an early Goblin Recruiter, it will be very hard for someone else to play a goblin deck without him so you can start picking cards for other aspects of your deck while keeping an eye on your goblins so no one else gets a chance to go for them.
The artifact deck: This is the most powerful deck that you can rotisserie or draft. If done correctly, you basically have the Type One Prison deck that seems to be so popular at the moment, which is very unfair when your opponent is trying to play creatures and attack with them. It is not even especially important to draft the moxes to make this deck good, the more important cards are Goblin Welder, Tangle Wire and Tinker. When you have a good version of this deck, it shouldn’t really matter what your opponent does, hopefully you will Tinker out a Sundering Titan and destroy most of their land on turn 3 or just lock them under Smokestack. It is for sure my favorite deck to draft as well and there are many little combos such as Metalworker + Staff of Domination = infinite mana and therefore cards with enough artifacts in hand, and my personal favourite, Sensei’s Divining Top + Future Sight = spend one mana to draw a card!
The UG infinite deck: This is what my friends and I nicknamed the deck when it kept appearing as a viable strategy. The basic premise is to draft everything that allows you to untap your land or get more into play, every card that draws you more cards and then every expensive spell that lets you win the game. The perfect cards for this deck are Mirari’s Wake, Time Stretch, and Holistic Wisdom, and obviously from its name there are many infinite combo’s to be pulled off involving the blue and green power cards. Mirari itself is another powerhouse in this sort of deck, as whatever spell you fork in the cube it will be extremely powerful, the three time walk effects for example.
Goblins: As I said earlier it is quite hard to draft a goblin deck although not impossible, as you only need one or two of the really important ones to make it work. Surprisingly enough, Siege-Gang Commander is the best Goblin out there. Although not quite so hot on his own at five mana, it is the many combos with him that make him the strongest, be it Skirk Prospector, Aether Vial or even Goblin Lackey, whatever way you have of speeding him up, he is game most of the time. Obviously if you are left alone in a rotisserie to do the whole goblin thing, then your deck is very silly. You can quite easily kill on turn 3 without ever attacking someone with your perfect draw (which always includes Black Lotus in the Cube), but turns 4-5 are more likely.
Mono Black: This is my pet deck in a Cube draft and I love to go for it whenever I see some disruption going around the table. The way I draft it is based again on the Vintage control deck of a few years ago. You might not get lucky enough to open a Hymn or a Mind Twist, but Duress and Unmask will get the job done. It really comes down to the board control that you can pick up such as Smokestack or Braids. These are the cards that will whittle down your opponents resources with the help of the odd land destruction or creature kill that is on offer, and put you in the driving seat. It is not really possible to rotisserie this deck as in rotisserie the decks are a lot better and you might be dead before you can set up any kind of board control on the game.
There are so many other formats that are possible to play with a Cube once you have it built, even if it is not complete it doesn’t really matter. You can flip card from the top of the Cube at random and bid on them with a pre-arranged amount of points to spend and then repeat until the whole Cube has gone, you can do a Team Rochester versus just one other person by drafting all three decks on one team each, then playing out all the matches. There are literally endless possibilities that I hope you guys will be able to find out for yourselves, and I hope you guys have as much fun with it as we do.
A few things to note are do not put Auriok Salvagers in your Cube, it is just too good in a format with Lion’s Eye Diamond and Black Lotus and leads to some very degenerate turn 2 kills that are just a bit too quick to be fun. Also you should for sure keep your Cube sleeved and change them regularly as there is a good chance that it is worth a pretty penny. I can not stress how important it is that you go and build yourself a Cube out of whatever cards you have in your collection, even if it is just your trade binder plus a few select uncommons that are listed above. If you are any type of MTG fan, which you obviously are if you’ve made it to the end of one of my articles, then you will love it.