A Tale of Two Cubes

 

I’ve always liked drafting, and so the idea of a MtG Cube (a controlled Limited environment where you get to draft from a pool of powerful cards each time) is something that has always appealed to me.

I have built and disassembled two Cubes of my own, and now, I’m looking to assemble a new one. This is the story of my thought process around building this Cube.

Let’s take a look!

CUBING:
I had held off on building a Cube of my own for years, not wanting the hassle of finding certain cards, or the cost (namely, the P3K ones like Burning of Xinye or Ravages of War). If I was going to build a traditional Cube, I’d also want it to be powered up with the Power 9 (Black Lotus etc), making the cost that much higher.

But I digress. A few years back, I had finally decided to start building a Cube. The reason? I’d read some articles about single-set Cubes, where you pick a set and build a Cube out of it to draft with, and I’d thought that a fantastic idea.

So I decided to build not one, but two single-set Cubes to draft with: Innistrad and Rise of the Eldrazi, two of my favorite Limited formats.

These two Cubes were quite fun to play, and rightfully so… these were two of the greatest Limited formats Wizards had created up to that point. Eventually, I got tired of having these Cubes, however, and took them apart.

Last year, I started thinking about making a new Cube, inspired by the fun I’d had drafting Conspiracy and Conspiracy: Take the Crown. My plan was to remove the boring cards from those sets and put together a big multiplayer Cube, using cards from the Un-sets, Unglued and Unhinged, for maximum fun and hilarity.

However, then Wizards spoiled the fact that a third Un-set was coming.

This was earth-shattering news, and I immediately put the upcoming Cube on hold, wanting to wait to see what the new Un-set would bring me before building it. December’s Unstable release came and went, and the new set proved to be an amazing draft experience, more fun than I could ever have hoped. I loved the way the mechanics worked, and everyone who drafted it with me enjoyed the experience immensely.

This, however, left me with a few dilemmas going forward.

THE UNSTABLE CONUNDRUM:
As a draft set, Unstable was honestly pretty darn close to perfect. It had mechanics that worked together in synergistic ways, lots of fun and swingy cards, powerful rares, and was just simply put the most fun set I’d drafted in years.

When I first concepted the idea of an Un-Spiracy Cube, I was just planning to cherry-pick the best Un- cards to add to Conspiracy to make a draft. After drafting Unstable, however, this seemed to me to be a poor choice, as Unstable was an excellent standalone set by itself. Unstable needed very few things to be perfected. Why would I add to, dilute, or mess around with what was already an excellent draft format?

This was question one: Did I want to just build Unstable as a self-contained Set Cube, just with Unstable by itself, or did I want to add other cards to it?

A CONSPIRACY IS AFOOT:
However, everything I’ve said about Unstable drafting also applies to the two Conspiracy sets. They were unique and super fun to draft, and I really liked what the ‘draft matters’ cards (Cogwork Librarian and co) did to the draft experience, and I thought these two sets played really well.

The mechanics were fun and exciting — I particularly liked the monarch mechanic, which just made a lot of sense in a multiplayer game, giving people reasons to attack and forcing people to not just stall the game. As with Unstable, the cards themselves were also super fun, and rewarded drafting around the set’s themes.

The main thing, of course, was that everyone I’d drafted the two Conspiracy sets with also really liked them.

TOUGH CHOICES:
So what was I to do?

If I just jammed Conspiracy cards and Unstable cards together, I risked having the tight gameplay and fun mechanics of Unstable watered down, and the full effect of the ‘draft matters’ Conspiracy cards might not come into play. Adding more cards would also mean that you’d see less of the cards you wanted to draft, watering down the draft, and draft archetypes would mean less and less.

(This is without even mentioning that Unstable is a draft format for one-on-one play, whereas Conspiracy is meant for multiplayer games. We’d tried drafting Unstable to play in multiplayer games, and it felt clunky and unnatural.)

In the end, I concluded, the whole thing would just feel like a mess if I smashed these two draft formats together. The best thing to do would be to have two Cubes: one for Un-cards, and one for multiplayer.

THE MULTIPLAYER CUBE:
Of the two Cubes, I know even before I sit down to brainstorm it that this will be the one with the looser structure. I want to include the various Conspiracy cards, all of the voting cards (one of my draft archetypes will be ‘voting matters’), and all of the cards with the various Conspiracy mechanics on them (dethrone, goad, and the monarch).

From here, I have basically unlimited freedom with this Cube. I can add cards from the various Commander precons or any of the other specialty MTG sets (cards like Grasp of Fate, Djinn of Infinite Deceits, Scythe Specter, and so on); I can add cards that are just plain good in multiplayer; or I can add cards that go with the deck archetypes that I want to be draftable.

I know before I’ve even sat down to brainstorm this Cube that I want the various cards with the myriad mechanic (Warchief Giant, Banshee of the Dread Choir, and the rest of the cycle) and anything that scales in power with multiple opponents. I will want lots of removal, several Wrath effects, card drawing in various colors, and just overall lots of fun cards. I will want ten two-color draft archetypes, and support cards for them in each color.

Compared to the Un-Cube, this one can actually be a much bigger Cube. I’m going to try to keep the Un-Cube as small and focused as possible. The multiplayer Cube, I can just jam any fun card into as long as it works.

This will end up being a crazy Cube, and I know it’ll take me a while to actually balance it.

THE UN-CUBE:
Ironically, of the two Cubes, this one will end up having the most structure, since Unstable was so good by itself. I plan to keep the majority of Unstable, and just replace any of the cards that felt most lacklustre with some good cards from Unglued and Unhinged.

I have my eye on any Un- cards that roll six-sided dice (things like Krazy Kow, Goblin Bookie, or Goblin Bowling Team) to give the die-rolling deck more support. I also really liked the host and augment cards and how they played, so it’s quite likely that they will all stay. I will be looking at the ‘watermarks matter’ cards to see if they are worth keeping (when we played Unstable, they seemed quite weak in practise, but no one really bothered drafting them). I want to keep this Cube as tight as possible, so space will really be at a premium.

There are certain cards that I’m going to have to decide what to do with. The variant cards that have multiple different versions of the same card, I have not decided how I want to handle them just yet (I am leaning towards printing off a proxy of the card, and just having someone exchange it for one of the variants chosen at random when it appears in a pack). For Spike, Tournament Grinder, do I keep an assortment of banned cards in the Cube to choose? And do I want to have any tribal cards in the Cube (to go with Chickens from Unglued, or the Donkeys from Unhinged)?

Having said all that, I know that this Cube will end up being fun as hell to play, and I am really looking forward to assembling it in the coming months.

So that’s a quick look at my thought process behind my two upcoming Cubes, and how the “Un-Spiracy Cube” became two Cubes. I really look forward to playing these Cubes once they’re together, and they should be a blast! Once I have them together, there will be a followup article with the lists, so stay tuned!

 

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