An Intro to the Cube

Posted in Event Coverage on August 29, 2012

By Nate Price

A longtime member of the Pro Tour and Grand Prix coverage staff, Nate Price now works making beautiful words for all of you lovely people as the community manager for organized play. When not covering events, he lords over the @MagicProTour Twitter account, ruling with an iron fist.

The very first event of this inaugural Magic Players' Championship is the Cube Draft. Now, many of you have either had a chance to draft a Cube during the time it was on Magic Online, or maybe you have constructed a Cube of your own. In fact, much as Commander has become an incredibly beloved format for many Magic players out there, Cube drafting has really taken hold of peoples' imaginations, with a near infinite variety of Cubes popping up all over the place.

For those of you who are new to the concept of a Cube, the general concept is quite simple: a Cube is a pool of cards that can be randomized, organized into packs, and used to draft. There are Cubes out there that run on the powerful side, complete with Moxen, Black Lotus, and the other members of the Power Nine. On the other side of the spectrum, there are Pauper Cubes, which are completely comprised of commons. There are Cubes that are always a tight 360 cards, perfect for an eight-man draft, and there are behemoths that just add new cards as they come out instead of substituting them in. There are even some Cubes that are monocolored instead of the full five.

Regardless of the type of Cube you prefer, the truth remains that Cube drafting is one of the most skill-intensive Limited formats around. The way that Cubes are designed makes it so that each card in the pool is of a fairly similar quality. This creates an unusual situation where every card in all of the packs is at least considerable for a player's deck. You might expect that since each card is relatively good that the decisions are easier since you have more reasonable choices. The opposite is actually true. The relative homogeneity of the power levels means that each choice needs to be tailored to the exact deck you're trying to build. There are going to be cards that are much better in one deck type than another, even though both are still quite good.

Survival of the Fittest++BalanceSurvival of the Fittest++Balance
Sulfuric Vortex
There's little arguing about the power level of these cards, but there's plenty of discussion on which Cube deck archetypes that they are better in.

Another thing that makes Cube drafting different from other Draft formats is how it approaches the concept of deck archetypes. Even in standard Draft formats, archetypes exist. Take Magic 2013Draft. You have Exalted decks, W/R Tokens, B/R Attrition, W/U Fliers...the list goes on. You even have the ability to draft a mill-based deck, if the cards are there. Just like this, the Cube has a wide variety of archetypes that can come from it. Unlike the standard Draft formats, where some archetypes require very specific sets of cards in the pool to be viable (think the M13 mill deck, or the Kamigawa block Dampen Thought deck), the card pool for Cube is static, so those archetypes are always present. In addition, they are often better supported. It is not uncommon to see reanimator decks, or mill decks, or Tinker decks...all of these are completely possible depending on the card pool of the Cube.

Because of this depth and variety, the individual decisions made by each drafter become very important, and it is the little variations that can separate the successful drafter from the unsuccessful one. It is because of this level of difficulty, and this fine line between good enough and great, that this is a perfect format for testing the skills of the best players in the world.

But don't let this scare you away. One of the most important factors about Cube drafting is that it is really fun. You get to play with these awesome cards, cards that you might have never been played together before. You get to customize your card pool, adding and removing cards as you see fit, truly making it your own. It is all of these reasons that have made Cube drafting so popular. It is the perfect intersection of a casual format with an incredibly skill-testing one. And that is why it is perfect for the Players Championship.

If you'd like to learn more about Cube drafting and building, check out the following sites. They'll really help you get you started in the right direction.
The Cube FAQ

There are even some great videos up of players Cube drafting on Magic Online, including some put up by professional Magic players. This is just a small sampling of the wealth of knowledge available to you on the magical collection of tubes known as the Internet. So go, read, watch, and learn. The more Cubes and Cubers there are, the better the world will be.

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