Cube Spotlight Series – Uncommon Cube

Posted in Magic Online on May 16, 2018

By Alli Medwin

Shining a Spotlight on the Future of Cubes

If there's one thing Magic Online players generally love, it's Cube. And while Vintage Cube, Legacy Cube, and Modern Cube are popular, there's always room for more. That "more" is starting next month, when we introduce a new way to Cube on Magic Online: the Cube Spotlight Series.

The Cube Spotlight Series is our way of providing novel and interesting play experiences. A few times this year, we'll put a new cube up for a single week. These cubes will be a little more unusual than the standard fare. They'll be offbeat and experimental. We're trying new things and taking a few more risks than usual. We're not putting up anything we don't think is fun, but we recognize that when trying new things, they won’t all be hits. And that's okay. Our current plan is to run one Cube Spotlight Series event between each major release, and we'll evaluate from there.

If one of these cubes hits big, we'll certainly be open to bringing it back, but we're not trying to find the next major cube to stand alongside the established host.

For those who remember the Legendary Cube from 2015, it would have fit right in with what we're hoping the Spotlight Series to be. In retrospect, the problem we had with the Legendary Cube was not that it wasn't a good first experience, but that it wasn't a good tenth or 20th experience. Not every experience has the depth of our major booster releases, and by expecting it to perform at that level, we failed to recognize how it could have been great: as a fun, limited-time offering.

An Uncommonly Good Time

The first instance of the Cube Spotlight Series is one that's near and dear to my heart: the Uncommon Cube. This is a variant of my personal cube, using the same rules that have evolved over the past three years, but adapted for a broader audience.

In the Uncommon Cube, the rule is simple: every card in the cube is uncommon. It's not enough that an uncommon version exists; the version in the cube proper must be the uncommon one. This causes some problems in translation, as rarities aren't always preserved between paper Magic and Magic Online. Two of the most iconic cards from my paper version—Sylvan Library and Force of Will—exist in their original sets as uncommons, but on Magic Online, they're only available in rare or mythic rare. Explorer's Scope is an uncommon in the first Conspiracy set, but Magic Online only has that card in common. All in all, there were nineteen cards from my paper version that had to be removed for one reason or another, but there were plenty of great cards to replace them with. This isn't digital limitations hamstringing good gameplay; some of those substitutions will make their way back into my paper version, so the experience is different but ultimately one that I'm excited for you all to try out.

Designing in Silver

My primary goal with the Uncommon Cube (and the reason I created it in the first place) was that I wanted a cube both experienced and lapsed players could enjoy without needing to do much homework.

Most of my non-work friends are lightly enfranchised Magic players, interested in Commander and Conspiracy Draft but uninterested in following competitive formats or even serious competition. Building an experience for their level of expertise meant imposing a cap on the comprehension complexity of any individual card; I'm always happy to have strategic complexity, but I've watched some of my closest friends decide halfway through a card that they didn't want to keep reading, so no card in the cube can be that long. And my work friends . . . well, it shouldn't be a surprise when another Wizards employee is deeply invested in Magic.

Making an experience that would interest both groups was a challenge, but after playing an uncommon-only cube made by Seattle-area Magic player Steven Stadnicki (@shaterri on Twitter), I knew I'd found a solution. Uncommons are designed to be reasonable cards that show up frequently in Limited but not in multiples, often with more powerful and/or narrow effects. My favorite cards tend to be uncommons, and I know that's true for a lot of other long-time drafters. Uncommons are the cards that tend to be remembered: Spider Spawning, Dampen Thought, Flametongue Kavu.

With that in mind, I started by making a set skeleton to ensure I could balance the colors. Then I did some research on recent large sets to get a proportion of mana costs, and I spread out my card slots across the mana curve in roughly the same proportions. Once I knew how many cards of each color at each converted mana cost I needed, I sat down with Gatherer and started picking cards. 540 cards later, I had a first draft. Then I playtested with colleagues, revised, and playtested again. The cycle repeated a few times, and every iteration taught me more, both about what I was trying to create and how to do it.

I rapidly realized that this cube isn't about the best uncommons of all time—there's no Path to Exile, for example, in the current iteration—and couldn't have been even if I wanted it to be. The cube would end up as a huge jumble of undercosted creatures, grade A removal, and card-draw spells. Some of my favorite uncommons aren't included, either. And that's correct, because as sad as I am about not including Mundungu, nobody else is sad about that. Instead, it's a Limited environment crafted using the tools available at uncommon with some rules I've developed over the years specifically for this cube.

To stay accessible, the Uncommon Cube is necessarily a low-synergy format. The archetypes are deliberately low volume, and almost every card can stand or fall on its own merit. Synergy cards are certainly present—Riddleform, Lone Rider, Breeding Pit, etc.—but most of them have a function outside "their" deck. Riddleform can help filter your draws, Lone Rider can pick up an Aura or Equipment and transform itself without other life-gain cards, and Breeding Pit's worst-case scenario is to create an endless stream of chump blockers. Where you'll see storm decks or affinity decks in some cubes, those aren't the kind of decks that a casual player will likely see in their first draft. In a low-synergy format, players can pick the cards they like, sticking to the fundamentals (mana curve, etc.), and they'll end up with a pretty decent deck.

I needed to make sure that people didn't need to know ahead of time what they'd find in the cube. This meant being careful to avoid traps. For example, in an early playtest, I had a single Sliver in the form of Manaweft Sliver because I wanted a cheap five-color mana creature in green. However, what I heard several times was that someone would see it in pack one, then look for the five-color Sliver deck that the card appeared to be promising. I discovered that even a secondary tribal benefit was enough for a card to give people a false impression of what they might find, so as much as I'd like to include Manaweft Sliver or Drover of the Mighty, their tribal benefits became a disqualifier. I'm still a little worried that Servant of the Conduit will suggest that there's an energy deck if someone sees it early, but that hasn't happened yet.

When I first took the cube to my lightly enfranchised friends, we ended up playing it a lot. It was everything my friends wanted. (She said, perhaps exaggerating a little.) It continued evolving from there. It grew from 540 to 600 cards as I started running events with more and more players. More people were running four- and five-color decks than I thought was healthy, so I toned down the volume of color fixing and removed the Ravnica bounce lands, shrinking the multicolor section to match. I enforced a slot in each pack for nonbasic lands, which holds true in the Magic Online version as well.

Very early on, I heard an overwhelming consensus that people weren't enjoying color hosers on either the giving or receiving end. After digging into that, it tied back into the homework issue: they just wanted to play. Sideboarding was a level of the game that was pretty alien to their play pattern, and for a group that mostly plays Commander and Conspiracy, that's not hard to understand. I didn't want to eliminate sideboarding entirely, of course, but I rapidly took away cards that made players feel like they had to use them in sideboards. This led me to another Uncommon Cube rule: "The power level of a card shouldn't be based on the colors of the opponent's permanents or the land types they have." This meant a huge swath of the game didn't fit: anything with landwalk or protection was right out, but it also meant that a lot of black removal spells were gone. (Pour one out for my boy Shriekmaw.) Fortunately, Magic is large and ever-evolving, and after I started to look for replacements, this rule that I worried might not work turned out to be minimal in effect; Doom Blade's absence just makes room for Go for the Throat, Murder, and Cast Down.

Ultimately, the Uncommon Cube is quite a departure from what we typically do with the big three (Vintage Cube, Legacy Cube, and Modern Cube). And as much as I love this cube, I'm under no illusions that the design rigor that went into creating this can match what we put the others through. That said, I'm very confident that for the first handful of times drafting it, it's a lot of fun. And that's exactly in line with our goals for the Cube Spotlight Series: unusual, interesting fun for a single week.

Uncommon Cube Full Cardlist

Below is the full card list for the Uncommon Cube! Columns are sortable by clicking their header. You can also narrow your search by typing a keyword into the Search box, then sorting within those results.

Card Name
Aberrant Researcher
Abrade
Abundant Maw
Abzan Falconer
Accorder Paladin
Accursed Witch
Acidic Slime
Acolyte of the Inferno
Adanto Vanguard
Aerial Responder
Ætherize
Air Servant
Ajani's Pridemate
Alloy Myr
Ambition's Cost
Anchor to the Æther
Ancient Excavation
Ancient Tomb
Ancient Ziggurat
Angelic Armaments
Angler Drake
Animate Dead
Anointer of Champions
Arborback Stomper
Arc Lightning
Arc Trail
Arcane Sanctum
Arcane Teachings
Artisan of Kozilek
Ash Barrens
Atarka Pummeler
Augur of Bolas
Aura of Silence
Auratouched Mage
Awakener Druid
Azorius Signet
Azure Mage
Bad River
Baleful Ammit
Baleful Strix
Baloth Null
Bane of Bala Ged
Banishing Light
Barter in Blood
Become Immense
Beetleback Chief
Bellowing Aegisaur
Big Game Hunter
Bituminous Blast
Blessed Alliance
Blessed Spirits
Blightning
Blizzard Specter
Bloodbond Vampire
Bloodbraid Elf
Bloodfray Giant
Bloodrage Brawler
Bloodwater Entity
Blossoming Defense
Boar Umbra
Boggart Ram-Gang
Bomat Bazaar Barge
Boros Signet
Brazen Scourge
Breaker of Armies
Breakneck Rider
Breath of Life
Breeding Pit
Briarhorn
Calciderm
Carbonize
Carrier Thrall
Carrion Wall
Cast Down
Catacomb Sifter
Censor
Chainer's Edict
Chalice of Life
Changeling Berserker
Changeling Hero
Changeling Titan
Charcoal Diamond
Charging Monstrosaur
Chart a Course
Chronomaton
Cinder Barrens
Circle of Elders
Clear Shot
Cloudblazer
Cloudform
Cloudgoat Ranger
Coastal Piracy
Complicate
Compulsive Research
Condescend
Conduit of Storms
Cone of Flame
Consecrated by Blood
Consign // Oblivion
Consulate Dreadnought
Contagion Clasp
Control Magic
Corrupt
Counterspell
Court Hussar
Crocodile of the Crossing
Crumbling Necropolis
Cryptolith Fragment
Crystal Ball
Cunning Sparkmage
Curious Obsession
Curse of Predation
Curse of Shallow Graves
Cyclone Sire
Daggerclaw Imp
Dance with Devils
Danitha Capashen, Paragon
Darksteel Axe
Darksteel Ingot
Darksteel Mutation
Dauntless Bodyguard
Daze
Deadeye Quartermaster
Deadwood Treefolk
Death Grasp
Death Wind
Deathreap Ritual
Deceiver Exarch
Deep Analysis
Demonic Taskmaster
Demonic Tutor
Deranged Whelp
Devotee of Strength
Dimir Guildmage
Dimir Signet
Dismember
Dismiss
Dissolve
Dominate
Doomfall
Drake Umbra
Drana's Emissary
Dread Return
Dreamstone Hedron
Dreg Mangler
Dromoka Captain
Drown in Sorrow
Druid's Familiar
Drumhunter
Durable Handicraft
Duskwatch Recruiter
Edifice of Authority
Electrolyze
Elephant Guide
Elite Scaleguard
Emancipation Angel
Enclave Cryptologist
Enlarge
Enslave
Enthralling Victor
Ephara's Enlightenment
Erhnam Djinn
Essence Extraction
Eternal of Harsh Truths
Eternal Witness
Everflowing Chalice
Evernight Shade
Expedition Map
Experiment One
Experimental Aviator
Explosive Vegetation
Extract from Darkness
Fact or Fiction
Fairgrounds Warden
Faith Unbroken
Faith's Fetters
Falkenrath Noble
Fanatic of Xenagos
Far // Away
Fatal Push
Fatestitcher
Felidar Guardian
Felidar Umbra
Fierce Empath
Fight with Fire
Filigree Familiar
Fire Diamond
Fire Imp
Fire Servant
Fireball
Fireblast
Firemaw Kavu
Fires of Yavimaya
Flametongue Kavu
Flickerwisp
Flinthoof Boar
Flood Plain
Forsaken Sanctuary
Foul Orchard
Foundry of the Consuls
Frontier Bivouac
Frost Walker
Gaea's Anthem
Gaea's Embrace
Gamekeeper
Gatekeeper of Malakir
Geistblast
Geist-Fueled Scarecrow
Gelectrode
Gemstone Mine
Ghor-Clan Rampager
Ghost-Lit Raider
Ghostly Prison
Gibbering Fiend
Gift of Orzhova
Gifted Aetherborn
Glarewielder
Gnarled Scarhide
Go for the Throat
Goblin Bombardment
Goblin Glory Chaser
Goblinslide
Golgari Charm
Golgari Germination
Golgari Signet
Grab the Reins
Grafted Wargear
Grasp of Darkness
Grasslands
Grave Upheaval
Great Oak Guardian
Griffin Guide
Grizzled Angler
Grunn, the Lonely King
Gruul Signet
Gryff's Boon
Guttersnipe
Harmonize
Harm's Way
Harrow
Harsh Scrutiny
Haunted Crossroads
Haunter of Nightveil
Healer of the Pride
Hedron Archive
Heir of the Wilds
Hellhole Flailer
Highland Lake
Hoarding Dragon
Hollowhenge Spirit
Hordeling Outburst
Howlgeist
Hymn to Tourach
Icy Manipulator
Illusory Ambusher
Immolating Glare
Incendiary Flow
Inferno Jet
Inquisition of Kozilek
Invigorated Rampage
Iona's Blessing
Izzet Charm
Izzet Signet
Jace's Ingenuity
Jade Mage
Jeskai Elder
Joraga Treespeaker
Juggernaut
Jungle Shrine
Juniper Order Ranger
Keldon Champion
Keldon Megaliths
Kessig Forgemaster
Kiora's Follower
Kiss of the Amesha
Kitchen Finks
Kitesail Freebooter
Knight of the Holy Nimbus
Knightly Valor
Kongming, "Sleeping Dragon"
Krosan Grip
Krosan Tusker
Kulrath Knight
Lambholt Pacifist
Lashweed Lurker
Last Breath
Leech Bonder
Leonin Battlemage
Lightning Axe
Lightning Berserker
Lightning Bolt
Lightning Helix
Lightning Mauler
Lightning Strike
Limits of Solidarity
Lingering Phantom
Lingering Souls
Lone Rider
Long Road Home
Longbow Archer
Long-Finned Skywhale
Loreseeker's Stone
Loxodon Warhammer
Magma Jet
Magmatic Core
Mammoth Umbra
Manticore Eternal
Marble Diamond
Marsh Casualties
Maverick Thopterist
Meandering River
Memorial to Folly
Memorial to Genius
Memorial to Glory
Memorial to Unity
Merciless Executioner
Merfolk Branchwalker
Merfolk Looter
Merfolk Skyscout
Merfolk Trickster
Mesa Enchantress
Meteorite
Might of Old Krosa
Migratory Route
Military Intelligence
Mind Stone
Mirrodin's Core
Mistfire Adept
Mistmeadow Witch
Moldervine Cloak
Monastery Swiftspear
Morkrut Banshee
Mortarpod
Mortify
Moss Diamond
Mountain Valley
Mulldrifter
Murder
Murderous Cut
Murderous Redcap
Mwonvuli Beast Tracker
Myriad Landscape
Mystic Monastery
Mystic Retrieval
Nantuko Elder
Nantuko Husk
Nature's Way
Needle Storm
Nezumi Graverobber
Night's Whisper
Nomad Outpost
Nucklavee
Nyx Weaver
Oblivion Ring
On Serra's Wings
Ongoing Investigation
Opportunity
Opulent Palace
Ordeal of Purphoros
Orzhov Charm
Orzhov Signet
Outrider en-Kor
Oxidda Scrapmelter
Palace Jailer
Parting Thoughts
Pawn of Ulamog
Peace Strider
Pelakka Wurm
Perilous Myr
Perilous Voyage
Phyrexian Gargantua
Phyrexian Ingester
Pious Evangel
Pollenbright Wings
Prison Term
Pristine Talisman
Propaganda
Prophetic Bolt
Putrefy
Pyreheart Wolf
Pyroclasm
Pyrokinesis
Quicksand
Raff Capashen, Ship's Mage
Rageform
Raised by Wolves
Rakdos Signet
Rakshasa Gravecaller
Rally the Peasants
Rancor
Ranging Raptors
Ravenous Chupacabra
Reach of Branches
Reality Shift
Reassembling Skeleton
Reckless Waif
Reclamation Sage
Reflector Mage
Regrowth
Relic of Progenitus
Relief Captain
Remand
Renegade Warlord
Renegade Wheelsmith
Restoration Specialist
Retreat to Kazandu
Riddleform
Ride Down
Ridgescale Tusker
Riftwing Cloudskate
River Hoopoe
Riverwheel Aerialists
Roast
Rocky Tar Pit
Rogue's Passage
Rolling Thunder
Runed Servitor
Sai of the Shinobi
Sandsteppe Citadel
Sandstone Oracle
Savage Lands
Savage Twister
Scab-Clan Giant
Scavenger Drake
Screeching Bat
Seal Away (DAR)
Seaside Citadel
Seed Guardian
Seed Spark
Seeker of the Way
Selesnya Guildmage
Selesnya Signet
Sengir Autocrat
Serendib Efreet
Serene Steward
Serra Angel
Serrated Biskelion
Serum Visions
Servant of the Conduit
Shanna, Sisay's Legacy
Shardless Agent
Shimmering Grotto
Shiv's Embrace
Sifter Wurm
Sight Beyond Sight
Sigiled Paladin
Sigiled Starfish
Silumgar Sorcerer
Simic Charm
Simic Signet
Siren Stormtamer
Skeletal Scrying
Skinrender
Skizzik (DAR)
Sky Diamond
Sky Terror
Skymarcher Aspirant
Skymark Roc
Skyship Plunderer
Skywhaler's Shot
Skywise Teachings
Slice and Dice
Slice in Twain
Slimefoot, the Stowaway
Slith Firewalker
Smoldering Werewolf
Snapping Sailback
Snare Thopter
Somberwald Stag
Soul Manipulation
Soul Snare
Soul Snuffers
Spectral Procession
Sphere of the Suns
Spiteful Motives
Spitemare
Spontaneous Combustion
Spread the Sickness
Sprite Noble
Squirrel Nest
Stab Wound
Start // Finish
Stasis Snare
Steward of Solidarity
Stir the Sands
Stoke the Flames
Stone Quarry
Stonecloaker
Stonewright
Stormblood Berserker
Strangleroot Geist
Stun Sniper
Stupor
Submerged Boneyard
Su-Chi
Sunhome Guildmage
Sunscourge Champion
Sunset Pyramid
Supreme Will
Survival Cache
Swiftfoot Boots
Swords to Plowshares
Sylvan Reclamation
Tandem Lookout
Tangleclaw Werewolf
Tatyova, Benthic Druid
Telling Time
Tempest Caller
Temur Sabertooth
Tenacity
Terminate
Test of Faith
Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive
Thallid Soothsayer
The Eldest Reborn
Theft of Dreams
Thieving Magpie
Thraben Gargoyle
Thran Dynamo
Thran Golem
Thrashing Brontodon
Thrull Parasite
Thundering Spineback
Thunderstaff
Tiana, Ship's Caretaker
Timber Gorge
Time of Ice
Timely Hordemate
Torch Fiend
Torment of Scarabs
Totem-Guide Hartebeest
Town Gossipmonger
Tranquil Expanse
Treasure Keeper
Tribute to Hunger
Trinket Mage
Trove of Temptation
Trueheart Duelist
Trygon Predator
Turtleshell Changeling
Tuskguard Captain
Twinblade Slasher
Ulcerate
Ultimate Price
Ulvenwald Mysteries
Unburial Rites
Undercity Troll
Unflinching Courage
Uninvited Geist
Unlicensed Disintegration
Unravel the Æther
Unstable Obelisk
Unsubstantiate
Untamed Kavu
Untethered Express
Urban Evolution
Utopia Sprawl
Valorous Stance
Vampire Hexmage
Vampire Nighthawk
Vaultbreaker
Vengeful Rebirth
Vexing Scuttler
Victimize
Vivid Crag
Vivid Creek
Vivid Grove
Vivid Marsh
Vivid Meadow
Vulshok Morningstar
Wall of Blossoms
Wall of Limbs
Wall of Omens
Wanted Scoundrels
War Oracle
War Priest of Thune
Warcry Phoenix
War-Name Aspirant
Wasteland Viper
Weaponcraft Enthusiast
Weaver of Lightning
Whirler Rogue
Whirlermaker
Whisper, Blood Liturgist
Whispers of the Muse
Whispersilk Cloak
Wild Onslaught
Wild Slash
Wild-Field Scarecrow
Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers
Wing Splicer
Wolfir Avenger
Wonder
Woodland Stream
Worn Powerstone
Yargle, Glutton of Urborg
Yavimaya Elder
Young Pyromancer
Zealous Persecution
Zulaport Cutthroat

Latest Magic Online Articles

BLOG

Magic Online Bug Blog September 20, 2018 by, Wizards of the Coast

What Is the Magic Online Bug Blog? The "Bug Blog" is a running list of updates, alongside a list of Magic Online known issues. Here you'll find a list of emergent new issues, details a...

Learn More

MAGIC DIGITAL

Guilds of Ravnica: Magic Online Edition by, Alli Medwin

Hello, Magic Online players! The full Guilds of Ravnica Card Image Gallery is now up, and I'm sure you're all as excited as we are about the new set. It's a doozy, just like the previous ...

Learn More

Articles

Articles

Magic Online Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All

We use cookies on this site to personalize content and ads, provide social media features and analyze web traffic. By clicking YES, you are consenting for us to set cookies. (Learn more about cookies)

No, I want to find out more