This past Sunday, I had the pleasure of drafting my cube for the first time in ten months. Cube drafting is always a treat, and doubly so when it’s your baby. That said, I learned a fair bit, which I’ll recount posthaste.

Familiar Ground

Different cubes can and should be different. Most of my players were familiar with the Legacy Magic Online cube, powered Magic Online cube, and/or similar high power level cubes. They were generally accustomed to seeing cards like Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Entomb, Tinker, Tendrils of Agony, or Sol Ring. My cube is substantially lower in power level and has none of those cards. I don’t support storm (which I believe is an extremely parasitic archetype), reanimator (which, when it works, is absurdly powerful and nearly impossible to interact with), or powerful artifact acceleration (ditto). I also don’t have inexpensive (noncreature) cards that essentially win the game by themselves (I prefer Elspeth, Sun’s Champion to Jace, the Mind Sculptor as far as finishers go).

The consequence of this is players expected to see cards and archetypes (like the aforementioned) and were disappointed. I’ll be honest; I don’t feel bad about this (I tried to give them fair warning). Players shouldn’t expect all cubes to be essentially the same, just as players don’t expect all Limited formats to be the same.

If you’re designing a cube, don’t feel like you have to include things that other cubes have done or avoid things that they haven’t done. You don’t need to have storm (or you can go MMA and encourage hybrid storm decks), alpha duals, or Sulfuric Vortex. You can have duplicate copies of cards, un-cards, or create your own unusual archetypes. You should still listen to players’ feedback, since you need other people to tell you that your baby’s ugly, but don’t feel like you need your cube to be predictably standardized.


Don’t forget the little folk. In my eagerness to balance my cube and weaken the effects of wraths, I’d added a large number of powerful three and four drop creatures. This weakened aggressive decks in several ways:

  1. I’d removed some cheap creatures to make room for their more expensive brethren. Aggro needs these cheap creatures, but fewer were available.
  2. These bigger creatures are very good at beating small, aggressive creatures, thus compounding the problem.
  3. I’d removed many of the more heavily color committing two-drop creatures, making multicolor aggro easier but also increasing the competition for these creatures.

The consequence? We had one monored aggro drafter each draft and zero other aggro drafters (I’d tried to force monowhite aggro, but saw few cheap creatures and almost every wrath in my cube, so I went control instead). Furthermore, this uncontested aggro deck, while it had a very skilled pilot, underperformed. I definitely need to lower my cube’s curve.

End Hostilities

Keep an eye on your biggest effects. I felt I’d done a good job of keeping (blue-based) control out of hand. Effects like Control Magic and Counterspell were weakened and limited in number. Card filtering remains available, but card advantage is rare and expensive. I’d trimmed blue’s biggest effects and felt that the color was decently in line. The problem is that white didn’t get the same scrutiny.

When I added the slow of three and four drop creatures into the cube, I reinserted a couple more wraths. Wraths are some of the biggest X-for-1s available, and they became stronger than ever in my heavy creature cube (just as Savage Twister is nuts in MMA2015 draft). I hadn’t fixed the problem of control; I’d just color-shifted it. I need to remove and depower some wraths. Furtherore, I should look at all colors for problems, not just the obvious offenders.

Arcane Teachings

That’s all for today. Thanks for checking in on this update on the cube. Here’s hoping to get plenty of testing in this summer. And, as always, thanks for reading.

UPDATE: As per Charles’ recommendation, here is the current iteration of my cube.

—Zachary Barash

Zachary Barash has been playing Magic on and off since 1994. He loves Limited and drafts every available format (including several that aren’t entirely meant to be drafted). He’s a proud Cube owner and improviser, creating entire musicals from scratch every week. Zach has an obsession with Indian food that borders on being unhealthy.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.