The first thing I tell people when they want to build a cube is “good luck”. Designing a cube is a labor of love. It requires research, dedication and constant maintenance. Luckily, the first time you get to draft it, all the hard work is rewarded because you get to play the format that you designed.
When I first started building my cube, there were a lot of things I didn’t understand. Despite all the research I did, there were many aspects of the cube that completely missed the mark. Hopefully anybody who reads this will be able to avoid making the same mistakes I did when building their own cubes.
There are many different types of cubes, but I almost always recommend starting with a pauper cube, designing it with just commons. In addition to pauper variants, the most common types of cubes are peasant (commons and uncommon), powered (include the power 9) and lastly but not limited to, block or plane cubes (built around the themes of popular blocks and planes). Between all of these cubes, a pauper cube is the easiest theme to work with. A lot of people scoff at the idea of a cube full of commons because they think it’ll be a low power format. In reality, commons are the backbone of every set and they make or break limited formats. Remember that the most defining card in red, lightning bolt is a measly common.
Starting with a pauper cube also allows you to keep costs relatively cheap. Between people donating commons to local stores or even just throwing them away after labeling them bulk, the wide availability of commons keeps prices low and availability high. Majority of the commons you pick up for the cube are worth pennies. While there are a few exceptions to every rule, most of the cards you need to build a pauper cube can be found in bulk boxes.
After you’ve started building your pauper cube, you may be tempted to throw in a couple uncommons, rares or mythics. Don’t. The tens of thousands of cards that have been printed in the game’s history can be overwhelming and it’s fine to trim down your selection by cutting several thousand rares and uncommons from the mix. Keep it simple.
A balanced cube lets you play magic without worrying about who got passed the best card or combo. When all the cards are on an equal power level then success is based on tight play and interaction on the board. A drafter doesn’t get an unfair advantage by first picking a card like Black Lotus or Ancestral Recall.
A good pauper cube puts an emphasis on synergy and deck building. Just like any other limited environment, it forces the drafters to read the picks their opponents are making. The emphasis on synergy is because the best cards of the set can only be great if you have the rest of the deck to support it. To win a pauper cube draft, it is important to have a complete 40 card deck.
One of the greatest things about cubing is being able to cast Tinker on a Mox on turn one to turn it into a Blightsteel Colossus.
Unfortunately, a pauper cube can’t do this kind of broken play. While a pauper cube is much more powerful than a traditional set, it still feels like a normal magic set that is released by Wizards of the Coast. This is largely because pauper cubes are composed of the many limited all stars in every set.
A cube can always be upgraded. This is where the constant maintenance comes into play. Often times you might already have the expensive cards like dual lands or legacy and modern staples, or maybe you just aren’t worried about prices and would like to build a powerful cube. Starting with a pauper cube allows you to identify the different archetypes and problem cards so you can pinpoint specific upgrades without breaking the bank.
It’s important to remember while building your cube, it is your format. You can include any card you want. Nobody can stop you from making your cube tribal or enchantment themed. Build your cube using cards that you want to play. Just remember, you can’t cube alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from your drafters. Building a cube is a learning experience and just like any deck, it takes time to tune.
Thanks for reading and see you next time.