The Basic of Cube Construction

A cube is a large collection of (often powerful) cards used for drafting and playing Limited. Drafting a cube is similar to drafting booster packs, but instead of drafting from three fifteen card Magic booster packs, you draft from fifteen-card “packs” that you create from your cube. Building your first cube can be an overwhelming experience. How many cards should it contain? What cards do you choose to put in it? How do you balance colors and create synergy?

Where To Start?

For your first cube, I recommend using 360 cards. A 360 cards cube can support exactly eight players. If you create three fifteen card booster packs for each player, this means that every single card in your cube will be drafted, which is the most optimal way to experience your cube.

However some cubes contain 720 cards. A 720 cards cube can support two eight player drafts. Many players prefer a larger cube because it allows them to play two eight player drafts without having to reshuffle, and they’ll never see the same card twice. Constructing a larger cube is not necessarily better or more fun. You’ll have more draft archetypes and different experiences in each draft, but you’ll also have more variance, as you won’t see the same cards in each draft. Additionally, 720 cards cubes are much more difficult to build and balance, which is why I’ll always recommend starting with the 360 card minimum if you’ve never built a cube before. Other commons Cube sizes are: 405 and 450, which are similar to the 360 cards cube with a little more space to design or 540 which is more similar to the 720 cards cube. The 405, 450, 540 cards cube can support respectively a nine player draft, a ten player draft and a twelve player draft.

This being said, you can choose the size you want for your cube!

What Cards Do I Play?

A rule of thumb for building a cube is that you want it to be singleton, or only containing a single copy of each card. A singleton cube is more balanced than a cube that contains many four-ofs. But let’s get one thing clear: a cube is not a collection of the most powerful cards in the game. Cubes are fully customizable, and while some players prefer to play the most powerful cards, many players opt to build cubes around their favorite themes and strategies. Ultimately, your cube is your most optimal drafting experience, so if you like to play the most powerful cards in Magic, then by all means go for it! If you instead want to build a cube based around a particular theme or strategy, here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Worlds and Blocks: One great thing about Magic is that the game contains very deep and unique worlds. They are so deep, in fact, that some have been revisited multiple times. Choose a Plane you like and mix and balance the cards from that plane even if they come from differents blocks but set in the same Plane. An example is to create an Innistrad Cube mixing the original Innistrad Block with the new Shadows Over Innistrad Block to create a unique experience and feel of the Plane.
  • Mechanics and Archetypes: However you may want to experience your cube through your favorite aspects of gameplay. Do you like combo? Try out a combo cube with support for decks such as Storm or Splinter Twin. Do you like creatures? How about a tribal cube with archetypes for your favourites tribes. Do you like designing archetypes? Choose an Archetype for each color combination which is represented by cards from each of its color and start from there. Maybe, if you have a smaller collection, you would like to build a Pauper cube. Despite being composed of only commons, Pauper cubes are actually quite powerful and more synergic centric.

How Do I Balance My Cube?

Balancing a cube is difficult, and it will take many play throughs for you to get it to its ideal state. Also hearing players feedback may improve your Cube balance. Furthermore as sets come out, you’ll want to add new cards to your cube, meaning that it’s never truly complete. That’s one thing that many players enjoy about building a cube; it’s a work in progress and a project that is never finished. So how do you actually go about balancing a cube?

First you need do balance your color. This mean that you should have roughly the same amount of cards for each of the five color. But this is not the only thing; you have to make sure that all colors are somehow balanced between each other with no absurd discrepance of power level. While the power level balance depends mostly on the cube players feedbacks, the number’s balance can be summarized with some guidelines.

Numbers:

Here’s a good starting point for your 360 card cube:

  • 50 White cards
  • 50 Blue cards
  • 50 Black cards
  • 50 Red cards
  • 50 Green cards
  • 40 Multicolored cards, with four of each color pair
  • 35 Non Basic Lands
  • 35 Colorless cards and Artifacts

Artifacts are tricky because some of them either have a colored activation cost or reference a certain color. Don’t count artifacts as colorless artifacts if they are only for one specific color. Nonbasic Lands are great at helping you get the right colors you need for your deck, but they should be chosen with care. They should be the 10% to 15% percent of the cube and they should be in equal number for each color pair. You are not obliged to put in your Cube only finished cycles of ten lands, but you can custom your choices as long as the numbers remain unaffected and the your choosen lands are suitable for that specific color pair. With the 35 Non Basic Lands paradigm you can have three lands per color pair plus five utility lands.

Archetypes:

After you refine the numbers you can choose to assign to each color pair an archetype. Selecting cards for a 360 card cube is not an easy task, and you may have no idea where to begin. A good starting point is to choose your favorite archetype for each of the ten color pairs and include cards that support those archetypes. While you should include powerful cards to support each archetype, it’s also important to include cards that are both good in any deck and work in multiple archetypes. Remember, the mono colors cards should be as versatile as they can be and the multicolor cards should be the payoff for you to draft a certain archetype or color pair.

Playtest and Players’ Feedback

Playtests are one of the best tools you have to help balance your cube. Each time you draft your cube with eight players, you should be looking for signs of things that are off. For example, are the aggressive white creatures not getting drafted? Maybe white aggro is too weak or you don’t have enough cards in your cube to support that archetype. Are five of the eight players playing blue? It’s likely that blue is too strong, and you may need to cut some of the efficient counterspells and card draw for spells that are weaker. Does the mono-red player go 3-0 in every draft? Red is likely too strong. These are just a few of the things to look for while playtesting.

Another thing to think about is not really color balance, but rather fairness balance. Are there any cards in your cube that are automatic first picks regardless of a player’s color preference? The consensus is that these cards are un-fun to play against, and maybe it is simply better to take them out. Similarly, are there cards that no one ever plays? Maybe there are cards in your cube that are drafted early but never make the final cut in players’ decks. These are the cards that should be coming out for different cards.

Building and tuning cubes is complex but, for me, is also one of the most fun and satisfying ways to play Magic.

cube-image

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