How To Begin Your Cube

So you’ve decided you want a cube of your own. Where do you begin? What happens when you want a cube, but you don’t know where to start?

This article is for you. In this article we’ll go from idea to final product in just five easy steps. Let’s go!

Step 1 – What Kind Of Cube Are You Building?

This is your most important question to ask because it will effect every decision you make regarding it from then on. You need to know exactly what kind of Magic experience you want to provide for your fellow drafters — are you interested in powerful game states, interesting limited environments, wacky situations, or something more focused (such as tribal cubes or crap rare cubes, etc)?

The cube I present here on the website is what I would call a Powerful Game State Cube. This means you’re using the most powerful/efficient cards in the game, or at least you’re trying to, and as such you need to be aware that sometimes first turn Black Lotus, Mox, Tinker into Darksteel Colossus is a possibility (just like their opponent playing Plains, Swords to Plowshares is also a possibility). The variance in this cube is high, meaning sometimes games will be complete blowouts versus each game being relatively ‘fair’.

One of the best things you can do at this point is try to get a ‘feel’ for other people’s cubes by looking at their lists. Now obviously you have my list, but there are plenty others out there in the forums or other places online. This gives you a sense of what creatures, spells, and tweaks other players are using in order to have the most fun or craft the most interesting draft experiences. This also allows you to see whose cube is built more for drafting head to head or in multiplayer, as both are very viable and fun options.

In regards to “Cube Types”, I would put them in these categories:

Powerful Game State Cube
Powerful Limited Cube – ie, the ‘best limited’ cards available
Uncommon/Commons Cube – self explanatory
Crap Rare Cube
Tribal / Focused Cube – including such themes as ‘Ice Cubes’ that have lots of snow permanents, Winston Cubes for 1-on-1, etc.

Once you determine what you wish to build, it’s time to move on to Step 2…

Step 2: Determine Your Budget

Magic cards cost money, it’s a simple fact of life. There are times when you just can’t upgrade your cube unless you want to fork out a little cash, and that sets the stage for the other big question in regards to spending money: What cards are you willing to proxy (i.e. make a land / worthless card into a fake high-powered expensive one)?

There are two sides to this question and I’ll try to present them both equally.

First, there is nothing like owning the actual cards in your cube. I know it’s a bit weird, but having the actual cards feels better than using a Giant Growth with the word BERSERK written in Sharpie on it. The cube is also surprisingly affordable, as many of the powerful cards in it are uncommon or common, and you can actually begin by purchasing the lower priced cards and slowly build your investment over time with foil, FNM, or other special variants of cards you have.

On the other hand, proxying allows you to play with every card you want, no matter what. Library of Alexandria, for example, is one of my favorite cards in Magic, let alone the cube. But its also about two hundred bucks, and that’s not something you can really drop for a single card every day, particularly when you’re trying to compile hundreds of them together to create a unique experience. So, with that said, a good color printer, scissors, and tape do very nicely until you get the chance to attain a real one.

My suggestion would be to go through a cube list and spend some time with StarCityGames.com in order to get a sense of what this cube might cost. Give yourself a threshold – say, $100, $200, or even $50, and figure out what the most bang is for your buck. I think you’d be surprised how affordable many of these cube cards are, and how foil or special edition versions are just a few pennies more.

A Note On Sleeves

In order to have a successful cube, one important part is having sleeves for all of the cards and all of the land. Many will get the former right but fail on the latter. It is important for speed of play / deckbuilding for you to have a dedicated sleeve type for all cards. This allows for much faster deckbuilding and sideboarding, as well as keeping all of your lands readily available for use.

With that said, part of this budget should be dedicated to sleeves. Getting sleeves of the same type is important, and sleeves are very affordable. What I would suggest is that you plunk down a little change on some nice / decent sleeves. For myself, it was an $80 investment in the Magic the Gathering Ultra Pro sleeves. I haven’t been so happy with a Magical purchase in a long time: No longer would my inferior sleeves bust continuously or showing which cards were proxied. No longer would deckbuilding be a painful process of unsleeving and resleeving. Instead, I could sleeve up every card in my cube, every land, and have plenty of left over sleeves when they eventually break. No sleeves are perfect, and breakage will occur. So no matter what sleeves you end up using, make sure they’re all uniform (i.e. exact same form, color, and manufacturer), and make sure you include land in your necessary sleeve count.

Step 3: Finalize Your List

Now that you’d figured out what kind of cube you wish to make and how much you’re willing to spend, it’s now time to finalize your list. This isn’t the end-all, be-all version of your cube — it isn’t meant to be. Instead, you simply want to get a final list compiled that you can tweak later. The tweaking is the fun part anyway.

So get yourself an Excel spreadsheet (or use Google Docs for a free online spreadsheet) and divide up your sections into speadsheet pages as you see fit. Here is my suggestion in regards to the # of each type of card you want to include:

250 Color cards (50 each): White, Blue, Black, Red, Green

60 Lands, peppering dual lands, saclands, etc as you see fit.

50 Artifacts

60 Multicolored (i.e. Gold) – 5 of each pair, 10 tri-color

50 Hybrid – 5 of each pair

This is 460 cards. Remember that you need 360 cards for a full draft (45 cards each for 8 players), and with 100 left over you have the ability to include two more players if you wish. Other cubes are much larger, including 100 of each color and so on. These allow you to get a much more varied experience, as with more cards you see less of one specific card or combination over a series of drafts.

Note: Some people consider Gold and Hybrid cards the same (i.e. they don’t separate them into different categories / spreadsheet pages), so you can take this with a grain of salt.

Also, many people do not adhere to exact numbers of each color. I personally recommend that you have the same number of cards in each color, as it provides a more balanced environment of colors and effects, but that is only a guideline based on my experience. Others have had fun, for example, cutting White out of their cube due to its lack of ‘raw power’ in contrast with other colors. Some cut Green for the same reason. Either way, you can feel free to use my cube as a guideline, or the myriad of lists available in the forum.

Step 4: Compile!

Now you’ve got the style, you’ve got the budget and you’ve got the list. Now the fun part begins: Putting it all together!

Here’s what you’ll need: The cards themselves, sleeves, and 50 basic lands of each type.

I would suggest two cardboard boxes: One long box for the cube itself (the cube is not actually cube shaped, heh), and one short box for your land cards. Sleeve up all of the cards using the same sleeves (as mentioned above).

And now comes the fun part..

Step 5: Playtest, playtest, playtest!

Okay, so you’ve made it. You got your style, your budget, your list, your cards, and you’re ready to play.

The most effective way of judging any cube is playing with a full 8-man draft. This gives you a sense of archetypes (feel free to read up on Cube Draft Archetypes), and also lets you know what the winners and losers of your cube happen to be.

Here’s the easiest litmus test for the cube: Whenever something is continually a pass out (ie the last pick of the pack), it probably should go. This means that over many drafts (3+), you’ve noticed that one card or one type of card is simply not being played. This can be surprising based on your playgroup. For example, Necropotence, while being completely busted, overpowered, and banned in Magic for good reason, was taken out of my cube because it wasn’t played. Now that’s not to say I won’t include it again in the future, but it’s a testament of how players shape what is in your cube. No matter how good, if its not being played or utilized, then it’s not worth the slot.

After this process, feel free to upload your list to the CubeDrafting.com forums, participate in discussion of various cards and strategies, and shape and mold your cube to the most perfect format for you and your playgroup. Because if you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.

Hope this helps, and good luck with your cube!

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11 Comment(s)

  1. I wish this was the first “Cube” article I ever read! It’s always been an interesting concept but I haven’t known where to start.

    Well done.

    One thing though, you always refer to “the” cube because it sounds cool, but it’s a little confusing sometimes…

    A search of this page I’m looking at reveals “View the Cube”, “What is the Cube?” “The Cube is also surprisingly affordable…”, “let alone the cube…” I’m going to stop because you get the picture.

    When you’re trying to introduce a new concept this is confusing, because it implies that there is “the” cube, when the whole idea behind Cube format is that each person makes up his own Cube.

    Listening to only The Magic Show and you’re other stuff, I got the impression that there’s this single list (“the Cube”) that everyone all around the world uses, and drafts from, which sounds a lot less interesting than a list of cards that each separate player generates…

    Anyway, just a little thing. Always love your stuff.

    maxiewawa | Mar 21, 2009 | Reply

  2. Thanks for the good info for setting up a cube.

    I recently compiled my cube together, based on Evan’s cube list.
    The cube is full power and did require some proxying.

    Between me and some good friends, we had 85-90% of the ‘real’ cards. (not a bad effort!)

    We decided to all contribute what cards we had to the cube. One tool I found extremely useful for tracking who has contributed which card to the cube was Google Docs.

    It is brilliant. I simply opened Evans cube list into Google docs, and set access to my mates who contributed cards.

    Each card on the list they would shade it a different colour, relating to who contributed the card.

    After all the real cards were compiled, we were left with a list of cards which needed to be proxied.

    Plus, when the time comes to de-construct the cube, its nice and easy to remember who contributed which cards to it.

    Cube on!

    -zombiefrank

    zombiefrank | Mar 21, 2009 | Reply

  3. This was really a great article, I’m thinking that I should start sketching on a cube of my very own now. Where I live there’s a fairly active MtG community but the cube has never really caught on here since nobody has taken the time to really playtest one.

    Now all I have to do is get better at drafting :-P

    Pocket Universe | Jan 4, 2010 | Reply

  4. I was wondering if it is recommended to have only one copy of every card?

    Tex | Feb 19, 2010 | Reply

  5. I dont know if im missing some majorly obvious forum or anything, but i havnt found a forum on how to do the actual draft. Do we draft all of the cards? Twelve cards out of the box at a time? Or is it more? Im assuming it is a fourty card deck… And are there any doubles of these cards?

    Bob | Jun 7, 2010 | Reply

  6. Drafting a cube is similar to a normal draft. Its just the set-up to get “boosters” that is different.
    You need to shuffle and split your cube into 15 card “boosters” giving 3 “boosters” to each player (which makes 45 cards cards) then follow the normal rules for drafting.
    ie Each player picks one card out of their first 15 card “booster” then passes the pack to the player to thier left. Rinse and repeat until all cards are picked.(worth taking your time in passing “boosters” accurately so that boosters do not go to players out of sequence) Then each player takes their 2nd “booster” takes a pick but passes this “booster” to thier RIGHT this time. Rinse and repeat again. Lastly the final “booster” per player is picked from and passed back to the LEFT again. Once all card have been picked each player should have 45 cards to build a deck from containing a minimum of 40 cards including lands

    Psybite | Jun 19, 2010 | Reply

  7. I think I have actually had more fun putting the cube together than playing it. I use Evan’s list and after using what cards I had and spending my limit, trading for everything else has been a blast. If only Evan would quit dropping/adding the same card after I trade it for something else I need. haha.

    Phil | Sep 11, 2010 | Reply

  8. HELP
    i want to make my own cube
    i have the basics, 50 0f each type
    but how do you divide that?
    i dont want like 15 green mythics
    14 green rares
    5 uncommons
    7 commons

    is there a formula?

    Shane | Dec 8, 2010 | Reply

  9. I just want to say thanks for this little bit on how to shuffle up and divide it into “boosters.” Being in a group of guys in the middle of nowhere, on a ship and trying to build a cube has been interesting but we couldn’t find out to divide up the boosters. I just want to say thanks.

    MtgSailor | Jul 19, 2011 | Reply

  10. Hey man, it boils down to this — make boosters however you like. Split them into colors and keep the packs equal (ie 2 of each color and so many lands/artifacts/multi), or shuffle them all together and pull 15 random cards. I’ve done both and everything inbetween.

    Evan | Jul 19, 2011 | Reply

  11. I made a spreadsheet to use in the building of a cube, is a early version but is fine to begin

    Alejandro Monroy | Dec 8, 2011 | Reply

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