What is Cube? A quick look at a fun Magic: The Gathering format

Are you interested in what's known as "cube drafting" for Magic: The Gathering?

Are you interested in what's known as "cube drafting" for Magic: The Gathering? In the video below, Magic Untapped provides an overview of cube, what it is, and how to get started.

Video transcript:

What is a cube?

Well, aside from mathematically being a solid bounded by six equal squares and the angle between any two adjacent faces being a right angle, in Magic: The Gathering terms a cube is quite simply a collection of Magic cards that are assembled together so that they can then be drafted just like one does from Magic: The Gathering booster packs.

In a sense, a Magic cube is basically a set that you create for yourself.  In other words, once you’ve created your cube you don’t need to buy new booster packs to draft – you can just draft from your cube as if you were cracking and drafting booster packs.

Is it a collection of the best Magic cards ever?  Well, for some people it is.  For most, though, it’s not – myself included.

But how does one actually put together a Magic: The Gathering cube?  After all, it’s not as simple as just throwing a bunch of cards together and calling it done.

A cube must be made with drafting in mind and, to that end, needs to have draft synergies and strategies throughout the cards.  While it’s fine to have some pet cards here and there, by-and-large cards need to be chosen with thought and care, keeping in mind interactivity, playability, and themes with the end goal being the best draft experience possible within the parameters you set for yourself.

In terms of my own cube, I put together two-color themes such as card draw for white/blue and land destruction in black/red.  I also decided on an overall theme.  In my case, that theme was old frame cards only.  Sure, that limits the cards I can consider for use in my cube, but it also sets up a fun challenge in how I build and continue to evolve my cube.

But, really, you can make your cube however you want.  That said, there are some accepted ground rules as far as how to compose your cube.

For a first time cube, starting at 360 cards is great as it can support exactly eight players – enough for a traditional-style draft like you might attend at your local gaming store. 

Cubes can be larger than this as well.  Indeed, there are folks who put together a 720-card cube as to support two pods of eight, which is amazing.

Mine?  It’s sitting at a cool 400 cards for now, though I may size it up a bit more at some point in the future.

Okay.  Back to how to actually put together your cube.

For a 360-card cube, you’re going to want to look at including 50-60 cards of each of Magic’s colors, leaving room for another 50 or so multicolor cards spread out amongst the various color combinations, as well as 30 non-basic lands and colorless spells (you know, cards like Nevinyrral’s Disk and It that Betrays and whatnot).  It's also recommended you build a singleton cube -- that is, no more than one copy of any one card.

And, as you are putting things together, think about not just what cool and powerful cards you want to include, but also what those cards would bring to the overall gameplay experience.  Are there synergies to exploit?  Would the card actually be good in a deck?  Would a card work across various archetypes?

Also, don’t forget to include what’s known as “signpost cards.”  These are cards that basically spell out what sorts of themes players should be looking for while drafting.

Is discard a theme?  If so, you might want to include cards like Megrim and Liliana’s Caress.  How about life gain?  Well, you might want to include cards like Ajani’s Pridemate and Test of Endurance.

By the way, take advantage of available technology when building your cube.  Me?  I recommend using the website CubeCobra.com as a way to not only keep track of things as you’re putting it together, but also as a way to simulate drafting your cube.

CubeCobra.com, by the way, is not a sponsor of this video – just a recommendation.

Also – and this is key if you plan on sleeving the cards in your cube (which I most heavily recommend), you should sleeve enough of each basic land so that players can include those in their decks.  For a 360-card cube, a minimum of 30 of each is good.  50 is better.  You know, just in case.

And, one final key thing to keep in mind once your cube is up and running:  PLAY TEST.

Get some friends together and test it out.  This is how you figure out what is and is not working with your cube.

Does the mono-green player go undefeated nearly all the time?  Is white too slow?  Maybe there isn’t enough removal available.  Or too much.

Play testing is how you figure these things out and gives you the opportunity to fix it.

Okay.  Now that you’ve put together your cube and worked out the kinks with play testing, what do you do with it?

A single Magic cube can accommodate eight to sixteen people for drafting, depending on how large of a cube you’ve put together.  And you can play it, well, basically anywhere you want to – at home, at your LGS, at your local brewery – essentially anywhere that can accommodate you physically being there playing games of Magic.

And whether your cube is an ever-evolving thing like mine is, or if it’s a one-and-done investment that becomes a time capsule of sorts for you and your friends to draft from, whatever sort of cube makes you happy to build and play is the best cube for you.

And if you want to check out the cube I’ve been working on, I’ve put a link in the description for you.

For Magic Untapped, I’m Barry White.

Thanks for watching.

Barry White

Barry White is a longtime Magic: The Gathering player, having started in 1994 shortly before the release of 'Fallen Empires.' After graduating from the University of Nevada, Reno, he went on to a 15-year journalism career as a writer, reporter, and videographer for three different ABC affiliate newsrooms.