Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Magic the Gathering: The Cube

A few posts ago I may have mentioned that I was making a Cube for Magic the Gathering instead of making miniature gang wars a focus. I thought I should probably expand on this and explain the reasons what, why, how and where. So without further ado it's Cube time.

... not to be confused with Hammer time

Magic the Gathering to me is a card game I have been aware of since I was a child. Indeed my first exposure to the game was at school where some kids were playing with these new cards with exciting artwork and complicated rules.

This was the card that hooked me, a literal Mind Bomb. 
Mark Tedin artwork is fantastic.

My first thoughts about Magic were how do you play this, where can I get more cards, which cards are the best? As time went on I collected from various sets and although in my late teens it subsided as a hobby for me I always tried to keep up with the latest sets. This on off collecting has left me a rather large amount of cards (Over 8000 in total) which is great but with few people to play against that is all it was, a collection.

That is until a small group of us started a gaming night about once a month. Spawned from a discussion of Secret Cinema Star Wars (If it returns definitely worth going to) and 'at the time' new Star Wars X-Wing game we started to meet to play games like Pandemic, Forbidden Desert and Heroquest. This led to a general chat of what games we all had and I mentioned Magic the Gathering which got some interest.

Now to start off with I tried building four seperate EDH/Commander decks for everyone (As I was the only one with cards). This sort of worked for re-introducing the game to people and a how to for the basic rules. However it was time consuming for me to build the decks, had additional commander rules and missed out on deck building and showing the variety of cards the game could offer (good and bad). As we finished someone mentioned drafting from booster packs as an idea and this got me thinking ....
Image result for grand moff tarkin snoke

.... drafting magic boosters is great fun, it is also expensive and everyone needs to be willing to be that involved in the game to purchase said booster packs to play. This wasn't going to work with some of our group and with access to over 8000 cards I was reluctant to do that as well. However I had heard about an old format known as Big Box drafting and on doing some more research discovered the world of the cube.

Cube works by selecting a balanced amount of cards through all 5 colours and artifacts (or not if you want to go crazy you can make a minotaur only cube). Mixing them all together and then drafting from this pool to make a deck of about 40 cards including basic land. As there were only 5 of us the minimum amount of cards I would need would be 225 but this seemed a little limiting for casual gaming and I wanted more flexibility and surprises.

I settled on 560 cards as a base (this grew to 570) and my theme for the cube would be a combination of good cards combined with a history of magic through the ages. With that settled it was now a matter of going through just short of 6000 unique cards by colour, type and practicality for multiplayer magic.

Oh to find the mana base to include this in a cube

This could have been a nightmare. Questions like what cards make the cut? How many planeswalkers should I have? Will Cromat see play if I include it? What is a good mana curve of a cube? What do I do with Hybrid cards? etc ....

Fortunately I have my collection very well organised and by browsing the The Cube Forums and using Cubetutor I was able to dip my toe in and begin to form my own cube. As this was built for a casual format I have ignored deck archetypes for the time being and some of the more in depth cube ideas. I did include gold cards and provided a land mana base that copes with them.

I won't tell you what to add to a cube as it is personnel preference. Whether you power it, use only cards beginning with the letter T or turn to peasant format that is up to you. I will offer some useful things to note that I found as I built and gamed with my Cube:

  1. Sleeving Cards is important. If you build a cube expect others to use your cards and be ready for the dreaded drink spill of doom. I'm not much of a fan of sleeving cards (nothing terribly valuable is going in my cube) but accidents do happen and for peace of mind it's a sensible thing to do.
  2. Get a good storage box for the cube. It's probably going to travel and you don't want to finish a game walk outside and find its raining with the only method of carrying your lovingly crafted cube be a shoe box. I picked up a faux leather office storage box from John Lewis for £15, it is easy to carry has a soft interior and protects my cube really well with room for other things you may need.
  3. Bringing enough basic land for all should be obvious, but sleeving enough of it for everyone to use during a session is easily forgotten.
  4. Using cards that need Snow-Covered Land? Don't forget to include some with your basic land.
  5. Have enough items, spare cards, beads etc to represent token creatures, counters, flip sided cards and anything else a game of magic needs.
  6. For the actual draft providing three poker chips to each player so they know which pile of cards they are on is useful. I don't play poker so I used an ancient supply of pogs and the slammers are perfect alternatives or you can use coins.
  7. Speaking of which provide a good sized coin for coin-flipping cards, if you are using them.
  8. Keeping score with a pen and paper is a pain, use an app. I use Countica it keeps track of everyone, is easy to use and supports a lot of players.
  9. Be wary of using lots of cards that need 3 or more mana of one colour to play.
  10. Do shuffle the cube before hand, it saves so much time.

After much deliberating, theorising and fighting nostalgia I had a cube I could now bring to the tabletop with my friends. As a cube I can forever tweak or change the cards if need be or if the player group gets fed up of some cards.

Cube is ready for a game, packs are for storing tokens etc 

As you can see my cube has been evolving over time as some cards get replaced or are deemed not worth while. I also have a nostalgia section for those older cards that I still enjoy seeing make an appearance occasionally.

The idea of Cubing with Magic has proved to be a lot of fun for both me and my friends who love the format and the ease with which it can be setup after a game of Archipelago, Necromunda or Eldritch Horror. It is a great way to re-introduce people back into the game.

So if you are sitting on a large collection of magic cards, open them up and start a cube with your friends. Those cards you may have thought would stay in a binder or box collecting dust may find a new life out there within the Cube.

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