It's been a long time since my written words have appeared on this website, so I supposed introductions are in order. I'm Justin Parnell, and I wear several hats.
- If you enjoy laughing at videos on the internet or typing angry comments on YouTube about people getting obscure card interactions wrong, you probably know me from Commander VS.
- If you sell cards to us by mailing them in via our online buylist or type angry posts on the r/mtgfinance subreddit about how you think SCG misgraded your cards, you probably know me as the Acquisitions Manager at StarCityGames.
- If you're at least 35 and find that you really want to travel to events exclusively to Cube Draft but can't take the time off of work and need to stay home to take care of your kids and you'll just go to the event that comes two hours away from your house next time anyway, you probably know me from my Cube series on this website from 2011-2014 . [I'm mostly in this group and I'm 34. This article has incorrect information. --DWest]
Today we're going to be dusting off that last hat, because the most historic moment in the history of Cube drafting (besides when someone had the idea for Cube drafting) is coming to SCG CON Winter. On December 9th, we'll be holding a $10,000 Cube Draft where you can earn your spot via four Qualifier events on Saturday and Sunday, leading up to the Cube Draft itself Sunday afternoon. Can't make it to SCG CON Winter this December? Every minute of the event will be coming to a Twitch stream near you starting at 5:00pm ET.
So what makes me qualified to have the honor of creating this Cube? I began Cube drafting ten years ago and created my first Cube, a 540-card powered Cube, early in 2009. I've written tens of thousands of words on the format, spent hundreds of hours talking to the most experienced Cube designers and drafts, personally drafted over 40 unique Cubes in paper, and have participated in hundreds and hundreds of drafts, including almost 30 Cube rotisserie drafts. Cube is and will always be my all-time favorite format to play Magic (yes, Commander included).
I think you've probably had enough chest-puffing from me, so let us get to the main course: the Cube itself.
There are a few things that I focused on when designing this Cube:
- This Cube is powered, and being a powered Cube means a certain thing. Cards restricted in Vintage are plentiful, and explosive plays should be had. Cubes by nature are inherently nostalgic, and powered Cubes are more so. This does not come at the cost of overall Cube design, however.
- This Cube needs to be fun to draft, play, and watch. While there will only be eight people playing the Cube, tens of thousands will be watching. Trying to identify what people would enjoy was a top priority, of course, with the understanding that you can't please all the people, all the time.
- This Cube will only be drafted one time in this iteration. This means that interaction is king here, as I want all eight players to have a chance to interact with the other seven. This also means that there are no two-card combos in this Cube. This is likely a departure from powered Cubes most people are used to, but in a high stakes draft like this one, I want the winner to earn it through the entirety of the event.
- This may be the first time some viewers have watched a Cube draft. My ultimate goal is to get as many people as possible addicted to Cubing as well, so the cool factor of the Cube should be enough to encourage them to build their own, or at least explore the format more.
You've been patient enough waiting for the Cube list but wait no longer.
Now that you've all had time to pore over the list, let's dig into the specifics.
- The basics used will be Unstable. All Cube designers judge each other on the basics they choose, so I wanted to get this one out of the way. Unstable basics are the best basic lands printed this century.
- There is no storm in the Cube. In my experience, Storm decks can be very hit and miss in the draft, even in a 360-card Cube. Storm as an archetype eats up a decent number of slots in the Cube, so when you only have 360 cards to work with, you're forced to sacrifice multiple slots for a strategy that only works when the drafter is the only one targeting the archetype. In the event the solo Storm drafter is successful, the deck becomes very difficult for the other drafters to overcome due to the singular nature of the format. As you've noticed from the Cube list, there's another component to this archetype that's also missing. Don't worry, it'll be the next thing.
- In an effort to promote the other four colors of Magic, blue has been purposefully hobbled. In any powered Cube, Blue will always be the most powerful color. Due to this, Blue does not get to have access to many cheap cantrips or counterspells that aren't color intensive. Ponder, Preordain, Mana Leak, and Miscalculation are cards that are absent that I'd like to specifically identify. Some may argue that these cards allow other colors to splash blue for countering/card selection, but more often than not it allows the blue deck to be looser with its manabase, which increases their life total/deck speed over the course of the event.
- As was said above, there are no two-card combos. This means that Splinter Twin/Pestermite, Time Vault/Voltaic Key, and Tinker/Blightsteel Colossus are absent. This is a nod to greater interaction between decks, allowing aggressive decks to flourish, and a concession to the singular nature of this format. The closest thing you have available to a two-card combo is Upheaval/Fastbond, though traditional Upheaval decks lean more on artifact mana than actual lands.
- The colors are not exactly balanced, especially multi-colored cards. For single color cards, each color has within one of each other color, but I did not elect to force each two-color combination to have the same number of cards. Some combinations have more great cards and some have less, and this is reflected. This also leans into support needed by each archetype in the Cube. I feel pretty strongly about not forcing lesser combinations to have the same number of cards when the overall quality is worse.
- There's a tokens theme, largely spanning White, Black and Red in the Cube. There are payoff cards in every single color plus artifacts, so if you find yourself drafting tokens, you shouldn't miss out on payoff cards unless you ignore them.
- There's an artifact theme, which is pretty common in powered Cubes, and artifacts appear in virtually every deck. Artifacts have the highest draft-to-play percentage of every card type in the Cube, right after lands. Ergo, cards that destroy artifacts are very powerful and should often make maindecks.
Questions I expect to hear in the comments of this article:
- "Did you test the Cube?"
Yes, extensively. Over five weeks, nine volunteers from all different levels of Magic and Cube interaction assisted me in testing the Cube, providing feedback, and tweaking. I took extensive notes about every draft and the finished products of the decks for five weeks, then had my testers fill out feedback forms for further data. While my name might be on this Cube, I could not have done this without Mike Kerby, Brandon Cook, Connor McBroom, Jake Humphries, Ryan McKinney, Emma Handy, Cameron Adams, Stephen Green, and Chris McCurry. If any of them make it through the qualifiers to the Cube draft on Sunday, it might be time to start increasing your devotion to white if you know what I mean.
- "Is this the best you could do?"
As every person who has ever owned or designed a Cube knows, no Cube is perfect. Every Cube is in constant flux, and ideally, is always improving. Even though this Cube was designed for the sole purpose of being played at a singular event, this Cube is no different. I used all my own knowledge, all the feedback I received from my testers, and a plethora of trial and error to put together what I believe will be both an enjoyable experience for players and viewers, and a Cube list that represents the best format in all of Magic.
- "Where are all of the sweepers?"
Removed during testing. In my opinion, one of the most important things for just about any Cube is to allow aggressive decks to exist. That means that they need to be able to function in the face of natural hate, such as sweepers and combo-oriented decks. A difficulty of aggressive decks in a 360-card Cube is that the majority of aggressive decks need numbers rather than specific effects. The difference in the fifth best white one-drop and the twelfth best white one-drop are very close, but with 360 cards you're not afforded to have that many cards of a single archetype in the Cube. That means that the cards that do make it need additional room to breathe, and the outcome of that is taking away some of the tools used to oppress aggression.
- "What is the best archetype?"
The best archetype is the one you realize no one else is in (this is often called "drafting"). In all seriousness, during our testing sessions we never had a single player win more than once and had four and a half distinct archetypes come out victorious.
- "Well, what were they?"
Fine: Rakdos Aggro, Azorius Control, Izzet Artifacts, Golgari Midrange, and Rakdos Sacrifice. Only the two red and black decks were close, but the Rakdos Sacrifice deck had an extra non-combat damage angle with Goblin Bombardment and Blood Artist, where the Rakdos Aggro deck was focused more on aggressive creatures and burn spells.
- "Why is XYZ not in the Cube?"
There are many more than 360 amazing, powerful cards in Magic, so cuts are painful. To narrow in on some more specific ones:
This will likely be the most notable exclusion from the Cube. Though we are working with a powered Cube, Wurmcoil Engine is still the most singularly oppressive card to the success of aggressive decks. While each color can fight through a Wurmcoil Engine, fighting ol' Wurmy with an aggressive deck gives you two options: have the answer before its controller untaps or spend too many resources to fight through, which are often too great for them to overcome. If you want a big lifelink creature, draft Baneslayer Angel.
These cards fall into the one-hitter-quitter category, which I'm just not interested in having. There are still a solid number of creatures to cheat onto the battlefield and make life miserable for your opponents; they just won't end the game in one turn.
Planeswalkers are the most powerful card type on average in Cubes. If you don't take care to reign them in, your Cube can begin to look like a jumbled mess of midrange value Planeswalkers. To ensure that doesn't happen, I specifically limited the number of Planeswalkers to be under 5% of all the cards in the Cube, and roughly split them evenly across colors (when you take mulitcolored into consideration). There are some frequent Cube contributors missing, but I feel very good about the Planeswalkers than ultimately made it in.
Look. In everyone's heart, we know that the choices Black has for aggressive creatures are just leagues worse than White and Red. So to avoid tricking people into thinking that you might be able to create a black aggressive deck by having a couple of one-drops, I've removed them completely. Black's role is to be arguably the best support color, but you'll need to go to White or Red to lead the one-drop parade towards your opponent's life total.
- "Why are there so many Guilds of Ravnica cards?"
There are two potential answers to this question. The first is, as a Cube designer, testing often leads you to have a slightly higher than average number of cards from the most recent set. This is a natural progression for an ever-evolving Cube, and the nature of having a self-imposed cutoff date for the Cube to be finished means that Guilds of Ravnica may be slightly overrepresented.
The second answer is, well, maybe there aren't enough Guilds of Ravnica cards in this Cube. Seriously, this set is just that good for Cube.
- "This is the greatest Cube I've ever seen in my life, and I literally began to weep as I considered that we will only see its majesty one time. Will we ever see this Cube return?"
I'm going to be honest - I hope so. I can tell you that those of us that will be making decisions regarding the future of events like this will be closely watching the event as a whole and everyone's reaction to it. If you want to see this return, I'd recommend watching the draft, talking about it, choreographing dance routines to honor the Cube, naming your first-born child "SCG CON Winter $10k Cube Draft," and little things like that. In all seriousness, the support of the Cube community will make a big difference in if this is a one-time thing or something we'll see again.
Thanks so much for taking your time to read and support this endeavor. I look forward to meeting everyone at SCG CON on December 7 - 9 and hopefully get to talk about Cube more than I do normally!
If you want to hear more of my thoughts on Cube, check out my Cube series from 2011-14 as a lot of what I spoke about is still relevant today. I also will be appearing on an episode of the Cube podcast Solely Singleton today, November 20, so make sure to check that out as myself, Brad and Eric dive deeeep into the specifics of this Cube. You can also catch my personal podcast , Think Twice , on a variety of platforms.