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Modern Cube Cometh

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Casual Magic, Cube

Hey there! Guess what? I’m going to build another Cube! Like many other Cube-obsessed Magicians, I’m going to add another weapon to my arsenal and build a Modern Cube. My current Cube is something about which I actively enjoy thinking, talking, and tinkering with, so why make a new one?

During my adventures to Las Vegas, I got to hang out with a good friend of mine from my Phoenix days, Phimus Pan (who is actually one of the best Magic players I know, and would likely be winning big events if he ever tried hard enough). Phimus enjoys Cubing as much as the next person, but he also takes pride in another aspect of collecting: being a black hole. In Magic terms, a ‘black hole’ is a deep well from which Magic cards never escape the darkness of the inside of a binder or box! Well, he recently looked around his gravity well and noticed that he has a lot of Modern-legal cards, and decided he wanted to build a Cube. He couldn’t really find any lists online that he liked, so being a scholar and lover of the format, he asked me to help him locate a list or help him build one that “doesn’t suck”. Requests are not enough to motivate me, however; just ask my wife. So why do it?

My time in Vegas really showed me how much I like the card pool of Modern, and how much I love older formats in general. I’ve been playing for a long time, and I can build WAY more Legacy/Modern decks than I can build Standard. I even like Modern as a format, even if I don’t agree with the banned list. I want to spend more of my gaming time with these cards, as the occasional Modern tournament isn’t enough. What better way to do that than to build a Cube?

The final straw for me was the lack of excitement surrounding the building of my normal Cube. Even though new sets provide a thrill when evaluating and acquiring new cards, the days of searching the trade binders high and low for specific cards for my Cube are gone. I actually miss carrying around a printed sheet of all the cards/foils I need in my binder! I want to experience that ‘thrill of the hunt’ again, to continue the excitement about Magic that was rekindled in Vegas. Building a new Cube sounds like a little slice of heaven, and something I’ve never attempted because my original Cube likes all my attention.

Being a teacher, I feel that any knowledge gained and not shared is wasted. It is my intention that we all learn about this together, and I hope you will chime in on the comments to contribute to the process!


Before we get into each color/section/archetype specifically, we need to set some ground rules about what cards to include or exclude. First, what do we consider to be Modern Magic? We have a few variables of starting points and rules on inclusion that need to be decided:

– The Modern format. The easiest starting point is the one defined by Wizards and the change in card borders. I believe a banned list wouldn’t be needed, as the singleton format mitigates quite a bit of the issues with certain cards. Eighth Edition forward would be the beginning of least resistance.
– The Overextended format. Before the official announcement of Modern, current Wizards of the Coast employee and Magic-lover Gavin Verhey started a project of a new format (mtgoverextended.com) with a cardpool that started with Invasion, which is often looked upon as the real beginning of the ‘modern age’ of Magic. This is another real possibility that would allow us to have great iconic cards like Vindicate and Pernicious Deed in our Cube
– Planechase and Commander cards. Even though they are not legal in the official Modern format, they do come with the new border design and the design sensibilities (and mechanics) of more recent cards. Some of the cards are even good enough for Legacy!
– Unhinged cards. Unhinged was also printed since Eighth Edition, but obviously has a much different feel to it than the rest of the cards with the new borders. Although some have been the inspiration for new cards, a lot of cards play more on flavor for their function rather than typical card design.

Sorry, Kaho- no historians.

What do you think? Personally, I am leaning towards an Eighth Edition starting point that also includes Planechase and Commander cards. That way, the term ‘Modern’ has a meaning that others will be able to understand as a frame of reference. I also think that the Planechase and Commander cards will only add to the card pool in a positive way without feeling ‘non-real’ like some Unhinged cards do. Please comment after the article with your opinion!

Unlike my normal Cube, which I consider to be a Magic card museum that takes historical significance into play, this Cube will only seek to build the most powerful and fun decks and archetypes. No cards will be added because of any added historical value; all cards will be included on in-Cube play value alone. Aether Vial is right out! There will also be no special themes or special exceptions made for certain cards. Squadron Hawk, for example, will not be included as a 3-for-1 special (draft one, get three).

That leaves another pretty important question. How big should this Modern Cube be? In my opinion, 360 cards are way too few because I want to be able to draft with eight people and not see all of the cards in the pool. 720 is just way too large, and I’m not sure the card pool can support that size without experiencing a significant drop off in card quality. The choice, then, is a medium-sized cube. I like the feel of 540 because you get a significant amount of the card pool that doesn’t get cracked in an eight-man draft, you can get up to twelve people drafting at the same time, and I think the pool can support that many cards. However, I’m just not that confident that we can find that many cards that we want to play, so I think that 450 is going to be the starting number

At 450 cards, there is a fair amount of room to support archetypes as well as have a bigger multicolored and/or land section. Divided evenly among the eight major sections (five colors, colorless, lands, and multicolored), that is 56.25 cards per section. Exact splits aren’t great for balance (especially when they involve fractional cards!), and at this point I don’t know how many cards we will need per section to fill our needs until we delve into each color, so I’m going to just ballpark some figures with the caveat that we can (and likely will) change them later. They are:

– 60 cards per color, for a total of 300
– 45 lands
– 50 colorless (artifacts)
– 55 multicolor cards

I like having a bigger multicolor section to start, since we have a lot of cards that
can fit into those sections (including hybrids and cards like Kird Ape and Lingering Souls). For the purpose of this Cube, I am going to classify all cards into the sections in which they function best. For example: Porcelain Legionnaire is white, Lingering Souls is black/white, and Loam Lion is green/white. The classification system can be changed later if we need more help in certain colors for game play balance, but that won’t be known until after designing the sections and playing some games.

As many of you know, my original Cube is pretty shiny; I’ve worked very long and hard on it to make it a thing of beauty worthy of the museum moniker I have placed on it. This new one? No such luck, at least at this point. I want to get it up and running as soon as possible, and that means not taking the time to trade for foreign or foil copies of cards unless those are the only ones available to me (there are some cards of which I only kept foil sets from years ago). I also want everyone to be able to draft this Cube, regardless of experience or knowledge of the cards, so I’m going to keep it English only. If this Cube turns out to be awesome, I’ll see what I can do about upgrading it in the future. Thrill of the Hunt, right?

That’s it for step one of the Modern Cube building process; I still have some decisions to make, and I’m hoping you all in the community will help with your input. Once these initial things are decided, we get to dive into the different sections and get building!

May all your squares be three-dimensional!

Anthony Avitollo
@Antknee42 on Twitter
Listen to The Third Power, my Cube podcast with co-host Usman Jamil!

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