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Rules to Cube By

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

Editor”s Note: Legit MTG is participating in Azorius theme week alongside Daily MTG and other websites in the Magic community. Look for articles about the blue-white guild to join our regular features. And don”t worry. The other Return to Ravnica guilds will get equal treatment in upcoming weeks.

It”s fitting that as I write for Azorius week, my non-Magic life features the implementation of a complicated collective bargaining agreement at the university where I work. Actual words I have said include: “The new set of salary grades with an “A” at the end include the people who received a step increase during year one of the contract, which leaves out…”

I”ll stop there because not only don”t you care, but that scenario didn”t even end up happening. I have more occasions than most people do to describe something as Kafkaesque.

You”d be correct to conclude I have some affection for the Azorius guild”s bureaucrats.

Devoted Magic players are neck-deep in the rules of an extraordinarily complicated game, so it”s no surprise that Azorius is the second-most popular guild declared by players. Cube designers are probably well-represented in that group. As the Magic format with the maximum degree of rules customization by the average player, Cube is the fulfillment of many dreams of controlling the system. In addition to being a Johnny thing and a Melvin thing, cube design is an Azorius thing.

My advice for fellow cube enthusiasts is to consider all the rules that create your group”s cube experience, including some less obvious types. Bureaucracies are portrayed as malevolent or oppressive in American pop culture because they enforce bad rules, but they”re merely mechanisms to make every possible event conform to whatever set of rules the bureaucrats were put in place to enforce. Likewise, your cube will do whatever you set it up to do, and may accidentally inhibit a fun experience in the process.

Each Cube list is much like a decklist, where the first step is to devise the format itself. This is Cube”s distinction from kitchen-table Magic: You decide the cards everyone will play. That has the same advantage of built-in balance compared to casual Constructed as traditional Limited has over Standard, Modern, or Legacy. It also forces you to value other players” fun more overtly than casual courtesies like not running Armageddon in Commander.

Genre Conventions

Some rules are more canonical than others, such as the one-copy limit of each card. But even these can be broken if it better meets the goal of your cube. My first foray into making cubes beyond my main one was an emulation of the Scars of Mirrodin block draft environment. I made it to loan to a friend who”s relatively new to Magic for a few weeks so he could take it back to his friends.

The whole group possessed zero draft experience, and it was a low-risk way to explore Limited. Since the mission of that cube was different, I built it under totally different rules. I was trying to showcase fun interactions and cards that are only important in Limited rather than placing high value on long-term replayability. This included allowing duplicates to maximize the chance someone would proliferate more than once per game or have consistent metalcraft without the experience drafting a target number of artifacts.

After the all-but-universal “highlander” rule, the first level of definition many players categorize cubes by is their rule for excluding cards — powered, unpowered, common/uncommon, and so on. Others have rules for including cards as far apart as maximum numbers of planeswalkers and aesthetic requirements: only foil cards, foreign cards, or old-frame cards (I stuck to the latter rule for a shockingly long time). These are the blunt concepts that play into every card selection.

Internal Structure

Structural rules also receive quite a lot of attention, especially methods to categorize and segment multicolor cards into sections. But some of the most crucial structure goes underexamined and left to intuition, like mana curves. The best counterexample comes from Pauper Cube luminary Adam Styborski”s mana curve dissection in his Avacyn Restored update. Adam sets an unbeatable record in the graphs-per-article metric, and makes it easy to see the payoff of selecting individual cards with the big picture in mind. He also clearly specifies the play モバイル カジノ experience his approach leads toward.

Abstract guidelines are often the source of a cube”s unique-feeling card choices. At a glance, some packs of my cube look like a common/uncommon cube now that I”ve spent months succumbing to demand and cutting truly unplayable chaff. But beside the actual rares I do have, there are several cards sending the unmistakable signal that power is not one of my priorities. I use Enfeeblement over Dead Weight; Wing Snare over Plummet; Shatter over Smelt; Pinpoint Avalanche over Flame Slash.

The absence of planeswalkers, equipment, and many cube staples is one statement, and the presence of flagrantly obsolete cards is another. I use inferiority as a guideline. If there are two cards that do the same thing, and the worse one would be playable in my cube, that”s the one I want most of the time.

“I don”t know … Fly Casual”

As in most bureaucracies, cube also has a lot of rules couched in tradition and esoteric local practice. Some of my fellow LegitMTG cube writers, Matt Kranstuber and Anthony Avitollo, recently had a great discussion of house rules casino online and custom errata (like adding exalted to Exalted Angel) on The Joy of Cubing podcast. Andy Cooperfauss proposed Rebel creature type errata as a more drastic solution to the inadequacies of white aggro on Channel Fireball last year. These tend to be the most controversial variations, but as always, it”s about the experience and what the players have fun with. If everyone”s been playing since 1994 and the contents of the cube are 99 percent the same each week, finding unusual ways to spice it up makes sense.

Outside the cards is the format you play when players sit down to actually conduct a cube draft. Cube might be the only format where a single person”s cards are shared among a group that plays across an area too large for the owner to easily monitor. The high monetary value of most cubes means that at public events, many cube drafts do not allow for sideboarding. Drafted but excluded cards are instead returned to the owner in an effort to make the only cards on the table those being directly monitored by players as they play. (This is one of the few cube-specific practices that actively reduces variety by marginalizing narrow cards that aren”t realistic to maindeck. Booo, thieves!)

My list of cards promoting Selesnya-type decks included Team Spirit because of another convention unique to Cube. It”s tremendously common to cube draft in teams. I once thought the team-draft tradition started to optimize how quickly subsequent rounds could start without waiting for the longest games, but if that were the case free-for-all, round-robin pairings would be even faster. Instead, I think people do it because it creates stakes in a format that usually lacks them. You may not care much about winning or losing, but you feel bad letting your team down and great when your over-the-shoulder tip swings your teammate”s game.

Bonus: Underplayed Azorius Cards

I”m not fully sold on the Azorius aggro concept from Return to Ravnica, but since that”s now a canonical interpretation of the guild, I included some aggressive cards. I retained the non-Ravnica restriction and tried to provide an assortment that could play into several deck and cube styles. As with my disclaimer from Selesnya week, these cards by virtue of being non-famous are probably weaker than a lot of the cards in most cubes.

Common: Aven Riftwatcher, Condescend, Deftblade Elite, Ethercaste Knight, Hindering Light, Judge Unworthy, Recumbent Bliss, Symbol of Unsummoning, Vigilant Sentry, Zealous Inquisitor.

Uncommon: Descendant of Kiyomaro, Flash of Insight, Harbor Guardian, Perimeter Captain, Sejiri Merfolk, Test of Faith, Timely Reinforcements, Wall of Essence, Witch Hunter.

Rare: Avenger en-Dal, Commander Eesha, Gideon”s Avenger, Gwafa Hazid, Profiteer, Lieutenant Kirtar, Magus of the Tabernacle, Overtaker, Porphyry Nodes, Reparations, Somnophore.

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