The big news this weekend was the massive success of Magic’s newest Un- set. Unstable contains amazing artwork, fun mechanics, and of course, gorgeous full-art basics. Stores nationwide have been Swamped with orders for these new lands, and I must admit, they look stunning. So, as a player, you’ve gone to your local store, had your fun drafting the set, pocketed the lands and tokens for your collection, but there’s one little thing…
What un Earth are we gonna do with all these?
The answer is obvious. It’s time to build a Cube! But how are we going to do this? There are several options I would consider for building an “Un-Cube” that I will touch on here. Naturally, the limits are endless for how to express yourself and use your cards so these suggestions are by no means exhaustive.
1. A set Cube comprised of Unstable cards. The ratio I’ve preferred is 6:3:1:1. This means that you should obtain 6 copies of each common, 3 copies of each uncommon, and 1 of each rare and mythic. Additionally, you will want to consider having multiples of each Contraption. Luckily, for an Un- set this should be fairly inexpensive. The purpose behind a Cube like this is to mimic the Unstable Limited environment, down to close approximations for rarity.
- The Cube will utilize Unstable as it was meant to be played. All the synergies and build-arounds that the set was (very well) designed to use would be apparent and easy to assemble.
- Easy to obtain cards. Though cards from all Un- sets are relatively cheap, some older ones may be a pain to acquire. By building a Cube entirely comprised of Unstable, the cards should be readily available.
- The Cube may grow tiring after a few run-throughs because of the limited card pool. Generally, adding other sets or elements to a Cube contributes to its replayability.
- Organizing the rarities and creating packs is time consuming and boring. Though, once the packs are made and ready it’s fine to leave it around ready to Draft.
2. A mixup of all three Un- sets: Unglued, Unhinged, and Unstable. This would likely include one of each card from the sets. (Note that this isn’t necessarily limited to one of each card only.)
- A more interesting Draft format than one that only includes one set. Diversity and variance lead to high replayability.
- No need to obtain cards in multiples. Having just one of each card from each of the 3 Un- sets isn’t too expensive or difficult to track down.
- Poor cross-synergy between sets. Each of the sets’ themes or archetypes don’t mesh well with each other and become diluted in such a random environment.
- Cards that work well in multiples or strategies that are reliant on multiple copies of certain commons or key uncommons cease to exist.
3. A hybrid of the first two options. The aim here is to use Unstable cards as the building blocks for the Cube but with additions from other Un- sets. Unstable, in my opinion, has superior design to previous Un- sets for Limited game play so it makes the best foundation for the rest of the Cube. Cards from Unhinged and Unglued are then added to contribute to variety and complexity. For a Cube like this, certain cards will be added in multiples but others may be omitted entirely. Unlike the set Cube, this Cube will not organize packs by rarity.
- Combination of both fresh and variable Drafts combining the best aspects of Unstable with creative and interesting cards from other Un- sets.
- While there will be duplication, there is no need to consider rarity or preconstruct packs.
- Throwing in cards from previous sets may be awkward with the synergies found in Unstable.
- Needing to acquire multiples and not having as rigid a design or straightforward a plan for Cube building.
Making Your Choice
To wrap it all up, if you want to emulate the Unstable Draft format that you love, go with a set Cube (option 1). It will never be exactly the same as opening packs, but it does a pretty good impersonation. If you want to feature everything from the Un- sets as wholly as possible, go with option 2. Featuring one of each card from each set is relatively cheap and building is easy. I have chosen option 3 for myself because it offers the most in-depth game play combined with replayability. It’s the best of both worlds, in my opinion.
The most important aspect for any Cube is making it fun and enjoyable. Nobody will care how much effort and attention to detail you put into it if your environment isn’t fun. This is my primary issue with “bad card Cubes”—Cubes that intentionally add bad cards from Magic’s history in the attempt to do something different and unique. While it sounds like a super fun and novel idea, in practice, the games play out terribly and the decisions are boring. I would wager that only the most perfectly built “bad card” Cubes are even playable more than once. And that probably includes not playing the worst cards either. I’m looking at you, Mudhole.
The next most important aspect of Cube building is finding the right balance. Many things need to be well-balanced to make a Cube great, but the greatest hurdle comes from card selection. More specifically, there needs to be a proper balance between not watering down or diluting archetypes and not pigeonholing players into decks with autopilot picks. This fine line is recognized from years of Cube building and playtesting, and is seldom evident to beginning Cube designers.
I may revisit the subject in a future article, but for now, I will just be discussing this new Un- set Cube idea. The following processes may not be universally applicable for all Cube building.
Step 1: Selecting Archetypes/Themes
Unglued didn’t have any keyword mechanics that were key to the set. It wasn’t necessarily designed with Limited in mind, so as a result, you are stuck with just adding fun/powerful cards on their individual merits.
Unhinged did introduce several new mechanics and themes since it was designed to be drafted and played with.
- ½ Mana: I like this mechanic and what it adds to a Cube. It’s different enough from normal Magic that it feels unique and abnormal, but intuitive enough that it makes sense and isn’t tiring. Thank goodness for no mana burn!
- Gotcha!: Okay, you got me. I very much dislike this mechanic. Part of the fun of Cubing, even with an Un-set, is trying to win. If cards with the gotcha! mechanic are present, then it is most likely correct, from a gameplay perspective, to not speak. That takes away from so much of the enjoyment of Un- set drafting, so I don’t recommend playing gotcha! cards despite how fun and cool they are.
- Artists: While it isn’t exactly a keyword mechanic, the artist theme of the set shows up on a number of cards in different colors. I’m not a fan of this mechanic because it feels arbitrary and a bit tough to track. But, if you choose to include them, make sure to add cards (like basic lands) accordingly.
Unstable really takes the cake when it comes to mechanics and creating a cohesive Limited format. Personally, I had way more fun drafting Unstable than Ixalan and I know many echo this sentiment.
- Contraptions: Incredibly fun in gameplay and rich in flavor, Contraptions win the award for my favorite Un-mechanic. Even if it means seeding two Contraptions in each pack (like Unstable retail booster packs), I think it’s worth it. Contraptions and Host/augment may be parasitic mechanics (meaning other sets don’t play well with them) but for the sake of this Cube there should be ways to incorporate them with consistency. Trying to emulate a retail booster pack’s AsFan for these types of cards would be ideal and something to keep in mind in the Tweaking Numbers sections.
- Host/Augment: Another slam dUNk for this Cube, this mechanic is flavorful, fun, and creates interesting game play. Similar to Contraptions, just make sure you include an adequate number of these cards to make sure they show up with the proper frequency. In order to reach proper saturation, these Unstable mechanics became a large reason why I deviated from the traditional “Cube is a one-of only format” guideline.
- Watermarks: I like the watermarks-matter theme in Unstable Draft as a standalone set, but when combined with other cards, I feel like it would be lacking. I will be avoiding it for my Cube.
Step 2: Selecting Cards
Ah, now we get to the fun part! Which cards are we going to add? This is the most personal question and it’s what differentiates Cubes from one another. A Cube is like a fingerprint—no two will be the same. I want to make a list here for where I would start with my own Un- Cube, but don’t forget, this process is all part of playing, testing, and up to what you and your group will find interesting. What I come up with will cater to me and my personal style of “fun” but that will likely differ for you.
My card choices for inclusion are as follows:
Enter the Dungeon
Eye to Eye
The Fallen Apart
Infernal Spawn of Infernal Spawn of Evil
Mother of Goons
Wet Willie of the Damned
When Fluffy Bunnies Attack
GO TO JAIL
Knight of the Kitchen Sink (A, B, C, D, E variations)
Very Cryptic Command (B, C, D, F variations)
Wall of Fortune
Big Boa Constrictor
Extremely Slow Zombie
Over my Dead Bodies
Sly Spy (A, B, D, E, F variations)
Spike, Tournament Grinder
The Big Idea
Box of Free-Range Goblins
The Countdown is at One
Garbage Elemental (A, B, C, D, F variations)
It that Gets Left Hanging
Steamflogger of the Month
Super-Duper Death Ray
Work a Double
As Luck Would Have It
Beast in Show
Earl of Squirrel
Ineffable Blessing (A, C, D, E, F variations)
Really Epic Punch
Steamflogger Service Rep
Willing Test Subject
Clock of DOOOOOOOOOOOOM!
Entirely Normal Armchair
Everythingamajig (A, B, C variations)
Krark’s Other Thumb
Mad Science Fair Project
Proper Laboratory Attire
Sword of Dungeons & Dragons
Step 3: Tweaking Numbers
Most Cubes are singleton, so this process can be skipped entirely. But for this Cube, I feel like multiples would greatly benefit the drafting and gameplay experience. There is no hard rule that a Cube needs to be singleton, and while I highly recommend it in general, when you are playing games under the table and flipping cards in the air, conventional Cube guidelines go out the window.
There is no exact science behind which cards should be included in multiples. Once again, it comes down to preference and practice to determine which cards are worthy of extra inclusion and to what degree. In general, I like including multiples of key archetype cards. For an Innistrad Cube this would include seeding in extra copies of cards like Burning Vengeance and Spider Spawning, and trimming or eschewing altogether bad cards like Maw of the Mire or Infernal Plunge.
Additionally, if you want to find the perfect balance for Contraption and Host/augment numbers, try and add a certain number of these types of cards to mirror the AsFan of a retail booster pack.
After getting a few Drafts under your belt, don’t forget you can add things such as Conspiracy Draft-matters cards (like Cogwork Librarian), or even Planechase and Archenemy cards. Chaos knows no limits!
Individual Card Considerations
Here is a quick guide highlighting cards that have additional considerations just in case you’re interested in peak performance.
- Wear colorful clothes to weaken an opposing Prismatic Wardrobe.
- Don’t wear denim, lest you be unable to block Hurloon Wrangler.
- Bring some food to pump Fat Ass.
Make sure your basics have trees in them for Selfie Preservation, but have at least a couple of each that don’t so you can make a land drop. (Good luck with Forests.)
I hope this article was Un-inspiring to many of you and that you take the unitiative and dive into the marvelous world of Cube and Un- cards. I am curious to know what you have come up with yourselves or any awesome stories from your own Un- Cubes. Let me know in the comments! Thanks so much for reading and until next time, may you never have these in play at the same time.