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Subject: The Core Set Cube rss

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Tommy Occhipinti
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What's this post about?

My goal here is to explain how I created my most recent draft cube, a Core Set Cube, and why I did it. I will provide a list of the cards I included, explain why I picked the cards I did, and talk about the pros of building your own. A lot of what is written here will apply to any cube, so if you are considering building your own cube, the things I write here should apply. In particular, I want to emphasize now, before you get too far into it, that this cube was very cheap to make. My total outlay was about $60 in cards, and that was for 3 times as many cards as are actually used in the cube described below.


What is a cube?

A Magic cube is, roughly speaking, a collection of Magic cards. In the case of my core cube, it is about 350 cards, and the cards are organized by rarity (with rares and mythics together). The purpose of a cube is to allow you to make "booster packs" (that is a collection of 14 cards, in my case, 10 commons, 3 uncommons, and 1 rare/mythic rare) out of random cards that you have chosen. Note, some people just mix all the cards in their cube together regardless of rarity and deal out boosters as a random pile of 14 cards. This works just as well, but you might want to put 4 copies of each common if you do that.

Building a cube has two big benefits over buying a booster pack at a store. The first is that it is free (after the fixed cost of creating the cube). The second is that your booster packs will only ever contain cards that you put in. If you hate Worldslayer, don't put it in. If you don't like discard or land destruction, leave them out. If you love life gain, put in a lot. Whatever you like about Magic, you can bring it front and center with your very own cube.

Once you have a cube set up, you can use the boosters you make out of it to do anything you would normally want to with them. In particular, I recommend Sealed, Booster Draft, and Winchester Draft. That last format is recommended when playing with only two players. I recommend using 8 packs instead of 6.

Cubes are great because no player can gain an advantage by outspending you, and you can play Magic with your friends even if they own no Magic cards at all!


Why a Core Set Cube?

So now I've convinced you, I hope, that cubes are awesome. I have about 10 cubes: the core cube, many block cubes, and a power cube (which consists more or less of my favorite cards from all of magic). Despite owning some 200+ non-Magic games, my most played games are all Magic cubes.

A problem I ran into, though, was that quite often I would want to introduce new people to Magic, and as an almost exclusively limited player, I had a hard time doing this. I got some M11 precons, and those worked okay to start, but of course not long in I wanted to get them drafting. The first thing I tried was to build an M11 cube, which consisted just of 2 of each common and uncommon from M11, plus some select rares.

I tried this, but it was unexciting, and neither I nor the new players were super anxious to repeat the experience. Why do I think this was? Every Magic set has good cards and bad cards, and a large part of the skill of Magic is in identifying what cards are good and what cards are bad. In M11, the power gradient is particularly steep, meaning that if you listed the cards in M11 in order by how good they were, the gaps between consecutive cards on the list would be much larger than in the average magic set.

Thus, a new player who is picking cards more or less randomly is at a huge disadvantage over an experienced player who picks the best card out of each pack. I understand Wizards' reasoning, but as far as teaching new players to draft, it is rather desirable, as it means that the gap between the deck and experienced player builds and one a new player builds will be insurmountably huge. Sure, finding the right time to play that card everyone says is unplayable is one of the best feelings in Magic, but that comes much after finding ones footing.

In summary, there just didn't exist a Wizards product that would allow me to introduce new players to limited Magic in a fun and exciting way. So, being a big cube enthusiast, I set out to make one in the only way I knew how, the core set cube!


Design Goals:

Now that I've said what broad role my core cube is trying to fill, lets talk about specific goals. When I was thinking about whether a specific card should be included or not, these goals are what guided me to the answer.

1) Make it fun for new players. This meant no cards which were much worse than they looked. Lots of splashy cards, dripping with theme, that make a player instantly say "I want THAT," and didn't make them feel bad later when they saw it in play. Also under this category are cards that I feel are likely to make for exciting stories.

2) Make the cube fun for me, and other experienced players. This was key, obviously I had to be excited to play with this set to. I found that flattening out the power gradient and putting in some synergy made this pretty easy. After all, I'm a Magic fan boy, I'm not hard to please.

3) Teach new players about the color pie. Richard Garfield has said the color pie is probably the biggest piece of why Magic is successful, so I did my best here to make sure all 5 colors played differently. Its easy when designing a cube to bend every color towards your natural play style, but if you want to really show off the variety Magic has to offer you have to fight that.

4) Tone down mean surprises. Having your Baneslayer Angel Doom Bladed is a sad moment. Everyone has been frustrated by a game where you just can't stick anything to the board without it getting blow up. The core set cube is not the time for that. Removal, counterspells, discard, and land destruction are all present, but in toned down form.

5) Play up cards which specifically want to be in a deck with other cards. A deck is not the sum of its cards, and this format should show new players that. In expert sets which cards work together can be very subtle, and there is room for that here too, but in this category I am talking about cards which pretty blatantly advertise what sort of partner they are looking for.

6) Make all 5 colors equally appealing to new and experienced players. There are good reasons to not make all 5 colors equally good in most draft environments, since it creates an interesting and evolving meta. New players clearly won't know the meta, particularly the meta of this cube, and so I would rather that not have a big impact on the game.

7) Showcase flavorful cards which make sense with their mechanics. I'm a big fan of cards like Fling where a player reads the name, and the effect, and goes "Oh, I get it!"

Cube Structure:

1) Use only cards from M10/M11/M12. I really like the philosophy of design of these new core sets, and restricting the pool a bit keeps the complexity of the cards down, and allows some of the built in synergies to shine through. This also ensures that most cards have reminder text on evergreen mechanics, and that cards use wordings consistent with the most recent rules overall.

2) Keep the cube the size of a normal core set. This has varied a bit from M10 to M11 to M12, but I settled on 20 commons of each color, 11 uncommons, and 12 rares/mythics. I put 2 of each common, 2 of each uncommon, and 1 of each rare/mythic into the cube, sorted by rarity to make packs. This is my standard for cube making. Do note that there are not enough commons in this cube to do an 8 man draft, so anyone interested in doing that should run 4 of each common.

What did this cost?

To make your own version of my core set cube, you'll need the cards below, and 40 or so of each basic land. For me, I started with 2 of each common/uncommon from M10/M11/M12, which ran me about $60, and the lands, whose cost I don't remember, but they weren't expensive. Of course, only about a third of these cards were actually used in the cube, but I like having the other cards that have appeared in these sets around so I can make revisions to cube at will. I did not buy any of the rares, and instead used proxies to keep costs down. I use opaque sleeves (Ultra Pro Raven Black) for the whole cube, which ran about $20 since I buy them in bulk.

Certainly, then, the total cost to me was under $100, and I'm sure a frugal individual could reproduce it for well under $50.


The Commons:

Now for the bulk of the article I will talk about the cards I included, and why I included them. It should be noted that this list is by no means final, and even just in the course of writing this article I have made probably a dozen or so substitutions. At a minimum, I hope these comments will hope someone looking to build their first cube realize the sort of questions they should think about when picking cards.

I have broken the commons up by color, and within each color I have broken the cards up into categories. These categories are very rough, and are not exclusive, and are provided only as a means of discussing the cards.


White Commons (14 Creatures / 6 Noncreatures):

(Aggro)
Stormfront Pegasus
Assault Griffin
Benalish Veteran
Infantry Veteran

Inspired Charge


I like these choices because all of the cards scream that you should be attacking. Newer players often struggle to see that they should attack instead of holding back their creatures on defense, but when they put an Assault Griffin on the table, they will know what to do with it. I particularly like that Benalish Veteran and Infantry Veteran actually have the word "attacking" on the card, so you can't miss their purpose.

(Control)
Pride Guardian
Siege Mastadon
Stonehorn Dignitary
Gideon's Lawkeeper


These choices all emphasize white's defensive nature. Perhaps white's best common is Gideon's Lawkeeper, which will be undervalued by new players. Once they play it against them once, though, they'll remember it, and that's a great property for a card in this cube to have. If a new player says, "I remember you beating me with this card, so I'm going to take it now," I'm happy.

(Griffin)
Wild Griffin
Griffin Sentinel
Peregrin Griffin
Griffin Rider


This is a weird little tribal subtheme built around just one card: Griffin Rider. I mentioned in the intro that I liked cards that made you specifically look for other cards, and Griffin Rider is one such card. I like this because it shows new players that creature types can matter, but without forcing them to be aware of it unless they want to be. Experienced M12 drafts might be tempted to immediately dismiss Griffin Rider because of its lackluster performance in M12, but keep in mind that the removal is much worse in this cube than in M12, and Griffin Rider is a much better card for it.

(Removal)
Excommunicate

The obvious card missing from this list, if you are experienced with core sets, is Pacifism, which is just a bit too close to absolute removal that works on anything for my purposes here. There are many answers to it, but for the most part new players won't play them. Excommunicate is just right, being playable, but not too strong.

(Other)
Soul Warden
Auramancer

Divine Favor
Mighty Leap
Safe Passage
Stave Off


White gets some strong combat tricks. Safe Passage is included as an answer to Overrun, in addition to being a very strong trick in its own right. Mighty Leap and Stave Off are also both very versatile. Soul Warden and Divine Favor will perhaps appeal to new players more than experienced players, but are far from awful when compared to cards like Angel's Mercy or Lifelink.


Blue Commons (12 Creatures / 8 Noncreatures):

(Aggro)
Phantasmal Bear
Skywinder Drake
Aven Fleetwing
Phantom Beast


Blue is not usually an aggressive color, but with some of the cards included in M12, it makes a decent run at it. Given the overall creature focus of core sets, I'm okay with letting blue be faster than usual here, as long as the aggressive cards feel blue, which all of the above do to me.

(Fatty Support)
Chasm Drake

Chasm Drake is a beautiful card because it varies wildly in quality depending on what cards you play it with. In blue/green it can be especially strong because it can pick up big ground guys, but in blue/white its ability might be worthless, making it a playable but not especially impressive 3/3 flier for 5.

(Card Draw/Card Quality)
Augury Owl
Scroll Thief
Merfolk Looter

Divination
Preordain
Foresee


This is blue's strongest area, and is well represented here. Drawing cards is very, very good, and I hope I have made the cards in this section good enough for a new player to learn that. It is very hard for a new player to see when another player wins because they resolved a Foresee (the new player will likely associate the win with whatever card they got with it), but I am hoping that a new player resolving a Foresee themselves will be enough for them to understand the raw power of drawing cards.

(Control)
Harbor Serpent
Azure Drake
Maritime Guard

Negate
Cancel


Counterspells are one of the main things blue does, and it is important to showcase them, but counterspells are incredibly annoying to play against you, so I have tried not to play them up too much. As it happens, I almost never pick Cancel, but the new players often do, so the person who suffers from its presence is usually me, and I'm okay with that. I suspect that if Mana Leak were included, the reverse would likely be true.

(Removal)
Aether Adept

Unsummon
Ice Cage
Frost Breath


All of these cards can be used either to buy you time, in a slower deck, or to clear your opponent's board for the win in an aggressive tempo based deck. Only Aether Adept is stellar in general, but the rest will be very playable in the decks that want them. Figuring out which decks those are is half the fun!

Black Commons (12 Creatures / 8 Noncreatures):

(Bloodthirst)
Bloodrage Vampire
Duskhunter Bat
Tormented Soul


I mentioned earlier that I like cards that teach new players to attack more. Bloodthirst takes it one step further and teaches them to attack before playing creatures! M12 included a few not so hidden ways of enabling bloodthirst for new players to discover, and Tormented Soul is one of them I have included. Altogether, the bloodthirst subtheme of M12 is a bit like a learning annex course on basic Magic strategy.

(Aggro)
Barony Vampire
Liliana's Specter
Child of Night
Vampire Aristocrat

Dark Favor


I had a great debate about whether to include Devouring Swarm or Liliana's Specter, since both are 2/1 fliers for 1BB so I couldn't have both. Both had a very black ability, and both were very strong. I ended up siding with Liliana's Specter and putting in Vampire Aristocrat to show case black's willingness to sacrifice its own.

(Removal)
Quag Sickness
Assassinate
Tendrils of Corruption
Wring Flesh


These four cards are the section of the cube that has taken BY FAR the most work. Deciding to have kinder/gentler removal is all well and good for most colors, but direct efficient creature removal is black's thing so I wanted to be sure not to weaken it so much as to make black bad. From discussing removal with new players, I found that one of the biggest things they did not like was removal happening on their turn. As a result, I tried to keep most removal at sorcery speed. Assassinate, like Doom Blade, splashes well in decks that just want a removal spell, but it ensures the player gets one crack in with the creature before it goes away. Quag Sickness and Tendrils of Corruption reward heavier black players, but are likely not strong enough to take down the biggest threats such as titans. I like the option to play a non-lethal Quag Sickness which can slowly strangle a creature over time. Wring Flesh only removes one toughness creatures directly, but is quite a neat little combat trick, and I tried to give each color at least one of those.

Sorin's Thirst, Doom Blade, Brink of Disaster, and Weakness have all done time in the cube as well, and I could see any of them returning. One of the most important things, in any cube, is to have both removal that can be splashed, and removal that can't be splashed. If all removal is splashable the color gets gutted by players in other colors weakening the color significantly, but if none the removal is splashable people playing color combinations without natural access to removal cannot answer threats.

I'm so waffly on this section that even as I write this I find myself going, "How about Brink of Disaster over Quag Sickness... maybe I'd like that better, it interacts with more cards..."

(Other)
Gravedigger
Zombie Goliath
Viscera Seer
Drudge Skeletons
Rotting Legion

Sign in Blood
Disentomb
Distress


This is mostly a collection of cards that show off black's extracurricular interests. Bringing creatures back from the dead, sacrificing creatures for marginal gain, paying life as a cost, discard, etc. Sign in Blood is a particularly clever card, because new players often aren't sure which player to play it on. I'm happy to show them how it's done, though, and on rare occasions you get to kill someone with it.

Red Commons (12 Creatures / 8 Noncreatures):

(Bloodthirst)
Blood Ogre
Goblin Arsonist
Goblin Fireslinger
Gorehorn Minotaurs


Red's bloodthirst suite is far stronger than black's. It has strong enablers, and the rewards are fantastic. Unfortunately, Gorehorn Minotaurs doesn't have quite the same wow factor for a new player as it does for an experienced one. They don't see how far above the curve a 5/5 for 4 is. Another delightful aspect of bloodthirst is the tactile delight of slapping +1/+1 counters on your creatures, just the sort of thing to draw new players in!

(Aggro)
Berserkers of Blood Ridge
Canyon Minotaur
Manic Vandal
Jackal Familiar
Vianshino Spearhunter


Most cubes are all about power level, and will attempt to pick the most powerful card for each slot. That is not the goal here, which is very evident from the inclusion of Berserkers of Blood Ridge from M11 over the strictly better Bonebreaker Giant from M12. I did this because of how red the "attacks each turn if able," trigger on Berserkers of Blood Ridge feels so red. Its not too much of a downside, though, as it is rare that you have a 4/4 you shouldn't be attacking with.

(Goblin Tunneler)
Goblin Tunneler
Fiery Hellhound
Goblin Piker


Goblin Tunneler is a little mini combo card. The classic choice is Fiery Hellhound, but it can break board stalls with any 2 power creature. It is not the strongest combination imaginable, but it is easily findable by new players, and helps them practice the timing of using activated abilities in combat.

(Burn)
Incinerate
Chandra's Outrage
Fling
Lava Axe


Burn is red's form of removal, and it is a little kinder than white/black removal since it only works on creatures with low enough toughness. Burn is such a large part of red's identity that it was a bit of a struggle to keep it from feeling like all red did. I opted to keep red's burn suite significant and threatening, but not so exhaustive that red decks had access to nearly unlimited amounts of burn. The choices here were tricky, and similar to black's removal, many different configurations have been attempted.

(Other)
Goblin War Paint
Thunder Strike
Act of Treason
Panic Attack


Goblin War Paint was originally included to support a few cards from the light aura theme woven through M12. This theme is not as strong in this cube as it was in M12, but every color except blue retains a playable positive common aura to slap on your favorite hexproof creature or your Thran Golem.

Green Commons (12 Creatures / 8 Noncreatures):

(Removal)
Deadly Recluse

Giant Growth
Archanus Web
Plummet
Naturalize


Green is the only color that has not been a top tier color in any of M10/M11/M12. It was mediocre in M10/M11, and is widely considered by far the worst in M12. For the first several builds of the core cube, it just went undrafted, to the point where often in two player drafts there would be two red drafters and no green drafters. This was unacceptable, but has balanced out with more recent changes. A big part of green's renaissance has been the inclusion of Deadly Recluse, which lets green answer just about any creature threat. Simultaneously, the removal in other colors was being toned down to its current level, which greatly increased the appeal of fatties like Stampeding Rhino.


(Ground Holders)
Greater Basilisk
Garruk's Companion
Giant Spider
Lurking Crocodile
Centaur Courser
Sacred Wolf

Trollhide


If you've been paying attention to the choices so far, you may have noticed that the other four colors all support a strong aggro strategy. Green is less interested in getting off to a fast start, and instead focuses more on holding the ground early with creatures like Giant Spider and Centaur Courser. Against an empty board these creatures can certainly attack, but they are excellent at holding the ground until your later plan starts to pay dividends. This makes going into green particularly appealing if you begin the draft with a really expensive bomb like Stormtide Leviathan.

(Ramp/Fatties)
Llanowar Elves
Yavimaya Wurm
Borderland Ranger
Stampeding Rhino
Vastwood Gorger

Cultivate
Rampant Growth


As a lot of green's commons are aimed at eventually playing expensive creatures, it was important to provide some targets in the green commons themselves. Fast decks might also want something expensive like Vastwood Gorger to round out their top end, and green is happy to provide that as well. There are also plenty of options for fixing and ramp, allowing green to get out its big creatures faster than other colors, like it should.

(Other)
Regenerate

This used to be Fog. Fog is a bad card that is sometimes right. When, exactly, is it right? Well, probably as a sideboard against an opponent that has more than one really nasty mass combat trick: Overrun, Sleep, Inspired Charge, and Hideous Visage (which used to be in the core set cube but isn't anymore). Other than that, it will rarely be useful. Sleep and Overrun are certainly cards to fear in this cube, but new players rarely want to sideboard between games. Worse, though, new players tend to be drawn to Fog, and will play it regardless of the matchup. As there is already an answer to mass combat effects at common in Safe Passage, I thought it was safe to remove Fog and replace it with Regenerate, which, while not super exciting, can make a very reasonable 23rd card for any deck running green. I'd likely rather it be Withstand Death, but rules is rules!

Colorless Commons:

(Color Fixing)
Manalith
Terramorphic Expanse


These cards are here to facilitate people playing three color decks, or splashing a third color if they are not playing green. Manalith also gives a bit of acceleration, although I have rarely seen it used this way. Mostly Manalith is there as a bad Terramorphic Expanse so that the players who want it can pick it up late.

The Uncommons:

I'll try to keep my comments for the uncommons a bit more brief, since the choices are really far less important than the commons. To give some idea of why, note that in a typical two player Winchester draft we use 8 packs. That is 80 commons, and only 24 uncommons. As there are 102 distinct commons, this means that most commons make an appearance in a typical 2 player draft. On the other hand there are 66 uncommons, and only 24 appear each draft. Thus, the uncommons really provide the variety from game to game. They are allowed to be a bit more complex, and a bit stranger, and generally the point of them is to show off the variety that can exist in Magic. Choosing what uncommons to include in each color was very difficult, and I ended up expanding the number of uncommon slots from 9 to 11 just to show off a few more pretty cards.

White Uncommons:

Ajani's Pridemate
Serra Angel
White Knight
Alabaster Mage
War Priest of Thune
Roc Egg
Arbalest Elite

Spirit Mantle
Oblivion Ring
Armored Ascension
Timely Reinforcements


One of the harder things to show off in the cube was how the colors felt about each other. As I was trying to avoid sideboard cards, it was rare to find a card that spoke to one color's feelings about another while still being playable main deck. As is often the case, alpha did it best, and so I included White Knight and Black Knight to show off the fiercest rivalry among the colors.

Blue Uncommons:

Air Servant
Azure Mage
Phantasmal Dragon
Wall of Frost
Belltower Sphinx
Master Thief
Alluring Siren

Jace's Ingenuity
Mind Control
Sleep
Call to Mind


One thing blue does is milling (putting cards from your deck into your graveyard), but how to show this off? Most core set milling cards are very bad, but new players often like them because when they mill your bomb they feel like they've won. I was not interested in making milling a draftable strategy, since I didn't want to encourage new players to split their focus too much (they can learn about that in the Scars cube). Fortunately, Wizards wrote me a little love letter in the form of Belltower Sphinx which showcases the mechanic, but is a strong card even without it. A 2/5 flier can hold off all but the nastiest of creatures, and if you attack into it repeatedly the milling does eventually matter. Aside from being a total blank on flavor, Belltower Sphinx is the perfect card for this cube.

Black Uncommons:

Howling Banshee
Onyx Mage
Sengir Vampire
Vampire Outcasts
Reassembling Skeleton
Black Knight

Deathmark
Corrupt
Diabolic Tutor
Rise from the Grave
Smallpox


Black was the color where I most felt I was scraping the bottom of the barrel with uncommons. There are some super solid creatures, like Sengir Vampire and Vampire Outcasts, but I don't expect many new players to be super excited by Smallpox. I took this opportunity to sneak in another "How do the colors feel about each other?" card with Deathmark, which can be maindecked most of the time, particularly in a multiplayer match. The obvious unincluded card is Consume Spirit. It was very bad in play, and pushed the number of cards that cared about the number of swamps you had to 4 (with Tendrils of Corruption, Quag Sickness, and Corruption), which just felt too high.

Red Uncommons:

Chandra's Spitfire
Crimson Mage
Ember Hauler
Fire Servant
Volcanic Dragon
Stormblood Berserker
Goblin Artillery

Goblin Grenade
Tectonic Rift
Shiv's Embrace
Fireball


On the other hand, red was full of neat choices. I made sure to include plenty of goblins so their Goblin Grenade could go off. Another perfect card! I originally only included Crimson Mage because I included the rest of the cycle, but it has been a champ in play, leading to some neat surprises. It adds just a lovely bit of tension to everything when it is on the board.

Green Uncommons:

Awakener Druid
Acidic Slime
Stingerfling Spider
Garruk's Packleader
Jade Mage
Carnage Wurm
Cudgel Troll
Prized Unicorn

Nature's Spiral
Overrun
Hunter's Insight


There was a large twitterstorm over the inclusion of Overrun in Magic 2012 at uncommon. The basic gist of it was that Overrun can win games out of no where, and it can't be interacted with, which is very frustrating to experienced players. I can certainly see this argument, and I would probably agree with it if I were just playing with experienced players. All that said, it is expressly my goal here to create an environment that gives experienced players a narrower edge than usual, and for that, Overrun is a perfect inclusion. There are decent answers in the cube of course: Negate, Cancel, Safe Passage... but it is a force to be reckoned with.

Colorless Uncommons:

Gargoyle Sentinel
Juggernaut
Crumbling Colossus
Thran Golem
Rusted Sentinel

Crystal Ball
Whispersilk Cloak
Great Sword
Crown of Empires
Swiftfoot Boots
Scepter of Empires


In the original build I resisted the "of Empires" cards entirely, but the more I thought about it the neater the idea of assembling this massive machine seemed. Sure, its not incredibly likely to happen, since one of the three pieces is rare, but it isn't impossible. I particularly like that whenever someone see's a piece they are tempted to wonder "What do the other ones do?" These cause me to fondly recall the days before I had magiccards.info to look up every Magic question I had, and instead could just wonder what the cards I'd never seen did. These three cards capture just a tiny bit of that spirit for a new player. What's more, they are each playable by themselves, at least in the right circumstances.

The Rares:

I don't have much to say about the specific rares I chose, so I will just address them as a whole, and say what I look for in a rare. Generally, I want them to be thrilling to play, and leave a lasting impression. Even though people don't get to keep the cards after drafting, they still learn the rarity symbols quickly, and develop a bit of excitement over the rares. This also gives new players a bit of guidance when drafting. If there is a rare in one of their colors, they can take it without worrying too much if it is a good choice. Experienced players will identify that the rare is often not the best choice in a new pack, but it won't be a bad one. Narrow or marginal rares are something else a player can learn about when they're ready to draft more advanced environments.

White Rares:

Guardian Seraph
Vengeful Archon
Sun Titan
Gideon's Avenger
Captain of the Watch
Archon of Justice
Baneslayer Angel
Aegis Angel

Day of Judgement
Ajani Goldmane
Angelic Destiny
Gideon Jura



Blue Rares:

Conundrum Sphinx
Frost Titan
Stormtide Leviathan
Sphinx of Uthuun
Djinn of Wishes
Clone
Phantasmal Image

Time Warp
Mind Unbound
Jace Beleren
Mind Spring
Jace, Memory Adept



Black Rares:

Xathrid Demon
Royal Assassin
Bloodlord of Vaasgoth
Rune-Scarred Demon
Hypnotic Specter
Grave Titan
Vengeful Pharoh
Cemetery Reaper

Sorin Markov
Liliana Vess
Sorin's Vengeance
Call to the Grave



Red Rares:

Bogardan Hellkite
Siege-Gang Commander
Ancient Hellkite
Inferno Titan
Chandra's Phoenix
Furyborn Hellkite
Capricious Efreet
Grim Lavamancer
Shivan Dragon

Chandra Nalaar
Chandra, the Firebrand
Earthquake



Green Rares:

Birds of Paradise
Primeval Titan
Arachnus Spinner
Mitotic Slime
Skinshifter
Fauna Shaman
Garruk's Horde
Ant Queen
Primordial Hydra
Gaea's Revenge

Garruk Wildspeaker
Garruk, Primal Hunter



Colorless Rares:

Solemn Simulacrum
Pentavus

Mystifying Maze
Magebane Armor
Druidic Satchel
Throne of Empires
Brittle Effigy
Sword of Vengeance



Closing Thoughts:

This cube has been one of the most fun Magic related projects I've worked on. There has been a lot of tweaking, but I am very proud in this version of the cube. I'm sure it will continue to evolve, and I look forward to doing it all over again when M13 comes out. I'm pleased to report that I have gotten to draft it over a dozen times since I started the project and I have been very pleased with it. Importantly, even when playing with only my husband, also an experienced player, it has been quite enjoyable. More excitingly, though, a friend I have been trying unsuccessfully to get into Magic for a long while agreed to try out the core set cube and has requested to play with it again every time he has come over since. Though M11 precons, commander decks, and other products didn't get him into magic, the core set cube did. I consider this a huge success, and I think this environment will be useful for bringing new players into the fold for a long time to come!
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Thanks for writing this up. I have an M10/M11/M12 cube as well, though I haven't quite finished procuring all the M12 cards yet. Mine also has a rather different design. My brain is a bit burned out after a 7 hour game of 1830 at the moment, so I'll have to come back and add details another time. However, I definitely agree that this style of cube is perfect for getting new players into drafting.
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I'm curious about building this. How did you mechanically make all those proxy rares? Are you printing out color graphics of the cards? or transcribing the text? My faint memories of proxies from my time w/ Magic consisted of people putting pieces of white paper into a sleeve and writing "Sol Ring" on it.
 
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Yostage wrote:
I'm curious about building this. How did you mechanically make all those proxy rares? Are you printing out color graphics of the cards? or transcribing the text? My faint memories of proxies from my time w/ Magic consisted of people putting pieces of white paper into a sleeve and writing "Sol Ring" on it.


I print them on thin paper and back it with a real Magic card. It works well because of the opaque sleeves.
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I know you normally print out the Rares and Mythics instead of purchasing them, but have you priced out what this Cube might cost without the proxies?
 
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Bobloblah wrote:
I know you normally print out the Rares and Mythics instead of purchasing them, but have you priced out what this Cube might cost without the proxies?


Certainly if I were to not use proxies I would cut the small number of cards that run over $10 or so. Most of the rares I have included sell for $1 or so (many less). If you were willing to slightly edit the list of rares, I'm sure you could pick up a similar list of rares for $50.
 
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This is a great idea. I exclusively cube now, but as you say, the card interactions in a full-blown cube can be overwhelming.

I have a few comments. First, doesn't the lack of strong counterspells and removal lead to stagnant creature-full board states? I foresee a lot of midrange slugfests. Aggro also seems like it would be difficult to get to work without good cheap removal and burn to finish things. (The lack of burn also makes planeswalkers even more difficult to deal with once they are in play...)

Can you run us through some typical matches you've played?

 
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tomchaps wrote:
This is a great idea. I exclusively cube now, but as you say, the card interactions in a full-blown cube can be overwhelming.

I have a few comments. First, doesn't the lack of strong counterspells and removal lead to stagnant creature-full board states? I foresee a lot of midrange slugfests. Aggro also seems like it would be difficult to get to work without good cheap removal and burn to finish things. (The lack of burn also makes planeswalkers even more difficult to deal with once they are in play...)

Can you run us through some typical matches you've played?



Keep in mind that while the removal is weak, what that means in most cases is that the removal is slow (not instant speed / expensive). The amount of removal present is still modeled after something like M12. Thus, while Assassinate is worse than Doom Blade, you're still playing it all the time, and it still keeps too many creatures from piling up on the board.

In reality I have not seen many games where the board has gotten totally clogged. There are enough combat tricks to help with that. A few particular cards that win in a stall: Sleep, Overrun, Jade Mage, Azure Mage, Inspired Charge, Fireball, Frost Breath...

As far as burn, there is only maybe one less burn spell than in M12 (which also has Shock, but Shock is not great for taking down walkers). Lava Axe is great at destroying planeswalkers.

The aggro strategy I have seen succeed most often is White-Red. Stormfront Pegasus into Benalish Veteran into Gorehorn Minotaurs with Gideon's Lawkeeper on the ground to clear out interference is a hard team to stop.

Blue is also a surprisingly good aggro color with decently costed creatures and Aether Adept / Frost Breath to clear the way early so that you can win before your opponent can wall you off.

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I've been working on building this set. I'm an ex-casual magic player from about 15 years ago, so I'm substantially out of the loop on how things work right now. I put the commons and uncommons into decklist format, pasted them into tcgplayer.com, and ran the cart optimizer. It came out to a little under $60 to ship nearmint versions of all the cards from 3 different stores.

Used http://code.google.com/p/mtg-proxy-printer/ to make proxies of all the rares.

After doing this I found out that coolstuffinc sells full 4x playset sets of all the uncommons from M12 for about $50. I probably would have done that in retrospect - it's almost all the cards I need plus substantially more.

I still haven't found basic lands and sleeves yet. I haven't found a good place online that sells bulk basic lands - they all have seemed too expensive for what I feel like I should have to pay for basic land.

I've been reading up some more about the various draft formats. I will probably always be playing with 2-4 people. I've been reading a lot about how 8-way draft is the "best" since you get more exposure to cards and are more likely to be able to build a focused deck. Are there draft formats that are better tailored to smaller drafts? I read about Winchester for 2-way draft.
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Yostage wrote:
I've been working on building this set. I'm an ex-casual magic player from about 15 years ago, so I'm substantially out of the loop on how things work right now. I put the commons and uncommons into decklist format, pasted them into tcgplayer.com, and ran the cart optimizer. It came out to a little under $60 to ship nearmint versions of all the cards from 3 different stores.

Used http://code.google.com/p/mtg-proxy-printer/ to make proxies of all the rares.

After doing this I found out that coolstuffinc sells full 4x playset sets of all the uncommons from M12 for about $50. I probably would have done that in retrospect - it's almost all the cards I need plus substantially more.

I still haven't found basic lands and sleeves yet. I haven't found a good place online that sells bulk basic lands - they all have seemed too expensive for what I feel like I should have to pay for basic land.

I've been reading up some more about the various draft formats. I will probably always be playing with 2-4 people. I've been reading a lot about how 8-way draft is the "best" since you get more exposure to cards and are more likely to be able to build a focused deck. Are there draft formats that are better tailored to smaller drafts? I read about Winchester for 2-way draft.


I've found that the best place to get playsets is on eBay. It's usually $25-35 for 4x of commons and uncommons for any recent set. You can also get big piles of land relatively cheap on eBay.
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Yostage wrote:
I've been working on building this set. I'm an ex-casual magic player from about 15 years ago, so I'm substantially out of the loop on how things work right now. I put the commons and uncommons into decklist format, pasted them into tcgplayer.com, and ran the cart optimizer. It came out to a little under $60 to ship nearmint versions of all the cards from 3 different stores.

Used http://code.google.com/p/mtg-proxy-printer/ to make proxies of all the rares.

After doing this I found out that coolstuffinc sells full 4x playset sets of all the uncommons from M12 for about $50. I probably would have done that in retrospect - it's almost all the cards I need plus substantially more.

I still haven't found basic lands and sleeves yet. I haven't found a good place online that sells bulk basic lands - they all have seemed too expensive for what I feel like I should have to pay for basic land.

I've been reading up some more about the various draft formats. I will probably always be playing with 2-4 people. I've been reading a lot about how 8-way draft is the "best" since you get more exposure to cards and are more likely to be able to build a focused deck. Are there draft formats that are better tailored to smaller drafts? I read about Winchester for 2-way draft.


Personally I love Winchester draft, but I recommend using about 8 packs, possibly a few more if you want more options. Ebay isn't always totally reliable, but is usually quite cheap. I'm OC about getting lands from the right sets for my draft cubes, and especially for older lands I am a big fan of using ebay (when my dealer doesn't have them). If you're not OC you only need to buy lands once and you can use them for any magic cube related endeavors you have in the future. I'm excited to hear someone is tracking down the cards and building this, I hope you have a blast!
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I don't see any reason why you can't Winchester with 3 or 4, in fact it might even be better as there is very little reason to hate draft.

You can get a decent amount of land in either the deck builders toolkit or a Fat Pack.

Heck if I were you I'd buy a booster box, you'll get 4 of almost every common and 2 of each uncommon and you can sell the rares/mythics back and you'd probably come out ahead of the 60 you paid, plus you can draft those packs.

Edit: Try Winston Drafting with 3 or 4 players.
 
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Vollick1979 wrote:
I don't see any reason why you can't Winchester with 3 or 4, in fact it might even be better as there is very little reason to hate draft.

You can get a decent amount of land in either the deck builders toolkit or a Fat Pack.

Heck if I were you I'd buy a booster box, you'll get 4 of almost every common and 2 of each uncommon and you can sell the rares/mythics back and you'd probably come out ahead of the 60 you paid, plus you can draft those packs.

Edit: Try Winston Drafting with 3 or 4 players.


The cards above come from three sets, though, so a booster box is probably not a great option.

With 4 players I would certainly just do a traditional booster draft over one of these other draft methods. Works great. I just use 4 packs per player instead of 3. This is also what I do with 3.

I've previously mentioned that I personally dislike Winston drafting intensely, so doing it with 3 players would certainly not excite me. It also has the disadvantage that it is turn based instead of simultaneous, so there is more down time.

Booster draft is quite exciting with 3 players, though, because signaling is super strong. There is quite a battle to get into colors you notice are open, which is good practice for playing with more players.

 
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Vollick1979 wrote:
I don't see any reason why you can't Winchester with 3 or 4, in fact it might even be better as there is very little reason to hate draft.

You can get a decent amount of land in either the deck builders toolkit or a Fat Pack.

Heck if I were you I'd buy a booster box, you'll get 4 of almost every common and 2 of each uncommon and you can sell the rares/mythics back and you'd probably come out ahead of the 60 you paid, plus you can draft those packs.

Edit: Try Winston Drafting with 3 or 4 players.


The thing that sucks about Winston with 3 is the one person has to sit out while other play. And if I have 4 players I would rather do a traditional draft. It is better practice, more realistic and you come out with better decks in general.
 
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Syvanis wrote:

The thing that sucks about Winston with 3 is the one person has to sit out while other play. And if I have 4 players I would rather do a traditional draft. It is better practice, more realistic and you come out with better decks in general.


With 3, someone's going to have to sit out no matter how you distribute the cards.
 
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Vollick1979 wrote:
Syvanis wrote:

The thing that sucks about Winston with 3 is the one person has to sit out while other play. And if I have 4 players I would rather do a traditional draft. It is better practice, more realistic and you come out with better decks in general.


With 3, someone's going to have to sit out no matter how you distribute the cards.


Or just play three player games. A lot of people vastly prefer that to sitting out, and it is fun because card evaluations change drastically in that format.
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Update on the build now that I've purchased all the stuff:

all commons and uncommons via TCGplayer.com: $53 shipped (3 different stores)
600 black ultra pro sleeves via ebay: $42 shipped
250 basic land via ebay: $15 shipped
8 sheets of rare proxies: ~$5-$10

Total cost ~$115, assuming you have color printer + nice paper and depending on how much you value your own printing supplies.

So I ran over budget but I think I did some stuff wrong - deckbuilder's toolkit is probably the way to go here since you get a bunch of land and C/UC cards. You could then try to fill in the rest via single purchases or via playsets. Coolstuffinc has the most useful playsets and basic land blocks of any store that I've been able to find, BUT they are out of stock of most of the useful ones. (they are out of stock for the 1x all uncommon\common sets from magic 2012, and all basic land sets)

EBay turned out to be the best place for basic lands and sleeves compared to amazon and all the online retailers I looked through. (they haven't arrived yet so maybe I shouldn't celebrate yet )
 
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Yostage wrote:

600 black ultra pro sleeves via ebay: $42 shipped


Yeah, I didn't include the fact that sleeves can be a bit pricy if you want opaque ones. I used to use clear sleeves with the proxies and just deal with the fact that occasionally you could see a card was a proxy, but I've started just buying opaque sleeves in bulk. The raven black ultra pro sleeves you mention have proved my favorite, although there are occasional packs that are miscut, and they changed their size at some point. Fortunately the newer size is much better, so I am hoping they just leave it alone. I have enough cubes that I just buy these sleeves in bulk, 6000 at a time.

Cube sleeves have long been an issue of much debate in the cube community. Many people dislike these Ultra Pro ones because they are slightly more inclined to split than average (I have split maybe 20 of them, and use them in all my cubes as well as on my copy of Thunderstone and expansions).

The main competitor to them is KMC Matte sleeves, which pretty much never split. As downsides, KMC Matte sleeves are more expensive, shuffle much worse, and (most importantly) show wear very quickly. Cards which are used disproportionally often (especially lands) start to show wear quickly. Also, all the cards will start showing identifiable marks right away, so if you have a memory for that sort of thing everything will be marked.

In summary, after years and years of using KMC matte sleeves, I'm now a proponent of the black Ultra Pros.
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I've always used KMC Super Blacks myself. I find the Matte ones pick up oil from fingers and look really nasty unless we're careful to wash hands first, which isn't something I care to remember to deal with. I haven't seen any split or get noticeably marked, and I've got several thousand of them, many of which see regular play.
 
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This thread is great, and I plan to build this cube soon.

I have a few questions, though... and while I'm directing them at the OP, I'd love any thoughts anyone might have on this.

1) Do you feel the rares as a group are "essential" to the cube? Obviously the commons and uncommons are easy to come by and inexpensive, while the rares will add a lot to the cost. I get over $216 just for the rares using an Optimized cart from tcgplayer.com (i.e. accepts played cards and cards from earlier editions)

2) Are there obvious substitutions (M10, M11, M12 common and uncommon) for some or all of the rares? Maybe a list of common and uncommon cards that were seriously considered but didn't quite make the cut?

3) Along those same lines, there are a few rares that really bring the price point up. Garruk, Primal Hunter is $36, Chandra, the Firebrand $11, Jace, Memory Adept $15, Primeval Titan $15, Angelic Destiny $13, Phantasmal Image $10, Gideon Jura $10. I'd really like to be able to play without sleeves or proxies. I wonder if there are some intelligent substitutions for just these rares? Removing just these seven rares reduces the cost by half, to $108.

I suppose left to my own devices I will probably scour the Internet looking for M10, M11, M12 commons and uncommons that appear in other cubes, and cross reference against this cube listing, and see if I can find a few suggestions for additional cards that way... and obviously the cube could simply be built and played with leaving out the rares, and seeing how that goes.

I think on some level I'm simply more interested in trying to build a zero rare cube, but I very much like the M10 M11 M12 core set focus of this particular cube.

Has anyone else gone down this particular road with this cube?

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The rares are fun, but by no means essential. A ton of people run commons/uncommons cubes with no rares. I would probably suggest, if the primary concern is budget, just settling on some number of rares per color and buying cheap ones you like. The dollar value has very little to do with the limited play value.

The plus side of core set rares is that some are so obscene in power level that they let the less skill players win sometimes (it can be very easy to be crushed under Inferno Titan or Gideon). The down side of core set rares is that they are so obscene in power level that they can totally warp the game in a way some people find unfavorable. These are, of course, two sides of the same coin.

The biggest role of rares is to make sure that games end. It can be easy for everything to lock up, but if someone casts an Army of the Damned (from the latest non-core set), the game is going to end. There are plenty of uncommons in the above list that serve that role just as well, though: Fireball, Overrun, Mind Control, Serra Angel, Sengir Vampire, and Corrupt among others. So, in short, if you want to just cut the rares, I don't think there'd be any problem with that, and you certainly don't need to replace them with other cards or anything like that.
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delirimouse wrote:
So, in short, if you want to just cut the rares, I don't think there'd be any problem with that, and you certainly don't need to replace them with other cards or anything like that.


Perfect. Thanks. I will probably make this up without any rares first, then, and tweak it from there. If I find myself with some free time, I may go find some Pauper or Peasant cubes and scan them for M10, M11 or M12 cards, cross referencing against this cube, for possible additions...

(As an aside, if anyone out there is interested in a pre made Core Set no rares cube, feel free to PM me. The easiest thing for me to do to make my own cube is to buy play sets of four each of all the commons and uncommons, so my plan is to group those into singles of all the commons and uncommons and divide that into cube and non cube... I'll end up with three extra sets, which means everything in the cube list above except for the rares, plus all the commons and uncommons that are in the sets but not in the cube list so you can do your own experimentation, plus land. Three available, and I will list them through the Marketplace so BGG gets a taste. Obviously if you want to buy rares, proxy rares, or sleeve the cards, or whatever, you can do that, but this would just be an offer for one each of all the commons and uncommons from M10, M11, M12, organized in a cube as listed above plus bonus cards, with land.)
 
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Are you intending on making your core cube out of just one of each card listed above? That is fine, although is not quite what I do. I'd still advice breaking into a common section and an uncommon section so that each pack will have 10 commons and 3 uncommons (or perhaps 4 uncommons to make up for the missing rare). With just one of each card, however, you'll only have about 150 cards total, which will not be sufficient to do drafts with very many people, so you almost certainly want at least two copies of each common.

My cubes (except my custom cube) have drifted towards 4 of each common in one section, 2 of each uncommon in another section, and a third section composed of 2 of each rare and one of each mythic. Of course in Innistrad packs there is also a double faced section, which makes four total sections for that cube. My core cube, though, just has two of each common, two of each uncommon, and one of each rare/mythic. I might fix it to meet my new standard when M13 comes out and I do an update, we'll see.

Your mileage may vary, of course!
 
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Right. Somehow I had missed that you had used two each of the common and uncommon list. I see that now. (Most cubes just use singles.)

I find it very interesting that you've found your cubes drifting towards four commons... somehow I had come up with the same belief before I started looking at cube lists, I just assumed they'd use some sort of 4:2:1 ratio or something like that so the booster draft experience would be something like a real booster draft.
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It depends a lot on what your goal is. In the case of the Core Cube, I was trying to create my ideal M20XX set, so I modelled it exactly after the real sets (but I allowed an extra uncommon slot). Similarly, when I draft my Innistrad cube I want it to be just like drafting Innistrad, so that means packs need to have the correct rarity distribution.

A card's rarity is generally a reflection of how much it warps the board, and the rarity distribution is used to balance limited. If you've done a lot of drafting with real boosters and you try drafting with a flat rarity distribution (like one of each card from the list above, all shuffled together) it will just feel off.

That said, original cubes were not trying to create something that resembled a regular draft environment. I tend to call cubes that are trying to create something wildly different from a typical draft environment custom cubes. In the case of original cubes, the idea was the create an environment out of the best cards in Magic, meaning almost every card was completely board warping. These cubes tend to highlight the most broken cards ever printed.

My custom cube (which I'll probably post a list for some time) is designed to highlight the most fun powerful cards from Magic's history, rather than just the most powerful. I avoid backbreaking stuff like Umezawa's Jitte, Hymn to Tourach, Sol Ring, etc. I also include much less mana fixing than the typical cube, to avoid letting people force 5 color decks (which is often correct in a typical cube). In that way it is more like an average draft environment, but it is still crazy because the average booster contains a Planeswalker or a Titan, and you're often forced to make really tough picks that you'd never make in real life.
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