Last weekend was my first experiment with building a “cube” for drafting. I visited a friend and brought along cards with me that we’d make decisions about choosing in a strategic fashion, construct decks that used those limited resources, and then play the best out of N games to see who was the better player. I find draft to be the best format of Magic, because every choice you make is meaningful, you have to work with what you have, and you need to use cards as efficiently as possible to win.

It’s also the “most fair” because you open up cards, or use cards in a cube, like everyone else, and everyone has access to the same level of resources. Money doesn’t determine who wins a cube draft, because whoever constructs the deck and makes selections weighs strategies against the other cards that are included in the set. Cube also makes each card a singleton choice, which makes seeing the cards in your deck less consistent, and requires even more strategy.

I’ve been working on improving the card choices in my cube, and trying to make the cards interesting, relevant, but not too good overall that one dominant strategy would always win. My cards are basically middle of the road, common and uncommons with a few “junk” rares that I’d absolutely never play in any other deck. I thought that I had balanced the cards well, but without play testing there is no way to be sure. It turns out that a few of the cards needed to be removed, or less efficient cards needed to be included with the same function to balance things out. Getting the right mix of cards is hard, and I’m not an expert, but every play test I get a chance to see how my cards work out and make changes.

Four of us got together and drafted. We made “packs” by color, then passed them around, picked them, passed them around, and made decks. We then made teams and played 2-Headed Giant. Each game we’d switch players so that every combination was achieved to see who had the best record. One of us went undefeated, but we didn’t think ahead to make a prize. That was a really unexpected opportunity for some testing, and I think the other participants had a good experience.

I know there are a few tweaks I need to make to include different cards, and I want to get sleeves for my cards eventually, but for an initial multiplayer draft it was good, cheap fun. I didn’t spend any money on new cards, and we played for several hours. Building a cube isn’t cheap initially if you custom purchase cards for it, but I built everything from spare cards. Building a cube with the very best cards, or using proxies to represent powerful cards is common, but also expensive (thousands of dollars, worthy of insuring). Balancing the cube is challenging, but it was also fun to ponder while I had the time, and I’ll probably do more with it in the future when I get done with work and need to keep my mind busy from work. Now that the semester has started, it’s not going to get played unless people at work show interest (so, nope.)