Cube Design – See the World

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013, 23:30

We’ve just wrapped up our weekly Cube draft. I walk away with the spoils, but not without losing some of my dignity.


It takes a special brand of foolishness to untap with Koth at five loyalty and lose the game. With a half-dozen onlookers, I muttered the words “I’ll ultimate Koth next turn” during a fateful round 2 game, only to lose several turns later to a 12-power [card]Kor Skyfisher[/card].

Despite the loss, I managed to save some face by taking the draft with the following:


To anyone who asked, I was piloting “Mono-Greed”. Four-color aggro is a personal favorite, although this deck is far more conservative than some of my previous brews. In reality, it’s just a double-splash Boros deck (Fouros?).

“Want to play another?” my finals opponent asks.

I couldn’t be happier. It’s been a long journey.

Monday, October 18th, 2010

I meet one last time with my Pittsburgh landlord in an empty row-house. He’s charging me $200 to patch up that hole I had to cut in the ceiling to get our mattress frame up the stairs. Everything else looks good.

I hand the landlord my keys, and head to the rental car with my suitcases and a one-way ticket to Belgium in hand. They’re my only possessions now. With the cost of shipping, it’s easier to sell things now and buy them again on the other side of the ocean.

At the airport, I sit contemplating the road ahead. I’ve never been to Belgium before. I don’t have an apartment waiting for me, and aside from my employer, I don’t know a single soul in my country of arrival.

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Following a pair of days apartment hunting, I settle on a small furnished studio near the center of town. It’s small, but I can’t complain with the view.


The apartment sits on top of a bustling square, surrounded by restaurants and cafes. The cherry on top? There’s a card store a couple blocks away.

I still didn’t know anyone in this city, so I did what any reasonable person would do in my situation. I built a cube.

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

My Cube has started to gain some minimal traction. Having no roots in Belgium makes it hard to find players, and Cubing is still a relatively unfamiliar concept to most local Magic players. I operate mostly on cold-calls, offering free drafts like a living drug dealer trope. Just one-hour of your time, I’ll make it worth your while!

Little by little we’re getting there. Full 8-player drafts are little more than a pipe-dream, but at least we have entertaining small-table drafts thanks to an unnamed grid-based draft system for two-to-four players.

The Cube was even garnishing some free publicity on a custom card created series by some local players.


Thursday, January 17th, 2013

By this point my Cube had picked up a full head of steam. More than 50 local players had played my Cube, and our weekly draft table featured a full 8 players more often than not. A pile of 360 cards helped bridge the gap between the United States and the new country I called home. My Cube was (and is) a source of joy to me and those I share it with week after week.

To walk into a store in a foreign country to a group of 7 excited and eagerly waiting players is a feeling I can’t describe (PSA: please show up on time to your local Cube drafts!).

Bolstered by the encouragement of my Belgian friends and some kind internet strangers, I set out to take my Cubing experience a step further.

Hello Mr. Vargas,

My name is Jason Waddell, and I am a long time reader of ChannelFireball. Your site is filled with great Cube videos, and I would be honored to help you expand your Cube content with written articles…”


I poured hours and hours into my article sample, only to squander the opportunity by botching Luis’ last name in the greeting. I recognized the error a split-second after clicking send, but the email could not be recalled. The stack had been frozen. I felt a pain that only job-seekers who have neglected to change the company name on a form cover letter can empathize with.

In life as in Magic, sometimes you punt and get there anyways.

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013, 23:31

“Want to play another?”, my finalist opponent Maxime Heylen asked. Maxime has had a rough go against ChannelFireball authors in the finals of tournaments. Fortunately for the rest of the Magic-playing world, Maxime’s failure to win the Belgian WMCQ led to a fantastic series of articles by Marijn Lybaert.

Maxime’s losing efforts continued in the first of two highly entertaining Cube games that took place after the evening’s draft was done and dusted.

I lose the roll and keep the following promising hand:

[draft]Student of Warfare
Dark Confidant
Tangle Wire
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Godless Shrine

Turn 1:
Maxime plays a land and passes.

I drop a [card]Student of Warfare[/card] off a [card]Godless Shrine[/card].

Turn 2:

Maxime runs out a naked [card]Umezawa’s Jitte[/card]. In response, local player Hannes starts grousing about Jitte’s power level, arguing it should be removed from the Cube. Nonsense. Jitte is an exciting card that I’ve lost with and won against dozens of times. I’m keeping an eye on it, but thus far Jitte has been a net fun-positive.

I currently hold no removal spells, so I drop a [card]Dark Confidant[/card] to the table in hopes of digging, and attack with the Student (19).

Turn 3:

Bob returns to hand thanks to a [card]Man-o’-War[/card], and I hit the tank.

I can play [card]Thalia, Guardian of Thraben[/card] to hold off the Man-o’-War, but I’m pretty cold to the “removal spell + equip” line. Instead, I lay down a defensive [card]Tangle Wire[card] to tie up his mana and buy some time.

Turn 4:

Maxime taps two lands, Jitte, and Man-o’-war, then plays a fourth land and equips the Jitte.
My land supply has run dry, and without a second white source I can’t sufficiently level up my [card]Student of Warfare[/card]. I tap land, [card]Tangle Wire[/card] and Student, then play out a defensive [card]Thalia, Guardian of Thraben[/card].

Turn 5:

Maxime taps land, Jitte and Man-o’-War, then drops a four-mana [card]Oblivion Ring[/card] on Thalia.

I tap a land and the [card]Tangle Wire[/card], before drawing my fourth land, [card]Slayers’ Stronghold[/card]. I play a [card]Phyrexian Revoker[/card], optimistically naming Jitte.

Turn 6:

Maxime taps land and Jitte, then swings in with the Man-o’-War. His creature trades with my Revoker, and a Jitte counter terminates the Student. Maxime drops a [card]Moorland Haunt[/card] into play with activation mana open and a creature in the ‘yard.

I draw a [card]Magma Jet[/card] just in the nick of time. I put [card]Keldon Marauders[/card] into play (18), leaving open two lands. An end-of-turn [card]Moorland Haunt[/card] token leaves on a Magma Jetplane (return date: unknown).

Turn 7:

Maxime plays draw, go.

Suspecting a counterspell, I play a freshly drawn [card]Goblin Guide[/card] before combat. Maxime uses [card]Cryptic Command[/card] to counter the Goblin and draw a card. My remaining mana activates [card]Slayers’ Stronghold[/card], sending in [card]Keldon Marauders[/card] for 5 damage (13).

Turn 8:

Maxime plays draw, go.

The [card]Keldon Marauders[/card] die on my upkeep (12), and [card]Hero of Oxid Ridge[/card] walks into a [card]Counterspell[/card].

Turn 9:

Maxime plays draw, go.

With no other plays, I swing with a hasty [card]Dark Confidant[/card], eating the final counter on [card]Umezawa’s Jitte[/card].

Turn 10:

Maxime plays draw, go. I throw a [card]Lightning Bolt[/card] at his face on end-step (9).

I draw and play a [card]Hell’s Thunder[/card], give it +2/+0 off the Stronghold and swing for 6 (3).

Turn 11:

Maxime plays [card]Vedalken Shackles[/card], then cracks a [card]Flooded Strand[/card] (2) to fetch [card]Hallowed Fountain[/card], his fourth Island (along with three basic Islands).

I suspect Maxime is sitting on counterspells and sorcery-speed removal, so my deck is drawing fairly dead at this point. I’ve used almost all of my burn, and most of my creatures are vulnerable to [card]Vedalken Shackles[/card]. I hold [card]Teetering Peaks[/card] in hand, and combined with [card]Slayers’ Stronghold[/card] it’s possible I’ll be able to pump a creature out of Shackles range. However, on six mana, I can’t unearth [card]Hell’s Thunder[/card] and swing in.

Unsure of what to hope for, I move to my draw step. It’s [card]Wasteland[/card] off the top! Who needs the miracle mechanic? Wasteland destroys [card]Hallowed Fountain[/card], clearing the way for [card]Hell’s Thunder[/card] to rumble in for the final points of damage.

It’s the little edges in Cube. Had Maxime fetched his fourth basic Island instead of [card]Hallowed Fountain[/card], who knows where the game would have turned.

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013, 23:50

It’s nearing midnight, and my round 2 opponent Nicolas is still in denial about his loss.

“My deck should beat yours”.

Perhaps it should. Nicolas had assembled a truly scary [card]Birthing Pod[/card] deck, which hinged on an inevitability engine of [card]Birthing Pod[/card], [card]Volrath’s Stronghold[/card], [card]Kitchen Finks[/card] and three 187 creatures at the four-drop slot ([card]Skinrender[/card], [card]Nekrataal[/card] and [card]Flametongue Kavu[/card]). Once assembled, the deck will gain life and kill your creatures turn after turn, looping sacrificed creatures back into the library with [card]Volrath’s Stronghold[/card].

Nicolas wanted to settle the score, and who am I to deny him the chance?

I win the roll and keep the following:

[draft]Figure of Destiny
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Lightning Bolt
Porcelain Legionnaire
City of Brass
Marsh Flats
Arid Mesa[/draft]

Turn 1:

I play a [card]Figure of Destiny[/card].

Nicolas cracks a fetchland (19) into [card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card] for 0, fetching [card]Dryad Arbor[/card].

Turn 2:

I attack with [card]Figure of Destiny[/card] (18), then play [card]Thalia, Guardian of Thraben[/card] to keep Nicolas off of [card]Birthing Pod[/card] mana.

Nicolas plays [card]Nest Invader[/card].

Turn 3:

I attack with [card]Figure of Destiny[/card] and [card]Thalia, Guardian of Thraben[/card], offering to trade my Figure for his [card]Nest Invader[/card]. I desperately want to keep him off 2-drops, to deny or postpone [card]Kitchen Finks[/card] coming down via [card]Birthing Pod[/card]. Nicolas suspects as much, and doesn’t block. I pump the Figure to a 2/2 and hit for 4 damage (14), then use a two-mana [card]Lightning Bolt[/card] to kill the [card]Nest Invader[/card] after combat.

Nicolas sacrifices the Spawn token to cast [card]Birthing Pod[/card] without any life payment.

Turn 4:

I attack Nicolas down to (10), then deploy a [card]Porcelain Legionnaire[/card].

Nicolas very audibly draws and plays a Kitchen Finks (12), then Pods it into [card]Skinrender[/card] (14), killing the [card]Porcelain Legionnaire[/card].

Turn 5:

I untap with Thalia and a 2/2 [card]Figure of Destiny[/card] facing down Nicolas’ [card]Skinrender[/card]. I consider leveling the [card]Figure of Destiny[/card], but instead opt to play [card]Sublime Archangel[/card] to better advance my board. A 5/4 Thalia enters the red zone (9).

On his turn, Nikolas upgrades his [card]Kitchen Finks[/card] into a [card]Nekrataal[/card], killing the [card]Sublime Archangel[/card]. A [card]Doom Blade[/card] deals with the [card]Figure of Destiny[/card], and I’m left with only Thalia in play.

Turn 6:

I deploy a [card]Grim Lavamancer[/card] and pass the turn with [card]Boros Charm[/card] in hand.

The Lavamancer will prevent Nicolas from blocking profitably, as I can destroy any of his creatures after first strike damage. With no intention of blocking, Nicolas swings with the [card]Skinrender[/card] and [card]Nekrataal[/card], knocking me to a precarious 8 life thanks to my reckless use of fetchlands and [card]City of Brass[/card].

After combat he Pods his [card]Dryad Arbor[/card] into a [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card], which, if left unchecked, will gain a ton of life while eating up the fuel I need for [card]Grim Lavamancer[/card]. As a final nail in the coffin, Nicolas plays [card]Volrath’s Stronghold[/card] and uses it to put [card]Kitchen Finks[/card] on top of the library.

All told I need to drop Nicolas from 9 to 0 next turn, otherwise the game will be out of reach. I think through my outs. [card]Boros Charm[/card] and [card]Grim Lavamancer[/card] already account for 6 damage. [card]Lightning Bolt[/card] can take us the rest of the way, but [card]Magma Jet[/card] can’t. [card]Hell’s Thunder[/card] does the job, but only if I [card]Boros Charm[/card] him now. Even so, [card]Hell’s Thunder[/card] may allow us to race a [card]Kitchen Finks[/card] anyways. [card]Keldon Marauders[/card] can cross the finish line, but I’ll need Nicolas not to block in order to get in 2 points of damage with Thalia. Casting [card]Boros Charm[/card] now makes him more inclined to block.

I gamble on [card]Keldon Marauders[/card] and hold the [card]Boros Charm[/card].

Turn 7:

Untap. Draw [card]Keldon Marauders[/card]. Declare attackers. The key is to be nonchalant. The entire plan hinges on Nicolas not blocking Thalia with the [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card]. I tap Thalia casually, but not too casually. Stay calm.

“No blocks”.

[card]Thalia, Guardian of Thraben[/card] (7). [card]Grim Lavamancer[/card] (5). [card]Keldon Marauders[/card] (4). [card]Boros Charm[/card] (0).

“Cubing is hard,” Nicolas remarks.

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013, 00:10

The Cube all packed and accounted for, and I leave the game shop en route to the city-bike stand around the corner. The patter of rushing footsteps approaches from behind. It’s Hannes, the anti-Jitte rabble-rouser.

Hannes has been inspired by the Eldrazi Domain cube, and has started a Cube based on the card [card]Etherium Astrolabe[/card]. The Cube is full of artifacts, flash spells and sacrifice effects, and is coming together quite nicely. We chat about layering archetypes for a few minutes until it’s time to part directions.

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013, 00:20

I fall into bed after my most fun night of Cubing to date. It’s been nearly three years since leaving that empty Pittsburgh apartment, and this little box of cards has helped me find a sense of community on the other side of the ocean.

Play the game, see the world. What has Cubing done for you lately?

Jason’s Cube Design Site: http://riptidelab.com/

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