Tuesday 8 August 2017

The Buck Cube

I have recently been working on a new kind of cube and it seems like a real winner. I cannot take any credit for the idea as it was a friend who came up with it, he just asked me to help design the thing. The premise is simple, he wanted a relatively cheap cube that he was happy to travel with and not worry if it was getting damaged or lost. He also just wanted to buy a whole cube from a shop all at once and not feel like he needed to take out a mortgage to do so. He thought a good way to go about this was by putting a $1 upper limit restriction on permissible cards for the cube. Functionally this seemed like a really good idea. It would allow for a relatively cheap cube without incurring many of the problems found in pauper and peasant cube formats. Pauper cubes are incredibly dry, the cards are simple and often very restricted in what things they can do. As such you feel like you are playing Portal not the cube. I think constructed pauper has a decent amount going on but I have never much liked it translated into a cube. Peasant cubes are a little better than pauper for the range on the cards and how interesting they are. Sadly it is only a little better, the power goes up more than the complexity and doesn't lead to a great format. The other issue with peasant cubes is that they are not cheap, loads of the good uncommons are very pricey and so if budget is your focus then peasant offers very little merit.

This cube can have any card provided it is cheap. That gives you a lot more wiggle room for design having a much greater card pool than pauper and peasant with a much much greater range of things that those cards can do. It is unfortunately a little more complicated to design and maintain because pricing not only varies with time but with regions and stores as well. A common is always a common and so the known pool of cards is fixed and the same for everyone with most other types of cube. What happens in the buck cube if a card goes up to two bucks? Do you have to cut it? Basically that is entirely up to the person who's cube it is! My friend is hoping to gradually upgrade this cube over time and so was more flexible on borderline cards that are normal cube staples. You may have the objective of cutting costs as much as possible and would chose a cheaper option over comparable cards nearer the dollar mark. Whatever works for you is what you should do! Just the idea of a cube built based on card value rather than anything else is a great concept and may be used in many different ways to suit many different cubers.

Here is a link to a cube tutor version of a buck cube I have been refining;


I shall explain some of the specifics regarding the list as well as some general things to consider when making a budget cube. Lastly there will be a massive list of all the potential cards I initially considered for this cube. This will potentially help save you a lot of time if you are thinking about putting one of these together. I couldn't think of a better way of assessing the card pool without using an online shops search function and trawl through the many thousands of magic cards they sold for under a dollar (this took many many hours to do)! Using this method likely means I overlooked a number of viable cards just over a dollar that you could argue for. My friends list took lots of liberties on pricier cards but still wound up being well under a dollar a card on average. He also bought it in the UK with our terrible sterling and our more limited card supply. I expect putting one of these together will be a chunk cheaper in the US. His list is pretty much the list I posted with another 50 or so cards in it and it came to £345 total. While this might not sound super cheap it is a bargain for a cube. My non-foil, un-powered cube is probably pushing five figures in value. If you get even a couple of percent of the fun and play time I have had with my cube you have had a very very good return on your investment. It works out cheaper than booster drafting pretty quickly. If you love playing magic but hate the high ongoing costs then a buck cube is a good option.

So, time to talk about some of the things about the buck cube in general. There are no planeswalkers at that price range. I think they are a great aspect of the game and add a lot to the cube. My friend agreed and so we allowed ourselves up to ten planeswalkers that were up to five dollars. This gave us a decent range of options, the final selection was entirely my friends as it was going to be his cube. I personally would have gone for more walkers aiming mostly for mono coloures ones. Sadly a few colours only really have one acceptable walker under the five dollar limit. The cheapest and easiest thing to do is to forgo planeswalkers but they will improve your cube should you get some in.

The next big issue for the buck cube is the mana base. Bad mana means losing to screw and that isn't fun. If you are willing to push the budget a bit on your buck cube then the best place to do it is in the mana base. It may seem the most boring but it will ensure much more fun is had and much more magic is actually played. Some of the more recently printed rare dual lands are still relatively cheap and go a very long way to sorting out those issues. My friend is planning on adding a cycle of shock lands in to his as well which will account for a very significant percentage of the total value of the cube! I advocate the battle lands, the Amokhet cycling dual lands and the enemy colour man lands as the most economic additions.

Even with all these additions the mana still means a couple of things. It means the format is a turn slower and it means that XX and 1XX cards are much much weaker than normal. The format is a turn slower because all the dual lands come into play tapped, that is the main difference in normal cube lands and budget lands on the whole. The high mana intensity cards are very hard to play on curve with exclusively comes into play tapped duals and simply uncastable far more often with less overall dual lands, with the notable loss of the filter lands.

The format is probably about two turns slower than my cube. Half of that is down to the duals and the other half is due to the average coverted mana cost. My cube is low, red is about 2 mana a spell on average in my main cube. The other colours range upto about 2.6 average CMC. In this cube red is still the cheapest but starts at 2.6 with all the other colours being much nearer the 3.2 mark. Pricier cards means a slower format. That works out well for this cube. All the cheap Wrath effects in white cost 5 and yet they seem better in this cube than four mana Wraths do in mine. Overall it looks like a well balanced format that should lead to lots of really good games of magic.

A lot of the core colour identity aspects remained very well intact. Blue has lots of great countermagic and draw, red has lots of burn and aggressive cards. Green has lots of ramp and white has lots of efficient cheap dorks and removal. Shaving off the very top end off things greatly opened up the potential of far more cards that were previously just a little too weak. Only a few kinds of cards were hit hard by removing the pricier things. We have already covered the lands which were the main thing lost. After those it was all the top end finisher cards. All the Titans, powerful flying things and typically considered bomb cards were priced out. As such the top end of the buck cube is rather more tame and further contributes to the slowing of the format. The only other group of cards to really get hit are the card quality and tutor effects. This is a shame and would be the next area of things I would extend the budget on. Card quality is like good mana and will lead to better games of magic. This cube still has a good amount but it is a lot more two mana things in place of those lovely one mana cards.

Black is a funny one in this cube. It lost far more of its key cards that the other colours did and it had far less in the way of playable replacements for many of those cards. Despite that I think black has actually wound up in a healthier place in this cube. The slowing down and power reduction combined with a large number of needed additions to black from a far greater pool of cards resulted in a colour with more identity and game than before. Black has more synergies and colour identity in the buck cube than it manages in my conventional cube. In mine it is mostly a support colour while in the buck cube it works all on its own. I still think it is the weakest colour but it is much closer and with greater range as well.

One potential problem is that mono white and red aggressive strategies are overly dominant. By not needing the duals they are substantially quicker and more consistent. Neither lost key cards and both have all the tools they need to function very well. Draft does have a way of compensating for over powered archetypes but it is better to do in design. If such things are getting out of hand then toss in a bit more in the way of counters to weenie aggression and burn.

I am aiming to cut my list for the buck cube down to 540 cards. That seems a good number given the quantity of lands and key colour pie effects on offer. I started with over 900 potentials as can be seen below. If anyone else builds up a version of a buck cube I would love to see a list and hear about any thoughts on cards performance etc.

Jungle Lion
Kessig Prowler
Mtenda Lion
Ulvenwald Tracker
Prey Upon
Mutagenic Growth
Wild Growth
Nature's Claim
Unbridled Growth
Oath of Nissa
Font of Fertility
Llanowar Mentor
Honoured Hierarch
Gnarlwood Dryad
Abundant Growth
Search for Tomorrow
Arbor Elf
Boreal Druid
Avacyn's Pilgrim
Fyndhorn Elves
Llanowar Elves
Elvish Mystic
Elves of Deepshadow
Blossoming Defense
Evolutionary Leap
Jade Mage
River Boa
Vinelasher Kudzu
Rattleclaw Mystic
Sylvan Ranger
Kavu Predator
Servant of the Conduit
Time of Need
Nostalgic Dreams
Nature's Lore
Fertile Ground
Edge of Autumn
Rampant Growth
Sylvan Advocate
Whisperer of the Wilds
Dissenter's Deliverance
Viridian Emissary
Wall of Roots
Wall of Blossoms
Overgrown Battlement
Flinthoof Boar
Strangleroot Geist
Den Protector
Seek the Wilds
Mire Boa
Magus of the Library
Thornscape Familiar
Elvish Visionary
Duskwatch Recruiter
Sakura Tribe Elder
Deathcap Cultivatpr
Borderlands Explorer
Vessel of Nascency
Satyr Wayfinder
Grapple with the Past
Gaea's Anthem
Yasova Dragonclaw
Yavimaya Elder
Troll Ascetic
Fierce Empath
Mwonvuli Beast Tracker
Yavimaya Dryad
Wood Elves
Timberwatch Elf
Lead the Stampede
Farhaven Elf
Mouth / Feed
Yisan, the Wanderer Bard
Maulfist Revolutionary
Eldritch Evolution
Reclamation Sage
Civic Wayfinder
Call of the Herd
Thornscape Battlemage
Managorger Hydra
Ohran Viper
Holistic Wisdom
Caller of the Claw
Boon Satyr
Wolfir Avenger
Rites of Flourishing
Armourcraft Judge
Temur Sabertooth
Mould Shambler
Yeva, Nature's Herald
Eidolon of Countless Blossoms
Deadbridge Goliath
Penumbra Spider
Seed Guardian
Wickerbough Elder
Thelonite Hermit
Wolfbriar Elemental
Surrak, the Hunt Caller
Woodland Wanderer
Ravenous Baloth
Karametra's Acolyte
Overwhelming Stampede
Stunted Growth
Plow Under
Ant Queen
Wolfir Silverheart
Arashi, the Sky Assunder
Acidic Slime
Conclave Naturalists
Primal Command
Beast Attack
Saproling Burst
All Sun's Dawn
Arbor Colossus
Soul of the Harvest
Sylvos, Rogue Elemental
Summoner's Trap
Cloud Thresher
Primodial Sage
Rishkar's Expertise
Chancellor of the Tangle
Verdant Force
For-Razer Regent
Pelakka Wurm
Genesis Hydra
Sylvan Primordial
Wildest Dreams

Gryff's Boon
Loam Lion
Harm's Way
Soul Snare
Brave the Elements
Thraben Inspector
Icantian Javelineer
Soldier of the Pantheon
Mardu Woe Reaper
Savannah Lion
Elite Vanguard
Boros Elite
Expedition Envoy
Dragon Hunter
Town Gossipmonger
Gideon's Lawkeeper
Goldmeadow Harrier
Sun Lance
Chained to the Rocks
Djeru's Renunciation
Gust Walker
Sunscape Familiar
Imposing Sovereign
Soltari Priest
Soltari Monk
Spectral Lynx
Precinct Captiain
Kami of Ancient Law
Lone Missionary
War Priest of Thune
Gather the Townsfolk
Raise the Alarm
Servo Exhibition
Oreskos Explorer
Samurai of the Pale Curtain
Anafenza, Kin Tree Spirit
Spirit of the Labyrinth
Aegis of the Gods
Accorder Paladin
Aethergeode Miner
Loyal Cathar
Trueheart Duelist
Renewed Faith
Daring Skyjek
Sram, Senior Edificer
Unexpectedly Absent
Intangible Virtue
Valorous Stance
Last Breath
Journey to Nowhere
Declaration in Stone
Relic Seeker
Apostle's Blessing
Hidden Dragonslayer
Porcelain Legionnaire
Hallowed Spiritkeeper
Silverblade Paladin
Sunscourge Champion
Aerial Responder
Solemn Recruit
Arashin Foremost
Seeker of the Way
Hushwing Gryff
Skywhaler's Shot
Vryn Wingmare
Mentor of the Meek
Wing Shards
Crib Swap
Devouring Light
Forsake the Worldly
Banisher Priest
Fairgrounds Warden
Banishing Light
Preeminent Captain
Oblivion Ring
Collective Effort
Aven Mindcensor
Mirror Entity
Midnight Haunting
Emancipation Angel
Angelic Purge
Spear of Heliod
Thraben Doomsayer
Glorious Anthem
Spectral Procession
Bygone Bishop
Blade Splicer
Angel of Condemnation
Cast Out
Sram's Expertise
Palace Jailer
Faith's Fetters
Emeria Angel
Glimmerpoint Stag
Marshall's Anthem
False Prophet
Divine Reckoning
Celestial Crusader
Archon of Justice
Dictate of Heliod
Planar Outburst
Megeta the Lion
Righteous Confluence
Winds of Rath
End Hostilities
Hallowed Burial
Avacyn, Guardian Angel
Cloudgoat Ranger
Geist Honoured Monk
Tragic Arrogance
Battlegrace Angel
Akroma's Vengeance
Captain of the Watch
Crovax, Ascendant Hero
Sunblast Angel
Phyrexian Rebirth
Twilight Shepherd
Planar Cleansing
Open the Vaults
Eternal Dragon
Approach of the Second Sun
Decree of Justice
Return to the Ranks
Resolute Archangel
Reya Dawnbringer

Orcish Lumberjacks
Spikeshot Elder
Reckless Charge
Reckless Waif
Flame Slash
Titan's Strength
Magus of the Scroll
Jackal Pup
Village Messenger
Molten Vortex
Kird Ape
Frenzied Goblin
Foundry Street Denizen
Firedrinker Satyr
Bloodlust Inciter
Stromkirk Noble
Mogg Fanatic
Lightning Berserker
Zurgo Bellstriker
Seal of Fire
Dead / Gone
Shard Volley
Forked Bolt
Wild Slash
Pillar of Flame
Galvanic Blast
Burst Lightning
Faithless Looting
Dwarven Blastminer
Kari Zev, Shyship Raider
Lightning Mauler
Arc Trail
Scourge Wolf
Dragon Fodder
Mogg War Marshal
Krenko's Command
Stormblood Berserker
Incendiary Flow
Punishing Fire
Reckless Bushwhacker
Magma Jet
Pyrostatic Pillar
Mizzium Mortars
Torch Fiend
Searing Spear
Lightning Strike
Battlefield Scavenger
Lava Dart
Cathartic Reunion
Wild Guess
Tormenting Voice
Aether Chaser
Goblin Wardriver
Thermo Alchemist
Firebrand Archer
Abbot of Keral Keep
Young Pyromancer
Ash Zealot
Ember Hauler
Searing Blood
Kiln Fiend
Plated Geopede
Nef-Crop Entangler
Ire Shaman
Alesha, Who Smiles at Death
Countryside Crusher
Ahn-Crop Crasher
Hammer of Purphorus
Volcanic Fallout
Chandra's Phoenix
Flamewake Phoenix
Brazen Scourge
Arc Lightning
Sin Prodder
Fiery Temper
Insult / Injury
Trash for Treasure
Seething Song
Cunning Sparkmage
Pyrewild Shaman
Vulshock Sorcerer
Wild Research
Brimstone Volley
Hordeling Outburst
Flame Javelin
Thopter Engineer
Scab-Clan Berserker
Pia Nalaar
Zo-Zu, the Punisher
Dualcaster Mage
Grier Reach Bandit
Rummaging Goblin
Sulfuric Vortex
Goblin Ruinblaster
Treasonous Ogre
Fanatic of Mogis
Flametongue Kavu
Ember Swallower
Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Hound of Griselbrand
Violent Eruption
Outpost Siege
Rathi Dragon
Skyship Stalker
Stoke the Flames
Archwing Dragon
Beacon of Destruction
Goblin Dark-Dwellers
Act of Aggression
Zealous Conscripts
Moltensteel Dragon
Crater Hellion
Skarrgan Firebird
Rorix Bladewing
Crater's Claws
Devil's Play
Decree of Anihilation
Destructive Force

Innocent Blood
Qarsi High Priest
Tragic Slip
Wretched Banquet
Shadow Guildmage
Mire's Toll
Dead Weight
Vampiric Rites
Dark Ritual
Bloodsoaked Champion
Gnarled Scarhide
Carrion Feeder
Tormented Hero
Harsh Scrutiny
Raven's Crime
Diregraf Ghoul
Stitch Together
Ultimate Price
Devour Flesh
Doom Blade
Malicious Affliction
Sickening Dreams
Hymn to Tourach
Transgress the Mind
Zulaport Cutthroat
Bloodthrone Vampire
Withered Wretch
Gifted Aetherborn
Rotting Rats
Doomed Dissenter
Butcher Ghoul
Sultai Emissary
Spiteful Returned
Pain Seer
Asylum Visitor
Glint Sleeve Siphoner
Blood Scrivener
Skirsdag High Priest
Vampire Hexmage
Nezumi Graverobber
Nantuko Shade
Victim of Night
Sign in Blood
Brain Maggot
Mesmeric Fiend
Night's Whisper
Nightscape Familiar
Bile Blight
Grasp of Darkness
Heir of Falkenrath
Carrier Thrall
Ravenous Rats
Silumgar Assassin
Flesh Carver
Grim Haruspex
Phyrexian Rager
Mardu Strike Leader
Xathrid Necromancer
Pawn of Ulamog
Yehenni, Undying Partisan
Vampire Nighthawk
Bone Shredder
Pitiless Horde
Read the Bones
Royal Assassin
Mogis Marauder
Plague Spitter
Painful Truths
Nantuko Husk
Weaponcraft Enthusiast
Master of the Feast
Drown in Sorrow
Herald of Torment
Ruinous Path
Dark Tutelage
Rhystic Tutor
Underworld Connections
Barter in Blood
Dread Return
Disciple of Bolas
Gonti Lord of Luxury
Braids, Cabal Minion
Snuff Out
Diabolic Servitude
Silence the Believers
Makeshift Mannequin
Consuming Vapours
Bane of the Living
Entomber Exarch
Daxos' Torment
Unburial Rites
Desecration Demon
Ambition's Cost
Ill Gotten Gains
Grey Merchant of Asphodel
Gilt Leaf Winnower
Doomwake Giant
Consume the Meek
Muderous Cut
Wretched Confluence
Archdemon of Depravity
Voldaren Pariah
Bloodgift Demon
Puppeteer Clique
Phyrexian Plaguelord
Priest of the Blood Rite
Mind Sludge
Crux of Fate
Palace Siege
Custodi Lich
Archfiend of Ifnir
Carnifex Demon
Twilight's Call
Kothoped, Soul Hoarder
Twisted Abomination
Endless Obedience
Skeletal Vampire
Gurmag Angler
Necromantic Selection
Pestilence Demon
Distended Mindbender
Dregs of Sorrow
Skeletal Scrying
Profane Command
Mind Shatter

Whispers of the Muse
Rapid Hybridization
Mental Note
Sidisi's Faithful
Force Spike
Spell Pierce
Vapor Snag
Enclave Cryptologist
Couldfin Raptor
Phantasmal Bear
Looter il-Kor
Merfolk Looter
Frost Walker
Azure Mage
Augur of Bolas
Curious Homunculus
Waterfront Bouncer
Jeskai Elder
Jeskai Sage
Lat-Nam's Legacy
Spiketail Hatchling
Harbinger of Tides
Telling Time
Into the Roil
Ior Ruin Expedition
Remove Soul / Essence Scatter
Treasure Hunt
Send to Sleep
Voidmage Prodigy
Thought Courier
Jhessian Theif
Strategic Planning
Think Twice
See Beyond
Arcane Denial
Memory Lapse
Mana Leak
Disdainful Stroke
Stratus Dancer
Aether Adept
Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest
Sea Gate Oracle
Man o' War
Tandem Lookout
Treasure Mage
Tragic Lesson
Imprisoned in the Moon
Drake Haven
Eldrazi Sky Spanwer
Serendib Efreet
Frantic Search
Compulsive Research
Riptide Survivor
Anchor to the Aether
Control Magic
Dungeon Geists
Thopter Spy Network
Deep Analysis
Vizier of Many Faces
Binding Grasp
Whelming Wave
Curator of Mysteries
Talrend, Sky Summoner
Commit / Memory
Glimmer of Genius
Bident of Thassa
Mystic Teachings
Fact or Fiction
Whirler Rogue
Argovian Restoration
Hieroglyphic Illumination
Mystic Retrieval
Allied Strategies
Tezzeret's Gambit
Azami, Lady of Scrolls
Mull Drifter
Riftwing Cloudskate
Glyph Keeper
Meloku, the Clouded Mirror
Future Sight
Prognostic Sphinx
Icefall Regent
Docent of Perfection
Baral's Expertise
Aethertide Whale
Drowner of Hope
Sphinx of the Magosi
Elder Deep Fiend
Inkwell Leviathan
Treasure Cruise
Stormtide Leviathan
Isleback Spawn
Spell Burst
Read the Runes
Power Sink
Polar Kraken

Everflowing Chalice
Wayfarer's Bauble
Renegade Map
Pyrite Spellbomb
Pacification Array
Chromatic Sphere
Pyramid of the Pantheon
Prismatic Lens
Phyrexian Revoker
Prophetic Prism
Anhk of Mishra
Ratchet Bomb
Sky Skiff
Simic Signet
Boros Signet
Orzhov Signet
Izzet Signet
Golgari Signet
Rakdos Signet
Dimir Signet
Azorius Signet
Selesnya Signet
Gruul Signet
Felwar Stone
Shrine of Burning Rage
Renegade Freighter
Mind Stone
Aethersphere Harvester
Loxodon Warhammer
Hall of Triumph
Oketra's Monument
Worn Powerstone
Grafted Wargear
Sword of Vengeance
Fleetwheel Cruiser
Tumble Magnet
Alloy Myr
Palladium Myr
Cultivator's Caravan
Wand of the Elements
Icy Manipulator
Nevinyrral's Disk
Hedron Archive
Khalni Gem
Phyrexian Processor
Sisay's Ring
Precursor Golem
Scuttling Doom Engine
Steel Hellkite
Myr Battlesphere
Bosh, Iron Golem
Pathrazer of Ulamog
Artisan of Kozilek

Evolving Wilds
Terramophic Expanse
Mage Ring Network
Warped Landscape
Temple of the False God
Dread Statuary

Faerie Conclave
Windbrisk Heights
Treetop Village

Rakdos Cackler
Torrent of Souls
Bloodbraid Elf
Ghor-Clan Rampager
Boggart Ram-Gang
Coiling Oracle
Mystic Snake
Fire / Ice
Stormchaser Mage
Renegade Rallier
Bloodwater Entity
Far / Away
Nightvale Specter
Notion Thief
Selesnya Charm
Glare of Subdual
Brago, King Eternal
Reflector Mage
Ojutai's Command
Lingering Souls
Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim
Utter End
Tidehollow Sculler
Sin Collector
Tattermunge Maniac
Gerard's Verdict
Azorius Charm
Reason / Believe
Dack's Duplicate
Life / Death
Grisly Salvage
Putrid Leech
Prophetic Bolt
Dreg Mangler
Reaper of the Wilds
Reason Believe
Edric, Spymaster of Trest
Falkenrath Aristocrat
Muderous Redcap
Fleecemane Lion
Jori En, Ruin Diver
Lotleth Troll
Worm Harvest
Simic Sky Swallower
Sagu Mauler
Rogue Refiner
Shadowmage Infiltrator
Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
Niv-Mizzit, Dracogenious
Phantom Nishoba
Obzedat, Ghost Council
Autocthon Wurm

Avatar of Fury
Avatar of Will
Avatar of Might
Desolation Angel

Sorin, Solemn Visitor
Xenegos, the Reveler

Ob Nixilus, Reignited

Ajani, Caller of the Pride

Jace, Archtect of Thought
Jace Beleren

Chandra, Pyromaster

Garruk Relentless

Bloodfell Caves
Blossoming Sands
Dismal Backwater
Jungle Hollow
Rugged Highlands
Wind-Scarred Crag
Tranquil Cove
Thornwood Falls
Swiftwater Cliffs
Scoured Barrens

Sejiri Refuge
Kazandu Refuge
Jwar Isle Refuge
Greypelt Refuge
Akoum Refuge 

Arcane Sanctum
Crumbling Necropolis
Frontier Bivouac
Jungle Shrine
Savage Lands
Sandsteppe Citadel
Mystic Monastery
Opulent Palace
Nomad Outpost
Seaside Citadel

Vivid Crag
Vivid Creek
Vivid Meadows
Vivid Grove
Vivid Marsh

Artic Flats
Frost Marsh
Boreal Shelf
Highland Weald
Tresserhorn Sinks

Azorius Chancery
Boros Garrison
Dimir Aquaduct
Golgari Rotfarm
Gruul Turf
Orzhov Basilica
Simic Growth Chamber
Izzet Boilerworks
Selesnya Sanctuary
Rakdos Carnarium

Azorius Guildgate
Boros Guildgate
Dimir Guildgate
Golgari Guildgate
Gruul Guildgate
Orzhov Guildgate
Simic Guildgate
Izzet Guildgate
Selsenya Guildgate
Rakdos Guildgate

Barren Moor
Forgotten Cave
Lonely Sandbar
Secluded Steppe
Tranquil Thicket

Flood Plain
Rocky Tar Pit
Bad River
Mountain Valley

Dovin Baan
Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
Sorin, Solemn Visitor
Xenegos, the Reveler

Ob Nixilus, Reignited

Ajani, Caller of the Pride

Jace, Archtect of Thought

Chandra, Pyromaster
Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker

Nissa, Vital Force / Garruk Relentless
Nissa, Voice of Zendikar / Garruk, Primal Hunter


  1. At some point, the card pool for cube got so large that just looking at it from pauper/peasant/unpowered/powered became too limiting. Shortly after, the cubing community splintered and this idea of lowered powered rare cubing become more popular (though still probably more a minority group). My own feeling is that this is where mainstream cubing will eventually evolve to.

    There's actually a whole community exploring lower powered rare lists now. And someone on this forum created what they called a "penny pincher" list, which is basically a buck cube. This person took it a step further though. Because high powered cards were priced out, they designed from the ground up entirely around synergy based mechanics. A lot of testing was put into this list and you might find it an interesting read because it's very different. It's not just a reject rare cube, it's something very unique.

    A lot of other cubers (myself included) have gone down these roads in different ways but this is the most heavily tested and well thought out list I've seen.


    1. Thanks for the info, I will certainly check this out and probably should have before diving into this project solo! I do hope this penny pincher cube takes off. It seems like a great way to get people into magic and a pragmatic solution to some of the problems with playing magic. The more people play it the more online resources will support it making it easier to appraise massive card pools and point newcomers to good starting points. I certainly still have a lot to learn about how to get the most out of the format.

    2. The penny pincher cube looks really good. It is obviously very well thought out and has been beautifully built by people who know what they are doing. It is also a cheaper (to buy not cast) option than my far less refined buck cube. I love what has been done with the bounce lands and I love the attention to card quality and fixing. The only criticism I have is that it is 360 and not 540, I find 360 cubes are a little too predictable and get stale far more quickly. I would love to see this extended to 540, given it is not singleton restricted that should be pretty easy without hurting balance or ratios. I generally think breaking singleton is a great way to improve cubes, the vast array of possibilities that it would bring combined with potential financial implications is what has stopped me delving in to the subject much.

  2. I experimented shortly with breaking singleton but honestly it sent me into analysis paralysis. There were too many permutations to consider and I simply had no way to get reliable test data. And honestly, that is what I see as the biggest barrier to most casual cubing which would dive into unexplored design spaces like this. Penny Pincher is an example where it just wouldn't have come together well IMO if not for the fact that there was a really dedicated group of people that took a ton of time to build it out. But imagine doing that on your own with just a small group of regulars that you play with once a month? It's just too daunting. I've dabbled in game creation and it's a ton of work. Building your own cube meta is not a whole lot different. Wizards has a full staff of people doing this and they produce duds left and right.

    So while I don't love all the power creep in Magic and how that has bled into cube and changed some things I liked about the format when it was young, I can't bring myself to deviate too far from mainstream cubing simply because it will obsolete too many of the resources out there. As it is, I tend to favor older data over newer data because I've kept my cube closer to a 2008 list than a 2017 one.

    Your site is a great example. I read everything you write and I've applied a great number of your suggestions and discoveries to my own cube. Stuff I wouldn't have arrived at on my own very easily (if ever). Without this sort of data, I'd be doing way too much discovery and development on my own and my cube would be a weaker product overall.

    If you did end up building out a lower powered cube and really putting some time into it, I would be a huge fan because I feel like there are a ton of very interesting and powerful cards that simply don't get considered or are obsoleted too fast in high powered cube. Not to mention really fun oldies that still lead to diverse decks and deep gameplay (take Genesis for example - that defined a very large part of Gx midrange back when cube was very young - completely obsoleted now by raw creature power and efficiency).

  3. Again, you hit the nail exactly on the head and have expressed something I also feel better than I could have. I am torn about the changes, I feel games are better now and I like having lots of new potential additions with each new set. On the flip side I think magic is more linear and I also miss many of the golden oldie nostalgia cards. As you say, Genesis was a bomb and a key aspect of the colour.

    I do plan to put in time and testing to this buck cube. My friend has already purchased his and will be helping me out with his own testing. Despite that I expect it will be a while before it is looking refined.

    Did you see the Isca cube format I did some stuff on a little while back? It was entirely designed with the desire to play less viable or more exotic and unusual cards. It is a little fiddly and could also benefit from some more thorough testing but it did work well in practice and resulted in exactly the kind of meta I was aiming for.

    I also tried to do an "old school" cube to mimic the constructed format. My first effort at only 93/94 cards was a complete fail. The card pool is just so small and weak. I had planned to do a cube that was the anti modern where by only cards printed before Mirrodin Block (i.e. with the old border) would be legal. It seems like it would be great for nostalgia but probably pretty bad for games. I have not yet gotten round to it due to how mightily the old school attempt failed!

  4. Isca cube was a neat idea. My group is too casual unfortunately and so I never thought seriously about how I might do something like that. Interestingly enough though, when I used to play constructed decks with friends I actually employed a simplified version of a point system with my own decks to keep my power level low. I had more cards than everyone else and I wanted to even the playing field.

    One of the worst parts of this game IMO was the money you had to sink into it. And the fact that expensive cards unbalanced the game (often by too much), essentially rewarding the big spenders. This has only gotten worse over time with Mythics and a secondary market that's borderline exploitative. Honestly, I was pretty much done with Magic.

    And then I found cube. It brought me back to the game. The perfect blend of all the great things about constructed (high power level and depth of game play) and limited (even playing field and deck design). Cube is the version of Magic every other format tried (and failed) to be. At least for me.