Making Cuts

At first, the Cube-building process is one of uncontained excitement. You get to fill your Cube with all your favourite cards and revel in nostalgia. Over time though, more sets come out and space becomes more and more tight, forcing you to choose between expanding your Cube and slaughtering your darlings. It’s never easy to do, but asking yourself these questions should make the process easier.

– What’s your fundamental Cube philosophy?

We all share one goal – to enjoy playing Magic – but people have very different ideas about how to do that. Are you a ‘power maxer’, looking for swingy games and memorable moments? Do you want more interaction and marginal decisions? Do you want to showcase the best cards in Magic’s history, or is Cube an opportunity to play with some unusual or obscure cards? If raw power is the metric by which you judge cards, most won’t make the cut.

– What’s your target cube size, and why?

With the minimum standard Cube size – 360 – you’re guaranteed to see every card in the Cube during an 8-person draft. Is the card you’re considering adding/cutting one you want to show up every time? With lots of cards competing for that few slots, what merits does this card have over the alternatives? If you have a larger Cube, there’s more room for ‘doubling up’ on a certain effect; otherwise, maybe there’s a better or more interesting card that achieves the same thing.

– What does this card add?

Often, there’s an existing card that performs a similar role. Is it a case of choosing between them? For instance, when Boon Satyr was previewed, many people swapped out Wolfir Avenger for it; they had allocated one slot for a card like that, and Satyr is better, Others might use the printing of Satyr as a reason to explore a more flash-heavy green section, or find some other acceptable cut.

– What does/should the Cube’s curve look like?

As detailed elsewhere, one of the most dangerous temptations in Cube design is to include as many powerful 4-drops and 5-drops as possible, to the exclusion of cheaper cards. Stormbreath Dragon is a great card, but when you already have Thundermaw Hellkite, Siege-Gang Commander, and Zealous Conscripts, it’s hard to justify playing it. Faced with that dilemma, I chose to substitute it for Hellkite, the most similar card, to see which I preferred. If you like (or dislike!) where your Cube is at in that regard, any changes should reflect that.

– Do I have enough support for this card?

Most cards can be evaluated on their own merits; however, if you’re trying to decide whether to run or cut a more synergistic card, it’s important to consider the wider context. Suppose you want to run Sneak Attack. That decision will inform other card choices – if you need a green ramp target, you might choose Woodfall Primus over Terastodon – and so, if you later cut Sneak Attack, it’s worth revisiting those other choices. If you’re bringing in a theme rather than a card – a Storm subtheme, say – you need to make room in the relevant sections for each card, and be aware of the scale of the commitment involved.

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