August 10, 2013
Innistrad Block Cube
Guest article by Neil
In this stage of my life, I can't make weekly appointments to play magic, especially at the times set up by the local game store. FNM is a pipe dream to me, and the thought of keeping a standard deck current while only playing it once between each set release seems a little silly. I play with my friends (who also have young kids and jobs) when we get together. If I'm lucky, I get about an hour of time for 1 on 1 magic per week. Four of us get together a few times a year (hopefully more now that there are actually four of us in the same city). I also really enjoy drafting online, but that requires a 3 hour time block and the price can add up. I also like to buy cards - I usually buy a booster box for each set - and found myself looking for a use for all those cards. So, combining all of these factors, I came up with a solution: Block Cube.
A block cube as I have created is a small cube (180 cards) meant to be used by 2-4 players. So far we have played it as 2 person sealed (each player receives a pool of 60 cards, the other 60 are unused) and as 4 person draft (the whole cube is drafted, so 45 card drafted pools as in a normal cube). A two person Winston draft would also be fun, but we haven't tried it yet... sealed is just faster for the limited time we have to play.
There are two major differences between my Innistrad block cube and a "regular" cube. The first is the size. A smaller cube does not allow for the more niche decks that a larger cube could. Regular cubes usually allow a reanimator deck, a storm deck, etc., but with a maximum of four players, the density of the required niche cards would be too high. Sadly, I chose to leave out the self-mill strategy with Spider Spawning and Splinterfright. As much as I enjoyed playing the deck, drafting the same one over and over would probably get old.
The second major difference is that my cube only used cards from one block. The decrease in card selection meant that cards are included that would be laughed out of a regular cube. Don't sell the cards short, though. These are all limited playable cards. I did not include a card in the cube if I wouldn't be happy with it in a limited deck. The bonus to the block limitation is flavor. Cards that reference human, werewolf, vampire, and zombie creature types really matter. Also, when you draft it you feel like you are in the world. Innistrad was an extremely popular block in large part due to the top-down flavorful design, and that shines through in the cube. It's nice to know that years from now I will be able to grab a friend or three and time travel back to Innistrad.
In choosing cards for the cube, I paid close attention to the number of cards in each color, the curve of each color, the number of creatures vs. spells in each color, and individual card power. I chose not to include the two uber-miracles Bonfire of the Damned and Entreat the Angels, because I didn't want one card instantly ending an otherwise interesting game. There is still power in the cube, however. Snapcaster Mage and Huntmaster of the Fells both made the cut. It's important to note that I did not buy any cards specifically for the cube, nor did I trade heavily for them. This is, for the most part, a cards-on-hand cube. Some people like the hunt of finding special versions of cards for their cube. I like the feel of knowing that most of the cards in my cube came out of packs I opened.
I would describe play with the cube as condensed singleton block limited. The decks you get are usually on the power level of a very, very good draft deck. Like most limited formats, two colors with a possible splash is the norm. Without duplicates, you have to look a little harder to build deck synergy, but it can still be done because of the block mechanics and themes. You always have something that would be considered a bomb in normal limited - whether it be a Falkenrath Aristocrat, Dungeon Geist, Huntmaster, Angel of Glory's Rise, Wolfir Silverheart... you get the point - but your opponent has bombs too.
I have really just begun scratching the surface of testing this cube. I'm sure I'll make changes as I see certain cards become unfun or certain colors stick out as over or underpowered, but even as it stands now, it's a great option to pull out when friends are over and we want to play a few quick games.
Check out the full cube over at cubetutor.
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