Life of Brian #1 – Cubepocalypse Now

By Brian Hellevang

Last week’s Rise of the Eldrazi rules primer was very dry and boring. I am aware of that. I still think that everything it covered is important, but I’m going to try to make the Scars of Mirrodin rules primer much more interesting to read. That is not a problem that this article is going to have. I think it’s impossible to be boring when you’re talking about Cubepocalypse.

Three Cubes worth of packs ready to draft.

Most of you probably know what Cube draft is, but for those of you that don’t I’ll run through the basics. A Cube is collection of the best cards in Magic history. You shuffle all the cards up, deal them into 15 card booster packs, and draft them like you would any normal booster draft. The big difference between Cube drafts any other booster draft is that literally every card you get is good, and it’s quite common to open a pack where well over half the cards would be a first pick in any regular draft format. I’ve had my Cube for a handful of years now, and it is definitely my favorite Magic format.

While my Cube has no restrictions on card selection, and you’ll see extremely powerful cards like Black Lotus and Ancestral Recall, other Cubes have different standards on what cards are allowed. Randal Cummings has a Cube made up exclusively of commons and uncommons (no rares or mythics). This gives his Cube a radically different feel from mine. While decks from my Cube resemble constructed decks, Randal’s Cube produces decks that feel like the best draft deck you’ve ever dreamt of having. Finally, Randal’s brother Rick built the first variant Cube in Fargo when he made his commons only cube. By stripping the cards down to only the lowest rarity, games in the commons Cube feel like solid limited decks with any really swingy bombs (excluding Capsize).

This brings us to Cubepocalypse. Rick was in Fargo for the first time since moving to Indiana about a year and a half ago. In preparation for the trip, he sent out a Facebook note trying to line up stuff to do while he’d be in Fargo.  In the note, he said the following: “I will be bringing my Commons Cube for Magic, though it will probably be superseded by Randy’s UC Cube and Brian’s ‘real’ Cube, but it’s coming anyway.” This got me thinking, why does one Cube need to replace the others? Why can’t we use all three? It was at this moment that Cubepocalypse was born. Spinning out of an idea that Brad Nelson and I had talked about in the past, I talked to Randal about an event featuring all three Cubes. He liked the idea and we had our format.

For Cubepocalypse, we drafted all three Cubes back to back. We started with Rick’s Commons Cube, drafted Randal’s Commons/Uncommons Cube next, and finished with my “Full” Cube. We then built all three decks, which we would use for every match. In Cubepocalypse, we used a different deck for each game we played, rotating to the next deck for each subsequent game. Each round would shift the starting deck by one, so that everyone played at least two games with every deck. I’ll give you a visual below to better understand what I’m trying to say.

ROUND 1:  Game 1 – Commons // Game 2 – Uncmommons // Game 3 (if necessary) – Full
ROUND 2:  Game 1 – Uncommons // Game 2 – Full // Game 3 (if necessary) – Commons
ROUND 3:  Game 1 – Full // Game 2 – Commons // Game 3 (if necessary) – Uncommons

This meant that you if you drafted one terrible deck you could try to rely on always winning with your other two decks. It also meant that you would never play any games with sideboards, so you had to take that into consideration while building each deck.

We had eight players for Cubepocalypse, the maximum number supported by the smallest Cube we had. It also made for an even eight-player bracket system, allowing us to have a definitive winner after three rounds. The eight people who participated were myself, Adam Carico, Randal Cummings, Rick Cummings, Rich Early, Daryl Erdmann, Ryan Gustafson, and Brad Nelson. All eight of us have drafted various Cubes a number of times, and that helped speed the drafting process along. Cube draft can be a very overwhelming experience given all the choices you have, and that was magnified exponentially when it came to drafting three decks out of three different Cubes back to back. I want to thank everyone involved for how quickly we drafted, as we were done with all drafting in about 90 minutes.

As for my decks, I ended up with a different strategy in each. For my Commons Cube deck, I had a UB control deck with a lot of evasion, card draw, and removal spells. Notable cards included Ophidian, Looter il-Kor, and Mystical Teachings with a ton of targets. You can view the deck here. My Common/Uncommons deck was my favorite of the three. It was an extremely powerful BRu control deck with more cards than I could have hoped to have. I had two X-spells (Fireball and Rolling Thunder), seven creatures that, when they entered the battlefield, either killed a creature or retuned a removal spell from my graveyard to hand, and six nonbasic lands to make my mana super smooth. You can view that deck here. My final deck, from my Cube, was really shaky during the draft but came together at the end. I opened a pack that was half blue cards, half red cards, and Ranger of Eos. I love drafting white weenie in my Cube and decided to blindly force that strategy in my first pick while dodging fighting over either blue or black. Five picks in I barely had any cards to make me feel the deck was available, but when Armageddon showed up next I felt a lot better (I consider Armageddon, and its duplicate Ravages of War, to be the single best card in that archetype). By the end of the draft, I had both Armageddon and Ravages and a decent supply of creatures. I even had a potential blue splash with Remand, Mana Leak, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor available, but I opted to keep my mana stable instead. You can view that deck here.

I was going to write up a tournament report but I forgot to take any notes, and my memory of the details of the games are blurry at best. I lost one game to Rich in Round 1, and then didn’t drop another game the whole night. I even played Game 3 for fun in Rounds 2 & 3 and won those games as well. All three of my decks worked like a charm, and I had an absolute blast playing all the games. Going 3-0 made me the champion of Cubepocalypse, an event I’m sure we’ll repeat in the future as soon as we can. It really was the most fun Magic I’ve been a part of. Before I’m done, I want to throw out a couple of shout outs to some guys. First, thanks to Rick and Randal for providing Cubes to make this possible. Congrats to Gus for drafting one of the absolute sickest UB combo decks from my Cube I have ever seen. You can see that monster in my Facebook gallery. A pat on the back to all the Magic players who were hanging out at Paradox while we were playing. There were at least eight guys there playing cards for fun, and it was awesome to see people simply enjoying Magic. Finally, a big thanks to Mike Bryant who hopped in and took Brad’s spot when he left so that we didn’t have a bye.

The big thing I hope you all take away from this is that there a ton of fun ways to play Magic more than just Standard and current booster drafts. Cube, build your own block, Elder Dragon Highlander (check back on Friday for an EDH article by “Day 2” Dan Green), Winston draft, Type 4 and more. You’re only limited by how creative you want to be in building decks and/or formats. Cubepocalypse was born of a desire to create the most epic tournament we can think of, and I’m sure there a just as many fun ideas out there waiting to happen. For those of you who are interested in Cube drafting after reading this, there are plenty of local chances to try it out. Paradox drafts mine every couple of months (keep an eye on the event calendar) and I’ll tend to do some pickup drafts here and there. Randal normally has his with him and might be up for a draft. Finally, Robert Caldarale is always looking for people to play his common/uncommon cube with whenever he’s around. I’ll leave you with a link to photos of my whole Cube. I always think it’s fun to see the cards people run and see what foils and signatures they have. It’s also a nice start for people thinking of building their own Cube.