Size Matters

As I said in my last post, my posts in the near future are going to be covering a lot of the basics of MTG cube design, or at least what I would consider the basics. Today I want to talk about cube sizes.

On the surface, this seems like a very simple decision. I mean, how much impact can the total number of cards actually have? You would be surprised.

So right off the bat, you may have already noticed that there are some specific numbers that are common cube sizes. 360, 450, 540, 630, and 720 are probably the most popular. This is because in a traditional draft with 15 card packs and 3 packs per player, these sizes are the minimum size requirements to support 8, 10, 12, 14, and 16 player drafts respectively.

Now, this may not seem important, but remember that different cubes have their own unique rules. If you plan on having 10 card packs and 5 packs per player for whatever reason, 360 no longer makes a lot of sense. So before you just pick a random number, make sure you know why you are picking that number.

“Okay”, you say, “but that’s pretty still a simple decision.”

Sit back down, there is plenty more to go over. So the specific number is important, but the general size still has very large impacts on how the cube is going to play.

For instance, if you have a very small cube, and you are wanting to play with the most powerful cards in magic, you are going to have a pretty cookie cutter cube. There are quite a few powerful cards that stand head and shoulders above the rest and when you are running cards based solely on power level, you don’t have much room to be creative. If you are wanting to do cool and unique things with your cube, this may not be the path that you want to take.

“Alright, so if I want to make lots of unique design choices, I should make a larger cube”, you postulate.

Hold on, now. Remember those archetypes you were wanting to support? Well, for an archetype to work, you need to have a critical mass worthwhile supporting cards (cards with archetype-specific synergies) and enough anchor cards (cards with archetype-specific synergies with a high enough base power level to be played outside of the archetype in question) to bring the decks together. This will never be a problem for an archetype like goblins or artifacts, but what about the more unique archetypes? What about the “lands matter” deck? There are only so many cards that work with some of the more interesting archetypes, and the larger your cube becomes, the more cards you need to dedicate to a given strategy to support it. This is only a problem in singleton cubes, but I believe that is the majority of cubes nowadays.

So you see, you have to find the perfect balance between having enough room to create a unique experience while still keeping it small enough to avoid diluting any of your archetypes. You also need to make sure that you have enough cards in your cube to support the needs of your playgroup. And where is this sweet spot? What is the perfect size for cube? It all depends on what kind of cube you want to build.

So, what size cube do you run? Do any of you run an unorthodox number of cards? If so, why? Leave a comment and tell me about it.

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