Building a Cube is a labor of love. Whatever the variety of Cube you choose to build, it probably involved long hours determining what cards would be in your Cube. You would examine the various options available in each set and carefully determine your selections. You want the Cube to be balanced and offer a variety of archetypes to be available to those who draft it. The Cube is a chance for you to display your skill in putting together a Magic set.
Many people take that to the next level, choosing to pimp out their Cubes—with alternate-art cards, foil cards, full-art promotional cards, and rare versions of various cards. All of these things add to the impressive look of the Cube. Josh, the Cube enthusiast in my group, has pimped out his Uncommon/Common Cube; most of the cards are either foil or have alternate art. Everything is double-sleeved. Josh even has all the token cards any of the cards could produce ready and sleeved in a different color. For the tokens that don’t exist, he created them. His Cube is a thing of beauty.
On the last Thursday of every month, our group puts the multiplayer decks aside and drafts. We generally draft the latest new set, then drift into some bizarre formats. We drafted Unhinged. We drafted Ice Age. Last month, we drafted Josh’s Cube. We are casual players and love trying something bizarre.
Another player in our group, Jesse, enjoyed the Cube, loving the opportunity to play with some of the older cards that he hadn’t played with in ages. He considered building his own Cube. Jesse has a huge collection and could put together a fearsome Cube. Barring power cards, there are few things Jesse doesn’t have. However, Jesse’s mind doesn’t work like most people’s. Jesse loved the idea of playing with cards that hadn’t been used in a long time. Or ever. The idea of the Crap Cube was born.
Searching through Magic’s history for only the worst cards would undoubtedly lead to a dull game environment, so he decided to focus on some of the worst sets in Magic. Once he realized that Fallen Empires, Homelands, Chronicles, and The Dark had almost exactly the number of cards he wanted in his Cube, he was set. Two weeks later, he received the ten or so cards he was missing from his collection to complete the Cube, and the Crap Cube was complete!
Upon hearing of the idea, everyone in the group laughingly endorsed the idea. The goal became almost to make this into an “anti-Cube.” We encouraged Jesse to find the most worn and beat-up versions of the various cards to put in the Cube. Pick the Goblin War Drums with the worst art! Run the ugliest lands with the deck as well! I wanted him to sleeve the entire Cube in perfect fit sleeves and regular sleeves, with the idea being that he could say he spent more on the sleeves than the entire Cube.
In the end, Jesse opted to stay true to the “Crap” part of the Crap Cube. He chose the ugly, white borders of Revised Edition, Fourth Edition and Fifth Edition lands. He used penny sleeves for the Cube, and he only went that far because a few of the cards probably would not survive aggressive shuffling.
As far as any attempt to balance the power among the colors, almost nothing was done. A few cards from Antiquities were added to equalize the number of cards in each color and bring the total number of cards to more than four hundred fifty since we have had as many as ten people drafting at once. The actual contents of the Crap Cube can be found here.
Jesse, creator of the Crap Cube, setting up packs for drafting while I set up chairs and Tyler and Bryan (L to R) prepare for the coming nightmare.
Drafting Crap Cube
While everyone knew the actual games would probably be a little awkward due to the cards we’d be running, what we hadn’t considered was the Draft. Have you read City of Shadows? What about Curse Artifact? We hadn’t either. These sets were created long before the templating team cleaned up the wording on cards. When you have awkwardly worded cards and add people who have never seen the card before, the Draft can slow down.
Dance of Many does WHAT!?
Even we casual players knew this format was going to be bizarre. There is very little removal in Cube. Most of the cards that could be considered good have at least two mana symbols in the cost—and sometimes three. This was going to lead to some very awkward decks—there is almost no mana ramp, and there is very limited mana fixing. When Castle Sengir is a card you start to look at as a way to fix your mana, you know things have probably gone horribly wrong!
In spite of the Crap Cube moniker, the games were interesting. It became clear that the way to get over the lousy card quality was to find ways to make the cards interact to make them better than they were alone. Unfortunately for me, that didn’t become clear until well after we had drafted the cards. I went into the Draft looking for bombs, removal, and evasion creatures. I drafted Sol'kanar the Swamp King early on and made attempts to stay in U/B/R. I knew there would be very few bombs and that most of us would be in three colors, so when Fellwar Stone came around, I picked it early. Other highlights of my Draft included Dakkon Blackblade, Fissure, Giant Albatross, and Roterothopter. Yes, those were the highlights. My deck offered very little synergy, but I figured if I could stall into the late game, my bombs would clean up.
“What is this going to do?” Note the Timmerian Fiends on the side? More on that later . . .
I ended 1–2, losing to players whose decks had synergy and winning one match that involved both Dakkon Blackblade and Sol’kanar coming into play early in both games.
What impressed us more than anything were the interactions between the cards. We all knew the sets of cards we were playing were renowned for being bad in every way. The cards were overproduced, underpowered, and generally met with disdain by everyone who played with them. Each of us expected the decks we drafted to be dull, amounting to 2/2 creatures for 4 mana bashing into each other. What made the games interesting were the interactions we found among the cards that made each game complex and unique.
Josh also chose Diabolic Machine and Aladdin's Ring. In a format with very little artifact removal and in which games tend to go long, both of these cards ended up being far better than expected. The Machine was unkillable.
My favorite choice was Josh’s decision to run Timmerian Fiends. He would shuffle up his forty-card deck, then remove Timmerian Fiends because we weren’t playing for ante. Josh played every game with a thirty-nine-card deck.
Bryan probably struggled with the cards more than most of us did. While there were cards we hadn’t seen, all of us had played with them to some extent and could laugh at the old templating and abilities. He commented, “Old Magic is actually much more complex and hard to read quickly—creature abilities are far more unique and weird.”
In spite of the difficulties, he ended 2–1. He ran a three-color deck that included the
Crap Draft Champion!
Tyler swears that Hungry Mist and Living Armor is a crazy combo, but I still don’t see it. He gets a 6/6 creature, which is nice, but it can be stopped by any creature. However, Tyler was our Crap Draft Champion, going 3–0, so he appears to have a better grasp of the format than I do. Tyler also ran Giant Oyster as a form of removal, and he liked it. “Giant Oyster is the slowest way to kill anything, but it keeps things tapped, which was amazing.” Giant Oyster demonstrated the absolute dearth of removal in two ways. The fact that the 0/3 creature wasn’t killed in the games shows how little removal was available in the Draft. When you also realize that a creature that takes X turns to kill another creature—where X is the other creature’s toughness—is deemed decent removal, you know all you need to about the available removal.
John stepped up and decided to embody the spirit of the Crap Draft. While John’s decks are all about synergy and finding ways to get the absolute maximum out of each card he plays, this Draft was something different. John became comfortable with the idea of drafting crappy cards. No one in the Draft embraced the idea of running eclectic and bizarre cards the way John did. He picked Chromium, one of the original Elder Dragon Legends, very early in the Draft, then proceeded to build his deck around the Dragon. I don’t know how often Chromium hit the table, but I do know that at least one time, Chromium dealt the final blow to win John the match.
Crap Draft Mastermind!
Jesse ran a B/R deck with a mana curve that is best described as an inverse bell curve. There were so many 5- and 6-mana creatures and almost nothing in the 3- and 4-mana slots. Jesse’s deck seemed to set up for the Inferno that would either win the game or open the table to his bigger creatures. To get a more in depth look at the Crap Draft from the perspective of the creator, check out his article!
Our games were wild back-and-forth displays. I got in for some early damage, and then Jesse stabilized with little creatures and managed to take control and start whittling my life total. I put out Sol’kanar and managed to swing once before he played out the Horn of Deafening, making my Sol’kanar do very little other than tap a few of Jesse’s lands. In an earlier game, Jesse had pulled out his iPhone and was looking at something . . .
“What is the Oracle text on this thing?”
During our game, he just dropped it into play. I knew he had the Inferno in hand, so I tried to bring his life total below 6 before he could play it, but no luck. On his next turn, he cast the Inferno, killing all the creatures on the board. This left the Takklemaggot attached to me. I was at 3 life and could find nothing to kill off Jesse before I died a slow agonizing death to Takklemaggot.
I DIED to Takklemaggot.
P.S. Thanks again to Aaron for all his photos during the Draft. Aaron actually dropped early from the Draft to take many of these great shots.