Drafting cube – quick, basic tips

Hi there,

Almost every article I’ve read about cube is about how to make one, so I thought I’d try and write a little about how to draft a cube. Some of these tips might be cube-specific, some might be general drafting, I don’t draft non-cube enough to know the difference.

This first post will probably feel very basic for most people, so if you feel you’re anything above a beginner drafter, you might just want to skip this.

1. Don’t pick the rare. It might seem a bit obvious, but cubes aren’t sorted by rarity, and this means that a lot of the time, picking the rare or mythic isn’t the best idea, since rarity isn’t analogous with quality. For example, if you opened a pack with:

  • Counterspell
  • Kargan Dragonlord
  • Oblivion Ring
  • FNM Force Spike
  • Skullclamp

And then your order of picks went Dragonlord ,Force Spike, Skull Clamp, because they got red,gold, silver in their expansion symbols, you’d have made an awful mistake an passed your friend one of the best card advantage engines ever printed. Don’t pick based on rarity.

2.Take your time. If it’s your first time drafting a cube (or even second, third, fourth…), or a bunch of changes have been made, there’ll probably be a lot of cards you aren’t familiar with in your packs. Read them all carefully, and make your decision. Don’t feel rushed by any packs building up behind you, you’re new, your draft-buddies should understand. Additionally, if you open a textless or foreign language card you are unfamiliar with, just quietly ask the cube owner what it does. There’s no shame in it, and it’s better than just passing a bomb.

3.Keep a poker face.  Even if you first pick Library of Alexandria, then get passed Black Lotus, then Jitte, then Recurring Nightmare, don’t tell everyone about it.  You don’t want anyone to know anything about what you’re going – it gives them an advantage over you, since they’ll be able to hate out good stuff, and will get a better idea of what will table.

4.Don’t commit. This sounds silly, but the longer you can go in a draft without committing to a colour, generally the better.  It allows you to see what colours are coming round, and you’ll be sure you can play your picks.

5. Take swords. I can’t stress this enough ; In most cubes , swords (sword of fire and ice, feast and famine, war and peace etc) are massive bombs, which (especially in the case of body and mind) can win a game very quickly. If you doubt me on this, wait til you’re facing a Mirran Crusader with Sword of War and Peace on it, and wait to take at least 12 from that one, untouchable creature. There are seldom times when passing Sword of Fire and Ice is a good idea.

 6. Don’t be a douche to the cube  owner. Under no circumstances should  you ever sit in a cube draft, and proclaim  any cards in it suck. Pretty much by  definition, no card in the cube sucks, and  it’s almost certainly in there for a reason,  The most common card for ‘suckage’ is  Jackal Pup. If you’re running it and it’s  not working, you’ve got it in the wrong  deck.  Generally, turns which go  ‘Mountain, Jackal Pup, Earthquake, X=6’  are not the optimal play. If you complain  about it, you won’t be asked back.

 7. Ask about the cube. The cube  owner has a pretty big advantage over  everyone else in that he or she knows the entire cube perfectly.  Even general questions like ‘how fast is this cube’ should give you a vague idea, although obviously there’s a lot of room for subjective error in asking such a vague question. Questions like ‘Is this cube powered?’ ‘Are any cards excluded for power reasons?’ ‘have you got XYZ card in your cube?’ can give you valuble information in your draft, and will make the owner happy that you’re showing an interest.

8.Anticipate the wheel. When you’ve got to pick between cards, you have to consider the relative power level of the cards, how narrow they are, and as a result of that, how likely they are to come back round. If you’re running a BR deck, and you’re running a blue deck and you’ve already got tolarian academy and vedalken shackles, and you’re looking at a pack with Tezzeret the Seeker and Force Spike? Which should you take? FP or Tezzie? In this situation, considering I have Tolarian Academy, the main inscentive to make the artifact deck, I’d take Force Spike. Force Spike is good in every type of blue deck, and as long as anyone else is playing blue, I won’t see it back. Tezzeret however is okay in a blue deck, but pretty narrow, and you won’t often take it early unless you’re in the artifact deck or it’s your first pick. Tezzie is likely to come back to you, so the weaker, more versatile card is likely your best pick.

Those are my 8 basic tips for cube drafting. Some of them are mind-numblingly simple, and I’m sure a lot of you knew them already, but thank you for reading, and I hope you learned something.



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