Doubling Cube | Mark Tedin
There are a lot of obscure casual formats out there. Players love to find all sorts of different ways to play Magic in a casual setting. Some of these formats start niche and stay niche. Others, such as Cube and Commander, grow to monumental proportions, rivaling the size of some constructed formats.
The format I will share with you today is currently fairly unknown, but hopefully will grow to be more visible and see more play.
This format was originally proposed by Alex Steacy from LoadingReadyRun in an episode of their (great) podcast, TapTapConcede.
Here are the rules:
- Both players draw from a shared library of 100 cards.
- Players do not share graveyards, exile zones, or any other zone.
- If an effect would have both players draw a card at the same time, the player who controls the source of that effect draws first.
- A player may play any card in their hand facedown as their land for the turn.
- Facedown cards played as lands tap for any color of mana, as well as colorless mana, and count as basic lands of every basic land type (not including Wastes, as it is not a land type).
- If a facedown card played as a land leaves the battlefield, it is turned face up again and is no longer a land.
Pretty simple, huh?
Let’s talk about why these rules make for great gameplay and a great format.
The Gameplay Advantages
No mana issues: That’s right, there is no mana flood, mana screw, or color screw in this format. This eliminates “non-games” from the format, and makes the outcome of games much more dependent on player skill then they are in normal Magic.
Added depth: The absence of mana issues is not the only thing that increases the role of player skill in this format. Choosing which cards to play as a land is incredibly strategic: you have to plan ahead, decide what you are likely to need based on the makeup of your hand and the board. It is like casting a reverse Thoughtseize every time you make a land drop: it gives you a lot of opportunities to mess up, but also a lot of opportunities to outplay your opponent.
Interesting synergies: There are several mechanics and effects that gain added meaning from the rules of the format:
- Returning lands to your hand is incredibly powerful. It is like looking at the top X cards of your library and putting one into your hand, where X is the number of lands you control. Gush, Daze, Quirion Ranger, and even Living Tsunami become some of the best cards in the format.
- “Blinking” a land is absurd. Flickerwisp and Glimmerpoint Stag let you sacrifice a land to put its front side into play. Their power level does depend on the mana cost of cards in your cubelet... but they are always at least great.
- Scrying and other forms of deck manipulation are very interesting, as they are a mix of scry and fateseal. Brainstorm lets you draw 3, give your worst card to your opponent, and set aside your second worst card for later.
- Sacrificing lands has extra utility. If you play a card with flashback, unearth, or a similar ability as a land and sacrifice it, then you have a free spell in your graveyard. If you play an expensive creature as a land, then you can sacrifice the land to enable a reanimation spell.
- Returning creatures to your hand has extra utility. Returning a creature to your hand is better, since you get another chance to decide whether or not you want it as a land. This makes Man-o'-War slightly worse, and makes Ninja of the Deep Hours significantly better.
Building a Cubelet
The beauty of this format is not only in the fascinating gameplay. You still have a Cubelet to make, remember? But before I get into Cubelet design, let me outline one of the most practical aspects of the format.
A Cubelet can be built out of pretty much anything. If you have 100 cards with a semblance of a curve lying around, then you can shuffle them together and jam some great games. You can also browse your collection for fun, interesting cards you like but that haven’t found homes in any decks and shuffle them up and jam some great games. Unlike a Cube, which requires a lot of time and card investment to work well, a good Cubelet can be made out of whatever cards you have lying around.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of room for customization in your Cubelet. While building one will never be as large an undertaking as building a cube, it can be a rewarding project that results in a fantastic environment, built to your preferences.
When designing a Cubelet, it is important to keep a few things in mind. First, you can’t make archetypes. While in Cube a player builds a deck from cards they draft and then only draws cards from that deck, in Cubelet a player draws cards from every archetype, and while they can play some as lands, there is only so much to work with in a given hand.
But it isn’t just a highlander mirror match either. Picking cards to play as lands does give players the ability to hone their strategy and approach in any given game. The ideal Cubelet has cards that generally play well together, but are not hyper-focused to one gameplan, instead being flexible and conducive to a variety of strategies and game positions.
You can still add themes to your Cubelet: it could have a lot of Graveyard synergies, or a heavy artifact component. It could be all about storm combo, or be a drawn out control mirror. It could be made up of a bunch of Vintage and Legacy staples, or include all your favorite Commander cards. The possibilities are endless.
I have been playing and tweaking my own Cubelet for quite a while now, and I really like where it has ended up.
As you can see, the list has a lot of combat tricks, and not a lot of great removal. That is by design: this Cubelet is built to be very combat-based and aggressive. The gameplay is fast-paced, but their are a lot of difficult combat decisions to be made. It is “Peasant” (only commons and uncommons) to help ensure the power level stays balanced and the price stays low. However, their are some rares (and even mythics) that I may experiment with at some point.
If you want a well tuned list right away, this is a good, cheap place to start.
Why Should You Build a Cubelet?
Having a Cubelet has benefits beyond the fun and challenging gameplay. Sometimes trying to play with someone else who plays magic can be difficult: maybe you don’t play any of the same formats, or you both play the same format but are on wildly different budgets, or you brought your deck but your buddy didn’t. A Cubelet lets you sit down and play Magic with anyone who knows how to play Magic, regardless of how they play it.
Let me know how it goes!