If you don’t know what a cube is let me give you a crash course before I start my story. The idea of the cube originated and is primarily found in the trading card game Magic the Gathering (MTG). Basically a cube is created for the purpose of drafting or playing any sealed format; although drafting is usually the most common. Cubes usually consist of enough cards for 8 people and usually have a theme or a high power level similar to different sets in a card game. In terms of constructing the cube you, as the creator, get to design the metagame and put the cards you want in the cube. That’s a very simple explanation of what a cube is and how you can use it, now let me get to the meat of the story.
Last summer I bought a few sealed booster boxes of different trading cards and after realizing I didn’t have anyone to play them with I grew concerned that this was all just a waste of time and money. After all the best part about TCGs was that while you got to collect them you also could use them to play with. More to the point it was my senior year of college and I wanted my playgroup (who already loved Magic the Gathering) to get into some of the other games that I had been collecting ever since I was a kid. So I had an idea to get them all involved and while you might think it would be to create cube you’d be surprised to know that my initial thoughts were a little different.
One of the booster boxes that I had ordered was a box of MLB Showdown which is a baseball card game where you roll a d-20 to determine the interaction between pitchers and batters in a baseball game. I knew many of my friends who didn’t collect card games did enjoy sports above almost anything else so it seemed like a good game to get started with. I then put together 8 different teams consisting of a starting lineup, 3 bench players and a pitching staff. I balanced all the different teams for the last month before I went back to school by calculating to see if all the stats came out to about the same numbers. I playtested the cube for hours with my brother, with my friends who I didn’t go to school with and even by myself when I had a genius breakthrough about a team’s roster.
When I got to school I immediately informed some of my buddies about what I created over the summer and to my surprise a few of them said they would give my teams a go. We played a bit and some of them had fun with it as a novelty but quickly grew bored of the game while one or two others got really into it. My two friends that continued to play with me as the months went on quickly decided that they wanted to create their own lineups and not use the ones I had slaved away creating so that I could create a proper balanced meta game. I was really hesitant at first, again because of the time I put into making the teams fun and balanced, but I soon realized one thing I had been neglecting the whole time.
That thing was agency and the fact that one of the most enjoyable parts of trading card games is creating the actual decks. After all fantasy sports, fantasy drafts on different video games, and even features like Madden Ultimate Team are extremely popular forms of team creation that give the user control over who is playing on their team. There also is a new mode on Madden this year which lets you create a team by choosing one player from a “hand” of three different player cards and then using that person on your team and Hearthstone has a similar mode called “arena” that’s lets you make a deck from the entire Hearthstone databse. There had to be a way to get my friends to still be interested, create their own teams, and have a balanced group of cards to choose from.
This is where the all mighty cube comes into play.
My Magic the Gathering cube had already been successful with my friends at school and I immediately thought of it when I was thinking of designing something for my MLB Showdown cards. Now it was the perfect opportunity to make my second cube the “All Year MLB Showdown Cube”. I called it the “All Year Cube” because when I got even more cards I made two separate cubes with players from the 2000 and 2001 year sets in one and players from 2002-2005 in the other cube.
The first step to creating my new cube was going online to see if there were any tips or tricks on creating my own MLB showdown cube. Since I’m sure many of you don’t know MLB showdown was discontinued in 2005 therefore there isn’t much written about the subject online. Since I couldn’t find any help online, besides some ideas from Magic cubes, I just went into my room to throw something together and test like crazy. I eventually put together around 200 cards for a cube to fit my entire playgroup of four and we got down to playing. Everyone was more involved with the game now and we kept a league going, a real MLB showdown league, that ended sort of abruptly at the end of the year for other reasons. So in summary my cube was successful for the few people that played with me and it got me thinking about all the possibilities that could come from it.
After the school year was over I took all my cards home and I didn’t touch them for over a month because I needed to find a job among other things. Yet once I was settled in to my new place and my new job I took a look at all the cards I had in my possession; some from when I was a kid and others I’ve amassed over the intense last few years. What I saw was obvious; and should be obvious because of the title of this article. I quickly ordered a bunch of new sleeves and set to work making 7 different cubes from 6 different games and now I hope to play them with every person who is willing to learn the games rules and have as much fun playing with mostly children’s card games as I have.
With the rise in popularity in board games among nerds and even people who don’t identify as nerdy people it seems like card games should make a comeback even in a most digital word. Deckbuilding games like Dominion and Ascension are on the rise too and while I find those games to be fun they just seem like underpowered cubes to me. So I truly believe, even if there might not be a lot of basis for this judgement in reality yet, that cubes will be the new way that casual board gamers and even more advanced players can enjoy physical games in the future. That is also why I advise that anyone who has enough cards for a cube create one and get your friends to play a few rounds of it to see if they might want create one or join in a truly enjoyable experience.