An Introduction To The Wonderful World of Cubes
Welcome to the wonderful world of cubes! What a cube? A cube is a hand crafted collection of cards designed to be played in a limited type format, typically drafting. It combines two of the best aspects of Force of Will, the creativity and expression of constructed with the variance and excitement of opening packs in limited. With a cube, you can build exactly the sort of draft format you want and play it over and over again with your friends with the only limitations being what you all find enjoyable and the cards you have on hand. Convinced yet? Let’s start with making one.
Deciding the Format
Cubes, at their core, are just a large pile of cards that you pull from to make decks. However, it typically helps to figure out what format you’ll usually be playing with that pile of cards. The traditional booster draft format in Force of Will, as described here, has players pull from 4 booster packs, about 9 cards a piece. If you’re looking to emulate that, you’ll need 36 cards per person, at least 144 cards for a four person draft, and at least 288 cards for an eight person draft. From there, you can just shuffle up your cards and divvy them up into pack sized piles for drafting.
Alternatively, if you just want to make it a two person draft, you can try out Grid Draft or Shadow Drafting, both described in the Alternate Formats article by DM073.
Another possibility is just tossing drafting out the window altogether in favor of a simpler set up, Shotgun. Shotgun was originally created by Jarrett Cain as an easy way to take unused cards and put them to use in a matter of minutes. Shotgun involves a single shared deck among two or more players. There are no rulers, no stones, everyone shares the graveyard and removed from game zone. From there, each player draws at the beginning of their turn and must play out any cards drawn as soon as possible, as though they had quickcast and cost nothing. It’s an incredibly random and silly format, best for just a quick bit of fun on the side with friends or with new players. All you have to do is make a particularly tall deck of cards.
To Rule Or Not
In just about all of the cube formats aside from Shotgun, you’re probably going to be playing with rulers. However, while a ruler is mandatory for a deck, there's nothing in drafting that demands you take the rulers, meaning particularly stubborn players can get stuck without one when everything’s done. There’s a few ways to deal with this.
The method I usually go with is putting rulers directly into the draft with the caveat that everyone has access to Clockwork Magic Furnace. This makes picking out a ruler a matter of priority and strategy with the occasional mix up that you’ll need to consider what to do if you don’t find a fitting ruler to what you’re doing. I find it makes matters very dynamic and changes up playing with the cube each time.
The arguably easiest method is just to determine a pool of rulers people can play from, just like in traditional draft and sealed. There’s no competing against anyone else for a particular ruler, if two people want to play Charlotte, they can. This enables you to stick particular combos in your cube without worry of stranding the two combo pieces. For example, Yggdrasil, the World Tree does not function without Avatar of the Seven Lands, Alice. This way you can pick up Alice in the draft and then afterward decide if you want to run Yggdrasil instead of picking up Yggdrasil mid draft and then sweating about later picking up Alice.
Another possible way to draft rulers is to have them all laid out face up for all players to see before anyone even begins pulling from packs. A good metric to run by is having at least two rulers per player, so if you have four players, you’ll want eight rulers at least. The first person picks a ruler and takes it and then it follows clockwise around the group. The last person makes his or her pick and then immediately takes the second pick before going back around the group again, this time in counterclockwise order.
Building A Cohesive Cube
Much like constructed decks, you’re looking to make a cohesive whole when making a cube. Unlike constructed decks, you aren’t looking to make something top of the line competitive or enable a single particular combo. Instead, what you usually want is diversity and balance. While you can make a cube out of any pile of cards, any good cube has multiple different strategies that players can try out and succeed with. That said, it’s also best not to worry too much about balance at first, play testing is the best way to fine tune cubes and drafting has a natural way of balancing out imbalanced formats since everyone will try to go for the strongest attribute. If everyone goes for the strongest one, it splinters and makes it harder to use, thereby restoring the balance.
Archetypes are an immediate way you can start defining your cube. An archetype is a series of cards that point towards a particular strategy without relying too hard on one another. One example of this is the Knights of the Round Table resonators. Gawain, Lancelot, Bedivere, Perceval, and Gareth all can stand on their own but function even better together. That way, opening your first pack, if you see a Knight of the Round Table, you can pursue putting together that sort of deck. However, if you also trip into one late in the draft, it still doesn’t feel useless. Cards that generally share a race are quite good for building archetypes since they have easy and obvious mechanics.
Another way is using a bunch of enablers. For example, Heartless Tin Man, Spirit of Yggdrasil, and Marion Siegbahn all encourage using additions in wind. By including those and a variety of common, easy to use additions like Flying Cloud and Wind Secluded Refuge, you can easily make building into additions quite rewarding.
Keep in mind, you don’t need to build every color or color pair around a particular mechanic. Sometimes just one offs like Deep Ones and Prokaryotic Being can work just fine. It’s more important to make everyone functional and fun while presenting new options every time.
Another issue in cubes is deciding how easy you want to make it for players to access other multiple attributes. As cool as Lumia, Sealed in the Frozen Casket is, if you only let your players have non-special stones, she probably isn’t going to see play with three different attributes. The easiest solution is to just include a few multicolor stones in your cube list, I personally went with two of each of the original dual stones but eventually went down to one of each and slipped in the new multicolor stones from Vingolf 3.
Alternatively, you can make your players work harder for access to multiple attributes with cards like Magic Stone Analysis, Sissei, Pricia’s Barrier, and House of the Old Man. Keep in mind though, this will naturally bend things towards green since most fixing is in green.
There’s also a few rulers that let you access certain types of cards without worrying about color. Grimm, the Fairy Tale Prince and Millium, Prince of the Light Palace both can access fairy tales of any color, Blazer and Sylvia also let their stones rest for additional types of attributes. In the upcoming set, Echoes of the New World, Book of Light, Book of Dark, and Swordsman of Fire all also let you push into certain types of tribal without worrying about their attributes. Those rulers in particular help with building the archetypes I mentioned earlier and can easily give you a definite direction with your cube.
Back to balance for a moment, while having a particular attribute get more focus than the rest is fine, there are such things as singular cards that might be too strong for any given cube. The perfect example of this is Arthur Pendragon, who just wins games on his own. Due to his immunity to fire and darkness, he can quickly shut out a handful of decks and his high attack and defense coupled with his ability to control combat will generally knock a lot of other decks out just as fast. Drafting and playing him can very well mean an automatic win unless you build your cube with him in mind.
Not to say you can’t include large light resonators to use as win conditions, but you’ll need to give consideration to ways players can interact with them. Celestial Wing Seraph, for example, is arguably just as powerful or more so than Arthur but requires looking out for a second angel and is still resistant to removal by virtue of bringing in two bodies without being immune to the vast majority of it. This way you both encourage planning when drafting and playing by giving the owner of Seraph options while still allowing the opponent to interact.
Rules Are Just Guidelines
The most important bit of building your own cube is to remember that there are no set rules. Whatever you deem fit for your cube, you should go for. I personally had all of the Alice and Grimm cluster rulers in my personal cube given an errata so they all had energize. You can also put multiple cards in a sleeve and have them drafted together. Or allow players to play with multiple rulers, a la the Epic Stories format. If you really feel like it, you can even include your own custom cards as the cube format pays no mind to the lists of legal cards in normal Force of Will formats.
A Sample Cube
Since it doesn’t feel right to talk all about cubes and how to build them without showing an actual example of one, here is my current cube. It’s drafted in three packs of eleven cards with eight people. All rulers have energize and Alice in Wonderland, Aliasse, and Arla, Guardian of the Skies have all five attributes for energize. Everyone always has Clockwork Magic Furnace available and it has a void energize. Main decks should have twenty cards minimum and stone decks eight cards minimum. You’re allowed access to as many basic stones as needed.
At the end of the day, cubes are designed to be played for fun. As much as I can give you guidelines on how to build them, they’re really up to you. If there’s some particular way you enjoy playing Force of Will, you can fine tune that cube to enable that. Personally, I just like jamming whatever unusual cards I find, like the ever rare Valhalla cards, Quest Clear cards, and Promos. Alternatively, they’re just a nice place to play with cool cards that might not have had their day to shine during New Frontier. And with each new set coming out and exploring new ideas and creating new synergies with old cards, there’s no limit to the sort of nonsense you can create.
Go ahead, have some fun!
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