Obsession, and how to feed it

There is a feeling, a bottled-lightning kind of feeling, that one gets when a new and addictive gaming experience enters one’s life.

I’ve had it before, numerous times; but each one is special.

  • Sim City and Civilisation were first, driving my 13 year-old brain into a frenzy. Why sleep, when I could get up at 6am and play the Atari ST for 90 minutes before getting ready for school?
  • Warhammer 40k got me early in High School, too, with a wave of sheer awesomeness: I can play wargames with Space Marines and Uber-Future-Tanks? SIGN ME UP.
  • Just a year or so later, Magic: the Gathering swept all other games in its path and claimed me. A game as challenging as 40k, but more customisable, faster to play and capable of fitting in my pocket… I was in heaven.

These are just the best examples, but others abound: discovering AD&D, Risk, or a number of other systems all produced that electric excitement.

But as I grew older, the spikes of interest became less frequent; as I crested the wave of my 30s, I had all but accepted that my passions and interests were generally set.

Enter Cube Drafting.

Drafting is a concept which will be well known to a range of different gamers – it’s used in top-level US sports to allocate youth players to established teams, in various ‘Fantasy Baseball’ leagues for players to select their fictional squads and, most pertinently, in Magic to create an entirely different type of game experience. If you don’t know how a booster draft works, I recommend catching a synopsis before proceeding.

Cube Drafting is a Magic booster draft taken to the next level.

Rather than buying sealed packs of product to play the game, players will build a collection of unique cards which is balanced across the range of colours, types and mana costs the game offers: the eponymous cube . These cards will typically be amongst the best ever printed, with tournament staples from every era filling out the collection (although some players will create cubes with entirely different themes). The size of the cube will usually be set in multiples of ‘draft sets’ – a measurement representing the 45 cards which would be found in a three standard booster packs. A basic cube will support 8 drafters, therefore containing 360 unique cards.

Once the cube is assembled, it must be played!

To do this, a team of drafters – we’ll assume the standard 8, for this example – will randomise the cube thoroughly, then break the cards into piles of 15, which are placed face down to keep their contents secret. Each drafter will receive 3 of these piles, again at random, and take their place around a table (prepared earlier, in the fashion of all good Blue Peter constructs). Then, using these piles as packs, they begin drafting just as they would in booster draft.

If this doesn’t sound particularly special or exciting to you, don’t worry. That’s normal and linked to one of the following problems:

  • You’ve never Cubed before
    • This is the default state for players and can be easily remedied. Nothing to worry about
  • You’ve never drafted at all before
    • Again, many players could say the same thing. Over the years, I’ve known many players who were introduced successfully to drafting with no serious side affects. Fixable.
  • You don’t play Magic and frankly, have no interest in learning to play
    • Perhaps it’s my skewed perspective, but if you’re in this bracket I believe you have deep-rooted problems and should seek help AT ONCE.
    • OK, perhaps that’s a bit strong. At the very least, I reckon you should skip this and all the rest of my gaming columns, or you might well end up with deep-rooted problems and need to seek help AT ONCE.

You see, the problem with cube drafting is that even habitual Magic players are frequently oblivious to just how awesome a gaming experience it can be, until they dip their toes daintily into it. What usually then occurs is a swift and direct plunge into cube addiction, accompanied by frantic calls, texts and social media messages to gamer friends urging them to particpate. I’m certain that the spread of cubing would provide a fascinating subject of study for eminent epidemiologists the world over.

However, I’m unwilling to simply brand the appeal of cubing ‘indescribable’. In fact, I want not only to describe it, but to do so in terms which non-Magic-players can understand. So here goes:

The Cube, for people who aren’t geeks

Imagine your favourite game or pastime. Think of all the great moments you’ve had indulging in that pastime over the years, preserved in little bubbles of nostalgia scattered throughout the great, foamy bath of your memory.

Now, imagine that you could relive those moments; even better, that you could mix or recombine them to make new experiences better than the sum of their parts. Perhaps you’re a footballer… wouldn’t you love to play a match where you got to make all the best runs, best passes and score all the best goals of your life?

Let’s go one better: imagine you could do this in the company of some of the best friends you had ever made while forming those memories in the first place, or introduce the good times to other great friends from different parts of your life. How incredible would this experience be?

Ladies and gentlemen, this literally encapsulates the experience of cube drafting. I get to experience a Greatest Hits of all my days playing Magic, with all of my best mates who’ve ever picked up a card. We have all the same challenge, the same camaraderie and the same laughs that we ever did – without any of the repeat costs the hobby usually brings.

At a  time when I thought all the fun of gaming was familiar, I discovered this amazing blend of new and old – and I’m in geeky heaven. Add to this the fact that cubing is the most financially compatible form of the game for someone with a young child and I’m over the moon.

I cannot recommend Cube drafting highly enough. And if you actually want to play… well, suffice to say, you need only give the word!

One thought on “Obsession, and how to feed it

  1. Pingback: Clash of the Titans | Caveat Lector

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