So as per usual, when Magic is in a period of Flux (especially while that period of Flux is primarily Magic Online) I like to record different, hopefully entertaining formats and try them out for you guys.

Since I've been so gung ho about Cube Drafting recently, including Cube Drafting at the Community Cup and putting my own Cube together a few weeks back, I felt like giving the old Magic Online Cube a try this week, especially since it included all the Magic 2015 updates. You can find the current contents of the Magic Online Cube here.

Additionally, for anyone looking to build their own Cube, or Cube draft on Magic Online, watching others can be a great way to actually gauge which cards are incredibly powerful, which cards work well with others, and which cards might be a little underpowered. You know, aside from Cube being one of the most fun formats out there. There's just a ton of awesome cards and intricate interactions that take place

Anyway, I know it isn't Standard, and I know you guys aren't as fond of videos that aren't Standard, so here's hoping you won't see the title and never click the link (in which case you'll never know I hoped this to begin with). After the videos I delve a little bit into game design and what makes the Cube such an enjoyable experience to begin with, so I hope you'll stick around for that.

Cube Draft #5 - Draft

Cube Draft #5 - Round 1

Cube Draft #5 - Round 2

Cube Draft #5 - Round 3

I was talking to Sean Plott at the Community Cup about game design and taking losses and I think I realized why Cube Drafting was so fun and why I didn't get particularly upset whenever I lost a Cube match. We discussed something known as the Peak-End Rule which is a way that humans end up evaluating previous experiences.

It basically posits that people judge an experience by two points: the most intense point (the peak) and the end. The judgment at the peak happens regardless of whether the intense experience is good or bad, which the judgment at the end happens at a game's conclusion. This is why it's frowned upon in game design to make the end of a game miserable for everyone (or why cards like Stasis no longer get printed): the worse of an experience someone has at the end of a game or at a game's most intense point, the worse of an impression that person is going to have about the game in general.

More to the point about Cubing. I came to the conclusion while playing against Tom LaPille in my feature match, that the reason I was never super titled while Cubing was because I was never super-completely-out-of-the-game-no-chance dead; or rather I never felt that way. I was able to consistently make jokes and poke fun at the games without feeling hopeless.

I always felt like there was something I could draw that could put me back into a game, no matter how far behind. Maybe it would be an Akroma's Vengeance, or a Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Maybe something as simple as a Sword of Fire and Ice. The cards in the Cube were so inherently powerful that two conclusions emerged: 1) they allowed my experience to be such that I never felt like I was so far behind, and 2) they allowed my experience to be pleasant throughout, with the ability to play powerful cards consistently throughout the entire game/match/draft.

This is also the reason that Cube Draft is the only format that I Insist on playing Swiss. You simply always want to play all of your games. I guess the point I'm getting at is that Cube Drafting is an amazing case study on what makes a game fun, within a game itself, which is just awesome.

The Draft portion of Cubing is similarly fun. I've Cubed a tremendous amount of times, and I still catch myself saying, "Wow, every card in this pack is good!" Well, yes, precisely. That's the entire point! But it still surprises me. And sure enough, when there are two cards left in the pack, I find myself saying, "Wow, both of these are good!" Of course they are! All the cards are! That's kind of the magic of Cubing, to turn a phrase: it attempts to produce a positive experience at almost every vector, and it largely succeeds.

I remember playing against WotC Employee Lee Sharpe in the hotel lobby after the Cup had ended and we all had Cube Drafted my Cube. Lee won a very quick first game, then I won the second game. I was pretty sure I could win the third as Lee wasn't very confident in his deck and I had a lot of tools against his strategy of choice: monored (with a blue splash).

I felt game three slipping away and I realized it didn't even bother me. The games we were playing produced such a fun feeling that I didn't even care whether I was winning or losing. This was an unusual feeling, but I remember it vividly. (It didn't hurt that we were speaking in Russian accents for the duration of the match.)

The point is that Cube is something magical (and that's not just a play on words). It's a very unique format that tries to contain all of those "peak" experiences that we've had throughout Magic, and combine them into one event. The first time you cast a Jace, the Mind Sculptor. The first time you attacked with a Primeval Titan. The first time you connected with a creature equipped with Sword of Fire and Ice. These are some of the best experiences in Magic - the "peaks" - and Cube allows us to relive them turn after turn.

I hope you guys watched the videos, and enjoyed them, but more so I hope you got something out of this article about not only gaming, but what we all look for in games, and I hope that it will help you play your next match with a little more self-awareness and perhaps a little more enjoyment. Thanks for reading!

Frank Lepore
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