Cube’s Most Popular Card by Year

Cube is the greatest way to play Magic: the Gathering. To celebrate the game’s upcoming 30th anniversary and our favorite format, we analyzed cube data to understand what card first printed in each year of the game’s history most-utilized in the format that’s often viewed as a museum of Magic history.

But what is Cube?

Cube is a a custom limited format that treats Magic: the Gathering as the base rules for a draft of the Cube creator’s imagination, using any combination of the game’s library of over 25,000 game pieces to make as complex and replayable experience as they desire. Wizards of the Coast’s own Melissa DeTora wrote a guide to building your first Cube, if you’re interested in reading more about the format!


To generate these results, we analyzed the lists of the 120 most popular cubes on Cube Cobra that fit the following criteria: 1) the cubes were active: they had been updated during calendar year 2023; 2) the cubes were non-restricted: they did not exclude cards based on rarity, constructed legality, expansion, flavor, etc; 3) the cube is intended for 8-person draft with 1v1 games: which requires a list of at least 360 cards with rules close enough to retail draft.

The top 500 most-followed cubes on CubeCobra were vetted with these metrics, and many of the parameters were judged based on the written explanation from a Cube’s curator. The purpose of these restrictions was to remove biases that other cubes would introduce. For example, as you can see from a quick tour of Lucky Paper’s Cube Map, the combined volume of Peasant, Pauper, Commander, and Set cubes make up what appears to be a slight majority of CubeCobra’s volume, and we wanted to represent curator’s unrestricted preferences.

Infographic: MTG Cube’s Most Popular Card by Year

1993	Lightning Bolt
1994	Chain Lightning
1995	Brainstorm
1996	Force of Will
1997	Wasteland
1998	Mana Leak
1999	Mother of Runes
2000	Opt
2001	Firebolt
2002	Allied Fetch Lands
2003	Carrion Feeder
2004	Eternal Witness
2005	Shock Lands
2006	Shock Lands
2007	Thoughtseize
2008	Vendilion Clique
2009	Enemy Fetch Lands
2010	Preordain
2011	Snapcaster Mage
2012	Faithless Looting
2013	Young Pyromancer
2014	Monastery Swiftspear
2015	Monastery Mentor
2016	Tireless Tracker
2017	Abrade
2018	Retrofitter Foundry
2019	Bonecrusher Giant
2020	Skyclave Apparition
2021	Ignoble Hierarch
2022	Boseiju, Who Endures
2023	Atraxa, Grand Unifier
Magic: the Gathering’s Most-Cubed Cards by Year

If you’re active in the Cube community, whether on Discord, on the new Cube sub-Reddit, or, if you prefer old-school styled Internet chat, on the excellent Riptide Lab forum, none of these are particularly surprising, except perhaps Retrofitter Foundry, a card that was, until a few years ago, considered a “hidden gem” among Cube curators.

Lightning Bolt, from the game’s first expansion, tops the list in more than one way, seeing a higher play rate than even the fetch or shock lands with 93% participation in the 120 cubes studied here. Excluding this year’s result, which is liable to change (and also reflects many Cube curators’ penchant for being a set or so behind in updating their lists), the lowest-performing card on the list is Opt, a card that I was surprised was as high as it was, considering the great diversity of cantrips in the long history of Magic.

YearTop CardExpansionPlay Rate
1993Lightning BoltLEA93%
1994Chain LightningLEG78%
1996Force of WillALL65%
1998Mana LeakSTH86%
1999Mother of RunesULG75%
2002Allied Fetch LandsONS93%
2003Carrion FeederSCG50%
2004Eternal Witness5DN76%
2005Shock LandsRAV90%
2006Shock LandsGPT90%
2008Vendilion CliqueMOR81%
2009Enemy Fetch LandsZEN93%
2011Snapcaster MageISD90%
2012Faithless LootingDKA87%
2013Young PyromancerM1484%
2014Monastery SwiftspearKTK79%
2015Monastery MentorFRF74%
2016Tireless TrackerSOI87%
2018Retrofitter FoundryC1866%
2019Bonecrusher GiantELD83%
2020Skyclave ApparitionZNR82%
2021Ignoble HierarchMH284%
2022Boseiju, Who EnduresNEO71%
2023Atraxa, Grand UnifierONE41%
Full table of results of Cube’s most-played cards from each year

We’ve got more Cube analysis coming in the next few weeks and new Magic: the Gathering infographics and analysis every week, so if you’ve enjoyed this article, please sign up for our newsletter to find out first and make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and now, Threads!!

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