Cube, known frequently as “the best way to play Magic”, is a customizable draft experience, maintained by one or more curators to deliver a specific limited experience to the playgroup. As an informal “format”, there aren’t any specific guidelines about what a cube should be, how many cards need to be included, etc. That said, in the 15 years that the format’s been popular among the Magic player base, a meta has formed, and nowhere is this meta easier to understand than exploring the gold sections of Cubes.
(If you’re looking to learn more about Cube in general, I cannot recommend the Lucky Paper Cube resource page highly enough — the team there does a great job making the format more accessible and easy to engage with!)
To maintain a sense of color balance (by no means important but a frequent goal , most Cube curators will make each of the two-color sections of their cube lists equal in size, limiting the available “slots” based on the gameplay they want to provide. In the community, the generally rule-of-thumb seems to make room for 1 card per “guild” for every 100 cards in the Cube overall, rounded up. The analysis conducted in this article backs up this standard within the sample perfectly.
So with precious few slots, which cards do Cube curators pick the most for each color pair? With 291 blue-and-white cards (known as Azorius in Magic parlance) printed over the game’s 30-year history, how do you narrow that down to only a handful, representing everything you want out of a draft experience?
Here’s what we found:
In many ways, these results represent how much the Cube community meta has been built around the Magic Online Vintage Cube, which has been rightfully credited with spreading awareness and popularity for the format. The top 4 most-played cards on our list are all included in the latest edition of the MODO 540 list, with only Urza, Lord Protector as a standout: the Brothers’ War card only shows up in 3 of the 120 Cubes in our sample, making it quite the iconoclastic pick.
Fractured Identity and Teferi, Time Raveler are certainly the strongest of the bunch here: they’re two of the only gold cards included in LSV’s list of the Top 50 Cards for Cube, which approaches Cube from a power-optimized point-of-view.
If those are the “strongest” cards in the color pair, then why is Teferi, Hero of Dominaria the most-cubed card on the list? Simply, most cube curators are not trying to maximize the raw power of every card in their Cube lists. Teferi’s War of the Spark iteration is often seen as contributing to poor gameplay due to its static effect shutting off much of the back-and-forth interaction beloved by so many Magic players. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be ignored by curators — it has a great history in constructed formats and lockdown effects are fun for many other players — but its inclusion rate will suffer for being a more polarizing card.
What’s also represented in the data are the great diversity in Azorius sections. The typical cube analyzed is between 360-500 cards, with four to five “Azorius” slots accordingly. With only two cards represented in more than half of Cubes, the rest of peoples’ white-blue lists have quite a few notable candidates. Curators that are pushing for a more controlling strategy in the color-pair opt for Supreme Verdict or Dream Trawler, while those interested in more tempo-oriented play can grab Spell Queller or Reflector Mage. Blink strategies are popular as well, with Soulherder and Yorion, Sky Nomad as top choices. While not represented in the infographic, the next white-blue choice is one of my own recent favorites, Tameshi, Reality Architect, a card that makes an archetype all by itself.
Examining unfiltered numbers from CubeCobra regarding the most popular Azorius cards to Cube with, one can quickly understand how strongly rarity-restricted cubes weigh on the platform. Soulherder takes the top spot, jumping up from 4th place on the curated list, while Momentary Blink rounds out the top 5 while hardly charting in our analysis.
Cloudblazer barely misses the top 10 when looking at our sample, but adding rarity-restricted cubes into the mix makes it competitive with Teferi, Time Raveler. Geist of Saint Traft was a founding member of my own Cube and I’ve been hesitant to cut it myself, but its long been considered outclassed with the decade plus of creatures printed since. Its high ranking on the unfiltered list can mostly be attributed to Cubes that have not seen an update in years.
Another longtime Cube favorite that missed the cut is Sphinx’s Revelation, with only 9 cubes still opting for the X spell in 2023. This is less surprising with the improvement in draw spells since the card was first printed, particularly in mono-blue cards that don’t compete quite as hard for the elusive guild section.
To best understand what Cube curators are picking in 2023 for their White-Blue sections, we explored the 500 most popular cubes on CubeCobra, the top website for organizing one’s Cube. As with our analysis of the Most Popular Cube Card by Year, we identified 120 of those cubes that were 1) active, having been updated in 2023; 2) non-restricted, or cubes that did not exclude cards based on elements such as rarity, expansion, flavor, or constructed legality; and 3) intended for a traditional 8-person draft with 1 vs 1 games.
From that list of Cubes, to define what was considered “Azorius” or “White-Blue”, we used the Commander-based “color identity” definition as a starting place. Because our research proved out that they’re not selected at the expense of other multicolored cards, we excluded dual lands and mana rocks like Azorius Signet and Talisman of Progress from the analysis. While the choices of dual lands are of some interest, on a guild-by-guild basis, there’s not enough differentiation to explore it in this series of articles.
One challenge faced was how players chose to categorize gold cards. While most of the 120 cubes in our study were consistent with one another in how they defined their guild sections, it was not rare to see hybrid cards or those with off-color effects/flashback sorted not strictly by color identity, but rather by typical use case. Ultimately, we approached cards by our standards rather than those used by each individual cube curator, which represents the Cube Cobra community in aggregate better than any other method attempted.
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|Card||Rank||Cube Count||Run Rate|
|Teferi, Hero of Dominaria||1||66||55%|
|Teferi, Time Raveler||3||52||43%|
|Yorion, Sky Nomad||7||25||21%|
|Tameshi, Reality Architect||10||10||8%|