How to Wait for Friends and Influence People – Shared Discovery by Rob Wagner

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How to Wait for Friends and Influence People – Shared Discovery by Rob Wagner


So you travelled to the PTQ, paid your £39 (what is the world coming to?!), didn’t get the best pool of cards and after round 3 you’re out of the tournament. What to do now? You can carry on playing with this set of scraps to earn Planeswalker points and possibly a booster or two, but you don’t need them and aren’t that excited. Your driver for the day is 3-0 and has a sweet deck so you’re probably going to be there another 7 hours at least…

One of my favourite ways to kill time is through use of the mighty Cube. Much has been written about Cubes, it even has a site set up just to detail the basics, but the gist of it is that there’s a big stack of cards of all sorts of different colours that you can use for a variety of things. The original point of it was that you could create your own booster packs at random from your Cube and then do a regular draft.

My Cube was originally themed on “Commons and Uncommons since 8th Edition” but nowadays I get to call it “Modern Peasant”. I started playing with original Ravnica so am not completely clued up on original Mirrodin and have probably missed some cards that should likely be in my cube but by and large it’s all the best cards from the Modern era in one fun draft format.

For a cheeky peek, go here:

I’ve tried out a few cards that have been removed over time (Loxodon Warhammer, Behemoth Sledge, Signets, Karoos mostly) and have a few quirks to it such as multiple Evolving Wilds to help enable my landfall + land-type-matters creatures and to give Aggro good mana fixing that doesn’t help Control too much, plus if you draft Squadron Hawk then you immediately get D3 more to put into your deck.

One thing though is that it’s not always convenient to find 8 (well, 7 more) people to draft with so over the years I’ve played around with various ways of using the Cube to have fun without relying on a certain amount of people being present.

Mental Magic

Mental Magic is a big term that generally means playing Magic without having the proper cards in front of you (real or virtual). This might be just talking out loud, but with the Cube it tends to mean using the cards as other cards. You take a stack of shuffled cards from the Cube each, draw 7 to start the game and play Magic as normal with a couple of differences.

  • You can play a card either face down as a land which is a non-basic land (called a Utopia) with all the basic land types (Its type line would read Land – Plains Island Swamp Mountain Forest).
  • You can also play a given card as any card in Magic with that exact mana cost. 

So, you drew Delver of Secrets? Fire off an Ancestral Recall! On the draw and picked up an Evolving Wilds? Library of Alexandria may be your friend here! Once a Magic card has been used in the game you can’t use it again for the rest of the day against that person, so the 2nd and 3rd games get more interesting as you have to think more creatively.

You’ll want to talk through house rules a bit, especially when it comes to what happens to cards that go to the graveyard not from the hand or battlefield. I prefer that they just exile or are blanks (e.g. if you Thought Scour yourself but some people like spending 5 minutes coming up with every card with Dredge or Flashback on them. Another variation is to pick a format and stick to cards from it – e.g. Vintage, Legacy, Modern, Standard (less good). 

I normally like playing cards which draw another one as a replacement so I never run out of resources if possible. One of my favourite games that I’ve played, however, I wasn’t doing so well in the cards department and found myself down on cards and lands with no battlefield but my opponent was tapped out. I took the opportunity to cast a ritual effect or two, a Frantic Search and finally 4 copies of Ignite Memories. Unlike Patrick Chapin I managed to hit enough points of damage (fewer lands = higher average cmc in this format) to eke out a victory.

Type 4

There are two variations to this but it plays out similarly to Mental Magic. One is that you share a big stack of cards but have no hand to begin with, from your untap step to your next untap step you have 10 mana which can be used on anything, but you play the cards exactly as they are – i.e. this time you draw a Delver of Secrets you play it as a Delver of Secrets. If you draw a card that only makes mana or fetches lands you can cycle it for free (discard it, draw a new card) to make sure no-one gets screwed over by drawing all the lands and Rampant Growths.

The other variation is as with Mental Magic where you start with 7 in hand and can play a land as a Utopia but still play the card exactly as printed. This is my favourite way really as you have to think about what you’re making as a land. Unlike real Magic you never get manascrewed or flooded so there’s a lot of skill in maneuvering resources to get ahead. A very strong effect in this format is the ability to return your lands to your hand. Meloku, the Clouded Mirror can be absurd but with commons and uncommons even something like Fathom Seer is a 3 mana draw 4 that also leave a 1/3 body in play.

Winston Draft

Another method I want to talk about is called `Winston Draft’. Designed by Richard Garfield himself, the rules as lifted from the mothership:

  1. Each player supplies 45 cards worth of sealed product (either three booster packs or a tournament pack minus the lands).
  2. Shuffle all 90 cards together in one big deck without looking at them.
  3. Choose someone to draft first, then put the top three cards from the deck face down next to it as three new small piles of one card each.
  4. The first player looks at the first small pile. He may choose to draft that pile or not.
  5. If he drafts it, he replaces that pile with a new face-down card from the deck.
  6. If he doesn’t draft it, he puts it back, adds a new card from the deck face down, and moves on to the next pile.
  7. He looks at that pile and decides to draft it or not, replacing it with a new card if he drafts it, adding a new card to it and moving on if he doesn’t.
  8. If he doesn’t want to draft the third pile, he adds a card to it, then drafts a random card from the top of the deck.
  9. Continue until all 90 cards have been drafted. Construct 40-card decks and play.
Obviously we have to adapt that to our situation and Richard thinks that only men play Magic, but the general idea is there for you to use. This can be quite time consuming but it really helps you to focus on drafting a deck that can beat your opponent rather than simply drafting a deck. All the synergy in the world won’t help if the other person just has a match-up advantage over you (e.g. Pacifims versus a Fatty-ramp deck).

Momir-Jhoira Basic

A great fun way to pass the time and best suited to 2-players really. You split out all the 1-mana, 2-mana, 3-mana etc creatures into piles by mana cost, then another pile for the instants and another pile for the sorceries. I take out the piles of creatures that have only 1 or 2 creatures in (e.g. my 8-mana slot is only Ulamog’s Crusher). Each player then gets a deck of 60 basic lands, preferably a good mix. Each player plays as if they have the Magic Online Momir and Jhoira Avatars.

For those that don’t know what this is, you have 3 activated abilities available to you:

  • X, discard a card: Put onto the battlefield under your control a creature token of a random creature with converted mana cost X.
  • 3, discard a card: Choose up to 1 from 3 random instant cards and cast it without paying its mana cost.
  • 3, discard a card: Choose up to 1 from 3 random sorcery cards and cast it without paying its mana cost. Activate this only any time you could cast a sorcery.

This means that whenever you activate the first ability (the Momir ability) you get a token (note: not casting so can’t pay kicker etc) copy of a creature you get at random from the appropriate pile – shuffle them up and take what you find.

For the other 2 abilities (the Jhoira abilities) you shuffle up the appropriate pile and pick 3 at random. Then you can choose one of those to cast (can pay kicker etc this time). Anything that draws a couple of cards can be powerful, and early mana ramp is very useful.

If you have a Cube and haven’t tried this method then please do give it a go as it’s a blast to kill some time but will need a bit of manipulation of the cube before you get started.


How many of you out there have cubes also? Do you know any sweet ways to play that I hadn’t thought of? Thanks for reading, thanks for sharing!


@DrRobWagner on Twitter



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