To create a Cube, I start by thinking about what kind of block I’d like to see in MtG.
Sometimes, Wizards of the Coast hears my thoughts — just as I was starting to sketch out a Bollywood-themed Cube, Kaladesh was announced.
But generally they don’t hear my thoughts.
My first Cube, Mele, was Hawaiian themed. I adore Hawaii, and I think its mythology would fit really well with MtG. To get started, I brainstormed general themes — volcanoes, fish, battle, ocean, etc. Then I pulled cards that fit those themes.
Then I had too many red and white cards, so I had to winnow to keep it balanced.
I tried to create an actual story for Mele, about planeswalkers battling for power, but ultimately that was too much unnecessary complication. At the moment, I don’t replay Cubes enough to make the storyline a fun part of the process.
My second Cube, Cosmic Time, was a birthday gift for my husband. Same thing — brainstormed ideas about what he likes, then found cards to fit.
While I’ve stopped creating stories, I still create art; that helps me literally visualize what I’m doing.
Number three was my first Commander Cube. It’s based on The Canterbury Tales. My idea was that the commanders were like the Pilgrims traveling to Canterbury, and the other cards their tales. I was stymied a bit because I didn’t have quite enough Commanders (I wanted 24 to choose from) that fit my theme. So I had to add a few for playability, not for the theme.
And that’s something that happens with every Cube, having to balance theme versus fun. Since the goal is to have fun with my friends, I do err on the side of fun. That said, while I do look at color balance, that’s all for now — I tend not to be as concerned with commons vs rares or creatures vs enchantments.
I came up with the idea for number four, Make or Break, while playing Commander Cube. I love cards that mess things up, and one of my friends would open each pack by saying “Okay, where are the rares?”
So I pulled cards that make something (tokens) or break something (generally, that’s cards that destroy, exile, or deal damage, but I have a few others, too, like Demonic Pact, that are just weird). Other than some blue commons to make sure the colors balanced, all of the cards are uncommon or higher, and there’s about 20 planeswalkers, too. While this Cube is mechanic-based, it still started as sort of a theme.
I have several Cubes in progress at the moment, but the one I’m actively working on is one for Halloween. I don’t want it to be all Innistrad cards, though, so I’ve been puzzling over the best way to approach it. Originally I was thinking of a Cube based on Macbeth, but now I’m toying with the idea of a Commander Cube. It’s just a bummer there’s only two possible werewolf commanders.
Ultimately, Cube creation comes down to: what do you want to play?