Earlier this year, I Top 4'd two Khans of Tarkir sealed PTQs, and last limited season I took second and bubbled out of two different Theros PTQs.
Most players who are great at limited attribute their success to discipline--playing enough Sealed to learn a format and drafting a format enough to master it.
As for myself, discipline has never been my strong suit. As a matter of fact, I'd attribute my limited success this past year to my strong desire to goof off. My strength as a limited player was largely refined by my experience cubing.
While most players see Cubing as a way to waste time after they scrub out of an event or at their computer during the holidays, there are a lot of valuable skills that one can learn from Cubing and working on Cube design with some regularity.
As a matter of fact, just last weekend marked the first time somebody qualified for the Pro Tour via Cube drafting with the first ever MOCS Cube Sealed event! Such qualifiers will, of course, be rare, if they are even going to run gain, but just because Cubing might not take you to the Pro Tour ipso facto, there is still value to the practice.
Cubing to Hone Specific Skills
Some time ago I wrote a couple articles for QuietSpeculation and one for SCG about the Pauper Cube I designed. The list has changed quite a bit since then, but the concept has remained the same. The Pauper Cube largely emulates the feel of regular limited play, with the major difference being that you still get good cards for your deck late in packs.
The power level being on-par with most draft formats helps to improve limited playskill, and the abundance of playables serves as valuable experience when it comes time to build sealed decks.
I've done tons of heads-up Winston and Grid drafts, and all of this experience helps me see what ratios I want of removal/tricks/creatures, how to build manabases, and when it's fine to leave bombs in the sideboard. These are all areas where I see a lot of players struggle with sealed deckbuilding, and Cubing is the easiest way to develop these skills outside of the context of specific limited environments.
It's true that you'll want some experience with a set to build sealed decks effectively, but it certainly doesn't hurt to have a head start. Additionally, owning and maintaining a Cube, particularly Pauper Cube, is much cheaper than playing a bunch of sealed decks.
Cubing can help players learn a lot more than just skills pertaining to limited. With attention to design, a Cube can be designed to learn any facet of actual gameplay.
Maybe you're not the strongest combo player. Matt Kranstuber's Combo Cube can help! Several years ago the first Cube I ever played was called "Combat Cube", and every card was either a creature that could mess with combat math, a trick, or a non-creature permanent that could mess with combat math. It was really tough to play, and cards like Lashknife Barrier are a headache, but playing such a Cube is a great way to hone your ability to navigate the combat step in complicated situations.
Mono-Blue Cube is another awesome teaching tool, though, unfortunately, it would be most useful to people who find the concept most repulsive. Learning how to play permission strategies and when to cast draw spells are useful tools that would benefit a great many players. It's also a great Cube for combos that supports non-combo strategies as well.
Are There Even ANY Sealed PTQQs?
Well, not really. With over 80% of all PTQQs for the inaugural season being Standard, Sealed skills aren't as important as they were about a month ago.
That said, this will make the few Sealed PTQQs that DO happen much softer, with fewer people preparing for Sealed as a relevant format. I believe that this change majorly benefits players who Cube with regularity.
Outside of that, there's also the chance of more MOCS Cube events in the future. And add to that the fact that many of the aforementioned (and certainly a number of unmentioned) skills are transferable to constructed Magic. It's hard to imagine that playing more games could really make you worse.
So How is this Profitable?
Outside of the implication that playing more leads to playing better, which leads to winning more, there are other facets of Cubing that could somewhat fatten our wallets.
In certain groups, it's reasonably easy to find people to Cube for money, but such bets are usually pretty casual and not very lucrative. You'll mostly just be making small stakes wagers with the same people and the money won't shift much.
The real edge gained from speculators is similar to the one gained by those who keep tabs on casual Magic players and EDH enthusiasts.
Your ears are closer to the ground on more causes of demand. Just like with EDH, people want sweet foils for Cubes. Being engaged with Cubing is useful in this regard, not only because you'll be more knowledgable about which specific cards people might be looking for to "pimp" their Cubes, but actively being involved in Cubing communities will make it easier to find people who are looking for just such cards.
High end foils are much more lucrative than Standard cards, but the problem with the more expensive commodities is always the matter of finding a buyer. While many Cube owners start by building their Cubes at minimal cost, the thought will almost inevitably cross their mind that they want to make it nicer and nicer.
If you know any Cube owners or are one yourself, you've no doubt seen this in action.
Want to move that foil Brainstorm? Your options are the Eternal guy, EDH guy or Cube guy. The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale? Same story. If you have money in these commodities, I don't see a compelling reason to remove any portion of the already small group of people who would possibly want them from your list of potential buyers.
I'm by no means advocating sharking people who own Cubes, and I would hope that nobody gathered that from my writing. The implication is merely that Cube owners are generally going to be the sort of people who are interested in the finer Magic commodities, and by being ingrained in Cubing communities, it will be much easier to find buyers for pieces that can oftentimes be harder to move.
With that, I'll be making my way to GPs Denver and Omaha for the next two weekends. The formats are Standard and Modern, though I'm sure I'll be spending plenty of time Cubing inbetween.
I'm currently between JeskSligh and Boros from last week's article for Denver and am locked on Izzet Delver for Omaha. Expect tournament reports from both events and wish me luck!
@RyanOverdrive on Twitter