Searching for a Reasonable Way to Print a Standalone Cube Product

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Let's be frank: that-which-must-not-be-named hinders Wizards of the Coast from printing a really great standalone Cube product. It's a bummer, because Cube is a fantastic format that many casual players would love, but it is also one of the most time- and money- and knowledge-demanding formats around.

To play Cube, you must either: 1) Know someone with a cube, 2) Build your own cube, or 3) Play on MTGO. All three of these options are far outside the realm of likely or even reasonable for casual players. And when I say casual, I'm not talking about Commander players or FNM regulars—that's actually a pretty high commitment level.

I'm talking about the players who buy three or four packs of each new set, who maybe have been to a prerelease or two. The silent majority, I believe WOTC calls them. For these players, Cube would be a great thing for a game night with a few friends, even if all the rules weren't understood with exact precision. But most of the players at this commitment level will never even hear of the format, which is sad.


Of course, even if the Reserved List didn't exist, printing a 600-card standalone product with Power—and, oh yes, I'm aiming high and assuming we'll be printing a version of the MTGO Holiday Cube here—would require a huge, gigantic, enormous MSRP. The Reserved List isn't the only thing keeping WOTC from printing old cards to death: the long-lasting future of the game is also in the company's best interest, after all.

A couple standalone sets of the past found a way to print awesome cards without injecting them into the tournament-legal pool. We had Collector's Edition, which was a standalone set of Alpha/Beta but with a special back and square corners. The square corners came before the omnipresence of sleeved decks, but now that most everyone sleeves up, Collector's Edition cards are highly valued both for their collectibility and usefulness as proxies:


Funny enough, that's about what a real Black Lotus cost when I started playing, which I thought was insane at the time. Ah, the inexperience of youth.

The other way WOTC has printed standalone products free of tournament-legal cards are the old World Champion decks. These were exact copies of some of the top decks from Worlds each year, but with different backs and gold borders (meaning the cards were not tournament-legal). Like Collector's Edition cards, these still hold value today due to their usefulness as proxies.


The thing about these cards is that for non-tournament players who sleeve their decks, these versions are as good as the real thing. On Blogatog, Mark Rosewater often states that the World Champion decks were discontinued because they didn't sell well enough (which is crazy, because I would love to have a copy of each one for my collection, and I suspect I'm not alone. I'm also all too happy to pick up gold-bordered cards for my cube). I have a feeling these would sell just fine today, but I could see WOTC's legal team being concerned that they "circumvent the spirit of the Reserved List," a phrase often invoked by WOTC staff.

So here's what you do: make the cards ten or fifteen percent larger. Make them impossible to play with other Magic cards, and all of a sudden, their only use will be in this standalone set. You could make the cards a little smaller, which might be better for kids and players of smaller stature, but then it would be all too easy to slip them in front of basic lands in sleeves, and you've got the proxying issue again. Making them larger means players would need to mutilate them to use them as proxies, which is much less appealing.

The biggest weakness to this strategy would be if WOTC printed a new version of the product every year or two. You'd be creating two types of players: big cards and normal cards. This type of product should be a one-of, or maybe something revisited every five years or so. Printing big cards too frequently might split the customerbase, and that's absolutely not what WOTC wants.

Even if it was super infrequent, players could buy multiple sets and build sweet Legacy or Vintage decks from all the staples in these. You'd have the two-types-of-players problem, but is WOTC really going to claim that players buying four copies of an inevitably high-priced set for casual play is a bad thing? Tournament players and those with established cubes will still need real cards (or correctly sized proxies), so presumably this should not crash the market on Reserved List staples nor ruin sales of traditional Magic cards.

Let's talk price. Assuming WOTC put in the testing and released a finely tuned powered cube, how much would you be willing to pay for it? I think $200 is reasonable, and would still probably clamor to buy it at $300. Even $400 would tempt me—seriously. The price will seem high to kitchen-table players, but once they understand what the product is and what it contains, I think even they will be on board: "It's the last Magic set we ever have to buy!"

Of course, the possibility of this mentality could be the biggest problem with the product, but if these are the same players that are only spending $20 a set right now, getting a few hundred all at once seems like a fine plan from WOTC's perspective. And if they opt out, they simply continue buying a few packs every set.

What do you think? Any fatal flaws I didn't discuss, or are the weaknesses I did discuss too problematic to truly consider this idea? Sound off below.

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Danny Brown

Danny is a Cube enthusiast and the former Director of Content for Quiet Speculation.

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Posted in Cube, FreeTagged

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12 thoughts on “Searching for a Reasonable Way to Print a Standalone Cube Product

  1. Just print them gold border regular size, problem solved. The collectors Ed and world champ decks were never meant to have any resale value and it would have zero impact on value of tournament staples.

    I doubt the value proposition of selling a $200+ product to casual gamers though. Only fairly hard core table top gamers will fork over $70+ for higher end board games. It wouldn’t even need to be nearly that expensive. Many packaged card games came sell with several hundred cards for $40-50 and still make tons of money.

    1. One of the problems here is that a lot of people like to alter cards already.

      I know a few people that got bargain bin power because it’s in horrible shape, paid a good alterer to clean it up and then it’s suddenly both sleeve-playable and looks great.

      Gold bordered cards without any other meaningful difference opens up this realm of possibility in a big way.

      …and the answer to the problem is *not* to disallow alters.

  2. The issue is the value of the cards that are being reprinted, and unfortunately, even printing a non-tournament legal Black Lotus will reduce the value of every other Black Lotus in existence.

    A lot of what drives Vintage is the resale quality of the decks. While the initial investment in your Power Nine is massive, those cards hold their value exceptionally well. Since most Vintage tournaments offer significant prizes (often Power Nine cards in and of themselves), you can reasonably pour out the initial investment, play in a few Vintage tournaments, win one for a Mox Emerald, and then sell the original Vintage deck. If you’re heavy into the Vintage scene, you can even just keep the deck and sell the proceeds to recoup your cost.

    Reprinting these cards destroys that, because even a 1% drop in the value of these cards is a loss of a hundred dollars or more for serious Vintage players. That’s the real issue. The issue of forging cards in tournaments is something that is already a much bigger issue with photo-quality printing.

    As for the possibility of a Cube product, I would prefer to see something outside of the standard Cube box. While powered Cubes are fun, they’re also the first Cube anyone makes, because Black Lotuses. Instead, I would like to see a Cube product which combines the Ravnica or Mirrodin blocks, or picks a number of blocks throughout history and mashes them together, reprinting a number of the cards that could use a reprint, while providing a standalone experience different than most.

    Why not a Cube centered around their returning mechanics? Odyssey and Innistrad have a tie with Flashback, Onslaught and Khans have a tie in Morph. A selection of a couple thousand cards is enough to make a viable Cube, and presents a product which ties into Magic’s greatest untapped resource: It’s history.

    1. Given that the price of vintage staples has done nothing but climb, it’s not fair to say that a loss of a small percentage on a card equals a loss for the player.

      First, unless you’re actually selling the cards, it’s not a loss in potential revenue gained — and most people hold onto their power.

      Second, if you bought a random mox a year ago, it’s probably worth close to 2x what you paid. Even if that mox “loses” 10% of its current value, you’re still coming out way ahead of the game. This sort of “loss” that you’re speaking of only affects people that are buying and flipping in relatively short periods of time.

      We, as a community, have a really nasty habit of assigning a value to a card the max that card may have been able to sell for at any given point in time and considering anything below that “a loss”. It’s a really foolish way to approach MTG finance IMO.

  3. Why not just print a supplemental product that’s a cube of Modern-legal cards?

    Kill two birds with one stone by creating a sweet supplemental product and also injecting more cards into Modern’s supply.

  4. I believe this is the perfect way for WOTC to “get around” the Reserved List. I have given this a little thought over the last year or so and feel that either of the suggestions you made would be viable. However, instead of making a ready made Cube, these would be sold in booster packs. Why would WOTC want to sell a single high priced retail item only once to any potential customer when they could sell them packs from now till the end of days? Maybe some starter type boxes to get an initial set going (with each highlighting a different archetype)?

    As far as what it would do to the value of cards on the reserved list, I actually think it would have far less impact than everyone’s gut reaction tells them. Twenty plus years means that we have multiple generations invested in Magic. While the original Power 9 and some of the rest of the reserved list definitely have value because of play value; don’t most of those same cards hold their value because of collectibility and nostalgia? Sure, there may be a short term drop, but I don’t think it would tank the whole market.

  5. Cube is a format oriented more at game designers than players. This makes it more of a rogue format that actually competes with the goals of the original game designers (except when users must pay to play–another reason that I will despise MTGO until they allow for cube designers to post their own cubes online and let anyone draft them for free). While a “cube arsenal” is a novel idea, they will still make far more money when each person is buying their own “arsenal”, deck, or paying to play. A great reason to continue backing commander.

    Cube is a great format, and a bad investment for WOTC. The only supplemental cube products we will ever get are the supplemental reprint sets that come out during summer and winter. Furthermore, as a cube designer, I don’t care if I have the real card, and I favor proxy artists when they can deliver excellent renditions of great cube cards. It just makes my building materials that much cheaper. The overlap of expensive cards and cube is purely coincidental, as expensive cards tend to overlap with several formats (furthermore, many expensive cards are bad in cube, and some of these are power 9). Cube is and should be the cheapest format to play.

  6. Yeah. This idea assumes the target audience for cube is kitchen players (it isn’t). It is the high per capita FNM+ level players who see 2-300 bucks for cube as a bargain. The problem is, this product is SO cannibalistic of their existing products (draft especially) that it isn’t the RL keeping a cube look alike off the table. It is good business.

  7. There is a lot of factors to consider- a reprint product that is not tournament legal, is expensive and/or doesn’t have P9 and dual reprints won’t sell. Add in the sweet reprints and bring the cost down to where most magic players could buy it – then you have something like MMA or VMA online. I think random cube packs in which the cards or gold or silver bordered in this style with limited distribution (but much more than MMA ) would be the way to go. This way not everyone gets all the cards in one shot and you don’t cannabilize your future products. 24 in a box like MMA. Would be enough cards in the cube that rarely would you have duplicates. You could shift the P9 to ultra rare. Add random full art foils. Could be tourney legal for one FNM / GP if they wanted.

    1. I like the random full art foils idea. Also, making them “tournament playable” for one event seems like a nice idea. I am also of a like mind that using the ultra rare for P9 and maybe duals could be a way to go. I have also contemplated if maybe it is the future of Modern Masters. Print past Mythics as “Ultra” rare while introducing newer reprints in each set. They might also decide they can introduce some of the Commander or supplemental products such as Conspiracy into the Modern Masters products as well.

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