Format for Your Favorite Cards – Introducing The Cube

Hello SixPrizes community,

pokemon-paradijs.comMy name is Mark and, to begin, I have a few questions for you guys. Have you ever experienced a stale game in the Modified format? Have you ever been frustrated seeing the same deck being spammed at every tournament? Do you take pride in your deck-building skills? Have you ever thought about card combinations that just missed out because of rotations (i.e. Gyarados SF with Ultra Ball would be more efficient)?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, I encourage you to try what the Pokémon community dares not speak of: Alternative Format. From my experiences at Leagues and tournaments, simply asking others how they feel about alternative formats has left me scoffed at and labeled as an outcast for having such different views.

For those readers who are unaware, alternative format, in its simplest terms, refers to any manner in which you play Pokémon TCG that is not the Modified Constructed format that you know from tournaments. To name a few popular examples, there’s Sealed (which is what you played if you’ve ever participated in a pre-release event), Booster Draft (similar to Sealed except for the drafting element), and Unlimited Constructed (same rules as Modified Constructed except you may use cards from rotated sets). There are many more and I have a specific kind of alternative format in mind that I will reveal shortly.

I have yet to fully comprehend why alternative format is so feared and detested. I would agree, without hesitation, that there can be some major differences between Modified Constructed and alternative formats, but many alternative formats share similar qualities that players find enjoyable. I expect that some readers will not be convinced to try alternative formats, but I encourage those readers to post/comment why after reading this article as I will cover the reasons I have heard before.

en.wikipedia.orgThe alternative format I would like to present is the Cube. You may be familiar with the Cube from other articles or if you play Magic. The Cube is a format designed to incorporate a few hundred of your most favorite or strongest cards ever printed and construct a deck based on those cards using a draft. Typically, Cube drafts utilize a feature called “singleton,” meaning there is only one single copy of a card in the draft, except for basic Energy. Pokémon are also an exception to the rule in a way; the draft may contain two different cards with the same Pokémon name (i.e. Shaymin from Unleashed and Shaymin from Platinum).

The rules for my personal Cube are quite similar to Modified’s structure. I did not want to abandon the foundation that other players are already familiar with; trying to fill a new Cube player’s head with new rules in a new format is not very inviting. The rules that are different are as follows:

Owner’s names on Pokémon are ignored only for the purposes of evolution (i.e. Scizor may evolve from Rocket’s Scyther. Dragonite may evolve from Dark Dragonair. If need be noted, Gabite cannot evolve into Garchomp C).

All cards are played as their text reads, ignoring any errata. The purpose for this is to exploit a card’s strength. An example: Base Set Bill remains to be a Trainer even though it was reprinted as a Supporter.

pokemon-paradijs.comPokémon Powers and Poké-Powers are treated as being synonymous as the two titles are both labeled “Powers.” (This means that if a card refers to any Pokémon with a Poké-Power, this will also refer to any Pokémon with a Pokémon Power and vice versa). Essentially, the mechanics are separated by Powers, Bodies, and Abilities. *Note: I’m aware of the differences between Powers, Bodies, Abilities, and static versus activated, but that deserves its own article.

Aside from those three rules, the rest are the same that you are already familiar with; you still use a sixty card deck, 6 Prizes, seven card hand, and BW rules for Trainers/Supporters on first turn. Another note that may perk your curiosity, there are no banned cards/combos nor power errata (errata that causes Prime cards to be treated like Pokémon-EX, etc.). If you are in any way discouraged from the Cube because of these rules, I insist that you adapt the rules you dislike to your own preference; after all, this is just a game for fun, so you are allowed to change things.

The previously noted rules are rarely the determining factors for not wanting to play the Cube; instead, the reasons are, typically, the singleton and drafting aspects. There’s no need to be frightened or deterred by these features.

Singleton is the most popular reason I hear for Cube-hating because the (ill-conceived) perception is that the feature abandons consistency. I roll my eyes at this judgement every time and explain the following: the format does not forsake consistency, but rather changes the way you look at consistency which is a fantastic way to improve your deck building skills.

Some players hold the misconception that consistency lies in maximizing the amount of cards such that you should have four Oddish, four Rare Candy, and four Vileplume in your deck. This thought process is wrong. The numbers are merely a result of your deck’s strategy based on your intentions for each turn. In other words, the deck should have specific goals for each turn and you should adjust the total for each card to maximize the probability of those goals. Let’s look at an example from the Cube:

pokemon-paradijs.comLet’s say one goal of the deck we want to build is to play Vileplume on turn 2, so let’s look at our options considering the so-called “limitations” of singleton. We could draft Spiritomb AR and use its Darkness Grace attack. We could use Chatot G SV or Farfetch’d SF to search out your Rare Candy or Pokémon Breeder on your first turn and evolve on the second turn. You could use Dark Dragonair or a Ball/Supporter engine to find your Evolutions. You could even use a combination of all of these techniques. The “limitations” are no more (if not less) existent than that of Modified format.

Drafting is another common excuse for passing on the Cube. I am empathetic with this justification because drafting does require patience, strategy, and some prior knowledge of the cards in the draft. However, if you are already playing Pokémon TCG, you must enjoy strategy, so learning drafting techniques will not be difficult. Learning the cards in the Cube is not difficult either, but may take a few drafts until you are well acquainted with the specific cards. As for patience, you may not have it and decide that the only fun is in the card battling, not the drafting.

Some players (those who copy decklists from the internet) may be frustrated by deck building and, thus, do not want to draft. If you want to improve your deck building skills, this is great practice and practice is the method for improvement. Every time you draft you will be presented with a new combination of cards and you will have to create a strategy with the right balance of those cards.

The Cube is a fun and progressive alternative format. I would love to talk more about the Cube and offer my card list for my Cube if there is enough interest among the SixPrizes community. I’m also interested in creating a small blog with a less formal presentation provided the same circumstances. Let me know what you think.

Reader Interactions

13 replies

  1. Mark Hanson

    “I have yet to fully comprehend why alternative format is so feared and detested.”

    1. It’s mainly because people have to research and invest in cards they don’t own to be competitive. And then to further that, you have to have friends also willing to play the format. And to top it all off…
    2. Even if you get 3-4 friends to play with you, you’ll get bored with it eventually unless more people join in (which they often don’t because of reason 1).

    I’ve actually got a commander-style format in the works, which hopefully can actually pick up because it’s like Palace Rules in that it’s an HS-on format, but without any errata etc… So it’s much more approachable. It won’t see much support, but I think you just have to resign yourself to that when you promote an alternative format.

    • Matthew Chin  → Mark

      You’re saying that a format where all of the cards are right in front of you is less accessible than a set of rules you need to go home and build a deck for?

      • Lee Caffee  → Matthew

        No, he is saying that if you want to maximize your deck and play it to its fullest potential (which is VAST in your format) you have to do some serious research and nitpicking in the deep, dark mazy vaults of old Pokemon sets. Obviously if you only use the cards you have readily available, this is not the case, but then you are not deck-building to your greatest ability and likely will get stomped by someone in the format who HAS taken the time to do so. I think this is one of the greatest deterrents to people from playing unlimited formats.

        I like the format. I personally have six decks right now from first generation cards that get played a LOT by me, friends, and total strangers so I understand the love of non-modified play.

        • Mark Smith  → Lee

          There’s so much to talk about in regards to the drafting process that the subject deserves its own article. I wanted to gather players’ thoughts before the next article where I’ll go in depth about drafting, card list, and other questions. I’ll try to answer briefly without writing a whole article.
          Usually, we draft with two people, but when the opportunity arises, the Cube can easily allow for more players. Depending on the number of players decides which style of drafting we use. There are about 360 cards in the Cube. Every card is drafted.
          If you have a more specific question, don’t hesitate to ask. I intend to write another article soon that will follow up this introduction of the Cube.

    • Mark Smith  → Mark

      Thanks, Crawdaunt, for the response. I have to agree that researching and investing in old cards can be discouraging for alternative format, especially Unlimited Constructed. However, with the Cube, drafting and building your deck does not require those obligations for all the participants. Only the person who owns the cards in the Cube would be responsible for the research/investment because he decides what cards should be in the Cube. Another option is for a group of friends to pool their cards together and avoid expensive purchases.
      To your second point, Cube has never been boring for me. Frankly, that’s the point of Cube. Every game will be different because each player will draft different cards every time and, ultimately, be forced to build a different deck. As for finding players to join in the fun, all it takes is some open-minded players. If the stigma of alternative formats can be erased, I think people should find the Cube to be a really fun format.
      I encourage you to work on your alternative format too. Maybe write an article about it and see if people are interested.

      • Mark Hanson  → Mark

        Haha, yeah. I more just meant that it’s not some great mystery. Card games live and die on their participants. I remember one time I tried to get all my friends into yu-yu hakusho in grade school. That… never worked.

        It’s the same with alternative formats. What reason does anyone have to play them? Like I said, I’ve actually got my own alternative format in the works, in the spirit of Palace Rules actually. But I kinda know that no one will actually bother to play it, since there’s a real format everyone plays already established.

        Good luck promoting cube drafts! They’re fun for sure! I just don’t know if I’ll ever think of them as more than a “well that was fun for every once in a while” kind of thing.

  2. Katie Bolte

    Personally, I run more Unlimited decks then Modified decks. I honestly find alternative formats to be a lot more fun then Modified. There are just so many different combos you can use, like the Gyarados/Ultra Ball you mentioned.
    Also, I know that a lot of players have been in the game for years now, and so they probably still own the older decks/cards that rotated out. In an alternative format, those cards and decks can still be used, which I think is pretty fun. Personally I miss DialgaChomp :p

  3. Adam Capriola

    Random idea for the cube since I’ve been playing the card game Dominion a little bit… from what I understand each cube is basically a kind of set in stone list of cards, right? Do you think it would be possible to create pods of cards that could make up a cube? So like maybe you have 20 pods and you randomly pick 10 of them each time you want to play a cube.

    I don’t know if that would screw up the balance, but it might be a neat idea to keep things interesting. You could introduce new pods to the cube to vary it up.

  4. Matt Dorcas

    I have been working on developing a Pokemon Cube (my partner is a huge fan of Cube in MTG, and has built one for him and his pals to play with, which inspired my interest in creating Cube for Pokemon) for some time now. The biggest problem I am finding in a draft with so many cards is the evolution lines. Generally we have been drafting with 10 Packs of Cube cards per person. This is leading to most decks being very basic-heavy as getting all the necessary cards to complete evolution lines (even using ignored card names) has been extremely difficult. We are currently exploring two possible solutions to this: The first is removing cards needed solely for evolution from the cube. Basic and stage 1 cards that are actually useful (eelektrik for example) are still shuffled into the packs, but cards that really are only there to evolve and nothing else are not. After the initial draft players are allowed to look through a binder containing pre evolution cards for all cards in the cube and take what they need (in this situation the pre evolutions are taken from the same set as the fully evolved form. If any pre evolution is deemed playable on its own it is in the cube. In this situation we reduce the number of packs to 7 (placing 11 in a pack). They other is making all Pokemon Basic. I’m not overly thrilled with that, because it removes a major part of the game, as well as any cards that effect evolution, but it does work. In this situation we reduce the number of packs to 5.

    I am excited to see other players interested in cube and plan on bringing my full constructed cube to Worlds next year to try in out with others.

  5. Jem Perks

    Nice to see some more alternate format articles on the front page, well done! The 150 tournament this weekend went quite well, I hope you have the same success with your Cube. Might have to dig mine out again, my only warning is make sure you know the people you Cube draft with, I had a few nice cards disappear drafting at our local game shop :/

  6. Herp Derp

    If you post your list for the cube to SixPrizes, I will go on a street corner and have a big sign that says “FREE HUGS”.

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