Q&A with Joshua Therrien, conducted by John McCurdy
Hello again planeswalkers! This week we’re taking the time to spotlight one of the awesome Cubes of the Republic: Joshua Therrien’s famous Chaos Cube!
If you read this and think to yourself, “Gosh, I’d really like to take part in that particular kind of crazy,” you’re in luck! Josh will be busting out the Chaos Cube for the first night of DragonCon, August 29! Check in on the People’s Republic Facebook page and comment on Josh’s post to get the full details, and enjoy some spellslinging madness during Atlanta’s favorite festival!
John McCurdy: Describe your Cube in five words.
Joshua Therrien: I only need one: chaos.
JM: When you set out to build your Cube, what were you most motivated by - capturing a certain flavor with all of the cards, recreating a favorite Limited format, creating a wholly new Limited experience, adhering to a set of stipulations to foster unique interactions or something else entirely?
JT: To be perfectly honest, the Chaos Cube was originally my friend Steve Albertson's idea and project. Initially, it was a fun way to play with some underutilized and entertaining flavor cards for fun multiplayer games. When he moved to Los Angeles, I missed it so much and remembered how great it was to give him feedback on that I figured there was a vacuum for me to make one myself.
The heart of it is a lot of cards that cause effects at random, as well as political cards that give opponents advantages. I also leave just a handful of generic "good" cards in there, since having a somewhat normal boardstate makes it feel more like Magic before the craziness starts. The point is to have an absurdly unpredictable and hilarious Draft and brawl with friends.
JM: Speaking of stipulations, how did you go about selecting cards for your Cube? Did you use a strict set of rules for what could and could not be included, or did you keep it open and figure it out as you went? And how about the size (total number of cards) of your Cube?
JT: I try to keep the colors and color combos somewhat balanced and try to give each single-color spells with the full range of casting costs. That can be easier said than done, because by far and away, red and blue have the MOST chaotic effects. The bar for a red card to be Cube-worthy is much higher than green or white.
I also include a ton of easily available fixing. The three- to five-color decks are just more unpredictable, and since some of the crazier creatures are in this range, I really want to encourage people to get out of their "two colors, maybe splash a third" mindset.
JM: Have many set archetypes emerged in draft and gameplay of your Cube, and if so, what are they? Are they what you intended to create or a surprise to you?
JT: There are a few themes that have been worked in, some by design and some by accident. There's a Nekuzar/Spiteful Visions deck in there that says "let’s end this game REALLY quickly." Izzet has a Melek "blast everyone with instant and sorceries" creation. Gruul/Naya has a theme of "stop instants and sorceries from being played by anyone" countering that.
There's a deck entirely based on Krark's Thumb and flipping coins. There's a four-color “Group Hug” deck that tries to keep you off the radar. There’s a Curse deck where you can heavily incentivize everyone to beat on one specific opponent. I guess I don't go for themes as much as go with certain cards when I realize they set up a certain effect. Of course, it’s only fun if you have supporting cards to deliver the payoff/punchline, so I try to make sure there are a few options for that.
JM: What’s your favorite memory involving your Cube? It could be finding the last card you needed, a remarkable Draft deck that came together, a particular play in a game, etc.
JT: There was a game where I witnessed in another pod that practically broke Magic. I know there are judges smart enough to work out the resolution to this, but we were playing at midnight after several beers. With Hive Mind in play, someone played Cruel Entertainment in a six-player game. That would have been confusing enough, but then someone cast Redirect on top of it. So everyone got to pick two players to take each other’s turns - then everyone got to decide how to Redirect those decisions?
I've never seen a scenario where, between a bunch of players, nobody can figure out how to methodically dissect the rules and come up with an answer. I wasn't playing in it, but just seeing it happen brought tears of pride to my eyes.
JM: Let’s talk practicals - how did you acquire the cards for your Cube? Are they only ones you owned already, or have you been actively trading and/or buying specific cards for your Cube?
JT: Whenever a new set comes out, I take a look and determine what cards might make good candidates. Some of the "off" sets, like Battlebond, the Commander series and Conspiracy, are especially potent. If I don't open the cards myself, it’s usually pretty easy to trade - since my Cube is the only thing I really have time to collect for, I can just trade any good cards for dozens of unplayable weird cards. Junk rare boxes at gaming shops are also prime territory.
JM: More practicals - how do you go about sleeving, storing, shuffling and dealing into “packs” when Drafting/playing Sealed?
JT: All sleeved, kept in a card box with "CHAOS CUBE" crudely scrawled in sharpie in my childlike handwriting. The size and number of packs are inconsistent from draft to draft and are usually determined by debate held at a middle school level of sophistication and respect.
JM: Besides your own Cube, what other Cubes have you enjoyed playing (whether Draft or Sealed)?
JT: Oh my gosh, I love people's Cubes - they can be such expressive works of art in a weird way. Nick Hoyne's Commander Cube was super fun. It was amazing to put together an entire EDH deck on the fly like that. Back in the day, drafting the awesome white-red Human aggro combo in Carter Clayton's cube was one of my all-time favorite draft experiences. Overall, it’s so fun to get into the themes of Cubes, and I love how you are basically still seeing “Pack One Pick One”-caliber cards seven and eight cards in.