A Farewell to Cube Tutor
It’s not clear how we’re supposed to mourn the death of a website. Technology is intrinsically short-lived. It’s easy to take the internet, in all it’s immediacy and ever-presence, for granted, but one day you wake up and something that was always there is not anymore and, to me at least, it can cause a unique sense of loss. If you were a fan of Google Reader or Vine or one of the countless other websites that has come and gone, you too know what it feels like to have a place in your memory that you can’t return to any more.
It may seem that a website going offline is no different than throwing out an old microwave — just a dispassionate consequence of technology’s forward momentum. But a website isn’t really just some code running on a server somewhere, in the same way that a movie just some images on a reel of film, nor is a painting just some pigment applied to a canvas. A website is a tool, a resource, and a conduit for human connection. Its value is not in its lines of code, but in its impact on the community in which it operates. A well-used website going offline is not like throwing out an old microwave — it’s more like a library burning down.
As of today, November 1st, 2021, cubetutor.com has been taken permanently offline. It was the first website designed specifically for managing a cube, and for the majority of it’s eight-and-a-half years of operation, the only viable way to search, share, and draft cube lists online. For many people, designing and managing their cube is a huge labor of love, with countless hours spent poring over their list, simulating drafts, and writing up detailed explanations for their cuts and additions, documenting their evolving philosophy of the game. In fact, I think it’s a pretty safe bet that most cube designers have spent more time working on and thinking about their list alone than drafting and playing it with others.
This is where we owe Cube Tutor, and Ben, the man responsible for it, a huge debt of gratitude. I am a firm believer that the tools you have access to have a profound impact on how you process information and engage with the world. I’ve been managing my own cube for about five years, but that still makes me a relative newcomer to the format. When we had Justin Parnell on the show back in March, who has been involved with Cube for far longer than we have, he talked at length about the homogeneity of cube design in the early days. He chiefly attributed this to the relatively smaller pool of available cards, but I believe the lack of design tools is perhaps even more responsible for the perceived lack of different ways to design a cube. You obviously don’t need a purpose-built website to design a cube, but without it, the task is significantly more difficult and far fewer people took it on. Those that did had no way to see cubes designed by others — no view into the potential breadth and depth of the format.
Most Magic players engage with cube as a format is by drafting a cube, usually on Magic Online. As the first site of its kind, Cube Tutor provided an accessible alternative way to approach the game and codified the idea that a cube was a thing to be designed and shared, not just played.
If you’re a regular listener to this show, you know that we don’t spend a lot of time talking about how to spike your win percentage when drafting a cube. Anthony and I are a lot more interested in Magic as a creative outlet and a design practice — an exercise in discovering what you love about Magic, and learning how to capture that and share it with others. It’s not just that this would be practically difficult without Cube Tutor — or the other tools that have followed in its footsteps — the invention of cube management sites as a concept was a paradigm shift in how people think and talk about Cube.
It’s difficult to imagine where the Cube community would be today if not for Cube Tutor, but I’m not sure I would have ever started playing cube without it, and there are probably hundreds of others just like me. For everything I love about Cube and all the ways it’s enriched my life, I, at least partially, have Cube Tutor to thank. So thanks, Ben.
Music for this episode was adapted from Matt McInerney’s EP Mined. Thanks, Matt.
We’ll be back next week with a regular episode.
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