A Hierarchy of Pimp (Part 1)
In honor of considerations highlighted in discussions, and exemplified in Thea Steele’s Art Fight series (search for her other articles to find more), I’ve decided to embark into the depths of what makes a particular card “pimp” for cubes, how they can be valued and appreciated, and why I’ve selected the specific choices for my own pauper cube.
Without too much fanfare I’d like to step into a relative hot-button topic among cube enthusiasts: to go foreign or to stay in native language?
The [INSERT LANGUAGE] Connection
Foreign cards can be very cool. Japanese versions of many staple cards fetch a premium since, for some market-based reason, they are always in demand. If foil, the price can be utterly absurd. Korean cards, from when they were printed, are similarly situated. If you’re looking for black bordered versions of cards, especially those only printed in the original base sets, then foreign options may be more readily available than English counterparts.
In sum: most players intuitively understand that foreign cards are different, difficult to acquire, and make something potentially repetitive seem more exotic and interesting.
But there is a problem with foreign cards that is both obviously apparent and all-too-often easily dismissed: they are in another language.
Throwing the Book
At one time only those who were at the peak, or interested and actively pursing said peak, of Magic were cubing. It was an exclusive club formed and spread by the most exclusive members of the pro elite. To be cubing was to be in and everyone else just looked in from the outside. For these types, card memorization and recollection tied to artwork and seeing foreign printing of cards was common, or at least not unexpected thanks to their work on the Pro Tour.
However, this time of exclusivity has passed. Cubing is much more popular and known. Derivatives and specialized versions of cubes have been created, hashed, rehashed, and hacked. In short: the masses have their dirty, grimy hands all over it.
And, for obvious personal reasons, I think this is great.
For those new, newer, newest, returning, or just plain excited about the game cube can be a window into everything awesome imaginable. If you apply the perspective of a cube being a slice of some of the very best that Magic has available to offer it becomes obvious that a cube can be an excellent way to share it. It’s like a scrapbook that you use to create new and exciting memories all your own from the same pictures and styles others are providing.
And for those who do not have deep card imagery knowledge, a developed mental database of historical cards, or is even aware of the dramatic changes in the evolution of the rules over the history of the game, seeing foreign cards can be a bewildering experience. The stutter-step of “What’s this do?” is not a pleasant staccato when you’re looking to draft and game a few times within two hours. The misreads and lack of omnipresent, impartial judges to ensure at least the current rules text is available can be difficult to manage.
Yes, there are solutions (have a slip of paper behind the card in the sleeve to ensure that the rules text is readily available; have a binder of card images so players can look up cards at their leisure, etc.) but the flow and comfort players have in working in cards in their own language, especially fresher players, is not something to be discarded so easily.
The ultimate decision is up to you, however I actively removed the foreign cards from my cube. The simplicity and cleanliness of every card being self-sufficient for reading is something that appeals to me. The players I round up are often veterans who have fallen in and away from the game multiple times or newer players who haven’t really seen everything yet; catering to their needs makes everyone happier.
While foreign and foil foreign are always attractive, I choose the simplistic essence to follow through.