What is a Cube?
A Cube is a large assortment of cards (generally at least 180) that multiple people sit down to draft from. A lot of cubes are designed to be drafted with either 4 or 8 players, but its not strange for cubes to be able to support more players or be designed for just two players (Winchester Draft).
My Commander Cube:
Building Your Cube
Have a Philosophy
Every cube should have a philosophy behind it. Even if its as simple as “everyone can build generic goodstuff decks.” A philosophy can help you determine cards that don’t make the cut for your cube and lets you narrow down your choices – there are over 12,000 cards in the game and when your cube contains several hundred cards being able to eliminate cards that don’t support your philosophy can passively help you in your selection process.
One of the coolest cubes I’ve played was a powered (powered means it has cards like Black Lotus and other super powerful cards) cube where the cube only supported players to build explosive combo decks. I specifically liked the theme of a combo cube because it gave players a lot of direction – nobody was left guessing what was in the cube or if certain archetypes were possible to build.
The Good and the Bad of Archetypes
Having archetypes in your deck can give you more direction in building your cube but it can also hinder the user experience if the archetypes feel too forced – you want to find a balance that fits your playgroup if you choose to include archetypes at all.
When I say archetypes I mean different categories of cards that have a overlap of creature types, abilities, or mechanics that synergize and create more powerful decks when drafted together.
The drawbacks to archetypes are not always obvious – let’s look at sliver cards. Some slivers like Harmonic Sliver can be played in many cubes because destroying artifacts or enchantments is something a lot of decks value. Shifting sliver is a card that only a sliver tribal deck will truly benefit from.
You want there to be a balance of opportunity cost and ease of deckbuilding – people will find it annoying if too many cards in your cube cater to a very specific archetype that is difficult to build if you can’t find all the pieces.
Determine How The Cube Will Draft
Traditional limited Cubes could have 180 cards for 4 players, 360 for 8 players, or 720 for 16 players. These numbers are for each player drafting three packs of 15 cards each. Note that this will only give each player about 45 picked cards – not an amount you probably want when building multiplayer EDH-style decks.
When it comes to number of cards you should have in your commander cube I choose to have players build 50 (49 cards plus 1 commander) card decks. This way players can actually draw into their combos or synergies without feeling like they have to draft a bunch of tutor effects. It also makes the odds of you finding your mana fixing much higher.
We also need to have a commander to lead the decks we create – I choose to have two separate draft phases that happen before and in-between normal packs. These Commander Packs consist of 5 cards, all of which are multicolored Commanders. It’s helpful that a lot of commanders in EDH are playable in the 99 of other decks. There are still mono colored legendary creatures that players can play with if they really want to, but they are in the normal booster packs.
The draft order matters too: for my cube I choose for people to sit next to a person that they are going to play against in a 4 man pod, and against a person they won’t be playing against. All players in pod A are marked A and all in pod B are marked B.
Draft Phases for my cube (4 Players)
- Commander Pack: Each player gets 1 pack of 5 legendary multicolor creatures.
- 1st Normal Pack: Players get a pack of 15 cards.
- 2nd Normal Pack of 15.
- 2nd Commander Pack of 5 Multicolor Commanders.
- 3rd Normal Pack.
- 4th Normal Pack.
This will give players a total of 60 cards from normal packs and 10 multicolor legendaries for a total of 70 cards. I anticipate most players to include about 18-21 lands in their decks so finding about 28-31 playable cards for your deck isn’t terribly challenging.
75 Of Each Color
75 Artifacts/Colorless Cards
50 Dual Colored
20 Tri Colored
30 Dual Colored Commanders
20 Tri Color
5 4-Colored Commanders
1 5 Colored Commander
In order to build packs for a 8 player pod you do this:
Commander Pack Cards: Shuffle all the Commanders together and create packs of 5 cards each for each player. Each player receives two Commander Packs.
Non Commander Pack Cards: Shuffle them all in together and create packs of 15 cards each. (this can take a lot of shuffling). Each player receives four normal packs of cards.
Balancing Colors, Curve, Multi Color Cards
A cube needs to have a rough balance of colors and mana curve so that all colors are fairly represented and people are not drafting decks where they are either only casting 6-drops or small creatures (unless that’s your theme).
When it comes to multicolor balancing I think its safer to err on including less than more – this way players can choose how color diverse their deck is. If players want to draft three color or 4 color decks, they can select several different monocolored cards of different colors. They just have to be in charge of finding the manafixing support you include in your cube. I think too many multicolored cards in a cube can often make players feel forced into 3/4/5 color decks.
I designed my cube to mainly support dual colored or tri-colored decks but it is very possible to play a four color deck.
If you look at the ‘Commander’ section of my cube you’ll notice that there are slightly more commanders in 4 of the dual colored guilds than in the other 6. This is because it is very difficult to balance color representation when you are trying to support dual colored, tri colored, and 4 color commanders. This is bad for my cube because it slightly screws the color balance a tiny bit but the only reason why I am OK with it is because I have enough Partner commanders in the cube that I think the Partner mechanic very slightly makes people not want to play only two colors sometimes. The Partner mechanic also makes the option of playing a 3/4 color deck much more fluid for players during the draft, but the Partner commanders are usually very viable support cards in other decks so I don’t think it tilts the cube that hard.
Also note that the amount of mana symbols in cards matters a lot – cards like Black Sun’s Zenith are potent in commander but if you have already dedicated yourself to drafting a three or four color deck and you see BSZ in the last pack you are drafting you might have very low incentive to pick it, even if you are in black. The color of activated abilities in lands (see Kessig Wolf Run) can also throw off the balance of your cube. I think including a few color intensive cards in my cube was a good thing because it can be a reward for the dual color decks. My cube does need work with balancing the amount of same-mana symbols.
Setting Up Expansions
If you want to serve more people you can build your cube to expand. Sometimes this can be as simple as doubling the amount of cards in each grouping you have but you need to be careful you keep the ratios of each category roughly equal to each other so you deliver a similar drafting experience. Or you could choose for your expansion to deliver a different kind of experience! Don’t forget that you can add planechase cards or conspiracy cards to add spice to your cube as well! Note if you are trying to draft with less people than your cube normally supports that if you included archetypes in your cube the archetypes can be thrown off because not all the cards will be there to necessarily support the archetypes and some archetypes might become more powerful than others.
A solution I’ve seen to this is to have pre-made expansions laid out where you carry a excel sheet with the Cube and keep the expansion cards separate from the other cards and you can choose exactly how many cards you are drafting with and expand/contract as necessary. This can create a lot more sorting work but if you are trying to build for archetypes or want to have more control over the drafting experience it is very helpful.
Testing And Improving
Once you make your cube, its time to test it! Play with friends and people you trust with your expensive cardboard. Get feedback so you can reflect back on your cube, update it, cut cards, and keep notes on how different cards impacted games. Cards that are being last picked constantly care cards that are probably cards you should cut to make space for new cards that get printed or other cards you were considering to put in the cube.
What do you think of my cube? What cards would you add in/take out? What do you think of my ratios? I would love to get feedback on it!
We will be generating future “Pack 1 Pick 1” posts from this cube and update the cube moving forward – be sure to check back to our Facebook page often (almost daily now) as we continue to produce that content!
If you want to find out more about cubing, draft cubes online, or find a place to store your cube’s information I recommend Cube Tutor.