A Magictation by Mikeal Basile
“Magictating” is defined as getting into the zone with your Magic the Gathering collection–thinking, planning, organizing, reminiscing about past games, and imagining future games. It is a combination of hard thinking about the game and calm meditation, reveling in the joy it brings you.
Cubes are a set list of cards randomized for drafting purposes. You basically get to do booster drafts over and over again by creating your own packs and developing your own draft environment. With the success of Commander Legends, it seems so much more possible to build a working cube draft format for Commander. The rules used in Commander Legends draft run very smoothly, so I decided to taek the next step and build my very own EDH/Commander cube. This is going to be the first in a series of articles about building an EDH Cube. I love Commander. Chances are, if you are reading this column, then you love EDH/Commander an awful lot as well. It is a fantastically fun multiplayer format that offers many of the joys that brought casual gamers to Magic in the first place. I intend on splitting this into about four sections. Part one will cover why to build and the theory behind building a Commander/EDH cube. Part two will discuss what size your cube should be and how to focus in on your cube’s goals. Part three will discuss why and how to keep track making great choices for your cube. Finally, part four will cover what I am currently running in my EDH Cube, and how trial and error lead to what I currently run in it.
Cubes tend to merge the feeling of limited and constructed. You are constrained by the confines of what you draft from the packs, but the card quality is such that you can build decks that feel as if they are similar to the power level of constructed decks. This makes for a more powerful draft experience. When Conspiracy came around, the idea of drafting multiplayer decks was formally introduced. It also introduced “draft matters” cards like the conspiracy card type and cards like Cogwork Librarian. These made the drafting experience a bit more wild and fun, and by extension added a neat twist to people’s decks while playing the games. This was a great way to introduce the concept of drafting for multiplayer. Then, Commander Legends came out, and offered a way to draft Commander style decks in a limited format. I’m a huge fan of this draft format. I still have one or two boxes I’m saving specifically to draft with. If you can still find boxes of it, then I suggest picking them up. They are still pretty cheap at most stores—under $120!? However, if you’re looking to improve on the Commander Legends limited draft experience, then I’d like you to keep reading this mini-series. I’m going to walk you through the theory behind building an EDH Cube.
When I first played Commander Legends limited it was with six packs I opened and built a sealed deck from. It was sealed deck and not draft, but wow, was it fun. I had an absolute blast. I went through several boxes playing sealed deck with one, two, or three friends at a time. It was so much fun I bought another box to save for playing again in the future. However, I know that I can’t keep buying boxes, and not just because my wife will kill me. The supply itself is limited. That’s when I considered making a Commander Legends Set Cube. The theories behind this are pretty simple. Basically, people take 3 of each common, 2 of each uncommon, and 1 of each rare and mythic and make packs using that break down. This way you can revisit the set time and time again. It sounds intriguing, and reportedly it works well. I can’t attest to this, because I haven’t done this yet. Perhaps next month? I’ll get back to you if I do try that out. However, I do have a regular cube. It’s more of a traditional 4-8 player cube designed for drafting competitive one on one games. This got me thinking that I should probably just design my own EDH cube. Afterall, I already had a cube, so how hard can it be?
Look, if you know me, then you know that I tend to dive into things without appreciating just how difficult it can be. My wife says that I don’t possess the appropriate sense of dread when I approach big projects. She may be right, but I like to think I have a healthy dose of enthusiasm. Of course, that also means that I tend to take on daunting tasks thinking it won’t be nearly as all-consuming as they turn out to be. This EDH Cube was one of those projects. I started off by thinking about what my goals for the EDH Cube would be. I wanted a cube that would feel fun to play. I wanted an experience that would mirror a good game between friends with their own balanced power levels. I wanted the drafts to vary in the way they played out, and offer enough variety that we could draft it several times in a one day and not feel like any of the games were a replay of some other game. I also wanted consistent archetypes that mimicked the favorite archetypes that my friends liked to play. I’ll admit, I’m a greedy man. I am greedy player too; I keep two land hands all the time. It basically always works out…
When it comes down to deciding to build a Commander/EDH cube you need to decide exactly what you want out of it. I suggest you ask your friends what their favorite Commander decks are. Survey them sneakily like I did, or just tell them that you’re building a cube and you’d like to try and include their favorite archetypes if possible. This is probably your best place to start. After this, then I would suggest that you try to figure out exactly what you want the cube to feel like. I initially thought it would be fun to include every card that was uniquely designed for the pre-constructed Commander decks (except the legendary creatures, but more on that in a moment). I started this way, but I quickly abandoned it as it left me with too little room to support the archetypes I wanted to include, and it left my cube feeling a bit too under-powered. This style of build might work for you, but for my group it was a bit too weak. Once you determine what archetypes and power level your group will enjoy, then it’s time to start building out the cube.
The first part of building the cube is actually determining what commanders you will include as options. These are the most important part of your cube, because they are going to determine and enable all of the archetypes you decide to support. If you design your cube to support a blue white fliers archetype, but you only include one blue white legend, then it’s going to flop. Sure, you can include lots of partner legends like Commander Legends does, and this will definitely help you circumvent a few of the color requirement issues, but I chose a different route. Before I explain my route, I’d like to mention that you could easily include a large number of partner legends and make its so that people can draft just about anything they want. I don’t love this idea, because it can make people lean too far into five color good-stuff and then just pick up a couple random two-color partner commanders. So, when you decide to include partner commanders be aware that mono-colored partner commanders existed in Commander Legends for a reason—to avoid this sort of drafting behavior. Your draft is more challenging when you have to try and build around either a commander or a particular archetype.
Deciding your commanders is the first big step to determining what sort of character your cube will have. I chose to build an EDH cube. My cube strives to embrace both nostalgia and modern mechanics. So, for my cube, I chose to go with the original 55 legends from Legends. These are the only options for commanders that my cube allows you to draft. I wanted to do this because I recently finished collecting all of them, and I wanted to capture some of that nostalgia that existed when EDH first became a format. I wanted the dream to be possible—four or five people selecting a different elder dragon legend to helm their decks and then bashing each other in a classic EDH slugfest. It hasn’t happened yet, but it did come close when two of four players chose them for one game (for the record it would have been 3 out of 4 but my buddy Lenny hate-drafted Nicol Bolas away from me).
By choosing the “o.g.” legends I managed to immediately infuse further restrictions into my cube. Enemy colors aren’t supported well enough to really allow any sort of support for enemy color archetypes. The only way to play enemy colors is to pick a tri-colored legend. So, drafting a blue-green ramp deck isn’t really all that possible because you’d have to either use a card like Angus Mackenzie or Arcades Sabbath as your commander. Those aren’t ideal, but they can work. Additionally, because there are no partner commanders in my cube you do have to try and draft a commander for your colors early on or risk getting closed out of your colors. I chose to seed my packs with two legends in every pack. Each pack is 20 cards, and that means that each draft offers every player a first look at 6 legends. This basically guarantees that everyone will be able to play the colors they want. This also ensures that people can’t draft a mono-colored deck. I chose this restriction because I felt that the original spirit of the format would best be captured in this way. I love Commander Legends, but my cube is my personal dream draft. So, listen to your heart. Choose the commanders that help you accomplish the goals you and your friends have for drafting.
Building a cube like this is something that may seem daunting, but can actually be a really fun adventure. I started off with a bang, got overwhelmed for a short bit, and then embraced the challenge with a zeal that powered me through to its first iteration. It’s important to approach this as a process. You goal is to be drafting a cube, but this is also your first draft, as in rough draft, of your cube. It will be revised, refined, honed, and rebuilt as you figure more and more out. It won’t be perfect the first time out, but it doesn’t need to be. You can make mistakes, and your friends will be happy to catch them—I can assure you (I’ll talk all about this in part two). The money you will save by creating a cube will be second only to the fun you will all have using it.
Overall, the key to successfully building your cube lies in making restrictions for yourself and determining what you are not allowed to do. Try to create restrictions that fit with your overall expectations. I wanted to prioritize nostalgia, so I banned all non-nostalgic legendary creatures from my cube. This seemed a simple fix for me. Once you start creating a few restrictions for yourself, then you can start to see more restrictions that fit, and that will really help you narrow down your card choices moving forward. Perhaps you decide to include cycles like the ultimatums or legendary dragons or the tempting cycle or the commander curse cycles. This helps you determine which archetypes to support and which to abandon. You can easily determine these moving forward, and I’ll talk all about how to build a series of restrictions that will power you through the building of your dream EDH/Commander cube that you and your friends will draft for years to come. Until next time, may your restrictions bring you joy and the cards be ever in your favor!