I have the lucky privilege of playing with two very different playgroups. One I play with at home with all of my other co-bloggers, and the other is at college where I was one of the founders of its current Magic the Gathering Club. With how much fun playing Commander Cube at home is, I definitely wanted to share that with my college buddies, so here’s our start-up story on creating our Commander Cube, and tips for starting your own.
Who’s cards are we going to use?
This was the first question that we came up with. We have two pretty experienced players in our club who have been playing Magic for a long time, myself and an one underclassman who both have pretty large collections of cards. Thankfully, both of us have enough “good/broken cards” that we have amassed through drafting and playing constructed formats over the years that were sitting in very large binders that each of us individually probably could have supported a cube by ourselves. However, since I was graduating this year, I thought that it would be sad to put a bunch of effort into a Cube, and just have it dissolve so it went to the other underclassman. We toyed around with the idea of doing a joint Cube and combining our card pools together, but that had the potential to get sticky with me leaving soon. It also left no ambiguity who would be holding the Commander Cube box-o-cards, which was nice for us as well.
For other people interested in starting up a Cube, if you don’t have one person who has been playing for forever I personally don’t think its a terrible idea to pool cards together. Considering you are probably all friends with the people you want to be Cube drafting with, you might even be sharing a card collection with someone already. However, if you are deciding to have multiple contributors I would make sure that you kept a very clear list of who’s cards are who WITH THE CUBE, so no hurt feelings would happen.
What do we want to spend money on?
Being Magic players, (and especially because we are college students) we like to save money wherever possible (ironic because Magic is expensive, and college is very expensive). However, it would not be good of us to all just trash these really expensive cards that are imperative to the cube. So we all pitched in and by each paying $7, we got sleeves for all the Cube including sleeves for basic lands. We would all be getting enjoyment out of playing the Cube, and by spreading the love we didn’t put the burden on any one person. We also didn’t make the person who was supplying the Cube chip in, because we were using his cards. Also, this initial investment payed for extra sleeves in case any sleeves got kinda gross from wear from playing the game (although I don’t forsee that as a problem, but better to be safe than sorry).
We didn’t spend any money on cards, and while our friend had a lot of the really broken expensive cards (Force of Will, Survival of the Fittest, Wasteland) he didn’t have every original dual land or a big daddy Jace, the Mindsculptor. The original dual lands are really nice to have because they help make 3 and 5 color decks work, so we just went to our computer lab and printed up some proxies and were/are very happy with them. I leant my Jace, and would take it home after we drafted, but there is a printed off proxy in there right now which is perfectly fine with everyone in our playgroup.
I highly encourage the use of proxies, at least for the original duals because they are super spendy, and help make the format easier. Also, if you don’t have enough generals for your cube, I think that is totally worth proxing up.
How do we want to draft this?
Pack one was all of the Generals. We did this because it allows everyone to help decide what color options we want right from the start. I believe we talked about this earlier in the blog, but to reiterate, by having you pick the Commanders first, it can help give you some direction, and so nobody gets kinda screwed wanting to build something like a wedge deck, but not being able to because the wedge generals were snatched up out of hate in the regular packs, so they are forced to go awkwardly into Atogatog.
After the General’s pack, we then draft the rest of the cards with 6 packs of 15 card boosters (Just to clarify, we don’t include basic lands or tokens in those “boosters” like you would get in a regular booster pack ^^) I feel that 90 cards +your general’s booster pack picks (you can play for instance Hannah, Ship’s Navigator in Sharuum the Hegemon) is generally a really good number if you think you want around 65 playables. If you want to, you can do it with 5 packs of 15 card boosters, if your cube isn’t big enough, or you have a large number of people playing. Or you could in theory do 7 packs of 15 card boosters if you have enough cards to support your players. But I feel that 6 packs kinda nicely doubles what a normal draft is like, plus you have that extra general booster pack of cards.
Another option of drafting this that I heard from Samwise isn’t as time intensive is to just do a general pack and then just do 3 packs of 15 card boosters. This makes it more similar to regular drafting, which can save time and deckbuilding, and get into quicker more reliable games than you do with the standard 100 card highlander decks.
How do I modify the cube?
I would be on the lookout for is how much love you are giving to niche-style decks. As much as I love silly decks that go crazy off of Krak’s Thumb or Donate-ing Zedruu the Greathearted decks, generally speaking you are probably going to be better off just making those decks and playing normal commander with them, instead of sticking them in your cube. For instance, we had lots of the stuff that fits into most standard Zedruu decks, and while some of it got picked earlier (like Vedalken Plotter) a lot of it just tabled. I liked that there are enablers for things like a big recursion style deck with Merfolk Looter and Buried Alive, but some cards felt a bit too corner case and kinda forced into the cube because they were good with a certain general in regular commander. That isn’t to say don’t put in fun cards that are kinda group huggy, or require a coin flip, but rather put in cards that are usable in multiple different decks, and if they have a group hug or a coin flip to them all the better. Some niche cards can be fun to see, but too many niche cards, and can feel off balance and too-hands-on.
That being said, you don’t want to be too-hands-off with your Cube either. One of my favorite things about Cube drafting, is that by making the Cube, you will have some control over what people are playing. Everybody doesn’t all play abusive answer-me decks (aka sit down and all massive land ramp/value decks that copy Primeval Titan and Consecrated Sphinx all day) that race to ramp and then win. Instead you see more variation, and you have people who play cards that are answers to the board state. Cube drafting forces people to interact more with each other because of the limited number of cards that are available. This is a very roundabout way of saying that I think that while you should have value engines (like Mistmeadow Witch+Mulldrifter) and huge bombs (like Insurrection) that are fun for Commander, you should make sure that you have good balancing answers in your cube like Pithing Needle and Withered Wretch and that a good focus would be to have a good mix of threats to answers.
There isn’t a really good answer to best modifying the cube, and I think that feedback from your playgroup on things they liked and things that they didn’t like and balancing the group’s love of certain archetypes would be the best avenue to go down.