MTG Cube Drafting – Spreading the Sickness with Grant Hislop

UB Mystical Teachings – A Pauper Video Article by Grant Hislop


You might recall me having referenced my cube during a few of my previous articles. Tu certainly did; he’s asked me to write a little bit about what Cube is and Cube construction. Next time, I’ll discuss some of the available 1v1 draft formats, to put your newly built Cube to use. I know it’s nearly time for whatever they’re calling the 3 PTQ’s that we’re getting instead of Nationals this year, but I can’t play in the first one, because I’m best-manning at a stag night, so I don’t really feel the urge to work on Standard too much. I was only recently made aware that I’d messed up my dates. Sadly, this was after I’d spent 3 hours building a Standard gauntlet, and acquiring all the cards needed so that there were no proxies in the gauntlet. It was quite a dark day

Anyway. Back to cube!

There aren’t really any hard and fast rules when it comes to cube construction. A cube is essentially just a box of cards that you have, with the intention of playing something akin to a limited format. More traditional cubes will feature cards spanning the history of Magic. Cards like [card]Primeval Titan[/card] will be fetching up [card]Library of Alexandria[/card] and [card]Bazaar of Baghdad[/card] while your opponent tries to [card]Recurring Nightmare[/card] lock you out with [card]Verdant Force[/card] Saporling Tokens.

Cubes like this may or may not include the Power Eight ([card]Timetwister[/card] doesn’t count), that’s entirely at the creator’s discretion. Obviously, adding Power to a Cube adds far more fast mana into the pool, which, depending on your predilections, can be either a good or a bad thing. I’ve personally drafted a reanimator deck, featuring [card]Black Lotus[/card], a Mox, [card]Ancestral Recall[/card], and in one game, was able to reanimate an [card]Inferno Titan[/card] on Turn 2 and a [card]Verdant Force[/card] on Turn 3. Close game. On the other side of the coin, I’ve been on the receiving end of a Turn 1 [card]Black Lotus[/card] into [card]Bloodbraid Elf[/card] cascading into [card]Boggart Ram-Gang[/card]. 

Unsurprisingly, neither of these games were close.

Cubes can be as large, or indeed as small as its creator desires. The smallest size is generally 360 cards, as this is enough to furnish a full 8-person draft. I’ve seen prospective lists in excess of 1000 cards. Personally, I would recommend sticking to as close to 360 as possible to start with. One of the dangers of a larger Cube is the reduction in consistency. If I first pick a [card]Survival of the Fittest[/card], or a [card]Sulfuric Vortex[/card], a [card]Time Vault[/card] or a [card]Recurring Nightmare[/card], I want to know that the support cards for these strategies are actually in the draft!

Perhaps, for whatever reason, you’ve decided that drafting Vintage decks isn’t your idea of fun. Poor you. Don’t worry, you can still build cubes without having to flop £2000 on the Power Eight. Either just leave them out, or you could build your cube to a theme. My own cube is what’s known as a Pauper Cube, using only commons. I’ve heard of Bad-Card cubes ([card]Wood Elemental[/card] and Friends), Tribal cubes (Goblins, Soldiers, Faeries etc), Artifact cubes ([card]Leonin Shikari[/card], [card]Qumulox[/card] and co), and that’s just scratching the surface.

My own Cube experiences have come largely from my own Cube, but also from my good friend Ben Cabrelli’s. Ben’s cube is a thing of beauty. It’s fully foiled, features black-bordered dual lands, and includes the Power Eight. As I’ve said before, when you draft Ben’s cube, you’re drafting Vintage decks.

Cubes are so named because of the symmetry in the colours, ie. exactly the same number of Red cards as Blue cards, and so on. Some cube designers take this symmetry a step further, and ensure that card-types and/or mana costs are also kept symmetrical. To me, this seems more work than it’s worth, but different strokes for different folks.

One of the other main point is Cube design is whether you will include Snow cards. Cards like [card]Rimefeather Owl[/card], [card]Mouth of Ronom[/card], [card]Skred[/card] and pals. Obviously, this means that you’ll have to provide Snow-Covered basics, which can be a bit tedious to acquire, especially in foil. Personally, I don’t think it’s worth it, but there are those who disagree.

If you’re starting building a cube from scratch, it’s important that you build decks into the Cube, and include redundancy in these decks. For example, it’s easy to include [card]Survival of the Fittest[/card] and [card]Fauna Shaman[/card], [card]Doom Blade[/card] and [card]Terror[/card], [card]Civic Wayfinder[/card] and [card]Borderland Ranger[/card], [card]Kodama’s Reach[/card] and [card]Cultivate[/card] for example. If a card’s powerful enough to find its way into your cube, you’d expect it to be able to do the same twice, no? When I say ‘build decks into the cube’, what I mean is that you want to include the tools for multiple archetypes. Again, what archetypes you intend to support is entirely up to you. Popular archetypes include Reanimator, Mono-Red, Counter-Burn, Ux Tempo decks. Really, whatever tickles your fancy should be do-able in cube.

I’ve found that many cube designers under-support aggro decks in their cubes, to the point that first-picking a [card]Goblin Guide[/card] is almost a trap. This is a bad thing. Aggro decks need to exist in cube as a foil to the Control decks, which in turn trump the combo decks. Obviously, I’m speaking very broadly here, but there is an element of Rock-Paper-Scissors in the dichotomy of a cube. Essentially what this boils down to is to ensure an even spread of threats across all points of the curve, to ensure that all of the strategies are equally viable. In an ideal world, there won’t be a ‘best deck’ in a Cube format, as all are similarly competitive.

I sound dangerously like a communist here, please forgive me…

I think that this is as good a point as any to show you my own Cube. I only intend to show this as an example. It’s not perfect, but I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it, and have drafted it quite often, so I’m pretty confident in most of the choices. Another thing to consider is that a Cube is never really ‘finished’, in the traditional sense. My own Cube is updated as each new set is released, and, as it’s quite close to the 360 card mark, each change I make has a knock-on effect on the format as a whole. Cards that were fine previously lose value, and the reverse is also true. It’s important to not be particularly married to any of the cards in your cube. It’s like building a 60-card deck, don’t be afraid to kill your darlings.


Pauper Cube

As I’ve said before, my Cube is Pauper, which means to say I only include cards that have been printed at common rarity, which explains some of my choices, and others being absent. I’ll run through the cards I’ve chosen to include, and afterwards, I’ll talk a little about what I’ve tried to include in the list. I’ll list by curve, and Creature/Non-Creature. If you don’t want to read this wall of text, control+f ‘Wildfield’, and I’ll see you on the other side.



[card]Gideon’s Lawkeeper[/card]
[card]Goldmeadow Harrier[/card]
[card]Icatian Javellineers[/card]

[card]Kirtar’s Desire[/card]
[card]Guard Duty[/card]
[card]Stave Off[/card]


[card]Benalish Cavalry[/card]
[card]Blade of the Sixth Pride[/card]
[card]Gather the Townsfolk[/card]
[card]Kami of Ancient Law[/card]
[card]Kinsbaile Skirmisher[/card]
[card]Knight of Cliffhaven[/card]
[card]Kor Skyfisher[/card]
[card]Leonin Skyhunter[/card]
[card]Lone Missionary[/card]
[card]Loyal Cathar[/card]
[card]Order of Leitbur[/card]
[card]Phantom Nomad[/card]
[card]Soltari Trooper[/card]
[card]Stormfront Pegasus[/card]
[card]Whitemane Lion[/card]

[card]Apostle’s Blessing[/card]
[card]Bonds of Faith[/card]
[card]Journey to Nowhere[/card]
[card]Puncturing Light[/card]
[card]Temporal Isolation[/card]


[card]Amrou Seekers[/card]
[card]Apex Hawks[/card]
[card]Aven Riftwatcher[/card]
[card]Ballynock Cohort[/card]
[card]Kabuto Moth[/card]
[card]Kor Hookmaster[/card]
[card]Kor Sanctifiers[/card]
[card]Porcelain Legionnaire[/card]
[card]Soltari Lancer[/card]
[card]Soltari Visionary[/card]
[card]Village Bell-Ringer[/card]

[card]Blinding Beam[/card]
[card]Cage of Hands[/card]
[card]Oblivion Ring[/card]


[card]Cloud Crusader[/card]
[card]Guardian of the Guildpact[/card]
[card]Thraben Sentry[/card]

[card]Breath of Life[/card]
[card]Faith’s Fetters[/card]
[card]False Defeat[/card]


[card]Plover Knights[/card]
[card]Totem-Guide Hartebeest[/card]


[card]Daru Lancer[/card]
[card]Razor Golem[/card]



[card]Delver of Secrets[/card]
[card]Phantasmal Bear[/card]



[card]Carnivorous Death-Parrot[/card]
[card]Halimar Wavewatch[/card]

[card]Essence Scatter[/card]
[card]Into the Roil[/card]
[card]Mana Leak[/card]
[card]Neurok Stealthsuit[/card]


[card]Aether Adept[/card]
[card]Calcite Snapper[/card]
[card]Illusionary Servant[/card]
[card]Rishadan Airship[/card]
[card]Scroll Thief[/card]
[card]Seagate Oracle[/card]
[card]Shaper Parasite[/card]
[card]Skywinder Drake[/card]
[card]Spined Thopter[/card]
[card]Stitched Drake[/card]
[card]Stormbound Geist[/card]
[card]Trespassing Souleater[/card]
[card]Wormfang Drake[/card]

[card]Compulsive Research[/card]
[card]Frantic Search[/card]
[card]Frost Breath[/card]
[card]Rushing River[/card]


[card]Makeshift Mauler[/card]
[card]Ninja of the Deep Hours[/card]
[card]Shimmering Glasskite[/card]

[card]Bone to Ash[/card]
[card]Deep Analysis[/card]
[card]Ray of Command[/card]


[card]Chasm Drake[/card]
[card]Double Header[/card]
[card]Mnemonic Wall[/card]
[card]Sky-Eel School[/card]
[card]Spire Monitor[/card]


[card]Spire Golem[/card]


[card]Errant Ephemeron[/card]



[card]Vampire Lacerator[/card]

[card]Dead Weight[/card]
[card]Tragic Slip[/card]
[card]Undying Evil[/card]


[card]Blind Creeper[/card]
[card]Corrupted Zendikon[/card]
[card]Dauthi Horror[/card]
[card]Dauthi Slayer[/card]
[card]Highborn Ghoul[/card]
[card]Nezumi Cutthroat[/card]
[card]Null Champion[/card]
[card]Order of the Ebon Hand[/card]
[card]Skittering Skirge[/card]
[card]Vampire Interloper[/card]
[card]Vault Skirge[/card]
[card]Wretched Anurid[/card]

[card]Death Denied[/card]
[card]Diabolic Edict[/card]
[card]Disturbed Burial[/card]
[card]Doom Blade[/card]
[card]Geth’s Verdict[/card]
[card]Grim Harvest[/card]
[card]Grasp of Darkness[/card]
[card]Hymn to Tourach[/card]
[card]Nameless Inversion[/card]
[card]Sign in Blood[/card]
[card]Sorin’s Thirst[/card]
[card]Victim of Night[/card]


[card]Blind Zealot[/card]
[card]Cadaver Imp[/card]
[card]Crypt Rats[/card]
[card]Dauthi Marauder[/card]
[card]Liliana’s Specter[/card]
[card]Moriok Replica[/card]
[card]Skulking Knight[/card]
[card]Phyrexian Rager[/card]
[card]Morbid Plunder[/card]
[card]Rend Flesh[/card]


[card]Faceless Butcher[/card]
[card]Heartstabber Mosquito[/card]
[card]Mortis Dogs[/card]

[card]Evincar’s Justice[/card]
[card]Snuff Out[/card]


[card]Dross Golem[/card]
[card]Okiba-Gang Shinobi[/card]
[card]Pith Driller[/card]
[card]Warren Pilferers[/card]



[card]Mogg Fanatic[/card]

[card]Burst Lightning[/card]
[card]Chain Lightning[/card]
[card]Faithless Looting[/card]
[card]Flame Slash[/card]
[card]Lightning Bolt[/card]
[card]Reckless Charge[/card]


[card]Bloodcrazed Neonate[/card]
[card]Goblin Shortcutter[/card]
[card]Hinterland Hermit[/card]
[card]Keldon Marauders[/card]
[card]Mogg War Marshal[/card]
[card]Plated Geopede[/card]
[card]Pouncing Kavu[/card]
[card]Skirk Marauder[/card]
[card]Torch Fiend[/card]

[card]Lash Out[/card]
[card]Rolling Thunder[/card]
[card]Searing Blaze[/card]
[card]Volcanic Hammer[/card]


[card]Blood Ogre[/card]
[card]Crossway Vampire[/card]
[card]Erdwal Ripper[/card]
[card]Fault Riders[/card]
[card]Hissing Iguanar[/card]
[card]Inner-Flame Acolyte[/card]
[card]Keldon Vandals[/card]
[card]Fault Riders[/card]
[card]Manic Vandal[/card]
[card]Ronin Houndmaster[/card]
[card]Skirk Shaman[/card]
[card]Suq’Ata Lancer[/card]
[card]Torch Slinger[/card]
[card]Vulshok Replica[/card]
[card]Vulshok Sorceror[/card]

[card]Act of Treason[/card]
[card]Arc Lightning[/card]
[card]Barbed Lightning[/card]
[card]Brimstone Volley[/card]
[card]Traitorous Blood[/card]


[card]Gorehorn Minotaurs[/card]

[card]Chandra’s Outrage[/card]
[card]Ruthless Invasion[/card]


[card]Nearheath Stalker[/card]
[card]Pitchburn Devils[/card]
[card]Slash Panther[/card]



[card]Flameborn Hellion[/card]
[card]Oxidda Golem[/card]




[card]Basking Rootwalla[/card]
[card]Fyndhorn Elves[/card]
[card]Jungle Lion[/card]
[card]Llanowar Elves[/card]
[card]Young Wolf[/card]

[card]Giant Growth[/card]
[card]Hunger of the Howlpack[/card]
[card]Prey Upon[/card]
[card]Vines of Vastwood[/card]


[card]Ambush Viper[/card]
[card]Dawntreader Elk[/card]
[card]Garruk’s Companion[/card]
[card]Mire Boa[/card]
[card]Nest Invader[/card]
[card]River Boa[/card]
[card]Sakura-Tribe Elder[/card]
[card]Sprout Swarm[/card]
[card]Thornweald Archer[/card]
[card]Viridian Emissary[/card]
[card]Wild Mongrel[/card]

[card]Rampant Growth[/card]


[card]Borderland Ranger[/card]
[card]Centaur Courser[/card]
[card]Civic Wayfinder[/card]
[card]Nessian Courser[/card]
[card]Phantom Tiger[/card]
[card]Simian Grunts[/card]
[card]Sylvok Replica[/card]
[card]Ulvenwald Bear[/card]
[card]Villagers of Estwald[/card]
[card]Yavimaya Elder[/card]

[card]Arachnus Web[/card]
[card]Kodama’s Reach[/card]


[card]Elephant Ambush[/card]
[card]Festerhide Boar[/card]
[card]Kozilek’s Predator[/card]
[card]Mold Shambler[/card]
[card]Nantuko Vigilante[/card]
[card]Penumbra Spider[/card]
[card]Skyshroud Troll[/card]
[card]Wickerbough Elder[/card]


[card]Aerie Ouphes[/card]
[card]Stampeding Rhino[/card]
[card]Tangle Hulk[/card]


[card]Thundering Tanadon[/card]


[card]Krosan Tusker[/card]
[card]Maul Splicer[/card]


[card]Gathan Raiders[/card]
[card]Ulamog’s Crusher[/card]
[card]Zombie Cutthroat[/card]

Tri Coloured

[card]Bant Sureblade[/card]
[card]Esper Stormblade[/card]
[card]Grixis Grimblade[/card]
[card]Jund Hackblade[/card]
[card]Naya Hushblade[/card]
[card]Nightscape Familiar[/card]
[card]Sangrite Backlash[/card]
[card]Stormscape Apprentice[/card]
[card]Wild Nacatl[/card]

Allied Colour Pairs


[card]Avacyn’s Pilgrim[/card]
[card]Kird Ape[/card]


[card]Agony Warp[/card]
[card]Curse of Chains[/card]
[card]Deft Duelist[/card]
[card]Feeling of Dread[/card]
[card]Qasali Pridemage[/card]
[card]Scab-Clan Mauler[/card]
[card]Travel Preparations[/card]


[card]Armadillo Cloak[/card]
[card]Branching Bolt[/card]
[card]Forbidden Alchemy[/card]
[card]Soul Manipulation[/card]


[card]Esper Cormorants[/card]
[card]Henchfiend of Ukor[/card]
[card]Mystical Teachings[/card]
[card]Rhox Brute[/card]
[card]Wrecking Ball[/card]


[card]Cultbrand Cinder[/card]
[card]Gravelgill Axeshark[/card]
[card]Scuzzback Marauders[/card]


[card]Sigiled Behemoth[/card]

Enemy Colour Pairs


[card]Goblin Legionnaire[/card]
[card]Putrid Leech[/card]


[card]Consume Strength[/card]
[card]Fire at Will[/card]
[card]Noggle Bandit[/card]
[card]Pillory of the Sleepless[/card]
[card]Rendclaw Trow[/card]
[card]Shrieking Grotesque[/card]
[card]Skynight Legionnaire[/card]
[card]Temporal Spring[/card]


[card]Assault Zeppelid[/card]
[card]Blind Hunter[/card]
[card]Steamcore Weird[/card]



[card]Adventuring Gear[/card]
[card]Blazing Torch[/card]
[card]Copper Carapace[/card]
[card]Flayer Husk[/card]
[card]Leonin Bola[/card]
[card]Sylvok Lifestaff[/card]

[card]Traveller’s Amulet[/card]


[card]Armillary Sphere[/card]
[card]Executioner’s Hood[/card]
[card]Perilous Myr[/card]
[card]Prophetic Prism[/card]
[card]Vulshok Morningstar[/card]


[card]Pilgrim’s Eye[/card]
[card]Pristine Talisman[/card]
[card]Strider Harness[/card]
[card]Tumble Magnet[/card]
[card]Yotian Soldier[/card]


[card]Clay Statue[/card]
[card]Paper Tiger[/card]
[card]Rock Lobster[/card]
[card]Scissors Lizard[/card]
[card]Serrated Arrows[/card]


[card]Hexplate Golem[/card]


[card]Azorius Chancery[/card]
[card]Barren Moor[/card]
[card]Dimir Aqueduct[/card]
[card]Evolving Wilds[/card]
[card]Fieldmist Borderpost[/card]
[card]Firewild Borderpost[/card]
[card]Forgotten Cave[/card]
[card]Golgari Rot Farm[/card]
[card]Halimar Depths[/card]
[card]Haunted Fengraf[/card]
[card]Izzet Boilerworks[/card]
[card]Khalni Garden[/card]
[card]Lonely Sandbar[/card]
[card]Mistvein Borderpost[/card]
[card]Polluted Mire[/card]
[card]Rupture Spire[/card]
[card]Secluded Steppe[/card]
[card]Sejiri Steppe[/card]
[card]Simic Growth Chamber[/card]
[card]Teetering Peaks[/card]
[card]Terramorphic Expanse[/card]
[card]Tranquil Thicket[/card]
[card]Veinfire Borderpost[/card]
[card]Wildfield Borderpost[/card]

Obviously, this list isn’t perfect. As I’m looking at it now, I’m noticing that Blue has too many 5 CMC creatures, and the curve could do with some work in green in general, but overall, I’m pretty happy with the list as it stands. You may have noticed my decision to include Un-Cards in my list. I’ve only used Un-Cards that could feasibly be real-set Magic cards, and in my experience, a great many people have enjoyed playing with them.

As I said above, a lot of work of cube design goes into making sure that there are several archetypes that are supported, and people are ‘rewarded’ for correctly reading the signals from the players around them. I use this Cube to draft with newer players quite a lot, and it’s pretty good for that. As everything is a common, almost all of the cards include reminder text for the keywords, which is helpful. I’ve tried to force people to play with a realistic curve. Limited Magic is generally about attacking for two, and again, that’s what I’ve tried to emphasise in my Cube. Sure, a lot of the creatures are bears with abilities, but most of the time, you’ll be attacking for multiples of two. I’ve said to multiple people, ‘If you want to get better at limited, draft my cube a lot’, and I genuinely believe that.

The mana-fixing available at common isn’t great, so for the most part, if you’re using my list, you’ll find yourself drawn into a 2 colour deck. It’s been a conscious decision on my part to limit the fixing by not including the Signets from the Ravnica block, or indeed all of the Bounce-lands. I’ve chosen to limit the Bouncelands to the Mid-range and Control colour pairs, where they’ll be more useful.



A few examples of the archetypes I’ve built into the cube include:-


WB Evasion. Cheap guys that are difficult to block, like [card]Vampire Interloper[/card] and [card]Soltari Trooper[/card], backed up with removal to deal with those that can block.

WR Burn. Small guys like [card]Goblin Legionnaire[/card] and [card]Bloodcrazed Neonate[/card] with [card]Lightning Bolt[/card]s to clear the way and finish off the opponent.

BR Suicide. [card]Vampire Lacerator[/card], [card]Carnophage[/card], [card]Corrupted Zendikon[/card] and their ilk, with burn to finish the opponent off once they’ve stabilised.

GW Aggro. Curve based aggro deck, very similar to the Innistrad block GW deck. Efficient creatures, removal and pump. My favourite archetype, if I can’t draft UB Control.


BG Recursion. Difficult to kill creatures, with [card]Gravedigger[/card] variants to re-buy them.


UR Counterburn. [card]Fireball[/card], [card]Counterspell[/card] and friends backed up by guys like [card]Hissing Iguanar[/card] and [card]Mnemonic Wall[/card]. [card]Pitchburn Devils[/card]’ best home.

UB Control. Has access to both [card]Mystical Teachings[/card] and [card]Forbidden Alchemy[/card], backed up by disruption like [card]Probe[/card], [card]Spire Monitor[/card], and the late game lock of [card]Disturbed Burial[/card].

Because my Cube is only a little over 360 cards, these are generally decks that are able to be assembled, and the rewards for recognising that you should be in them is there. I’ve won drafts with each of these archetypes, and several more to boot. This isn’t to say that this is an exhaustive list of the viable archetypes, just a starting point.


Final Thoughts

As I’ve said before, I think one of the fastest ways to get better at limited, and by extension Magic in general is to play a cube like this with something approaching regularity. You’ll learn about creature combat, and drafting to curve and all those other lovely limited tricks almost without realising it, and the fact that it’s a cube means that there’s no cost if something goes horrifically wrong in the draft.

You can easily knock out a few 8-man drafts in an afternoon without having to buy packs, not to mention that, as it’s all commons, I’d expect that you could buy almost all the cards that you need from Manaleak, and have change from £50. My own version is almost entirely foiled, so cost a bit more than that, but again, the cost-to-fun ratio here is off the charts. Perhaps if we ask Tu nicely, he could do a bulk-buy package/discount?

This article’s long enough as it is, so I think I’ll save talking through some of the variant formats that you can use your Cube for til next time, assuming there’s interest.

Stay Classy mtgUK,



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