Cube Drafting Magic: the Gathering

Cube drafting Magic: the Gathering

If you have a cube of your own already, you can skip this part and go check out our cube drafting articles, cube drafting videos, or podcasts on all things cube drafting.

What is Cube Drafting?

A cube is a compilation; a pool of the best Magic: the Gathering cards ever printed. Traditionally, Cube Drafting was considered a singleton-only format – meaning that only one of each card could be included in the pool.

Over time, as cube drafting has evolved, more and more types of cubes have been created. These range from modified traditional cubes that run multiples of certain cards, to themed cubes that contain all sorts of tribal cards (e.g. goblins, faeries, rebels, etc…), all the way to combo cubes that support all sorts of combo pieces.

Art_Plains_Cube drafting

Why You Should Try Cube Drafting

How would you like to think up, build, test, and compete with a new deck (crafted with the best cards ever printed) every day? Sounds pretty sweet, right?

When cube drafting, because everyone is drafting from the same pool, each player has the same chance of getting the same cards. This makes for a level playing field. 

In any non- limited format, the opportunity to compete comes at a price. If you want to play any format at a competitive level, you can expect for it to cost you. But with cube drafting, this is not the case. Yeah, the initial investment to build a cube can be pretty high, but what your getting is an unlimited pass to the greatest draft experience possible with a completely level playing field.

Getting Started on Building Your Own Cube

Getting started on building your own cube is easier than you might think. Although there are many Magic cards which carry high price tags, I assure you that building a cube is not just for those with lots of money. While there are plenty of expensive cards that may make their way into your cube one day, the basic framework of a cube is not all that expensive. In fact, there are a lot of cube-worthy cards for under $1.


Starting a New Cube

step one: research

I suggest looking into many, many cube lists before starting your own.

While in this stage you may discover that there are many different types of cubes out there. As I mentioned before, there are Traditional cubes, Combo cubes, Tribal cubes, Multiple cubes, and I am sure there are more that I haven’t even heard of.

So how do you know what kind of cube is the right cube for you? To answer this, you’re going to have to do some research. Get out there, play a bunch of ’em.

Go onto and draft as many Cubes as you can. Get some experience with the cards that other people run and then, later, test them out for yourself.

While I like my cube a lot and believe that I know what I am doing with it at this point, I still look to other’s for inspiration from time to time. There are a bunch out there that I really like and you can find links to some of them on our page of Cube Lists.

Art_Swamp_RichardWright cube


Disclaimer: This is all my opinion and if you disagree, that’s alright. Play however you want to. It’s a matter of preference, and if you have more fun with other types then rock on. Cube is a casual format and should always be fun. OK, here it is:

Running Multiples

Let’s think of it this way: If I were to put nine goblin guides in red, because I think goblin guide is the best red one drop, then red will become really easy to draft and also pretty boring. “Check out this deck, its 4 goblin guides, 4 lightning bolts 4 searing spears, 4 incinerates…” You see what I mean? Having multiples in cube destroys the creative atmosphere. I wan’t to see decks that do something new.

Tribal Cube

While tribal cubes are fun, they really fall into the same trap as the cubes that run multiples. If you were drafting a format that had buffs and benefits built into it for certain creature types, why wouldn’t you just pick a creature type and force you’re way into it? Once you establish your tribe, all that is left of the creative process of drafting is auto-picking the cards that are in your tribe.

The other issue that I have with this type of cube is that it includes a lot of cards that cannot be competitive on their own. Once you make the decision to have themes in your cube, you have to start including cards that are specifically in there because they are good with other cards.

Alas, there are people who swear by tribal cubes and, if you’re one of them, you might want to check out this thread on the MTG Salvation forums.

Combo Cube

Again, it comes back to only including cards that can stand on their own. If a combo can only exist in your cube by putting cards that are bad outside of said combo into the cube, then you are going to see those cards as your last picks a lot.

Don’t get me wrong, combo decks are awesome – specially when the cards that complete the combos also do something amazing when you don’t get your other combo pieces. Nevertheless, this is only my opinion. You might prefer this format and that’s awesome.

Different strokes, right?

If you’re interested in building a combo cube, this article by Matt Kranstuber is a good place to start.

My Cube

I subscribe to the traditional Cube principles for building my Cube.

I believe in keeping only one of each card in my cube because I want to see what kinds of decks emerge from this sort of constraint.

I want every card in my cube to be playable in a wide range of decks. For that reason, “sideboard only” cards rarely have a spot in my cube. I want to get last picks that are not dead cards. To see my cube list, click here.


step 3: start building the cube

Now that you’ve done your research, you should be ready to start buying up some cube cards.

Budget Cube Cards

Don’t be deterred by the investment; there are actually quite a lot of cube worthy cards that wont break the bank.

Eidolon232 from the MTGsalvation forums has done a ton of work for future cube drafters by compiling lists of, literally, hundreds of cube worthy cards. He even has them broken down into cost categories. You will see that there are plenty of cards for under a dollar a piece that will get the ball rolling. And maybe, like I did, you will already own some of the cards that fall into the $5-$25 range.

When I started building my cube,  I used the cards from Eidolon323’s budget cube card list and cross referenced them with my favorite cube lists. If my favorite cube lists ran the cheap card, the cheap card went on my wish list. Before I knew it, my wish list had over 100 cards in it.

I remember the first 100 cards of my cube costing less than $50 total. That wasn’t even all of the “cheap” cards that ended up in the cube. So, over 100 of the cards for starting your cube can be found at bulk rare price. Not bad, Considering the fact that you only need 360 cards to support an 8 person draft. (3 packs of 15 / 45 cards per person x 8)

Of course, if you already own some of these cards, the costs will be even lower.

Once I had all the cheap cards I could ever want, I upped the ante and did the same for slightly more expensive cards. (somewhere in the $1-$3 range)

Art_Mountain_RichardWright cube

step 4: the costly cardsjace the mind sculptor cube cards

Unfortunately, at this point, the cards start to get a little pricier. Because of this, this part of the process takes the most time. The power cards, fetch lands, dual lands, and Karns are not as easy to come by. It isn’t like everyone just has a set of Alpha Dual Lands laying around.

If you want to have a nice complete cube, odds are that you are going to spend time working, saving up the money, and collecting the cards.

If you have the funds to do it all in one whack, great. If you don’t, well, it will take time and it will be worth it.

In the meantime, start Cube Drafting

Don’t know how to start drafting? Here is what wikipedia has to say about cube drafting:

Cube Draft is a booster draft variant in which the pool of cards is a predetermined set of cards chosen for the purpose of drafting them. The pool of cards is known as a Cube and usually contains a minimum of 360 cards to accommodate an eight-player booster draft.[23] The cards used in a Cube are usually unique so that no card appears more than once in a draft. Typically, the card pool is an amalgamation of powerful cards from throughout the history of Magic, although the card pool can be whatever theme is desired.


It works like a regular booster draft. Each person has 3 “packs” of 15 completely randomized cards from the cube.

In a booster draft, several players (usually eight) are seated around a table and each player is given three booster packs.[1] Each player opens a pack, selects a card from it and passes the remaining cards to his or her left. Each player then selects one of the 14 remaining cards from the pack that was just passed to him or her, and passes the remaining cards to the left again. This continues until all of the cards are depleted. The process is repeated with the second and third packs, except that the cards are passed to the right in the second pack.[1] Players then build decks out of any of the cards that they selected during the drafting and add as many basic lands as they want.


Once you have enough cards in your pool that you can start drafting with it, start drafting with it.

Yeah, it is nice to have all the lands or all the crazy artifacts, but if you don’t, that’s OK too. The important thing to do is to get your cube to a place where it is draft-able and then keep working on it.

Once you have compiled the basic framework of a cube, the hard part is over. Draft it frequently, and after your drafts talk to your friends about what cards are doing well and what cards are not. You can use this discussion to make group decisions about cuts and additions – this is how you will begin to make the cube your own.

For decklists, draft videos, and card discussion, check out some of our many articles and videos.

Art_Forest_RichardWright cube

Hopefully this has helped you on your journey toward cube drafting. Below I have included some more cube drafting resources to point you in the right direction.

Cube Drafting Links

At Turn One Magic, we can’t go without cube drafting. It’s like breathing at this point. Because we love it so much, we want to share it with everyone. We want every magic player to try cube drafting and see why we are so hooked. Below, we have some Cube Drafting resources that you can take a look at. We hope that our articles will inspire you and that the resources out there will help you to build your own cube and start drafting it.

MTG Salvation forums

The forums are full of knowledge. If you are new to cube drafting, MTG salvation forums are a great place to get familiar with stuff like cube drafting archetypes and individual card analysis. There are many cube lists on the forums that are good to model yours after, but remember that you want your cube to be your own design.


The /r/mtgcube subreddit is fairly new but it is exploding. If you’re already on reddit, I think you’ll find this is a great place to generate discussion on anything cube related.

I’d rather be cubing

I’d rather be cubing is a fantastic blog run by Usman Jamil and Anthony Avitollo. These guys really know what they are talking about when it comes to cube drafting as they have years and years of experience with the format. When I built my cube, their lists were a huge inspiration. If you haven’t been to their site or heard their podcasts yet, you ought to.

Good Luck and Happy Cube Drafting

2 thoughts on “Cube Drafting Magic: the Gathering

  1. Hey, I was just looking at Richard Wright’s beautiful artwork on these illustrations. May I ask how you got access to them, or where I could find them?

    Also, you’re missing the Island illustration (just to complete the blog)

    • They look nice, don’t they?

      Wizards of the Coast has a “webmaster toolkit” that anyone can download. It has all sorts of M:tG artwork.

      I hadn’t noticed that I left out the island artwork, so thanks for pointing that out. I’m going to have to add that. 🙂

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