As I read a few articles recently on Commander Cube, I was taken aback by some of the card choices. Sometimes these cubes were just lists of what the ideal cards would be, and sometimes they were based on an actual card pool. But in every case, there were a lot of choices that I just didn't see.
So I decided to create my own Commander cube (CC). This is a cube using all of the cube rules but which is intended to be played with Commander rules. So you build a 100-card Highlander deck using rules such as color identity, drafting a legendary creature, and more. My initial goal was to have a 1000-card cube, but I wound up with a few extra cards.
Now, my cube is a little different. This is its infancy. I built this cube in real life. I did not take apart any existing Commander decks or pull cards from Abe's Deck of Happiness and Joy. I never take cards from that deck. So I don't have cards for the CC that would otherwise make the cut. For example, there are several high value planeswalkers that I only own one or two copies of which are already in decks.
However, considering this is in its infancy, I do think that the cube looks pretty solid. You'll get a chance to check out the entire thing later.
For now, let's discuss the Commander cube project.
I decided to begin with these numbers:
50 nonbasic lands
125 cards of each color – 625 total
5 cards of each three-color combination – 50 total
12 cards of each two-color combination – 120 total
5 cards with all five colors
150 colorless cards – largely artifacts
I looked at a lot of Commander cubes online before selecting my numbers. Some had too many tricolor cards, and the quality of the enemy ones is really poor. On the other hand, I wanted to push the double-color cards because I felt too many good cards were being excluded. To me, it's rough to see cubes without cards like Terminate.
In order to facilitate commanders, I wanted at least two legendary creatures in each two- and three-color combination, and I would push to three where I could. I needed a few extra legendary creatures to round out a few colors because I didn't have enough in my card stock to fix it, so a few duel color combinations have just two legendary creatures.
Some people have a commander draft prior to the actual draft where you select key legendary creatures and draft from them to have guidance for your drafting later. That helps give people direction before they pick their first card. I saw two major issues with that. First, it gives you no ability to move in a draft. If I've drafted five legendary creatures that are B/U, B/G, G/W, mono-blue, and U/W/B, what happens if I get passed really good red? I can't move into it. Similarly, what if I draft a legendary creature that I prefer for my commander? Can I switch to it? Suppose I draft Olivia Voldaren after taking those commanders. Can I draft R/B and move to her?
I decided to try out the cube draft without the pre-draft with a handpicked selection of commanders from the cube. Instead, you just draft, and you need to draft your generals as well. It's worked so far in our test runs. The only issue is what happens if I am drafting a color combination but never get a chance to see a commander in that color? For example, I have just two U/G legendary creatures: Experiment Kraj and Edric. If I have drafted a solid U/G deck, what if neither gets flipped? With 1000 cards, if there are just four people, I could draft strong U/G with neither general getting flipped.
There are pluses and minuses to both ways of doing it. In our first drafts, we key in on generals early in order to guarantee we can build a deck around that character. So a creature like Thromok the Insatiable, who might not normally be a top pick in this sort of draft, really gets bumped up the ladder early in order to secure the Gruul colors.
To be fair, there are a ton of legendary creatures in the mono-colored section. For example, suppose you are drafting heavy red. You have the chance to get eleven legendary creatures for it. That was a random color. How about blue? Seven. And white? thirteen. They are out there. We'll leave the final decision about the pre-cube draft of commanders until later, after I have more experience with it. I'd love to hear your thoughts on that issue.
When it came to including cards, every cube, especially one as diverse as a Commander cube, will have some differences based on the taste of the builder. For example, do you include the mana Myr such as Copper Myr and Iron Myr? About half did, and about half did not. They are good early accelerants for each color, can wield equipment, aid a deck that wants a number of artifacts, and help to round out a deck's 100-card count. But they are not multiplayer essentials or anything. I included them, but I can see why some would not.
Sometimes I just wondered where cards were. For example, one cube that was built in theory (not in real life with the constraints of an actual collection) had Archangel's Light but not Congregate or Invincible Hymn. Congregate is a literal multiplayer essential. Another was missing Syphon Mind. Come on now! Syphon Mind? Really? And where were Capsize and Soul Warden (or one of Soul Warden's friends like Auriok Champion)?
I also felt some aspects of cards were underrepresented. For example, mono-blue needs to counter things, yet few had enough counters. I have thirteen, and I still wish I could fit more in besides Draining Whelk (and cards in multiple colors like Mystic Snake and Undermine). We need more removal. How some cubes get away with not having Murder in their black removal is beyond me. I actually wish I owned an extra (they are all in decks).
Seeing these needs out there led to my own Commander cube project; it took about a month to build. Today, we will look at the results. I have attached a spreadsheet with the whole cube. (It is alphabetized by section, so the equipment pieces in the artifact section are alphabetized, the creatures, sorceries, etc).
Now, I actually ended up with more cards than 1000. I couldn't get my land count to 50 no matter what I did, so I expanded it to 70. Once I did that, I increased my five-color cards to seven from five. So my total card count for the cube is 1022. I added a few extra five-color legendary creatures as suggested by Sean McKeown to give people a chance to draft a five-color legend and then draft anything they want.
I went with three lands in each mono-color identity. As an example, we have Volrath's Stronghold, Bojuka Bog, and Cabal Coffers as my three mono-black leaning lands. Not every color has three powerhouses like that. Plus, I don't own an extra Yavimaya Hollow for green. So some of the other colors are not as powerful as a result—take the trio of Dryad Arbor, Llanowar Reborn, and Khalni Garden or that of Keldon Necropolis, Teetering Peaks, and Valakut. Blue got Academy Ruins, Tolaria West, and Halimar Depths—not bad. White had Kor Haven, Emeria, and Seijiri Steppe.
I didn't have the good duels or pain fetches, so I added one each of the Karoo guild lands plus a cycle of Vivid lands and Refuges. Then I included every land I had that could reasonable fetch or make any color of mana. From Undiscovered Paradise and Grand Coliseum through Thawing Glaciers and Terramorphic Expanse, we have all that I own. Add in some fun colorless lands, such as Maze of Ith, Strip Mine, Winding Canyons, and High Market and we have our lands.
I had some issues with the tricolor cards. Post-Shards block, the three-color allies of Rith, Darigaaz, et al. were really fleshed out. So those colors have a lot of powerful choices for the five spots. But the enemy colors do not have such enhancement. Many cubes have had to resort to bad cards in the enemy colors. For example, in Sean's cube he has the Ana, Dega, Ceta, Raka, and Necra Disciples and Volvers just to get enough cards in. Seeing Raka Disciple alongside these great multiplayer cards makes my head hurt and was one of the reasons I cut my tricolors to five from seven and increased my dual colors to twelve.
I still ended up with a few cards I just don't like for the power level. Take Overgrown Estate as an example—yuck. In some of these colors I just had to play a lot of legendary creatures because they are the only good cards. Take, for example, blue and its enemies:
Now, when you look at these, you see four legendary creatures and a Guided Passage. In his slate, Sean has Cetavolver, Ceta Disciple, and Research // Development. Do I really want to pull out Animar or the Wanderer for one of those? You can see my frustration in these choices.
For my colors, I wanted to balance creatures against noncreatures. As long as the count was roughly even, I stuck with it. I think every color has at least 60 creatures in 125 cards. I didn't mind one color having three or four more creatures than the others in a project this big. Normally, I am very precise about balancing creatures and noncreatures in these sorts of projects, but in a cube with 1022 cards, having one color with maybe 2-4% more creatures than another is not going to ruin my day.
One area hit hard by my lack of deep card stock was the equipment section. Some of the equipment I wish I had is missing. I do have some typical stuff: Lightning Greaves, Skullclamp, Nim Deathmantle, Umezawa's Jitte, Darksteel Plate, and so forth. But I do not have a Sword of Vengeance, Batterskull, or most of the Swords of X and Y. I wound up with things on the next list like Empyrial Plate; Angelic Armaments; and Tatsumasa, the Dragon's Fang.
Another place is red creatures. I may have too many Dragons because I own a lot of Dragons naturally. Some of my final cuts were Dragons, but I still feel I have a bit too many. I even added Crucible of Fire as a joke for that. So I made sure to include legendary creatures like Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund; Bladewing the Risen; and Kaalia the Vast to use all of this feed.
I am looking over the list again as I write this and seeing some changes to make. I want to pull Man-o'-War or Aether Adept for Mist Raven. I constantly find new tweaks to make. I am always questioning the cube. Do I have enough morph creatures? I really wish I had an extra Bane of the Living. Is it worth playing Liliana's Shade, which tutors for a Swamp? I do have Kor Cartographer in white; isn't it fair that I have the Shade in black? Could I pull the Nantuko Shade for it? Should I have more dredge creatures than just Stinkweed Imp? Which ones? Should I add more intentional combos to the deck?
Do I have enough tribal cards, or should I pull out things like Undead Warchief and Imperious Perfect? I feel like I need more artifact creatures, but do I really? Which ones are good enough to make the cut? Do I have too much red burn? It feels like I do. What should I pull out, and what would go in? Are the nonbasic land hosers in red really needed here? Is Acid-Web Spider too weak for the format? Isn't playing both Strata Scythe and Lashwrithe a bit duplicative for a black deck? Is it bad to play both Zuran Orb and Overgrown Estates? Do I need more graveyard removal? How many Walls are enough? Should I add more artifact ones like Crenellated Wall or maybe a pseudo Wall like Dancing Scimitar?
My constant questioning of the cube helps me frame future changes.
I hope that you enjoyed walking through my thought processes of putting together my Commander cube. If you are interested in checking it out, the full cube's spreadsheet is attached here.
Let me know what you think!