I’ve always liked drafting, and hence the idea of a Cube (a controlled Limited environment where you get to draft lots of powerful cards) is something that has always appealed to me. I’ve held off on building a Cube of my own for years, not wanting the hassle of finding certain cards (namely, the P3K ones like Burning of Xinye or Ravages of War). If I was going to build a traditional Cube, I’d also want it to be powered up with the Power 9 (Black Lotus etc); even though I have never enjoyed powered Cubes, I’d finally have a place for Power.
But I digress. This past September, I finally decided to start building a Cube. The reason? I’d found the idea of a single-set Cube, where you pick a set and build a Cube out of it to draft with, to be a fantastic idea. So I decided to build not one, but two single-set Cubes to draft with.
This is their story.
Single set Cube is exactly what it sounds like. Just like a normal Cube, you have a selection of cards sleeved and ready to draft. However, rather than being a singleton format drawing on all the powerful cards from Magic’s past, you try to emulate one set’s Limited format as much as possible.
There were three sets in recent memory that I truly found a joy to draft: Innistrad, Rise of the Eldrazi, and Modern Masters. I decided early on when sitting down to brainstorm these Cubes that Modern Masters, despite being my favorite draft set of all time, was a little out of my price range for now, so I put that aside and decided to build a Rise of the Eldrazi Cube, and an Innistrad Cube.
To simulate the drafting experience, I decided to put together Cubes that looked like this: 5 of each common card, 3 of each uncommon, 2 of each rare, and 1 of each mythic rare. (The only two cards I thought about changing this formula for was Rise of the Eldrazi’s bomb rare Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief and Innistrad’s Bloodline Keeper; each of these were very hard to beat in their respective draft format and were thus almost cut to a single copy, which would effectively make them mythic. I’ve left them alone at two copies for now, but they are on my watch list.)
When ready to draft, the commons are shuffled and put into twenty-four stacks of 11 cards each, the uncommons are shuffled, and three are added to each pile, and then the mythics/rares are shuffled and one is added to each pile. The result is a very strong representation of the actual draft format for each of these sets, and is a lot of fun.
It took me roughly four months of casual trading here and there to finish both Cubes, which is pretty good considering I barely did any trading in Nov/Dec. The bulk of my trading was done in September, when the Innistrad block rotated out and prices for those cards were at an all-time low (ie. I was being smart about trading for this when prices were down).
The first set Cube we’ll look at is the earliest one: Rise of the Eldrazi.
RISE OF THE ELDRAZI CUBE:
Rise of the Eldrazi was an excellent Limited set, with several fun archetypes to draft and play. The set was slowed down a lot for the Limited format, with lots of early Walls to gum up the ground, letting you set up to cast the giant Eldrazi monsters to finish games with. The Eldrazi themselves were a casual player’s dream, being gigantic threats that would slowly eat away at an opponent’s board with the annihilator mechanic.
The main thing that tied this Limited format together was a number of cards that made Eldrazi Spawn tokens (ie. cards like Kozilek’s Predator, or Nest Invader). Not only were the Eldrazi Spawn tokens a way to accelerate to the big Eldrazi monsters, they also made handy chump-blockers in a pinch (and could actually be drafted around; one of my favorite draft archetypes in the format revolved around Eldrazi Spawn and the common enchantment Raid Bombardment to kill people with).
This set had several cool mechanics that played well in draft. Level up (based on Eventide rare Figure of Destiny) was a mechanic that Wizards has not used since, sadly, as it was an excellent way to use your excess mana to pump up your creatures. Level up also promoted a slower gameplan, letting you build up one creature to become a huge monster over the course of the game. Level up was a valid draft strategy, since the common Venerated Teacher would boost your level up creatures. Totem armor was a mechanic used on the Auras in the set, giving one creature a boost, while preventing it from dying once. Totem armor was a minor theme in the set, but was also supported by commons like Totem-Guide Hartebeest, meaning you could draft a totem armor Aura and Tutor for it with the Hartebeest. Finally, defender creatures (Walls) also had a large part to play in RoE Limited, and also had card to support them, like Vent Sentinel.
Here’s a quick rundown of the draft archetypes in Rise of the Eldrazi Limited:
-The Wall deck:
There were a number of ways this archetype could be drafted, but it normally hinged on common Vent Sentinel, who would be both an early defender and a way to kill people. Overgrown Battlement could also be excellent with multiple defenders, giving you a massive amount of mana. The Wall deck was an excellent foil for anyone trying to win by attacking you, incidentally.
This was normally a draft archetype that would revolve around the common Aura Gnarlid and Totem-Guide Hartebeest, and picking up multiple copies of totem armor Auras to stick on the Gnarlid.
-Blue-based Level up:
When playing RoE Limited, this was normally the archetype that I tried to draft most often. Basically, you draft every creature with level up that you can grab (either in U/W or U/B), and Venerated Teacher to cheat their levelling costs. Despite being in blue (the slowest color historically in Magic), this strategy was often very, very fast and could easily overwhelm opponents while they were setting up.
-U/R Kiln Fiend:
Simple enough, this archetype was made up of as many copies of Kiln Fiend or Valakut Fireboar as possible, and ways to make them unblockable (ie. Distortion Strike, or Wrap in Flames). You then cast instants/sorceries and kill your opponents. This was very much the all-in combo deck of the draft format, and was very high risk, high reward.
Though not easy to assemble, the U/R/B control archetype was basically a ton of removal spells, plus multiple copies of recursion spells Surreal Memoir or Mnemonic Wall. This deck would kill every creature you play, and eventually kill you once you’d run out of threats.
-The Big Eldrazi plan:
Simple enough, this deck just wants to draft all the common cards that make Eldrazi Spawn tokens, and use them to power out the gigantic Eldrazi finishers. This archetype was normally some combination of green, red, and black.
An offshoot of the Big Eldrazi plan, the common card Raid Bombardment, Lavafume Invoker, and uncommon Broodwarden could all be used to make your hordes of Eldrazi Spawn tokens into lethal killing machines. As with the Big Eldrazi plan, this draft archetype prioritized picking all the cards that could make Eldrazi Spawns, followed by the large Eldrazi finishers.
And finally, a quick look at the Cube itself:
These are the commons of the Cube, fitting in one longbox. The uncommons, land, tokens, and rares make up a second longbox.
These are the rares and mythic rares of Rise. Obviously, these took me the longest to collect.
Finally, these are the tokens of Rise that I’ve accumulated so far. I’m looking to pick up a lot more Eldrazi Spawn, as they are very necessary for the format.
I’m very happy to have put the Rise of the Eldrazi Cube together. There are a lot of fun draft archetypes, and a lot of cards that I just like playing (things like Sphinx-Bone Wand, Keening Stone, the various Eldrazi Spawn creators, Ondu Giant, Pelakka Wurm, Brimstone Mage, etc.) RoE Limited had a lot going for it, and I’m glad that I’ll now be able to draft it whenever I want.
THE INNISTRAD CUBE:
Having just rotated out of Standard this past September, Innistrad is by far the more recent of the two sets, and once again is one of my favorite Limited sets to play. Innistrad is a horror-themed set, and like RoE, had multiple draft archetypes that you could build around.
Innistrad is known for its horror theme, and to be fair, the cards just dripped flavor. From things like Creepy Doll to Grimgrin, Corpse-Born, to Rooftop Storm, the cards in this set all told stories, and told them very well. This is another reason why I’d picked Innistrad as one of my sets to build a Cube around: I appreciate the depth of flavor packed into the set, and think that WotC did an excellent job here at making a believable horror world.
As an aside: The reason why this Cube was just Innistrad by itself (as opposed to Innistrad/Dark Ascension, which was the actual draft format once Dark Ascension was released) is that I just didn’t find adding Dark Ascension cards to be as fun as Innistrad by itself.
As with RoE, there are a number of mechanics tying this set together. Double-faced transform cards are the major innovation from this set, giving each color a number of creatures that have ways to ‘transform’ into other, better creatures. Notably, this played very well in draft, since one of the supported tribes of the set — Werewolves — were all transforming creatures, and had lots of ways to make them work. Flashback, first seen in Odyssey block, is a major theme in Innistrad, letting each spell be played twice. Like the themes in RoE, this is something that can be drafted around, as there are cards like Burning Vengeance that make each flashback card more potent. As we’ll see in a second when I go over the draft archetypes, self-milling was something that could be drafted in this set, and each flashback spell you had actually made that strategy better (since you could mill yourself, hit a flashback spell, and play it from your graveyard). Curses were new in this set, and were enchantments that you could stick to a player, and would then do something detrimental to that player. And morbid was a trigger on several cards that just meant “when a creature dies, do something.” Creatures in this set happened to die a lot, so morbid cards often ended up being very powerful, like Skirsdag High Priest.
There were several tribes supported in Innistrad as well. Zombies (in blue and black) were the main supported tribe, getting lots of tribal enablers and great creatures. Werewolves (in red and green) were a supported tribe as well, giving R/G players a beatdown tribe that could transform into bigger and better creatures as the game went on. Humans were another tribe (mostly in white and green), and were basically seen as the victims of the other tribes. Vampires (in red and black) were highly aggressive creatures in Innistrad, and nearly all had the “Slith” ability (seen on Slith Predator; if the creature dealt damage to a player, it would get a +1/+1 counter). And finally Spirits were seen in all five colors, though primarily in white and blue, and had several Lords to pump them as well.
I really liked the fact that WotC was able to fully flesh out the tribes of Innistrad and give each their own identity. Each tribe could also be drafted as a tribe, adding another layer of complexity to an already complex Limited set.
The draft archetypes of Innistrad were:
Fairly obvious, this tribe had a lot of tribal synergy going for it (as well as some on-theme cards like Moonmist and Full Moon’s Rise, that were excellent for Werewolf decks). Add in the fact that each Werewolf was a transform card, meaning it would change into a bigger, better creature as the game goes on, and you have a strong tribe.
The most aggressive of the Innistrad tribes are the Vampires, constantly getting bigger as they hit your opponents. R/B aggro is simple enough; small, fast creatures backed up by removal. If you draft enough Vampires, you can even run tribal spells like Vampiric Fury, a pseudo-Overrun effect just for your tribe.
Very different than W/G Humans (where the focus is more on attacking than synergy), the W/B Humans deck uses cards like Thraben Sentry and Village Cannibals to profit from having your own Humans die. Not the best of strategies, but it is a possible theme deck.
This is one of the obvious archetypes in Innistrad, and can be a lot of fun to play. Stitched Drake and Makeshift Mauler are two common, very powerful creatures given enough fuel to run them, and so you just run a lot of ways to mill yourself, plus these types of cards. Armored Skaab, Deranged Assistant, and Forbidden Alchemy are all great enablers for this strategy.
Basically the same idea as the U/B self-mill deck (mill yourself, and play huge guys that benefit from your graveyard), U/G gets a few more tools to work with. Mulch is a great enabler, and both Boneyard Wurm and Spider Spawning can be excellent in here.
-U/R Burning Vengeance:
This is the flashback-themed deck, and gets better the more copies you have of Burning Vengeance. To play this archetype, you normally want to draft an early Vengeance, followed by 8-9 flashback spells. Dream Twist can be quite potent here, letting you fuel your engine.
A very powerful and underrated archetype, G/W aggro grabs all the best creatures in white and green (sometimes even going into a Human theme), and backs them up with one of the strongest spells in the format: Travel Preparations. This is a strong archetype, and can be quite fast and hard to beat.
Simple enough archetype, just grab every flying creature you can and gum up the ground with things like Fortress Crab while you win in the air. U/W fliers is an archetype that has worked in pretty much every Limited format ever, and works just as well in Innistrad.
This archetype plays a lot of cards with morbid, and ways to trigger them. Cards like Prey Upon are golden in this archetype, being both removal and a way to trigger morbid.
My goodness, that’s a lot of standard deck archetypes for one set to support, going to show that Innistrad was a really well-designed set for Limited. Here’s a quick look at the Innistrad Cube itself:
A quick look at how I have the Innistrad Cube stored. As with RoE, it’s stored in two longboxes.
As with Rise, here’s a quick look at how I have the Innistrad commons boxed up. It takes one entire longbox to hold the sleeved commons, and another for the uncommons, rares, mythics, transform cards, and land.
This is the giant stack of uncommons, which takes up much of the second longbox. There are a lot of cards in this stack that I love for Limited, like Intangible Virtue, Burning Vengeance, Into the Maw of Hell, Moan of the Unhallowed, etc. These cards are just plain fun to play, and I would say that Innistrad is the most recent set where I’ve enjoyed playing nearly all the uncommons in the set.
The trademark cards of Innistrad, the double-faced transform cards. I have the checklist cards sleeved up for the cube itself (I detest playing the transform cards without the checklist, as transforming them is a pain), and these transform cards are all sleeved up in clear sleeves.
Here we see the rares and mythics of Innistrad. Just like Rise, there were an awful lot of them to collect (especially when I’m running 2 of each rare), and this is what took me the most time to collect for the Cube.
These are Innistrad’s tokens. There are some that I’m currently missing (several pictures of the Zombie tokens, for example), but I’ll be picking those up shortly.
As with Rise, Innistrad is a very deep set for Limited, with lots of archetypes and fun cards to build around. I love that cards like Spider Spawning and Burning Vengeance can be drafted around, and as with RoE, there are a lot of cards that I just find fun to play (things like the self-mill cards, Moan of the Unhallowed and Army of the Damned, Murder of Crows, Geist-Honored Monk, etc.) There are a lot of cards that I enjoyed playing in this set, and I’m glad to have this finally built so I can draft it whenever I want to.
Conclusion: Building these two Cubes was fun, and as with all Cubes, gaming with them is good fun as well. As I’d said earlier, these are two of my favorite Limited sets of all time, and having Cubes of them built so that I can draft them forever is pretty damn cool. Building these sets made me think long and hard about building other Cubes as well (a single set Modern Masters Cube would be excellent, or an Unglued/Unhinged Cube, and possibly even an EDH Cube if I could get it to work), but I’ll stick with these for now. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed a quick look at my single set Cubes!