Commander Cube Revisited: A Few Do's and Don'ts

Sol Ring | Art by Mike Bierek

More Cube for You

Almost exactly two years ago, I published an article on EDHREC all about my Commander Cube. As I always do in my main series, The Over/Under, I'd like to revisit my work.

Why? Because the game has changed a lot in those two years. We've added another Commander Legends set, countless pre-constructed commander decks, and several impactful sets. Plus, I've now got years of experience with my Commander Cube to share with you. If you're interested in building your own, these tips should help.

What Are the Rules of Commander Cube?

As a quick refresher, Commander Cube is a mashup of EDH and Draft. If you played OG Commander Legends or Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate, it's the same idea.

One player (in this case, moi) curates a set of cards to draft from. Each player pulls 20 cards from the pile as their first pack, then selects two cards and passes to their left. Proceed until no cards remain. Repeat with a new 20 cards for pack two, only this time you're passing to your right. Pass back to the left again for pack three, and you should end the draft with 60 cards. From your pool, assemble a 60-card deck, counting your commander(s) and lands.

From there, gameplay proceeds as normal, with commander tax, commander damage, color identity, and certain people whining things like, "But why'd you have to attack me?" (That's me saying that.)

My stats have changed slightly since last we spoke:

  • 361 total cards
  • 46 mono-colored cards for each color, 31 multicolored cards (two per guild pair, one of each shard/wedge commander, and one five-color), 50 colorless cards, 50 nonbasic lands
  • 60 commanders (26 being Partners—and yes, The Prismatic Piper is still in there)

The Prismatic Piper doesn't go in the main draft pool, hence why it's the 361st card. It's there to pair with any Partner drafted, and basically acts as a failsafe against drafting a literally unplayable deck. Scroll to the bottom of this article to see the full list.

Alright, now that we've gotten the housekeeping out of the way, let's delve into our Do's a Don'ts of Commander Cube construction.

The Do's

Do Check EDHREC’s Commander Pages—And Often

This isn’t just a shameless plug. It’s honestly the best way to improve your Commander Cube. Whenever I introduce a new commander to my list, I check the Top and High Synergy Cards for ideas on additions. That's how I discovered Selesnya Eulogist to support Ghired, Conclave Exile.

Furthermore, whenever a new set drops, I check the New Cards section of each commander in my Cube. With so many supplementary products released these days, it’s easy to overlook some amazing support pieces for your list.

Demand Answers is an excellent example. Commons can be afterthoughts in our format, but after finding this one on Niv-Mizzet, Parun's commander page, I realized it was a strict upgrade over Tormenting Voice. Plus, it even offers added synergy with Grusilda, Monster Masher, Quintorius, Loremaster, and Korvold, Fae-Cursed King.

That's a point I'd like to stress: The majority of cards in your Cube should function with multiple commanders. Fable of the Mirror-Breaker is an outstanding recent addition because it plays well in any deck. Ghired, Conclave Exile can populate the goblin token, the treasure ramps and fixes for The Ur-Dragon, the backside turns your Elemental tokens into Lightning Bolts with Omnath, Locus of Rage, etc. Ideally, you can slot each card into multiple archetypes.

That said, a few narrow cards are acceptable, especially in the multi-colored slots. Sunforger has a specific use case, but if you're drafting Boros, you're probably in the market for it.

Do Include a Mix of Classic and Underplayed Commanders

I feel like these "do" headings make me sound British. Anyhoo, everybody loves dragons—especially British authors. That's why I shoehorned The Ur-Dragon into my Cube. You'll notice other classics on my list, including Brago, King Eternal, Korvold, Fae-Cursed King, and Kaalia of the Vast. But part of the fun of Commander Cube is allowing players to enjoy commanders they'd otherwise never try.

Gimbal, Gremlin Prodigy is a great example. Though it's fairly underplayed at #577, it's a super fun build-around. Imagine a pick between Chaos Warp and Curse of Opulence. The former is a classic red card that's good in pretty much any deck that can cast it, yet the latter provides a type of artifact token rarely found on other cards. Suddenly, this becomes an interesting choice—and that's what you're striving for in Cube.

Barring some odd house rules in your meta, Cube is also the only place to play silver-bordered cards. My absolute favorite is Richard Garfield, Ph.D.. Ever wanted to play with the Power Nine without taking out a sizable loan? Well, now your Hedron Crab becomes Ancestral Recall and your Everflowing Chalice becomes Black Lotus. Need I say more?

I suggest consulting the Top Commanders page and scrolling down into the 200s and below. See what jumps out to you and try building around it.

Do Tread Carefully with Typal Commanders

You'll notice the previous iteration of my Cube contained no typal commanders. That wasn't for lack of trying. Before The Ur-Dragon, I tried to make Goblins work. So I headed over to EDHREC's Goblins page to see what I might find.

I found a lot. Krenko, Mob Boss was the most obvious choice, but sometimes he feels more like token-swarm than Goblin typal, so I opted for stuff like Wort, Boggart Auntie, Muxus, Goblin Grandee, and even Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician instead. Yet no matter what I tried, I encountered the same issue: Narrowness. See? It comes up again.

Typal commanders reward specificity by nature, which limits their applications over multiple decks. Plus, reaching the necessary critical mass of a creature type is difficult. In a 361-card Cube, the theme simply won't come together without 25+ creatures of the proper type.

This is why I'm trying dragons. Powerful Dragons appear in every color, which makes that critical mass a little easier to attain. Plus, many decks want Dragons in them, not just Dragon typal decks. I'm still in the testing phases with this one, but things look promising.

Do Customize Your Environment

Hate that 84% of EDH decks run Sol Ring? Cut it. Don't like Universes Beyond cards? Don't add them. Tired of games ending to an Overloaded Cyclonic Rift? Me too. That's why you won't see it on my list. A Commander Cube is the perfect opportunity to shape your gameplay experience to whatever you'd like. For an idea of what not to include, I recommend EDHREC's patented Saltiest Cards list.

That said, don't forget that you're sharing your Cube with friends. If you despise blue as a color and therefore design a four-color Cube, it might feel like a disappointing experience to degenerates like me. The trick is balancing your tastes with a fun gameplay experience for your playgroup.

Do Include Fetch and Shock Lands

Imagine you're like me and you first pick Scalding Tarn. Good for you. You're very wise. You've also probably noticed that the Tarn—and the other nine lands like it, colloquially known as "Fetch Lands"—doesn't specify searching up a basic land. This opens up a world of possibilities.

Imagine your next pack contains a Hallowed Fountain. This land—and the other nine in its cycle, known as "Shock Lands"—is half-Island, meaning your Tarn can fetch it. If you draft both, you've now got a fetch land that effectively taps for three colors (you can search up a basic Mountain for red or your Hallowed Fountain for blue and white). With lands like these, who needs Mystic Monastery?

I know the full set of 20 can be a bit pricey, but they're well worth the investment. This Cubing season, give your drafters the gift of good mana.

The Don'ts

Don't Include Game-Ending Combos

I tried. Wasn't fun.

Yes, an early version of my Cube contained the classic Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker + Pestermite combo, and all anybody wanted to do was assemble it. Players either trainwrecked their drafts by forcing the archetype, or otherwise pulled it off, thereby angering the table by prematurely ending what was shaping up to be an interesting game.

This goes back to the customizable environment point. If your meta enjoys combos, keep them. But most often, I think you'll have optimal fun without them.

Don't Keep Redundant Cards

Every card in a Cube should do something a little different. In the words of The Dude, that's like, my opinion, man.

For instance, I once ran both Lion Sash and Scavenging Ooze. Since they're essentially color-shifted versions of the same card, I kept the former and cut the latter, the tiebreaker being that Lion Sash supports Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist's Equipment theme.

The "Similar Cards" function helps identify your duplicates. If other cards from your Cube appear on that list, consider cutting one, with synergy being the tiebreaker. This creates a more varied experience from draft to draft.

Don't Ignore Feedback

After you draft and play, survey your friends on the experience. I don’t mean literally survey them, Family Feud style. That would take forever, and I'm guessing if you're reading this, you're not Steve Harvey. Just ask what your friends liked and disliked about the Cube. The answers will help shape it in the future.

For example, I once had Staying Power from Unhinged among my white cards. After playing with Jason and Shane (who are also my consiglieri for my Over/Under series), we determined the card didn’t fit. There weren’t enough synergies, and when they did come up, they'd be so broken as to be unreasonable. I mean, how would you like it if your opponent's creatures got permanent flying, vigilance, double strike, lifelink, indestructible, and protection from all colors thanks to Akroma's Will?

Don’t Forget About the Combos Menu

A commander's main page is nice, but remember, it’s an aggregation of all that commander's decks on the Internet. In some cases, you’ll want to get more granular. Click that button labeled "Combos" under your commander's picture for some powerful two- and three-card groupings.

Now, I know what I said about game-ending combos earlier. However, not all the combos you'll find here end the game on the spot. On Ghave, Guru of Spores's page, for instance, I discovered my Cube could create infinite tokens with Doubling Season and Ashnod's Altar. I'm allowing it for now, since you'd need to assemble three highly sought-after cards, plus the table gets a turn to wipe your board before you can attack.

We'll see if it sticks. But no matter what, I'm glad I discovered it in the Combos menu. Thanks, EDHREC. You’re always there for me. If you want even more ways to find combos, check out Commander Spellbook's combo search engine.

Don't Force Backgrounds

In the sequel set to Commander Legends, R&D tried to run back Partners with a D&D-flavored twist: Backgrounds. In my opinion, this mechanic is tempting, but ultimately far less successful than Partner. There are a few reasons for this.

The first issue is the Backgrounds themselves; they just aren't that interesting. The top few on the Backgrounds page are decent, but beyond Haunted One their functions get convoluted. Furthermore, they're all text-heavy, which slows down the draft portion simply from reading time. The Choose a Background commanders themselves are fine, though many, such as Wyll, Blade of Frontiers, support niche archetypes that would never function in the average Cube.

All that said, the biggest shortcoming of Backgrounds to Partners is their comparative inflexibility. A Partner can pair with any other Partner. Conversely, a Background can't pair with another Background, nor can two Choose a Background commanders become co-commanders. This leads to less flexibility in drafts, which is why I prefer Partners.

The List (As It Stands Today, At Least)

I'm always tinkering, but here's what my list looks like right now. Like last time, I recommend viewing this on desktop. It's a long one.

Kyle’s Commander Cube, Mark II

View on Archidekt

White (46)
Blue (46)
Black (46)
Red (46)
Green (46)
Multicolored (31)
Colorless (50)
Lands (50)

Happy Cubing

Here's hoping this article inspires you to build your own Commander Cube. EDHREC is an excellent tool for both starting and iterating, and I think you'll have a blast with both. Enjoy!

Kyle A. Massa is a writer and avid Magic player living somewhere in upstate New York with his wife, their daughter, and three wild animals. His current favorite card is Ghired, Mirror of the Wilds. Kyle can be found on Twitter @mindofkyleam.

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