Turning Data to Decks - Creating an EDH Cube
Hello Everyone! Excited for Thanksgiving? I know I am! Before we dive into today's article, two important announcements!
First, we have an official date for the EDH Scavenger Hunt this year. It will be December 9th at 11:00am! As a reminder, it will be located at UCF, here in Orlando. There is a sign-up sheet you should add your name to, and quickly! We expect a large turnout so this will be the only way to guarantee yourself a spot. Plus, the first 50 who sign up and show up get a special bonus towards the event! Please refer to my last article for more information on last year's EDH Scavenger Hunt! I look forward to seeing everyone there!
Second important announcement is that I moved all my 3D EDH print downloads to Thingiverse! It helps to put all the prints on one page so readers don't have to navigate through all my articles to find them. As always, help yourselves to some amazing prints to spice up the EDH table! Already had over a thousand downloads within just 5 days of adding the models to the site! Thank you everyone for your support!
Data to Decks
Okay then! I think that's it for the announcements. Oh! I forgot one more! I've been writing for EDHREC now for over a year! The time has really flown by. I've written a lot of articles since last November, and my writing has definitely shifted since I started. You ever start a job, and the job description goes out the window over time? My articles have ranged from combining hobbies to 3D printing and even to EDH Psychology over the past year. But originally I was hired for a single purpose, Turning Data to Decks!
I was always an EDHREC fangirl, because EDHREC is one of the single best tools for deck creation. I know sometimes people around the table have a very strong opinion of "net decking" and associate this with EDHREC. However I've always disagreed with those arguments, because EDHREC it doesn't flat-out prescribe decklists, and never purports its recommendations to be gospel. It shows you helpful hints of cards that are found in most decks. It's still up to you and your imagination of how you want to shift the direction of your deck!
In my first articles, we dove into the ways to utilize EDHREC to create fun and unique decks. Now lets kick it up a notch and find some wacky ways to use this site for our benefit! I think using EDHREC to create a Cube is a perfect way to utilize the many sections EDHREC has, so this will be the perfect conclusion of the Turning Data to Decks segment!
The EDH Cube
Now let's dive into the article itself: an EDH Cube! This was a heavily requested article topic on Twitter. Cubes are an excellent source of utilizing powerful and fun EDH cards that didn't quite make it into your decks. One of my biggest pet peeves is watching a large collection of cards I love just wasting away in binders. So you can imagine I quickly ended up turning my collection into a Cube to give my cards some purpose. Of course there will likely be gaps in the Cube when using your collection, and that's where EDHREC comes in handy!
For those unfamiliar with a Cube, it is essentially a large set of cards you set aside to draft with friends, like you would with new packs. Instead of using fresh packs however, you distribute randomized piles of "packs" to your friends. From here, you continue the draft as normal. By itself it's simple, but EDH definitely adds in some extra mechanics. CoolStuffInc actually wrote a decent article on their take of how to build an EDH Cube. I'd like to add to their techniques, though, with some advice on how I personally created my own Cube.
So first, the ground rules:
- The EDH Cube itself should consist of a few hundred cards.
- EDH Decks crafted from the Cube should consist of 50-75 cards.
- Cube Packs are split up to Commander Packs, Mana Packs, and Regular Packs.
- Cube Packs should consist of 10-12 cards per Regular Pack.
I think this is fairly simple. The main reason that we're limiting the deck size is important, though. Drafting is fun, but I promise you that no one in their right mind wants to draft so long that everyone has more than 100 cards to build a deck. Don't put people through that. Most of everyone's time is going to be spent on the draft just with a 50 card deck, and you want people excited to actually play a game with their decks.
Besides, you're already going to end up with 7 or 8 draft packs: 1 Commander Pack Draft, 1 Mana Pack Draft and 5 or 6 Regular Packs. I've found it important to split up the different kinda of packs everyone drafts, just for neatness. Making sure people have plenty of commanders options and enough mana boosts is vital to make sure everyone has a good time.
So how do you begin the draft? The short directions for those who don't like to read:
- Everyone drafts a single pack of the Commander Packs.
- Everyone then drafts a single pack of the Mana Packs.
- Lastly everyone drafts 5-6 packs of the Regular Packs.
So how do we make the Cube Pool for each of these packs? Let's split this up by the different Pack Drafts.
Putting the 'Elder' in 'Elder Dragon'
Let's start with the Commander Packs. This should be the first thing you work on for your draft, as the power level of these decks are going to be probably on the weaker end compared to a regular tuned EDH deck. This means that the commanders will make their appearance often, and to some degree will be the centerpiece of everyone's deck. So what kind of commander should we grab? Pro opinion: avoid mono-color commanders, of course! This is a draft, and there's no possible way to guarantee folks will obtain enough cards of a single color to create a deck. Two-color decks might be possible, but let's shoot for some 3+ color commanders. Now, if I was true to the spirit of "Turning Data Into Decks," I would show you a helpful page that shows you a nice list of Top Commanders to hopefully spark some imagination. However, I have something specific in mind! I want to make an Elder Dragon EDH Cube! So, where do we look?
Well, EDHREC has a great answer to this. Under the Themes tab listed in the top bar, you can find Dragons here. Look at all these cool Dragons! Obviously we're going to add in the big boys.
They got some new prints too! Props if you can find the originals to add them to the Cube as well! However there's only so many of the Elder Dragons, so we're going to need more! Plus, if I'm being honest, it wasn't the above Dragons that inspired me to create an Elder Dragon Cube. It was another set of Dragons, which I'm absolutely in love with:
The best Dragons, in my opinion, are the Primeval Dragons. A lot of them were reprinted in a fairly recent EDH Starter Deck cycle. What's best about these Dragons is that you can build them completely around their abilities. No matter how your cube forms, you'll always have mana to pour into their special powers! There's a large amount of these Dragons to find, so I won't list them out here. I'll help you out, though, with some hints on EDHREC!
As we already know, going to the Dragon's Theme Page will list plenty of our flying friends. Clicking on the Creature button will list out about every Dragon you need! But you can also look at the Sets tab and go down to, say, Invasion or Planar Chaos to find them, too. If you know your Dragon-heavy sets, it's easy! If you don't, you can click on the Gatherer links for more information on the card! Bet many didn't know that! Now we get to find a few more Dragons...
Now obviously we have to add in The Ur-Dragon! The collective of the Primeval Dragons must be represented! There are a few 5-color Dragon Commanders you can add which will make deck construction easy. Keep the 5-color commanders limited though, because they should be the "rare" cards of the pack! (As a reminder, even if you choose a 5-color commander, you don't have to add in every color if you don't want to.) Then, of course, there are other 3-color commanders that we all know and love. One very popular example that we all have laying around is probably Prossh, Skyraider of Kher. I'm sure you can find plenty of Commanders that fit the theme you're looking for. Are these other commander options Elder Dragons? No. But if you try to point this out to them, will they burn you to a crisp? Yes, yes they will. So just go with it.
I'd say after 15-30 Commanders, you'll be all set! Obviously for the Commander Packs, they're will be less cards per pack. I'd say no more than 5 cards per pack. This gives folks a good smattering of potential deck paths, and anyways, this portion of the draft should be quick!
The Mana Packs
Now I know a lot of Cubes combine the mana with the rest of the packs, or separate the lands and artifacts into different packs. However, I'm going to do it differently and put the lands and mana rocks into one single pack system. For the ratio of lands and artifacts, I'd argue to make it a fairly even split. As for how many you add to your pool, realistically it doesn't matter after 40 cards. The only thing to be mindful of is to make sure each color is represented evenly!
Now of course, with this cube, you need to set aside plenty of basic lands of each color. These are free cards that you don't need to pick from packs, the same as any draft. However, for these Mana Packs we're going to add in some nonbasic lands. Using EDHREC, we can easily find some of the most popular lands. You can find the most popular lands by going to "Card" -> "Type" -> "Land" on EDHREC. Here is a quick shortcut to the page. Another option I used was going to The Ur-Dragon's commander page and looked at the lands there. 5 colors and my theme is Dragons, so that was an obvious but very helpful move!
Let's start with the easy, cheap lands that work for any color. These should be the rares of the packs! Imagine the joy of drafting a Command Tower! In my opinion, the money you drop on your cube should be very, very limited. So dropping too many great lands is something I'd avoid. We're looking to create casual decks from this cube, so we don't need a crazy mana base for these decks. Save yourself some money, don't spend $200 on lands! Also, it might be tempting to put in special 'deck theme' lands, but since it's tough to guarantee that any player will build a specific commander with that specific theme, I would avoid them!
Honestly I think the most underrated cards of all of EDH is the simplicity of enters-tapped and bounce lands. They're often worth less then a quarter and can be found in the bulk of nearly every player's collection. What's even greater is that there are plenty of variations of 2 color and 3 color tapped lands! Needless to say, you should have no issue filling your Mana Pack portion with these cards.
Going to EDHREC, finding Artifacts is just as easy as finding popular lands. We're going to go to "Cards" -> "Type" -> "Artifacts" for what we need. Now I don't know if you have a spare Sol Ring, since they always end up in the decks we build, so it might be worth picking one up for $3.00. Obviously the Signets are all finding a home. Thankfully, recent reprints have made them super cheap. Then Commander's Sphere is another great "rare" we can add to the mix!
Now for the Mana Rocks she tells you not to worry about! How many Wayfarer's Bauble have you plucked from your precons? Those mana rocks you scoffed at finally have their purpose! What's more, they're actually REALLY good for our expected deck levels. Like tapped lands, you have countless options that are worth fractions of a dollar. Have at it!
Oh boy. Now this is going to be the difficult part! In my humble opinion, this will depend entirely on what kind of themes you're looking for and what your Magic the Gathering collection looks like. If you're building a non-specific generic Cube, here are a few rules to help you out with this.
- Every color should have an equal amount of cards.
- Every color should have a similar mana curve.
- Have a good ratio of creature and noncreature cards.
That's all you need to be mindful of when developing a Cube. However, if you want to make a great Cube, you need to add a little more creativity into it. For my particular Cube, we obviously have a Dragon theme going on, so I'm going to add in plenty of Dragon support. Being a smart Cube creator, we picked Dragons that have interesting abilities, but many of these abilities are not very niche in what you need for complete deck support. This means we can add in cards to support the Dragons' abilities, but if someone who didn't have the Dragon as their Commander can still use the card in their deck. That's a balance we need to be mindful of. So where do we start looking? Well let's go back to the Dragon Theme Page on EDHREC for some help.
We can easily start with basic colorless support cards for our dragon theme. There are plenty of artifact cards to help support any theme you're building with. Of course, there are not a lot of colorless Dragons. We'll have to fill probably fill our colorless section with helpful equipment like Lightning Greaves that everyone can use!
Next we can add in plenty of generic support from every color. An easy go-to are the simple staples that you might have laying around that are not in use, like...
WHAT? Cyclonic Rift is $20.00??? When did this happen? Ew. Anyways, this part is simple within itself. After the Dragon support staples of each color, go for the generic auto-includes that every color provides. Counterspells for Blue, haste enablers for Red, and mana ramp for Green, etc.
For creatures we're obviously going to need some Dragons so we can justify all the support we added for them! Many Dragons are in Red but we still have plenty of choices across the color pie.
One thing with my specific Cube I have to be very aware of is the fact that Dragons are mana-intensive. This is why I set my lower-costed creatures in the Cube to be more along the lines of a support base. They either have special abilities or provide mana, such as Birds of Paradise. When in doubt, add in decent creatures that at least support their color identity well. For example, there are not a lot of blue Dragons, but you can still add in a Fatespinner or Omenspeaker for any deck with blue.
Now, when it comes to creatures, you want to try and focus on mono-color creatures for the most part, periodically dipping into 2-color monsters too. You can definitely add in nonlegendary 3-color cards, but please do it sparingly. Your draft has failed if everyone has a large pile of cards they can't use in their deck after drafting!
Now for the obnoxiously hard part. You have to find subthemes of your Cube that help specific commanders, but are still useful for everyone. For example, you have some commanders like Intet, the Dreamer who are easy to build around, and don't need much support. But let's take Prossh, Skyraider of Kher as an example. He clearly wants to abuse tokens. So what should we put in?
Well, going back to EDHREC we can take a look here! His EDHREC page definitely has a lot of cards that we can add in. However, there are some cards on his page that we shouldn't automatically slap into the Cube. For example, adding a Doubling Season would be a mistake, as it wouldn't be as relevant to many other commanders or cards in the rest of the Cube. I chose to leave out tokens as an overall subtheme. However, a card like Skullclamp or Dicate of Erebos is something everyone can use. Since everyone could potentially run black, sacrificing creatures is something we can support for that color section easily. Tempt of Vengeance is frighteningly powerful with Prossh, but it's also just an amazingly fun card in general!
The point is that we should use the EDHREC pages for our possible Cube commanders as inspiration for cards to include, but we should also avoid cards that are only useful to a specific commander, and are near useless without them. (Another useful tip: scroll down on any given color-combo page to see staples for that color identity! For example, click here to see Naya staples, which fit into a variety of Naya decks and don't cater specifically to a single commander's strategy.)
Finally, for my particular Cube, we know that blue lacks Dragon support, so we're going to make up for this by adding in some amazing high-mana powerhouses. I'd argue Leviathans are the Dragons of the sea, so there's that! Or I could give up and add in Hive Mind and Eye of the Storm... you get the idea. If the Cube's theme isn't spread evenly across all colors, make sure you balance it out by giving those colors a powerful strategy too.
For the Themeless
Now, I'm in love with my Cube, but I can see how this might not be for everyone. If you're not sure on the direction of your Cube, make a generic one! 'Generic' sounds like an insult to some, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with some good old-fashioned classic EDH. The same general rules apply. Instead of going heavy on Dragons, simply pick support cards that each color is good at. Green likes mana and creatures, blue and red like spells, black likes to murder and reanimate, etc. Once you get started with classic color strategies, the rest will frankly build itself. As with any deck, deciding which cards to cut will be a bigger problem than deciding which cards to add!
Alternatively, find commanders you really like and begin by adding them in. For example, you can throw Breya, Etherium Shaper as a potential commander and add in plenty of artifact synergy in your Cube. These artifacts will still be amazing if anyone else picks them up during the draft. Adding 2-3 other multicolor commanders that could also potentially support artifacts, like Sharuum the Hegemon will then solidify the theme. Do this for each color, making sure you keep the commander color identities balanced. Although I opted out of tokens as a theme to my Elder Dragon Cube, you can easily add in enough token support from the various colors, from Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer to Marath, Will of the Wild. Now you have two viable themes in your cube that actually work fairly well together! Heck, I like Flicker effects, so let's add in a flicker theme as well, because they work great with token-makers and with artifacts! We have plenty of support for flicker and plenty of commanders like Brago, King Eternal and Roon of the Hidden Realm to go with it!
Or make it simple! Go for creature types. For my very first Cube, I really liked Dragons (if you can't already tell), so all the large red creatures were Dragons. For green, there were Wurms and Beasts. Blue had Leviathans and Krakens, black got Vampires and Demons, and white had... some pitiful Humans. Ah, but what about multicolor? Boros gets Angels! Why? Because Dragons fly, so I took their wings and put them on my Humans. There. The entire philosophy of Boros has now been explained.
Anyways, there are countless possibilities, only limited by your imagination and your card pool. Find a starting point that resonates with you, be it creature types or deck archetypes, and begin from there. Before you know it, you'll find fun interactions, overlapping themes, and excellent color balancing.
That's it for today's article! I hope everyone enjoyed it! Now, I didn't post my full EDH Cube list, and this is for a few reasons. The first, I'll admit, is a result of absolute laziness. Ain't nobody got time for that nonsense. Unless I was paid hourly. Then I got plenty of time for that. Second - and the actual reason, frankly - is that my exact list shouldn't matter to anyone. My collection and bulk are going to be worlds different than yours. Although you can definitely drop some money on fixing areas your collection lacks, I wouldn't drop countless hundred dollar bills on this. I spent maybe $20-30 on my Cube, mostly for the Dragon commanders I didn't already have. EDH Cubes are a fun break, but there's always a risk that people may tire of them. The drafts are lengthier than normal, and you may only get a game or two in with your draft decks before people are done for the night. Don't put yourself through the over-analyzing Cube creation nightmare and worry about your Cube too much. Cubes are fun, and I hope I've encouraged you to try making one, because they're much easier to throw together than people think.
I look forward to seeing all the locals at the EDH Scavenger Hunt on the 9th!
Until next time,