Cube on a Budget – Commanders in Cube? Really?

Cube construction

Welcome back to Cube on a Budget! We’ve been talking recently about the ability to add in different options like conspiracies, extra boosters and so on – things that really take the cube experience to the next level of wackiness. Today, let’s talk about an even more bonkers level of fun. Commander and Cube, a match made in kitchen table craziness heaven!

Commander in a Cube? I Can’t Even…

Obviously, we can’t fully replicate building an entire Commander deck in a cube environment. Can you imagine even drafting 100 cards and then trying to build a deck out of them? The draft itself would take an hour, and it would probably be two before you could even play anything.

However, we know that Limited environments like Cube use a 40-card deck… what if we just threw a commander on top of that, and essentially played a 41-card Commander deck? Does that work? You bet it does, and that is how EDH fans have not only approached bringing their favorite format to cube, but also ended up making it work in awesome ways.


But How Do I Draft A Commander?

Good question! In the interests of keeping a cube flexible, we probably want to keep the commanders separate from the rest of the cube – you know, just in case the playgroup would rather just play normal Cube tonight and not throw the extra wrinkle in. It’s all about giving the playgroup options when they sit at the table.

So your group does want to draft commanders tonight? Here’s how to set it up inside your cube. We don’t want to go to the extent of having an entire 15-card booster full of commanders for each player – that would mean you’d need to find 120 commanders for a traditional 8-player / 360-card cube, and that’s a lot of work!

Instead, the traditional number is usually 40. This ends up producing eight five-card boosters for each player, containing only the commanders. I highly recommend drafting this booster first before the normal cube draft – I’ve tried drafting this last, but it really makes members of your playgroup sweat. They’ve usually drafted a sweet two- or three-color deck, and if they don’t see a commander in those colors in, say, the first three or four commander boosters, there’s going to be wailing and gnashing of teeth! When you draft the commanders first, people still end up with five commanders across an array of colors. So, even though this has narrowed their draft choices a little, it actually does so less than you would expect.

Okay, How Do I Choose My Commanders, Then?

As per the other parts of the cube, we want an even spread across the color combinations when we choose our 40 commanders. Remember, it’s pretty hard to draft a mono-color deck in cube, and it’s equally hard to draft a cohesive 4+ color deck, so for that reason, you want the vast majority of the commanders to be two or three colors.

When I approached this, I went with two commanders for each of the two-color guild combinations, five mono-color commanders (one for each color), and one for each three-color combination (so one for each wedge or shard). This is 35 commanders, so I was left with five slots to freewheel with. I ended up adding a five-color commander (just for the one guy who wants to attempt to make this work every second draft), three of the best four-color commanders available, and a colorless commander. And there we were at forty.

Are There Any Other Different Rules I Should Know About Here?

Not really – the rest is up to personal taste. Essentially, from here, you’re all just building 41-card Commander decks and beating the heck out of each other with them. Some playgroups differ on whether to allow unused commanders that you drafted out of the initial five-card commander booster to be included in the main 40 of the deck. My group is personally fine with it – nothing wrong with including the mono-green commander in the 40 of your Temur deck, as far as I’m concerned! But others may not want to allow that.

Does It Change the Cube Design?

You’ll find that if your cube begins to lean more towards becoming a Commander cube, your design theories will change. My multiplayer cube started out with no commanders, but added a module like this later on. It was already loaded with legendary creatures in its main 360, so as we add cards from new sets, we’re now focused on dropping the legendary guys out of the main 360 and leaving them solely in the commander section. If you’re designing a commander cube from scratch, you may not even want to include legendary creatures in the main cube from the very beginning.

You might also find that the commanders you have chosen for some color pairings will start to bend the archetypes for those colors, and that when you start adding cards from new sets to the cube, you’ll be paying attention to how well they work with the commanders you’ve chosen. That’s fine, but you might run into trouble down the track if a shiny new commander comes into the cube down the track and completely changes the play style of those colors – your main 360 may have to also have some changes to be able to support the new commander.

An Example Commander Section

I mentioned higher up that I’d tacked a commander section onto my multiplayer cube. As an example, here’s what it currently looks like, along with a little bit of the logic behind the choice. Bear in mind that this is a multiplayer cube, so it’s allowed to choose some slower, grindier commanders!

White: Odric, Master Tactician (My white section is full of Knights, Soldiers and creatures that want to hold Equipment and attack. Odric makes them do so angrily)
Blue: Arcum Dagsson (Lots of artifacts in my blue section)
Black: Mikaeus, the Unhallowed (Triple-black CC, but brilliant with the reanimation and Zombies I have)
Red: Urabrask the Hidden (Hard to find a good multiplayer mono-red commander, but this guy is not bad)
Yeva, Nature’s Herald (Ditto for green, but Yeva springs some good surprises)
Azorius (W/U):
Brago, King Eternal, Taigam, Ojutai Master (Two distinct archetypes – blink and instants/sorceries)
Dimir (U/B): Grimgrin, Corpse-Born, Oona, Queen of the Fae (Zombie tribal/creature sacrifice and mill)
Rakdos (B/R): Judith, the Scourge Diva, Xantcha, Sleeper Agent (Aggro and griefer)
Gruul (R/G): Grand Warlord Radha, Wort, the Raidmother (Ramp and tokens)
Selesnya (G/W): Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice, Sigarda, Heron’s Grace (Tokens and hexproof)
Orzhov (W/B): Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim, Aryel, Knight of Windgrace (Bleeder and Knight tribal)
Izzet (U/R): Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain, Melek, Izzet Paragon (Artifacts and Spells Matter)
Golgari (B/G): Glissa, the Traitor, Meren of Clan Nel Toth (Zombie/Elf tribal and Graveyard Play)
Boros (R/W): Gisela, Blade of Goldnight, Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice (Burn and flying creatures)
Simic (G/U): Vorel of the Hull Clade, Prime Speaker Zegana (Counters and card draw)
The Shards: Rubinia Soulsinger, Oloro, Ageless Ascetic, Shattergang Brothers, Samut, Voice of Dissent, Thraximundar
The Wedges: Narset, Enlightened Master, Kaalia of the Vast, The Mimeoplasm, Karador, Ghost Chieftain, Animar, Soul of Elements
The Fruitcakes: Breya, Etherium Shaper, Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice, Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder, Bosh, Iron Golem, Child of Alara

Not all of these are budget, obviously – I’m very fortunate to have Kaalia and Atraxa available for this section, as both are prohibitively expensive as singles. As always with Cube, fill this section out with whatever you have lying around, and you will still have oodles of fun.

On the flipside, this list is sub-optimal for the same reason. I haven’t grabbed Yarok, the Desecrated for here yet, despite it likely being a better commander than The Mimeoplasm. You’d probably never really want to resolve Child of Alara if you’d been brave enough to draft five colors in the first place. And Glissa, the Traitor is hanging onto her slot in here by a thread.

So there you go – even my commander sections are still an evolving work! I encourage you to give it a try in your own cube and join the journey!


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