Last updated on February 20, 2024

Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh | Illustration by Raymond Swanland

With the rise of Commander‘s popularity, we can say that MTG’s landscape has changed. WotC’s been catering to the casual crowd, releasing Commander precons every set, and it’s known that MTG players play more casual formats than sanctioned ones like Standard. What’s more, it’s cheaper to get into MTG this way. Alongside Commander there’s another casual and singleton format that’s getting more popular: Cube.

Cube is a wonderful way to play MTG with veteran players, teach drafting to newer players, or even reintroduce friends that want to get back into the game. It’s a format that lets you be the player, the designer, and the tester. Furthermore, you can play Cube both digitally on MTG Arena, MTG Online, and in paper. So, stay with me, and let’s see what Cube is all about.

What Is Cube?

Doubling Cube | Illustration by Mark Tedin

Cube is a collection of carefully selected cards, compiled by a Cube designer or community, for the purposes of being used to play Limited formats, usually Draft and Sealed. This aims to solve the main problems with Retail Limited, notably the lack of replayability after drafting a set a ton, the cost of acquiring product to keep playing, and the lack of power level due to Retail Limited being played mostly with common cards.

Cubes can vary in power level, and can have anywhere from 180 to more than 720 cards. Some players like to build powerful cubes with lots of combos so it'll feel like playing Legacy or Vintage. Other players enjoy a less powerful experience, and will focus on newer cards or rarity restrictions.

Cube pack example - Posted on Reddit by u/SoyChunk

Cube pack example posted on Reddit by u/SoyChunk

So, from this pack, what is the pick? As we can see, it’s not easy to draft Cube, and you’ll be tempted with many hard decisions. Maybe you’ll want to draft a Natural Order to cheat big creatures into play, or you’ll prioritize mana fixing and get that Wooded Foothills/Arid Mesa. In this pack alone there are three 5-mana blue control spells that are all good, so you might stay away from blue and let other people fight for it. Or let’s draft Tendrils of Agony and hope to build a good storm deck, who knows? 

Cube pack example - Posted on by safra

Posted on by safra

Note that you can have a lower power level overall in your cube and still have plenty of interesting decisions.

Story of Cube

Cube started as a reflection: “What if instead of drafting Booster Packs from Standard sets filled with commons and bad cards, we drafted only good cards?”. MTG players proceeded to build their Cubes to play with their friends. Well-established Cube enthusiasts include Evan Erwin and Tom LaPille (former WotC MTG developer). This article by Evan Erwin in 2006 is very influential to Cube’s popularity. Back then it was defined as a Limited format comprising the best 410 cards in MTG’s existence. The format was initially praised because it doesn’t have bad cards, luck is seriously mitigated and each game is awesome. Also, it was stated before that the name Cube – as in, a six-sided cube or die – comes from six equal sections of cards, one section for each color and one for artifacts/lands/multicolor. 

How Many Magic Cards Are in a Cube?

The amount of MTG cards in a cube is entirely up to the cube designer. Most cube designers will say 360 cards so that you can fire an 8-person draft with 15-card packs and draft all the cards available. Some cube designers want a little bit of variety in between drafts, so it’s also common to see cubes ranging from 400-500 cards. 450 is the most common step up from 360.

MTGO’s Vintage Cube has 540 cards. Of course, there are cubes with 720 cards, 180-card two-player cubes (“twoberts,” coined by Ryan Overturf), and so on. The main thing is, if a cube is too large (500+ cards), the discrepancy between individual card power levels is going to be very high. People love powerful cards like Oko, Thief of Crowns, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, or Ancestral Recall, which don’t have any replacements at the same level. 

Some cube players will argue that once a cube gets too large, the draft process becomes very random. It’s also going to be harder to support certain synergies and combos. If I draft Stoneforge Mystic in a given cube, I’ll want powerful equipment to go alongside it, and if the cube is too large, the equipment might not even make it into the draft packs. Or I’ll begin a draft with Tendrils of Agony and not be able to draft a cohesive Storm deck. 

Another possible discussion is whether a Cube should have repeat cards or be singleton. The default for most Cube designers is that a Cube should be singleton, but some favor breaking singleton if the design so requires.

Who is Cube For?

The main Cube crowd is MTG veterans who are fans of both Limited and Constructed formats. Some MTG players enjoy drafting, but at the same time, they don’t like to play with Draft chaff. Other players don’t appreciate the fact that a format starts to become repetitive after drafting it 15+ times. Cube offers the best of both worlds, being a singleton format with powerful cards that combine in novel and interesting ways every time.

Cube is also interesting for the board game crowd; most board games are products that you purchase a single time, and they come with all the game pieces. If someone wants to get a certain expansion, they're free to do it but most players don’t. So in a way, Cube turns a TCG like Magic into a board game. Building a cube may be expensive, but it’s certainly cheaper than investing in a top-tier deck every three months or buying a new booster box regularly.   

Of course, since Cube is a highly customizable format you can invest more or less into it, and make it as complex or simple as you like depending on the card choices.

Cube-Legal Sets

In theory, Cube is not limited by any set legality. Most Cubes are Vintage-legal, that is, you can play any card ever released in MTG. Some cubes have limitations at the discretion of the designer, which includes:

  • Standard Cubes: Cubes that only use cards currently legal in Standard.
  • Modern Cubes: Cubes pulling from the Modern cardpool.
  • Set Cubes: Cubes that only pull from a collection of sets or cards that match the flavor of those sets (Innistrad Cubes, Ravnica Cubes, etc.).
  • Pauper & Peasant Cubes: Rarity-restricted cubes using only commons/uncommons, respectively.
  • A number of other intentional restrictions, such as Old-Framed Cubes, Grixis Cubes, etc.

You can also play with silver-bordered cards too, and even custom cards that aren't allowed in sanctioned events. 

Cube Rules

Covenant of Minds - Illustration by Dan Seagrave

Covenant of Minds | Illustration by Dan Seagrave

Cube is a Limited format, so it follows the same rules as formats like Draft and Sealed. You’ll have access to a limited card pool, and you’ll build a 40-card minimum deck, adding as many basic lands as you desire. Cards that are not part of your deck are your sideboard, and there isn’t a limit to how many cards are in your sideboard. Matches are played 1v1, seven cards in hand, 20 life, the usual stuff. If you’re playing on MTG Arena, there are best-of-1 cube matches as well. 

There are are lots of different ways to play with a Cube. You can generate 90-card Sealed pools, draft 15-card boosters in a draft pod, and play 1v1 Draft formats like Winston Draft and Pack Wars. It’s your choice after all. You can go wild and play 2-Headed Giant matches, try to draft a Commander deck or build multiple decks from the same card pool.

Regarding card legality, the Cube designer defines what is or isn’t allowed in the cube. Some designers opt for “Powered” cubes, which usually include Power 9 cards like Black Lotus, Ancestral Recall, the Moxen, and stuff like that. Cube designers can opt for a more budget design and thus build a cube without any power cards, or without any card that surpasses the $15 mark. Since it’s not a sanctioned format, proxy cards are allowed, which means card prices aren't usually a concern.  

Where to Play Cube


MTGO really popularized Cube and offers Drafts regularly. As this article is being written, MTGO is offering its signature Vintage Cube. You’ll draft in an 8-player pod and play up to three matches with your deck. Just keep in mind that it’s not always going to be against people in your pod due to most events on MTGO being League-style events. Note that these are “phantom events,” so you won't keep the cards you drafted.

There are also occasionally some other player-submitted “Cube Spotlights” offered on MTGO, such as AlphaFrog's take on the Vintage Cube or Carmen Handy's Proliferate Cube.


MTGA’s another place to draft Cube. The Cubes available to draft on Arena are a little bit different since Arena doesn’t have the same card availability.

Arena has featured three main types of cubes: Their typical “Arena Cube,” the “Chromatic Cube,” and the “Tinkerer's Cube.” These are all phantom events restricted to cards on the client and change significantly with each iteration. They're not offered quite as often as the Vintage Cube on MTGO, but they have been used as the draft format of choice for various semi-competitive events.


One of the best ways to play Cube is at home or at an LGS with your friends. A Cube can be drafted countless times, usually for free. Ideally you’ll have a Draft pod with 6-8 people and have a good time. If you have less than 6 players, you can also pay Sealed or alternative ways of drafting with fewer players. 


CubeCon is a larger convention-style event that allows Cube designers to come show off their own personal cubes and play with tournament attendees. It's much more lax than a typical wide-scale convention-style event, and it gives players tons of flexibility in how they want to engage with different styles of cubes.

CubeCon, centered in Madison, Wisconsin, finished its second year in 2023 to great success, and looks to be a stand-out event for Cube lovers moving forward.

Cube Archetypes

Now that we’ve talked about the main features of Cube drafting, let’s see some classic archetypes you can expect in a conventional Vintage Cube. The beauty of Cube is that you can reliably draft anything and do well with it, be it aggro, midrange, 5-color good stuff, or control. Don’t worry if your strange midrange deck that once won a Cube draft isn’t represented here.

Red Deck Wins

Red Deck Wins, or mono red aggro, is your traditional aggressive deck. With this deck, you’ll want to attack as soon as possible and close the game with burn spells. In this deck, you’ll want a lot of good one-drops like Goblin Guide and Monastery Swiftspear, burn spells like Fireblast, Lightning Bolt and Lava Spike, or ways to close the game like Koth of the Hammer and Zealous Conscripts.

White Weenie Aggro

Like mono red, this is also a traditional aggressive archetype. You’ll want lots of cheap creatures like Adanto Vanguard and Usher of the Fallen, but you lack burn effects since you’re playing white. You can instead rely on disruptive elements like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, flyers, and planeswalkers. It’s common for this deck to play cards like Winter Orb or Armageddon after establishing a good board presence.

Blue-based Control

This is one of the most powerful archetypes. Here you’ll have a lot of countermagic, card selection, sweepers to leverage the playing field against aggro, and some planeswalkers to close the game. Common blue spells to play are Ponder, Preordain, Brainstorm, and Counterspell, not to mention power cards like Ancestral Recall and Time Walk. To win, you can rely on buddies like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Another classic with these decks is to combine cards like Narset, Parter of Veils and Timetwister effects so that you draw a lot of cards and opponents lose their hands. Turns out, if you’re playing with very powerful cards, countering spells and good card selection works very well. 

Green-based Ramp

Here you want to go big. This archetype will leverage fast mana production with green mana dorks, mana rocks, or powerful artifacts like Mana Crypt and Mana Vault. When you have a lot of mana, you’ll want to cast cards like Avenger of Zendikar, Terastodon, and Sundering Titan, cards that have a big impact on the game and win from there. Another possibility is elf-ball, where you combine lots of elves that produce mana, Gaea's Cradle or Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary, and a big finisher like Craterhoof Behemoth to win.

Two-card Combo

A lot of combos have won games and tournaments throughout MTG history. Seeing as Cube is an amalgamation of some of the best cards in MTG, you can draft some combinations like this that'll win most games straight away:


Reanimator is a classic archetype from Cube. First you’ll need big creatures to cheat into play, like Griselbrand or Archon of Cruelty. Then you’ll need to put them into your graveyard, usually with Entomb. Finally, you’ll cast something like Reanimate, Animate Dead, or Necromancy to put these into play way earlier than they should be. You can also have lots of discard effects, like Thirst for Discovery or Faithless Looting. Remember, there’s no shortage of big dumb threats in Cube, so prioritize the reanimator engine when drafting.


There are lots of artifact-specific synergies in the Cube. Cards like Stoneforge Mystic work very well with good equipment, while Tinker lets you sacrifice a bad artifact to cheat Blightsteel Colossus or Bolas's Citadel into play. Lands like Tolarian Academy or Mishra's Workshop give these artifact-filled decks a ramp aspect too, so you can easily cast big and powerful artifacts like Triplicate Titan or Portal to Phyrexia.

Getting Started with Cube

The quickest way to start playing Cube is to research, identify, and obtain the cards you'd want to run. It’s always possible to proxy the more expensive cards you don’t have. This is a real issue when most Vintage Cubes have a Black Lotus, all the Moxen, Time Walk, and more. You could also take the budget route instead, building Cubes with cheap cards, bulk rares or rarity restrictions.

Set Cubes can be a good starting point. For example, let’s say you’ve enjoyed drafting Dominaria United very much. If you wanted to replicate that draft experience in Cube form, you'd usually build a Cube consisting of one copy of every rare and mythic, two copies of every uncommon, and three copies of each common from DMU. Mash these all together, make 15-card packs, and draft. Or you can hand-build packs with one rares/mythic, three uncommons, and 10 commons to better replicate a retail draft. 

Template for Building a Cube  

This is a topic of great discussion among the Cube community, so let’s talk about templating in broad strokes. For first-time Cube designers, it's wise to balance your colors, though you can alter this down the line. So, if you have 60 black cards, you should have 60 red cards, 60 white cards, and so on. You’ll want cycles of 10 dual lands for each color pair too, ideally 2-3 full cycles, if not more. Regarding gold cards, it’s interesting to have 2-3 cycles of gold cards in all 10 color pairs too. Adding up 35 colorless cards like mana rocks, creatures or equipment gives us something like this:

  • 60 white
  • 60 blue
  • 60 black
  • 60 red
  • 60 green
  • 20 dual lands
  • 20 gold cards
  • 25 colorless
  • 365 cards total

So, this is a good starting template. You can compare this to other cubes you find online to get ideas. It’s important not to go crazy on gold cards and mana fixing, otherwise, 5-color good stuff might end up being the best strategy. 

Next, we need to think about the distribution of cards per color, regarding mana values and card types. Each color will usually have a 60/40 average ratio between creature and noncreature spells. Of course, colors like blue and red have more noncreature spells, while white and green have more creatures. It’s very important to put a lot of 1- to 3-drops in your cube and fewer expensive cards, otherwise it'll be very difficult to draft cohesive aggressive decks. 

A counterpoint to my previous argument: Everybody knows that historically blue’s got better spells overall in MTG, and the MTGO Vintage Cube shows it. We have black, green, and red balanced with 62-65 cards each, while blue gets 75 and white gets 57. Still, it’s a minor imbalance and somehow justified by MTG’s history. There are unbalanced Cubes on purpose: People can design a 70% black cube for some reason and add the other colors in a smaller proportion, or design a cube that’s mainly artifacts and colors that work well with the theme. 

Cube Products

Although WotC has never released any supplementary product related to Cube, there are ways to get a Ready-to-Play Cube from third parties like Star City Games. The closest WotC has ever done in the Cube space is to release Draft formats like Modern Horizons 2 or Commander Masters, which are high-complexity formats filled with rares and different strategies to pursue.

Proxying a Cube

If you want to play with the Power 9 and other way-too-expensive cards (*cough* Gaea's Cradle *cough*), a great alternative is just to get these cards through proxies instead. It's like $0.75/card instead of $1,000 for one card…

You can use a site like Printing Proxies to order an entire cube, in fact. This will not only save you money, it will prevent you from having to chase down 100 different vendors and orders from somewhere like TCGplayer.

Cube Communities

MTG Salvation’s Cube Forum

MTG Salvation’s been discussing Cube for ages. You can follow their discussion in the forums, usually divided between Powered, Unpower, Peasant and Pauper Cubes. Also, for each new set, people’ll get to discuss cards they’re most likely to include in their cubes. 

The Pauper Cube

The Pauper Cube is an excellent entry point in Cube. It’s made only by commons and upgraded, or curated, by a community. It’s a lower complexity environment, and aside from a few exceptions, cards can be acquired for cheap. 

Riptide Lab – MTG Cube Draft Forum

Riptide Lab is a place where people will discuss out-of-the-box ideas for cubes. Ideas such as lowering the power level of the cube, breaking singleton, and how to design different archetypes.  

Cube Cobra

Most people store their cubes digitally on Cube Cobra, and it’s a fantastic tool for sharing cubes with the community, analyzing your own card choices, and even drafting it online. 

Jank Diver Gaming

Jank Diver Gaming is a Discord-based community that does cube drafting through Magic Arena. They organize drafts through their community, offer insight and feedback to new Cube designers, and host The Jank Tank Podcast, offering general Cube advise and design philosophies.

Wrap Up

Angel of Finality - Illustration by Howard Lyon

Angel of Finality | Illustration by Howard Lyon

Like Commander, Cube is a casual format that’s awesome to play with friends, and each Cube draft is different and exciting. The mix of drafting powerful cards and making a singleton deck that’s very similar to Constructed formats can’t be found elsewhere.

There are plenty of cubes designed online, and available to play on platforms like MTGO and Arena, so be sure to give these a try. And if you know someone that’s already built a Cube, give them a shout to draft it. What’s your opinions on cube? Do you Cube regularly? Let me know in the comments section below, or in Draftsim Twitter. Stay safe folks, and let’s Cube Draft!

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