Darksteele Cube – DIY Cubing on Magic Online

Monday, December 13th – If you’ve ever wanted to cube online with your friends, there is a way… Thea Steele provides some step-by-step instructions on how to build a cube on Magic Online, draft, and play out games!

Last week,

I talked about how Cube could be officially supported on Magic Online (MODO). This week, I’m going to talk about how to MODO cube in the meantime. It’s easier than you might think!

I decided to try this a few weeks ago, when
Usman Jamil
mentioned that he was having trouble getting cube drafts to fire at his local store and he wasn’t getting to cube as often as he would’ve liked. I suggested that he could port his commons cube over to Magic Online, and then I thought about doing something similar myself.

I’d thought about this in the past, but the cost seemed prohibitive to me – I was only thinking in terms of making an exact copy of my cube online. Re-acquiring dual lands is fairly daunting, and there are a few cards in my cube that don’t exist online – the Power 9, Control Magic, and even random cards like Fire Imp (those last two and others are in Masters Edition 4, by the way). And after putting together lands, planeswalkers, Force of Wills, and Forcefields in paper, I wasn’t excited about going back and doing it all again.

Instead of dismissing the idea altogether, though, I decided to build a commons/uncommons cube. I’m of the “draft now, tweak later” mindset, so I decided to choose a list and build it as faithfully as possible before making any changes to it. I hadn’t played a C/U cube before, so I wanted to get some experience with the format right away.

I thought about building a commons (or Pauper) cube as well, but my impression is that there’s a bigger difference between those formats, and my experience might not translate as well. One difference that really stands out is that there aren’t many sweepers at common, whereas allowing uncommons gets you Infest, Pyroclasm, and Volcanic Fallout to name a few. Besides, I like Path to Exile.

I started with
this list,

which looked well maintained and was small enough that I felt it could be built relatively easily. I quickly ran into a few problems.

First, prices on Magic Online can vary wildly from those in paper, in part due to Masters Edition reprints of Portal cards. For example, Daze is $10 online compared to $3 in paper. I also realized that making my cube C/U wasn’t actually the same as making it budget due to cards like Force of Will, Wasteland, and Strip Mine, which are as expensive or more than their paper equivalents. Since I wasn’t going to shell out for those cards (yet…), I decided to look into including rares, as long as they were inexpensive.

This plan was pretty appealing, since the price difference swings the other way, too – Mana Drain is only $12 online. Watery Grave? $2.

In some cases, I replaced an uncommon card with a similar rare for budget reasons, such as Imperial Seal for Demonic Tutor (another example of the difference in prices on Portal cards). I also swapped in cheap rares for underwhelming cards in the original list, such as Sphinx of Lost Truths for Air Servant.

Secondly, I decided to change some things about the original list before playing it, despite my plans. I felt that it was pretty heavy on gold for a small list. Cutting things like Jungle Barrier and Hearthfire Hobgoblin didn’t really hurt my feelings. I also moved Loam Lion, Kird Ape, and Wild Nacatl into the gold section, which made that section stronger while freeing up spots for truly monocolor cards.

The original list also included off-color activations in the monocolor sections. Some of those (like Probe and Sunscape Battlemage) got upgraded, and others (like Jilt) will probably get swapped out in the future to keep those sections pure monocolor.

Finally, once I decided to include rares, it opened up the possibility of including the rares I already owned. Since most of my rares come from a few Constructed decks, I was worried that the uneven distribution of colors might unbalance my new cube. In practice, it seems to be working anyway. For example, I added very few white rares, but the white decks in this cube are fairly linear and have proven to be strong.

I was able to put this list together thanks to the really generous people in the community. Ryan of the
Limited Resources podcast
loaned me a mind-blowing 125 cards for this list, which really made it come together. Other cards were loaned to me by people who’ve been drafting this cube. 

In return, I want this cube to be a resource for the community. I see the list as being collaborative – I’d make a change to it if the people drafting it wanted that change. I also want to draft it with whoever wants to. So far, the response has been really great. I’ve gotten to draft it with people whom I was only casual acquaintances with (through Twitter, as all Magic-related things are) and with old friends.

So, how do you go from having a list to drafting? I’m using tappedout.net, a site that has a draft simulator for normal sets but also a cube draft mode. To upload your cube,
go here

and click “Create Cube.” It’s simple past that (although I’ve found that editing a list can be a little buggy – it’s easier to just create a new one when you make
changes). Once you’ve done that, you’ll end up with a
list like this one.

Now you’re ready to draft. This part is admittedly a little flawed but not in a devastating way. After this informational video starring
my husband,

I’ll talk about why.

MTGO Cube Walkthrough

Thea Steele


The basic process is to upload the cube to tappedout.net and draft it there. Then, you export the cards you drafted in MTGO text deck format and get those cards from me or your friendly cube owner in a trade. If everything goes smoothly, it’s really fast, and every time I’ve done a draft, it’s taken no longer than shuffling and creating packs would for a paper cube.

One problem with this process is that the draft simulator on tappedout.net will occasionally miss picks. That’s admittedly frustrating, but the cube has such a high power level that I haven’t so far had a problem with building a good deck. I hope that problem will get ironed out in the future, but at the moment, tappedout.net is providing a unique service, and the reward of easy cube drafting online is worth it.

If you use bots to fill out your draft, you might worry about how good they are. I’m sure there’s some benefit to being to the left of a bot, but so far, we haven’t had noticeable problems with it. I believe the bots get better the more your cube is drafted, and if that’s not win-win, I don’t know what is. Again, the power level of the cube saves you a bit.

Now that the business section is out of the way, I’m going to show a few games to (I hope!) convince you that even with the different card pool online, you can still play a draft format that feels like cube.

B/W vs. Jund

This game is a nice demonstration of the role that green has in cubes that lack fast artifact mana. Online, you basically don’t have a choice about this (although Sol Ring is available now). The lack of fast mana is the main difference I’ve noticed between how this cube and my paper cube plays, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

MTGO Cube: B/W vs Jund

Thea Steele


B/W vs. R/W

I liked this game because it shows off another nice feature of having a second, different cube to play: you get to run the cards you miss from your other cube – in my case Celestial Crusader.

MTGO Cube: R/W vs. B/W

Thea Steele


B/W vs. U/B

MTGO Cube: U/B vs. B/W

Thea Steele


I chose this game because it marks the moment I fell in love with Mana Tithe. I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to use Ravages of War as Disenchant, but that’s what I do here. Whatever works.

If you’re interested in making your own cube online or drafting mine, please let me know! As I said, I got a lot of help in doing this, and I’m more than happy to help you guys out in return.