Commander is a blast to play! Drafting is a blast to do! Why not combine them for a Commander Cube driven explosion of happiness and joy all over the
It’s no secret that a writer needs to write about things that they either love or hate. Strong emotion drives powerful writing. If you called me up and
asked me to submit articles for your new website on say, the Star Wars Collectible Miniatures Game, (which I played heavily for a few months, invested a
few hundred bucks into, and then saw a lot of issues and pulled out and sold my stuff), I don’t think my articles would really work. I thought the game was
alright; it had some strengths and some serious weaknesses. My views are just so-so. How could my articles on it be any different?
And the same is true for Magic. Want me to write about Legacy Tournaments? Ummm….alright. They are…good for Magic, because tournaments drive business,
which um…helps us causal players? I don’t know.
So it’s no secret that I’ve recently been obsessed with how awesome Commander Cube is. I first built one way back in early March 2013. That seems like such
a long time ago now! I played it slowly at first. It was made from the remnants of my collection, and I made some changes to how the Cube was played from a
few ways I had read about online in my investigations.
But in the last half a year or so, it’s really become an ongoing obsession. As I’ve played it, some of my assumptions about it that went against the grain
were proved dead on (“Draft your Commanders in the Cube itself” is the biggest change I’ve made), while others were just dead on arrival. I’ve rethought
and re-jiggered this thing multiple times, trying to get better cards and a set of cards that plays better together. This is why you’ve seen an influx of
Commander Cube articles lately – I’ve really enjoyed it, and have wanted to push it to the next level constantly.
Many existing Cubes are really set, and people only make changes as new cards are released, but I’m regularly testing the Cube to see what works and
doesn’t. I still need to get it to that place where everything fits, you know?
Recently, the website CubeTutor.com has become my best friend. I have my Commander Cube there right now, and I regularly draft just to make sure that
various archetypes have the depth and quality they need to thrive. Do we have enough for a Zur the Enchanter deck? What about a Brago, King Eternal deck?
Check out the latest version of today’s changes to the Cube here:
[Clicking the hyperlink may cause a browser misidentification bug with Cube Tutor. Typing the url into your browser manually should still work fine!
Today I want to examine a lot more changes that I’ve made, as well as some questions that I’ve noticed with the draft. We’ll make some additional
To begin, I recommend drafting the Cube with six booster packs and following the lead of an early legendary creature. Then build your deck around it. We’ve
found that works best in drafting. Then build your deck and you are done! (Drafting five packs might work, but it often requires you to play virtually
every card you drafted in your colors and doesn’t leave you a lot of options. Plus, six packs works better for more specific deck archetypes.)
So, without further ado, let’s begin with highlighting some recent changes, and then delve into the rest!
These swaps were made to shore up initial areas in the Cube.
Loxodon Warhammer for Angelic Armaments
– Equipment is keeping this Cube in an odd place. I have equipment enablers you would expect, like Stoneforge Mystic and Godo, Bandit Warlord. Want to know
what’s missing? Top flight equipment! No Batterskull, missing four of five Swords of X and Y and such. Sure, we have Skullclamp, Umezawa’s Jitte, Lightning
Greaves, and Swiftfoot Boots, but the equipment can be a bit lackluster at the bottom due to a lack of quality at the top. This swap simply pulls the worst
of the lot for a card that, frankly, I should own more copies of. The Warhammer is flat out better.
Chandra, Pyromaster for Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded –
Often, I don’t even need to justify a swap.
In Garruk’s Wake for Plague Wind –
Perilous Vault for Lux Cannon
I got an extra copy from M15 quite early to spare for this project. While Lux Cannon is repeatable, targeted, and plays well with proliferate, the Vault is
just a better class of card.
Iridescent Angel for Archon of the Triumvirate
– Guess what I picked up? To be fair, the Archon did have synergy with several Azorius-colored Commanders who wanted to attack and not be blocked by
detaining potential obstacles (Geist of St. Traft; Brago, King Eternal; Medomai the Ageless). But the Archon wasn’t commonly used in that role in the
draft, and the Angel is just heads and tails better for the same mana cost.
Reaper King / Karona, False God for Progenitus –
This swap increases my five color guys by one. I could leave in Progentius, and I have an Atogatog too that could leap in. The initial point of running
these five color creatures was to act as a brake – if you were draft a deck and not a commander of those colors, you could just grab a five color guy and
be able to play that deck. In that context, Progenitus (the unplayable) is no better or worse than Atogatog. I was going to toss in every five color guy I
could grab! But that’s not been my experience recently. People draft the leader, follow the commander from the first two or three picks, and then build a
deck from what is already in hand, rather than chasing after tumbleweed. Thus, the five color guys have evolved into build-around-me concepts too. These
are both eminently playable, one due to the hybrid cost and the other in any five color tribal deck you manage to back into.
Firebolt for Erratic Explosion –
Because it can be cast twice, it works better with the fun Izzet “spells matter” effects. It’s cheaper, has the potential for card advantage, can be
flashed back immediately to kill something with four toughness, and works with graveyard fun that stocks it up. It’s just a better entry than the
unreliable, (but fun) Erratic Explosion.
Garruk, Caller of Beasts for Beacon of Creation –
We don’t use the Beacon much outside of a handful of strong token decks, and the Caller is a better card by far.
More on Legendary Creatures
I still need a Selesnya and Simic legendary creature to make it to five for those. Simic is hard; they have such as small number of options. Selesnya is
the opposite; too many janky ones. I pulled Captain Sisay because it was too hard to build around, and stuff like Asmira, Holy Avenger isn’t powerful
enough. We have tools like Gaddock Teeg or Emmara Tandris that aren’t easy to build around in draft. The Cube has Trostani, Tolsimir, Saffi, and Karametra.
That leaves Sigarda, Host of Herons; Rhys the Redeemed; and Chorus of the Conclave as reasonable options. I don’t own an extra copy of any of those. The
first two are very expensive and the last just doesn’t impress me much. So for now, I’m hoping something better comes along.
So, for now, as a placeholder:
Asmira, Holy Avenger for Shield of the Oversoul –
I adore Shield of the Oversoul (and Steel of the Godhead too), and I don’t want to yank every single aura, but it’s really the only open space I have. The
other contender is Collective Blessing, but since I have not included Dictate of Heliod, that’s unlikely to happen right now. It’s a game changer, and
Shield, ummm, isn’t. Perhaps someday I can fit it back in.
Ghost Council of Orzhova for Death Grasp
– This was close. I almost pulled Lingering Souls instead. But Ghost Council works well with the Souls and token makers like Sorin, Lord of Innistrad.
Death Grasp was pulled because it’s just an awkward X damage spell with some lifelink attached. It’s not a studly card like Exsanguinate or Rolling Thunder
so it was vulnerable to being pulled. I want each color combination to have five legendary creatures, and now we are a step closer!
Jhoira of the Ghitu for Izzet Charm
– This is part of the long process of increasing my legendary creature options. While Izzet Charm is flexible, it’s not game changing or anything. I can
make this swap easily enough. This now gives me five Izzet legendaries.
Nath of the Gilt-Leaf for Savra, Queen of the Golgari
– Both of these cards require some degree of support to really churn into first gear. But you need less with Nath. It’s the better card by far for that
reason. And you can draft a Golgari-colored elf deck too, so that’s fun!
And that just leaves Simic. Six. That’s how many Simic legendary creatures exist in Magic. I have four in already (Kruphix, Edric, Prime Speaker, Vorel).
Momir Vig, Simic Visionary is just too expensive to pick up right now. That leaves Experiment Kraj. I did have it in, but it wasn’t good, and I swapped
over an extra Prime Speaker Zegana when I opened one. Simic’s been a lot juicier Cube since. The Kraj is just an expensive dork that costs too much, and
lacks support in the draft. So for now, no changes there.
Three colors? Which do you like better: Halfdane or Ertai, the Corrupted? I have an extra of both. Which is the better fit for a Commander Cube as my final
Esper Commander? Hmm…
More Three Color Commander Swaps
Remember that multiple color combinations have multiple directions you can go.
For example, suppose you are playing Blue/White. You can draft a blink deck with ETB stuff featuring Momentary Blink, Brago, King Eternal, and bodies like
Mulldrifter and Restoration Angel. Or you can have an artifact-themed deck with things like Sanctum Gargoyle, Master Transmuter, Filigree Angel, and
Memnarch. You can also have a traditional Azorius control deck, with classic card advantage cards like Wrath of God, Recurring Insight, Staff of Nin, and
Mind Spring; early defense like Wall of Denial and Fog Bank; and finishers like Akroma, Angel of Wrath or the newly added Iridescent Angel. Or, you can
draft an enchantment-friendly deck with stuff like Steel of the Godhead, Replenish, Control Magic, or Celestial Mantle.
That’s a lot of flexibility in the Cube. And there are cards that cross over too. And the sky’s the limit. Shoot, you could probably build an Azorius reanimation deck around all of the awesome white revival stuff with the modest blue support. So I want to ensure that the various legendary
creatures are supported. It would suck if you drafted Ephara, God of the Polis for your Commander, but then had no way to have creatures arrive on other
turns to increase your card drawing.
So I’ve been drafting every color combination and permutation possible, based largely on what I’ve been given. My weirdest deck was a Simic Oath of Druids
+ Show and Tell deck. I opened both in my first pack and felt Oath would wheel. So I grabbed the Show and Tell and looked to see if I could get a
creature-light deck that broke those. I had eight creatures and eventually grabbed Kruphix, God of Horizons as my leader. I even found Green Sun’s Zenith
and Pattern of Rebirth for the deck, so I had a few other ways to get these giant creatures out. It was an odd deck with a lot of counters, card drawing,
removal, and ways to make creatures without being a creature, like Wurmcalling and Dark Depths. And I drafted it!
The Cube is very generous. I want to keep on that path, and there are a few areas I think need to get some additional aid. So I’ll look at those areas and
then add in some support for those cards.
I’ve recently yanked some elementals from the deck just by pulling out cards to make way for better stuff. In the last few months, I’ve pulled Root
Elemental, AEthersnipe, Windreaver, Dawn Elemental, Tornado Elemental, and Greater Stone-Spirit. This hurts Horde of Notions, which we used to be able to
draft a deck around. Sure, we still have a few, but I’d like to investigate to see if we can add some more.
I could add in Taurean Mauler, who is just good generally in multiplayer. Maybe even Mirror Entity.
I think we can agree that all of those cards could easily slide into this Cube quite nicely without feeling like they were forced into it. Some of these
play well with other themes, like Cytoplast Root-Kin, which will also help the Simic +1/+1 counter theme (led by legendaries like Vorel and Prime Speaker
I also want one or three more enchantment enablers to assist the decks that are enchantment focused. Ideally, they’ll be in Zur colors, but that’s not
necessary. I have enough enchantments, especially post-Theros, so that’s not the issue. What I need are a few cards that make them matter to shore up deck
I’m looking for stuff like Mesa Enchantress or Sigil of the Empty Throne. We could include Enchantress’s Presence or Eidolon of Blossoms. I mean, I’m not
asking to dig into cards like Ajani’s Chosen or Oath of the Ancient Wood that are pretty weak, but even a Doomwake Giant or Thoughtrender Lamia would be
interesting. Shoot, perhaps maybe Silent Sentinel would be worth a second look.
I wish we had a creature in white, with an ETB trigger that on arrival would return either an enchantment or an artifact. We have cards for both
independently (Auramancer and Sanctum Gargoyle). I’d love a creature that combined the flexibility of both on one body, so it could run one slot in the
Cube. We do have Custodi Squire, and in a duel format, that would work. But outside of that, it’s not guaranteed to give you what you want. So it’s not the
right choice for me.
I don’t have an extra Idyllic Tutor or Enlightened Tutor. I really wish I had the Enlightened one. You could draft it for the Boros equipment deck (Godo,
Stoneforge Mystic, Stonehewer Giant, Sunforger, etc). You could also get it for the Esper artifact deck or the Selesnya, Azorius, or Bant enchantment
decks. Plus it works elsewhere too. Did you draft a Nevinyrral’s Disk, Nihil Spellbomb, Mind’s Eye, and Scourglass? Then draft the Tutor for flexibility to
get the right one to suit your needs. Or if you have a combo deck you can get multiple pieces.
Open the Vaults might work in a similar way, to aid several decks. But I think people rightly fear what their dopey enemies might return. I’m not sure it
would get the play needed.
We may also need some more self-milling or discarding for reanimation. And maybe one more reanimation effect in black. Maybe Doomed Necromancer or
I tried reanimation decks in a lot of colors, and frankly, every color had more to bring to the black table than blue had. Shoot, even Red had stuff like
Faithless Looting and Shattered Perception and Past in Flames, and Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded. All Blue had was a trio of Looters, Compulsion, and a Jace.
Maybe we could add a card like Breakthrough or Read the Runes.
The problem is that milling is not good for the Cube:
1). Milling is just not that common in Commander, so players aren’t looking for it when they draft.
2). It doesn’t work that much against foes with 100 card decks. It’s too slow.
3). I don’t want to clutter the Cube with the quantity of milling cards it would take to make it work.
4). Milling puts cards in graveyards. In a format where you work hard to exile cards from graveyards to attack graveyard-based strategies, that
So I just don’t see me adding in Traumatize or Glimpse the Unthinkable or something.
However, we do need more ways to fill our graveyard with stuff. Perhaps some more dredge or something would work.
I have these three major issues: increase reliance on enchantments, support for elementals, and aid for graveyard strategies generally, and reanimation
What I want to do is explore cards that fill multiple needs. Take Celestial Ancient. It’s an elemental that also helps enchantments.
Now, sometimes there are options that underwhelm me. Humbler of Mortals is a 5/5 enchantment elemental, for six mana that has the constellation trigger of
making my guys trample for a turn. That’s not nearly good enough to matter. I wish we had a good dredge elemental or something.
However, we do have a perfect storm of abilities in one card. Meet….
So, we have a constellation creature that gives you an ability when enchantments arrive. Check. That ability mills someone. Check. And it’s an elemental.
Check. That’s checking an awful lot of boxes. Is it worth me running a 2/6 creature for five mana that hits all three?
Obviously not! Would you fight for this 2/6 boring card if you had Horde of Notions? Nah. The same is true if you had Zur the Enchanter or reanimation.
Now, I do think there are some legitimate choices for amping up our enchantment matters stuff: Underworld Coinsmith, Sigil, Lamia, Presence, Eidolon,
Celestial Ancient, Doomwake, and Oakheart Dryads intrigue me.
So we’ll add in a few cards that will shore up these needs.
Sigil of the Empty Throne for Worship
Bane of Progress for Molder Slug
Multani, Maro-Sorcerer for Verdeloth the Ancient
Fertilid for Wild Mongrel
Sewer Nemesis for Wight of Precinct Six
Kulrath Knight for Anathemancer
Taurean Mauler for Magus of the Moon
Mirror Entity for Mangara of Corondor
Jace, the Living Guildpact for Omniscience
These swaps will get a bunch more elementals (Multani, Bane, Fertilid, Knight, Mauler and Entity) while not really hurting the Cube at all. Meanwhile, we
get another card for Ghave or Vorel to play with (Fertilid), and changelings that work with stuff like Wellwisher and Scion of the Ur-Dragon. The Knight
gives me a nice counter to…ummm…counter strategies. I like having a foil or two in there for a bunch of stuff. The Nemesis and Jace Version 5.0 help to get
more stuff in the ‘yard. I do want to make some more changes later, but for now, these will jumpstart things for us.
This is only a change for the online CubeTutor version. First of all, I don’t own extra Transmutes or Intuitions – those things are pricey! In drafting,
it’s hard to break some of the banned cards in Commander, so my group allowed them. For example, I have no extra Time Warp effects, so there’s none of them
to be found. That makes the Mirror much harder to break, and frankly, it’s not that good – hard to build around and often goes late. Swapping it for the
Portal might be permanent. The same is true of Gifts Ungiven – usually taken later in the pack. I’ve never seen it break a game, and I’ve only drafted it
highly once in a Dimir reanimation deck as a pseudo-Buried Alive. Balance is good but hard to set up, and sometimes all Tinker can get you is…um…Colossus
of Akros or something. I don’t run Sundering Titan. Without the ability to build around, these cards aren’t as good. So in real life, we run them, but I
pulled them for the online version just to keep things honest I guess.
In order to finish pulling out all non-legendary three-color cards, I yanked Sphinx of the Steel Wind and Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker. I also felt that the
Refuge cycle was not doing enough to remain in. I pulled those five cards as well (Akoum Refuge, et all).
So check out the Cube on CubeTutor.com and let me know what your thoughts are. Get your Cube on, EDH style!
PS: Thoughts for Later:
– Wouldn’t Karmic Guide be better than Resurrection? But I have too many creatures for that swap!
– If I added Tooth and Nail, would it make too many Green creature tutor effects?
– Are Retribution of the Meek and Consume the Meek worth continually running? Should I find better options?
– I really want to find a spot for Doomed Necromancer, Cytoplast-Root Kin, and such.
– Should Coercive Portal be a permanent sub for Panoptic Mirror?
– Brainstorm is not used that much for stuff. Does anything else sell me?
– I still need some solid enchantment loving, and I sort of punted that while thinking about it more – what should that look like?
– I picked up an extra Kargan Dragonlord, but I’m not 100% sold that it deserves a spot…
– I’m still wondering why no Vandalblast!
– Are there other M15/Conspiracy cards that I skipped over first that should get some more consideration?
– The second I pick up a Soul of New Phyrexia, I suspect that Brass Herald is a dead card walking.
– Do I have one too many artifacts that hose graveyards?
– I’m keeping my eye on you Undead Warchief!
I was thinking about Trinket Mage and Treasure Mage. Do they get enough stuff to matter?
Did you know that Trinket Mage can get 24 artifacts that cost zero or one mana? Better than I thought. Treasure Mage can get 29. I guess so!