This past week Game Knights released a video featuring Brandon Sanderson’s Commander Cube. This cube has caught the interest of thousands of people, myself included, because the video it is featured in has one of the best commander games I have ever seen. It is extremely back and forth, with lots of action and gameplay and even has a Mexican standoff in the end. If you haven’t watched their video yet, I would highly recommend it before reading this article.
After watching this video I’m sure many people became interested in building a commander cube. Commander is the most popular form of Magic by far and having one of these cubes might get more people to join your group than an average cube draft. There are many advantages that a commander cube has over a normal cube including a more unique draft experience, a social game, and creativity in how you can draft.
Looking at the cards that were uploaded we have a 952 card cube. This is large enough to support up to 3 commander drafts going on at the same time. But, this isn’t the full picture. Because of Brandon’s Regalia cards, it is actually much more likely that this is a 1080 card cube that is capable of supporting up to 4 different pods at once. (Not that it is likely to have 16 people all drafting at once, but you never know). If we go with 1080, that tells us how many custom cards we need to include, which is 128.
In the pdf that Brandon provided us, there are 63 unique regalia available. If you don’t want to make anything new just double this number and you will be at 125. (This is excluding the Mark of the Reaper as that is regalia that comes with the Reaper King.) As you become more familiar with the cube you can start to cut regalia and add in your own versions to create an environment that is more exciting to you and your players. Regalia is a super interesting concept that solves a lot of the problems that commander cubes typically have, and is something that should be considered for a normal cube in order to spice up the experience.
Analyzing his cube we can see a few things. For one, multicolor cards outnumber mono-color cards by 150 cards. (300 mono-color vs 450 multicolor). This will make the cube focus very heavily on multicolor decks, which lets people play with more cards that they draft, but has the downside of the decks all having the same colors. Without any of the iron regalia, 2 or fewer colors would simply never be played. If you want to discourage heavy multicolor decks, you can try shifting the balance by increasing the count of mono-color cards. Doubling the amount of iron Regalia may also open up the draft to have more variety in colors.
When building a cube it’s important to keep in mind how much removal and board wipes are present. This cube is battlecruiser magic at it’s finest, and because of this, there are a low number of removal spells and board wipes. Most single target removal spells cost 3 or more mana and most board wipes average at 6 mana. Many of these spells are also very conditional, which makes it hard to have specific answers without help from your opponents. This means that games will play out very politically and after the first round of removal spells go off, threats are much more likely to stick.
Mana ramp is also at a premium, with mono-green getting 9 different ramp spells, colorless getting 6, and a smattering within multicolor. If you want to accelerate threats out early, you need to be playing green or else you won’t be consistent with your ramp. This shows to me that Brandon has been keeping in mind the color pie when building this cube, and gives more direction to each color in the draft. Lack of signets/talismans means that it’s harder for non-green colors to get ramp which is personally a goal that I have for my cubes.
Powering up the Cube
This cube is great if you enjoy games of magic where you play 12 lands in a row and hard cast an It that Betrays, but I know that’s not a style of Magic many people are into. Powering up this cube isn’t as simple as just throwing in more powerful cards and being done with it. When making cuts and trimming cards in the cube, it is important that you know why certain design decisions were made so that you can balance the cube appropriately as you make changes to get it more in line with what you want to do.
If you wanted to add a card like Swords to Plowshares to this cube it would be a bad idea to cut Angelic Purge and replace it with Swords. This cube has been designed with bad removal in mind. This bad removal is what allows expensive plays such as Darksteel Colossus to be viable. One mana removal invalidates expensive cards and is a huge tempo swing. If you want to add more powerful removal, that’s fine, but consider lowering the curve alongside it so that Swords to Plowshares isn’t as big of a tempo swing. If that Darksteel Colossus were to be cheated into play rather than hard cast, then Swords makes a lot more sense in the context of that cube.
I want to take a second and say something specifically about Sol Ring. Sol Ring is the identity of commander and is the reason most decks start with 98 cards instead of 99. But I don’t think it has a place in this cube, especially one as low powered as this. If one person gets to draft Sol Ring and starts the game with it on turn 1, it immediately has to become a 3v1, and in a cube where most people aren’t casting anything meaningful until turn 3, ramping up to 4 mana on turn 2 puts you so far ahead of your opponents that a 3v1 may not even be enough. If it’s present in the draft, it just invalidates any other option in the pack. If it’s between Nicol Bolas and a Sol Ring, it’s not really a choice. Even if you give everyone a copy of Sol Ring not everyone is going to have it in their starting hand. Unless you significantly change the cube where access to more powerful rocks is much more common you’ll be doing everyone a favor by leaving Sol Ring in your normal Commander decks.
A commander cube is something I have always been interested in building, but have never taken the time to truly commit and figure out where all the problems may arise. Fortunately, Brandon has already done all the hard work and has given us a cube that is filled with lots of fun cards and magic that is more akin to my earliest days with the game. Regalia solves a lot of the problems that commander cubes typically have while providing a great template to add your own twist to if you want to play this cube yourself. I might start by building a 540 of his cube, and seeing where I go from there.