Building a cube

After some long days at work, I want to write just a few short words on a project I am working on.

And luckily, I have the perfect one in the furnaces: for the last couple of months I have been contemplating on, theorizing, designing and finally started building a 450-card Premodern draft cube!

That is actually quite a project!

It is also a really fun project that forces you down some rabbit holes to find the right, most relevant, enjoyable and playable cards from what I think is called the silver era of the game. Okay a quick google search reminded me, that such names cannot just be used, because there is no consensus nor really good authoritative definition on what the golden or silver age of Magic is. Anyway. In my view, Premodern (4th edition to Scourge) is silver age. Sue me. It doesn’t matter too much here.

What does matter, though, is that drafting a well-designed and well thought-through cube is actually some of the most enjoyable Magic I know.

For several years I had a ready and assembled Vintage Draft cube, which I drafted or made sealed pools out of with some close friends almost weekly back in the day. But I got tired of having to upgrade it with the most expensive chase rares from each new set to keep it up to date. And I moved to a part of the country where most of my drafting buddies did not live.

So, in short, I took out all the most playable cards, and left the rest in some boxes in my basement.

But then, some months back, I saw some posts on the Premodern Facebook page of people having built Premodern draft cubes, and I was intrigued. As in all things Old School and Premodern, one of the really heavy hitting appeals for me, is the fact that both are non-rotating formats with a static pool of cards to choose from. And of course, I needed to build myself a new cube!

Where to start?

But how does one start building a draft cube? Well, good question.

First of all, I decided that I wanted a cube of 450 cards. 450 are more than enough for an eight man draft, and a five man sealed. I figure I am probably most often going to play this either as a four man sealed or a six man draft, so I may cut back on the cards a little at some point, but in a draft I don’t want the entire cube to be used, because I want a bit of uncertainty as to what cards are in the rotation.

I then took the liberty of downloading the pictures from the Premodern forum of other players’ cubes and simply start out by more or less copying those. Not buying all the cards at once, but to make my own design of the cube. I then scoured Scryfall for whatever Premodern cards I had forgotten about, that for some reason hadn’t gotten into the other forum users’ cubes either.

And let me just tell you; if you have never had the pleasure/burden of designing a cube, you should consider it. It is so great to really deep-dive into a card pool, but it is also a great opportunity to put your own preferences about the game into a new “set” of cards.

Think about it this way: when designing a cube, you are basically designing a new draft set. There are a lot of questions you have to ask yourself and/or your intended playgroup: Do you want strong combos? Heavy card draw engines? Cards that are insanely powered on their own? Should the cube involve a lot of mana fixing or maybe less incentive to splash off-colors? Should all colors be equal in size? How many artifacts and multicolored cards would you like to see? What about non-basic lands? Is land destruction a fun strategy – is burn? Do we like counterspells? Is creatures the best way to end games? And a lot more.

Of course many of these questions can only truly be answered when you gather your friends a test the cube. Really, actually test is. Which means play it a lot, and trying different archetypes.

When I design cubes, I always make sure that there are some archetypes within the cards, and that there are several bombs to go with each archetype. Sometimes an archetype is very generic like white weenie, red burn or black-green midrange. Other times they are a bit more specialized, and require specific cards to really shine – for example blue-Red Sneak and Show where Sneak Attack and Show and Tell both play very important roles.

There are a lot of considerations to take, and I will get back to some of them in a minute. But first, I knew that I was far from having all the cards I wanted in the cube, and I also knew that I would not have the opportunity to playtest it thoroughly in person, so I went online.

I found out that the old site I had previously used for designing and “playtesting” my earlier cube(s (I also designed an entirely non-color cube at once, and was working on a winter/Christmas themed one on/off for several years)) was now defunct. But luckily a new one, CubeCobra had emerged in its place.

So I entered all the cards (luckily CubeCobra has made this rather easy, but it is still quite the hassle), and started drafting away. That was fun. And it made me do some changes. To refine things, even before I had really showed the list to the guys I was planning on playing it with.


I don’t want to bore you with all the details on what choices I made, but just a few.

First of all I decided that even some of the cards that are banned in Premodern should have a place here. Mainly Grim Monolith that has always been a favorite of mine.

Furthermore, I wanted the cube to be relatively easy to draft – also for people who are neither familiar with the format nor with drafting in general. That meant that I have quite a strong emphasis on creatures and good-stuff decks. There are not too many complex combos or weird synergies that depend on some deeper knowledge of absurd interactions between specific cards. Even though it is a great feeling when this works (I have drafted quite some insane Tinker and Storm decks in my old Vintage cube!), it is often a very risky strategy in the draft, because you need very specific cards, and even if you get the specific cards, it is not always quite enough, which results in non-games.

I also wanted the cube to resemble the great things and great decks of the Premodern format, so I have basically filled the pile with all staples and playables. It is such a nice pile to look through. Of course all the cards are in original frame versions…

I wanted a relatively big part of the cards to be artifacts (because those are always fun in drafting and maybe especially sealed) and multicolored because they can sway some choices towards building decks that are a bit more fun – at least in my eyes.

I like to be able to build functioning three-color decks, one of the big things about Premodern is the lack of proper duals, and very few mana fixing cards in general. I pondered adding the original duals, just to make sure that multicolored decks where playable, but opted not to, because it would be too big a diversion from the feel of the format. This may change with more playtesting.

The future of the cube

When I had designed the cube I looked through all of my cards hidden in secret stashes all over my house, and came up with around 280 out of the 450 cards. Not a bad start. I even had all the really expensive ones. I am still trying to stockpile the rest of the cards (I think I am now up to almost 400), but I am not quite there yet. Which means, unfortunately I cannot give you pictures of the entire thing.

I have several cards incoming and I still need to sleeve the thing! Talk about a hassle! But when it is done – or at least playable for six guys to draft, it will be put to the test as soon as possible – namely in a couple of weekend when I head out to the Danish city of Ballerup, to fight the epic Ballerup vs. Funen tournament. It is a gloves-off kind of event where my two friends Robin and Carl-Michael along with myself – all from Funen – venture out into the wilds of Ballerup to fight against three other friends, Trolle, Prag and Sigurd!

We are to fight until only one (Ballerup or Funen) stands, in the epic format Canadian Highlander, and afterwards, a draft of the cube will very much be in order. Now this is something to look forward too!

And rest assured, I will, of course, keep you posted on how much Funen wins the grand showdown!

Those were the few short words for now. Even though I don’t yet have all the cards, you can, of course, find my cube and give it a try right here: (actually, looking at that list, it is not the most recent one – but you will still get a gist of what we are talking about. Check it out…)

Until next time!

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