How to Build a Budget Commander Cube

Mikeal Basile
March 06, 2023

“Magictating” is defined as getting into the zone with your Magic the Gathering collection--thinking, planning, organizing, reminiscing about past games, and imagining future games. It is a combination of hard thinking about the game and calm meditation, reveling in the joy it brings you.

The Budget Commander Cube

This series of articles is similar in structure to something I brought to you awhile back. I delved into the creation of my own EDH Cube. Now, I respect and understand that not everyone wants to build a cube that utilizes all 55 of the original legendary creatures at a cost over $2,000. Sure, it’s a cool idea, and if you happen to have those cards in your collection, as I did, then go for it—because it truly is an awesome experience. However, I understand that many of us might be squeezing every card from every quarter we’ve got. So, I made it my mission to design, compile, and build a budget friendly version of a Commander cube. Sure, you could build a Commander Legends Set Cube for around $550, and that’s a decent price to pay, I guess, for the ability to redraft Commander Legends again and again, but wouldn’t it be more fun to have your own uniquely curated Commander draft list? How about one that will cost you under $300…how about one that can be done for around $200, or even less depending on what you and your friends already own and aren’t currently using? I’m serious about this. This is a way to Cube draft Commander and make it an absolute blast to play.


Should You Build a Budget Commander Cube?

Even the Odds - Shishizaru

Why would you want to build a Commander Cube? Honestly, it is a great way to level the Commander playing field and get people to experience those big moments and cool plays while not being blown out by someone else’s power-level discrepancies. I’m not one to moan like some Gangrenous Zombies on a tear, but creating a Commander Cube means that everyone is playing with the same “power-level” and you don’t have to worry about some sort of Dragon Ball Z discrepancy between your budget conscious deck and someone else’s foiled out mythic monstrosity. Also, I contend that the drafting environment for a Commander Cube is arguably one of the most amazing draft and play experiences I’ve ever had the pleasure of partaking in. It is an absolute blast to build a deck on the fly and also look forward to the multiplayer madness that awaits its upcoming test run. I often find that we will actually want to play two games of Commander with the same decks; it’s just that you really want to get one more shot at the deck doing its thing. Another great reason to build this Cube is that it really costs far less than playing Commander in really any other way. Realistically, you and three friends can have nearly unlimited access to deck-building and hours upon hours of play for less than the cost of building one deck each. That’s the type of budget consciousness I’m into—the type that is affordable, yet Primordial Ooze–ing with fun.


Bonuses of Building a Budget Commander Cube

Epic Experiment - Dan Scott

Now, if you’re not sold on building this Budget Commander Cube as of yet, then let me assure you that you can build this, draft it, and play it with little to no difficulty. It is incredibly affordable and will afford you with so many hours of fun that your friends will be amazed that you built it. When they ask you can just say you got the idea from some guy’s article. Or you could give me credit, and then promptly start picking apart my choices and replacing cards so that it becomes your own design rather than mine. Honestly, I’m OK with whatever you choose as long as you are playing with the darn thing. Additionally, I’d like to invite you to try it out on my Cube Cobra link here. You can do all sorts of mathematical analysis that’s way beyond anything I’ve ever bothered to bore into, but from a simple standpoint you can just draft some packs and get a feel for what this thing is offering. It doesn’t seed your packs with the legendary creatures as I’m about to explain, but it does give you a chance to see how it could work. It really is a great way to play, and the beauty of setting up a Commander Cube is that you can start to weed out the cards you and your playgroup find less fun and then jam the ones you all love.


Upgrading the Cube

Gemstone Array - Ittoku

This cube is designed to be upgradeable as well. You can slowly make this stronger as you and your friends decide to donate a card here and there to make it more and more powerful. My only caution against doing that is you should try to keep the colors and archetypes balanced as you upgrade or you might find that people who draft a particular archetype always win. Interestingly enough when everyone seems to know a particular strategy is strongest it tends to get over-drafted and thereby under-supported in each person’s deck—this allows the savvy drafter to actually make a weaker archetype turn out far stronger as it was “open” during the draft.


Mythic Plays on a Modest Budget

Sun Titan (NCC)

Ultimately, this Budget Commander Cube is a way to experience Commander and draft-style play in a repeatable and highly affordable way. I’ll get into the theory and strategy behind it in future articles, but I thought I might start with the end product and then explain why it’s built the way it is. I’m sure you’ve realized that budget is the primary driver, but I kept big plays, excitement, and synergies all a close tie for second place in my considerations. Honestly, the best part of designing this cube was that I was able to reaffirm that Magic is definitely cheaper to play (Commander especially) than it ever has been before. There are so many premium editions and regular reprintings that buying anything that’s not a “chase” mythic or “required rare” is actually pretty cheap. So many solid Commander cards have been reprinted so often that they are nearly as cheap as commons—Sun Titan for example. I don’t know anyone that can honestly say a card like Sun Titan isn’t impactful or amazing. I may have combed through thousands of cards to curate a budget list, and then combed through those thousands, but in the end we have a list that costs thousands of cents…not even cracking the $300 mark. Now, if you find a card or two on the list that’s out of your budget, then swap it out. I’ll get into the upgrading and building aspects in later articles, but for now, build it, pilot it with your friends, and enjoy the wonders of unique and replayable experiences this Budget Commander Cube is going to give you.


Actually Using the Budget Commander Cube


One more quick note. When you build the packs you want to seed them with 3 legendary cards in each pack and 17 other cards. You just shuffle and shuffle and shuffle each pile (legendaries in one pile and the rest in another pile). This allows you to build packs of 20 cards each. When you draft the cube, passing the packs and picking cards, you each take two cards from a pack and then pass it to the next person. You do this for all three packs you’ve made. This gives everyone access to a minimum of 12 different commanders throughout the draft, but will likely be far more than that (most people don’t use both picks on their opening packs to take two of the three legendary creatures on offer). Getting locked out of a color combination is highly unlikely. You all have access to an unlimited number of basic lands to fill out the mana requirements for your decks. One last deck building tip for now is that you want around 36 playable cards and then fill the other 24 slots in with lands. This should make for a balanced deck that won’t stumble to cast your spells. I’ll be back with more another time, but until then, may the cube, your budget, and the cards be ever in your favor!