Posted in Feature on May 28, 2012

By Shawn Main

Shawn Main is a designer for Magic: The Gathering. He joined Wizards of the Coast from the Great Designer Search 2 after years of directing theater, training medical students, and playing multiplayer Magic.

One of the great strengths of Magic is that it doesn't offer you a single game, but rather games nested inside games inside decks inside formats inside rules. That interplanar rabbit hole runs deep. Planechase presents a compelling variant, where the rules of the game are unstable and able to change with the roll of a die.

Okiba-Gang Shinobi | Art by Mark Zug

But Planar Magic itself is really just one possibility for playing with the planar deck. Many playgroups like to shuffle all their planes (and now phenomena) into a single pile and embrace the chaos of forty (now eighty) possible outcomes every time they planeswalk. Others reject the overt randomness and want the hall of doorways approach of The Eternities Map variant.

I've had the chance to play with the Planechase (2012 Edition) decks and they're a blast right out of the box (ninjas!), but as soon as I get my hands on the decks I'll be pulling out the new cards and shuffling the planes to play my favorite Magic variant—something I've taken to calling the Hypercube.

The format itself is simple and cobbles together known ideas: Cube drafting, Planechase, and multiplayer free-for-all.

What I love about the combination is that the elements complement each other perfectly. A honed Constructed deck usually has a plan and isn't always served by rolling the planar die. Drafted decks, however, often need to adapt to their situation on the fly and enjoy having the choice to roll when they find themselves cornered or short on resources. Likewise, lower-powered multiplayer frequently wants things to do with its mana as the game goes long—the planar die gives it a convenient outlet. And the format allows you let loose your inner Timmy, as it revolves around dramatic moments created by the planar chaos, over-the-top spells, and huge creatures that are frequently impractical in other formats.

The Rules

I find the Hypercube is at its best with four or five players, but I've enjoyed it with as few as three and as many seven (see below for a few tweaks if you're at the extremes).

Start with a Cube designed to be multiplayer friendly—the titular Hypercube. If you're new to Cube drafting, the idea is to create a pool of cards for the purposes of playing your own Limited format. Traditionally, a Cube is composed of the most powerful, most Spike-friendly cards in Magic's history. The Hypercube, however, is about Timmy cards, and you'll want to build it for high-impact multiplayer goodness.

Terramorphic Expanse | Art by Dan Scott

For the draft, shuffle your Cube together and give players three fifteen-card stacks as their faux booster packs.

For the game, follow normal free-for-all rules. Players can attack anyone, their spells can affect everyone, and the winner is the last player standing.

Use standard Planechase rules, but shuffle all the planes and phenomena into a central planar deck from which everyone draws.

In subsequent games, players are more likely to gang up on the previous winners and are more likely to see that person's clever combos coming. Therefore, if you play multiple games, give the winner of the previous game the reward of playing first.

What's in a Cube

Many Cubes are constructed lovingly and delicately with elements carefully considered and balanced against each other. Building one can be intimidating. The Hypercube is about flying by the seat of your pants, so rough edges can be okay. Here are a few guidelines to get started with a 270-card pool (enough for six drafters). If you find you enjoy the format, you can always refine later.

  • Forty cards of each color—for each color, include at least two creatures with converted mana cost 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6+, as well as fifteen to twenty-five spells that aren't creatures.
  • Three cards of each two-color combination.
  • One card of each three-color combination (time for those commanders).
  • Thirty artifacts/lands; ten to fifteen of these should fix mana. Personally, I don't like to overthink this and normally include five Wayfarer's Baubles and five Terramorphic Expanses.

Among these cards, you'll also want to include one to three board sweepers, one to three Naturalize effects, a handful of removal spells, and enough instant spells that players will be engaged during their opponents' turns.

Bituminous Blast | Art by Raymond Swanland

One last suggestion: When I started playing the format, I didn't censor many cards—my Cubes were filled with whatever seemed best in multiplayer—and for years I thought of the format as a long grind. Games sometimes ended by decking and the experienced drafters learned to value cards like Junktroller to guard against these ends. Then one day I organized a draft where some of the players didn't have much time, so I removed defensive cards and strong lifegain effects from the pool. And it wasn't just shorter—it was a lot more fun. Without cards like Wall of Denial to hide behind and Congregate to reset gains, the world was an exposed place that demanded action. Aggression was encouraged. Opportunities were seized. I haven't looked back since and have steadily stripped out those cards for ones that naturally push the game forward.


If you're short-handed or have a full house, I'll recommend some small adjustments.

For a three-player game, consider using the rules for Winston drafting. The dynamic is a little different, but it means you won't keep passing the same booster pack again and again. It also results in more hidden information and fighting over colors, which tends to keep the draft from becoming rote.

Sunken Hope | Art by Volkan Baga

With six or more players, the free-for-all can easily get overwhelming. With this number, I like using a variation on the classic Star configuration. The players to your immediate left and right aren't opponents. They're not necessarily your allies, but you can't attack them or target them with effects that say "opponent." In this case, you win when each of your opponents has been eliminated (and you're still alive). This will sometimes result in shared victory between two players.

Sample Hypercube

This is what I'll be playing June 1. It draws primarily on cards from both Planechase editions and Commander, with a few multiplayer favorites from recent years.

White   Blue
Card Type   Card Type
Alabaster Mage Creature   Æthersnipe Creature
Arbiter of Knollridge Creature   Augury Owl Creature
Archangel of Strife Creature   Azure Mage Creature
Armored Griffin Creature   Conundrum Sphinx Creature
Auramancer Creature   Deadeye Navigator Creature
Auratouched Mage Creature   Djinn of Wishes Creature
Celestial Ancient Creature   Enclave Cryptologist Creature
Celestial Force Creature   Illusory Angel Creature
Emeria Angel Creature   Mindshrieker Creature
False Prophet Creature   Mistblade Shinobi Creature
Kor Sanctifiers Creature   Mulldrifter Creature
Kor Spiritdancer Creature   Ninja of the Deep Hours Creature
Mother of Runes Creature   Phantasmal Image Creature
Seraph of Dawn Creature   Primal Plasma Creature
Serra Angel Creature   Sakashima's Student Creature
Serra Ascendant Creature   Slipstream Eel Creature
Silverblade Paladin Creature   Sturmgeist Creature
Soul Warden Creature   Thrummingbird Creature
Voice of All Creature   Wingcrafter Creature
World Queller Creature   Sunken Hope Enchantment
Cage of Hands Enchant Creature   Volition Reins Enchantment
Cathars' Crusade Enchantment   Vow of Flight Enchantment
Felidar Umbra Enchantment   Brainstorm Instant
Hyena Umbra Enchantment   Evacuation Instant
Mammoth Umbra Enchantment   Keep Watch Instant
Oblivion Ring Enchantment   Perilous Research Instant
Prison Term Enchantment   Ray of Command Instant
Sigil of the Empty Throne Enchantment   Redirect Instant
Spirit Mantle Enchantment   Reins of Power Instant
Brave the Elements Instant   Repulse Instant
Cloudshift Instant   Spell Crumple Instant
Divine Deflection Instant   Turn Aside Instant
Harm's Way Instant   Turn to Frog Instant
Midnight Haunting Instant   Twincast Instant
Return to Dust Instant   Concentrate Sorcery
Silence Instant   Distortion Strike Sorcery
White Sun's Zenith Instant   Fabricate Sorcery
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben Legendary Creature   Minds Aglow Sorcery
Akroma's Vengeance Sorcery   Time Warp Sorcery
Three Dreams Sorcery   Windfall Sorcery
Black   Red
Card Type   Card Type
Ascendant Evincar Creature   Beetleback Chief Creature
Avatar of Woe Creature   Bogardan Firefiend Creature
Cadaver Imp Creature   Cinder Elemental Creature
Cadaverous Knight Creature   Crimson Mage Creature
Dark Hatchling Creature   Falkenrath Exterminator Creature
Fleshbag Marauder Creature   Flametongue Kavu Creature
Gravecrawler Creature   Grim Lavamancer Creature
Gravedigger Creature   Heirs of Stromkirk Creature
Liliana's Specter Creature   Magmatic Force Creature
Nefashu Creature   Mana-Charged Dragon Creature
Noxious Ghoul Creature   Menacing Ogre Creature
Okiba-Gang Shinobi Creature   Preyseizer Dragon Creature
Onyx Mage Creature   Rakish Heir Creature
Phyrexian Ghoul Creature   Rapacious One Creature
Razorjaw Oni Creature   Rockslide Elemental Creature
Reiver Demon Creature   Rorix Bladewing Creature
Shepherd of Rot Creature   Spikeshot Elder Creature
Skinrender Creature   Spitebellows Creature
Throat Slitter Creature   Stormblood Berserker Creature
Tormented Soul Creature   Stromkirk Noble Creature
Phyrexian Arena Enchantment   Taurean Mauler Creature
Consume the Meek Instant   Pyrohemia Enchantment
Cruel Revival Instant   Chaos Warp Instant
Hideous End Instant   Comet Storm Instant
Tragic Slip Instant   Fiery Fall Instant
Undying Evil Instant   Radiate Instant
Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni Legendary Creature   Wild Ricochet Instant
Assassinate Sorcery   Urabrask the Hidden Legendary Creature
Beacon of Unrest Sorcery   Arc Lightning Sorcery
Consume Spirit Sorcery   Arc Trail Sorcery
Consuming Vapors Sorcery   Breath of Darigaaz Sorcery
Hex Sorcery   Cone of Flame Sorcery
Incremental Blight Sorcery   Death by Dragons Sorcery
Innocent Blood Sorcery   Earthquake Sorcery
Living Death Sorcery   Goblin Offensive Sorcery
Profane Command Sorcery   Mark of Mutiny Sorcery
Stitch Together Sorcery   Mass Mutiny Sorcery
Syphon Flesh Sorcery   Pyrotechnics Sorcery
Syphon Mind Sorcery   Rivals' Duel Sorcery
Syphon Soul Sorcery   Rolling Thunder Sorcery
Green   Multicolored
Card Type   Card Type
Baloth Woodcrasher Creature   Baleful Strix Artifact Creature
Bramble Elemental Creature   Enigma Sphinx Artifact Creature
Briarhorn Creature   Etherium-Horn Sorcerer Artifact Creature
Brindle Shoat Creature   Shardless Agent Artifact Creature
Brutalizer Exarch Creature   Angel of Despair Creature
Dowsing Shaman Creature   Bladewing the Risen Creature
Dreampod Druid Creature   Blood Tyrant Creature
Forgotten Ancient Creature   Broodmate Dragon Creature
Gluttonous Slime Creature   Bull Cerodon Creature
Hydra Omnivore Creature   Dragonlair Spider Creature
Imperious Perfect Creature   Drogskol Reaver Creature
Ivy Elemental Creature   Elderwood Scion Creature
Living Hive Creature   Godsire Creature
Magus of the Vineyard Creature   Malfegor Creature
Mitotic Slime Creature   Silent-Blade Oni Creature
Mycoloth Creature   Simic Sky Swallower Creature
Ondu Giant Creature   Vulturous Zombie Creature
Penumbra Spider Creature   Fires of Yavimaya Enchantment
Silhana Ledgewalker Creature   Indrik Umbra Enchantment
Spawnwrithe Creature   Necrogenesis Enchantment
Tornado Elemental Creature   Bituminous Blast Instant
Verdant Force Creature   Captain's Maneuver Instant
Veteran Explorer Creature   Electrolyze Instant
Viridian Emissary Creature   Mortify Instant
Fertilid Creature   Edric, Spymaster of Trest Legendary Creature
Rancor Enchant Creature   Geist of Saint Traft Legendary Creature
Awakening Zone Enchantment   Jenara, Asura of War Legendary Creature
Boar Umbra Enchantment   Krond the Dawn-Clad Legendary Creature
Predatory Urge Enchantment   Maelstrom Wanderer Legendary Creature
Snake Umbra Enchantment   Nin, the Pain Artist Legendary Creature
Vow of Wildness Enchantment   Oros, the Avenger Legendary Creature
Beast Within Instant   Razia, Boros Archangel Legendary Creature
Fresh Meat Instant   Ruhan of the Fomori Legendary Creature
Hunter's Insight Instant   Skullbriar, the Walking Grave Legendary Creature
Tribal Unity Instant   Teneb, the Harvester Legendary Creature
Tribute to the Wild Instant   The Mimeoplasm Legendary Creature
Wildsize Instant   Thromok the Insatiable Legendary Creature
Collective Voyage Sorcery   Vela the Night-Clad Legendary Creature
Cultivate Sorcery   Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter Legendary Creature
Explosive Vegetation Sorcery   Venser, the Sojourner Planeswalker
Artifact   Land
Card Type   Card Type
4 Fractured Powerstone Artifact   5 Terramorphic Expanse Land
5 Wayfarer's Bauble Artifact      
Loxodon Warhammer Artifact      
Mask of Memory Artifact      
Quietus Spike Artifact      
Relic of Progenitus Artifact      
Sai of the Shinobi Artifact      
Serum Tank Artifact      
Spectral Searchlight Artifact      
Whispersilk Cloak Artifact      
Arcbound Crusher Artifact Creature      
Arcbound Slith Artifact Creature      
Copper Myr Artifact Creature      
Gold Myr Artifact Creature      
Iron Myr Artifact Creature      
Leaden Myr Artifact Creature      
Silver Myr Artifact Creature      
Thran Golem Artifact Creature      

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