A Common Draft

Posted in Serious Fun on March 27, 2012

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

I've made the confession before but it bears repeating: I love commons. I don't mean that I simply hold a higher appreciation for the fundamental building blocks of Limited or just fondly recall the most-often-encountered card rarity throughout the history of Magic.

I mean full-on obsession that borders on unhealthy. For example, the cards I'm most curious about in the upcoming Avacyn Restored set are, in order:

  1. Commons that are immediately and obviously powerful in Limited.
  2. Commons that are intriguing, carrying Limited power that isn't as obvious.
  3. Commons that, in certain situations, are surprisingly powerful.
  4. Commons that look sweet in their premium versions.
  5. Cards I want to try in Commander.

(And thanks to the plethora of stores nearby I'm still trying to figure out which one I'm going to preregister at!) The next set is still weeks away from previews, yet I can't help but wonder what new cards I'm going to love.

But I'm getting a little ahead of myself. Part of the reason I'm so keen to see the newest common wares is that I've been playing and updating a Pauper Cube for almost three years. What is a Cube? Well, from the Magic Online Cube announcement:

"Cube" is a format where players draft from a pool of cards that's specially chosen to be awesome to draft.

That's about as succinct a summary as I can envision. However, there's a little more to the rules than that:

  • Cubes are singleton, and only one copy of any card appears in the Cube. This means that...
  • Each and every "pack" is created manually from randomizing the entire Cube, then doling out fourteen-card piles, and...
  • Every card in every pack is unique.

What makes Cube so much fun, however, isn't the combination of the high level of randomness (you don't have the chance to pick up the same card multiple times) but the general power of the cards you're choosing from (such as seeing Jace, the Mind Sculptor; Survival of the Fittest; and Sword of Fire and Iceall in the same pack).

A Pauper Cube changes this equation slightly. Gone are almost all of the most powerful cards in Magic, as "pauper" means "all-commons;" a "Pauper Cube" means drafting nothing but commons. Obviously, I'm going to find this pretty exciting, which was one of the primary drivers in getting me to start mine so long ago.

What's it look like? I'm glad you asked.

The Cube

Oh, a list. We have that, and a spreadsheet too.

White   Blue
Razor Golem Artifact Creature   Neurok Stealthsuit Artifact
Amrou Seekers Creature   Spire Golem Artifact Creature
Apex Hawks Creature   Trespassing Souleater Artifact Creature
Aven Riftwatcher Creature   Æther Adept Creature
Benalish Knight Creature   Æthersnipe Creature
Blade of the Sixth Pride Creature   Calcite Snapper Creature
Gideon's Lawkeeper Creature   Carnivorous Death-Parrot Creature
Goldmeadow Harrier Creature   Chasm Drake Creature
Guardian of the Guildpact Creature   Errant Ephemeron Creature
Icatian Javelineers Creature   Fathom Seer Creature
Kabuto Moth Creature   Giant Tortoise Creature
Kami of Ancient Law Creature   Halimar Wavewatch Creature
Kor Hookmaster Creature   Makeshift Mauler Creature
Kor Sanctifiers Creature   Man-o'-War Creature
Kor Skyfisher Creature   Mnemonic Wall Creature
Leonin Skyhunter Creature   Mulldrifter Creature
Lone Missionary Creature   Ninja of the Deep Hours Creature
Loyal Cathar Creature   Pestermite Creature
Order of Leitbur Creature   Phantasmal Bear Creature
Phantom Nomad Creature   Rishadan Airship Creature
Plover Knights Creature   Scroll Thief Creature
Porcelain Legionnaire Creature   Sea Gate Oracle Creature
Ronom Unicorn Creature   Shaper Parasite Creature
Shu Cavalry Creature   Shimmering Glasskite Creature
Silverclaw Griffin Creature   Skywinder Drake Creature
Soltari Lancer Creature   Spined Thopter Creature
Soltari Trooper Creature   Spire Monitor Creature
Soltari Visionary Creature   Stitched Drake Creature
Steppe Lynx Creature   Stormbound Geist Creature
Stormfront Pegasus Creature   Waterfront Bouncer Creature
Temple Acolyte Creature   Wormfang Drake Creature
Thraben Sentry Creature   Claustrophobia Enchantment
Totem-Guide Hartebeest Creature   Narcolepsy Enchantment
Whitemane Lion Creature   Bone to Ash Instant
Arrest Enchantment   Boomerang Instant
Bonds of Faith Enchantment   Brainstorm Instant
Cage of Hands Enchantment   Capsize Instant
Faith's Fetters Enchantment   Condescend Instant
Journey to Nowhere Enchantment   Counterspell Instant
Kirtar's Desire Enchantment   Daze Instant
Oblivion Ring Enchantment   Exclude Instant
Pacifism Enchantment   Force Spike Instant
Temporal Isolation Enchantment   Frantic Search Instant
Apostle's Blessing Instant   Frost Breath Instant
AWOL Instant   Impulse Instant
Blinding Beam Instant   Into the Roil Instant
Mana Tithe Instant   Mana Leak Instant
Prismatic Strands Instant   Miscalculation Instant
Raise the Alarm Instant   Ray of Command Instant
Shelter Instant   Remove Soul Instant
Stave Off Instant   Repulse Instant
Breath of Life Sorcery   Rushing River Instant
False Defeat Sorcery   Compulsive Research Sorcery
Gather the Townsfolk Sorcery   Deep Analysis Sorcery
Sunlance Sorcery   Preordain Sorcery
Black   Red
Dross Golem Artifact Creature   Oxidda Golem Artifact Creature
Moriok Replica Artifact Creature   Vulshok Replica Artifact Creature
Pith Driller Artifact Creature   Blood Ogre Creature
Vault Skirge Artifact Creature   Crossway Vampire Creature
Blind Creeper Creature   Fault Riders Creature
Blind Zealot Creature   Fireslinger Creature
Cadaver Imp Creature   Flameborn Hellion Creature
Carnophage Creature   Gathan Raiders Creature
Crypt Rats Creature   Gerrard's Irregulars Creature
Dauthi Horror Creature   Ghitu Slinger Creature
Dauthi Marauder Creature   Goblin Shortcutter Creature
Dauthi Slayer Creature   Gorehorn Minotaurs Creature
Faceless Butcher Creature   Hearth Kami Creature
Fume Spitter Creature   Hinterland Hermit //
Hinterland Scourge
Gravedigger Creature   Hissing Iguanar Creature
Highborn Ghoul Creature   Ingot Chewer Creature
Liliana's Specter Creature   Inner-Flame Acolyte Creature
Mortis Dogs Creature   Keldon Marauders Creature
Nezumi Cutthroat Creature   Mogg Fanatic Creature
Okiba-Gang Shinobi Creature   Mogg War Marshal Creature
Order of the Ebon Hand Creature   Nearheath Stalker Creature
Phyrexian Rager Creature   Pitchburn Devils Creature
Pit Keeper Creature   Plated Geopede Creature
Skinthinner Creature   Pouncing Kavu Creature
Vampire Interloper Creature   Ronin Houndmaster Creature
Vampire Lacerator Creature   Skirk Marauder Creature
Warren Pilferers Creature   Skirk Shaman Creature
Wei Strike Force Creature   Slash Panther Creature
Wretched Anurid Creature   Sparksmith Creature
Zombie Cutthroat Creature   Suq'Ata Lancer Creature
Corrupted Zendikon Enchantment   Torch Fiend Creature
Dead Weight Enchantment   Vulshok Sorcerer Creature
Pestilence Enchantment   Barbed Lightning Instant
Death Denied Instant   Brimstone Volley Instant
Diabolic Edict Instant   Brute Force Instant
Disfigure Instant   Burst Lightning Instant
Doom Blade Instant   Fireblast Instant
Grasp of Darkness Instant   Incinerate Instant
Grim Harvest Instant   Lash Out Instant
Last Gasp Instant   Lightning Bolt Instant
Nameless Inversion Instant   Searing Blaze Instant
Rend Flesh Instant   Staggershock Instant
Snuff Out Instant   Act of Treason Sorcery
Tragic Slip Instant   Arc Lightning Sorcery
Undying Evil Instant   Chain Lightning Sorcery
Vendetta Instant   Fire Ambush Sorcery
Victim of Night Instant   Fireball Sorcery
Ashes to Ashes Sorcery   Firebolt Sorcery
Crippling Fatigue Sorcery   Flame Slash Sorcery
Disturbed Burial Sorcery   Pyrotechnics Sorcery
Duress Sorcery   Reckless Charge Sorcery
Evincar's Justice Sorcery   Rolling Thunder Sorcery
Hymn to Tourach Sorcery   Ruthless Invasion Sorcery
Sign in Blood Sorcery   Traitorous Blood Sorcery
Unearth Sorcery   Volcanic Hammer Sorcery
Green   Multicolor
Sylvok Replica Artifact Creature   Assault Zeppelid Creature
Tangle Golem Artifact Creature   Blind Hunter Creature
Thundering Tanadon Artifact Creature   Cultbrand Cinder Creature
Aerie Ouphes Creature   Deft Duelist Creature
Ambush Viper Creature   Esper Cormorants Creature
Basking Rootwalla Creature   Goblin Legionnaire Creature
Blastoderm Creature   Gravelgill Axeshark Creature
Borderland Ranger Creature   Henchfiend of Ukor Creature
Civic Wayfinder Creature   Izzet Chronarch Creature
Dawntreader Elk Creature   Kird Ape Creature
Festerhide Boar Creature   Nightscape Familiar Creature
Fyndhorn Elves Creature   Noggle Bandit Creature
Garruk's Companion Creature   Putrid Leech Creature
Jungle Lion Creature   Qasali Pridemage Creature
Kozilek's Predator Creature   Rendclaw Trow Creature
Krosan Tusker Creature   Rhox Brute Creature
Llanowar Elves Creature   Safehold Elite Creature
Maul Splicer Creature   Scuzzback Marauders Creature
Mire Boa Creature   Shrieking Grotesque Creature
Nantuko Vigilante Creature   Sigiled Behemoth Creature
Nessian Courser Creature   Skyknight Legionnaire Creature
Nest Invader Creature   Stormscape Apprentice Creature
Penumbra Spider Creature   Tin Street Hooligan Creature
Phantom Tiger Creature   Wild Nacatl Creature
River Boa Creature   Armadillo Cloak Enchantment
Sakura-Tribe Elder Creature   Crystallization Enchantment
Simian Grunts Creature   Curse of Chains Enchantment
Stampeding Rhino Creature   Pillory of the Sleepless Enchantment
Thornweald Archer Creature   Sangrite Backlash Enchantment
Ulvenwald Bear Creature   Agony Warp Instant
Viridian Emissary Creature   Branching Bolt Instant
Wickerbough Elder Creature   Consume Strength Instant
Wild Mongrel Creature   Feeling of Dread Instant
Yavimaya Elder Creature   Forbidden Alchemy Instant
Young Wolf Creature   Jilt Instant
Arachnus Web Enchantment   Mystical Teachings Instant
Rancor Enchantment   Orim's Thunder Instant
Crushing Vines Instant   Snakeform Instant
Edge of Autumn Instant   Soul Manipulation Instant
Elephant Ambush Instant   Terminate Instant
Evolution Charm Instant   Wrecking Ball Instant
Giant Growth Instant   Blightning Sorcery
Groundswell Instant   Probe Sorcery
Harrow Instant   Temporal Spring Sorcery
Hunger of the Howlpack Instant   Travel Preparations Sorcery
Reclaim Instant      
Sprout Swarm Instant   Colorless
Vines of Vastwood Instant      
Wildsize Instant   Ulamog's Crusher Creature
Cultivate Sorcery      
Farseek Sorcery   Artifact
Kodama's Reach Sorcery      
Land Aid '04 Sorcery   Adventuring Gear Artifact
Prey Upon Sorcery   Armillary Sphere Artifact
Rampant Growth Sorcery   Bonesplitter Artifact
      Executioner's Hood Artifact
Land   Fieldmist Borderpost Artifact
      Firewild Borderpost Artifact
Azorius Chancery Land   Flayer Husk Artifact
Barren Moor Land   Leonin Bola Artifact
Desert Land   Leonin Scimitar Artifact
Dimir Aqueduct Land   Mind Stone Artifact
Drifting Meadow Land   Mistvein Borderpost Artifact
Evolving Wilds Land   Pristine Talisman Artifact
Golgari Rot Farm Land   Prophetic Prism Artifact
Halimar Depths Land   Serrated Arrows Artifact
Haunted Fengraf Land   Strider Harness Artifact
Izzet Boilerworks Land   Sylvok Lifestaff Artifact
Khalni Garden Land   Tumble Magnet Artifact
Polluted Mire Land   Veinfire Borderpost Artifact
Remote Isle Land   Vulshok Morningstar Artifact
Rupture Spire Land   Wayfarer's Bauble Artifact
Sejiri Steppe Land   Whispersilk Cloak Artifact
Simic Growth Chamber Land   Wildfield Borderpost Artifact
Slippery Karst Land   Clay Statue Artifact Creature
Smoldering Crater Land   Paper Tiger Artifact Creature
Teetering Peaks Land   Perilous Myr Artifact Creature
Terramorphic Expanse Land   Pilgrim's Eye Artifact Creature
      Rock Lobster Artifact Creature
      Scissors Lizard Artifact Creature
      Yotian Soldier Artifact Creature

So how did this come about? What process created that set of cards? Why is {insert your specific card of choice} in the Cube? Those answers, and the detailed stories they carry, is something you can get from meeting me personally. How one goes about creating a Cube in general might be a future feature or Latest Developments article (or two), but I'm the wrong person to ask about that as well. At the very least, I'll leave discussing set development here to the people who actually get to do that all day. I hear they're pretty good at it.

What I can share is a glimpse into how awesome it is to get to Cube. You didn't think I'd share the most prized portion of my collection without tales of battle to go along?

Standard Practices

On a recent adventure down to Grand Prix Indianapolis, I had a chance to pull together a small team of Cube devotees for some after-hours Draft action. That's one of the greatest features of traveling to Magic events: Once the site shuts down you can just carry on as before in your hotel's lobby, open conference room, or flat surface with chair-like objects nearby.

Gamers 'gonna game!

Adam is a regular feature at Grand Prix, usually slinging witty banter behind the Jupiter Games sales booth. We've shared a few stories—on and off tournament sites—and were overdue for drafting my Cube.

Rich speaks a lot less than Adam, but arguably says a lot more through the weekly GatheringMagic.com video series Inside the Deck. Usually hopping about the tournament site all day filming, Rich relished the rare treat of getting some games in over a working weekend. His smile proved it!

If you wanted to check in with a community leader about Cubes, Usman is one place to start. He writes regularly about Cubes for StarCityGames.com and has spent time honing his craft on other sites, blogs, and a Cube-focused podcast. We've certainly discussed many cards over the years, and his insight and excitement has only increased since we first crossed paths.

TJ was a new friend I met through Usman at the Grand Prix. Hanging out for dinner and joining in the "Let's Cube!" ride was a no-brainer, and I was excited to share my Cube with someone completely uninitiated to its all-common premise!

Jeff was TJ's friend, but showed up as most of us were already dueling after the draft. How can that happen? He was busy battling hard to try to make the Day-Two cutoff, but fell short in the very last round.

Oh, how did he show up late but still get to play? That's easy: Sealed. Both Jeff and Adam came a little later than intended, but handing them each a pile of six boosters worked out as well as jumping in a small Draft. While players with Sealed pools lose the ability to sculpt their decks through choosing cards, they are able to change to a completely new deck on the fly. I'm not sure which is more valuable given the generally flat power level among random cards in my Cube.

Speaking of the draft, you can deduce there were just four of us. We drafted four packs of just eleven cards each to minimize how many times we'd see the same cards float around the table. It's a useful workaround when you happen to be a few players short of the usual eight.

This was how my draft shook out:

  Pack 1 Pack 2 Pack 3 Pack 4
1 Sylvok Lifestaff Thundering Tanadon Suq'Ata Lancer Death Denied
2 Fire Ambush Gorehorn Minotaurs Hissing Iguanar Fume Spitter
3 Nameless Inversion Highborn Ghoul Flayer Husk Skinthinner
4 Ambush Viper Skirk Shaman Faceless Butcher Blind Creeper
5 Crippling Fatigue Volcanic Hammer Vampire Interloper Blood Ogre
6 Sparksmith Simian Grunts Disfigure Traitorous Blood
7 Pith Driller Wrecking Ball Carnophage Gravelgill Axeshark
8 Sign in Blood Sangrite Backlash Cadaver Imp Undying Evil
9 Consume Strength Viridian Emissary Diabolic Edict Pitchburn Devils
10 Bone to Ash Snakeform Momentary Blink Probe
11 Reclaim Nightscape Familiar Evolution Charm Evincar's Justice

With only four of us drafting, strained colors quickly became clear. At first, red and black were getting pulled quickly, and I thought green would jump up as a primary color for me. However, the third and fourth packs completely shifted the dynamic back to red and black. In particular, I was able to first-pick a card that has consistently proven to be incredible (Death Denied) and wheeled another incredible card (Blood Ogre) back around. I was also able to correctly pick Gravelgill Axeshark and force Evincar's Justice to wheel as well. I never did figure out who jumped out of black, but I suspect it had to do with how hard I cut it in the third pack.

Here's the basic deck I constructed, but I made many modifications on the go depending upon what I was fighting or if I was going first or second after playing a game.

Adam's Black-Red Pauper Cube Deck

Download Arena Decklist

Some of the cards that popped in an out included Fire Ambush, Pith Driller, Traitorous Blood, Evincar's Justice, and Thundering Tanadon, among others. Generally speaking, there's a little more room to try things in Cube decks, since every card is usually powerful in its own right (at least in my Cube).

Round 1: Usman

Of course, given the entirely random selection process of "Usman and I were done first," it was clear I'd have to battle my buddy. Our first game was a fairly boring affair:

I didn't take a single point of damage. Obviously, this meant my deck was far superior, right?

Our second game was quite the opposite. For every two creatures I played, he had something that killed them. Staggershock killed my Skinthinner and Sparksmith. Branching Bolt nailed Vampire Interloper and Blind Creeper.

He even used Pyrotechnics to sweep my board and ping me at the same time! When he produced Ulamog's Crusher (immediately after I used my freshly swapped-in Traitorous Blood), I could do nothing but take the hit before using Diabolic Edict to clear it away. The final nail in the coffin came in the form of an Elephant Ambush eating my Skirk Shaman attacker, leaving me defenseless against the strike-back.

The third game was somewhat similar. While I had a fast start of a Blind Creeper into Hissing Iguanar, Usman used a kicked Jilt to set me way back.

His follow ups in Man-o'-War and Festerhide Boar, after evoking Ingot Chewer, made things worse. My Wrecking Ball took care of the Boar, and I got back into the swing of things with Hissing Iguanar and Vampire Interloper, which I saved from a Brimstone Volley with Undying Evil!

In addition to Pyrotechnics, I then discovered Usman had Arc Lightning. While the Blood Ogre and Skinthinner (morphed) might have done the trick, Usman had all the removal, with a Branching Bolt for Skinthinner before I could lay waste to his Rhox Brute. By drawing land over the next two turns I fell to the Rhino.

I should note that Usman and I have a history when battling with my Cube. We're about even in total matches and games, and we've almost always had very similar battles of battlefield management and removal mitigation. And we always have new thoughts about cards we saw in action. Usman wasn't sold on Undying Evil until he saw how much work it could do in a hyper-aggressive deck like mine.

It's always great to play some games and end on awesome conversation.

Round 2: TJ

TJ was the last to arrive so I kindly bowed out to wait for him while others continued to fight. He was impressed with the potential of his pool—loaded with blue and white spells he liked—and didn't take long to assemble a deck that seemed like my nightmare: flying creatures, tempo cards, and life gain.

Appearances can be deceiving.

Our first game was a very fast run-down for life totals. A Sylvok Lifestaff compounded the damage a Suq'Ata Lancer and Blood Ogre drove home as I had a removal spell for every creature TJ played. Even though he dropped a Pristine Talisman into play—oh how I wished I had a Torch Fiend!—I was able to race him to 3 life and finish the job with Volcanic Hammer.

The second game lasted a bit longer. He opened on Goldmeadow Harrier again, and had Gideon's Lawkeeper to follow, but I threw all my removal at his tappers only to be rewarded with him playing Waterfront Bouncer and a Wormfang Drake (upgrading his Spined Thopter).

Thanks to a Skirk Shaman, saved again with Undying Evil, I was able to keep the pressure on with a 5/5 Gorehorn Minotaurs and 3/3 Blood Ogre. Even with some bouncing shenanigans, a timely Sylvok Lifestaff joined the battlefield to demolish his life total down to 1.

While his Kor Hookmaster and Kor Skyfisher helped hold back my horde for another turn, adding a Gravelgill Axeshark let me push right through his defenses.

We talked for a little after the games, and even played a third for fun since ours ended quickly (he won that one). Feeling of Dread was a critical card that showed up for him in the third game, and it was clear that in any game where he bought more time to set up I would have been hard-pressed to fight through. All said, he thought it was a blast.

The "danger" of playing Magic after the Grand Prix closes for the day is staying up too late. With everyone looking to be back on site fairly early, and time having already blown past midnight, the group decided to pack it up. We didn't look at final records or declare winners; we were just happy to have played some awesome games, using somewhat unlikely cards, among several friendly faces.

If you've put together a Horde, a Cube, a Stack, or something else that's group-oriented and fun, find the next Grand Prix you can attend. I promise it's a good time ahead of you.


For group-oriented fun on the Internet, I have the results of last week's lord poll:

Which tribal deck with modern lords should Adam take to game?
Skeletons (Death Baron) 1110 25.6%
Allies (Kazuul Warlord, Kabira Evangel) 923 21.3%
Werewolves and Wolves (Immerwolf, Mayor of Avabruck) 846 19.5%
Spirits (Drogskol Captain, Celestial Crusader) 811 18.7%
Elves (Elvish Archdruid; Joraga Warcaller; Ezuri, Renegade Leader) 645 14.9%
Total 4335 100.0%

As I had hoped, Skeletons easily cleared the top spot, although my favorite five-color tribe was right behind them. Even better, I received some very cool suggestions for the Skeleton deck specifically. The next time there's a chance to look over some sixty-card piles, you'll have a chance to share if you think the suggestions should be implemented!


This week, I'd like to ask something completely unrelated to today's topic.


I visit my local shop, Dream Wizards, about once a week. Thursdays is specifically set aside for everyone to just join in and play whatever kind of Magic they'd like, but even during the peak of Friday Night Magic you can get in on a Commander game with ease. Sometimes I'll miss a week, but that's because I'm generally gallivanting about at a Grand Prix or Prerelease instead.

I hope you can appreciate how much Magic there can be if you can find it. Join us next week when I ask a few questions and share some far better answers!

Latest Serious Fun Articles


January 5, 2016

Hedron Alignment by, Bruce Richard

When I first looked at my preview card, I couldn't really wrap my brain around it. The card does so much that I wasn't really understanding its value. Kind of a "forest for the trees" thi...

Learn More


December 29, 2015

Eternal Pilgrim by, Bruce Richard

When religious belief turns into religious fervor, things get problematic—particularly on Zendikar. When the Eldrazi were originally imprisoned, stories were told to ensure no one would t...

Learn More



Serious Fun Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All