Set Cubes & More

March 14th, 2023 — Anthony Mattox

Set Cubes – custom draft formats based on an official Magic expansion, block, or plane – are one of the easiest entry points to Cube. They can be a source of limitless free drafts or an opportunity to recreate or rebalance a favorite Draft format. They can be a way to scaffold the design process or an opportunity for a bespoke Cube built around a theme or plane.

Recreating Your Favorite Limited Set

The fastest set cubes to build are faithful replicas of Limited formats. They include every card of a single expansion, with duplicates of commons and uncommons to mimic Draft booster packs.

Typical set cubes include 4 of each common in the set, 2 of each uncommon, and 1 of each rare and mythic rare, approximating the rarity of cards in a typical booster. Our Set Cube Builder can help you easily import these cards to Cube Cobra.

There are two main ways to construct the packs depending on whether you prioritize recreating the booster draft experience exactly, or ease of setup. To recreate the draft format precisely, shuffle the cards of each rarity (combining rares and mythics) and construct packs from the shuffled piles — 1 rare or mythic, 3 uncommons, and 11 common.

100 x 4
80 x 2
60 x 1

The easier method is to shuffle the whole cube together regardless of rarity. Packs could contain any number of cards of higher rarity, but because of the balance of duplicates the ratio will be about right on average. If you’re planning to make packs this way, you can find the ratio of rarities for a specific set in the Cube Builder. Increasing the number of duplicates lets you more accurately mimic an original draft experience at the cost of being more cards to manage.

For contemporary sets with about 300 unique cards, the 4:2:1:1 ratio comes pretty close to the booster pack ratio while being a large (but not unmanageable) size: under 700 cards in total.

Customizing a Set Cube

Faithfully recreating a draft is only the start for set cubes! Many cube owners take it to the next level and tailor the cube to their own taste and interests.

Excluding “Constructed Plants” and Feel-Bads

Booster packs are not just made for Limited. Every set includes cards that are primarily intended for Constructed formats and may function poorly (or not at all!) in Limited.

Amulet of Safekeeping
Ugin's Nexus
Dark Depths
Damping Sphere
Mirror Gallery

One of the most obvious customizations you can make is just cutting these constructed plants. Often these will be printed at rare or mythic so they have minimal impact on Limited already. Dropping them is an easy way to make a set cube an even better drafting experience.

“Why the hell does Ethereal Absolution exist?”

In a similar vein, some draft formats have been marked by famously swingy bombs or threats creating one sided games. If particular cards are a blemish on an otherwise enjoyable format, you’re free to cut or replace them to get even more fun out of your cube.

Excluding Rares & Mythics

If you’re a Limited Spike or conscious of your budget, you may want to exclude rares and mythic rares altogether. They serve a purpose in limited, adding a degree of variance and novelty between drafts, but some players just like focusing on the small edges of cards in a narrow band of power.

A ‘peasant set cube’ has another huge advantage: it’s much easier to acquire all the cards you need, especially for older sets.

Rebalancing Themes

Key commons or uncommons can make or break a Draft archetype. If a Draft format doesn’t play exactly like you’d hope, a set cube lets you lean on the scales! Add more redundancy of key cards for themes that under-performed, or shave a few cards from over-dominant strategies.

For example, many designers with Dominaria set cubes will alter the {W}{R} color pair with its under-powered Auras theme. They’ll power it up with more copies of important cards, or splash in some cards from other sets. Or, you could instead remove or replace the under-performing signpost cards and the theme entirely.

Beyond a Single Set

Of course, there’s nothing to keep you from expanding beyond a single set. Maybe you want to add cards from a different visit to the same plane, cards that bolster mechanical themes, or simply cards you happen to like — go for it! Sets since Ikoria also come with preconstructed Commander decks with thematically appropriate cards, including in particular even more thematic build-arounds you might be interested in drafting.

Adding More Mana Fixing

Cubes often have a much higher density of mana-fixing lands than Limited sets. Fixing lands are often printed at rare in Draft boosters, but reliable mana is a feature a lot of drafters enjoy. Set cube builders will often boost their land density by a cycle or three.

Set Cube as a Starting Point

A set cube is also just a great starting point for a fully customized cube! Building a list from scratch can be a huge hurdle to cross. A set cube can be a great starting point that even comes pre-balanced and pre-tested by the professionals at Wizards of the Coast! You can take their work and iterate on it to make it your own.

If you begin your set cube with the plan to evolve it, accuracy to the draft format can be de-prioritized. A 2:1:1:1 rarity ratio will add up to a more manageable initial cube size, often around 360 cards.

For an even faster start-up: draft a booster box of your favorite set with friends, and then sleeve it up as a cube! It won’t be a perfect replication of the format, but it will be a starting point for a cube that’s uniquely yours.

Plane and Theme Cubes

Plane and theme cubes exist on the opposite side of the spectrum from exact Draft format replicas. If you’re drawn to the flavor or themes of a plane more than the details of the Limited gameplay, this is a good option.

Many designers choose to combine cards from multiple visits to a single plane, rather than starting from a single expansion. Ravnica and Innistrad, popular settings with tons of cards, are two of the most popular examples. Whatever the plane, the resulting cube is appealing and easy hook and flavor to bring people into the Cube.

In addition to main sets that take place in a plane of the multiverse, extra thematic cards are printed in core and supplemental sets. The Magic Multiverse Project, is an essential almanac finding even more cards to fill out thematic cubes.

Nivix Guildmage
Isperia, Supreme Judge
Boros Guildmage
Lazav, the Multifarious
Senate Guildmage
Selesnya Guildmage

Set Islands on the Cube Map

The Cube Map is another tool you can use to explore existing thematic cubes. The map’s algorithm will often group Cube Cobra’s lists built around planes and sets, leading to “islands” of set-forward lists distributed across every corner of the map. Often you’ll find them near mechanically focused islands like enchantments near Theros and artifact themes near Mirroden cubes. These can be great sources of inspiration for starting a new set cube and let you explore the variety of design approaches.

Some set and plane cube regions on the Cube Map

Note these islands have been manually labelled. Labels aren’t built into the map because islands shift over time and many are not as easy to identify as set islands.1 Most set cube islands are easy to find by searching the set’s name.

Newcomer to Cube?

If a set cube is your introduction to Cube, there are some logistics to be aware of. Unlike a Booster Draft where players bring their own card sleeves, a cube is typically pre-sleeved in matching sleeves by its owner, including enough basic lands for all players. For an 8 player draft, 40 of each basic land type is more than enough, covering an extreme case where 2 monocolor and 1 guild deck of a single color are drafted at once.

You’ll also need some way to transport your cube. I recommend starting with a cheap solution like a cardboard long-box, so that you can adapt your cube’s size without buying new storage — at least until you’re settled on the long term form of your cube.

Another difference from Retail Limited is that you won’t need a group of 8 to fire a Cube draft! You can change the pack size (I like 4 packs of 11 for a group of four) or the draft format, to accommodate even just two players. Trying another format doesn’t use up any booster packs, so experiment with the many draft formats beyond traditional Booster Draft.

Finally, unlike an official Draft format that will never change, Cube owners are free to evolve their format. You can decide on the right balance between permanence and permutation for your goals and your playgroup.

Set cubes are versatile custom Limited formats with a deceptively large possibility space. On a spectrum from exact draft replicas to loosely inspired thematic formats, set cubes can address a wide set of gameplay goals. The format is accessible to new or veteran Cube designers alike, and even for players who’d prefer to let Wizards do the design work. Like the broader Cube format, Set Cubes are a great way to embrace what we love most about Magic.


  1. Islands on the Cube Map shift with every update. The image of the cube map was captured from the 2023-02-01 update.

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