Desert Draft

Desert Draft is a Booster Draft with a twist. Players don’t have free access to basic lands. Instead, the cards drafted include enough lands for deck building. Players have to draft them, and are challenged by evaluating when it makes sense to prioritize lands over other cards.

Unlike most of the formats in this guide, Desert Drafting is typically done with a purpose-built cube. But you can mix lands into any Cube to give it a try.

How to Play

Start with a Cube that includes roughly 35% land.1 Draft the Cube with a Booster Draft with slightly adjusted pack sizes. Because of the higher demand on resources, you need to draft all 40 cards that make up your deck rather than the typical 22-24 ish, the pack size is typically bumped to to 18 cards, or a fourth 15 card pack is added.

Alternatively you could try any other draft format with increased pool sizes.

If you want to give try Desert Draft a try with a Cube not specifically built for it, shuffle about 25-30 of each basic land into the Cube. Make sure all players know what they’re getting into the rules!


Desert Draft is a unique experience that will test your players’ ability to navigate bad luck and construct a manabase on the fly. Players have to build their decks and play their games to account for what likely a risky manabase in any other context. The unique, harsh experience appeals to a many players that enjoy eeking out the small advantages.

A small side benefit is a Desert Cube can be even more self contained. There’s no need for a separate land station and resetting for the next draft is as simple as shuffling all the decks back up. If you eliminated token making cards too you couldn’t have a much tidier Cube experience.


Desert Draft not for the faint of heart though. The risk of “train-wrecking”, or building a completely nonfunctional deck, is much higher than normal drafts. It can be a fun way to add the old-school feeling of “scrapping for playables” into a draft, or a frustrating experience of losing before drawing your first hand.


There are a number of variations that involve putting different restrictions on mana bases. Some Desert Cubes let players have free access to Wastes during deckbuilding.2 Players still need to draft colored mana sources, but in the end if they’re short on lands they still have an out.

Another twist is to give players free access to only one type of basic land, for example, you can add as many swamps to your deck after the draft but sources of other colors must be drafted.3 This is a fun way to make a very thematic environment that’s asymmetrical and focused on one part of the color pie.

Many Desert Cubes are are very thematic, leaning into the harshness of the environment and pulling from sets that resonate with that feeling.4 Explore some popular DesertCubes on Cube Cobra.

  1. This is a rough baseline. Explore some popular Desert Cubes to get a sense of what’s common and iterate based on your particular environment and play experience. Larger Cubes that are only fractionally drafted may need more lands to account for variance.
  2. Isticle’s Devoid Cube
  3. Parker’s Pulp Nouveau
  4. LuckyLooter’s Amonkar Desert Cube

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Desert — Jesper Myrfors