If you have spent any time around me you will know that I love cubes that do things that regular Magic cannot easily get away with. Custom rules, turn 1 wins, and even mechanically unique cards designed by the cube curator are all possibilities in the format. But one rule that we all tend to hold to a pretty high standard is the singleton rule. There is a reason for this, as the restriction it provides creates very fun gameplay, and is helpful to the curation process. Today, however, I’d like to introduce another tool in the designer toolbox that could create a more exciting draft environment. Draft packages are something that have existed in the cube community for a long time, but it can be helpful to reexamine them with a modern mindset.
Draft packages are essentially when you draft one card, and are handed additional cards for free. The classic example of this in the cube community would be Squadron Hawk. In a high power cube environment spending several picks on Squadron Hawk is way too slow to be worth it. However, some clever designers realized that if you give the person who drafted Squadron Hawk three additional copies no strings attached, it becomes a much more unique card that is worth building around. Draft packages are perfect cards for build-around archetypes as they promote a certain style of deck, improve consistency for that deck due to multiple relevant copies, and all it costs is one slot in the cube.
Another card that many constructed players enjoyed, but hasn’t worked well in cube is Arclight Phoenix. A four mana 3/2 haste just doesn’t cut it these days. However, in constructed it was not uncommon to see three of these birds swinging in by the time you’d usually be hardcasting it. If we wanted to make this card work in cube all it would need is the Squadron Hawk treatment. Arclight Phoenix goes from being a mediocre four drop, to becoming a key build-around spells-matter card. In fact, many cards that have had success in constructed, but fail to make their way into cube can be made playable with the Squadron Hawk treatment. Aether Vial, Death’s Shadow, Vengevine, and Lord of Atlantis could create brand new archetypes with very minimal changes to the cube. Cards that say “any number of ~ can be included in your deck” become much more interesting when drafting one gets you a stack. Lucky Paper Radio posits the question “How many Relentless Rats would you need to pick to become interested? Infinity?” https://luckypaper.co/podcast/34
Draft packages aren’t just limited to a single card at a time. It is very easy to give players the entire combo, without them having to put in more work for it. No more stress about drafting Splinter Twin in a 720 sized cube if you get a Pestermite for free. Not all combos are created equally either, so while putting Tinker and Blightsteel into the same sleeve is probably too much, soft combos such as the Tron lands might actually be playable. Many times you’ll have one card that is the perfect power level for your cube, but the combo piece for it falls short. A perfect example of this would be Hanweir Garrison, a powerful Rabblenot that also has a flip-side that you unfortunately rarely get to see in cube. A free Hanweir Battlements, however, makes eldrazi a possibility in your future.
Below I have compiled a list of draft packages organized by the different styles they can be implemented in, hereby referred to as “Squad” and “Combo”. These lists are nowhere near exhaustive, but are simply there to help get you started in the right direction if you choose to use these in your cube. If you come up with any ideas please share them in the comments!
- Squadron Hawk
- Legion Angel
- Savannah Lions
- Frantic Inventory
- Rune Snag
- Delver of Secrets
- Lord of Atlantis
- Death’s Shadow
- Living Death
- Relentless Rats
- Lich’s Mastery
- Arclight Phoenix
- Birthing Pod
- Aether Vial
- Urza’s Tower + Urza’s Power Plant + Urza’s Mine + Urza’s Factory
- Hanweir Garrison + Hanweir Battlements
- Thopter Foundry + Sword of the Meek
- Splinter Twin + Pestermite
- Triskadekaphobia + Tree of Perdition
- Witch’s Oven + Cauldron Familiar
- Thassa’s Oracle + Inverter of Truth
- Colossus Hammer + Sigarda’s Aid
- Goblin Bushwacker + Reckless Bushwacker
- Dark Depths + Thespian’s Stage
- Maze’s End + 10 Gates
- Ad Nauseam + Angel’s Grace
- Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis + Altar of Dementia
- Green Sun’s Zenith + Arbor Dryad
Why would you choose to not add these packages if they can create interesting decks for so little investment? These packages, while fun, is one more thing you have to mention at the start of the draft. If someone doesn’t know they’ll get multiple Squadron Hawks why would they draft it? For every draft package you add, things get that much more complicated. On top of this cube’s singleton nature is one of the biggest draws to how fun and replayable it is. By adding multiple cards for one pick it introduces a much higher level of consistency for that deck compared to others in the draft. Taking away the risks involved with drafting multiple cards for one pick could also lead to the draft not being as fulfilling as the packages build the deck for you. These downsides are important to be aware of if you decide to include draft packages, but as long as you account for them correctly you can open up a whole new world of potential decks for your cube.
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