Cube draft returns for the holidays, replete with the Power Nine! These will be phantom drafts, so you don't get to keep what you draft. But you also don't have to use booster packs to enter. Entry is 8 tix, or 2 tix and 10 Cube tickets. Cube tickets are awarded in prizes from Cube draft. 1st place gets 2 boosters, 12 Cube tickets and 1 QP for MOCS purposes, 2nd place gets 1 booster and 8 Cube tickets. 3rd and 4th get no packs and 6 Cube tickets. 5th through 8th get 2 Cube tickets.
Cube draft will be available for two weeks. In the first week awarded boosters will be from Urza's block, and in the second week the amalgamated Mercadian Masques block packs. Each Cube draft that fires will push one draft set onto the market. This is an effort to push more out-of-print supply onto the market without destabilizing prices too greatly.
Online Cube History
The first time Cube appeared on MTGO it awarded in-print packs, Innistrad (ISD) and Dark Ascension (DKA). Cube proved so popular that the prizes flooded the market as players sought to Cube draft again and again. This knocked down the secondary market value of ISD and DKA packs. DKA packs in particular are still struggling to get pack to par, and are currently at 2.3 tix on the classifieds.
WoTC realized they had a money maker on their hands, but they decided to fine tune the prizes in order to inject supply of older cards and avoid cannibalizing their own pack sales. They moved to out-of-print packs as prizes with the second Cube offering, which awarded Time Spiral-Planar Chaos-Future Sight (TSP) packs (cube tickets would come later). To give players an outlet for their prizes, they temporarily brought back TSP draft queues, with nix tix entry fees. Cube was just as popular this time around and with TSP as prizes combined with nix tix queues, prices of TSP draft sets crashed. The price of Tarmogoyf temporarily fell by a third as well.
The next go around of Cube awarded Onslaught-Legions-Scourge (OLS) as prizes, and the accompanying OLS draft queues required 2 tix as well as packs for entry. Cube kept right on rolling, but the lack of money rares in OLS meant that OLS drafting wasn't very popular and OLS boosters came down in price, a lot. Legions and Scourge are still the cheapest boosters widely available on the secondary market at 0.71 and 0.74 tix respectively (prices taken from supernovabots.com). An OLS draft set is one third the retail price at just under 4 tix.
Since then, WoTC has gone with a new object as prizes, the Cube ticket. It's an untradeable digital object usable only for entering another cube draft. This has the result of reducing the huge price swings we've seen in packs and singles from the awarded sets. Essentially WotC wants to sell Cube drafts and reap the revenue from that, without disrupting other draft formats or the secondary market too much. The Cube ticket neatly captures the revenue they want, and keeps drafters coming back for more. When prizes were in devalued packs like OLS, drafters were getting discouraged by not being able to draft again from their prizes.
Urza's Block Queues
Urza's block queues will kick things off with all tix entry for 14 tix, or boosters plus 2 tix. These queues are 4-3-2-2.
Urza's Saga doesn't have much in the way of money commons, but it does feature cards like Argothian Enchantress (16 tix), Exploration (16 tix), Gaea's Cradle (41 tix), Gilded Drake (14 tix), Show and Tell (36 tix), Sneak Attack (13 tix), Time Spiral (10 tix), and Tolarian Academy (15 tix). This is also a pack to watch out for foil versions, as they command a much bigger premium than normal foils. A foil version of Yawgmoth's Will is priced at 37 tix, about seven times the regular version. Goblin Lackey (2 tix) is a notable uncommon to keep in mind as it's not very good in draft so it tends to be passed late.
Next up is Urza's Legacy, and if you didn't pick off a money rare to help pay for your draft, you might make it up here with money commons such as Cloud of Faeries (4 tix), Rancor (2 tix) and Snap (2 tix). There is one money rare to watch out for, Grim Monolith (14 tix).
Urza's Destiny finishes off the block with a few more money rares such as Academy Rector (21 tix), Metalworker (19 tix) and notably a foil version at 108 tix, Replenish (10 tix), Rofellos (8 tix) and Treachery (6 tix). There's not much in the way of money commons or uncommons in this pack though.
If you're trying to stretch your budget to play these queues, two older articles from puremtgo might help, both by TheRegularGangster. The first article has to do with drafting with expected value in mind. The prices are out of date so be sure to double check the numbers. The second one is more specific to Urza's block draft strategy.
Mercadian Masques Block Queues
The second week of Cube draft will award Masques block booster packs as prizes, with the corresponding 4-3-2-2 draft queues available during the same time. They did something funny with these sets and combined them all into one big mess of a pack. It creates a somewhat strange limited environment that is apparently very slow and grindy.
Keep in mind the following money rares when drafting: Dust Bowl (10 tix), Food Chain (9 tix), High Market (7 tix), Misdirection (36 tix), Nether Spirit (9 tix), Rishadan Port (65 tix) and Unmask (6 tix). There are quite a few money commons in Mercadian Masques so keep your eyes open! Ancestral Mask (4 tix), Brainstorm (2 tix), Gush (2 tix), Invigorate (7 tix), Sandstone Needle (3 tix), Saprazzan Skerry (3 tix) and Snuff Out (2 tix).
There are some pricey commons in Nemesis too. Accumulated Knowledge (3 tix), Daze (8 tix), Thran Dynamo (2 tix) and Flame Rift (3 tix), as well as one expensive uncommon in Submerge (9 tix). Rares worth taking include Kor Haven (7 tix), Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero (4 tix), Parallax Tide (4 tix), Parallax Wave (7 tix) and Tangle Wire (37 tix).
What's the Play?
If you are not interested in drafting these sets, and would like to speculate on the cards instead, the prices on all the above cards should give you a good place to start. Their high prices are mostly due to low supply online as their sets were never released as a current draft format. Some of these cards have appeal in competitive formats and some don't, so do some research to figure out which is which. Focusing on cards with competitive appeal in Legacy or Pauper will reduce the risk.
Drafters will be selling their cards into the market, depressing prices while the queues are up. If you have time, post a buy ad to the classifieds and pick up the cards that you like. Pauper staples generally rebound in price eventually so making a play on the commons is a decent call. This would include the money commons from Urza's Legacy such as Cloud of Faeries and Snap, as well as Invigorate, a powerful card in the Pauper Infect deck.