So you want to build a cube? You've got the urge to build a cube? You've got the nerve to build a cube? So go ahead.
I've been a Cube enthusiast for a few years now. I started by building a common/uncommon cube that barely got drafted, started adding rares at some point, and then let it snowball with the advent of PucaTrade. During the brief but great heyday of that service, I filled out the cube significantly, also eventually adding proxies of cards that I just wouldn't feel comfortable letting other people play with. Now it's a fully powered, mostly stock cube, sporting some of the best cards from the history of Magic. (I concede that it could use Storm support.)
This process took a lot of time and work. Worst of all was getting started. I didn't have an initial list to work with and thus wasn't able to target specific cards to upgrade. I was just finding cards and saying, "Yeah, this would be good in Cube," and not thinking much about archetypes or mana costs or creature/spell balance within colors. Eventually, this changed, but it took a while, and in the meantime, I was cultivating a cube that people weren't all that interested in playing (myself included!).
I only recently found out about the Card Kingdom Starter Cube V1, a 360-card curated cube. The price is $99.99, which comes out to just more than a 27 cents a card. Obviously, we're not going to be expecting any highly valuable cards here, but considering this is a curated list, my first impression was "damn, not bad."
Then I read the description a little more and noticed that the set also includes 35 of each basic land and enough Card Kingdom-branded sleeves for the entire kit – at least 535 sleeves. We're really talking now. Not even knowing what cards are included in the list yet, I can tell that this is an aggressively costed product.
The Best Cards
Personally, the first thing I did here was to compare their list to mine and see what cards overlapped. A total of 34 cards do, nearly 10 percent of the cube.
While roughly five or ten (mainly the aggressive creatures) of these are potentially cuttable or just interchangeable with other similar cards, the majority of these cards are mainstays of the Cube format. Again, we're not talking anything super rare or expensive here, but not all these cards have been printed recently. Tracking them all down via trade would be difficult if not impossible, and buying from stores would likely require you to hit multiple shops, potentially incurring shipping fees and running into the frequent card priced above 27 cents. I mean, at 27 cents a card, this pile would be worth $9.18, and it includes Lightning Bolt, a card you won't find for less than $2.00 unless you're lucky.
For the record, while only 34 cards are currently in my cube, at least that many again are in my on-deck binder and could be put in the cube at any moment. Many cards, such as Avacyn's Pilgrim, Searing Blaze and Sign in Blood, are cut from my cube more on the basis of space than power level. Make no mistake – Card Kingdom's list has some real power included in it.
I thought for sure this would be a product filled with mostly commons and uncommons, and it is, but I am surprised by the number of rares and mythics included here. Here's the (possibly incomplete) list from one pass over the cube:
A lot of these cards spent time in my cube as it developed. Again, we weren't expecting any real value, and based on that, I'd say Card Kingdom has well exceeded expectations here. There are some real gems that you can put to use in other places, even if they don't ultimately end up in your cube. Lots of Commander cards here.
The Booster Draft Nostalgia
There's a lot of Booster Draft all-stars and classic "solid picks" in this list. While not all of these cards can compete on the ultimate stage of Powered Cube, Booster Draft enthusiasts are going to have a ton of fun playing with these relatively high-powered nostalgia pieces again. Sure, you'll probably end up replacing them, but the nostalgia factor will be there in your early drafts.
The Color Fixing
All of the uncommon tri-lands and common dual lands are here. You'll want to upgrade them with rare duals as soon as possible, but this is a great start. Think of all the work Card Kingdom is saving you from having to dig through draft leftovers.
The final step in reviewing this product is to point out the cards that don't just belong in a high-powered environment like Cube. Here are the ones I've identified:
I'm ultimately being pretty forgiving about what constitutes a card that simply doesn't belong in Cube, but really, Card Kingdom has done a great job here. Out of 360 cards, these 11 are the ones that immediately popped out to me as objectionable. And for good reason: high-cost Commander cards, removal that's bad even in Booster Draft, 1/1 creatures for one mana, and Fog effects are all really bad in an environment such as Cube. These should be the first cards you replace if you are purchasing this product.
Further, Extinguish All Hope should be replaced by Damnation or Toxic Deluge, just like Planar Outburst should be replaced by Wrath of God or Day of Judgment. I'm a believer that combat tricks aren't great in Cube, so I'd replace virtually all of the many that are in this list (although the ones that have been selected include some of the best combat tricks in Magic history).
It's worth noting that having placeholder versions of the effect you really want makes the upgrades easy, so I appreciate that Card Kingdom went to this effort in designing the cube with many of the right pieces, even if they're not the exact card you'll ultimately want.
If you're seriously considering starting a cube, you could do worse than starting with the Card Kingdom Starter Cube V1. Probably about half of the cards will be completely respectable to play in your list for some time, and it's easy to replace the stuff that should be replaced. Throwing in several hundred sleeves is no small perk, and might be the main factor to encourage one to pull the trigger on this product.
On the other hand, if you are trying to stretch every penny, you could absolutely pick out the subset of cards that you actually want to play here, order them separately, and fill in from the collection you already have. There's a chance you could save a few bucks this way, and you could use that money for buying KMC or Dragonshield sleeves, which are almost certainly of higher quality than the ones Card Kingdom is offering.
That said, with how aggressively priced this product is, how much time it would take to track down every card, and the potential increased costs of acquiring said cards due to shipping fees, I think there's a huge time benefit in purchasing this product to get your own cube started. Yes, it's possible you could save a few dollars by putting this together yourself. But how much is your time worth?