So You Want to Build a Cube: A Card Kingdom Starter Cube Review for 2019

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Last year, I wrote a review of Card Kingdom's Starter Cube, a 360-card cube with 35 of each basic land and enough sleeves for the whole set, all for a price of $99.99. While we can expect a product like this to not be packed with financially valuable cards at this price, I do believe the set can be a perfect starting point for someone looking to begin building their own cube. Card Kingdom has iterated on its starter cube some number of times now, and it recently became clear a new review was warranted for the Starter Cube Redux.

In general, I'm impressed with this list. Just scanning through, this cube is absolutely packed with commons, uncommons, and even a few rares that I recognize as high draft picks in various Booster Draft formats or even as staples of high-powered Cube formats. The addition of uncommon planeswalkers to Magic adds a lot of power to the list as well.

Let's start with the rares in the set:

Card Kingdom Starter Cube Redux Rares

More than 10 percent of this list, 43 cards, are rare. None of them are worth much more than bulk, if that, but most of them are powerhouses in their respective Draft formats, and there are even a few Commander-playables on this list. There are no mythic rares in this iteration of the Starter Cube.

If you're aiming for a high-powered cube akin to the MTGO Vintage or Legacy Cubes, 23 cards are in one or both of those lists:

Cards in Common with MTGO Vintage/Legacy Cubes

Sure, there's not much financial value here, but a lot of these cards are very high picks during draft – particularly the counter, draw, and burn spells and mana dorks.

Approaches to Make this Cube Your Own

You could purchase this product and leave it exactly as it is designed. It looks like a decently fun list and it would let you play with other people without having them own their own cards. For most readers, though, that just simply won't do. There are many ways one could upgrade or streamline this cube list, but I see three distinct approaches that make a lot of sense to me:

1. Make It a Pauper or Peasant Cube

Pauper cubes contain only commons, whereas Peasant cubes, also referred to as "c/ubes", contain commons and uncommons.

In this case, by removing the 43 rares listed above, you've given yourself a very inexpensive and mostly straightforward task – find 43 commons and uncommons that fit in with this cube's supported archetypes to fill those slots. You probably already own these cards, meaning that you can have a playable and powerful Peasant cube for the price of this product alone. You can keep this strictly as a common/uncommon cube, making upgrades inexpensive for the entire time you continue to maintain your cube.

Going the Pauper route will take more initial work to get something playable set up, but it will make those upgrades even cheaper over time. Both of these cube designs also offer another intangible worth considering: minimal worry around other people playing with your cards.

2. Use It As Your Starting Point for a Traditionally Powerful Cube

This will be the lengthiest and most expensive option, but it's also probably reflective of why most people get into Cube in the first place: the chance to play with Magic's best and most beloved cards.

You're not starting with a ton here. You're likely going to want to replace all but the above 23 cards in common with the Vintage/Legacy cubes (and you might even want to replace those!). The good news is that you can play with the cube while you develop it. Each time you add 10 or 20 new acquisitions to your list, you will feel the power level of your cube increase and witness the games get more outlandish. It can be a project that lasts as long as you continue to play Magic, constantly tracking down new cards.

In truth, people going this route are probably least likely to find the Card Kingdom Starter Cube a good bargain. Sure, you'll get a few hundred decent Ultra Pro Black Gloss sleeves, which would probably cost you roughly $30, but you'll probably want to get better sleeves when you start adding truly expensive cards to your list, and you're going to ultimately be planning to upgrade virtually every card here. There's also no guarantee that the good cards that do come in this product will be from the sets you would choose if you just ordered the cards you wanted yourself. If you want to lovingly craft your cube from scratch, this is probably not where you want to start.

3. Make It a Draft Nostalgia Cube

As I said above, this list is packed with a number of cards that were among the best commons or uncommons in their respective sets for Booster Draft. The rares in this list also include a ton of Booster Draft bombs that never really broke through in any Constructed formats.

If you're a player who has loved drafting for a long time, this product is a perfect opportunity to craft a draft set that includes cards you once loved to play but haven't had the opportunity much (if at all) since those sets stopped being drafted. Here are just a few examples from this list of cards I would personally put in that category:

Cards I Enjoy(ed) Playing in Draft but Not Much Since

There are plenty more. Not all of these are completely unplayable in more powerful cubes, but I don't see them in most highly tuned lists. I do think, however, the idea of a cube that recreates and combines various fun drafting experiences one has had over the years could have a lot of value to a draft-centric playgroup. That's going to look different for everyone, but I'd be surprised if this list didn't have some number of cards in this category for just about every player.

The Card Kingdom Starter Cube remains a solid product to get players into the Cube format. If you want to start cube drafting with your playgroup as soon as possible, I can't think of a better way to get started than this. It's not the type of product that has appeal for established cube owners (unless starting a new cube where this would address a lot of the starting goals) and certainly not for speculators, but not every product has to be for you or me.

Yes, you could build the same product yourself by individually purchasing everything, but don't do that. It undervalues your time for savings that are going to come out to well less than minimum wage – and to be honest, I can't say with confidence that you could build this cube on TCGplayer for less than $99.99 (nevermind the boxes, sleeves, and lands included).  I'm not inclined to build a shopping cart for it, but if you are, it would be interesting to learn what you find in the comments.

What do you think about this product?

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