Frank Lepore's Innistrad Horror Cube, October 17, 2023
Posted on Oct 17, 2023
My name is Frank Lepore, and I’ve been a Magic player for over two decades, a content creator for about 14 years, and a game designer for the past three years. I have a Pro Tour Top 8 and a Grand Prix Top 8, I was at the Magic Online Community Cup in 2014, and Cube drafting is my absolute favorite way to play Magic.
For me, a good Cube should be powerful, and the experience should emulate creating an engaging and interactive Constructed deck. Unlike traditional Limited formats, I think good Cubes should give you plenty of options, and they should have significantly more depth of play than drafting a normal set would.
I don’t recall the exact catalyst that led to creating the Innistrad Horror Cube, but if Cube Cobra is to be believed - and it definitely is - I started adding the first cards to it back in November of 2021.
At a certain point I realized a) I wanted to build another Cube, and b) boy, Innistrad sure has a lot of sets! In fact, outside of Ravnica, I think Innistrad may be the Magic plane with the most sets, which is a great quality when you’re trying to build around a plane’s specific theming. (Okay, sure, Dominaria actually has the most sets, but it’s the OG Magic plane, so I don’t really think it’s in competition here.)
When it comes to Innistrad sets, we’re looking at the following:
- Dark Ascension
- Avacyn Restored
- Shadows Over Innistrad
- Eldritch Moon
- Innistrad: Midnight Hunt
- Innistrad: Midnight Hunt Commander
- Innistrad: Crimson Vow
- Innistrad: Crimson Vow Commander
Nine sets is a lot for a Magic plane. While I absolutely love Ravnica - and it may be my next focus for a Cube - Innistrad has a lovely top-down design that makes it perfect for building around. While Ravnica has its guilds and multicolor cards, it doesn’t really have that same theming that you can sink your teeth into the way Innistrad does. (That was a vampire reference. Please clap.) If I add a multicolor card to a Ravnica Cube, does it feel Ravnican? Not really. If I add a Zombie Lord to an Innistrad Cube does it feel … Innistradian? Sure does!
With that being the case, I’m of the opinion that an Innistrad Horror Cube has to contain some very specific creature types. For me, that included the following: Angels, Demons, Devils, Eldrazi, Horrors, Humans, Spiders, Spirits, Vampires, Werewolves, Wizards, Zombies, and various sea monsters such as Kraken and Octopus. If these overlapped - like the Demon Kraken, Gyruda, Doom of Depths - even better!
I was extremely grateful that the Eldrazi showed up in Eldritch Moon, because Magic’s Elder Gods make the perfect additions to a spooky, horror-themed Cube. I didn’t include any of the ridiculous OGs, like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, because that’s just not what we’re doing here, but I did add some powerful-but-reasonable all-stars like Elder Deep-Fiend (Octopus!) and Decimator of the Provinces. (While Craterhoof Behemoth is actually in an Innistrad set, the Decimator felt like a more balanced, on-theme option.)
While you could certainly toss any card that felt remotely spooky into a Horror-themed Cube, I ended up setting some ground rules for how the Cube was built.
First off, when it comes to card versions, if a card had a printing in an Innistrad set, including the respective Commander sets, that’s the version I chose to include. I’m also a fan of Showcase, Extended Art, Borderless, and Secret Lair versions, so I often give preference to those as well.
Next, all Innistrad sets exist in the Modern era, so despite being a huge fan of retro frames, I wanted to prioritize cards with modern frames. I only made a single exception, and that was Feeding Frenzy, which was literally only printed in Onslaught and felt far too thematic not to include.
Make no mistake, while the Cube isn’t a powered Cube, it is powerful. This meant I avoided the original dual lands, but added a good deal of fixing, including five dual lands for each color pair along with all ten tri-lands. I didn’t want there to be any issues casting spells, but I also didn’t want every mana cost to simply be handed to the player either. Sometimes you have to work for those BB into UW mana sequences, but not too hard.
Innistrad has been one of the most popular planes of all time and the drafting experience has always been pretty stellar. Because of that, I wanted to do it justice and include some basic themes within each of the color combinations. The archetypes will break down as follows:
- Blue/Black: Horrors, Self Mill, Zombies
U/B cares about getting cards into the graveyard, as well as Horror and Zombie creature types. Usually there will be some overlap, like Geralf’s Mindcrusher or Laboratory Drudge. As you can see, the Drudge fits in with cards that reward Horrors, cards that reward Zombies, and cards that interact with the graveyard.
Please also consider milling yourself into oblivion and winning with Laboratory Maniac.
- Black/White: Tokens, Vampires
I took a little creative liberty here and decided to add Vampires from Ixalan, because I thought it would be a good archetype for B/W and they provide some sweet Vampire options. Besides, Sorin and Edgar, Charmed Groom were already B/W, so it’s not breaking any new ground. B/W is also fond of making various tokens which are not always Vampires - sometimes they’re Spirits or Humans.
- Black/Red: Madness, Vampires
B/R also focuses on Vampires, because there are a ton of red Vampires in Innistrad. That’s kind of their second identity. There are also a ton of cards included with madness, as well as a good number of clever discard outlets such as Lightning Axe, Blood tokens, and Elusive Tormentor.
- Red/Green: Werewolves
Let’s be honest: green and red are practically the only colors that have Werewolves, so we obviously leaned heavily into that. Sure, there are cards like Graveyard Trespasser and Suspicious Stowaway, which are great but are clearly outliers. It’s green and red that have cards like Immerwolf, Mayor of Avabruck, and Howlpack Resurgence. Lean into those sweet canine synergies while paying attention to the difference between how Day/Night and Daybound/Nightbound work.
- Green/White: Angels, Humans, Tokens
G/W leans on the Angel theming of Innistrad; we even have some Angels that are also Horrors in Bruna, the Fading Light and Gisela, the Broken Blade! Green and white also focus heavily on both Humans and token making, often in the form of Humans, Spirits, or Wolves. The one outlier here is Seraph of the Scales, which is an Angel that makes tokens, but is B/W, so I’m not 100% on her inclusion.
- Blue/White: Spirits
U/W is heavily focused on Spirits, whether you’re casting them or creating tokens of them, and includes a trio of Spirit Lords in the form of Supreme Phantom, Drogskol Captain, and Patrician Geist. These are backed up by instant speed shenanigans and some counterspells.
- Black/Green and Sultai: Graveyard Matters, Delirium
The Cube has many ways to get cards into the graveyard, so naturally there’s a “graveyard matters” theme here in B/G. This includes classics like Spider Spawning, Vessel of Nascency, and Crawling Sensation. Between all the cards that put others into your graveyard, and all the cards that can be cast from the graveyard, filling the graveyard should be good, profitable times.There’s also a delirium sub-theme here, with four green and black cards caring about card types.
- Blue/Green: Graveyard Matters, Investigate
See above when it comes to “graveyard matters” cards, but blue and green also have a few sweet investigate engines, including Ulvenwald Mysteries, Ongoing Investigation, and Trail of Evidence. There’s also some nice overlap here, with Trail of Evidence leaning into the “spells matter” theme of U/R and Ongoing Investigation leaning into the existing “graveyard matters” theme in Sultai.
- Red/White: Aggro
As is typical in Innistrad, R/W is your aggro archetype. Whether you’re making tokens or pumping your team, there should be plenty of aggressive creatures to turn sideways. Bonus points if you manage to flip Hanweir Battlements and attack with Hanweir, the Writhing Township.
- Blue/Red and Grixis: Spells Matter, Wizards
For those that love instants and sorceries, the U/R deck definitely cares about the spells you’re playing. Including cards like Delver of Secrets, Thing in the Ice, and Rise from the Tides, there are plenty of cards that are invested in the instants and sorceries you’re playing - or that you have in your deck or graveyard!
Be on the lookout for fun payoff cards like Creative Outburst, Elemental Masterpiece, and Magma Opus.
While there aren’t many “Wizards matter” cards in the Cube, there is a Wizard sub-theme within the Grixis colors, and you do have Bloodline Necromancer if you really want to chase that Wizard theme.
- Bant: Investigate
Next to blue and green, white has the most tools to investigate, which is why Bant can also be considered an investigate archetype.
- Mardu: Vampires
Vampires are in B/R and Vampires are in B/W. That means they’re in Mardu. That’s just math.
- Mono-Black: Demons
Beyond the multicolor archetypes, there’s also over ten Demons and the sweet alternate win condition of Liliana’s Contract. Westvale Abbey and Jerren, Corrupted Bishop also turn into Demons, and Skirsdag High Priest will make more Demons for you!
I’m sure it’s abundantly clear that black is the most represented color in the Cube, and that’s just a necessary evil (pun absolutely intended). As you can imagine, most Zombies and Vampires are black - similar to how most good cards in the VIntage Cube are blue - which means there’s going to be an abundance of the color.
This being the case, I also added a good deal of non-Innistrad cards that I felt were beneficial to the existing archetypes and tropes, or that I felt were good foils to them. Karmic Guide is a good example where I chose an Angel that also had protection from black. Another card that planeshifted to Innistrad was Devout Lightcaster from Zendikar. Pro black while also being able to exile a black permanent is a strong answer to a large number of cards. Undead Slayer is a strong hoser that can slow down the Zombie or Vampire strategies.
But the non-black colors aren’t the only ones that get tools to combat their enemies. I’ve included some powerful options for black as well, such as Deathmark, which can deal with a lot of the powerful green and white cards. Black also hates on its own a bit with cards like Liliana’s Defeat, which can destroy one of the Cube’s three Lilianas, and Aim for the Head.
Unfortunately, five of the cards that were in my initial build couldn’t be included in the online version due to them being stuck in MTGO’s Commander Backlog. Those were the following cards:
Millicent, Restless Revenant
Tasha, the Witch Queen
Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver
Making Demons, giving Zombies flying, making Spirits, and a madness Demon. You can see how these were very on brand in the Cube. Thankfully I had a ton of other options in the “maybeboard” - 112 additional cards I’ve considered, to be exact - so we went and replaced them with the following:
Shelob, Child of Ungoliant
These cards all push the Cube into a more Horror-friendly direction, with Captain N'ghathrod also adding another dimension to encourage the player to mill the opponent, and not just themselves. Meanwhile, Shelob, Child of Ungoliant is just a big scary spider that not only plays well with other Spiders, but is a massive beating on her own.
Time to Play!
I really hope you all enjoy the Innistrad Horror Cube, and I’m really grateful to the Daybreak guys for giving it a shot. It was kind of perfect timing, with Halloween coming up and all that, and it’s a pretty cool feeling to have my horror-based Cube running on Halloween.
If you guys have any feedback or just want to share your thoughts or suggestions about the Cube and my card choices, you can reach me most easily on Twitter/X, Twitch, or on YouTube. Thanks a ton for giving it a try, and I hope you have a blast! Happy Cubing!
Innistrad Horror Cube Full Cardlist
|Blade of the Bloodchief||Artifact|
|Dennick, Pious Apprentice||Azorius|
|Feeling of Dread||Azorius|
|Geist of Saint Traft||Azorius|
|Aim for the Head||Black|
|Archfiend of Spite||Black|
|Army of the Damned||Black|
|Call the Bloodline||Black|
|Champion of Dusk||Black|
|Champion of the Perished||Black|
|Dying to Serve||Black|
|From the Catacombs||Black|
|Gatekeeper of Malakir||Black|
|Gorex, the Tombshell||Black|
|Heir of Falkenrath||Black|
|Invasion of Innistrad||Black|
|Jerren, Corrupted Bishop||Black|
|Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet||Black|
|Liliana of the Veil||Black|
|Liliana, Dreadhorde General||Black|
|Liliana, the Last Hope||Black|
|Nullpriest of Oblivion||Black|
|Patron of the Vein||Black|
|Skirsdag High Priest||Black|
|Sorin the Mirthless||Black|
|Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord||Black|
|Vampire of the Dire Moon||Black|
|Varragoth, Bloodsky Sire||Black|
|Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose||Black|
|Wand of Orcus||Black|
|Delver of Secrets||Blue|
|Docent of Perfection||Blue|
|Flip the Switch||Blue|
|Geralf, Visionary Stitcher||Blue|
|Imprisoned in the Moon||Blue|
|Jace, Unraveler of Secrets||Blue|
|Jacob Hauken, Inspector||Blue|
|Just the Wind||Blue|
|Ludevic's Test Subject||Blue|
|Niblis of Frost||Blue|
|Crush of Tentacles||Blue|
|Rise from the Tides||Blue|
|Scour the Laboratory||Blue|
|Secrets of the Key||Blue|
|Thing in the Ice||Blue|
|Thirst for Discovery||Blue|
|Trail of Evidence||Blue|
|Decimator of the Provinces||Colorless|
|Mockery of Nature||Colorless|
|Gisa and Geralf||Dimir|
|Gyruda, Doom of Depths||Dimir|
|Master of Death||Dimir|
|Shelob, Child of Ungoliant||Golgari|
|The Gitrog Monster||Golgari|
|Arlinn, Voice of the Pack||Green|
|Champion of Lambholt||Green|
|Feed the Pack||Green|
|Full Moon's Rise||Green|
|Grapple with the Past||Green|
|Mayor of Avabruck||Green|
|Return to Nature||Green|
|Storm the Festival||Green|
|Tapping at the Window||Green|
|Traverse the Ulvenwald||Green|
|Triumph of Ferocity||Green|
|Vessel of Nascency||Green|
|Weaver of Blossoms||Green|
|Wrenn and Seven||Green|
|Arlinn, the Pack's Hope||Gruul|
|Child of the Pack||Gruul|
|Huntmaster of the Fells||Gruul|
|Tovolar, Dire Overlord||Gruul|
|Ulrich of the Krallenhorde||Gruul|
|Ral, Storm Conduit||Izzet|
|Rowan, Scholar of Sparks||Izzet|
|Vadrik, Astral Archmage||Izzet|
|Field of Ruin||Land|
|Kessig Wolf Run||Land|
|Vault of the Archangel||Land|
|Ziatora's Proving Ground||Land|
|Cecily, Haunted Mage||Multicolor|
|Blood Baron of Vizkopa||Orzhov|
|Edgar, Charmed Groom||Orzhov|
|Kaya the Inexorable||Orzhov|
|Call to the Feast||Orzhov|
|Rite of Oblivion||Orzhov|
|Seraph of the Scales||Orzhov|
|Sorin, Grim Nemesis||Orzhov|
|Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord||Orzhov|
|Vona, Butcher of Magan||Orzhov|
|Olivia, Crimson Bride||Rakdos|
|Burn Down the House||Red|
|Chandra, Dressed to Kill||Red|
|Conduit of Storms||Red|
|Curse of Bloodletting||Red|
|Curse of Stalked Prey||Red|
|Falkenrath Pit Fighter||Red|
|Fires of Undeath||Red|
|Geier Reach Bandit||Red|
|Light Up the Night||Red|
|Pillar of Flame||Red|
|Play with Fire||Red|
|Weaver of Lightning||Red|
|Join the Dance||Selesnya|
|Leinore, Autumn Sovereign||Selesnya|
|Sigarda, Champion of Light||Selesnya|
|Sigarda, Font of Blessings||Selesnya|
|Sigarda, Heron's Grace||Selesnya|
|Torens, Fist of the Angels||Selesnya|
|Adeline, Resplendent Cathar||White|
|Angel of Glory's Rise||White|
|Angel of Jubilation||White|
|Bishop of Binding||White|
|Bonds of Faith||White|
|Bruna, the Fading Light||White|
|Champion of the Parish||White|
|Declaration in Stone||White|
|Gather the Townsfolk||White|
|Gisela, the Broken Blade||White|
|Hanweir Militia Captain||White|
|Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr||White|
|Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle||White|
|Mikaeus, the Lunarch||White|
|Niblis of the Urn||White|
|Odric, Lunarch Marshal||White|
|Rally the Peasants||White|
|Savior of Ollenbock||White|
|Seal of Cleansing||White|
|Serra the Benevolent||White|
|Slayer of the Wicked||White|
|Thalia, Guardian of Thraben||White|
|Vanquish the Horde||White|
|Voice of the Blessed||White|
*Note: Obzedat, Ghost Council replaced by Call to the Feast on October 18.
*Note: Six cards were replaced on October 19.
OUT: Avacyn's Judgment; Falkenrath Gorger; Foul Emissary; From Under the Floorboards; Octavia, Living Thesis; Welcome to the Fold
IN: Crush of Tentacles; Damnation; Evil Twin; Flame of Anor; Inexorable Blob; Voldaren Epicure