Jumpstart’s crippled launch this year was a true shame. The set looked like a home run: reprints of Commander staples, new cards to bolster weak tribal archetypes, and lands with special, themed art. The “shuffle-up-and-play” design made it a perfect product for casual gatherings that were sadly not to happen in most places this year, due to pandemic lockdowns. Then Gavin Verhey posted an episode of “Good Morning Magic” about Jumpstart packs; he encouraged Magic players to tell him what they would put in a Jumpstart pack.

That gave me an idea: if I couldn’t buy Jumpstart (at least not at reasonable prices), I could make my own custom Jumpstart cube variant from cards that I mostly already had. With Halloween fast approaching and a couple of failed attempts at Halloween-themed EDH decks on my shelf, my monstrous creation was born:

Jump/Scare: The Halloween Jumpstart “Cube”

In this article I will share the cube that I’ve affectionately dubbed “Jump/Scare,” a cube variant for 2-8 players. A Jumpstart style cube has a lot of advantages: in addition to being much faster than drafting a traditional cube, the “Smash Up” playstyle is easier to enjoy with younger or more casual players, like family members, who aren’t as familiar with the cards. Then, since putting together this set of cards puts us quite near a 360 card cube, I’ll suggest how to convert this collection of creepy cards into a more traditional draft format.


“It Lives! … IT LIVES!”

Construction: According to Gavin Verhey, your “personal jumpstart pack” should contain 7 creatures, 4 non-creatures, 1 means of mana fixing, and 8 lands.  I’ve modified this somewhat—opting often to put a creature in the fixing slot.

Rules: Pass out packs so that each player has at least three.  Each player will pick two of the three they end up with and combine them to form a 40-card deck.

Themes: Jumpstart included a number of great Halloween-appropriate packs: “Spooky,” “Witchcraft,” “Vampires,” and “Reanimator” could all simply be transplanted here if you liked. In my case, I’ve created all the packs below from my collection, and have named my creations. Also, because it is the color that most explicitly deals with “Creepy” things, black has seven packs, while each other color has four (and artifacts gets one). The name of the game for this cube is flavor, so I’ve gone heavy on the mood of these themes in the descriptions below. Enjoy!

“Survive the Night” by Svetlin Velinov

White (4 packs)

As the veil between this world and the next grows thin, pious townsfolk honor their ancestors with libations, prayers, and song. Elsewhere, a group of monster hunters girds themselves with arms of blessed silver, ready to fend off whatever might encroach from the darkness.

All Souls’ Day: At an Isolated Chapel, Lingering Souls begin their Spectral Procession as villagers stand by to let the Revered Dead know they are Not Forgotten. This theme wants to put as many spirits onto the battlefield as possible, and take victory in the air or via Thalia’s Geistcaller and Geist-Honored Monk.

Monster Hunters: Creatures of the night, beware! The Witch Hunter aims to Rally the Peasants into an Unruly Mob. Full of cards strong against tribes spanning the four other colors, Angry Mob and Farbog Explorer are also generally good against any player who chooses to play black.

Haunted: Travelers get a Feeling of Dread when they pass by the Moorland Haunt, and for good reason. This theme is full of utility spirits that make sure you scare away whatever your opponent throws at you.

Turn Undead: While a Fiend Hunter may embrace a martial path, the church at Thraben use their faith to Repel the Darkness and Survive the Night. With the help of a Bygone Bishop, the clergy uncover the ancient means to Repel the Abominable.

“Rise from the Tides” by Lucas Graciano

Blue (4 packs)

The wind howls as crashing waves break against the rocky beach. Tortured spirits of drowned sailors pull their salt-crusted bones ashore. Near the outskirts of a nearby port town, flashes of light can be seen in the windows of old alchemist’s manor as his insane laughter echoes across the fog-veiled moor.  

Geists: “Did you see that? It was there just a moment ago!” Seize your opponent’s creatures with fright as geists fade in and out of sight. This collection of geists has strong intra-tribal synergies and can lock down your opponents creatures as you swing in for the win.

Weird Science: A Deranged Assistant is sent to Amass the Components as the Reckless Scholar dabbles in Forbidden Alchemy. Will the madness take you before or because Stitcher Geralf lets his creations do their work? Go mad as this theme shreds the pages of players’ libraries.

Jekyll and Hyde: A Daring Sleuth has Nagging Thoughts—is the Civilized Scholar all that he seems? Should he Press for Answers to Confirm Suspicions that have begun to build in his mind? Perhaps he needs to take one more look around the professor’s laboratory.

Davy Jones’ Locker: The Drowned who’ve gone to a Watery Grave Rise from the Tides. A Ghost Ship is seen on the Dreadwaters as the moon rises over the bay. Batten down the hatches, ye hearties, if ye want to live to see the dawn.

“Bloodline Keeper” by Jason Chan

Black (7 packs)

At the stroke of midnight, ghouls and zombies rise from their graves for a fiendish dance, consorting with witches and vampires and shades of the damned.  

Cursed: Can our opponent overcome a Curse of Misfortunes from a Bitterheart Witch? Will they run in terror from the soulless gaze of a Creepy Doll? This assortment of cards synergizes well with zombies or other selections with curses (Jekyll and Hyde, Howling Mad, and Bloodlust).

Danse Macabre: “When the spooks have a midnight jamboree, they break it up with fiendish glee!” Step lively to a Macabre Waltz with the Wakedancer, or sing a Ghoulcaller’s Chant with a Banshee of the Dread Choir. Let the Bone Dancer boogie to the Dirge of Dread, and pull your opponent’s creature onto your dancefloor.

Ghastly Ghosts: In the mood for a haunted tour? Follow the Will-o’-the-Wisps to the Ghost Quarter, where a Lost Legion of the Haunted Dead wander, their Death Denied. Pay a Ghostly Visit to the peat-filled bogs of Cannelbrae, where a certain romance of the misty marshes can Seize the Soul. This flavorful fold blends evasion, removal, and recursion pieces that play well with blue or white spirits and black reanimator.

Graveyard Smash: “The zombies were having fun / The party had just begun.” Keep the party going with this cemetery-themed selection that rotates cards in and out of the graveyard. Open the Graves at the Oversold Cemetery to give the Gravedigger a well-deserved break.

Vampires: The Mark of the Vampire here is refinement. A little Sanguine Indulgence never hurts anyone, except perhaps our opponents. These noble nosferatu have strong tribal synergies, enabling us to use whatever other creatures drafted as fodder while we focus on vampire-specific boons that will give us the strongest threats on the board.

Witchcraft: This sacrifice-themed coven generates food that our Tempting Witch can offer to our opponent to give them a Taste of Death. Having a combination of the Witch’s Oven and Witch of the Moors gives us a terrifying engine to keep our opponents stricken under our spell and our familiars at our side.

Halloween: This nostalgic pack might be suitably substituted with some “Spooky, Scary Skeletons” if you don’t have these old and mostly underpowered cards. Otherwise, enjoy playing the only Walking Dead that matters as you wait for the screams to cease and your creatures to return from the grave to overwhelm your opponent!

“Stensia Masquerade” by Will Murai

Red (4 packs)

Mischief and mayhem abound on Halloween Night, when devils come out to play. As the howling of wolves grows closer and townsfolk go missing, villagers spin into a fearful frenzy, arming themselves against unknown enemies in the shadows.  

The Village Mob: Ravings from a Mad Prophet soon incite a Witch Hunt as Kessig Malcontents rally behind the Riot Ringleader to dispense Vigilante Justice. This mob-themed pack weaponizes human fear to strike back at the dark, but do the people of Hanweir risk becoming the monsters themselves?

Devilish: No sympathy needed for these mischief makers—their assault is a flurry of chaotic nuisances as they rummage through graveyards, needle the opponent for damage, and threaten to overrun the opposition in a midnight revel. Remember to toss the salt over your left shoulder!

Bloodlust: These vampire revelers are thirsty, and you’re looking like a snack. From Bloodcrazed Neonate to Distemper of the Blood, this selection of vampires prioritizes an aggressive approach, with Anje’s Ravager and Falkenrath Gorger to take advantage of madness to play our handful of vampires on discard and draw new cards to overwhelm the opponent with hungry vampires.

Howling Mad: The howls echo from the peaks above. You’ve barred the windows and doors, but you still feel the curse taking hold—what will you do in your Uncaged Fury? This prowling pack of wolves pairs best with Bark at the Moon below; but also assists other humans well, as if your opponent can keep your lycanthropes from transforming, their human forms can go unnoticed among The Village Mob.

“Moonmist” by Ryan Yee

Green (4 packs)

The people of the woods aren’t what they seem, and even the trees seem to shift and move when you look away. No matter what you do, you can’t seem to shake the feeling that you’re being watched—followed, as you make your way through the forest.  

Arachnophobia: These spiders care about the cards in your graveyard, and come out en masse if your opponent is foolish enough to send their creatures through your forest. Show them that you weave a tangled web with Arachnogenesis, and let Ishkanah, Grafwidow poison them with your spiderlings in the late game.

The Haunted Forest:Those who live near the old wood tell stories of ghosts in the fields, of a supernatural gloom that sets in at the Edge of Autumn, an Orchard Spirit that lurks near the Woodland Cemetery, where a tree the children call the Splinterfright comes alive after funerals to guard the newly buried dead.

Bark at the Moon: At the Full Moon’s Rise, the Moonmist falls, and the cultists embrace their primal nature! This pack excels at transforming and buffing the pack, and synergizes well with The Moonlight Hunt and Howling Mad, as well as packs that have non-werewolf humans, as Hamlet Captain makes an effective combat anthem effect.

The Moonlight Hunt: The pack grows in strength with each new member. Use Spirit of the Hunt, Nightpack Ambusher, Wolfir Avenger, and Howlpack Resurgence to bolster your team on your opponent’s turn. If the numbers dwindle, let Kessig Cagebreakers set free the captives.

“Field Creeper” by Anthony Palumbo

Artifacts (1 pack)

Scarecrows: “Did that scarecrow move?” Are these uncanny guardians friend or foe? This pack contains a number of cards to fix our mana and ensure we can cast Reaper King, turning everything from Field Creeper to Harvest Hand into powerful removal.  If they get knocked down, bring them back with Scarecrone or Skeleton Shard.


A Bigger Scare: Expanding to a Small Cube

Is the Jumpstart format not your thing? No problem! This easily becomes a draftable cube with a few additions, and it’s something I’m planning to leave open as a possibility for this one as well!

Looking at the packs as they stand otherwise, removing all lands, we have something close to:

And for a small cube (which is the most practical for my playgroup) we just have to get to:

This pretty much means we can leave most of the colors as they are, but we should pay special attention to our lands, multicolored cards that can signpost or increase synergies, and flavorful artifacts.

“Geier Reach Sanitarium” by Cliff Childs


Let’s start from the end, with the draftable lands—I’m going to want at least one of each color-pairing to enable reasonable fixing, some thematic lands to go along with the theme of the cube, adding an extra for each color paired with black to reflect the abundance of black in the cube. These are the ones I’ve chosen, many of which carry over from the Jumpstart build:

Alchemist’s Refuge, Blood Crypt, Clifftop Retreat, Desolate Lighthouse, Drowned Catacomb, Fortified Village, Forsaken Sanctuary, Game Trail, Gavony Township, Graven Cairns, Hinterland Harbor, Isolated Chapel, Kessig Wolf Run, Moorland Haunt, Nephalia Drownyard, Overgrown Tomb, Port Town, Slayer’s Stronghold, Sulfur Falls, Tainted Field, Tainted Peak, Tainted Wood, Watery Grave, Woodland Cemetery

These will show up at a frequency of one/pack, and ensure that color pairings are reasonably enabled. There are also some colorless or mono-colored lands we may wish to carry over from the Jumpscare build because of their strong themes, synergies, or ability to help our friends draft a more enjoyable deck. However, rather than throw these in the land slot, I’ve opted to sub them in as spells of the appropriate color:

Black: Mortuary Mire, Witch’s Cottage
Red: Hanweir Battlements
Artifact / Colorless: Evolving Wilds, Geier Reach Sanitarium, Ghost Quarter, Haunted Fengraf

“Bedevil” by Seb McKinnon


Now that the draftable lands are sorted, perhaps we’d like to consider some multicolored cards.  With these cards we can promote and enable certain tribal synergies that might otherwise seem less obvious, or add more utility to the cube:

Azorius: Drogskol Captain, Soulherder
Boros: Balefire Liege, Intimidation Bolt
Dimir: Connive // Concoct, Gisa and Geralf, Prized Amalgam
Golgari: Ebony Treefolk, Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis, Rotwidow Pack
Gruul: Immerwolf, Huntmaster of the Fells
Izzet: Ludevic, Necro-Alchemist, Mindwrack Liege (or Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus, if you prefer)
Orzhov: Basilica Bell-haunt, Beckon Apparition, Unmake
Rakdos: Anje Falkenrath, Bedevil, Bloodhall Priest
Selesnya: Elvish Hexhunter, Old Ghastbark
Simic: Murkfiend Liege, Fable of Wolf and Owl

Certainly, there are a number of other excellent cards that might fit here, but these choices are both flavorful and promote our cube’s synergies.

“Desecrated Tomb” by Dimitar Marinski


Finally, we turn to our artifacts.

In addition to what we already have from the Jumpscare selections, remember we are also counting four utility lands in this slot, as noted above. After cutting a few selections because they didn’t obviously fit the cube’s theme, I also gave Reaper King and a few other scarecrows the axe. Scarecrow tribal needs a lot of support to function well; rather than increase that support, I opted to diminish that tribe in order to make room for other creepy, flavorful artifacts. My full roster looks like this:

Blazing Torch, Bubbling Cauldron, Cellar Door, Corrupted Grafstone, Creepy Doll, Desecrated Tomb, Field Creeper, Gallows at Willow Hill, Grafdigger’s Cage, Graveyard Shovel, Harvest Hand, Scaretiller, Sharpened Pitchfork, Stuffy Doll, Tormod’s Crypt, Wild-Field Scarecrow, Witching Well, Witch’s Cauldron, Witch’s Oven, Wooden Stake

Final Notes

Moving colorless artifacts out of the spell lists for predominantly colored packs obviously creates some open spell slots in those colors, just as moving utility lands like Witch’s Cottage into slots that might otherwise hold a spell fills them. Should you come now to rounding out your own cube and find yourself short a card here or over a card there, now is the time to customize, adding interactive cards (like removal) and strengthening the cube’s synergies. Or maybe you want to expand the cube? There are plenty of hard choices one has to make in a 360 cube, fewer if we were to go to 540. We could add skeletons! And more movie themed cards, like Body Snatcher, Frankenstein’s Monster, and so on!

Whether you play this as a Jumpstart variant, a small cube, expand it into a larger cube, or just take this as a means of inspiration, I hope you got and continue to get some spooky thrills from this article. In my house, my family and I appreciate Hallowtide and its trappings year round, and no time is a bad time for a ghoulish game with creepy cards.

Jacob Torbeck is a researcher and instructor of theology and ethics. He hails from Chicago, IL, and loves playing Commander and pre-modern cubes.

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