Cube Building Updates

Cube Drafting is a fun way to get more use out of Magic cards.  I went over the basics in an earlier post.  I want to talk about my considerations when designing the Cube and then provide my thought process on some of the card swaps I made.

Creating

My first step was going through Em’s huge collection.  I (mostly) restricted myself to cards with the modern frame.  This keeps me in the last 8-ish years of cards but includes my favorite older sets, like Ravnica and Kamigawa.

My first focus was to narrow down the sorts of cards I wanted.  I had a few basic parameters:

  • Nothing super-bomb level.  Powerful cards are fine, but nothing that is a one-card win.  One example of a bad card would be Predator Dragon, as a giant flying haste creature can often end the game immediately.
  • Conditional removal instead of cheap removal.  Things that read “destroy target creature” are frowned upon.
  • Lots of “enters the battlefield” cards.  I love 2-for-1s or 1.5-for-1s.  This also helps enable other strategies like self-bounce and big, stabilizing plays.
  • Enchantments where possible.  Enchantments are notoriously vulnerable to 1-for-2s so I wanted to find all the good enchantments, especially in White.
  • Tribal where possible.  Nothing Lorwyn-level but I wanted each color to have its own tribes.
  • Proliferate!  I love proliferate and I have ways of boosting it with Graft and other +1/+1 and -1/-1 counter-based cards.
  • Gold where possible.  I’ve loved the sets that encourage multicolor and Hybrid is one of my favorite things.
  • Removal in all colors.  Certainly, colors should have their niches (red: damage, white: tapping, etc) but I want everyone to have fun keeping things under control.

I was able to pull out about 500 cards.  My friend Alex helped me trim it down to 360, which is the right size for 3 packs for 8 people or 4 packs for 6 people.  While Cubes can hypothetically be any size, keeping the pool to a limited size will help me keep it fit and well-designed.

Playtesting

From there, we played the Cube a few times.  My first round of notes:

  • White, especially control, was widely agreed to be the strongest.  There are a lot of tapping effects, especially when including blue.
  • Black came together with recursion, solid aggro and removal cards.  Despite the removal being strong, I felt control was a bit weak for Black.  Black+Red seemed well paired.
  • Blue was a good second color but lacking on its own.  Its tap and control effects seemed very strong but not enough to stand on its own.  I also felt that proliferate wasn’t quite strong enough yet.  Adding some tribal here will help.
  • Red had some good removal but didn’t have enough tools to succeed with all-in aggro.  Goblins wasn’t panning out so I wanted to find a new niche for Red.  I also felt like Red and Green wasn’t as strong a combo as I wanted.
  • Green had good mana generation but little to do with it.  There weren’t enough elves to make elves work and not enough tokens to make tokens work.  I needed to give Green a turbo shot of power, especially when working with its allies, White and Red.
  • Gold was under drafted and I think I misunderstood the role of Gold cards in draft.  I’ll need to focus on finding the best slots to give to multicolor cards, possibly by swapping in hybrid cards.

Developing

I have all the changes listed in a public google doc.  It even contains my individual rationale on each swap. My summary:

White

  • Mediocre creatures were swapped for Flankers, including a flanking lord.  This is only a mini-theme, but I feel like mini-themes might be a big part of what makes a Cube fun.
  • Several self-bouncing cards, themed around protecting your guys, were added.  I like this as anti-removal and as a way to recycle all the “enters the battlefield” effects.
  • White Crovax.  Black Crovax is also in, and both of them are bombs assuming you can work around their drawbacks.

Blue

  • A bit of Wizard synergy.  One is a counter.  The other is Azami, Lady of Scrolls. Solid on her own, she can be amazing if you can stick one or two other Wizards.
  • More cloning.  Cackling Counterpart provides a cool combat trick and Phyrexian Ingester is a new twist.
  • Merfolk Sovereign.  The two best Merfolk cards are a bit out of my budget, but Sovereign will reward players who collect a number of the already-existing Merfolk base.
  • More control.  Meloku will be strong and Mark of Eviction will be very interactive.  I added a few medium-power counter spells, careful to avoid outright denial.
  • A bit more Proliferate synergy.  Tezzeret’s Gambit, specifically, seemed like a no-brainer as well as Aether Figment as a win condition for Proliferate.

Black

  • Infect, Wither, -1/-1 counters, etc.  I like this as another niche for Black: it may not always kill in one hit.  As discussed, I’m not fond of super strong removal, so being able to cripple creatures and kill them later sounds perfect.  Also, these effects greatly benefits from proliferate.
  • Viscera Dragger and Vigor Mortis boost number of straight recursion cards, while Postmortem Lunge and Screams from Within provide other ways to interacting with the graveyard.
  • Consuming Vapors may end up being above the curve.  I really love that the other player has some time to react to the second sacrifice, but near-guaranteed 2-for-1 removal does concern me.
  • Falkenrath Noble is hopefully the beginning of several Innistrad-block Morbid-style cards.  When I can find more slots for death-triggered abilities, I will.

Red

  • Several elemental cards were added.  I wasn’t able to get the Elemental lord, but I will eventually.  There are a surprising number of Elemental cards out there.
  • More mid- and late-game burnout cards.  Magmatic Core especially feels like a great finisher for super aggressive Red-based decks.  Hopefully Devastating Summons will end at least one game.
  • Coal Stoker joins Priest of Ubarask as a bonus-cast enabler.  This feels super red to me.
  • Fury Charm serves as a strict upgrade to Shatter.  I’m hoping its occasionally main-deckable, especially if I can toss a few Suspends into the Cube.
  • Conquering Manticore was swapped in to replace Predator Dragon.  I don’t like the instant-win feel of Predator Dragon.  Manticore is probably equally strong but gives the opponent more time to react.  In a format with a lot of enchantment-based removal I feel its essential to give people time to react to bombs.

Green

Artifacts

Gold/Multicolor

  • Red/Green got Rumbling Slum, Deadshot Minotaur, and Burning-Tree Shaman, which are all fun cards.
  • I added in nearly every sweet Cascade card, as I love the feeling of getting a small guaranteed effect with a large random effect.
  • A few more hybrid cards.  I’d like to include more.  I’m starting to understand that Gold can be very restrictive in limited.  I’m thinking of Gold cards as a prize for having that color combo.  In general, I expect to expand the hybrid options.