State of the Cube: December 2013

Since the State of the Cube posts, I’ve been updating my Massive Multiplayer Cube to add new cards from the Gatecrash, Dragon’s Maze,  Magic 2014 and Theros expansions. I’ve taken the opportunity to tweak some of the cards from older expansions to reinforce certain themes, or cut some of the underperforming cards. You’ll have to note that “underperforming” for my Cube doesn’t directly relate to power level, but can also mean that it doesn’t serve a main theme enough or is just too diluted in such a massive cube. That second point about the size of the Cube is something that I’ve been struggling with. My Cube is simply massive. Coming in at 1152 total cards, it can support three separate 8-man drafts of 4 boosters of 12 cards. However, we rarely get up to 8 people at a time so we usually manage about 4 drafts before we have to reset the Cube. This is quite handy when we play a few drafts back to back since we don’t have to repack the Cube between each draft. The problem is the upkeep of the Cube is pretty difficult. It’s been tricky trying to balance out the representation of certain themes and allow niche strategies with a cube of this size. The spreadsheet that I used was an effort to keep track of the balance of themes and strategies available in the Cube.

You may note that I mention the Cube spreadsheet in the past tense. That’s because I’ve shifted the majority of my Cube management to CubeTutor. CubeTutor is an amazing Cube management website that I started using not long after completing the first State of the Cube posts. It allows you to upload and manage multiple Cube lists as well as do practice drafts against bots, build and share the draft decks, and construct sealed decks. It also has some analysis tools for your cube and draft picks. I may still maintain the Cube spreadsheet, since I would still like the ability to analyse by my custom categories. However, if CubeTutor were to implement a card-tagging feature and analysis on card tags, I will probably abandon the spreadsheet completely. In fact, looking at the constant stream of tweaks, updates and improvements that has been going on with CubeTutor, I’m confident that it will grow to be the prime resource for Cube management. For anyone who maintains a Cube, I heartily recommend checking out CubeTutor. If you’re interested in testing out some practice drafts with my massive Cube abomination, you can find my Cube here and draft away! (I have it set up for 4 boosters of 12 cards) Please feel free to give me any feedback on the Cube or just brag about your insane draft.

2013CubeTutor

Still here? I would have thought you would be first picking some Sol Rings by now. Anyway, you can see a snapshot of the Cube as it stands at CubeTutor, but I thought I’d give some brief commentary on some of the changes and my vision for the Cube.

First, I want to clearly state the purpose of this Cube again.  This Cube is primarily for Multiplayer games and should allow drafters to have fun, interactive multiplayer games.  My emphasis is more on allowing cool interactions and letting people have fun with cool, unique effects from Magic’s history in a multiplayer context.  The fine balance of the Cube is not something I am overly concerned with since the table politics can sometimes bear things out, but it should be generally balanced so there is no dominant strategy.  I want mana fixing to be fairly commonly available, so people are able to play whatever style they want to play.  However, one comment I’ve had when playing this Cube with less experienced players is the sheer amount of themes and choices stuffed in which makes it difficult to make certain valuations.  To that end, I’d like to focus a bit more on some of the themes in each colour and colour pairing and maybe provide a little more guidance while still allowing enough flexibility for off-theme concoctions.  The second part is definitely a lot trickier to pull off. So, to summarise:

  • A Multiplayer focused Cube. Typical formats are Two-Headed Giant, Star and Chaos.
  • Focus on interaction between players
  • Allow multiple interactions, combos and unique effects as opposed to raw power
  • General balance to allow multiple viable strategies
  • Have reliable mana-fixing, but not so much that colours don’t matter
  • Have some clear themes to communicate certain viable draft strategies, but still allow flexibility

2013Cube02

Looking at the Cube as it stands, I think it has some variety and it definitely includes a lot of powerful multiplayer effects.  In terms of balance, I haven’t played with it enough to identify any glaring issues but if anyone recognises any, I’d love to know. There is a fair amount of artifact mana fixing, with all the signets and mana rocks, but I think compared to the size of the Cube it is reasonable.  We usually end up with 2-3 colour decks with the occasional 5-colour “good stuff” deck.  Most times there isn’t enough major incentive to go the full 5 colours, since even restricting yourself to 2 colours you get enough powerful effects with the bonus that they’re usually more synergistic.

In terms of themes, I feel like the tokens theme in Green and White has been slightly over-represented and I’ll be looking to maybe prune it a little. In multiplayer, tokens are really good since you’re not giving up “real cards” to establish a board presence. I’ve tried to shift some cards in White and Green to boost up some other themes, but it will probably be a while until I get a good balance. I’m also trying to increase the number of instant effects in the Cube. Most times in multiplayer you want repeatable effects, but I felt like that reduced some interaction since most of the effects are known.  I’m trying to step up the number of instants and flash creatures to increase some of that trickiness.  Red has always been a bit of a problem in multiplayer, since a lot of its cards focus on short term aggressive impact. Since we sometimes play Star and Two-Headed Giant, that aggressiveness is still useful but it is a challenge to maintain.

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To help me plan out how I’m going to continue to tweak the Cube, I’ve set out the themes of the colour pairs as I hope to grow them.

  • White-Blue: Blink and bounce, drawing cards and gaining life off them.
  • Blue-Black: Milling and discard.
  • Black-Red: Creature destruction and direct damage, damage based on discarding/destruction.
  • Red-Green: Creature boosting, power matters.
  • Green-White: Creature tokens, pumping all creatures.
  • White-Black: Life drain, mass removal.
  • Black-Green: Reanimation, graveyard matters.
  • Green-Blue: Copying creatures, using creatures to draw cards.
  • Blue-Red: Instants and Sorceries matter, stealing effects.
  • Red-White: Damage redirection. RW also has an aggressive tokens theme which I’m not sure about now.

Now I redistribute the themes in terms of the five main colours:

  • White: Blink and self-bounce, life/lifegain matters, lifelink, creature tokens, pumping multiple creatures, mass removal, damage redirection, damage reduction.
  • Blue: Blink and bounce, drawing cards, milling/discard, copying creatures, instants and sorceries matter, stealing effects.
  • Black: Milling, discard, creature destruction, deathtouch, life drain, mass removal, reanimation, graveyard matters.
  • Red: Direct damage, damage based on discarding and destruction, creature boosting, power matters, instants and sorceries matter, stealing effects, damage redirection, aggressive tokens.
  • Green: Creature boosting, mass creature pumping, power matters, creature tokens, reanimation, graveyard matters, copying creatures, drawing cards using creatures.

2013Cube01

Based on those themes, I’ve identified some areas where I might explore when updating the Cube:

  • Added “life matters” cards in White, will see if this is viable.
  • Potentially add an enchantment/aura subtheme since Theros enables it and it will be focused in White, Blue and Green.
  • Add “discard matters” effects which will trigger off Blue’s draw-milling and Black’s discard.
  • Add Red cards that deal damage based on death triggers, discard triggers and cards in hand, which works with Black and Blue. In addition, adding sacrifice outlets will let Red trigger Black death triggers and complement Blue’s stealing effects.
  • Add “power matters” cards into Red and Green and put in some instant speed pumping.
  • Add “graveyard matters” cards to Green to capitalise on Black and Blue milling.

It looks like I’m just stuffing in even more themes into the already laden Cube. This is one of the reasons why the Cube has grown to such a large size, since I love all these themes and interactions and want to make space for all of them.  However the risk is that the subthemes will just be overshadowed and never matter enough.  One idea I’ve been toying with is to group the Cube into “sets”, so that the first booster is always from a limited set of cards, and so on.  This could let me skew the sets to have more “build-around-me” cards in the first booster, then enablers in the second, then utility cards in the third and an even mix in the last booster.  It does seem like a whole lot more work for an uncertain gain though.

I’m still learning how to maintain this Cube and to be honest I spend more time thinking and tweaking than we actually do spend playing it. It still has some pet cards and interactions, but I feel like this Cube is also a pretty personal expression of all the things that I love about Magic. So far, it has still been pretty fun so I haven’t really felt the urgent need to have it all balanced out perfectly. However, I’m hoping that by organizing my thoughts here I can slowly improve the quality of the Cube and maybe some of you out there reading this have some experiences or advice to share. Until next time then, happy Cubing!

4 responses to “State of the Cube: December 2013

  1. Pingback: 2013 Recap – Favourite Board Games | Action Points!·

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