Crusade – a Next Level Cube
(Kurze deutsche Zusammenfassung: Ich stelle meine jüngste selbstentworfene Draftumgebung – Kreuzzug – vor. Das Link zur Kartenliste befindet sich am Ende des Eintrags.)
A while ago I promised one of my readers, who had adopted one of my Next Level Cubes, that I would soon post my youngest creation to this blog. Well, “soon” turned out to take over six weeks – my apologies to iyokai! However, he might find consolation in the fact that this new cube is, in my humble opinion, the best I’ve ever created! It drafts extremely well, and the games play extremely well. By this I mean:
There’s a lot of choices for each drafter, allowing him to influence his deck’s strategy profoundly, and good decisions will get rewarded. Each draft presents drafters with a different facet of that environment, and adapting to the available options and synergies is key to succesful drafting. While poor draft decisions will influence your deck’s power level negatively (as they should), as long as you have a general understanding of what you’re doing, you will typically at least end up with a deck that allows you to participate in your games, as opposed to being stuck with a deck which struggles with playing its spells – something that can easily happen in environments containing too many “unplayable” cards or too few creatures, or failing to balance mana costs and color requirements correctly. A good balance is one of the strongest points of this cube, allowing a variety of color combinations to see eye-to-eye powerwise, and giving all players the opportunity to deal with all kinds of threats, while at the same time preserving each color’s individual character and allowing noticably diverse power levels on single cards to guide, inspire and tempt you during the drafting process.
In summary, drafting and playing this cube is entertaining, challenging and rewarding skill, but also keeping frustration levels of unexperienced or unlucky drafters comparably low, and it seems to have great replay value (although I will probably retire that cube in a while anyways, since my creative muscles to build new cubes are always twitching). The only catch is that, due to the complexity of the environment and the mixture of cards from all eras of Magic, I cannot recommend it to novice players who aren’t sufficiently familiar with the rules and specifically with how those work with older cards.
This cube is called Crusade. It is meant to be drafted in two-thirds-drafts. Its basic structure is founded on the enmity between White and Rakdos. These two factions each constitute roughly one third of the environment. Green and Blue, caught in this struggle and courted by both sides as potential allies, make up the last third. There’s a sizable number of colorless cards, too, which help drafters build consistent decks in this complicated environment by giving them access to more potential cards for their chosen color or color combinations, and which also support this enviroment’s mechanical themes.
The available manafixing, and the distribution of mechanical synergies follow this structure, encouraging drafters to put together decks in one of the following color combinations:
1. Mono-White (heavily supported by cards rewarding you to play as much White as possible, and supplemented by colorless cards which help compensate for White’s weaknesses)
4. Gruul (with a tendency to Jund)
5. Dimir (with a tendency to Grixis)
Depending on the course an individual draft may take, it is also possible that another color combination proves to be a drafter’s best choice, like for example non-White monocolor, Bant, Simic, or maybe a color splashing for an enemy. While the environment does not directly support these options, if the other drafters’ choices leave you with a strong selection from these colors, you might find that a higher general power level makes up for the lack of synergies. A typical spread, however, would be one drafter going massively White with a Green splash, one going Azorius, one Rakdos and one Jund (or the other way round – White with a Blue splash, Selesnya, Rakdos and Grixis). Obviously, such a near-perfect distribution of colors among the drafters will not always materialize, but it can provide a beginning point of orientation for drafters just starting to explore this cube’s environment. (Note, though, that it will probably end in disaster for the table if only one player drafts White, giving him with a deck far superior to those of the other drafters, who failed to recognize that White was clearly underdrafted – something that may happen with unexperienced drafters, as I can attest.)
The Environment of Crusade features the following mechanics:
White: There are tribal themes for soldiers, clerics and knights. Many cards reward you for massively playing White. White has several cards explicitly hating Black, Red or both. There’s also an exalted theme, which is supported lightly by both Green and Blue. White, in turn, gives support to Green’s themes landfall and spiritcraft, as well as Blue’s themes morph and enchantments.
Green: Its main themes are landfall and spiritcraft (no splice onto arcane, though), each supported by both White and Red. It shares a token/sacrifice theme with Red and supports White’s exalted theme. Selesnya contains a few cards hating on black.
Blue: Its main themes are morph and enchantments (especially auras), each supported by both White and Black. It shares the unearth theme with Black and supports White’s exalted theme. Azorius contains a few cards hating on Red.
Red: It shares the following themes with Black: Tribal goblins, madness, spellshaper, flashback, hellbent and hate for White. It shares a token/sacrifice theme with Green and also supports that color’s themes landfall and spiritcraft. Via Grixis it contributes a little to Blue’s and Black’s unearth theme.
Black: It shares the following themes with Red: Tribal goblins, madness, spellshaper, flashback, hellbent and hate for White. It shares the unearth theme with Blue and also supports that color’s themes morph and enchantments. Via Jund it contributes a little to Red’s and Black’s sacrifice/token theme.
There are a lot of more or less subtle synergies between those themes, and several cards work well with more than one (for example, Loam Dweller supports both spiritcraft and landfall), making card evaluation especially context-sensitive. It really is a rich, varied, interwoven and complicated environment!
It is important that for all the mechanically relevant creature types (soldier, cleric, knight, spirit & goblin) either versions of cards are used where these types are correctly shown in print, or that it is clearly communicated to all drafters beforehand which cards have or use these creature types although they don’t say so. (Most players will get that Yotian Soldier is meant to be a soldier, but almost noone would guess from looking at the old versions of it that Dancing Scimitar is a spirit!) Other creature types can be ignored.
Crusade consists of 384 cards: 288 commons and 96 rares. Each rare or common will show up in any given draft with a 50% probability. Rarity thus is only used for booster collation here: Each booster consists of 9 commons and 3 rares. I suggest that boosters are prepared for the draft in the follwing way:
The commons are allocated in 4 boxes, the rares in 2. (I write “boxes” because in my cube the cards are actually contained physically in Ultra Pro Deck Boxes, which fit about 80 sleeved cards each.) Those are the commons boxes:
1C: White (66)
2C: Blue, Green (33+33=66)
3C: colorless lands & Everflowing Chalice, Red, Black, Rakdos (6+24+24+22=76)
4C: all other colorless commons, Selesnya, Gruul, Jund, Azorius, Dimir, Grixis (24+14+8+6+14+8+6=80)
(Note that I do not go strictly by the color definition in the rules, but by the one shown in my card list, which fits the practical needs of a cube better – for example, I list Razor Golem as a white card, and Creeping Tar Pit as Dimir.)
Here are the rares boxes:
1R: White, Green, Selesnya, Blue, Azorius (16+8+8+8+8=48)
2R: colorless, Rakdos, Black, Dimir, Grixis, Red, Gruul, Jund (16+4+6+4+4+6+4+4=48)
The cards in each box are shuffled seperately. Then, exactly half of each box’s contents is put aside face down – these cards will not be used in this draft. This leaves 144 commons and 48 rares. These two stacks (commons and rares) are shuffled again seperately. Then, the 16 boosters are prepared, each with 9 commons and 3 rares. (I recommend very thorough shuffling at both times to prevent a too skewed distribution. Improving card collation by further seperatedly shuffling is possible, but too much effort for too little gain for my taste.)
One final note: I designed Crusade right after Mirrodin Besieged came out. Thus there are no cards from New Phyrexia, Commander, Magic2012 or Innistrad in it. Maybe incorporating these sets into Crusade would lead me to partially redesign its themes, but so far I have no plans of doing this. What I am doing, however, is constantly finetuning this cube, replacing cards which underperform (with regards to building the environment – I’m not looking for the most powerful version of an effect!) with better alternatives. If I would integrate single cards from the newer sets into Crusade for this reason (as opposed to changing the cube’s structure to incorporate new ideas), I would make the following changes: Guardian’s Pledge for Inspired Charge, Chapel Geist for Thunder Spirit and Claustrophobia for Mystic Restraints.
So, finally here’s the link to the card list: