My First Draft Experience with Greenhouse Effect
I finally got to draft with Greenhouse Effect for the first time, and I couldn’t be prouder! The draft was a rousing success. Everybody was having fun, and everyone got reasonable decks, while I could use my somehow tighter drafting/deckbuilding & playing skills to achieve an earned victory.
The draft itself was full of interesting and meaningful decisions, and even though in the end each player only had a few excessive cards, deck-building still wasn’t possible on autopilot. On the other hand, although my fellow drafters were more or less casual players (two of them actually only playing my cube drafts, which happen no more often than once in a couple of weeks), everyone was able to assemble a smooth-running deck (meaning that mana distribution, mana curve, creature ratio and access to interactive cards all worked out, and that the decks’ power levels weren’t too disparate) – it really helps a lot if a cube is already using a distribution akin to that of properly constructed limited decks, and if overall card quality is high enough that drafting isn’t about worrying how to get enough playables, but those more subtle things.
Deciding on your color combination was hard work, but everyone managed to find their niche (we had a heavily green Naya deck with excellent manafixing, a Gruul deck, a Dimir Deck, and a G/b deck comfortably splashing White for Oblivion Ring). Some, but not all of the possible archetypes I wove into this cube manifested, just like it should be.
Actual play was also great. I need to tell you, though, that we did another experiment: It was an idea of mine that limited play (I can not stress enough that I am NOT talking about constructed!) would be vastly more enjoyable if your starting handsize (and thus also your maximum handsize) was eight instead of seven. (Note that I do not use cards specifically referring to the number of cards in hand in my cubes – the only exception is Skullcage, I believe – although I do not think it would be much of a problem if I did.) This did exactly what I hoped it would do: We needed fewer mulligans, the ones we took didn’t hurt as much, and the early turns went much smoother for everyone in general. I couldn’t spot any real potential for abuse – it was just a lot more FUN!
Speaking of fun: There were very few games decided on opening hands plus the first few draw steps – players got to PLAY their decks. At the same time, the early game and tempo overall were very important, but strong, expensive cards also routinely got to shine. I am convinced I hit the sweet spot between efficiency and power, with games revolving around tempo advantage and card advantage by roughly the same amount. Two-drops mattered as much as 6-mana “bombs” did, and even the strongest cards could still be interacted with and be beaten. A high percentage of games was actually decided on play decisions (and I don’t just mean DUMB ones), gamestates were reasonable complicated (but seldom stalled), lots of interesting synergies manifested, and comebacks from strongly disadvantaged positions happened several times – but NOT due to the topdecking of unbeatable bombs. All decks played noticeably different from each other, and the power level span between single cards was perfect, with the strongest cards having the high impact they deserved, but blending seamlessly into game dynamics instead of making earlier plays irrelevant.
I am not overstating this: Drafting and playing Greenhouse Effect was the most fun experience I ever had drafting or playing Magic (followed closely by my experiences with Crusade) – a cube focussing on good gameplay DOES deliver!
The one thing I can’t be sure about yet is if the long-term play value of Greenhouse effect will match that of Crusade. After all, it is just 240 cards instead of 384, and each common will be present in every draft – maybe the critical mass to avoid the impression of repetition is just not there. Time will tell. In any case, this observation is part of the experiment: 240 cards is already the lowest number I would try out for a cube designed to be in use for a long while. Right now, I’m toying with the thought of new specifications for my cubes: Three rarities (common, uncommon, rare), with each booster containing 2 rares, 5 uncommons and 6 commons (for a total of 13 instead of 12 – there will still be 4 cards left undrafted in each booster, though, meaning that you will get three picks from the boosters you open, and have access to 36 instead of 32 drafted cards to build your deck from). Commons will show up in boosters with a chance of 2/3 each; uncommons with 1/2; and rares with 1/3, which means that the cube contains 144 commons, 160 uncommons and 96 rares, for a total of 400 (a little more than in Crusade even!). While you wouldn’t be guaranteed that any specific common existed in the draft pool (like with Greenhouse Effect), the chances for given cards to show up will be significantly different, depending on the cards’ rarity; themes can be supported by comparably few cards by putting those into common slots; but at the same time there is room for a lot of different things (cutting down Greenhouse Effect to just 240 cards was really painful – there was so much which had to fall to the wayside!) without single cards showing up too rarely. I also believe I could make use of a third rarity as a slot (well, actually two per booster) for stuff you cannot expect with any regularity, but might want to take as a lead for the direction your draft will take – the only good rares really do for drafting (other than hiding cards which are not fit for limited at all). Actually, my greatest worry here is that 36 cards will prove just too much for deck-building, and that too many cards will be forced to the sidelines – but then again, maybe players will spend those extra picks on a longer orientation phase when drafting before they settle on their colors. Well, it’s something to try out!
…okay, it seems I got sidetracked, but I was mostly done with praising my own creation anyway. Just one more thing: I noted that I was using the Planeshift version of Thornscape Battlemage, which really, REALLY should have been the Time Spiral version, because that one says clearly the card is an elf! That is incredibly important, but I just overlooked it. I have to get that newer version ASAP.
Please let me encourage you to follow my example to build cubes not by throwing together cards which you like, but by focussing on good gameplay – I guarantee you that it is worth it!