Fundamentals of Next Level Cube Building

(You might want to read up what a Next Level Cube actually is.)

After a few months of cube drafting hiatus, I finally got to drafting Greenhouse Effect again, and it continues to amaze me. Once again, we had someone completely new to drafting (and almost new to Magic at all!) at the table, and once again, everyone had lots of fun. My creation succeeded again in reaching all important goals: Drafting, deckbuilding and playing was challenging and thrilling for the newbie as well as for the veteran (me) – and also, of course, the two intermediate players – and  everyone had some success in accordance with his skill (meaning that everyone won a few games, while the better players won more of them, but more importantly, that each game was actually a game, not the massacre of a foregone conclusion). There is a sweet spot in between beginning players being frustrated because they don’t feel they have a chance, and better players being frustrated because they do not feel that their superior skills pay off – yes, that sweet spot (or rather, a zone) actually exists! You do NOT have to choose between an environment which rewards skill and one which is fun for less experienced players. You do NOT need to ruin the game by putting Snitches in it to appeal to idiots – that might be prudent for marketing reasons, but is NOT essential to game design otherwise! Also, I did not succeed in achieving my goals because I’m an off-the-scale genius, but simply, because I – in contrast to the company selling this game – made them my first priority. Since I believe that some of you will be interested in guidelines how to design such cubes, this is exactly what I will do in this entry! So, here come my 10 tips for great cube design:

1. Cull the power level at the top

It’s true that in a game as complicated as Magic, it is impossible to have all cards at the same power level, and that this is not even desirable. However, there must be a limit to how much cards stand out from the average, or they become Snitches, making the rest of the game largely irrelevant. There was a time when Serra Angel, Mahamoti Djinn and Shivan Dragon were considered limited bombs, but they pale in comparison to what players can open nowadays in boosters. Serra and Fat Moti are actually quite fair, provided that the environment overall is constructed correctly, while Shivan is already pushing it, threatening to end a game all by itself too fast. Now compare these cards with Baneslayer Angel, Consecrated Sphinx or Flameblast Dragon… And those are just creatures somehow comparable to the old standouts! Do I even need to mention the Titans? No single card should be able to take a game over so fast if it isn’t dealt with immediately, and especially not even IF it is dealt with (like the Titans). Impact in accordance with mana cost is okay, as is some resistance to generic answers, but even 8-mana-spells shouldn’t just read “I win”, and cards you don’t have to work too hard for to cast (like 6-mana creatures) even less so. Serra Angel, Mahamoti Djinn and Shivan Dragon should give you an idea of what is acceptable, and if a card seems considerably stronger than those, you should omit it.

Note, though, that reactive cards and balancing cards, which do not win the game by themselves, are allowed to have a bit more impact. Wrath of God, another limited bomb from the early days, isn’t even considered a bomb by many today. It is actually important that a few comeback cards exist, as long as they can be played around somewhat reasonably by wary players. Also, sweepers which require a bit of a setup to be really advantagous, are okay – one example is Pernicious Deed, which I understand is a terror (not a Terror, of course!) in some casual formats, but has turned out to be just a very strong card whenever I put it in one of my cubes. In the end, it’s a symmetrical card, and while it is possible to break that symmetry in a cube environment, this isn’t nearly as automatic as in most constructed environments or cubes which are designed to enable constructed strategies. Strong reactive cards reward planning, and sweepers punish overfocussed strategies, so don’t shy away from them. Of course, there can be too much of a good thing: Stuff like Mana Drain or Balance are still far, far out!

2. Raise the power level at the bottom

Now, just as there are too strong cards, there are too weak ones. The reasons why such cards, which are unplayable in limited environments (I mean actually unplayable – that term is used WAY too much nowadays to denounce filler or fringe cards), even exist, are debatable, but even if you accept them, they have no bearing on building a good cube. Put only cards in a cube which you can reasonably expect to (justifiably) see play under some circumstances. There is absolutely no reason for blanks to exist in a cube. Also, you do not need any cards which are explicitly underwhelming, but barely usable, like Grizzly Bears, Zombie Goliath, or Wind Drake, when the general standard of your cards is closer to Wild Mongrel, Hyalopterous Lemure and Kathari Screecher (as it should be, so that the gap to your cube’s “bombs” isn’t too wide). The only reason (applicable to cube design) to do so would be to balance colors or draft archetypes out, and you don’t need them for this if you have access to a five-digit number of cards from Magic‘s history. You will already find a spread of varying power levels among your cards when you allocate slots for the themes you want your cube to feature. Do not waste slots in your cube on cards which are weak AND uninteresting, even if they meet the minimum standard of playability; use these slots for stuff like tribal cards, synergy cards and sideboard cards which have a chance to shine for better reasons than filling up a deck after a miscarried draft: A Goblin Turncoat might be just what a goblin deck or a sacrificing-for-profit deck needs; a Defy Gravity might actually be appealing in a self-milling deck or saboteur deck; and Rest for the Weary might actually be what you want against that ultra-aggressive weenie deck which plans to finish you off with stuff like Lava Axe.

If you do it correctly, you will end up with draft pools which contain enough obviously strong cards enticing players to commit to colors or switch them, while overall making sure that even drafters fighting over slightly overdrafted colors will not just be able to get decent decks, but even still have meaningful drafting decisions. The point of using only playable cards (and only a few situational ones among those) is that drafting never happens on autopilot, and there are always decisions to make, other than just identifying the chaff.

3. Weave themes into your cube

Do not just use a collection of cards you happen to like (by the way, using cards you especially like is generally something to be wary of, since we tend to like cards we won games with, which might mean that these cards are just too strong for a balanced environment – to quote Mike Turian on twitter: “Tinker is fun!”…) Make sure that there are interesting interactions and synergies between them. This adds an extra decision level to drafting beyond which colors you take and how aggressive/controlling you want to be, so that you do do not just fall back on taking cards according to their power level, once you reach the point when you know you’re aggressive RG (for example). It also means that all cards in a cube will have their chance to shine sometimes, and that you do not always see the same cards in players’ decks. As to the complexity this adds to drafting, which can be overwhelming to new players: I will address that issue in the next paragraph.

Oh, and do not only create synergies, but cross-synergies – themes will have a hard time to manifest in draft decks unless they are either completely dominant (making for a stale environment), or cards support several of them at once. If you have a token theme as well as an enchantment theme in Green, look for stuff like Fists of Ironwood or Bearscape, and make also sure that the colors you want drafters to combine with Green support these themes a little.

Of course, you cannot leave out the step before this: Allowing for both aggressive and controllish strategies in your cube, and making sure that no color is fixed on one of those paths exclusively (different weighting is fine, of course). This ties into the next paragraph:

4. Construct your cube using ratios of cards akin to those in draft decks

You see, a typical draft deck will run about 15 basic lands (which didn’t need to be drafted), 2 additional mana cards, 15 creatures, and eight other spells. This means that on average, ca. 60% of the cards players wish to draft are creatures. Yet, for some unfathomable reason, it is official policy of R&D to keep the ratio of creatures noticably lower, creating an artificial shortage of them in limited (and an abundance of non-creature “blanks” with little hope to ever make the cut). Do NOT make that mistake. If anything, put a little MORE than 60% creatures in your cube, because, you see, creatures are indispensible in limited decks, and all but the most specialised creatures will always hold at least filler value in a deck, while non-creatures will often prove worthless. Giving drafters enough creatures to choose from maximizes the number of relevant drafting decisions they make, and protects newbies from the cardinal error of running way too few creatures, which leads to useless decks and frustrating gameplay.

Don’t stop at the creature ratio, though. Make sure your cube contains everything draft decks need in the right numbers (of course, you need to figure in the rarity of cards). Spread your creatures along the mana curve in a sensible way – do not create a shortage of cheap drops and an abundance of creatures for 4+ mana, which is often the case in Magic sets. Balance aggressive and defensive cards out (okay, at least this R&D usually does). Put enough removal in the set (this they often do NOT), give players as much useful manafixing as they need (the only reason why dual lands are rare is to maximize profit!), and cut situational cards of the kind which are usually run in numbers of 0-2 per deck to a corresponding ratio, so that they’re there if someone wants them, but do not clog up the boosters. This achieves three things: It makes for more interesting draft decisions (since you’re not just struggling to fulfill quotas of important stuff, but can actually decide between alternatives), helps newbies get playable decks (in the sense that they can actually participate in games, even if their decks aren’t quite competitive) even if they know little more than the most basic deck-building principles and draft without a deeper understanding of Magic strategy, and improves gameplay. About the latter:

5. Keep your environment dynamic

Make sure that both tempo and card advantage play a role in games. There need to be fast, aggressive decks which stop players from durdling around too much while setting up an invincible endgame, and which punish too high mana curves. At the same time, give control-oriented decks the tools to stop these early onslaughts and some reward if they manage to do so (a strong endgame, that is). Then again, to avoid long-drawn-out games with a foregone conclusion, give aggressive decks a little “reach” – some way to close out a game even after the momentum has begun to shift away from them, typically direct damage or mass evasion effects – so that the control player is kept on his toes.

6. Provide plenty creature removal

Interactive gameplay is good gameplay. Non-interactive gameplay is bad gameplay. Avoid games which come down to catching the Snitch. Let players react to what their opponent does. Make gameplay go back and fourth.

The most important tool to guarantee interaction is removal. Give creature removal to all colors (yes, even Green – you can use stuff like Roots, Unyaro Bee Sting, Desert Twister and Prey Upon), and to make really sure that every player has access to it, include colorless removal. Ignore the taboos of the color pie which, essentially, just mean that some colors are not meant to interact with certain strategies, and thus lead to frustrating gameplay. Don’t worry, the colors will still feel distinct enough from each other by the way their removal is implemented, by the power level of it – and of course by their other cards.

7. Balance threats and answers

Do not just include enough answers to creatures, but to all kinds of cards. At the same time, put enough of these cards in the cube that it actually pays to run these answers! You cannot expect players to sideboard Smelt if their opponent offers only one or two good targets for it, but they should have a sensible option to deal with those problematic artifacts. It’s not hard to get enough artifacts into an environment, but you will need to consciously monitor the number of enchantments. Since enchantments are nearly impossible to deal with in both Red and Black, you need to make sure that some or all of the following are true:

  • there are colorless ways to deal with enchantments in your cube (probably only stuff like Nevinyrral’s Disk or Spine of Ish Sah, which are likely not common, though)

  • there are splashable ways to deal with those enchantments, AND there is enough manafixing that it is actually feasible to splash them (not an option in many cubes which do not propagate multi-colored decks)

  • the most powerful enchantments are slow enough that it is possible to beat them via speed (which isn’t exactly great gameplay, if it is the only way to deal with them)

  • the most powerful enchantments can be dealt with indirectly (auras can be removed by removing the enchanted creature, for example)

  • enchantments are not so powerful that they need to be removed (which is the default – you can get away with pretty strong creatures and artifacts, but you really have to be careful with enchantments)

Non-basic lands are another issue. At least, all colors have somehow reasonable ways to deal with them, and there are Strip Mine, Wasteland and Arc of Blight, but once again, you need to avoid too powerful lands (Volrath’s Stronghold or Academy Ruins qualify), AND need to make sure that, once lands are strong enough to require removal, there are enough good targets for that removal around (manlands help, as do utility lands like Quicksand or Rogue’s Passage).

With sorceries and instants, while you can work with counterspells and discard, there is only one safe way to go about them: Avoid “I win” cards like Living Death, Bonfire or Sphinx’s Relevation. Oh, and talking about Living Death: Keep graveyard abuse to a reasonable level, and provide ways to deal with graveyards which are maindeckable, but not overly suppressive (Relic of Progenitus is too much against threshold, but acceptable against flashback) – Vessel of Endless Rest is helpful, as is Junktroller and in some environments Heap Doll (in a cube with a metalcraft theme, for example).

You see, there is quite a lot to juggle to keep an environment interactive. Your best options are to keep the power level reasonable, and to include flexible answers, like Vindicate, Oblivion Ring, Aftershock and, of course, Counterspell.

Oh, and do NOT use planeswalkers! Ever. Most of them are already out due to being overpowered, but they do also put an additional stress on your selection of answers in a cube (and they are notorious for needing an immediate answer much more than any other type of permanent). Also, they’re Snitches. This card type simply worsens limited gameplay.

8. Avoid cards which suppress interaction

A trap you must not fall into, though, is to provide answers which are themselves non-interactive. Answering a threat, and even gaining tempo or card advantage through doing so, is acceptable. Shutting down major parts of your opponent’s deck unless he finds an answer to your answer is not! Grafdigger’s Cage, Stony Silence, Gaddock Teeg, City of Solitude – none of these belong in a cube.

There are other explicitly non-interactive cards. Avoid anything which has hexproof for more than one turn, for obvious reasons. Shroud is fine in moderate doses, as long as it is restricted to one creature, and that creature only impacts the game via attacking and blocking (and isn’t unblockable). Protection has to be carefully monitored, and protection from more than one color is a no-go, unless an environment is extremely multicolored and/or features an enormous amount of colorless ways to deal with creatures (even then, why not just let it be?) Single cards which cannot be countered are fine (unless they’re Obliterate), but AEther Vial or Cavern of Souls are not. Land Destruction can play the role of point removal, sideboard against greedy manabases or the odd tempo play, but it must never become a strategy onto itself. For the same reason, Armageddon is not acceptable (Catastrophe might be fine – if someone invests six mana to blow up all lands, he has to work for it, and there is a game happening before then.)

And then there’s alternate win conditions. They’re bad, because they make players play different games, leading to missing interaction. Milling is the main offender here, but poison is not much better, even if it works mainly through the combat phase. Single cards, even if their conditions are hard to fulfill (like Coalition Victory), and true combos are Snitches of the worst kind – synergies between already useful cards, which make a combination stronger than the sum of its parts are fine, because they foster interesting draft decisions as well as interesting gameplay, but outright winning a game is not.

9. Avoid undeserved hate

Hate punishes players for strategic choices. This makes sense when that player overfocusses to gain an advantage. It doesn’t make sense when a player just plays the game, or if he builds up critical mass to exploit a synergy seeded in a cube. You do not want players to randomly lose to a Karma or Anarchy just before they happen to play a certain color, and you do not want them to get totally blown out by Shatterstorm because they employ the metalcraft theme of your cube. (Shatterstorm is, however, okay if artifacts are either rare enough that it will usually only kill one or two cards; or ubiquitous enough that it is basically symmetrical, like Wrath of God.) In a limited environment, hate only makes sense when the opponent can reasonably be expected to play around the hate by not overcommitting to the thing hated. Note that pure value cards are not necessarily hate: Ingot Chewer or Execute are reasonable. (Then again, Execute is probably too narrow a sideboard card to warrant inclusion in a cube, unless in that cube White is especially dominant.)

10. Use colorless cards

Providing enough manafixing is one thing, but you can do more to ensure that players can build decks with smooth draws. Colorless cards help both with giving drafters enough deck-building material even if they end up in overdrafted colors, and with their actual draws. (They usually also constitute targets for artifact removal and shore up weaknesses of colors, as I mentioned before.) In two-third drafts, colorless cards are especially important, because with only four players it is important that each drafter can use a higher percentage of cards in each booster than in eight-player drafts (that is because boosters circulate faster between drafters, allowing for less diffusion of selection patterns). For all these reasons, in cube design, artifacts are your friend.

Bonus tip:

We always change the starting and maximum hand size to eight cards now when we draft. This smooths out draws, requires players to mulligan less and makes mulligans less disadvantageous. We encountered no negative effects whatsoever. (My cubes contain no cards which explicitly care about handsize, though.) I strongly encourage you to try this out!

Explore posts in the same categories: Next Level Cube

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Both comments and pings are currently closed.

11 Comments on “Fundamentals of Next Level Cube Building”

  1. jashinc Says:

    Nice to see that my Peasant Cube fulfills most of your criteria.
    The only one I’m not sure about is the more-than-60%-creatures-mark, but that could be easily changed, because I have to update the cube with RtR and Gatecreash anywaya and wanted to include more offensive one-drops, which are abundant in those editions (Rakdos Cackler, Dryad Militant, Experiment One, Cloudfin Raptor, Slitherhead, Shadow Allay Denizen, Thrull Parasite and Wasteland Viper).

  2. Having recentley forayed into Cube myself, I found these thoughts interesting to read. I do find it annoying that you sell your views on Cube as the absolute, incontestable truth, though, but that’s nothing new.

    Your goal seems to be to create the most fair, balanced Magic games imaginable, and that’s fine. But that is NOT the same as creating the most fun experience for all. I do not doubt that your cubes are probably a lot of fun to draft with since you put so much work into them. But at the same time, there are people who like Snitches. Or funny combos they can pull off like once in ten games. Or to see how much unplayables they can get away with. Look at the MTGO cube, which is full of broken stuff. Personally, I find that cube stupid. But who am I to say that everyone one else who is clearly enjoying it is wrong?

    To provide an example: My cube contains all the cards I find fun, be it because they are fun to play with or have a fun name/picture on them. I just throw some cards in and almost never take some out (it contains around a thousand cards right now). I do try to make the cube somewhat balanced, by making sure both aggro and control are playable and by weaving some themes like tribal or mono-color into it. But I hardly go out of my way to balance everything perfectly out. Blue and green, for example, are probably noticably stronger than white or red. (I can send you a link to my cube, if you’re interested, but I didn’t want to get this comment swallowed by the spam filter.)

    But that’s okay. I only take this cube out couple times a year when I travel to events, so I consider putting the work in to make it perfectly balanced a waste of time. It is much more important to me that the cube is fun to play with and creates some memorable stories. For example, my cube is full of cards like Army of the Damned, Primal Surge, Undying Flames, Omniscience etc. Most of these cards are either a Snitch or horribly unplayable, but if someone wants to have fun and try to Omniscience people out, they can. The experience will be memorable either way. There are also a lot of cascade cards in my cube, since I think the randomness is kinda fun in a controlled environment where no one takes winning as serious anyway. And I even plan to acquire some non-broken planeswalkers. I have a hard time believing that Liliana of the Dark Realms is broken and/or an un-fun card for a Mono-Black deck, for example.

    I’ve written way too much here, but bottom line is: Different people like different things. I actually agree with you on a lot of stuff, but please don’t pretend like everyone else who is having fun with different kinds of cubes i doing it wrong.

    • Well, if everyone has fun, you’re obviously not doing anything wrong. However, SOMEONE having fun is not the same as EVERYONE having fun; and there is also the difference between “shallow” fun, which wears out fast and has to be replaced with ever new sensations, and lasting fun. Especially stuff like Army of the Damned might be fun once or twice, but certainly not half a dozen times.

      That said, I have explicitly stated that I described the foundations for NEXT LEVEL CUBES; a specific kind of cube I have created with the intention to appeal to very casual players (in the literal sense of that term: players who only play very rarely) and very experienced players at the same time. If that is not your goal, my specifications my not apply for your creations, of course.

  3. The Thing with the 8 card handsize sounds kind of like casual groups playing with 40 life.

    I just can not imagine that it makes for better gameplay, since in the end the whole 2/2 for 2 being the marque size depends on the reference frame, which is 7 cards 20 life. I imagine it making lategame cards better and offsetting for playing too few land.

    I have to admit not having tried a larger handsize ever. It’s just one of those things that raises an eyebrow, because it feels like trying to get the game to become something it isn’t, i.e. close to no variance (not that I would be opposed to that idea).

    • You cannot compare an extra card in the opening hand with doubling players’ life totals. That’s ridiculous.
      Note that mulligan rules have already been subject to change since the first rules edition (actually, introducing the mulligan itself was such a change)! If you are familiar with these changes, you will certainly agree they were for the better!
      Note also that the original Magic rules did not foresee the emergence of two completely different play categories (constructed and limited). They didn’t mention 60-card decks. They knew no 4-of restriction. Do you agree that these changes were extremely positive?
      Limited plays completely different from constructed. If you think about it, it is just naive to assume that the same hand size would be the best choice for both formats. I certainly wouldn’t add an extra card to constructed starting hands!
      I’m really not sure you have thought about this. Why should lategame decks profit the most from an extra card? In constructed, the strategies most strengthened by this would be combo and burn, which gain the most by higher consistency and higher starting hand size. Control, on the other hand, would become less attractive, since its biggest advantage – card advantage – would be lessened. You certainly understand why, for example, 4 to 3 cards is less of an advantage than 3 to 2, right?
      What the extra card actually does is smooth out your first turns, which obviously leads to a better gameplay experience. This means, in limited, that aggressive decks are slightly strengthened, because for them the first turns are especially important – defensive decks aren’t actually doing anything during those first turns, just trying not to fall too far behind. (In constructed, control decks actually do omportant stuff during the very first turns – that is different.)
      This means there are two reasons why aggro profits form the 8th card: More consistent early turns and less disadvantage against card advantage. On the other hand, control has a better chance to find a stopper card, as well as the mana for such a card. I cannot say if this cancels out exactly, but I am convinced that after weighing benefits for both sides, the overall bias, no matter which direction it goes, is completely overshadowed by the choices you make when designing a cube.
      As for playing fewer lands: Think again! You can compare the percentages of getting x lands on turn y for starting hands of 7 and 8 cards. Obviously, they’re higher for 8 cards… but then compare 7 card percentages with those of 8 cards, but one less land played, and you will realize, that for lategame cards, that is a not a great deal at all. Once again, the possibility to play slightly fewer lands and still get consistent draws is cancelled out by the attraction to play slightly more lands because you now can play more expensive drops a little more reliable and thus want a slightly higher mana curve.
      I’m not sure that you really want to play even 1 less land overall even in monocolor decks (and even if that was the case, how much do you think would that change the dynamics of the game)? In two-colored decks, one less land is even more of an issue – going from 16 to 15 is one thing, but going from 9 to 8 quite another. If you’re already on the fence between X and X+1 lands overall, the extra card might convince you to include one less, but I am convinced you’d be a fool if you took it for a a reason to generally play fewer lands.
      After testing it for quite a while, I can assure you, that there are exactly two changes you actually notice while playing: You mulligan less often, and mulligans hurt less (once more, 7/8 is less disadvnatgeous than 6/7). In costructed, I’m prepared to accept that this MIGHT be an issue. In limited, I don’t see how this can be anything but a net positive.

  4. I think going back to the beginning of magic is a bit far. Of course I am aware that there were differences in mulligans etc. Those changes all enabled more gameplay while still keeping resources restricted. As I said I am not opposing what you are doing, I just think it changes significantly more than one would think and therefor I am always a little skeptical when I hear people talking about making fundamental changes and claiming them to only improve everything and changing very little else.

    In my opinion a lot of the fun gameplay comes from the restriction of resources. One of those restrictions is that mulliganing is a chance for improvement, but loosing that card really hurts. It actually kind of exponentially hurts more. Therefor you have to ensure while building your deck not to get hurt that much in the case of mulliganing (which over the course of 3 rounds is nearly inevitably happening once with 7 card starting hands). So you have to calculate risk and reward. You have to know when your aggro deck needs the 18 land because you can not afford to mulligan in search of lands or when you play 16 when you really need the extra staying power. The card more, in my eyes, takes away from this strategical depth. How much it takes away I can not quantify, without spending too much time on this question.

    The next thing I would like to ask you is if 8 cards is ok, then why not 9 or 10? Where is the number where your logic (which as it is explained above is independent from the actual number) starts to not hold anymore? When does more become less good for gameplay?

    As I said you probably want the drafting to be more decisive in who is winning and reduce variance. These are nice goals, which I would certainly not object, but I am not sure if they really are as positive as you claim them to be, Since making a single card matter less is a pretty big deal in terms of actual gameplay (which is more than just mulliganing).

    To end this on a different note I really like the idea of next level cubes and if the PTQ and GP schedules would not be so packed that there always is a relevant format to playtest for I might even try one of them.

    • You should realize that I’m actually treading VERY carefully so far with regards to game rule changes. I would never have touched the starting life total, as Vanguard already did over fifteen years ago, and never seriously considered the very tempting Spoilz mulligan (once, exchange selected cards from starting hand with freshly drawn ones). I am fully aware that Magic card design is done acknowledging certain parameters, and thus I keep at those parameters nearly 100% unless I design my own sets (which I do). Heck, I have even accepted the loss of combat damage on the stack, although this hurts gameplay a LOT!
      Nonetheless, constructed and limited tusing the same startzing hand size is just something which has never been questioned at all, although it should have been. Would you want to play constructed with 40 card decks again? Certainly not; the needs of constructed call for a larger decksize. Now, you surely realize that the starting handsize in Magic is calibrated for constructed decks, where it is ideal (it might or might not have been so in the very beginning, but certainly is nowadays with about 10.000 cards designed with it in mind). There is no reason to assume that the same specificiation is also ideal for limited, where the influence you can exert over the contents of your opening hand is nearly an order of magnitude lesser than in constructed.
      I very carefully watched the outcome of my experiment, and I can guarantee you that the outcome is simply a clearly smaller percentage of “non-games” due to mana screw, while dech-building still follows the exact same lines. The difference is just not enough to allow for a change of strategy.
      I’m not going up to 9 cards simply because there is no need to – I have achieved my goal and do not want to change the game’s rules just for the sake of changing. Also, there will very certainly soon be a point when more extra cards will impact strategy noticably.
      And I never claimed that extra cards in general don’t unbalance stragegies, just that the change I use is too small to produce a noticable bias (and that explicitly only i limited).
      A word about your 18 lands in an aggro deck example: You once again overlook that the value of absolute card advantage diminishes with increasing numbers. The extra card in your starting hand gives you an additional 14% resources on your first turn, which is relevant in deciding if you can get two lands out on turn two reliably. If, however, you care about getting to four lands on turn four (which I assume ist the basis for wanting to play 18 lands in an aggressive deck), that extra card is only an additional 8-9% in ressources, and if you care about using lategame card, which you will do at about turn 7, I guess, it gives you only a 6-7% bonus. This does in no way offset playing a land less.
      You do not lose any strategical depth, because the dedisions are still there anyway – even IF you now have the option to play one less land, you still have to determine the correct amount just like you did before. However, you have a clear gain in tactical options, because there will be more games where you actually have options (since you’re neither screwed nor flooded).
      You could just trust me that I have thought this out as well as tested out well, though…

  5. chickenfood91 Says:

    I think you two live in two diffrent realities.
    I watched a little bit over the cards in greenhouse effect and Andi left out nerly every card that ist disproportionate better on the first turn, e.g. mana elves, which Andi hates for a reason he alone understands.
    Andi loves smooth Manacures and he helps a little bit to get there. The reality of Magic today, the cards Till is used to is diffrent.

    • cf, I did not leave ot mana elves for power reasons; they just didn’t fit that cube. I keep both Arbor Elf and Wild Growth in my limited pool and they make my cubes more often than not, since they are in no way unbalanced in limited. They are an issue in constructed, because they restrict design (3-mana LD, for example, woukd be perfectly fine if it actually had to be played on turn three) and are one of the driving forces of reliably achievable 2nd- and 3rd-turn kill. Also, a three-to-one mana advantage that doesn’t cost you a card is very unbalancing in general. These Elves avoid the one-land-per-turn restriction too cheaply and efficiently. That they push nearly every other non-mana-producing green one-drop out of constructed formats is just another reason they shouldn’t exist. They’re from the same stock of design mistakes where the Moxes and Sol Ring stem from.

Comments are closed.