Introducing the Set Cube

Cards and Spreadsheets, a match made in Heaven

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Cube P1P1 - 7-12
What’s your P1P1?

If I had to pick between design and development, I’m pretty easily sitting on the design side. Sure, I can hunt and peck and guesstimate development, but it’s not something that’s my strong side. I know that and I can live with the limitation. So why did I take on one of the most develop-y things I could do: building a cube?

Because it’s fun.

Plus, what else am I going to do with cards that aren’t in my Commander decks?

When I decide to get expensive/foil cards, Commander is still my preferred format. But I’ve wanted to get into some more drafting so I decided to build a cube. If you don’t know what a cube is, watch this helpful video from Tolarian Community College:

So I built a pauper cube and it was fun for a while. I followed around Adam Stybroksi’s pauper cube and it fun but I wanted more power, more umph. But I didn’t want to strip my Commander decks full of cards to get a cube going. So I set up some rules for myself:

Modern legal only

This was an easy one. Sure I might have missed some great cards if I dipped into Eternal formats but this way I only get a few broken cards instead of full colors. This allowed me to keep the Reserved List out of the cube and keep costs lower than what it could be.

No foils or exotic cards

Cube is the other format where players like to foil out their decks or get the Russian foil whatever to make their cubes stand out. Those type of cards are for my Commander decks. Plus, I feel as if I keep everything non-foil, I won’t hesitate to take it out for a better card. I’ve discovered I’ve had this problem in my Commander decks from time to time. Of course I feel that’s ok in Commander since I’m not a cutthroat kind of guy in that format (except when I play my Sygg, River Cutthroat deck).

Something else was missing. Being a Johnny, I wanted to make the cube unique. Building a Modern-legal cube seemed fun, but I had fears it wasn’t going to be too different than the rest of the cubes I’ve seen. So I started to think about what could make this cube different.

But, what if it was all one set?

I’ve seen people build set/block cubes, like with Ravnica and Innistrad. That seemed kind of fun. It wasn’t really what I was going after.

What if it was a set, like Modern Masters?

Well a cube is kinda like Modern Masters…

What if rarity mattered?

Wait, what?

What if each color, color combination, and colorless had so many mythic, rare, uncommon and common spots?

…Go on…

I haven’t heard of anyone doing this before, so if they have, I’d love to take a look at their list. Cubes need to be at least 360 (three packs of 15 cards = 45 cards per a person and for 8 people it needs to be 360 cards to have none left over) cards, so I searched for sets with the highest amount of cards.

5th Edition had 429 total cards.

Shadows Over Innistrad is the largest large set since Magic 2010 (where I started my counting), and it has 297 cards. 5th Edition is huge. I mean, when you have such amazing cards as Dancing Scimitar, Dragon Engine, Hecatomb, Helm of Chatzuk, Icatian Town, Ironclaw Curse, Living Artifact, Magical Hack, Obelisk of Undoing, Orcish Squatters, Pentagram of the Ages, Rag Man, Sibilant Spirit, Slight of Mind, Stampede, Truce, Warped Artifact, and Wyluli Wolf in your rare spots, it sure is hard to cut down.

Now, 5th Edition didn’t have Mythic cards. So I was going to have to figure out what that meant for our Set Cube. Math:

Cube Math - 1

I did the math from M10 onwards of large sets (It was the first core set with Mythics). The top section is the number of each rarity for the sets plus the total. The middle section is the percentages of that comparative to the number of cards in the set. What we get is about 6% of a set’s cards are Mythic, 22% is Rares, 29% is Uncommons, and 42% are Commons. So in a set of 429 cards, 6% of that would be just over 27 Mythics.

That’s how big 5th Edition.

If a card was available in a lower rarity, I took it. Scion of the Wild at Common? Yes, please. I know that rarity, especially in putting together sets, all depend on the draft environment and how often you want a card to show up (why you see some cards at Mythic when they’re not very “Mythic”, they most likely destroyed the limited environment). With a cube, you only have one card of each, so you’re not worried about a lower rarity because you won’t see it over and over again since it has the same odds as any other card showing up. For this exercise, I took the benefit (only Garruk Wildspeaker wasn’t shfited to Rare, he can be Mythic like every other Planeswalker).

Then came the breakdown of the colors. I decided that each allied color pair was going to have one Mythic, two Rares, two Uncommons and three Commons while enemy pairs were going to have one Rare, two Uncommons and two Commons (I later added that each enemy color was to get one mythic as well adding on five more cards to the size of the cube). Leaving some space for colorless cards, I split up the colors equally (though to make some cube purists mad, anything that had an off-color activation doesn’t count as a multicolor card, it just works with that multicolor pair).

After that was the most crucial point of this entire exercise: card types matter.

I figured that even though I had rarity mattering in the larger overall picture, why not go the full way and find out what each color needs for card types? This final step made it feel like a set as well as a cube. It created a challenge as how were you going to get all of the card types into color of that rarity. Blue gets one maybe two Rare Instants? Which one do you pick? Sure, I could throw in whatever in the rarity of my choosing though I thought that took away from the exercise.

So I did more math. I took the color/rarity/card type count (ignoring mono-colored) and got the percentages of each combined. Since there were some sets that focusing on enchantments or artifacts more, getting all of those sets I was able to find a nice comfortable number. Getting the percentages for all of my sections I applied that to my new cube numbers and got this:

Cube Math - 2

Some notes:

  • The Artifact numbers are a little off since I don’t think I’m running all common artifact creatures, but that’s because Artifacts weren’t in the formula I used.
  • Mythics weren’t held to these numbers as they could do what they wanted. Each color received at least a Planeswalker.
  • The numbers were a guildeline and if I had one more creature or rounded up, it wasn’t a big deal as we were close enough. Most of the time, I sided with more Creatures.
  • Yes, the multicolored cards would hold to those numbers. I wanted the colors to have different playstyles instead of just the best creature/spell at each. It made some hard choices and lead to this bunch of tweets I made last week:

It came time to break down the color combinations in to pairs for drafting. I looked at what the Masters series has done and borrowed what I liked and didn’t like from it there. If a card was just too expensive that I didn’t have, I moved on to the next one. The Top Cards section on CubeTutor helped out because I could see what people played and what worked (seeing how often they were drafted vs. passed). I’m not worried about trying to do what WotC would actually put in a set like this from a secondary market value, but I wanted to be semi-realistic. If this set was drafted in packs instead of a Cube, I would but more effects that want the multiple cards opened.

Color pairs:

White/Blue – Artifact/Blink
White/Black – Drain life/Soulshift/Arcane
Blue/Black – Counters (Proliferate/Wither/Infect)
Blue/Red – Spells
Black/Green – “Circle of Life”
Black/Red – Aggro/Bloodthirst
Red/Green – Ramping/Landfall
Red/White – Voltron (Equipment and Auras)
Green/White – Tokens/Convoke
Green/Blue – +1/+1 Counters/Graft

I also looked at what the three color combinations might be when looked at what the color pairs should focus on. If they splashed for that ability, I wanted it to work together than just saying it was a good card to do so. For the most part, I’m pretty happy with how this went as a very distant “something to keep in mind” section.

So there are some funky choices in the cube: Spiritual Visit, Clockspinning, Bloodcrazed Hoplite, Wall of Limbs, Horobi’s Whisper, Kazuul’s Toll Collector, Servant of the Scale, Exploding Borders, Bioshift, and Bred for the Hunt. That’s the fun of a cube is you can design it to be however you want it to be. These cards work within certain decktypes and allow you to grab them later for value.

Some other notes:

Hey, WotC, can we give Blue/Black something other to do than milling? It was really hard to find cards in those cards that don’t mill. Except for the God in Born of the Gods, four out of five of Blue/Black Modern-legal enchantments came from Shadowmoor. That set sure loved it cycles but Blue/Black should get some more enchantments. Also, Blue/Red needs an enchantment too. It’s never had one.

There’s almost no milling in this set. Why? Even if I wanted to put a few cards in here, I don’t think that archetype would get pushed enough. The times I’ve played I haven’t see anyone happy to draft mill. Black/Green might benefit from a little more self-milling, but I’m not sure I’ll miss it.

Yes, I went with several powerful cards in draft: Pack Rat, Grave Titan, Thragtusk. I didn’t say I would weaken this “set”, just not as crazy and something Eternal legal.

Speaking of Eternal legal, I decided that nothing new from the Commander sets or Planechase/Conspiracy would be in this set. That might be for a different Cube.

I don’t have the traditional White Weenie or Mono Blue control in here as I focused on trying to get color pair combinations just right. I’m also only running one Wastes instead of treating it like a basic land where you get as many copies as you want apparently, that’s a big thing when I’ve done the P1P1 images on Twitter (@mtgcolorpie).

There are only two non-land cycles in this set (but both deal with mana). My pauper cube had so many cycles (along with the very old version of this Cube) that I just wasn’t look for any to shove in here. Again, some of it is to keep gameplay fresh (why have all the Titans?). As for the cycles I went with the following:

  • Common basic land cyclers from Alara Reborn. I just love theses.
  • Rare lands from M10/Innistrad for a full cycle of 10. I didn’t need the Shocklands and I wasn’t going to fill this cube with Fetchlands. These lands will most likely replaced when we get new SOI Reveal-lands or SOM Fastlands. Then I’ll balance them out for what the color wants to do with them.
  • Uncommon Khans of Tarkir Wedge Lands.I purposely wanted something that was enemy color and I figured I might as well go three color instead of two. Maybe it will allow some splashing.
  • Common Shards of Alara Panoramas. Adds a colorless, but also three colors so a variety of decks can use them.
  • Common allied Signets. I had all 10 Cluestones in the previous incarnation of this Cube, but this gives it a much different feel. I couldn’t put all 10 in the common spot so if the Wedge Lands were there, these were common.

Will this give enough mana fixing? I’m hoping so.

If you want to draft this cube, you can. Here’s the link for CubeTutor where I’ve got it all online. It’s missing the cards from Eldritch Moon:

  • Remand out – Unsubstantiate in
  • Graf Harvest, Haunted Dead in
  • Swift Spinner in
  • Geir Reach Sanitrarium in

They aren’t available on CubeTutor yet, but when that happens the changes will be made.

I’m curious to hear from the Cube experts about this concept. It started out as a philosophical idea then turned into a real one. I’m still debating if I need to make it more streamlined with the mechanics (only one Soulbond) or keep it open. The might need to be more hate cards (is there too much flying in Blue?), or shift the Red/White Voltron to Equipment only, but I’m happy with this first go around.

This has been a pretty fun experience and I’ll update from time to time, but I’ll try and keep the CubeTutor site current. After I get some games in I’ll come back with some notes and see what did and didn’t work. This is going to shoehorn into another project I’m working on that I’ll get into in just a little bit.

Let me know your thoughts, concerns or questions.

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