Introducing the Set Cube

Cards and Spreadsheets, a match made in Heaven

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…

Continue reading “Introducing the Set Cube”

I’amrakul’s Complete Lack of Surprise

On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.

Emrakul Scooby
Those Meddling Planeswalkers

Today, WotC announced that Emrakul is the huge threat on Innistrad. This came as a complete non-shock to many and received a “Ho Hum” from the internet. All of the clues were laid out for those that wanted to follow them and it was pretty spelled out. Sure, I was on team Marit Lage (The Planeswalker/Cosmic Horror from Dark Depths), but I mean I knew it was the Great Spaghetti Goddess.

But players, like they always do, complain that this wasn’t some great twist. As if we were expecting something like a Sixth Sense ending (or to play off this title’s connection, Fight Club (Explanation of the other part of the title can be found here in the story)). Instead we get something that everyone was expecting; Mike Linnemann (@VorthosMike) had been going on this for a while. But, it makes sense storywise. Let’s all calm down breathe deeply and take a look at why this was an okay move for WotC. Continue reading “I’amrakul’s Complete Lack of Surprise”

Tomorrow Comes Today – Announcement Day for Future Products

Way better than Big Block of Cheese Day

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Saheeli Rai, Planeswalker

Today on the Mothership, they announced an “Announcement Day.” In this Announcement Day, WotC announced the future products for the rest of the 2016 year. The announcements are as follows (announced release order):

  • August 26: Conspiracy – Take the Crown Draft Sets available at mass market stores.
  • September 2: Duel Decks: Nizza vs. Ob Nixilis 
  • September 30: Kaladesh – Fall Large Set. Previews begin PAX weekend (September 2)
  • November 11: Commander 2016
  • November 25: Planechase Anthology
  • Janurary 20, 2017: Aether Revolt – Winter Small Set.

And the following changes:

  • Intro Decks become Planeswalker Decks
  • Fat Packs become [Set Name] Bundle

Let’s take a look at each one and what all of this means. Continue reading “Tomorrow Comes Today – Announcement Day for Future Products”

Non-Comprehensive Thoughts on Unofficial Leaks

Mana LeakI have a very interesting perspective in all of this leak discussion and I’m going to be a little vain and egotistical for a moment. I apologize in advance for that.

For the first five years of the PAX party here in Seattle, I felt that I had a job I had to do. For those that don’t know, the PAX party held every PAX Prime shows off the new plane for the upcoming year. During that party WotC prints up a bunch of oversized cards from the new set for people to see. It’s been my “job” to get the photos of those cards onto the internet, mainly through my twitter feed (@MTGColorPie, shameless plug). Is this a job that’s be officially sanctioned by WotC? Am I getting paid for this job? No. But when the party happens, there were members of WotC who let me know if other preview cards are coming up (Pay attention to those cards on the wall, something might happen to them later – Innistrad Flip card debut), or making sure I get all of the ones that were on display.

Let me tell you something, it’s a rush to be able to be one of the first ones to see a new card. Take a photo of it, and send it off to the internet for the community to digest. There’s a bunch of pride there; I’ve seen my images from PAX being used on eBay auctions to the rumor forums to Tumblr and a bunch of fan sites. That feeling of that it was you who “previewed” this card is thrilling and you felt like you did the community some good.

Continue reading “Non-Comprehensive Thoughts on Unofficial Leaks”

Data Dump – Categories of Banned Cards in Modern

Dig Through TimeThe new Banned and Restricted list was announced today. I don’t have much to say about that since I don’t play the formats regularly. But with the three cards banned today from Modern, I thought it might be good to take a look at why these cards got the axe. This is by no means an extensive list nor the only reason why these cards are banned, but they give you an idea of what kind of cards continue to be problem cards.

You should care about this because when you’re looking at mechanics you should analyze them from a Spike’s point of view. The Spike player wants to maximize any and all value our of every card they have and usually a card gets banned because it has become too oppressive. You need to get some perspective from people who play the game competitively to see if your cards are balanced (besides playtesting to see how they operate of course).

Good designers are not always good developers, and vice versa.

When I saw Treasure Cruise for the first time, I didn’t think it would make it out of Standard as the cost of exiling seven cards in a format where you might want your graveyard (Modern/Legacy) was a bit too much. Obviously I was wrong.

You obviously need playtesting to see how your created cards pan out, but don’t just subscribe to what someone on the internet about cost. In recent years, I’ve tried to stay away from that more and more since you need to know too many things to get the cost just right (Like the environment the card is being printed in, for example). All I can do is give you a best guess based on previous cards that do roughly the same thing. A vanilla 2/2 for 1G is going to be a safe bet; a vanilla 2/2 for U is a much harder sell.

This is just an observational list to see if your cards fall into any of these categories. This doesn’t mean that don’t design any cards that fit into any of these (some of my favorite cards can fit into these categories), but just pay attention of what the cards do. Please pay attention that the more ban worthy cards fit into more than one category like drawing cards cheaply. Some cards I leave off this list because they weren’t broken unless they were combined with another card (Dark Depths, the Artifact Lands) or they were just too good without really breaking any of these rules (Deathrite Shaman).

Cards that reduce their own casting cost:

  • Ancestral Vision
  • Blazing Shoal
  • Dig Through Time
  • Dread Return
  • Hypergenesis
  • Mental Misstep
  • Treasure Cruise

Cards that cheat a cost:

  • Ancestral Vision
  • Birthing Pod
  • Blazing Shoal
  • Bloodbraid Elf
  • Hypergenesis
  • Stoneforge Mystic

Cards that provide more than 1 mana:

  • Cloudpost
  • Rite of Flame
  • Seething Song

Cards that have repeatable effects:

  • Birthing Pod
  • Green Sun’s Zenith
  • Jace, the Mind Sculptor
  • Punishing Fire
  • Skullclamp
  • Sword of the Meek
  • Umezawa’s Jitte

Cards that draw extra cards cheaply:

  • Ancestral Vision (3 cards for free)
  • Dig Through Time (2 cards out of next 7 for UU)
  • Glimpse of Nature (X cards for G)
  • Jace, the Mind Sculptor (1 card out of next 3 for free)
  • Ponder (1 card out of next 3 for U)
  • Preordain (1 card out of next 2 or 3 for U)
  • Sensei’s Divining Top (1 card for free)
  • Skullclamp (2 cards for 1)
  • Treasure Cruise (3 cards for U)

Cards that extend game time that for tournaments:

  • Birthing Pod (Repeatable Shuffling/Decision Making)
  • Jace, the Mind Sculptor (Repeatable Decision Making for 2 Modes)
  • Second Sunrise (Repeatable Loop)
  • Sensei’s Divining Top (Repeatable Decision Making)

This is not a commentary on any of these cards, just an observation.