Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Cube Mechanics - November: The Coming Storm...

Greetings all -
I decided to start this, and eventually have Andy take it over, but we have several new players (and possible new players), and I wanted to take a few minutes and go over some of the Cube Archetypes that are available in the Cube.  Andy and I argue a lot over inclusions/exclusions for the cube because I'm a little more reckless, while Andy is a little more balanced and has a lot more experience drafting (and playing).  I'd like to go over an archetype that currently doesn't exist fully (work in progress) that we are looking to implement a little more support for in the near future.

Its important to know the philosophy that Andy and I agreed on while developing this cube.  We are attempting to follow the these rules and guidelines:

1 - Fun First.  Some cubes run certain rules just to help them have an easier job keeping balance and picking cards.  That is why most cubes limit to singletons (meaning no more than 1 copy of a given card)  We prefer to be open to whatever is going to give us consistent access to fun decks while drafting.  This is why we doubled-up on Fetch Lands to make sure that with the slightest care while drafting, you should be able to access a good mana base for a 2-3 color deck.

2 - We are creature heavy.  This keeps games interactive, and for those of us that I like to refer to as "Elder Dragons" who have been playing for a while, there's a kind of Nostalgic compensation received when you "Cast a Summon Spell".  If possible, we prefer to include creatures with utility abilities instead of spells.  Examples of this "On a Stick" preference are Nekrataal (Terror), Dark Confidant(Dark Tutelage) and Man-O-War(Boomerang).  These have abilities that mirror Instants, Sorceries, enchantments and artifacts, but the fact that they come with a body attached make them more interactive and keeps the amount of answers to various spells/Enchantments/Artifacts that we need in the cube to a minimum, freeing up those slots for more (you guessed it) creatures!

3 - Multi-Color Cards are guides.  We have been trying very hard to have the "Gold" cards represent hints as to what support is available within a specific color combination.  There are certainly gold cards that are "Just good" - mostly in the form of answers (Abrupt Decay, Vindicate), but overall these are the guides to the mechanics and synergies of a given color combination.  In some cases, we are still fleshing out color combinations we think are weak, without disrupting the individual colors.  Take Green/White as an example: 

So, this is an indication of Green/White being able to easily support a tokens deck (primarily lots of small creatures).

Black/Green seems to just have support for a lot of different mechanics available in the cube, so it's a bit messy.

Blue/Red honestly hasn't been looking very good, so we made a decision to gear it towards a storm-like archetype.  This is a little tough, due to rule #1 above, but there is enough there to make it happen, and I'd be happy to draft it.  We have no actual cards with the storm ability currently, but the meaning of storm-like would be defined in our terms as rewarding you for playing spells. So although we are primarily creature based in the cube, we need to give colors access to what they do well in order to be balanced.  Blue likes to draw cards, counter spells and fly in.  Red likes to burn with direct damage and get in fast and furious with creatures.  Red already had some support for rewarding burn spells in the form of Young Pyromancer and Grim Lavamancer, we used the opportunity of a few cards that needed replacing in each color to enable this archetype.  We had decided a while ago that we would be removing the Landfall subtheme (which was only put in place because we had doubled-up on Fetch Lands), which meant removing Plated Geopede.  

The goal was to replace this card with a 1-2 CMC card that fit Red's natural affinity for swinging in fast with creatures, as well as playing burn spells.  We couldn't find it, because it didn't exist yet, so Geopede stayed.  Then Wizards released Khans of Tarkir and we found our answer:

Along the same lines, we wanted to remove

 since it had been added because of Landfall.  The upside was that Meloku also generated creature tokens that had flying.  So we wanted to include a creature that instead rewarded you for playing spells and generated flying creatures for 4 mana or less.  Welcome to the cube Talrand:

So this leads me to the first archetype review, which has not yet been fully implemented, but should be there with a few tweaks by the next cube.

U/R Storm(ish)

General Strategy: Cast Instant and sorcery spells to either burn or disrupt your opponent, and let your permanents do the extra work.  Keeping card advantage is key, so draw spells are good.  Deal lots of direct damage and end the game quickly.
Key Players:
Burn Spells - These will help you win the Life total race, provide creature removal and act as fodder for your permanents that care about spells.
Counterspells - Provides control, and again, fodder.
Cards that care about spells - These are primarily in red, as blue adds a level of control and card draw, other than Talrand, currently blue doesn't have other cards that care about spells.  In Red we have Monastery Swiftspear and Young Pyromancer.  These are the direct enablers (with more to be added soon), but we also have some secondary cards that work specifically well with burn, like the cards with Bloodthirst (Gorehorn Minotaurs, Stormblood Berserker) and additionally, if you can grab him, Purphoros, God of the Forge adds some  zing for your token generating permanents and spells.  

Let me do a quick draft to see how I would construct a U/R burn deck now without the full implementation:

My Picks:

  1. Wheel of Fortune.  Sorcery + Card advantage, since most of my spells are low cmc
  2. Faithless Looting:  Hoping to get some flashback cards, and this is a good way to drop cards you don't need in the late game for cards to finish the job.

  3. It may have been better to go for the Izzet charm here for utility, but if I'm able to grab a couple of token generators, this can be devastating.  Andy would disagree with me here.
  4. Gives us some extra use out of those burn/counter spells we like to play.
  5. Cast once, damage twice - two spells for one.  This is our friend.
  6. As long as I am winning the race, I want this guy.
  7. Some card advantage, not great, but our best option here.
  8. Card advantage - 1cmc
  9. Whatever, not a great pack for me.
  10. Again...
  11. Hey, it came back to us!
  12. Nothing here, so I'm grabbing something I don't want to see hit my opponents board.
  13. Meh.
  14. Meheh.
  15. Meheheh.
  16. Fresh stock.  Tarn or incinerate?....I need the burn.
  17. Opps, this guy is not actually in the cube, but I'll take him!
  18. 1CMC instant.  Happy.
  19. Little ball lightning that can be cast from the yard after a Wheel of Fortune or Faithless looting - good enough for me.
  20. Counter
  21. Some artifact control I guess.
  22. Mana!
  23. Counter, draw, yes!
  24. Mana!
  25. Some "Defense"
  26. Nothing here, but I don't like to play against this chick.
  27. 1Drop, nice
  28. Meh
  29. Meheh
  30. Meheheh
  31. Terrrible!  Young Pyromancer, Swiftspear and counterspell in a single pack!  I need some early game support...whatever.  Pyromancer was the better pick probably, but I want to play with the new card. Wheel baby, wheel.
  32. Mana!
  33. Mana!
  34. Dumb..should have just picked up the flicker.  after picking this up I realized this should come out of the cube, since almost all non-basics are fetch-lands that can be sacked in response to this sorcery speed-do-nothing.
  35. Counter!
  36. Yay!  Gaining some ground with this guy!
  37. Counter!
  38. Burn +Flasshback, yes please.
  39. Counter +Cycling=possible card advantage.
  40. Its a 1 drop, not part of my strategy, but its at the very least a Flying Men
  41. Hate-draft.
  42. Love this guy.
  43. A 1 Drop, with some possible utility.
  44. Meh.
  45. Fine.

This looks fun to me.  I has a low curve with draw and burn, with some repeatable spells and cheap creatures.  I'll save and playtest this deck and let you know how it goes.  After all is accounted for, I am sitting on 13 Instants/Sorceries (16 if you count flashback and rebound), and some fast creatures.  I would totally play this deck, would you?

Please note this is not totally implemented yet, but we'll get around to it when we get around to it.

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