The Community Cube: Set List

The votes are in, and the Community Cube design and development is well under way! Last week broke down some important votes in every section—colors, artifacts, lands, and more—and put you in control of its destiny. Now the votes are in, and decisions will be made again. Let’s recap the turnout:

  • The net breakdown of the Cube should be 60 to 70 per color, 30 to 40 lands, 40 to 50 artifacts, 50 to 60 multicolored cards.
  • White was cleared for being balanced, not hyperaggressive, and without a Soldier subtheme.
  • Blue was cleared to be very spell-intensive and controlling.
  • Black was cleared for balance, to work well with both aggressive and controlling strategies, without a “Black matters” subtheme (by a very narrow margin).
  • Red was cleared to be very aggressive, but without the powerful “Hill Giant” midrange subtheme.
  • Green, too, was cleared to be aggressive, but would also include a strong mana-fixing/mana-ramping subtheme.
  • Multicolored cards were cleared to be set equally, with every pair represented the same.
  • Artifacts would not include cards with colored activated abilities, and would include all the Ravnica-block Signets.
  • Lands would include all of the Ravnica-block “bounce” or “Karoo” lands.

While you may have voted for a different option (there were several where I voted against the grain, too) this is the culmination of the majority, an aggregate of everyone’s influence. Now what does this mean?

  • White’s mana curve should be a little flatter, and carry some spells and creatures specifically not meant for aggro.
  • Blue can short its creatures for the most powerful spells it can.
  • Black’s mana curve should be a little flatter, and carry some spells and creatures specifically not meant for aggro.
  • Red should have a sharp mana curve, focusing on cheaper, aggressive creatures.
  • Green should have a sharp mana curve, focusing on cheaper, aggressive creatures while pushing a mana-fixing/mana-ramping theme.
  • Multicolored cards should be equal across all pairs. The total will be a multiple of 10—50 or 60—and nothing else.
  • Artifacts would include the Signets. The total number of “locked” cards is 10.
  • Lands would include the bounce lands. The total number of “locked” cards is 10.

I’ll get to what it means to be “locked” in those respective sections. For now, here’s what’s on deck for this article:

  • Discuss each section, clarifying if cards need to be cut or added, and why.
  • Provide a vote on overall eligibility standards for the Cube.
  • Call for suggested additions/cuts—your suggestions will be taken in aggregate for voting next week.

Sounds pretty simple, right? I’ll be making things as painless as possible, but it will still be up to you to determine what you want to see stay or go, or to be added, as needed. I’ll help, and some outside experts will be providing feedback for next week’s article as well, but it will take everyone’s eyes to determine the changes.

Let’s get started!

The Long-Form Certificate

The first poll this week is one close to my heart, but ultimately still up to the community at large. Including cards from Unglued and Unhinged is a decision that has a smaller impact on the Cube than you may think. I shared my thoughts about using these types of cards before, specifically pointing out some cards I’ve included in my Cube.

The general theory I proposed was this: Some cards are perfectly fine in “normal Magic” gameplay. AWOL, Land Aid '04, Carnivorous Death-Parrot, and a few other cards really don’t break the game in the same way that the Gotcha! keyword and other Un- cards do.

While I am an advocate, using these cards does make the Cube MTGO-ineligible (no Un- cards, other than basic lands, are online) and can be off-putting for those who equate every silver-bordered experience with “that one time when Unhinged was released.” It’s your call.

This option would impact the following cards:



Should cards from Unglued and Unhinged be included in the Cube?

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While “using all commons” may seem fairly simple, the fact is that there are a few ways to slice that idea. Here are the three main approaches.

Use only commons printed as a common, as per Gatherer. This solution is the most common and straightforward, and the one to which I adhere for my personal Cube. While early Magic sets are a block of fuzzy void for the vast majority of players, the vast majority of commons that make it into Pauper Cubes are from modern sets, or features reprints in modern product releases.

The downside of this approach is threefold:

  • A select few commons are actually quite rare and pricey (Sinkhole).
  • Many “rarity updates” from MTGO Master’s Edition releases aren’t applicable offline (Phantom Monster).
  • The cube isn’t MTGO-gameplay compatible.

The first disadvantage is fairly negligible; the expensive commons are generally not “required” inclusions. While Sinkhole can be very powerful, it’s a member of a class of cards that are most effective early in the game. Additionally, there aren’t really any “must-kill” lands at common (Maze of Ith, Academy Ruins, Volrath's Stronghold, etc. are all rare).

The second disadvantage is more compelling. For example, I desperately want to put Phantom Monster into my Cube. When a card clearly fits in specific slots, or feels like and is treated as a common by current Magic development, it’s hard to just forget it and walk away.

The third disadvantage is probably the worst. Through some online websites, the Cube—regardless of actual selections restriction—will be draftable. Everyone will be able to participate in mock drafts, and feel out exactly what the Cube is like. By using a paper rarity scheme, drafted decks may not be compatible with being played online. Mercadian Masques block isn’t online, and some cards from Magic’s early history aren’t either.

Selecting this option would exclude the following cards:

Use only commons available as commons through MTGO. This eligibility restriction isn’t unusual at all. For example, Pauper is an online-only format with essentially the same selection. Similar to a paper rarity scheme, there are some disadvantages:

  • Many Magic cards are missing, namely, Mercadian Masques block and many commons from Magic’s origin.
  • The differential between rarity in a Master’s Edition set and a paper set can be extreme (Telekinesis).
  • Un- sets aren’t online.

Missing Mercadian Masques block is a severe detriment. While some special products have cards from that era (Invigorate and Daze have been in duel decks releases), several choice possibilities haven’t been given the modern treatment (Waterfront Bouncer, Fault Riders). This is an incredibly steep drawback; some cards just don’t exist online.

Similarly, the Master’s Edition releases have brought to MTGO hundreds of cards that would otherwise languish offline. However, modern design and development has identified and shifted card rarity, causing what can be best characterized as “continuity problems” for online Pauper. Breath of Life and False Defeat are online, but not commons. Phantom Monster is a common online, but not offline. And Telekinesis was a rare only printed in Legends, but is a common online.

While using commons online would make it completely compatible with the MTGO potential, it would cause some odd experiences in working up a paper version. The Cube is meant for physical hands, but online play is a powerful draw for many Cube designers.

As a final note, without any Un- set releases online, choosing to go this route would eliminate Un- cards right out.

Selecting this option would exclude the following cards (including the Un- cards listed above):

Use commons from any release, paper or digital. This option includes the best of both worlds. Exactly as it reads: If a card was released as a common anywhere, it’s Cube-eligible. This is the up-front way the Cube lists were pulled together, and selecting this option keeps open every “possible” card.

However, just like the paper rarity options, choosing this method will exclude online gameplay of Cube decks drafted digitally.


Which Pauper eligibility method should be used?

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Double Rainbow

Regarding the initial list mentioned above, you can find it as a GoogleDoc located here. This will show you the complete initial pull generated for the Cube. The methodology was fairly simple: I aggregated several 360- to 500-card Cube lists, pulling in every unique card represented, from active and New Phyrexia–updated Cube lists.

What this means is that we have too many cards in most sections. The goal today is to start and foster discussion around which cards should come out or be added, and why. Here are some quick ground rules:

  • The discussion should take place on the Community Cube Facebook page. This keeps it in an interface we’re all likely familiar with, lets others like and comment on specific comments, and lets us post links to external lists and posts easily.
  • Basic reasoning should be expressed when listing cards to be cut. Simply “This is bad” is bad, really.
  • Similarly, a compelling reason should be given if listing a card to be added. It doesn’t have to be grand, just a thoughtful statement that clarifies why the recommended card is good.

No one is looking for an extremely detailed look into individual card choices at this stage; rough cuts must be made to trim the Cube to size, and actual gameplay with the Cube will obviously generate the type of feedback that would cause closer look at individual cards. Here’s an example of the type of feedback required this week:

I think the cycling land cycle from Onslaught is too redundant to the cycle from Urza’s Saga. Two colorless as the cycling cost lets more decks work with them.

Simple, clean, and right to the point is exactly what’s needed (and, yes, that’s how I feel about that cycle). All of the responses, including those from featured guests for next week, will be aggregated and set up as voting next week.

With semantics out of the way, let’s get down to business.

White

White currently has 84 cards. We’re looking at 14 or 19 cuts total. Do note that Un- eligibility would remove 1 card, and going to MTGO only would remove another 6 options. Some considerations:

  • There are 27 spells to 57 creatures, indicating that many more creatures should likely go first.
  • Some cards, like Glint Hawk Idol and Shade of Trokair, are significantly more demanding for White and aren’t as compatible with other colors.
  • Some global creature pump is included, like Fortify and Inspired Charge, but we do not have a hyperaggressive Soldier theme.

Blue

Blue currently has 79 cards, meaning around 9 or 14 cuts total. Note that Un- eligibility would remove 2 cards, and MTGO only would remove another 4. A few initial thoughts:

  • There are 40 creatures to 39 spells, a balanced total. However, Blue’s focus on spells means that some creatures should go first.
  • While Calcite Snapper and Giant Tortoise may seem unexciting, they provide a powerful tool for more controlling decks to slow the game down and defend with.
  • Without consistent mass removal, effects that can bounce multiple creatures become much more valuable than single-shot effects.

Black

Black currently has 74 cards, making 4 or 9 cuts total. Note that there are no Un- considerations, and only 3 MTGO-affected options. When taking a look:

  • While some creatures with drawbacks are fine, we may want to reconsider the severity on “Skittering” creatures, among others.
  • Pestilence and Crypt Rats nominally fall into the “Black matters” theme that we set aside, but there also serve as functional mass removal .
  • There are 42 creatures to 32 spells. Keep Black more balanced would require cutting creatures.

Red

Red currently has 83 cards, making 13 or 18 cuts required. Note that there is 1 Un- consideration, and a whopping 7 MTGO-only impacted options. Looking closely:

  • There are 52 creatures and 31 spells. Even with an aggressive focus, cutting some creatures should be in order.
  • There are several options for {X} spells, and every option is strong. Too many of these spells, coupled with Green’s and artifact’s mana-acceleration, can cause problems.
  • Red gets buckets of burn spells, but ensuring that there are non-burn-spell options (such as creatures with Evoke) to create variety in Red’s gameplay is important.

Green

Green currently has 79 cards, making 9 or 14 cuts needed. There is 1 Un- consideration, but no MTGO-only considerations. At a glance:

  • There are 54 creatures and 25 spells for Green. While we are focusing on creatures for Green, cutting creatures should be done due to the extremely unbalanced breakdown.
  • How much mana-fixing is too much? Just about every spell is represented; while cutting spells isn’t ideal, having too much of a theme can be as well.
  • If we have mana-fixing and mana-ramping, how many mana bugs (Llanowar Elves and friends) should be included?

Multicolored

The multicolored section is a little different. As we’re looking to make each color equally represented, we need to see a breakdown by color pair. (Note that there are no eligibility considerations in play here.)

{W}{U} has 6 cards, so 1 should be cut.
{U}{B} has 8 cards, so 3 should be cut.
{B}{R} has 7 cards, so 2 should be cut.
{R}{G} has 7 cards, so 2 should be cut.
{G}{W} has 8 cards, so 3 should be cut.
{W}{B} has 3 cards, so 2 more cards are needed.
{B}{G} has 4 cards, so 1 more card is needed.
{G}{U} has 3 cards, so 2 more cards are needed.
{U}{R} has 3 cards, so 2 more cards are needed.
{R}{W} has 3 cards, so 2 more cards are needed.

There are also tricolored cards to consider:

  • The Familiars from Planeshift provide support for three-color decks, and sometimes have useful abilities by themselves.
  • A combination of the hybrid gold cards from Alara Reborn, Apprentices from Invasion, and Guildmages from Mirage can all help support decks with more colors.
  • Keeping five or ten tricolored cards would push the entire section up considerably.

Artifacts

Artifacts are relatively easier than other sections, with 47 cards. There are 3 Un- considerations, and 2 MTGO-impacted options. Despite the eligibility concerns, even losing all 5 potential cards would leave us within our target range. Feel free to look it over and make comments and suggestions, but ultimately nothing additional needs to happen here. (Note that the 10 Signets are locked, and will not be changed.)

Lands

Lands are slightly trickier. You’ll notice that there are 32 lands, none of which are impacted by eligibility issues. However, 37 cards are listed. I’ve included the Borderpost cycle (from Alara Reborn) due to their functionality as serving as a “land drop” similar to the Invasion “enters the battlefield tapped” uncommon land cycle.

This subtle interaction lets us, and deck-builders, consider these lands instead of artifacts. However, if the feeling is strong that these cards should be bundled with artifacts, we’re still left with 32 genuine land cards, meeting our target. However, a little adjustment to artifacts may be in order if that happens. (And you’ll note that the bounce land cycle is locked here, just like the Signets.)

The Power Is Yours

Trimming and adding cards is an exercise every Cube builder undertakes, and doing it as a group effort will be both challenging and exciting. I’ll post my thoughts for every section on the Facebook page soon, and I’d encourage you to take a look and share your thoughts. Whether it’s on just one card or one hundred, it will be the community’s voice that will be heard.

Join us next week when your thoughts are compiled, and a few guest faces from the Magic cubing community provide their insight for you to vote on as well. See you then!

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