Powering Down

After playing casual magic for nine years, I decided that if I was going to sink my money into a hobby like this one, I was going to do something with it. I was already heavily into Commander as well as FNMs (which at my local store happen to be booster draft), but I wanted more. It was around this time that I started researching Cubing. I was also playing in limited Grand Prixs and I wanted to capture the experience of high level limited back home the way that the usual booster draft never could. Once month later, I had a Cube of 480 cards and I have never looked back. Cubing takes the intensity of limited magic, and combines with it the deliciousness of constructed magic. It also lets you create a format that you find to your liking. Since its inception, my Cube has grown up and out, currently filling a healthy roster of 520 cards.

People think of a Cube as a collection of the most powerful cards in Magic. This is only partially true. A Cube is a home for the most powerful cards in Magic at what they do. Is Wild Dogs as strong as Jace the Mind Sculptor? No. Goblin Guide? No. Jackal Pup? Maybe. Are all these cards in my cube? Yes.
So, why do I run the sad looking Wild Dogs in my Cube next to cards like Reanimate and Inkwell Leviathan? I do this because green aggro is a viable archetype, but it is missing out on quality one drops. If green wants to keep up with white, red, and black, it needs its 1-drops. I call Wild Dogs an enabler. Entomb is weak without Reanimate, Animate Dead etc. Wild Dogs is weak without Huntsmaster of the Fells, Viridian Emissary, Strangleroot Geist etc. It makes the better cards better. “What if I am way behind on life?” I hear people ask all the time, and of course I respond with: “Well, does it block?” or “Does it have cycling?” The simple facts that it is: 1. A Creature, and 2. Can replace itself, mean that it is perfectly at home in a Cube.

Would I first pick Wild Dogs? No. But if I open it along-side the Huntsmaster, I can confidently take the hunter, knowing that something will wheel. People often forget that they are drafting a deck, and not every pack that they open SHOULD have 15 first picks in it. When your pack is full of 15 cards that everyone wants, you have no idea what is going to wheel. This is why many people simply take all the lands then wheel whatever they want, which is not healthy for any format.

This moves me on to my next argument about why I feel that a Cube should not simply be a collection of the best cards in Magic: The Power 8 (sorry Timetwister). These cards warp a format like no other. Too many Roto drafts I have seen just have the first 9 picks laid out (Power 8 and Jace) before players actually start the roto. Why is this
bad? Because almost half of the Power 8 is blue (a full half if you count Mox Sapphire as blue). This means that automatically, there will be 4 players in blue before anything happens, and at least half of them will be playing some control variant.

I feel that the argument comes down to power vs synergy. When someone first picks Survival of the Fittest, it sends a clear message to everyone else that he will be in fact drafting survival shenanigans. If he drafts Mox Emerald first, they just know that he has mana acceleration that aligns with green. Similarly, a player can fist pick
Entomb and let players know that he is going to be all in on the reanimation strategy, but if he were to pick Mox Jet, who knows?

People who support Powered Cubes may say to me, “Well, they can still pick up those cards, once the usual ones are already taken.” And I respond with “But isn’t that boring?” I would much rather have a format where I can first pick Sulfuric Vortex one day, Jace the Mind Sculptor the next, and Dark Confidant the one after that. Are these
cards the routine first picks in my Roto draft? Yes and no. People also take Tinker, Bitterblossom, Stoneforge Mystic, Elspeth, Knight Errant, Tezzeret (either one), or probably 30 other cards. If constraint breeds creativity, then diversity breeds fun.

I also feel that picking up synergy wins out over power 6 days of the week. Another writer mentioned the problem of “Planeswalker Magic” which is where one sees a ‘walker, picks it, and plays it. I have taken great lengths to prevent this. One: I only run 2 cycles of mono-colored walkers, and 1 of each color pairing (Except R/G because
Sarkhan Vol is not the greatest). Two, the walkers that I have included in my Cube are very narrow in use (Jace, and Elspeth aside). Playing Sorin Markov, Koth of the Hammer, Garruk Wildspeaker, Crazy Sarkhan, Ajani Vengeant, or either Tezzeret in a deck that does not rely on them probably isn’t the best idea.

My Cube supports all the traditional archetypes, and some of the non-conventional ones. I support X/u aggro. B/G/u Infect, UR combo (both twin, and Mizzet), BW Tokens, G/x Aggro, and B/x Aggro. Because I want all color strategies to be viable, I run a full complement of lands, but the mana-bases that are available are more punishing, keeping 5CC in check with pain lands, filters, and the M10/ISD duals. Any questions about my Cube can be sent to my Twitter account. For the record, I am not 100% against power in Cubes; I certainly want to own a powered Cube before I retire from Magic, I just want others to think outside the Mox.

Andrew Couture
@AndrewCouture on Twitter


~ by Andrew Couture on April 3, 2012.

One Response to “Powering Down”

  1. Reblogged this on The Cube Miser and commented:
    I just came across this blog post by Andrew that shares a lot of my feelings toward power in cube. My primary reason for not including power in my own cube is the same as his – it reduces the number of first-pickable cards in each pack (or rotisserie draft). Moxen aren’t always the right choice, of course, as there are those archetype-defining powerhouses like planeswalkers, Survival of the FIttest, and whatnot. But I think that the power levels of the most powerful cards in the game since the days of ‘broken’ cards is fairly consistent, and gives a lot more leeway for drafters to pick their own preferred (or apparent) archetypes in a draft. The choice between cards like Stoneforge Mystic, Bitterblossom, and even “fairer” cards like Lightning Bolt and Grafted Wargear, are not immediately apparent, and make for interesting draft decisions.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: