Cube Changes Explained

Written by Steveman on July 19, 2013


Howdy folks! If you guys haven’t noticed yet, the new Magic-League Cube is up and running. To view the whole changelog, check out my previous cube article. In today’s article, I’m going to go explain why things changed and what we’re trying to do with the cube.

Defining our goals
The previous cube was pretty fun but had potential for so much more. Cube is all about fun, the more spells you’re able to cast, the more fun you’re able to have which is why one of our big goals was to have the cube run much smoother by taking out unplayable cards (either by function or prohibitive costs) and strengthen the mana base. Another priority was to help strengthen certain colors / archtypes without nerfing others. TL;DR we just want everything to be bigger and better and have more of it.
Another major thing we did was implement a system so that it will be much easier to change the cube in the future. As much as I loved the previous cube, it hasn’t been updated since the release of Return to Ravnica and that’s because nothing was organized. Seeing this as a big problem, I made a spreadsheet (you can see it here) that automatically keeps track of the number of cards in each category, making it easy to make changes and make sure nothing goes out of balance. With everything in place now, updating the cube is no longer a huge chore so our plan now is to update it whenever a new set comes out.

Cleaning out the old cube
Our first order of business was to take out all the trash of the previous cube. Cards that nobody ever uses in any format like Dauthi Embrace and Sudden Impact were obvious to cut. Other cards like War Falcon and Cabal Therapy were cut because they’re too narrow for cube. Then there’s old cards like Masticore, Psychatog, and Juzam Djinn who used to be awesome back in their day but don’t quite measure up by today’s standards.
Planeswalker distribution / balance was kind of a problem in the old cube. Blue and White had an unfair advantage when it came to Planeswalkers not only in quantity, but quality, so we cut the not so great Blue / White ones like Jace, Architect of Thought and Venser, the Sojourner alongside other underwhelming Planeswalkers like Liliana Vess, Chandra Nalaar, and Sarkhan the Mad. We replaced those 4 Planeswalkers with 3 Red Planeswalkers because we felt that Red was the weakest color by far in the previous cube so we added Sarkhan Vol, Domri Rade, and Chandra, Pyromaster to help give Red a boost.

Balancing the Multicolor
This is probably the most crucial yet overlooked part of any cube. The biggest problem I’ve seen / heard with most cubes is that they have too much multicolor cards that don’t do much, leaving them with too many unplayable cards. The main problem with the previous cube in the multicolor department was that there was too many tri-color cards such as...

Esper Charm
Wooly Thoctar
Realm Razer
Sedraxis Specter
Lavalanche
Rhox War Monk (will probably make a comeback in the next cube)

These tri-color cards along with the other underwhelming multicolor cards such as Nucklavee and Sarkhan the Mad clogs up sealed pools in a format that shouldn’t be clogged at all. At this point in time, our policy with tri-color cards is that they must be some sort of bomb. In the future we may make some exceptions to cards such as Rhox War Monk, but in general we’re going to keep the number of tri-color cards to a minimum.
So after clearing out all the unnecessary multicolor cards, we organized the ones we wanted to organize / balance all the guild color combinations. Check out these examples

Golgari (BG)
Varolz, the Scar-Striped
Maelstrom Pulse
Pericious Deed
Creakwood Liege
Vraska the Unseen
Lotleth Troll

Boros (R/W)
Ajani Vengeant
Duergar Hedge-Mage
Lightning Helix
Figure of Destiny
Boros Reckoner
Assemble the Legion

The way we decided to balance out the guilds was to have 6 cards per guild. Hybrid cards that have 3 or more hybrid symbols such as Boros Reckoner count as a guild card because they are much more difficult to play in decks outside of their guild. Duergar Hedge-Mage and Figure of Destiny are special cases where they are classified as guild cards because the former has certain land requirements to be useful and Figure of Destiny has has multiple hybrid mana symbols in its activation costs. Split cards like Fire/Ice and certain hybrid cards such as Kitchen Finks were excluded from the guild classification because they can easily be played in decks without playing that exact guild combination. I didn’t want to go crazy trying split / hybrid cards so for the sake of simplicity, they’re not lumped in any category and that’s okay since they’re easily played regardless.
Because of guild restrictions, we can’t play every single playable multicolor card under the sun. We’re trying to balance things out and make sure there isn’t too many redundant effects with the guild cards. Using the Golgari guild as an example, we decided to cut Putrefy in this iteration of the cube because it’s extremely similar to Maelstrom Pulse and close enough to Pernicious Deed and Vraska the Unseen. As awesome as Putrefy is as a card, trust me when I say that there’s absolutely no shortage of removal for creatures and artifacts. Right now multicolor cards make up for only 10% of all cards in the cube so there’s a good chance we’ll be expanding the the guild color combinations in the future.

Balancing everything else
The old cube wasn’t exactly the most organized cube. Not ridiculously unbalanced, but there’s no reason the colors shouldn’t be balanced. Not much to explain here, just compare the stats of the previous cube with the new cube.

Previous Cube
586 cards
White - 78 cards (49 creatures / 29 spells)
Blue - 78 cards (41 creatures / 37 spells)
Black - 78 cards (40 creatures / 38 spells)
Red - 75 cards (43 creatures / 32 spells)
Green - 81 cards (58 creatures / 23 spells)
Multicolor - 63 cards (39 creatures / 24 spells)
Colorless - 53 cards (11 creatures / 42 spells)
Land - 80 cards (64 color fixing / 16 utility)

New Cube
672 cards
White - 90 cards (55 creatures / 35 spells)
Blue - 90 cards (48 creatures / 42 spells)
Black - 90 cards (52 creatures / 38 spells)
Red - 90 cards (52 creatures / 38 spells)
Green - 90 cards (62 creatures / 28 spells)
Multicolor - 71 cards (42 creatures / 29 spells)
Colorless - 57 cards (11 creatures / 46 spells)
Land - 94 cards (78 color fixing / 16 utility)

Time to go over the changes and explain the highlights of what we’ve added / removed.

White (5 Cards Removed)
War Falcon
Land Tax
Jotun Grunt
Steppe Lynx
Lone Missionary

White (14 cards added)
Weathered Wayfarer
Champion of the Parish
Goldmeadow Harrier
Soltari Monk
Soltari Priest
Soltari Trooper
Paladin En-Vec
Stonecloaker
Ranger of Eos
Mikaeus, the Lunarch
Journey to Nowhere
Divine Deflection
Seal of Cleansing
Sunlance

War Falcon and Steppe Lynx are too narrow for the cube. I’m sad to see Jotun Grunt and Lone Missionary go but there’s way too many 2 drops already so they had to go. Land Tax is complete ********, this card stands for everything that’s wrong in America because it basically reads “you win the lottery if your opponent controls more lands than you.” (Editor's note: Isn't that what you always wanted, Steveman?!?!) Weathered Wayfarer is a fair replacement for Land Tax. We really wanted to promote more aggro in this cube, so we focused on evasion as much as possible with some colors which is why we added all the Soltari creatures. Divine Deflection, Journey to Nowhere, and Sunlance were added to help balance the upcoming aggro buffs across the board to make sure they don’t get too out of hand.

Blue (5 Cards Removed)
Scroll Thief
Erayo, Soratami Ascendant
Brine Elemental
Fettergeist
Jace, Architect of Thought

Blue (18 cards added)
Tandem Lookout
Waterfront Bouncer
Opposition
Body Double
Pestermite
Cloudfin Raptor
Sakishima’s Student
Show and Tell
Dungeon Geists
Thieving Magpie
Sphinx of Lost Truths
Spell Pierce
Cyclonic Rift
Repulse
Thirst for Knowledge
Warden of Evos Isle
Memory Lapse
Jace’s Mindseeker

Erayo, Soratami Ascendant never did anything so she was the first card to go. Scroll Thief has been replaced by Tandem Lookout. Brine Elemental and Fettergeist were always kind of meh, and I already talked about Jace, Architect of Thought. We’re trying to promote combo strategies more so we added Show and Tell and Reanimator cards / enablers such as Waterfront Bouncer and Body Double. Pestermite is one of the better Blue creatures that was missing from the previous cube and is also a combo enabler with a certain Red card that was just added. Sakashima’s Student is an extremely fun and useful card and is definitely one of the top 3 clone cards right alongside Phyrexian Metamorph and Phantasmal Image.

Black (7 Cards Removed)
Dauthi Embrace
Juzam Djinn
Liliana Vess
Night of Soul’s Betrayal
Blood Artist
Cabal Therapy
Harbor Bandit

Black (19 cards added)
Dauthi Slayer
Yawgmoth’s Agenda
Living Death
Nightscape Familiar
Mind Twist
Diregraf Ghoul
Gatekeeper of Malakir
Knight of Infamy
Vampire Interloper
Bone Shredder
Dauthi Marauder
Crypt Ghast
Exhume
Thrill-Kill Assassin
Pack Rat
Desecration Demon
Ob Nixilis, the Fallen
Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni
Liliana’s Reaver

Dauthi Embrace is awful and was replaced with the much more versatile Rogue’s Passage. The only card I kind of regret removing is Blood Ghast but there was too many 2 drops and I felt like he was the weakest one. Black lacked serious meat in the last cube so we added Desecration Demon, Ob Nixilis, the Fallen, and Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni. Ink-Eyes should be an interesting card to watch seeing how many shadow creatures we’ve added to the cube. Exhume and Living Death (my favorite card of all time) are some of the best reanimation cards out there and are extremely fun to play with. Last but not least, everybody’s favorite card from RTR sealed has finally made its way for the cube, Pack Rat! If you thought Pack Rat was busted in RTR, wait until you see him with Skullclamp + Squee...

Red (11 cards removed)
Bloodhall Ooze
Sudden Impact
Mogg Fanatic
Chandra Nalaar
Gamble
Keldon Champion
Jackal Pup
Flame Fusillade
Goblin Bombardment
Crimson Muckwader
Pyrostatic Pillar

Red (22 cards added)
Instigator Gang
Goblin Bushwhacker
Chaos Warp
Thundermaw Hellkite
Goblin Welder
Burn at the Stake
Mizzium Mortars
Legion Loyalist
Imperial Recruiter
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Reckless Charge
Pyroclasm
Searing Blaze
Bonfire of the Damned
Rolling Earthquake
Gore-House Chainwalker
Bloodfray Giant
Chaos Imps
Chandra, Pyromaster
Goblin Diplomats
Ogre Battledriver
Young Pyromancer

Of all the colors, Red is getting the biggest facelift. I’m really sad to see Mogg Fanatic go but the rise in the quality of new creatures + the M10 rules changes forced the once great goblin into retirement. Jackal Pup has been functionally replaced by more versatile hybrid cards such as Tattermunge Maniac and Rakdos Cackler. Flame Fusillade is nothing without its buddy Time Vault so we’re replaced it with the much more usable Burn at the Stake (I’ve already won 2 games with this, don’t sleep on this card). Our campaign to buff aggro is very apparent in Red with additions like Gore-House Chainwalker, Bloodfray Giant, and one of Red’s most efficient finishers, Thundermaw Hellkite. Chaos Warp is a nice addition to the cube, it’s one of the few spells that can directly remove Planeswalkers and also lead to wacky scenarios. Mizzium Mortars, Rolling Earthquake, and Pyroclasm were added to try and give Red control decks a little umph. Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker needs no introduction and has plenty of juicy targets to combo with such as Pestermite, Grave Titan, and Wurmcoil Engine. (Editor's note: Plus Zealous Conscripts and Restoration Angel to add some more!) One of the cards I’m looking forward to most is Goblin Welder. Seriously, there’s so many tricks this card is capable of from recursion to disruption. Not sure if we have enough Artifacts for Goblin Welder to be super playable at the moment, but hopefully he’ll see some play in the near future.

Green (5 cards removed)
Leatherback Baloth
Roaring Primadox
Blastoderm
Albino Troll
Flinthoof Boar

Green (16 cards added)
Harmonize
Obstinate Baloth
Natural Order
Master of the Wild Hunt
Mayor of Avabruck / Howlpack Alpha
Berserk
Devoted Druid
Obstinate Baloth
Oracle of Mul Daya
Hornet Queen
Farseek
Rampant Growth
Birthing Pod
Green Sun’s Zenith
Bramblecrush
Kalonian Hydra

Not much to say on what we removed besides they were all underperformers. Our goal with Green this time around was to promote midrange, ramp, and combo strategies. Master of the Wild Hunt, Mayor of Avabruck/Howlpack Alpha, and Obstinate Baloth are all great midrange additions. Green Sun’s Zenith, Birthing Pod, and Natural Order give green extremely powerful / versatile combo engines to work with. Bramblecrush was added just for the sole fact that it can directly remove Planeswalkers and other problematic artifacts. Kalonian Hydra may be just a big and dumb 5 drop, but he’s REALLY GOOD at being big and dumb.

Multicolor (22 cards removed)
Esper Charm
Psychatog
Boggart Ram-Gang
Sedaxris Specter
Sarkhan the Mad
Wall of Denial
Lavalanche
Sigarda, Host of Herons
Wooly Thoctar
Rhox War Monk
Realm Razer
Nucklavee
Simic Sky Swallower
Goblin Legionnaire
Undermine
Goblin Trenches
Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind
Bituminous Blast
Mirari’s Wake
Mortify
Mystic Snake
Venser, the Sojourner

Muticolor (29 cards added)
Rakdos Cackler
Baleful Strix
Duergar Hedge-Mage
Burning-Tree Shaman
Izzet Charm
Blazing Specter
Detention Sphere
Sphinx’s Revelation
Gerrard’s Verdict
Shardless Agent
Behemoth Sledge
Tattermunge Maniac
Blightning
Duskmantle Seer
Nightveil Specter
Assemble the Legion
Domri Rade
Supreme Verdict
Selesnya Charm
High Priest of Penance
Simic Charm
Deathrite Shaman
Varolz, the Scar-Striped
Dryad Militant
Judge’s Familiar
Far / Away
Burning-Tree Emissary
Master Biomancer
Rakdos Shred-Freak

I already said most of what I wanted to say about multicolor. There’s some great hidden gems from the Commander and Planechase sets such as Baleful Strix and Shardless Agent. There’s plenty of Return to Ravnica goodies that we missed from the last update like Detention Sphere and Izzet Charm. There’s a decent amount of cards that we’re testing right now so we’ll probably see the guild color combinations shift a little bit next rotation.

Colorless (5 cards removed)
Trading Post
Masticore
Origin Spellbomb
Whispersilk Cloak
Black Vise

Colorless (8 cards added)
Brittle Effigy
Wayfarer’s Bauble
Glaring Spotlight
Chimeric Mass
Erratic Portal
Isochron Scepter
Mortarpod
Chromatic Lantern

All the cards that didn’t see much play, although Whispersilk Cloak might make a comeback next rotation. As for additions, Brittle Effigy is a great removal spell. Being colorless makes it valuable against creatures with protection / equipped with nasty swords. It’s also fetchable with Trinket Mage and recurrable with Goblin Welder! (Editor's note: Effigy exiles itself) Wayfarer’s Bauble a nice colorless mana acceleration / fixing (also searchable with Trinket Mage). We’re testing Glaring Spotlight to see if it’s any useful in protecting aggro strategies / attacking hexproof creatures. Isochron Scepter was probably the most requested card for the cube which raises the question “why wasn’t this in the previous cube?”

Land (1 cards removed)
Kjeldoran Outpost

Land (20 cards added)
Terramorphic Expanse
Evolving Wilds
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Rogue’s Passage
Reflecting Pool
Savage Lands
Arcane Sanctum
Crumbling Necropolis
Jungle Shrine
Seaside Citadel
Cascade Bluffs
Fetid Heath
Fire-Lit Thicket
Flooded Grove
Graven Cairns
Mystic Gate
Rugged Prairie
Sunken Ruins
Twilight Mire
Wooded Bastion

Kjeldoran Outpost is extremely outdated, it has no mana fixing, eats a land, and its ability is nothing special. That being said, we’ve added the Filter / Shard lands to the mix to help with mana fixing alongside Reflecting Pool, Evolving Wilds, and Terramorphic Expanse. Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is a godsend for Black mages, and Rogue’s Passage gives aggro decks that little extra reach to break stalemates late game.

Wrapping things up
The new cube has been out for a couple days and it seems to be pretty popular. From my personal experience, my decks have been running much smoother, so I’m glad we hit that goal. Please give us any feedback / suggestions in the comments down below, we want to hear what you have to say because it’s your cube too!

- Steveman

Cube Credits
Lead Designers: Steveman, pg8, xJudicatorx
Special thanks to IanStraka and KriswithaK for helping out with the card selection process and Flippi for putting up with all my mistakes I made in the master spreadsheet.

Back to Magic: the Gathering Articles

Comments:
by jdblack on 2013-07-20 01:12 CET

Thanks Steveman! Looks good.

Do you have a philosophy about the number of cards in the cube? Do all cards have an equal chance of appearing in your pool? Any idea what controls the RNG? It seems like some cards have a much higher chance of appearing than others. (Not related to this revision.)

Stolen identity might be good in the next cycle. Rakdos cackler seems weak. Passable if you have him turn 1, otherwise bleh.


by derflippi on 2013-07-20 01:23 CET

Each card has the same probability to show up.


by Steveman on 2013-07-20 02:22 CET

I can name thousands of cards that have zero chance of making it into the cube :-P In order for a card to make it into the cube, it has to be good, playable, and hopefully fun. Some cards will only last 1 rotation as a test to see if they're any good or not.

As far as the number of cards in the cube, since we actually don't physically draft these cards, we can go to whatever number we want. I want to have as many cards as possible without diluting the pool with a bunch of crap. What we have now is a good size, I think 800 cards will be a good ceiling to have for now.

What does RNG mean?

Stolen Identity is a pretty cool card, I'll put that on the list of potentials for next cube. I disagree about Rakdos Cackler, he's a 2/2 body that can be easily played in 2 colors and there's plenty of things to do with leftover 1-drops like equip a sword to them or tap them to Burn at the Stake, etc.


by NearSideMoon on 2013-07-20 03:48 CET

Random Number Generator (RNG)?


by jdblack on 2013-07-20 05:01 CET

Yeah, random number generator. There are some cards that I very rarely see, and other cards that I see very often. Just a gut feeling & no stats to back it up. Would be interesting to look at the distribution if someone with access to the DB wants to dump a flat file out on the web somewhere.


by Steveman on 2013-07-20 05:09 CET

UPDATE
Just noticed a bunch of new multicolor cards that were supposed to be added but for some reason were not. I already put them in the master spreadsheet and they should be implemented soon.

Cards that were missing
Baleful Strix
Boros Reckoner
Ral Zarek
Hypersonic Dragon
Olivia Voldaren
Armada Wurm
Loxodon Smiter
Varolz, the Scar-Striped
Vraska the Unseen
Obzedat, Ghost Council
Progenitor Mimic


by pg8 on 2013-07-20 23:25 CET

needs more voice of resurgence


by jdblack on 2013-07-21 00:30 CET

Deleted


by coldBLT on 2013-07-21 03:21 CET

deleted


by Steveman on 2013-07-21 03:33 CET

Err, was this directed at me? If it is, we're not "just adding the cards in a week later because we felt like it," these cards were SUPPOSED to go in but didn't. I had the re-organization of the multicolor section in an entire different document of the rest of the changes and some of them I forgot to transfer over which is why all the cards that were missing are multicolor.


by coldBLT on 2013-07-21 03:37 CET

deleted


by coldBLT on 2013-07-21 03:40 CET

deleted


by StarWolf on 2013-07-26 03:48 CET

Starwolf is hopeless. Utterly, utterly hopeless.


by IanStraka on 2013-07-28 10:25 CET

haha my help consisted of making fun of you about Burning-Tree Emissary and your weight for 20 minutes and going afk.


by pankill on 2013-08-19 17:11 CET

steveman revome pack rat,icy manipulator,sensei's top from cube for starters.Manipulator top leads to time issiues always and are marginal playable cards moreover remove sam ramp and fixing and cube will be much better


by silver_spawn on 2013-09-21 21:21 CET

pls paste a link to a guide or explain how is this cube supposed to be played. in netdraft or something?


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