Friday, 12 June 2015
Card Spotlight: Collected Company
When I first saw this card I saw a lot of potential. Best case scenario you get card quality, card advantage and mana advantage, not to mention tempo and trickery. Everything basically. A pair of chosen three drops into play at instant speed for just four mana. You could even get great fixing from the card if you were brazen enough to find a Geralf's Messengers and a Mantis Rider. This best case scenario rather puts to shame the mighty Bloodbraid Elf but as we all know, it is very wrong to judge a card on its best case alone. Worst case with Collected Company is a double miss and as such you are 4 mana down and 1 card down for basically nothing. I have seen a number of Bloodbraids hit things they then can't use, and it is always hilarious. Rancor, countermagic, the wrong kind of removal. The funniest was one hitting an Ancestral Visions that would have decked him. Even so, you still have a 3/2 haste for your mana. Not a disaster but not great. Bloodbraid and Company are comparable in a number of ways but what we have shown here is that Company has a much broader range of results than Elf from the much much weaker to the more powerful. It is the sign of good card design and one of the reasons it is very hard to build and maintain a cube these days. There are so many extremely high powered cards that now exist that rather require you to milk the potential from them. If you do not build around those kinds of cards you might as well not play them at all and Collected Company is exactly such a card.
It is the various creature based combo decks where company has a place in cube. The best deck I have used it in by a country mile was an Aluren based combo deck where you were using the card as a way to dig for the combo pieces you need. Obviously Aluren and Collected Company go pretty well hand in hand due to them both only working with CMC three or less dorks. By taking good advantage of the tutoring aspect of Collected Company you get a lot more out of the card and do not need to always be hitting two targets or high mana cost targets for it to do what you need. As such you do not need to distort your deck to accommodate the Company thus making it vastly less restrictive and damaging. Although tribal goblins is not defined as a combo deck it has far more combo elements than your typical creature based deck and as such I presume that would be another good home for Collected Company.
To confirm my experiences from testing I thought I would do some maths on the subject which mostly lead to remembering how bad I am at probability. Ultimately I had to seek help from a magical dutch maths doctor whom also loves to put numbers to the game. I wanted to see the the relationship between the % of Company targets in your deck and the odds you have on getting a dud company that gives at most one dork. Obviously the double wiff is much worse than a single wiff but both are usually sufficiently bad so as to make the Company a substantially below acceptable cube power levels. Assuming an infinite deck size for simplicity sake and exactly a 50% targets to non-targets ratio then you have about 11% chance to wiff your company, of which about 1.5% (1/64) are your odds on getting the double wiff. It does not take much to tweak a deck so that Bloodbraid cannot hit an unplayable spell, certainly a lot lot less than it does to get a list up to 50% company targets. That suddenly seems like a lot of effort when you can still do the equivalent of a Bloodbraid wiff over one in ten times and even risk the total do nothings.
Going to 52.5% threats Company hits reduces your chances of a wiff significantly being around an 8% chance to not hit two or more things. Take it all the way to 60% targets, the most I can conceivably imagine being in any sort of deck ever, and you wind up with a less than 3% chance to wiff. Slight changes make a big difference to the outcome and sadly you are typically going the other direction from the 50% mark. At 40% targets, which is still a fairly tall order and somewhat limiting on your build you have just under 5% chance to hit nothing and just under a 1 in 4 chance to not hit two things. All in all pretty weak.
Collected Company is a potentially very powerful spell however in order for it to be this way you need to have almost entirely optimal conditions for it. Either a stupendously high target count that somehow doesn't wreak your mana curve or a combo nature where you gain further value from the way in which the card works. Move away from these things even slightly and rather than an extremely powerful card you have a decidedly average cube card. Move away slightly some more and you have a pretty unplayable card. I love the card and I love the design but sadly for cube it is not something that you should be including and even in my extravagant everything cube for rotissarie I can't see it being used very often at all. Another one of those cool cards that slips by cube like Accumulated Knowledge and Squadron Hawk.