Tuesday 8 July 2014

Cube Set Breakdown

This is just a very quick article for those of you who like me love some statistics. I organized my cube into the various blocks from which cards were first printed in. I did this because I wanted to see evidence for the power creep I am always on about but also just to see if the blocks and times that I associate with powerful Magic were better represented in the cube. I have done this once before a long while back, I think around the time of Ravnica or Timespiral. Then I had power in my cube and the stand out piles were Mirroden, Urza's and of course the original base set. Those sets still represent little bumps of power in the overall curve but have no way near the same sort of potion of the cube they held before. Obviously the fact that we have so many new blocks since then will dilute everything as well but you can easily account for that.

Here is how my cube as it currently stands breaks down. Most cards are in blocks which I have arranged as chronologically as possible. I split those cards in the base sets into two groups which are basically the old ones and then the most recent ones where they started printed new cards and not just reprints in the base sets. All the non-base sets before Ice Age were not arranged in blocks and so I have just rolled them all up into one group including Arabian Nights, Legends, The Dark, Antiquities, Fallen Empires and I guess probably Homelands if they had anything to offer...). Finally there are those cards first printed in Portal sets and promotional cards as well as Commander box sets. This group spans the largest time frame but is rather on the small side so is fairly negligible. I have put the dual lands offered from each group in brackets to the side of the other number (which is all the cards inclusive of dual lands). The fact that dual lands a such big cycles and that my cube is so land heavy means that to just ignore their contributions would really skew the data. Dual lands feel like they run a somewhat removed and separate path to spells in terms of power creep etc. I probably should have included the mono land cycles I include such as the cycling lands and the artifact lands within the dual land remit as it makes Mirroden and Onslaught look more powerful overall.

Promo/Portal                                                           8          

Coldsnap                                                                1

Base Set                                                                 32 (10)

Arabian Nights - > Fallen Empires                           13

Ice Age                                                                   19 (5)

Mirage                                                                    11 (5)

Tempest                                                                   20

Urza's                                                                      27

Masques                                                                   7

Invasion                                                                    15 (5)

Oddessy                                                                    10

Onslaught                                                                   19 (5)

Mirroden                                                                    30

Kamigawa                                                                   10

Ravnica                                                                       31 (20)

Time Spiral                                                                   17 (3)

Lorwyn                                                                       39 (9)

Alara                                                                            16

Zendikar                                                                       52 (10)

Mirroden Besiged                                                          38 (5)

Innistrad                                                                         44 (5)

Return to Rav                                                                 39

Theros                                                                            45 (10)

M sets                                                                             38 (5)

As you can clearly see, the last five sets and the base set cards from that time contribute about as much to the cube as the previous 15 or so years of Magic cards combined. Zenikar and Theros blocks have felt like the most powerful in Magic and the statistics support that. There is certainly a bias I have towards new cards and so the last couple of blocks tend to be a bit higher than they really deserve but it certainly doesn't stretch as far back as Zendikar.

Alara surprised me a little, I didn't think it stood out as being that weak compared to the previous blocks to it. Return to Ravnica also surprised me as I thought it was one of the weaker sets to come out recently but statistics suggest it is comparable to its neighbours. Primarily it added gold cards which I have less respect for but can't think of a sensible way to analyse separately.

A further breakdown into spells and permanents, or a few groups there of, would also be fairly telling I feel of the kinds of power shift going on in Magic. Most of the best disruption and acceleration and even card draw is found in the earlier cards and sets. There is more power in the newer cards but it is a much more balanced and narrow kind of power. Magic I feel has changed from being about exploring the full range of things you can do within the game to a more symmetrical affair where both players are playing within the same sphere of the game.

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