Thursday, 25 February 2016

Isca Cube

I recently read an article by BDM  about home grown formats and it, specifically Canadian Highlander, inspired me to work on one that suited me. I have always been more of a constructed player than a limited one. The design puzzle that I can take around with me on my day is one of my favourite things about the game.

I love the singleton nature and point system that Canadian Highlander offers however I find 100 cards too many, it rules out a lot of the more aggressive decks and generally favours control and midrange. This is fine, those are good games if a little on the long side! I personally think 50 would be pretty optimal for good design space. I am however going to start out with 40 as it will help me balance the points best as I am that much more familiar with the 40 card deck designs.

The points system used by Canadian Highlander and other similar formats ( I understand there is an Austrian one with 60 card decks and a point system that extends to 7). I actually think the Austrian variant is fairly optimal if you want a good vintage style meta that is well balanced yet allows the use of power. Simply put these formats all seem to be ways of playing constructive with the power available but balanced so games are more fair and decks are less intense on finances.

I wanted to do something different, rather than assure some fair number of super powered cards in every deck I wanted to create a points constructed system which forced a choice between playing with power or playing with a much higher quantity of the best of the more reasonable cards. I don't just want you to have to pay points for Black Lotus, I also want you to have to spend them on dual lands, Birds of Paradise, Lightning Bolt etc. There are two reasons for this and one mild drawback.

Logistically it is a much taller order having a point system that extends beyond the power. It is harder to balance and contains substantially more cards. Designing decks might be a little tedious simply through having to refer to the points list however I feel this is a fine trade off for the potential gains of the format. To allow for the increased range of cards I have had to increase the points per deck limit to 20. This might merit some tweaking as I am sure will the points list. I in fact intend to maintain the points list to some extent based on the number of times a card is played as well as the performance of decks.

One of the positives of having a greater number of cards on the points list is that it will diversify the meta as well as the decks. I have played enough cube that I know pretty much what I am aiming for with most archetypes and I know which directions they can go in. Certain cards just get so much more play than others and by forcing you to spend even just one or two of your twenty points on such cards will hopefully reduce the frequency they turn up and incentivize players ot be more creative. If you find a comparably good alternative to a two point card with a free card then you might be able to fit a piece of power into your list.

The second positive of this format design is how I intend to use it. I have a cube with one copy of each card while most of the people I play with either have no cards or more current stuff for constructed. I want players to be able to build their decks primarily from my cube and its substantial reserves which means strongly disincentivizing people using the same cards as other people. Costing the staple cards used in cube play will do this to some degree however I intend to take it one step further.

Usually when we get together as a group to cube we do some type of draft on the day, play the games and be done. Instead of doing that I hope to do a mini constructed tournament instead of a draft event. We will pre-designing our decks, turn up on the day and play them. As we will be 6 to 8 players I can do a highly unusual design and "registration" process.

The idea is that the number one seed (either the person who won the last event of this style or just as we choose to start us off) creates a deck using the point system. They then submit this list to the rest of the group via e-mail. Each card that they have used in the list has +1 point added to its value. Then the number two seed builds their list using the new modified points list and so on until all players have submitted their lists. The high seeds have the advantage of a slightly cheaper pool of cards to build from however the lowest seeds have a much much greater advantage in that they know what they will be facing and will be able to build accordingly.

To do this will take at least 1 day per person, perhaps two and so you will need a week or two notice before planning to do a mini tournament like this. Because of the increased cost of already used cards the hope is that very few players will use duplicate cards and there will be very very few instances of three or more copies of a card in the event. This means that it is much much more feasible to do constructed style events with a single cube and not leave out players lacking cards. I imagine I will have to proxy the odd things but it will still be a much more pleasant experience than the total proxy fest it would be without the addition of the increasing points within an event to the points system.

I have no idea how many people find themselves cubing often with people who don't themselves have many cards and so I have no idea if I am simply solving a problem exclusive to my group or one shared by the community. The primary aim of this project was to create a constructed feeling competitive environment that didn't involve some form of extensive draft precursor and would allow people to leisurely think about the design problems in their own time.

You could simply use this points system and ignore the crazy inclusive construction process if your group has all the cards. That would work well too. I will give a report on how it works out when I have managed to get one done. I expect I will have some modifications to the points list at that time however any thoughts any readers might have as to sensible changes on the points value of things would be appreciated. Here is my starting points valuation of things. There is an awful lot of one point cards, a good chunk of two points cards and then it rapidly starts to fall off from then on up.

12 Black Lotus

11 Ancestral Recall
     Time Walk
     Sol Ring

10 Mana Crypt

9   Tolarian Academy
     Mishra's Workshop

8   The Good Mox

7   Tinker
     Mana Drain
     Time Spiral

6   Demonic Tutor
     Natural Order
     Force of Will
     Show and Tell

5   Vampiric Tutor
     Imperial Seal
     True Name Nemesis
     Time Twister
     Strip Mine
     Swords to Plowshares
     Treasure Cruise
     Imperial Recruiter
     Ravages of War

4   The Sac Lands
     Auriok Salvagers
     Academy Rector
     Library of Alexandria
     Shelldock Isle
     Birthing Pod
     Goblin Welder
     Mind Twist
     Lion's Eye Diamond
     Ancient Tomb
     City of Traitors
     Mana Vault
     Path to Exile
     Lightning Bolt
     Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
     Cryptic Command
     Dig Through Time

3   Sneak Attack
     Survival of the Fittest
     The Dual Lands
     Rishidan Port
     Gaea's Cradle
     Lake of the Dead
     Oath of Druids
     Recurring Nightmare
     Yawgmoth's Will
     Wheel of Fortune
     Grim Monolith
     Deathrite Shaman
     Courser of Kruphix
     Lotus Cobra
     Bird of Paradise
     Protean Hulk
     Noble Hierarch
     Stonefore Mystic
     Snapcaster Mage
     Thundermaw Hellkite
     Dark Confidant
     Baleful Strix
     Kitchen Finks
     Fire / Ice
     Pernicious Deed
     Umezawa's Jitte
     Elspeth, Knight Errant
     Land Tax
     Jace, the Mind Sculptor
     Pact of Negation
     Sulphuric Vortix
     Sensei's Divining Top
     Trinket Mage
     Wurmcoil Engine
     Tangle Wire
     Chrome Mox
     Mox Opal
     Mox Diamond
     Memory Jar
     Gilded Lotus
     Crucible of Worlds

The Two Point Cards

2   The Shock Lands
     The Man Lands

     Bloodbraid Elf
     Supreme Verdict
     Kolaghan's Command
     Ashiok, the Nightmare Weaver
     Dragonlord Atrarka
     Lotus Petal
     Emrakul, the Eons Torn
     Blightsteel Colossus
     Winter Orb
     Scroll Rack
     Cranial Plating

     Frantic Search
     High Tide
     Temporal Manipulation
     Time Warp
     Personal Tutor
     Mystical Tutor
     Mystic Confluence
     Delver of Secrets
     Gitaxian Probe
     Spell Pierce
     Lat-Nam's Legacy
     Cyclonic Rift
     Arcane Denial
     Ancestral Visions
     Merchant's Scroll
     Mind's Desire

     Simean Spirit Guide
     Seething Song
     Orcish Lumberjack
     Abbot of Keral Keep
     Monastery Swiftspear
     Goblin Guide
     Young Pyromancer
     Chain Lightning
     Faithless Looting
     Kiki Jiki Mirror Breaker
     Splinter Twin
     Stoke the Flames
     Inferno Titan

     Enlightened Tutor
     Wrath of God
     Day of Judgement
     Kytheon, Hero of Akros
     Mother of Runes
     Soulfire Grandmaster
     Lingering Souls
     Elspeth, Sun's Champion

Dark Ritual
Toxic Deluge
Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Grave Titan
Liliana of the Veil
Cabal Therapy
Inquisition of Kozilek
Living Death
Death Cloud
Hymn to Tourach
Yawgmoth's Bargain

     Llanowar Elf / Elvish Mystic / Fyndhorn Elf
     Avacyn's Pilgrim
     Elves of Deep Shadow
     Elvish Spirit Guide
     Garruk Wildspeaker
     Craterhoof Behemoth
     Green Sun's Zenith
     Primeval Titan
     Worldspine Wurm
     Eternal Witness
     Sylvan Library

The One Point Cards

1   The Pain Lands
     The Filter Lands
     The Check Lands
     The Quick Lands
     The Scry Lands
     The Vivid Lands
     The Battle Lands
     The Bad Sac Lands
     The Artifact Lands
     The Tri Lands (shard and wedge)
     City of Brass
     Mana Confluence
     Tendo's Ice Bridge
     Mishra's Factory
     Inkmoth Nexus
     Blinkmoth Nexus
     Kessig Wolf Run
     Nykthos Shrine to Nyx
     Myriad Landscape
     Temple of the False God
     Treetop Village
     Faerie Conclave
     Grove of the Burnwillows
     Academy Ruins
     Flagstones of Trokair
     Barbarian Ring

Lightning Helix
Voice of Resurgence
Qasali Pridemage
Thopter Foundry
Lim Dul's Vault
Mirari's Wake
Time Sieve
Swans of Bryn Argoll
Sphinx of the Steel Wind
Figure of Destiny
Dack Fayden
Siege Rhino
Sorin, Solemn Visitor
Coiling Oracle
Shardless Agent
Abrupt Decay
Jori En, Ruin Diver
Shadow of Doubt

Burning of Xinye
Magus of the Wheel
Searing Blaze
Punishing Fire
Goblin Rabblemaster
Eidolon of the Great Revel
Daretti, Scrap Savant
Burst Lightning
Grim Lavamancer
Fiery Confluence
Dualcaster Mage
Bonfire of the Damned
Goblin Lackey
Goblin Recruiter
Goblin Matron
Goblin Ringleader
Goblin Sharpshooter
Mana Flare
Siesmic Assualt
Empty the Warrens
Scrap Mastery
Grape Shot
Gorilla Shaman

Baneslayer Angel
Hallowed Spiritkeeper
Global Ruin
Wing Shards
Unexpectedly Absent
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Brimaz, King of Oreskos
Containment Priest
Linvala, Keeper of Silence
Thalia, Guardian of Threben
Mana Tithe
Wall of Omens
Restoration Angel
Entreat the Angels
Monastery Mentor  
Orim's Chant
Ethersworn Cannonist
Kataki, War's Wage
Solitary Confinement
Iona, Shield of Emeria

Grey Mechant of Asphodel
Flesh Carver
Transgress the Mind
Animate Dead
Tendrils of Agony
Patriarch's Bidding
Tainted Pact
Liliana, Heretical Healer
Ad Nauseam
Goyro's Vegeance
Corpse Dance

Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
Nissa, Vastwood Seer
Den Protector
Heartbeat of Spring
Priest of Titania
Wirewood Symbiote
Heritage Druid
Glimpse of Nature
Sylvan Caryatid
Sakura Tribe Elder
Wall of Roots
Reclaimation Sage
Hermit Druid
Crop Rotation
Nostalgic Dreams
Scavenging Ooze
Joraga Treespeaker
Arbor Elf
Avenger of Zendikar
Hornet Queen
Oath of Nissa
Strangleroot Giest
Worldly Tutor
Summoner's Pact
Woodfall Primus

Spell Snare
Force Spike
Mental Misstep
Mana Leak
Memory Laspe
Jace Beleren
Jace, Architect of Thought
Fact or Fiction
Teferi, Temporal Archmage
Glen Elandra Archamge
Phyrexian Metalmorph
Vendilion Clique
Inkwell Leviathan
Serum Visions
Slight of Hand
Temporal Mastery
Looter il-Kor
Mindbreak Trap
Thirst for Knowledge
Tezzeret the Seeker
Dream Halls
Mind Over Matter

Ankh of Mishra
Cursed Scroll
Sword of Fire and Ice
Elixir of Immortality
Thran Dynamo
Vedalken Shackles
Myr Battleshpere
Sundering Titan
Zuran Orb
Lotus Bloom
Engineered Explosives
Phyrexian Revoker
Arcbound Ravager
Black Vise
Myr Retriever
Voltaic Key
Aether Vial
Goblin Charbelcher
Mishra's Helix
Sphere of Resistance


  1. First amendment to this is going to have to be a points increase to 30 per deck and a slight raise (<50%) to those few cards valued at 5 or more points. I also feel I probably need to reduce the price of sac lands to 3 as well. The reason for all this being the savage degree this system nerfs 3 or more colour decks. At 20 points you cannot even build a good mana base with 20 points, let alone putting in powerful spells.

  2. what do you think of the riptide lab forums format? breaking singleton

    1. join the board on riptide lab forums. youll be at home

    2. Hi Dan, I've spoken with Jason Waddell about non-singleton cube. Essentially he is right, the best and most balanced cubes come from breaking the singleton rule. The issue for me is again a logistical one. I don't have the time to test out all the variants of card rations nor do I have the money to create such a cube!