Monday, 3 July 2017

The effectiveness of removal

So I know I like to harp on about how over powered burn is relative to the general removal options in other colours. So I thought I would get some actual numbers rather than just drawing on experience. It is a good idea to know how much your removal is going to hit in general and this applies to all kinds of removal. It will help you build and assess its power in drafting. Removal is ever more important in cube as the power curve seems to most heavily apply to creatures. I looked at black removal as a comparison for the red removal mostly as it is much easier to numerically assess the drawback of it. White removal has much more situational and varied drawbacks on the whole. Black and red stuff either kill things or they don't and you can look at the percentages of those things. I had a little guess at how much things hit and was surprised on pretty much all accounts. I though this was just bias in my cube with it being so low curve and so I checked against the average 720 cube on cube tutor and the numbers barely changed.

Essentially I was just looking at what % of the total creatures in cube various removal spells hit. While I did account for cards like True-Name Nemesis which none of these spells kill I did not account for the value of being able to kill something really low value like a Sakura Tribe Elder, Mogg Fanatic or Blade Splicer himself but not the token. As such these numbers are a little higher than their real value would be but they still show some interesting things. Mostly that burn is indeed, really oppressive as removal.

34% of creatures die to a single point of damage in my cube. That is down to 30% in the average cube.

60% of creatures die to a Shock in my cube with 61% in the average.

It is 73% of creatures that die to a Lightning Bolt in both cubes and about 82% of things in both that die to a four damage effect.

I thought these numbers were surprisingly high and I already think things like Forked Bolt and Arc Trail are oppressively good.

Ultimate PriceNow, if we look at black removal we will find it has a little higher hit percentage which you would expect what with it being both more expensive and unable to hit face.

Doom Blade and Ultimate Price both hit about 80% of creatures in both my cube and the average one, again taking into account shroud effects and the like.

Go for the Throat unsurprisingly was the best of these kinds of cards hitting 87% in my cube and more like 90% in the average.

This means most good black two mana removal is on average comparable to a four damage burn at killing creatures but that is very misleading again. Even taking out cost and face potential the red removal is substantially more effective at the stage of the game you most want it to be. When it comes to killing one and two drops burn is better than black removal. With the cube being so quick and powerful your one and two drops are a huge part of the game. If red is able to just efficiently clear them out it is at a huge advantage in a majority of matchups.

Forked BoltWhen only looking at one and two drops a ping killings 62% of creatures in both cubes considered within a percent of each other (which was conveniently the case for Shocks and Lightning Bolts too). A Shock will kill 88% of one and two drop creatures and a 3 damage effect will kill an impressive 94% of one and two drops. A Searing Spear is better than a Go for the Throat at killing creatures on turn two. That doesn't feel fair at all. A relatively fair burn spell is better than one of the best black removal spells.

I was surprised somehow that Ultimate Price was quite so comparable to Doom Blade, the card always seem to jip me! As such it is a clear addition to any cube given the value of removal and the better scaling it has with the many more Doom Blade and Terror restrictions there are on black cards.

I also could have got my probabilities wrong but it seems like an Arc Trail will kill two things reasonably well over 50% of the time if your opponent makes a 1 drop and a 2 drop dork. That is just stupid. Even a Forked Bolt is not much under 40%. If I can 2 for one you and do so at a 1 to 3 mana ratio in the first couple of turns that is about as big a swing possible. Red, for my money still the best colour in cube! A simple Shock is able to outclass most non-red removal in the early game.


  1. I think this is why RDW tends to be the best archetype in most cubes. This has only be exacerbated as the gap between red creatures and other colors has narrowed with more set releases. I believe if balance is a goal in a cube (talking design), running the most powerful cards at all CMC has increasingly become less and less logical.

    To some extent, the "burn is too good" problem is somewhat mitigated the less creature oriented a cube is (much like how good Jitte is). I've been experimenting with a more combo oriented list without walkers, and lightning bolt is surprisingly tame there. Even Recurring Nightmare (normally busted) is only really good, partly due to my top end creature suite being somewhat blunted compared to normal cube lists. So much of card evaluation is context in the end. In my more midrange oriented cube, I can't run either of these cards without them being windmall-slam-first-pick-meta-destroying cards.

    Speaking of which, I loved your article discussing the difference between power (combo) cubes and unpowered (midrange) cubes. It has greatly expanded my understanding of different cube metas and made it much easier for me to tweak lists I'm building and make better judgment calls about includes.

    One thing I love about your list is how much fixing you run. Pretty much no one runs that much and since upping my fixing, I have found drafting is much better and deck consistency has improved greatly with fewer non-games due to screw. I'd love to see an article on your land philosophy since it appears to differ from the mainstream community (and I happen to think you have the right idea by running more).

  2. RDW tends to perform really well for loads of reasons but I think you hit the key one on the head. I am fairly happy with the balance of things in midrange cubes on the whole I just wish they would increase the spell quality in other colours such that the things they do are on a more even power level with burn. Collective Brutality is a good example, I want to see cards like that in all the colours and in high numbers. I may do an article on cards I would like to see, I have thought about it before but always thought people wouldn't be interested in made up cards.

    I still do think I broadly run the most powerful cards in each CMC slot. There are some cards that are very powerful but need too much support and they don't fare so well and end up getting cut but otherwise I would say that is a good initial approach to good cube design. They key difference between my cube and most others is how many one and two drops I have and how few 4 and higher CMC cards I have. If I had less cheap cards I think red would perform a lot less well but overall I am happy with red as the king of the hill given that balance and and game quality is nice and high while randomness is relatively low.

    I do love a combo list although I tend to build them with the power in them as it enables a lot more. However you do it I find it gets old quicker than a more combat orientated cube. Combo lists are much more luck based and often uninteractive in drafts. They are certainly less interactive games. Much as the decks themselves are the most interesting everything else about a combo only cube has more issues rather than less. If you only cube infrequently and do lots of other magic than a combo cube likely is the best way to enjoy cube but if like me cube is the only magic you do then I would go for the more rounded cube design. I may try and do an article a little like the powered to unpowered cube but from a combo to a non-combo list. Not quite sure how the format of that would work out so don't expect it any time soon!

    Thanks for all the kind words. I feel like I frequently ham on about why fixing is so great hence not having specifically done one on it but you are right. I should and will, it shouldn't be an overly long one!