Friday 4 August 2023

Homemade Cube Part 5


Saving space with efficient dual land cycles and fixing is the order of today's article. Saving space is not something most magic players have had to consider. It is a design element rather specific to the curators of cubes. Put simply there is a inbuilt tension on dual lands and fixing. You want fixing effects so that games are more consistent but they take up valuable cube space. By adding more dual lands your mana bases get better and less games are decided by colour screw which is great. However you also dilute the pool. People have less options and less playables when it comes to building their decks. There are several compounding reasons behind this. 

Firstly when you pick lands they are typically going to replace a free basic land and so picking lands results in you having fewer playable cards to build from. Secondly there are just more dead cards floating around in packs. It is very rare that every colour pair is being played in a draft, or at least not to the degree that is going to mean dual lands are hoovered up for that colour pair (as is usually the case when you have players in four or five colours, they are just cherry picking the odd premium dual). Factors can exacerbate this further such as having fewer than eight players in a draft, or draft formats that typically provide weaker card quality overall such as Winston or team Rochester. Or indeed, both of those things at once!

In constructed deck building you are looking to max out your dual lands. You do not want to provide this option in cube. I would look to only run a couple of basic lands in a two colour constructed deck if I were blessed with enough sufficiently good dual lands in that format. In cube however, if you could pack that many lands your deck is likely a bit thin and building it didn't come with all that many choices.

There are some tricks that one can use as a curator to increase the effective fixing present within the land section of your cube. This is by using lands that are effectively fixing for more than just one colour pair. A land like City of Brass is effectively all 10 colour pairs in one. It is always fixing for you regardless of what you are in and this makes it a more interesting pick consideration. The thing with City of Brass is that it isn't a great land despite being one of the best that fix for any colour. It is a lot weaker than a simple on colour pain land in your typical two colour deck! Further to that there are few other rainbow lands within a reasonable distance of City of Brass in power. In a singleton cube therefor you just can't lean on cards that offer such broad fixing.

Sac lands often act a bit like the City of Brass in cube assuming you can pick up at least one of the on colour lands with the appropriate types. This is actually the main reason sac lands are so highly picked and played in cube and not so much the synergies they have with revolt, landfall, delve, and Brainstorm as is more the case in constructed settings! The synergies are nice but just having a nice reliable piece of fixing that is probably going to work for all your colours whatever you end up in is pretty great. 

The Triomes help with this massively. Not only do they empower the sac lands massively but they also represent three dual land cycles in one. It is in part this space economy that has made the Triomes so successful in cube. They just offer so much fixing in very little cardboard. There are many more powerful lands you could play but there are not that have quite that degree of space economy as well which is really to their credit.


In between rainbow lands and the tri colours lands are the half cycles. Things like the Thriving and Vivid lands. They offer effectively four dual lands in one card and they are complete cycles in five cards and not ten. This makes it feel like they are eight times more efficient on space in a cube per amount of fixing than a traditional cycle of ten lands with each colour pair (although I would argue it is only four times in practice but even so, a massive upgrade). Typically these half cycles are lopsided offering better fixing on the "main" colour and less potent fixing on the other(s). 

These half cycles have not been explored all that fully by Wizards for what I suspect are several reasons. One of which is simply that they do not love printing lands that are functionally better than basic lands, which in turn results in rather restricted design space as far as lands that might wind up being heavily played goes. I think that this is an outdated design premise as basic lands confer lots of natural benefits while non-basics tend to come with their own risks. I was happy to produce a couple of half cycles that fix for one of their colours as well as a basic land. It seemed like a great way to increase the consistency on the mana side of things without harming other areas of the cube. 

My main cube is 540 cards and has four dual lands in each colour pair plus all 10 sac lands and all 10 triomes taking up a total of 60 card slots. I always want more fixing in my decks but if I add a cycle of land you really feel it in the drafts. In my homemade cube I still have 4 sets of cycles that are 10 cards each but then I have three half cycles (pictured two directly above and one directly below) instead of sacs and Triomes which feels like it gives a comparable amount of fixing without it being so polarized, and while taking up a little less space. Much of that freed up space has been used on rainbow lands to further increase consistency. 

Given that cube is different from constructed you can afford to be more generous on your lands when designing specifically for it. As such I have pushed some of the rainbow lands a little further than you could for the likes of standard and even modern. I have also found I was slapping on some below par, but otherwise "bonus" fixing modes on some of my utility lands. And that pretty much sums up my strategy for fixing as far as the land portion of the homemade cube goes. Half cycles, pushed rainbow lands, and being happy to make non-basic lands that are a direct fixing upgrade on a basic. I didn't want anything as powerful as the original duals or the sac lands but I was aiming for not all that far behind that mark. Good playable fixing isn't broken as such, it just lets people play the game, and so it is a great place to be generous with the power levels. 


No comments:

Post a Comment